April 2, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 13

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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.

    A deeper look at ‘Obamanomics’
    A Friday, March 20 article in the Chicago Tribune Magazine examined President Obama’s time while at the University and how many of his former Chicago colleagues are reinventing the economic system. “What he did for a large part of his adult life was be in a room with really smart people with really divergent views, talking about really controversial issues,” said Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor, who recruited Obama to the Law School. “And his job was not to persuade people to vote for him, but rather to make these discussions as rich and thoughtful as possible.” The article also quoted Geoffrey Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School and the College; Richard Thaler, the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor in Behavioral Science and Economics at Chicago Booth; and John Boyer, Dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College.

    Marianne Bertrand

    The cost of being a mom
    A Wednesday, March 25 Times Online article cited a study by Marianne Bertrand, the Fred G. Steingraber/A.T. Kearney Professor in Economics at Chicago Booth, which found that women with MBAs do not fare as well in the job market as men. Researchers studied 2,500 people who earned an MBA between 1990 and 2006 at Booth. They found that men and women have identical incomes after graduation, but after five years, men earn 30 percent more on average and 60 percent more 10 to 16 years after graduation. It attributes the disparity to children, who can interrupt careers and diminish the number of hours worked. “Our research suggests that it is not so much about a glass ceiling as about individual choices,” said Bertrand. “Our findings indicate that discrimination is not a big part of the story.”

    Is eight just a number?
    Michelle Zimet, Coordinator of the Department of Germanic Studies, wrote a Sunday, March 22 Chicago Tribune opinion piece about the octuplet mother. Zimet wrote that people often are overwhelmed by “outside the norm” figures, such as $1 trillion debt or the 300-millionth American. “Exactness only matters sometimes; a trillion is simply a number we cannot wrap our heads around. But eight babies get our attention,” she wrote. “The number 300 million has a shock value as does the number of babies born simultaneously to one mother. It is difficult to comprehend such a big number. It is like infinity. Too many to visualize.”

    Randall Kroszner

    Financial reform earns support
    Randall Kroszner, the Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, was quoted in a Friday, March 27 Los Angeles Times article on financial regulatory reform. The United States Treasury Department has drafted legislation that would give the government the power to take over and dismantle a failing non-bank financial institution. The plan would force changes before it was too late, much like the government has been forced to do with insurance giant American International Group. “A lot of our regulatory framework was based on the view that the traditional commercial banks are the main source of systematic risk,” Kroszner said. “I think taking a broader perspective and acknowledging that there are many other types of institutions is important.” Kroszner also was quoted in USA Today.

    Realizing power of stem cells
    Janet Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Hematology/Oncology, wrote an opinion piece defending stem cell research in the Monday, March 23 U.S. News & World Report. President Obama’s decision to allow such research is important, Rowley wrote, because “a responsible expansion of stem cell research can advance a vital goal—the search for new medical treatments—while respecting the dignity of human life.” Rowley added that the “intrinsic value of human life” should help guide state and national guidelines. “At a time when the promise and challenges of new technology are greater than ever, we need a national conversation driven by sound science and our common values.”

    Class to examine pirate culture
    Shannon Dawdy’s anthropology class, “Intensive Study of a Culture: Pirates,” was featured in the Wednesday, March 18 Chicago Tribune. Dawdy, Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the College, said the new course will examine traditional Caribbean pirates as well as contemporary software and financial world “pirates.” Students in the class, which has been wildly popular in terms of enrollment, also will view the Field Museum’s “Real Pirates” exhibition. “It is almost too fun for the University of Chicago, so I will make sure they read a bit of theory every week,” Dawdy said. The Wall Street Journal also featured the class in its blog.

    National labs earn federal funding
    Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have earned $48 million in federal stimulus funding, according to a Monday, March 23 article in Crain’s Chicago Business.Fermilab received $34.9 million, including nearly $10 million to build a neutrino detector for one of its newest research programs. Argonne will get $13.1 million for upgrades toward energy and high-speed computing. “This is a very strong signal that the Department of Energy believes in the future of Fermilab and Argonne,” said Rep. Bill Foster (D-Geneva), a former Fermilab scientist.