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This image, from a 3D simulation of an experimental platform, shows two counter-streaming flows of plasma that go through the grids and collide in the center to form a hot, turbulent region where turbulent dynamo can operate.

Elusive ‘turbulent dynamo’ phenomenon observed at OMEGA

To explain the magnetization of the universe—or, rather, how tiny, primordial “seed” fields grew to astronomical proportions—scientists have proposed the existence of a phenomenon called “turbulent dynamo.”

The phenomenon has never before been actually measured or observed directly—until recently, when an international group of scientists from universities and laboratories across the globe, including Rochester, demonstrated its existence through a series of experiments carried out on the OMEGA laser at Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). The group reported their findings in an article in Nature Communications.

“Studying turbulent dynamo can help us understand how the universe was formed and how energy is partitioned within the universe,” says Dustin Froula, a senior scientist at Rochester’s laser lab and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

A turbulent dynamo is like a rotating fluid, much like water spinning as it flows down a drain. If it were possible to attach a piece of string to water as it begins to rotate, the spinning motion would tie the string into knots.

Now imagine the water represented a plasma—a form of matter where the electrons are no longer bound to their ions and that is typically found at very high temperatures—and the string represented the magnetic field lines. The tighter the knots—or rather, the circular motions of electrons—the stronger the magnetic field.

The challenge was to produce a plasma with high enough temperatures and strong enough turbulence that the turbulent dynamo mechanism could operate, and then retain this state for long enough that the mechanism could amplify seed magnetic fields.

The collaboration included a five-year experimental effort to study magnetized turbulence in smaller-scale laser facilities and culminated in experiments at the Omega Laser Facility, where researchers used laser beams with the power equivalent to 100 trillion laser pointers.  The researchers measured the plasma temperature, turbulent velocities, and magnetic fields using an innovative Thomson scattering system developed at Rochester.

“Fundamentally, if you have a plasma and send laser beam light into the plasma, the plasma will scatter that light,” Froula says. “If you look at the frequency of the scattered light, it will have characteristics of the plasma. From those characteristics, we are able to measure the magnetic field strength.”

Innovations from other universities were critical components in the mix. In true collaborative fashion, the team performed numerical simulations to design and interpret the experiments using a FLASH simulation code developed at the University of Chicago, and they measured the magnetic field using protons fired through magnetized plasma, a technique developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Says Don Lamb, a professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, who has long been involved in research on turbulent dynamo and other mysteries of high-energy astrophysics: “The combination of numerical simulations using FLASH and the high laser power, high-shot rate and the wealth of diagnostics at the Omega Laser Facility at LLE made this breakthrough possible.”

Statement from Interim President Designate Richard Feldman on LLE and President Trump’s FY19 budget request

The University was disappointed to learn that the Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposes a significant cut to the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) in FY19 and “a three-year ramp-down” in federal support. We are trying to make sense of this proposal, which jeopardizes the cutting-edge science and world-class education being conducted at the Lab.

The Lab is exceeding all its scientific milestones set by the U.S. Department of Energy and has grown to be DOE’s largest university-based research center in the nation. It is home to the DOE’s National Laser Users’ Facility, which brings more than 400 scientists from across the country and the world to Rochester to use its facility, and is in the final stages of its renewal of its 5-year, $345M Cooperative Agreement with the federal government. In addition to the more than 350 highly skilled scientific and engineering staff, over 100 students from multiple institutions are conducting research on LLE’s state of the art laser facilities.

Although we are concerned by these developments, we are encouraged by the historic, strong bipartisan support the LLE has enjoyed from the New York Congressional delegation, the State of New York, and the U.S. Congress, which recognizes the significant contributions the LLE makes to national and economic security, as well as the strategic work being done that can lead to an independent energy future.

We thank and acknowledge our Congressional delegation for their consistent leadership and support. We are also heartened by the recent two-year bipartisan budget agreement agreed to by Congress that provides increased funding for university-based scientific research. We look forward to working with our delegation to provide robust, sustainable support for the LLE in FY18 and FY19 and avert this potentially devastating cut so it can maintain U.S. global leadership and security and continue to be an engine for regional economic growth and innovation.

$1.5M donation funds nutrition research program

Highland Hospital will receive a $1.5 million donation from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies for a new nutrition research program. Led by Thomas M. Campbell II and Erin Campbell, the research will focus on plant-based nutrition and will be part of Highland’s new Weight Management & Lifestyle Center.

Initial research done through the center will focus on nutrition and cancer. The pilot project will be a first-of-its-kind study that looks at the effects of plant-based nutrition in patients with advanced breast cancer, who are also receiving conventional therapy. The Center plans to do additional studies on nutrition as an intervention in a variety of diseases, partnering with experts in various specialties at the University.

