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.
Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

"One of the biggest mistakes faculty members make is to choose a collaborator who is just like them," says David Williams, Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering and Director of the Center for Visual Science. "You want to have somebody who . . . has a completely different skills set."

'Doing something larger than you could ever do on your own'

(This is the last of a series identifying faculty leaders who have assembled teams to pursue large research awards or other projects, and explaining their approach and motivation in building a team.)

"There is a tendency for many investigators, especially early in their careers, to hold onto their work and not share it," says David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics; Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering; Director of the Center for Visual Science — and a leading eye expert who pioneered the use of adaptive optics for vision correction.

"They don't realize — and it's one of the things that took me longer to learn than I wish it had — that one of the best ways to build your reputation is to share your ideas or your technology with the hope that they will be adopted.

"I was lucky enough to realize that if I let my students take my adaptive optics technology and use it to build their own labs, for example, it not only helped them get their independent research programs off the mark but also enhanced my reputation because so many more people were able to access and deploy the technology."

Is it any wonder then, that of the five NEI Audacious Goals grants recently awarded to Williams and four other investigators:

• four of the projects use adaptive optics as their core technology?
• three of the other PI's are either current collaborators with Williams or former postdocs in his lab?
• which means that four of the PI's will be cooperating with each other, even as they individually collaborate with other experts in the field on their individual projects — in effect widening the opportunities for synergy?

"That's the excitement of this," Williams says. "Why should we compete when one group can do one piece of it, and a second group can do another, and as along as you can manage authorships and credit appropriately and fairly, we can be much more efficient and effective in getting things done?"

"One of the things I'm proudest about in this community of people around the world doing adaptive optics and retinal imaging is that almost all of us get along really well, and we're moving science forward as rapidly as we can by helping each other. That doesn't always happen in science."

As Dean of Research for Arts, Science and Engineering, Williams is always looking for young faculty throughout AS&E who have the right personality and vision to take on larger, multi-investigator, multi-institutional projects.

"You have to be gregarious and interested in working with other people and tolerating the quirks that they have, just as they have to tolerate the quirks you have," Williams said.

"The largest source of optimism for me about the AS&E research portfolio is the quality of our junior faculty members — their enthusiasm and energy. Many of them have cut their teeth on individual investigator awards and will reach a certain point in mid career when they realize they need to reach out for complementary expertise in order to do more."

Williams' advice: The best collaborator may not be the first one that comes to mind.

"One of the biggest mistakes faculty members make is to choose a collaborator who is just like them, who has the same interests in a problem and the same background and who they can easily begin a conversation with because they are so closely aligned. But that doesn't really help your research. You want to have somebody who . . . has a completely different skills set. As obvious as that is, it doesn't always get factored into planning how to accumulate the necessary wisdom to do something larger than you could ever do on your own."

Do you have an interesting photo or other image that helps illustrate your research? We would like to showcase it. Send a high resolution jpg or other version, along with a description of what it shows, to

CTSI incubator fosters collaboration on treatment targets, biomarkers for psoriatic arthritis

Our skeletons constantly renew and remodel themselves, thanks to cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts.

Osteoclasts, a biological equivalent of the Pac-Man of video games, consume damaged or aging bone; osteoblasts replace it.

In patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), Pac-Man runs rampant: There is a pathological excess of bone removal by the osteoclasts. For victims of PsA (there are an estimated 600,000 in this country alone), the result can mean enduring not only the painful, disfiguring skin plaques of psoriasis, but debilitating joint and tendon inflammation and swelling of digits as well.

"It can be a pretty miserable experience," said Christopher Ritchlin, Professor and Chief of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, and a leading PsA expert.

Thanks in large part to an incubator grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Ritchlin and two key collaborators have just been awarded a $2.5 million RO1 grant from the NIH. They will further explore two promising biomarkers — proteins DC-STAMP and TRAF3 — that could help identify PsA patients more readily, flag those most likely to respond to existing treatments and shed new light on the mechanisms by which osteoclasts go awry.

