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Scientists use mathematical concepts to analyze fMRI data

Research led by a Wayne State University Department of Mathematics professor is aiding researchers in Wayne State’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences in analyzing fMRI data. fMRI is the preeminent class of signals collected from the brain in vivo and is irreplaceable in the study of brain dysfunction in many medical fields, including psychiatry, neurology and pediatrics. Andrew Salch, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics in Wayne State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is leading the multidisciplinary team that is investigating how concepts of topological data analysis, a subfield of mathematics, can be applied to recovering “hidden” structure in fMRI data. “We hypothesized that aspects of the fMRI signal are not easily discoverable using many of the standard tools used for fMRI data analysis, which strategically reduce the number of dimensions in the data to be considered. Consequently, these aspects might be uncovered using concepts from the mathematical field of topological data analysis, also called TDA, which is intended for use on high-dimensional data sets,” said Salch.
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The war in Afghanistan: Michigan experts weigh in on what could’ve been done differently

On Monday, President Joe Biden addressed the American people after the United States began evacuating Afghanistan. The Taliban now controls the country and Kabul, its capital city, for the first time since the U.S. invaded the country almost 20 years ago. Saeed Khan is a senior lecturer of Near East and Asian Studies at Wayne State University. Khan says American involvement in the region has a history of nation-building, and many Americans do not realize that the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan predates 9/11. “American involvement, to be accurate, is not just the last 20 years in Afghanistan. It actually goes back to 1979 in our efforts to fight a proxy war against the Soviet invasion there.” He thinks that the U.S. insisting the Taliban not be a part of the new government in any way was a mistake. “So here we find them without bringing the Taliban to the table earlier, understanding that they were not only going to have a seat at the table but that they were going to be dictating perhaps what was going to be on the menu, what needed to occur.”
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The science and art of managing automotive suppliers: Lessons from the global chip shortage

The Global Chip Shortage rages onward and, as of July, has resulted in more than one million unmanufactured vehicles in the U.S. alone and could reportedly extend into 2023. The major question of how such a massive mismatch between supply and demand could exist has multiple answers with several, unrelated root causes (e.g. pandemic affects on usage patterns, an impactful fire at a major Japanese plant caused by an electrical overload), however one of the most frequently suggested reasons was a mismanagement of the supply chain. “When the drop in automotive sales at the beginning of the pandemic happened, automotive companies just halted their orders. There was an implicit tradeoff there: saving cashflow and avoiding potential obsolescence,” said Timothy Butler, professor of global supply chain management, Wayne State University. As Butler points out, another key example of tradeoffs is single sourcing versus competitive sourcing. “If you single source and the supplier goes on strike or has such a catastrophe, you have a single point of failure,” cautions Butler. “Additionally, if that desirable supplier is also single-sourced to your competitor, you might have risks in sharing Intellectual Property.” So what have we collectively learned, if anything? “We all have to admit that hindsight is 20/20,” states Butler, “but these types of problems happen over and over again. Each is viewed as a one-off, but it’s the same thinking that undermines the successful endings.”
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Wayne State executive master's program attracts auto supply chain managers

A growing executive master's degree program at Wayne State University offers students a flexible opportunity to build skills specific to the automotive and complex manufacturing fields. John Taylor, chairman of the university's Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management in the Ilitch School of Business, and Lori Sisk, a lecturer and career coach in the school, talk about the program, which is also designed as a pipeline of talent for Detroit-area supply chain businesses. 
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WSU endowment scholarship community bolstered by alum

Out of her passion and devotion to high school and college students, Detroit philanthropist Carolyn Patrick-Wanzo is working to protect the future of social work and music through the creation of several endowment scholarships at Wayne State University with her late husband. Patrick-Wanzo, 76, became interested in the world of endowment scholarships when she and her husband, Mel Wanzo, a trombone player best known for playing in the Count Basie Orchestra decided to give back to the community. “He would say, ‘You can give your life to the music and in 10 years nobody would know you existed,’” she said of her jazz musician husband who played the trombone in the big band. “We would talk about, ‘Let’s do something sustainable,’ when we retired.” That sustainability came in the form of endowment scholarships in the music department at WSU – the first one in 2003.  
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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to challenge 2020 census results showing population decline

