The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Viticulture & Enology Graduate Student Research Spotlight: Robert Herrell
Looking ahead to graduation in less than two months, Fresno State graduate student Robert Herrell is one of the viticulture and enology program's most talented students and researchers.
Since arriving on campus in the fall of 2019, he has helped conduct innovative, wine sensory evaluation research on physiological and emotional responses that he will share in professional journals and a sensory science national conference.
He has also gained great hands-on experience at Toca Madera Winery working with wine processing, cellar operations, tasting and evaluation trials, chemical tests and employee training.
Learn more how his passion for science and taste has taken the Grass Valley, CA native from an undergraduate chemical engineering degree at UC Davis to winemaking internships around the world in this recent interview.
Q: Give us your official master's thesis project title, and which faculty member did you work with?
Herrell: "I'm dong my thesis under Dr. Miguel Pedroza on the project, 'Evaluation of physiological techniques as a tool in measuring emotional response to wine odorants.'"
Q: What are some the most important things you've learned from this research?
Herrell: "I’ve learned much about our brain’s processing of stimuli and the intimate relationship between aroma, taste, and emotions. In a more broad sense, the research I’ve conducted here has helped me break through my comfort zone and design an entire experiment with Dr. Pedroza's guidance, and dive into new and exciting topics on psychophysiology and physiological analysis."
Q: Have you had any internships or part-time jobs, and what types of tasks did you do?
Herrell: "I have worked in the cellar at Toca Madera Winery, helping the winemaker Shayne Vetter, who is a Fresno State viticulture and enology alumnus, craft his wines. I learned a lot of hands-on things about wine processing choices during harvesting and crush, and the eventual repercussions of these decisions."
Q: What was your background in agriculture before you started at Fresno State?
Herrell: "I worked in the lab and cellar at three different wineries: The Ranch Winery (under E&J Gallo) as a lab technician for the 2017 harvest, St. James Winery in Missouri from 2018-2019, and Hunter’s Wines in Marlborough, New Zealand for their 2019 harvest."
Q: Have you received any type of Jordan College scholarships?
Herrell: "I am thankful to have received the Fugelsang/Muller scholarship, American Vineyard Magazine scholarship, Ross Borba Sr. Family scholarship, Ron Radoicich Memorial scholarship and H&N Moordigian scholarship."
Q: After graduation, what's your potential next career step, and how do you plan to use your degree with eventually?
Herrell: "I want to be a winemaker, and I got into viticulture and enology because of the intense emotional impact that wine aroma and taste has on people. The graduate program has greatly enhanced my understanding of this phenomenon."