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?
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Images of research

Specific proteins, called histones (shown in green in the photo above), must exist within a certain range in fruit fly embryos. If there are too few, a fruit fly's DNA is damaged; if there are too many, the cell dies. Now research out of the University of Rochester shows that different types of histone proteins also need to exist in specific proportions. The work further shows that cellular storage facilities keep over-produced histones in reserve until they are needed. Michael Welte, Associate Professor of Biology, has discovered that the histone balance is regulated by those storage facilities, called lipid droplets (shown as small dots and rings in the image above), which are best known as fat depots. The findings were published recently in the journal Current Biology. Welte had previously discovered that another protein -- called Jabba -- anchored histones onto lipid droplets. In his latest research, he found that excess histones migrate outside the nucleus (large spheres in the image) to the droplets, where they are temporarily held until needed to create new chromosomes. "People have observed histone proteins on lipid droplets in multiple organisms, including mammals," said Welte. "The results of this research project may very well help us understand the role of histones and lipid droplets in humans." (Photo by Zhihuan Li/University of Rochester.) Read more here.

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UR a worthy host for Gower conference

English poet John Gower "has become a major topic these days among young medievalists world wide," notes Russell Peck, the John Hall Deane Professor of Rhetoric and Literature.

Many of those young medievalists will be in attendance when the University of Rochester hosts the Third International Congress of the John Gower Society -- the first to be held in this country -- starting June 30. The University of Rochester will be represented by over 20 presenters and presiders, including current faculty, graduate students, and alumni from the departments of English, History, and the Eastman School of Music.

Why Rochester?

The University has played a prominent role in modern Gower research.

1. The creation of Gower texts for use in the classroom as well as research has evolved primarily through the University of Rochester. Peck, an internationally recognized expert on Gower, produced in 1968 an abridged edition of Gower's Confessio Amantis. More recently, in 2002-13, his three-volume edition of the same text has become the standard text of that poem.

2. The Middle English Texts Series (METS), founded by Peck, has been instrumental in making Gower's works in English, French, and Latin available not only in print but online, facilitating research and collaborative investigation.

The John Gower Society, founded by R. F. Yeager in collaboration with Russell Peck and Alistair Minnis, has been a crucial force in the development of Gower studies. Peck's pioneering METS project has been embraced by the National Endowment for the Humanities as a model program in the growing field of digital humanities. Indeed, one of the reasons for the growing interest in Gower, especially among young researchers, is the "increasing accessibility of good editions" of his poetry, notes UR graduate student Kara McShane, one the conference's facilitators. These are not only affordable, but maintain a high standard of scholarship.

Thanks to the trailblazing spirit of Gower scholars, original Gower manuscripts can now be accessed online. One notable web archive is the Gower Project, founded by University of Rochester alumnus Eve Salisbury, who is now a Professor of Medieval Literature at Western Michigan University. "For people like us who cannot easily go to a British library, we can actually look at these originals with all their illuminations, handwriting, and annotations," said Pamela Yee, a UR graduate student who is also helping to facilitate the conference. "We're all benefiting from the availability of these materials."

Historians draw on multiple disciplines to shed light on American Revolution

Fifty years ago, historians did not write about politics in same way they do now, says Thomas Slaughter, the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History, whose new book Independence: The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution comes out this month.

"Politics was once seen as the expression of elite leadership ideas and behaviors. Now we realize that a lot of politics took place on the streets. It isn't contained in documents written by a handful of the men whose names we all know and whose pictures are on our money. A lot of it was physical, some of it was violent, but a good bit of it was expressed through actions rather than written words."

So how do historians research that?

By learning the tools of cultural anthropology and other disciplines to unearth and interpret primary resources in new ways.

"Court records to some extent have been utilized differently to take the testimony of people who never wrote in their own words, as a way to understand what they were doing. The same has been done with pension applications after the war, which are recorded oral testimony," Slaughter explains. As tensions increased between American colonists and the British, newspaper accounts "describe the dialogue as a crowd is walking down a street and report the phrases the people are using, and the uses of the word 'liberty,' for example." The newspapers also describe how people "compare their politics and political state to that of slaves in some cases."

Slaughter traces this changed approach in historical research to the 1960s, when "for reasons that have to do with American culture, society and politics at that time, academics became more conscious of and more interested in the experiences of a wider range of people."

For example, "Historians began to discover women in the historical record, where the argument previously was 'Well, we just can't know that much about women from the past because they didn't participate in society in the same way as men.' Now we understand that we can study textiles and newspaper ads, and that there are diaries, correspondence, estate records, and material goods, as well as more manuscripts than earlier generations realize for studying women."

Many historians now receive training in other disciplines -- Slaughter, for example, in cultural anthropology. As historians specialize in such areas, however, "what you're doing is like an archaeologist; you're digging a deep hole but a narrow one, so that synthesis becomes more difficult. We have all of these studies that are like holes dug down deep to try to get at the different strata of society, but not a lot that's connecting the holes."

Hence his new book, which "synthesizes" the diverse, specialized scholarship of the last 50 years surrounding the causes of the American Revolution.

Many historians, especially those with a background in cultural anthropology, "try to find a small but meaningful story that illustrates a lot about the larger culture," Slaughter added. Carlo Ginzburg, for example, in The Cheese and the Worms, describes popular culture in the 16th century through the eyes of one man, a miller brought to trial during the Inquisition. Similarly, Natalie Davis, in The Return of Martin Guerre, "wrote famously about the trial of one man. These are small rich stories that shed a light on large and connected parts of a culture, micro-histories, which greatly influenced my generation of historians."