“This funding and research will be crucial for patients and their families both here in Rochester and beyond,” said Cindy Becker, vice president and COO of Highland Hospital. “We are both honored and excited that Highland can provide a home for these potentially ground breaking studies.”

Read more here.

Congratulations to . . .

Lynne Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who is the recipient of the 2018 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences. The award honors scientists who challenge accepted thinking and work tirelessly to open new fields of research and understanding in the biomedical sciences. The founding director of the Center for RNA Biology, Maquat is an international leader in deciphering the many roles that RNA plays in sickness and in health and is credited with several major discoveries that are informing a new generation of therapies for a wide range of genetic disorders. The Wiley Prize Jury singled out Maquat for her work on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD), an important surveillance system in the body that protects against mistakes in gene expression that lead to disease. She acknowledges continuous support from the National Institutes of Health for the past 35 years, without which her research would not have been possible. Read more here.

Three-Minute Thesis competition open to all disciplines

Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic competition that challenges doctoral students and postdoctoral appointees to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience.

3MT celebrates the discoveries made by research trainees and encourages them to communicate the importance of their research to the broader community.

Registration, which is open March 12 to 16—is limited to 80 participants across all University graduate schools.

The elimination round will be held March 29; the final competition will be April 12.

The winner receives a $750 research travel award. The runner-up receives a $500 research travel award. There is also a People’s Choice $250 research travel award.

PhD dissertation defenses

Yang Cheng, Genetics, “Genetic and Pharmacological Regulation of Epigenetic Aging.” 9:30 a.m. February 27, 2018. Medical Center 3-6408 K-307 Auditorium. Advisor: Dirk Bohmann.

Zhonghe Ke, Biology, “Stem Cell Maintenance in Naked Mole Rats and other Longevity Mechanisms in Rodents.” 12:30 p.m. February 28, 2018. Hutchison Hall 473. Advisor: Andrei Seluanov.

Shujie Chen, Electrical Engineering, “Enhanced Resolution Pulse-echo Imaging.” 1 p.m. March 9, 2018. Hopeman 224. Advisor: Kevin Parker.

Mark your calendar

Today: Deadline to apply for University Research Awards. The Request for Proposals and application are available here. Completed applications should be directed to

Today: Deadline to apply for AS&E PumpPrimer II Awards, which provide seed money to stimulate extramural funding for innovative and high-risk projects otherwise difficult to launch. Faculty in Arts & Science should refer questions to Debra Haring, and those in Engineering to Cindy Gary.

March 1: “Doing Better Next Time: Policy Lessons from the Great Recession and Not-So-Great Recovery.” Presented by Narayana Kocherlakota, Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics. Phelps Colloquium Series. 4-5:30 p.m., location TBD. Click here to register.

March 2: Deadline to apply for Bridging Fellowships from the Provost’s Office. Direct questions on the fellowship and application process to Marisa Wilson.

March 5: Applications due for pilot and feasibility awards of up to $50,000 for basic science and translational projects that advance our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, through the Rochester Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, in conjunction with the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. Click here for additional information and RFA.

March 7: “Helping Babies Breathe” by Nirupam Laroia, professor of pediatrics, who will describe her experiences with the global health initiative for decreasing infant mortality. 18th Annual Anne E. Dyson Memorial Grand Rounds and Child Advocacy Forum. 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Class of ’62 Auditorium.

March 19: Deadline to submit nominations for the Furth Award, given to junior, tenure track faculty appointed in natural or biological science departments within Arts, Sciences & Engineering or the School of Medicine and Dentistry.  Read more here.

April 12: “The American Health Paradox: What’s Missing?” Presented by Nancy Bennett, professor of medicine and public health sciences, director of the Center for Community Health, and co-director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Phelps Colloquium Series. 4-5:30 p.m., Helen Wood Hall. Click here to register.

April 20-21: UpStat 2018: Better Living Through Statistics conference. A friendly and empowering annual gathering of statisticians, applied mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers, and data scientists from upstate New York and its neighboring regions. We are interested in contributions to statistical methodology as well as to statistical practice, consulting, and education. Read more.

April 28: All In: When Theory Meets Practice in Education Reform. Symposium sponsored by the Warner School Center for Urban Education Success (CUES). 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., East High School. Free and open to the public. Read more.

May 15: Respiratory Pathogens Research Center Scientific Symposium. Featured speakers, lectures by RPRC investigators, poster session. Lunch and refreshments provided. 7:45 a.m. to 6:30 pm., Saunders Research Building. Registration is free, but pre-registration is required by April 27 at

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections on the Newsletters website.

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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.