News Archive

  • A Glassblowing Artist in the Making


    New Jersey native Kimberly Diaz transferred from Rowan College at Gloucester County to the University of Miami as a sophomore to pursue a degree in graphic design, but after taking the course, “Introduction to Glass Blowing,” with UM lecturer Jenna Efrein, her passion for creating objects with glass bubbled to the surface.

    ‌As she stands in the outdoor studio alongside a glassblowing furnace and two re-heating chambers, all radiating heat over 2,000 degrees, the UM senior said the temperature doesn’t bother her anymore. “Glassblowing is a lot of work and very time consuming, but making beautiful pieces of glass art is so gratifying,” says Diaz. “And you totally get used to the heat.”

    Now her love of glassblowing is placing Diaz in the path of many diverse opportunities where she will be able to continue to hone her skills in this very creative field. As her final semester at the UM quickly approaches, Diaz has many exciting prospects. She is considering an apprenticeship with a glassblowing studio in Hollywood, FL, where she will get to work on a cruise ship traveling the world creating pieces for the ship’s clients.

    “I see it as a great opportunity to learn a lot and apply what I have learned here at UM,” says Diaz. “I think it would be fun, and I’m looking forward to getting to meet new people. I enjoy the whole idea of travel and being surrounded by other creatives.” 

    She was first exposed to glassblowing in high school during a field trip. Once enrolled at UM, Diaz felt compelled to take the glassblowing classes offered in the Art Department because of her natural curiosity to try new activities.

    “I see many students pass through the glassblowing classes I teach,” said UM lecturer Jenna Efrein. “Few actually grasp what it takes to be an artist and what it means to be an acute observer of life. This translates to so many applications and professions in the real world. I have seen this quality in Kim. Along with her positive attitude and hard work ethic, she shows great promise. It is my pleasure to offer her any opportunity that passes my desk.”

    Even though she is preoccupied with glassblowing at the moment, she also hopes to use her graphic design skills at some point in her career, particularly in the music industry. Outside of what she is required to create in class, Diaz loves making functional ware pieces, such as glasses, plates, bowls, and vases. She gets much gratification out of creating glass pieces that have everyday use. It is also a very dynamic process that could take hours to complete.

    In addition to all of the excitement generated over her travel plans, she definitely feels like there are many different opportunities for a person that has the skill and ability to work with glass. She also gave a nod and a smile at the possibility of owning her own glassblowing empire someday, stating “anything is possible!”


    By Barry V. Williams, UGrow Fellow

     

  • Promoting Positive International Relations


    Political Science Professor Louise Davidson-Schmich recently received a grant from the German government as part of the “Deutschlandjahr” (Germany Year) initiative to promote a positive German/American friendship. As part of the grant, over the next couple of months, the University of Miami and Florida International University will host a series of roundtable and networking sessions on Germany, the U.S., and the challenges of the 21st Century. The topics include immigration, gender & sexuality, climate change, developing a competitive workforce, and increasing polarization in politics. We spoke to Davidson-Schmich about the roundtable events and the importance of the conference. For more information about the roundtable discussions, visit our website here.

    The roundtable and networking series is a collaboration between UM and FIU. How did that partnership happen?  

    Between UM and FIU, there a remarkable number of top-notch scholars working on issues relevant to Germany, the European Union, and the U.S. The goal of the program is to reach out to people in the community and let them know about the issues Germany and the U.S. have in common, and by combining forces we can disseminate our expertise more widely. My FIU co-organizer, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, and Director of the Miami-Florida Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, Dr. Markus Thiel, is no stranger to UM. He earned his Ph.D. from the International Studies program in 2005; I was a member of his dissertation committee.

    The roundtable discussions focus on many topics, from climate change to gender & sexuality. The first roundtable event—held here at UM on Oct. 18—is about immigration in the U.S. and Germany. Why focus a roundtable on this topic? 

    All roundtables in the series are designed to highlight common issues that both countries are facing and to consider how each side can learn from the other. Historically, the two countries have had very different immigration and citizenship policies. While the United States’ population is quite diverse and has migrated here from a wide variety of countries, Germany has historically been more homogeneous and has actually a country of emigration—a place people left rather than migrated to. The U.S. has had a jus soli immigration policy (people who are born here obtain citizenship), while Germany long pursued a jus sanguinis policy (granting citizenship only to the children of citizens).

    In recent decades, however, Germany has become more like the U.S., reforming its citizenship laws and experiencing an influx of immigrants and refugees from a wide range of countries. Today, both countries are grappling with how to best incorporate new arrivals into the fabric of society against a tide of rising anti-immigrant sentiment among some parts of the native population. The roundtable will focus on these challenges and compare Berlin and Washington’s policy responses.

    Considering the current political atmosphere in Germany and U.S., how would you describe the international relationship between these two countries?

    Since the end of World War II, Germany and the U.S. have been close allies working together to build economic prosperity, promote democracy, and ensure peaceful relations not only with each other but across western Europe as a whole. This transatlantic relationship has been vital to Germany’s national security, and the Federal Republic has been a loyal ally to the U.S. Both countries sought to contain communism and celebrated together as the Berlin Wall fell and communism came to an end in East Germany. The two countries’ economies are also tightly intertwined. The German American Chamber of Commerce reports that 250 German firms have invested $4 billion in Florida alone and employ over 20,000 people in our state. Given these circumstances, many Germans and Americans are strongly in favor of continued good relations; indeed, the “Deutschlandjahr” program was conceived by the German Foreign Office as a way to help preserve these transatlantic ties of friendship.

    Who is this roundtable and networking series for, and what do you hope to accomplish?

    Anyone interested in learning more about the issues that Germany and the U.S. have in common is welcome: students, faculty, staff, and interested community members. Each event is free and open to the public. Dr. Thiel and I are reaching out, not only to people on our campuses but also to community members including a number of German-American groups such as students in local high school German classes and the German American Business Chamber. Depending on the topic of the roundtable, we are also hoping to attract practitioners in a given area. For example, we are welcoming members of Miami’s Refugee Assistance Alliance organization to the immigration roundtable. The networking receptions following each roundtable will feature German food and drink and music by German composers such as Beethoven played by Frost School of Music students.

    International engagement and connecting to institutions and individuals in the Americas and around the world is part of UM’s aspiration to be the Hemispheric University. Do you think these roundtable sessions help position UM as such? 

    Absolutely. One of the reasons our “Deutschlandjahr” grant proposal was successful was because we were able to make the case that by teaching people about U.S./German issues here in Miami, we would actually be reaching out to a community with ties far beyond this immediate area. As a global city, Miami is facing many of the challenges we will be discussing in our series: increasing immigration, rising sea levels, the need to be economically competitive, and political polarization. UM has faculty expertise to help understand how we can learn from other countries and address these challenges, and how others can learn from us.

     

    October 15, 2018

  • Don’t “Dis” My Ability™

    Speaking honestly, openly, and candidly about the struggles of dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was the topic of Shawn Smith’s public lecture, “Nobody Ever Said Being Awesome Would Be Easy,” which was hosted by UM-NSU CARD as part of its Autism Lecture Series.

    “We spend so much time trying to make people fit into our world that we rarely take time to think how we can fit into theirs,” said Smith, the CEO and founder of Don’t dis-my-ability™ Consultation Services Inc., an entrepreneurial company based in Canada that invests in the field of neurodiversity. “I believe that I add value to whatever it is that I do, and if I’m not, then I’m going to switch gears and find out how I can.”

    During the lecture, Smith talked about the way people with learning disabilities, or what he considers “extraordinary” abilities, respond to various stimuli around them. Individuals with ADHD, for example, have to create the environments that work for them or always suffer navigating a maze of expectations and strategies that are counterproductive to the way they process information.

    Smith also addressed the challenges of common misconceptions about people, like him, who are considered neurodiverse. Although there are many people whose cognitive disabilities are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed all together, Smith believes that the field of neurodiversity is moving in a positive direction. He explained that various communities (family life, school life, and the workplace) cane sometimes fail to recognize when individuals face these struggles; neither do they provide the type of environments that tap into the unique, and often creative, abilities of people like him. 

    “It’s not always seeing things from the perspective of what is wrong, but sometimes you have to consider what is right about it,” said Smith.  

     

    October 12, 2018

  • Celebrating Poetic Prose

    Zaina Alsous, a second-year M.F.A. student, was awarded the 2019 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize for her collection A Theory of Birds. Alsous will receive a $1,000 award, and the University of Arkansas Press will publish her book in the fall of 2019.

    This prestigious prize is offered annually by the University of Arkansas Press and the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) for a poetry volume in English by a writer of Arab descent. A Theory of Birds uses ornithology as metaphor, placing species naming and extinction in conversation with colonial “discovery” events and the gaze that assists imperial violence.

    Alsous is a daughter of the Palestinian diaspora, born and raised in North Carolina. She currently lives in Miami while pursuing an M.F.A .in poetry and teaching undergraduate writing at UM.

    The Etel Adnan Poetry Prize is supported by the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas. It is named for Lebanese poet, essayist, and visual artist Etel Adnan, who the journal MELUS—The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States—called "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today."

    Every year the University of Arkansas Press together with the Radius of Arab American Writers accepts submissions for the Etel Adnan Poetry Series and awards the $1,000 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize to a first or second book of poetry, in English, by a writer of Arab heritage. Since its founding in 1996, the Radius of Arab American Writers has celebrated and fostered the writings and writers that make up the vibrant and diverse Arab American community.

    October 08, 2018

  • The Stage is Set at the Ring

    The Jerry Herman Ring Theatre kicks off its 2018-2019 season


    From a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s music to a present-day play that takes an unflinching look at stalking and male/female relationships, a new season of stellar theatre and superb acting is gearing up at the University of Miami Jerry Herman Ring Theatre. This season welcomes four new productions at the Ring: “A Simple Song: A Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration”; “Boy Gets Girl”; “The School for Lies”; and “The Wild Party.”

    UM Senior, Rachael Gregoire, stars in "Boy Gets Girl."

    "It is the job of any artistic director to make sure we don’t serve the same meal, so to speak, every time an audience member goes to the Ring, and I feel this season we have four very different meals,” said Michael Bush, artistic director of the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre. Bush, who has a personal relationship to both “Boy Gets Girl” and “The Wild Party,” as he worked professionally on the original New York productions, adds that every show for the Ring’s new season “was picked with the hope that they will encourage a dialogue regarding their relevance to our current society and times.”

    “Our students are incredibly talented,” adds Bush. “Our B.F.A. students, who are the majority of students that perform at the Ring, are training in a professional conservatory program to go directly into the business, and many times that means Broadway. Our students are the next generation of great and here is your chance to see them now.”

    For senior Rachael Gregoire, who plays the lead role in “Boy Gets Girl,” this season is the most memorable. “There are so many moments that I will miss, but I will have to say blasting music and dancing in the dressing room, when we’re doing our hair and makeup before the show, is my favorite memory,” she said. “It always gets us energized and brings the cast together.”

    “In ‘Boy Gets Girl,’ I play the lead role, Theresa,” said Gregoire. “She is a character most women and men can relate to in society today. I have encountered many experiences of stalking by just walking on the street or even in the work field. It does take away a part of your sense of freedom and keeps you on alert at all times, but the best thing to do is to go to someone for help and let them help take care of the situation.”

    For tickets to the Ring Theatre, visit  http://www.as.miami.edu/ringtheatre/ or call 305-284-3355. The Ring Theatre Box Office is open Wednesday-Friday, 12pm – 5pm, and is located on the Coral Gables Campus at 1312 Miller Drive.




    A Simple Song: A Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration. (Conceived by Michael Bush and N. David Williams)
    September 27-October. 6, 2018.
    2018 marks the 100th birthday of one of America’s cultural icons, American composer, conductor, author, and pianist Leonard Bernstein. With special permission from the Bernstein estate, the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre presents a retrospective of his contributions to this most American of theatrical art forms. Join us to say “Happy Birthday Lenny” in this unique and exclusive evening of Bernstein at his best.


    Boy Gets Girl. By Rebecca Gillman.
    November 8-17, 2018.
    It all begins with a blind date. Theresa, an accomplished reporter, is set up with Tony by a mutual acquaintance. The dialogue snaps like a conventional romantic comedy. Then the phone calls start. And the flowers. And the creeping sensation that Tony just won’t take “no” for an answer. Gillman’s play is the study of an innocent encounter that leads to terrifying results.


    The School for Lies. By David Ives.
    February 21-March 2, 2019.
    In his hilarious adaption of Molière’s “The Misanthrope,” David Ives, one of America’s most popular contemporary playwrights, dives headfirst into 17th century France, bringing with him his own 21st century adept comic vernacular. It’s a story about French society encapsulated by gossip, glamour, hypocrisy, and scandal.


    The Wild Party. Book, music, and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
    (Funded by the Arthur F. & Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation)
    April 18-27, 2019.
    Transport yourself to the roaring 1920s with this exhilarating musical based on the Joseph Moncure poem of the same name. With a tuneful and pulsating score by Andrew Lippa, this musical follows Vaudeville performers Queenie and Burrs as they navigate their tumultuous relationship filled with jealousy, passion, and betrayal—all while hosting a party that makes for one wile dance-filled night.

     

     

     

    September 19, 2018

  • Forging New Collaborations in Research & Science

    University of Miami Associate Professor acknowledged as a global scholar by Canadian-based research institute, CIFAR.


    Lucina Uddin
    , a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, was recognized as a Azrieli Global Scholar by CIFAR, a Canadian-based, international research institute. 

    “This is a really exciting opportunity, and I’m looking forward to being part of a program that places such a strong emphasis on global problems and collaborative science,” said Uddin, whose research focuses on brain connectivity and cognition in typical and atypical development.

    As a CIFAR scholar, Uddin will receive $100,000 CAD in research support and become a part of one of CIFAR’s 12 research programs for two years. She will also join close to 400 of the world’s best researchers at CIFAR who are addressing some of the most interesting and important questions facing the world today.

    CIFAR recently announced its 2018 awardees of the Azrieli Global Scholars program, which funds and supports researchers within five years of their first academic position by helping them build research networks and develop essential skills needed to become leaders in global research.

    “Young people are the future of research,” said CIFAR President and CEO Alan Bernstein. “CIFAR is exceptionally pleased to provide financial and other support to this phenomenal group of young researchers to advance their leadership and financial skills. Their enthusiasm and energy leads to new ways of thinking that will advance science and create solutions for the challenges facing our world today.”

    Global Scholars have the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from distinguished fellows in their program, contribute to ongoing discussions within the program and forge new research collaborations. CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars also have an opportunity to amplify the outcomes of their research beyond academia by engaging in opportunities to exchange ideas with policy‐makers, business leaders and practitioners.

    The CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program is enabled by the generous support of the Azrieli Foundation, the Love Family Leadership Development Fund, and many other individuals, corporations and foundations. The new cohort’s term began on July 1, 2018.

    September 17, 2018

  • Keeping Their Stories Alive

    The trailer for a documentary exploring the relationships between UM students and Holocaust survivors wins a Telly Award


    For eleven years, the Holocaust Survivors Student Internship Program (HSSIP) paired University of Miami students with Holocaust survivors to create an enriching, unique, and emotional learning experience for both the aging survivors, whose numbers are dwindling, and the students, who are helping to keep their stories alive.

    For Jasper Lee, a UM graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Department, the program was life changing.

    “No words really do it justice,” Lee said. “Nothing seems to properly describe my experience. I experienced a wide array of emotions when meeting with my survivor, from sadness and despair to hope and happiness.”


    One of the most moving experiences, Lee said, was visiting the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach with his survivor Edith Akerman. “Both she and I were overcome with emotion when we went there the first time. It was difficult to see my survivor confronted with images of the Holocaust, and many of the images could have just as easily been of her.”

    Now Lee’s story, among others, will be featured in a documentary entitled My Survivor, which recently received a Telly Award in the Online General Not-for-Profit category for the trailer. The Telly Awards recognize excellence in video and television production across a broad range of categories—and has been doing so for almost forty years.

    The documentary provides an answer to a telling question of our generation: Who will tell their stories when the last survivors are gone? 

    The internship program was offered through the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. Unfortunately, the program ended two years ago because few survivors are left to share their stories. However, the documentary, now in post-production, will share with the world the invaluable experiences and lessons gained when young students learned about the Holocaust from people who lived through the horror.

    “It was an amazing experience for the students, based on their feedback,” said Haim Shaked, professor of International Studies and director of both the Miller Center and the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies. “But it was a great experience for the survivors as well because they had an opportunity to connect with the next generation. It made them feel like they were sending the message into the future so people will not forget.”

    The Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach, FL.

    The popularity of the internship program was validated by the more than 500 students who participated and the 85 survivors who were paired with them. For the program, students were required to complete a semester-long course on the Holocaust, attend bi-monthly group enrichment sessions coordinated by psychotherapist Dr. Mindy Hersh, register for a year-long Judaic studies course and, most importantly, meet with a Holocaust survivor while keeping a journal of their survivor’s stories and their own personal experiences.

    Hersh, who served as director of academic enrichment during the last six years of the program, spearheaded the idea of putting the documentary together. “It has been an extremely rewarding and gratifying experience to work with such talented people on this documentary, just as it was to play a role in such an important program as the HSSIP,” she said.

    Lee, who is featured in My Survivor with Mrs. Akerman, said he was initially overwhelmed by his involvement in a major feature, but excited to share his experience and all that he learned from his “amazing survivor.”

    “I viewed my participation in this documentary as a chance to commemorate such a great program and to say ‘thank you’ to Dr. Hersh and my survivor, Mrs. Akerman, for teaching me so many amazing lessons,” he said. “I was nervous to be on camera at first. I’d never been interviewed for anything on camera before, let alone such an important documentary.”

    My Survivor examines the impact that the HSSIP had on a handful of its participants. An impressive group of undergraduates, these young adults were inspired to become living bridges to the future, embracing their survivors’ imperative that the memory and the significance of the Holocaust live on.

    Tentatively slated for completion in January 2019, the documentary is a production of the My Survivor Film Project, Inc. in partnership with Levine & Co. Creative Film & Television. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation is the fiscal sponsor for the My Survivor Film Project, a Florida not-for-profit corporation. The documentary also receives support and cooperation from The Miller Center.

    For a preview of the award-winning trailer, click here


    By Barry V. Williams, A&S UGrow Fellow

     

    September 13, 2018

  • Earning a Doctorate One Bamboo at a Time


    Not many young scientists can say they’ve discovered a new species but Ph.D. candidate Belen Fadrique can say she’s discovered 16 of them—all in the bamboo family. While continuing her research on the new species she encountered during a recent field study trip in Peru, she’s thinking of the scientific names to give each one. “I am going to name one species after my grandmother,” Fadrique says.

    A student of biology, Fadrique obviously loves talking about bamboo. “It’s a super interesting plant that nobody really thinks about,” she says. “People might have it growing in their backyards, but it doesn’t go much further than that. Also, most people associate bamboo as Asian, so they are very surprised when they learn about the abundance of bamboo in South America.”

    Fadrique transferred to UM from Florida International University (FIU), where she began her Ph.D. under the guidance of Kenneth Feeley, who is now at UM as the College of Arts & Sciences’ Smathers Chair in Tropical Tree Biology.

    “Professor Feeley is definitely a mentor, and he has been supportive throughout the whole process of my dissertation,” Fadrique says, “but there are many other professors and colleagues who play a very important role in my research, such as Lynn Clark at Iowa State University, Daniel Gann at FIU, or my lab mate Catherine Bravo.”

    Biology Ph.D. student, Belen Fadrique, in the Amazon.

    Fadrique is originally from Spain—far from the Amazon rainforest. As an undergraduate in Spain, she participated in a study abroad program in Scotland where she joined a field expedition to Peru, and found her calling.

    “Being in the tropics surrounded by so many different species of plants and animals was a life- changing experience for me,” she says. “You have no idea how dense and noisy the rainforest is until you’re there; it’s a completely different landscape than what I was used to. It was then that I knew I wanted to come back and conduct research in this part of the world.”

    But Fadrique admits to having a love/hate relationship with the bamboo plants that she ardently studies.

    “I find bamboo fascinating,” she says. “These bamboo species are native to the area, but they can have invasive behavior. If there is a landslide or a tree falls in the forest, the bamboo plants seem to aggressively take this opportunity to grow, and they do it much faster than any other plant. At the same time, some bamboos have very large thorns and form very dense stands, so it can be painful and difficult to walk around these forests.”

    During the spring semester, Fadrique decided to take a chance and presented her research to strangers under pressure—by participating in UM’s 2018 Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT). Her presentation on her dissertation, “Defining Bamboo As a Key Modulator of Andean and Amazonian Forest Functioning,” earned her first place and a $500 prize. The 3MT cup bearing her engraved name now sits in the college’s biology department.

    “I think it’s easy to think about your thesis, but when someone asks you about it you tend to freak out because you don’t know where to start or how to give general answers,” Fadrique says. “There is so much information to talk about, which is why I thought it would be helpful to participate in the competition and see if I could highlight the important parts of my thesis in a short amount of time.”

    Fadrique is the author or co-author of six research papers and the recipient of numerous research grants, from such entities as the Bamboo of the Americas, the Kushland Fund, the UM Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas, and the Programa Bosques Andinos, to name a few.

     

     

     

     

     

    September 07, 2018

  • Encouraging Scientists to Collaborate on the Tropics

    Timothy Perez, a biology Ph.D. student at the University of Miami, left snowflakes behind to pursue his dream of becoming a tropical botanist in the Sunshine State. His latest study, “The changing nature of collaboration in tropical ecology and conservation,” recently published in Biotropica, investigates collaboration among scientists, researchers, and other figures whose work advances the field of tropical ecology.

    It is the fifth-year Ph.D. student’s first published study conducted outside the guidance of a professor.

    Tim Perez, a Ph.D. student in Biology.
    (Photo credit: Barry Williams Photography.)

    “A lot of tropical ecology and conservation science is actually published by scientists who are outside of, or not from, the tropics,” says Perez, an alumnus of the University of Vermont. “One motivation for this study was to see if scientists outside of the tropics are starting to collaborate with scientists within the tropics."

    Perez’s study does not undermine the hard work that scientists do in the tropics, but rather seeks to determine if that work is happening in a bubble. If so, he notes, important information could go unshared.

    “Collaboration with local scientists just ensures that any science produced is more effectively translated into conservation policy or management plans,” says Perez. “Given that there is a global interest in tropical conservation, linking the work that scientists do in labs all across the globe to those on the ground with an intimate knowledge of tropical environments is key.”

    For his study, Perez reviewed years’ worth of articles to look for changes in the number of authors contributing to individual publications. In another important variable, he documented the country of affiliation where authors were living. Biotropica and the Journal of Tropical Ecology, the quintessential tropical conservation and ecology research journals, were the sources of the raw data that the study analyzed.

    Perez and his co-author, J. Aaron Hogan at Florida International University’s Department of Biological Sciences, took hundreds of articles published between 2000 and 2015 to reach their conclusions. For those like Perez who dedicate their lives to finding breakthroughs in the science of tropical ecology, their findings bring some relief.

    Overall, international collaboration, including collaboration between tropical and non-tropical authors, is increasing. In part, this is good news, because more scientists from tropical countries are being represented in the scientific literature. However, Perez and Hogan’s data indicate that without the pattern of rising authors per publication, representation of tropically based scientists would not increase.

    “The trend across science that there is going to be more authors per paper is hopeful because I think it indicates increased lines of communication,” says Perez. “Science should be inclusive by nature, and I think our study shows we are moving in the right direction in tropical ecology.”

    Aside from increased collaboration, the study also reveals some disparities, such as disproportionately lower numbers of authors from tropical countries. Ironically, most of the countries that contribute the most to this body of research are not tropical.

    Although this study is a diversion from Perez’s main research —investigating how tropical rainforests respond to climate change—it is very relevant to his daily work. For starters, this study could be a bellwether for conservation efforts that impact his field, but Perez notes, “a paper is just one way that people can collaborate and do science that will hopefully translate into policy on some level.”

    While this research does not directly explore conservation efforts and outcomes, the study, and those like it, give conservation and policy stakeholders a glimpse into the future of their efforts.

    Even though the study findings are positive, Perez believes that “we could be doing a much better job” when it comes to international collaboration. He hopes the study can be a springboard for further enquiry into the mechanisms of collaboration. As for what happens next, Perez plans to focus on writing the remaining chapters for his dissertation. He is also working on other collaborative projects, including one that looks at plant species survival in the Himalayas.

    Written by Barry V. Williams, A&S UGrow Fellow.

     

     

     

     

     

    September 07, 2018

  • University of Miami History Professor to Lead American Historical Association - August 28, 2018

    University of Miami History Professor to Lead American Historical Association


    Mary Lindemann, professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, has been elected president of the American Historical Association (AHA) for a term beginningin January 2020. 

    “I am particularly pleased and honored to be chosen by the members of the AHA as the future President of the Association,” said Lindemann. “It is an honor and privilege to represent the profession of history in all public arenas. I look forward to reaching out to historians no matter where they are or in what capacity they serve. Furthermore, I take it as my mission to defend the humanities vigorously without being defensive about their value.” 

    Lindemann is a historian of early modern Europe, principally Germany and the Low Countries. Her thematic interests have included social, political, and diplomatic history. She is also a historian of medicine and public health who has participated in the construction of programs in medical humanities.

    More recently, Lindemann has developed a project analyzing the impact of early modern wars on the environment and infrastructures. She remains deeply committed to teaching and scholarship and looks forward to continue those pursuits while President of the AHA. Likewise, she will remain an active member of the faculty of the University of Miami, her intellectual and academic “home” since 2004. She previously taught for seventeen years at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh

    Lindemann was awarded the 1998 William Welch Book Prize by the American Association of the History of Medicine for her book, “Health and Healing in Eighteenth-Century Germany” (1996). She also served as a member of the AHA’s Professional Division from 2004 to 2006 and is currently president of the German Studies Association. In the Fall 2015 semester, she served as acting director of the Center for the Humanities at UM and has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center (Princeton University), and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, to name a few. 

    The AHA, with over 14,000 members, is the largest professional organization serving historians in all fields and professions, and it is considered a trusted voice for history education and the professional work of historians. 

    August 28, 2018

  • Finding Solutions to Water Insecurity - August 17, 2018

    Finding Solutions to Water Insecurity

    University of Miami associate professor teams up with global research network to address water insecurity around the world.


    Water insecurity is a reality for vulnerable households everywhere from Flint, Michigan, to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and from Cape Town, South Africa, to the Texas-Mexico border colonias, the plots of land outside cities that lack water and other basic infrastructure.

    To address this global and complex problem, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a $500,000 grant to Texas A&M University and several collaborators for the formation of the Household Water Insecurity (HWISE) Research Coordination Network (RCN). Wendy Jepson, professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Geography, is leading the five-year project with co-investigators Justin Stoler at the University of Miami, Amber Wutich at Arizona State University, and Sera Young at Northwestern University. 

