Digging Into Bermuda’s Slave Past

When Anima Ghimire’s history advisor recruited students for an archaeological dig in Bermuda, Ghimire instantly responded, “I’m on board!”

During the summer of 2013, Ghirmire, a double major in neuroscience and history, joined a four-student team and Professor Michael Jarvis for a five-week course excavating Smith’s Island, one of the earliest known settlements in Bermuda.

Jarvis has been working summers on the 60-acre island since 2010. The dig concentrated on what has come to be known as the “Oven Site,” named for the several stone ovens at the location.

The Oven Site is believed to be the remains of Boaz Sharpe’s house. Sharpe settled on the island in the late 1600s, and remained until his death in 1707. Sharpe’s household included nine Native American slaves, most likely from South Carolina—two older couples and their children.

The introduction of slavery to Bermuda—and especially the role of Native American slaves—is important to understanding the history of slavery in the Atlantic World.

“I didn’t really appreciate how important archaeology was until I did it,” Ghimire says.

Sifting through evidence

Excavation of the site has revealed a chimney, hearth, and several ovens. The team also uncovered hand-shaped chert flakes that had not been found in Bermuda before.

“Dr. Jarvis had an inventory that suggested these people lived there,” Ghimire explains. “But then we found evidence that this was, in fact, where Boaz Sharpe lived. We found chert stone flints that only Native Americans used.

Identifying the Oven Site’s original occupants was a major milestone for the hard-working team.


“Most of the time we dug—and it was a very meticulous process. It took us five weeks to dig five feet down,” Ghimire says. “And you can’t really use a shovel. You have to use a trowel because it’s very delicate work.

“Dr. Jarvis is really, really chill and awesome, but when it comes to archeology, he’s very organized and systematic,” she says.

“We found was a lot of fish bones. A lot, a lot, of fish bones! We also learned they kept cats,” Ghimire says.

“And there was a lot of pottery, and that was important. For example, there is a specific kind of pottery that was only made during a 30-year period. So it kind of tells us what the time period was when people settled in the house. There were a lot of clay pipes—the size of the bowl tells you when the pipe was made,” Ghimire says, explaining that the bowl sizes changed along with the fluctuations in tobacco prices throughout the 17th century, making it easy to date the artifacts.

“You can learn about people in class, but you can’t really experience what they were doing firsthand until you get to do archaeology,” she says.

Every little bone

“What was good about this year was that we got a lot of local Bermudians to volunteer. It was awesome. We had all age groups, and they were really enthusiastic. They came back everyday, so that was awesome!
“Bermudians are so chill. We talked a lot about their lifestyle, how they grew up, and their customs,” she says.

“They were really excited to find every little bone. I was too . . . at first. Then it’s like, ‘here’s another fish vertebra!’ But Dr. Jarvis never got jaded. He is so enthusiastic.”

“We were always afraid of finding human bones,” Ghimire confesses. “There was a circular area within Sharpe’s trash site that was big enough to fit a man—like a grave. And Jarvis was really reluctant to dig it, because if there was a body then we’d have to stop the dig, call in a forensic team, and everything would come to a halt. But, luckily, it was just a natural depression in the soil layer.

“It didn’t feel like five weeks, it went by so fast. It’s a six-credit course—though it didn’t seem like I was doing a lot of work because it was so much fun.”

Sharper skills

Even though Ghirmire is on a pre-med track, she says studying history has helped to her hone skills that are important to her success in medicine.

“History is a passion. It teaches me how to think, and how to see the world,” she says.

“History in college isn’t anything like it is in high school. It’s not about remembering dates. It’s about finding evidence to support why something happened. I just love that aspect of it. And now I like archaeology, too.”

Archive project links history and computer science

Senior Luke Kortepeter came to college on the pre-med track, but a class project in the library’s archives turned him into a computer science and history double major.

He’s been working on the Seward Family Papers digital history project for two years. Students involved in the project take Professor Thomas Slaughter’s history class on the family of William H. Seward, and also transcribe and digitize letters from a collection in the Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation department of  Rush Rhees Library.

“This spring we focused on the family correspondence,” says Kortepeter. “It’s a whole new primary resource that hasn’t been utilized yet.

He says the 15 students in the class spent the spring on letters from 1862. Once digitized and online, the papers will be more accessible, he says.

