Research https://mag.uchicago.edu/formats/research en Sleep habitats https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/sleep-habitats <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Wed, 05/09/2012 - 14:39</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Sleeping black rhino at the Denver Zoo. (Photography by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sshb/3326226399/" target="_blank">Scorpions and Centaurs</a>, <span style="display: inline;">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</span>)<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sshb/"> </a></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <a href="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Lydialyle Gibson</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/web-exclusives" hreflang="en">Web exclusives</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">05.09.2012</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>At the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s David Gozal talks about sleep patterns from worms to humans</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In a below-ground classroom at the Lincoln Park Zoo—somewhere between the monkey house and the lion enclosure—Chicago pediatrician and sleep expert <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/physicians/david-gozal.html" target="_blank">David Gozal</a> was explaining how migratory geese sleep in formation, each bird dozing with half its brain, while the other half keeps watch on the flock. “So they can fly for hours and hours and hours and still get their sleep,” Gozal said, a tinge of astonishment in his voice. “And they rotate so everybody gets the same amount of sleep. It’s fantastic. Extraordinary.”</p> <p>It was a little after 10 a.m. on a Saturday in mid March. As the rest of the zoo awakened to the day’s first visitors, Gozal’s drowsy audience sipped coffee while he and zoo biologist Rachel Santymire described the sleep habits of humans and wild animals, how non-REM gives way to REM and then back again, how all of it eventually gives way to deeper delta sleep, how sleep paralyzes every muscle but the diaphragm, allowing us to breathe while preventing us from acting out our dreams. Humans’ body temperature drops at night by as much as three degrees centigrade, Gozal said. “Your body becomes less like a mammal and more like a fish.” The phenomenon is, in fact, he said, an evolutionary holdover from the days when animals first climbed out of the ocean and walked on land.</p> <p>Santymire explained that meat eaters’ high-density diets allow them more time for sleep than herbivores, which must graze longer to get enough calories. “Also, any way you can reduce your caloric needs by sleeping next to something warm, it’ll increase your length of sleep,” she added, putting up a slide one of her grad students took in Tanzania of a featherless chicken huddled so close to a puppy and a dog that their bodies were almost indistinguishable.</p> <p>Santymire studies endangered black rhinos in South Africa and has lately been wondering whether sleep patterns might offer an indication of environmental pressures. So last year she launched a study to find out. “This is the first time that sleep behavior has been characterized in black rhinos, let alone wild black rhinos,” she said. She and her team have found that the animals sleep about 90 minutes at night and probably more during the day—she showed photos of rhinos lying motionless under trees or hidden in the grass (“look for the big boulders,” she said), captured by infrared cameras.</p> <p>Bats can sleep for as many as 23 hours a day, Gozal said. “Sometimes they only have one hour to zoom through as many insects as possible.” Insects sleep too. “Every animal we have been able to identify sleeps,” he said. “Worms sleep too, very nicely. We call that ‘lethargus.’”</p> <p>The sleep that interests Gozal most, though, is people’s. And specifically, children’s. On average, he said, adults need eight hours and 23 minutes of sleep. “Raise your hands if you sleep eight hours and 23 minutes,” he instructed listeners. No hands went up. Kids, he said, need more and deeper sleep, as many as ten hours per night. Too often, they don’t get it. Sleep deprivation raises children’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, he's found. Sleep is important, he said, “as a way for many of the early experiences that are very overwhelming to be processed.” Without enough sleep, “especially early in life, the development of what you will become—metabolically, mood, intelligence, everything—will be affected.”</p> <p>During the Q&amp;A, Gozal explained why kids act up instead of settling down when they’re tired. “Children usually resist going to sleep,” he said. “You will notice that you don’t fight with an adult to go to sleep.” The reason? “Their brains are not yet developed, so the connectivity is different. The areas that control impulsivity, the frontal part of the brain, will reduce in activity, and so the child becomes disinhibited. They become hyperactive, hyperaggressive, hyperemotional. Because the control has been taken away.” When kids reach 12 to 15 years old, “these connections are different, and the control is much tighter.”</p> <p>By the time the lecture ended and listeners emerged into the daylight, it was approaching noon. The whole place was thronged by families wheeling strollers, trailing children. At the zoo’s northern edge, a brown bear was sleeping next to a rock, his back to visitors. “Look! Let’s wake him up!” a little boy shouted to his mother as he ran toward the fence. “No,” she said. “Let’s let him rest.” For a long moment they stood silently watching the bear, its rib cage rising and falling, rising and falling, before they turned and walked on.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/sleep" hreflang="en">Sleep</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="../science-medicine/night-shift" target="_self">Night Shift</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Mar–Apr/12)</p> <div class="content"> <div class="field field-name-field-relatedstories field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even">“<a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2012/03/01/the-deep-impact-of-childhood-sleep-apnea/" target="_blank">The Deep Impact of Childhood Sleep Apnea</a>” (<em>Science Life</em> blog, March 1, 2012) “<a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_006319.pdf" target="_blank">The Student, the Professor, and the Birth of Modern Sleep Research</a>” (<em>Medicine on the Midway</em>, Spring/04) “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0310/campus-news/sleep.shtml" target="_blank">To Sleep, Perchance</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Oct/03) “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0010/research/invest-sleep.htm" target="_blank">Sleep Away Fat?</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Oct/00) “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/9906/html/invest4.htm" target="_blank">Life Without Sleep</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Apr/99) “<a href="http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/990923/kleitman.shtml" target="_blank">Kleitman, Father of Sleep Research</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Chronicle</em>, September 23, 1999)</div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/sleep-habitats" data-a2a-title="Sleep habitats"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fsleep-habitats&amp;title=Sleep%20habitats"></a></span> Wed, 09 May 2012 19:39:55 +0000 jmiller 1085 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Intestinal fortitude https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/intestinal-fortitude <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 04/27/2012 - 13:41</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Celiac disease damages the microscopic villi inside the small intestine. (Image by Samir, CC BY-SA 3.0)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/laura-putre"> <a href="/author/laura-putre"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Laura Putre</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">May–June/12</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Doctors at the University’s Celiac Disease Center raise awareness about a little-known condition.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>During two decades as a pediatric gastroenterologist in Italy, Stefano Guandalini saw 700 or 800 patients with celiac disease, an inherited disease of the digestive system in which consuming gluten causes an autoimmune reaction. But when he joined the University of Chicago’s pediatrics department in 1996, he encountered almost no children with celiac disease.</p> <p>For Guandalini, now chief of pediatric gastronenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at Comer Children’s Hospital, the dearth of celiac patients was alarming rather than reassuring. He reasoned that because the disease was well documented in Europe, affecting an estimated one percent of the population, it should also be prevalent in the United States, where the majority of the population claims at least some European ancestry. But American medical references at the time gave short shrift to the illness, which manifests itself in a range of maladies from abdominal discomfort to liver problems. Doctors didn’t know to look for it.&nbsp;</p> <p>In patients with celiac disease, the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, triggers antibodies that attack the small intestine. The attacking cells destroy villi, fingerlike protrusions in the small intestine that perform the essential task of absorbing nutrients for use in the bloodstream.</p> <p>The loss of villi can also lead to symptoms that include fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and unexplained elevation of liver enzymes. Celiac disease has been linked to osteoporosis, infertility, and neurological conditions.</p> <p>Diagnosis requires a blood test for the associated antibodies. If the test is positive, patients must then undergo an intestinal biopsy to show damage because not all people who test positive for the antibodies have celiac disease.</p> <p>Once it’s diagnosed, a gluten-free diet is the most effective treatment. “Patients improve dramatically in the vast majority of cases,” says Guandalini. “And if they stay on the diet, that improvement is consolidated for life.” But the diet is not always easy to maintain, and traveling and eating out can lead to inadvertent gluten consumption. “So research is important to find alternative treatments.”</p> <p>In 2001, with start-up funding from a couple whose child had been diagnosed with celiac disease, Guandalini created the <a href="http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/%20" target="_blank">University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center</a> in the hopes of raising the disease’s profile.</p> <p>A decade later the disease is still underdiagnosed in this country, and Guandalini and his team of researchers, clinicians, and administrators often find themselves straddling the worlds of science, patient care, and advocacy. Funding for celiac research from the National Institutes of Health is hard to come by, says Guandalini; much of the center’s funding comes from private individuals and corporations including Thermo Fisher Scientific, a manufacturer of blood tests used to diagnose celiac disease. “I think celiac disease suffers from having been seen for decades in this continent as a minor problem,” Guandalini says, “mostly involving people in Europe and not in the US.”</p> <p>Each year the center conducts more than 500 free celiac screenings for people known to be at risk for the condition: those with a family history, European ancestry, or certain other autoimmune disorders. About 5 percent test positive. Meanwhile, lead researcher Bana Jabri is working to reproduce the disease in mice, to study the pathology and to develop vaccines and treatments. In a 2011 <em>Nature</em> study, Jabri and her research team identified a protein called IL-15 that may play a role in gluten intolerance.</p> <p>Guandalini, who sees patients regularly, sets aside two hours every Monday to answer questions about celiac disease that arrive through the center’s <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CureCeliac" target="_blank">Facebook page</a>. He has crisscrossed the country giving talks two to three times a month, and he has advocated for a new FDA rule that would require products labeled gluten-free to have less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a minuscule amount.</p> <p>Every December the center brings in 20 physicians, nurses, and dietitians for a two-day “full immersion,” as Guandlini calls it. The participants visit patients, present their own cases in interactive sessions, view biopsies in pathology, and listen to dietitians discuss real-life stuff like the challenges of sticking to a gluten-free diet. When it’s all over, they return to their own clinics and offices “on fire” to increase diagnoses and do “the right thing for celiac,” enthuses Guandalini, who’s feeling a little less the lone wolf these days.</p> <p>With 300,000 Americans diagnosed with celiac disease but an estimated 3 million who have it, Guandalini encounters patients “on a weekly basis” who have suffered&nbsp; for a long time.</p> <p>Doctors often miss the disease because they look for only the classical gastrointestinal presentation, not realizing that in the 1980s researchers found that it could manifest in a variety of symptoms, including mouth sores, fatigue, depression, and stunted growth in children.</p> <p>Parents with celiac disease often bring their children to Guandalini, “and they very often report a history of … being minimized by their doctors who never run the right tests,” he says. “They become very vocal advocates for their children. They want the tests to be run, and many times, they are right.”</p> <p>Things are changing, Guandalini adds. Much more celiac-disease research is&nbsp; done in the United States than just five years ago, not only at Chicago but at the University of Maryland and the University of California, San Diego. “I think I can say immodestly that due in part to our own efforts, the situation is much improved .”