College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the news

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E-scooters are fast, unregulated and all over Detroit. What could go wrong?

In a rapidly changing Detroit, the scooters have become something else: a symbol of tension about whether the city belongs to newcomers or longtime residents. In a city with chronic problems, the service that appeals mainly to young professionals was rolled out so quickly and with virtually no regulations that a City Council analyst last year wrote that Detroit was “inundated.” The results have often been confusion, annoyance, anger and broken bones as scooter users have shown up by the dozen at Detroit emergency rooms. Rayman Mohamed, a Wayne State University professor of urban studies and planning, said the absence of accepted rules about scooters fuel tensions. “At least there are rules of the road that cars generally follow,” said Mohamed, who occasionally uses a scooter himself.  “And, for the most part, both pedestrians and drivers have a common understanding what those rules are. “I think with scooters we haven’t had time to come to a common understanding about those rules. Instead, the rules are ambiguous and that leaves lots of room for animosity between pedestrians and scooter users.”
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Is there such a thing as ‘friend-zone’?

The issue of the “friend-zone” – and the reasons that men and women view it differently – helps us to understand the ways that people judge sexual interest and the things that lead us to strike up friendships in the first place. Trying to make a move on a friend is a balance of risk and reward, and men, more often than women, are attracted to opposite-sex friends, even when both people define the relationship as platonic. Men overestimated how attractive they were to the women, and the women underestimated how attracted the men were to them. People who rate themselves as highly attractive are also more likely to overperceive other's sexual interest in them. “Once we expect something we tend to see it,” says Antonia Abbey, from Wayne State University, a social psychologist who studies relationships. “If you think someone is sexually attracted to you, you watch for it more. Like when a person leans forward or laughs, or whatever – they view [that] as a sexual sign. They might not notice that when they leaned in the other person backed off.” Researchers like Abbey study the exchanges between people initiating romantic interest – called dating “scripts”. These scripts can reveal the sequence of events that lead to successful or unsuccessful pursuits of romance – and it turns out we often have pre-defined roles. “Context really matters in interactions like this,” says Abbey. “Men might be looking for signs of attraction more than women because traditional gender roles suggest men take the initiative. It sounds old fashioned in 2019, but there have been quite a few qualitative studies that ask about dates and people tend to still have a lot of those traditional themes around who asks whom out, who pays and things like that. Women hold back and men feel the burden to take the lead.”
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Blind Wayne State student shares inspiring secret to success, gets tattoo to celebrate passing organic chemistry

Any college-level chemistry class can seem difficult. One Wayne State University student, who happens to be blind, took organic chemistry for two semesters. Nicole Kada was born blind but she sees the world in a very inspiring way. “You could be blind and say that you can’t do anything because you can’t see, therefore you just can’t but that’s just making excuses,” she said. The 23-year-old is studying to become a dietitian and one of the courses she must pass is organic chemistry. “Organic chemistry is all drawing structures and molecules, it’s basically an art class, times ten,” Kada said. But if you can’t see or draw, how do you approach this class? She uses special paper and a Braille computer that helps her identify different shapes. “Plastic paper that you put on a drawing board and you write with this pen and it raises it up in Braille so I can feel the molecules,” Kada said. The student says she had to study much harder than other students to understand what was being taught in two semesters. She met with a tutor every day for hours and it paid off. She got two A's for the year. “Most proudest moments and happiest too,” Kada said. To celebrate, she got a tattoo of a molecule to be a permanent reminder of perseverance. “When my kids tell me they can’t do something, I’m going to show them my tattoo and tell them yes you can because I can do it and I can’t see.” Kada will be graduating next year but she hopes her story will inspire others. “As soon as you remove limitations, then you can accomplish anything,” she said.
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Texas hospital tries to stop birds living in nearby trees, accidentally creates haven for North America's most venomous caterpillar

Texas hospital's attempts to deter birds have accidentally created a haven for North American's most venomous caterpillar species, whose painful sting has been compared to breaking a bone. Nets were put up on the oak trees that line the sidewalks of Texas Medical Center in Houston to stop birds like grackles and pigeons—which can carry diseases and create a mess—from gathering. But by putting the birds off from landing on the trees, the institution created a new problem. With no birds to eat them, the population of bugs commonly known as "asps" exploded. After studying the area for three years, researchers found the caterpillars were 7,300 percent more abundant on netted trees compared to those without protection. Also known as Megalopyge opercularis or puss moth caterpillars, the insects are the most poisonous caterpillars in North America. The creatures are covered in spines linked to a sac filled with poison. If someone brushes against an asp, the protrusions break off and stick into the skin, releasing venom. After around five minutes, the victim will experience an intense throbbing pain, which then spreads. Stings can be accompanied by headaches, vomiting and nausea, as well as stomach pains. Glen Hood, who led the study at Rice University and is a research assistant professor of biological sciences at Wayne State University, said in a statement: "There are a lot of people that congregate in the green spaces of TMC [Texas Medical Center]. It becomes this scenario of what's worse—bird guano or venomous asps—and is there a happy medium?" Hood commented: "It's highly suggestive that when you don't take into account the natural interactions taking place within a community or ecosystem, even in an urban setting, it can cause unforeseen consequences."
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Uber and Lyft take a lot more from drivers than they say