After four semesters working on the project, Kortepeter knows a lot about the Sewards. “I must have read 500-1,000 letters so far, and it’s awesome,” he says.

“We have thousands of letters covering a sixty year period. We are going through every single one,” he says. “And that’s really cool for me, actually, knowing that you’re the very first person reading the letter since it was first read.”

Bad handwriting

kortepeter_280 The project is expected to go “live” in the spring of 2015. Kortepeter and his classmates are racing to get as many letters transcribed, annotated, and digitized as they can before the project’s debut.

That said, the process requires keen eyes and a good understanding of the Seward family’s historical context.

In addition to serving as Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln for two terms, William Henry Seward was the Governor of New York and a US senator. He also negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians for two cents per acre—a purchase many considered foolish at the time.

Just reading the letters can be a challenge. “Since the handwritings on the letters are pretty awful for the most part, we are transcribing them—once you get used to it, it’s not as bad,” Kortepeter says.

“And, we are also annotating them. The user will be able to read the transcription right next to the digital image, and if they see a name they are interested in, they can click and it will say who that person was.

Teen diary

“Having been with the project for a while I’ve read basically everyone’s handwriting. It’s definitely interesting to see how different they are.

“Fanny Seward’s is very curly—beautiful handwriting—and she loved writing about her daily life,” Kortepeter says. “She’s a teenager at this time, and so you can see how she’s growing up and how the world is changing so much around her.

“She’d have fine descriptions of gentlemen, and will talk about things as basic as their jawline and how it curves perfectly. And so it’s very interesting to read—I mean, it’s her diary. She wasn’t expecting anyone to be reading it,” says Kortepeter.

Finding personalities

“Then on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have William Henry’s wife, Frances, whose handwriting is awful.

“It’s up for debate how ‘into’ the whole political thing she was in terms of supporting him,” says Kortepeter. “Some historians say that she wasn’t very supportive and it was a pain for her to have go to these conventions
with him. But,” he says, “we are finding that might not be true.

“She would go to Washington, DC, and say how awful it was and how she had migraines the whole time. And how at social events she would go, but then sit in a room by herself.

It’s “really cool” to pick up on people’s personalities in the letters, according to Kortepeter. “A lot of these resources weren’t available, so when [researchers] only had a snippet of letters and she’s angry in every single one of them, then you’d say ‘yeah, of course, she’s angry and hates her husband’s career,’” he explains.

“But when you see these other letters and she’s so passionate about slavery—she hated slavery—or just her opinions about political scandals at the time, it just really shows she was interested, and she definitely had opinions about what was going on.

“The DC social life wasn’t for her. She found it incredibly stressful. Especially since her husband was so incredibly social—it was hard to live up to that,” Kortepeter says.

‘I have no desire to be a doctor’

Kortepeter, who started out doing pre-med, says the Seward letter project “has definitely changed my college path completely.

“I had been doing premed stuff all through high school—I worked in labs, both my parents are doctors, and I figured, ‘yeah, sure, I could be a doctor, too.’ And that winter break of my freshman year, I followed a surgeon around for a little bit, and I was just… ‘I hate this—I have no desire to be a doctor.’

“Then I floundered around a little bit, trying econ. I took a history class with Professor Jarvis, and my freshman writing teacher worked with Slaughter and said, ‘Why don’t you talk to him, he’s my favorite professor—and just take a class with him’? And I was like, ‘okay, sure.’”

Kortepeter says his parents had different reactions to his change in plans.

“My father was excited for me to explore my own thing. My mother was confused because I was always so sciencey—all throughout high school,” he says. “All my AP classes were in science.

“It was very new to me to go into a history class. I came here because I know it’s a strong science school,” Kortepeter says, “and then ended up studying something totally different.”

He says his two majors complement each other. “Usually with computer science I’ll do my projects, but I don’t really get to apply it. Like, I can only make Tetris so many times,” he says with a laugh.

“With this, I really get to be on both sides of the project: I get to do the history things and work with the letters, but then as a computer science student, I am also working on the website and the database—helping with everything, really,” he explains.

“It was the perfect project for me.”

