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Chemistry major Susan Heinsohn '03 (Mt. Bethel, Pa.) recently gained valuable experience in the consumer products field through an summer internship at Colgate-Palmolive in Piscataway, N.J.

After securing the internship with assistance from the chemistry department and Career Services, Heinsohn worked for nine weeks in advanced technology oral care under the guidance of three mentors who organized the project.

“I can't give too many details due to company confidentiality, but my project dealt with finding and examining more effective 'actives' for a specific new Colgate product,” says Heinsohn. “First, I did some formulation of product to become familiar with the process, and then I tested different actives in my product and compared their efficacy. Some other things I did include gas chromatography, bacteria growth inhibition, flow cell systems, short-interval bacteria kill tests, and pilot clinical studies.”

Her research at Lafayette gave her an advantage in fulfilling her responsibilities, says Heinsohn, who has served as an EXCEL Scholar with William Miles, associate professor of chemistry, on research projects involving organic reactions and sea sponges. In EXCEL, students assist faculty with research while earning a stipend. Miles gave a presentation based on a paper he coauthored with Heinsohn and other Lafayette students at the 223rd National American Chemical Society meeting in Orlando, Fla., this spring.

“The large amount of laboratory time that I've had at Lafayette, especially my EXCEL research, really prepared me for this internship,” she says. “Not many undergraduate schools offer that kind of research opportunity. Working for my mentors at Colgate was like working for professors, only they weren't – they were my bosses.

“The chemistry and biology classes I've taken and am currently taking at Lafayette have taught and are teaching me the background I need to know and more in order to put it into practice and apply it in the real world. The fact that Lafayette is a small school helps me learn material better because I am in small classes where I can get to know my professors and go for help when I need it.”

At the end of her internship, Heinsohn presented her work at a presentation session open to the whole company. She also had the opportunity to visit Firminich Fragrances, a major fragrance and perfume company, which strengthened her interest in pursuing a career in flavors and fragrances. She met with people there who helped guide her in what steps to take next to pursue that goal.

In addition, Colgate-Palmolive planned activities such as bowling, visiting other divisions of the firm, and lunch sessions in which interns learned about a particular component of the company or more about the consumer products world in general.

One of the major highlights of the internship was meeting and getting to know the other 19 interns, says Heinsohn.

“We made so many lasting friendships in such a short period of time,” she says. “I also got to know a lot of the Colgate employees I worked near, and the best way to describe my impression of the work place was that everyone seemed like one big family. My mentors, who put together my project, were especially wonderful to work for and really put time and effort toward teaching me and making my experience at Colgate a memorable one.”

Colgate-Palmolive prepared projects for its interns that “contained the latest and most important developments in process at the company, so that we would feel like we're really valued as a part of the team helping Colgate grow globally,” she adds. “Also, there was only one intern each assigned to a project, so there was never a time when we weren't busy or had nothing to do. It really forced us to think and be challenged in what we were doing.”

A graduate of Bangor High School, Heinsohn is a member of Tennis Club and Lafayette Christian Fellowship. She has been a member of Madrigal Singers, Concert Band, and Horseback Riding Club.

Categorized in: Academic News