FIU's Top Scholars from Across the Disciplines to be Honored

FIU President Modesto A. Maidique will recognize FIU faculty members from a breadth of disciplines for their outstanding achievements in research and scholarship at a reception on Tuesday, March 31, at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Home located on the University Park Campus.

More than two dozen distinguished members of the FIU academic community - world-class scientists and researchers, authors, and scholars - will be recognized for their accomplishments.

"On this occasion, we celebrate the achievements of a diverse community of scholars whose remarkable work inspires both students and peers and extends the academic excellence of FIU," said Executive Vice President and Provost Ronald M. Berkman.

The following faculty members will be recognized this year.


Whitney Bauman, Assistant Professor of Religion and Science, was awarded the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his manuscript Theology, Creation, and Environmental Ethics: From Creatio ex Nihilo to Terra Nullius (Routledge, 2009). The award, which provides a stipend and travel funds, will be presented during a ceremony at the University of Heidelberg in May.


Charles Bigger, Professor and Director of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement Program (RISE), part of the Minority Biomedical Research Support Program (MBRS) at the College of Arts and Sciences, received funding from National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his management and direction of the MBRS and RISE programs. The primary objectives of these programs are to improve graduation and retention rates and strengthen the interest, skills, and competitiveness of minority students in pursuit of biomedical careers.


Girma Bitsuamlak, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, won the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award for his proposal of a project that will use computer simulation to determine wind flow around buildings. This five-year study will explore the effects of high impact wind speeds on buildings and structures. Dr. Bitsuamlak's goal is to achieve a better understanding of complex hurricane/structure interactions and contribute to the design of more hurricane-resilient structures.


Erik Camayd-Freixas, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, was awarded the Sister Maureen T. Kelleher Altruism Award by the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. He also received the Humanitarian Award from the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Guatemala. Professor Camayd-Freixas was named 2008 Linguist of the Year by the Intranet Global Translators Network in Rouen France, and was honored with a President's Commendation from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Milwaukee.


Jiuhua Chen, Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for his project, which is part of the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to accelerate the research and development of technologies needed to support hydrogen-powered fuel cells for use in transportation and electricity generation. Dr. Chen's project focuses on testing materials which can store hydrogen with a higher volumetric density than liquid hydrogen for potential use as fuel for vehicles. His research will help to foster energy independence for the United States by providing an alternative energy source to gasoline and foreign oil.


Wonbong Choi, Associate Professor and Director of Nanomaterials & Device Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, was named a Fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS). The title of MRS Fellow honors members of the organization for their research accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the advancement of materials research.


Arindam Chowdhury, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is conducting an NSF-funded study that centers on testing full-scale structures engulfed in simulated hurricane flows, leading to performance-based design for hurricanes through direct correlation of wind speed with performance and damage levels. Dr. Chowdhury's work is creating a scientific basis for developing risk-based and performance-based design criteria, and will ultimately help to create more sustainable coastal communities around the country.


John Dufresne, Professor of English and Creative Writing, was awarded Florida Book Awards' Gold Medal in Fiction for his book, Requiem, Mass (W.W. Norton). The book was also a People Magazine Book Pick of the Week.


Elizabeth Foley, Professor of Law at the College of Law, wrote The Law of Life & Death, which will be published by Harvard University Press in 2010. The book explores how the legal system addresses issues of life and death, examining subjects such as feticide, abortion, brain death, physician-assisted suicide, the death penalty, and organ donation. It is Professor Foley's second book. Liberty for All: Reclaiming Individual Privacy in a New Era of Public Morality, her first book, was published by Yale University Press in November 2006.


Anuradha Godavarty, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, received funding from the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute) and the Florida Department of Health for her research efforts focused on breast imaging. Hand-held based optical imagers, which are portable, relatively inexpensive, and applicable to any tissue volume, are feasible and affordable for most patients. There is no risk to patients, since the optical imaging technology is not radiative or invasive, in contrast to widely used x-ray mammography and nuclear-based imaging techniques. However, none of the hand-held optical imagers to date can perform three-dimensional tumor detection studies. Dr. Godavarty led a team that has developed the first hand-held optical device capable of 3-D tumor detection. This technology, when used in conjunction with standard diagnostic imaging tools, can eventually save lives and improve the early-stage diagnosis of breast cancer, which currently strikes 1 in 8 women in the United States.


Divina Grossman, Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, was elected chairperson of the Florida Association of College of Nursing for a two-year term. The organization is comprised of deans and directors of some 50 baccalaureate and higher-degree nursing programs, public and private, in Florida.


Craig Layman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a National Science Foundation Career Award. His research is centered in the Caribbean, especially Bahamian and Florida estuaries, with an emphasis on ecosystem fragmentation. Dr. Layman's proposal looks at ways to work with local communities to restore the fragile ecosystems of three wetlands. Water flow is critical to healthy functioning of wetland ecosystems, which serve as important nursery habitats for fish and vertebrates. However, a number of roads are blocking the water flow between the wetlands and the ocean. Dr. Layman plans to restore water flow by building bridges and culverts, which can rapidly restore more natural function and prevent a severe decline in marine and coral fisheries.


