2013-2014 Project Allocations Committee

Elizabeth Sonnenschein, Chair
Michelle Collins, Vice Chair
Alice Young Sabl, Women’s Board Chair
Anu Aggarwal
Stephanie Coolidge
Denise Gardner
Mae Hong
Marlene Iglitzen
Peggy King
Brooke Hummer Mower
Elizabeth Parker
Sandra Michele Reynolds
Amy Rule
Cynthia Scholl
Evonne Taylor
Elizabeth Thompson
Laura Van Peenan
Lorrayne Weiss
Bonita Mall, Executive Director

The Women’s Board has awarded grants in the amount of $475,456 for the 2013–2014 fiscal year in the areas of Faculty Research and Support, Arts and Cultural Institutions, Quality of Student Life, and Community Outreach. Funding is made possible solely through the generous contributions of members of the Women’s Board.

[Photo: Women’s Board 2013-2014 Projects Committee]

Women’s Board 2013-2014 Project Allocations Committee

Faculty Research and Support

Characterization of Whole-Genome Hypermethylation Patterns in Thyroid Cancer
Despite being the second most common cancer diagnosis in women under the age of 45, little is known about the causes of thyroid cancer. Support from the Women’s Board will allow Drs. Peter Angelos and Sapna Nagar to investigate the methylation patterns of the entire genome of thyroid cancer, and perform analysis on cancer tissue from patients that have undergone surgical therapy for thyroid cancer at the University of Chicago. Their analysis will focus on analyzing hypermethylation within the cancer tissue. DNA methylation is a type of epigenetic regulatory mechanism that is involved in silencing the expression of genes. Excessive methylation, or hypermethylation, can turn off the expression of a non-mutated gene in a tumor suppressing gene and cause a cancer to develop. Implications for this research are great, offering information into the overall prognosis of thyroid cancer.
Amount Awarded: 75,000

Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics
Dr. Olopade seeks to understand epigenetic mechanisms in early onset breast cancer and has teamed up with Professor Chuan He from the University of Chicago’s Department of Chemistry to perform innovative translation research. With funds from the Women’s Board, Drs. Olopade and He, will hire a postdoctoral fellow to focus on this project and advance the collaboration between two laboratories. Research will involve in-depth study of the molecular mechanisms leading to aggressive early onset breast cancers that disproportionately affect young BRCA mutation carriers and women of African ancestry.
Amount Awarded: $63,348

The Molecular Basis of Genomic Instability in Blood Cancers
Genetic instability is a common characteristic in cancer cells, and one of the underlying reasons cancer cells develop a resistance to drug therapy. A common manifestation of this instability occurs when chromosomes break and then rejoin to other chromosomes in “illegitimate recombination”. Such illegitimate recombinations can activate the oncogenes that cause cancer. Dr. Gounari has evidence that excessive activity of the protein ?-catenin causes recurrent illegitimate recombinations and activation of oncogenes, thus interfering with DNA repair mechanisms. Grant monies from the Women’s Board will allow Dr. Gounari to test this hypothesis using genetic analysis and models for determining the causes of genetic instability in cancer. Implications for this research are great and may result in a new genetic screening process that identifies high risk individuals and that, would in-turn, make tumors more vulnerable to cancer treatment.
Amount Awarded: $35,000

Cell Signaling pathways that kill rapidly growing tumor cells
Taxol is one of the most successful drugs used for cancer treatment due to its efficacy in killing rapidly dividing cancer cells during their reproduction. Taxol also kills dividing healthy cells during treatment, which is one of the main causes for the debilitating side effects associated with chemotherapy. Dr. Mohan Gupta proposes to build on previous discoveries about the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint (SAC) to mechanistically understand the growth arrest and subsequent cell death of cancer cells that occurs during Taxol treatment. SAC is a critical process in cellular reproduction. Dr. Gupta will use yeast cells as a simple model organism to study SAC because these cells respond to Taxol treatment much like human cells do.
Amount Awarded: $25,808

Design Principles for Controlling Responses to Materials
This project’s aim is to bring together two very different fields: immunology and materials science. New medical materials for tissue repair and therapeutic delivery are increasingly relying on engineering cells, proteins, antibodies, and peptides. However, principles for interfacing such materials properly with the immune system still remain poorly understood. With grant monies from the Women’s Board, Matt Tirrell and his team will explore material and immune interactions using highly modular, “molecularly engineered” materials consisting of self-assembling peptides, proteins, and immunomodulating components. These components can then be used to systematically investigate how specific material properties influence specific immune cells and processes.
Amount Awarded: $40,000

Develop Cancer Stem Cell-Targeted Nanoparticles
The identification of breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs), a subpopulation of cancer cells with stem cell properties, has brought forth new perspectives on breast cancer. BCSCs are speculated to mediate tumor relapse and metastasis due to their resistance to conventional therapies. During her postdoctoral training, Dr. Liu has focused on understanding the roles and mechanisms of breast cancer stem cells in metastasis and drug sensitivity. She has developed a novel human-in-mouse breast tumor model that develops spontaneous metastases to the lung, and has studied the role of mircoRNAs in regulating breast cancer stem cells, metastasis and therapy resistance in vivo. In collaboration with her co-mentors, Dr. Funmi Olopade and Dr. Matthew Tirrell, Dr. Liu has initiated a project to deliver cancer stem cell-targeted nanoparticles containing microRNA therapeutics. Grant monies will support this research.
Amount Awarded: $50,000

