Director's Statement

Photo of Dr. Bruce R. Hamaker
Dr. Bruce R. Hamaker Director of Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research Professor Email Icon hamakerb@purdue.edu Phone Icon (765) 494-5668

Greetings from the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University. As an industry member-based university research center, with funding from an array of grants and gifts, we work on various aspects of carbohydrates related mostly to foods, but also industrial non-food uses. Our focus is primarily on plant-based carbohydrates including starch and the wide range of non-starch polysaccharides and oligosaccharides that make up cell wall structures, gums and storage carbohydrates. Our expertise and studies span fundamental structure-function studies of carbohydrates related to nano-level assemblages with novel properties, to formation of structures affecting food texture, properties of digestion and the gut microbiome related to nutrition and health, and processing applications. In 2018, we initiated a “Big Idea” project on sugar replacement and reduction, where two research groups in the Center are studying how sugar can be better replaced with high-intensity sweeteners and carbohydrates that produce similar desirable functions of sucrose related to texture and other aspects of product quality. The groups are divided into experimental and computer modeling approaches. There continues to be changes occurring in the kind of foods people want to purchase and eat, and carbohydrates, as a major energy component of foods, are a part of this. At the Whistler Center, we have active programs in understanding how digestible (glycemic) carbohydrates can be fashioned to interact with the body so that a fullness feeling results and where glucose is delivered to the body over an extended period of time. We have made notable advances on this topic and published papers in 2018 showing in vivo how this could be done, and further how carbohydrate structures could be used to make slow digesting foods for this purpose. We are very active in dietary fiber and gut microbiome research with many research projects focused on understanding ultimately how dietary fibers could be used to make positive changes to the gut bacterial community for improved health. In 2018, we expanded our Webinar research presentation series as a successful way of educating our member company scientists and non-scientists on our latest research and more broadly on implications related to our latest research. These interactive web-based sessions will be further extended in the future with opportunity for individuals who are not part of member companies to participate for a reasonable fee. Our other long-running educative function, our three-day short course held every October, continues with invited speakers and an exciting range of carbohydrate-related topics. Our short course has limited available slots for non-member participants. We welcomed back Pepsico Co. in 2018, and with our member companies continue to be involved with many research projects. Last year we saw one of our key faculty members, Prof. Osvaldo Campanella, moved to a Chair position at The Ohio State University. This was tough for us, but also started us thinking how we can have active faculty of the Whistler Center from other universities and institutes. In our monthly “Action Committee” meetings, initiated by Whistler Center Coordinator Katherine Fry, we are coming up with a plan to have select outside scientists from other universities or institutes be part of our core faculty. Our adjunct faculty members to the Whistler Center continue to be important to our yearly evaluation and planning exercise at our summer retreat. I invite you to take some minutes and look through our 2018 Whistler Center Annual Report. Please feel free to contact Katherine or myself with any questions you might have.

Sincerely,

Bruce R. Hamaker
Distinguished Professor of Food Science
Roy L. Whistler Chair