UChicago Breakthroughs tagged with Research

1890s

Led formational work in the study of ecology

Botanist Henry Chandler Cowles’s study of ecological succession in the Indiana Dunes along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in the late 1890s opened a new field of inquiry in the natural sciences: ecology. The investigation of a changing natural landscape carries increasing importance amid growing concerns about our environment.

Henry Chandler Cowles (second from the right), Professor in Botany

1890

George Herbert Mead, Professor in Philosophy

Laid pivotal groundwork to create the field of social psychology

Philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) is considered one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition. Pragmatic philosophers like Mead focused on the development of the self and the objectivity of the world, in publications that included "Suggestions Towards a Theory of the Philosophical Disciplines" (1900), “What Social Objects Must Psychology Presuppose” (1910), and “The Social Self” (1913).

1892

Established the first sociology department in the United States

Inaugurated in 1892, the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department was the first in the United States, establishing a model of creative and foundational work. Its graduates and faculty have shaped sociological subfields from stratification and demography to deviance and urban studies, and originated methodologies from path analysis and log-linear modeling to urban ethnography.

Current College students conduct urban research in the neighborhoods near the University.

1896

Early childhood education in Earl Shapiro Hall at today’s Laboratory Schools.

Introduced innovative ideas in education reform

Philosopher and educator John Dewey opened an elementary school in 1896, embarking on one of the most important educational experiments of the century. That small school became the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, one of the pre-eminent pre-collegiate academic institutions in the world and one that still bases its educational experience on Dewey’s ideas. The Lab Schools now offer a quality education to more than 1,700 students from nursery through high school.

1901

Matriculated the first African American scholar to publish in a major sociology journal

As a student at the University of Chicago in 1901, Monroe Nathan Work, AB 1902, AM 1903, published “The Negro and Crime in Chicago,” the first scholarly article by an African American to be published in the American Journal of Sociology. Later, as founding director of the Department of Records and Research, Work aggressively advanced empirical research on the African American experience.

Monroe Nathan Work, AB 1902, AM 1903

1905

Colossal Statue of King Tutankhamun excavated by the Oriental Institute and on display in its Egyptian Gallery

Established first US chair in Egyptology, Oriental history

Scholarship on the ancient Near East was primarily centered in Europe until 1905, when archaeologist and historian James Henry Breasted assumed the first chair in Egyptology and Oriental history in the United States, at the University of Chicago. In 1919, he founded the Oriental Institute as a laboratory for the study of the rise and development of civilization.

1907

Measured speed of light, won first Nobel for a US scientist

Precision optical experiments by physicist Albert A. Michelson led to measurements of the speed of light and support for Einstein’s theory of relativity. In 1907, Michelson became the first scientist from the United States to win the Nobel Prize.

Albert A. Michelson, Professor in Physics

1910

Today’s Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory conducts research on emerging infectious diseases.

Identified the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Pathologist Howard Ricketts discovered the organism that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever before his death in 1910, providing the basis for treating the disease. Today the Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory at Argonne National Laboratory is a regional biocontainment laboratory that supports research for the detection, prevention, and elimination of anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, influenza, plague, and emerging infectious diseases.

1916

Discovered significant aspect of cell cleavage

Ernest Everett Just, PhD 1916, worked with University of Chicago zoologist Frank Lillie at what is now the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. During dissertation research for his PhD in zoology, he made an important discovery about cell cleavage, showing that the sperm entry point determines the first cleavage plane in the egg of the marine annelid Nereis limbata.

Zoologist Ernest Everett Just

1917

Oswald Robertson, Chair of the Department of Medicine

Introduced blood preservation and blood banks

Medical scientist Oswald Robertson discovered a way to preserve blood. He pioneered the idea of blood banks in the “blood depots” he established in 1917 during service in France with the US Army Medical Corps. Robertson later became chair of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine.

