FIU Research Magazine

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F O R WA R D - T H I N K I N G . I N N O VAT I V E . U N S T O P PA B L E .

FA L L 2023

FIU is leading the science behind the

world’s largest environmental restoration project.





Childhood cancer meets its match

Next-generation antennas

Can effects of lead exposure on the brain be reversed?

Photo: Duncan Brake/National Geographic

F i e l dwork

Unraveling the mysterious lives of marine predators Ph.D. candidate Frances Farabaugh and research specialist Kirk Gastrich collect data for long-term research on the ecological role of sharks. They are members of a team led by marine scientist Mike Heithaus, executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. The group employs technologies such as drones and animal-borne cameras to unravel the mysterious lives of hard-to-study marine creatures such as sharks, rays, whales and their prey. They are part of a larger network of FIU researchers helping to improve conservation of marine predators and the overall health of the ocean. In addition to informing conservation strategies, the shark team’s work has been used as the underpinning for affecting positive policy changes on a global scale.




Carnegie-designated R1 very high research activity public university

TOP 15

Most innovative public universities

TOP 10

Past decade among public R1 universities in research expenditure growth FY 2012 - 2022


Research expenditures FY 2021-2022

(U.S. News & World Report)

FIU conducts research on every continent and in every ocean. Pictured: Biologist Steven Oberbauer and FIU alumnus Matthew Simon at Toolik Field Station, one of the world’s most remote research sites hundreds of miles above the Arctic Circle. For nearly three decades, Oberbauer has been the North American lead for the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX), collecting data to answer questions about what’s happening to and what the world should expect for the future of the Arctic regions.




Research expenditures in the last five years

#2 IN THE WORLD Positive impact on life below water (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023)

TOP 20

U.S. utility patents public universities (Intellectual Property Owners Association)


Positive impact on life on land (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023)

Innovation meets impact FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY AND OFFICE OF RESEARCH & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Kenneth A. Jessell President Elizabeth M. Béjar Provost, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

January 30, 1990, is a significant but largely forgotten day in FIU history. On this day, FIU electrical engineering faculty members Mark J. Hagmann and Tadeusz M. Babij were issued patent 4,897,600 for their invention of a high frequency ammeter. The occasion marks the first known patent assigned to FIU. Just 33 years later, university inventors have catapulted FIU to a top 20 ranking among public universities in U.S. utility patents. Our significant growth in patent production is illustrative of FIU’s evolution as a

Andrés G. Gil Senior Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dean of the University Graduate School

university. Fifty-one years after opening our doors to students, we are one of the

William T. Anderson Associate Vice President for Research

university in the nation and the fourth-ranked public university. We have multiple

Tonja Moore Associate Vice President for Research Strategic Planning and Operations

10 largest public universities in the country – a thriving ecosystem of student, academic and research excellence. Multiple publications place us among the top public universities, including The Wall Street Journal, which ranked FIU the No. 29 academic and research facilities in South Florida and beyond. Our researchers and students are engaged in finding solutions to complex challenges in areas such as population health, environmental resilience, brain health, mental health,

Luis Salas Associate Vice President for Research

cybersecurity, disaster mitigation and technology innovation, among others.

Robert Gutierrez Associate Vice President for Research

The university community celebrated FIU’s 50th anniversary with our hearts and

David Driesbach Assistant Vice President for Research

It is in this spirit that we introduce our new research magazine, an annual

Emily Gresham Assistant Vice President of Research

minds focused on the future. We are moving forward with clarity and confidence. publication highlighting the discovery, innovation and creation of our scientists and students. Their work is improving our lives, safeguarding our planet’s most precious resources, and powering our state’s economy. In this inaugural issue, we introduce you to the individuals leading the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. We check in with a researcher who has spent decades searching for a way to reverse the damaging effects of environmental lead exposure. We learn more about a cancer expert’s efforts to create individualized treatments for children with advanced cancers. And we catch up with an electrical engineer whose patented designs are transforming wireless communications for the future. We hope you enjoy this publication, and we encourage you to visit for videos and additional information accompanying many of these stories. Thank you,

Elizabeth M. Béjar Provost Executive Vice President Chief Operating Officer Email:

Andrés G. Gil Senior Vice President, Research and Economic Development Dean, University Graduate School Professor, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work Email:





LET IT FLOW Lead the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world to protect the Florida Everglades? Challenge accepted.


UNFOLDING A FASTER FUTURE Current wireless systems are fast. Just not fast enough. What’s at stake? It turns out, a lot.


SILENT EPIDEMIC An estimated 800 million children have blood lead levels that affect their brain. Can the damage done ever be undone?

IMPACT AT A GLANCE Fieldwork: On Land | 6 On Screen | 8 At Sea | 64 Research Round Up | 10 In The Lab | 26 Early Risers | 36 Next-Gen Researchers | 56



On the front cover: Todd Crowl, Evelyn Gaiser and graduate student Samantha Hormiga are three of the many FIU researchers and students working to ensure the future health of the Florida Everglades. This page: Hormiga and Gaiser take water samples.


18 22 24 38 58

IN MY VIEW: William Vega Life expectancy is increasing at an unprecedented pace amid soaring numbers of dementia cases. How will this challenge society and culture?


TEARING DOWN WALLS Gone are the days when a scientist worked alone in a lab. Discovering viable new therapies for human diseases requires a new model.

Q&A: Diana Azzam Combatting childhood cancer

INVESTING IN GROWTH Coming soon: A new era of research to drive humanity’s fastest period of innovation ever.


Faculty News


Joining The Conversation



F i e l dwork

Saving the world’s only scaly mammal FIU leads Operation Pangolin, an international collaboration to save the world’s most trafficked wild mammal. These evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered mammals are in dire need of urgent conservation action. However, little is known about the trafficking supply chains that move at least 250,000 pangolins out of African and Asian forests to consumers in China, Vietnam and elsewhere every year. Leveraging technology, machinelearning and interdisciplinary teambased science, FIU researchers are developing solutions to the global pangolin crisis. Pictured above: Mathieu Assovi, a Ph.D. candidate in conservation biology and wildlife management at Felix HouphouetBoigny University in Cote d’Ivoire.





F i e l dwork

Molecular modeling joins the fight against antibiotic resistance Accurate models of bacterial cell walls could potentially aid in the fight against antibiotic resistance, a growing global problem. This 3-D molecular model of the gram-positive bacterium S. aureus’ cell wall, featuring a mesh of crosslinked peptidoglycan (PG) strands and peptide stems, is enabling a greater understanding of how antibacterial drugs interact and diffuse through a protective mesh of PG layers. As computer modeling and molecular simulation techniques are increasingly being used in drug design, accurate atomic-scale models of the bacterial cell wall may aid in developing novel antibiotics that can mitigate the threat of antimicrobial resistance. The molecular model shown here is a step toward this goal. Developed in the lab of physicist Prem Chapagain, associate director of the Biomolecular Sciences Institute, the image was featured on the cover of the October 2022 issue of Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.





Re se a rc h Round Up


Nanogel shows early promise A nanogel developed by Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine researchers and partially funded by the National Institutes of Health shows great

An FIU-invented nanogel could offer a safe, affordable solution for developing nations with no access to or resources for existing treatments.



promise to precisely deliver drugs that inhibit the growth of HIV cells. The nanogel compound, for which FIU holds a U.S. patent, is non-toxic, organic and inexpensive to produce. It contains organic linseed oil, which in small animal studies has proved to have fluorescent properties that help target where medication goes. Early research shows, in some instances, the nanogel has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier – potentially eliminating HIVinfected cells hiding in the brain and changing the way neurological diseases are treated. The team of inventors includes Madhavan Nair, director of FIU’s Institute of NeuroImmune Pharmacology, Ph.D. student Arti Vashist and virologist Andrea Raymond. The nanogel is one of 15 patents issued to Nair.

Exploring phase segregation processes and their modelling equations

Reducing stroke misdiagnosis Treatment of a stroke is often a race against time. Once symptoms appear, brain cells are already dying. However, strokes are sometimes misdiagnosed. Previous research shows minorities, women, older adults on Medicare and residents of rural areas are less likely to be diagnosed within the critical window for receiving treatment. FIU College of Business researchers created a machine learning algorithm that can help emergency department care teams identify stroke patients or those at risk for a stroke more quickly and accurately. Min Chen, associate professor of information systems and business analytics, along with colleagues from Santa Clara University and Carnegie Mellon University, developed the algorithm to analyze many variables, including social determinants of health, such as race, income, housing stability, social isolation and more, to diagnose a stroke before the results of laboratory tests or diagnostic images are available.

The Cahn-Hilliard equation was first proposed in the late 1950s by John W. Cahn and John E. Hilliard. Since then, the equation has been extended to a variety of chemical, physical, biological and other engineering fields. Ph.D. candidate Melissa De Jesus’ research on the equation landed her a prestigious internship at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, sometimes referred to as “the smartest square mile on Earth.” Her paper explored how a doubly non-local Cahn-Hilliard equation (dnCHE) that replaced the classical time derivative with a Caputo fractional time derivative could be used to model dynamic phase segregation processes in which particles exhibit some “memory” effects. De Jesus’ research also focuses on the development of a generalized paradigm for phase segregation phenomena, which encompasses the classical Cahn-Hilliard equation as a special case and involves a relaxation of the classical framework. The up-and-coming mathematician presented her paper at the 2023 Joint Mathematics Meeting, the largest mathematics gathering in the world. De Jesus works with professor Ciprian G.S. Gal in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.



Re se a rc h Round Up

Tracing the roots of Miami’s dialect There are hundreds of different dialects across different regions, cities and communities in the U.S. While some dialects are more noticeable than others, every place has a unique way of speaking English. Phillip Carter, sociolinguist in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, spearheaded the first-ever study of Miami’s dialect. Vowels are one of the first places linguists look to understand whether one language has influenced another. Since Miami is such a multilingual city, Carter wanted to determine if Spanish vowel sounds had worked their way into English words. Miami-born participants from Latino or Hispanic descent and several white non-Hispanic residents were interviewed. Recordings of those conversations were analyzed using a special phonetics software that measured vowel sounds as well as mapped tongue movements. Data revealed Spanish vowels influence the pronunciation of English words, creating the unmistakable rhythm and vibrancy of

Dozens of regional, ethnic and social dialects of English are spoken in the U.S.

Miami English.

Solar panels for future lunar habitats FIU College of Engineering & Computing professors Daniela

making nanomaterial semiconductors for enhancing the power

Radu and Cheng-Yu Lai are researching lightweight and ultra-

conversion efficiency of the panels. The technology aims to

efficient solar panels to supply NASA with renewable power

capture power at twice the efficiency of today’s commercially

options for future lunar habitats. Radu, director of the Advanced

available solar panels. Since 2018, more than 20 FIU students

Materials Engineering Research Institute, is using two-

have interned at NASA, which has invested millions of dollars in

dimensional nanomaterials – substances with unique properties

the College of Engineering & Computing to generate research,

– to create solar-ray absorbers as thin as a billionth of a meter

technology and talent. Seventy students are currently working

wide. To efficiently and securely capture the solar energy, Lai is

on NASA research at FIU.

I think the most important thing we are contributing to NASA is the human potential. — Daniela Radu



Engagement, not lectures, helps students learn more calculus Calculus is the study of change, but calculus teaching methods have changed little in recent decades. Laird Kramer, founding director of the STEM Transformation Institute, found a new approach that could improve calculus instruction nationwide. The National Science Foundation-funded study, published in Science, followed 811 FIU undergraduates enrolled in different sections of the same Calculus I course. Half of the sections were traditional lecture-based classes. The other half employed an evidence-based active learning model, developed at FIU, where rote memorization and traditional lectures are replaced by active learning so students can learn by doing and work collaboratively to solve problems. Students in the new model had greater learning outcomes and an understanding of calculus concepts, as well as better grades. Learning gains also cut across majors and academic paths and included underrepresented groups in STEM — a significant finding since less than half of students entering universities as STEM majors actually graduate with a STEM degree and failing calculus is a major reason.

Secret social lives of great white sharks

Data showed that sharks preferred to be in groups with members of the same sex.

