University of Chicago

University of Chicago

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University of Chicago

University of Chicago

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The University of Chicago (U of C, UChicago, or Chicago) is an academic powerhouse par excellence. The University was founded with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890. William Rainey Harper became the university's first president, in 1891, and the first classes were held in 1892. As a private research university, UChicago consists of the College, various graduate programs and interdisciplinary committees organized into four divisions, six professional schools, and a school of continuing education. The University enrolls approximately 5,000 students in the College and about 15,000 students overall.

UChicago espouses a research-heavy ethos. For example, in 2008, the University received (largely from the federal government) and spent $423.7 million on scientific research. University of Chicago scholars have played a role in the development of various academic disciplines, including: the Chicago school of economics, the Chicago school of sociology, the law and economics movement in legal analysis, the Chicago school of literary criticism, the Chicago school of religion, the school of political science known as behavioralism, and in the physics leading to the world's first man-made, self-sustaining nuclear reaction. The University is also home to the University of Chicago Press, the largest university press in the United States.

Many great minds have been part of the University of Chicago community. The University is affiliated with 87 Nobel Laureates, 49 Rhodes Scholars and 9 Fields Medalists.

Honors: An Intellectual Powerhouse

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Maurine Kornfeld, AB’42, AM’48, wishes she could make it back for more University of Chicago reunions, but they tend to conflict with her swim meets.

The 97-year-old Kornfeld, who set her first world record at age 90, was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in 2018. She has set seven long-course and 20 short-course international masters records in the individual medley, freestyle and backstroke. (A long-course, or Olympic-size pool, is 50 meters; a short-course pool is 25 yards.) At the 2017 World Masters Championships in Budapest, she was the oldest woman competing in the meet, setting a world record in the 95–99 age group in the 800-meter freestyle. In four world championships, she has won 14 gold and four silver medals.

Today she swims with the Rose Bowl Aquatics team in Pasadena, driving four times a week from her home in the Hollywood Hills. Her favorite event is the 200-meter backstroke, but a greater attraction for her is the camaraderie.

“I want to get up at five in the morning to see my swim pals,” she said. “Meeting and connecting with people who are different from oneself, who are younger, different ethnic backgrounds, all kinds of occupations—it’s both amazing and wonderful. It’s a little like being back at the University of Chicago.”

Her studies at UChicago made as big of an impression on Kornfeld as her fellow students. She remembers taking The History of Ideas with University President Robert Maynard Hutchins and Prof. Mortimer Adler: “It was a pretty heady experience.”

UChicago fostered a love of literature, evident at her Hall of Fame induction ceremony last September when she quoted Robert Browning’s poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra”: “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first is made.” Later in the speech she mused: “I’m so glad they say it’s healthy to swim, because even if it weren’t, I’d do it.”

But when she started competing in 1987, she was just trying to find a time to work out. Her full-time job as a social worker left her Saturday mornings free, but when she went to the pool at the YMCA in Glendale, California, the staff told her it was closed for masters swimming practice. If she wanted to swim at that time, she’d have to join the team.

Despite having no competitive experience at all, she called the coach.

“He said, ‘What’s your stroke?’” and I said, “‘None in particular.’”

At her first practice, she had no idea what the coach meant when he told her to swim a 50. “Fortunately he pointed to the end of the pool and back,” she said—25 yards each way. “He kept shouting at me, ‘put your face down.’ I didn’t know anything about goggles. I just liked to swim.”

She stuck with it, and two months later the coach told her she’d be swimming in her first meet. As the only swimmer in the 65–69-year-old novice division, she won two blue ribbons: in the 50-yard freestyle and the 50-yard backstroke, which were the only strokes she knew.

When she’s not swimming, Kornfeld works as a docent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—a role she stumbled into when she was there doing research for an art history course she was taking. She also gives tours at Los Angeles’s Union Station, the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Hollyhock House and the House of Blues.

Her only frustration: “There are always more things to do than there’s time to do them.”

—This story first appeared on the University of Chicago Magazine website.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

Four University of Chicago Law School alumni will clerk for U.S. Supreme Court justices during the 2019-20 term. At least one Law School graduate has clerked on the High Court for at least part of each term since 1972, but this year’s numbers are notable because they coincide with record growth in overall clerkship employment among Law School graduates.

Kelly Holt, JD’17, and Stephen Yelderman, JD’10, will clerk for Justice Neil Gorsuch; Mica Moore, JD’17, will clerk for Justice Elena Kagan; and Caroline Cook, JD’16, will clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. They will follow Madeline Lansky, JD’16, who is clerking for Thomas this term, and Aimee Brown, JD’14, who is clerking for Justice Samuel Alito and now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. All six alumni clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals before earning their Supreme Court spots.

