When Femke Aan completed her eligibility as a Hawaii water polo player last year, she knew she was moving on to a new chapter of her life.
She couldn’t have imagined this, though.
Aan, a standout member of the 2019 Rainbow Wahine squad that got UH back to the NCAA tournament after a three-year absence, is brewing hand sanitizer to help combat the spread of coronavirus as part of her UH graduate school studies.
A native of the Netherlands and a four-time Big West all-conference/all-academic honoree, Aan is one of 12 students in MBBE (Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering) 691, Fermentation Biochemistry. It’s a bit of a departure from not just her playing days, but also her research at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.
“I never thought I would stay on island after my UH water polo career, but a new opportunity came on my path that allowed me to enjoy Hawaii a little while longer,” Aan messaged Hawaii Warrior World. “Never would I have imagined making hand sanitizers during a pandemic, but it’s great to be able to apply what I’ve learned in school and help out some of the essential workers.”
The class, instructed by Dr. Jon-Paul Bingham, was designed as a mock business to produce alcoholic beverages using things like fermented pineapple rinds. But as the pandemic spread, the class pivoted to brewing sanitizer instead, as some other breweries around the state have — granted, on a smaller scale.
The students use the Bingham Laboratory equipment to distill to 70% ethanol concentrate and add aloe plants as a hydrating agent. They’ve used lemongrass for scent. Because of social distancing protocols, only two people are allowed in the lab at one time.
To date, “3Rewery”, (or Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Brewery), as they’re now known, has brewed about 5 gallons of sanitizer and distributed most of that in donated bottles to areas in need around the Manoa campus. Next week, another batch is expected to be ready (the fermentation and distillation process takes some patience).
“3Rewery is helping the UH community by providing hand sanitizer to essential workers,” Aan said. “Our small contribution to these workers helps in the continuation of critical research and operations through maintaining health and peace-of-mind.”
Here’s a couple of throwbacks to Aan in her playing days:
The Rainbow Wahine (16-5, 4-1 BWC) are the No. 2 seed and received a bye to the semifinals. pic.twitter.com/BU3qkspNoV
— Brian McInnis (@Brian_McInnis) April 24, 2019