Great white sharks gather seasonally around Mexico’s Guadalupe Island – and some like to hang out together, according to research led by FIU marine scientist Yannis Papastamatiou. Getting a rare glimpse of a “day in the life” of these sharks required some inventiveness. Papastamatiou, Ph.D. candidate Sarah Luongo, undergraduate student Seiko Hosoki and a team of researchers relied on a combination of innovative tracking technology, including a “super social tag” equipped with a video camera, an array of sensors, as well as receivers capable of detecting other tagged sharks nearby. Data showed several sharks formed non-random social associations and tended to spend time together when patrolling for food. One of the world’s leading shark behavioral ecologists, Papastamatiou has studied the sociality of other shark species and noticed a link between sociality and the ability to take advantage of another shark’s hunting success and believes the same thing may be happening at Guadalupe Island. FIU RESEARCH MAGAZINE


Re se a rc h Round Up

Diego Cardeñosa uses DNA detective work to uncover the mysteries of the global shark fin trade. With funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cardeñosa and Demian Chapman, of Mote Marine Laboratory, developed a portable, easy-touse DNA testing toolkit that gives customs officials and inspection personnel the power to identify illegal species on-site and obtain proof to prosecute crimes. To date, it’s helped stop illegal shipments of shark fins as well as European eels and South American matamata turtles. Cardeñosa, a researcher in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education, has been recognized by the global agency Directorate of Criminal Investigation and awarded an Interpol medal for his efforts. Recently, Cardeñosa was also named to

Giving vulnerable wildlife a fighting chance

The Explorers Club’s annual list of “50 People Changing the World That the World Needs to Know About,” comprised of scientists, educators and conservationists. He’s now the third FIU scientist with

26 tons

The amount of endangered thresher shark fins Hong Kong customs officials intercepted from Ecuador and identified with the help of a DNA toolkit co-developed at FIU.

membership in The Explorers Club, joining Mike Heithaus, executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education and an Explorers Club fellow, and Mireya Mayor, FIU's executive director for strategic projects and events.

Tracking disinformation with AI Storytelling is innately human. Stories reflect our cultures, values, belief systems, history, politics and more. Today, misinformation and disinformation lurk within many different stories, especially online news that spreads on social media. FIU Artificial Intelligence (AI) expert Mark Finlayson studies how to use computers to detect when people use stories for malicious purposes. Finlayson, an eminent scholar chaired associate professor of computer science in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, specializes in an area of AI called natural language processing. He’s creating algorithms capable of sifting through lengthy text to collect building blocks that make up the structure of a story — like plot patterns, narrative arcs, characters and more. Extracting this information is key to finding reoccurring or related themes appearing in many different stories. Finlayson, recipient of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award, says this work could help mitigate disinformation and misinformation by allowing for better identification of stories being used to spread misinformation.



Freshwater resources under attack At the height of its power, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) took over the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest dam generating hydroelectricity and diverting water for downstream irrigation. This motivated Shlomi Dinar,


dean and professor of politics and international relations in the Steven J. Green School of International & Public

Photo: Richard M. Howard

Affairs, to explore the connection

The number of waterrelated terrorist incidents carried out between 1970 and 2016.

between terrorism and water. For decades, Dinar has studied the politics of water — how the very nature of water as a scarce, finite resource means it directly intersects with issues of national security. His research found an increase in the number of global terrorist attacks involving water since 9/11. Using one of the most comprehensive terrorism databases, Dinar and postdoctoral associate Jennifer Veilleux reviewed records documenting objectives behind hundreds of attacks. Most were

Could tough love help corals adapt to climate change?

occurring in South Asia and involved water infrastructure, like dams. These findings are invaluable to decisionmakers and government officials evaluating possible water-related terrorism threats or risks.

It’s a race against time to save corals. Institute of Environment researchers Serena Hackerott and Jose EirinLopez, along with Harmony Martell from the University of British Columbia, lead a National Oceanic and

Atmospheric Administration-funded project to identify new, innovative ways to make corals more resilient in a rapidly changing world. Hackerott, a Ph.D. candidate and research assistant in the Eirin-Lopez Environmental Epigenetics Lab, leads part of the project at Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys. To test how stress hardening might enhance stress tolerance, corals are preexposed to stress, including higher temperatures, before being returned to the ocean. This method is often used in agriculture to make seeds hardier. The hope is a little tough love will increase the long-term success of coral restoration and conservation outcomes. FIU RESEARCH MAGAZINE


Re se a rc h Round Up

Sound check

Imagine if you could hold a stethoscope to your heart and find out with almost 90% accuracy if you were developing heart disease. Valentina Dargam, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Engineering & Computing, is coming up with a method to do just that. She created an algorithm that can differentiate the sounds of a healthy heart from one with signs of sickness. Heart valves, like vocal cords, often make different noises based on how healthy they are. The idea is that if you have a digital stethoscope and know where to place it, then detecting heart disease can come down to an algorithm and a good sound recording. With funding from the Florida Heart Foundation, Dargam, who conducts her research under the supervision of biomedical engineering professor Joshua Hutcheson in the Hutcheson Cardiovascular Matrix Remodeling Lab, is currently testing the algorithm on mice.

Telehealth programs benefit children with developmental delay Parents of children with developmental delay face many obstacles to care, including financial challenges, shortages of mental health clinicians, fear of stigma, transportation and more. In a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded study, psychology professors Daniel M. Bagner and Jonathan Comer, along with their teams at the Center for Children and Families, found telehealth can be an effective strategy to overcome these barriers. Parent-child interaction therapy, considered a gold-standard treatment, addresses associated behavior issues for children with developmental delay. Bagner and Comer tested the effects of a telehealth-delivered version, called Internet-delivered Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, developed over a decade ago by Comer and his colleagues. Data revealed it not only led to fewer behavior problems, like aggression, but also improved children’s ability to follow caregivers’ directions — important for entrance into kindergarten.



Most children in this study had speech and language delays, among the most common developmental delays.

Working with robots A team of researchers is developing a National Science

Foundation-funded virtual learning environment to prepare future architects, engineers and construction professionals to thrive in a 21st century workforce that increasingly embraces robotics and automation. Training to use industrial robots is often expensive and conducted one-to-one, utilizing the actual robots. To increase students’ access to the field and safety while learning to use the robots, the team is creating an immersive program that allows students to practice operating industrial robots virtually. The technology will track students’ choices and speech and tailor lessons to ensure each person is learning the material. Shahin Vassigh, director of research and technology development in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA), will lead a team that includes Mark Finlayson, an eminent scholar chaired associate professor of computer science in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences; Biayna Bogosian, assistant professor in CARTA; Eric J. Peterson, teaching professor in CARTA; Madeline Gannon, researcher in CARTA; as well as collaborators from the University of California-Irvine and University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Our team and others have established that dementia caregivers often feel that improved communication with the healthcare provider would be really helpful to them. — Ellen Leslie Brown

Improving care coordination for patients with dementia Initial testing of a new app developed by FIU researchers and collaborators shows early promise in alleviating some of the stress associated with caring for a family member with dementia. The app – CareHeroes – allows caregivers to complete clinical assessments of the person living with dementia and send those to healthcare providers for real-time snapshots of how the care recipient is faring. The app provides color-coded trend lines to the study was funded by the U.S. Agency

clinician for quick viewing of fluctuations,

Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and

severity and frequency of various symptoms.

Health Sciences, and Nicole Ruggiano

for Healthcare Research and Quality

The healthcare provider can then make

from the University of Alabama School of

and showed that caregivers experienced

certain clinical decisions based on that

Social Work. The team, which includes

a reduction in depression after using

information. The project is led by Ellen

several FIU faculty, partnered with geriatric

CareHeroes for a three-month period.

Leslie Brown, the Erica Wertheim Zohar

psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin at the MIND

Follow-up studies are planned.

Chair in Community Mental Health in the

Institution at Miami Jewish Health. The FIU RESEARCH MAGAZINE


In M y V i ew

Alzheimer’s Disease is expected to affect nearly 14 million Americans by 2060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. William Vega, distinguished professor and senior scholar for community health at FIU, considers the multi-layered complexities around the diagnosis and treatment of the disease in this issue’s “In My View” editorial. An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, Vega’s specialty is multicultural epidemiologic and services research. Prior to FIU, Vega was executive director of the University of Southern California Roybal Institute and a provost professor at USC with appointments in social work, preventive medicine, psychiatry, family medicine, psychology and gerontology.



IN MY VIEW We live in a period of human history when life expectancy is increasing at an unprecedented pace. It is estimated that one in three people born today in this nation will live to 100 years of age, or even more. Advances in science, medicine and public health are transforming the aging process. This transition in longevity will challenge societies and cultures in two fundamental ways. Rapid acceleration of longevity will require better lifespan health, personal functioning and life satisfaction. And societies will bear the cost and social burden of older-adult disease, disability and long-term care. — By William Vega —


premier issue already apparent in American society is the soaring

numbers of dementia cases. Every family in America, including my own, has directly or indirectly experienced dementia. Dementia cases are increasing in lock step with an accelerating proportion of adults over 65 years of age. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia in part because people with other dementia types, such as Lewy Body, Vascular, Frontotemporal Lobe and Parkinson’s Disease, often progress into Alzheimer’s Disease. There are dramatic differences in cognitive performance between healthy older adults and older adults experiencing neurodegenerative diseases. American older adults are not well informed about these WILLIAM VEGA



In M y V i ew

differences and are understandably

relatives usually notice “signs” of

concerned about their potential

changing cognitive performance.


This stage may not be dementia

Most older adults in American society, perhaps two-thirds, will experience minor to moderate declines in cognitive functioning such as problem solving and memory, usually commencing in the seventh decade of life. The majority will never experience neurodegeneration and extreme declines and functional limitations. In contrast, one in three older adults may be affected by destructive neurodegenerative

With a bounty of seemingly important discoveries comes the problem of teasing out the truly important breakthroughs.”



disease between 75 and 80 years, albeit with considerable variation in onset age. Due to limitations in accessible and accurate

per se but rather a warning sign requiring clinical evaluation. Often a difficult period may ensue, including anxiety, confusion, denial and a reluctance to seek medical assistance. Acceptance of an eventual dementia diagnosis can be a dramatic event given the consequences for the patient and their immediate support system. A difficult but necessary transition follows, and an even more difficult adjustment unfolds as the disease progresses. The impact on caregivers and families takes many forms but its stressful impact can’t be overstated.

testing procedures, it is difficult

Fortunately, help is on the way.

to identify with precision who

There is urgency for our scientists

is at risk for dementia in earlier

to provide us with solid answers,

adulthood, except in severe cases

and researchers and clinical experts

of preexisting brain damage or

worldwide have heard the call

impairments. In this vacuum of

and have responded. An intensive

evidence-based information, there

search is underway for effective

is a rush of consumer products

evidenced-based interventions,

being marketed that are exploiting

accurate biomarkers and accessible

the information gap by offering

tests, and more effective medical

products to conserve or boost

services for timely evaluation over

cognitive performance, including

the life course that can reduce risk

memory and operational problem-

of disease or delay

solving abilities. The ultimate

dementia progression.

value of any of these products in reducing dementia risk remains

Neurodegeneration is a

untested and unknown.

process that involves synaptic

Alzheimer’s Disease silently

without adequate levels of cell

advances about 20 years before

replacement. A cure in the near

identifiable clinical signs are

term is unlikely because we lack

evident, and once diagnosed

a particular technology to replace

the remaining life expectancy is

neurons or repair damaged

usually about 7 years, yet there

neuronal circuitry. However,

are cases with longer survival.

scientific discoveries using

Affected individuals or their close

sophisticated technical tools are

damage and neuron elimination

“ advancing our knowledge of the brain at an unprecedented pace with great expectations for improving human health across the lifespan. With a bounty of seemingly important discoveries comes the problem

The highest rates of dementia are found among African American, Latino and American Indian populations, and other low-income subgroups.”

of teasing out the truly important breakthroughs. While there are many interesting leads most afford only partial insights into time-ordered processes affecting neurodegeneration. This is inevitable because Alzheimer’s does not have a singular pathology. Late onset Alzheimer’s has multiple potential causes, including prenatal health of mother and fetus, diet, exercise, genetics,

These populations experience lower

will be available. Years of work

educational attainment, racism and

are ahead. Moreover, we must

discrimination, early developmental

create a medical care delivery

and behavioral disorders, and

system equipped to overcome

occupational risk factors, and

the healthcare inequities of the

singly and collectively are linked

past, and to outreach and care for

to metabolic dysregulation before

the highest risk populations with

the sixth decade of life. A recent

histories of poor preventive care

Alzheimer’s Disease Commission

and late dementia diagnosis.

