University of Chicago Women's Board

Grants Awarded for the 2022-2023 Academic Year

Faculty Research and Support

Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
Elucidating the Mechanisms of Cross-talk between DNA Damage Signaling and Transcriptional Regulation
Amount Awarded: $22,600

Awarded to Gonen Memisoglu, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, with Alexander J. Ruthenburg, PhD, Neubauer Family Foundation Associate Professor

The genome of every living cell is exposed to thousands of lesions every day—lesions that can lead to the damage of our very DNA and result in numerous diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and ALS.

But through a novel discovery using the genes found in common yeast, molecular geneticist Gonen Memisoglu will investigate a previously unexplored link between a particular protein complex and DNA damage response, research that has implications for future clinical care and prevention of disease.


Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Capturing the Stars: Early Twentieth Century Astronomical Photography and the Untold History of Women at Yerkes Observatory
Amount Awarded: $42,000

Awarded to Rich Kron, Professor Emeritus, with Elisabeth Long, Andrea Twiss-Brooks, and Kristine Palimieri

Known as the birthplace of modern astrophysics, the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory hosted several important discoveries and saw the development of novel techniques in the study of the cosmos from 1897 until its closure in 2018. What is largely unknown about Yerkes’s contributions to astronomy, though, is the incredible cohort of women astronomers studying at the University of Chicago whose labor led to some of the foundational discoveries in the field upon which researchers today still rely.

This collaborative, cross-departmental project aims to correct this historical oversight through archiving the many treasures at Yerkes and sharing this story through exhibitions, publications, and public outreach efforts in partnership with the University of Chicago Library.


Department of Psychology
Behavioral Genetics of Sex Differences in Biological Rhythms
Amount Awarded: $64,000

Awarded to Brian J. Prendergast, Professor, Department of Pscyhology

Daily rhythms rule our behavior, and those rhythms are regulated by what are known as “clock” genes. Yet women and men exhibit fundamentally different circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, all of which is complicated by the many additional disruptions of daily life, from puberty and menstruation to shift-work and light pollution. The stakes are high to address these disruptions, with obesity, depression, and anxiety—all more common in women.

The stakes are high to address gender discrepancies in circadian rhythm imbalance, which causes or exacerbates obesity, depression, and anxiety, all of which are more common in women. But despite widespread circadian sex differences, we do not know which clock genes are most important for generating rhythms in women versus men. In this project, Professor Brian Prendergast will determine how the sexes differ in their reliance on specific clock genes, how hormones affect these differences, and how clock genes contribute to sex-specific patterns of circadian disruption.


University of Chicago Urban Labs
Improving Financial Security for People with Disabilities through ABLE Accounts
Amount Awarded: $45,000

Awarded to Harold Pollack, Helen Ross Professor at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, with Michael Levere, Guglielmo Briscese, and Jesse Orr

“A Better Life Experience” (ABLE) accounts are designed to promote financial security and well-being for people with disabilities, yet few people have signed up for and use these accounts. In this project, Professor Harold Pollack and his team at the Inclusive Economy Lab will lay the foundations for an ongoing research agenda designed to understand and ultimately overcome barriers to using ABLE accounts, such as limited income, limited program awareness, and administrative burdens.

With the Women’s Board’s help, this project will enable the research team to propose equity-focused and evidence-based policies to improve financial security and welling for individuals with disabilities across Illinois.

The Arts and Cultural Institutions

I’ll Take You There: The Life of Mavis Staples
Amount Awarded: $45,000

Awarded to Angel Ysaguirre, Executive Director at Court Theatre, with Nora Titone, Christopher Skrable, and Nichole Fazio

Chicago music legend Mavis Staples takes center stage as Court Theatre develops the world premiere of a play based on her art and life in collaboration with future artists-in-residence Mavis Staples herself and Chicago playwright Tyla Abercrumbie. College courses led by Abercrumbie, dramaturg Nora Titone, and Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot will involve undergraduates in the dramaturgical work of developing the new play. Outside the classroom, students will participate in summer research expeditions to trace Staples’ life in libraries and archives nationwide.


Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project: To Preserve and Present
Amount Awarded: $65,000

Awarded to Princess Mhoon, Strategic Program Manager for the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, with Emily Hooper Lansana and Bill Michel

The Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, founded in 2019 through a partnership between the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts and the Joyce Foundation, is a “distinctly UChicago” initiative, with its emphasis on field-defining scholarship, exemplary artistic practice and repairing structural inequities. The prevailing objectives of the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project are to engage the greater existing dance and arts community around awareness and appreciation of Black dance; to inaugurate new audiences to dance, specifically Black dance; to tell untold stories of the profound impact of Black dance on Chicago; and to celebrate and safeguard the legacy of this important Chicago art form.

