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

Our ability to generate large and complex sets of data has largely outpaced our ability to understand and extract meaningful observations from this information. This is one of the biggest hurdles confronting researchers.

The University this week offered a sneak preview of a new data visulization lab that will help researchers overcome that hurdle, by creating an immersive visual experience that will allow them to manipulate large and complex sets of scientific information in ways that will make it easier to see patterns and find connections.

The VISTA Collaboratory in Carlson Science and Engineering Library consists of an array of 24 monitors. It is 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall and has a resolution (50 megapixels) that approaches that of IMAX theaters. It also has a direct high speed fiber optic connection to the University's Data Center, linking the display with:

1. An IBM Blue Gene/Q, which, with 16,384 processing cores, is one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet.

2. A new IBM "BlueHive 2" Linux supercomputer cluster, which has a data storage capacity of 2 petabytes or 2 million gigabytes. To put this in perspective, 1 petabyte could store the complete human genome -- which consists of 3 billion base pairs -- of every individual in America.

"The best analytical tool we have is still the human brain," said David Topham, the Executive Director of the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (HSCCI) and a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "We can see relationships between data that computers cannot. But in order to do that you have to have the information in front of you so you can see the patterns and connections that matter. In other words, you need to be able to see the forest and the trees simultaneously."

The new lab is one of the centerpieces of the University's commitment to apply high performance computing and data science approaches to solve scientific problems. Read more here. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

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Promising Projects: Virtues as moral-psychological constructs

(This is the first in a series taking a closer look at projects awarded 2014 University Research Awards, previously known as Provost Multidisciplinary Awards, which provide seed money for innovative research projects that are likely to attract external support when sufficiently developed.)

Randall Curren, Professor and Chair of Philosophy; Richard Ryan, Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education, and Laura Wray-Lake, Assistant Professor of Psychology, are recipients of a 2014 University Research Award for their project, "Virtues as moral-psychological constructs."

"There is a great deal of intellectual ferment at the boundaries of philosophy and psychology these days, especially in the spheres of moral psychology and happiness studies, but philosophers and psychologists are for the most part limited to reading each other's work," Curren said. "Receiving this University Research Award will enable us to not only work collaboratively to identify testable hypotheses about the structure and formation of moral motivation, but also design and run a pilot study based on our theoretical work. This is exciting work."

Here is the abstract of the project:

The status of moral virtues and states of character as moral-psychological constructs has emerged in recent years as a vibrant focus of research at the boundaries of psychology and moral philosophy. There is a great deal of funding available to support such research, and it is foundational to such matters as the design and validity of measures of virtue or character, the understanding and encouragement of social responsibility, and character education in schools.

The questions that concern us are:

1. How can virtues and states of moral character be best conceptualized as measurable psychological constructs?

2. What is the role of motivation in virtue and social responsibility?

3. What are the motivational precursors of moral development leading to virtuous states of character?

4. How can the answers to questions 1-3 inform (a) institutional designs conducive to good character and social responsibility and (b) the instrument designs for assessing character and social responsibility?

We plan to collectively examine existing models of virtues and states of character as measurable constructs, and develop a theoretical model based in Self-Determination Theory (SDT) of the moral motivation inherent in virtuous states of character. In a conceptual paper, we will synthesize philosophical perspectives on Aristotelian virtue ethics (led by Curren) with developmental frameworks on civic engagement and social responsibility (led by Wray-Lake) and motivational perspectives on the development of intrinsic life aspirations and autonomous moral goals and actions (led by Ryan).

On this basis, we will then frame testable hypotheses about the motivational and contextual foundations for acquiring virtuous states of character and expressing them in social responsibility. We will conduct a pilot study to empirically test hypotheses emerging at this conceptual interface. Specifically, we will examine the relations between SDT's need supportive parenting environments, and the level and motivational orientations behind students' civic engagement. We also will investigate Aristotelian thinking on the linkage between autonomous civic engagement and multiple indicators of well-being. At least one conceptual and one empirical paper will result from our collaboration. In addition, we will build a measurement tool-kit for scientists across fields to use in further investigations.

(University Research Award proposals are evaluated on whether the projects promise to solve a problem of intellectual or scientific importance, are well-designed and feasible, offer opportunity for involvement of students, and clearly show how outcomes should lead to external funding. Proposals are also evaluated on whether applicants are qualified to see the project to a successful conclusion and whether the budget request is appropriate. Click here to learn more.)

