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Professor Timothy Dye prepares momos, a type of dumpling native to Nepal and Tibet, and discusses the importance of food culture to his research during a cooking demo for students in the community kitchen in Frederick Douglass Building. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Food for thought—and research

For many faculty members, summer is an especially important time to conduct research by living and working among people in different communities. Sometimes those communities are close to home, and other times far away from Rochester, both geographically and culturally.

Researchers such as Timothy Dye—a medical anthropologist and social epidemiologist at the Medical Center with an appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology—and Nadine Grimm, an assistant professor of linguistics who specializes in African languages—have conducted field research in remote communities where a key component of their work is gaining the trust of the people there.

There are many dimensions to gaining that trust, but among the most basic involves the sharing of food.

Dye recalls his first real-life lesson in the importance of eating local foods while working in remote communities. He was in the Kashmir region of the Himalayas about 30 years ago conducting surveys about diarrhea in the village children. After entering the first house, he turned on his tape recorder and began asking family members questions about their beliefs about the causes of the diarrhea and their treatments. But the interview was not going particularly well.

A woman ladled some chai into a metal cup and handed it to me. Sanitation was a huge issue in the village, so naturally I wondered about the milk and water that were mixed into the tea,” says Dye. “But I remembered a basic rule about doing field research in anthropology, which requires us to accept any offering of food or drink, lest we offend someone and risk an entire research project.”

Dye drank—then gulped—the warm tea, which he found to be rich and creamy, as well as satisfying in the cold, high-altitude environment. At that point, everyone broke into a more natural conversation, leaving the research questions for another—and more successful—day.

“For some communities, eating certain foods means that you’re a part of that nationality,” says Dye. “If you drink chang, a type of homemade beer in Tibet, it’s said you’re Tibetan.”

Depending on where he is working, Dye’s diet has also included snakes, wildebeests, insects, giraffes, and bats.

Nadine Grimm, who has studied languages in remote areas of South America and Africa, has enjoyed a similarly wide palette, which has included, for example, monkey and python.

“Eating local foods makes it easier to connect with indigenous communities,” she says. “Once they offer me food, I feel accepted, which makes it easier to do my research.”

It isn’t just the culinary choices that are different in these remote communities; it’s also the attitudes some cultures have toward food—and that includes the Bagyeli Pygmies, who are hunter/gatherers.

“For the Bagyeli Pygmies, the entire day is preoccupied with how they’ll get food,” says Grimm. “Sometimes they’re unlucky and don’t have enough food for themselves, let alone for a guest, which is why I stay in a nearby town and limit my meals with them.”

Because the availability of food varies greatly with the Bagyeli, dining with the community takes on added significance. “They gradually offered me better food items,” she says, “starting with steamed bread fruit and working their way up to wild meat.”

Click here to see a video and a couple of favorite recipes from Dye and Grimm.


University again ranks among top 100 worldwide for US utility patents

Among 100 global universities and colleges, the University is 61st this year for the number of US utility patents granted to researchers in 2017. The University jumped three spots from last year’s top 100 rankings, which are annually compiled by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, using data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  In calendar year 2017, University researchers received 42 utility patents, compared to 39 in 2016.

UR Ventures manages the commercialization of the intellectual property that arises from research at the University. Receiving a utility patent, which restricts others from making, using, or selling a form of innovation without authorization, is among the essential first steps toward a technology or product reaching the market.

The utility patents issued to University researchers in 2017 represent discoveries from many of the institution’s core research areas, including medical and diagnostic technologies, imaging, optics, materials, and vaccines. One example is a cancer treatment developed by Minsoo Kim, professor of microbiology and immunology and a Wilmot Cancer Institute investigator, which was issued a patent for the innovative use of light and optics to steer killer immune cells toward tumors during immunotherapy .

The rankings are one way to recognize the value of our research, especially in light of our size relative to the many larger universities on the list,” says Scott Catlin, associate vice president of technology ventures. “Each patent protects UR innovations, both during technical and business development, as well as once a product or service hits the market. They are an essential part of how the University gets a return on its research and government funding, as well as supporting our obligation to put our research to work for the wider benefit of humanity and the world.”

Ranked closely nearby Rochester in the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Patent Report are Hanyang University in South Korea with 42 U.S. patents; and Ohio State University and National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan with 41 patents each. The other New York state institutions in the top 100 are Cornell, Columbia, New York University, and the research foundations of SUNY and CUNY.  View the full list.


