Two teams associated with the ATLAS Institute received awards at the 2022 New Venture Challenge (NVC) 15 Female Founders Prize Night held March 9 at Imig Music.
Kailey Shara, an ATLAS PhD student and a member of the Emergent Nanomaterials Lab, and her team won third place and $1,000 for Chembotix robotic automation platform, which is designed to dramatically speed up chemistry research and development.
As a three-time NVC participant, Chembotix was named the first-place winner at last year's NVC Female Founder Prize Night and received the Audience Favorite award at the 2021 championships. Shara also secured two first-place wins associated with CU Boulder's New Venture Launch class ($11,500) taught by Jeff York, associate professor in the Leeds School of Business, and funded by the Robert & Kathleen Dobkin Intuitive Foundation.
Chembotix’s AutoSynth technology is based on Shara’s laboratory automation research. Developed by Shara in the laboratory of Assistant Professor Carson Bruns, the robot automates many of the tedious steps involved in synthesizing new molecules.
Annie Margaret, a teaching assistant professor with the ATLAS Institute, and her team placed fourth with Digital Wellness x NoSo November. Digital Wellness aims to help teens build self-esteem and develop skills to manage anxiety and social pressures by promoting an oasis away from social media pressures. In tandem, the NoSo “No Social Media” November campaign encourages everyone to take a month away from their phones and use that time to tend to personal wellness.
Margaret investigates the efficacy of specific psychotechnologies and contemplative practices as tools to counteract the negative impact of social media on our mental health and well-being. She is especially interested in social media’s effect on young women. Research suggests that this demographic has various negative mental health outcomes related to life satisfaction, happiness and anxiety. In a 2019 JAMA article, researchers stated that the surge in social media use may be at least in part to blame for the rise in suicide rates in adolescent females, which rose 151 percent from 2009 to 2019, in stark contrast to fairly consistent rates previously (1999-2009).
To address some of the underlying issues behind these disturbing trends, Margaret created Digital Wellness Summer Programs for middle-school girls ages 12-15, and a second group for high school girls, ages 16-18 that provides strategies adolescents can use to minimize the negative psychological impacts of social media. She and her team have spent the last year conducting focus groups with young women to investigate the effectiveness of various practices and to inform curriculum development, which they will use to make it more effective. The program is funded by a Community Impact Grant through CU Boulder’s Office for Outreach & Engagement.