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Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn Comes a Day Early this Year

2 hours 32 min ago

The University of Virginia will host its annual “Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn” for families on Oct. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. The event takes place a day earlier than normal in order to alleviate visitor parking concerns and other conflicts that would have been inevitable with Saturday’s home football game.

UVA’s trick-or-treating tradition, established by students in the late 1980s, is open to the local community. Children are invited to wear costumes and participate in trick-or-treating at each of the 54 Lawn rooms. All candy is donated and distributed by approximately 70 student groups and other organizations.

Lawn residents host the event, receiving additional support from the offices of Housing and Residence Life, Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Facilities Management, Parking & Transportation and the University Police Department. Emergency medical technicians from Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad will be available during the event, and a lost child station, marked by balloons and signage, will be located on the south steps of Old Cabell Hall.

Due to ongoing renovations at the Rotunda, the entry and exit point for this year’s event is the southern end of the Lawn near Old Cabell Hall. Volunteers will direct families to that area.

Allergen-free treats will be available for children and students with severe allergies in Room 1 West, said Vanessa Ehrenpreis, head Lawn resident and a fourth-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.

In addition to trick-or-treating, families will have the opportunity to enjoy “Fall Fest” in the McIntire Amphitheater, also running from 4 to 6 p.m. Hosted by student organizations Dance Marathon and Phi Sigma Pi, the festival will feature a mix of recreational activities, including face painting, pumpkin painting and corn hole games. Students will be stationed at tables providing information related to their organizations, and UVA a cappella groups will perform.

Public restrooms will be available at Old Cabell Hall, Alderman Library and Newcomb Hall.

Free parking for families attending the event will be available beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the E3, T4 and S6 lots at Scott Stadium and at University Hall, and beginning at 4 p.m. in the garage on Culbreth Road. Paid hourly parking is available in the Central Grounds Parking Garage on Emmet Street.

Lawn residents look forward to hundreds of children participating in the festivities and encourage University students to attend, too.

“Students consistently jump at the opportunity to pass out candy because it connects them to a communal side of the University and Charlottesville they rarely get to experience,” Ehrenpreis said. “Not only does Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn put into perspective just how big and vibrant Charlottesville is, it puts students right in the thick of it, and hopefully inspires them to engage in the greater community more. We are very excited to welcome families for another year filled with candy, costumes and fun!”

Top European Scholar Crosses Atlantic to Lead UVA Center for Design and Health

Wed, 2015-10-07 15:54
Caroline Newman

Jenny Roe, newly appointed to lead research at the University of Virginia’s Center for Design and Health, has spent her career examining how the places we live affect the lives we lead.

Roe’s research – ranging from hospital design recommendations to mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) studies mapping the brain’s response to urban landscapes – has earned her an international reputation in the growing field of design and health. It even landed her an audience with royalty, presenting urban design research to the king of Sweden last fall.

Starting this fall as the inaugural Mary Irene DeShong Professor of Design and Health, Roe will bring this international expertise to UVA, leading the center’s research efforts and building a new design and health curriculum in partnership with leaders in the schools of Architecture, Nursing and Medicine.

“Across disciplines, there has been a renewed recognition of the ways in which the design and planning of the built environment profoundly affect our health,” said architecture professor Tim Beatley, co-founder of the Center for Design and Health. “Jenny is unusually suited to bring together the many people across Grounds working in this area, including doctors, nurses, public health leaders and psychologists.”

Roe worked as a landscape architect before pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental psychology. A native of Scotland, she has concentrated much of her work in the United Kingdom and Western Europe, working most recently as a research leader for the Stockholm Environment Institute, ranked the second-most influential environmental think tank in the world.

Her research combines an empathetic focus on the human experience with a scientific focus on data and analytics. Examples include a study linking lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol to levels of green space in urban Scottish neighborhoods, design guidelines to make cities more navigable for the sight-impaired, and a study using mobile EEG monitoring to track brain activity as participants walk through different urban spaces, from busy shopping streets to secluded parks. The latter project was the first to use mobile EEG technology to systematically document the brain’s response to urban design and earned Roe the notice of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden when she presented it during a celebration of the institute’s 25th anniversary.

