Skip to main content

SMD Logo

News

20162015201420132012 Archive

American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dr. Harold Smith, Professor at The University of Rochester, has been selected to join the Education Board at the American Health Council. Dr. Smith will be sharing his knowledge and expertise in the field of molecular biology, molecular virology, RNA biology, and drug discovery.

Dr. Harold Smith became involved in research after beginning his career as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at The University of Rochester. As a biophysics professor, he utilized his knowledge and expertise in the areas of research and innovation of RNA, protein molecular biology, cell regulation, and drug discovery. Furthermore, Dr. Smith develops curriculum, teaches and mentors students from high school to postgraduate.

Dr. Harold Smith is also the Founder, President, and CEO of OyaGen, Inc. The objective of OyaGen, Inc. is to induce transient and beneficial changes in the protein expression and function in human tissues by involving the editing enzymes in targeting biomedically relevant pathways.

Dr. Harold Smith is a member of The American Heart Association, The Council on Atherosclerosis, The RNA Society, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a fellow in the The Royal Society of Biology. In addition, Dr. Smith serves on the Scientific Advisor Board of Cannabis Sciences, Inc., IgxBio, Inc. and Trovita Health Sciences as well as the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Virology and AIDS, Frontiers in Microbiology, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, and The Journal of BioDiscovery.

Read More: American Health Council Names Dr. Harold Smith, Ph.D. to Education Board

Miller Receives Patent for Technology that Can Help Detect Flu

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., professor of Dermatology, recently received yet another patent for a new technology that can detect miniscule amounts of specific molecules in blood or other liquids. The patent focuses on using this technology to make detecting immune responses to the flu quicker and easier.

The AIR™ Platform, marketed by Adarza Biosystems, can detect immune responses to flu vaccines as well as the virus itself. With a small blood sample from a patient, doctors can confirm a flu infection, see if the patient mounts an appropriate immune response to a vaccine, or see if immune responses cross react with several different strains of flu. AIR™ can also be used for viral surveillance.

While Miller’s AIR™ system is not the first to make these things possible, it is a great improvement on previous technologies. Its silicon chip, which is only about the size of the end of a pencil eraser, allows scientists to detect hundreds of different target molecules in a single drop of fluid, and its “label-free” design requires fewer steps and reagents, thus reducing cost and opportunities for error.

“Label-free” systems suppress background noise to detect tiny signals, whereas conventional “labeled” systems use a more cumbersome design to amplify a tiny signal, often creating a lot of background noise in the process.

“It’s like walking through a city during the day and looking up at the buildings,” Miller said. “You have no idea what's going on in the offices because there's so much ambient light, but if you come back at night, it's easy to see.”

Miller suppresses background noise using a near-perfect anti-reflective coating on his silicon chips. For every 100 million photons of light that hit the surface of the chip, only one photon is reflected back. That coating also contains capture molecules meant to bind or “capture” specific target molecules, like antibodies produced in response to the flu virus. The more antibodies that bind to the chip, the more the anti-reflective coating is perturbed, and the more light is reflected and captured by a camera.

This simple and unconventional design and the ability to use capture molecules both big and small makes AIR™ extremely versatile. From cancer and infectious diseases, to agriculture and food safety, AIR™ is poised to expedite research and clinical testing across a wide range of applications.

Biochemistry & Biophysics Faculty Member and Photojournalist Barry Goldstein Covers Republican National Convention for The American Scholar

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Barry Goldstein is a photographer specializing in portraiture and documentary themes. Originally trained as a physician and biophysicist, he is Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Visiting Professor of Humanities at Williams College, and Adjunct Professor of Humanism in Medicine at the NYU Medical School. He was the first Artist-in-Residence at the New York University Medical School on September 11, 2001, an experience that led to his collection Being There: Medical Student Morgue Volunteers Following 9/11. His most recent book, Gray Land: Soldiers on War, is a collection of portraits of, and interviews with soldiers in Iraq and at home. He lectures and exhibits widely, and is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant in Photography.

