LBC Student Diego Crespo Wins UURAF Grand Prize
LBC graduate Diego Crespo was declared the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Grand Prize winner for the research he conducted alongside College of Agriculture and Natural Resources assistant professor Karen Cichy and professional aide Jason Wiesinger. He presented his research, titled "The physiochemical and nutritional evaluation of fast cooking dry bean (phaseoulus vulgaris l.) genotypes grown in three locations in Tanzania" at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum in April.
The goal of the project was improving the cooking times of dry beans, a staple crop in many parts of the world. Nutritious, high in fiber and in protein, dry beans are a great addition to meals. However, their long cooking time can cause problems in where people still use solid fuels like wood to cook. Smoke inhalation due to poor ventilation causes respiratory infection and kills many people every year. Wood gathering is usually done by women and children which means that multiple hours every day are spent gathering firewood, leading to less leisure time and time for school. Lastly, desertification is increased in areas where wood fuel is very common, causing deforestation and damage to the environment. To address this problem, Crespo's team studied twelve different types of bean.
"My part in the research was to do two things: assess the stability of the fast cooking phenotype after it had been grown in multiple locations and in different water treatments, then assess the protein retention in beans after they were cooked," said Crespo. "This research could help identify how durable the fast cooking trait was in unfavorable conditions. It also enabled us to know how much protein was left in the beans after cooking that could potentially be utilized by the body. It was also crucial to identify beans with high protein densities."
Crespo found the fast cooking trait to be stable across different locations and growing conditions. "beans that cooked faster than their counterparts, still cooked faster than their counterparts even when subjected to less favorable growing locations," he said. "For example, Cebo Cela was the 'fast cooking' yellow bean out of the three yellow beans we cooked. If we grew it in Arusha, it was still the fastest yellow bean out of the yellow beans grown in Arusha. If we cooked it in Mbeya it was still the fastest yellow bean grown in Mbeya out of the three types of yellow beans that were grown there."
He also learned that beans that cooked longer retained less protein. In some cases the longest cooking beans' protein retention was as low as 50% of the original protein. The highest protein values came from the fastest cooking beans, furthering the desirability of the fast cooking trait.
Crespo started working in Dr. Karen Cichy's lab the summer between his junior and senior year, and has continued assisting after his graduation in May. The research team is currently trying to bring their research to publication and publish two papers on the subject.