“Jenny has a background in research that is data-driven, which really speaks to the scientific community,” said Marcia Day Childress, an associate professor of medical education who served on the search committee. “This is a great opportunity for those of us working in medicine and health care to join with others and think more critically about the spaces we have, what we mean by health and what impacts health in the community.”

Roe will partner with faculty across UVA to continue examining how good design might encourage healthier behaviors and mitigate major health concerns like obesity, cardiac disease, cancer, elderly care and mental illness. She will also continue her work with populations that often receive less attention in urban design, such as the elderly, the mentally impaired and the poor. Ultimately, she hopes the center will be a focal point not only for students and faculty, but for policymakers looking to UVA for leadership in design and health.

“Coming to the Center for Design and Health, I am looking forward to accomplishing three key objectives: generating convincing and robust evidence of the relationship between design and health, turning that research into compelling stories for politicians and government officials who have the power legislate for good design, and training a new generation of public health designers who really understand human responses to the built environment,” Roe said.

That vision is exactly what architecture professor Reuben Rainey had in mind when he co-founded the center.

“Many of the health issues plaguing our population, such as obesity, heart disease and asthma, have to do with a poorly designed environment that depends heavily on the automobile, often with limited walkability and poor access to healthy food and public spaces, especially in disadvantaged areas,” Rainey said. “We intentionally made our mission statement very broad, to address these issues at many levels. Jenny’s broad range of research matches that mission, understanding health not just as absence of disease, but as a sustained sense of social, psychological and physical well-being.”

Since its inception five years ago, the Center for Design and Health has sponsored research symposia and independent projects addressing topics including hospital design, landscape architecture, healthy public spaces, public housing and food and nutrition. Ten faculty fellows are current affiliated with the center, hailing from a variety disciplines across the University.

New Test Predicts Teens’ Future Risk of Heart Disease

Tue, 2015-10-06 16:47
Emily Dinning

Risk for cardiovascular disease, currently running rampant in the United States, can now be predicted for adolescents, thanks to a new diagnostic test developed by a University of Virginia Children’s Hospital pediatrician and his collaborators.

The test accounts for many risk factors for the deadly disease and has the potential to be adapted by physicians nationwide to assess teenagers’ future risk and encourage the healthy behaviors that could save their lives.

Approximately 610,000 people die from heart disease every year in the United States –roughly one of every four deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cardiovascular disease has predominantly modifiable risk factors, meaning that the disease is entirely preventable. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, unhealthy diets and smoking. The only risk factor unable to be changed is genetic predisposition.

A team led by Dr. Mark DeBoer of the U.Va. Department of Pediatrics and Matthew Gurka of West Virginia University’s School of Public Health developed the new diagnostic test. The test relies on an evaluation of metabolic syndrome, a conglomeration of conditions including increased blood pressure, high levels of blood sugar, excessive body fat around the abdomen and waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels that together increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. It takes into account variables specific both to race and gender.

“The way that we normally diagnose metabolic syndrome appears to have some racial discrepancies, where African-American individuals are not diagnosed with metabolic syndrome at a very high rate and yet they are at very high risk for developing type 2 diabetes and [cardiovascular disease], so Dr. Gurka and I formulated a metabolic syndrome severity score that is specific to sex and ethnicity,” DeBoer said.

In creating the test, DeBoer and Gurka examined metabolic severity scores from children in the 1970s that assessed body mass index, systolic blood pressure, fasting triglycerides, HDL cholesterol (the so-called “good” cholesterol) and fasting glucose. The children were followed up as recently as 2014, at an average age of 49.6 years.

“The current study was targeted at using that metabolic syndrome severity score on data from individuals who were children in the ’70s to see if it correlated with their risk on developing [cardiovascular disease] and type 2 diabetes later in life, and we found that there was a high correlation between the metabolic severity score for those children and for their later development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” DeBoer explained.

