of a Lifetime
My Experience with the Society
of Chemical Industry (SCI)
BY BAILEY JACKSON
In 2012, I was honored to be chosen as a SCI Scholar and offered the opportunity to work at Milliken & Company in Spartanburg, SC. The idea of moving 1,300 miles away to a new city and state was overwhelming, but I also knew I was in for the adventure of a lifetime.
For a start, I drove 20 hours to South Carolina, used my GPS to
find my apartment complex, and signed the lease contract. Milliken
directed me to this particular complex because it is where they typically advise their interns to stay. I was able to rent a fully furnished
apartment, shared with two others, for two and a half months,
instead of the usual six- to twelve-month lease. Even better, it was
a short five-minute drive to work every morning.
A beautiful mission
I worked at their headquarters in the research department, under
the direction of Deidre Sandrock, a Ph.D. associate. The project to
which I was assigned, titled “Formulation of Silicone Elastomers for
LED Encapsulants,” was both challenging and rewarding. I was able
to complete my objectives by the deadline and produce a viable
product formulation for the company’s use. At the same time, I was
privileged to meet and work with a number of talented and driven
Ph.D. and technical associates. Teamwork was a major component
of my day-to-day work, as we each endeavored to find creative
solutions to problems and shared both our successes and failures.
My project dealt with a number of techniques and skills that I had
learned previously, as well as new tools that I learned while at Milliken. I had performed many of the activities while doing research
at college the two summers before, including inert atmosphere
synthesis procedures, purification by distillation, and product
analysis by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and
gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GCMS). Some of the new
techniques I learned included large-scale synthesis and product
physical testing like refractive index and ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis)
solid state absorption.
To succeed, I had to draw on knowledge from a wide variety
of chemistry areas. There were organic synthesis and purification
techniques, coupled with inorganic catalysis and analytical tech-
niques, supported by physical chemistry. I was astonished, how-
ever, at how quickly I was able to apply and build on my knowledge
in order to understand the very specific area of silicone elastomers.
This experience showed me the importance of a solid background
in all areas of chemistry in helping to prepare you for real-life
While chemistry and lab skills were essential to performing well in
this internship, they were not the only requisites. Throughout the
summer, I was required to give presentations about my progress
toward my project objectives. I also honed my public speaking and
presenting skills, not to mention my knowledge of PowerPoint, in
order to give clear and concise information about my project.
The biggest challenge was the final presentation at the Milliken
Summer Challenge. The CEO, Joe Salley, along with the heads of all
the divisions, all of the interns, and their bosses— about 100 people in all — were in the audience. But the size of the audience was
not my biggest concern; it was narrowing down my information to
a six-minute window in terms that everyone, even those without a
chemistry background, could comprehend. I learned that one of the
true challenges of being a chemist or science specialist is being able
to communicate information succinctly and effectively to those
from non-science backgrounds.
The business of interning
An important business principle I experienced was the internal,
day-to-day functioning and planning of an industrial chemical company. Most presentations at meetings focused on product creation
and testing results, not to mention future avenues of research and
market competition. Much of the discussion of ongoing research
centered on products currently on the market, and how Milliken
could meet or exceed the standard set by those products.