William & Mary

W&M faculty in the media this month

Following are selected examples of William & Mary faculty and staff members in the national and international media. - Ed.

Resetting the Post-Scalia Supreme Court

Since the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a Feb. 18, New York Times article, cited William & Mary’s Sandra Day O’Connor Professor of Law Neal E. Devins and Ohio State University Professor Lawrence Baum’s study called “Split Definitive: How Party Polarization Turned the Supreme Court Into a Partisan Court.” The study tracks the political ideologies of Supreme Court justices.

According to the Times, the authors offer their observations about the elite social networks in which Supreme Court justices, no less than other power players in Washington, spend their lives. They note “a growing ideological divide among affluent, well-educated Democrats and Republicans,” with the result that “Democratic elites are more liberal than other Democrats; Republican elites are more conservative than other Republicans.”

For the Supreme Court, they conclude, “justices on both the left and right are part of social networks that reinforce conservatism for Republican justices and liberalism for Democratic justices.”

Cell research is an exercise in traffic control, William and Mary professor says

In a Feb. 15 front-page Daily Press article, Lizabeth Allison, Margaret L. Hamilton Professor of Biology at William & Mary spoke about the issue of traffic control in cell research.       
According to the article, Allison likes to think of a cell as a city. The city is made up of cytoplasm, while the gated community within that city is the nucleus.

The workhorses of this city are transport proteins — receptors that haul cargo inside the gates of the nucleus. There, they bind with the genes stored inside the nucleus, turning them on or off as needed to keep the cell functioning normally. Some proteins, such as thyroid hormone receptors, even exit the nucleus again to carry out other business in the cytoplasm, where metabolic action takes place.

Allison has been studying thyroid hormone receptors for 15 years now, figuring out their complex traffic patterns in and out of the nucleus.

"We're really interested in this idea of traffic control," said Allison.

What they've found is that the traffic flows quite well, actually — so long as the receptors are working right.

"If there are defects in the receptors, we call them mutations — changes in that protein," Allison said. "In some cases, this seems to affect their ability to get into the nucleus or to stay in the nucleus, to interact with the DNA."

When that happens, traffic can get gridlocked. Pile-ups can break out. Genes that should be turned on or expressed aren't. And the cell can start to divide or grow out of control. All of this can lead to thyroid hormone disorders, or even certain types of cancer.

California Getting Closer To Having Lawmakers Wear Donors’ Logos

In a Feb. 10 article seen in the Huffington Post, W&M Mills E. Goodwin, Jr. Professor of Law Timothy Zick spoke about a bill in California that would require state representatives to wear the names of the their top sponsors while on the floor of the Statehouse.

According to Huffington Post the initiative, called "California Is Not For Sale," was created in part to curb the influence of money in politics, and has been compared to NASCAR drivers displaying company logos on their shirts.

However, the question of whether or not the initiative would be constitutional came in to play.
Zick said “politicians do not shed their free speech rights when they take office. Absent compelling justification, government cannot compel speakers to convey particular viewpoints or subject matters against their will.”