Academics and research in the news

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Get ready to eat bugs if you want to live beyond 2050

By 2050 there will be an estimated 10 billion humans living on this planet. That's not just a lot of mouths to feed, those folks will be, on average, wealthier than today's population with a taste for the foods found in regions like the U.S. and Western Europe. We simply don't have the capability, the land or production resources to ensure that many people can eat a cheeseburger whenever the mood strikes. Luckily, researchers from around the globe are working on alternative protein sources to supplement our existing beef, pork and chicken. Julie Lesnik, a biological anthropologist at Wayne State University, advocates that we look to get our meat from smaller, more resource-efficient animals than cattle -- specifically, crickets. She points out that, per kilogram, crickets offer roughly the same amount of protein as beef as well as significantly more micronutrients since you're consuming the exoskeleton as well. She also notes that given their diminutive stature and affinity for cramped dark places, crickets require far less arable land than cattle do, citing a 2013 report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. "When we're thinking about why we don't eat insects, it's really a story of Europe, and that Europe being in high latitudes, insects aren't available year-round," Lesnick continued. "Eating insects in the summer can give a reprieve from hunting, but it's nutritionally redundant, so it's not an important resource."
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Puerto Rico earthquakes imperil island’s indigenous heritage

Jorge L. Chinea, professor of history and director of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, wrote a piece for The Conversation examining the indigenous heritage of Puerto Rico and the major challenges facing the island. “Tremors and aftershocks are still rocking Puerto Rico, weeks after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake toppled buildings, killed at least one person and injured another eight on Jan. 7. Families have begun leaving the island because it won’t stop shaking. For many on the island, the devastation is a reminder of September 2017 when Hurricane Maria killed 3,000 people and as many as 200,000 Puerto Ricans were forced to hastily relocate to the mainland United States. These major disasters have ravaged the island’s cultural heritage, too. Numerous historic landmarks – including a 2,000-year-old archaeological site containing priceless evidence of the island’s earliest dwellers, the Taíno people – have been destroyed. As a historian of colonial Latin America born in Puerto Rico, I recognize that between the 15th-century Spanish colonization and the 1898 U.S. annexation of the island, the Taíno’s story has been all but erased from the historic record.”
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Why it’s unclear whether private programs for ‘troubled teens’ are working

Heather E. Mooney, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Wayne State University, wrote an article for The Conversation regarding the effectiveness of private programs designed for troubled teens. “The troubled teen industry is a mostly unregulated collection of for-profit programs that claim to rehabilitate out-of-control youth. Between 50,000 and 100,000 adolescents currently spend at least part of the year in these facilities. Their enrollment – or confinement, depending on the arrangement or their perspective – can prevent these relatively privileged kids from joining the 48,000 youth caught in the U.S. juvenile justice system. With little academic research about these private programs serving troubled teens, the conversation around them strikes me as either overly positive or negative. I’m skeptical about the positive research because most of it has been conducted and funded by the schools themselves or the organizations representing them. These studies also tend to look at limited time frames, such as two years or less after participants have left a “troubled teens” program.”
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The serious consequence of exercising too much, too fast

Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sports science, wrote a piece about exercise-associated collapse – the mechanical and chemical disruptions to muscle cell membranes which trigger the muscle cells to burst. “I am seeing and hearing of more incidents of skeletal muscle ruptures that are causing harm in other parts of the body. This information is not designed to scare people back onto the couch. The key take-away from highlighting these cases is to remind athletes, coaches and mere mortals that the desired physiological response to a training stimulus requires both a gradual buildup period and period of recovery in between training sessions. Although symptomatic rhabdomyolysis is uncommon, this emergent complication of exercise should be on everyone’s radar since cases are on the rise. We coaches, trainers, scientists, practitioners and others encourage everyone to reap the joys and benefits of regular exercise training. However, we caution against exercising too much too soon. Self- (or coach-) inflicted skeletal muscle cell explosions are fully preventable with adherence to smart, physiologically sound approaches to training.
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Precedent? Nah, the Senate gets to reinvent its rules in every impeachment

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation on the rules of impeachment. “Unlike a court of law, prior impeachment trials serve as precedent only in the nonlegal, nonbinding sense. The Senate can look to the procedures it has used in past impeachment proceedings, but those procedures do not have to be followed. The Constitution gives very little guidance on how an impeachment trial should proceed. Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 states, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments.” After requiring that Senators be “on oath,” that the chief justice preside and that a two-thirds vote is required to convict, the Constitution leaves it to the Senate to make its own rules about how to conduct the trial. So the fight over procedures and precedents may not be over yet, especially since the Senate can change the rules by majority vote whenever it wants.
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Impeachment trial senators swear an oath aimed at guarding ‘against malice, falsehood, and evasion’

