Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Aggressive forms of neuroblastoma contain a specific protein in their cells’ nuclei that is not found in the nuclei of more benign forms of the cancer, and the discovery, made through research from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), could lead to new forms of targeted therapy.
EYA1, a protein that contributes to ear development, is present in the cytoplasm of many neuroblastoma tumors, but this protein migrates to the nucleus in the cells of more aggressive forms of the disease. The research, recently published in two medical research journals, allows for the development of targeted drugs that will work to prevent the neuroblastoma from reaching this more aggressive stage; researchers at URMC and elsewhere have already begun testing some of these potential treatments in a laboratory setting.
“Neuroblastoma is one of the most common and deadly forms of childhood cancer, and this discovery allows us to identify drugs that prevent the change in EYA1 structure and potentially minimize the danger to a child who has this disease,” said Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and the William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at URMC.
Read More: Nuclear Protein Causes Neuroblastoma to Become More Aggressive
Harris Gelbard Receives International Award for Neurovirology Research
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Harris “Handy” Gelbard, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Neural Development & Disease, is slated to receive the Hilary Koprowski Prize in Neurovirology at this year’s International Symposium on Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease at Drexel University. Gelbard will be recognized for developing an unconventional drug that shows promise in treating brain disorders associated with HIV.
Gelbard’s drug, URMC-099, calms the immune system when it goes awry, as happens in HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND). In HAND, immune reactions to HIV particles in the brain damage nerve cells and cause dementia. Because patients affected by HAND also have HIV, it was imperative that URMC-099 not interfere with the antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV-positive patients alive.
2016 Convocation Award Winners from Neuroscience
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Congratulations to the following people for winning teaching and student achievement awards at this year's SMD Opening Convocation.
Faculty Teaching, Mentoring & Diversity Awards
- Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD
- John Olschowka, PhD
Medical & Graduate Student Achievement Awards
- Alexandra McHale - Irving L. Spar Fellowship Award
- Gavin Jenkins - Merritt and Marjorie Cleveland Fellowship
- Neal Shah - J. Newell Stannard Graduate Student Scholarship Award
- Grayson Sipe - Outstanding Student Mentor Award
Make sure to congratulate each of them when you see them.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
A $2.3 million Department of Defense grant will help neuroscientists develop new treatments for the emergency room and the battlefield. The research will focus on the development of new therapies that could help protect brain and other at risk organs following a trauma, heart attack, or stroke.
“While we have made significant progress in our ability to restore blood flow after stroke or cardiac arrest, the medical community does not have drugs at its disposal to prevent the secondary damage that occurs after these events,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study. “This grant will further our research on a promising class of drugs that possess both anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties that we believe will be suitable for use in both military and emergency conditions.”Read More: DOD Grant Explores New Drugs to Thwart Impact of Trauma, Stroke, and Cardiac Arrest
How Does Noise Damage Hearing?
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Join Pat White on Saturday, September 10 from 2-4pm at the Pittsford Barnes and Noble as she is featured at the UR Science Cafe discussion
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Over the typical course of Rett syndrome, initial language and communication abilities deteriorate dramatically between the ages of 1 and 4 years, and a majority of these children go on to lose all oral communication abilities. It becomes extremely difficult for clinicians and caretakers to accurately assess the level of preserved auditory functioning in these children, an issue of obvious clinical import. Non-invasive electrophysiological techniques allow for the interrogation of auditory cortical processing without the need for overt behavioral responses. In particular, the mismatch negativity (MMN) component of the auditory evoked potential (AEP) provides an excellent and robust dependent measure of change detection and auditory sensory memory. Here, we asked whether females with Rett syndrome would produce the MMN to occasional changes in pitch in a regularly occurring stream of auditory tones.Read More: Automatic cortical representation of auditory pitch changes in Rett syndrome - John Foxe et al.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
University of Rochester Assistant Professor of Nursing Feng (Vankee) Lin, Ph.D., R.N. will be presented with the Brilliant New Investigator Award from the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science (CANS) at the organization’s 2016 State of the Science Congress on Nursing Research, Sept. 15-17 in Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes the contributions of scientists early in their research careers who show extraordinary potential to develop sustained programs of research certain to have significant impact on the science and practice of nursing and health care. Nominees must show a record of building research productivity in an area of major significance to nursing and health care, research dissemination and translation to practice and/or policy, and emerging leadership related to the advancement of nursing science.Read More: Lin Honored as 'Brilliant New Investigator'
Pasternak Research Paper to be Published in J. Neuroscience
Thursday, August 4, 2016
The paper "Prefrontal Neurons Represent Motion Signals from Across
the Visual Field but for Memory-Guided Comparisons
Depend on Neurons Providing these Signals" will be published in J. Neuroscience shortly.
