In a career spanning 30 years, including 15 as Cigi’s manager of special crops, oilseeds and pulses, Malcolmson has worked with a plethora of industry, government and university groups across Canada and around the world in market development and applied research.
Prior to joining Cigi in 1998, she was a professor of food and nutritional sciences at the University of Manitoba and director of the George Weston Limited Sensory and Food Research Centre at the University of Manitoba.
Meeting so many people over these three decades has been her greatest source of job satisfaction, said Malcolmson as she prepares to leave Cigi.
“My staff often say to me ‘you know everybody,” she said. “The greatest joy of this whole job has been people, and working with great people.”
When she was hired at Cigi, Malcolmson was initially assigned to oversee the wheat technology activities. But she arrived at a time when Cigi’s work was also evolving beyond its traditional emphasis on wheat and cereal grains.
“It quickly was obvious that there was another role for Linda here at Cigi,” says Earl Geddes, chief executive officer with Cigi, adding that it was her knowledge, leadership and commitment that enabled the institute to expand into the whole new area of pulses.
In 2005, the institute opened its pulse-processing and specialty milling facility, which is now staffed by a team of four specialists working new food products made with pulses.
“Linda really started up the whole pulse program here at Cigi,” says Geddes. “Today it’s a major part of our program.”
That, in turn, has significantly boosted the institution’s international reputation, he added.
“She’s raised our reputation as a go-to technical centre because of the extensive knowledge and experience she’s had with various field crops while she’s worked here.”
Malcolmson’s other major contributions at Cigi have included facilitating its ongoing partnership with the Canadian Soybean Council to deliver programs on their behalf, and her extensive work promoting usage of barley flour. She has worked with major food companies around the world.
Colleagues say they’ve always appreciated her ability to motivate those she’s worked with to do their best work.
Elaine Sopiwynk, Cigi’s head of analytical services, whose first association with Malcolmson was as a graduate student in the mid-1990s says she’s always valued Malcolmson’s perspective and often sought her advice.
“She’s never stopped being a teacher,” she said. “She knows you know the answer and she wants you to think of it.”
Trends look good
Malcolmson says she leaves feeling especially proud of the pulse program, the support it’s received from government, grower associations and Pulse Canada, and the skilful staff who will carry on its work.
“I am very proud of the work they’re doing for the pulse industry and I know that the future is in good hands with them,” she said.
It’s also good to end a career focused on healthier foods just as consumer interest and desire to eat more nutritiously has never been stronger, Malcolmson said.
The trends look extremely promising for production and consumption of many more healthy whole foods, she said.
“I would say there is certainly more of a desire and interest to eat healthier and to eat more nutritiously and that has really played well into my work,” she said. “I was never a fan of nutraceuticals, but I was a big fan of functional foods, and using food in a whole form. I’ve been really lucky because towards the end of my career there’s a strong desire for that. It’s a good time to be stepping away.”
But she’s not putting her feet up yet.
Geddes said he plans to keep her on contract for projects. “Losing Linda is a bit of a challenge for Cigi as we’re doing this transition, but we’re pretty sure we’ll be able to still count on her to do some of the project work that requires her level of knowledge,” he said.