Mickey Mouse research

By John Monczunski

Don Crafton won’t be insulted if you call his research “Mickey Mouse.” But more accurately it’s “Mickey Mouse and beyond.”

The chairman of Notre Dame’s Department of Film, Television and Theatre is analyzing animated films from the 1930s, when the Disney studio achieved dominance in the industry. The resulting book, funded by a grant from the Motion Picture Academy, is expected to be titled In the Shadow of the Mouse,

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An Association Serious About Service

By John Monczunski

The Notre Dame Club of Staten Island has collected over 300,000 nonperishable food items in nine years of its annual food drive. Meanwhile, the Tax Assistance Program of the Black Hills ND Club realized over $32,000 in tax savings for families in need last year, while the Minnesota Notre Dame Club mobilized 75 volunteers for a Christmas holiday party for 700 inner-city young people.…

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A Home for New Beginnings

By John Monczunski

Standing at the kitchen counter in Maggie’s Place, Sarah tells her story matter-of-factly as she chops onions for an omelette. The details are daunting but told without self-pity. An opaque film covers her eyes but doesn’t impede her work. Her blindness, she explains as she deftly dices the onion, was the result of a doctor’s mistake at birth. Like many premature infants of her age she was treated with oxygen to prevent respiratory disease, and, like many who received too much oxygen, her retinas were severely damaged by the procedure. Gradually she lost her sight, until now she perceives only light.…

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A hard bounce to the screen

By John Monczunski

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Dan Coyle’s book Hardball: A Season in the Projects, about Little League baseball in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini-Green public housing development, hit a home run when it was published in 1993. USA Today called it “an astonishing feat of eavesdropping on young boys’ games and fantasies and a hard-eyed, unsentimental look at Cabrini-Green.” The Chicago Tribune

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The next big thing just might be a Notre Dame invention

By John Monczunski

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“Let me show you something,” Hsueh-Chia Chang says, like a kid with a new toy. With that, he hunches over his laptop, taps the keys a few times and produces the image of a tornado. A funnel cloud forms at the top of the screen swirling debris ever faster, drawing it in and concentrating it down. The 10-second video brings a smile to the face of the Notre Dame chemical engineering professor nearly every time he views it because he knows how truly amazing it is. That, and how valuable it might be.…

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A Passage to Cuba

By John Monczunski

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Where is Victor?”

Like a sniper’s bullet, the unspoken question ricochets through the group, drawing blood when the implications hit. Victor Deupi, Notre Dame assistant professor of architecture, is the leader of this intrepid band; without him we haven’t a clue what to do. Once that initial zing has sunk in, a silent follow-up volley hits: What could be wrong? What are they doing with him? What’s going on? And now

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Knowledge Is Power for Patients

By John Monczunski

Knowledge is power, the saying goes. And it might be good medicine. A recent study conducted by Notre Dame’s Walther Cancer Research Center found that cancer patients who were better informed about their condition sought and received more treatment, were more satisfied with their care and experienced fewer side effects to their therapies.…

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Web Extra: Gunning for Malaria

By John Monczunski

The malaria parasite, spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes, invades blood cells, multiplies, and eventually explodes the cells. This releases toxins and debris into the bloodstream, which causes the disease’s signature symptoms of intense fever followed by profuse sweating and violent chills. Each year up to 500 million cases of malaria are diagnosed worldwide, with as many as three million people dying. Most victims are pregnant women and children in Third World countries.…

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Web Extra: Ratting on Prostate Cancer

By John Monczunski

Notre Dame’s Lobund-Wistar rats have a few suggestions for men who hope to lower their risk for prostate cancer: Eat a diet rich in soy-based foods and eat moderately. Those findings were confirmed in recent studies conducted by Morris Pollard, professor emeritus of biological sciences, using the unique germfree animals he first developed 28 years ago at the University.…

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The New Sniper Drugs

By John Monczunski

“Resistance” is a word that makes epidemiologists break into a cold sweat. Unfortunately for you and me, they’ve been hearing it a lot lately, as more antibiotics become less effective. Modern medicine gained the upper hand over disease largely because of the widespread use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. But with increasing drug resistance due to overexposure, that tactic is less likely to remain effective. At some point in the war on disease it may be necessary to switch from the bomb to the rifle, a new generation of narrowly targeted antibiotics.…

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Building Better Blood

By John Monczunski

At any given time, U.S. blood banks may be just 36 hours away from going broke. And it’s no wonder: How do you match an unpredictable supply with an unpredictable demand?