1920

Ushered in modern empirical sociology

University of Chicago sociologists William I. Thomas and Florian Witold Znaniecki won international renown as co-authors of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918–20). The work is considered the foundation of modern empirical sociology.

Thomas and Znaniecki’s book is a classic work in modern sociology.

1921

Charles Merriam, Professor in Political Science

Reconceptualized the study of politics as a science

In 1921, political scientist Charles Merriam outlined an alternate vision for political science, founded on behavioralism. This became the Chicago School of Political Science, which reconceived the study of politics as a scientific endeavor on the model of the natural sciences.

1924

Discovered the universe is expanding

In the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble, SB 1910, PhD 1917, made discoveries showing that the universe consists of more than just our galaxy and that the universe is expanding, which provided the basis for the big bang model.

Images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, named for Edwin Hubble, have led to important discoveries in astrophysics.

1928

Interior of the Charles M. Harper Center, home of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Published the first business-focused scholarly journal

Founded in 1928 and published by the University of Chicago Press, the Journal of Business is believed to be one of the first scholarly journals to highlight business-themed research. The journal—which ceased publication in 2006—covered business finance and investment, money and banking, marketing, international trade and finance, and administration.

1930s

Transformed the field of gastroenterology

After joining the UChicago faculty in 1935, gastroenterologist Joseph B. Kirsner pioneered modern understanding and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and was one of the first to show the link between ulcerative colitis and increased risk of colon cancer. Kirsner also introduced revolutionary guidelines for how physicians should care for patients and helped found the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Irving Waxman, Director of the Center for Endoscopic Research and Therapeutics, performs an endoscopy with today’s state of the art equipment.

1930

Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, Visiting Professor in Anthropology

Advanced influential sociological theory

Social anthropologist Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, at the University of Chicago in the 1930s, developed the theory of structural functionalism, which holds that society is a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability.

1935

Helped advance civil rights

In 1935, the School of Religion conferred a PhD on Benjamin E. Mays, whose thesis, “The Idea of God in Contemporary Negro Literature,” was one of the first dissertations outside the field of sociology to focus specifically on African American studies. He went on to work with the National Urban League, helping to improve conditions for impoverished African Americans, and was an early member of several civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Southern Conference for Human Welfare, and President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Commission.

Benjamin E. Mays, AM’25, PhD’35

1937

Ronald Coase, the Clifton R. Musser Professor in Economics and editor of the Journal of Law and Economics

Established transaction cost economics

Economist and Nobel laureate Ronald Coase is best known for “The Nature of the Firm” (1937), which offered groundbreaking insights about why firms exist and established the field of transaction cost economics. He later published “The Problem of Social Cost” (1960), the seminal work in the field of law and economics. This paper set out the Coase Theorem, which holds that under conditions of perfect competition, private and social costs are equal. Economists have applied this theory to virtually every area of human activity.

1939

Combined the study of law and economics

Law and economics, or the application of economics to the study and practice of law, was born at the University of Chicago Law School in 1939. The first full-time professor of law and economics, Henry C. Simons, joined the University in 1939. Among the most important scholarly innovations in the legal academy in the 20th century, this area of study is widely adopted in legal scholarship and teaching across the United States and is now spreading around the world.

The field of law and economics was born at the University of Chicago Law School.

1941

Nobel laureate Charles B. Huggins, the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor in Surgery, working in his laboratory

Introduced hormonal treatment of cancer

In 1941, cancer researcher Charles B. Huggins treated patients suffering from advanced prostate cancer by removing the hormone the cancers needed to grow. Hormonal treatment has since become a mainstay of care for several types of cancer, including breast and gynecological cancers.

1942

Debunked race-based blood typing

Julian H. Lewis, PhD 1915, the first African American to hold both an MD and a PhD, conducted groundbreaking research on race and blood typing that led to his hallmark book, Biology of the Negro, in 1942. His book was a precursor to the field of anthropathology, which looks at racial differences in the expression of disease, and is credited with changing many people’s perspectives on race. Lewis was also the first African American to teach at the University of Chicago, where he was a noted expert in immunology.

