What makes a scientist? In his current position, as an Analytical Chemist at The Coca-Cola Company, Dr. Ron Hunter helps achieve and maintain the high-quality products that we have come to expect from the global beverage company. What he brings to the company, however, reaches far beyond his scientific expertise. As a diversity in STEM advocate, a leader and mentor to those around him, a free sample-lover, and an overall achiever, Dr. Hunter brings a distinctive skillset and an unrivaled passion to his scientist role.
The Coca-Cola Company, the world’s largest beverage company, provides over 200 countries with nearly 3,900 beverage choices. The company, founded in 1886, has its global headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. Hunter works in the Analytical Services Lab (ASL) for the Americas. “The goal of our lab is to maintain quality by becoming the subject matter experts for the product,” says Dr. Hunter. “So that we can troubleshoot and make sure that the consumers are getting the best product and that the business units are making the product in the best way possible.” Recently, Dr. Hunter has been working to build dairy capabilities for the ASL.
Coca-Cola’s contributions reach beyond the realm of beverages. The company has received numerous awards for diversity and equality, including a 100% rating on the human rights campaign’s corporate equality index for the 11th consecutive year and a ranking among the top 50 companies for diversity by Black Enterprise magazine. These accolades reflect the company’s commitment to its mission statement: “Mirror the richly diverse markets we serve, capitalizing on our inclusive culture to attract, develop, engage, and retain a global talent mix to fuel our competitive advantage.”
Dr. Hunter contributes to this mission by participating in the LGBT, African American, Hispanic, and KOGen multi-generational business resource groups. These groups are designed to cultivate diversity, engage the community, and provide the company with alternative perspectives on marketing, communication, and consumerism. These efforts allow The Coca-Cola Company to connect with specific consumer populations in a way that is more specific and relatable.
In addition to culturally personalized marketing, the company also designs marketing campaigns that traverse cultural boundaries. “The best thing that Coke does, that crosses all diversity lines,” says Dr. Hunter, “is that they’re not selling a product, they really are selling a feeling, they are selling emotions.” #tastethefeeling
When reflecting on the decisions and opportunities that got him to where he is today, Dr. Hunter credits experiential variety, unwavering individuality, and strategic serendipity. By remaining flexible and setting himself up for possible opportunities, he found that more opportunities presented themselves. Being diversified in experiences and training has provided him with a myriad of skills and enhanced marketability.
With diversity as a theme throughout his own career, Dr. Hunter encourages current students to be open to a variety of possible career paths and training opportunities. “Do not think of yourself as being all over the place if you have many talents and desires for your career,” says Dr. Hunter. “Do not let anybody dissuade you from being multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary.”
This week, October 22nd -28th, the American Chemical Society will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of National Chemistry Week. The goal of National Chemistry Week is to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life. ACS members and science enthusiasts are encouraged to spread awareness of chemistry by organizing events for ACS local sections, schools, businesses, and the general community.
In 1987, former ACS President Dr. George Pimentel organized a national event to celebrate the impact of chemistry. This single day of celebrating science evolved into an annual week-longevent where the scientific community engages in education and outreach. The events of the week are accompanied by the publication of Celebrating Chemistry, a booklet designed to engage and educate children in the basic principles of chemistry and to inspire the next generation of future scientists.
The theme of National Chemistry Week for 2017 is “Chemistry Rocks!”, which focuses on geochemistry. Topics include the chemistry of salt, the types of rock within the Earth’s crust, and the difference between a rock, a mineral, and a gemstone. Some activities in Celebrating Chemistry include growing crystals from Epsom salt and testing mud samples for clay content.
Previous topics of National Chemistry Week include “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry”, “Chemistry Colors Our World”, “The Sweet Side of Chemistry—Candy”, and “Energy: Now and Forever”. Next year, events will focus around outer space in “Chemistry Out of this World”.
To spark widespread interest and appreciation for chemistry is a goal also shared with our graduate student social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS). On Thursday, October 26th, PACS and Graduation Generation, a collaborative family-school-university-community partnership, will host an outreach event at Toomer Elementary School involving 20-minute science demonstrations for kids in third through fifth grade. In addition, ChEmory, our undergraduate chemistry club will host a series of events in honor of National Chemistry Week including an alumni career seminar, science demonstrations, and periodic table cupcake baking!
Outreach opportunities like those presented by PACS, ChEmory, and National Chemistry Week give us the chance to share our love of chemistry and science with the community. Through education and outreach, we can cultivate an appreciation for chemistry and inspire the next generation to become as passionate as we are.
Interested in learning more about National Chemistry Week? Check out the ACS website! If you are interested in getting involved with the PACS outreach event, contact Elaine Liu.
ChEmory events this week:
Tuesday, October 24th
Demo Show: 6:30-7:30 pm at Memorial Student Center E208
Wednesday, October 25th
ChEmory at Wonderful: 12-2 pm in Asbury Circle
Periodic Table Cupcake Baking: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen
Thursday, October 26th
Periodic Table Cupcake Decorating: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen
ChEmory, Emory’s undergraduate chemistry club, has been recognized by the American Chemical Society as a Commendable chapter for 2016-2017. This places ChEmory in the top 10-20% of all undergraduate ACS chapters.
