BYU sensory lab pays students to eat

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Lab technicians in the Eyring Science Center showcase sample trays that students and faculty can taste test. Students can earn money by participating in taste-testing panels.

BYU’s Sensory Lab rewards students with food and money.  Located in the basement of the Eyring Science Center, the sensory lab was created to give food science students experience conducting taste tests.

“It’s a benefit to students who are in food science as well as anyone on campus because everyone is invited to taste test food,” said Michelle Lloyd, BYU Sensory Lab manager.

Kylie Molen, who has worked as a food lab assistant for two and a half years, explained how easy it is for students to get involved. Molen said students may sign up under the new panelist tab on sensory.byu.edu. Students registered in the lab database receive emails notifying them on an as-needed basis before taste tests.

“On average, we have about 100 (taste tests) per year,” Molen said.

The sensory lab has seven booths with pass-through breadbox compartments. These compartments decrease panelist bias by preventing visual cues or aromas from the preparation room to cause a bias.

Students receive $3 for each 10–15-minute taste test they participate in. That’s equivalent to $12 an hour … just to eat food.

The sensory lab accommodates 28 panelists per hour to participate in consumer-acceptance testing or difference testing. A descriptive panel room is used for focus groups or descriptive consumer panels.

Lloyd said she wished more freshman students knew about the Sensory Lab.

“The largest portion of our database is students, but students are always graduating, so we are always looking for new panelists,” Lloyd said.

Students get paid to eat while helping food science students with hands-on experience. Some of the food participants taste-test might even end up on a grocery store shelf someday.

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