To help resolve that problem, in recent years universal blood substitutes have been developed. The synthetic blood has worked well enough in trials, except it doesn’t last long in the body. Now, however, assistant professor of chemical engineering Andre Palmer believes he’s found a way to extend the blood substitute’s viability.…

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Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

By John Monczunski

Vitamin D has tantalized cancer researchers ever since the protein receptor for the vitamin was discovered in a wide array of bodily tissues about 15 years ago. For years its only known function was in maintaining healthy teeth and bones. So when scientists found the receptor in the breast and other bodily tissues, they were shocked.…

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Prostate Cancer: Why the Boomerang?

By John Monczunski

Treating prostate cancer can be a risky business. In lab studies with animal models, Notre Dame’s Martin Tenniswood has found that the two primary drugs used to treat the disease, flutamide and bicalutamide, in some cases can have a boomerang effect and actually foster cancer spread. “[I]f you don’t kill all of the localized tumor, you are making what is left a lot nastier,” says the Coleman Foundation Professor of Biological Sciences.…

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Mastering the Spiky Cell Trick

By John Monczunski

A funny thing happens to red blood cells when they’re stored outside the body. The normally flat, disk-shaped cells puff into spiky balls. Put them back in the bloodstream later and they revert to their normal shape. Recently, Notre Dame chemists learned how to flip the spiky cells back to the disk shape in the test tube. That bit of chemical wizardry may seem insignificant, but it could lead to the development of powerful new anti-cancer drugs, says Professor of Chemistry Bradley Smith.…

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Pregnancy Mystery Solved

By John Monczunski

For some time medical researchers have known that pregnant women who are severely deficient in fibrinogen, a protein important for blood clotting, will miscarry 100 percent of the time. What hasn’t been known is why. Until now.

Using mice they had genetically engineered to mimic the human condition, scientists from Notre Dame’s W.M. Keck Center for Transgene Research recently identified the mechanism. Upon examining the embryos of altered mice at various points in their pregnancy, researchers found that the fertilized egg apparently implanted normally. Soon afterward, however, problems developed at the attachment site, where fibrinogen normally would be found. The site was observed to be less stable. In mice lacking the protein, the attachment site would rupture, resulting in intrauterine bleeding.…

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The Parasite that Gave Cats a Bad Name

By John Monczunski

Nested somewhere deep in your body may be a tiny, strange parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Anywhere from one-third to one-half of all U.S. adults are believed to be infected with the parasite, popularly identified with cats. Most people never know it, though, because “toxo” doesn’t do anything bad unless your immune system isn’t working properly. The parasite encysts itself and lies dormant, periodically emerging only to be suppressed by the body’s immune system.…

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The Glowing Eyes of the Zebrafish

By John Monczunski

There are some highly unusual and valuable fish darting back and forth in their tanks in the basement of Notre Dame’s Freimann Life Sciences Center. David Hyde, professor of biological science, and his colleagues have tailor-made some inch-long transparent zebrafish to exhibit green fluorescent light in the sensory cells of their eyes.…

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The First Line of Defense

By John Monczunski

Disease is life gone awry. At its base are complicated, intertwined chemical reactions that get twisted and broken. The way to gain victory over disease is to understand those reactions. That’s what Notre Dame scientists are attempting in labs from as far as the deserts of Africa and jungles of New Guinea. From here and there dozens of campus scientists are laying the groundwork for new drugs and therapies for breast cancer, prostate cancer, malaria, tuberculosis, degenerative eye diseases, heart disease and other maladies.…

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Medicine Beads

By John Monczunski

Agnes Ostafin makes tiny hollow glass beads. They are functional, not decorative. And someday they might save your life. Thousands of the beads, called nanoshells, could sit on the period at the end of this sentence.