The incubator grant, which funds Ritchlin's collaboration with Minsoo Kim, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Brendan Boyce, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, enabled them to come up with preliminary findings and methodologies that helped leverage the NIH grant.

For example, one of the biomarkers they are studying, DC-STAMP, is required for the fusion of monocytes into osteoclasts, and shows up as a marker for osteoclast precursor populations in PsA patients. This suggests it could be involved when osteoclasts turn pathological in these patients.

However, the actual mechanism by which DC-STAMP functions, including the ligand that binds it to monocytes, is poorly understood, Ritchlin said.

Kim is using optogenetics to link light-activated rhodopsin to DC-STAMP proteins in order to study their role in cellular signaling; initial findings suggest DC-STAMP may actually be important in inhibiting inflammation, "which we did not expect," Ritchlin said.

"I think our ability to do the optogenetics and include it in the RO1 made a huge difference," Ritchlin added. "NIH really liked it. It is novel, innovative and we showed we could do it."

Boyce is helping the team study TRAF3, which is found in osteoclast precursors. TRAF3 levels appear to correspond to levels of a cytokine called TNF, which helps drive inflammation in PsA patients and is targeted by some of the most successful PsA drug treatments. "We have shown that 70 percent of PsA patients have high TRAF3 concentrations in their cells, and we think that concentration may tell us who responds to anti TNF agents, something we have not been able to predict before," Ritchlin said.

The project involves a combination of cell cultures, mouse studies and observational studies in patients with PsA. The laboratory team is directed by Grace Chiu, Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, and the clinical coordinators by Debbie Campbell.

Ritchlin credits CTSI's incubator program for "bringing people together who normally aren't working together, in a unique environment to explore questions of importance to cell biology and medicine."

"It's a beautiful effort actually."

About the CTSI incubator program

The Incubator Program supports "super-pilot projects," two years in duration, that accelerate innovative scientific discovery in the life sciences and public health, leading to new independently funded research programs. Each award is funded at a maximum level of $125,000 per year for each of two years. Faculty from all University schools are eligible to apply. Click here to learn more about the program, and here to learn about current and past projects that have received the award.

Register now for spring and fall NIH regional seminars

The National Institutes of Health will hold two NIH Regional Seminars on Program Funding and Grants Administration in 2016.

1. Wednesday-Friday, May 11-13 in Baltimore.
2. Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 26-28 in Chicago.

The seminars offer a great opportunity for researchers and research administrators to connect with NIH and HHS staff individually through one on one meetings, and through presentations on topics ranging from peer review and grant writing, finding the right funding opportunity, animals and human subjects in research, pre- and post- award management, special programs, and much, much more. Click here to learn more and/or register.

SBAI calls for papers on 'Transparent'

"Transparent," the TV series that intimately tracks a secular Jewish family in the aftermath of the patriarch's transition from Mort to Maura, will be the topic of a December 1-2 multi-disciplinary symposium hosted by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.

SBAI has issued a call for papers to explore the show's rich intersecting genealogies of gender and Jewishness in America.

Presentations might address, but are not limited to, the following subjects related to the show's content, production, and reception: boundaries of identity; class, privilege, and transitioning; sexuality, selfhood, performativity; families, intimacies, aging; trauma, memory, secrets; psychoanalysis and epigenetics; secular Jewish culture off and on TV; transgression, atonement, and ritual; Queer Berlin and Queer Hollywood; the female gaze; historical and normative feminisms; the politics of "transface"; the use (and uses) of Eileen Myles' poetry; the show's score and soundtrack; streaming services, and changing patterns of viewing.

Submissions are due no later than Aug. 1. Click here for more details.

School of Nursing junior faculty also eligible for Furth Fund

The Furth Fund, established in 1986 by Valerie and Frank Furth provides early career scientists with $10,000 in research funds to help foster the development of promising scientists.

Nominees should be junior, tenure track faculty appointed in natural or biological science departments within Arts, Sciences and Engineering; the School of Medicine and Dentistry; and the School of Nursing who have been hired within the past three academic years. Preference will be given to nominees who wish to use the award to support the active engagement of graduate students or postdocs in their research.

