Year in Review: UChicago Research 2012

Photo courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects, copyright Thomas Rossiter

The Center for Care and Discovery, our new hospital opening in February 2013. Photo courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects, copyright Thomas Rossiter

Another year is almost in the books, and we’ve had another year of amazing research at the University of Chicago. Science Life would like to thank all the physicians and scientists who shared their work, as well as all of the writers who contributed to the blog this year. We also want to extend special thanks to former editor Rob Mitchum for everything he did to build this site into what it is today, and wish him best of luck in his new role at the Computation Institute.

This year Science Life published 155 posts covering all kinds of fascinating topics, and while we wish we could highlight all of them, here are some of our favorites:

Siberian hamsterJanuary

To kick off the year, Joe Thornton used a form of “molecular time travel” to observe a crucial event in the evolutionary history of life on Earth. David Freedman studied how the brain quickly categorizes visual images, and Leonid and Natalia Gavrilova calculated that your chances of living to 100 are better if you were born in the fall. Tough luck, spring chickens.


William Dale and Joseph Shega found that chronic pain can affect social vulnerability in the elderly just as much as cognitive impairment. Robert Gibbons looked at the relationship between antidepressant use and suicide risk. Emma Childs tested whether a drug used to help stop smoking could also curb binge drinking, and Mark Russo showed that geography often trumps need when it comes to allocating donor lungs.


In March, David Gozal looked at how sleep apnea can cause genetic changes in children. Gary An used computer models to recreate experiments on infectious disease. We took a trip to the South by Southwest Interactive conference to see what the digerati were saying about the electronic future of health care, and looked at two different studies on how scientists can use light to control cells.


As Spring rolled around, we spoke to some of our doctors about how they manage their social media profiles. We spoke to Robert Gibbons again, this time about the rate of suicide among veterans, and Jenny Tung looked at how social status affects genetic expression.


gray348Bulls fans’ hearts were broken when Derrick Rose tore his ACL, and we talked to Martin Leland about how D-Rose could get back on the court. Richard Jones discovered a compound in beehives that can slow down cancer. We talked to Lainie Ross about the unintended consequences of the NCAA’s new sickle cell screening policy, and Lauren Sallan found an eel-like fish with a spine a lot like ours.


Eugene Chang pointed out that rich, fatty Western diets could be to blame for the rise of inflammatory bowel disease and other immune disorders. Maria Alcocer Alkureishi and Wei Wei Lee are developing a curriculum to teach doctors better computer manners when they’re with patients. Un Jung Kang found that the right combination of exercise and drug therapy could head off the onset of Parkinson’s, and Tara Henderson showed that while children are surviving cancer at higher rates, unfortunately they’re also at higher risk for secondary cancers.


In July we wrote about the Brain Death Simulation Workshop, a first-of-its-kind training session where doctors can learn about all aspects of diagnosing brain death. Michael David and Robert Daum produced some scary figures on the rise of MRSA infections in hospitals. Paul Chang talked about software he designed that could make sharing radiology images as easy as using Instagram, and Kenji Suzuki showed us his imaging software that can learn by example when making diagnoses.

iPads in the pediatric ERAugust

We caught up with Martin Leland again before the London Olympics to talk about how athletes train to avoid injury. Ezra Cohen found that a glass of grapefruit juice can boost the power of chemotherapy drugs. Alisa McQueen and Chelsea Cress showed us how they’re using iPads in the pediatric ER to help put kids at ease, and Rima McLeod introduced a way to beat the parasite causing toxoplasmosis at its own game.


In September, Brian Prendergast turned to fuzzy little hamsters to learn more about ultradian rhythms, the shortest of biological clocks. Anita Chong and Maria-Luisa Alegre talked about ways that the body can permanently accept transplanted organs. Stefano Allesina developed a way to predict career success for scientists that would make fantasy baseball fans jealous, and Neda Laiteerapong proposed more realistic blood sugar goals for diabetics.


Wei Du found a plant called devil’s club that can kill cancer cells. Brisa Aschebrook-Kilfoy and Brian Chiu gave us pause about eating too much red meat. Daniel Le Grange told us about his work to develop internet support groups for parents of teens with eating disorders, and Ves Dimov looked at whether programs using social media to help teens with asthma really work.


Jonathan Mitchell talked about his work modeling ancient ecosystems, and what that can teach us about the environmental impact of human activity. We wrote about the work of Peter Singer, a bioethicist from Toronto who won this year’s MacLean Center Prize in Clinical Ethics. Jack Gilbert showed off his Hospital Microbiome project to map the bacteria growing inside our new hospital, and we spoke to Julie Bubeck-Wardenburg about a new way to target one of those nasty buggers, staph.

Air pressure indicatorDecember

As the year came to a close, we found a nifty design feature in our new hospital that helps keep immunosuppressed patients safe. Mark Lockwood and Kathy Davis designed a web form to help filter potential kidney donors. Sliman Bensmaia showed how our sense of touch is a lot like the way we hear, and we tagged along with Daniel Smith from the Hospital Microbiome project while he collected samples from the Center for Care and Discovery.

Did you stay with me through all that? I know it’s a lot to digest, but hopefully you were able to read through some of them. I’m looking forward to another year but I also need a break, so Science Life will be on hiatus through the holidays. See you again after the New Year!

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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