Tag Archives: Kristen Kulinowski

US chemists talk nano in a June 27, 2012 Washington, DC briefing

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has a Science & the Congress Project where they provide information about various science and technology issues to policymakers. Their latest briefing will be on nanomaterials and the Toxic Substances Control Act.  From the June 21, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Science & the Congress Project invites news media to attend a luncheon briefing on “Nanomaterial Safety: Do We Have the Right Tools?” It will be held Wednesday, June 27, 12-1:30 p.m., in the Russell Senate Office Building Room 325. To attend, register at http://tinyurl.com/ACSSciCongr-nanoEHS.

This briefing is hosted by the ACS Science & the Congress Project with honorary co-host the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus.

With nanotechnology, scientists engineer materials on a molecular level; that is, they work with such basic factors as the size, shape and surface properties of substances, in addition to altering the chemical composition, to create materials that exhibit novel properties. While the science to engineer nanomaterials has been developed largely since the 1980s, public laws to regulate the safety of materials and chemicals, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), were crafted in the 1970s. Important questions for our times: Does our understanding of and information about nanotechnology adequately inform the policies designed to ensure safe product development? Likewise, do the current policies address both the possible problems and benefits associated with nanotechnology? This panel will discuss whether policymakers currently have the necessary tools, both scientific and policy mechanisms, to reap the potentials of nanotechnology.

The briefing will feature the following panelists and an open discussion:

Moderator: Kristen Kulinowski, Ph.D., Science and Technology Policy Institute, Institute for Defense Analyses


  • Lynn Bergeson, Bergeson & Campbell P.C.
  • Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense Fund
  • Arturo Keller, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

For those of us who can’t attend, it is possible to find more information the Science &the Congress Project, from the About page (and if you keep reading you’ll find that you may still be able to access the briefing even if you can’t attend the real-time event),

Since 1995, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has operated the Science & the Congress Project to educate and inform Members of Congress and their staffs on the importance of science and technology to solving national challenges. The Science & the Congress Project has conducted well over 100 congressional briefings on important and timely policy topics, relying on panels of knowledgeable and diverse experts to provide comprehensive, balanced presentations about chosen topics, and to increase the level of scientific and technological literacy on Capitol Hill. The goals of the project include:

  • Highlighting the role of S&T in public policy.
  • Helping Members of Congress and their staffs gain a deeper knowledge of the science involved in policy issues.
  • Serving as a neutral and credible source of scientific information.
  • Promoting the responsible use of science in national policymaking.

Serving ACS and Its Members

The ACS Science & the Congress Project provides significant benefits for ACS and its members:

  • Balanced, nonpartisan briefings lend credibility to ACS policy efforts.
  • Initiation of briefings enhances ACS’s leadership role among peer organizations.
  • Collaborations with cosponsors enhance ACS’s ties and foster cooperation within the scientific community.
  • Online availability of briefing materials increases ACS members’ exposure to science policy topics.

Enhancing Relationships

During more than a decade of existence, the ACS Science & the Congress Project has conducted well over 100 briefings and built relationships with:

  • Congressional offices, committees, caucuses and staffers.
  • Experts in academia, non-governmental organizations and all levels of government.
  • Professional organizations with overlapping interests.

They also make their materials available after the briefing,

Serving as an Ongoing Source of Science Policy Information

Individual web pages for each Science & the Congress Project briefing provide a breadth of resources on the briefing’s topic, including:

  • The speakers’ presentations.
  • Speaker biographical and contact information.
  • Supplemental links, documents, and articles.

I checked and it is possible to access the briefings and other information without a subscription. I hope the nanomaterials briefing will be available soon on the website soon. Here’s the page you should check.

Women in nanoscience and other sciences too

Last week, three women were honoured for their work in nanoscience with  L’Oréal Singapore for Women in Science Fellowships (from the news item on Nanowerk),

In its second year, the Fellowships is organised with the support of the Singapore National Commission for UNESCO and in partnership with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The Fellowships aim to recognise the significant contribution of talented women to scientific progress, encourage young women to pursue science as a career and promote their effective participation in the scientific development of Singapore.

The three outstanding women were awarded fellowships worth S$20,000 to support them in their doctorate or post-doctorate research. This year’s National Fellows are:

– Dr. Low Hong Yee, 2010 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science National Fellow and Senior Scientist at A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering. Her work in nanoimprint technology, an emerging technique in nanotechnology, focuses on eco solutions and brings to reality the ability to mimic and apply on synthetic surfaces the structure found in naturally occurring exteriors or skin such as the iridescent colours of a butterfly’s wings or the water-proofing of lotus leaves. This new development offers an eco-friendly, non-chemical method to improve the properties and functionalities of common plastic film.

