Nicole Garneau, PhD

Dr. Nicole Garneau is a geneticist who is interested in the way a person's DNA affects their ability to taste, and therefore their food choices and diet. The data from her research will improve our understanding of how evolution has helped us adapt as a species in order to survive, and also explain the effects of taste evolution on modern day humans. She is an advocate for women in science and making science relevant through engaging communication and outreach in the community.


Learn more about Dr. Garneau's alter ego "Yo Pearl the Science Girl" @yopearlscigirl on Twitter and by clicking the "Explore More" button on the right to access


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The Fatty Acid Taste Study

The community-based Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is now home to a new and groundbreaking population study. Findings from the study will contribute new insights into the possibility that there are more than just the five known tastes of sweet, sour, salty, umami (savory), and bitter. The focus for this study will be to learn more about people’s ability to taste fatty acids.

Community Participation: Research & Educational Goals
The Genetics of Taste Lab is a unique venue for both research study participation and citizen science, connecting the community to real scientific research.

  • Make scientific research accessible and relevant to people’s everyday lives.
  • Actively generate and publish new knowledge to contribute to the field of genetics and human health.

Assuming people can detect the taste of fatty acids, how does it happen?
Research suggests that humans can detect the taste of fatty acids, but how this occurs is not known. To look into this question, the Genetics of Taste Lab is conducting a new research study for public participation. Using an omega-6 essential fatty acid (linoleic acid), the Lab is examining both genetic and environmental factors that might contribute to the ability to taste this important nutrient.

You Can Experience Scientific Research Firsthand
Our goal is to enroll 3,000 people over the course of the two-year study. Over the forty-five minute experience, participants will rate and describe a series of dissolvable taste strips, answer questions about themselves related to taste, and list how everyone is related (genetically or not) in their group. Each participant will leave with a fun packet with games and at home experiments, a fun photo and their very own set of nose clips to take home. We highly encourage friends and family groups and twins (both identical and fraternal) to participate.

This two-year study is led by Nicole Garneau PhD ( and Richard Mattes PhD (, and made possible by a partnership between the Health Science and Visitor Programs Departments at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Nutrition Science Department at Purdue University.


Denver Teen Science Scholars

The Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program is open to students from Colorado high schools who demonstrate through essay and interview their determination to be successful and committed to science. The scholars experience hands-on opportunities to work with the Museum's curators and participate in the scientific process. They also receive encouragement to seek careers in the sciences. The program particularly seeks students whose access to resources may be limited or nonexistent.

The students may select from one of three disciplines: paleontology, zoology, or health sciences. Dr. Nicole Garneau is the mentor for the health sciences students. The scholars work with Dr. Garneau on the Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health research project in Lab Central in Expedition Health.  The students extract and process DNA for gene sequencing and ancestry analysis.

"I've always loved math and science, but I wasn't sure what I could do with it," said Kaitlin Ching, a 2010 Teen Science Scholar. "This program gives me the opportunity to look at the big issues in the world of science, so I know what to concentrate on when I go to college next year."

Get Involved

Click here if you or someone you know is interested in applying for the Denver Museum Teen Science Scholars program.

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