Meet the Staff: Debbie Parker

From a very early age, I’ve had a love of the natural world and desire to find out how everything works. It was this curiosity that led me to a career as a scientist. I first worked as a Laboratory Technician in London whilst studying day-release to gain a Degree in Applied Biology and Biochemistry, before moving on to become a Principal Technical Officer to gain a Brewing Diploma. Finally, I became a Research Scientist to achieve a Doctorate in Brewing Science. My natural tasting ability and knowledge of flavours led me to Sensory Science, another graduation, and more recently, a move to Marketing Sciences to lead the Sensory team at the fantastic facilities in Westerham in Kent.

Being new, my typical day has yet to establish a pattern but at the moment a day in the life can be….

9:00am – Arrive at the Office and check with Sharyn, our panel co-ordinator , that everything is on track for the morning’s panel session. A quick check of emails in case anything urgent needs addressing.

9:30 – Our sensory panellists arrive and we introduce the morning’s products for evaluation. Sharyn will have prepared a range of samples and each product is presented blind to each panellist one at a time for them to describe the sensory characteristics in their own words. All aspects of the product are considered, which can include appearance, texture, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and aftertaste, depending on the product and client brief.

11:00 – The vocabulary is gathered from each panellist and we have a round table discussion to rationalise terms (attributes) and check that everyone knows what each attribute relates to and agree a scale for how to describe low and high levels.

11:30 – Panellists leave and I gather the vocabulary together to generate a profile form and glossary for panellists to use at the first profile session of the products tomorrow.

12:30 – Check emails, lunch and a walk around the beautiful town of Westerham to stretch legs and refresh the mind!

1:30 – Back in the Central Hub Kitchen, Sharyn starts cooking the next round of samples which we are evaluating this afternoon for a different project.

2:00 – A second round of panellists arrive and I give them some feedback on the first profiling results from a vocabulary session the previous day. We discuss the scores as a group and I then go through some individual scores to help clarify some attributes they were less sure of. The whole panel then evaluates the products for a second time.

4:00 – Panellists leave and I embark on analysing data for statistical differences from another completed project. It’s at this point of the process where we can really help our clients with their in-depth knowledge of the unique characteristics that help build their products into what consumers know and love.

5:00 – Think about shutting down and answering that urgent email!

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Dr Debbie Parker
01959 563214
Article date - 07/03/2014
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