Health and Science

Northwestern and UIUC undergrads race to finish satellite for orbit

By Lily Williams

Imagine NASA in action. A rocket, pushing off a landing base and away into the skies with titanic force, smoke and fire. An image of Earth, floating serene in the dark blanket of space. Tunnels and pipes and computers. Millions of wires zipping every which way.  Lights blinking, code flying and scientists monitoring everything with meticulous precision.

What you might not imagine is a Northwestern University undergraduate, eating a grilled cheese and going over satellite instrument designs at a dining hall on campus.

But a group of NU students are at the heart of a NASA mission that will be launching a small satellite and research instruments into orbit this summer. The satellite, under construction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will house an NU device that freezes solutions and then thaws them, leaving behind a casting of materials.

The instrumentation will take photographs and send data back to Earth to document the whole process. This is SpaceICE: Interface Convective Effects, which separates substances in solutions from the water in ice. The process is giving us clues to a new method of  fabrication that could be used to make many different materials, from fuel cells to cocoa tablets, both here and in space.

Continue reading

‘Fiesta’ brings health services to Chicago’s Latina community

By Alissa Anderegg

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Venus Ginés decided there needed to be more health awareness and education for other Latinas. Together with the Mexican consulate, she founded Día de la Mujer Latina to provide free services, seminars and screenings to women around the country.

Now in its 20th year, the organization has reached more than 96,000 women through “health fiestas” in 39 cities. Last week marked the second year the event has come to Chicago.

Photo at top: A nurse administers blood pressure tests to participants of Día de la Mujer Latina’s Health Fiesta. (Alissa Anderegg/MEDILL)

Dance therapy helps heal people with impairments or special needs

By Puja Bhattacharjee

Music and dance can help relieve stress. Dance therapy uses dance set to music to help heal people with social or psychological impairments and special needs. Through the dance, participants can express their emotions and improve creativity and imagination. The movements also help improve motor skills.

Photo at top: Dance movement therapist Jennifer Bacani in a class at St. Paul’s House, Chicago (Puja Bhattacharjee/MEDILL)

Englewood couple opens home as a haven to children of all ages

By Alex Whittler

Quilen and Hannah Blackwell offer a place of refuge to children in an area that often makes headlines for its gun violence and crime rates.

“The Chicago Eco House is an anti-violence strategy and nonprofit that’s focused on using sustainable technologies to invest in the community,” Quilen Blackwell said while a group of kids ate s’mores in his backyard in Englewood, which ranks as the tenth most dangerous Chicago neighborhood.

Those statistics have deterred potential homebuyers in the past, but that’s exactly what drew the Blackwells to Englewood.

With a large tarp welcoming students into their home hanging from a black iron fence, the young married couple said they proudly live and serve through their nonprofit on South Peoria. The Blackwells said they don’t hesitate to offer their home to anyone in the community who needs a haven– especially the nearly 30 kids who are likely to stop by on their way home from school.

Continue reading

Skokie animal hospital treats only exotic pets

By Puja Bhattacharjee

Chicago Exotics Animal hospital opened its doors in November 2000  in Skokie, Ill.  The clinic was started by Dr. Susan Horton who saw the need for an exotics-only practice. It caters exclusively to exotic pets like chinchillas, geckos, hamsters, bearded dragons and tortoises. The clinic has three full-time doctors, as many part-time doctors and nine technicians.

Continue reading

Respect brings home care to the 21st century

By Rachel Newman

Ross Kimbarovsky’s elderly grandfather was living independently in his Chicago home when he developed a rare form of cancer. Kimbarovsky and his mother were his grandfather’s primary caretakers, but as his condition worsened, it was clear that they couldn’t do it alone.

Their hope quickly turned to frustration when they turned to local home care agencies and were met with inconsistent pricing, unreliable scheduling and under-qualified staff.

Shortly before his grandfather’s passing in 2015, Kimbarovsky reached out to his friend, Bruce Masterson, who had a similar experience caring for his mother-in-law. Together, they founded Respect, a home care agency for the 21st century.

Users can manage their loved one’s care through Respect’s mobile app. The app sends clients a notification when the caregiver arrives and departs at their loved one’s home. It allows them to communicate with caregivers via messages and photos and schedule activities in advance.

Users can even use the app to split payments among family members, who may be dispersed across the country.

Continue reading

Fukushima: Six Years Later Is It Safe to Go Back?

By Urvashi Verma

Nearly six years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, environmental activists are raising alarms that radiation levels are still dangerously high, despite the Abe government’s reassurances that thousands of residents can return home.

Last week the Japanese government lifted the evacuation orders in the Fukushima prefecture citing radiation measurement levels under 100 mSv per year and pronouncing that safe for residents to return. mSv means 1 one-thousandth of a sievert, which is a measure of the health effect of low levels of ionizing radiation on the human body, according to a Wikipedia entry. But activists say 100 mSv is far from a safe level.

The primary contention of environmentalists regards the acceptable level of radiation for resettlement. “The notion that doses below 100 mSv are safe is not supported by science and contradicts internationally accepted standards,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner at Greenpeace in Tokyo.

Radiation levels of 530 sieverts per hour, considered by some as alarmingly high, were measured in Fukushima’s Daiichi reactor number two in a test conducted by Tokyo Power and Electric Co., known as TEPC0, just last month.
Continue reading

Tiny horses assist in crucial therapy

By Manasi Kaushik

Jodie Diegel, a 50-year-old nurse at Rush Medical Center, talks about the power of animal therapy, which surpasses the healing effect of her nursing. Diegel is the founder and president of Mane in Heaven, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic benefits to disabled and able-bodied children and adults through therapy with miniature horses.

Continue reading

Smartphones are revolutionizing diagnostics and disease management

By Teresa Manring 

The cell phone in your pocket may soon help you diagnose and monitor diseases.

As mobile phones become more advanced and ubiquitous, researchers are exploring technologies embedded within them to screen for, diagnose and manage health issues between office visits, said researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston last weekend.

Mobile phones and other personal devices allow for “more continuous measurements, measurements at home, measurements when you actually have a symptom,” said Shwetak Patel, a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Washington, at an AAAS press briefing.

Tools such as the camera, flash and microphone on mobile phones keep getting better and better, Patel said.

“Those sensors that are already on the mobile phone can actually be repurposed in interesting new ways, where you can actually use those for diagnosing certain kinds of diseases,” he added.
Continue reading

Bio machines hold promise for efficient organs and implants

By Mariah Quintanilla

Exceptionally talented athletes and hard working people are often described as “machines” because of their seemingly super-human abilities. To many scientists who study biological processes, however, the “human machine” metaphor is not a metaphor at all, but a scientific truth.

The emerging field of biological engineering research utilizes our own cells as potential building blocks for machine-like capabilities, said researchers from the University of Illinois and the Georgia Institute of Technology. These future biological machines may be “hyper organs” that are more efficient than our own organs, or insulin-releasing implants made entirely of cells, they said at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) conference in Boston.
Continue reading