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Art, science combine to detect 'authorship' of historic structures

For seven days in July, Prof. Peter Christensen, Eitan Freedenberg and Alana Wolf-Johnson, drove through the prairie provinces of Canada with a high-tech 3D scanner and a suitcase full of white precision molded spheres, capturing the subtle differences in how old train stations were built.

The three University researchers hope to give voice to the people who, Christensen notes, "typically get written out of the historical record" — the often illiterate, poorly paid workers who actually constructed the historic structures that dot our landscape. In the process these workers often added their own flourishes to the standardized building designs they were given — flourishes that tell us much about their own heritage and local traditions.

Christensen, an Assistant Professor of Art History, and Freedenberg and Wolf-Johnson, both graduate students in Visual and Cultural Studies, also will collaborate with Prof. Gaurav Sharma in Electrical and Computer Engineering to develop a computational tool that will allow researchers to compare incredibly detailed scans of other ostensibly similar, mass-produced objects for their own flourishes of individual "authorship" — be they Faberge eggs, mail-order houses, or Shaker chairs.

Their project, funded with a University Research Award, grew out of Christensen's work as a graduate student. He studied the German construction of the Ottoman Railway network in Turkey from 1876 to 1919 — not for its political or economic ramifications, but for its architectural significance.

For example, German architects in Frankfurt developed standardized designs for the train stations — one for villages of 20,000 people or less, another for towns and cities of 20,000 to 60,000, and so forth — that were supposed to be faithfully replicated all along the line. But as Christensen traveled along the railway, taking photographs, he couldn't help noticing subtle differences from one station to a supposedly identical station farther along — in the way the stone was cut, or the way windows were detailed, during their actual construction.

By studying pay records, Christensen was able to trace many of these differences to the ethnic composition of the villages that provided the day laborers to build their respective stations. "The Ottoman Empire was an incredibly multicultural empire," Christensen said. "It had Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian, Greek and Arab populations. These were often self-contained communities with very embedded building traditions."

And these traditions are reflected in many of the differences Christensen observed.

In an "ah-hah" moment, Christensen explained, he resolved to combine this "biometric" approach to architecture with the advanced capabilities of 3D scanning. He would test this not just in Turkey, which the team will visit in October, but in Canada, where populations of Scandinavian, Chinese, Native American, and Eastern and Central European descent provided the workforce as the railroads inched westward in the late 19th century — and likely provided their own flourishes of authorship to standardized train station designs issued out of Toronto or Ottawa.

Click here to see other images from the trip.

(Next: Incredibly detailed scans pose a computational challenge.)

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

Confidence in parenting could break cycle of abuse

Mothers who experienced more types of abuse as children — sexual abuse, physical or emotional abuse, and physical or emotional neglect — have higher levels of self-criticism, and therefore greater doubt in their ability to be effective parents, according to a study conducted at the University's Mt. Hope Family Center and published online in Child Maltreatment.

"We know that maltreated children can have really low self-esteem," said Louisa Michl, the lead researcher in the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology. "And when they become adults, we've found that some of these moms become highly self-critical about their ability to parent effectively. Research has shown that this type of self-doubt is related to poor parenting — yelling, hitting, and other kinds of negative parenting behaviors."

Intervention programs for moms at-risk, therefore, should focus on bolstering mothers' self-confidence — not just teach parenting skills, the researchers said.

"So many parenting interventions are didactic. They're teaching parenting skills: 'if your baby cries, do this'; 'this is how you feed your baby'; 'this is how you burp your baby,'" said Michl.

"That's all well and good — moms can learn those skills. But what happens when they are in a stressful situation? What do they do? If they don't have the attitude — the belief that they can do this, that they can be a good mom and enact all those things they learned — then they may fall back on how they themselves were treated as children." Read more . . .

Lung Biology Strategic Plan offers grant opportunities

The Lung Biology Strategic Plan will award $30,000 in direct costs for one year to a high-risk project related to lung biology or disease or $15,000 to a nanosight technology-focused project using NS300 technology. Applications are due Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. and must include, but are not limited to, the study of ceramic and metallic nanoparticles, biological particles, liposomes, viruses, colloidal suspensions, polymer particles, and nanotoxicology studies. Email Richard Phipps or Rebecca Trautman for more information. Click here to see the full RFP.

SCORE will look at use of social media in research recruitment

Donna Berryman, Senior Associate Director of Miner Library and Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences, will discuss "Using Social Media in Research Recruitment" at the next Study Coordinators Organization for Research & Education (SCORE) meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m., Sept. 10, in Helen Wood Hall, Room 1W-501.

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute also provides recruitment tools on the research subject recruitment and retention website.

Seminar series examines regulatory science

A key objective of the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is to support innovation across the entire medical product development pathway. This includes the need to ensure medical products are safe and effective. The academic research community has an opportunity to speed the development and approval of beneficial medical products by collaborating with the FDA, industry and other academic partners in the field of Regulatory Science.

This fall the CTSI Seminar Series will highlight and bring to the University regulatory science leaders who are working to address these issues. The series begins Tuesday, Sept. 8, when Joan Adamo, Associate Director for CTSI Regulatory Support Services, and Scott Steele, Director of Government and Academic Research Alliances, discuss Regulatory Science Research and Core Competencies from noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304). Read more about the seminar series in the CTSI Stories Blog.

