To your health
By Tasha Neumeister
Rising sophomores Maria Merchant and Rohini Maddigunta, who identify as South Asian, know all too well about the effects of diabetes. Both have relatives who have long suffered from type 2 diabetes. Worldwide, 246 million people live with the disease. Of that, South Asians have both the largest number of cases and the fastest growing prevalence, according to a recent Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Review article. Because of this statistic and their personal experience, Merchant and Maddigunta spent this summer researching a type 2 diabetes treatment option: diet plans.
What were your key finding in your research on type 2 diabetes this summer?
Maddigunta: We had a chart (in our poster presentation) of different South Asian countries that shows India has the highest percentage of its population with diabetes—9 percent. That’s just India alone. So if you combine that with the rest of South Asia, that’s a high percentage. We found that the reason this population has such a high prevalence of diabetes is because of their diet. The foods they eat are so oily. Also, they don’t have proper information to manage diabetes or diagnose diabetes. Some people go on with their lives and don’t know until they reach the last stages of the disease or when it get really severe. There’s multiple reasons why but it’s mainly diet and lack of education.
Merhant: Lifestyle is also a factor. We found that many didn’t make health a priority, particularly in that region of the world. In America, you think about having a healthy lifestyle and working out every day. Over there, you have to do housework, take care of your kids–other things are a much bigger priority.
And, how did you apply your research findings?
Merchant: Under the guidance of Laurie Jordan, senior lecturer in mathematics and statistics, we tried to figure out a diet plan that also helps with culture and religious standards so they could stick to it. Also to live a better, healthier lifestyle.
Maddigunta: Then, we created a website to get this information out to the public. It’s not live because we still need to collaborate more with a nutritionist, but it was our way to give access to the information. We’re sharing a personalized diet plan that will allow people to formulate their own meal plan based on their personal needs.
You aren’t dieticians, so how did you develop these healthier diet plans?
Merchant: I got the idea for creating a meal plan after my mosque did a program where they invited a dietician to come and discuss healthier eating habits, especially because in our culture we eat a lot of oily, high fat foods. They handed out booklets and showed us substitutes for our foods which helped us—we based our meal plans off those recipes. I gave these a try because I have parents who tried to go on a diet and it didn’t work. They got bored because it’s not their cultural foods. So we tried to create a diet that was more aligned with their culture so they’d stick to it.
What impact do you think this will have on the South Asian community?
Merchant: I think if we advocate for it in the right way then people we will be able to understand that it’s not as hard as it looks and be able to substitute one ingredient for the other. People will still be able to enjoy all the great Indian, South Asian foods.
Both of you are Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience majors. How has Loyola prepared you for your field?
Merchant: Through the classes in general. The rigorousness and competitiveness of Loyola helps you push forward. I have the freedom of discovery here. For example in Bio 101, you learn about insulin, you learn about other biological factors that contribute to diabetes. I brought that information to my mosque where I worked at a diabetes clinic. I was able to explain to congregants there how diabetes works. You can find so many possibilities at Loyola. This has encouraged me to do something different and be a part of making that change.
How has this experience at Loyola helped shape you as a person?
Maddigunta: It’s made me more aware of my own lifestyle. It’s helped me care more about my health and immerse myself more in my culture. So researching has helped me connect and go back to my roots to discover something new I didn’t have in my life–particularly within Hindu culture, the foods we eat and how we practice.
How does your research fit into Loyola’s mission?
Maddigunta: Part of Loyola’s mission is about helping people and reaching out to people who are in need of aid. And this research fits into that. I feel like we could easily branch into another community and use this research to help others.
Merchant: With the social justice aspect of Loyola, we’re able to give back. By raising awareness, we can help one person change their diet to live better and have a healthier life. That’s part of Loyola’s mission.
In the eye of the beholder
Sophomore Valentine Geze spent a big part of her summer staring into someone’s eyes: Geze literally examined videos of pupils, specifically tracking how pupil dilation can be a biomarker of Parkinson’s disease. When Geze started the project, she was the only first year participant in her small research group. Geze, a biomedical engineering major, explains their research and talks about the possible impact of their work.
Tell me about this research project you worked on this summer.
Our research is related to Parkinson’s disease biomarkers. Our group worked under the advisement of Mark Albert, assistant professor of computer science; Bruce Gaynes, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology; and Ting Xiao, instructor. We were coding a program that can take a video of someone’s pupil dilating and identify the rate at which it changes. The program would then create an easy-to-read graph for doctors to see whether a person is likely to have Parkinson’s. The ultimate goal here is early detection.
Why is pupil dilation a biomarker?
A biomarker is a trait that indicates whether someone is likely to have a condition or disease. It’s not a sole indicator or 100 percent reliable. If someone’s pupil dilates there could be other reasons. Pupil dilation is a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease as well. Basically, it’s something that your body does that can lead a doctor to think that you have this disease and that doctor may want to run more tests.
How did this research start?
Julia Adamski, Nikola Grjakovik, and Ting Xiao, PhD, are the original researchers who started the project last summer. They created the code and are wanted to make a user interface that was easy for doctors. So this summer myself, Ethan Davidson, and Jae Kim, who are both going into their senior year at Loyola, worked on the backend of it by taking the video frame by frame to measure the radius. We just automated the videos so one person doesn’t have to spend all their time trying to break it into frames.
What impact will your research have on everyday people?
Hopefully this can be implemented nationwide to multiple hospitals to make it a common program. So if someone thinks Parkinson’s runs in their family, they could easily take this test at a young age and have preventive treatment. This would help in making symptoms better in the long-term outlook.
What are plans for the research going forward?
Jae and Ethan will continue working on this in the fall along with some of the other researchers and faculty. They’ll be working out any bugs, making it faster and much more efficient. I won’t have time the time to dedicate myself solely to the project, but I will help out when I can.
How has this experience at Loyola shape you as a person?
I definitely learned a lot. We were coding in a language I had never done before--Python. I had some background in coding, but I really I learned so much from everyone I worked with. That was really exciting for me with my major to learn more about medical technology which a big part of my major biomedical engineering. I was able to see how much potential is within this field and how much is growing out of this field.
