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Florissant Valley Campus

Love of Labs Leads Robbins to Career in Chemical Technology

Nicole Robbins

Nicole Robbins knew at an early age that she wanted to pursue a career that focused on chemistry. When television programs about crime scene investigations became popular, Robbins became even more intrigued by the hands-on work going on in laboratories.

In part because St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus was close to where Robbins lived and worked, she decided to enroll in the chemical technology program. Once she saw the state-of-the-art labs and instruments, she knew she had made the right choice.

“I didn’t just want to read about theory and watch a teacher perform the experiments,” she said. “Once I saw the lab, I couldn’t wait to get started in there. I wanted to pursue a career working in a laboratory, and once I saw Florissant Valley had professional working labs, I thought, ‘This definitely is the place to get me there.’”

Robbins now is a laboratory manager for Security Equipment Corp. in Fenton, Mo., a global leader in the production and sales of pepper spray for law enforcement and civilians. She was hired prior to completing her associate degree in chemical technology in May 2008, and was promoted to her present position in January 2009. She performs quality control as well as research and development for the company. She also works with agencies worldwide to further develop existing lines of pepper spray to meet their individual needs and requirements.

Robbins also is in charge of developing and formulating new products. In 2010, she developed several formulations, including a pepper gel product and a low-residue product.

“When developing a new product, I do all the research and then I move into the testing phase, where I work out any problems with the formulation,” Robbins said. “This can take anywhere from several months to over a year to develop a formulation that meets our requirements. When a formulation has been approved, it moves to the next stage of testing, which includes flammability, shelf life (storage and stability), Taser compatibility and other testing.”

Robbins said Florissant Valley’s chemical technology program prepared her to walk right into the first day on the job and be productive.

“I learned how to run the instruments from start to finish. On the first day of my job, I was prepared to handle anything that came my way,” she said. “My employer had planned on training taking months, and within a week or so, I was completely comfortable running the daily testing. They were impressed with the hands-on experience I brought to the job.”

Robbins, who now resides in St. Peters, Mo., noted that learning to troubleshoot instruments while in the classroom was an invaluable part of the training she received at STLCC.

“It’s easy to run samples and experiments when things are going smoothly, but it’s when things go wrong that you need to be able to think logically on your feet, and the program really prepared me for real situations in the lab,” she added.

For more information about Chemical Technology, visit: http://www.stlcc.edu/Programs/Chemical_Technology/