Report concluded that about 40 percent of attributable risk for

These are solvable problems

Alzheimer’s Disease was modifiable,

but hardened barriers must

and if mitigated could dramatically

be addressed and overcome.

reduce the dementia burden in

Readiness of our public health

America. Presently, preventive

and medical care systems to meet

interventions are being developed

the needs of a diverse American

to improve cognitive performance

population requires overcoming

and modify behavioral risk factors

major care gaps in financing, work

Medical science thrives on

including; diet; exercise; and

force preparedness, and services

the use of well-established

social integration, associated

coordination, as well as supporting

canons of experimental biology,

with lifestyles and health histories

home care assistance programs. Of

psychometrics, neurology including

over the life span that could be

course, no progress can occur soon

neuroimaging, pathophysiology,

anticipated and altered.

enough for the 6.5 million current

early cognitive development, cardiometabolic conditions such as vascular disease and diabetes, traumatic brain injuries, toxic exposures and other brain disorders that reduce robustness against neurodegeneration.

genetics and epigenetics, to discover, test hypotheses and

The best news is that there are

dementia victims in this nation.

now several promising drugs that

It is anticipated that the payoff of

have been developed in the United

the current research mobilization

an example of a health disparity

States and internationally that

in neuroscience will change the

disproportionately impacting

could delay Alzheimer’s Disease

landscape of brain knowledge with

vulnerable populations. The

progression. Prevention and

implications well beyond dementia.

field requires an integrative

early-stage detection is essential

This massive scientific endeavor will

multidisciplinary approach,

for preserving the highest level

improve life span health in more

including public health, psychology,

of functioning and quality of

ways than we could have foreseen.

nursing and social work. The

life. Caution is necessary as are

Hopefully these neuroscience

highest rates of dementia are found

expectations about the timing.

discoveries will better prepare our

among African American, Latino

Clinical trials do not necessarily

global population for extended

and American Indian populations,

inform us if and when effective,

longevity, productivity, and

and other low-income subgroups.

acceptable, and affordable drugs

life satisfaction. n

develop explanatory models. However, Alzheimer’s Disease is




E N E R GY UNLEASHED Hurricanes are more intense. Coastal populations are growing. Increased probability of flooding due to higher storm surges and rainfall is heightening the risk for catastrophic damage to the human and built environments in the path of these killer events. Against the backdrop of these complex challenges, FIU scientists are conducting hurricane-related research with all the intensity of a Category 5 storm.

FLORIDA PUBLIC HURRICANE LOSS MODEL This hurricane catastrophe model is used to assess Florida’s hurricane risk in order to regulate windstorm insurance rates and determine fair pricing in a state where 16 insurers failed after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and, most recently, six more after 2022’s Hurricane Ian. The model was developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts in the fields of meteorology, wind and structural engineering, computer science, GIS, statistics and actuarial science. Operated by FIU and funded by the Florida Legislature, the model also evaluates the financial health of individual insurance companies and quantifies the economic benefits of mitigation efforts.



PREDICTION Informing forecasting by the National Hurricane Center and the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Helping develop a storm surge database for Haiti and the Dominican Republic to support decision-making on evacuations. Mapping and forecasting flooding in hurricane-vulnerable regions throughout the Caribbean, improving storm surge monitoring and warning for island nations and Central American coastal areas.

PROTECTION & MITIGATION Researching the disproportion of hurricane impacts on low-income communities in South Florida as part of a $4.63M Andrew Mellon Foundation grant. Addressing hurricane risks and developing resilience approaches in Latin America and the Caribbean through a $7.5M USAID grant. Developing innovative technologies to erect and retrofit buildings and other civil infrastructure to withstand the impacts of stronger hurricanes and more forceful storm surge associated with climate change.




hurricane-related research funding in the past 10 years


hurricane-related articles, proceedings, journal articles and books in the past 10 years

LAB-MADE STORMS FOR BUILDING BETTER FIU’s Extreme Events Institute, led by Director Richard Olson, manages the Wall of Wind (WoW) – the only university-based hurricane simulator capable of generating


157 MPH

Arindam Gan Chowdhury is director and PI of the WoW and Ioannis Zisis is co-director and co-PI. The WoW was created in 2007-08 thanks to a major investment from the State of Florida. Today it is one of only eight National Science Foundation-supported experimental facilities in the U.S. under the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure. WoW has been used for more than a decade to test construction materials in support of better performance-based design and safer building codes.

WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL WIND-WATER-WAVE RESEARCH LABORATORY FIU is leading a team of top scientists and engineers from eight universities as part of a $12.8M National Science Foundation grant to design the world’s most powerful wind-water-wave testing facility. The National Full-Scale Testing Infrastructure for Community Hardening in Extreme Wind, Surge, and Wave Events, or NICHE, will help scientists understand how increasingly stronger hurricanes are impacting coastal environments. When complete, the research laboratory will be capable of generating wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour combined with a water basin to simulate storm surge and wave action.

UNIVERSITY PARTNERS • • • • • • • • •

Florida International University (lead) Colorado State University Georgia Institute of Technology Oregon State University Stanford University University of Florida University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Notre Dame Wayne State University



TEARING DOWN WALLS: Center for Translational Science builds bridges to advance research — By Alexandra Pecharich —

FIU in 2020 set out to create a biomedical research center that turns the traditional modus operandi on its head. A young university that had earned status as a top research-producing institution in record time, FIU

CTS Director Stephen Black sees a bright future for the Center for Translational Science.

applied its signature forward-looking, no-holds-barred approach to creating a hub for drug discovery.

“One of the things that is clear

expert researcher in pulmonary

explains of what lured him

now, with big data and big science,

vascular disease, came on board

to Florida. “We geared up

is that the days of an investigator

and began tearing down walls,

from scratch.”

working in their lab, not talking to

literally. Once closed-off labs

anybody and publishing the great

dedicated to individual teams are

Says Heidi Mansour, an authority

paper every now and again, that's

gone, replaced with dozens of

on drug delivery with nine patents

gone,” says Center for Translational

workbenches in wide-open spaces

to her name, “[The CTS] has a lot

Science (CTS) Director Stephen

to encourage shop talk and sharing

of incredible experts, and I can tap

Black, the scientist in charge of

across the aisles. State-of-the-art

into that, and they can tap into me

it all. “It takes a village now, so

equipment goes into adjacent

and bring the synergy, and so we

everybody works together.”

rooms for all to use.

bring our strengths.” Her arrival, in

With the ultimate goal of

And researchers love it.

translating basic scientific


particular, has elicited excitement not only for her own work around

discoveries into viable therapies

“You want to crack all these

lung surfactant replacement

for human diseases as quickly as

barriers, get people enthusiastic,”

therapeutics in respiratory distress

possible, the CTS set up shop

says Ting Wang, who came to

syndrome, lung infections in

in the former home of a biotech

the CTS after serving as scientific

patients with cystic fibrosis and

institute in Port St. Lucie, on

director of the pulmonary and

lung transplantation but for

the Atlantic coast, about two

endothelial research core at

knowledge she can bring to move

hours north of the university’s

the University of Arizona Health

along others’ projects in a variety

main campus in Miami. Black, an

Sciences. “Here it is new,” he

of areas.


Beyond crosspollination with other FIU researchers, CTS continues to expand partnerships with outside organizations.

Already, the take-no-prisoners

Further driving the possibility

Pokharel shared findings last year at

approach is paying off. In less than

of broad cooperation is the

the first South Florida Translational

three years, grant awards have

prospect of working with potential

Research Symposium, held at the

swelled from a single, initial $500,000

partners such as Harbor Branch

center and dedicated to students

to $13 million. Such eye-popping

Oceanographic Institute in nearby

from FIU and elsewhere. She cannot

numbers come courtesy

Fort Pierce, NASA and related

say enough about the opportunity to

of a team of rockstar scientists.

private companies in support of

work in an open, highly active facility.

Fifteen principal investigators –

the proposed "BioDiscovery Coast

working on neurodegenerative

Innovation Engine.” These and the

disorders, infectious illnesses and

above-mentioned entities have in

spinal cord injury, among others – now each have multiple projects and a full team under their purview. That number is expected to grow to 30 within the next few years. Black foresees would-be investors and startup companies moving into the area, a hoped-for development in which he has taken an active interest. Meanwhile, back at the main campus, 125 miles south, folks in the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work have found their own worlds expanded as they forge productive connections with

the past jointly submitted a grant proposal to promote discovery and commercialization around treatments for human as well as agricultural diseases, largely by looking within Florida’s unique ecosystem at compounds with potential

continues to expand partnerships

the labs of a pharmaceutical firm, she sees the current opportunity as an ideal deep dive for someone with her aspirations. “I talk to everyone,” she says. “I’m getting all these different

Mansour, the drug-delivery expert,

itself," says Adel Nefzi, a seasoned research chemist who developed a library at the CTS of some 35 million drug-like molecular compounds. The collection has impacted advances related to cancer, inflammation, diabetes, antimalarial and bacterial resistance and more.

organizations that have thrown in,

researchers within FIU, the CTS

Interested in employment one day in

“No institution can do everything by

advantage of testing capacity there.

Besides cross-pollination with other

and quick tempo at the CTS.

mentors, and I’m learning a ton.”

“All of us,” Nefzi continues of the


experience," she says of the setup

medicinal properties.

colleagues at the CTS and take


“It’s more [similar to] industry

“we complement each other, bring our own skills, so for sure we can do something.” EDUCATING THE UP-AND-COMING

with outside organizations.

Doctoral student Marissa Pokharel

Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital

is thriving on the ethos of such

and its separate Florida Research

camaraderie and optimism.

& Innovation Center have natural

She came to FIU from California

affinities with the CTS, and the three

to study biomedical science in

are situated in the same office park.

the Herbert Wertheim College of

Beyond this triangle lie even greater

Port St. Lucie to work in Black’s lab.

possibilities. Within a 40-mile radius

(Black also holds the position of

of the CTS sit a USDA research

chair of the college’s department of

center, the University of Florida’s

cellular biology and pharmacology.)

institute for biomedical innovation

There she investigates the role of

and Florida Atlantic University’s

mitochondria in sepsis-associated

neuroscience institute, to name a few

acute lung injury and acute

would-be collaborators.

respiratory distress syndrome.

has a long history of turning out researchers ready to fly on their own and considers such activity critical to supporting the marathon that is drug discovery and commercialization. "Training the next generation is very important,” Mansour says, “getting them set up to be successful in their careers, not only as scientists but, more importantly, as leaders in their scientific area of expertise.” Thanks in part to the CTS and its stream of fire-tested young investigators, humankind’s greatest scourges will someday be a thing of the past. n

From L-R: Heidi Mansour, Bhagyashree Manivannan, Andrea Lora, and Basanth Babu Eedara. Read more about Mansour’s research on page 49.

Medicine and soon after moved to



In The L a b

B r i n gin g in clu s ion t o clinical trials Tr u d y G a i l l a rd Dr. Vanessa Von Wertheim Endowed Chair in Chronic Disease Prevention and Care Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences Lack of diversity in clinical trials has cascading societal implications. It’s a problem that poses serious questions about whether new treatments or lifesaving therapies are safe, effective and benefit everyone, especially populations disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases. Today, diverse older adults remain one of the most underrepresented groups in aging research. FIU nurse scientist Trudy Gaillard is on a mission to flip this script by changing the demographic of research participation. She leads a National Institute on Agingfunded study with a collaborative team from FIU, the University of Florida and University of Central Florida to answer an important question: Exactly how do you ensure diverse older adults become research participants? The team held listening sessions with 361 diverse older adults and their family members to find out. Participants shared valuable insights and voiced a variety of concerns, including the fact they were rarely approached about opportunities to participate in research. Even if they wanted to help advance knowledge about diseases that were likely to impact

their children and grandchildren, they didn’t know where to begin. To remove

If you don’t have inclusion of all racial groups in drug trials, it may be your medications only work with one population as opposed to another.” —Trudy Gaillard



this barrier, Gaillard and the team are creating an online statewide registry where older adults who are ready to participate in aging research can find available clinical trials.

