Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Nesra Yannier said, growing up in Turkey, school was kind of boring.

“The education system was based on memorization, so I always thought it should be different and should be helping kids understand the reasons rather than memorizing facts,” she said.

When Yannier was working on her Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University, she sought ways to make learning more engaging and struck upon the idea of pairing digital applications with real-word educational toys.

Flickr user nicdalic

Thirty separate water systems in Southwestern Pennsylvania violated the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015, according to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

New research from the Rand Corporation shows that who you are – including your race, education and income – is a big predictor of how healthy you eat. But where you live matters, too.

Since 2011, Rand has compared the health of residents in Homewood, a food desert, with the Hill District, which went 30 years without a grocery store before finally getting one in 2013.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County could become the first in the state to require all children to be tested for high lead levels in their blood.

The county Board of Health on Wednesday unanimously recommended the proposal, which would require two tests, around ages 1 and 2. The regulation must be approved by the county council and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. It would take effect next January.

Director Karen Hacker said she believes testing is necessary, because most homes in the county were built before lead was banned in paint.

Air Power Could Help Wheelchair Users Hit The Beach

May 2, 2017
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Water parks are becoming more and more popular across the country.  But not everyone can play.

“Water has really never been a part of the special needs community,” said Morgan’s Wonderland General Manager Ron Morander.

Flickr user A.

Hospital policies that restrict how pharmaceutical companies may market their drugs to doctors change physician prescribing behavior, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and six other higher education institutions, showed that when such policies were in place, marketed drugs were prescribed 8.7 percent less often while non-marketed drugs were prescribed about 6 percent more often.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County kicked off its Lead Safe Homes Program last week, which helps residents identify and remove lead-based paint hazards in their homes.

The program consists of $4 million, partially funded by a grant through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office, which will be used to provide lead remediation in 175 homes.

Spencer Neuharth via USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

Lead isn’t the only harmful substance that can make its way into drinking water.

Chemicals from pharmaceuticals, pesticides and personal care products can all end up in the water supply.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania has been awarded a $26.5 million federal grant to combat the heroin crisis. 

The first requirement of the grant is to perform a needs assessment within four months of receiving the funds.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

 

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware, Montgomery) said he expects that medical marijuana will be available in plant form in dispensaries next year. Leach made the comments Friday afternoon during a panel discussion at the World Medical Cannabis Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said she will investigate the county health department’s methodology for determining the cause of elevated lead levels in children.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburghers rallied in Oakland Saturday, in a satellite to the larger March for Science taking place in Washington, D.C. The city hasn’t released official crowd estimates, but organizers said thousands attended the march.

 

The local march itself was short, just seven-tenths of a mile around the block that houses the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. Speeches, however, lasted more than an hour, as around a dozen scientists, academics and activists explained their work and its importance for people and the earth.

Susan Walsh / AP

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in Pittsburgh and cities around the world Saturday, as part of the March for Science.

The main march takes place in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall and coincides with Earth Day celebrations.

The organizers behind the national march say they are trying to bring attention to government “policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world.”

They’re also speaking out against proposed budget cuts for research.

University of Pittsburgh

Researchers and laboratory scientists are increasingly trying to move cells and nano-particles through smaller and smaller channels.

“You want to get fluid pumped through something that’s the width of your hair,” said Anna Balazs, University of Pittsburgh chemical and petroleum engineering professor. “So one of the challenges is first just how to pump fluid through and then how to direct particles … to a specific location.”

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Rangers and personnel at Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and forests will soon be equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would provide its officers with the medication, used to help minimize opioid-related fatalities.

 

“We’re losing over 10 people every day to this disaster,” Wolf said. “This is an epidemic that affects everybody in Pennsylvania – all across the state. Rural areas, rich and poor, men and women. It affects everybody.”

