e-Veritas Archive | January, 2017

UM Announces Creation of the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering

Frost-InstitutesRecognizing the need to grow a global, interdisciplinary network focused on scientific discovery and solutions, the University of Miami is creating the Frost Institutes for Science and Engineering to achieve those milestones by elevating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk unveiled the network of intertwined research organizations housed under the Frost Institutes at the 50th annual Miami Winter Symposium held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, a prestigious event that attracted more than 100 scientists, researchers and doctors from 28 countries this year.

This transformational initiative is made possible thanks to the extraordinary $100 million gift by Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost announced during Frenk’s inauguration last year to support basic and applied sciences and engineering.

“The University of Miami is already known for excellence in biomedicine, marine sciences, and other fields,” Frenk said. “But continued excellence cannot be sustained without critical investments in basic and applied science, mathematics, and engineering. These disciplines, which form the building blocks for innovation, must be strengthened to maintain our leading edge as a research university.”

The name of the Frost Institutes was modeled after the National Institutes of Health, inspiring UM to have a strategic, coordinated investment in the sciences and engineering. The first individual institute announced, the Frost Institute of Chemistry and Molecular Science, creates an arena for the comprehensive study of the chemical sciences, including basic and applied research areas, to advance knowledge and technologies in chemistry, biochemistry, and engineering.

A portion of the $100 million gift will be used for the construction of an iconic, modern science and engineering building on the University’s Coral Gables campus, to be named the Phillip and Patricia Frost Science and Engineering Building. Of the gift, $30 million is designated to the creation of at least 13 chairs in STEM fields, with $3 million set aside for graduate student support.

“Patricia and I are committed to making Miami a hub for technological and scientific innovation, which is the main reason for our support of basic and applied sciences and engineering at the University of Miami,” Dr. Frost said. “If we build the framework from which to provide the education and resources, we will be successful in attracting world-class scientists across various disciplines.”

The creation of the Frost Institutes solidifies the University’s nine transformational initiatives to propel UM toward its greatest aspirations by its centennial in 2025, allowing for STEM growth, a stimulation of interdisciplinary research collaboration, and engagement with greater Miami as a hemispheric innovation hub.

The University will launch a national search for an individual to lead the Frost Institutes, with additional institutes to be created over the next several years.

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Celebrate the Lunar New Year on the Lakeside Patio

Like the five before it, the University’s sixth annual Lunar New Year celebration is destined to be a sight, sound, and taste extravaganza, so don’t miss out. Presented by the Asian American Students Association, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and the Hong Kong Students Association, the celebration begins Monday, January 30, with tents opening at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., and performances at 8 p.m.

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New Employees Begin Their Journey at I Am the U

By Charisse Lopez-Mason
Special to UM News

One by one, the University of Miami’s newest faculty and staff—physicians, patient access representatives, researchers, IT professionals, and more—gathered on an early Monday morning at the Newman Alumni Center for their first day of work.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark the occasion, the group of 50 participated in I Am the U, UM’s reimagined new-employee orientation program. Inspired by feedback from University faculty and staff and several months of planning and hard work from the Building a Better U Together’s Global Orientation work team, the new program introduces employees to the University’s common purpose, DIRECCT values, service standards, structure and operations, history, and more.

“The experience was invigorating,” said participant Tamara Long, a patient navigator for Clinical Access.

The highlight for her, was when alumnus Ray Bellamy, a UM trailblazer, popped in to talk to the group.

Bellamy is the first African-American to sign a football scholarship to play for the University of Miami, and the first African-American football athlete given a scholarship to a major university in the Southeastern part of the United States.

“When I listened to his story, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Long. “He said one thing that stood out to me, he said the University of Miami had his back.”

Bellamy, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the School of Education and Human Development, spoke to the group about his UM experience, saying, “You cannot find a better place. UM made a difference in my life, and I promise it will make a difference in yours.”

Throughout the day, a team of facilitators, UM employees who volunteered, auditioned, and trained to lead the program, led the group through a series of hands-on interactive activities that focused on the University’s past, present, and future.

Kesha Grayson, a supervisor of systems and technology at the Shalala Student Center and an I Am the U facilitator, said that participating in the program was a no-brainer. “As an alumna, I innately know what it means when we say, ‘It’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.’ I wanted to share that and be a part of welcoming new employees to their new roles,” she said.

Grayson has worked for UM for 13 years and says the best part of the experience has been finding 25 new “besties,” co-facilitators whom she now considers friends.

“I always knew I was a part of a bigger picture,” said I am the U facilitator Sergio Pintado, a patient access supervisor. “But being a part of this program showed me just how bright the future is at the U.”

The new program runs up to three times per week on the Coral Gables campus. It closes with a graduation ceremony and special visit from Sebastian the Ibis, who teaches the group the Miami Hurricanes C-A-N-E-S chant.

“At the end of the day,” said Long, “I realized I was now part of a new and growing family.”

To learn more, visit firstdays.miami.edu.

 

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UM Announces Support for DACA Students and Employees

MigrationFrom the day the University of Miami opened its doors in 1926, just weeks after a hurricane devastated South Florida, it has stood on a foundation of resolve, resourcefulness, and resilience, especially in the face of challenge. These are the same characteristics that have propelled generations of people to leave their homelands and start anew in the United States—and the same traits that have imbued their children with the drive to advance their knowledge and pursue their dreams.

