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Science Communication

Chemistry in Pictures: Heady henna

by Alexandra Taylor
June 29, 2018

20180628lnp20-henna.jpg
Credit: Safia Jilani

Safia Jilani celebrated the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr by painting her hands with science-themed henna. The Georgetown University graduate student mixed traditional designs with references to chemistry, physics, and math. Jilani says that in her cultural tradition, henna symbolizes beauty and celebration, so she wanted to incorporate some of the beauty she finds in those subjects. She included equations and schemes that have a personal connection for her, including a possible mechanism for the electrooxidation of ethanol on a solid surface—the reaction system she studies. “If any of my friends ask me to do henna for them, I’ll do my best to draw their request, but I tell them that no matter what, I have to incorporate some small scientific concept in the design as my way of ‘signing’ their hands,” Jilani says.

Submitted by Safia Jilani

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