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The Altarpiece of the Holy Kinship (1509) by Lucas Cranach the Elder celebrates the extended family of Jesus descended from his maternal grandmother St. Anne. A section is on the cover of MIchael Anderson's new book.

The music of St. Anne: Devotion and politics

You will find no references to St. Anne in the New Testament. And yet, from the early 15th to early 16th centuries, the apocryphal mother of the Virgin Mary was a subject of great veneration by women of all social ranks, especially among royalty.

Michael Alan Anderson, Associate Professor of Musicology at the Eastman School, examines how this devotion was expressed in the music of this time period in a book just published, St. Anne in Renaissance Music: Devotion and Politics (Cambridge University Press). This is the first study to explore the music that honored the saint and its connections to some of the most prominent court cultures of western Europe.

As "an impressive matriarch over Christ's extended family . . . St. Anne was pivotal in establishing the virtuousness of marriage and the value of progeny," Anderson writes. And, as the title of his book suggests, nobles in particular "either explicitly or implicitly used St. Anne to achieve their political goals," Anderson explained in an interview. "Aristocrats established their worthiness to rule both by demonstrating their illustrious genealogy and by bearing children to extend their legacy. The mother of the Virgin Mary, St. Anne, was a model for female -- and male--nobles in both respects. With an intercessor like Anne on their side, there was hope of remaining in power."

A noble could summon the favor of St. Anne by commissioning music for themselves on that subject, or by sending it to others to curry favor, Anderson said. For example, the regent of the Netherlands, Margaret of Austria -- one of the most powerful women in Western Europe in the first third of the sixteenth century -- commissioned a mass for St. Anne from her court composer, Pierre de la Rue, "which could well have been a signal of her 'eligibility' for a marriage that could extend the rule of the eminent Habsburgs."

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Burges explores the culture of obsolescence

Joel Burges, Assistant Professor of English, is the first to admit he's not an economist. But as a humanist scholar, he is intrigued by a contradiction that has increasingly manifested itself during the last 40 years.

The contradiction is this: Our economic system is built around the "rapid-fire" introduction of new generations of iPods and other products of our advanced technology. And yet, increasing numbers of the workers who are expected to repeatedly buy these soon-to-be-obsolete products are themselves being rendered "obsolete" by advanced technology, and thrown out of work.

Burges is working on a book that explores examples from contemporary film, art, and literature "that crystallize the economic situation at a cultural level," and thereby help us interact with it.

A very literal example of this is seen in the seven-minute film Century, by experimental filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. It shows a Buick Century automobile literally being crushed in a junkyard. Everson grew up in an Ohio town that made one of the parts for the car, "so he grew up in a place that was a part of the mid-century Golden Age of the American automotive industry," Burges notes. In Century, two kinds of obsolescence converge: "The car itself, which is the classic post-World War II example of rapid obsolescence at the level of commodities and technology, and simultaneously the people who no longer have the jobs to make or buy these things."

Wes Anderson's film adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the Roald Dahl children's novel, is an example of a filmmaker deliberately "making an obsolete aesthetic choice" -- using stop motion animation rather than the latest 3D CGI animation. "The remarkable thing as you watch the movie is that you can very much feel how out of sync it is with the way we experience something from Pixar," Burges notes. And yet, Anderson achieves memorable effects with it.

"So just as Everson reminds us of an earlier form of labor that was used to make things we were supposed to buy, this film is made using an earlier form of labor," Burges says. "It is an instance of a film director responding to the way in which obsolescence is a fundamental fact of post-1970 life, and in a way Anderson is asking us to appreciate something that is now obsolete."

One of the lessons from all this is that "the past is never dead," Burges says. Moreover, the willingness of contemporary artists, novelists, and filmmakers to draw attention to what is now obsolete leads us to a deeper question about "what it means to be caught up in history."

"The fact is we're in this historical moment where things like digital transition do render humans obsolete, and that, for me, is at the heart of what is means to be historical," Burges says. "When you yourself feel like you're being shuttled into the past, it's useful -- reparative -- to have cultural forms such as movies, films, and novels that address that experience in some way, for better or for worse."

(Burges is a recipient of a 2014-2015 fellowship at the Susan and Donald Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Wellesley College, where he will spend the next academic year completing Out of Sync and Out of Work: Temporal Sensation in the Culture of Obsolescence, 1973 to the Present.)

Sturgeon reintroduction has been a 10-year effort

(Second of two parts.)

The first lake sturgeon that USGS, NYSDEC and USFWS researchers reintroduced into the Genesee River 10 years ago were only four inches long. Now they're four feet long and have the potential to reach seven feet by the end of their lifespan, typically 55 years for males and 85-150 years for females.

"They are good ambassadors for wetland, river and lake preservation," says Jeff Wyatt, Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine, whose studies show that the fish are now thriving in a river that was once too polluted to sustain them. "People have had such a negative view of the Genesee. When you have a success story like this, showing an improvement in the river's general health, they are really surprised."