IN THE LAB O st eosporosis d is covery Al exa n d e r Ago ul n i k Founding director of the Ph.D. program in biomedical sciences Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Alexander Agoulnik has been unraveling the mysteries of a specific hormone receptor, known to play a role in the formation of reproductive organs, for over two decades. Now, he and a team of drug discovery scientists identified a method that targets this receptor to help bone-producing cells make more bone — a discovery that paves a path to more effective, easy-to-take treatments for osteoporosis and other diseases associated with bone loss. Years ago, Agoulnik and his collaborators found an interesting connection associated with a mutation on this receptor. They screened patients with undescended testes carrying this mutation and found many also had osteoporosis. This led the team to suspect the receptor also might be associated with bone development. Further research revealed it did. To activate this receptor and get it to function normally, the team tested hundreds of different variations of chemicals until they found the right one. The final compound was shown to improve bone density when it was tested on mouse models in the lab. Agoulnik’s research continues to focus on how targeting this hormone receptor and similar ones could eventually lead to

The main ingredient for success in science is collaboration. Without collaboration, we would never have found the link between genes and bone development, and the collaboration with NIH was crucial because they are the best in the field to look for the right compounds.”

treatments for cancer, liver fibrosis and cardiovascular diseases.

— Alexander Agoulnik



In The L a b

Pre dicting e pilept ic s eizures wit h AI Fa h a d S a e e d Associate Professor in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, College of Engineering & Computing Data taken directly from the brain, such as from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG), holds many secrets. Processing that data remains the biggest obstacle. Artificial intelligence (AI) may help unlock some of the brain’s biggest mysteries. Data scientist Fahad Saeed uses AI to pinpoint everything from when a seizure may strike — to finding new ways to diagnose autism and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Saeed creates different AI-powered machine learning models to do what no human can — parse through lots of data to detect patterns that may hold important clues. Saeed’s National Science Foundation funded project focuses on developing an algorithm to predict when a seizure might strike. It monitors EEG data and tracks any unusual electrical activity in the brain that causes epileptic seizures. His technology will be incorporated into wearable sensors that feed information to a smartphone. If it detects any irregularities in brain waves, it would prompt an early alert notification that a seizure is about to happen, giving people precious time to prepare and take safety precautions.

Saeed is also working on AI models to

Impact is what I’m after and to conduct research that can be translated from lab to real life." — Fahad Saeed



pinpoint clues in brain scans that could pinpoint markers for autism, which can be difficult to diagnose. His model would be another tool in the toolbox for doctors and psychologists.

IN THE LAB Me m or y + just ice in history Bi a n ca Pre m o Interim chair and professor of history, Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow For historian Bianca Premo, the archives of Latin America, especially Peru, are her “labs.” She searches old papers for traces of people who are absent or largely ignored in grand stories of the past. Her expertise is in two main areas: Spanish colonial law and the history of childhood. Uncovering the stories of historically marginalized people – the enslaved, Indigenous subjects and women, as well as children – enriches or challenges our inherited ideas about big topics like law and politics. Her 2017 award-winning book, The Enlightenment on Trial: Ordinary Litigants and Colonialism in the Spanish Empire, for example, shows how colonial litigants, who often could not read or write, shaped modern notions of rights and law by suing superiors in court. Yale legal historian Lauren Benton said the book “reveals truths we didn't know and makes them seem obvious.” Rather than searching for hidden stories, Premo’s latest book now tackles a story its main character might wish remained in the dark. It’s a “tricky and perilous subject,” she says: the story of the youngest confirmed mother in history, who gave birth in 1939 at the age of 5 in Peru. Premo received a 2021 John S. Guggenheim award for this study.

The girl survived into old age surrounded by a bevy of exploitative “supporters,” but when

At the moment, historians are thinking a lot about whether or not it is possible to have a right to be forgotten. We are grappling with issues of memory and justice, and the difficult question of who owns the past.”

she became an adult, she chose to live off

— Bianca Premo

professional historians are obligated to use

the grid. Nonetheless, the internet has made her a viral sensation. Premo directly confronts the ethical bind of writing about this case. While it might seem like justice to permit this woman to fade from history, Premo believes their expertise to ensure stories that achieve notoriety are told ethically.



In Foc us 30


flow l et it

FIU’s decades-long scientific leadership in a Florida Everglades restoration project is central to protecting South Florida’s freshwater ecosystem. The researchers' holistic approach could serve as a model for the restoration of imperiled ecosystems around the world. — By Karen Cochrane, Angela Nicoletti and Adrienne Sylver —



In Foc us

If we want to solve the problem of being able to live here for the next 100 years without running out of fresh water, we need to understand this whole watershed and that it all works together." — Todd Crowl

Institute of Environment Director Todd Crowl (pictured) says the institute’s diverse expertise enables FIU scientists to “look at every possible angle, every possible connection” when working on massive, multi-layered challenges both at home and around the world.


any parts of the world are facing a

water, we need to understand this whole

as well as providing a baseline for gauging

freshwater crisis. Severe, long-lasting

watershed and that it all works together,”

effectiveness of current and future

drought conditions not seen for thousands

Crowl explains. “Without the Everglades

management strategies.

of years gripped much of the U.S. in 2022.

being restored, we’re not recharging our

Coalinga, a small town in California, made

freshwater resources fast enough.”

headlines because water was expected to run out by December. In our rapidly changing world, could any town become Coalinga? That’s a question Todd Crowl, director of the Institute of Environment, wonders about. It’s hard not to. Florida’s future is intricately connected to the fate of vitally important freshwater ecosystems. In search of solutions, Crowl and institute scientists know one thing for certain: Hope for South Florida’s resilience can be

Restoration and protection depend on this Unraveling the complexity of how it all works is an enormous challenge. Almost as enormous as the Everglades. FIU researchers have always faced it head on. Nearly 20 years ago, their findings set water quality standards by advising the restriction of phosphorus to 10 parts per billion for Everglades National Park, a standard incorporated into the federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration

type of data. CASCADING CONSEQUENCES With a piece of paper in front of him, Crowl can sketch out the story of how the Everglades is connected to the underground world of water millions of South Floridians rely on. First, he must jump to the past. More than a century

Plan (CERP). And for more than two

ago, water flowed naturally north to south,

decades, FIU has led the National

marked by seasonal ebbs and flows,

Science Foundation-supported Florida

and fed the Everglades. Then, Florida’s

happens to it, happens to us.

Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological

population grew. And grew. Development

Research (FCE LTER) program that’s

and agricultural lands encroached on the

“If we want to solve the problem of

collected the most comprehensive, long-

River of Grass. Half the Everglades was

being able to live here for the next

term data instrumental to understanding

dredged and drained. Water was rerouted;

100 years without running out of fresh

how the Everglades is changing over time,

the flow, disrupted.

found in the restoration of a freshwater wetland among the world’s largest and most important — the Everglades. What


The work hasn’t stopped. It can’t stop.


A cascade of changes followed. Even

“We have two bays, we have the

underground. That’s where the Biscayne

Florida Keys, barrier islands and a huge

Aquifer — a shallow layer of porous

population living on the coast,” he says.

limestone sitting underneath a portion

“In a day, I can go from a freshwater

of South Florida — is located. It provides

lake to a wetland to a coral reef. We are

one of the most densely populated

performing cutting-edge science and

areas of the U.S. with fresh water. Rain

developing visionary solutions that will

falling over the Everglades recharges

work anywhere in the world.”

ground and filling the crevices. Rainfall over urban areas doesn’t have the same fate. Roads, concrete sidewalks and other infrastructure act as impediments, making it impossible for water to make its

FIU’s locations — the main campus less than 10 miles from the Everglades, the other campus on the shores of Biscayne Bay — helped position university scientists literally and figuratively to lead

journey to the aquifer, so most of it enters

solutions. Crowl realized in addition

canals or the ocean. With the Everglades

to where FIU is located, the university

less than half its original size, there’s less

had the talent and expertise to address

available space to refill the aquifer from

environmental resilience. He envisioned

which 300 million gallons of water are

a center or institute to capture the

pumped daily.

360-degree nature of the research

Nowhere is that more

happening. That dream became the Everglades restoration would also help

evident than FIU’s role in

Institute of Environment. More than 155

the aquifer fight off rising seas that

Everglades restoration. It all started when

investigators — who conduct research

make it vulnerable to saltwater intrusion

FIU researchers studied the link between

in more than 60 countries and are

and pollution caused by run-off from

nutrients in the water and organisms

members of national and international

agricultural lands and residential areas.

living there, and discovered high levels

advisory organizations — now work

“Restoration is key because when

of phosphorus — a common ingredient

alongside hundreds more students to

water can once again move north to

in fertilizer — was negatively impacting

protect natural and built environments.

the area. The pollutant was in canal-water

Biologists, chemists, ecologists,

discharge coming from sugar cane and

environmentalists, engineers, financial

farmlands farther up the state, eventually

analysts and attorneys, among other

ending up in the Everglades. “The data

experts, collaborate with international

was absolutely solid, and with the will of

and local partners. Over the years, Crowl

the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida,

has fostered partnerships and nurtured

the collaboration resulted in the federal

relationships with the South Florida Water

government setting limits on phosphorus

Management District, the U.S. Army

levels used today in CERP,” Crowl says.

south, more clean water can fill up the Everglades and the aquifer, allowing fresh water to push back the salt water,” Crowl says. If it all flows as it should, water for Floridians and tourists would be safe, keeping the state’s $1 trillion economy humming. The home of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida would be protected. Threatened and endangered animals, birds, plants and other organisms found nowhere else on Earth, and wholly dependent on the Everglades ecosystem, would still have a place to live. LIVING LABORATORY

Corps of Engineers, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, the National Park Service, the Department of Environmental Resources Management and a variety of municipalities to share data and inform decision making. It’s this holistic, collaborative approach he hopes can serve as a blueprint for other imperiled



That finding set the stage for what would become the crown jewel of FIU’s environmental research portfolio — the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) program, one of 28 sites funded for long-term ecological research by the NSF. Lead PI

ecosystems around the world.

John Kominoski, along with co-PIs Evelyn

throughout the world, came to FIU in

The collective synergy of countless

James Fourqurean, oversee the program

2014 because South Florida is “the

specialists working side by side to

that includes 102 collaborators and 80

world’s greatest living laboratory for

develop sustainable solutions, Crowl says,

students from 31 academic, agency and

understanding coastal resilience.”

sets the institute apart.

NGO partners.

Crowl, an ecologist who has worked

Map distributed under a Creative Commons license.

and refills the aquifer, seeping into the


Gaiser, Kevin Grove, Jennifer Rehage and



In Foc us

Former director of the Long Term

Steve Davis Ph.D. '99, chief scientist for the

policymakers at the state or federal levels

Ecological Research program at NSF, Crowl

nonprofit Everglades Foundation, can also

or the general public,” says Vorseth, who

witnessed firsthand how LTER sites provide

speak to the power of FIU research. “Our

earned a master’s in environmental studies

the world’s most cutting-edge research in

job is to advance Everglades restoration.

at FIU and is an Everglades Foundation

ecosystem sciences. He says FIU’s work

We can only do this with the science

ForEverglades Scholar and Ph.D. candidate

in the Everglades is a perfect example of

behind us. FIU has been instrumental in

with a specialty in policy and management

science that informs the world on coastal

helping us understand the vulnerabilities

and environmental economics. “We need

wetland restoration. Data collected by the

of the Everglades and in moving forward

funding to restore the Everglades. As an

program has revealed how restored water

with restoration and preservation.” Davis

environmental economist, I work at the

flows are benefiting the Everglades and

says. “We’re heading in the right direction,

nexus of scientific research and policy to

staving off rising seas, as well as providing

and the current generation of scientists

justify action and funding.”

water managers with the best data to

understands the value of eliminating

make the best decisions to help coastal

competition and bringing in multiple

wetlands adapt to rising seas, hurricanes

experts to find solutions.”

and more.


sessions on Capitol Hill and sit down with

Educating the next generation is key to

students receive a unique type of training,

solving today’s environmental challenges.

according to Gaiser.

It’s a prime example of what can happen when everyone works together, says Endowed George Barley Eminent Scholars Chair and aquatic ecologist Evelyn Gaiser. “The FCE LTER project allows us to understand how the Everglades is changing in response to variables in climate and

Some students work in the Everglades, taking airboats or helicopter rides to reach their field sites. Others, like Chloe Vorseth, tackle problems without wading

Vorseth has participated in FIU’s DC Fly-Ins, seminars that bring students to Washington, D.C., to attend advocacy policy makers. This is one of many ways FIU

“Our students are much more aware of how to do science in a way that solves problems because their work involves collaborating

through wetlands.

with scientists from FIU and other academic

Gaiser says. “In working with our water

“I’m not the person studying the plants

water management agencies,” she says.

management agencies, it becomes a co-

or counting fish, but I am analyzing

“These experiences make a difference as

production of science that’s more efficient

data and helping connect people to

the students move on to eventually work for

and thoughtful.”

the environment, whether they are

these agencies or lead grant programs.”

human activity, among other things,”

institutions, as well as scientists at the

Ph.D. candidate Chloe Vorseth participates in FIU’s DC Fly-Ins to meet with policy makers.



