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Research Education News

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The New Issue of Opportunities to Explore is Out Now!

Friday, August 12, 2022

Read the August 15-August 19, 2022 Issue

Lynne Maquat Receives Advisory Appointment at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Lynne MaquatLynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., the J. Lowell Orbison Endowed Chair and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Oncology and Pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry has been elected a member of the Council of Scientific Advisers (CSA) of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Also the founding director of the University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology, Maquat will serve as a member of the Council for a term of three years, beginning in July 2022.

The ICGEB is an intergovernmental organization that runs over 45 state-of-the-art laboratories in Trieste, Italy, New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa. If forms an interactive network with close to 70 member states, and plays a key role in biotechnology by promoting research excellence, training, and technology transfer to industry. The Council of Scientific Advisers is composed of fifteen “eminent” scientists who are active in the life sciences at the international level. Maquat will work together with fellow advisors to provide ICGEB member states with effective training programs and dedicated research projects.

Maquat taught RNA biology to students and scientists from third world countries at the ICGEB center in Trieste for many years. Here is a sample of her talks from 2014 and 2016:

Tales from the Underworld Cellular Underworld: Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay (NMD) and Staufen1-Mediated mRNA Decay (SMD)

Effects of SINES on Human mRNA Metabolism

Nonsense-Mediated mRNA Decay and Human Disease

With this appointment, Maquat has held a dozen international advisory positions since 2000. In addition to the ICGEB, she is currently a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany and a member of the Medical Advisory Board for the Canada Gairdner International Awards and The Gairdner Foundation in Canada.

Maquat is the second member of the University of Rochester community to be elected a member of the Council of Scientific Advisers. Arthur Kornberg, M.D., who earned his medical degree from the School of Medicine & Dentistry in 1941 and went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959, served as a scientific advisor to the ICGEB from 1995 to 2005.

Advancing Biomedical Research Through CART

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Center for Advanced Research Technology (CART) is a great resource for the SMD research community.  Take a look inside the facilities of CART and discover how they partner with principal investigators to propel research into new territories, unlocking key discoveries.

Last year, CART supported 313 grants and 259 principal investigators with their equipment, personnel and data analysis.

Learn more at cart.urmc.edu.

SMD’s Eric Vaughn Awarded BWF Grant

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

 

Eric

Congratulations to our own Eric Vaughn, M.Ed., director of career services at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, for receiving a Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Career Guidance for Trainees grant! BWF awards this grant to help professionals in the biomedical sciences run a career development activity that serves trainees at the institution.

Vaughn will get the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences in the area of research evaluation through a three-day workshop later this summer. Upon completion, he will receive $15,000 to further enhance career development efforts here at SMD.

"I am really excited to receive the Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant," says Vaughn. "I look forward to taking what I learn and creating a new career-focused activity to assist the SMD trainees in exploring career opportunities."

Dr. Snigdha Alur-Gupta has been selected as a 2022 CREST scholar

Thursday, June 30, 2022

The CREST program started in 2005 as a partnership between NICHD and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) to train reproductive endocrinologists (and subsequently, family planning and urology endocrinologists) in the conduct of clinical research.  The program accepts approximately four to six scholars each year. As of 2021, approximately 80 scholars have participated in the CREST program, with many continuing to be involved in clinical research including Dr. Wendy Vitek.

Edith Williams Named Founding Director of the New Office of Health Equity Research

Monday, June 27, 2022

Edith Williams

After a comprehensive search, a founding director has been named for the new Office of Health Equity Research, which is housed in the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute and is a crucial part of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan. Edith M. Williams, Ph.D., associate professor of Public Health Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, will take up the role on September 1, and will also be appointed associate professor in the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Medicine (Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology), pending URMC Board approval.

Read More: Edith Williams Named Founding Director of the New Office of Health Equity Research

One fond farewell brings another warm welcome for PREP scholars

Monday, June 13, 2022

URMC Diversity Award winners - 2021

2021-22 PREP cohort from left to right: Jaclyn McCoy, Jia Mei, Tanique McDonald, Helen Chan, Bianca Flores and program directors Elaine Smolock, PhD and Jacques Robert, PhD.


As the 2021-22 Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) cohort ends their training this month, SMD is pleased to share that scholars are entering graduate programs that are diverse in both geographic location as well as research.

This year’s cohort will enter programs focused on infectious disease, microbiology, neuroscience, and pharmacognosy across the country including California, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.

“In addition to their research success, our scholars have participated in science communication internships developing curriculum for middle school students, been offered provost and training grant fellowships, and have published and presented at multiple meetings and seminars,” said Elaine Smolock, co-director of the PREP program and senior associate for research educational programming and grant development at SMD.

The PREP program is designed to encourage students from historically excluded groups who hold a recent baccalaureate degree in the biomedically-relevant sciences to pursue a research doctorate, and to prepare these trainees for careers as outstanding research scientists and leaders in the biomedical community.

Working directly with faculty mentors, scholars had the opportunity to work on dynamic projects, immersing themselves in research environments and learning how to communicate their results.

Jia Mel, a member of 2021-22 cohort and soon-to-be graduate student at Vanderbilt University, says her research experience in Dr. Paul Dunman’s lab was very rewarding. She worked on projects focused on novel combinations of antibiotics for drug discovery.

“The PREP experience has definitely prepared me to become an independent researcher for graduate school,” she said.

She even had the honor of publishing a first author paper during her PREP year.

“These scholars have exceeded our expectations, and we are excited to see how they contribute to biomedical research in the future,” said Smolock.

The new cohort officially begins on July 5. Here’s a quick look this year’s group:

Scholar

Mentor

College

Jacob Cody Naccarato

Bin Zhang

UNC Chapel Hill

Jackie Agyemang

Martha Susiarjo

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Hunter Houseman

Brian Ward

University of Illinois

Aaron Huynh

Michelle Janelsins

University of Rochester

Lourdes Marinna Caro Rivera

Paul Dunman

University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez

Welcome to Our 2022 Summer Scholars

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Tiffany Panko
Shannon Hening
2022 Summer Scholar

The School of Medicine and Dentistry is excited to welcome the next group of Summer Scholars for 2022! The 27 incoming students make up the largest cohort on record. This year’s group includes students from seven different states, as well as Puerto Rico, representing 15 different universities.

Over the course of the 10 weeks, trainees participate in research/educational seminars and presentations on graduate school and careers, as well as construct a poster outlining their research.

Read More: Welcome to Our 2022 Summer Scholars

Dream Engineers: Rochester Postdoc Partnership Scholar Featured on Full Measure News

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

For as much time as we spend sleeping and dreaming, and as long as we’ve studied both, they largely remain ever-mysterious, their exact function and purpose elusive. Michelle Carr, Ph.D., a postdoc in the Rochester Postdoc Partnership, spoke with Full Measure News about the science of sleep, dreams and dream engineering - the idea that one might be able to control their dreams to improve their lives.

Read More: Dream Engineers: Rochester Postdoc Partnership Scholar Featured on Full Measure News

Doctoral Students Showcase Research in Under Three Minutes

Monday, April 11, 2022

URMC Diversity Award winners - 2021
(3MT winners from left to right: Courtney Kellogg (tie for second), Tara Vrooman (first place), Raquel Ajalik (people’s choice), Uday Chockanathan (tie for second))


A typical 80,000-word thesis takes roughly nine hours to present. The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic competition that challenges doctoral students to describe their research within just three minutes to a general audience. Challenge accepted by eight Ph.D. students out of both SMD as well as Arts, Sciences, and Engineering during the event on April 6. Participants were judged on various criteria including comprehension, as well as communication and engagement. Congratulations to the winners!

  • People’s choice: Raquel Ajalik, Biomedical Engineering, AS&E, “About time we start-a-tendon clinical trials-on-a-chip” - $250 research travel award
     
  • Tie for second place: Uday Chockanathan, Neuroscience, SMD, “Population coding deficits in Alzheimer’s disease” and Courtney Kellogg, Cell Biology of Disease, SMD, “Are your Hair Cells there?” - $500 research travel award 
     
  • First place: Tara Vrooman, Immunology, SMD, Investigating the Long-Term Effects of SBRT/IL-12 Therapy in a Murine Model of Pancreatic Cancer - $750 research travel award
    Check out a few pictures from the event on the SMD Instagram page. And you can learn more about 3MT and check out previous winners here.

Rochester Postdoc Partnership Alum Stands in Smithsonian

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Tiffany Panko

During the month of March, you could bump into University of Rochester alumna Tiffany Panko, MD ('16), MBA, in the Smithsonian's If/Then She Can national exhibit - or at least her life-sized statue. Panko became an American Association for the Advancement of Science If/Then ambassador during her time in the Rochester Postdoc Partnership program, which is the nation's only biomedical postdoc program tailored for deaf scientists.

