Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Jessica Pachuta / Ethics MVP

Discussions about ethics in technology have made headlines this year, with large companies including Facebook and Google battling scandals over data protection and privacy.

Matt Rourke / AP

A bill that requires health insurers to cover telemedicine services is facing opposition after Republicans added an amendment that in part bans doctors from prescribing an abortion drug.

Alfonzo Perez / AP

Biotechnology company BioHybrid Solutions, based in Harmar, Pa., is partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense on a countermeasure for chemical agents, such as sarin gas. The $30 million contract will last for five years.


The city of Pittsburgh and East Liberty-based startup Allvision IO are embarking on a mission to track down the city’s streetlights.


The city's PGH Lab program, a startup incubator, recently named Allvision as a member of its latest cohort. The team will be working with the Department of Innovation and Performance to create a database of the city’s streetlights for Pittsburgh's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, or DOMI.


Brett Sholtis / WITF

With the unveiling of the 2020 state budget still a few months away, groups that provide mental health and intellectual disabilities services are lobbying for an additional $84 million in funding.

Gerald Herbert / AP

A newly-enacted law is making the commonwealth one of 19 states with higher legal tobacco purchase ages.

Courtesy of The Renfrew Center / Twitter

On today's program: Eating disorders uniquely affect women over age 40; mentorship at Brashear came from an unexpected place; what it will take for lawmakers to consider raising the state minimum wage; and why A+ Schools changed its annual report to focus on pockets of success.

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

Pennsylvania’s new, state-run health ​insurance exchange is getting rolling ahead of its launch in 2021.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Pennsylvanians are paying a bit more next year for health insurance purchased on the federal exchange, even though premiums for the rest the country have slightly dropped.

Women in Tech PGH

Women make up about one-quarter of technology workers in the U.S., and women of color are underrepresented to an even greater degree. An online community, Women in Tech PGH, aims to support and uplift women working in tech by compiling information about job opportunities, resources and events all in one place.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Machine learning is an integral part of Pittsburgh's tech economy, thanks to Carnegie Mellon University's position as one of the nation's foremost research centers on the topic. That's enticed tech giants such as Google and Uber to set up shop in the Steel City. 

Pennsylvania To Fund Research Into Fracking Health Impacts

Nov 22, 2019
Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday his administration will spend $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health impacts of the natural gas industry, taking action after months of impassioned pleas by the families of pediatric cancer patients who live in the most heavily drilled region of the state.


As baby boomers age, more Americans may find themselves caring for family members with disabilities.

A new research institute in Pittsburgh, called the National Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support, will focus on the unique challenges of caregiving. The center is a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC.

On Tuesday, 16 universities across the United States and United Kingdom held #NoTechforICE events, urging the company Palantir to drop a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Graphic by Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

For months, PNC Bank customers have complained online that they’re having trouble using third party payment apps like Venmo.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program has passed a half-billion dollars in sales since it began dispensing the drug nearly two years ago.

Carnegie Mellon University

College students have access to an abundance of data to track their progress in classes, from test scores to grades on projects and assignments. Professors, however, often have to rely on subjective evaluations once a year to get a sense of how they are doing. A system developed by a Carnegie Mellon University team aims to give educators more data to work with so they can improve their teaching techniques.

Simon Klingert / AP

A major veterans advocacy organization says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should be doing more to help vets who were exposed to toxic chemicals in combat zones, particularly pollution from burn pits.

During the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military contractors routinely burned garbage that included heavy metals, chemicals, human waste and plastic. As early as 2008, soldiers reported illnesses they said was due to being exposed to fumes from the burn pits.


Information is power, and Allegheny County has a new tool to track public health trends as they're happening.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Pennsylvania’s opioid command center says there’s been “an abnormally high number of drug-related overdoses over the past few days” in Dauphin County.

Two dozen people were treated for overdoses in emergency rooms since Nov. 2, according to the command center, which the governor established in 2018 upon declaring the opioid crisis a disaster emergency.

Susquehanna Township EMS responded to three overdoses on Sunday alone, said director Matt Baily.

Allyson Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have found Uber's self-driving technology was not built to detect jaywalkers. The NTSB began investigating after a woman walking across the street with her bike was struck and killed in Tempe, Ariz. in March 2018.

University of Pittsburgh

Coaches are tasked with helping their athletes improve, but when those athletes are underwater, in the case of competitive swimmers, it can be hard to actually see if what they're doing is right. A University of Pittsburgh invention, called Impulse, helps coaches visualize a swimmer's form under water. 

Jim Mone / AP

UnitedHealthCare Insurance is expected to pay an undetermined amount of money to policy holders after it miscalculated claims for mental health and addiction-related services, according to the state Insurance Department.


Meals, travel, lodging, education, consulting and speakers' fees: manufacturers of opioid medications often treat physicians to expensive gifts, a practice that's earned increased scrutiny in light of the opioid epidemic. 

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace is open for people to sign up for coverage for 2020. 

Popular Backyard Fires Aren't Fun For Everyone, Wood Smoke Is Bad For Your Health

Nov 4, 2019
Kara Holsopple / Allegheny Front

Most of us don’t need fires to cook our food or keep us warm. But they’re a tradition, and a way to unwind with friends and family, and maybe make s’mores around the flames. But there’s a darker side to popular backyard fire pits: wood smoke is bad for your health.

Just ask Carol Wivell. She moved to her home in McKeesport, south of Pittsburgh, about seven years ago.

“I would just like to emphasize the fact that I do love to work in my yard, when I feel well enough to do it,” Wivell said. “Wood smoke makes that difficult.”

Damian Dovarganes / AP


On today's program: What to expect one year from the 2020 elections; how tariffs are affecting some of PA’s steel workers; what PA can do to get ahead of a potential retirement crisis in manufacturing; and how Pittsburgh safety officials are preparing for the threat of bioterrorism.

Telemedicine Bill Passes PA Senate, Faces Hurdle In House

Nov 1, 2019
Carolyn Kaster / AP

A bill requiring health insurance companies to cover remote medical services—often called telemedicine—passed the state Senate Wednesday and is headed for the state House Health Committee, where it may face a roadblock.

RedFlash Group

For first responders, communication is key to saving lives, but technology for these professionals has lagged behind traditional consumer products. A traveling codeathon coming to Carnegie Mellon University this weekend aims to encourage the development of apps for firefighters, EMTs and other public safety personnel.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

A majority of medicare patients' injuries aren't being properly assessed in emergency rooms, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh.