Our lab focuses in solving practical problems and interesting chemical reactions in food using olives and olive oil as study cases. We are always open to new members joining our lab (to stay or to visit) when we are able to accommodate them. If you are interested in getting to know us, feel free to send an email. Here are our current team members: 


Xueqi Shirley Li

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Shirley is the assistant director at the UC Davis Olive Center. Her daily job includes making sure everyone is doing good and feeling happy in the lab, working with Selina on her wonderful and/or crazy research ideas, and assisting Dan with various olive center events and center products sale. When she’s not playing with HPLC or GC in the lab, she likes reading, traveling, snuggling with her cats, and sometimes cooking.

Shirley earned her master’s degree in food science from UC Davis in 2013. Her master’s thesis was on the effect of different cold storage conditions on the quality of extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil study has been a good friend to her for the past five years, and will definitely be a life-long friend no matter what. 


Lauren Crawford

My name is Lauren Crawford and I’m a first year Ph.D student in the Food Science and Technology department. I completed my BS in Food Science at Cornell University with a minor in Nutrition. I’m interested in food chemistry and its applications for improving the quality or healthfulness of products, so working with the UC Davis Olive Center seemed like a perfect fit. As my PhD project, I am helping to develop an innovative processing method for black table olives that reduces water usage/toxicity while increasing the olives’ nutritional content. 

When I have free time, I enjoy running, reading, being outdoors, cooking and, of course, eating. I also love traveling and even got the opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Vienna, Austria. Having otherwise lived in upstate NY my whole life, I’m excited to now be experiencing a new part of the country. In the future, I hope to continue with research, either in an industry or academic setting. 


Juan Polari

Juan is a first year PhD candidate at the Food Science and Technology department. He earned a degree in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. After graduating, he developed most of his professional experience in the field of fats and oils chemistry, focusing on quality assessment and bioactive compounds purification for food applications. He was fascinated by the world of olive oil while following a graduate course in olive oil sensory science at University of Jaén, Spain. At UC Davis Olive Center, he found an ideal place for further developing his academic training into this field. For his thesis project, Juan is studying the effect of processing conditions on sensory characteristics and chemical composition of virgin olive oils produced form super-high-density orchards in California. After finishing his graduate studies, he expects to contribute to the development of the olive oil industry in Argentina, working towards the integration of academic and productive sectors. In his free time, Juan enjoys cooking, reading and improvising endless blues solos in his guitar.

Dajun Yu

Hi I am Dajun Yu majoring in food science. I like reading and cooking when I am free. I joined in UC Davis Olive Center in Spring Quarter 2015 as an intern. After working here for a while, I figure out that I love it more and more. Now I am a full-time intern in Olive Center. I hope I could do my best to help with projects in our lab also learn from the outstanding people here. For now, I hope I could be a researcher in the future and find a job related to research.


Luyi Cao

I am Luyi Cao, now a student intern in UC Davis Olive Center. After I got my bachelor degree in Food Safety & Quality from Jiangnan University, China in 2014, I joined the Optical Practical Training Program at UC Davis Olive Center. Actually, I spent my senior year majoring in Food Science&Technology in UC Davis as an exchange student. I would like to engage in food product development for beverage or vegetables in the future. The reason why I choose to work in the UC Davis Olive Center is that my research interest is focused on the field of food chemistry. Before I went here, I know very little about olive and olive oil. After working here for one year, I have joined many different projects and got to know olive and olive oil a lot. Especially the milling course and experience of olive hand-harvesting were quite impressive. I am planing to go to the graduate school next academic year. Hopefully, I can further my study in the field of flavor chemistry or lipid chemistry. 


