Princeton University Graduate School Partners with Colgate-Palmolive on Ph.D. Experiential Learning Program

Oct. 3, 2022

The knowledge created by Ph.D.s is a catalyst for innovation across all fields. Bringing talented Ph.D. students together to work in interdisciplinary teams alongside leading industry researchers and professionals will serve to accelerate innovation and can have broad-reaching societal impact.” 

– Rodney Priestley, the Dean of Princeton University’s Graduate School

The GradFUTURES Professional Development team at Princeton University’s Graduate School is delighted to announce a new industry immersion and experiential learning program in partnership with Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELO) program. The newly launched GradFUTURES Micro-Internships in Industry Program is designed to immerse Princeton’s doctoral students in interdisciplinary projects within an industry setting where they can apply their academic training and discipline-specific knowledge to advance research and innovation in a range of fields. These part-time internship experiences offer graduate students the opportunity to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary teams alongside scientists, researchers, and leaders while working under the direction of an industry mentor. 

“We’re excited to partner with Colgate-Palmolive on this unique experiential learning program as a flexible way for our Ph.D. students to gain industry exposure, build connections, and contribute to field-leading research and innovation that benefits humanity,” said Eva Kubu, associate dean for professional development and director of the GradFUTURES initiative at Princeton University’s Graduate School. “We designed these part-time immersive experiences to complement and mutually reinforce each student’s doctoral training while prioritizing their rigorous academic commitments.”

According to the description of the company on their website, Colgate is a caring, innovative growth company that’s reimagining a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet. Focused on oral care, personal care, home care, skin health and pet nutrition and reaching more than 200 countries and territories, Colgate teams develop, produce, distribute and sell health and hygiene products and pet nutrition essential to society. The Company’s ELO Program provides opportunities for Ph.D. candidates to sharpen their skills through working alongside Colgate researchers on current business challenges and provides the students with hands-on experience in the private sector.  The majority of the work the students engage in applies their research skills to specific problems in the divisions in which they join.  The goal is that they work as a part of the research team and learn to apply their technical abilities to help the group.  Students are also encouraged to publish their work, which can help them progress in their Ph.D. program or give them an advantage as they start out their careers. Kubu said the fact that Colgate-Palmolive already had a deep commitment to its Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) program for Ph.D. students and a strong social impact mission made the company a logical first choice for an industry partnership. 

On June 21, 2022, fifteen Princeton Ph.D. students and members of the GradFUTURES team visited Colgate’sGlobal Technology Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. The students toured the facility and met Princeton graduate alumni, scientists, researchers, and product developers, as well as members of Colgate’s senior leadership team to learn more about the research conducted by the leading global consumer goods company. Doctoral students from other New Jersey institutions who participated in the company’s Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO) program also shared what they had gained from their internship experience and the value of the industry mentorship they received to their academic research and future career plans.   

“Colgate aims to create a healthier future for all. One way we fulfill our purpose is by creating educational pathways into Colgate careers. By teaming up with GradFUTURES in this experiential learning opportunity program, graduate students can see the real-world application of their graduate training, acquire new ‘on the job’ skills related to their areas of research, and gain industry experience, all of which are directly applicable to the job market,” said Dr. Long Pan, Director, Cross-Category Research & Innovation, Colgate-Palmolive.

Princeton Ph.D. students will have the opportunity to work for ten hours per week in a collaborative, interdisciplinary team alongside Colgate scientists, researchers, and product developers based in Piscataway. Students will also have the opportunity to intern in other areas of the Company and contribute to peer-reviewed journal publications regarding the scientific research conducted during their internship. Dr. Brian Wall, a principal scientist and toxicologist at Colgate-Palmolive who also oversees the experiential learning opportunity program, noted the program’s emphasis on mentorship and holistic professional development. “We’re very excited to partner with the GradFUTURES initiative to launch the ELO program at Princeton University, creating meaningful experiences for the students and preparing them with the professional skills and competencies they’ll need to make an impact in their future careers,” said Wall. 

Kubu noted that in addition to working on cutting-edge research projects, participating graduate students will receive one-on-one mentoring and gain exposure to organizational dynamics and leadership strategies via shadowing and participating in meetings and presentations. They will hone their research and collaboration skills as well as other critical professional competencies such as communication and presentation skills. 

Partner organizations in the GradFUTURES Micro-Internships in Industry program work closely with the Graduate School to determine the learning outcomes and professional development goals for these immersive experiences. The expectation is that the experience will be mutually beneficial and host organizations will benefit from the diverse ideas of graduate students in conjunction with meaningful project deliverables. There are four internships at Colgate-Palmolive slated for the fall. For information about how to apply and the application deadline, Princeton Ph.D. students may visit the GradFUTURES Micro-Internships in Industry webpage. Organizations interested in learning more about becoming a potential partner with GradFUTURES may visit the Industry partners webpage.

Seraya Jones, a doctoral student in the Molecular Biology department participated in the site visit and had the opportunity to hear from a panel of Princeton graduate alumni currently employed at Colgate-Palmolive. “Many of the graduate alumni and senior worldwide directors who shared their journey with us had long careers at the company. When asked what kept them at the company, they highlighted countless opportunities for growth and development, along with the diversity of employees that contribute to the culture. It was exciting to learn about career paths I could potentially pursue which would align with my scientific training and help make a difference in people’s lives.”