Presidential Faculty-Student Collaboration Grant Report

Posted on September 18th, 2015 by

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Broschard ’16 and Professor Hecht

This past summer, Dr. Lauren Hecht (Psychological Science) and Psychological Science Honors major Matt Broschard (‘16) received a 2015-16 Presidential Faculty-Student Collaboration Grant for their project: Building an Olfactometer to Determine Neural Mechanisms of Attention. These grants allow faculty and students to collaborate on research and are supported by The John S. Kendall Center for Engaged Learning at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Dr. Hecht and her students are attempting to determine the impact of olfactory (i.e., smell) input on attention. As such, participants in their experiments are exposed to smells. Prior to receiving the grant, participants received scents by sniffing a piece of paper containing drops of an essential oil. However, this method contains a number of factors that make it challenging to ask more complex questions, such as those that require the use of neuroimaging techniques like electroencephalography (EEG). Thus, Hecht and Broschard applied for the grant in order to build an olfactometer for the laboratory.

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Olfactometer at Gustavus Adolphus College

An olfactometer controls the concentration of smell presented to participants and how long the smell is in the breathable air. This equipment is typically very expensive, and its use is becoming standard practice for olfactory experiments. Fortunately, Lowen and Lukas (2007) created and tested their own low-cost olfactometer; their published design contained the schematic that Hecht and Broschard used to build their own equipment this summer.

This  fall, Hecht and Broschard will begin using the olfactometer in their experiments, including a project Broschard is conducting as part of his Psychological Science Honors thesis. Importantly, the olfactometer will improve data collection and allow Dr. Hecht to continue this line of research with future students in her lab.


Lowen, S. B., & Lukas, S. E. (2006). A low-cost, MR-compatible olfactometer. Behavioral Research Methods, 38(2), 307-13.


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