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.
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From left to right, Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.

Falling Walls winner heads to Berlin this fall

Solomon Abiola believes it is well within our reach to predict the spread of infectious diseases like Zika and Ebola with the same accuracy we predict hurricanes and other catastrophic weather events.

And this fall, he will have a chance to make his case on an international stage — at the Falling Walls conference in Berlin, Germany.

Abiola, a dual PhD candidate in Translational Biomedical Sciences and Computer Science, won the University's second annual Falling Walls competition Wednesday, earning him the right to compete in Berlin against 99 other researchers from around the world. Each will give a three-minute pitch, as in the Rochester competition, in front of leading scientists and innovators.

"I obviously hope to win, but on larger scale I think it is really about disseminating knowledge," Abiola said. "That's my goal as a researcher and PhD student, being able to share knowledge and help drive innovation in this field."

Abiola will describe his work on a mobile health application known as Node, which uses real time, geo spatial, symptom-based health questionnaires to help health officials track and respond to disease outbreaks as they occur.

The app works like this: A cellphone user living in a region with a dangerous epidemic downloads the program. Every morning, the app sends the person a series of questions about how they are feeling and prompts them to seek help if certain criteria are met.

"Everybody has access to cell phones," Abiola noted. "In the next 10 to 20 years even the poorest people will have smart phones. If we can leverage that technology, we can reach billions of people, even in war-torn countries where governments are unable to fund a health infrastructure."

Abiola's first place prize includes $500 and all travel and lodging expenses paid for the Berlin Conference.

Second place and $300 went to Sara Nowacki, a graduate student in the lab of Hani Awad, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Orthopaedics, for describing how teriparatide, integrated into matrices, can improve cartilage regeneration.

Third place and $200 went to Karl Smith, a PhD student in Biophysics and a member of the lab of James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, for describing his use of physics to make water behind a filter form a mixer vortex, reducing the difficulty of normal stirring when fluids stick to surfaces.

A total of 19 competitors presented.

Last year's winner, Ryan Trombetta, a PhD student in Awad's lab, finished 12th in the Berlin competition for his description of using 3D printed bone grafts to treat osteomyelitis

Abiola is co-advised by Raymond Dorsey, the David M. Levy Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, and by Henry Kautz, the Robin and Tim Wentworth Director of the Goergen Institute for Data Science, and Professor of Computer Science.

"The key thing I always think about is how do we leverage innovations together," Abiola said. "A researcher using a smart phone can enable telemedicine to reach a broad audience at the same time I'm accessing it for information for infectious disease control. You're now bringing together two people who might never work together in basic science. The technology is pulling researchers together."

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Wendi Heinzelman named dean of Hajim School

"I believe that engineering has relevance to the arts, medicine, social sciences, natural sciences, business and education, and that these disciplines have relevance to engineering," says Wendi Heinzelman, who has been appointed Dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences effective July 1. "Hence, as dean, one of my goals will be to help find these connections and foster collaborations that will lead to innovative research and educational initiatives."

Heinzelman, currently Dean of Graduate Studies for Arts, Sciences and Engineering, and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, replaces Rob Clark, who becomes the University's Provost on July 1, and will continue to serve as the University's Vice President for Research.

Heinzelman will be the Hajim School's first female dean. Her appointment followed a nationwide search by a faculty committee led by Richard Waugh, Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering. Read more here.

Eight projects receive University Research Awards

University Research Awards, previously known as Provost Multidisciplinary Awards, provide seed money on a competitive basis for innovative research projects that are likely to attract external support when sufficiently developed.

