Graduate students are lifeblood
of research enterprise
2,400 graduate and professional school students are engaged in
a wide range of research in the arts and sciences, medicine, engineering,
nursing, education, architecture, law and business. The majority
of these students, about 1,700, are with the College of Arts &
Sciences, but many are engaged in interdisciplinary projects,
drawing on the knowledge and resources of investigators and other
students across Grounds.
is undertaken jointly by faculty and their students from engineering
and medicine, environmental sciences, physics, biology and other
fields. The schools of law and business cooperate with faculty
and students in psychology. Interdisciplinary research provides
opportunities for shared use of facilities and increased funding.
External funding for fiscal year 2000 exceeded $209 million in
support from federal and state agencies and private foundations.
students are an essential part of the research enterprise,
said Gene Block, vice president and provost. Their contribution
and function includes education learning the methodologies
of research and discovery, answering important questions
that often form the springboard for their future research. These
students play an important role in the creation of new understanding
that ultimately informs the faculty research effort.
week, Inside UVA profiles graduate students in biomedical engineering,
history, psychology and drama.
therapy: The power to heal?
factors may play role in teen pregnancy
stories of American identity
therapy: The power to heal?
by Jenny Gerow
have used magnets since the Middle Ages and skeptics have questioned
their effectiveness ever since.
1784, King Louis XVI of France established a commission to investigate
Franz Anton Mezmers animal magnetism treatments,
using magnets and hypnosis. And according to the July 1998 issue
of Skeptical Inquirer, Thomas Jefferson, who arrived in Paris
shortly after the publication of the commissions report,
concluded that [a]nimal magnetism is dead, ridiculed.
therapy is still ridiculed, but far from dead.
Cassie Morris, a masters student in biomedical
engineering, is one of several researchers at the University trying
to determine whether there is a scientific basis for magnets
supposed healing powers.
amazing how many people have wonderful anecdotes about how magnets
have saved their lives by reducing their pain,
Morris said. But there is not much scientific evidence about
what magnets actually do.
market for such treatments is not insubstantial loosely
estimated at $150 million to $500 million annually - and
the potential for abuse of desperate patients is high. s
is investigating the effect of magnets on blood flow, a project
funded by a $1.1 million grant by the National Institutes of Healths
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and
supervised by Morris advisor, Thomas Skalak, chair of the
department of biomedical engineering.
blood flow brings oxygen and other nutrients to the site of injury,
so therapies that increase blood flow to an area (such as the
application of a heating pad to a muscle sprain) promote healing.
researchers already have found that applying static magnets
similar to those used by elementary school children to pick up
paper clips increases the blood flow through blood vessels,
but no one can say by how much. So, Morris designed a project
two years ago that would enable her to measure increases in blood
flow generated by magnets.
making direct measures of diameter changes in blood vessels in
response to localized field exposure to static magnets,
spent the first year calibrating her magnets measuring
the power at their cores and on their surfaces to obtain
part of the baseline data needed for the study.
current experiments measure the effect of 15 minutes of exposure
to static magnets with a strength of 700 Gauss the strength
of the Earths magnetic field is about 1 Gauss on
the blood flow in the skeletal muscles of laboratory rats. Morris
videotapes the diameter of the blood vessels before exposure,
immediately after exposure and at 15- and 30-minute intervals
results show that different-sized vessels react differently to
the magnetic field, with the smallest vessels showing a more marked
response than larger vessels, and possibly contributing to an
overall increase in blood flow.
is repeating her experiments to establish statistically significant
results in the coming weeks and plans to present her findings
in June at the Bioelectromagnetics Society Conference in Quebec
establishing that magnets do have an effect on blood flow with
her masters thesis this spring, Morris plans to pursue doctoral
research, testing several hypotheses that might explain how it
I want to do is to establish a scientific basis for the clinical
use of magnets and determine the ideal strength and exposure combinations
for the most therapeutically beneficial devices or treatments,
want to help people who have been injured and have not found relief
from their pain through traditional medicine.
other groups of University researchers have explored various aspects
of magnets interaction with the human body.
research team co-directed by Ann Taylor Gill, professor of nursing
and director of the U.Va. Center for the Study of Complementary
and Alternative Therapies, last winter published the results of
its study of the effectiveness of magnetic mattress pads in treating
the deep muscle pain suffered by fibromyalgia patients. The study
was funded in part by a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes
of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
study looked at 94 patients, divided into four groups, over a
six-month period. The first group was given mattress pads with
embedded magnets of a uniform polarity; the second group got magnetic
mattress pads of mixed polarities; the third group received sham
mattress pads; and the fourth group acted as a control, with no
mattress pads and no change in previous treatments.
found no statistical differences among the groups in most of the
measures studied. However, for some of them particularly,
pain intensity, the number of tender points on body and functional
status after six months the two groups that received magnetic
mattress pads reported more improvement than the other two groups.
hope to learn more about how to establish proper dosages and understand
possible side effects, while learning which conditions benefit
most from the use of magnets.
other U.Va. research supported by the NIH, Jeremy B. Tuttle, professor
of neuroscience and urology with the Health System, has been exploring
the effect of static magnetic fields on gene expression in human
research group conducted several tests on 12,600 genes and found
that most were not affected by magnets. However, about 100 genes
a surprisingly large number were affected,
Tuttle said. Interestingly, he found that many of the affected
genes have to do with cells mechanisms for responding to
is preparing to present his results to the Scientific Conference
for Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicine Research
in Boston in April and hopes to further develop his results.
Genetic factors may play role
in teen pregnancy
by Rebecca Arrington
By Fariss Samarrai
Waldron describes her mother as a very expressive, typical
first-generation Greek mother. Her father is the strong,
silent type, a
quiet Texan. Her brother, Elliott, only 11 months older
than she, is sort of introverted and methodical, like my
father. Hes also very outdoorsy, he climbs mountains.
Mary says shes the very opposite, extroverted and
a little impulsive, but, when not socializing, Mary would
rather curl up on a comfortable couch with a book than take on
differences have always intrigued me, she said. Im
interested in the way siblings can be so different, even when
growing up in the same home.
a native of Seattle, is earning her Ph.D. in psychology at U.Va.,
expecting to complete her dissertation this fall.
an undergrad at the University of Washington I started out as
pre-med and took psychology classes for fun. But I discovered
early that I was fascinated by psychology and that I could combine
my interests in siblings and science better with psychology than
a graduate student in clinical psychology, Waldron is using twin
siblings to try to separate the environmental risks of teen pregnancy
from heritable influences, such as early sexual maturity. She
is using an Australian sample of female twins, 2,800 pairs, half
of whom are fraternal twins and the other half identical.
the statistical models can be complex, the rationale behind twin
studies is pretty straightforward, she said. If a
behavior is genetically influenced, then identical twins should
resemble one another to a greater extent than fraternal twins,
who share only about half of their segregating genes. If a behavior
is not influenced by genes, identical twins should be no more
similar than fraternal twins, despite greater genetic similarity.
is finding that identical twins are more likely to report similar
ages at first pregnancy than fraternal twins, suggesting that
risk for early motherhood may be explained at least in part by
genetic factors. She also is finding that much of the genetic
risk for teen pregnancy can be explained by heritable differences
in early puberty.
discovering that early menses often leads to early sexual activity,
which in turn increases risk for teen pregnancy and motherhood,
and a resulting increase in the likelihood of school dropout and
a higher risk of poverty, she said. While most studies
focus on social factors, genetic factors are also important. And
its interesting to find that heritable aspects of early
menses seems to be a big factor.
emphasizes that risky behavior cannot be completely explained
by something in the genes, however. Though certain genetic
characteristics may put some people at risk, environment is still
important. For example, several interventions have been successful
in reducing the likelihood of teenage pregnancy, especially among
girls who were enrolled in these programs because they were thought
to be at high risk.
earning her degree, Waldron hopes to serve a one-year clinical
psychology residency at the University of Washington Medical Center,
where she could be close to her family. She is planning an academic
career, and would like to conduct cross-cultural comparative studies
of teen pregnancy using both Australian and U.S. twins.
by Jenny Gerow
stories of American identity
does it mean to be an American? That is a question that has been
on many peoples minds around the world since last falls
terrorist attacks, and it is the complex question that drew Susanna
Michele Lee deep into the study of history.
a doctoral candidate in U.Va.s highly rated Southern history
program and herself a highly rated teacher, is currently examining
the question from this angle: how did Southerners become Americans
again after the Civil War?
do this, she is poring over such sources as popular novels, song
lyrics, artwork and newspaper accounts. She is also methodically
reading thousands of stories told to the Southern Claims Commission,
a federal agency set up to award compensation for wartime losses
if Southerners could prove they had been loyal to
the Union. In these often-contradictory testimonies by claimants
and their neighbors, she says, you can see people trying
to comprehend the meaning of the war and their position in postwar
America. You see them trying to set forth their vision of the
innovative findings, laid out in her dissertation and presentations
at scholarly conferences, present a more complicated picture than
the familiar one that most Southerners thought of the war as a
noble lost cause.
than focusing exclusively on the accounts of Confederate veterans
and their families, memories that have long fueled the popular
imagination, she is looking closely at the stories of those who
had little leisure or stature to write memoirs or speeches. These
include non-slaveholding whites, who formed the majority of Southerners;
free blacks and slaves, many of whom owned some property or livestock;
and women, who were allowed little role in politics.
Northern commissioners were trying to determine who expressed
opposition to secession, either by voting against it or serving
in the Union army. Along the way they heard many other descriptions
of loyalty and visions of America, Lee says.
slaves emphasized the role of slavery as a cause of the war and
appealed to the government to give meaning to their freedom with
some rights and compensation. White Southern women often condemned
the cost of the war and the suffering it caused. And many non-slaveholding
whites said they had viewed the purpose of the war as ending the
domination of the slaveholding class.
capture these stories Lee takes a laptop computer to the National
Archives, where the original documents are, and to other libraries
including Alderman that have some copies, to make notes and transcribe
page after page of handwritten commission testimony. She enjoys
her research. Theres something about working with
original handwriting that brings you closer to the subject,
attributes part of her curiosity about history to her Asian-American
heritage, which has made her think closely about issues of identity.
History seemed to be asking some of the same questions I
was interested in, she says.
scholarship, which also includes extensive work for the Virginia
Center for Digital History and the award-winning Civil War project,
Valley of the Shadow, is already reaching many others.
This fall she is scheduled to teach a thesis-writing course for
history majors, on the topic of Civil War memory and how Americans
think of themselves as belonging culturally and politically.