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June School Challenge is an exciting opportunity for alumni to make an even bigger impact with their giving. Generous donors across numerous schools and programs have challenged alumni, family, and friends to give to those areas—if donor goals are met, these alumni have pledged to give a certain amount of money to those areas.


Support your school or program in the June School Challenge by visiting:

The Bienen School of Music



The School of Education and Social Policy

Student Life

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences


Read about June School Challenge Donors Paula Brown Pretlow, Carole Merrick Ringer, and Greg McKinney.

Academic-Medical-Center_155x120.jpgCHICAGO --- Consumers may need more help navigating the sunscreen aisle. A new Northwestern Medicine study found that many people seem to be confused by sunscreen terminology.


Only 43 percent of people surveyed understood the definition of sun factor protection (SPF) and only seven percent knew what to look for on a label if they wanted a sunscreen that offers protection against early skin aging.


Details of the study were published Wednesday, June 17, in the journal JAMA Dermatology.


“We need to do a better job of educating people about sun protection and make it easier for them to understand labels,” said Dr. Roopal Kundu, lead author of the study.


Kundu is an associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


Sunscreens with SPF help protect the skin from ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays. UV-B rays are the main cause of sunburns. However, research has shown that both ultraviolet A (UV-A) and UV-B can contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancers.


In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration announced new regulations for sunscreen labels to emphasize the importance of ‘broad spectrum protection’ sunscreen that protects the skin from both UV-A and UV-B rays.


“We recommend you buy a sunscreen lotion labeled ‘broad spectrum protection’ -- which helps to protect against both types of UV rays -- with an SPF of 30 or higher that is also water resistant,” Kundu said. “SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the UVB radiation. But, you need to reapply it every two hours, using about a shot glass full of lotion over your exposed skin, for the best results.”


To assess how well consumers understand new sunscreen labels and evaluate how much they know about sun protection, Kundu and colleagues surveyed 114 participants who attended the Northwestern Medicine dermatology clinic during the summer of 2014.


About 80 percent of those surveyed had purchased sunscreen in 2013, and 75 percent said preventing sunburn was a top reason they wore sunscreen, followed by preventing skin cancer (almost 66 percent). The three top factors influencing their decisions to purchase a particular sunscreen were highest SPF value, sensitive skin formulation and water and sweat resistance.


Almost half reported buying sunscreen with the highest SPF value available. This overreliance on high SPF values is a concern, Kundu said.


“Just because you buy SPF 100 doesn’t mean you are 100 percent protected,” Kundu said. “Staying out of the sun is the only way to guarantee 100 percent protection.”


To assess knowledge of sunscreen labels, participants were shown an image of the front and back of a common sunscreen with a SPF of 30. Many had trouble identifying sunscreen terminology on the label.


  • Just 38 percent correctly identified terminology associated with skin cancer protection
  • About 23 percent were able to correctly identify how well the sunscreen protected against sun burn
  • Only seven percent were able to correctly identify how well the sunscreen protected against early skin aging


“A lot of people seem unsure about the definition of SPF, too,” Kundu said. “Only 43 percent understood that if you apply SPF 30 sunscreen to skin 15 minutes before going outdoors, you can stay outside 30 times longer without getting a sunburn.”


The study participants were shown another sunscreen label where UV-A protection was designated as a star rating (out of four stars) and UV-B protection as an SPF value. Nearly 80 percent were able to determine the level of UV-A protection and close to 90 percent could determine UV-B protection. This could be a promising new approach to improve customer understanding of labels, Kundu said.


Read the full story on Northwestern News. >>

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences alumnus Nick Ehrmann ’00 intended to study pre-med at Northwestern. But a transition to the American Studies program, and his experience studying abroad in South Africa and Scotland, changed his life. “I became wholly committed to furthering social justice in our own backyard,” says Nick.


After seeing firsthand the complexity of educational inequality through his time in Teach for America in Washington D.C., he went on to pursue his PhD in sociology at Princeton. Nick eventually returned to Washington D.C. to shadow his former students in classrooms and conduct extensive interviews as part of a dissertation project. “It was this experience—watching my former students navigate the transition to college under-prepared—that inspired me to launch Blue Engine’s school-based academic acceleration model in 2009,” says Nick.


Blue Engine partners with public high schools to prepare greater numbers of students for the rigors of higher education while training a new wave of educators to enter the teaching profession. Blue Engine’s teaching assistants team up with teachers to lead small group tutorials in math and literacy classrooms and after school. The rapidly expanding Blue Engine team will reach more than 2,000 students this fall.


Blue Engine students outperformed their district peers last year, and grew in college readiness by 73 percent. Many of those successes have been picked up nationally—most notably by President Obama in the State of the Union address in 2014, in the New York Times, and on the Today Show. “All of this has been driven by the grit and determination of young people who convert opportunities to outcomes that defy the odds,” Nick says.


After a decade and a half of working in education, Nick appreciates his own college experience even more. “Northwestern is a special place,” he says. “It connected my curiosity about the world with creative, interdisciplinary ways of tackling problems.” He adds, “My professors, my classes, my peers—these influences combined to open my eyes to educational equity as a civil rights issue. My 15 years of work in this space have been the most challenging and rewarding work imaginable.”


Nick is celebrating his 15th Reunion, and encourages fellow Wildcats to come back to campus this fall. For details and to register for Reunion Weekend 2015, visit >>




Read more 'Wildcat of the Week' profiles at >>


EVANSTON, Ill. --- Speaking in front of any audience can be nerve-racking.

Students from across Northwestern University’s campuses did just that at the seventh annual Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC). In total, NUVC gave out more than $200,000 in prize money to 10 different student-created startups in the final competition at the all-day event June 4.When you’re in front of 11 leading venture capitalists, startup executives and business innovators from Chicago and around the country, and you’re pitching them the idea you’ve been developing for years, it can be downright terrifying.


The grand-prize winner, Opticent Health, walked away with $45,000. The startup offers a noninvasive, affordable medical instrument for ophthalmologists to better assess retinal health and thereby improve treatment and monitoring of chronic, incurable diseases such as macular degeneration.


“I was shocked,” said Kieren Patel, president and CEO of Opticent Health, when his startup was named the overall winner. “I figured if we could come in third place, we’d be doing great.”


The event culminated in a final round of presentations in front of judges who raised questions regarding business strategies and raising capital, reminiscent of the ABC television show “Shark Tank.”


“This program has really done some fabulous things,” said Jack Pressman, chairman and executive managing director of EMP Grid Services and Cyber Innovation Labs. “Everyone here has been doing something special,” he said, noting how that entrepreneurial spirit has grown since he was a student at Northwestern three decades ago.


The annual competition to perhaps find the next big startup brought together more than 80 teams of undergraduate and graduate students from all schools and different disciplines. Many of the ideas were developed in entrepreneurial courses taught at Northwestern as the University, guided by its strategic plan, continues to stress innovation and new technology in the classroom.


Each startup that competed fell into one of five categories: green energy and sustainability; consumer products; social enterprise; business products; and life sciences and medical. At least one team member had to be affiliated with the University. Each category winner was given $15,000 while the runner-up was awarded $10,000.


Previous winners of the venture challenge talked about how important NUVC was for their careers.


“Winning NUVC -- putting a plan together and presenting it to a board -- gave us the confidence and credibility we needed,” said Jacob Babcock, CEO of NuCurrent. The challenge helped launch his team’s startup, which has raised $4.5 million and been awarded 17 patents since Babcock won the venture challenge in 2009.


Last year’s winner Jeff Eschbach, CEO and founder of Page Vault, cited the value of the Northwestern network. “I don’t know where Page Vault would be if we didn’t have Northwestern,” he said.


NUVC was led by the Northwestern-wide student group EPIC, with the assistance of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Kellogg eClub and the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO).


This year's competition was bolstered by a $100,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Clean Technologies and Innovation Grant Program, intended to help jumpstart the students' ventures.


