Retired Professor Vassilis Gekas of the Cyprus University of Technology in Greece visited VSU to share his research in bioconversion and functional foods, October 11.

In a short lecture, Prof. Gekas showed a model simulation, run through the SuperPro Designer software, of the processes in the bioconversion of lactose in whey to ethanol. Bioconversion refers to the change of organic materials such as plant or animal wastes into a source of energy with the help of microorganisms.

Whey, a by-product in the manufacture of cheese, has been considered as a source of fuel-grade alcohol instead of discarding it as waste.

Converting lactose in whey to bioethanol, Prof. Gekas’s paper disclosed, would help get rid of environmental pollution from burning fossil fuels and produce a renewable biofuel. 

Building up from his bioconversion research using SuperPro, Prof. Gekas promoted the use of computer tools to help optimize bioconversion processes and increase its efficiency and efficacy. Prof. Gekas encouraged VSU researchers and students to look into the possibility of converting rice straw components into ethanol using the model simulation software.

Besides bioconversion, Prof. Gekas also shared ideas of converting the usual plant and animal food sources such as vegetables, meat, and milk into functional foods. Edible items that are enriched or enhanced to potentially provide positive health benefits are functional foods.

In research at Cyprus, Prof. Gekas and his team converted oat grains into milk to become an alternative to soya or cow’s milk. Oats, Prof. Gekas said, offer a balance between carbohydrates, protein, and fat which are building blocks to proper human nutrition.

The retired professor in food engineering and technology expressed his willingness to have a one-on-one discussion with students interested in developing functional foods. An example of this, Prof. Gekas suggested, is making yogurt from goats milk. 

The seminar with Prof. Gekas was sponsored by VSU’s Department of Biotechnology, and the student-run VSU Biotechnological Society. 

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