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Cereal Science Student Wins International Research Paper Competition

Mihiri Mendis is the winner of a prestigious award at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International annual meeting in October. She won first place in the Best Student Research Paper competition for her research "Arabinoxylan Hydrozylates as Immunomodulators".

Mihiri Mendis, who is completing a Cereal Science Ph.D. in the Department of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University, received a prestigious award at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) annual meeting in early October, when she won the Best Student Research Paper competition. Her adviser is Dr. Senay Simsek, Bert L. D’Appolonia Cereal Science and Technology of Wheat Endowed Associate Professor.

Mendis was one of six finalists chosen from many applicants. For the competition she presented her research and fielded questions from the audience. The other finalists were from Germany, India, Texas and Montana. The meeting was held in Providence, Rhode Island, October 5-8.

The research, titled Arabinoxylan Hydrozylates as Immunomodulators, conducted by Mendis for the winning research paper was groundbreaking for the AACCI. She extracted fibers called arabinoxylans from wheat bran and treated them with several digestive enzymes to obtain structurally tailored arabinoxylan hydrozylates, thought to be beneficial to digestive and immune systems in humans. 

To determine whether these compounds would benefit digestive and immune systems, Mendis and Simsek collaborated with Dr. Estelle Leclerc, Assistant Professor in the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences at NDSU. Leclerc tested the hydrozylates on two intestinal cell lines and one immune system cell line. The results showed that certain hydrozylates from arabinoxylans in beneficial wheat bran have the ability to act as immunomodulators, acting in a positive manner on the immune systems of humans.

 Leclerc specializes in biochemistry and cell culture and has a background in antibody engineering and development. She also serves on Mendis’ Ph. D. Graduate Committee.

Mendis plans to complete her Ph.D. studies this winter and hopes to continue researching in a post-doctoral or teaching position. She completed her M.S. with Simsek in 2012 and completed a B.S. in Pharmacy and a M.S. in Applied Organic Chemistry at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She also was a finalist in the 2012 Best Student Research Paper Competition at the AACCI annual meeting in 2012, which featured her M.S. research.

Author: Karen Hertsgaard, 701-231-5384,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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