Medill Reports: Science
Top Stories


A diver in Hoyo Negro.

Underwater skeleton gives common ancestor to first Americans and Native Americans today

by Will Schutt and Farahnaz Mohammed

A teenage Paleoamerican girl fell into a pit about 12,000 years ago. Now, her DNA helps link modern Native Americans to ancient peoples who crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 17,000-26,000 years ago.


Cave-diving Northwestern geologist Trish Beddows found her calling as a kid

by Will Schutt

Trish Beddows, assistant chair of Northwestern University's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is one of two cave-diving scientists on the expedition exploring the Hoyo Negro where a teenager fell to her death more than 12,000 years ago.


Meet Alex Alvarez, the first to discover the remains of Naia

by Will Schutt

Alex Alvarez, a civil engineer-turned cave diver, was the first to discover Hoyo Negro, an underwater pit filled with ancient bones where a teenaged girl, Naia, fell to her death more than 12,000 years ago. He kept the discovery secret for nearly two years.


Meditate your way to a stress-free day

by Elise Byun

A new mental fitness course by Thinking Within teaches a technique called "mindfulness meditation" to improve focus and mental well-being. The course will be held once again in Chicago on Saturday.


White House tackles campus sexual assault

by Farahnaz Mohammed

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is igniting criticism as well as praise in tackling the complexities of this crisis on American campuses.


Bedtime story: Lack of sleep links to childhood obesity

by Abigail Thorpe

New study finds parents' sleep habits influence whether children sleep enough and lack of sleep can correspond to childhood obesity.


Right on cue: Cued speech helps deaf children improve communications

by Jade Kolker

Cued Speech, a visual communication system for the deaf and hard of hearing, debuted in the 1960s. Research has shown the benefits of the system, especially in how it exposes children to language at a young age, jump starting their education. After some resistance over the years, cued speech is becoming a positive option speech pathologists recommend along with American Sign Language.


Insect extinctions will swat back at human life

by Christine Skopec

With 950,000 species of insects, 1,212 assessed as threatened to extinct. But the list is growing. That's a problem because insects remain crucial to agriculture and technology.


Smoking tops list of killers causing preventable death in U.S.

by Megan Dawson

Smoking remains the top killer causing preventable death in the U.S., according to the latest count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. has cut the number of smokers in half in the fight to reduce tobacco use in the past 50 years. But a recent report from the Surgeon General shows that the battle isn’t over yet.


College women swapping food for alcohol

by Christine Skopec

Young women in college are developing a new eating disorder that pairs starvation during the day with alcohol consumption during party time. For some, the trend is a phase, but for those who really struggle, the effects can spell disaster, experts say.


All systems are go: NASA counts down on next gen space vehicles

by Luke Rague

NASA announced that Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada passed the latest round of inspections in the Commercial Crew Program. The twenty-first century space race and America’s future in human space transportation just launched into commercial hands.

CrossFit Endurance 1

Chicago Marathon starts now - Choose your training regimen

by Elle Metz

Runners are already at the starting line of training for the Chicago Marathon. CrossFit Endurance provides a non-traditional training program for marathon runners while the Chicago Area Runner's Association and others offer their own programs for improving performance.


The meat we eat: Limiting antibiotics in animal production

by Abigail Thorpe and Christine Skopec

Growing public concern and new federal regulations are challenging the uses of antibiotics in U.S. meat production. Recent voluntary regulations to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for animal growth promotion are impacting farmers differently. But what about the consumer?


Bully trauma hurts into adulthood, study shows

by Elise Byun

A study shows that bullied children might experience physical health effects into adulthood. Researchers found the highest increased levels of C-reactive proteins, an indicator of illness, in victims of bullying and the lowest in bullies.

Short-term effects of heroin use

NYPD cops to carry overdose antidote naloxone - not yet for CPD

by Will Schutt

Naloxone, a heroin overdose antidote, will be carried by 20,000 New York City police officers under a program adopted this week. In Illinois, the DuPage County sheriff's office is using the emergency measure, but the Chicago Police Department does not have a program operating as yet. 


Chicago conference highlights medical marijuana

by Will Schutt

The Chicago Cannabis Conference June 7-8 will feature a variety of speakers from an array of disciplines: doctors, lawyers, politicians, businesses and patients personally affected by medical cannabis.

Negroni Week 2

Chicago bars to toast Negroni Week June 2-8, proceeds go to charity

by Elle Metz

On June 2-8, 35 bars around Chicago will toast to Negroni Week. Buy a drink in participating bars and $1 from each drink goes to charities such as Doctors without Borders. This event - sponsored by Imbibe and beverage company Campari - benefits charities around the world of a bar's choosing.