The test is innovative in that it is able to assess changes in metabolic syndrome severity in a person over time and creates a specific number predicting risk. Previous diagnostic tests have been merely positive or negative, stating that a person either has or does not have metabolic syndrome, but the new test is able to create a scale, delineating the precise degree to which a youth is at risk.

“We are hopeful that this score can be used to assess the baseline risk for adolescents regarding metabolic syndrome and their risk for future disease and use it as a motivator for individuals to try to change their risk so that they may have a healthier diet, engage in more physical activity or get medication to reduce their metabolic syndrome severity and their future risk for disease,” DeBoer said.

The research has been described in articles in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and the journal Diabetologia. The research team included U.Va.’s DeBoer, West Virginia’s Gurka and Jessica Woo and John A. Morrison, both of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. There is also a website available for calculating a child’s metabolic syndrome severity score using clinical measures.

Breaking Down the Buzzword: Design Thinking and Its Many Applications at U.Va.

Tue, 2015-10-06 15:15
Caroline Newman

It is tempting to dismiss “design thinking” as a buzzword that is tossed around business media and corporate boardrooms with little effect. Talking to the faculty members who have brought the concept to the University of Virginia, however, one quickly realizes the potential behind the publicity.

Students in the School of Architecture’s new design thinking concentration are developing solutions to water scarcity and brainstorming better prosthetic designs.

U.Va. engineering students spent the summer in Germany, using design thinking to craft corporate strategy ideas and present them at Volkswagen’s headquarters. (VW might want to invite them back for fresh ideas after its recent scandal.)

Faculty and students in the Curry School of Education are using design thinking to create better resources for adult learners, bolstering an oft-neglected student population.

And no examination of design thinking is complete without mentioning Darden School of Business professor Jeanne Liedtka, renowned as a guru in the field. Liedtka’s online design thinking course boasts tens of thousands of enrollees, and she consults with leaders from top corporations and the U.S. government to help remove barriers to innovation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a U.Va. professor, Liedtka credits her early understanding of design thinking to the architecture of the Academical Village, where the proximity of student and faculty housing facilitates Jefferson’s vision for a less hierarchical, more democratic education.

“I got really excited about design, and in particular how architects create spaces that encourage people to live in certain ways,” she said. “Designers have a special way of looking at problems and many of those tools are teachable.”

Design thinking is a problem-solving method that applies architects and designers’ creative processes to business or social problems.

For example, hospital administrators scheduling nursing shifts might simply rearrange the schedule to best suit the budget or patient load. Hospital administrators using design thinking would set aside those constraints at first to talk to the nurses and patients directly to learn about scheduling woes. Then they would brainstorm solutions that accounted for those complaints and for limiting factors like the hospital budget. Finally, they would test those solutions, starting small with one or two shifts, soliciting feedback and expanding from there.

The process is, in Liedtka’s words, human-centered, possibility-driven and iterative. Design thinking insists that decision-makers focus most closely on the needs and desires of the individuals they are serving, set aside constraints that might limit their creativity and test their ideas in small, repeated experiments where failure is not just permitted, but encouraged.

“Design thinking breaks down the myth that innovation is something that only geniuses can do, something that you cannot teach or build processes for,” Liedtka said. “It gives people the tools to seek small innovations and develop the confidence to do much bigger things. Eventually, if enough people start acting, the world changes without permission from the people running it.”

The University alone furnishes plenty of examples to justify Liedtka’s enthusiasm.

This year, 27 third- and fourth-year architecture students are pursuing the school’s design thinking concentration, which began in 2014 and offers courses to students of all majors.

“Our design thinking curriculum enables students to study complex problems in critical ways through a more open-ended design education, focused on improving objects, services or systems,” said associate professor Anselmo Canfora, director of the concentration. “The curriculum is designed to give students foundational toolkits and critical thinking preparation that will allow them to succeed in fields outside of the architecture discipline as well.”

Canfora’s course, “Foundations in Design Thinking,” brings in experts from various U.Va. disciplines to help students study one major problem throughout the semester. This semester, students are examining water scarcity, using design thinking to understand affected populations and frame the problem to develop more manageable solutions. Some are studying how infrastructure woes contribute to scarcity. Others are designing conceptual technology, such as water collection surfaces resembling fog catchers, that could be applied directly to infrastructure and collect and condense moisture in the air.

