Biotech discovery fuels UWM startup
Restoring America’s homegrown philosophy
GE Healthcare and UWM: forging the future of
medical imaging
Revealing the healing power of light
Art, science, dance merge in Milwaukee
Cracking the ice code
Hearing the Internet
Teen brains on pot
‘Bolsa família’ boosts families in Brazil
Reading Spanish, mastering English
Stories told with buildings
Are online clinics the future of medicine?
UWM’s innovation engine
JCI partnership propels battery research
Rapid research spots new freshwater
invaders OF CONTENTS
24 A sleep pod to keep babies safe
Nurturing family caregivers
When speech is not a ‘voice’
A ‘super’ material substitute
A new prescription for drug studies
Stoking UWM students’ entrepreneurial fire
On the cover: Microbiologist Ching-Hong Yang is taking his lab research to the marketplace, launching a startup company around his method of blocking bacterial infections
– without antibiotics. Read more on page 2.
Background photo: A crew member loads camp and research gear into a helicopter
at Alligator Peak, Antarctica, where geologist John Isbell has visited 15 times to track
glaciers from 250 million years ago. Read more on page 22.
For many years, I have been a firm believer in the
great power of close research relationships between
universities and the institutions in the communities they
serve. This belief is widely embraced by faculty and staff
throughout the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
It extends to those with whom we work regardless of
whether they are in the not-for-profit or for-profit sectors.
At UWM, we are creating dynamic research relationships
throughout the region in areas ranging from health care
and engineering to the arts and education. We believe
such collaborations are an integral part of the future of
higher education because these interactions will generate
new and better processes, technologies and products.
On the following pages are reports about the latest results
of our approach to blend companies’ needs with our
university’s academic and research objectives. By pairing
strengths and focusing on service, knowledge and
innovation, we are unifying this region’s most significant
resources. The considerable accomplishments of individuals
and organizations working together show that bold actions
can lead to excellent results.
Michael R. Lovell
Today, curing an infection means using antibiotics that kill the offending pathogen. Ching-Hong Yang has a
better idea. A chemical compound he and a partner developed disarms pathogens so that they can’t invade
healthy cells in the first place. With recent investment backing, the pair are closer to bringing their discovery
to market.
Ching-Hong Yang (left), associate professor of biological sciences, and Yan Li, visiting professor from China Agricultural University in Beijing
new strategy for treating infection in both humans and plants is the basis for the latest startup company –
and the second one this year – to launch from research conducted at UWM. With backing from an investor,
UWM biologist Ching-Hong Yang and collaborator Xin Chen, a chemistry professor at Changzhou University
in China, have formed T3 Bioscience LLC, licensing the commercial use of their idea from the UWM
Research Foundation.
Their product is a potent antibacterial agent with a crucial advantage over current antibiotics. Rather than killing the
bacteria, the compound disables their genetic ability to cause infection, eliminating the threat of antibiotic resistance
in the process. The investor is associated with a large company in Hong Kong and now owns a share of the new
company. The support will allow Yang and Chen to further hone their product and create derivatives as they move
toward human trials.
Results have shown the compounds to be effective against two different kinds of pathogens, including Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, the cause of many aggressive and sometimes fatal hospital infections. The product was found equally
effective against two pathogens that attack crops. The scientists currently are adjusting the level of potency without
increasing toxicity, and conducting further tests for side effects. In the compound for plants, they are developing a
time-release action.
can work out the details,” says Yang. “For a lot of innovative ideas, companies prefer to take them at a later stage of
development. They will not invest in anything that they feel is risky.”
Go inside Ching-Hong Yang’s lab as he continues to test his antibiotic
alternative at
RESEARCH INCLUDES EDUCATION Ching-Hong Yang works with current
doctoral student Devanshi Khokhani (small photo, right) and former
student Yan Li (large photo, left) – now a visiting professor from China
Agricultural University in Beijing – to test a new antibacterial agent
against multiple pathogens by recording changes in virulence gene
expression of the bacteria.
“The university can take the lead in identifying biotech ideas with commercial value, because in the lab researchers
A joint effort between UWM and GE Healthcare is boosting the area economy
while improving diagnostic imaging that can help physicians save lives. American
workers with a skill set in the growing field of computational medical imaging are
in urgent demand. With backing from GE Healthcare, UWM is offering training
that can transform Milwaukee into a national base of expertise in medical
imaging engineering.
Bill Berezowitz (left), UWM engineering alumnus and GE Healthcare vice president of imaging subsystems,
and UWM Chancellor Michael R. Lovell
unique collaboration aims to turbocharge what is already a strong state industry cluster. GE Healthcare is
investing more than $3 million with UWM to support a first-of-its-kind talent pipeline for Wisconsin-based
medical imaging software developers and researchers. Through the five-year collaboration, UWM will launch
the GE Healthcare Center for Advanced Computational Imaging and also provide continuing-education
opportunities for GE Healthcare technologists, driving a new age of health care technology globally.
Computational imaging is an emerging software capability that enables images of organs to be reconstructed without
additional scans. Used in various medical exams – for instance, magnetic resonance and computed tomography –
computational imaging allows physicians to complete scans of patients quickly and with greater detail.
“UWM will expand existing research and academic strengths with GE Healthcare – a world-class partner with
offices that are literally right down the street from our new Innovation Campus in Wauwatosa,” says UWM Chancellor
Michael R. Lovell.
