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Fellowships and Grants for Incubating Research Relevant to Latin America and the Caribbean

Special to UM News

The University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas has announced the recipients of its Graduate Fellowships, summer field research grants, and the Barrett Prize for Best Dissertation.

 CORAL GABLES, (October 30, 2017)––The University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas has appointed three distinguished graduate fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year: Felicia Casanova, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology; Samantha Chaitram, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of International Studies; and Ernesto Fundora, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

The College of Arts and Sciences and the institute have awarded three distinguished fellowships every year since 2012. Funds support doctoral students whose research is relevant to Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino and diasporic studies.

The fellows participate in the intellectual life of the institute while working on their own degree programs and dissertation projects. The initiative provides qualified Ph.D. candidates with a tuition waiver and a full graduate stipend in exchange for their involvement in the institute’s initiatives.

In addition, 10 students from across the University received institute grants to conduct field research throughout the region, and will present their work at a January symposium. The institute’s grants seek to incubate research on key challenges facing the Americas, including Latin America, the Caribbean, immigrant populations of and in the region, and Miami as a hemispheric hub.

The research topics and grant recipients are:.

Islam as a New Religion among the Catholic and Afro Cubans—Lina Jardines del Cueto, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Sciences.

Looking for Traces and Graces: A Mexican Route through Migratory Corridos and Exvotos—Lorella di Gregorio, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, College of Arts and Sciences.

Larval Fish Acoustic Space: Physical and Biological Noise and Signals—Craig Raffenberg, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Zika Virus Outbreak Response: Determining the Lessons Learned from the 2015/2016 Zika Outbreak in Brazil—Department of Public Health Sciences, Miller School of Medicine.

From Suassuna to Guerra-Peixe: ‘The Armorial Music Movement in Brazil’-Constructing Notions of Northeastern Identity through Music and Literature—Rafael Torralvo da Silva, Department of Musicology, Frost School of Music.

Feeling the City: Immigrant Fiction and the Geographies of Urban Belonging—Marta Gierczyk, Department of English Literature, College of Arts and Sciences.

Functional Traits and Climatic Tolerances of Woody Bamboos along an Andes-Amazon Transect—Belen Jimenez Fadrique, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences.

The Gospel of Health in Occupied Haiti—Matthew Davidson, Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences.

Are long-term declines in growth rates of tropical trees due to thermal stress?—Timothy Perez, Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences.

How a Cuban coral reef will transition through human-induced change—Shireen Rahimi, Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.

Also announced by the institute was the winner of the 2017 Barrett Prize for Best Dissertation on a Latin America or Caribbean topic, which went to Diego Lugo for his work on Frontier Territories and the Weight of Violent Inequality: Land Concentration and Land Grabbing in the Colombian Frontier. He will share his research on Wednesday, November 8, during a Research Lunch hosted by the institute.

“We are pleased to support and incubate research from students whose academic interests enhance the knowledge base of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said institute Director Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul.

The next call for 2018 student grants and distinguished fellows will be issued in December.

The mission of the institute is to create and share knowledge bridging the Americas, strengthening the myriad areas of the University of Miami undertaking research relevant to the hemisphere.


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RoboCanes Reach Semi-Finals at Global Robotics Competition

UM News

The RoboCanes team members who competed in Nagoya, Japan are, from left, Chloe Arluck, Pedro Peña, Lloyd Beaufils, Professor Ubbo Visser, Joe Masterjohn, Jannes Visser, Kyle Poore, and Andreas Seekircher.

The RoboCanes who competed in Nagoya, Japan are, from left, Chloe Arluck, Pedro Peña, Lloyd Beaufils, Professor Ubbo Visser, Joe Masterjohn, Jannes Visser, Kyle Poore, and Andreas Seekircher.

Despite a year hiatus and outdated hardware, the RoboCanes, UM’s autonomous soccer playing robot team, advanced to the semi-final round of RoboCup 2017, becoming the world’s fourth top team in the annual robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) competition.

Their secret? A new strategy, according to Ubbo Visser, associate professor of computer science, who guided his five-member team of computer science students to the games held in Nagoya, Japan, late last month.

“After one year without participating in the 3D Simulation League, we were able to submit a competitive package and compete among the 12 teams and reach the semi-final, where we lost against the long-time world champion, UT Austin,” Visser said.

Designed to promote robotics and AI research, the international robocup challenge is as much about learning as it is about fun. To compete, students must apply integrated research to develop a myriad of robotic skills, such as real-time sensor fusion, reactive behavior, strategy acquisition, machine learning, real-time planning, multi-agent systems, context recognition, real-time computer vision, strategic decision-making, motor control, intelligent robot control, and much more.


