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This past Spring, the College of Arts, Sciences & Education (CASE) opened a call for the newly established Distinguished Postdoctoral Scholar program. An interdisciplinary committee of faculty and leadership representing various centers and departments reviewed over 100 applications of individuals across the world conducting research in fields of study relevant to our scholarly research areas in the sciences, humanities and education.

We’d like to take this time to congratulate the following four individuals who were selected: Tatiana D. Viena (Psychology), Woubet Gashaw Alemu (Earth and Environment), Lorian E. Schweikert (Biological Sciences), Rolando O. Santos (Earth and Environment). Appointments are for one year beginning the 2018-2019 Academic Year, and are renewable upon excellent performance. This program will be continued annually with the hopes of diversifying and increasing FIU’s national profile. Each distinguished postdoc will also be given a $5,000 fund to supplement their research.

Tatiana D. Viena, Ph.D

Tatiana received her Ph.D from Florida Atlantic University and obtained her Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology at Nova Southeastern University. As a graduate student, she served as the VP of the Neuroscience Graduate Student Organization, was actively involved in mentoring/guiding undergraduate students in their professional development, and organized several neuroscience outreach community events. She’s published research in scientific journals such as Hippocampus and Biological Psychology.

Her main research interests include the anatomy and physiology of the midline thalamus and its role in memory, executive and attentional states. Currently, her postdoctoral work is focused on investigating the influence of Nucleus Reuniens (RE) of the midline thalamus in the coordination of the medial prefrontal (mPFC)-hippocampal (HF) brain circuit using animal models, while at the same token, assessing RE’s role in the temporal organization of memory and behavior. Importantly, the mPFC-HF circuit has been previously shown to regulate several higher order cognitive processes and its dysfunction is the hallmark of many mental disorders such as schizophrenia, OCD and ADHD. As a pivotal link within this circuit, RE is a potential target for the treatment of these debilitating disorders.

She works under the direction of Dr. Tim Allen, Director of the Neurocircuitry & Cognition Lab in the Cognitive Neuroscience Program and Department of Psychology.

Woubet Gashaw Alemu, Ph.D

Woubet received his Ph.D in Geospatial Science and Engineering from South Dakota State University, and obtained two Master’s degrees in Land Resources Management (Bahir Dar University) and Remote Sending and GIS (Addis Ababa University). He’s been published numerous times over the last seven years with over 4,000 reads.

He’s interested in the synergistic use of satellite active/passive microwave and optical datasets, crop growth models, and in situ datasets to study cropland dynamics, crop production and yield estimation for food security in East Africa and elsewhere like the wetland dynamics in the Florida Everglades. He recently submitted a first step research proposal alongside his mentor to NASA SERVIR titled “Crop Production and Yield Estimation Using Satellite Microwave Datasets and Crop Growth Models for Food Security in East Africa.” This was also in collaboration with his former PhD advisor, Dr. Geoffrey M. Henebry at Michigan State University and Dr. Gabriel Senay at USGS. Woubet is focused on writing articles on cropland and grassland land surface phenology and seasonality in the Prairie Pothole Region of the USA using satellite passive microwave datasets and the USDA crop data layer (CDL).

He works under the direction of Dr. Assefa Melesse, Professor – Earth and Environment and Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment.

Lorian E. Schweikert, Ph.D

After completing her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences in 2016 from the Florida Institute of Technology, Lori went on to complete postdoctoral work at Duke University with Dr. Sönke Johnsen and at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology with Dr. Hannah Rowland. To date, she has been awarded over $400,000 in grants and fellowships, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. She was selected as 1 of 90 international recipients to be awarded the P.E.O. scholar award ($15,000), and most recently has secured a grant from the Company of Biologists to co-organize and fully-fund an international workshop on the study of vision.

Lorian is a sensory neuroethologist, who uses integrative approaches to study visual system specialization in the marine world. In the open ocean – where there is seemingly no place to hide – deep-water shrimp use bioluminescent (or light-emitting) trickery to hide in plain sight. Working with Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom, Lori is pursuing the long sought-after mechanism of how these animals so precisely match their glow to downwelling light that their silhouette disappears when viewed from predators below. By studying the visual inputs and neural circuits that underlie this disappearing act, Lori’s work will provide insight into the evolution, organization, and function of specialized light-sensing systems. Over her career, Lori has studied fish, such as hogfish and tarpon, zebra finches, chickens, and whales, resulting in publication in journals such as the Journal of Comparative Neurology and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

She works under the direction of Dr. Heather Bracken-Grissom, Assistant Professor – Biological Sciences, Institute of Water and Environment, Center for Coastal Oceans Research and Tropical Conservation Institute.

Rolando O. Santos, Ph.D

Rolando was raised in Puerto Rico and moved to South Florida in 2006 for his graduate studies, and in 2010 received a dual MS degree in marine biology and coastal management from Nova Southeastern University, and in 2014 received a marine biology and fisheries from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

He has authored 12 peer-reviewed articles and has 3 papers currently inreview. He is the first author on 8 of these publications. He is also a co-author along with other prominent seascape ecologists on 2 book chapters that reviewed forefront ideas on how to implement landscape ecology concepts and set the framework to study marine ecological questions at relevant spatial scales. Throughout his academic and professional career, he has received several scholarships, fellowships, and research grants including the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, $747,300 in a research grant as PI, and over $500,000 as co-PI from Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, the National Park Service, and the South Florida Water Management District.

Rolando is a seascape ecologist with expertise in fish, fisheries, benthic, disturbance andspatial ecology. He will be working on two research projects in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Rehage to investigate how the transformation of seagrass seascapes and the spatial distribution of algae blooms influence the movement, habitat use andfitness of recreational fish species. Along with Dr. Todd Crowl, he will be investigating the movement and distribution of shrimp in Puerto Rico streams as part of a Luquillo LTER (Long-term ecological research) experiment designed to understand better the effects of extreme droughts on the functioning of tropical rainforest ecosystems. Both studies are designed to generate knowledge regarding how extreme climate events and other disturbances associated with climate change affect ecological processes, ecosystem functioning and services.

He works under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Rehage, associate professor within the School of Environment, Arts and Society, and her Lab – Coastal Fish Ecology and Fisheries.

The Distinguished Postdoctoral Scholar program is a part of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan, launched Spring 2018 to support FIU’s efforts to advance the representation of women and underrepresented minorities across disciplines.