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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In this week's edition . . .

Hydroxyapatite thin films may enhance bone healing
Goergens commit $11 million to Institute for Data Science
New Center for Energy & Environment announced
HathiTrust gives UR access to nearly 5 million books
URBest program trains medical grad students for non-academic careers
Environmental Health Sciences Center seeks applications for pilot projects
Study on HIV prevention among young black males gets CFAR funding
New faculty member Himabindu Vidula researches predictors of mortality in patients with heart failure
Political Science faculty Gretchen Helmke, Bonnie Meguid discuss mandatory voting
"Twisted light" enables researches to double information encoded per photon
Congratulations to Antonio Badolato . . . Danielle Benoit . . . Michael Neidig . . . Lynne Maquat . . . David Korones . . . Ray Dorsey . . . Zhenqiang Yao


This illustrates the development of giant electrical polarization in hydroxyapatite (HA) during electrochemical synthesis. (a) Negatively charged titanium cathode. (b) Calcium rich HA nucleating onto the cathode. (c) As the HA grows, a composition gradient develops, with the surface becoming relatively more rich in negatively charged phosphate and hydroxyl groups. The arrow indicates the direction of the resulting dipole.

Thin film of hydroxyapatite could promote bone healing

Hydroxyapatite — the mineral in our bones and teeth — can store a surprisingly large electrical charge when it is electrochemically synthesized as a thin film, according to a paper published by a team of researchers led by Matthew Yates, Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering.

The film could be used for a host of applications, with faster bone healing at the head of the list.

When hydroxyapatite, which can be synthesized in the laboratory, is heated to 300 degrees centigrade or more, ions can start moving around inside the hydroxyapatite crystals. Yates and his team began investigating this ion movement, engineering thin films of hydroxyapatite with improved ion transport.

One of the techniques the research team used is an electrochemical synthesis that involved placing two electrodes in a special salt solution, then applying electrical current to cause a thin film of hydroxyapatite to grow on the surface of one of the electrodes. Yates and his team discovered unexpectedly that the resultant film retained a stored electrical charge, with one side of the film being positively charged, and the other negative. The magnitude of the stored charge is far larger than any previously reported for hydroxyapatite or any other material.

The film could lead to new applications in ion exchange separations, energy storage and even water filtration. However, Yates is most excited about the possible medical applications of the film.

When the film is immersed in simulated body fluid, for example, calcium phosphate is attracted to the negatively charged outer surface, and crystallizes on it. Stem cells (that may potentially become bone cells) were also found to grow better on the negatively charged surface.

This could speed bone healing, for example, by applying the film to titanium surgical screws used in rebuilding fractured bones, Yates said. His team has demonstrated that screws can be coated in a process that takes only 75 seconds.

Laboratory trials using the coated screws in rabbits will begin later this month, in collaboration with Luiz Meirelles, Assistant Professor of Dentistry. This part of the project is being supported with a $100,000 award from the University's Technology Development Fund. Read more here. . .

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Robert and Pamela Goergen commit $11 million to Institute for Data Science

Robert B. and Pamela M. Goergen have committed $11 million to the University's Institute for Data Science. The Goergens' support is the latest multimillion-dollar commitment to the University's Data Science Initiative, the centerpiece of Rochester's five-year strategic plan.

In 2013, Seligman announced the University was committing $100 million to greatly expand the University's research in data science. The initiative includes plans to recruit top faculty members in the field and create a hub for collaboration among multiple disciplines where the analysis of mass quantities of data informs new discoveries and helps develop new applications.

The institute is amplifying the University's research strengths in machine learning, artificial intelligence, biostatistics, and biomedical research, and fostering important research collaborations throughout the University and through industry partnerships, including the Health Science Center for Computational Innovation, which houses an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer. A 2014 report by the Center for Governmental Research shows that the Institute will create 460 jobs and generate an estimated $530 million in research funding over the next decade.

The Goergens have a distinguished history as philanthropists and University patrons. Their $10 million gift in 2007 led the construction of the Robert B. Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics. In 2000, the Goergens provided $5 million for renovations to the River Campus athletic and fitness facility, which today is the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center. And in 1997 they established the Goergen Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, presented annually to outstanding faculty members at the College Convocation.

"Bob and Pam have again provided us with a transformational gift that demonstrates their remarkable commitment to the future of our University," said President Joel Seligman. "I am deeply grateful to them for helping the institute to become a generative hub for education, research, and innovation in data science."

New Center for Energy & Environment announced

University researchers from more than 15 academic departments and multiple schools will work together to improve energy systems and understand the impacts of energy technologies on the environment and human health through the newly created Center for Energy & Environment.

