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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Leslie Valiant of Harvard University will address the challenges of increasingly complex computer architecture during the 29th International Workshop on Languages and Compilers of Parallel Computing, Sept. 28-30. At left, the University's Blue Gene Q supercomputer.

Turing award winner to speak during
international conference on parallel computing

A computer scientist who revolutionized machine learning and received computing's equivalent of the Nobel Prize will be among the keynote speakers when the University hosts the 29th International Workshop on Languages and Compilers of Parallel Computing Wednesday through Friday, September 28-30.

Leslie Valiant of Harvard University, recipient of the Turing Award in 2010, will address the challenges posed by the increasing complexity of computing architecture.

"I was at his Turing lecture in 2011 at the Federated Computing Research Conferences with a few thousand other computer scientists. It was one of the most scientifically inspiring speeches I have seen," says Chen Ding, one of the workshop's organizers. "For our students, especially, his keynote will be a memorable experience."

The workshop, held annually at different locations, "is the longest running workshop, and also the best for compilers for parallel programs," says Ding, a professor of computer science. This is the first time it is being held in Rochester.

This year's workshop, at the Hilton Garden Inn at College Town, will feature 25 papers by researchers from the United States, Japan, Europe, and Canada. The topics range from parallel programming models and languages, to optimization of parallel programs and debugging tools.

Parallel computing is a type of computation in which many calculations or processes are carried out simultaneously, either within a single system or across networks. Researchers in the field help translate the source language used by programmers into the machine language that makes parallel computing possible, Ding says. They also look for ways to optimize performance — removing redundant operations, organizing memory, implementing task partitioning and scheduling, moving data between caches within a machine and memories between machines — all of which can have a "huge impact" on performance and energy consumption, Ding says.

Valiant will speak at 1 p.m., Wednesday, September 28, on the need to design algorithms that can address the difficulty of writing efficient parallel programs, especially in light of the increasing complexity of computing architecture.

"Rarely does one see such a striking combination of depth and breadth as in Valiant's work," the Turing Award Committee noted. "His is truly a heroic figure in theoretical computer science and a role model for his courage and creativity in addressing some of the deepest unsolved problems in science."

Valient's lecture is cosponsored by the workshop, the Department of Computer Science, and the Goergen Institute for Data Science. John Criswell, assistant professor of computer science, is coorganizer. Go to the workshop's website for more information.

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Rubin named director of the Humanities Center

Joan Shelley Rubin, a noted scholar of American history, has been appointed director of the Humanities Center at the University. Rubin, the Dexter Perkins Professor in History, has served as interim director since the center's creation in spring 2015. She will hold the title of Ani and Mark Gabrellian Director of the Humanities Center.

"Joanie is an exceptional scholar and was at the forefront of the faculty advocating for a humanities center at the University," said Gloria Culver, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. "She has done a wonderful job as the interim director, and her appointment into the directorship came after a long national search. The center is the intellectual, and soon to be physical, home for faculty and students interested in the humanities. It is in very capable hands with Joanie at the helm."

Rubin said that her work with the center flows naturally out of research to which she has long been devoted. "I'm a historian of the dissemination of the humanities, fundamentally," she said. An American cultural and intellectual historian, Rubin is the author of The Making of Middlebrow Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 1992) and Songs of Ourselves: The History of Poetry in America (Harvard University Press, 2007), among other projects. Read more here.

Major study to examine prenatal inflammation, child health

Medical Center researchers are embarking on a seven-year mission to study prenatal inflammation as a possible link between anxiety, stress, and obesity in pregnant women and a large and common cluster of behavioral and physical health conditions in their children.

The research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health that could total more than $18 million. It is the first detailed longitudinal investigation of how inflammation — part of the body's immune response — during pregnancy can affect a child's neurodevelopment as well as the metabolic systems for processing nutrients and energy. Should the study reach its seven-year maturity, it will be one of the largest grants in URMC history.

"Obesity, stress, anxiety, and a history of trauma have all been linked with elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are chemicals that are part of the body's immune response. This seems to be generally the case in adults and, of particular concern to us, in pregnant women," said Thomas O'Connor, professor of psychiatry and director of the Wynne Center for Family Research. "Inflammation underlies a number of health conditions which may all be connected, and that makes it a very compelling target for developmental health research starting in the prenatal period."

Past research seeking to explain how and why maternal psychological states and physiology may have a long-term impact on child health focused on stress physiology, and especially the stress hormone cortisol, as a likely explanation. But the implications for human health were only modest, underscoring the need for further research.

