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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI graduate is a material girl

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 21, 2001 -- To say that University of Rhode Island student Kristie DiLuna of Boxborough, Mass. is interested in textiles is like saying that polar bears have an inclination to fur. Textiles are part of DiLuna’s fabric.
After all, how many people do you know who rhapsodize about taking six-hour sewing lessons on Saturdays as DiLuna did as a child? How many people can whip up a fashionable top to go with a full-length skirt on the day of a campus fashion show? And just how many college seniors who are graduating this month are being offered a full assistantship at the premier textile graduate school in the nation?
Even the U.S. Army wants DiLuna. It may seem like a big stretch from buttonholes and hems but DiLuna, who is as at home in the textile laboratory as she is designing funky, fun clothes, is making her mark in research rather than on the fashion runway. The Army has offered to help pay the tuition for her master’s degree and is guaranteeing her full-time employment upon its completion.
This past year, DiLuna worked part-time for the U.S. Army Biological and Chemical Command, Department of Defense in Natick, Mass. while attending URI.
In fact, the 21-year-old combined her Army job with her schoolwork by focusing her Senior Honors Project on work she’s been doing to help the Army test the fabric of combat uniforms to see how well the fabrics protect the soldier from harmful, and even deadly ultraviolet rays from sun. (One million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. About 9,200 people died from melanomas and other skin cancers in 1999. Age spots, freckles, wrinkles, and liver spots are also caused by sun exposure.)
During a brief presentation of her findings, DiLuna noted that the type of fiber, the fiber stretch, the weave, color, weight, use of the fiber, and additives were all variables in sun protection. In general, dark, loose-fitting, tighter woven fabrics were best. Surprisingly, it’s possible to add more protection to fabrics by laundering them. Most laundry detergents contain a phosphorus-whitening agent, which can limit the harmful rays.
DiLuna is accustomed to seeing lots of sunshine. She spent her junior year at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Living away from the familiar is familiar to this creative seamstress. When she was a sophomore in high school, she spent the year attending school in the Netherlands and still speaks fluent Dutch.
DiLuna graduated with a degree in textile marketing. URI’s program blends business courses such as accounting, management, marketing, etc. with such courses as chemistry, physics, and textile science.
Her next stop is North Carolina State University, considered by many to be the top textile program in the world. The University offered her a full assistantship.
She will continue her work with the Army while in graduate school, focusing on what the Army labels "intelligent textiles" -- a kind of "smart" fabrics—for the safety and survivability of the solider. These include futuristic uniforms with a clotting mechanism woven in them and/or a monitoring system that can read physiological signs such as heartbeat.
DiLuna, who has always been on the cutting edge of fashion, is now finding her talent as a material girl lies in developing and testing textiles that protect people from harm. Even Madonna would be proud!
For Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116

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