In this edition of Research Connections, find links to researchers in the news, updates on important deadlines, and more news for University of Rochester researchers.
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The collaboration of composer Charles Gounod and opera diva Pauline Viardot, resulting in the 1851 opera Sapho, is included by Assoc. Prof. Melina Esse in a forthcoming book that examines the changing relationship between opera singers and composers in the 19th century. At center, the costume designed for Gounod's Sapho.

A collaboration that 'famously went wrong'

At the start of the 19th century, opera singers were at least as important as composers, often commanding higher salaries and directly influencing the music written for their voices.

By the end of the century, just the opposite was the case. "Singers were more often praised as interpreters, vessels for the genius of the composers whose music they sang, than they were acknowledged as co-creators," notes Melina Esse, Associate Professor of Musicology at the Eastman School.

At the midpoint of that century lies the tangled collaboration of established opera diva Pauline Viardot and a then fledgling composer named Charles Gounod. Their relationship as co-creators of the 1851 opera Sapho is examined in a chapter in Esse's forthcoming book, and also was the topic of her recent presentation as part of the University's Phelps Colloquium series.

"Their story is a fascinating one, partly because their collaboration famously went wrong — and ended badly in a scandalous break and years of silence," Esse said.

Nineteenth-century commentators found Sappho, the celebrated poet from Ancient Greece, a problematic figure. One way they tried to make sense of her fragmented history was to portray her as a tragic heroine. Legend had it that she threw herself from a cliff when her heart was broken by Phaon, a young sailor — thus making her a compelling subject for opera. In her book, Esse explores how the figure of the Sapphic improviser in French and Italian operas of the nineteenth century illustrates the changing relationship between singers and composers.

In the case of Viardot and Gounod, the singer still wielded immense influence. "Pauline Viardot's role in the composition of Charles Gounod's 1851 Sapho was fundamental to the works' very existence," Esse explains. "She not only urged the young composer to write an opera, she advocated for his contract, which, given the composer's untested reputation, was issued only because she agreed to perform the title role."

There is also strong evidence that she convinced Gounod to completely rework the climactic final scenes, persuading him to incorporate an earlier song as Sappho's final aria. Though this song originally had been written for performance in intimate, domestic settings, Viardot evidently thought they would better showcase her "own power to arouse the audience's feelings."

Although this decision ensured the persistence of Sapho's final aria as a successful concert piece, the opera as a whole did not gain much favor with the public, perhaps because it failed to deliver the spectacular finish that audiences had come to expect of grand opera.

As if that were not enough of a strain upon the collaboration, Gounod soon announced his impending marriage to the daughter of one his Conservatoire instructors. Gounod's prospective in-laws, it seems, were alarmed by "malicious gossip" about an alleged extra-marital affair involving Viardot, leading to a series of misunderstandings and social missteps that caused a break in their relationship.

It is interesting that by the mid-nineteenth century, the transformation of Sappho from revered poet to promiscuous fallen woman was well underway. Did that explain Viardot's desire to simplify and "domesticate" those arias? Was this primarily an attempt to "cover Sapho with the mantle of respectability"?

Esse believes there was another reason: Viardot's own artistic and collaborative preferences, which often ran counter to the prevailing "institution of diva-hood."

"Ultimately, we can look at the domestication of Sappho not simply as a capitulation to restrictive ideas concerning feminine creativity, but instead as a means for Viardot to both enact and advocate for an openly collaborative ethos of artistic production, one that persisted even in an era beginning to be dominated by the mythos of the solitary genius."

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PI oversight: Was informed consent properly obtained?

(This is the second in a series of articles to help principal investigators understand their role in ensuring that human subject protection requirements are met in their studies.)

Steven Lamberti sees it all the time.

A person who qualifies as a human subject for a research project has reviewed and signed a proper informed consent form.

The person obtaining the consent signs the form as well.

All the i's are dotted; all the t's are crossed.

And then it all goes for naught: All the pages of the form — except one — are handed to the subject. The study team keeps the signature page.

"That's noncompliance," notes Lamberti, a Professor of Psychiatry who chairs the University's Research Subject Review Board for behavioral and social sciences. "The subject must be provided the entire consent form, just as the investigator needs to maintain the entire consent form." This can be accomplished by either providing subjects a photocopy of the entire, signed consent form or by having both the subject and person obtaining consent sign and date two consent forms, allowing both parties to keep a signed version of the entire document.

This is the kind of careless mistake that can come back to haunt a principal investigator. And yet, mistakes like this are easily preventable, according to Lamberti and Kelly Unsworth, Director of Research Education and Training with the University's Office for Human Subject Protection.


1. As a PI, familiarize yourself with the basic requirements of informed consent by clicking here.
2. Be sure the study team member(s) who obtain consent are properly trained to do so; the amount of training may vary depending on the nature of the study.
3. Meet weekly with team members to make sure completed consent forms satisfy requirements.

"It's not what you expect, but what you inspect," Lamberti adds. "Sometimes PIs assume that because they've delegated tasks to people who are qualified, talented, and bright, that everything will be done properly. They won't take that extra step of inspecting what was done. They're not accounting for human error."

