Maryland Moments, July, 2004
(Rankings, Awards, Traditional Programs)
The news was very good in doctorates awarded to African Americans, all disciplines combined. UM advanced from No. 16 to No. 12 in total degrees and advanced from No. 16 to No. 10 among TWIs (traditionally white institutions). There were also gains in Asian American and Hispanic doctorate degrees. (UM received eight graduate Top 25 rankings a year ago; this year the total is 13. When combined with UM's undergraduate rankings, the university has 38 Top 25 rankings.)
John Steinbruner, director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, and Nancy Gallagher, associate director of research at CISSM, were two of the experts from The Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy attending a two-day workshop, July 12 and 13, the first meeting called by the center. Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the center is a six-year, $50 million effort "to enhance prospects for international peace and security in a world roiled by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."
The MacArthur Foundation awarded the Center for International and Security Studies in the School of Public Policy $2.2 million for "scientific training and research to develop new methods for controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction."
The Maryland 4-H Learning and Leadership Conference, which was about a lot more than the traditional image of farming, held its annual conference on campus under the auspices of the Maryland Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Science & Technology
The blue-ribbon panel reporting to NASA on the prospective repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope found the agency "should consider all options for keeping the instrument operational—including a repair run by shuttle astronauts, if necessary." Also within the realm of possible repair of Hubble is a mission where robots would do the work. UM's Ranger Robot had been mentioned as a possible selection by NASA to do the job, but a Canadian robot, Dextre, seemed a more likely choice. UM's expertise, via its Space Systems Laboratory, was already conducting research simulations of a robotic NASA Hubble mission in its neutral bouoyancy facility.
On the 35th anniversary of NASA's historic Apollo 11 mission to the moon, newspapers recalled the role of Carroll Alley, professor of physics affiliated with the Quantum Electronics & Atomic Physics group, in the mission's success. He was principal investigator for NASA's "lunar laser ranging retroreflector array," which was left on the moon by the astroanuts. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set up a two-foot wide panel with 100 mirrors pointing to Earth; it is the only Apollo science experiment still running and receiving laser impulses from Earth. "Using these mirrors," explains Alley, "we can 'ping' the moon with laser pulses and measure the Earth-moon distance very precisely. This is a wonderful way to learn about the moon's orbit and to test theories of gravity."
After more than six and a half years and a journey of some 2 billion miles, UM's CHEMS sensor onboard the Cassini spacecraft reached its target - the immense magnetosphere of the ringed planet, Saturn. Designed and built by scientists in the university's space physics group, CHEMS (CHarge Energy Mass Spectrometer) measured ions -- positively charged atoms -- in Saturn's magnetosphere.
UM participated in unique NASA research into the winds of Titan, the giant moon of Saturn, which were observed from the highest mountain on the Big Island of Hawaii by the superpowerful Japanese Subaru telescope. NASA built the Heterodyne Instrument for Planetary Wind and Composition to be joined with the telescope for the research that plotted winds of 470 mph.
Virgil Kunde, research assistant in astronomy, worked for six years as a NASA employee to place an infrared radiation measuring instrument aboard the Cassini/Huygens spacecraft as it blasted off in 1997. Kunde, 68, who earned his master's degree in astronomy from UM, joined with British, French and other American scientists to develop the $100 million instrument.
A new study of randomly selected people from geographically diverse populations shows that normal variation in the red opsin gene may have been maintained by natural selection to give humans, especially women, a better perception of color. In a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Brian Verrelli, formerly a postdoctoral fellow at UM and now an assistant professor at Arizona State University, and Sarah Tishkoff, assistant professor of biology at UM, found that one of the genes connected to color vision has maintained an unusual amount of genetic variation, possibly for millions of years of human evolutionary history.
In the microsopic world of nanotechnology, tiny surface defects that form during processing can reduce the quality and yield of semiconductor devices, magnetic storage media and other products. Inspection tools need standards that locate, identify and characterize surface defects based upon how they reflect or scatter light need. Making standards for such calibrations was typically a hazardous process, but researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland invented a safer method and apparatus for producing these standards.