Visual decisions often involve comparisons of sequential visual motion that can appear at any location in the visual field. We
show that during such comparisons, the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) contains accurate representation of visual motion
from across the visual field, supplied by motion processing neurons. However, at the time of comparison, LPFC neurons can
only use this information to compute the differences between the stimuli, if stimuli appear at the same retinal location,
implicating neurons with localized receptive fields in the comparison process. These findings show that sensory comparisons
rely on the interactions between LPFC and sensory neurons that not only supply sensory signals but also actively
participate in the comparison of these signals at the time of the decision.
Make sure to read the article when it comes out.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Researchers have identified an inner ear deficiency in children with Autism that may impact their ability to recognize speech. The findings, which were published in the journal Autism Research, could ultimately be used as a way to identify children at risk for the disorder at an early age.
“This study identifies a simple, safe, and non-invasive method to screen young children for hearing deficits that are associated with Autism,” said Anne Luebke, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience and a co-author of the study. “This technique may provide clinicians a new window into the disorder and enable us to intervene earlier and help achieve optimal outcomes.”
“Auditory impairment has long been associated with developmental delay and other problems, such as language deficits,” said Loisa Bennetto, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology and a co-author of the study. “While there is no association between hearing problems and autism, difficulty in processing speech may contribute to some of the core symptoms of the disease. Early detection could help identify risk for ASD and enable clinicians to intervene earlier. Additionally, these findings can inform the development of approaches to correct auditory impairment with hearing aids or other devices that can improve the range of sounds the ear can process.”Read More: Luebke and Bennetto Explore Hearing Test That May Identify Autism Risk
McNair Summer Scholar Ashley Bui Talks Amygdala Circuits
Friday, July 22, 2016
Congratulations to Ashley Bui, a rising senior in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, on her presentation July 22, 2016. Her talk Projections from the Temporal Cortex to the Basal Nucleus of the Amygdala in the Macaque highlighted data from her summer project in our lab. The amygdala is required for computing which of the complex sensory stimuli that an individual encounters are emotionally meaningful, so that appropriate action can be taken. Ashley’s preliminary data shows that specific portions of the temporal cortex, which are critical for processing complex visual and auditory information, communicate with different regions of the amygdala. The results suggest that cortical areas that process complex visual information on 'what' and 'where' an object is (or is moving) are communicating with specific amygdala subregions. Thus, while determining the emotional importance of ‘what or who’ is important, biologic movements also likely influence amygdala activity and coding. We are happy that she will continue this work through the Fall semester.
NGP student plays with RPO
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Second year NGP student, Monique Mendes, had a unique opportunity to play alongside the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in their Side-by-Side Reading Session – a program that pairs amateur and professional musicians in a joint rehearsal and performance at Kodak Hall on July 21st.
Ryan Dawes defends thesis
Monday, July 18, 2016
Ryan Dawes successfully defended his thesis, "β-Adrenergic Receptor Signaling Constrains Breast Cancer Progression and
Modulates Tumor-Associated Exosome Content And Function" on July 18, 2016.
Congratulations Dr. Dawes!
Rebecca Lowery Defends Thesis
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Rebecca Lowery has successfully defended her thesis, "The Role of Microglia and Fractalkine Signaling in Experience-dependent Synaptic Plasticity". Congratulate her when you see her.
Congratulations Dr. Lowery!
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Sleep is critical for rest and rejuvenation. A human being will actually die of sleep deprivation before starvation--it takes about two weeks to starve, but only 10 days to die if you go without sleep.
The CDC has also classified insufficient sleep as a public health concern. Those who don't get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases that include hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.
It's thus vital to get enough shuteye, but it turns out your sleep position also has a significant impact on the quality of rest you get.
Now, a neuroscience study suggests that of all sleep positions, one is most helpful when it comes to efficiently cleaning out waste from the brain: sleeping on your side.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to image the brain's "glymphatic pathway." This is the system by which cerebrospinal fluid filters through the brain and swaps with interstitial fluid (the fluid around all other cells in the body).
"It is interesting that the lateral [side] sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals--even in the wild," said University of Rochester's Maiken Nedergaard. "It appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that build up while we are awake."Read More: The Sleep Hack Neuroscience Says Gives Your Brain Optimal Rest
Elissa Wong receives Neuman Scholarship Award
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Elissa Wong, a fifth year toxicology graduate student in Ania Majewska’s lab, received the Margaret and William F. Neuman Scholarship Award in Environmental Medicine for exemplary scholarship and citizenship. Dr. William Neuman was the chair of the Department of Radiation Biology and Biophysics for many years and helped to create the Toxicology Training Program and the Environmental Health Science Center. Dr. Margaret Neuman received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester. Later, working here, she researched the effects of uranium on bone biochemistry, and was an expert on the regulation of bone minerals.
The criteria for receiving this are as follows: 1) scholarship, 2) scientific excellence, 3) productivity, and 4) exceptional citizenship to the field of toxicology.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Researchers have successfully reduced the symptoms and slowed the progression of Huntington’s disease in mice using healthy human brain cells. The findings, which were published today in the journal Nature Communications, could ultimately point to a new method to treat the disease.
The research entailed implanting the animals with human glia cells derived from stem cells. One of the roles of glia, an important support cell found in the brain, is to tend to the health of neurons and the study’s findings show that replacing sick mouse glia with healthy human cells blunted the progress of the disease and rescued nerve cells at risk of death.
“The role that glia cells play in the progression of Huntington’s disease has never really been explored,” said Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “This study shows that these cells are not only important actors in the disease, but may also hold the key to new treatment strategies.” Read More: Swapping Sick for Healthy Brain Cells Slows Huntington’s Disease
Proposal by Amy Kiernan Receives University Research Award
Monday, May 23, 2016
A collaborative project involving Associate Professor Amy Kiernan of the Flaum Eye Institute has been chosen as one of the 2016-17 University Research Awards. One of just eight applications chosen by senior research leadership, the proposal entitled, "Understanding cell turnover and injury recovery in the corneal endothelium” will be funded $75.000 annually.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
A new study shows that repeated radiation therapy used to target tumors in the brain may not be as safe to healthy brain cells as previously assumed. The findings, which appear in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, show that the treatment also kills important support cells in the brain and may cause as much, if not more damage, than single dose radiation therapy.
“This study suggests that conventional repeated radiation treatments offer no significant benefit to brain tumor patients,” said Kerry O’Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “It also shows that certain cell populations in the brain are vulnerable to radiation and this may help explain why so many brain cancer patients experience cognitive problems after treatment.” Read More: Conventional Radiation Therapy May Not Protect Healthy Brain Cells
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
A new study out today in the journal Translational Psychiatry sheds further light on the idea that schizophrenia is a sensory disorder and that individuals with the condition are impaired in their ability to process stimuli from the outside world. The findings may also point to a new way to identify the disease at an early stage and before symptoms become acute.
Because one of the hallmarks of the disease is auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, researchers have long suspected a link between auditory processing and schizophrenia. The new study provides evidence that the filtering of incoming visual information, and also of simple touch inputs, is also severely compromised in individuals with the condition.
“When we think about schizophrenia, the first things that come to mind are the paranoia, the delusions, the disorganized thinking,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., the chair of the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neuroscience and senior author of the study. “But there is increasing evidence that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way these patients hear, the way they feel things through their sense of touch, and in the way in which they see the environment.”Read More: When the Physical World is Unreliable: Study Finds Visual and Tactile Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia
Monday, May 2, 2016
Join us in congratulating Laurel for being selected as one of 4 Professors of the year from a extraordinary field of 63 candidates.
Laurel Carney, professor of biomedical engineering, won in the Engineering field. Her research focuses on the complex network of auditory nerve fibers that transmit the inner ear’s electrical signals to the brain with the goal of better hearing aids.
Carney earned her M.S. and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University and professor of biomedical engineering at Syracuse University before joining the Rochester faulty in 2007. She serves as professor in three departments – biomedical engineering, neurobiology and anatomy, and electrical and computer engineering.Read More: SA Government names Professors of the Year
Elissa Wong Awarded Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from NIAAA
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Elissa Wong, a 4th year Toxicology Graduate Program student in Dr. Ania Majewska's lab received a perfect 10 review score and was awarded an NIH (NRSA) Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the NIAAA. The title of her project is: Synaptic plasticity and microglial-synapse interactions after developmental alcohol exposure (2016-2018).
NGP Graduate Alum, Grayson Sipe, Wins Doty Thesis Award
Friday, April 29, 2016
Grayson Sipe, recent doctoral graduate from the Majewska lab, received the Robert Doty prize for the 2016 outstanding dissertation in neuroscience. The Doty prize is named in the honor of longtime faculty member Robert Doty, who made great contributions to neuroscience research at the University of Rochester and nationally. It is awarded on the basis of the impact and importance of research, novelty of experimental design, independence and creativity of the student and research implications and relevance for neuroscience. Grayson’s thesis entitled “The Role of P2Y12 in non-pathological microglial functions during synaptic plasticity”, which he successfully defended on February 19th, 2016, embodied all these characteristics. Grayson has now moved to his postdoctoral position with Dr. Mriganka Sur at MIT. Dr. Peter Shrager presented Grayson the prize at the annual neuroscience retreat on Friday, April 29th.
Friday, April 29, 2016
A study out today in the journal Science sheds new light on the biological mechanisms that control the sleep-wake cycle. Specifically, it shows that a simple shift in the balance of chemicals found in the fluid that bathes and surrounds brain cells can alter the state of consciousness of animals.
The study, which focuses on a collection of ions that reside in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), found that not only do these changes play a key role in stimulating or dampening the activity of nerve cells, but they also appear to alter cell volume causing brain cells to shrink while we sleep, a process that facilitates the removal of waste.
“Understanding what drives arousal is essential to deciphering consciousness and the lack thereof during sleep,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study. “We found that the transition from wakefulness to sleep is accompanied by a marked and sustained change in the concentration of key extracellular ions and the volume of the extracellular space.”
The current scientific consensus is that the brain is “woken up” by a set of neurotransmitters – which include compounds such as acetylcholine, hypocretin, histamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine – that originate from structures deep within the brain and the brain stem. This cocktail of chemical messengers serve to activate – or arouse – a set of neurons in the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and learning, placing the brain in a state of wakefulness.Read More: Subtle Chemical Changes in Brain Can Alter Sleep-Wake Cycle
Congratulations to NGP student Aleta Steevens
Friday, April 8, 2016
Aleta Stevens, an NGP student in Dr. Amy Kiernan's lab, secured a 3-year NIH Individual Pre-doctoral Fellowship, F31 entitled, "Elucidating the role of SOX2 in inner ear development."
Excellent work Aleta!
Neuroscience Graduate Students Win Award for Teaching
Friday, April 8, 2016
Neuroscience Graduate Program students, Aleta Steevens (Dr. Amy Kiernan lab) and Heather Natola (Dr. Chris Pröschel lab) were awarded the 2016 Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence for Graduate Student Teaching.
Only a handful of these are awarded each year, and all this year's nominees were extremely well-qualified.
Congratulations to both!!!
Christina Cloninger Defends Thesis
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Congratulations Dr. Cloninger on successfully defending your thesis!!
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Electron microscope image of animal cells (colored blue) cultured on an array of carbon nanotubes
Researchers have developed a new and highly efficient method for gene transfer. The technique, which involves culturing and transfecting cells with genetic material on an array of carbon nanotubes, appears to overcome the limitations of other gene editing technologies.
The device, which is described in a study published today in the journal Small, is the product of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
“This platform holds the potential to make the gene transfer process more robust and decrease toxic effects, while increasing amount and diversity of genetic cargo we can deliver into cells,” said Ian Dickerson, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the URMC and co-author of the paper.Read More: “Honeycomb” of Nanotubes Could Boost Genetic Engineering
Monday, March 21, 2016
New research shows that our brains may be hardwired to become sensitive to stressful environments at an early age and, if overstimulated, this may contribute to anxiety disorders and even psychotic syndromes later in life.
The study, which appears in the journal Brain Structure and Function, focuses on two structures deep in the brain. The central nucleus of the amygdala (Ce) is thought to be involved in responses to immediate threats and stimulus, such as becoming startled or freezing in reaction to a loud noise. The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST) is thought to be involved in regulating a person’s state of vigilance, such as determining whether or not an environment or a situation poses a potential threat. Animal and human studies show that when the BST is activated by a threatening situation, we tend to slow down, become quieter, and stress hormones spike.
While Ce and BST reside in different parts of the brain, the two areas are hardwired to each other by axonal tracts – basically, bundles of long distance axon fibers that enable the separate regions to communicate with each other. However, until now it has not been clear when these connections form or the way in which they interact with each other.
In the study published today, a team of researchers led by Julie Fudge, M.D., with the Department of Neuroscience observed that these connections are made at a very early stage of development in non-human primates. They also found that that the direction of the connection is essentially a one way street. The Ce – or immediate fear signaling center – conveys information to the BST, the structure that mediates general threat sensing or anxiety states. This arrangement suggests that repeated activation of the Ce by immediately fearful or traumatic events may shape long-term anxiety states in the BST.Read More: Early Wiring of Brain's “Fear” Centers Could Produce Long-term Consequences
Monday, March 7, 2016
Microglia (green) with purple representing the P2Y12 receptor which the study shows is a critical regulator in the process of pruning connections between nerve cells.
A new study out today in the journal Nature Communications shows that cells normally associated with protecting the brain from infection and injury also play an important role in rewiring the connections between nerve cells. While this discovery sheds new light on the mechanics of neuroplasticity, it could also help explain diseases like autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, which may arise when this process breaks down and connections between brain cells are not formed or removed correctly.
“We have long considered the reorganization of the brain’s network of connections as solely the domain of neurons,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and senior author of the study. “These findings show that a precisely choreographed interaction between multiple cells types is necessary to carry out the formation and destruction of connections that allow proper signaling in the brain.”
The study is another example of a dramatic shift in scientists’ understanding of the role that the immune system, specifically cells called microglia, plays in maintaining brain function. Microglia have been long understood to be the sentinels of the central nervous system, patrolling the brain and spinal cord and springing into action to stamp out infections or gobble up dead cell tissue. However, scientists are now beginning to appreciate that, in addition to serving as the brain’s first line of defense, these cells also have a nurturing side, particularly as it relates to the connections between neurons.Read More: The Brain’s Gardeners: Immune Cells ‘Prune’ Connections Between Neurons
Monday, February 22, 2016
In a perspective piece appearing in the journal Cell Stem Cell, URMC neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lays out the current state of affairs with respect to stem cell medicine and how close we are to new therapies for neurological disorders.
The dawn of stem cell medicine some 25 years ago was greeted with great enthusiasm, particularly by scientists who study diseases in the central nervous system (CNS). Many of the diseases found in the brain and spinal cord are degenerative in nature; meaning that over time populations of cells are lost due to genetic factors, infection, or injury. Because stem cell medicine holds the potential to repair or replace damaged or destroyed cells, scientists have considered these diseases as promising candidates for new therapies.
However, as with other emerging fields of medicine, the race to cures has turned out to be more of marathon than a sprint. While scientists have become very adept at manipulating stem and progenitor cells and understanding the complex choreography of genetic and chemical signals that instruct these cells to divide, differentiate, and proliferate, researchers are still grappling with the challenges of how to integrate new cells into the complex network of connections that comprise the human brain.
Goldman, co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine, takes a sweeping view of where we stand and which CNS diseases may or may not ultimately benefit from future stem cell-based therapies.Read More: Hope, Hype, and Wishful Thinking
Congratulations Dr. Sipe!
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Make sure you congratulate Grayson Sipe on defending his thesis.
Way to go Grayson!
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Amelia Smith sits on the floor of a newly remodeled wing of the University of Rochester's department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The 8-month old wears a headband of cottony roses, and tiny bubbles form in the corner of her mouth. She's completely entranced by the commotion around her.
Though few adults in the room can resist oohing and aww-ing, little Amelia is not there to be fawned over. She's there to work. Researchers at the UR's Baby Lab want to know what she's thinking, what she's learned so far in her young life, and how she learned it.
But there's a problem: Amelia can't talk yet.
The work being investigated in Richard Aslin's Baby Lab was written up in the City Newspaper article "Signs of Intelligent Life".Read More: Richard Aslin's Rochester Baby Lab Shows "Signs of Intelligent Life"
Monday, February 15, 2016
The cause of Gulf War illness is still a mystery but focusing on treatments and interventions might help the veterans of Operation Desert Storm as well as the troops of the future, according to an Institute of Medicine committee report led by University of Rochester Medical Center Professor Deborah Cory-Slechta.
In 1990 and ’91 nearly 700,000 U.S. troops deployed to the Persian Gulf region for a short, intense war. Few injuries or deaths occurred, but troops were exposed to chemical and biological weapons, vaccines, oil-fires, air pollution, bomb blasts, pesticides, extreme desert temperatures, and constant false alarms and fear of nerve-gas attacks.
After the war ended a high number of the veterans reported debilitating fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and cognitive problems. This became known as “Gulf War illness.” During the past 25 years, 10 different committees of the nation’s top medical experts have searched for evidence that would better define Gulf War illness and possible treatments. The latest committee, headed by Cory-Slechta, concluded that no single mechanism can explain the multitude of symptoms seen in Gulf War illness—and that it’s unlikely a cause will ever be identified.Read More: Report Recommends More Treatment, Research, for Gulf War Vets
Doing something larger than you could ever do on your own
Friday, February 12, 2016
"There is a tendency for many investigators, especially early in their careers, to hold onto their work and not share it," says David Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics; Dean for Research in Arts, Sciences and Engineering; Director of the Center for Visual Science - and a leading eye expert who pioneered the use of adaptive optics for vision correction.
"They don't realize - and it's one of the things that took me longer to learn than I wish it had - that one of the best ways to build your reputation is to share your ideas or your technology with the hope that they will be adopted.
"I was lucky enough to realize that if I let my students take my adaptive optics technology and use it to build their own labs, for example, it not only helped them get their independent research programs off the mark but also enhanced my reputation because so many more people were able to access and deploy the technology."
Is it any wonder then, that of the five NEI Audacious Goals grants recently awarded to Williams and four other investigators:
- four of the projects use adaptive optics as their core technology?
- three of the other PI's are either current collaborators with Williams or former postdocs in his lab?
- which means that four of the PI's will be cooperating with each other, even as they individually collaborate with other experts in the field on their individual projects - in effect widening the opportunities for synergy?
"That's the excitement of this," Williams says. "Why should we compete when one group can do one piece of it, and a second group can do another, and as along as you can manage authorships and credit appropriately and fairly, we can be much more efficient and effective in getting things done?"
"One of the things I'm proudest about in this community of people around the world doing adaptive optics and retinal imaging is that almost all of us get along really well, and we're moving science forward as rapidly as we can by helping each other. That doesn't always happen in science."
As Dean of Research for Arts, Science and Engineering, Williams is always looking for young faculty throughout AS&E who have the right personality and vision to take on larger, multi-investigator, multi-institutional projects.
"You have to be gregarious and interested in working with other people and tolerating the quirks that they have, just as they have to tolerate the quirks you have," Williams said.
"The largest source of optimism for me about the AS&E research portfolio is the quality of our junior faculty members - their enthusiasm and energy. Many of them have cut their teeth on individual investigator awards and will reach a certain point in mid career when they realize they need to reach out for complementary expertise in order to do more."
Williams' advice: The best collaborator may not be the first one that comes to mind.
"One of the biggest mistakes faculty members make is to choose a collaborator who is just like them, who has the same interests in a problem and the same background and who they can easily begin a conversation with because they are so closely aligned. But that doesn't really help your research. You want to have somebody who . . . has a completely different skills set. As obvious as that is, it doesn't always get factored into planning how to accumulate the necessary wisdom to do something larger than you could ever do on your own."