Monthly archives: July, 2016

Foundation Support Empowering Communities

UIC, Chicago’s largest public research university, recently thanked the foundations that are helping to drive change by empowering communities.

CASL offers Chef Training Program, Enroll Now

CASL Logo 1The Chinese American Service League is offering a Chef Training Program on western-style cooking instruction and Vocational English as Second Language (VESL), equipping students with knowledge and skills for entry level food service industry—including major hotels, institutions and restaurants.

The program includes follow-up services for retention assistance for up to 6 months. Chef Training Program is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher EducationThe next session runs 9/6/16 to 12/23/16.

VESL training will be two weeks prior 8/22/16 to 9/2/16.

For more details, or an application, on this CASL program, click HERE.

New Procedure That Helps Prevent Stroke

UIH_primary_logo_notext_1cThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is offering a new procedure that helps prevent stroke and significantly improves quality of life for patients with atrial fibrillation who can’t be treated with a blood thinner.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart quivers or beats irregularly, allowing blood clots to develop in the heart. These blood clots can dislodge and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. People with atrial fibrillation have a five-fold increased risk of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

“Atrial fibrillation is a manageable condition, but for patients who are not candidates for normal treatments, stroke is a serious risk and top concern,” says Dr. Adhir Shroff, associate professor of cardiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and physician at UI Health.

In the new, minimally invasive procedure, physicians access the heart through a vein in the leg and implant a device that permanently seals off a small section of the heart in which clots form and enter the bloodstream.

“With this new treatment, we are able to help an increasing number of patients reduce their risk of stroke from AFib and experience a profound improvement in their quality of life,” said Dr. Henry Huang, assistant clinical professor of cardiology at UIC and physician at UI Health, who leads the UIC team implanting the devices.

Patients are able to return home and resume normal activity the next day and are not limited by the lifestyle and dietary restrictions that blood-thinning medications require.

Huang notes that the patients most likely to benefit from this treatment are the frail, the elderly, those with other conditions, and those whose professions or lifestyle make them poor candidates for blood-thinning medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that anywhere from 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation and that the condition contributes to approximately 130,000 deaths each year. With the aging of the population, the CDC expects the number of cases to increase.

For more information about the department of cardiology at UI health visit:

By  Jacqueline Carey

UIC Alumn Curtis Granderson Hosts Annual Baseball Camp for Park District Youth

Granderson.Curtis007-590x393More than 150 kids ran onto Les Miller Field on July 20th, excitedly slipping off their bags before joining Major League Baseball All-Star Curtis Granderson on the turf.

“Bring your hands in,” shouted Granderson, an outfielder for the New York Mets and a UIC baseball alumnus.

Cheers kicked off the third annual Grand Kids All Star Camp, which hosts youth from the Chicago Park District Summer Camp program for Grand Kids Baseball 101: introductory baseball skills and techniques.

The camp takes place at UIC’s Curtis Granderson Stadium, which was funded by a $5 million donation from the three-time All Star, and is organized by the Grand Kids Foundation, a nonprofit Granderson founded to provide educational, physical fitness and nutritional tools and resources for positive development and advancement of youth.

Poser has been a Mets fan for decades; Granderson is one of her favorite players.“Curtis is a Major League Baseball player, but he still stands for what we stand for, which is community outreach and providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise have those opportunities,” UIC Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Poser said.

“He’s a wonderful ambassador for UIC, and he is mission-central to what we do,” she said.

The young baseball players learned about slugging, throwing, pitching and more, with help from UIC coaches, students and professional players.

“Most kids don’t get to experience this,” said Brandon Marshall, an outfielder for the UIC baseball team. “It really gets them out to learn and to play baseball.”

Granderson also gave kids a tour of the campus and talked about the importance of getting an education.

“[Education] gives you the ability to task, time manage, to understand failure — how to pick up from it, to ask for help. All of those different things have helped me out in my professional career,” he said. “I’m in a position where I can hopefully just guide these kids…and, last but not least, keep them having fun.”

By Francisca Corona

Helping Police Respond To People With Mental Illness


Associate Professor Amy Watson

What happens when a police officer is dispatched on a call of disturbing the peace?  What happens when, upon arrival, the officer encounters someone experiencing a mental health crisis? Amy Watson, PhD, is conducting research to explore the options.

Recent media headlines have illustrated the tragic results when these interactions go poorly. What many people do not realize is that social workers, in conjunction with others working in the mental health and criminal justice systems, advocates and other community stakeholders, have developed a model for improving police response to mental health crisis. The Crisis Intervention Team Model (CIT) includes training police to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness and de-escalate crisis situations; local partnerships between law enforcement, mental health service providers and other community stakeholders; and changes to policies and procedures.

