Chemistry Chair Michelle Francl is among the experts Chemical & Engineering News turned to for an article on the ways in which science can help us to "smell the past."
The piece highlights the challenging effort by scientists and historians to deconstruct and recreate the odors of the past.
The problem, says Michelle Francl, a computational chemist at Bryn Mawr College, is that what smells of currant and chocolate to one person may be a plain cup of joe to others. Part of our difficulty in describing smells is a lack of common vocabulary with which to do so. Classifying smells requires a standard connection with a single odor and a word, such that everyone who identifies a specific smell will use the same word to describe it. Though not as precise as using a spectrometer to measure an object’s color, standardizing odor vocabulary can give researchers a starting point.
Bryn Mawr’s Chemistry Department has a more than century-long tradition of combining high quality, visible research programs with excellent teaching. The Chemistry Department seeks to provide a supportive and rigorous curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level to students having diverse preparation and diverse goals.