Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Patriots Day – Profiles in Courage


What should have been a day of celebration turned into a day of tragedy when two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, planted bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Now, nearly four years after that attack, Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg produce a film that recreates, often in grisly detail, the aftermath of the explosion and how law enforcement, with the help of local citizens, come together to identify the killers.

Patriots Day follows a pattern that Berg/Wahlberg created for their previous film, Deepwater Horizon, also based on real events, in that case the explosion of a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana that remains the largest ecological disaster in U.S. history. (Read the review.) With each film, we are pulled in as we learn about the people involved – good guys and bad guys – who will play a role as the catastrophe unfolds. Each time, we brace ourselves, knowing all too well what’s to follow.

With Deepwater Horizon, Wahlberg played a real life character, Mike Williams, an electronics technician who worked on the rig. In Patriots Day, he plays the fictional Tommy Saunders, a Boston police sergeant who because of transgressions that are not explained (although the way he barrels into any situation portrays him as a management nightmare), he is assigned marathon duty as punishment. He complains to his wife, Carol (Michelle Monaghan), about wearing the day-glo vest that makes him look like a clown. Saunders prefers to be at the center of the action and this inconvenient assignment will do just that – placing him near the finish line when the bombs go off.

While Saunders is perhaps a composite of the many police officers who served Boston at that time, the film’s other characters are based on real life figures. Christopher O’Shea and Rachel Brosnahan play a married couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who come to watch the marathon. During a bedroom scene in their apartment, the camera zeroes in on their legs, a foreshadowing of the devastating injuries they will suffer because of the blast.


Michelle Monaghan

Jake Picking plays the enthusiastic and fresh-faced MIT campus police officer, Sean Collier, thrilled when an MIT grad student agrees to go to a concert with him. Collier, refusing to give up his weapon, will be shot in his patrol car by Tamerlan.

During rescue operations, Steve Woolfenden (Dustin Tucker) is separated from his three year-old son, Leo (an adorable Lucas Thor Kelley). Father and son are later reunited at the hospital.

Our first glimpse into the Tsarnaev home shows Tamerlan and Dzhokhar relaxing in the living room watching TV, while Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine Russell (Melissa Benoist, in a chilling departure from her Supergirl persona), takes care of their little girl. Any semblance of normalcy, however, is dashed when the camera zooms in on Tamerlan packing a pressure cooker with metal parts.

Tamerlan is portrayed as the brains behind the operation, frequently bullying his brother into following his lead. The pair, Tamerlan wearing a black hat, Dzhokhar a white one, wind their way through the marathon crowds, finally depositing their lethal packages at two points and then leaving. Later, they watch coverage of the explosions from home, pleased with the carnage they have caused.

Video of the actual explosions played again and again on TV. In the film, however, Berg/Wahlberg go further, showing the aftermath, the injured runners and spectators, the blood-soaked clothing and pavement, even a sneaker-shod foot off to the side. The body of the youngest victim, eight year-old Martin Richard, is covered in a tarp, left for hours after the area has been cleared until crime scene specialists can gather forensic evidence from his body. Guarding the body is a lone cop, tears streaming down his face when the ambulance finally departs.

What the public didn’t see after the bombings was the incredible response by law enforcement. Shortly after the event, the marathon area was flooded with FBI agents, police officers, and local and state government officials, including Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) who declares the bombing a terrorist event after examining bomb fragments. Taking over the investigation, he asks for a control center which is set up in the Black Falcon terminal on the South Boston waterfront. In that space, the marathon finish line area is meticulously recreated, with evidence collected after the bombing placed where it was found. Meanwhile, tech experts scroll through video of the marathon crowds and soon are able to isolate the Tsarnaev brothers as suspects. Wahlberg’s Saunders, who knows Boston’s streets, is called in to figure out which cameras should be checked for images of the bombers. Although DesLauriers is reluctant to release the brothers’ photos before they are confirmed as the bombers, he’s forced to do so when someone leaks the information to FOX-TV. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are watching in their living room when they see themselves on TV. They know they have to flee if they are going to get to their next target, New York.


Kevin Bacon, Mark Wahlberg, and John Goodman

They carjack a Mercedes SUV belonging to Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who manages to escape and alert the authorities. Cornered in Waterford, the duo exchange gunfire with a growing throng of police officers, including Waterford’s Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). This shoot out is dramatic, showing how the brothers, armed with pipe bombs, continued to keep the cops on the defensive.

Tamerlan is shot and then run over by his brother who escapes in the Mercedes SUV. With Dzhokhar on the run, the Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach), closes down the city, asking people to shelter in their homes. The younger brother is discovered hiding in a boat in someone’s backyard and finally apprehended.

Berg splices in real footage from the marathon and several times we see the actual photos of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar flash across the screen. Alex Wolff (Dzhokhar) and Themo Melikidze (Tamerlan) are appropriately evil and creepy as the brothers bent on killing Americans. Particularly chilling, however, is Benoist as Tamerlan’s wife who converted to Islam and supported her husband’s efforts. She was never charged with a crime. Four people who were charged and sent to prison included Dzhokhar’s college friends who knew what he had done and never reported him.

