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UC researchers develop smarter, solar-powered water filter

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed tiny, solar-powered water filters that target and remove carcinogens and antibiotics from lakes and streams.

These protein-based filters are smaller in diameter than a human hair, and work differently than current surface water filters that are made of activated carbon. Those carbon filters work much like the ones in home water filtration systems.

"In Cincinnati, we have one of the largest activated carbon treatment facilities in the United States," says David Wendall, a faculty researcher and environmental engineering professor at UC. "But what the current filters do is bind a lot of different [non-dangerous] compounds; it will will coat the filter very quickly."

UC's research was published in the "Nano Letters" journal. It showed the new filters absorbed 64 percent surface water antibiotics, compared to 40 percent absorbed by current filtering technology.

The research is important because there is growing scientific evidence of harmful effects of the hormones and antibiotics that work their way into our lakes and streams.

"We're starting to understand that birth control is feminizing fish, and antibiotics promote resistance in certain organisms," says Wendall. "It's what is contributing to superbugs that resist to antibiotic treatment. We're learning more about what happens when we dump antibiotics into the environment."

Generally, the contaminates arrive in waterways from runoff through farms or when we flush or trash our medicines.

"The main sources are from farms," Wendall says. "They put antibiotics in animal feed so they will grow fast and stay healthy. But some of their waste ends up in the rivers as runoff, where [the antibiotics] don't break down, and it ends up contaminating our water."

The filter at UC was developed in 2010. Testing has proven successful in specifically targeting antibiotics and other harmful materials.

Wendall describes the filters as "selective garbage disposals." Filtering ability is fueled by sunlight, and the filters actually preserve antibiotics in a way that famers can reuse if filters are recovered.

The university's research is continuing to be tested and refined, Wendall says. But current work could be used practically in three to five years.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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UC professor leads national PTSD treatment study

University of Cincinnati professor is one of three leading investigators in a national study that is comparing two treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The 17-site, $9 million study will take about three years to complete, and it will involve approximately 500 veterans at VA medical facilities across the country, says UC Clinical Psychiatry Professor Kathleen Chard.

Researchers will compare two proven PTSD treatments:

Prolonged Exposure (PE), which allows patients to work through painful memories by re-experiencing traumatic events in  safe and supportive environments, and to engage in activities they've avoided because of trauma. Prolonged exposure also emphasizes education about treatment, common reactions to trauma and breath retraining.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), which focuses on patients' thoughts and feelings. This approach emphasizes how traumatic experiences changed the patients' thoughts and beliefs, and how those thoughts influence current feelings and behaviors. Patients identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts through structured therapy sessions and practice assignments.

The Institute of Medicine and the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences have endorsed both PSTD treatments, which are used for both military and civilian patients. One of the study's goals will be to determine which treatment works better when a patient has other problems, like depression or substance abuse.

Chard is co-author of the CPT military/veteran manual and the national CPT implementation director for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Both are gold standard treatments, but what we don't know is, if I have patient 'X,' which one should I put them in," she says. "What we have now is informed patient choice. We tell them about the treatments and they can decide what to do. We don't have solid research about what works best."

Chard is also director of UC's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience PTSD division, which is based at the Cincinnati Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center facility in Ft. Thomas. It likely will be one of the 17 testing sites.

The findings of the study will have an impact that reaches beyond treatment for members of the military, as PTSD has been diagnosed in people who have never been in the miliary, but who have seen or lived through dangerous events, including survivors of physical and sexual assault, abuse, accidents and natural disasters.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Facebook-photo tapping Life Blinx looking for new hires

Made for people who don’t want to store all of their recorded memories digitally, Life Blinx offers a tangible way to preserve photos—by creating real-life photo albums right from your Facebook account.
 
Created by Darcy Crociata, who also works as a marketing and networking consultant, Life Blinx was propelled by the Brandery and CincyTech

“So many people are living their life on Facebook with nothing outside [of the site] to show for it,” Crociata says. “This is digital scrapbooking meets the real world.”
 
To create an album with Life Blinx, you simply register through your Facebook account and select which photos will go into your book. It’s a very quick process that Crociata says is best fitted for busy people—not those looking to painstakingly plan out every single detail of the book.
 
The books are created by Print Management in Fairfax. Crociata describes the partnership as a blessing to the small business, because they have a professionallly equipped staff and facilities at their disposal. The two companies connected through the Brandery as well. 
 
The service is not without its hiccups, of course. 
 
“Every time Facebook changes, we have to adapt,” Crociata says. Users of the massive social network will know Facebook’s platform seems to change as frequently as the weather forecast. Life Blinx struggles to maintain composure amid Facebook’s many bugs. So far, they’ve been successful.
 
A growing company, Life Blinx is on the lookout for new staff. Interested applicants should have a technology background and experience maintaining company websites. 

By Sean Peters

Mason Tech Center opens in May to innovative startups

The City of Mason is part of a private-public partnership to house and grow tech-based startups in the Cincinnati suburb. In late May, the city will invite businesses and local media to an open house of the Mason Tech Center, a renovated office building just off the Mason-Montgomery Road corridor.

Top Gun Sales Performance, a global sales support organization that provides consulting, training and personnel for Fortune 500 clients, began the $4 million renovation at 5155 Financial Way last February. The growing company, expected to create 500 new jobs in the next five years, occupies the first floor of the tech center.

Through incentives offered by the City of Mason and Mason Port Authority, Top Gun renovated additional space to create the Mason Tech Center for startups in digital IT, biohealth IT and technology sectors.

One company, ConnXus, has already moved into the center. The three-year-old company is an online service that connects diverse and small businesses with companies that are seeking to expand and diversify their supplier bases.

"The Mason Tech Center is a unique alternative to a traditional startup incubator," says Sue Oswalt, vice president of operations and member services at Connxus. "By bringing together public and private resources, the City of Mason is building a location and community that is a great fit for a company like ours. We were excited to be the first startup company in the Mason Tech Center."

The tech center has about 25,000 square feet of available space and can accommodate up to 20 companies.

"Through an innovative partnership with Top Gun Sales Performance, these young companies can access energetic office space at below market rates, tap into a network of peer companies and an infrastructure of resources, which can propel them further, faster," says Michele Blair, director of economic development for the City of Mason. "To use an analogy, we aren't just planting a seed and waiting for it to rain. We've bioengineered the soil and are watering it regularly so the seed can grow faster, stronger."

By Feoshia H. Davis
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DAAP grad embraces innovation, nurtures young Design Geniuses

Rebecca Huffman’s circuitous route to UC’s Fashion Design program both inspired and informed her non-traditional senior thesis, Design Genius. More methodology than consumer good, Design Genius is a learning module that teaches students the value of education and the building blocks of problem-solving as they design their own products.

Unveiled at UC’s DAAPWorks, Design Genius takes a fresh approach to making learning relevant for kids of all ages, which is exactly what recent grad Huffman, 24, who works for LPK, wanted. 

“I knew that I wanted to do something that would help kids,” says Huffman, who spent a year working as a preschool teacher before starting her design training at DAAP.

As she considered what her culminating project for college would be, she thought back to a studio class in which she’d designed and created a real project, then put it up for sale in real life. Through that process, and its embrace of design-thinking, she saw the value of the disparate classes she’d taken through her academic career, from math to marketing and writing to psychology. And she felt empowered.

Her work as an LPK co-op increased her experience with design-thinking, an approach to problem-solving more often seen in Fast Company than elementary schools. 

“Design Genius is an attempt to solve the problem that our kids are facing by instilling a greater sense of educational purpose,” she says. 

She describes Design Genius on her website as “the culmination of five years of study and extensive research on the Creativity Quotient, Design Thinking in education, the concept of ‘failing forward,’ sociocultural trends impacting Generation Z, and the educational and social development of Tweens.”

What that looked like, in the end, were three, one-and-a-half hour sessions in two schools—St. Ursula Villa and Pleasant Ridge Montessori—in three different classes. Fourth and fifth grade students examined case studies in the form of fictional diary entries. Then, they ideated, revised and designed real products to help solve the problems of their fictional “customers.” 

“They learned everything I was trying to teach them,” Huffman says. “It was amazing.”

The students not only learned from the project, they loved it. Huffman received unprompted thank-you notes and testimonials when the students presented their products. She’s convinced that with a little tweaking, she can develop a fully functional learning module that can help young students not only design products, but create and sell them. 

By Elissa Yancey
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Ramshackle Recordings captures musicians at their best

For many listeners, the best album sounds like a live performance, which sits perfectly well with Jacob Tippey of Ramshackle Recordings.

Tippey believes a song sounds best when recorded with limited interference—spared from a gang of overdubbed and mutated parts that can bury its soul. His work hearkens back to recording's early days, when one-take tracks were necessities because of limited technology and materials. 

“I believe in using the resources you have,” says Tippey, who views himself as a documentarian. 

He works to ensure clients record in the best possible setting for their sound. That could mean adjusting sound-absorbent panels to soak up or reflect the music in the walls of the Curtis, Inc., audio studio, or taking the client to the altar room of an 1800s church, the space he also calls home, to allow for a blooming natural reverb.

