For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a scientist. So working in human safety is pretty much a dream come true for me. I joined Unilever two years ago and, as a safety scientist, it’s my job to ensure that any new ingredient or product that Unilever makes will be safe for anyone who uses it. As part of this, I’m working on ‘next-generation risk assessments’ which use the newest techniques to assess that the ingredients we use in our products are safe without testing them on animals.
We’re supporting calls for a . And we hope that through collaboration between companies, NGOs and governments – and the dedication of scientists passionate about the cause – it will soon be possible for all cosmetic products to be sold without the need for animal testing anywhere in the world.
Unilever is one of just five companies listed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as a company ‘working for regulatory change’. In fact, R&D experts at our Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) in Colworth, UK have been working on developing and using alternatives to animal testing to assure product safety for more than 30 years.
We caught up with five scientists who are part of the SEAC team and some of its rising stars. All five are women. They’re all under the age of 30. And they’re all passionate about the role science and technology can play in ending animal testing.
Today, on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, they share a little about their work, their motivations and their advice for young women hoping to carve their own career in scientific research. Scroll through the carousel below to read their stories, in their own words.
Our scientists’ stories
Making cosmetics cruelty-free has been something I've cared about for a long time, so when I realised there was a way to apply my chemistry degree in order to hopefully advance that cause, it felt like the perfect fit.
During my studies I learnt about traditional methods to safety testing, and it made me redirect my planned career path into finding alternative methods. My work at Unilever involves leading projects in skin allergy and immunology to investigate and develop non-animal methods that ensure the safety of our beauty and personal care products, without testing on animals.
If one of Unilever’s brands want to include a new ingredient in a product, try to use an ingredient in a new way, such as a shower foam instead of a shower gel, or use more ingredient in a product than they currently do – that’s where I come in. My job is to risk-assess the ingredient and conclude whether the proposed use is safe or not.
At Unilever we invest a lot of time and resource to improve the ways in which we study risks that some chemicals might pose to consumers. We do so not by using animals, but instead by designing computer models or cell-based tests, that are much more relevant to human biology than using animals. I care deeply about animal welfare and so designing alternatives to animal testing feels extremely empowering to me.
57% of Unilever’s R&D employees are women
50% of women in our R&D function are in managerial roles
170 scientists work at our SEAC hub – many have international scientific reputations