1. What is your position at Oregon State University/OWRI?

I am an Associate professor and Horticultural Entomologist at Oregon State University in the Department of Horticulture, and a Core member of the Oregon Wine Research Institute.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?

Working with growers, and students and being able to solve problems through discovery.

3. When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

Spending time with my family.  We try to get out as often as possible in order to enjoy the mountains and hiking trials.  When I get the opportunity I love to do some mountain biking.

4. What inspired you to choose your career path?

I grew up in a farming family.  I’ve always had the desire to be involved in farming because of this.  Farming is of course problem solving and multidimensional.  My current job is very similar.

5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When doing any job it is about serving people, not yourself.  Excellence is important when serving.

6. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, Erica Walton, my wife.

7. What is your vision for the future of your research?

To serve the industry and help them solve problems and improve their daily life.

  1. What is your position at the USDA/OWRI?

I am a research plant physiologist at USDA-ARS and a core member of the Oregon Wine Research Institute. My expertise lies in plant eco-physiology, plant nutrition, and symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).

  1. What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy three aspects in particular: the freedom and challenge of solving mysteries relevant to real-world vineyards via the scientific process; my attempts to accurately interpret results and to convey findings in a clear and compelling manner; and working together with colleagues, students, and industry professionals.

  1. When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I like to hike, mountain bike, and explore the natural world. I also enjoy yoga. I can no longer run to get my physical fix, so I’m trying to find a new activity that is as convenient and expedient as running was without further damaging my feet. Now that our boys are on their own (mostly) and I am no longer coaching/refereeing/supporting their activities, Lori and I also hope to travel more.

  1. What inspired you to choose your career path?

As a boy, I was always interested in how things work. After I got out of engineering in college and started taking organic chemistry, I became fascinated with biochemistry and obtained my B.S. I worked as a technician for a couple of years after that and learned that if I wanted to have a choice in what I did as a scientist that I would need to get my doctorate. Becoming a plant physiologist at ARS was a subsequent combination of work, luck, and opportunity.

  1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Three things here. Be critical of your own work, and try to think of every other possible explanation for results so you can rule them out. And when required to get a job done, forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission. Finally, keep it simple; yes life is complex, but often the most elegant solutions are straightforward.

  1. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Jimmy Page.

  1. What is your vision for the future of your research?

My vision is to better understand how various mineral nutrients affect both vine productivity and berry chemistry attributes to provide evidence-based guidelines for better management. At the same time I am interested in how AMF interact with grapevine roots, soils, and other soil organisms and influence vine metabolism. The ultimate goal for my research is to join these research areas into an overall conceptual framework that allows viticulturists to maximize quality and long-term vine health while causing the least harm to the environment.

1. What is your position at OSU/OWRI?
I am an assistant professor of enology at OSU in the department of food science & Technology. Specifically I deal with wine sensory and chemistry and teach an undergraduate and graduate level enology course at OSU.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I most enjoy the interaction with students and industry in conducting my research. Over the course of a month I will be training students, running sensory panels with consumers and winemakers all over the state and teach. It keeps me on my toes and is always different, which means it is always very exciting and interesting.

3. When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?
I have a range of interests that keep me occupied outside of work. I sing in the Corvallis Repertory Singers, attempt to attend several music and opera concerts each term, try to get in a decent amount of exercise each week, catch up on reading, cook and exploring the Pacific NW. There are still so many interesting places to go that I haven’t seen yet and just not enough time. Then of course there is my quest to visit and taste at all the wineries in the state, currently I’m about 50% there.

4. What inspired you to choose your career path?
The diversity in enology. I have known since I was sophomore in college that I wanted to work in food science but it took a while to figure out that enology was my field. I love the fact there are so many different types of science involved, including sensory science, statistics, microbiology, horticulture, plant science, virology, economics etc. It is never dull and there is always something to learn.

5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Your network is everything! Keep in touch with colleagues and friends and you won’t believe what can be accomplished.

6. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?
Mozart , Pierre Herme (pastry chef) and Rosalind Franklin (chemist that was instrumental in determining the structure of DNA, RNA and viruses).

7. What is your vision for the future of your research?
My vision in the future is to provide those important connections/relationships between chemistry, sensory and consumer preference in wine. We are able to measure the individual components for each part and sometimes even relate these to specific viticulture and winemaking practices . But the most powerful and useful information for research and the wine industry will be when we can regularly and confidently interconnect this information. Imagine having a model where, based on your starting grape quality, you can have some useful and realistic information about the final wine outcome and potential consumer segment before you have even made the wine!

Each month the OWRI will highlight a different researcher from our program and discuss current/future research goals, hobbies, and other interesting information. This month, our featured faculty member is  James Osborne.
1. What is your position at OSU/OWRI?

I am an Associate Professor and Enology Extension Specialist in the Food Science and Technology Department and a core member of the OWRI. I started in this position in September 2006 after working in my home country New Zealand at the University of Auckland and Delegat’s Winery. My job responsibilities are split between research, extension, and teaching (30:40:30%) with my research program focusing on understanding the impact of wine microorganisms on various aspects of wine quality.