“These are four extraordinary lawyers who were each tremendously successful students at the Law School and whose futures couldn’t be brighter,” said Lior Strahilevitz, the Sidley Austin Professor of Law, who co-chairs the faculty clerkship committee with Jonathan Masur, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law. “Supreme Court justices are hardly alone in noting the remarkable quality of our graduates. Throughout the federal and state judiciaries, Chicago students and alumni are in especially high demand.”     

It is typical for the Law School to have multiple alumni clerking on the Supreme Court at once: In 37 of the past 47 years, two or more clerks on the Supreme Court have been graduates of the Law School. In 15 of those years, four or more Supreme Clerks have been Chicago alumni—including in 1993, when there were eight, and 1994, when there were seven. There were four at one time as recently as 2017.

Law School alumni traditionally have done well securing clerkships on the lower courts, too, but expanded efforts to counsel aspiring clerks have further boosted those numbers in recent years. In 2018, 27 percent of students entered state or federal clerkships immediately after graduation—the highest figure in recent memory, and more than double the 12.9 percent who entered clerkships immediately after graduation in 2013.

“More and more of our students come to law school hoping to clerk,” said Masur, “and they’re right to want to. Clerkships are great jobs, great learning experiences and great opportunities to find a lifelong mentor. They can also jump-start a student’s career. Our goal as a clerkship committee is to tell students about the advantages of clerking and then to help find a clerkship for each and every student who wants one.”

The faculty clerkship committee expanded several years ago to include Profs. Genevieve Lakier, John Rappaport and Daniel Hemel. Every member of the committee is a former clerk, and they share their deep knowledge of the experience, the judges and the application process with students, guiding them during law school and, often, for several years after.

The Law School also works to expose students to the judiciary through programs like the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Visiting Jurist lecture series. Since the program began in 2013, more than two dozen judges have visited the Law School, delivering lunch talks and often meeting with a small group of students and faculty. Recent visiting jurists have included Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit;  Michelle Friedland of the Ninth Circuit, Timothy Tymkovich, Chief Judge of the Tenth Circuit; Cheryl Krause of the Third Circuit; Jeffrey S. Sutton of the Sixth Circuit; John Z.  Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and Beryl Howell, chief judge of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Clerkships on lower courts are an important step for students seeking to clerk on the Supreme Court. Holt, who currently works at Jones Day, clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III on the Fourth Circuit after graduation. Yelderman, currently a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, clerked for Gorsuch on the Tenth Circuit in 2010. Moore, who is clerking for Vince Chhabria on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, previously clerked for Judge William Fletcher on the Ninth Circuit in 2017. And Cook, who is clerking for Judge Gregory Katsas on the D.C. Circuit, clerked for Judge Diane Sykes on the Seventh Circuit in 2016.

But the clerkship experience also is valuable for students entering careers in big law firms and other areas of the profession.

“So much of law school is about learning how judges decide cases,” said Masur. “What better way to gain that knowledge than to work closely with a judge? Whether a student’s destination is public interest or a large law firm, transactional practice or litigation, I can hardly think of a more valuable way to spend a year after graduation.”

Adapted from a story that first appeared on the University of Chicago Law School website.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

Organic electronics could allow companies to print electronics like paper or incorporate them into clothing to power wearable electronics—if there were only better ways to control their electronic structure.

To help address this challenge, Nick Jackson, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, developed a faster way of creating molecular models by using machine learning. The models dramatically accelerate the screening of potential new organic materials for electronics, and could also be useful in other areas of materials science research.

Many believe organic electronics have the potential to revolutionize technology with their high cost-efficiency and versatility, but the current manufacturing processes used to produce these materials are sensitive, and the internal structures are extremely complex. This makes it difficult for scientists to predict the final structure and efficiency of the material based on manufacturing conditions.

Shortly after Jackson began his appointment under Juan de Pablo, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, he had the idea to tackle such problems with machine learning. He uses this technique—a way of training a computer to learn a pattern without being explicitly programmed—to help make predictions about how the molecules will assemble.

Many materials for organic electronics are built via a technique called vapor deposition. In this process, scientists evaporate an organic molecule and allow it to slowly condense on a surface, producing a film. By manipulating certain deposition conditions, the scientists can finely tune the way the molecules pack in the film.

“It’s kind of like a game of Tetris,” said Jackson, who is a Maria Goeppert Mayer Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory. “The molecules can orient themselves in different ways, and our research aims to determine how that structure influences the electronic properties of the material.”

