The undercover colors of science innovation.

Recently, I came across a very interesting article titled Amazing New Invention: A Nail Polish That Detects Date Rape Drugs

Now I tweeted this information and as always, the one tweet we do not expect to go viral, does. Haha, thanks twitter.

From scientists to sociologists, the questions mounted regarding probable and suitable research and development methods to the risk on relying on such products for women's safety.

This is what I have learned so far from my recent digging:

Undercover Colors is a company team accepted through Groundworks Lab's Underground Summer Program. What is Groundworks Lab?

What is the Underground Summer Program?

From their blog:
Two Mondays ago, we welcomed five new companies into our “Underground Summer” program. These companies were born within the North Carolina universities, including UNC, NCSU and UNCC. They will be working alongside our current groups and taking advantage of all of the Groundwork Labs mentoring and perks from now until August 16. The teams selected for Underground Summer are:
Contour Medical: Contour Medical is looking to change a medical device that has evolved little since its inception in the 1930s—the rib spreader. By creating a device that changes the way thoracic tissue is engaged, Contour Medical hopes to reduce the incidence of chronic post-operative pain in patients who require thoracic surgery. 
Undercover Colors: Undercover Colors is working to create the first technology ever that empowers women to discreetly protect themselves from drug-facilitated sexual assault. To do this, we are developing a clear coat nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs in a spiked drink. Through this product, we hope to reduce the overall rate of drug-facilitated sexual assault by making potential perpetrators afraid to spike a woman’s drink because there’s now a risk that they can get caught. In effect, we want to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators. We are Undercover Colors.
Video Collaboratory: The Video Collaboratory is a private, web‑based application that allows small groups of users to upload their own videos or embed YouTube videos for purposes of collaboration. Users discuss by adding text, sketch, or multimedia comments directly at the point of interest within a video. Comments are linked to a specific time point or segment of the video, and timeline markers serve as navigational aids to examine the material. This approach removes the need for a separate text document or email chain to discuss the contents of a video and enhances the specificity and accuracy of the communication.
OmniThrive: OmniThrive builds casual digital games to improve patient education, empowerment, activation, and medication adherence.
501Carbon: 501Carbon is a not-for-profit carbon offset and renewable energy development firm that works with project development partners all over the US and internationally. Their carbon offsets currently come from international Gold Standard projects developed with their partner Umwelt-Projekt-Management headquartered in Munich and are planning for more domestic and international projects.

Posted on: July 3rd, 2014 by Carrie Brozowski

What kind of criteria did Undercover Colors need to be accepted?


So, Groundworks will be like a start-up accelerator for Undercover Colors?

Why is all this important?

For more money to be invested in science and innovation, we are going to run into problems where the "business hand doesn't talk to the science hand." First, I suspect Undercover Color's press release was issued in accordance with Innovative Public Relations  publicity and branding strategies. They believe Q3 Media Relation Efforts Drive Q1 Results which lines up nicely with the timing of the article. Second, this article was meant to brand themselves and introduce their mission statement to strengthen their grip in the marketplace.
This is all business people, not science. For both to be successful, we need funding and collaboration efforts such as these. Some will fail, and some will succeed, but I believe this goes to the greater good of investing more money into science. 

Is there a long term plan?

President Obama released the Strategy for American Innovation in September 2009 and updated it in February 2011 (

The 2011 Strategy for American Innovation articulates the importance of innovation as a driver of U.S. economic growth and prosperity, the central importance of the private sector as the engine of innovation, and the critical role of government in supporting our innovation system.

It organizes the Administration's policy initiatives into three parts:

(1) Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation 
Spurring the innovations that will drive America's future economic growth and competitiveness requires critical investments in the basic foundations of the innovation process, including education, fundamental research, and both the digital and physical infrastructure on which our dynamic economy relies.
(2) Promote Market-Based Innovation
American businesses are the engine of innovation, and the Administration seeks to promote an environment that allows U.S. companies to drive future economic growth and continue to lead on the global stage. This requires that government establish and maintain the right framework conditions to support market-based innovation through the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit, effective intellectual property policy, and policies to promote innovation-based entrepreneurship as well as innovative, open, and competitive markets.
(3) Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities
The 2011 strategy identifies several areas of national importance where public investments can catalyze advances, bring about key breakthroughs, and establish U.S. leadership faster than might be possible otherwise. The portfolio of national priority areas outlined in the 2011 strategy includes clean energy, biotechnology, nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, educational and health information technologies, and space technologies.

White House Seeks Input on Innovation Strategies

A request for input was published on July 29,2014 and is available here.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council request public comments to provide input into an upcoming update of the Strategy for American Innovation, which helps to guide the Administration’s efforts to promote lasting economic growth and competitiveness through policies that support transformative American innovation in products, processes, and services and spur new fundamental discoveries that in the long run lead to growing economic prosperity and rising living standards. These efforts include policies to promote critical components of the American innovation ecosystem, including scientific research and development (R&D), technical workforce, entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, advanced manufacturing, and others. The strategy also provides an important framework to channel these Federal investments in innovation capacity towards innovative activity for specific national priorities. The public input provided through this notice will inform the deliberations of the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which are together responsible for publishing an updated Strategy for American Innovation.
To gather valuable insight into promising opportunities to boost our innovation capacity in order to drive economic growth and competitiveness, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council (NEC) seek public comment on a wide range of innovation policy topics.Instructions. In formulating responses to any of the below questions, respondents should consider the following:The questions below are grouped into the following categories:
  • Overarching Questions
  • Innovation Trends
  • Science, Technology, and R&D Priorities
  • Skilled Workforce Development
  • Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship
  • Regional Innovation Ecosystems Show citation box
  • Intellectual Property/Antitrust
  • Novel Government Tools for Promoting Innovation
  • National Priorities

Combatting Chemophobia Like A Boss

The missing panel talk from Combatting Chemophobia: Speaking science to distrust and engaging with empathy, online, and face-to-face.

The Panel

Chemists should serve the broader public, including better educating people in the nature and uses of chemistry.  This requires communicating with different segments of the public and engaging in different modes of communication.  Whether talking to media or to people online, speaking on behalf of professional organizations like ACS or speaking to our neighbors, our attempts to communicate impact people's understanding of chemistry and of the kind of people chemists are.

Participants in this panel discussion will describe their chemistry outreach experiences, engaging with groups whose opinions on chemistry range from curiosity and misunderstanding to concern and mistrust.  Panelists will describe what has made their own attempts to communicate successful and lessons learned from less successful attempts. We examine a diverse array of outreach efforts to build a repertoire of strategies for engaging with different communities.

Leigh Krietsch Boerner writes about the science of consumer products and works to address chemophobia from product marketing and rampant misinformation on the internet. 

Brandi VanAlphen examines impacts of industry supported messages on the public's understanding of chemistry and of chemists, and discusses how corporations can convey a better understanding of science while addressing the public's distrust of their motives.

Matthew Hartings uses food and cooking to engage large groups of non-scientists with chemistry in the classroom and in public lectures and will discuss how his outreach has been informed by the science of communicating science.

Chad Jones explores audiovisual outreach (podcasts and videos) as a way to make chemistry exciting and accurate.

Raychelle Burks is a blogger and activities coordinator using the intersection of chemistry and pop culture as an outreach tool.

Kevin Shanks is a forensic toxicologist and drug chemist whose activities include community and media outreach through social media and blogging about toxicology, drug laws, and other things forensic.

My Presentation 

Transcript Version
  1. Hi my name is Brandi VanAlphen, but mostly I am known as BranVanChemist through twitter. Today, I am here to talk about chemophobia and its impacts on business and industry. What we hear about a business is what we hear, see or read on mass media. This is relevant because no matter the subject matter, the reality is we all work with or for these industries and we are the workforce, I am from Oklahoma which is the center for oil and gas industry. I sometimes refer to us as district 12 because we supply energy/fuel and lets face it, there isnt much else there.
  2. Here is a headline most of you are familiar with- fracking and earthquakes. There is a lot of debate and discussion, but the reality is that the science experts are not in front of this. I am going to explain to you why business strategies need to change and how this relates to chemophobia. Sidenote: yes the whole quakenado thing is true. I have felt and been in all of them it seems like. By now, if the severe weather isn’t producing F5 damage, I am not concerned with it. 
  3. In business, the company’s brand is their driving force to how they will perform. When digital content is created in regards to the chemical industry, I refer to this as chemical branding. It seems as if everyone on the internet is an expert about the chemicals a company uses except for the actual business itself. This is a problem. The knowledge of chemistry and scientific truth sometimes overlap public opinion, but is certainly not defined by it. We are the experts and without business cooperation, marketing collaboration and science communication, the online presence of chemophobia will continue to hurt, and even discredit our profession, if not the industry. This is crucial to Industrial Revolution 2.0 (the revised chemical version). 
  4. Here we have two advertisements from two different eras in the chemical industry. Once upon a time, you could put babies and kids next to petroleum products because that made them family friendly and cute. Recently, I can only find BASF still supporting their pride as a chemical company in their marketing and advertising. Chemical businesses are no longer in the business of promoting their chemical brand. This has to change
  5. Here is an example of consumer driven information and content hurting a business. There is this app called Think Dirty that will scan any barcode of your beauty and cosmetic products. Then it will list the ingredients of the product and rate it on a scale of 1-10 in terms of toxicity. Here is a screenshot of a product I use as a personal test to the app. First of all, L’oreal is a pretty solid company, that doesn't put out toxic products. Newsflash: this is why they are still in business. Secondly, what I found was completely wrong. They were listing cyclohexasiloxane as a toxic ingredient when in which they were doing something I call a classic google search gone wrong. Chemistry is its own language so someone researching a chemical is a loaded and dangerous in terms of science communication. classic google search gone wrong. Firstly, you have to be experience and knowledgeable about silicones because they are a large group of compounds. Depending on the formula and degree of polymerization, defines their characteristics. Secondly, this information is usually patent protected so we use general terms when it comes to ingredient labels. It takes chemists and the talent culture of that company to address the concerns or mismanagement of info. All of this leaves a digital footprint that is then available to the public who are heavily dependent on google search results. Is that how you want your business to be branded? How about your research in connection to? This also presents a nightmare to social media managers everywhere who do not have a scientific background. They are forced to research things they do not know or are trained to explain on a level that control consumer content. Can anyone guess what most do? Thats right- google search. 
  6. So in order to change chemophobia in relation to business and the chemical industry-chemists (or their own talent culture) need to address consumer driven content, create their own and collaborate with similar brands across social media. Networking with others in their industry, professional organizations relating to chemicals and educating consumers through this engagement will help shape the future of the industry and our own professional brand as chemists. Business need take advantage of chemistry having the history of being able to be self-defined. 
  7. My last job interview was at an R&D Fracking fluid company. My experience was much like that first headline I showed you. Before the interview I did some research on the company and found out that the vice president of this company created a biobased terpene mixture solvent-a citrus based, biodegradable, sustainable and renewable product. I did rigorous petroleum organic geochemistry research for two years and the solvents (xylene and toluene) were used in mass quantities, not to mention, long term exposure taking a toll on my health . I was excited to tour the plant and meet the research team. Why is it---we don’t see or know more chemical innovations like these? Let’s help re-brand the business, the chemist and the next chemical revolution.Thank you
Panel Presentation