UO Research Goes to Washington

UO’s Jennifer Freyd meets with White House advisor to discuss sexual assault on college campuses

UO psychology professor Jennifer Freyd visited the White House in March to discuss the subject of sexual assault on college campuses. Freyd discussed her research as it pertains to the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. She met with White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal.

An authority on betrayal and sexual abuse who pioneered the study of “betrayal trauma,” Freyd co-authored the recent book “Bind to Betrayal.” She investigates the causes and impact of interpersonal violence on mental and physical health, behavior and society.

During a 45-minute meeting, Freyd presented a summary of her research on campus sexual assault, including the results of a 2013 study she conducted with doctoral student Carly Parnitzke Smith on institutional betrayal that appeared in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. Freyd described the meeting as highly productive.

“I was very pleased with how the meeting went. There was much information exchanged, good questions, and thoughtful discussion,” Freyd said. “Lynn Rosenthal told me she would be calling me again. It is a wonderful experience to feel that our research matters in this way.”

Freyd’s travels also took her to Brown University in Providence, R.I., where she participated in a panel discussion with several other experts on public policy and sexual abuse, as reported in the Providence Journal. The discussion was inspired by the release of a new book by Brown University professor Ross Cheit examining a series of sexual abuse cases at child care centers during the 1980s that attracted significant media attention.

Following her visit, Freyd was invited back to Washington, D.C., to attend another White House meeting. She plans to attend that session, which is being hosted by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault on April 29.

UO Physicist Richard Taylor pitches winning research solution in White House meeting — research from the UO spinout NemaMetrix also highlighted

University of Oregon professor of physics Richard Taylor participated in a meeting convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on March 28. The director of the Materials Science Institute, Taylor conducts research focused on natural patterns known as fractals in physics, psychology, physiology, geography, architecture and art.

Another Oregon idea highlighted in the same meeting came from Matt Beaudet, CEO of NemaMetrix. The firm, which is headquartered in Eugene’s Fertilab Thinkubator startup incubator space, was spun out of UO biology professor Sean Lockery’s research and is funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) and Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI). The proposal won second place behind Taylor’s concept and earned Beaudet a seat at the same Washington, D.C., table.

InnoCentive calls itself “the global leader in crowdsourcing innovative problems to the world’s smartest people.” Taylor and Beaudet responded to InnoCentive’s challenge for “Identifying Revolutionary Platform Technologies for Advancing Life Sciences Research.” Together they beat out more than 900 other submissions — Taylor with his winning idea for the development of artificial human implants using “interconnects” that mimic the biological circuitry employed by the body and Beaudet for his company’s microfluidic device which uses the microscopic C. elegans worm as a model organism.

“Imagine a world in which damaged parts of the body – an arm, or an eye, or even a region of the brain – can be replaced by artificial implants capable of restoring or even enhancing human performance,” Taylor wrote in the introduction to his proposal.

Beaudet says his company’s so called “worm chip” could replace the use of mice in drug development and also help provide global health solutions for the estimated 2-3 billion of the earth’s people who carry parasitic worm infections.

InnoCentive seeks to connect “solvers” like Taylor and Beaudet with funding agencies. The agencies behind the life sciences research challenge included the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the W.M. Keck Foundation, The Kavli Foundation, The Templeton Foundation, and The Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Taylor – who was in Sweden at the time working on a retinal implant project at Lund University – and Beaudet, who is in Eugene, both flew to Washington, D.C., for the March 28 White House meeting. The InnoCentive funding agencies were all represented at the meeting, along with representatives from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense. Taylor and Beaudet each gave five-minute presentations on their winning ideas. The meeting included a general discussion about how to promote a better funding landscape for the interface between the physical and life sciences.

“This area is seen as having huge potential for US science,” Taylor said. “This includes technologies that can interface with living systems. A striking thing to emerge was the importance of using interdisciplinary teams and to encourage interdisciplinary thinkers."

Beaudet said the experience of talking directly with the policy makers shaping the government’s scientific funding plan was a great opportunity for his firm.

"As an early stage startup it is incredibly valuable to have the support of such a large group of scientific funding agencies," Beaudet said.

Taylor and Beaudet plan to follow up with the five foundations supporting the InnoCentive challenge. Taylor hopes to submit a proposal to the Keck Foundation.