Phillip E. Sokol, 44, president of Gillette Research Institute in Rockville since 1976, died of cancer Tuesday at George Washington University Hospital.

He joined the institute in 1972 as manager of the physical sciences department and became vice president a year later.

Dr Sokol started his career with the Gillette Co. in 1959 as a research chemist in the Toni Co., one of its divisions in Chicago. He left four years later to become a senior scientist with DeSoto Chemical Coatings Inc., in Chicago, but returned to the Toni division in 1966.

Its name had been changed to the personal care division of Gillette. He was director of research when he left there to join the institute in Rockville.

Dr. Sokol was born in Chicago. He was graduated of the University of Illinois and earned a doctorate at Northwestern University.

He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Chemists. He was a fellow of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and the author of numerous articles in the areas of synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry.

Dr. Sokol was active in the Rockville Jewish Community Center and was on the board of directors of Beth Tikva synagogue.

He is survived by his wife, Eunice, two daughters, Andrea and Deborah, and a son, Steven David Silverman, all of the home in Rockville; another son, Irwin Scott Silverman, of Gaithersburg, and a brother, Dr. Norton Sokol, of Chicago.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.