Julian H. Lewis, PhD 1915

1942

The sculpture “Nuclear Energy” by Henry Moore commemorates the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

Conducted the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction

The modern nuclear age began when Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi and his colleagues conducted the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942, on the University of Chicago campus.

1946

Determined that fluoride reduces cavities

Starting in 1946, dental researcher J. Roy Blayney conducted a 15-year public health experiment in the Chicago suburbs of Oak Park (no fluoride) and Evanston (fluoride) that demonstrated the cavity-fighting properties of fluoride in drinking water. The study led to widespread fluoridation of municipal water supplies.

J. Roy Blayney, director of the Walter G. Zoller Memorial Dental Clinic

1949

Leon O. Jacobson, the Joseph Regenstein Professor in Medicine, in his laboratory

Performed the first bone marrow transplant

In 1949, medical researcher Leon O. Jacobson, MD’39, performed the first bone marrow transplant. He discovered he could save a mouse whose bone marrow and spleen had been destroyed by transplanting donated spleen tissue into the mouse. The procedure now helps thousands of patients with cancer and other diseases each year.

1953

Introduced modern sleep research

Modern sleep research began at the University of Chicago. In 1953, Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Aserinsky identified REM sleep, the stage when most dreaming occurs. This was the first clear indication that sleep was composed of many stages. Today, UChicago sleep researchers are making important contributions to our understanding of sleep’s relationship to body weight, disease, learning, memory, mood, and more.

Researchers at the University of Chicago continue to establish the importance of sleep to our health.

1957

Sol Tax, Professor in Anthropology

Established the field of action anthropology

Anthropologist Sol Tax, PhD’35, helped establish the field of action anthropology, an approach in which the researcher has two coordinate goals: to help a group of people in the culture being studied solve a problem and to learn in the process. Tax founded the journal Current Anthropology in 1957 as a vehicle to communicate about anthropology worldwide.

1958

Discovered the hormone-cancer mechanism

Building on the work of cancer researcher Charles B. Huggins, Elwood Jensen and fellow medical researcher Eugene Desombre identified the precise mechanism through which hormones drive cancer—by binding to a receptor protein in cells. The 1958 finding opened a new therapeutic front in breast cancer, leading to targeted treatments credited with saving many lives each year.

Cancer researcher Elwood Jensen (right), the Charles B. Huggins Distinguished Service Professor, with Nobel laureate Charles B. Huggins

1959

Hans Zeisel, Professor in the Law School and Sociology

Changed understanding of the jury system

The Chicago Jury Project, the 1950s effort of law professors Harry Kalven and Hans Zeisel, was the first large-scale empirical study of the jury system, revolutionizing the use of social science techniques in legal scholarship. The project changed the American understanding of the role of the jury.

1960

Revolutionized archaeology and paleontology with carbon-14 dating

The discovery that ancient organic materials could be dated based on the abundance of an isotope of carbon—called carbon-14 dating—has had revolutionary implications for archaeology and paleontology. Chemist Willard F. Libby won the Nobel Prize for this work in 1960.

Willard F. Libby, Professor in Chemistry

1965

Nobel laureate Eugene Fama, the Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance in Chicago Booth

Developed the efficient market hypothesis

The efficient market hypothesis, the early 1960s brainchild of economist and Nobel laureate Eugene Fama, MBA’64, PhD’64, posits that prices in the market reflect all available information, as rational investors seek and quickly respond to that information. This idea has contributed greatly to the creation of indexed funds as an effective strategy of investment.

1965

Discovered proinsulin, advancing diabetes treatment

Biochemist Donald F. Steiner, SM’56, MD’56, discovered proinsulin, the first “pro-hormone” and precursor to insulin. The 1965 finding led to the synthetic production of human insulin, markedly improving therapy for diabetes sufferers, and laid the groundwork for improved understanding of how other proteins in the body are made.