“I want students to be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable, to find themselves in an unfamiliar situation or facing a wicked problem and use design thinking to reason their way through it,” Canfora said.

Associate engineering professor Dana Elzey wants the same for his engineering students and sees design thinking as an important addition to his discipline’s analytical way of thinking.

“A number of trends are broadening the modern role of the engineer to include the power of creative, right-brain thinking in coming up with novel solutions,” Elzey said. “Design thinking helps engineers harness open-minded, creative and empathic thinking to arrive at holistic solutions incorporating social, cultural or environmental context.”

The Engineering School has incorporated design thinking into its introductory coursework, and Elzey, who directs the Rodman Scholars program, has been teaching the method for years. He also leads the trip to Germany each summer, pairing U.Va. students with German students for a nine-day challenge set by Volkswagen.

“After about five days, they usually get stuck. Their ideas begin to hit barriers, and that is where design thinking can bring breakthroughs,” Elzey said. “The leaders at Volkswagen’s headquarters are typically amazed at the ideas that these undergraduate students bring to the table in only nine days.”

Similar breakthroughs are driving innovation in the education sector and on Grounds.

Curry School faculty members like Mable Kinzie and Sara Dexter encourage students to use design thinking to better tailor their instruction to the needs of their target population, especially non-traditional or adult learners.

“We are teaching students not to wait until an idea is perfect, but to prototype early and often and engage our target population of learners in evaluating ideas,” Kinzie said.  “This allows ideas to fail while it is still cheap to fail, and helps students develop a refined product that is more likely to be effective.”

After completing Liedtka’s online course, Mary Brackett, a senior associate with University Human Resources, is promoting similar techniques in the training and programming she leads, especially a “Quality Core Network” uniting administrators across U.Va. At the last meeting, participants used design thinking to brainstorm on-Grounds parking solutions.

“Design thinking is very suited to solving problems in higher education,” Brackett said. “Everyone was very excited about the possibilities they saw to take these approaches back to their offices and use them right away.”

That proliferation – from students’ work to faculty research to University staff –exemplifies what Liedtka calls “the grassroots power of design thinking” and encourages an interdisciplinary approach to complex challenges within and outside of the University.

“From a collaborative standpoint, design thinking allows researchers from the humanities and the sciences to share methodologies and work creatively side-by-side to take on major issues,” Canfora said. “As a public institution of higher education, one of our most important responsibilities is to help create viable links between academia, the private sector, governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to address these societal challenges.”

It’s a concept that, in his TEDx talk, Elzey refers to as a “design university” – a university that leverages the value of its research to create positive social change with real-world impact.

“We need universities that do not just discover, but that also do things, make things and change things,” he said. “Design thinking is about intelligent change. We have proven, amply, that we have the power to change the world. We now need to prove we can manage change responsibly. Design thinking can help us do that.”

Q&A: We Need to Talk About Race to Understand Positive Youth Development

Tue, 2015-10-06 12:46
Audrey Breen

The media paints an almost uniformly bleak and dehumanizing picture of the problems minority children face, depending on the culture they grow up in. But many youth of color are actively transforming their communities while maintaining important connections to their cultural heritage, and a conference this week at the University of Virginia will seek to learn from them.

Youth-Nex, the University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, will host the conference, “Youth of Color Matter: Reducing Inequalities Through Positive Youth Development” on Thursday and Friday.

Joanna Lee Williams, associate professor at the Curry School of Education and 2014 William T. Grant Scholar, will chair the conference. Her scholarship considers race and ethnicity as social contexts for youth development and has explored the positive benefits of ethnic identity in adolescence along with youths’ experiences of school and peer group diversity.

The Curry School’s Audrey Breen recently spoke with Williams about the efforts to use the “positive youth development” lens when engaging in conversations about youth of color.