2017-2018 is also shaping up to be an excellent year for ChEmory. The club has been awarded two ACS grants for activities–a Community Interaction Grant and a New Activities Grant.
Congrats to the ChEmory officers and members for all their hard work!
Bill Wuest has been named one of three recipients of the 2017 ACS Infectious Disease Young Investigator Award given by ACS Infectious Diseases and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry. Winners received a plaque, an award of $1,000, and up to $500 in travel reimbursement to attend the 2017 ACS Fall National Meeting in Washington, D.C., and present at an ACS Division of Biological Chemistry symposium in their honor. In addition, they were honored at the ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Awards Symposium during the meeting.
Brooke Howell interviewed Dr. Wuest regarding the honor.
What’s next in your research?
With my group’s recent move to Emory University, I felt that this would be an ideal time to expand our research focus beyond bacterial biofilms and look into other areas antibacterial research. More specifically, we are looking to expand our “narrow-spectrum” research program with a focus on Pseudomonad-specific therapies in collaboration with the CF-Atlanta group. Likewise, we also plan to work closely with the Antibiotic Resistance Center here at Emory to further investigate mechanisms of antibiotic resistance development by both using our current, and continuing to develop, chemical probes.
For the past three years, the Department of Chemistry has been pleased to sponsor undergraduate travel to the annual American Chemistry Society meeting in San Fransisco for members of ChEmory, our undergraduate ACS club. The travel awards are generously funded by the J. Sam Guy Memorial Fund. Four students who attended this year share their reflections below:
As a chemistry major, it is always inspiring to attend the National ACS meeting whenever I can. This year I had the opportunity to network with other scientists and meet a few other students who are attending the same graduate program as I am in the fall. This year I took extra time to talk with vendors in the Expo Hall to better understand the machines that go into a lab as well as job opportunities at different chemical companies after graduate school. I always make a point to attend the Kavli Lectures, as they are interesting topics that are made accessible to all knowledge levels through TED-talk style presentations. In addition to the Kavli Lectures, I took time to go to several talks on organic synthesis and natural product synthesis, as this is what I hope to focus on when I get to graduate school. These talks helped give me a better understanding of the chemistry that goes into these projects and fed my passion for research.
I represented ChEmory at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Francisco. I enjoyed meeting students from other ACS chapters, and learning about their programs. I also had the opportunity to go to a few lectures including one on CRISPR and some in the LGBT* graduate symposium, which was a good intersection of chemistry and my sociology minor.
The ACS conference was a good opportunity for me to speak with graduate school to which I received acceptance letters for more specific information that I could not get easily get off of the internet. In addition, I found the lecture from DOW on the state of the academic system, and their solution to the funding problem, to be enlightening. I also found the job fair interesting, even though none of the jobs ended up being a good fit. The job fair gave me insight to what jobs in industry look for and what day to day life in the workforce outside of academia was like. Getting the opportunity to see the city was also a great experience.
Attending the ACS conference in San Diego was an eye-opening experience for me. The demo exchange allowed is to interact with other undergraduates to see how they implement outreach programs in their home town, and how many ways there are to visually demonstrate chemistry. Additionally, I was able to network with graduate school recruiters and learn what PHD and master’s program admissions are looking for in a candidate. However, I did more than just networking on this trip. I attended multiple lectures on hot new research topics, as well as lectures involving the intersectionality of one’s own identity and their research. All in all, it was an amazing experience where I learned about how integral chemistry is to our lives.
Chemistry major Michelle Stofberg (EC ’17) is featured in a new book from the American Chemical Society, The Power and Promise of Early Research from the ACS Symposium Series. Michelle’s story about her first experiences in the lab appears in the chapter “Lab Tales: Personal Stories of Early Researchers.” Michelle describes her first encounters with laboratory research at Emory in her own words, including Introductory Chemistry II with Dr. Nichole Powell at Emory’s Oxford College and laboratory work with Brenda Harmon. Currently, Michelle is an undergraduate researcher in the Liebeskind Lab. Michelle was also a summer SURE researcher at Emory.
An excerpt from “Lab Tales”:
Sharing my research experiences with others helped me appreciate just how extraordinary these research opportunities were and reflect on how much I have learnt. As I explained before, a researcher studies unknowns. This task seemed rather daunting to me at first; however, I soon realized that there was something spectacular about delving into the unfamiliar. I saw the beauty of challenging the unknown and the joy of discovery. Of course, I do not mean discovery as a stagnant, completed act, but as a fluid, ongoing process. In other words, research is wonderful for it is a challenging process of understanding and learning. It challenges you to face your weaknesses and bolster your strengths; it forces you to consider the world through a different, inquisitive lens; it helps you realize your passions; and it lets you grow as a student and as an individual.