Expertise in medical applications for computational imaging remains largely based in Silicon Valley. This unique
collaboration between UWM and GE Healthcare will help expand the skilled workforce in Wisconsin, where more
Healthcare, one of the state’s largest employers and one that is largely responsible for Wisconsin’s No. 3 ranking
among states with high numbers of workers in the field of medical imaging.
CLUSTER POWER UWM and GE Healthcare have forged a collaboration
that will develop Wisconsin’s high-tech workforce in the area of medical
imaging software. It will also help advance the quality of medical imaging
to benefit patients. The computed tomography image of the blood vessels
of the head is from a GE Healthcare Discovery CT750 HD.
Continued on page 6
than 85 percent of UWM graduates have historically remained following graduation. That’s good news for GE
From page 5
“We want to draw from a strong talent pool of local
people,” says Bill Berezowitz, a UWM engineering
alumnus and GE Healthcare vice president of imaging
subsystems. A unit of General Electric Company,
GE Healthcare employs around 6,500 people in
Wisconsin, of whom 2,800 are engineers.
UWM’s first academic offering, in fall 2013, will be
a graduate-level computational imaging certificate,
alongside professional development curricula for
GE Healthcare employees, according to Ethan Munson,
chair of the Department of Computer Science and
director of the new center.
hen Johnson Controls built a state-of-the-art dry lab to enable
groundbreaking discoveries in the area of energy-storage
devices and batteries, it decided to put the facility where
UWM students and faculty could readily contribute – right in the
College of Engineering & Applied Science (CEAS).
In addition to education, the center will house research
The Energy Advancement Center, which opened in fall 2012,
is unique in the United States. “The dry lab capability located
right here on campus is one that really doesn’t exist in university
environments,” says CEAS Dean Brett Peters. “Johnson Controls
provides a grounding for the applied research that our faculty
are doing.”
clinicians and better care for patients,” says Tom
The cutting-edge lab at UWM, along with support for graduate
research programs and a shared endowed professorship with
UW-Madison, represent an unprecedented partnership between
the world’s leading automotive battery supplier and the UW
System’s two research institutions. It will position Wisconsin as a
global leader in energy storage.
“This partnership also is going to transform our campus and
transform Milwaukee,” says Chancellor Michael R. Lovell.
Tour the Energy Advancement Center at
initiatives and collaborative projects related to image
and signal processing for medical technology that may
lead to earlier diagnosis of disease. “The future of
medical imaging promises more advanced tools for
Gentile, president and CEO of GE Healthcare’s
Healthcare Systems, based in Wisconsin. “We see a
great opportunity for UWM to play a significant role in
helping us provide advanced diagnostic tools that can
help researchers discover lifesaving solutions.”
Munson notes that the work of the center will also reduce
health care costs – a key business concern nationally.
“The aim of this research is to generate software that
can ultimately bring down the cost of producing these
medical imaging devices, while also improving the
quality of pictures the equipment can produce,” he says.
The most advanced molecular tools
in North America are being used at
UWM to reveal information about
lake and river contamination in a
fraction of the time it used to take –
and with greater accuracy.
Rebecca Klaper, Shaw Associate Professor of
Freshwater Sciences
The center will help organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency determine which emerging chemicals need
immediate controls, says toxicologist Rebecca Klaper, the center director. Only now are researchers beginning to
discover, for example, how nanoparticles – atomic-scale ingredients in products ranging from sunscreen to clothing –
affect organisms, says Klaper.
“It will revolutionize the study of freshwater,” says SFS Dean David Garman. “This technology is currently used in
medical applications, but never before to inform ecological and environmental questions.” Funded through multiple
sources, including the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the center will provide vital information for
managing this essential resource as concerns about freshwater quality grow worldwide.
Join Rebecca Klaper on a Great Lakes research vessel
f all the substances entering lakes and rivers from the urban landscape, which ones are harmful to aquatic life –
and to people? For thousands of chemicals, scientists just don’t know. But UWM’s National Center for Great Lakes
Genomics is finding the answers. New technology at the center, part of UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences
(SFS), will enable researchers to track an organism’s genes as it reacts to its environment and assess whether its
health is at risk. This DNA analysis can be done with unprecedented speed.
ssuming care for a loved one is challenging,” says UWM gerontologist Rhonda Montgomery. Often, the
emotional strain of caregiving is harder than the physical tasks. “As more care is required, roles and relationships
change in ways that are very stressful.” Many caregivers don’t recognize the signs of burnout, deepening
depression or the impact of caregiving on their own health.
TCARE is a system designed by Montgomery and her UWM team that provides care managers – specialists assisting
family caregivers – with a step-by-step tool to tailor care plans. For example, a care manager and a caregiver husband
meet face to face and, through TCARE’s Web-based protocol, they assess that caregiver’s needs and strengths. The
resulting “map” might pinpoint the husband’s need for help in acquiring medical equipment, obtaining counseling or
finding respite care. The care manager then identifies local resources that could provide him with specific assistance.
TCARE Navigator LLC licensed TCARE through the UWM Research Foundation as one of UWM’s recent startups.
“The program has been used by state agencies and organizations for several years,” says Montgomery. “This new
company is promoting TCARE to private insurers, accountable-care organizations, self-insured employers and U.S.
government agencies.”
“TCARE is expected to offer significant savings associated with delaying placement of the patient in institutionalized
care, as well as avoiding future health care costs for the caregiver,” says Norrie Daroga, chief executive officer of
TCARE Navigator. “The system will deliver high value to our clients by easing the burdens experienced by caregivers,
decreasing absenteeism in the workplace and ultimately lowering health care costs for all payers.”
Initially created for use with those caring for relatives with dementia, TCARE has been adapted for families of injured
soldiers and the developmentally disabled, and its benefits have been well documented. Care managers overseeing
caregiver clients reported feeling better about the services they provided, more professional and more hopeful. Caregivers reported increased positive feelings about caregiving, lower levels of stress and depression, and a diminished
likelihood of moving the cared-for person out of the home. Ultimately, those receiving care may benefit the most. “Our
families are the best hope for sustained, quality and loving care,” says Montgomery.
Meet a couple using TCARE and hear firsthand how it
changed their lives at
KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER The TCARE system has been developed
and validated throughout the U.S. for the past 25 years. Now, through
the startup company TCARE Navigator, this care management process
will be available to help even more family caregivers receive the support
they need. That assistance can help keep family members needing care
in their homes.
TCARE Navigator LLC is commercializing an innovative caregiver support system developed at UWM.
TCARE (Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral) helps caregivers receive the support they need to
help their aging and/or disabled family members. Businesses and agencies are drawn to TCARE by
the prospect of impressive health care savings.
Rhonda Montgomery, Helen Bader Endowed Chair of Applied Gerontology in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare and professor
in the Department of Sociology, College of Letters & Science
f you want 21st-century solutions to 21st-century challenges, you need to bring together researchers from
disciplines that haven’t traditionally worked together. That’s the thinking behind the Transdisciplinary Challenge
Awards funded through UWM’s Center for 21st Century Studies. This year’s award is supporting an engineer,
a speech-language pathologist, an artist-scholar and a linguist who are collaborating to explore the social
and technological impacts of using synthetic voices. People with communication disabilities use these voices to
communicate through augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies.
While voices in early devices sounded robotic, newer voices are more natural-sounding. However, AAC
technologies still have challenges, like a limited number of voices to choose from, says Shelley Lund, associate
professor of communication sciences and disorders.
Synthetic voices are now easier to understand, but other issues remain – such as how to convey emotion and
personality, and whether natural-sounding voices are even preferable. “Emotion is the most challenging aspect
of the voice to convey through synthesis,” says Heather Warren-Crow, an assistant professor of art theory and
practice. “We want to look at the issues people using AAC technologies face – how the use of specific
available voices affects their identities and their interaction with others,” adds Patricia Mayes, a linguist in the
English Department.
The researchers will interview AAC users about their perceptions and preferences, and also record their
interaction with others to determine how to improve synthesized speech. They also will refine and perhaps
expand the scope of a tablet application they are developing under the leadership of team member Yi Hu,
an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “We want to see if we can convert
what we learn into practical applications for devices like smartphones,” he says.
“Starting from the perspective of the humanities and arts, our goal is to improve the devices created by
engineers and designers,” says Mayes.
Hear synthetic voice examples at
SYNTHETIC VOICES Augmentative and alternative communication technologies
were first developed 40 years ago and are now available on tablet computers
such as iPads. They allow users with communication disabilities to type what they
want to say into a device that converts their messages to spoken words.
What does it mean when the voice that expresses your thoughts isn’t your own? A transdisciplinary
team of UWM researchers is looking at how synthetic voices impact those who use them and those
they communicate with.
Front to back: Heather Warren-Crow, assistant professor of art theory and practice; Yi Hu, assistant professor of electrical engineering
and computer science; Shelley Lund, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders; and Patricia Mayes, associate
professor of English
his year UWM became a front-runner in a worldwide race to find less expensive ways to replicate a
revolutionary “super” material called graphene. UWM scientists and graduate students have chemically changed
a close cousin of the highly touted material into an easy-to-make and cost-effective form.
Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon that resembles a flat sheet of chicken wire at nanoscale. Since it
conducts electricity better than any metal, it has the best potential to replace today’s silicon transistors and usher in
the next generation of lightning-speed computers and tinier electronics. But currently graphene is too expensive to
mass-produce, and it exists only as a conductor or an insulator, not in the valuable semiconductor state essential for
electronic devices.
UWM physicists are calling the new form “graphene monoxide” (GMO), and say it exhibits characteristics that could
make it a viable substitute. Like silicon in the current generation of electronics, for example, GMO is a semiconductor.
The discovery began as an ordinary imaging task: Engineering Professor Junhong Chen developed a hybrid material
for use in high-performance, energy-efficient and inexpensive sensors. His material consists of carbon nanotubes
decorated with nanoparticles of tin oxide. Using a high-resolution transmission electron microscope, Chen and
Physics Professor Marija Gajdardziska hoped to observe the hybrid material as it was sensing. The pair soon found
they needed to know which molecules were attaching to the nanotube surface, which were attaching to the tin oxide
surface, and how they changed upon attachment.
So they turned to Physics Professor Carol Hirschmugl, who recently pioneered a method of infrared imaging that not
only offers high-definition images of samples, but also renders a chemical “signature” that identifies which atoms are
interacting in a sample.
