Year in Review: UChicago Research 2011


As another year comes to a close we’d like to look back at the fascinating research breakthroughs and inspiring patient stories from 2011. ScienceLife ran 168 posts this year, and while we wish we could highlight all of them, here are a handful of our favorites from each month.


influenza_virusPatrick Wilson found out that the H1N1 virus could end up helping us fight all types of flu. Stephen Pruett-Jones studied how some male birds mimic the sounds of predators to pick up the ladies (with an audio clip). We interviewed David Gozal about his study on the link between childhood obesity and lack of sleep, and took a look at NCAA regulations mandating sickle cell testing for athletes.


Harold Pollack gave a lecture on why violent crime in urban, minority communities should be considered a public health epidemic. Siri Atma Greeley studied the actual medical benefit of widespread genetic testing. Stacy Lindau wanted to know why so few women get help for sexual problems after surviving cancer. We talked to Bana Jabri about the causes of celiac disease, and Sliman Bensmaïa showed us how the brain processes the basic elements of touch very much like it handles visual information.


Sola Olopade educated women in Nigeria about using clean-burning stoves to prevent indoor pollution. Stefano Allesina and Jonathan Levine looked at how rock-paper-scissors helps explain evolution. Joshua Miller went to Yellowstone Park to see what stories the ghostly bones of animals can tell, and Scott Eggener questioned the wisdom of indiscriminate prostate cancer screening.

Photo by Gerald Waddell

Photo by Gerald Waddell


Andrea King studied the wide range of responses to drinking alcohol, and why it can be fun for some people and a bummer for others. Cheryl Reed took a ride in a helicopter with our UCAN nurses. Kamal Sharma looked at the genes that control animals’ gait, and Ningqi Hou studied how urban environments can dictate how much exercise people get.


Daniel McGehee looked at the long-term effects of nicotine on the brain. Habibul Ahsan went to Bangladesh to study the health impacts of accidental exposure to arsenic in drinking water. The brain’s overlooked supporting cells got their due at a conference on neuroscience, and we remembered a landmark discovery about a once popular drug taken during pregnancy that we now know can cause cancer.


As we headed into summer, Diana Lauderdale used Google to track MRSA. We learned about an extraordinary transplant where a man received a new heart, liver AND kidney. Daniel Geynisman gave us the rundown on whether or not cell phones are killing us (they’re not, as long as you don’t use them in the car), and some UChicago undergrads studied what happens to gorillas on the birth control pill.


We spoke to Donald Jensen and Andrew Aronsohn about the new outlook for patients with hepatitis C. Igor Schneider made a time machine to find the genetic switch for limb development. Farr Curlin led a study about the benefits of addressing spiritual needs alongside medical care, and Adam Cifu looked at the phenomenon of scientific study reversals.


Stefano Allesina dug into the long, shady history of nepotism in academia in Italy. John Schneider talked about his work addressing sexual health and stigma in India. Michael Becker discovered a new treatment for the Royal Disease, and we had the rare chance to name check a Spiderman villain in a post.


Martha McClintock and Suzanne Conzen studied the connection between social isolation, stress and breast cancer. Gallego Romero traveled to India to search for the origins of lactose intolerance. Stephanie Dulawa developed a mouse model for OCD, and Paul Vezina looked at a different kind of obsession, compulsive gambling.


Arshiya Baig started a pilot project to help people learn about life with diabetes through pictures. Manyuan Long found that some of the youngest genes are in the brain. Jens Ludwig and Stacy Lindau published a landmark study about the connection between neighborhood poverty and health, and Issam Awad studied a rare brain disease that soon could be treated with a drug instead of surgery.


Cathy Pfister and Tim Wootton figured out how to use seashells to track climate change over the years. Lianne Kurina found a link between loneliness and sleep quality. Shantanu Nundy, Monica Peek and Marshall Chin developed a program to send text message reminders to people with diabetes, and Pan Chen looked at the links between childhood abuse and aggressive behavior in adults.


Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety and Peggy Mason discovered that rats can show empathy for their fellow rats in distress. Maciej Lesniak performed a scary but amazing brain surgery on a patient who was awake. Cathryn Nagler searched for the source of food allergies within our bodies, while Stafano Guandalini uncovered the challenges in educating doctors about one of those allergies, celiac disease.

Whew. Hope you were able to click through at least a few of those. We look forward to another great year of research in 2012. We’re taking a break next week, but we’ll be back on January 5. Happy holidays!

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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