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Malalgoda Wins Best Research Award

Maneka Malalgoda won first place in the Best Student Research Paper competition at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International Centennial Meeting held in Minneapolis October 19-23. Her research focused on how proteins have changed in wheat breeding and cultivar development and how those proteins affect celiac disease.
 
 

November 3, 2015

Maneka Malalgoda won first place in the Best Student Research Paper competition at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACCI) Centennial Meeting held in Minneapolis October 19-23. She was one of six finalists from around the globe who competed for the distinguished award.

Other competitors for this award were from Texas, Kansas, China and Canada. According to her adviser, Dr. Senay Simsek, “Maneka was able to present her work in a clear and succinct manner to the audience, which was made up of scientists in many different areas of cereal science research.” Simsek also said that Malalgoda was able to easily answer all questions from the audience, who seemed to be impressed by her work.

Maneka is a Cereal Science M.S. candidate in the Department of Plant Sciences at North Dakota State University. Simsek is the Bert L. D’Appolonia Cereal Science and Technology of Wheat Endowed Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Malalgoda and Simsek collaborated with Dr. Steven Meinhardt, Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, and Dr. Jae-Bom Ohm, USDA Adjunct Professor affiliated with the Cereal Science graduate program, when conducting the research.

Malalgoda’s research is titled “Spring wheat gliadins: Have they changed in 100 years?” The study looked at 30 hard red spring wheat cultivars released in North Dakota during the last century. In her research, Malalgoda focused on two main questions. First, she examined how protein composition changed over the years and how wheat quality changed in relation to changes in protein composition. Second, she looked at protein fragments or “immunogenic peptides” related to celiac disease. The objective of this second portion of the study was to see if there is a change in the amount of these peptides over the years.

According to Malalgoda, the results of her research were interesting, since they indicated that a certain protein fraction called omega-gliadins may have a positive influence on dough quality. This is an intriguing finding because the role of this protein fraction in dough quality is still debated and has not been clearly established. Therefore, this finding is compelling. With regard to the “immunogenic peptides”, they discovered that these protein fragments are found in both historical and modern spring wheat cultivars, which dispels claims that breeding practices have changed wheat protein chemistry and claims that modern wheat cultivars are more immunogenic in terms of celiac disease than older varieties. Malalgoda is still working on the quantitative analysis of these peptides, and hopes to publish the results early next year.

Malalgoda plans to complete her M.S. degree next spring and will pursue her Ph.D. under the guidance of Simsek. She will continue to contribute towards the advancement of cereal science through invaluable research in the area of wheat protein chemistry.

Source: Senay Simsek (701.231.7737, )
Editor: Karen Hertsgaard (701.231.5384, )

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