Interview with Zoe

According to the UN: ‘Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and, therefore, also half of its potential.’

February 11th marks the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, recognising their role and contribution to the field. Candle Shack wanted to be part of the movement that celebrates women in science. As such, we have interviewed Zoe, our Laboratory Manager to learn more about her and her experiences in the field. Zoe has been with Candle Shack for three and a half years and has done some incredible work. Let’s hear from Zoe on her experiences.

Do you consider yourself a woman in science?

When you think of women in science, you might picture Marie Curie’s pioneering work on radioactivity or Rosalind Franklin’s research in discovering DNA. However, not all science needs to be high profile and revolutionary. My contribution to science will not change lives in the way that Marie or Rosalind’s work did, but I like to think that my work will help Candle Shack’s customers with their hobbies and businesses.

When did your interest in science begin?

My interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects started when I took an engineering course at Falkirk College. There I learned about electronics, welding, and the properties of different metals. When I joined Candle Shack, it was a small company, and I rapidly became involved in almost every part of the business. I soon realised that candle manufacturing is a science. For example, the temperature at which the fragrance oil is mixed with the liquid wax is crucial, and various pouring techniques are required for different types of wax. I then joined the R&D team as a technician, where I discovered that the correct choice of wick is essential if you want to create a beautiful candle that burns cleanly.

What are your key responsibilities at Candle Shack?

Within a year, I had learned so much and was promoted to laboratory manager. My role involves developing new wax blends and creating beautiful candles for our contract customers. Even though I didn’t formally study chemistry at college or university, I now know that there are different routes into a career in science, and every day is a learning experience in Candle Shack’s R&D lab.

What have you learnt during your time here?

I have learned just how complex the chemistry of candle wax and fragrance oils is. For example, the chemical structure of plant wax is made up of triglyceride esters while mineral wax is composed of long chain hydrocarbons – this means that you can melt plant wax in a microwave, but you can’t do that with mineral wax. This is important when you are selecting a wax for a beginner’s candle making kit!

What would you say to other women and girls that want to pursue science as a career?

In Candle Shack’s R&D department, we don’t regard ourselves as women or men – we are scientists, we are technicians, we are one team, learning and discovering things together. Our small contribution to the science of candle making could make a big difference to our customers.

As you have heard from Zoe, science is not only a boy's club! Women have made huge strides in the industry and continue to do so every single day. STEM is for everyone, and can lead to amazing, exciting opportunities that you may not have even thought of.