The packing of the molecules in the film affects the material’s charge mobility, a measure of how easily charges can move inside it. The charge mobility plays a role in the efficiency of the material as a device. In order to optimize the process, collaborating with scientist Venkatram Vishwanath of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, the team ran extremely detailed computer simulations of the vapor deposition process.

“We have models that simulate the behavior of all of the electrons around each molecule at nanoscopic length and time scales,” said Jackson, “but these models are computationally intensive, and therefore take a very long time to run.”

To simulate entire devices, often containing millions of molecules, scientists must develop “coarser” models. One way to make a calculation less computationally expensive is to pull back on how detailed the simulation is—in this case, modeling electrons in groups of molecules rather than individually. These coarse models can reduce computation time from hours to minutes; but the challenge is in making sure the coarse models can truly predict the physical results.

This is where the machine learning comes in. Using an artificial neural network, the machine learning algorithm learns to extrapolate from coarse to more detailed models—training itself to come to the same result using the coarse model as the detailed model.

The resulting coarse model allows the scientists to screen many, many more arrangements than before—up to two to three orders of magnitude more. Armed with these predictions, experimentalists can then test them in the laboratory and more quickly develop new materials.

Materials scientists have used machine learning before to find relationships between molecular structure and device performance, but Jackson’s approach is unique, as it aims to do this by enhancing the interaction between models of different length and time scales.

Although the targeted goal of this research is to screen vapor-deposited organic electronics, it has potential applications in many kinds of polymer research, and even fields such as protein science. “Anything where you are trying to interpolate between a fine and coarse model,” he added.

Citation: “Electronic Structure at Coarse-Grained Resolutions from Supervised Machine Learning.” Jackson et al, Science Advances, March 22, 2019. Doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav1190

Funding: Argonne Laboratory Directed Research and Development, U.S. Department of Energy

—Article originally appeared on the Argonne National Laboratory website

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

Bob Connors flips open the heavy leather covers, thumbing past yellowed, worm-holed pages more than five centuries old. A few feet behind him, boxes pile up along the wall.

This collection of rare books started with a simple idea. As a student at the University of Chicago Graham School, Connors was reading texts considered the bedrock of Western Civilization. Why not find the oldest copies he could get his hands on?

What began as a hobby for the retired tax attorney grew into a years-long odyssey—one that sent him down a rabbit hole of auctions and book dealers. Inspired by his studies, the collection of nearly 600 books is remarkable in both breadth and depth: rare editions of famous authors like James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald; oversized 15th- and 16th-century volumes with original oak covers and brass clasps; and the oldest of the lot, a 1475 copy of Augustine’s Confessions.

Connors is now 70 years old. Last October, he was diagnosed with cancer. He began to think: Of all his possessions, there was one set in particular worth preserving.

“I had all these books that I collected and I valued,” said Connors, sitting in his suburban Oak Park home. “And I guess part of it is, at this point, I’m into legacy. What will be left behind? And I knew that if I didn’t do something with these books, they would be thrown out. And I couldn’t let that happen.”

He decided to donate them to UChicago Library’s Special Collections Research Center, where they now live as the Robert S. Connors Basic Program Collection.

The name is a nod to the curriculum that nurtured in Connors a fascination with the history of the printed word. Since 1946, the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies has offered the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults to encourage reading and engaging with the “Great Books.” One proponent of this approach was former UChicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins, who argued that it kept one’s “intelligence on the stretch.”

“Great books teach people not only how to read them,” he wrote in 1952, “but also how to read all other books.”

An irreplaceable collection

Elizabeth Frengel, the curator of rare books at the University of Chicago Library, had expected a small collection, perhaps around two dozen books.

When they first met, Connors brought with him copies of classic British literature such as Thomas Hardy and George Eliot, enough to reveal he had “a good eye as a collector.” Then he and Frengel started talking about the Aldine Press, an early 16th-century publisher that printed smaller, portable books that were more feasible for students and scholars to acquire. The ready accessibility of these books transformed the nature of reading—and, many argue, extended the reach of the Renaissance.

“As a group, it’s irreplaceable,” said Frengel, who oversees the University’s approximately 340,000 volumes dating back to the 15th century. “If we weren’t able to make this collection available to researchers, that would be a sad loss. You couldn’t easily recapture that sort of scholarly value.”

The donation included 11 “incunabula.” Taken from the Latin word for “swaddling clothes,” the term denotes books published in Europe between 1455 and 1501. These works, along with some 16th-century publications, illuminate the history of printing and provide insight into the evolution of the book as a material and technical object.