    “Our team began as geographers and anthropologists, but the HWISE RCN features dozens of multidisciplinary scientists and practitioners from around the world who all seek to mitigate the effects of water insecurity—a truly exciting and inspirational group of professionals,” Stoler said.

    The HWISE RCN GroupThe HWISE RCN Group

    The RCN is designed to create research infrastructure, working groups, and training for engagement and participation. The researchers, who have been collaborating since 2014, will develop and test a water security metric—an analytical framework that could streamline water security measurements globally. They already have held three workshops and developed a proposal, led by Young, on the household water security metric development.

    “Water security means adequate, reliable, affordable water for a healthy life,” Jepson said. “Household water insecurity can result when those conditions are not met, and can happen almost anywhere. We will be consolidating our research resources and looking for new ways to study household water insecurity and impacts on health, well-being and livelihoods, and developing a geospatial perspective.”

    “Because the RCN is funded by NSF’s Geography and Spatial Sciences Program, we have a mandate to approach water insecurity using the latest geospatial analytical tools and reinfuse the field with a geographic perspective,” Stoler said.

    Stoler’s decade-long research of privatized, packaged water in West Africa is an example of how local markets adapt to water insecurity. “It is an unfortunate example of how policy makers often take water insecurity for granted in many urban settings. Just because there are pipes in the ground doesn’t mean they carry water,” he said. 

    Even in highly developed counties, aging infrastructure, poverty or other systemic problems can produce household water insecurity. “The Flint water crisis was not an anomaly,” Jepson said. “Water insecurity is experienced in many communities.”

    Current HWISE collaborators include over 40 scholars from 24 U.S. and international institutions, and span a variety of careers and social science disciplines. Their effort to date is only the beginning of a productive, collaborative research network to advance conceptual and methodological frontiers in water security and environmental social science, Jepson noted.

    “The RCN will be developing new approaches for studying these questions and finding the causes and consequences. We have outlined three major workshops, including engagement with various stakeholders in the international water sector. We are also developing tools, webinars, podcasts, and a data platform for our research community,” Jepson adds.

    The team also will include practitioners who have doctorates but work outside of academia. The RCN’s steering committee will include diverse professionals from multiple countries as well. The HWISE RCN also will include experts in political science, nutrition, geography, anthropology, and other fields, equipping them to study these complex water security problems.

    “The RCN is an opportunity to raise the bar of collaboration, build human capital, accelerate science and theory, and ultimately alleviate one of the biggest constraints to human development,” Stoler said. “Along the way, we look forward to mentoring the next wave of water insecurity scholars and building a community of practice.”

    By Leslie Lee, Texas A&M University College of Geosciences
    Contributions by Deserae del Campo, University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences

    August 17, 2018

  • Encouraging Kid’s Creativity—Old-School Style - August 10, 2018

    Encouraging Kid’s Creativity—Old-School Style

    UM alumna creates board game with husband to tackle today’s “creativity crisis”


    Meghan Owenz and her husband, Adam, love to play games, especially with family and friends during weekend game nights. One day when discussing the impact of today’s “creativity crisis,” a phrase used to explain how children’s creativity is steadily declining and has been since the 1990’s, Meghan and Adam (parents of two young children) decided to create a board game to encourage creativity in kids.

    Encouraging Kids Creativity—Old-School Style
    UM alumna, Meghan, and her husband, Adam, created a new game for kids.

    The game is called Starting LinesTM and the concept is simple: everyone gets the same starting line, a category card tells them the general theme, and then they have two minutes to transform that starting line into a drawing and caption it. All the drawings are then judged by one of the players.  

    “My favorite part of the game is seeing how everyone started with the same line, but created totally different designs using it—that and the captions because they can make a drawing hilarious,” said Meghan, a University of Miami alumna (Class of 2013) who graduated with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.

    The couple gained proof of concept by playing the game with any family or friends they could gather for the past year and half, and on August 1, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first big production run of the game.

    “We wanted to create a game that all different types of families could play together. Not one where adults mindlessly move across a board based on a spinner or where younger kids can’t keep up with the strategy,” Adam adds.

    “Kids are naturally more creative than adults, so this is a game where adults can try their hardest and still be beat by a seven-year-old,” said Meghan. "We would love to see this game become a part of the movement towards recognizing the importance of creativity."

    Encouraging Kids Creativity—Old-School Style
    Meghan and Adam have also worked together on previous projects; they run the website Screen-Free Parenting. Adam, a marketing professor at Albright College, knows how to make and market a product, while Meghan, a psychologist and professor at Penn State, is an expert in child development. She knows what kids and families will enjoy and what activities are correlated with positive child outcomes such as creativity and academic success. 

    The duo also created materials emphasizing their S.P.O.I.L. SystemTM, which is used in schools, museums, Girl Scouts events, and presented at national conferences. The SPOIL SystemTMemphasizes the basics of family life such as spending time together (Social), playing together (Play), experiencing adventures (Outdoor), completing chores (Independent work), and reading (Literacy).  

    While the motivation for designing the game was the decline in children’s creativity, the couple says the game is incredibly fun at adult game nights, too. To prove their point, they are offering an adults-only expansion pack on Kickstarter. They are also offering a “give one/get one option.” For less than the cost of two games, individuals can purchase a game for themselves and the couple will then donate a second game to a shelter, school, kids’ club, or camp.

    For more information about Starting Lines and the Kickstarter campaign, visit www.startinglinesgame.com.  The game is available on Kickstarter for $25 through August, 30 2018.

    August 10, 2018

  • Education & Conservation in Brazil - August 2, 2018

    Education & Conservation in Brazil

    Education & Conservation in Brazil
    Prof. Silva (center) educating Brazilian and Peruvian students on protection and conservation of Amapá.

    Located in the Brazilian Amazonia, Amapá is the most protected state in Brazil. However, Amapá (an area as large as the state of Florida) has 72 percent of its lands in protected areas and indigenous territories, conserving one of the world's last pristine tropical forests as well as South America's most conserved mangroves. 

    University of Miami Professor José da Silva, from the Department of Geography and Regional Studies, spent part of his summer researching and teaching in Amapá. As a professor of the Graduate Program in Tropical Biodiversity of the Universidade Federal do Amapá, he taught biogeography and conservation to Brazilian and Peruvian students.

    "I believe that is my duty as a faculty of a UM, a hemispheric university, to help as much as possible and to prepare the next generation of South American students on ways to protect their extraordinary natural wealth," said Silva.

    August 02, 2018

  • Remembering Robert M. Healy - July 24, 2018

    Remembering Robert M. Healy


    The University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences and the English Department is mourning the loss of Robert Michael Healy, 65, who passed away on July 21, 2018.

    As a Senior Lecturer with more than twenty years of teaching experience at the University, Dr. Healy was a highly accomplished and universally admired instructor who taught dozens of undergraduate courses in literary studies and writing, analyzing a wide range of literary topics and texts such as Shakespeare, Virgil, and Dante. 

    Professor and Department Chair Tim Watson says Healy’s student evaluations contain many testimonies to Healy's skills and dedication as a teacher. One student described Healy as “the best English teacher at UM I have had,” while another wrote that he would recommend Dr. Healy as an instructor to other students “as strongly as humanly possible.”

    “Those words are a fitting tribute to an unfailingly kind and generous man,” adds Watson. “Robert touched and changed thousands of students and colleagues in his long membership in our community. He has long been one of our most admired, successful, and stalwart instructors here at the College. He will be greatly missed.”

    “Robert will always be remembered as a caring and thorough instructor who engaged his students in thinking about humanity and other major issues and themes evident in the masterpieces of world literature,” said Dean Maria Stampino. “This is not only revealed in the student evaluations but in his enthusiasm for teaching and the respect he received from fellow faculty members in the department.”

    English Department colleagues are also mourning the loss of a respected longtime colleague.

    Senior Lecturer Mia Leonin, whose office was across the hallway from Dr. Healy’s for many years, described him as “kind, considerate, and brilliantly witty. Robert met with students regularly and reviewed their papers in painstaking detail and always with encouragement. He emanated, and therefore, inspired respect,” she adds.

    Associate Professor Thomas Goodmann remembered Dr. Healy as “one of the very finest instructors I have ever seen at work. He had both practical strategies for engaging his students in every meeting, as well as a gift for shaping remarkable rapport. His welcoming nature, deep knowledge of and passion for literature, and his resonant voice—truly an instrument—made for unique and memorable learning experiences. A student who took one course with Robert would often return for a second and a third. We need to remember him well as representing the very best of what we all hope to do as teachers. He was a wonderful colleague, and I will miss him very much.”

    Dr. Healy grew up in Miami Beach and attended the University of Miami as an undergraduate, receiving his B.A. as an English major in 1975. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the English Department in 1997, writing a dissertation on homoeroticism in the works of Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare. Dr. Healy was also a member of the Queer Studies Research Group.

    Dr. Healy passed away over the weekend at South Dade Nursing Center. A memorial service for Dr. Healy was held on July 27, 2018 at Stanfill Funeral Homes, 10545 South Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL 33156.

     

    July 24, 2018

  • A Year in Words - July 19, 2018

    A Year in Words

    New research by UM psychologists underscores the importance of language development in low-income, high-risk children


    Language sets the stage for how children grow, develop, and learn. University of Miami Assistant Professor of Psychology Lynn Perry, whose research focuses on language and cognitive development in children, says a child’s early years of language development are critical for the fundamentals of school readiness, such as literacy skills and social and emotional growth.  

    In a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, Perry and a team of fellow researchers who examined child speech interactions over the course of a year at the UM Linda Ray Intervention Center found that vulnerable children benefit from conversations with their peers and their teachers.

    a-year-in-words“For two decades, the Linda Ray Intervention Center, a research program in the Department of Psychology, has focused on the developmental needs of vulnerable children ages 0 to 3 who are compromised by child maltreatment and maternal substance abuse,” said Director Lynne Katz, who is also a research associate professor at UM. “Critical to that research is understanding the communication experiences in the classroom between children and their teachers, as well as peer-to-peer interactions.”

    The study, which measured language experiences in a childcare setting specifically for low-income, high-risk children, examined how language use and development in 2- and 3-year-old children was influenced by what they heard from their teachers and their peers.

    “Previous research on language development looked mostly at the role of parent-child interaction within a home setting or a lab environment, which means we’re missing a big part of a child’s everyday life—the classroom,” said Perry. “We know that parent language is important for children’s development and their academic achievement, but we don’t have much research on what happens in the daycare or preschool setting.”

    Using a device called a Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) recorder, Perry collected hundreds of hours of audio recordings at the center. Children wore the LENA recorder in a pocket on the front of their T-shirts once a week. LENA software then assessed whether the recorded audio was speech or not, and whether the speech came from the child wearing the recorder or from an adult or another child talking to them.

    “The use of cutting-edge LENA recording devices has broadened our data collection options and allowed us to work as a team to both examine language experiences and utilize data to provide feedback to teachers upon which to build their strategies for infants and toddlers with developmental delays,” said Katz.

    After studying hours of the audio data, Perry found that the speech children heard from other children was positively related to their own language use, meaning children who heard the most from their peers learn more new words and vocalized more during the course of the year. Additionally, there was a positive association between a teacher talking and children’s language use and development—but only when that teacher talked to the child in a back-and-forth conversation, rather than just talking to the child with no opportunity for the child to respond.

    “This is a groundbreaking study of how kids learn language and how children who are at risk for delays learn from their peers and from the back-and-forth dialogue with teachers in a way we just had no ideas about,” said UM Psychology Professor and co-author Daniel Messinger.

    “One important aspect of the study that stands out to me is how important it was to see those conversational turns with teachers, that back-and-forth conversation with the child is very beneficial. We talked to the teachers at Linda Ray about the results, and they are very excited about this finding and currently brainstorming additional opportunities to have conversations with children,” adds Perry.

    The study, “A year in words: The dynamics and consequences of language experiences in an intervention classroom” is published in the journal PLOS One. In addition to Katz, Perry’s collaborators on the study are Daniel Messinger, Emily B. Prince, Adriana M. Valtierra, Camila Rivero-Fernandez, and Mary Anne Ullery, from the University of Miami; and Brett Laursen from Florida Atlantic University.

     

    July 19, 2018

  • Perceptions on Zika - June 27, 2018

    Perceptions on Zika

    New research shows that key messaging tailored to gender and education can help prevent future Zika outbreaks in Miami-Dade County


    In a summer outbreak that posed significant risks to pregnant women and their fetuses, 29 people in Miami-Dade County were infected with the Zika virus between late June and early August of 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    To understand people’s perceptions, behaviors, and knowledge about the outbreak, and whether county media campaigns had an effect in helping educate the public about the virus, a research team led by University of Miami Assistant Professor of Geography and Regional Studies Imelda Moise surveyed 149 women and 113 men in approximately 262 county households.

    According to their findings, women with a bachelor’s degree and men who knew someone at high risk for the virus were more likely to have knowledge or concerns about it.

    Using the Health Belief Model, the survey included such straightforward questions as: Have you ever heard of the Zika virus? Approximately how many cases of Zika are in Miami-Dade? If a pregnant woman has Zika, what are the risks for her fetus/baby?How confident are you that you can protect yourself and your household members from getting Zika virus?

    “Men did care about Zika prevention, especially if they knew a female family member or acquaintance who was pregnant,” said Moise, who added that messages that cater to the different needs, attitudes, knowledge, and perceptions of the target audience are most effective.  “Targeted prevention and treatment interventions by gender, as well as education level, should definitely be considered by local governments, especially if there is another outbreak.”

    The study also found that a higher percentage of women (53.7 percent) than men (42.5 percent) viewed Zika as a severe disease and more women than men were afraid of contracting the virus. In addition, the survey indicated that more women than men felt confident they could protect the people in their households from contracting Zika by taking protective measures, such as checking for and draining standing water, and using repellents and window/door screens.

    When it came to mosquito control efforts, Moise said, there was a tendency to think that one size fits all. “For example,” she said, “there’s a perception that the risk is the same everywhere, particularly when mosquito control officials release aerial insecticide over large areas. The risk varies by neighborhood and even the characteristics of the people who live in those neighborhoods are factors. Our study implies that there must be more accurate evidence regarding the connection between individual and neighborhood level socio-demographics and practices executed by local governments to prevent another Zika outbreak.”

    The study, “Perceptions of Zika Virus Risk during 2016 outbreak, Miami-Dade County, Florida” is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. Moise’s collaborators in the study are Ira Sheskin, Douglas Fuller, and Tricia Caroline S. G. Hutchings from the University of Miami, and Joseph Kangmennaang from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

     

    June 27, 2018

  • The Language of Facial Expressions - June 14, 2018

    The Language of Facial Expressions

    The eyes have it: eye wrinkles intensify expressions of happiness and sadness.


    University of Miami Psychology Professor Daniel Messinger collaborated with researchers at Western University in Canada to show that our brains are pre-wired to perceive wrinkles around the eyes as conveying more intense and sincere emotions. This eye wrinkle, called the Duchenne marker, occurs across multiple facial expressions, including smiles, expressions associated with pain, and­—as these researchers found—expressions of sadness.

    “Since Darwin, scientists have wondered if there is a language of facial expression, a key set of what we call facial actions which have simple, basic meanings. This research suggests one key to this language is constriction of the eyes, which appears to intensify both positive and negative expressions,” said Messinger.

    Using a method called visual rivalry, the researchers showed study participants computer-generated avatars, one with and one without the Duchenne marker, to study which expressions our brains perceive as more important. When different images are shown in each eye, the brain alternates between these two images and will bring the image that is perceived as more relevant into perceptual awareness more often.

    the-language-of-facial-expressions
    Avatar of Dr. Daniel Messinger used for the study.

    When you have social interactions, you need to perceive whether a person is sincere or not,” said the principal investigator on the study, Julio Martinez-Trujillo, a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “My interest now is: what will be the results if we do this same test with people with autism spectrum disorder? They often have trouble reading out emotions from other people, so we wonder if that might have to do with their ability to read this marker for sincerity.”The investigators asked participants to rate the expressions on a scale for intensity and sincerity, and found that people systematically ranked the Duchenne smiles and Duchenne sad expressions as more sincere and intense than the non-Duchenne expressions.The authors point out that the results are a step toward understanding the more general questions of why facial expressions contain the specific facial actions they do, and how that contributes to our understanding of emotion.“We have been investigating this hypothesis for more than a decade and finding strong support that eye constriction intensifies positive and negative expression in infants, with others finding support for the intensification hypothesis in children,” adds Messinger. “This is the first study addressing this issue in adults since Darwin’s provocative observations.”The study, “Generalizing Duchenne to Sad Expressions with Binocular Rivalry and Perception Ratings,” was published in the journal Emotion.June 14, 2018

  • Stories from the City - June 7, 2018

    Stories from the City

    Invited scholars share their experiences on how Miami shaped their lives


    This spring, the University of Miami hosted a symposium featuring some of the nation’s leading scholars and artists to discuss and analyze how Miami intensely shaped their racial and ethnic identities and intellectual formations. Led by UM Associate Professor of English and Director of American Studies, Dr. Donette Francis, who delivered poignant opening remarks, the visiting scholars (all now living outside of Miami), spoke openly on how the city shaped their lives, what parts of Miami they took with them, and what parts they left behind. The full-day event was funded through a University of Miami Institute for Advanced Studies of the Americas' Interdisciplinary Research Group faculty grant. 

    Here are some briefs thoughts from the symposium entitled, “Mapping Creole Miami: Black Intellectual and Artistic Trajectories”: 

    Donette Francis
    Donette Francis

    “The story of Miami as place orients us in multiple directions simultaneously: everyday interactions remind us of the old world meeting the new, the north meeting the southern U.S. and the broader global souths. But perhaps the singular most transformative feature is that Black Miami prompts a more careful consideration of the implications and meanings of these various geographic and embodied proximities. Within Black Miami, difference is marked by neighborhoods so that West Coconut Grove signals Bahamian roots; Overtown, the migration to the city of the first generation of black settlers; Little Haiti registers the post-1980s large scale migration of Haitians into Miami; and while Liberty City marks the optimistic, yet, ultimately failed 1936 government experiment in public housing—the neighborhood has historically been perhaps one of the most diverse intra-racial black neighborhoods. In Black Miami, negotiating intra-group difference is an everyday way of life.” 
    —Donette Francis, Associate Professor of English and Director of American Studies at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences.

    Nathan Connolly
    Nathan Connolly

    “I love that Donette brought this group together, but I’m sad, too. Today feels too much like a special occasion. For a long time, I’ve worried that Miami’s black intellectual diaspora remains mostly a scattered group. It feels cast about—a little here, a little there. Imagine if there was a Miami School, an intellectual collective that might consider and institutionalize the kind of questions that being black in Miami has historically raised. Right off the top, I see the experience here of being black as an affirmation of classical Miami paradox—that this place is both singular, exceptional, yet, given the people here just like some other place from which our forebears or maybe ourselves came. Miami’s the special that ain’t that special.”
    —Nathan Connolly, Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History at John Hopkins Krieger School of Arts & Sciences.

    Edda L Fields-Black
    Edda L. Fields-Black

    “What has animated my work from the very beginning is understanding more about Creole cultures and Creole languages and I got my first taste of that here in Miami, as well as in my own family…We grew up in Brownsville, on the edge of Liberty City, on the edge of Hialeah, on the edge of Miami Springs, we were very insolated…the interesting thing is that my sister and I never really fit in. We were bullied quite a bit for talking white, for talking proper, and blamed as well for not being black enough. So you don’t fit in, but not fitting in is your fault because you’re not trying hard enough, or not black enough and identifying with your white friends…sometimes these class differences keep us from seeing members of our community.”
    —Edda L. Fields-Black, Associate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    Tera Hunter
    Tera Hunter

    “’What was it like to grow up in Miami?’ is often the question I am asked. Implicit in that question is that it’s different, that Miami is other, not the norm or a place to grow up in. Part of what many people are curious about is where Miami fits along the spectrum of regional cities. People usual assert that it’s not southern, but if you grew up black in Miami you know how southern Miami really is. Yet, it’s also very Caribbean, so in that way it is very different from traditional southern cities, more polyglot, more than black vs. white. My childhood was based in two neighborhoods: Allapattah, a neighborhood that was part of Liberty City, and El Portal on the edge of Miami Shores. While I lived in two neighborhoods, I inhabited a lot of parts of the city because of various activities that I participated in and because of the different schools that I attended outside of my local district. Both of my parents migrated from the rural south, from small towns in Georgia. Eager to escape a small town for a better life, my parents were part of the late years of the great migration.”
    —Tera Hunter, Professor of History and African American Studies at Princeton University

    Anthony Jack
    Anthony Jack

    “I grew up in Coconut Grove. The Miami Herald called my neighborhood, ‘the community that time forgot.’ As a kid, I was kicked out of libraries when I was younger—black kids were not always welcome at the library…other kids picked on me for being the chubby nerd who liked to watch cartoons more than playing football…When I think about the changing ways in which our neighborhoods are declining, I always think of home because for me home is a series of half-remembered dreams of ceramics classes with Ms. Gina and dives into the deep end of the pool…but those memories are punctuated with punches in the face on the way home from camp and taunts to fight back by a half-a-dozen boys surrounding me and ready to jump in—again for being a black, chubby nerd. But this is not to say that life was drab in the Grove. I played outside and we had fun…you see, streetlamps were our curfew, darkness and danger did not always go hand-in-hand."
    —Anthony Jack, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

    Jemima Pierre
    Jemima Pierre

    “We, the newly arrived black immigrants, were quickly caught up in the conversion of significant events during the turbulent Miami of the early 80s: The discovery of HIV/AIDS and the crisis that it generated, the large scale migrations of Haitian asylum seekers, labeled ‘boat people,’ to South Florida, the Mariel boatlift that brought 10,000 Cuban asylum seekers to Miami, the 1980 protest of the black community in Overtown and Liberty City after the acquittal of the four white officers who murdered 33-year-old Arthur McDuffie, among other things. These effects were significant for my emotional and cultural development. They were also traumatic.”
    —Jemima Pierre, Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies at UCLA.

    Kevin Quashie
    Kevin Quashie

    “My grandmother was the love of my life, my one friend. She died when I was eight right before we left Saint Kitts. It always felt that leaving Saint Kitts had to do with her leaving the Earth. She was my commonwealth…I was quiet at home because home was a terribly and terrifically disciplined space. I always seemed to be wrong in my thoughts, in my gestures, always offending in some way, some person. So I learned how to disappear. Outwardly, I was dutiful, almost girl-like (and I use that term intentionally) in my will to please and my will to behave, and in my capacity to be most. In my head, I had a vibrant and even a vulgar interior motive. This discipline in my home was all done by my father, that giant of a man…who was born in Trinidad and raised in Grenada to an iconic family with roots traceable to God.”
    —Kevin Quashie, Professor of African Studies at Smith College

    Juana ValdesJuana Valdes

    “After coming to Miami [from Cuba], we were faced with the housing issue. As a Cuban, yet, black, we didn’t fit the norm of the standard Cubans who were coming to Miami at that time, so what happens is that we find it very hard to find a place to live. And we end up on the edge of society…so we end up in a compound of about six to seven shot-gun houses. In less than a year’s time, me and my siblings learned how to speak English. I had a traditional school experience and went to Miami Senior High School. My brother went there, too, and played basketball. And so what happens is his friends come home to my mom’s house who feeds them, and they take over the T.V. and they talk about sports. I grew up in this experience where you have this ethnicity of people, and I’m thinking that this is normal for Miami, so I’m not questioning how rare it is…to have all these different races and ethnicities together where everyone is mixing and interacting.”
    —Juana Valdes, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

     

    June 07, 2018

  • Celebrating a Young Scientist - May 31, 2018

    Celebrating a Young Scientist

    Chemistry Professor Wins 2018 Beckman Young Investigators Award

    Dr. Jean-Hubert Olivier, assistant pprofessor in the Chemistry Department, was honored with the prestigious 2018 Beckman Young Investigators Award. To date, Olivier is the first University of Miami faculty member to receive this esteemed recognition.

    According to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation website, the award “provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science.” 

    Since 1990, the program has provided more than $98 million in grant funds to over 360 recipients.

    Olivier, who earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Strasbourg in France, is one of 10 award winners – all young scientists – in the U.S. from institutions such as Columbia University, Stanford University, John Hopkins University and Louisiana State University, to name a few.

    “The process to apply for the award is somewhat different than others,” said Olivier. “I had to write a letter of intent proposing my research, then submit a full proposal and undergo an interview process and presentation to a group of potential awardees and the review committee at the Foundation’s headquarters in California. The point of the Foundation is to fund cutting-edge research, so it was really thrilling that each of us proposed projects completely different from each other.”

    The Foundation provides each award winner with a $600,000 grant over the course of four years to help fund their diverse projects, which span multiple disciplines in the sciences. The funds provided by the Beckman Foundation will allow Olivier to start an entirely new research effort at his lab in the Chemistry Department. 

    “We are developing roadmaps to create neoteric material composition with which we can further engineer tactile sensors for electronic skin, which is a small device that will convert mechanical pressure into electricity,” said Olivier. “What we don’t realize, for example, is that our skin is converting mechanical pressure into electrical signals all the time, like when you hold a pen to write. This type of research has huge implications for electronic skin which can be used in soft robotics. Furthermore, molecular tools developed through this award will tackle long-standing challenges in physical organic chemistry and supramolecular chemistry.

    “The fundamental part of my project is to develop these materials, while the applied part is to develop the tactile sensors,” adds Olivier. “This award will help me purchase new equipment as well as hire a post-doctoral fellow and fund graduate students to assist me in the lab. The Foundation has provided me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that not only will truly transform my professional career but also bolster the pioneering of technology that currently does not exist. It is such an exciting time.”  

     

    May 31, 2018

  • The College of Arts & Sciences’ Chemistry Department Takes a Major Step into the Future - May 18, 2018

    The College of Arts & Sciences’ Chemistry Department Takes a Major Step into the Future


    For many decades, chemistry research and teaching has been conducted in self-contained laboratories under the guidance of an individual professor. While this traditional model has led to remarkable discoveries in fields as diverse as medicine, building materials and consumer products, collaboration is rapidly becoming the key to future breakthroughs. 

    Now, the College of Arts & Sciences Department of Chemistry is moving into that bold new era following the May 3 groundbreaking of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building.

    “The new Frost Institute will lead us on a path to new scientific discoveries, innovative teaching, and collaboration across disciplines,” said Dean Leonidas Bachas. “As a hub for boosting scientific breakthroughs in chemistry and molecular science, our talented faculty and students now have a place to develop interdisciplinary research across multiple fields and make new groundbreaking advances in the sciences."

    Reflecting on the vital importance of collaboration among chemistry and engineering faculty and students, Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the College of Engineering, said, “We have always been great partners.  We now have a great opportunity to build a high-tech economy in South Florida through this collaboration between our two colleges.”