"The planet's carbon cycle is being significantly altered by human consumption of fossil fuel energy resources," said Carmala Garzione, the Director of the Center and Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. "These changes are altering the Earth's climate at an unprecedented rate. That's why it's important to understand the impact human activity has on the carbon cycle, as well as the environment in general."

The center will help coordinate efforts by University researchers to reduce the impacts of energy use on the environment and public health.

"There is already an enormous emphasis on energy, environmental, and related public health research across the University," said Garzione. "By lowering the barriers between departments and schools, this center will make it easier for faculty to identify opportunities for research collaborations."

The new center will also focus on the health impacts of changing energy resources. For example, researchers from the University's sciences, engineering, and humanities departments will work closely with the Medical Center on inhalation, exposure, and toxicology studies to understand the health effects of both existing and new energy technologies.

CEE's energy mission will be supported by current programs in advanced materials, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, as well as by the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, home to the second most powerful laser in the world. The CEE will also rely on advanced computing techniques at the University, supported by the newly created Institute for Data Science, to help carry out its mission.

Membership in HathiTrust gives UR access to nearly 5 million books

The University of Rochester Libraries have become one of the newest members of HathiTrust, a worldwide partnership of more than one hundred major research institutions and libraries working to preserve and provide access to the cultural record in digital form. The University's membership offers students, faculty, and staff access to nearly five million books in the public domain.

HathiTrust partners have contributed over 13 million volumes to its digital library. More than 4.8 million volumes are in the public domain and are available for users to browse, view, and download at no charge. The University community can access materials through the HathiTrust website or through the "Articles and Books" tool on the River Campus Libraries homepage. Read more . . .

URBest gives medical grad students career options other than academia

Given limited federal funding, especially in medical research, "people are getting nervous as to what students and postdocs are going to be doing if there isn't enough funding for them in academia," says Tracey Baas.

URBEST — the NIH-funded Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training program that Baas directs here — addresses that concern by providing career training to graduate students and postdocs who are considering careers outside of academia.

The Rochester program, one of 17 nationwide, emphasizes:

1. Self-determination: The curriculum is very flexible, allowing enrollees to dip their toe into the water or dive much deeper to obtain the experience they desire.
2. Internships that "make it most attractive for both the students and for future potential employers," Baas said.

The program offers three pathways, each with its own associated coursework and internship options:

1. Industry, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.
2. Regulatory affairs, compliance, and review.
3. Science and technology policy.

The program will accept applications for its next cohort from April 6-17. To apply, or for more information, visit the URBEST website.

Read more at the CTSI Stories blog . . .

Applications due April 20 for Environmental Health pilot projects

The Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) has funds to support a limited number of meritorious Pilot Projects.

The objective of the pilot project should be relevant to the theme of the EHSC, namely "Environmental Agents as Modulators of Human Disease and Dysfunction."

Applicants may request a maximum of $30,000 for the duration of one year. While applications are generally limited to EHSC faculty members, collaboration with other faculty is encouraged.

Initial applications are due on April 20. Click here for more information.

Study on HIV prevention among young black males gets CFAR funding

Urban educational scholar Edward Brockenbrough, Assistant Professor in Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner School, and Mitchell Wharton, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing, are recipients of a pilot grant award from the University's Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) for their collaborative research project entitled "Sexual Engagements with Networked Technologies by Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (YBMSM)," otherwise known as the SENT Project.

Brockenbrough, who will serve as co-principal investigator, is the first Warner School faculty member to receive an award under the CFAR program.

The study responds to the ongoing HIV epidemic among African Americans in the United States, where black males account for almost one-third of all new HIV infections. With the support of the CFAR award, Wharton and Brockenbrough will look at how YBMSM engage YouTube, Tumblr, Grindr, text messaging, and other networked technological platforms to learn about sex, connect with sexual partners, and negotiate the risks of HIV infection. Findings from this study will have important implications for advancing sexual health education and HIV awareness initiatives for YBMSM. Read more . . .

