NASA Honors Physicist for Rocket Launch

Special to UM News

RocketMassimiliano Galeazzi, associate chair and professor of physics at the College of Arts and Sciences, was part of a team that was awarded the Robert H. Goddard (RHG) Exceptional Achievement for Science Award by NASA.

‌The RHG award recognized the successful development of an instrument called the sheath transport observer for redistribution mass, or STORM. The detector was designed to study the X-ray glow and captures images from our solar system and its surroundings; it’s the first X-ray imager using micro-porous optics successfully launched into space.

“We were very happy to be recognized for the effort and work that went into developing the instrument,” said Galeazzi. “It also recognizes the nice collaboration between the members of different fields and groups.”

The STORM instrument was developed at Goddard Space Flight Center and flew attached to the UM Diffuse X-ray from the Local Galaxy (DXL) rocket, a mission lead by Galeazzi. In addition to the breakthrough discoveries found in the solar system and its surroundings, the DXL mission demonstrated the successful operation of the STORM instrument in space, in particular its innovative micro-porous (or lobster-eye) optics.

“The entire DXL mission led by Professor Galeazzi, which hosted STORM, was the result of phenomenal teamwork between the UM faculty and students, and the NASA field center,” says F. Scott Porter, an astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Center.

The collaboration began nearly four years ago when NASA scientists were looking for a rocket that could carry the STORM instrument in space. The heliophysics and astrophysics divisions of NASA joined forces to accomplish this task, with Galeazzi offering his services as part of the STORM team.

“The successes of the DXL mission and the STORM instrument were built upon collaborative multi-institutional work, with the participation of planetary, astrophysics, and heliophysics scientists,” said David Sibeck, a heliophysicists at the Goddard Space Center. “They point the way toward a future in which cost-effective university and NASA partnerships hone in on the most pressing research problems facing space scientists.”

Galeazzi worked as a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland before joining the UM College of Arts and Sciences in 2002. Since then, he continues to collaborate with NASA in constructing devices that can detect X-ray emissions in space.

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Gift Establishes Chair in Atheism

Louis J. Appignani

Louis J. Appignani

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 23, 2016) – Entrepreneur Louis J. Appignani has made a $2.2 million gift to establish a permanent endowment and create the Appignani Foundation Chair for the Study of Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics in the College of Arts & Sciences. The South Florida resident’s generous gift will propel new interdisciplinary courses, scholarship, and research concerning the philosophical underpinnings, ethical status, and implications of atheism, as well as its historical and cultural significance.

The new chair will be an interdisciplinary appointment held by a distinguished scholar whose research and interests include the study of atheism—understood, for purposes of this gift, as a philosophical approach that emphasizes the methods and techniques of science, logic, and reason in dealing with questions of knowledge, ethics, politics, and social policy. The new chair also will offer annually a minimum of one course on the history, philosophy, or influence of atheism.

UM Executive Vice President and Provost Tom LeBlanc, who noted that a multidepartmental faculty committee will search for the first holder of the chair, said the University was most grateful for the gift. “The topics of naturalistic ethics and arguments for and against theism have been part of Western education for most of its history,” he said. “At the University of Miami—as in most other American universities—these questions are examined in courses regularly offered by multiple academic departments. This new position will enhance UM’s multidisciplinary approach to these longstanding and important subjects.”

Appignani’s gift fuels UM President Julio Frenk’s bold initiative to recruit 100 talents by the University’s centennial, as well as Appignani’s desire to legitimize atheism.

“I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists,” Appignani told The New York Times. “So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate.”

Established in 2001, his Appignani Foundation supports creative thought organizations that spread humanistic values, expand creative educational opportunities, encourage long-range critical thinking, and emphasize scientific reasoning. The retired businessman is the former president and chair of the modeling school Barbizon International.

Previously held at UM, The Appignani Foundation Lectures welcomed distinguished philosophers and scholars including the noted biologist and humanist Richard Dawkins, Frances Kamm of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of the Social Sciences at Columbia University.

