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James Farmer and The science behind the success of local food systems

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On Tuesday September 16th  Science Café presented James Farmer, an assistant professor in the SPEA school. Farmer is an expert in local food and the dynamics of farmer’s markets and restaurants and his presentation centered on the value of de-centralized food distribution. This event was hosted by Finch’s Brasserie and recorded by WFHB correspondents for Standing Room Only, on WFHB.

IU Researchers Receive Grant to Prove Advantages of Data Mining for Healthcare

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Artificial intelligence in hospitals working with doctors to prescribe treatment sounds like something straight out of the movies. Researchers at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University are working to make this a reality.

The process, which uses data mining and a method called machine learning, could lead the way to a cheaper, better healthcare system. The research being done now is a collaboration of separate research started in 2010. Assistant Professor at IU Kris Hauser is one of the Principal Investigators.

“This was started a few years ago by one of my students who is now a part of this project and he had access to some good data with Centerstone research,” Hauser says, “We got together in my artificial intelligence class and we designed a system to try to recommend when and how much to treat people with mental health disorders. This new project is an attempt to expand that into new clinical domains. That includes cardiology, E.R. readmissions, and to improve the existing application.”

Hauser received his PhD. In Computer Science at Stanford University and won the CAREER award last year from the National Science Foundation.

The research centers mostly around a mathematical framework that can mine existing data to detect patterns. What this means for healthcare is that computers could access a patients complete medical records and suggest a treatment plan that wouldn’t conflict with any past conditions.

One of the obstacles in getting this framework to be effective is the lack of uniformity in hospitals nationwide with their electronic record keeping. Hauser says that until the historical quirks get worked out, they have to work very closely with their data providers to be able to use the data. Once it becomes easier to access the data, the machine learning framework will be able to access more and more data to make more complex treatment plans.

“You can’t really see a pattern unless you have enough data,” Hauser says, “So that’s what the A.I. is trying to do, look at patterns in the data to try and predict how new patients will behave. The more data you get, the more of a complete picture you get of a new patient. While every person is, to some extent, unique, there are some patterns as well in how your disease is progressing and how you might respond to a treatment. The more people we have like you as a patient, the better our predictions will be.

The other Principal Investigator of the research, Sriraam Natarajan, has worked closely with data in the fields of artificial intelligence and its application to bio-medical problems. He explains how this data mining and learning is something we see in our daily lives and that it could easily be harnessed to use in healthcare.

“I think that many people do not clearly see the impact data can have on their day-to-day lives,” Natarajan says, “Of course they see it when Google uses their data to better provide a service, like giving better search results for a movie to watch or a product to buy. I feel that the impact could be similar in terms of healthcare where data can aid in improving the quality of life and treatments, and hopefully lower the costs.”

The goal of the research is not to replace doctors but rather help them in their decision-making. Hauser says the reason this would be so helpful is because doctors don’t always have the time to look at all the data a computer could. In this instance, time is certainly money and Hauser says this research would not only improve the quality of healthcare but also bring down the cost for the patient.

“Our medical system is filled with billions and billions of dollars of wasted opportunities for treating people in a cost-effective way,” Hauser says, “Doctors over-prescribe medicines, they over-prescribe treatments, and they may not be doing the most effect treatments because they may have missed something about a person’s medical history. The information here is to let the doctor make the most informed choice. Doctors already don’t have a lot of time to spend with a patient and the medical history. This has the opportunity to digest the information for them and present it in a user-friendly way, then we have to see a better outcome.”

The research just received a $686,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will help the researchers work towards trying out the intelligent computer frameworks on real patients in a real hospital setting.

“This provides the opportunity to save money, even in a single-disease scenario,” Hauser says, “Clinical depression, for example, is a multi-billion dollar industry. If we even save one percent of costs, this is paying back the investment many, many times over.”

IU Microscope Chromosome Images In Running for GE Contest

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Two exceptional research images, taken at Indiana University’s Light Microscopy Imaging Center, are finalists in the International GE Cell Imaging Competition. Last year the center won the contest with an image of a dividing cell.

Imaging Center manager and research scientist Jim Powers gives background on the competition, and explains why IU has a good chance to take home the prize again.

“Every year GE runs a world-wide contest on their microscopes, which we have,” Powers says, “There aren’t too many in the world and every year people submit their images. Last year one of our images one and two got accepted this year.”

The IU Imaging Center captures their microscopic subjects with a $1.2 million super-resolution microscope. The microscope, in use since 2009, was funded entirely by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Scientists everywhere can use this tool to look at things impossible to see with a regular microscope, and Powers says that can be significant help to biologists.

“This imaging center is for all of IU and beyond,” Powers says, “A lot of us are very visual and to be able to see something otherwise impossible to see is really huge for biologists and

The microscope itself is understandably complicated. A computer takes thousands of pictures a minute from the microscope, and then math algorithms patch them together to create a single picture.

