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BUPD Officer Bill Campanella (left) demonstrates to officers Diane Smith and Larry Cuzzi how to administer Naloxone to people who’ve overdosed on heroin. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi
With cheap heroin flooding the nation and with overdoses spiking, the Boston University Police Department has become the first campus force in the nation to carry and administer the antidote Naloxone (aka Narcan) to heroin victims.
Scott Paré, BU’s deputy director of public safety and BUPD deputy chief, says the move follows incidents where officers responded to overdoses among non-BU-affiliated people on the Charles River and Medical Campuses. No BU community members have been involved in overdoses so far. Boston Medical Center (BMC), BU’s affiliated teaching hospital, has granted BUPD officers the right to administer the prescription drug.
“We see this as an unfortunate epidemic in society, and we want to be able to provide the best response possible,” Paré says. “The decision was also made based on a recent change in the state Department of Public Health’s regulations, which encourages all first responders to have access to the life-saving drug.” He says Governor Deval Patrick’s declaration of an opiate emergency in Massachusetts also helped to spur the BUPD initiative.
Four years ago, Quincy, Mass., became the first police department in the nation to require officers to carry Naloxone, and other departments have followed suit. Under his emergency declaration, Patrick has ordered the Department of Public Health to make Naloxone available to first responders in the state and to drug abusers’ families and friends.
David Perry, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, says he believes BU is the first campus police department to carry Naloxone.
“I applaud them for being visionary,” says Perry, who is also assistant vice president for safety and police chief at Florida State University. He says BUPD’s decision to carry the antidote even though their only experience with overdoses involved people who were not affiliated with the school shows that the police department is “connected to the community.”
Officers will use a nasal spray to administer the drug, which works by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors, elbowing aside other drugs there. The entire BUPD 52-person force received Naloxone training over the summer, says Peter McCarron, a BUPD police officer. He and fellow officer Kevin St. Ives were the first to be trained, and they instructed the other BUPD officers.
Each of the department’s eight marked cruisers will be outfitted with two doses, McCarron says, and more of the drug will be available at the station.
“Since February, we have responded to approximately 8 to 12 opioid overdose medical calls for non-BU-affiliated victims,” he says. Boston EMS responders saved several of those users’ lives with Naloxone. “All BU police officers are trained as first responders,” McCarron says, “and when minutes count in saving a life from an opioid overdose, having Narcan available makes sense.”
Alexander Walley (SPH’07), a School of Medicine assistant professor and medical director for opioid treatment and prevention programs for both the city of Boston and the commonwealth, welcomed the BUPD initiative.
University officers “commonly interact with people at high risk for opioid overdoses, and they are trained first responders,” says Walley, who is also a BMC physician. “Training them in overdose prevention and equipping them with Naloxone rescue kits gives them a valuable tool to improve both public safety and public health on and around the BU campuses.”
In the weeks after BU officers began carrying Naloxone, at least two other universities, in Georgia, outfitted their police forces with the antidote.
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Snakes have a reputation problem. In both fiction and real life, we frequently hear about life-threatening attacks from these reptiles—but actual venomous snakebites happen far less often than you might think.
Researchers estimate that, in the United States, snakes bite about 3,000 to 5,000 people each year. The exact number is hard to gauge, because many bites are mild and require no treatment. Even the highest estimates only go up to 8,000, which boils down to fewer than 1 in 37,500 people bitten by a venomous snake in a year. Snakebite deaths are even more rare, with an average of five per year in the U.S.
“Your chances of death by snakebite are close to 1 in 1,000. Those are pretty good odds,” says William Hayes, professor of biology in the Department of Earth and Biological Sciences at Loma Linda University. When we spoke, Hayes was driving to work and warned me that he might have to call back if he saw a dead rattlesnake on the road, because he would have to investigate the cold-blooded creature.
Like Hayes, I have long been a fan of legless reptiles. I have fond memories of scouting in the Ohio woods for garter snakes and watching, mesmerized, as a rat snake tried to swallow a bullfrog in the reeds surrounding my grandparents’ pond. Even when a garter snake bit me on the wrist (after I used it in a brief tug-of-war with my cousin), I didn’t become disillusioned—it was my mother who panicked and rushed to dress my wound.
