Year in Review: UChicago Research 2013

The 7th floor Sky Lobby in the Center for Care and Discovery, which opened in February this year. (photo by Tom Rossiter)

The 7th floor Sky Lobby in the Center for Care and Discovery, which opened in February this year. (photo by Tom Rossiter)

We saved this until the very last day of the year so we could pack in as much as possible. It’s been another great year at Science Life — We changed our design, added a podcast and set a new record with 198 posts. We’d like thank all the physicians and scientists who shared their work, as well as all of the writers who contributed to the blog throughout the year.

We wish we could highlight everything we did this year, but here our some of our favorites:

"Squishy" is an octopus bimaculoides, the office pet in the lab of Cliff Ragsdale, an assistant professor of neuroscience who studies cephalopods (squids and octupuses like Squishy)

“Squishy” is an octopus bimaculoides, the office pet in the lab of Cliff Ragsdale, an assistant professor of neuroscience who studies cephalopods (squids and octupuses like Squishy)

January

Clifton Ragsdale and Carrie Albertin are sequencing the genome of one of the ocean’s weirdest creatures: the octopus. Stacy Kahn helped a little boy overcome terrible C.diff infections with a fecal transplant from his mom. Ben Roitberg is training the next generation of neurosurgeons in virtual reality, and our UCAN flight team helped save a woman from a potentially fatal complication of childbirth.

February

Sonia Kupfer and John Alverdy diagnosed a mysterious GI disorder that had been troubling a mother of triplets for years. Cathy Pfister and Tim Wootton continued to build the case for ocean acidification by studying a tiny island in Washington. We tagged along with Dan Smith while he collected samples for the Hospital Microbiome Project, and Shantanu Nundy kept helping patients manage their diabetes with text messages.

March

Laure Ségurel used genetics to explain how type 2 diabetes has survived natural selection. William Dale and Ashwin Kotwal looked at how men’s emotions influence their decision to get screened for prostate cancer. Nate Upham busted the myth that small rodents avoid being out and about in bright moonlight, and Michael Vannier and Charles Pelizzari helped the Oriental Museum do a CT scan on some ancient Egyptian bird mummies.

April

Big data got a big boost with two gifts to fund computational biomedical and cancer research. Trevor Price showed how some birds continue to display elaborate plumage after finding a mate to help their offspring. We spoke to Raymond Roos about the future of treatment and research on ALS, and we hit the BIO International Convention at McCormick Place.


Dr. Issam Awad with 4-year-old Zane Smith

Dr. Issam Awad with 4-year-old Zane Smith

May

A little boy came all the way from England so Issam Awad could treat him for a condition that causes tiny lesions in the brain. Chang-I Wu showed how humans and dogs have evolved together. Sliman Bensmaia continued his quest to build the sense of touch into prosthetic arms, and we spoke to a number of our breast cancer experts about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy.

June

We asked Vinny Arora and James Town whether no not iPads live up to the hype as useful tools in the hospital. Stacy Kahn showed that most patients can deal with the yuck factor of fecal transplants if it means feeling better. A number of our experts weighed in after the Supreme Court decided that companies cannot secure patents on individual human genes, and Joe Thornton went back in time to find two genetic mutations that set the stage for how our reproductive systems work today.

July

We spoke to Neil Shubin about UChicago’s new partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Harriet de Wit and Matthew Kirkpatrick said that being with other people when you’re drinking can make you feel more intoxicated. Ravi Salgia added a new genetic acronym to the list of treatment targets for lung cancer, and we added a fancy pants new podcast.

August

A doctor, a lawyer and an economist (there’s a joke in there somewhere) teamed up to show that allergy medications actually work better after you watch TV ads for them. In back to back weeks, Zhe-Xi Luo published papers in Nature and Science on two new fossils he found of our earliest mammal ancestors. Bakhtiar Yamini went on the hunt for brain tumors with tiny nanoparticles, while Samuel Volchenboum looked for cancer genes with some serious computing power.

September

Alexander Chervonsky found that gut microbes can drive gender differences in autoimmune diseases. Margaret Wardle found the part of the brain that helps us decide who to trust. Thomas Gajewski figured out how tumors evade the immune system, and Sliman Bensmaia showed us how vibrations in the skin convey information about touch to the brain, which we thought was as good an excuse as any to post a Marky Mark video.

Sliman Bensmaia published his paper on building touch into a robotic hand in October in PNAS.

Sliman Bensmaia published his paper on building touch into a robotic hand in PNAS in October.

October

We went behind the scenes of the amazing recovery of a boy who was trapped under a sand dune in Indiana for three hours. Sliman Bensmaia was back, this time with a final blueprint for building touch into a robotic hand. William Dale showed how a few simple questions can help a serious pancreas surgery go more smoothly, and Stephanie Dulawa discovered a new class of fast-acting antidepressants.

November

We hit the Neuroscience 2013 conference in San Diego and cornered a bunch of our researchers for video poster presentations. We talked to Martin Leland about the “discovery” of a new knee ligament and Derrick Rose’s latest season-ending injury. Tyler Alterman talked to us about his Think Tank project to bring science to the streets, and Olaf Schneewind showed how staph aureus bacteria turn our immune system against itself.

December

Sarah Cobey and Jack Gilbert are trying to predict disease outbreaks by modeling how pathogens compete with each other. We talked to Yolanda Becker about how changes to the system that allocates donor kidneys will affect people on the waiting list for a transplant. We looked at whether or not you should be afraid of the swine flu this year, and finally, we remembered pioneering cancer geneticist Janet Rowley, who died at her home on Dec. 17 at the age of 88.

Janet Rowley, MD, 1925-2013

Janet Rowley, MD, 1925-2013

If you made it through that list, thanks for sticking with us — and thanks for reading the entire year. We can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store. Happy New Year!

About Matt Wood (514 Articles)

Matt Wood is a senior science writer at the University of Chicago Medicine and nonfiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine.

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