With the support of the U.S. Geological Survey, Seneca Park Zoo (Wyatt is Director of Animal Health & Conservation there) and the University, he and other researchers reintroduced 1,900 baby sturgeon in the river in 2003-2004, then another 1,000 last year and plan to release 1,000 more this year. "They're doing so well we want to continue repopulating the nursery," Wyatt explained. (The sturgeon spend only the first 10 years of their lives in the area where they are released; they then move out into the lake, spending most of their time there except when they return to the river to spawn.)

Lake sturgeon all but disappeared from Lake Ontario and its tributaries, probably because of a combination of pollution, overfishing and loss of habitat for spawning. The sturgeon, which are off limits to fishing, are now thriving in the Genesee. Presumably, whatever pollution remains in the river is now covered by sediment, Wyatt said.

But researchers will continue to take a keen interest in the sturgeon. For example, they want to study the extent to which remaining pollution out in the lake impacts the reproductive success of the fish by evaluating serum hormones for evidence of endocrine disruption. "One of the interesting things about the sturgeon is that they are very much like people in one respect," Wyatt noted. "They don't reproduce until they're 15-20 years old."

NIH, NSF partner to empower entrepreneurial scientists

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that they will partner to empower entrepreneurial scientists and advance the Lab-to-Market priorities set forth in President Obama's Management Agenda.

The President's 2015 budget supports a sustained commitment to accelerate the transfer of promising federally-funded technologies from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace. Academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive SBIR or STTR funding from NIH will now be eligible to participate in a pilot of the NSF Innovation Corps program that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies.

First launched in 2011, the NSF I-Corps program is based on the "Lean Launchpad" curriculum to improve how tech start-ups bring their products into the marketplace. More information is available on both the NSF and NIH websites.

CTSI releases requests for pilot, incubator award applications

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Pilot Awards program considers four different types of proposals:

1. Investigator-initiated pilot studies for faculty ($50,000 maximum for one year);

2. Investigator-initiated pilot studies for trainees ($25,000 maximum for 1 year);

3. UNYTE Translational Research Network grants ($50,000 maximum for 1 year); and

4. A new Clinical Trials Methods and Technologies grant ($50,000 maximum for 1 year).

Pilot Award abstracts are due by Sept. 2. The full RFA can be found here.

The goal of the CTSI Incubator program is to identify research collaborations at the institution with tremendous potential to catalyze breakthrough treatments, diagnostic techniques, or quantum leaps in community health. It is anticipated that successful Incubator Projects will use the award to provide the groundwork to achieve programmatic levels of extramural funding. These "superpilot" programs will be eligible for awards of up to $125,000 per year, for up to two years of support per research program. Incubator abstracts are due by Sept. 2, and the full RFA can be found here.

Scientific Advisory Committee seeks "superpilot" award proposals

As a companion to the CTSI Incubator Program the SMD Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) sponsors a "superpilot" award with a maximum funding level of $125,000 per year for each of two years. The purpose of the SAC Incubator Program is to foster the establishment of extramurally-funded, nationally-recognized centers of excellence in biomedical research with the potential to generate new strategic directions for the School of Medicine and Dentistry and the University. Abstracts are due on Sept. 2. Click here for the RFA.

Introducing a new faculty member

Alexander Lee joins the Department of Political Science as an assistant professor this fall. His research focuses on the historical factors governing the success or failure of political institutions, particularly in South Asia and other areas of the developing world. His dissertation, for example, examined the ways in which colonialism changed the distribution of wealth in Indian society, and the ways in which these changes affected the development of caste identities. Additional research areas include the study of colonialism and European expansion in a cross national perspective, and the causes of political violence, especially terrorism. This past academic year, Lee was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, where he earned his PhD in political science in 2013.

Congratulations to . . .

Eric Blackman, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, who has been named a 2014 Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics to pursue his project, "Toward a 21st Century Unified Mean Field Accretion Disk and Dynamo Theory." The fellows program, offered through the Simons Foundation, provides funds to faculty for up to a semester long research leave from classroom teaching and administrative obligations. Such leaves can increase creativity and provide intellectual stimulation. The goal of the Simons Fellows Program is to make it easier to take such leaves, or to extend sabbatical leaves by an extra half year.

University research in the news . . .

(Last week's item about a study on the impact of antibiotics on the diversity of gut bacteria in preterm newborns failed to mention all of the collaborators. The item is corrected here; Research Connections regrets the omission.)

Antibiotics given to preterm newborns disrupt the diversity of gut bacteria, but a shorter, two-day course of drugs has less impact than seven days or more of antibiotics, according to a study by UR researchers. The collaborators on this study are Steven Gill, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and his colleagues Ann Gill, a technical associate, and Alex Grier, a bioinformatician--data analyst; Yi-Horng Lee, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Pediatric), Majd Dardas, former fellow in the Department of Pediatrics, and Ronnie Guillet and Gloria S. Pryhuber, both Professors of Pediatrics. The researchers also found that in the cases of 29 infants, the bacterial diversity was recovering after 30 days, suggesting that following antibiotic treatment in newborns, the gut can acquire additional intestinal microbes over time. The process of amassing intestinal microbes starts before birth, and scientists believe that alterations occurring in the womb, at birth, and in the neonatal period might have long-term consequences. Environmental factors such as mode of delivery at birth, antibiotic use and duration, and diet, all have a big impact on the microbiome. The study was published in the journal Pediatric Research.

