Miami magazine Online

Noteworthy News and Research at the University of Miami

Braman gift launches breast cancer institute
Solving the Puzzle

Three professors named Fulbright scholars
Academic Adventurers

‘A-Rod’ Tags Home with a Gift to the Hurricanes   NewsVision channels student talent
Top Stories
President Shalala Is Published in
The World Almanac
  CSTARS yields new perspectives on Earth
Picture This
House of Hoop   School of Architecture plans for new digs
Structure of Stature
Center Is Devoted to Smoothing the Flow of Business UM, FAU Unite to Fight Florida Doctor Shortage
The Strongest Link
Go Figure  

Braman gift launches breast cancer institute

Solving the Puzzle

It’s hard to believe that science may be on the brink of eradicating breast cancer, unless you talk to leading researcher and physician Joyce Slingerland.

“I have a feeling that we may actually have all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the table. What we need to do is put them together,” says Slingerland, director of the new Braman Breast Cancer Institute at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is building a team of experts to tackle the disease that kills more than 45,000 women in the United States and 370,000 women worldwide each year. Her vision for a world-class clinical care and basic science research facility is in sync with that of University trustee Norman Braman and his wife, Irma, whose $5 million gift helped launch the institute. Support from the Bramans was instrumental, Slingerland says, in her decision to join the University of Miami from the University of Toronto.

Slingerland is recruiting nine faculty members to enhance strengths in breast cancer imaging, surgery, medical oncology, molecular biology, and molecular epidemiology, plus a molecular pathologist who can help establish a tumor tissue bank. One recruit will be the clinical director of the institute, responsible for patient care and clinical trials on the “latest and greatest” cancer drugs. This will enable Slingerland to oversee all multidisciplinary programs and supervise her own lab’s research on the “cell cycle clock” and the “decision” a cell makes to double its own DNA. It’s something that has intrigued her since her undergraduate training at McGill University in Montreal.

“That’s where I fell in love with the cell,” she recalls. “I was absolutely fascinated with how complex molecular pathways are integrated to control the mechanisms that regulate a cell’s growth and division.”

Following her medical training, Slingerland earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology. As a postdoc she discovered a key growth regulatory molecule, p27, that provides a “major braking mechanism” in cell growth. When cancer-causing genes are turned on, she explains, they signal the cell to destroy p27, its “brakes molecule.”

Subsequent research revealed that tamoxifen, one of the most widely used hormonal treatments in breast cancer, requires p27 to be effective. This discovery grew out of her clinical observations that breast cancer became resistant to hormone therapy over time. It underscored the value of uniting research and patient care. “Gradually I started to realize that clinical problems of breast cancer have molecular solutions,” Slingerland says.

In addition to research on drug therapy, molecular pathways, and genetic factors, highly sensitive imaging holds great promise. “The key is to bring together people who have real expertise in those areas,” Slingerland says. “The time is right to apply basic science findings to help real human beings and solve problems of real human disease.”

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Three professors named Fulbright scholars

Academic Adventurers

Many people fantasize about leading the double life of adventure hero Indiana Jones—university professor by day and swashbuckling, tomb-excavating renegade by night. Three University of Miami professors are following in Indy’s footsteps. Thomas Steinfatt, David Graf, and Elizabeth Harry—recipients of the prestigious U.S. Fulbright Scholar award—have been in the trenches this semester, conducting field research in exotic regions of the world. They are among 800 Americans this year hand-selected to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries.”

School of Communication professor Thomas Steinfatt is spending five months in Cambodia. An authority on intercultural communication, health communication, statistical methodology, and propaganda, Steinfatt is teaching professors at the Royal University in Phnom Penh how to better conduct and analyze social science and hard science research. Lack of education is one reason Cambodia has had trouble rebounding from the reign of the Khmer Rouge, the communist regime that destroyed the capital city of Phnom Penh in the late 1970s.

