Monthly archives: October, 2015

Celebrating Breast Cancer Survivors

Patients, families, friends and supporters joined UI Health staff in celebrating survivorship at Breast Cancer Survivor Appreciation Day Oct. 2. The event launched Breast Cancer Awareness Month at UIC.

UIC Police hosts Field Trip for Smyth School Students

Brookfield Zoo - 3

Smyth School students enjoy a day at Brookfield Zoo

Several members of the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department, lead by Police Chief Kevin Booker, recently hosted a bus trip to the Brookfield Zoo for students from Smyth Elementary school, 1059 W 13th St, in Chicago .

These students are part of a newly created mentoring/tutoring program created by UIC Police Department focused on helping participating students understand the importance of reading and comprehension, along with leadership skills.

For more information about the program, contact the University of Illinois at Chicago Police Department, 943 West Maxwell Street, Chicago, IL  60608, Or by phone at: 312-996-2899



Women Smokers Concerned About Weight Less Likely To Try Quitting

4355-cigarette-smokingWomen who believe smoking helps them manage their weight are less likely to try quitting in response to anti-smoking policies than other female smokers in the U.S. The study, published online in the journal Tobacco Control, is the first to find that smokers who are concerned about their weight are less swayed by anti-smoking policies – such as bumps in cigarette prices, smoke-free laws or anti-tobacco messaging — than other smokers are.

The study findings suggest that women may need support that addresses concerns about weight gain, said Shang, who is a senior research specialist in UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy. “Policymakers should take weight concerns into account to enhance the effectiveness of existing policies that promote quitting smoking,” she said.  Additional education on smoking and weight could be useful for programs that target women, Shang said.

The researchers looked at survey data from about 10,000 smokers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia as part of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. The ITC Project conducts longitudinal surveys of smokers and tobacco users across 22 countries.

For female smokers who did not believe that smoking helps control weight, a 10 percent increase in cigarettes price was associated with a 6 percent rise in attempts to quit, while women who thought smoking does help control weight did not significantly increase their attempts to quit in response to a price increase. Additionally, while a 10 percent increase in exposure to anti-smoking messaging was associated with a 12 percent increase in quit attempts among those who did not hold the weight-control belief, no increase in quit attempts was reported by smokers who did so believe. Shang noted that those who smoke more tobacco are more likely to be overweight than smokers who smoke less, “so the idea that smoking helps control weight is really unfounded.” “Plus,” she said, “the health benefits that come from quitting allow for more healthy methods of weight control, such as exercise.”

UIC distinguished professor of economics Frank Chaloupka of the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy; Geoffrey Fong of the University of Waterloo and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research; Mary Thompson of the University of Waterloo; Mohammad Siahpush of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health; and UIC graduate student William Ridgeway are co-authors on the paper.

UIC students present storm water plan at international conference

The team receives the RainWorks award from EPA administrator Susan Hedman. L-R: back row Ann Cosgrove, Ben O’Connor, Curtis Witek, Nick Haas; front row David Klawitter, Emmanuel Dominguez, Lisha Wu, Hedman and Eduardo Munoz.

UIC students in engineering, urban planning and earth sciences presented their award-winning plan to manage campus storm water at the annual conference of the Water and Environment Federation held in late September in Chicago.

The team won first place in the master plan category of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Campus RainWorks Challenge last spring, competing against more than 500 college students from 64 teams in 23 states.

The EPA and the Water and Environment Federation invited the students to present their project at WEFTEC 2015, the federation’s annual conference that includes thousands of professionals in water quality science and engineering. The team took part in the Stormwater Congress Sept. 29 at McCormick Place.

The UIC team includes civil and materials engineering students Nick Haas, Lisha Wu, David Klawitter and Emmanuel Dominguez; urban planning and policy students Curtis Witek and Eduardo Munoz; and earth and environmental sciences student Ann Cosgrove. Ben O’Connor, assistant professor of civil and materials engineering, is the group’s adviser.

