In this edition of Research Connections, find links to researchers in the news, updates on important deadlines, and more news for University of Rochester researchers. Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.
Participants at an OS Fermentation Workshop led by Asst. Prof. Cary Peppermint and Lecturer Leila Nadir learn that "eating decomposing vegetables is actually good for them," and that the ethical hacking of free and open-source operating systems enables them to create their own apps to spread the word.

Helping people become self-reliant producers of food and media

An OS Fermentation Workshop, led by Cary Peppermint and Leila Nadir, may require a leap of faith by some of its participants.

They must resist the impulse to wash off the organically grown cabbage they're about to turn into sauerkraut; they must accept the fact that the bacteria on the plants is not only harmless but essential to the fermentation process, and will support the health of their bodies. And they must embrace the innovative idea that learning to creatively program and design digital media apps is conceptually not so different from learning to process and consume your own foods using natural bacteria.

"Some of our workshop participants are concerned about the fact that they will be growing a microbial culture, and then eating it," said Peppermint, an Assistant Professor of Art and Digital Media Studies. "Sometimes it freaks people out, and we have had some kids screaming in a sort of gleeful fear as they put their homemade krauts into their mouths."

"Because we all have lived in a society that has regarded microbes as enemies for so long, we have to educate our participants about microbiology, and the way the field has transformed, in order to convince our participants that eating decomposing vegetables is actually good for them," adds Nadir, a Lecturer in Sustainability Studies.

This popular misunderstanding of microbiology and of the healthful role of flora in the human body is one symptom of what Peppermint and Nadir have termed "industrial amnesia," a cultural memory disorder that they are seeking to redress through their EdibleEcologies series of artworks. They explain industrial amnesia as the collective neglect of time-honored, do-it-yourself practices of growing and preparing food as well as fixing and creating your own tools. This amnesia has resulted from our overreliance on industrial, mass-produced food as well as media technologies. The result: a society of passive food and tech consumers who know little about how the food they eat is actually produced or about the creative potential of the networked devices they use.

To help people become more self-reliant, Peppermint and Nadir's EdibleEcologies series resuscitates historical food practices — like fermentation — combined with data visualization and the ethical hacking of free and open-source operating systems, so that participants can create their own apps to spread the word.

(Next: The School of Live Culture Project, including collaboration between UR students and youth working with Seedfolk City Farm, will address Rochester's "food deserts.")

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

What we hear, even subconsciously, fine tunes our sense of distance

Most of us at one time or another have counted the seconds between a lightning flash and its thunder to estimate distance. University researcher Duje Tadin and his colleagues have discovered that humans can unconsciously notice and make use of sound delays as short as 40 milliseconds (ms) to fine tune what our eyes see when estimating distances to nearby events.

"Much of the world around us is audiovisual," says Tadin, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and senior author of the study. "Although humans are primarily visual creatures, our research shows that estimating relative distance is more precise when visual cues are supported with corresponding auditory signals. Our brains recognize those signals even when they are separated from visual cues by a time that is too brief to consciously notice."

For the study, published in PLOS ONE, researchers used projected three-dimensional (3D) images to test the human brain's ability to use sound delays to estimate the relative distance of objects.

In the first experiment, participants were asked to adjust the relative depth of two identical shapes until they appeared to be at the same distance when viewed through 3D glasses. Each shape was paired with an audible "click." The click came either just before the shape appeared, or slightly after it appeared — by an equally brief time.

Participants consistently perceived the shape that was paired with the delayed click as being more distant. "This surprised us," said Phil Jaekl, who conducted the research while a postdoctoral researcher in Tadin's lab. "When the 3D shapes were the same distance, participants were consistently biased by the sound delay to judge the shape paired with the delayed click as being farther away — even though it wasn't."

In the second experiment, participants were shown three-dimensional shapes that were quickly repositioned either toward or away from the participant. When the shape was paired with a sound delayed by 42 ms, participants were more likely to perceive it as more distant — even in cases when the object was actually shifted toward the participant. Most importantly, when an object that was shifted away was paired with the sound delay — a pairing consistent with the natural world — participants were able to judge relative distance with greater precision. Read more . . .

Grant-writing tip: "Do a good job on the first page," Hoque advises

(Since arriving here two summers ago, Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, has been the PI or co-PI on total of nine applications that have been approved for about $6.6 million. This is the second of three parts looking at why he has been successful.)

Confronted with having to fill out a 15-page application for an NSF pre-career award, Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, made a wise decision.

He invested half of his writing effort on the one page that mattered at least as much as all the others combined: The project summary, the first page that reviewers look at.

"Reviewers are looking for excuses to reject proposals, and you don't want to give them an excuse up front, so do a good job on the first page," Hoque advises.