The recipients for 2016-17 are:

1. Targeted Delivery of Cytotoxic Agents for the Eradication of Leukemia Stem Cells in the Bone Marrow: Rudi Fasan, Associate Professor of Chemistry; Danielle Benoit, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and Benjamin Frisch, Research Assistant Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology). An initial assessment of the functionality and therapeutic potential of developing a novel nanoparticle-based system for the controlled and selective delivery of antileukemic agents to acute myeloid leukemia and leukemia stem cells within the bone marrow

2. Understanding Cell Turnover and Injury Recovery in the Corneal Endothelium: Amy E. Kiernan, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology; Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering; Holly B. Hindman, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology; and Patrice Tankam, Research Associate, The Institute of Optics. To identify potential stem cells in the corneal endothelium, as well as to non-invasively track endothelial cell turnover using a combined micron-class optical coherence microscopy and fluorescence microscopy. Results will help show the capacity for cell regeneration in the corneal endothelium, whose failure contributes significantly to the 30,000 corneal transplants required each year in the U.S.

3. Molecular Imaging of Arterial Occlusion in Mice: Vyacheslav A. Korshunov, Associate Professor of Medicine, and Marvin Doyley, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. To facilitate high throughput analyses of pathological arterial remodeling in genetically manipulated or pharmacologically treated mice and produce new therapeutic approaches for treating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

4. Role of Mechanics in Etiology of Congenital Talipes Equinovarus: Catherine K. Kuo, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Mark Buckley, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineeings; and Natasha O'Malley, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics. To develop novel in vitro and in vivo experimental models to investigate the role of aberrant mechanical loading of embryonic tendons in the development of clubfoot. The findings of this study will help motivate novel prevention or treatment strategies for nearly 200,000 babies born with clubfoot each year.

5. Catching an Exoplanet's Rings Pass in Front of a Bright Star: Eric Mamajek, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy. To construct a small two-camera observatory which will be able to detect a circumplanetary disk (orring system) associated with the young gas giant planet β Pic b when it passes in front of the star β Pic in 2017. This mini-observatory will be part of a small network of telescopes on three continents in the southern hemisphere, giving astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to detect and study the circumplanetary material orbiting a young gas giant exoplanet.

6. High-power Yellow Fiber Laser for Sodium Guidestar Applications: John R. Marciante, Associate Professor of Optics. To demonstrate visible lasing using special optical fibers. Although high-power visible lasers are highly sought after for a host of environmental sensing, medical, and many other applications, their key and immediate impact is in their application to artificial guidestars for adaptive optical astronomical imaging (yellow) and digital laser cinema (green).

7. Early Detection of Chronic Kidney Disease: George J. Schwartz, Professor of Pediatrics; Marvin M. Doyley, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Jeffery M. Purkerson, Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. To better understand the pathophysiology of having too much acid in the blood (acidosis) and how it may cause the kidney to become damaged. The study will determine whether we can ameliorate some of the kidney damage induced by acidosis and whether acute correction of the acidosis with sodium bicarbonate therapy can reverse the acid-induced increases in kidney stiffness, calcium excretion, and inflammation.

8. Ultrafast Imaging Via Induced Coherence: Nick Vamivakas, Assistant Professor of Quantum Optics and Quantum Physics. For a proof-of-principle demonstration using a digital camera to measure an ultrafast optical pulse. The idea is to induce coherence in the spatial domain that is a fingerprint of the interesting temporal dynamics. The end result of such a coherence mapping is that an ordinary digital camera can take a snapshot of ultrafast time dynamics.

University Research Awards are funded $250,000 every year by the President and matched by the schools for a total of $500,000 annually.

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.

Kelley, Lin are recipients of Furth Fund awards

Douglas Kelley, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Feng Vankee Lin, Assistant Professor of Nursing, are recipients of this year's Furth Fund awards.

The Furth Fund, established through the generosity of Valerie and Frank Furth, was created to provide early career scientists with $10,000 in research funds. These funds are used to promote the research activities of the faculty member, which may include the purchase of new equipment or support for graduate students or postdocs.

Kelley's research interests include: 1) how the performance of liquid metal batteries, an emerging technology for grid-scale energy storage, depends on transport in their liquid layers, 2) how ecological dynamics of marine phytoplankton depend on mixing by ocean currents, 3) how Earth's magnetic field arises out of mixing and waves in our planet's outer core, and 4) the fundamental physics of mixing, particularly Lagrangian Coherent Structures.