Find out more at Northwestern News. >>

Graduating senior Samantha Yi '15 gives a first-person view of Commencement 2015. Congratulations to Samantha and her fellow #NUGrads! Check out the full album for more behind-the-scenes shots.

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"Lucky me, I'm sitting next to the President of NCDC!"



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"On stage!"





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"#SESPloving with Queen McPherson."






"Brought my Calculus teacher and his fam to commencement!"




To see more from Samantha's day, view the full album. >>

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 90 percent of Northwestern University’s Class of 2014 graduates were engaged in professional pursuits six months after graduation, according to a University study.


As members of the Class of 2015 prepare for commencement, they can be encouraged that more than 60 percent of last year’s graduates were employed full time with an average starting salary of more than $52,000.


Many of the remaining members of the Class of 2014 were in graduate school, professional school or participating in some other educational activity, the study found. Only 2 percent were actively searching for a job.


The study, "First Destination: Six Months After Graduation," was conducted by Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) and Student Affairs Assessment. Data was compiled from a variety of sources to gain information on 80 percent of the undergraduate members of the Class of 2014.


“The University plays a critical role in providing opportunities for students to develop career interests and prepare for life beyond Northwestern,” said NCA Executive Director Mark Presnell. “It begins as early as the first year through a combination of academics, experiential learning, campus involvement and professional opportunities.”


Students seem to be taking advantage of career-related opportunities offered to them as undergraduates. The study indicated almost 90 percent of those surveyed had engaged in an experiential learning opportunity, with nearly 70 percent participating in at least one internship and 56 percent participating in a research experience.


On-campus involvement also was important to the success of members of the Class of 2014. Ninety-one percent who responded reported that they were deeply involved in one or more student organizations during their time at Northwestern, with 89 percent having held a leadership position. Additionally, 48 percent of the respondents said they were deeply involved in community service projects, and 45 percent held a significant on-campus work position.


“As a result of their involvement in student groups, undergraduate students reported having substantial opportunities to develop skills and abilities that include functioning effectively as a member of a team, building confidence and planning and executing complex projects,” Presnell said.


Bolstered by strong support from the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) and NCA through career advising, mock interviews and other networking events, members of the undergraduate Class of 2014 have left Evanston to pursue careers in communications, consulting, finance, education, government, information technology, engineering and many other fields. They’ve found jobs at Allstate, Deloitte, Aldi, Accenture, CBS News, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Procter and Gamble, IBM, Leo Burnett, Morningstar, National Public Radio and the U.S. Senate, among other employers.


“We continue to watch and admire the great things Northwestern’s Class of 2014 is accomplishing,” Presnell said. “We have no doubt that the Class of 2015 will follow suit when we conduct a similar study this fall.”


For a complete look at the professional pursuits, locations and average salaries of the undergraduate Class of 2014, see the full report.


See more in Northwestern News. >>




More than 250 Northwestern students who received grants of at least $3,000 began unpaid summer internships in June as part of Northwestern Career Advancement’s Summer Internship Grant Program. This is the highest number of grants and funding awarded in the program’s nine-year history.


The Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) supports student internships at the Chicago Field Museum, National Institute of Health, U.S. Department of Education, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital and many more organizations across the U.S. and internationally. The program, which began in 2007 and provides funding to undergraduate students pursuing unpaid internships, serves to open doors for students to participate in valuable learning opportunities related to their career field.


“This year’s SIGP grants represent an important expansion of the program,” said Mark Presnell, Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) executive director. “We truly recognize that if we want students from a variety of backgrounds to join a variety of fields, we need to ensure that they have access to these opportunities and experiences even if these internships are unpaid.”


SIGP numbers have soared since the program’s first year, with grants of $2,000 awarded to 10 students chosen from 90 applicants in 2007 to this year’s group of 277 grant recipients selected from a pool of 411 applicants. Last year, NCA received a total of 287 applications and awarded 70 grants of $2,500.


Additional funding from the president's and provost's offices, as well as alumni donations, brought the stipend to $3,000 per student for 2015, with three grants of $6,000 given to students participating in unpaid international internships. These international internship grants are in partnership with The Buffett Institute as a result of a recent gift from Roberta Buffett Elliott ’54.


“SIGP’s key to success has been the ability to support students as they gain professional experience,” Presnell said. “This year’s larger stipend is our recognition that costs increase and SIGP has the responsibility to meet that demand.”


To be considered for a grant, students must submit an application that includes a copy of their resume and responses to multiple essay prompts that ask about career goals, the internship role, and the student's financial situation. The essays are then evaluated based on the quality of the application and the need of the student.


In the past, a restriction limited the number of times undergraduate students could apply for the grant. Now, students are welcome to apply more than once starting in their first year through their junior year.


“We had students waiting to apply until the summer before their senior year because of the restriction,” Presnell said. “We opened it up to ensure that the opportunity is open to everyone every year.”


The lift on this restriction made it possible for Liam Feroli, a School of Communication rising junior, to receive a second SIGP grant to pursue internships in the entertainment industry. As part of last year’s SIGP program, Feroli interned at New Chapter Entertainment, a Chicago-based production company founded by former Oprah Show producers.


“That experience was absolutely incredible, especially as a freshman, because I got to work with some seriously experienced entertainment industry professionals,” Feroli said in an email.


Building on his experience from last summer, Feroli is spending this summer with three production companies in Los Angeles, where he will read scripts, weigh in on the development of feature film screenplays and television pilots and assist film directors.


Feroli credits SIGP with providing him the financial support to pursue opportunities in his career field of interest.


“SIGP has changed my life. I'm in Los Angeles for the first time doing what I love. I would have never had this chance without the support of this grant, NCA, and the SIGP donors,” Feroli said. “Career development is one of the most important things for undergraduates entering a tough job market. SIGP gives Northwestern students advantages and options.”


For more information about SIGP, contact Katie Farrington at

To make a gift in support of SIGP, please visit SIGP's page on

This week's Wildcat of the Week spotlight features Scott Filstrup ’65, ’67 MBA, a former member of the Northwestern Board of Trustees, former president of the Northwestern Alumni Association, former president of NU Club of St. Louis and the NU Club of Tulsa, and a current 50th Reunion Co-Chair. Needless to say, Scott bleeds purple.


Northwestern has changed in many significant ways since my time in Evanston—it has become a leading global institution that makes an impact on our lives and the world. That’s one of the reasons I have remained so engaged with the University.


I am proud to be involved with my reunion committee as it is a wonderful way to reconnect with old friends and to get to know new friends. NU is a part of our lives that should be appreciated, respected, and honored. Giving back is critical to keeping the University’s rankings high which allows us to recruit the best faculty and students and to provide excellent facilities. These all assist in Northwestern becoming even stronger.


Just a few days ago, my classmates and I had the privilege to walk in the Commencement ceremony alongside the Class of 2015—a longstanding tradition for the 50th reunion class. When I come back to Evanston for Reunion Weekend this October, I’m very much looking forward to our class dinner at the Westmoreland Country Club. And of course, I’m looking forward to watching the Wildcats beat Iowa on the football field!

Connect with your Reunion class in Our Northwestern. >>


Find out more and make your Reunion gift. >>





Read more 'Wildcat of the Week' profiles at >>

From a four-time gold medalist, to President Obama's speechwriter, to a life coach and author, Northwestern alumni share words of wisdom with the Class of 2015.

Log in and comment below with your advice to graduating seniors!


1. “Think big and wide—don't be afraid of uncertainty!”

Hannah Chung ’12

Cofounder, Design for America and Sproutel

2. “Get involved with alumni clubs! Someone has helped you at some point in your life, and we need to help current and future students.”

Chardaé Davis ’09

Manager, bodybar Studios


3. “The only regrets octogenarians have are for the risks they didn’t take.”

