Maryland Moments, December, 2005
Robert Fishcell, who earned his master's degree in physics at UM, gives $30 million to the Clark School of Engineering to create pathways for future generations of bioengineers, the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices. In a separate gift, Fischell's sons, David, Tim and Scott donate an additional $1 million to support the new department and institute. The Fischell Department of Bioengineering is the university's first named academic department.
Maryland 's "Fear the Turtle" sculptures, each weighing 100 pounds and standing 4.5 ft. high, are distributed to local artists. The statues' blank facades will be changed into celebrations of UM's Sesquicentennial and one-of-a-kind works of art. Earlier this fall, the university invited regional and local artists to offer their ideas about how to transform 50 of the cast resin terrapins into sculptures that will become a centerpiece of the anniversary celebration. A jury of artists headed by Patsy Mote - the wife of Maryland President C.D."Dan" Mote, Jr. - selected finalists from a field of 80 entries.
Language education at UM takes a leap forward as the university is selected to host a program in the Persian language Farsi. Already a leading cog in the U.S. attempt to catch-up on needed language experts, Maryland previously was chosen to host one of two Arab language Flagship programs as created by Congress under the National Flagship Language Intiative. "There is definitely a growing interest in less commonly taught languages," says Professor Mike Long, director of the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. "Since 9/11 there has been a dramatic increase." Under the initiative, students at select universities, like Maryland, are given the chance to immerse themselves into a specific language and culture for two years at no cost, in return for two years of subsequent government service.
UM establishes a new area of studies devoted solely to Israel, an area some educators say has been ignored in the past because it is too controversial and politically charged. The Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies is creating the Institute for Israel Studies, scheduled to open in the fall of 2010. Similar programs have been established across the nation because educators say coverage of Israel in Middle East studies courses is limited to the conflict with Palestine, leaving out the country's history and culture.
Science & Technology
UM expertise guides efforts to discover what happened to New Orleans's levee system during Hurricane Katrina. The Los Angeles Times: "That weak soils, large storm surges and overtopped levees played key roles in the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina are well-known hypotheses.... a preliminary report by the Army Corps of Engineers concurred... 'There is a lot of speculation that is natural in a situation like this,' said Lewis 'Ed' Link (senior fellow, civic and environmental engineering), the University of Maryland levee expert who is leading the corps' investigation, which is officially called the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, or IPET."
Keith Schwab, associate adjunct professor of physics, is one of a team of researchers--that includes scientists from the University of Michigan--who garner considerable notice for their work regarding super-fast quantum computing. Before the quantum computer can begin to compete with the Pentium-chipped based contemporary models, there needs to be a way to scale-up individual quantum "bits." Schwab and his colleagues allow for an important step towards that goal by creating an ion trap on a semiconductor chip. Such microscale traps could allow many qubits to be integrated in a workable quantum computer.
Decreasing the volume of agricultural pollution sliding into the Chesapeake Bay could be as simple as adding an enzyme to chicken feed, according to a study by the department of animal and avian sciences at the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. Adding an enzyme called phytase to the diet of broilers can reduce the amount of phosphorus they ingest without affecting the quality of the poultry. The study was commissioned by the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, which is located at UM. The study's findings could save Maryland's farmers money, said the center. Rather than having to buy more expensive fertilizer for crops like corn, said Executive Director Russell Brinsfield, the farmers could continue to use the cheaper poultry litter to fertilize crops without violating environmental regulations on phosphorus.
Traditionally, the desert African locust, which swarms to destroy crops and wreak havoc on economies, has thought to have originated in the western hemisphere and migrated to Africa. Sean Mullen, UM post-doctoral fellow, and Nathan Lovejoy, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, indicate that these locusts -- Schistocerca -- originated in Africa. From there they probably migrated to the western hemisphere, between three and five million years ago, by flying over vast expanses of Atlantic Ocean. The research was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
A Maryland researcher and his team discover a key to the cause of the accelerated aging disease Werner syndrome. Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), Jin-Shan Hu, an assistant professor of biochemistry, and his research team create the first-ever model of a protein that may cause premature aging conditions, such as Werner, when it doesn't function properly. Seeing the structure of that protein may one day lead to finding exactly how and why things go wrong, not only in rare genetic disorders, but in other aging-related disease. Hu is lead author on a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.
The Washington Post: ""A Baltimore company, working with researchers from the University of Maryland (Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute), said... it plans to build a high-speed, energy-efficient ferry to run between Baltimore and the Eastern Shore.... The company said its intention is to build a fleet of ferries that will carry passengers 18 miles, from Baltimore to Rock Hall in Kent County." The Baltimore Sun: "Engineers tested a prototype hull this fall at the University of Maryland wind tunnel in College Park, where it withstood 100-mph head winds."