Why was she so afraid? Hayes says two primary theories attempt to explain why so many people freak out around snakes. Evolutionary biologists say an innate fear is likely built into our psyche; Hayes thinks it’s more likely due to conditioning.
“We’ve been taught to fear them,” he says. “It doesn’t help when the media sensationalizes their danger.” He and his colleagues are weary of the poor portrayals of these reptiles, but many people still feel wary about his scaly pals.
And perhaps for good reason: When they do happen, venomous snakebites are nasty. Even if death is an infrequent occurrence, a bite can cause permanent disfiguration, damage kidneys and joints, and cost more than half a million dollars to treat. Most bites require roughly 14 to 70 vials of antivenom, billed at up to $10,000 per vial. “The antivenom alone can bankrupt you,” Hayes says.
Sure, you could avoid all contact with the outdoors during the times when snakes are active—their mating seasons occur during the mild temperatures of spring and fall. But that’s a touch over the top. Instead, cultivate a healthy respect for venomous reptiles and follow a few simple guidelines.
Yeah, this cobra might look pretty scary, but it can’t get you if you’re too far away. Mohan Moolepetlu via UnsplashKeep your distance
If you’re hiking—or really spending any time outside—in a snake-rich area, keep an eye out for the legless animals. Gardeners and hikers, for example, should watch where they put their feet and hands.
“Take two steps back, Jack,” Hayes tells kids when teaching them about reptile safety. Most snakes can only strike from a distance of about half their body length. As long as you’re several feet away, they can do no harm.
Not that snakes want to bite you in the first place. They’re more concerned with a speedy getaway than snapping at potential predators.Don’t antagonize
Oddly enough, the most straightforward way to safeguard yourself against bites is to be female. At the hospital associated with Hayes’ university, a staggering 80 percent of bite victims are boys and men.
It’s not that snakes have it out for the male sex. The problem is that men are more likely to antagonize these reptiles. “Snakebites are associated with the two most dangerous chemicals in the world: testosterone and alcohol,” Hayes says.
For example, 45 percent of those aforementioned bites happen because someone is interacting with the snake, attempting to handle it, or poking it with a stick. A further 20 percent involve alcohol.
This is an easy problem to avoid: Keep your distance from any snakes you see. While you’re at it, don’t go hiking while drunk.Cover your skin
Regular human clothing: pretty good snake armor. Tanner Vines via Unsplash
When you do go hiking in the spring and fall, read up on the area you’ll be traversing. If snakes are common there, wear protective clothes. This doesn’t require anything fancy, just the same gear hikers should already be wearing: long sleeves, pants, and close-toed shoes.
This outfit shields you from poison ivy and bug bites, but also helps protect you from snakebites. Studies have shown that fabric reduces the amount of venom injected, and less venom equals a less-serious injury.How to treat a snakebite
What if, despite all your precautions, you still suffer a snakebite? You may have heard about first aid practices such as applying cold compresses or electric shocks, cutting and sucking out venom by mouth or with a store-bought extractor, wrapping a tourniquet, or even making a poultice from the snake’s head. Here’s the thing—none of these remedies work, and they often cause more damage.
“There’s only one viable treatment currently, and that is going to a hospital and getting antivenom,” Hayes says. The longer the venom is in your system, the more damage it can cause to your tissue. That means the sooner you receive treatment, the better.
So the best tools to keep on hand are the ones that will get you to a hospital as quickly as possible: a cell phone, a good friend, and a set of car keys.
