AOCS member volunteers are vital to advancing the mission of the Society. Learn more about AOCS member leaders and why they chose to get involved in the Society–the personal and professional growth they gained from the volunteer experience.
Ismail Hassan Hussein Abdalnabi
50-word summary of your professional experience
I graduated as a chemical engineer from the University of Khartoum (U of K) in Sudan 1971. After graduating, I joined the local vegetable oil and soap industry. I also earned a PhD (March 1982) and conducted research at the Chemical Engineering Department, Aston University, Birmingham, England. Since October 1982, I’ve taught and conducted research at the University of Gezira (UG), serving as Vice Chancellor (VC) for two terms: 2001–2005; 2005–2009. Currently, I’m a professor at the National Oilseed Processing Research Institute (NOPRI), UG.
Why did you join AOCS?
I knew the AOCS through the JAOCS at U of K and the industry. At Aston, it was a major reference, especially during my PhD research. From the Journal, I learnt about the second AOCS World Conference at The Hague in October 1982. At that time, I was hired by UG and was about to travel to Sudan, but delayed that to attend the conference. Up to that time, I was not aware of the importance of joining the Society; however, at The Hague, I met delegates from government, universities and the private sector. A tour of the accompanying exhibition inspired an idea of establishing an oilseed pilot plant at the UG. Having spoken to some delegates about this and about glandless cotton, I felt that the AOCS was where I belonged, so I signed up at the conference, effective January 1983.
Describe your involvement with AOCS:
After The Hague, I joined the Department of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Technology (ACC), Faculty of Science and Technology (FST), UG. At the ACCT, I presented the pilot plant proposal in December 1982 to UG. A research group was formed from ACCT, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (FAS), UG, and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Ministry of Agriculture. Activities included MSc and PhD research, in addition to presentations at local and international seminars and conferences. A notable example of the activities in this group is the establishment of NAPRECA, the Natural Products Research Network for East and Central Africa. Through ACCT involvement, Sudan was a founding member in July 1984. NAPRECA is now a UNESCO affiliate and is doing a great job in research and training of African scientists. A link with Upsala University, Sweden, was also one of the activities of this group, and the late Professor Lars Appelqvist was instrumental to its success.
Meanwhile, contacting AOCS members revealed that Ed Lusas was also establishing a pilot plant for oilseed extraction and oil refining at College Station, Texas. An invitation from Dr. Lusas enabled me to join the Food Protein R&D Center (now the Process Engineering R&D Center, PERC) at College Station, Texas A&M University. There, I worked with him and KC Rhee on castor pomace detoxification. In addition to the knowledge I gained, a discussion with Ed Lusas about our pilot plant proposal was of great value. He advised establishing a center for oilseed processing research and indicated the importance of such a center for the whole of Africa. Thus, a Center was established at FST-UG in 1990, which was promoted to NOPRI in 1994. All of this was achieved because of the networking that was made possible by joining the Society.
The international exposure brought by attending AOCS conferences also resulted in new areas of cooperation. The JAOCS carried news about the progress of PORIM, the Palm Oil Institute of Malaysia, changed to MPOB, Malaysian Palm Oil Board, since 2000. Our contact with PORIM started in 1993. Having attended all PORIM courses, I enrolled in the second Intensive Diploma of Oil Palm Management and Technology (IDOPMT) in July 2000, with the intention of becoming a full-time oil palm technologist. I passed the IDOPMT, but those intentions were interrupted by my appointment as VC of UG. However, NOPRI went on to strengthen its oil palm research by establishing the Oil Palm Research Center within the Institute, and made new links with the University of Malaya on oil palm hybrids. Now, NOPRI has a model one-acre oil palm farm. This is vital to NOPRI in its research on oil-bearing trees, which form an important source of vegetable oil in a number of Sudanese States.
What have been some of your most meaningful AOCS experiences?
