Kenneth C. Griffin

The Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund to give $125 million to support economic scholarship at the University of Chicago. (Photography by Paul Elledge)

University news

A selection of the latest headlines from UChicago.

A gift from Griffin

The Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund intends to make the second-largest gift in the history of the University of Chicago, supporting the Department of Economics in expanding its leadership in education and research with wide-ranging public impact, while increasing financial support for students. The $125 million gift from the founder and chief executive officer of investment firm Citadel, announced November 1, will bring Griffin’s total giving in support of UChicago economics to nearly $150 million. In recognition of the gift, which will help advance the department’s efforts to have an impact on the world through economic inquiry and analysis, the economics department will be renamed the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics.

Political appointment

In January Gretchen Crosby Sims joined the University’s Institute of Politics as executive director. Most recently Sims was a director at Social Finance UK, an impact investment consulting firm in London. Previously she was the chief program executive at Chicago’s Joyce Foundation, overseeing grant-making programs in areas from education to gun violence prevention. At IOP, Sims’s portfolio includes a fellowship program for distinguished practitioners in politics, policy, and journalism; a speakers series that brings thinkers from across the political spectrum to campus; and an internship program for undergraduates.

Scientific exemplars

Three UChicago faculty members have been selected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Marcela Carena, a professor in physics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics; Don Q. Lamb, the Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the College; and Panagiotis E. Souganidis, the Charles H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Mathematics, will be inducted at the AAAS annual meeting in February.

Heading across the pond

Valerie Gutmann, AB’17, and fourth-year Pradnya Narkhede received Marshall Scholarships to pursue graduate studies in the United Kingdom next fall. Gutmann plans to study comparative social policy at the University of Oxford, and Narkhede will study science and technology in society at the University of Edinburgh and plant chemical biology at Imperial College London. Fourth-year Lucas Tse received a Rhodes Scholarship for Hong Kong to study at the University of Oxford, where he will pursue economic and social history.

A monumental achievement

On November 28, University students and leaders unveiled a bronze bust of Georgiana Simpson, AB 1911, AM 1920, PhD 1921, the first African American woman at UChicago to earn a doctorate. Fourth-years Asya Akca and Shae Omonijo spearheaded the effort to honor Simpson with a campus monument, researching the scholar of German philology, raising funds for the project, and selecting sculptor Preston Jackson to create it. The bust is on display in the Reynolds Club.

Sporting behavior

Five Chicago sports teams—the Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox, operating collectively as the Chicago Sports Alliance—have partnered with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to reduce violence in the city, the teams announced December 20. The Chicago Sports Alliance will provide one-time grants to three programs: the mentoring and trauma therapy program Choose 2 Change; the Crime Lab’s training of analysts in the Chicago Police Department’s Strategic Decision Support Centers, where district leaders and civilian analysts work together to develop localized crime reduction strategies; and the Crime Lab’s measurement and assessment of these efforts to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable Chicagoans.

Evolving center

Bioengineer Rama Ranganathan, who studies the evolution of biological systems such as proteins and cellular signaling, will lead the University’s new Center for Physics of Evolving Systems. The center will bring together scholars from multiple fields to explore the secrets behind the extraordinary efficiency, flexibility, and robustness of biological systems designed via evolution. Ranganathan, who comes to UChicago from the University of Texas Southwestern, will also serve as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Institute for Molecular Engineering.

A name for themselves

David Jablonski, the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in Geophysical Sciences, and Susan Kidwell, the William Rainey Harper Professor in Geophysical Sciences, are the namesakes of Jablonskipora kidwellae, a marine species that lived about 105 million years ago. Described and named in a November 6 study in Papers in PalaeontologyJablonskipora kidwellae was a type of bryozoan, a group of tiny sea animals that live in colonies, and provides an evolutionary link between the very simple bryozoan species that lived 500 million years ago and today’s more sophisticated descendants. Although Jablonski and Kidwell, who are married, are friends with paper coauthor Paul Taylor, the naming came as a surprise. “We were absolutely thrilled,” Jablonski said. “What a treat and an honor, to have this little guy named after us.”

The debate continues

Simeon Chavel, Ayelet Fishbach, and Konstantin Umanskiy probed one of history’s great intellectual challenges at the 71st Latke-Hamantash Debate, held November 6. Fishbach, professor of behavioral science and marketing at Chicago Booth, and Chavel, associate professor in the Divinity School, argued for the superiority of the latke, for psychological and historical reasons, respectively. Umanskiy, associate professor of surgery, was the hamantash’s lone defender, noting the sweet treat’s resemblance to the human adrenal gland and the lack of a latke-like anatomical structure. Moderator Hal Weitzman, executive director for intellectual capital at Chicago Booth, presented the results of last year’s debate, explaining that latkes prevailed in the popular vote but lost in the electoral college.