The Mars R&D Award is our signature, global program recognizing outstanding contributions that have delivered business impact. With more than 500 nominations, we’re introducing you to our final 12 recipients across four award categories.
Rebecca and her team found the perfect, naturally-occurring molecule to color our signature Ms. Green M&M®. Her team has since nominated her for her achievements in the lab and tenacity on the project for more than a decade.
Question: Tell us about your role.
Answer: Though I’ve moved to a new role in data science, I’ve been at Mars Wrigley for the last 17 years and a Senior Principal Scientist for the last eight. I was on the Color Science Team and managed a global research program on color while working with universities across the globe. During the project, we made advances in color research, creating new natural colors that we started to refer to internally as Rebecca Red, Orange and Brown. We’ve secured patents on these colors and are now using some of them in our products.
But the big win was within the external research team, where we discovered a compound in red cabbage that generated the cyan blue necessary to make the natural green to create that true "Ms. Green" green.
Q: What was it like to make this scientific breakthrough?
A: It’s been something scientists in the natural-color world have been looking at for years. It was very exciting when we got published in April 2021 issue of Science Advances. Even more exciting, the future of blue at Mars Wrigley might be based on this research. It was a true, decade-long collaboration between The Mars Advanced Research Institute (MARI) and six other universities across the globe. The last three years of work with the University of California Davis have really brought this research to light.
Q: What do you love most about your work?
A: I love colors. Even before I got my Ph.D. in organic chemistry, I painted and always wished to make color part of my everyday life. I’ve always used a lot of colors in my paintings, so to be able to create colors at work has been both enjoyable and purposeful.
Q: What ignited your passion for R&D? Science in general?
A: R&D is strength. Having a solid technical background is a strength. My team and I propel innovation, and that’s exciting. A scientific background feels essential to research and creativity.
One of the things that got me into science is the natural world. Organic chemistry is fascinating. We’re made of the same molecules as most everything else. If you want to be able to solve some of the bigger challenges, you first figure out how things work. I was a philosophy undergrad, and it gave me the “oomph,” really the mindset, to look at the essence of things — studying how things work.
In my current role in Data Science, I hope to leverage my ability to explain complexity in simple terms to help with the modernization efforts for R&D. To also help with the strategy on how to manage complexity and many teams – which were all part of my work with the multiple universities. I find the key is to get everyone aligned to one goal. And have them understand what part of the puzzle they might be working on.
Q: Your award was in the “Create Tomorrow” category. How are you working today to build a better world for tomorrow?
A: I hope to leverage my ability to explain complexity in simple terms to help with R&D’s modernization efforts. I also want to contribute to technical leadership and build the discerning and fundamental mindset which guided me throughout all the work with the multiple universities. I find the key is to get everyone aligned to one goal and have them understand what part of the puzzle they might be working on.
Q: What’s your favorite color?
A: My favorite color is pink. I’m an artist and often paint in my personal life. This is what enabled me to enjoy my career as well. What drew me in was color. Before I came to Mars Wrigley, I remember wishing I could work with colors daily. But my favorite M&M’s® is blue!