Gail Bornhorst

Gail Bornhorst

Position Title
Assistant Professor

Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Food Science and Technology


Bornhorst, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and the Department of Food Science and Technology, specializes in food engineering. Bornhorst completed her Ph.D. in biological systems engineering at UC Davis. She was a faculty member at Michigan State University before joining the UC Davis faculty in 2014. 

Research interests:

Food engineering, food processing, physical properties, functional foods, digestion processes, mixing during peristaltic flow, in vitro and in vivo models of digestion, nutrient bioavailability and bioaccessibility, development of dynamic in vitro digestion models. 

Brief overview:

What happens to your food after you eat it? This question drives the work of my laboratory.

After consumption, food undergoes numerous steps of both physical and chemical breakdown, allowing nutrients to be released and absorbed. However, the rate and extent of nutrient absorption can be modified through changes in food structure and by food process engineering.

My main research interest is to use quantitative approaches to describe transport, breakdown, and absorption of food in the digestive system. My goal is to increase consumer health benefits, improve food safety, and optimize food processing operations.

By developing the link between process engineering technologies, food structure, and food health benefits, we can better modify and optimize future food products. This will enable the development of foods for health, for example, products with slow breakdown (prolonging satiety response to aid in weight loss), products with delayed glucose release (important for blood glucose control in diabetics), or products with targeted  release of nutrients (to optimize nutrient absorption). This information will assist the food industry in providing high quality, functional food products to consumers.

Current projects:

  • Relationship between food processing and food breakdown during digestion
  • Modification of food nutritional quality and allergenicity using process engineering
  • Development of new generation of dynamic in vitro gastric digestion models
  • Flow dynamics, particle interactions, and mixing during peristaltic flow in the gastrointestinal tract