UACES Facebook Food science graduate student wins Pangborn Sensory Science Ph.D. Scholarship
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Oct. 22, 2020

Food science graduate student wins international scholarship for work in Sensory Science Center

By U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts

  • Food science doctoral student Ragita Pramudya wins national scholarship
  • Rose Marie Pangborn Sensory Science Scholarship provides $15,000
  • Pramudya conducts research in Sensory Science Center

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ragita Pramudya, a graduate student in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, has been awarded the 2020 Rose Marie Pangborn Sensory Science Scholarship for her research with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Taste Testing070
TASTE TEST — Ragita Pramudya, winner of the Rose Marie Pangborn Sensory Science Scholarship, conducts research with associate professor Han-Seok Seo in the Division of Agriculture's Sensory Science Center. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Fred Miller)

Pramudya is a doctoral student in the department of food science. She conducts research with Han-Seok Seo, associate professor of food science and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station’s Sensory Science Center.

The Agricultural Experiment Station is the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

The Pangborn scholarship provides $15,000 for a doctoral student who intends to teach and conduct research in sensory science at the university level. Planned or on-going dissertation research must be on a sensory topic under the guidance of a sensory scientist. Candidates from all around the world are evaluated on the basis of academic record, intended research in human sensory science, commitment to a career in teaching sensory science and support by letters of recommendation.

“I am extremely honored and grateful to have been selected in a field full of so many other passionate researchers,” Pramudya said. “I hope to use the funds from this scholarship to positively contribute to sensory science, and ultimately better the understanding of human sensory perception in food and beverage applications.”

Sensory research

Seo said the vision of the Sensory Science Center is to contribute to improved quality of life through healthy and happy eating behavior. This is his guiding principle behind a mission for basic and applied research to understand the multisensory interactions of appearance, taste, texture, sound, and smell related to foods.

To fully understand those sensory components, Seo said, they have to be holistically examined within foods — understanding the characteristics that affect the senses — and how those effects vary between consumers. Environmental context also has an effect on how consumers perceive and enjoy food.

The sensory lab has a professional kitchen and a sampling room. Two professional panel groups are trained to provide scientific and consumer-friendly descriptions that characterize food products in terms of five modes of sensory perception, Seo said. The center also has the capability to analyze texture of food and how it responds to forces required for biting and chewing in the mouth.

The center’s research staff conducts wide-ranging projects, many in collaboration with more than 90 industry partners. These projects include investigations to evaluate consumer acceptance and liking of specific foods, including aromatic rice varieties, flavored waters that use mixtures of berry essences offering health benefits, and apple butter products.

Seo said he and his research team are also working to develop a new methodology for evaluating sensory perceptions of hot and cold food and beverage items, including brewed coffee, tea, rice and soups.

Other investigations seek better understanding of how cognitive style or emotional status can affect consumer perceptions of foods. Seo said related research examines how sensory or multisensory disorders affect those perceptions.

The tasting facility was designed to control environmental conditions that affect perception of foods. For example, the color of lights can be changed dramatically to disguise the natural appearance of food products. In addition, immersive technology, using immersive rooms or virtual reality, was also designed to explore how consumer perception and acceptability can change in different environmental factors.

Getting a handle on these varying influences on consumer perception and liking, Seo said, can help food companies, sensory scientists, nutrition experts, and marketers to use sensory nudges to induce smart and healthy eating behaviors among consumers.

Service to industry

Many of the sensory tests used for research are also available to help food companies evaluate consumer response to new food items, Seo said. The trained descriptive panel can evaluate food products for appearance, aroma, flavor and texture.

Seo said the lab conducts consumer testing on demand. With a database of willing consumers, the center recruits taste testers according to a company’s specifications to match a target customer base.

Consumer behavior analysis by focus groups is also available on demand, Seo said. Remote observation capabilities permit testing at any location, including other countries.

It’s academic

The Sensory Science Center’s staff includes several master’s and doctoral students, whose classroom education finds practical application in research and food industry service, Seo said.

“Students have many opportunities to work with industry professionals,” Seo said. “This offers better understanding of current needs and trends in the food trade and allows them to network with industry professionals.”

Pramudya is a great example of the quality of the center’s student staff, Seo said. The scholarship is a testimony to her efforts.

“This is the highest recognition for students in the field of sensory and consumer sciences,” Seo said. “This is a marvelous achievement for Ragita and our program, and we’re extremely proud of her.”

Pramudya earned her bachelor’s degree in food science from the University of Wisconsin and her master’s degree in food science with a focus on sensory and consumer science from the U of A.

Since 2018, she has focused her doctoral research on cross-modal interaction between hand-feel touch and chemosensory cues.

Pramudya previously won the prestigious Rick Bell Memorial Travel Scholarship Award at the 2019 Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland. She also placed third in the Rose Marie Pangborn Graduate Student Oral Competition at the annual national meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists in 2018.

The Pangborn scholarship, awarded through the Sensory Science Scholarship Fund, honors the memory of professor Rose Marie Pangborn, who initiated the scholarship fund to encourage the education of sensory scientists intending to pursue academic careers.

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.


About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


Media Contact: Fred Miller
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
(479) 575-5647

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