Miamian Spring 2010 - Along Slant Walk

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Miami Opera in grand voice

Miami Opera won second place in the National Opera Association opera production competition for its presentation of Benjamin Britten's "Paul Bunyan."

Miami's version of Britten's first opera (1941), about the American folk hero and fellow lumberjacks learning to work together and survive in the New World, took second in Category III of the juried competition for small professional opera companies and opera training programs, including universities.

Mari Opatz-Muni, associate professor of music, produced it; Ben Smolder, also an associate professor of music, conducted; and Eric Friedman was the stage director.

Wedding vow record official

Just as the Alumni Association was mailing Valentine's Day cards to 12,606 Miami Merger couples in February, Guinness World Records announced that Miami officially broke the world record for the most couples renewing their wedding vows at once.

The event took place the Saturday afternoon of June 20, 2009, during Alumni Weekend. The official count is 1,087 couples, breaking the record of 624 couples renewing vows in Pittsburgh in 2008.

More than 14.25 percent of Miami alumni are married to each other, believed to be one of the largest numbers of alums-married-to-alums at any university. Miami has 26,472 total "mergers."

Dalai Lama to visit
this coming October

The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama plans to meet with students and give a public address when he visits Miami Oct. 20-22.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and was the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

He is a patron of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala, India. Miami established a relationship with the institute when anthropology faculty Deborah Akers and Homayun Sidky led summer workshops in Tibet. After signing an affiliation agreement, Miami began offering a Tibetan studies semester program last fall.

Advancing research
in children's diseases

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has designated Miami's Center for Structural Biology and Metabonomics one of Ohio's 14 Health Care/Biomedicine Centers of Excellence, allowing the university to further develop tools for early cancer detection and diagnosis of childhood diseases, says James Oris, associate dean for research and scholarship and professor of zoology.

Work performed by researchers in the center, led by Michael Kennedy, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Structural Biology and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, involves developing metabolic profiling databases for children's diseases targeting gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and obesity.

Metabonomics research is the study of metabolic responses to genetic modifications, external stimuli, and diseases. Miami's researchers, including many undergraduates, collaborate with physicians at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, and Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

"This recognition will help us to advance and accelerate the pace of biomedical research in Ohio," Oris says. "Further, it helps to establish our center as a world-class site for medical researchers and collaborators who have a need and interest in research related to children's diseases."

Kennedy's lab is also working to isolate proteins for the national Protein Structure Initiative, a public database useful to medical and biological researchers.

A garden on Mars?

When the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in February, it delivered the Tropi-2 payload containing research focused on understanding how light and gravity affect plant growth.

Katherine Millar, postdoctoral research associate; John Kiss, professor and chair of botany; and Prem Kumar, senior postdoctoral research associate, at the NASA laboratory in California, preparing for the Tropi-2 experiment.

The research, led by botany professor John Kiss, is testing whether plants could be grown on Mars or the moon for food, according to Kiss.

Tropi-2 is a study of Arabidopsis thaliana (the thale cress) seedling sprouts to observe their response to light and gravity at a cellular level.

"Specifically, the seeds are being grown in various levels of gravity including microgravity – or the weightlessness experienced on the ISS – as well as gravity levels on the moon and Mars," Kiss said.

Kiss has been awarded more than $1 million by NASA for Tropi. Richard Edelmann, director of Miami's electron microscopy facility, and Melanie Correll, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida, are co-principal investigators. Undergraduate and graduate students have also participated in this research.

As for plants on Earth ...

Carole Dabney-Smith, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's new Early Career Research Program for her work in the assembly of photosynthesis complexes and its impact on the future of biofuel production.

Her focus is on how proteins move across plant cell membranes.

"Plants use photosynthesis to capture sunlight and turn it into molecules that can be used by humans as either food or fuel. Understanding how photosynthesis works at a molecular level, including how all of the parts are assembled, is vital for biofuel production," she explains.

Her long-term research goal is to investigate how the proteins involved arrive at their proper location.

More campus news

  • Once again Miami is included as one of the "100 Best Values in Public Colleges" by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. The February 2010 issue of the magazine ranks Miami 62nd among in-state best values nationwide and 70th for out-of-state public university value.

  • Miami has been named one of the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers, placing fourth on the organization's Top 25 list for medium-sized schools. Miami currently has 43 alumni with undergraduate degrees serving, which bumps the university up from seventh place last year. Medium-sized schools have an undergraduate enrollment between 5,000 and 15,000 students. Currently, 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers are serving in 76 host countries around the world. In the last 48 years, 852 Miami alumni have joined the Peace Corps.

  • An update on the university's budget during the February trustee meeting mentioned that state support for Miami in 2011 will be slightly less than what the university received from the state 10 years ago in 2001.

  • Among universities with master's programs in physics, Miami ranks first in the number of bachelor's degrees awarded annually and second in the number of master's degrees awarded annually, according to the American Institute of Physics' latest findings. Miami averaged 15 physics bachelor's degrees and eight physics master's degrees per year for 2005, 2006, and 2007.



For more information

Contact Donna Boen '83 MTSC '96, editor of Miamian, at or 513-529-7592.


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Miamian, Miami University's alumni magazine, highlights alumni, student, faculty, and staff involvement with the University, updating readers on campus news and events, arts, sports, and alumni news. Miami's primary communication link with alumni and close friends of the University, the magazine sets out to inform and entertain while generating a sense of knowledge and involvement with Miami University. Miamian is published three times a year.