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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Recreated train station will be a 'living archive'

Claude Bragdon's magnificent Third New York Central train station conjures up very personal memories for the people who passed through it, or gathered there to send off loved ones, or sold the tickets and mopped the floors. One woman, for example, remembers how comfortable the benches were when she went there as a child to see her father off on West Coast business trips.

University of Rochester researchers preparing an interactive 3D model of the station, as part of the Claude Bragdon Digital Humanities Project, would like to include as many of those memories as possible. "We would like this to become a living archive of these oral histories, as well as a recreation of the space," said co-leader Joan Saab, Director of the Visual and Cultural Studies Program, and Associate Professor of Art History/Visual and Cultural Studies. She envisions icons representing various features of the station -- like those benches -- that could link to audio of the woman's recollections, and also to scholarly text and analysis.

But in order to do that, researchers need your help. Specifically, they are seeking:

1. Personal recollections from people who experienced the train station firsthand as travelers or visitors.

2. Experiences of the people who worked there.

3. Any surviving artifacts that people may have scavenged from the site as it was razed, or any photographs of the station. That includes family photos of people arriving or leaving, even if the station is only in the background.

4. Any information about efforts to save the station before it was razed.

"This is one of those instances where we're not just illustrating history, we're telling a more dynamic narrative," Saab said. "I think of it as a three-dimensional narrative. Sometimes the visual recreation is going to be more important than the written material, at other times the oral history, at other times the archival photograph, but they're all going to work in tandem."

To share information about the station, email the Claude Bragdon Digital Humanities Project or call (585) 275-4287.

Do you have an interesting photo or other image that helps illustrate your research? We would like to showcase it. Send a high resolution jpg or other version, along with a description of what it shows, to

Medical student with musical background focuses on dystonia

Dystonia is a virtuoso musician's worst nightmare.

This confounding movement disorder strikes musicians who perform at the highest levels. It affects them only when they are playing the instruments they have spent years learning to master. It undermines their ability to hold a tone or keep pace with the score.

And it is almost invariably career ending.

UR medical student Aimee Morris can certainly empathize, and is focusing her budding research career on finding answers to a specific form of dystonia.

She is a French horn player who, in the midst of earning a degree at Eastman, decided to pursue a career in medicine instead. While still a senior at Eastman, she was asked to give a talk to her horn studio about medical problems of brass musicians. That's when she first learned about focal embouchure dystonia (FED), a movement disorder that specifically affects the ability of wind musicians to properly direct air from their mouth through the instrument's mouthpiece.

"It struck an emotional chord with me," Morris explains. "It seemed unnaturally cruel that a disorder would affect only the most skilled and dedicated musicians, selectively robbing them of their life's work and passion."

During her third year of medical school she heard Jonathan Mink, the Frederick A. Horner, MD Endowed Professor of Pediatric Neurology, give a lecture on dystonia. She asked to meet with him. "We ended up chatting for almost three hours and fed off each other's energy and fascination for the mysterious disorder."

She joined Mink's lab, and was accepted into the CTSI Year Out Trainees Program, which has supported her initial research. More recently, she has been admitted into the Medical Scientist Training Program to continue that research as she pursues her Ph.D.

FED is fertile ground for a young researcher. Few studies have been conducted on the disorder. There is no validated way to measure the extent to which it afflicts a musician. There isn't even an accepted definition.

In large part that's because of the unique challenges this disorder poses. Any of multiple muscles might be involved --muscles that control the lip, for example, or the tongue, jaw, pharynx and larynx. All are difficult to observe in musicians who play brass instruments; even the lips are covered by the instrument's mouthpiece.

"One feature commonly described by clinicians is that you really hear embouchure dystonia better than you see it," Morris explained at a recent CTSI symposium.

That's why she's recording and analyzing the acoustic properties of a musician's performance -- the ability to hit a note, to maintain its volume and tone, to keep pace with a score --as a way of identifying and quantifying the disorder. In addition, subjects are asked to play etudes specifically designed to sample the entire range of fundamental techniques.

"In light of the challenges associated with FED," Morris said, "developing a measure to quantify its severity is essential to doing rigorous patho-physiological or treatment studies in the future."

She is in the earliest stages of her research. So far four of the 14 musicians who have been enrolled in her study have been tested. Until the methodology is validated, Morris will not know which of the subjects are afflicted with dystonia, and which aren't. Already, however, she is encouraged that the methodology devised for this study appears capable of documenting differences in acoustic properties from one performer to another.

"From the first time I learned about FED, I knew I wanted to understand how this movement disorder arose, why expertise puts individuals at risk, and how to prevent or cure it someday. I look forward to building a career examining the neuroscience of advanced musicianship and understanding both the gifts and curses that accompany musical expertise."

Worth pondering

The leap from Eastman musician to Medical Center researcher is not as large as it might appear, Aimee Morris explains. She first came to love math and science while attending Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan during her senior year of high school.

"The way they (math and science) were approached by that community of artists allowed me for the first time to see how integral creativity and curiosity are in both disciplines. Just like music, math and science also demand mastery of basic technical skills that can seem dry and concrete, but once you are fluent in the fundamentals, they allow for the freedom to innovate and push boundaries. The deciding point for me was curiosity. As I learned more in the sciences, I found myself asking more and more questions and becoming increasingly driven to find answers."

AS&E launches PumpPrimer to help faculty obtain funding

To help AS&E tenure-track faculty increase their success rate in obtaining extramural funding -- and thereby increase the time and resources faculty have for research -- the office of David Wiliams, AS&E Dean for Research, has launched PumpPrimer, an intramural program designed to stimulate extramural funding for two kinds of projects that are otherwise difficult to launch.

1. Multi-institutional and/or multi-investigator research projects.

Increasingly, federal agencies are exploring award mechanisms that bring together experts with complementary skills to address grand challenges. We encourage faculty to take on such large-scale initiatives because they can potentially benefit multiple AS&E faculty, increase the quality and stability of our research infrastructure, and increase our national and international visibility. Because such proposals require intensive preparation, the Dean's office may provide:

a) Teaching relief for the faculty member who champions the project.

b) Administrative support from our office for proposal preparation.

c) Travel costs up to $5,000 for planning proposals that bring together researchers from different institutions.

2. Innovative and high-risk projects.

The increasingly competitive environment for extramural funding increases the need for proof of concept and/or pilot data in proposals and decreases funding of high-risk proposals. To help faculty secure extramural funding for bold new research directions, the Dean's office will provide funding for up to one year.

The due date for applications is June 1, 2014.

a) Typical budgets will be $1,000-20,000. In rare instances, budgets as large as $50,000 may be awarded.

b) Cost-sharing with departmental resources is encouraged.

Applicants for both mechanisms are expected to submit a proposal for external funding within 18 months of the allocation of intramural PumpPrimer support. Both mechanisms will require a brief final survey to help us evaluate the effectiveness of this program.

Faculty in Arts & Science should refer questions to Debra Haring, those in Engineering to Cindy Gary. We look forward to working with interested faculty on this exciting new venture.

Crossing Elmwood: Smartphones and asthma

UR researchers are tapping into the near-universal use of smartphones in the hopes of increasing teenagers' ability to manage their asthma -- and keeping their parents posted about it.

As Sean Dobbin reports at CTSI Stories, Hyekyun Rhee, an Associate Professor of Nursing and Pediatrics in the Medical Center, and James Allen, Professor of Computer Science, worked together to develop an interactive text messaging system called the Mobile Phone-Based Asthma Self-Management Aid for Adolescents (mASMAA) to help teens manage their asthma by asking a series of six open-ended questions -- such as, "Did you take your asthma medications today?" -- and accurately interpreting the responses.

They shared their research, which was recently published in the Journal of Patient Preference and Adherence, at a Crossing Elmwood seminar.

The system was programmed to identify a handful of words that it could record as symptoms and dozens more that it identified as medications. It also understood text lingo, such as "l8r" and "thx."

Only when mASMAA received a text that indicated patient discomfort -- or a text that was overly complicated -- would the system alert a human coordinator, who could seamlessly take over the text conversation.

After a group of teen patients and their parents used mASMAA in a two-week trial, the research team received a lot of positive feedback and some constructive suggestions to refine their system.

Read more . . .

Congratulations to . . .

David Williams, Dean for Research in Arts, Science and Engineering; the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics; Professor of Optics, of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, of Ophthalmology and of Biomedical Engineering, and Director of the Center for Visual Science, who has been named a member of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Williams, one of the world's leading experts on human vision, has pioneered new technologies that are improving the eyesight of people around the globe, from the legally blind to those with 20/20 vision. Read more here.

