College Scholarship Search College Search Career Exploration College Admissions Articles Financial Aid and Student Loan Calculators Compare Student Loans
Search:
OverviewAcademicsAdmissions
Student LifeTuition/AidNewsHangouts
Search Carnegie Mellon University's website

School News - Visit News Feed

1. Smell Something, Say Something

By Byron Spice

Image map generated using data collected on foul odors in the Pittsburgh region

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab are rolling out new features in Smell PGH, a smartphone app that helps Pittsburgh area residents collectively report foul odors and alert each other to suspicious smells that waft through city neighborhoods and suburbs.

Smell PGH now includes time-lapse animations on its map based on times and locations of smell reports. This gives people a better idea of which way a plume of possible pollution is drifting. Also, a new companion website enables anyone to interact with the Smell PGH map visualization, regardless of whether they have a smartphone, and improve their understanding of Allegheny County's pollution landscape.

"If you smell something bad in the air, chances are that air isn't good to breathe," said Beatrice Dias, project director for the Robotics Institute's CREATE Lab. "Smell PGH provides a way for citizens to both report unhealthy air to authorities who can investigate it and alert other users so they can avoid it."

Since the CREATE Lab launched Smell PGH 10 months ago, the crowdsourcing app has been downloaded more than 1,300 times and has been used to report foul odors more than 4,300 times.

Users can note the nature and intensity of the smell, as well as any symptoms they might be experiencing. They also can choose to receive alerts about smell reports as well as notable changes in Pittsburgh's official air quality index. App developers have worked with the Allegheny County Health Department to ensure that all foul air complaints are forwarded to the county for investigation.

"Despite Pittsburgh's growing reputation for livability, the metropolitan area continues to lag behind many other communities, particularly for particle pollution," said Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics and head of the CREATE Lab. "Smell PGH enables people to take action, letting others know when and where foul air is a problem and joining together to make their voices heard by health authorities."

"Smell PGH is at the frontier of how citizen scientists can inform policymakers and ensure that we are protecting our health from the dangers of air pollution," said Adam Garber, deputy director of PennEnvironment, a statewide environment advocacy group. Its sister organization, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, has been a champion of Smell PGH and partnered with the CREATE Lab to build awareness about the app.

Mark Dixon, a filmmaker and avid cyclist who lives in Squirrel Hill, said the app is something he has come to rely upon.

"The Smell PGH app is both simple and powerful," he said. "The app's reports are surprisingly well-correlated to air pollution monitors that I keep on my front porch, reassuring me that the devices are measuring meaningful information and that there is a community of air quality-minded citizens out there who share my concerns."

The CREATE Lab developed Smell PGH with support from the Heinz Endowments. The project is a collaboration with Allegheny County Clean Air Now, PennEnvironment, Group Against Smog and Pollution, the Sierra Club, Reducing Outdoor Contaminants in Indoor Spaces, Blue Lens LLC, PennFuture, Clean Water Action and the Clean Air Council

"We're grateful to everyone who has been using Smell PGH and helping to improve the awareness of air pollution problems in our area," Dias said. "With the latest enhancements, we hope the app is more useful than ever and encourage more people to give it a try."

iPhone and Android versions of Smell PGH app can be downloaded from iTunes and Google Play, respectively.



2. Science and Art Unite at Invisible Jazz Labs

By Emily Payne

Image of performers during an invisible jazz lab

Science and performance art come together in an improvisational tango at the Invisible Jazz Labs in the Space Upstairs, a warehouse gallery loft in Pittsburgh.

The labs, a collaboration between the Ellipses Condition and Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Physics, debuted this year as a four-part series. Directed by Ellipses Condition co-founders Pearlann Porter and John Lambert, the labs present a topic of scientific discourse against a backdrop of poetry, chalk art, music and dance.

"This is not a performance. It's a lab," Porter said. "A lab in search of an idea, in search of discovery — to see what happens when unknowing is in front of us. We are taking science and art, putting it in a Petri dish and seeing what happens."

The key to the labs is the atmosphere of experimentation — an instrumental component inherent in both science and art.

CMU Professor Manfred Paulini, head of the physics graduate program, and physics Ph.D. candidate Matthew Daniels headed the first lab this spring.

"We developed a theme of what to talk about and then let the performers elaborate and improvise their art around the scientist's presentation," Paulini said.