Kara Finnigan, Associate Professor at the Warner School and Alan Daly, Professor and Chair of Education Studies at the University of California San Diego share their findings on "The Importance of Relationships in Educational Reform" at the blog of the Albert Shanker Institute. "Most of the current reforms focus on technical aspects of educational change, such as curricular resources in mathematics education," they write. "Perhaps just as critical (and much less attended to) are the relationships between and among educators in the implementation and sustainability of complex change. What we mean is that just giving math teachers new resources will not necessarily bring about deep change in their beliefs and practices. Research has found that schools with collaborative or trusting cultures are more likely to show signs of improvement and innovation . . . Complex change of the magnitude that we are expecting in the current educational system, particularly in the most challenging communities, requires attention to capacity building and relational trust -- two critical, system-wide components that are overlooked in the current reform agenda." Read more here.

University researchers have been looking at how the color red affects the way that people perceive others for a number of years now. In a previous study, men shown photos of women who were identical, with the exception of their clothing color, saw the women who wore red as appearing more sexually interested and available than the women who wore other colors. A new study shows that women share the same perceptions when shown similar photos of other women. The participants in the study were also more likely to see the women who wore red as being more sexually promiscuous and less likely to be able to commit to a monogamous relationship. When asked if they would be likely to introduce these women to their husband or boyfriend, they were less likely to do so with the women wearing red. Adam Pazda, a graduate student in psychology and lead author of the paper published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, said that like previous studies, the takeaway is that it's important to be aware of the impact that color can have on perception. While it may not mean that women should put away that red dress and never wear it again, it could be helpful to understand the complex relationship of color and perception as they navigate the social world. Click here for a video.

The pursuit of inertial confinement fusion at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics was the focus of a recent Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article. Read more here.

In an attempt to help urban teens keep their asthma symptoms in check, Jill Halterman, Professor of Pediatrics, has developed a study that combines giving students their medications at school with motivational counseling specifically designed for teens. The 5-year study, developed in partnership with the Rochester City School District and the district's nurses, is supported by a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. A pilot study, which generated initial data used in the application to NIH, was funded by the CTSI. Read more at the CTSI Stories Blog.

PhD dissertation defenses

Michael Moses, Pathology, "Epigallocatechin Gallate Elicits Stage-Specific Sensitivity and Affects Heat Shock Protein 90 in a Novel Human Prostate Cancer Progression Model." 11 a.m., July 22, 1-9576 Ryan Case Method Room. Advisor: Thomas A. Gasiewicz

Kevin Klubek, Chemical Engineering, "Investigation of Blue Phosphorescent Organic Light-Emitting Diode Instability." 10 a.m., July 30, 5207 Schlegel Hall. Advisor: Ching Tang

Douglas Flowe, History, "Tell the Whole White World: Crime, Violence, and Black Men in Early Migration, New York City, 1890-1917." 2 p.m., July 31, 362 Rush Rhees Library. Advisor: Joan Rubin

Lenore Kubie, Chemistry, "Metallopeptides and Metallocytochromes c with Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Conjugates for Alternative Energy Applications." 1 p.m., Aug. 4, 221 Meliora Hall. Advisor: Kara Bren

Dustin Shipp, Optics, "Holographic angular domain elastic scattering of single biological cells." 10:30 a.m., Aug. 7, 101 Goergen. Advisor: Andrew Berger.

Gregory Howland, Physics and Astronomy, "Compressive Sensing for Quantum Imaging." 2 p.m., Aug. 13, 372 Bausch and Lomb. Advisor: John Howell.

Amanda Neukirch, Physics and Astronomy, "Excited State Dynamics in Nanoscale Systems." 1:30 p.m., Aug. 18, 372 Bausch and Lomb. Advisor: Oleg Prezhdo.

Mark your calendar

Aug. 1: Deadline for Fulbright Core applications for Academic Year 2015-2016. Click here for a searchable database of all programs and here for past and upcoming webinars about programs and the application process.

Aug. 4: Deadline for proposals for the first disabilities studies cluster symposium, "Complicating Normalcy: Disability, Technology, and Society in the 21st Century," which will be held Nov. 14. Click here to learn more.

Sept. 1: Applications due for pilot grants for aging research, offered by The Rochester Aging Research Center and the Office for Aging Research and Health Services. Send to to Contact Dirk Bohmann, Yeates Conwell, or Vera Gorbunova with questions. NOTE: New funding for projects that are related to HIV and aging has become available from the Center for AIDS Research. See the updated request for applications.

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

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
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