Monthly archives: September, 2016

UIC Chemical Engineering Education

The Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Illinois at Chicago provides students with cutting-edge research opportunities, transformative educational growth and professional development. Department faculty and industrial partners mentor students to become leaders in the diverse areas of chemical engineering, including pharmaceutical, environment, nanotechnology, complex fluids, microelectronics, energy, and biomedical engineering, among others. The department also organizes special programs to train students with soft skills needed for professional development and career advancement.

To learn mor, visit the UIC College of Engineering here.

ArtReach Hosts 5-Alarm Chili Cook-Off Oct. 23rd


Join ArtReach for the first annual Chili Cook-off to support youth programming at the Firehouse. Chicago chefs will put their tried-and-true recipes to the test for guest judges and a grand prize. Admission includes tastings of several delicious chilis, a one-of-a-kind handmade bowl, beer, musical entertainment and glass and ceramic demos – not to mention great company and a great cause!

The Firehouse Art Studio, located at 1123 W. Roosevelt Road,  is a collaborative community art space shared by Art Reach and Firehouse Glass Studio that brings fire-based art programming, from ceramics to glass blowing, to residents of all ages and abilities. A full 100 percent of ticket and raffle proceeds will support after school programming at the Firehouse, which benefit local Chicago Public School students.

To purchase event tickets, or to join the cook-off competition, please see our entry requirements here:

For questions about ArtReach, please contact the organization at 773-907-0841

UI Health To Open Mile Square Health Center in Drake School in Bronzeville

UI HealthThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System will renovate and operate a new federally-qualified, school-based health center at Bronzeville’s John B. Drake Elementary School in 2017.

The Drake Health & Wellness Center will serve approximately 400 students, including students from Drake Elementary, nearby schools, and Dearborn Homes, one of the last remaining public housing communities of the former State Street corridor. The center will become the 13th in UI Health’s Mile Square network of federally qualified health centers.

At a press conference Sept. 23 at Drake Elementary, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, State Sen. Mattie Hunter and Alderman Pat Dowel joined representatives from UI Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Public Schools and the community to announce the new school-based center, which is funded in part by revenue from the city’s new e-cigarette tax.

“From passing a series of reforms to curb youth smoking, to increasing access to health care for children and families citywide, we are making investments that will help our kids across the city to grow up healthy,” Emanuel said in a news release. “Using revenue derived from our tax on e-cigarettes allows us to double-down on our commitment to our children’s health, funding new opportunities for families to access healthcare at no cost, and parents to get their children critical healthcare so that they can be successful in school.”

Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC, said the new center embodies the University’s longstanding mission to reduce health disparities in Chicago’s underserved populations.

“UI Health has a strong commitment to improve health care delivery and health equity across Chicago,” Barish said. “The Drake Health & Wellness Center expands our reach into a neighborhood disproportionately burdened by serious health risks and with limited access to health care options.

“The city’s commitment to funding school-based clinics with e-cigarette tax revenue is an innovative approach to reducing health risk and disparity in Chicago, and I am excited that UIC is involved in the initiative,” said Barish.

The new health center will outfit existing space at the school.

Dr. Cynthia Barnes-Boyd, senior director of community engagement and neighborhood health partnerships and senior director of the Mile Square Health Center school-based health practice at UIC, said the health center will provide comprehensive care including acute and chronic illness management, nutrition services, and referral to the university’s hospital system for diagnostic and specialty care.

“We are very proud to expand our reach to the community and offer a range of services to children and families that include immunizations, physical exams, sports physicals, reproductive health care and behavioral health support,” Boyd said.

The Drake Health & Wellness Center joins 32 other school-based centers across Chicago and is one of five school-based centers operated by UI Health Mile Square.

The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is a public, academic medical center committed to providing the highest quality care for all patients and reducing health disparities. Located in the Illinois Medical District on Chicago’s West Side, UI Health is a leader in patient care, research and education, and serves as the primary teaching facility for the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, the largest medical school in the U.S. The system includes seven health sciences colleges, a 495-bed hospital, the 101-bed Children’s Hospital of the University of Illinois, an outpatient care center and 12 federally-qualified Mile Square Health Centers located throughout Chicago, including the Mile Square Urgent Care Center.