Continued on page14
MANY RESEARCH HANDS Working through UWM’s Center for Surface Studies, the research
team also included UWM Distinguished Professor of Physics Michael Weinert, physics
research associate Marvin Schofield, postdoctoral associate Michael Nasse, engineering
graduate students Haihui Pu and Shumao Cui, engineering research associate Ganhua Lu,
and Rodney Ruoff of the University of Texas.
UWM physicists have developed a new carbon-based “super” material that may have the same
commercial potential as costly graphene: the ability to transform the performance of today’s electronics.
The new material, called graphene monoxide, is cheaper and easier to make than graphene. Next
step: testing it on improving lithium-ion batteries.
Above: Eric Mattson, doctoral student in physics and first
author on the published research. Left: Physics professors Carol
Hirschmugl (foreground) and Marija Gajdardziska, who is
also associate dean in the UWM Graduate School.
Michael Weinert (right), UWM Distinguished Professor of Physics, and engineering graduate student Haihui Pu
From page 12
To give them more points of attachment to examine, the scientists unrolled the carbon nanotubes into single sheets.
With these single layers of carbon and two forms of precision imaging equipment at their disposal, the researchers
and their students looked for a way to make graphene from its cousin, graphene oxide (GO). GO consists of layers
of graphene stacked on top of one another in an unaligned orientation, and it is the focus of much current
graphene research.
In one experiment, students and faculty heated the GO in a vacuum to reduce oxygen. Instead of being destroyed,
however, the carbon and oxygen atoms in the layers of GO became aligned, transforming themselves into an
“ordered,” semiconducting carbon oxide – GMO.
It was not the result they expected. “We thought the oxygen would go away and leave multilayered graphene, so the
observation of something other than that was a surprise,” says Eric Mattson, a doctoral student of Hirschmugl’s, who is
the first author on the research paper published in the journal ACS Nano.
Because GMO is formed in single sheets, Gajdardziska says the material could have applications in products such as
fuel cells or industrial processes that involve surface catalysis, an accelerated chemical reaction occurring at the surface
of materials. She, Hirschmugl and Chen also are exploring its use in making lithium-ion batteries more efficient.
hat can avatars tell medical researchers about the health of
real people? The same information, it turns out, that testing
large human populations would, says UWM researcher Peter
A professor of public health, Tonellato uses avatars, mathematical
models and simulations to develop reliable medical guidance at a
fraction of the cost of a large-scale human study. Currently he is
testing optimal dosage levels of the common blood-clot-preventing
drug warfarin, using a representative population of virtual patients
created from real-life health records.
Tonellato and his colleagues in UWM’s Laboratory for Public Health
Informatics and Genomics created the avatars to find the drug’s
“sweet spot,” a dosage that prevents clots while minimizing the risk of
side effects. The work is being done in conjunction with Aurora Health
Care’s Patient-Centered Research division.
“This type of research teases out information about the intertwined
impact of genetics and environment,” says Tonellato. For example,
genetic research has shown that African Americans generally
metabolize warfarin more quickly than other ethnic groups. Asian
Americans generally metabolize it more slowly.
Not every individual in those groups metabolizes the drug the same
way, so it’s still important to consider individualized genetic testing
in certain situations, says Tonellato. But improved modeling can help
identify the likely value of the genetic test on improved health care
outcomes and, as a result, reduce the need for this comparatively
expensive option.
Public health decisions must include not only science, but also cost,
policy and health care outcomes, says Tonellato. With his research,
Tonellato aims to provide guidance that takes all of these factors into
account. “We can then have a discussion about not only what is
scientifically proven and clinically validated, but also what is feasible
and practical for the community to use effectively.”
Peter Tonellato, professor of public health
Enterprising students at UWM are getting a boost from a new program that encourages them not only to learn, but to
find commercial applications for their knowledge. The university is offering financial backing for students’ promising
product ideas, meaning they could graduate from UWM with a degree and a company.
hen Jesse Depinto’s full-time job was suddenly downsized, he began to
dream of starting a business of his own. Depinto, a 23-year-old engineering
undergraduate who already co-owns a small company, is now pursuing
another thanks to UWM’s Student Startup Challenge (SSC). The SSC is
energizing the campus entrepreneurial culture, giving students with sustainable
product ideas the chance to finish their degrees while they also launch their
FOCUS ON THE PRODUCT Middle photo at left: Clever Blocks team member Bryan
Cera guides a metal-cutter while fabricating the prototype of the product. Lower
photo: Finished blocks are detached from their building board. Prototypes of
all three Student Startup Challenge winners were produced by members of a
product realization course taught by faculty Ilya Avdeev and Nathaniel Stern.
The Clever Blocks team (from left): Joe Cera, Bryan Cera, Cat Pham, Kavi Laud, Dom Amato and Rob Zdanowski
What makes the SSC distinct from most other business competitions is its focus on the product itself. Three winning
teams each received $10,000 to spend a year building prototypes and participating in workshops on business plans
and marketing. “This is the way it happens in the real world,” says Thomas Schuster, a partner in the Wisconsin Early
Stage Fund, who served as an SSC judge. “Business plan competitions have no substance unless a sustainable business
concept is driving them.”
The top products in this inaugural competition were chosen based on the likelihood that each would translate into a
successful company within a year. The university will not own any part of the students’ ideas or resulting intellectual
property. The winners include:
• Clever Blocks may look like toys, but each one contains a sensor linking it with Computer Aided Design
(CAD) software. The result is a quick and easy collaborative building and modeling tool. As the blocks
are used, the CAD model is automatically and simultaneously executed. The team will be exploring the
product’s uses in teaching and practice.
