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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East German film director Herwig Kipping is shown at left on the set of The Land Behind the Rainbow; at right, director Ulrich Weiss (gesturing) on the set of Bluebird.

Researcher overcame mistrust to shed light on East German filmmakers

When Reinhild Steingrover heard about a neglected collection of films made by East German directors in that nation's final years, she recognized a rare opportunity to explore the fall of the Berlin Wall and German unification from "the losers' perspective."

"This is great," Steingrover, the Eastman School's Chair of Humanities and Professor of German, recalled thinking to herself. "I will look at 30 films, take three years to write a book, and I'll be done."

It wasn't nearly that simple.

As Steingrover related at a recent Phelps Colloquium, she ended up taking more than 10 years to write Last Features: East German Cinema's Lost Generation (2014). Along the way, she gained a new appreciation for the sensitivities that surround "who owns history." Above all, she gained a deep appreciation for the youngest generation of East Germany's last filmmakers, not only for their cinematic gifts, but their relentless, ultimately futile efforts to reform the nation's filmmaking industry even before unification.

Heavily censored before the wall fell in 1989, these filmmakers — including Herwig Kipping, Jorg Foth and Ulrich Weiss — were largely ignored afterwards when they were finally able to express themselves freely. "East German film audiences weren't interested in the films of these directors because they had had enough of East German cinema. (The films that typically survived the censors were often verbose, pedagogical 'tools' to educate the masses). They wanted to see cowboys and Steven Spielberg," Steingrover explained. "West Germans were never interested in East German cinema to begin with, so why start now?"

So she assumed these filmmakers and their archivists would be thankful for the opportunity to share their stories with her.

Instead, she was initially rebuffed.

By 2004, when she began her research in earnest, the East Germans were increasingly resentful that "their lives, and 40 years of East German socialism had been devalued as meaningless, as something that didn't work, as an experience that was in no way valuable," Steingrover related.

"I became aware this was a touchy subject that I needed to be careful with. It was about peoples' lives, and about their work, which was pretty full of tragedy already. They weren't going to hand this over to a person they didn't even know. It is really about the sensitivity of who owns history, so this was something I needed to learn first before I could write the book."

Even then, it was six years or more before some of these filmmakers were willing to talk to her.

(Next: Films of emotional power and unusual style.)

Detail from a film still from Peter Kahane's The Architects (the official last film of the DEFA studio), which appears on the cover of Steingrover's book, Last Features: East German Cinema's Lost Generation.

About the Phelps Colloquium

The Phelps Colloquium was initiated in April 2004 as "Lunch with the Provost" by former provost Chuck Phelps, who sought to create a relaxed setting in which faculty and academic leaders from across the University could learn about interesting research and scholarship and interact with colleagues outside their normal spheres. Phelps' idea was that this cross-campus mingling would engender more multi-disciplinary collaborations.

The series continues with Garrett Johnson, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Simon School, talking about "Ghost Ads and the Science of Online Advertising," at 4 p.m., Dec.10 in the Meliora Grand Ballroom, Frederick Douglass Building.

Click here to learn more about this year's topics, and here to register for one or more of the talks.

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

Formula for pi buried in quantum mechanics calculation

Mathematicians are accustomed to seeing the constant pi in a variety of fields. But two University scientists are the first to find it lurking in a quantum mechanics formula for the energy states of the hydrogen atom.

"We didn't just find pi," said Tamar Friedmann, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics, a Research Associate of High Energy Physics, and co-author of a paper published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics. "We found the classic seventeenth century Wallis formula for pi, making us the first to derive it from physics, in general, and quantum mechanics, in particular."

The discovery began in a quantum mechanics course taught by Carl Hagen, Professor of Physics and one of the six physicists who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson. Hagen wanted his students to use an alternate method — called the variational principle — to approximate the value for the ground state of the hydrogen atom. Hagen got Friedmann involved to take advantage of her ability to work in both physics and mathematics.
Specifically, the calculation of Friedmann and Hagen resulted in an expression involving special mathematical functions called gamma functions leading to the formula shown at left above, which can be reduced to the classic Wallis formula at right.

For Friedmann, discovering the Wallis formula for π in a quantum mechanics formula for the hydrogen atom's energy states underscores π's omnipresence in math and science.

"What surprised me is that the formula occurred in such a natural way in the calculations, with no circles involved in determining the energy states," said Hagen, the co-author of the paper. "And I am glad I didn't think about this before Tamar arrived in Rochester, because it would have gone nowhere and we would not have made this discovery." Read more . . .

Study shows mandated checks reduce opioid prescriptions

A study by Yan-Fang Ren, Clinical Chief of Eastman's urgent dental clinic and Professor in the Department of Dentistry, shows that the number of opioid prescriptions written for a group of dental patients decreased markedly after New York began mandating that a patient's prescription drug history be checked first.