    Noting the importance of the new building to the College’s science programs, Marc Knecht, associate professor of chemistry, said, “This is a great day for our department. It will help us reach the next level of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] education and facilitate our collaboration with engineering from the laboratory benchtop to developing new applications and taking them into the field.”

    An in-depth planning process
    Planning for the new Frost Science and Engineering Building began several years ago, according to Angel Kaifer, senior associate dean for research and graduate education, and professor of chemistry.  “Our university leaders recognized the need for a new science facility that would foster multidisciplinary collaboration,” he said.  “Now, we are translating that basic concept into a wonderful new facility that will provide a 21st century home for our University’s chemistry and molecular science programs.”

    Kaifer said the new facility will help break through traditional academic silos, bringing together chemists and engineers with different viewpoints, skills, and insights. “There is great value in fostering collaborative studies that may involve biochemistry, bioengineering and biomedical research,” he said. “Scientists today work in teams, and our new building will support that approach.”

    In a traditional laboratory setting, an instructor stands at the front of a classroom, while students formulate hypotheses, conduct experiments, and discuss the results and conclusions. Professors and students work in a closed environment, and leave it behind after the class or project is completed. 

    “If you walk into a new science building, you will see a very different design,” Kaifer said. “There are large open spaces with comfortable seats, movable chairs, whiteboards, and charging stations.  That makes it easy for students to discuss their work with each other, and connect with their classmates on site or in different locations.”

    Scientific laboratories are also changing to support collaborative teams.  Glass walls, moveable partitions and shared bench spaces bring different research groups closer together and provide more efficient use of instrumentation.

    “We are seeing a dramatic shift in the culture of science and engineering,” Kaifer added. “Today’s students are used to working in groups, and being a good team member is an important skill to cultivate in both disciplines.”

    ‘Igniting the spark’
    With its location just east of the Ashe building on the Coral Gables campus, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building will serve as a physical and symbolic link between the two colleges.   It was made possible by a landmark $100 million gift from the namesake UM benefactors for the Frost Institutes of Science and Engineering.

    “Today, we ignite the spark that will ensure that the light of discovery and innovation will shine at the U far into the future,” said UM Provost Jeffrey Duerk at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Dean Bachas and Dean Bardet have been entrusted with leading their schools into this new era and implementing the Frosts’ vision that supports scientific collaboration across disciplines.”

    Noting that science today is “a contact sport” that benefits from face-to-face discussions, Duerk said it is fitting that the building is the first of the individual institutes to be created.  “Chemistry is the central science,” Duerk said. “Everything in the physical, life, and applied sciences intersects with chemistry. It touches on everything from biology to engineering, and from medicine and health sciences to oceanography.”

    At the groundbreaking event, about 300 invited guests watched University of Miami President Julio Frenk and Patricia and Phillip Frost push down three “detonators” that set off fountains of orange and green foam shooting up into the air. They also got close-up glimpses of some of the innovative work being conducted in UM labs.

    “Our vision is to become a powerhouse for scientific research, attracting world-class students and faculty, while supporting new enterprises,” Frenk said. “This new building will be a striking addition to our beautiful Coral Gables campus that will put science on display and engage our entire community.”

    The Power of Philanthropy
    The creation of the Frost Institutes, patterned after the National Institutes of Health, is the backbone of STEM@UM, a transformational initiative designed to stimulate interdisciplinary research and promote Miami as a hemispheric innovation hub. Along with supporting the new building, the Frosts’ gift includes $30 million for the creation of at least 13 chairs in STEM fields, and $3 million for graduate student support. 

    Frenk noted that the Frosts’ gift will also facilitate collaboration between the University and the Frost Museum of Science, which opened last year in downtown Miami. “Our researchers can share their work with more than 1 million museum visitors each year, and invite them to participate in their studies,” he said. “It will deepen our partnership in other ways, including developing joint exhibits and activities, and communicating the importance of STEM education throughout South Florida and beyond.”

    Richard Fain, chair of UM’s Board of Trustees, praised the Frosts for their landmark gift. “The Frosts could support whatever causes they want,” he said. “We are lucky to have them.”

    In return, Phillip Frost spoke briefly about his support for the University, including serving as a trustee for 35 years.  “We are all visionaries,” he said. “It’s up to us to either give what we can or convince other people to get involved in good causes. That is my message for today.”

    To read coverage of the Frost groundbreaking from University of Miami News, click here.


    Written by Richard Westlund

  • Honoring Excellence in the Art of Short Fiction - May 16, 2018

    Honoring Excellence in the Art of Short Fiction

    Creative Writing Professor Wins 2018 PEN/Malamud Award


    Dr. Amina Gautier, an award-winning short story author and creative writing professor in the College of Arts & Sciences English Department, was honored with the 2018 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story.

    "It's thrilling to see Amina receive the kind of recognition that we in the English Department have known for some time she so richly deserves,” said Associate Professor and Department Chair, Tim Watson. “I'm especially pleased to see her work as a writer of short fiction recognized with this highest honor. Short stories require a rare combination of craft, discipline, and imagination. Amina's brilliant, spare, haunting fiction now takes its rightful place alongside that of other famous winners of the PEN/Malamud award.”

    Considered one of the most prestigious awards in North America for short story writers, previous winners of the award include many of the most significant American short fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Eudora Welty, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Grace Paley, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Edward P. Jones, Richard Ford, Ursula Le Guin, Cynthia Ozick, George Saunders, and Jhumpa Lahiri. 

    "In the four years alone that I’ve been here, I’ve published two books, received three international fellowships, and won a total of fifteen awards, so I definitely think it’s fitting for me to have received the PEN/Malamud award in recognition of my productivity and for my body of work,” said Gautier. “It’s good to know that my talent and hard work have not gone unnoticed in the arts community or in the world of readers."

    Gautier is the author of three award-winning short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy and The Loss of All Lost Things. At-Risk was awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award, and the Eric Hoffer Legacy Award in Fiction. Now We Will Be Happy was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, the International Latino Book Award, the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Award, the Royal Palm Literary Award, an International Book Award, a USA Best Book Award, a Silver Medal IPPY award, and the Eric Hoffer Legacy Award in Fiction. 

    The Loss of All Lost Things was awarded the Elixir Press Award in Fiction, the Phillis Wheatley Award, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, the International Latino Book Award, three Florida Authors and Publishers Association President's Book Awards, the Royal Palm Literary Awards, was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award, the Paterson Prize, and the John Gardner Award.

    Gautier is a recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Brown Foundation, the Camargo Foundation, the Chateau de Lavigny, Hawthornden, the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. She is also a scholar of 19th-century American literature, and her scholarly reviews and essays appear in African American Review, Daedalus, Journal of American History, Libraries and Culture, Nineteenth Century Contexts, and Whitman Noir. Gautier is a New York native.  She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. 

    May 16, 2018

  • Celebrating A&S Faculty Accomplishments - May 10, 2018

    Celebrating A&S Faculty Accomplishments

    The College of Arts & Sciences Recognized Faculty for an Outstanding Year of Creative and Scholarly Work at the Annual Faculty Reception.

    Celebrating A&S Faculty Accomplishments
     (L to R) Imelda Moise, Geography & Regional Studies; Mihoko Suzuki, English; UM President Julio Frenk; 
    Dean Leonidas Bachas; Michelle Afkhami, Biology; Scott Heerman, History; Lucina Uddin, Psychology; 
    Shigui Ruan, Mathematics. (Not photographed: Otavio Bueno, Philosophy.)

    Recognized as an institutional tradition in the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, the annual Faculty Scholarly & Creative Activities Recognition Reception once again honored faculty for their academic achievements.

    “Every year, we come together to show support and gratitude to our talented, hardworking, and dedicated faculty who have excelled in developing cutting-edge research and writing books and articles related to their field of study as well as in creating new artistic expressions,” said College of Arts & Sciences Dean Leonidas Bachas. “We also recognized the new Cooper Fellows, our most prestigious recognition, to faculty who have made important contributions to our core values in teaching, service, and scholarship. I would also like to thank President Julio Frenk for attending our ceremony and congratulating our faculty.” 

    The ceremony began with Dean Bachas introducing and congratulating the new Cooper Fellows: Philosophy Professor Otávio Bueno, a world-renowned philosopher of science and logic, who has written 13 books and over 190 articles; Mathematics Professor Shigui Ruan whose work focuses on the nonlinear dynamics of differential equations and the application of mathematical theory to the investigation of real biological, epidemiological, and medical problems; and English Professor and founding director of the Center for the Humanities, Mihoko Suzuki, whose research reflects early modern women writers throughout Europe—a field she helped expand through inter- and transdisciplinary work.

    Dean Bachas also announced the recipient of the Gabelli Senior Scholar Award, Lucina Uddin, associate professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Uddin investigates neural bases of cognitive flexibility, control, and attentional processes in both adults and children. She is currently the principal investigator of four NIH awards, including a $2.3 million grant on cognitive and neural flexibility in autism.

    In addition, three A&S faculty members received the Scholarly & Creative Activities Recognition Award.

    Assistant Professor of Biology, Michelle Afkahami, who joined A&S in January 2016 focuses on plant-microbial interactions, and she investigates the ecology, evolution, and genomics of these species interactions at scales ranging from genes to communities. In her research, she uses a combination of long-term field and greenhouse experiments, mathematical modeling, and laboratory-based molecular methods. Assistant Professor of History, Scott Heerman, who joined UM in August 2015, a scholar of 19th-century US history, has completed a book-length study, to appear later this year from the University of Pennsylvania Press, and was the co-organizer of a symposium on the Fourteenth Amendment that brought together some of the most distinguished scholars to the University.The third recipient is Assistant Professor of Geography and Regional Studies, Imelda Moise, who joined the faculty in 2015. Moise has received two extramural awards to support her research program, including a 2017 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study adolescent alcohol abuse, and a multi-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control to analyze the impacts and risk of Zika virus in South Florida. Her recent research has been published by such high-profile journals as PLoS One, Scientific Reports, and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

    At the reception’s finale, Dean Bachas recognized the promotion of three A&S lecturers in the English Composition Program to Senior Lecturers: Paul Deveney, Kimberly McGrath Moreira, and Joshua Schriftman; as well as the retirement of Bruce Lecure, Theatre Arts; Edward Li Puma, Anthropology; James Nickel, Philosophy; Perri Lee Roberts, Art & Art History; Jamie Suchlicki, History; and Kathryn Tosney, Biology.

    May 10, 2018

  • An Esteemed Career, an Esteemed Recognition - April 27, 2018

    An Esteemed Career, an Esteemed Recognition

    University of Miami Professor of Psychology receives the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association.


    University of Miami Distinguished Professor of Psychology Charles Carver was recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA) with the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, which honors psychologists who have made prominent theoretical or empirical contributions to basic research in psychology. 

    The award from the APA also honors Professor Michael Scheier at Carnegie Mellon University who has worked with Carver for over 45 years in the areas of research and theory across personality, social, health, and motivational psychology.

    An Esteemed Career an Esteemed Recognition“Although Chuck’s work addresses a wide range of topics in personality, social psychology, health psychology, and experimental psychopathology, he is best known for his research on self-regulation, optimism versus pessimism, and coping in cancer patients,” said Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department Phillip McCabe. “Chuck is extremely productive and one of the most highly cited researchers in the entire field of psychology. In addition, he has been an invaluable leader within the department for four decades. He is a superstar in our field and well deserving of this prestigious APA award."

    Carver will be recognized at the American Psychological Association annual convention held in San Francisco, CA, August 9-12, 2018.

    “This award is one of the highest scientific honors that one can receive in psychology. It reflects the judgments of a large number of scientific peers that my work, over an extended period, has had a noticeable impact across the field,” said Carver. “It goes without saying, then, that this is a huge honor for me.”

    Along with the longstanding partnership with fellow award recipient Michael Scheier, Carver is also grateful for other collaborative relationships he has had throughout the years. He has worked extensively with UM Professor Michael Antoni on the experiences of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer and their responses to cognitive-behavioral therapy. He is currently working with Sheri Johnson, formerly of UM and now at University of California, Berkeley, on topics concerning the nature of psychological disorder. And he works as well with his wife, UM Professor Youngmee Kim, whose research concerns the adjustment of cancer patients and their family caregivers to the family’s experience of confronting cancer.

    “Without the very fine partnerships of these four people in particular, along with many others in smaller roles, this award would certainly not be happening,” said Carver. “Academia is a funny profession. To survive in it you really have to be motivated by something or other, but awards are the least of those motivations. I am deeply honored to have the work recognized in this way, but it’s the work itself that really matters most. I’ll celebrate a bit, then back to writing.”

    Carver, who has spent his entire professional career at UM, received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Personality Psychology. His work spans the areas of personality psychology, social psychology, health psychology, and more recently experimental psychopathology. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Cancer Institute. He is the author of 10 books, over 400 articles and chapters, and has served as the Editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychologyand an Associate Editor of Psychological Review

     

    April 27, 2018

  • University of Miami Senior Associate Dean and Professor Receives William R. Butler Award - April 20, 2018

    University of Miami Senior Associate Dean and Professor Receives William R. Butler Award


    Senior Associate Dean Maria Galli Stampino, who is also a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, has been recognized for her outstanding contributions, leadership, and support to University of Miami Student Government by receiving the 2018 William R. Butler Award for Administrative Excellence.

    Senior Associate Dean Maria StampinoA&S Professor and Senior Associate Dean Maria Stampino

    “During the past school year, Dean Stampino has made a tremendous effort to work with Student Government, demonstrating a genuine commitment to addressing student concerns,” said Evan de Joya, the incoming Student Government president who is a double major in Biology and Geography. “She truly exemplifies a student-centered administrator. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with Dean Stampino and proud to present her with this prestigious award.”

    The Butler Award for Administrative Excellence is presented to only a UM staff or faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to Student Government by assisting with the organization’s overall mission and goals—while not serving in an advising or involvement role.

    “This award is very meaningful to me because William R. Butler was all about helping students and extremely dedicated to supporting them,” said Stampino. “I am honored and humbled to be recognized by Student Government, and I believe that this acknowledgment gives us all the opportunity to continue to work together towards a common goal to enrich the student experience.”

    De Joya says Stampino helped the Academic Liaison Council of Student Government with a large project that involved multiple departments in the College of Arts & Sciences. “She helped to not only schedule the appointments, but she also sat in on four back-to-back meetings,” said de Joya. “This is just one example, out of many instances, in which Dean Stampino has gone out of her way to help students and enhance their experience at the University of Miami.”

    This year, Stampino is supporting the Student Government liaisons from the College of Arts & Sciences to explore the feasibility of a language placement exam so that students know which language course to take if they choose to continue studying a language when they start their undergraduate career at UM. She is also assisting Student Government in a long-range project to harmonize syllabi in multi-section courses.

    In the College of Arts & Sciences, Dean Stampino teaches undergraduate courses in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. Some of the courses she has taught are “Women Writing and Publishing in Early Modern Venice and Lyon,” “The Concept of ‘Renaissance,’” and “The Body of the Beloved in Italian, French and English Early Modern Poetry.” Her research interests include theatre and performance, gender and women’s studies, and early modern literature and culture.

     

    April 20, 2018

  • Proving What Can’t Be Seen - April 12, 2018

    Proving What Can’t Be Seen

    An astrophysicist at the University of Miami is unlocking the secrets to dark matter.


    University of Miami astrophysicist Nico Cappelluti studies the sky. An assistant professor in the Physics Department, Cappelluti is intrigued by the cosmic phenomena of super massive black holes, the nature of dark matter, and active galactic nuclei, which is the very bright light source found at the center of many galaxies.

    dark matter surrounding the Milky Way
    An image of dark matter surrounding the Milky Way.

    Recently, Cappelluti published findings that could give insight on a subject scientists and astrophysicists have been investigating for decades: What is dark matter and where does it come from?

    According to Esra Bulbul, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and co-author in Cappelluti’s study, about 95 percent of the mass in the universe is made up of material that is unknown and invisible to scientists, that is dark matter.

    Cappelluti’s study, published in The Astrophysical Journal and entitled, “Searching for the 3.5 keV line in the deep fields with Chandra: the 10 MS observations,” examines an interesting light source that was captured by four different telescopes each pointing in a different direction in the sky. The source of light is unfamiliar and unrecognizable to scientists and has caused quite a stir in the world of astrophysics. Bulbul also found the emission line while studying clusters of galaxies in 2014.

    “We use special telescopes to catch X-ray light in the sky, and while looking at these X-rays, the telescopes noticed an unexpected feature and captured a spectrum of light, which is not produced by any known atomic emission,” said Cappelluti. “This emission line is now called the 3.5 kiloelectron volt (keV). One interpretation of this emission line is that it’s produced by the decay of dark matter.”

    The four telescopes that captured the 3.5 keV emission were NASA’s NuSTAR telescope, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton telescope, the Chandra telescope, and the Suzaku telescope from Japan.

    nasas-nustar-telescope
    NASA's NuSTAR telescope (photo: NASA)“

    This 3.5 keV emission line is unidentified. We truly don’t know what it is,” said Bulbul. “But one theory is that it could be a sterile neutrino, which is also known as decaying dark matter. What is truly interesting about Dr. Cappelluti’s study is that he found this 3.5 keV line within our own galaxy.”“If confirmed, this will tell us what dark matter is and could be one of the major discoveries in physics,” said Cappelluti. “We know that the Milky Way is surrounded by dark matter. Think of it as if we are living in a bubble of dark matter. But we also want to have the statistical certainty of our detection, so now we are putting together a Sterile Neutrino Task Force.”

    This fall, several scientists from around the world, including Harvard’s Bulbul, plan to gather at the University of Miami to organize a massive data-mining project to investigate and research this 3.5 keV emission line.

    “The goal now is to continue to look at the sky until we obtain more powerful operating telescopes with better resolution, which won’t be ready until 2021, and share and analyze data from other scientists who are trying to uncover the secrets of dark matter,” said Bulbul. 

    In addition to Cappelluti and Bulbul, other coauthors on the paper include Francesca Civano and Randall K. Smith, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Adam Foster, Eric Miller, and Mark W. Bautz from the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics & Space Research at MIT; and Priyamvada Natarajan and Megan C. Urry, both from Yale University.  April 12, 2018

  • UM Graduate Student Wins Prestigious National Award - April 10, 2018

    UM Graduate Student Wins Prestigious National Award

    English doctoral student Samina Ali wins Yarbrough Fellowship for project on representations and treatment of Latin American and South Asian women after 9/11


    Samina Ali, a doctoral student in English at the University of Miami, earned the Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellowship from Kenyon College for her project, “Bad Women and the Politics of Recognition.” 

    UM Graduate Student Wins Prestigious National AwardAli is the first graduate student from UM to receive this competitive award, named after the legal scholar Marilyn Yarbrough who studied racial and gender discrimination. 

    According to Kenyon College, the fellowship supports “young scholars who are members of underrepresented groups” interested in careers at liberal arts colleges. The fellowship provides housing, health benefits, and a $36,000 stipend. Previous recipients include graduate students from Berkeley, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Yale.

    Ali studies how literature, ethnography, and popular media have represented Latinas and South Asian women in the U.S. as “brown” and threatening, especially when they practice Islam in a post-9/11 era. Donette Francis, an associate professor of English at UM who advises Ali, praised her for moving “beyond a black/white binary” to “consider how other racial formations intersect with religion in the U.S.”

     Blending literary analysis with original oral histories of New York and Miami immigrant communities, Ali’s graduate research benefited from the English Department’s and UM’s commitment to hemispheric and Caribbean studies. 

    Tim Watson, Chair of the English Department said, “Samina’s terrific accomplishment is a testament to her great research and teaching credentials, and it is also an important validation of our PhD program and our commitment to supporting the careers of scholars from underrepresented groups.” He added, “We couldn’t be prouder of her.”

    Ali looks forward to her year at Kenyon. “I am so excited because of their amazing student body, diverse faculty research, and the success of previous Yarborough fellows,” she said. She noted that UM’s “dedicated faculty” and especially “Dr. Francis have helped flesh out my ideas” to “appeal to a broad audience.”    

     

    April 10, 2018

  • CARD at 25 - March 29, 2018

    CARD at 25

    Back in 1993, the Department of Psychology took a dramatic step forward to serve South Florida families dealing with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects the way the brain develops and processes information. For the past 25 years, the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD) has been a leader in researching this challenging neurological disorder, while educating parents and professionals, and helping families get the best possible clinical care.
    CARD at 25
    “We have learned that early intervention is crucial to achieving better outcomes,” said Michael Alessandri, executive director and clinical professor of psychology who joined the center in 1996. “When high-quality therapy is delivered early and intensively, there are significant improvements. The children who walk through our doors today have great potential for thriving in school and finding a job that can support them in adulthood.”

    And they have that opportunity, in part thanks to CARD, which over the past quarter century has helped countless providers, parents, and prospective employers better understand the disorder that impairs social development and numerous children integrate into society and reach their potential.

    Alessandri traces his dedication to autism research and care to 1981, when, after his high school graduation in New York, he volunteered at a summer camp for children with special needs. “One day at the camp I met Marlon, an African-American boy with autism, and knew right away that this was the field I wanted to pursue,” recalled Alessandri, who continued working at the camp as he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester.

    In 1992, after earning his master’s degree and doctorate in psychology from Rutgers University, he accepted a faculty position at San Jose State University in California, where he developed SJSU CARES, a center for training psychology students about autism. Two years later at a national conference, he met Diane Adreon, Ed.D., who, along with former UM faculty Peter Mundy and Keith Scott, had founded CARD at the University of Miami in July 1993. In her first year, Adreon saw 88 clients as CARD’s only full-time staff member.

    Today, the UM-NSU CARD program serves more than 11,000 clients from five offices in South Florida with a team of more than 25 full- and part-time clinicians and 25 other research and administrative staff members. The center maintains close ties with the UM Mailman Center for Child Development and works closely with consulting neurologist Roberto F. Tuchman, M.D., director of the autism program at Nicklaus Children's Dan Marino Outpatient Center in Weston.

    The center also provides autism-related training for healthcare professionals, teachers and first responders, education programs for the public, technical assistance for South Florida schools, and support for local businesses that hire people with autism. For example, UM-NSU CARD has a strong partnership with Rising Tide Car Wash in Broward, where the detail-oriented employees with ASD deliver excellent customer service, Alessandri said.

    “With support from a new grant, we recently created and launched an online course aimed at awakening the autism entrepreneur,” Alessandri added. “Our goal is to promote innovative and sustainable business models and work opportunities for adults on the autism spectrum.”

    UM-NSU CARD provides free educational and support services to Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe county families, while six other centers serve the rest of the state. Among its primary missions is linking parents of children with ASD to available clinical resources.

    With the City of Miami Beach, CARD just finished hosting its 10th annual Surf Camp, which provides six days of fun and educational experiences for children with ASD. They spent the week developing their swimming skills, learning basic oceanography, meteorology, and open-water surfing and, most importantly, connecting with other peers and building their self-confidence.

    “It is an opportunity for us to focus on the kids’ abilities, rather than their disabilities,” said Sara Dajer, manager of educational support services at CARD. As Alessandri notes, more and more parents, doctors, teachers, and communities are dealing with ASD, increasing the demand for CARD’s education and support services.

    “Fortunately,” he said, “our team at UM-NSU CARD is prepared to meet those needs, while continuing to invest in vital research to learn more about this growing public health challenge.”

    For more information on UM-NSU CARD, call 800-9-AUTISM (ext. 1) or visit www.umcard.org.


    Written by Richard Westlund

    March 29, 2018

  • Following the Money - March 22, 2018

    Following the Money

    A University of Miami marine ecologist says just follow the money to understand how our financial systems have fueled coastal development


    Conservationists and natural resource managers have lost ground over the past 20 years as more and more natural land—especially on the coast—has given way to homes and businesses, threatening the natural ecosystem.

    University of Miami Associate Professor in Biology Kathleen Sullivan Sealey and her colleagues set out to find out why by investigating the ecology of finance and the financial innovations that have facilitated rapid housing development.

    In a study published in the journal Anthropocene entitled, “Financial credit drives urban land-use change in the United States,” Sealey and her team borrowed concepts from ecology, finance, urban studies, and complex systems to develop a hypothesis about the fundamental shifts in the flow of money throughout the entire development and construction process. 

    The paper lays the foundation for a new area of research in the coupled human-natural systems linking modern finance to climate and ecological change.

    “After three years of research that included a case study specific for South Florida, we found that the greatest attribute for the housing boom, from 1980 to 2008, was the key changes in banking regulations in the 1970s that allowed for increased availability of credit,” said Sealey.  “The key component was the ability to transfer investment risks for developers and lending institutions.” 

    Since the U.S. economy depends on a healthy housing market, and a cornerstone of personal wealth is home ownership, the researchers set out to document the changes in financial regulations and financing in general since 1980.

    The paper explores the widely accepted premise that nothing happens without funding. It also explains—to people unfamiliar with how the financial system works—the financial instruments and innovations that diversify the sources of loans and credit through globalization of mortgage-based securities (MBSs). This system, the researchers said, is now only one part of an enormous shadow banking industry, which trades diverse asset-backed securities with relatively little regulation.

    They note more people were able to buy more expensive houses through a combination of federal legislation to promote the availability of mortgages, and financial tools in the secondary market for Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS).

    The authors argue that a wider outreach effort is need to educate the public about the coupled processes of financial and natural systems. Recognizing the connections between environmental change, wrought by urban development, and financial credit is only the first step to understanding the challenges in building sustainability communities, they said.  

    Sealey conducted the research with help from a grant from the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences. As a marine ecologist, she believed many conservation efforts were reacting to development rather than following broader land conservations strategies. Understanding financial innovations, and the role of credit and risk, can enable ecologists to engage in the growing market for green bonds, weather derivatives and other financial innovations that link the built environment to ecosystem function and services.

    “The links between finance, insurance, and property risks from catastrophic natural events require a new, focused area for study by both universities and coastal cities,” Sealey said. “In other words, this study promotes the creation of ‘financial ecology,’ a field that will provide a better understanding of our financial systems as these systems interact with nature.” 

    Sealey collaborated with Philippe Binder from the University of Hawaii-Hilo and King Burch, an independent finance and real estate researcher based in Honolulu. The journal, published by Elsevier, focuses on the large-scale interactions between humans and nature.

     

    March 22, 2018

  • Enthralled by a Puppet and a Tony Award - March 19, 2018

    Enthralled by a Puppet and a Tony Award

    Musical theatre students spent quality time learning (and laughing) with Jeff Marx


    Tony-Award winning Broadway composer and writer Jeff Marx came to the University of Miami prepared. A large black duffel bag held two of his most prized possessions: “Nicky,” a puppet from his celebrated Broadway musical, Avenue Q,and his 2004 Tony Award. Marx knew that the students in the UM Musical Theatre program would be thrilled to see—and hold—both.

