Almost a year to the day this unexpected hiatus is now over. The past year has been one of the busiest yet, and as those of you that been to grad school (or have significant others that went) you probably understand that it is not a 9-5, especially that last year.
In short, since we spoke last I've conducted research for, and defended my Ph.D. dissertation (I'm walking next Sunday back in Ithaca!), moved to the metro-Boston area, planned and begun execution of a series of multivariate statistics workshops and started work a couple weeks ago at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) as a Postdoc working alongside the Consumer Science folks. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was asked (and accepted) to join the Culinary Institute of America's Research Advisory Council with the likes of Harold McGee and Paul Rozin - I've mentioned numerous times that the CIA holds a special place in my heart and I'm ecstatic to be able to support their research mission in this manner.
The Natick Soldier Systems Center (SSC), of which NSRDEC is a part of, is one of 13 or so RDECs scattered around the US. Natick is the only RDEC that focuses on the soldier's interaction with the world. Clothing and textiles, ergonomics, food and shelter are all major research areas (among others). New gun? Its no good if it causes blisters after a couple minutes of use. What about a new Heads Up Display? Its no good if the soldier is overwhelmed trying to process thousands of pieces of information, or if it weighs to much, or if the batteries don't last. New gadget? How do you balance the weight with the hundreds of other gadgets we'd like our soldiers to carry. This is where we come in.
The U.S. Army has a long history in both food and consumer science research reaching back to the 60s when the Quartermaster Institute was in Chicago. The Combat Feeding Directorate (which I am not a part of, but do work with) is charged with developing rations for the U.S. Army. (If you'd like to jump ahead in time to a future post topic, go here). The Major accomplishments are numerous and stem from the fact that the Army allows its scientists to conduct both basic and applied research. The former components of that is huge in the research world - as sensory scientists, there's few opportunities anymore to conduct any sort of basic work.
Besides supporting other functions within the Consumer and Cognitive Science teams, I'm quite excited about my personal research track which will focus on food and emotion (something completely new and different for me). If you follow the sensory literature, emotion is a very big deal right now, yet all of the work is observational thus far and focuses on how to measure it. We're working on the why and how aspects of food and emotion.
Welcome back everyone!