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How a placement could be a foot in the door for a career in cosmetic science

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It’s the classic chicken or the egg situation: you need experience to get a job, but to get experience, you need a job. As futile as that scenario might seem, there are ways to break into industry, even one as competitive as cosmetic science. Bagging yourself a placement might just be the foot in the door you need, and the chance to gain the real-world experience that is often required for graduate-level jobs.

Millie Sadler made the most of a placement opportunity during her BSc (Hons) Cosmetic Science course here at the University of Sunderland to gain invaluable insight and experience with Orean Personal Care. Her time with Orean, along with the knowledge gained from her course, has given her the perfect platform to succeed in the industry. We caught up with her to talk about what she learned, and where she hopes her experience will take her career.

cosmetic science students doing experiment

What made you want to study Cosmetic Science at the University of Sunderland?

“I remember being amazed that you could study such a thing; it’s right up my street with having a love for science but also a personal interest in cosmetics. I used to be certain I would study chemistry at university, and then go into the cosmetic industry as a chemist. When Sunderland announced they would be offering Cosmetic Science as a degree, I was very excited about it and it swayed me from the chemistry route. I began researching into the career of a cosmetic scientist a little deeper and was convinced it was the right route for me.

“I attended an Open Day at Sunderland and spoke with the Programme Leader, Dr Kalliopi Dodou, who helped me understand that studying this degree at Sunderland would stand me in good stead for becoming a chemist in the industry, and give me specialized knowledge for the cosmetic and personal care industry right from the start. This would mean upon graduating there would be no extra training required as opposed to going into the industry as a chemistry graduate.”

How did your placement at Orean come about?

“My placement was at Orean Personal Care, which is a facility based in West Yorkshire that produces cosmetic and personal care products for customers, from product formulation through to manufacture. The technical director at Orean has connections with the course here at Sunderland and has even delivered lectures. I agreed with my course leader during our end of year progress meeting that it would be beneficial for me to gain an insight into the industry over the summer.”

What was your role at Orean?

“I spent most of my time shadowing the different teams in the technical department; Development, Regulatory and Process. The vast majority of it was lab based – with the Development team I was formulating and sending samples of either a new formulation or a work-in-progress back to the client. With the Regulatory team, I was shadowing the process of stability testing and used my own judgement to fill out some of the reports myself. With the Process team, I liaised with the Manufacturing team for products ready to be made on a large scale.

“I also attended a supplier meeting with the development chemists; this involved the suppliers selling raw materials of the moment to the chemists by explaining their often-innovative functions for them to use in their formulations. Seeing products that I myself as a consumer see every day on the shelves being made on the line at Orean was a defining moment. It was great for me to shadow the teams to get a true insight of their typical day and ultimately what I will be doing in the future when I become a cosmetic chemist.”

How did you find the placement? How did it relate to and benefit your studies?

“I found the placement very interesting and it has reinforced my decision to study Cosmetic Science. Before the placement, I had an idea of which roles I was most interested in – this was only strengthened during the placement as the formulation side of things was the area I enjoyed most. Nonetheless, I was surprisingly interested in the regulatory side of things as well and it felt a relevant part of the process to be shadowing.

“It was definitely beneficial to me and my studies. It reinforced the theoretical knowledge I had been acquiring throughout year one at university and brought it all together, linking the processes in the industry. I now fully appreciate why we learnt what we learnt – we had already studied a module on regulations and formulation, so this experience bridged a link between the two.”

What are your career aims for the future?

“My future career aims are to work as a development chemist in the cosmetic and personal care industry; working on formulations. I would be interested in working in the research side of things, like using cutting-edge technologies to improve formulations. I plan to see where the industry takes me and progress naturally to more senior positions.

What would your advice to prospective students be?

“My advice to future students is that the degree really is as interesting as it sounds! You learn everything about the industry, not just the science but the whole picture. In the first term, we studied a module on Regulations which is an important part of the industry. This means you go into the job already aware of the specific processes, rules and regulations of the industry. Overall, the structure of the course is well thought out and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in cosmetics.”

How would you summarise your time at the University of Sunderland in one sentence?

“The University of Sunderland offers me a friendly learning environment and has given me the opportunity to study an exciting and unique degree that I thoroughly enjoy – I look forward to my future because of it!”

Published: 2 November 2017