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These charts illustrate how big-city legislation in state governments is passed at dramatically lower rates than bills for smaller places. The chart at left, for example, shows how the percentage likelihood of passage declines with the increasing size of the delegation. However, rural and suburban legislators should not be blamed for this dismal track record, conclude Gerald Gamm, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science and Associate Professor of History, and Thad Kousser, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, in a study they co-authored. Instead, the researchers found that infighting within city delegations undermines legislative success. "The data show that because of their large numbers, delegations from major cities like Chicago or New York are more likely to be at odds on legislation than smaller delegations, muddling cues for others in the chamber," explains Gamm. "After all, if the delegates from a city can't coalesce behind a bill, why should legislators from other parts of the state vote for the law?" Their study is published in the American Political Science Review.

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Warner professor urges complete reboot of public education

"We cannot continue schooling the way it is today," says Joanne Larson, the Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education and Chair of Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner School, who believes that the K-12 school system needs a radical transformation. "It is a crisis when children are being harmed, and they are harmed by high-stakes testing and culturally-irrelevant curriculum and pedagogy. Given that damage and trying for years to tinker with the current system from within, starting over is the only viable option now."

In her new book, Radical Equality in Education: Starting Over in U.S. Schooling (Routledge, 2014), she urges that:

1. Teachers and students move away from a model that has traditionally relied heavily on the consumption of knowledge to a model that supports the creation of knowledge.

2. The narrow focus on high-stakes tests, which have corrupted schools for years, be replaced with ongoing authentic assessments that measure learning and development.

3. Teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members collaborate on new curriculum focused on solving real-world problems with useful, meaningful outcomes.

In her book, Larson provides examples of what these ideas might look like in the classroom and community.

Pediatrics: Opportunities for collaboration

The University of Rochester can take pride not only in its new Golisano Children's Hospital project, but in a highly regarded Department of Pediatrics that ranks 15th in National Institutes of Health research funding -- at a time when NIH funding is hard to come by.

"We would like people to realize that many opportunities exist for collaboration between investigators in the Department of Pediatrics and investigators in other departments and centers in the greater University of Rochester research community," said Damian Krysan, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), who along with Jill Halterman, Professor of Pediatrics, were recently appointed as the department's Vice Chairs for Research.

"In pediatrics, we view health in a very holistic way," Halterman added. "The health of a child includes not just their medical health but also their psychosocial health and educational achievement; so, the opportunities for collaboration are very broad."

More than 200 faculty and investigators affiliated with the department conduct basic, clinical and translational research in key areas that represent a "microcosm of all of medicine": autism and developmental disabilities, cancer, developmental biology, health services and prevention, infectious diseases and immunology, lung health and disease, neuromedicine, nutrition and metabolism, and renal and cardiovascular.

"Many adult health problems actually start in childhood," Halterman adds, "so a focus on children makes a lot of sense."

"The hope is that we can get researchers of all kinds to talk to each other and bring skills and methods being applied in other disciplines to children's research," Krysan explained.

"The building of the new Children's Hospital provides a perfect opportunity to highlight children's research," Halterman noted. "We need research focused on children's health to make sure that we continue to take care of children the best we can," Krysan added.

Investigators are encouraged to contact Dr.'s Halterman and Krysan, co-Vice Chairs for Research, with comments or inquiries.

(Next: Rochester offers unique setting for pediatric research.)

Grant to help digitize Seward Family Archive

A $360,000 grant from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation will help the University digitize the Seward Family Archive, one of the most comprehensive and extensive firsthand accounts of 19th-century American political and social life. Read more . . .

Crossing Elmwood: Protecting salivary glands from radiation damage

"Saliva does a lot more than many of us think," notes Steve Dewhurst, Chair of Microbiology and Immunology.

Just ask anyone who has had to live with the after affects of radiation to treat a head or neck cancer.

The resultant, permanent loss of salivary cells -- and saliva flow -- can cause dry mouth, leading to progressive tooth loss and a host of infections that make it harder to eat and swallow meals.

Thanks in part to sheer persistence -- and a fortuitous collaboration -- UR researchers are making progress in finding a solution to this problem, Dewhurst and Catherine Ovitt, Associate Professor of Biomedical Genetics, explained at last week's "Crossing Elmwood" seminar. (Their collaborator, Danielle Benoit, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, was unable to attend because of illness.)

By binding a form of "small interfering" RNA (siRNA) to polymer nanoparticles, they are able to deliver the RNA across the membranes of vulnerable salivary cells of mice, into the cell cytoplasm, where the RNA temporarily blocks the expression of certain genes which, when induced by radiation, begin the process of cell death.