And then he made another wise decision: he emailed his draft summary to the federal program manager for the grant he was applying for. The PM was "very supportive. We went through four or five iterations. He gave me a lot of feedback," Hoque said.

Cindy Gary, the Grant Administrator for the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, urges faculty members to reach out to PMs when they consider applying for a grant. Not all PMs may have the time to be as accommodating as the one Hoque worked with, Gary notes, but at least they can tell an investigator whether the project they have in mind is a "good fit" for the funding program they are applying to and, if not, which program might be better. That can save an investigator a lot of time.

"I tell my colleagues don't shy away from sending emails to program managers," Hoque says. "Part of their job is to answer emails and give us feedback on our ideas. And I think we don't take advantage of that." But put some thought into it, he adds.

1. Keep the initial email brief and to the point.
2. Try to establish a connection.

Hoque fortunately had a direct connection with the PM for his pre-career award; the same PM had authorized a $10 million grant that Hoque participated in as a PhD student, which he made sure to mention in his email. Another approach: review the track record of grants that have been funded in the PM's area, to get a sense of the kind of topics that are most likely to resonate.

(Next: How the opportunity to serve on a panel of reviewers proved useful to Hoque.)

Save the date: World AIDS Day Sypmposium is Dec. 1

Dan Barouch, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Harvard Medical School, and Stephen Goff, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics and Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center, will be keynote speakers at the World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium sponsored by the Center for AIDS Research, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dec. 1 in the Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium.

Registrations for the poster session should be sent to Laura Enders by Nov. 16. Click here for more information and the registration form.

UNYTE Scientific Session to examine population health research

"Transforming Population Health Research: Advances, New Methods, and Community Partnerships," the next UNYTE Scientific Session, will bring together population health researchers, clinical leaders, community members and data scientists from across UNYTE institutions to spark interdisciplinary collaborations in population health research, clinical innovation, and community & patient engagement. The session will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Dec. 3, in the Helen Wood Hall Auditorium.

The deadline for registration is Nov. 19. Two types of posters are being solicited for the poster session: Research posters focused on transforming population health research (award eligible); and descriptive posters sharing information on your institution's programs, laboratories, services and resources related to population health research. Abstracts are due by Nov. 13. Read more . . .

Creative innovation: Building synergy through arts, sciences and diversity

This year's annual University-wide research conference on Friday, Nov. 13 will expand your inquisitive mind. The conference's objective is to promote diversity and inclusion through the advancement of scholarship and showcasing University scholarly activity.

Keynote speaker is Christopher Emdin, Associate Professor at the Teachers College of Columbia University. Participants will experience phases of Creative Innovation through 90-minute concurrent breakout sessions: inspire, inquire or investigate. The conference will conclude with a Creative Innovation performance in which participants can experience the Arts, Sciences and Diversity at play.

To register or for more information about the conference, visit Diversity at the University. #URDiversity #HipHopEd

Cancer Institute hosts annual scientific symposium Nov. 12

The Wilmot Cancer Institute's 20th Annual Scientific Symposium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 12 will include lectures, oral presentations and a poster session in the Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium.

Oral presentations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will feature various research programs with one 20-minute talk each.

James Palis, Professor of Pediatrics (Hematology/Oncology), will deliver the Davey Award Lecture at 12:20 p.m.; the Underberg Lecture at 3 p.m. will be delivered by Ross Cagan, Senior Associate Dean for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor of Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The themes for the poster session, from 1-3 p.m. are: Molecular and Cell Biology/Immunology, Experimental Hematology/Hematological Cancer, Solid Tumor Biology and Therapy, and Cancer Control/Epidemiology. All members of the University community are invited to present posters on basic or clinical cancer-related research, which may be interpreted in the broadest sense. Posters are solicited from a wide variety of areas including molecular biology, virology, epidemiology, gene therapy, cancer treatment, and behavioral and outcomes research. Posters must be marked clearly as belonging to one of the four programmatic categories indicated on the poster registration form.

Completed poster registration forms should be sent by email to Daina Bullwinkel. If you have any questions about submitting a poster or the symposium in general, call Daina at 273-1447.

"America's Got Regulatory Science Talent" competition

Want to see how your research can impact federal regulations? Want to discuss your ideas with the FDA? University students are invited to join the "America's Got Regulatory Science Talent" Competition. The local competition will be held at the University of Rochester campus on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. Deadline for completed information sheets is Nov. 13. Click here for complete information and instructions on how to apply.

