Dr. Paul Breslin is a Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, a Member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology of the School of Dental Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Paul has received many awards and honors during his career, including a Bill and Melinda Gates Grand Challenges Explorations Award in 2009 for Malaria Research as well as one in 2011 for Childhood Nutrition Research. He has also received the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in the area of perception and motor performance and was recently awarded the 2014 North America service award from the Food, Nutrition, and Safety Program of the International Life Sciences Institute. Paul is here with us today to tell us all about his journey through life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science
Paul spends a lot of his free time with his family and has become a master chauffeur, shuttling his kids back and forth between sporting events, camps, and music lessons. He also has fun cooking and traveling with his wife and kids.
The Scientific Side
His research focuses on the senses of smell, taste, and chemical skin senses (rather than touch skin senses). He is investigating the genetics of how we perceive with these senses.
A Dose of Motivation
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense […]” – Winston Churchill
What Got You Hooked on Science?
From a very early age, Paul was intrigued by brains and behavior, but it wasn’t until his first research experiences in a lab in undergraduate that he realized how exciting it was to be involved in the process of scientific discovery.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges
Some of his early experiments in graduate school were failing, even though the experiments were designed specifically to be difficult to mess up. Paul was able to take these unexpected outcomes and find an interesting story in the data.
A Shining Success!
Some of the work he is really excited about right now is related to anticipation of sensation. There are specific receptors in our mouth that help us detect toxins, and they are trying to find out how the body prepares itself for toxins physiologically and psychologically. His lab is successfully investigating whether bitter tastes cause anticipatory nausea in the absence of poisoning.
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Sufi poets like Rumi and Hafiz, The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar
Most Treasured Travel
Paul was able to go to a fantastic conference in Kyoto, Japan with colleagues, but it just so happened to coincide with a severe heat wave during summer. They had a memorable experience trudging through the Philosopher’s Walk, stopping at various temples and gardens along the way. At the end, they were able to beat their heat-induced delirium with delicious matcha great tea floats.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories
He remembers many years of renting a truck and taking the lab to the largest annual twins festival in the world in Twinsburg, Ohio. Many of the attendees are excited to participate in research, so each year, they were able to work long hours in the summer heat to collect about a years worth of data in just three days! It was a fun but exhausting experience that always ended in a celebration dinner and party.
Advice For Us All
His father instilled in him the idea of the healing power of work. Working hard will make you feel better because it gives you the sense of having accomplished something. Also, what we do and our work is part of who we are.
Paul’s research interests are highly-focused but address multiple disciplines, including sensation and perception through investigation of our chemical senses, flavor, taste, irritation and oral somatosensory psychophysics. He also studies palatability, behavioral neuroscience, human genetics of chemical senses, and Drosophila melanogaster behavioral genetics of chemical senses. His work on regulatory physiology includes investigations into motivation, ingestive behavior, nutrition, and salt appetite. Paul’s research also encompasses animal behavior and learning and molecular and evolutionary biology of taste and smell. Despite the range of his interests, Dr. Breslin’s teaching experience has included most of the areas noted above. In addition, Dr. Breslin has been a highly-active member of a number of professional organizations, serving on a variety of committees and as Program Chair for the Association for Chemoreception Sciences and as a symposium organizer for the Association for Chemoreception Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and the American Society for Human Genetics. He has been an ad hoc member of ten National Institutes of Health study sections or review panels. As an author of over 80 publications, he has been invited to act as a reviewer for over twenty journals and has been a member of the editorial boards of Food Quality and Preference and Chemical Senses. He is currently an Executive Editor of Chemical Senses. Paul also holds patents in Australia, with patents pending in the U.S. and Europe.