October 21, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 3

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    In the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column In the News offers a digest of commentary and quotations by a few of the University faculty members, students and alumni who have been headlining the news in recent weeks. Chicago faculty members are some of the most frequently quoted experts, so space allows publishing references to only selected examples. To read many of the full newspaper articles mentioned in this column, visit the In the News column at the University News Office Web site: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    The results of a study led by Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology, were announced in articles published in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune Thursday, Oct. 7. The study revealed that breast-feeding women and their infants emit a chemical signal, known as a chemosignal, which increases sexual desire in other women. McClintock, whose earlier research involved the discovery of natural substances that influence mood and women’s menstrual cycles, said it would make sense for lactating women to communicate chemically with other women. “Many species use cues from other females to determine whether conditions are good for taking on the huge energy burden and risk of pregnancy and lactation. What better signal that conditions are good than the presence of another woman who has successfully gotten through a pregnancy and is now nursing a baby? That’s a pretty good indicator there’s enough food, no war, no epidemic, social support—all the things that lighten the load.”

    Alumnus and former University Trustee Frank Wilczek (S.B.,’70), who studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Chicago, was featured in numerous newspaper articles and radio programs announcing his winning the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics. Wilczek shares the prize with two other physicists for their work on the strong force. One of nature’s four fundamental forces, the strong force holds together the smallest pieces of matter, quarks. In a Wednesday, Oct. 6 Chicago Sun-Times story, Wilczek reflected on his time in the College: “It was a marvelous atmosphere,” and even as an undergraduate, “I had a lot of freedom.” Wilczek said he has been “very impressed with the continuing spirit” at Chicago, and that “it’s the same sort of spirit I saw as an undergrad.”

    A front-page article reporting on an increase in deaths from asthma in Chicago and across Illinois, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune Monday, Sept. 27, quoted Raoul Wolf, Professor of Allergy and Immunology in Pediatrics. Wolf studied more than 13,000 students in 15 Chicago schools that revealed an asthma epidemic in progress. Wolf found that 34 percent of African-American students have either diagnosed or undiagnosed asthma, as do 25 percent of Hispanic and 20 percent of white students. “It’s not just not recognized among physicians,” said Wolf, “it’s not recognized by parents. You’d be amazed how many people think it’s normal for a child to wake up between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m., four times a week, coughing so loudly that he wakes up the whole household.” Alan Leff, Professor in Medicine, who is Director of the University’s asthma clinic, also was quoted about the epidemic, which the article noted is the result of a declining health care system for residents living in the poorest areas.

    “Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China,” an exhibition on display at both the University’s Smart Museum of Art and the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, was featured in an Associated Press Newswires article Sunday, Oct. 10. Wu Hung, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History and curator of the exhibition at the Smart Museum, was quoted in the article, which described many of the pieces in the show as works that “wrestle with questions of identity in a regimented society.” Wu described a computer-assisted print by artist Wang Qingsong. “This is based on a very famous T’ang Dynasty scroll painting,” said Wu. “The emperor sent an artist to spy on a corrupt official’s wild parties and make images of what he saw. Wang translates this to the present day...[he] is here himself as the spy, and this man, the corrupt official, in real life he is an art critic.”

    David Meltzer, Associate Professor in Medicine, Economics and the Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, was interviewed for a story published Wednesday, Oct. 6, in The Wall Street Journal. The story reported on an increase in medical institutions using physicians trained in internal medicine, known as hospitalists, whose sole responsibility is to care for hospitalized patients from admission through discharge. A study led by Meltzer at the University and published in December 2002 showed that hospitalists reduced overall costs and cut down on short-term mortality rates. Meltzer is leading another study that is looking at hospitalists’ care of 32,000 patients in six medical institutions.

    Locke Bowman, Lecturer and Director of the MacArthur Justice Center in the Law School, was interviewed for a New York Times story that appeared Tuesday, Oct. 12. The story reported on a Brooklyn scandal that originated in the matrimonial section of the New York Supreme Court, involving Justice Gerald Garson and attorney Paul Siminovsky. Garson was charged with taking bribes from Siminovsky in exchange for favorable treatment in divorces cases. The exposed corruption has many litigants whose cases were heard by Garson hoping to get new trials. The hope of that is unlikely, said Bowman and others. “You’ve got to do more than just complain that the judge was corrupt in another matter,” said Bowman. “More has to be shown, a connection between improprieties and a particular case.” A similar case in Illinois resulted in only a handful of cases being reconsidered. “They say the law has a fear of too much justice,” said Bowman. “Hundreds, maybe thousands, of cases would have had to be started over from scratch.”

    Matthew Sorrentino, Associate Professor of Cardiology in Medicine, was quoted in a Chicago Tribune story that appeared Sunday, Oct. 10, the day of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Sorrentino was an expert source for the story, which answered the question of whether or not running is a safe mode of exercise for obese individuals—many of whom have been known to attempt training to run a marathon. “If you’re overweight, the training needs to be done safely. First you need to [see a doctor to] determine that there’s no underlying heart disease. Then, the exercise needs to be a gradual process so you don’t overdo it,” he said. Sorrentino also warned that those who are not obese can be as much at risk for cardiac problems. “Some people who aren’t markedly overweight have more heart problems than someone who is.”