Tag Archive | "college of arts and sciences"

Researcher Receives $1.9M Smoking Cessation Grant


Researcher Receives $1.9M Smoking Cessation Grant

Monica Webb Hooper

Monica Webb Hooper

Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 14, 2015) – Numerous studies have shown that African Americans and Hispanics are less likely than Caucasians to quit smoking, even if they participate in cessation interventions.

Associate Professor of Psychology in the UM College of Arts & Sciences Monica Webb Hooper is one of the nation’s leading researchers investigating these disparities.

She just received a grant from the Florida Department of Health James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program to determine how cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) impacts people’s ability to quit smoking, and their feelings of stress and depression around these efforts.

“The importance of reducing tobacco-associated health disparities cannot be understated,” Hooper said. “Racial/ethnic minorities are less likely to quit smoking, and tend to have elevated stress and depressive symptoms, which may contribute to cessation disparities.”

For her new study, Hooper and her research team will randomly divide Black, Hispanic and White smokers into two groups, one of which will receive CBT while the other receives only general health education. Both groups will be provided with nicotine patches.

At the end of the therapy – and after three, six and 12 months – study participants will be assessed to see who has quit smoking.

“We expect that CBT will eliminate racial/ethnic differences in stress and depressive symptoms, and smoking cessation compared to the general health education control group,” she noted.

Hooper’s grant is part of an $18-million commitment by the Florida Department of Health to advance research on tobacco-related diseases.

“Florida is committed to finding innovative treatments for cancer and tobacco-related disease through competitive research grants,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Out of 175 proposals, the 14 selected for funding hold great promise for restoring health to Florida’s families dealing with cancer, heart disease and lung disease.”

Two other researchers at the University of Miami also received funding through this initiative.

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Motion Picture Students Adapt Stephen King’s 9/11 Story for the Screen

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Motion Picture Students Adapt Stephen King’s 9/11 Story for the Screen

By Maya Bell
UM News

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film's director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy "falling" from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin, the film’s director of photography, shoots actress Juliana Harkavy “falling” from the World Trade Center on the patio of the Bill Cosford Cinema.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 15, 2015)—Facing certain death after the planes hit the World Trade Center, Sonja D’Amico jumps from a window. Yet as she plummets 110 stories, she is enveloped not by raging flames but by soothing thoughts of her beloved.

Last week, School of Communication students and graduates filmed that scene, adapted from a 9/11 story by Stephen King, in the unlikeliest of places—the patio outside the Bill Cosford Cinema. Of course, when the 30-minute nonprofit, noncommercial film premieres at film festivals, no one will know that. No one will see that actress Juliana Harkavy, who portrayed Alisha in The Walking Dead, was actually standing on an improvised stool, her wind-swept mane blown by a hand-held fan, as UM alumnus Jonathan Franklin rolled back and forth on a loaned camera dolly to capture her beatific expression.

But that’s the magic of movies, and of turning a compelling story into an even more compelling screenplay. Which is what Barbara Leibell, a lecturer in the School of Communication, hoped to share with students in her scriptwriting class when, in January 2014, she asked King’s permission to adapt The Things They Left Behind—his story about a man haunted by the appearance of objects that belonged to colleagues who perished in the twin towers—into a screenplay.

It wasn’t an unusual request. Through what King calls his Dollar Babies program, the best-selling author has probably launched a number of careers, including celebrated director Frank Darabont’s, by granting aspiring filmmakers the right, for the price of a $1, to adapt his stories for film. A week later, King gave his consent, and Leibell and about 20 of her students, both former and current, got busy.

Sara Werner, a graduate of the School of Communication’s Master of Fine Arts motion pictures program whose short on human trafficking, Aurora, won best film at the 2012 Canes Film Fest, is the director. She and Franklin, a fellow M.F.A. grad and the film’s director of photography, are shooting the script, written and adapted by Jake Gillman, who graduated May 7 from the School of Communication with a major in scriptwriting. He called the exhausting year-long process of getting the script “to the point we were satisfied” an “amazing opportunity” and the day last week when the crew recreated the collapse of the towers in the Miami office set of the TV show Graceland an “emotional, thrilling, humbling and really nerve-racking” experience.

“The office was a mess. There was soot everywhere. It was so real I had to step outside,” Gillman said. “Being from New York, 9/11 hits close to home. It’s a sensitive subject, so you want to do it and Stephen King’s story justice.”

Under Leibell’s guidance, Gillman and his team expanded King’s narrative. They turned their version of The Things They Left Behind into a dreamy love story, with actor Tom Frank, who appeared on Dexter, playing the bereaved boyfriend of the woman whose red sunglasses turn up in his New York apartment—donated by The Filling Station Lofts, a firm dedicated to fostering film and arts in Miami—a year after she jumped.