“I think the students are proud of their achievement and like the recognition they are getting,” O’Connor said, adding that the group is looking for funds to implement their plan.

The Campus RainWorks Challenge is a national EPA competition for students to design green storm water infrastructure on campus.

The UIC team created 10-year plan to improve rainwater management on the east side of campus and reduce runoff by 30 million gallons. The plan would replace lawn with native grasses and plants to save on maintenance, mowing and irrigation, and replace parking lot pavement with more permeable materials (to be done when upgrades or repairs are already planned).

‘Psychic robot’ will know what you really meant to do


Justin Horowitz, UIC graduate research assistant in bioengineering, developed a mathematical algorithm that can “see” intention.

What if software could steer a car back on track if the driver swerves on ice? Or guide a prosthesis to help a shaky stroke patient smoothly lift a cup?

Bioengineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a mathematical algorithm that can “see” your intention while performing an ordinary action like reaching for a cup or driving straight up a road — even if the action is interrupted.

The study is published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Say you’re reaching for a piece of paper and your hand is bumped mid-reach — your eyes take time to adjust; your nerves take time to process what has happened; your brain takes time to process what has happened and even more time to get a new signal to your hand,” said Justin Horowitz, UIC graduate student research assistant and first author of the study.

“So, when something unexpected happens, the signal going to your hand can’t change for at least a tenth of a second — if it changes at all,” Horowitz said.

In a first test of this concept, Horowitz employed exactly the scenario he described — he analyzed the movement of research subjects as they reached for an object on a virtual desk, but had their hand pushed in the wrong direction. He was able to develop an advanced mathematical algorithm that analyzed the action and estimated the subject’s intent, even when there was a disturbance and no follow through.

The algorithm can predict the way you wanted to move, according to your intention, Horowitz said. The car’s artificial intelligence would use the algorithm to bring the car’s course more in line with what the driver wanted to do.

“If we hit a patch of ice and the car starts swerving, we want the car to know where we meant to go,” he said. “It needs to correct the car’s course not to where I am now pointed, but [to] where I meant to go.”

“The computer has extra sensors and processes information so much faster than I can react,” Horowitz said. “If the car can tell where I mean to go, it can drive itself there. But it has to know which movements of the wheel represent my intention, and which are responses to an environment that’s already changed.”

For a stroke patient, a “smart” prosthesis must be able to interpret what the person means to do even as the person’s own body corrupts their actions (due to muscle spasms or tremors.) The algorithm may make it possible for a device to discern the person’s intent and help them complete the task smoothly.

“We call it a psychic robot,” Horowitz said. “If you know how someone is moving and what the disturbance is, you can tell the underlying intent — which means we could use this algorithm to design machines that could correct the course of a swerving car or help a stroke patient with spasticity.”

James Patton, professor of bioengineering, is principal investigator on the PLOS ONE research article. The study was performed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and supported by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grant NS053606.

Monarch butterflies a lesson in natural sustainability


UIC Heritage Garden interns learned how to attract and grow monarch butterflies.

Summer has flown — and with it the last of UIC’s home-grown monarch butterflies, on its way to Mexico.

The butterflies were raised in the UIC Heritage Garden, an ecology and sustainability-focused internship program that creates and maintains gardens on campus.

The garden received a $5,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service International Program to develop and maintain a monarch butterfly habitat this summer. The monarch population has been declining for the last 20 years due to deforestation, prairie destruction and pesticides in North America and Mexico.

Rosa Cabrera, director of the Latino Cultural Center, said the butterflies fit the garden’s themes — environmental sustainability and social justice.

“We use monarch butterflies as a metaphor because they cross borders every year,” Cabrera said.

“The monarch butterflies have two aspects: human rights, social justice and immigration. And they’re an endangered species here in the Midwest because their habitat has been diminishing.

“This is really helping the students and the UIC community think about sustainability and how we can do something to mitigate the problem,” she said. Heritage Garden interns planted milkweed and nectar flowers outside the Latino Cultural Center and Lecture Center B to attract, shelter and keep monarchs safe from predators.