“The books are not going to be things that sit on a shelf and nobody really uses,” said Fred Beuttler, a Graham School associate dean who was one of the first UChicago employees to see Connors’ collection. “We’re going to make them accessible to faculty and graduate students.”

On April 9, the University will recognize Connors in a ceremony, joined by his family and members of the UChicago community.

‘More fun than golf’

The books’ new home represents a fitting coda to Connors’ journey. While working downtown in the early 1980s, he called the University of Chicago on a whim and asked about part-time course offerings.

“It was the leading university in the area,” Connors said. “If I was gonna be taking classes, I might as well take it from the best.”

Whoever picked up the phone pointed him to the Graham School’s Basic Program. On the first day of class, Connors found out that he was entering the first part of a four-year sequence. His relationship with the Graham School would last even longer.

Connors received a certificate from the Basic Program in 1985, but the classes wore on him. A new job had taken him an hour north of downtown Chicago, and the evening commute back into the city left him struggling to stay awake during discussions.

So he took a break, focusing on his career until he approached retirement. He enrolled again in 2006, signing up for a course on the Roman historian Tacitus. The discussion-based nature of the classes, he said, prompted him to read more closely than he ever would on his own. Along the way, he picked up an interest in collecting.

“Something I thought would be more fun than golf, I guess,” he said.

Connors’ love for books has always been clear. Meggie, the younger of his two daughters, still remembers their nightly reading sessions—a few pages of Little House on the Prairie, or a chapter of Little Women. She doesn’t consider herself a history buff, but her father’s occasional spiels about his collection revealed his passion.

“He really latches on to information,” she said. “Especially with these books, he could remember every single detail about them.”

That impulse hasn’t waned. Even now, Connors hopes not only to continue his studies, but to keep searching for books to acquire.

Frengel understands the urge. Many of Connors’ oldest books contain hand-written notes in the margins, unique to each of their previous owners.

“Collecting these kinds of books give you perhaps a more insightful understanding of how culture is transmitted—how our cultural myths, our stories, our histories are passed down to us,” she said. “You can probably access almost all of these texts online for nothing, because they’re not copyrighted. But the material object puts you in touch with that history in an entirely new way.”

Connors has compared his books to an art collection—better shared than hidden away. Though he has read translations of many, there are several that he appreciates simply as historical artifacts. They would serve little purpose locked up in someone’s basement.

“They’ve been around for a long time,” Connors said. “I’m hoping they’ll be around for a good long time further when they’re cared for by the University Library. They really belong there.”

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

The number of confirmed planets beyond our solar system, or exoplanets, now nears 4,000. Citizen scientists have joined the search and recently helped discover an exoplanet in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances from a star where liquid water may exist on a planet’s surface. But researchers are still on the hunt, hoping to better understand the structure and evolution of these distant worlds.

On April 9, MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager will discuss the latest advances in the field of exoplanetary research during the 11th annual University of Chicago Brinson Lecture, which aims to engage the public in field-defining research by leading astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists.

“For thousands of years, people have wondered: ‘Are there planets like Earth?’ ‘Are such planets common?’ ‘Do any have signs of life?’” Seager wrote in her description of the lecture. “Today, astronomers are poised to answer these ancient questions.”

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 6 p.m. April 9 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Previous events have addressed topics from the origin and evolution of galaxies to supermassive black holes, and have included decorated scientists including Prof. Wendy Freedman and Nobel laureate Kip Thorne.

A planetary scientist and 2013 MacArthur fellow, Seager focuses on the theory, computation and data analysis of exoplanets. Her research led to the first detection of an exoplanet atmosphere. She also works in space instrumentation and space missions and is a co-investigator of the MIT-led Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, a NASA mission to survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets. In its first three months of observations, TESS found three confirmed exoplanets and recorded six supernova explosions.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with support from the Brinson Foundation, which aims to support education, public health and scientific research programs.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

True to its name, the Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago empowers South Side nonprofits to take off quickly. 

Since its founding five years ago, the initiative has served nearly 120 local nonprofits and 2,000 workshop attendees by providing them access to an array of University resources that help them strengthen their impact on the mid-South Side. 

Since joining the Accelerator’s first cohort in 2014, the Dovetail Project has grown into the largest fatherhood initiative in Illinois, quadrupling the number of young fathers it serves each year. It also received a nearly $1 million grant to collaborate with UChicago Urban Labs on an evaluation to quantify its impact.