So far, Ramshackle Recordings has put down tracks with SHADOWRAPTRThe Happy Maladies and Till Plains

By foregoing the luxury of heavily altered and modified tracks, Tippey simplifies the recording process.

By Sean Peters

SocialPoint simplifies online interaction

SocialPoint is a new web-based service that combines major forms of social media into one feed. Users can control what services they’re accessing with simple clicks, which helps make the management of personal profiles much simpler.

Created in Cincinnati, SocialPoint was developed by a local team of techies who wanted to make the social media experience more efficient.

“We found that we were spending a lot of time every day checking in with our friends on all our various social media sites, and that we needed a solution for ourselves, so we developed SocialPoint.Me,” says Chris Burnett, SocialPoint’s vice president of marketing.

SocialPoint makes it very easy to navigate between different profiles on connected accounts, which still provide the standard features offered by the original sites. For example, if you wanted to check your Facebook account, SocialPoint gives you the option to filter specific categories. If you are just interested in seeing photos uploaded by your friends, you’d select the preset on the easy-to-navigate sidebar. Your search can be as specific as you want. Plus, you're still able to chat with your Facebook friends with SocialPoint. 

Similar features are also available for Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, FourSquare and AT&T.

While most social media apps are aimed at business owners who are more interested in tidying up their “online estates,” SocialPoint is intended for personal users who want to continue sharing and keeping up with friends in the many ways the expanding idea of “social media” allows.

A mobile app will soon be available, along with an early summer update with additional social media customization options.

SocialPoint’s office is in the heart of downtown, and all of their funding comes from Chicago West Pullman LLC, which is headquartered at 600 Vine Street. 

By Sean Peters

Grupo Xela offers Hispanic insight

Grupo Xela is a marketing research agency that specializes in Hispanic demographics. Founded by Jose Cuesta in 2003, the company found success in Cincinnati by communicating an authentic and carefully researched Hispanic perspective to Procter & Gamble and QFact, among other locally owned businesses.

Originally from Colombia, Cuesta earned a BA in industrial engineering at Javeriana University. He came to Cincinnati in 1998, where he earned an MBA from Xavier University. Cuesta’s mother is originally from Cincinnati, and he was prompted by his family to move to the Queen City.

“You don’t go to Cincinnati unless you have a reason,” Cuesta says. “But there’s always a reason to go.”

After earning his degree from Xavier, Cuesta began working for Cincinnati Bell as a manager for various departments.

Cuesta founded what would eventually become Grupo Xela with his brother-in-law. Their first business attempt was as coffee distributors for regional restaurants, but their work in the city helped them realize the Hispanic community’s marketing potential. Prompted by the fact that Hispanics were the most rapidly growing minority in the country, Cuesta knew he could offer a very important perspective to P&G—Cincinnati’s powerhouse corporation.

By interacting with Hispanic panelists sourced from Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami, Grupo Xela’s chief concern is gathering qualitative market research.

The company has since gone international, with a United States' headquarters in Cincinnati, and a Colombian office in Bogota, with plans to expand into more cities and countries soon. 

By Sean Peters

Growing Balluff Inc., builds expanded US HQ in Independence, to hire 24

Another Northern Kentucky manufacturing facility is expanding. Balluff Inc., an international supplier and manufacturer of sensing devices, just broke ground on a new headquarters in Independence. It's the company's third expansion in 30 years.

The German-owned Balluff currently employes 150 people in Northern Kentucky, and expects to add 24 new jobs and invest $6 million as part of the expansion. Balluff specializes in products for industrial sensing, networking and identification devices.

Balluff's customers are manufacturers who are working to increase efficiencies through automating processes. Many are automakers, with increasing demand from emerging industries in renewable energy like solar and wind. The steadily improving strength of U.S. manufacturing is driving company growth, says Balluff President Kent Howard.

The company has been hiring on a regular basis, around 15 people per year. Balluff expanded previously in 1994 and 2001.

"Manufacturing in this country is coming back strong, and the manufacturers that are successful are the ones that are using automation to improve productivity," Howard says.

The Independence facility in Northern Kentucky Industrial Park is the final assembly, distribution and training site for Balluff in the U.S.

Balluff’s new 48,000-square-foot building is set to be finished next spring. It will include customer support, training and a sales and marketing center. The facility will include “green concepts” and worker-friendly features, such as 100 percent employee access to daylight from workspaces. Bluff’s current 60,000-square-foot space will accommodate more space for manufacturing.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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UC's new MENtorship pilot aims to develop male nurses

As our aging population grows, they're asking more of our healthcare providers.