New hope for identifying and treating Alzheimer's

by Farahnaz Mohammed

Northwestern University Alzheimer's researcher William Klein and his lab have discovered a neurotoxin that proliferates in the brain and disrupts memory. His lab has developed an antibody that could offer better diagnosis and potentially treat Alzheimer's at this root cause. Klein said his lab hopes to move forward into clinical trials.


Tanning: Healthy glow or dangerous habit?

by Abigail Thorpe

Uncertain spring weather makes tanning salons a comfortable alternative to the beach. But doctors warn indoor and outdoor tanning continue to drive rising cancer rates among young women.


Quarks and Corks: Taking on the Higgs boson over wine and cheese

by Luke Rague

The Higgs boson opens the door to understanding the creation of the universe and how particles interact. It may pave the way to understanding the mysteries of the nature of dark matter. Fermilab and CERN researchers explained the discovery and importance of the Higgs boson at Alliance Française de Chicago.


Controversial aging antidote popular but critics call it risky

by Megan Dawson

Human growth hormone treatments are booming as more people search for a fountain of youth in doses of synthetic growth hormone. The injectable antidote to aging reduces fat, increases energy and reduces wrinkles. But there's a catch, critics contend: increased risk of cancer.


Athletes struggle with a loss of appetite

by Christine Skopec

Sweaty workouts can lead to suppressed appetite. Some athletes grapple with hunger loss after intense exercise and here's why.


Grab a free beer and let the science sink in

by Elise Byun

Chicago’s first annual Pint of Science Festival offers free beer and lots of research happening in the Chicagoland area. Meet with some of the best scientists in town.

Foam rollers

Sports experts rev up training with injury-prevention tips

by Elle Metz

With the weather warming up and more weekend warriors getting outdoors to exercise, area experts offer injury-prevention advice.


IV me! Hydration clinic helps patients recover from hangovers

by Jade Kolker

IVme Hydration Clinic in Chicago offers patients relief from common conditions such as jet lag, hangovers and colds. The treatments rehydrate the body through a minimally invasive intravenous procedure. Fluids filled with medications and vitamins help patients recover. The clinic will be moving to a new location at the end of May.


'Healthy obesity' may not last

by Megan Dawson

"Healthy obesity" - obesity without metabolic and heart risks - is a myth, according to a Northwestern University researcher Mercedes Carnethon. She spoke at the Women's Health Forum at Prentice Women's Hospital recently. Three hundred women attended the health fair and poster session, to learn more about health initiatives and research on pregnancy, menopause, HIV and maintaining health.


Harnessing the carbon in climate change

by Luke Rague and Farahnaz Mohammed

Northwestern University’s Climate Change Symposium explored the "Future of Carbon" in a world where fossil fuels will be needed and used for the immediate future. Scientists in varied fields offered ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere - the driver of climate change - and ways to make alternative energy sources stronger players in the energy market. 


'The Future of Carbon' amid climate change threats

by Luke Rague

In the wake of severe climate threats reported by NASA, the IPCC and the White House, Northwestern University's Climate Change Symposium focuses on carbon use, sequestration and the future of global energy needs. The symposium Friday is free and open to the public on the Evanston campus. 


Chicago River park is 1,200 pounds lighter

by Elise Byun

The volunteers worked for hours to make a North Side stretch of the Chicago River cleaner one garbage bag at a time. The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company partnered with the Friends of the Chicago River for the 22nd annual Chicago River Clean Up Day at River Park East in Lincoln Square.


Expert warns kidney failure rising in middle-age adults

by Megan Dawson

Diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are contributing to an alarming rise in kidney disease and kidney failure in middle-life, according to a kidney expert. Many people are unaware of the correlation between these three preventable risk factors and kidney failure.


Increasing frequency of food allergies alarms parents

by Christine Skopec

Food allergies are on the rise in the United States and many of those afflicted suffer from multiple allergies. The most common culprits are peanuts, tree nuts, seeds, fish, shellfish, eggs and milk. Parents should always check their suspicions with a food allergist to correctly diagnose their children and properly educate themselves on how to avoid the food and what to do in the case of an emergency.

West Antarctica

Rapid and 'unstoppable' - West Antarctica is melting

by Elle Metz

Global warming is linked to rapid melting of the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which could raise sea levels more than 10 feet in coming centuries, according to two new studies.


Plant some flowers and save the Monarch butterflies

by Elise Byun

Monarch butterflies are in decline as their habitats get cut down in Mexico, their cold weather retreat, and in America, where they need more milkweeds to eat and grow as caterpillars. But you can help the Monarch butterfly repopulate by simply planting more flowers for them to eat or mowing less often or higher up from the ground allowing clovers to bloom.


Illinois residents call for stronger regulation of coal ash pits

by Farahnaz Mohammed

At a hearing held by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, residents called for stricter regulations to protect public health from coal ash pits. Illinois ranks first in the nation for the number of coal ash ponds, according to the Sierra Club. 


Cheaper and cleaner: Evanston chooses local provider Homefield Energy for 100% renewable energy provider

by Will Schutt

The City of Evanston signs 3-year deal with Homefield Energy to use only locally produced renewable energy. The deal goes into effect in August. Renewable energy sources will reduce pollution, improve air quality and save residents and businesses money.  


Endangered South American penguin chick egg fails to hatch at Brookfield Zoo

by Elise Byun

A Humboldt Penguin chick failed to hatch as expected last week at the Brookfield Zoo. Milwaukee Zoo officials sent the egg to Brookfield as part of an effort to preserve the endangered species. But an egg sent from the Columbus Zoo hatched Feb. 20 and is a thriving young Humboldt Penguin.


Chicago City Council bans plastic bags effective 2015

by Jade Kolker

Chicago City Council Wednesday passed a plastic bag ordinance 36-10, banning large retail stores from providing customers with plastic bags. The ordinance, which goes into effect Aug. 1, 2015, exempts dine-in or takeout restaurants as well as any store not defined as a chain store –three or more stores owned by the same owner – until Aug. 1, 2016.


Sister Helen Prejean speaks on death penalty as Oklahoma botches execution.

by Farahnaz Mohammed

  Sister Helen Prejean continued her national campaign against the death penalty at the Harold Washington Library Center Tuesday, the same day as Oklahoma botches an execution with an ineffective lethal injection. 

Worms, cloud dough and bottle caps make for an interesting Earth Day

by Abigail Thorpe

Kids explored Chicago's bird population, made leaf imprints and dived elbow deep into cloud dough at Lincoln Park Zoo's Earth Day celebration Sunday.


New Argonne center brings together national security and climate change

by Luke Rague

Argonne National Laboratory announced Wednesday the creation of the Center for Integrated Resiliency Analyses, a research center tasked with investigating how the changing global environment will affect our ability to respond properly to and mitigate damage from serious natural disasters and crises.


Health expert: Less than one percent of Americans have optimal cardiovascular health

by Megan Dawson

In the United States, one in four women die from heart disease – an ailment that is 80 to 90 percent preventable. Still, the death rates for heart disease in women are actually increasing. In fact, more women die of heart disease than cancer. Dr. Joanne Foody, the Director of the Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explains this grave phenomenon and tells women what they need to know to avoid succumbing to heart disease in this edited interview.


Artificial retina implant offers 'second sight'

by Jade Kolker

New retinal implants may reactivate some sight for people blinded by retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease. Patients with the device performed tasks such as scanning large letters, sorting through white, gray and black socks, and walking along a sidewalk and recognizing a curb. University of Illinois at Chicago Health's Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary is currently recruiting patients for surgery to test the device already approved by the FDA.


These bags are a relic of yesterday's economy

by Jade Kolker

The City Council Health and Environment Protection Committee unanimously approved a ban on loading purchases in plastic bags in large retail stores. The ban goes to the full City Council next week. The committee exempted small retail stores and restaurants from the ban.


Chicago activists rally and protest for Earth Day

by Farahnaz Mohammed

On Earth Day, the Global Climate Convergence gathered together approximately 200 people  to protest practices that harm the environment and to rally for climate justice. 


A dietitian’s plate: Healthy and home-cooked, occasional treats

by Christine Skopec

Chicago dietitian Amari Thomsen keeps healthy eating exciting by trying out new recipes and practical by taking a little bit of help from a few convenience items. While she focuses on wholesome meals, even she indulges in the occasional fried treat.


Early detection key to HIV remission

by Abigail Thorpe

Doctors and researchers shed a ray of hope on the HIV and AIDS epidemic during Thursday's HIV Research workshop at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.


How we cope with stress and love

by Farahnaz Mohammed

Kelly Miller is figuring out how people cope with stress, love and relationships as she pursues a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Soup Kitchen

Nearly 800,000 people go hungry in Cook County, new study says

by Elle Metz

Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap study reports that nearly 800,000 people are going hungry in Cook County, including one in five children.


