Kate O'Connell

Reporter, Innovation Trail, Finger Lakes

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail

Kate O’Connell comes to WXXI from Melbourne, Australia, and studied journalism at Royal Melboure Institute of Technology.

During her studies, Kate was a freelance journalist, reporting from Nepal and Haiti, and worked with the media team of the United Nations partner group, International Organization for Migration.

Kate's experience also includes work for the Shepparton News, Australian Broadcasting Company, Melbourne’s Channel 31, RRR radio and WIN television.

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The Eastman Business Park (EBP) in Rochester is officially up for sale, Kodak announced Tuesday.

Company spokesman Chris Veronda says it’s the right time to hand development of the industrial and technology park over to a new entity.

"Kodak believes the site can best continue its transformation under the ownership of a firm that’s focused on its redevelopment. And, at the same time, the sale of EBP will allow Kodak to focus on its customers in the commercial imaging business."

A new book is shining a spotlight on the environmental issues within our nation’s schools.

"Toxic Schoolhouse," is an anthology that raises a number of issues including the absence of oversight of schools by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Madeleine Scammell, co-editor of the compilation, says the EPA has no regulatory authority in the local school, so watchdog responsibilities too often fall to teachers and parents.

GDACC

Environmental groups won a court injunction last year against the village of Painted Post, preventing them from continuing water shipments for fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

The case was brought before the State Supreme Appellate Division Court in Rochester recently, with officials from the town in Steuben County vying for a different outcome.

The village of Painted Post has a five-year contract with Shell Oil subsidiary SWEPI LP. The deal calls for up to a million gallons of water a day to be shipped by rail to supply gas fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

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The Environmental Protection Agency finalized its federal emission standards for cars and gasoline Monday, putting them in line with programs already in place in California.

The cleaner fuel and car standards will be rolled out starting in 2017. Once fully in place, the EPA estimates they’ll lower overall pollution levels and help avoid up to 2,000 early deaths per year.

Golisano Children's Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center

Young patients with spinal problems in upstate New York now have local access to imaging technology that substantially decreases their exposure to radiation.

Jason Briner

A new institute designed to tackle complex environmental issues across the globe has been launched in upstate New York. This month, the University at Buffalo announced the launch of the RENEW (Research and Education in Energy, Environment, and Water) program.

Alexander Cartwright, vice president of research and economic development at the university, says an emphasis has been placed on assembling an interdisciplinary and unbiased team to tackle controversial issues.

United States Government Work

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a citation to the owners of the Ginna nuclear power plant in upstate New York. Preliminary inspection findings released Tuesday cited the plant for failure to address a long-standing flood risk. The issue is considered a low-to-moderate level safety concern.

It all comes down to an improperly sealed manhole at the plant, which could have allowed flood waters to breach the rooms housing emergency batteries.

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New data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows New York state and local government employees experienced a much higher rate of injury and illness than workers in any other industry during 2012.

It may not be something you’ve ever considered, but a lot of the time, there’s an inherent risk associated with jobs in the public sector.

And, according to Nellie Brown, director of the workplace health and safety program at Cornell University, that has a big impact on statistics like these.

The BLS report states:

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Researchers in upstate New York have developed a new cell therapy that could treat Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder which affects motor function. The study from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests this new approach could not only halt progression of the disease, but also reverse its impact on the brain.

A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that, despite healthcare spending that has reached nearly $3 trillion each year in the U.S., few general medicine programs around the country are teaching new physicians to practice cost-conscious care.

A survey of nearly 300 residency programs around the U.S revealed that the vast majority of healthcare providers believe it’s their responsibility to help decrease rising costs.

Kate O'Connell / WXXI

The science community was buzzing this week with news of a breakthrough in stem cell research. Stem cells have the potential to transform into any tissue in the body, and are being explored as treatment options for trauma and degenerative diseases.

When we’re born, our cells are programmed to carry out a specific role. They automatically become muscle cells, skin cells, nerve cells, and that role can’t be changed.

But stem cells can be manipulated to become any kind of cell, offering the potential for regeneration in the body.

Center for Environmental Initiatives

Community members from across western New York came together in Rochester Thursday to address the issue of pollution in the Genesee River, and create an action plan for the immediate future.

The summit, run by the Center for Environmental Initiatives, was spurred by a new study which suggests human activity along the Genesee River Basin is having a direct impact on the water quality in Lake Ontario.

Jim Day / WXXI

In his State of the Union address President Barack Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead a reform of the country’s training programs to ensure the skills in the workforce match employers’ needs.

Biden traveled to upstate New York Wednesday promoting the President’s agenda. Speaking at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, he said community colleges are a vital part of the process of reinventing the nation’s workforce training.

