Tag Archive | "Office of the Provost"

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Interdisciplinary Research Spurs Innovation

By Matthew O. Perez
UM News


Provost Jeffrey L. Duerk discusses how team science advanced magnetic resonance imaging.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 6, 2018)–After more than 30 years developing the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Jeffrey L. Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost,  shared his passion for science and innovation when he presented the College of Engineering’s Strategic Research Initiative Seminar on April 2.

 In his presentation, “Interdisciplinary Teams: Lessons Learned from the Technical Development and Clinical Application of Magnetic Resonance Imaging,” Duerk discussed the evolution and function of biomedical imaging as well as the critical role interdisciplinary teams play in scientific research.

 “Team sciences are best deployed to solve big, challenging problems,” Duerk said.  “If it’s how to tie your shoes, you don’t need a team of scientists. But if you want to transform MRI from a tool that’s used in diagnostic imaging to one that’s used for real-time, image-guided, cancer therapies or cardiovascular therapies, then that’s a big paradigm shift.”

The promise of what can be accomplished through interdisciplinary collaboration, such as the application of engineering to the medical field and vice versa, is what brought Duerk to UM’s College of Engineering where he explored the problems these collaborations have the potential of solving.

Early on, Duerk said, physicists, chemists and electrical engineers were the primary drivers in the development of  MRI. But it was collaborations with experts from other disciplines that enabled the new technologies to be applied to brain, spine, cardiac and musculoskeletal body imaging.

 During the hour-long seminar, attendees learned about research and revolutions in MRI technology, the engineering behind MRI, and how the combination of academic disciplines within the field dramatically affected Duerk’s perception of research and higher education.

 Duerk was the founding director of the Case Center for Imaging Research, which brings together engineers, physicists, physicians, biochemists and radiochemists to develop new biomedical imaging technologies and translational applications, and a founding leader of the Cancer Imaging Program at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors in 2017, he holds more than 40 patents, has been awarded numerous National Institutes of Health and industry-sponsored grants, and has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles.

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Call for Applications and Nominations for the 2018 Faculty Learning Community

The Office of the Provost is accepting applications and nominations for the 2018 Faculty Learning Community (FLC) through Friday, December 15 for distinct FLC groups that will concentrate on two themes:

  • 3D Printing/Maker Technologies: Incorporating opportunities for students to transform course content, projects, and new ideas into physical models, sculptures, and mechanisms.
  • Media-Based Assignments: Leveraging the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and other software to enable students to create and edit images, data visualizations, audio, video, and multimedia projects.

The FLC program was the focus of the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). FLCs give faculty members from all disciplines the knowledge, skills, and pedagogical support to improve their teaching and enhance the learning environment.

The University regards FLC membership as an acknowledgment of excellent, innovative, and effective teaching. It is open to all full-time faculty who are engaged in undergraduate teaching. Faculty who are selected will be designated as FLC Fellows and will receive a one-course teaching reduction in the Fall 2018 semester.

In addition, each topic group will have a shared pool of funds available to support their FLC work. FLC Fellows will meet seven times over the course of the spring semester to engage in facilitated discussion regarding their theme and their courses. They also will be expected to incorporate active-learning concepts into an existing or new course, utilize emerging tools/technologies as part of the course, assess active-learning outcomes, and teach the enhanced course at least three times during the five years after their FLC is concluded.

Click here for a full program description and application form.



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Abbreviated Applications to Revised Provost’s Research Awards Due October 20

The Provost’s Research Awards (PRAs) are designed to foster excellence in research, scholarship, and creative activities at the University of Miami. The provost’s goal is to continue to build and maintain a world-class research university featuring a community of scholars, scientists, and artists with robust externally funded programs. The PRAs provide seed funding that is designed to contribute significantly to the University’s research portfolio.

There are several changes that have been made to the PRA program that the Office of the Vice Provost for Research would like to bring to the faculty’s attention:

  1. While the PRAs will continue to fund both direct costs ($6,500) and faculty salary ($10,500), the number of PRA awards will be reduced by half.  (The other half of the provost’s funds are being allocated for the U-LINK interdisciplinary initiative.)
  • Interested faculty must submit an abbreviated application or LOI by October 20 to their associate dean for research in accordance with guidance issued by each school. Specific instructions will be issued by your dean or associate dean for research. Each individual school will review applications from their own faculty and will rank the top half of proposals. These applicants will be invited to submit a full PRA application by December 4. These applications will be reviewed by the Research Council and funding decisions will be made by March 5, 2018.
  • Anyone receiving PRA funding in the last three years (FY2014, 2015, 2016) MUST submit final reports for their previous projects. Applications from faculty with final reports in default will not be accepted. These reports must be received by October 20.

