Tag Archive | "college of arts and sciences"

NASA Honors Physicist for Rocket Launch


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


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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Researchers Build 4D Printer


Researchers Build 4D Printer

Special to UM News


Adam Braunschweig, assistant professor of chemistry, and graduate student Xiaoming Liu demonstrate the 4D printer.

In today’s technological age, 3D printing has become a common mechanism for creating new materials for multiple uses and functions. Yet, new generations of 3D printing machines are now moving into the realm of the fourth dimension, creating structures composed of multiple materials that either evolve in response to environmental stimuli or comprised of multiple components.

Adam Braunschweig, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, and his research team have built a 4D printer able to create microscopic materials made up of different chemical compositions and in different positions along the glass surface of the printer, all while achieving feature dimensions on a nanoscale – 1/100000 the width of a human hair.

“3D printers exist today, but their dimensions are very large, and they print using only one color,” said Dr. Braunschweig. “We created a machine where we can make patterns and add features made of different chemicals and include a tool that can put these different objects right next to each other.”

Braunschweig says the key to the chemical changes come from light bouncing to the tip arrays, or very small pyramids, that create the patterns.

“The longer we shine a light on the surface, the larger things grow,” he adds. “The microfluidic chamber in the printer allows us to add new chemicals in and out of the printer, which creates new patterns composed of multiple and different materials.”

The printer, which took about five years to complete and is a combination of chemistry and new instrumentation concepts, creates a final product only viewable with a microscope.

“We are printing things on a scale of just a few atoms,” adds Braunschweig, whose long-term goal is to build structures like a cell—molecule by molecule. “We proved this technology works and is out there. What you can create with this is only limited by the imagination of the user, but it’s a tool for doing chemistry and building structures the way nature does.”

The study titled “Optimization of 4D polymer printing within a massively parallel flow-through photochemical microreactor” is published in the journal Polymer Chemistry.


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Research Explores How Hispanics Cope with Autism


Research Explores How Hispanics Cope with Autism

By Jessica M. Castillo
UM News

Research sheds light on relationship between optimism, coping strategies, and depressive symptoms of Hispanic parents of children with autism

Humans are resilient, even facing the toughest of life’s challenges. How individuals and families deal with demanding and emotionally charged circumstances plays a large role in how they view and face the world and the possible outcomes of a difficult situation. There’s no exception for the challenging Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and how families adjust and cope with the reported stress of raising a child with autism.

In the first known study of its kind, College of Arts and Sciences psychologists Michael Alessandri and Hoa Lam Schneider worked with Texas Christian University researchers to further the understanding of the relationship between optimism, coping strategies, and depressive symptoms among Hispanic mothers and fathers of children with autism.

Most research on ASD tends to focus on the negative aspects of how parents handle having a child with the disorder, such as exhibiting depressive symptoms or maladaptive behaviors.

“Parents are really resilient and we wanted to learn the positive aspects of how they adjust when raising a child with ASD, as well as the specific coping strategies they are using,” said Schneider, graduate student in the child clinical psychology program at UM’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Focusing on the positive coping strategies and characteristics such as optimism is especially important for clinical psychologists in helping families adjust to raising a child with ASD.

“Our hope is that by identifying these stress-buffering qualities we may be able to tailor clinical interventions for families in a way that affords them the opportunity to strengthen these personal characteristics and responses,” said Alessandri, clinical professor of psychology at UM and executive director of the UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD).

The psychologists also studied the gender and ethnic similarities and differences between Hispanic parents and the larger general population of non-Hispanic families. Their reason for focusing on Hispanic families was two-fold – not only does South Florida provide a rich source of data on Hispanic parents but there is also a dearth of autism research that focuses on ethnicity.

Though there are many similarities between ethnic groups, there are some differences, particularly involving the use of religious coping strategies. Hispanics tend to rely more on their religious faith as a coping strategy compared to non-Hispanic families.

Hispanic families are in turn more likely to use religious coping styles positively and view the challenge of raising a child with ASD as a test of their faith and part of a divine plan. Whereas non-Hispanic families who use religious coping strategies tend to use these techniques more negatively, viewing their circumstances as divine punishment, and then often engaging in denial and substance abuse to avoid dealing with their circumstances.