Clinical scientists have known for some time that proinflammatory cytokines can be measured in the blood at varying levels among individuals. If URMC researchers find that prenatal immune activation does alter child growth and development, that would open up new targets for intervention. Read more here.

gao Yifan Gao, PhD student in the lab of Wyatt Tenhaeff, assistant professor of chemical engineering, works with an iCVD (initiated chemical vapor deposition) reactor, which will be used to synthesize solid electrolytes for 3-D microbatteries.

Chemical engineer develops next generation batteries

If Wyatt Tenhaeff and his colleagues succeed, miniature batteries would expand the use of personal fitness trackers, implantable medical devices, active RFID tags to track pets and objects, and other small devices connected to the Internet.

And a lithium battery in a car would no longer carry the risk of catching on fire.

Tenhaeff, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, is applying his expertise in polymer electrolytes to two projects — playing two different roles at two very different scales of engineering.

For example, as a principal investigator, he has received a $306,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to see if a chemical vapor deposition process he's developed can overcome the biggest challenge to 3-D microbatteries — the preparation of ultrathin solid electrolytes with sufficient conductivity.

The problem, Tenhaeff believes, is that most research has focused on synthesizing solid electrolytes from a liquid state. "This makes it very difficult to control the uniformity and thickness of the electrolyte coating– especially on complex, aperiodic electrode topographies," Tenhaeff says.

Initiated chemical vapor deposition "gives us better control because we are growing a solid polymer electrolyte from the gas phase," he says. "We don't have to worry about surface tension effects, and can generate highly conformal ultrathin coatings, meaning that the entire surface is coated uniformly."

Tenhaeff is also collaborating with researchers from five other institutions and companies on a $3.5 million ARPA-E grant to develop scalable manufacturing processes for ceramic electrolytes to be used in solid-state lithium metal batteries for electric vehicles.

The team is using a highly conductive form of a lithium-bearing garnet for the electrolyte. And therein lies part of the challenge, Tenhaeff says. High temperatures — 1,100 to 1,200°C — are required to produce the garnet with the correct crystalline structure. So the goal of the project is to develop processes for fabricating the material, then integrating it with other battery components in a way that will make large scale manufacturing feasible.

Tenhaeff is receiving a $275,000 share of the funding to develop polymer electrolytes to be integrated into the design. "Polymers are easier to process at low temperatures," Tenhaeff says. "By integrating polymer electrolytes and ceramic electrolytes, we can come up with a structure that we can manufacture readily." Read more here.

Introducing a new faculty member

Pengfei (Frank) Huo joins the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor after serving as a visiting assistant professor of chemistry here for the past year. Huo will lead a group to investigate the complex chemical and molecular dynamics associated with harvesting and storing solar energy. The group's primary interests include excitation-induced charge separation dynamics in organic photovoltaic devices, photo-induced proton-coupled electron transfer reaction, and catalytic fuel generation reactions such as hydrogen evolution. Huo's PhD work at Boston University focused on developing efficient and accurate theoretical methods to better understand energy transfer processes in the natural light harvesting systems that perform photosynthesis. In 2012, he was appointed a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology, where he simulated the dynamics of electron and proton transfer mechanisms in catalysts that are used to produce fuels from sunlight.

Phelps topics: East High to Sgt. Pepper

Stephen Uebbing, professor of educational leadership at the Warner School, kicks of this year's Phelps Colloquium Series with a talk entitled "East Rising: An Intervention in a Struggling Urban School," starting at 4 p.m., October 13, in the Eisenberg Rotunda.

Uebbing, project director of the University of Rochester/East Eduational Partnership and director of the Center for Urban Education Success, led the process of program design at East and was primarily responsible for the negotiation of an instructionally focused collective bargaining agreement with the newly selected East faculty.

Other speakers this academic year will be:

Alexander Peña, instructor with Eastman Community Music School and director of ROCmusic: "Transforming our At-Risk Community through the Power of Music." 4 p.m., November 3, Max of Eastman Place.
Dave Mitten, associate professor of orthopaedics: "Using Technology to Further the Biopsychosocial Approach to Patient Care." 4 p.m., December 14, Evarts Lounge, Helen Wood Hall.
John Foxe, professor and chair of neuroscience and research director, Del Monte Neuroscience Institute: "The Search for Biomarkers in Schizophrenia." 4 p.m., February 1, 2017, Meliora Grand Ballroom.
John Covach, professor of music theory, chair of the College music department, and director, Institute for Popular Music: "50 Years Ago Today: Did Sgt. Pepper Really Teach the Band to Play?" 4 p.m. March 1, 2017, Meliora Grand Ballroom.
Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences: "Using Data Science to Unlock the Brain." 4 p.m., April 5, 2017, Eisenberg Rotunda.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Adele Coelho at 273-2571 or at Register online here.

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.

Lunch a first step in dialogue on needs
of underrepresented URMC grad students, postdocs

The University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the SMD Center for Professional Development is sponsoring a lunch on September 29 to begin a dialogue around the needs of underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows across URMC disciplines. The goal is to develop the support necessary for their growth as successful researchers. As part of the conversation, leaders from the David T. Kearns Center Graduate Students of Color group will be present to help facilitate the dialogue.

Join us on Thursday from 12 to 1 p.m., in 3-7619, Upper S-Wing Auditorium, for a Dinosaur Bar-B-Que lunch, and to discuss how we can help address the needs of URMC underrepresented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

To RSVP and request accommodations, contact John P. Cullen, CTSI director of diversity and inclusion.

Workshop will show grad students how to apply for fellowships

An AS&E Graduate Studies workshop, from 4-6 p.m., September 30 in Sloan Auditorium, Georgen Hall will describe how the fellowship process works and provide real-world advice from fellow graduate students on how to be successful candidates.

This overview will include grant and fellowship preparation as well as institutional resources available to assist graduate students in preparing applications.

Presentations will be given by Dean Melissa Sturge-Apple, assistant deans Debra Haring and Cindy Gary, and staff from the College Writing, Speaking and Argument Center. Following the presentations, a panel of recent awardees will share their insights. Refreshments will be served.

RSVP by September 26 at

Mark your calendar

Today: Department of Neurology 50th anniversary celebration continues. Read more here.

Sept. 26: 5 p.m. deadline to submit initial abstracts for pilot awards from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute in three categories: Incubator Program, investigator-initiated and UNYTE, and novel biostatistical and epidemiologic methods.

Sept. 26-28: MEDTECH2016 Conference on Innovation Impact: Keeping New York's Finger on the Pulse. Join executives and senior leaders from New York State's bio/med industry who will focus on the need to re-think the way players interact in the healthcare market — from development through adoption — leveraging the strengths of nontraditional partnerships to produce groundbreaking results. Hilton Albany, 40 Lodge St., Albany, New York. Read more here.

Sept. 29: Lunch to address needs of underrepresented URMC grad students and postdocs. 12 to 1 p.m., 3-7619, Upper S-Wing Auditorium. To RSVP and request accommodations, contact John P. Cullen, CTSI Director of Diversity and Inclusion.

Sept. 29: Identifying journals for publication; avoiding predatory publishers. Noon to 1 p.m., Miner Classroom 1. Sign up here.

Sept. 30: "Community and Research Partnering to End the Epidemic," the 2016 Center for AIDS Research Scientific Symposium, 8 a.m. to noon, Class of '62 Auditorium. Click here for more information.

Sept. 30: AS&E workshop: Helping graduate students apply for fellowships. 4-6 p.m., Sloan Auditorium, Georgen Hall. RSVP by Sept. 26 at

Oct. 10: 5 p.m. deadline to indicate intent to apply for the CTSI Career Development Program (KL2 Scholars Program). Email Katie Libby. Click here for the full RFA. Full applications are due Nov. 11.

Oct. 11-13: "Symposium on Maladaptive Behaviors: Why We Make Bad Choices." Memorial Art Gallery. Keynote speaker: Trevor Robbins, head of pscyhology at Cambridge University. More than two dozen distinguished U.S. and international experts. Sponsored by the School of Medicine, the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, and the Silvio O. Conte Center. Click here to learn more.

Oct. 13: Phelps Colloquium: Stephen Uebbing, profesor of educational leadership at the Warner School presents "East Rising: An Intervention in a Struggling Urban School." 4 p.m., Eisenberg Rotunda. For more information or to RSVP, contact Adele Coelho at 273-2571 or at Register online here.

Oct. 21: 5 p.m. deadline to apply for Program of Excellence Awards of up to $50,000 each from the Center for AIDS Research, for collaborative projects involving co-PIs from the School of Nursing and from the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Click here for the full pilot announcement.

Oct. 31: Applications due for awards from Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation. Awards are for short-term, early-phase work by lab staff to allow investigators to translate their ideas into computer code or models, and to get new biocomputational/health­related scientific projects up and running. Click here to view the full RFA.

Nov. 1: Deadline to apply for a CTSI Population Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship. Click here for more information and application instructions.

Nov. 3: Phelps Colloquium: Alexander Pena, instructor with Eastman Community Music School and director of ROCmusic presents "Transforming our At-Risk Community through the Power of Music." 4 p.m., Max of Eastman Place. For more information or to RSVP, contact Adele Coelho at 273-2571 or at

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.