Appignani is an avid supporter of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. He founded the Appignani Humanist Legal Center in Washington, D.C., a project of the American Humanist Association that uses qualified humanist-minded attorneys to pursue cases that are violations of the law as well as of humanist principles of religious liberty, freedom, and civil rights.

He also will be endowing another UM chair, The Appignani Foundation Bertrand Russell Chair in Philosophy, through a bequest in his estate plans.


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UM Launches $1M Revolving Reserve to Seed Green Initiatives

By Maya Bell
UM News

The metal hali

For the inaugural UGRR project, the metal halide lights in the Wellness Center’s main gym will be replaced with LED lights.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 20, 2016)—The University of Miami’s initial spend-to-save-energy idea is straightforward: Spend $30,000 to replace all the metal halide lights in the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center’s basketball gym with more efficient LED lights, saving $9,000 a year in utility costs. Then, in 3½ years, when the new lights have paid for themselves, redirect the annual savings to other projects that will reduce the U’s energy costs and carbon footprint.

Proposed by Jose Varona, associate director for energy management systems, the gym light swap is the inaugural project of the University’s $1 million U Green Revolving Reserve, an innovative financing tool that a growing number of universities are using to implement energy-efficient, renewable energy and other sustainability initiatives that generate cost savings.

But what other projects the UGRR will support could depend on the ingenuity and imagination of faculty, staff, students, and the broader UM community. The UGRR is now seeking proposals for green projects on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses that will not only pay back their respective initial investments, but eventually generate enough savings to replenish the fund and pay for other green projects. Managed by a committee representing a cross-section of the University, the UGRR also plans to fund green-oriented research that could serve as test beds for national deployment.

Brian Gitlin

Brian Gitlin

“The target projects are those that pay back within five years—something that can be done quickly, and effectively, without having to wait for the standard capital request process,” said Brian Gitlin, assistant vice president for real estate who spearheaded the creation of the UGRR after learning about the green revolving fund (GRF) concept at a conference. “We are also open to projects that could take longer, especially if there is a strong sustainability element to it.”

UM became one of more than 50 universities and colleges to establish its own GRF when it accepted the Sustainability Endowments Institute’s Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The challenge encourages nonprofit institutions to invest a collective total of $1 billion in self-managed GRFs to finance energy efficiency improvements. To join the challenge, UM committed a reserve of up to $1 million, with the goal of cutting its operating expenses and reducing its environmental impact.

The reserve also has the benefit of freeing up funds for other campus needs, engaging the entire University community in sustainability efforts, and promoting interdisciplinary collaborations to identify new projects.

“We already see examples of such collaboration and engagement between the College of Engineering and the School of Architecture, which are working on an initiative to bring microgrid capabilities to the Coral Gables campus,” Varona said. “Microgrids could be great UGRR projects because they enable facilities to operate off the main electric grid. Instead, they would be powered by battery, solar panels, or other renewable resources, which would cut costs and carbon emissions and increase our energy independence.”

As Varona notes, the need for cutting operating expenses and reducing the U’s carbon footprint is becoming increasingly critical. Over just a four-year period, the University’s operating expenses on utilities and maintenance increased by 38 percent, from $54.3 million in fiscal year 2010-11 to $74.9 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

At the same time, the world, and South Florida in particular, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the consequences of global warming, caused primarily by the continued emission of carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases that are trapped in the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans.

As the University’s Climate Change Special Report detailed, the rate of sea-level rise in South Florida is already outpacing world projections, nuisance flooding is increasing on Miami Beach, and other nearby cities, and the world’s only tropical coral reef off our coastline is dissolving much faster than originally predicted.

“The bottom line is, as an institution, we need to cut our operating costs and reduce our environmental impact,” Gitlin said. “So we want to hear from different people or groups across the University about ideas that can be evaluated and funded in a flexible and efficient manner to help us do that.”

