Northwestern scientists assess safety of nanoparticles

By Zachary Vasile

Nanoparticles are revolutionizing the way the world works, offering an enticing commercial formula: better, more novel results with less material. Since achieving widespread commercial popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s, nanoparticles have transformed technology that can be engineered starting with the molecules that make virtually any material.

But one of the most fundamental questions surrounding nanoparticles remains conspicuously unanswered: is the use of nanoparticles sustainable and safe?

Merve Doğangün, a Northwestern graduate student in the nanotechnology program, prepares an experiment for continuing research on the safety  and sustainability of nanoparticles.
Merve Doğangün, a Northwestern graduate student in the nanotechnology program, prepares an experiment for continuing research on the safety and sustainability of nanoparticles.

This question, and others like it, drives the research of the multi-institutional Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, an organization funded by the National Science Foundation’s Center for Chemical Innovation. Continue reading “Northwestern scientists assess safety of nanoparticles”

“Omni-channel” format blurs retail’s boundaries

by Yinmeng Liu

Ellen Morris shops at her favorite store, Amazon, once every week. From mugs to sports gel, coffee filters to rugs, she acquires most of her everyday items through the online retailer. For her, the e-commerce mammoth offers a convenient and cost-efficient shopping experience.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, of course, Morris’ shift to online shopping is part of an unwelcome trend that has cut into sales, and profits. But the new format can’t be ignored, either: many old-style stores have launched their own online sales sites to help fend off e-commerce competition.

And now, as big-name retailers like Macy’s and Target step up their offensive against the rapidly growing digital marketplace , something new is emerging.   Their most recent strategy integrates online and offline platforms, creating what’s known as the “omni-channel” shopping experience.

Continue reading ““Omni-channel” format blurs retail’s boundaries”

Local businesses opt for ‘crowdfunding’ via Kickstarter

By Brittany Magee

Brandon Byxbe faced a challenge. In order to launch his cafe, he needed to outfit the kitchen with the proper equipment– pretty big-ticket, specialized gear. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur didn’t have the money to do so.

Byxbe is the owner of the Amazing Kale Burger: a Chicago-based company that makes vegan, gluten-free, soy-free burgers. He started out in 2012, selling his kale burgers at farmer’s markets, and to local grocers and restaurants. Since then, Byxbe’s veggie burgers have gained a strong following, with customers clamoring for more and more.

And now, responding to that growing demand, Byxbe plans to open the Amazing Kale Burger Lunch Counter on Howard Street.

“I’m hoping to open by the first of the year,” Byxbe said.

Brandon Byxbe, owner of The Amazing Kale Burger
Brandon Byxbe, owner of The Amazing Kale Burger

Before opening, however, he needed to purchase a 40-gallon steam kettle and a commercial convection oven, which will allow him to increase the scale of production for his burgers.

Together, the kettle and oven would cost nearly $5,000 — even if he bought used items. Byxbe didn’t have that money. The Amazing Kale Burger needed help.

In order to get the funding he needed, Byxbe turned to the global crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. Continue reading “Local businesses opt for ‘crowdfunding’ via Kickstarter”

Proper Suit unites technology and tradition in custom suit-making

By: Marika Bastrmajian

What started as a small operation in Richard Hall’s garage five years ago is now a million-dollar success for Hall and co-founder McGregor Madden.  Proper Suit is a technology-based personalized custom suit-maker headquartered in Chicago with studios now in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland.

The company prides itself on its high-quality laser-cut suits using AutoCAD technology, that range from $850 to $2,800, depending on the fabric.  After reaching $1.2 million in revenue in 2013, Proper Suit has been pulling in between $130,000 to $150,000 a month in 2014.

Cyber security disclosures leave shareholders in the dark

By Holly LaFon

Escalating cyberattacks against major U.S. companies, among them Sony Corp., Target and JPMorgan, have called into question whether regulators are requiring enough openness once an attack has occurred.

