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  • Age
  • Occupation
    Dow Senior Research Scientist
  • Company
    Dow Chemical
  • Location
    Collegeville, Pa.

In 2012 a vandal marred a Mark Rothko painting in London’s Tate Modern gallery with black graffiti ink, a mortal enemy for art conservationists. The damaging scrawl had permeated multiple fragile layers of paint, soaking all the way through the canvas. “We needed a solvent that would remove the ink and not harm those other paint layers,” says Melinda Keefe, a chemist who specializes in the development of paints and coatings. Fortunately, she was in a unique position to mitigate the crime. In 2008 Keefe spearheaded a partnership between Dow, the Tate, and the Getty Conservation Institute to come up with better solutions for restoring modern art, and she was quickly able to test possible solvents—including an unusual one for the art conservation field called ethyl lactate that ultimately helped do the trick. The restored “Black on Maroon” was unveiled at the Tate in May, once again back on view for the world.