Donald F. Steiner, the A. N. Pritzker Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

1966

Paul Joseph Cohen, MS’54, PhD’58

Awarded top international mathematics medal for developing a mathematical technique called forcing

Mathematician Paul Joseph Cohen, MS’54, PhD’58, was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966 for his development of a mathematical technique called forcing, which he used to prove the independence of the continuum hypothesis from the other axioms of set theory. The Fields Medal is given every four years to the most distinguished mathematician age 40 or under. It is regarded as the highest professional honor a mathematician can attain.

1967

Determined the moon’s surface composition

In 1967, the University’s alpha scattering experiment aboard the robotic Surveyor V probe bombarded the moon’s surface with subatomic particles to determine the composition of the lunar surface—two years before Apollo 11 returned lunar samples to Earth.

Surveyor V probe on Earth

1971

Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita, the Charles Merriam Distinguished Service Professor in Geophysical Sciences

Devised the international standard for measuring tornado severity

The Fujita Tornado Scale, or F-scale, devised by meteorologist Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita in 1971, became the internationally accepted standard for measuring tornado severity.

1973

Developed predictor of the value of derivatives

Economists Myron Scholes, MBA’64, PhD'70, and Fischer Black developed an equation that could predict the value of derivatives. The Black-Scholes options pricing model, published in 1973, enabled the growth of futures and options markets and remains key to modern investment strategy.

Nobel laureate Myron Scholes addresses students at Chicago Booth.

1975

Janet Davison Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and Human Genetics, in her laboratory

Discovered cancer can be genetic

Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and geneticist Janet Davison Rowley, LAB’42, PhB’45, SB’46, MD’48, discovered the first consistent chromosomal abnormalities associated with cancer in the 1970s, demonstrating a link between cancer and genetics. She later was a key player in the development of the first precisely targeted anti-cancer drug.

1976

Introduced the modern monetarist school of economics

Economist Milton Friedman’s examination of the history of US monetary policy led to monetarism, a radical rethinking of the sources of inflation that overturned conventional Keynesian thinking. He showed that the money supply, not government spending, influenced output and the price level. This strongly influenced Federal Reserve policy in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, the Nobel Prize committee cited Friedman also for his seminal theory on consumption, which is the precursor to modern models of consumption-savings decisions.

Milton Friedman, the Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor in Economics

1977

Eugene Goldwasser, the Alice Hogge and Arthur A. Baer Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Discovered source of red blood cell formation

Biochemist Eugene Goldwasser isolated erythropoietin (EPO), the hormone behind red blood cell formation. The 1977 discovery led to the development of the first blockbuster drug of the biotech age, which has since treated millions with anemia.

1978

Identified earliest evidence of early hominids walking upright

Russell Tuttle, a leading expert on early humans, analyzed 3.66-million-year-old footprints discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania, in 1978. He determined that they were left by creatures who walked bipedally in a fashion almost identical to human beings. These “Laetoli footprints” are the oldest evidence that early hominids came down from trees and began walking upright.

Cast of the Laetoli footprints on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC

1983

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Posited the existence of black holes

A University of Chicago faculty member for more than half a century, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was the first to propose the existence of black holes and to discover the maximum mass of a white dwarf star. Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for these and other contributions that are now central to the field of astrophysics.

1989

Discovered the first known poisonous bird, revealing evolutionary insights

As a graduate student, John Dumbacher, SM’95, PhD’97, discovered that the Pitohui bird in Papua New Guinea carried batrachotoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin. When Dumbacher returned to the University of Chicago, he brought Pitohui feathers with him to an event. A sample was passed along to National Institutes of Health chemist John Daly, who identified the poison in the feathers as the same poison found in the Colombian poison dart frog in 1963. Together, Daly and Dumbacher unraveled a gap in evolutionary understanding. That two animals from different corners of the world would carry the same poison implied that the poison was coming from another creature altogether. And, as it turns out, it was: Both animals fed on a beetle from the genus Choresine and had evolved to carry batrachotoxin and use it in their own defense.

