U-LINK Fellows

Uniting Researchers of Microbial Symbiosis at UM (Symbiosis@UM)

Public Health: Addressing dysbiosis as a potential driver of substance relapse and HIV/AIDS could substantially alleviate human suffering related to these chronic conditions that are prevalent in South Florida.

Economic: Identifying evidence-based treatments to mitigate the deleterious health effects of dysbiosis could build new clinical service lines at the University of Miami to deliver these cutting-edge therapies.

Symbioses are mutually beneficial interactions between species. They are so beneficial that they are everywhere. Yet remarkably, the importance of symbiotic microbes as hidden players that dramatically affect animal and plant function, the generation and maintenance of biodiversity, and the health of both humans and the ecosystems on which we depend, has only recently been recognized, and is currently understudied. In addition, the concepts of symbiosis are also grossly underexploited in their application to the design of engineered systems that rely on microbial processes in order to function.

The goal of Symbiosis@UM is to unite UM researchers of microbial symbiosis because the systematic study of microbial symbiosis presents a roadmap towards societal gains that can be achieved through an understanding of the fundamental processes that underlie human and ecosystem health.

Alexandra Wilson (acwilson@miami.edu), Biology, Professor; James Klaus (jklaus@rsmas.miami.edu), Department of Marine Geosciences, Associate Professor; Michelle Afkhami (afkhami@bio.miami.edu), Department of Biology, Assistant Professor; Andrew Baker (abaker@rsmas.miami.edu), Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Associate Professor; Stefan Wuchty (wuchtys@cs.miami.edu), Department of Computer Science, Associate Professor; Helena Solo-Gabriele (hmsolo@miami.edu), Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental engineering, Professor


Mapping, Visualizing, and Understanding the 3D Evolution of Complex Systems

Technological: Evaluate a suite of state-of-the-art 3-D photogrammetric software solutions to determine (a) their suitability for deployment within UM’s Advanced Computing (AC) environment (Pegasus), and (b) what the obstacles and weak points are in the existing processing pipeline that can be mitigated with additional research effort.

Three research groups at UM (Mathews, Penabad/Cure, and Purkis/Gleason) are currently using different 3-D processing pipelines, each of which are computationally intensive, but none of which have yet been able to take full advantage of the UM high-performance computing infrastructure. Current limitations include the extraordinary size of datasets and bottlenecks in their processing, limited data extraction and analysis tools, lack of access to complementary survey hardware, and difficulty in sharing results with partners. Determining the best course of action to overcome these obstacles is our technological objective.

Academic: Investigate innovative ways of applying 3-D datasets to examine complex systems through time. Define a pilot project for implementation.

This objective is to identify joint collaborative projects among the team members that could include, for example, the mapping of informal settlements on island archipelagos combined with the studying of the marine environment that surrounds them. Working together as a team, we can understand the 3-D evolution of these systems in a more holistic way. We have several such concepts now that will be assessed for feasibility and logistical planning as part of the academic objective of Phase I.

Educational: Facilitate the incorporation of 3-D imaging technologies into the classroom to encourage students from a variety of disciplines to enhance their learning experiences and share their ideas for potential interdisciplinary projects.

3-D photogrammetric tools are already being used in classes - ARH 270 (Mathews), The Architecture Studio (Penabad, Cure), and GSC580 (Purkis). In addition, MES 514/614 (Hanselmann) will have a hands-on 3-D modeling component during 2018. The educational objective of Phase I would be to bring an interdisciplinary group of students together to present their projects and experiences using the various software components, and for instructors to collaborate in order to improve the content and methodology of such 3-D based coursework.

