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In her first encounter with renowned Harvard University chemist George Whitesides in 1992, Felice Frankel did something that might seem unthinkable to many: she told him his work needed improvement. At 47, Frankel was at Harvard on a design fellowship. After listening to one of Whitesides’ lectures, she accompanied him back to his lab. Whitesides was soon to publish a paper in Science that described an innovative process for organizing water on surfaces. But Frankel wasn’t critiquing Whitesides’ research. She was talking about his photographs-simply composed images showing monochromatic blisters of liquid indented with lines.

“I looked at the stuff, and it was lousy,” recalls Frankel, now an MIT research scientist. “So I said, Let me take a shot at it-literally.’” Whitesides agreed. By working closely with Whitesides in the lab, Frankel created a more colorful and adroitly composed photograph that made the cover of Science and even advanced the research: the dye she suggested gave the water properties that Whitesides hadn’t yet discovered.

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