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College of Science and Technology students are winners!

August 11, 2010

A team of chemistry and computer and information sciences students from Temple’s College of Science and Technology won a student programming competition at the recent TeraGrid ’10 High Performance Computing Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Temple team consisted of chemistry undergrads Peter Shannon and Eric Hontz, CIS undergrad Ryan Houlihan, and CIS grad student Moussa Taifi. Among the tasks the students had to perform was writing a program to simulate planetary motion of the solar system and visualization of different voyager space probe trajectories.

“I think what gave us an advantage over other teams was that we had a mix of students from computer science and chemistry which helped to tackle the diverse nature of the problem sets,” said Dr. Axel Kohlmeyer, Associate Director and Research Associate Professor in Temple’s Institute for Computational Molecular Science and the Temple team advisor.

Congrats to the winners! Here’s a link to more info about the competition:


Tactile Tumor-Imaging Device

July 14, 2010

Chang-Hee Won

Chang-Hee Won and his colleagues at Temple’s College of Engineering have made a novel tactile tumor-imaging device by exploiting the optical properties of waveguides — which are planar, flexible and transparent probes. They will present their device at the 52nd meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine in Philadelphia, July 18 – 22.

Light traveling in a transparent waveguide will normally not leak out because of the principle of total internal reflection; if the refractive index of the guide is more than that of the surrounding material, a light ray approaching the wall of the guide will be reflected back into the guide. If, however, the guide becomes deformed because an object compresses the waveguide, then light can escape at that point. An imager will capture the light and from this image the mechanical properties of the objects may be determined.

In this case, the object in question is a tumor. In the case of the Temple research the waveguide consists of a flexible probe fed with light from a light emitting diode (LED). Light exiting the probe is caught on a camera, and from the emergent light the scientists are able to measure tumor diameters to within about 4 percent and tumor depths to 7.6 percent.

“We have performed a phantom study and [imaged] globus tumors in mice,” says Won. “More sophisticated machines such as MRI will measure the size and depth more accurately, but the elasticity information is unavailable with MRI. Conversely, methods such as sonoelastography will provide the elasticity information, but this is a much more complex machine. Our device provides a means of detecting size, depth, and elasticity information in a relative simple device.”

The next step, Won says, is to move from imaging mouse to human tumors with the device. This he is now doing with collaborators at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Cooper University Hospital.

Small-scale human tests will be carried out within this year. Won says that this device has a potential to be used in breast cancer screening if it proves successful.

A website with more information:

The presentation “Design and Evaluation of an Optical Tactile Imaging Device for Tumor Detection” by C Won et al. will be at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 18 in the exhibit hall of the Philadelphia Convention Center.


A silent death

July 8, 2010

Last week, when Randall Cunningham’s 21/2 year old son Christian drowned in a hot tub, the logical questions that followed were, “How could this have happened?” and “Who was watching him?”

Joseph Torg, a clinical adjunct professor of  Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at the Temple University medical school, says that despite the popular myth of kids thrashing around and screaming as they’re drowning, it actually happens quickly and quietly.

“Children just sink and drown,” he said.  “Once submerged, they become disoriented and oblivious to the change in environment, from air to liquid.”

Torg says that because it can happen so quickly, drowning can occur even  in crowded pools with a trained lifeguard on duty, so children require constant supervision, even in these environments.

To help parents keep their children safe around the pool, he offers these suggestions:

  • Make sure pools are fenced, gated or covered,
  • Outfit children with personal flotation devices (such as water wings), not just in pools, but any body of water, and
  • Teach children to swim by age 5.

Hot Jobs

July 6, 2010

Here in the Philadelphia area, temperatures are expected to stay above the triple digits for most of the week.  While many people can retreat to the comfort of an air conditioned home or office, KYW Newsradio posted a story this morning about the folks who have no choice but to bear the heat.

While people might not want to lose a day’s pay, in high temperatures like these, work can go from being uncomfortable to downright deadly.