Quick, reliable in-class evaluation captures 'vital signs' of teaching

A 20-minute classroom assessment that is less subjective than traditional in-class evaluations by principals can reliably measure classroom instruction and predict student standardized test scores, according to psychologists from the University of Rochester and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The assessment also provides immediate and meaningful feedback making it an important new tool for understanding and improving instructional quality.

"Education researchers broadly agree that teachers matter," explained co-author Edward Deci, the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences. "But there is less consensus about precisely what defines effective instruction and how to measure it. This assessment is able to capture the vital signs of teaching. It's a bit like a doctor taking your blood pressure and pulse for a quick picture of your health," said Deci.

Read more here.

NIH report outlines BRAIN initiative goals, budget, and timeline

A federal report calls for $4.5 billion in funding for brain research over the next 12 years. The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins accepted the recommendations and called the report bold and game changing.

The scientific goals that were identified as high priorities for achieving this vision are:

1. Identify and provide experimental access to the different brain cell types to determine their roles in health and disease.

2. Generate circuit diagrams that vary in resolution from synapses to the whole brain.

3. Produce a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity.

4. Link brain activity to behavior with precise interventional tools that change neural circuit dynamics.

5. Produce conceptual foundations for understanding the biological basis of mental processes through development of new theoretical and data analysis tools.

6. Develop innovative technologies to understand the human brain and treat its disorders; create and support integrated brain research networks.

7. Integrate new technological and conceptual approaches produced in the other goals to discover how dynamic patterns of neural activity are transformed into cognition, emotion, perception, and action in health and disease.

The report drafted by the ACD BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve these goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH's component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

CLick here to read the report in full.

New chair in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine . . .

Bruce Smoller, an international leader in the study of skin diseases, will become chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Med Center effective July 1. The department is responsible for training the next generation of anatomic, clinical, and experimental pathologists; conducting basic, clinical, and translational research studies at its FDA-compliant central laboratory; and processing more than 6.2 million tests annually through UR Medicine Labs. Read more ...

. . . and in Computer Science

Sandhya Dwarkadas, Professor of Computer Science, becomes Chair of the department effective July 1, replacing Henry Kautz, who will be directing The Institute for Data Science. Dwarkadas joined the Computer Science Department in 1996. Her research interests lie in the areas of parallel and distributed computing, computer architecture, and networks. She has a secondary appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Medical Center faculty to speak on inflammatory bowel disease

Several URMC faculty members will participate in the "Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symposium: Clinical Overview and the Rochester GI Study Group 30-Year Population Based Research Findings" starting at 5:15 p.m. June 24, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, 1441 East Ave. This study is the longest of its kind and represents important new research in this field.

Lectures starting at 6:30 p.m. include an overview of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and its clinical manifestations by Lawrence Saubermann, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and findings of the Rochester GI Study Group by James Stormont, Clinical Professor Emeritus.

The lectures will be followed by an experts panel discussion on specific issues relating to Inflammatory Bowel Disease from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The panel includes Marilyn Brown, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics; Stephen Rauh, Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery; Seymour Schwartz, Professor of Surgery; Ashok Shah, Professor of Medicine; and Lucy Sheils, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The panel will be moderated by Lawrence Chessin, Clinical Professor of Medicine.

RSVP to Lydia Nicholson at by the end of today.

Seminar offers basics of human subject research

This 1.5 hour seminar introduces basic UR policies and required review processes concerning human subject research. The seminar also highlights resources available at the University for designing and implementing study protocols. The next session will be held at noon June 25 in Helen Wood Hall Classroom (1W-502). Continuing education credit will not be provided. Lunches welcome. To register, or for questions, please contact:

In the news

The research team of Danielle Benoit, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, has come up with a way to keep stem cells in place when they are used to regenerate bone tissue. The team encases the stem cells in polymers that attract water and disappear when their work is done. This results in faster and better tissue regeneration. "Our success opens the door for many -- and more complicated -- types of bone repair," Benoit said. Read more here.

Dissertation defenses

Tzu-Chieh Ho, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, "Evolution of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Stem Cell Properties Following Treatment and Progression."1:30 p.m. today Aud K-207 (2-6409). Advisors: Michael W. Becker and Craig T. Jordan.

Qinghua Li, Public Health Sciences, "Quality of Care in Nursing Homes: The Impact of Dementia, Mental Illness, and Work Environment." 3 p.m. June 23 Helen Wood Hall (1W509). Advisor: Helena Temkin-Greener.

Helen Shinru Wei, Neurobiology and Anatomy, "Functional Hyperemia in Cerebral Capillaries." 9:30 a.m. June 24 Aud K307 (3-6408). Advisors: Maiken Nedergaard and G. Edward Vates.

Mark your calendar

June 26: Department of Pediatrics mini symposium, "Early-life Antecedents of Children's Health and Disease." Keynote speaker Edward R.B. McCabe, Senior Vice President and Medical Director of the March of Dimes. 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Class of '62 Auditorium. A link to the full list of speakers can be found here.

June 27: The 4th Annual URMC Stem Cell Symposium. Keynote speaker Gordon Keller, Professor of Biomedical Physics at the University of Alberta. Also presentations, a poster session, and prizes.

June 30-July 3: Third International Congress of the John Gower Society. Aspects of language, cognition, and performance in the scholarship of this 14th century Ricardian poet will be examined in four plenary lectures and more than 30 panel sessions, most at Rush Rhees Library. Click here to learn more.

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.

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.