Susan P. Fino, professor of political science, wrote a piece for The Conversation about the senators’ impeachment oath. “The 100 United States senators who are jurors in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump have taken a special oath in order to take part in that proceeding. As they enter the active phase of the trial on Tuesday, this oath is supposed to govern their behavior. It’s not the first oath that the lawmakers have taken in their Senate careers. Members of Congress, as well as federal judicial officers and members of state legislatures, must swear to “support the Constitution.” But the Constitution does not specify the form of the oath. So the very first Congress crafted an oath of office and – with minor modifications – that is the oath each member of Congress swears when he or she takes her seat in the House or the Senate. There is a second oath that members of the Senate must take when conducting an impeachment trial. The specific text for this oath was developed in 1868 for the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.
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Veterans, refugees and victims of war crimes are all vulnerable to PTSD

Arash Javanbakht, assistant professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for the Conversation on the vulnerability of veterans, refugees and victims of war crimes to PTSD. “Mental health is often used in political discourse and arguments. Post-traumatic stress disorder was the subject Jan. 8, when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.), herself a Somalian refugee who had spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya, said: “Every time I hear conversations around war, I find myself being stricken with PTSD.” Rep. Jim Banks (R.-Ind.), a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, found these comments “offensive to our nation’s veterans who really do have PTSD.” As an expert in research and treatment of PTSD, and a psychiatrist working with refugees and victims of torture, I hope to provide insight into this illness and its presentations in different populations.”
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What the loss of civil rights icons means for continuing fight for equality

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day to reflect not only on the man, but the movement that he came to represent. That reflection has some people thinking about all of the civil rights icons we’ve lost recently. Judge Damon Keith, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Aretha Franklin, Toni Morrison, Harris Wofford, and many more. As we move further into this decade we’ll lose more. What does the loss of the Civil Rights generation mean for the fight for equal rights moving forward? “They wanted to change laws, they wanted to improve legislation, they wanted to improve America,” says Ollie Johnson, chair and professor of the Department of African American Studies at Wayne State University. “I think we have unfinished business. And it really pains me to talk about it,” 
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State jail task force urges change

Who is in Michigan jails, for how long and why, largely remains unknown following months of investigation. The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration released its final report this week, leaving many questions. What is known is that even a short stay in jail is destabilizing, said Sheryl Kubiak, dean of Wayne State University’s School of Social Work, and a task force member. “If you had a job, you may lose it, and if you lose your job, then you might lose your housing. These unintended consequences have a big effect, which is why we want to work with the legislature now, while the momentum is still going.” Task force members will now work with the legislature in an effort to have at least some of their recommendations enacted through passage of new laws and/or statues, Kubiak said. “I’m optimistic. I think many of the legislators have had experience in the criminal justice system, as attorneys or in other ways, and I think they understand some of these issues very well,” Kubiak said. “We’ve made a good start here with smart and committed people.”
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Why native fish matter

The fish populations of the Great Lakes have changed dramatically in the years since invasive species first arrived. Bloodsucking sea lampreys have decimated native lake trout, and tiny alewives have feasted on the eggs and young of trout and other native species. But there’s good news too, as researchers roll out solutions to help manage invasive fish populations and maintain the diversity of species. Donna Kashian, SciFri Book Club reader and biology professor at Wayne State University said, “I have so many wonderful memories of the Great Lakes, both as a child whose parents had a cabin near Lake Michigan and as an adult doing research on the lakes. But one in particular stands out. I was doing research on Lake Huron, I don’t even remember what we were looking at on that particular day. It was late in the season, maybe August. We were in the middle of the lake—flat water, clear blue skies—and monarch butterflies were just flying everywhere. We’re in the middle of their migration south. It was so surreal and beautiful. I knew birds use the lake as a flyway in their migration, but I never knew monarchs did.
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Opinion: Michigan's three research universities fight the opioid crisis

Michigan’s three research universities presidents, M. Roy Wilson, Wayne State, Mark S. Schlissel, University of Michigan, and Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Michigan State, co-wrote an opinion piece about efforts among the University Research Corridor (URC) institutions to address the opioid crisis. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 2,033 people in Michigan died of overdose deaths involving opioids in 2017, a rate of 21.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000. Michigan now ranks in the top third nationally for drug-related deaths, with over half due to synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl. If Michigan is to reduce those numbers and save lives, it must continue to look for innovative and research-driven ways to take action. That’s why the three major state universities that make up Michigan’s URC have won millions of dollars in competitive federal funds and other grants to train more physicians and counselors statewide to become addiction medicine specialists who can treat patients. Researchers at the three universities also are investigating new ways to keep opioid users who have kicked the habit from taking up the drug again; addressing opioid addiction in jails; finding better ways to treat chronic back pain to lessen reliance on opioids; working with the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to develop a medical provider toolkit to help doctors follow safer opioid prescribing practices; and launching a free online course for health and social services professionals and graduate students examining ways to deal with the opioid epidemic through prevention, intervention, education and policy. As medical doctors and researchers, this is a cause we must win. We are pledging our three URC universities to the fight. 
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Controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s PTSD comments reveals how the disorder is misunderstood