The plants drew butterflies to lay eggs in the garden. Students collected the eggs, cared for and watched the insects grow for over a month. They raised eight butterflies — a good number, considering the low success rate for butterfly eggs that survive into adulthood. Each butterfly was set free in a release ceremony after its wing was banded with an identification sticker for tracking over the annual migration to Mexico. Stickers were provided by Monarch Watch, an organization that restores monarch habitats and populations. Heritage Garden is registered as a certified monarch butterfly watcher with the organization.

Before the release, interns logged data for Monarch Watch, including gender and the place and date of release. “Wherever they go, if someone finds them, that person contacts Monarch Watch and then we see where they travel. So we’re able to track the migration to see if they actually made it to Mexico,” said Tania Sosa, a junior studying psychology.

“In the wild, monarch butterflies produce about 300 eggs,” said Jocelyn Mungia Chavez, a junior majoring in psychology.

“So their release isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning,” Chen added.

UIC Awarded $1.5 million for Asian American Student Campus Initiative

Asian GrantThe University of Illinois at Chicago has received a five-year, $1.5 million grant to boost academic and social support services for Asian American and Pacific Islander undergraduate students.

The grant, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution program, will fund supplemental tutoring, academically-integrated mentorship and internship opportunities with on- and off-campus partners.

UIC is the only Midwest grantee among the 10 institutions selected for the latest round of funding. Since 2010, UIC has received three federal grants totaling $5.6 million to serve this segment of students.

“The latest funding builds on the successes of both previous grants to provide more academic tutoring as well as mentorship for students through Asian American studies curriculum and the Asian American Mentor Program,” said Karen Su, principal investigator for the grant, which will establish the UIC Pipeline for Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Success (UIC PASS).

The first Department of Education grant totaled $2.1 million since 2010 and led to the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution Initiative at UIC, for which Su is also principal investigator/project director. That award, which concludes later this month, has enhanced the Asian American studies program and the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, and funded research on the experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander undergraduates at UIC.

The second grant, received in 2011, totaled $2 million and runs through next September. It supports programs in academic and writing skills development, college preparation, career advancement and financial aid.

“Many of UIC’s Asian American and Pacific Islander students are English language learners, children of immigrants, first-generation college students, and low-income,” said Su, clinical assistant professor of Asian American studies. “These grants provide significant resources for the university’s ongoing support of at-risk students in key areas such as recruitment, retention and graduation.”

To be eligible for funds through the Department of Education’s program, an institution must be a designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institution and its undergraduate enrollment must be at least 10 percent Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander at the time of submission. In addition, at least half of the institution’s degree-seeking students must be eligible to receive federal Pell grants.

This fall, more than 22 percent of UIC’s undergraduates identify as either Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander, and about half of its undergraduates are Pell grant recipients.

“UIC’s status as a national leader among urban, public higher education institutions in providing access and programs for underserved students is further enhanced by the Department of Education’s latest funding,” said Tyrone Forman, associate chancellor and vice provost for diversity.

UIC is federally recognized as a Minority Serving Institution through its status as a funded Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution.

‘Stop the Hate’ Community Event on October 20th

Stop the Hate

Connecting4Communities Marathon Cheering Station


Last year’s Connecting4Communities cheering stand encouraged runners to dig deep for those last few miles.

Connecting4Communities is sponsoring the cheering station for the Chicago Marathon, October 11th, from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Taylor and Morgan, in the heart of the University Of Illinois Chicago campus.

DJ, Rupert Medina will be playing music to keep the runners going as they start to hit the wall and loose energy close to mile marker 17.5. Come out and cheer on the runners and rock out with the music. Come early to see the elite runners and the wheelchair participants.

Connecting4Communities is focused on building a vibrant and effective community by offering an organizing vehicle to connect people of like minds together who want to make a positive impact on issues of mutual concern.

More information about Connecting4Communities at:


Eat Well, Live Well

A new food voucher program, a partnership with Neighbor Capital and a medical student’s project bring fresh fruits to patients at University of Illinois Hospital.