Similar to what Berg/Wahlberg did with Deepwater Horizon, the real people involved with the event are interviewed at the end. The film ends with David Ortiz, along with police officers who were at the marathon, marching onto the field at Fenway Park, celebrating “Boston Strong.” The Boston Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, a well-deserved gift to a city that had seen too much tragedy.

Photos courtesy of CBS Films

2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition – Ideas that Could Make a Difference


A new way to treat glaucoma…a bladeless drone…adjustable prosthetics…DNA-powered diagnostics…pesticides that degrade quickly…early detection of cervical cancer…freezing cancer cells with carbon dioxide…a lightweight, easy to use fire extinguisher…

These cutting-edge inventions were developed, not by scientists in corporate environments, but by undergraduate and graduate students working in labs at colleges and universities across the country. Each year, students are invited to submit their inventions to the Collegiate Inventors Competition. On November 4, the finalists  – six graduate and five undergraduate teams – had the opportunity to showcase their work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in Alexandria, Virginia.


Display in the USPTO’s lobby

The competition was created in 1990 by the National Inventors Hall of Fame to promote creativity and innovation in science, engineering, and technology among college and university students. Since that time, more than $1 million has been given out in awards. Members of the NIHF judged the competition, along with USPTO experts and scientists from AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company.

The event, open to the public, attracted a large crowd that included students from area high schools. Before the awards ceremony, the finalists stood before exhibits of their work, answering numerous questions and explaining in detail the mechanics of their products and how what they created might be used to improve productivity and, in many cases, save lives.


Drew Hirshfeld at podium

Drew Hirshfeld, commissioner of patents, opened the awards portion of the event, calling the students “the future and the present of innovation.” He added that he hoped they would continue as entrepreneurs, business owners, and patent holders.


Mary Dwyer from Cooper Union explains her team’s SEAL Fire Extinguishing Ball

Elizabeth Dougherty, the USPTO’s director of inventor education, outreach, and recognition, who announced the awards, described the 16 undergraduate and 12 graduate students as “thinkers who are so outside the box, they don’t even know what the box looks like.” She applauded NIHF for leading an innovation movement that recognizes these students and their achievements.


A member of the Johns Hopkins team talks about Cryoblation

The first award, the Undergraduate Bronze Medal, went to Clarisse Hu, Sarah Lee, Bailey Surtees, and Serena Thomas, from Johns Hopkins University. Their advisor: Nicholas Durr. Their invention, Cryoablation, would use carbon dioxide gas to freeze a probe that would kill tumor cells for women with breast cancer. Since using the probe requires only local anesthesia, the method would not only reduce cost, but also recovery time, making it particularly valuable to treat women in low and middle-income countries.

Dougherty took particular delight in handing out the award to a team of four women, noting that only 18 percent of patents have the names of women on them.

The Undergraduate Silver Medal, which also focused on cancer affecting women in low and middle-income countries, went to Columbia University students Jahrane Dale, Olachi Oleru, Ritish Patnaik, and Stephanie Yang. Their advisor: Katherine Reuther. The cerVIA System would use a camera and algorithm through a smartphone application to enhance the standard visual exam used to diagnose cervical cancer.


Mark Kester, Payam Pourtaheri, and Ameer Shakeel

The Undergraduate Gold Medal went to Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel from the University of Virginia, who have developed a pesticide that degrades after just a few hours, allowing crops to be safely harvested much faster. At present, regulations require a long waiting period – up to 66 days – after spraying. During that time, weather events may damage crops, leading to loss by farmers.

Both Gold Medalists thanked their advisor, Mark Kester, for his support. “Our parents were not born in the U.S.,” Pourtaheri said. “They brought us here and restarted our lives.”

The Bronze Graduate Medal went to Aaron Blanchard and Kevin Yehl from Emory University for their invention, Rolosense for DNA-Powered Diagnostics. Their advisor: Khalid Salaita. Their invention, which turns chemical energy into rolling motion, “could make advanced testing for disease and contaminants more efficient in remote areas when it’s needed most.”


Erin Keaney from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell

Three students from the University of Massachusetts Lowell  – Jonathan Perez de Alderete, Brendan Donoghue, and Erin Keaney – received the Silver Graduate Medal for developing adjustable prosthetics that can be easily customized to the wearer and even “grow” with a child over time. Their advisor: Steven Tello.


MIT’s Carl Schoellhammer

The final award, the Gold Graduate Medal went to MIT’s Carl Schoellhammer for SuonoCalm, a device for the at-home rapid administration of therapeutics. The device would help the more than 1.4 million people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, not helped by traditional methods. SuonoCalm can deliver “a wide range of medications directly into tissue using low-frequency ultrasound.” His advisor: Robert Langer.

For more information on the Collegiate Inventors Competition, go to the website.