Images of research
This flow-based cell co-culturing system, used in the lab of James McGrath, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, helped McGrath and his colleagues demonstrate in a recent paper how ultrathin silicone membranes could drastically shrink the power source needed for miniaturized pumps used in "lab-on-a-chip" technology. The potential applications of this could revolutionize biotechnology, paving the way for highly portable, credit-card sized diagnostic devices. They might even be used to cool laptops and other portable electronic devices, which is a major challenge as more and more computing power is crammed into smaller and smaller devices. The flow-based cell co-culturing system consists of two chambers separated by a nanoporous silicon membrane. It allows researchers to perform in situ cell manipulation, optical imaging, and flow-based assays using minimal amounts of reagent. The ultrathin silicon membrane provides an excellent mimic of biological barrier properties. (Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester).
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Drones, computed tomography among tools of modern archaeologists
Movie fans whose perceptions of archaeology are based solely on Raiders of the Lost Ark would be astounded by the high-tech equipment and sophisticated software now used to document and preserve ancient objects, structures and communities. Several were described during presentations at last week's symposium on 3D Digital Archaeology at Eisenberg Rotunda.
For example, Luis Jaime Castillo described how he and his students at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP) routinely use drones and other specially modified "multicopters" to obtain hundreds of overhead photos of an archaeological site, which can then be woven together with sophisticated computer software to create a precise, 3D visualization to document the site.
Graeme Earl, Archaeologist with the University of Southhampton, showed how computed tomography enables researchers to obtain images of coins embedded in ancient Roman burial urns -- without having to disturb the sediment, bone fragments and other material that have filled the urns.
Rafael Aguilar, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, and UR almunus Benjamin Castaneda '09 (Ph.D.), Associate Professor of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at PUCP, include laser scanning in their arsenal of tools to create 3D models of the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) in northern Peru.
It is even possible to take a virtual online tour of Hadrian's Villa. The 30-building, 200-acre government retreat built during the Roman emperor's reign has been meticulously "restored" to what the best available research suggests it would have looked like in its prime.
Bernard Frischer, Director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory, which has collaborated on the NSF-funded project, said the presentation incorporates a NASA database that recreates the exact position of the sun at any given moment during AD 130. This has enabled researchers to verify long-held theories that the design of Hadrian's Villa incorporated intersections of shadow and architecture to commemorate key moments in the Roman calendar. Researchers have even uncovered previously unsuspected examples of this.
"None of this would be possible without the computer revolution," Frischer noted.
Did you know?
The UR was an appropriate setting for the symposium because much of the pioneering work that has led to 3D modeling of structures was conducted here in the 1970s and 1980s, noted Renato Perucchio, UR Professor of Mechanical Engineering and one of the symposium organizers. The Production Automation Project, directed by Herbert Voelcker and Ari Requicha of Electrical Engineering, developed fundamental algorithms for defining and operating on solid models. Perucchio was the last director of the project, which disbanded in 1987.
(Next: So why is this important?)
UR's Research Strategic Plan: Finding synergy in a carbon-neutral future
(One in a series of installments on the UR Research Strategic Plan for 2013-2018)
UR researchers have contributed to the quest for clean, sustainable energy in many ways. For example, they have reported progress in producing hydrogen fuel from solar energy . . . developed a device concept for turning waste heat into electrical energy . . pioneered energy efficient light displays . . . explored carbon monoxide levels from air trapped deep in the Greenland snowpack . . . developed one of the world's most powerful lasers that enables fundamental understanding of high density plasma physics important in development of fusion energy, and linked smog in Beijing to cardiovascular disease.
The University research strategic plan identifies "energy and the environment" as a top priority, because it:
1. bridges existing UR strengths in environmental science, energy technology, and environmental health. The University has highly regarded research programs in earth and environmental science, solar concentrators, photovoltaics, hydrogen fuel from water using solar energy, fuel cells, and biofuels. The Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) is world-renowned for laser fusion energy studies. The Medical School has strong programs aimed at understanding how emerging energy technology, such as hydrofracking, impacts human health.
2. offers possibilities of collaboration. At least 50 River Campus and Medical Center faculty members work on topics related to this field.
3. Has a likelihood of being funded. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has increased funding for initiatives that bridge geoscience, data science and related fields in engineering. The Obama Administration's requested increases of 5 percent for NSF in FY 2013 includes $203 million for clean energy alternatives, sustainable chemical and manufacturing practices, water conservation, ocean acidification, natural disaster prediction and response, and understanding the changes occurring in coastal and Arctic ecologies.
4. Includes promising research areas, such as: Carbon cycle modeling, climate modeling, earth surface processes, earth system analytics or simulations, catalytic CO2 reductions, novel battery technology, high energy density physics, more effective communication of scientific consensus to a "divided" public, role of inhalation of toxicants, role of childhood exposure to toxicants on subsequent development of adult diseases.
(Next: Data Science and analytics on demand.)
Click here to read the Research Strategic Plan in its entirety.