“We were doing a good job, but the Accelerator sped up our pace and our process and got us ready to grow,” said Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project. “I knew how to do the work, but had to learn how to really be an executive director, make decisions and speak to funders.” 

The Accelerator recently welcomed 34 new community organizations to its innovative program, which is unique among universities in the breadth and depth of its commitment to helping nonprofit neighbors build capacity and grow stronger. Among them are three organizations that joined the Accelerator’s core program to begin their next phase of growth:

  • Affinity Community Services, a social justice nonprofit formed in 1995 to focus on Chicago’s Black LGBTQ community, with a particular focus on women;
  • The Provident Foundation, which provides scholarships and promotes education to urban youth pursuing careers as doctors, nurses and other health care professionals;
  • Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN), which refurbishes and operates affordable housing in Woodlawn and offers supportive services, after-school programs and homeowner assistance

The core program provides customized, intensive support for one to three years, including needs assessment, strategic planning, organizational development, and technical and fundraising support. Core participant-level organizations also may receive funding, but for them, the heart of the Accelerator is the focused expertise that University staff, faculty, students and consultants provide.   

The Accelerator also offers an associates program in which nonprofits receive general support over the course of a year to build capacity and complete specific projects; this year’s new associates are 100 Black Men of Chicago, Annie B. Jones Community Services, Inc., Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and LINK Unlimited Scholars. And for organizations with discrete project needs in areas such as marketing or program evaluation, the Accelerator’s special projects program, welcoming 27 organizations this year, provides support for three to six months. 

As an associate member, WECAN built a partnership with Harris Public Policy to assess the state of housing in Woodlawn, track trends and identify residents at risk of being displaced. With the support of the nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing, Harris students and Woodlawn residents worked together to survey every parcel in the community, and to collect and analyze housing data. WECAN has recently received funding to continue and expand this project. 

As WECAN moves into the Accelerator’s core program, its team looks forward to collaborating with UChicago staff and partners to chart its next steps. “The Accelerator helps you to start thinking and processing where you want to be, where you think you should go, what direction to take,” said Venus Scott, acting director of WECAN. “And if you’re not quite sure, the Accelerator becomes the adviser.”

Launched by the UChicago Office of Civic Engagement, the Accelerator has grown into a University-wide collaboration that includes UChicago Arts, the Harris School of Public Policy, UChicago Medicine—now partnering with the Accelerator to build the capacity of South Side nonprofits working to prevent violence—and the School of Social Service Administration, home to a new certificate program for early- to mid-stage nonprofit professionals working in or focused on the South Side. 

“Thriving neighborhoods have something in common, no matter where they’re located: strong community-based organizations that have the resources and the ability to execute on the vision they have for their communities,” said Ryan K. Priester, director of community programs for the Office of Civic Engagement. “The Accelerator meets nonprofits where they are to strengthen their capacity and put them on a sustainable path to execution, and our new partnerships with SSA and UChicago Medicine will enable us to offer training and support to even more organizations serving the South Side.”

As the Accelerator team looks ahead to its next five years, they plan to continue extending its reach with a new space to incubate nonprofits; new partnerships and services to build the professional capacity of South Side civic leaders; and new ways to measure the positive impact of its collaborations.

—This story first appeared on the Office of Civic Engagement website.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

In the blink of an eye, a squid’s “smart skin” can switch color and pattern for the purpose of camouflage or sexual signaling—a virtuosic display that has long fascinated scientists.

Now, scientists from the UChicago-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory and from Northeastern University report a paradigm-shifting discovery in how specialized organs in squid skin, called chromatophores, contribute to the feat via an elegant interplay of pigmentary action and structural coloration. Their study, which brings bio-inspired engineers closer to building smart skin, was recently published in Nature Communications.

“People have been trying to build devices that can mimic cephalopod color change for a long time by using off-the-shelf components,” said Leila Deravi, an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern, whose lab led the study. “Nobody has come anywhere near the speed and sophistication of how they actually work.”

Anterior mantle of live squid. Reflective chromatophores sparkle as angle of incident light changes. (Courtesy Stephen Senft, Hanlon Lab, MBL)

Deravi and MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon, a leading expert on camouflage in cephalopods (squid, octopuses and cuttlefish), led an interdisciplinary team of researchers to investigate squid dynamic coloration on a molecular level.

Squid skin contains two types of structures that manipulate light to produce various colors. The chromatophores contain elastic sacs of pigment that stretch rapidly into discs of color when the muscles around them contract. When light strikes the pigment granules, they absorb the majority of the wavelengths and reflect back only a narrow band of color.

