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Scholars Honored for Their Pioneering Achievements

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    President Julio Frenk and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, at center, honor the recipients of the Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity, from left, Peter Minnett, (who was away and impersonated by his mask-wearing chair, Dennis Hansell) and Xue Zhong Liu, and, from right, Francisco M. Raymo.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 1, 2016)—An otolaryngologist who has identified new genes for different forms of hearing loss, a chemist who contributed to the explosion of molecular logic gates, and an oceanographer who specializes in remote satellite sensing of critical sea-surface temperatures are the recipients of the 2016 Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

    Xue Zhong Liu, professor of otolaryngology and vice chair for research in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology; Francisco M. Raymo, professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Peter Minnett, professor of ocean sciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science were honored last Friday by Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM President Julio Frenk, and Vice Provost for Research John Bixby during a ceremony in the Fieldhouse at the BankUnited Center.

    Also honored at the ceremony were five recipients of the Provost’s Funding Award, bestowed for the first time, and 61 recipients of the Provost’s Research Awards, announced earlier this year.

    “It is my distinct privilege to be here today to acknowledge the life-changing work these award recipients conduct on a daily basis,”  Frenk said in offering his thanks and congratulations to all the awardees. “One of our aspirations is to be an exemplary university and that begins with you—you are an example to your colleagues and peers, your students, and our greater society.”


    President Julio Frenk and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, center, and Vice Provost for Research John Bixby, left, honor the inaugural  recipients of the Provost’s Funding Award, from left, Neil Schneiderman, Victoria Behar Mitrani, Michelle Waks Galloway, W. Dalton Dietrich, and Fabrice Manns.

    The funding award was established to recognize productivity in research, as evidenced by sustained, peer-reviewed, extramural funding, and, as what Bixby called “a stealth goal,” to identify faculty who have the ability and willingness to mentor other faculty. The inaugural recipients are: W. Dalton Dietrich, professor of neurological surgery and scientific director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis; Fabrice Manns, professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering and professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute; Victoria Behar Mitrani, professor and associate dean for the Ph.D. program and research in the School of Nursing and Health Studies; Neil Schneiderman, the James L. Knight Professor of Health Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Miller School of Medicine; and Michelle Wachs Galloway, professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    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, pioneering research accomplishments in their respective fields.

    Liu, who is also a professor of human genetics, biochemistry, and pediatrics, has devoted his career to identifying new genes for different forms of hearing loss, the understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of genetic deafness, and the improvement of the clinical diagnosis/management of deaf patients.

    He is the founder of the Miami Molecular and Clinical Otogenetic Programs, the most comprehensive research and patient care program for patients with genetic hearing loss in the world. His team has discovered 15 percent of all the new genes related to deafness in the world, and his innovations have led to exciting new ways to enhance our understanding of normal hearing and genetic aberrations that result in hearing impairments.

    Liu is also known for his career-long, exemplary translational research on hereditary hearing loss from basic sciences to clinical application (bench to bedside) and, for the past three years, ranking in the top 1 percent of National Institutes of Health-funded physician-scientists in the auditory field.

    As the author of more than 150 scientific papers and book chapters in highly impactful journals, including Nature GeneticsLancet, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Liu has made landmark contributions to auditory science and his work has been cited over 4,000 times.

    A professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences, Minnett was unable to attend the ceremony so his chair, Dennis A. Hansell, accepted the award in his behalf—his face covered with a Minnett mask. The real Minnett has studied satellite oceanography for more than 30 years, concentrating primarily on the remote sensing of sea­-surface temperatures from satellites and ships, the microscale effects occurring at the sea surface, and the physics of the Arctic.

    He and his team deploy highly calibrated Fourier Transform Infrared Interferometers on ships to measure the emission spectra from the ocean and atmosphere. The data sets support research into the physics of the ocean surface and air‐sea exchanges, and are considered among the most important in climate change research.

    Minnett, whose three decades of sustained, high-quality research are evidenced by more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, has an “h-index” of 33, according to Google Scholar. In 2008, he was elected as the Science Team Chair of the International Group for High Resolution Sea‐Surface Temperature (GHRSST).

    The recipient of many awards, including the 2014 and 2003 NASA Group Achievement Awards, he is on the editorial board of Surveys in Geophysics and associate editor of Remote Sensing of Environment. He also has held editorial responsibilities for the Oceans Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing (2007- 2013); the Cryosphere Encyclopedia of Remote Sensing (2007- 2013); the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology (2004-2007); Remote Sensing of Environment (1999 – 2008); and Atmosphere-Oceans (2000-2001).

    Over the past 15 years, Raymo, who holds six patents on technologies at the intersection of the biological, chemical, and materials sciences, has established an international reputation and a vigorous research program combining chemical synthesis, photochemistry, and supramolecular chemistry. His early research articles in PNAS and the Journal of the American Chemical Society contributed to the explosion of the general area of molecular logic gates.

    These publications, together with his invited review in Advanced Materials, which already has been cited more than 400 times, are milestones in the field and helped establish Raymo’s international visibility early in his career. So, too, has a Career Award from the National Science Foundation, which has continuously supported his research since.

    Altogether, his research has been cited as many as 11,907 times and his current h-index is as high as 58. The scientific impact of his findings is also evidenced by the invited lectures he delivered at the main international conferences in his research area, including the Gordon Research Conference on Photochemistry and the Gordon Research Conference on Artificial Molecular Motors and Switches.

    This year’s Provost’s Research Awards, which were announced in January, are providing salary support and direct research costs to 61 faculty representing 32 departments in seven schools and colleges on the Coral Gables and marine campuses for a wide range of research projects—from the Effects of Anthropomorphizing Nature on Perceptions of Climate Change to The Film Music of Alberto Ginastera during the Perón Years.

    The funding is awarded in 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. Read more about the awards and view a list of this year’s awardees.

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