Tinted teas, darts and lights: transforming an office into a laboratory

Tinted teas, darts and lights: transforming an office into a laboratory

Bar LabSometimes alcohol research conducted with human subjects happens in a  clinical setting. Picture an office with the usual trappings of desks and overhead fluorescent lighting.  But at KU, a new alcohol administration laboratory offers a setting that has more in common with the bars that hug the edge of campus and line Mass Street. 

Derek Reed, associate professor of applied behavioral science and a scientist at the Cofrin Logan Center for Addiction Research and Treatment, headed up the effort to create a bar setting in the offices of the center, which is located on the third floor of the Dole Human Development Center. The facility is equipped with taps, a beverage cooler, a dart board, signage that represents popular alcohol brands, and neon lights. 

One of the ways to get the bar to look accurate was to place liquor bottles, emptied of their contents at local establishments, on shelves behind the bar. Researchers wanted them to seem real, so the next step was to find a way to color them appropriately, using tea. 

"We steeped tea at differing durations to create amber colors for the whiskeys, rums, scotches, and tequila. We added red Gatorade to some to give it a warmer color," Reed said. "We also procured other small items that one would expect to find in a bar: napkin caddies with stirrers, rubber bar mats, various kinds of liquor/beer glasses, an 'employees only' sign on the side door that leads to the adjoining lab room, pourer spouts in the bottles, bartender tools, empty beer case boxes in the corner, and we have glasses 'chilling' in the back bar cooler."

Richard Yi, director of the laboratory, said that the lab would allow scientists to conduct research in which participants consume alcohol using safe and highly controlled methods. But to be effective, the setting couldn't look like an office, ideally. “We needed to create as realistic environment as possible," he said. 

The Cofrin Logan Center is hosting an open house and tours of the lab for the public on Friday, Sept. 13 from 3-4:40 in 3061 Dole.