Deepening Impact: Supporting the Search for Solutions for Economically Vulnerable Chicago Public School Graduates
Roughly one quarter of Chicago Public School (CPS) students who graduate from high school with low grades and test scores are unqualified for four-year college and subsequently, face dismal economic prospects. Melissa Roderick’s research group at the Consortium on Chicago School Research has devised an important research project with the potential to address the serious economic and educational challenges facing not only a substantial number of Chicago Public School graduates, but also students across Illinois and the nation. With support from the Women’s Board, intensive year-long research will focus on the following questions: Who are these students? Where do they go to school? What is their high school trajectory like? How are they identified as “at-risk”? “What policy options exist to address their needs?
Amount Awarded: $34,300

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The Arts and Cultural Institutions

David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly
Court Theatre is proud to present the production of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly in the spring of 2014. This is the play’s first revival since it won the Tony Award in 1988. The rights have been granted by Mr. Hwang to the University, a display of his support of the Court Theatre’s efforts. M. Butterfly is an intricate and culturally specific piece which requires elaborate costumes to capture the rich period it reflects. Court Theatre also has the opportunity to bring artists from the Peking Opera to Chicago to train actors and Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) students in traditional Chinese Opera techniques. In its full complement of programming, M. Butterfly will leverage Court Theatre’s position at the intersection of art and scholarship, thereby demonstrating their wide-reaching importance.
Amount Awarded: $20,000

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Quality of Student Life

UT-TAPS Logan Center Costume Shop
Prior to the construction of the Logan Center, the University Theater costume shop was located in an old insurance building, a mile from campus. This was an unfit space lacking supplies with broken machines, dirty irons, and little light. Today, in the state of the art, multi-million dollar Logan Center facility, and students are using these same dysfunctional tools and equipment. The University Theater costume shop provides resources for a variety of student groups on campus, including the Dance Department, student fashion organizations, and the department of Visual Arts. Women’s Board support will allow the Logan Center to fully update the costume shop, providing better tools for the creative education of students. Purchases will include: dress forms, sewing machines, sergers, industrial irons, chairs, lighting, garment racks, and basic sewing supplies.
Amount Awarded: $20,000

South Side Free Music Program
The South Side Free Music Program (SSFMP) is a Community Service Registered Student Organization at the University of Chicago. Founded by a student in 2009, the organization offers musical education to low-income students who have limited access to music programming. Students aged 5-15 are served through after-school programs and through independent lessons. SSFMP works in collaboration with several Hyde Park and South Side community organizations, and currently has 40 teachers and reaches 80 students at three locations. Many of the low-income students served cannot afford their own musical instruments. Support from the Women’s Board will allow the SSFMP to purchase several new musical instruments, and subsequently open the program up to more students.
Amount Awarded: $5,000

Urban Research and Policy Internship Program
The goal of this program is to create substantive internships that will allow both undergraduate and graduate students to provide research and analysis for local government agencies. Grant monies will support five summer internships and ten part-time academic year internships. This new Urban Research and Policy Internship Program is consistent with a shared vision between the Institute of Politics (IOP) and President Zimmer—to create opportunities for University of Chicago students to apply their rigorous, academic training to essential urban challenges. Participating agencies will include the City of Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Police Department, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. This cross-campus program is a joint venture between our IOP, the Office of Career Advancement, The University of Chicago Crime and Urban Education Labs, and the Office of Civic Engagement. The IOP and our partners will provide mentoring and oversight and ensure that these opportunities will be substantive and meaningful.
Amount Awarded: $40,000

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Community Outreach

Summer Service Partnership
The Summer Service Partnership is a summer service-learning program that matches University of Chicago medical, graduate, and college students with high school students from three surrounding neighborhoods to learn about and address the social determinants of health. All students attend lectures, weekly field trips, and complete assignments to learn about community health. Using an asset-based community development approach, students explore neighborhoods and Chicago, they volunteer with community organizations, and design service projects focusing on health needs. Women’s Board funding will support the salaries of three U of C students.
Amount Awarded: $15,000

Expanding Your Horizons Chicago
The first-ever, Expanding your Horizons (EYH) conference to be held in Chicago, is scheduled for March 2014 at the University of Chicago. EYH is a one day conference for two hundred middle school students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The goal of the conference is to encourage young girls to pursue careers in the sciences and mathematics. In a concurrent session, parents and guardians will learn about strategies to foster interests in these areas of study.
Amount Awarded: $7,000

Preparing Young Women for College Success Through Athletics
Charter school educators writ large believe that the role of “noncognitive factors” in shaping school performance is significant. The Urban Education Institute is in a unique position to exercise this research into practice. Grant monies will support the expansion of the extended day program at The University of Chicago Charter School’s Carter G. Woodson and Woodlawn Campuses. Support from the Women’s Board will allow the number of girls participating in athletic programming to double. Specifically, monies will allow these two campuses to create new teams in soccer, track, and volleyball, and provide stipends for coaches, uniforms and transportation to athletic events.
Amount Awarded: $45,000

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Other Years

Project Funding for Other Years:
2012-2013 | 2011-2012 | 2010-2011 | 2009-2010 | 2008-2009

2007-2008 | 2006-2007 | 2005-2006 | 2004-2005

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