Tag: Professors

Examining The Psychology Behind Partisan Politics


One aspect of Matt Motyl’s research is whether conservatives or liberals are happier. “Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness,” says Motyl, assistant professor of psychology. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Forget red and blue states, says Matt Motyl. Think red and blue neighborhoods instead.

“People are disproportionately likely to move to another neighborhood to find people who share their values,” said Motyl, an assistant professor of psychology. “So you find red and blue communities.”

He reported that finding for a Salon piece and a book chapter titled “Liberals and conservatives are geographically dividing” in the forthcoming Bridging Ideological Divides.

Speaking of red and blue, Motyl, who is in the psychology department’s social and personality area, wondered which political type more frequently gets the blues.

His answer is in a Science article he co-wrote, “Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness.”

There’s a long research history of conservatives claiming they’re happier than liberals, Motyl said.

But his study of photos in the Congressional Record shows that more right-leaning congressmen flash apparently fake smiles, while liberal congressmen are more likely to display evidently genuine grins.

Also, conservatives more often use sad or negative words when speaking or writing for Twitter.

Motyl’s research was done during the Barack Obama presidency; he opines that conservatives “may be angrier or sadder because they’re not in power.”

One often hears someone say of a particular candidate, “If he wins, I’m moving to Canada.”

It’s hard to find data indicating that anyone follows through on this declaration, Motyl said. “Most people don’t move, but a lot threaten to,” he said.

Some take the threat seriously, though. He noted that Cape Breton Island in British Columbia is advertising to American tourists, “If Trump wins, we welcome you here.” Fox News dubbed it “the land of the flee.”

Research by Motyl and five colleagues showed that underlining climate change gives a boost to support for peace-making.

In Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, they argued that it’s possible “to get people to set aside their differences to work against something that affects everybody,” Motyl said.

In the case of global climate change, “that’s exactly what we found” when looking at right-wing Israelis and Palestinians living alongside them, he said.

On the other hand, he added, climate change might result in scarcer resources, with countries competing for them.

Examining such claims as “Virginia is for lovers,” Motyl and a colleague questioned whether “geographical or regional characteristics affect basic psychological processes.”

“Based on your attachment style, some places are going to be better than others,” he said.

“If everyone around you has different beliefs, why would you want to have close relationships with them?”

He made no judgment about the specific case of Virginia. “It was just a cute title,” he said of the article written for Social and Personality Psychological Science.

Pieces Motyl penned for Psychology Today and Slate had the same title: “Is Obama the Antichrist?”

The question brought to mind the period Motyl spent supervising the undergraduate honors program when he was pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

“It’s an especially conservative area with lots of military bases, and the family of one student was military going back many generations,” he said.

Email from one of the student’s relatives cautioned her that Obama was from zip code 60606, “606” being the sign of the devil, and that Scripture warns that the Antichrist will be a person with darker skin.

Motyl is a native of St. Augustine, Florida. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, a master’s from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He came to UIC in 2014, and lives three blocks from campus.

He is a co-founder of CivilPolitics.org, which he describes as “a nonprofit that tries to bring together academic research and interventions to improve political discourse.”

Reproducibility is the holy grail of research, and a piece Motyl co-authored is highly rated.

It was named No. 8 of the Top 100 Stories of 2015 by Discovery magazine; No. 6 by Science News; No. 5 in “Altimetric 100,” Nature magazine’s top science stories of 2015; and runner-up for “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science magazine.


Study To Determine If Drinking Milk After Sugary Snacks Reduces Plaque in Children

Dr. Wu

Dr. Christine Wu, Professor, Pediatric Dentistry, UIC College of Dentistry.

Dr. Christine Wu, Professor, Pediatric Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, has been awarded a research grant for her study, “Consumption of milk after sugar snacks reduces dental plaque acid production and benefits oral health in children.” She was one of seven researchers awarded funding, out of 80 who competed to be funded by the National Dairy Council (NDC) for two years.

“For generations, dairy farmers and the dairy industry have been committed to promoting children’s health,” Dr. Wu explained. “Drinking milk has been accepted as an excellent habit for nutrition and, in particular, for the health of bone and teeth.” She also noted that milk has anticarcinogenic properties and that its benefits to oral health are “ultimately associated with a person’s systemic health and well-being.”

