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Meet Nima, the food tester that could change your life.

This triangle-shaped food allergen tester is half the size of an iPhone and can detect gluten in any meal.

Meet Nima, the food tester that could change your life.
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During her studies at MIT, Shireen Yates felt sick all the time. She couldn't figure out why.

She assumed her problem was stress until her doctor informed her it was gluten — plus dairy, soy, and eggs. Suddenly, Shireen had food allergies.


Meet Shireen Yates, co-founder and creator of 6SensorLabs. Hi, Shireen! Photo by 6SensorLabs, used with permission.

Around the same time as her diagnosis, Shireen met Scott Sundvor, a fellow MIT student with food sensitivities of his own. The rest is history: Fed up with the lack of practical ways to test their food for gluten, Shireen and Scott co-founded 6SensorLabs, a lab where they planned to invent a food allergy tool for the masses. Their colleague Jingqing Zhang, an MIT Ph.D. candidate whose husband has celiac disease, became the company's lead scientist.

Nothing brings people together for the holidays like a festive family dinner. But Shireen knew that for food allergy sufferers, there could be danger lurking in every entrée.

Gluten is found in anything containing wheat, rye, or barley. And for most people, it's a normal part of a healthy diet.

But about 1% of Americans suffer from celiac disease, an immune response to gluten that harms the intestines. And six times as many people have non-celiac gluten sensitivities.

Yum, gluten. Photo by iStock.

“It definitely affects the person who's afflicted, but certainly everyone's social circle too," says Shireen.

So as much as you want to trust that Grandma remembered to make gluten-free pecan pie for the holiday meal, how can you be sure before taking a bite?

You could always whip out your pocket-sized chemistry set and run some tests. No, really.

Shireen and her 6SensorLabs team just announced their new tool, called Nima. It's a triangle-shaped food allergen tester that's half the size of an iPhone and will be available in mid-2016.

Nima didn't find gluten in this meal — happy face! Photo by 6SensorLabs, used with permission.

Here's how it works: Before you help yourself to that pie, you slip a sample from your plate into one of the device's disposable capsules. Then, you put the capsule into the electronic sensor. Nima extracts the protein, binds it with an antibody, and reads the concentration through the sensor.

Two minutes later, boom — it lights up with your answer! You get a smiley face for gluten levels under the FDA gluten-free threshold, and a frowny face for higher concentrations.

Right now, Nima can only test for gluten, but the company is on track to release models for people with peanut and dairy allergies in 2017.

It could be a total game-changer.

Nima will also sync with an iPhone app, which will record the foods you test and where you test them, ultimately letting you view data from other users all over the map.

“Really, the whole inspiration is around helping people enjoy mealtime and being able to be social and celebrate eating without being super stressed-out," says Shireen.

This simple access to data could be powerful enough to make mealtime cheerier for people with food allergies — during the holiday season and throughout the year. Fingers crossed!

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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