UR Student Spends Life in the Wild

What are you doing at 4:30 a.m. on a school day? For most undergraduates, an average morning involves sleeping, or perhaps some last minute work on a paper or project. For Tyler Breen ‘16, it is the start of his workday during waterfowl season. In New York State, the waterfowl season consists of a 60-day period in the fall, a season that sends Breen out to the field and in position before sunrise. “Legal sunrise takes place at about 7:07 a.m.,” says Breen, who serves as a local guide for hunters, “which means that the heaviest flights times for ducks are at 6:37 a.m.”

Breen, an ecology and evolutionary biology major at the University of Rochester, became interested in hunting at an early age. Breen’s grandfather was the president of the New York State Chapter of the National Turkey Federation, an organization which focused on raising turkeys and bringing their population back to New York during his tenure. Breen went on his first youth hunt at age 12 with a family friend. He then began to hunt mallard ducks for the next two years, teaching himself the tactics and calls as he went along. This past summer, Breen passed the exam to become a New York State Licensed Outdoor Guide, a position which allows him to serve as an escort for hunting groups.

While to some, Breen’s hobby of hunting might seem at odds with his major, to Breen these interests are perfectly aligned. “I like to think of myself as both a conservationist and a sportsman,” says Breen, “A lot of experienced hunters are environmentally active, and we try to put two ducks in the sky for every one that we take.”

Licensed guides in New York are hired by groups or individuals looking to hunt waterfowl. Breen currently works as a guide at Fish and Frontier Outfitters in Farmington, N.Y., where his responsibilities extend way beyond simply taking people out hunting. Guides are responsible for scouting locations and negotiate with landowners for permission to hunt on their property. Another key element of the guide’s job is placing decoys before taking their clients out in the field. Decoys are incredibly detailed “fake” birds that are placed in clearings to attract live birds flying over to land in range of the hunting group. These decoys are specific to each different species of duck, and are made with extremely detailed materials in order to successfully fool the live birds, who can be notoriously difficult to trick. “Geese and ducks are a lot smarter than most people think,” says Breen, “To hunt a duck, you have to be a duck.” In addition to the day to day tasks, as a guide Breen is also responsible for knowing every Federal regulation surrounding different species of waterfowl and flyway locations. In an average season, Breen hunts a large number of different species of both geese and duck. Regulations surrounding “Daily Bag Limits,” or how many birds you can take during a single trip, differ for each type of waterfowl, and differ further depending on if the bird is a hen (female) or drake (male). As a guide, Breen must be able to identify the species of duck and its sex while the bird is flying above him, or risk breaking federal regulation; this is an extraordinarily impressive skill given the differences between the species are often very minute.

Tyler-Breen-2Environmental conservation is an important subject for Breen, and he is currently on the board of directors for two local waterfowl organizations, the Canandaigua Lake Duck Hunters and the Lima chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Both organizations focus on fundraising and conservation efforts, including building nesting boxes to help increase the local waterfowl population. Taking part in these conservation activities led Breen to his academic interest in ecology and evolutionary biology. As a Rochester undergraduate, Breen has pursued research focusing on the genetic makeup of common ducks, which can often be hard to differentiate. Two common species of ducks in the Western New York region are mallard and black ducks. “The hybridization process has begun fairly recently and lead to a sharp decline in black duck populations due to migration of mallards into historically black duck specific breeding grounds,” says Breen. “The future survival of the American Black Duck is in serious question as mallard genetics are rapidly polluting the gene pool of black ducks.”

Breen is examining the underlying cause of why black duck hens prefer drake mallards over drake blacks on the breeding grounds, specifically how the hybridization is a function of mallard genetic dominance that overcomes the recessive alleles in the black duck which have gone to fixation due to genetic drift. During his research, Breen connected with a fellow ecology student in Beverly Hills, Calif., studying a similar topic. Breen helped the student by sending him information and samples of the mallard/black hybridization. “Understanding the process of hybridization is important to increasing our understanding of these species, this information is very important to conservation efforts and to preventing the inevitable loss of the species,” says Breen, who hopes to continue to work outdoors, both as a guide and a conservationist, as well as possibly pursuing a doctorate in ornithology.

