All posts by sophieliu2018

How AI can help you make better sense of the world

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the cusp of materially changing our own intelligence and decision-making ability. Just as we saw the replacement of human labor with machines during the Industrial Revolution, plan on a similar revolution in the modern workforce. AI will also bring economic opportunity, societal disruption – and lots of mixed feelings.

The definition of AI, a buzzword in computer science and digital marketing, can vary depending on who is answering the question. For Kristian Hammond, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, if a machine is doing something that we think is intelligent when a human does it, give the machine credit for AI.

With mind-boggling amounts of data drowning people as they try to make decisions, AI offers a cool head and clear analysis. “I was struck by the bad relationship that people have with data,” Hammond said, and that is a motivation for him. “In general, every single day, the data that we generate – that moves one way to the other through the computer, is roughly equivalent to about 500 hundred books,” Hammond said. “Some of them are really valuable, we can get a lot of insight from them.”  Hammond makes tools to craft those insights for easy understanding.
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ExplORer Surgical programs surgical guides to optimize OR safety and procedures

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Optimal teamwork in the operating room (OR) can be hard to achieve. Inexperienced team members, poor information transfer, mid-case handoffs, and improper room preparation can all result in delays and disruptions during the operation.

The result can cost the patient increased exposure to infection, according to Dr. Alexander Langerman, head and neck surgeon and associate professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University. “If something is not in the [operating] room as it should be, then someone has to leave the room and come back to get it, and so that could translate into a higher risk of infection,” he said.

This is corroborated by a study published on American Journal of Infection Control, by authors with University of Gothenburg, Sweden. An elevated airborne bacterial counts in the surgical area is clearly linked to door openings in conventionally ventilated ORs, thereby providing the scientific evidence needed to initiate interventions aimed at preventing surgical site infection (SSI) by reducing traffic flow in the OR.

“Significantly longer operating time is also associated with a higher risk of infection,” Langerman said. Duration of operation is one of the other risk factors of SSI, according to CDC’s Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection.

Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical, an interactive surgical playbook, aims to solve these problems by providing the surgeons and their teams with detailed, real-time guidance on how to set up the room, what tools are needed when, and what steps to anticipate, boosting communication and coordination between all members of the surgical team.

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Cultural Center’s “The Nutcracker” invited all dance lovers to perform

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

“The Nutcracker”ballet is a holiday classic that sets the tone for the season at national opera houses and school stages across the world. Through beautiful music and charming choreography, it celebrates the holidays by taking audiences on an unforgettable journey with young Clara as she travels from her home on Christmas Eve to the Land of the Sweets.

But dance lovers of all ages and abilities came to point their toes in Tchaikovsky’s ballet at the Chicago Cultural Center on Sunday. Participants learned the basic ballet positions and movements taught by members of Ballet Chicago at an optional lesson before joining in the performance of “The Nutcracker”.

“She has loved the Nutcracker story since she was a little over a year old, and she loves to dance,” said Chicagoan Julie Trent, who brought her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to dance. “She enjoys it and I enjoy watching her. She is a free spirit, so she really likes to move and she loves music.” Continue reading

Northwestern University students take a leap into civic engagement

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

“I already voted, can I take a sticker?”

“Take a doughnut, take a sticker. That’s really fine, go ahead.”

It was Election Day and these were the cheerful conversations at the Northwestern University’s student center. Students visited the table set up by the university’s Center for Civic Engagement and collected  “I Voted” stickers, laptop stickers, doughnuts and other souvenirs.

Sitting at the table was Hailey Cox, a Northwestern junior studying Human Development and Psychological Services.

“I’ve definitely been a part of that engagement aspect, like just convincing people to go vote, showing people how easy it is to vote, answer any questions people have about voting,” Cox said.

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2016 election kicks off 100 Days news outlet to give Appalachia a voice beyond stereotypes and ‘Trump Country’

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Morgantown, West Virginia — Followers often think Gina Dahlia, the general manager for 100 Days in Appalachia, comes from New York or New Jersey. Dahlia, a lifelong West Virginian, knows the stereotypes. “Because you seem so educated, and well-spoken, and articulate, you couldn’t possibly be from Appalachia,” she hears people thinking.

But Dahlia plans to change all that, she said at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media, host to the recent “Missing Voices: Diversifying the News” hackathon.

Born the day after the 2016 election, 100 Days is an independent, nonprofit news outlet that shares content from Appalachia’s diverse communities with regional, national and international media organizations. It incubated at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media Innovation Center, in collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and The Daily Yonder of the Center for Rural Strategies in Kentucky.

As a native of Appalachia, Dahlia saw 100 Days as an opportunity to redefine and reshape what people think of the area. “There is a whole other side to Appalachia that you are not seeing,” she said. “When people come to tell our story, they are really trying to tell the stories that are already established, which is that we are just a bunch of hillbilly folk.”

News reports have dubbed Appalachia as “Trump Country” since the 2016 election. “Everybody in the world was coming to West Virginia and doing stories about the coal-miners” after Donald Trump promised to reinvigorate the coal industry, said Dana Coester, creative director and executive editor of 100 Days. “And we are frustrated with the national narration of our region that was really one-dimensional.”

Before 2016, Coester and her colleagues had been working for two years trying to come up with an idea for their own digital news outlet, but it didn’t work out. Then the election happened, and they decided to launch 100 Days as a pop-up news site to cover the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

“It really took off. It grew audience really rapidly,” said Coester. “So we decided to just keep it.”

