Track: Polymer Science
Undergrad: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN - Biochemistry
Internship: SC Johnson
Current Job Title: Senior Associate, Chemistry at SC Johnson
How did you find yourself at Oregon and what about the program intrigued you?
I had been looking at the program online for a year or two before I decided to officially take the leap and apply. I had always been interested in Oregon as a school and just happened to stumble upon the website for the Master's Industrial Internship Program. I was intrigued by its focus on industry and preparing students for well-rounded careers by providing the technical training as well as the professional training needed to succeed. Prior to Oregon, I was working at a job where my advancement opportunities were very limited due to not having an advanced degree or specific experience, so the UO program seemed like the perfect fit because it would allow me to get an advanced degree as well as return to the work force in a relatively short amount of time.
What was the intensive summer like for you?
The coursework is challenging, fast-paced and essentially becomes your full-time job for the summer. I was either in class or working on homework for 8+ hours a day, which basically represents how long you’ll be at work each day once you begin your career. That being said, the program does an excellent job of helping you build relationships with your classmates right away, so from the beginning everything is a team effort, which makes things much more manageable and enjoyable. In the polymer track specifically, it seemed like the workload increased over the summer with each sequential class, finally culminating in the stress test that is immersion lab, which tested not only our technical problem-solving skills but also our abilities to work with others and ensure that all projects in the class succeeded, not just our own. The coursework seemed long and arduous sometimes, but the long days became short weeks and with everyone helping each other, there was a lot of fun had in the process.
Along with the technical classes, there was also professional development every week where we worked on resume-writing, interview skills, presentation skills and networking. With professional development, “you get out what you put in”, so the more time and effort that was put into working on these skills paid off handsomely in getting interviews and job offers later in the summer during the interview event. It also helped tremendously with giving presentations and building relationships with peers in the technical classes. Sometimes it seemed like the professional development work could take a back seat to the homework from the other classes, but that was definitely not the case. Professional development was probably the most important part of the summer.
The interview event at the end was kind of the capstone on the entire summer where we got to show off all the technical knowledge and professional skills we gained in the preceding weeks. The anticipation of the event seemed to be the most stressful part because once it arrived, it was a whirlwind of networking and interviewing and there was really not a lot of time to be anxious about anything. It was just about executing on all the skills you had been practicing, and if you did that, the internship offers would work out themselves.
Other than the program itself, summers in Oregon are absolutely gorgeous. The weather is perfect, and there are a lot of fun things to do in the area. Even with the rigorous course schedule, I was able to fit in quite a few day trips for hikes, football games, or exploring Portland and even spent a weekend camping at Crater Lake. For a girl who grew up in the Midwest, it was quite the summer adventure!
Where did you do your internship?
SC Johnson & Son Inc. Racine, WI. SC Johnson makes consumer packaged goods for home cleaning, air care, home storage, shoe care, and pest control. Some of their well-known brands include Windex, Raid, Scrubbing Bubbles, and Ziploc.
Without giving away proprietary info, what was your internship like? What were you responsible for? What was a typical day like?
I am a formulator working on toilet bowl cleaners, so I am responsible for developing the formulas, performing and coordinating testing, informing marketing claims about the products, and anything else that has to do with the formula. Each day can be different. Some days are very technical, and I’m at the lab bench trying out formulas and performing testing, developing new methods, analyzing data, or setting up DOE’s. Other days are less technical where I’m working with marketing to ideate new product claims, working through some consumer testing to learn about how people use our products, or discussing the state of the business and looking at new ways to impact it. Overall, it’s a very collaborative environment and I’m constantly working with people from other functions.
Did you feel the program prepared you for the internship? In what ways?
The program equipped me with relevant technical knowledge for working in industry, but most importantly taught me how to be a decisive scientist who can effectively contribute in a team environment and communicate with others, regardless of their background. Industry is incredibly collaborative, with each person playing a position in a team sport. The UO program helped me to leverage my strengths and recognize my weaknesses so that I can continue to learn and grow as an industry professional and execute my role to the best of my abilities.
How does your work or the work of your company serve the common good?
While working on toilet bowl cleaners is not the most glamorous, it is very fulfilling to be able to go to the store and see the results of my team’s hard work on the store shelf available for people to buy. I feel good about what I do knowing that the products I help develop are being used by millions of people worldwide to help them create a happy, healthy toilet and home.
How have you evolved in your career since you started?
Since resuming my career in industry after going through the program I feel much more confident in my abilities as a scientist. Through the program and my industry experience, I’ve learned that it’s not about knowing the answers to all the problems right away but it’s about having a plan of attack to solve the problem and being willing to ask for help and reach out to others in order to find the best path forward. This collaboration and learning is what makes my career fun for me. There’s always a new problem to solve, which leads to new learning opportunities and new people I get to work with. It can be frustrating sometimes when things don’t go as expected the first time I try them, but often that leads to the greatest learning and a more robust finished product in the end.
What else would you like to share with students??
My summer at UO was honestly one of the best of my life so far. There was indeed a lot of work that went into it and some stressful moments, but the program definitely provided a solid foundation and launchpad that helped to excel my career in a short amount of time and was well worth the investment in myself. If you’re on the fence about the program, don’t hesitate at all. Take the leap and invest in yourself!