David DeLuca was excited to begin his summer internship at Colgate-Palmolive before beginning his senior year as a Chemistry major at St. John’s University. It would be his first time living away from home, and he was looking forward to gaining hands-on experience in an industrial laboratory. When the COVID-19 pandemic made an in-person internship impossible, David was disappointed, but by completing his internship virtually, he was able to gain a valuable learning experience in cosmetic chemistry and make connections in the field.
Colgate-Palmolive provided David with a laptop to work remotely on his internship. He attended virtual meetings with both his immediate internship supervisor and mentors in research and development.
He also completed a research project and presentation related to hyaluronic acid in skin care products. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in skin, and acts as a humectant, or moisturizing agent. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles by retaining moisture in skin.
Under the supervision of his internship manager, David analyzed how the molecular weights of different types of hyaluronic acid affect their ability to penetrate skin. He also focused on surveying consumer awareness of the product, which is gaining popularity in the market.
As a result of his research, David gave a presentation to colleagues at Colgate-Palmolive about how the company might expand its use of hyaluronic acid in skin care products. He found a need for more consumer education about hyaluronic acid and its benefits, as well as for more affordable products containing the ingredient. He also found that although many products advertise multiple types of hyaluronic acid, what really matters to overall efficacy is the total percentage of hyaluronic acid overall.
In addition to this summer-long research project, David had the opportunity to participate in Colgate-Palmolive's “Spark” initiative, which helps inspire a curiosity for STEM in students. He was also able to gain learning experiences that would not have been available if not for the pandemic, including how COVID-19 is affecting the practice of dermatology and how to prevent “maskne,” the acne that may result from mask-wearing.
Despite the virtual experience, David made valuable connections at Colgate-Palmolive and felt welcomed into the company’s culture. “Everyone was so genuine and personable,” he said.
David, who hails from Lake Grove, NY, developed an interest in Chemistry in high school, alongside a passion for musical theatre and performance.
“I like to create,” he said, “whether it is in the lab or on the stage.”
He found a community in the Chemistry department at St. John’s and through the S-STEM Scholars Program. After sharing his goals to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry and find a job making products with Associate Dean and Associate Professor Alison G. Hyslop, Ph.D., she directed him to the Colgate-Palmolive internship.
“The Chemistry department is such a welcoming space,” said David. “Everyone knows your name and says hello to you. No one feels like a stranger.”