By Amanda Koehn
A comprehensive map of the human brain is in the works with the promise of eventually creating new neurological treatments and diagnoses for mental illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders.
The BRAIN Initiative researchers at the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and in labs around the country are in the beginning stages of mapping, starting with mice and moving up the scale to humans.
By Isabella Szabolcs
She spent the night before praying she would have the strength to tell her story and that God would never leave her side. She even wrote on her Facebook wall asking her friends for support and love. Despite her anxiety, she sits determined and ready to be interviewed under her alias Alicia Rodriguez. I can do this, she tells herself. It’s worth it. Despite her polished look with dyed blonde hair, silver eye liner, blush and lip gloss, the makeup can’t conceal the deep lines of pain etched into her face. Only in her fifties, her face bears the heavy weight of suffering.
Her daughter had asked her, “mama, why do you want to relive the horror of your past?” Despite the painful memories of sexual assault, Rodriguez says she’s willing to give the answer. Although her story is sadly not unique, Rodriguez is the exception. Most victims of sexual assault rarely speak out.
One out of every six women in the U.S. has been the victim of sexual assault but 68% of these assaults are not reported to police, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Sexual Assault Program Director at Mujeres Latinas en Accion (Mujeres) Maritza Reyes says this is the problem. “These stories [of sexual assault] are not extraordinary. They happen everyday,” Reyes said. “We really need to look at ourselves as a culture, and a society that we allow this sort of violence to take place.” Victim blaming, she says is a common response. For many of the women she helps, coming out to family members can be more hurtful than the assault itself because of their reaction. It’s not uncommon for society to accuse the victims of lying and provoking the assault, to ask for details and to even tell the victims to forget the attack ever happened. In fear of criticism, these women end up staying quiet and living with the continued effects of sexual abuse, says Celia Guerra Granados, one of Mujeres’ Sexual Assault Program counselors. This is what Rodriguez wants to change. By sharing her story Rodriguez hopes to inspire victims to speak out and for society to listen. It’s a horrific journey to understand how she gathered this strength. It all goes back to where it started in the small town of Nayarit, Mexico. “I’ve had a very ugly life, but a very pretty one too,” Rodriguez said. Continue reading
By Lydia Randall
You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but it is one of the most potent threats facing Chicago kids. Those who live in city’s most distressed neighborhoods are developing lead poisoning at five times the city’s average. This edition of Medill Newsmakers examines the link between lead poisoning and violence and what’s being done to lower the rate of poisoning. Continue reading
By Anne Arntson
After four months at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Ireland Larson’s hospital room has become her own. It’s filled with stuffed animals, board games, handwritten notes, drawings of her favorite Disney princess, Ariel, family photographs and a heart-shaped electric guitar.
By Angela G. Barnes and Anne Arntson
Baseball fans are not the only ones hanging out in Wrigleyville. Since the start of the Wrigley Field renovation project last October, rats have been the bane of the resident’s existence.
Cubs officials say they continue to work with the city and Alderman Tunney’s office to combat the problem. But residents say more needs to be done.
Photo at top: The City implement rodent abatements to deal with Wrigley Field construction rat problem. (Angela G. Barnes/Medill)
By Lizz Giordano
The weather research teams waited anxiously for the nighttime storms to appear over the Great Plains. Scientists know very little about how the storms form but they do know how the rainfall from these storms sustains lives, property, agriculture and water resources. So the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and more than 100 scientists gathered this summer in Kansas with truckloads of gear to study nocturnal thunderstorms that bring a majority of the summer rainfall to the Great Plains.
Daytime and nighttime storms require the same components to form. But at night, after the sun sets, the ground cools and the air becomes more stable. This creates conditions that are less favorable for the formation of thunderstorm. Convection – the instability of warm air rising and cool air sinking – is key to thunderstorm formation. With the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN), project scientists are learning what triggers these nighttime storms.
I had a front row seat to the action, spending countless nights in the field with different weather research teams. I captured their search made with weather balloons, hurricane planes and mobile radar trucks.
(Click on any photo to begin the slideshow.)
Researchers parked their mobile weather radars from the University of Oklahoma and NOAA in a hotel parking lot in Lincoln, Nebraska. They collected storm data late into the night for the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) weather research project.
NOAA meteorologists Kim Elmore, right, and Don Burgess begin set-up for a mobile radar unit outside of Hays, Kansas. This was part of the weather research project studying how nocturnal thunderstorms evolve and what turns some of them into severe storms.
Recent University of Oklahoma graduate Kevin Hansen checks the weather radar while waiting for a large storm to approach a site near Burlington, Illinois, during the PECAN project. The majority of the rain during the summer in the Great Plains falls during nocturnal thunderstorms and scientists hope to learn more about them through this field project.
University of Oklahoma graduate student Liz Smith assembles a mobile weather station outside of the trailer for the Collaborative Lower Atmospheric Mobile Profiling System (CLAMPS). The system is a joint project of the University of Oklahoma and National Severe Storms Lab. This was one of the many mobile weather units gathering data duirng the PECAN project, a summer research project to better predict how severe storms form over the Great Plains.
