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From Rochester with love

(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon—and love is in the air. The holiday is likely named after Catholic priest Saint Valentine, who lived in Rome in the 3rd century and was allegedly executed on February 14 after defying a Roman decree that forbade soldiers from marrying. No need to be a saint, though, to enjoy this selection of hearty research, endearing stories, and moving moments from across the University of Rochester.


The science of love and relationships 🔬

Looking for a match made in heaven—or online? Science says stay grounded

Rochester psychologist and relationship expert Harry Reis has pointers on how to find and foster love, including how to get the most out of online dating.

Illustration of finding love and online dating showing a person's outline on the ground holding a heart, while another person's outline floats away with a heart balloon.
Harry Reis was instrumental in launching the field of relationship science. The Rochester psychologist offers his research-based insights on dating and love in the digital age. (University of Rochester illustration / Sarah Mossey)

Cut to the chase: Can sex help start a relationship?

Is it a budding relationship or just a one-night stand? The difference may not be immediately obvious. But sex can help initiate romantic relationships between potential partners, a study concludes.

close-up of woman whispering into a man's ear, as if flirting or initiating sex in a relationship
Researchers have demonstrated how sex and sexual desire play a major role not only in attracting potential partners to each other, but also in encouraging the formation of romantic relationships and emotional bonding. (Getty Images photo)

Can an app improve your romantic relationship?

Yep. Couples report healthier, stronger relationships after one month of using a relationship app codeveloped by a Rochester psychologist.

Animated gift showing two wifi signals converging into a heart to illustrate the concept of a relationship app called Agape.
The relationship app Agapé, codeveloped by psychologist Ronald Rogge, sends registered couples a daily prompt. Once both partners have answered the prompt, they can see each other’s responses, possibly sparking a meaningful conversation. (University of Rochester illustration / Julia Joshpe)

Why ‘playing hard to get’ may actually work

We tend to like people who like us. This principle works well, particularly at the start relationships, because it reduces the likelihood of rejection. Yet, making the chase harder also has its advantages. So which is the better strategy? Rochester researchers weigh in.

In black and white, scene from Andy Griffith Show in which Opie courts older girl.
In The Andy Griffith Show episode “Opie’s Girlfriend,” which aired in 1966, Opie (Ron Howard) goes all out in trying to attract Cynthia (Mary Ann Durkin). According to research, he may have been better off “playing hard to get.” (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

How watching movies can make a marriage better

A 2014 study found that watching and discussing movies about relationships is as effective in lowering divorce rates as other, more intensive early marriage counseling programs. So go ahead and put Love Story and As Good As It Gets on your streaming list.

Do open relationships work?

That depends, says a team of Rochester researchers. Not surprisingly, the success of an open relationship hinges on solid communication between all parties involved.

a couple holding hands loosely while walking along a waterfront.
Past studies have attempted to gauge the success of nonmonogamous relationships. Now, a Rochester team has studied the distinctions and nuances within various types of nonmonogamous relationships and found that solid communication is key. (Getty Images photo)

Putting the ‘art’ in Valentines Day hearts 🎨

Valentine’s Day Member Soirée at MAG

Join the Memorial Art Gallery for a Valentine’s Day Member Soirée on Thursday, February 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. Celebrate the season of love and the unique connections sparked by art with your fellow members.

Rainbow over Cutler Union at the University of Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery.
(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

I Got It Bad

“When he’s gone I’m cloudy with showers,” sings Sara Gazarek, an associate professor of jazz voice at the Eastman School of Music, performing I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) at Eastman’s 2023 Convocation. Gazarek herself has nothing to be blue about as a newly minted Grammy winner for best arrangement, instruments, and vocals.

Love letters

Grab a hot cocoa and find a comfy nook. Our Rochester librarians have curated books and stories of science, sex, and society in Victorian Britain.

Opened book with two pages forming a heart while a candle glows in the background.
(Unsplash photo / Andres Simon)

Intimacy directing is making a difference on stage and beyond

Wonder what it takes to create intimate scenes in movies and on stage, while ensuring that actors feeling safe? Learn more about the field of intimacy direction, coordination, and choreography that began informally about 10 to 15 years ago.

How do you make a poem?

Not sure what to scribble to your sweetheart? Here’s a blueprint on how to write a poem that hits the mark.

Hand using a reproduction of a 19th century dip pen on paper.
(University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Valentines, Schmalentines! Stories of love, for 10 cents or a postcard

For a mere 10 cents, Rochester alumnus Karl Smith has been known to craft custom love stories on his vintage typewriter.

Play a Bach duet with an AI counterpoint

If you need a partner to tickle the ivories with this Valentine’s Day, artificial intelligence is here to help! Play a classical love song with an AI piano player.

moving image of robotic hands playing on piano keyboard.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences have developed a web-based system called BachDuet that allows users to improvise duets with an artificial intelligence (AI) counterpart in real time.

‘Goethe was really an outlier in stressing that love was more important’

Looking for an intellectual aphrodisiac? Give Germany’s greatest literary genius—in English translation—a try. Plus, find out why the writer’s changes to his 1776 play Stella (thirty years after its publication) made the production more palatable to audiences.

Eighteenth-century man leans toward an aristocratic woman, watched by her maid.
Stella: A Play for Lovers is one of famed German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s lesser-known works. Goethe rewrote the play in 1806 with a new ending, but a complete translation of the original text by two Rochester professors reveals greater differences in gender relations throughout the entire text. (Wikimedia Commons photo / “Interior with a Lady, her Maid, and a Gentleman,” by Louis Rolland Trinquesse)

#Read4Luv: Share your love of reading with a child

Literacy expert Carol St. George, a professor in teaching and curriculum at the Warner School of Education and Human Development, leads a monthlong social media campaign to promote the importance of reading aloud with children of all ages. Throughout February, share pictures and posts of reading with someone special, your favorite book, or your favorite place to read on social media using the hashtag #Read4Luv.

Close-up of a father reading to his son and daughter.
(Getty Images photo)

Listen: Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed”

In the mood for some Stevie Wonder? “Over time, I’ve been building my castle of love; Just for two, though you never knew you were my reason,” the iconic singer-songwriter crooned in 1985. “I’ve gone much too far for you now to say; That I’ve got to throw my castle away.” Enjoy Daniel Mach-Holt, trombone, and Reginald Bowens, piano, perform “Overjoyed” in 2023.


Strong medicine 🩺

UR Medicine performs record number of heart transplants in 2023

Hand of a person holding a plastic heart while wearing a bright yellow sweater.
(Getty Images photo)

Take heart: a record 40 people received life-saving heart transplantation surgeries at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital in 2023, which places Strong among the 37 busiest heart transplant centers in the country. What’s not to love?

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