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Neuroscience and Society Series: Taste and Smell

1200 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC


Smells Delicious and Good to Eat: How Your Brain Distinguishes Tastes and Aromas

We all like to eat, especially our favorite dishes. And we all like pleasant aromas, such as freshly picked flowers. Why is it that some foods taste better than others, and why do different people like or dislike different foods? How does it happen that certain aromas appeal to us, while others make us hold our noses? And how do taste and aroma interact with each other?

Neuroscientists are leading the way in finding answers to those questions, and others are using knowledge gained from science to satisfy the human palate and sense of smell. Speakers include a neuroscientist from the Monell Institute, and experts in wine, food, and fragrance. We will learn how sommeliers choose and evaluate wines, how chefs create menus, and how perfumers and others create fragrances that are appealing.

Following the program, enjoy a special tasting reception and an interactive demonstration with perfumes to experience what you learned about taste and aroma.


Gary Beauchamp is Director and President of Monell Chemical Senses Center, a position he has held since 1990. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Considered one of the world’s leading experts on chemosensory science, Dr. Beauchamp serves as a scientific advisor to numerous governmental and private organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Beauchamp maintains an active research program at Monell, exploring varied topics related to taste, olfaction, and chemesthesis. Trained as a psychobiologist, his research has contributed to advancements in the fields of developmental psychology, physiological psychology, and perception; he has also made important contributions in the fields of genetics, developmental biology, immunobiology, ethology, and molecular biology. Dr. Beauchamp received his B.A. in biology from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in biopsychology from The Pritzker School of Medicine of the University of Chicago. 

Joan Marrinan discovered the sensory world of fragrance creation during a college summer internship in Grasse, France. An English major at Boston College, with a minor in French, she soon learned that the language of smell was as expressive as that of literature, and she spent the entire summer learning “how to smell.” Post college, she began her Fragrance development career in the Lab of a Fragrance House. Thereafter, she became a Fragrance Evaluator. As an Evaluator, one guides a Perfumer in the creation of a fragrance for the marketplace. Language is essential in communicating how something smells and finding the words is key to the art of fragrance creation. She has worked in the areas of Fine Fragrance, Toiletries and Home Fragrance and now leads a team in the creation of fragrances for Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret at a privately held Fragrance House in Manhattan.

Kathryn Morgan became the 171st person in the world to earn the Master Sommelier Diploma in August of 2010. She is currently one of only 112 Master Sommeliers in North America, 17 of whom are women. Ms. Morgan has been focused on wine in the hospitality industry since 1999. She has served as sommelier and wine director at top restaurants in Washington including the historic Occidental Restaurant, Ristorante Tosca, and 2941 Restaurant. Under her direction, 2941 and Tosca all earned nominations for “Best Wine and Beverage Program” from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. In 2007, Washingtonian Magazine selected 2941’s wine list as one of the top five in the D.C. metropolitan area. In 2010, the Washington City Paper named her the best sommelier in Washington. 

Susan Watterson has more than twenty years of hands-on experience in many facets of the culinary arts: hotels (The Jefferson and Sheraton Premiere), restaurants (Old Angler’s Inn, Obelisk); catering (Design Cuisine, Fete Accomplie, Susan Gage Caterers) and education (L’Academie de Cuisine). She has taken the helm a number of times over the years, as Managing Director of L’Academie/Bethesda, Catering Director of Fresh Start Catering and as Executive Chef of Café Bethesda. She is a principal founder of CulinAerie, a Washington, DC culinary school.

When and where?
May 6, 2014
5:30 p.m.
AAAS Auditorium
1200 New York Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Additional Resources
Video Recording
Dana Foundation Blog

About the Series
The Neuroscience and Society series is a partnership between AAAS and the Dana Foundation.