The assistant professor of chemical engineering has been able to fill the beads with liquid molecules and then release them at will, an ability that makes the nanoshells a good candidate to deliver drugs.…

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IM therefore I am

By John Monczunski

Instant messaging, the ability to converse online with one or more individuals in real time via email, has been around for about 10 years. According to a Pew Report, 53 million Americans use IM and 24 percent use it more than traditional email. It has become especially popular among college students. A study conducted by students in Associate Professor Susan Blum’s linguistic anthropology class found that 97 percent of Notre Dame students use IM and 63 percent use it five times or more a day. After face-to-face conversation, IM is the most popular communication method among Notre Dame students, ahead of phone conversations, letters and email.…

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How do you catch the wind?

By John Monczunski

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The sight was eerie, no doubt. In the dead of night last summer in the middle of Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, a theatrical fog machine pumped out a steady stream of white smoke while technicians zapped it with green laser light and videotaped the swirls and eddies. What may have looked like special-effects filming for a science-fiction movie was in truth an experiment to determine science fact. Specifically it was to understand high-speed air turbulence, which is of interest to airplane designers, among others.…

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What do you do with the world's most dangerous trash?

By John Monczunski

What Do You Do With the World’s Most Dangerous Trash?

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In the last 50 years the United States has produced approximately 30 million tons of high-level radioactive waste, mostly spent fuel from nuclear power reactors and radioactive debris from weapons production. The material, which will remain hazardous for more than two million years, has been temporarily stored at more than 100 sites across the nation. After 20 years of study, the federal government recommended in 2002 that Yucca Mountain, a remote site in the Nevada desert 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, become the permanent repository for this dangerous waste. While critics question the project’s safety, proponents counter that the alternatives may be even more dangerous. Professor Peter Burns, chairman of Notre Dame’s department of civil engineering and geological sciences, has been involved in the Yucca Mountain Project for eight years. Recently, we talked with him about his work and the safety of Yucca Mountain.…

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Numbers paint the picture

By John Monczunski

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The destruction of southern Louisiana by flood water is a thing of beauty. Not in reality, of course; that would be a terrible calamity. But on Joannes Westerink’s computer screen it appears as graceful swirls of red, yellow and blue undulating in a green sea, morphing over time across a map of the coast. The image, which could be abstract art, is in fact an animated graph of what would happen to the Louisiana coastline from a hurricane-generated storm surge. The undulating colors signify the depth of the flow, increasing from yellow to red.…

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Wonder drug in the making?

By John Monczunski

Someday SB-3CT might save your life. The collection of letters and numbers is chemical shorthand for a novel compound that has shown promise in stopping cancer spread and lessening the effects of a stroke.

Designed and synthesized by Notre Dame Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Shahriar Mobashery and his colleagues, the compound has the ability to inhibit two enzymes, MMP

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Read any good books lately?

By John Monczunski

The declining interest in reading is a cause of concern for Mark Roche, Notre Dame’s dean of Arts and Letters. His new book, Why Literature Matters in the 21st Century, published by Yale University Press, makes the case that great literature is being neglected today even though it is needed more than ever. Among other things, we recently asked the scholar of German literature why he believes that to be so and what does Liberty Valance have to do with all this any way?

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Kung fu dream girls

By John Monczunski

Ever since the first “Aiiyeeeeeeeee-hah” echoed through a darkened theater in the 1970s, martial arts films have been wildly popular, especially with adolescent and college-aged males. But what about the way they portray women?

Wendy Arons, assistant professor of communications and theater, surveyed a sampling of kung fu films with an eye toward issues of femininity, violence and power. Her findings, published last year as a chapter of the book Reel Knockouts: Violent Women in Movies

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The Power of One Good Man

By John Monczunski

It’s a pleasant September Indiana evening, and Notre Dame’s Fall Banquet Season, which roughly coincides with the football season, is in full swing. About 150 of us have gathered beneath the white big top that rests behind the Morris Inn like a huge dollop of whipped cream. We are here to celebrate a good idea, the Andrews Scholars Program, and to remember a good man, Jim Andrews ’61, a co-founder of Universal Press Syndicate with his friend and business partner, John McMeel ’57, and the namesake of the program that provides scholarship funds to Notre Dame students engaged in summer service projects.…

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Winning (and Losing) by Intimidation

By John Monczunski

You’re an assertive, take-charge kind of person. You refuse to take guff from anyone, and in order to get the job done you’ve been known to lean on people. Sometimes you use forceful language and may even threaten to make life difficult for those who cross you, if that’s what it takes to reach the goal. What kind of impression do you make on the boss?…

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