Nurses increasingly are being asked to fill healthcare needs and are growing their skills and knowledge through higher education. Still, an untapped resource of nursing talent remains: men.

About 94 percent of nurses are women, and that creates challenges for men who are entering the field, as well as patients who aren't always comfortable receiving treatment from a male nurse.

These are some of the reasons that local medical and educational partners, including a University of Cincinnati College of Nursing student organization, started MENtorship, a program for male student nurses.

The nursing program has partnered with Cincinnati Children's Medical Center and UC Medical Center to develop MENtorship.

The six-to-eight week program is just wrapping up, with a group of 12 undergraduate nursing students. In addition to being mentored by professional nurses, higher ranking students also mentor younger students. So students are both mentors and mentees, says UC MENtorship faculty advisor Gordon Gillespie.

"The junior and senior mentors can tell the freshmen and sophomores what the student nursing program is really like and the commitment that it takes, so the students aren't surprised," says Gillespie, who has been a nurse for 17 years. "They could be less likely to drop out."

The program was initially inspired by a 2013 American Journal of Nursing article, "Men in Nursing: Understanding the Challenges Men Face Working in this Predominantly Female Profession,” that identified professional tribulations experienced by men in the nursing field.

Students are mentored on educational challenges and expectations, but also on dealing with challenges they'll face after school, Gillespie says.

"How do you approach intimate care for a female patient?" he says. "There are higher concerns about inappropriate touching with a male nurse. There are some cultures where it is taboo. When there are violent or aggressive patients, they were automatically assigned to me because I am the man. We talk about those issues and how to deal with them."

The MENtorship program will be evaluated this year, and there are plans to offer it again based on feedback from this semester's participants. If given board approval, it will be offered for a full year starting with the 2013-2014 academic year.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Dooley Media serves as one-stop shop for companies' online presences

Xavier University graduate Matthew Dooley started his company, Dooley Media, in 2011. And on March 18, Dooley made his first full-time hire, Kirsten Lecky, whose focus is on client management.
 
Dooley Media specializes in all things social media, from strategy development and execution to measurement and education. It brings together some of the best and most creative minds in graphic design, development, copywriting and videography to work on social media campaigns.
 
“Our goal is to take what companies already do well and bring it online to shareable platforms that extend the reach and impact of their brands,” Dooley says.
 
After graduating from college, Dooley was a social media strategist for a local insurance company. As time went on, Dooley’s interest in social media grew, as did his client list, which he was managing on top of his insurance job and a course he teaches at XU about social media. After five years, he decided to take a leap of faith and start his own business.
 
Dooley Media works with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

“While larger companies are blazing trails and have great success stories about using social media, smaller companies are underserved,” says Dooley. “They’re the ones that need the most help when it comes to social media. They don’t have the technical know-how or the money to invest in a social media strategist. It’s a unique opportunity for us to service them.”
 
Dooley comes from a family of entrepreneurs—his aunt and uncle both own businesses in Cincinnati, and his uncle was actually his first client back in 2010. And Dooley isn’t a stranger to starting businesses: He and his twin sister opened Flix, a DVD rental at XU, during their undergraduate years. He’s also part of nugg-it, a Cincinnati-based startup that is working on a wearable tech device that records “nuggets” of conversations, which will launch later this year.
 
“Dooley Media’s goal is to serve local businesses and optimize the conversations of those businesses, which will allow them to compete on a level playing field with larger companies,” Dooley says.
 
Dooley Media dabbles in all types of social media: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedInYouTubePinterest, blogging, etc. But the platform differs from client to client, depending on the audience they’re trying to reach, says Dooley.
 
And when Dooley Media sends out proposals to potential clients, they do something a little out of the ordinary. “One of my friends does cakes, and we send along a customized cake with the company’s logo and the phrase ‘Life is sweeter with Dooley Media,’” Dooley says.

To him, it’s a way to get the conversation started, and puts the ball in the client’s court.
 
By Caitlin Koenig
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Cait Pantano's dark, simple things

How does a dietician with a tendency toward the macabre end up creating sometimes shocking illustrations for local and national bands? Through a combination of nightmare-chasing exercises and a desire to break out of her routines.

Cait Pantano
, who graduated from Miami University in Ohio, is now keeping busy illustrating her take on moments of extreme mental and physical sensation. Some are sexual; others show debilitating pain. No matter the topic, Pantano’s art reflects her observations in dark and often comedic drawings of the human body.

Her inspiration comes from a very personal space. “I have nightmares almost every other night,” Pantano says. So she took one recurring stress dream--one during which she loses all of her teeth--and drew the image to get it out of her head. “I don’t think I’ve had that dream again.”

