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Nicole Garneau: Taking Taste Tests to the Next Level

Denver Museum of Nature and Science shares welcomes community thanks to Top Young Pro


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NICOLE GARNEAU, 36

CURATOR + CHAIR, HEALTH SCIENCES PI GENETICS OF TASTE LAB, DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE + SCIENCE

Garneau has welcomed the community into the realm of scientific research, offering visitors the chance to co-create the research she conducts on human taste by helping select, co-design, launch and execute the human genetics studies in the Lab. As part of this open-door initiative, museum visitors can also choose to become crowdsourced participants in the annual research studies, donating their data, DNA and tongues to science. Garneau has worked extensively to make the experience inclusive, and in 2016 was awarded a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to expand her innovative community model to both English and Spanish.

“Few things are more professionally satisfying to me than the joy of discovering something new about the intricacy of how our bodies work, something that can help and inform others, and doing it alongside the community,” Garneau says.

To bridge the gap between traditional lab-based studies of taste and the real-life experience of eating, Garneau has recently extended her work beyond the lab. She coined the term and methodology of “crowdtasting,” a research model for inviting members of the public to dinner and festival-style events and using this forum to study novel questions about human taste in real-world settings.

As a founding member of the Beer & Food Working Group (Brewers Association), she is now analyzing some of the first data to support an understanding for food and drink interactions. She is co-founder of both the Beer Flavor Map that revolutionizes beer tasting and judging (used in all major beer competitions in the USA), and DraughtLab, which is the only software designed exclusively for the craft beer industry to help remove barriers to utilizing sensory for quality control. Her TEDx talk, “On the Trail of the Sixth Taste,” led to her being featured on NPR’s TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz. Outside the museum, Garneau volunteers her time to numerous nonprofits, including the Health School’s Summit, the Colorado Women’s Foundation Girls Leadership Council and Latinas in STEM.

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Lisa Ryckman

Lisa Ryckman is ColoradoBiz's managing editor. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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