Lili Cretu, C.Chem.
ACPO President and District 12 Councillor
Key Account Manager, Care Chemicals, Home and Personal Care, BASF Canada
What Chemical Industry do you work in? What do you love about your industry?
Personal Care is where I have spent most of my career. I am very fortunate to have a 360° view of our industry, impacting billions of people worldwide – every minute of every day. I grew my knowledge and my love for the personal care industry through different roles: R&D chemist, regulatory compliance officer, and, currently account management.
The importance of the personal care industry has never been more evident than in the last year, in our struggle with COVID-19. Personal care products kept us clean when good personal hygiene was deemed the first line of defense against this pandemic. I have also witnessed the evolution of the personal care industry, to where it is has become an extension of ourselves. Personal care products are being used as a distinctive expression, subtly enhancing our natural features while instilling self-assurance and confidence. The contribution to our personal well-being, relieving of stress, and providing a means to be pampered, shows that there is a lot to love about the personal care industry!
How has ACPO brought value to your career?
ACPO has brought value to my life and my career. In a few months, I will be completing my second and last mandate as the President of the Association. Looking back at my years on the Council and, especially, at the last four years, I most appreciate the dedicated people I have met – our Ontario Chemists, who give so much of themselves to protect the public welfare. I have had the opportunity to instill some direction-changing measures to the ACPO to benefit all of us, all by having a stronger, more aligned organization. On a personal level, I am proud and humbled that I have built my resilience leadership skills during a global pandemic where I learned to pivot as needed. As a leader, you are always learning, and the change is not a threat; it is your ally. I, now, better understand the power of vision, listening, and empathy in inspiring your team to co-create our present and future together.
If you could have coffee with any chemist in history, who would that be and why?
I have always been fascinated by chemists that have made a historic contribution to sciences that rely upon chemistry, (i.e. Biology, Earth sciences, Medicine, Physics, Environmental Sciences, Astrophysics, Forensic science) to help advance these fields. It is amazing how, as a chemist, you can contribute to almost everything in the world!
As we celebrate the United Nations (UN), International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11th, I would have liked to have a coffee with Alice Ball. She was only 23 years old when she developed a highly efficient treatment for leprosy that saved countless lives in the first part of the 20th century.
Looking at the future of chemistry, what are you the most enthusiastic about?
I am most enthusiastic about chemistry’s role in sustainability! I believe that chemistry can help to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted at a UN Summit in September 2015. Chemists will make cornerstone contributions to solve significant, life-changing human and global challenges facing our planet this century.
What are 3 reasons you would encourage a student to major in Chemistry?
- Chemistry helps us understand what is happening around us – why the soap cleans our hands, why the leaves turn red in the autumn, and why we cry when chopping onions. Whenever food is being cooked in kitchens around the world, delightful flavours are being created through the Maillard reaction and that is Chemistry!
- Chemistry plays a fundamental role in sustainability, but the real work is just beginning. The next generation of chemists will find new ways to ensure that the finite resources on Earth are being used sustainably for the good of future generations and the planet.
- As a chemist, so many varied career opportunities await! You could be a chemical oceanographer, an environmental scientist, or a formulator in the personal and home care industry. Still, you could be analyzing the chemical composition of a meteorite or developing a new life-saving drug. There are so many pathways to contributing to humanity, via chemistry, and building a world-class career.