Continued on page18
From page 17
• Parking Unwired is creating a wireless, deployable
car-counting device that will unleash mobile parking
apps from their current limited use in parking decks.
The hardware has the capability to “talk” to a mobile
parking app based on the number of spaces
available at any geographic location. The idea
sprang from a classroom discussion with leaders of
Traffic & Parking Control Co., Inc. (TAPCO).
Parking Unwired team (from left): Nick Wessing, Michael
Schulze and Matt Helenka
• 3D Creations is developing an affordable 3D
scanner for use with desktop 3D printers. (A 3D
printer creates an object by depositing ultrathin layers
of plastic, one on top of another.) The device uses
white light from a common LCD projector to produce
a safe, inexpensive and accurate scan. The team will
investigate medical applications, such as the creation
of custom orthotics.
The SSC was a combined effort of the College of Engineering
& Applied Science, the Peck School of the Arts and the UWM
Research Foundation (UWMRF), and this year will expand links
with the Lubar School of Business. Students from any discipline
can participate, along with recent alumni. “The program takes
advantage of innate student creativity in order to ramp up the
state’s pool of young business owners and serial entrepreneurs,”
says Ilya Avdeev, engineering assistant professor and director
of the SSC. “It also gives students the opportunity to apply their
education immediately.”
3D Creations team (from left): Jesse Depinto and Matthew T.
UWMRF’s founding investment made sense. “Student
entrepreneurship and faculty innovation go hand in hand,” says
Brian Thompson, UWMRF’s president. In the last four years, the
foundation has helped five faculty members establish companies.
“So it’s a natural extension of the work the foundation already
does to help faculty commercialize their research ideas.” For
UWM students, the SSC offers a rare quick-start opportunity.
“The Startup Challenge is hands-down the biggest boost for my
business plans,” says Depinto of 3D Creations. “It’s really unusual
to encounter this kind of investment at such an early stage.”
See the Student Startup Challenge in action as products
become realities at
UWM claims its own champion of Pragmatism, a uniquely American approach to philosophy that is
undergoing a revival.
Robert Schwartz, UWM Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
“The aim of inquiry is not the discovery of eternal truths, but the invention of tools to better meet present cognitive and
physical needs,” says Schwartz. “Its goals, then, are not fixed in advance of inquiry. They evolve and change to
cope with unexpected experience.”
Many philosophers find this pragmatic approach unpalatable because it questions the significance of projects
that search for permanent answers to what are actually evolving questions. But in his recent book, Rethinking
Pragmatism, Schwartz argues that Pragmatism offers more insight into the nature of inquiry in science and ethics
than current popular accounts.
“It’s fine to say that science aims at truth,” Schwartz says. “In practice the most we can claim is that new theories
work better than the old.”
o philosopher Robert Schwartz, successful inquiry must be understood and judged in terms of its consequences for
current problems. That is why he is a voice for Pragmatism, which was prominent in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. Pragmatism holds that concepts and theories are best thought of as intellectual instruments.
Scientists have known for years that
certain kinds of light in certain doses
can heal wounds, but they don’t
understand exactly how it works.
UWM scientist Chukuka S. Enwemeka
is on the forefront of revealing the
cellular mechanisms of phototherapy.
Chukuka S. Enwemeka, dean of the
College of Health Sciences and UWM
Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology
Brazilian woman had suffered for decades with a
recalcitrant diabetic foot ulcer that wasn’t responding to any treatment. So her doctors, working with
UWM’s Chukuka S. Enwemeka and his research
team in Brazil, tried a new approach: They exposed the
wound to specific doses of near-infrared light. Days later,
she was pain-free, with full healing achieved within weeks.
Enwemeka, an internationally known researcher in phototherapy, who also is dean of UWM’s College of Health
Sciences, is leading a research effort in Brazil and at
UWM that he hopes will ultimately lead to the use of
near-infrared and blue light to heal wounds and clear
topical infections.
All types of light, including colors visible to the human eye,
can be arrayed on a scale according to their wavelengths.
Only a tiny portion of this scale, called the electromagnetic
spectrum, is visible to us. Enwemeka and his team have
shown that two kinds of light have certain beneficial
properties – blue light in the visible range and
invisible light in the range beyond red, called
near-infrared (NIR). But Enwemeka and his
colleagues have found each wavelength
accomplishes the task in a very different manner.
NIR light can stimulate repair of damaged tissue.
Enwemeka, UWM professors Janis Eells and Jeri Lyons,
and UWM alumnus Harry Whelan, a professor at
the Medical College of Wisconsin, have shown
NIR light acts on the energy-supply centers of cells,
called mitochondria, and a particular enzyme called
cytochrome c oxidase, to promote cell repair. Blue
light, in contrast, heals infection by killing bacteria.
Enwemeka’s studies with blue light suggest that it
also acts on the same mitochondrial enzyme, but the
effect is toxic to bacteria.
