April 30, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 15

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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.

    Alum part of Hubble’s last hurrah
    NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld (S.M.,’84, Ph.D.,’88) was featured in a Tuesday, April 14 article in The New York Times. Grunsfeld and six astronauts are scheduled to take the shuttle Atlantis on the fifth and last visit to the Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday, May 12. The telescope is in disrepair and following Grunsfeld’s mission, it will be allowed to run out of battery power, which is expected some time during the next decade. He said this next flight may be his last after serving as the telescope’s chief repairman for 18 years. “I achieved everything I ever wanted after my first spaceflight,” Grunsfeld said. “To be the Hubble repairman is really just unbelievable.” Michael Turner, the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, also was quoted in the story. Grunsfeld also was featured in the Wednesday, April 22 Chicago Sun-Times.

    Addressing health needs together
    Eric Whitaker, Vice President for Strategic Affiliations and Associate Dean for Community-Based Research at the Medical Center, wrote an opinion piece in the Thursday, April 23 Chicago Tribune. Whitaker was born at Michael Reese Hospital, once a first-class research center that is now bankrupt and facing closure. While surveying South Side medical centers, Whitaker wrote that the best strategy is for the area’s network of hospitals and clinics to work as one “virtual hospital” to best serve the community. “No single hospital will solve the South Side’s health disparities by working within its four walls.” Whitaker argued the approach makes economic and medical sense and drew upon the Medical Center’s goal of matching patients with local clinics and physicians through the Urban Health Initiative.

    Wheelan writes about failed run
    Charles Wheelan, Senior Lecturer in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, wrote about his experience as a congressional candidate in a Monday, April 20 article on Yahoo! Finance. Wheelan entered the primary for the special election for the 5th Congressional District seat vacated when Rahm Emanuel joined the Obama administration. (Mike Quigley, a Harris School alumnus, won the race). “At a time when we need more good people in public office than at any other since World War II, I worry that we’ve built an electoral process that has the opposite effect,” Wheelan said. He was both encouraged and discouraged by the electoral process but said, “If you think you can do better than what you’ve been watching in recent weeks in the House Financial Services Committee, then you should step up.”

    Ocean pH out of balance
    A Friday, April 24 article in the Wall Street Journal featured University research showing lower ocean acidity in the Pacific Northwest as a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Studies have shown that the oceans absorb 300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each second. The CO2 forms carbonic acid, which lowers the ocean acidity (or pH). For at least 600,000 years, the article stated, ocean pH remained steady at 8.2. Since 1800, it has dropped to 8.1 and is expected to drop to about 7.8 by the end of the century. Chicago researchers found that as pH levels dropped off the coast of Washington, acid-tolerant algae are edging out mussels and barnacles. “The acidity is dropping to levels that haven’t been expected at all,” said Timothy Wooten, Professor in Ecology & Evolution and the College. “We are scrambling to understand what is going on there.”

    Young Muslims flock to hip-hop
    Rami Nashashibi, Lecturer in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division, was quoted in a Friday, April 24 New York Times article on the growing popularity of hip-hop music among young Muslims. The article featured Jorge Pabon, a 43-year-old hip-hop DJ and dancer from Spanish Harlem in New York, who is now known as Shukriy. His name means “the thankful one,” and 20 years after he converted to Islam, he has been under fire from conservative Muslims for dancing on stage with women and being a DJ for mixed audiences. Nonetheless, Shukriy’s kind of hip-hop is becoming a global phenomenon, Nashashibi said. “Hip-hop has become a space where young Muslims can express themselves and not feel like an alien.”

    Grapefruit juice may fight cancer
    A University study found that grapefruit juice boosts the effects of an anti-cancer drug, according to a Monday, April 20 article in Health Day. A small study included 25 patients with advanced, solid tumors who drank an 8-ounce glass of grapefruit juice immediately after taking the drug rapamycin and once a day for the rest of the week. Seven patients (or 28 percent) had stable disease with little or no tumor growth. “Grapefruit juice can increase blood levels of certain drugs … this has always been considered a hazard. We wanted to see if, and how much, it could amplify the availability and perhaps the efficacy of rapamycin, a drug with promise for cancer treatment,” said Ezra Cohen, Assistant Professor in Hematology/Oncology, who directed the study. Grapefruit juice contains compounds that decrease the breakdown of rapamycin and increase blood levels of the drug three- to fourfold.