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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Engineer Enhances Environmental—and University—Resources

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    Helena Solo-Gabriele

    Helena Solo-Gabriele

    As a teacher, researcher, role model, and donor, Helena Solo-Gabriele is making a difference in the world. “Since I was an undergraduate here in the 1980s, our University has made huge advances,” says Solo-Gabriele, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. “While the amount I give each year isn’t large, I know it’s important. As more and more of our faculty, staff, and alumni donate, our University gains important resources.”

    The daughter of Cuban-born parents, Solo-Gabriele is a long-time member of the UM “family.”  Her father, Emilio Solo, earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Miami in 1964. “He would bring our family to the UM pool, and it was always a special trip to come to the campus,” she says. Following in her father’s footsteps, she and her husband, Frank Gabriele, III, introduced their two daughters, Christina, now 19, and Elizabeth, 12, to the campus at an early age.

    After graduating from high school in Miami, Solo-Gabriele earned her bachelor’s degree at UM, in civil engineering in 1987, followed by a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 1988. One of a few women in her class, Solo-Gabriele attributes her success in the program to the college’s welcoming atmosphere. “As engineering students, we built a strong sense of community that continues to this day,” she says. “People from all backgrounds feel welcome.”

    Solo-Gabriele worked in the private sector for two years before moving to Boston and earning her doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995. She returned to UM as an assistant professor and has been teaching, conducting impactful research, and, through her civic-minded activism, paving the way for a better future ever since.

    During the early 2000s, she studied the health risks associated with using wood for marinas and decks that had been treated with an arsenic-containing preservative. She served on a national scientific panel convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, when industry stopped using the preservative. Lately her environmental research focuses more on oceans and beaches. She studies the levels of bacteria in sand to better understand the potential health risks.

    Solo-Gabriele is also the faculty advisor for Engineers Without Borders, a University student organization, and president of the Association of Cuban Engineers, a professional organization co-sponsored by UM and Florida International University. She also organizes the annual Cuban Infrastructure Challenge, a design competition for UM, FIU, and Florida Atlantic University students that generates ideas for engineering initiatives that would improve life in Cuba if and when the communist island becomes a democratic state.

    Two years ago, Solo-Gabriele was approached by JoAnn H. Morgan, a former associate director of the Kennedy Space Center, now retired, about contributing to a scholarship fund for women engineering students. Through her donation, Morgan also wanted to pay homage to her mentor, Hugo Delgado, Jr., B.S. ’83, an electrical engineering student who went on to a successful career with NASA.

    Impressed by Morgan’s passion for helping students and honoring her mentor, Solo-Gabriele pledged to make an annual contribution to the scholarship for 20 years. Her sustained support earned Solo-Gabriele membership in the University’s Loyalty Society, which honors alumni donors who make gifts for two or more consecutive years. “I feel very grateful for the opportunities I was given as a student,” she says, “and I am glad to be able to help our students in the future.”

    Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.





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