2. What do you enjoy most about your work?

What I enjoy most is the diversity of tasks my job offers. Firstly, I get to teach students in our undergraduate and graduate program. This is a challenging but rewarding experience especially as our graduates start making an impact in wine industries all around the world. I am also able to work closely with the Oregon wine industry through both research and extension activities. Addressing industry needs through applied research is intellectually challenging and satisfying especially knowing that you are working on research questions that can impact the continued improvement and competitiveness of Oregon wines.

3. When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

When I’m not working I enjoy time at home with my family. I have an 8yr old son and a 5yr old daughter who keep me very busy as well as baffled by their endless energy. Aside from this I do enjoy playing an occasional game of golf or tennis when time and weather allows. My rugby playing days are well behind me and so I make do with watching rugby on TV/internet when I can as well as an occasional football (American) game.

4. What inspired you to choose your career path?

I arrived at this career path in a rather indirect manner. I grew up in NZ on a dairy farm and through school had an interest in science, particularly biology. At University I studied microbiology and it was through this discipline that I first became interested in wine. My MS research work focused on the malolactic fermentation and after that I was hooked. I enjoy studying microbial interactions in a medium as diverse and challenging as wine especially given how little we really understand about what’s going on.
5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

That’s a tough question as no one piece of advice really stands out to me over others. However, I would say trying to maintain balance and perspective in life is probably one piece of advice that has been the most helpful and challenging to me on a daily basis. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the minor details sometimes and taking a moment to place things in perspective can make all the difference.
6. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Sir Edmund Hillary: A New Zealand legend. A great and humble man who is a true hero to New Zealanders

Stephen Colbert: Hilarious, sharp, and thoughtful. In or out of character he would make for a great dinner guest

Charles Barkley: Would provide us with some great conversation starters and has an opinion on just about everything

7. What is your vision for the future of your research?

I have always been interested in better understanding how microbial interactions during winemaking can be utilized to either encourage growth of certain microorganisms or inhibit growth of others. This covers everything from the microbial load that comes in on the grapes to interactions between spoilage bacteria and yeast during wine aging. I believe that a better understanding of these relationships will help in the management of microbial communities throughout the winemaking process.

Mug Shot Question 1. What is your position at OSU/OWRI?

I am an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Horticulture (started in June 2009), and I am a member of the OWRI core faculty. My position is a combination  of grapevine research, teaching and outreach. My major focus is on studying functional genomics in grape berry development.  My group is interested in understanding the  molecular mechanisms associated with grape berry ripening and the influence of environmental factors.

 Question 2. What do enjoy most about your work?

The most interesting- and most challenging- part of my job is dissecting the complex process of grape berry ripening, which is still seen as an obscure biological process. The grape  berry cluster is not a single fruit but rather a population of individual fruits evolving together under a strong control of environmental and developmental factors. The emergence    of rapidly evolving and new technologies and their use as research tools present a unique opportunity better understand the grape berry ripening process. In the long-term, this      will give the Oregon wine industry new strategies and practices to improve fruit quality.

Question 3. When you’re not working, what do you do?

I always try to balance work time with quality time with my family. I enjoy hiking with my family to explore the beautiful sites that make Oregon an outstanding state, cooking, skiing, and biking with my family. Coming from the west coast of France, I often need to go to the coast just to feel the oceanic breeze.

Question 4. How did you choose your career path?

As I often say, it was purely coincidental. After my MS in Forestry, I knew that I wanted to explore and learn more about molecular biology in plant sciences. Grapes happen to be the model I started with and the idea to do basic research with potential societal and economic impacts suited my professional goals. After my Ph.D. in France, I accepted a post-doctoral position working on the grapevine model at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2004. The two research experiences in France and in US confirmed my determination to pursue research career in basic science using the grapevine model.

Question 5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Make a simple story from a complex concept. Basic researchers often tend to show tremendous amount of data, which are usually difficult to digest, when it is a matter of conveying a simple message. I am not always 100% successful in this exercise when I communicate with the industry, but I attempt to communicate in this way.

Question 6. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner?

Hard to answers to this question without falling into simple stereotypes….

–     Nikola Tesla (inventor, mechanical engineer, futurist, etc…)

–     Alan Turing (father of the computer science and artificial intelligence)

Finally, the last one is dedicated to a grape scientist, Bryan Coombe (plant physiologist, which happens to be a grape physiologist). Dr. Coombe passed away in August 2014 this year. He was the pioneer in grape berry development and his vision about the grape berry model was 30 years ahead compared to other grape researchers at that time. His research has played a role in my decision to embrace the career of grapevine researcher.

Question 7. What is your vision for the future of your research?

My vision for the future of my research lies in two components of my grapevine research program:

–        Justify the grapevine model as a valuable tool to address fundamental questions in plant sciences and use it in a whole-plant context
–        Generate enough background knowledge in grape metabolomics that be utilized by the wine industry to address recurring and anticipated viticulture problems.