In addition to being a licensed guide and full-time student, Breen also is an accomplished Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America organization. He views the outdoors as almost a second home, and scouting was an excellent introduction into the world of camping and outdoor adventure. Breen served for two summers as a counselor for an Ohio Scout camp, where he taught wilderness survival and other skill courses. Another element of hunting that Breen is passionate about is the trust and bonding that hunting with the same group can build over time. During summer 2013, Breen was encouraged by one of the members of his hunting group to pursue volunteer firefighting. Breen had been trained in First-Aid during his time as a scout, so he embarked on the application process, where he was required to learn and pass tests on necessary skills and situational responses. Last summer, he took a firefighting course at the Public Safety Training Facility of Monroe County, which consisted of learning the skills necessary to successfully fight fires both indoors and outdoors, including how to navigate burning buildings safely, and use the respiratory and protective equipment properly. The course involved nights of real fire training, which Breen describes as “intense.”

While Breen has many interests, his main passion is the outdoors: “I love the sense that I’m alone in the outdoors,” explains Breen,  “When I take a trip into the remote wilderness I’m seeing and experiencing things that most people don’t get to.”

Students Present Their “Wicked Smaht” Research

This January, seniors Yanhan Ren, Sarah Joseph, and Nirlipta Panda, along with junior Harris Weber traveled to Boston to attend the National Collegiate Research Conference (NCRC). The Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association began this conference in 2007 to provide a platform for undergrads to share their research.

While the main event was the poster session, the Innovation Challenge brought groups of students from different backgrounds together to discuss radical ideas and potential solutions to national and global issues. “Getting to know other students created endless possibilities of collaboration,” said Ren, a liason for future NCRC events. Every event promoted the sharing of ideas and collaboration with a variety of people, both things that U of R loves its students to do!

Ren is an international student from Nanjing, China studying molecular genetics. He presented his research, Functions of the Fun30 Chromatin Remodeler in DNA Postreplication Repair and Heterochromatin Structure in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. His research with Dr. Bi Xin from the Biology Department suggests that a gene from yeast is required for a new pathway for DNA damage repair. He plans to apply to medical school but will be taking a gap year to study medical science and public health at Boston University.

Joseph, who majors in molecular genetics, presented her topic, “Elucidating the mitochondrial targeting sequence of the yeast flap endonuclease (RAD27).” In layman’s terms, making mutations in the gene to figure out how it gets transported into the mitochondria.

Panda’s topic was on the impact of peripheral radiation on cognition and neurogenesis. This neuroscience major’s poster won the honorable mention in the Category of Biology.

NCRC 2Weber majors in cell and developmental biology while also pursuing a minor in business. From his experience in the Nedergaard Lab, he presented research about the newly discovered “Glymphatic” waste-clearance system with a focus on spinal cord injury.

The excitement of the student-run conference did not stop at poster sessions! Many keynote speakers were in attendance, such as Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram Alpha and John Mather from NASA. By attending the conference, Ren found many networking opportunities within his peers, potential employers, and members of higher education. He was inspired by the influential minds around him. “Talk to attendees and talk with the keynote speakers, you will find their words and ideals will change your mind.”

For any further information on the conference, please contact Yanhan Ren at yren6@u.rochester.edu.

Rochester Graduate Student Pursues A University First

By Bob Marcotte
University Communications

From an early age, watching his older brother endure the childhood teasing and other disadvantages that come with wearing glasses, Daniel Savage decided he would one day try to find better ways to improve vision.

By pure serendipity, the Webster, NY, native grew up just a few miles from what he believes is the best possible place to pursue that dream.

Now a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Optics, Savage is about to undertake something that’s never been done at the University of Rochester – a dual Ph.D. at The Institute of Optics and M.D. from the School of Medicine (MD-PhD Program).

By doing so, he hopes to improve vision at two levels: as a research scientist who can contribute new knowledge – and perhaps new technologies – that benefit mankind as a whole, and as a physician who can treat the specific, individual needs of patients. Ultimately he would like to apply both sets of skills in underdeveloped countries.

“It’s an incredible privilege and honor to be studying here at Rochester,” Savage added. “You have The Institute of Optics, which is one of the top, premier schools for optics. You have the Center for Visual Science — what a hotbed that is for visual science. And you have the Flaum Eye Institute. You couldn’t ask for a better place. I could not do what I want to do anyplace else.”

