By: Nina Notman
It was a high school chemistry teacher who directed Fanny Frausto toward a chemistry career. “Ms. Maner had a real passion for chemistry and she encouraged me to participate in a summer program for high school students at a university in Texas,” says Frausto. There, “I was exposed to computational chemistry and lab research, which really solidified my interest in the field.”
Frausto went on to major in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She successfully applied to the ACS Scholars Program for funding and mentoring support for this degree–again at her teacher’s suggestion.
After graduation, in 2010, Frausto joined the contract research firm PCI Synthesis as a process chemist working on scaling up the synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Then, in 2013, Frausto returned to academia for a PhD with organic materials chemist Samuel W. Thomas of Tufts University. “I always knew I wanted to be a research director and that this would require a PhD,” she explains.
In 2018, Frausto joined The Clorox Company as a formulation chemist. Her primary role is lab-based; she develops formulations for the company’s cleaning product offerings. Most recently she worked on formulating a new fabric sanitizer and adding a new scent to a line of cleaners and disinfectants. “I’m currently working in innovations focusing on difficult-to-kill bugs like Clostridium difficile,” she says.
As the company’s products move from the bench to the marketplace, Frausto supports other teams to ensure the formulations can be manufactured at scale and that they work as expected in customers’ hands.
Outside of work, Frausto is an active American Chemical Society volunteer. She is currently chair-elect of the California section. “This means I’m learning how to be the chair for next year including how to handle the programming resources and funding,” she explains.
What is in your lab coat pocket?
A wax pencil, two permanent markers and two pens (red and black).
Tell us about an item that you can’t live without in the lab.
Colored lab tape – I color code all samples to keep them clearly differentiated.
What’s the most exciting project that you’ve worked on?
I was really excited to be part of the team that partnered with Algramo, a Chile-based company, to pilot a vending-machine system for refilling reusable containers with household cleaning products. We successfully piloted the system in the boroughs of New York City.
What was the last experiment you ran?
This is a fun one – I was a subject of an experiment in which I tasted new concepts from the Hidden Valley Ranch team. The Clorox Company acquired this salad dressing and seasoning brand in the 1970s.
Who is your scientific hero?
My dad. Before we moved to the US, he was a metallurgical engineer in a copper mine in Mexico. He taught me so much about resilience, perseverance, and the scientific method. He also helped me understand that science was something I could do and be good at.
What’s your favorite molecule and why?
Carmine, a naturally-derived pigment that produces red hues in food, textiles, art, and cosmetics. I’ve always been fascinated with color and the substances used to create color.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I’d like to be in a research director role, steering and collaborating on the technical strategic plan of a company.
What is the most useful piece of professional advice you’ve received?
Ask for help and guidance. When you are lost, in a project or in your career, other people can help you see an answer that was right in front of you all along or can guide you to a different way of thinking.
Do you like to listen to music in the lab?
Yes! My musical taste is very wide. Lab clean-ups seem to go by faster when we do it to music.
Share something you did for fun recently.
Before the pandemic, I would have been telling you about the latest movie I had watched at the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Instead, I redecorated my island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a game on the Nintendo Switch, to incorporate all the star furniture I crafted.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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