Lin's research interests include: 1) the role of vision-based computerized cognitive training in preventing cognitive and functional decline in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, 2) the role of mental fatigue in engagement in cognitively stimulating activities in community-dwelling older adults with cardiovascular disease risk factors, and 3) representations, coping, and health outcomes among older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Hughes: 100-year-old pact underlies Mideast discontent

Aaron Hughes, the Philip S. Bernstein Professor in Judaic Studies, weighs in on the impact the Sykes-Picot Agreement, a secret accord that established political control of territories in the Middle East among Great Britain, France, and Russia after World War I. As the accord turns 100 years old, The Conversation is publishing a series of essays from Hughes and other scholars that explain the agreement and argue for and against the influence of the secret deal.

Hughes is a scholar and prolific author of Jewish philosophy, Islamic studies, and theory and method in the academic study of religion. He argues that the Sykes-Picot Agreement still underlies the discontent in the Middle East.

"The Sykes-Picot Agreement is instrumental to understanding the modern Middle East. It represents the framework of its colonial past and shows the potential for national fractures inherent to the region's present and future," Hughes notes.

"When taken in the larger context of other agreements, declarations and promises to the players in the region over the years, we see how the agreement is at the root of so many contemporary problems."

You can read his commentary here.

Study points to risks of repeated radiation therapy

A new study shows that repeated radiation therapy used to target tumors in the brain may not be as safe to healthy brain cells as previously assumed. The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, show that the treatment also kills important support cells in the brain and may cause as much, if not more damage, than single dose radiation therapy.

"This study suggests that conventional repeated radiation treatments offer no significant benefit to brain tumor patients," said Kerry O'Banion, Professor of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. "It also shows that certain cell populations in the brain are vulnerable to radiation and this may help explain why so many brain cancer patients experience cognitive problems after treatment." Read more here.

How media attention influences investment decisions

Can media attention influence an individual's investment decisions? According to new research from Simon Business School, the answer is a resounding, "YES!"

The study, "WSJ Category Kings — The Impact of Media Attention on Consumer and Mutual Fund Investment Decisions," shows that a single mention of a fund in the prominent Wall Street Journal Category Kings ranking table leads to an increase in quarterly capital flows, along with a significant overflow effect to other funds managed by the same company. A fund's presence on the Top 10 list means fund managers can collect almost $1.5 million in increased fees on average so there's ample reason for fund managers to respect the prominence of the Category Kings selection.

"Mutual funds are useful in exploring the impact of media attention on investment choices," said co-author Ron Kaniel, Jay S. and Jeanne P. Benet Professor of Finance. "Our results show that following publication of the Wall Street Journal Category Kings lists, consumers not only 'chase' published funds, but also change their attitude towards the entire fund brand."

Kaniel's co-author, Robert Parham, is also from Simon Business School. Read more here.

Teaching candidates better understand edTPA but still have misgivings

Teaching candidates better understand the edTPA process and what is expected of them after two years of the licensure test's implementation in New York and Washington States, researchers at the Warner School have found. The degrees of support for and preparation of students participating in this high-stakes assessment of teaching have also strengthened. Yet, the latest study reveals that new teachers from both states continue to perceive the edTPA as an unfair and time-consuming requirement for initial certification.

The 2015 survey, the second in a series of two examining the implementation of edTPA as a high-stakes assessment for beginning teachers, was funded by the Spencer Foundation and conducted by Professors Kevin Meuwissen, and Jeffrey Choppin. Read more here.

Ritchlin featured in Medpage experts video

Christopher Ritchlin, Professor and Chief of Allergy/Immunology and Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, joins two other rheumatoid arthritis specialists in a Medpage experts video addressing what to do once a patient has an inadequate response or doesn't tolerate a first anti-TNF agent. The American College of Rheumatology addressed this in their newest guidelines on treatment, and the choice is becoming more personalized.

Click here to see the video.

