New Faculty Swell Ranks at FIU

On August 15, FIU welcomed 140 new faculty, 88 of whom fill new positions.

As public universities across the nation grapple with another of several challenging budget years, new faculty orientation day 2012 at FIU was truly an affirming event.

This year’s new additions help to advance the university’s strategic plan of building an outstanding faculty to teach its diverse and growing student body and to conduct world-class research.

FIU is a growing and vibrant university, making internationally recognized strides in research and in providing a top-quality education for FIU students.

The university recently appeared in The Times Higher Education (THE) report of 100 under 50 University Rankings. FIU was ranked 84th among the 100 top universities worldwide under 50 years old that are designated as “rising stars” by London-based THE. FIU was one of only nine U.S.-based institutions to make this list, and the only Florida institution to do so.

Here are snapshots of a few of FIU’s new faces or browse the entire list of new faculty [PDF].


Francisco Alberto Fernandez-Lima, Chemistry

Francisco Alberto Fernandez-Lima has always liked a challenge.Francisco Alberto Fernandez-Lima

Throughout elementary and high school in Cuba, he was part of a math team that participated in the Math Olympiads. For his college major he chose nuclear physics, a highly competitive program that only accepted 10 people per year.

For his newest venture, Fernandez-Lima would like to create a mass spectrometry program at FIU, with a new, state-of-the-art facility that will be available to researchers from FIU and South Florida. “We want to be the first center in South Florida,” says Fernandez-Lima.

Fernandez-Lima, assistant professor in the Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, joined FIU from Texas A&M University, where he was a post-doctoral fellow. While at Texas A&M, Fernandez-Lima won the National Institute of Health’s “Pathway to Independence Award.” Before Texas A&M, Fernandez-Lima was a fellow at the Center for Latin American Center for Physics in Brazil.

Now a member of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity’s Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (IBBS), Fernandez-Lima is focusing his research on the development of new generation instrumentation and methodologies for biomedical and behavioral research. He is working with Bruker Daltonics, a Massachusetts-based mass spectrometer manufacturing company, to increase the efficiency and sensitivity of the instruments for use in medical procedures.

Besides biomedical, Fernandez-Lima sees a mass spectrometry program having applications in behavioral, environmental and forensic research. “I have the best job,” he states. “I have a chance to work with students, do experiments, and develop new products.” It’s the best kind of challenge.


Virginia Mueller Gathercole, Linguistics

Virginia Mueller Gathercole, FIU’s first-ever English professor to possess a linguistics degree, has returned to the university.Virginia Mueller Gathercole

As one of 59 faculty to join the College of Arts & Sciences this academic year, Gathercole originally came to FIU in 1981. A Panther for nearly 15 years, she served as director of the Linguistics Program and director of the English Language Skills Center during her first tenure. Prior to her return to FIU, Gathercole served as a senior lecturer and professor at Bangor University. There, she helped expand research on language acquisition in the School of Psychology and served as the director of the Dyslexia Unit.

Gathercole’s areas of expertise include psycholinguistics, first-language acquisition, bilingual language acquisition and bilingual language assessment.

“Linguistics have a mathematical component that I love,” Gathercole said. “The field is very cross-disciplinary and there are overlaps with education, psychology, modern languages and speech pathology. I’ve always loved children, I’ve always been intrigued by how they learn and how they acquire language. I just knew this is something I wanted to do.”

Gathercole has returned to FIU to help develop a cross-disciplinary doctorate program in linguistics.

“More than 68 languages are spoken in South Florida,” she said. “You have bilinguals from different language and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as those who grew up as bilinguals and those who learned other languages later on in life.”

“Knowing more than one language is essential,” said Gathercole. “It’s not about your résumé or the job market. It’s about knowing what language does for you.”


Raul Gonzalez, Psychology

Raul Gonzalez has dedicated his career to understanding what makes people vulnerable to addiction.Raul Gonzalez

As licensed clinical psychologist, Gonzalez studies the relationship between the brain and behavior of HIV positive and negative individuals who also suffer from substance abuse problems. His research looks at the ways the disease and/or the addiction affect an individual’s ability to make decisions. He hopes to generate knowledge that will improve people’s lives and empower them to make informed decisions about their health care.

“There is often an overlap between HIV and substance abuse,” Gonzalez said. “I want to understand who has a predisposition to develop an addiction and who doesn't.”

Gonzalez returned to FIU as associate professor in the Department of Psychology with two projects funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. As part of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity’s Cognitive Neuroscience Initiative, he is looking forward to the opportunities for collaboration FIU has to offer.

“I was most impressed by the sense of pride in the people who work here and the excitement they have about the university,” Gonzalez said. “This initiative brings together experts from across disciplines working to find solutions to problems of the brain, such as addiction, that may affect society at different levels.”

Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Gonzalez received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from FIU and went on to obtain a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from San Diego State University.


Shuliang Jiao, Biomedical Engineering

Shuliang JiaoDiabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can lead to severe vision loss and are the major diseases causing blindness worldwide. Shuliang Jiao, Ph.D., is hoping that his work will help diagnose, prevent or cure all three

Jiao, who joins FIU as associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computing, will focus on the development of technologies for imaging the anatomy and function of the eye, including a retinal imaging tool that enables the early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy before clinical signs occur. He will be bringing three National Institutes of Health grants with him to the Biomedical Optical Imaging Research Lab: an NIH R01 grant (PI), an NIH RC4 grant (co-investigator) and a pending NIH R21 grant (PI). In addition to his research, Jiao will be teaching courses for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Most recently Jiao was associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Southern California. Before USC, Jiao was an assistant professor at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Jiao received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University.

He is looking forward to joining his family in Miami. And, he points out, “the College of Engineering at FIU is growing fast and has very good opportunities for collaboration.”


Angela Laird, Physics

Recognized as a “Rising Star” by the University of Texas System, Angela Laird came to FIU to leave her mark in science education.Angela Laird

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to be more fully involved, both in the classroom and in one-on-one student research mentoring,” Laird said. “I think it's important that students are exposed to an interdisciplinary perspective during their training since this is an important component of being a successful academic scientist, particularly in the biomedical and health sciences.”

Originally from Central Florida, Laird is happy to be back in the sunshine state as a faculty member for FIU’s Department of Physics. As part of the School of Integrated Science and Humanity’s Cognitive Neuroscience Initiative, Laird’s work will focus on developing data analysis algorithms, neuroscience informatics tools, and neuroimaging ontologies that may lead to effective ways to analyze the brain networks of healthy individuals and those with psychiatric and neurologic diseases or disorders.

“One of the reasons I returned to my home state was so that I could help increase Florida's international research reputation in this challenging and exciting field, and I am thrilled that FIU shares this vision,” Laird said. “FIU is rapidly growing and offers a wealth of collaborative opportunities, and the energy here is really exciting.”

Laird received her Ph.D. and Master of Science in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Bachelor of Science from Florida State University. She has published neuroimaging studies of patients with various mental health disorders, such as depression, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh, Biomolecular and Biomedical Science

Cross-disciplinary collaborations, utilizing FIU faculty’s broad range of expertise, and a large pool of graduate students are just a few of the things that Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh is looking forward to in her new position as professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the newly created Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science (IBBS).Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh

Tse-Dinh arrived at FIU in late August after serving on the faculty of New York Medical College for more than 20 years.

In her former position, Tse-Dinh was professor and Ph.D. Graduate Program Director. The student population there was about 3 percent of the student population of FIU. “There are just so many more opportunities here for partnering with other researchers and so many more graduate students,” Tse-Dinh notes.

“This university is growing,” Tse-Dinh remarks. “That is very exciting and unique these days.”

Currently Tse-Dinh’s research focuses on DNA enzymes. She has two R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health. “The goal of the first project, "Control of DNA Topology," funded by National Institute of General Medical Sciences, is to elucidate the basic structure, mechanism and function of a class of enzymes, DNA topoisomerases, that control the structure of chromosomes. The second project, "Bacterial cell killing by topoisomerase I mediated DNA lesion," funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, utilizes a novel topoisomerase target in bacteria for discovery of new antibacterial drug leads to combat drug resistant bacterial pathogens,” she explains.

In addition to her biomedical and biomolecular work, Tse-Dinh also has a background in theoretical chemistry.

She welcomes faculty and students who may be interested in these or in creating new projects together. “I'm looking forward to bringing biomolecular and biomedical researchers together from arts and sciences, medicine and engineering,” Tse-Dinh says.


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