With support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Foreign Agricultural Service, the Cacao and Chocolate Research Network (CCRN) at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is pleased to announce the 2019-2020 Visiting Scientist Program. The program will support five visiting scientists to work with Penn State faculty and international collaborators to advance research that is critical to the development of the fine flavor cacao/chocolate industry in Latin America and the Caribbean. These visiting scientists will spend six months at Penn State or at a partner institution working on one of the following topic areas: advanced sensory evaluation, the fine flavor cacao market, or issues related to cadmium accumulation in cacao. Exchanges will take place within the January 2019 to May 2020 timeframe, with exact dates to be determined jointly by the visiting scientist and his/her Penn State faculty mentor.

General Eligibility Requirements

  • Geography: Candidates must be citizens and residents of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Education: A minimum of a master's degree is required. Preferably, candidates will have at least two years of work experience following their degree.
  • Employment Status: Applicants must be employed by a public, private or academic institution or be enrolled in a PhD level program, and have experience with cacao/chocolate. While applicants from the private sector are welcome, they should be aware that research will be in the public domain. Applicants should have the intention of continuing to work in cacao/chocolate with their current employer for at least two years after the fellowship.
  • English Language Skills: During the fellowship participating will be expected to communicate in English. Applicants must be proficient in reading and writing scientific/technical papers in English and communicating effectively with English-speaking colleagues.
  • Additional Qualifications: In addition to these general eligibility requirements, there are specific qualifications needed for each of the three topic areas. Further information is included in the descriptions of the individual topics below.

Financial Support

The Penn State Fine Flavor Cacao Visiting Scientist Program will provide financial support for: visa fees (if applicable); one roundtrip airfare between the visiting scientist's home airport and Penn State or partner institution; emergency medical insurance; a stipend sufficient to support housing, food and incidental expenses. Limited funding will be provided for research expenses related to the project.

When necessary, participants are responsible to maintain a valid passport at their own expense. The program will not cover travel and other expresses associated with the visa interviews. The emergency medical insurance will not cover routine health care.

How to Apply

  • Applicants must submit the following:
    • CV that includes education, work experience and publications;
    • a letter of recommendation from a current supervisor that confirms the ability to participate in a six-month program; and
    • a letter of recommendation from a collaborator or colleague.
    • The application form and CV must be in English. The letters of recommendation may be in English or Spanish.
    • Submit all materials to snm104@psu.edu by October 31, 2018. Please include "Penn State Fine Flavor Cacao Scientific Exchange Program" in the subject line.
    • Short-listed applicants will be contacted by November 30, 2018 to schedule a phone interview.

Description of Topic Areas

1. Advanced Sensory Analysis (one visiting researcher)

Description: The Food Choice team at Penn State University is one of the leading academic institutions in Sensory & Consumer Science, recognized for its innovative and trans-disciplinary approach to sensory science research and education. During the stay, the visiting scientist will participate in a three-day fundamental sensory science course on Descriptive Analysis, offered through the Food Science Department, and conduct cocoa-related sensory and flavor research. This research will either be in support of on-going activities in Dr. Helene Hopfer's research group or an independent research project, developed with the individual prior to coming to Penn State. Penn State's Food Science Department and Dr. Hopfer are capable of conducting research in the areas of sensory and consumer research methodology for cacao and cocoa evaluation (quantitative and qualitative), connecting sensory attributes to physical and chemical properties in cacao, cocoa, and chocolate, and understanding the impact of processing on the sensory properties of cocoa and chocolate from bean to bar. Examples of on-going research are linking cacao genetics to flavor perception of chocolate, the impact of plant metabolites on bitterness and astringency, and perceptual differences in cocoa and chocolate flavor during eating.

By the end of the six-month period, the researcher will have built skills in the area of Sensory & Consumer Science, with an emphasis on cocoa and chocolate, drafted a research paper and/or presentation at a scientific conference, and successfully completed an introductory course on Descriptive Analysis.

Additional Qualifications: In addition to the general eligibility requirements listed on the first page, applicants for this opportunity must have the following qualifications:

  • Demonstrated experience in human sensory evaluation, either through research projects, work projects or academic courses
  • Preferably, experience with chocolate and/or cocoa evaluation

2. Current Market Size and Growth of Fine Flavor Chocolate Markets (one visiting researcher)

Description: Despite the fact that over the past decade, the numbers of craft chocolate companies in the U.S. has more than doubled, academic research points that currently there is a lack of fundamental knowledge of the fine cacao-chocolate value chain and reliable data on the current market size and growth potential. Additionally, 2019 European regulations related to the limit of cadmium contents in cacao and chocolate products could introduce further barriers to market development and growth. Market and economics research is needed to support the development of this industry and to generate information related to potential demand of fine cacao produced in Latin America and other cocoa origins. A visiting researcher will work with a Penn State advisor and Bill Guyton (Fine Chocolate Industry Association), and other international experts to conduct assessment, based on secondary data and industry interviews.

Additional Qualifications: In addition to the general eligibility requirements listed on the first page, the following qualifications will be desirable for the applicants for this opportunity:

  • Expertise in market and value chain research
  • Expertise in rapid assessments
  • Expertise in market growth modeling, etc.

3. Cadmium and cacao related research (three visiting scientists)

Description: Visiting scientists will be selected to conduct advanced research in one of three areas:

a) Genomics and genetics of cadmium biology in cacao plants

Proposed projects in this area should aim to advance the knowledge related to cadmium biology and genetics of high and low cadmium accumulation in cacao plants. Dr. Siela Maximova and Dr. Mark Guiltinan co-direct the cacao molecular biology program at Penn State and will serve as mentors for these projects.

Additional Qualifications: In addition to the general eligibility requirements listed on the first page, applicants for this opportunity must have the following qualifications:

  • Project/topic relevant experience such as experience in tree molecular genetics, molecular biology techniques, genomics and bioinformatics, and plant functional genomics.

b) Soils research related to cadmium accumulation in cacao

Proposed projects in this area should aim to advance the knowledge and development of methodologies for management of cadmium in agricultural soils in cacao growing regions. Dr. Patrick Drohan conducts soils research related to cadmium in cacao and will serve as mentor for these projects.

Additional Qualifications: In addition to the general eligibility requirements listed on the first page, applicants for this opportunity must have the following qualifications:

  • Experience with soils research related to cadmium accumulation in cacao

c) Cadmium accumulation in cacao and human health

Accumulation of cadmium by food plants including cacao is a topic of significant concern. To date, the bioavailability and/or toxicological potential of cadmium derived from cocoa compared to other food or environmental sources has been under-studied. In addition, the potential interactions between cadmium and other components in cocoa (i.e. polyphenols or fiber) has not been examined. Proposed projects in this area should aim to advance the knowledge of sources, tracking, and bioavailability and hepatotoxicity of cadmium derived from cocoa. Dr. Joshua Lambert conducts research on disease preventive effects, potential toxicity, and bioavailability of dietary components and will serve as mentor for these projects.

Additional Qualifications: In addition to the general eligibility requirements listed on the first page, applicants for this opportunity must have the following qualifications:

  • Experience working with mammalian cell culture and/or mouse models
  • Background in biochemistry, cell biology, pharmacology, or toxicology is desirable

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600

Office for Research and Graduate Education

Address

217 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802-2600