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Kinsella Memorial Prize winner

May 24, 2018 John Stumbos
Ellie Yin receives award for doctoral research examining probiotics and health

Xiaochen (Ellie) Yin
Xiaochen (Ellie) Yin, who recently completed her Ph.D. in food science, has been awarded the John E. Kinsella Memorial Prize for outstanding research on her doctoral dissertation examining probiotics and health.

Interest in probiotics has grown significantly with consumers in recent years and is now a leading sector of the food supplement market. However, probiotics research is still in its early stages—with promising but sometimes inconsistent outcomes regarding beneficial effects.

Yin systematically examined how a series of environmental and other factors affected probiotic efficacy. These included storage conditions, how probiotics are consumed (e.g. fermented dairy products) and host diet and inflammation status. She also studied interactions between probiotics and the gut microbiome to better understand its vital role in health.

Reviewers of Yin’s doctoral dissertation note how her work has moved research on probiotic modes of action in an innovative direction. Her research results help shed light on the importance of personalized probiotic therapy.

Yin came to Davis from China in 2012 with a master’s degree in microbiology and three years of lab experience in gut microbiome research. She worked with Department of Food Science and Technology Professor Maria Marco in her graduate studies. During her Ph.D. training, Yin also interned at the headquarters of Chr. Hansen in Denmark, one of the largest probiotic companies in the world, where she expanded her knowledge and skills in probiotic research in an industry setting.

 “It is a great honor to win this award and have my work recognized,” Yin said. “I could not have achieved this without Maria’s support and guidance, and I am also grateful to my fellow collaborators for their professionalism and dedication. With increased understanding of human health and easier collection and access of data, personalized nutrition is in the near future. I am excited that my work will help move probiotic research forward.”

Following her passion for microbiome research, Yin now works as a postdoctoral researcher with Department of Plant Pathology Professor Johan Leveau studying the citrus microbiome and its application in huanglongbing (also known as citrus greening) early detection. She is part of a collaborative project with multiple labs and organizations around the country to tackle this devastating and challenging disease facing the citrus industry.

The Kinsella Memorial Prize was established in 1994 in CA&ES to honor the late John Kinsella, former dean of the college and a professor of food science and technology. Graduate groups nominate one dissertation each year for the quality and originality of an individual’s work, multidisciplinary impact and importance to the college’s mission. The prize recipient is awarded $3,500.

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