If a snake strikes, first take a good look at the culprit (or even snap a smartphone photo) so you can help doctors identify the species, but don’t delay or try to track the animal—an expert should be able to diagnose your attacker from the bite itself. This will tell the hospital which type of antivenom you will require. Next, arrange for a ride to the hospital, either by ringing up a rescue unit or having your friend drive you at a brisk speed. En route, you should call ahead to the hospital so they’re ready for your arrival.Snake venom isn’t all bad
In all likelihood, you will never receive a snakebite that requires antivenom treatment. But you might encounter a touch of snake venom in other forms. In fact, a good number of pharmaceuticals derive from this substance. They treat a wide variety of ailments, including chest pain (Aggrastat), high blood pressure (Capoten), and wrinkles (Syn-ake).
Venom might even find a place in brain surgery. At Loma Linda University, Zachary D. Travis, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Dr. John H. Zhang in the School of Medicine, is currently leading a study on venom preconditioning. So far, their work has shown that a protein found in the venom of the Papuan black snake reduces bleeding and brain swelling following neurosurgery.
In fact, the life-saving benefits of venom help shine a much kinder light on the animal Hayes and I both love.
“They’re beautiful creatures,” Hayes says. “They’re inquisitive, they want to avoid confrontation—I just think they deserve more respect and better treatment.”
BU Hosts Second Annual Hackathon for Women, Nonbinary People This Weekend TechTogether Boston (2023) expected to draw more than 1,000 to Agganis Arena
During last year’s first all-female and nonbinary hackathon at BU, Northeastern senior Sugandha Kher (left) and University of Florida senior Tanya Kakkar worked together on a Google Cloud Platform. BU hosts this year’s hackathon, titled TechTogether Boston, this weekend. Photo by Cydney Scott
Last year, women made up a mere 20 percent of those attending hackathons. But a student-run hackathon hosted by BU this weekend aims to change that.
Starting this afternoon, Friday, March 22, more than 1,200 high school and college students from across the country will hole up in Agganis Arena for 36 hours at TechTogether Boston (2023). The requirement to get in? Attendees must identify as female or nonbinary.
During the three-day event, hackers will solve problems like combating fake news, disaster recovery, and reducing environmental waste, among others. In addition to hacking, there will be a series of tech workshops, keynote talks, and networking opportunities with some of the more than two dozen sponsors (RedHat, Facebook, Microsoft, and Wayfair, to name a few) who donated more than $320,000 to underwrite the hackathon. Attendance is free, and in many cases, travel is reimbursed.
Now in its second year, the hackathon began last year and was initially called SheHacks. This year’s event has been rebranded as TechTogether Boston to shy away from pronouns and better reflect a community that includes nonbinary individuals, Whittington says. The organizers are from several universities, among them BU, Northeastern, the University of California, Irvine, and UMass Boston.
Whittington’s impetus for starting her own hackathon last year was a bad experience when she attended a hackathon—her first—in New York as a sophomore. A guy came up to chat with her when she walked in alone and condescendingly asked if she had ever even coded before. “I told him to look at the coding stickers on my laptop,” she says. “I didn’t see a lot of women there, I didn’t go with anyone, and that, to me, was a reflection of the lack of community. There wasn’t a culture I could join, and I thought, more women need to be attending these events.” The result: SheHacks, in January 2023 at BU.
TechTogether Boston aims to create an inclusive environment that both introduces underrepresented people to the world of technology and mobilizes them to create projects. “Marginalized groups continue to be underrepresented as a whole,” in technology, says senior Isabelle Verhulst (Questrom), TechTogether’s chief marketing officer. “In this era of #MeToo, Time’s Up, and a general shift in the influence of women’s, trans, and nonbinary voices, we are proud to be doing our part in offering resources to the next generation of individuals who want to make a difference.”
“The general reaction from the community to our event has been incredible—the feedback, the amount of money we were able to raise,” Whittington adds.
And TechTogether Boston has expanded beyond this weekend’s event. The students’ new nonprofit, called TechTogether, provides members of its New York and Boston chapters with annual stipends, mentorship, and event planning resources.
