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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Images of research

This map shows the concentration of slaves as a percentage of the overall population in the South, according to data from the 1860 census. The data was part of a study by UR political scientists that is believed to be the first to provide quantitative evidence of the long-lasting effects of slavery on political attitudes in the South. The research was conducted by Avidit Acharya, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics; Matthew Blackwell, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Maya Sen, Assistant Professor of Political Science.

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

Seligman statement on federal government shutdown

In a special statement to the University on Tuesday, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman addressed the impact of the federal government shutdown on the University, including these comments about research funding:

"While each federal agency that sponsors research has issued its own guidelines, all grant activity can continue as normal for the immediate term. We will continue to monitor developments in Washington and issue further guidance when we can.

"We do not know how this or subsequent key budget issues will play out during the next few weeks or months. There may be implications such as partial payments on existing sponsored research or other programs -- but such eventualities now are speculative."

Click here to read President Seligman's full statement.

"Science is still a great career"

On Tuesday, when the uncertainties surrounding federal research funding were further compounded by a government shutdown, Timothy Blackwell told a group of UR graduate students and postdocs that the picture is not as bleak as it might appear for aspiring young scientists. Blackwell, the Ralph and Lulu Owen Chair in Medicine at Vanderbilt University, was keynote speaker at the fifth annual Lung Research and Trainee Day at the Med Center. The day wrapped up with a career development roundtable, where Blackwell told students he's been struck the last couple of years by "how much opportunity there is in science compared to even five years ago. The kinds of projects you can do as a grad student would have taken an army of postdocs 20 years ago. The availability of tools and resources is really unprecedented."

His advice to students:

1. Find good role models and mentors.

2. Take advantage of local support and funding opportunities.

3. Be persistent.

4. "Find some piece of science that you love, that makes you want to come to work every day, think about it in the evenings, and read papers on the weekends. Find a project that fits your interests and personality, and if you do that, and if you can rationalize the personal sacrifices that it takes to be successful, then the rest of it will fall into place. It's unlikely the current situation is going to last forever. If you take the long view of what you want, science is still a great career."

The hands of a musician

One observer at the recent Center for Musculoskeletal Research symposium was intrigued by this poster presentation: "Hand Sensibility, Strength and Laxity of High-Level Musicians Compared to Non-Musicians," offered by Susan Sims, a Resident in Orthopaedics (with an Eastman degree in flute performance); medical student Laura Engel; Warren Hammert, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics; and John Elfar, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics. Given that musicians must produce as many as 1,400 notes per minute, or 72 finger shifts per second, the researchers hypothesized that musicians have more sensitive, stronger and more flexible hands than non-musicians. They tested 100 instrumental performance majors at the Eastman School and a control group of 100 UR students who rarely or never perform music. Their finding: Musicians do, indeed, have more sensitive hands (determined by testing the response to stimulus with monofilaments), but had less hand strength than nonmusicians and about the same flexibility. They suggest musicians display less hand strength because they are protective of their upper extremities; further research might determine if musicians are less inclined to participate in athletics. Also unanswered: Do musicians have more sensitive hands because they are musicians, or are they musicians because they have more sensitive hands?

An unsolved mystery

Robert J. Joynt, the former dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and an internationally recognized neurologist, wrote a series of short stories, five of which were published in Neurology, a medical journal. As Jim Memmott, Democrat and Chronicle columnist reported recently, each mystery featured Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson confronted with a "puzzler that had a solution grounded in neurology." Joynt's sixth, and presumably last, Holmes mystery was found unfinished on his computer after his death in 2012. Now the editors of Neurology are asking readers to complete the neurologist's story in 1,500 words or less. It would certainly be a fitting ending to this "ending" if a University of Rochester neurologist supplied the winning entry!

Did you know?

Each summer, the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports 200-205 graduate students in science or engineering to do 8-10 weeks of research in the lab of your choice in Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore or Taiwan. This includes a $5,000 stipend, round trip air fare, and a living allowance. And you get to be the PI of a project you propose. Not bad! So, even though next summer probably seems a long ways off, this is a good reason for graduate studuents to start planning ahead. The application deadline is Nov. 25. Click here for more information.

The quest for an NSF-GRFP: Choosing a research topic

This can be one of the most daunting tasks confronting a senior, and even a first-year graduate student, when applying for a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. It's still awfully early in your career to be formulating an original, well articulated research project. Some tips:

1. Talk to your professors or advisors who are most familiar with your work to help you choose a topic.

2. If you have had previous research experience, consider a project that would build upon this earlier work. It will be that much easier for you to establish that you are familiar with the topic and are qualified to carry it out.