Dental plaque bacteria on tooth surfaces ferment dietary sugars and carbohydrates to produce acids that can cause demineralization of the enamel surface, thus leading to tooth decay. The usual dietary advice for caries prevention is to limit frequent intake of sugars. A recent study published by Dr. Wu’s research team showed that, in adults, the cariogenic potential of sugars may be modified by the ingestion of non-cariogenic foods such as milk. “However, it remains unknown whether a similar situation exists in children, who frequently consume sugary snacks/juices and lack awareness of proper follow-up oral hygiene measures,” she noted.

The objective of her NDC-funded study is to examine whether low-fat milk, 100% apple juice, or tap water affect dental plaque acidity in seven-to-11 year-old children “after a sugary challenge by a dry, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal,” Dr. Wu said. “The protective effect of milk consumption in reducing dental plaque acidity will be compared with effects after juice or water consumption.”

The proposed study will generate awareness that compared to water or the numerous sugar-added fruit juices available on the market, milk may be “the healthy beverage of choice to prevent tooth decay, especially after consumption of sugary snacks or desserts,” Dr. Wu said. “We want to raise public awareness that milk, besides its caries protective effect, when sequenced properly between and especially after sugary snacks, can reduce caries risk and benefit oral health, especially in children. We anticipate that the dairy industry will serve as a front runner in leading other beverage industries to promote healthy and functional beverages for oral health.”

Dr. Wu cautioned that while drinking milk may offer caries protection, ideally tooth brushing and maintaining good oral hygiene are still the best way of reducing dental plaque. Pediatric Dentistry resident Htet Bo will participate in Dr. Wu’s latest study.

Dr. Wu also thanked Dr. Marcio da Fonseca, Head, Pediatric Dentistry, for his support of her research effort.

For more than two decades, Dr. Wu’s lab has focused on the exploration and identification of plant-derived anti-plaque and anti-biofilm compounds against oral pathogens. In recent years, her laboratory has been engaged in clinical and translational studies to evaluate the oral health benefits of specific foods and beverages, especially dietary plant polyphenols (catechins and proanthocynandins) including teas, raisins, cranberries and dried plums. She is an advocate of and promotes “functional foods/beverages for oral health,” Dr. Wu concluded.

Chemical Pollution in the Great Lakes

An Li and Karl Rockne have been working together for more than five years to monitor and measure environmental pollutants in Great Lakes sediment.

Through the Great Lakes Sediment Surveillance Program, Li, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the UIC School of Public Health, and Rockne, professor and interim head of civil and materials engineering in the UIC College of Engineering, have collected more than 1,000 sediment samples in the lakes.

Rockne analyzes the physical structure of the sediment samples, looking for information that will provide clues of how the sediment deposited and what that means for the timing or speed with which chemical pollutants have accumulated in the lake bottom mud.

Li looks at the chemical composition of the samples to identify what kinds of industrial pollutants are present. These typically fall into one of two categories: legacy chemicals, or those that may persist in the environment even though their production has ceased (the pesticide DDT, for example) and chemicals of emerging concern. These chemicals can be known or unknown.

One reason the surveillance program is so important, Li said, is that “we need to constantly be on the lookout for the presence of new chemicals in the environment that may be hazardous to health.”

Li recently discovered a suite of chemicals called polyhalogenated carbazoles in the deep sediments of Lake Michigan. These are similar in structure to dioxins and PCBs, but more research needs to be done to determine where they came from and if they are toxic. “We keep finding new things — that’s the fun part,” Li said.

Story By Sharon Parmet

Video By Rachel Glass
MFA Candidate
UIC News Videographer



Dr. James A. Radosevich Helps Ugandan Causes

Dr. James A. Radosevich, Professor, Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, is devoted to a good cause—helping the people of Uganda.

Over the past five years, Dr. Radosevich has provided the Uganda School for the Deaf with a variety of items, including a DVD player, a television, and about 50 DVDs with English subtitles.

“The older students read the subtitles and sign for the younger students,” Dr. Radosevich said. “According to the teachers, many of the students are now more motivated to improve their English and signing skills so that they can better keep up with the movies.”