Things to look for:

1. The University's Research Subject Review Board must first approve the consent documents used for each individual study. Only these forms — bearing a current "RSRB Approved" watermark — and only the most recently approved version of those forms should be printed and used for purposes of consent. Print them out directly from ROSS rather than maintaining a file of blank consent copies, Unsworth advises. That way you'll know you're getting the current version.
2. The first page of the consent form must be printed on department letterhead.
3. They must be signed by both the subject and the RSRB-approved study team member obtaining consent.
4. They must be properly dated.
5. Checkbox options (e.g., checkboxes for future contact) must be completed, if applicable.

Questions? Call the Office for Human Subject Protection at 273-4127.

(Next: What needs to be in a regulatory file?)

Proposal writing workshop for humanities will be May 6

Carrie Miller of the Founation Center, one of the leading sources of foundational philanthropy, will be guest speaker at a Humanities Proposal Writing Workshop, which will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 6, in the Hawkins Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library.

The University subscribes to the Foundation Center Database, and workshop attendees will learn how to utilize this comprehensive data source of national, and increasingly, international grantmakers.

Miller's talk will be complemented by a panel of University faculty members who have been successful in garnering individual grants, fellowships and awards in support of their scholarship.

The workshop will present information that will specifically help faculty, postdocs, and graduate students (and staff who assist them) prepare compelling proposals to non-federal funders interested in advancing the Humanities and Humanistic or Interpretive Social Sciences.

This is an opportunity for faculty, postdocs and grad students to hone skills that will advance their research, free of charge.

The workshop is sponsored by the Office of the AS&E Dean for Research, under the umbrella of the University's Humanities Center.

For more information and to register (required), click here.

GUIRR webinars address topics of interest to researchers

The University is a member of the Government University Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR), whose mission is "to convene senior-most representatives from government, universities, and industry to define and explore critical issues related to the national and global science and technology agenda; to frame the next critical question stemming from current debate and analysis; and to incubate activities of on-going value to the stakeholders."

GUIRR offers monthly webinars of topical interest that are free to the University community with registration. These talks are recorded and archived here. The R&D Budget and Policy Update presented on Feb. 29, 2016, may be of particular interest to researchers.

Archived webinars can be viewed with Cisco WebEx. Subscribe for announcements of live talks here.

Congratulations to . . .

Three University faculty members who have received National Endowment for the Humanities grants.

Susan Uselmann, Assistant Professor of Humanities at the Eastman School, has won an "Enduring Questions" grant to develop a course on creativity, including the changing perceptions of creativity through time and whether creativity has an ethical dimension. "I see great potential in developing a Humanities course that brings together the various 'silos' of the University to address a common interest," Uselmann says. The course will be offered in spring 2017.

Thomas Devaney, Assistant Professor of History, has won an "Enduring Questions" grant to develop a seminar class for freshmen and sophomores that will consider how religious thinkers, philosophers, artists, and ordinary people have confronted questions related to death: Is death the end? Is immortality possible or desirable? How should knowledge of inevitable death affect how you live your life? "In the modern developed world, mortality is far more removed from everyday life than it has been in most societies," Devaney says. "The result is that death and dying is unfamiliar to modern university students."

Peter Christensen, Assistant Professor of Art History, will receive a summer stipend to support completion of his book, Germany and the Ottoman Railways: Art, Empire, and Infrastructure, which examines the cultural aspects of the German construction of the Ottoman railway network, spanning 1868 to 1919.

Read more . . .

University researchers in the news

"While it has been true for many years that we can make most molecules that we can imagine, the reality is that difficult-to-make molecules are often not made because of cost and time limitations. How many potential solutions have we missed for lack of sufficient chemistry? This is a part of what drives me and the rest of the synthetic organic chemistry community," explains Daniel Weix, Associate Professor of Chemistry. His Q&A with Peter Iglinksi, the University's press officer for science and public media, explores the obstacles to coming up with alternate methods of molecule formation. Read more . . .

Research from the Simon Business School finds that the trade costs of basic commodities and finished goods can explain the difference in interest rates and risk exposure between countries that are net importers of basic commodities and finished goods export producers. "Persistent differences in interest rates across countries account for much of the profitability of currency carry trade strategies," says Robert Ready, Assistant Professor of Finance and co-author of the study. "Basic commodity currencies tend to have high interest rates while low interest rate currencies belong to exporters of finished goods." Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defenses

Shawn Divitt, Optics, "Modulation of Optical Spatial Coherence via Surface Plasmon Polaritons." Noon, April 4, 2016, Hylan 201. Advisors: Lukas Novotny and Miguel Alonso.

Benjamin Cross, Microbiology and Immunology, "The Role of PlsX in Fatty Acid Synthesis and Acid Adaptation in Streptococcus mutans." 11 a.m., April 4, 2016, K307 (3-6408). Advisor: Robert Quivey.

Yuxin Bai , Electrical Engineering, "Power Delivery Aware Microarchitectures for Energy Efficient Computing." 2 p.m., April 4, 2016, Computer Studies Building 426. Advisor: Engin Ipek.