Pitohui dichrous

1990

The DNA double helix, the structure of which James Dewey Watson, SB’47, and Francis Crick discovered in 1953

Reshaped the study of gene function

James Dewey Watson, SB'47, the University of Chicago alumnus who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, launched the Human Genome Project in 1990. Today, UChicago scientists are building on Watson’s achievements and reshaping our understanding of gene function and the role genes play in disease causation.

1990

Discovered previously unknown dinosaur species

Beginning in the 1990s, paleontologist Paul Sereno’s discoveries of previously unknown dinosaur species on several continents have contributed to the understanding of the dinosaur family tree and to the larger question of how evolution works over millions of years.

Paul Sereno, Professor in Organismal Biology and Anatomy

1992

Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and Sociology, speaks at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

Opened the social sciences to economic analysis

Many current economists follow 1992 economics Nobelist Gary Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, in exploring aspects of modern life through the lens of markets and incentives. Becker expanded the scope of inquiry in economics to include human capital, the family, crime, discrimination, and other topics previously in the domain of sociology or psychology.

1992

Shaped our understanding of early childhood classrooms

Early childhood education pioneer Vivian Gussin Paley, PhB’47, recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant,” published her acclaimed book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play in 1992. Lessons from the book, which looks at the social and moral landscape of the classroom, have helped shape the educational approach at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and many other schools. In 2010, Paley was honored for her nearly four decades of teaching and research by New York’s 92nd Street Y, which endowed and named an award for a living person for the first time.

Vivian Gussin Paley, MacArthur Fellow

1993

Robert Fogel, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions

Changed the tools used to study historical economies

1993 Nobel laureate Robert Fogel shifted the course of how economic historians analyze past economies, using the theoretical tools and quantitative methods rigorously developed to answer modern economic questions as a lens through which to view the past. This radically changed the insights scholars could glean from historical data.

1999

Invented grid computing

Grid computing, co-invented by computer scientist Ian Foster in 1999, paved the way for modern cloud computing, allowing large-scale computing services to be delivered reliably and securely on demand, and enabling the formation and operation of virtual organizations that link people and resources worldwide.

Ian Foster, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Computer Science and Director of the Computation Institute

2000

James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, reads to children at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Highlighted relationship between early childhood education and economic inequality

Policy makers have benefited from important new insights into the impact of social programs and the economics of early childhood from 2000 economics Nobelist James Heckman. His work supports early childhood education as a leading force for addressing economic inequality and improving the outcomes of individuals over their lifetimes. His pioneering research questioning the benefit of the GED degree received national attention.

2001

Determined the age of the universe

Astronomer Wendy Freedman became world-renowned for her leadership of the 30-member Hubble Key Project team, which measured the current expansion rate of the universe. The project’s final results resolved a long-standing debate in 2001, determining the age of the universe as 13.7 billion years with an uncertainty of 10 percent. Freedman joined the UChicago faculty in 2014. 

Wendy Freedman, University Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics

2002

John Carlstrom used the degree angular scale interferometer (DASI) at the NSF Scott-Amundsen South Pole Station to measure the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Measured cosmic microwave background radiation

Measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation—the 14-billion-year-old light from the big bang—by cosmologist John Carlstrom in the early 2000s verified the framework that supports modern cosmological theory. His work and devices have led to more accurate measurements of the rate of cosmic expansion, motivated revisions of current cosmological models, and advanced the field of experimental astronomy.

2002

Revealed anthrax toxin structure

In the early 2000s, cancer researcher Wei-Jen Tang discovered the structure of edema factor, one of the three toxins that make the anthrax bacterium deadly, an essential step in finding treatment for the infection.

Wei-Jen Tang, Professor in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research

2004

Ancient clay balls containing tokens were used to record commercial transactions before writing was developed.

