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Join us in shaping how we build and embrace community

(Input from faculty, staff, and students is vital to the University’s strategic planning now underway. This is the last in a series looking at key areas in which faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to submit ideas for new research initiatives, or for policies, practices, or resources that will strengthen the University’s competitive position as a premier research institution. The deadline to submit suggestions is today.)

As an anchor for the city of Rochester and a global center for education, research, health care, innovation, and economic development, the University will foster connections and develop an environment that welcomes, encourages, and supports a diverse community and that strengthens and promotes our contributions to positively impact the city of Rochester, the Finger Lakes region, the state, the nation, and the world.

A working group has focused on several core strategies and projects that we are considering as we refine our recommendations to University leadership. These include:

  • Accelerate efforts to implement the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Race and Diversity.
  • Enhance the visibility and coordination of community-based scholarship and research.
  • Create a more welcoming environment for faculty, staff, and students who come from diverse backgrounds.
  • Continue the work of transforming East High School, extending the program to Pre-K through 5 by partnering with a neighborhood elementary school and developing a sustainable model for successful urban education.
  • Actively engage with and support the region’s antipoverty effort (RMAPI) and especially the targeted efforts focused on the Beechwood and Marketview Heights neighborhoods through the Connected Communities initiative.
  • Strengthen the University’s presence in downtown Rochester, focusing on existing opportunities to include Sibley, Block F, and the Memorial Art Gallery.
  • Play a leadership role in the region’s economic development efforts.
  • Establish technology commercialization and the growth of companies and jobs in the region as a priority for the University with a focus on enhancing the role and visibility of existing University assets, High Tech Rochester and Excell Partners.
  • Enhance the availability of data and analytics that reflect our activities in all of the communities we engage with to include local, state, national, and global settings.
  • Proactively work to improve our ranking as a global university.
  • Enhance our reputation as a community-engaged institution.

We are soliciting input to develop additional thrusts in how we build and embrace community. All submissions will remain anonymous unless a direct response is requested. Click here to submit a suggestion by end of today. The suggestion form can be submitted more than once if you have multiple ideas.

Do Old Order Mennonites hold the key to understanding food allergies?

The Medical Center is embarking on a $2.4 million study focused on a population that is virtually immune to food allergies: the Old Order Mennonite Community.

Fewer than 1 percent of Old Order Mennonites have food allergies, asthma, and other allergic diseases, which researchers believe is the result of several significant lifestyle differences from the general population. Overall, 1 in 13 American children — about 8 percent — develop a food allergy.

The study, led by Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, associate professor of pediatric allergy/immunology, will compare immune system development in Old Order Mennonite infants with that of infants who are considered high-risk for developing a food allergy.

“Individuals in the Old Order Mennonite community live on farms, avoid antibiotics, and deliver their babies at home — and as a result, they are exposed to a variety of bacteria that those living in the city or suburbs don’t come into contact with,” says Jarvinen-Seppo. “We believe that differences in lifestyles between these two groups affects how their immune systems develop and as a result, their susceptibility to food allergies.”

Broadly, the work dovetails with the ubiquitous “hygiene hypothesis,” which posits that children who grow up in a super-clean environment aren’t exposed to the microorganisms that would stimulate their immune system to develop natural tolerances for certain substances.

Read more here.

Congenital heart disease genes found in children with autism, other conditions

Mutated genes present in many patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) are also often found in patients with autism and certain respiratory disorders, according to an extensive analysis of genes from 2,871 congenital heart disease patients and their families, reports the Research@URMC blog.

The research, published last month in the journal Nature Genetics, is the third major publication generated by the Pediatric Cardiac Genomics Consortium (PCGC), a group of 10 centers in the United States and London, including the Medical Center. The center’s goal is to identify genetic causes of CHD.

“It has long been apparent that there is a connection between the developing heart and brain — that patients who have challenges in one area often have challenges in the other — and now we have genetic proof,” says George Porter, associate professor of pediatrics/cardiology and an author of the paper.

The PCGC’s research has enrolled 11,333 patients; Porter and Eileen Taillie, the local study coordinator, have recruited 573 of those patients from the Medical Center and associated pediatric cardiologists in Buffalo and Syracuse. The group conducts a range of genetic tests on selected groups of these patients, with the most significant results thus far coming from whole exome sequencing on more than 3,000 patients with complex CHD and their families. The ongoing project represents the most robust genetic analysis ever performed on patients with CHD, which affects about 1 percent of babies.

“Clinically, this is the next step toward a more personalized approach for patients with CHD,” says Porter. “One possibility: you could potentially create a panel of genes to test in patients with CHD, and if you find one that also affects learning, for example, you could intervene earlier.”

The paper’s co-senior authors are Martina Brueckner of the Yale School of Medicine and Christine Seidman of Harvard Medical School.

