By Poornima Peiris
Meet Dr. Nadine Pernodet, the woman behind your skincare - that is if you currently use anything created by Estée Lauder Companies (ELC). Founded by businesswoman Estée Lauder in 1964, the company currently owns a plethora of brands, including Aveda, Clinique, MAC, Smashbox and La Mer. These names should be familiar to many of us who frequent the aisles at Sephora, and the dedication and hard work that goes on behind the scenes of our favorite glamorous beauty products deserves our attention.
“I always loved science, all sciences really, since I was young. It was always clear to me that my career would be related to the scientific world,” says Dr. Pernodet. Her scientific journey began after graduating from Louis Pasteur University with a PhD. Her role as a professor at Stony Brook University allowed her to work in various interdisciplinary fields, ranging from chemistry to physics and biology. While at Stony Brook, she collaborated with Estée Lauder, and this later led her to accepting a position with Estée Lauder Skin Biology Group.
Although she loves the amalgamation of different scientific fields, she says it was challenging working with scientists from other fields when her focus as an early career scientist was in physical chemistry. In the present day, however, interdisciplinary projects are the norm and have the upper hand for securing grants. Dr. Pernodet stated her transition from academia to industry was a big risk at the time. However, she describes it as extremely rewarding in the long run. Dr. Pernodet, who’s an avid traveler and loves meeting people, says her job helps her complement her hobbies, as well as her career.
Dr. Pernodet is currently the Vice President of Estée Lauder Skin biology & Bioactives division and oversees the laboratory’s innovation and strategy division. Her group develops the technology and actives responsible for optimal performance in Estée lauder skin care products. She lends her scientific guidance to develop all Estée Lauder brand skincare products.
She currently oversees research from Mechanobiology to Epigenetics, Systems Biology, Master Pathways, and Biomimicry, to the development of BioActives from natural sources and synthetic chemistry. The recently launched Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix was based on her research in Mechanobiology and the constant micro-movements on skin and aging. This research is the result of years of study she began in Stony Brook on the mechanical forces that affect cell behavior. She appreciates being able to bring this knowledge to ELC to help support skin’s natural repair in the eye area. Another area of research that she is passionate about is how to improve skincare performance using a systems biology approach, in which a comprehensive network can be built to address the root cause of visible skin aging.
Dr. Pernodet’s role varies from day to day. On some days she meets with collaborators, universities, and suppliers; on others she works with Estée lauder’s product development and marketing teams to formulate these products in the lab. She also works as the Estée Lauder skincare spokesperson and has a hand in communicating with international editors to explain the research and technologies behind new product launches. Her job provides her with a continuous learning experience and exciting opportunities for improvements to especially enhance and support women.
“Most young women would not realize that high-level science is used in the cosmetic industry, so just exposing young women to the vast career opportunities is important”, says Dr. Pernodet. Estée Lauder has been a long-time supporter of hiring women scientists at various levels of their careers. The company has also provided mentoring opportunities through speaking events at universities and campus recruitment. Research & Development teams at ELC are keen on fostering relationships with the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) community and are currently in the process of developing new programs aimed at young women in STEM fields. As a woman in STEM herself, Dr. Pernodet is very aware of the challenges still facing those trying to advance in the field, as it is largely a male dominated sector. There is a lack of representation by females at the executive level in many R&D roles, however, the R&D workforce at ELC is about 60% female.
Persistence and making your point heard is key, Dr. Pernodet advises. She says that it’s important to be outspoken, like most male colleagues are when asking for recognition or a promotion, and not to wait until the manager decides it is the right time. Education, followed up by hard work and perseverance, is also crucial for women pursuing their passions in STEM. Most importantly, Dr. Pernodet’s sound advice to aspiring scientists is to “keep your eyes open, look for ways to combine your diverse research interests and do not be afraid!”
About the Author
Poornima Peiris is an engineer interested in all things STEM related. She recently started an initiative encouraging women and minorities to pursue science related careers. She has conducted research in various stem disciplines at national labs and was a participant of NASA's space grant program. She is currently working in producing her own science tv show with her local community. Her scientific contributions include a publication in a scientific journal & besides reading up on scientific innovations, she also loves to read books on neuroscience, paint landscapes & create personalized wedding gifts. Aside from dabbling in the creative arts, she does fencing & tennis. Always a Sri Lankan at heart, she loves the ocean & spring weather. She currently splits her time between Massachusetts & New York.
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