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-storymedia field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><h2 class="media-icon media-icon-video">Video</h2> <object id="flashObj" width="200" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0"><param name="movie" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=1281642797001&linkBaseURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uchospitals.edu%2Fspecialties%2Fceliac%2F&playerID=720457297001&playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAp3Tjq0E~,iTywAQf1ctBUV3Ip7sD5gpI0zmuWEnMC&domain=embed&dynamicStreaming=true" /><param name="base" value="http://admin.brightcove.com" /><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed src="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashVars="videoId=1281642797001&linkBaseURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.uchospitals.edu%2Fspecialties%2Fceliac%2F&playerID=720457297001&playerKey=AQ~~,AAAAp3Tjq0E~,iTywAQf1ctBUV3Ip7sD5gpI0zmuWEnMC&domain=embed&dynamicStreaming=true" base="http://admin.brightcove.com" name="flashObj" width="200" seamlesstabbing="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowFullScreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" swLiveConnect="true" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"></embed></object><p>Stefano Guandalini explains why the University of Chicago Celiac Center is unique.</p> <p> <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/celiac/" target="_blank" class="more-link">WATCH THE VIDEO AT UCHOSPITALS.EDU</a> </p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/intestinal-fortitude" data-a2a-title="Intestinal fortitude"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fintestinal-fortitude&amp;title=Intestinal%20fortitude"></a></span> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 18:41:07 +0000 jmiller 1041 at https://mag.uchicago.edu From the ground up https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/ground <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1206_Kelly_Ground-up-alt_0.png" width="2000" height="1029" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 04/27/2012 - 08:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p><em>Above:</em> The Eckhardt Center reflects Chicago’s engineering vision. The building will provide new facilities for many programs in the physical sciences. (Rendering courtesy HOK/JCDA/AJSNY) <em>Below:</em> Matthew Tirrell, a chemical engineer by training, studies micelles (<em>illustration</em>), assemblies of lipid molecules that have potential biological applications—the kind of cross-disciplinary work he intends to make the hallmark of the University’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, where he is the founding Pritzker director. (Illustration courtesy Matthew Tirrell; Photography by Lloyd Degrane)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">May–June/12</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>With the new Institute for Molecular Engineering, the University fills a historical void and hopes to shape the scientific future.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Matthew Tirrell studies micelles, collections of lipid molecules that form spontaneously in water. The founding Pritzker director of the <a href="http://molecularengineering.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">Institute for Molecular Engineering</a>, Tirrell has developed a type of micelle that, when injected into mice, migrates to the location of artery-hardening plaque. Using that homing capability, he says, scientists could tailor micelles for diagnostic or therapeutic uses—dissolving blood clots, for example, or delivering medication to treat a tumor. Designing structures to achieve such ends involves a process called molecular self-assembly. “When you put things together in a beaker, they don’t chemically react,” Tirrell says, “but they spontaneously organize into structures that are useful.”</p> <p>He wants the Institute for Molecular Engineering to operate with similar spontaneity and utility. Faculty members will be encouraged—expected, really—to organize themselves into problem-solving teams. As of mid-April Tirrell was the institute’s only faculty member, devoting most of his time to recruiting more. As many as five professors could be named by the fall, and over the next several years the faculty will grow to about 25.</p> <p>Tirrell, who arrived at Chicago in July 2011, hopes to attract researchers who think beyond their specific expertise. As chair of the University of California, Berkeley’s bioengineering department—and before that at UC, Santa Barbara, where he spent a decade as dean of engineering—he showed “incredible intellectual breadth,” says Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum, attracting talent from across disciplines.</p> <p><img src="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/1206/1206_Kelly_Ground-up-spot01.png" alt="" align="right" hspace="10" />Tirrell’s group of four postdoctoral researchers at Chicago, along with a handful of graduate students, illustrates the range he values. “Chemists, physicists, engineers, and biologists, all in a relatively small group,” says Matthew Kade, one of the postdocs who came with Tirrell from Berkeley. “The idea of molecular engineering is, it’s all of these different fields coming together to do the whole bottom-up solving of problems. If you look at the diversity of Matt’s group, he’s kind of been doing that for a long time.”</p> <p>A chemical engineer by training, Tirrell spent 22 years at the University of Minnesota, where his work included adhesion, friction, and lubrication for 3M, studying the surface properties of polymers. “About ten or 15 years ago, my interest within that domain shifted more toward biological interaction,” he says. “If you put a synthetic material”—such as an implantable medical device—“into a physiological environment, how does it interact with the physiological environment?” That question led him to the micelles he studies now.</p> <p>In Tirrell’s vision for the institute, scientists will likewise follow their interests wherever they lead. Molecular engineers doing biological research, for example, will not focus on health care to the exclusion of other potential uses for their work. The variety of applications for molecular-level research all but demands such wide-angle vision. Chicago chemistry postdoc Dimitris Priftis, another former Berkeley colleague of Tirrell’s, studies polyelectrolyte particles that can be used in cosmetics, food products, and also to make the display for the Amazon Kindle. “I want people that are broad and versatile enough to think about applications not only in health care but energy, environment, maybe even in computing: how does biology transform information? Stuff like that,” Tirrell says. “That’s going to mean that we’re going to have people skilled in biology working with people skilled in electrical engineering—unusual combinations.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The combination of the University of Chicago and engineering research</strong> is unusual in itself. Contrary to local myth, though, University administrators have not dismissed the field in the past, they’ve just failed in their attempts to incorporate it into the curriculum.</p> <p>William Rainey Harper’s <em>Official Bulletin No. 1</em>, issued in January 1891—before his acceptance of the University’s presidency had been made public—proposed a graduate school of engineering in the same breath as law and medicine. In <em>Harper’s University</em> (University of Chicago Press, 1966), Richard J. Storr wrote that, the winter before the University opened, Frederick T. Gates told John D. Rockefeller that “we can do all our work in applied sciences through this school. It will be the greatest thing of the kind in the world.”</p> <p>Civil engineer Elmer L. Corthell, a trustee of the new University, visited six European universities in 1891 to study their engineering programs as potential models. But Harper never had an answer to Corthell’s ultimate question: “Where is the money to come from?” Frustrated in his attempts to create an engineering school, Harper pursued partnerships, including one with the Armour Institute of Technology. “The contemplated end was an equivalent of MIT,” Storr writes, “connected with the University and financed by Armour.” But no agreement could be reached with Philip D. Armour or his heirs.</p> <p>Decades later Robert Maynard Hutchins also considered opening an engineering school. Robert C. Michaelson, SB’66, AM’73, the former head librarian at Northwestern University’s Seeley G. Mudd Library for Science and Engineering, recounts meetings and correspondence about a proposed grant from 1930s Chicago industrialist and philanthropist Walter P. Murphy. In <em>Tech, the Early Years</em>, an anthology about the history of Northwestern’s Technological Institute, Michaelson writes that Chicago’s dean of faculties E. T. Filbey told Murphy’s intermediary that the University “would be interested if there would be support of research and training in engineering that was as distinctive as work done there in other fields, not just another engineering school.” Filbey promised an enthusiastic commitment to make all the necessary investments to succeed in the field. Eventually, though, Murphy’s money—a $6,735,000 gift announced in March 1939—went to Northwestern, and Chicago’s pursuit of engineering lay dormant. Until now.</p> <p><img src="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/1206/1206_Kelly_Ground-up-spot02.png" alt="" align="right" hspace="10" />Today, University President Robert J. Zimmer says, the traditional distinction between science, as the study of the natural world, and engineering, with its focus on man-made inventions, no longer exists. “The evolution of technology has blurred this boundary,” Zimmer says. “The ability to manipulate and design at the molecular scale opens a huge new set of questions in science and at the same time huge new opportunities.” In the modern scientific environment, he adds, the lack of an engineering program had caused the&nbsp; University’s research potential to “feel oddly restricted.” In his 2006 inaugural convocation address, the president foreshadowed the importance of engineering in removing that constraint: how, he asked, could the University “participate in and lead the remarkable ongoing transformations in science?” Two faculty committees, convened over the past five years, provided the answer.</p> <p>Under the direction of chair Steven J. Sibener, the Carl William Eisendrath professor in chemistry and the James Franck Institute, the committees determined that molecular engineering represented fertile territory to “yield the added benefit of increasing creativity and the strength of scientific inquiry.” Noting an “explosion of activity in nanoscience,” the 2009 committee report cited three institutes—the Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University, the California NanoSystems Institute, and the London Centre for Nanotechnology—as models. “The success of these institutes can be clearly linked to two key ingredients: a visionary, world-renowned leader and substantial institutional investment.” Not just a call to action for a new Institute for Molecular Engineering, the report also warned that “inaction in this area of endeavor may well abdicate activity in some of the most promising new directions of physical, biological, and medical research.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The Institute for Molecular Engineering is a microcosm</strong> of its own discipline—new and exciting, with far-reaching potential, but difficult even for its own scientists to define. “Molecular engineering, what does that mean?” asks chemical engineer Sarah Perry, one of Tirrell’s postdocs, answering with a shrugging blur of phrase meant to say, <em>I don’t know</em>. She prefers it that way. “With all this idea of collaboration and bringing people together, that little bit of ambiguity and that lack of prejudice is probably really, really helpful.”</p> <p>Even the name Institute for Molecular Engineering carries implications Tirrell feels compelled to explain. “The most important one is that we’re going to be doing engineering that connects with molecular-level science in chemistry and physics and biology. The flip side of that implies what we’re not going to be doing. We’re not going to be building 747s or bridges and dams. We’re not going to have civil engineering or aerospace engineering.”</p> <p>That explanation, he insists, is not a definition of the field, a narrow view he resists in favor of considering its expansive potential. “This is not distinctly different from what many people would call nanoscale engineering or nanotechnology,” Tirrell adds, but “we’re not going to be talking about, in the early stages, what the discipline is as much as we are what the disciplines can do together.”</p> <p>Chicago’s molecular engineers will work together in a building visible now only in an artist’s rendering. In 2015 faculty and staff will move from temporary space into part of the 265,000-square-foot $215 million William Eckhardt Research Center, under construction on the site of the Research Institutes building at 57th Street and Ellis Avenue. For now, Tirrell works on his own construction project from an administrative office on the second floor of Jones Laboratory.</p> <p>An undergraduate degree program in molecular engineering, he says, remains two or three years away, although he expects the first group of graduate students to start in fall 2013. In the meantime, with a handful of new professors, Tirrell hopes to offer courses this fall to current College students that “cover some of the differences between engineering and science—design, even economic analysis,” he says. “There are all kinds of failed businesses that result from people not really recognizing the difference between a slick technical idea and a good business idea. And engineers are supposed to have a little more insight into that.”</p> <p>Calling engineering “the path from science to society,” Tirrell considers the institute’s potential to navigate that path essential to its success. Through agreements with existing businesses or through University start-ups, putting the theoretical into practice will be one of the institute’s key responsibilities.</p> <p>Next to his main priority of faculty recruitment, Tirrell devotes much of his time to visiting companies, establishing relationships that could be mutually beneficial as the institute’s research agenda develops. A history of real-world success would be another valuable line on the CVs of potential professors. “Especially since we’re building an engineering program, we want people that are accustomed to working with organizations that get things done,” Tirrell says. “So industry, hospitals, government in some cases. To really put what happens in the labs here into practice in the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Reporting to the provost</strong>, the Institute for Molecular Engineering is the University’s largest new academic program since the Harris School of Public Policy Studies opened in 1988. And although Tirrell estimates that 30 or 40 scientists on campus already do research that could be defined as molecular engineering, the institute’s proposed 25 faculty members will be new hires. Some current Chicago researchers eventually will have a role with the institute, perhaps as fellows, and a partnership with Argonne National Laboratory will offer additional potential for collaboration.