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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Astronomers know that while large stars can end their lives as violently cataclysmic supernovae, smaller stars end up as planetary nebulae -- colorful, glowing clouds of dust and gas. In recent decades these nebulae, once thought to be mostly spherical, have been observed to often emit powerful, bipolar jets of gas and dust. But how do spherical stars evolve to produce highly aspherical planetary nebulae? In a theoretical paper published recently in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Eric Blackman, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and undergraduate student Scott Lucchini conclude that only "strongly interacting" binary stars -- or a star and a massive planet -- can feasibly give rise to these powerful jets. Read more about their study here.

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Fellowship supports Political Science students

A $1 million gift from Douglas and Constance Beck will establish an endowed fellowship for doctoral students in political science and related fields. Richard Niemi, the Don Alonzo Watson Professor of Political Science and interim chair for the Department of Political Science, believes the Douglas and Constance Beck Graduate Fellowship in Political Science will help attract the most promising researchers. "We are in competition with other universities that have substantial funds for supporting students," says Niemi. "We have to keep up to continue to get the best candidates." Read more here.

Technology Development Fund accepting pre-proposal applications

The Technology Development Fund supports University researchers who wish to further the process of translating their scientific and engineering research into commercial opportunities. Awards can range from $40,000 to $100,000 to support projects of approximately one year in duration. Faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and employees of the University who have submitted (or who intend to submit) an invention disclosure to the UR Ventures Office are encouraged to apply.

The deadline for submitting pre-proposal applications is 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

For more information contact the TDF Fund Manager, Omar Bakht, call direct at (585) 276-6610 or visit the website.

River Campus Libraries partner with Dryad Repository to offer vouchers

The River Campus Libraries are partnering with the Dryad Repository to archive datasets submitted by University of Rochester researchers. Faculty members and graduate students on the River Campus are invited to apply for vouchers that will cover the cost of submitting data to the repository. Ten vouchers are available through this pilot program.

An information session about this program and the Dryad Repository will be held at 1 p.m., Thursday, April 3, in Carlson Library, Room 310. RSVPs are encouraged; walk-ins are welcome.

More information about this pilot program is available here.

Crossing Elmwood: The search for autism biomarkers

A hearing test regularly used for newborns could be adapted for use as an autism indicator -- leading to earlier diagnoses and more proactive treatment. That is one of the implications of a project, supported by a PILOT grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which was described at this week's Crossing Elmwood seminar by Loisa Bennetto, Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, and Anne Luebke, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Neurobiology & Anatomy. As part of their project, youngsters with and without autism were tested on how well they could identify specific phrases over background babble or non-descript broadband noise. The children with autism scored significantly worse. Read more at CTSI Stories.

A collaboration in another direction

The Crossing Elmwood seminar series has showcased collaborations between River Campus and Medical Center investigators. Here's a collaboration that crossed the Inner Loop.

As part of the final project in the Fall Human-Computer Interaction class taught by Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, a team of students including Nate Buckley '15, Tait Madsen '15, master's student Cynthia Ryan, Veronika Alex '14 and Josh Bronstein '14 joined with Katherine Ciesinski, Eastman Professor of Voice, and her students to develop a prototype that provides real time feedback as singers produce vowels. The system automatically recognizes the speech formants and maps them into real time easy-to-interpret visuals. Students deployed the system at the Eastman School of Music and demonstrated that singers could produce vowels more effectively using the tool compared to the traditional method. This was done in less than a month as a HCI final project. Read more here.

Consent quandaries: Can the forms be made simpler?

(The recent 2014 CTSI Symposium "Ethics in Research: Consent Quandaries" examined some of the dilemmas that researchers confront in obtaining informed consent from human research subjects. This is one in a series of articles on the issues explored by speakers.)

There seems to be universal agreement that consent forms are too long (20- to 30- pages long in some AIDS trials) and too complicated (often written four grade levels or more beyond average reading skills), resulting in research subjects who often have a poor understanding of what they consented to.

Research papers have documented, for example, that 30 percent of volunteers in some studies did not understand that the treatment involved in the studies was unproven; as many as 8 percent of parents who enrolled their infants in studies did not later remember having done so.

So how might consent forms be changed?

The Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research is testing an approach in which information about a study is pulled out into a separate brochure, resulting in a one-page consent form that consists basically of a series of checkboxes that document what participants were informed of, said keynote speaker Nicholas Steneck, Director of the Institute's Research Ethics and Integrity Program. Subsequent semi-structured interviews with study participants suggest this does improve comprehension.

Cindi Lewis, a UR Ph.D. student in Translational Biomedical Sciences, described how she and colleagues, working closely with members of a community involved in an HIV vaccine trial, revised a standard consent form to make it more informative and engaging. Colors were introduced. Photos of the investigators were included. Some of the wording was simplified. And the key points of consent were summarized in a bulleted list at the very start, showing "that if you sign this consent form you are agreeing to a, b, c, d, and e, so there is no confusion in your mind that you are not consenting to anything except what is on that list," Lewis said.

