Student Spotlight: Rachel Allison

Rachel Allison

July 12, 2021

Rachel Allison is a doctoral candidate in food science and technology from Toronto, Canada. After earning a B.S.c. in engineering chemistry and a B.A. in economics from Queen’s University, she chose to pursue further study at Cornell after a positive undergraduate research experience and introduction to the field of food science at Cornell. Allison won second place in the 2021 Three Minute Thesis competition.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

My research falls broadly under enology, specifically within wine chemistry. I study the development of sulfurous off-aromas in wines during storage. My work focuses on understanding the formation and stability of these off-aromas and their precursors and developing convenient approaches for their quantification.

What are the larger implications of this research?

Wine is a culturally significant product, prized for its variety and expression of its agricultural origins. Our work can provide winemakers with tools to ensure wine quality across changing vintages, terroirs, and technology.

You were named second place winner in the 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. Can you describe the process of condensing your research into a three-minute presentation?

I approached 3MT by breaking it down into shorter sub-sections to not get caught up spending too long on the background information. Most of the preparation time was spent practicing for friends and colleagues and incorporating tons of feedback.

How will you take what you’ve learned from participating in the 3MT and use it in future academic and professional contexts?

This was largely an exercise in using feedback effectively; identifying who to ask for the feedback I needed, communicating clearly what I was trying to create, and then distilling the information that I received. Communicating objectives and being able to interpret feedback is going to be important for writing and revising my thesis and in future opportunities for effective wine education.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I am passionate about wine education/appreciation. I recently co-founded the Graduate Wine Society and I competed for several years in international blind wine tasting competitions with Cornell’s Cuvée Wine Education and Blind Tasting Team. I am pursuing certification with The WSET as an inaugural scholar with The Roots Fund. I love to design custom cakes, taking inspiration largely from modern art and nature.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I had a positive undergraduate research experience and introduction to the field of food science through the Summer Scholars Program (undergraduate summer research program in the field of food science).