Lip balm a perfect research project

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 5, 2011

By Susan Shinn
Catawba College News Service
SALISBURY — The next time you apply that oh-so-convenient lip balm, think of Carly Sabat.
Sabat, 21, a senior chemistry major at Catawba College, researched lip balm as part of her senior project. Her research has garnered accolades for her and for the college.
A native of Ohio, Sabat was in need of a fall research project. She will enter the University of South Carolina’s School of Pharmacy this fall, and she’s spent summers working at a pharmacy back home. She looked to Dr. Mark Sabo, chairman of Catawba’s Department of Chemistry, to choose a project for her.
What he chose was an analysis of the sunscreen components in lip balm made by a local company, Filltech USA in Rockwell. According to FDA rules, its lip balm, which is sold exclusively to Dollar Tree, must be analyzed for its active ingredients.
To accomplish this, Sabat worked with chemist Betty Noble at Filltech USA and Sabo at Catawba College. “My job was to develop a method to measure the amount of the components in the lip balm,” Sabat says, so she went about extracting the product’s two sunscreen components, Octinoxate and Oxybenzone.
The project was one that interested Sabat.
“I’m an avid user of lip balm,” says Sabat, a member of Catawba’s softball team. She loves to be in the sun, she says.
Sabat used a state-of-the-art instrument called a high performance liquid chromatograph to measure the two components. She used samples of each to set a standard so she could compare the amount that was found in the lip balm. According to the product’s labeling, there should be 7.5 percent Octinoxate and 3.5 percent Oxybenzone.
“Filltech USA wants it to be exact,” Sabat notes.
After Sabat verified that the instruments were measuring correctly, she ran test after test on the lip balm, spending untold hours in the lab during the fall semester.
“We found that we had an excellent method to analyze the components,” she says.
Sure enough, the two components measured the way they should. Sabat reported her results back to the company, and presented two papers outlining her research — one at the Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honor Society conference at UNC-Pembroke in March and the other at the National American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in late March. Jacob Hill, who assisted in Sabat’s research, presented the paper in Anaheim. Sabat’s paper was awarded best research presentation at Pembroke and also received an award in the analytical division at the Anaheim event.
Sabo has nothing but praise for Sabat.
He explains, “This research was done through the Catawba Analytical Research Laboratory, an industrial-academic partnership at Catawba College, which has provided Carly with an excellent opportunity to work with a local pharmaceutical company, experience the practice of chemistry in today’s society, and enhance her problem-solving skills. Through her undergraduate research experience, she not only demonstrated technical and scientific knowledge, but also demonstrated that she knows how to apply that knowledge to the problem at hand.
He adds, “Carly’s analytical ability is apparent as she learns the fundamental principles of chemistry, applies this knowledge to the problem at hand, and reports accurate and precise results after careful observation and documentation. She usually starts her assignments early and does not wait until the last minute. She doesn’t shy away from tough problems, but rather embraces them as an opportunity to learn. Carly is very intelligent, conscientious, organized, and dependable. She consistently produces high quality work, whether for homework, term projects or exams. Her personal integrity, high academic standards and deep maturity level make her a well-respected role model for her peers.”
Sabat, the daughter of Debbie and Joseph Sabat of Warren, Ohio, grew up planning to be a teacher or veterinarian, until she took chemistry her junior year in high school.
“I just fell in love with chemistry,” she says. “It made so much sense to me.”
Two neighbors were pharmacists and told her that with her love of chemistry and math and her outgoing personality, pharmacy was the field for her.
Sabat was recruited to play softball at Catawba, and declared chemistry as her major her freshman year.
“I never had a doubt,” she says.
At Catawba, she says, she’s received personal attention from her professors.
“Their door is always open. They are always willing to help.”
She adds of her experience here, “I didn’t want the big-time undergraduate university. I’m not just a number. I’m known as a person here.”
Being at Catawba, she says, has taught her how to study. “This has prepared me to go on to the next step.”
Sabat plans a career in retail pharmacy.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn is a full-time student at Catawba College.