Caleb Gibson (above), assistant professor of chemistry at West Virginia Wesleyan College, is a recipient of the Appalachian College Association’s Faculty Summer Research Fellowship.
The association will furnish during the 2022 Summer Term financial support to member institutions’ faculty for post-doctoral research or pre-doctoral degree completion.
Gibson will conduct research on the antioxidants present in pure maple syrup from different species of maple trees throughout the maple syrup season. Antioxidants are one of the predominant reasons that maple syrup has become a popular alternative sweetener; therefore, the goal of his research will be to investigate what kinds of syrup have the highest abundance of antioxidants and establish what variables lead to such differences.
His decision to explore this topic is due to his interest in comparing how the large-scale syrup making operations in the northeast predominantly use sap from sugar maple, whilst the red maple tree is more widely distributed and many of the smaller-scale Appalachian syrup producers, who use sap from red maples to prepare syrup.
“One of the most exciting prospects is the chance to better understand the differences in composition of syrups made from red maple and syrups made from sugar maple,” Gibson added. “If we succeed in finding significant differences, then it may serve to highlight the uniqueness of small-scale Appalachian maple syrup.”
“I am very grateful for the opportunity, as it allows me to devote extra resources to this fascinating research project,” Gibson said.
Gibson is hopeful that it will present an opportunity to get students involved in scientific research.
“I am recruiting WVWC students to work with me on this summer project, and looking forward to their involvement,” he added.
As part of the fellowship program, Gibson will write a report on the findings, but he is also exploring opportunities to take this research to a conference for a presentation.