Deeper in the skin, cells called iridophores reflect all the light that hits them. By scattering this light, a method known as structural coloration, they bounce back a bright sheen of iridescence.

For decades, all available data had indicated that these separate structures could only produce one type of coloration or the other: pigmentary or structural. But when co-author and MBL researcher Stephen L. Senft looked closely at the squid chromatophores, he spotted iridescence shimmering in perfect alignment with the pigment.

“In that top layer, embedded into the chromatophore organ, is structural coloration,” Hanlon said. “No one had found anything like that.”

Hanlon, who has spent the better part of four decades studying cephalopod biology, went back through his old Kodachrome slides of chromatophores. Sure enough, he found a photograph of blue iridescence reflecting from a chromatophore. At the time, he had assumed the shimmering blue was from an iridophore deeper in the skin.  

“I saw this in 1978, and I didn’t realize what I was looking at,” Hanlon said. “It’s incredible.”

Excised adult squid skin. Multi-hued reflectance coincides with moving shapes of chromatophores. (Courtesy Stephen Senft, Hanlon Lab, MBL)

This time, the researchers are sure the iridescence is coming from the chromatophore. The team found the proteins that create iridescence in the cells surrounding the pigment sacs.  

This unexpected discovery—that the chromatophore is using both pigmentary and structural coloration to create its dynamic effects—opens up new opportunities for biologists and chemists alike.  

“We kind of broke up the known paradigm of how the skin works in the cephalopod world,” Hanlon said.  

Biologists like Hanlon can use this new information to better understand these fascinating species. Applied chemists like Deravi can use it to work on reverse-engineering the color-change abilities of cephalopods for human use.

“We’re piecing together a roadmap, essentially, for how these animals work,” Deravi said. “Our ultimate goal is to try to create something like a material, a wearable device, a painting or a coating, that can change color very quickly like these animals do.

“It’s not as far-fetched of a goal today as it was even three years ago.”

The Marine Biological Laboratory is dedicated to scientific discovery—exploring fundamental biology, understanding marine biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Citation: Dynamic pigmentary and structural coloration within cephalopod chromatophore organs” Nature Communications, March 1, 2019. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08891-x

—This story first appeared on the Marine Biological Laboratory website.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

Gaurav Kalwani had long known he wanted a career in public service but was unsure of which path to follow. While at the University of Chicago, the fourth-year in the College learned from hands-on experience that working toward nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia should be his ultimate goal.

“I wanted to go into a field where I felt the issue at hand was of critical importance, and where I felt I could make the biggest impact,” said Kalwani, who while at UChicago had internships in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Washington, D.C. “I was torn between nuclear weapons and climate change, but what ultimately tipped the scales for me was the temporality of the issue. Climate change might wipe out humanity in the next few hundred years, but nuclear weapons could wipe out humanity in less than 30 minutes.”

Recently named one of 11 junior fellows for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Kalwani, a public policy studies and South Asian languages and civilizations major, will have a unique opportunity to explore his interests in public service and nuclear policy. The James C. Gaither Junior Fellowship Program is a prestigious one-year research fellowship that gives high-achieving students a chance to work alongside senior scholars in the Carnegie Endowment’s multiple global programs.

As part of his fellowship, Kalwani will assist Carnegie’s nuclear policy scholars; conduct research for policy papers, op-eds and books; help put on events for the program; and participate in meetings with government stakeholders involved in nuclear policy decision-making.

After his first year at UChicago, Kalwani was a summer research assistant for Asst. Prof. Kimberly Kay Hoang in Ho Chi Minh City, helping her conduct research for a book project on foreign investment in emerging markets. The next summer, the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program funded his work with the nonprofit Stimson Center in Washington, where he conducted research on South Asian nuclear issues.

“That experience solidified for me that I wanted to pursue a career in nuclear policy, and that’s been my goal ever since,” Kalwani said.

Kalwani has immersed himself in leadership roles across the UChicago campus. He serves as the publications editor for the Chicago Journal of Foreign Policy, was on the executive board of the Institute of Politics’ Leaders of Color Program, and has been involved with Model United Nations at the University of Chicago. He also volunteers for Doc Films, a student-run group that screens new and classic films.

After completing his one-year fellowship with the Carnegie Endowment, Kalwani hopes to continue working in policy research before committing to a career of public service, perhaps as a foreign service officer. Regardless, working toward nuclear nonproliferation will be a career-defining goal.

“I believe exposure to the field of nuclear policy will help me more specifically define my path toward my eventual goal of leading the United States’ diplomatic efforts in nonproliferation and arms control,” said Kalwani. “My ultimate goal is for nuclear weapons to be eliminated in our time. Receiving this fellowship is a privilege as well as a responsibility, and I’m really excited to be taking a first step toward my goals.”