Andy Dunn ’00

Founder and Executive Chairman, Bonobos



4. “Nobody can do it alone and people help those that they know and like. The way to make that happen is with a great attitude and a smile on your face. Attitude is a choice we make every day, it takes zero talent, and it is the number one determinant of your success.”

Coach Pat Fitzgerald ’97

Head Football Coach, Northwestern University




5. “Be kind to others, no matter who they might be. But first be kind to yourself.”

Eric Fridman ’97 MBA

Assistant Dean, Marketing and Communications, Northwestern University




6. “Rather than focusing on where you’ll be five or ten years down the road, cherish every step of the journey. If you immerse yourself in today, tomorrow will take care of itself.”

Glenn Geffner ’90

Miami Marlins Broadcaster


7. “You don’t need to follow the ‘track.’ Find what you’re good at and what you love, and make your own track.”

Brittany Graunke ’07

Founder and CEO, Zealous Good




8. “Exude positivity and let it help direct you and others to greatness.”

Matt Grevers ’09

Four-time Olympic gold medalist







9. “Do not fear the future. Embrace what you don't know and jump in! Your life story is just beginning!”

Corrie Harding ’86

Director News Partnerships, NBC Universal



10. “Your reality is yours alone. Don’t worry about what other people think about you, because the truth is, if they do, it is in passing. They’re busy, too.”

Steven Hartstein ’85

Chief Compliance Officer, MetLife Funds



11. “Do not under estimate the power of building and nurturing relationships. You will find that it is the people you know who impact your career more than any résumé bullet point. Spend quality time investing in your relationships.”

Christine Hassler ’98

Author, Speaker, Life Coach



12. “Before you turn 30, take one big risk with your career. If it doesn’t work out, you’re young enough to land softly. But if it does, you could end up somewhere special.”

Cody Keenan ’02

Assistant to the President of the United States and Director of Speechwriting




Clinton_Kelly_200px.jpg13. “Ask yourself, about everything you do—whether it’s what you're eating, what you’re wearing, what you’re watching, whom you’re hanging out with—is this action getting me closer to my goal or further away from it? Stop doing the crap that takes you off course.”

Clinton Kelly ’93 MS

Cohost of The Chew and former cohost of What Not to Wear



14. “Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.”

Daryl Morey ’96

Houston Rockets General Manager



15. And, last, but not least -- financial advice for graduates from Kellogg School of Management. >>


Recent graduates, learn all the ways you can stay connected, enhance your career, and get involved with your fellow alumni by visiting

This week, we spotlight three June School Challenge donors—Paula Brown Pretlow, Carole Merrick Ringer, and Greg McKinney. The June School Challenge is an exciting opportunity for alumni to make an even bigger impact with their giving. Each of the generous donors above has challenged alumni to give to their schools—if donor goals are met, Paula, Carole, Greg, and other generous alumni have pledged to give a certain amount of money to their schools.


Paula Brown Pretlow ’77, ’78 MBA

WCAS_Pretlow_200px.jpgFor Paula Brown Pretlow, giving back to Northwestern and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences has been an easy decision. “Northwestern propelled me in directions I didn’t even know existed,” she says. “The University brought out the best in me and offered me the chance to explore different worlds of possibility.”


While an undergraduate at NU, Paula took her first class with an African American professor, studied astronomy which led to a lifelong interest in the stars, and allowed her to experiment and find her way to business school and a 35-year career in investment management.


Paula remembers one of her very first professors at Northwestern—Professor Leon Forrest who taught a freshman literature course. “We had to write creatively in his class,” she says. “And that’s when I realized I had a voice and was encouraged to let that voice out. Just recognizing that there were opportunities at Northwestern for everyone to shine in his or her own way made a significant impact on me.”


Paula has remained committed to giving back to the University. On her campus visits, she has engaged with so many people excited about Northwestern’s trajectory, professors who are conducting life-changing research, and the exceptional students who will go on to make an impact on the world.


“I truly believe that with alumni support, Northwestern will become an even greater institution.”


Carole Merrick Ringer ’61, ’62 MMUS

Bienen_Ringer_200px.jpg"At the Bienen School of Music, I was afforded many opportunities within my major as a music education student,” says Carole Merrick Ringer. “I had the chance to participate in internships and student teaching across various performance areas.”


During her time at Bienen, Carole studied voice and violin, performed in opera productions, and worked backstage on the Waa-Mu Show. All of these experiences prepared her for her career, including teaching, serving as the manager of a regional orchestra, and staying involved in music in many other ways. “I’ve had the chance to have a career in music that has taken many forms.”


Now, as a member of the Bienen School’s Music Advisory Board, she has also established a scholarship fund and made gifts to the voice, choral, and string programs, which were so important to her as a student. “From the moment I entered Northwestern and the Bienen School of Music, I felt an immediate connection,” says Carole. “And since then, it has been a pleasure to stay engaged with the University every step of the way.”


Carole still enjoys coming back to campus and seeing all the wonderful changes.


“People sometimes take for granted the contributions that the arts make to our lives. If we don’t give back and support the performing artists of today and tomorrow—including students—we lose an invaluable aspect of our society.”


Greg McKinney ’81 MS

McCormick_McKinney_05_BW_200px.jpgGreg McKinney attended Northwestern to pursue a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management Science. Although he was considering other programs, he ultimately chose to study at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences because the program provided direct access to faculty and challenging projects working alongside highly motivated and collaborative classmates.


“Having worked with many analytics professionals during my career,” says Greg, “I frequently ask them about their academic backgrounds. I’ve come to the conclusion that my preparation at McCormick was second to none. Virtually every day I use ideas, concepts, and techniques I learned at McCormick.”


Not only did Greg have a great academic experience, he also took advantage of the other great aspects of University life. When he wasn't studying or in the classroom at Tech, he attended football games, concerts, art shows, plays, and lectures. “I organized several department teams for intramural sports—in fact we even came in second place in softball,” he says. “One of these days, we’ll have a rematch with the fraternity that beat us!”


Now as chair of the Murphy Society for McCormick, Greg sees the importance of alumni support—the direct impact of gifts on students and faculty. Murphy Society funds support projects proposed by faculty and students. The society allows its members to provide input to Dean Ottino about which projects most deserve that support. “It’s an incredible way not only to stay connected to McCormick, but also to have an influential voice determining its current priorities and shaping its long-term future,” says Greg. “I joke with Dean Ottino that I'm going to apply to return to Northwestern so that I can work on some of the amazing Murphy Society projects.”


Read more 'Wildcat of the Week' profiles at >>


Support your school or program in the June School Challenge by visiting:

Kathy Gannon, a veteran Associated Press foreign correspondent who was shot six times by an Afghan security officer while on assignment in Afghanistan, has been awarded the 2014 James Foley Medal For Courage in Journalism.


The award, given by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communication, includes a $5,000 prize and honors the journalist who has best displayed moral, ethical or physical courage in the pursuit of a story or series of stories.


“It’s a great honor to have your body of work recognized and to have it described as courageous,” Gannon said.


In April 2014, Gannon and her reporting partner, AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus, were working in eastern Afghanistan, covering the presidential elections. The two women were sitting in a car in Khost when an Afghan security officer walked up and fired an AK-47 into the backseat.


Niedringhaus was killed. Gannon, who was shot six times in the arm and shoulder, was badly wounded. It was the first known case of a security insider attacking journalists in Afghanistan.


Still recovering from her injuries and grieving for her colleague, who she had been working with since 2009, Gannon continued to write about Afghanistan. Two months after the attack, she wrote about the prisoner exchange between the United States and the Taliban.


“The AP has been spectacular in their support and their willingness to do the stories I thought were important,” Gannon said. “Year after year, they stuck with me.”


Gannon has been reporting in Afghanistan for decades. She witnessed the Taliban take power in 1996 and reported on the American invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks.


Much of Gannon’s distinguished work has been filed from Afghanistan, but she has reported from around the Middle East and Central Asia.