    “I admire Jeff so much,” said senior Bobby Eddy, who is majoring in musical theatre and was ecstatic when he was able to hold and operate the Avenue Q puppet “Nicky.” “Actually, it was Avenue Q that inspired me to pursue a career in musical theatre. This is really a life-changing moment for me. I will never forget it.”

    Enthralled by a Puppet and a Tony Award
    Senior Bobby Eddy holds the puppet character, Nicky, from Avenue Q.

    In 2004, Marx and Robert Lopez won a Tony Award for creating and writing all the songs for the hit Broadway musical, which was nominated for six Tony Awards and won three in the categories of Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Original Book.

    In an intimate classroom in the Hecht Residential Building, Marx spent hours talking to the musical theatre students about his experience in the industry, why he never gave up even when one of his professors said he had no talent, and why getting fired always leads to bigger and better opportunities.

    “I was fired from a lot of jobs, but life goes on and everything leads to something else,” Marx said. “The best part is that you start collecting relationships with the people you meet, people that are in the industry, and you learn so much along the way.”

    Marx, who grew up in Hollywood, Florida, and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, recalled his sophomore evaluation, when “one of the teachers sat with me and said, ‘I’m going to be frank with you: you have no talent and you’re never going to make it so I suggest you find something else to do.’ That was pretty devastating.”

    After graduation, Marx decided to go to law school in New York City and become an entertainment lawyer. “I thought this would be great because I’ll be on the other side of entertainment representing writers, producers or directors,” he said.

    It was during his time in law school that Marx began writing and composing music, and eventually collaborating with Lopez to create Avenue Q. The acclaimed musical comedy debuted Off-Broadway in March 2003 before moving to Broadway in July 2003, where it had more than 3,000 performances, and spawned Las Vegas and West End productions, two national tours, and a variety of international productions.

    “There is hope, even if you’re not a great dancer or singer,” said Marx. “There are many ways to work on Broadway shows or musicals. My advice is to take an inventory what you’re good at and what you can do with your talents because you will be successful. You can be a producer, a writer, a teacher, a stage manager, a casting director, and even a theatre critic.”

    Though Marx played the piano and regaled the students with stories, the highlight of the day came when he pulled his Tony Award from the large black duffel bag. Each and every student held the award—some taking selfies while others asking their classmates to take their picture.

    “I loved it,” said sophomore Dana Munro. “I feel relaxed and excited about my future and the different possibilities I can find in the industry, and getting to hold a real Tony Award was amazing!”

     

    March 19, 2018

  • Yeast Cells at Work - March 8, 2018

    Yeast Cells at Work

    A new study by University of Miami researchers used yeast cells to study movement in artificial environments that could relate to human activity in the natural world


    In a lab within the Cox Science Building, postdoc fellow Bo Zhang, who earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Biology, is using a very large liquid-handling robot to disperse millions of yeast cells from one culture plate to another—with each plate holding approximately 96 wells that keep the yeast cells in place.

    “Imagine each well in the culture plate is an environment with its own population,” said J. David Van Dyken, assistant professor in the Department of Biology. “With the robot, Zhang is able to move the population along a landscape, which allows the population to reach a significantly larger size at a steady state."

    Aside from baking bread or brewing beer, yeast has been used in different scientific experiments since the early 1900s. In 2011, for example, NASA sent simple baking yeast into outer space for researchers to grow and analyze in the International Space Station. Here at UM, Zhang is using the yeast to understand how movement of the yeast cells from one well to another helps them multiply and grow in a diverse environment.

    “This experiment using millions of yeast cells is fundamental to our research because it relates to human activity and habitat fragmentation,” adds Van Dyken.

    For a study published in the journal Ecology Letters, entitled “Carrying capacity in a heterogeneous environment with habitat connectivity,” Zhang used the robot to move the yeast cells between the wells and simulate the distribution of artificial populations to prove that movement can increase the total population size in a diverse environment.

     yeast-cells-at-work
    Postdoc fellow Bo Zhang and Assistant Professor of Ecology J. David Van 
    Dyken stand in front of a high-tec liquid-handling robot in the Cox Building.

    In essence, the study proves that total population abundance will always be much lower in a diverse environment than an environment that is similar or uniform. It may be hard to grasp, but the yeast cells represent millions of artificial populations in a minute space that is quite vast for the yeast cells but, for comparison purposes, only about the size of a deck of cards to humans. Each well in the plate is like a different point in space that contains a diverse habitat.

    Zhang says that their findings on movement of an artificial population—in this case created by the yeast cells—can be applied to the real world, both on a microscopic and macroscopic level.

    “This movement of any species, whether it’s a plant species, bacteria, animals or a virus, can be hindered if and when we built a highway or a road,” said Zhang. “In essence, our work highlights the fact that for a distributed species this core ecological concept can become rather complicated.”

    Zhang notes that the team used mathematical equations as a model to better predict total population movement in mixt and identical environments. “The use of the mathematical model in the study can be applied to basically any type of population in the real world,” she said. “Overall, this was a unique experiment using simple baker’s yeast and a very high-tech robot right here in our lab at UM.”

     

    March 08, 2018

  • East Meets West - February 27, 2018

    East Meets West

    University of Miami Philosophy Professor Travels to China to Attend Conference in His Name


    The Chinese University of Hong Kong is hosting an international conference in March and inviting philosophers and academics from around the world to discuss, dissect, and analyze the work of distinguished philosopher Michael Slote—who also happens to be a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences.

    Philosophy Professor Michael Slote
    Philosophy Professor Michael Slote

    The conference, entitled Slote Encountering Chinese Philosophy, is a two-day event welcoming philosophers from academic institutions such as Rutgers University, the University of Bern in Switzerland, California State University, Indiana University, Loyola Marymount University, and The University of New South Wales in Australia—to name a few.

    During his time at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Slote will also deliver a few lectures as a visiting professor of the 2018 Tang Chun-I Visiting Professorship series, which was established in 2003. Since 2003, the institution has welcomed one or two notable philosophers to its philosophy department to offer a postgraduate lecture course on a dedicated topic of expertise, a formal public lecture, and staff seminar presentation.

    “I am going to talk about the comparison and connection between Chinese and Western philosophy as well as discuss my newest book on this subject, which is scheduled to print later this year, entitled The Philosophy of Yin and Yang,” said Slote. “The book will have the Chinese translation and the English text side-by-side. Of course, while in Hong Kong, I’ll be at the conference to listen and respond to a group of philosophers commenting and discussing my work. It’s really a great honor and I’m very pleased.”

    Slote’s lecture argues that yin and yang is the basis of the mind (xin) and its virtues. He will also discuss how yin and yang grounds our understanding of nature and of the harmonies of the cosmos.

    Slote, who joined the University of Miami in 2002, has taught at Columbia University, Trinity College, Dublin, and the University of Maryland, where he was the department chair. He has written many articles in philosophy of mind, ethics, and political philosophy and his books include: Goods and Virtues (Oxford, 1983); Commonsense Morality and Consequentialism (Routledge, 1985); Beyond Optimizing (Harvard, 1989); From Morality to Virtue (Oxford, 1992); Morals from Motives (Oxford, 2001); and The Ethics of Care and Empathy (Routledge, 2007).

     

    February 27, 2018

  • Remembering Professor Webb - February 16, 2018

    Remembering Professor Webb

    Professor WebbBorn in Childesburg, AL on February 5th 1942, Benjiman Danny Webb, Professor Emeritus of German at the University of Miami, died in Austin, TX on January 29th 2018. 

    After graduating from Millington Central High School (TN) in 1960, Danny attended Memphis State where he received his B.S. cum laude in 1964. While in Memphis, Danny met his soul mate Julia Moss when they were both working at the local theater, Plaza Cinema, and they married in 1966. They moved to Los Angeles where Danny attended University of Southern California, receiving degrees in German (M.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1968). 

    In 1968, Danny became an assistant professor of German at the University of Miami, where he eventually became the Director of German and also earned an M.B.A. (1985). A member of the American Association of German Teachers, Danny had a great love for the German language, literature and culture. In recognition of his dedication to all things German, Danny received The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany Vedienstkreuz, 1st Class in 1987. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Danny held his students to high standards and was a successful and influential teacher, seen by many of his colleagues as a pied piper whose students followed him around campus seeking help not only with their studies, but advice and support for their future careers and personal lives. 

    Many students remained in contact with Danny well beyond graduation. His teaching was officially recognized in 2003 when he received The Faculty Senate of University of Miami Outstanding Teaching Award in 2003. Dedicated to the University of Miami, Danny served as Director of the Honors Program from 1999-2003, as well as Associate Master of Mahoney Residential College for two years and Master of Pearson Residential College for four years. His service to UM was recognized by his induction into Iron Arrow and Omicron Delta Kappa. 

    A member of the American Philatelic Society since 1976, Danny was an avid stamp collector. He had varied and sometimes seemingly incongruent tastes, loving the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Kiri Tekanawa, and Dolly Parton. While he taught complex German novels and film, one of his favorite movies was “The Muppet Movie.” 

    He loved travelling the world with Julia and often daughter Pamela, from Germany to Egypt to China to 224 parks in the National Park system. His greatest love was for his family. He is survived by his beloved Julia, his treasured daughter Pamela Webb-Elliott and her husband Matthew Lee Elliott, his adored granddaughters Genevieve and Josephine, all of Austin Texas, his dear sister Patricia A. Webb, of Brighton TN, and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents C.B.Webb Sr. and Ethel Selph Webb, brother C.B.Webb Jr, and sister Mary Faye Webb Vandiveer. 

    The family will privately mourn this loss. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the American Heart Association (https://donatenow.heart.org/?s_src=NAV ).

    Written by Jane Connolly 

     

    February 16, 2018

  • Clearing the Forest, with Consequences - February 15, 2018

    Clearing the Forest, with Consequences

    University of Miami professors study the relationship between human welfare and environmental stressors on Brazil’s Amazon


    Years of research on the Brazilian Amazonia’s rich biodiversity and ecological functions has documented the region’s importance to humanity and the planet. Yet, Brazil’s rainforest is under stress from many of the very initiatives, including agriculture like soybean farms and the expansion of infrastructure, such as roads and dams, thought to be essential for the well-being of its population.

    But in a new study, University of Miami Professor José Maria Cardoso da Silva, in the Department of Geography and Regional Studies, found that many of the theories about how societies living in tropical forest regions can improve their living standards, which include deforestation, migration, public investment, and agriculture, do more harm than good because they fail to conserve the region’s natural wealth—the forest.

    “Essentially, regions covered by forests, which are so important on a global scale because of climate change, must follow a different developmental pattern because these regions are fundamentally different,” Silva said. “The only way to improve human welfare is by protecting the forest while building up modern and sustainable infrastructure in the region’s cities.”

    For his study, Silva and co-author Shivangi Prasad, a UM lecturer, evaluated whether reducing the forest to make way for development, migrating from small cities to larger cities, investing in government pensions, subsidies, and social welfare programs, and increasing agriculture and other jobs, improved human welfare in the Brazilian Amazonia by looking at how the Human Development Index (HDI) of 499 municipalities in the region changed from 2005 to 2012, when the government implemented strategies to control deforestation and promote more sustainable development.

    “We used HDI as a proxy for human well-being because it measures the overall income, health, and education of a population and gives a ranking between zero and one, zero being very bad and one very good,” said Silva. “What we found in our study is that increases in urbanization, agriculture, and public investment projects, during a time of reduced deforestation, does not translate into high human development growth, unless they are done correctly and take into account the importance of the forest itself.”  

    These theories, the study found, all proved unsuccessful due to improper planning and capacity of the local municipal governments in the Brazilian Amazonia to develop and implement sound, long-term sustainable development plans. According to the study, deforestation creates a kind of “boom-and-bust” pattern where there are short-term economic gains but long-term losses; fast urbanization means people move from impoverished rural areas to big cities where resources are also lacking; public investment is mismanaged by the government and limits entrepreneurship; and agriculture is negatively correlated with human development because  a lack of clarity about land ownership creates social conflicts with, for example, indigenous people. All of these factors actually reduce HDI growth, the researchers found.

    Prasad, Silva’s co-author who lectures in the Department of Geography and Regional Studies, says the research can be applied to other countries where tropical rainforests and people intermingle, such as Indonesia and countries in the Congo Basin—global areas with very large tropical rainforest regions. Prasad said deforestation within the tropical areas of Indonesia is giving way to single-crop farming while countries in the Congo Basin, which have the second largest tropical rainforest in the world and very low HDI, deforestation is happening because of poor governance and, consequently, well-thought, long-term development plans that consider the rights and wishes of the local populations. 

    “If you look at our research, this is exactly what is happening in the Amazon where deforestation is being replaced by soybeans, while in Indonesia it’s palm oil plantations,” said Prasad. “The problem when growing just one crop is that it reduces biodiversity. Also, the way the land is cleared is also a problem because mass deforestation of large swaths of land are cleared by fire.”

    Prasad says she was somewhat surprised by their findings on urbanization. “One would think that urbanization would increase human welfare due to better access to healthcare, education and quality government services in urban areas,” she said. “Yet, in our study, we did not find a positive connection between urbanization and HDI growth, especially in the context of the Amazon, where the population of the urban centers are growing so fast that the region’s cities do not have time to build up the infrastructure and services to accommodate them.”  

    In conclusion, Silva said, “I am a strong believer that without the outright conservation of the natural ecosystems, no country in the world can be considered as developed if it does not find ways to conciliate economic prosperity with a healthy environment.”  

    The study entitled, “The impact of deforestation, urbanization, public investments, and agriculture on human welfare in the Brazilian Amazonia,” is published in the journal Land Use Policy.

     

    February 15, 2018

  • A Window to the Past - February 9, 2018

    A Window to the Past

    Since the 1950s, archeologists have discovered ancient materials from the bottom of Little Salt Spring, a sinkhole located in southern Sarasota County along Florida’s west coast. These artifacts, from wood to textiles, date back to the Late Paleoindian and Early Archaic stages of Florida’s prehistory and reveal what life was like for humans more than 10,000 years ago. 

    “Little Salt Spring is a unique time capsule of perfectly preserved organic materials used by ancient people in their daily lives,” said Traci Ardren, professor in the Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “We have an obligation to study and protect this amazing resource from the past and learn more about how humanity adapted to the dramatic climate changes that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age.”

    During early prehistoric times, Little Salt Spring was an oasis attracting seasonal hunters and gatherers. The Spring contains some of the oldest cultural remains found in the U.S. such as a sharpened wooden stake close to 12,000 years old that was found thrust through an extinct giant tortoise shell.

    This month, the University of Miami is hosting a full-day public symposium on the significance of Little Salt Spring. Entitled Ancient Explorers: Little Salt Spring and the Peopling of the Americas, the conference will include a keynote speaker, scholarly presentations, a discussion panel aimed to explore new research and findings from the Spring, and a pop-up artifact exhibit showcasing 25 years of archeological finds recovered at the Spring, from an antler calendar to lithic spear points and shell ornaments.

    “The wooden, bone, and antler tools and ornaments from Little Salt Spring tell an amazingly detailed story of what life was like for the very first humans who settled in Florida,” said Ardren. “They reveal an intimate knowledge of the landscape and resources native to our peninsula, and help us appreciate the ingenuity and creativity of these early inhabitants.” 

    In addition to the keynote speaker, Michael R. Waters, director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A & M University, who will speak on “Forging a New Understanding of the Late Pleistocene Peopling of the Americas,” the symposium will welcome Lee Newsom, professor of anthropology at Flagler College; Jason O’Donoughue, an archeologist with the Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources; Jessi Halligan, professor of anthropology at Florida State University; and Andrew Hemmings with the Aucilla Research Institute. The afternoon panel discussion will feature speakers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Anthropology; the Florida Public Archaeology Network; the Seminole Tribe of Florida; and the Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeology Society.

    "As study into the unique archaeology and environental settings at Little Salt Spring is renewed, researchers will also find an eager community within North Port, and the greater Sarasota County area, who are ready to learn more about and take part in the continued discovery of all things Little Salt Spring," said Jeffrey T. Moates, director, West Central Regional Center of the Florida Public Archaeology Network.

    Ancient Explorers: Little Salt Spring and the Peopling of the Americas is open to the public and co-sponsored by the University of Miami, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and HistoryMiami Museum. The full-day symposium will be held on February 24, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the University of Miami’s Storer Auditorium, 5250 University Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146.

    For more information and to register for the event, visit http://www.as.miami.edu/anthropology/news--events/ancient-explorers/. There is a $25 registration fee that includes lunch. The $25 fee is waived for University of Miami students.

     

    February 09, 2018

  • Peering into the Cosmos - January 25, 2018

    Peering into the Cosmos

    UM astrophysicist leads NASA mission to study X-ray emissions from the Milky Way and outer space


    In the midst of an Alaskan winter, scientists from NASA and academic institutions around the world gathered together to launch four rockets into outer space with hopes to better understand the secrets of the cosmos.

    Officially named the 2018 Poker Flat Sounding Rocket Campaign, the endeavor consists of two separate missions: One lead by the University of Miami explores X-ray emissions coming from outer space and our galaxy; the other studies how microscopic ice particles found 53 miles above the Earth, called Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs), are formed.  

    Massimiliano Galeazzi, associate chair and professor of physics at the University of Miami, is the principal investigator for the DXL (Diffuse X-rays from the Local Galaxy) mission. Galeazzi says the DXL mission is designed to study X-rays coming from two different sources in space.

    “The first source,” he said, “is located outside our solar system and is generated by remnants of multiple supernovae explosions forming what is now called the Local Hot Bubble region of our galaxy. The second source is within the solar system and is generated by the solar wind interacting with neutral gas in the solar system and Earth’s atmosphere.”

    The DXL mission seeks to gain a better understanding of the nature and characteristics of these sources, specifically the X-rays produced when the solar wind, which is composed when heavily charged ions are emitted by the sun and interact with the Earth’s neutral gasses—hydrogen and helium—found in our atmosphere. “This phenomenon is called solar wind charge exchange,” he adds, “and we are studying it, primarily, so we can remove its contribution from astrophysical observations, but also to better understand the physics of the phenomenon.”

    According to Galeazzi, when observing an object outside the solar system the solar wind charge exchange interferes with how it is observed from Earth. To properly understand the properties of these objects, scientists must be able to understand the contribution from solar wind charge exchange and remove it from the observation or they could get erroneous results. 

    “For example, if you take a photograph of a distant object, but you have a light source close to you, the distant object may be hard to see because of that light source, so to be able to get a nice picture, you must first remove the contribution of that source,” said Galeazzi.

    The DXL mission was successfully launched at 3:17 a.m. local time on January 19, 2018.  Along with Galeazzi’s DXL mission, three other rockets (all waiting for good conditions to be propelled into space) will determine how large quantities of water could affect the upper atmosphere and form Polar Mesospheric Clouds (PMCs). This mission, named Super Soaker, will measure the impact of short-term changes on PMCs, which are often used to quantify changes in Earth’s upper atmosphere over many decades.

    The DXL mission launched from the Poker Flat Research range in Alaska, which is near the Earth’s magnetic poles and allows researchers to take X-ray measurements closer to the region where the solar magnetic field interacts with Earth’s magnetic field.

    In addition to the University of Miami, the DXL collaboration includes scientists from different institutions, including NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, LATMOS in France, the University of Wisconsin, John Hopkins University, and Boston University. It is financially supported by the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and logistically by NASA’s sounding rocket division at Wallops Flight Facility. 

    UM Professor Galeazzi inspects the rocket before launch in Alaska
    UM Professor Galeazzi inspects the rocket before launch in Alaska. 
    (photo credit: NASA)

     

    Scientists prep for launch of the DXL mission
    Scientists prep for launch of the DXL mission. (photo credit: NASA)

     

    The DXL mission rocket is propelling into space
    The DXL mission rocket is propelling into space at 3:17 a.m. 
    (photo credit: Merrick Peirce, Fairbanks, AK)

  • Crop Failure in the Andes - January 16, 2018

    Crop Failure in the Andes

    University of Miami researcher simulates how climate change can affect crop production in the rural Andes.

    Kenneth Feeley, the Smathers Chair of Tropical Tree Biology in the University of Miami’s Department of Biology, is an expert in studying the effects of climate change on tropical forests. From the mountains of Peru to the lowlands of the Amazon, Feeley examines the ramifications of climate change on the trees and other species that comprise the diverse forests of these regions. Yet, recently, Feeley shifted gears from studying tropical forests to examining the impacts of climate change in rural farming communities in Peru.

    As co-author of a study published in Global Change Biology, Feeley, along with fellow biologist, Richard Tito, a native Quechua Indian from the region and the study’s first author, discovered that tough times lie ahead for rural farmers growing the Andes’ staple crops—corn and potatoes.

    “The research was executed in a very remote part of Peru,” said Feeley. “We were trying to look at how the traditional agriculture practices of people in the high Andes Mountains will be impacted by climate change so we performed a set of experiments to simulate different scenarios under global warming.”

    In the first experiment, the researchers simulated what will happen if farmers continue cultivating the same areas amid rising temperatures. To do this, they grew corn farther down the mountain, where temperatures are slightly higher. “We carried in the soil from where the corn is normally grown because the soil at the top of the mountain is different in texture and nutrients than the soil at lower elevations,” said Feeley.

    The simulation revealed that, with just a small temperature increase of 1.3 degrees to 2.6 degrees, nearly all the corn plants were killed by invading birds and pest insects. Potatoe plants fared even worse. When potatoes were grown at lower elevations (but in their normal soil), most of the plants died and any potatoes that survived were of such low quality they had no market value.

    In a second set of experiments, the researchers simulated what will happen if farmers try to counteract rising temperatures by moving their corn farms to higher elevations. (Potato crops are already grown along mountain peaks, so moving those farms higher isn’t an option.) To accomplish this simulation, the researchers grew corn under normal temperatures but in soils carried in from higher elevations. When grown at a higher elevation, the corn plants survived but the quality and quantity of the harvest was greatly reduced.

    “We found big decreases in the yield, quality, and the market value of the corn and potatoes planted under these simulated future conditions,” said Feeley.  “Notably, much of the decline was due to increased damage by pests, something that is often not taken into account in greenhouse or lab studies. Given the extreme importance of these staple crops for Andean communities, our findings can have huge, and scary, implications.”

    The study measured the crops during a growing season within the remote Huamburque area of the Andean Amazon basin, where elevations range between 3,000 and 4,000 meters. Unfortunately, Feeley said, farmers in this rural area of Peru lack the means to purchase genetically modified varieties of corn or potato, as well as pesticides to remove the pests or commercial fertilizers.

    “Small communities in rural places don’t have the technology or market access to quickly adapt to climate change,” said Feeley. “Some farmers might be able to switch their crop to a variety that is tolerant to higher temperatures, but many lack the resources to save their crops by using irrigation pumps or fertilizers. These farmers are in jeopardy as are millions of people who depend on these crops throughout the Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.”  

    The study, "Global Climate Change Increases Risk of Crop Yield Losses and Food Insecurity in the Tropical Andes" was published in the journal Global Change Biology.

    Crop Failure in the Andes
    One of the experimental corn plots.(Photo credit: Saul Tito)
    Crop Failure in the Andes
    Severe attacks of stem-borer caterpillars on potato plants 
    grown under warmer temperatures. 
    (Photo credit: Richard Tito)
    Crop Failure in the Andes
    Peruvian potato farmer. (Photo credit: Saul M. Tito)

  • Remembering Arnold Perlmutter - December 20, 2017

    Remembering Arnold Perlmutter

    The University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences and the Physics Department are mourning the loss of Arnold Perlmutter, 89, who passed away on December 12, 2017.

    “Professor Arnold Perlmutter was one of the nicest human beings anyone could ever meet,” said George Alexandrakis, a physicist at UM and Perlmutter’s long-time friend and colleague. “His kindness and genuine concern for others was reflected in the manner he interacted with the thousands of students he taught over the years.”

    Throughout his career as a physicist, Perlmutter visited and taught at many universities and research institutions around the world including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Boston University, University of Chicago, CERN, Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories, University of Trieste, London Imperial College, University of Torino, Istanbul University, Kiev University, University of Adelaide, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

    A physics professor at UM from 1956 until his retirement in 2002, Perlmutter was the Secretary for the Center for Theoretical Studies, which was established by colleague Behram Kursunoglu. During his time as Secretary, Perlmutter greatly contributed to the forum, which operated from 1965 to 1992 and provided a significant medium for studies in theoretical physics and related fields. The forum was also a collaborative enterprise among scientists, including many who went on to win Nobel Prizes.

    In the late 1980s, Perlmutter and Kursunoglu again collaborated to launch an undergraduate course entitled, Nuclear War-Nuclear Peace. The course invited surviving figures who created nuclear weapons, as well as policymakers and peace negotiators, to the Coral Gables campus. During his time at UM, Perlmutter also collaborated with his colleague and the eminent experimental physicist Marietta Blau.

    Perlmutter is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lynn Meyer; his two sons, Bernard and Joseph; three stepchildren, Evan Slavitt, Sarah Bryce, and Joshua Slavitt; and 12 grandchildren. His first wife, Ruth Perlmutter Kates, passed away in 2004. A service was held at UM on December 17, 2017. Donations are still welcome to the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, the UM Physics Department or Gifford Arboretum, and the Women's Emergency Network.

    Remembering Arnold Perlmutter Photo Caption: (L to R) Arnold Perlmutter with Lars Onsager, the 1968 Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, and Julian Schwinger, the 1965 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, in 1972 during a Center for Theoretical Studies meeting in the Ungar Building at the University of Miami.

    December 20, 2017

  • University of Miami Associate Professor Receives Recognition from Peers for Research in Brain Connectivity and Cognition - December 18, 2017

    University of Miami Associate Professor Receives Recognition from Peers for Research in Brain Connectivity and Cognition

    Lucina Uddin, a cognitive neuroscientist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, was recognized for her work in brain connectivity and cognition by two international science organizations this year.

    The most recent award was given to Uddin for her contributions to autism research in brain dynamics and cognition in the field of medical sciences by the Universal Scientific Education and Research Network (USERN), an international organization created in 2015 to support peace and humanitarian efforts in the name of science, education, and research around the globe.

    The USERN prize identifies young scientists—all under the age of 40—from around the world who have contributed to their field of research by developing and building significant science projects to better humanity; the organization’s slogan is “Science without Borders.” Uddin was one of five scientists honored at a ceremony in the Ukraine this fall.

    Uddin was also given the Wiley Young Investigator Award for her contributions to the field of human brain mapping by the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM). According to the website, OHBM is an “international organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of the anatomical and functional organization of the human brain using neuroimaging.” Both recognitions included a $5,000 cash award. Uddin was recently interviewed about the OHBM award, her research and what it means to be recognized for her contributions to the field of brain mapping.  

    “The OHBM award is special to me because I was recognized for my work by my peers in the neuroimaging community,” said Uddin. “These are fellow scientists and researchers whom I’ve known for years, but the USERN award was actually a pleasant surprise!” 

