Images of research
As PBS reported recently, "a naked mole rate will never win a beauty contest." But UR researchers, building on their previous findings that mole rats are resistant to cancer, have now discovered they also produce virtually perfect proteins that allow them to live a very long time -- and remain healthy until the very end. The findings are in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by UR biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov. Media outlets that have reported this include Smithsonian.com, National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, Science Daily, and InvestorPlace. Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.
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Big Data Forum today: Listen in
Today's presentations at the University of Rochester Big Data Forum 2013 will be livestreamed (click here) starting at 8:30 a.m. Sixteen invited speakers will address topics including machine learning, network science, cognitive science, and applications in the health, social, and physical sciences. Here is the schedule.
Center for Aids Research: Opportunities for collaboration
When UR's Center for Aids Research was upgraded from a developmental center earlier this year to full CFAR status, it joined 16 other such centers nationwide. "We're now in the major league," says Michael Keefer, co-director of the UR center.
At a CFAR Clinical and Translational Sciences Core Symposium last week, a recurring theme was the abundance of opportunities for collaboration in this field.
1. As treatment improves, HIV patients are living longer, and developing other illnesses associated with aging, Keefer noted. The chronic inflammation that occurs in HIV infection tends to magnify these affects, which may lead to insights in the role inflammation plays in problems associated with aging in non-HIV populations.
2. It is one thing to come up with potential game-changing HIV medical treatments. It is quite another to identify infected members of hard-to-reach, at-risk populations, link them to care providers, and then ensure they adhere to treatment regimens over the course of several years, noted James McMahon, co-director of CFAR's Clinical and Translational Sciences Core. "Those kinds of problems are truly interdisciplinary," McMahon said.
About 80 UR faculty from both the Med Center and River Campus are listed as CFAR members. The center has awarded $762,576 in pilot funding to faculty in 20 different departments since 2008. The center's upgrade to full CFAR status will enable it to leverage additional funding.
For now, the center is pinning its hopes on two scientific research groups to help it establish a distinctive scientific identity and to place UR at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research. One group, looking at the interaction of HIV-1 and the central nervous system, is led by Handy Gelbard, Professor of Neurology and Director of the Center for Neural Development and Disease; the other, led by David Mathews, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, will devise new therapeutic approaches for HIV at the RNA level.
Any faculty members with research ideas or interest in collaboration are encouraged to contact Jennifer Lynch.
Speaking of which . . .
Here's an example of an HIV-related project that will likely lead to numerous further interdisciplinary collaborations. Gelbard, along with co-investigators Stephen Dewhurst, Sanjay Maggirwar, and Val Goodfellow, have developed a small-molecule brain-penetrant inhibitor that holds promise as a potential therapy to protect HIV-1 patients from developing Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND). The inhibitor, named URMC-099, is active against mixed-lineage kinase 3 (MLK3), which is associated with many of the pathologic hallmarks of HAND. The study was funded by the CTSI Incubator program.
Opportunities in telemedicine
Ray Dorsey, a Professor in the Department of Neurology and the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics, says the University of Rochester is well positioned to become a provider of telemedicine. Rochester is not next to borders of other states, "so licensure laws aren't as limiting," Dorsey noted at this fall's initial presentation of the University's Telehealth Consortium. Telemedicine services could extend beyond upstate to the New York City area, where millions of people have difficulty accessing care. "We have a huge area to serve."
Beyond offering telemedicine to patients in their homes, nursing homes and satellite hospitals and clinics, Dorsey believes UR could carve a niche for itself by becoming a center for:
1. Training health care providers to use telemedicine
2. Working with companies to develop and test remote monitoring devices
3. Working with insurers to incorporate telemedicine as a lower cost approach to health delivery.
Dorsey, a specialist in Parkinson's Disease, has participated in studies demonstrating that assessment and monitoring of patients by remote "virtual visits" is not only feasible, but provides comparable health outcomes to control groups receiving in-person care, and can save considerable travel and waiting time for patients -- more than two hours per visit in one study.
Dorsey cited a study in which 10 people with Parkinson's Disease, and 10 people in a control group, were each equipped with a smartphone with a special application. They were asked to walk 20 feet, turn around and stand in place while being monitored remotely. Computer scientists were able "with 98 percent accuracy" to determine which had Parkinson's and which didn't. (For more studies demonstrating the benefits of telemedicine for Parkinson's patients, click here and here.)
"This resonates with patients," he added, especially those who are geographically isolated from caregivers. "The patients just have a visceral reaction and a devotion that is unbelievable."
Worth pondering ...
Dorsey sees four key landmarks in medical history. Jenner's smallpox vaccine (1796) enabled us to "prevent the unpreventable." Lister's pioneering antiseptic techniques (1867) enabled us to "operate on the inoperable." Fleming's discovery of the antibiotic penicillin (1928) enabled us to "cure the incurable."