– Dr. Madhavi Srinivasan, 2010 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science National Fellow and Assistant Professor at the Nanyang Technological University. Dr Srinivasan seeks to harness the power of nanoscale materials for the answer to the future of energy storage. Such technologies are vital for the future of a clean energy landscape. Its applications include powering electric vehicles, thus reducing overall CO2 emission, and reducing global warming or enhancing renewable energy sources (solar/wind), thus reducing pollution and tapping on alternative energy supplies.

– Dr. Yang Huiying, 2010 L’Oréal Singapore For Women in Science National Fellow and Assistant Professor at Singapore University of Technology and Design. Dr Yang’s fascination with the beauty of the nano-world prompted her research into the fabrication of metal oxide nanostructures, investigation of their optical properties, and the development of nanophotonics devices. These light emitting devices will potentially be an answer to the need for energy-saving and lower cost display screens, LED bulbs, TV and DVD players etc.

This announcement reminded me of a question I occasionally ask myself, why aren’t there more women mentioned prominently in the nanotechnology/nanoscience narratives? There are a few (the ones I’ve heard of are from the US: Christine Peterson/Foresight Institute; Mildred Dresselhaus, advisor to former US Pres. Bill Clinton; Kristen Kulinowski/Rice University and the Good Nano Guide, please let me know of any others that should be added to this list) just not as many as I would have expected.

On a somewhat related note, there was this blog post by one of the co-authors of the article, The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists, which focused largely on women,

In the September issue of GSA Today, you can find our article on The Internet as a resource and support network for diverse geoscientists. We wrote the article with with the idea of reaching beyond the audience that already reads blogs (or attends education/diversity sessions at GSA), with the view that we might be able to open some eyes as to why time spent on-line reading and writing blogs and participating in Twitter might be a valuable thing for geoscientists to be doing. And, of course, we had some data to support our assertions.

As a white woman geoscientist in academia, I have definitely personally and professionally benefited from my blog reading and writing time. (I even have a publication to show for it!) But I would to love to hear more from minority and outside-of-academia geoscientists about what blogs, Twitter, and other internet-based forms of support could be doing to better support you. As you can see from the paragraph above, what we ended up advocating was that institutional support for blogging and blog-reading would help increase participation. We thought that, with increased participation, more minority and outside-of-academia geosciences voices would emerge, helping others find support, community, role models, and mentoring in voices similar to their own. Meanwhile those of us closer to the white/academic end of the spectrum could learn from all that a diverse geoscientist community has to offer.

The 2-page article is open access and can be found here.

Meanwhile, women in technology should be taking this tack according to an article by Allyson Kapin on the Fast Company website,

We have a rampant problem in the tech world. It’s called the blame game. Here’s how it works. You ask the question, “Why aren’t there enough women in tech or launching startups?” From some you get answers like, “Because it’s an exclusive white boys club.” But others say, “Not true! It’s because women don’t promote their expertise enough and they are more risk averse.” How can we truly address the lack of women in tech and startups and develop realistic solutions if we continue to play this silly blame game?

Yesterday, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wrote a blog post saying, “It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what politics you support or what color you are. If your idea rocks and you can execute, you can change the world and/or get really, stinking rich.”

That’s a nice idea and if it were true then the amount of wealthy entrepreneurs would better match our population’s racial and gender demographics. The fact remains that in 2009 angel investors dished out $17.6 billion to fund startups. Wonder how many funded startups were women-run? 9.4%, according to the 2009 angel investor report from Center for Venture Research at University of New Hampshire. And only 6% of investor money funded startups run by people of color.

Yet Arrington says it’s because women just don’t want it enough and that he is sick and tired of being blamed for it. He also says TechCrunch has “beg[ged] women to come and speak” and participate in their events and reached out to communities but many women still decline.

Unfortunately, the article is expositing two different ideas (thank you Allyson Kapin for refuting Arrington’s thesis) and not relating them to each other. First, there is a ‘blame game’ which isn’t getting anyone anywhere and there are issues with getting women to speak on technology panels.There are some good suggestions in the article for how to deal with the 2nd problem while the first problem is left to rest.

