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cmsr Asst. Prof. Joe Chakkalakal, at left, and Asst. Prof. Homaira Rahimi say the mentoring they've received from the Center for Musculoskeletal Research has helped them succeed in grant applications.

Center for Musculoskeletal Research helps young faculty hone grant proposals

When Joe Chakkalakal, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, recently submitted a grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health, he first got some good advice from his colleagues in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research — at a weekly PI meeting that convenes specifically to help center members hone their applications.

As a result, he reworded his summary page to make the aims of his proposal less "dense" for that "one reviewer on a panel who might not be totally familiar with your field." For the same reason, he included some additional preliminary data. And he even used a schematic drawing to help illustrate the goals of his proposal.

The grant was approved.

In other words, the difference between a successful grant application and an unsuccessful one often depends not only on the science of a proposal, but how well it is presented.

That is why the weekly Friday morning PI meetings held by the CMSR have proved so valuable for its young investigators like Chakkalakal and Homaira Rahimi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

The center has nearly 50 principal investigators and research track faculty, of whom about half will be present at a Friday meeting. And half of those, on average, will have had experience serving on the NIH "study sections" — Scientific Review Groups — that evaluate grant applications and recommend which should be funded.

"If we don't like a proposal, NIH is not going to like it," says CMSR Director Edward Schwarz, the Burton Professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. "We are the study section. This is not practice; this is the real thing."

Rahimi concurs: "You have orthopedic researchers, rheumatologists, endocrinologists and medical engineers all in a group, looking at your science from very different perspectives, and asking really thoughtful questions that, perhaps from your specific perspective, you might not think about.

"Sometimes they can be very critical," she added, "but that's important because when the NIH reviews your grant there might be one person on a review board who will not understand it at all, and that's the end of your submission. It can be similar at the PI meeting. If one person doesn't understand, that's the person whose questions you have to address — even if it means rewriting part of your grant."

Schwarz says he will not sign off on a NIH grant application that hasn't first been reviewed at a PI meeting. And if a NIH application is not successful, the PI is expected to present the Summary Statement within 30 days to share the review board's criticisms and discuss how to address them.

For example, when Rahimi's recent K08 mentored research grant was initially not funded, she came back before the group, which discussed ways to clarify the aims of her proposal and make them more specific.

But that wasn't the only way that the resources of CMR helped ensure that her second submission was successful.

(Next: How the Center fosters collaboration.)

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A new approach to healing cartilage

The lack of blood vessels in cartilaginous tissues makes repairs quite difficult, causing severe injuries to never heal fully. Current methods of treatment consist of pain management and total joint replacement.

A team of University researchers, led by Randy Rosier, Professor Emeritus of Orthopaedics, and Michael Zuscik, Associate Professor of Orthopaedics, have developed a promising, and potentially disease modifying, method to halt deterioration and promote regeneration of cartilage lost or damaged in an injury or through osteoarthritis, reports UR Ventures Technology Review.

The treatment is based on a parathyroid hormone (PTH) or a parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) receptor agonist. The introduction of PTH/PTHrP stimulates proteoglycan synthesis, as well as attracting and activating mesenchymal stem cells to enhance tissue repair.

Early studies in animal models have been very promising. Injuries, such as meniscus tears, and damage mimicking the effects of osteoarthritis have been successfully mitigated and, in some cases, reversed. Clinical testing in human patients has begun.

There is also evidence that these methods are effective in treating other types of musculoskeletal soft tissue, such as tendons, ligaments, and inter-vertebral discs.

UR Ventures is actively seeking a partner to develop this technology to obtain FDA approval. For more information, contact Weimin Kaufman.

Optics researchers win grant for microscope inspired by whale eyes

An Institute of Optics research group led by Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering, in partnership with Cristina Canavesi, President of LighTopTech, won a Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation, for their work developing a biomimetic microscope inspired by nature — specifically learning from whales' refocusing eyes. The microscope uses infrared light to image tissues without radiation or cutting. The first version of the device will be used to measure contact lenses for quality control.

SBIR Phase II grants aim to fund small businesses in initiatives that will lead to "societal and economic benefits." In addition to medical benefits, the researchers hope that the new technology will lead to job creation.

Canavesi received a PhD from the Institute of Optics in 2014 and an MBA from the Simon School of Business in 2015. Rolland is CTO of LighTopTech.

