Skip navigation
All Places > Colleges & Schools > Northwestern Alumni Association > Blog > 2016 > June > 09


Performers danced on rooftops, the music of cellists dominated the day and teaching artists shared wisdom about the essence and interconnection of art during a special daylong celebration of Northwestern University’s Arts Circle on Saturday.

 

From various vantage points on the ground, spectators gazed up at members of the renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company, each a solitary artist, all dressed in red, at times moving in unison and gesturing majestically to one another from atop Arts Circle buildings.


The day also featured an inflatable sculpture by avant-garde artist Otto Piene -- related to the work of performance artist Charlotte Moorman, now on exhibit at Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. And a provocative installation designed by Northwestern alumnus and artist Aaron Hughes had the intended effect of provoking discussion and critical thinking about the war on terror and detainees at Guantanamo Bay.


Despite an overcast sky and occasional showers, the day of festivities on Northwestern’s Evanston campus drew an estimated crowd of more than 1,000.


Northwestern is focusing on the Arts Circle as a concept, as well as a place, to demonstrate how the arts connect with one another at the University and, in the broader world of artistic expression, to teach students, engage the public and enlighten people with their beauty and ideas. 

 

“We are making a conscious effort to show how all the arts connect at Northwestern in a way that we had not done previously -- by showing the interactions, the common ways the arts explore ideas and issues and speak to each other, and to us, in ways that enable us to think about the world in a more comprehensive way,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said.  “That enriches all of our lives.”


In the keynote event, performance studies faculty scholar and artist E. Patrick Johnson filled the Ethel M. Barber Theater with his beautiful voice, singing “Home” from the musical “Wiz” right before a panel of Northwestern faculty and alumna luminaries discussed “Why the Arts Matter.”


Northwestern President Morton Schapiro introduced the panel and weighed in with his own personal and scholarly takes on why the arts matter.


“There are a lot of schools that are justifiably proud of the investment they make in business and in law and in medicine and engineering,” President Schapiro said. “We are, too, at Northwestern. But this is an institution that’s never going to forget that the arts and humanities are the most basic components of liberal learning.


“The Northwesterns of the world,” he stressed, “have a moral obligation to invest in the arts and the humanities.”

 

Read the full story here.

When mothers deliver later, babies are more likely to have physical problems, but they also are likely to have cognitive benefits down the road, suggests provocative new Northwestern University research published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

 

It is well known that continuing a pregnancy beyond 40 weeks can increase the risk of physical disabilities for the child, but this is the first study to document cognitive benefits, as well as physical risks, for late-term infants.

“Our hope is that this research will enrich conversations between ob-gyns and expectant parents about the ideal time to have the baby,” said David Figlio, economist, lead author of the JAMA study and director of the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research.


In the JAMA study, late-term infants, compared to full term, had higher average test scores in elementary and middle school; a 2.8 percent higher probability of being gifted; and a 3.1 percent reduced probability of poor cognitive.

The late-term infants, however, also had a 2.1 percent higher rate of physical disabilities at school age and higher rates of abnormal conditions at birth.


“The tradeoff between cognitive and physical outcomes associated with late term births is something parents and physicians should discuss,” said Figlio, also the Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy at the Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy.


The researchers used a unique data set -- matched birth and education records for more than 1.4 million Florida school children – to find that late-term (41 weeks) children did better in school in the long run, but also had a higher risk of physical disability than their full term counterparts (39 or 40 weeks).


The research builds on a previous study by Figlio’s team using the same Florida data set that found that heavier newborns have an academic edge.

 

“Armed with the information we learned from the work on birth weight and cognitive outcomes, we began thinking about the single best way to pack on more birth weight which means keeping the baby in utero longer,” Figlio said. “We wanted to know: Is there a cost associated with delivering these babies?”

 

View the original story here.

Parkinsons-Gene-Neurons

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a new cause of Parkinson’s disease – mutations in a gene called TMEM230. This appears to be only the third gene definitively linked to confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease.

In a study published in Nature Genetics, the scientists provided evidence of TMEM230 mutations in patients with Parkinson’s disease from both North America and Asia. They also demonstrated that the gene is responsible for producing a protein involved in packaging the neurotransmitter dopamine in neurons. Loss of dopamine-producing neurons is a defining characteristic of Parkinson’s disease.

Taken together, the study’s findings provide new clues to explain how Parkinson’s disease develops in the brain. Those clues may inform future therapies for the disorder, which currently has no cure and few known causes.

