Plants or Pills?

Plants or Pills?

One alumna’s dedication to helping and healing shows you can do both.
By Kristen Wunderlich

When Bridget Newman ’08 arrived at St. Kate’s, she fell in love with the sciences. After exploring the courses offered in the STEM fields, Newman went onto earn a bachelor’s degree in biology and double minor in chemistry and psychology. Her professors — regardless of gender — stood as living proof that a woman could study science and “not be laughed at.” Today, Newman’s success in her field inspires more awe than laughter.

Recruited by Aveda’s research and development (R&D) department soon after graduation, Newman worked to substantiate product claims. For example, if a shampoo was said to strengthen hair by 50 percent, it was up to her to test if that was true on real human strands. She also ran similar tests on other Aveda products, like face and body creams. While in a lab with volunteers, Bridget monitored the before-and-after effects of skin moisturization using the company’s various lotions. 

It proved to be a good fit. Aveda’s mission to promote holistic beauty, balance and good stewardship of the earth resonated with Newman’s own values. “I grew up learning to treat others and the planet with dignity and respect — two beliefs that were solidified during my time at St. Kate’s,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I spent two years working for Aveda that I realized how the healing power of plants could be used to improve the lives of those around me.” 

That awareness served as a catalyst, spurring her to join Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc. in its R&D department. While the shift from holistic healing to pharmaceuticals is a pronounced one, it’s a change that fits Newman’s true inclination to help and heal.

Upsher-Smith owns a wide portfolio of therapies to treat a broad range of health needs that cannot be cured by holistic methods alone. In her position as a lead analytical chemist, Newman develops tests for generic drugs to ensure they have the same effect as their brand-name counterparts. Most of her time is spent conducting studies using specialized equipment and creating experiments that can quantitate certain aspects of a drug — like the amount of active ingredient or the rate at which the drug dissolves in the body — to prove it is safe and effective. 

Newman is also responsible for ensuring the accuracy of scientific data submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a product’s approval to the marketplace.

“We are not just giving people medicine, but trying to improve their lives,” she says of her company’s philosophy. “It’s gratifying to see people freed from their pain and able to step out of the shadows.” 

The impact of her work is measured not only by the number of people she helps, but by the lessons she imparts to the next generation. Last November, Upsher-Smith sponsored a “Girls, Science and Technology” event in which Newman and other female scientists were able to share with groups of children what they did and how they got into their careers. 

Newman says the experience reminded her of life at St. Kate’s, when she looked up to the faculty and saw a future in STEM. 

“I’ve taken what my professors have done for me,” she explains, “and remembered every day, to encourage young women and girls — future scientists — to pursue their dreams.”

BRIDGET NEWMAN ’08 AT WORK IN UPSHER-SMITH LABORATORIES IN MAPLE GROVE, MINNESOTA. Photo: Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios

BRIDGET NEWMAN ’08 AT WORK IN UPSHER-SMITH LABORATORIES IN MAPLE GROVE, MINNESOTA. Photo: Rebecca Zenefski, By Rebecca Studios

KUDOS
The Journal of Molluscan Studies recently published Newman’s senior research project on freshwater snails with biology professor Cindy Norton. Read more at tinyurl.com/snailstudy


A Scientist at Work...

Bridget Newman ’08 in her lab at Upsher-Smith.

A Katie in her lab.

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