March 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 12

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    Chicago In the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column Chicago 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 University News Office Web site: http://news.uchicago.edu.

    Support services broaden for alumni
    A Wednesday, March 4 article in the Chicago Tribune highlighted universities’ efforts to assist mid-career alumni and quoted Matthew Donato, Senior Associate Director for Alumni Career Services. Following a round of layoffs in January at Chicago law firms, the Law School offered a day of free career counseling for its alumni, the article reported, and the Gleacher Center hosted a free mid-career workshop and networking session in February. “All of our career officers are much better equipped to deal with recent graduates than with people who have been out of school 10, 15 or 20 years,” said Donato. “I view my role as thinking more broadly and trying to bring together resources that concern all our alumni.” To assist job seekers, the University is offering free career counseling days in Chicago and New York and updating the online alumni network. Marthe Druska, Senior Associate Director of Career Advising and Planning Services, also was interviewed by WBEZ.

    Kevin White

    Little bugs big help to scientists
    Fruit fly research, including that of Kevin White, Professor in Human Genetics and Ecology & Evolution and the College, was the subject of a Friday, March 6 article in the Chicago Tribune. The fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is one of the most important research animals in genetics. It was one of the first multicellular organisms to have its genome fully sequenced, and because it shares many genes and proteins with humans, it could advance research on cancer and depression. “In spite of the hundreds of millions of years of evolution that have occurred between humans and Drosophila lineages, still 70 percent of the genes encoded in their genomes are similar,” White said. Drosophila is used to “do experiments and genetic manipulations that you just can’t do in humans.” White and Argonne National Laboratory researchers recently published a paper in Nature on a project that could find a new genetic marker for kidney cancer in humans.

    Telescope’s impact put in focus
    Richard Kron, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics and the College, spoke about the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in a Friday, March 6 article in Discover. The SDSS telescope, located atop Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, N.M., has a field of view so wide that it can image 36 full moons of sky at once. Its full-color images are stored on a 73-terabyte digital database—plotting the positions of more than 46,000 galaxies in a volume of space approximately 5 billion light-years in diameter. “We wanted to map out the galaxies that form clusters and the clusters that form superclusters,” said Kron, who is director of the SDSS. “We knew that to make progress, we needed a hundred times more data.” In operation since 2000, the project has completed two landmark surveys—a third recently began—and has discovered scores of dwarf galaxies useful in explaining the mysteries of dark matter.

    Study: Bigger schools not better
    A Sunday, March 8 article in the Boston Globe on school consolidation included the research of Christopher Berry, Assistant Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies. Berry focused on 1930 to 1970, the most intense period of consolidation in the country, in his study, “Growing Pains: The School Consolidation Movement and Student Outcome,” and found consolidation led to school closings and had a “generally negative” effect on achievement. He also found that education spending did not decrease following consolidation and that graduates’ dropout rates and wages got worse following mergers. Nonetheless, Berry said government and education officials “seem to be convinced, almost as a matter of professional ideology, that bigger must be better.”

    Researchers laud stem cell decision
    University researchers were among those embracing President Obama’s decision Monday, March 9 to lift restrictions on federal embryonic stem cell funding. “Obviously, we’ve been expecting this decision,” said John Cunningham, Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Comer Children’s Hospital. “Now that it’s a reality, it unties our hands to be able to explore the use of embryonic stem cells to understand diseases better, but also to develop novel therapeutic cells” to treat diseases. Scientists believe the move could funnel millions of dollars into area research labs, attract more scientists and lead to innovative treatments. The story was reported in the Tuesday, March 10 Chicago Sun-Times.

    Naval incident quickly resolved
    Dali Yang, Professor in Political Science and the College, was quoted in a Wednesday March 11 article in the Straits Times of Singapore regarding the latest United States-China naval confrontation. The United States had complained that five Chinese ships harassed the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea, while China claimed the Navy was carrying out illegal activities in its exclusive economic zone. Yang, who is Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, said the incident is similar to a 2001 event in which an American spy plane landed on Hainan Island after colliding with a Chinese fighter jet, but “unlike the spy plane clash, the ships in this case had already parted and so it will be much easier to calm things down.”

    Report puts price on gun violence
    ABC-7 Chicago and the Chicago Tribune featured a new study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which estimated that gun violence costs the city of Chicago $2.5 billion annually. Among the study’s other findings: More homicide victims had alcohol in their systems and not hard drugs; and an underground market for guns works less efficiently than it does for drugs. “From the research that we’ve done, there are things that we can do to make guns harder to get in Chicago and to make people less likely to carry guns in public and misuse them against other people,” said Jens Ludwig, Director of the Crime Lab and the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy.