Three PhD Students Honored with SMD Equity and Inclusion Award
Monday, September 27, 2021
From left to right: Raven Osborn, PhD candidate in Translational Biomedical Sciences, Katherine Andersh, PhD candidate in Neuroscience, and Briaunna Minor, PhD candidate in Microbiology, received the 2021 Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion during SMD Opening Convocation on Sept. 20.
The School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) welcomed students, honored excellence, and marked the official start of a new academic year with Opening Convocation held on Sept. 20.
“Convocation is a time when we come together to celebrate the many accomplishments of our School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty and learners,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of URMC and Dean of SMD. “The individuals we recognize today are a testament to the superb teaching and mentoring, top-notch research, outstanding academic performances, and excellence in patient care and community service that occurs in our School day in and day out.”
This year’s event marked the first time honoring students with the new Graduate Student Award for Excellence in Equity and Inclusion. Established in 2021, this award recognizes a SMD student or student group for outstanding effort in advancing equity and inclusion. Nominees must demonstrate a sustained passion for and commitment to promoting equity and inclusion through their research, institutional, administrative, and/or other service-related efforts. It is expected that nominees’ efforts show a demonstrated impact upon the communities they serve.
In its inaugural year, this award was given to Raven Osborn, Katherine Andersh and Briaunna Minor, all PhD students and executive board members of the University’s Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE).
Over the past year, they have been instrumental in advocating for a more welcoming and inclusive learning environment across the Medical Center and the University by leading the charge with the graduate student addendum to the Actions Speak Louder demands.
“They demonstrate their tremendous courage and commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion with their willingness to publicly challenge the status quo and hold institutional leadership accountable,” says Rick Libby, PhD, senior associate dean for Graduate Education and Post-Doctoral Affairs.
The mission of the ADSE is to increase the representation and visibility of underrepresented groups in the STEM fields. The goals are to connect scientists across our campus, showcase non-traditional career paths and minority experiences in academia, industry, government, and to educate students at all levels about opportunities in STEM.
On that same evening, the ADSE as a group received the URSMD Trainee Diversity Award, which recognizes the exceptional contributions and accomplishments of URSMD trainees (medical students, graduate students, residents, fellows, postdocs) who foster a diverse and inclusive SMD community.
Congratulations to Raven, Kate and Briaunna!
A record-breaking start for 155 new SMD graduate students!
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Despite being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic during our 2021 graduate school application cycle, the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry received 1,063 applications for Ph.D. programs – the highest on record. In addition, there were 346 applications for master’s programs and 44 for advanced certificate programs.
COVID-19 not only forced virtual interviews, but made it nearly impossible for prospective students to set foot on campus before applying. In spite of that, new students like Bachelard Dieujuste, who’s part of the Genetics, Development & Stem Cells Ph.D. program, saw that as an opportunity to expand their options.
“I had an interview almost every week, and I have class at the same time,” he says. “It would have been a nightmare for me to juggle between class and then traveling for interviews.”
Dieujuste, after applying to more than ten schools, ultimately landed on Rochester knowing the institution’s reputation in mRNA research. He felt our program would set him up to be among the best in his field.
“In order for that to happen, I must learn from the best,” he says. “Since faculty members at UofR are specialists that use cutting-edge experiments in their field, I have to learn from them.”
Dieujuste comes to us from CUNY Hunter College, the institution where we attracted the most students this year, apart from UofR undergrad. In addition, our graduate programs welcomed a more diverse class than ever before.
Twenty-seven percent of incoming U.S. students are members of racial or ethnic groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in science. Twenty-five percent are from a disadvantaged background as defined by the National Institutes of Health. Both numbers are the highest on record for SMD.
Women make up 66 percent of this year’s graduate students with 103, while there are 52 men.
U.S. students have come to us from 24 different states, while 72 of our new students are staying in their home state of New York. Twenty-five students are coming to us internationally from:
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
That’s a total of 101,113 miles traveled to Rochester.
“We're thrilled to welcome our new class of graduate learners,” says Rick Libby, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Graduate Education and Post-Doctoral Affairs. “The skills and experiences they bring to SMD will undoubtedly help us make key advances in science and medicine.”
We wish our newest SMD graduate students continued success. Welcome!
UR Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) 2021 Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge CONTEST RESULTS
Monday, May 24, 2021
Full-time UR grad students (gender-inclusive) in biomedical, biological, or chemical sciences took charge of their futures by setting and, through mentoring-up, achieving professional and personal goals for Spring 2021. Participants submitted their goals in a January write-up and progress reports on their professional goals in May. The anonymous faculty evaluation committee selected finalists to present on May 20th. All four presenters were selected to win $1500 ea. in technology-related (hardware, software and/or peripherals) prizes. Of note, submissions for this contest were received from graduate students of 12 different programs!
Congratulations, Mentoring-Up Resolution Challenge Winners:
Immunology, Microbiology & Virology Grad Student
4th year | Gerber Lab
Biophysics, Structural & Computational Biology Grad Student
3rd year | Grossfield Lab
Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology Grad Student
3rd year | Lueck Lab
Neuroscience Grad Student
5th year | Briggs Lab
Medina Afandiyeva, Chemistry Grad Student, 1st year, Kennedy Lab
Sara Ali, BSCB Grad Student, 2nd year, Mathews Lab
Debamitra Chakraborty, Materials Science Grad Student, 3rd year, Sobolewski Lab
Brandon Davis, BMB Grad Student, 4th year, O'Connell Lab
Lananh Ho, Biomedical Engineering Grad Student, 1st year, rotating
Mary Moran, IMV Grad Student, 4th year MBI/1st year MPH, Beck & Gill Labs
Kuan-Lin (Zona) Yeh, Nursing Grad Student, 3rd year, Groth Lab
Frances Tolibzoda Zakusilo, Neuroscience Grad Student, 3rd year, Gorbunova & O'Banion Labs
Sponsored by GWIS, an initiative of the NIH T32 Predoctoral Training Grant in Cellular, Biochemical and Molecular Sciences.