National Severe Storms Lab atmospheric scientist Dave Turner and graduate student Liz Smith launch a weather balloon while collecting data near Wallace, Nebraska, for the PECAN project. Scientists have a good understanding how daytime thunderstorms work, but little is known about how nighttime storms form and evolve.
The transportable S-Pol radar, brought from Colorado for the PECAN project, takes 10 days to set-up. It was used to fill in gaps from nearby National Weather Station Radars.
The transportable S-Pol radar is set near Hays, Kansas, for the PECAN project. The S-Pol is an advanced, transportable, ground-based, dual-polarimetric, dual-wavelength, Doppler weather radar.
Duane Wolfe prepares a weather balloon at the National Weather Service office in Dodge City, Kansas. The 122 offices scattered across the United States are responsible for issuing weather warnings for their region.
Wolfe launches a weather balloon at the National Weather Service office in Dodge City Kansas. The classic balloon is paired with a cutting edge technical payload remains at the forefront of weather forecasting. The National Weather Service launches weather balloons at 92 locations twice a day. The data collected is sent to the National Weather Office and plugged into weather models that create forecasts.
Wolfe watches the computer collect data from the weather balloon he just launched at the National Weather Service office in Dodge City Kansas. Weather balloons collect upper air observations, which are crucial for predicting storms and other severe weather.
Retired forecaster Dave Imy hand draws a weather map at the start of his shift for the PECAN weather project. Scientists are studying storms to make better forecasts in the future. But they need to first forecast where thunderstorms will be to collect data.
Retired forecaster Dave Imy, left and graduate Sean Stelten prepare a forecast presentation for PECAN researchers at headquarters on the Fort Hays State University campus in Hays, Kansas. For a few weeks during the middle of the project a dome of heat refused to budge over Hays and other parts of the state, resulting in disappointing forecasts with no nighttime storms for scientists to study.
The NOAA P-3 aircraft, also known as the Hurricane Hunter, sits on a runway in Salina, Kansas, as the crew of pilots and scientists prepare for the night’s weather research flight.
Weather research scientists collect data during a research flight on the NOAA P-3, tracking a thunderstorm over the Texas Panhandle. The aircraft has seats for 19 people – 12 crew, seven scientists and one journalist on this trip.
Pilots in the cockpit of the NOAA P-3 aircraft, also known as the Hurricane Hunter, prepare for takeoff. The aircraft, usually used to fly into hurricanes, did double duty to study elevated thunderstorms for the PECAN project.
A weather balloon is launched from a farmer’s field in northern Kansas on the last night of the PECAN project. The last night brought a perfect storm that contained all objectives scientists wanted to study during the project to better understand storm triggers.
Scientists in headquarters direct field teams during a busy night for PECAN project scientists in Hays, Kansas. Scientists know much about the formation of daytime thunderstorms. But after the sun sets, the earth begins to cool and the atmosphere becomes more stable. This creates a less favorable atmosphere for supporting thunderstorms. Through this project, scientists hope to learn what triggers these nocturnal storms to form.
Photo at top: Researchers parked their mobile weather radars from the University of Oklahoma and NOAA in a hotel parking lot in Lincoln, Nebraska. They collected storm data late into the night for the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) weather research project. (Lizz Giordano/Medill)
Lizz Giordano joined the research teams as a Medill embedded reporting scholar. The scholarships are supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
By Sarah Kramer
The Altai Mounts of western Mongolia may be concealing secrets amid the splendor. The breathtaking alpine landscape could hold clues to how abrupt climate change might have impacted our ancestors— and how it may impact our descendants.
This summer, a team of scientists, students and historians trekked through the hills and valleys of the Altai in Mongolia’s Bayan-Ölgii Province looking for traces of the last ice age.
“Everything’s immaculately preserved here,” said Aaron Putnam, currently an assistant research professor with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York. Evidence of the enormous glaciers that covered the landscape can be found in gentle slopes, scuffed bedrock and spectacular valleys of the region— if you just know where to look.
Medill News Service reporter Sarah Kramer embedded with the team as they traversed the countryside and climbed into the Altai region, collecting rock samples that could provide insight into some of the most pressing questions in climate science: how and why did the last great ice age end. And what can that tell us about our future? Several stories are in the works and we will keep you posted.
You can see more photos and read the team’s updates from the field at PhD candidate Peter Strand’s blog for the University of Maine.