Dwayne McDaniel, Senior Research Scientist at the Applied Research Center, won an award from the Army Research Office of the Department of Defense for his project, which will address research and educational needs in the composite field of engineering design. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of composite materials in engineering design for the aircraft and defense industries. Dr. McDaniel will train engineers to meet new technological demands by forging a collaboration between the Applied Research Center (ARC) and the Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department. He will expand existing projects from ARC and the Mechanical Engineering Department and conduct research in two distinct areas of composites: carbon nanotubes (CNTs) used to fabricate CNT-ceramic composites for thermal management applications; and bonding testing for contaminated composite surfaces.


Campbell McGrath, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing, was awarded Florida Book Awards' Silver Medal in Poetry for his book, Seven Notebooks. The book is Professor McGrath's seventh collection of poetry.


Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, directed the NSF-funded Biocomplexity and NASA-funded WaterSCAPES projects. Focusing on research and education activities in the field and the lab, and from space, Dr. Miralles-Wilhelm and his team examined the interaction between water and vegetation changes in wetlands, and analyzed the influence of changes on global water cycling and biodiversity. He conducted this research on two wetlands ecosystems: the Everglades in South Florida, and in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.


Matthew Mirow, Professor of Law at the College of Law, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to lecture and conduct research at the University of Chile, Santiago, during the 2009-2010 academic year. Mirow will study the Constitution of Cadiz (1812) in the history of Latin American constitutionalism and teach a course related to this topic.


Rita Mukhopadhyay, Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the College of Medicine, received NIH funding for her study of metalloid transporters and drug resistance in Leishmania, a protozoan parasitic infection affecting almost 12 million people world-wide. Drug resistance has frequently been reported in field isolates, and clinical resistance is a major impediment to the treatment of this disease. Dr. Mukhopadhyay and her team identified specific drug transporters in Leishmania for the first time. The characterization of these transporters has shown that their physiological functions are volume regulation and osmotaxis - two important functions for survival and successful transmission into the host. Dr. Mukhopadhyay also reported that a single mutation in this transporter alters the substrate specificity of this channel, which has greater implication in drug resistance.


Steve Oberbauer, Professor of Biology and Law in the Department of Biological Sciences, wrote a paper published in Ecology Letters that was selected for Faculty of 1000 Biology. This award-winning online service highlights and evaluates the most interesting papers published in the biological sciences based on the recommendations of over 2000 of the world's top researchers. Dr. Oberbauer's article described the results of his study that was the first direct measurement of the amount of leaf area in the canopy across the landscape of a tropical rain forest.


Michael Orta, Associate Professor of Music, won a 2008 Grammy nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album category for his Savant Records release "And Sammy Walked In." Professor Ortiz composed and arranged several tunes for the album, and the noted musical group Sammy Figueroa and the Latin Explosion performed.


Barry Rosen, Professor in the Department of Cellular Biology and Pharmacology and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the College of Medicine, is conducting an NIH-funded study of the mechanisms of substrate selectivity that allow arsenic transport. Chronic exposure to arsenic, which ranks first on the EPA's Superfund List as the most dangerous environmental toxin and carcinogen, has been linked to a variety of diseases. As a result, nearly every living creature has evolved ways to detoxify arsenic. For nearly three decades, Dr. Rosen and his team have worked out the details of these pathways. In addition to being a poison, arsenic is used in drugs to treat leukemia and parasitic diseases. Dr. Rosen has identified ways that these arsenic-containing drugs get across the cell's protective membrane. In a second NIH-funded project, Dr. Rosen is investigating how heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and zinc turn on genes.


Roberto Rovira, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, was named Landscape Architect of the Year by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) - Miami chapter. The competition, part of AIA's annual Design Awards, recognizes practitioners in the field of landscape architecture who have demonstrated outstanding performance and professionalism in the discipline.


John Stack, Jr., Director, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Professor, Politics and International Relations and Law, and John Stuart, Professor of Architecture, were awarded Florida Book Awards' Silver Medal in Florida Nonfiction for co-editing The New Deal in South Florida. The book, a collection of studies and essays, examines the impact of a wide variety of New Deal projects in the region through letters, photographs, public murals, housing, parks, and architecture.


JoAnn Youngblut, Professor at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, received a grant for a five-year study from NIH's National Institute of Nursing Research. She will analyze how families function and relate with one another - mother-to-mother, parents to surviving children - after the death of a child in a pediatric or neonatal intensive care unit. Professor Youngblut was also appointed a permanent member of the Nursing Science Children and Families study section, Center for Scientific Review, at the National Institutes of Health.

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