In July, an Uber driver picked up a fare in a trendy neighborhood of a major U.S. metropolitan area. It was rush hour and surge pricing was in effect due to increased demand, meaning that Dave would be paid almost twice the regular fare. Even though the trip was only five miles, it lasted for more than half an hour because his passengers scheduled a stop at Taco Bell for dinner. Dave knew sitting at the restaurant waiting for his fares would cost him money; he was earning only 21 cents a minute when the meter was running, compared to 60 cents per mile. With surge pricing in effect, it would be far more lucrative to keep moving and picking up new fares than sitting in a parking lot. But Dave had no real choice but to wait. The passenger had requested the stop through the app, so refusing to make it would have been contentious both with the customer and with Uber. There’s widespread belief among drivers that the Uber algorithm punishes drivers for cancelling trips. Ultimately, the rider paid $65 for the half-hour trip. But Dave made only $15. Uber kept the rest, more than 75 percent of the fare, more than triple the average so-called “take-rate” it claims in financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This, according to Wayne State University law professor Sanjuka Paul, who has written extensively on the ride-hailing industry, is a new wrinkle in the independent contractor debate, because it doesn’t align with the arguments the companies make that they merely facilitate interactions between two independent actors in a market. “The economic reality is they, Uber and Lyft, are collecting the fare from the consumer and then making a capital firm decision which, in this case, doesn’t sound like a very bad decision— actually making quite a sensible decision,” she said. “But it shows that they are a firm that is charging consumers and then making decisions with that money, including how to pay a labor force.”
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With new leadership in Oakland County, what’s next for regionalism?

In early August, Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson died, leaving a vacancy at a post he held for 26 years. The longtime Republican executive was known for, among other things, promoting Oakland County at all costs. He often said that if something was good for Detroit and other counties, but bad for Oakland County, he would oppose it. He also stymied efforts at regional transit and was criticized for fanning animosity between the suburbs and city with his incendiary language. Many are hoping that new leadership will increase regional cooperation, which is desperately needed. “We’ve got a labor market that is regional, but don’t have a transportation system that reflects that geography,” says Robin Boyle, professor emeritus at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University. “We don’t think about the metropolitan area when it comes to two of the most important elements that make up lives: our work and our ability to move around.” David Coulter was named the new Oakland County executive this week—it will be the first time in half a century that Democrats will lead the county. Since 2011, Coulter had been the mayor of progressive, LGBTQ-friendly Ferndale. During his tenure, he improved the city’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Rising housing prices and an eclectic mix of businesses have helped it become one of the trendiest cities in Oakland County. Boyle adds that whoever is in charge will ultimately serve their constituents first. Much like Patterson. “We have a culture in Southeast Michigan that doesn’t look beyond the immediate municipality that you live in,” he says. “That includes Detroit, that includes small communities everywhere from Grosse Pointe and Downriver to northern Oakland County. “This could be an opportunity to make a change, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
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Scientists discover new state of matter

A team of physicists has uncovered a new state of matter—a breakthrough that offers promise for increasing storage capabilities in electronic devices and enhancing quantum computing. The discovery, reported in a paper, “Phase signature of topological transition in Josephson Junctions,” or arXiv, was conducted with Igor Zutic at the University of Buffalo and Alex Matos-Abiague at Wayne State University. The work centers on quantum computing—a method that can make calculations at significantly faster rates than can conventional computing. This is because conventional computers process digital bits in the form of 0s and 1s while quantum computers deploy quantum bits (qubits) to tabulate any value between 0 and 1, exponentially lifting the capacity and speed of data processing. Researchers analyzed a transition of quantum state from its conventional state to a new topological state, measuring the energy barrier between these states. They supplemented this by directly measuring signature characteristics of this transition in the order parameter that governs the new topological superconductivity phase. Here, they focused the inquiry on Majorana particles, which are their own antiparticles—substances with the same mass, but with the opposite physical charge. Scientists see value in Majorana particles because of their potential to store quantum information in a special computation space where quantum information is protected from the environment noise. However, there is no natural host material for these particles, also known as Majorana fermions. As a result, researchers have sought to engineer platforms—i.e., new forms of matter—on which these calculations could be conducted.
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DTE Energy Foundation awards $100k to Wayne State’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Wayne State University Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies to support its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Designed to improve retention and graduation rates, SEP is a college-readiness program that helps incoming first-generation and underrepresented college students acquire the key “hard” and “soft” skills needed to smoothly transition to rigorous university-level coursework. Structured as an intensive, eight-week immersion in mathematics, English composition, oral communications and cultural studies, the SEP courses and complementary learning exercises are widely regarded as pivotal to a successful academic experience. The grant, which will enable the center to continue to offer SEP over the next four years, greatly advances the university’s strategic plans to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse pool of students who will become leaders in their professions and in local communities. The program has a demonstrated record of laying a solid foundation for their competitive performance in a wide array of courses, especially those in the STEM fields. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that the foundation has deposited on our organization’s ability to continue to assist students pursuing a cutting-edge academic degree at Wayne State University,” said Jorge L. Chinea, director of the center.
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Understanding the ‘why’ of higher water levels in the Great Lakes