Most recently, Barry provided coverage of the Republication National Convention for the American Scholar. His RNC work can be seen at The American Scholar and on his website.

Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blanton Tolbert

Former Biophysics student, Blanton Tolbert (PhD 2006), mentored by Doug Turner & Ravi Basavappa, has been awarded the Morton L. Mandel endows award for outstanding chemistry faculty members at Case Western Reserve University.

Associate Professor Blanton S. Tolbert, whose work focuses closely on elucidating molecular details of the human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as HIV. A member of the Case Western Reserve faculty since 2012, Tolbert paired the honor with extraordinary achievements during the past academic year:

  • A featured cover story in the Journal of Molecular Biology that described new three-dimensional structures of molecules in the life cycle of HIV
  • A second article about HIV’s molecular structures, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that became the journal’s most-viewed RNA (Ribonucleic acid) paper in December 2015
  • Multiple online mentions of the work, including the Nov. 16 Science Highlights of the Advanced Photon Source at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Library
  • Service as director of the chemistry department’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation. In that role, Tolbert led efforts that identified and recruited a diverse group of students to work on federally sponsored projects. As part of the 10-week experience learning cutting-edge science, the students also participated in teambuilding and professional development activities. The work proved so successful that one undergraduate was cited as co-author on a publication from his summer project.

Congratulations Blanton!

Read More: Blanton Tolbert Wins Morton L. Mandel Award For Outstanding Chemistry Faculty

Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller

Friday, July 8, 2016

Karl Smith

The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. With our feature, FOJBI Friday, we're introducing some of these cool communicators of science in their own words. This week: Karl Smith.

Background

I'm a fifth-year biophysics doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester, where I study porous ultrathin silicon membranes. At the moment I'm taking a brief break from my research to be an American Academy for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Fellow at the Manhattan office of Scientific American.

Importance of science communication

I love science communication because it's both hard and important. People need to be told what scientists have discovered and what it means for their lives, but to do that well requires balancing the storytelling needs of journalism against objectivity and sober contextualization. Also, I personally find scientists to be generally fascinating people to write about and hear from.

Current projects

Along with my co-producer Madeline Sofia, I created The Bench Warmer's Podcast, which tells stories of misadventures and victories in science using interviews with current and former graduate students. I think the stories that don't often get told about science — the scoops, the failures, the dead ends, rewrites and rejections — are just as important to tell as the wild success stories. Not only that, but I think we short-sell our successes by not highlighting how rare they are. So, in the podcast, Maddie and I ask questions like "What's the most expensive thing you ever broke in lab?" and "Have you ever embarrassed yourself by dislocating your knee while singing karaoke onstage in front of hundreds of your scientific peers and possible future employers?"

I also write 10-cent stories for children at the Rochester Museum and Science Center and at a few other places around Rochester. The children give me a prompt and in five minutes I use my typewriter to type them a tale. I've been doing this for about three years now, and I've written well over 800 stories. Sometimes the stories have a STEM bend to them, like this one, but sometimes they're just stories, like this one. I love this project for a lot of reasons, but most of all because it lets me make the world a stranger, more whimsical place.

Future plans

I've only been at my fellowship for a few weeks, so I'm still deciding if I want to be a science journalist or if my plans lie elsewhere. This is a time of great flux for me, so I don't know yet where I'm heading. But I'm enjoying figuring it out.

Read More: Meet Karl Smith, the Typewriting Tale Teller

Clara Kielkopf Receives EvansMDS Discovery Research Grant

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Biochemistry & Biophysics Associate Professor, Clara Kielkopf's project, entitled, Structural mechanisms and targeting of MOS-relevant pre-mRNA splicing factors has been selected by EvansMDS for funding for 2016. This year EvansMDS requested 12 full DRG proposals and were able to fund 6 of them. Their hope is that these findings will translate into improvements in therapy that can be delivered to MDS patients.

The Kielkopf lab investigates splicing defects in hematologic malignancies; roles of human pre-mRNA splicing factors in HIV-1 infectivity; development of engineered splicing factors for correction of splicing defects and splice sites and their associated proteins as therapeutic targets.

Mallory Scott Selected for Summer Internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals

Friday, June 10, 2016

Mallory Scott, Biophysics, Structural and Computational Biology PhD student, in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Kammermeier, has been selected for a summer internship at Bayer Pharmaceuticals in Whippany, NJ in Global Regulatory Affairs. Mallory will gain valuable work experience in the healthcare industry while working with regulatory professionals on various projects to learn about the role of regulatory affairs in drug development and product registration as well as the regulatory landscape. Mallory will be working in the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) division. Her project is focused on quality by design in continuous manufacturing.

Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Epigenetics is a popular, yet still mysterious concept in health and medicine. It’s the study of a variety of biological processes that alter the expression of our genes. Sometimes this involves modifying the structure of our chromosomes to mask or unmask genes, and other times the actual genetic code is changed in certain cells. Harold C. Smith, Ph.D., a longtime professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry has studied epigenetics in a research focus known as RNA and DNA editing since it was introduced two decades ago. He was invited to write a commentary on the progress and future of this research, published today in Trends in Biochemical Sciences, and answers a few questions about the subject.

Read More: Harold Smith Publishes Commentary on RNA and DNA Editing

Congratulations Karl Smith, AAAS Mass Media Fellowship Recipient

Monday, May 23, 2016

Karl Smith, 5th year graduate student in the Biophysics Structural and Computational Biology PhD program, laboratory of Dr. Jim McGrath, has received an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Mass Media Fellowship. Karl, sponsored by the American Physical Society, will be spending 10 weeks this summer working at Scientific American in their Manhattan offices as part of his fellowship.

Since its inception, the AAAS Fellowship Program has supported more than 625 student scientists, engineers and medical professionals who, in some cases, produced the only original science-news reporting at their assigned media outlets over the summer. The current 15 fellows, selected from a pool of 130 outstanding applicants, are likely to generate between 200 and 300 original science stories for print articles, blogs, podcasts, radio segments, and multimedia features.

Past participants in the Mass Media Fellows program include Mark Dumont, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, who received the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship in 1975, the second year that it was in existence. Over that summer, he wrote 26 news articles for the San Diego Union.

Other recipients include Erica Goode and Kenneth Chang of the New York Times; Richard Harris, David Kestenbaum, and Joe Palca of NPR; renowned biologist Eric Lander, co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; physician and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Executive Producer Neal Baer; Victoria Bruce, author of No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz; and many others. - from AAAS's website.

Karl Smith places third in University’s Falling Walls Competition

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Karl Smith, a PhD student in Biophysics and a member of the lab of James McGrath, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, won third place in the University of Rochester’s Falling Walls Competition for describing his use of physics to make water behind a filter form a mixer vortex, reducing the difficulty of normal stirring when fluids stick to surfaces. A total of 19 presenters competed.

The competition is associated with the Falling Walls foundation, a non-profit organization that fosters discussions on research and innovation and promotes the latest scientific findings to society. The Rochester winner’s idea will compete with others from around the world at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in November in Berlin. This event selects the participants for the annual Falling Walls Conference the following day: an international forum for science and innovation to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Speakers at the conference have included Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse; and young inventors from around the world. BBC London said it was where the “brightest minds on the planet” meet.

Last year’s Falling Walls Lab Rochester winner, Ryan Trombetta, a BME PhD student in Dr. Awad’s lab, finished 12th (out off a 100 finalists worldwide) in the Berlin competition for his description of using 3D printed bone grafts to treat osteomyelitis. See his presentation here.

From left to right, Solomon Abiola, Sara Nowacki and Karl Smith, the top three finishers at the Falling Walls Competition.

The Future of Photonics

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

As hundreds of millions of dollar pour into Rochester to establish the nation's first Photonics Hub, Mark Gruba has a closer look at the technology in a News 8 special report, "The Future of Photonics."

Photonics is the science and technology of generating, controlling and detecting photons, which are particles of light. A display at the Rochester Museum & Science Center houses examples of its many applications. In one, a transmitter converts an audio signal from electrical pulses into light pulses. The laser beam sends that information to the receiver, which converts the light pulses back to electrical pulses and sends them to the speaker for your listening enjoyment.

"We work on optical bio sensors," said Dr. Ben Miller, a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He's creating a sensor that can detect the presence of hundreds of viruses from a single blood sample, in real time. "We're working to make devices so that you can immediately get that information in the doctor's office," said Dr. Miller.

Read More: The Future of Photonics

Strong Star Certificate of Appreciation Awarded to Dr. Jermaine “JJ" Jenkins

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On January 22, 2016, Dr. Jermaine Jenkins, who runs the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, was nominated for going 'above and beyond' in his work for a client of the facility. The client commented in their nomination:

The clinical trials group had a very tight timeline to meet for one of our clients. Testing had to be completed by the 25th of January so the client could present the data to the FDA. JJ was aware of the required quick turnaround time and he met the challenge. He worked the weekend so that our client's needs would be met. It is so impressive to work with such a dedicated scientist who takes his job so seriously. With JJ's help, URMC Labs Clinical Trials group made a very good impression on a client.

As Facility Manager of the Structural Biology and Biophysics Facility, Dr. Jenkins offers support services to determine macromolecular x-ray crystal structures, and to investigate protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid or protein-small molecule interactions. Professor Clara Kielkopf – a long time user and co-founder of the Facility commented, JJ quickly, calmly and reliably responds to user needs. Co-director of the Facility Professor Joseph Wedekind added, Dr. Jenkins is an outstanding and dedicated scientist. We are fortunate to have such a great colleague. Please join us in expressing your gratitude to JJ for his service and dedication. Your comments can be included at the iCare site.

The Scientist as Storyteller

Friday, January 15, 2016

Graduate students Clarence Ling (left), Jon Baker,
and Karl Smith rehearse a script for The Bootleggers
at the WRUR studios in Todd Union. (Photo: Adam Fenster)

For Karl Smith, the storytelling bug began with a Montgomery Ward No. 22 typewriter purchased for $5 at a moving sale.

Typewriter perched on his lap, the doctoral student in biophysics has become a fixture at the Rochester Public Market, Corn Hill Arts Festival, and other Rochester-area arts-oriented venues. For 10 cents, he crafts a half-sheet-long tale about grandchildren, lost loves, pets, or the absurd. The clacking of keys on paper draws a curious crowd.

I derive a lot of meaning and joy from making things that other people draw joy from, says Smith.

As a graduate student at Rochester, Smith has been finding lots of ways to share his love of storytelling. In addition to his peripatetic typewriting, he’s the leader of Rocket Radio Theater, a troupe of radio performers whose core membership includes fellow like-minded medical science graduate students Clarence Ling, Jon Baker, Carolyn Klocke, Bronwyn Lucas, and Matt Payea.

The project began in 2013 with a recording at Smith’s kitchen table. The group, which now records in the studios of campus radio station WRUR, hosts several serial drama podcasts and stand-alone stories created by Smith. Its feature series, The Bootleggers, takes place during prohibition-era Rochester, playing up aspects of local history and landscapes.

In his research as a biophysicist, Smith explores nanoporous silicon membranes in the lab of James McGrath, professor of biomedical engineering. Smith describes the membranes as coffee filters made of glass that are 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.

But he hopes to continue to combine storytelling and science after graduation, perhaps as a science journalist or a podcaster.

I want to live in a world, he says, where people are standing on street corners writing stories.

Read More: The Scientist as Storyteller