Chicago zookeepers toast the rainforest on Earth Day

by Megan Dawson

Animal experts from Chicago area zoos toasted to Earth Day at a wine tasting fundraiser on Tuesday to help protect animals and land in threatened ecosystems. The proceeds from the tasting will purchase and protect acres of rainforest in the Guanacaste of Costa Rica.

Shakespeare Globe Theater

'The Science of Shakespeare' celebrates Bard's 450th birthday

by Elle Metz

 "The Science of Shakespeare" explores how the famous playwright was influenced by the great thinkers of the Scientific Revolution.


Fighting the spring rat invasion

by Abigail Thorpe

The harsh winter didn't freeze away the rat population in Chicago. These sturdy rodents defied the cold but can't beat some effective steps you can take to get rid of them.


Lady Gaga's foundation supports youth mental health discussions - all by text messaging

by Will Schutt

Texting offers new way to get youth engaged in mental health discussions. Creating Community Solutions and Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation are sponsoring a texting conversation about mental health. All you need to chime in is a cell phone. The latest digital mental health discussion for and between young people kicks off today.  


Boston, runners embrace marathon a year after tragedy

by Christine Skopec

I ran my first Boston Marathon on Monday, one year after the bombings that shocked the country. Rather than expressing sorrow or fear, I and 36,000 other runners found a close-knit community that was still healing but ready to move forward.


Northwestern's Mount Trashmore piles up the waste on Earth Day

by Jade Kolker

Northwestern University celebrates Earth Day by building a mountain of trash. The visual representation of the amount of garbage collected around campus during just seven hours shows people walking by that recycling does make an impact. Each day, Northwestern generates 8.9 tons of garbage and recycles 4.3 tons.


Heart disease screening a must to curtail top killer of U.S. women

by Megan Dawson

A national heart health group is kicking off a campaign to screen every woman in America, educate women about the risk of heart disease and close the gap between lack of awareness and prevention among women. Too often, they tend to focus on work and childcare over their own wellness, experts say.


Groceries on a budget: a week of healthy food for $40

by Christine Skopec

Armed with a menu plan and savvy shopping strategies, it is possible to eat nutritious meals for less than $40 a week. Using bulk bins, visiting multiple grocery stores and reducing meat consumption allow shoppers to eat well while maintaining a strict budget.


Time travel through the brightest ideas of science at “Think” exhibit

by Elise Byun

The “Think” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry looks at the history of thinking  faster and improving life with the help of science and technology. It pushes visitors to get excited about how much more we can do in the future by looking at the progress we have already made.


Evergreens burned by the winter may recover in spring

by Abigail Thorpe

Give evergreens time to recover from telltale brown patches caused by this winter's harsh weather.


Argonne scientists recruit teen girls for next gen scientists

by Megan Dawson

The next generation of women scientists, engineers and physicians gathered at the Argonne National Laboratory on April 10 for the 27th annual Science Careers in Search of Women conference. Three hundred teens from the Chicago area mingled with Argonne’s leading scientists and engineers and gained exposure to career options in STEM fields.

Find immortality in your avatar

by Elle Metz

Imagine immortality as an avatar. promises to compile information about you during your lifetime and then generate a digital avatar of you that can interact with your family and friends once you pass away. 


Celebrate Earth Day in Chicago all week!

by Luke Rague

Communities, schools and your favorite organizations have a number of events planned throughout the week coming to celebrate Earth Day. From tree plantings to deep discussions to bike rides, find an environmentally-minded activity that's perfect for you.

Easter Bunnies

The healthy way to break a fast

by Elle Metz

With the end of Lent approaching on  Easter Day and juice cleanses gaining popularity, those who fasted may want to consider a balanced transition back to a regular diet. Experts share the healthiest way to break a fast: gradually.


Calls for action dominate Lake County's Clean Energy Forum

by Will Schutt

Non-profits, community organizations, and politicians reviewed the need to revamp Illinois' clean energy legislation. They called on local residents to embrace clean energy options that bring jobs, energy savings and social justice. 


Save money, fight climate change

by Farahnaz Mohammed

The Clean Energy Forum urged Illinois residents to fight climate change. The forum held in Waukegan on Tuesday focused on educating local residents about adapting their lifestyles to save both their planet and their wallets.


Join the Earth Explorers at the Museum of Science and Industry

by Elise Byun

"Earth Explorers” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry gives visitors an immersive around-the-world experience  - from a tent in a tropical rain forest to a cabin in the Arctic.

