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A more complete story of Frances Seward

A team of University historians says the life of Frances Adeline Seward (1805–1865) deserves a more nuanced and careful reading than her traditional portrayal as the reclusive wife of a 19th-century politician. Doctoral students Shellie Clark, Carrie Knight, and Lauren Davis are using the University’s extensive, firsthand collections of documents of the family of Frances and William Henry Seward, secretary of state to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, to conduct that re-evaluation.

With the help of Sarabeth Rambold, a history PhD student and videography manager for the Seward project, and Demi Robbins ’23, a political science and English major, the students have now produced a video about Frances Seward’s life.

Clark says Seward initially comes off as “a little critical, a little bit judgmental” with a tad of a “challenging personality,” but, having historically been presented as an invalid and recluse, she defies easy characterization.

“She made very kind offers to people; anything from borrowing a tea service to providing a home,” says Clark. While she was up against physical and mental health challenges, most of which had little effective treatment or cures at the time, Frances’s correspondence points indeed to a “rational” and “resilient” 19th-century woman. Read more here.

Seward Video Playlist

Visit the Seward Family Digital Archive video playlist to view more videos about the Sewards and the origins of the Seward Family Digital Archive Project.

The archive is a collaboration between the Digital Scholarship Lab and River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester.


Can text messages help us quit smoking?

What motivates us the most? Rewards? Threats? Being part of a positive trend? These questions are central to a modern approach to help people kick the smoking habit.

A Wilmot Cancer Institute team is launching a two-year research project to develop different types of text messages for smoking cessation — and then study them in clinical trials to find out what works best.

Plans call for recruiting about 2,600 smokers from a 27-county area that includes Rochester and extends up to Oswego and down to the Southern Tier, says Paula Cupertino, Wilmot’s associate director of Community Outreach & Engagement (COE), who joined the University a year ago.

Researchers will pay special attention to the Latino population because it has not been as successful at quitting smoking. Through partnerships with co-investigators, the study goal is to enroll and engage 1,300 Latino people from upstate New York and in California.

Mobile text messaging for health improvement is being studied in other areas: for weight loss, diabetes self-management, and exercise, for example. With billions of mobile phone users worldwide, however, researchers are trying to scientifically validate the correct approaches before rolling out programs more broadly.

“The future of medicine will rely on tools like this, and here we are in Rochester, doing it,” Cupertino says, adding that she will compile a “library” of text messages geared to helping people quit smoking. Read more here.


An app to prevent tooth decay in children

A group of Medical Center researchers are developing a smartphone app to help parents detect severe tooth decay in their children with the help of a new NIH grant. The app will make dental care more accessible to children in under-resourced communities, who are disproportionately affected by this chronic childhood disease.

Leveraging smartphones to reach communities that are typically low-income may not feel intuitive, but the idea came directly from members of those communities.

Medical Center researchers and community partners gathered input from low-income moms in Rochester as part of a Community-Based Participatory Research Pipeline-to-Pilot Award project, funded by the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and led by Jin Xiao, associate professor of dentistry; Kevin Fiscella, professor of family medicine; and Sherita Bullock, executive director of the Healthy Baby Network. The women recommended using social media or smartphone apps to educate and improve access to prenatal dental health.

Xiao is leading the new smartphone app project with Fiscella and Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science and an expert in artificial intelligence. The team built a prototype of the AICaries app last year to detect tooth decay in its early reversible stage. Parents or caregivers can take a photo of a child’s tooth in the app and it will inform them if the tooth has decay. The app will then guide them to an interactive educational component to help them understand ways to prevent further decay through diet and oral hygiene and will provide information on local dentists and insurance. Read more here.


Fulbright Scholar opportunities for faculty members

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers global research and mobility opportunities to university faculty members across 130 countries. The deadline to apply is September 15, but in the meantime the program is offering live webinars this month spotlighting various opportunities. Read more here.


Curious about the process of publishing open access books?

Attend a virtual discussion with panelists from the humanities and social sciences from noon to 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 29.

The panel will be moderated by Joan Saab, vice provost of academic affairs and a professor of art history and visual and cultural studies, with opening remarks from Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries.

Register to attend the event.


Digital health and entrepreneurship training

The UNY I-Corps Node Program is hosting a digital health technologies and entrepreneurship training short course, in partnership with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute Digital Health Program at the University of Rochester. This course is designed for graduate students, post docs, staff, and faculty members in STEM fields.

If you or your colleagues are working on a technology innovation in the digital health space and would like to explore its translation and commercialization potential, I-Corps can provide you with entrepreneurial education, mentoring, and opportunities for funding. The regional course cohort meets for 11 contact hours over the course of 3.5 weeks, running from Monday, May 10, through Wednesday, June 2. These hours include training on:

  • Technology Translation
  • Intro to Customer Discovery and Market Research
  • Entrepreneurship and Business Model Development
  • Startup Basics

The application deadline is April 29, so please feel free to share this opportunity with your colleagues. If you have any questions, please contact the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship.


Apply now for postdoc fellowship in population health research

The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UR CTSI) is seeking candidates for a Population Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The position is fully funded for one year starting August 2021 or January 2022. The goal is to produce a diverse group of interdisciplinary researchers trained in team science who can conceptualize research across the translational continuum from basic research through population health.

Fellows choose one of three tracks: Electronic Health Record as a Resource for Research; National, Regional and Local Database Analytics; and Population Health Behavior Change. Apply by Monday, May 10.


Keeping abreast of the University's response to COVID-19

Here are important links for researchers:

PREPARATIONS FOR RETURN TO CAMPUS: Last month marked one year since the University began living and working during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some faculty and staff, this has meant working remotely. For others—notably, the employees who work directly with patients and students, some research positions, and key individuals who have kept things running on-site—work has continued under strict safety protocols on campus. The University is proud of and inspired by how faculty and staff have come together during these challenging times.

Throughout the pandemic, the University has prioritized the health and safety of the community. As vaccination rates increase and public health guidelines ease, preparations have begun for an eventual full return to the workplace. A dedicated working group, in partnership with CURT and the Department of Human Resources, is currently being formed to evaluate the right transition path for that return, taking into account cleaning protocols, safe physical distancing, space needs, and any continued opportunities for full-time or part-time remote work. Learn more about the University’s plans for returning to the workplace.

PLEASE NOTE that the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard is updated daily and dashboard numbers may reflect additional cases confirmed later in the day. When a new case is known, the contact-tracing process begins immediately with the Monroe County Health Department, with confirmed exposures being contacted and required to quarantine. Remember:

If you feel like you’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best to report them through Dr. Chat Bot immediately. Even if you think your symptoms might be something else, like a cold, seasonal congestion, or allergies, it’s still important to tell University health professionals and contact tracers what you are experiencing—they always want to receive more, not less, information.

Common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • A temperature of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Severe fatigue
  • Headache
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste, smell, or appetite
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea


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.