“Previous research has associated Parkinson’s disease with various factors in the environment, but the only direct causes that are known are genetic,” said principal investigator Teepu Siddique, MD, the Les Turner ALS Foundation/Herbert C. Wenske Foundation Professor of Neurology and of Cell and Molecular Biology. “Many genes have been claimed to cause Parkinson’s disease, but they haven’t been validated. We show that mutations in this new gene lead to pathologically and clinically proven cases of the disease.”

About 15 percent of Parkinson’s disease cases are thought to be caused by genetics, such as mutations in two genes called SNCA and LRRK2. Siddique said that other genes have only been associated with features of parkinsonism, a general term for neurological disorders with motor symptoms.

The Northwestern Medicine team’s proof that mutations in TMEM230 lead to Parkinson’s disease is the result of 20 years of research conducted with collaborators around the world.

Read the full story here.

Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan today ordered the immediate release of Davontae Sanford, who has been wrongly imprisoned since age 14 for a quadruple homicide that occurred on Detroit’s Runyon Street. Since 2008, professional hitman Vincent Smothers has repeatedly insisted that he alone was responsible for the murders.  Now 23 years old, Davontae will be released from custody imminently after serving nearly nine years of a 37- to 90-year sentence.

 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also has agreed to dismiss all charges and not to re-try Sanford for these crimes. Worthy based her decision on a lengthy report by the Michigan State Police detailing that agency’s yearlong reinvestigation of the Runyon Street quadruple homicide, completed on May 20, 2016. Specifically, that report alleges that former Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Tolbert committed perjury when he falsely testified that Davontae Sanford drew a diagram of the crime scene in its entirety, including the location of the victims’ bodies, during his interrogation by police.

The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth and the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School filed the motion for relief from judgment that Judge Sullivan granted today.

 

Pro bono attorneys from Dykema Gossett PLLC handled the final negotiations with the prosecutor’s office leading to today’s stipulated order. The Northwestern team was headed by Megan Crane and supported by Steven Drizin and Laura Nirider, and the Michigan team was headed by Dave Moran. Valerie Newman from the State Appellate Defender Office, which formerly represented Sanford on appeal, also served on the legal team.

 

In April 2015, the Michigan Innocence Clinic and Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth filed an extensive Motion for Relief from Judgment highlighting the detailed, corroborated confession by Smothers to the Runyon Street murders and highlighting the obvious unreliability of Davontae Sanford’s confessions, given their complete lack of corroboration and many inaccuracies. As a result, the Michigan State Police reinvestigated the murders. On May 20, 2016, the Michigan State Police provided the report to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office.

 

“After 3,185 days of prison time for a crime he did not commit, Davontae finally got justice today,” said Megan Crane, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern. “Davontae and his family, and many lawyers, have fought long and hard to show the truth in this case. We could not be happier that this day is finally here.

 

Continue reading the story here.

Pry the family away from the living room TV for one or more free lakeside evening screenings under the stars sponsored by Northwestern University’s Norris University Center and Summer Session.

 

Summer Cinema 2016 films will be screened at dusk (around 8:45 p.m.) on Wednesday nights, from June 29 through July 28, on the East Lawn of Norris Center on the Evanston campus.

 

Special pre-movie events will begin at 7:30 p.m., and family-friendly treats, including free popcorn at every movie event, will be available prior to all screenings.

 

If it rains, the scheduled film will be screened indoors in Norris Center’s 360-seat McCormick Auditorium, located on the first floor. All activities also will be moved inside on the ground floor.

 

Moviegoers are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs, blankets, food, beverages (alcoholic beverages are prohibited) and an environmentally-friendly insect repellent.

 

Free parking is available after 4 p.m. in the two-level lakefront lot south of Norris Center.

 

Information related to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings shown above is available online.

 

For more Summer Cinema information, visit the Norris Center website.

 