The theory is still unproven, but the therapy has
achieved undeniable results in the lab with
antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” such as the deadly
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Enwemeka
demonstrated that one dose of irradiation killed as
much as 92 percent of two pervasive strains of the
MRSA bacteria. Enwemeka hopes that getting the
light to penetrate more layers of bacteria will
eliminate the few bacterial colonies that survive
irradiation. Working with UWM physics professor
Valerica Raicu, he is developing technology that can
bring the treatment into widespread clinical use.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is awaiting
more evidence from a large-scale study before
approving NIR treatment of chronic wounds and
ulcers, something Enwemeka and Whelan are
determined to accomplish. “To see people who have
not had relief see their wounds heal and not return,”
says Enwemeka, “is very touching.”
ilwaukee: a world-class destination for dance
performance, dance education, dance therapy and
dance research. That is the vision that inspires the
Harmony Initiative, a unique partnership among
UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, the Milwaukee Ballet and
the Medical College of Wisconsin.
The initiative addresses today’s arts funding challenges with
a comprehensive business model that uses best artistic
and management practices while engaging the city’s
creative community to make Milwaukee an international
dance capital.
The Harmony Initiative received a boost in July 2012 from
a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant
to the Milwaukee Ballet. The grant is part of the NEA’s Our
Town program, designed to promote “creative placemaking
projects that help transform communities into lively, beautiful
and sustainable places with the arts at their core,”
according to an NEA statement. This was the only Our Town
grant awarded in Wisconsin for 2012.
UWM geologist John Isbell is looking for the natural rules that govern the Earth’s climate in the
absence of human activity. His work is challenging many assumptions about the ways drastic
climate change unfolds – and what to expect next.
John Isbell, professor of geosciences
hat happened the last time the Earth’s climate shifted from “icehouse” to “hothouse”? And what does
it tell us about climate change today? John Isbell is on a quest to coax that information from the last
time it happened on a vegetated Earth. The only problem is, that was between 290 million and
335 million years ago. The information from the past forms the all-important baseline needed to
predict what the added effects of human activity will bring.
During this period, the late Paleozoic Era, the modern continents were packed together in two huge supercontinents. One, called Gondwana, comprised most of the Southern Hemisphere, including what is now
the South Pole, Australia, South America, India and Africa. The work of Isbell, a specialist in late Paleozoic
glaciation, has shaken the common belief that Gondwana was covered by one massive sheet of ice that
gradually and steadily melted away as conditions warmed.
Isbell has determined that at least 22 individual ice sheets were located in various places over the region.
And the state of glaciation during the period was unstable, marked by dramatic swings in climate and
atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
He has uncovered evidence that parts of eastern Australia were covered in ice during the tail end of the era,
such as mountain building, played a large role in the waxing and waning of glaciers during the transition.
“If we figure out what happened with the glaciers – and add it to what we know about other conditions, like
carbon cycling, we will be able to unlock the answers to climate change.”
Join John Isbell on an expedition to Antarctica at
POLAR PONDERING On one of his 15 trips to
Antarctica, John Isbell took this shot of a graduate
student enjoying the view of the Darwin Mountains.
He found an iron-cemented sandstone sample
(opposite page) in the Painted Cliffs of Maria Island
in Tasmania, Australia. Isbell reads rock to unlock the
secrets to Earth’s past.
when the climate was warming, but not in polar Antarctica during the same period. He believes local events,
Many parents sleep with their infants. That’s a reality in spite of public-service campaigns,
recommendations from pediatricians and horrific news stories about co-sleeping deaths. It’s also
why UWM researchers and product-design students have teamed up to develop a prototype for a
protective “sleep pod” for infants.
Jennifer Doering (left), associate professor of nursing, and Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, associate professor of engineering
ennifer Doering’s interest in safe sleeping for infants grew out of her studies of postpartum depression and
parental sleep deprivation in impoverished areas of Milwaukee. In her visits to homes, she found cultural
preferences and simple exhaustion often led to co-sleeping. “People were asking for ways to make
sleeping safer even if they chose to share a sleep surface with their baby,” says the UWM associate
professor of nursing.
Public health and medical organizations encourage a zero-tolerance policy toward co-sleeping, but that just
doesn’t work for many families, says Doering. “Babies were still dying.” On average, one to two infants in
Milwaukee County die each month from unsafe sleeping environments. Spurred by this crisis, Doering began
pursuing the idea of a device that would make co-sleeping safe for infants. She soon realized she would need
technical design help to make it a reality. “I’m a nurse, not an engineer,” she says.
Then she met Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, an associate professor of engineering with a specialty in safety
and injury prevention. Campbell-Kyureghyan, who, like Doering, is a mother, agreed that educational
campaigns alone were not going to solve the co-sleeping issue. A safety device made good sense. “We
have rules and regulations on construction sites, but hard hats are still required,” she says.
Some products that can be used for co-sleeping, like bumpers, rails, mini-bassinets and infant travel beds, are
already commercially available, but none is designed with tested safety mechanisms and may give parents a
false sense of security, says Doering.
STUDENTS GET INVOLVED A team of students worked with
Doering and Campbell-Kyureghyan to design a prototype
of the sleep pod. They included nursing major Helen
Hermus and engineering majors Patrick Dix, Tim Korinek,
James Zoromski and Karl Bachhuber-Beam.
With the help of a Catalyst grant, a UWM Research Foundation award to seed promising research and
development in the sciences and engineering, Doering and Campbell-Kyureghyan began working with an
interdisciplinary team of four student engineers and a senior nursing student to design and test a sleeping pod
backed by research.
