Dr. Elena N. Bodnar couldn't be more serious about her research. The trauma and risk management specialist was in her native Ukraine during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and helped children cope with its aftermath.
Tonight, as she accepts the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for public health, she won't mind laughter when she demonstrates "in a very elegant way, without removing any clothes," how an ordinary brassiere can be transformed into a pair of gas masks.
"I think the Ig Nobel is not just a funny thing," she said in an interview this afternoon. "If it makes people first laugh and then think, my discovery fits perfectly." Her winning discovery, made with Dr. Raphael C. Lee and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, is a patented bra with an extra filter layer in cups designed to be fastened over the face. The device is one of 10 achievements singled out this year by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.
Ig Nobel prizes are usually given out in advance of the serious Nobel awards. They were first handed out in 1991.
Other winners, in the physics category, developed a rigorous analysis of pregnant women to understand why they don't tip over.