 

Marketplace/Carnegie Mellon's Biorobotics Lab

Marketplace Morning Report is wrapping up a three-week series, “Robot-Proof Jobs.” Host David Brancaccio hit the road for the stories talking to workers and experts from Pittsburgh and New Castle, Pa. to Milwaukee, Wis. The reporting also drew on the findings of The McKinsey Global Institute, which analyzed the work activities of more than 800 occupations in the U.S. to determine what percentage of a job could be automated using current technology.

Brancaccio spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs about what he learned on the road.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

After months of building and $3.8 million in construction costs, the Midwife Center in the Strip District has more than doubled its space to 11,700 square feet. Unveiled by officials on Thursday, it's now the largest freestanding birthing center in the country. 

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

More than 100 people gathered Tuesday evening at a town hall called “Not Another Flint” to discuss the water challenges confronting Pittsburgh.

“It isn’t Pittsburgh and Flint as some people are trying to make it out to be,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. “There are over 5,330 other water systems in the United States that have the same elevated lead.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Residents asked questions about the effects of lead poisoning, the cost of lead line replacement and the responsibilities of local landlords at a panel discussion about water issues Tuesday night.

Marc Levy / AP

A federal task force is walking back a 2012 recommendation that men between ages 55 and 69 not be screened for prostate cancer.

That brings federal guidelines in step with recommendations from a state task force, released last week.

Both the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Task Force now advise men to talk with their doctors about whether they should be screened.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Jennie Dorris’s four music students each stood, mallets in hand, behind a marimba, which looks a little like a xylophone. They were getting one last look at the original melody they wrote before Dorris erased it from the dry erase board and they had to play it from memory.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered that a seemingly harmless virus might be a trigger for celiac disease.

Reovirus infects most humans within the first five years of life, according to Dr. Terry Dermody, Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Jeremiah’s Place is celebrating three years of service as western Pennsylvania’s only crisis nursery this month.

Located inside the Kingsley Association in Larimer, the facility provides 24-hour care for infants and children, who can stay for a few hours or even days when their parents are unable to provide help themselves.

Cliff Owen / AP

Fentanyl deaths outranked those attributed to heroin last year for the first time in Allegheny County, according to data released Thursday by the medical examiner's office.

Coroners and medical examiners in all but one of the 10-county region reported spikes in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016 -- up 44 percent in Allegheny County and 38 percent in Westmoreland County.

The DeMoe family

"The Inheritance" is a new book by Pittsburgh-based writer Niki Kapsambelis. It tells the story of the DeMoe family from North Dakota, who carry a rare genetic mutation that guarantees they will get Alzheimer’s disease at a young age.

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps / University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

Rates of obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, breast cancer screenings and childhood poverty are all on the rise as Allegheny County fell in state rankings released by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Every day, multiple times a day, Jesse Perkins runs the water in his kitchen sink for about a minute-and-a-half, until it runs cold, indicating that it’s fresh water from the main in the middle of his street. He does it before he fills up a glass of water or a pot for cooking.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Figuring out where to find something in a large warehouse or navigating a sprawling campus, like a hospital, isn’t always easy.

“You know, how do you get from the main door (of a hospital) to a certain department? You’re asking 20 people along the way and then you get frustrated,” said ARIN Technologies CEO Vivek Kulkarni. “But if there were a way to navigate, like you use Google Maps, that would make life so much easier.”

PicoCTF / CMU

What’s being billed as the largest hacking contest ever is launching Friday.

PicoCTF from Carnegie Mellon University aims to educate middle and high school students on the importance of computer security and tackle a common misconception – that hacking is bad.

“What hacking is about is understanding computers deeply and understanding how they function and how they may have bugs in them, how something may go wrong and being able to anticipate that,” said David Brumley, director of CyLab, CMU’s security and privacy institute.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Chris and Amanda Comeau said when their daughter Eleanor turned 10 months old, she hit lots of exciting milestones. She started moving around on her own a lot more, waving and gesturing and recognizing her grandparents on FaceTime.

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