Yaqi Zhao earns student research award from AOAC INTERNATIONAL

Yaqi Zhao, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health, Nutrition, and Food Sciences, was recently selected as a recipient of the “Testing for Life” Student Award from AOAC INTERNATIONAL for her excellence in research.

AOAC is a professional association that brings together government, industry and academia and seeks to advance food safety, food integrity and public health. The “Testing for Life” Student Award, supported by contributions from the Eurofins Foundation, is designed to encourage student researchers like Zhao who are advancing basic or applied science in analytical or molecular testing for food safety, food security, food defense, food authenticity, or health and environmental protection.

With the award, Zhao was awarded $3,000 to support her doctoral education. She also earned complimentary AOAC student membership and registration to attend the AOAC INTERNATIONAL annual meeting and exposition in Louisiana at the end of August where she will present her research poster titled, “Competitive ELISA for the Detection of Allergenic Fish Residues.” Her award-winning research is focused on immunodetection of allergenic bony fish residues on food contact surfaces.

Yaqi Zhao

Fish is one of the big-nine allergenic foods in the United States. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2.5% of recalled products were induced by undeclared allergenic bony fish residues in 2018-2023. Zhao’s work in the lab of Dr. Qinchun Rao established an indirect competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect undeclared allergenic bony fish residues on food contact surfaces to aid food safety.

Zhao, who is attending the AOAC annual meeting for the first time, will be formally recognized for her research and success at the meeting’s opening session.

“The meeting provides unparalleled professional development, networking, and collaboration in methods-based science,” she said. “I am looking forward to presenting research during the symposium, learning advanced technologies, and communicating with food science experts while attending Analytical Science meetings.”

Zhao joined the FSU Food Safety and Quality Laboratory in 2019 and received her master’s degree in 2021. Her research interests are rapid detection of food allergens and protein characterization using immunochemistry.

“I am grateful for the support from Dr. Rao and the Department of Nutrition & Integrative Physiology,” she added.