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April 26, 2006 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
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The quest for answers in the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science

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View of the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science at the University of Chicago.

Ellen and Melvin Gordon

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A group of University of Chicago scientists and students put a new twist on an old construction tradition on April 16, 2004.

That day the construction crew completed the topping-out of the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science. This tradition in the construction industry celebrates placing the last piece of structural steels as a major project milestone after construction workers sign the beam.

In a twist on the tradition, scientists and students also wrote on the beam some central scientific questions from their fields that might be answered in the decades to come, perhaps even in this new building itself. Also affixed to the beam: a timeline of selected scientific milestones achieved by the University.

The beam has long since been covered by the building’s façade, but below are a few of the scientific questions recorded there, patiently awaiting answers.

  • “Cells respond to their environment by a series of tightly controlled signaling events that represent an intricate interplay of checks and balances. How are these processes regulated such that discrete and unambiguous cellular responses result?”

    Marsha Rosner, Charles B. Huggins Professor and Director of the Ben May Institute for Cancer Research

  • “Genetic as well as epigenetic information processing involves the sequence-directed, combinatorial interplay of macromolecular protein assemblies on a single DNA molecule within a cell. What mechanisms are used to ensure that such singular processes occur with very high probability and fidelity?”

    Harinder Singh, Professor in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

  • “What are the biochemical and biophysical interactions that control organ-site specificity of metastatic cancer cells?”

    Victoria Robinson, Graduate Student, Committee on Cancer Biology

  • “Is it possible to use the coherent properties of light to control a large and significant class of chemical reactions to force the reactions to yield a desired product that would not be produced in the absence of coherent control?”

    Donald Levy, Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in Chemistry

  • “Can we watch a biomolecule functioning in the cell in real time?”

    Wendy Ryan Gordon, Ph.D. in chemistry, University of Chicago, 2003; Research Associate, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

  • No longer is the study of the mind confined to the realm of philosophy and religion; science has begun gaining a quantitative understanding of the mysteries of consciousness. Though new neurological mechanisms and pathways are daily being published, the development of mathematical models for thought or consciousness will be a feat requiring the combined expertise of biologists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians. Understanding the brain at such a level would not only have direct medical implications in our ability to treat neurological disorders, but would also extend to us the possibility of using our brains in fantastic new ways, for whenever we gain the knowledge of how something works, we acquire the possibility of better being able to utilize it.

    Katarina Ruscic, 2nd Year in Chemistry

Related stories:

Ellen and Melvin Gordon donate $25 million for University of Chicago’s largest-ever science building

University of Chicago to celebrate opening of the new Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science April 26

New research building housing new scientific instruments

Schedule of events for April 26 opening of Gordon Center for Integrative Science
Last modified at 08:34 PM CST on Tuesday, April 25, 2006.

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