Joseph Choi, Optics, "Practical Invisibility Cloaking." 3:30 p.m., April 5, 2016, Goergen 108. Advisors: John Howell and Carlos Stroud.

Zackery Knowlden, Microbiology & Immunology, "The Influence of CD4 T Cell Specificity on Differentiation of the Repertoire and Shaping the Adaptive Immune Response to Influenza Infection." 9:45 a.m., April 7, 2016, Whipple Auditorium 2-6424. Advisor: Andrea Sant.

Samreen Jatana, Biomedical Engineering, "Immunomodulatory Effects of Nanoparticles in a Mouse Model of Skin Allergy." 9:30 a.m., April 7, 2016, Gavett 312. Advisor: Lisa DeLouise.

Wei Lai, Physics, "Molecules in Strong Laser Fields." 1 p.m., April 8, 2016, Bausch and Lomb 372. Advisor: Chunlei Guo.

Mark your calendar

Today: Palliative Care, Hospice, and End-of-Life Options of Last Resort, presented by Timothy Quill, Professor of Medicine. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304). Public Health Grand Rounds.

April 7: Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences (CEIS) 16th annual University Technology Showcase, 1 to 5 p.m., DoubleTree Hotel, 1111 Jefferson Road. An opportunity for university researchers to present their work to industry as well as other researchers and organizations that promote economic development.

April 7: "The Vulnerable Newborn Brain – Lessons from Neuroimaging," presented by the Department of Pediatrics 20th Gilbert B. Forbes Scholar, Donna M. Ferriero, the W.H. and Marie Wattis Distinguished Professor & Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Benioff Children's Hospital, University of California, San Francisco. Noon, Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1-w304).

April 8: "Perspectives for Aspiring Inventors in Medicine," presented by Richard L. Ehman, keynote speaker for the Medical Center's fifth annual Medical Scientist Research Symposium. Ehman is the Blanche R. & Richard J. Erlanger Professor of Medical Research and Professor of Radiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. 3 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium. For more information about the symposium, which highlights the research and scientific accomplishments of Medical Scientist Training Program students, click here.

April 8: BIO101: Big Data and Precision Medicine, the promise and current realities of so-called precision medicine (a.k.a. personalized medicine) and how "big data" is influencing science and medicine today and into the future. Noon to 1 p.m., Miner Classroom 1 (1-6051H).

April 8-10: RocHackHealth: Rochester Healthcare Data Hack-A-Thon. University faculty, students, staff and other "techies" form teams to collaborate on solutions to healthcare related data problems. Click here to see the schedule of events, to register or to find additional information.

April 12: KL2 and TL1, presented by Timothy Dye, Associate Chair of Research and Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Robert Holloway, Chair, Department of Neurology. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304). CTSI Seminar series.

April 12: An Integrated View of the Genome. Workshop will discuss bioinformatic analysis of the human genome through the lens of the ENCODE and ENCORE projects, with hands-on introduction to various databases and tools that can be used for analysis. 3-5 p.m., Miner Classroom 1 (1-6051H)

April 14: Mechanisms and Functions of Nrf2 Signaling in Aging and Stress Defense, presented by Dirk Bohmann, Department of Biomedical Genetics. 11 a.m. to noon, EHSC Conference Room (4-8820). EHSC Seminar series.

April 14: Hear My Story: Sharing the When, How and Why in Developing and Advancing a Career in Research, panel discussion featuring David Oldfield, Project Nurse, SMH Pulmonary; Noreen Connolly, Health Project Coordinator, Strong Epilepsy Center; and Jessica DeSanctis Keith, Student, Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology. Noon to 1 p.m., Saunders Research Building, 1.416. SCORE meeting.

April 15: Patient-Provider Communication and Patient Centeredness, presented by Ronald Epstein, Professor of Family Medicine. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304). Public Health Grand Rounds.

April 15: Reproducibility of Biomedical Research, presented by Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health. 3-4 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium (G-9425). Bioethics Lecture.

April 15: Deadline to apply for the University's preliminary Falling Walls competition, which will select a graduate student, postdoc, junior faculty member or young entrepreneur to represent the University at the international Falling Walls competition in Berlin, Germany, this fall. Register at the official Falling Walls website; contact Adele Coelho, Faculty Outreach Coordinator, at for additional information.

April 15-16: Hard Coded Humanities, a two-day interdisciplinary conference organized by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellows in Digital Humanities, will challenge traditional distinctions between software and hardware in scholarly contexts. All events are free to attend. Register to secure your spot in a workshop and to stay in the loop. More info can be found on the conference site.

April 21: 2nd Annual Rochester Global Health Symposium. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saunders Research Building. The call for posters and registration portal are available here.

May 6: Humanities Proposal Writing Workshop,to help faculty, postdocs, and graduate students (and staff who assist them) prepare compelling proposals to non-federal funders interested in advancing the Humanities and Humanistic or Interpretive Social Sciences. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hawkins Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library. Sponsored by the AS&E Dean for Research's Office, under the umbrella of the University's Humanities Center. For more information and to register (required), click here.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections, an index of people and departments linked to those issues, and a chronological listing of PhD dissertation defenses since April 2014, by discipline.

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Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.