</p> <p>The institute’s independence was an attraction for Tirrell, who welcomed the rare and invigorating opportunity to build an academic unit, to create a new identity in an established research culture. The novelty is a selling point to others as well, but he believes researchers have an additional incentive to be interested: “Being able to help create an engineering department that sheds a lot of traditional baggage and aims really at optimizing the possibilities to tackle big societal problems is what attracts people.” By “baggage” he means any specific category of engineering—electrical, mechanical—that restricts the work done under the institute’s roof.</p> <p>He also means the freedom that comes from tapping into the collaborative potential that the University encourages—Tirrell often walks across the street to meet with colleagues at the medical school or the Gordon Center for Integrative Science—while developing an independent agenda. “The IME will have a kind of license to do things together the way a research institute does and a license to acquire faculty the way an academic unit does,” Tirrell says. “That doesn’t exist elsewhere as far as I know.”</p> <p>With the ability to both collaborate and stand apart, the institute will contribute to molecular-level research in the basic sciences while advancing the specific role of engineering—and vice versa. “It will stretch people at both ends,” says Provost Rosenbaum, the John T. Wilson distinguished service professor in physics, the James Franck Institute, and the College. Despite the increasing similarities between scientists and engineers, Rosenbaum notes that each still has a “different sensibility” that informs and pushes the other’s research.</p> <p>Many researchers echo Zimmer’s description of disciplines that have blurred to an almost indistinguishable point. “I don’t dispute that,” Tirrell says, but he believes there’s still an important philosophical distinction. “Science discovers the world as it is; engineering creates the world that never was,” he adds, paraphrasing Caltech aerospace engineer Theodore von Kármán. “My distillation of that is, ‘Science is about why, and engineering is about why not?’” He chuckles. “These are things that deans make up when they’re taking a shower.”</p> <p>At this point, Tirrell doesn’t concern himself much with distinctions. He’s 61 and figures he’ll retire in 15 years or so. Maybe then, he says, he’ll write a book that draws disciplinary boundaries around molecular engineering, but he believes the institute should be free of imposed constraints. In the chemical-engineering departments where Tirrell worked, questions often arose about whether a certain topic belonged under their umbrella. “We’re never going to have that discussion here.”</p> <p>He wants the biggest tent molecular engineering can build. “What we’re going to end up with is not going to be some kind of smaller-scale homogeneous mimic of a traditional engineering school. We’re not going to have departments, we’re not going to divide ourselves up; we’re going to emphasize coming together to solve big problems.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/ground" data-a2a-title="From the ground up"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fground&amp;title=From%20the%20ground%20up"></a></span> Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:57:56 +0000 jmiller 1027 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Night shift https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/night-shift <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1204_Gibson_Night-shift.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Mon, 02/27/2012 - 14:40</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Illustration by Charles Glaubitz)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <a href="/author/lydialyle-gibson"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Lydialyle Gibson</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Mar–Apr/12</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>For nearly a century, UChicago scientists have explored the deep universe of sleep.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“I feel like a lab rat,” says Ruben Rodriguez. He looks a little beleaguered, smiling up from the bed where soon he’ll be asleep, while next door, in a room smelling of coffee and humming with computers, a sleep tech will spend long, small hours monitoring his breathing and brain activity, his eye movements and muscle tone, the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in his blood.</p> <p>Rodriguez feels like a lab rat because he is one. Covered head to foot in wires and electrodes, he is spending his fourth night in as many months at the <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/pulmonary/sleep-disorders/" target="_blank">University of Chicago Medicine’s Sleep Disorders Center</a> as part of a study on obesity hypoventilation syndrome. Also called Pickwickian syndrome—in <em>The Pickwick Papers</em> Dickens described a character with the classic symptoms—the disease usually combines severe sleep apnea with shallow waking respiration. “To the point where they’re not breathing enough to get rid of the carbon dioxide, so it accumulates in their bodies,” says <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/physicians/babak-mokhlesi.html" target="_blank">Babak Mokhlesi</a>, who directs the Sleep Disorders Center. “This is the extreme of the extreme.”</p> <p>Rodriguez, 39, knew he’d put on a lot of weight in the past few years—he reached 375 pounds before he started working it off this past January—and he knew he was waking up frequently at night. But he didn’t realize he had a problem until his boss called and told him. A driver for a handicap-accessible van service, Rodriguez kept nodding off at the wheel, a few seconds here, a few seconds there, whenever traffic slowed to a stop. The camera on the windshield caught him. “I never hit nobody, thank God,” he says. Going in for a diagnostic sleep study last fall, he found out that when he slept, his breathing periodically stopped for 20 seconds at a time, sometimes longer, before his brain lurched into action, sending an urgent signal for him to rouse up and gasp for air. (“Apnea” comes from a Greek word meaning “without breath.”) In the course of a night, this might happen dozens of times.</p> <p>Tonight is Rodriguez’s last in the sleep lab. Now outfitted with a CPAP device (the acronym stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”) that keeps him breathing normally through a mask that fits over his face, he sleeps soundly, solidly. Five minutes after sleep tech Greg Bild wishes him goodnight over the intercom, Rodriguez is asleep. A little more than an hour later, he’s in REM, the digital waves that track his eye movements picking up speed, rolling over each other as they undulate across the computer screen’s teeming, black cosmos.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>The University of Chicago has a long history with sleep.</strong> “I heard this was the place where they invented it,” Rodriguez joked the first time he came to the medical center. That’s not quite true, but it is the place where sleep science first took shape, and where the shape of sleep itself—how it works and what it’s for, and what happens when something goes wrong—began to emerge from the darkness. In 1925 Chicago physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman, PhD’23, established the world’s first sleep lab, on the second floor of Abbott Hall, which he filled with instruments and measuring devices he and his students had fashioned.</p> <p>Fourteen years later, he published a textbook, <em>Sleep and Wakefulness</em> (University of Chicago Press, 1939), which became the canonical volume for sleep researchers everywhere. Fourteen years after that, in 1953, Kleitman and graduate student Eugene Aserinsky, PhD’53, published a two-page paper in <em>Science</em>, documenting their discovery of REM sleep. Little noticed at first, it was nevertheless a breakthrough, a foundation on which the rest of sleep science would build. Rapid eye movements, the two reported, occurred regularly during sleep and were accompanied by faster heartbeats, quicker breathing—and dreaming. Subjects whom they awakened during or just after a REM cycle could describe vivid, detailed, visual dreams.</p> <p>With medical student William Dement, MD’55, PhD’58, Kleitman dispelled the idea that sleep was a single state. Recording subjects throughout the night, they used eye-motion measurements and EEGs of brain activity to chart shifting sleep patterns. A few years later, Chicago psychologist Allan Rechtschaffen, along with Dement and Chicago colleague Gerry Vogel, SB’51, MD’54, helped give scientific shape to narcolepsy, a disorder first described in the late 1800s. In a series of 1960s papers, the three researchers articulated the idea that narcolepsy is a form of dissociated REM sleep.</p> <p>Later Rechtschaffen, who led the sleep lab after Kleitman’s retirement, carried out some of the first research on insomnia and sleep apnea. He and Pennsylvania psychiatrist Anthony Kales developed a standardized method for classifying sleep stages that remained in use until 2007, when the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, building on Rechtschaffen and Kales’s system, released new guidelines.</p> <p>In those early years, when sleep science was still a wide-open field of deep and ancient mysteries, Rechtschaffen looked for clues wherever he could find them. He brought into the lab not only human subjects but also cats, alligators, tortoises, and lizards, hoping to pin down the common fundamentals of sleep. His experiments with rats, in which he kept the animals awake continuously, demonstrated the fatal effects of sleep deprivation. Growing scrawnier and weaker, even as they ate more, the sleep-deprived animals lost coordination and stopped grooming themselves. Finally their bodies failed completely, and after two to three weeks they died.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Nearly a century after Kleitman first drew back the curtain on sleep,</strong> its mysteries remain vast and profound, although the field is more densely populated, at Chicago and elsewhere. Sleep researchers converge from across disciplines: physicians, neuroscientists, psychologists, physiologists. As David Gozal, who leads the University’s pediatric sleep program, says, “The universe of sleep here is expanding. There are lots of galaxies out there.”</p> <p>Most of those galaxies exist within UChicago Medicine, but some are farther flung. Social neuroscientist John Cacioppo has shown that loneliness can damage sleep quality, and biophysicist David Biron searches for clues to the genetic mechanism that regulates sleep in the “lethargus” behavior of roundworm <em>C. elegans</em>, a tiny primitive organism whose quiescent state resembles our own.</p> <p>For more than a decade, organismal biologist Daniel Margoliash and former psychology chair Howard Nusbaum, U-High’72, have investigated how sleep affects cognition in people and birds. Testing students as they learn complex video games or memorize new words, and starlings and zebra finches as they encounter new songs, Margoliash and Nusbaum have shown that sleep consolidates and protects new memories, that it fends off false ones, that it can even restore memories that seem to be lost. Tracking birds’ individual neurons, Margoliash discovered something not unlike dreaming: during sleep, the animals’ brains fire in patterns that mimic wakeful singing. Birds, he theorized, rehearse their songs at night, the way some scientists believe people revisit the day’s events in dreams.</p> <p>Most of the University’s sleep research, though, happens within the medical center, where the past two decades of discovery have leaned more toward the physiological than the psychological: how sleep—or lack of it—interacts with obesity, diabetes risk, hormone function, metabolism, and cardiovascular problems. In 2008 scientists led by epidemiologist Diane Lauderdale, AM’79, AM’81, were among the first to draw a conclusive connection to heart disease, calculating that for every hour of average sleep lost, coronary calcium buildup can increase by 16 percent. In a novel study this past January, internist Vineet Arora, AM’03, examined how hospital noise, which sometimes spikes to a chainsaw-loud 80 decibels, disrupts patients’ rest, and perhaps with it their recovery.</p> <p>“We have developed a theme that basically could be summarized as: the importance of sleep for physical health,” says Eve Van Cauter, who directs the <a href="http://www.sleep.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">University’s Sleep, Metabolism, and Health Center</a>. “I mean, your grandmother would say, ‘I knew it all along, that sleep is important to stay healthy.’” Study by study, sleep researchers are proving it.</p> <p>In 1999 Van Cauter published a groundbreaking report in the <em>Lancet</em>. Chronic sleep loss, she found, strikingly alters hormone secretion in young, healthy adults. In some subjects who were sleeping only four hours a night, glucose metabolism came to resemble that of diabetics. Their blood cortisol rose to levels usually seen in much older people. The study was one of the first to explore the effects of sleeplessness on the body rather than the brain.</p> <p>Since then Van Cauter’s research has linked poor, irregular sleep to a multitude of chronic diseases: diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. She has studied shift workers and jetlag sufferers. Last year she and biomedical anthropologist Kristen Knutson, a frequent collaborator, reported that insomnia can worsen insulin resistence in diabetics. In another 2011 study, Van Cauter found that sleep loss can lower young men’s testosterone levels. Sleep apnea, she’s reported, can raise the risk and severity of diabetes.</p> <p>“Many of my colleagues in the sleep field will say that the function of sleep is still unknown,” Van Cauter says. “‘Why do we sleep?’” But the question, she argues, is itself a fallacy: there’s no single function. “If you sleep deprive an individual, basically nothing remains normal, whether mental or physical. Sleep is a basic need for function at every level.”</p> <p>Van Cauter still has big questions. Does restoring sleep to the sleep deprived repair mental and physical function? Is it possible, with longer, better-quality sleep, to walk back some of the damage done to blood pressure, diabetes risk, inflammation, the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease? “There are some hints,” she says, that what she calls “good sleep hygiene” can offer those benefits, but what’s missing is a body of evidence, “strong well-designed studies.”</p> <p>Another open question for her is pharmacological. “We have so few drugs to treat people in sleep. For people with hypertension, there are 20 different drugs,” each targeting a different blood-pressure mechanism. “For sleep, we know there are different waking centers, so a person who has trouble sleeping, it could be because of too high histaminergic tone, or too high cholinergic tone, or too high neurogenic tone. The regulation of sleep is complex, and we know the neuronal groups and neurotransmitters involved. Yet the sleep drugs we have all target the exact same receptor,” a subunit of the benzodiazepine. “The pharmacology of sleep is really very poorly developed.”</p> <p>In another corner of the medical center, the pharmacology is a puzzle Nanduri Prabhakar is trying to solve, at least for one disorder whose numbers have been rising: obstructive sleep apnea, which happens when the soft tissue around the airway blocks off breathing. (Mokhlesi says that 70 percent of the clinical patients at the Sleep Disorders Center have sleep apnea.) Weight is a frequent contributing factor—it’s no coincidence that sleep apnea has increased along with obesity—but so are age and gender and genetics. Men are more likely to develop the condition. So are people over 40, those with a family history, or people with certain sinus conditions. Four to 9 percent of middle-aged men and 2 to 4 percent of middle-aged women have sleep apnea.</p> <p>An emergency-medicine professor, Prabhakar directs the Center for Systems Biology of Oxygen Sensing. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms at work during intermittent hypoxia, the oxygen deficiency that accompanies sleep apnea and can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other maladies. Using rodent and cell-culture models, Prabhakar is developing a drug to counteract the biological reactions that set those larger problems in motion.</p> <p>The need is urgent, he says. During a 2010 interview with the UK’s Physiological Society, he noted that for adults with sleep apnea, a hypoxia-fighting drug would make CPAP devices more effective and improve patients’ quality of life and cognitive function. He added that nearly one in two babies born prematurely suffer chronic intermittent hypoxia because of disrupted breathing during sleep. “If it’s not cured,” Prabhakar said, “eventually they develop sudden infant death syndrome.”</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Pediatric pulmonologist David Gozal has seen that happen.</strong> During his medical residency in Israel, a baby died from sudden infant death syndrome. The experience shook him. “Sudden infant death syndrome is a condition that occurs only during sleep,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about sleep, because at that time—this was the late 1970s—as a discipline it barely existed, and certainly not in pediatrics.” In 1981, while he was still a resident, Gozal established a sleep lab specifically for children at Haifa’s Rothschild Hospital (now called Bnai Zion Medical Center). “Looking back, I can’t overemphasize how primitive I was in my understanding of sleep, but it seemed like the right thing to do,” he says. “I thought we needed to understand why babies die suddenly and unexpectedly, and to understand that, I thought we needed to understand sleep in babies.” His research has helped illuminate the mechanisms that connect hypoxia and sudden infant death syndrome.</p> <p>Thirty years later, Gozal is still a rarity, running a pediatric sleep program he says is “more unique” than he would like. “Children are not little adults,” he says. Diseases can behave differently in one than in the other, and they often require different remedies, although children, like adults, suffer the full range of sleep disorders: sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and “narcolepsy, which we now know—because we and others documented this—can occur very early.”</p> <p>Moreover, Gozal says, children need their own sleep research because the stakes are so high. “Alterations in sleep in early childhood can have huge lifelong consequences, and sometimes transgenerational consequences.” Sleep disorders in kids can modify their genomes and change the way they develop into adulthood. “Our job as pediatricians is not just to make sure that kids are healthy, but to make sure they become healthy adults.”</p> <p>Gozal came to Chicago in 2008, and since his arrival he’s assembled a team of nearly a dozen scientists and physicians doing what he calls “bench-to-bedside” work. Among them are Yang Wang, studying ways to protect children’s brains from the intermittent hypoxia associated with sleep apnea, and Shelley Zhang, investigating how immune function and metabolism are affected. Using animal models of sleep disorders, Abdelnaby Khalyfa examines the genomic pathways and gene interactions, and Vijay Ramesh looks for connections between childhood sleep disruptions and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Rakesh Bhattacharjee studies how cellular particles—endothelial cells, monocytes, platelets—shed during sleep apnea, contribute to vascular dysfunction and, in turn, to childhood obesity. Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, Gozal’s wife, studies how specific immune cells may change and then contribute to atherosclerosis in children with sleep disorders, while Richard Li investigates the role endothelial cells and monocytes play in apnea-related atherosclerosis.</p> <p>In his own lab, Gozal examines the effects of disrupted sleep on children’s brains and bodies. In a 2011 study he tracked the sleep habits of four- to ten-year-olds and found that, on average, they slept eight hours a night—an hour and a half to two hours less than the recommended duration. Children with the poorest and shortest sleep were four times more likely to be obese, and their blood tests showed increased metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors. Currently Gozal studies how sleep apnea, obesity, and cognition interact. “So we’re imaging kids, doing cognitive function in kids, measuring vascular function in kids, doing metabolic assays in kids. And trying to put it all together and understand how genes could potentially affect these relationships.”</p> <p>He also studies how oxidative stress affects cognition, and how diet might modify those effects; how sleep disruptions can lead to changes in cancer behaviors; and how poor sleep can alter the genome. Because obstructive sleep apnea affects kidney function, he is developing a urine test for the disorder, so that children can skip the strenuous, difficult nights in the sleep lab.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Just down the hall from the bed where Rodriguez is spending his final night</strong> in the sleep lab, a three-year-old girl, attached to her own set of electrodes and wires, struggles to get to sleep. (Children and adults share sleep lab facilities, if not medical and research programs.) She’s come in for diagnosis and treatment of a nighttime breathing disruption—the sleep techs suspect sleep apnea—and for two hours she whimpers and squirms. Her mother cajoles her with a blanket, a toy, and, in desperation, a cell phone. By the time she finally drifts off, her mother already passed out beside her, it’s long after midnight.</p> <p>Sleep disorders have genetic and biological underpinnings that researchers are just beginning to understand, but lack of sleep is also often environmental, and often in ways that are not within people’s control: Life’s responsibilities push back bedtimes. Stress keeps people awake. Children sleep irregularly because their parents do.</p> <p>There’s also something Gozal might call a modern lack of regard for sleep. “You look at the earth today,” he says. “It’s all light, all noise. The quality of our sleep, the regularity of sleep—it has disappeared.” People ignore the effects of sleep loss because they can. “It’s the only thing that doesn’t punish you immediately.”</p> <p>But sleeplessness does punish you. It’s not the “tradable commodity” it seems to be, Gozal says. “We spend one-third of our lives sleeping. If it weren’t important, why would we do this?” he says. “Every aspect of our lives essentially revolves around sleep. It is the dark matter that connects all the visible stars.”</p> <p> </p> <h6><em>Updated 03.15.2012</em></h6> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/sleep" hreflang="en">Sleep</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="science-medicine/sleep-habitats">Sleep Habitats</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, web exclusive, May 9, 2012)<br /> “<a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2012/03/01/the-deep-impact-of-childhood-sleep-apnea/" target="_blank">The Deep Impact of Childhood Sleep Apnea</a>” (<em>Science Life</em> blog, March 1, 2012)<br /> “<a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_006319.pdf" target="_blank">The Student, the Professor, and the Birth of Modern Sleep Research</a>” (<em>Medicine on the Midway</em>, Spring/04)<br /> “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0310/campus-news/sleep.shtml" target="_blank">To Sleep, Perchance</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Oct/03)<br /> “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0010/research/invest-sleep.htm" target="_blank">Sleep Away Fat?</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Oct/00)<br /> “<a href="http://magazine.uchicago.edu/9906/html/invest4.htm" target="_blank">Life Without Sleep</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Apr/99)<br /> “<a href="http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/990923/kleitman.shtml" target="_blank">Kleitman, Father of Sleep Research</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Chronicle</em>, September 23, 1999)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Event with pediatric pulmonologist David Gozal “<a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/education/programs/wild-nights-study-sleep-across-species" target="_blank">Wild Nights: The Study of Sleep Across Species</a>” (March 10, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago) </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-storymedia field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><h2 class="media-icon media-icon-video">Video</h2><iframe width="200" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8hAw1z8GdE8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Stanford professor William Dement, MD'55, PhD'58, explains the connections between healthy sleep and optimal performance as part of Google's Tech Talks lecture series. </p> <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hAw1z8GdE8" class="more-link" target="_blank">WATCH THE VIDEO AT YOUTUBE</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/night-shift" data-a2a-title="Night shift"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fnight-shift&amp;title=Night%20shift"></a></span> Mon, 27 Feb 2012 20:40:06 +0000 jmiller 812 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Earn as you learn https://mag.uchicago.edu/education-social-service/earn-you-learn <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1202_Kelly_Earn-as-you-learn.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 01/06/2012 - 14:06</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Illustrations by Celyn)</p> <div id="extension-is-installed"> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Jan–Feb/12</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>An ambitious economic field experiment studies how financial incentives for students, teachers, and parents affect academic performance.</p> <div id="extension-is-installed"> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>On 16th Place in Chicago Heights, an industrial south-suburban town that feels haunted by the ghosts of vanished jobs, a school blends into its worn neighborhood. The tan, brown, and red brick buildings that make up the Washington-McKinley elementary and junior high schools could be the offices of any local business or government agency without the budget to update its facilities. On one wall, though, there’s a vibrant contrast: a bright red, blue, yellow, and green apple, the logo for the Griffin Early Childhood Center, an experimental preschool within the school, a field laboratory for education research.</p> <p>The colorful sign represents a $10 million grant from the Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation for what <em>Bloomberg Markets Magazine</em> called “one of the largest field experiments ever conducted in economics.” Recruiting 650 families each year, the study tests financial-incentive strategies for improving academic performance.</p> <p>In a community suffering from economic problems that infect its schools—an unemployment rate above 15 percent and almost 80 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch—the investment offers a two-fold opportunity: research and outreach. Now in its second academic year, the project already has shown benefits for the children involved as the researchers try to identify long-term solutions for schools in other distressed districts like Chicago Heights. “It’s a really good representation of the urban education problems we have in the United States,” says University of Chicago economist John List, who developed the project with Kenneth and Anne Griffin, colleague Steven Levitt, and Harvard’s Roland Fryer.</p> <p>Among the attempts to solve education problems, financial incentives for teachers have become more common in recent years. The concept of merit pay has been controversial; opponents argue that home and community factors that affect student performance make it impossible to implement a fair system. Linking teacher bonuses to standardized-test scores has been especially contentious (see, "<a href="../education-social-service/failed-tests" target="_blank">Failed Tests</a>").</p> <p>Motivating students with money has also been on the rise. In 2008 <em>USA Today</em> reported that at least a dozen states planned to pay students—most with money from corporate and philanthropic donations—for meeting classwork or test-score standards. Fryer, who at 30 became the youngest African American to receive tenure at Harvard in 2008 and now directs its Education Innovation Laboratory, leads education research projects nationwide. Fryer’s experiments have found that paying students not for meeting performance expectations but for fundamental actions common to academic success—good behavior, regular attendance, homework completion—produces better results.