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The University of Texas at Tyler
UT Tyler Employee Experiments with Soaps
Dr. Lance Williams, associate professor of biology, poses next to his wife, Marsha Williams, who shows off some of the organic soaps she has made.
As a trained ecologist and scientist by nature, Marsha Williams, part-time grants investigator in the biology department at The University of Texas at Tyler, puts on her gloves and goggles during her free time to experiment with various oils and herbs.
This isn’t an ordinary scientific assessment, however, but actually part of her newfound hobby – creating organic soaps for family and friends.
“I enjoy it a lot because I do have background for it,” said Williams, who also works part time for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “As ecologists, we conduct experiments because that’s what part of our job is. Every batch of soap I make is an experiment. It is fun because I never know how it’s going to turn out. It’s kind of like cooking, but you’re not making anything to eat,” she added with a laugh.
Williams first attempted to create candles.
“My mother-in-law likes to make candles. I tried that, but wanted to go one step further,” Williams said. “I decided to make organic candles. I didn’t realize how hard it is to make them. So that’s what led me to create organic soaps.”
Her concoctions include a jasmine and sea kelp shampoo bar, grapefruit and patchouli hemp seed soap, calendula and lemon soap, rosemary and mint shaving soap and a peppermint and lemongrass shampoo bar.
“I think the reason why I chose to make organic soaps is because I just wanted to do something safer and a little bit different,” Williams said. “I formulate bars to what I think I would like. I looked up recipes and techniques online, and I just started playing around with the formulas for fun, seeing what worked. There are a few things I can’t find organic. If I can, I always try it. If I can’t find a particular item in organic, then I try the natural materials or things as close to organic as possible.”
So, what’s her favorite? Williams said she likes the dill soap, which according to her, ironically doesn’t make one smell like a pickle.
“It has a more herbal smell, and it’s great for the kitchen,” Williams said. “I like to use the chamomile and lemon soap for my face because it has more olive oil in it. I also like the grapefruit and patchouli hemp seed soap because it has a lot of exfoliating features and a more earthy smell.”
Currently, Williams makes soaps for her family, and gives them as gifts for family members. She hopes to one day sell her wares on a broader spectrum, such as a local farmer’s market.
“It’s neat that I can give something to my friends and family that they can use,” she said. “Everyone enjoys the hobby.”
Williams holds a bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Oklahoma as well as a master of science degree in zoology from Oklahoma State University. Her husband, Dr. Lance Williams, also works at UT Tyler as an associate professor of biology. The couple has two children.
One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. Nearly 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.