Faculty and Staff Support the U: For This Couple, Giving Back Passes the Taste Test
Two leading-edge researchers at the Miller School of Medicine have been contributing to the University of Miami since joining the faculty in 1995.
“As teachers and researchers, our careers are all about giving back to our students, our University, and to society,” said Nirupa Chaudhari, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and director of the University-wide Neuroscience Graduate Training Program.
Her husband, Stephen D. Roper, Ph.D., also a professor of physiology and biophysics, is equally committed to enhancing University programs. “One of the most important reasons UM is well regarded locally is that faculty and staff contribute their time, effort and funds to the community,” he said.
Over the years, Roper and Chaudhari have supported the Lowe Art Museum, the Miller School and a number of other areas while raising their son, Peter. For two decades, they also have been Leadership Donors in UM’s United Way campaign — a giving level for employees who donate 1 percent or more of their salary.
While Roper and Chaudhari often collaborate in their studies, they have separate laboratories and pursue different research interests. “I am trying to understand the sense of taste,” says Roper, who received the 2010 Max Mozell Award for Distinguished Senior Chemosensory Scientist and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Physiology (London). “My work has implications for appetite control and obesity. While taste doesn’t determine how much we eat, it controls what we select to eat, from fruits and meats to high-calorie desserts.”
A molecular biologist, Chaudhari is studying the genetic factors that allow taste bud cells to detect sour, sweet, salty, or bitter flavors. “I am also interested in how the taste buds regenerate, grow new cells and reconnect to the nerves that carry signals to the brain,” she said. “Those studies may have implications for patients with throat and neck cancers since chemotherapy or radiation destroys taste buds and may compromise the body’s taste system.”
For Chaudhari and Roper, ongoing funding for the University’s research, clinical, and educational programs is critical to its continued success. As Chaudhari said, “We feel it is essential for faculty members and other employees to support the next generation at UM and in the wider community.”
Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.