    Uddin is first or senior author on numerous studies that focus on brain connectivity and cognition in typical and atypical development, as well as a recent book entitled “Salience network of the human brain.” She has also collaborated with fellow UM researchers and neuroscientists around the world on studies examining cognitive flexibility across the lifespan. Her research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, JAMA Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

    December 18, 2017

  • A Lasting Legacy - November 29, 2017

    A Lasting Legacy


    A Conversation with Eugene Clasby

    A Lasting Legacy
    What inspired you to give back to the College of Arts & Sciences by establishing the Nancy T. Clasby Endowed Scholarship Fund?
    My wife, Nancy, loved her students and they loved her. She taught some of the most difficult material there is to teach and she did it with grace and clarity. She was always looking out for the student who needed a chance to succeed, a lift up that would set them on the way to achieving their dreams. That was Nancy’s constant concern and care, and that is what this scholarship program is about: helping students who need a chance to find that chance.

    You served as the Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) Program for 25 years. Can you sum up that experience?
    What we started out to do was create an interdisciplinary graduate program that would give people an opportunity to come back to the University to learn—as they often said, “all the things they should have learned the first time around.” It turned out that there were a lot of people who wanted to do just that. They came from all walks of life—all inspired by the desire to learn more about the world around them and their relation to it. The Program grew rapidly, and following the transfer to the College of Arts and Sciences, became mature in its mission of offering quality interdisciplinary education to a group of enthusiastic and highly skilled students. None of this would have been possible without the dedication and high qualifications of the MALS faculty.

    What are your areas of specialty or expertise?
    I am a medievalist, specializing in Chaucer and Middle English poetry, particularly lyric poetry. My teaching assignments include the English Literature survey courses and a Shakespeare course. I am a translator as well. I have published two volumes of the Old French trilogy by the French monk Guillaume de Deguileville.

    You’ve seen a lot of change at UM, what have been the most notable changes since you first set foot on campus?
    The students are much better qualified than they were when I first arrived. Those early students were not untalented, but the efforts begun by former UM President Tad Foote and the Faculty Senate to bring the highest quality students to our campus were successful beyond anyone’s original imagination. We are now in competition with the best universities in the country. Also, the campus has been physically transformed thanks to the work of President Foote and his wife Bosey. They worked tirelessly to make the University a beautiful place to live and learn and work.

    What is one book everyone should read?
    Not a book, but a play: Macbeth. It shows how a good man can do terrible things because of a desire to be loved and admired.

    If you could sit and have coffee with a literary figure, who would that be and why?
    It’s a toss-up between Chaucer and Shakespeare, but Chaucer wins the toss, because he is a very funny man. Not that Shakespeare is a dullard, of course, but it takes him a while to get started. Better would be dinner with both of them. Now that would be an evening.

    Who has inspired you?
    My mother, who earned a law degree from Portia Law School in Boston in 1926 and raised eight children with my co-inspiration, my father, whose integrity often got him in trouble with authority but never with God. Next, my teachers at Boston College: Ed Hirsh and Al Duhamel who taught me what it meant “to gladly lerne and gladly teche.” My sister Miriam-Louise, in ways too numerous to mention, and my colleagues and friends at UM, particularly those in the Faculty Senate who taught me about integrity and dedication and about what love of the University truly meant. And, not least, my brave, darling, wife Nancy.

    November 29, 2017

  • Defending the Science of Infant Imitation - November 16, 2017

    Defending the Science of Infant Imitation

    UM psychologist who studies social behavior in infants finds flaws in 2016 study that claims newborn babies do not imitate.

    Since the 1970s, studies have suggested that infants can imitate facial gestures, finger movements, and other actions just hours after birth. University of Miami Assistant Professor Elizabeth Simpson studies this phenomenon, known as neonatal imitation, in babies from birth to one year of life in her Social Cognition Lab in the Department of Psychology’s Child Division.

    Recently, Simpson, whose research focuses on how infants begin to understand their social world, was awarded a $675,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue her research, specifically on neonatal imitation as a marker of healthy social development in human babies. Her studies on human infant imitation are based on her previous studies on monkeys, which showed that infant monkeys that were better imitators during their first week of life grew to be more social, engaged in more play behavior, and initiated more positive social interactions.

    defending-the-science-of-infant-imitation
    Research on baby imitation conducted in Simpson's lab. 
    (photo credit: My Nguyen)

    However, the authors of a 2016 study published in the journal Current Biology, concluded that human babies don’t actually imitate. Their study asserted that dozens of previous studies on the subject, including Simpson’s research, is erroneous. But in a counter-response recently published in the journal Developmental Science, Simpson and her co-authors argue that the Current Biology study failed to use appropriate methods, and is highly flawed. She argues that there is overwhelming evidence that infant imitation is real.

    “Our paper is a response to this misleading study that claimed to find no evidence of imitation in newborns,” Simpson says. “Unfortunately, there was a lot of media attention given to this poorly designed study, and our reply basically says that the study is flawed and our reanalysis of their data reveals positive evidence of neonatal imitation.”

    Reviewing the data from the Current Biology study, Simpson and her co-authors said they found that the researchers used a flawed methodology that was destined to reach an erroneous conclusion. Among the errors, she notes, is how researchers presented babies with actions they are incapable of imitating, such as clicking their tongues and making specific sounds.

    “Why would you expect a newborn baby to imitate a tongue click? In essence, they used a lot of different actions that are unfair because babies can’t yet do those things,” says Simpson.

    The researchers, Simpsons notes, also showed the babies 11 different consecutive actions, each one for 30 seconds, before moving to another action and then another. “Even older children, even adults, would be unable to imitate 11 different actions in a row,” says Simpson. “That’s a lot for a newborn baby to process and, with only 30 seconds per action, they didn’t give the babies very much time to imitate the action.”

    Simpson hopes her counter-response to the Current Biology study encourages other researchers who are interested in the field of developmental psychology and neonatal imitation to study the phenomenon.

    “I am very invested in this line of research,” says Simpson, “because previous monkey studies show that imitation predicts the development of healthy social interactions. We need to study whether the same may be true in humans. But these researchers say the phenomenon itself is not real, when, in fact, there is growing evidence that it is. I’m afraid people won’t study the phenomenon if they take this study as the last word.”

    Simpson’s reply, “Re-examination of Oostenbroek et al. (2016): evidence for neonatal imitation of tongue protrusion,” is published in the journal Developmental Science.

     

    November 16, 2017

  • Military Wellness - November 10, 2017

    Military Wellness

    Mindfulness training—training to be attentive and emotionally balanced—has been used to build soldiers’ resilience and improve their attention so they are combat-ready. Recently, Lieutenant General Edward C. Cardon, a 3-Star General at the Pentagon, met University of Miami President Julio Frenk and associate professor of psychology, Dr. Amishi Jha, at the College of Arts and Sciences Neuroscience Building to learn about Jha’s research and successes with mindfulness training for military service members and military spouses. 

    LTG Cardon is working directly with the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army to propose recommendations for General Officer wellness for military personnel. Jha, along with Scott Rogers in the UM School of Law, co-direct the UMindfulness Initiative, which brings mindfulness and compassion training, research opportunities, and public lectures to the University of Miami community.

    (Left to Right) Scott Rogers, LTG Edward Cardon, President Julio Frenk, Amishi Jha, and LTC Edward Pearce.
    Photo Caption: (Left to Right) Scott Rogers, LTG Edward Cardon, President Julio Frenk, Amishi Jha, and LTC Edward Pearce.

    November 10, 2017

  • Stay Focused, If You Can - November 8, 2017

    Stay Focused, If You Can

    UM researchers study how individual differences in brain dynamics influence a person’s self-control when faced with temptation

    What makes some people better able to resist temptation than others? Lucina Uddin and Jason Nomi, cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences collaborated with Rosa Steimke, a visiting postdoctoral researcher in the Brain Connectivity and Cognition Laboratory at UM, to explore this question.

    Steimke conducted a study as part of her dissertation work at Charité University in Berlin, Germany, in which participants were asked to perform a simple task: focus on one side of a screen where a letter – either an “E” or “F” – would quickly appear then disappear, and press a button indicating which letter they saw.

    researchers study brain activity fMRI scans But before the letter appeared on the screen, an image would pop up to the right, and—this is where it gets interesting—the images were quite sensual and erotic. Not surprisingly, participants’ eyes definitely wandered to the right for a quick peek, which was captured by eye-tracking equipment.

    “Using this setup, we were able to challenge participants’ self-control in the face of temptation,” said Steimke.

    Adds Uddin, “This study is about individual differences in the ability to control impulses and behavior.” 

    According to previous research, the brain’s “cognitive control network” is typically involved in behavior that requires self-control. Here, the researchers explored another potential candidate brain system known as the “salience network.” The salience network is a collection of regions in the brain that selects which stimuli are deserving of our attention, such as a driver responding to a pedestrian running across the street or a large billboard along the highway.

    The cognitive control network is related to ‘’top-down’’ effortful control of attention while the salience network is related to ‘’bottom-up’’ automatic direction of attention.

    “We were interested in comparing the roles of these two networks in self-control behavior,” said Nomi. 

    Uddin and her team have taken a new approach to studying brain activity and its moment-to-moment variations using a method called “dynamic functional network connectivity.” Using this method, the team was able to examine whether the cognitive control or salience network was more closely linked to participants’ tendency to glance at the sensual pictures when they knew the goal was to focus on the letter.

    Surprisingly, they found no links between cognitive control network dynamics and individual differences in performance of the task. However, those individuals whose brains showed a specific pattern of salience network dynamics were better able to perform the task. Specifically, for some people their salience networks were not as well-connected with the visual networks in the brain. Individuals who showed this pattern were better able to resist tempting distractors and perform the task.

    “Researchers normally study connectivity using traditional approaches, but we used the dynamic approach, which gave us new insight that traditional connectivity analysis did not reveal,” said Uddin. “When we looked at the moment-to-moment, dynamic measures of connectivity we saw the relationship with individual differences in eye-gazing behavior emerge.”  

    The research team thanks the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, the Humboldt University Berlin, and the Collaborative Research Centre “Volition and Cognitive Control” (DFG grant SFB 940/1 2013), Technical University Dresden, for financially supporting the project. The study was also supported by an award from the National Institute of Mental Health to LQU.

    The study, “Salience network dynamics underlying successful resistance of temptation,” is published in the journal SCAN.

     

    November 08, 2017

  • GIS Day 2017 at UM - October 31, 2017

    GIS Day 2017 at UM

    The continuing evolution of geographic information systems (GIS) technology and its increasing prominence in today’s world will be on display at GIS Day 2017 on November 15.

    University of Miami students, researchers, and professionals from the private and public sector will gather at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center (SC) on Wednesday, November 15 to learn and share knowledge about the power of geographic information systems (GIS) technology at GIS Day 2017, an all-day event co-organized by the Department of Geography and UM Libraries.

    GIS technology combines geographic coordinates and features with data that allow users to visualize and understand the spatial dimensions of complex relationships. It’s valuable to a strikingly wide range of scholarly and practical topics, from climate models and population demographics to business analytics and decision support. 

    “It is difficult for me to think of an industry or profession that couldn’t in some way use geospatial technology to reveal additional information about issues at hand, or that couldn’t use the technology to optimize and streamline processes,” said Diana Ter-Ghazaryan, a lecturer in the Department of Geography and the director of the Geospatial Technology Program. “This is why GIS and geospatial technology is appealing to most disciplines and majors across campus, and I think GIS Day has something to offer everyone at UM.”

    This year’s GIS Day will highlight a particularly relevant post-Hurricane Irma topic. “GIS Day 2017 will focus on how geospatial technology was used in preparation for this year’s hurricanes and in dealing with their aftermath,” Ter-Ghazaryan said, adding, “it is going to be very exciting to hear from leading researchers and GIS experts about their implementation of this technology in real life.”

    In addition to the keynote speaker, Lauren James, a cartographer for National Geographic,  speakers include Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and director of the Center for Computational Science Climate and Environmental Hazards Program; Robert Garcia and Arlena Moses from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Matthew Shpiner, director of UM’s Office of Emergency Management; expert professors in GIS technology from the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Geography; and other GIS experts from local government entities and municipalities.

    James, whose background is in studio art, community development, and geography, is a graphics editor who focuses on the science of drawing maps and works with a team dedicated to compelling storytelling across print and digital platforms.

    At GIS Day, UM students can participate in a poster competition and the competitive Game of Maps, a scavenger hunt played with a smartphone app that is also open to faculty and staff. A meeting at the Richter Library Information Literacy Lab will be held on Friday, November 10 at 3 p.m. to introduce the rules and techniques for playing the Game of Maps. GIS Day also will include networking opportunities for students, educators, and practitioners interested in GIS technology.  

    The Department of Geography offers a graduate certificate in geospatial technology, among other graduate and undergraduate programs in geography. The certificate is unique in that it is a stand-alone program at the graduate level (although many students combine the certificate with other advanced degree programs). The department also offers a minor in Geospatial Technology with courses that include Digital Earth, Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing of the Environment.

    For more information about GIS Day 2017 and to register for the event, visit HERE. GIS Day 2017 will be held at the Grand Ballroom East at the SC on November 15, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    October 31, 2017

  • University of Miami Physicist Receives Prestigious Recognition from the American Physical Society - October 25, 2017

    University of Miami Physicist Receives Prestigious Recognition from the American Physical Society


    Neil Johnson, a professor in the Physics Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences known for applying physics to collective behavior, has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to physics with his election as a 2017 Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) by the APS Council of Representatives.

    According to the nomination letter, Johnson is being honored for “significant advancements in the area of physics and society both in the public domain and among policymakers, involving the application and implementation of new physics on the topic of complex systems and networks.”

    Neil Johnson UM College of Arts and SciencesThe APS also awarded Johnson its Joseph A. Burton Forum Award, which the society bestows on scholars for their outstanding contributions to the public understanding or resolution of issues involving the interface of physics and society. Johnson will receive a $3,000 monetary award when society members formally present him with the Forum Award, which recognizes the many scientific contributions of Joseph Burton, APS’ treasurer from 1970 to 1985.

    Johnson credited both the award and fellowship to UM's vision for fostering problem-based interdisciplinary research by its faculty, both within the College of Arts and Sciences and beyond. “I am so pleased that the international physics community is now embracing a broader scope for physics that will help attract more students and increase the wider relevance of the subject,” he said.

    Johnson’s expertise focuses on the physics of collective behavior and emergent properties in complex real-world systems—from the physical, biological, medical, social and financial domains. In addition to his core physics research in the area of smart materials, energy harvesting and cyber-physical systems, Johnson has recently analyzed the role women play in extreme networks, such as terrorist groups, and how infinitesimal delays in electronic stock exchange data can affect networks that operate quicker than the blink of an eye. 

    He currently leads an interdisciplinary research group studying the collective behavior of physical, biological, medical, social, and financial systems.

     

     

    October 25, 2017

  • Advocating for the Humanities - October 18, 2017

    Advocating for the Humanities

    A significant grant from the Mellon Foundation will help researchers discern how the public regards the humanities.

     online-news-warHow are the humanities perceived in society today and how does the news media portray these perceptions? 

    Defending, preserving and advocating for the humanities is the prime mission for a group of researchers here at the University of Miami, the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and California State University, Northridge. Funded by a $1.1 million grant, they hope to collect massive amounts of data from digital magazines, newspapers, blogs, TV and radio news to dig deep into the current conversation about how the public views the humanities.

    “Our hypothesis is that computational methods can help us learn new things about how news media sources portray the humanities,” said Lindsay Thomas, assistant professor in the English Department at the UM College of Arts and Sciences, who specializes in the digital humanities, media and cultural studies, and contemporary American literature.

    Professor Lindsay Thomas Lindsay Thomas, English Department

    ‌Thomas is also co-director of the UCSB-based project WhatEvery1Says (WE1S), a multi-institutional digital humanities project that uses digital humanities methods to study current public discourse about the humanities. The project is an extension of 4Humanities, an advocacy initiative Alan Liu, an English professor at UCSB, started in 2010 in response to what some call the “humanities crisis”—the perception that the humanities are of little value in higher education.

    In 2013, Liu also started WE1S to source digital media as a way to learn what pundits, politicians, scholars, students and others think about the humanities. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation recently awarded WE1S the $1.1 million grant to continue studying the representation of the humanities in public discourse.

    “With this grant, we hope to accomplish a few things,” said Thomas. “One wing of the project is more scholarly, which includes writing articles, conference papers and creating materials for other scholars about our technical methods and findings. The other wing focuses on public-facing output, such as growing our website and producing research-based materials like brochures, flyers, posters, and infographics that communicate our findings. These materials can be used by academics, journalists, administrators and government officials when making arguments about why we need to support the humanities.”

    Thomas says the grant will support graduate research assistants at UM and UCSB, two post-doc scholars at UCSB and undergraduate summer researchers at California State University, Northridge. Focused data collection using computer algorithms will search a wide variety of archived media that incorporate the word “humanities” in the texts.    

    “Unfortunately, we are going to miss some things,” said Thomas. “For example, if an article uses the word ‘history’ instead of ‘humanities,’ we won’t be able to capture it for our data collection, but our hypothesis is that articles that use the word ‘humanities’ are the best and first place to look for any discourse about the humanities."

    Other aspects of the project include searching how the humanities are mentioned within Spanish-language sources and creating customizable tools for other digital humanists to use when engaging in research and data collection on larger scales. According to its mission statement, the Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to the flourishing of humankind and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. For more information about WE1S, its mission and who is involved, visit http://we1s.ucsb.edu/.

     # # #

    October 18, 2017

  • Combating Mental Illness with Religious Intervention - October 12, 2017

    A pilot study will examine whether integrating religious interventions into an existing mental illness treatment—and offering the therapy at a religious institution—will help keep participants engaged and on the road to wellness

    mental illness and religion
    Can depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses be combatted using both established psychotherapeutic treatments and religious interventions? A new pilot study led by Amy Weisman de Mamani, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, will test that hypothesis with help from a three-year, $25,000 John Templeton Foundation grant.

    Weisman de Mamani’s expertise focuses on family, religious, and other socio-cultural factors that influence the course and outcome of mental illness. Her pilot study is entitled “A culturally informed, religiously based, cognitive behavioral, mental health treatment offered in religious institutions and other community settings.”  

    Her proposal suggests taking two different groups—one for individuals with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and another for individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, and other normative issues—and conducting the treatment sessions at UM and at Coral Gables United Church of Christ.

    According to the proposal, participants will be free to choose the most suitable site for their personal needs. Those meeting at the church will also interact with the senior pastor, who will sit in on some treatment sessions and provide feedback to Weisman de Mamani and her team on ways to enhance the sessions.

    “Overall, we want to see if offering psychotherapies in religious institutions will help retain religious individuals in treatment longer,” said Weisman de Mamani. “Though we found the intervention being tested to be highly effective in reducing psychiatric symptoms in our earlier research, we also observed that more religious individuals were more likely to drop out of therapy prematurely. Thus, by better integrating religion into the treatment and offering one arm at a church, our hope is that we will better engage religious clients in therapy and retain them longer, which should ultimately be linked to a better outcome.”

    amy-weisman-de-mamani
    Amy Weisman de Mamani, Dept. of Psychology

    Weisman de Mamani says the treatment itself is completely non-denominational and participants actually draw on their own religious beliefs and practices, such as thinking about religious scriptures, to help them through the sessions and to cope with a particular mental issue.

    “As a pilot program offered in a Christian church, we expect that the majority of participants will be Christian. But in the future, we hope to continue the study in other religious institutions, such as a mosque or a synagogue,” said Weisman de Mamani. “For those who are religious, we are really just tapping into clients’ religious values, beliefs, and behaviors to make the treatment more relevant and to help keep them engaged with society and with meaningful, healthy behaviors.”

    In her proposal, Weisman de Mamani states that “collaborating with mental health practitioners, religious leaders, and educators will allow researchers to develop a model that could easily be implemented in a range of religious and community mental health centers around the country and integrate spirituality into mainstream psychotherapy practices.”

    The pilot study will not exclude participants from any religion nor dictate which beliefs and practices participants choose to draw from in therapy. During the therapy sessions, participants will pose their own religious solutions and discuss these with the therapists, religious leaders, and other group participants.

    Weisman de Mamani is the author of many previous studies that focus on religion and mental illness. Her current project is an extension of an earlier study entitled “Does religiosity predict attrition from a culturally-informed family treatment for schizophrenia that targets religious coping?” It was recently published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.  

    October 12, 2017

  • Communing Across the Centuries - October 5, 2017

    Communing Across the Centuries

    New Weeks Chair explores lingering impact of colonialism on contemporary literature—and life.

    When Yolanda Martínez San Miguel was still early in her studies of contemporary Latin American and Caribbean literatures, she didn’t expect to have much academic use for the politics and poetry of the New World when it was nearly brand new. But that was before Martínez San Miguel, the new Marta Weeks Chair in Latin American Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, learned of the life and work of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a poet, philosopher, and nun during Mexico’s 17th-century colonial period. Her introduction to the self-taught Sor Juana happened during a graduate survey course at the University of California Berkeley, and it would turn out to be a serendipitous encounter.

    New Weeks Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Modern Languages and Literature
    Yolanda Martinez San Miguel is the new Weeks Chair in MLL

    Often referred to as “The Phoenix of America” and “The Tenth Muse,” de la Cruz’s intellectual force and fearlessly feminist literary output have fascinated scholars for centuries—and Martínez San Miguel soon became one of them. “I just fell in love,” she said.

    “In her writing, Sor Juana asked very tough questions about the place of women in the Americas in the 17th century, a time when women were not allowed to go to the university or participate in philosophical debates,” Martínez San Miguel said. “So literature became her avenue to think about knowledge production and colonialism. Her works changed the entire direction of my research.”

    Sor Juana became the subject of Martínez San Miguel's first book, published in 1999, and, across the more than three centuries separating the two women’s lives, came to inform her view of the present as well as the past. In particular, Martínez San Miguel said her historical studies broadened her understanding of colonialism and its lingering effects—a highly relevant issue in many Caribbean nations today.

    That’s especially the case for Puerto Rico, where Martínez San Miguel taught for a year and a half at her undergraduate alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico, after completing her doctorate at Berkeley.

    Even decades before Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in ruins, the U.S. commonwealth has been in a state of economic crisis—a result of the social and economic structures lingering from the country’s beginnings as a Spanish colony in the 15th century, followed by its extended colonial relationship with the United States. The island’s crushing debt and widespread poverty provided Martínez San Miguel a backdrop similar to colonial Mexico during Sor Juana’s life. Hurricane Maria brought these grievous disparities into even bolder relief.

    Engaging With Colonial Echoes
    Martínez San Miguel has pursued this line of inquiry through a series of books that engage contemporary issues on many fronts, including 2014’s Coloniality of Diasporas: Rethinking Intra-Colonial Migrations in a Pan-Caribbean Context. She won the 2017 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies for Trans Studies: The Challenge to Hetero/Homo Normatives, which she co-edited with her Rutgers University colleague, Sarah Tobias. 

    Following teaching stints at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers was Martínez San Miguel’s academic home for more than a decade before she joined the University of Miami this year as the Weeks Chair. Her students can look forward to an illuminating discussion about the continued relevance of centuries-old writings.

    “Some students find the currency of colonialism surprising, but not all,” she said. “It often depends on where they’re from. Students from India, for example, totally understand the contradictions of countries that are independent yet still deal with colonial structures and mentalities.

    “Here in the U.S., the whole racial debate has a colonial dimension. When did race become defined the way we know it today? Colonial notions continue to inform the way we think about race through inherited language, knowledge, systems, and institutions. It can be a struggle to learn about these realities while unlearning racist and colonial legacies.”

    For students, she said, that struggle can cause defensiveness—especially at a time when the country’s overall conversation about race is at a fever pitch. 

    “It’s hard to see a system and engage it, knowing it is not a question of feeling guilty for it,” Martínez San Miguel said. “Perhaps you are not guilty, but you are responsible for the system in which we all live. Usually the first response is, ‘But I’m not a racist or an imperialist!’ Sometimes it’s the white student who feels most challenged.

    “There can be heated debates in class, and my role is to protect everybody so they can say what they need to say, be listened to, and also listen themselves,” she continued. “It’s my responsibility to open space for everyone to listen and unlearn what we take for granted, so we can transform the world in which we live.”


    By David Menconi

    A&S News

     

    October 05, 2017

  • Extending A Hand to Scholars in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean - October 5, 2017

    Extending A Hand to Scholars in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

    University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences invites professors and graduate students to continue their research at UM

    The University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences is opening its doors and welcoming professors and graduate students from Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands who were adversely affected by the recent hurricane to continue their research at UM by offering access to libraries, A&S laboratories, core facilities, and research supplies and equipment. 

    “The work of many scholars and graduate students was halted after Hurricane Maria swept through the Caribbean,” said Dean Leonidas Bachas, College of Arts & Sciences.  “We want to send a message to our colleagues and friends in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands that while their countries rebuild they have our support during this very trying time. Until their institutions of higher learning reopen and resume normal operations, we welcome fellow researchers and scholars to use our facilities and make the Coral Gables campus their home base for research in the sciences, social sciences, the arts, and humanities.”

    The College will allow university faculty members and graduate students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Caribbean territories to use A&S facilities until their institutions are fully operational and able to resume classes.

    “Our A&S faculty want to help universities in the Caribbean that are still without power and unable to service their students and faculty,” said Angel Kaifer, senior associate dean for research and graduate education at the College. “We sincerely welcome them to utilize our facilities and, if they choose, collaborate with our 400-plus faculty members.”

    The College of Arts & Sciences is the University of Miami’s largest academic unit and is housed in 21 buildings on the Coral Gables campus. The College has 20 departments and 18-plus programs of which 10 are interdisciplinary. 

    October 05, 2017

  • The Psychological Impacts of Natural Disasters on Youth - October 2, 2017

    The Psychological Impacts of Natural Disasters on Youth

    Children’s mental state plays an important factor in their developmental growth. After recent storms devastated parts of the U.S. – Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico – all contributing to massive evacuations of children and families, which children need more attention or support services in the aftermath of these storms and the related stressors that come with surviving and witnessing the destructive power of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane?

    Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami, Annette M. La Greca, is fully aware of children’s reaction to trauma. Her research focuses on the impact of disasters on youth since Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992. 

    La Greca, in collaboration with her UM graduate student, BreAnne Danzi, has been evaluating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. This line of research will help to quickly identify the children who need support services post-disaster. La Greca’s research has also identified key aspects of the post-disaster environment that facilitate children’s recovery.

    “The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm," said La Greca. “However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.”

    In a paper entitled, “Optimizing clinical thresholds for PTSD: Extending the DSM-5 preschool criteria to school-age children,” recently published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca and Danzi examined how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.

    According to the study, 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, which were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008, participated. They found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition.

    Thus, the preschool definition may be useful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.Additional research by La Greca and colleagues also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. Children who recover report having more social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed. 