Faculty researcher, Associate Professor Amy Watson, has been involved with the Chicago Police Department CIT program since its inception. Through a field placement with the Mental Health Association, Watson made connections that allowed her to contribute to the pilot Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) project in Chicago. Since that time, she has conducted several federally funded studies of the program. Her work with CIT earned her the Young Researcher of the Year Award from NAMI Chicago and in 2013, the Researcher of the Year Award from CIT International.

The goals of the CIT model are to increase safety in police encounters and prevent the unnecessary incarceration of individuals with mental illnesses by diverting them from the criminal justice system to the mental health system. These programs have become increasingly popular, but little research has been performed to determine how and under what conditions CIT interventions are effective for improving linkages to services and the longer-term outcomes for those referred to mental health services. After a first successful study involving four districts of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the current phase of Professor Watson’s research involves police in all 22 districts of the CPD and examines the complex relationships between the availability of mental health services community characteristics and officer training. It concentrates on the short- and long-term outcomes of encounters between persons with serious mental illnesses and police officers. The major variables under study are whether the officer responding to a call and involving an individual with a serious mental illness has had CIT training, the availability of the mental health services, in the area of the encounter, and the outcomes for the person with mental illness as measured at regular intervals over a one-year period following the police encounter.

Watson’s study is expected to determine the immediate and longer term mental health and criminal justice outcomes for persons with serious mental illness and whether, and the degree to which, these depend on CIT-trained officers and availability of nearby mental health services. Findings from the preliminary study indicate that CIT-trained officers tended to use less force as subject resistance increases in mental health interactions. Thus, it appears that CIT trained officers are better able to de-escalate encounters with persons experiencing mental health crises. Watson also found that these officers were more likely to try to link people to services either by providing them transport or assisting them in contacting their mental health provider.

The other variable, the availability of interventions, is still under study. The city has 11 or 12 designated drop-off points for adults and a couple that are designated for youth where police officers bring individuals in need of emergency psychiatric evaluation. These drop off sites are emergency departments that provide assessment and acute stabilization, sometimes followed by admission to an inpatient psychiatric unit.

“What we are finding is a need for additional options for officers to direct people to, such as a crisis triage or mental health respite centers, in addition to more community based mental health services in general,” said Watson.

Eleven UIC Students Named Schweitzer Fellows

Schweitzer-Logo-without-Tagling-387x258Eleven University of Illinois at Chicago students have been awarded Schweitzer fellowships, a service learning program for health professional students committed to helping Chicago’s underserved.

The students will each design and implement year-long projects to improve health and access to care. Named in honor of humanitarian and Nobel Laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the fellowship encourages exceptional students in health and human service fields to serve the most vulnerable members of society, including the uninsured, immigrants, the homeless, returning veterans, minorities and the working poor.

The 11 UIC award winners will each receive a $2,000 honorarium and perform 200 hours of direct service in a community setting during their year-long project. Since 1996, 524 Schweitzer Fellows have provided more than 104,000 hours of service to Chicago’s vulnerable communities. Thirty-one students were honored for 2016-17.

Karen Aguirre will develop a pipeline program to promote healthcare careers among low income Latinx high school students from the Back of the Yards neighborhood. A student in the School of Public Health, Aguirre will provide education on current health disparities in communities of color within Chicago, professional development, and healthy behaviors, with the goal of empowering minority students to pursue higher education.

A student in the College of Medicine, Andrew Florin proposes to address early childhood literacy with an after-school program for first, second and third grade children of low-income Latinx families in West Town. The program, to be held in the Erie Neighborhood House, will serve to strengthen reading skills, foster a lifelong passion for reading and provide a positive impact through guidance and mentorship.

Madison Hammett proposes to create a support program for both incarcerated mothers and their children’s caregivers. The program, to be held at the Cabrini Green Legal Aid, will be coupled with referrals to social services and serve to strengthen the communication and relationships between mothers and families, as well as help to prevent recidivism in the criminal legal system. Hammett is a student in the Jane Addams College of Social Work/School of Public Health.

Amy Krischer will implement joint parent-child programming at Family Rescue, an organization dedicated to eliminating domestic violence. The programming will introduce parents and children to meaningful activities they can participate in together to form healthy attachments, as well as create a safe space for parent and child survivors of domestic violence. Krischer is a student in the department of occupational therapy.

