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A cure for blindness? A next-generation solar concentrator?

December 7, 2021

The most efficient photovoltaic cells used for solar power cost up to $50,000 per square meter. What if these cells could be replaced with a plastic solar concentrator less than 3 mm thick that concentrates sunlight 500 times at only $100 per square meter?

Diseases that cause blindness destroy the rods and cones in the retina. Ganglion cells rely on rods and cones to detect light as it comes into the eye. Could blindness be cured if ganglion cells could be coaxed by genetically engineered viruses to take on this function?

These tantalizing prospects are being pursued by two celebrated University of Rochester scientists whose work has already proven transformative, resulting in their election as 2021 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors.

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Brief period of ‘blindness’ is essential for vision

November 19, 2021

Eye viewed through a telescope

We need to constantly shift our gaze to allow the foveola, a small region at the center of the retina, to get a full view of the world, similar to rotating a telescope to get a full view of a scene. Unlike when we might rotate a telescope, however, our eyes make most of these gaze shifts, especially the smallest ones, on their own, often beneath our awareness. By studying how a type of fixational eye movement called a microsaccade affects the foveola, Rochester researchers provide important foundational information that can lead to improved treatments and therapies for vision impairments. (Getty Images photo)

Fixational eye movements are tiny movements of the eye—so small we humans aren’t even aware of them. Yet they play a large role in our ability to see letters, numbers, and objects at a distance.

In a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Rochester, including Michele Rucci, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and Janis Intoy, a postdoctoral research associate in Rucci’s lab, further cement the evidence for the important role of these tiny movements. By studying how a type of fixational eye movement called a microsaccade affects the foveola, a small region at the center of the retina, the researchers provide important foundational information that can lead to improved treatments and therapies for vision impairments.

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All eyes on vision restoration with latest NEI Audacious Goals Initiative Grant

November 11, 2021

Juliette McGregor, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of Ophthalmology, leads one of three new projects funded by the National Eye Institute's Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) aimed at testing regenerative therapies for blindness due to retinal degeneration and monitoring transplanted cells as they integrate with host tissues.

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Seeing the future of science and care at the Center for Visual Science

October 27, 2021

Krystel Huxlin, Susana Marcos, and David Williams in a CVS lab

For nearly 60 years, the Center for Visual Science (CVS) at the University of Rochester has been a hub for vision science, where optics, ophthalmology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and other disciplines are transforming our understanding of vision and how we treat vision disorders. More than 40 labs make up CVS, which are comprised of faculty and trainees from Neuroscience, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Flaum Eye Institute, Neurology, the Institute of Optics, Psychiatry, and Biomedical Engineering.

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Curtis Award spotlights PhD teaching assistants’ ‘amazing’ efforts during the pandemic

October 14, 2021

The four University of Rochester recipients of this year’s Edward Peck Curtis Award for Excellence in Teaching by a Graduate Student come from different disciplines. But they have several things in common.

Ashley Clark, Kendall DeBoer, Michael Ormsbee, and Alice Wynd are invariably described by students and faculty alike with terms like “stands out among peers” or “the best teaching assistant I have ever worked with.” And all are credited with playing a critical role in helping their respective departments pivot to online learning because of COVID-19.

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Researchers aim to understand COVID-19 in children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

October 6, 2021

Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester are working to better understand how COVID-19 impacts student and staff in schools that serve students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The $4 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics-Underserved Populations (RADx-UP), will allow researchers to work with students and staff at the Mary Cariola Center School in Rochester, to study how COVID-19 spreads in the vulnerable population the agency serves.

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Sara Patterson wins second place in the 2021 Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research

October 5, 2021

Postdoctoral fellow Sara Patterson won second place in the Steadman Family Postdoctoral Associate Prize in Interdisciplinary Research. Sara competed against eight of the strongest postdoctoral fellow finalists at UR who delivered talks about their research. She will receive a $750 cash prize. Congratulations, Sara!


Named professorships honor contributions of Rochester’s faculty

August 31, 2021

Susana Marcos, a professor of optics and of ophthalmology, has been appointed as the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science and as the Nicholas George Endowed Professor in Optics.

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Lab access: Diversifying the bench

August 18, 2021

“Science is nature’s art,” Mariana Espinosa-Polanco said. The art and psychiatry major is a rising senior at The City College New York (CCNY) and one of the eight scholars in the inaugural class of NEUROCITY. “I graduate in December and plan to continue to pursue science because of this experience.”

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Susana Marcos among five most recognized Spanish physicists

August 12, 2021

Susana Marcos Celestino has dedicated her career to discovering non-invasive techniques to evaluate the optical and structural properties of the eye and has applied them to the study of the biology of the visual system, to the early diagnosis of eye diseases, to the improvement of cataract surgery and of intraocular lenses.

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New program puts students from CCNY in neuroscience labs this summer

July 26, 2021

The Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience Diversity Commission (NDC) is working to create a pipeline for underrepresented minorities interested in pursuing neuroscience research. Eight undergraduate students from City College of New York (CCNY) are living and working at the University of Rochester this summer as part of a new program called NEUROCITY. NEUROCITY is a partnership between the University and City College New York.

“This is program has begun an invaluable partnership between the University of Rochester and CCNY. Giving these students a place to come and get hands-on research experience. This opportunity could have a significant impact on their future education, career, and ultimately on the future of science,” said Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, Ph.D. NDC chair. “We need to have the best at the bench, and part of doing that is removing barriers.”

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Pipeline program lets East High students experience life in the lab

June 30, 2021

High school student practices soldering

University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster

Lulu Abdullahi (right), a junior at East High School in the Rochester City School District, practices soldering to repair an experiment component with Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. For six weeks, Abdullahi and a classmate visited the River Campus as part of NeURo East, a Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience program that gives underrepresented high school students access to scientific research experiences in an academic setting. In the fall, the program will expand to six students who will rotate through multiple Rochester labs during the academic year.

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Martina Poletti has been awarded the James P. Wilmot Distinguished Assistant Professorship

June 25, 2021

Four University faculty members, including Martina Poletti, representing "some of the most promising young men and women in the early stages of their academic careers," have been awarded James P. Wilmot Distinguished Assistant Professorships at the University of Rochester.

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A new way to make AR/VR glasses

April 30, 2021

University of Rochester illustration / Michael Osadciw

A metaform is a new optical component that Rochester researchers say can combine with freeform optics to create the next generation of AR/VR headsets and eyewear. (University of Rochester illustration / Michael Osadciw)

"Image" is everything in the $20 billion market for AR/VR glasses. Consumers are looking for glasses that are compact and easy to wear, delivering high-quality imagery with socially acceptable optics that don't look like "bug eyes."

University of Rochester researchers at the Institute of Optics have come up with a novel technology to deliver those attributes with maximum effect. In a paper in Science Advances, they describe imprinting freeform optics with a nanophotonic optical element called "a metasurface."

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Q&A with Ian Fibelkorn, Ph.D.

April 29, 2021

Ian Fiebelkorn, Ph.D., joined the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience in January 2021 as an assistant professor in Neuroscience. He received his B.A. in Neuroscience from Hamilton College and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from The City College of New York. His research aims to understand how the brain selects the information that is most relevant to our behavioral goals, while also filtering out distracting information.

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From the inside out: Making sense of schizophrenia

April 29, 2021

The senses — which serve as our brain's window to the outside world — may play a key role in schizophrenia.

Researchers believe the sensory systems in the brain of those living with schizophrenia may become overloaded with visual and auditory signals, and scramble them in a manner that results in the hallucinations that are a hallmark of the disease.

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Research Funded to Study Efficacy of Early Visual Training after Occipital Stroke

April 16, 2021

Up to half-a-million people each year suffer occipital strokes that cause loss to some portion of their vision, permanently affecting how they navigate through life.

A team at the University of Rochester recently showed that visual rehabilitation can more effectively reverse some of this blindness if patients are treated in the first few months after their stroke. Such patients will now have the opportunity to become part of a research study at the Flaum Eye Institute of the University of Rochester, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

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First-ever lab model of human eye offers hope for macular degeneration patients

March 29, 2021

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which leads to a loss of central vision, is the most frequent cause of blindness in adults 50 years of age or older, affecting an estimated 196 million people worldwide. There is no cure, though treatment can slow the onset and preserve some vision.

Recently, however, researchers at the University of Rochester have made an important breakthrough in the quest for an AMD cure. Their first three-dimensional (3D) lab model mimics the part of the human retina affected in macular degeneration.

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Congratulations to Martina Poletti, Recipient of the 2021 Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award

March 25, 2021

VSS is pleased to present the 2021 Young Investigator Award to Martina Poletti.

Dr. Poletti is an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. She is recognized for fundamental contributions to our understanding of eye movements, microsaccades, and the nature of visual-motor function and attention within the foveola. She received her Bachelor's degree and Master's degree at the University of Padova, and completed her doctoral and postdoctoral work at Boston University.

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ABCD Study MRIs reveal more incidental findings in children

March 24, 2021

New findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) Study could change our understanding of the prevalence of neurological problems in children and how neuroimaging is used to screen for these problems. Scan results revealed one in 25 children needed further medical evaluation.

"These were all healthy kids who, in the most serious cases, needed life-saving surgery. Without these scans some would have had a major medical event," John Foxe, Ph.D., director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, and principal investigator of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development or ABCD Study at the University of Rochester and a co-author of the study, which appears in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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More than words: Using AI to map how the brain understands sentences

March 22, 2021

Have you ever wondered why you are able to hear a sentence and understand its meaning – given that the same words in a different order would have an entirely different meaning? New research involving neuroimaging and A.I., describes the complex network within the brain that comprehends the meaning of a spoken sentence.

"It has been unclear whether the integration of this meaning is represented in a particular site in the brain, such as the anterior temporal lobes, or reflects a more network level operation that engages multiple brain regions," said Andrew Anderson, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the University of Rochester Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and lead author on of the study which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. "The meaning of a sentence is more than the sum of its parts. Take a very simple example – 'the car ran over the cat' and 'the cat ran over the car' – each sentence has exactly the same words, but those words have a totally different meaning when reordered."

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Rochester brain and cognitive sciences researchers receive national recognition

February 16, 2021

Two University of Rochester researchers in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences are being honored with a celebrated award for their contributions to and leadership in the scientific community.

Martina Poletti and Manuel Gomez-Ramirez, both assistant professors of brain and cognitive sciences and of neuroscience, are among this year's recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships. Awarded annually by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation since 1955, the fellowships recognize young scientists for their independent research accomplishments, creativity, and potential to become leaders in the scientific community. Each fellowship carries a $75,000, two-year award. This year, 128 scientists across the US and Canada were awarded fellowships. Gomez-Ramirez and Poletti are the University's fourth and filth Sloan fellows in the last three years.

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Susana Marcos to lead Center for Visual Science

February 11, 2021

Susana Marcos, an internationally recognized expert in the optics of the eye and the interactions of light with the retina, will become the David R. Williams Director of the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester.

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New Research Sheds Light on Vision Loss in Batten Disease

February 5, 2021

Progressive vision loss, and eventually blindness, are the hallmarks of juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (JNCL) or CLN3-Batten disease. New research shows how the mutation associated with the disease could potentially lead to degeneration of light sensing photoreceptor cells in the retina, and subsequent vision loss.

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The perfect pilot: How a grant takes flight

January 28, 2021

Having preliminary data from a study supported by a pilot grant elevated the work of Ania Majewska, Ph.D. She was awarded a $40,000 Schmitt pilot grant in 2015 to study the mechanism that regulates how microglia – part of the brain's immune system – move in the brain, and whether microglia function to repair or exacerbate damage in the brain following a stroke. Microglia working in the quiescent brain. Green = microglia, purple = microglial receptors at the fine ends of microglial processes.The data collected have since turned into millions of dollars of federal funding, competitive student training grants, and publications – including one in a major research journal.

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