Soap for STEM Education

Letters to a Pre-Scientist is grateful for the support of our sponsors! The following story about fundraising was contributed by Mahal Bugay from the Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society at Agnes Scott College.

I am the co-president of the chemical-biochemical society on my campus, and I was introduced to Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) by my physics professor in an email over the summer. My physics professor, Dr. Ackerman, emailed the physics students’ mailing list about becoming a pen-pal to students with the purpose of giving them an insider’s view of science.

It piqued my interest. As a child, my only interactions with science were strictly within the classroom. In high school, pursuing science as a career was a vague concept to me and I felt I was not smart enough to match what I thought it took to become a scientist. It was not until I started conducting research as an undergraduate with a wonderful mentor that I better understood and became fascinated with scientific research. After reading more about the program, I contacted the rest of my executive board for their opinions about partnering with LPS. They were excited. We had previously talked about having a year-long event, but had difficulty fleshing out the idea. Partnering with LPS seemed like the perfect fit. I contacted Lucy Madden, the CEO, about how a college organization could support LPS, and we ultimately decided that we would do a fundraiser.

What would we sell to raise funds? That was a question that our executive board had difficulty with. The Material Science Student Association at Northwestern University, another university partner of LPS, had successfully conducted 5K races to raise funds along with holiday giving competitions and Halloween costume contests. Discussing the ideas with our executive board, we realized what was successful for that group may not be so successful with our group. We are at a much smaller college, where the number of STEM majors is few and where even our active general body was fewer. We needed to sell something that students, faculty, and staff would actually purchase, and we needed to make something that would be relatively simple. My obsession with skincare products jumped out in this moment. Why not soap? After multiple Google searches, we found soap recipes that were straightforward and manageable. However, we also realized that if we wanted this fundraiser to have an impact, we needed to reach out to the other STEM organizations on campus. I contacted the presidents of the Bee Society, Society of Physics Students, Association of Women in Mathematics, and TriBeta on our campus to ask about a collaboration. All agreed to provide their support. We decided that the week of SpARC (Spring Annual Research Conference) at our college was an optimal time to sell our soap.

The most difficult part of our fundraiser was actually making the soap. It was a time consuming process that involved melting, pouring, and cooling the soaps into the molds and waiting until the next day to wrap them up. However, all of our volunteers found the process relaxing, and enjoyed crafting new scents and wrapping the soaps. Watching students volunteer their afternoons to make soap for LPS was an enriching experience. I knew each soap was packaged with attention and care. This was an important fundraiser and we all wanted to do our best to help. At the end of the week, we had created 121 soaps. 

Surprisingly, those soaps sold within two days! The majority of the soap was sold on the day of SpARC with a constant stream of people walking past our table to ask us about the mission of LPS and our soaps. People, especially professors, were ecstatic to hear about a program dedicated to making science more accessible and personable. With sales and donations, we were able to raise $261.55! You would not believe how shocked we all were about how fast the actual fundraiser went and how successful it was. It was a great feeling to send an email to all the volunteers that a fundraiser that had been months in the making only took two days to sell everything. This experience reminded me of how important a community is in supporting the next generation to pursue their dreams despite whatever barriers may be present.


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