Introducing a new faculty member

Amanda Larracuente joins the Department of Biology as an assistant professor. Larracuente researches the mutational and population genetic forces that shape genome evolution, organization, and content. She is interested in the most enigmatic features of eukaryotic genomes, including Y chromosomes and evolutionarily "selfish" DNAs (genetic entities that parasitize genomes). Her lab uses computational, population genomic, cytological, and molecular methods and Drosophila fruit fly species as models. She received her degree in biology from Canisius College and her PhD in genetics from Cornell University in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Larracuente was a postdoctoral researcher at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2009 to 2011 and, later, a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Rochester.

UR research in the news

Low- and middle-income countries see millions of cases of breast and cervical cancer each year, but much of the research on these diseases is based in wealthier countries that have far greater resources and treatment options available, according to a review of existing research by the Global and Territorial Health Research Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The network's coordinating center is based at the University of Rochester. The research disparity means gaps in our understanding of these cancers, since they may behave differently based on patients' geography, culture and local medical practices. Recommendations and protocols based on research conducted outside of low- and middle-income countries may or may not be practical or even possible. Without this fundamental knowledge, patients in these regions may often suffer preventable illness and death. "We're arguing for more research to be done in low- and middle-income countries so prevention and treatment strategies there can be more evidence-based," said Timothy Dye, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and principal investigator of the CDC's Global and Territorial Health Research Network Coordinating Center. Dye is corresponding author of the review, published in PLoSOne, a peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science. Read more . . .

The University's Medical Center has been selected as the coordinating center for data collection in a 60-site clinical study to investigate whether the drug inosine can slow early Parkinson's disease. David Oakes, Professor of Biostatistics and Statistics in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, will facilitate data coordination with study chair Michael A. Schwarzschild, a neurobiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded the five-year, $26 million project. The University will receive a $6 million. Previous research has shown that when Parkinson's patients have higher levels of the antioxidant urate in their blood, symptoms of the disease do not worsen as quickly as in patients who have lower urate levels. Inosine (a pill), is a supplement that already has been tested in a phase 2 trial. It showed that inosine was safe, tolerable, and raised urate levels in people with the early stage Parkinson's disease. The goal of the newly funded phase 3 study is learning whether inosine will boost urate levels enough to delay the progression of Parkinson's disease over two years. Read more . . .

A treatment regimen that combines two FDA-approved drugs significantly reduced hospitalizations in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and causes breathing problems, chest pain, heart failure and death. This is the first time the two drugs, currently used on their own to treat PAH, have been tested together in a large-scale, randomized clinical trial, and the results suggest that the combination is superior to either drug alone. Just four percent of patients who received the combination therapy were hospitalized for worsening disease compared to 12 percent of patients who took ambrisentan or tadalafil on their own. "These results are very exciting because they show that upfront treatment with these two once-daily tablets led to better outcomes for newly diagnosed PAH patients," said R. James White, Associate Professor of Medicine and an author of the new study. "This regimen is not a cure and it is not going to work for everybody, but it is a substantial step forward compared to previous therapies that required frequent daily dosing or monthly blood work." Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defense

Christopher Favaro, Chemistry, "Silver Nanoparticle Films as a Light Scattering Medium for Optical Extraction Enhancement in Organic Light-Emitting Diodes." 1 p.m., Sept. 11, 2015, 473 Hutchison Hall. Advisor: Lewis Rothberg.

Mark your calendar

Today: Graduate Student Grantsmanship Forum, Hawkins-Carlson Room, 10 a.m. to noon. A light breakfast will be served. Learn more here.

Sept. 8: Regulatory Science Research and Core Competencies, presented by Joan Adamo, Associate Director for CTSI Regulatory Support Services and Scott Steele, Director of Government and Academic Research Alliances. CTSI Seminar Series. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304).

Sept. 10: NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Workshop in Hawkins-Carlson Room, 4-5:30 p.m. Learn more here.

Sept. 10: "Using Social Media in Research Recruitment," Donna Berryman, Senior Associate Director of Miner Library and Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences. Study Coordinators Organization for Research & Education (SCORE) meeting. Noon to 1:30 p.m., Helen Wood Hall, Room 1W-501.

Sept. 15: Advancing Regulatory Science at the FDA. Carol Linden, Director, Office of Regulatory Science and Innovation, FDA. CTSI Seminar Series. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304).

Sept. 17: Retraining Damaged Brains: A Personal Journey, Krystel Huxlin, Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Research, Flaum Eye Institute. Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) Meeting. 3-4 pm, MC 1-9576 (Case Method Room).

Sept. 22: Michael Rosenblatt, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, MERCK. Regulating Science and Translational Research: Innovation to meet patients' needs. CTSI Seminar Series. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1W-304).

Sept 24: Environmental Health Sciences Research Day seminar, celebrating 50 years of Environmental Health Sciences research at The University of Rochester. Various seminars on the EHSC History, new research, community impact, and a poster session. 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Class of 62 Auditorium.

Sept. 30: Industry Consulting: Part One, Karl Kieburtz, CTSI director. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium (1-304). Part of the series on Good Advice: Case Studies in Clinical Research, Regulation, and the Law.

Oct. 2: Applications due for a $30,000 award and a $15,000 award from the Lung Biology Strategic Plan for a high-risk project related to lung biology or disease or a nanosight technology-focused project using NS300 technology. Email Richard Phipps or Rebecca Trautman for more information. Click here to see the full RFP.

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

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.

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.