Briana Maktabi followed her siblings to The University of Toledo but it was a one-credit-hour elective taken as a sophomore that helped her find her passion and set a course for her own educational career.
Born in Pennsylvania, Maktabi left the U.S. with her parents as a young child. After spending most of her youth in Syria and Saudi Arabia, she came back to the states with her brother and sister in 2014.
Starting at UToledo in 2015, Maktabi knew she wanted to do something in a health-related field, but wasn’t exactly sure what that might be.
“My older sister had just started pharmacy school and I saw there was an introduction to cosmetic science course,” she said. “I loved the idea, so I signed up to learn more about the program.”
She was hooked.
Maktabi soon enrolled in the Cosmetic Science and Formulation Design Program, directed by Dr. Gabriella Baki, an associate professor of pharmacy practice in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“I was so inspired by her and I knew that was truly what I wanted to do,” she said. “Dr. Baki was so excited explaining things and I was so happy I would be able to work with her. She is a really great role model.”
After earning her bachelor of science degree in 2019, Maktabi immediately enrolled in UToledo’s industrial pharmacy master’s program.
She is set to graduate with her master’s degree on May 1.
“Briana was a fantastic student to work with. She was reliable, independent, very passionate about her research and always did everything with a smile on her face — even when it came to repeating experiments for the fifth time,” Baki said. “One of Briana’s strengths is that she is a great communicator and was good at translating highly technical information when her audience was science-oriented but not experts in her field of research.”
It was Baki’s mentorship and the flexibility to continue working in the cosmetics field offered by UToledo’s industrial pharmacy program that kept Maktabi in Toledo.
“There’s a couple universities that offer a master’s in cosmetic science,” she said, “but I didn’t even think about applying to them because I knew I would get to work with Dr. Baki and continue working on cosmetic research.”
As a graduate student, Maktabi was involved in industry-funded research to study meadowfoam seed oil, which is derived from a wildflower native to California and Oregon.
Specifically, Maktabi examined if meadowfoam seed oil could be effective as a dispersing agent for pigments used in lipstick. Dispersing agents, she explained, are needed to stabilize the powdered pigment and keep it from clumping together, and meadowfoam seed oil appears to be as good as other, more traditional oils.
Her findings were presented at the 74th Annual Society for Cosmetic Chemists meeting in December, where she was awarded first place in the student poster competition — a first for UToledo.
Maktabi is currently writing a manuscript on her research, which she hopes to publish in a peer-reviewed journal.
With both a bachelor’s degree in cosmetic science and formulation design and a master’s degree in industrial pharmacy, Maktabi feels well-prepared for a range of jobs in the cosmetic science industry and beyond.
But first she’s continuing her education — she’s been accepted into the experimental therapeutics doctoral program in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“She has a bright future ahead of her,” Baki said, “and I cannot wait to see the great things she’ll achieve.”