Photographer Nancy Andrews’s photo series “100 Days, 100 Voices” was one of the projects that helped to showcase the scope of diversity in Appalachia when the website initially launched. Andrews traveled throughout the 13 states in Appalachia and took photographs depicting diversity. She showed the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region.

“That really did kick off the entire 100 Days in Appalachia website,” Dahlia said. “We are going to help you visually see that we are surprising you and that we are not what you think we are.”

The story of Sara Berzingi, featured early on the website, was part of a 360-degree video series “Muslim in Appalachia.” The series invites viewers into the worlds of Appalachian Muslims navigating Muslim and Appalachian identity while challenging the stereotypes of both. Berzingi, a Muslim-Appalachian with Kurdish roots who has been calling West Virginia home for a decade, was asked in the interview about her response to immigration ban and her reflections on identity.

Photograph of Berzingi wearing an American flag head scarf, taken by Nancy Andrews for her series ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’. (Nancy Andrews/100 Days in Appalachia)
Sara Berzingi wearing an American flag head scarf, photographed by Nancy Andrews for her series ‘”100 Days, 100 Voices.” (Nancy Andrews/100 Days in Appalachia)

“We knew that she would not be the stereotype of Appalachia the rest of the world had been seeing,” Coester said. “It’s a way to provoke people into thinking differently about who we are.”

The Appalachian Region, as defined in Appalachia Regional Commission’s authorizing legislation, includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states along the Appalachian Mountains: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

However, people view Appalachia through a concentric lens, according to Coester, and focus on the core story about Kentucky and West Virginia, the heart of what most people think of as Appalachia.

“The region is as diverse as the communities and counties and states it represents,” Coester said. “The politics and issues and communities of southern Alabama are different than northern Alabama, and that’s different than what’s happening in Mississippi,” she said. “But that woven together, all of those community stories actually tell a really rich American story.”

Appalachia’s stories are America’s stories, Coester explained, and that’s why 100 Days has been trying to build the national audience. “We are not just talking to people in the region, we are talking to the rest of the world about the region.”

Initially, 100 Days was launched to push back on national sentiments that had reduced the region to narrow narratives. Now, national media are picking up and republishing the 100 Days stories.

“That’s exactly what we want to have happen,” said Coester. “That means producers, photographers, writers from Appalachia are now being distributed on a national platform, and that make sure those voices are getting out there.”

This locally conceived news outlet is still looking at the landscape of Appalachia. It will soon launch a community engagement series, Sunday Supper. Co-directed by food editor Mike Costello and religion editor Crystal Lewis Brown, it aims to host dinners in real life homes with accompanying families and conversations to address some of the pressing issues that Appalachia is facing, such as gun control.

It’s now two years – nearly 730 days – since the Nov. 8, 2016 election. So 100 Days clearly has a revised calendar. Coester said she would like to see 100 Days survive through the next presidential election – “because we will be able to come full circle from where we started,” she said. “And then we will see where we are after that.”

Photo at top: Mike Costello, food editor at 100 Days hosting the “Welcome to Appalachia” dinner on October 26 for “Missing Voices: Diversifying the News” hackathon at West Virginia University. Costello, a chef-journalist, uses food to explore stereotypes, cultural and regional roots, and facilitate conversations that bridge divides. (Xiaoyi Liu/MEDILL)

Chicago area students part of winning Codeathon team with disaster relief prototype

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Natural disasters are 25 times more likely to impact people in  Southeast Asia  than those in Europe or North America due to global climate change and surging populations in urban areas.

This is why students in a partnership that included Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology designed the digital prototype BAO to help provide relief and coordination for flood and storm-related disasters in Southeast Asia.

BAO,  the acronym of “Basic Aid Outreach,” took the Code for Impact Winners top award as  part of the 2018 Clinton Foundation Codeathon competition. Codeathon  judges announced the winner Friday at the University of Chicago. Students f rom Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Ashesi University in Ghana and University of Georgia also helped develop the collaborative tool as part of the BAO team.

“The application of this is to deal with natural disasters which are not exclusively caused by climate change but are certainly worsened by climate change,” said BAO team member Dylan Kennedy, a junior in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

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Evanston native builds breast cancer survivor community

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Lauren Carfang remembers the shock when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34.

“I think you are in disbelief a little bit, shock, anger, sadness, confusion,” said Carfang. “These are a lot of emotions that hit you, as you trying to make sense of what happened.”

Carfang underwent chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and hormone therapies after the diagnosis of breast cancer in September 2016. Now in remission, Carfang founded SurvivingBreastCancer.org as a platform to support survivors, their families and caregivers by navigating their uncertainty and the strong desire for connection, support, and resources.

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Start-up fights to spread naloxone use for opioid overdose

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Click on the button of “Get Naloxone” on the webpage and you can purchase naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose and get it delivered to your doorstep. This is the service that Naloxone Exchange will provide at its launch next year.

Naloxone Exchange is the signature product of Fiduscript, a company formalized in 2017 by James Lott, a graduate student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

As a pharmacist at the time, Lott dealt with many cases of substance use disorders. “Remembering those instances, having people bringing in fraudulent prescriptions, all those things – they kind of got me to this place where I can use everything I’ve learned and bring a solution to people that’s sustainable and that can save their life.”

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