Read More: Rochester Postdoc Partnership Alum Stands in Smithsonian

Sarah Latchney, PhD: Teaching to Learn

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Benzi Kluger

Sarah Latchney, Ph.D., is right where she had hoped to be: teaching science at a small, public, liberal arts college.

In the summer of 2019, she was hired as faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. As an assistant professor of Biology and Neuroscience, she predominately teaches introductory-level biology for all incoming Biology and Neuroscience students as well as several introductory and advanced courses in the Neurosciences.

Latchney says she caught the teaching bug after designing and teaching a 200-level undergraduate course in toxicology as part of her training in the Rochester Postdoc Partnership (RPP) program. 

“It was a course that I developed from scratch on my own,” Latchney recalls. “Through that experience, I learned what it truly means to teach at the college level – to be the sole instructor of record and everything that goes into designing a course, implementing it, and interacting with students. It was a lot of work but also lots of fun.”

Read More: Sarah Latchney, PhD: Teaching to Learn

2021: SMD Research by the Numbers

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Looking at the year that just ended, we have much to celebrate here at SMD. Check out some of our research highlights from 2021!

URMC Researchers Work to Address Head & Neck Cancer Survival Disparities in Western NY

Friday, January 28, 2022

Benzi Kluger

A new study from researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is shedding light on head and neck cancer survival disparities in Western New York.

Residence in more rural areas of the state is associated with lower five-year overall survival among head and neck cancer (HNC) patients, according to the study published in the journal Head & Neck. It reviewed cases from Wilmot Cancer Institute ranging from 2011 to 2019 and found that HNC patients residing in smaller and more isolated rural towns have double the mortality over a five-year period compared to more urban areas of the state.

Read More: URMC Researchers Work to Address Head & Neck Cancer Survival Disparities in Western NY

In the Pocket: RNA Binding Discovery Supports ‘RNA World’ Theory of Early Life on Earth

Friday, January 14, 2022

Benzi Kluger

RNA biologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have discovered that RNA, the chemical cousin of DNA, can bind two metabolites (small molecules) at the same time in a single binding pocket, causing those molecules to interact. This discovery, published in Nature Communications this week, could lead to new antibacterial drugs while helping to fill a gap in the controversial “RNA world” theory, which suggests that RNA molecules enabled life to evolve on Earth 3.5 billion years ago.  

 

Read More: In the Pocket: RNA Binding Discovery Supports ‘RNA World’ Theory of Early Life on Earth

“Education is key.” Neuroscientist Nathan A. Smith, Ph.D. ('13), returns in leadership role

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Nathan A. Smith

Nathan A. Smith, M.S. (’10), Ph.D. (’13), is returning to the University of Rochester as an associate professor of Neuroscience and associate dean for Equity and Inclusion in Research and Research Education in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The first Black graduate of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of Rochester, Smith sees his return to campus as a way to make sure the bright minds in underserved communities have equal education opportunities. He is eager to begin working closely with current learners and being a role model for them and finding ways to enhance the recruitment of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and faculty of color, as well as women.

“I believe in the mission at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience,” Smith said. “I think that by putting the right people at the table, we can make a substantial change in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I want to be a part of that and make sure we get it right. Rochester has the potential to be the blueprint for other organizations. To set an example and change the future of science for all.”

Read More: “Education is key.” Neuroscientist Nathan A. Smith, Ph.D. ('13), returns in leadership role

Postdoctoral trainee Choongheon Lee and Neuroscience Graduate Program student Anjali Sinha lead new research focused on the entry of drugs into the inner ear

Friday, January 7, 2022

Choongheon Lee

The study, titled Characterizing the Access of Cholinergic Antagonists to Referent Synapses in the Inner Ear, looks to understand the rules governing drug entry into peripheral sensory end organs.

Vestibular and auditory dysfunction and their associated clinical manifestations represent a significant and increasing health burden, according to Lee and his team. Selective pharmacological targeting of distinct cellular mechanisms in the inner ear, while avoiding similar targets in the central nervous system (CNS), might offer a set of viable clinical tools and specific treatment strategies.

Read More: Postdoctoral trainee Choongheon Lee and Neuroscience Graduate Program student Anjali Sinha lead new research focused on the entry of drugs into the inner ear