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New honour puts chazan/scientist Michael Eskin in elite company

Dr. Michael Eskin

By MYRON LOVE

In a career rich in accomplishments, Michael Eskin has climbed another pinnacle. In early May, he was notified that he is this year’s recipient of the Supelco AOCS (American Oil Chemists Society) Research Award.

This – the AOCS’s most prestigious award - recognizes outstanding original research in fats, oils, lipid chemistry and biochemistry.
“While he has received several awards in recent years (including several other AOC awards as well as being inducted into the Order of Canada), “I never visualized this award,” he says. “I am overwhelmed to be in the company of Nobel laureates (three of whom are previous recipients of the award over the past 56 years).”
“My mother always used to say that you should never retire and she was right,” he adds. “If I had retired at 65, I am not sure if all the recognition that I have received would have happened. This is incredible.”
Eskin is just the fifth Canadian scientist to receive this particular award, which has been presented to scientists in many different disciplines, including organic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry and nutrition. The honour comes with a plaque and a substantive cash prize, and opportunity to present an award lecture.

Now in his 53rd year, Michael Eskin (who is originally from Birmingham, England and who is also a chazan) is the longest serving member on the faculty of the University of Manitoba Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences, where he has served as department chair and associate dean. In 2017, he was selected by the students in his faculty as Professor of the Year.
The centerpiece of Eskin’s career has been his work on the development of edible oils; he played a key role in the successful development of canola oil. He has published over 250 research articles, book chapters, monographs, abstracts and several patents. He has published 15 books - including two on canola – with a 16th book in the works.
He has been an active member of the AOCS for many years, having served as chair of the AOCS Lipid Oxidation and Quality Division and was the first chair of the AOCS Division Council. In addition to serving as an associate editor of JAOCS, he was co-editor of Lipid Technology for seven years and is associate editor of education for the AOCS Lipid Library.

While the Supelco Award is traditionally presented at the AOCS yearly conference, that will not be the case this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. “We will be having a virtual conference in May and I will be delivering a virtual lecture,” Eskin reports. “I expect that I will officially be presented with the award at next year’s conference.”
Naturally, he will be teaching his course online in the fall. “I had 250 students enrolled in my last class and expect about 200 in my fall class,” he says. “I hope that things get back to normal soon. You can’t really develop relationships with students this way.”