With the support of the Women’s Board, the Logan Center can work with UChicago students, faculty, and staff to build a public archive and support a unique performance that together will document and bring prominence to this important legacy.

Quality of Student Life

International Genetically Engineered Machine 2022 Competition Team
Amount Awarded: $17,500

Awarded to Jessica Oros, Hannah Li, and Sophia Madejski, Undergraduate Students and Members of UChicago GeneHackers, a Registered Student Organization

GeneHackers is an undergraduate RSO committed to synthetic biology research, specifically focusing on the application of genetic engineering to pressing world issues. Each year the group plans and executes a research project, which they present in the fall at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, a unique and prestigious competition that showcases synthetic biology research and promotes collaboration around the world. Participation in the competition helps to not only give the University the opportunity to be a part of this growing scientific community, but also exposes students to a wealth of scientific innovation and novel problem-solving techniques. The UChicago GeneHackers team is entirely student-run, giving students opportunities in research planning and project designing that are often unavailable as undergraduates. In addition to becoming better scientists, students develop skills to become better communicators, community members, and leaders.

Community Outreach

Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies
Oak Woods: Opening a Historic South Side Site to the Public
Amount Awarded: $40,000

Awarded to Na’ama Rokem, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature and Comparative Literature and Director of the Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies

With Women’s Board support, Professor Na’ama Rokem will create a website and a map-based app focused on the history of the Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. This public-facing initiative complements a teaching initiative funded by the NEH and will serve as a springboard for further efforts to preserve and curate this historic site, which is the final resting place of extraordinary people from many walks of life. The cemetery includes the largest mass grave in the United States as well as multiple sections devoted to particular social groups, all reflective of the South Side’s complex and multifaceted history.


UChicago STEM Education
South Side STEM Summer Camp
Amount Awarded: $59,000

Awarded to Denise Porter, Director of Educational Outreach at UChicago STEM Education, with Alison Whittington

Educational opportunities focusing on STEM continue to increase, yet low-income students often are unable to participate due to multiple barriers. Through Women’s Board support, approximately 50 rising 5th and 6th grade Chicago Public Schools students will be granted free access to a two-week, full-day STEM-focused summer camp experience to nurture their interests in the sciences.


Student National Medical Association PSOM Chapter
The Pritzker School of Medicine Southside Free Clinic Initiative
Amount Awarded: $45,000

Awarded to David Fenton, Theodore Lang, Chibueze Agwu, Idris Ayantoye, Amani Allen, and Kofi Acheampong, Medical Students, with Dr. James Woodruff, Dean of Students at the Pritzker School of Medicine

The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (PSOM) has a longstanding mission to address healthcare disparities and engage with the surrounding neighborhoods. This is evident through the current five student-run free clinics at which Pritzker medical students have the opportunity to volunteer.

However, none of these free clinics directly serve the Black adult population on the South Side of Chicago. Not only are the neighboring communities predominantly composed of Black individuals, but the disparities in healthcare access and services at-large disproportionately affect this same subgroup. The Southside Free Clinic is an initiative started by the Student National Medical Association chapter at the Pritzker School of Medicine to develop a student-run clinic offering free-of-charge primary care medical services to the Black Adult population in the Southside of Chicago. Under the supervision of licensed UChicago Medicine physicians, the Southside Free Clinic will provide preventative care and disease management services while meeting unique health needs of the community.


Child Life and Family Education
EveryMom Chicago Newborn & Postpartum Kits for Women in Underserved Communities
Amount Awarded: $55,000

Awarded to Jennie Ott, Director of Child Life & Family Education, and Jamie Taratoot, Executive Director of EveryMom Chicago

Through partnerships with UChicago Medicine’s Family Birth Center and NICU, EveryMom Chicago delivers essential supplies for the postpartum period to families in need of extra support, including many on Chicago’s South Side. Curated in collaboration with UChicago experts in pediatrics, social work, and child-life, “EveryMom kits” contain key essentials for new mothers to care for their baby and themselves, along with a resource guide connecting them to free resources in their communities. Through the provision of material supplies and information on these additional resources, EveryMom facilitates sustainable maternal care in Chicago communities where such resources are increasingly rare. Women’s Board support will allow EveryMom Chicago to grow and sustain this impactful service for resource-constrained mothers in the communities UChicago serves.