Michael Aktas on a purple background

Michael Aktas

Michael Aktas (LS, CAS ’25) never imagined himself working for a fragrance company, but an internship this summer in the consumer insights department at MANE, a global producer of scents and flavors, opened his eyes—not to mention his nose. “The experience at MANE has been more valuable than I thought that it would be because it gave me the opportunity to experience a real workplace with people who know what they're doing,” explains Michael, who grew up in Fairfield, NJ.

As an intern, Michael, who transitioned from Liberal Studies to the College of Arts and Science this semester, facilitated consumer fragrance tests and organized resulting data for presentations to retail clients. 

“We present the data to a client, and we can say, ‘Hey, this fragrance that we’re working on performs this way compared to your fragrance,’” says Michael, an economics major and Liberal Studies Student Leader co-captain. “ ‘If you want to expand your market to people who enjoy this fragrance and people who like this type of scent, you can work with us.’ I've never done anything like that before.”

Perfume preferences can be hard to track, he adds, but a blend of qualitative and quantitative methods can sniff out our likes and dislikes.

“We do ‘liking scales,’ and there’s a list of maybe 100 attributes that I’m very familiar with now,” Michael explains.  “Does it smell artificial? Does it smell woodsy? Is it addictive? So you’re able to see what percentage of people perceive it in a certain way.”

But not all noses agree.

“One of the attributes that we have is ‘cheap’ and another one is ‘expensive,’ ” he says. “And sometimes that’s really split, which is funny. Half the people may think it smells cheap and the other half think it smells expensive. It all depends on who the person is.”

Michael describes work in music business as a “dream job”—a passion that began before he came to NYU.

“Ever since I was little, I would run something like 20 different fan pages and try to meet artists and connect with them,” recalls Michael, who cites Caroline Polachek and Billie Eilish as among his current favorites. “So I think that that part of me will always be there.”

But his work at MANE expanded his thinking about which types of careers he might enjoy.

“I think that it would be cool to take my passion for connecting with other people who are passionate about certain things and apply that to fragrance because it is similar to music,” Michael says. “It's just people coming together about something that they're passionate about, which is a lot like music.”