CTSI Career Development Awards announced

The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has selected the recipients of its Career Development Award, which provides two years of support to help early career scientists transition to independent careers as clinical and translational investigators. This year’s awardees will study suicide prevention among Hispanic populations and how the brain controls voluntary movements.

This year’s awardees are:

  • Kevin A. Mazurek, research assistant professor of neuroscience, whose project is “Determining how Cortical Areas Communicate Information to Perform Voluntary Movements.” Mazurek, whose primary mentor is John Foxe, professor of neuroscience, received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Brown University in 2008 and his doctorate in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2013. He studies the neural control of voluntary movements in order to develop rehabilitative solutions that can restore function to individuals with neurologic diseases by effectively bypassing impaired or damaged neural connections.
  • Caroline Silva, senior instructor of psychiatry, whose project is “Cultural Social Engagement and Suicide Ideation among Hispanic Outpatients.” Silva, whose primary mentor is Kimberly Van Orden, associate professor of psychiatry, completed her bachelor of arts in psychology at Harvard University and received her master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from Florida State University. Her program of research is centered on the prevention of suicide among Hispanics, and using the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide to inform the development and evaluation of suicide prevention interventions.

The UR CTSI Career Development Award Program releases its request for applications each September with applications due in November. View the 2018 RFA to learn more about applying for this opportunity.

The Career Development program is supported by a KL2 award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. Read more about the KL2 program, and check out a list of our current and past scholars.


Learn about Department of Defense research funding

Want to learn more about how the Department of Defense funds science, technology, and biomedical research and how to better engage with program officers?

An information session will be presented by experts in the field at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 19 in the School of Nursing’s Auditorium in Helen Wood Hall. The session will provide an opportunity to learn more about current research trends and strategic outlook, recommendations on how to engage with program officers, and ask proposal-specific questions.

The session is sponsored by Steve Dewhurst, vice dean for research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and associate vice president for Health Sciences Research, and by the University’s Office of Government & Community Relations.

Learn more here. RSVP by June 18 to Laurie Chiumento, director of federal relations, at Laurie_chiumento@urmc.rochester.edu or by calling 585-273-5955.


Mark your calendar

Today-June 16: Last two days of the “Provenance and Early Cinema: Preservation, Circulation, and Repurposing” conference. Click here for more details.

June 19: Information session on Department of Defense research funding, including current trends, how to engage program officers, Q&A. 1:30 p.m., School of Nursing Auditorium, Helen Wood Hall. Learn more here. RSVP by June 18 to Laurie Chiumento, director of federal relations, at Laurie_chiumento@urmc.rochester.edu or by calling 585-273-5955.

June 20:  “When Can a Computer Improve Your Social Skills?” M. Ehsan Hoque, interim director of the Goergen Institute, assistant professor of computer science, and Asaro Biggar (’92) Family Fellow in Data Science. Data Science Summer Colloquium Series, Goergen Institute for Data Science. Noon to 1 p.m., Wegmans Hall 1400. Open to all faculty, staff, students, and community members. Lunch included.

June 22: Deadline to apply for pilot and feasibility awards of up to $50,000 for innovative applications of technology (e.g. novel use of electronic health record data, wearable sensors, digital tools, human-machine interfaces, etc.) in research with human participants to yield new insights into clinical neuroscience. The Center for Health + Technology (CHeT), in conjunction with the Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience. For more information and to download the RFA, click here.

June 27: “Identifying Differences in GPUs Using Performance Data.” Sreepathi Pai, assistant professor of computer science. Data Science Summer Colloquium Series, Goergen Institute for Data Science. Noon to 1 p.m., Wegmans Hall 1400. Open to all faculty, staff, students, and community members. Lunch included.

July 11:  “Information Flow in Music.” David Temperley, professor of music theory at the Eastman School. Data Science Summer Colloquium Series, Goergen Institute for Data Science. Noon to 1 p.m., Wegmans Hall 1400. Open to all faculty, staff, students, and community members. Lunch included.

July 17: CIRC Summer School begins. Classes in programming languages and data analysis skills. VISTA Collaboratory. Click here to learn more and to register.

July 18:  “Physics of Complex Systems.” Gourab Ghoshal, assistant professor of physics. Data Science Summer Colloquium Series, Goergen Institute for Data Science. Noon to 1 p.m., Wegmans Hall 1400. Open to all faculty, staff, students, and community members. Lunch included.



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.