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The Science and Art of Scents
By Mileana B.
PacSci is excited to welcome Mileana as a guest author for the PacSci Blog. Mileana is a member of the Discovery Corps, goes to Lakeside High School, and has been doing an internship with Fragrance by Molly Ray. She developed the content and programming for the March 2020 Girls Night Out event.
Out of all the compelling internships Discovery Corps offered, I was particularly intrigued by the idea of working in a perfumery where both a scientific and artful approach was applied to the real world. I had never investigated the world of perfume before, and getting an in-depth experience into this field not only showed me the complexities behind perfume-making, but also altered my judgment of other aspects in my life as I realized the greater potential of science that is out there. This outlook of finding science in unexpected areas of life is one that I hope to ignite in the girls who participate in the Girls Night Out I’ve planned. However, before I could even get started on creating a Girls Night Out, I had to gain some knowledge on the topic myself.
My first day at the lab, after donning a lab coat, I experimented with scent by designing my own fragrance. Inspired by the change in seasons occurring that mid-October day, I concocted a perfume I dubbed “Arboretum.” I incorporated this activity into my Girls Night Out as I found this experience to be extremely valuable in forming new opinions about scent that were deeper and more personal than I’d ever had before.
Thanks to Molly’s valuable guidance, I have grown comfortable with doing an array of tasks in the lab, from creating perfume with essential oils — a key ingredient for making natural perfume as Molly does — to packaging up the final products and even dabbling in a bit of the marketing necessary for a successful business; I personally find making the perfume the most fun! Starting with a drawer full of glass bottles containing a variety of essential oils, the oils are first macerated with perfumer’s alcohol.
Next, the diluted oils are combined, according to formulas carefully constructed by Molly, to create Molly’s signature fragrances. Then there’s the process of transporting the perfume, stored in bottles with volumes of 400-600 mL, to the dainty 10-30 mL bottles that will end up on the shelves; during these times my pipetting and pouring skills have greatly improved. Sticking on their tiny labels, the bottles are ready to be tucked into a bed of crinkle-cut paper and shipped off.
Accumulating the many experiences I’ve had in the lab over these past few months into a three-hour event took some creativity, and it was honestly a bit daunting to begin with. Thankfully, I am surrounded by a host of other people who have a bit more experience than I and they helped me flesh out all the abstract ideas I initially compiled.
It was very exciting to be part of the process of gradually adding details to the plan and watch it grow from a bullet-pointed list to a comprehensive event. I’ve truly been inspired by my work at Molly’s lab and look forward to sharing this excitement over the scientific processes involved in formulating and creating perfume through the March 2020 Girls Night Out!