From motherhood to scholar
What are your post-graduation plans?
I will be spending quality time with my daughter while applying to medical school. This summer, I will continue working on my research project and hopefully solve the three-dimensional structure of Plasmodium PhLP-3. I will also be applying for a job as an EMT during my free time. Furthermore, I am looking forward to volunteering with the Chicago Park District program for elementary schools. This will allow me to spend time with my daughter who is enrolled in one of the Park District summer programs.
You’ve been very involved with research and various organizations during your time at Loyola. Can you talk about your research and your accomplishments on and off campus?
For the past two years I have been an undergraduate research student in Dr. Kanzok’s malaria lab. My research project seeks to understand the role of phosducin-like protein-3 (PhLP-3) for the malaria parasite Plasmodium. It is my goal to resolve the structure of the PhLP-3 protein. Being a member of Dr. Kanzok’s research team has been a life changing experience. I became fascinated with the molecular mechanisms in living cells and the intricate structure and function of proteins. I also act as co-fundraising chair of the on-campus student-run organization “Homeless not Hopeless.” We aim to raise funds for the underserved community and provide necessities such as food, sanitizers, and hygiene materials. We hope that our work inspires others to join us. I also volunteer as an EMT for Loyola University Chicago Emergency Services (LUCEMS).
How has being a student at Loyola helped you get where you are today?
As a freshman, I never believed I would be able to reach my goal of graduating with high honors and be in a good position to apply for medical school, but deep down I was determined to achieve it. I am grateful to Loyola for giving me so many opportunities to get involved. Without the amazing support from my friends, family and professors, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What is your advice for students graduating next year?
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I was deeply motivated by this thought and would encourage every student to step out of their comfort zone and work towards achieving their goal, no matter how hard or impossible it might appear to be. I believe that no dream is too big as long as you are determined to achieve it.
Parking woes disrupted
By Tasha Neumeister
Parking. It’s the one concern that unites most every major metropolitan with an influx of commuters or drivers. Computer science graduate student John O’Sullivan is setting out to ease our parking woes in his work on The Spot Exchange—an app that O’Sullivan and his teammates Aleks Velkoski and Dave Conroy developed. The app promises to disrupt the parking reservation services market by allowing users more autonomy in choosing and offering parking spots. The group, who met while working at the Center for Realtor Technology (CRT) Lab, recently won a $15,000 first place award in the international Unchain the Frame hackathon sponsored by IBM.
As part of the top honor, O’Sullivan and his team went to Las Vegas for the "Think IBM" conference to network with companies around the world and to present their design for an informal product review. Just back from the conference, O’Sullivan talks about how people can use the app, his experience at Loyola, and his plans for the future.
Can you tell us how your app works and how the public can use it?
The Spot Exchange gives people the ability to have more control over their parking using blockchain technology. It enables people to rent physical locations designated for parking. Parking spaces include garages, lots, alleyways, and driveways, which may be located on private residential and commercial property. As a decentralized marketplace, our service product does not own physical parking spaces, establish asset prices, or set policy. Instead, we serve as the mechanism in which sellers of physical spaces connect with short-term or long-term buyers, and we provide an automated service for executing and enforcing contracts. The overarching idea is that people can their reserve spots on the network and sell them without having to pay high commissions. But the product is for both people who want to list parking spaces and for those looking for a parking space. We’re hoping to more efficiently connect buyers and sellers and provide real-time price recommendations to sellers.
How did you gain an interest in computer science?
Since my childhood, I have always been playing with technology and taking things apart. I began programming in 6th grade, working with Batch and C mostly. By the time I entered high school, I already had a clear picture of what I wanted to do in life. That picture is the same now as it was during those times: To push current technology to its breaking point to see how it can benefit us.
How has your Loyola experience helped you get to where you are in your work?
My experience at Loyola has been incredibly supportive. The core CS (Computer Science) program exposes students to different technologies and development methods, which is crucial to have in the workforce. The department offers a range of classes that touch on anyone's interests, including server-side, client-side, game development, algorithms, etc. These classes all taught me how to approach similar problems in different ways. It was fun to go back to an old project for one class and redesign it using methods I learned in another to create an even better product.
What are your future plans for this app?
Currently, we don’t have any set plans for the app, but the underlying technology and blockchain community is a very active part of our lives. The blockchain technology is still at a young stage and our mission is to help move the technology along and become a mainstream component of the 21st century marketplace. After graduating this spring, I will be pursuing block chain technology in the private sector.
Let's party! Loyola alumna mixes business with pleasure as a CEO
Celebrations, get-togethers, and parties—all bring people together and can be the framework for building and strengthening communities. Psychology and Social Science alumna Britt Whitfield (BA ’04) knows this and literally embodies the phrase “Life of the party.” But, she is serious and all business when it comes to running The Revel Group, an independent, event-centric marketing and production businesses based in Chicago. Whitfield, who serves as CEO and co-founder, is celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary this year.
Under her leadership, the company’s stellar work has been lauded numerously. For the last five years, Revel has been in INC. magazine as one of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies. Chicago Business Journal named Whitfield a Women on the Move last year and, most recently, she made Crain’s Chicago Business Top 40 under 40 for 2017.
Here, Whitfield discusses her strong work ethic, planning the Cubs’ World Series celebration, how Revel strives to continue growing, and ultimately, what makes a good party.
Is there an experience you can point to that illustrates how you came into your own as a leader?
I started working out of a deli in Philadelphia when I was 19. I worked in the kitchen, on the line. I had no culinary background. I made sandwiches and I remember thinking I wanted to put so much meat on the sandwich, though they gave you scale to weigh it out. I always doubled it or went over so they ended up putting me on the cash register. I wanted people to open [their sandwich], look at it, and say, “This is the best sandwich I ever got.” That’s all I cared about.
I ended up becoming a manager at Smith & Hawken. I was so opinionated and bossy. I could take charge. I’ve always had that ability to kind of move the car with the group.
What do you attribute the success of your business to?
