Barbara Brockway

Director, Personal Care

Company:

Applied DNA Sciences, New York

Education:

BSc (hon) & PhD Biochemistry

Barbara Brockway(Director, Personal Care)

What made me interested in Science

As a young child my favourite game was mixing together 'potions' from ingredients I found at home. Perhaps foolishly, my mother introduced my brother and I to 'volcanoes' made from vinegar added to cones of sodium bicarbonate. That had me hooked and endless chemistry sets later, I was well on a path to becoming an alchemist! I have always been curious about how things work, and I found the answers I needed in the science lessons at school.

My career so far

At school, I was often bottom of the class and I left, at 16 years old, with just a few GCSEs. My career really started when the Technical College system allowed me to study for BTec science qualifications while I worked as a Laboratory Technician at Surrey University. Inspired by the extremely clever people around me, and armed with BTec qualifications, I went on to study full-time for a BSc and PhD in Biochemistry at Kent University. Later, I researched in molecular biology and lectured at Reading University proving that you do not have to be a straight-A student to do well at University. I went on to join the R&D team at The Body Shop. I worked with the teams in their labs, learning from the best cosmetic scientists, how they took ideas and made them into winning products.

My role was varied and flexible but mostly involved researching new ingredients and giving technical support. I am proud that I played a big part in hemp becoming a major Body Shop ingredient and travelled to Hong Kong to defend The Body Shop's right to have a Hemp range.

I moved from The Body Shop to manage material development laboratories at Collaborative Laboratories in New York and later to Huntsman LLC in Texas. I returned home to the UK as Scientific Advisor for a global distribution company before entering the new and very exciting world of Applied DNA Sciences.

Day to day role

The company I now work for uses the very latest DNA technology to make uniquely sequenced double-strand molecules that carry a wealth of information. They can be added to materials acting as a green-bar code. So, just as the label on your luggage tells you it is your suitcase and your details, the code in the molecules contains information about where the material came from, when it was made and in some cases who made it. It’s a forensic tool to counteract fake cosmetics, which are not just illegal but can also be harmful.

How I use Chemistry in my job

The Chemistry and Physics behind formulating cosmetics is extremely complicated. Often, cosmetics are created from a long list of ingredients, so predicting how each interacts is impossible. I use analytical chemistry and I use the latest DNA chemistry to authenticate a material's origins. I also like to think by sharing my knowledge if Chemistry, I still have a small influence on the new products being developed.

Favourite part of my job

Nothing beats gong online or into retailers and seeing products that you know you had a part in making happen. I love discovering new science and relating it to our industry. I have just chaired an international summit where synthetic science, next generation sequencing, artificial intelligence and skin's microbiome were top subjects, so now I am on a personal mission to help these disciplines make their impact on personal care and our daily lives.

Most exciting career moment so far

Besides becoming the President of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists in 2013, being asked to stand-in at the last minute for Anita Roddick at a Pre-Christmas sales meeting with over 1,000 franchisees and employees. Frightened of making their disappointment worse, I decided to re-create, on a large scale, those volcanos my mum showed me as a child. However, I did this not with vinegar, but by using the newly launched Body Shop bath bombs made with formulas similar to the one in the Scrub Up On Science Lesson with added Body Shop Satsuma Bath Bubbles for the full larva effect. We had laughter and bubbles flowing everywhere.

What I find most exciting about the cosmetic science industry

We work on a human scale and 'punch well above our weight' to change people's lives for the better. Through our global network, we connect closely with you, the user, as well as to ingredient producers, (who can be a family growing a special fruit on a remote island or a major manufacturer). We will not cure cancer, but we do help prevent cancer by making effective sun protection products that are so nice you just cannot help yourself from using them. We give people confidence and the tools to have fun and enjoy life. We keep you and the people around you smelling nice and looking good. All of this is done through huge global brands or via a niche brand. The cosmetic science industry is exciting because it is fast moving and you can make a difference.

If I didn’t do this I would

When I lectured at Reading University, Helen Sharman, a food technologist who became the first British Astronaut, often used the equipment in our building. How I envied her when she went into space. Then again when I left school having failed most of my exams, I signed on to be a long-distance truck driver. I am so very grateful that I was rescued by the BTec, Technical College system and have a career in applied science and especially in the creative cosmetic sciences.

When I’m not at work…

As I travel a lot for work, I tend to stay close to home and spend time with my three spaniels. Of course, thinking about creating a range of cosmetics for pampered pets.