Climate scientists may not be shouting from the housetops when it comes to the effect of global warming on water levels in the Great Lakes, but they’re also not saying that everything will be fine. Reaction to a recent study produced by Canada’s federal environmental agency asserts that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, and that the country’s northern regions are warming three times as fast. The impact on Michigan has much to do with water levels, which are impacted by many factors, including precipitation, the rate of evaporation and water temperatures. Shirley Papuga, associate professor in the geology and environmental science program at Wayne State, referred to the work done by one of her undergraduate students, Alex Eklund, who has plotted out data on 20-year average temperatures. “For 2019, for instance, compared to the 20-year average minimum temperatures, those were lower in the winter,” said Papuga. “But the minimum temperatures are actually higher now in the spring and summer, which suggests a seasonality is in play.”
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NATO’s future to be explored July 25 at Wayne State University

The Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State University, in collaboration with NATO, is presenting a half-day symposium from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, July 25. The program will feature a keynote by former U.S. Senator Carl Levin titled “The Evolution and Future Direction of NATO.” A panel also will be held, featuring NATO Assistant Secretary General John Manza — a Wayne State University alumnus — and other distinguished security policy analysts and alliance scholars from Ohio State and Wayne State universities. Given the timeliness of this topic, the general public, media, as well as diplomatic and military officials in the region — including Canada — are welcome to attend the symposium and learn more about this key alliance. “In light of controversies over matters such as funding and future defense commitments, it is important for Americans, Canadians and others to know of NATO’s varied missions, which range from continental defense to naval rescue and multiregional peacekeeping,” said Frederic Pearson, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies director. “The alliance also has close relations with other organizations, including the European Union and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as individual national governments. Come and hear of these multiple facets.”
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Wayne State Police rescue concussed peregrine falcon chick

A peregrine falcon chick is recovering from a concussion after Wayne State University police rescued him from a grassy median at a busy intersection last week. Police were responding to a call about a big bird near the intersection of Cass and Warren in Midtown when two officers spotted the injured chick Wednesday night. “As we got closer, we could see blood close to the beak,” Officer Matt Roznowski tells the Metro Times. He and his partner Asaad Fradi gingerly placed the chick in a padded bag and took him back to the police station. “I have a big heart for animals,” Roznowski says. Afraid the chick may die without medical care, Officer Heather Glowacz drove the chick to Spirit Filled Wings Raptor Rehabilitation in Romeo. The male chick is now in the good hands of Department of Natural Resources volunteer and falcon expert Dave Hogan. “He had a little bit of a concussion,” says Danielle Durham, a DNR nesting coordinator. “He’s doing OK.” 
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Juneteenth: Freedom's promise is still denied to thousands of blacks unable to make bail

Matthew Larson, assistant professor of criminal justice, wrote a piece about Juneteenth (June 19) marking “the celebration of the de facto end of slavery in the United States.” (This article is republished from a June 19, 2018 edition of The Conversation). Larson points out, however, that for hundreds of thousands of African-Americans stuck in pretrial detention – accused but not convicted of a crime, and unable to leave because of bail – that promise remains unfulfilled. “While Juneteenth is a momentous day in U.S. history, it is important to appreciate that the civil rights and liberties promised to African-Americans have yet to be fully realized. As legal scholar Michelle Alexander forcefully explains, this is a consequence of Jim Crow laws and the proliferation of incarceration that began in the 1970s, including the increase of people placed in pretrial detention and other criminal justice policies. There are 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in American prisons and jails – including those not convicted of any crime. Black men comprise 40 percent of them, even though they represent just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Larson adds, “Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of black Americans and the long, hard road they were forced to traverse to gain that freedom. But as criminologists like me have maintained time and again, the U.S. criminal justice system remains biased, albeit implicitly, against them.”
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Can You Reshape Your Brain's Response To Pain?