I have attended a number of AOCS conferences and each brought a new experience. However, my recent visit to the AOCS HQ in Urbana stands out as the one memorable experience. For a start, it was pleasing to know how well the idea of the visit was received. The meeting itself was well prepared, the level of attendance was high and the discussion was immensely useful. There was a feeling that everyone was eager to help in our endeavor to establish an AOCS African Section. The support gained from the meeting enabled us to proceed confidently and establish new contacts.
Tell us about your work/job function and explain the connection between your work and how being involved with AOCS has shaped your career or brought value back to the workplace?
I have assumed a number of responsibilities within UG: from head ACCT, to deputy dean FST, to dean FST, to dean NOPRI, to VC of UG. The networking experience gained through AOCS was a great help to me in all those positions. The journals and AOCS Press books also provided valuable information, especially for graduate research.
The AOCS exposure was an asset in our dealing with international organizations. Our fundraising efforts led us to the Islamic Development Bank, IDB, Jeddah; a grant of $285,000 was approved to NOPRI and our staff followed it to completion. This was how the pilot plant was setup, the labs modernized and staff training abroad made possible. A special tribute must be paid here to the late engineer Raad Dafallah and Dr. Atif Yasin for their crucial role in making the project a success.
Our knowledge about United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service Centers came through JAOCS and conference meetings. This helped us model NOPRI branches in north, northeast, southeast, and west Sudan. The aim is to decentralize research and bring more contributions from those rural areas, in addition to coordinating with local government and the local oilseed industry in their regions.
The Library at NOPRI includes AOCS journals and books, in addition to MPOB books and literature. It is certainly the only specialized oils and fats library in Sudan and is providing an important service to researchers and graduate students. NOPRI also uses AOCS methods in its research and in its service to industry. Recently, NOPRI was recognized as a center of excellence by the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research; one of the reasons cited was the excellence of the library and its being up-to-date through AOCS journals, books, and electronic AOCS books and journals.
Describe your research and explain what big challenge or problem your work is trying to solve. How do you hope AOCS can help in solving this challenge?
Research at NOPRI studies oils from varied sources for varied uses. The sources include annuals, perennials (shrubs and trees) and other sources such as insects. These may be used for food, biofuel, medical or pharmaceutical purposes. The sources may be established oilseed crops or ones that are unconventional or underutilized. My main area of research investigates developing new oil sources as well as new uses for other sources. Special attention is paid to aromatic plants, for their importance in international trade, especially Basil, Ocimum basilicum. Tree oils are also finding increased interest. A new research area deals with oils from horticultural crops, such as onions and carrots; reports indicate high levels of antioxidants in those oils.
Glandless cotton is an important area of research at NOPRI. Low-gossypol seeds yield a safe oil and a high-quality protein. Our main emphasis is to use this valuable food source for fighting hunger and alleviating poverty and malnutrition in children in rural areas. This entails activating NOPRI branches in those areas to rally support from the local communities for this noble goal.
The study of pesticide residues in oilseeds and their products is one of our major concerns, because they pose a major public health risk. Research on castor falls under this category.
Our work on the Africa Section introduced us to the PeanutBase and the International Peanut Community. This is an exciting new networking area, which we intend to utilize fully.
Graduate research at NOPRI does not include courses; a committee was recently set up by the VC of UG to look into introducing postgraduate diploma and masters via courses and a dissertation in oilseed science and technology. If this is achieved, it is expected to enable NOPRI to better serve the industry as well as those interested in oils and fats research and attract international students.
An oilseeds incubator has always been high on NOPRI's agenda. This was recently approved by the Sudanese Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. It would make more people linked to investment and research in oilseeds and their products.
A special challenge is to translate our findings and those in the literature into the Arabic language; this would create wider coverage and enable those who have no access to English to keep informed. The AOCS Latin American Section offers a similar encouraging model.
The AOCS can certainly play a vital role through networking. inform|connect represents such a possibility. In addition, the Society can help by asking interested members to contribute ideas or suggestions to AOCS platforms. This would spread the word and make more people aware of how to help.