After reading the script, Mike Gabriel, the former CIO of HBO, and Missy Jenkins, former aide to Newt Gingrich, donated funds. Respected industry professionals, including David Frankel, director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, and Howard McCain, director of Outlander, agreed to serve as mentors. And Maria Elizabeth, a hair stylist and make-up artist from Virginia, offered her services and time for free.

“When I read the script I cried. It spoke to me,” Elizabeth said outside the Cosford last week, in between freshening Harkavy’s lipstick and tousling her hair. “I think it will speak to a lot of people, so I wanted to be part of it.’’

Still, the students, who include costume designers from the Department of Theatre Arts and script supervisors from the College of Arts and Sciences, face the same daunting challenges many filmmakers face: long hours, no pay, and a limited budget. The producer, Xinyue Chen, an M.F.A. film student who already has spent countless hours securing permits and low-cost or donated locations and equipment, and negotiating salaries for the cast, (all Screen Actors Guild professionals who have agreed to work for $100 a day) says she’s running on adrenaline. But, she too, is thrilled with the opportunity.

“Every morning, I wake up stressed because I know there will be new troubles coming,” Chen said.”This film is a big challenge for student filmmakers. But when I see the footage we made together, I know it is worthy. I’m so proud of it.”

She and the rest of the students also know that adapting a King story could be a steppingstone, if not a career-maker. After all, Darabont, who adapted and directed two multiple Academy Award-nominated films, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, from two Stephen King stories, was one of the first Dollar Babies. He asked King’s permission to write and direct his first film, the author’s The Woman in the Room, when he was 24.

“King liked Frank’s work so much he continued working with him on major projects,” Leibell said. “So this is a great honor and opportunity for our students. No matter what happens, they’re all learning valuable filmmaking skills, getting material for their reels and resumes, and making a beautiful, meaningful film.’’

To support post-production costs of the film, email Leibell at DLeibell@miami.edu or call her at 305-582-6571.



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‘Islands of Creation’ Captures UM Researcher’s Fascinating Speciation Studies

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Uy (Islands of Creation)

The groundbreaking research of J. Albert C. Uy, documented in the film Islands of Creation, could help unravel the mystery of speciation. Here, Uy and his wife, UM researcher Floria Mora-Kepfer Uy, return to Frigatebird Island, part of the Solomon Islands, after conducting fieldwork. Photo courtesy of Day’s Edge Productions.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 8, 2015) – An evolutionary biologist fascinated by the way new species evolve, J. Albert C. Uy has longed to have his research featured in a film geared toward the general public. But concerns over the way some nature documentaries distort science always dissuaded him from collaborating with filmmakers.

Read the full story

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Autism Researchers Discover Age-Specific Brain Changes

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Autism Researchers Discover Age-Specific Brain Changes

UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 20, 2015) – The field of autism research has tried to find a central theory underlying brain changes associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Now, a new University of Miami study shows that individuals with the disorder exhibit different patterns of brain connectivity than typically developing (TD) individuals and that these patterns adjust as the individual ages.

“Our findings suggest that developmental stage must be taken into account to accurately build models that show how the brains of individuals with autism differ from neurotypical individuals,” said Lucina Uddin, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of the study. “We believe that taking a developmental approach to examining brain connectivity in autism is critical for predicting response to treatment in young children with ASD.”

The human brain is composed of more than one trillion cells called neurons. They interact with one another to form complex signaling networks. Previous studies have identified patterns of both functional hypo- and hyper-connectivity of these signaling networks in individuals with ASD. Published in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical, the study, “Developmental Changes in Large-Scale Network Connectivity in Autism,” attempts to explain these conflicting results by indicating that the developmental stage of the individual plays a key role.

The key findings include:

  • Children (ages 7 to 11) with ASD exhibit hyper-connectivity within large-scale brain networks as well as decreased between-network connectivity when compared to TD children.
  • Adolescents (ages 11 to 18) with ASD do not differ in within-network connectivity, but have a decrease in between-network connectivity when compared to TD adolescents.
  • Adults (older than 18) with ASD show neither within- nor between-network differences in functional connectivity compared with typical adults.

The findings suggest that alterations in the networks of the brain’s cortex may trigger the complex behavioral characteristics observed in individuals with ASD.

“This study helps us understand the functional organization of brain networks and how they change across the lifespan in autism,” said Jason S. Nomi, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology at UM and lead author of the study.

The researchers are currently working to explicitly characterize an important developmental transition in individuals with autism: the onset of puberty.

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Designing Online Equality: Lunch and Learn on April 9

OnlineEquityJoin Women’s and Gender Studies at the University Center’s Storm Surge Room at 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 9  for a Lunch and Learn with UM Law Professor Mary Anne Franks, vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, who will discuss the impact of online harassment against women and how to fight it. A free lunch will be provided, but attendees are requested to bring their own drink. Read more about the forum and Professor Franks.


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