Chloe Mazza doing work in a biology lab

The Beauty of Research

On a whim, Chloe Mazza applied for a competitive internship with L’Oreal. She never imagined she’d be selected to spend this summer doing research for the world’s leading beauty company.
By: Marissa Carney

What do bowling, biology, and L’Oreal have in common?

No, it’s not a joke, but it does have an answer, and her name is Chloe Mazza.

Mazza is an energetic, spirited young woman who came to Penn State Altoona because of bowling. An avid bowler in high school, she received several offers from division one (D1) colleges and universities to play the sport. But Mazza wanted to pursue STEM and wasn’t interested in making bowling the focus of her college career. When she found out Penn State Altoona has a women’s D3 bowling team on top of what she wanted to study, she was all in.

She’s now a third-year student majoring in biology/vertebrae physiology and plans to pick up a minor in environmental studies. She is the student body vice president and works closely with the college’s Center for Student and Civic Engagement.

“Here at Penn State Altoona, people know each other. They know personal things about me, and it makes me feel so comfortable and supported. I have no regrets turning down those D1 offers and coming here. It’s just been so much fun.”

During the 2022 fall semester, Mazza became aware of an intriguing opportunity within L'Oréal USA’s Research and Innovation (R&I) Center.

L'Oréal USA is the largest subsidiary of the L'Oréal Group, the world's leading beauty company. The R&I Center is where the work of advancing scientific and technological research behind company products and services takes place. This research focuses on innovations across the spectrum of hair, skin, and makeup categories while pioneering research through scientific fields such as green sciences and beauty tech.

Each year, thousands of third-year college students who are studying STEM apply for the L’Oréal USA Summer Internship Program at the R&I Center. No more than fifteen are accepted. “It’s very competitive but a huge opportunity,” says Mazza. “I thought that I might as well put myself out there and at least apply for it, just to see what would happen.”

What happened is that Mazza was selected for the next step in the hiring process—L’Oréal 30 Day, a day in November full of interviews, presentations, and even a group project with other applicants. She felt positive about her performance and expected it to be several days before she heard anything. But that very evening, in the middle of a class, she received a call from the man who had conducted the interviews.

She stepped out of the room to answer and listened as he told her that there was a huge application pool and great talent within it and that, with her biology background, the internship might not be the best fit for her.

“I was like, okay, just rip off the band-aid and tell me it’s a no. But then he said, ‘with that in mind, I would love to offer you the internship.’ And I broke down, and ugly cried. It was huge for me that I was able to represent myself well enough to stick out in a crowd of chemical engineers and such from all these Ivy League schools. It was really something incredible. And I'm forever grateful.”

“While this program typically recruits chemistry and engineering students, Chloe demonstrated the drive and ability to secure one of these internship positions,” says Lara LaDage, associate professor of biology and undergraduate research coordinator. “This experience will be invaluable to her future career in research while allowing her to network with experts in the field and develop the skills necessary to succeed in a private research and development setting.”

Chloe Mazza and Cairsty DePasquale in a biology lab

Chloe Mazza and her research adviser, Cairsty DePasquale, associate professor of biology, discuss their work in the lab.

Credit: Penn State

The eleven-week paid internship will take place this summer in New Jersey. Mazza will be paired with a mentor and assigned to one of six research and innovation teams: applied science, formulation science, advanced research, evaluation, analytical chemistry, or technology incubation. She will be fully involved in the day-to-day activities of the team and given full-time employee responsibilities. She will have the space and encouragement to share ideas and insights with senior management, which may be implemented within the research center. Professional development, networking, and training are provided through the program.

Another exciting part of the internship is that Mazza will get to create and lead her own individual strategic project. She is considering something with sustainability, perhaps looking at product packaging and biodegradability. At the end of the summer, Mazza will present her project to R&I senior leadership, which could lead to an offer into a management trainee program or even a full-time role.

L'Oreal leaders say innovation has long fueled the business, and they rely on that innovation to drive evolution and transformation across social and environmental issues. From sustainability, nature regeneration, and climate change to supporting and empowering vulnerable women, inclusivity in marketing and advertising, gender equity, and men’s mental health, Mazza says the company aligns with her morals and values.

“L'Oreal is so much more than just a makeup company. With all that it embraces, I feel like it directly applies to me and embodies me as a person. I can see myself doing very well here and exemplifying what they put into the world.”

Mazza credits her time at Penn State Altoona with much of her personal and professional growth. She says serving on the Student Government Association taught her how to present herself and represent an organization. Her classes helped hone her public speaking and organizational skills, while participating in clubs developed her leadership abilities. Each experience at the college bolstered her confidence and prepared her for this opportunity.

“Without a doubt, Penn State Altoona has helped me grow and see and appreciate the world in new ways. I know that my time here is going to help me excel this summer.”

But first, Mazza must get through the spring semester. Knowing there will be rough times ahead, she’s using the internship as an incentive to push through. “I know there will be times when I study for hours and hours for an exam and won’t do so well. There will be days when I won’t want to get out of bed or study or deal with all these other things but knowing what’s waiting for me is motivating and propelling me forward. It’s going to be so much fun. I can’t wait.”