The number of Black residents in Detroit fell while the hispanic, white and Asian populations grew over the last 10 years, according to U.S. Census population results for 2020 released Thursday. Detroit's overall population dropped 10.5% in the last decade, the latest results show. "Detroit has been declining in population from nearly 2 million sometime in the (19)50s and the trend became really apparent with the 1960 census and has gone down ever since then. There’ve been signs that it might be declining in recent years," said Lyke Thompson, director of Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies. "There's a lot of people that are moving into certain parts of the city ... when does the trend of people moving in offset the trend of people moving out?" Thompson said much of the historic decline was a result of the loss of manufacturing jobs and plants, particularly a decentralization of the auto industry, shifting outside of Detroit. On top of that, white residents left the city after 1950 and moved to areas such as Oakland and Macomb counties, and the draw of new housing in the suburbs contributed to Detroit's population decline, he said. In the latest census, for example, the non-Hispanic Black population in Macomb grew. "That’s something that can be turned around if you make significant efforts to do infill housing," Thompson said. "The housing is just so in need of repair that people keep moving out of those areas, and those houses get abandoned and they have to be torn down. It's really a race between repairing older housing, building new housing and overcoming the tendency for people to move out by making more attractive spaces for people to move into."
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The aching red: Firefighters often silently suffer from trauma and job-related stress

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for The Conversation. “Images of tragedy, loss of entire communities and the terrible destruction wrought by deadly wildfires in the West have sadly become all too common. But the public hears relatively little about the suffering of the firefighters who risk their lives and are away from their families for days and weeks at a time…While the choice to become a firefighter often stems from a passion for, and a mindset of, helping others and saving lives, being constantly exposed to death, injury and suffering comes with a cost. Cumulative stressors include the physical toll on the body, long working hours, work-related sleep disturbance and an inability to attend to daily family life. I am a psychiatrist and trauma expert who often works with first responders as well as refugees and victims of war crimes. While many people think of firefighters as the happy heroes, the real-life, day-to-day experiences of these heroes can have real consequences for their mental health that remain largely invisible to the public eye.”

NIH award to tackle early infant morbidity due to increasing incidences of food allergies

A Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher has been awarded a $1.93 million, five-year grant by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of maternal immunoglobulin D (IgD) transferred to the fetus during pregnancy and its impact on protecting against food allergies. Kang Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology will use the grant, “Mechanism and function of transplacental IgD,” to tackle early infant morbidity due to increasing incidences of food allergies. “This project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will allow our research team to elucidate the mechanisms of the placental transfer of IgD and determine if maternal IgD promotes neonatal immune protection against food allergy,” said Chen. “Our studies have shown that maternal IgD specific to vaccines or food acts as a specific and prophylactic fetal immune education cue to protect neonates against food allergy. Our research will have a major impact on our understanding of the origin of allergies in newborns and children.” Chen’s  study is expected to reveal the unique functions of maternal IgD — an ancient yet still mysterious antibody — in neonatal immune function that maternal Immunoglobulin G (IgG) does not have, and aims to have a profound impact on improving neonatal health by directing the design of IgD-targeting maternal vaccines or adoptive immunotherapies.
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Orwell’s ideas remain relevant 75 years after ‘Animal Farm’ was published

Mark Satta, assistant professor of philosophy, wrote an article for The Conversation. “Seventy-five years ago, in August 1946, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was published in the United States. It was a huge success, with over a half-million copies sold in its first year. “Animal Farm” was followed three years later by an even bigger success: Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” In the years since, Orwell’s writing has left an indelible mark on American thought and culture. Sales of “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” jumped in 2013 after the whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked confidential National Security Agency documents. And “Nineteen Eighty-Four” rose to the top of Amazon’s best-sellers list after Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration in 2017. As a philosophy professor, I’m interested in the continuing relevance of Orwell’s ideas, including those on totalitarianism and socialism.”
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Detroit Public Schools to require masks for students, staff in new school year

Detroit Public Schools Community District will require masks be worn by all students and staff inside its buildings for the school year beginning Sept. 7. DPSCD had previously adopted a mask policy that would allow those fully vaccinated to not wear masks in classrooms but pushed for a change after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations that all people, including those vaccinated against COVID-19, should return to wearing masks at crowded indoor locations including schools. Teena Chopra, chief of infectious diseases at Wayne State School of Medicine and a Detroit Medical Center physician, said schools, particularly those in areas with elevated community spread of the coronavirus, should be mandating mask wearing given the rising delta variant. "I think it is deadly and dangerous behavior to not require masks," Chopra said. "This virus is extremely unforgiving and elementary age children, they are completely unprotected. Mask mandates have to be there until community transmission goes down. That can happen as soon as people get vaccinated. This is not the time to dwell on breakthrough infections, but to increase vaccinations across the nation," Chopra said. "Our children are going to suffer the most. We are seeing severe infections in children. There are children that are in ICUs (intensive care units) and (on ventilators). The breakthrough infections are there. Vaccines are not there to prevent breakthrough infections. They are there to prevent severe illness and hospitalization and death."
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"Just keep that person alive": Michigan's harm reduction strategies prevent opioid overdoses