Graduate Women in Science Receives 2021 Best of Rochester Award
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Graduate Women in Science has been selected for the 2021 Best of Rochester Award in the University category by the Rochester Award Program.
Each year, the Rochester Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Rochester area a great place to live, work and play.
Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2021 Rochester Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Rochester Award Program and data provided by third parties.
About Rochester Award Program
The Rochester Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Rochester area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.
The Rochester Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.
Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores
Monday, April 26, 2021
Read More: Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores
New research finds that children who were breastfed scored higher on neurocognitive tests. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of cognitive tests taken by nine and ten-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed, and compared those results to scores of children who were not.
"Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months." Daniel Adan Lopez, Ph.D. candidate in the Epidemiology program who is first author on the study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. "That's what's exciting about these results. Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed."
Hayley Martin, Ph.D., a fourth year medical student in the Medical Scientist Training Program and co-author of the study, focuses her research on breastfeeding. "There's already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. This study's findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made. It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding."
Researchers reviewed the test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Variations were found in the cumulative cognitive test scores of breastfed and non-breastfed children. There was also evidence that the longer a child was breastfed, the higher they scored.
"The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months," said Lopez. "The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the one to six month-old scores dips a little more. But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn't breastfeed at all." Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, findings in this study made similar findings.
"This supports the foundation of work already being done around lactation and breastfeeding and its impact on a child's health," said Ed Freedman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and lead author of the study. "These are findings that would have not been possible without the ABCD Study and the expansive data set it provides."
Wedekind lab research featured on the cover of JBC “The Year in JBC: 2020" issue
Friday, February 12, 2021
Congratulations to Shashank Chavali, Dr. Sachitanand Mali, Dr. Jermaine Jenkins, Dr. Rudi Fasan, and Dr. Joseph Wedekind for being featured on the cover of JBC "The Year in JBC: 2020" issue. Their recent research article, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) December 4, 2020 issue, titled "Co-crystal structures of HIV TAR RNA bound to lab-evolved proteins show key roles for arginine relevant to the design of cyclic peptide TAR inhibitors" has been selected as the representative 'RNA' article for 2020 retrospective collection called "The Year in JBC: 2020."
The cover art below, shows a collage of fluorescence complementation experiments between the [4Fe-4S]-transferring NFU1 and potential partners (performed by Roland et al.), crystal structure overlays of HIV-1 TAR RNA with lab-evolved TAR-binding proteins (reported by Chavali et al.), nonmelanized yeast cells (explored by Chrissian et al.) and a cryo-EM structure of STEAP1, now thought to function as a ferric reductase in heterotrimer form (reported by Oosterheert and Gros). Artwork created by EJ Marklin.
Read More: Wedekind lab research featured on the cover of JBC "The Year in JBC: 2020" issue
Lynne Maquat Awarded 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Read More: Lynne Maquat Awarded 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine
Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the founding director of the Center for RNA Biology at the University of Rochester, was honored with the 2021 Wolf Prize in Medicine. The acclaimed international award is given to outstanding scientists from around the world for achievements that benefit mankind.
Maquat was selected for "fundamental discoveries in RNA biology that have the potential to better human lives." She has spent her career deciphering the many roles that RNA plays in sickness and in health, and is well known for her discovery of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay or NMD. One of the major surveillance systems in the body, NMD protects against mistakes in gene expression that lead to disease. Maquat's lab also revealed that NMD helps our cells adjust to changes in development and in their environment, and more rapidly respond to certain stimuli.
Maquat shares the award with Joan Steitz, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale School of Medicine and Adrian Krainer, Ph.D., St. Giles Foundation Professor and Cancer Center Deputy Director of Research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Steitz and Krainer were also honored for discoveries in RNA biology.
The Wolf Foundation, which celebrates exceptional achievements in the sciences and the arts, is based in Israel, where Maquat's quest to unravel the intricacies of NMD began. In 1980 she traveled to Jerusalem to retrieve bone marrow samples from four children suffering from thalassemia major, the most severe form of the inherited blood disorder thalassemia. Maquat wanted to learn why the children's marrow contained no beta-globin protein, which is necessary for the oxygen-carrying function of red blood cells. Her 1981 breakthrough manuscript, "Unstable beta-globin mRNA in mRNA-deficient beta0 thalassemia," published in Cell, was the first to reveal the role of NMD in human cells and how it can lead to disease.
"Lynne's work on nonsense-mediated mRNA decay is the bedrock of an ever-growing body of research on how mRNAs are monitored and regulated," said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Her dedication to her science and to the field of RNA biology has opened the door to the development of RNA-based therapeutics for a wide range of disorders that you can't reach with conventional drugs. We're thrilled that her contributions are being recognized with this prestigious award."
RNA secured its place in the public eye in 2020 with the development and approval of multiple mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Years of research by Maquat, Steitz and Krainer helped set the stage for the rapid development of these vaccines.
The J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Maquat is the recipient of several other significant honors, including:
Winners of the Wolf Prize are selected annually by an international jury committee of the Wolf Foundation; prizes are awarded regardless of religion, gender, race, geographical region, or political view. The official announcement of this year's prize by the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, was made on February 9, 2021.