Miller School Faculty Members Receive Scholarly Activity and Funding Awards

Xue Zhong Liu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Otolaryngology, who has identified new genes for different forms of hearing loss, is one of three winners of the 2016 Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity.

Liu and the other winners — Francisco M. Raymo, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, who contributed to the explosion of molecular logic gates, and Peter Minnett, Ph.D., professor of ocean sciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who specializes in remote satellite sensing of critical sea-surface temperatures — were honored Friday by Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM President Julio Frenk, and Vice Provost for Research John L. Bixby , Ph.D., during a ceremony at the BankUnited Center.

“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. “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.”

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 Genetics, Lancet, 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.

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. 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 included three faculty members from the Miller School — W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery and scientific director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, Fabrice Manns, professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, and Neil Schneiderman, the James L. Knight Professor of Health Psychology in the Miller School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences. Other recipients were Victoria Behar Mitrani, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for the Ph.D. program and research in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and Michelle Wachs Galloway, Ph.D., professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Dietrich is a leader in the field of central nervous system injury and repair and has been listed by the Institute of Scientific Information as a “Highly Cited Researcher,” placing him in the top 0.5 percent of all scientists based on citation impact. He has made numerous basic science contributions in the area of traumatic brain injury, and has successfully translated his basic science discoveries into the clinic using mild therapeutic hypothermia for CNS ischemia and trauma. Notably, Dr. Dietrich has been continuously funded as an NIH researcher since the late 1980s, which is an unusual and laudable accomplishment.

Manns is an expert in two main areas: the mechanisms of accommodation and presbyopia in the eye, and the development of Optical Coherence Tomography and other imaging technologies for ocular biometry. During his academic career, Manns has sustained an increasing level of extramural funding, culminating in a research expenditure level of over $1 million in FY14-15. Impressively, he was able to carry out this high level of research productivity while serving as the interim Chair for the Biomedical Engineering Department while Dr. Ozcan Ozdamar,was on sabbatical.

Schneiderman has for many years been an influential contributor to the fields of behavioral neuroscience, psychosomatic medicine and health psychology. He has had continuous funding from the NIH and the NSF since 1966, through individual research grants, training grants, program project grants, clinical trials, and more recently, via the national Hispanic Community Health Study. He has made key contributions in basic, translational, and clinical research, and most recently, he has served as principal investigator for the Miami Field Center of the NHLBI multi-center Hispanic Community Health Study of Latinos.

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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