Austin Phung

Hi! My name is Austin Phung. I am a 4th year student majoring in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I joined the UC Davis Olive Center Chemistry Lab because of my interest in the chemistry, health aspects, and other chemical properties of olive oil. When I first joined the lab, I learned some new lab techniques and experiments, but now I am working on my project that compares the official method and another method for both PV and FFA. I hope to apply what I learned to certain areas in future research, like understanding the properties of olive oil or other natural products that could be transformed or incorporated into medication. In addition, I like the idea of modifying or editing methods because of its relation to compound modification when you create a drug. I hope to use all this knowledge to benefit me in my future research. This is because I plan to attend graduate school to learn more about pharmaceuticals and do more research in order to earn a M.S. or PhD. Overall, my ultimate dream is to work in a pharmaceutical company to help discover and synthesize drugs. In my free time, I like to do cardio because it helps me de-stress and relax. In addition to that, I like to watch dramas, fantasy shows, action shows, or comedies because I feel each one offers something appealing. I like to cook from time to time, try new recipes, and go out with friends to try new restaurants.


Courtney Ngai

My name is Courtney Ngai, and I am a fourth year pharmaceutical chemistry major. I am interested in preventive health due to living an unhealthy lifestyle while growing up. I wanted to do research with the olive center because I love cooking with olive oil and wanted to learn more about the long term prevention and health benefits behind it. In my spare time, I like to take long walks, play basketball, and volunteer with Recognizing Illnesses Very Early and Responding. In the future, I would like to be either a psychiatrist, family physician, or clinical pharmacist.


Ken Cunningham

I am a 3rd year Biological Systems Engineer major here at UC Davis. I’m currently working with Lauren on extraction methods and analysis of California-Style Black Olives. In my free time, you can find me tilling soil in the backyard or jamming this season’s produce. In the future, I want lead a team in solving the world’s global food issues. 


Suk Wah Wong

Suk Wah Wong, who goes by the name of Suki, was born in Hong Kong, but moved to San Francisco, California with her parents when she was seven years old. She grew up in the Sunset district of San Francisco. In Fall 2014, she transferred from a community college, called City College of San Francisco, to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) as a Nutrition Science major with the Nutritional Biology emphasis. Besides studying for school and participating in the lab of the UC Davis Olive Center, she also likes to do the following: read regarding food, nutrition, and exercise, eat healthy, exercise, play sports, cook, study the Bible, listen to mainstream music, and spend time with her family and friends. After hearing about the UC Davis Olive Center, she first got involved with the center by volunteering at a sensory evaluation course it was holding in June 2015. The sensory aspect of olive oil truly amazed her. Since she was interested in learning more about olive oil, specifically its nutritional and health aspects, and strongly believed that one must understand the food prior to understanding the roles of its nutrients, she has been working with the UC Davis Olive Center since July 2015. In the future, she would like to attend professional or graduate school and work in the field of medicine, nutrition, or epidemiology. She is grateful for all the experience she has been gaining from the UC Davis Olive Center while having the opportunity to work with many wonderful people.


Duangkamol (Dahlia) Yingyongkitmongkol


I like to do pilates, cook, and bake in my free time. I became interested in UC Davis Olive Oil Center and Olive Oil itself when I volunteered for the Olive Oil sensory course. It is very interesting for me to be a part of this lab learning how food and health, chemicals and science, all intertwine. In the future, I hope to go to graduate school and seek a job in the field of food research and development.


Dongping Guo

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I am Dongping Guo majoring in Food Science at UC Davis. I like running, cooking and playing table tennis. I grew up in Southern China. People in my city consume a lot of raw olives and I have been told that olives were extremely good for our health since I was little. This inspired me to study more about olives and olive oils, so I joined the UC Davis Olive Center in Spring Quarter in 2015 as a lab intern. I am helping with the glass study project and I really enjoy working with all the great people here, who are always energetic and passionate about doing research on the olive oil. 


Quyen Anh Pham

Hi, my name is Quyen Anh Pham. I am in my fourth year at UC Davis, expecting to graduate in June 2016 with a B.S. in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I have been interning at the UC Davis Olive Center since 2014, and I have gained very valuable knowledge about olive oil and chemistry-related lab experiences. I am also a student lab assistant at the Epstein lab of the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology. In my spare time, I like to watch TV shows, playing board games, or doing puzzles. 

Before working with the UC Davis Olive Center, my goal was to become a clinical pharmacist. However, this internship has ignited my love for doing research, so much that I want a career in scientific research and development. As a result, I am currently interested in the pharmacy dual-degree programs, such as Pharm.D./M.S. or Pharm.D./Ph.D.