    “We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said. “Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”

    Based on these findings, La Greca and colleagues developed a workbook, After the Storm, for parents to help their children cope after a hurricane (available for a free download at http://www.7-dippity.com/other/op_storm.html). The guide has been widely used after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.

    The workbook addresses ways to help most children recover, such as having a normal routine, staying connected to friends and family, eating healthy, exercising, resuming leisure activities, proper sleep and avoiding media or online coverage of aftermath damage and distress. La Greca added that helping others in need and identifying things to be grateful for can also help to maintain a positive perspective.

    “There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”

    October 02, 2017

  • Journey to the Soul of Guna Yala airs on PBS - September 26, 2017

    Journey to the Soul of Guna Yala airs on PBS

    Award-winning documentary filmmaker and University of Miami alumna Stella M. Holmes brings to life the power of art to bridge divergent cultures in her documentary "A Journey to the Soul of Guna Yala," which airs Friday, Sept. 29, on PBS. The documentary explores the lives and art of the indigenous Guna people of Panama's San Blas Islands through an encounter with University of Miami students preparing an Artlab @ the Lowe exhibition of molas—the Guna people's unique art form—for the College of Arts and Sciences' Lowe Art Museumin 2013. Artlab @ the Lowe is a program that teaches first-time student curators at UM the hands-on experiences and behind-the-scenes complexities (and realities) involved in mounting an exhibit.

    September 26, 2017

  • University of Miami Professor Awarded 2017 Simons Investigator Award - August 29, 2017

    University of Miami Professor Awarded 2017 Simons Investigator Award

    Dr. Ludmil Katzarkov, a professor in the Mathematics Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, was recently awarded the prestigious Simons Investigator Award by the Simons Foundation.

    Dr. Ludmil Katzarkov, mathematics professor at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded the Simons Investigator Award.
    Dr. Ludmil Katzarkov is a professor in the Mathematics Department at UM.

    “The Simons Investigator Award in Mathematics is one of the most prestigious honors in the mathematics community,” said Stephen Cantrell, chair and professor in the Mathematics Department. “I am absolutely delighted for and very proud of Ludmil for this extremely well-deserved recognition.”

    On its website, the Simons Foundation’s mission is to “advance the frontier of research in mathematics and the basic sciences” by supporting scientists and their projects with research grants.

    “I work very hard and finally the work has paid off,” said Katzarkov. “I really hope to use this award to advance my research and to bring some world-class mathematicians to the University of Miami.”

    The award, according to the website, was given to Katzarkov for his “novel ideas and techniques in geometry, proving long-standing conjectures (e.g., the Shavarevich conjecture) and formulating new conceptual approaches to open questions in homological mirror symmetry, rationality of algebraic varieties and symplectic geometry.”

    Katzarkov’s research involves algebraic geometry, symplectic geometry and string theory. He has been a Simons Foundation Fellow and a Cooper Fellow, the College of Arts and Sciences notable award to faculty members. He also is participating in the Simons Collaboration on Homological Mirror Symmetry, which launched in 2015, and involves a field of mathematics inspired by theoretical physics.

     

     

     

    August 29, 2017

  • Lost City of Arabia Revealed - August 18, 2017

    Lost City of Arabia Revealed

    Archeological research by University of Miami professor featured in popular TV series Unearthed

    This summer University of Miami Professor David Graf directed an experienced international team of researchers in excavating the agricultural mysteries of a site near Petra, Jordan known as Ba’aja.

    Ba’aja is located about six miles north of Petra, which is the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. Nabataea was a Roman client-kingdom in Arabia located on the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire.

    At Ba’aja, Graf and his team uncovered several small ancient Nabataean settlements, agricultural storage areas, Aramaic inscriptions, cultic shrines, and approximately 24 wine presses, which led the team to believe that the villagers living outside of Petra were, surprisingly, vineyard farmers during the early Roman era.

    “Together, we are changing the rural landscape of the Nabataeans, who for far too long have been depicted as milk-drinking nomads in the Roman era, but we hope in the future will be recognized as wine-drinking farmers,” said Graf.

    Graf and his team were not the only occupants interested in the site. While on location, a television production crew representing the Science Channel’s popular television show, “Unearthed,” filmed and interviewed Graf and his team for two days and featured the excavation and the city of Petra for the episode, “Lost City of the Desert,” which aired on August 15, 2017.

    "The recently released episode of the TV program 'Unearthed' on the majesty and mysteries of Petra, Jordan covered much of the intriguing history of this fabled ancient desert sandstone city and featured extensive interviews with archaeologists working there," said La Sierra University's Center for Near Eastern Archaeology Director Doug Clark. "I found all my Jordanian archaeology colleagues and their comments the best part of the program: articulate, informative, measured, clear, pertinent, and professional."

    Each hour-long episode of “Unearthed” combines scientific investigation with detailed computer-generated imagery to interpret mysteries of ancient civilizations and structures revealing how these sites were used and constructed.

    “Professor Graf’s appearance on ‘Unearthed’ highlights his international reputation as one of the preeminent scholars of Petra and the Nabataeans,” said David Kling, professor and chair of the Religious Studies Department.

    Since 1978,Graf has engaged in a number of archeological projects and excavations to uncover an understanding of the Nabataean kingdom, including its languages, army, trade, ethnicity, and relations with Rome.

    University of Miami Professor David Graf excavated in Petra, Jordan and was featured in the TV show "Unearthed" on the Science Channel. Dr. Graf (center) with international excavation team in Petra, Jordan

    August 18, 2017

  • UM's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Presents Free Season Preview Kick Off - August 10, 2017

    UM's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Presents Free Season Preview Kick Off

    Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Presents Free Season Preview Kick Off

    A season kick-off event open to the general public and UM students will celebrate the Ring Theatre’s 2017-2018 season of plays and musicals.

    The event features performances by theatre arts students and faculty from the upcoming performances of Pippin, Romance Romance, Romeo and Juliet, The Mountaintop, and Pirates of Penzance, along with additional songs from theatre arts majors.
     
    The free event takes place on Sunday, August 27, at 7:00 p.m. at the UM Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146.
     
    Tickets are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.Season tickets for the Ring’s 2016-2017 season will be available.

    For more information about the season’s offerings: http://www.as.miami.edu/ringtheatre/current-season/#d.en.57706/ or call: 305-284-3355

    August 10, 2017

  • SEEDS “You Choose” Leadership Award Applications Due October 10 - August 2, 2017

    SEEDS “You Choose” Leadership Award Applications Due October 10

    Awards foster diversity, career development, and academic support for University of Miami faculty across all campuses

    The SEEDS (A Seed for Success) Program is now accepting applications for its 2017-2018 “You Choose” Leadership Awards.

    SEEDS "Your Choice" Leadership Program 2017-2018“The prestigious SEEDS ‘You Choose’ Leadership Awards are given annually to nominated faculty members and are centered around constructive research, collaborative projects, mentoring, workshops, and seminars that increase diversity awareness and serve to advance the awardees’ own research efforts as well as areas of academic concentration and their professional profiles in academia, the University of Miami, and beyond,” said SEEDS Program Manager, Marisol Capellan.

    Established to promote academic support for UM faculty, the awards offer up to $2,500 to each winner who may use the funds for professional skills workshops, mentoring programs, seminar series, networking events, visits by experts and distinguished speakers, collaborative research, and leadership activities.  

    Eligibility has expanded to include all disciplines across UM’s three campuses. Tenured, tenure-track, research faculty and UM Libraries faculty are eligible, and postdoctoral researchers and graduate students may apply in partnership with UM faculty.

    SEEDS is now accepting all applications for the “You Choose” Leadership Awards until October 10, 2017, and winners will be announced on October.

    For more information and to apply, visit http://seeds.miami.edu/seeds/programs/you-choose/ For more information about SEEDS, please contact SEEDS Program Manager, Marisol Capellan, at mcapellan@miami.edu.

     

     

    August 02, 2017

  • University of Miami Professor Awarded Distinguished Medal for Expertise in International Relations - August 2, 2017

    University of Miami Professor Awarded Distinguished Medal for Expertise in International Relations

    Dr. Vendulka Kubálková, a professor of International Studies at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and former assistant provost for university-wide international studies, received an important honor from the Czech Republic this year: The Jan Masaryk Medal.

    Dr Vendulka Kubalkova
    Dr. Vendulka Kubálková

    The medal is named in honor of Jan Masaryk, who was the last Czech pre-communist minister of foreign affairs and assassinated during the Communist takeover in 1948.  After the fall of Communism, Masaryk became a symbol of post-communist international relations. The medal is awarded both for foreign policy and academic contributions.

    Professor Kubálková won the award for the latter category. She is recognized for being one of the most prominent theorists of international relations of Czech origin. But more important than the medal itself, is the significance of her mother country awarding it to her.

    At the height of the Cold War, as a graduate of the Charles University School of Law in Prague, Kubálková won an English scholarship in 1969 when Prague was full of Warsaw Pact tanks. Days before she was to leave for the United Kingdom, under threats, she agreed to cooperate with the Czechoslovak KGB but gave herself up to the British authorities a few days later in the UK. 

    For 23 years, she lived in involuntary political exile.  It was a tough time, she admits. Kubálková was stateless, undocumented, and could not return home because of a pending criminal sentence. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she was able to return to the Czech Republic, but only this year she has been invited to teach there. She is a Visiting Professor at the Prague School of Economics, and during her time away from UM, she remotely teaches graduate students from across Europe studying in Prague.

    Kubálková received an Ph.D. in International Politics (her second doctorate) and held academic positions in many countries including in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands and the United States.

    The Jan Masaryk Medal represents a full circle moment for Kubálková and an esteemed recognition from her mother country.  “It is a great honor, I have never expected it,” she said.


    By Andrew Boryga

    August 02, 2017

  • University of Miami Professor Elected to the Board of Directors of the Miami Scientific Italian Community - July 26, 2017

    University of Miami Professor Elected to the Board of Directors of the Miami Scientific Italian Community 

    Dr. Massimiliano Galeazzi, a professor and associate chair in the Physics Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, was elected to the board of directors of the Miami Scientific Italian Community (MSIC). He will serve as the board’s secretary.

    Dr. Massimilliano Galeazzi, professor of physics at the UM College of Arts and Sciences, was welcomed as secretary of the Board of Directors for the Miami Scientific Italian Community.
    Dr. Massimiliano Galeazzi, Physics Department

    MSIC is a non-profit organization of researchers as well as private and public institutions connecting universities and industries by promoting and supporting ideas of innovative technologies within the Italian scientific community in Florida. The organization also encourages development, research, and advancement of new synergies with Italy and the European Union.

    “The Miami Italian Scientific Community provides a bridge between research institutions and industries to facilitate the transfer of technology and the collaboration between researchers from different backgrounds at an international level,” said Galeazzi. “The work of the Miami SIC leverages Miami’s unique geographic location and distinguished Italian academic community, combined with its rich academic and technological environment.”

    Galeazzi, who is currently in charge of the experimental astrophysics lab at UM and the Principal Investigator of NASA’s DXL sounding rocket mission, has collaborated with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA to develop an X-ray satellite designed to study deep space and X-ray radiation from galaxies millions of miles from Earth. His research centers on understanding the origin and structure of diffused X-ray radiation from our solar system and beyond.

    Galeazzi earned his Ph.D. from the University of Genoa in 1999. He was recognized for his research with a faculty award from the UM College of Arts and Sciences in 2005 and was awarded the Robert H. Goddard (RHG) Exceptional Achievement Award by NASA in 2016 and the RHG Director’s Team Recognition Award in 2008

     

     

    July 26, 2017

  • Predicting Future Outcomes in the Natural World - June 22, 2017

    Predicting Future Outcomes in the Natural World

    A study reveals how computer-based modeling can help researchers predict the optimal outcome to save natural habitats from invasive plants

    When pesticides and intentional fires fail to eradicate an invasive plant species, declaring biological war may be the best option.

    A weevil which was released into Florida's wetland to reduce the spread of the invasive tree species the melaleuca tree. The melaleuca weevil is only 6 to 9 mm in length.

    Melaleuca, an invasive, woody tree native to Australia, was introduced into Florida’s wetlands in the late 19th century and has caused havoc ever since by invading and displacing native vegetation and harming the biodiversity of the state’s freshwater ecosystems.

    In 1997, to combat the intruder, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released melaleuca’s natural enemy—a small beetle known as the weevil—into areas where the tree thrived. The weevil, also a native of Australia, feeds on melaleuca, essentially disrupting its natural growing process and killing it slowly over time.

    According to University of Miami graduate student Bo Zhang, who earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, over the past 20 years, the weevil has helped reduce melaleuca reproduction by 49 percent and its growth by 83 percent.

    That would indicate the weevil is succeeding in its mission to reduce the spread and growth of melaleuca, but is 20 years worth of data enough to predict whether the weevil will vanquish the intruder entirely?

    In their study, "Modeling the long-term effects of introduced herbivores on the spread of an invasive tree," published in the journal Landscape Ecology, Zhang said she and her collaborators used an individual-based modeling platform, known in scientific circles as JABOWA-II, to come up with a hopeful answer.

    Simulating various outcomes of the weevil’s impact on two types of South Florida habitats under attack by melaleuca—cypress swamps and bay swamps—the researchers found that the wetland’s dominant native species may recover in about 50 years from when the weevil was first introduced in 1997, further suppressing melaleuca through competition.

    Melaleuca tress in the Florida wetlands

    Melaleuca trees in South Florida
    Maleleuca trees in South Florida.

    In essence, Zhang said, the model proves that introducing herbivores to an invasive species can save the native species, a finding that can be applied to other studies seeking similar outcomes in the natural world.

    “This individual-based model is used for a lot of ecological research but this is the first time it was used to model the long-term effects of an invasive species,” said Zhang. “Basically, it can simulate each individual tree inside a plot of land and this provides more detailed information about biocontrol outcomes and, ultimately, what is the best outcome for the future.”

    She adds that the model also provides researchers or government officials who are monitoring the small beetle’s effect on the melaleuca’s growth important long-term information—what areas need more insects, which need less, or which could disappear in a number of years.  

    Zhang’s collaborators on the study are Donald L. DeAngelis from the Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center at the U.S. Geological Survey; Min Rayamajhi from the USDA-ARS Aquatic Weed Research Laboratory; and Daniel Botkin from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study was funded by U.S. Geological Survey Priority Ecosystem Science for the Greater Everglades.

    June 22, 2017

  • University of Miami Professor Receives Recognition from the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals for Book on China-Japanese Relations - June 8, 2017

    University of Miami Professor Receives Recognition from the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals for Book on China-Japanese Relations

    June Teufel Dreyer, a professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, will be recognized by the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals for her book on Sino-Japanese relations this summer.

    Dreyer, who teaches courses on China, U.S. defense policy, and international relations, will be honored at an award ceremony in Japan on July 5; the prize also includes a gift of $10,000. Since its inception in 2014, the Kokkiken Japan Study Award recognizes academics and experts for their continued studies in Japan-related fields in the areas of politics, national security, diplomacy, history, education and culture, among others.

    Dr. June Dreyer, professor in the political science department, is heading to Japan in July to receive an award from the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.
    A&S Professor Dr. June Teufel Dreyer

    Dreyer’s book, “Middle Kingdom & Empire of Rising Sun: Sino-Japanese Relations, Past and Present,” details the resentful, troublesome, and at times, dangerous relationship between China and Japan from as early as 7th century AD. It also illustrates the centuries of Sino-Japanese relations and emphasizes how Japan and China took turns dominating, and on occasion, learning from the other.

    Although an expert in China relations, Dreyer lived in Japan for one year and during her spare time, studied Japanese history and politics.

    According to a letter from the Institute, Dreyer was recommended for the award from Professor Emeritus Sukehiro Hirakawa of the University of Tokyo and Vice-Chairman of the Japan Institute Tadae Takubo, who is also Professor Emeritus of Kyorin University. Takubo met Dreyer last year in Taipei as a member of an international monitoring team for the presidential election of Taiwan.

    Later this month, Dreyer will speak in Washington, D.C. at the 10th Annual Center for a New American Security Conference. She will join a panel discussion with renowned historians to address the risk of rivalry and conflict in Asia based on historical power, competition, internal drivers, and miscalculation.  

    Dreyer, who recently received the University of Miami’s faculty senate award as Distinguished Research Professor, was the former senior Far East specialist at the Library of Congress. She has also served as Asia policy advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations and as commissioner of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission established by the U.S. Congress. She received her B.A. from Wellesley College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard.

     

    June 08, 2017

  • Brain Development and Aging - June 1, 2017

    Brain Development and Aging

    New study by UM psychologists reveals that brain signals in specific regions change over a lifespan in ways that might be important for maintaining flexibility.

    The brain is a complex organ—a network of nerve cells, or neurons, producing thought, memory, action, and feeling. How does this complex system change from childhood to adulthood to late life in order to maintain optimal behavioral responses?

    These questions were put to the test by a group of University of Miami psychologists who studied hundreds of fMRI brain scans, from two separate datasets, to see how the variability of brain signals changes or remains the same during a human lifespan.

    brain scan from a fMRI scanner
    The UM team analyzed hundreds of brain scans of participants, ranging in age from 6 to 86, who were all in a “resting state,” which means they were not engaged in any particular task while in the fMRI scanner. The publicly available data, which is freely available to neuroimaging researchers, was acquired from the Nathan-Kline institute.

    “Resting state is a misnomer because intrinsically your brain is always doing something. There is always something happening in the brain,” said postdoctoral fellow Jason Nomi. “The scans we are looking at represent the baseline variability of ongoing activity in the brain at any given time. No one has really characterized this baseline across the lifespan.”

    Lucina Uddin, an associate professor of psychology in the UM College of Arts and Sciences, explains that studying the brain when it’s in a resting state allows researchers to “basically look at the organization of the brain as it is without any extra stressors or stimuli. What we are looking at is the intrinsic organization of the brain and how it changes across the lifespan.”

    By analyzing the resting-state fMRI data, the researchers were able to see how regions of the brain change from moment to moment and how those changes show a pattern across age and participants. Their results demonstrated that, instead of an overall decrease in variability with aging, as earlier studies showed, the brain displayed regional differences, with some areas of the brain showing increases in variability across age while other areas showed a decrease. 

    “As certain areas of the brain become more variable, it seems to compensate in some ways for the other parts of the brain that are decreasing,” said Aaron Heller, an assistant professor in the Psychology Department and senior author of the paper.

    “These patterns of variability that we notice in the brain signals are what we think relates to the ability to respond to new challenges in the environment,” added Nomi.

    Heller says that the next step is to test whether these patterns of variability have an impact on behavior in ways that are important to understanding lifespan, aging, emotional regulation, and developmental disorders such as autism.

    The study, “Moment-to-moment BOLD Signal Variability Reflects Regional Changes in Neural Flexibility Across the Lifespan,” was published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study, made possible with the help of a University of Miami Convergence Research Grant, is a collaborative effort of independent labs within the University of Miami Neuroimaging Facility within the Neuroscience Building on the Coral Gables campus.

    Additional authors of the study include Taylor S. Bolt and Chiemeka Ezie in the Department of Psychology.

    June 01, 2017

  • Building Bridges between Humanities and Science - May 24, 2017

    Building Bridges between Humanities and Science

    The University of Miami hosted its first medical humanities conference focused on the interdisciplinary studies of health, medicine, and the human experience.

    University of Miami host its first medical humanities summer institute in May.
    Nearly 100 professors, researchers, medical and health professionals, and students attended the University of Miami’s first Medical Humanities Summer Institute last week, which included keynote speakers and panel discussions with UM faculty and scholars from Princeton University, Harvard Medical School, Duke University, New York University School of Medicine, and University of Michigan.

    “Bringing together such a diverse and engaged audience to discuss topics of pressing and mutual interest for doctors, nurses, and patients alike fulfills an important goal of the Center for the Humanities to build bridges between the humanities and the sciences, including medicine," said Mihoko Suzuki, director of the UM Center for Humanities, which co-sponsored the event.

    In his opening remarks, Leonidas G. Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, called medical humanities “central to what we do.”

    “Humanities and the arts are an important aspect of the education of our students and of society,” he said. Bachas also discussed the College’s aim to integrate the humanities within its academic programming, exemplified in the lectures and events hosted by the Center for the Humanities and the College’s Medical Humanities minor, an interdisciplinary curriculum that introduces students to the practice and science of medicine from the perspective of the humanities.

    University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Dean Leonidas Bachas gives his welcoming remarks at UM's first Medical Humanities Summer Institute in May.
    College of Arts & Sciences Dean Leonidas G. Bachas

    Catherine Newell, the Medical Humanities program advisor and an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies, noted that the Medical Humanities minor as well as the Social Science and Medicine minor provide excellent interdisciplinary opportunities for students on a pre-med, pre-nursing or health care track. 

    “The two days presented a wonderful balance between research on public health and global medicine with the importance of engaging students and the medical community in a humanities-based perspective,” she said.

    Day one of the Institute focused on medical humanities and global health with keynote lectures on "critical global health" by João Biehl, professor of anthropology and co-director of the Program in Global Health Policy at Princeton University, and on "global health history," by David S. Jones, the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine at Harvard.

    In addition, panels featuring both UM faculty and faculty from other institutions, including Duke University, centered on the topics of women’s reproductive health in the Caribbean, and art, health, and medicine in Haiti.

    Day two of the Institute centered on the topic of medical professionals and the humanities with keynote lectures on "art and medicine" by Joel Howell, the Victor Vaughan Collegiate Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, and on the relationship between the caregiver and patient by Danielle Ofri, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine. 

    Panel discussions addressed questions concerning the importance of the humanities in medical education and practice, as well as effective teaching methods within the medical humanities academic curriculum.

    Welcoming the initiative, UM President Julio Frenk noted that, at his inauguration he spoke about the need to bridge the disciplinary silos that very often dominate work in academia. “The problem is not in the disciplines, but the absence of mechanisms for interdisciplinary dialogue, inquiry, and research programs,” he said. “The Medical Humanities Summer Institute is actually a great example of that idea.”

    University of Miami President Julio Frenk speaks at the first Medical Humanities Summer Institute in May.
    University of Miami President Julio Frenk

    In addition to UM’s Center for Humanities, the Institute was presented with support from UM’s Office of the President and Provost; Miller School of Medicine Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy; College of Arts and Sciences; Institute for the Advanced Study of the Americas; and Graduate School, and the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes.

    May 24, 2017

  • University of Miami Professor Receives Humboldt Research Award - May 24, 2017

    University of Miami Professor Receives Humboldt Research Award

    Mary Lindemann, professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, is a recipient of the Humboldt Research Award. She also will hold a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship during the same period.

    Mary Lindemann Chair of the History Department at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, is a recipient of the Humboldt Award.
    History Professor & Dept. Chair Mary Lindemann

    The award, given by the Germany-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, recognizes scholars whose research, theories or insights present a significant impact on his or her field of study and who are also expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. The Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards in all fields of scholarly endeavor annually.

    Lindemann is also the recipient of the Reimar Lüst Award, which is jointly sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. 

    “I am honored to be selected for the Reimar Lüst Award/Humboldt Research Award,” said Lindemann. “This award recognizes academic excellence as well as contributions to the promotion of academic exchanges between the United States and Germany.” 

    The Reimar Lüst Award is granted to no more than two Humboldt fellows in any given year.

    Lindemann will be spending the 2017-2018 academic year collaborating with colleagues at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute, Department of History and Cultural Studies, of the Free University of Berlin, and doing research on a major historical project tentatively entitled, “Fractured Lands: Northern Germany in an Age of Unending War, 1627-1721.” 

    She will also be co-coordinating a colloquium of the Berlin Program for pre- and postdoctoral researchers, which is a joint project of the Free University and the German Studies Association of which Lindemann is currently president. 

    “In an age when money is becoming increasingly tight for academic research, and research in the humanities is even more endangered, I am very grateful to institutions like the Humboldt Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities for their vital and vigorous support of scholarly research in the humanities and the social sciences,” said Lindemann.

    The award is valued at 60,000 euros, or approximately $67,000.

     

    May 24, 2017

  • Building Mental Toughness Off the Field—It’s All About Practice - May 18, 2017

    Building Mental Toughness Off the Field—It’s All About Practice

    A new study reveals that mindfulness training, but not relaxation training, benefits college athletes' attention. Practice engagement and program adherence are key.

    It’s no secret that performance excellence in sports requires dedicated practice and physical training. Much less is known about mental training to deal with the psychological pressures of competitive athletics, the mental game.

    A recent University of Miami study conducted in the laboratory of neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Jha, asked if mental toughness and resilience can be trained in collegiate football players. Results suggest that just like physical training, practice is key for mental training. Jha’s team found that greater practice and program adherence in a mindfulness training program, but not a matched relaxation training program, led to more stable attention and fewer attentional lapses in football players. 

    football on the field with "U" logoMindfulness involves focusing attention on present-moment experiences and observing one's thoughts and feelings without emotional reactivity or judgment.

    Jha is an associate professor in the UM College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology. Her lab has partnered with mindfulness expert and University of Miami Law School professor, Director of the Mindfulness in Law Program, and co-author, Scott Rogers, to develop, deliver, and evaluate the impact of short-form mental training programs involving mindfulness and relaxation for professionals who have high-stress careers from all walks of life—from military personnel and firefighters, to teachers and accountants.

    Back in 2014, the University of Miami Hurricanes football program partnered with Jha’s lab for a first-of-its-kind research study, documented by the Miami Herald, to investigate how mindfulness vs. relaxation training can help student-athletes cope with the high demands of collegiate athletics. The study, “‘We Are Talking About Practice’”: the Influence of Mindfulness vs. Relaxation Training on Athletes’ Attention and Well-Being over High-Demand Intervals,” was recently published online in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

    The study’s first author, UM psychology Ph.D. candidate Joshua Rooks, knows first-hand how demanding the life of a football player can be. Rooks, a former college football player who practiced mindfulness during his time as a tight end for the Northwestern University Wildcats, joined Jha’s lab in 2012.

    In the current study, Rooks monitored the attention and emotional well-being of student-athletes on the UM football team over a 4-week interval, during which Rogers delivered two matched training programs to subgroups of players. 

    One group, consisting of 56 players, received mindfulness training (MT), while the other group, consisting of 44 players, received relaxation training (RT). The players in the MT group participated in breathing exercises, body scans, and mindful awareness sessions, while the RT group partook in muscle relaxation exercises, place-guided imagery, and listening to relaxing music. Players’ attention was measured using the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), a test designed to promote mind wandering and measure attentional performance lapses. Their emotional well-being was measured by questionnaires accessing mood, anxiety, and depression levels.

    The 4-week interval of this project occurred while players faced intensive demands, both academically and physically, as part of their pre-season training. Prior research has found that high demand intervals, such as the academic semester and military pre-deployment training, degrade attention and emotional well-being in students and military service members. Here too, football players’ attention and emotional well-being degraded from the beginning to the end of the 4-week interval.  Yet high adherence to the MT program, but not the RT program, protected athletes’ sustained attention. The study also found that greater engagement in both MT and RT protected against a decline in well-being.  Thus, practice is paramount for program benefits.