Researchers have followed a winding path to reach this point. As early as 2004, Jim Melvin, former Director of the Center for Oral Biology, and Dewhurst explored the possibility of injecting salivary duct cells with genetic material that would, in effect, help them take over the function of the salivary secretion cells (acinar cells) that had been destroyed by radiation.

When that failed to generate federal funding support, Dewhurst and Ovitt devised the siRNA approach. That did interest federal funders. However, there was a problem.

"After we wrote the grant we mucked around for a year and a half trying to figure out how to get siRNA into the salivary gland cell," Ovitt said.

"Then one day Steve mentioned that Danielle had joined the faculty and had these really cool nanoparticles" -- which, it turned out, provided just the vehicle the team needed.

Subsequent experimentation has demonstrated that by binding siRNA with the polymers, it is possible to 1. deliver siRNA into the acinar cells prior to radiation, 2. temporarily block at least some of the genes that, when irradiated, trigger cell death, and thereby 3. reduce damage to the cells and preserve better salivary flow.

The team is hoping for additional federal funding to help keep this promising line of research going. But in the meantime, Ovitt and Benoit have struck up a new, related collaboration that has already obtained NIH R01 funding, and which seeks to study the use of hydrogels to transplant salivary stem cells into damaged irradiated glands.

Two takeaways seemed evident from their presentation:

1. If at first you don't succeed -- keep trying!

2. Interdisciplinary collaborations can indeed help "jump start" a stalled project.

(Next in the series: Jeffrey Bazarian, Associate Professor, Departments of Emergency Medicine, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Physical Medicine and Public Health Sciences; Eric Blackman, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Jianhui Zhong, Professor, Departments of Imaging Sciences and Biomedical Engineering. discuss a "A multidisciplinary effort toward identifying and mitigating closed-head brain injury," 12:15 p.m., Feb. 18, Helen Wood Hall Auditorium 1W-304. For a full schedule of "Crossing Elmwood" presentations, click here.)

Student will share ideas with FDA

David Brodell, a second year medical student, will travel to Washington, D.C., to share his ideas with officials of the Food and Drug Administration after winning the inaugural "America's Got Regulatory Science Talent Competition," sponsored by the Office of Research Alliances (ORA) and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

The competition encourages students and trainees -- as well as the whole research community -- to think about how to turn advances in basic and applied sciences more quickly and safely into news ways to improve health. It is one of several events and initiatives organized by the CTSI and ORA to promote Regulatory Science awareness and opportunities.

Brodell's proposal involves using advanced computational simulations to determine whether experimental drugs will be toxic to the heart.

Other entries: Abeer Abu-Zeitone, a fellow in the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, proposed that an FDA-approved smart phone app could facilitate the reporting of adverse events associated with the use of dietary supplement products. Michael Moses, a graduate student in pathology, and Allen Bennett, a graduate student in toxicology, proposed establishing product safety standards for E-cigarettes.

The competition is a partnership with the University of Maryland, which is home to a FDA-supported Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. Winners from the Maryland contest will also present their ideas to the FDA.

Nikon STORM demonstration lasts until Wednesday

UR researchers can take a look at N-STORM -- a new super-resolution digital microscope system that combines "Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy" technology (licensed from Harvard University) and Nikon's Eclipse Ti research inverted microscope -- during a demonstration hosted by the Light Microscopy Shared Resource (core facility) through Wednesday in Room 4.7523. Contact Linda Callahan to attend a demonstration of the system using Nikon's samples, or your own samples if you would like to prepare them.

New biomolecular research service available

The Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility recently purchased a AKTA Pure chromatography system for purification of RNA, proteins, peptides, or complexes thereof. The system supports a wide range of chromatography techniques and accepts columns sold by GE, Bio-Rad, and other companies. Contact Jermaine Jenkins to plan your experiments. For more about the tools available at the facility, click here.

PCORI announces latest round of research funding

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is offering up to $206 million to support comparative effectiveness research (CER) designed to answer the health and healthcare questions of greatest concern to patients and other healthcare stakeholders.

Major funding areas include pragmatic clinical studies; assessment of prevention, diagnosis and treatment options; obesity treatment options for underserved populations; improving methods for conducting patient-centered outcomes research; improving health care systems; and transitional care.

The deadline for required Letters of Intent for each of these PFAs is 5 p.m. March 7. PCORI will host informational town hall and training webinars for interested applicants this month and next. More information is available here.

The Whipple Years: At least the parking was easier

(Nobel Laureate George Whipple, first dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry from 1921 to 1953, helped shape the school from its inception, hiring faculty and staff and supervising the design and construction of buildings. This is one in a series of occasional snapshots of research during those early years of what is now the Medical Center, courtesy of Christopher Hoolihan, Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarian at the Edward G. Miner Library and Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences).