Paulini spoke about searching for dark matter with CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, where he does research as part of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment. Weaving in stories of the beginnings of the universe, which he likened to a "steaming hot dance floor," Paulini explored how dark matter would be produced in the early universe from a biblical viewpoint, a scientific stance focusing on the Big Bang theory and his personal beliefs as a particle physicist.

As he spoke, artist and Carnegie Mellon graphic designer Jordan Bush filled chalkboard walls with colorful drawings of atoms and particles. Percussionist PJ Roduta hit the drums, which rang out as Paulini touched on the Big Bang theory.

Daniels spoke about magnetism as dancers floated around the stage mimicking his explanation of electrons and particles with their movements. The artists' interpretations of concepts such as magnetic ribbons and spin waves helped the audience better grasp the complexity of the topic.

"We are all trying to explain the world around us. In some ways, we are all searching for the same thing: the truth." — George Klein

The second Invisible Jazz Lab featured George Klein, associate teaching professor of physics, and CMU biological sciences Ph.D. student Ardon Shorr.

Klein's talk centered on waves and how waves communicate information through vibrations in a medium. To illustrate his point, Bush drew wavy lines across the chalkboard, musicians let notes softly ring out like rippling water, dancers sent pulsing movements back and forth through each other, and the words "We are waves essentially engaged" were sprawled across the wall.

Shorr spoke about how astronauts returning from space can experience health problems caused in part by their suspension in microgravity. To study these diseases, Shorr builds devices to apply altered gravity and compression to developing zebrafish and fruit flies. This allows him to analyze changes in cell communication in an attempt to understand how similar mechanical forces would affect humans. Throughout his talk, dancers simulated a fish suspended in microgravity while Bush drew an interpretation of Shorr's experiment on the wall.

As the Invisible Jazz Labs evolve, Paulini said he is excited to continue building interdisciplinary bridges to bring those interested in art closer to science and those interested in science closer to performance art.

"We are all trying to explain the world around us. In some ways, we are all searching for the same thing: the truth," Klein said. "The truth of the artists might be different than the truth of scientists, but we are all trying to understand what's happening, understand humans and nature, understand how things work. We are not that different," Klein said.

"Scientists want to understand the laws of nature, and artists work more on understanding emotions, but, in the end, they both want to communicate the way they see the world around them," he added.

This summer, the Invisible Jazz Labs will host a web series experimenting with art in Carnegie Mellon lab spaces. Two more installments will be held Sept. 22 and Oct. 22 in the Space Upstairs.



3. DIY Robot Design

By Byron Spice

A new interactive design tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute enables both novices and experts to build customized legged or wheeled robots using 3-D-printed components and off-the-shelf actuators.

Using a familiar drag-and-drop interface, individuals can choose from a library of components and place them into the design. The tool suggests components that are compatible with each other, offers potential placements of actuators and can automatically generate structural components to connect those actuators.

Once the design is complete, the tool provides a physical simulation environment to test the robot before fabricating it, enabling users to iteratively adjust the design to achieve a desired look or motion.

"The process of creating new robotic systems today is notoriously challenging, time-consuming and resource-intensive," said Stelian Coros, assistant professor of robotics. "In the not-so-distant future, however, robots will be part of the fabric of daily life and more people - not just roboticists — will want to customize robots. This type of interactive design tool would make this possible for just about anybody."

Robotics Ph.D. student Ruta Desai presented a report on the design tool she developed with Coros and master's degree student Ye Yuan on May 30 at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore.

Coros' team designed a number of robots with the tool and verified its feasibility by fabricating two - a wheeled robot with a manipulator arm that can hold a pen for drawing, and a four-legged "puppy" robot that can walk forward or sideways.

Image of three robots that use a different number of modules in different configurations

"The system makes it easy to experiment with different body proportions and motor configurations, and see how these decisions affect the robot's ability to do certain tasks," Desai said. "For instance, we discovered in simulation that some of our preliminary designs for the puppy enabled it to only walk forward, not sideways. We corrected that for the final design. The motions of the robot we actually built matched the desired motion we demonstrated in simulation very well."

The research team developed models of how actuators, off-the-shelf brackets and 3-D-printable structural components can be combined to form complex robotic systems. The iterative design process enables users to experiment by changing the number and location of actuators and to adjust the physical dimensions of the robot. The tool includes an auto-completion feature that allows it to automatically generate assemblies of components by searching through possible arrangements.

