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MilliporeSigma Inspires the Next Generation of Scientists Through SPARK Volunteer Program

Published 08-01-19

Submitted by MilliporeSigma

Throughout the year, MilliporeSigma employees volunteer their skills and expertise to make a difference in their communities across the globe. This shared commitment to giving back brings employees together each quarter during a designated “SPARK Week,” in which they participate in a variety of volunteer opportunities. During MilliporeSigma’s latest SPARK Week, June 1–9, employees brought impactful hands-on science experiences to students.

Volunteering through SPARK has been particularly meaningful for Sandy McNorton, senior scientist, Process Solutions Upstream R&D at MilliporeSigma, based in Lenexa, Kansas.

“I was involved with going to schools and doing career and cell culture talks before SPARK existed, so when the Curiosity Labs™ program became available and then the Curiosity Cube®, it was a no-brainer to volunteer to help,” said McNorton. “I’ve done all the Curiosity Labs™ and most of them multiple times. My current favorite one is Flavors and Fragrances.”

During this Curiosity Labs™ lesson, MilliporeSigma volunteers teach students that humans can recognize more than 10,000 scents. Students smell different scent sticks, and then learn how their body recognizes and interprets scents. The focus is on how the structure of the chemical is what causes the unique flavor or fragrance based on how it interacts with human sensory receptors. Students are then tasked with designing a unique fragrance for a particular purpose and presenting it to the class.

“To see the students go from ‘Yuck this stinks!’ to ‘Hey, would you like to buy my product?’ is a lot of fun,” explained McNorton. “It doesn’t really matter which lesson we are teaching, I am always amazed and thrilled at how engaged the students are with the topic. For that day, they are scientists!”

These reactions and a newfound interest in science are exactly what MilliporeSigma hopes to achieve through these hands-on experiences. This transformation and exposure is made possible through its employee volunteers, who work to spark curiosity in the next generation of scientists.

“I am a true believer that it is important to give back to the community and get kids involved in science, so SPARK is the perfect program. I am thankful to be a part of the SPARK program in Lenexa and the surrounding communities,” said McNorton.

The experiences available through SPARK not only leave a positive lasting impact on the students involved, but also on the MilliporeSigma volunteers who lead the experiments.

“While I end the day exhausted, I go back to work the next day renewed that we have inspired a new generation of scientists,” said McNorton.

Since 2016, the SPARK Global Volunteer Program has engaged more than 8,500 MilliporeSigma employees, who volunteered 76,900 hours across 36 countries — reaching more than 213,000 students. To learn more, visit

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