December 2, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 6

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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/.

    Martha McClintock, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology, was featured in a Tuesday, Nov. 16 New York Times article, which described the history of her research, beginning with her first published study in 1971. That study, which showed women living together in a college dormitory had synchronized menstrual cycles, spurred further explorations into how social interactions affect biology in humans and animals—specifically the discovery that human pheromones exist, as do chemosignals. “I’ve focused my work on downward causation, the idea that the social and psychological world changes the fundamental mechanisms of biology, and vice versa,” said McClintock in the article. “I’ve tried to situate biology in a rich social and psychological context and make it simple.” McClintock also has conducted experiments that have shown that social isolation affects the longevity of rodents; that women inherit male odor preferences through paternal genes; and that two naturally occurring steroids produce odorless chemical signals that can improve the mood of women but have the opposite effect on men. Her latest experiment showed that women’s sexual desire increases when they are exposed to a chemical signal found in the combination of breast milk and infant saliva. This current research was the subject of a Monday, Nov. 22 Chicago Sun-Times column.

    Alumni Ian Desai and Andrew Kim, both June graduates of the College, have been chosen as Rhodes scholars, receiving two years of tuition-free study at the University of Oxford in England (see story, Page 1). The two recent graduates made headlines in both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, as well as newspapers in Desai’s native New York. Stories about their studies and research while students at the University, their current endeavors, and their future educational pursuits at Oxford were highlighted in the articles. Desai, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in Ancient Studies, successfully replicated the ancient voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, while Kim worked as a policy associate for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, helping to develop a citywide task force to envision new ways to respond to youth prostitution. The stories quoted James Redfield, the Edward Olson Distinguished Service Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College, who taught Desai, and Nathan Tarcov, Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College, who taught Kim.

    John Alverdy, Professor in Surgery, was interviewed and photographed for a Chicago Tribune Magazine article published Sunday, Nov. 14. Alverdy is working to develop drugs that would stop bacteria from attacking hospital patients who are recovering from illness or surgery. Alverdy, who is working toward ways to protect patients who succumb to runaway bacteria attacks during hospital stays, said of his approach: “I don’t want to kill bugs. In essence, the bacteria become ignorant of how sick the host really is.” Alverdy said foiling bacterial communication is more promising than using antibiotics to fight bacteria that already have begun to attack a host. “Drug companies have spent billions of dollars trying to manipulate inflammation after it is initiated and have universally failed,” he said. “Why not interdict before it occurs?” James Shapiro, Professor in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, also was quoted in the article, and Eugene Chang, the Martin Boyer Professor in Medicine, who works closely with Alverdy, was photographed for the story.

    Eric Oliver, Associate Professor in Political Science and the College, was quoted in a front-page Chicago Tribune story and a New York Times article, which were both published Wednesday, Nov. 24, and which reported on an error made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the articles, the agency reported it had mistakenly overestimated in a published study the number of Americans who are dying from obesity. Oliver, who is working on a book about the politics of obesity, said, “The tobacco people are afraid that it’s a zero-sum game. If obesity gets declared public enemy No. 1, it’s going to come at their expense.”

    John Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science and the College, discussed American troop strength and other defense-related topics on the WTTW Channel-11 program Chicago Tonight. Mearsheimer, who also is Director of the Program for International Security Policy, appeared as a guest on the show Thursday, Nov. 11.

    Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College, was featured in a Sunday, Nov. 14 Chicago Tribune Magazine cover story that reported on sex research in the city of Chicago. Laumann, who is a leading scholar on the topic of sex, was interviewed extensively for the article, and data from his book The Sexual Organization of the City, published in April this year, was highlighted. “We can look at larger cities and show that the patterns manifested in Chicago are found in L.A. and elsewhere,” said Laumann. “Seventy percent of us live in urban scenes, and people living in rural areas often move to the city, so the city is at some point in everybody’s scope.” His research has shown that between the ages of 18 and 59, people are married for an average of 18 years; for another 3.7 years they cohabit with one or more romantic partners; and for about 20 years they are either dating or completely unattached. “This is a major change in the way social life is organized in this country, and as ongoing relationships constitute a smaller percentage of your life, people are spending more time on the market or forming new relationships,” said Laumann.

    Tom Smith, Director of the National Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University, was interviewed on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program. Smith appeared on the program Monday, Nov. 15, and discussed changing American political attitudes.