I think the relationships: From the people who are our clients, the corporations, and also those who make up Revel. I think those bonds are the key to our longevity. Longevity is such a hard thing in business. We are such a different company than when we first started yet we are still the same—our culture, what we care about, the fact that we want to put out something really good. And how we’re able to be creative, particularly in how the company is set up and the different groups. And we aren’t just one company with additional services: We’re separate companies that are vertically integrated and creativity grows from that. That model was not based on a financial component. It was based on how we were going to supply something and what demands we’re going to meet and how well we’d meet them. And I really think that’s what’s done it. We really care about designing an event and when we’re hired to put something on, we know the buck stops with us. With that responsibility, we added these companies because we just wanted to be that sure and that good. And we wanted the events to be what we had promised and what we had wanted.
When did you realize that you had an affinity for event planning?
I started working during my senior year in Loyola at Cullen's Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville. And then Michael Cullen, who has since passed, opened Blue Bayou across the street, which had an event space. I was a manager and I bartended at the time but I wanted to be responsible for booking that space.
While I’m working there, my mother went to a party at Soldier Field for Maggie Daley’s organization, After School Matters. There are 2,000 people and caterers on the field, a big band, a light show. The whole bit. I comment to her on how I liked booking these events much more than I liked the restaurant business. I liked hospitality but I knew I wanted to sell something. She tells me about this party and I said to her, “Wait, there are parties like that?” And I’m 21 years old and I told her that’s exactly what I want to do.
Last year, what was the best party you went to or that your company put on?
You know we throw a lot of good parties. We did 6,000 events last year. We did the Cubs’ World Series party... That was a once in a lifetime event. To be a Chicagoan and to be able to produce a Cubs World Series (party) that is OMG!!
But [we recently had] our 10-year Super Bowl party called Revel Bowl. We usually base the event off of the half-time event but we felt … it should be a Prince party. So, there was a lot of Purple Rain and we had a Prince tribute band. It was incredible. Because the way this Super Bowl tied into Prince the excitement came from the fact that what we ended up choosing something that worked. It was also nice to celebrate. That was actually a pretty big milestone—a decade of a company. That was definitely on top of my list.
Finally, what makes for a good party?
The number one thing for a good party is being comfortable. I think it’s a very challenging thing to achieve. It’s a combination of how you’re greeted, the look, the seating, the attitude of every staff person. All of that trickles down. If you can go into it and everyone is positive about being there, people will be comfortable. Think about when you’re not comfortable at a party, how bad does that feel? When you show up to events and you ask yourself, “Why am I uncomfortable?” You might say to yourself, “No one said hi to me. Who am I meeting here?” People want it to be the lights, the stage—it’s none of that. Overall it’s whether people feel good there and are they comfortable.
Flying High: Crafting a life in performing arts
By: Kaitlin McMurry
For Loyola senior Audrey Anderson, 22, playing Sissy in a rendition of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times at the Lookingglass Theatre Company was a dream come true. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Anderson has been acting and performing aerial acrobatics since the second grade. Anderson decided to pursue acting as a career during her junior year in high school, and has never looked back.
A theatre major, Anderson is used to juggling school work, hours of rehearsals, performances, and other curricular activities. But once she was cast in Hard Times, she took the semester off to dedicate her time to her first professional role in Chicago. She acted in all 114 shows over a span of about three months until the production wrapped up in mid-January. When writing about Anderson’s performance, the Chicago Tribune said, “[Anderson] gives one of the subtlest and most authentic performances” and the Chicago Sun-Times referred to her as an “utterly beguiling actress-aerialist.”
Anderson’s budding acting career has grown at Loyola. She has performed in a school production every semester, including being cast in columbinus, Elephant’s Graveyard, and FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life, among others. Now in her last semester, Anderson hopes to perform both on stage and in television and film.
Here, Anderson talks about her first professional theatre experience in Chicago, some of the challenges and triumphs, and how Loyola has influenced her professional career.
You just finished performing as Sissy in the Lookingglass Theatre Company’s version of Hard Times. What was that experience like?
I can’t even express how perfect of a first professional theatre experience in Chicago it was. It was a total whirlwind.
They work very collaboratively at the Lookingglass Theatre Company. Even though I was the youngest and least experienced person in the room, I felt like I had just as much of a say on contributing ideas, on being listened to, on being valued in the room, so it was just a really positive experience.
What’s your background in acrobatics and aerial training?
I started aerials when I was in the second grade. My mom is a professional dancer. She’s had an amazing professional career, and now she’s a dance professor in Minnesota. I grew up going to rehearsals and sitting in theatres and dance studios while she was teaching.
When I was in the second grade, we went to see this theatre piece called Circus of Tales. They specialized in physical spectacle theatre, and in this piece there was circus and aerial arts in it and I can still see the show to this day. After the show, I turned to my mom and said, “that’s what I want to do.” She signed me up for classes the next week, and the rest is history.
What was the training like for Hard Times?
It was really intense because I shattered my wrist at the beginning of the summer. I was cast in the show in February 2017, then that June I fell on my wrist while biking and completely shattered it. I had to have surgery and started physical therapy right away. At the beginning of the summer I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the show. It was cutting it really close. My wrist was fine, but I hadn’t done aerials for three months so I started below zero in terms of strength and stamina from where I needed to be.
The rehearsal process was three weeks long. We rehearsed six days a week, and we were there all day, every day. It was hard coming into rehearsal every day and not being where I wanted to be strength-wise because you can’t think about performing, or what you’re giving to an audience—you really can’t think about all of these beautiful finessing qualities.
They just kept working me. And by opening night I was able to do it. I did 114 shows and my understudy never had to go on, so it worked out.
Let’s switch gears and talk about your experiences at Loyola. How has Loyola impacted your professional career?
Attending Loyola has really impacted me as a person and my career. If I weren’t in Chicago, I wouldn’t have been connected with Lookingglass Theatre Company. Loyola has really taught me how to be an active member of a rehearsal room and how to be explorative, willing, and giving in a rehearsal space so people will want to work with you. The theatre program wants you to be that active member of the rehearsal room and as a Bachelor of Arts student, we take all these different classes—design, practicum, etc.—so we’re given all of these facets of knowledge, not to mention all the liberal arts classes I have to take. How could learning about all of these different philosophies and historical times, learning about psychology, how is that not going to help me as an actor?
