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Faculty Honored for Their Pioneering Research

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    From left are Kenneth Voss; Tatjana Rundek; David Birnbach, vice provost for faculty affairs, who oversaw the selection process for the Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity; John Bixby, vice provost for research, who led the selection process for the Provost’s Research Awards; Martin Grosell; and  Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 27, 2015)—A world-renowned stroke expert, a marine biologist whose research has shed new light on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf of Mexico marine life, and a physicist who has greatly increased our understanding of imaging and light transmission processes in the ocean are the recipients of the 2015 Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

    Ralph L. Sacco, professor and chair of the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology; Martin Grosell, Maytag Professor and chair of the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; and Kenneth Voss, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, were honored last Friday during a ceremony held in the BankUnited Center’s Hurricane 100 Room.

    The award acknowledges demonstrated excellence in research by either a single unique achievement or several years of scholarly productivity. “Today we recognize and celebrate the scholarly promise and achievement of our faculty,” Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc said in his opening remarks.

    Sacco, who is also the Olemberg Family Chair in Neurological Disorders, was traveling and could not attend the ceremony; Tatjana Rundek, vice chair of  the Department of Neurology, accepted the award in his behalf.

    Described by Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt as “one of the giants of the University of Miami in terms of the quality of his scholarship and the impact of his work,” Sacco is an internationally recognized expert and leader in the area of stroke and stroke prevention. Across his career, his groundbreaking work in the incidence of stroke and the identification of risk factors in multiethnic regions has advanced prevention and stroke care in diverse populations.

    As a principal investigator, Sacco has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health since 1993, with nearly $40 million in research funding awarded over that period of time. He has published 476 peer-reviewed scientific articles in high impact journals, along with several hundred abstracts published in supplements to major journals. Sacco has served on multiple committees, study sections, and task forces for the NIH, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Food and Drug Administration, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Institute of Medicine. He has been an invited participant for a number of high level meetings at the United Nations and, in 2010-11,  had the distinction of being the first neurologist to serve as president of the American Heart Association, until then a role filled by experts in the cardiovascular field. He is currently the president-elect of the American Academy of Neurology.

    Grosell, participating in NOAA’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and a group of other scientists discovered that the overall swimming performance of juvenile mahi-mahi exposed to crude from the spill decreased by 37 percent. His team’s groundbreaking findings, published in Environmental Science and Technology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that even a relatively brief, low-level exposure to oil of the kind released by the spill harms the swimming capabilities of mahi-mahi and likely other large pelagic fish during their early life stages.

    Grosell has capitalized on his NRDA work to develop and lead a consortium for the integration of studies examining the physiology and behavior of coastal redfish and pelagic mahi-mahi at different life stages. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently awarded that consortium a three-year $9 million grant. Considered one of the world’s leading experts on the mechanisms of copper toxicity to fish and other aquatic organisms in freshwater and seawater, Grosell has published 157 papers in peer-reviewed literature as well as a number of book chapters.

    Voss has an international reputation in the field of environmental optics established through his leadership in developing new instrumentation for measuring different aspects of the light field in the ocean and atmosphere. Most recently, his research has focused on the design, development, and deployment of automated, optical observation buoys.

    Five years ago Voss took over as lead investigator on the MOBY (Marine Optical Buoy) project, a NOAA-funded multi-institution program that operates a buoy with a payload of optical instruments in Hawaiian waters. The goal of the three-and-half-year $9 million-funded initiative is to provide accurate measurements of the radiance exiting the ocean in the visible and near infrared. Such measurements are critical for calibrating satellite-borne ocean color sensors that determine phytoplankton concentrations in the surface waters of the world’s oceans. Based on the success of this program and significance of the data acquired from it, NASA is now supporting the development of other MOBY instruments for deployment at other locations throughout the world.

    The ceremony also honored the recipients of the 2015 Provost’s Research Awards. Classified into three categories based on discipline—the Max Orovitz Research Awards in the Arts and Humanities, the James W. McLamore Research Awards in Business and the Social Sciences, and the Research Awards in the Natural Sciences and Engineering—the Provost’s Research Awards provide salary support and direct research costs to faculty.

    Read more about and view a list of the Provost’s Research Awards.


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