Most chemical engineering senior projects don't culminate in a meeting at an international fragrance house. But on a sunny April morning, three Bucknell seniors — Amanda Thompson, Eliann Shadmi and Meredith Sawyer — assembled in the boardroom of Fragrance Resources in midtown Manhattan to evaluate seven custom-made fragrances that they helped develop.
There, the Bucknell trio joined alumna Katie Masich, who graduated in 2001 and in 2008 started her own fragrance company, Masik Collegiate Fragrances. Masich, also a chemical engineering major, started down a traditional career path that included selling lube oil in Georgia, but always knew she wanted to start her own business. Little did she know at the time that she would leave the world of industrial oils and launch a business that would include creating a scent for the University of Georgia based on fizzy mandarin, lush jasmine and soft musk.
When Masich began brainstorming ideas for a business, she focused on two things she loved: perfume and Bucknell. She said she wanted to develop a fragrance line that would conjure one of life's most "memorable and emotionally charged experiences." For Masich, that experience was the time she spent at Bucknell, and she thought that others might have a similar reaction. "I had the idea to create a scent that would evoke for the wearer that person's college years," she said. Without any experience in the industry, she contacted perfumers until she found one that found her idea novel and intriguing.
Collegiate Fragrances based its first signature scent on Penn State. The Masik product line includes 20 large universities, such as the University of Florida and Virginia Tech. "I always wanted to create a scent for Bucknell," said Masich, "but I first had to get the business off the ground." When she felt she was ready to expand into the smaller-school market, Bucknell was first on the list. She reached out to Professor Margot Vigeant in chemical engineering and suggested pairing her market research with a senior project.
"Professor Vigeant then contacted us, as she suspected we would be interested in the subject matter," said Sawyer. "We were really excited to be matched with Masik Collegiate Fragrance and have learned a lot this semester. The most valuable aspect of this project was to work with a professional client and balance the time and resources given with Katie's expectations and goals."
Together, Sawyer, Shadmi and Thompson set to work articulating and defining key moments and symbols of the Bucknell experience: the spring and fall seasons on campus, the candlelighting tradition and the architecture made distinctive by the Bucknell brick. They distilled those symbols into six scent profiles for both women and men.
"Working with the Bucknell students was fantastic," said Masich. "They did all of the leg work that I normally do."
The team submitted a fragrance brief to Masich, who in turn worked with Fragrance Resources to create a combination of scents that would parallel the distinguishing Bucknell characteristics. Once the fragrance house had the brief, its perfumers set to work creating a set of scents.
The scent that will become the Bucknell University fragrance for women was inspired by the luscious campus sunsets and includes hints of peach, apple, cherry blossom, vanilla and freesia.
Additionally, the team helped create a room spray and researched how the scent could be incorporated into a hand lotion, thus expanding the Masik product line. For that, said Shadmi, "Our chemical engineering background came into play. We needed to conduct research into relevant chemical components that go into both hand lotions and room sprays in order to achieve the desired characteristics for both products."
After a visit to the fragrance house and with scents in hand, the students brought the samples back to Bucknell to test with students. As part of their initial evaluation, they planned to see if certain groups or genders would like one scent over the other.
"The most interesting trend gleaned from the data was that all groups on campus tended to favor the same fragrance," said Shadmi. "Regardless of gender, major, Greek affiliation, or class year, Bucknell students seem to think the same scents represent Bucknell."
Thompson added, "As graduating seniors, we felt this highlighted the sense of Bucknell community."