The Foley Medal is given annually to an individual or a team of journalists working for a U.S.-based media outlet. Gannon was the unanimous choice among the judges.


The selection committee included Medill Board of Advisers members Ellen Soeteber '72, former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Richard Stolley '52, '53 MS, former senior editorial adviser for Time Inc., as well as Medill Professor Donna Leff.


Gannon’s longtime work in a volatile region is impressive, the judges said, but her resolve to continue working as a journalist in Afghanistan after the April 2014 attack exemplifies the kind of work the medal was created to honor.


Gannon’s entry “comes on top of a long, brave and distinguished career spanning decades,” Soeteber said. “She’s a veteran dedicated to telling the story.”


In one of her first interviews after the shooting, Gannon said she and Niedringhaus were not “cavalier or careless about security arrangements” and that the experience would not stop her from continuing to tell the Afghan story. Niedringhaus, she said, would have been equally determined to continue their work.


“I know she felt exactly the way I do, and there’s absolutely no way some crazy gunman is going to decide for me what my future is going to be,” Gannon said in the interview. “I will go back to Afghanistan, for sure.”


Two other entries were selected as finalists: The Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff, for his coverage of Ebola in Liberia, and a team from Reuters, led by special correspondent Stephen Grey, for reporting on the business dealings of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Judges said this year’s crop of entries was especially strong.


Last year’s winner was Matthieu Aikins, who also reported from Afghanistan. His story “The A-Team Killings,” published in Rolling Stone, exposed alleged war crimes by U.S. Army Special Forces in Wardak Province.


Last year also marked a name change for the award in honor of freelance journalist James Foley '08 MS, who was posthumously honored with the medal. Foley was captured while reporting in Syria in 2012 and killed by ISIS extremists in 2014. Gannon said winning an award named for Foley is an honor.


“I hadn’t met James, but I’m certainly familiar with his work, and it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as him,” she said. “Aside from the quality of his work, he had real courage. I think he defeated ISIS’s attempt at terrorizing with his death. James inspired with his work and his courage. “


Foley’s courage also reminds Gannon of her friend and colleague, Niedringhaus.


“Her courage mirrored James’s courage, and that makes it particularly meaningful for me,” she said.


Niedringhaus, who was part of a 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning team from the AP, also has an award named in her honor. The International Women’s Media Foundation created the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award in 2014.


It has been more than a year since the attack in Khost. Gannon has endured the loss of a close colleague, multiple surgeries and arduous physical


rehabilitation, but she has said she will not stop her important work.

"We are honored to present this award to Kathy Gannon,” Leff said. “Without her, we would not have a full picture of what’s going on in Afghanistan.”


Find out more about the James Foley Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and read about past winners.


Jasmine Rangel Leonas contributed to this story.


To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

CHICAGO --- Celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian blogged and raved about the benefits of their personal placenta “vitamins” and spiked women’s interest in the practice of consuming their placentas after childbirth.


But a new Northwestern Medicine review of 10 current published research studies on placentophagy did not turn up any human or animal data to support the common claims that eating the placenta -- either raw, cooked or encapsulated -- offers protection against postpartum depression, reduces post-delivery pain, boosts energy, helps with lactation, promotes skin elasticity, enhances maternal bonding or replenishes iron in the body.


More concerning, there are no studies examining the risk of ingesting the placenta, called placentophagy, which acts as a filter to absorb and protect the developing fetus from toxins and pollutants, scientists said.


The study was published June 4 in Archives of Women's Mental Health.


“There are a lot of subjective reports from women who perceived benefits, but there hasn’t been any systematic research investigating the benefits or the risk of placenta ingestion,” said corresponding study author Dr. Crystal Clark. “The studies on mice aren’t translatable into human benefits.”


Clark is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist specializing in reproduction-related mood disorders at Northwestern’s Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders.


Placentophagy is an unknown risk for the women who eat it and for their infants, if they are breastfeeding.

"Our sense is that women choosing placentophagy, who may otherwise be very careful about what they are putting into their bodies during pregnancy and nursing, are willing to ingest something without evidence of its benefits and, more importantly, of its potential risks to themselves and their nursing infants," said lead author Cynthia Coyle, a Feinberg faculty member and a psychologist.


“There are no regulations as to how the placenta is stored and prepared, and the dosing is inconsistent,” Coyle said. “Women really don’t know what they are ingesting.”


Research is needed to provide the answers, Coyle said. She also hopes the study sparks conversations between women and their physicians about their post-birth plans, so doctors can inform their patients about the science or lack thereof and support patients in their decision-making process.  


Clark became interested in placentophagy after some of her pregnant patients asked if eating their placentas would interfere with their antidepressant medications. She was unfamiliar with the practice and began to ask her other patients about it.


“I was surprised that it was more widespread than I anticipated,” Clark said.


Although almost all non-human placental mammals ingest their placenta after giving birth, the first documented accounts of postpartum women practicing placentophagy were in North America in the 1970’s, the study reports. In recent years, advocates and the media have popularized health benefits of the practice, and more women are considering it as an option for postpartum recovery.


“The popularity has spiked in the last few years,” Clark said. “Our sense is that people aren’t making this decision based on science or talking with physicians. Some women are making this based on media reports, blogs and websites.”



The authors of this paper are currently gathering data on the perceptions, beliefs and placental practices of health care providers internationally and nationally, as well as patients locally, and whether providers are recommending placentophagy to patients.


Dr. Clark’s research is supported in part by grant K12 HD055884 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.


For more, visit Northwestern News

This week's Wildcat of the Week spotlight features Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences student Lauren Wustenberg '15. The graduating senior from Farmington, Minnesota, is majoring in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy & Culture.


Lauren focuses her research on sustainable development of rural communities in the Peruvian Amazon.


She says growing up on a hobby farm in southern Minnesota sparked her interest in rural development patterns, and her time at Northwestern allowed her to explore different methods of building community.


Lauren is also a senior class gift participant. She divided her class gift among the Environmental Policy & Culture program, the Ballroom Latin and Swing Team, and dancemarathon because, together, they have taught her that "great things can happen when building a community aimed at a common purpose."


She hopes that in the future, her legacy will continue in the form of a stronger Northwestern dance community and a more environmentally focused campus.


For more on this year's Senior Class gift, visit >>





Read more 'Wildcat of the Week' profiles at >>


Whether you'd like to develop your professional skills or simply connect with fellow Wildcats, the Northwestern Alumni Association offers events across the country and around the world to help alumni remain connected to the University and continue learning long after leaving campus.


For a complete list of the NAA's upcoming events for alumni, please visit the NAA's website.

NU-8.jpgMark your calendar: registration for Reunion 2015 opens July 1 at


If you're a member of an undergraduate class ending in 0 or 5, or if you've graduated in the past five years, don't miss your chance to catch up with classmates and make new friendships by returning to campus for Reunion weekend, October 16-18.


Join thousands of other Wildcats for class parties, campus tours, the Homecoming football game against Iowa and dozens of other Reunion events.


For more information about Reunion 2015, please see the detailed schedule of events on the Northwestern Alumni Association's website.

dutch royals_alumni news.jpg

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine on June 3.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine welcomed King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands June 3 for a ceremony announcing research collaborations between Northwestern and three universities in the Netherlands focused on the study of healthy aging.

Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer began the ceremony by welcoming the royal couple and a delegation of Dutch diplomats and academics to Feinberg and thanking them for their commitment to further research on healthy aging.

“We’re delighted to be playing a significant role along with Dutch economic vision on the healthy aging agenda,” Linzer said. “We have a number of outstanding investigators who work on research in these fields including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and a number of other areas.”

Following the ceremony, the royal couple and members of the Dutch delegation met with top Northwestern scientists to discuss the latest advances in healthy aging research.

Vadim Backman, Walter Dill Scott Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, shared his research, which links biophotonics and cancer research. Sandra Weintraub, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences and neurology, along with Marsel Mesulam, director of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center and professor in neurology, presented their research on Alzheimer’s disease prevention and early detection.