"Our work aims to make robotics more accessible to casual users," Coros said. "This is important because people who play an active role in creating robotic devices for their own use are more likely to have positive feelings and higher quality interactions with them. This could accelerate the adoption of robots in everyday life."

The National Science Foundation supported this research.



4. Jahanian Appointed Interim President of Carnegie Mellon University

Farnam Jahanian

Carnegie Mellon University’s Board of Trustees has appointed Farnam Jahanian, currently provost and chief academic officer, to serve as interim president of the university, effective July 1.

James E. Rohr, chairman of CMU’s Board of Trustees, said Jahanian’s appointment would help ensure a seamless transition.

“Dr. Jahanian will bring to this new role a deep understanding of the university’s strengths and opportunities, as well as strong, collaborative relationships with the deans, vice presidents and other campus leaders,” Rohr said. “He has had an enormous impact at CMU as provost, and I am confident he will provide Carnegie Mellon University with energetic and capable leadership, so we can continue to build on our extraordinary momentum.”

A nationally recognized computer scientist, entrepreneur and administrative leader with broad experience in higher education, government and the private sector, Jahanian came to CMU as vice president for research in 2014, and was appointed provost in 2015. As chief academic officer, he has broad responsibility for leading the university’s colleges, schools, institutes and campuses, in addition to significant responsibilities for long-range institutional and academic planning, including the university’s budgeting, facilities and other critical functions.

During his time as provost, Jahanian has been instrumental in bringing the university’s academic budget model into greater alignment with strategic priorities. He has incorporated the concerns, priorities and perspectives of the faculty into his work and appointed a vice provost for faculty to help develop policies and practices that attract, retain and develop diverse, world-class scholars at CMU. Jahanian has played a key role in guiding implementation of the university’s strategic plan, including enhancing the CMU Experience for students, faculty, staff and alumni through his role as leader of a campus-wide task force. Well known for his strong engagement with students, he organized several student advisory committees to receive regular student input on concerns facing the university community.

Prior to CMU, Jahanian led the National Science Foundation Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) from 2011 to 2014. He guided CISE in its mission to advance scientific discovery and engineering innovation through its support of fundamental research and transformative advances in cyber infrastructure.

Jahanian served on the faculty of the University of Michigan from 1993 to 2014, where he held the Edward S. Davidson Collegiate Professorship in the College of Engineering, and was chair for Computer Science and Engineering from 2007 to 2011. His work on internet routing stability and security led to the formation of Arbor Networks, a network security company he co-founded in 2001. He was chairman of Arbor Networks until its acquisition in 2010.

The author of more than 100 research papers, Jahanian has served on dozens of national advisory boards and continues to be an active advocate for the critical role of basic research in supporting an innovation ecosystem that drives global competitiveness and addresses societal priorities.

“Carnegie Mellon University stands at an extraordinary moment of achievement and potential,” Jahanian said. “With our distinctive culture of creative problem-solving and unbounded ambition, this institution will continue to advance human knowledge and the human condition in a way that only CMU can. I look forward to continuing to work with our immensely talented faculty, students and staff to help enrich our global community and shape the university's bright future.”

In an email to the university community, Rohr said a global search for a new president would begin this fall. He said in the coming weeks Jahanian would appoint an interim provost to serve as chief academic officer during the transition period.

Related Links:



5. Stempfley Named Director of Software Engineering Institute's CERT Division

By Richard Lynch

Image of Bobbie Stempfley
Roberta Stempfley has been named the director of the Software Engineering Institute's CERT Division.

Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute today announced the appointment of Roberta G. (Bobbie) Stempfley as director of the SEI's CERT Division.

A federally funded research and development center, SEI helps government and industry organizations develop and operate software systems that are secure and reliable. The CERT Coordination Center was founded at the SEI in 1988 as the world's first computer security incident response team.

Stempfley previously served as director of cyber strategy implementation at MITRE Corp. and as acting assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretary, Office of Cyber Security and Communications, Department of Homeland Security.

"Bobbie Stempfley brings a tremendous depth and breadth of experience in cybersecurity across both the Department of Defense and civil agencies," said CMU Provost Farnam Jahanian. "We are so pleased to have someone with her expertise to lead the CERT division of the SEI and to coordinate with researchers across the university as they work to enhance the security and overall trustworthiness of our nation's information infrastructure."