Additional information about the Furth Fund may be found here. Nominations are due Feb. 26.

Introducing a new faculty member

Darren Mueller has been appointed as an Associate Professor of Musicology starting in 2016-17. He earned an undergraduate degree in saxophone performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder, a Master of Arts in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers, and the MA and PhD in Musicology from Duke University, with a dissertation titled "At the Vanguard of Vinyl: A Cultural History of the Long Playing Record in Jazz." For the past year he has been a visiting faculty member in the music school of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has an article in Jazz Perspectives 8 (2014), and since 2011 has co-edited the website Provoke!: Digital Sound Studies.

University research in the news

A team-based approach to the treatment of hypertension led to a 30 percent improvement in blood pressure control in low-income, minority patients receiving care at a clinic in the city of Rochester, according to a study in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension. "Prior studies have demonstrated the benefits of multidisciplinary teams in highly controlled settings, but our study demonstrates that these benefits translate to real-world primary care settings," said lead study author Robert Fortuna, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics. Physicians, pharmacists and nurses worked together in teams to help patients best manage high blood pressure. For example, pharmacists recommended strategies like the use of pill boxes and set up automatic pharmacy refills to make it easier for patients to stick with prescribed medication regimens. They also consulted with treating physicians to ensure patients received the optimal combination of medications. Nurses ensured that patients were able to obtain medications; addressed barriers to care, such as a lack of insurance or transportation to appointments; followed up with patients with reminders about blood pressure checks; and reviewed home blood pressure readings for patients with a home monitor. Read more . . .

Congratulations to . . .

Hyekyun Rhee, Associate Professor of Nursing, and Mark Bocko, Chair and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. An asthma monitoring device they developed was recognized for innovation at the Wearable Technologies annual conference in January. ADAMM (Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management) was named the best innovation in the Healthcare and Wellness category, and the device's maker, Health Care Originals, Inc., was named Innovator of the Year for 2016. A lightweight, wearable iOS device, ADAMM records data vital to asthma management. It was based on an earlier prototype developed through collaborative research conducted by Rhee and Bocko.

PhD dissertation defenses

Grayson Sipe, Neurobiology & Anatomy, "The Role of P2Y12 in Non-Pathological Microglial Functions during Synaptic Plasticity." 1:15 p.m., Feb. 19, 2016, K-307 (3-6408). Advisor: Ania Majewska.

Yinghan Fu, Biophysics, "RNA Secondary Structure Comparative Analysis: Method Development and Application to Genomics." 11 a.m., Feb. 22, 2016, Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: David Mathews.

Mark your calendar

Feb. 16: Community and Collaboration, presented by Nancy Bennett, Co-Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Director, Center for Community Health; Gail Newton, Director, Community Health Partnerships, Center for Community Health; and Katia Noyes, Professor, Department of Surgery. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w-304). Part of the CTSI Seminar Series.

Feb. 22: Core Training Module 2: PI Oversight, presented by Steven Lamberti, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Kelly Unsworth, Director of Research Education & Training in the Office for Human Subject Protection. Noon to 1:30 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Classroom (1w-501).

Feb. 24: "Publicly Engaged Scholarship in Urban Communities: Teaching, Listening, and Collaborating," presented by Valerie Kinloch, professor of literacy studies at Ohio State University. 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Genrich-Rusling Room, LeChase Hall. This talk will focus on the urgent need to invest in urban schools. Learn more here.

Feb. 26: Deadline to nominate junior faculty for the Furth Award. Nominees should be junior, tenure track faculty appointed in natural or biological science departments within ASE, SMD or SON who have been hired within the past three academic years. Read more here.

Feb. 29: Deadline to file initial applications for pilot project funding from the Infection and Immunity: From Molecules to Populations (IIMP) program. Read more. . .

Feb. 29: Using online tools to save faculty time, a Technology in Health Professions Education Workshop. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall (1w-510). To register, contact

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.

University of Rochester Logo
Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
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.