Meet Our Flavor Experts

Congratulations to our recent graduates! 

  • Brandon Carter (PhD)
  • Peter Rizzo (MS)
  • Sara Nishku (MS)


The North Carolina State University Sensory Service Center operates under the direction of Dr. MaryAnne Drake, Professor of Sensory Analysis and Flavor Chemistry and an internationally recognized dairy foods expert. Our core team includes leading sensory scientists and flavor chemists. Learn a little bit more about us and how we work tirelessly to deliver results that help our clients shine.

Flavor Experts

Dr. MaryAnne Drake

Formal Education
Washington State University, Ph.D. Food Science, 1996
Washington State University, M.S. Food Science, 1992
Central Washington University, B.S. Biology, 1990

Professional Memberships
Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) – Fellow

American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) – past president

Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center (SDFRC) – director

American Cheese Society (ACS), American Chemist’s Society (ACS)

Dr. Drake, an acknowledged expert in Dairy Flavor, has been with the Sensory Service Center since 2001. Our clients love that she is highly responsive and always in touch. She enjoys doing extensive research and rapid results driven projects.  She provides quality, hands on expertise as a taster and evaluator. With her amazingly experienced and discriminating palate, she can assuredly describe food products in a useful and sensitive way.

Her favorite meal is black bean soup and she enjoys collecting fine wines.

Read more about Dr. MaryAnne Drake on her NC STATE FBNS department page.

Michele Yates

Formal Education
NC State University, MS, Food Science, 1987
Western Carolina University, BS, Food and Nutrition, 1979

Professional Memberships
Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM)

Michele has been with the Sensory Service Center for over 30 years. As a participatory panel leader, she maintains a contract DA panel trained in the Spectrum™ method to obtain especially thorough and robust results. Michele supports each new crop of graduate students in our lab and keeps track of project details with great accuracy for our clients – all groundwork for the kind of results delivery we take pride in.

Michele is an animal lover with a menagerie of pets, including backyard chickens, and is a Jam and Jelly Judge at the State Fair. She enjoys time away in the mountains.

Graduate Students

Alex Hernandez (MS)

Research Interests: food chemistry, dairy processing


Angelina Schiano (PhD)

Research Interests: consumer survey methods, the impact of vitamin fortification on light oxidation off-flavors in fluid milk


Anita Best (MS)

Research Interests: consumer survey methods, flavor chemistry of whey protein


Chris Reusz (MS)

Research Interests: flavor chemistry, volatile analysis of foods


Clara Racette (MS)

Research Interests: consumer research methods, perception of spicy foods


Daniel Whitt (MS)

Research Interests: effect of protein content on retorted beverages


Dylan Cadwallader (MS)

Research Interests: GC-O, HS-SPME-GC-MS analysis of volatile compounds, migration of flavor and aromatic compounds of paperboard milk cartons


Erica Crown (MS)

Research Interests: dairy processing, sensory analysis methodologies


Hayden Hoyt (MS)

Research Interests: dairy processing, dairy proteins


Heather Keefer (PhD)

Research Interests: sugar reduction in dairy foods, esp. protein bars, vitamin degradation in protein bars


Marshall Dunn (MS)

Research Interests: milk protein concentration through membrane filtration


Ryan Nakamura (MS)

Research Interests: dairy processing, sensory analysis methodologies, consumer research methods


Tess Liu (MS)

Research Interests: flavor chemistry of plant-based proteins


William Harwood (PhD)

Research Interests: temporal sensory methods, consumer survey methodology