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Research Education News


The New Issue of Opportunities to Explore is Out Now!

Monday, June 10, 2024

Read the June 10-June 14, 2024 Issue

Jamie Butler ’02M (PhD) on Exploring the Unconventional

Monday, June 3, 2024

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Jamie Butler, a 2002 graduate of our Biophysics program, has built a dynamic career at the intersection of science and technology. As the Vice President of Marketing at Hamamatsu, a leading company in light and technology products, Jamie leverages his extensive background in microscopy and biophysics.

Originating from Connecticut and initially attending Hamilton College for his undergraduate studies, Jamie's career journey took off in San Francisco where he engaged with emerging biotechnology firms.

His graduate experience at the University of Rochester, marked by practical lab work and valuable rotations, played a pivotal role in his professional development. Jamie's career path includes significant transitions from bench work to roles in sales and marketing, underscoring the importance of interdisciplinary skills and adaptability.

He credits collaborative opportunities at U of R and mentorship for his career progression. Jamie now offers insights and advice to aspiring scientists, emphasizing the value of asking questions, exploring unconventional paths, and fostering a rewarding work environment.

Key Takeaways

Find Your Passions: Be proactive in your academic and personal experiences to discover what truly excites you. These experiences can help you identify your specific interests and guide your career path.

Expand Your Skillset: Building technical skills and gaining practical experience can enhance your employability and open up diverse career opportunities you may not have even considered.

Get Comfortable in Your Environment: The support of a community can greatly influence your educational experience and career. Cultivate and nurture an environment that can help you thrive.

Build a Niche: Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek out areas where you can develop expertise. Finding a niche that aligns with your skills and interests can be transferable and valuable in new and unexpected ways.

Top Quotes

[05:09] "The work I was doing was really neat. It was bench work that then translated all the way up to production-level bioprocessing. So everything from Q vats and to flasks to then small fermenters to 100,000 liter fermenters that are in production in Iowa."

[09:11] "Microscopy was the theme throughout my career. The technology was easily as fascinating to me as the science itself."

[41:58] Explore the unconventional because you might find something that you really love. If you’re thinking it’s time to move away from the bench, what are some things you love about the bench — things you can take with you.

Mentorship, Teaching, and Leadership: Recognizing Our Outstanding Faculty

Monday, May 6, 2024

Steve Dewhurst and Edith Williams2024 Faculty Award Recipients with URMC CEO and SMD Dean David Linehan, MD (Top middle).

Congratulations to all of our faculty members who received mentoring awards, named professorships, and teaching fellow awards. They were honored in a celebration at Flaum Atrium on May 1, 2024. The full list of awardees is below:

SMD Faculty Mentoring Awards

  • Faculty Academic Mentoring Award - Thu H. Le, MD, Professor of Medicine, John J. Kuiper Distinguished Professor and Chief, Division of Nephrology
  • Trainee Academic Mentoring Award in Clinical Programs - Anne F. Brayer MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics
  • Lifetime Mentoring Award - J. Edward Puzas, PhD, Professor of Orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research
  • Trainee Academic Mentoring, Award in Basic Science - Krystel R. Huxlin PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology and James V. Aquavella, MD, Professor in the Center for Visual Science and the Institute for Optics in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, in Neuroscience, and Director of Research in Ophthalmology

Newly Named Professorships

  • Gary R. Morrow Distinguished Professor - Michelle C. Janelsins-Benton, PhD
  • William L. Morgan Jr., Professor in Medicine - Amy E. Blatt, MD
  • Margaret and Cy Welcher Professor in Dental Research - Thomas Diekwisch, DMD, PhD
  • William H Eilinger Professor of Pediatrics - Jill S. Halterman, MD, MPH
  • Dr. Mina M. Chung Professor - Vikas Khetan, MBBS
  • Segal Watson Professor in Medicine - Mark A. Levstik, MD
  • Martha M. Freeman, M.D. Professor in Biomedical Genetics - Margot Mayer-Proschel, PhD
  • Dr. C. McCollister Evarts Professor in Orthopaedics - Susan M. McDowell, MD
  • George Washington Goler Chair in Pediatrics - Matthew D. McGraw, MD*
  • Northumberland Trust Professor in Pediatrics - James Palis, MD*
  • Donald M. Foster, M.D. Professor in Biomedical Genetics - Douglas S. Portman, PhD*
  • Albert and Phyllis Ritterson Professor in Microbiology and Immunology - Jacques Robert, PhD
  • Paul N. Yu Professor in Cardiology - Spencer Z. Rosero, MD
  • Dr. Elizabeth R. McAnarney Professor in Pediatrics funded by Roger and Carolyn Friedlander - Lauren G. Solan, MD, MEd
  • Lindsey Distinguished Professor for Pediatric Research - Laurie Ann Steiner, MD*
  • Frieda Robscheit-Robbins Professor - Christa L. Whitney-Milller, MD

​​​*Previously recognized in 2023, receiving medallion in 2024

Dean's Professors

  • Dean’s Professor, Ophthalmology - Ruchira Singh, PhD
  • Dean’s Associate Professor, Pediatrics - Kristin M. Scheible, MD
  • Dean’s Professor, Surgery - Gary R. Morrow, PhD, MS

Dean’s Teaching Fellow Awards

  • Sarah Betstadt, MD, MPH (OB/GYN) Jenny Shen, MD (Hospital Medicine)
  • Heather Reyes, MD, MEng (Pediatrics, Pediatric Critical Care)
  • Theresa Bingemann, MD (Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology, Pediatrics, Pediatric Allergy/Immunology)

Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Grad Student Appreciation, Partnering to Improve Mentoring, and Revising our Research Misconduct Policy

Dear colleagues, 

Scientific discoveries happen every day here at the Medical Center—and most of them depend on essential contributions from graduate students and other trainees/learners. So, it’s very appropriate that graduate student appreciation week was celebrated earlier this month. As someone whose own research career has benefited tremendously from the contributions of learners, I want to also add my own personal “thank you” to all of the students and postdoctoral fellows who I have had the privilege to work with over the past 33 years—along with the hundreds of current graduate learners at the Med Center. 

Trainee Shout Outs

A testament to the high-quality work of our learners, the following individuals have recently been recognized for their research achievements:

One former trainee whose accomplishments were recently highlighted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is our own Nate Smith – whose personal career journey is celebrated in one of the institute’s most recent success stories. 

Partnering to Improve Mentoring

In the NINDS posting, Nate outlines his mentoring philosophy, noting that “as a PI, you must create an environment that allows your lab members to be their authentic selves…approaching your trainees with a positive and respectful attitude and meeting them where they are will nurture their growth and yield tremendous results.” 

Nate’s words remind us that being a mentor to others is a privilege, something that is earned as an individual’s career progresses. Furthermore, as Nate points out, the establishment of a respectful partnership between learners and faculty is foundational to creating a culture of supportive mentoring. To that end, the learner-led Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE) is working collaboratively with University administration to foster a collective culture that not only prioritizes research outcomes, but intentionally focuses on the mentorship responsibilities that are shared between PIs and grad students. A related goal is, in the words of ADSE President, TashJaé Q. Scales, to develop “a comprehensive plan delineating clear expectations for principal investigators and students within laboratory settings to cultivate a healthy environment conducive to student success.” We will share more details about these initiatives as they move forward.

Commencement Weekend and Other Upcoming Events

The University’s 174th Commencement Ceremony will be held at 9 am on May 17, marking the start of a weekend of events and celebrations that includes the doctoral graduation ceremony (May 17 at 2 pm), and SMD’s Masters and Advanced Certificate graduation ceremony (May 18 at 4 pm). I hope to see many of you there!

The registration for our biannual DEAF ROC conference is now open.  The conference will be held August 29 and 30, at UR (Aug 29) and at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) (Aug 30).  The theme of the conference is “Bridging the Gap: Empowering Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in Hearing Research Environments”; keynote speakers will include the renowned deaf scientists, Carol Padden of UCSD and Bradley White of Gallaudet University. Additional keynote presenters will include Amie Fornah Sankoh, the first deaf, Black woman to earn a STEM doctorate, and Chris Woodfill, New York State’s first Interagency Coordinating Council Executive Director. 

Changes on the Horizon

Research Misconduct (RM) policy: The NIH Office of Research Integrity recently announced its first major anticipated policy changes in nearly two decades, so this is a good time for us to likewise review and improve our RM policy. We will be working on this over the coming months, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate and with input from faculty and other stakeholders across the institution. Until then, our current RM policy remains in effect. Please be aware that you can report concerns regarding research integrity or misconduct via the University’s Integrity hotline.

Steve Dewhurst, PhD

Vice Dean for Research, SMD 
Vice President for Research, UR   


Brenda Santiago-Narvaez ’12M (PhD) on Becoming a College Professor and Mentorship

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Brenda Santiago-Narvaez's unique journey in the realm of science stands as a testament to the pivotal role of passion and perseverance in attaining professional success. A 2012 Microbiology and Immunology PhD graduate, Brenda is currently an associate professor of Biology at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida. Her role encompasses both teaching and research, where she oversees the microbiology coursework for majors, conducts classes, and runs her research lab to guide undergraduates in scientific inquiry.

Brenda's trajectory was shaped by undergraduate research opportunities, particularly her involvement in the Summer Scholars and PREP programs here at the University of Rochester, which not only sharpened her research skills but also reinforced her determination to earn a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology.

Brenda's fascination with science was sparked during her childhood, partly due to her father's passion for the subject and his efforts to foster informal science education at home.

Despite her love for science and her parents' support for her educational aspirations, Brenda recalls the tough decision she had to make between continuing her studies and contributing financially to her family. This experience exemplifies Brenda's belief in the importance of inclusive and supportive educational environments.

She spearheads initiatives like the STEM Hub at Rollins College, creating spaces for community-building among students from diverse backgrounds. This dedication mirrors her focus on mentorship in academia, emphasizing that it's not just academic performance but also the sense of belonging that propels students forward in their careers.

Key Takeaways

Seek Out Research Experience early in your academic journey: Explore the subjects that intrigue you and allow yourself to explore them—they're invaluable for developing your skills and can boost your confidence.

Embrace Mentors: A great mentor can shape your career and life. Remember, these relationships can transform your path, offering guidance and support where you need it most.

Let Passion Inform Your Career: Recognize that your educational and career path is deeply personal and may not always be linear. Follow what genuinely interests you to find both personal fulfillment and professional success.

Value Representation in Academia: It can be powerful to see yourself reflected in your mentors and in roles you aspire to. Strive for diversity in your academic and professional circles and embrace the unique perspectives and opportunities that diverse experiences bring.

Recognize External Challenges: Academic pursuits don't exist in a vacuum. Students often face pressures outside of the classroom, and acknowledging these challenges for yourself and others is crucial for a realistic approach to work-life balance, education, and career planning.

Top Quotes

  1. [04:35] "I feel like as a kid I was very inquisitive and I always was constantly asking questions about the things that I observed. I was raised in a household where my dad had a lot of random science facts about random things. He just liked to read a lot and learn a lot, even though he was not college-educated. And that sparked that kind of natural ability of me to ask questions and be curious about the world."

  2. [07:50] "Economically, going to college was a big sacrifice from my end because I could … have been a member of my household that contributed to our needs. We were highly dependent on government assistance when it came to where we lived, as well as government assistance for our food...My decision to go to college and study full time was very connected with a sense of guilt, if I’m honest.”

  3. [23:00] “An important part about seeing others that are very much like you is also understanding the fact that you as a person are a package. You have your culture, you have your societal experiences, you have your background. When you are part of a minoritized group, sometimes feeling different makes you think that you’re not going to be enough in many ways. Seeing people very much like you and seeing yourself reflected in those individuals and seeing that they’ve accomplished many things and that they have been successful is extremely important.

  4. [32:10] "The path doesn't have to be linear, but if you are persistent, if you're committed to doing something and you're passionate about and you work hard to develop the skills that you need to succeed, then it's definitely possible."


Nazish Jeffery ’21M (PhD) On Responding to Rejection and Her Path to Science Policy

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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Nazish Jeffery, a 2021 graduate of our Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, has charted her career path at the intersection of science and policy. Currently serving as the Bioeconomy Policy Manager at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington D.C., Nazish is a local native from Henrietta who has now successfully transitioned from graduate trainee to a vital role in science policy.

She bridges the gap between scientific research, policy formulation, and implementation, drawing on her experiences to address challenges within the scientific community and advocate for policies that promote innovation and support the scientific ecosystem.

Her prior role as a scientist in process development at Bluebird Bio in Cambridge, Mass. enriched her understanding of commercial and operational challenges in scientific research and solidified her passion for integrating science with policy to effect meaningful change.

Nazish's progression from graduate student to science policy highlights the importance of exploring interdisciplinary fields and being proactive in career development. Venturing into industry after her PhD, her role as a process development scientist broadened her insight into the business side of science. Her journey exemplifies the power of intentional career planning, the necessity of adaptability when facing professional challenges, and the crucial role of effective communication in advancing science and benefiting society.

Key Takeaways

Explore Interdisciplinary Fields: Embrace the merging of your interests to forge a distinct career path. Nazish's discovery of science policy—a field that marries her passion for science with her interest in policy—underscores the significance of delving into interdisciplinary areas that resonate with your personal and professional goals.

Network and Engage: Forge connections within and beyond your academic environment. Actively seek opportunities to understand various career paths and nurture mentorships and support networks that foster your growth. Nazish attributes her success in pursuing alternative career paths to the encouragement and support from her mentors.

Adapt and Be Resilient: Prepare to navigate and surmount the hurdles inherent in competitive arenas. Rejections can test your self-perception and determination. Nazish's experiences of facing challenges along her journey stress the need for resilience, flexibility, and the readiness to seize new opportunities when they present themselves.

Develop Your Skills Strategically: Cultivate a diverse skill set that is relevant across multiple roles. Nazish's progression from academia to industry, and subsequently to policy work, illustrates the importance of versatile skills like communication, program management, and an understanding of industry intricacies.

Communicate Effectively: Develop your prowess in articulating complex scientific ideas to varied audiences. Proficiency in communication is vital not only in science policy but also in any profession that requires making your work comprehensible to those without a scientific background.

Top Quotes

  1. [05:02] "I really do love science, but I like the translation of science a little bit more. It kind of pushed me into pursuing what my passion was, which was science policy."
  2. [05:44] "We're bridge builders between communities, especially for people working in academia and industry in the sciences, helping them voice the challenges they're facing on a day-to-day basis in their field, and potentially helping them figure out ways that government can step in and help alleviate those problems, provide more funding, or provide more opportunities for innovation."
  3. [17:29] "It's all about how you market your skillset. There's a lot of research and it's really scientific, but there are many other things we're learning along the way that apply to many different jobs."
  4. [29:19] "The best thing you can do is talk about your science to people who don't know science. If you want to grow your communication skills and better understand your own work, the best way to do it is to try to explain it to someone who doesn't know any science at all."

Connect with Nazish on LinkedIn.

Ian Krout ’22M (PhD) on Honing Your Skills Beyond Research

Monday, February 26, 2024

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Ian Krout, a 2022 graduate of our Toxicology Ph.D. program, currently serves as a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine and an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University.

In this episode, he discusses his current role as a bench scientist, primarily focusing on sequencing and data analysis, contributing to research investigating how pesticide exposure may interact with the gut microbiome to influence the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Reflecting on his academic career, Krout explains how he discovered the Toxicology program at the University of Rochester and why he chose it for his graduate training, highlighting the program's focus on collaboration, interdisciplinary work, and professional development. He also shares his experience in finding the right postdoctoral opportunity, emphasizing the importance of setting goals, seeking feedback from committee members, and exploring research that aligns with one's interests.

Krout offers advice to graduate students, encouraging them to maximize their educational experiences by leveraging available resources and embracing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Key Takeaways

Intentionality in Career Planning: Take a deliberate approach to identifying and applying for postdoctoral opportunities. Setting clear goals and aligning them with your career aspirations helps you prioritize programs that offer meaningful advancement opportunities.

Utilizing Resources: Use the resources available at academic institutions; from career talks and workshops to faculty committees, you can gain valuable insights and personalized feedback on potential career paths.

Networking and Collaboration: Engage with your peers and faculty members in the academic community. Prioritize a collaborative environment and foster connections and partnerships with those around you. Be proactive in your engagement and take the initiative to maximize your learning and networking opportunities.

Reflective Practice: Introspection is crucial for your academic development and personal growth. Seize opportunities to develop and hone your skills beyond research so you can adapt to new roles and responsibilities, becoming a more well-rounded scientist.

Living in the Moment: Remember to appreciate the present while focusing on future goals. Enjoy your academic journey by finding a work-life balance that allows you to approach your studies enjoyably and sustainably. Value your holistic development as both a person and a scientist.

Key Quotes

  1. 06:56: "...the Toxicology program...being really unique and opposed to the other programs that I looked at and the fact that they focused on collaboration and interdisciplinary work as opposed to competition and sort of trapping yourself in one discipline, which I found with a lot of the other graduate schools I looked at. And so with that focus on collaboration, it made the program really welcoming and it made it so that interdisciplinary work could occur between labs, between graduate students even.
  2. 08:38: " I made it a point to try to take advantage of any career professional development opportunities that came my way. And a lot of that happened through myHub with Eric Vaughn and Elaine Smolock at the Writing Center. I participated in a number of career talks and professional development workshops that really allowed me to see the breadth of opportunities that were available for PhDs and hone in my own career aspirations. So utilizing all of these things made me just a more well-rounded scientist, not only because professionally I looked better, but I was taking the skills that I learned in things such as leadership and management workshops back to the bench."
  3. 09:00: "I also took part in the science communication group Thinkers and Drinkers, where we were able to focus on how do we communicate our science to individuals outside of the scientific field. So, not only was I doing the research, but I was working on how to communicate that research to others to make it so that my Ph.D. was not only at the bench but was also interactive with translating that research to individuals who are the constituency of the research that we're completing."
  4. 13:09: "Knowing what my goals were and knowing what I wanted to achieve in the next three and next five years really made it so that I could sort through my options as next steps and find something that fit my role."
  5. 21:08: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people like Eric and Elaine. If you have an idea or you have something you need help with, they're amazing and more than willing to help. … reach out, get involved, do as much as you can."

Research Update from Steve Dewhurst

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Dear colleagues,  

Twice a year—in February and in March—the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) at the School of Medicine Dentistry (SMD) hosts "Discover UR SMD Weekend" for applicants to our PhD programs. The event provides an opportunity both to showcase research at the Medical Center, and to reflect on what makes UR a special place.

Highlights of SMD’s research activities in 2023 include a total of $265 million in research funding, and some 382 newly funded clinical trials (315 of them industry-supported)—underscoring the impact of the CTSI’s Office of Clinical Research, which is led by newly recruited director, Ashlee Lang. A related highlight is the growth of cancer-related funding at the Wilmot Cancer Institute to a record high of $30.3 million, including $13.1 million in support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

While funding is essential for the conduct of research, it is not what makes SMD special. Our special sauce, to use a signature phrase of one of my favorite people at UR, lies in the combination of our unique resources, our institutional culture, and above all, our people.

In that regard, new SMD Dean and URMC CEO, David Linehan, sets the tone. I’m excited that my new boss is an accomplished physician-scientist with a two-decade history of continuous research support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But, I’m even more excited that—in the words of my colleague, Calvin Cole (assistant professor of Surgery)"he is a very caring individual" who "leads with his heart." If you haven’t already, check out Dr. Linehan’s message to all of our learners.

One of the best parts of Discover UR SMD Weekends are the dinners that faculty members host in their homes. Nathan Smith, associate dean for Equity and Inclusion in Research and Research Education regularly gathers students and faculty in his home because "it creates an environment that is warm and inviting, making it easier for visiting students, current students, and faculty to connect with one another." That experience was borne out in the words of one applicant who emailed Nate to say that "I was genuinely impressed by the sense of camaraderie and inclusivity within the program's group. The conversations I had with faculty and fellow applicants left me with a strong sense of community and belonging."

Finally, Discover UR SMD Weekends also provide an opportunity to put the spotlight on our amazing learners. A few examples include:

Steve Dewhurst, PhD 
Vice Dean for Research, SMD 
Vice President for Research, UR   

* To report a concern about improper or unethical behavior, please call the Integrity Hotline at (585) 756-8888. You may also report concerns online.

2023 SMD Research in Review
Download: Highlights of SMD’s Research Activities in 2023