Q. Is the current narrative we hear about students of color incomplete?

A. Absolutely. What tends to lead the conversation about youth of color are the problems – where they are behind, where they are struggling. We hardly ever acknowledge that many ethnic minority youth are doing well, and we rarely focus our attention on the ways youth of color are valuable assets to their communities.

It is true that the reality is that there are gaps in opportunities across racial and ethnic groups that hinder many youths’ chances to flourish. Looking at this discrepancy, and the structures in our country that maintain it, is critical. But it is just as important that we talk about youth of color themselves from a strengths-based perspective.

Q. What is “positive youth development” and what does it mean to focus on the assets and capacity of youth of color?

A. The positive youth development framework is founded on the premise that all youth have strengths and have the capacity to thrive. By examining youth of color through a positive youth development lens, we will begin to see a different story than the one we hear most often.

This conversation is particularly important, not only in light of recent headlines, but also because the numbers of children of color are growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2011 about half of youth under age 5 and slightly more than half of children under age 1 were racial/ethnic minorities.

Q. What might we gain by focusing on the more positive part of the story about youth of color?

A. There is a growing emphasis on focusing on positive youth development as we consider ways to promote thriving for all youth. That is the focus of the research center at the Curry School of Education, Youth-Nex. But the framework is not a one-size-fits-all philosophy. I think there is a unique benefit to using that lens on students of color.

By bringing the magnifying glass of positive youth development closer to racial and ethnic minority youth, I believe we’ll discover that we have been missing opportunities to examine the ways that ethnicity and culture matter in thriving.  Omitting such a focus will continue to perpetuate one-sided interpretations of youth of color.

Q. Can you give an example of how ethnicity and culture might bring unique opportunities for the positive development of youth of color?

A. This week we are hosting a conference on this topic, and one of our speakers is Monica Tsethlikai from the University of Arizona, where she works with American Indian youth. In her work, she has learned that the cultural practices well-established in the Native American population are aligned with core principles of positive youth development in ways that, for example, promote self-regulation, community engagement and giving back to society.

Q. You mentioned the Youth-Nex annual conference. What is going to happen during the conference?

A. Scholars from the University of Virginia, Loyola University, University of Arizona, Claremont Graduate University, University of Houston and Rutgers University will be joined by educators, practitioners and community activists from Charlottesville and Albemarle, New York City, San Diego and Washington, D.C. in serving as speakers for the two-day conference. I’m especially looking forward to hearing from youth themselves who will be sharing their ideas and discussing their own efforts to create change and promote social justice.

Q. What do you hope comes of the two-day gathering?

A. It is my hope that all of us attending walk away with two notions. All youth of color are not doing poorly; in fact, many are thriving, but to ensure that youth of color do indeed matter, we need to identify the contexts and resources that promote opportunities for success. And, bringing a focus on race, ethnicity and diversity to the field of positive youth development will be beneficial for all youth.

I would also add that it is my hope that we commit ourselves to including youth of color in the process of making these changes. These are not issues for adults only to address. We must start thinking about how we engage youth in this conversation to really create change.

DuPont, Emmy-Winning CBS News National Correspondent to Join U.Va. Faculty

Mon, 2015-10-05 15:36
Lorenzo Perez

Wyatt Andrews, an award-winning journalist who covered presidential campaigns, the U.S. Supreme Court, the first Gulf War and historic summit meetings between the United States and the Soviet Union during his 34-year career with CBS News, is joining the faculty of the University of Virginia’s Department of Media Studies.

A 1974 graduate of the University, Andrews retired from CBS News last month and is joining the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences next spring as a professor of practice. He is the first faculty member within the Department of Media Studies to hold that title, a University appointment reserved for distinguished professionals who have been recognized internationally or nationally for contributions to their field.

Andrews will teach courses on the news media, journalism ethics and multimedia news reporting. In addition to teaching, he will assist in fundraising efforts for the College and the Department of Media Studies while mentoring U.Va. students interested in following his career path into broadcast journalism.