Jules Dewald, chair of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Feinberg and organizer of the visit, along with Barry Hes of Motekforce Link, a Dutch rehabilitation technology company, shared a prominent example of collaboration between academia and industry on the development of rehabilitation devices based on scientific advances.

“Holland is well-known for strong research in engineering, fundamental biomechanical research and top medical research centers,” Dewald said. “This partnership creates a two-way street in regard to research expertise, funding and device development.”

Dewald and his team are already seeing the benefits of collaboration with the Netherlands. They have begun work on two European grants with researchers at Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente, focusing on high-resolution brain imaging and robotic rehabilitation device development. Dewald’s work on these grants helped prompt the visit and other research partnerships with the Netherlands.

During the visit, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima also witnessed the appointment of seven Dutch researchers as adjunct professors in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Feinberg.

“Through these partnerships, we are creating a transatlantic bridge between Northwestern and top research institutions and industry leaders in the Netherlands, which is known for sophisticated development of technology and state-of-the-art medical research,” Dewald said.

The visit is a Northwestern homecoming of sorts for King Willem-Alexander, who spent three months at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 1997 in the executive development program.

The royal couple’s visit is part the their tour of the United States to promote research collaboration and economic partnership around healthy aging. Their website contains more information about their visit.

To read the original story, visit the Feinberg School's website.

Graduating senior Sarah Carthen Watson has been awarded The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Prize for Community Service, which honors a student who exemplifies leadership and service through participation in University and community activities.


The cash prize of $5,000 was established to honor the Ryans’ generous commitment to volunteer service on behalf of Northwestern University and the Chicago community. It will be awarded June 18.

Carthen Watson also was awarded another Northwestern honor -- $250 for Community Service and Leadership in African American Studies -- on June 3.

Carthen Watson, 21, a native of Shoreview, Minnesota, majored in social policy with a minor in African American Studies. She sought out Northwestern for its academic excellence and she said it did not disappoint. Her campus leadership positions have ranged from vice coordinator of programming and president and coordinator of For Members Only, the Black Student Alliance, to program coordinator and president of Sexual Health Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE) and co-founder of Sustained Dialogue, a forum providing dialogue on race and identity.

She was inspired to improve race relations at Northwestern after racially charged incidents on campus her freshman year touched her personally.

“I can put my head down or try to change it,” Carthen Watson said. “I’ve spent four years trying to change (the racial climate) and trying to make Northwestern a better place for those after me.”

She has been instrumental in creating outreach to the black college community by providing forums, such as the one she emceed with For Members Only last year for the hundreds grieving over the tragedies in Ferguson, Missouri, to bridge the gap between students of color and the administration, encouraging students to feel more comfortable and willing to share concerns.

“There has been a significant shift in the campus culture regarding issues of diversity,” Carthen Watson said.

Carthen Watson was active in a task force of students who worked with the director of Campus Inclusion and Community to assist with planning, implementation and evaluation of services and programs related to diversity.

Sustained Dialogue was recognized by University President Morton Schapiro in 2013 for providing a tool for students to make time to understand the different perspectives of individuals they otherwise might not meet, and equipping students with communication skills necessary for increasingly diverse academic, social and work environments. Since then, Sustained Dialogue has led more than 200 students in discussions about diversity.

“As co-founders of this program, I witnessed Sarah’s passion for the campus shine through the development of this program,” said Jazzy Johnson, a 2013 Ryan Prize recipient. “She leveraged her influence in multitudinous communities on campus and positively challenged her peers to try something new that the campus had never seen before. She led the efforts for much of the outreach and development of the program and helped it to grow and expand across campus.”

Taking that outreach to the next level, Carthen Watson worked last summer at the South African Human Rights Commission in Cape Town, South Africa, and reaffirmed her goal to be a civil rights lawyer. She plans to attend law school in the fall.

“People need help navigating a legal system that is not designed to protect them and to help them change it,” she said.

The Ryans, both Northwestern alumni, have been extraordinary donors to Northwestern for many years, providing leadership and support for academic programs, scholarships, the construction of Northwestern’s Nanotechnology Center, support for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and renovation of Northwestern’s football and basketball stadiums. They recently made the lead gift for a new multi-use athletics and recreational facility that will be located next to the shore of Lake Michigan at the north end of Northwestern’s Evanston campus. In honor of their gift, the facility will be named the Ryan Fieldhouse.

An earlier major gift from the Ryans created scholarships for low-income students to attend Northwestern without taking out any student loans, which has enabled Northwestern to attract high-achieving low-income students with exceptional leadership potential. That gift also supported graduate fellowships and facilities on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, as well as providing athletic scholarships for undergraduate students.

To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.


Three Northwestern student-athletes were invited to participate in the 2015 NCAA Career in Sports Forum from June 4 to 7 in Indianapolis. Softball's Brianna LeBeau and football's Traveon Henry and Hunter Niswander were selected to represent the Wildcats.

For the sixth year, the NCAA invited more than 200 current student-athletes and NCAA postgraduate scholarship recipients who are interested in working in sports to attend the event. LeBeau, Henry and Niswansder were invited to the forum because each has expressed an interest in pursuing careers in sports, and all are viewed as leaders on campus.


"Supporting NCAA student-athlete leaders with their education is a key goal for the Association," said Dr. Bernard Franklin, NCAA executive vice president of education and community engagement and chief inclusion officer. "Our Career in Sports Forum puts student-athletes and postgraduate scholarship recipients in a non-traditional academic setting where they can learn directly from successful leaders, which can have a positive impact on their future after graduation."

One of more than 20 annual programs and resources organized and directed by the NCAA leadership development department, the Career in Sports Forum provides college athletes with a broader scope of the career tracks available within the sports business, with the primary focus on college athletics. The forum enables student-athletes to meet people who have built successful careers in sports, giving them a look at the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of jobs in the field.

Forum attendees heard from keynote speakers and panelists including NCAA President Mark Emmert, Great Lakes Valley Conference Commissioner Jim Naumovich and Ole Miss Director of Athletics Ross Bjork. The participants also learned best practices for gaining employment and came away with a better understanding of what future expectations will be once they get a job in sports.

The NCAA leadership development department provides professional and personal development for the entire Association, including student-athletes, coaches and administrators, through accessible resources, strategic partnerships and annual customized programming at little or no cost to members. For more information, please visit

To read the original story, visit


Northwestern smashed another academic milestone May 28 when 84 Wildcats earned spring Academic All-Big Ten awards to bring the year's total to a school-record 228 recipients. This is the fifth straight year that NU student-athletes have collected over 200 honors for work in the classroom.

To be eligible for an Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution. From that pool, those who carry a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher receive the award. Remarkably, 76 percent of those eligible from NU's spring and at-large sports qualified for the accolade.

In addition to the abundance of success in the classroom, six of the eight Northwestern teams receiving academic distinction this week also advanced to postseason competition.

The Big Ten recognized a total of 1,447 student-athletes from its spring and at-large sports. Notably, of 93 women's lacrosse recipients conference-wide, 20 percent (19 total) came from Northwestern. Of the 126 baseball players from 13 schools who were recognized, 19 represent Chicago's Big Ten Team (15%).

Northwestern student-athletes garnered 41 Academic All-Big Ten honors in the winter, while 103 were recognized in the fall. All told, approximately 65 percent of eligible NU student-athletes picked up an Academic All-Big Ten award during the 2014-15 school year.

The Wildcats have continued to raise the bar, as they also set other academic records in recent days. On May 20 a school-record 15 of 19 programs received NCAA Public Recognition Awards for placing in the top 10 percent of their respective sports in the latest multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) data. Additionally, a school-record 12 of NU's 19 teams received perfect APR scores of 1,000 for the 2010-11 to 2013-14 cohort.