We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the time period of Hard Times, but I could piece together my own information about it because I’ve taken history classes at Loyola.
How did you decide to take a break from school last semester?
There was no way I was turning down the role. I knew from the second I was cast that I was going to take a break regardless of what that meant. It meant so much for me to get a start on my career—to work with this company and to get out in the world. And it just happened to work out really well that I only had credits for one semester left anyway so I was really lucky.
What was it like returning to campus? Do you see school in a different light now that you’ve been in the professional world?
It feels kind of like Hard Times was a dream, like “did I just do that for three months?” It’s weird that I’m back in the swing of things now.
I think I see the need for school and I now appreciate it more. When you’re in the thick of college and it’s hard, you’re like, “Why am I putting myself through this stress and staying up all night [with] no sleep and living on coffee?” Now I understand why we train so hard. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up in the rehearsal room if I hadn’t had my training here. In acting classes, I’m learning how to do what I want to do, but I don’t think you really understand why you need it until you’re out in the real world.
What is it about acting and performing that you love so much?
Being in a rehearsal room is thrilling in itself. You get to be in a collaborative, artistic, and fun environment that’s sizzling with everything—energy, different minds. I don’t know what other environment could make me feel as energized in all of these different ways as being in a rehearsal room does. It’s a very rewarding field to go into because of this constant self-growth. Coming in to rehearse a scene and having it just be words on a page and then creating this beautiful piece of art that’s hopefully saying something—that’s really satisfying.
I got you something: 5 gift giving rules for ALL of your relationships
By Tasha Neumeister
We’re at the height of gift giving season, and picking out the “right” gift can be easy for some while others find it burdensome. There’s also research that suggests men and women view gifts differently. Men and woman may as differ when it comes to what is a perceived “bad” or “good” gifts as well. Jeff Huntsinger, assistant psychology professor, and colleagues did a nearly decades-old study that is still relevant today on how gifts impact relationships. Here are some of Huntsinger’s insights and rules on how the gift you give, or receive, can influence your relationships:
Rule #1: Give well - A “bad” gift could change your relationship for the worst
The whole reason we give gifts is that we want people to be happy. We often give gifts as a means of showing our closeness to other people or bringing them closer to us. If we give a good gift, it should be a marker of understanding—letting the receiver know that we “get” them in some sense. So good gifts will tend to strengthen relationships and bad gifts—depending on how bad they are—can in the worst case scenario show a complete lack of understanding of another person’s likes and dislikes. This can at least temporarily cause each person to seem less similar or hurt the relationship in some way. In terms of bad gifts, both men and women—in romantic or platonic relationships—will feel a loss of closeness. But women tend to take receiving bad gifts better than men, which our study showed. What seems to be happening is that women will engage in relationship maintenance behavior and will rationalize away a “bad gift.”
Rule #2: If you want to grow closer, give an experience
Experiential gifts—like concert tickets or hiking trips or dance lessons—are unique and can’t easily be replicated. Often these are things you can’t do again. Material gifts, and that warm glow of happiness you get from receiving them, wear off relatively quickly. Material gifts are often not shared with other people, whereas experience gifts are: Let’s get tickets to the Bulls or the Cubs game and we’ll go together and share it with other people. And that experience becomes a part of us and makes us closer to the other person.
Rule #3: Don’t sweat it—the thought counts, but not really
We think if we put a lot of thought into a gift, people will like it better. But as far as my research shows, it doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. We tend to overemphasize the thought we put into a gift, but that thought often isn’t recognized by the person we give it to. Why is that? Well, when you have a gift—a box for instance—in front of you, you’re focused on the gift itself, not so much on the giver and their effort. It’s your gut reaction to the gift: Do you like it or not? You don’t often see the effort right in front of you.
Rule #4: Give of yourself
Think about giving a person something you already have. For example, if I say, “I have this coffeemaker. I love it and so will you,” we’re on the same plane. It’s saying, “I love this and you should experience it too.” It makes you feel connected to the other person. With these companionized gifts, people are seeing that they’re giving a little bit of themselves: This is part of me, I like this, and I’m going to share it with you. This is even true for material gifts, which don’t always make us happy.
Rule #5: Ask for a wish list
We like to get gifts from our wish lists. We know what we want. Sometimes a person may pick the “wrong gift” because maybe it’s not the gift we want in that moment. When we’re trying to find a gift for someone we have to put ourselves in their shoes and think about their likes and dislikes. What do they like to do? It’s not the easiest thing to do. We tend to anchor on our own likes and dislikes and then start thinking about them. It’s a difficult differential puzzle to do that well. So women tend to engage in “perspective taking” by default. But most people will make a lot of mistakes: We think people want a unique gift, but in fact, people would be more satisfied if you went off their Amazon wish list. Because we—the receiver—put the thought into the gift we want better than anyone else could.
Scratching the surface
By: Kaitlin McMurry
Inside a laboratory in Flanner Hall, Rachael Farber spends hours poring over images of metal surfaces that show individual atoms. Farber lives for experiments like these, testing how different metals respond to chemicals such as oxygen or hydrogen. Exhibiting all the characteristics of a pioneering scientist, Farber can sometimes spend nearly 50 hours in the lab in pursuit of her goal: finding ways that metal surfaces can improve how we live and work.
Farber, a doctoral student in Loyola's physical chemistry program, has studied surface chemistry for five years at Loyola and was recently honored by several publications and organizations for her research. This fall, she received two major awards at the 64th International Symposium of the American Vacuum Society (AVS)—an interdisciplinary society for professionals in the science and technology industries—where she took home the Morton M. Traum Student Award for her research on Surface Science and the Nellie Yeoh Whetten Award, a top award given at the symposium. Farber, who also studied chemistry at Case Western Reserve University as an undergraduate, attributes this recognition to the supportive, student-focused environment within Loyola’s chemistry department.
Here, Farber talks about her research, some of the challenges she and other women in science have faced, and she reminisces about her time at Loyola as she embarks on her last semester at Loyola.
You do research on heterogeneous catalysis, or how different materials react to each other. Can you explain how your research impacts people's everyday lives?
We’re trying to understand what oxygen is doing to certain metals. How is it affecting their reactivity? And, is what we're seeing something that can be applied later down the road?
