News: 2020


UChicago scientists pioneer new method of measuring electricity in cells

December 23, 2020

The complex dance of electrical signals inside a cell holds the key to many questions about diseases and disorders, but has been difficult to understand—so a team of UChicago scientists invented a way to listen in.

Electricity is a key ingredient in living bodies. We know that voltage differences are important in biological systems; they drive the beating of the heart and allow neurons to communicate with one another. But for decades, it wasn’t possible to measure voltage differences between organelles—the membrane-wrapped structures inside the cell—and the rest of the cell. A pioneering technology created by UChicago scientists, however, allows researchers to peer into cells to see how many different organelles use voltages to carry out functions. 

Ten cool research stories you might have missed this year

December 23, 2020

Research from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering shows that liquid crystals can be used as easy-to-read color-changing temperature and strain sensors.

Amid a tumultuous year in which many pivoted to COVID-19 research, University of Chicago scholars and scientists have also been hard at work continuing to understand the planet and the universe we live in, to improve our lives, and to build a future that’s clean, safe and sustainable.

Three PSD faculty members receive named, distinguished service professorships

December 22, 2020

Physical Sciences data map logo

Three PSD faculty members receive named, distinguished service professorships. Rina Foygel Barber has been named the Louis Block Professor in the Department of Statistics and the College. Dmitri Talapin has been named the Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and the College. Laura Gagliardi has been named the first Richard and Kathy Leventhal Professor of Molecular Engineering and Chemistry.

PSD’s Sunyoung Park and Sarah Sebo join faculty and staff recommending what you should read over winter break

December 21, 2020

Man reading at Mansueto Library

PSD's Assistant Professors Sunyoung Park and Sarah Sebo were among faculty and staff asked what they've read that they’d recommend to the campus community: Their list includes subjects ranging from the multigenerational family struggles of Korean immigrants living in Japan, to a treatise on mushrooms and capitalism, to a meditation on what therapy can bring to our lives.

Suzuki Postdoctoral Fellowship Award 2020-2021

December 21, 2020

Suzuki Postdoc Fellows (clockwise): Michel Fruchart, Hairong Lyu, Jun Nishida, Anees Palapuravan

Four postdocs, Michel Fruchart, Hairong Lyu, Jun Nishida, and Anees Palapuravan, have been named recipients of the 2020-2021 Suzuki Postdoctoral Fellowship Award. Yuji Suzuki, SM’70, a longtime supporter and former Council member of the Physical Sciences Division, established the Yuji and Lorraine Suzuki Postdoctoral Research Fund in 2016 to recognize outstanding postdoctoral researchers. The award provides a salary top-off.

Meet Biophysical Sciences student, Margo MacDonald

December 18, 2020

Margo McDonald

Margo MacDonald was born and raised in Granville, Ohio. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and double majored in physics and biophysics. This is her third year pursuing a PhD in the Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences. We interviewed her via email about her experiences at UChicago.

New study helps pinpoint when Earth’s tectonic plates began

December 18, 2020

Rocks and a lake in the Canadian Tundra

New study helps pinpoint when Earth’s tectonic plates began—rocks tell story of planet’s transition from alien landscape to continents, oceans and life

Peter O. Vandervoort, astrophysicist and beloved UChicago mentor, 1935-2020

December 18, 2020

Peter O. Vandervoort

Peter O. Vandervoort, astrophysicist and beloved UChicago mentor, 1935-2020, died Dec. 11. He was 85. Part of the UChicago community for nearly seven decades, Vandervoort, AB’54, SB’55, SM’56, PhD’60, was remembered by colleagues as the resident historian of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and a lifelong champion for the University.

Jack Steinberger, Nobel-winning physicist and UChicago alum, 1921-2020

December 17, 2020

Jack Steinberger

Jack Steinberger, Nobel-winning physicist and UChicago alum, 1921-2020. Steinberger, SB’42, PhD’49, was most famous for his co-discovery of a new type of ghostlike particle called the muon neutrino—a breakthrough that earned him, Leon Lederman and Melvin Schwartz the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988.

PSD Spotlight: Joel Matos

December 16, 2020

Joel Matos

PSD’s December spotlight is Joel Matos, Production Specialist & Graphic Designer, PSD Graphic Arts. Joel has been with UChicago for 9 years.

UChicago alumnus startup Base Genomics acquired by Exact Sciences

December 15, 2020

Chunxiao Song

Chunxiao Song, PhD'13, co-founded a biotech startup that was recently acquired by Exact Sciences for $410 million. The startup company sequences genetic and epigenetic data to detect early-stage cancer.

PSD most read stories 2020

December 15, 2020

PSD in white against a maroon background

In this unprecedented year of news, fifteen PSD-related stories on the UChicago News site garnered over 4,000 views according to Google analytics. The vital role of the PSD response to the pandemic is represented alongside coverage of the University’s appointment of its first woman provost and breakthroughs in field-defining research. Here, ranked by highest readership, are the top stories covering PSD news and research for 2020.

Twenty PSD students selected as 2020–21 Radix Trading Fellows

December 15, 2020

A woman pushes a pipet into a test tube. UChicago Logo. Titled, PSD Fellowship Challenge

The Physical Sciences Division of the University of Chicago has selected 20 PhD students in the Departments of Mathematics, Physics, Statistics, and Astronomy & Astrophysics as the 2020–21 Radix Trading Fellows.

Prof. Elisabeth Moyers’ new US Energy History Visualization profiled in The Atlantic

December 9, 2020

Sankey Diagram image of US Energy Use

Geophysical Sciences Professor Elisabeth Moyer discusses her work on the Research Computing Center's U.S. Energy History Visualization in the Atlantic. It is an interactive Sankey diagram of energy transitions.

Geophysical Sciences Prof. Fred Ciesla comments on asteroid dust from Hayabusa2 solving a mystery of planet creation

December 8, 2020

Upclose image of Chondrules in polarized light

Geophysical Sciences Prof. Fred Ciesla comments on asteroid dust from Hayabusa2 solving a mystery of planet creation