Students dive into science

Published 9:16 pm Thursday, August 4, 2016

Two Suffolk students were selected for a rigorous summer program to learn the business of chemistry.

Alana Tillery, 17, of King’s Fork High School, and Jiayan Wang, 17, of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy were among the 20 students selected for the BASF Science Summer Academy. The program selected top students from North and Central America with interests in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Now in its sixth year, the program has increased in rigor over the years due to the caliber of students applying to the program, according to Molly Borst, science education specialist for BASF, which has a facility in Suffolk on Wilroy Road.


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“This group of students does it all,” Borst said. “They are involved in the community and excel in their academics.”

During the two-week program, which is hosted at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J., students work in teams to create personal care products and marketing strategies for the products. At the conclusion of the program, students present their products to BASF executives and FDU academic officials.

“The partnership between business and academia is a successful model for helping students understand the practical applications of what they learn,” stated Dr. Brian Olechnowski, program director at the university, in a BASF press release.

Over the course of the program, students learned about organic chemistry and its ties to the business industry.

The group traveled to the BASF research and development labs in Tarrytown, N.Y. Students were able to observe how fundamental chemistry was in the company’s products.

Students were then placed into teams to create their own shampoo, hair gel, lip balm or body lotion products.

The groups experimented with various chemicals in the university labs to create their products. They also produced their own labels and developed marketing plans for their products. Tillery and Wang’s groups created body lotion and lip balm, respectively.

True Lotion, the product name for Tillery’s group, contained “less preservatives and chemicals” than its competitors, according to Tillery. As part of the group’s marketing strategy, proceeds from product sales would go towards various charitable organizations. This tied in perfectly with the product’s motto, “Be a part of a true change.”

E.D.G.E, the lip balm created by Wang’s group, highlighted “living life on the edge.” The product was catered toward the outdoorsy crowd and offered two unique flavors — wintergreen lemon and peppermint pomegranate — to tie in with the product’s motto.

Despite its challenging nature, the students loved the program and also developed lasting friendships with their peers.

“This was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life,” Wang said. “I strongly recommend enrolling in this program. You build friendships, it is a good opportunity to learn more about chemistry and business and it is a really good resume builder for college.”

“Science Academy is the embodiment of CORE: creativity, open-mindedness, responsibility and entrepreneurship,” Tillery stated in a BASF press release. “At the academy, myself and my fellow students definitely received those BASF values while we learned the inner workings of business and chemistry and how they come together.

At the conclusion of the program, students received college credit for the courses. The university was also willing to grant students $5,000 scholarships if they chose to enroll next fall.

Next fall, Tillery has decided to attend the University of Virginia, Duke University, the College of William and Mary or John Hopkins University. She plans to major in biological engineering.

Wang hopes to attend McGill University in Quebec, Canada and wants to major in a discipline of engineering.