For a complete list of Northwestern's 2015 spring and at-large season Academic All-Big Ten award winners, read the original story on


Tobin Marks

Tobin J. Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, has been recognized internationally by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Italian Chemical Society awards honoring his work in inorganic chemistry and materials science.

“This is recognition of the work I did and my students did and my collaborators did,” Marks said of his 40-member research team of students, postdoctoral fellows and Northwestern faculty, “and that’s the most important thing.”

Marks was named the Materials for Industry -- Derek Birchall Award winner for 2015 by the Royal Society of Chemistry this month for his “creativity and excellence in the application of materials chemistry in industry.” Award winners are evaluated for the originality and impact of their research as well as the quality of the results that can be shown in publications, patents or even software. The award also recognizes the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences and the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations. Based in the U.K., The Royal Society of Chemistry is a 170-year-old community with 53,000 members.


“The award is for my work in printed electronics, the printing of circuitry for a TV screen or laptop, just as you would print a newspaper,” Marks said. “The award also recognizes the company I founded, Polyera, Inc., now with more than 100 employees, that takes the technologies developed in my lab at Northwestern, along with theirs, and packages those materials for Kindles, laptop screens and more.” Marks attended a black-tie ceremony to accept the award May 11 in London.

Marks will be awarded the Luigi Sacconi Medal in Camerino, Italy, just south of Florence, in September when he will give a 90-minute lecture during the Italian Chemical Society conference on making materials for solar energy and the use of catalysis to make polymers, or plastics.

Marks explained how his work in the 1980s and 1990s with The Dow Chemical Company has led to the creation of an estimated 40 billion pounds of plastics, from automobile bumpers to artificial limbs. Marks said he was honored to receive the Sacconi medal, named for a legendary Italian chemist he met in the 1960s who was considered the “Who’s Who” in inorganic chemistry.

The Inorganic Chemistry Division of the Italian Chemical Society and the Luigi Sacconi Foundation every year awards the Luigi Sacconi Medal to a scientist who has obtained outstanding results in inorganic chemistry, a field in which Marks has made contributions of “extraordinary relevance.”

“We’re using catalysis now to turn biofeed stocks into useful chemicals by taking waste from wood pulp and paper and turning them into diesel fuel,” Marks said of his ongoing research. “We’re also turning methane into natural gas and creating more efficient solar cells. We are already using the printed electronics in smart ID cards, inside TV sets and more.”

Marks is a world leader in the fields of organometallic chemistry, chemical catalysis, materials science, organic electronics, photovoltaics and nanotechnology. He has developed processes for numerous types of recyclable, environmentally friendly plastics, efficient organic displays and transistor circuitry, and organic solar energy cells.


Why do some people immediately burst into laughter after a humorous moment, while others can barely crack a smile? New research examining emotional reactivity suggests one of the answers may lie in a person’s DNA.

In a new study linking a gene to positive emotional expressions such as smiling and laughing, researchers demonstrated that people with a certain genetic variant -- those with short alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR -- smiled or laughed more while watching cartoons or subtly amusing film clips than people with long alleles.


Previous research has linked the gene to negative emotions; the study provides the strongest evidence to date that the same gene is also linked to positive emotional expressions.

The research appears online in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion.

Claudia M. Haase of Northwestern University and Ursula Beermann of the University of Geneva co-authored the study, which was conducted in the laboratories of Dacher Keltner and Robert W. Levenson at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the study, the scientists looked at short and long alleles of the gene 5-HTTLPR, which is involved in the regulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter implicated in depression and anxiety.


An allele is a variant of a gene. Each gene has two alleles; humans inherit one allele from mom and one from dad.

Early research suggested that the short alleles predicted unwanted or negative outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. People with short alleles were found to have higher negative emotions than those with long alleles.

But the latest study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that people with short alleles also may be more sensitive to the emotional highs of life.

“Having the short allele is not bad or risky,” said Haase, an assistant professor in the Human Development and Social Policy program at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy. “Instead, the short allele amplifies emotional reactions to both good and bad environments."

“Our study provides a more complete picture of the emotional life of people with the short allele,” Haase added. “People with short alleles may flourish in a positive environment and suffer in a negative one, while people with long alleles are less sensitive to environmental conditions.”

“The fundamental truth of genes is that they don’t have the final say,” said senior author Levenson, a leading researcher in human emotions and professor in the department of psychology at UC-Berkeley. “There’s always an interaction between nature and nurture that shapes outcomes, and this study is another example of that.”

The latest study combined three experiments from different Berkeley labs. In the first experiment, young adults were shown cartoons from “The Far Side” by Gary Larson and The New Yorker. In the second experiment, young, middle-aged and older adults watched a subtly amusing clip from the film “Strangers in Paradise.” The final experiment asked middle-aged and older spouses to discuss an area of disagreement in their marriage.

The scientists videotaped the volunteers during the experiments. Trained researchers then coded smiling and laughter using the “Facial Action Coding System,” which describes small movements in the face, said Beermann, a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at University of Geneva.

The study focused on genuine or ‘real’ positive emotional expressions. People sometimes smile or laugh -- even if they don’t find something funny -- simply to be polite or to hide negative feelings, Beermann said. “So when you measure smiling and laughing, you want to be able to distinguish real laughs and smiles from the ones that aren’t,” she said.

The important clues lie in the muscle around the eyes that produce the so-called ‘crow’s feet,’” Beermann said. “Those can only be seen in real smiles and laughs,” she said.

Overall, 336 participants were included in the final analysis. The researchers collected saliva samples from the volunteers to analyze the 5-HTTLPR gene.

The data from the three experiments combined indicated that people with the short allele of 5-HTTLPR showed greater positive emotional expressions. Specifically, people with the short allele displayed greater genuine smiling and laughing than people with the long allele.

“This study provides a dollop of support for the idea that positive emotions are under the same tent as negative ones, when it comes to the short allele,” Levenson said. “It may be that across the whole palate of human emotions, these genes turn up the gain of the amplifier. It sheds new light on an important piece of the genetic puzzle.”

HIV has a voracious sweet tooth, which turns out to be its Achilles’ heel, reports a new study from Northwestern Medicine and Vanderbilt University.

After the virus invades an activated immune cell, it craves sugar and nutrients from the cell to replicate and fuel its wild growth throughout the body.

Scientists discovered the switch that turns on the immune cell’s abundant sugar and nutrient pipeline. Then they blocked the switch with an experimental compound, shutting down the pipeline, and, thereby, starving HIV to death. The virus was unable to replicate in human cells in vitro.

The discovery may have applications in treating cancer, which also has an immense appetite for sugar and other nutrients in the cell, which it needs to grow and spread.


The study was published May 28 in PLOS Pathogens.  

"This compound can be the precursor for something that can be used in the future as part of a cocktail to treat HIV that improves on the effective medicines we have today," said corresponding study author, Harry Taylor, research assistant professor in medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"It's essential to find new ways to block HIV growth, because the virus is constantly mutating,” said Taylor, also a scientist at Northwestern Medicine’s HIV Translational Research Center. “A drug targeting HIV that works today may be less effective a few years down the road, because HIV can mutate itself to evade the drug.”

HIV needs to grow in a type of immune cell (CD4+ T cell) that is active, meaning it is already responding to pathogens in the blood. Activation increases the T cell's supplies of sugar and other critical nutrients needed for both cell and virus growth. Until now, no one knew the first step that signaled a newly activated T cell to stock up on sugar and other nutrients. Those nutrients become the building blocks of genetic material the cell and the virus need to grow.

Northwestern and Vanderbilt scientists figured out that first step in stocking the T cell’s pantry involved turning on a cell component called phospholipase D1 (PLD1). Then they used an experimental compound to block PLD1 and shut down the pipeline. This is believed to be the first time scientists have targeted the virus's ability to pilfer the cell's pantry to stop its growth. A related approach was attempted in the 1990s but the drugs used sometimes killed healthy cells and had serious side effects in HIV patients.  

