July 26, 2021

“Testing for Life” Student Award recognizes up and coming scientists for their innovative work in life science testing

ROCKVILLE, MD USA, July 26, 2021—AOAC INTERNATIONAL today announced the five winners of the 2021 AOAC INTERNATIONAL/Eurofins Foundation “Testing for Life” Student Award.

The award, supported by the Eurofins Foundation, supports student researchers who are advancing basic or applied science in analytical or molecular testing for food safety, food security, food defense, food authenticity, or health and environmental protection.

The students submitted abstracts and supporting material to be judged by an international panel of analytical science experts from industry, government, academia, and nonprofit sectors. The panel selected Maryam Abdur-Rahman, Tengfei Li, Xingchen Liu, Raviraj Shinde, and Leos Uttl as this year’s winners.

“Now in its second year, the ‘Testing for Life’ Student Awards continue to reward a remarkable level of scholarship and scientific rigor in students’ work,” said Dr. Gilles Martin, CEO of Eurofins Scientific.

Maryam Abdur-Rahman is an aspiring biotechnologist with the goal of furthering research on women’s health. She studies translational life science technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, Maryam plans to pursue a master’s in Biotechnology. Her curiosity for research and passion for science motivate her to pursue a career that contributes to the understanding and advancement of women’s health.

“I am grateful to have been recognized for the research I did alongside my mentor,” said Maryam. “This award has afforded me a smooth transition from community college to university and motivates me to continue pursuing a career in research. I am looking forward to the opportunity to network and collaborate with other student members at the AOAC Annual Meeting.”

Tengfei Li, a native of China, is a PhD candidate majoring in food science and technology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Tengfei received her master’s degree in nutrition and food science at Florida State University. Her research work focuses on the development of an immunoassay for the detection of fish residue from a range of commonly consumed fish species. Initially, Tengfei used LC-MS/MS for nine divergent fish species to identify suitable fish peptide targets, which will then be utilized in developing anti-fish peptide antibodies for the development of an ELISA‐based method in detecting fish residues in food products. Her research seeks to improve food allergen labeling and management and ensure the food safety of fish-allergic consumers.

“I am honored to be awarded the AOAC INTERNATIONAL/Eurofins Foundation ‘Testing for Life’ Student Award,” said Tengfei. “Receiving this reward means my research as well as my academic performance have been recognized. This gives me more encouragement and motivation to continue learning and exploring more in the field of food allergens to make positive contributions to global health and food safety.”

Xingchen Liu is a PhD candidate from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Xingchen’s research focuses on the mechanisms of interaction between Salmonella and leafy greens grown under abiotic stresses. She is adopting cutting-edge approaches in metabolomics and exometabolomics to better understand human pathogen-plant interactions. Her current project aims to discover the impact of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) to improve food safety and yield. Her work provides a novel idea to identify zoonotic pathogen growth-limiting compounds in leafy greens, ultimately breeding for safer leafy greens. It aims to address ever-increasing food safety challenges and unpredictability in climate during crop growing seasons.

“Winning this award means recognition of my research from academic and industry experts and will motivate me to become a better researcher,” said Xingchen. “I look forward to presenting my research and communicating with researchers, scientists, industry representatives, and students worldwide. Attending the AOAC Annual Meeting can help me keep up with scientific findings, broaden my professional network, and prepare me for my future career.”

Raviraj Chandrakant Shinde, a PhD student from Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India, works under the supervision of Dr Kaushik Banerjee. His doctoral dissertation focuses on developing fit-for-purpose methods for the residue analysis of difficult-to-analyze pesticides in cereals, pulses, and processed food products. He earned his Master of Science in Agrochemicals and Pest Management and Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Shivaji University. He works at the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), ICAR-National Research Centre for Grapes, Pune, as a project assistant.

Raviraj’s PhD research reported a rapid LC-MS/MS method for the residue analysis of highly polar herbicides (paraquat and diquat), and thermally unstable fungicides (captan, captafol, folpet, and iprodione) in cereals, fruits, and vegetables. These methods were thoroughly validated as per the AOAC’s Standard Method Performance Requirements. These studies are published in peer reviewed journals including Journal of Chromatography A and Food Additives and Contaminants, Part A. Additionally, at NRL he contributes to the analysis and documentation pertaining to ISO 17025:2017 and proficiency tests in pesticide residues under ISO 17043:2010.

Raviraj participates in the activities of AOAC India Section on a regular basis. He presented the results of a multi-laboratory study on the residue analysis of polar pesticides at the 7th Annual Conference of the AOAC India Section. He received the Best Poster Award at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 5th Annual Conference and the “InSc-Young Researcher Award-2020” from the Institute of Scholars in India.

Raviraj aspires to work in the field of food safety and hopes that analytical science as a discipline will further grow in his country for the betterment of humankind.

“The ‘Testing for Life’ Award came to me as a surprise, so I am overwhelmed and elated,” said Raviraj. “I am grateful to AOAC INTERNATIONAL for this recognition. It will be a great honor to present my research at the global level. I am feeling inspired to do more exciting research in the future.”

Leos Uttl is a PhD candidate majoring in food analysis and nutrition at the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague. His main research areas are metabolomics and targeted analysis of pesticide residues employing ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled to different types of mass spectrometry analyzers. His latest research introduces a novel approach of metabolomics data handling in combination with advanced chemometric tools for classification of wines according to their variety. This approach accelerated statistical model creation, optimized procedure, and resulted in an effective strategy for wine authentication.

“Being awarded the AOAC INTERNATIONAL/Eurofins Foundation ‘Testing for Life’ Student Award is a great honour and pleasure,” said Leos. “I am very excited about the unique opportunity to present my research at the AOAC Student Symposium and to meet and network with leading experts in my research area.”

The winners receive a cash prize, AOAC student membership, and financial support to attend an AOAC Annual Meeting, where they will be recognized and present their work to hundreds of leading analytical scientists. They will also be featured in AOAC’s highly respected Inside Laboratory Management (ILM) magazine and provided with a two-day external mentorship experience.

“AOAC is immensely proud of this initiative with the Eurofins Foundation to provide this unique opportunity for scientists new to the industry,” said Erin Crowley, AOAC President. “We have implemented a purposeful and impassioned strategic focus throughout the association to mentor young scientists to enhance and expand our partnerships with academia at a global level. The awardees this year exemplify the important work of AOAC INTERNATIONAL to achieve analytical excellence and support public health in all areas of the world.”

Learn more about the AOAC INTERNATIONAL/Eurofins Foundation “Testing for Life” Student Award here.