    Football player holding a football with his eyes closed in contemplation.
    Professional sports teams have long used relaxation training with players. Recently, some teams have also introduced mindfulness training. High performance psychology coach, Dr. Michael Gervais, who serves as an advisor to Jha’s lab for their work with military cohorts, has offered mindfulness to pro-athletes, such as the Seattle Seahawks, with success. He says, “This is the type of research that moves the needle from theory to application. The hallmarks of elite performance within the most hostile environments are the ability to be tough minded, adjust to unpredictable demands, and to properly attend to the task at hand.”

    In addition to its potential to help athletes’ attention and well-being, mindfulness training has been examined in military service members during their high-demand predeployment training intervals. Prior studies have found that these intervals deplete attention and degrade emotional well-being.

    "Research like this is very important as the Army explores mindfulness training as a possible enabler to Soldier readiness," said Major General Walter E. Piatt, who is on the Advisory Committee for the Mindfulness Based Attention and Training (MBAT) Project in Jha’s lab, which is supported by Department of the Army Medical Research and Material Command.

    MG Piatt is uniquely aware of the importance of readiness for Soldiers as the Commanding General for the 10th Mountain Division, which has been nearly continuously deploying Soldiers since 2001.

    Thus, the results of this study suggest that more time spent engaging in mindfulness exercises may help build both cognitive and psychological resilience. At its conclusion, the findings of this Department of Defense funded study reveal that training the body and mind may be quite similar for “just as physical exercise must be performed with regularity to train the body for performance success, mental exercises must be practiced with regularity to benefit the athlete’s attention and well-being.”

    The study titled “‘We Are Talking About Practice’”: the Influence of Mindfulness vs. Relaxation Training on Athletes’ Attention and Well-Being over High-Demand Intervals,” is published online ahead of print by Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. Additional authors who contributed to the study are: Alexandra B. Morrison, Ph.D. and Merissa Goolsarran of the University of Miami.

    May 18, 2017

  • The College of Arts and Sciences Recognizes Faculty Cooper Fellows, Promotions, Awards of Tenure, and Scholarly Recognition Awards - May 4, 2017

    The College of Arts and Sciences Recognizes Faculty Cooper Fellows, Promotions, Awards of Tenure, and Scholarly Recognition Awards

    Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Leonidas Bachas and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc stand with Cooper Fellows Professor Michael Miller, Professor Gail Ironson, and Professor Francisco Raymo.
    Dean of the UM College of Arts and Sciences Leonidas Bachas and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc 
    photographed with Cooper Fellows Professor Michael Miller, Professor Gail Ironson, and 
    Professor Francisco Raymo.

    Established as a tradition in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, faculty were once again honored at the annual Faculty Scholarly & Creative Activities Recognition Reception.

    “Every year we come together to recognize and acknowledge our respectable faculty for their scholarship achievements,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Leonidas Bachas. “These faculty members are making significant changes in the lives of our hardworking undergraduate and graduate students. We also present one of the most prestigious recognitions in the College, the Cooper Fellowships, to those faculty who have shown a great contribution to our core missions of scholarship, teaching, and service.”

    The ceremony began with Dean Bachas congratulating the College’s newly promoted and tenured faculty.

    Carlos Llerena Aguirre, Art and Art History; Louise Davidson-Schmich, Political Science; Lise Drost, Art and Art History; Caleb Everett, Anthropology; Simon Evnine, Philosophy; George A. Gonzalez, Political Science; Youngmee Kim, Psychology; Gregory Koger, Political Science; and Alexandra Wilson, Biology, were all promoted to Full Professor.  

    The award of tenure as Full Professor was given to Jose Maria Cardosa da Silva, Geography & Regional Studies. The award of tenure as Associate Professor was awarded to Logan Connors, Modern Languages & Literatures and Ubbo Visser, Computer Science.

    The following faculty members were promoted to Associate Professor with tenure: Bridget Arce, Modern Languages & Literatures; William Pestle, Anthropology; and Lucina Uddin, Psychology.

    Faculty members promoted to Senior Lectures were Franklin Foote, Psychology; Claire Oueslati-Porter, Anthropology; and Rick Stuetzle, Psychology. Saneya Tawfik, Psychology, was promoted to Associate Professor of Clinical.

    Dean Bachas also introduced three Cooper Fellows—one of the highest honors in the College—who will receive research and teaching support for a three-year term: Professor of Psychology Gail Ironson, Professor of History Michael Miller, and Professor of Chemistry Francisco Raymo.

    At the reception’s finale, three faculty members were selected for Scholarly & Creative Activities Recognition Awards: Bruno Benedetti, Mathematics; Rebecca Doran, Modern Languages & Literatures; and Elizabeth Simpson, Psychology. 

    Dean Bachas also thanked departing Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc for his years of dedicated service to the University of Miami. LeBlanc, who has attended past A&S faculty award receptions, is leaving the U to take on a new role as president of George Washington University, starting August 1.

    May 04, 2017

  • Can Trusting Your Doctor Help Reduce Pain? - May 4, 2017

    Can Trusting Your Doctor Help Reduce Pain?

    A new study indicates how perceptions of clinician-patient similarity and trust can reduce pain at the doctor’s office

    Getting a shot at your doctor’s office can be a stressful experience. But what if you knew your doctor was from your hometown, liked the same food as you, or shared your religious beliefs? Now that you feel more culturally connected to your doctor, will the shot hurt less?

    It’s a scenario posed in a new study by Dr. Elizabeth Losin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences; Steven Anderson, a University of Miami graduate student in the Department of Psychology; and Tor Wager, Ph.D., Professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. The study is entitled, “Feelings of clinician-patient similarity and trust influence pain: Evidence from simulated clinical interactions,” and it is published in the Journal of Pain, the official journal of the American Pain Society.

    Dr. Elizabeth Losin's research focuses on patient-physician connections related to pain. In Losin’s lab, she simulates clinician-patient interactions to uncover the social and cultural factors that influence the pain that patients experience during medical care. Her goal is to try and find ways to help people feel less pain when seeing the doctor and help reduce phobias about doctor visits and check-ups.

    Losin says her study was inspired by clinical research literature that reveals how patients with racially or ethnically concordant doctors report higher levels of satisfaction. She notes that those studies often don’t include outcome variables with a physiological component, such as pain. So, it’s not clear how far the effects of feeling culturally similar to your doctor can go.

    “Pain also has a psychological component as well, and it’s the interaction between the psychological and physiological aspects of pain that we’re really interested in,” she said.

    Losin says that physician-patient interactions are typically fast and superficial so people often don’t actually get the time to figure out whether they have anything in common with their doctor.

    “You go to the doctor’s office and you have to get a procedure that is painful and scary,” said Losin. “We want to know how the doctor-patient dynamic, in this case how the doctor and patient perceive one another, might affect how much pain the patient feels from that painful medical procedure. If the patient feels they have something in common with their doctor, is that enough to actually change how much pain they feel?”

    For her study, Losin used a modified version of a “minimal group paradigm,” which is normally used in social psychology experiments to create artificial groups in the lab based on something completely arbitrary and superficial. This approach allows researchers to figure out the minimal conditions required for real-world intergroup behavior, like discrimination, to occur.

    In Losin’s study the groups weren’t quite so arbitrary. “We created the groups based on participants’ core personal beliefs and values, the same things that we think doctors and patients infer based on race and ethnicity in the context of medical care,” said Losin. “We gave participants a questionnaire that asked about their political ideology, religious and gender role beliefs and practices. When they came into the lab, we separated the participants into two groups and told them they were assigned to these groups based on their questionnaire answers but not giving specifics to which question put them there.”

    Losin says that the goal was to make people from the same group think they had something in common, which might then manifest itself as more positive feelings, like trust, towards participants playing the role of the doctor or the patient from their own group.

    The participants who played the patients interacted with one doctor from their own group and one doctor from the other group, both of their own gender. During the simulated clinical interaction, the doctors performed a pain-induction procedure on the patients by applying heat to their inner forearm, meant to simulate a painful medical procedure like a shot.

    “After the interaction, we asked both the doctor and the patient how similar they felt to each other and how much they trusted each other,” said Losin. “We predicted that patients would report being in less pain when they had a doctor from their own group than a doctor from the other group. We also expected less pain if the patients trusted their doctor more and felt more similar to them.”

    According to the study, the more patients reported trusting their doctor and feeling similar to them, the less pain they reported feeling from the heat on their arm. The study also suggests that participants who experience higher levels of anxiety on a day-to-day basis experienced greater reductions in pain from feeling close to their doctor.

    “Overall, we are interpreting our findings as suggesting that the doctor is essentially acting as a social placebo, playing the same role that a sugar pill would play if we were doing a study on placebo pain relief,” said Losin. “When someone believes that something is going to help relieve their pain, their brain naturally releases pain-relieving chemicals. Our hypothesis, based on what we are seeing, is that trusting and feeling similar to the doctor who is performing the painful procedure is creating that same kind of placebo pain relief.”

    Ultimately, Losin would like to use the results of her studies to design and test new methods clinicians can use during the doctor-patient interaction to build trust and help decrease pain for their patients

    May 04, 2017

  • Remembering Jeffrey S. Prince - May 3, 2017

    Remembering Jeffrey S. Prince

    The University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and the Biology Department are mourning the loss of Jeffrey S. Prince, 74, who passed away on April 27, 2017.

    Dr. Jeffrey Prince passed away on April 27, 2017.
    Dr. Jeffrey Prince passed away April 27, 2017

    Prince, who earned his Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1971, was an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Miami from 1974 to 2017. He was also a Visiting Associate Professor at Cornell University Shoals Marine Laboratory from 1976 to 1993 and the Director of the University of Miami Electron Microscopy Laboratory from 1979 to 2017.

    At UM, Prince trained a generation of students that have gone on to successful careers in medicine, academia, and industry. His teaching style and advanced courses provided UM students with the necessary research experience to prepare them for their next professional program and featured topics that illustrate unique and interesting aspects of organisms that awakened students’ interest.

    “Jeff Prince was one-of-a-kind, and he lived life to the fullest,” said Athula Wikramanayake, professor and Chair of the Biology Department. “He was passionate about many things, but in particular he loved working with undergraduates and getting them involved in research. Many of his former students give credit to Jeff for instilling in them a love for research and discovery that hugely impacted their own careers. We were lucky to have Jeff as a colleague for many years and we will miss this beloved man.”

    During his 40-plus years of teaching at UM, Prince published numerous articles in journals such as the Bulletin of Marine Science, the Journal of Cell Pharmacology, Nature Genetics, and the Journal of Molluscan Studies. He was also presented with the “Outstanding Biology Educator Award” and the University of Miami's “Excellence in Teaching Award.”

    His research interests included plant (seaweed) and animal (marine invertebrates) interactions; metabolism of defensive plant compounds examined at both the light and ultrastructural levels; and growth, effective reproduction, population structure and ultrastructure of seaweed populations.

    Prince also participated in interdisciplinary research alongside colleagues and faculty from the School of Engineering and the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine on ultrastructural studies of disease mechanisms in model organisms.

    Prince traveled extensively visiting all the continents, except Antarctica. He enjoyed spending time with the people in each country and would often choose homestays rather than hotels. His photographs, sketches, and journals captured the unique environment and culture of the places he traveled.

    Prince leaves behind his children Katherine Yanks and Graham Prince, and his grandchildren Sean, Evan, and Chloe.

     

    May 03, 2017

  • Truths and Answers about the Amazon - April 20, 2017

    Truths and Answers about the Amazon

    The Amazon rainforest in South America plays a vital role in regulating Earth’s climate and is home to thousands of species of wildlife. But much of what is currently known about the Amazon is based on about 1,000 plots of land each the size of a football field. That may sound like a lot, but not if you consider the Amazon covers over 2 million square miles or about two-thirds the size of the continental U.S.

    Dr. Kenneth Feeley looks up at a tree in the Amazon rain forest.
    Dr. Kenneth Feeley, Smathers Chair in Tropical Trees at the University 
    of Miami College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo credit: Gary Braasch)

    “You have the biggest rain forest in the world, and we’ve only studied 1,000 football fields of it,” said Dr. Kenneth Feeley, the Smathers Chair in Tropical Trees at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, who studies the ecology of tropical forests.  

    In a recent paper, “Ancient human disturbances may be skewing our understanding of Amazonian forests,” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Feeley argues that not only have researchers just scratched the surface of analyzing the Amazon, but the plots of land that we do analyze may have biases that are not accounted for.

    Namely, almost all of the plots are in areas with relatively “easy” access (for example, close to waterways or population centers) and have likely been impacted by humans for centuries.  

    According to Feeley, native inhabitants of Amazonia actively transformed and modified the forests along the Amazon River and its tributaries before their populations collapsed around the arrival of Europeans in 1492 AD. Given the long lifespan of Amazonian trees, many of the forests that biologists are studying today may still be recovering from human disturbances, potentially skewing interpretations of their growth and our understanding of how the Amazon is responding to climate change.

    Meanwhile, Feeley said the scientific community at large has spent less time studying the more remote parts of the Amazon that are harder to get to and hence less likely to have been impacted by ancient human activities. That doesn’t mean scholars and scientists should throw away all the research that’s been done, he says, but they should take the potential impacts of ancient humans into consideration and be careful about drawing conclusions based on current datasets.

    For example, Feeley said, it is hypothesized that, with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, tropical forests are able to grow faster and take up more of that CO2, thereby buffering the climate from our increasing carbon emissions. However, Feeley said, the research to support that claim is largely attributed to measuring a relatively small sample of trees that may have been disturbed by humans 500 years ago. 

    “How do we know those forests aren’t just recovering from that original disturbance?” he asked. “How do we know whether or not the rest of the Amazon is actually suffering under climate change and growing slower?  Until we are confident in the answers to these questions, we shouldn’t count on the Amazon to protect us against our increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Despite the large uncertainties, scientists and policy makers are continuing to make big judgments about the entire Amazon based off a relatively small and potentially compromised sample. With the publication of his paper, Feeley hopes to get funding that would help him and his colleagues investigate more diverse samples of land throughout the Amazon.

    He isn’t under the illusion that researchers will ever be able to assess the entirety of the Amazon but believes that, with help, scientists like him can do a more accurate job and gain better insight into the workings of the Amazon.

    “If you think of a phone survey where people call you to ask questions, they’re taking a small but systematic sample from all over the country and extrapolating out to the population,” he said. “That’s analogous to what we need to do. A more systematic or targeted sampling approach just might help us discover truths and answers about the Amazon and the Earth that we might’ve missed so far.”

    Feeley’s research collaborators include Crystal McMichael from the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam, Frazer Matthews-Bird from the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology, and William Farfan-Rios from the Department of Biology at Wake Forest University.


    By Andrew Boryga

    April 20, 2017

  • Antiquities and Archeological Mysteries - April 17, 2017

    Antiquities and Archeological Mysteries

    UM professor awarded distinguished fellowship in Jerusalem to continue archeological research

    Dr. David Graf in Petra where he has discovered archeological findings for decades.
    Dr. Graf, photographed here in Petra, has traversed the Arabian desert.

    For almost forty years, Dr. David F. Graf has traversed the deserts of the Middle East, searching for and discovering archeological gems.

    Now, Graf, a faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Religious Studies, will continue his research in antiquities as the winner of the prestigious Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professor Fellowship at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Israel.

    Graf says he was “stunned” when he received his award letter from the renowned institution, founded in 1900, because “there is a lot of competition for this fellowship from people who have made a significant contribution in the area of archeological research.”  

    During his four months at the archeological research institute, Graf will work on a monograph on “The History of the Nabataeans: Rome’s Arabian Client-Kingdom.” Nabataea was a Roman client-kingdom in Arabia, located on the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. According to Graf, the kingdom played an important role in the regional politics and international trade in the Hellenistic and Early Roman eras, serving also as a buffer on the border of the Roman Empire.

    Since 1978, Graf has engaged in a number of archeological projects and excavations to uncover an understanding of the Nabataean kingdom, including its languages, army, trade, ethnicity, and relations with Rome.

    “The Nabataean kingdom is quite large,” said Graf. “It extends from Damascus in Syria to the Hijaz of Saudi Arabia, and from the middle of the Syrian Desert to the Suez Canal of Egypt. For many years, I have been working in this area doing pioneering, archeological work. Most of this vast territory was previously unexplored. The history of the Nabataeansis what I am going to write this monograph about while in Israel.” 

    Petra, Jordan is home to the captial of Nabataean kingdom, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, and considered one of the new “Seven Wonders of the World.” In 1989, the site was also featured in the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Graf, who was excavating at the site during filming, said he had the pleasure of meeting the film’s actors Sean Connery and Harrison Ford.  

    This summer, Graf is attending a conference on the “Cities of the Roman East” in Italy where he will read a paper on Palmyra, an ancient Syrian site destroyed by ISIS. He is also heading back to Petra to direct excavations at Ba'aja, a site near Petra. His nine-member international team will assist Graf as he surveys the area, which includes buildings, houses, shrines, and hydrological systems in which the Nabataean inhabitants irrigated fields for the production of wine.

    Graf says he would now like to focus his efforts on gathering all of his research from his 30-year career for others to read.

    “At this point in my career, it’s important to me that I publish what I have accumulated over the years and make it available for other researchers, scholars, and students,” said Graf. “I have worked all over the Middle East. I’ve excavated at Petra and collected and published inscriptions in Turkey, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The way I like to put it: I’ve worked from the Euphrates to the Nile.”

     

    April 17, 2017

  • Social Signals in Infants - April 13, 2017

    Social Signals in Infants

    UM psychologist will study the social behavior of infants with NSF grant support

    It may seem as a rude gesture, but University of Miami researchers in the Department of Psychology’s Child Division regularly stick their tongues out at newborn babies—all in the name of science.

    Dr. Elizabeth Simpson sticks her tongue out at a newborn baby all in the name of science. Dr. Simpson studies infants' social behavior in her lab.

    This approach to studying the development of social behavior in infants, known as neonatal imitation, is one taken by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Simpson in her Social Cognition Lab in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

    Specifically, her research focuses on the development of social cognition and how infants begin to understand their social world. She studies their early foundational social skills, including face perception and imitation, from birth to the first year of life.

    Her study aims to enhance the understanding of healthy sociality in infants, while ultimately helping to identify infants at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

    “We don’t have a lot of information about the early social behaviors of infants, yet, we know that there are dramatic changes that happen in that first year of life,” said Simpson. “Babies grow into these very social creatures in the first months of life, and we are interested in looking at individual differences, such as why some babies are social and outgoing while others are shy and withdrawn.”

    Simpson will be able to continue her research in this field with the help from a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, a prestigious award supporting junior faculty who excel in their role as academics in research and education. Dr. Elizabeth Simpson shares facial expressions with a newborn baby who mimics her actions.

    The award provides Simpson with $675,000 for the next five years, funding for two graduate students, and the opportunity to develop a mentoring summer research program for undergraduate students who are underrepresented in the field of science, such as first-generation college students, women, and minorities.
    ‌‌
    Simpson’s study in human infants is based on a previous study she conducted on monkey infants, which resulted in the finding that if the monkey infant was better at imitating during that first week of life, it went on to become more social, engaged in more play behavior, and initiated more social interactions.

    “In essence, we are trying to translate that animal research to humans and see if we can replicate it,” said Simpson. 

    Research and knowledge about the nature of early imitation in infants will give Simpson, and other researchers, insight into the individual differences of children as they develop to understand and identify when a child begins to deviate from the path of healthy development. Simpson and her team will measure the visual attention and neonatal imitation capabilities, as well as saliva samples, of 100 babies in the South Florida community.

    For more information on participating, families can contact the lab by phone 305-284-8431, email (SCL@miami.edu) or can sign up online at http://is.gd/redcap_umiami_childscientist.

    April 13, 2017

  • A Legacy of Love and Ideas - March 30, 2017

    A Legacy of Love and Ideas

    It was a night of gratitude, a night of remembrance, and a night of celebration as University of Miami alumni, faculty, and esteemed guests gathered together to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program.

    Dr. Eugene Clasby director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program
    Dr. Eugene Clasby founded the College of Arts and Sciences' MALS program 25 years ago.

    The MALS program was founded in 1991 by Eugene Clasby, professor of English, with support from many of UM’s gifted scholars and teachers. To date, over 400 students have graduated with a MALS degree, said Daniel Pals, professor of history and religious studies and current MALS director.  As an interdisciplinary program, MALS provides students the opportunity to interact with a broad range of topics at the graduate level, something unique in higher education.

    “When I envisioned this program,” Clasby said, “I wanted students to fall in love again…fall in love with something that fills their hearts and fills their minds and makes them want to go out on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and spend two hours in a classroom, even when they have kids at home and other important things to do. MALS is a legacy of love and a legacy of ideas.”

    Clasby’s expertise lies in medieval and renaissance literature, with specializations in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Middle English literature. He earned his A.B. in English at Boston College and continued his studies at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D.

    A&S faculty who teach courses within the MALS program, including David Graf, professor of religious studies; Patrick McCarthy, professor of English; Manuel Huerta, professor of physics; Stephen Stein, professor of history; and J. Tomas Lopez, professor of art and art history, shared their deep admiration and respect for Clasby.

    Throughout the evening, faculty and guests also expressed fond memories of Clasby’s wife, Nancy, who passed away last November. As a fellow professor in the English Department, she positively influenced his decisions as the MALS director and hosted an annual holiday event at their home welcoming students as family.

    UM alumna and MALS graduate Marlene Bryan, Class of 2011, said she was nervous about returning to school but found her path in the MALS program, all thanks to Clasby.

    “After 20-plus years of not being in school, I didn’t think I could do it, but Dr. Clasby encouraged me, and he opened that door to a new journey,” said Bryan. “Thank you, Dr. Clasby, for opening doors for us. Thank you for making us better. Thank you for letting your vision shine.”

    During his 54-year teaching career, Clasby authored two books on myth, literature, and scripture, countless academic publications, and was awarded numerous teaching and professional acknowledgments and recognitions. His most recent translation, Le Pèlerinage de l'âme (The Pilgrimage of the Soul), was published last month.

    Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also announced the establishment of the Dr. Eugene Clasby Student Award created to support MALS students with research, publications, academic potential, and performance.

    “MALS is a program that has also made a difference to a lot of our staff,” said Dean Bachas. “They have not only learned something significant but had the ability to advance in their careers, communicate more effectivity, and think across multiple disciplines. I genuinely appreciate what Eugene has done for the program and for the University.”

     

    March 30, 2017

  • A Young Investigator of Physics - March 24, 2017

    A Young Investigator of Physics

    He Wang, an assistant professor of physics, joined the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences just last August but she is already making big waves.

    Late last year, Wang was notified that she won a grant from the prestigious 2017 Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFSOR) Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) to continue investigating the potential application of next-generation LEDs, solar cells, transistors, and lasers.

    He Wang
    He Wang, an assistant professor of physics

    YIP is a research grant award that is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received a Ph.D. or an equivalent degree in the last five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting research.The objective of the grant is to foster creative research in science and engineering, enhance career development of talented young researchers, and increase their opportunities to recognize and tackle significant challenges in the fields of science and engineering.Wang’s winning proposal was titled “Structure-Photophysics-Function Relationship of Perovskite Materials.”Her research focuses on investigating device physics and photophysics of organic and organic-inorganic hybrid optoelectronic materials. In layman’s terms, optoelectronics is the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect, and control light. An example would be solar cells or LED devices.Wang said she is excited about the award.“I have been studying these subjects for some time and I look forward to using the resources of this grant to gain even more insight,” she said.She tunes the structure of thin films comprised of these materials, uses laser spectroscopy to understand dynamics, and combines her knowledge of physics and engineering to think about the potential application of next-generation LEDs, solar cells, transistors, and lasers.In her proposal for YIP, she focused on studying a new classification of materials associated with this field: organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite materials. Perovskite is a specific type of crystal structure found in materials that can be used for solar cells and LED technology.Over the course of the next three years, she will use aspects of physics, chemistry, materials science, and engineering to study the fundamental behavior of these materials and what they could possibly be used for in the future.This will be a continuation of the research she began when she entered Princeton University as a graduate student in 2008. After receiving her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Princeton in 2013, she was a postdoctoral fellow in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley for nearly three years before joining the College of Arts and Sciences’ physics department.There were over 230 proposals for the YIP last year and grants were awarded to just 58 scientists and engineers. In total, these young researchers received $20 million, or $360,000 per winner. The grant is spread out over the course of three years and can be used to support research, hire personnel, and acquire any necessary lab equipment.


    By Andrew Boryga  March 24, 2017

  • Finding a Solution Against Violence - March 20, 2017

    Finding a Solution Against Violence

    UM professor wins ACLS grant to continue his studies on violence and the human condition.

    Dr. Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology at the University Miami College of Arts and Sciences, has focused most of his research on understanding violence as essential to social life.

    As he notes, most scholars see forms of violence in society as discrete phenomena with clear determinants, while others shed light on their (im)morality and their destructive power. “While these approaches are important in helping us make sense of identifiable acts of violence, their randomness and epidemiology,” Marcelin says his work “takes a holistic perspective on the topic, a view that goes beyond thinking of violence as belonging to the realm of the absurd. 

    Violence, he says, is not an anonomy or outside of what make us humans.

    Louis Herns Marcelin, UM College of Arts and Sciences, University of Miami, Department of Anthropology, Haiti, violence in Haiti, recovery in Haiti
    Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology

    “Instead, violence is foundational of social life and quintessential to power relations among humans. Violence is constitutive of the human condition.”

    Starting this summer, Marcelin will take a full academic year of research leave to further explore this theme as a recipient of an American Council of Learned Studies (ACLS) fellowship for his proposal, Democratization Process, Violence, and Peacebuilding in Contemporary Haiti.

    As an ACLS fellow, he will work on a book that focuses on violence and human insecurity in post-dictatorship and post-disaster Haiti. The book builds on a series of transdisciplinary, multistage, ethnographic and sociological studies he has conducted in Haiti, where he was born, over the course of 25 years.

    His research interrogates the standard categorization and analysis of and community responses to violence. It highlights the unique value of ethnography as a distinctive means to investigate the principles at work in the production and reproduction of violence in sociocultural contexts like Haiti.

    Marcelin is aware that this award was not simply for his own work, but the result of thought-provoking collaborations and reflections with UM colleagues and students, as well as other scholars from other parts of the world, including Haiti, South Africa, Brazil, France, and Canada.

    “When I found out about this, I was humbled by it,” he said. “What it means is that it pays off to think in collaborative terms. It’s a product of what other people have helped me become. I am saying this because there is more reward in academia when we work collaboratively.”