The other details of the PRA funding program are largely unchanged. Please view the RFA for additional information.


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Provost Jeffrey Duerk Is Here to Move the Needle

By Meredith Camel
UM News


Provost and Executive Vice President Jeffrey Duerk

CORAL GABLES. Fla. (August 16, 2017)—When 6-year-old Jeffrey Duerk felt ready to ride a bike without training wheels, he didn’t tell his parents. Instead, he fished through his father’s toolbox, selected the appropriate wrench, and got to work. Though he succeeded in removing only one wheel, he learned a lifelong lesson.

“That can-do spirit, that entrepreneurial spirit—that’s a lot of what science is,” says Duerk, who joined the University of Miami in July as executive vice president and provost. “It’s having a sense that you can do something, then trying to do it, and if it doesn’t succeed, trying again.”

Still an avid cyclist, Duerk has been tinkering for the last 30 years not with training wheels but with the signals, sensors, and algorithms of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the indispensable medical tool that produces images of the human body without radiation.

MRI technology was in its infancy when Duerk—who holds a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University—was pursuing his master’s in electrical engineering at The Ohio State University. One day, a professor ended the lecture early and opened class to any topic. A fellow student asked about “this thing called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.” The professor didn’t know what it was but vowed to find out.

“He came back and gave this lecture about quantum spin, magnetic fields, radio frequencies, digital signal processing,” Duerk recalls, “and I said this is what I want to do!”

Knowing that Cleveland, Ohio, was a hotbed for the burgeoning MRI industry, Duerk chose Case Western Reserve University for his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering. There, he joined an MRI lab “at basically the time the first human whole-body systems were becoming available,” he says.

 Today Duerk holds some 40 patents, primarily for MRI innovations, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors.

That quintessential symbol of invention—the light bulb—appears prominently atop two desk lamps in his office in the Ashe Building on the Coral Gables campus. One naked bulb sits on a steampunk-style machine; the other rests on an oversized silver flashlight. The zigzag filaments emit a captivating glow, but for Duerk, the lamps’ most alluring quality is their unusual pairing of objects.

In art as well as in education, Duerk looks for the creative intersections of objects, people, and ideas because, as he says, “the more interfaces you have, the more interesting things you can do. That’s one of the really great things about the University of Miami having 11 schools and colleges, as well as its various centers—all of these are opportunities to explore complex questions and solve different types of problems.”

Except for a few stints in the corporate world as a young scientist, Duerk developed his career at Case Western before coming to Miami. In 2005, at the request of the medical school dean at Case, he and an interdisciplinary group of colleagues from across campus drafted a proposal to invest in defining how medical imaging, genetics, drug discovery, and therapeutic evaluation could be linked. The dean’s response to their proposal: “This is interesting, but think bigger.”

The dean appointed Duerk founding director of what would emerge as the Case Center of Imaging Research, which has been a major player in fast-tracking discoveries into real-world applications. Expanding MRI from solely a diagnostic tool to an interventional one was among their key contributions.

“In order to capitalize on the full potential of MRI, we wondered if it was possible to image quickly enough to do an image-guided procedure,” Duerk explains. “One of our graduate students won an international young investigator award for the ability to deploy a stent in a renal artery completely under MRI guidance to the same accuracy as in, for example, a CT scan. The fact that this application of MRI now exists very widely, for specific indications—that’s pretty gratifying.”

Duerk also was a member of the interdisciplinary team of scientists and physicians who created and have advanced MR Fingerprinting, a quantitative technique that allows radiologists to more specifically identify and assess abnormalities than traditional MRI. And while leading the center, mentoring students, publishing papers, and acquiring patents—as well as raising two children with his wife, Cindy—Duerk was tapped to chair the Department of Biomedical Engineering and later to serve as dean of the School of Engineering.

Each time he confronts a new challenge, Duerk thinks back to his former dean’s “think bigger” advice, as well as a favorite quote by architect Daniel Burnham, which begins, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…”

The role of provost at the University of Miami was yet another opportunity to think big and broaden his scope of impact. In learning more about the University, in particular its hemispheric, excellent, relevant, and exemplary aspirations, Duerk wanted to be among the leaders who have the chance to “paint on this amazing canvas.”

“If you look at the leadership of the University of Miami today,” Duerk continues, “President Frenk has been here two years, [UHealth CEO] Steve Altschuler has been here two years—and we have new deans of the School of Business Administration, School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Miller School of Medicine. All of us came because we are builders. And it’s not about moving the needle from 9.9 to 9.95. Here the opportunity is to move the needle in big ways.”


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Pioneering Scholars Honored

UM News


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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