For more information on UI Health, Mile Square Health Center, or the center’s school-based clinics, visit

By Jackie Carey

Chicago Latino Artchive and Latino Art Now! unveiled at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Two new web-based projects showcasing past and present Latino art in Chicago will be introduced during a special presentation from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on October 6th, at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street, in Chicago, by the Inter-University Program for Latino Research IUPLR, a national Latino research consortium based at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Artists, collectors, curators, scholars and community members are invited to celebrate the launch of the Chicago Latino ArTchive and the Latino Art Now! Chicago Virtual Gallery.

The projects, developed by the UIC-based IUPLR, will go live at the event and aim to serve as research and educational tools for a variety of users.

The Chicago Latino ArTchive is an online catalog of images and information on Latino artists who have worked in Chicago since the early 20th century. In addition to image galleries, biographies, artists’ statements and related website links, users will be able to sort information by artist name, country of origin, gender, decade, art form or theme.

The Chicago Latino ArTchive was backed by a $40,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

The Latino Art Now! Chicago Virtual Gallery, which is a collaborative project between IUPLR and the Smithsonian Latino Center, features 40 artworks by 35 Latino artists whose careers are linked to the city of Chicago. The virtual gallery explores artistic issues, contexts, meanings, visuals and historical underpinnings, in addition to artists’ engagement with identity, community, public art and the urban space. As a resource for high school teachers, the site’s bilingual toolkit features lesson plans that help to incorporate different artwork and artists’ experiences into curricula.

LANCVG-logo-390x86Development of the Chicago Virtual Gallery was supported by a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Admission is free to the reception, which includes food and refreshments. Online registration is required by Sept. 30. For more information, call (312) 413-3892.

Founded in 1983, IUPLR aims to promote policy-focused research and advance the Latino intellectual presence in the U.S. The group supports research and programs that foster greater understanding of U.S. Latinos in politics, economics, culture, art, history and immigration. IUPLR has been based at UIC since 2013.

By Brian Flood

Brain Disruptions Similar In Many Emotional Disorders

Dr. Scott Langenecker, Dr. Olusola Ajilore and Lisanne Jenkins pose in front of an image of the brain in UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Photo: Vibhu Rangavasan.

Dr. Scott Langenecker, Dr. Olusola Ajilore and Lisanne Jenkins pose in front of an image of the brain in UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory. Photo: Vibhu Rangavasan.

Researchers have long known that emotional disorders have a lot in common. Many often occur together, like depression and social anxiety disorder. Treatments also tend to work across multiple disorders, suggesting shared underlying elements. But perhaps the most common shared characteristic is that almost all emotional disorders involve persistent negative thinking.

In an analysis of existing studies that used MRI images to study the brain’s white matter, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago describe common brain abnormalities found in multiple emotional disorders. Their findings are published in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical.

“This study provides important insights into mechanisms shared across multiple emotional disorders, and could provide us with biomarkers that can be used to more rapidly diagnose these disorders,” says Dr. Scott Langenecker, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology in the UIC College of Medicine and senior author of the paper. Those disorders, he said, can sometimes take many years to be diagnosed accurately.

The most common difference in white matter structure that Langenecker’s group found — present in every emotional disorder they looked at — was disruption in a region of the brain that connects different parts of the “default-mode network,” which is responsible for passive thoughts not focused on a particular task. That area is the left superior longitudinal fasciculus. The superior longitudinal fasciculus, or SLF, also connects the default-mode network and the cognitive control network, which is important in task-based thinking and planning and tends to work in alternation with the default-mode network.

The constant negative thoughts or ruminations associated with most emotional disorders appear to be due to a hyperactive default-mode network, Langenecker said.

“If the part of the brain that helps rein in the default-mode network isn’t as well-connected through the SLF, this could explain why people with emotional disorders have such a hard time modulating or gaining control of their negative thoughts,” he said.

The researchers systematically searched the scientific literature for studies that performed whole-brain “diffusion tensor” imaging on adults with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder, as well as healthy control participants. Thirty-seven studies met those criteria and included a combined 962 participants with emotional disorders and 892 healthy control subjects.

The researchers then performed a meta-analysis to determine which white-matter alterations may be common across multiple mood disorders and which are unique for a particular mood disorder. White matter includes the long nerve fibers called axons that transmit electrical signals.

Diffusion tensor imaging, or DTI, measures the degree to which water molecules move in one direction rather than randomly diffusing in all directions. It provides “an indirect measurement of the microstructure of white matter, and can give information about connectivity of different parts of the brain,” said Lisanne Jenkins, postdoctoral research fellow in psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine and first author on the paper.