</p> <p>Two years before they started the Griffin experiment, Chicago economists List and Levitt were involved in another financial-incentive study at a Chicago Heights high school. List, who calls field experiments “my passion,” has fanned out around the world to conduct research on sports memorabilia, environmental regulation, and charitable giving. A 2008 <em>New York Times Magazine</em> story about his philanthropy research caught the attention of Chicago Heights physician William Payne, who contacted List to discuss ways his expertise could be put to use to help the local community. At about the same time, Chicago hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Kenneth Griffin met with List to discuss ways to examine the effects of education incentives. They set out to study those effects in Chicago Heights.</p> </p> <p>A Griffin-funded experiment during the 2008–09 school year tested cash incentives for ninth graders. Payne described a major dropout problem, telling List that as many as half of Chicago Heights high-school students failed to graduate, with most leaving between their first and second years. The researchers set out to patch that wound. In one part of the study, called the Chicago Heights Miracle, students who maintained a C average and met attendance and behavioral requirements received $50 a month. Others qualified for a $500 end-of-year lottery. Another part of the study focused on parents, tracking the effect of those incentives on mothers and fathers who received the money or a place in the lottery if their children achieved the standards.</p> <p>Because of those financial incentives, List estimates the $400,000 experiment kept about 25–40 potential dropouts on track to earn a diploma this spring. “Per student, that’s pretty expensive,” he says. A scene in the 2010 <em>Freakonomics</em> movie shows List and Levitt discussing the results with Chicago graduate student Sally Sadoff, AM’08, PhD’10, who wrote her dissertation on the study.</p> <p>As the researchers analyzed the data, they realized that, although the experiment stopped some bleeding, it did not treat the festering infection. By ninth grade the students were so far behind—reading, on average, at a third-grade level—that it was too late for the incentives to make a meaningful difference. “It’s like asking someone who’s never had a math class to solve a second-order linear partial differential equation and saying, ‘I’ll give you a million dollars if you solve it.’” List says. “They really want to solve it, but they just can’t.”</p> <p>Edie Dobrez, executive director of the Griffin Early Childhood Center, loves how the <em>Freakonomics</em> scene ends. Rather than letting the results discourage them about whether behavioral economics can influence educational progress, the researchers decide to be more ambitious, recalibrating their hypothesis to focus on much younger children and, of particular interest to List, their parents. “They said, ‘That’d be cool, let’s do that,’” Dobrez says during a tour of the center that grew out of that conversation. “That’s the innovative spirit and the courage it takes to do something like this. That’s why we’re here.”</p> <p><strong>"Here" is a hallway and part of the basement at Washington-McKinley.</strong> There are five Griffin Center preschool classrooms in the building, each with 15 students aged 3 to 5, a teacher, and an assistant. The students follow a traditional reading and math curriculum called Literacy Express. At Highlands, another Chicago Heights school, five more Griffin preschool classrooms use a curriculum called Tools of the Mind that focuses on social and emotional skills linked to later academic success: self-confidence, self-control, assertiveness. The idea is to measure, among the 150 students enrolled every year in the tuition-free, all-day preschool, the effect of each method on later academic success.</p> <p>List believes that a key factor in promoting educational achievement does not receive enough attention: the role of parents. “We have too many eggs in the kid basket,” he told <em>Bloomberg</em>. “We need to spend much more time and many more resources on helping parents.”</p> <p>Families who sign up for the Griffin program are assigned by lottery to one of three tracks—the preschool, a parent academy, or a control group that receives no intervention. The children of the parent-academy group do not attend the Griffin preschool. Instead there are 18 sessions for moms and dads, complete with homework assignments, designed to teach “how to be a good parent in the academic sense,” List says. Parents in the academy receive payments, up to $7,000 a year, for attending the sessions and completing assignments. Their sons and daughters, although not in the preschool, also undergo assessments to measure the effects of the parent intervention on their development.</p> <p>Once the children reach kindergarten, they enter the mainstream Chicago Heights school system. At that point, the researchers no longer set the curriculum, but the monitoring continues and the experiments on financial incentives expand to include students and teachers, in addition to parents. “We have little idea how best to incentivize those components,” List says, “and how those components might act as complements or substitutes.”</p> <p>Identifying the proper balance requires solving a sort of multiple-choice story problem. To List, basic behavioral-economic questions apply to each facet: “how should I induce effort, and how does that map onto student outcomes?” When Ron Huberman, AM’00, MBA’00, ran the Chicago Public Schools in 2009–10, he sought List’s advice: “John, I have $50 million to spend, and I want to know the best way to spend it to advance student achievement.” List felt embarrassed that he didn’t know—he had been trying to answer exactly that question with the Chicago Heights ninth graders, but he did not have enough data for an informed recommendation.</p> <p>With the early-childhood project, List has taken an aggressive step toward compiling that data. As Clancy Blair, a New York University applied psychologist who studies cognitive development in young children, told <em>Bloomberg</em>, it’s a “crazy idea” of astonishing scope.</p> <p>On the surface, it looks like a typical preschool: one November morning, a handful of students at Washington-McKinley gather at one end of their classroom wearing plastic fire helmets and reflective vests. Others color and play with blocks, alone or in small groups, while the teacher and an assistant move around to support and supervise.</p> <p>Both the Tools of the Mind and Literary Express approaches improved overall preschool performance during the study’s first year. Students entered the preschool program at about the 30th percentile among their peers nationwide, based on skills related to the curriculum they would follow. By June, they were in the 55th percentile. “Of our nine-month intervention,” List says, “we moved them about 17 academic months.”</p> <p>In other early-childhood academic studies, immediate improvement tends to evaporate over time. By the third grade, List says, the kids who benefit from research intervention typically slip back to about the level of the control group.</p> <p>The Griffin researchers want to find out how much educating (and paying) parents will help prevent that kind of decline. In a cavernous room in the basement of Washington-McKinley, Griffin parent-academy director Ty Jiles displays slides to a group of six mothers and fathers. The group sits in folding chairs arranged in a semicircle, dressed casually and interacting like friends or colleagues, asking questions and interjecting their own experiences as Jiles delivers the day’s lesson.</p> <p>She emphasizes topics from the Griffin preschool curriculum, focusing on how parents can help impart those skills to their children, amplifying the bullet points on the screen. Use your child’s interests to connect to learning, she says, such as counting the number of times they throw a ball in a game of catch. Encourage them based on what they already know, rather than directing attention to what they don’t—praise their ability to recognize letters as an inspiration to learn the sounds they make.</p> <p>At home the parents not only have to put the advice into practice; they also have to record how they handle specific situations. An assignment, due at the next session two weeks later, requires parents to describe an action they wanted their child to master. They’re instructed to watch the child doing the activity alone, determine how they would help based on those observations, and then write about the experience.</p> <p>The parent academy offers two types of financial incentives. Half the parents receive direct payments. The other half earns deposits into a college fund. “We’re trying to figure out the optimal way to get people to invest in their children,” List says.</p> <p>Early results show performance improvements above the control group for the children whose parents receive either type of payment, but neither made as much progress as the preschool students. The students whose parents receive the college-fund investments, though, had the best skill-retention rates over the summer among all the groups studied, preschool included.</p> <p>The research in Chicago Heights will theoretically last forever, monitoring students enrolled as three-year-olds for as long as they live. List hopes that his grad students’ grad students will still be gathering data decades from now. As the Griffin Center’s executive director Dobrez puts it, “The researchers want to understand life outcomes, not just educational outcomes.” They will track the adult subjects’ jobs, earnings, and criminal records as closely as they tracked their grades, test scores, attendance, and behavior as students.</p> <p>At the preschool level, only the parent group receives monetary incentives, but from the time the children enter kindergarten, students and teachers also have a financial stake. In a two-month after-school training program, students spend one hour, four days a week, working on computer-based tests that measure either cognitive or noncognitive skills. Results of individual and team competitions determine who receives weekly awards worth $7–$10. The team competitions measure peer effects on student performance.</p> <p>There is also a “teacher empowerment program,” says Sadoff, the Chicago graduate who’s now an assistant professor of management and strategy at the University of California, San Diego. In the empowerment program, teachers select two students each week and establish the criteria they must meet to earn a reward worth about $15. The idea, Sadoff says, is to assess whether teachers “can incentivize students more effectively than policy makers can.”</p> <p>Teachers also receive their own financial rewards in the Chicago Heights experiment. All K–eighth grade math and reading teachers in the school system, along with fourth- and seventh-grade science instructors, were eligible for the study. Those who signed up were randomly assigned into the incentive or control groups.</p> <p>The incentive group receives bonus pay at the beginning of the year because, List says, the promise of extra money at the end does not inspire the same effort as an upfront bonus. “People have a really hard time thinking about months into the future, even adults,” he says. “We tend to discount [the value of a later payment] at a rate that’s way too high.”</p> <p>To test that, two-thirds of the teachers in the Griffin study receive an extra $4,000 when school starts, an advance they have to repay if their students fail to meet expectations. “We leverage loss aversion and bring the reward to the very front,” List says. “Our teachers do sign contracts, and if their students do not achieve, they give us some or all of the money back.” The early results indicate that prepaid incentives yield student gains five to ten times greater than performance bonuses that are withheld from teachers until the end of the year.</p> <p>The payoff of the Griffin experiment can seem far off and far reaching. Any immediate effects might be difficult to identify, considering the longevity and complexity of the research—and the depth of the problems it addresses. But Dobrez, who chats with moms and dads as they leave their class session and hugs preschoolers who call her “Miss Edie,” sees the effects on a personal level, in the children’s development and in the parents’ commitment, which the first year’s progress underscored.</p> <p>“This is to the benefit of these families now,” she says, “and the families can also feel like they’re benefitting future generations” with answers to the complicated—and controversial—questions about whether financial incentives elevate the value of education.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/education-social-service" hreflang="en">Education &amp; Social Service</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <div id="extension-is-installed"> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-storymedia field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <div id="extension-is-installed"> </div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/education-social-service/earn-you-learn" data-a2a-title="Earn as you learn"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Feducation-social-service%2Fearn-you-learn&amp;title=Earn%20as%20you%20learn"></a></span> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 20:06:57 +0000 jmiller 593 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Failed tests https://mag.uchicago.edu/education-social-service/failed-tests <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 01/06/2012 - 11:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Image by Joy Olivia Miller)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Jan–Feb/12</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Linking teacher merit pay to standardized-test scores compromises learning and creates incentives to cheat.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The concept of measuring teacher performance based on student standardized-test scores reminds Derek Neal of the 1970s <a href="http://www.hulu.com/watch/264564/saturday-night-live-shimmer-floor-wax" target="_blank"><em>Saturday Night Live</em> commercial parody</a> about the household cleaner that’s also a dessert topping. “I call this Shimmer floor wax and education policy,” he says, summing up what he considers the ridiculous linking of those two metrics, a practice that has become increasingly common in the era of No Child Left Behind.