Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program | UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education

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Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program

An Innovative Online Program for Sensory Science Professionals

UC Davis Extension is the industry-recognized leader in the education of sensory science professionals. Approved by the Department of Food Science and Technology, UC Davis, our online program is the only one of its kind and is continually updated to reflect current and cutting-edge methods in the area of sensory science and consumer testing. Join our global community of sensory science professionals.

Designed for working professionals, the program features:

  • Online Convenience—Engaging online courses offer one-on-one access to expert instructors no matter where you live
  • Exceptional Networking Opportunities—Interactive format allows you to expand your skills, exchange ideas and build an extensive network with peers from around the world that can support you throughout your career
  • "Real-world" Learning – Class projects combine academic and real-world expertise backed by the academic standards of UC Davis
  • Veteran Instructors – Learn from internationally acknowledged leaders in the field, including UC faculty and industry professionals

About the program:

The Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program consists of graduate professional-level courses approved by the Academic Senate at UC Davis. Upon successful and sequential completion of all four courses, each student will have completed 140 hours of instruction and earned 16 units of academic credit. Unlike an industry short course that lasts a few days, these courses are 10-11 weeks long offering you enough time to apply the material learned to instructor-evaluated assignments designed to test your mastery of the concepts and applications.

Estimated Cost:

Each course is $2,200, so you can plan to budget a total of $8,925, which includes the one-time nonrefundable $125 certificate fee.

How to Apply:

You must complete a short application describing how you discovered the program, your current employment and experience with sensory science and consumer testing, and your educational background. You will get an email from the program assistant in 2-3 business days to let you know what to expect next.

In order to ensure the appropriate level of interaction between faculty and students, this program is limited to the first 60 qualified applicants.

Program Requirements:

Prerequisites: Completion of a college-level statistics course is required for admission to the program.

Students must receive a grade of "C" or better in each course to earn the certificate. Courses must be taken in sequential order.

Technical Requirements

The statistical software package used in Sensory Evaluation Methods (course two) and Consumer Testing Methods (course three) is not compatible with Windows VISTA Home, Windows 10 or Mac iOS. For information on the technical requirements for this online program visit our FAQs page.

2019 Program Dates*

Course titles Start date
Foundations of Sensory Science September 30, 2019
Sensory Evaluation Methods January 6, 2020
Consumer Testing Methods April 6, 2020
Applications of Sensory Science And Consumer Testing Principles July 6, 2020
*Course outlines are subject to change.  

Course One

Taught by Rebecca Bleibaum, M.A.

Foundations of Sensory Science

Scope and objectives: Physiological and psychological bases for sensory evaluation and consumer testing.

Lesson 1

Introduction to Sensory Science

  • Introduction to Sensory Science Definition, history, the senses, methods, and differences from other research methods.
  • Basic Sensory Research (medical, categories, nutrition, communication between processors).
  • Roles of Sensory Science in marketing, product development, quality assurance, etc.

Lesson 2

The Senses: Taste–Gustation

  • Gustation (Taste)–primary tastes, anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of taste. Transducer and neural effects including receptor types, stimulus- receptor transducer mechanisms, neural channels, neural codes, and cortical cell types and mechanisms; taste modifiers; adaptation of taste.

Lesson 3

The Senses: Olfaction and Tactile

  • Olfaction (Smell)–anatomy, physiology and chemistry of smell, transduction, adaptation, classification systems, illusions.
  • Tactile (Touch)–tactile sensations, temperature, mouthfeel, pungency, heat, trigeminal pain.

Lesson 4

The Senses: Vision and Audition

  • Vision (Seeing)–eyes: design and anatomy; visual organization including rods, cones, detection, contrast effects, depth, color perception, after effects, adjustments to distorted vision.
  • Audition (Hearing)–mechanisms, anatomy, adaptation, delayed feedback, sound location.

Lesson 5

The Senses and the Brain

  • Tricks the senses may play, senses and the brain, information overload, attention and adaptation, context, illusions.
  • The Mind–how information is processed, analytical and affective components of sensation.
  • Humans as Sensory Instruments–physiological and psychological biases–what can we do?
  • Theory of Sensory Measurement–response bias, psychophysics.

Lesson 6


  • Level of Measurements
  • Purposes of scaling, methods of scaling
  • Ranking
  • What is happening cognitively when we do scaling?
  • What is hedonic scaling?
  • Acceptance testing

Lesson 7

Discrimination Theory and Testing Methods

  • Why some people do better (central vs. peripheral processing)
  • Thurstonian Modeling
  • Memory Effects
  • Creating more sensitive tests
  • Guessing Models for Discrimination Theory

Lesson 8

Signal Detection and the R-Index

  • Signal Detection Theory
  • John Brown's R-index

Lesson 9

Labs and Procedures

  • The Sensory Evaluation Laboratory–environment, test protocol, instructions to panel, palate cleansing, swallowing and expectoration, randomization and labeling, etc.
  • Virtual Tour of evaluation booths.
  • Testing Procedures–strategy, staffing, experimental design options, use of human subjects, selection and training, screening tests, performance assessment.