“If you think of white matter as the highways of the brain, connecting all the different regions and networks,” Jenkins said, an area with highly directional water movement “could be a major superhighway where all the cars are moving along quickly with little traffic.” An area with less-directed water movement could be “a two-lane road, with several exits and stop signs, maybe even some potholes, which slow down traffic.”

Brain regions connected by these slower pathways “may not communicate as well as they would in someone where this road looks more like a superhighway,” said Dr. Olusola Ajilore, associate professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine and a co-author on the paper.

In the 37 studies the researchers looked at, participants with emotional disorders had less directed water movement in their white matter compared to participants who did not have emotional disorders.

One of the most surprising findings to Langenecker was that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder shared the most brain abnormalities with people with other emotional disorders.

“We would have expected … OCD to look very different from other emotional disorders, because the symptoms are so unique and distinct,” Langenecker said. “But this kind of flips how we see OCD, which clearly has more in common with other emotional disorders than we think.”

The traditional diagnosis for OCD, he said, is repetitive thoughts about specific objects or tasks — thoughts that pertain to the world outside the self. The thoughts can also be internally-directed.

“Other emotional disorders, like depression, social anxiety, and panic disorder — the repetitive thoughts are directed at the self,” Ajilore said. “So our finding that OCD is more like the other emotional disorders makes sense, and we may now be able to further examine commonalities between these disorders that could improve our treatment of them individually.”

The disorder that stood out and shared the fewest white-matter characteristics with the others was post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is triggered by a traumatic event and involves being reminded of that event at unwelcome times, not unlike the repetitive negative thinking in other emotional disorders. But people with PTSD had several areas of low white-matter connectivity that weren’t seen in the other emotional disorders, Langenecker said.

“While milder forms of trauma is common in other conditions, like major depression or generalized anxiety, it is possible that the brain regions we saw that were distinctly affected in PTSD participants are related to the experience of severe trauma or the re-experiencing of that trauma,” he said.

In bipolar disorder, characterized by periods of both depression and mania, the researchers saw generally decreased water-directionality in the right side of the brain, including the right SLF, the area that connects the default-mode network and the cognitive control network.

“All emotional disorders had disruptions more so in the left hemisphere, but for bipolar disorder, we saw disruptions in white matter in both the right and left sides of the brain,” Langenecker said.

Older studies of stroke patients have shown that abnormalities in the right hemisphere are associated with externally-focused symptoms, like mania, while left hemisphere involvement — which the current study found in most emotional disorders — was more often associated with inwardly-focused symptoms, like depression. Langenecker said the bilateral changes his team observed in bipolar disorder may reflect vulnerability to mania and to depression and anxiety.

Alyssa Barba, Miranda Campbell, Melissa Lamar, Stewart Shankman and Dr. Alex Leow, all of UIC, are the remaining co-authors on the paper.

By Sharon Parmet

Junfeng Wu Named Greenleaf Scholar

Junfeng WuJunfeng Wu, a PhD student from the UIC Business Organizational Behavior/Human Resources program, has been selected as a 2016 Greenleaf Scholar by the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Wu will receive financial support from the Greenleaf Center, as well as inclusion in the Center’s Annual International Conference and the National Forum.

Wu, who came to UIC from Renmin University in Beijing, approaches leadership research through the dynamics of shared perspectives among members of a group. His work explores the impact of servant leadership on group creativity and the trade-offs between group coordination and perspectival convergence among individuals.

Wu will join UIC Business alumnus Jeremy Meuser, PhD ’16, who was also selected as a 2016 Greenleaf Scholar. Meuser, whose background includes degrees in engineering and philosophy, will continue his research on differential leader treatment and employee identification.

Learn more about the Greenleaf Center and the 2016 Greenleaf Scholars here.

Chicago Latino Caucus Meets With UIC Leadership

Latino caucus

Chicago City Council Latino caucus members visit UIC: Pictured (l-r): Aldermen Danny Solis, Ariel Reboyras, George Cardenas; UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis; Alderman Rey Lopez; UI Trustee Ric Estrada.

Members of the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus met with University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis, U of I trustees, and other university officials on Oct. 22nd to discuss how Latinos are performing at UIC, Chicago’s largest university, and to explore ways of creating more working partnerships to help the institution do even more for the communities it serves.

Amiridis said UIC could be the gateway for the development of the West Side and nearby communities such as Pilsen, Chinatown, and North Lawndale.

