Student Spotlight: Margaret Sullivan, Cosmetic Science

MS in Cosmetic Science Program Student Applies Online Learning to Burgeoning Career

UC Online graduate student Margaret Sullivan is a Formulation Chemist for Arcaea, a company that combines technology and biology to create new beauty products.
UC Online graduate student Margaret Sullivan is a Formulation Chemist for Arcaea, a company that combines technology and biology to create new beauty products.

During her undergrad years at Fordham University, Margaret Sullivan was still contemplating a future as a chemistry major with a minor in French. She enjoyed science and figured her experience as a ballet student teacher could parlay into teaching science or a second language. Though French classes and teaching came easily to Margaret, deep down, she felt chemistry would be part of her future.

An educational advisor suggested Margaret check the American Chemical Society career site for work. Margaret took the site’s “interests survey,” answering questions about her college and career experience. The site matched her interests to several chemical-related areas, including personal care. Initially, Margaret says she wasn’t very aware of the consumer segment of body and hygiene products, but the discovery piqued her interest.

As a junior, Margaret attended her first SCC (Society of Cosmetic Chemists) annual conference in New York. “The subject was the business of cosmetics,” she says. “Everyone I met made it clear you need to study business if you want to be in this industry.”

After graduating with her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and French, Margaret began her career as a lab technician at Precision Textile Color.

A Move From Cosmetic Science Certificate Program to a Master’s Degree

After reading an industry blog, Chemists Corner, touting the pros of having a cosmetic science master’s, Margaret considered returning to college. Among the top schools listed on the blog was the University of Cincinnati (UC) Online and its Master of Science (MS) in Cosmetic Science program. To learn more about UC Online’s program, Margaret searched LinkedIn for graduates. “I found scientists working for L’Oréal and Estée Lauder who graduated from the program. To me, they were the real deal,” she says.

In spring 2020, Margaret enrolled in UC Online’s Cosmetic Science Graduate Certificate program. Within the first few semesters, Margaret knew she wanted to begin the MS Cosmetic Science degree. “It wasn’t a tough decision,” she says. “I was learning so much by the third semester and wanted to keep going.” (Like Margaret, many UC Online students start the certificate studies and then move to the master’s program.)

Margaret enjoys the master’s program curriculum and cites Fragrance Science as one of her favorite courses. “It’s a new area for me, and I was able to really immerse myself in the subject,” she says. Margaret also enjoyed Consumer Understanding for Formulators, which examines the business side of consumer perspectives and pain points.

Positive Interactions with UC Online Students and Staff

Margaret says there is ample opportunity to meet like-minded classmates in the 100% online program because students use organized study sessions and a Discord channel to communicate. Margaret and her fellow students enjoy sharing science-related information, news about career advancements, and updates on various companies that are hiring. “It’s helpful to chat with others and connect with people in the program,” Margaret says. “My LinkedIn network has expanded with these new connections, and I can put more names to faces.”

One perk of the online program are the recorded lectures. As a result, Margaret hasn’t stressed about leaving work early or having to cancel plans to join a class at a specific time. She relays the story of a work colleague who started another university’s program where the lectures weren’t asynchronous. Margaret says, “My colleague often mentioned having to get home to sit in class for two hours. But I use my 40-minute train ride to watch the recorded lectures on my phone.”

Earlier this year, Margaret participated in a Today Show segment where she andothers from Arcaea explained their work to the top-rated morning show.
Earlier this year, Margaret participated in a Today Show segment where she and others from Arcaea explained their work to the top-rated morning show.

Job Change Brings More Opportunities

Halfway through the program, Margaret began looking for a new job. Her resume caught the eyes of UC alumni Jennifer Cookson, Senior Director of Development at Arcaea, a company that combines technology and biology to create new beauty products. While Margaret needed more formulation experience, Jennifer saw Margaret’s application and felt a kindred spirit. She knew Margaret would be studying and experiencing subjects relevant to her new role as a formulation chemist at UC Online. Margaret says, “Jennifer took a chance on me. I came in and applied everything I was learning.”

Today, Margaret is working on one of her final master’s program projects. It requires a comprehensive evaluation of an issue relating to cosmetic science or over-the-counter drug development. Margaret will submit a capstone paper and oral argument based on her findings related to sunscreen technologies and Arcaea’s product development work. Margaret says, “I’m building on my knowledge and adding new layers with my work in sunscreens. It’s important to what I’m doing at Arcaea, but I’m also using the research towards the capstone.”

Margaret recalls the support she felt during the initial stages of the capstone work, saying, “I didn’t have enough time to complete the outline fully. But Dr. Kelm, my advisor, reminded me there are no hard deadlines for the capstone and to not stress out.”

Utilizing her degree to impact people positively and directly is the silver lining for Margaret. She feels a certain satisfaction in making lives more enjoyable, saying:

The sunscreen project is rewarding. We’re developing sustainable UV filters and products that are safer for the environment than traditional sunscreens. The goal is to reach more consumers and increase sunscreen acceptance. Helping more people protect their skin from environmental damage that causes skin cancer is what drives our work.

Outside of work, Margaret works part-time as a model. She’s a natural in front of the camera — and Margaret’s is the face you see on UC Online’s cosmetic science MS program page.

Earlier this year, Margaret participated in a Today Show segment where she and others from Arcaea, including the firm’s CEO Jasmina Aganovic, explained their work to the top-rated morning show. “We were nervous,” Margaret says, “I’m in a few spots, mostly my hands. When it aired, we were in a conference room celebrating, with our families at home watching the show, too.”

On-site Lab Program is One Value-Add of MS Cosmetic Science Program

Students in UC Online’s cosmetic Science program can participate in a one-week lab formulation session on-campus at UC. Margaret made the trip to the lab last summer and calls it a memorable experience. “It made a big difference meeting Dr. Ananth and Dr. Kelm in person,” she says. “I felt part of the whole process, and we had a lot of fun.”

Many of Margaret’s lab partners, who aren’t yet working in cosmetic science, enjoyed hearing Margaret’s real-world perspectives as a formulation chemist. Her understanding of weighing materials, reading batch records, and using specialized equipment made her the go-to person! By the end of the lab week, Margaret says each student had formulated a product of their choosing. “It was cool witnessing group members overcoming their nervousness. We were all more confident by the end of the week.”

Bright Future Ahead, for Margaret and Others

Now that Margaret has spent time in UC Online’s master’s program, she offers sage advice for those considering the degree:

You need to be curious about the industry and how everything works — from marketing to consumers to the regulatory side. This program can be valuable to students from diverse backgrounds, including business, marketing, and educational professionals. I encourage people to consider both the cosmetic science graduation certificate and the master’s program. There’s something for everyone, with the programs’ focus on science and business. And if you work in the industry already, you can directly apply what you’re learning online to your day job.

What’s next for Margaret? The future looks bright for sure. She plans to graduate in summer 2023 and has her sights set on emerging as a future leader in the personal care field. She truly enjoys all aspects of the industry, from procuring technologies and product development to consumer evaluation and market surveys. “I want to keep growing in formulation techniques. I will always be a perpetual student; it’s a part of my personality,” Margaret says. “And I look forward to someday returning the favor, as my mentors did, by helping new people join the industry.”

Are you ready to follow Margaret’s lead? Consider UC Online’s master’s program or the graduate certificate program, which can be applied to the MS degree. When you enroll at UC Online, you have access to faculty with extensive experience and enthusiasm unmatched in the exciting, fast-paced personal care industry.

Connect with an advisor to learn more about the fully online cosmetic science programs from our James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.

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