Sunday, April 21, 2024

Elena N. Bodnar displays her bra gas mask at October’s Ig Nobel Informal Lectures. (Photo: Marc Levy)

It was about a year ago Dr. Elena Bodnar discussed her combination gas mask and bra at the annual Ig Nobel Awards — winning the 2009 Ig Nobel Public Health Prize — and now will be showing off the commercial version, which is ready for sale at

The demonstration of the Emergency Bra, questions from the media and free samples for reporters (so they can, in Bodnar’s words, “get a feel of the product”) will take place at the MIT Museum as a sort of preshow for the 2010 Ig Nobel Awards, a Cambridge tradition that draws scientists, science fans and media from around the world for a weekend of ideas that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

Bodnar and Ig Nobel officials announced her event in a press release Tuesday.

Two days afterward, Bodnar will take part in the prize ceremonies at Harvard University, helping honor the 2010 winners and presenting Emergency Bras (and, presumably, some of the newly developed counterpart device for men) to prize laureates.

She won, according to prize officials, “for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander” — which sounds funny but has serious underpinnings.

Bodnar, a resident of Chicago and founder and head of The Trauma Risk Management Research Institute, was born in Ukraine. As a young physician, she treated people affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and found that that particle inhalation there accounted for as much human damage as radiation. (Perhaps missing the serious aspects, called the Emergency Bra one of the year‘s five worst ideas.)

According to Bodnar, producing the Emergency Bra from the prize-winning prototype was a yearlong process requiring a balancing act between safety engineering, economical design and aesthetics. “First and foremost, it is a beautiful piece of lingerie,” she said.

A video of Bodnar’s Ig Nobel Prize acceptance speech, during which she placed bra masks on the faces of three Nobel laureates — including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and novelist Orhan Pahmuk — can be seen here.

This post uses material from a press release.