SOMERSET, NJ – High school graduates interested in how soap, shampoo, and cleaning products are made will be able to get hands on training starting this fall with Pillar College’s new STEM degree program in consumer product development.

“The Applied Chemistry degree with a concentration in Consumer Product Development is a four-year program with a rigorous course of curriculum,” said Dr. Bob Hefner, a program chair at the college who helped develop the program and will teach many of its courses.

During a recent videotaping session, Hefner along with a former colleague, Dr. Karen Wisniewski, described what students can expect if they are accepted to the program. Their clip may air as part of the college’s upcoming webinar, Live Talks with Pillar.

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“The first year, students will take general chemistry and math courses such as Calculus. The second year, they’ll take organic chemistry and physics,” said Hefner about the Bachelor of Science major, the first of its kind offered by a New Jersey college or university with a concentration in Consumer Product Development. “But then they’re going to get into the semester projects where they will actually make consumer products in the lab such as soap bars, deodorant sticks, body washes, shampoos and bleach products, and learn how to analyze them.”

Hefner, who retired from Colgate-Palmolive in 2018 after 27 years in product development said he is excited to be able to show the next generation how they can have a hand in bringing new consumer products to market.

“It’s not just a science degree but a wholistic degree,” he said, which includes learning about the business side of consumer products, such as working together effectively as a team and how to communicate with each other. “There will be marketing, finance, consumer research courses. Students will not only learn about formulation, but will get into regulatory, safety, quality, sustainability ideas.”

“They will be able to walk into a consumer products company and be able to hit the ground running. Areas Hefner said he and Wisniewski had to learn as they worked in the field.

“A prerequisite to getting into the program is to be excited about science and be willing to work hard because it is a science degree,” said Hefner when asked what type of student would be successful in the new program. “Like other universities, students should have taken all of the sciences in high school, have a solid math background, good communication skills. All of the typical things that would go into starting a chemistry degree almost anywhere.”

“I think a product developer tends to be creative,” he continued. “As you can see there’s an unlimited number of things you can do as a product developer. It’s an exciting field.”

And working in the consumer products development field makes it easy for people to explain what they do for a living.

“When you get a job in this area, all you have to do is tell people to look at a grocery store shelf,” Hefner said. “Your work is there in the products they use every day. It’s a lot easier to explain your job as a chemist if you can point to a bottle of dishwashing liquid or shower gel or a bar of soap. People immediately know what you do, then they start asking what’s the best product to use.”

For more information on Pillar College’s B.S. in Applied Chemistry with a concentration in Consumer Product Development, visit

About Pillar College

Pillar College is a comprehensive institution of higher learning, providing a Christ-centered education. Pillar is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and licensed by the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). Pillar College offers Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. Pillar College educates, inspires and equips students for excellent scholarship, service and leadership. Rooted in and committed to Christian faith, Pillar College fosters intellectual, spiritual and social development among its diverse student population. Pillar College has locations in Newark, Somerset, Paterson and Plainfield, New Jersey. Founded in 1908. For more information about Pillar College, visit