TechTogether receives support from several University entities, among them the College of Arts & Sciences computer science department, BU Research, Information Services & Technology, the College of Engineering electrical and computer engineering department, BU Spark! at the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering, and Innovate@BU. BU is the hackathon’s host partner for the next three years and in addition to offering financial support and research, BU Spark! created PreHacks, an event that introduces high schoolers to the field of computer science and provides a how-to hackathon guide. Like many young women, BU Spark! marketing and program manager Elyse Bush didn’t have an introductory computer science program available to her in high school, she says, but if she had, she probably would have studied computer science as an undergrad. Bush works under Ziba Cranmer, BU Spark! director and event supporter.
Diversifying the the technology industry is in society’s best interest “given the myriad ways that technology impacts our lives,” says Tracy Schroeder, BU’s vice president of information services and technology. “Without diversity, technology services are built with implicit biases and gaps that can marginalize people and have unintended social and economic consequences.” And, she continues, change is hard: “It requires support structures like TechTogether to encourage trailblazers and change agents.”
TechTogether Boston (2023) will be held at Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave., from 5 pm Friday, March 22, until 2 pm Sunday, March 24. Registration for the event is closed.
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How a BU Prof April-Fooled the Country When the joke was on the Associated Press
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Setting your roommate’s clock ahead a few hours. Pouring food coloring into your housemate’s shampoo. Hoisting a car on top of a roof (if you’re an MIT student, that is).
These are fine tricks to pull on April Fools’ Day, but putting over a prank that fools the country is reserved for a very few. Joseph Boskin, a professor emeritus of history in the College of Arts & Sciences, managed it without really trying.
In 1983, BU’s public relations office gave Boskin a call, with a question: was it OK to pitch him, a historian and a purveyor of popular culture, as an expert on the history of April Fools’ Day?
Not giving the request much thought, he jokingly said yes.
That week, he headed to Los Angeles to meet with director Norman Lear. Boskin planned to write a history of Lear’s series All in the Family. The PR contact reached him there, asking him to talk to a reporter from the Associated Press.
The AP reporter asked Boskin about the origins and history of April Fools’ Day. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about the holiday, and I really can’t be of help to you,’” Boskin recalls. “The reporter said, ‘Don’t be so modest.’ When the reporter kept pushing, Boskin says, “I created a story.”
One of Boskin’s closest friends had always loved the Jewish noodle pudding kugel. That popped into his head, and he decided to tell a story about a jester who became king — King Kugel. One of Boskin’s fields was medieval history, so he concocted a convincing tale.
“Since I was calling New York, where kugel is famous, and it was April Fools’ Day, I figured he would catch on,” Boskin laughs. “Instead, he asked how to spell kugel.” As he was telling the outlandish story, he kept expecting the reporter to wise up to what he was doing, but all he heard was the clatter of a typewriter on the other end of the phone.
When AP published the story, Boskin got calls from the Today Show and other reputable news outlets asking him to go into more detail about the origins of King Kugel.
Back at BU, Boskin used the amusing scenario to show students in his Media and Social Change class how the media can suddenly pick up on a joke, a rumor, an innuendo, or a story and regard it as authentic. No matter what you hear, you must question, Boskin reminded his students.
Unbeknownst to him, the editor of the Daily Free Press was in his class. The next day, the Freep ran the headline, “Professor Fools AP.”
“The AP had a huge conniption when they read this,” Boskin says. “I got an immediate phone call from an editor there, who was furious, saying that I had ruined the career of a young reporter. He said I told a lie. ‘A lie?’ I asked, ‘I was telling an April Fools’ Day story.’
“The AP always, always checks on stories and for some reason this one fell through the cracks,” Boskin says. “It was their fault for not checking the story, and I embarrassed them. But I mean, really — kugel? What reporter from New York doesn’t know what that is?”
Fortunately for everyone, this April Fools’ story has a happy ending. Boskin’s prank did not ruin a young journalist’s career. Unintentionally, it might even have provided a little true-life case study for a wonderful teacher, because that young AP reporter was Fred Bayles, now an associate professor of journalism in the College of Communication.