Baltimore Business Journal: "A state fund that promotes economic development in Maryland is making two grants to the growth of life sciences companies and national security technologies, two fields on which state leaders are banking for future job gains." One grant is for $690,000 and goes "to the University of Maryland's flagship College Park campus as well as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The money will be used to buy computer equipment for a joint project with the Fort Meade-based National Security Agency.... "
A start-up company, Invisitrack, which intends to fill-in what other geography devices like global positioning systems don't cover, receives $150,000 in grants from the University of Maryland (Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program) and the state. D.C. Examiner: "Global positioning systems track items from space - as long as they are in the open. On assembly lines and factory floors, valuables can be tagged with tiny radio chips but the range is limited. InvisiTrack covers some of the ground in between.... The prototype being developed would place transmitters up to a mile apart and could deliver precise coordinates for valuables and people in enclosed spaces."
Discover Magazine: "Most of us avoid thinking too hard about the origins of our dinners. We happily eat chicken nuggets, willfully forgetting that they are a meat product derived from formerly living birds. Now science is prepared to make our cognitive dissonance complete. Last June, in a paper published in the journal Tissue Engineering, an international team of researchers proposed a new kind of food handmade for sensitive carnivores (and maybe even vegetarians): meat that comes from a laboratory instead of a farm.... Jason Matheny, a graduate student in agricultural economics and public health, and his colleagues turned this scheme earthward, proposing two methods for growing meat in bulk. One would culture thin sheets of meat, seeded by cells from a living animal, on a reusable polymer scaffold; the other would grow meat on small edible beads that stretch with changes in temperature."
Reuters: "Deaf children who are given 'cochlear' implants before 30 months of age are better able to combine what they hear and what they see than those who receive their implants when they are older, investigators report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research is co-authored by Nathan Fox, director of the Child Development Laboratory in the College of Education; Efrat Schorr, a doctoral student at the lab; and Virginie Van Wassenhove a fellow at the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory.
Researchers in the A. James Clark School of Engineering set bait for hackers by configuring computers with built-in weaknesses to entice hackers to attack. And attack they do -- thousands upon thousands of times. The researchers release quantitative data on how hackers break into computers in the hope that their work will help system administrators secure their computer systems.
UM's Global Land Cover Facility, a partnership between NASA and the campus's department of geography and UMIACS (Institute for Advanced Computer Studies), collaborates with South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to accomplish a satellite-based fire warning system, a first in Africa. The Advanced Fire Information System is able to provide information on developing wildfires in near real-time, as the data is updated every 15 minutes. All the fire data is available on a publically accessible Web site.
United Press International: "It's been believed oxygen in Earth's ancient atmosphere rose to modern levels in two big jumps, but now a University of Maryland study suggests otherwise. Current scientific consensus holds that significant amounts of oxygen first appeared in Earth's atmosphere some 2.4 billion years ago, with a second large increase in atmospheric oxygen occurring much later, perhaps around 600 million years ago. New findings by UM geologists suggest the second jump actually may have begun much earlier and occurred more gradually than previously thought. The study -- funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA -- is detailed in the journal Science." David Johnston, Boswell Wing, James Farquhar and Alan Kaufman of the department of geology and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center are co-authors of the report.
Gerald Wilkinson, professor of biology. participates in research that generates notice in the ongoing battle of the sexes. New Scientist: "The brainier male bats are, the smaller their testicles, according to a new study. Researchers suggest the correlation exists because both organs require a lot of energy to grow and maintain, leading individual species to find the optimum balance. The analysis of 334 species of bat found that in species where the females were promiscuous, the males had evolved larger testes but had relatively small brains. In species, where the females were monogamous, the situation was reversed. Male fidelity appeared to have no influence over testes or brain size."
Chunyuan Liao, research graduate assistant at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and Francois Guimbretiere, assistant professor of computer science, are researchers contributing to an attempt to bring digital notebooks into the real world of field studies with ButterflyNet software. Getting traditonalists to set aside their notebooks could be difficult; the time-honored notebook never runs low on batteries. But ButterFlyNet does offer digital- age helpers, allowing for idential copies of handwritten notes in a digital format, and gathering data from a variety of other media—digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS) devices, wireless sensor networks. The data is automatically inserted into the digital notebook on the appropriate "page."
Society & Culture
Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, unveils a poll he commissioned on Arab feelings about the U.S. drive to plant democracy in Iraq. The poll was conducted by Zogby International, and citizens from Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were questioned. Some of the results: Telhami feels Iraq has become a new "prism of pain" as the Middle East believes the country is the worse because of the U.S. invasion; France is more admired in the region than the U.S.; and the U.S. satellite TV outlet, Al-Hurrah, attracts few viewers. The Iraqi government likes the U.S. presence, but Arabs do not.
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