During his first visit to the country, he discovered that medical and nursing personnel and students learned CPR on the job, so with the help of the American Red Cross and of the nursing school in Uganda, he shipped to Uganda 20 adult and ten children CPR mannequins. The nursing school in Uganda has set up a program to circulate the mannequins so that “about 4,000 medical personnel/students get annual CPR training,” he said.

Most people do not realize that there is a book famine that has been going on for decades in Africa. After his first trip to Uganda five years ago, Dr. Radosevich realized that he personally owns more books than five schools of higher education and about that many K-12 schools in Uganda. Now, he is hoping to obtain more books for Uganda.

“Most students in Uganda go through kindergarten through 12th grade without ever touching a book,” Dr. Radosevich said, noting that there is a lack of books in medical and nursing schools as well.

“I am hoping to put 22,000 books—medical, general education, and K-12—into Uganda,” he said.

Dr. Radosevich noted he is looking for tax deductible donations to the Books for Africa project, www.booksforafrica.org. (go to donate; Uganda; Jim Radosevich); new or used DVDs of movies and educational materials, and medically related PowerPoint lectures and course lectures; and tax deductible monetary donations to the Angels Outreach organization c/o Rachael Fitzpatrick, Radosevich Uganda Projects, 230 Aremis Blvd., Merritt Island, FL 32953.

The children at the School for the Deaf live at the school and it operates as an orphanage. The teachers live at the compound.

“Five years ago, their diet consisted of black tea for breakfast: just black tea–no sugar, no milk, no bread,” Dr. Radosevich explained. “At 10 a.m. they would get a cup of cornmeal porridge. At about 1 and 5 p.m., they would get a cup of rice and a cup of beans. No fruit. No vegetables. No meat, bread, dairy products, etc. This very poor diet is hard on developing young minds, and was very evident in their poor oral health.”

The last time he visited, “I took three gross of toothbrushes, and purchased toothpaste in Uganda because it’s too heavy to ship,” Dr. Radosevich said. “For the first time ever, all of the students and teachers got their teeth brushed, their own toothbrush, and toothpaste.”

“Through Angels Outreach, $20 buys a laying hen, and $400 buys a milking cow,” Dr. Radosevich said. “So any help makes a big difference.” He is hoping to raise enough to continue the garden project (seeds, $100) and purchase new toothbrushes (three gross @ $100) and toothpaste (one year; 220 kids; locally purchased $300). He also is hoping to raise $1,600 to be able to provide a chewable multivitamin every day for every child for a year.

For more information, call Dr. Radosevich at (815) 494-9254 (cell) or email him at jrados@uic.edu

Diabetes Study A Promising Step Towards An Eventual Cure

Dr. Jose Oberholzer,

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, chief of transplantation surgery and director of cell and pancreas transplantation at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System.

For the first time ever, scientists studying a mouse model of diabetes have implanted encapsulated insulin-producing cells derived from human stem cells and maintained long-term control of blood sugar — without administering immunosuppressant drugs.

The results of the multi-institutional effort are published in Nature Medicine.

People with type 1 diabetes have an overactive immune system that destroys the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Lacking that hormone, the body fails to convert sugars to usable energy, and glucose rises to harmful levels in the blood without daily insulin injections. Islet cells have been successfully transplanted to treat type 1 diabetes, but those patients must take immunosuppressant drugs to keep their immune system from destroying the transplanted cells.

Previous research had shown that rodent islet cells could normalize blood sugar levels in animal models without immunosuppression if the cells were encased in hydrogel capsules. The semi-porous capsules allow insulin to escape into the blood, while preventing the host’s immune system from attacking the foreign cells. Larger capsules, about 1.5 millimeters across, even seemed able to avoid the buildup of scar tissue, which can choke off the cells’ supply of oxygen and nutrients.

The new study, a collaboration led by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston Children’s Hospital, used islet cells derived from human stem cells and capsules made of chemically-tweaked gel that are even more resistant to the build-up of scar tissue.

Dr. Jose Oberholzer, chief of transplantation surgery and director of cell and pancreas transplantation at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an author on the paper, tested several varieties of chemically-modified alginate hydrogel spheres — in various sizes — to see if any excelled at resisting scar-tissue formation.