Here’s an example of why people need to care about heterogeneous catalysis. Back in the day, smog control was a huge issue, particularly in places like LA, New York City, or Mexico City--anywhere where there's a bit of a restricted airflow or where high population density cars have toxic exhaust fumes that gets trapped in our atmosphere. There was a huge push to figure out a way to properly neutralize those gases so they're not as harmful to people and the environment.
The way scientists figured out how to do that was by combining three different metals to make catalytic converters. Because of a reaction that happens on the metal surface, these different species can react on that metal surface and be neutralized into CO2 and less toxic gases. Once they started using these catalytic converters, the smog levels dropped, people were able to have healthy lungs again, and they could see skylines on clear days.
You recently received two major awards at the 64th AVS International Symposium. Tell us about that experience.
It was really it was pretty amazing to get both of those awards. I think we do really nice work in here and I think our research is pretty important. It's really awesome to have it recognized, especially with AVS since that is so applicable to our field.
Loyola was recently ranked 7th in the country for graduating women in STEM. Would you say this reflects your experience at Loyola?
That’s fantastic! I know that when I've been a teacher assistant in undergrad classes, I've never really noticed any sort of male dominance in those classes; it's been fairly split with both male and female representation. I always felt like there was a really good representation of women here at Loyola. When I look at other schools in Chicago, there's maybe one woman in a lab group of five or six people. When you go to conferences a lot of the times there’s like 10 percent women in attendance. In general, there aren't a lot of women in this field.
One of the things I've noticed being at Loyola is that I've been given a lot of opportunities to go to conferences and talk about what we do here. The department has been really supportive of presenting opportunities for women, so there's a lot of networking involved. If you want to be successful in science, you need a really big support system and I think Loyola is doing a really good job of helping women find partners and mentors in the field. I know that I've been really lucky with my advisor, Dan Killelea. He’s been really supportive from day one—making sure it was understood that I needed to do work in a lab.
What are some of the challenges you've faced as a woman in science or concerns women may have navigating the field?
You want to be judged on your data, not on how you look. I've had a few instances going to conferences where either a female professor has commented on the makeup I’m wearing, or male professors will sort of make comments about how you look like “oh like you look so wonderful and you gave a great presentation but you looked wonderful up there.” There’s still a big issue about being appreciated as a good scientist and being able to represent yourself however you see fit whether you're a more feminine woman or if you prefer to be a bit more laid-back in how you appear. I've also heard a lot of women talk about how to balance having a family when you’re in science. How do you be a mother and work toward getting a tenure-track position?
And finally, as you look to your post-doctorate opportunity, can you share your favorite Loyola memory and what you will miss the most?
I think in general one of my favorite memories is just the community here. I'm really going to miss the environment of the department especially, because all the professors are so supportive and the graduate students have a nice community. I know that I've been very fortunate: I have had a lot of really wonderful opportunities at Loyola, like going to various conferences since my first year, and I’ve been able to give talks at international and local chapter meetings of different organizations. Everyone wants you to do the best you can.
A fair shake
By: Tasha Neumeister
Access and choice are key factors in where Americans live. But race, education, and income have a powerful influence as well. These are issues Peter Rosenblatt, assistant professor of Sociology, considers within his research on housing policy and urban inequality. The sociologist has taught at Loyola since 2012 and is the director of the Urban Studies program. In that time, not only has he taught students about the inequalities in housing and housing policies, he has published and presented numerous papers on the topic along with an op-ed piece about restrictive housing policies in Baltimore neighborhoods.
Recently, Rosenblatt and a team of students completed a review of Milwaukee County’s
Security Deposit Assistance program, a unique incentive in the housing choice voucher program aimed at helping low-income families and children gain access to high-achieving schools and better-off neighborhoods. Here, Rosenblatt talks about this study, the constraints families confront in securing stable housing, and where urban housing is heading.
What are some of the trends you’re finding in affordable housing?
Public housing policy has changed a lot in the last two decades. We’ve moved from having large housing projects to tearing those down in lots of cities, including Chicago, and moving more toward housing vouchers—which is now the biggest rental housing subsidy for low-income people. So we’ve been trying to understand how the voucher program works for families. In studying that, it overlaps with studying the conditions of life for poor people: What shapes how they move? What influences where they move?
One of things about the shift to vouchers is it brings a sort of potential, because the voucher moves with the family. You could have families moving to neighborhoods that are less poor, less segregated, or neighborhoods with strong amenities such as good schools. But in practice, the voucher program doesn’t meet that potential. You have a lot of families that cycle between poor and segregated neighborhoods.
The work we’ve done on housing vouchers starting up in Chicago—and more in depth in Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Alabama—has been to try to understand why that is. Why doesn’t the voucher program do a better job of helping families move against the grain of segregation and poverty?
With your 2015 report on the Milwaukee County’s security deposit program as a basis, can you talk about some of the kinds of issues lower income families face in both getting stable housing and staying in these homes?
One of the things we’ve found in talking to low-income families is how much these moves aren’t planned. The moves are shaped outside of people’s control. Sometimes they live in really poor quality units, and are forced to move when their housing falls apart or fails the housing inspection that is part of the voucher program. In one instance, a woman told us about how the roof over her daughter’s bed would sag when it rained and it was about to collapse. Or people would show us really poor wiring in their houses that landlords hadn’t really attended. There was a lot of this unit failure or instability but there was also neighborhood instability—literally violence at their front door steps.
Another factor is the limited amount of time to search for a new place to live if you have a voucher. The national standard is 60 days from the time you get notice to vacate. So there’s a feeling of a time crunch when you don’t have the time to plan. And because of the different ways the programs are structured, it can make it harder to find what limited affordable housing there is in better-off neighborhoods. All of this doesn’t give families enough time to plan.
You talked about the factors that influence an affordable housing search. Do you think people are being driven out of cities to the suburbs?
