At its inaugural event, twenty chemistry enthusiasts from the Sheridan Chemistry Club spent a Saturday in the lab getting their hands dirty with saponification: the making of soap.
Club event coordinator Maria Trejo relished the opportunity to teach her peers about soap making. Drawing from her experience as a Chemical Engineering Technology (Environmental) student and previous work with the cosmetics company Lush, she eagerly sourced materials, developed a procedure and safety protocol and walked club members through the process step-by-step before they set out to make their own concoctions.
“It’s empowering to have a platform like this to develop our creativity” – Maria Trejo
Using sodium hydroxide as a base, groups chose coconut, olive or palm oil and added in dashes of natural colours and fragrances to customize their creations. “I think participants gained an appreciation for the science that is behind a product that we use every day,” explained Trejo, “It’s empowering to have a platform like this to develop our creativity.”
By the end of the day, students had whipped up eight batches of all-natural, preservative-free soap. From deep purple hues to pastels with a hint of sparkle, the soaps ranged from musky to floral scents and were all different shapes and sizes. Many prepared in cupcake liners and cookie cut out shapes looked more like dessert than soap.
“Chemistry doesn’t begin and end with producing chemical reactions in a lab,” explained club president and Chemical Engineering student Maniranjan Sra. “Practical applications of chemistry in creative ways is what prepares us for the industry.” In addition to strengthening student’s preparedness for the workforce, the club’s mandate includes understanding pathways to university, forming partnerships with industry, and opportunities for independent research and networking. Students will receive credit on their Co-Curricular Record for being active in the club, an added credential that members hope will set them apart upon graduating in an increasingly competitive field.
“Practical applications of chemistry in creative ways is what prepares us for the industry” – Maniranjan Sra
The next undertaking for these students is to sell their line of soap to the Sheridan community. The business side to it still has relevance to these chemistry students. “It’s a profit-driven industry so we need to think about base costs and product yield to determine pricing,” explained Abby Gail Hermoso, communications coordinator for the club. “We also need to carefully consider ingredients and what’s going in to the product to make it attractive to consumers.”
Trejo, Sra and Hermoso, all core members of the club’s executive, are nearing the end of their time in the program but still felt it was important to be involved in developing a greater extracurricular presence for chemistry students. The club continues to recruit members and is looking forward to their next team-building experiment.
Pictured at top of page: Soap made by the Sheridan Chemistry Club.
Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Digital Communications Officer at Sheridan.