Introducing a new faculty member

Himabindu Vidula has joined the Department of Medicine as an assistant professor in cardiology. Her special interest and expertise includes transplantation, ventricular assist devices and cardiac MRI. She plans to continue research on predictors of mortality in patients with heart failure. She joins the University after completing fellowships in Cardiology and Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center, where she completed her internship and residency in internal medicine. She received her medical degree from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

University research in the news

President Barack Obama recently suggested that mandatory voting might be one way to counteract the influence of money in politics. CNN re-posted comments from several political experts last November on whether The United States would be better off with mandatory voting. They included two University political science faculty members, Gretchen Helmke, Chair and Associate Professor, and Assoc. Prof. Bonnie Meguid, who noted "Our research suggests that the decision to adopt compulsory voting is largely strategic. While proponents often couch their arguments in terms of public benefits, it appears that parties around the world have been more likely to adopt it when such laws stand to favor their candidates and hurt their opponents. . . . Interestingly, conservatives in the late 19th and early 20th century in Western Europe and Latin America were the first to champion compulsory voting. Expansion of suffrage dramatically shifted the composition of the voting population, while industrialization swelled the ranks of the working class and created new political identities. During this period, the left's organizational ability to mobilize voters was unmatched. Parties on the right countered with mandatory voting, which aimed to bring out their natural constituencies. Today, the situation in the United States is just the opposite. With unions in decline, Democrats are disproportionately hurt by abstention. . . . In other words, the politicians that will likely determine the rules of the game have no incentive to change them." Read their paper on this topic here.

Researchers in the lab of Robert Boyd, Professor of Optics, and their collaborators have developed a way to transfer 2.05 bits per photon by using "twisted light." This remarkable achievement is possible because the researchers used the orbital angular momentum (OAM) of the photons to encode information, rather than the more commonly used polarization of light. The new approach doubles the 1 bit per photon that is possible with current systems that rely on light polarization. This could help increase the efficiency of quantum cryptography systems, which promise more secure communications by using quantum key distribution (QKD) to ensure that both the sender and receiver — usually referred to as Alice and Bob — are communicating in such a way that only they know what is being sent. In the paper, published in New Journal of Physics, Mohammad Mirhosseini and his colleagues describe a proof-of-principle experiment that shows that using OAM to encode information rather than polarization opens up the possibility of high-dimensional QKD. Mirhosseini, a Ph.D. student in Boyd's group, explains that they were able to encode a seven dimensional "alphabet" — that is, seven letters or symbols — using both the orbital angular momentum (OAM) of the photons and their angular position (ANG). Read more . . .

Congratulations to . . .

Antonio Badolato, Assistant Professor of Physics; Danielle Benoit, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Michael Neidig, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, who are among this year's recipients of National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development awards. Badolato won a CAREER award for his proposal to harness the quantum nature of light in semiconductor nanostructures. The goal of the project is to confine light in nanophotonic structures that mimic genetic evolution and then produce, from a tiny chip, a type of light that is very different from the light generated by the sun or by a laser, for example. Benoit is being recognized for her work in regenerative medicine — including tissue engineering — and drug delivery approaches. For example, her lab is developing a novel site-directed therapy to treat bone diseases, with a focus on osteoporosis. Neidig conducts research that involves a detailed understanding of the reactions in which carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and other molecules replace the hydrogen atoms. One objective of Neidig's work is to develop materials that can more efficiently synthesize pharmaceuticals. Read more . .

Lynne E. Maquat, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who has received the 2015 Gairdner International Award for the discovery and mechanistic studies of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, a cellular quality control mechanism that derails the production of unwanted proteins in the body that can disrupt normal processes and initiate disease. Considered the uncontested pioneer on the subject, she is one of five scientists honored with the award, which is given every year to recognize the achievement of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life. Read more . . .

David Korones, Professor of Pediatrics, who has been awarded the 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Senior Physician Award, a national award for physicians who care for people at the end of life. Korones specializes in treating children with brain tumors and is the founding director of Golisano Children's Hospital's pediatric palliative care program. The selection committee cited the success of Korones in advancing palliative care for children with brain tumors, as well as his work to care for children with cancer in Russia and Ethiopia. In addition to directing the pediatric palliative care program, which serves about 200 children a year, Korones also directs the pediatric brain tumor program and is an attending physician on the adult palliative care service. He is also the lead physician consultant at CompassionNet, a community-based pediatric palliative care program. Read more . . .

Ray Dorsey, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, who was one of eight persons honored by Pres. Barack Obama this week as "champions of change" in the fight against Parkinson's disease. Dorsey is investigating new treatments for movement disorders and improved ways to deliver care to individuals with Parkinson disease and other neurological disorders. Using simple web-based video conferencing, he and his colleagues are seeking to provide care to individuals with Parkinson and neurological diseases anywhere that they live.

Zhenqiang Yao, Research Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, who has received a $50,000 grant from the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester to study whether an "all-in-one" agent can be used when breast cancer spreads to bone. Yao is investigating whether a particular protein inhibitor can kill cancer cells while simultaneously preventing bone breakdown and stimulating bone growth. Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defenses

Meg Walters, Mathematics, "Concentration of Measure Techniques and Applications." 3:30 p.m. March 31, 2015, Hylan 1106B. Advisor: Shannon Starr.