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BU Researchers Receive NSF CAREER Awards Prize supports research, education
Winners of the NSF CAREER awards are Lorena Barba (clockwise from top left), Pamela Templer, Michael Smith, Ajay Joshi, Lucy Hutyra, and Ayse Coskun. Barba and Coskun photos by Vernon Doucette. Joshi and Smith photos by Kalman Zabarsky. Templer photo by Melody Komyerov. Hutyra photo courtesy of Lucy Hutyra
The United States, China, Japan, and others are racing to build the first “exascale” computer, a super-machine able to perform as many operations in a second as 50 million laptops. Lorena Barba’s research tackles two parts of this quest: researching the necessary algorithms and software, while pondering how to educate future computer scientists about the technology.
Exascale computing will enable science to improve such things as climate modeling, predicting natural disasters, and simulating proteins essential to life. “The current worldwide race to reach exascale computing is really about maintaining growth in computer performance,” Barba told an interviewer. Noting that a 1944 computer, the Harvard Mark I, was a tortoise at three operations per second, she said ever-faster computing has become essential to society, and educating computational scientists is “crucial for success in exploiting computer performance for scientific discovery.”
CAREER awards recognize “innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology” as well as the winners’ commitment to community service, according to the NSF. That BU collected six awards amid stiff competition “testifies to the breadth and depth of research talent we have here,” says Jean Morrison, BU provost. “We’re all excited to see what these talented researchers are able to achieve through their project awards and wish them the best of luck.”
The other BU winners, besides Lorena Barba, are:
Ayse Coskun, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is also researching energy efficiency in a type of computing system, so-called 3D stacked systems. “A realizable target for this project in the next decade is a significant reduction in overall energy consumption for computing infrastructure,” his project abstract says.
Lucy Hutyra, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of geography and environment, researches what her abstract calls the understudied effects of urbanization on carbon dioxide emissions, a key contributor to global warming. She’ll map ecosystem changes across an urban-to-rural spectrum and historical land patterns to assess “the carbon consequences of increasing urban lands,” among other things. The research is important to develop policies for environmental protection and food and energy production as humans multiply in urban areas, says the abstract.
Ajay Joshi, an ENG assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is researching how to make computing more energy-efficient, in particular by improving silicon-based data-sharing systems within and between computers. The abstract to his research says that with computers’ energy gobbling growing, it’s “absolutely critical to develop energy-efficient solutions for computing systems.”
Michael Smith, an ENG assistant professor of biomedical engineering, studies multicellular cultures to learn about cell mechanics and how cells communicate. “The coordination of multicellular behavior is critical to numerous physiological processes such as morphogenesis”—the development of structural features—“and wound repair,” according to his abstract. His project also seeks to develop a one-hour lesson on cell mechanics for local high school students and a new graduate course on the topic.
Pamela Templer, a CAS assistant professor of biology, is working on the varying effects of climate change in northern American forests. “For example,” her abstract says, “soil warming in summer may increase root growth, but warming in winter may increase the frequency of freeze/thaw cycles and damage plant root systems.”
The NSF, Uncle Sam’s science-incubating agency, has a $7 billion annual budget and funds one-fifth of all federally supported research in American academia. It is the major federal grantor of research money for mathematics and computer science.
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Dell’s engineers have built a dream machine for business users on the go, although we have a few quibbles about weight and battery life.
While taking notes for my review of Dell’s latest business notebook, I repeatedly found myself saying “Well, on the other hand…” The Latitude E7440 is bulky for a 14-inch Ultrabook— it’s almost a pound heavier than Lenovo’s X1 Carbon Touch. On the other hand, it’s super tough. You could drop it on the sidewalk and it’d still deliver the sales projections for tomorrow’s meeting. It’s outfitted with both HDMI and DisplayPort. On the other hand, you’ll need to carry a VGA adapter to connect it to the old video projector in the boardroom. Its battery croaks after just 4.5 hours. On the other hand, it’s removable, so you can swap in a spare.
See what I mean?