The Medical Scientist Training Program, which has accepted Savage, has offered a federally funded dual M.D./Ph.D. program here for nearly 40 years to train physician-scientists. But the students most often involved from the River Campus have come from fields such as biology, chemistry and biomedical engineering. Those disciplines include classes that can help satisfy premedical requirements.

The MD-PhD option has not been tried before with The Institute of Optics. After meeting with M. Kerry O’Banion, Director of the Medical Scientist Training Program, Savage proposed a unique program of study.

“Daniel is embarking on something that is very unique; to my knowledge no other MD/PhD program in the country offers a dual degree in Optics and Medicine,” O’Banion noted. There are 80 such programs, 44 of which are supported by Medical Scientist Training Program grants.

Starting this fall, Savage will spend two years in medical school, take a break for two years to finish his optics Ph.D, return to medical school for two years, then seek a residency.

“A lot of people say that’s a long time to be in school,” says Savage, who entered the Optics Ph.D. program in 2010. “But I look at all the opportunities it opens up.

Being in a Ph.D. program or a residency is really not a lot different than being in a job. Sure, it’s kind of a low paying job, but that’s a small price to pay for being able to do something that you love, something that provides such unique opportunities.”

After transferring to the University from Monroe Community College, Savage quickly became involved in optics research. Prof. James Zavislan, now Associate Dean of Education and New Initiatives for the Hajim School, helped him obtain a summer internship at Optimax Systems, a manufacturer of precision optics in Ontario, N.Y. He continued interning there throughout his undergraduate education– full time during the summer, part-time during the school year. He worked on a variety of research projects involving metrology and manufacturing processes. As a Ph.D. student, Savage has become involved in research “that is not only exciting for me personally, but also has the potential to be high impact, positively affecting the lives of countless individuals.”

The project, a collaboration between Wayne Knox, Professor of Optics, Physics and the Center for Visual Science, and Krystel Huxlin, Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurobiology & Anatomy, Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and the Center for Visual Science, explores a novel application of femtosecond laser beams that could correct vision problems noninvasively, without the cutting involved in Lasik surgery. “It sounds magical, but if this works out you could literally sit in a chair, look at a fixation point for a few minutes while we shine a special type of laser light into your eyes, and walk away with perfect refractive vision,” Savage said. It could even potentially be done outside the operating room. This could have enormous impact, not only in this country, but also in Third World nations where access to health care is limited.

“Giving people in underdeveloped countries glasses is a phenomenal thing to do, but they may lose them, or people may step on them,” Savage noted. “But with this technology, it might be possible to take a machine over to these countries and literally correct peoples’ vision very simply. It would be a very elegant solution.”

Savage, who was home schooled, says his religious faith has helped foster his desire to serve others. “I think a lot of people find that they are most happy in life when they’re not focused on themselves, but rather when they experience something bigger than themselves.” He likens it to gazing out over the Grand Canyon. “By helping other people, especially in medicine and through a research career, it’s very similar to that Grand Canyon experience. My faith and personal experiences have taught me that you can look out and help others without any thought of yourself, and derive great joy and purpose from that.”

Summer Research Experience Leads to Science Paper for Physics Undergrad

Like other seniors, Owen Colegrove had a busy end of the semester: staying on top of classes, preparing for finals, wrapping up projects, and applying to graduate school. But unlike other undergraduates, Colegrove had to leave the last week of the fall semester for San Francisco, to present a poster at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting. Attended by tens of thousands of people, it is one of the highlights of the scientific conference season, with lots of high-profile speakers, media coverage and topical issues being covered.

Colegrove presented work he had done during his Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). During REUs, students across the country spend part of their summer on a research project as part of their academic experience. Unlike Colegrove, though, not many will have a Science paper to their name at the end of the project.

Exposing undergraduates to research is exactly the purpose of REUs, and Colegrove thinks it was a fantastic opportunity for that. Now at the University of Rochester, a research university, Colegrove studied at Finger Lakes Community College for his freshman and sophomore years.

“We encourage our physics majors to take on a major research project over the summer, either in Rochester or elsewhere, to complement their classroom experiences,” said Kevin McFarland, professor of physics at Rochester who taught Colegrove last semester. “Owen’s success is a great example of how productive these summer research projects can be.”