Continued on page 26
akesh Babu is trying to get inside the minds of those who browse
the Internet with their ears, not their eyes. Online information
should be more accessible to people who are blind, says Babu,
assistant professor of information studies, who lost his own sight
as the result of a degenerative eye disease. His research at UWM
can help.
Screen readers – computerized voices that read aloud everything on
a computer screen – can help the visually impaired. However, screen
readers make background coding audible, which can be confusing,
and graphic tags (descriptions) may be missing or incomplete.
Babu focuses on how users who are blind conceptualize online tasks.
He’s trying to discover how these users make mental models to comprehend what they cannot see – checkboxes or videos, for example.
It’s an area in which very little work has been done, he says.
“We just need more understanding to design a blind-friendly
atch Rakesh Babu demonstrate a screen reader at
Rakesh Babu, assistant professor of information studies
From page 25
The resulting prototype is a portable, protective oval pod with a molded plastic exterior and a dense foam interior. The
pod has a face-protection feature, equipped with wireless sensors designed to alert sleeping adults if they start to roll
over onto it or if blankets or pillows fall on a sleeping baby. The UWM Research Foundation has applied for a patent
for the I-SleepPod.
The two professors believe the work they are doing can coexist with educational approaches used by health
departments. Says Doering: “The death of a baby is tragic, so this is an emotion-laden issue. Sometimes that
impedes our ability to see other options that could be a solution to the problem.”
alm teenagers can reason almost as well as adults. But introduce a negative emotion, like stress, into their decision-making
process and it’s a whole other story. And marijuana can exacerbate the problem. Regular pot use before age 16 has
been shown to disrupt development of parts of the brain involved in the ability to make rational decisions, persist over time
and withhold responses in the face of a negative emotion. Since exercise increases blood flow to the brain and releases
several brain-healthy chemicals, UWM neuropsychologist Krista Lisdahl wonders what the cognitive effects of exercise would be
on young, regular pot users.
In a sweeping study of the interplay of these factors, Lisdahl is using three kinds of neuroimaging techniques and multiple
measures of fitness among young pot users and non-using control subjects. The aim is to better understand the cognitive
consequences of a chronic pot habit before the brain is fully “wired.”
Most of the research on how marijuana affects the brain has been done with adult subjects. Using functional magnetic
resonance imaging, which allows the researchers to see specific brain connections as they happen, Lisdahl hopes to observe
how brain communication differs in young users. Her questions are wide-ranging: What will the imaging show after exercise? Is
damage incurred from pot smoking reversible with later abstinence? And what can the developing brain tell us about addiction
in general? Like teen pot smokers with little impulse control, “many addicts say they are more likely to use again in response to
a negative emotional trigger,” she says.
The study has earned Lisdahl the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by
the U.S. government on researchers in their early careers.
Marijuana is the No. 2 drug of choice among
teens, behind alcohol, and its use has been
increasing. With a prestigious grant that
recognizes the nation’s most promising young
researchers, UWM’s Krista Lisdahl is testing
whether exercise could be brain-protective for
young pot smokers.
Krista Lisdahl, assistant professor of psychology
an Brazil’s local governments run a federal
income-supplement program without political
interference? Yes, they can, says UWM
political scientist Natasha Borges Sugiyama,
who has been studying the political impact of
Brazil’s “Bolsa Família” (Family Grant), a program
designed to alleviate poverty and develop human
potential. The program gives stipends to mothers in
exchange for making sure their children go to
school and get regular medical checkups and
Since its inception in 2003, the Bolsa Família
program has had a real impact on children and
families living in poverty, says Sugiyama. “In much
of Latin America, including Brazil, large segments of
the population live in poverty and lack the resources
to meet their most basic needs. Conditional cashtransfer programs are an example of a public-policy
strategy with the potential to elevate living standards
for millions of families,” she says.
Sugiyama, of Brazilian-American descent, spent
time in Brazil as a child and just published a book
With UWM support, Natasha Borges Sugiyama is studying the
political impact of a Brazilian program that is improving the
lives of the poor. Such studies are vital in increasing global
understanding of politics and social policy, she says.
Natasha Borges Sugiyama, assistant professor of political science
on good government practices there. She was
interested in whether the Bolsa Família program
was working, since many local politicians have
traditionally used federal funds to buy votes.
Her research in three northeastern Brazilian cities
showed that in the case of Bolsa Família, built-in
safeguards – like transparency in operation –
against political interference have worked. “It’s a
limited sample, but an exciting finding. It’s important
because the beneficiaries need to feel this program
is a social right,” not a political favor.
Her research and that of others has shown that
Bolsa Família is succeeding in its goals of
improving health care and education for families
living in extreme poverty.
Bolsa Família is having other impacts that Sugiyama
plans to explore and write about – empowering
women and encouraging poor people to acquire
important legal documents like birth certificates that
are needed for the program. Bolsa Família also
appears to be helping the poor in the areas she
studied feel a sense of political efficacy.
“It is interesting to see how one social policy
aimed at basic needs has had this ripple effect on
people’s lives.”
an studying Spanish help Latino students learn English and
other subjects better? Javier Tapia, associate professor of
education at UWM, is working with St. Anthony’s, a
choice school, to test that idea. Currently, all instruction
in the K-8 grades is in English, even though the majority of
students come from Spanish-speaking homes.
St. Anthony’s, with 1,600 students, is the largest Catholic
school serving Hispanic students in the U.S., but students didn’t
have the opportunity to take formal Spanish classes and
become literate in their home language until high school.