Alderman George Cardenas of the 12th Ward, chair of the Latino caucus, said his members will create a scholarship fund to help Latino students succeed at UIC and other area universities, including those who are undocumented.

With U of I trustees Ricardo Estrada and Ray Cepeda in attendance, Amiridis addressed key issues related to the Latino experience at UIC, including enrollment and graduation rates and faculty recruitment and retention.

From 2000 to 2009, UIC’s Latino graduation rate steadily climbed by 14 percentage points, to 54 percent, Amiridis said, citing the most recent six-year cohort data, a national standard for graduation-rate comparison of colleges.

“The graduation gap is now about 13 percentage points between Latinos and the general student population,” Amiridis said, adding that the University is working to reduce that gap by focusing on the numerous reasons students drop out, with financial issues being among the top causes.

Amiridis said help is needed from Springfield, as UIC has received only about half of its state allocation under this year’s stop-gap budget.

UIC set a new record enrollment this fall with a total of 29,120 students. Latinos in the incoming undergraduate class numbered 1,272, or 38.5 percent of all freshmen.

The overall student body continues to reflect UIC’s commitment to diversity, with a makeup that is 36.2 percent white, 22.6 percent Latino, 18.6 percent Asian, and 8 percent African American.

By Miguel Alba

All-Star Baseball Clinic at UIC

More than 150 kids ran onto Les Miller Field this summer, excitedly slipping off their bags before joining Major League Baseball All-Star Curtis Granderson on the turf.

Can Olive Oil And Wine Help Us Think Better?


Dr. Marian Fitzgibbon, deputy director of the Institute for Health Research and Policy

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health received a $3.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study the effect of the Mediterranean diet and weight loss on cognitive function in obese older adults.

The study, which is led by the school’s Institute for Health Research and Policy, will follow a group of 180 ethnically diverse men and women for eight months to determine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet—with and without weight loss—improves performance on cognitive tasks, such as memory and attention. Dr. Marian Fitzgibbon, deputy director of the IHRP and professor of pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine, is principal investigator on the study.

“We know there is an association between obesity and cognitive decline, but we do not know the extent to which changes in diet can lead to better cognitive health,” Fitzgibbon says. “By looking at the Mediterranean diet in a randomized, controlled clinical trial, we will be able to learn if diet is the driver of improved cognitive function, or if the mechanism is the combination of diet and weight loss.”

The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fatty acids and modest alcohol consumption — usually wine — with meals. Previous studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to be associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. But there have been no randomized, controlled trials to determine causality or suggest specific clinical recommendations.

“Identifying lifestyle-based interventions that could delay the onset of cognitive decline is a critical public health priority,” Fitzgibbon said, because there are no drug treatments to offset the mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s. An effective dietary approach, she said, would be “an incredible boon for people as they age and look for ways to prevent or slow the onset of cognitive decline.”

Co-investigator Dr. Melissa Lamar, director of cognitive aging and vascular health at UI Health and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine, says cognitive neurodegeneration and the risk of dementia is a significant challenge in the U.S. and worldwide, particularly when it comes to minority groups in the U.S.

More than 20 percent of older adults exhibit signs of cognitive impairment, and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans over 65 is approximately twice that of non-Hispanic whites. The prevalence in Hispanics is approximately 50 percent greater than in whites.

To participate in the study, obese adults 55 and older will undergo an initial screen and baseline measurements, both physical and cognitive, before being randomized into one of three groups. One group will be assigned to follow the Mediterranean diet with active weight loss strategies; another group will be assigned to follow the Mediterranean diet without attempting to lose weight; and a third group will serve as a control and not make any dietary changes. During the eight-month trial, participants assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet will attend group intervention sessions and classes through the Chicago Park District that focus on changing lifestyle patterns.

Researchers will conduct an assessment of physical and cognitive health at the end of the trial and a follow-up assessment six months later. Both assessments will be compared with the baseline to determine if cognitive function has improved.

Fitzgibbon and Lamar will work with UIC College of Medicine colleagues Drs. Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, Marcelo Bonini, Giamila Fantuzzi and John Tulley.

Casa Central Celebrates Annual Awards Gala

Save the Date 2016Casa Central, a social service agency, helps transforms lives and offers community support, with a special focus on Hispanics. Our network of social services propels children and youth, individuals and families, and seniors toward self-sufficiency and a higher quality of life.

The agency will celebrate its annual awards gala on October 14th.  For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Casa Central website, HERE.