The researchers also discovered that there were little to no gender differences between Hispanic mothers and fathers in this study.

The team hopes to further their research on autism by uncovering some of the nuances within ethnic and cultural differences, such as acculturation, ideas about mental health and its treatment, and country of ancestral origin. They also hope to gain insight into Hispanic families across the socioeconomic spectrum.

“The coping experience, we imagine, is even more impacted by socioeconomic factors than race or ethnicity factors, but it continues to be challenging to recruit these diverse samples,” said Alessandri.

Though they are “just hitting the tip of the iceberg in understanding cultural and ethnic differences,” said Schneider, the team is one of the few in the field diving deep to help answer some of these questions, with the ultimate goal of providing more targeted counseling and clinical support to families with children with ASD.

The study was first published online in March 2016 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and co-authored by Texas Christian University undergraduate student Kelcie Willis and assistant professor Naomi K. Ekas, a former UM postdoctoral researcher in psychology.

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Researchers SPARK the Nation’s Largest Autism Study

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Researchers SPARK the Nation’s Largest Autism Study

Spark_Logo_CMYK[1]Special to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 21, 2016)Researchers from the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) in UM’s Department of Psychology just helped launch the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge, or SPARK, an online research initiative designed to become the largest autism study ever undertaken in the United States.

Sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), SPARK, for the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge, will collect information and DNA for genetic analysis from 50,000 individuals with autism—and from their families—to advance our understanding of the causes of this condition and to hasten the discovery of supports and treatments.

UM-NSU CARD is one of a select group of 21 leading national research institutions chosen by SFARI to assist with recruitment. Melissa Hale, clinical assistant professor, and her colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences, Anibal Gutierrez and Michael Alessandri, executive director of UM-NSU CARD, are leading the SPARK effort locally.

UM-NSU CARD is a state-funded resource and support program dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism and related disabilities, including deaf-blindness and pervasive developmental disorders.

“SPARK empowers researchers to make new discoveries that will ultimately lead to the development of new supports and treatments to improve lives, which makes it one of the most insightful research endeavors to date, in addition to being the largest genetic research initiative in the U.S.,” Hale says.

Autism is known to have a strong genetic component. To date, approximately 50 genes have been identified that almost certainly play a role in autism, and scientists estimate that an additional 300 or more are involved. By studying these genes, associated biological mechanisms, and how genetics interact with environmental factors, researchers can better understand the condition’s causes, and link them to the spectrum of symptoms, skills, and challenges of those affected.

SPARK aims to speed up autism research by inviting participation from this large, diverse autism community, with the goal of including individuals with a professional diagnosis of autism and of both sexes and all ages, backgrounds, races, geographic locations, and socioeconomic situations.

SPARK will connect participants to researchers, offering them the unique opportunity to impact the future of autism research by joining any of the multiple studies offered through SPARK. The initiative will catalyze research by creating large-scale access to study participants whose DNA may be selectively analyzed for a specific scientific question of interest.

SPARK also will elicit feedback from individuals and parents of children with autism to develop a robust research agenda that is meaningful for them. Anyone interested in learning more about SPARK or in participating can visit SPARKforAutism.org/card, or e-mail SPARK@psy.miami.edu.


SPARK (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge) is a national autism research initiative that will connect individuals with a professional diagnosis of autism and their biological family members to research opportunities to advance our understanding of autism. SPARK’s goal in doing so is not only to better understand autism, but to accelerate the development of new treatments and supports.

SPARK was designed to be easily accessible to the entire autism community and was fashioned with input from adults with autism, parents, researchers, clinicians, service providers, and advocates.

Registering for this first-of-its-kind initiative can be done entirely online in the convenience of one’s home and at no cost. DNA will be collected via saliva kits shipped directly to participants. Once the SPARK participant’s family has returned their saliva samples and provided some medical and family history information, the SPARK participant will receive a $50 gift card. SPARK will provide access to online resources and the latest research in autism, which may provide participants and families with valuable information to help address daily challenges.

For researchers, SPARK provides a large, well-characterized cohort of genetic, medical and behavioral data, and will result in cost-savings for researchers by reducing start-up costs for individual studies.

SPARK is entirely funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI).


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