Samuel Purkis (spurkis@rsmas.miami.edu), Marine Geoscience, Professor; Carie Penabad (cpenabad@miami.edu), School of Architecture, Assoc. Professor; Adib Cure (acure@miami.edu), School of Architecture, Asst. Professor Prof. Practice; Karen Mathews (k.mathews1@miami.edu), Art and Art History, Asst. Professor


Childhood poverty: Pathways to resiliency

Children born in poverty are at risk for cognitive and emotional difficulties, decreased academic achievement, and negative health outcomes. Despite these obstacles, some children exposed to risks associated with childhood poverty persevere and avoid negative outcomes; they are resilient. This proposal will bring together an inter-campus, interdisciplinary group of University of Miami investigators to examine pathways to resiliency, leading to potential interventions that can be tailored towards individual children’s risk factors. By leveraging big behavioral data and computational approaches to understanding developmental trajectories, and empowering children and their parents to be agents of their own change, we move closer to personalized interventions and making real progress towards closing the achievement gap.

The current proposal focuses on children’s language, social interactions, and physical movement in the community as a means to understanding risks and resiliency associated with childhood poverty. We are ideally positioned to conduct this research. The proposed project will unite a faculty team with both basic research expertise and community empowerment resources with home bases in the Department of Public Health Sciences, the Departments of Psychology (including the Linda Ray Intervention Center [LRIC]) and Physics, and the School of Education and Human Development. We build on the previous collaborative effort of a subset of the team (Perry, Messinger, Song, and Katz) on a NSF-funded project (IBSS-L: #1620294) examining language and social interactions in early-intervention classrooms for children from low-income, high risk backgrounds. Here, with the added expertise of new team members (Kumar and Nicolas), we seek to develop an interdisciplinary team to expand research on at-risk children out of the classroom and into the community.

Lynn Perry (lkperry@miami.edu), Psychology, Professor; Daniel Messinger (dmessinger@miami.edu), Psychology, Professor Naresh Kumar (NKumar@med.miami.edu); Public Health Sciences, Associate Professor Chaoming Song (c.song@miami.edu), Physics, Assistant Professor; Lynne Katz (lkatz@miami.edu), Psychology, Research Associate Professor; Marie Guerda Nicolas  (nguerda@miami.edu) Education & Psychological Studies, Professor


Reproduction of Race in Miami

From police abuse, to neighborhood destruction and displacement, and the myriad congenital and infectious diseases to which African-descended populations are disproportionately vulnerable, for example; race (and class, gender, and sexuality intersecting with race) invites apparently inexhaustible and mostly uniformed public debate. The Reproduction of Race in Miami Research project addresses the key societal problem, or “grand challenge” of the material effects of racism (and its intersections), in the areas of health and wellbeing, cultural belonging and equal access to institutions, and the built and natural environments.

In Phase I, we will engage in an Intersectional Interdisciplinary Mapping project (details below in Methodology). This process of deep collaboration will not only (1) Increase our individual and collective knowledge of the various geographic, ethnic, and class sites in the space of ‘Black Miami’, and (2) Establish a ‘common language’ among us, through cross-training in GIS, network analysis, architectural mapping, participant-observation, molecular epidemiology, and using literature, history and film to “see” a community; but also will (3) Refine our focus and methods in preparation for extramural private and foundation support for further research and programming. To focus our Phase I efforts, we have chosen to (4) Prepare a scholarly article to disseminate the findings of this preliminary mapping effort. These activities support both Phase II Implementation, and preparation of coordinated extramural grant applications to the NEH,

NIH, Ford Foundation, ArtPlace National Creative Placemaking Fund, Wenner Gren Foundation, and Social Science Research Council, beginning in fall 2018. For example, we have already begun preparation for a National Endowment for the Humanities Connections grant, through which we plan to extend our work to undergraduate and graduate teaching through the development of team-taught and themed (regular term and summer) university-wide courses.

Jafari Allen (jafari.allen@miami.edu), Anthropology, Professor; Laura Kohn-Wood (l.kohnwood@miami.edu), Department of Educational and Psychological Studies; Donette Francis  (d.francis@miami.edu), English, Associate Professor; Germane Barnes (g.barnes@miami.edu), Architecture, Senior Lecturer; Sophia George (sophia.george@med.miami.edu), Obstetrics & Gynecology, Research Assistant Professor; Ta-Shana Taylor (t.taylor2@miami.edu), Geological Sciences, Lecturer