College of Medicine student JJ Locquiao will co-direct the Young Doctors Program, a health care pipeline program for children in the Lawndale Christian Family Health Center originally created in 2010 by a Schweitzer Fellow and sustained and expanded by subsequent Schweitzer Fellows and UIC medical students. Locquiao plans to further expand the program to include academic and ACT/SAT tutoring for high school students, as well as advising them with their college application and interviewing process.

Nursing student Wendy Mironov will partner with the grass roots group Salud Sin Papeles to improve health and access to health care for undocumented immigrants, their families and their communities. She will collaborate on educational materials and workshops for undocumented patients and providers based on the experiences, insights, and challenges encountered by undocumented patients in Chicago.

Alyson Moser plans to create and implement an adult literacy and job readiness program at Oakley Square Apartments. The program will focus on helping participants prepare for the GED test, writing resumes and cover letters, and developing career goals. Moser is a student in the School of Public Health and the Jane Addams College of Social Work.

A student in the College of Dentistry and School of Public Health, Gabija Revis will create an oral health component for the extensive training program used to teach caregivers of medically-complex children and health professionals at Almost Home Kids, a facility for children being moved out of a hospital’s intensive care unit.

Alisa Jordan Sheth, a student in disability studies, will work with older adults with intellectual disabilities to collaboratively develop an accessible curriculum and group format to help participants define successful aging for themselves and address future planning needs. The sessions, to be held at Misericordia Heart of Mercy, aims to provide social learning and self-advocacy opportunities around health literacy, aging and other member-identified needs.

College of Nursing student Karie Elizabeth Stewart proposes to initiate prenatal classes and education for pregnant African-American and Hispanic mothers at PCC Wellness Austin Family Health Clinic in the Austin neighborhood. The classes and education will be initiated through the utilization of Centering Pregnancy. Her goal is to increase the number of patients that seek prenatal care earlier in their pregnancy.

Dental student Jessica Williams will work with underserved adults at free medical clinic Ravenswood Community Services to develop a curriculum that promotes oral health literacy. She will host educational seminars in an effort to address the oral health knowledge gaps of the local senior community.

By Sam Hostettler

Breakthrough Research: New Solar Cell Makes Fuel out of Carbon Dioxide

Solar Cell

Amin Salehi-Khojin (left), UIC assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Asadi with their breakthrough solar cell that converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into syngas.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.

The finding is reported in the July 29 issue ofScience and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. A provisional patent application has been filed.

Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once. A solar farm of such “artificial leaves” could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently.

“The new solar cell is not photovoltaic — it’s photosynthetic,” says Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study.

“Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight,” he said.

While plants produce fuel in the form of sugar, the artificial leaf delivers syngas, or synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be burned directly, or converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels.

The ability to turn CO2 into fuel at a cost comparable to a gallon of gasoline would render fossil fuels obsolete.

Chemical reactions that convert CO2 into burnable forms of carbon are called reduction reactions, the opposite of oxidation or combustion. Engineers have been exploring different catalysts to drive CO2 reduction, but so far such reactions have been inefficient and rely on expensive precious metals such as silver, Salehi-Khojin said.

“What we needed was a new family of chemicals with extraordinary properties,” he said.

Solar Cell 2

Simulated sunlight powers a solar cell that converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into syngas.

Salehi-Khojin and his coworkers focused on a family of nano-structured compounds called transition metal dichalcogenides — or TMDCs — as catalysts, pairing them with an unconventional ionic liquid as the electrolyte inside a two-compartment, three-electrode electrochemical cell.

The best of several catalysts they studied turned out to be nanoflake tungsten diselenide.

“The new catalyst is more active; more able to break carbon dioxide’s chemical bonds,” said UIC postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Asadi, first author on the Science paper.

In fact, he said, the new catalyst is 1,000 times faster than noble-metal catalysts — and about 20 times cheaper.

Other researchers have used TMDC catalysts to produce hydrogen by other means, but not by reduction of CO2. The catalyst couldn’t survive the reaction.

“The active sites of the catalyst get poisoned and oxidized,” Salehi-Khojin said. The breakthrough, he said, was to use an ionic fluid called ethyl-methyl-imidazolium tetrafluoroborate, mixed 50-50 with water.

“The combination of water and the ionic liquid makes a co-catalyst that preserves the catalyst’s active sites under the harsh reduction reaction conditions,” Salehi-Khojin said.

The UIC artificial leaf consists of two silicon triple-junction photovoltaic cells of 18 square centimeters to harvest light; the tungsten diselenide and ionic liquid co-catalyst system on the cathode side; and cobalt oxide in potassium phosphate electrolyte on the anode side.