“Anyone who could read or write would be tortured, then dragged out to the Killing Fields,” explains Steinfatt. Steinfatt also is working with the Cambodian Ministry of Health and School of Medicine professor Paul Shapshak to track a strain of HIV for development into an AIDS vaccine.

David Graf, professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences, has received the first Fulbright ever awarded for research in Saudi Arabia. A leading authority on ancient Near Eastern and Classical studies, Graf is tapping into the rich archeological heritage of pre-Islamic Saudi Arabia, an era called the Jahiliyya.

“Most people have the conception that the Arab world is interested only in Islam and everything that happened after Islam,” explains Graf, who is working to pave the way for archeological and research activities. Graf also sees his mission as an opportunity to improve relations between the Saudis and the United States, “like an American ambassador for archaeology,” he says.

Over the past three years, School of Education professor Elizabeth Harry has examined the disproportionate placement of African-American and Hispanic children in special education programs in Miami-Dade schools. A Fulbright scholar in southern Spain, Harry is observing the minority group of Moroccan immigrants to gain a cross-cultural view of the problem. “These types of minority issues are not peculiar to the United States,” she says.

Since the Fulbright program was signed into law by President Harry S Truman in 1946, there have been more than 250,000 participants in total and more than 40,000 selected to travel abroad.

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‘A-Rod’ Tags Home with a Gift to the Hurricanes

Seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star Alex Rodriguez remembers jumping the fence at the University of Miami’s Mark Light Stadium to watch the Hurricanes play ball. “For me, this is my Yankee Stadium, my Candlestick Park, my Dodger Stadium,” says the Miami-raised athlete who has pledged $3.9 million toward renovation of what will be renamed Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park. The donation—the largest ever to the baseball program—also will fund an annual scholarship for a member of the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Rodriguez, who accepted a baseball scholarship to the University in 1993, signed a $1.5 million contract with the Seattle Mariners moments before attending his first class. Now in year three of a ten-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, the 27-year-old Rodriguez has announced his plans to earn a University of Miami degree by age 35.

“Alex has always, in our mind, been a member of the University of Miami baseball family,” says head coach Jim Morris. “Now we can say it officially, and we are thrilled that he has given us the means to begin renovating this great ballpark.”

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NewsVision channels student talent

Top Stories

Always polished in appearance and delivery, television newscasters tell us what’s happening in 30 minutes or less. But it takes a well-orchestrated team to turn chaos into good journalism. Preparation for the task begins at NewsVision, the award-winning, student-produced news program airing live Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.

On Tuesdays you’ll see the work of broadcast journalism graduate students, a School of Communication course requirement. Thursday shows feature undergraduate volunteers who audition for select spots and receive no course credit for their participation. Backstage at both editions, undergraduates in Carolyn Cefalo’s (B.C.S. ’76, M.S.Ed. ’83) Electronic Media Production course handle the control room.

Undergraduates who don’t make the cut can turn to SportsDesk, UMIQ, Canes Gone Crazy, and other programs on UMTV, the school’s own cable station. Channel 24 throughout the University and channel 96 in surrounding Coral Gables, UMTV has an estimated viewership of about 20,000. UMTV programs also appear on Cable-TAP, channel 36, which reaches 450,000 in Miami-Dade.

Lately it’s NewsVision that’s making the headlines. Within the past year, the program picked up its first Emmy from the Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards. It also placed first in the newscast category of student competitions from the Associated Press Florida chapter and the National Broadcasting Society, AERho. And two NewsVision students placed among the top 20 students in the country named by the Hearst Journalism Awards in TV news.

Andrew Barton, faculty advisor for the undergraduate edition, attributes these honors to an ever-higher caliber of students and recent equipment upgrades at the School of Communication. “I tell students they are using the same equipment as network correspondents are using to cover the war in the Middle East,” he says.

Cefalo credits openness to avant-garde programming. “I don’t see us as a school or program that simply watches,” she says. “We participate in it, and I like to think we help shape it a little.”