The University of Miami is committed to providing its students, faculty, and staff of all nationalities and citizenship status with opportunities to nurture their talents and achieve their goals. The University supports undocumented students and “dreamers,” those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, and will do all it can, within the law, to enable them to continue their education and employment.

President Julio Frenk is among more than 600 college and university presidents from public and private U.S. institutions to sign a statement in support of the DACA program and undocumented immigrant students, urging that these student populations “represent what is best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to the future.”

In addition to the U Dreamers Grant, a four-year grant available to eligible DACA students who apply to the University of Miami no later than January 1 of their senior year in high school, we offer the following academic, legal, and personal resources to the campus community.

 Campus Resources

  • The School of Law’s Immigration Clinic offers free and confidential consultations to UM students who are undocumented or in DACA status. Eligible and interested students should email immigrationclinic@law.miami.eduand ask for an appointment.
  • Undocumented or DACA students who are coping with stressors related to immigration status can take advantage of the services at the UM Counseling Center. Individual, group, and other counseling resources are available without additional charge for all enrolled and health-fee-paying UM students.
  • For further assistance and information about additional resources, students may contact Dr. Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs, at 305-284-4922 or vpsa@miami.edu.

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Biologist Learns How Lovesick Wrens Hit New Notes

A UM biologist studied how songbirds in remote areas of Costa Rica learn new duets when paired with a new mate

By Deserae E. del Campo
Special to UM News

Wren-DuetKarla Rivera-Cáceres, a University of Miami biology graduate student, plays a harmonious duet of singing wrens from a recording she captured out in the field during a recent trip to Costa Rica.

“The song sounds like one bird but if you listen closely, it’s a male and female wren singing a duet in perfect unison,” said Rivera-Cáceres.

Along with songbirds, many animal species perform duets, an uncommon vocal interaction that can occur between mated or unmated species, such as frogs and crickets. But the coupled wrens Rivera-Cáceres recorded in Costa Rica sing alternating phrases, or parts, of the song so smoothly and with such complexity and fast tempo that the untrained ear may hear just a single bird.

For years, Rivera-Cáceres studied the “duet codes” (non-random association of song types) of paired wrens and wondered if the ability to perform their complex and seamless music was a skill the birds were born with or learned during juvenile or adult stages of life. Now, after two months of intense listening in Costa Rica, she knows that they can learn new songs with new partners, even as adults. She says the newly learned songs are akin to prenuptial agreements.

“It’s like the birds think: If you’re willing to invest the time and energy to learn a new duet code, then I am sure you are not going to leave me because if you do, you would lose a big investment and would need to learn a whole new duet code with another partner,” she said.

According to Rivera-Cáceres, a male wren has his set of songs and a female wren her own set. When paired, the birds link their song types in a non-random way. For example, if the male sings his type “A” song, the female may respond with her type “C” song. If the duet fits, the wrens will perfect their duet code until it becomes seamlessly unified.

“I selected this particular species for my research because their duets are very complex,” said Rivera-Cáceres. “The birds need to be in sync, so when one bird sings the other remains silent, and they do this in a very fast tempo while avoiding any overlap.”

Past studies on duetting wrens focused on the function and evolution of the songs, not necessarily the birds’ development to perform them.

“Understanding the development process of duetting and whether the wrens invest the time and energy to duet with their partners is key to determine if these duet rules are difficult to acquire and thus demonstrate the birds’ ability and skill to learn a new song when paired with a new mate,” said Rivera-Cáceres.

Her research, “Neotropical wrens learn new duet rules as adults,” illustrates the complex behavior of duetting wrens by explaining the process of how the birds acquire the ability to duet throughout their lives. It was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Paired wrens that are together for a long time keep the same rules across years but each pair in the population will have its own rules. In other words, pairs from the same population do not duet the same,” said Rivera-Cáceres. “It didn’t make sense to me that wrens don’t continue to learn new duet codes during adulthood because if they did have fixed rules, which they learn during the juvenile stages, when the birds got older they would be unable to pair with another bird singing a different set of song rules.”

To prove that wrens learn new duet rules instead of repeating a learned rule from their juvenile stages, Rivera-Cáceres performed a “removal experiment” in Costa Rica, moving either a male or female wren from one territory to another to test if their duet codes changed when they found new partners. To relocate the wrens, she played a recording of another wren’s song in a pair’s territory. When one of them flew to the speaker to investigate the “intruder,” she captured it in a thin net and released it elsewhere in the forest.

“At first, the new pairs struggled in their coordination and duet code adherence but they caught on over time,” said Rivera-Cáceres. “What I did find interesting was that the male wrens changed their duetting rules more than females. The females normally kept the responses they had with their old mates, while male duet codes appear to be more flexible. It did take the new pairs months to perfect their new duet codes but over time, they did get better and better.”

Her collaborators include William A. Searcy of the Department of Biology at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences; Esmeralda Quirós-Guerrero of the School of Biology at the University of St. Andrews, UK; Marcelo Araya-Salas of the School of Biology at the University of Costa Rica and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University.

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