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A hungry mind

Published: October 29th, 2008

Category: Spotlights

Lisa House

Lisa House

Florida Agricultural Market Research Center

Lisa House wants to know why you’re eating that sandwich.

And why did you buy that sandwich in particular? Did an ad you saw on television give you the idea? Did a friend recommend it? Would you have bought it if it were packaged differently? Would you have paid more if the ingredients were organic?

It’s a good thing House found her academic niche, because it’s given her free rein to indulge her very curious mind.

The food and resource economics professor also serves as director of the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center, which offers professional, fee-based services to agribusiness firms to strengthen markets for the state’s agricultural and marine products.

As director, she asks lots of people about their food preferences — most often groups of them — through surveys.

“I really like that moment when you figure out what it is people are saying, as a group,” she said.

When House got her bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics from UF in 1991, she intended to use it to become a veterinarian running her own clinic. But she eventually realized that as much as she loved working with cats and dogs, she enjoyed the study of marketing and the psychology of consumer preferences even more.

The Indiana native earned a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in agricultural economics from Kansas State University. She worked a few years at Mississippi State University before returning to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences as an associate professor in 2001. The 39-year-old mother of two became a full professor in summer 2007.

The food and resource economics department’s undergraduate coordinator from 2004 until January 2008, she was named UF’s Faculty Advisor of the Year for 2008.

It was a hard-earned honor, not that she’s complaining. Just like her, many students don’t arrive at UF expecting to become a food and resource economics major, House said. But once they discover the opportunities to work with food companies — in marketing, management, finance or economics — it often clicks for them, too.

House’s work of late has centered on consumer preferences about genetically modified and organic foods, and she hopes to eventually take on a major study of television food marketing and obesity — another subject she finds compelling.

“I love trying to understand why people behave the way they do when it comes to food,” she said. “It’s fun to ask questions about it and see what comes from that. And I like being able to share the information with people who can use it.”

Photo credit: Kristen Bartlett Grace — University Photography

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