</p> <p>In October the <a href="http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/st_TEACHERS20111026.html" target="_blank"><em>Wall Street Journal</em> reported</a> that 23 states and the District of Columbia use test scores, at least in part, to evaluate teachers. Eleven states use those results to determine tenure. The trend represents a shift away from decades of teacher compensation and job security based on seniority or education level with minimal attention to student performance. The $4.35 billion federal Race to the Top program instituted in 2009 accelerated the shift, granting funds based on result-oriented teacher evaluations, often focused on test scores.</p> <p>Neal, a professor in economics and the Committee on Education, insists it’s a “logical impossibility” that standardized tests, as they’re most often administered, could assess both teachers and students without compromising teacher integrity, student learning, or both. “The idea is that we want faculty held accountable for what students learn, so the tool that we use to measure what students learn is the tool that we should use to hold faculty accountable,” Neal says. “It’s all rhetorically very pleasing, but it has nothing to do with the economics of how you design incentive systems.”</p> <p>For standardized tests to show a correlation between student scores and teacher performance, they must be comparable from year to year and, therefore, predictable. “Any test that is very predictable will fail the requirement of being well designed for use in an incentives system,” Neal says, “because if it’s predictable, there will necessarily be a hidden action—which is, find a way to get a copy of the test and have [students] memorize the answers.”</p> <p>Other types of what he calls “funny business” point to the disproportionate importance placed on testing. A 2005 study reported that Virginia educators increased the sugar content of school meals served on exam days because low glucose levels have been associated with poor scores. Some teachers have gone to the extreme of committing fraud. Steven Levitt, the William B. Ogden distinguished service professor of economics, and Brian A. Jacob, PhD’01, uncovered evidence that from 1993 to 2000 some Chicago Public Schools teachers changed student answers on standardized tests before submitting them.</p> <p>Neal’s research suggests that, whether teachers use honest or nefarious methods, using the same test to measure professional competence and student achievement fails both objectives. In a 2011 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, “The Design of Performance Pay in Education,” he finds that even when test scores improve—as they often do when teachers have a stake in the results—the growth tends to reflect mastery of test-taking techniques as opposed to the subject matter itself. Neal’s paper reviews studies from Kenya, Israel, Portugal, England, and throughout the United States. In that worldwide data, he says, “I see very weak evidence that the movement toward assessment-based accountability has increased real skill levels rather than test-taking skill levels.”</p> <p>When they’re evaluated on student scores, teachers are motivated to focus on tactics specific to a test. Neal cites a 2002 <em>Journal of Human Resources</em> paper by Harvard professor Dan Koretz describing a Kentucky school district’s standardized-test results. Third graders performed at a fourth-grade math level—until the district switched testing companies. “They ordered a test that was supposed to cover the exact same curriculum, but they ordered it from a different company,” Neal said in a 2010 lecture. With a rueful laugh, he added, “Lo and behold, they weren’t as special anymore.”</p> <p>Over time results on the new test rebounded to the levels achieved on the previous one, but when Koretz gave the first company’s exam to a subset of students who had prepared for the second version, the results dropped again. “The results don’t always turn out this starkly,” Neal says, “but it’s clear there’s a lot of evidence out there that when you put in these high-stakes programs, you get gains that are specific to a type of assessment.”</p> <p>Despite the nodding heads he sees during presentations to policy audiences, Neal senses little momentum for the wholesale change he considers necessary. He advocates designing tests that do not repeat questions or formats from year to year and limiting multiple-choice problems to avoid spending class time on tactics such as when to guess or ignore questions.</p> <p>Neal also argues that teachers should not be evaluated as a monolithic whole as if, for example, all the fifth-grade math teachers do the same job. “I think there are a lot of people in the policy community that want to say that’s exactly the case,” he says, “and I think that’s stupid.” Because suburban and inner-city schools—or honors and remedial classes—have students with different backgrounds and skill levels, Neal says that teachers should be judged according to “appropriately defined comparison sets.” Within those comparison sets, salary bonuses can be more fairly distributed. He proposes a “pay for percentile” plan outlined in a 2011 paper written with Gadi Barlevy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Software that Neal developed and offers for free allows students to be classified according to academic history and demographic factors. How well those students fare within their groups then determines a teacher’s relative performance and merit pay.</p> <p>To Neal’s frustration, changes of that magnitude seldom enter the public debate. Instead discussion tends to focus on nips and tucks to No Child Left Behind and fine-tuning test design rather than reforming the process to remove the inherent temptations on teachers. “I’m arguing, no,” Neal says, “you’ve got to junk it and start over.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/education-social-service" hreflang="en">Education &amp; Social Service</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>"<a href="../education-social-service/failed-tests" target="_self">Earn as You Learn</a>" <em>(University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Jan–Feb/12)</p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/education-social-service/failed-tests" data-a2a-title="Failed tests"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Feducation-social-service%2Ffailed-tests&amp;title=Failed%20tests"></a></span> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 17:52:20 +0000 jmiller 590 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Performance anxiety https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/performance-anxiety <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1112_Kelly_Performance-anxiety_0.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous</span></span> <span>Mon, 10/31/2011 - 17:52</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Illustration by David Foldvari)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Nov–Dec/11</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Psychologist Sian Beilock studies what makes people choke under pressure and offers techniques to prevent those mental meltdowns.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>I was a 12-year-old all-star, a designation I coveted and dreaded. In the summer of 1985, East Side Little League had a lot of talent, so to be selected as one of the 15 or 20 best players meant a lot. But a spot on that roster also came with pressure. There were high expectations.</p> <p>Our team played in the annual international baseball tournament that begins at the local level and culminates in the Little League World Series. Nobody thought we’d get that far, but a state title was a real possibility. That year the state finals happened to be in our hometown, a disappointment for kids who could imagine no greater reward for reaching the finals than a couple of nights in a hotel. Playing at home didn’t just take some of the fun out of the experience; it also might have hurt our chances to win.</p> <p><a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/sbeilock.shtml" target="_blank">Sian Beilock</a>, associate professor of psychology, explores the ways our minds betray us in high-stakes situations, including the detrimental effect of an encouraging crowd. “The more supportive and friendly that audience is,” Beilock writes, “the more self-aware we as performers get.” Her book, <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9309079-choke" target="_blank"><em>Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To</em></a> (Free Press, 2010), illustrates how self-awareness can make even the most fluid athlete’s joints creak like the Tin Man.</p> <p>Certain types of physical expertise—fielding a ground ball, playing the violin—are best performed outside our conscious awareness. For people who do them well, those actions become part of their “procedural memory,” the implicit, complex motor skills that can be difficult to articulate. How do you ride a bike?</p> <p>Pressure compromises procedural memory. Under stress, many people think about the mechanics of their actions to control the situation, but that conscious thought actually diminishes their expertise. “Don’t think, just do,” choreographer George Balanchine counseled his dancers. Aparicio Rodriguez, a legendary shortstop in Chad Harbach’s novel <em>The Art of Fielding</em>, may put it in more metaphysical terms, but “comprehending the ball and dissipating the self” expresses the essence of Beilock’s research.</p> <p>In nerve-racking circumstances, the most successful practitioners of any complex physical activity lose themselves. Think of Michael Jordan shrugging in disbelief after his <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZCugyCT5lo" target="_blank">sixth three-pointer in the first half of a 1992 NBA Finals game</a>. If you don’t lose yourself, if pressure heightens your consciousness of what’s at stake and who’s watching to the point that you exert conscious control over ingrained techniques, you lose.</p> <p>University of Maryland sports scientist Brady Hatfield has shown that, during the relaxed execution of a practiced skill, communication between the motor and reasoning areas of the brain decreases. A beginner’s brain, on the other hand, is abuzz with motor and reasoning cross talk, trying to translate newfound knowledge into action. When anxiety increases, experts can start to think like novices, and their performances suffer. “Too much brain interference with movement,” Beilock writes, “can make you choke.”</p> <p>That explains a lot. Like how the state-finals stakes and home-field enthusiasm stirred up so much motor and reasoning static when a routine ground ball came rolling toward me with two outs in the bottom of the last inning.</p> <p>Beilock distinguishes the phenomenon known as choking from simple poor performance. Choking occurs when anxiety causes people to perform at less than their best, when the pressure literally gets into their heads.</p> <p>It’s most obvious in sports and music, where prowess stored in the procedural memory splinters while a crowd watches. Golfer Greg Norman became a symbol of pressure-induced meltdowns in the 1980s and ’90s, losing several major tournaments after building big leads. Singer Jessica Simpson, in a 2006 Kennedy Center <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEGfIXh1O1w" target="_blank">tribute</a> to her idol Dolly Parton, cut short her rendition of “9 to 5” because she couldn’t remember the words. “Dolly,” she said, “you make me so nervous.”</p> <p>Beilock confesses to her own trouble with choking: parallel parking when her husband is in the car. “I’m very good at parallel parking when nobody’s watching,” she says, “but when he’s in the car, it’s a total choke situation.” Beilock, in fact, has a personal interest in how anxiety affects performance, rooted in her own athletic and academic experiences.</p> <p>Growing up in the Bay Area, she was a strong student and an accomplished athlete, good enough to play lacrosse at the University of California, San Diego, and soccer in the Olympic development program. When the stakes were highest, though, the skills she spent hours refining sometimes failed her. “I had one of the worst soccer games of my life playing in front of college recruiters,” Beilock writes, “and I could never manage to score as well on the actual SAT as I did on the many practice tests.” Even then, she wondered what caused her performance fluctuations: “I was always interested in trying to uncover the reasons, the why, that in certain situations, we don’t perform at our best.”</p> <p>Since earning PhDs in both kinesiology and psychology from Michigan State, Beilock has uncovered some answers and preventive techniques. She knew one method years ago, even if she didn’t understand its mental effect. Preparing for the draw to begin her college lacrosse games, she would sing a song in her head, a habit her dad instilled. “Now I realize that was an effective technique for taking my mind off something I knew how to do very well.”</p> <p>Those practiced actions should be on autopilot, she says, but the pressure of a recruiter’s evaluation, a career-defining presentation, or even a spouse’s opinion often leads to overthinking. “The prefrontal cortex, which is sort of the seat of our thinking and decision making, gets over-involved in a way that’s not good.”</p> <p>In other situations, autopilot won’t do. Taking a math test, for example, or interviewing for a job, requires “explicit memory,” what Beilock calls the “cognitive horsepower” stored in the prefrontal cortex. Instead of causing a person to think too much, worrying reduces the ability to think enough about the task at hand, and obstructs access to relevant knowledge. “We tend to fail when that cognitive horsepower goes awry,” Beilock says, “when it’s devoted to worrying about the situation and its consequences rather than to focusing on a test problem or answering an on-the-spot question.”</p> <p>Her research has shown that meditation “can train your brain not to dwell on negative thoughts.” How you think about the physical reactions to stress also matters. Beilock notes that quickened heartbeats and sweaty palms occur not only because of anxiety but also because of happy emotions like love and excitement. As she puts it, if you consider butterflies a sign that you’re amped up as opposed to freaking out, “you may be able to turn your body to your advantage.”