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) fled civil war in Somalia when she was 8 years old, then spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. As a result, she says, she has post-traumatic stress disorder as an adult. But when she mentioned the condition publicly this week in the context of conflict between the U.S. and Iran, she got pushback from a Republican member of Congress. But psychology experts as well as some veterans say Rep. Jim Banks’s remarks are based on a misconception about PTSD, a mental health condition that can cause flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares, and other distressing symptoms. Though it was long associated with soldiers coming home from war, PTSD is also common among children and other civilians who live through war, as well as people who experience sexual assault and other forms of violence. Syrian refugees living in the United States, for example, have rates of PTSD comparable with those among Vietnam veterans, Arash Javanbakht, a psychiatrist and trauma specialist who has worked with refugees, told Vox. In addition to nightmares and flashbacks, the disorder can also cause people to avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, Javanbakht said. People with PTSD also often develop depression as well. PTSD is unfortunately common — around 8 percent of the US population lives with the disorder, Javanbakht said. Rates are much higher among combat veterans, with around 30 percent of soldiers who served in Vietnam developing the condition over the course of their lives. They are also very high among refugees, who “are exposed to a lot of trauma and stress in a cumulative way,” he explained.
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Program to address urgent need for STEM educators in Detroit, Dearborn

Wayne State University has launched a teaching residency project for the Detroit and Dearborn public school districts that aims to address the state's shortage of STEM teachers and support workforce development. The $2.5 million program, Metro Detroit Teaching Residency for Urban Excellence (TRUE) Project, will seek recent college graduates and mid-career professionals with STEM expertise in the metro Detroit region, especially those in the automotive and technology industries who may be impacted by plant closures. Program officials said the project will prepare 36 professionals as K-12 STEM teachers over an 18-month period, during which they will complete a master’s degree and receive their teaching certification, followed by a two-year induction period of mentoring and professional development. Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs and professor at Wayne State University, said he applauds the project’s innovative approach toward building pillars of sustainability in the region. “Having highly qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators in the classroom is vital to the development of our nation’s and region’s workforce," Whitfield said. "Through our investment in the Metro Detroit TRUE Project, coupled with other efforts at the university, it is our aim to provide students in Detroit Public Schools Community District and Dearborn Public Schools with the STEM educators and experiences that spark learners’ curiosity to explore STEM related concepts that they can apply in the classroom, community and the world of work so they can thrive in the new knowledge economy.” 
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Expert says 'quite a bit' of contamination left behind causing green ooze in Madison Heights

We’re getting a clearer picture of what’s causing the green ooze toxic contamination that is flowing from the closed Electro-Plating Services site in Madison Heights and onto I-696. State and federal officials have said rainwater and groundwater flowing through a vat in the basement caused Hexavalent Chromium to leak out. Bill Shuster takes it a step further telling 7 Action News, “This water is picking up the contaminants that are still in the soil there.” Shuster is the Chair of the Wayne State University Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. The EPA spent $1.4 million to do a massive cleanup inside the facility after the state shut it down in 2016. How much contamination was left behind? Shuster speculated, “We would have to look at the data and analyze what’s in the affluent. Well, the gut instinct there was quite a bit left in there.” Shuster says the green ooze is colored by a marker added to the cancer causing Hexavalent Chromium. And he says options to prevent trouble after the cleanup included excavating the vat, making sure it is not coming in contact with groundwater and he says, “I probably would have capped it, ensured that water wouldn’t be getting in from the top. Into the pit. I can’t criticize EPA or MEDQ EGLE but if I was in charge, these are the things I would be looking at.”
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Social Workers push back on Medicaid, SNAP work requirements

If you need Medicaid in Michigan, you’ll have to work…or get a waiver. New regulations pushed through by the State’s Republican Legislature and signed by then-governor Rick Snyder in 2018 went into effect on Jan. 1. The Trump administration is also pushing work requirements for those who receive federal food assistance and has tightened work requirements for those receiving food stamps or SNAP benefits. The move will kick 688,000 underprivileged people out of the program. Judith Wineman is a full-time faculty member in the Wayne State School of Social Work and the director of CHAMPS. The program helps young adults who have aged out of the foster care and the juvenile justice system get to – and stay in college. She says work requirements are a moral crisis. Marla Garmo is a Campus Coach for Wayne State’s CHAMPS program. “We have to think about what it really says about us as a country that we will allow people to go hungry, to lose out on their food stamps benefits and enforce a work requirement that really can be unattainable for some individuals.” Garmo says the system is set up to make the application process more difficult. “People have to apply online instead of a paper application and they might not have access to a computer, or don’t know how to use a computer. There’s a lot of barriers. So once you’ve been deemed eligible and given these benefits, now you’re being told there are additional requirements. None of that gets to why people can’t find a job.” These requirements often disproportionately affect underprivileged communities. “Poor people, immigrants, people that don’t speak the language, elderly people can’t advocate for themselves,” says Wineman. “To me, it’s a political smokescreen to say, ‘We’re doing this great thing by saving all this money by forcing people to work.’ To me and other social workers, that is not the answer.”
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New research aims to improve oral delivery of insulin