When light of 100 watts per square meter – about the average intensity reaching the Earth’s surface – energizes the cell, hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas bubble up from the cathode, while free oxygen and hydrogen ions are produced at the anode.

“The hydrogen ions diffuse through a membrane to the cathode side, to participate in the carbon dioxide reduction reaction,” said Asadi.

The technology should be adaptable not only to large-scale use, like solar farms, but also to small-scale applications, Salehi-Khojin said. In the future, he said, it may prove useful on Mars, whose atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, if the planet is also found to have water.

“This work has benefitted from the significant history of NSF support for basic research that feeds directly into valuable technologies and engineering achievements,” said NSF program director Robert McCabe.

“The results nicely meld experimental and computational studies to obtain new insight into the unique electronic properties of transition metal dichalcogenides,” McCabe said. “The research team has combined this mechanistic insight with some clever electrochemical engineering to make significant progress in one of the grand-challenge areas of catalysis as related to energy conversion and the environment.”

“Nanostructured transition metal dichalcogenide electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction in ionic liquid” is online at or by contacting

Co-authors with Asadi and Salehi-Khojin are Kibum Kim, Aditya Venkata Addepalli, Pedram Abbasi, Poya Yasaei, Amirhossein Behranginia, Bijandra Kumar and Jeremiah Abiade of UIC’s mechanical and industrial engineering department, who performed the electrochemical experiments and prepared the catalyst under NSF contract CBET-1512647; Robert F. Klie and Patrick Phillips of UIC’s physics department, who performed electron microscopy and spectroscopy experiments; Larry A. Curtiss, Cong Liu and Peter Zapol of Argonne National Laboratory, who did Density Functional Theory calculations under DOE contract DE-ACO206CH11357; Richard Haasch of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who did ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy; and José M. Cerrato of the University of New Mexico, who did elemental analysis.

By Bill Burton

University Round Table to Host College Day Fair


The University Round Table, an association of colleges and universities in Chicago, is hosting a College Day Fair from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, July 29th, , at  Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W Cermak Rd, in Chicago. The event is in connection with the annual Fiesta del Sol street festival running through the weekend.

The College Fair will feature workshops, information, and resources to prepare for a path to college and beyond.

Parent are encouraged to attend.  Translation in Spanish will be available.

Contact the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council at (312)666-2663 for more details or register online here  



UIC biological sciences student Goldwater Scholar


Deborah Park

A University of Illinois at Chicago undergraduate student focused on cancer research has been recognized for her academic achievement by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation.

Deborah Park, a senior majoring in biological sciences in the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is the latest UIC student to receive the prominent $7,500 scholarship that will cover tuition, books and related fees during the 2016-17 academic year.

More than 250 recipients in mathematics, science and engineering were selected from a field of 1,150 qualified nominees for the Goldwater scholarship, named for the late Republican senator from Arizona.

Park, a member of the UIC Honors College and the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA) in medicine, has conducted research with Dr. Guofei Zhou, assistant professor of pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine, on biomarkers for early detection of malignant lung cancer and potential treatments for metastatic tumors in lung cancers.

Her professional goal is to be a physician-scientist with an active laboratory in the field of cancer biology with a focus on metastasis, the spread of cancer cells within the body.

“The prospect of uncovering the mechanisms within cancer metastasis in order to develop novel methods for early cancer detection and future therapeutic strategies is captivating,” says Park, a resident of Deerfield, Illinois. “Patients with metastatic cancer have particularly poor survival, making tumor metastasis the leading cause of cancer. If we could uncover the pathways behind cancer metastasis, we could potentially turn a systemic disease into a localized and treatable one.”

Through an internship and the Cancer Research Training Award at the National Institutes of Health, Park is spending the summer studying cancer metastasis alongside Dr. Christina Stuelten at the Center for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.

Other notable awards for Park, a 2014 graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy, include the Great Lakes National STEM scholarship and the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2016-17 Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Scholar Award for Undergraduate Students.

Park is the recipient of multiple university honors and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Last year, she was among 10 students selected to represent UIC during University of Illinois Undergraduate Research Day in Springfield, where students present their research to Illinois lawmakers to demonstrate the importance of undergraduate research.

She serves as chief communications officer for the Journal for Young Investigators, a peer-reviewed online publication featuring undergraduate scientific research from around the world.

By Brian Flood

Pyro Paddlers Make A Splash

UIC’s dragon boat team stays in sync during summer competitions.