Yu Wang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition

Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

2023 Awardee

Yu Wang explores how to improve the taste of the Sunshine State’s official beverage — orange juice. She also explores citrus as a natural sweetener, which could have major implications for the food and beverage industry.

Wang, working out of the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, focused on flavor research throughout her Ph.D. and had what many might call a dream job upon graduation: working at Mars Chocolate Inc. as a flavor chemist. When an opportunity opened to join the UF/IFAS faculty in citrus flavor research, it offered the perfect next step.

“If you want to study flavor, you want to study citrus flavor,” she said, noting citrus flavor was a niche area of study sought after by flavor chemists.

With citrus being one of the most widely studied flavors and scents and used in many industries such as food and beverage, household products and perfume, discoveries made in citrus taste and aroma research reach consumers around the world.

Wang contributes to the fight against citrus greening, a disease that threatens the nation’s citrus industry. Her skills in citrus flavor chemistry can be extended to study the citrus compounds relevant to the development and control of citrus greening to help fight the disease.

Wang has also researched finding natural, non-caloric sugar substitutes and discovered new, natural sweeteners in citrus for the first time — a significant breakthrough in the fight against obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Wang’s research could lead to increased opportunities for the food industry to produce food and beverages with lower sugar content and calories while maintaining sweetness and taste using natural products.

Wang has published more than 80 refereed journal publications in high impact journals in the field, including a recent publication that has been recognized as one of the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked in Altmetric. She has been a PI or Co-PI on grants totaling more than $30 million, of which more than $5 million came directly to her program. In 2020, she was named a Fellow of the Agricultural & Food Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, becoming the first Assistant Professor to receive this honor from the division. Wang has been invited to give international presentations, which speaks to the impact of her research on a global scale.