One image submitted this year is of newt chromosomes making RNA from D-N-A. These are the building blocks of an organism, and those in the image were stained red and, coincidentally, heart-shaped. Powers says this image is especially incredible.

“We hear about all these genes and what they do for us,” Powers says, “To be able to actually see this happen is so cool and something we haven’t been able to do very well with other microscopes.”

More than 15,000 votes were cast last year. To vote for the pictures and to see the other submissions this year, you can go to GE’s website.

The winner of the contest gets a free trip to New York City to see their image on a screen in Times Square.

IU Physicists Win $5.4 Million Grant To Study Subatomic Particles

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An Indiana University team of physicists has won a three year, $5.4 million National Science Foundation award to continue its study of the inner workings of the atom’s nucleus.

The members of the team, several dozen strong, are affiliated with IU’s Center for Exploration of Energy and Matter.

IU physicists have already helped researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory study how minute particles called gluons contribute to the angular momentum of protons.

With this new grant, the IU team will continue to help the effort to learn about the composition and movement of the most elementary particles known to humankind.

Gluons hold quarks together in an atom’s proton. Quarks and gluons are among the smallest things particle physicists have identified. Gluons are so tiny that they are considered massless, actually measured in the billionths of a millimeter.

The IU team also will aid researchers at Fermilab in the search for new types of neutrinos, which are subatomic particles created by nuclear reactions in the sun.

Study of these potential new neutrinos may well affect cosmologist’s estimate of the expansion rate of the early universe.

The IU team includes physics department members Will Jacobs, Lisa Kaufman, Chen-yu Liu, Josh Long, Hans-Otto Meyer, Hermann Nann, William Snow, Ed Stephenson, Anselm Vossen, and Scott Wissink, as well as several post doctorates, graduate students, and undergrads.

 

IU Professor Contributes To New ‘Network Science’ Journal

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With the inaugural issue of Network Science, a new journal published by Cambridge University Press, coordinating editor Stanley Wasserman brings together scholars from fields across the academic spectrum whose interests converge upon the quickly evolving field of network science. Wasserman has a Ph.D from Harvard University nd the idea for the journal was launched about four years ago, said Stanley Wasserman, Rudy Professor in the Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Statistics at IU.

“Networks, we have realized are everywhere. From Facebook to traffic, and there are unifying theories that everyone in network science uses,” Wasserman says.

According to Wasserman, in the 21st century, with the recognition globalization of the world along with the growth of the Internet and social media, network methods seem an increasingly fitting and appropriate way to examine many aspects of the social and physical world, and the individuals, organizations and cellular processes within it.

“Networks are individual units that are linked by relational ties. It is very inter-disciplinary, including physics and sociology and psychology and many others,” Wasserman says.

Topics, such as friendship network and social status, network dependencies in international trade, are covered in the first issue of Network Science.

The journal can be viewed online on the website of Cambridge Journal Online.

IU Anthropologists Will Try Raising Funds Online For Research Project

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Four anthropology students from Indiana University are taking their funding request to the public. Crowd-funding websites like Kickstarter are becoming more and more popular as a way to fund all kinds of projects, big and small.

This group, studying in the lab of evolutionary anthropologist Michael Muehlenbein hopes to continue their study of how tourists and primates interact in South Africa by using these types of funds.

“The whole idea of ecotourism is that you take only photos and leave only footprints. But the reality is that unregulated ecotourism can have a variety of potential costs. One of those costs being the welfare of endangered species that we’re interested in going to visit,” Muehlenbein says.

Diseases transmitted from humans to primates can be disastrous to wild primate populations. Primates can transmit diseases like malaria right back to humans. The goal for these researchers is to study what people know about primate and human diseases and their attitudes towards them. These and other factors can influence disease transmission.

“Humans are attracted to monkeys and apes, they’re cute, they’re fuzzy and they act like us. Non-human primates share a lot of diseases with humans and we know there are a lot of instances of disease transmission from them to humans, HIV being a good example. So, I wanted to wrap my brain around the decisions tourists make that might influence the transmission of diseases like that,” Muehlenbein says.

The students helping Muehlenbein in his research hope to reach out to the community by involving them in the funding and researching process. They plan on using Microryza, a website dedicated to helping smaller science projects reach their funding goals.

Muehlenbein thinks that becoming involved in this kind of research project could mean so much to the science community.

“I think a lot of younger people are not as involved in science as they should be. In general, I think the public loves celebrities, but I think they should love scientists just as much. As a donor, they have an investment more than just money because we have multiple incentives. We want to involve them every step of the way, telling them why we’re doing this, from the inception of the project to the very end,” Muehlenbein says.

The goal is to raise $7,500  to pay for plane tickets and the research would  take about three weeks.

 

By Casey Kuhn

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