Andrews shared in the Columbia/DuPont Silver Baton Award presented to “CBS Evening News” in 2014 for its coverage of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He also won three Emmy Awards during his CBS career for his coverage of the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik, Iceland and the 2003 Washington, D.C. sniper case. Most recently, Andrews specialized in covering health care and veterans affairs for CBS News.

“I consider teaching at U.Va. to be a dream job, and I am both honored by and grateful for the opportunity,” said Andrews, who graduated, with honors, with a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs. “My role within the media studies department will be to help our students better analyze the revolution transforming the news media and, in time, to assist the next generation of U.Va. writers and reporters to navigate and shape that revolution.”

Hector Amaya, who chairs the Department of Media Studies, said that Andrews’ extraordinary career as a national correspondent will strengthen the department’s offerings in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia news reporting.

Five years ago, 20 U.Va. students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in media studies. This spring, according to Amaya, the department is scheduled to graduate 201 media studies majors. With 328 undergraduates currently majoring in the discipline, the interdisciplinary media studies major ranks as the fifth-largest in the College, behind biology, economics, foreign affairs and psychology.

The College does not offer a major specifically related to journalism. However, Andrews will offer his students insight into the skill set that he developed over the course of his career in broadcast journalism, Amaya said, while emphasizing the importance of the liberal arts education that prepared him to cover a variety of high-profile beats.

“With Wyatt, we will have someone who can regularly teach on the practices and craft of journalism, which is a tough profession but that continues to be one of the most important professions in a democracy,” Amaya said. “We have students who want to work as journalists after graduating, and it’s great to have someone who has reported at the highest levels of the field to teach our students. Not only will Wyatt teach them the craft of journalism, but also its ethics, how decisions are made in the newsroom, and the challenges that new production technologies are bringing to issues of ethics and journalistic objectivity.”

Andrews will join the faculty in the spring. Among the courses he will teach will be a survey course offering students an overview of news production and of how to analyze the news they consume in the contemporary market. Andrews also will teach an upper-level course on media ethics as well as two “practice of media” courses preparing students to put together news stories for broadcast and online distribution.

Andrews has long been a mentor to U.Va. students aspiring to follow him into broadcast journalism. As a student, he was news director and then station president of WUVA, a student-run radio station, and he returns every semester to run a training workshop at the station.

Abbie Sharpe, the fourth-year foreign affairs major serving this year as WUVA’s president, said Andrews has been instrumental in teaching staffers how to develop story ideas, write scripts and record video for online, multimedia reports.

“When I started at WUVA, I was thrilled that someone of his caliber was coming down here and taking the time to share his insight and experience with us,” said Sharpe, who plans to pursue a career in TV news production. “He’s been a great resource and mentor, and having him here has been incredibly motivating for those of us who think they want to do this for a living.”

Jenna Dagenhart, a reporter for Charlottesville’s NBC affiliate, WVIR, first met Andrews at a career panel in 2011 when she was a U.Va. student. As she pursued a master’s degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Dagenhart shadowed Andrews on his reporting assignments as a CBS News intern. She says that no matter how busy he was on his own assignments, Andrews never failed to carve out time to answer her calls for advice on how to prepare for her own interviews or on how to craft the script for her reports. She continues to count him as one of her most important mentors in the competitive field of broadcast journalism.

“I had no idea I wanted to be a journalist until I met Wyatt. His passion for journalism is just contagious, and his commitment to getting it right is reflected in his work,” said Dagenart, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in media studies. “It thrills me to know that Wyatt will be teaching and mentoring young journalists at U.Va. We owe a lot to him.”

Andrews started his broadcast career in 1974 as a reporter for WTVR in Richmond. He went on to work as a local news reporter for WFTV in Orlando (1977-79) and with WPLG in Miami (1979-81), where he won a local Emmy Award for his reports on the exodus of Haitian refugees and a second Emmy, as well as the Sigma Delta Chi Award, for his series on the 1980 crime wave in Miami.

From there, Andrews went on to join CBS News and was promoted to national correspondent in 1991 after serving as White House correspondent during President George H.W. Bush’s administration, as Moscow correspondent and bureau chief and as a reporter in CBS’ Tokyo bureau. He also served as the CBS News Supreme Court correspondent from 2003 to 2009 and was the principal reporter for the “Eye on America” segment for the “CBS Evening News.”