One thing that is driving people “out” is the wide-spread demolition of public housing projects and the movement to vouchers. Often that means not everyone gets to return to their neighborhood of origin. In our study of Milwaukee’s systems, we looked at a new policy—the security deposit assistance—that provides incentives to low-income families to consider a move to suburban jurisdictions. But generally speaking, the moves families make are between poor and segregated neighborhoods, not to the suburbs. For instance, the majority of African American families in Chicago who use the voucher program are living in poor neighborhoods—over 30 percent of the population are below the federal poverty line. So there isn’t a lot of breaking out to live in more affluent neighborhoods. There are many factors that shape this, including discrimination and limits to how much the voucher can pay. But the search process itself also plays a significant role, especially the forced expediency for the search—where can I find a place to live right away?
What, if anything, are cities doing to break down inequality and create more opportunities for fair housing?
There’s a lot of research on the impact of where you live, especially children’s life chances. There’s strong research that says if you were to take a child from a high-poverty neighborhood and put them in a low-poverty neighborhood, that child is more likely to go to college, more likely to have a higher earning as an adult. Despite all of those challenges growing up poor, if you just change the neighborhood, it can really change the lives of kids.
One of the policy pushes is asking how we can assist families in moving to lower poverty neighborhoods. Milwaukee’s security deposit assistance program was a sort of natural experiment to see if families could be incentivized to move to more affluent suburbs. Can we see what kind of influence that this would have? Behavioral economists say nudges like a security deposit can help families make more optimal choices.
We found that there is some suggestion that this nudge does help but in some sense it’s not enough. Folks were swayed to move but it was actually really hard to lease in the suburbs: What we found is that many landlords in Milwaukee suburbs didn’t want to rent to them, and there is no legal protection against this “source of income” discrimination. There’s that tension around incentivizing these mobility efforts and overcoming the constraints to make them happen.
In looking at urban housing, what does the future hold?
At the end of the Obama administration, there were some changes in the voucher program that would have made better-off neighborhoods more accessible to families. This would have increased access to affordable housing and combated segregation in the voucher program. There was also a proposal to change the pay structure to make the voucher go farther—monetarily—in more affluent areas. At the same time, they proposed reducing landlords’ ability in poor neighborhoods to charge more. And both of those things have been rolled back with the current administration. So in the immediate term it feels like we’re taking a step back from the direction we were heading.
Where do you see transformations in urban housing?
What I have seen is efforts to transform those high rise towers into more mixed-income units. There’s a suggestion that this has reduced poverty in neighborhoods but many people have also been forced to move away. With CURL (Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning) we’re partnering with fair housing agencies, local housing authorities, social services agencies, and other organizations to see if providing more counseling support for families can help impact long-term moves to low-poverty neighborhoods and if that makes a differences in children’s educational outcomes, and adults’ job prospects.
Retiring faculty member promotes human rights advocacy through Holocaust remembrance
By: Kaitlin McMurry
For Elliot Lefkovitz, PhD, sharing the history of the Holocaust involves not just the Jewish victims and survivors but those who intervened and rescued people.
“In every genocide there are rescuers,” Lefkovitz says. “One reason I like to teach about the rescuers and altruism is because there is a human side to everyone—this gives us encouragement and inspiration to keep compassion alive, that hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow.”
Lefkovitz, has taught history at Loyola for 40 years and is widely known for his class on the Holocaust and 20th century genocide. Lefkovitz is an accomplished Jewish educator, who taught Western Civilization classes at Loyola when he first started, and pioneered a class on the Holocaust and 20th century genocide at the University. He is retiring at the end of the semester and was recently honored for his work and dedication throughout his years at Loyola.
Lefkovitz said he has truly enjoyed getting to know the faculty, staff, and students at Loyola and has always felt comfortable at the University because of its values-oriented mission that encourages social justice.
Lefkovitz has seen a lot of change at Loyola throughout the years, but some things have stayed the same: the level of commitment, dedication, and engagement his students have displayed. While he says it would be very difficult to track the exact impact his class had has on students, some of his students have since gone to law school and focused on human rights advocacy.
“Every teacher has to live on hope that what you’re doing somewhere down the line will make a difference,” Lefkovitz says. “I always brought in survivors throughout the course who would say to the students ‘whoever hears a witness becomes a witness’ so that somehow, hopefully, the empathy that they feel for the survivor will translate into some active compassionate acts.”
Not only has Lefkovitz shared his knowledge with students, he has also spread awareness about the Holocaust by recording several oral histories with survivors over the past few decades. It is his mission to record as many survivors as possible to keep their history relevant so it won’t “sink into oblivion.”
Throughout the years, Lefkovitz has also collaborated with Loyola Hillel—a Jewish student group—to bring in survivors from the Holocaust and other genocides to share their stories with the University community. In early November, he helped organize “Holocaust Rescuers: Overcoming Evil,” which recognized Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, the anti-Jewish attacks by the Nazi government more than 79 years ago. Attendees heard from Holocaust survivor Ida Paluch Kersz, who was rescued by Polish Christians.
“People say the Holocaust did not happen and I’m one of the witnesses—maybe one of the last ones because I was one of the youngest,” explains Kersz, who also spoke about her 53-year search for her twin brother, Adam Paluch, who was also in attendance at the event. “I will tell their stories so people can say ‘I heard a Holocaust survivor, there was a Holocaust.’”
Though he may be retiring, Lefkovitz plans to continue to bring survivors of genocide to Loyola to educate people about the atrocities of the past.
“Teaching has been an interest of mine from the beginning,” Lefkovitz says. “It’s not just transmitting information but really trying to impart values. I focus on genocide education because so much really is about remembrance and the need to remember.”
The future is now: Girls Who Code
By Amanda Friedlander ('18)
On a Saturday afternoon, a small group of girls, ages 11 to 16, huddle together in a classroom in Loyola’s Information Commons, typing a sort of hieroglyphic language into neat rows on their computers. The room is peppered with volunteers—all graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom have no idea what the language means. But once the project is complete, it will become a fully-functioning website, designed to educate and inspire other young women like themselves.
This website is a semester-long project for Girls Who Code, a coding and tech club for young girls and women. Loyola’s first chapter started this semester and is the brainchild of Neha Goel, a graduate student fellow in the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities (CTSDH). Goel, who has experienced gender bias in coding classes and elsewhere, is deeply aware of the discrepancy between men and women in STEM-related fields.
