The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation awarded 177 Fellowships today to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists, including two members of the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences faculty.Lainie Ross is the Carolyn and Matthew Bucksbaum Professor of Clinical Ethics and a professor of pediatrics, medicine and surgery. She’s also an associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, and the codirector of the Institute of Translational Medicine.
“I am very honored to have been selected,” Ross said. “It is even more special because I am following in the footsteps of my two mentors, Paul Ramsey (Guggenheim Fellow 1977 humanities religion) and Jay Katz (Guggenheim Fellow 1980 medicine and health). It helps to stand on the shoulders of giants.”
She said she plans to spend her fellowship term writing a book tentatively titled “From Peapods to Whole Genomes: Incidental Findings and Unintended Consequences in a Post-Mendelian World.” The study has taken on a greater urgency as the cost and time required to perform whole genome sequencing has dropped from $3 billion dollars and fifteen years to less than $1,000 dollars and less than one week.
Science Life has spoken to Dr. Ross a number of times about ethical issues raised by genetic testing and shortages of available donor organs, including unintended consequences from an NCAA policy to screen football players for sickle cell anemia, how residents on the South Side of Chicago feel about contributing blood and tissue samples to biobanks and a proposal for a more efficient allocation of donor kidneys.Joe Thornton is a professor in the Department of Human Genetics and Department of Ecology & Evolution, known for resurrecting ancestral genes and tracing the mechanisms by which proteins evolve new functions. He said he also plans to write a book during his fellowship.
“I will use it to write a book on the Functional Synthesis of Molecular Biology and Evolution — the recent, and exciting, union of these disciplines to uncover the mechanisms by which genes and proteins evolved new functions and to understand the historical causes of the structure and function of modern-day molecules,” he said.
Science Life has also covered Thornton’s work over the past few years, including a 2012 study in which he used a form of “molecular time travel” to observe a crucial event in the evolutionary history of life on Earth, and again last year when he used a similar technique to find two genetic mutations that set the stage for how our reproductive systems work today.
Haun Saussy, a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Foundation has posted a complete list of the 2014 fellows on their website.