When Health Apps Offer Conflicting Advice

Mon, 2015-10-05 15:11
Matt Kelly

John Stankovic wants to make smartphone health applications talk to each other to keep people safe and healthy.

Stankovic, BP America Professor in the University of Virginia’s Department of Computer Science, has received a National Science Foundation grant as part of a program to envision “smart and connected cities and communities.” His research aims to make home health care safer, working to eliminate conflicts among medical applications and personal medical devices on which people are increasingly depending.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects that there will be 500 million smartphone users downloading health care-related apps by the end of 2015,” Stankovic said. “Many of these apps will perform interventions to control human physiological parameters, such as blood pressure and heart rate.”

He cited, as an example, a person who uses one application that recommends a medication for an ailment and another application that recommends exercise for the same or a different condition – exercise that should not be undertaken if the patient is using the previously recommended medication.

“The intervention aspects of the apps can cause interdependency problems,” he said. “Multiple interventions of multiple apps can increase or decrease each other’s effects, some of which can be harmful to the user.

“These problems occur mainly because each app is developed independently without knowing how other apps work.”

Stankovic’s $200,000 grant will fund his research in developing “EyePhy,” a program that will recognize conflicts in health and wellness applications and alert the user.

“EyePhy uses a physiological simulator called ‘HumMod,’ which was developed by the medical community to model the complex interactions of the human physiology using over 7,800 variables,” Stankovic said. He said tests that show individual cyber-physical systems applications are safe cannot guarantee how they will be used and with which other future applications they may run concurrently.

“It is becoming more common for people to use multiple apps,” he said. “The average person may not understand how multiple apps might affect his health due to hidden conflicts among a large number of variables. A tool such as EyePhy is critical to future deployments of safe mobile medical apps.”

Stankovic is among more than a dozen researchers at the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science who are making significant advances in cyber-physical systems. The school has announced a multi-million dollar initiative to hire eight new faculty members and create an interdisciplinary laboratory where Stankovic and colleagues will continue to pursue breakthroughs in cyber-physical systems.

Among the goals Stankovic seeks to achieve with the EyePhy program are to assist application developers with tools and platforms to help build their applications; to create personal analytic data on and for the users; and to identify problems in real time, as medical applications are being used.

He said the person using the program would need to load in a rudimentary medical history at least, such as “white, male, 60, with heart disease.”

Stankovic said he developed the idea while looking at potential conflicts among automated systems within a “smart house.”

“I started thinking about what the affects would be in the human body,” he said.

Stankovic is one of 12 researchers awarded a total of $2.5 million in Washington on Monday. These awards support NSF-funded researchers at universities across the U.S. to participate in the 2015 Global City Teams Challenge, an initiative launched in 2014 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to showcase smart technologies with the potential to transform cities and communities around the world. 

The awards allow teams of researchers, often from multiple institutions, to develop new approaches to effectively integrate networked computer systems and physical devices, with a focus on applications of public benefit.

“Today’s awards are built upon advances enabled by NSF’s longstanding investments and leadership in fundamental research in computing and information science and engineering,” said Jim Kurose, NSF’s head of computer and information science and engineering. “Sophisticated networking capabilities and the tight integration of computation and physical systems have enabled today’s smart systems. These new projects, and all the participants in the Global Cities Team Challenge, will help to realize the smart and connected communities of tomorrow.”

Q&A: Meet the Drama Alum Behind Some of the Most Impressive Sets in Show Biz

Mon, 2015-10-05 14:13
Caroline Newman

If you enjoy late-night television, watch the Super Bowl or celebrate New Year’s Eve, you have likely seen a set designed by University of Virginia alumnus J. Patrick Adair.

Adair, a 2004 graduate with degrees in drama and media studies, has built an impressive résumé over eight years working as an art director in Hollywood. He has designed sets for entertainment icons like the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice. Right now, he is in the midst of preparations for the Los Angeles taping of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” a production he has been involved with for three years.