In addition to her work at DHS, Stempfley previously worked in the DoD as CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency and as chief of the DoD Computer Emergency Response Team, which she established.

"There has never been a greater need to address the persistent and growing cybersecurity risks that threaten the nation's defense, homeland security, and intelligence communities," said Paul Nielsen, SEI director and CEO. "Bobbie's experience in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security make her ideally suited to take up the leadership of our cybersecurity division in dealing with the complex risks that threaten the nation's critical infrastructures."

Stempfley received her bachelor's degree in engineering mathematics from the University of Arizona and her master's degree in computer science from James Madison University. A recipient of many awards, she was recognized by CyberScoop as among the Top Women in Cybersecurity, by Federal Computer Week in the Fed 100, and by Information Week as one of the Top 50 Government CIOs.

"From my positions in government, I have come to know and respect the work done by the talented cybersecurity professionals at the SEI's CERT Division," Stempfley said. "It is now my honor to lead this division, which, for nearly 30 years, has been at the forefront of our nation's cyber defense. I look forward to working with this team to seek solutions to the nation's critical needs by anticipating and responding to cyber threats and helping to assure the security of critical programs."

For more information about the SEI CERT Division, see www.cert.org.



6. CMU, Tony Awards Honor Theatre Educator Rachel Harry

CMU & 2017 Tony Awards

Rachel Harry, a teacher at Hood River Valley High School in Hood River, Oregon, was presented with the 2017 Excellence in Theatre Education Award during the 71st annual Tony Awards broadcast on CBS.

The award, which is presented by Carnegie Mellon University and the Tony Awards, was announced during the show by CMU alumnus Josh Gad, who introduced Harry to the audience.

The national award is the first to honor kindergarten through high-school (K-12) theatre educators who demonstrate a monumental impact on the lives of students and who embody the highest standards of the profession.

"I feel strongly that my teaching should be student-driven. I want my students to explore and to reach and to fail, because all of those things — especially failure — will lead to new avenues of learning. And that makes for better people, more well-rounded people, whether you go into the theater business or not," said Harry, who was an honorable mention choice for the award in 2016.Harry has been teaching students theater at Hood River Valley High School for 30 years. She built the program and created performances that frequently sell out at the high school and a larger middle school theater with 1,100 seats. Among students and colleagues, she is known by her nickname, "Krum."

"One of the best experiences we have as the exclusive higher education partner of the Tony Awards is recognizing teachers, who inspire students every day to go out and make a difference. We think Rachel is an exemplary role model," said Dan J. Martin, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts.

A former dancer, Harry is a native of northern Wisconsin. She earned her bachelor's degree in English and theatre at the University of Utah; she earned her master's degree in theater production at Central Washington University. In addition to her Hood River teaching position, she is an instructor at Columbia Gorge Community College. Her philosophy on teaching, she said, is that her students must be given the ability to fully and actively create their own successes and failures.

She credits her former mentor and high school teacher, Richard Webber, for guiding her toward the path she has taken in her career and life. "Webb opened the door to the possibility of, 'I can try anything.' And that's what I try to pass along to my students," she said.

Alumni Appearances

In addition to celebrating the Theatre Education Award Winner, four CMU alumni were nominated for Tony Awards: Denée Benton, Christian Borle and Josh Groban were nominated for their leading roles in Broadway musicals, and Kevin Emrick was nominated as a producer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Sweat."

Along with Gad, a 2003 alumnus who recently appeared as LeFou in Disney's live-action version of "Beauty and the Beast," the star-studded presenters included Patina Miller, a 2006 alumna, Groban and Sutton Foster, who attended CMU from 1992 to 1993.

Groban led the cast of "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" in a mashup of the show's ballad and big dance number along with castmates Paul Pinto, a 2004 alumnus, and Benton. Borle performed with the cast of Falsettoes. Other performances that featured CMU alumni included Kristolyn Lloyd, a 2007 alumnus, who is a member of the "Dear Evan Hansen" cast; Corey Cott, a 2012 graduate, who plays the lead in the "Bandstand"; and Leslie Odom Jr. a 2003 alumnus who sang with the Radio City Rockettes.

CMU also aired a 30-second commercial during the broadcast, with Judith Light, who graduated in 1970, as the narrator.