While the COVID-19 crisis has held Michigan's attention for the past year and a half, a different deadly epidemic is taking an increasing number of Michiganders' lives. From 2000 to 2018, opioid overdose deaths have grown tenfold in Michigan. And according to Amy Dolinky, senior advisor of Michigan opioids strategy with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), those numbers grew by another 14% in the past year. The state has a seven-pillar strategy to combat the opioid epidemic, one of which is sometimes controversial, yet also quickly gaining recognition and acceptance for its effectiveness: harm reduction. Harm reduction involves expanding access to naloxone and sterile syringes, aiming to minimize harmful effects for those who are using opioids. With funding from MDHHS. Wayne State University professor Brad Ray has spearheaded efforts to put naloxone vending machines into Michigan's county jails and other accessible sites. "The struggle is: How do you get to the people who are going to use naloxone? Jails seemed like a really good opportunity to do that," Ray says. Ray notes that vending machines have been highly effective elsewhere in the country. Los Angeles County has distributed over 34,000 naloxone doses since it began installing vending machines in jails in 2020. So far in Michigan, jails in Monroe, Jackson, Delta, and Kalamazoo counties have the vending machines. Individuals being released can grab a naloxone kit for free, complete with instructions, on their way out. Ray has ordered 10 more of the customized vending machines. Sites in Kent, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Alpena counties are each slated to receive one. "Just keep that person alive," Ray says. "They can't get clean or in recovery if they're dead. Sometimes it takes time."
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Wayne State establishes infectious disease research center to aid in future pandemics

Wayne State University announced Monday the opening of a new center focused on the study of infectious diseases and strategies to combat future pandemics. The Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will enhance training and research in the field of public health. The center is not a physical building but a collection of doctors, researchers and professors at the Detroit-based university. "The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered local, state and national mindsets toward infectious disease threats, including pandemic diseases," Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of Wayne State's School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs for the university, said in a news release. "The pandemic revealed deep and broad gaps in our clinical and public health infrastructure that responds to pandemics. "In line with the mission of WSU to support urban communities at risk for health disparities, the center will have the expertise and capacity to support and collaborate with neighborhoods, hospitals and public health agencies to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and preventive strategies for the benefit of all residents in Detroit and other communities." Work done at the center will focus on vaccine development, clinical vaccine evaluational, deployment strategies for the vaccine in underserved populations and research on pandemic mitigation efforts. Directors of the new center include: Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases; Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious diseases division for Henry Ford Health System, professor of medicine and assistant dean of WSU Global Affairs. Key faculty include Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research at WSU, and Matthew Seeger, professor of communication.
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In China, women fill gap in heavy-labor industries

A labor shortage caused by low birthrates and an aging population is pushing employers to recruit more women to build high-rises, maintain rail tracks and drive trucks, among other roles. These women—one-third of China’s 286 million rural workers outside the farm sector—mark a demographic shift in the country. Women are filling the labor shortage, albeit for far lower wages than their male counterparts, while finding jobs closer to home to care for elderly parents who once looked after their children while they worked far away. Women are also gaining work flexibility and financial freedom. Sarah Swider, a sociologist at Wayne State University who researched construction sites for over a decade, said few women worked in construction when she first visited China in the early 2000s. A building boom then drove up labor costs and made workers harder to find, opening the door to women. “As the economy continued to grow, they couldn’t get young men. They couldn’t get old men, they couldn’t get anyone,” Swider said. “Younger men found other jobs that were less difficult. That’s when they started hiring women.” Women’s presence on construction sites has grown so much that employers have set up new separate living spaces and bathrooms for them, Swider said. Some pretend to be married to a male worker to avoid sexual harassment, she said. But the women perform double duty: Apart from the normal labor jobs, such as moving bricks and making cement, women do laundry and cook for the male workers. And they are generally paid on average about half as much as their male counterparts, Swider said. “I never met a woman who’s paid the same,” she said.
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Chip shortage could hurt autoworkers' profit sharing, pay raises

Detroit's automakers recorded major profits for the first half of the year, but the benefits of those earnings won't land evenly among their employees and could delay wage raises and shrink profit-sharing bonuses for some autoworkers. The global semiconductor shortage has forced auto plants to idle around the world, in some cases for months at a time. Automakers are prioritizing their highest-margin vehicles and those that help them meet fuel efficiency and emissions standards. That leaves employees at plants that often already have felt the pains of layoffs feeling further left behind. "I would worry first about the impact on profitability," said Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University's Mike Ilitch School of Business, adding the companies could argue the events that caused the chip shortage and affected profits "are really beyond their control." A fire at a chip plant in Japan, the spread of COVID-19 in Malaysia and severe weather in Texas and Europe have led to parts constraints that are out of the automakers' control. Masters expects the chip shortage and other supply concerns will affect the next set of contract negotiations in 2023 between the UAW and Detroit's automakers. The UAW is likely to argue for hourly pay increases so members can depend less on variable pay like profit sharing. "Workers, you've been used to getting for several years anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 profit sharing," Masters said. "You kind of depend on that. And I think that if that becomes more problematic going forward, they're going to be forced to take a harder look at hourly wage rates."