Summer Cinema 2016


  • June 29 -- “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (J.J. Abrams, United States, 2015, 136 minutes). Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy, and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance. This action adventure film stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Special audience treats: sand art and glowsticks. (PG-13 rating)
  • July 6 -- “Inside Out,” (Pete Doctor and Ronnie Del Carmen, United States, 2015, 95 minutes). Disney-Pixar’s animated adventure comedy follows young Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life after she and her family move to San Francisco. The young girl’s emotions of joy, fear, anger, disgust and sadness conflict with how best to navigate a new city, new house and new school. The film features the voiceovers of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Diane Lane. Special audience treat: free ice cream creations. (PG rating)
  • July 13 -- “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Steven Spielberg, United States, 1981, 115 minutes).This special screening celebrates the 35th anniversary of Spielberg’s popular action adventure film. Set in 1936, the film follows archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones, who is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. It stars Harrison Ford and Karen Allen.Special audience treats: $1.35 hot dog (cash only) and free chips and lemonade. (PG rating)
  • July 20 -- “The Mask” (Chuck Russell, United States, 1994, 101 minutes). This Oscar-nominated action-adventure, starring Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz, follows a bank clerk who is transformed into a manic superhero when he wears a mysterious mask. Special audience treat:free cotton candy. (PG-13 rating)
  • July 27 -- “Zarafa” (Remi Bezancon and Jean-Christophe Lie, France and Belgium, 2012, 78 minutes). This animated film follows the adventures of Maki, a young boy who escapes from slave traders, befriends a giraffe (the title character), crosses the desert, and meets a pirate and others on a trip that takes him from Africa to Paris. Special audience treat: a balloonist will be creating free animal balloons for young filmgoers. (Not rated)


View the original story here.


Dick Co, research associate professor of chemistry at Northwestern University, delivered one of three opening keynote addresses at the first annual United Nations Forum on Science, Technology, and Innovation in New York June 6. Co, invited by the U.S. Department of State, joined other scientists, entrepreneurs, and executives asked to address the global challenges identified by the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

During his remarks to an audience of 400 excellencies, distinguished delegates, and stakeholders, Co, managing director of the Solar Fuels Institute (SOFI), highlighted SOFI’s work to make a cost-competitive, carbon-neutral solar fuel from sunlight, water and air. SOFI is a one of four research centers within the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN)

“Answering the United Nations’ call for solutions will require that nations leverage existing infrastructures to turn scientific breakthroughs into scalable technologies and implement effective policies toward the Sustainable Development Goals,” Co said.

The Forum was co-chaired by Dr. Vaughan Turekian, science and technology adviser to the Secretary of State of the U.S., and Ambassador Macharia Kamau, permanent representative of Kenya to the United Nations. Ambassador Kamau commented on the urgent need for the Forum to facilitate stakeholder collaborations that translate to impact.

“This Forum cannot be just a talk show. We’re going to have to figure out how the outcomes of the collective efforts are systematized in a way in which they can be picked up and used, and really impact the work we’re trying to do as the United Nations,” he said.

View the full story, including a video of Co's keynote address, here.

In an effort to continue addressing the issues raised by the John Evans Study Committee, Northwestern University has established a Native American and Indigenous Peoples Steering Group.

 

Comprised of 37 students, faculty members and community members, the steering group is taking inspiration from the “One Book One Northwestern” program to support programming and projects and work to increase campus-wide interest in and understanding of Native topics and issues.


During this year’s One Book program, the Northwestern community has been reading Thomas King’s “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.” Focused on Native American issues, the One Book programming included 76 events – an all-time high.

 

The new steering group’s first meeting included a discussion about Northwestern’s progress in fulfilling the November 2014 recommendations of the University’s Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force. The group also discussed the sponsorship of a series of events during Native American Heritage Month in November.


The group is chaired by Northwestern professor and former Medill Dean Loren Ghiglione, the faculty chair of the 2015-16 One Book One Northwestern program. Ninah Divine, who will graduate from Northwestern in 2016, will provide staff support.


“The steering group hopes to involve all schools of the university,” Ghiglione said. “The recent hiring of faculty and post docs who are focused on Native subjects offers an opportunity for 2016-17 to be an especially important year in Northwestern’s growth.”


Ghiglione expects the committee to expand One Book’s efforts to work with the American Indian Center of Chicago, the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston, the Newberry Library’s D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies and other member organizations of the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative.


“Night at the Museum” was among the One Book programming. The night featured a mini-powwow and demonstrations of American Indian storytelling, beadwork and other Native crafts, bringing 2,400 first-year students to the Field Museum for a special after-hours visit.

One Book also developed a University-wide essay contest for incoming students and offered panels on provocative topics, including “Revisiting John Evans and the Sand Creek Massacre” and “Native American Stereotypes and Mascots in Sports.”


Other members of the Native American and Indigenous Peoples Steering Group include students Lorenzo Gudino (Fort Sill Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache), president of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance); Reuben Aguirre (Navajo), co-president of Native American Law Students Association;Jasmine Gurneau (Oneida/Menominee), a new admissions and student services staffer; Pamala Silas(Menominee), executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council; and Dorene Wiese(Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Mississippi Band, White Earth Reservation Enrolled), president of the American Indian Association of Illinois.

