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Pioneering Scholars Honored


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    From left are Vice Provost David Birnbach, honorees David Watkins, Fabrice Manns, and Donald Spivey, and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 30,2017)—Four pioneering scholars—a biomedical engineer who may improve how we see as we age, a pathologist who opened a new field in AIDS research; an expert in the African-American experience in sports; and a world authority on forgiveness and revenge—are the recipients of the 2017 Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

    Donald Spivey, professor of history and former chair of the Department of History, and Michael McCullough, professor of psychology, both of the College of Arts and Sciences; David Watkins, professor of pathology at the Miller School of Medicine; and Fabrice Manns, professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering and professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, were honored last week by Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, Vice Provost David Birnbach, and Vice Provost for Research John Bixby during a ceremony in the UM Fieldhouse at the Watsco Center.

    Also honored were five recipients of the Provost’s Funding Award, bestowed for the second time, and 62 recipients of the Provost’s Research Awards, the latter which were announced earlier this year.

    The annual Awards for Scholarly Activity recognize UM faculty who have demonstrated excellence in research by either a single unique achievement or years of high-quality scholarly productivity. Nominated by their deans and selected by a committee composed of previous awardees, this year’s recipients all have sustained research accomplishments in their respective fields.

    The holder of six patents, Manns developed new techniques to cure presbyopia, the condition many people over 40 have if they need reading glasses for small print. His group was the first to discover a unique anatomical attachment of the posterior zonule fiber in the eye that may have critical implications for its ability to change focus on near objects.

    Manns, who joined UM in 1997,  and his collaborators developed a novel technique, known as Phaco-Ersatz, to replace material in the lens with a polymer that mimics the optical properties of a young lens.

    An NIH study section member and grant reviewer, Manns is currently supported by two separate NIH RO-1 grants and has been co-principal investigator on 10 other grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Whitaker Foundation. He has published more than 125 scientific papers and conference proceedings and more than 200 abstracts and poster presentations.  He also served as editor of Ophthalmic Technologies.

    Watkins, the second highest funded investigator at the University of Miami, has made fundamental contributions to the fields of immunology, vaccine development, microbiology, HIV, and emerging infectious diseases. He joined UM from the University of Wisconsin in 2012, and was the first person at the Miller School to sound the alarm about the threat the Zika virus poses to South Florida.

    His most significant contributions to the field of microbiology was elucidating how certain molecules contribute to the defense mechanism against pathogens. His laboratory’s discovery of how the AIDS virus escapes T cell recognition opened an entirely new arena of HIV research.

    The editor of four textbooks, Watkins has published more than 200 scientific papers, many in very high-impact journals. His current funding includes four different NIH grants as well as grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coulter Foundation.

    Ranked No. 20 in the U.S. in NIH funding for pathology research, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2015.

    Spivey, a prominent scholar of African-American history, is well known for his work on the African-American experience in U.S. sports. Currently working on his sixth book, he is the author of  If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, which received the Robert Peterson Award.

    A cherished teacher at UM, he is also well known for his involvement in the popular course on the 1960s, as well as with the Department of History, the College of Arts and Sciences, the University, and the community.

    Spivey, who earned his Ph.D. in history from UC Davis in 1976 and joined UM in 1997 from the University of Connecticut, has edited, co-edited, or authored dozens of articles and monographs over the years.

    McCullough, who was unable to attend the ceremony, is considered one of the world’s authorities on forgiveness and revenge; the psychology of religion; and gratitude.

    Earning the distinct honor of fellow status from the American Psychological Association, he is currently on the editorial boards or a consulting editor of five different journals.

    The author or co-author of four books and approximately 150 papers and chapters, he is frequently quoted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. His research has been funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Mental Health, to name a few.

    He joined UM in 2002 with a Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University. He also awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Louvain in Belgium.

    Established last year, the Provost’s Funding Awards recognize productivity in research, as evidenced by sustained, peer-reviewed, extramural funding, and, as what Bixby has called “a stealth goal,” to identify faculty who have the ability and willingness to mentor other faculty.

    This year’s recipients are: the Frost School of Music’s Christopher Bennett, in the Department of Music Media and Industry; William Johns, from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s Department of Ocean Science; and the Miller School’s Sara Czaja, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Vance Lemmon, from the Department of Neurological Surgery.

    This year’s Provost’s Research Awards, which were announced in February, are providing salary support and direct research costs to 62 recipients from 38 departments in eight schools and colleges on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses. Designed to foster excellence in research and creative activity and increase UM’s overall research portfolio, this year’s awards went to a wide range of research projects— from corporate divorces and ankle sprains to spiritual eating and Saharan dust.

    View a list of this year’s awardees, who received funding in one of three categories based on discipline: the Max Orovitz Research Award in Arts and Humanities; the James W. McLamore Research Award in Business and the Social Sciences; and the Research Award in the Natural Sciences and Engineering.

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