And now, Steve Jobs' smartphone (2007) enables us to "reach the unreachable."
"If you think about the entire history of medicine, even still today, the care you receive is determined by who you are and where you are, and right now-- for the first time --we can change that. We can now deliver care to just about anyone, anywhere."
The quest for an NSF-GRFP: Honing your essays
(One in a series of weekly tips leading up to the deadline to apply.)
The panelists judging your application for an National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship will have to wade through dozens of applications. You'll make their job easier -- and help your own chances --if your essays are easy to navigate, and enjoyable to read.
1. Some of the panelists judging your application may have little or no background in your particular area of research. Strike a balance: You need to provide enough details to demonstrate your knowledge, background and qualifications, but don't load your proposal with acronyms and technical jargon that make it "too difficult for someone not in the field to understand," notes Sheryl Gracewski, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering who has served on several review panels over the years. "That's not to your advantage."
2. Panelists will judge your application primarily on two criteria: intellectual merit and broader impact. Try to organize the information you present so it is readily apparent how it reinforces one of those criteria; in fact, don't hesitate to use language like: "This has intellectual merit because . . . " to help flag this for panelists.
3. Drop by the office of Belinda Redden, director of the Office of Fellowships, to review some of the essays she's collected from past NSF fellowship applications.
Reminder: Deadlines to apply fall Nov. 4-8 depending on the discipline. Click here for more tips on applying.
Advice for young researchers . . .
Paige Lawrence, Professor of Environmental Medicine, keeps a "ding drawer" full of grant proposals that she submitted, but were never accepted. She mentioned it at a recent Career Development Roundtable for grad students and post docs -- part of the fifth annual Lung Research and Trainee Day -- to illustrate that rejection is a basic fact of life for researchers. And it is nothing to be ashamed of.
"It doesn't mean you're a bad scientist or it was a bad idea. For every grant you write some will do well, others won't. You take a risk, put an idea out there. Somebody may say it's got some holes in it, but you can learn from that."
Indeed, "If you never fail in applying for a grant," Lawrence suggested, "you're not being risky enough and innovative enough. You have to become at peace with that part of the process."
Guest lecturer Timothy Blackwell, the Ralph and Lulu Owen Chair in Medicine, and Professor of Medicine, Cell and Developmental Biology, and of Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University, drew a comparison to baseball: "If you're a career .300 hitter, you get in the Hall of Fame, but that also means you get out 7 out of 10 times."
Introducing a new faculty member
Lisa Starr joins the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology as an assistant professor, after completing postdoctoral work at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the origins and consequences of depression and anxiety in adolescents and adults. Particular emphases include understanding the interface between psychopathology and the social environment and delineating complex, reciprocal, and interactive relationships between interpersonal, cognitive, and biological risk factors and internalizing symptoms. Starr received a PhD in clinical psychology from SUNY Stony Brook.
UR research in the news
Research@URMC reports that Chunkit Fung, an oncologist at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, and colleagues have published what is believed to be the first large population analysis on the risks of second cancers among patients treated in the modern era of cisplatin-based chemo. Read more about some of the disturbing trends they uncovered.
Mark your calendar
Oct. 25: Symposium on Multidisciplinary Care in Cancer, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Helen Wood Hall/Evarts Lounge, coordinated by Center for Experiential Learning. The symposium will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders with a shared interest in improving quality of cancer care. These include national and international experts on cancer care, community advocates, health insurance administrators, family care givers and cancer patients themselves. Learn more.
Oct. 25: Applications due for the KL2 Mentored Career Development Program, for slots that begin July 1, 2014. The program supports the career development of new faculty who wish to pursue research careers in multidisciplinary clinical and translational science.
Oct. 29: E-MOMS of Rochester Study, CTSI Seminar Series, 12:15-1:15 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. Diana Fernandez, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences, and Susan Groth, Associate Professor of Nursing, discuss web and cell phone-based interventions designed to promote healthy behavior for pregnant and postpartum women.
Nov. 1: Applications due for Wilmot Cancer Center Pilot and Collaborative Studies funding. Please contact Pam Iadarola with questions.
Nov. 7: 20th Annual Rochester Cardiopulmonary Symposium. 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Rochester Riverside Convention Center. Read more.
Nov. 12: "What engages people? Self-determination theory research on motivation in learning, health care, virtual worlds, and other domains'"
presented by Richard Ryan, Professor, Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology. CTSI Seminar series, 12:15-1:15 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium, 1W-304.
Nov. 14: "Research Ethics: Concepts, Hot Topics and Help with Tough Decisions," presented by Carl D'Angio, Professor, Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics. SCORE meeting, 12-1:30 p.m., Saunders Research Building 1.416. Feel free to bring your lunch.
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..