49 states have instituted prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP), which are statewide electronic databases that collect designated data on substances dispensed in that state. A PDMP collects information on all Schedule II, III and IV controlled substances received by an individual in the past 6 months, including the name, dosage and quantity of the drugs, date for each prescription, and name and title of the prescriber.

Authorities in most states encourage healthcare professionals to voluntarily consult the PDMP database before prescribing controlled drugs. In August 2013, New York became one of the first states to mandate that prescribers consult the state's PDMP registry.

Ren reviewed patient records at the urgent dental clinic for three months before the mandate began, and then for two consecutive three-month periods after the mandate was implemented.

"After comparing and analyzing the number of visits, treatment types and drug prescriptions," Ren explained, "the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by 78 percent, while the number of non-opioid analgesics, such as ibuprofen, increased."

"I'm very glad New York and other states have mandated the monitoring program," Ren said. "With prescription drug overdose deaths ahead of heroin and cocaine, this should have a major impact."

Ren said that more studies need to be done to understand the impact of PDMP on other practices. Read more . . .

NASA grant explores space travel and the brain

Kerry O'Banion, Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy, has been awarded $1.8 million from NASA to study whether extended deep space travel places astronauts at risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. The grant is one of nine announced by NASA that will fund research to better understand and reduce the risks to humans associated with long journeys in deep space.

In a study published in 2012, O'Banion and his colleagues showed that exposure to a particular form of space radiation called high-mass, high-charged particles caused biological and cognitive changes in mice that indicated an accelerated risk for the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The new study builds off this research and will explore three possible cellular mechanisms linking radiation-induced neuroinflammation and a reduction in the clearance of amyloid beta — one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease — from the brain. The researchers will also investigate whether a drug that reduces brain inflammation can counteract the effects of space radiation. Read more...

Center for Energy & Environment seeks workshop proposals

The Center for Energy and Environment is seeking proposals for a spring workshop with interdisciplinary themes that cross at least two of the CEE's three foci: environment, energy, and health. Target date for the workshop, which would be open to UR students, faculty ,staff and the community, is April 22, Earth Day.

The workshop would include one or more external speakers, dinner with speakers and organizers, a workshop lunch, and graduate student participation, including poster session and oral presentations.

The CEE will provide up to $8,000 for the event and assist organizers in planning it.

Click here for more information and a proposal cover sheet. Completed applications should be returned by Dec. 14 to Jenn Steward at

CTSI offers grantwriting resources page

Writing a grant? The Clinical and Translational Science Institute website now features up-to-date resource pages for 36 research-related programs, resources, departments and centers. Start with these and edit as necessary to suit your grant, or reach out to the appropriate group for more details.

Congratulations to . . .

Seth Monahan, Associate Professor of Music Theory at the Eastman School, who has been named the recipient of the Society for Music Theory's 2015 Emerging Scholar Award. The award recognizes significant contributions to music theory, analysis, or history of theory in work published in the prior three years. Monahan was recognized for his article "Action and Agency Revisited," which appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of the Journal of Music Theory. In the article, Monahan develops a theoretical model that accounts for the many ways that analysts have attributed emotion, consciousness, and volition to musical works and their internal elements, as well as to fictionalized versions of the composer and/or performers. Read more . . .

University research in the news

A new Medical Center study of individuals with a rare form of muscular dystrophy has helped pinpoint the symptoms of the disease that are most important to patients. The findings, published in the journal Neurology, could help create a roadmap for physicians to prioritize treatment of the complex, multisystem disease. "This study represents the first large-scale attempt to obtain direct patient input to identify the most prevalent and life-altering symptoms of myotonic dystrophy type 2," said Chad Heatwole, Associate Professor of Neurology and the lead author of the study. "This information helps us to better understand the complexities of the disease from a patient's perspective, and may ultimately prove useful in the clinical management and early diagnosis of patients with this condition." Read more...

Research Connections will skip a week

Because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, the next issue of Research Connections will be Dec. 4.

Mark your calendar

Today: The Center for Integrated Research Computing (CIRC) symposium. Joyce McDonough, Professor of Linguistics, will present her work on defining what it means to be a "word" and some of the analysis that has been made to help understand human language. Jeffrey Zuber from the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics will discuss RNA structure prediction. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Goergen 108.

Nov. 23: Deadline for University research mentors to apply for UR Mentors, a new faculty development program designed to build and support a community of Master Mentors. Click here for further details.

Nov. 25: Industry Consulting: The Contract. Presented by Karl Kieburtz, Co-Director, CTSI and Professor, Neurology, Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, and Karen Rabinowitz, Legal Counsel and Associate Director of Collaborations, Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). A CTSI Skill-Building Workshop.

Dec. 1: World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium sponsored by the Center for AIDS Research, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium. Click here for more information and the registration form.

Dec. 1: Real World Evidence and the FDA, presented by Robert Meyer, Director, Virginia Center for Translational and Regulatory Sciences. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). CTSI Seminar Series.

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.