Madrid’s Cajal Institute fosters collaboration among international neuroscientists

By Valerie Nikolas
Medill Reports

A Japanese postdoctoral fellow, two Spanish doctoral candidates, an Italian undergraduate and an American journalist walk into a neuroscience research institute in Spain.

It’s 2 p.m. and the Cajal Institute’s break room is abuzz with the sounds of scientists eating packed lunches, discussing the latest episode of Game of Thrones and debating which country has the best coffee.

I’m at the Cajal Institute for a three-week embedded science reporting assignment, during which I will work closely with scientists here to learn about their research and communicate their findings. The Cajal Institute—the oldest neuroscience institute in Spain—was founded by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern neuroscience.

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With less litter to pick up, Chicago River Day focuses on restoration

By Karleigh Stone
Medill Reports

Over 2,000 volunteers gathered at 66 locations along the Chicago River on May 11th, to clean up litter in the water and the parks and spaces around it.

Plastic pollution on land and in the water not only affects the beauty of the river, it also affects wildlife. Biologist say more than 90 percent of fish in the river are ingesting it.

Eric Anderson, who works in ecological restoration, helped lead a group of volunteers at Clark Park in Avondale. After finding less trash than in previous years, the group was able to focus on restoration efforts like clearing out invasive species .

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Bird walk celebrates biodiversity on Northwestern’s campus while reckoning with its past

By Hannah Magnuson
Medill Reports

Northwestern University’s Evanston campus serves as home base to a host of travelers this spring — but students hustling to and from classes may not have noticed. That’s why Josh Honn, digital humanities librarian at Northwestern Libraries, decided to host a bird walk Monday morning around the eastern edge of the campus where migratory birds have settled after flying north from Mexico and Central and South America.

“It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring faculty, students, families and community members together to celebrate spring and to get to know campus a little better in both its animal life and nature,” Honn said.

The Birds & Breakfast event showcased the animals and plants that share space with the campus buildings, infrastructure and student life — a feature made especially noteworthy in light of the United Nations’ report on biodiversity released last week. The report warned that human activity has placed more than 1 million species worldwide in danger of extinction.

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Year-round music series aims to reignite jazz culture in Bronzeville

By Nadia Adams
Medill Reports

The Bronzeville community of Chicago was had a bustling and savvy jazz culture.  Its stages were home to legendary entertainment greats like Louis Armstrong, Nat “King” Cole, Dinah Washington and Quincy Jones. Famous venues like the Sunset Cafe, the Regal Theater and the Savoy Ballroom hosted the most iconic shows from the 1920’s to the 1970’s.

After the economic downturn in the black community that followed the Great Migration, the culture faded away and moved to the north side of Chicago and elsewhere.

Six years ago, Anita Strange-Rebecchi founded Jazzin’ & Jammin’ in Bronzeville to bring the history and culture of jazz and blues back to Bronzeville. The resurgence of the genre features younger artists like Mud City Blu.  The monthly event takes place at Corpus Christi Catholic Church and this summer it will move to the church’s courtyard. Continue reading

How to celebrate Madrid’s San Isidro Festival

Text and photos by Valerie Nikolas
Medill Reports

Madrid’s San Isidro Festival is a multisensory experience filled with music, dance, historical and religious folklore, poetry, food and drink. On May 15 and the days leading up to it, Madrileños (residents of Madrid) honor the patron saint of their city, San Isidro (Saint Isadore) with events that take place throughout the city. On the saint’s feast day, thousands gather in San Isidro Park, located in the Carabanchel district of Madrid, to celebrate a festival with origins that begin almost 1,000 years ago.

San Isidro was a peasant farmer who lived in Madrid from 1070 to 1130 A.D. Legend says that when his son fell into a well, San Isidro prayed to God that the well would fill with water. It did, and his son floated to safety. Since then, Madrileños have prayed to San Isidro to bring rain, especially during this springtime festival. The scorching 90-degree heat on the day of the fest emphasizes this point.

“According to tradition, San Isidro performed a lot of miracles, and many of the miracles were about the water,” said Margarita Gonzalez, who works at the San Isidro Museum in Madrid. “This is important because many people in Madrid believe in these types of miracles.”

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Chicago celebrates four medallions at the James Beard Awards

By Nicole Croteau
Medill Reports

Chicago chefs and restaurateurs took home four medallions last week at the 2019 James Beard Awards.

Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread was named Outstanding Baker, and Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka Restaurant Group won Best Restaurateur at the ceremony in Chicago last Monday night.

Other categories that went to Chicago eateries were: Pacific Standard Time in River North for Outstanding Restaurant Design; and Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark for Best Chef/Great Lakes at their restaurant Parachute. Continue reading

West Garfield Park program helps young men build a brighter future

By Josephine Chu
Medill Reports

The life expectancy in West Garfield Park is 16 years shorter than that of Chicago’s downtown area, making it the lowest in the city. One organization at New Mount Pilgrim Church is trying to help young men avoid the drugs and gun violence that threaten young lives in the community.

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Students apply science to make an environmental difference in Cambodia

By Karyn Simpson
Medill Reports

SIEM REAP, Cambodia – From looking at religious merit release practices in and around Siem Reap, to exploring “pet culture” and animal welfare in households, to investigating the effects of noise pollution on a vulnerable bat population, students at The School for Field Studies in Cambodia are doing more than just studying abroad.

These students are investigating environmental concerns that face Cambodian communities today with hopes that their research can help inform environmental policy and action in the future. Through their programs, SFS is training students to do community-relevant research – that is, research that can make a difference.
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Boystown will be walking on rainbows during Pride celebrations this summer

By Thomas Ilalaole
Medill Reports

On North Halsted street from Melrose to Bradley, crosswalks will be adorned with rainbow colors next month just in time for the neighborhood’s Pride celebration. The Northalsted Business Alliance has planned the rainbow walks as a symbol of the LGBTQ community and also hopes it will draw more tourists to Boystown.

Thirteen of the crosswalks will be painted the colors of the rainbow, and the walk on the corner of Halsted and Melrose — next to Howard Brown Health — will be painted pink, blue and white in dedication to the transgender community.

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‘I Heart Halal’ celebrates Islam in Chicago

By Andy Graham
Medill Reports

Organizers for this year’s inaugural “I Heart Halal” festival at Navy Pier were surprised at the turnout. Roughly 17,000 people — more than triple the number expected — attended the weekend-long celebration of Halal culture.

The events ranged from culinary contests to fashion shows.

Photo at top: Attendees try samples of Halal cuisine at this year’s biggest, Chicago-based, Islamic festival. (Andy Graham/MEDILL)