Lesson 10

Course Summary

  • A summary of lessons 1 through 9.

Back to top

Course Two

Prerequisite: Foundations of Sensory Science

Taught by Jean Xavier Guinard, Ph.D.

Sensory Evaluation Methods

Scope and objectives: Common basic methods, theories, and approaches used in the execution of sensory evaluation and consumer testing research.

Lesson 1

  • Review of Course 1 materials
  • Sensory Evaluation Methods (classification and purposes)

Lesson 2

  • Univariate Statistics
  • Measures of central tendency and dispersion; binomial and nominal distributions; Student's t-test; Chi-square; correlation and regression; analysis of variance; multiple mean comparisons

Lesson 3

  • Theory and measurement of thresholds
  • Types of thresholds
  • Applications
  • Methods for measuring thresholds

Lesson 4
Difference Tests

  • Types of difference tests
  • Applications of difference testing
  • Difference vs. similarity testing
  • Difference tests

Lesson 5

  • Types of scales
  • Applications of scaling
  • Uses and abuses of scales
  • Psychological biases in scaling

Lesson 6

  • Multivariate Statistics
  • Basic principles, types of methods and applications
  • Regression methods (RSM, PLS), factor analysis methods (PCA, GPA) and classification methods (Cluster analysis)

Lesson 7
Descriptive Analysis

  • Descriptive Analysis
  • Purposes, applications, principles
  • Panel selection and screening
  • Term generation and scorecard development
  • Panel training
  • Judge performance (criteria and assessment)

Lesson 8
Descriptive Analysis Methods

  • Descriptive Analysis Methods
  • The Flavor Profile Method, The Texture Profile Method, Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA), Spectrum Method, Free-Choice Profiling, etc.

Lesson 9

  • Time-Intensity Measurements: purposes and principles
  • Training for Time-Intensity Profiling
  • Analysis of time-intensity curves

Lesson 10
Instrumental Measures

  • Instrumental Measurements of Sensory Properties
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Flavor (taste and aroma)
  • Relation with sensory measurements

Back to top

Course Three

Prerequisites: Foundations of Sensory Science and Sensory Evaluation Methods

Taught by Jean Xavier Guinard, Ph.D.

Consumer Testing Methods

Scope and objectives: Management of sensory evaluation and consumer testing resources, activities, and their interaction with other business units; exploratory research techniques.

Lesson 1

  • Introduction
  • History
  • Terminology
  • Consumer testing vs. market research
  • Types of consumer tests
  • Settings for consumer tests
  • Applications of consumer tests

Lesson 2

Sampling, recruitment, and screening

  • Sampling and demographics
  • Sample size and power issues
  • Source of test subjects: employees vs. local residents vs. population at large
  • Databases and subject pools
  • Recruitment methods
  • Screening

Lesson 3

Quantitative tools

  • Preference testing
  • Measurement of liking
  • Just-right scales
  • Other acceptance rating scales
  • Other scales or tools used in quantitative market research
  • Questionnaire design
  • Special issues
  • Product optimization applications of hedonic ratings by consumers

Lesson 4


  • Demographics, psychographics, attitudes, usage and genetics
  • Understanding consumer language–the Repertory Grid Method
  • Segmenting consumers based on preferences for product or service features–Conjoint Analysis
  • Segmenting consumers based on sensory liking–Internal Preference Mapping and Preference Clustering

Lesson 5


  • Definitions of "context" and context variables
  • History of context research
  • Documented effects of context variables on consumer behavior and responses
  • Use of Robust Design Methodology to study context effects
  • Implications of context research on consumer testing methodology

Lesson 6

Laboratory, central location, home-use and other field tests

  • Surveys
  • Online market research–Testing through the Internet
  • Internal laboratory tests (with employees or local residents)
  • Central Location Tests
  • Home Use Tests
  • Other field tests (e.g., mobile laboratory, simulated-supermarket setting, etc.)
  • Testing with special populations
  • Contracting a consumer test to a market research agency

Lesson 7

Qualitative methods

  • What is "qualitative"?
  • Idea generation methods
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth individual interviews
  • Projective techniques
  • Ethnography
  • Using the Internet for qualitative research

Lesson 8

Relating consumer and sensory data

  • The regression method
  • Response surface methodology
  • Principal component analysis of sensory attributes and hedonic ratings
  • Internal preference mapping with projection of sensory data
  • External preference mapping
  • Drivers of liking

Lesson 9

Market research methods

  • Consumer trends research
  • Usage and attitudes studies
  • Means-End Chain Analysis
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Simulated Test Markets
  • Advertising research

Lesson 10

Consumer-driven innovation

  • Chronemics Method
  • The Gemba Method
  • The Quali-Quanti Method
  • Customer-Defined Quality
  • Empathic design

Back to top

Course Four

Prerequisites: Foundations of Sensory Science, Sensory Evaluation Methods and Consumer Testing Methods

Taught by Rebecca Bleibaum, M.A.