Kapin is right, the blame game doesn’t work in anyone’s favour but then we have to develop some alternatives. I have something here from Science Cheerleader which offers a stereotype-breaking approach to dealing with some of the issues that women in science confront. Meet Christine,

Meet Crhstine (image found on sciencecheerleader.com

Meet Erica,

Meet Erica (image found on sciencecheerleader.com)

One of these women is a software engineer and the other is a biomedical engineer.  Do visit Science Cheerleader to figure out which woman does what.

Changing the way women are perceived is a slow and arduous process and requires a great number of strategies along with the recognition that the strategies have to be adjusted as the nature of the prejudice/discrimination also changes in response to the strategies designed to counter it in the first place.  For example, efforts like the L’Oréal fellowships for women have been described as reverse-discrimination since men don’t have access to the awards by reason of their gender while standard fellowship programmes are open to all. It’s true the programmes are open to all but we need to use a variety of ways (finding speakers for panels, special financial awards programmes, stereotype-breaking articles, refuting an uninformed statement, etc.) to encourage greater participation by women and the members of other groups that have traditionally not been included. After all, there’s a reason why most of the prominent Nobel science prize winners  are white males and it’s not because they are naturally better at science.

UK strategy for investing in nanotech; new insight into titanium dioxide toxicology; creative nonfiction writing for scientists

It sounds promising. UK strategy for nanotechnology business investment is the title of a news item on Nanowerk which outlines the UK Technology Board’s investment strategy. From the news item,

The UK’s Technology Strategy Board has developed a nanotechnology strategy document (pdf download) that sets out the processes the Technology Strategy Board will use to determine how it will invest in the nanotechnology space in a way that helps UK businesses to succeed on a global scale. It is based on the fundamental premise that the technologies likely to see the most success will be those that result in developing materials and devices with new functionality that address markets driven by society’s greatest challenges.

The item goes on to outline the specific areas (environment/energy; aging population, media) where investments will be made but gives no details about the amount of funding available or the source for funds. Curious, I checked out the UK Technology’s Board’s site.  No details to be found on the About Us pages although there is a link to a  Dept. of Business Innovation and Skills (presumably a government department). My guess is that these are government funds and the board has decided to be discreet about the connection. I’m not ready to draw any conclusions; I’m just noticing.

I’ve been following  (somewhat lazily) discussions around titanium dioxide particles (widely used in sunscreens) and their possible toxicology. Nanoparticles used in common household goods caused genetic damage in mice on Nanowerk sheds some new light on the subject. From the news item,

In the past, these TiO2 [titanium dioxide] nanoparticles have been considered non-toxic in that they do not incite a chemical reaction. Instead, it is surface interactions that the nanoparticles have within their environment- in this case inside a mouse – that is causing the genetic damage, [Robert] Schiestl [professor of pathology, radiation oncology and environmental health sciences at Jonsson Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles] said. They wander throughout the body causing oxidative stress, which can lead to cell death. It is a novel mechanism of toxicity, a physicochemical reaction, these particles cause in comparison to regular chemical toxins, which are the usual subjects of toxicological research, Schiestl said. “The novel principle is that titanium by itself is chemically inert. However, when the particles become progressively smaller, their surface, in turn, becomes progressively bigger and in the interaction of this surface with the environment oxidative stress is induced,” he said.

I have posted about titanium dioxide in the past, this posting is the most relevant to this discussion as it contains a reference to some work by Japanese researchers who demonstrated that titanium dioxide cause genetic damage in mice. Presumably building on this work, the researchers at Jonsson Cancer Center have determined a possible mechanism for how the damage is caused.

This is the first time I’ve seen a study that doesn’t ‘shrink’ standard toxicology to the nanoscale. For example, “carbon nanotubes look like asbestos fibres so we should test to find out if they have the same effect on lungs. ” This makes sense and it should be done. At the same time, I’m glad to see that researchers are taking into account the fact that materials at the nanoscale behave in novel ways leading to novel forms of toxicology.

I was intrigued to read Dr. Kristen Kulinowki’s opinion piece in  Azonano’s Nanotechnology Thought Leaders Series … insights from the world’s leading players.  Her piece titled, Temptation, Temptation, Temptation: Why Easy Answers About Nanomaterial Risk are Probably Wrong, provided some valuable insights for me about the work that has been done to collect information about nanomaterials and their potentials risks while citing some useful resources.