James Baker, Physics, "Development of a Two-Dimensional Photonic Crystal Biosensing Platform." 1 p.m. April 2, 2015, Goergen 108. Advisor: Benjamin Miller.

Yu Zhong, Computer Science, "Enhancing Visual Information Access Techniques for Blind Users on Mobile Platforms." 3:30 p.m., April 2, 2015, CSB 601. Advisor: Jeffrey P. Bigham.

Walter Lasecki, Computer Science, "Crowd Agents: Interactive Intelligent Systems Powered by the Crowd." 10 a.m., April 3, 2015, CSB 601. Advisor: Jeffrey P. Bigham.

Thomas Blanchard, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, "Value Computations and Representations." 10 a.m., April 3, 2015, Meliora Hall 269. Advisor: Benjamin Hayden.

Robert Carroll, Political Science, "Essays in International Conflict." 2 p.m., April 3, 2015, 329 Harkness Hall. Advisor: Curtis Signorino.

Nathan Napper, Biology, "Ribosomal Small Subunit Assembly: A Comparative Approach." 2 p.m., April 6, 2015, Goergen Hall 109. Advisor: Gloria Culver.

Nilotpal Ghosh, Geosciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences, "Evidence of Catastrophe in the Permian-Triassic Tethyan Ocean." 10 a.m., April 6, 2015, Hutchison Hall 229. Advisor: Asish Basu.

Li Chen, Electrical and Computer Engineering, "Increasing Coverage and Improving Efficiency for RFID Systems and Wireless Sensor Networks." 2 p.m., April 7, 2015, 335 Hopeman Building. Advisor: Wendi Heinzelman.

Jamie Juul, Mathematics, "Galois Groups of Iterated Rational Maps and Their Applications." 2:30 p.m., April 7, 2015, Hylan 1106B. Advisor: Thomas Tucker.

Amy Van Hove, Biomedical Engineering, "Enzymatically-responsive Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels for the Controlled Delivery of Therapeutic Peptides." 8:30 a.m., April 7, 2015, Goergen 101. Advisor: Danielle Benoit.

Michael Bennett, Mathematics, "Some External Problems in Combinatorial Geometry Over Finite Fields." 3 p.m., April 9, 2015, Hylan 1106B. Advisor: Alex Iosevich.

Jason Rogers, Philosophy, "On the Epistemic Relevance of Perceptual Experience: A Defense of Experientialist Internalism." 3:15 p.m., April 10, 2015, 531 Lattimore Hall. Advisor: Earl Conee.

Wathsala G.H.M. Liyanage, Chemistry, "Amyloid-inspired amino acid based functional hydrogel materials: structural insights." 1:30 p.m., April 27, 2015, Goergen Hall 109. Advisor: Bradley Nilsson.

Mark your calendar

April 9: Whipple Lecture: "Skin Stem Cells: Their Biology and Promise for Medicine," presented by Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University. Noon to 1 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium.

April 10: 4th Annual Medical Scientist Research Symposium. "Stem Cells in Silence, Action and Cancer," keynote address by Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University. Student poster session and oral presentations. 1-4:30 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium.

April 14: "Software and Open Source Software." How to best use software, understanding licensing terms, avoiding infringement and other related issues. Part of UR Ventures Intellectual Property and Commercializing Technology Series. Noon, Gowen Room, Wilson Commons.

April 15: Celebration of the Seward Project, 3 to 5 p.m. in the Digital Humanities Center. Keynote address by Beth Luey, Past President of the Association for Documentary Editing, and presentations by students involved in the project. Read more . . .

April 20: "Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is Dangerous," presented by James Hansen, Earth Institute at Columbia University. Part of Center for Earth and Envivonment seminar series. 4-5 p.m., Lander Auditorium, Hutchison Hall. Reception to follow.

April 20: AS&E workshop on applying for the NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. 9 to 11 a.m., Gamble Room of Rush Rhees Library. RSVP by April 14, 2015. For additional information please contact assistant deans Debra Haring or Cindy Gary.

April 20: Initial applications due for Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) Pilot Projects. Click here for more information.

April 26: Deadline to apply for Falling Walls Lab competition, to be held May 19 at Sloan Auditorium. Any grad student, post-doc, scientist or early career faculty member, born on or after Nov. 8, 1980, is eligible. Apply here. Questions? 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.

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.