Colegrove worked during the summer of 2013 under the supervision of Dr. David Hathaway, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Together with Hathaway’s student, Lisa Upton, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., Colegrove helped analyze data from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. The team was looking for evidence that would point to the proposed existence of giant convection cells on the sun.

These giant convection cells are flows on the sun’s surface that could be related to the sun’s magnetic fields, and also to sunspots. Small granules (and larger supergranules) that move gas around on the surface of the sun have been studied since early in the 20th century, but the team showed that these are moved around by even larger features: giant convection cells, which are much slower moving.

The work of Hathaway, Upton and Colegrove might also help answer a longstanding question: “why is a day on the Sun’s equator (25 days) so much shorter than a day on the Sun’s poles (35 days)?” It could be that these giant cells alter what is happening as the Sun spins.

The day before leaving for the AGU conference in California, Colegrove appeared to be taking all the new experiences in stride. Reflecting on having his name on a Science paper as an undergraduate he commented “that it just hadn’t sunk in.”

“I’ve been caught up in classes, preparing for exams, and trying to figure out what’s next,” he said. “And it also seems to have happened over such a long period of time, so it feels like a long time ago when we did the work and submitted the paper!” Although Hathaway, who spent 29 years searching for these giant convection cells, might not agree, Colegrove admits.

Colegrove is clear that he wants to go to graduate school for physics – he is just trying to decide which area of physics and what university. “I hadn’t taken many astrophysics classes before this project, but now after this work I think this is an area I want to learn more about.”

There is one thing he is certain he takes with him from the whole experience, and that is a better understanding of the patience that research requires and a determined attitude to continue forward, even after multiple setbacks. Colegrove thinks that when any future research does not go as planned he will think back to his advisor, Dr. David Hathaway, who kept thinking of ways forward even after 29 years.

Eastman Musicians Win $100,000 to Launch Creative Collision Project

By Emily Wozniak

ROCHESTER, NY – Sound ExChange, an ensemble of Eastman musicians, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation to partner with professors from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Microsoft Studios, and the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (RPYO) to produce Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project. Emily Wozniak, Sound ExChange’s Executive Director and founder says, “This grant provides an amazing opportunity for a transformational collaboration between the worlds of live music and technology.”

Described by the Rochester Business Journal as a group that “turns the classical music concert on its head,” Sound ExChange is devoted to designing transformative concert experiences. Through experimentation with the way music is created and presented, the group deepens the connection between performers, audiences, and music. Sound ExChange has a history of piloting innovative collaborations, such as “Anomaly: BIODANCE, Sound ExChange, and W. Michelle Harris” for the 2013 Rochester Fringe Festival. In reviews of the show, the Democrat and Chronicle described Anomaly as a “true sensorial experience,” and Matt DeTurck of CITY Newspaper wrote, “I am going to attempt—and fail—to adequately describe the merits of the astonishing “Anomaly”… It was so lovely to behold that I found myself dreading its inevitable conclusion.” Audience response was overwhelmingly positive with sold-out shows.

Sound ExChange, in collaboration with professors from RIT, applied for the Farash Foundation’s Cultural Creative Collision grant in August through a fiscal sponsor, the Rochester Oratorio Society.  In response to the foundations request for a creative collision—the innovation that results when different perspectives, talents, and abilities come together—the collaborating partners developed a project proposal to integrate technology into the concert experience. Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project (ICVP) will utilize digital technology to promote audience participation by creating ways for performers and audiences to interact and connect with live music. ICVP will encourage the audience to use mobile devices, social networks, and immersive technology to enhance the concert experience. Additionally, the project will have a home online through Sound ExChange’s website, which will allow the ICVP to grow and develop with each live performance. The grant will fund the creation of new technology that will be used in an eight-concert series, which will premiere in Rochester.

Building upon its mission to transform the concert experience, Sound ExChange became intrigued by the idea of finding a meaningful way to integrate modern technology into live performances and applied for the creative collision grant to pilot ICVP. The project will involve a close collaboration between Sound ExChange and professors from RIT. Additionally, Microsoft Studios and the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will be directly involved in the creation and implementation of the project. Collaborating partners from RIT include Susan Lakin, Joe Geigel, and Katie Verrant. Lakin is currently an Associate Professor and Program Chair of Advertising Photography at RIT; Geigel is an Associate Professor of Computer Science with expertise in Computer Graphics, Multimedia, and Interactive Systems; and Verrant is a student in the New Media Design and Imaging Program in the School of Design. Microsoft Studios will offer technical expertise as well as access to new advances in technology.  The RPYO, along with other educational institutions, will be involved in the educational component of the project. Through ICVP, young musicians and students will engage in classical music in creative ways and will be exposed to elements of entrepreneurship and innovation as they directly relate to classical music and art.