Researchers at the School of Medicine and Dentistry might have thought they were in a relative wilderness when the school first opened in 1925. The River Campus was not yet built. Neither were the neighborhoods that now border the Medical Center between Castleman and West Henrietta Roads to south. There were only open fields.

Of course, that meant few distractions -- except when, "on any given day, you might hear (gunshots) popping all around the medical center," Hoolihan notes. That would be George Whipple, first dean of the school, hunting pheasants in those fields! "At least the parking wasn't an issue," Hoolihan adds.

Introducing a new faculty member

Scott Grimm has joined the Department of Linguistics as an assistant professor. His research interests are in formal and lexical semantics and pragmatics. He has investigated such topics as number, agentivity, argument structure, and case, combining theoretical and empirical approaches. He received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University in 2012, and just finished his postdoctoral research at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, working on the project "Natural language ontology and the semantic representation of abstract objects."

Researchers in the news

A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research by Mark Bils, the Hazel Fyfe Professor in Economics, and Yongsung Chang, Professor of Economics, and Sun-Bin Kim of Yonsei University in South Korea finds evidence that in industries with inflexible wages, firms respond to weak demand by pushing workers to produce more. Productivity in such industries rises in recessions, reducing the real cost of employing a given worker. But because firms can then use fewer employees to meet reduced demand, they have little incentive to hire. The working paper is cited in "The Price of Getting Back to Work," an article in The Economist, which notes that "in both America and Britain, the unemployment rate has fallen far faster over the past year than the tepid recoveries in both countries seem to justify."

Exposure to cigarette smoke is known to cause changes in the chromatin -- the complex of DNA and proteins that make up a cell's nucleus. This can lead to chronic lung disease. UR researchers Irfan Rahman, Professor of Environmental Medicine and Pulmonary Diseases, and Alan Friedman, Assistant Professor of Environmental Medicine, are shedding light on the role of histones in this process. Histones are key proteins that pass along genetic information from parents to children, play a role in gene expression, and act as "spools" for DNA to wind around. Their study, featured on the cover of the Journal of Proteome Research (February 2014), reports that cigarette smoke induces specific post translational modifications in histones H3 and H4, which could serve as biomarkers to help identify and predict chronic lung diseases (COPD and lung cancer) induced by cigarette smoke. Their data may also help in our understanding of the epigenetic changes that occur during the development of these diseases.

A new study from researchers at the School of Medicine and Dentistry disputes the effectiveness of mortality as a measure of the quality of care provided by hospitals to stroke patients. "With mortality increasingly being used as a marker for the quality of care provided to stroke patients, it is essential that we understand the impact of decisions made by physicians and families to limit or withhold care," said Adam G. Kelly, a Neurologist with School of Medicine and Dentistry and Chief of Neurology at Highland Hospital. "It is clear from our research that not only is the use of DNRs all over the map, but that this variation can affect efforts to assess quality of care." Read more. . .

Mark your calendar

Feb. 20: "I Am Not a Failure, Even Though I Have a Ph.D.," presented by Joe Palca, Science Correspondent, NPR News. Graduate Women in Science Seminars, 3-4 p.m., Case Method Room (1-9576).

Feb. 21: Center for Integrated Research Computing (CIRC) symposium. Hongyu Miao, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, will describe details of improvements in methods for identifying gene regulatory relationships and the application of this work to influenza. Shule Li, a graduate student in Physics and Astronomy, will feature results from simulations on star formations. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., URMC 2-6408 (K-207 Auditorium). Pizza and soda will be served during the event.

Feb. 27: Deadline to apply for Iberdrola USA Foundation Scholarships for students who will be engaged in master's level, energy-related studies next school year. Targeted for students at UR and University of Maine. Click here to learn more.

March 5: CTSI Town Hall Meeting, 4-5 p.m., Saunders Research Building. Topics will include UR Connected, new i2b2 features, the Research Coordinator Development Initiative, and new directions for the CTSI.

March 6-7: Grant Writing and Proposal Development Presentation, Society of Research Administrators International, Tampa, Fla. Learn more.

March 13: "Ethics in Research: Consent Quandaries," 2014 CTSI Symposium, 8 a.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. This symposium will address quandaries in research consent where there are likely to be gaps in knowledge or controversies about the best approach. The topics that will address these gaps include new tools for research consent, methods to address consent comprehension, the unique aspects of consent in settings like special populations, high-risk settings, community participatory research and comparative effectiveness research, and the special challenges of training community partners to obtain consent and conduct research. Register here.

March 15: Deadline to apply for Bioinformatics Pilot Awards. Click here to find the RFA.

March 18-20: 8th Pre-Award Research Administration Conference, National Council of University Research Administrators, San Francisco. Learn more.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte.. To see back issues, click here.

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter for 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.