Is there any finer aspiration than to become a scientist with both an imaginative mind and a huge heart? Undoubtedly, North Carolina State’s Materials Science & Engineering program has produced four such entrepreneur/researchers. Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan, and Tasso Von Windheim have created a nail polish that changes color in the presence of date rape drugs, including Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. Called Undercover Colors, the product is still in development, though when it goes to market, it will allow a woman to discreetly dip her finger into her drink and stir... if her nail polish changes color, she'll know her beverage has been doctored.

While this new product, fashion-supercharged-by-technology, is remarkable, many would find its origin even more so. Explaining why he and his co-creators came up with the idea, Ankesh Madan told Higher Education Works, “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience [of drug-facilitated sexual assault], and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime.” Alarming as Madan’s simple statement may be, in truth, none of us should be surprised to think four undergraduate guys might each know a woman who has been assaulted.

According to the Undercover Colors’ Facebook page, 18 percent of women in the U.S. — nearly one out of five — will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. The FBI estimates 84,376 forcible rapes were reported to law enforcement in 2012; this estimate is 0.2 percent higher than the estimate made for 2011, while being a whole 7.0 percent and 10.1 percent lower, respectively, than those estimated for 2008 and 2003. Yet Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), an excellent source of information for those concerned or affected by rape, notes a majority (60 percent) of sexual assaults are never reported to police, while 97 percent of rapists will not spend even a day in jail.

These four scientists, then, decided to boost women’s odds of thwarting a drug-facilitated rape by turning the tables. Madan and his co-creators hope to make potential rapists “afraid to spike a woman’s drink” because there’s a very real risk they might get caught. “We wanted to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use,” Madan told Higher Education Works. “And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.”

So what has the response been? In the words of Laura Rager, who posted to Undercover Color's Facebook page, “I cannot wait until this is available, I will gladly buy CASES to give out to my students.” This concerned teacher knows a good idea when she sees one.

Courtesy of Undercover Colors Courtesy of Undercover Colors