Premiered stage adaptations of classic novels by African Americans
Court Theatre at the University of Chicago first brought Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Richard Wright’s Native Son to the stage. Oren Jacoby’s adaptation of the 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison, who was Alexander White Visiting Professor of Literature at UChicago in 1961, won a 2012 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Adaptation. Nambi E. Kelley’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Native Son premiered in 2015. These productions further solidified Court’s strong reputation for staging compelling African American drama.
Used imaging technology to reconstruct ancient monuments
Art historian Katherine Tsiang digitally reconstructed the sixth-century Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan by combining art historical research with archeological knowledge and emerging imaging technologies. This technique provided a new model for reassembling and restoring context to cultural monuments that have been scattered across the globe or destroyed. The related exhibit appeared at the Smart Museum of Art and four other museums in 2010–13.
Created a cultural encyclopedia of ancient Mesopotamia
The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, a 90-year project begun in 1921 and completed in 2011, collected a wealth of information about ancient Near Eastern civilization. In essence a cultural encyclopedia of ancient Mesopotamian history, it is one of the most important contributions to knowledge of ancient Near Eastern civilizations.
Created the library of the future
In 2006, as universities across the country were moving their collections to off-site storage, the University of Chicago chose to keep its invaluable physical holdings available in the heart of campus. The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, opened in 2011, gives users access to any holding, digital or print, within minutes of finding it online. Designed by architect Helmut Jahn, the library includes high-density underground storage space for up to 3.5 million volume-equivalents.
Contributed key expertise to the Higgs boson discovery
University of Chicago physicists played a key role in developing electronics that led to the celebrated discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson, the particle that endows all elementary particles in the universe with mass, in 2012.
Developed first NIH-approved cloud-based computing system to process cancer data
In 2013, data scientist Robert Grossman developed the Bionimbus Protected Data Cloud, the first cloud-based computing system approved by the National Institutes of Health to process data from the Cancer Genome Atlas, the agency’s flagship cancer genetics study. In late 2014, Grossman became director of the Genomic Data Commons, an NIH-funded project based on Bionimbus that will be the nation’s most comprehensive data facility when completed.
Improved high school graduation rates
More than 5,000 schools nationwide use Urban Education Institute (UEI) tools and training. Chicago Public Schools adopted the UEI’s Consortium on Chicago School Research’s “on-track” indicator—a metric that predicts which ninth-grade students will graduate high school—to identify and monitor students who need targeted support. The CPS freshmen-on-track rate rose from 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent in 2014, increasing across racial and ethnic groups.
Helped solve the puzzle of Spinosaurus, the first dinosaur known to swim
One hundred million years ago, the Sahara was home to the largest predatory dinosaur known to have existed: Spinosaurus. German scientist Ernst Stromer unearthed the original bones of Spinosaurus at the turn of the 20th century, but they were lost in World War II. The giant dinosaur—larger than a T. rex—then eluded scientists until 2014, when an international team, including UChicago paleontologists Nizar Ibrahim and Paul Sereno, analyzed newly acquired fossils, remains from museum collections, and historical records to render the dinosaur’s skeleton and reveal it as the first truly semi-aquatic dinosaur.
Sequenced the octopus genome for the first time
UChicago neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale and Caroline Albertin, PhD’16, along with a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, sequenced the genome of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides), the first cephalopod ever to be fully sequenced. “With a few notable exceptions, the octopus basically has a normal invertebrate genome that’s just been completely rearranged, like it’s been put into a blender and mixed,” said Albertin. “This leads to genes being placed in new genomic environments with different regulatory elements and was a completely unexpected finding.”
Discovered earliest-known arboreal and subterranean mammals
In 2015, UChicago biologist Zhe-Xi Luo and doctoral student David Grossnickle, along with a team of other researchers from UChicago and the Beijing Museum of Natural History, discovered fossils of the earliest-known tree-dwelling and subterranean mammals in China. Agilodocodon scansorius is the earliest-known tree-dwelling mammaliaform (extinct relative of modern mammals), and Docofossor brachydactylus is the earliest-known subterranean mammaliaform. The fossils of these shrew-sized animals suggest that early mammals were as ecologically diverse as modern mammals.
Demonstrated art’s ability to transform
Artist Theaster Gates received the Artes Mundi prize in 2015, a major honor for contemporary artists. The prize, among the world’s largest, honored Gates for his piece “A Complicated Relationship between Heaven and Earth, or When We Believe.” The judges praised Gates as an activist, urbanist, facilitator, and curator. The professor of visual arts and director of arts and public life at the University is an innovator in using art to reshape and revive formerly neglected neighborhoods. His Dorchester Projects created small-scale artist residencies throughout Greater Grand Crossing in Chicago.
Launched initiative to solve urban dilemmas
In 2015, the University of Chicago launched the UChicago Urban Labs to address some of the world’s most daunting urban problems and help realize the promise of cities in an era of global urbanization. Urban Labs partner with civic leaders and practitioners in Chicago and around the world to design and test the most promising urban policies and programs across five key areas: crime, education, energy and environment, health, and poverty.
Produced new type of glass that improves the efficiency of electronic devices
Molecular engineer Juan de Pablo and collaborators unexpectedly discovered a new kind of glass that could offer a simple way to improve the efficiency of electronic devices such as light-emitting diodes, optical fibers, and solar cells. It also could have important theoretical implications for understanding the still surprisingly mysterious materials called glasses.
Introduced a strategy for making better use of the fossil record
Research from geologist Susan Kidwell has “transformed our view of how the history of life is encoded in the rock record . . . and yielded powerful insights to the evolution and ecology of ancient life on Earth,” according to the National Academy of Sciences, which awarded Kidwell the 2015 Mary Clark Thompson Medal. Kidwell’s work points to a recent ecological shift instigated by human activities, shows how humans affect ecosystems and biodiversity, and contributes to a new field of science—conservation paleobiology.
Educated the first woman and African American to serve as librarian of Congress
Carla Hayden, AM’77, PhD’87, was named the 14th librarian of Congress in July 2016. The first woman and first African American to serve in the role, she is also the first professional librarian in more than 60 years to lead the Library of Congress, the nation’s largest library and oldest federal institution. Hayden earned her PhD from the University of Chicago’s Graduate Library School in 1987.