Before you go to read the article there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. There are a couple themes that are not followed through so the piece jumps around, the tone is problematic, and the academic style is sometimes inserted into a more chatty blog style. All of which made reading the opinion piece a little more work for me.

I got the impression that Kulinowski did not put much effort into writing this piece, i.e. she tossed it off. The chatty, casual style (a creative writing technique) takes a lot more effort and practice and is much more difficult to pull off  than most people realize, especially when you’re writing nonfiction. (Yes, some people are naturals but even they need to work at it if they plan to continue long term.)

ISEA; more about nanoparticle hazards (China); Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival

I am presenting a paper at the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) in Belfast next week. Yay! My paper is called, Nanotechnology, storytelling, sensing, and materiality and is being presented as part of the Posthumanism track. The symposium is quite an undertaking as it takes place in several locations; the main conference is in Belfast with events in Derry/Londonderry and Dublin between August 23 and Sept. 1, 2009. This means that my blogging pattern will change as a consequence of  attending the conference and events and if I do blog, I will be focusing on ISEA.

Very briefly, the article in the European Respiratory Journal about the deaths in China due to nanoparticle exposure (mentioned yesterday Aug. 18, 2009) has been published. More detailed information about the article can be found here on Nanowerk News. Dr. Andrew Maynard (Chief Science Advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies) has commented extensively on his blogs (2020 Science and SAFENANO) about the study and he has  also posted thoughts from other experts. From 2020 Science,

Professor Gűnter Oberdőrster is considered by many to be the “father” of research into the toxicology of inhaled nanoparticles.  His group at the University of Rochester has led global research in this area for over two decades.

Professor Ken Donaldson, a toxicologist specializing in workplace lung diseases, Professor Donaldson is one of the world’s leading authorities on the health impacts of inhaling airborne nanoparticles.  His group at the University of Edinburgh has conducted extensive research into the potential health impacts of inhaling nanomaterials.

Professor Vicki Stone, editor of the journal Nanotoxicology and a professor of toxicology at Napier University in Edinburgh Professor Stone is a foremost expert on the mechanisms by which nanoparticles potentially interact with the body and cause harm.

Dr. Rob Aitken, dDirector of Strategic Consulting at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh and director of the SAFENANO initiative, Dr. Aitken has a wealth of experience addressing workplace safety and health.  He is a leading international expert in developing safe practices for working with engineered nanomaterials—including nanoparticles.

Dr. Kristen Kulinowski is Director of the International Council On Nanotechnology (ICON) at Rice University, and a global leader in developing safe and responsible nanotechnologies.  Under her direction, ICON has established the foremost on-line database of nanotechnology health and environmental impact research papers, and the GoodNanoGuide—an initiative to enable people share and develop the best possible practices for working safely with engineered nanomaterials.

Please do check out Nanowerk News which offers a summary and links to Andrew’s individual postings (I’ve linked to the front page of his blogs) and do check out Andrew’s postings as it is quite illuminating. I tend to prefer Andrew’s 2020 Science blog but I think that’s because I’m more familiar with it.

Heather Haley will be giving a literary performance of her poetry at the 2009 Summer Dream Literary Arts Festival (Vancouver, Canada) an event produced by Pandora’s Collective. The festival is on Saturday, August 22, 2009 from 12 pm to 7 pm at Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park. It’s a free event and Heather is scheduled for 5:10 pm to 5:30 pm. You can read more about the event here (scroll down).

The geography of US nanotechnology institutions and enterprises; nanoparticle hazards

Every state (and the District of Columbia) in the US has been “nanoteched.” The Project on Emerging Nanotechnology (PEN) has just released information that they have listed over 1200 (an increase of 50% since the last data gathering project 2 years ago) universities, government laboratories, and businesses that are involved in nanotechnology research, development, and commercialization. They have also produced an interactive map to display the information. (media release on Azonano and also on Nanowerk News where they include an editorial note that their directory has over 1600 nanotechnology agencies listed)

Sadly, later this week the European Respiratory Journal will be publishing a paper that examines the deaths of two female workers in China who worked with and were exposed to nanoparticles over a period of 13 months. Azonano has posted what I suspect is a media advisory that Dr. Kristen Kulinowski of Rice University and director of the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) is available to answer for questions about the paper. Kulinowski and ICON have been instrumental in the development of the GoodNanoGuide (still in beta), a wiki featuring safe handling procedures for nanomaterials. From Azonano,

The paper to be published by the European Respiratory Journal this week examines the case of seven female workers, ages 18-47, who were exposed for up to 13 months to nanoparticles in a polyacrylate material air-sprayed onto polystyrene. All suffered shortness of breath and pleural effusions, an excess of fluid in the pleural cavity that surrounds the lungs, and were admitted to hospitals where examinations revealed nanoparticles in chest fluid and lodged in cells. The women who died were 19 and 29.

