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US News and World Report Article: What You Can Do With a Biology Degree?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Recently the US News and World report website published an article discussing what you can do with a biology degree. The article features input from URBEST Executive Director, Tracey Baas.

The article goes into detail on the types of jobs a graduate can expect, the variety of roles pursuing such a degree opens up for you including industry options while detailing further academic choices. To read the entire article, visit the US News and World Report Website

Read More: US News and World Report Article: What You Can Do With a Biology Degree?

David Topham's Flu Center Receives $5.4M in NIH Funding

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The National Institutes of Health-funded New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE), led by David Topham, Ph.D., received $5.4 million in new awards from the NIH to conduct a variety of projects related to the immune response to flu infection and vaccination. NYICE is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional center that emphasizes basic and clinical research on human influenza.

The funding covers 13 new projects that will be conducted by investigators at URMC, as well as scientists from institutions that are members of NYICE, such as the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Duke and the University of Minnesota. Research will be conducted in the U.S. and abroad, including studies in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden.

Development of a universal flu vaccine is the focus of several of the new projects. The comparison of different types of vaccines (egg-based vaccine; cell culture vaccine; vaccine made in insect cells) is another important study, as the widely-used egg-based vaccine wasn’t particularly effective in the 2017-2018 flu season. Investigators will also work to better understand how the viruses we’re exposed to as children influence immunity later on in life.

In addition to Topham, URMC researchers Andrea J. Sant, Ph.D., Jennifer Nayak, M.D., Angela Branche, M.D., Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D. and James J. Kobie, Ph.D. will spearhead several of the new projects.

Research Roundup: Values

Monday, October 22, 2018

Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a presentation at the URBEST retreat, entitled “Mentoring Lessons: What my students have taught me”. It was a Pecha Kucha style talk - 20 slides, 20 seconds each; a little over 6 minutes total.

My ratio of prep time to presentation time was frightening.  But the process of constructing the talk was incredibly rewarding, because it forced me to reflect on the moments when my students have shown me - through their words and actions - what matters most.  

I’m referring to those moments when others teach us something important about ourselves, about our interconnectedness, and even about the workplace culture we aspire to create around us.  We’ve all experienced moments like these.  Moments that, even years later, can still inspire tears and feelings of deep gratitude.  

As I was putting my slides together, I got to thinking about Tony Broyld - who I first met as a middle schooler at Clara Barton School #2 in the City of Rochester.  He's now a Systems Engineer in his early 30s with two M.S. degrees from the University of Rochester and living in the greater New York City area. He is also the first member of his family to go to college.  Someone in whose life I was fortunate enough to make a real and profound difference and also someone who taught me a great deal about resilience.

If he were the only student who taught me something important about values, about what matters, this would be a short column. But of course, he wasn’t.

Almost every day, I find myself in awe of the people I’m privileged to work with.

Recently, I attended the annual picnic in my home department of Microbiology and Immunology. One of our students spoke to me about her journey to graduate school. How the kindness of a single mentor changed the course of her life, made her believe in herself, helped her see a different future, and brought her here to Rochester. 

She spoke also about her father and how he will spend the rest of his life in jail, a measure of how far her life has traveled from the path that it might otherwise have gone down.

She spoke from a place of love and appreciation - and left me feeling intensely honored to be a part of her education.

There are hundreds of stories like hers at our Medical center from people whose lives have been transformed by the power of their own courage and by the drive of their imagination and curiosity.  By their desire to learn, by this life in science that we share, and by the values that we talk about -- but don’t always appreciate or fully understand – until we see them up close and personal.

Research Roundup: The Loneliness of Grant Writing

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research

Almost all of us, as researchers, spend a good deal of our time thinking about grant proposals.  That’s because grant funding gives us the means to explore our ideas, and to do the things we think are important.

We also all recognize that most grant applications will be rejected by the funding agencies to which we submit them.  So we become creatures of persistence.

What’s discussed less often, is the actual experience of grant writing. 

Its something we all do: at our desks, in coffee shops, at the kitchen table; wherever we can find a space for our laptop.  But we don’t often talk about how it feels.

There’s a strong sense of stepping out of your normal life.  For me - and I don’t think I’m unusual in this - it involves withdrawing from many of the other things I would normally do.  Not only professionally, but also family obligations and social interactions.  

This column, for example, was due a week ago.  But I deferred it, because I had a grant deadline yesterday.

Grant writing requires us to focus our thoughts to such an extent that we can sink into them; to become fully immersed.   The experience is intense, and it is also both lonely and isolating. 

That’s because the process of writing a grant is an exercise in disconnection.  An intentional unplugging.   

When I’m writing a grant, I often feel very distant from the people around me.  It’s as if they’re behind glass - because my mind is somewhere else entirely.  And then I’ll find myself alone in a quiet house, in the middle of the night, with nothing but my own thoughts for company.  Struggling to find the right words.  

What makes this more bearable is remembering why we’re asking for the money - what we plan to do with it - and knowing also that this is a shared experience, common to all academic scientists.  It’s a part of the life we choose.  

Those late nights, those doubts, those uncertainties - we’ve all been there.  It’s one of the things that bond us together. 

So I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the hundreds of researchers at the medical center who are engaged in grant writing on any given day.  It’s their efforts that make the URMC’s research enterprise possible, and that make this a special place where discoveries happen every day.

New Frontiers in Research

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research

One of the great pleasures of serving as Vice Dean for Research is the opportunity to learn about - and share - the cutting edge research that's being done here at the Medical Center.  I've recently spoken with alumni, trustees and friends of the University across the country, as well as to key partners (and potential partners) for our new Empire Discovery Institute.  Each time, it's been tremendous fun to have colleagues explain to me the science that most excites them - and to then watch how it resonates with diverse audiences.

Today, I'm starting a new column that's intended to share some of the stories, breakthroughs and discoveries that are being made by the 3,000 researchers who work here.

In diverse fields, ranging from neuroscience, to cancer immunotherapy, to musculoskeletal research, to RNA biology, and immunology and infectious disease, Medical Center researchers are at the forefront of their fields.  For example: our basic scientists are unraveling the fundamental processes that regulate RNA metabolism and the trafficking of immune cells through tissue, while our Center for Health and Technology (CHeT) is working to enable anyone anywhere to receive care, participate in research, and benefit from resulting advances. 

Another area of remarkable strength is in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).  Multi-disciplinary teams spanning computer science, engineering, neuroscience, ophthalmology and visual sciences are creating complex virtual environments that will enable us to better understand how the brain integrates sensory data, and how that can be used to treat a wide range of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions. 

In the coming months, I hope to go into greater depth about these and other advances - and to share details of how Medical Center researchers are advancing our understanding of fundamental biological processes, translating discoveries into new treatments, and leading the way in improving clinical and population-level care.

New Equine Influenza Vaccine Could Help Protect People, Too

Monday, May 7, 2018

Scientists have developed a new live-attenuated intranasal vaccine to protect horses against equine influenza.

Luis Martinez-Sobrido, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, said a new vaccine is needed not only to keep horses healthy, but also to protect people in the future.

Influenza virus is the most common cause of viral respiratory tract disease in horses and has a substantial economic impact on the horse industry annually. Outbreaks occur most frequently when susceptible animals are housed in close contact with one another, as is typical at racetracks, sales barns, and horse shows. Clinical signs of infection in horses include fever, appetite loss, lethargy, nasal discharge (watery at first but typically becoming mucopurulent, meaning it contains pus and mucus), and coughing. In uncomplicated cases clinical signs resolve in approximately seven to 14 days, although coughing might persist longer. Complications can be severe and might include secondary bacterial pneumonia, myositis (muscle inflammation), myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation), and limb edema (fluid swelling).

Proactively preventing the spread of flu in animals is important, as animals are the most likely source of future human pandemics. Animals—including horses, pigs, and dogs—can be infected with multiple influenza viruses and have the potential to act as “mixing vessels,” generating new flu strains that could infect people, he said. This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s possible, he added, and these strains would be particularly dangerous, since people wouldn’t have pre-existing immunity.

Read More: New Equine Influenza Vaccine Could Help Protect People, Too

Horses Get the Flu, Too

Monday, April 30, 2018

Flu vaccines for horses haven’t been updated in more than 25 years, but University of Rochester researchers have developed a new live equine influenza vaccine that is safe and more protective than existing vaccines.

Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, says a new vaccine is needed not only to keep horses healthy, but also to protect people.

Proactively preventing the spread of flu in animals is important, as animals are the most likely source of future human pandemics. Animals – including horses, pigs and dogs – can be infected with multiple influenza viruses and have the potential to act as “mixing vessels,” generating new flu strains that could infect people. This hasn’t happened yet, but it’s possible. These strains would be particularly dangerous, since people wouldn’t have pre-existing immunity. Equine influenza is currently circulating in North America and Europe and is highly contagious. Horses often travel long distances for equestrian events and breeding purposes, and if an infected horse is introduced into a susceptible, unvaccinated population, the spread of the virus can be fast and furious. In the past, flu outbreaks have disrupted major events and led to large economic losses.

In the journal Virology, Martinez-Sobrido and lead study author Laura Rodriguez describe a new “live-attenuated” vaccine that’s given as a spray through the nose (think FluMist for horses). Past research – including studies conducted at the University of Rochester – shows that live-attenuated vaccines, made from live flu virus that’s dampened down so that it doesn’t cause the flu, provide better immune responses and longer periods of protection than vaccines that include inactivated or killed flu virus (like the traditional flu shot).Created using a genetic engineering technique called reserve genetics, the new live-attenuated equine vaccine is designed to replicate and generate an immune response in the nose, where the flu first enters a horse’s body, but not in the lungs, where replication of the virus can cause disease. The goal is to stop the virus at entry, preventing it from taking hold in a horse’s respiratory tract.

Read More: Horses Get the Flu, Too

The Bugs in Your Gut Could Make You Weak in the Knees

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Prebiotic May Alter the Obese Microbiome and Protect Against Osteoarthritis

Bacteria in the gut, known as the gut microbiome, could be the culprit behind arthritis and joint pain that plagues people who are obese, according to a new study published today in JCI Insight.

Osteoarthritis, a common side effect of obesity, is the greatest cause of disability in the US, affecting 31 million people. Sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis in people who are obese was long assumed to simply be a consequence of undue stress on joints. But researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center provide the first evidence that bacteria in the gut – governed by diet – could be the key driving force behind osteoarthritis.   

The scientists found that obese mice had more harmful bacteria in their guts compared to lean mice, which caused inflammation throughout their bodies, leading to very rapid joint deterioration. While a common prebiotic supplement did not help the mice shed weight, it completely reversed the other symptoms, making the guts and joints of obese mice indistinguishable from lean mice.

What a Western, High Fat Diet Can Do

The URMC team, led by Michael Zuscik, Ph.D., associate professor of Orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research (CMSR), Robert Mooney, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Steven Gill, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology, fed mice a high fat diet akin to a Western ‘cheeseburger and milkshake’ diet.

Just 12 weeks of the high fat diet made mice obese and diabetic, nearly doubling their body fat percentage compared to mice fed a low fat, healthy diet. Their colons were dominated by pro-inflammatory bacteria, and almost completely lacked certain beneficial, probiotic bacteria, like the common yogurt additive Bifidobacteria.

The changes in the gut microbiomes of the mice coincided with signs of body-wide inflammation, including in their knees where the researchers induced osteoarthritis with a meniscal tear, a common athletic injury known to cause osteoarthritis. Compared to lean mice, osteoarthritis progressed much more quickly in the obese mice, with nearly all of their cartilage disappearing within 12 weeks of the tear.

“Cartilage is both a cushion and lubricant, supporting friction-free joint movements,” said Zuscik. “When you lose that, it’s bone on bone, rock on rock. It’s the end of the line and you have to replace the whole joint. Preventing that from happening is what we, as osteoarthritis researchers, strive to do – to keep that cartilage.”

Read More: The Bugs in Your Gut Could Make You Weak in the Knees

Andrew Cox Receives US Patent

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Cox

Andrew Cox

MD/PhD student, Andrew Cox has been awarded a patent, "Attenuated Influenza Vaccines and Uses Thereof" (9,787,032), for a new live flu vaccine that is safer than the current one so should permit higher dose administration to overcome the current problems with the live vaccine.

When not in medical school, Andrew is currently pursuing his degree in the Dewhurst lab, working on temperature sensitivity of Influenza polymerase as a determinant of pathogenicity.

Congratulations Andrew!

Felix Yarovinsky Leads Research on Positive and Negative Impact of Gut Bacteria

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The human microbiome – the trillions of tiny bacteria that live in and on our bodies – is emerging as an increasingly important player in health and wellness. But, our co-existence with these organisms is complex, and scientists are learning that even minor changes in this relationship can lead to big problems with our health.

In a new study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that impairing a rare group of cells in the small intestine allows gut bacteria to invade the organ and cause major inflammation. The study was conducted in mice, but has implications for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a group of disorders characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive track.

The work can also be found in ScienceDaily, your source for the latest research news.

Read More: Felix Yarovinsky Leads Research on Positive and Negative Impact of Gut Bacteria

Should You Get a Flu Shot After the Flu?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

If you skipped this year’s flu shot and then came down with the virus, you may think there’s no point to getting the vaccine now.

But you’d be wrong.

There are good reasons to get a flu shot, even if you’ve already been sick, says David Topham, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester and director of the New York Influenza Center of Excellence.

You can catch the flu more than once in a season—because having one “type” of flu doesn’t provide immunity against the other types that may be circulating. “The way your immune system sees them is very different,” Topham says. Two types commonly make people ill: type A and type B. This flu season, as is typical, most cases of flu so far have been type A (the H3N2 strain).

Read More: Should You Get a Flu Shot After the Flu?