The Washington Post revealed that Chesapeake Bay cleanup reports issued by the federal government's Chesapeake Bay Program "significantly overstated the environmental achievements." The use of a computer model on which to base reports was criticized. Assumptions about the amount of pollution coming from agricultural lands were off, program leaders conceded, overestimating the overall pollution progress by about 10 to 15 percent. " 'Scientists have to change what they're saying all the time. It's the nature of science,' said Tom Simpson," a UM professor who is among the leading Chesapeake Bay experts. "But in the public arena, it's difficult to say, 'What we have actually achieved is less than we had previously reported.' "
Society & Culture
Amid reports that senior officials in Sudan had directed recruitment, arming and other support to Arab militias waging a "scorched-earth" campaign against African tribes in the province of Darfur, a new poll showed U.S. citizens feel Washington should back a future United Nations declaration of "genocide" with armed force. According to a Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. public said that if the United Nations should determine that "genocide" were occurring in Darfur, then Washington should contribute troops to a U.N. force to stop it. Only 19 percent were opposed. "It appears that the regrets about failing to act in response to the Rwanda genocide may be influencing Americans,' said Steven Kull, executive director of PIPA, which is in the School of Public Policy.
The same PIPA poll found found 66 percent of respondents said that the U.S. should abide by the international law that "governments should never use physical torture," while 29 percent found that standard "too restrictive." Other key findings included: "International Laws on Detention Should Apply to Al Qaeda Members; Many See Justice Department Memos Contributing to Abu Ghraib Abuses; Bush Suffers Some Political Costs Especially among Those Aware DOD Approved."
Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, commissioned a Zogby Poll of Middle East Attitudes towards the U.S. Telhami: "By invading Iraq, which had no tie to 9/11 and did not possess weapons of mass destruction, (President) Bush threw away our moral leadership. It is easy to fear that by indiscriminately killing as many as four times more innocent civilians than who died on 9/11, we have already fueled future attacks against us.... 'The good news,' said Telhami.... 'is that even today, despite the huge setback in relations, people say their opposition to the U.S. is based on policy, not values.' "
Airline gate slots at major airports are the hub of the commercial aviation business. How to maximize profits for the airports and effectively serve the airlines when those slot contracts ends is a high-stakes endeavor. The FAA used the National Center of Excellence in Aviation Operations Research to figure out a way to auction off gates. UM is one of five universities that make up NEXTOR, and Michael Ball, Orkand Professor of Management Science in the department of decision and information technologies, is co-director of the consortium. Other NEXTOR members are George Mason University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology by researchers from the department of psychology and Rice University made news because it questions the connection between individual employee satisfaction and company performance at the organizational level. The lead authors were Benjamin Schneider, professor of psychology and Brent Jones of Rice's Graduate School of Management. UM's Paul Hanges, associate professor of psychology, and former graduate student Amy Salvaggio were the other researchers. The advice gleaned from their work: "find a job with a financially successful company."
The Dallas Morning News asked 16 criminologists to comment on the state of the Dallas Police Department and its plans to cut crime. "I applaud the idea of experimenting with new methods," said Gary LaFree, a UM criminologist. "I just hope there's a follow-up.... It really depends on: 'How motivated is the Dallas Police Department? How good is their morale? How much does the community support it? Do we have a plan?' Because otherwise these individual programs are just buzz words."
More Maryland Moments in July
Two Maryland students faced riot and other charges for allegedly setting and feeding fires on U.S. Route 1 during a celebration that followed a Maryland basketball game in March. The students could be the first on campus to face a new rule calling for expulsion of students caught rioting, a policy adopted after a string of sports-related riots in College Park over the past several years.
The Washington Post: "If you've been waiting for a thousand clarinetists to come to town to wail out in chamber concerts, choir concerts, klezmer extravaganzas, jazz jams and seminars on topics such as 'Taking the Voodoo out of Reedmaking,' wow, are you in luck. Just such a throng has descended on the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park this week. They're here for ClarinetFest 2004, a five-day congregation of single-reed enthusiasts that continues through Sunday."
Doreen Baingana, a graduate of UM's Creative Writing Program, is shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. Known as the "African Booker," the $15,000 prize is awarded to a short story published in English by an African writer whose work "has reflected African sensibilities."
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