As an environmental economist, I work at the nexus of scientific research and policy to justify action and funding.” — Chloe Vorseth

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE There’s still work to do. So far, though, restoration has resulted in a few glimmers of hope: Water flows in some areas it has not


flowed in years.

Institute of Environment scientists are members of key local, national and international environmental initiatives:

Those who know the area best are encouraged.

Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation

Hurricane Ecosystem Response Synthesis Network

Global Lake Ecological Research Network

Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force

airboat enthusiast, he piloted his first airboat at

International Blue Carbon Policy Working Group

the age of 7. Four years later, he became the

Science Advisory Committee for Pew Environment’s Global Shark Program

International Union for Conservation of Nature Cetacean and Shark Specialist groups

Expert Panel on cetacean bycatch of the International Whaling Commission

he loves. Tigertail has seen the loss of white-

Miami-Dade County Biscayne Bay Task Force

tailed deer, birds and cypress domes through

Biscayne Bay Health Advisory Board

the years. He says with efforts now being made

Southeast Regional Climate Change Compact Sea Level Rise Projection Work Group

Tristan Tigertail, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, grew up in and around the Everglades. A fourth-generation

owner of one. Today Tigertail works for his uncle as a professional Everglades airboat operator, introducing customers to the beauty of the land

to return the flow of water to its original state, the cypress domes are coming back. So are the birds, albeit slowly. “Sometimes when the tribe elders gather, they reminisce about how the sky used to blacken overhead when a flock of birds took off. There were so many of them, they would block out


years, and it gives me hope.”

From South Florida to the Amazon to Southeast Asia, institute faculty, students and partners are taking the uncertainty out of long-term sustainability, tackling issues that devastate ecosystems, disrupt communities and destroy natural resources.

Crowl also retains a sense of optimism,

155 affiliated faculty

saying, “I assure you, our last chapter has not

50+ affiliated research facilities and labs

been written.”

200+ formal international collaborations and partnerships

If the last chapter has not yet been written, that

60+ countries involved in research

means the story is still unfolding. So, against

1,500+ peer-reviewed publications since 2010

$220M+ funding since fiscal year 2012

the sun,” he says. “I’ve never seen that. But I’ve seen positive changes in the past couple of

the sprawling, magnificent backdrop of the River of Grass, FIU researchers remain resolved to use the best science and data to safeguard America’s treasure — along with everything and everyone depending on it. n

The Institute houses the UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Water Security, a position that expands upon experiences gained in water security and sustainability through programs such as GLOWS (Global Water for Sustainability).




scientists. years of prestigious funding.


Innovation and groundbreaking discoveries are the result of decades of dedication and hard work. An opportunity to pursue a particular research topic for several years is often lifechanging. Now, five early-career FIU scientists are getting the chance with support from one of the National Science Foundation’s most competitive, prestigious programs. Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards are reserved for young faculty poised to be role models in research and education. These grants are gamechangers because they lay the groundwork for future work and impact.

< Darryl Dickerson Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering College of Engineering & Computing Darryl Dickerson investigates how to engineer materials for tissue regeneration. As a part of this NSF award, he’s exploring how to create personalized heart tissue to replace heart muscle that’s lost and can lead to heart failure after a heart attack. The project will also support an education program that will use this research in mechanical engineering curriculum.

> Amal Elawady Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering College of Engineering & Computing At FIU’s Wall of Wind, Amal Elawady studies the impact of high winds on buildings to inform more climate resilient design. Thunderstorms often produce tornadoes that produce high winds, but so do lesser-known events called downbursts. Elawady’s work will increase understanding of downburst winds and how they impact buildings.



EARLY RISERS < Trina Fletcher Assistant Professor of Engineering Education in School of Universal Computing, Construction, and Engineering Education (SUCCEED) College of Engineering & Computing Given growing STEM workforce demands, Trina Fletcher will develop a database focused on Black women’s participation within the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program, hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and other experiences related to their educational journey. This project will work toward advancing the literature and allow for improved participation within STEM education and the workforce.

> Ahmed Ibrahim Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering College of Engineering & Computing Ahmed Ibrahim studies how to create low-delay wireless networks. With this CAREER award, Ibrahim will develop short-delay “gray-box” machine learning models and low-complexity optimized networks necessary to support connected vehicles and augmented reality applications, which are essential in remote health care.

< Bruk Berhane Assistant Professor in the School of Universal Computing, Construction, and Engineering Education (SUCCEED) College of Engineering & Computing Community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities have a history of graduating large numbers of Black engineers. Bruk Berhane’s project will produce a plan to increase the representation of Black undergraduates in engineering. His goal is to produce a framework that enables institutions to better collaborate with community colleges to broaden participation in engineering.



Q & A

D IANA AZ Z A M Cancer researcher Diana Azzam is an assistant professor and director of doctoral programs in the department of environmental health sciences in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. Azzam’s lab – comprised of postdoctoral researchers, technicians, graduate and undergraduate students – conducts research in two main areas: individualized treatments for cancer patients who have exhausted standard of care, and investigation of cancer stem cells and how exposure to environmental toxins like arsenic can lead to cancer.




Diana Azzam



Ideally, we want to use drug testing in patients that are newly diagnosed because this will avoid the toxic effects of trial and error. But in order for us to get to that point, we need to generate data from large-scale clinical trials that will prove that drug testing correlates with improved outcomes.



It’s a collaboration between the patient’s physician and my lab. We perform high-throughput functional drug testing,



testing hundreds of FDA-approved drugs on the tumor

We observed that minority populations have different

sample that we receive from the hospital. From this testing,

genomics and respond to FDA-approved drugs differently

we derive drug response profiles efficacies and share this

than each other and White patients. Based on that data,

data with the physicians at participating hospitals. We

I became a project lead on an NIMHD-funded study as

provide the physicians with a list of the most effective drugs

part of FIU’s Research Center in Minority Institutions led

as well as those that are ineffective.

by Eric Wagner to reduce health disparities in childhood cancer patients from minority populations. We will identify


biomarkers that are specifically expressed in minority populations and also identify targeted drugs that may

Our feasibility studies funded by the Florida Department

work within these groups. I’m particularly pleased that

of Health Live Like Bella Pediatric Cancer Research

we will be providing functional precision medicine clinical

Initiative have generated very promising results. We found

trials to children with cancers that come from minority

that children with advanced cancers who were guided

populations. These patients often don’t have access to

by functional drug testing and genomic profiling have

these clinical trials.

improved survival compared to those patients who did not go through our functional drug testing and genomics.



This is a population of cells that are responsible

It’s exciting. We are very grateful to have received a $2

for therapy resistance and metastasis. My work in

million appropriation from the State of Florida to acquire

this area is focused on understanding what they

state-of-the-art robotic instrumentation that will allow

rely on to survive and how they are resistant to

the lab to become the first CLIA-certified lab dedicated

standard radiation and chemotherapies. We’re also

to functional cancer drug testing in Florida. This will

exploring how they arise. If we understand that, we

enable us to scale up the process of drug testing and,

will be able to design combination therapies that

hopefully, provide this functional drug testing platform

will selectively target the most therapy-resistant

to all cancer patients.

cells in tumors. n



UNFOLDING A FA S T E R F U T U R E In our wirelessly connected world, we swim in a sea we cannot see of electromagnetic waves transmitting voices, videos, photos, words, all kinds of data. Occasionally, at the mercy of unreliable Wi-Fi or terrible cellphone reception, it can feel like we’ve been washed ashore on some deserted island. Calls cut in and out. Virtual meetings become a garbled, robotic mess. Cue the overused phrases. Can you hear me now? You’re breaking up. Did I lose you? Followed by the inevitable response of lost connection. Silence. — By Angela Nicoletti —


tacked against other societal problems,

engineer has spent 30 years developing new

a slow wireless connection may seem

telecommunications technologies to keep

insignificant. Except it’s a little more complicated. A lot is at stake.

What concerns him is our wireless

“This is really about addressing

communication systems. They are fast. Just

humanity’s greatest challenges,” Stavros

not fast enough. “Big data has become

Georgakopoulos says. Without a way to

a buzz word, but we’re at a point where

bypass delays and move data at lightning-

there’s so much data to be transmitted and

fast speeds, society risks a period of

processed very quickly. How will we do it?

stasis. Progress could stall across critically

We need more powerful wireless links to

important areas — education, business, healthcare and medicine, remote sensing


our world moving forward.

keep up.”

of the environment, space exploration,

A faster future relies on what

national security. This is unfathomable

Georgakopoulos calls the “eyes and ears

to Georgakopoulos. The FIU electrical

of the entire system” — antennas.




In Foc us

Georgakopoulos’ antenna research has been awarded +$15 million in federal funding.

Without this critical component, there’d be no Wi-Fi, cellphone reception, Bluetooth, GPS, as well as television or radio. Data would remain trapped in the hardware of our devices, like digital messages in a bottle. At FIU’s Transforming Antennas Center (TAC), Georgakopoulos leads research into the invention and development of the next generation of foldable, deployable, reconfigurable systems that operate at higher frequencies. Higher frequency equals faster data speeds and larger bandwidth. For comparison, most smartphones operate at one to six gigahertz (GHz), while only the latest models can cover up to 39 GHz. What about 50, 60, 70 or more GHz? Georgakopoulos and the TAC team are proving it’s possible. One of their antennas covers frequencies from 30 to 100 GHz. Unprecedented, considering there’s nothing quite like it in existence.

Paper crane, star, frog. Antenna? A three-dimensional helix, expanding and contracting like an accordion. A cube opening, flattening out. Georgakopoulos’ patented designs are about the farthest thing from rabbit ears on a television set or rooftop satellite dishes. Equal parts elegant and powerful, they more closely resemble pieces of art. In a way, they are — taking inspiration from origami, Japan’s centuries-old artform where behind every bend or crease, complex mathematics and geometry turn a sheet of paper into a three-dimensional shape. Origami is all about transformation. Antennas require transformation to change their function. Controlling the shape controls performance, Georgakopoulos explains. That’s why back in the day, adjusting an antenna up and down helped pick up a radio or TV station. Origami allows for the same thing, in a different way.



FROM L-R: Assistant Professor Constantine Zekios, Ph.D. student Akash Biswas and Georgakopoulos in front of FIU's Antenna Measurement System.

Made of various materials, including plastic

Georgakopoulos awaits the day. Until then,

films, textiles and flexible conductors,

he and the TAC team make more antennas.

Georgakopoulos’ antennas are lightweight, surprisingly durable shapeshifters capable of doing the job of multiple antennas. Instead of lugging around several bulky antennas to transmit and receive messages, soldiers in the field or scientists on expeditions could carry just one. Like the helix design. It goes from 13 inches to a little over an inch and a half, or perfect backpack pocket-sized, when collapsed flat. Packability is equally important for space communications. “Satellites in space must deploy large antennas to communicate down to earth. Once an antenna is in space, there’s plenty of space for it. That’s not the problem,” Georgakopoulos says. “It’s how do you get it there?” Imagine trying to pack a tiny suitcase for a trip — to space. Foldable designs make great stowaway alternatives, able to hitch a ride on small satellites (CubeSats and NanoSats) during a launch. Once in orbit, they can unfold to a larger size. While his antennas haven’t made that trip yet,

Surprises unfold Georgakopoulos never set out to invent antennas. Today, he’s a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), recognized for creating technology to impact the welfare of society. “It’s always so interesting how things happen,” he says. Growing up in Greece, Georgakopoulos became interested in telecommunications at the University of Patras, before moving to the U.S. to join Constantine Balanis’ lab and earn his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Arizona State University (ASU). It was 1996. Wires ruled communication. Most people didn’t have a cellphone (and if they did, basically carried around a huge brick). Wi-Fi hadn’t even been invented yet. Telecommunications technology has dramatically changed since then. What hasn’t changed, Balanis points out, is the number of challenges facing antenna scientists and the creativity and imagination

It’s not a secret we eat, live and breathe our research. We wake up thinking about it. Go to bed and get an idea and then can’t sleep. We’re passionate. We love what we do. When I look back at my career, that’s what I’ll see – the problems solved, success we shared and the impact it all had.” — Stavros Georgakopoulos

it takes to solve them.