Money and mistresses in modern China

"As soon as a man gets rich, he goes bad. As soon as a woman goes bad, she gets rich."

John Osburg, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, cites this saying, now commonly heard in China, in a Foreign Affairs article examining how that nation's "wave of new wealth, combined with an overheated real estate market, has returned material considerations and transactions to the forefront of relations between the sexes." The article, "Tough Love: Money and Mistresses in the Middle Kingdom," is adapted from his recent book, Anxious Wealth. "At the center of this new reality," Osburg writes, "is a type of woman the feminist economist He Qinglian calls 'gray' -- one who stands somewhere between the legitimate, 'white' world of marriage and the illegitimate, 'black' underworld of prostitution."

"In many ways, popular representations of ambitious gray women and wealthy philandering men have served as an allegory for the effect of wealth on morality in contemporary China," Osburg adds. "Yet whereas men are characterized as the victims of human nature and female temptation, women are often portrayed as actively choosing to disregard morality in order to get ahead."

Read more here.

Free trial of Qualtrics Research Suite offered

Qualtrics Research Suite is a web-based survey tool that allows users to conduct online surveys, analyze survey results, collaborate in real time, and export data in multiple formats. From now until Sept. 16, University faculty, staff, and students have free, unlimited access to this software. To receive a free trial, visit the University IT Computer Sales website and sign up using your University email address.

Conference promotes scholarly collaboration

The 5th annual Science of Team Science Conference (SciTS) is an opportunity for researchers across the United States and around the world to come together in the spirit of promoting scholarly collaboration and research discovery. This year's conference is co-locating with the 2014 VIVO Conference in Austin, Texas on Aug. 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency.

The conference is a forum to enhance understanding of how best to support and conduct effective and efficient Team Science, which addresses important scientific and societal problems. It serves as a bridge between the science and the praxis of Team Science, and is an important conduit for translating empirical findings about Team Science into evidence-based effective practices for scientific teams and funders of Team Science.

Click here to learn more.

Congratulations to . . .

Martin Lynch, Associate Professor of Counseling and Human Development at the Warner School, who has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to teach and conduct research in Russia. Lynch's award will take him to Kazan Federal University (KFU) for the 2014-15 academic year to teach in the Department of Psychology. While in Russia, Lynch will conduct research on the beliefs of local childcare and child development experts on what is needed to help children develop and thrive in psychologically and emotionally healthy ways. Read more here.

Researchers in the news . . .

Principal investigator Hartmut "Hucky" Land, co-investigator Aram Hezel, and their team have been awarded more than $2 million from The National Cancer Institute to continue their study of a gene network that controls cancer progression, with a focus on pancreatic cancer and a gene known as Plac8. Land and Hezel have discovered that Plac8 is a key driver in malignancies but is not essential to the function of normal tissue. Plac8's cancer-specific role makes it a viable treatment target, said Land. "The goal is always to find precise interventions that do not impact healthy tissue," Land said, "and in this case we believe we have a novel opportunity." Earlier this year the team published a paper in the journal Cell Reports describing how Plac8 sustains a garbage-recycling process inside cancer cells that allows for the uncontrolled growth of tumors. Land is the Director of Research and Co-director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and the Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Genetics. Hezel is Vice Chief of Wilmot's Division of Hematology and Oncology and an Associate Professor. Read more here.

PhD dissertation defenses

Whitney M. Gegg-Harrison, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, "Knowledge and Naming in Interactive Conversation." 10 a.m., July 10, Meliora 269. Advisor: Michael Tanenhaus.

Natalia Golub, Public Health Sciences, "Longitudinal Health Outcomes in Former Refugees." 1 p.m., July 10, Helen Wood Hall (1W501). Advisor: Susan Fisher.

Neha Gupta, Biology, "A Systematic Analysis of Ribosomal Small Subunit Biogenesis in Wild-Type E. coli." 1:30 p.m., July 11, 473 Hutchison Hall. Advisor: Gloria Culver.

Mark your calendar

Today: 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.

No Research Connections next week

Because of the July 4 holiday, the next Reseach Connections will be on July 11.

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.