7. CMU-Africa Graduates 100th Student

By Heidi Opdyke

2017 Graduation Ceremony

Carnegie Mellon University Africa celebrated graduation in Kigali, Rwanda on June 6.

Carnegie Mellon University Africa hosted its fourth graduation ceremony June 6 in Kigali, Rwanda, for 33 students from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who earned master's degrees in electrical and computer engineering and information and communication technology.

With this year's class CMU-Africa reached a milestone of 100 graduates. They join more than 100,000 Carnegie Mellon alumni worldwide.

College of Engineering Dean James H. Garrett Jr. shared some advice with the graduates. He said he had been involved in graduations since 1982 as a CMU student, parent, faculty member, department head and dean.

"Don't be afraid to stretch beyond your comfort zone to participate in the transformation underway throughout this continent," Garrett said during the ceremony. "Live in the present. Be in the moment. The opportunity in Africa is now."

Hamadoun Touré, executive director of Smart Africa Secretariat, was this year's graduation speaker. The Smart Africa Secretariat recently renewed its partnership with CMU-Africa with a three-year commitment to support 30 students through the Smart Africa Scholarship Fund. The fund aims to build information and communication technology (ICT) capacity to catalyze Africa's economic development. This year's class included the first cohort of Smart Africa scholars.

"When I look at you I see success and hope for the future of Africa," Touré said. "At Smart Africa, we believe in the young innovators and we want to give them the opportunity to dream big, invent and innovate. We believe there is talent in each and every one of the students in our program, and that they will make us proud when competing on the world stage."

Student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki said members of the class shared many personal and professional memories.

Image of student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki
Student speaker Joan Rachel Nkiriki

"We have witnessed transformations within ourselves and our peers," she said, "CMU has taught me, you don't need a title, it's not a prerequisite to be a leader."

Nkiriki earned a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering. A Smart Africa Scholar, Nkiriki is a member of Girls in ICT, an organization in Rwanda that helps attract and retain women in STEM. She has actively served in a number of CMU-Africa student clubs, most recently as the business strategist for the Data Science Club. In this role, she helped facilitate industry connections and project collaborations.

"If we are to live up to the mission of CMU-Africa: to have a transformative impact on society and to advance human potential through the application of technology, we are going to have to champion our visions through relentless perseverance," Nkiriki said.



8. Encore Performance: CMU Alumni Are Leading Actor, Actress in Year's Most Tony-nominated Musical

By Ken Walters

Image of Josh Groban and Denee Benton performing in the Great Comet
CMU alumni Josh Groban and Denée Benton star in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812."

For the second consecutive year, Carnegie Mellon University alumni are nominated for best leading actor and actress in the musical earning the most Tony Award nominations. This year, School of Drama alumni Denée Benton and Josh Groban are nominated for their performances in "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812," which garnered 12 nominations.

Image of Leslie Odom Jr and Renee Elise Goldsberry
Leslie Odom Jr. and Renée Elise Goldsberry

Last year, CMU alumni Leslie Odom, Jr. and Renée Goldsberry were nominated and won for their roles in "Hamilton," which had a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations.

The recent success of CMU alumni continues a tradition of winning Tony Awards; the university boasts a total of 44 award winners and nearly 200 nominees.

Since 2011, seven CMU alumni have won Tony Awards for their roles as leading or featured performers, including Christian Borle, who won for "Something Rotten" in 2015 and is nominated again this year for "Falsettos." Fellow drama alumnus Kevin Emrick is nominated this year as a producer for "Sweat."

Other recent winners include Judith Light, who won in 2012 ("Other Desert Cities") and 2013 ("The Assembled Parties"), Billy Porter in 2013 for "Kinky Boots," Patina Miller in 2013 for "Pippin" and Sutton Foster in 2011 for "Anything Goes."

"During the last 100 years, we in the School of Drama have built a reputation for identifying the best of the best in young talent and helping these students to become excellent performers," said Peter Cooke, head of CMU's School of Drama. "Our graduates not only have chops, but they also possess incredible work ethics and professionalism."

Perhaps best known for its top-performing onstage talent, Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama also has a stellar reputation for graduating some of the industry's most sought-after behind-the-scenes professionals. Twenty-one Tony Awards have been presented to alumni who work in areas such as producing, costume design, lighting design, scenic design and playwriting. Lighting designer Jules Fisher has won nine Tony Awards, the most among CMU alumni.

