Hayes recognized for taste-perception research

Posted: April 28, 2011

John Hayes, assistant professor of food science, recently received the 2011 Ajinomoto Award from the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, given annually to an outstanding junior scientist who is an emerging leader in the field of gustation.
John Hayes (left) accepts award

John Hayes (left) accepts award

Hayes received the award in recognition of his research on the psychology and biology of taste perception. His investigations have focused on individual differences in taste perception, and how those differences influence the food choices people make.


His work on the biology of oral sensation, which has been funded largely by the National Institutes of Health, has been featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition,”, MSNBC, and in the Chicago Tribune and Vogue.


“The flavor of food is a major driver for why we choose to eat some foods and avoid others,” Hayes said. “The same food can taste differently to different people due to biological differences in our taste receptors. This has important implications for understanding why some Americans may struggle to make good food choices, while others are more successful in eating healthfully.”


The Ajinomoto Award could be a harbinger of good things to come for Hayes. Three of the past 10 Ajinomoto Award winners have gone on to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.


Hayes first became interested in taste perception as a Food Science undergraduate at Cornell University, where he went on to earn his master's degree in the laboratory of Harry Lawless, a world-renowned expert on taste psychophysics and author of a major textbook on the sensory evaluation of food.


Hayes was nominated for the award by former mentor Valerie Duffy, professor of allied health sciences at the University of Connecticut, who received the award in 1998. Hayes earned his doctoral degree under Duffy in 2007, after which he spent two years as an NIH National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellow at Brown University before joining the Penn State Food Science faculty in 2009.