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chemistry

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Eunice Nuekie Cofie, President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist

Eunice Nuekie Cofie

President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist
Nuekie, Inc.



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
As an African-American woman, I had always been made to feel that I was not beautiful because of my ethnicity. I was often picked on by my peers because of my dark skin and kinky hair as a child and remembered crying endlessly about the hurtful comments that damaged my self-esteem. My saving grace was my father’s encouragement for me to pursue an understanding of science. My father would spend countless hours teaching me how to conduct science experiments as little girl which led me to have a strong love for it and science became my strength. I understood that I may not be the prettiest girl in the room but I could be the smartest girl in the room. This love led me to major in chemistry as an undergraduate student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

One day while in my organic chemistry lab class, my eyes were opened to the world of cosmetic science. My professor wanted my classmates and I to understand how to practically apply organic chemistry to our everyday lives. So he decided to have us create lotions and hair relaxers instead of conducting the regular lab experiments. I was bitten by the creative bug and began working alongside my professor learning as much as I could about cosmetic science.

I discovered in my research that the pigment of my skin was created by a substance in our cells called melanin which led me to realize that those cells were divinely placed there and that my skin color did not make me inferior. I also realized that the cosmetic and the dermatological industry lacked effective treatments that took into account the unique structure and function of ethnic skin and hair. I realized at that moment this was the path that I wanted to take. My dream was to close the gap in the quality of treatment products available to ethnic people.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current project that I am working on for my company is a product-line which will treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark marks on the skin) in ethnic skin. I am excited about the launch of my company’s first product-line this fall.

Role models/heroes:
One of my heroes is Madam C.J. Walker for her entrepreneurial spirit which led her to become the first female millionaire. I appreciate how she was able to take an idea and develop it with the resources she had around her. My other hero is Janice Bryant-Howroyd, Founder and CEO of ACT-1 because she is able to translate her Christian faith into doing well in business and in her community.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working as cosmetic chemist because I have an opportunity to change lives by inspiring ethnic men and women to discover they are perfect in beauty.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Pursuing a Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) career as women, especially as a woman of color, can be quite challenging due to the social constructs which do not heavily encourage women to assume roles in this field of work. I would say do not be afraid to take the lead and to realize you have everything within you to succeed! I would also encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship in the STEM and bring new innovations to our society that will create world-class companies and increase job growth.

Favorite website or app: www.blackenterprise.com

Twitter: @nuekie
Website: www.nuekie.com, www.eunicecofie.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Bryn Lutes, Asst. Director for Teaching and Technology

Bryn Lutes

Bryn Lutes

Assistant Director for Teaching and Technology
The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always loved to read, learn new things, and occasionally conduct science experiments at home. When I was in middle school, my parents gave me a microscope kit for Christmas, and the main thing I remember about it is that I refused to follow any of the provided instructions because I wanted to make up my own experiments. I had a decent interest in biology, but LOVED chemistry when I finally took it in high school.

I’ve also always been fascinated with women fighting to break into traditionally male occupations and activities–especially when it involved disguising themselves as men. If I had enjoyed analyzing and not just consuming literature as much as I loved science, my career choices could have been very different.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I can’t say that I’ve worked on anything cutting-edge. My dissertation research fell in the realm of “let’s poke it and see what happens” basic research. I can say that I felt the coolest when working on my undergraduate research project. I was given a project that had already failed for several Master’s students, and I was able to get some interesting results out of it.

Role models/heroes:
I have “met” so many amazing women via twitter that they definitely warrant a mention here. I also have to include Sophia Hayes, from my dissertation committee, who is currently the only female tenured faculty member in that chemistry department.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love learning new things, and I love that my background in chemistry helps me easily explore new topics in more depth than I could otherwise. One of the things I love about my current job is that I have projects that require learning new things all the time. My next project to tackle is in the computer programming/web design realm, and I am really excited to get started.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Keep on keepin’ on, girlfriend. Do what you love, and don’t ever feel like you have to be someone you are not in order “fit in.”

Favorite website or app:
My favorite app is definitely Evernote (though it also exists as a website), and at the moment my favorite website is Lifehacker.

Twitter: @technobryn