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Freeze-casting materials in space: Meeting the challenges of vacuums and microgravity

Northwestern University’s SpaceICE team, led by Northwestern Professor David Dunand, is preparing to test freeze-casting of materials in space, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Bradley University. Fabricating materials is essential for a journey to Mars or for future space colonies. The SpaceICE team is pioneering the freeze-casting instrumentation for the small CubeSat, a cubic satellite that UIUC is building for the 2018 NASA-funded mission. Medill reporter Lakshmi Chandrasekaran is embedding with the researchers as the mission efforts rev up this summer.

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

I was meeting with Krysti Scotti, who kick- started the Northwestern University’s SpaceICE project in the Dunand Lab while she was still an undergraduate. She just finished her bachelor’s degree this spring and is starting work on her Ph.D. as SpaceICE readies for a space launch.

While waiting for Krysti to arrive at the lab, I met with another of Dunand’s first-year Ph.D. students, Stephen Wilke, as he completed freeze-casting experiments with iron oxide nanopowder. We chatted for a bit and I learned that his wife (a fifth year Ph.D. student in environmental sciences at NU) is pursuing a career in science writing in California through a mass communication fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is a small world and I often seem to be running into Ph.D.s, pursuing science communication as a career! That’s what I am doing in graduate school at Medill after working as a science reporter with a Ph.D. in mathematics. The graduate program gives us a chance to embed with science research teams to produce in-depth stories and I am embedding with SpaceICE.

Krysti arrived a bit late for our 11 a.m. meeting and dashed into the lab! “I overslept,” she says. Considering, that she was up until 6 a.m. working on the research, I am not too surprised.

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Making materials in space – freeze it first

This summer a team of Northwestern University undergraduates will finalize instrumentation designs for a NASA satellite mission that will test the manufacturing of materials while in orbit.  The students are building the device for SpaceICE to study freeze-casting, a process that could eventually be used to build materials on other planets in space colonies.

“In terms of science fiction, the perfect use [of freeze-casting] would be to use soil on Mars and on the moon” to make bricks or other necessities. “We hope we will impact the creation of the first space habitats from planetary sources,” said materials science Professor David Dunand, the lead advisor for the SpaceICE project.

Video: Chicago co-ops gain momentum as sustainability, locavore movements grow

By Grace Austin

Today’s food co-ops in Chicago are not your hippie commune cooperatives of the 1960s and 1970s. They are for-profit businesses that are focused on local, healthy and sustainable produce and goods. But they are keeping the democratic nature of a traditional co-op as well as the emphasis on community engagement and philanthropy work.

Within the past few years, there has been a resurgence of co-ops across the country. Currently, there are about 150 that belong to the National Co+op Grocers association and about 130 are in the start-up phase.

In Northern Illinois, there are co-ops opening in Elgin, Rockford, McHenry, and Batavia.

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Chicago fast-food workers continue call for a $15 minimum wage

By Wenjing Yang

Deshawn Bell, 35, is a fast food worker in Chicago. He has been working at a McDonald’s restaurant for the past ten years and struggles to make ends meet. He joined a march on May 23rd in downtown Chicago that drew 1,500 demonstrators from across the nation to call for a $15 minimum wage. The march was organized by the union-backed advocacy group ‘Fight for $15’ and was timed to send a message the day before the McDonald’s annual stockholder meeting.

McDonald’s Corp. had revenue of $24.62 billion in 2016. Every year, the company and its franchisees employ hundreds of thousands of people, but has long been a target of complaints about the wages it pays those workers.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food giant increased its hourly wages to $1 above local minimum wage at corporate-owned restaurants in 2015.

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Undergraduate SpaceICE researcher wins prestigious engineering award

By Lily Williams

Undergraduate materials science senior Lauren Kearney heads to Northwestern University’s SpaceICE lab on most days to work on the design for the team’s freeze-casting instrumentation that will launch in a NASA mission next year.

Kearney won one of two of Northwestern’s Hilliard Awards for leadership, scholarship and service. Each year, the university’s materials science and engineering department awards two of its undergraduates the prestigious  award.

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Local business brings healthy chocolate to Chicago

By Alissa Anderegg

After struggling with depression for several years, Renee Faur knew it was time to make a change. She changed her outlook– and her eating habits– by turning to an all raw, plant-based diet. Faur was amazed by her fast improvement and began experimenting with raw recipes to share with her family and friends. Her most popular was a recipe for a healthier, raw alternative to regular chocolate. After several months of experimenting in her home kitchen, she decided to launch Renee’s Raw Chocolate to bring “chocolate you can eat everyday” to grocery store shelves. Now a family affair, the business brings together four generations of the Faur family to share their product– and lifestyle– with others.

Photo at top: Donna Faur and her three-year-old great-grandson, Jack, mix together chocolate at Renee’s Raw Chocolate’s West Town kitchen. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Job outlook at a 10-year high for college seniors

By Grace Austin

A stronger economy means a better job outlook for graduating college seniors and grad students in Chicago, experts say.

According to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey, employers hiring recent college graduates this year say those with business, engineering, and computer and information sciences degrees are seeing the highest demand.

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5 things you need to know about ‘VIX,’ the Volatility Index

By Shen Lu

Unlike emotional volatility, volatility in the stock market can be tracked and measured. Here are five basics of the VIX that you need to know.

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Women traders carve path in male-dominated industry

By Shen Lu

Trading has always been a male-dominated industry, but some women have made a career out of it.

When Roma Colwell-Steinke, instructor at the Chicago Board Options Exchange Options Institute, started on the CBOE trading floor in 1991, she was one of the four females among 1,000 traders in the derivatives pits.

Colwell-Steinke began her career as a trader in 1985 on the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco. She then traded on the CBOE for 11 years after moving to Chicago in 1990.

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Job-seekers flock to Rogers Park job fair

By Stephanie Rothman

The national unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, but there is still a need for more jobs in communities throughout Chicago.

Ald. Joseph Moore, 49th Ward, and the city of Chicago hosted the third annual Job Fair and Employment Resource Workshop in Rogers Park this week. Some 40 companies gave information to job seekers, who attended the fair for free.

Photo at top: Employers talk to Chicago residents at a Rogers Park job fair, hosted by the city of Chicago. (Rothman/MEDILL)