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Albright College Young Alumni

The Sweet Smell of Success

Srom the sweetness of a piece of creamy milk chocolate melting on your tongue to the horrific stench of garbage rotting in the hot sun, tastes and smells, both good and bad, are often taken for granted. For Cathy Rosowski ’02, however, they’re all in a day’s work.

A laboratory technician at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Rosowski assists in all facets of research on taste, smell and chemosensory irritation, better known as allergies. She is responsible for the design of experiments, data analysis and presentations.

Founded in 1968, Monell was the world’s first scientific institute for multidisciplinary research on the chemical senses at every level, from molecular to behavioral.

Together with a team of top scientists from academia, industry and government, Rosowski says once the team has determined where they want to go with the research, they brainstorm creative ways to approach the topic. “We also do a lot of pilot testing which helps us test for unforeseen variables and to find a study that will work well,” she says.

Research conducted at Monell covers a wide range of areas including sensation & perception; neuroscience & molecular biology; environmental & occupational health; chemical ecology & communication; health & well-being; and nutrition & appetite. A recent study, Rosowski says, examined varieties of food cravings. Participants were either placed on a monotonous diet or one with a variety of food. “We found that people on the monotonous diet had two or more food cravings than those on the variety of foods diet,” she says. Researchers were also able to see patterns in the cravings. The other side of the experiment, says Rosowski, gave one group a vanilla-based shake for several days and the other chicken soup for the same number of days. “With these groups we found that the people who had the vanilla-based shake craved more savory foods and the group with the chicken soup typically craved sweet things,” she says.

Current research at Monell can hold the key to a lot of problems facing Americans today. According to Rosowski, studies on nutrition and the factors that can lead to obesity; industrial chemicals affecting chemosensory function and the functions of the human body; and even mouth odors are among the many areas being researched. This type of study, she says, can really improve many people’s lives.

Rosowski, a psychobiology major, says the interdisciplinarity of her major provided an excellent background in her current research. “The chemical senses have so much in common with both sides. I find that I use both backgrounds,” she says.

With a future pointed towards graduate school, Rosowski is busy soaking up her experience at Monell with as many senses as she can. “It’s amazing that there is so much to know about something you take for granted,” she says.

— Amy M. Buzinski ’03

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