Sept. 21, 2006
Vol. 26 No. 1

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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/. If you are aware of news articles that feature the University or its faculty, students and/or alumni, feel free to bring them to the attention of the Chronicle editor to be considered for In the News. News clips may be sent to ldavis@uchicago.edu.

    With a headline that reads: “Chicago’s power players,” three short profiles published in the Monday, Sept. 4 Crain’s Chicago Business featured three University leaders—President Zimmer, Edward Snyder, Dean of the Graduate School of Business, and James Madara, CEO for the University Medical Center and Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences and Vice President for Medical Affairs. Madara also was featured in Crain’s Chicago Business Monday, Aug. 28, discussing the different roles he plays in his position by raising funds for the University Medical Center’s research and facilities, and recruiting top faculty members to carry out the University’s research mission. “The starting block is having clinical faculty who are dominant in their fields,” said Madara.

    Louis Philipson, Professor of Endocrinology in Medicine, and Graeme Bell, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine and Human Genetics, were both interviewed for a Page 1 story published in the Monday, Sept. 11 Chicago Tribune. The article described how a drug developed decades ago to enhance insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes patients is being used to treat a 6-year-old patient at the University Hospitals who has type 1 diabetes. The patient, Lilly Jaffe, who is Philipson’s patient, no longer needs an insulin pump and daily insulin injections. In most type 1 diabetes cases, patients’ immune systems destroy their own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, but in Jaffe’s case, the cells are intact but prevented from working because of a genetic mutation. The sulfonylurea drugs correct that genetic defect. Philipson’s prognosis for patients like Jaffe is: “As long as they take their pills, it’s like trading a severe case of type 1 diabetes for a mild case of type 2. It’s comparable to swapping influenza for the sniffles,” he added. Bell, a geneticist whose work focuses on diabetes, said: “We thought [type 1 diabetes] was one disease, but if you look at it really closely, it turns out to be much more complicated, and knowing the genetic and molecular causes in an individual, you end up treating it in a radically different way.”

    Saskia Sassen, the Ralph Lewis Professor in Sociology and the College, was featured in Crain’s Chicago Business Monday, Aug. 28, and interviewed about her views on how globalization has affected Chicago’s job market. “Globalization has created a need for complex, speed-sensitive business services and Chicago has become a center for that,” she said. “The growth in those jobs, which include finance, insurance and benefits consulting, outpaced all other U.S. cities in the late 1990s. That includes New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, the Silicon Valley and Washington,” said Sassen.

    Wylie Crawford, University Carilloneur, was featured in the Tuesday, Sept. 5 Chicago Sun-Times as was Rockefeller Memorial Chapel’s carillon, the largest of five carillons in the Chicago area. Crawford, the recently elected president of the World Carillon Federation, became intrigued by Rockefeller’s bells while he was a graduate student studying physics in the 1960s. He now he plays Rockefeller’s 74-year-old instrument and three other carillons in the Chicago area.

    Froma Walsh, the Mose and Sylvia Firestone Professor of Clinical Social Work in the School of Social Service Administration, was a guest on the NBC Today Show, Tuesday, Aug. 31. In a segment on midlife crises, Walsh discussed how women, as well as men, experience these middle-aged crises in their lifetimes.

    Elizabeth Helsinger, the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in English Language & Literature and the College, was quoted in a Monday, Sept. 11 Chicago Tribune article on how technology has affected education and learning ability. Most educators interviewed for the story said they have mixed feelings about today’s technological advances, such as the Internet, as the best tools for learning. While Internet research requires skill for those preparing papers, that mode of information gathering may interfere with the quality of writing. “When students start a research paper, they often look for a quote from some article, which is usually taken out of context,” said Helsinger. “By using the Web they are casting a much bigger net than if they just used the library, but, of course, the Internet doesn’t edit what you’re getting.” The practice of cutting and pasting material during word processing also can introduce writing errors in papers of continuous logic, requiring students to edit and revise their work. But if students rely completely on a software program’s grammar and spelling tools, these students may not understand the concepts of the program’s grammatical rulings. “You can have Microsoft Word tell you you’re using the ‘passive voice,’ but students don’t know what the concepts are,” said Helsinger.

    Katie Callow-Wright, Associate Dean of Students in the University and Director of the University House System, was interviewed for a Wednesday, Sept. 13 New York Times story about college roommate assignments and how some parents are contacting universities with complaints of who is assigned to share housing with their children. Parents are reacting to entries they have read and viewed on such Web sites as Facebook. This networking Web site allows students to learn more about each other before becoming roommates—but in some parents’ views, what they learn is too much information. Some parents take offense at how some students have represented themselves on Facebook, and the parents want the colleges to change the living assignments. “People come to conclusions based on this very one-dimensional persona, which may be a fantasy,” said Callow-Wright. “We tell them they need to have some human interaction before they reach a conclusion. We don’t make changes before the third week of classes.”

    Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was a guest Saturday, Sept. 2 on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition program. Goolsbee discussed insurance ethics regarding people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. He also discussed the concept of moral hazards, whereby the government bails people out whether they have insurance or not. “The joke in California is that you don’t need any earthquake insurance because if the big one ever hit, it would bankrupt all the insurance companies anyway and the government would have to bail everyone out,” said Goolsbee.

    Jerry Coyne, Professor in Ecology & Evolution, was interviewed Friday, Sept. 1, for a segment on NBC’s Today Show. Coyne appeared as a guest on the segment that covered Pope Benedict’s views toward evolution, which differ from that of his predecessor Pope John Paul II. Coyne explained that unlike those with a religious view of life who depend on faith, scientists’ view of the world is based on evidence.

    Out of the dispute over the demotion of Pluto from a planet to what is now dubbed a dwarf planet, has come the official name of another dwarf planet. Formerly nicknamed Xena, this dwarf planet is now officially called Eris, and its moon has been named Dysnomia. According to Mike Brown, who discovered them, the new names refer back to the original nicknames and they represent the discord that ensued over the definition of a planet. In a Friday, Sept. 15 article in the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Faraone, the Frank Curtis Springer and Gertrude Melcher Springer Professor in the Humanities and the College, who specializes in Greek poetry and religion, said he was surprised by the choice of the new names. “These are pretty negative names,” said Faraone, though he added that Eris can either connote bitter strife or fruitful competition. “When people compete, they can make better and more beautiful things.”