CEB Committe on Evolutionary Biology

Science Out of the Big Box

Clockwise from top left: Courtney Stepien, Shane DuBay, and Chris Schell 

The work (and ingenuity) of Courtney Stepien, Shane DuBay, and recent graduate Chris Schell was featured in the spring issue of Medicine on the Midway. Am excerpt is below. Click here to read the full article. 

The story of life on Earth is a story that spans some four billion years. It’s written in every desert and jungle, mountain and ocean; carried by wind and water, sunlight and molten rock. From basic chemical reactions to the 100 trillion neural connections within the human brain, it is as overwhelmingly complex as it is important.

And it’s a story being told at the University of Chicago by researchers within the Darwinian Sciences Cluster. Drawing from the Departments of Ecology & Evolution and Organismal Biology & Anatomy, as well as the unique interdisciplinary and multi-institutional Committee on Evolutionary Biology, this community represents every graduate division of the university and beyond, including Argonne National Laboratory, the Field Museum, Lincoln Park and Brookfield Zoos, the Chicago Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum.

Evolutionary scientists at UChicago are MacArthur Geniuses and Emmy Award winners, National Academy medalists and Popular Science luminaries. They are even world leaders in sustainable architecture. For good reason, US News & World Report ranked UChicago’s graduate programs in Paleontology first in the country, and Ecology & Evolution fourth.

UChicago faculty and students have scoured deserts to reveal the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever live, and dug into frigid tundra to unearth the first fish to walk on land; delved deep into geological formations in China for shrew-sized forerunners to modern mammals, and fossil beds in the U.S. for 300 million-year-old shark nurseries; explored lush, vibrant bacterial environments on plants and in our own homes; analyzed ancient flora and fauna to theorize how to survive mass extinctions; spent long hours in laboratories in Hyde Park, resurrecting billion-year-old proteins and illuminating the genetic secrets of butterflies, octopuses, woolly mammoths and of course humans. That’s just the start.

It might be surprising then, that despite all these achievements and accolades, sometimes the science that gets done requires some… improvisation. In a story published in the recent issue of Medicine on the Midway, science writer Kevin Jiang explores how two current and one recently graduated student from the Committee on Evolutionary Biology are making their own contributions to the study of the story of life using tools they designed and built by hand (or purchased from Walmart).

Click here to continue reading.