Sound ExChange: Interactive Classical Visions Project will be developed and premiered throughout the duration of the funding period of the grant: January 2014 to January 2016.

Follow and learn more about the ICVP collaborating partners:

www.soundexchangeproject.com (Sound ExChange)

http://www.susanlakin.com/Artist.asp?ArtistID=24403&Akey=L6DFL793 (Susan Lakin)

http://www.cs.rit.edu/~jmg/ (Joe Geigel)

http://www.kverrantdesigns.com (Katie Verrant)

For more information contact Emily Wozniak: ewozniak@soundexchangeproject.com or (314) 973-6479

Optics Students Win $10K at Pre-Seed Workshop

For the past 10 years, High Tech Rochester’s annual Pre-Seed Workshop has provided inventors, entrepreneurs, and technology professionals with resources for quickly assessing their specific market opportunities and identifying the next steps to be taken in creating a start-up business around their technology innovation.

On Friday, Nov. 1 at the conclusion of this year’s Pre-Seed Workshop, five current and former University of Rochester Optics students found themselves the recipient of such resources. The student-driven team Ovitz was presented with the Excell Challenge Award of $10,000, given by Excell Partners, a Rochester venture capital firm.

Working with technology developed at the Flaum Eye Institute, Ovitz is hoping to commercialize a portable eye diagnosis instrument that is smaller, cheaper and more accurate than existing devices and is especially suited for use among children. They were chosen because their project was best suited to Excell’s criteria and at a point where the new venture would benefit from an outside investment.

The Ovitz team members are senior Felix Kim, junior Pedro Vallejo-Ramirez, doctoral students Aizhong Zhang and Len Zheleznyak, and Samuel Steven (’13). Both Steven and Zheleznyak are enrolled in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) master’s program.

“We congratulate Ovitz and all of the start-up innovators and entrepreneurs participating in the 2013 Pre-Seed Workshop and expect to hear big things from them in the future,” said Theresa Mazzullo, chief executive officer of Excell Partners, Inc. “Given our mission of providing pre-seed and seed stage financing to high-tech start-up companies in the Upstate New York region, we felt we could give a boost to the start-up idea showing the most potential for commercialization as developed and presented at this workshop.”

Designed as a hands-on program, not a lecture series, “the Pre-Seed Workshop involves highly focused activities and exercises directed toward determining if a technology-based business concept has high potential for commercial success,” says the workshop’s organizer, Mike Riedlinger, High Tech Rochester’s Technology Commercialization Manager.

More than 100 people participated in the 2013 Pre-Seed Workshop: 13 teams (culled down from 18 applications), including teams from the University of Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and the Rochester community at large. The Workshop involved 32 coaches, contributors, and subject matter experts, and the six investors and industry experts who served as feedback panelists.

This isn’t the first time the Ovitz business plan has found success. It also took first place in the Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition and third place in the Mark Ain Business Model Competition this past spring. The students are now looking for NGOs who can put their device to use to benefit people in underdeveloped countries.

Article courtesy of High Tech Rochester. To read their full press release, visit http://htr.org/excell-partners-awards-10000-start-team-high-tech-rochester%E2%80%99s-annual-pre-seed-workshop

German Scholarship Offers Lessons Beyond Academics

By Alayna Callanan ’14
University Communications

Nine undergraduate students, Kristin Abramo ’15, Kevin Allan ’14, Alexandra Born ’15, Sarah Koniski ’14, Louis Papa ’14, Robert Rietmeijer ’15, Jamie Strampe ’15, Zhongwu Shi ’15, and Qianli Sun ’15, spent up to three months this summer throughout Germany with the DAAD-RISE program. The program allows undergrads to pursue research in the natural sciences and engineering with advanced doctoral students at universities and research institutions within Germany. The students conducted their research individually but many met up for weekend trips and the group convened at the annual RISE conference in Heidelberg.