According to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, the disease is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States, with an estimated 30.3 million people currently with diabetes. Oral insulin is potentially prescribed to patients diagnosed with diabetes to improve their quality of life. However, current oral protein formulations of insulin face multiple obstacles during their gastrointestinal transport and absorption, resulting in lower therapeutic benefits. This includes difficulty penetrating the intestinal mucus layer and the epithelial cell layer to reach the blood. While scientists have made improvements in mucus-penetrating and absorption-enhancing technologies, current oral doses of protein drugs to treat diabetes remains low in absorption and bioavailability, and can increase the risk of leaky gut, autoimmune disease, bacterial infections and inflammatory bowel diseases. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a safe and efficient oral delivery technology that will enhance protein transport, and to increase oral insulin with high bioavailability. With the help of a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, a team of researchers in Wayne State's College of Engineering will explore ways to address these issues. "The goal of our project is to develop a highly promising oral insulin that will be a life-changing treatment for diabetes patients," said Zhiqiang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and graduate program director in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University. "We also hope to develop knowledge of how our delivery platform can address multiple barriers for oral protein delivery above and beyond insulin. This will have the potential to impact and enhance a broad range of oral protein drugs." Cao and his collaborators will aim to develop a mechanism for a novel insulin delivery system that effectively address the above issues.
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Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president, but Trump may force them to wade in

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation about President Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle. Carlson calls these actions “the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.”
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This emergency manager says better management wasn’t enough

Emergency managers appointed to heal the Detroit district’s finances did little more than apply Band-Aids to a major wound, according to a recent report. Robert Bobb, one of those emergency managers, says Band-Aids were all he had. Like others appointed to run Detroit Public Schools amid a financial crisis, Bobb took out loans to cover the district’s short-term costs, an approach that led to ballooning debt and interest payments. “We couldn’t make payroll. The district could not even pay its utility bills,” he recalled. “Either we close the doors, or we go to short-term borrowing that will have a negative impact in the long term.” The report, which was commissioned by the school board, found “startling mismanagement” by the state officials who largely ran the district between 1999 and 2015. “The whole idea of emergency management is that the school district’s problems are due to poor management and the failure or local democratic governance,” said Mike Addonizio, a professor of education at Wayne State University. “By 2016 it became apparent to policymakers in Lansing that there was no way to manage DPS out of its budget deficit.” Addonizio agrees that a major cash infusion was the only way to solve the problem. He believes it didn’t come sooner because of a political consensus in the Republican-controlled statehouse that the structural issues would be solved by school choice measures. “They were convinced that more choice could resolve problems of educational deficiencies and management problems. I guess maybe they thought that failing schools would close and that children would then enroll in schools that were succeeding. But when students leave schools and districts, the schools don’t close. The children remaining in the district just suffer.”
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Report: Detroit faces the most challenges to keeping kids in school

How bad is Detroit’s student chronic absenteeism problem? Wayne State University researchers have identified eight conditions — such as poverty, unemployment, and even cold temperatures — that are strongly correlated to chronic absence, and the city leads all other large metropolitan areas in having the worst outcomes for almost all of those conditions. The findings come with a key takeaway the researchers hope will prompt action: Schools alone can’t solve the problem of getting students to school every day, said Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor in the college of education at Wayne State University. And, the findings come during a critical time as the Detroit school district invests heavily in a number of efforts designed to get students in school. Citywide, across district and charter schools, about half of the students are chronically absent — meaning they’re missing 18 or more days during the school year. Lenhoff said what’s needed is a more coordinated effort that brings together policymakers, school district officials, charter school officials, community organizations, and community members. Without it, the work being done by schools is “unlikely to make the huge difference we need to make,” Lenhoff said.
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Researchers discover natural toxin fatal to invasive mussels

Researchers at Wayne State University believe they may have found a way to stop invasive species of mussels from spreading throughout the Great Lakes by using algae. The find, a toxin released by dying algae called Microcystin LR, which when placed in direct contact with juvenile mussels can be fatal. Algal blooms which commonly flourish in the Great Lakes every summer are filled with toxins. Microcystin LR is the most common and also the most toxic, however some researchers don’t believe the application is practical. Scientists remain optimistic over the find as the invaders had been largely left unchecked since their introduction to the Great Lakes through ballast water in the 1980’s.