    For this fellowship, Marcelin will work through the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), a Haiti-based institute he co-founded to better integrate various disciplinary tools and perspectives in an effort to assist the people of Haiti.

    Marcelin has continued to conduct research in Haiti over the past three decades, more recently expanding the scope of his work to explore how natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, affect communities as these are prolonged moments of crises, when violence in all forms is most prevalent.

    Despite his focus on the darkest dimensions of the human condition, Marcelin remains an optimist. He says he is able to stomach years of research on violence because of his obligation to understand it and communicate his findings to others through his research.

    “Sometimes you cannot sanitize it, ” he said. “It is the ugliness of abject human suffering that I cannot stomach; however, it forces me to look at what people living in these circumstances have in terms of resources and how these resources can be channeled in order to reverse their condition.”

    Marcelin’s research goes beyond focusing on victims and/or offenders by exploring unjust structures that enable violence to erupt in the first place. 

    In addition to his ACLS fellowship, Marcelin also has been awarded the Residency Program at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in South Africa, a four-month program in South Africa, where he will write several chapters of his book based on a comparative account of the nexus between violence and democracy in two shantytowns, one in Haiti and the other in South Africa.

    These two fellowships will allow Marcelin the opportunity to examine sociocultural variations between democratization processes and violence.

    “Everything humans do, humans can undo,” he said. “That’s where the philosophy of hope comes into play, the possibility of you overcoming the ugliest phases and conditions in life.”

     By Betty Chinea

     

    March 20, 2017

  • Sub-second System Seizures - March 8, 2017

    Sub-second System Seizures

    UM physicist studies the unexpected consequences of sub-second delays on fast-moving data systems

    Professor Neil Johnson, a physicist at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, is interested in complex networks. He studies how fast-moving packets of information spread and interact in large networks like stock markets and the human brain, and what makes the overall system then behave in ways that are unexpected.

    He compares his research to understanding traffic. He wonders: How do traffic jams appear and why does this happen in the first place?

    “It’s got to be more than just bad luck,” he said.

    Johnson’s job involves using high-resolution data to analyze how extreme system behaviors sometimes surface that are not just freak accidents—like a sudden movement in the stock market or a seizure in the brain.

    In a study published in the esteemed academic journal Science, Johnson used electronic stock exchange data to explore what happens when delays are added to parts of fast-moving networks that operate quicker than the blink of an eye.

    Neil Johnson UM College of Arts and Sciences
    Neil Johnson, physicist at UM College of Arts and Sciences

    The question is important, he says, because U.S. financial regulators recently decided to allow an exchange network to intentionally introduce a delay to their market in an effort to make the market fairer for participants.

    Johnson said the idea is similar to adding a speed bump on a highway so that all cars –from the Ferraris to the Priuses – have the same delays. Except in the case of the stock market, the delay is 350 microseconds.

    With one million microseconds in one second, you’d think that’s no big deal, right?


    Johnson says that the data and analysis published in his paper prove otherwise.

    “The fact is, there is still no scientific understanding of what the system-wide impact of such sub-second delays will be,” he said.  

    Returning to his traffic analogy, Johnson said the problem is that this lack of scientific understanding forces regulators to consider the impact, like speed bumps on a road.

    Except, in that case, Johnson says, we are able to monitor traffic on the road and figure out whether the speed bumps work. Maybe we determine they need to be spaced out more, or that they make no change whatsoever. Point is, there is a way to stop and assess their impact.

    But that is not the case with systems like the stock market that are moving a million times faster than the one second or so it typically takes a human to react.

     “When things are moving that fast in a network system which is that complicated, there is no human intuition for how you should regulate the system,” said Johnson.  

    To illustrate this point, Johnson studied raw data from the major electronic exchanges in the New York City area, a global financial hub. What he found was interesting: Even without delays added by humans, there already exist natural sub-second delays in these systems that can become correlated in such a way that they cause unexpected and extreme system behaviors from time to time.

    “If delays already happen and we add more delays, are we sure we know what will happen?” he asked. The answer, he said, is unclear.

    What is clear is that if something were to go wrong, the system would be operating so fast that humans wouldn’t be able to pull the plug. This could be potentially disastrous and result in an avalanche effect that could crash a market, cause a drone to misfire, or even cause a driverless car to suddenly veer off course.

    At the same time, there is a lot to be gained from an improved understanding of how such microscopic delays impact behaviors at the system level. For example, it may help shed light on understanding neurological disorders, given that the onset of consciousness occurs on the scale of thousands of microseconds. Indeed, recent studies have shown that children with autism are slower to integrate stimuli from different senses.

    “You wouldn’t think 350 microseconds is a big deal, but it can be,” Johnson said.  

    Johnson’s study, “To slow or not? Challenges in subsecond networks,” appears in the February 24, 2017, edition of Science. The study is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.


    By Andrew Boryga

    March 08, 2017

  • Learning a Language Outside the Traditional Classroom - February 23, 2017

    Learning a Language Outside the Traditional Classroom

    What happens when a student wants to study a foreign language like Vietnamese or Dutch, but the university doesn’t offer courses in it? Where do they turn if Rosetta Stone doesn’t cut it for them?

    The answer at most universities across the country isn’t always clear, but at the University of Miami, Maria Kosinski will point them to the Directed Independent Language Study (DILS) program in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

    learning-a-language-outside-the-traditional-classroom.jpgDILS provides students of all majors and in any year of study with the opportunity to learn a language not offered in the course catalog. Each group of students, usually less than five, meet twice a week for an hour and are directed by native speakers known as Language Partners. Kosinski, director of DILS, said these partners are usually hired within the university or from the larger Miami community.

    When the program first began 2009, DILS offered only three language choices: Haitian Creole, Levantine Arabic, and Russian. Now, students can choose from more than 30 languages, including Cantonese, Punjabi, Yoruba, and Polish. Kosinski said she is always open to expanding the list.

    “If there are at least two students interested in a language, I will do my best to make sure we can offer it,” she said.

    To celebrate the diversity of the program’s languages and culture, DILS students gather for DILS’ Annual International Multicultural Night. Held last Friday at the Shalala Student Center, the event showcased the diversity of the languages through dance, food, pop-culture presentations, storytelling, poetry readings, travel narratives, and more.

    Kosinski said students who benefit the most from DILS are disciplined and committed to investing time into a new language. After all, the program is self-directed and students do not receive academic credit for their work—although their participation is noted on their transcripts. But even so, Kosinski insists the potential rewards can have more impact on a student’s life than a GPA score. Many DILS students end up using their new language skills to travel abroad or even work in another country, she said.

    Elena Chudnovskaya, a Russian language partner, is a graduate student who joined DILS in 2014. In her weekly sessions with students, she said she focuses on helping them learn phrases and building their capacity to have conversations with each other. As a supplement to language work, she also exposes students to Russian cartoons, traditions, and typical foods.

     Dr Maria Kosinski DILS Program Director
     Dr. Maria Kosinski, DILS Program Director

    “The purpose is to immerse the students into the Russian language and culture as much as possible,” said Chudnovskaya. “It is a great pleasure to share my culture with them.”

    Jeffrey Stewart, an undergraduate completing his fourth semester in DILS, initially studied Russian to communicate better with a friend from Kazakhstan. He is now studying Egyptian and Levantine Arabic because he hopes to pursue a career where these Arab dialects are spoken.

    But until then, he says, he is content to have a “much deeper appreciation for other languages and cultures, as well as a desire to be a lifelong language learner.”

    And that’s the goal, according to ‌Kosinski. “We want to give students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a program where they can learn, study, and absorb languages from all over the world. The experience is rich and students always leave with skills and new ways of thinking that can have real, positive effects on their lives and future careers.”


    By Andrew Boryga

     

    February 23, 2017

  • The Observer, the Storyteller, the Photographer - February 8, 2017

    The Observer, the Storyteller, the Photographer

    The University of Miami welcomes renowned photojournalist and documentarian Susan Meiselas as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow.

    Distinguished Presidential Fellow and Documentary Photographer Susan Meiselas
    Distinguished Presidential Fellow & Documentary Photographer Susan Meiselas

    Susan Meiselas has traveled the world as a documentary photographer for over 40 years.

    Her photography has transported people to the rubble and destruction of lower Manhattan on 9/11, to Nicaragua’s popular insurrection during the late 1970s, to a village in El Salvador destroyed by the country’s armed forces in the early 1980s, and to witness the photographic history of Kurdistan which was presented in book and exhibition form in 1997.

    Meiselas said she believes documentary photography is “an engagement with the world.” Now she will share that engagement, her experience, and her talent with the University of Miami community.

    As a Distinguished Presidential Fellow with the College of Arts and Sciences, Meiselas is actively engaging and interacting with students and collaborating with facutly across mutliple disciplines. Her visit will culminate in a public lecture at the Newman Alumni Center on March 21.

    So far, Meiselas’ time on campus has found her in photography and sculpture classrooms in the College's art department, where she has shared her expertise on topics such as the history of war photography and how to make a living as an artist.

    Meiselas said she hopes to help inspire photography students by answering questions and sharing her own experiences. But above all, she hopes to encourage them to get out, take risks and not be afraid to make mistakes, while moving from skills training to working on their own in-depth projects. 

    “You only truly learn by doing it yourself,” she said.

    The challenge for photographers, she added, is to help viewers of their work become engaged with people and issues that may be foreign to them.

    Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard Matagalpa 1978
    Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard, Matagalpa, 1978. Meiselas/Magnum Photos

    To welcome Meiselas to campus, the College and School of Communication is hosting a special documentary film screening depicting her work in Nicaragua entitled, “Pictures from A Revolution,” at 7 p.m. on February 9, at Shoma Hall. The film showcases Meiselas’ photographs made during the Nicaraguan popular insurrection and her search a decade later to find as well as hear from the people she photographed.

    Along with the screening and public lecture in March, Meiselas said the additional details of what activities she will be involved with on campus are still evolving, but she plans to continue to engage students and faculty across departments in the hopes that some of her previous experiences can complement their studies.

    Miami has yet to become a subject for Meiselas, and she admits that most of her previous encounters with the city have been during moments when she was traveling through it to get to other destinations throughout Latin America.

    However, Meiselas said she is honored to be joining the University of Miami and is excited to dig deeper into the “multiplicity of lives” that she said Miami’s vibrant immigrant community cultivates.  

    Meiselas got her own start while teaching photography in an elementary school in the South Bronx during the 1970s. During that period, she became intrigued by a traveling "Girl Show" and the women who performed a striptease at small town carnivals and fairs in the Northeast. For three years during her summer breaks, Meiselas followed the women and the men they performed for from town to town. Her photographs evolved into her first book, Carnival Strippers, with images and stories she recorded at that time.

    Her work has been published in The New York Times and Time Magazine and she has had solo exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. She is a winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal and in 1992 was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.  Her work is included in American and international collections.

    By Andrew Boryga

     

    February 08, 2017

  • A Star-Studded Night for a Miami Luminary - February 7, 2017

    A Star-Studded Night for a Miami Luminary

    UM Psychology Professor Recognized for His Dedication to Fostering Diversity and Inclusion of People with Autism and Related Disabilities

    Dr. Michael Alessandri, a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences and executive director of the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), received the Fostering Diversity & Inclusion award at the Dade County Bar Association’s General Counsel’s Ball.

    Dr Michael Alessandri psychology professor and director of UM-NSU CARD
    Dr. Michael Alessandri,
    Psychology professor and director of UM-NSU CARD.

    The ball recognized high achieving members of the South Florida community, from local business leaders to CEO’s, attorneys, and entrepreneurs.

    Acknowledged for his over 30 years of autism service to thousands of families in the South Florida community, Alessandri was also praised for his research on autism and developing and implementing educational autism programs in South Florida.

    Graciously accepting his award, Alessandri passionately revealed why his work and mission to support and promote the employment of people with autism in the workplace is so important to him.

    “I am here to tell you that I am in this field because I see the possibilities,” he continued. “I think this world is a better place with people with autism and related disabilities in it. People with disabilities can work, they can thrive, and they can contribute in meaningful ways to our society but they need places to work, they need places to live, and they need people to believe in them.”  Alessandri invited guests to join him in “making this community the truly inclusive and diverse place it needs to be.”

    Other recipients at the gala included South Florida philanthropist Dr. Philip Frost who was given the Philanthropic Investment in Community award; Adriana Cisneros, CEO and vice chairman of Cisneros, who was given the Rising Corporate Trailblazer award; and real estate developer Craig Robins who was given the Building South Florida award.

    Recently, CARD expanded its services in Broward County by opening a new branch office at Nova Southeastern University’s campus in Miramar, which houses CARD’s Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Transition and Adult Programs. CARD has two main offices, one on UM’s Coral Gables campus and one at NSU in the Broward city of Davie. The Miramar branch brings CARD’s total branch offices to three, with additional sites in Homestead and Miami Lakes.

    About 80 to 90 percent of people with autism are either unemployed or underemployed in the workplace. Clinical research has shown that many people with autism function well in highly rigid systems with well-defined expectations and procedures, while the average person may become bored with the repetition.

     

    February 07, 2017

  • University of Miami Chemistry Professor Awarded Science Fellowship to Japan - February 7, 2017

    University of Miami Chemistry Professor Awarded Science Fellowship to Japan

    On February 14, Dr. Rajeev Prabhakar, an associate professor in Chemistry at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, will travel about 7,500 miles from Miami to Japan. 

    Prabhakar is no stranger to spending time in a foreign country. Originally from India, he earned his Ph.D. in Sweden and is accustomed to discovering and acclimating himself in different cultures, which is why he held no reservations about visiting Japan – for the second time in his career. But this excursion is more business than pleasure. 

    Recently, Prabhakar received news that he was awarded a prestigious fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) as a visiting professor.

    Associate Professor in Chemistry Dr Rajeev Prabhakar
    Associate Professor in Chemistry Dr. Rajeev Prabhakar

    Being accepted to partake in the fellowship is an honor not overlooked by Prabhakar. With a 25 percent acceptance rate, and the added obstacle that a host professor in Japan has to apply for the applicant, the fellowship is exceedingly coveted while being simultaneously difficult to acquire.

    "It is very exciting,” said Prabhakar. “The Japanese are very advanced in science and they have a strong research culture."

    From February 15 to March 9, Prabhakar will visit multiple universities in Japan, such as the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Fukui Institute for Fundamental Chemistry, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules, Nagoya University, and Hokkaido University. 



    The purpose of the fellowship is to establish research collaborations with Japanese scientists from the institutes and universities and help advance and expand upon the current research Prabhakar is working on at UM; research that is primed to fundamentally advance the designing of artificial enzymes, biomaterials, antimicrobial peptides and drugs for neurological disorders.     

    "It will be very beneficial to interact with some of the leading researchers in these areas and explore innovative ideas of mutual interest,” said Prabhakar.

    The importance of Prabhakar's research has been clearly highlighted by JSPS's full support of the visit. Along with collaborating and forming new connections with Japanese researchers, he will be giving research seminars as a visiting professor.

    The JSPS was established with an imperial endowment in 1932. For more than 80 years, it has initiated and carried out a vast array of programs that are essential to promoting scientific research. The organization has developed itself as a research and support organization designed to advance research and foster talented researchers for generations to come. 

    The fellowship also supports UM President Julio Frenk’s vision for UM as a Hemispheric University connecting, collaborating and building knowledge with organizations across the hemisphere.

    “I am hopeful that the JSPS fellowship will help me to expand the research we are already doing here and start something new and interesting while building ties between UM and leading Japanese universities,” he said.


    By Betty Chinea

     

    February 07, 2017

  • Two University of Miami History Professors Awarded NEH Fellowships - February 6, 2017

    Two University of Miami History Professors Awarded NEH Fellowships

    Students benefit by learning and understanding the human experience

    UM faculty members and colleagues in the Department of History
    UM faculty members and colleagues in the Department 
    of History, Michael Bernath and Mary Lindemann

    Two University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences faculty members and colleagues in the Department of History, Michael Bernath and Mary Lindemann have been awarded National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowships for 2017.

    Bernath is the Charlton W. Tebeau Associate Professor of 19th Century American history, 
    and Lindemann is the chair and professor of early modern German, Dutch, and Flemish history and medical history in the early modern world. They will use their awards for book projects on the Northern Teachers in the Old South and on the aftermath of the German Thirty Years War, respectively.

    “We are proud and excited that two of our distinguished History professors in the College of Arts and Sciences were awarded NEH fellowships, a tremendously respected award in the humanities,” said Leonidas Bachas, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, “Awards such as these not only promote scholarship in the humanities, but also lead to knowledge shared with our students seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience. The UM Center for the Humanities provides funding to enable these research ideas to reach the stage of NEH support.”

    The UM fellowships were among $16.3 million in grants awarded nationwide by the NEH for 290 projects. The Fellowship for University Teachers’ program supports college and university teachers pursuing advanced research. This year the NEH received 1,298 applications and funded 86 of the total, approximately 6.6 percent of the proposals, making the fellowships among the most competitive humanities awards in the country.

    Bernath’s project, “In a Land of Strangers: Northern Teachers in the Old South, 1790-1865,” looks at the experiences, reception and perception of thousands of Northerners, both men and women, who came south to teach throughout the southern states. Bernath argues that the presence of these northern teachers represented the most intimate, sustained and widespread contact point between northerners and southerners during the Antebellum period. He begins here to examine when, how, and where ideas of northern and southern identity emerged.

    “Given how difficult it is to win an NEH award, I’m honored to be one of two faculty members in the same department and university, a highly unusual occurrence. The NEH plays an essential role in facilitating ground-breaking research and the exploration of vital issues that benefit us, not only as scholars and universities, but also as a society,” said Bernath.

    Lindemann’s project, “Fractured Lands: Northern Germany in an Age of Unending War, 1627-1721,” analyzes the effects of the Thirty Years War on Germany for a century after the conclusion of peace.  The project is innovative in the sense that it looks not only at political and social development but also considers the impact of the war on the environment.

    “Such NEH grants have been critical in my career. Previously I received a NEH Travel to Collections grant and then a similar NEH University Teachers award which directly led to the publication of two books, the first with John Hopkins University Press in 2006 and the second with Cambridge University Press in 2015. The time needed to do deep archival research and write is absolutely critical for scholars employed at major universities. I’m grateful for the support of the NEH and UM’s College of Arts & Sciences. In a political climate where the NEH is in danger of being either eviscerated or eliminated it is important to emphasize how valuable it is for sustaining and nurturing high quality scholarship throughout the U.S.,” said Lindemann.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.


    By Alex Bassil
    UM News

     

    February 06, 2017

  • Mapping the Mind of Worms - January 9, 2017

    Mapping the Mind of Worms

    Biologists identify signals that drive distinct behavior in microscopic nematode worms—and hold lessons for human brains

    Dr. Kevin Collins carefully places a petri dish with what looks like a blotch of yellowish slime under a microscope. Magnified, the slime comes alive as hundreds of translucent worms, known as Caenorhabditis elegans, slither to and fro.

    Growing to just one millimeter in length, these simple creatures have only 302 neurons, or nerve cells, in their bodies, a tiny fraction of the 80 billion or so neurons in the human brain. Yet, as Collins, a biologist at the University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences who studies the mechanics of neural circuits, notes, “Even the simplest animal with the simplest neural circuits have so much going on.’’

     collins-w_student
    A student in Dr. Collins' lab views the translucent worms under a microscope.

    And these simple animals, Collins and fellow biologists from Yale University found in a recent study about nematode behavior, have a lot to tell us about our brains because, despite their simplicity, they share many commonalities with humans.

    “Trying to figure out how 80 billion neurons in the human brain talk to each other and how that communication leads to changes in our behavior is very complicated,” Collins said. “But the nervous system in both nematode worms and humans is organized into small functional units called neural circuits, where neurons communicate with each other to control a simple outcome, such as behavior.”

    For their study published in eLIFE, Collins and his collaborators focused on the nematode worm’s simplest neural circuit, the egg-laying behavior circuit, which is regulated by serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter also found in humans and responsible for managing mood.

    The researchers observed the worms’ behaviors through stages of maturity by recording the activity patterns of each cell in the circuit. They also manipulated the activity of cells and their ability to signal to each other to understand how the cells enable the worms to lay eggs. They found the circuit has “command neurons” that release serotonin to increase movement in the worms.

    “Inside the worms, we believe serotonin is acting in a similar way in the human brain,” said Collins. “When the serotonin neuron is turned on, the worm is active and wants to do a specific behavior, such as locomotion or lays its eggs. In essence, we captured how the neuron in the worm gets turned on and off.”

    As Collins noted, the signals that turn circuits on and off are general features of many neural circuits.

    “It seems the serotonin helps respond to the rhythmic movement of the worm in different ways, similar to how serotonin is thought to drive arousal in the human brain,” said Collins. “For example, when a person is motivated or feels positive, that means neural circuits are communicating in a particular way. When that same person becomes depressed, it could be that those neural circuits are not communicating in the same way.”

    Using what is called “calcium reporters,” researchers were able to see the neurons firing up inside the worm and record the changes in cellular activity during the egg-laying behavior. Researchers were also excited to learn that the same egg-laying circuit also mediates mating behavior.

    “We now have an interesting question:  What tells the female worm to lay its eggs or mate?” said Collins. 

    He hopes the study, “Activity of the C. elegans egg-laying behavior circuit is controlled by competing activation and feedback inhibition,” will lead to more insights on the mechanics of neural circuits.

    His collaborators include Robert Fernandez, Jessica Tanis, Jacob Brewer, and Michael Koelle of Yale University’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; Matthew Creamer of Yale University’s Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program; and Addys Bode of the University of Miami’s Department of Biology.

     

    January 09, 2017

  • Exposing Young Minds to Poetry & Prose - January 3, 2017

    Exposing Young Minds to Poetry & Prose

    UM Graduate Student Awarded Grant to Launch Creative Writing Summer Camp for Kids

    Dana De Greff’s idea was one of over a thousand to be picked as a finalist for the 2016 Knight Arts Challenge, and her idea is an inspiring one: exposing kids to the art of creative writing in the city of Opa-Locka by starting a free, six-week summer camp program in its recreation center, known as The ARC.

    Her idea paid off. De Greff, a Masters in Fine Arts candidate in fiction at the University of Miami, walked away a winner at a celebration ceremony hosted by the Knight Foundation this past fall. The foundation awarded her with a two-year, $45,000 matching grant to kick start her PageSlayers Summer Camp, and she is ecstatic to see her idea become a reality.

    Dana De Greff accepts her Knight Arts Challenge grant with Matt 
    Haggman, Miami Program Director for Community and National Initiatives 
    with the Knight Foundation and Victoria Rogers, Vice President/Arts 
    for the Knight Foundation. (Photo credit: Patrick Farell.)

    “My idea was one of 44 that won, and I’m so excited to bring a creative writing camp to Opa-locka,” said De Greff. “I’m honored to receive this recognition. There were over 1,000 submissions overall, so to be chosen for the grant and have the opportunity to expose kids to something that is so important is a great accomplishment.”

    The Knight Arts Challenge funded $8 million to a selection of grassroots ideas in four cities: Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Miami, Florida and St. Paul, Minnesota.

    PageSlayers, expected to begin summer of 2017, is exclusively for 4th and 5th-grade students in the Opa-Locka community and is designed to provide quality writing instruction outside the current Florida school curriculum through lessons taught by award-winning writers of color. The students will explore and flourish in the art of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and more.

    According to the official PageSlayers website, the program has three main goals: “to expose students to exceptional authors of color in South Florida; introduce students to writing styles outside of the standard elementary school curriculum; and provide a nurturing, supportive environment that encourages creative self-expression and positive experiences with reading and writing.”

    Students who are accepted into the program will participate in one of three two-week sessions at The ARC, from 9 am to 1 pm. De Greff, the founder and director of PageSlayers, says each session will be taught by a full-time writing instructor specializing in various writing genres, along with an assistant instructor and various visiting writers and artists.

    Born in Miami, De Greff teaches poetry to 4th graders in Liberty City through the Sunroom. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, The Boston Review, The Miami Herald, and The New Tropic. She is also a recipient of the 2016 Fred Shaw Prize in Fiction and has been accepted or awarded scholarships from Tent: Creative Writing, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, and The Key West Literary Seminar.

    To learn more about the PageSlayers Summer Camp, visit pageslayers.com

    January 03, 2017

  • Exposing Young Minds to Poetry & Prose - January 3, 2017

    Exposing Young Minds to Poetry & Prose

    UM Graduate Student Awarded Grant to Launch Creative Writing Summer Camp for Kids

    Dana De Greff’s idea was one of over a thousand to be picked as a finalist for the 2016 Knight Arts Challenge, and her idea is an inspiring one: exposing kids to the art of creative writing in the city of Opa-Locka by starting a free, six-week summer camp program in its recreation center, known as The ARC.

    Her idea paid off. De Greff, a Masters in Fine Arts candidate in fiction at the University of Miami, walked away a winner at a celebration ceremony hosted by the Knight Foundation this past fall. The foundation awarded her with a two-year, $45,000 matching grant to kick start her PageSlayers Summer Camp, and she is ecstatic to see her idea become a reality.

    Dana De Greff accepts her Knight Arts Challenge grant with Matt 
    Haggman, Miami Program Director for Community and National Initiatives 
    with the Knight Foundation and Victoria Rogers, Vice President/Arts 
    for the Knight Foundation. (Photo credit: Patrick Farell.)

    “My idea was one of 44 that won, and I’m so excited to bring a creative writing camp to Opa-locka,” said De Greff. “I’m honored to receive this recognition. There were over 1,000 submissions overall, so to be chosen for the grant and have the opportunity to expose kids to something that is so important is a great accomplishment.”

    The Knight Arts Challenge funded $8 million to a selection of grassroots ideas in four cities: Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Miami, Florida and St. Paul, Minnesota.

    PageSlayers, expected to begin summer of 2017, is exclusively for 4th and 5th-grade students in the Opa-Locka community and is designed to provide quality writing instruction outside the current Florida school curriculum through lessons taught by award-winning writers of color. The students will explore and flourish in the art of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and more.

    According to the official PageSlayers website, the program has three main goals: “to expose students to exceptional authors of color in South Florida; introduce students to writing styles outside of the standard elementary school curriculum; and provide a nurturing, supportive environment that encourages creative self-expression and positive experiences with reading and writing.”

    Students who are accepted into the program will participate in one of three two-week sessions at The ARC, from 9 am to 1 pm. De Greff, the founder and director of PageSlayers, says each session will be taught by a full-time writing instructor specializing in various writing genres, along with an assistant instructor and various visiting writers and artists.

    Born in Miami, De Greff teaches poetry to 4th graders in Liberty City through the Sunroom. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, The Boston Review, The Miami Herald, and The New Tropic. She is also a recipient of the 2016 Fred Shaw Prize in Fiction and has been accepted or awarded scholarships from Tent: Creative Writing, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, and The Key West Literary Seminar.

    To learn more about the PageSlayers Summer Camp, visit pageslayers.com

    January 03, 2017