Kalwani attends UChicago with the help of the UChicago Odyssey Scholarship Program, which helps ensure students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to achieve academic success. He received application support from the College Center for Research and Fellowships, which guides candidates through rigorous application and interview processes for nationally competitive fellowships.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

The most powerful computer ever built in the United States will make its home at Argonne National Laboratory in 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy and Intel announced today. Aurora, the United States’ first exascale computer, will combine unprecedented processing power with the growing potential of artificial intelligence to help solve the world’s most important and complex scientific challenges.

As an exascale computer, Aurora will be capable of a quintillion—or one billion billion—calculations per second, 50 times quicker than today’s most powerful supercomputers. But the impact of the system goes beyond faster and larger data processing to new frontiers of scientific inquiry, supercharging modern artificial intelligence approaches for finding new cancer treatments, searching for dark matter, mapping the human brain and other massive breakthroughs.

Upon delivery, researchers will be able to use Aurora through the leadership computing facilities at Argonne, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory operated by the University of Chicago.

“The evolution of large-scale computation and the emergence of artificial intelligence as an effective tool arecreating growing potential for transformative discoveries in many fields, including medicine, engineering and physics,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, the chairman of Argonne LLC, which operates the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy. “Bringing Aurora to Argonne will provide researchers here and those from around the world with an exceptional resource for scientific inquiry and the development of critical future technologies.”

“There is tremendous scientific benefit to our nation that comes from collaborations like this one with the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, industry partners Intel and Cray, and our close association with the University of Chicago,” said Argonne National Laboratory Director Paul Kearns. “Argonne’s Aurora system is built for next-generation Artificial Intelligence and will accelerate scientific discovery by combining high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to address real world problems, such as improving extreme weather forecasting, accelerating medical treatments, mapping the human brain, developing new materials and further understanding the universe—and that is just the beginning.”

Mapping the brain, personalizing cancer treatment

Through Early Science Projects designed to probe the future capabilities of Aurora, UChicago researchers in materials science, cosmology and neurobiology have already begun interrogating the new discoveries that this one-of-a-kind machine makes possible.

“Aurora will enable us to explore new frontiers in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Narayanan “Bobby” Kasthuri, assistant professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago and researcher at Argonne. “This will be the first time scientists have had a machine powerful enough to match the kind of computations the brain can do.”

Kasthuri’s research seeks to reverse engineer the mammalian brain, using powerful microscopes to photograph billions of cells and connections and supercomputers to reconstruct the brain’s intricate wiring. With such a map, scientists could ask questions about how the structure of the brain drives learning, behavior and illness, generating new therapies and insights into the nature of humanity. But a complete map of the estimated million billion connections of the human brain would be no less than the largest dataset in human history, requiring extreme-scale computation to navigate.

“With the help of Aurora, I will be able to piece together millions of two-dimensional images, reconstructing the brain in three dimensions to create a map of the human brain,” Kasthuri said. “Imagine the game-changing possibilities of a resource where neuroscientists around the U.S., and ultimately around the world, utilize such technologies and infrastructure.”

The artificial intelligence capabilities of Aurora will boost a project addressing another great biomedical challenge, the development of more effective, personalized treatments for cancer. The CANcer Distributed Learning Environment (CANDLE), a DOE and National Cancer Institute collaboration, will study the relationship between key molecular pathways, clinical and preclinical drugs, and patient responses to create predictive models that enable patient-level decisions about the best therapy for each individual cancer.

The exascale power of Aurora will help researchers rapidly test complex models involving millions of variables, while its optimization for artificial intelligence allows machine learning to automatically select and refine the best-performing strategies.

“The CANDLE team is excited to unleash Aurora’s full capability to help humanity in ways impossible before,” said Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life sciences at Argonne, professor of computer science at UChicago and principal investigator on CANDLE. “Chemotherapy has been available for about 75 years. However, we have never been able to predict effectively which patients will respond to it. Devising ways of incorporating molecular information and visual information to build more predictive models will help distinguish which tumors which will respond to a given drug and those that won’t. With exascale computing, we have a chance to do that, and that will change the lives of millions of people.”

Exploring larger spaces, from atoms to universes

Supercomputers are especially well suited for helping scientists explore and simulate enormous, data-rich environments—from atomic level processes to the history of the entire universe. Salman Habib, the director of Argonne’s Computational Science Division and Senior Member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, has conducted some of the largest simulations of the universe ever performed on a supercomputer. With Aurora, he will be able to create even more detailed simulations that guide experimentalists towards the best places to find dark matter, dark energy and other mysteries of the universe.