Quantum magic makes quick work of measuring frequency

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, Andrew Jordan, professor of physics, and his colleagues at Washington University, St. Louis, have demonstrated that quantum physics can be used to measure frequency more precisely and quickly. This could have applications in areas such as more precise clocks and GPS systems, sharper and quicker MRI medical imaging devices, and more exact analysis of light emitting from stars.

“Our technique uses a quantum system to permit enhanced resolution of the frequency beyond any other technique of its kind,” Jordan says.

Frequency is a direct measurement of repeating events over time; the certainty of a frequency increases proportionately as time increases. For instance, an accurate analog clock ticks with a frequency of one tick per second. The longer you let the clock tick, the better you will be able to determine if the clock is accurate. Similarly, if you play a low note on the piano very fast, it is difficult to assign it a precise frequency. The longer one hears a note, the more precisely one can determine its frequency.

But what if you could determine an extremely accurate frequency in a shorter amount of time?

This is what Jordan and his colleagues did by applying quantum “tricks” to establish more precise frequencies for things such as clocks, sound waves, and electromagnetic radiation in a proportionally much lower time frame than classic physics technologies allow.

To perform this quantum magic, the researchers measured the frequency of a signal—such as a pendulum on a grandfather clock—using a quantum bit, the smallest unit of quantum information, analogous to a binary digit bit in a standard computer. In quantum physics, particles do not have definite states as they do in classical physics. Instead, they have probabilities of being one thing or another. Using these strange rules of quantum mechanics, researchers were able to put a quantum bit in a superposition of two different energy states at the same time, then shift around these states in time with the measured system in order to measure the frequency.

Read more and see a video here.

A looming pandemic: Parkinson's disease

New research shows that the number of people with Parkinson’s disease will soon grow to pandemic proportions.  In a commentary in JAMA Neurology, Ray Dorsey, a Medical Center neurologist, and Bastiaan Bloem, with Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, argue that the medical community must be mobilized to respond to this impending public health threat.

“Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases like Zika, influenza, and HIV,” says Dorsey.  “But neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world and the fastest growing is Parkinson’s disease.”

The piece builds upon the Global Burden of Disease study, also co-authored by Dorsey, which appeared in The Lancet Neurology in September and showed that neurological disorders are now the leading source of disability globally.

In their commentary, the authors point out that between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s more than doubled and it is estimated that 6.9 million people across the globe have the disease.  By 2040, researchers believe that the number of people with Parkinson’s will grow to 14.2 million as the population ages and that the rate of growth will outpace Alzheimer’s.  These estimates are likely conservative due under reporting, misdiagnosis, and increasing life expectancy.

To combat this growing pandemic, the authors argue that the medical community should pursue the same strategies that, in 15 years, transformed HIV from an unknown and fatal illness into a highly treatable chronic condition.

People with HIV infection simply demanded better treatments and successfully rallied for both awareness and new treatments, literally chaining themselves to the doors of pharmaceutical companies,” said Bloem. “Today, HIV has become a treatable, chronic disease. This upcoming increase in the number of Parkinson patients is striking and frankly worrisome. We feel it is urgent that people with Parkinson’s go to the pharmaceutical industry and policymakers alike, demanding immediate action to fight this enormous threat.”

Read more here.

Congratulations to . . .

Medical Center cardiologist Arthur J. Moss, whose research on cardiac arrhythmias has saved countless lives and changed the treatment of heart disease worldwide, and who recently was honored with the 2017 James B. Herrick Award at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions. The award is given annually to a physician whose scientific achievements have contributed profoundly to the advancement and practice of clinical cardiology. Moss, the Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine, spearheaded the research that led to the widespread use of the implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a device that shocks the heart back into proper rhythm when a dangerous arrhythmia is detected. By following generations of patients with Long QT syndrome, he also changed the trajectory of this potentially fatal heart rhythm disorder. His work has led to knowledge of risk factors that enable early diagnosis; the discovery of multiple treatment options that decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death; the creation of the International LQTS Registry — one of the first gene registries for any disease in the world; and the identification of 16 genes associated with the disorder. Read more here.

Introducing a new faculty member

Emily Jusino joins the Department of Religion and Classics as an assistant professor after visiting assistant professorships at Rochester and at Duke University. Her research interests focus on ancient drama and storytelling, specifically on issues of reception, performance, and dramatic construction in Greek tragedy. Her current book project, Deception in Sophoclean Dramaturgy, examines how Sophocles uses deceptive or misleading information to create dramatic tension, deepen characterizations, and manipulate audience expectations, and contextualizes that usage in Greek literature more broadly. She received her PhD at the University of Chicago.

November 29 info session on Public Humanities Fellowship

Graduate students interested in applying for the Public Humanities Fellowship  are invited to attend an informational meeting with Adam Capitanio, the Humanities New York program officer responsible for this fellowship, at 4 p.m., November 29 in the Humanities Center conference room B.