“My first job after graduation was eliminated because the company only wanted to hire men,” says Goel, a computer science major. “Now, at my current company, it can be really awkward going to team meetings and outings because it’s so male-dominated. There are 10 of us, and I’m the only woman.”
That’s why Loyola’s Girls Who Code chapter aims to provide a space for young women to learn, teach, and explore coding in an inclusive and supportive environment. And the best part? There’s no experience required.
Finding our own code
Girls Who Code began in 2012 as a tiny club of 20 young women in New York City with a goal of closing the gender gap in technology. Within five years, schools around the country have started their own chapters, amounting to over 40,000 girls learning how to code their own sites and games. At Loyola, Goel approached Elizabeth Hopwood, the CTSDH project manager and instructor in digital humanities, about the possibility of starting a chapter. Then international studies and economics major Ezgi Ilhan, a student fellow in the CTSDH and Maria Palacio, recent alumna in digital humanities who has since graduated, worked with Goel and Hopwood to create a budget proposal. Goel and Ilhan, also a research fellow in the CTSDH, agreed the club should nourish students while building up their self-esteem and computer science skill set.
“One of my biggest concerns was making sure the girls got fed,” says Ilhan. “We wanted to tap into the Jesuit values when writing the proposal. We wanted this to be completely free, to provide service for others.”
With the promise of giving back and gaining coding and programming skills, Goel says she received so many requests from Loyola students to participate that she eventually had to turn down inquiries. Fifteen undergraduate and graduate students were chosen along with 11 participants from Chicago-area schools. The goal of the semester: Pick an issue to build a website around. The group landed on “beauty sickness,” a term for the societal pressure on women to look a certain way.
Lucas Coyne, a graduate student in the American History program, is one of two young men who volunteer in the club. Coyne says he hopes to show participants how creativity factors into coding, and that it’s not a purely mathematical, logic-based activity.
“We want to be helpful and provide a space for women to learn,” he says.
Goel envisions an even larger chapter in the near future. She also hopes that over time, they will reach an advanced level that will allow them to participate in international coding competitions.
“Women should not feel alone in the STEM industry,” she says. “They should never feel like they should quit because they’re the only woman in the room. I used to feel that way, but now I’m proud of it. Women should be proud of themselves.”
Loyola’s chapter of Girls Who Code is generously supported by a grant from the Plan2020 Student Innovation Fund and the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities. For more information, go to: https://luc.edu/ctsdh/girlswhocode/
Physics lecturer invents new breast cancer fighting drug
For Sherita Moses, PhD, the battle against breast cancer is deeply personal.
“I have a lot of close friends who have or had breast cancer; girls that I went to college with and who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Moses, “I had a friend who was diagnosed with triple- negative breast cancer a year ago and we buried her this summer. She was 41.”
The breast cancer death rate is 42 percent higher in blacks than in whites, according to a 2016 article in the Cancer Journal for Clinicians. And black women are disproportionately diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers.
This awareness and first-hand experience drove Moses, who is a lecturer in Physics at Loyola, to look for a cure. Just weeks ago, she got one step closer to her wish: She received official patent paperwork for a compound she invented that could potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women who suffer from triple-negative breast cancer—a dangerously aggressive form of cancer.
“I screamed when I got the call. I was in shock that the U.S. Patent Office would approve it,” she said.
This invasive form of breast cancer identifies women whose breast cancer cells don’t contain receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2, and can’t be treated with hormone therapies or medications that work by blocking HER2. It has, however, been treated with other drugs, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These drugs, Moses said, have horrible side effects, and most often do not work on patients afflicted with triple-negative breast cancer.
Something needed to be done, and Moses was determined to find a treatment when she started this research about three years ago while at Alabama A&M University (AAMU). And along the way, AAMU colleagues Vernessa M. Edwards, PhD; Chance M. Glenn, Sr., PhD; and Angela Debro, Esq. lent their support and expertise to Moses’ research. She soon received more than $100,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation and an Alabama Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) research grant and set to work.
Moses had certain compounds tested at the Loma Linda Breast Cancer Laboratory in California and she soon discovered that gold nanoparticles—tiny microscopic particles—combined with plant extracts could destroy cell lines with estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 receptors. The process, she said, was even more effective in killing triple-negative breast cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.
Her compound is especially remarkable because it holds both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which can drastically reduce the pain caused by cancer. Such traits are lacking in most breast cancer drugs, Moses said.
Right now, with the patent in hand, Moses’ goal is to see a pharmaceutical manufacturer buy the compound and conduct clinical trials. Then, hopefully, it will make it to the consumer, patient market so breast cancer patients can be treated.
“I wanted to help save lives without all of the pain and suffering patients go through,” said Moses.
CAS in the media
College of Arts and Sciences faculty, staff, students, and alumni are often quoted and featured in local and national publications on a myriad of topics and issues.
- The Atlantic
Reopening the Emmett Till Case Is a Cynical Play
History professor Elliott Gorn book's, "Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till" is cited in this piece on the Justice Department’sreopening of the case and how this new investigation won't implicate a society full of accomplices.
- WUOM (NPR)
Response to Trevor Noah's World Cup Remarks
Sociology assistant professor Helena Dagadu, PhD, asks us to be more inclusive in how we identify in response to in response to Trevor Noah's statement regarding France's victory in the World Cup. The story aired on radio stations across the country.
- Chicago Sun Times
A socially conscious young generation seeks outlets for its activism
Omer M. Mozaffer, PhD, Muslim Chaplain and College of Arts and Sciences theology instructor wrote about the determination of millennials as they take on modern social justice issues and their relentless pursuit for answers.
- The Chicago Tribune
'Prison is not where women need to be': All-female task force wants to cut Illinois’ female prison population in half
Criminal Justice & Criminology professor and co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice David Olson talks about a troubling trend of woman in rural areas of Illinois increasinly going to prison, his research, and how to reduce the female prison population in the state.
- The Root
Chicago Activist Rides Progressive Wave in Mayor's Race
Assistant political science professor Twyla Blackmond Larnell talks about the significance of Chicago mayoral candidate Ja'Mal D Green, an activist, running for office.