Applications of Sensory Science and Consumer Testing Principles

Scope and objectives: Current business applications of the foundations, principles, and methods taught in the first three courses, for sensory evaluation and consumer testing.

Lesson 1

Product Development Principles

  • Stages of Product Evaluation and Product Lifecycle
  • Brand Control, Competence Structure, and Sensory/Consumer Testing Activities
  • Basic Assumptions of Product Development
  • Steps in Product Development
  • Aspects of Marketing Specificity
  • Aspects of Product Specificity
  • Product Development Activities Related to Specificity

Lesson 2

Quality Control and Stability Testing

  • Overview and Background
  • What is Quality?
  • Implementation of a Sensory Specification
  • Special Issues with Sensory Specification
  • Measuring Product Stability–Shelf Life
  • Final Thoughts

Lesson 3

Product Improvement

  • Why Do We Improve Products?
  • Where Do Line Extensions Fit into Product Improvement?
  • Discrimination Methods in Product Improvement
  • Descriptive Methods in Product Improvement
  • Affective Methods in Product Improvement
  • Qualitative Methods in Product Improvement
  • Product Development Case History

Lesson 4

New Product Development

  • How Do Companies Get New Product Ideas?
  • The Hierarchy of New Products
  • Front End of Innovation
  • Concept Generation
  • Concept Identification
  • Consumer Driven Innovation
  • Product Development and Evaluation
  • Product Development and Validation

Lesson 5

Product Optimization

  • The "Optimum Product" Fallacy
  • Qualitative Evaluation in Product Optimization
  • Number and Selection of Products for Optimization
  • Descriptive Evaluation in Product Optimization
  • Analytical Evaluations in Product Optimization
  • Measuring Consumer Acceptance in Optimization Research
  • Selecting Variables to Predict Product Liking in Optimization
  • Reducing Redundancy in Descriptive and Analytical Variables
  • Statistical Analysis in Optimization
  • Segmentation in Optimization
  • Non Sensory and Acceptance Aspects of Optimization
  • Does Optimization Work?
  • Validation
  • Conclusions

Lesson 6

Post Marketing Audits

  • Overview
  • Product Maintenance Strategies
  • Retail Audits
  • Product Procurement for Marketing Audits
  • Sensory Science and Consumer Testing Methods Used in Audits
  • Marketing Audit Example
  • Market Audit Business Effects
  • Case History–Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lesson 7

Extended Use Testing

  • Why Would a Product Change in its Acceptance Over Time/Repeated Use?
  • Which Products Should Undergo Extended Use Testing?
  • How Much Sample for Extended Use Testing?
  • Where Do Extended Use Tests Take Place?
  • How Many Evaluations Qualify for Extended Use?
  • What Types of Sensory/Consumer Evaluations Can be Used in Extended Use Testing?
  • How Does Monotony Relate to Extended Use Testing?
  • How Does Extended Use and Satiety Relate?
  • Purchase of Extended Use Evaluations
  • How Do Extended Use and Brand Loyalty Relate?
  • Conclusions

Lesson 8

Advertising Claims

  • Who Regulates Advertising Claims?
  • Schrank's Categories of Advertising Claims
  • Superiority Claims
  • Developing an Advertising Claim
  • Case Histories
  • Planning and Advertising Claim
  • Generic Deposition or Testifying as an Expert Witness
  • Defending Against a Competitive or Regulatory Activity Directed At Your Company
  • Conclusions

Lesson 9

Resources and Issues in Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

  • Strategic Management of Your Resources
  • Sensory Science Interaction with Market Research Department
  • What Does Sensory Science and Consumer Testing have to Offer Market Research?
  • Interaction of Sensory Science and Production
  • Why Use Outside Resources or Vendors
  • Choice of a Vendor
  • Partial Vendor List for the United States, Canada, and Parts of Europe
  • Partial List of Journals and Publications of Interest
  • Ethics in Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

Lesson 10

The Future of Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

  • Education of the Sensory Scientist
  • Tools for Data Collection
  • Digital Aroma Technology
  • Sensory and Consumer Testing Methodology
  • Taste Modifiers Research
  • Cross Cultural Research
  • Non-Food Applications
  • Final Send-off for Students

Apply Now

Our program operates on a first-come, first-served basis.  Please apply at any time.  The deadline for the current cycle is September 15.  Should the program be full, you will be waitlisted until a position opens in the program. 

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“The Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Program was a dream come true.”

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