One thing my two hands and I agree on: We love using the Latitude E7440. It’s comfortable to work on in and out of my home office. The 14-inch IPS touchscreen is crisp and very bright, yet it’s remarkably resistant to glare and fingerprints, and responds beautifully to my touch. My fingers fly around on its large keyboard like they were made for each other, and the trackpad works great when I need it and stays out of the way when I don’t (read: no AWOL cursors). The keyboard deck has just the right slightly rubbery feel that lets my palms rest comfortably on it for long stretches.
Dell’s Latitude E7440 has a great keyboard and trackpad.
On the other hand, its $1949 price tag sticks in my craw. And I’m sure it will stick in yours, too, whether you’re a consumer, small business owner, or an IT buyer for a large enterprise. On the other hand, quality-made tools are expensive. Let’s see what the Latitude E7440’s price-to-performance ratio looks like.Tough but attractive
The E7440 manages to be both pretty and rugged, its shell formed by the tough metal and carbon-composite material quickly gaining favor with higher-end PC makers. When I gripped the E7440 by the two ends and tried to twist it, it didn’t give one iota. Even the screen panel, a mere quarter-inch thick, barely flexed when I whipped the lid up by just its corner and snapped it shut again.
The E7440’s shell is fabricated from aluminum and carbon fiber.
Dell says the machine has passed no fewer than 18 MIL-STD-810G tests, including being subjected to extreme heat and cold, high humidity, vibration, drops onto a hard surface, blowing sand and dust, and liquid spills on the keyboard.To use it is to love it
The Latitude E7440 has a gorgeous, non-glare, 14-inch IPS touchscreen with native resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and the best off-axis viewing I’ve seen so far. The keyboard flexes in its middle and its keys bounce a little much, but they don’t clatter and they render nearly every keystroke correctly. The slightly concave keys are nicely islanded from each other, and offer just the right level of friction. Four levels of backlighting are available, which makes the computer easier to use and reduces the load on the battery when you don’t need its brightest settings.
The Dell’s 1920×1080-pixel touchscreen looks great, but Lenovo’s pricey X1 Carbon Touch is available with a 2560×1440-pixel touchscreen.
Too many Ultrabook designers drop important ports in pursuit of ever-thinner profiles. The E7440 offers nearly everything you could ask for in a laptop this size, including hardwired Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, an SD card reader, and three USB 3.0 ports.
Dell’s business-oriented Ultrabook is a little thick in the middle.
Many of these ports are located on the notebook’s rear deck, which makes them a bit of a hassle to access. Dell outfits the E7440 with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter. But if you find yourself frequently deskbound, Dell includes a docking station port on the bottom of the computer. A combination VESA monitor stand and docking station is available for $225. You can further beef up the notebook’s enterprise chops with a mobile broadband adapter, a Smart card slot, and a fingerprint scanner.Performance and battery life
Both machines have similar specs, but Lenovo’s X1 Carbon Touch outran Dell’s Latitude E7440 when it came to WorldBench.
Still, its benchmark scores left me just a little disappointed. It finished well behind the aforementioned X1 Carbon Touch, which is powered by the same CPU; and a little behind HP’s EliteBook Folio 1040 G1 , which runs on Intel’s Core i5-4200U processor.
The Latitude E7440 trailed on the PCMark 8: Work Test as well.
Dell’s Ultrabook fared a little better in terms of battery life, and you can remove and replace its battery if you don’t mind carrying a spare.
On the other hand, the battery in the X1 Carbon Touch’s pooped out in even less time, and it’s not swappable. But the X1 Carbon Touch’s battery charges faster, its 14-inch IPS screen delivers higher resolution (2560×1440 pixels), and it scored higher in our benchmarks. Both machines are built tough, but as I pointed out earlier, Lenovo’s is much lighter. On the final other hand is the X1 Carbon’s current price tag. The machine wasn’t even listed on Lenovo’s website when I wrote this review, and the third-party retailers that did have it on offer priced it considerably higher than what Lenovo quoted us when we reviewed it.
Bottom line: If money were no barrier, I’d buy Lenovo’s X1 Carbon Touch. But Dell’s cheaper Latitude E7440 even though it weighs more. It’s an exceptionally good business laptop.
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