Olivia Johnson


Using lasers, UMN surgeon zaps cancerous brain tumors

Using robot-controlled lasers to fry cancerous tumors inside the brain has become a focus for University of Minnesota surgeons. One surgery — called laser ablation — was first performed last month at the University with the help of a robotic arm.

Minnesota is least stressed state — well, kind of

With low divorce rates and good health, Minnesota was labeled the least-stressed state in the U.S. A ranking released this month by Wallethub ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia by looking at 33 indicators of stress. The rankings factored work, money, family and health and safety-related stressors. Bonnie Klimes-Dougan, a University of Minnesota psychology professor, said while Wallethub’s methodology isn’t inaccurate, it’s incomplete. Klimes-Dougan said stress is typically measured by asking a person their level of stress, which can be subjective, or looking at how their brains respond to threatening stimuli.

UMN research reprograms immune system to fight cancer

University of Minnesota researcher Perry Hackett, calls his breakthrough in using DNA to fight cancer “one of the grandest Minnesota fishing stories ever.” Hackett, a professor of cell biology and genetics at the University, was given the Impact Award last month for inventing the Sleeping Beauty Transposon system — a basis for many cancer-fighting immunotherapies. Though Hackett’s scientific journey began nearly 40 years ago when he was tasked with genetically engineering larger fish, his more recent work can reprogram a person’s immune system to fight cancer by introducing a gene into a cell that will recognize foreign cells in the body. “Your immune system has memory, and it can target specific things that are bad,” he said.

UMN student designs first and only birthing home in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone — a country whose population is similar to Minnesota — one in 17 women die during childbirth each year. To reduce that number, a master’s student at the University of Minnesota is designing a birth waiting home for the village of Tikonko in collaboration with the Rural Health Care Initiative. The home, located near a hospital, will provide a place for mothers to wait to give birth and will offer prenatal care. Sierra Leone has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the world, the result of a fragile health care system and lack of running water or electricity in many villages. Gauri Kelkar, a sustainable design student, is working on the birth waiting home as her final project to complete her degree.

UMN students call for more mental health resources system-wide

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents will bolster coordinate campus mental health services after concerns were raised that the Twin Cities campus is allocated a disproportionate amount of funding. Student representatives to the board said in a presentation Friday that demand for mental health resources has increased system-wide, but the University’s four coordinate campuses have been overlooked while the University has increased funding on the Twin Cities campus, In its annual report, the student representatives called for an increase in funding for mental health resources for the coordinate campuses.

Blind UMN chemist creates STEM curriculum for blind children

When she was 6 or 7, Mona Minkara’s eyesight began to fade. Eventually diagnosed with macular degeneration and cone rod dystrophy, the post-doctoral research fellow in the University of Minnesota’s chemistry department is now working to create a STEM curriculum for blind children in developing countries. Minkara, is creating the curriculum with the help of her assistants, who aide her in her computational chemistry research.