3. It's okay to be "gutsy" in your choice of topic, and even to challenge long-held truths -- as long as you can lay out a plausible hypothesis, demonstrate you're qualified to conduct the research, etc. -- and indicate the benefits of what you're likely to learn along the way, even if you don't succeed.

Applications from seniors are ranked only against applications from their peers. Ditto for first-year graduate students, and for second-year graduate students. Reminder: Deadlines to apply fall Nov. 4-8 depending on the discipline.

Introducing a new faculty member

Jennifer Brisson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, uses a variety of approaches, including genetics, genomics and developmental biology, to investigate the molecular genetic basis of morphological evolution -- specifically in pea aphids, which are able to produce a variety of morphologies across their complex life cycles that alternate between asexual and sexual development. Brisson received her PhD from Washington University in St. Louis, held postdoc positions at Princeton University, University of California at Davis, and University of Southern California, and was an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln before coming to the UR.

UR research in the news

Smoking boosts the risk of complications following some of the most common colorectal procedures, including surgery for colon cancer, diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease, according to a Med Center study led by Fergal J. Fleming, Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery. The study, published in the Annals of Surgery, is unique because it focuses on elective, or non-emergency, surgeries. Newsday and U.S. News and World Report have also reported on the findings.

Excerpts of an essay by Mary Ann Mavrinac, Vice Provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries, are featured by the Library Journal. Her essay, which is included in Library 2020: Today's Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow's Library, examines the challenges of transforming academic research libraries to meet the needs of 21st-century researchers and learners.

Congratulations to ...

Timothy Quill, Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, Medical Humanities, and Nursing, and the director of the Palliative Care Program, for being named one of the 30 most influential leaders in hospice and palliative medicine by the members of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Mark your calendar

Today: "With a Little Help from My Friends?" -- distinguishing the effect of peer influence on smoking initiation from smoking cessation. Public Health Grand Rounds with Steven Haas, Associate Professor of Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University, noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium.

Oct. 8: Center for AIDS Research Clinical and Translational Sciences Core Symposium, 9 a.m., School of Nursing Auditorium. Learn about the Center, the Clinical and Translational Sciences Core, and connect with fellow researchers across HIV/AIDS translational sciences. Lunch will be served. Contact Jennifer Lynch with questions.

Oct. 9: Mentoring Conference, noon to 3 p.m., Class of '62 Auditorium. A CTSI and Office of Faculty Development and Diversity interactive session for faculty, trainees and students from across the University on launching research and academic careers. Register for part or all of the afternoon. The first half of the conference will focus on the role of mentoring in launching an academic career and the second half will focus on launching research and scholarly careers. To RSVP, contact Jenni Oliver. Click here for the detailed agenda.

Oct. 15: Initial abstracts of proposals due for UR Incubator Program projects through the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) and the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). Incubator projects are two-year "super-pilots," intended to accelerate innovative scientific discovery in the life sciences and public health, leading to new independently-funded research programs. Each award will be funded at a maximum level of $125,000 per year for each of two years. Faculty from all UR schools are eligible to apply. Read the new RFA for details.

Oct. 17: Writing a Successful Data Management Plan. Carlson Library Rm. 310 from noon to 1 p.m. More and more funders are asking for data management plans with grant applications. This workshop will cover the basics of writing a data management plan, as well as introducing the DMPTool, an online tool that helps you draft DMPs tailored to specific funders' requirements. Feel free to bring your lunch. Get more information and RSVP at our eventbrite page.

Oct. 18: University of Rochester Big Data Forum 2013, starting at 8:30 a.m., Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Library. Renowned researchers in data science discuss machine learning, network science, cognitive science, and applications in the health, social, and physical sciences. Limited seating. Reception to follow at Staybridge Suites. Registration is now open.

Make a reservation for NSF workshop

The National Science Foundation, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester will hold a one-day workshop on Nov. 8. The workshop will include an overview of the Foundation, its mission, priorities, and budget, and cover the NSF proposal and merit review process and NSF programs that cut across disciplines. Representatives from the seven NSF directorates and the Office of International and Integrative Activities will make presentations on their programs and be available informally and in breakout sessions for discussions of potential research proposals. The workshop will be held at the RIT Inn and Conference Center, 5257 West Henrietta Road. Registration is $30; deadline to register is Nov. 1.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte..

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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.