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“Our role as mentors at the graduate level is

This one-stop shop was Georgakopoulos’

to engage and guide the students, however

vision. It would’ve remained one without two

the students are the ones who do the work,

grants from AFOSR, totaling close to

develop their skills, advance their knowledge

$10 million.

and technology. Stavros did all the above and at a very high level,” says Balanis, now

“What has kept the U.S. a leader is an

regents professor emeritus. “I’m most proud

innovative spirit. Technology and research

what he’s contributed since he graduated

are a major part of that. But if you don’t

from my group at ASU. His accomplishments

have the people, the next generation,

at FIU, especially related to the new antenna

who will do it?” Georgakopoulos asks. “A

designs and technology, are novel and

big part of what we do at TAC is prepare

pioneering, evidenced by publications

innovators and problem solvers who can

in international journals, presentations at

continue pioneering new technologies in

international conferences and continued

academia, industry and government.”

support by the sponsors of his research.”

is one of those innovators and problem

worked in industry for six years before

solvers. After graduating with his master’s

bringing his expertise to FIU in 2007. At

degree in electrical engineering, he

the time, there was little antenna research.

worked in the aerospace industry for

There was certainly no lab. Students didn’t have simulation software, critical to creating complicated new designs. Now, there’s all of this and more. Georgakopoulos

“His accomplishments at FIU, especially related to the new antenna designs and technology, are novel and pioneering” — Constantine Balanis

got an opportunity to delve deeper into origami techniques with a National Science Foundation Emerging Frontier in Research and Innovation (ERFI) grant, co-funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). What unfolded: the foldable, deployable antennas. With the support of the Florida congressional delegation, Georgakopoulos has been able to launch an entire hub for antenna research.

his Ph.D. Shortly after, TAC opened its doors. Shafiq describes it as a place brimming with unbridled creative freedom. Experimentation, the norm. Conversations, a spark for new ideas or to overcome technical problems. The result — more innovation, patents and published scientific journal articles. “FIU and TAC provided me with the foundation to be successful,” says Shafiq, who now works at the Naval Surface Warfare Center. “When facing a problem, I often find myself thinking how Dr. Georgakopoulos

From a distance, it could be mistaken

did, many future generations of students will

for a giant monster mouth ringed with

be successful through his guidance.”

somewhat intimidating, this is FIU’s Antenna


several years. Then, returned to FIU for

Where antennas are made

multiple rows of sharp teeth. Although


Yousuf Shafiq, a three-time FIU alumnus,

After graduating from ASU, Georgakopoulos

would approach it. I’m confident, just as I

For Georgakopoulos, this is the goal. What

Measurement System. It’s one example

students accomplish after they graduate is

of TAC’s state-of-the-art technology that

what will have cascading impacts. “Think

about 60 researchers — including FIU

of it: Over the course of their careers, how

undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral

many problems will they solve? How many

students, along with collaborators from

new technologies will they develop to

Georgia Institute of Technology, Cornell and

change the world?” Georgakopoulos asks.

Brigham Young University — use to design,

“It’s hard to measure. But it has

build, measure and test new antenna designs.

significant impact.”

A new level When Georgakopoulos and the team first started applying origami techniques to antennas, they did it for many reasons. Packability and reconfigurability, of course. Function was also a primary objective. “We really wanted to see if it could give enhanced performance. It’s been so exciting to prove it can,” Georgakopoulos says. This has set the stage for what’s next. The goal is to radically upgrade the frequencies on the reconfigurable designs with the addition of ultra-wideband systems. It’s like giving the antennas better eyes to see with and better ears to hear with. Downloading huge files? A breeze with ultra-wideband systems. And that’s just the beginning. Higher frequency means faster speeds and superfine resolution images. This will enhance environmental technology and remote sensing tools, which use satellites to watch over changing oceans, air quality, forests, climate, hurricanes and more. Provide a better glimpse of faraway planets and the cosmos for space exploration. Revolutionize healthcare in ways that perhaps sound like science fiction — like robotic surgery, where an expert surgeon could operate on a patient in another country without worrying about getting a degraded image or a lag in connection threatening a life. And even open the door to new medical imaging technology — without the use of radiation. “All of this can be achieved with ultrawideband high frequency systems we’re working on now,” Georgakopoulos says. Now more than ever, the future seems unbearably close, within reach. There’s certainly challenges ahead.

A team of about 60 researchers works to create the next generation of antennas at the Transforming Antennas Center.

They’ve always been there. And sometimes, as Georgakopoulos knows, that’s the best part. n



In The L a b

Ad o le sce nt h e alt h + b rain d evelop m e nt An gel a La i rd Director of the Center for Imaging Science College of Arts, Sciences & Education The brain develops in spurts throughout childhood and adolescence, but not much is understood about the process. To disentangle this complicated puzzle surrounding one of the body’s most mysterious organs, FIU cognitive neuroscientist Angela Laird is collaborating with researchers from 21 universities on the largest long-term study of brain development and child health conducted in the U.S. The NIH-funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study follows 12,000 children for 10 years, starting from the time they’re 9 or 10. In addition to interviews and behavioral testing, study participants get MRI scans to document and measure changes in brain structure and function. Data, which is openly available for future studies, will help form a better understanding of how environmental, social, genetic and other factors affect brain development. To date, researchers are already tracking issues around substance use, mental health development, sleep, nutrition, social media’s influence on the brain and more — paving the way for better treatments and interventions.

A leader in the field, Laird has also been recognized as a Highly Cited Researcher by

FIU has the highest proportion of Hispanic/ Latino participants in the study. This is important because most neuroimaging studies don’t include diverse participants. That leaves a major gap in our understanding of brain development.” — Angela Laird



Clarivate. She’s produced multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1 percent by citations in the field of Neuroscience and Behavior. She is co-principal investigator of the ABCD study along with Raul Gonzalez, a faculty member of the Department of Psychology.

IN THE LAB Ev i de nce -ba sed A DHD treat ment Wi l l i a m E. Pe l h a m Jr. Director of the Center for Children and Families (CCF) Distinguished Professor of Psyc hology and Psychiatry Six million U.S. children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). William E. Pelham Jr. has dedicated his career to finding interventions to help them. His research and ADHD treatment approach – behavior therapy, including training for parents; medications; and a combination of the two – is the foundation of today’s standard ADHD treatment. Pelham founded the Summer Treatment Program – a comprehensive summer camp program for children with ADHD and related behavioral, emotional and learning challenges – that has been recognized by the American Psychological Association as a model. It has been implemented across the U.S. and Japan. The program is just one way nearly 500 CCFaffiliated faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students help children with mental health problems through research and direct clinical intervention.

Our research has found time and again that behavioral intervention is the best first-line treatment for children with ADHD because they, their teachers and their parents learn skills and strategies that will help them succeed in school, at home and in relationships.” — William E. Pelham Jr.

Poor academic achievement is one of the most debilitating impairments associated with ADHD. Cascading effects can include limited job prospects and financial difficulties due to high dropout rates. For decades, the prevailing thought was that medication improves learning outcomes because children are able to spend more time on-task. However, Pelham and CCF researchers conducted a landmark study with children in the Summer Treatment Program and found medication had no detectable impact on learning outcomes. The team hopes to conduct a similar, year-long study in a classroom setting. Next up: Pelham’s team will be looking at whether the sequence in which behavior modification techniques are taught to parents and teachers – before or after the introduction of medication – makes a difference.



In The L a b

New te ch for A merica's b rid ges Ato ro d A z i z i n a m i n i Director of Infrastructure, Research and Innovation Vasant Surti Professor of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering & Computing

Approximately one in three U.S. bridges needs repair or replacement. At the current pace of repair, it would take nearly 68 years to do that at a price tag estimated at more than $42 billion. As federal and state officials grapple with the enormity of the problem, bridge engineering expert Atorod Azizinamini is working with colleagues across the country to find innovative solutions to our nation’s infrastructure woes. A leader in the field, Azizinamini created FIU’s first Department of Transportationfunded University Transportation Center, the Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center (ABC-UTC), in 2013. Today the center’s monthly webinars attract thousands of bridge professionals and its annual conference hundreds of participants. Building off the success of the ABC-UTC, Azizinamini proposed and competed for the federally funded, tier one Innovative Bridge Technologies/Accelerated Bridge Construction-University Transportation Center (IBT/ABC-UTC), one of only 20 tier one UTCs that were funded recently. The new center will bring together experts from FIU, Florida A&M University, Texas A&M, University of Georgia, University of Nevada-

Reno, University of Oklahoma and University of Washington to collaborate more

Bridge engineering 10, 20 years from now is not going to be anything similar to what we have today because of the disruptive technologies coming into the market on a daily basis.” — Atorod Azizinamini



intentionally in advancing next-generation bridge engineering. Faculty and students will work on applications of leading-edge technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, drones, magnetic-based methods and ultra-high performance concrete.

Ad va n ce d dr u g d elivery + n a nome dicine


Hei d i M . Ma n s o u r Professor, Center for Translational Science; Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Department of Environmental Health Sciences; Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Department of Cell ular Biology & Pharmacology At a facility laser-focused on advancing the development of lifesaving therapeutics, the arrival last year of an acclaimed pharmacology and toxicology expert generated wellwarranted excitement. An inventor with nine patents, Heidi Mansour has been recognized for innovations in the targeted delivery of medication via noninvasive aerosol inhalers and named a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors. An authority on drug transport across the blood-brain barrier and to the lungs, she works to optimize chemical structures and then “package” the resulting molecular formulations to ensure they arrive at correct sites with the body, are released in the prescribed time frame and can withstand the immune system’s natural tendency to degrade or block incoming pharmaceuticals. She developed successful drug protocols for a hospitalbased lung transplantation program to defend against organ rejection. On the leadership committees of the American Association of Colleges of

Pharmacy and the American Thoracic Society, continuously funded throughout

Biomedical research is team-based by its very nature. It’s very multidisciplinary. You need multiple experts because there are so many moving parts. Coming here has just allowed me to grow those collaborations.”

her 15-year career and highly published, Mansour holds knowledge critical to the success of other scientists’ projects, say fellow investigators with whom she is cooperating in the areas of neuroscience, pulmonary and cancer studies.

— Heidi M. Mansour



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LEGACY OF LEAD No level of lead exposure is safe for children. But millions have been exposed. Now nearly four decades of work has brought one FIU researcher closer to a possible therapeutic solution that could reverse the devastating effects of environmental lead exposure on the brain. — By Angela Nicoletti —


omás R. Guilarte has been

the brain that triggers a cascade of

exchanging emails with a mother

lifelong consequences — from learning

whose child was exposed to lead. She’s

difficulties and lower IQ scores to the

not the first parent he’s heard from.

risk of psychiatric diseases and drug

And likely won’t be the last. This is our

abuse in adulthood.

legacy of lead.

His work has underpinned major policy

It’s Flint, Michigan. It’s Newark, New

decisions, like the CDC lowering the

Jersey. It’s across America. More than

blood lead reference value to help

170 million people alive today — more

more children. And it’s been a source

than 50% — of the U.S. population,

of hope, especially for parents who

were exposed to significant levels

email him, desperate to know: Can the

of lead as children. Globally, it is

damage lead has done to their children

estimated that about 800 million

ever be undone?

children have blood lead levels that affect their brain. World-renowned for

A culmination of decades of research

his nearly four decades of research on

funded by the National Institute of

how lead-laden environments change

Environmental Health Sciences has

the brain, Guilarte will tell you the story

brought Guilarte and his collaborators

doesn’t end there. Exposure is just

closer to an answer. They’ve identified

the beginning. And that’s why those

a certain flavonoid, a class of nutrients

numbers haunt him.

present in fruits and vegetables, that

Dean of FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and an environmental health


reverses some of the negative effects of lead and could be a possible therapeutic solution.

sciences professor, Guilarte has been

“If it’s effective, we’ll have a basis

among the first to document what’s

for translational studies in children,”

happening at the cellular level of

he said.


