AWIS Cosmetic Industry Career Panel Recap

Post date: Jun 3, 2014 4:43:57 PM

by Brittany Carroll

The search for career opportunities both inside and outside of academia can be overwhelming for graduate students. Sometimes just finding useful resources among the endless available information may seem just as daunting as deciding on the perfect career fit.

The Association of Women in Science (AWIS) is a great resource for reliable and informative career development information. As AWIS states, “Our mission is to empower women to enter, remain, and advance in science careers both inside and outside academia. We provide professional development training and a supportive community with opportunities for networking and mentoring.” AWIS is an international organization that has regional chapter and affiliate groups, one of which is the New York Metropolitan chapter that serves scientists in the NYC and Metropolitan NY area.

Recently the Metro NY AWIS chapter hosted a Career Panel and Networking Event with Scientists from the Cosmetic Industry. The event featured a diverse panel of scientific experts from cosmetic and personal care companies including Amber Evans, Ph.D., Product Development Scientist at BASF; Marianne-Mota Paulino, Senior Process Engineer at L’Oreal; Alisa Vasilenko, Ph.D., Manager of Luxury Development at L’Oreal; and Dulce Almario, M.S., Director of Product Innovations at Victoria Secret Beauty. Although this event was sponsored by AWIS it was open to both men and women, as many of their events are. Below is a summary of important topics discussed.

The cosmetic industry is not just for chemists and engineers. Contrary to what some people may think, the cosmetic industry has a niche for many different scientific disciplines. For instance, the European Union (EU) recently implemented a full ban on animal testing in the cosmetic field and therefore cosmetics tested on animals can no longer be sold in Europe, even if the testing was performed outside Europe. This new ban is forcing US cosmetic companies who sell their products abroad to develop new animal-free safety assays and techniques, thus providing many opportunities for scientists with backgrounds in cell and molecular biology. There are also many opportunities for scientists of diverse disciplines in regulatory affairs, logistics, marketing and many others. The take-home message was regardless of your discipline or interests there are opportunities in the cosmetic industry.

There is room for creativity. One concern posed to the panel members was regarding the differences in freedom and flexibility between the academic and industry research settings. We know that in academia we have the flexibility to be creative, formulate new hypotheses and test these ideas. However, all the panel members stressed the fact that although working for a company is more restrictive in that you are given specific tasks to perform and complete, there is flexibility in the way you achieve this. They explained that there is room for creativity as long as the end goal is accomplished.

“Getting your foot in the door.” This was a main topic of discussion during the event and although all panel members agreed that getting into the cosmetic industry is extremely competitive, they all also said it is very achievable. Below are some tips and advice they offered to the audience:

  1. Network, network and network some more! All the panel members stressed the importance of networking and making connections. One great way to achieve this is through joining professional organizations like the Society for Cosmetic Chemists (SCC), which has both NYC and Long Island Chapters. Membership affords one the opportunity to go to Chapter meetings, conferences and social events to meet people in the industry and make connections. Career fairs, conferences and LinkedIn were also mentioned as viable avenues for networking.
  2. Post-docs and internships. Although post-doctoral fellowships and/or internships are not a requirement, all the panel members did one of the two after graduate school. All the panel members agreed that doing a post-doc or internship is advisable as they allow you to gain invaluable experience and make connections. And because the cosmetic industry is so diverse, it also allows one to gain insight into exactly what aspect of the industry they prefer and would like to pursue.

The multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry is unlike many other industries in that it seems to be unaffected by economic instabilities, which will only fuel its forecasted growth. This, along with the fact that high caliber research is being conducted and published in peer-reviewed journals, make it a great option for scientists who are looking for career opportunities outside of academia.