Robert McNamara, chief of emergency medicine at Temple University Hospital, warns that heat exhaustion could be a problem.  “Flu-like symptoms plus a throbbing headache, cool skin, chills and a pale, weak pulse can all occur,” he said.

The worst thing for someone with heat exhaustion to do is to ignore the symptoms, or try and work through it – it could lead to heat stroke, which can become very dangerous very quickly.  If unchecked, it can cause dizziness, halucinations, even organ failure and death.

For the folks stuck outside today, McNamara advises to drink plenty of water, and find a cool place to sit during breaks, to allow body temperature to fall.

Safety first

July 2, 2010

Along most major roads, you’re likely to see tents set up boasting huge selections of fireworks.  They can be fun, but for the amateur pyrotechnician, it can also be extremely dangerous.

“Avoidance is the only protection, and allowing professionals to handle them,” said Robert McNamara, chair of emergency medicine at Temple University.  “Realize that even a small firework can produce life-altering injury.”

In Temple University Hospital’s emergency room, he sees mostly hand


injuries and burns, but other injuries such as eye injuries from burning or solid flying debris or hearing loss can also occur.

“In the rare case, life threatening injuries can be seen from penetrating trauma of the chest and head due to an explosion and essentially the production of shrapnel,” he said.

So while it might be tempting to save money by setting off a backyard fireworks display,  McNamara says it’s best to just leave it to the professionals.

Being there, without (always) being there

June 16, 2010

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that well over half of teen boys who are sexually active think it is ok for an unmarried female to have a baby, and nearly 3/4 of girls felt the same way – a jump from the CDC’s last survey in 2002.

Becuase teen parents are much less likely to marry or cohabit than older couples, it can be particularly hard for teen dads to stay engaged with their children, says Jay Fagan, a professor of social work in the College of Health Professions and Social Work.

A study co-authored by Fagan last fall found that teen fathers were actually more involved in their child’s lives at one year than older fathers , yet by the time the child was three, the teen fathers were much less so.  Fagan says this is due to a number of risk factors.

“Things like drug abuse, poverty, nonromantic involvement with the mother, and incarceration can greatly affect how involved a teen father is with his child,” said Fagan.  “It could be that the parents of the mother think he is a negative influence and keep him away, or the mother might act as the gatekeeper, and not want that ‘bad influence’ around the child.”

However, Fagan says it’s important to instill in young parents the concept of co-parenting.  That is, even if Dad and Mom aren’t together, they should still communicate with each other and work as a team for the sake of their child.

“Many teen fathers want to be involved in their child’s lives, regardless of the relationship with the mother,” said Fagan.  “It becomes imperative then, for young fathers and mothers to form an alliance, to avoid some of those barriers that fathers face when it comes to their involvement.”

A two pronged approach to fight whooping cough

June 2, 2010

A story in the May 31 issue of the Los Angeles Times tells the cautionary tale of a mother who unknowingly passed pertussis (whooping cough) onto her two young children, one of whom died.

“The mother wasn’t sure where or how she’d picked up the disease, but she had been vaccinated for it, like so many adults, as a child.

Pertussis will never go away completely because immunization is only partly effective,” said Thomas Fekete, chief of infectious diseases at the School of Medicine at Temple University.  “The bacterium that causes pertussis is resilient and can persist for days to weeks in the throat.”

Fekete said that up until a few years ago, the effort to keep those at greatest risk – children – safe from whooping cough was to rely solely on childhood vaccinations.

“Now we have two newer tools to control pertussis,” he said.  “The treatment of infected adults with antibiotics, and the immunization of adults with a new vaccine. Since adults are already encouraged to get tetanus vaccine every ten years, we now give them a combination of vaccines of tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis – or Tdap.”

According to Fekete, the effectiveness of vaccines depends on their wide acceptance in the community since the direct beneficiaries will never be known. Getting vaccinated is one way to help out our neighbors while also protecting ourselves and our families, he says.

“The lion’s share of vaccines is highly effective in reducing this risk than avoiding vaccination,” he said.  “I wouldn’t hesitate to take appropriate vaccines and I encourage others to do the same.”