Gamma ray galaxy map

Gamma rays shed light on dark matter's shrouded life

by Luke Rague

Gamma rays pouring from the center of our galaxy are giving Fermilab scientists an elusive glimpse at the dark side of the universe – dark matter. Physicists offer convincing evidence of dark matter, theorized to exist only through models until now. Researchers used gamma ray data collected by the FERMI-LAT satellite to map the center of the galaxy and determine the origin of an excess in gamma rays, concluding the only possible origin is dark matter.


Two student startups win funding at Clean Energy Challenge

by Will Schutt

Two fledgling companies launched from a Northwestern University graduate entrepreneurship class won a collective $100,000 in Chicago's 2014 Clean Energy Challenge.


Look at things a little differently at the Biomechanics exhibit

by Jade Kolker

The science behind the Biomechanics exhibit shows the work that goes into making a museum exhibit, especially one that covers a vast expanse of information. Developers, scientists, and curators worked to create an exhibit that answers all the questions you may have about living beings, and showcases the machine inside everything, from humans, to cheetahs and plants.


Alice Waters’ edible garden movement grows in Chicago

by Abigail Thorpe

Edible Schoolyard Project creator Alice Waters packed the house at the Art Institute of Chicago to promote school gardens that give kids a harvest of food and education. The edible gardens movement has taken hold in Chicago's Green City Market Edible Gardens and hundreds of school gardens developing throughout Chicago Public Schools.


Brookfield Zoo supports artificial insemination program to save endangered wolves

by Farahnaz Mohammed

Combining two sperm donors at Brookfield Zoo, cutting-edge science and nature’s tried-and-true reproductive methods, zoologists are fighting to save the wolves.    


Education and staffing boosts: Top priorities to help Illinois nurses save lives

by Jade Kolker

The Illinois Center for Nursing estimates that by the year 2020, there will be an estimated shortage of 21,000 nurses in Illinois. "With the aging population and how sick people will become, we need more educated nurses," according to Sharon Canariato, executive director at the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders.


Climate change hits your fridge

by Jennifer Draper

Mother Nature is getting more hotheaded, causing problems for farmers and increasingly straining the global food supply. Consider the impact right in your fridge where fruits and meats are already increasing in price. Policymakers, farmers and consumers all over the world are considering solutions that range from agriculture innovations to regulatory overhauls.


Big Pharma holds fate of voluntary antibiotic regulations for livestock

by Eva Voinigescu

Will pharmaceutical companies help remove antibiotics from animal feed voluntarily? We’ll soon find out. Thursday marked the end of the 3-month period allotted by the Food and Drug Administration to pharmaceutical companies to reveal whether they would voluntarily change product labels for medically important antibiotics. It also marked the end of the public comment period on the FDA's proposed changes to the animal drug dispensing regulations.

Medical film may reduce common unwanted side effects of surgery

by Katie Golde

Born in a biomedical engineering lab at the University of Texas at Austin, a seminal medical technology under development could give a boost to people’s post-surgical health and mobility. The innovative team at Alafair Biosciences is ramping up to bring this technology to guide the internal healing process in tendon surgery.


Fermilab seeks clues to universe in ghost-like neutrinos

by Laura L. Calderone

They are a big mystery yet so small they are virtually massless. Scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are studying neutrinos by sending an intense beam of them 500 miles from just outside Chicago to Ash River, Minn. Understanding the properties of these subatomic particles may help answer the question: why are we here?


Lighting the way with microgrids

by Sarah Kollmorgen

Microgrids, technically known as distributed generation, are small-scale energy grids. Like a typical electrical grid, they store, transmit and distribute electricity. Microgrids can function in two ways: many can and do link to a main power grid, operating in parallel on a local level. Microgrids are also defined by their ability to work independently, sometimes called “islanding.”


Renoir reds revealed at Art Institute exhibit and AAAS science summit

by Katie Golde

Northwestern University chemist Richard Van Duyne and a team of scientists at the Art Institute of Chicago reached beneath the surface of one of Renoir’s masterpieces to uncover the painting's real reds and show the world how vibrant his colors were. "Renoir's True Colors: Science Solves a Mystery" opened at the Art Institute just in time for Valentine's Day. Van Duyne showcased the team effort Thursday, the opening day in Chicago of the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. See on-going conference coverage through Feb. 17 at Medill Reports. 


FDA ignored health risks of antibiotics in animal feed, new report contends

by Eva Voinigescu

The FDA allowed the potentially risky use of antibiotics in animal feed for years despite internal safety reviews showing that the practice could expose humans to antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to a report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council this week.