Oregon State University has hired what officials consider to be "Penn State's top wine grape expert" to lead its wine research and outreach program.
Mark Chien will take over as the program coordinator of OSU's Oregon Wine Research Institute on May 28.
He was previously tasked with evaluating the quality of Pennsylvania wines as the administrator of the Penn State Wine Grape Program.
OSU's wine institute is made up of a dozen core scientists, experts in viticulture, enology, pests, flavor chemistry and sensory analysis. It is a virtual institute with offices and labs on OSU's Corvallis campus and several of its research centers around the state.
Its mission is to address needs of the Oregon wine industry through research and educational outreach.
Chien's position is a new one and has more of a coordinating and facilitating role than a directing role. The institute is led by interim director Bill Boggess, but that position will cease to exist once Chien arrives on the job.
The idea is for leadership to come from the scientists as opposed to having a top-down approach in which one person sets the research focus, explains Boggess, who will continue to serve as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences with overall responsibility for the institute.
Chien will manage the institute's daily operations, monitor progress on funded projects, oversee its educational outreach efforts, help attract resources and facilitate communication and engagement with the industry.
He will spend his initial months traveling around Oregon to meet with industry representatives and find out what kind of research they need OSU to conduct.
"I don't have an agenda," he says. "I'll get a sense of what the industry wants and match that with the resources (at OSU). Part of my job is to make sure that there's open communication between industry and researchers and that expectations are clear."
Oregon is home to more than 900 vineyards and 780 wineries.