Oberholzer and his coworkers at the University of Illinois at Chicago first tested the spheres to ensure they would allow the islet cells to function inside a host. Using a special microfluidic device developed at UIC under a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, they delivered minute amounts of glucose into tiny wells containing encapsulated islet cells and measured the amount of insulin that seeped out. They implanted spheres that showed promise into rodents and non-human primates to look for the development of scar tissue.

They found (and reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology) that 1.5-millimeter spheres of triazole-thiomorphine dioxide (TMTD) alginate were best at allowing insulin to escape while resisting immune response and the buildup of scar tissue.

When implanted into a mouse model of diabetes, TMTD-alginate spheres containing human islet cells were able to maintain proper blood glucose control for 174 days — decades, in terms relative to the human lifespan.

“When we stopped the experiment and took the spheres out, they were virtually free of scar tissue,” Oberholzer said.

“While this is a very promising step towards an eventual cure for diabetes, a lot more testing is needed to ensure that the islet cells don’t de-differentiate back toward their stem-cell states or become cancerous,” said Oberholzer. If the cells did become cancerous, he said, they could easily break through the spheres.

Oberholzer also cautioned that a cure for human diabetes would require scientists to develop techniques to grow large numbers of human islet cells from stem cells — a worthy goal.

“In the United States, there are 30 million cases of type 2 diabetes and about 2 million patients with type 1 diabetes who could potentially benefit from such a procedure,” he said. “But we need to grow billions of islet cells.”

By Sharon Parmet

Professors Find Surprising Chemistry Inside Battery

Battery Professors

Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering (right), and postdoctoral research associate Mohammad Asadi with their specially modified differential electrochemical mass spectrometry (DEMS) instrument. PHOTO CREDIT: UIC College of Engineering

Lithium-air batteries hold the promise of storing electricity at up to five times the energy density of today’s familiar lithium-ion batteries, but they have inherent shortcomings. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have helped prove that a new prototype is powered by a surprising chemical reaction that may solve the new battery’s biggest drawback.

The findings are reported in the Jan. 11 issue of Nature.

Today’s lithium-air batteries (in which the metallic lithium of the anode, or positive terminal, reacts with oxygen from the air) hold great promise, because they store energy in the form of chemical bonds of oxide compounds. Versions tested to date have stored and released energy from lithium peroxide, an insoluble substance that clogs the battery’s electrode.

Battery scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory developed a prototype that they claimed had the surprising ability to produce only lithium’s superoxide, not peroxide, as the battery discharges. Unlike troublesome lithium peroxide, lithium superoxide easily breaks down again into lithium and oxygen, thus offering the possibility of a battery with high efficiency and good cycle life.

The Argonne group designed the battery to consume one electron rather than two and produce the superoxide, said UIC’s Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering. But it was difficult to prove the reaction took place.

“Ex-situ analysis is not accurate enough to prove such a big claim,” he said.

Salehi-Khojin and postdoctoral research associate Mohammad Asadi devised a state-of-the-art mass spectroscopy apparatus to measure the electrochemical reaction products in situ during charging or discharge of the battery. The system operates in ultra-high vacuum and is “very sensitive to the tiniest change in oxygen concentration,” said Asadi, who is one of five first authors on the paper in Nature.

For the first time, the UIC researchers were able to show that one electron per oxygen atom was produced, indicating lithium superoxide, not peroxide, was forming in the battery. They were also able to show that no other lithium compounds were generated as side-products.

“This is going to be a valuable system for continuing the study of this battery and other types of metal-air batteries,” said Salehi-Khojin. “Not only can we analyze the products of the electrochemical reaction, we can elucidate the reaction pathway. If we know the reaction pathway, we’ll know how to design the next generation of that battery for energy efficiency and cost effectiveness.”

The work was funded by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Science and the University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor’s Proof of Concept Fund.

Other authors on the Nature paper are Argonne’s Jun Lu, Dengyun Zhai, Zonghai Chen, Khalil Amine, Xiangyi Luo, Kah Chun Lau, Hsien-Hau Wang, Scott Brombosz, Larry A. Curtiss, Jianguo Wen and Dean J. Miller; Yun Jung Lee, Yo Sub Jeong, Jin-Bum Park and Yang-Kook Sun of Hanyang University in Seoul; Zhigang Zak Fang of the University of Utah; and Bijandra Kumar of the University of Kentucky.

