By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

University of Miami faculty members on four newly funded U-LINK projects hope to provide effective solutions to challenging societal problems.

Learning to use fish waste to create more eco-friendly concrete.

Creating a better model for former inmates with health conditions to reenter society without having to worry about finding a new doctor.

These are just two of the ideas that four new teams of researchers from subject areas across the University of Miami will investigate for a year through the University Laboratory for Integrative Knowledge (U-LINK) program.

Started in 2018, U-LINK provides $100,000 in seed funding to a team of faculty members who are eager and willing to pool their expertise to address compelling societal problems. Past groups have tackled heat inequity in Miami and partnered with local organizations to help Miami-Dade County citizens understand the municipal budgeting process and propose ideas for their own community. Another U-LINK team is working to make a more precise and informative visual to show potential hurricane tracks that would work better than the well-known cone of uncertainty.

This year’s grant applications asked faculty members to focus on solutions that could be replicated widely and used in communities beyond South Florida.

“We wanted to find projects this year that could evaluate how new knowledge and interventions can be effectively translated into real-world settings,” said Erin Kobetz, the University’s vice provost for research and scholarship. “This is an important goal for U-LINK, given the strong emphasis on community engagement. Community stakeholders demand that our research translate beyond the academic context for broader impact and social change.”

The four funded U-LINK projects are:

“Storytelling for Non-Governmental Organizations”

Often facing a dearth of funding, health care focused non-governmental organizations across the world need to learn how to properly communicate their success. This often means sharing patient stories to help broaden awareness of their services. As a result, this team will work with colleagues at Anant National University in western India, and the organization Prabhat Education Foundation—which serves children facing physical and mental disabilities—to create a pilot program that will help this nonprofit, and others, learn how to effectively share their own narratives. This could help expand health care services among Indians, and ultimately improve health in the rapidly growing nation.

The project is led by Sanjeev Chatterjee, professor of cinema and interactive media; Jyotika Ramaprasad, professor of journalism; Mariano Kanamori, associate professor of public health sciences; and Scotney Evans, associate professor of community psychology. 

“Health Equity and Cultural Humility”

People who identify as sexual and gender minorities often experience a higher likelihood of negative health outcomes, which research indicates are perpetuated by the implicit bias of health care providers. This team wants to counteract that trend. They are hoping to harness the power of immersive 360-degree virtual reality to help train frontline health care providers to combat health disparities and reduce implicit biases and improve the care of patients from transgender and gender diverse communities. They hope to do this by bringing learners into the daily lives of their patients and creating a learning platform that inspires more empathy.

The team includes Rafal Sokolowski, assistant professor of cinema and interactive media; Edmund Talavera, professor of cinema; and Dr. Lydia Fein, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences.

“Implementation of a Transitions Clinic for Jail Reentry in Miami”

Records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that more than 70 million people have a criminal record and more than 1.7 million people in the United States spent some time in a jail or prison in the year 2020 alone. Research indicates that experiencing incarceration is bad for your health, even lowering life expectancy. With Miami-Dade County boasting the ninth largest jail population in the nation, post-release services are fragmented, and health care is difficult to obtain. Using a model called the Transitions Clinic Network developed by a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, this faculty team hopes to provide a community-based primary care clinic centered on the social determinants of health (such as food and housing) for people leaving jail that suffer from chronic health conditions. The evidence-based model is associated with fewer acute care visits, higher rates of primary care, and retention in HIV care.

This team is led by Kathryn Nowotny, associate professor of medical sociology; Edward Suarez, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences; and Zinzi Bailey, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in the division of medical oncology. 

“From Waste to Asset: Exploring the Ichthyocarbonate Produced by Marine Finfish for Sustainable Nature-Based Aquaculture and Engineering Applications”

As the population grows and wild fish supplies dwindle across the globe, aquaculture—the farming of fish for food—has grown rapidly. However, the burgeoning marine fish aquaculture industry also produces certain byproducts, including fecal matter and carbonate precipitates, also known as ichthyocarbonate. Beneficial use of these byproducts can improve operational sustainability of land-based aquaculture facilities. This team aims to evaluate how changing the diets of fish raised in land-based aquaculture facilities may impact the makeup of their waste, and to see whether ichthyocarbonate can be used to create a coating material, or substitute cement in concrete, to produce a more eco-friendly building element for coral reef restoration efforts and restorative aquaculture.

Team members include Amanda Oehlert, assistant professor of marine geosciences; John Stieglitz, research assistant professor of marine biology and ecology; Martin Grosell, professor and chair of marine biology and ecology; and Prannoy Suraneni, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering.

Learn more about the U-LINK initiative and other U-LINK research projects at

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