Principal Scientist and Senior Manager of Scientific Communications in Beauty Care at Procter & Gamble
“ I wanted to merge my love of beauty and my love of science, and as a result I became a beauty scientist. ”
Dr. Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson has an innate passion for beauty care as well as science! She was born and raisedin Baker, LA, where she would do hair, and experiment with makeup, on her dolls and friends. She decided to turn this hobby into her reality and completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Southern University. Rolanda became a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at Louisiana State University and received a Huel Perkins Graduate Fellowship. She was drawn to organic chemistry and worked in Professor Robert Strongin’s laboratory where she elucidated the mechanism of chromophore formation in resorcinarene compounds. Her research presented industrial implications for the detection of glucose in blood. Rolanda was responsible for developing synthetic routes to proprietary chemical indicators and cationic chiral surfactants for unique and facile enantiomeric separations. She defended her dissertation, “The Syntheses of Novel Indicators and Materials for Chiral Separation,” in December of 2003 and graduated in May 2004.
When asked what she appreciated most about her time at LSU as a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry, Rolanda answered, “I appreciated the supportive relationships that were fostered by fellow graduate students and faculty. When pursuing a PhD, it’s important to have support of not only the professors but also of fellow peers. When I entered into the PhD program in chemistry, there were more tenured graduate students who reached out to network and to ensure that the newer students had the support that they would need. I still have some of those relationships to this day within P&G, my current company and outside of P&G.”
Rolanda mentioned that she did have an important turning point along the way, “I always thought that I would working the oil industry after I finished the doctorate program in Chemistry at LSU. As fate would have it, I was exposed to a PhD program that was held at P&G. This 3 day program, now named FIRST, created an opportunity for me to develop relationships and get recruited to work at P&G.”
Rolanda accepted a position with P&G and started working there in December of 2003. She is a Principal Scientist and Senior Manager of Scientific Communications in Beauty Care at P&G. Rolanda has had the pleasure of working on skin and hair care brands such as Olay, Secret, Venus, Pantene, Clairol, Head and Shoulders and Pantene. She explains, “I am responsible for developing scientific communication strategies and working with dermatologists, clinicians, and P&G Beauty scientist to research and report on the latest and emerging skin and hair science and technologies that have applications for consumer products.”
The glass is always half-full for Rolanda: “My motto is that every experience (good and bad) that I have had thus far has created an opportunity for me to grow and made me stronger for the next stage in my career/life.” She advises current graduate students in the Department of Chemistry that “Having and successfully demonstrating the ability to communicate your research to not only fellow technical experts but also to non-technical individuals is really important. The ability to do so opens the door to many opportunities/relationships. Networking is really important. It is also good to remember to get outside of the lab, be active and visible in your department so that you can develop and sustain relationships which may help you grow now and in the future.”
Profile contributed by Ashley Taylor and Carol Taylor