Introducing a new faculty member

Yu Awaya, has joined the Department of Economics as an assistant professor. Awaya, who earned his PhD from Pennsylvania State University in 2015, is a game theorist whose work has focused primarily on the theory of repeated games. In his thesis, Awaya examines the issue of price-fixing by firms. While antitrust laws prohibit explicit agreements among firms to rig prices —and hence also communication among firms about such matters —there remains the question of whether firms can somehow contrive such pricing arrangements tacitly even when it is difficult for them to monitor the decisions of their rivals through communication. Awaya explains how it is possible for firms to collude, and it helps us understand how to detect such behavior. In 2014, Awaya's paper "Community Enforcement with Observation Costs" was published in the Journal of Economic Theory. He has given presentations on economic theory around the world and has refereed for the International Journal of Economic Theory and the Journal of Political Economy.

Congratulations to . . .

Lynne Maquat, the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Service Alumni Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who was awarded the 2015 Canada Gairdner International Award yesterday. She is one of five scientists who were honored with the award, which recognizes the achievement of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life. Maquat received the award for her discovery and mechanistic studies of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, a cellular quality control mechanism that derails the production of unwanted proteins in the body that can disrupt normal processes and initiate disease. Read more . . .

David R. Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics, Director of the Center for Visual Science, and Dean for Research in Arts, Science & Engineering, who has been named the recipient of Sigma Xi's 2015 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. The prize has been given annually since 1950 in recognition of "outstanding achievement in scientific research and demonstrated ability to communicate the significance of this work to scientists in other disciplines." Past Procter Prize recipients have included Jane Goodall, Vannevar Bush, Margaret Mead, Murray Gell-Mann, and Rita Colwell. Williams, widely regarded as one of the world's leading experts on human vision, pioneered the use of adaptive optics technologies for vision applications. Read more . . .

UR research in the news

"Edward Brown's research is a mixture of photonics, microscopes and a little nudge from his mom," reports Kristopher J. Brooks in the Sunday Democrat and Chronicle. Brown, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is using a laser and microscope device he built to study whether cancer cells have spread in breast cancer patients who have just had a tumor removed. A major goal is to make sure patients are not getting unnecessary chemotherapy. Read more . . .

PhD dissertation defense

Robert Gray, Optics, Investigation of the Filed Dependence of the Aberration Functions of Rotationally Nonsymmetric Optical Imaging Systems. 1 p.m., Nov. 6, 2015. Dewey 2110E. Advisor: Jannick Rolland.

Dejun Lin, Biophysics, "Thermodynamics of Antimicrobial Lipopeptides Interaction with Lipid Membranes." 1 p.m., Nov. 6, 2015, Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: Alan Grossfield.

Kevin Murphy, Biochemistry, "The Non-Histone Protein HMGN1 Alters Core Histone Tail and H1 Interactions to Modify Higher-Order Chromatin Structure." 1 p.m., Nov. 9, 2015, Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: Jeffrey Hayes.

Mark your calendar

Today: 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.

Nov. 2: Initial abstracts due for applications for funding from Medical Center Incubator Program. Details and application instructions are available here.

Nov. 2: Applications due for funding from the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation for short-term, early phase work necessary to create computer code or models, and to get new biocomputational or health-related scientific projects underway. Click here to read the full RFA.

Nov. 10: "Developing a Regulatory Science Training Program and Potential Career Paths," presented by Emma Meagher, Director, Translational Research Training Programs and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research, University of Pennsylvania Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. Noon to 1 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. Part of the "Advancing Regulatory Science and Translational Science: Research, Training and Partnerships" lecture series.

Nov. 12: The Wilmot Cancer Institute's 20th Annual Scientific Symposium. Lectures, oral presentations and poster session. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium. Completed poster registration forms should be sent by email to Daina Bullwinkel, who can be contacted at 273-1447 if you have questions.

Nov. 13: University-wide research conference to promote diversity and inclusion through the advancement of scholarship and showcasing University scholarly activity. To register or for more information about the conference, please visit Diversity at the University. #URDiversity #HipHopEd

Nov. 13: Deadine for students to submit completed information sheets for the "America's Got Regulatory Science Talent" Competition to be held at UR on Dec. 8, 2015. Click here for complete information and instructions on how to apply.

Nov. 14: Healthcare Deep Data Dive, exploring innovative and effective uses of health data to improve patient outcomes. 8 a.m., Saunders Research Building. Learn more here.

Nov. 16: Noon deadline for University students, staff and faculty interested in entrepreneurship training and in identifying and developing valuable product opportunities from their academic research, to apply to the University's I-Corps Site program for grants of up to $3,000. Read more here.

Nov. 19: Deadline to register for "Transforming Population Health Research: Advances, New Methods, and Community Partnerships," the next UNYTE Scientific Session, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Dec. 3, in the Helen Wood Hall Auditorium. Read more . . .

Dec. 1: World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium sponsored by the Center for AIDS Research, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Class of '62 Auditorium and Flaum Atrium. Registrations for the poster session should be sent to Laura Enders by Nov. 16. Click here for more information and the registration form.

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.