For Michelle Krell Kydd, the nose knows.

At 10 years old, Kydd stood on her tiptoes to reach over the counter at Alexander’s department store in the Bronx, paying $2.75 for her first fragrance purchase, “Sweet Earth Rare Flowers” by Coty. Acquiring the solid perfume compact was only the beginning.

“I was probably too young to be wearing perfume, but for as long as I can remember, I saw the world through my nose,” Kydd laughs. “I was the kid that was always picking flowers. When encountering something new to eat I would smell it, because I wanted to understand what the flavors would taste like before I ate it. Smell plus taste equals flavor.”

Kydd joined U-M in February 2013 as a communications specialist at the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), a national organization that advocates interdisciplinary programs, curricula, and research among the arts, sciences and other disciplines.

Before Michelle Kydd joined U-M as a communications specialist, she spent seven years as a freelance consultant in the fragrance and flavors industry. (Photo by Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography)

Kydd’s position recently expanded to include managing marketing as well as communications for ArtsEngine, a U-M-specific collaboration that encourages students to think about creativity beyond disciplinary boundaries.

 Kydd manages both organizations’ websites, social media efforts, press and public relations, and event promotion.

“Working for a2ru allows me to see what is happening in arts-integrated interdisciplinarity on a national level, which affords a priceless perspective,” she says.

In her career as a communicator, Kydd has been able to link her olfactory passion to art-science interdisciplinarity.

Kydd recalls the moment when she first realized that her lifelong love for scent could translate to a career path. In 2003, Kydd attended fragrance training for the Montblanc fragrance “Individuel.” Over a six-hour period, Kydd was presented with 23 samples one at a time, and told to identify each scent. Kydd identified 20 out of 23 raw materials blind, from jasmine to patchouli to cumin.

“The instructor took me aside and told me, ‘You smell like a professional fragrance evaluator.’ And I said, ‘Are you saying that I smell?’ That was my first reaction,” she laughs.

Before Ann Arbor, Kydd spent seven years as a “nose” and freelance consultant in the flavors and fragrance industry, where art and science intersect. Her projects ranged from writing container copy for the Ciao Bella Gelato brand, to formulating a top-secret fragrance brief for the Clarins Fragrance Group.

Kydd, a New York City native, made the move to Ann Arbor in 2011 and quickly found ways to pursue her olfactory talent beyond the fragrance industry. In 10 “Smell and Tell” lectures at the Ann Arbor District Library, Kydd has shared her passion for olfaction with hundreds in the Ann Arbor community. Her next lecture is on patchouli and is scheduled for Dec. 3.

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, email the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

Since beginning work at a2ru, Kydd has also appeared as a guest speaker in “A Dialogue of the Senses,” a Performing Arts Technology graduate course taught by Dr. Sile O’Modhrain.

On Oct. 10, Kydd will discuss “Olfaction and the Art of Perfumery” from 4-5:30 p.m. in the Art and Architecture Building Room 2147, as part of the “Mandorla of Life Sciences and the Arts” lecture series.

Kydd graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the State University of New York at Albany, and pursued further education in fragrance training at NYC’S Fashion Institute of Technology. She received additional training from Givaudan, the world’s leading flavor and fragrance company.

 “I feel like I’m walking on air every day at the University of Michigan,” she says. “In a2ru and ArtsEngine we are all about collaboration and arts-integrated interdisciplinarity. I just know that this is who I am. This is my purpose.”

Tags: