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Sponsored Program Services News

Elimination of Graduate Research Assistant Tuition on Grants

April 4, 2017

 

Dear Colleagues:

In our continuing effort to reduce the costs of research at UConn and UConn Health, we are eliminating the requirement to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to research grants, effective Spring 2017.

From 2009 to 2016, University policy required that 60% of full-time in-state tuition per graduate assistant be charged to external grants funding faculty members’ research projects. In Fiscal Year 2016, we reduced the impact of this policy on grant funds by returning an amount equal to half of the tuition collected from grants to faculty investigators’ indirect cost return accounts.

Beginning with charges for the Spring 2017 semester, faculty will no longer be required to charge any portion of graduate research assistant tuition to their grants. Faculty will also no longer be required to include [tuition] charges for graduate research assistants on future grant applications, thus increasing their competitiveness with funding agencies. Savings from graduate research assistant tuition charges can now be applied toward other direct cost needs for faculty research projects. This applies to all sponsored projects, including those being conducted at UConn Health.

Researchers with existing grants or grant applications that include graduate research assistant tuition for Spring 2017 and beyond should rebudget those dollars into other direct cost items, at their discretion within sponsor specific rules. For questions or to request assistance with the rebudgeting process, please reach out to your department grant administrator or your regular contact person in Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Although this is another positive step towards increasing the buying power of grants for our faculty, we recognize that it does not directly address a major concern contributing to the high cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health: very high fringe rates relative to our peers and aspirants. While these rates are controlled by the state, we will continue to seek solutions for this important issue.

Despite significant financial constraints, we will continue to pursue creative solutions to decrease the cost of doing research at UConn and UConn Health. Some of the recent initiatives to accomplish this include: providing financial support to PIs impacted by large increases in fringe rates in 2016, establishing direct IDC returns to PIs for the first time at UConn Health, non-research IDC returns for the first time in Storrs, and supporting the NIH-driven increase in minimum salaries for postdoctoral fellows.

Thank you for your continued contributions to UConn/UConn Health’s success as a leading research institution. We look forward to supporting you in your future research activities.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research UConn/UConn Health
Dr. Jeremy Teitelbaum
Interim Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Scott Jordan
Executive Vice President for Administration &
Chief Financial Officer

OVPR Quarterly Reports

February 2, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to provide you with several reports relating to sponsored program activity—both research and education/service—managed by Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research at UConn and UConn Health. These reports include:

In the reports, data is presented in two ways: by the PI’s Academic Home Department and by the Managing Department or Center/Institute. Please refer to the first pages of the reports for definitions and information regarding the data.

Should you have any questions regarding these quarterly reports, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

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Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

UConn_research unleashed

OVPR Quarterly Reports

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to provide you with several reports relating to sponsored program activity—both research and education/service—managed by Sponsored Program Services within the Office of the Vice President for Research at UConn and UConn Health. These reports include:

In the reports, data is presented in two ways: by the PI’s Academic Home Department and by the Managing Department or Center/Institute. Please refer to the first pages of the reports for definitions and information regarding the data.

Should you have any questions regarding these quarterly reports, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

js_signature

Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

UConn_research unleashed

 

New Director of UCH Sponsored Program Services

September 9, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Paul Hudobenko as the new director of UConn Health Sponsored Program Services in the Office of the Vice President for Research.  Paul succeeds Dana Carroll who became the Associate Vice Provost for Research at Northeastern University.

Paul is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and has worked at UConn Health since 1986.  He has served in a variety of research administration roles, initially concentrating on financial reporting, budgeting and the post award side of research administration before shifting to Pre-Award Sponsored Program Services in 2001.  More recently, Paul has been serving as the Interim Pre-Award Director of Sponsored Programs Services since September 2015.  His considerable experience in research administration at UConn Health and his broad understanding of the full life cycle of grant and contract awards will serve him and the University well as he takes on new leadership responsibilities in SPS.

Please join me in congratulating Paul on his new role leading pre-award services in support of growing UConn Health research.

Sincerely,

Mike Glasgow, Jr.

Associate Vice President for Research
Sponsored Program Services
UConn/UConn Health

UConn Health F&A Proposal Information

Dear Colleagues,

On a four or five-year cycle, UConn Health negotiates its facilities and administrative (F&A) rate with the federal government.  2016 is our base year for the next F&A rate negotiation. The timeline of the F&A proposal is lengthy, but it begins with accumulation of space, FTE, and financial information for all areas of the institution. You and your department are partners in this process.  The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), Research Financial Services will coordinate the development of the F&A proposal and negotiate on behalf of UConn Health with the federal government.  To do this in the most effective way possible, we ask that you provide OVPR Research Financial Services with accurate and timely information.

You play a vital role, and your participation and cooperation during this process have a direct impact on the outcome of the negotiation.  For instance, each percentage point in the F&A rate translates into approximately $500,000 in recovered (or lost) F&A costs.

Fiscal 2016 financial and FTE information will be combined with space information to form the underlying data for the F&A proposal.  Square footage is used to determine several components of the F&A rate.  Under federal regulations, we are required to conduct a space functional usage study to support the allocations that will be used in our F&A rate proposal.  Five years ago, UConn Health retained Attain, LLC to assist us with the space functional usage study.  Attain has been retained again for this negotiation, and their staff will be on-site throughout the study to support and guide us.

Our goal is to collect department information during the month of March.  Department involvement is critical at this juncture of the process. Attain is providing the support, but the actual data compilation will be done by you and/or your staffs.  Attain staff will be on-campus the week of March 7th conducting training sessions on their web-based system and will remain on-site throughout March to provide guidance and assistance.

We recognize that this is a busy time, and we thank you for your cooperation in helping us complete this essential first phase of the study. We will be contacting your administrative staffs to schedule this engagement. Please contact me if you have any questions.

 

Sincerely,

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Dr. Jeff Seemann
Vice President for Research
UConn/UConn Health

 

UConn_research unleashed

A Better Way to Read the Genome

By Kim Krieger, UConn Today

Model V2UConn researchers have sequenced the RNA of the most complicated gene known in nature, using a hand-held sequencer no bigger than a cell phone.

If DNA is the blueprint of life, RNA is the construction contractor who interprets it, so sequencing RNA tells you what’s really happening inside a cell.

Genomicists Brenton Graveley from the UConn Institute of Systems Genomics, postdoctoral fellow Mohan Bolisetty, and graduate student Gopinath Rajadinakaran teamed up with UK-based Oxford Nanopore Technologies to show that the company’s MinION nanopore sequencer can sequence genes faster, better, and at a much lower cost than the standard technology. They published their findings on Sept. 30 in Genome Biology.

If your genome was a library and each gene was a book, some genes would be straightforward reads – but some would be more like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. Researchers often want to know which version of the gene is actually expressed in the body, but for complicated choose-your-own-adventure genes, that has been impossible.

Graveley, Bolisetty, and Rajadinakaran solved the puzzle in two parts. The first was to find a better gene-sequencing technology. In order to sequence a gene using the old, existing technology, researchers first make lots of copies of it, using the same chemistry our bodies use. They then chop up the gene copies into tiny pieces, read each tiny piece, and then, by comparing all the different pieces, try to figure out how they were originally put together. The technique hinges on the likelihood that not all the copies got chopped up into exactly the same pieces. Imagine watching different scenes from a movie, out of order. If you then watched the same movie, but cut into scenes at slightly different places, you could compare the two versions and start to figure out which scenes connect to which.

That technique won’t work for choose-your-own-adventure genes, because if you copy them the way the body does, using RNA, each copy can be slightly – or very – different from the next. Such different versions of the same gene are called isoforms. When the different isoforms get chopped up and sequenced, it becomes impossible to accurately compare the pieces and figure out which versions of the gene you started with.

If the gene were a movie, “you wouldn’t be able to tell that scenes 1 and 2 were present together,” Bolisetty says.

modelv2-02
modelv2-03

Then last year, the nearly impossible suddenly became possible. Oxford Nanopore, a company based in the UK, released its new nanopore sequencer, and offered one to Graveley’s lab. The nanopore sequencer, called a MinION, works by feeding a single strand of DNA through a tiny pore. The pore can only hold five DNA bases – the ‘letters’ that spell out our genes – at a time. There are four DNA bases, G, A, T, and C, and 1,024 possible five-base combinations. Each combination creates a different electrical current in the nanopore. GGGGA makes a different current than AGGGG, which is different again than CGGGG. By feeding the DNA through the pore and recording the resulting signal, researchers can read the sequence of the DNA.

For the second part of the solution, Graveley, Bolisetty, and Rajadinakaran decided to go big. Instead of sequencing any old choose-your-own-adventure gene, they chose the most complex one known, Down Syndrome cell adhesion molecule 1 (Dscam1), which controls the wiring of the brain in fruit flies. Dscam1 has the potential of making 38,016 possible isoforms, and every fruit fly has the potential to make every one of them, yet how many of these versions are actually made remains unknown. Dscam1 looks like this: X-12-X-48-X-33-X-2-X, where X’s denote sections that are always the same, and the numbers indicate sections that can vary (the number itself shows how many different options there are for that section).

To study how many different isoforms of Dscam1 actually exist in a fly’s brain, the researchers first had to convert Dscam1 RNA into DNA. If DNA is the book or set of instructions, RNA is the transcriber that copies the book so that it can be translated into a protein. The DNA includes the instructions for all 38,016 isoforms of the Dscam1 gene, while each individual Dscam1 RNA contains the instructions for just one. No one had yet used a MinION to sequence copies of RNA, and though it was likely it could be done, demonstrating it and showing how well it worked would be a substantial advance in the field.

Rajadinakaran took a fruit fly brain, extracted the RNA, converted it into DNA, isolated the DNA copies of the Dscam1 RNAs, and then ran them through the MinION’s nanopores. In this one experiment, they not only found 7,899 of the 38,016 possible isoforms of Dscam1 were expressed but also that many more, if not all versions are likely to be expressed.

“A lot of people said ‘The MinION will never work,’” Graveley says, “but we showed it works using the most complicated gene known.”
The MinION gene sequencer in Brenton Graveley’s lab is state-of-the art technology that costs about $1,000 and is roughly the same size as an iPhone. (Kim Krieger/UConn Photo)

The MinION gene sequencer in Brenton Graveley’s lab is state-of-the art technology that costs about $1,000 and is roughly the same size as an iPhone. (Kim Krieger/UConn Photo)

MinIONThe study demonstrates that gene sequencing technology can now be accessed by a much broader range of researchers than was previously possible, since the MinION is both relatively inexpensive and highly portable so that it requires almost no lab space.

“This type of cutting-edge work puts UConn at the forefront of technology development and strengthens our portfolio of genomics research,” says Marc Lalande, director of UConn’s Institute for Systems Genomics. “Also, thanks to the investments in genomics through the University’s Academic Plan, Brent Graveley can leverage his expertise so that faculty and students across our campuses will successfully compete for grant dollars and launch bioscience ventures.”

Graveley will speak about the research at the Oxford Nanopore MinION Community Meeting at the New York Genome Center on Dec. 3.

As for next steps, the researchers plan on going even bigger: sequencing every bit of RNA from beginning to end inside a single cell, something that cannot be done with traditional gene sequencers.

“This technology has amazing potential to transform how we study RNA biology and the type of information we can obtain,” says Graveley. “Plus the fact that the MinION is a hand-held sequencer that you plug into a laptop is simply unbelievably cool!”