Visiting Italian scientist brings international experience to Natick
May 16, 2014
- As a specialist in sensory science, Borgogno used her expertise to determine the design and decision-making for NSRDEC experiments.
NATICK, Mass. (May 16, 2014) -- Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are leveraging the unique perspectives of visiting international scientists through a program with the U.S. Army International Technology Center - Atlantic.
The USAITC-A promotes cooperation between the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command and international researchers in order to advance broader science and technology knowledge as well as the technical capabilities for U.S. Army missions.
Based in London, the USAITC-A facilitates relationships with international partners by connecting foreign scientists and engineers with U.S. research organizations.
One of those connections resulted in a collaborative research approach for several ongoing NSRDEC projects.
Monica Borgogno, a food scientist earning her Ph.D. in science and agricultural biotechnology from the University of Udine, in northern Italy, was accepted for a three-month stay with NSRDEC as a visiting scientist.
"My program encourages students to work abroad in the final year of their Ph.D.," said Borgogno, who graduates in December. "It's important to gain experience with how outside people work."
When her professor told her about the opportunity to work with the U.S. Army, she jumped at the chance to come to Natick.
"I knew it would be an honor to work with Dr. Cardello," said Borgogno, referring to NSRDEC's senior scientist, Dr. Armand Cardello. "He is known all over the world in my field."
It would prove to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Borgogno already holds both a bachelor's and a master's degree in food science and technology from the University of Florence, Italy, and has experience working in the Italian commercial sector conducting quality control for Latte Trento, a dairy producer in that country. She has also worked in the development of olive oil, wine and ham.
"Monica's background was a major factor in my support of her visit," said Cardello. "She has tremendous expertise in sensory and consumer science, especially with regard to perceptual mapping of product spaces.
"This involves using techniques that enable us to understand how the consumer or Soldier perceives food products in terms of their similarities and dissimilarities to other products."
During her three-month stay at Natick, Borgogno worked on three projects for the NSRDEC: the Macro-nutrient Optimized Dense Ration Components project, a study on the emotional response to foods, and another basic research study to understand how foods and meal situations influence a person's sense of well-being.
As a specialist in sensory science, Borgogno used her expertise to determine the design and decision-making for experiments.
In the MODRaC study, Borgogno sampled and analyzed the perceptions of three flavors of energy bars developed by NSRDEC's Combat Feeding Directorate, compared to those of commercial energy bars. Subjects expressed their perceptions of the products by physically placing them on a large mat and arranging them so that the distances between them reflected the similarities and differences among them. This procedure produced a perceptual map from which differences in appearance, flavor, texture and overall acceptance can be discerned.
The results from the data Borgogno collected will guide further development and refinement of MODRaC products in order to provide an energy-dense, portable ration component capable of maximizing the warfighter's performance.
"I hope my contribution will help the Army find the best way to determine what is needed in the energy bars," she said.
In the emotion study, Borgogno examined the effect of emotion words on consumer responses using both the check-all-that-apply and rating response formats. Her analysis showed that both the total number of checked emotions (CATA) and the total number of non-zero ratings (rating) varied with the number of emotions on the questionnaire, signifying that the number of available emotion words directly influences the number of emotions described by the consumer.
In the well-being study, the objective was to develop and assess different evoked meal scenarios to determine their ability to affect well-being regarding the physical, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual domains.
"We performed focus groups to understand differences among the concepts of health, wellness and well-being to better understand the five dimensions of well-being, and to assess how foods impact each of them," said Borgogno.
"These results will be employed to understand how different rations and meal situations could affect perceived well-being of American Soldiers and consumers."
To Borgogno, the most notable difference in working here was the approach to the research.
"In Italy, the boss decides, and you do it," Borgogno said. "Here, it is more collaborative. Everyone has a say. It is continuous involvement and improvement.
"Also, we didn't have as many labs to develop prototypes."
While the knowledge and experience she gained will undoubtedly propel her career, it is the people she met that made Borgogno's stay most enjoyable.
"I love the people here," she said. "If I needed something, they were always there to help."
As the Army continues to operate in a constrained resource environment, Cardello said he believes engaging in more international partnerships will be of critical importance in addressing the challenges faced in future Army research and development.
"Only through such person-to-person, scientist-to-scientist communications and collaborations can leveraging of new ideas and approaches be made," he said. "Future breakthroughs on all major problems faced by the Army and by the international scientific community can only be made through the exchange of ideas and joint research."
Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.