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A Blueprint for Action in Hurricane-Ravaged Haiti

The Haitian government adopts a UM study for its post-Hurricane Matthew recovery and rebuilding efforts.

UM News

Photo courtesy of the Office of President of Haiti

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse convened a meeting of his cabinet and advisors to discuss the report co-funded by Project Medishare and the Center for Haitian Studies.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (June 27, 2017)—Proving the value of field research and community input, a report prepared by University of Miami anthropologists who spent three months assessing the assets available to help Haiti’s devastated southern region recover from Hurricane Matthew received the endorsement of the Haitian government this month.

Rather than put the study on a shelf, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his Cabinet officially adopted the report’s recommendations as a guide for the government’s intervention in the Grand Sud region, which took the brunt of last October’s Category 4 hurricane, leaving many people with unsuitable housing, destroyed crops, lost jobs and no water system.

“This report is critical because it was done from the ground up,” Moïse said at the June 14 meeting he convened with UM’s scholars, his cabinet and several advisors at Haiti’s National Palace. “It includes Haitian institutions and community members’ perspectives. I read it from beginning to end, and re-read it. The recommendations are succinct and specific to the locales. I can assure you that it will serve as the core guidelines for the government’s policies for reconstruction in the Grand Sud.”

For the study co-funded by Project Medishare and the Center for Haitian Studies, Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, and the co-founder of Haiti’s Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), and INURED coordinator Toni Cela, a postdoctoral fellow at UM, spent three months trekking across some of Haiti’s most remote coastal and inland agricultural communities.

Their goal was to determine Hurricane Matthew’s impact on the region’s communities and livelihoods, assess needs, and identify and map the local resources and assets critical to each locale’s recovery and reconstruction. But the study also had a training mission—to develop more researchers who can tackle Haiti’s problems with science-based facts.

Marcelin oversaw five data-collection teams—four comprised of one INURED supervisor and five local community members who were trained to conduct community-based surveys, and one team of five ethnographers, including two UM public health graduate students of Haitian descent. INURED supervisors also interviewed and facilitated focus group discussions with community leaders and members, and conducted ethnographic observations.

“These communities have been devastated by the hurricane, but they have clear ideas about how to rebuild by capitalizing on their existing assets and resources,” Marcelin told the president and his cabinet at their June meeting. “They want to re-establish their autonomy, not develop dependency.”

The groundwork for the meeting in the National Palace began in late April, when the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas hosted a town hall on the UM campus and disseminated fact sheets from the report, “After Hurricane Matthew: Resources, Capacities, and Pathways to Recovery and Reconstruction for Devastated Communities in Haiti.” The fact sheets were disseminated in partnership with the Observatoire Citoyen de l’Action des Pouvoirs Publics en Haiti (OCAPH), a prominent civil society advocacy in Haiti. Attendees at the town hall from Haiti included Isnel Pierreval, advisor to the Office of the President of Haiti, and OCAPH’s Karl Jean Louis, who strategized with INURED to ensure the final report would reach key people in Haiti who could act on it.

Returning to Haiti in June with the final report, Marcelin mounted a public education campaign with journalists and civil society organizations to shed light on the plight of Hurricane Matthew’s victims and share the recommendations for assisting them—in advance of the government’s 2017-18 budget preparations. He appeared on several radio stations and on live TV with Haiti’s renowned journalist, Anthony Pascal (Konpè Filo).

Soon after, the president’s office convened the meeting with INURED and, along with his cabinet members and advisors, applauded the report for its timeliness—the government plans a caravan to the Grand Sud in early July—and for its science-based recommendations that can inform the government’s reconstruction efforts.

“For a long time now we have been operating in the dark without knowing what these communities truly needed,” said Public Works Minister Fritz Caillot.

Marie Gréta Roy Clément, the minister of health, noted the study provided an in-depth understanding of post-disaster vulnerability to health hazards. “We have heard reports of the skin diseases that emerged after the disaster, but we never understood the proportion and the depth of the problem,” she said.

UM's Toni Cela, right, spent three months in the field assessing the needs and assets of Haiti's Grand Sud region, post Hurricane Matthew.

UM’s Toni Cela, right, spent three months in the field assessing the needs and assets of Haiti’s Grand Sud region, post Hurricane Matthew.

In addition to the establishment of mini health clinics, free schooling for victims and access to potable water, the report’s recommendations include establishing agricultural banks to provide loans to local farmers and other organizations, hiring agricultural extension workers and veterinarians to revitalize crop production and animal husbandry, collaborating with agronomists to identify solutions for pest threats to agriculture and livestock, and securing commitments from international organizations and NGOs to use local materials and local professionals in their rebuilding projects.