Reporter Sarah Kramer astride a Bactrian camel at a tourist outpost in the Gobi. For about $2 USD, those driving across the Gobi Desert can stop and ride camels and horses saddled with traditional Mongolian tack. The team enjoyed the jaunt, but decided to use horses to carry field research equipment up Tsagaan Gol Valley. (Credit: Caleb Ward)
Three gers sit side-by-side at an outpost in the Gobi. While many Mongolians still live in the traditional nomadic tents, the gers pictured serve as shops and cafes for travelers making their way across the country. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Batsuuri Jagvaral, a driver for the expedition, drinks milk tea inside a ger cafe. Also pictured: Chantasaldulan, better known as “Chackie”— camp cook and unofficial “den mother.” (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Archaeologist David Putnam sets up his tent with the help of a curious group of Kazakh children from a nearby cluster of gers. Mongolia is home to roughly 100,000 ethnic Kazakhs, making them the largest ethnic minority in the country. Aaron Putnam, David’s son, led the expedition to Mongolia. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Two cars from the expedition cross a narrow bridge across the Tsagaan Gol, or White River. The river’s opacity is due to the fine silt glaciers create as they grind against bedrock, which then flows downstream from the highest reaches of the Altai Mountains. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Aaron Putnam takes field notes while the team collects boulder samples from the Altai. The samples will be sent to the lab at the University of Maine, where Putnam and his students will analyze them for isotopes that help date the retreat of the Altai glaciers. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
University of Maine PhD candidate Peter Strand (left) and undergraduate Caleb Ward collect a sample from the top of a large glacial erratic boulder. Erratics are boulders that ancient glaciers carried far from their source and then dropped on another landscape as the ice retreated. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
The sampling process, up close: the team drills small, shallow holes in the rock, then inserts metal wedges and shims. They then hammer the wedges into the rock, cracking off a small piece of the top surface of the boulder. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Tomor Batbold, cook’s assistant and son of one of the drivers, leads a pack horse through a high valley on the way to the team’s most remote campsite, high in the area tentatively christened as the Tsagaan Gol Valley. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Tomor and Pagamsuren Amarsaikhan, a recent graduate of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, warm up by the fire the morning after a cold, rainy night in the valley. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Strand sits atop a ridge created when the glacier behind him last stabilized, possibly during the Little Ice Age hundreds of years ago. The rockiness of the ridge and the lack of vegetation indicates that the feature, known as a moraine – a ridge of material left by a glacier – is relatively new on the landscape. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Strand makes detailed field notes that describe each boulder the team samples. He records the precise longitude, latitude, elevation and size, among other measurements and qualitative notes. The team’s work in Mongolia over the next few years will provide research for Strand’s Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Maine. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
The group gathers on a rainy afternoon inside a rented dirt-floor cabin to hear the father-son duo of Aaron and David Putnam entertain with traditional American folk music. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
The Altai Mountains tower above the lake Khoton Nuur after a recent snowfall. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Hayley Wolcott, an undergraduate at St. Andrews University in Scotland, examines a small Mongolian grayling on the shores of Khoton Nuur. She joined the expedition to assist the research of Olaf Jensen, assistant professor at Rutgers University, Department of Marine & Coastal Sciences. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Ancient peoples, likely shamans, used stone tools to peck figures of animals into the polished bedrock slopes of the Altai, possibly during the Bronze Age or earlier. Pictured here are yaks, deer, ibex, horses and an Argali sheep. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
The field research team after a long day. From left: Strand, Jagvaral, Bat-Erdene Barulkhaajav, Baatar, Chantasaldulam, Tomor, David Putnam, Wolcott, Tanzhuo Liu, Aaron Putnam, Ward. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
While the scientists collect rock samples, Kazakh horsemen often come to investigate the team’s work. Bayan-Ölgii, the far western province in which the team worked, is 88 percent Kazakh. Many families from the Central Asian ethnic group settled in Mongolia after being forced into diaspora by the expansion of the Russian Empire at the end of the 19th century. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
The view from just above the Khoton Nuur campsite, on a ridge designated Biluut 2. In the distance we see Biluut 1, then Khoton Nuur and more Altai peaks in the background. (Sarah Kramer/Medill)
Kramer wades in Khyargas Nuur, a salt lake in Uvs Province. Ward wades out farther in the distance. (Credit: Tsetsenbileg Bavuu)
Medill embedded reporting scholarships are supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
Photo at top: Reporter Sarah Kramer astride a Bactrian camel at a tourist outpost in the Gobi. For about $2 USD, those driving across the Gobi Desert can stop and ride camels and horses saddled with traditional Mongolian tack. The team enjoyed the jaunt, but decided to use horses to carry field research equipment up Tsagaan Gol Valley. (Credit: Caleb Ward)
By Angela G. Barnes and Anne Arntson
Remember “The Bionic Woman” from the ’70s? Today scientists from Feinberg and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) have developed a smart robust bionic leg for above-the-knee amputees.
This new advanced leg will give patients better functionality and versatility to improve their natural walking patterns.
By John Rosin and Carmen Lopez
During the school year, children from low-income families can receive discounted lunches. But in the summer, they don’t have access to the program. The Greater Food Chicago Depository is attempting to fill the gap by driving around Chicago’s West and South Sides, providing free lunches to children. Thousands of kids are fed each week, but the depository would like to get the word out to more families.
By Coral Lu and Sean Froelich
One of the biggest music festivals in the Midwest is back. More than 300,000 people attended Lollapalooza last year. Lollapalooza is not only a big entertainment spectacle, but also one of the biggest weekends for alcohol poisoning for minors in Chicago.