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President Shalala Is Published in The World Almanac
An essay by University President Donna E. Shalala, headlined “Older Americans: Living Longer, Living Better,” opens a special section on the elderly in The World Almanac 2003. Published since 1868, The World Almanac spends several weeks each year on The New York Times best-seller list.

“We have transformed what it means to grow old in America,” Shalala writes. “In the past, aging was often feared as a steep descent into a nightmare of disability, depression, and isolation. Today—though seniors still face challenges—we know that this nightmare is far from reality.”

The president emphasizes the need for government programs to be reinvented as the size of the elderly population explodes. Despite issues of long-term care, chronic illness, and under-diagnosed depression, biomedical research offers hope.

In her essay, President Shalala turns to correspondence she received as secretary of Health and Human Services. Second-grader Justin Pannullo of Meadow Lane Elementary School outside Kansas City writes: “When people get old they get wrinkles on their face, but their brain gets smarter.”

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CSTARS yields new perspectives on Earth

Picture This

The element of surprise leaves us vulnerable to hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides, and other natural or manmade disasters. But an advanced facility for real-time satellite observation at the University’s new Richmond campus could help protect priceless lives, property, and natural resources in the northern quarter of the western hemisphere.

At the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS), two 33-foot-high antennae download data from several low-Earth-orbiting satellites that pass into range roughly every 100 minutes. Each $1.4 million antenna is anchored 27 feet underground to withstand hurricane-force winds.

Sophisticated software converts the raw data into high-resolution images of an area stretching from southern Canada to northern South America, with complete coverage over Central America and the Caribbean. Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science can use the images to observe environmental conditions in this region such as wave properties and volcano activity, or to monitor ecosystem health such as water level in the Everglades or exotic plant invasion. After a catastrophic event, CSTARS can expedite disaster relief by revealing shoreline changes and damage to coastal and urban infrastructure. But not all catastrophes are the hand of Mother Nature; CSTARS can raise a red flag on environmental pollution in real time, fostering immediate intervention.

“Being able to view large areas instantaneously when satellites are overhead and in all weather conditions will place UM at the forefront of innovative research,” says Hans Graber, professor of applied marine physics at the Rosenstiel School and codirector of CSTARS.

The facility sits on 78 acres in southern Miami-Dade County on what used to be a U.S. Naval observatory station. Built by contractor Vexcel Corporation and funded primarily by NASA and the Office of Naval Research, CSTARS is the first ground receiving station that operates virtually hands-free around the clock, seven days a week. Graber and Timothy Dixon, professor of marine geology and geophysics at the Rosenstiel School, are negotiating with satellite operators for use of the downloaded data. If their contracts permit, the University will facilitate commercial sales of the images to organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the South Florida Water Management District.

“We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make sure it’s automated and highly reliable,” says Dixon. “Vexcel has built more than a dozen ground receiving stations around the world, and this is the one they take their customers to see.”

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House of Hoop

What stands 96 feet tall, cost $48 million to build, and comfortably holds more than 7,000 roaring ’Canes? The University of Miami Convocation Center, of course. The new basketball arena and entertainment venue on the Coral Gables campus opened to a sold-out crowd on January 4 with the Hurricane men’s team victory over the University of North Carolina.

“It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to come to our house and win,” President Donna E. Shalala says of the 194,000-square-foot icon.

Also site of commencement exercises and community events such as speakers, concerts, and trade shows, the Convocation Center boasts 25 luxury suites, a 4,500-square-foot banquet facility, a first-class kitchen, and offices.

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School of Architecture plans for new digs

Structure of Stature

Since its birth in 1983, the School of Architecture has grown into one of the most celebrated programs in the country. In need of a facility that mirrors its strengths, the school makes way for a new 8,600-square-foot building, funded in part by University trustee and Miami developer Jorge M. Perez.