The issue doesn’t just affect consumers, whose credit card and other data may be at stake, but shareholders, who also have financial skin in the game. Continue reading “Cyber security disclosures leave shareholders in the dark”

As incomes fall, Illinois farmers prepare for sparse decade

cornprices

By Nicholas Heinzmann

A plummet in grain prices is turning the Illinois farm economy on its head and slashing incomes for farmers, who will need to adjust their strategies to adapt to leaner times.

Corn prices have fallen by nearly half and soybeans are down by one-third from the highs reached in 2012. That means average incomes on grain farms would return to levels not seen since 1998, according to Gary Schnitkey, an economist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Continue reading “As incomes fall, Illinois farmers prepare for sparse decade”

Eating disorder patients battle illness and insurance coverage

Johanna Kandel speaks at the first Mothers and Others March on Capitol Hill on Sept. 30. Kandel is president of the board of directors for the Eating Disorder Coalition for Research, Policy and Action and the founder and CEO of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. Photo by Rachel Rifkin.

by Sara Freund

Eating disorder patients fight to survive their mental illness but, as they start to recover, can face another unexpected opponent: insurance companies.

“When coverage is being denied because a patient is medically stable is not fair and it is not promoting recovery. Treating a physical aspect is only one part of the problem,” said Claire Mysko, the programs director at the National Eating Disorders Association. Continue reading “Eating disorder patients battle illness and insurance coverage”

Grading scales cause concern for parents and competitive students

By Julie Woon

Bar Graph of Chicago Public High Schools' Grading Scales during 2009.
Bar Graph of Chicago Public High Schools’ Grading Scales during 2009.

Parents at Pritzker Elementary School in Wicker Park complained last fall that their children were at a disadvantage when competing against other students for educational opportunities.

The culprit: the school’s choice of grading scale. The elementary school was using a 7-point scale where students earned an “A” for scores of 93 and above. But now, an “A” is any score of a 90 and higher, on a 10-point scale, which is what the parents wanted.

Continue reading “Grading scales cause concern for parents and competitive students”

U.S.-based Major League Soccer playing in the shadow of global teams

Patrons at Chicago's Globe Pub watch the 2014 MLS Cup Final. Nick Kariuki/ Medill
Patrons at Chicago’s Globe Pub watch the 2014 MLS Cup Final. Nick Kariuki/ Medill

By Nick Kariuki

The large group at Chicago’s Globe Pub, many sporting jerseys from soccer teams all over the country, was focused on Sunday’s Major League Soccer Cup Final — and the craft beers they were sipping. Soccer scarves from around the world mounted the walls, along with signed, framed photos and jerseys.

Unfortunately, although both teams had made exciting playoff runs to reach the final, neither the Los Angeles Galaxy nor the New England Revolution were playing at their best in the big game. Viewers in the pub began to voice their frustration at the misplaced passes and what seemed like both teams inability to keep the ball on the ground.

“It’s like watching little kids play soccer,” one patron remarked.

Continue reading “U.S.-based Major League Soccer playing in the shadow of global teams”

West Side transition home helps recently released female inmates to re-enter society

Outside of the Grace House on the West Side of Chicago which houses recently released women from prison in order to help them re-build their lives.
Outside of the Grace House on the West Side of Chicago which houses recently released women from prison in order to help them re-build their lives.

By J’nelle Agee

Each year hundreds of women are released from the Illinois Department of Corrections system and are faced with the decision of whether they want to change their life or continue their personal downward spiral.

The Grace House, a transitional home on the West Side, has programs to help with self-growth and equip these women with life-skills to re-enter society.

The Grace House opened in 1994 under the umbrella of St. Leonard’s Ministries, an Episcopal organization that provides residential, case management and employment services for those recently released from prison. The ministry also has an interim housing facility for men. It provides residents of both houses with classes through the St. Leonard’s Alternative High School program, and pre-employment training through the Michael Barlow Educational Center.

Continue reading “West Side transition home helps recently released female inmates to re-enter society”