When the Government Won't Listen, We Must Refuse to Comply
Tisha M. Rajendra, associate professor of Christian Ethics, writes an op-ed piece about the need for religious leaders to appeal directly to all those involved to stop participating in the Trump administration policy of family separation.
- The Courier News
Cmdr. Ana Lalley named new Elgin police chief; Cmdr. Al Young tapped for deputy chief job
Cmdr. Ana Lalley Criminal Justice and Criminology alumna will become Chief of Police in the City of Elgin effective this August. Congratulations to the 22-year department veteran.
- The Washington Post
The movement to honor Ida B. Wells gains momentum
In this article, Theodore Karamanski, PhD, professor of history, was quoted about the lack of monuments to women in Chicago.
- Auburn Theological Seminary
History is happening: What part do you want to play? It’s Not a Rhetorical Question
Aana Marie Vigen, Ph.D, associate professor of Christian Social Ethics begs us to look across political, social and religious affiliation and ask: What role do I want to play in history?
- Chicago Sun-Times
This Ramadan, mental illness and suicide are on Loyola Muslim chaplain’s mind
Omer M. Mozaffer, PhD, Muslim Chaplain and College of Arts and Sciences theology instructor, wrote about addressing the topics of mental health, faith, and suicide in the Muslim community.
What’s a delightful way to get more time out of the day? Savoring
Fred Bryant, PhD,professor, psychology discussed the psychological benefits of learning to mentally savor everyday moments in life.
- Chicago Sun-Times
James Short helped shape sociology with early study of Chicago street gangs
Arthur Lurigio, PhD, professor of psychology and criminal justice, and senior associate dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences was quoted about the work of James Short, a sociology professor who recently passed away.
- The Book Haven
A “warm and magnanimous” biography: “Anybody interested in René Girard will want to read this work”
Andrew McKenna, PhD, professor emeritus of french language and literature, was quoted speaking about his former colleague, Rene Girard, the subject of a new biography.
Expert: Juvenile killer has good prison record
James Garbarino, PhD, Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and professor, psychology, testified for the defense in the resentencing of killer James Morgan. Garbarino offered insight into the development of adolescent brains, as Morgan was convicted and tried when he was a teenager.
Opinion: I want US officials to stop misusing the Bible
Miguel H. Díaz, PhD, John Cortney Murray University Chair in Public Service in theology, wrote about the misuse of Bible passages by American officials attempting to justify border policies.
Payday lender or loan shark: Is there really a difference?
Political Science professor Robert Mayer, PhD, offered insight on loan sharks and payday lenders for this piece, which also mentioned Mayer's book "Quick Cash: The Story of the Loan Shark."
- Fra Noi
Loyola launches groundbreaking Italian American studies program
Chicagoland's Italian American magazine announces Loyola's launch of the Italian American Studies program that will be chaired by Carla Simonini, PhD. Criminal Justice and Criminology and Psyhcology professor Arthur Lurigio, PhD, talks about the new program and its importance.
Chicago officials laud 15th consecutive month of declining gun violence
Criminal Justice and Criminology and Psyhcology professor Arthur Lurigio, PhD, talks about the lasting effects of gun violence and the data behind Chicago's 15th consecutive month of declining gun violence in this article.
- Chicago Sun Times
Muslims, Jews need to be able to talk with each other about Palestine, Israel
Muslim chaplain Omer M. Mozaffar, who is also a lecturer in Theology and Modern Languages and Literatures, wrote in his regular opinion column about the need for dialogue between Jews and Muslims to resolve the crisis between Palestine and Israel.
6 Things Doctors Tell Their Friends About Happiness
Psychology Professor Fred Bryant is discusses how sharing your feelings is part of a practice known as 'savoring,' and leads to higher levels of overall happiness in this story on happiness. Bryant is the co-author of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.
- Psychology Today
A Simple Way to Overcome Negativity
Professor of Psychology Fred Bryant, PhD, researches the importance of savoring-- focusing on the good to combat negativity. His research was recently cited in this Psychology Today article.
- The Daily Herald
How the quest for pain relief led to today's opioid crisis
How did we get to the opioid crisis? Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio and Sidney Weissman, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine authored an opinion piece on the origins of the opioid crisis and how the crisis has impacted Chicago’s collar counties of DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties.
- Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant – Purdue University
Microplastic pollution researchers recruit a team of student scientists
Biologists Tim Hoellein, PhD, and John Kelly, PhD, run a lab where students get first-hand experience in laboratory research work.
Chicago killings and shootings drop for 14thconsecutive month
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio, PhD, is quoted in this CNN article about the drop in the number of killings and shootings in Chicago. Lurigio discusses the need for sustainable partnerships between police and residents moving forward.
- The Naperville Sun
‘Historic’ turnover in Naperville police commanders tied to population boom in the ‘80s, ‘90s
Associate professor of criminal justice and criminology Christopher Donner is quoted in this article about the vacancies of the Naperville Police Department’s commander posts and how turnover could impact morale and policing.
- America Magazine
What can Loyola’s Final Four run can teach us about Catholic schools and sports?
Michael Murphy, The Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage associate director and Catholic Studies director shares his opinion about what the Loyola's Mens Basketball Team's run to the Final Four can teach us about Catholic schools and sports.
- The Chicago Sun Times
A Muslim chaplain at Loyola puts himself firmly in Sister Jean’s court
Muslim chaplain at Loyola Omer M. Mozaffar wrote an opinion piece praising Sister Jean and the attitude of loving and compassionate religion and faith that she embodies.
- The Hill
Gun control is all about gun violence – we can’t forget who we’re trying to protect
Assistant professor of english Frederick Staidum Jr., PhD, wrote an opinion piece that discusses the need to have an intersectional approach to gun violence that takes into account the experience of women and girls of color when talking about gun control.
- The Washington Post
The right to work really means the right to work for less
Assistant professor of history Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, PhD, wrote an opinion piece on why business interests have spent 70+ years crusading for right-to-work laws, and how it’s a threat to American democracy.
- Crain’s Chicago Business
A 5-part plan to reverse the opioid epidemic
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio, PhD, wrote this opinion piece with clinical professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Northwestern University. The piece gives a five-part plan to alleviate the opioid epidemic in the United States.