"From that perspective alone, people appreciated the clarity of it," she added.

However, any departures from standard consent form templates are likely to be closely scrutinized by the institutional review boards that approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans.

Sometimes changes to consent forms that would intuitively seem helpful, may not turn out to be so.

For example, Carl D'Angio, UR Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Humanities & Bioethics and Director of the Ethics Key Function at the CTSI, tested whether providing a separate cover sheet with consent forms would help parents better understand the research studies in which they were enrolling their premature babies.

The cover sheets provided brief, one- to three-sentence explanations of 1. Why is the study being done? and 2. What will happen if my child is in the study?

Alas the simplified cover sheet had no effect on parents' objective or subjective understanding of the studies and no effect on their satisfaction with the consent process, when compared with parents who received forms with no cover sheet.

D'Angio presented a sampling of other research studies showing that shorter forms may improve comprehension compared to longer forms, especially when accompanied by verbal interaction with members of a research team.

In another study, however, some parents whose children were cancer patients indicated they wanted not only clearer but more information, rather than less, as part of the consent process.

D'Angio's take: While shorter forms may be advantageous, the search for more effective written consent documents continues. One thing does seem abundantly clear, he added: human interaction in the consent process is invaluable. In other words: "Consent is a process, not just a form."

Next: Are electronic consent forms the wave of the future?

Design tips to enhance readability

Here are some design tips to increase readability that can be applied to consent forms and other informational material provided to volunteer research participants, courtesy of

Choose a font size (12-15) that is comfortable for most readers. Fonts that are too large can be distracting.

Block off paragraphs and separate them with one-line spacing. Don't indent, and justify left. Use descriptive headings and subheads.

Use two column layouts to keep the length of lines short, ideally 7 to 14 words each.

Group the information logically and in manageable chunks. Avoid bullet lists of more than 5 items.

Graphics add meaning and help explain the text, but they should "at least replace their weight in words." Too many graphics distract.

Color can add appeal and help in scanning and navigating. But avoid using more than three colors and be sure there is enough contrast between text and background.

Avoid clutter: On a standard letter size page, leave 25-35 percent as white space.

Congratulations to . . .

Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and Director of the Center for Freeform Optics (CeFO) and the R.E. Hopkins Center, has been named the 2014 recipient of the David Richardson Medal from the Optical Society (OSA). The David Richardson Medal recognizes those who have made significant contributions to optical engineering, primarily in the commercial and industrial sector.

Duje Tadin, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Center for Visual Science, is the 2014 winner of the Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award. The award, sponsored by Vision Research, is given each year to an outstanding visual scientist who received an advanced degree within the past 10 years.

Richard E. Kreipe, founding director of the Child and Adolescent Eating Disorders Program at Golisano Children's Hospital, will be recognized with the Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) Leadership Award for Clinical, Administrative, or Educational Service during the International Conference on Eating Disorders, tomorrow in New York City.

Researchers in the news

A study presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 39th annual meeting suggests that donning a pair of video glasses -- which display a movie or television show only the patient can see -- can help the patient relax during a biopsy or other kind of minimally invasive treatment. "Whether they were watching a children's movie or nature show, patients wearing video glasses were successful at tuning out their surroundings," David L. Waldman, Chairman and Professor in the Department of Imaging Sciences and lead author of the study, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's an effective distraction technique that helps focus the individual's attention away from the treatment."

Mark your calendar

April 1: "When erythrocyte biology and mechanics collide," featuring Richard Waugh, Chair and Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Biochemistry & Biophysics, of Pharmacology & Physiology, and of the Rochester Center for Biomedical Ultrasound, and James Palis, Professor of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Pediatrics. CTSI Crossing Elmwood seminar series. 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w 304).

April 7-8: Grant Winners Workshop, sponsored by AS&E Dean's office, featuring Robert Porter, national leader in research development. Four sessions: Writing successful grants, writing the NSF career proposal, grants in the humanities and social sciences, and strategies for success in sponsored research. Click here to learn more.

April 8: "Mobile phone-based asthma self-management aid for adolescents," featuring James Allen, Professor of Computer Science, and Hyekrun Rhee, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing. CTSI Crossing Elmwood seminar series. 12:15 to 1:15 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1w 304).

April 10: 14th Annual Technology Showcase, sponsored by the Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences, 1 to 5:30 p.m., Eastman Business Park's Theater on the Ridge. An opportunity for University researchers to present their work to industry, other researchers and organizations.

April 25: International experts in infectious diseases and vaccine development gather to honor their colleague and collaborator, Caroline Breese Hall. Join the Department of Pediatrics for a Festschrift involving a full day of scientific talks and discussions. See Schedule of Events.

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.