Last week, Adair returned to his alma mater to partner with current students on the set design of “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson,” a punk-rock take on the life of America’s seventh president playing at the Culbreth Theater through Saturday. He also met with students in the Creative Arts, Media and Design career community to share lessons learned from his journey to Hollywood.

UVA Today caught up with Adair on opening night to discuss his career and his advice for current students drawn to the drama of show business.

Q. As art director, what are your primary duties?

A. I work with the production designer, who guides the look and feel of the show, and help them to bring their vision to life. I will often take something like a napkin drawing, flesh it out into a full-color illustration and bring it back to the production team. If they are happy with it, I execute all of the technical drawings, painter’s elevations and CAD (computer-aided design) renderings necessary to make it a reality. I also keep an eye on the budget, which most projects live and die by.

There is a very small group of art directors that work in my specific field, which focuses on talk shows, award shows, game shows and other live entertainment. Our working life is very different from people who work on movies and sitcoms. Their work is like theater in that they are working from a script to tell a narrative. My work is like theater in that most of it happens in a room with a stage and an audience. We are creating a relationship between the performers and the audience.

Q. What are some of the most memorable productions that you have been a part of?

A. One of my favorite experiences was working on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” a great show with a great group of people. We joined CBS at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 and moved the entire production from Los Angeles down to New Orleans. I did a lot of prep work for shoots at places around the city – a famous oyster bar, a Mardi Gras parade, a crazy old mansion. Not all of that made it on air; we ended up mainly focusing on the home base set in Jackson Square. But that is the nature of television – it has to move fast and things fall off the schedule all the time.

I worked on the “Dragons” circus for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, building things like an enormous dragon puppet that unfolded to fill up the ring. Disney on Ice was also great. I got to illustrate and create Disney movies from my childhood – classic characters like Tinkerbell, classic narratives like “Toy Story.”

I also had a great time working on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” even though it was short-lived. When art directors work on plays or sitcoms, the starting point is the script. When you work on a talk show, it can be someone’s personality. Arsenio is such an electric personality and a kind person and we really worked to reflect his style and rapport with his guests in the set. I think we caught it and I was really proud of the work I did on that show.

Q. What is your favorite part of your job?

A. One of my professors, Pamela Howard, at Carnegie Mellon University, where I went to graduate school, reinforced that the designer is the custodian or advocate of the audience’s experience in the space. That is something that I think about a lot – not just what the show looks like from one point of view or on TV, but the experience of someone coming to see the event, from when they walk in the door, to when they see the show, to when they leave.

Q. What have you enjoyed about working on “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”?

A. In a punk-rock look at the life of Andrew Jackson, there is a lot of room for creativity in scenic design. The set reflects the play’s telling of Andrew Jackson, as it moves from the history everyone is familiar with to the more emotional subtext of the show and ultimately to an evaluation of who he was, the good that he did and the bad that he did. My hope is that the set really supports that journey.

Q. What’s next, as you return to Los Angeles?

A. Right now, I am doing prep work for “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” I help arrange the band looks and party sets for the Los Angeles portion of the show. We have new bands coming every year, which is exciting. I am looking forward to talking with the bands’ creative directors and working with them to realize their concepts. That typically happens in a pretty short window, often with little money, so it is a great challenge to bring those ideas to life and give the bands the look they want.

I can’t name the bands we have this year yet, but one great example from last year was the band 5 Seconds of Summer. They are a very high-energy rock group and their creative team brought these graffiti images that were very frenetic, fast and colorful. We were able to translate that look into prop and set pieces that gave the music a great backing.

Q. Any parting advice for U.Va. students looking to blaze their own trail in Hollywood?

A. My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of the alumni and the professionals that you meet during your time at U.Va. In looking at graduate schools, my biggest advocates were people that I had brought my work to while a student at U.Va., whether through a portfolio presentation or applying for a design award. Any opportunity you get to get your work in front of someone else is a chance to forge a connection with them, and I have found those sorts of connections really outweigh cold calls.