If we can make other people better, that’s really what I would call success.” — Tomás R. Guilarte



In Foc us

Decades of toxicity

But its presence in our lives persists, contaminating the environment. It’s

In his office, Guilarte has a giant

From a public health perspective,

in air, dust, soil and food. To put

prevention is the first step. Despite

it simply, what we’re facing today

ongoing efforts to eliminate lead from

is chronic low-level exposure from

the environment, reducing exposure

different sources, Guilarte says.

special dye used to examine cells.

Children are at greatest exposure risk

brain’s vitally important messenger

Lead has been used for centuries.

for many reasons. Their small size. A

cells that form networks and

Ancient Romans used it in pipes that

rapidly developing nervous system.

pathways, called neural circuits, which

carried drinking water. Thousands

And because they behave like, well,

act as information highways stretching

of years later, it still lines pipes in

babies. “Children are at the greatest

across the brain’s different regions.

the United States. True to the Latin

risk for the highest levels of lead

This ‘talking’ between the neurons

word behind its periodic symbol Pb

exposure when they are around two

is what makes the computational

— the time they are crawling around

capability of the brain, especially

on the floor the most and there’s a lot

learning and memory,

of hand-to-mouth activity.”

so powerful.

Once in the mouth, lead moves to

Lead silences these cells.

can still prove difficult.

(plumbum meaning “liquid silver”) lead is malleable and durable, which made it a near-perfect addition to everything from gasoline to house paint. What was near-perfect for products proved damaging, even


Silence of the cells photo of a neuron that appears to glow electric green — the result of It is one among over 80 billion of the

the stomach. The body mistakes it for other essential metals, like zinc and

With his team at Johns Hopkins

deadly, to humans. Health concerns

calcium, giving it a free pass to the

Bloomberg School of Public Health

eventually prompted bans. Lead paint

bloodstream. Then, it breaks through

in the 90s, Guilarte found lead acts

in new homes in 1978. Lead piping

the heavily guarded blood-brain

as the silencer by interfering with a

for new projects in 1986. Unleaded

barrier and into the brain, and

unique protein receptor known as

gasoline was phased out slowly, and by

in children this barrier is not yet

the N-methyl-D-asparate receptor

the 1980’s, new cars weren’t using it.

fully developed.







Lead-based paints banned for residential use. However homes built before 1978 still contains leadbased paint.

Guilarte earns Ph.D. in environmental health sciences.

Safe Drinking Water Act banned the use of lead pipes for new projects.

With his team at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Guilarte discovers lead interferes with a specific protein receptor in the brain.

Leaded gasoline for passenger cars fully banned in the U.S.


He calls this receptor “the tip of the

memory, and it was able to reverse

iceberg,” not only because NMDAR

the detrimental effects of lead on the

is on the surface of neurons, at points

ability of neurons to communicate. But

of communication or synapses, but

BDNF can’t be put into a pill. It would

because below, a flurry of activity

break down in the stomach before ever

supporting the cell’s survival and

crossing the blood-brain barrier.

connectivity is taking place.

After experimenting with different

NMDAR binds metals, like calcium

options, Guilarte and colleagues

and zinc, to operate. Lead acts as an

from New York Medical College and

imposter, binding at the receptor’s

Columbia University finally identified a

sites reserved for zinc and preventing

promising alternative — the flavonoid

it from functioning properly. Messages

7,8-dihydroxyflavone — an effective

can’t be recognized. Brain connections

molecule currently available as a

don’t happen or happen in ways they

supplement and capable of reaching

shouldn’t. The entire trajectory of a

the brain. In the lab, it successfully

child’s development is impacted.

came to the rescue in lead-exposed

A glimpse below the ‘iceberg’ revealed why. During brain development,

animals, reversing some of lead’s damaging effects.

activation of the NMDAR produces a

A major move forward, this discovery

peptide — brain-derived neurotrophic

was further proof that the negative

factor (BDNF) — that’s essentially

effects of lead exposure on the brain

“food for the brain.” Guilarte’s team

could be reversed and possibly holds

added BDNF to lead-impaired neurons

the key to treating lead-exposed

The neuron photo in Guilarte’s office. Every red dot

in culture from the hippocampus, a

children. Improper functioning of

represents a connection with other neurons in the brain.

brain region important for learning and

NMDAR also happens in the brains






Guilarte’s groundbreaking study reveals an enriched environment could reverse some of lead’s damaging effects on the brain.

An estimated 6,000 - 12,000 children are exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan.

Guilarte joins FIU, starts FIU’s Brain, Behavior and the Environment Program to advance environmental neuroscience research in support of prevention, treatment and cures.

Guilarte, along with New York Medical College and Columbia University researchers, identify a way to reverse some of lead’s effects in lead-exposed animals.

White House announces Lead Pipe and Paint Action Plan to deliver clean drinking water, replace lead pipes and remediate lead paint in the next decade.



In Foc us

of people with schizophrenia, and

An enriched environment highlights

circuits in the hippocampus and

Guilarte’s team has found evidence

an important issue tied to lead

prefrontal cortex interact — the key

that there’s a correlation between

exposure. “Children in poor, low-

to learning, memory and behavior.

early life exposure to lead and

income neighborhoods in the U.S.

psychiatric diseases in adulthood.

and other parts of the world are

Growing neurons The first evidence that lead’s effects could be reversed came with what Guilarte calls one of the most surprising and exciting studies of his career.

more likely to be exposed to lead and those different environments will modulate how the brain develops. It’s that simple, and also that complex.” So, the search for more solutions continues. And he’s certainly not

When Guilarte witnessed the many

searching alone.

lead poisoning cases in children

Collaboration is key

during the 1980’s in Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute, when

The scientist working alone is not

he was a faculty member at Johns

Guilarte’s style. Whether he’s in

Hopkins University Bloomberg

the lab helping one of his students

School of Public Health, he

with their data or reading academic

observed how chelation therapy

papers, he thrives on connections

removed the toxic metal from the

with other people.

body. But what was gone from the blood had already left its mark on

When he started FIU’s Brain,

the brain. For many, learning would

Behavior and the Environment

be a challenge. Guilarte wanted to

Program in 2016, the labs were

address this looming problem with

created purposefully with no walls

lifelong repercussions.

to separate them. The idea was to get people talking, sharing

One idea was to stimulate brain

information. Eventually, Guilarte

function in order to increase

envisions the creation of an

the formation of new neurons and their connections that were impaired by lead. It turned out small changes made a big difference. In animal studies, a


entire Brain Science Institute that unites researchers from across the university and beyond to chase solutions to big problems together.

So far, they’ve determined early lead exposure, comparable to what kids in many poor urban neighborhoods in the U.S. and in other parts of the world experience, causes entire cognitive areas in the brain to become hyperactive in adulthood. Hyperactivity disrupts the harmony of the brain, making neurons go into overdrive. This can cause absence seizure. A child might be sitting in a classroom and suddenly stare off into space. Would this be labeled daydreaming? Not paying attention? This is another example of how lead causes “real pernicious problems for society,” that aren’t easy to identify, according to Allen. Guilarte and Allen plan to test the effectiveness of the flavonoid 7,8-dihydroxyflavone in improving learning after lead exposure — the jumping off point for future studies in children.

On the horizon Lead is a silent poison, easily pushed aside in a world bombarded by other problems.

running wheel for exercise and

In the meantime, the next stage

Guilarte understands this. But

exposure to new toys every week

of his research is rooted in

the problem doesn’t disappear

helped improve the cognitive

collaboration with Timothy Allen,

because it’s no longer in the daily

functioning of lead-exposed rats

director of the Neurocircuitry &

news cycle. Guilarte understands

that showed impairment during

Cognition Lab in the College of

this, too. That’s why he’s dedicated

development. For humans, an

Arts, Sciences & Education. It’s an

his life to unraveling the mystery

enriched environment might look

inspired pairing. Whereas Guilarte

behind how lead and other

like a visit to a museum, art lessons

studies impacts at the neural level,

environmental toxins alter the

or exercise.

Allen looks at how the neural

body’s most mysterious organ.


Guilarte and Timothy Allen, director of the Neurocircuitry & Cognition Lab, are working together to investigate the effectiveness of the flavonoid 7,8-dihydroxyflavone in improving learning after lead exposure.

This work has not gone unnoticed.

inform potential mitigation strategies

It’s garnered numerous recognitions

when preventing exposures is not

over the years from the Society of

feasible. This has the potential to

Toxicology (SOT), one of the largest

transform public health,” said

scientific societies of its kind with

This has the potential to transform public health.” — Koren K. Mann

more than 8,000 members who are experts in toxicology. These are some of the most personally meaningful honors for Guilarte because SOT played a central role throughout his career, giving him an opportunity to develop relationships and collaborations.

Koren K. Mann, professor and department chair at Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and SOT’s president of the Metals Specialty Section. Guilarte’s research to help children who never asked to grow up in a world laden with lead is far from

“Dr. Guilarte’s collective work links

over. For as long as it takes, he’ll

metal exposure to neurotoxicity and

be working with his teams of

is an example of how toxicology can

collaborators to find a treatment. n



Nex t-G e n Re se a rc he rs

Pat i ence Ngozi Paul D EG R EE: Ph.D. candidate, biomedical science C O L L E G E : Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine U N D E R G R A D U AT E E X P E R I E N C E : University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria F U N FA C T : Paul's grandfather was a traditional medicine man in Nigeria.

Most antibiotics on the market are becoming less effective. Arsenic may hold the answer to defeating resistant bacteria that have learned to fight back against the drugs designed to kill them — saving millions of lives. Patience Ngozi Paul wants to understand how this therapeutic poison could be used to create the next generation of novel, more effective antibiotics against deadly Mycobacteria, which cause tuberculosis. Paul is investigating arsinothricin (AST) — a new, broad-spectrum antibiotic containing arsenic discovered by Paul, and her advisors, Distinguished University Professor Barry P. Rosen and assistant professor Masafumi Yoshinaga, along with a team of international researchers. Paul studies how AST gets into bacterial cells. These cells have a membrane barrier preventing antibiotics from entering them. The goal is to ensure AST successfully gets into and destroys the bacteria cell. Paul’s research lays important groundwork and sets the stage for the development of drugs that can successfully overcome

antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a silent pandemic. And it’s been with us for many years. If modern medicine is going to be effective, we have to address drug resistance.” — Patience Ngozi Paul




Aa r i n-C on ra d Allen D EG R EE: Ph.D. candidate, marine science C O L L E G E : College of Arts, Sciences & Education U N D E R G R A D U AT E E X P E R I E N C E : University of Akron, Ohio F U N FA C T : Allen played goalie for University of Akron's ice hockey team

Florida manatees are facing a devastating seagrass famine. Aarin-Conrad Allen wants to understand what this means for the health of one of Florida’s most charismatic animals. Allen and a team of researchers found some of the first evidence that manatees in Indian River Lagoon dramatically changed their diet after an algal bloom in 2011. They compared stomach contents from manatees living in the Indian River Lagoon during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s to manatees living there between 2013 and 2015. With less seagrasses, manatees resorted to eating staggering amounts of algae. On average, their diet contained almost 50% algae — compared to only 28% in 1977-1989. Allen, who works in marine ecologist Jeremy Kiszka’s lab, continues to study the ramifications of these changes. In addition to investigating how much seagrass remains in Indian River Lagoon, he’s measuring the nutritional value of algae to understand if it’s the equivalent of “junk food” for these large herbivores.

What happened in Indian River Lagoon can happen in other systems around the world. The problem needs to be addressed on a larger scale.” — Aarin-Conrad Allen





FIU’s newest research and lab facilities expand opportunities for the creativity, collaboration and discovery needed to drive humanity’s fastest period of innovation ever.