The Classically inspired yet modern Architecture Center will be named for Perez, founder and CEO of The Related Group of Florida, who donated $1.25 million to the school and has pledged to help raise an additional $250,000 toward construction. Designed by European architect Leon Krier, the center will house a state-of-the-art lecture hall named for Stanley and Jewell Glasgow, a multimedia classroom named for The Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation, Inc., and an impressive exhibition gallery. The building will augment, rather than replace, the existing School of Architecture complex on the Coral Gables campus. Groundbreaking took place in April.

Krier is considered the father of the New Urbanism movement in America, which seeks to remedy suburban sprawl through traditional, pedestrian-friendly town planning. His teachings inspired School of Architecture faculty, who helped position the school as a leader in New Urbanism.

“Mr. Perez continues to make his mark in urban development in South Florida,” says Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. “The School of Architecture is honored to be part of his commitment to this community.”

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Center Is Devoted to Smoothing the Flow of Business

T oday more than ever, business is global. Profitability and economic stability depend upon the efficient flow of goods, information, funds, and work across international boundaries, a practice known as supply chain management.

In a unique fusion of academicians, industry experts, and consultants, the University of Miami has established the Anthony Burns Center for Advanced Supply Chain Management in collaboration with Ryder System, Inc., and IBM Corporation. The College of Engineering, in conjunction with the School of Business Administration, will oversee the interdisciplinary center, which is housed in the Department of Industrial Engineering. Ryder System has dedicated its sponsorship of the center to Burns, its former chairman who retired last year after 28 years with the company.

“We expect the center to play a vital role in relating innovative ideas and practices to improve profitability, operational excellence, and customer satisfaction of corporations and other organizations worldwide,” says M. Lewis Temares, dean of the College of Engineering and vice president for Information Technology.

Services offered by the center include a series of seminars led by faculty and industry experts to help senior-level executives create integrated and highly responsive supply chains that augment business success.

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UM, FAU Unite to Fight Florida Doctor Shortage

The Strongest Link

A new partnership between the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University, the first of its kind between a public and private institution, promises to boost medical education in Florida.

“The State of Florida does not have enough medical schools based on its population,” says Mark T. O’Connell, senior associate dean for medical education at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

With Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton operating as a satellite campus for 32 first- and second-year University of Miami medical students, the School of Medicine can grow its class sizes to 180 students without investing in additional classroom space. Larger class size also enables UM to accept more out-of-state students without reducing in-state admissions, fortifying its national presence in medical education.

Medical students who do their preclinical coursework at FAU will attend classes in the new $20 million Charles E. Schmidt Biomedical Science Center, created through a $15 million donation from the Schmidt Family Foundation and a state match. Many FAU and University of Miami faculty are jointly appointed. Students complete their third- and fourth-year clinical work at the University of Miami. The program will officially launch with the entering class of 2004.

“Let’s face it,” O’Connell says, “a medical school is the centerpiece of a top university. Biomedical research drives a university’s research program, and you can’t have that without a medical school.”

Senior-level FAU students in the Medical Scholars Program take some first-year School of Medicine courses via the Web. Those who perform well in the courses and on the MCAT gain a spot in the medical school.

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Go Figure

A strictly by-the-numbers perspective of UM

Proportion of U.S. students who work while
earning a four-year degree

75 percent

Number of jobs available for University
students at the Convocation Center


Number of undergraduate student employees
on all UM campuses in fall 2002

Number of UM faculty members in fall 2002


Proportion of females in the U.S. population
50.9 percent

Proportion of female undergraduates at UM
57 percent

Proportion of females in the 2002 entering
class at the School of Medicine

54.5 percent

Proportion of females in the 1956 graduating
class at the School of Medicine

11.5 percent

Combined number of volumes held
by all University libraries

2.4 million

Most popular volume:
Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz CD

1,001 checkouts

Longest overdue book eventually returned:
Organizing Interests in Western Europe

3,500 days overdue

Number of students found sleeping
between the stacks each semester


Sources: University of Miami Convocation Center, University of Miami Office of Student Employment, U.S. Census Bureau, University of Miami Office of Planning and Institutional Research, American Council on Education, Otto G. Richter Library Department of Circulation and Reserves

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