Sample Sciences Proposal

Sample Sciences Proposal

Field(s) of study or investigation: Biology

Describe in a few sentences what you want to do in your independent study or project:

I want to verify for myself whether or not the tongue map (sweet, sour, salty, bitter regions) often taught in schools actually has any scientific basis. The project would include finding taste test volunteers, plugging their noses to prevent extraneous smell data, and touching various areas of their tongues with various flavored sticks to see if any one region of the tongue is especially sensitive to any one specific flavor.

How did you become interested in this topic?

Since learning that food science has recently accepted 'umami' as a fifth taste, I've often gone back to the tongue map they taught me back in elementary school and wondered why they didn't realize this fifth taste existed sooner when they were mapping out regions of the tongue. Further Googling tells me that the tongue map has long been debunked, but I would like to test this for myself to see if any regions are even slightly more sensitive to certain tastes than others, and if they are, whether or not there is a special region for 'umami'.

What past experience do you have in this subject area?

I don't really know much about food and flavor besides having eaten a lot of food and enjoyed its flavor. I've read a few of the studies done to debunk the tongue map though, and have taken high school biology -- specifically, the part that still briefly discusses the tongue map as if though it were scientifically sound.

What steps might you take to help you reach your goal?

I would first need to find representations of the five current flavors in order to test them on people. I would then need two sets of volunteers -- one to volunteer their tongue for science, and one to take whatever flavored sticks I hand them and touch various regions of the first volunteer's tongue with them. Neither of the two volunteers will know what flavor is being tested, to minimize the effects of any prior biases and/or expectations on the data. I will then collect all this data in one place and report on it.

What kind of guidance do you seek from a mentor?

I will need a mentor to help me determine proper representations for the five flavors -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory, i.e 'umami'. My mentor should also have some knowledge of statistics and data representation on graphs because I am not confident that I know how to properly use the data that I've collected to make a claim one way or another but would really like to learn.

What are some challenges that may arise as you carry out this independent study or project? How might you mitigate these challenges?

There's a lot of room for error since a person is administering a test to another person and getting highly subjective responses. I will try to mitigate this by not letting either person know what flavors are being tested and not reusing flavored sticks, but the error is probably unavoidable and should be noted in the final report. I also don't know much about statistics, so I will need my mentor to teach me how to properly interpret my results.

Last modified on April 15, 2015 at 10:12 p.m.