Daniel Weix, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, who has received a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award for 2014. This award, which supports the research and teaching careers of talented young faculty in the chemical sciences, offers $75,000 in unrestricted research funding. Weix's research focuses on the development of new catalytic methods for organic synthesis. While many new synthetic methods are developed every year, few ever become widely used outside the laboratory they were developed in. The reason for this is often that the overall synthetic scheme is just less efficient than what was already available -- starting materials or catalysts are difficult to handle, expensive, or both. In order to create reactions that will find immediate use in academia and industry, his group is developing new couplings of readily available starting materials.

Harriet Kitzman, Professor of Nursing and Pediatrics, Senior Associate Dean for Research, and Director of the Center for Research Implementation and Translation, who has been named recipient of the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal, which recognizes alumni for outstanding achievement and notable service. In research conducted over nearly three decades, Kitzman has shown that home visitation by nurses supports the development of infants and children who are at risk. Focused on the economically disadvantaged, Kitzman's program of research has had an extraordinary impact on improving the care of young families and on health care policy nationally and internationally.

Douglas Turner, Professor of Chemistry, who is recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education. For more than 35 years, Turner has been a world leader in understanding the structure of RNA. He has an active research program in the area of chemical, structural, and computational studies of RNA and has authored more than 200 publications, which have been cited more than 15,000 times. Together with his collaborators, Turner has discovered many of the fundamental principles that determine RNA structure.

Eric Phizicky, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who is being recognized with the William H. Riker University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. His fascination with genetics, biochemistry, and functional genomics has transformed the field of Transfer RNA (tRNA) research. Phizicky's lab currently focuses on tRNA biogenesis, function, and quality control mechanisms in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. tRNA processing is essential in all organisms, and involves several trimming and splicing steps, numerous modification steps, sophisticated quality control checks, and complex intracellular trafficking. He is studying the mechanisms by which these steps occur and how quality control is maintained during and after tRNA biogenesis.

William Marvin, Associate Professor of Music Theory at the Eastman School of Music, who is the 2014 recipient of the Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Marvin's work in theory has focused on problems of tonality according to Schenkerian definitions, exemplified in Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; examinations of form and tonal structure in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer; aural training in tonal and post-tonal music; sonata deformation in Mahler's Third Symphony; improvisation in 19th-century French organ music; off-tonic beginnings and endings; interactions of sonata form, the reprise, and Schenkerian mechanisms for explicating formal conflicts; and the quodlibet as a contrapuntal device in Broadway musicals.

Elizabeth Colantoni, Assistant Professor of Classics, who is receiving the G. Graydon '58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence. Her primary area of research is ancient Roman religion, in particular studying physical evidence for ancient religious practices. Her goal is to study and present the archaeological evidence in a way that is useful to scholars of Roman religion who deal primarily with textual evidence, so as to encourage the integration of archaeological evidence into the broader scholarly dialogue about Roman religious practices. She is also the director of the University's archaeological excavations at the San Martino site in Torano di Borgorose, Rieti, Italy. She and the students she supervises on the excavation project in the summer have recovered pre-Roman and Roman artifacts and have found archaeological evidence that will help determine the sixth century border between what remained of the Roman Empire and Lombard incursions.

Vasilii Petrenko, Assistant Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences, who is also receiving the G. Graydon '58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching Excellence. His primary area of research is natural and anthropogenic climate and environmental change, particularly from the perspective of atmospheric composition and chemistry. In his research, Petrenko uses records from ancient glacial ice to answer questions about the Earth's climate system. Petrenko's work is highly relevant to the understanding of modern global warming and projections of future warming associated with greenhouse gas emissions. He has pioneered new approaches for measuring the isotopic composition of trace atmospheric gasses trapped in ice cores that provide fundamental insights into the global carbon budget and the sources and sinks of greenhouse gasses during time periods of global climate change.

William Spaniel, a doctoral candidate studying bargaining and warfare, who makes complex ideas accessible and entertaining for students at the University of Rochester and across the globe. Those innovative teaching methods and Spaniel's commitment to learners have earned him the 2014 Curtis Peck Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student. Read more here.

