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K-State Today

April 14, 2011

Satellite sensory analysis center opening at K-State Olathe offers product evaluation, focus groups and more

Submitted by Julie Fosberg

Kansas State University's internationally recognized Sensory Analysis Center is opening a satellite on K-State's new Olathe campus. 

The K-State Olathe Sensory and Consumer Research Center will deal with consumer panels to analyze products related to food safety, food additives, pet foods and pharmaceuticals, according to Edgar Chambers IV, university distinguished professor of human nutrition and center co-director. 

Like its parent in Manhattan, the Olathe center is dedicated to consulting, education and research in the field of sensory analysis. 

The grand opening celebration for K-State Olathe, located just east of Kansas Highway 7 on College Boulevard, and the sensory center satellite will be Tuesday, April 26. 

The Sensory and Consumer Research Center consists of three labs and offices. In one lab, individual booths are set up to evaluate products. In another, focus groups and panels will meet. This lab is equipped for video feeds, Chambers said, that can be sent to clients all over the world and to classrooms. 

"The third lab will operate like our other evaluation panels, only we use pets instead of people and an observation room rather than individual booths," Chambers said. "People will bring pets in for the day to test pet foods or other animal health products." 

The animal lab has an observation room. 

The professional sensory panel and some consumer work for analyzing sensory properties of products for companies, government entities and research will continue to be on the Manhattan campus. 

Chambers said the satellite center is a vital link between teaching and research. 

"From our standpoint, we wanted a larger base of consumers and proximity to companies we work with now and may work with in the future," he said. "K-State Olathe opens up a lot of potential. It puts us in the backyard of people who can use our center." 

Chambers plans for the satellite to open with a staff of manager and several graduate students and to use high school students. "Schools in the area have programs that are looking to train students for lab work. We can offer food lab and research lab experience," he said. 

Chambers also said that three sensory projects were already being discussed or are ready to go: meat safety, pet food and food security related to grain sorghum. The meat project is a longitudinal study the center started 20 years ago; every 10 years focus groups meet to talk about issue associated with eating meat. Safety is a primary one, Chambers said. 

K-State was the first university in the nation to offer a course in flavor evaluation and has been conducting sensory studies since the early 1900s. Today the center, which opened in 1983, conducts descriptive analysis and consumer evaluation on food, beverages, cosmetics, fabrics, health care products and more. 

Chambers, a leader in the field of sensory analysis, has helped establish a satellite panel in Thailand and has similar programs in discussion and development in India, Spain and South Africa. Sensory research takes him, the sensory faculty and graduates all over the world as they analyze products ranging from tea to gelato. 

He and co-director Delores Chambers received K-State’s International Educator Award in 2010 for their efforts to advance international education through research and training. 

K-State offers a master's and a doctorate in sensory analysis and consumer behavior.