Allan spent 11 weeks in Langen, Germany at the Paul Ehrlich Institute, continuing prior research on HIV, specifically studying gene therapy and vaccines preventing infection.  Allan’s research this summer led him to Dr. Harris Gelbard’s Lab at the University’s Medical Center, where his current work with neuroAIDS is a perfect culmination of his neuroscience studies, lab work, clinical interests, and research in immunology and virology. He’s hoping these experiences will help him prepare for Medical School. Allan also is currently enrolled in a German language course, and has hopes to return to Germany through the DAAD-RISE Professional Program.

DAAD-RISE 1Many students, like Allan, wish to study abroad but struggle to make the time for an entire semester abroad. As an active member on campus with a busy semester, a summer in Germany was perfect opportunity to gain an international perspective. He was able to visit many European cities including Paris, Munich, Berlin, and Amsterdam using the convenient EuroRail during his busy program. Cultural differences ranged from day to day experiences like language barriers between colleagues in the laboratory—Allan used a mix of German, English and even drawing for communication—to other experiences like a German waiter being shocked at an American male not finishing his French fries at a meal. Everywhere we travel we are faced with cultural differences as well as being representatives for our country.

Other differences Allan noticed were how the German researchers he worked with were more detail oriented, rather than focusing on the process within their research. It may have been largely in part to working at a public institution, but Allan found that the Paul Ehrlich Institute had very strict regulations, though their facilities are top-of-the-line.

Robert Rietmeijer agreed. “There is a joke that a German scientist does not begin an experiment until he has considered as many reasons to conduct it as to not conduct it,” he said.

The rigidness of experiments in Germany was not a damper for students though; Allan, Rietmeijer, and Alexandra Born were highly impressed with the research facilities. A joint human MRI-PET machine, one of just three in the world, resides at the Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research Institute at the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, where Born studied.

The students had some unconventional benefits from their time abroad. “I was able to overcome was my own speech DAAD-RISE 2impediment: I talk way too quickly,” said Born, who was forced to speak slowly so Germans and other non-native English speakers could understand her. Her family and friends noticed a difference in the pace of her speech upon her return to the States. She gained both confidence and independence during the program and is more certain in her post graduate plans to pursue pharmaceuticals.

Louis Papa, a Rochester native, feels he will be more confident going to graduate school next fall because this program forced him to adjust to a brand new environment in the city of Jena, devoid of familiar faces. Rietmeijer experienced some culture shock upon arrival but enjoyed the challenges and overall experience so much that he is considering post-doctoral studies or beginning a start-up company in Germany.

Summer Plans Series: Exploring Public Health in Chile

By Rei Ramos ’15
University Communications

This summer, Anjalene Whittier ’14 spent a month in Punta Arenas, Chile as a part of a public health traineeship. During her stay, she worked on two different projects involving caffeine consumption among Peruvian students and the prevalence of obesity among special-needs children in Chile.

Stationed at a rehabilitation center for children in the area, Whittier assisted in collecting patient information for the clinic. Since many of the patients had disabilities, with some confined to wheelchairs, she had to make use of alternative methods of data collection. Instead of using standard scales for weighing clients, measurements like neck circumference were used to obtain information on body fat percentage. Whittier also participated in clinical rotations with doctors, therapists, and educational staff, earning some very valuable first-hand medical experience.

Aside from the experiential benefits of her traineeship, the rising senior is also thankful for the travel opportunity. Having grown up in Rochester, the prospect of international travel was enticing for Whittier. “I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to travel, especially to South America, but I’ve never had the opportunity before. I was especially interested in going to a country where I could improve my Spanish skills,” said Whittier. Even with her busy schedule, she found time to travel to different parts of Chile, spending time in the capital city of Santiago among other sites and enjoying the country’s rich culture.

While much of her research was challenging, Whittier did not mind the extra effort. “I’m very interested in working to improve the lives of children with disabilities/mental illnesses, both domestically and abroad,” she explained. “I couldn’t imagine anything better to do this summer,” said Whittier. “It really ties all of my interests together.”


This story is part of the Summer Plans Series, a collection of stories about how undergrads at the University of Rochester spent their summer. Know of someone who did something cool over break? Email The Buzz (thebuzz@rochester.edu) and tell us all about it!