The UGRR Management Committee will review and select the proposals and ideas to implement based on criteria that includes, but is not limited to, the cost of implementation, the opportunity for cost savings, the estimated payback period, and the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing educational, research, or social benefits.

In addition to Gitlin and Varona, members of the committee are:

o   Andrea Heuson, professor of finance in the School of Business Administration

o   Antonio Nanni, professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering

o   Rich Jones, associate vice president for facilities design and construction

o   Aintzane Celaya, assistant vice president for budget and planning

o   James Sprinkle, executive director for facilities management

o   Teddy Lhoutellier, sustainability manager

o   Derick Sheldon, student and member of the ECO Agency-Student Government

UGRR proposals will be reviewed initially by a working group that will provide feedback and determine if the ideas are ready for consideration by the UGRR Management Committee.

To submit an idea, complete the project nomination form and submit it to greenu@miami.edu. For more information about the UGRR, view the UGRR homepage, the nomination form and the operational procedures.


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Antonio Nanni Named Officer of the American Concrete Institute

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Antonio Nanni

Antonio Nanni

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 19, 2016)– University of Miami professor Antonio Nanni, who has conducted research on concrete and advanced composites-based systems for three decades, has been named a board member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI).

“This is a privilege and an honor and a duty I intend to take very seriously,” said Nanni, chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in UM’s College of Engineering. “ACI is an incredible organization with an overarching national and international impact on the quality, safety, and sustainability of the built environment.”

Nanni currently serves as chair of the ACI Education Subcommittee of Committee 562 (ACI 562-E) and is a member of ACI’s Committee on Codes and Standards Advocacy and Outreach as well as the organization’s Educational Activities Committee. He also serves on various other committees of the ACI.

Nanni was named a Fellow of ACI in 1999. He is a recipient of ACI’s Chapter Activities Award and the Delmar L. Bloem Distinguished Service Award.

During the past 30 years, he has researched concrete and advanced composites-based systems as the principal investigator of projects sponsored by federal and state agencies and private industry. Nanni is the editor in chief of the ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering and serves on the editorial board of other technical journals. In addition to co-authoring two books, he has advised over 60 graduate students pursuing master’s and Ph.D. degrees and published 200 papers in refereed journals and more than 300 in conference proceedings.

Nanni has received several awards, including the 2015 Engineer of the Year Award, ASCE Miami-Dade Branch; 2014 IIFC Medal, International Institute for FRP in Construction; ASCE 2012 Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research; and the Engineering News-Record Award of Excellence in 1997 (Top 25 Newsmakers in Construction). He is a licensed professional engineer in Italy, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oklahoma.



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Frenk Named to UN Foundation Board

UM News

President Julio Frenk

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 19, 2016)—University of Miami President Julio Frenk has been named to the Board of Directors of the United Nations Foundation, the international organization that supports the United Nations in tackling the greatest challenges of the 21st century—including climate change, poverty, and human rights violations. Founded as a public charity in 1998 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner, the UN Foundation has evolved into an active problem-solver that builds public-private partnerships and implements issue-based campaigns to connect people, ideas, and resources.

“We have reached a new global crossroad where, from public health to social and economic inequity to climate change, we are faced with both extraordinary opportunities and real and far-reaching risks,” Frenk said. “Our greater aspirations for human advancement depend on our ability to unite in purpose and in practice at the United Nations. I am honored to join the board of the UN Foundation and to champion collaboration and sustainable development with my fellow members.”

Frenk and fellow appointee Baroness Valerie Amos, director of SOAS University of London, join a distinguished list of global leaders on the board, including Nobel laureate and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The announcement came during the foundation’s semi-annual board meeting, held in Copenhagen to coincide with the Women Deliver Conference—the largest conference on the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.

“We welcome Baroness Amos and Dr. Frenk to the UN Foundation Board and look forward to their leadership,” said Turner, chairman of the UN Foundation Board. “Their experiences, both inside the UN and in their governments, will be invaluable to our mission of connecting people, ideas, and resources to the United Nations’ lifesaving, life-changing work.”

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