An Amazon site's Black workers keep finding nooses. The company needs to act.

In May, workers building a new Amazon facility in the town of Windsor, Connecticut, came across a noose on the property. It was the eighth noose they encountered since construction on the facility began in late 2020. The repeated occurrences forced Amazon to delay construction on several occasions and incited a great deal of tension among local residents. In many ways, the noose is the quintessential, if deeply troubling, American symbol. Much like the Confederate battle flag, which gained increasing popularity as Black Americans worked to improve their socioeconomic conditions, nooses have become a key weapon for those who resist racial equality. According to Kidada E. Williams, associate professor of history at Wayne State University and the author of “They Left Great Marks on Me,” “The hangman’s noose is the most potent artifact of the history of lynching and other forms of racist violence in the U.S. When racists hang them in public places they are communicating their belief in Black people’s disposability and invoking a history of its reality. Like their lynching forebears the people who hang nooses in such public places as workplaces, schools, museums are using symbolism to project white supremacist power and intimidate Black and brown people.”
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Dorm rooms that make college students feel right at home

After more than a year of uncertainty, kids are heading to college hoping for some sense of normalcy. For students who plan to live on campus, the latest dorm room storage and décor can make a modest space live large and feel more like home. According to Zia N. Felder, community director at Wayne State University, the pandemic has added some other items to the list like Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer and paper towels. Since some students may not be comfortable dining out, she says it’s important to know what cooking tools their dorms allow like crockpots. For pieces that need to be shipped, Felder suggests timing their arrival with your move-in whenever possible, whether you want curtains or chairs to make a temporary space your own. “That’s our motto: Housing That’s Home,” she says. “We want them to personalize their dorm room.” Felder recommends reaching out to roommates in advance to have an honest conversation that includes how you feel about other people using your stuff. “You don’t need four sets of pots and pans,” she says. “You also need a sense of the space or you could end up with really cramped living.” The dimensions of each unit are on their website. From family photos to removable wall decals, there are plenty of ways to decorate a dorm room that won’t damage the walls. Check Pinterest for visual inspiration like removable wallpaper and fabric tapestries that make a space feel less sterile. “It’s a blank canvas when you move in and you want to make it feel less blank,” Felder says. Lastly, she adds, “Come with an open mind and get to know your RA (Resident Assistant). Go to their events and ask them the big questions. They know so much about the student experience and they try to give you good advice and to make life easier.”
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Wayne State to require vaccinations for fall return to campus

Wayne State University will require everyone on campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this fall and must provide proof by Aug. 30 to be allowed on campus, President M. Roy Wilson announced Tuesday. The university will also require masks indoors at least through Sept. 15 amid a surge of cases linked to the delta variant and lagging vaccination rates. "As we have from the beginning of the pandemic, we are today revising our campus response to respond to emerging evidence and local data," Wilson wrote to the campus community. "To best protect the health and safety of our campus community, Wayne State will require all students, faculty and staff who plan to be on campus during the fall semester to receive their COVID-19 vaccination." Wilson noted that COVID-19 cases are increasing across the nation and positivity rates locally have grown recently from 2.4 to 3.3 percent. "The latest data regarding the delta variant is concerning," Wilson wrote. "This variant spreads more easily and may be transmitted by vaccinated individuals with rare breakthrough cases. Thankfully, the data also show that vaccines continue to be highly effective, particularly in protecting against serious illness, hospitalization and death. Full vaccination of our campus community will eventually eliminate the need for masks and allow a renewed sense of normalcy in our interactions," Wilson wrote.
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Here’s what you need to know about latest COVID-19 surge, delta variant

There is a new surge of COVID-19 cases being driven by the delta variant. This strain of the virus is much more contagious than the original strain that emerged in March 2020. Michigan has seen a more than 180% increase in cases over two weeks. “Even if you do get the infection, as a breakthrough case, the likelihood that you’re going to end up in the hospital or in the intensive care unit or … die, is very, very low,” says Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This spike in caseloads has caused many universities — including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University — to require staff, students and faculty to be vaccinated before the start of the school year. Just over 55% of people 16 years or older are fully vaccinated in Michigan.