Wooster Student Experiences the Power of Workplace Mentorship
APEX Fellowship connects junior Kevin Smith and alumnus Scott Peters
WOOSTER, Ohio - Scott Peters, a 1989 College of Wooster alumnus, understands the power of on-the-job mentorship both as a giver and as a receiver. The opportunity to work at a Wooster R&D company the summer before his senior year prompted the chemistry major to change the focus of his senior Independent Study (I.S.) and also convinced him that his career goal was to find a job that allowed him to step outside the laboratory.
Today, Peters is product development manager at Ingredient Innovations International (3i) in Wooster, a spin-off of the company where he began as a student 25 years ago. And he's in a good position to return the opportunity that was offered him. In collaboration with his wife, Judith Amburgey-Peters, Wooster associate professor of chemistry, he has co-advised two students' Independent Studies.
So on the way home from work, when Professor Amburgey-Peters asked Manager Peters if the company might have something for a promising student in her department, Peters was pretty sure they did. He was up for the mentorship, but wasn't positive about the salary. The College's APEX Fellowships, which add a stipend and guidance to students' summer internship and career exploration experiences, came into play and rising junior Kevin Smith came on board.
At 3i, Smith has participated in all functions of the small company—from laboratory research, to meeting with customers, to cleaning up after production. "We wear a lot of hats here," says Peters, "and Kevin has worn just as many as the rest of us."
The goal of scientists at 3i is to give materials that are exclusively oil-soluble also the ability to disperse evenly in water. 3i's customers are beverage, food, and personal care marketers who want to add a health benefit value to their products. One of the company's most successful applications, for example, is an over-the-counter drink that contains coenzyme Q10 (essential to a healthy body, but lacking in patients taking statin drugs). By changing the substance from a crystalline to a liquid form, 3i makes it both more marketable and more effective. "Absorption in the body goes up about six times in a liquid based product, compared to a tablet," says Peters.
Other benefits include increasing the shelf life of a product. For example, 3i uses its dispersion technology on fish oil, allowing it to be added to a drink without fear of spoilage. Mouthwash formerly carried only by an alcohol-based fluid may now be alcohol-free. All told, the Wooster company produces up to 6,000,000 pounds of product annually.
Smith hopes his I.S. will reflect his work at Ingredient Innovations International. At the conclusion of his eight-week APEX Fellowship, the company decided to keep him on as a paid employee for the rest of the summer. "He's been a lot of help; he's doing a good job for us," says Peters. "And besides, he's in the middle of some projects."
The experience is exactly what he had hoped it would be, says Smith, and has solidified his desire to find a similar job after he graduates. "I've loved being here," he says. "I wanted a real world application. I wanted to see the business side to chemistry that you just don't experience if you stay on campus.
"I'm seeing the whole process and it's benefitting me a lot."