Festival theme: French and Francophone Cinema, Texts and Contexts

The Tournées French film festival is back again this academic year, Oct. 14-29, with two screenings per week (Wednesday and Thursday) for three consecutive weeks in Hoyt Auditorium. The selected films, which are free and open to the public, provide a great basis for learning, engagement, and research in contemporary French cinema to students in French, as well as Film and Media Studies.

The festival also offers a cultural and viewing experience with 35 mm films to all University students, as well as the cinéphiles in the Rochester community at large.

This year's theme — French and Francophone Cinema, Texts and Contexts — involves films that adapt a literary or cultural text and/or a major historical context to the screen: Guillaume Nicloux's La Religieuse (2013) is based on Diderot's homonymous 19th century novel; Chantal Ackerman's La folie Almeyer (2011) on Conrad's novel Almayer's folly published in 1895, and Michel Godry's L'écume des jours (2014) on Boris Vian's 1947 homonymous novel.

Adaptations of a literary text to the screen become all the more interesting in the case of remakes — Nicloux's 2013 La Religieuse, which mirrors Jacques Rivette's 1966 homonymous film — or in the case of comic books adaptations such as Marjane Satrapi's and Vincent Paronnaud's Poulet aux Prunes (2011) based on Satrapi's comics.

Tournées films also depict, reference, or criticize major historical events from 18th century Enlightenment in Nicloux's La Religieuse to the 19th century Colonial era in Ackerman's La folie Almeyer; and from Carné's Le jour se lève at the dawn of WWII to Sissako's Timbuktu and current wars in the 21st century.

Film trailers and synopses are available here.

CTSI expert can help you register with

As more journals embrace as a necessary part of the research process, investigators who don't register their trials up front are being shut out from certain publications. Fortunately, the Research Help Desk at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) can help, reports the CTSI Stories blog. Contact resident expert Carrie Dykes, Research Engagement Specialist for CTSI, at the outset of a trial and she can help with:

1. Trial registration
2. Recruitment updates
3. Entering results

Dykes is hoping that university investigators register more of their studies. It takes very little time to do up front, and many trials do not require you to return to enter results. For more information, contact

Nov. 4 workshop offers tips for competing for NSF funding

NSF Days provide basic insight and instruction on how to compete for NSF funding for science, engineering and education research. The next workshop is at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA on Nov. 4, 2015. Registration is reasonable and will fill up quickly. Learn more . . .

Meet the NIH experts via webinars

NIH is presenting two webinars — one specifically for administrators, the other for faculty — from 2-4 p.m., Nov. 5 and 6 to give participants useful insights into NIH application submission and peer review processes. Faculty — especially junior faculty who have not yet successfully applied for an NIH R01 — are encouraged to register for the second webinar on Nov. 6. The webinars are free of charge, but registration is required by Oct. 29. Click here to register or learn more.

Introducing a new faculty member . . .

Juan Rivera-Letelier has joined the Department of Mathematics as a professor. His research is primarily in the area of dynamical systems, which can be described as the theory of long-term behavior of maps under iteration. The main focus of his research has been on one-dimensional systems of diverse origin: arithmetic, p-adic, real, and complex. He has recently applied ideas from dynamical systems to the study of statistical mechanics, in particular, the area of low temperature phase transitions. Rivera-Letelier has published more than 40 research papers in a variety of journals, including Inventiones Mathematicae and Advances in Mathematics. His most recent papers were on the statistical properties and the thermodynamic formalism of real and complex maps. He comes to Rochester from Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile. He earned his PhD at Université de Paris Sud in 2002 and has held various positions since then. At Brown University he was a distinguished visiting associate professor, and at the Institute for Mathematical Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook he was a postdoctoral researcher.

Congratulations to . . .

Barbara H. Iglewski, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, who will be inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame later this year. Iglewski was selected for her research on how bacteria cause infections. Her laboratory was the first to discover that bacteria use a communication system — a type of chemical language — to coordinate attacks on human cells and initiate disease. Her work launched an entire field of study into how the system works in many types of bacteria. Several drugs designed to interrupt this communication process and prevent infection are being developed. "I think the Hall of Fame is amazing and I am overwhelmed by this huge honor," said Iglewski, who is the first woman from the medical school and the third from the University to be inducted. "When you look at all of the members, women who have had such a profound influence on me and so many others in our society, it puts you in awe of what they have accomplished." Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defenses

Jeremy Wolcott, Physics, "Measurement of the Charged-Current Quasi-Elastic Cross-Section for Electron Neutrinos on a Hydrocarbon Target." 9 a.m., Oct. 9, 2015, Meliora 366. Advisor: Steven Manly.