The fellowship is offered by Humanities New York with support from the Mellon Foundation. Here is a link to learn more and see the call for applications.

PhD dissertation defenses

Anthony Thomas DiPiazza, Microbiology and Immunology, “Insights into CD4 T Cell-Mediated Immunity to Influenza Viruses.” 2:30 p.m. November 20, 2017. Medical Center K307 (3-6408). Host: Andrea Sant.

Eric Michael Schott, Pathology, “The Pathobiology of Osteoarthritis in Obesity: The Role of Synovial Inflammation, Joint Insulin Resistance, and Dysbiosis of the Gut Microbiome.” 9 a.m. December 5, 2017. Medical Center 3-7619 Upper Adolph. Host Robert Mooney.

Margaret Barlow, Pathology, “Effects of Total-Body vs. Localized Radiation Exposure on the Immune System.” 8:45 a.m., December 7, 2017. Medical Center K-307 (3-6408). Host: Edith Lord.

Lauren Jesse Campbell, Health Services Research and Policy, “Impact of Public Reporting on Racial/Ethnic Disparities in 30 day Re-hospitalizations.” 8:45 a.m., December 22, 2017. Helen Wood Hall 1W509. Host: Yue Li.

Enjoy Thanksiving!

The next issue of Research Connections will be December 1.

Mark your calendar

Today: Center for Integrated Research Computing (CIRC) symposium, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wegmans Hall 1400. Elliot Inman from SAS Institute Inc. will discuss machine learning and the role of data scientists and other researchers in the future of computational science. Sreyoshi Sur from the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics will demonstrate some recent results from molecular dynamics simulations of a lipopeptide. Lunch will be provided.

Today: Deadline to submit ideas to the Lead through Research Strategic Plan Working Group for big-picture, transformational initiatives that will make the University an even more vibrant and impactful intellectual community in the future. Read more here.

Today and tomorrow: The Future(s) of Microhistory: A Symposium. Nearly two dozen scholars from Rochester, the US, and abroad examine the relevancy of studying individual lives to provide insight into the larger patterns and structures of history. Hawkins-Carlson Room. Click here for details about the schedule and participating scholars.

Nov. 20: “Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussions,” discussion with panelists Jeffrey Bazarian (Emergency Medicine), Mark Mirabelli (Orthopaedics),  and Brian Blyth (Emergency Medicine). Noon. Medical Center Specialty Room 2-7536, PONS Luncheon Roundtable Series. Refreshments provided.

Nov. 29: Information session on the Public Humanities Fellowship, featuring Adam Capitanio, the Humanities New York program officer responsible for this fellowship. 4 p.m., Humanities Center conference room B. Here is a link to learn more and see the call for applications.

Nov. 30: “Converting Water into Fuel: Natural and Artificial Photosynthesis.” Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar lecture by Victor Batista, professor of chemistry at Yale University. Free and open to public. 5 p.m., Goergen Hall 101.

Nov. 30: Jesse L. Rosenberger Faculty Work-in-Progress Seminar. Evelyne LeBlanc-Roberge, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History: “Les attentes (The Waiting),” a multimedia project examining the architecture and our relationship to waiting rooms. Humanities Center Conference Room D. Lunch is served. 

Dec. 1: Deadline to apply for UNYTE pipeline pilot awards from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, aimed at stimulating research partnerships between UNYTE member institutions. Click here for more information about the UNYTE Translational Research Network including partner institutions. Click here for the full RFA.

Dec. 1: Center for AIDS Research ninth annual HIV/AID Scientific Symposium. Keynote speakers and poster session. Click here for more information. Contact Laura Enders for more information about World AIDS Day events.

Dec. 6: Science, Technology, and Culture book club discusses Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. 5 to 6 p.m. Humanities Center lobby (Rush Rhees Library). Email for more information.

Dec. 7: “Including Disability in the Diversity Conversation.” Susan Hetherington, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities.  Phelps Colloquium. 4 to 5:30 p.m. Evarts Lounge, Helen Wood Hall, School of Nursing. Click here to register.

Dec. 8: “Data for Good.” Lecture by Jeannette M. Wing, director of the Data Science Institute and professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. 11 a.m., 1400 Wegmans Hall.

Dec.13: Jesse L. Rosenberger Faculty Work-in-Progress Seminar. Matt BaileyShea, associate professor of music theory: “‘Close / in midst of this…’: Lines, Phrases, and Syntax in Song.” Humanities Center Conference Room D. Lunch is served.

Dec. 15: Deadline to apply for a post-doctoral cancer research fellowship from Wilmot Cancer Institute. Go to the Wilmot Cancer Institute website for additional information and application. Contact Pam Iadarola at or 585-275-1537 with any questions.


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.