In signaling the importance of having sound data informed by local realities, President Moïse implicitly embraced INURED’s chief mission, which is to groom new leaders in Haiti who can research its many pressing social and economic issues and guide public policy to resolve them. As Marcelin, who co-founded INURED in 2007 and serves as its chancellor, has long noted, disaster-prone Haiti has relied too long on the unstudied, quick fixes of international aide to resolve its problems.

“In an ideal world, research should be conducive to the development of public policies and social interventions,” said Cela, who joined INURED after the 2010 earthquake. “It appears that there is the intent from many actors in Haiti to do just that. Both the central and local governments now have a report that can orient the reconstruction of the Grand Sud. Let’s hope that this is a shift of paradigm in the way Haitian society responds to community vulnerabilities and disasters.”






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Recognition for ‘White Sand Black Beach’


Greg Bush and Florida’s first lady, Ann Scott, at the Florida Book Awards ceremony.

Greg Bush, an associate professor of history, has won a prestigious silver Florida Book Award for non-fiction for his book about a pivotal struggle in Miami’s civil rights history, White Sand Black Beach: Civil Rights, Public Space and Miami’s Virginia Key.

Bush, who was honored with other winning authors from across the state in Tallahassee last month, said he never imagined his life would be consumed largely by “what I learned from our history as I became an advocate (and organizer) trying to preserve and enhance the public spaces along Miami’s waterfront.”

In White Sand Black Beach, Bush chronicles the unique story of Miami-Dade County’s “black” beach, the current state of Miami’s public waterfront, and the potential to stimulate civic engagement. As he notes, environmentalists, community leaders, and civil rights activists have come together recently to revitalize Virginia Key, which was begrudgingly designated as a beach for African-Americans in 1945 after activists protested Jim Crow-era laws that denied blacks access to the recreational waterfront.

The beach became a vitally important gathering spot for African-American families and represented a tangible victory in the continuing struggle for civil rights in public spaces. But, as white leaders responded to desegregation by decreasing attention to and funding for public spaces in general, the beach was largely ignored and eventually shut down.

Bush was one of more than 200 writers to compete for the awards, which recognize, honor, and celebrate the best books about Florida published in the previous year. The competition is coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries with assistance from across the state.

For more information on the full list of winners, visit the Florida Book Awards

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SEEDS: Reproducibility in Science

Special to UM News


Panelists discuss one of the greatest challenges in contemporary science—the failure to reproduce or replicate research results.

MIAMI, Fla. (April 25, 2016)—One of the greatest challenges in contemporary science—the failure to reproduce or replicate research results—was tackled by a first-ever symposium that linked reproducibility and the responsible conduct of research.

The SEEDS “You Choose” Awards and the Miller School’s Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy presented “Reproducibility in Science: Writing, Data and the Growth of Knowledge” on April 24 at the Mailman Center for Children Development, with a keynote talk by Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., founder and CEO of the California-based Science Exchange and co-director of its Reproducibility Initiative.

“It is rare and reassuring to see institutional leadership take such a supportive role” in fostering reproducibility, Iorns said during a subsequent panel discussion with John Bixby, Ph.D., vice provost for research and professor of pharmacology and neurological surgery; Dushyantha T. Jayaweera, M.D., executive dean for research and research education and professor of medicine; and Joyce M. Slingerland, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for translational research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, professor of medicine, and director of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute.

The program was chaired and the panel was moderated by SEEDS grant recipient Joanna Johnson, Ph.D., director of writing in the College of Arts and Sciences, who described her work on a project that identifies poor, boastful, and hedging scientific prose as a potential contributor to failures of reproducibility.

What has been called a “crisis” in science, repeated failures to reproduce complex and costly experiments is thought to be an obstacle to public trust in science, especially worrisome in times of budget uncertainty.

Iorns discusssed ways of measuring and incentivizing reproducible research, and included results from the first replication studies published by the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology. Iorns was an assistant professor at the University of Miami before starting Science Exchange in 2011. Bixby, Jayaweera, and Slingerland addressed efforts at UM to improve reproducibility and made clear that such efforts are an important component of the responsible conduct of research—and a key element of National Institutes of Health compliance rules for academic institutions.

SEEDS (A Seed for Success) “You Choose” Awards support investigator-initiated activities that enhance the awardee’s community and career. The event was co-sponsored by the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

For more information about SEEDS, please contact Marisol Capellan, SEEDS manager, at mailto:[email protected].


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