By Bill Burton

Diabetes Drug Studied For Healing Wounds

Timothy Koh, UIC professor of kinesiology and nutrition

Timothy Koh, UIC professor of kinesiology and nutrition


A drug taken orally to control blood-sugar levels in diabetic patients may promote wound healing when applied directly to injured tissue, according to a researcher at the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences.

Timothy Koh, professor of kinesiology and nutrition, UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, is researching wound healing in diabetic individuals.

Timothy Koh, professor of kinesiology and nutrition, will use a four-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a translational study of the diabetes drug glyburide for wound healing in humans, beginning this summer. He has been studying glyburide in mice.

Koh says that studies in his laboratory showed that glyburide applied directly to wounds in diabetic mice improved healing. The drug, he says, may modify the activity of macrophages — cells that are crucial in healing.

Research in other laboratories has shown that glyburide inhibits a cellular structure called the NLRP3 inflammasome, “which is kind of a danger-sensor for the immune system,” Koh said.

Other groups, he said, have found that the elevated sugar levels in diabetes may activate the inflammasome.

“When this pathway is activated, an inflammatory response is mounted, macrophages get angry and cause tissue damage,” Koh said.

Sustained activity of the inflammasome may cause chronic inflammation and impaired healing, resulting in chronic wounds, commonly appearing as foot ulcers in diabetic patients.

The human study will enroll 60 older diabetic patients. Half will have their wounds treated with glyburide, and the other half will be treated with a placebo for one month.

Koh suspects that wounded tissue communicates with the bone marrow, where macrophages are produced — and in diabetic patients, the signals may be amplified or extended in duration. He hopes to see whether those signals can be controlled by applying glyburide to the wound.

“We’ll measure inflammatory cells in the wounds, the blood, and the bone marrow,” he said. “We’ve been studying how this treatment works in diabetic mice, and now we will extend these studies to diabetic patients.”

Koh’s current work builds on previous research targeting inflammation in wounds so that healing can progress. He also studies the use of low-intensity vibrations to spur the formation of tissue to heal wounds. Both projects are in collaboration with Dr. William Ennis, clinical professor of surgery and director of UIC’s Wound Healing and Tissue Repair Clinic.

By Anne Brooks Ranallo

Two UIC Researchers “World’s Most Influential”


John M. Davis, professor of psychiatry, studies the biological basis of mental illnesses

John M. Davis, professor of psychiatry, studies the biological basis of mental illnesses

Frank Chaloupka

Frank Chaloupka, director of the UIC Health Policy Center, looks at the economics of harmful health behaviors like smoking and substance abuse.


Two UIC researchers are among “some of the world’s most influential scientific minds” included on the 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list.

Psychiatrist John M. Davis and health economist Frank Chaloupka are among 3,000 researchers worldwide “ranking among the top 1 percent most cited for their subject field and year of publication, earning them the mark of exceptional impact,” said Thomson Reuters.

The list is based on an analysis of published journal articles and citations considered an objective measure of a researcher’s influence over the past 12 years.

Davis studies the biological basis of mental illnesses and how psychotropic drugs work to treat these illnesses. His research helped introduce the concept that mental illness can be caused by biochemical abnormalities.

He is interested in the role of nutrition on health, particularly heart disease and stroke. His research on the effects that a mother’s diet during pregnancy may have on her child’s intellectual capacity and mental health led to revised Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Davis is professor of psychiatry and research professor of medicine in the UIC College of Medicine.

Frank Chaloupka, director of the UIC Health Policy Center, looks at the economics of harmful health behaviors like smoking and substance abuse.

Chaloupka studies the effects of local, state and national policies on smoking, substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors.

His work challenges the idea that many smokers are so dependent on nicotine, they will continue to smoke no matter how much it costs. Instead, he found, increases in cigarette prices — including tax hikes — lead to significant reductions in consumption and smoking.

Chaloupka directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on the Economics of Tobacco Control. He is the principal investigator of the UIC research team Tobacconomics.

He served on an Institute of Medicine committee to review Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020 and the ad hoc National Research Council Committee on the Illicit Tobacco Market.

Chaloupka is distinguished professor of economics in the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Health Policy Center in the Institute for Health Research and Policy.

Nik Theodore, professor of urban planning and policy in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, was a 2014 Highly Cited Researcher.

By Sharon Parmet