Columbia University Medical Center researchers have used high resolution imaging to show that Alzheimer’s begins in a specific part of the brain, known as a gateway to the hippocampus.

Dr. Scott Small, co-author of the study, says this particular area plays a vital role in consolidating long term memories. The discovery could help with early diagnosis of the disease, and that, he says, could lead to more effective intervention.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s newly formed Student Protection Unit has launched an investigation into the student debt relief industry.

Led by the state Department of Financial Services (DFS), it’s designed to be a consumer watchdog for New York students. And, one day after being established in the 2014 Executive Budget address, the unit issued subpoenas to 13 companies in its first official action.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started a review of the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial products across a range of industries.

The first stage of the process will focus on antibacterial soaps and body washes. Despite some heavy marketing, FDA officials say very little is known about the long-term effects of these products.

In December, the administration gave manufacturers a year to prove their antibacterial soaps and washes are safe for long term daily use, and are more effective than regular soap and water in preventing illness.

Corning Inc Gorilla Glass

Upstate glass manufacturer Corning Inc. has developed the first antimicrobial glass for our proliferating smart devices, lap tops, and TVs. The glass is more resistant to bacteria but, doubts are emerging about the benefits of antibacterial products.

Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Tuesday’s executive budget proposal address included a $10 million initiative from the Cuomo administration to create a statewide police information database.

The New York State Protection Cloud is designed to make it quicker and easier for local police departments to share information across jurisdictions.

Ken Hawkins / Flickr

One year after the passage of the New York SAFE Act, sheriff’s departments across the state are still struggling to wrap their heads around the law, and some have gone so far as expressing personal opposition to the new laws.

Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn says there are facets of the law that make sense, but that there are many problems. These problems, according to many upstate New York sheriffs, could have been avoided if they'd been more involved from the start.

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High school students in upstate New York watched as a rocket carrying one of their science experiments was launched Thursday. Its destination is the International Space Station orbiting the earth over 200 miles above us.

Vicki Aman and Cheyanne Jeffrey are in their senior year at Rochester Early College International High School (RECIHS). The team is hoping their research will contribute to our growing knowledge of life in space.

Carlet Cleare/WXXI

In his annual State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a major initiative to ramp up New York’s capacity for dealing with natural disasters.

Part of the multi-million dollar proposal involves installing a state-of-the-art weather detection system to provide more accurate, real time warnings.

Cornell University

Researchers in upstate New York have created an app that will allow users to test their cholesterol levels through a blood sample that’s analyzed directly through their smartphone.  

Somali Community in Western New York

The desire for familiar food, clothing, and other products from home is spurring refugee communities in upstate New York to start their own businesses. In response, a group in Rochester has organized a six-week startup business training course to help the Somali refugee community navigate the process.

“They can actually create their own little local economy where they can exchange, similar to what they had in Somalia,” says David Dey, president and CEO of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship.

The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is coming under fire yet again with claims that the body’s proceedings lack transparency.

A group of elected officials, ratepayers, and environmental groups announced Thursday that they’re filing a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the PSC in an attempt to gain access to documents relating to the future of two power plants in upstate New York.

Kate O'Connell / Innovation Trail

Many of New York’s power stations are reaching the end of their operating lives, with coal-fired plants becoming less viable from both a business and environmental standpoint.

This week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $150 million deal that will see the coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk converted to burn natural gas.

Bosc d'Anjou / Flickr

Chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing can disrupt the body’s normal hormone function according to new research published recently in the Journal of Endocrinology.

The study looked at Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) involved in drilling. Results showed that hormone disrupting activity was higher in water samples taken from drill sites where spills had occurred, compared to sites where little or no drilling had occurred.  

At certain levels of exposure, EDCs have been associated with cancer and infertility in adults.

Human-on-a-chip

Dec 13, 2013
ECBC

In a handful of labs around the U.S., researchers are creating human tissue from stem cells and manipulating them to replicate the functions of human organs, all on platforms about the size of a thumb drive. This research platform is known as a "human-on-a-chip," and it has the potential to change the nature of medical treatment.

Dr. Harry Salem has been involved in his fair share of exciting scientific breakthroughs, including the creation of the breathalyzer, the infant incubator, and Nyquil.

ALIGN

New York state’s economic development programs lack transparency and accountability at a regional level, according to a new report released Monday by the left-leaning Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN).

Shawn McCready / Flickr

Researchers from Clarkson University are gearing up to study the impacts of water pollution on property values across 26 counties in upstate New York.

Funded by a two year NYSERDA grant, researchers will study water quality data and correlate that with property sales over the past decade. And there’s already evidence of a relationship between the two.

In a recent study, economics professor Martin Heintzelman - who’ll be working on the new study – found that high water acidity lowered property prices in the Adirondacks by up to 24 percent.

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