According to Kulinowski, a “conventional chemical hygiene plan” could have afforded protection to the workers.

‘Magic nano’ and whistling in the dark

So a ‘frankenfoods’ situation is difficult to manufacture in the same way that it’s difficult to manufacture any fad or craze or panic. A case in point is ‘magic nano’, a situation I first heard about in a December 2007 webcast from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. A reporter who works with NPR, Nell Greenfieldboyce, asked the audience if they’d heard of it. When blank incomprehension met her question she went on to explain that  a cleaning product, marketed and sold in Germany, called ‘magic nano’ had occasioned concern a few years back in the nanotech community. Someone had gotten sick after using the product and, initially, there was a lot of news coverage in Europe along with some interest elsewhere. In the end, it all came to naught. It seems (Greenfieldboyce had been unable to confirm this definitively) that there was no nanotechnology component to the product and that the ‘nano’ was strictly for marketing purposes. For most people the story is dead; no one has heard of ‘magic nano’. Except for the people who keep mentioning the story in workshops and other events.

I heard the ‘magic nano’ story again in July 2008 at a local nano breakfast event that featured, Dr. Kristen Kulinowski, from ICON (International Council on Nanotechnology) and Rice University. she was talking about health and safety and asked us if we’d heard of ‘magic nano’. Again, there was the blank incomprehension and so she told the story. She then implied that the ‘magic nano’ story’s lack of impact proves that there won’t be any nanotechnology panics on the order of what happened with biotechnology, i.e. ‘frankenfoods’. That is possible but the failure of the ‘magic nano’ story is not evidence to support the conclusion. In other words, it’s whistling in the dark.

There can be many, many failures before something catches the public’s attention and, if it turns to panic, no amount of thoughtful commentary before or after  will help. And, sometimes the public is right and the brakes do need to be applied.

I do think public engagement/consultation/understanding of science projects and exercises are useful but they aren’t prophylactic treatments.

Inside scoop on ICON’s Good Wiki & how to access some Nature Nano

ICON (International Council on Nanotechnology) is calling its safe practices wiki, Good Wiki. Dr. Kristen Kulinowski mentioned it in her presentation for Nanotechnology BC’s breakfast meeting this am. It was a pretty high level presentation covering definitions for nanotechnology,  showing images of different nanostructures, discussing the various nanotechnology sectors (energy, medicine, materials, electronics, defence, etc.), and reviewing some of the material on risks and safety practices.

There weren’t a lot of details about the wiki as they’re still figuring out what they’re going to do. They have an editiorial board and are going to beta the wiki sometime soon with the hope of launching it in Dec. 2008.

For me, an editorial board = hassle and is not wiki-friendly. (Note: I’m not their target market, so it may not be a problem.)  From ICON’s perspective, they need some way to ensure the integrity of the information on the wiki, as per Kulinowski’s response to my question.It isn’t meant to be a formal editorial board as per the peer-reviewed journals but more of an informal vetting process (I don’t know if I can get past my Pavlovian response)  so that they didn’t end up with wackadoo (my term) entries. She also pointed out that there could be legal issues.

They don’t seem to have a plan for how they’re going to get people to contribute and that might not be a problem. If there’s a pent up demand to trade information on nano safety, then ICON has no worries about participation.

When I talked with Kulinowski afterward she did mention that they are looking into content management issues, ontologies, and all that good stuff that users don’t see but need.

There’s some meeting this afternoon with Kulinowsk, Darren Frew and Victor Jones of Nanotech BC, and BC government safety representatives from WorkSafe.  According to Kulinowski, Canada has done a lot of work (I think she said, led the way) on worker safety issues vis a vis nanotechnology.

More info. about that article/commentary on nanotechnology folks learning from past mistakes. From Andrew Maynard (one of the authors):

The full text of the Nature Nano commentary still seems to be accessible without an account here:


Alternatively, the conclusions are reproduced in full here:




Thank you and that second url is for Andrew’s blog. Do check it out. I was intrigued a few months ago when he mentioned finding a good article on nanotechnology in Elle magazine.