By Andrea Elmore
Continued growth in the wine industry across the United States has fed the demand for trained professionals in vineyards and wineries. For aspiring winemakers and viticulturists, a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Agriculture and Life Sciences can provide scientific and practical experience in viticulture or enology in an intensive two to three semester program.
The MPS program differs from a Master of Science in that it is course based—rather than research based— and can be completed in about one year with finalization of a capstone paper. Students are required to take 30 credits of coursework and design their own curriculum with a faculty advisor. In addition to courses in viticulture and enology, many MPS students enroll in classes offered by departments across the university.
Zachary Pegram MPS '13 was already acquainted with the wine industry, first at a winery in Oregon and then as manager of a wine program at a New York City restaurant. He wanted to pursue a career in wine production, and with bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, he decided that a formal education in enology was his next step.
"The MPS program was a perfect match for me because it provided an intensive supplement that focused on the science of fermentation and cellaring, expanded my knowledge of food science and allowed for additional practical experience," said Pegram.
Pegram took classes that focused on the biochemical and microbiological aspects of winemaking, in addition to courses that included instruction on the practical processes in wine production. He took advantage of classes in soil science and food science that covered concepts relevant to wine production.
Because he intended to work in wine production after graduation, Pegram chose a project with practical applications. Under the guidance of Gavin Sacks, associate professor of food science, Pegram worked on the development of a simple, quick, and inexpensive way of measuring free sulfur dioxide using air safety detection tubes originally intended for the mining industry.
As Pegram explained, "This new method will be useful to winemakers who are uninitiated to traditional laboratory work, as well as to winemakers who may want to take measurements quickly." His project will be published as a technical brief an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. Pegram is now the assistant winemaker at Red Tail Ridge Winery in Penn Yan, New York.
"I have noticed that a degree in enology or viticulture is becoming increasingly important, and in many cases it is an absolute requirement for positions in the industry," said Pegram. "The MPS was particularly beneficial to me in building my knowledge and skills around the components of wine processing that I was lacking, and it allowed me to quickly return to the industry."
For more information on the MPS program, contact Andrea Elmore at email@example.com or 607-255-2539.
Andrea Elmore is the undergraduate coordinator for the Viticulture and Enology Program.