Around 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Most of us think of pain as something that arises after a physical injury, accident or damage from an illness or its treatment. But researchers are learning that, in some people, there can be another source of chronic pain. Repeated exposure to psychological trauma, or deep anxiety or depression — especially in childhood — can leave a physical imprint on the brain that can make some people more vulnerable to chronic pain, scientists say. EAET is a different sort of psychotherapy. It’s one of several behavioral therapies (among other interventions) included in a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services titled “Pain Management Best Practices.” According to the report, published May 9, “Research indicates that EAET has a positive impact on pain intensity, pain interference, and depressive symptoms.” EAET was developed in 2011 by psychologist Mark Lumley at Wayne State University and his colleague Dr. Howard Schubiner. 
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The challenges of the trailing spouse

Annmarie Cano, professor of psychology and associate provost for faculty development and faculty success, wrote a piece about the career challenges she faced as a “trailing spouse.” Cano wrote: ”Here are just a few ideas for those hiring at institutions as to how they can help achieve these goals. Offer dual-career policies and information. There’s no question that institutions must deal with a number of challenges when hiring one or both members of a dual-career couple. It’s not an easy process for them or the couples themselves. But the reality is that more than a third of faculty members at research universities have academic partners. Be open to what couples can bring, including diversity. Rather than narrowing the conversation to whether the partner’s scholarly area is a good fit for the department, consider the total package. Be mindful that how you treat one, you treat the other. Dual-career couples are people, too… Clearly developed dual-career policies, meaningful efforts to increase diversity and investment in the development of faculty and department chair leadership skills are needed to continue to improve the climate for dual-career couples and access to higher education careers for women and minorities.
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Family of falcons nest at Wayne State University

A family of Falcons are the latest addition to the campus of Wayne State University. Hovering above Old Main are two peregrine falcons. A mom and a dad - named Isabella and Freedom. The couple moved into the Wayne state campus in 2016. "They've been taken off the endangered species list because the re-introduction into the eastern United States has been so successful," said Michelle Serreyn, WSU Department of Biological Sciences. "Part of that started with people introducing them into urban environments." And now Wayne State is setting up a webcam for viewers to track the trio of chicks as they grow up. "They are the fastest animal on earth," she said. "So what they do, is they hover in the air about birds because they are bird eaters. And they fold their wings and go into what's called a stoop, so they are diving. When they do that, they have been clocked at 200 miles per hour." The fact that Isabella and Freedom chose Detroit as home, means something for the region. "It says a lot about the revitalization of the Detroit area," she said. "So here we are fixing up the campers, we are creating habitat for people but we are also creating habitat for wildlife at the same time. And they are recognizing that this is a safe place to be, it is a good environment for them. So just as people are moving back into the city, so are these animals moving back into the city."
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Exhibit looks at history of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum takes visitors through 150 years of life in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. Called “The Journey to Now ,” the exhibit opened this month and is scheduled to run through July 7. The exhibit is hosted by the nonprofit organization Corktown Experience in conjunction with Wayne State University’s Anthropology Museum. It tells the story of the people who lived in the Workers’ Row House in Corktown and of the workers who helped build Detroit into an industrial and automotive powerhouse. This exhibit kicks off an effort by Corktown Experience to turn the Workers’ Row House and the surrounding property into a community hub and cultural center.
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Blood-sucking 'kissing bug' moving north, possibly in Michigan

The 'kissing bug' is on the move and is possibly already establishing itself in Michigan. The blood-sucker carries the third most common parasitic disease in the world but is most often associated with warmer climates in Central and South America, or in southern U.S. states like Texas and Arizona. But that's changing. "It seems to be moving north. The more they look, the more they’re finding it," said Glen Hood, biologist and evolutionary ecologist at Wayne State University. 

The 5 worst things to say after someone dies—and what to say instead

Around 7,500 people die each day in the United States—one person every 11.5 seconds. By your 50s and 60s, you’ve almost certainly had personal experience with death—a parent’s death, other close family members, and/or personal friends. And yet, when you hear that someone has died, it’s still hard to know what to say to their loved ones. Part of the reason is that seeing the grief and pain of others surrounding death is uncomfortable. You also may be grappling with your own feelings about your experiences. They may also be busy making arrangements, causing it to appear like they’re handling the death particularly well. “Then you might find a few months later that it’s all starting to hit,” says Peter A. Lichtenberg, a clinical psychologist and director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University. “Grief is very variable. It brings out a sense of finality and a sense of helplessness in all of us,” says Lichtenberg. 
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The Mueller Investigation Through the Lens of History

A redacted Mueller Report is likely to dominate the news cycle for the coming days and beyond as Congress and the public get a first glimpse at its findings. What answers should we expect? What answers should we not expect to get? What are the possible paths forward? And how does this report and investigation compare to other probes into presidencies throughout history? Marc Kruman, professor of American history and director of Wayne State’s Center for the Study of Citizenship joined Reuters reporter David Shepardson in a discussion about the findings.