By MYRON LOVE “My mother-in-law, the late Rose Kessler, always used to say that you should never retire and she was right,” comments Michael Eskin. “If I had retired at 65, I am not sure if I would have accomplished all that I have.”
Eskin (who is originally from Birmingham, England) is now in his 54th year of teaching in the University of Manitoba Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences.
He has also served as Department Chair and Associate Dean. In 2017, he was selected by the students in his faculty as Professor of the Year.
During the course of his storied career, Eskin - who is also a long time chazzan and occasional singer/songwriter – has written or co-written 17 books related to food science and published over 250 research articles, book chapters, monographs and abstracts. He also holds several patents.
The centerpiece of his career has been his work on the development of edible oils; he played a key role in the successful development of canola oil.
Not surprisingly, such an illustrious career does not go unnoticed by his peers and society as a whole. Two years ago, he became just the fifth Canadian scientist – and the first food scientist at the University of Manitoba - to receive the Supelco AOCS Research Award from the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS), which is considered the foremeost prize in the area of lipids.
This award has been presented to scientists in many different disciplines, including organic chemistry, physical chemistry, biochemistry and nutrition. Eskin has been an active member of the society 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 the Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, he was also co-editor of Lipid Technology for seven years and is associate editor of education for the AOCS Lipid Library.
Last year was an amazing one for him. In 2021, the beloved professor received the Order of Manitoba and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. During that year he also taught two online courses, published two (of his 17) books and 13 papers. He also wrote and performed a special tribute celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of insulin in Canada, which was shown at the Annual Virtual Conference of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, and which received CBC coverage.
In 2021 he also received recognition from Elsevier/Academic Press as it marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of his first book, “Biochemistry of Foods,” now in its third edition and used throughout the world. In honor of his contributions to Elsevier/Academic Press, which includes eight other of his books, a volume in their prestigious series, “Advances in Food and Nutrition Research,” was dedicated to him.
As bountiful as 2021 was for Eskin, 2022 is proving to be another stellar year. He reports that in February, he was a Keynote Speaker at the Annual (Virtual) Meeting of the Canadian Section of the American Oil Chemists’ Society.
In March, he received notification that a paper published in the prestigious Chinese Journal of Science and Technology of Cereals, Oils and Foods with Professor Liuping Fan of Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China, received an Outstanding Paper Award.
In April, he received an e-mail from the President of the Institute of Food Technologists in the USA, the premier food science professional society in the world, that a jury of his peers had selected him as the 2022 Recipient of the very prestigious IFT Lifetime Achievement Award in Honor of Nicolas Appert. “This is considered one of the major awards of the society given to an individual for consistent lifetime contributions to advancing the science of food,” he notes.
Eskin adds that he is the first Canadian recipient of this award – putting him in the company of a very distinguished group of scientists from around the world who were previous recipients of this award.
The award consists of a bronze medal and cheque that will be awarded at the Annual Conference of IFT in Chicago later this year.
The IFT Lifetime Achievement Award is the twelfth major award that Eskin has received over the past decade - making him the University of Manitoba’s most honored food scientist.
As a recording artist, his latest composition is a song he wrote and performed celebrating the 200th birthday of Louis Pasteur – which was recorded and edited for presentation at this year’s American Oil Chemists’ Society Annual Meeting in May.
Eskin was particularly touched by the recent announcement that his department is establishing a special Graduate Student Travel Award in honor of both him and his wife, Nella. “Without Nella’s support over the years, none of my successes would have been possible,” he says. “An award in both of our names was perfect.”