Used noninvasive modern technology to study ancient artifacts

In 2004, Sumerologist Christopher Woods and colleagues at the Oriental Institute used industrial CT scanners to image the interior of 5,000-year-old clay balls from Iran that contain tokens that may be the earliest accounting system. The nondestructive research method has allowed examination of many more such artifacts and will advance a clearer understanding of their relationship to the emergence of accounting and writing.

2004

Launched interdisciplinary research into race, politics, and culture

In 2004, scholar and activist Cathy Cohen began the Black Youth Project, a national research project devoted to examining the attitudes, resources, and culture of African American youth. Cohen’s major contributions linking academics with activism earned her the University of Chicago’s inaugural Faculty Diversity Leadership Award in 2014.

Cathy Cohen, the David and Mary Winton Green Professor in Political Science

2005

Harry A. Fozzard, the Otho S. A. Sprague Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Medicine

Advanced clinical electrophysiology

Cardiologist Harry A. Fozzard pioneered modern understanding of chemical and electrical signaling in heart muscle cells, helping to lay the foundation for modern clinical electrophysiology by mapping out the structure and function of the voltage-gated ion channels in heart muscle. His accomplishments were recognized by the American Heart Association in 2005.

2006

Discovered evolutionary link between fish and land animals

In 2006, paleontologist Neil Shubin discovered fossils of Tiktaalik roseae, the missing evolutionary link between fish and the first animals that waddled out of water onto land 375 million years ago. Shubin’s key discovery advanced evolutionary biology, and his best-selling book and television series sparked popular interest in the subject.

A model of Tiktaalik roseae

2007

Roger Myerson, the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor in Economics

Helped lay the foundation of mechanism design theory

2007 Nobel laureate Roger Myerson radically advanced the field of mechanism design, tackling the problem of how to best design markets with the right incentives to induce brokers, investors, and other actors to reveal information to one another truthfully. This work has led to a branch of scholarship investigating effective trading mechanisms, regulations, and voting procedures.

2008

Illuminated the Iron Age concept of afterlife

An Iron Age stela excavated at Zincirli in southeastern Turkey in 2008 by archaeologist and historian David Schloen revolutionized scholars’ understanding of the conception of the afterlife in that era. The monument’s lengthy inscription states that the soul of the deceased literally lived in the stone of the stela and that food should be brought to it annually.

The Iron Age funerary monument recovered at Zincirli, Turkey

2008

Chicago Public Schools students participating in the BAM program

Developed new programs to prevent crime

The University of Chicago Crime Lab, launched in 2008, partners with policy makers in Chicago and across the country to carry out large-scale policy experiments to identify effective and cost-effective ways to help prevent crime and violence. The city of Chicago has provided additional funding to the violence reduction program Becoming a Man (BAM), which Crime Lab research showed to be effective. One innovative BAM program, which addresses non-academic barriers to school success, decreased violent crime arrests of participants by 44 percent.

2009

Solved a long-standing mathematics problem

Mathematician Ngô Bao Châu’s proof of the fundamental lemma of the Langlands Program, a problem that had vexed mathematicians for three decades, was listed as one of the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2009 by Time magazine. Ngô’s work won him the highest professional honor in mathematics, the Fields Medal.

Ngô Bao Châu, the Francis and Rose Yuen Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics

2010

The Xiangtangshan Caves in China

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.

2011

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.

Martha T. Roth, the Chauncey S. Boucher Distinguished Service Professor of Assyriology, supervised the completion of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary.

2012

A 2013 panel discussion at the University entitled “Critical Mass: How the Higgs Boson Discovery Swept the World.”

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.

2013

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.

Robert Grossman, Professor in Medicine

2014

Students from the Chicago Public Schools participate in a workshop offered at the University of Chicago.

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.

2015

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.”

Octopus bimaculoides

2015

Reconstructions of Agilodocodon scansorius

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.

2015

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.

UChicago Urban Labs conduct action-oriented research aimed at improving urban life.

2015

Susan Kidwell, William Rainey Harper Professor in Geophysical Sciences

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.