Spotlight: Meet Katie Williamson

Katie Williamson is a PhD student in the Department of Food Science and Technology at OSU. She is advised by Dr. Emmanuel Hatzakis with the expertise in NMR application in food Science. Her Masters thesis research won Phi Tau Sigma Founders’ Scholarship in the year of 2020. Congratulations to Katie!


Today, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that nearly 1/3 of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. This contributes to an extremely large environmental cost and wastes valuable resources. Kathryn’s main research goal as a PhD student at The Ohio State University is to develop novel opportunities of food waste through the creation of value-added products. Applications include bioplastics from spent coffee grounds (SCG) and prebiotics from apple pomace.

Kathryn received her BS and MS degrees from The Ohio State University. During her MS, she published a protocol that made the rapid evaluation of fish oil supplements using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy accessible to non-NMR spectroscopists. She then applied this method for the analysis of coffee lipids, where she published a novel hybrid targeted-untargeted metabolomics approach that allows for identification and quantification of components that drive differences between roasted and green coffee lipids. For that work she has received a “People’s Choice” award for her poster at the 14th Annual Ohio Mass Spectrometry Symposium and won the poster contest at 14th International Conference on the Applications of Magnetic Resonance in Food in France.

Kathryn learned about the abundance of SCG that are wasted throughout the world while studying coffee in her MS. Using the oil from SCG, she conducted and published the first SCG oil epoxidation reaction, which is the first step in turning oil into bioplastics. She is currently exploring the polymerization of SCG oil epoxides for the production of a polyurethane polymer that may have applications in food packaging. Additionally, she is exploring the potential of apple pomace, a waste product of the apple industry, as a potential low-cost source of prebiotics. Since most commercially available prebiotics are either expensive or only available in limited quantities, the discovery of new prebiotics from alternative low-cost sources will help address the increasing need for these functional foods. She had the opportunity to present her PhD work and its potential impact on the global food system at the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD) Future Leaders Forum in 2019.