 

View the original story, including the full list of members of the steering group, here.

 

Two Northwestern University student startups, The Graide Network and SurgiNet, tied for first place at the eighth annual Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC) finals held June 2. Each winner went home with $20,000.

 

The Graide Network is an online marketplace connecting teachers with qualified teaching assistants to grade and provide individualized feedback on student assignments. SurgiNet is a medical device company that produces bioabsorbable scaffolds for use in general and plastic surgery.

Third place went to Pak’d, which received a $10,000 prize. The company creates fresh, custom lunches for children and adults, delivered directly to their homes.

 

The three winning companies were among 11 finalists -- all Northwestern student startups -- at the University’s premier business pitch competition. At the event, each finalist team pitched their startups to venture capitalists and business executives, competing for $50,000 in grand prize money. Northwestern alumna Kat Mañalac, a partner at Y Combinator, delivered the keynote address right before the winners were announced.

 

“Placing first at NUVC was a tremendous honor and recognition of The Graide Network’s mission and progress as a company over the past year,” said Blair M. Pircon, co-founder of The Graide Network and an MBA student at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

 

“The Northwestern community -- the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative and The Garage in particular -- has been instrumental in our success from the very beginning,” she said. “The NUVC award will help us hire our first full-time employee and also fund the next stage of our product’s development. Both are critical to our success as we expand to serve more teachers and students across the country.”

Each startup competed in one of five categories: green energy and sustainability; consumer products and software; social enterprise and nonprofit; business products and software; and health care and medical.

 

“NUVC not only showcases the tremendous talent of Northwestern students but also the diversity of entrepreneurial endeavors on campus,” said Melissa Crounse, executive director of The Garage, the University’s new innovation incubator.

 

Six of the finalist startups worked at The Garage this year as part of The Garage Residency Program. The Graide Network and Pak’d teams are both in the program, Crounse said.

 

The category and team members for the three winners are:

  • The Graide Network (Social Enterprise + Nonprofit category). Team members: Blair Pircon, Kellogg ‘16; Amanda McCarthy, Kellogg ‘16; and Liz Nell.
  • SurgiNet (Life Services + Medical category). Team members: Alexei Mlodinow, Feinberg School of Medicine/Kellogg ‘17; Todd Cruikshank, Kellogg ‘17; and Sega Moges, Kellogg ‘16.
  • Pak’d (Consumer Products + Services category). Team members: Nate Cooper, Kellogg ‘17; Rebecca Sholiton, Kellogg ‘16; and Kara O’Dempsey.

 

In total, NUVC awarded more than $200,000 in prize money during the finals and semi-finals. Teams representing more than 80 interdisciplinary startups in different stages of development submitted their ideas to NUVC in April; that number was winnowed down to the 11 finalists.

 

Many of the startups have come out of a variety of entrepreneurial courses taught at Northwestern, includingNUvention, and others incorporate technologies coming out of Northwestern labs. As the young entrepreneurs continue to develop their business ventures at the University and beyond, the only requirement to compete in NUVC is that at least one team member be a current Northwestern undergraduate or graduate student.

 

View the original story, including additional pictures, here.

Men with prostate cancer who are under close medical surveillance reported significantly greater resilience and less anxiety over time after receiving an intervention of mindfulness meditation, according to a recently published pilot study from Northwestern Medicine.

 

The anxiety and uncertainty that men who choose active surveillance experience when diagnosed with prostate cancer causes one in four to receive definitive therapies within one to three years, even when there is no sign of tumor progression.

 

Health psychologist David Victorson, the principal investigator of the study and an associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, researches the emotional stress of active surveillance and how mindfulness training helps alleviate the anxiety.  He also is a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

 

Mindfulness meditation is a well-known contemplative awareness practice dating back some 2,500 years. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion.

 

"It's very understandable that some men will feel concerned with the knowledge that they indeed have prostate cancer but are asked to NOT do anything to remove it,” Victorson said. "For many men this can create a great deal of inner turmoil. This turmoil can build up over time and eventually lead to men seeking surgical intervention when it may not ultimately be necessary.“

 

Victorson and his Northwestern team now are partnering with other academic medical institutions to conduct a five-year multi-site controlled trial where men and their spouses will be randomized to eight weeks of intensive mindfulness meditation training or an eight-week control group.

 

“I believe we have an opportunity to investigate and equip men with additional tools above and beyond surgical intervention that can help them manage cancer-related uncertainty intolerance," Victorson said.

 

View the original story here.