With bilingualism increasingly an employment asset,
St. Anthony’s students were at a disadvantage.
With Tapia’s help, the school designed a pilot project, an
after-school Spanish class for third-graders taught by a Spanishlanguage instructor and a third-grade teacher.
“Our goal is to improve students’ writing and reading ability
in Spanish, see the impact on other subjects, like English, and
foster bilingualism,” says Tapia.
ou could call UWM’s Chris Cornelius an architect, but first
and foremost he considers himself a storyteller. He is a member
of Wisconsin’s Oneida Nation, and his building designs
embody the values and stories of Native American cultures.
Take the example of Milwaukee’s Indian Community School. As a
member of the design team, Cornelius played a key role in ensuring
that architect Antoine Predock’s award-winning school design
accurately translated Wisconsin’s woodland Native culture.
Towering tree trunks serve as dramatic support pillars throughout
the school’s open space, which is appropriate given the important
symbolic role of trees in Native culture, Cornelius says. For example,
among the Oneida, the white pine represents Mother Earth. “These
trees gave themselves to the school,” he says. “They are our greatgrandparents and they reinforce the priorities of the school – respect
and responsibility.
“Many of these kids come from the city and don’t have a connection
to the landscape of their cultural home,” he says. “We were looking
for visual links so that the inside and outside boundaries were blurred.”
Cornelius, one of only a few Native architect-academics in the
U.S., grew up on a Green Bay reservation and completed his
undergraduate architecture degree at UWM and his master’s degree
at the University of Virginia. Before accepting his current position as
UWM associate professor, Cornelius worked with sustainable-design
guru William McDonough and served as an artist-in-residence at the
Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
“The work coming out of his studios at UWM is like nothing I’ve seen
before,” says Robert Greenstreet, dean of the School of Architecture &
Urban Planning. “It’s much more spirit-inspired, with interesting applied
forms and a completely different aesthetic.”
Join Chris Cornelius for a tour of Milwaukee’s Indian
Community School at
Chris Cornelius, associate professor of architecture
UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin have developed a virtual medical office
where avatars of patients and doctors meet online. With burgeoning demands on
the health care system, this reduces costs and expands physician availability
without compromising privacy, patient satisfaction or quality care.
F. Mariam Zahedi, James R. Mueller Distinguished Scholar and professor of information technology
management in the Lubar School of Business
F. Mariam Zahedi, professor of information technology management, and two colleagues first created a campus clinic
in the virtual world Second Life. Student volunteers then tested it by becoming avatar “patients” while the researchers
acted as avatar “physicians.” With enthusiastic response from volunteers, Zahedi next partnered with MCW’s Reza
Shaker, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, a regional health collaboration.
Together, Zahedi and Shaker began testing the use of actual patients with real symptoms talking with a real physicianbacked avatar. “Patients benefit by not being exposed to illnesses and having access to care, even when housebound,” says Zahedi. To maximize cost savings and efficiency without compromising privacy and quality, avatars with
similar complaints met an avatar physician as a group.
The next phase of the project involves proprietary software that will enhance the exchange between patient and
physician, making the online experience more like a face-to-face examination. Zahedi’s approach is very usercentered. “We always have to examine how the patients react and how the technology fills their needs and wants.”
hat if you could go to the doctor’s office, get a diagnosis and be treated, all without leaving your house?
Through a process developed at UWM and the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), avatars of real
patients and doctors (aided by the patients’ medical records) meet at a virtual clinic.
o attain true economic vitality for Southeastern Wisconsin, regional
companies need to be linked in meaningful ways to breakthroughs in
research. The UWM Research Foundation (UWMRF) is building an
“innovation engine” to accomplish just that.
By growing a culture of creativity and seeding promising ideas, the UWMRF is
helping support partnering efforts in water, energy, medical devices and drug
discovery. At the same time, it’s developing a portfolio of intellectual property and
transferring that asset to commercial partners.
Our “innovation engine” is working. It has already produced six startup companies
from UWM-licensed technology. Efforts to stimulate UWM student entrepreneurship
are being modeled on that success.
Other measurable results include a growing portfolio of patent applications and
issued patents, investments by partner companies in research, and completed
license agreements – more than 100 active intellectual property matters in all.
With the UWM Real Estate Foundation, the UWMRF is helping to construct
UWM’s Innovation Campus adjacent to the Milwaukee Regional Medical
Center. Proximity will allow collaboration among thinkers in industry, research
and medicine.
Just as important as commercialization, UWMRF activities are supporting a new
generation of students who study and conduct research with UWM faculty – as
they prepare for successful careers built on innovation.
If you would like to find out more about what UWM can offer your company,
please contact me at [email protected]
Brian Thompson
UWM Research Foundation
As Wisconsin’s premier public urban institution, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee enjoys a growing national reputation for
excellence in research, teaching and community engagement. On an operating budget of $680 million, it educates approximately
30,000 students and is an engine of innovation for Southeastern Wisconsin. The 104-acre main campus and satellite sites are located
in the economic and cultural heart of the state. The university’s recent expansion includes new academic and research facilities, and
the creation of the only School of Freshwater Sciences in the United States and the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health.
Produced by UWM University Relations & Communications. This publication may be requested in accessible format.
Watch interviews with the researchers behind UWM’s
two newest startups and see their work in action at
See the Student Startup Challenge in action as products
become realities at
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