Encouraged by her friends to share her work, Pantano's humorous and macabre sensibilities were met with enthusiasm when she she began uploading images of her illustrations to Tumblr. Soon, musicians began commissioning her to create their album art. Recent clients include Cincinnati's The Pinstripes and Wisconsin-based Daniel and the Lion.

By Sean Peters

NKU Research Foundation grant expands NKU environmental monitoring app

A new water quality monitoring app developed at Northern Kentucky University caught the attention of national ecologists and the United States Environmental Protection Agency for its potential to strengthen the quality of data collection at local waterways.

NKU is quickly building on that success with funding from the NKU Research Foundation. The foundation recently awarded the NKU's Center for Applied Informatics $10,000 for two students to develop field-based water quality applications.

"The NKURF board is very excited about the further development of tools like the water quality app and associated data storage," NKU Associate Provost for Research, Graduate Studies and Regional Stewardship and Chair of the NKURF, Jan Hillard, said in an announcement. "The entire process of creating and sustaining this application ties together values of undergraduate research, creativity, collaboration and community engagement."

NKU's latest mobile application, Water Quality, allows users to more efficiently log and identify water quality data from rivers, lakes and streams. It also features a digital field guide for identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates and a Pollution Tolerance Index calculator.

Water Quality was unveiled before a national audience at the Technology to Empower Citizen Scientists conference held at NKU last month. Developed by a team from NKU and the Foundation for Ohio River Education, the $4.99 app is currently available for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch in the App Store.

"We are excited that this mobile technology can be used by scientists and students alike to learn about and monitor rivers, lakes and streams across our region," says Dr. Steve Kerlin, director of the NKU Center for Environmental Education.

With this new funding, students will help develop apps like Water Quality through the Center for Applied Informatics' Virtual Co-Op program. This program allows students to build their resumes through hands-on work experience that applies what they learn in the classroom.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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Blink makeup studio offers hand-mixed body care, makeup in Northside

During their careers as professional makeup artists, eventual best friends and colleagues Niki Mcclanahan and Megan Kelly felt their industry was straying too far from its roots.

"We felt it was becoming more about how much product you could sell," Mcclanahan says. "It was getting away from being fun and creative, and helping people find a look they never thought they could achieve."

She and Kelly joked off and on for a few years about striking out on their own, but by last spring, the joke became serious. After careful research and planning, they started Blink makeup studio. The freelance makeup artists have a shop in Northside International Airport, an eclectic retail, arts and entertainment space.

Blink sells its own line of handmade soaps, shower gels, lotions, bath bombs and essential oils. The shop also features an essential oil bar.

"We started from scratch, and did a lot of research on how essential oils and natural oils work," says Mcclanahan. "If a customer comes in to our oil bar, we can mix a custom blend right in front of them."

Among their most popular products is a brown sugar lip scrub. "People have really started using it all over their bodies because it's a very gentle exfoliant," she says.

Blink has recently expanded into the founder's first love—makeup. They've worked with an outside company to develop Blink's artistry makeup line. They're starting out small, offering products for eyes, lips and cheeks.

For their more environmentally-conscious clients, Blink offers mineral-based eyeshadows, a line they plan to expand.

Cincinnati is taking notice of Blink. It's was recently featured in CityBeat's 2013 Best of Cincinnati issue and in Cincinnati Magazine's Bridal Buzz blog.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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RentShare changes how rent is typically paid

RentShare, an online service that allows tenants to pay their rents online, is set to become a standard for the global home rental industry.

Started largely with support from The Brandery, RentShare's Manhattan-based entrepreneurs came to Cincinnati to benefit from the area's powerful startup community. RentShare, only a burgeoning idea when it entered the Queen City, has emerged as a functioning business that was ready to change how people pay their rent.

Any tenant with Internet access can use RentShare. The service allows renters to simply split rent payments, along with bills and expenses (including house cleaning services in the future), with roommates. By helping to eliminate one of the most common frustrations among people who share apartments or houses, RentShare is designed to help irritated roommates who are sick of absentee payers or passive-aggressive notes left on their refrigerators.

In addition, since rental payments are the only use of paper checks for many people, RentShare helps to eliminate the hassle of having another type of payment option available for only one bill. By automatically sending your landlord a check in the mail, with a detailed status report of which tenants’ payment is accounted for, there is no change for the landlord, who doesn’t even need to be notified directly that renters have opted to use RentShare.

RentShare founders Ian Halpern, Christopher Toppino and Trevor Geis focused on catering to tenants, rather than the landlords. In fact, landlords are not required to register for the service, as long as the necessary information is supplied by the renters.

By Sean Peters
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