SIPA II — the new “west wing” of the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs — brings most of the school’s 17 prominent international research centers, institutes and programs as well as its eight departments under one roof. The new structure provides students and faculty more opportunities to connect and collaborate, thereby lifting learning, scholarship and research. The $40 million, 85,000-square-foot, LEED-certified building was funded by $15 million from Ambassador Steven J. Green, Dorothea Green, Kimberly Green and the Green Family Foundation, along with $12.7 million from the Florida Legislature and other donor gifts. Occupancy date: Open

THE INNOVATION ENGINEERING COMPLEX at FIU will unite teams around issues relating to artificial intelligence, machine learning and data sciences, cybersecurity, health, infrastructure and resilience, automation information technologies, as well as clean energy. The 215,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility includes collision spaces, maker spaces, emerging tech and computer labs, active learning classrooms, programs that support the formation of startup companies, and expanded research, biomedical engineering and robotics labs. This new addition represents an investment of more than $150 million in state appropriations and university and philanthropic commitments. Occupancy date: 2025

THE INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR TROPICAL BOTANY AT THE KAMPONG is dedicated to the conservation of tropical plants and their habitats. A collaboration between FIU and the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the 15,539 square-foot research and education building serves as a hub for scientists at the forefront of discovery, responding to biodiversity loss with evidence-based solutions, working with policymakers to catalyze positive changes in resource use and leveraging global collaborations to understand and address the needs and challenges of global communities. Occupancy date: Open





University (India), where he earned

Lucent Technologies CALA Distinguished Professor and a distinguished university professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, became a Class of 2023 Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 2022, he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the International Society for Energy, Environment and Sustainability.

his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

HEATHER BRACKENGRISSOM, assistant director of

Landscape Architecture.

forward. These pages contain a sampling

coastlines and oceans in the Institute of Environment and associate professor in the department of biological sciences, has been honored by Eurasian scientists who named a newly discovered species of shrimp — Acanthephyra heatheri — after her.

of their recent accolades.

JASON R. CHANDLER, associate

FIU researchers are innovators moving our Carnegie-designated R1 very high research activity public university ever-

professor in the department of architecture, was elevated in 2023 to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), a recognition bestowed on only 3% of AIA members nationwide.

KEMAL AKKAYA, professor of electrical and computer engineering, became a Class of 2023 Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He holds a joint courtesy appointment in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences and leads the university’s Advanced Wireless and Security Research Lab.

MICHAEL ANASTARIO, assistant professor in the department of health promotion and disease prevention, was one of 14 junior faculty in the country selected to participate in the JPB Environmental Health Fellowship Program,funded by the JPB Foundation and administered by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.



NOLA HOLNESS, clinical assistant professor of undergraduate nursing, became a Fellow of the American College of Nurse-Midwives in 2022.


EBRU ÖZER, associate professor in the department of landscape architecture + environmental and urban design and director of strategic planning + initiatives in the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, was selected national vice president of education of the American Society of

CRISTINA PALACIOS, professor and chair in the department of dietetics and nutrition, was selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to serve on the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

DAVID J. PARK, professor of communication, received critical acclaim for his book “Media Reform and the Climate Emergency: Rethinking Communication in the Struggle for a Sustainable Future.” The book was a 2022 Best Book Award Finalist at the American Book Fest. It was also a runner-up for Best Book from the International Communication Association’s Global Communication and Social Change Division. Additionally, it received a

assistant professor in the department of environmental health sciences, was elected secretary and treasurer of the Neurotoxicology Specialty Section (NTSS) of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) for 2022-2024.

Silver Award for social sciences and


department of physical therapy, was

professor in the department of earth and environment and co-founder and director of the agroecology program, has been awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Professor Award from Tamil Nadu Agricultural

education from the 2022 Nautilus Book Awards.

EDGAR RAMOS VIEIRA, associate professor in the appointed an expert reviewer for the CDC’s Special Emphasis Panel: “Research Grants to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Physical Therapybased Exercises and Movements Used to Reduce Older Adults Falls.”

LYNNE RICHARD, clinical associate professor and chair in the department of occupational therapy, became a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association

NATIONAL ACADEMY OF INVENTORS In 2022 and 2023, eight researchers were named Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors.

in 2022.


Class of 2022

Class of 2023

and chair of the department

BILAL EL-ZAHAB, associate professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering, and his team have three licensed patents on high-density lithium-air and lithium-sulfur batteries that boost both energy storage and battery life cycles of electric vehicle batteries. El-Zahab heads the Battery Research Laboratory, which specializes in electrochemical energy storage systems.

BENJAMIN BOESL is an associate professor and associate chair in the department of mechanical and materials engineering. His research focuses on advanced material response and design of novel composite materials.

of landscape architecture + environmental and urban design, was selected national president of the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) for 2022-23.

JENNIFER SCHOPF REHAGE, an ecologist in the Institute of Environment and an associate professor in the department of earth and environment, was named a Champion of Conservation as part of "Garden & Gun" magazine’s annual Ten Champions of Conservation special issue.

TAMI L. THOMAS, associate dean of research and faculty development in the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences and the Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Endowed Chair in Prevention and Family Health, was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame.

ANDRES TREMANTE, teaching professor and a program director in the department of mechanical and materials engineering, was selected to participate in nationwide research activities through the NASA Eclipse Ballooning Program.

YUK-CHING TSE-DINH, director of the Biomolecular Sciences Institute and a distinguished university professor in chemistry and biochemistry, was inducted into the Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine of Florida.

VADYM DROZD, research assistant professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering, is a material scientist whose innovative work focuses on carbon dioxide capture and sequestration as well as lowdimensional and nanomaterials for biomedical and energy storage applications. He is a faculty member in the Center for Study of Matter at Extreme Conditions. STAVROS GEORGAKOPOULOS, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, is responsible for remarkable innovations in the development of a variety of antennas. He is director of the Transforming Antennas Center and the RF Communications, mmWaves and Terahertz Lab. CHUNLEI WANG, professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering, and her research group focus on developing innovative micro and nanofabrication methods for building novel micro and nanostructures, which have useful properties for applications in electronics, energy storage and biosensing.

HEIDI MANSOUR is a professor and program leader in the Center for Translational Science and a faculty member in the department of environmental health sciences. Her research covers areas from pharmaceutical sciences to nanotechnology and nanomedicine and advanced drug delivery systems. She was also inducted into the 2022 Class of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering for outstanding contributions in targeted pulmonary inhalation aerosol medicine. BARRY ROSEN is a distinguished university professor of cellular biology and pharmacology in the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. He is a world-renowned expert on the transport and detoxification of metals in bacteria, yeast, protozoans, mammals and plants. CHENG ZHANG has a courtesy appointment as a research assistant professor in the department of mechanical and materials engineering. He is also a staff engineer at Relativity Space. His research areas include cold spray, additive manufacturing and advanced composites. As a postdoctoral research fellow at the Plasma Forming Lab, he worked on developing a cold spray technique to deposit coatings and repair parts for aerospace applications. FIU RESEARCH MAGAZINE


The final stop of the scientific process for many researchers

writing for The Conversation. This nonprofit, independent

– communicating results – is when an article is published in

news organization publishes articles written by experts for

an academic journal. FIU scholars and scientists don’t

the general public.

stop there.

Since FIU became a member of The Conversation in 2021,

According to a Pew Research Center poll, more Americans

more than 50 of our academics, researchers, doctoral and

are paying attention to science news and a majority rely

postdoctoral students have shared important information

on information from experts to make sense of scientific

rooted in research. These articles have garnered more than

information. FIU scientists are actively sharing their

2 million views, according to The Conversation, and been

knowledge on important, timely topics of national and

republished by major media outlets, including CNN, PBS,

international importance with people across the world by

Scientific American and the Washington Post.

Top articles that became conversation starters in 2022

The big reason Florida insurance companies

What the Voyager space probes can teach

are failing isn’t just hurricane risk – it’s fraud

humanity about immortality and legacy as they

and lawsuits

sail through space for trillions of years



Professor of Finance College of Business Hamid, who directs the Laboratory for Insurance, explains Florida’s insurance market – and how the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance, which now carries more than 1 million policies, can weather the storm. “So, I’m not as worried for Citizens. Homeowners will need help, though, especially if they’re uninsured. I expect Congress will approve some special funding, as it did in the past for hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, to provide financial aid for residents and communities.”

Professor Emeritus and Lecturer in Religion and Science Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs Each of the Voyager spacecrafts carry a Golden Record containing two hours of sounds, music and greetings from around the world. This presents a unique way to explore ideas of immortality, explains Huchingson. “But in the distant future, the two Voyager spacecraft will still be floating in space, awaiting discovery by an advanced alien civilization for whom the messages on the Golden Records were intended. Only those records will likely remain as testimony and legacy of Earth.



How Sarah Baartman’s hips went from a symbol of exploitation to a source of empowerment

How much sleep do you really need?

for Black women



and Cognitive Neuroscience

Associate Professor of Clinical Science

Assistant Professor of Communication

College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Communication, Architecture + The Arts

Center for Children and Families

Ashley shares findings on her study about Saartjie

McMakin studies how sleep impacts mental health

“Sarah” Baartman, an African woman who in the early

in childhood and adolescence. In this article, she

1800s was something of an international sensation of

breaks down why getting a good night’s sleep is

objectification, and explores how Black women today

essential to overall health.

feel about her story and legacy.

“When someone’s asleep, it can look like they are

“I interviewed 30 Black women from various cities

turned “off” and not doing anything at all. But,

in South Africa and the mid-Atlantic U.S. and asked

that’s not true. Your brain and body are activated

them about Baartman. Would her image represent

and doing important things while you sleep, like

a reviled past or a canvas of resilience?”

organizing nerve cells, regulating hormones, repairing cells and clearing out toxins.”

Using The Conversation as a vehicle to reintroduce Baartman provided an opportunity to extend the message to a large readership that would continue to share the article. Being able to reframe discourse about such a historical figure to a wide audience gives power to the new conversation that will widen the variation of how we visualize Black women’s body and the history of figures like Baartman.” — Rokeshia Renné Ashley

What’s driving the huge blooms of brown seaweed

Why are prices so high? Blame the supply chain –

piling up on Florida and Caribbean beaches?

and that’s the reason inflation is here to stay



Professor of Coastal Science

Assistant Teaching Professor of

College of Arts, Sciences & Education

Logistics & Supply Chain Management

Seaweed piling up on Florida beaches has become

College of Business

the new norm. Leatherman provides insight into

Austin researches supply chains and examines how

what’s driving this change and how affected countries

while prices surge because of a shortage of goods

can predict the severity of the next influx.

and labor in the supply chain, inflation might still be

“Data gathered over the past decade has revealed

here to stay.

the likely causes of these seaweed invasions:

“Consumers should get used to the higher prices.

Saharan dust clouds, warming temperatures and

They’re the new normal.”

the growing human nitrogen footprint.”



F i e l dwork

Fish on drugs? A three-year study led by FIU and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) discovered pharmaceuticals — including blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antibiotics and pain relievers — in the blood and tissues of bonefish. These contaminants pose a threat to one of Florida’s most valuable, economically important fisheries. Jennifer Rehage — the study’s lead scientist and professor in the Institute of Environment — and BTT research associates, in partnership with Sweden’s Umeå University and the University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), sampled 93 fish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. On average, they found seven pharmaceuticals per bonefish. Rehage and the team recently completed a second study showing medications are also in Florida redfish, providing further evidence these waterborne contaminants are a statewide concern.



FIU BOARD OF TRUSTEES Rogelio Tovar, Chair Carlos A. Duart, Vice Chair Cesar L. Alvarez Noël C. Barengo Dean C. Colson Alan Gonzalez Francis A. Hondal Natasha Lowell Yaffa Popack T. Gene Prescott Chanel T. Rowe Marc D. Sarnoff Alex Sutton

THE FIU RESEARCH MAGAZINE covers groundbreaking, innovative research at Florida International University and is published annually by the Division of Strategic Communications, Government and External Affairs. Portions of this magazine may be reprinted with permission. Opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of FIU faculty or administration. Send correspondence to researchmag@fiu. edu and visit us at © Copyright 2023 Florida International University.

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, GOVERNMENT AND EXTERNAL AFFAIRS Michelle L. Palacio Senior Vice President Anthony Rionda Associate Vice President Karen Cochrane Assistant Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Angela Nicoletti MS ’19 Research Communicator and Associate Editor Barbarita Ramos MBA ’20 Creative Director Graphic Design Oscar Negret Ashley Fornaris MBA ’18 Aileen Solá-Trautmann MSM ’18

Photo: Ian Wilson

Contributors Alexandra Pecharich Gisela Valencia ’15, MA ’19 Adrienne Sylver Photography and Videography Christopher Necuze ’11, MS ’20 Carl-Frederick Francois ’16, MS ‘17 Margarita Rentis ‘17 Vince Rives ‘17 Ja’Bryan Butler ‘23



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R E A DY T O C O L L A B O R AT E WITH FIU RESEARCHERS? FIU Discovery is here to help. This cutting-edge new tool allows you to search by keyword or topic to identify researchers from across the university. Profile pages are jam-packed with bios, academic journal articles, patents issued, grant and funding information, videos and more.



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