“These include very realistic simulations of structure formation in the universe including gravitational and astrophysical effects—how the very smooth initial conditions in the far past transform into the lumpy matter distributions we see today,” Habib said. “Some simulations that took months will be performed in days, and more interestingly, some large and complex simulations that could not be done at all due to memory and performance limitations will become possible.”

Aurora will also stimulate efforts to design the technologies of tomorrow, pinpointing materials with the properties needed to build stronger batteries, solar panels that more efficiently convert light to energy, and quantum computers. Researchers will also be able to run more detailed molecular models than ever to understand the structure and function of cellular proteins, revealing new therapeutic targets and driving the development of precise drugs.

“I see this more as a qualitative breakthrough than just a timing breakthrough,” said Giulia Galli, the Liew Family Professor of Electronic Structure and Simulations in the Institute for Molecular Engineering and professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago. “The real breakthrough will come by the calculation of many properties of many materials at the same time—in a way we cannot do today—and that will finally enable design using computational, atomistic techniques.”

The Aurora contract is valued at over $500 million and the system will be delivered to Argonne National Laboratory by Intel and sub-contractor Cray Computing in 2021.

“We chose the name Aurora because it encompasses our aspirational goal to create a system which in some sense can illuminate the world,” Stevens said. “This marks a turning point in the history of supercomputing as artificial intelligence becomes integrated into traditional high-performance computing systems at the largest scale known to man.”

Wed, 31 Dec 1969

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory officially broke ground March 15 on a major new particle accelerator project that will power cutting-edge physics experiments for many decades to come.

The new 700-foot-long linear accelerator, part of the laboratory’s Proton Improvement Plan II (PIP-II), will be the first accelerator project built in the United States with significant contributions from international partners. When complete, the new machine will become the heart of the laboratory’s accelerator complex, vastly improving what is already the world’s most powerful particle beam for neutrino experiments and providing for the long-term future of the diverse research program at Fermilab, which is affiliated with the University of Chicago.

The new PIP-II accelerator’s flexible design will enable it to work as a new first stage for Fermilab’s chain of accelerators, powering both the laboratory’s flagship project – the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), hosted by Fermilab – and its extensive suite of on-site particle physics experiments, including searches for new particles and new forces in our universe.

DUNE is under construction now, and will be the most advanced experiment in the world studying ghostly, invisible particles called neutrinos. These particles may hold the key to cosmic mysteries that have baffled scientists for decades. The DUNE collaboration brings together more than 1,000 scientists from over 180 institutions in more than 30 countries, all with a single goal: to better understand these elusive particles and what they can tell us about the universe.

“Breaking ground on the PIP-II accelerator today signals the start of a new era at Fermilab, one of new construction, new experiments and new excitement around the laboratory’s research program,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “I’m pleased and proud to begin this era with the people of this laboratory, and our partners around the world.”

The PIP-II accelerator will enable the beam that will send trillions of neutrino particles 800 miles (1300 km) through the earth to the four-story-high DUNE detector, to be built a mile beneath the surface at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. With the improved particle beam enabled by PIP-II, scientists will use the DUNE detector to capture the most vivid 3-D images of neutrino interactions ever seen.

“The particle accelerator project at Fermilab will provide for new paths of inquiry into fundamental questions about the universe and its makeup. The project builds upon the important relationship between Fermilab and the University of Chicago, creating new opportunities for collaborations between the laboratory, the University and researchers around the world,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, chairman of the Board of Directors of Fermi Research Alliance, LLC.

PIP-II is itself a groundbreaking scientific instrument, and its construction is pioneering a new paradigm for accelerator projects supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The accelerator would not be possible without the contributions and world-leading expertise of partners in France, India, Italy and the UK. Scientists in each country are building components of the accelerator, to be assembled at Fermilab. This will be the first accelerator project in the U.S. completed using this approach.

With PIP-II at the center of the laboratory’s accelerator complex, Fermilab will remain at the forefront of particle physics research and accelerator science for the foreseeable future.

“This is a very exciting day for the entire international PIP-II team. We are proud to begin construction of a highly capable, state-of-the-art superconducting radio-frequency accelerator that will serve particle physics for decades to come,” said Fermilab PIP-II Project Director Lia Merminga. “Our international partners are essential to the success of PIP-II, and we look forward to engaging in a mutually rewarding adventure.”

—Article originally appeared on the Fermilab website.

Wed, 31 Dec 1969