UR research in the news

A new study led by researchers at the School of Medicine and Dentistry -- which appears online this week in the Journal of Neurotrauma -- shows that mice with mild, repetitive traumatic brain injury (TBI) develop many of the same behavioral problems, such as difficultly sleeping, memory problems, depression, judgment and risk-taking issues, that have been associated with the condition in humans. This gives researchers a critical early-stage tool in the scientific process of understanding sports-related brain injuries such as TBI and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and in developing new ways to diagnose them, and evaluate experimental therapies. "Undoubtedly further work is needed," said lead author Anthony Petraglia, a Chief Resident in Neurosurgery. "However, this study serves as a good starting point and it is hoped that with continued investigation this novel model will allow for a controlled, mechanistic analysis of repetitive mild TBI and CTE in the future, because it is the first to encapsulate the spectrum of this human phenomenon."

Physicians can successfully harness the power of crowdsourcing with their peers to help diagnose and treat patients, a new study shows. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, were the result of an eight-month field test of a mobile software application that involved 85 health care providers at UR Medicine. The project was led by Marc Halterman, Associate Professor of Neurology; Max Sims, a junior in Neuroscience and Business; Henry Kautz, Professor and Chair of Computer Science, and Jeffrey Bigham, formerly Assistant Professor of Computer Science here, now at Carnegie Mellon. The team developed an application called DocCHIRP for mobile (iOS and Android) and desktop use that allowed a health care provider to send inquiries to individual or groups of physicians and nurses that were part of the 85 person "crowd." The most common inquiries were related to the effective use of medication (e.g. common side effects), navigating complex medical decisions, guidance regarding standard of care, the selection and interpretation of diagnostic tests, and patient referrals. The authors found that many providers feel that the opinion and guidance of trusted peers were as valuable as other resources -- or more so. Read more at the Research@URMC blog.

Consuming cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli may help reduce the levels of the bad tau proteins that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, according to a study conducted by researchers in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Department of Environmental Medicine, Lung Biology and Disease Program at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that these foods contain a chemical that activates the protein Nrf2, which plays several important roles in maintaining cellular health. The article shows that Nrf2 helps promote degradation of the bad tau proteins, potentially preventing brain cells from developing neurofibrillary tangles -- a prominent feature of Alzheimer's disease. Read more at the Research@URMC blog.

PhD dissertation defense

William M. McDougall, Biochemistry. "Characterization of the APOBEC3G ssDNA Editing Complex and its Regulation by RNA," 1 p.m., May 6, Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: Harold C. Smith.

Mark your calendar

May 5: Initial applications due for Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) meritorious Pilot Projects. The focus of the pilot project should be relevant to "Environmental Agents as Modulators of Human Disease and Dysfunction," with special emphasis on proposals addressing how the environment modifies stem cell function, affects early life origins of adult diseases, and disrupts host/pathogen interactions. Applicants may request a maximum of $30,000 for the duration of one year and must hold a tenure-track position. Click here to learn more.

May 7: Seminar on Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) and other NCI initiatives such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to comprehensively characterize tumors, featuring talk by Henry Rodriguez, Director, Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research, National Cancer Institute (NCI). 10-11 a.m., URMC 2-6408 (K-207). Co-hosted by Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the CTSI.

May 9: The Center for Integrated Research Computing 4th Annual Poster Session, 10 a.m. to noon in the Flaum Atrium. Attendees discover the wide range of research that is enabled by computation. This event provides an informal venue to share computational techniques and methodologies with colleagues from a wide variety of disciplines. Click here for more information, and to submit your poster.

May 12: Application deadline for the Center for Community Health's Community Health Mini-Grant Program for May 2014. The purpose of the program is to provide grants (up to $1,000) for the development, strengthening, or evaluation of community-URMC health improvement partnerships for research, education, intervention, or service. Click here to find a link to the mini-grant program and application form.

May 16: Scientific Session on Neuroscience Research including keynote presentations by Jonathan Wolpaw, Research Physician at the Wadsworth Center of Neural Injury & Repair and Gerv Schalk, Research Scientist at the Wadsworth Center for Neural Injury & Repair. Hosted by UNYTE Translational Research Network. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., LeChase Assembly Hall, G-9576. Click here for details.

June 5: Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) Annual Seminar, focusing on Health Research Management for the Human Subject Research Coordinator. 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Helen Wood Hall (1w-304). Additional details and registration information to come.

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.