PumpPrimer II applications due July 1

Applications are being accepted through July 1 for AS&E PumpPrimer II awards, designed to stimulate extramural funding for projects otherwise difficult to launch.

The increasingly competitive environment for extramural funding increases the need for proof of concept and/or pilot data in proposals and reduces funding for high-risk proposals. To help AS&E faculty secure extramural funding for bold new research directions, the Office of the Dean for Research provides funding for up to one year. Typical budgets will be up to $20,000. In rare instances, budgets as large as $50,000 may be awarded. Cost-sharing with departmental resources is encouraged.

Applicants are expected to submit a proposal for external funding within 18 months of the allocation of intramural support. A brief final survey/final report will help administrators evaluate the effectiveness of this program.

Faculty in Arts & Science should refer questions to Debra Haring and those in Engineering to Cindy Gary.

Click here to learn about PumpPrimer I and Researcher Mobility Travel Grants that can be applied for on an ongoing basis.

NIH launches Women of Color Research Network

The National Institutes of Health Women of Color Research Network (WoCRn) is an online community of women helping other women succeed in research, with a special focus on enhancing diversity in biomedical science.

The site provides a venue for networking and sharing information among women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds who are in biomedical careers, and among their supporters. Members can exchange ideas about career development, get advice on navigating the NIH grants process, and participate in discussion groups on a wide range of topics, such as mentoring, science policy, and work-life balance. Click here to learn more.

PhD dissertation defenses

Brianna Sleezer, Neuroscience, "Contributions of Striatum and Orbitofrontal Cortex to Flexible Rule-Based Decision Making." 10 a.m., May 20, 2016. Aud K-207 (2-6408). Advisor: Benjamin Hayden

Martha M. French, Warner School, "A Show of Hands: The Local Meanings and Multimodal Resources of Hip Hop Designed, Performed, and Posted to YouTube by Deaf Rappers." 2:30 p.m., May 25, LeChase Hall 215. Advisor: Nancy Ares.

Aaron Bauer, Optics, "Optical Design with Freeform Surfaces, with Applications in Head-Worn Display Design." 1 p.m., June 1, Goergen 109. Advisor: Jannick Rolland.

Jianing Yao, Optics, "Optical Coherence Tomography Metrology of Gradient Refractive Index Material and Freeform Optical Surfaces." 1:30 p.m., June 14, Bausch & Lomb 106. Advisor: Jannick Rolland.

Dustin Moore, Optics, "Optical Metrology by Prescription Retrieval and Transverse-Translation Diversity Phase Retrieval." 2 p.m., June 16, Bausch & Lomb 106. Advisor: Jim Fienup.

Mark your calendar

Today: "In vitro and in vivo models of traumatic brain injury," by Brian J. Cummings, University of California, Irvine. Presented by UR Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute. 1 to 2 p.m., 1-9576 Ryan Case Method Room.

Today: Poster entries due for 8th Annual Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) Half-Day Seminar. Click here to learn more.

Today: Aging Research Day. All-day event will feature aging research talks and a poster session with prizes. Keynote speaker: Dr. Leonard P. Guarente, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Goergen 101. Click here to learn more.

Today: Prognosis Discussions in Oncology, presented by Ronald Epstein of Family Medicine, Psychiatry and Oncology. Noon to 1 p.m. Helen Wood Hall (1w-501). Social Connectedness and Health Research Seminar Series.

May 31: Applications due for Goergen Institute for Data Science pilot awards in Health Data Analytics. Click here to read the full RFA.

June 7: SCORE Half-day Seminar for research personnel. Click here to learn more.

June 24: Deadline is 5 p.m. for applications for Center for AIDS Research pilot awards in Focused Topic Areas and in General HIV/AIDS. Contact Laura Enders at or (585)273-2939.

July 1: Deadline to submit applications for AS&E PumpPrimer II awards. Faculty in Arts & Science should refer questions to Debra Haring and those in Engineering to Cindy Gary.

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.

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Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter 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.