The 71st Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 11, from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. For more information, visit cmu.edu/tony-awards.



9. Dress is a Work From the Heart

By Pam Wigley

Image of Sophie Hood and Brit McCandless
CMU alumna Sophie Hood (left) created a Carnegie Mellon-inspired ensemble for the Tony Awards red carpet worn by fellow alumna Brit McCandless. 

Carnegie Mellon University added some high-tech light to the bright lights of Broadway during the 71st Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11. The university, known as one of the top theater arts conservatories in the world, showed an additional dimension when a "wearable tech" dress made its debut on the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall.

The top and skirt ensemble, designed and created by CMU alumna Sophie Hood, includes strategically placed LED lights and laser-cut graphics to represent the number of students at CMU and the way students blend various fields in different colleges and schools in their educational experience. The lights respond to the wearer's heartbeat and are controlled by a thistle-shaped broach that represents CMU's Scottish heritage.

Carnegie Mellon alumna Brit McCandless, a 2008 graduate of the Dietrich College and a digital producer at CBS' "60 Minutes," will wear the dress. Red carpet watchers will see the jewel-toned creation inspired by a 1960s silhouette featuring an "elegant, simple shape with a modern fling to it," Hood said.

Hood, earned her master's degree in fine arts in costume production from CMU's School of Drama in 2014. Hood's fascination with wearable technology has led her to dabble in clothing that offers something a little beyond the norm. In 2016 she created a voice-activated "brain dress" that was worn by Dietrich College faculty member Marlene Behrmann for her induction into the National Academy of Sciences.

CMU alumni have won 44 Tony Awards, the majority of those are for acting roles. Of the total, with 21 awards were presented to alumni who work in various behind-the-scenes areas, including costuming, lighting and design.

Hood developed an interest in sewing at an early age. Inspired by her seamstress grandmother, she would sew stuffed animals with her mentor. Years later, while at Dartmouth College majoring in Japanese and studio art, she took a costume design class and found her calling.

"I didn't realize you could make a career out of costuming," she said. "But I found that this is what I love — it's telling a story; it's technique; it's making garments that go on a person and interact with everything. It's my job to look at a designer's image and interpret it in 3-D."

"As an alumna, I'm proud of all that Carnegie Mellon stands for," said McCandless, who earned her bachelor's degree in professional writing, creative writing and international relations. "We are humanities, the arts, computers, robotics, engineering, and the sciences. What made such an impact on me during my time there is how we are all interconnected. That's what we're showing through this dress."

Both women are excited to see the creation come to life. Hood said it was an honor to be part of the process and described it as an experience she just could not pass up.

"I'm very excited about the dress," McCandless said. "It represents Carnegie Mellon's expertise in the arts and technology, and wearing this dress will be a fun and educational way to demonstrate that."



10. Not All Divorces Are Equal for Children’s Longterm Health

By Shilo Rea

Silhouette image of a sad child sitting between two standing adults not looking at each other

A team led by Carnegie Mellon University psychologists has found that adults whose parents separated and did not speak to each other during their childhood were three times as likely to develop a cold when intentionally exposed to a common cold virus than adults whose parents had remained together or separated but continued to communicate. The team's study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Early life stressful experiences do something to our physiology and inflammatory processes that increase risk for poorer health and chronic illness," said Michael Murphy, a psychology postdoctoral research associate in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "This work is a step forward in our understanding of how family stress during childhood may influence a child's susceptibility to disease 20-40 years later."

For the study, 201 healthy adults were quarantined, experimentally exposed to a virus that causes a common cold and monitored for five days for the development of a respiratory illness.

The results showed that adults whose parents lived apart and never spoke during their childhood were more than three times as likely to develop a cold compared to those from intact families. The increased risk was due, in part, to heightened inflammation in response to a viral infection.

The team also found that individuals whose parents were separated but communicated with each other showed no increase in risk compared to the intact families.

"Our results target the immune system as an important carrier of the long-term negative impact of early family conflict," said Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology. "They also suggest that all divorces are not equal, with continued communication between parents buffering deleterious effects of separation on the health trajectories of the children."

In addition to Murphy and Cohen, the University of Pittsburgh's Denise Janicki-Deverts and William Doyle participated in the study.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health funded this research.