Professor joins interdisciplinary team on $500,000 USDA grant

by Olivia Carle

Harrington School communication studies professor, Dr. Yinjiao Ye, has joined an interdisciplinary team of URI researchers to communicate the benefits of maple products.

The team, which consists of Navindra Seeram, professorof biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences in the College of Pharmacy, Christy Ashley, associate professor of marketing in the College of Business, and Ye, from the Harrington School of Communication and Media in the College of Arts and Sciences, will promote the maple industry in the Northeast.

Recent research conducted by Dr. Navindra Seeram, a professor of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, has found that maple syrup and maple-related products contain ingredients that benefit human health. Seeram’s research served as the cornerstone of a $500,000 USDA grant, which will fund the communication of these research findings.

The “Collaborative to Communicate Maple Benefits” initiative’s goal is to communicate the research findings and promote the consumption of maple syrup and other other maple-related products to the public. Ye’s responsibility throughout the 3-year project is “to build and monitor a website that documents our research and marketing activities on maple products, and to investigate the impact of the marketing activities.”

“The research will involve marketing maple products to the northeastern region market through various activities, such as social media campaigns and advertisements, community events, student engagement and involvement through classroom activities, as well as the evaluation of the marketing activities’ impact,” Ye said.

Ye noted that when this opportunity presented itself, she embraced it because of its connection to her interests and previous research.

“It is built upon my long-term research interest and expertise on social media and health communication. I have published research on media, health, [and] media effects.”

Following the release of this information to the public, Ye said that she hopes that people will begin to see the benefits of maple-syrup and other maple products, and perhaps make a change in their diets.

“Hopefully they will recognize the health benefits and switch to a healthier choice of sweeteners,” Ye said.

Ye has not only considered the impact that the initiative will have on the general public, but also how it will impact URI and students.

“We have an excellent research team on maple at URI, and I hope that through the project and future continuing research on maple, URI will be more noticeable to the northeastern region, the nation, and the world by its strong research on maple and its health benefits,” Ye said. “Students will also benefit from the research project by being involved in related research and teaching activities. We are designing a couple of marketing and health-related courses based on the project.”