</p> <p>San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana huddled with his teammates in the final minutes of the <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-super-bowl/09000d5d801514e3/Super-Bowl-Memories-Super-Bowl-XXIII" target="_blank">1989 Super Bowl</a>. Behind by three points, 92 yards from a game-winning touchdown, in front of about 75,000 people in the stadium and 81 million television viewers, Montana noticed one guy in the crowd. “Look,” he said. “Isn’t that John Candy?”</p> <p>It was typical of Montana that, when other players might have had clammy palms and dry mouths, his mind would wander from the magnitude of the moment to a movie star in the stands. Known for leading comebacks and making clutch plays when it counted the most, he built his football reputation on preternatural calm.</p> <p>Whether or not he studied sports psychology, Montana had an intuition about how pressure affects performance, and he mentioned John Candy in the huddle for just that reason. He thought that his teammates, including an especially anxious offensive tackle named Harris Barton, were too tense. So Montana offered a diversion from the pressure. “Everybody kind of smiled, and even Harris relaxed,” Montana said in his <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1136552.Montana" target="_blank">1995 autobiography</a> written with Dick Schaap, “and then we all concentrated on the job we had to do,” driving down the field and scoring the game-winning touchdown with 34 seconds to play.</p> <p>It’s not that Montana was less aware of the pressure than his teammate Barton; it just affected him differently. And, perhaps unwittingly, Montana used a technique that Beilock has shown to help overcome sports performance anxiety: “Distract yourself. Singing a song or even thinking about your pinky toe as Jack Nicklaus was rumored to do can help prevent the prefrontal cortex from regulating too closely movements that should run outside awareness.”</p> <p>As Montana implied when he said the distraction allowed the 49ers to concentrate on their jobs, John Candy’s presence did not erase conscious awareness of the work to do. Taking their minds off the pressure, though, might have allowed them to follow another Beilock mantra: “focus on the outcome, not the mechanics.” An accomplished free-throw shooter, for example, might lapse into thinking about the minutiae of form to numb the nerves in a pressure situation. Robin Jackson, a sports scientist at Brunel University in London, has proven why that’s a bad idea.</p> <p>Jackson had soccer players of equal skill levels set objectives before dribbling a ball through cones. The players who chose technique-oriented goals (“Keep loose with knees bent”) fared worse than those with a strategic focus (“Keep the ball close to the cones”). In fact, Beilock writes, “technique focus results in worse performance than if they paid no attention to detail in the first place.” Under duress at the free-throw line, then, a player who becomes aware of the anatomical Rube Goldberg machine at work loses the subconscious benefits of practice. Better for the shooter to envision where the ball will land in the net, Beilock says, triggering motor cues in the brain from successful repetition.</p> <p>Reaction to pressure is a matter of interpretation. At the University’s Human Performance Laboratory, which Beilock runs, researchers evaluated undergraduate math test results based on levels of the stress hormone cortisol. For some students, higher levels of the hormone meant lower test scores. But others’ scores rose as their cortisol increased. It turned out that the students whose higher cortisol correlated to lower scores had previously reported math anxiety. Those whose results improved as the stress hormone increased had no such fear.</p> <p>Everybody felt the test pressure, as their hormonal reactions proved, but responses to the stress varied depending on preexisting feelings about the subject. Some people treat anxiety as a signal to perform at their best. Others dwell on it as a sign of impending failure.</p> <p>It’s possible to neutralize ominous ruminations, if not eliminate them. Writing about worries before taking an exam dilutes their negative impact on students with test anxiety, Beilock says, “in essence downloading them from mind so they’re less likely to pop up in the moment and distract them.” In a paper published in the <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/211.abstract" target="_blank">January 14 <em>Science</em></a>, Beilock and Chicago PhD student Gerardo Ramirez reported the effect. Test-anxious ninth graders who spent ten minutes writing about their feelings before a biology exam earned a B-plus on the test, compared to a B-minus for those who didn’t write, a significant difference between students with otherwise comparable academic credentials. “We show that this has an especially big effect,” Beilock adds, “for students who are high in test anxiety.”</p> <p>In October she published research in the journal <a href="http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/" target="_blank"><em>Cerebral Cortex</em></a> identifying the brain activity of math-anxious students who overcome their fears to succeed on tests. Students whose fMRI scans revealed an activation of the region that regulates negative reactions fared twice as well on exams as those whose brains did not respond in that way. That activation sparks a series of mental responses that help students block out their anxiety and focus on how to solve the test problems. One way to trigger that brain response, Beilock says, is to talk through the solutions out loud, which trains attention on the mathematical techniques and off of the tension.</p> <p>Some techniques to repel pressure work whether the activity draws on procedural or explicit memory. One of the most effective, Beilock says, is to practice under stress. The prepping doesn’t have to be as intense as the real-life pressure situation itself, which is almost impossible to simulate, but it should be enough to acclimate your mind to performing under those conditions. Timed SAT practice tests, for example, or free throws that determine whether or not teammates run sprints, Beilock says, help people “get used to the pressure they’re going to feel in the actual do-or-die situation.”</p> <p>How early in life a person learns a skill can also influence performance under pressure. Beilock and University of Houston psychologist Arturo Hernandez have shown that golfers who learned to play after age ten, even after years of practice, put more conscious thought into their actions. “The people who learned to play earlier tended to be less likely to start unpacking their performance and thinking about the detail,” Beilock says. “We think that’s because they learned to play when they weren’t overanalyzing every step.”</p> <p>Younger kids are less likely to overanalyze because the prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully develop until adulthood. For them golf becomes, in effect, a native language acquired with the sensory and motor areas of the brain. Skilled players who learn later are more like an older person encountering a foreign language; even if they become fluent, they lack the intuitive command of someone who learned it earlier in life. Because of age differences in how the brain processes certain skills, Beilock notes, “we also think that the later golfers learn, the more vulnerable they are to choking under pressure.”</p> <p>I was vulnerable at a young age. Despite four or five years of baseball experience, my 12-year-old mind became hyperaware at the state finals. We had already lost once in the double-elimination tournament, but with a one-run lead and two outs in the last inning, we were on the verge of taking another step toward the title. I just hoped nobody would hit the ball toward me.</p> <p>There was a runner on first base when a ground ball came up the middle, rolling slowly toward second base. All I had to do was pick it up and step on second for a force out that would end the game. It couldn’t have been an easier play; I didn’t even have to make a throw. Pick up the ball, step on the base, game over.</p> <p>I needed George Balanchine or Aparicio Rodriguez—or Sian Beilock—whispering in my ear, someone to take my mind off the fact that this easy play was weighed down with significance for me, my teammates, and the parents and friends in the crowd. My arms and legs were leaden, every movement heavy and forced, as if the communication between my synapses and muscles had short-circuited. In fact, the communication had increased, much to the detriment of me and my team.</p> <p>I shifted to my right, into position to field the ball. If anything, I got there too soon, just as it skipped over the pitcher’s mound. I reminded myself to put my glove in the dirt and watch the ball all the way into it, coaching commandments that were rote actions by then. Now, I realize, that mindfulness contributed to my failure to execute basic fundamentals at the most important time.</p> <p>Stiff-legged, I didn’t get my glove down, and the ball scooted through my legs. I don’t remember much about what happened after that, but I know the other team scored two runs to win and eliminate us from the state tournament.</p> <p>It still stings. “As anyone who has ever choked knows, these types of flubs can haunt you,” Beilock writes, infecting the mind and developing into self-fulfilling prophecies. Professional second baseman Chuck Knoblauch went through an ordeal when he could not make an accurate throw to first. Catchers have suddenly lost the ability to toss the ball back to the pitcher. On the greens, accomplished golfers get the “yips,” an actual condition that the <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/sportsmedcenter-rst/" target="_blank">Mayo Sports Medicine Center</a> has divided into two types.</p> <p>A certain amount of innate mental wiring creates a predisposition to succeed or fail under pressure. Chronic worriers, for example, are “more prone to buckle,” Beilock says. But psychological temperament determines only so much. To a large extent, she says, “how you perform in these stressful situations is based on how well prepared you are and the tools you bring to the table to counteract it.”</p> <p>Now she tells me.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-storymedia field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><h2 class="media-icon media-icon-video">Video</h2> <iframe width="200" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/zcr4ZD-Vrsg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>Beilock explains why we “choke” with Canadian journalist Steve Pakin.</p> <p> <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcr4ZD-Vrsg&amp;feature=player_embedded" class="more-link" target="_blank">WATCH THE VIDEO AT YOUTUBE</a> </p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/performance-anxiety" data-a2a-title="Performance anxiety"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fperformance-anxiety&amp;title=Performance%20anxiety"></a></span> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 22:52:51 +0000 Anonymous 418 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Islam’s origins https://mag.uchicago.edu/arts-humanities/islams-origins <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Wed, 10/19/2011 - 16:46</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Close-up of an early Quran leaf, found in Yemen: it dates to the first century of Islam, Donner says, offering evidence that the holy book was written soon after Muhammad's death. (Image courtesy of Fred Donner)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/asher-klein-ab11"> <a href="/author/asher-klein-ab11"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Asher Klein, AB’11</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">July–Aug/11</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Historian Fred Donner offers a new reading of an old story.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Since the 19th century, Western scholarship has taken for granted that in the first 100 years after Muhammad’s revelations, Islam was practiced much the same way it is today. Western scholars explained the birth and early expansion of what is now one of the world’s largest religions through the development of its army and political institutions, the need for social change among Arabian nomads, or simple economics. But “they seldom talked about the religious motivation,” says Islamic scholar Fred M. Donner.</p> <p>A professor of Near Eastern history at the Oriental Institute and head of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Donner instead believes Islam’s origins shared features with the genesis of Christianity.</p> <p>The idea that Christianity didn’t spring fully formed from Judaism with Jesus’s preaching is well accepted; scholars and laypeople alike understand that there was an early germinal stage before the canon was worked out at the Council of Nicea and subsequent Church council meetings.</p> <p>Donner says that Islam too went through an early “ecumenical phase” when Muhammad’s followers were a loosely defined community—Donner, following the Quran, calls them “the Believers”—that may have included Jews and Christians. These followers were committed more to monotheism than they were to Muhammad. “It was more of a monotheistic revival movement,” Donner says. In 2010 he posited this theory in <em>Muhammad and the Believers</em> (Belknap). Islam, he writes, began as a religious movement, “not as a social, economic, or ‘national’ one. The early Believers were concerned with social and political issues but only insofar as they related to concepts of piety and proper behavior needed to ensure salvation.”</p> <p>Donner’s conclusions diverge from the traditional view, which “sees Islam as being codified from the very first day,” he says. According to that story, the prophet Muhammad settled in the Arabian town of Medina after being expelled from nearby Mecca, and soon afterward he began to spread Islam. After Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, his teachings disseminated through the Middle East via military and bureaucratic expansion, eventually moving beyond Arabia.</p> <p>But according to Donner’s interpretation, it took perhaps 100 years after Muhammad’s death for the religion to consolidate and establish a Muslim identity apart from other monotheistic religions. “At a certain point, the people leading the movement redefined it to be a separate confession,” he says. “They defined Jews and Christians out of it and defined themselves as Muslims with the Quran as their scripture, the prophet Muhammad as their prophet.”