A new focus for disaster recovery
In 1963, the warnings of several experts were borne out: A massive landslide created a 200-meter tall wave of water in the lake created by the Vajont Dam north of Venice, Italy.
The water overtopped the dam, creating a "wave of death" that devastated the Piave Valley below, wiping out several villages and killing as many as 2,500 people.
In 2008, UNESCO identified this tragedy as one of five "cautionary tales" caused by "the failure of engineers and geologists." And Nancy Chin, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences, cited it during a recent Public Health Grand Rounds presentation as an example of how "social suffering" can impede a community's ability to recover after a disaster. Especially when less-privileged populations are put at risk when landscapes are irresponsibly altered and exploited for the sake of human profit.
The anguish of the Piave Valley survivors was compounded when
1. They were relocated 50 miles away and discouraged from returning and
2. The Italian government, which owned the dam, disavowed any responsibility for a disaster that clearly could have been prevented.
Not surprisingly, Chin noted, recovery for the survivors of this disaster was prolonged and painstaking because of the utter disregard for "place attachment, social networks, or the need for survivors' anguish to be heard."
Much of the research on disaster recovery focuses on treating the individual, Chin notes; however, the aftermath of the Vajont disaster, compared with the resilience shown by Italian villagers after a landslide in 1814, suggests a need for something more. "My specific goal is to refocus disaster analysis not only on the ensuing disorder and trauma, but on how communities recover from an anthropological perspective" and to "engage communities in constructing both physically and emotionally a new community."
Go to http://traumarecovery.tumblr.com/ to read Chin's blog describing how she researched the 1814 landslide.
Worth pondering . . .
Why pursue a Ph.D.? Philip Guo, who will be joining the Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor next fall, offers some very compelling reasons in a 12-minute video aimed specifically at students in STEM fields. His basic point is that, yes, a Ph.D. student trades off the monetary rewards of going directly into a professional career, but in doing so gains enormous freedom to:
1. make a name by initiating, collaborating on and promoting your own research,
2. fail repeatedly in an environment where failure is regarded as an opportunity to grow, not as a reason to be punished, and
3. choose from a larger pool of job opportunities when you graduate.
Still relevant after all these years
Most established democracies have actually witnessed declining voter turnout since the 1960s either because people were happy with their lot or disillusioned about what the elected would do for them, notes a blog at livemint.com and The Wall Street Journal. It cites a paper titled, "A Theory of the Calculus of Voting" in The American Political Science Review, by William H. Riker and Peter C. Ordeshook from the University of Rochester, who listed five major reasons why people vote:
1. complying with the social obligation to vote;
2. affirming one's allegiance to the political system;
3. affirming a partisan preference (also known as expressive voting, or voting for a candidate to express support, not to achieve any outcome);
4. affirming one's importance to the political system; and,
5. for those who find politics interesting and entertaining, researching and making a decision.
The Riker/Ordeshook paper, by the way, was published in 1968.
Medical Center joins infertility research network
The Medical Center is a new member of the Reproductive Medicine Network (RMN), a nationwide network of centers conducting infertility research, reports Research@URMC. Established in 1990 and funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the long-term goal of RMN is to improve the care of women and men with infertility and other reproductive disorders. Under the leadership of Kathleen Hoeger, Director of the Strong Fertility Center, URMC is partnering with Penn State -- one of six main RMN sites -- to recruit patients for clinical trials.
Researchers in the news
A study from Medical Center researchers shows that a neurologist in an office thousands of miles away can deliver effective specialized care via telemedicine to people with Parkinson's disease. "The idea that we can provide care to individuals with Parkinson's disease regardless of where they live is both a simple and revolutionary concept," said Ray Dorsey, Professor of Neurology and senior author of the study, which appeared in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.
Archibald Perkins, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has learned two things about research. One, it's uncertain. "The rewards are intermittent," Perkins tells the Democrat and Chronicle in a recent profile of his research on acute myeloid leukemia. "The setbacks are hard. Nature is complicated. It doesn't give up its secrets easily." The other thing he's learned? Don't say when the breakthrough will occur. "I've been in this business long enough. You're wary of making predictions."
Mark your calendar
Dec. 16: Deadline to apply for Global Innovation Initiative grants. NOTE: The UR Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) should have received an electronic proposal five days earlier with a completed and signed University sign-off form.
Dec. 18-19: Wilmot Cancer Center Town Hall Meetings to provide an update on Cancer Center news and a glimpse into plans for 2014, by Jonathan Friedberg, Director, and Hucky Land, Co-director. The meeting on the 18th is 4-5 p.m. at K307 Auditorium [3.6408]; the meeting on the 19th is 7:30-8:30 a.m., Wilmot Cancer Center main conference room [2.0727].
Jan. 24, 2014: Thomas Cech, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989 for discoveries of the catalytic properties of RNA, will be the keynote speaker at the 2014 Medical Scientist Research Symposium, a half-day event that also includes a poster session and wine and cheese reception. Cech's lecture will be at 1 p.m. in the Class of '62 Auditorium. The symposium is held to showcase the research and scientific accomplihments of the UR Medical Scientist Training Program.
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