Campus Currents

Wake-Up Call
A brush with danger sparks a new invention.

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Ali Rafieymehr
Jim Paillot

A few years ago, driving home late one night, Shaojun "Shaw" Yao '12G nearly fell asleep at the wheel. His brush with danger was, well, a wake-up call, and he headed straight for the chemistry lab in search of a solution.

"I wanted to find something you could put in the car or in your pocket to use when you need it," he says. The problem became the subject of Yao's dissertation for his doctorate in chemistry, and, after months of experimenting, he concocted an oil blend of peppermint, lemon, sandalwood, rosemary, menthol, and glycerin in a "smart" hydrogel that releases aromatic oils on contact with the skin. "It's all-natural and green," says Yao. "And it doesn't have lasting effects on your body like caffeine."

Yao, who was also earning an MBA, entered his invention in UNH's Holloway Innovation-to-Market competition last spring, an experience that led him to consider commercializing his research. The result was an exclusive licensing agreement between the university and its sixth startup company, Wakup, Inc.

The patent-pending, anti-fatigue, time-release gel comes in a small tube and can be wiped across the upper lip, just below the nose, delivering a minty aromatherapy pick-me-up that lasts up to an hour. It's the perfect solution, says Yao, for a commuter, an overnight shift worker—or a student.

The Wakup team, which is still perfecting the recipe and raising capital, expects to get the product into convenience stores and gas stations soon. Meanwhile, drowsy customers can purchase the energy gel through the company's website,

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