Nicole Scott, Genetics, "Targeting Lysosphingolipid-Induced Lysosomal Impairment as a Critical Point for Therapeutic Intervention in Lysosomal Storage Disorders." 2 p.m., Oct. 14, 2015, Upper Auditorium (3-7619). Advisor: Mark Noble.

Jeffrey Arnold, Political Science, "Three Essays on Conflict and Financial Markets and Political Methodology." 10 a.m., Oct. 15, 2015, Harkness Hall 329. Advisor: Randall Stone.

Yegang Wu, Physics, "Statistical Properties of Disordered jammed Packings of Frictionless Disks." 2 p.m., Oct. 15, 2015, Bausch and Lomb 372. Advisor: Stephen Teitel.

Hen Prizant, Pharmacology, "mTOR-mediated Leiomyoma Growth in Uterine-specific Tsc2-null Mice is Exclusively Dependent on Estradiol Signaling - Implications in the Treatment of Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM)." 12:30 p.m., Oct. 15, 2015, Ryan Case Method Room (1-9576). Advisor: Stephen Hammes.

Michael Fisher, History, "American Re-envisionings of the Self: From The Lonely Crowd to est." Noon, Oct. 21, 2015, Rush Rhees 361. Advisor: Joan Rubin.

Mark your calendar

Oct. 13: Development of International Scientific Resources in collaboration with NIH and FDA: The Telemetric and Holter ECG Warehouse (THEW) case, presented by Jean-Philippe Couderc, Associate Professor of Medicine, Cardiology Heart Research, noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). CTSI Seminar Series.

Oct. 13: "The Promise and Pitfalls of Biomedical Prevention," Sarit Golub, Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, Hunter College HIV/AIDS Research Team. Sponsored by The Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). 3-3:50 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. Reception/mixer to follow with food, beverages, and live music; please RSVP to attend the Mixer: Laura Enders

Oct. 15: Applications due no later than 5 p.m. for CFAR RNA Pilot Announcement. Click here for details.

Oct. 15-16: NIH Regional Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration, San Diego, CA. Click here for more information and registration.

Oct. 16: The Center for Integrated Research Computing (CIRC) symposium, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., URMC 2-6408 (K-207 Auditorium). Sarah Kerns from the Department of Radiation Oncology will present her work on identifying genetic variants associated with toxicity following radiotherapy in cancer survivors. Arnab Sarkar from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will talk on plasma physics simulations.

Oct. 16: Pre-proposals due for Technology Development Fund awards of up to $100,000 to advance projects to a commercial endpoint. A submitted invention disclosure to UR Ventures is required for an application. Pre-proposals can be submitted to Omar Bakht. Read more...

Oct. 19: Deadline for applications for Environmental Health Sciences Center pilot projects. Click here to learn more and access the RFA.

Oct. 20: Industry Consulting: The Contract, presented by Karl Keiburtz and Karen Rabinowitz, noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium, 1w304. Part of the CTSI Skill-Building Workshop series on Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law.

Oct. 21: Industry Consulting: Part Two. Karl Keiburtz and Karen Rabinowitz, noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium, 1w304. Part of the CTSI Skill-Building Workshop series on Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law.

Oct. 22: Applications due no later than 5 p.m. for CFAR Major Collaborative Pilot Announcement. Click here for details.

Oct. 26: The tension between hybridization and reproductive isolation, Daniel Garrigan, Assistant Professor of Biology. Department of Biology Donut Talk. Noon to 1 p.m., Lander Auditorium - Hutchison 140.

Oct. 30: Applications due no later than 5 p.m. for CFAR Joint Funding Opportunity in HIV/AIDS through SMD, SON and Program Of Excellence. Click here for details.

Nov. 2: Initial abstracts due for applications for funding from Medical Center Incubator Program. Details and application instructions are available here.

Nov. 2: Applications due for funding from the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation for short-term, early phase work necessary to create computer code or models, and to get new biocomputational or health-related scientific projects underway. Click here to read the full RFA.

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.

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.