Elements for Success
Taylor’s chemistry major strives to equip students with the building blocks they need to succeed—including cutting-edge technology, excellent laboratory opportunities, and guidance from faculty who both challenge and encourage.
Taylor’s Chemistry & Biochemistry department also has a phenomenal success rate: a 95% placement rate into medical and pre-healthcare schools, a near-100% placement rate into graduate schools, and a 99% placement rate for direct entry into a chemistry career.
For alumna Nicole McCardy ‘14, the support of her chemistry professors at Taylor played an important role in her pursuit of cosmetic chemistry, which would later lead to her being commended by two societies in her field and featured in a Focus on the Family publication.
McCardy was recently recognized as Person of the Month in May by the Florida chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and in June by the Caribbean Society of Cosmetic Scientists.
“It was such an honor to be chosen and I was beyond excited—I love this industry, and being nominated by two societies really gave me a sense of validation as a scientist,” McCardy said. “Personally, I also think that representation is important. I am usually one of the few women of color in my field, and I desire for that to change in the future. I am proud to represent Black and Caribbean women in this industry.”
These accolades follow years of personal discovery for McCardy. Growing up in the Bahamas, McCardy was familiar with the field because her mother taught high school chemistry.
McCardy’s own personal hair and skincare journey also played a significant part in her pursuit of cosmetic science. Dealing with skin issues when she was younger led to her regularly checking the labels of the products she used on her skin. Researching ingredients and coming up with her own concoctions was early preparation for cosmetic chemistry.
Another aspect of her decision to pursue cosmetic chemistry was McCardy’s journey to embrace her natural hair, moving away from getting it chemically relaxed throughout her teenage and college years.
“To get my natural hair texture back, I had to do 'the big chop' or basically, cut off most of my hair,” McCardy said. “Relearning my hair and embracing new products led me to formulating in my kitchen and playing around with products for my hair… formulating plays a role in both my career and personal life.”
Reacting to New Possibilities
Despite her past experimentation with different skin and hair products before coming to the US to pursue chemistry, McCardy wasn't aware the science of chemistry had more to offer than healthcare and education careers. At Taylor, she explored her possibilities right away.
McCardy was impressed by the quality of the labs at Taylor and enjoyed having access to the equipment she would need to familiarize herself with in her career. She took advantage of the opportunity to work as teaching assistant for most of her college experience: grading papers, prepping lab experiments, auditing exams, and other responsibilities. This was her first real introduction to the lab environment.
Taylor’s technology, resumé-building opportunities, and personal help from professors who truly cared fostered an educational environment where McCardy could thrive. She was introduced to the field of cosmetic chemistry by one such professor, Patricia Stan, who McCardy says she will forever be grateful for.
“She really made an effort to reach out to the female chemistry majors and her counsel made a profound impact in my life,” McCardy said. “Without her, I don't think I'd even be in this field! She not only introduced me to the field of cosmetic chemistry, she helped me find graduate schools and even drove me to the University of Cincinnati to meet the faculty, which is where I ended up getting my master's.”
McCardy went on to the University of Cincinnati to earn her master's degree in pharmaceutical science. She worked as a graduate research assistant, where she did research with Proctor and Gamble involving skin deposition studies and published a few papers. Proctor and Gamble’s brands include Pampers, Tide, Bounty, Old Spice, Vicks, and many other household names, and McCardy felt fortunate to have gained experience there.
After graduate school, McCardy worked at a pharmaceutical and cosmetic contract manufacturing company for over three years, where she worked as a formulation scientist. There, she was able to help develop a large variety of products, including cosmetic and pharmaceutical topicals, pet care products, and nutraceuticals (food-based nutritional products and medicines).
Full-Strength Faith Sustains
Through the good and hard times in graduate school, McCardy trusted God to guide her path. She remembers finding a random job buried on the society page in the newspaper, and even though it was posted months prior, she applied anyway. She ended up working there for four years, which she says was an example of God working in His perfect timing.
Later, a Taylor alum working for Focus on the Family reached out to McCardy to feature her in Brio, a magazine for Christian teenage girls. In the feature, she took the lessons she learned and encouraged girls searching for their passions to dream big and be in continual conversation with God.
“My faith navigates my life—God has been with me through every step of this journey.” McCardy said. “He placed people like Dr. Stan and others to guide me during my time at Taylor, and I hope in this field I can act as a light and encourage others to pursue their passion and purpose, too.”
McCardy currently works as a senior scientist at a large company in the sun care research and development division. She develops new products, formulates and revises products, prepares batches, and designs investigative studies. Outside of work, she continues to formulate in her kitchen and plans to share her hair care discoveries on her new Instagram account, @the.curlychemist.
“It is a multifaceted job and I can do something different everyday,” McCardy said. “I love the creativity of my job and that formulating is an art as much as it is a science.”
Photo credit: Grace Weimer (top image)