The Northwestern team’s new approach is a gentler, non-toxic way to block HIV access to the cell's "pantry.”

New strategy could reduce organ damage

The approach has additional benefits beyond the initial goal of preventing HIV from reproducing. 

The compound also slowed the proliferation of the abnormally activated immune cells, the study found. Current HIV medications stop HIV growth but do not affect the abnormal excess activation and growth of immune cells triggered by HIV.

The excess immune cell growth is believed to contribute to the life-long persistence of HIV and leads to excess inflammation that causes premature organ damage in HIV patients -- even when the virus is suppressed by current medicines.

"Perhaps this new approach, which slows the growth of the immune cells, could reduce the dangerous inflammation and thwart the life-long persistence of HIV," Taylor said.

HIV's hunt for sugar and world domination

When HIV enters the bloodstream, it searches out active CD4+ T cells, the commanders-in-chief of the immune system. These active cells are already responding to other pathogens or allergens in the blood and are guzzling glucose and amino acids from the blood, which they need to churn out the building blocks of DNA. The cells’ factories are at full throttle, making these building blocks to produce an army of soldiers to fight that cold that has just started to give you a sore throat or the chills.

When HIV finds an active CD4+ T cell, it hijacks the cell's glucose supply and factory to build millions of copies of itself and invade other cells.

"It's a monster that invades the cell and says 'feed me!’ " Taylor said. "It usurps the entire production line."

Cancer cells crave sugar, too

The idea to test this compound for HIV evolved from Taylor's relationship with chemists at Vanderbilt University, where he was on faculty before he


joined Northwestern in 2012.

Taylor knew his Vanderbilt colleagues had identified a compound in their massive screening for potential drugs that block the growth of breast cancer cells. The compound stopped breast cancer cells from spreading by blocking PLD1. Taylor and his Vanderbilt colleagues wondered if blocking this same enzyme in the CD4+ T cell would cut off HIV's use of the cell's nutrient supply and slow the invading HIV.

That's exactly what their study shows. In vitro, the compound shut off the glucose and other nutrients and prevented HIV from having enough building

blocks of DNA to make the genetic material it needed to reproduce.

Now, Taylor wants to identify even more compounds for development into future medicines that will limit re-stocking of the cell's pantry to starve HIV -- without harming cells.

“This discovery opens new avenues for further research to solve today's persisting problems in treating HIV infection: avoiding virus resistance to

Key Vanderbilt collaborators are Craig W. Lindsley and H. Alex Brown.medicines, decreasing the inflammation that leads to premature aging, and maybe even one day being able to cure HIV infection,” said Dr. Richard D'Aquila, director of Northwestern’s HIV Translational Research Center. He also is a professor of medicine at Feinberg and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

At a time when teenagers are grappling with new and often confusing health concerns, the overwhelming majority -- 84 percent -- turn to the Internet, according to the first national study in more than a decade to examine how adolescents use digital tools for health information.

But while most teens tap online sources to learn more about puberty, drugs, sex, depression and other issues, a surprising 88 percent said they do not feel comfortable sharing their health concerns with Facebook friends or on other social networking sites, according to the study by Northwestern University researchers.

The report yields important information for public health organizations trying to reach adolescents. Nearly one third of the teenagers surveyed said the online information led to behavior changes, such as cutting back on soda, trying healthier recipes and using exercise to combat depression. One in five teens surveyed, or 21 percent, meanwhile, have downloaded mobile health apps.

“We found some real surprises about what teens are doing online when it comes to their health,” said Ellen Wartella, director of Northwestern’s Center on Media and Human Development and lead author of the report.


“We often hear about all the negative things kids are doing online, but teens are using the Internet to take care of themselves and others around them,” said Wartella, the Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor in Communication in Northwestern’s School of Communication. “The new study underscores how important it is to make sure there is accurate, appropriate and easily accessible information available to teens, because it’s used and acted upon.”


The Northwestern study,Teens, Health & Technology,” surveyed 1,156 American teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. It was released June 2 at a Northwestern policy conference in Washington D.C.


The researchers explored how often teens use online health tools, how much information they receive, what topics they are most concerned with, how satisfied they are with the information, what sources they trust and whether they have changed their health behaviors as a result.


“The Internet is clearly empowering teens to protect their health,” said Vicky Rideout, head of VJR Consulting and a co-author of the report. “But we need to make sure they are equipped with the digital literacy skills to successfully navigate this online landscape.”

To read the rest of the story, visit the Northwestern News Center.


TEDxNorthwesternU 2015 inspired global dialogue about climate change, time and money, theater and much more.


Kibbey examined this reality in his TEDxNorthwesternU 2015 talk, part of a daylong event held May 9, which featured 12 Northwestern speakers and attracted hundreds of attendees to the McCormick Foundation Center Forum on the Evanston campus.


“We’re driving ourselves to extinction in slow motion, but a huge chunk of the public doesn’t know or doesn’t care that climate change is happening,” Kibbey said in an interview. “We evolved to avoid getting eaten by tigers; our brains aren’t wired for slow-moving problems. We’re often very irrational.


“But, we’re starting to better understand how and why we’re irrational through the study of behavioral economics,” Kibbey said. “In this talk, I applied what I know about climate change, behavioral economics and politics to figure out how we can talk to people about climate change so they care.”

Like the original TED talks, each speaker was given 18 minutes to present a polished speech and spark a dialogue about matters large and small that impact the global community.


This year’s conference theme, “Beautiful Chaos,” was a resounding success, said Peter Civetta, director of the office of undergraduate research and a lecturer in American studies at Northwestern University.


He describes the theme choice as “a mash-up of molecules, politics, ideologies, art, psychologies, expression and much, much more. As we dive deeper into the universe's mysteries, life becomes surprisingly simple and simultaneously more complex.” That dichotomy is what speakers attempted to harness at this year's TEDxNorthwesternU.

The speakers “explored a spectrum of topics, from innovations in cancer research to how theater provides enrichment opportunities for those with cognitive differences,” Civetta said. The event also featured performances by student music groups and explored community outreach.


To make this year even better, event organizers expanded their community engagement initiatives by hosting 40 students from the Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools as well as donating 50 percent of ticket sales to the disaster relief in Nepal.


Kibbey, a graduate of Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies, is a public policy researcher with Service Employees International Union, SEIU Local 1, where his work includes political strategy, advocacy and policy analysis on behalf of nearly 50,000 workers across six states.


Previously, he worked as a digital strategist in the private sector, for the online advocacy group, on the 2008 Obama campaign and for a government affairs firm.

Professor Karl T. Muth, who has taught at Northwestern since 2012, also created some buzz by asking, “what if we kept track of time like money?”


“We often talk about how people use time like it’s money: saving, spending, wasting time,” Muth said. “But we don’t keep track of time like we do money; economists and public policy experts generally don’t analyze where we invest time. What could we learn if we did?”


Muth designed and taught courses in economics, organizational behavior, public policy, and statistics, including undergraduate and graduate coursework. This fall, he will lend his expertise to the Northwestern University School of Law’s master’s of science and law program.


Not to be outdone by Northwestern faculty was Daphna Weinstock, one of only two undergraduates selected to speak at TedxNorthwesternU 2015. In her speech, titled “Difference, Not Deficit,” Weinstock explained the goals and techniques used in Seesaw Theatre -- which creates theater for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other cognitive differences, and uses theater as a means of embracing the beauty of difference and learning from each other.


Weinstock, one of the founding members of Seesaw Theatre, was this year’s past director of Seesaw’s production, “In The Game.”  She is an undergraduate senior studying theater for young audiences in Northwestern’s School of Communication. She has particular interest in theater education and using dramatic means in and out of the classroom to promote diversity and inclusion among youth. She is also a proud member of Kappa Delta Northwestern sorority and Purple Crayon Players.