</p> <p>As evidence that early Islam included Jews, Donner cites the treaty Muhammad drew up with the Medinese, which mentions Jews within the community he headed. To Donner this indicates that for Jews at the time, believing Muhammad was a prophet didn’t conflict with the Torah. In fact, Donner interprets the Quran’s use of the word <em>muslim</em>, literally “one who submits,” to connote a monotheist rather than a follower of Muhammad.</p> <p>This definition seemed to persist: seventh-century Christian sermons indicate that some Christians of the time still considered Islam a new and errant form of their religion. And in the early eighth century John of Damascus, a Christian monk who served in the court of the Muslim King of Syria, wrote the Heresy of the Ishmaelites, a treatise indicating he saw Islam as an outgrowth of his own religion.</p> <p>More than a year after the release of <em>Muhammad and the Believers</em>, Donner calls reception of his book “fairly positive.” Some peers shake their heads at his conclusions, but others perk up, and Donner says he’s gratified by an enthusiastic, “if mutedly so,” reaction from scholars working in Muslim countries. His view of Islam’s origins is revisionist, but it’s less extreme than some theories over the past 30 years. Donner doesn’t, for example, propose that Muhammad didn’t exist, as theologian Sven Kalisch of the University of Münster did in 2008.</p> <p>Muhammad was a real person, says Donner, who has studied the documents surrounding Islam’s history for more than 25 years, from seventh-century papyri, inscriptions, and coins to later chronicles and books of collected traditions. In 1981 he wrote a history of the early Muslim conquests, and in <em>Narratives of Islamic Origins</em> (Darwin Press, 1998) he studied the development of traditional Muslim sources for Islam’s beginnings.</p> <p>Partly what compels Donner’s revision of the historical record is the scarcity of sources written during and right after Muhammad’s lifetime. The date of the Quran itself is “a subject for debate,” he says, although he believes it was written by the end of the seventh century, within 30 or 40 years of Muhammad’s death. “There’s a serious source problem for anything dealing with early Islam,” Donner says. “This has been known for a long time. The problem is, the sources describing Islam’s origins are mostly written later,” in some cases hundreds of years later. “Actual documentary evidence is sparse, but the bits we have suggest that the traditional narrative isn’t exactly right.”</p> <p>Some evidence is in early Arabic papyri written by Muslims or those in contact with them. Recently Donner has turned fuller attention to the papyri, which date to the period of Muslim rule in Egypt, soon after Islam began. They are “unmediated” sources, he says. “It’s what somebody wrote at that time for a particular purpose: a bill of sale, or a manumission document of a slave, or purchase of a house, or a shopping list, or some narrative that was being told at the time,” he says. “Precious evidence.”</p> <p>Donner tempers his own claims about Islam’s origins, pointing out that sources aren’t entirely clear, so his interpretation remains in some ways hypothetical. “It’ll be interesting to see how things evolve,” he says. “No historical interpretation lasts forever. All you can do is contribute to the conversation and move it along.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/arts-humanities" hreflang="en">Arts &amp; Humanities</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/near-eastern-history" hreflang="en">Near Eastern History</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/humanities-division" hreflang="en">Division of the Humanities</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/arts-humanities/islams-origins" data-a2a-title="Islam’s origins"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Farts-humanities%2Fislams-origins&amp;title=Islam%E2%80%99s%20origins"></a></span> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:46:22 +0000 jmiller 394 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Smart trains https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/smart-trains <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Wed, 10/12/2011 - 15:56</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><div id="main-content-left"> <p class="cover">Riders packed onto a busy Tokyo train. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/carabendon/5327101755/" target="_blank">Photo</a> by <span class="given-name">Cara</span> <span class="family-name">Bendon</span>,<span style="display: inline;"> CC BY 2.0</span>)</p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/brooke-e-oneill-am04"> <a href="/author/brooke-e-oneill-am04"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Brooke E. O’Neill, AM’04</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Sept–Oct/11</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="dek">Japan's claustrophobic commuter rail system operates with human and technological precision.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div id="story"> <p>It's Monday-morning rush hour in Tokyo, and the city is hungry. Train stations devour people by the hundreds, swallowing them down escalators and onto platforms deep in their bowels. It's nearly impossible to reverse direction. Arms occasionally get broken. A train glides into the station, its doors open, and the crowd parts as hundreds more flow out. On the intercom, a melodic ditty speeds up its cadence, urging commuters to board. When the music stops, the doors close.</p> <p>Inside, people are packed so tightly it's hard to breathe. Cars designed to hold about 160 cram in 300 to 400. Faces are splayed against backs; elbows dig into torsos. People clutch smartphones and contort themselves to check e-mail. No one speaks; they're standing too close.</p> <p>"It's an intimacy befitting lovers, not commuters," says Chicago anthropologist Michael Fisch, whose book project, <em>Between the Lines: An Anthropology of Love, Labor, and Death in Japan's Commuter Train Network</em>, investigates the relationship between Tokyo's people and its transit. Part of an emerging subfield called the anthropology of infrastructure, his research explores how the train system itself shapes—and reflects—the rhythms of a digital city.</p> <p>Carrying some 20 million people a day, the Japan rail network appears dangerously overtaxed, the remnant of a post–World War II demographic shift that brought record numbers into the city. "It's a system that's operating beyond capacity, a system that shouldn't work," says Fisch, a Japan expert who spent months riding trains between 2004 and 2008.</p> <p>Yet it does work—with a precision that would boggle Chicago El riders. So accurate are the schedules, Fisch says, it's not uncommon for a rush-hour commuter to say she rides "the 7:43 a.m., third car, fourth door." For those who miss their train, another arrives in less than two minutes.</p> <p>At the heart of the system is a balance between exactitude and uncertainty. With more than 12,000 trains running each day, arrivals and departures must be timed within seconds. Yet the crowds and the disturbingly regular rail suicides—an almost daily occurrence since the Japanese economy collapsed in the early 1990s—means unpredictability must be part of the transit equation.</p> <p>To tackle these challenges, Tokyo's network uses a sophisticated model that breaks down the wall between man and machine, creating an environment where technology incorporates irregularity rather than trying to eliminate it, argues Fisch, an assistant professor of anthropology and social sciences. "There's no other system in the world that operates like this," he says of the Autonomous Decentralized Transport Operation Control System, implemented in 1996. Instead of one command station instructing trains to speed up or slow down, the network is partly decentralized, so the trains' computers can adjust if faced with the unexpected and refine an ever-changing traffic map.</p> <p>"Basically, it's a smart network. The train itself makes decisions—and learns from those decisions," says Fisch. Each decision gets dispersed to the rest of the network so the system can operate smoothly, even during the frenzied rush hour. That dynamic, Fisch argues, produces a "radically new kind of urban space" where the environment reacts to city dwellers as they move through it.</p> <p>Tokyo's train infrastructure has altered everyday life in other ways as well. Consider, Fisch says, the packed train cars where no one speaks, but riders click away on smartphones, chatting online through "commuter networks."</p> <p>"Their bodies are being transported in one kind of network, but they're surfing another one," he says. The modern story of technology has focused on the division between the technological and the human, Fisch says. "Everybody is really connected—and yet disconnected." Ultimately, he says, it's a reality "where you really can't make divisions between the human and the technological."</p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/humanities-division" hreflang="en">Division of the Humanities</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/smart-trains" data-a2a-title="Smart trains"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Flaw-policy-society%2Fsmart-trains&amp;title=Smart%20trains"></a></span> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 20:56:49 +0000 jmiller 367 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Shards unseen https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/shards-unseen <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Wed, 10/12/2011 - 15:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><div id="main-content-left"> <p class="cover">Chazin digs her work excavating historic sites in Armenia. (Photo by Samuel Dolgin-Gardner, AB'09)</p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/samuel-dolgin-gardner-ab09"> <a href="/author/samuel-dolgin-gardner-ab09"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Samuel Dolgin-Gardner, AB’09</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Sept–Oct/11</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p class="dek">Archaeologist Hannah Chazin searches for late Bronze Age artifacts in Armenia.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div id="story"> <p>At a five-by-ten-foot hillside trench in Armenia's Aragatsotn region, a crew of Armenian workers sings to Chicago anthropology doctoral student Hannah Chazin, AB'08. <em>Anna, Anna, Sirrun Anna</em>, "Anna, Anna, beautiful Anna," sings one man, recruited from the nearby village.</p> <p>"I led a crew when I worked in the Western US, but that was different because they were all Americans my age and had a degree in anthropology or archaeology," Chazin tells me. "Most of these guys have years of field experience—one was even sent to study in the capital, but he had to go home to take care of his family before he could complete his degree." Most of them are not used to having a woman chief.</p> <p>Chazin talks with the workers in Russian, which she studied for two years at Chicago, but she's learning Armenian words as well. She reminds the workers to dig carefully with their shovels, excavating level by level, layer by layer, working around stones rather than dislodging them, so as not to upset the strata or miss a piece of pottery. She already has a gallon Ziploc bag full of shards, some showing intricate patterns carved by potters who lived more than 30 centuries ago.</p> <p>Chazin's adviser, Cornell archaeologist Adam T. Smith, who taught at Chicago through early 2011, arrives to examine the day's finds. The American codirector of the Project ArAGATS expedition Chazin is working on, Smith has worked in Armenia since 1992, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, and has surveyed the entire region. He even knows the small village where I work as an English teacher in the Peace Corps, a town most Armenians have never heard of. From the shards of pottery a few inches wide in Chazin's bag, he can conjure an entire vessel, a water jug, a formal bowl, or a grain container. "Look," he points out. "This is the handle."</p> <p>I take a shovel and begin scraping dirt. A glint catches my eye. It's a flake of obsidian, volcanic glass used around the world since Paleolithic times. Ancient cultures discovered that obsidian could be chipped into sharp knives, arrowheads, and other bladed tools.</p> <p>Even after centuries underneath dirt and rock, the glass retains its cool, smooth sharpness. Chazin points to a rounded bump in the center. "This is the bulb of percussion," she says. "It's formed when obsidian is hit with another stone to form a blade, a process called knapping. It indicates that this was definitely a flake from a tool, worked on by humans." The piece, less than an inch long, goes into another bag of tiny tool shards.</p> <p>It's hard to dig a hole in Armenia without hitting the remnants of an ancient civilization. Armenia was a vassal state of the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, the Russians, and later the Soviets. Christianity arrived, Armenians believe, with the missions of the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, and Armenia became the world's first officially Christian state in 301 AD.</p> <p>Armenians are immensely proud to have maintained their religion through centuries of dominance by pagan, Islamic, and communist powers. The Armenian alphabet was created in 406 AD to translate the Bible into the local language, and the country's landscape is dotted with ancient churches and monasteries.</p> <p>Chazin is looking for even earlier civilizations. "Anything with Armenian written on it is too new for me," she says. Project ArAGATS, named for the highest mountain in the present-day Republic of Armenia, has explored sites from the early Bronze Age through the Medieval period, but today Chazin searches for artifacts from the late Bronze Age, between 1500 and 1150 BC, when the grassy hilltop we're sitting on was a stone citadel. In 2003 excavations uncovered a well-preserved late Bronze Age shrine.</p> <p>Not all digs are successful. Last summer four trenches were excavated. Three yielded architectural structures, along with large ceramic pots, but Chazin's turned out to be a garbage dump. "That was interesting," Chazin says, "but I'm hoping to find something better this year. We're looking for the gateway to the complex—and perhaps another shrine."</p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/research" hreflang="en">Research</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/shards-unseen" data-a2a-title="Shards unseen"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fshards-unseen&amp;title=Shards%20unseen"></a></span> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 20:54:13 +0000 jmiller 366 at https://mag.uchicago.edu