Beyond Chicago

Drinking problems rampage among college students causing severe health risks

By Xinyi Zhang
Medill Reports

College students often assume that they can escape most of the negative physical and mental effects of consuming alcohol because they are young and healthy and some don’t drink all that frequently. But even minimal consumption of alcoholic beverages can still have significant negative impacts on health regardless of age. That’s according to Dr. Mashkoor A. Choudhry, a Loyola University professor of surgery, microbiology, and immunology.

Alcohol has a major impact on physical health, personal safety, and is linked to mood, and eating disorders, he says.

“Regular alcohol consumption affects multiple organs including the brain and greatly influences a person’s cognitive abilities. Alcohol has an immediate effect on the brain, making it difficult for a person to inhibit impulses and concentrate,” Choudhry says. This increases the likelihood of making poor decisions and may encourage irresponsible sexual behavior and drunk driving, the cause of many accidents. Frequent alcohol consumption puts college students at risk and may result in physical harm, injury or even death. Continue reading

Compulsive loyalty at Starbucks and clues to it from a neurology lab

By Annie Krall
Medill Reports

Starbucks has learned how to make customers keep coming back for more thanks to their rewards program.

And they’re not alone.

Thousands and thousands of businesses use rewards programs to draw customers in and keep them loyal. But why is potentially getting the next stamp or another level up so enjoyable to us?

Talia Lerner, a neurobiologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and her team of researchers are trying to answer that question and many more. Using mice as test subjects they are analyzing the neurological pathways that make compulsive behaviors so difficult to stop, especially when it comes to alcoholism or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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‘Grandfather of climate change’ Wally Broecker remembered at climate conference

By Zack Fishman
Medill Reports

Dozens of scientists convene every year  at the Comer Climate Conference to share new research about rising oceans and melting glaciers, both today and in the past. The event, funded by the family of late billionaire philanthropist Gary Comer, has been organized since 2004 by famed climate scientists Wallace Broecker, Richard Alley and George Denton.

But this fall, the conference was overcast by Broecker’s death in February. Colleagues, students and friends shared stories and memories of the influential scientist, who passed away at the age of 87 still actively engaged in climate research. The 2019 conference honored his legacy with the latest findings in global climate science. Continue reading

Comer Conference scientists show global impacts of climate change

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

The glaciers are melting faster, accelerating sea level rise. Ocean currents are changing, altering weather and rainfall that millions of people rely on. And wind patterns are shifting as the climate heats up. These are among the global climate challenges deliberated at the annual Comer Climate Conference in southwestern Wisconsin this fall.

Veteran researchers with some of the most decorated backgrounds in climate science as well as the next generation of researchers gathered to present their findings from Nepal, the North Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the glacial mountains of Uganda, Mongolia and Europe. They came to present findings that can help tackle the troublesome state of our planet with the urgent need to address climate change.

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Northwestern University researchers offer innovative solutions for Chicago’s growing climate challenge

By Selah Holland
Medill Reports

The American Lung Association declared Chicago the 18th most polluted U.S. city, with an ‘F’ rating for ozone pollution on the organization’s annual “State of the Air” report this year. Ozone levels rise with the heat index in summer and Chicago, like many cities, is seeing more heat waves.

This is one indicator that Chicago is facing serious climate change implications, said Northwestern University environmental researchers who are determined to do something about it.

Northwestern’s Climate Change Research Group (CCRG) leader  Daniel Horton and researcher Irene Crisologo presented a climate action plan — Systems Approaches for Vulnerable Evaluation and Urban Resilience (SAVEUR) — to area residents in Evanston recently. An audience of more than 75 people learned about their plan and why it’s critically urgent. Continue reading

Khumbu Glacier in Nepal offers clues to rapid retreat of ice

By Anne Snabes
Medill Reports

The Khumbu Glacier in the Himalayas retreated rapidly in the past, offering clues to how the glacier will behave in the future, University of Maine research suggests.

Laura Mattas, a master’s student at the university, conducted field research this summer on the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal. She presented her research this fall at the Comer Climate Conference, an annual meeting in Wisconsin of climate scientists from across the country.

According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, glaciers globally are retreating at “unprecedented rates.” A glacier can retreat by shortening in length or by thinning. In the Khumbu Valley, Mattas and her colleagues found moraines, which are rock and other sediment that were inside, on top of or below a glacier and that were altered by the glacier. The location of the moraines indicated that the glacier retreated quickly at some point since the last ice age. Mattas said that the glacier is able to undergo a “large and rapid change,” which means that it may also change rapidly in the future.

“If that’s the case, that’s a lot of meltwater that’s flowing down valley,,” she said. “Who knows if there’s the infrastructure to deal with” the surge. Continue reading

Scott Travis: On call for farm, foundation and science

By Chris McConaghey
Medill Reports

Scott Travis didn’t know what to expect when he put in an application to work for Lands’ End clothing company in 1987. He was 32 years old then and got the position.

During that time, he had several opportunities to meet and talk with the late Gary Comer – founder and owner of Lands’ Ends – and was promoted from the sales and packaging department to eventually becoming a safety manager of the plant in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

Comer never forgot those conversations. Six years later, Travis got a call from the boss asking if he wanted to help build and manage a new corporate retreat to host meetings and conferences for business leaders across the globe in southwestern Wisconsin.

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Jeff Sessions prompts protests as he speaks at Northwestern

By Nicole Stock
Medill Reports

Huddled outside a performance hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus Nov. 5, a group of students banged on the glass panes of the wooden door at Lutkin Hall.

“F…k Jeff Sessions!” they chanted, pounding their fists. Many students and community members gathered to protest the invitee of the campus’ college Republicans group, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Sessions, 72, spoke at 7 p.m. on “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda,” according to the Northwestern University College Republican’s advertisement for the event. 

Trump fired Sessions a year after the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation of the President that Trump hoped Sessions would oversee.   
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When science needs a little art

By Elena Bruess
Medill Reports

Imagine you broke a bone in your left toe while paragliding.

It was intense. And now you can’t walk, so you hobble to the doctor’s office and await an x-ray. When you finally learn what exactly is broken, the doctor pulls out a brightly illustrated and tightly labeled drawing of a left foot. She points. “It’s right here.”

The drawing is practically made for you. It’s not very complicated and it makes so much sense. You are really starting to understand your left toe.

And that’s because the drawing is made for you. Continue reading

The ancient art of henna: Immigrant women create couture designs for a new generation of customers

By Madhurita Goswami
Medill Reports

Twenty-four-year-old Juna Syakya can draw intricate flowers or butterflies on your hands with her henna cone in less than 20 minutes. Mehndi, or henna, is a form of body art that uses a plant-based dye and Syakya brings the ancient art form to the Deeba Beauty Salon on Devon Avenue where she works.

The plant, Lawsonia inermis, grows in hot climates. Its leaves, flowers and twigs contain tannins, which are natural dyes used across the ages to create the intricate lace-like designs of henna.
“Henna is best for people who don’t want permanent tattoos. Also, it doesn’t cause infections and is way cheaper,” said Syakya’s colleague, Farzana Mirza, who is from Pakistan.

Heeba Khan draws a floral pattern for a customer. (Madhurita Goswami)

Traditionally, henna artists have been women and only women would get henna on their hands and feet. Costs range from $10-$40 depending on the area covered. Usually, henna gets washed away in less than 10 days. The dye doesn’t penetrate the skin and is safe.

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