Founded in 1984 and run by the non-profit Sapling Foundation, TED is devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks of 18 minutes or less. The conference originally focused on technology, entertainment and design, today covers an expansive range of topics from science to business to global issues in more than 100 languages.

Emilie Greenberg, a junior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Nikita Ramanujam, a senior in the School of Education and Social Policy, organized the 2015 Northwestern event.


An innocent mistake made by a graduate student in a Northwestern Medicine lab (she accidentally used male mice instead of female mice during an experiment) has led scientists to a novel discovery that offers new insight into why women are more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).


The finding, detailed in a paper published in The Journal of Immunology, focuses on a type of white blood cell, the innate lymphoid cell, that exhibits different immune activities in males versus females.

MS is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and is the result of a dysregulated immune response. Using a mouse model of MS in which only females get disease, this study showed that innate lymphoid cells are activated and protect male mice from the disease. Although female mice have these same cells, they remain inactive and do not protect them.

The research opens up new avenues for investigation into sex-determined disease susceptibility and could one day lead to better therapies for both men and women with MS and other autoimmune diseases.

“Women are three to four times more likely than men to develop MS, and much of the current research focuses on the question, ‘Why do females get worse disease?’” said Melissa Brown, lead author of the study and professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Now, thanks to a serendipitous moment in the laboratory, we are approaching this research from the opposite way, asking, ‘Why are males protected from disease?’” Brown said. “Understanding the mechanisms that limit disease in men can provide information that could be used in future therapy to block disease progression in women.”

Like most laboratories that study the mouse model of MS, female mice were used in almost all of Brown’s experiments.

“When we induce the disease in this strain of female mice, virtually 100 percent of them get very sick,” Brown said. “Male mice either get no disease or very little, so MS researchers typically use females in their studies.”

A few years ago, a new graduate student in Brown’s laboratory was asked to run an experiment using two groups of female mice. One group was normal; the other had a genetic mutation in a growth factor receptor (c-kit) that prevented the development of a subset of immune cells.

Previous experiments in Brown’s lab showed that female mice with the mutation didn’t get as sick as normal mice, and Brown was looking into reasons why. However, instead of using females, the graduate student chose male littermates from each group.

“It was an honest mistake, but the results were striking; the male mice with the mutation got very, very sick,” Brown said. “Because this strain of male mice never get very sick, I thought there was some sort of mistake, so I asked the student to repeat the experiment.”

The results were the same. Brown and colleagues realized that the mutation was behaving differently in males and females. Brown asked Abigail Russi, a Feinberg MD/PhD student working in her lab, to investigate further.

Russi found that mice with the c-kit mutation lacked type 2 innate lymphoid cells. These cells are normally present in bone marrow, lymph nodes and the thymus of both males and females. The researchers think that in males these cells produce a protein that may help to protect from the disease by interfering with the damaging immune response.

“In the paper we show that when these cells are missing in the males with the mutation, that changes the whole immune response of the male animals and causes this lack of protection,” Russi said. “We are now looking at what activates these cells preferentially in males and not in females. The next question is can we activate the innate lymphoid cells in females to decrease disease susceptibility?”

This isn’t the first sex difference study in the field of MS research. In the 1990s, scientists found that testosterone was a protective hormone for women with MS, but long-term treatment of women with MS with testosterone is not a viable option because of undesirable side effects.

Type 2 innate lymphoid cells have been well studied in allergy, where they are thought to promote allergic inflammation. But this is the first study to show these cells exhibit sex differences in their activity and actually can protect in autoimmune disease. Early trials are underway, and the scientists are hoping they will find clues to explain potential activators of these cells and whether those activators can be used in therapy.

The findings could lead to a new approach to designing drug therapy that modulates instead of completely suppresses the immune system of MS patients, shifting the response to one that is not so damaging.

“The hope is to target these cells in a sex-specific way and provide a therapy with fewer side effects,” Brown said. “This early research may have implications for understanding other diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which also show a female bias.”

Other authors of this study are Margaret E. Walker-Caulfield of the Mayo Clinic and Mark E. Ebel of Northwestern.

Can we learn to rid ourselves of our implicit biases regarding race and gender? A new Northwestern University study indicates that sleep may hold an important key to success in such efforts.

Building on prior research, the Northwestern investigators aimed to find out whether learning to alter habitual reactions to other people could be enhanced during sleep.


Other researchers have documented many unsavory consequences of common social biases. For example, when playing a videogame with instructions to shoot only people carrying weapons, players were more likely to shoot unarmed targets when they were black versus white.

Bias also can be demonstrated in hiring decisions. For instance, scientists were more likely to hire male candidates rather than equally qualified female candidates for research positions.

Even well-meaning people can be influenced by these biases without realizing it.

However, prior research has demonstrated temporary reductions in this unconscious or implicit bias produced via a type of training called counter-stereotype training. The new study examined a strategy to bolster the benefits of this kind of training.

Prior studies by the Northwestern researchers have revealed memory reactivation during sleep. Generally, participants first heard distinctive sounds during a learning session. A short period of sleep came next. After people woke up, what they could remember was changed if learning-related sounds were presented during sleep.

“We call this Targeted Memory Reactivation, because the sounds played during sleep could produce relatively better memory for information cued during sleep compared to information not cued during sleep,” said Ken Paller, senior author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. For example, we used this procedure to selectively improve spatial memory, such as learning the locations of a set of objects, and skill memory, like learning to play a melody on a keyboard.”

The current study was designed to apply the same sort of procedure to counter-stereotype training.

“This type of learning falls into the category of habit learning,” said Paller, who is also director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Program at Northwestern. “So in addition to spatial learning and skill learning, we can include habit learning as another type of learning that depends on memory processing during sleep.”

Participants in the experiment completed two training regimens, one designed to reduce racial bias and the other gender bias.

In the computerized training tasks, faces were paired with words that ran contrary to a stereotype. For example, female faces appeared with words associated with math or science, and black faces appeared with pleasant words. There were two distinctive sounds during this training, one that came to be strongly associated with the women+science pairs and the other with the black+pleasant pairs.

Following the training, participants took a nap. While they were in deep sleep and without their knowledge, one of the sounds was played repeatedly, but with the volume set low enough to avoid disturbing sleep.

The sleep procedure produced the selective benefits that the investigators expected. Bias reduction was stronger for the specific type of training reactivated during sleep. This relative advantage remained one week later.

“It is somewhat surprising that the sleep-based intervention could have an impact that was still apparent one week later,” said Xiaoqing Hu, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. student at Northwestern when he began the study. (He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.) The usual expectation is that a brief, one-time intervention is not strong enough to have a lasting influence. It might be better to use repeated sessions and more extensive training. But our results show how learning, even this type of learning, depends on sleep.”

“Producing lasting changes in implicit biases is challenging,” said Galen V. Bodenhausen, professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College, who also co-authored the study. “These biases arise from long-term socialization, and they are frequently reinforced by the mass media.”

He added that further experiments will need to examine whether these procedures can reduce the impact of implicit biases in important decision-making situations.

One implication of the study, Paller said, is that it can broaden the discussion of what sorts of efforts can be made to combat social bias in society.

“Biases can operate even when we have the conscious intention to avoid them,” said Bodenhausen, who also is a professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. “We can try to correct for our biases after the fact, but our results point to a more encouraging possibility -- reducing the bias in the first place.”

The study also has implications for reducing many other kinds of unwanted social biases and stigmas.

Furthermore, unlearning implicit bias may be a lot like breaking other bad habits. Paller noted that the research also has implications for new techniques to combat habits such as smoking, self-centeredness, phobias or unhealthy eating behaviors.

“Unlearning Implicit Social Biases During Sleep” was published May 29 in the journal Science. In addition to Hu, Paller and Bodenhausen, the paper is co-authored by James W. Antony of Northwestern (now at Princeton University), and by Iliana M. Vargas and Jessica D. Creery of Northwestern.

To read the original story, visit the Northwestern News Center.