Unoia Beauty offers entrepreneurial experience for chemical engineering students


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Janna Maranas will tell you that she is not your stereotypical scientist. Her ultimate goal is to make women feel beautiful while also mentoring her students in the creation of an ever-evolving cosmetics line.

Maranas, professor of chemical engineering at Penn State, offers students a different type of chemical engineering laboratory experience: introducing cosmetic research as a winning formula is to combine academics with real-life experience.

Maranas founded Unoia Beauty in 2017 to create a company where women engineers research, make, and sell long-lasting, color-saturated products that customers can have customized while they wait. Even the name of the company furthers this concept; in ancient Greek, eunoia means “beautiful thinking.”

“Unoia Beauty emerged when one of my nieces made some bath salt,” said Maranas. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to create eyeshadow or lipstick with my two daughters, 14 and 16. There’s so much science involved.’”

In 2014, Maranas then asked Joy Yuan, a chemical engineering undergraduate student at the time, if she was interested in making cosmetics in a research-based class.

“I was in Dr. Maranas’s class and I was so excited when she mentioned that she would have a cosmetic research class,” said Yuan.

With that, the idea of using the concept of Unoia Beauty as an educational tool for engineering students blossomed. “Our cosmetic research focuses primarily on utilizing advanced scientific knowledge to modify formulas of different cosmetic products in the lab,” said Maranas.

Yuan was one of eight students in Maranas’s cosmetics research group. Madison Burhans was also a student who participated in the cosmetics lab at a later date.

“I joined the cosmetic study group because I enjoyed working in labs in my first and second years at Penn State, and I wanted to get involved with research. I also had an interest in makeup,” said Burhans, who translated her work in Maranas’s lab into a research and development internship with Solvay.

In addition to lab-based research, Maranas’s students also did market research to understand the business perspective of the cosmetics industry. They looked at the ingredients of similar cosmetics that they liked and did product comparisons.

Their research caught the attention of Happy Valley’s LaunchBox, a Penn State-supported program designed to support entrepreneurs through the start-up process.

LaunchBox chose the students in Maranas’s research group as one of six teams for the Spring 2017 Accelerator, a 10-week boot camp where participants receive free business start-up services such as business model guidance, value proposition, and minimum viable product resources.

“I love to see the students grow up during this experience,” said Maranas. “From students being afraid to speak to their professors in introductory course ChE210 to now being able to make great products. This is an outlet for the students to build their confidence. It seems like fun even though you’re doing science.”


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Jane Horetsky

“I joined the cosmetic study group because I enjoyed working in labs in my first and second years at Penn State, and I wanted to get involved with research. I also had an interest in makeup.”
—Madison Burhans



The Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering, established in 1948, is recognized as one of the largest and most influential chemical engineering departments in the nation.

The department is built upon the fundamentals of academic integrity, innovation in research, and commitment to the advancement of industry.

Department of Chemical Engineering

119 Greenberg Complex

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2574