Maryland Moments, January 2008
(New Programs, Rankings Honors)
A Washington Post feature story sparks a spate of media attention on UM's East Campus development plans. "In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania replaced an old parking lot with upscale stores, restaurants and a luxury hotel. Just outside Atlanta, Georgia Tech created a high-tech corridor to integrate with the local business community by building an office and research park, a hotel, a conference center and shops on its campus. Now, in College Park, the University of Maryland is working to replicate those public-private initiatives by redeveloping a 38-acre tract of land into a bustling town center with sit-down restaurants, student housing, offices, an upscale grocer, a four-star hotel, movie theater, bookstore and entertainment venue. ...'Maryland has a goal to be a top 10 university, and they realize without a top 10 college town, they would never make it,' said Douglas Duncan, the former Montgomery County executive and the university's vice president for administrative affairs, who is overseeing the project."
UM and the University of Maryland, Baltimore announced an initial cohort of eight research projects that would receive start-up funding through a new joint "seed grant" program created by the two institutions. The grant program is designed to stimulate collaborative research between faculty in the medical and pharmacy schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and scientists and engineers at the University of Maryland, College Park. "Through this program we're connecting researchers from our two top institutions, and giving a start to vital new research focused at the interfaces between engineering, life science, computer science, the physical sciences and medicine," said Mel Bernstein, vice president for research at the University of Maryland, College Park. "This is a critical effort because the future of biomedical research and the keys to new life saving breakthroughs will be found at these interfaces."
Among the exclusive rankings of the nation's best values in public education, UM ranks No. 28 for in-state tuition rates and No. 24 for out-of-state tution rankings. In two sub-catgegories, UM is No. 20 in 4-year graduation rates and No. 22 in 6-year graduation rates.
The Smith School of Business finishes among the world's top 10 business schools in two categories, as ranked by the Financial Times: Best in Information Technology, No. 6; Best in eBusiness No. 7.
Business Gazette: "When the newly established Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity signed up as lead tenant in a planned 120,000- square-foot building in College Park last month, the announcement was a rare bit of good news for developers targeting federal tenants. But the deal also underscored that some areas of the suburban Maryland commercial real estate market remain hot even as conditions cool throughout the region. ... The intelligence research program's lease shows promise for the M Square complex under development in College Park. Construction for the agency�s building -- which will total 120,000 square feet -- will begin in 2009. When completed, M Square will be the largest university research park in the Baltimore-Washington area, with more than 2 million square feet."
UM's world-famous Gordon W. Prange Collection has a new home, moving from the basement of McKeldin Library to spacious and newly renovated facilities on the fourth floor of Hornbake Library on campus. The Prange Collection, named after iconic history professor and author Gordon Prange, holds virtually all printed materials from occupied Japan following World War II. Prange, who served as General Douglas MacArthur's historian in Japan, saved the collection from certain destruction when censorship ended after four years. He obtained permission in 1950 to have the materials crated up and shipped by boat to California, and then by train to College Park.
UM is selected for the Department of Energy's next Solar Decathlon, in 2009, following its second place finish last fall. (UM finished first among U.S. teams.) Twenty schools will compete from the Americas and Europe. :ast year, an estimated 120,000 visitors turned out on the National Mall to witness Technische Universis t Darmstadt, UM and Santa Clara University, take first, second, and third place respectively. The University of Colorado won the two previous competitions, held in 2002 and 2005. All of the past winners will be on hand, as will a more international field.
Tom Kunkel, dean of the Merrill College of Journalism, is one of U.S. eight journalism deans signing an op/ed piece in the New York Times that argued for increased regulation of broadcast media. The Federal Communicatons Commission desires to go in the opposite direction. Kunkel's Times appearance was followed by a Q&A in the Baltimore Sun:
What would you all like the FCC to do?
"I think as a group we would like to see the FCC be more vigilant and diligent about what it asks broadcasters before they get relicensed. Up until 25 years ago, the FCC took the renewal process very seriously, but in the next generation the renewal process has basically become next to nothing and kind of a standing joke. The laissez-faire approach to renewal is hurting the local journalism done at television and radio stations. And so we're saying that, quite aside from what is done with cross-ownership, we want the FCC to make the stations cover their communities as part of their license renewal."
The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) presented a special honor to UM and Towson University, the Presidential Citation award. UM's award was for its "exemplary efforts in teacher education research at the College of Education, in physics and across the University." The awards were presented in Baltimore, at the organization's winter meeting.
Washinton Post "For three hours yesterday, eight teams of architects and designers, armed with scissors, cardboard, plexiglass, plywood, glue, tape, pushpins and jumbo containers of coffee, raised imaginary Washingtons of the future. The event was a competition of sorts called City of the Future and was hosted at Union Station by the History Channel, IBM and Infiniti. Several entries foresaw a critical need for food in Washington's future and designed sci-fi urban farms to meet it. The elevated farmland was the idea of a team of students and teachers from the University of Maryland. 'This would be an urban agricultural farm,' Isaac Williams, an architecture teacher, said as he held part of a plexiglass model of future Washington with a carpet of green floating on pillars near New York and Florida avenues. The farm would draw water and power from the ground, he said: 'We'd be able to harvest the crops from here and feed most of D.C.' "
Society & Culture
The media prattled for day's after this research was released. Reuters: "Buyers save billions of dollars each year bidding on eBay auctions, according to a new study that quantifies the benefits online consumers enjoy over and above what is derived by sellers, or eBay itself. The independent research by two statisticians from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business found buyers saved $7 billion that they might have otherwise been ready to pay in a study of eBay auction behavior in 2003. Applying the same analysis to 2004 buyer data, consumers saved $8.4 billion, said Wolfgang Jank, one author of the study. A linear projection of the research findings would mean consumers saved around $19 billion during 2007, Jank said. ... 'Consumer surplus is usually very hard to measure,' said study co-author Galit Shmueli. 'The problem is that it is hard to ascertain how much a winner or a bidder or a user would have been willing to pay for a certain item.' "
Agence France-Presse: " Most Americans and Russians want their governments to ensure a weapons-free outer space and would back a treaty underpinning the move, a poll showed Thursday. Seventy-eight percent of Americans and 67 percent of Russians said their leaderships should refrain from deploying any weapons in space as long as no other country does so, according to the poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org (School of Public Policy). Eighty percent of Americans and 72 percent of Russians also favor a new treaty banning all weapons in space, said the survey conducted with the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. ... 'What is striking is the robust consensus -- among Russians as well as Americans, and among Republicans as well as Democrats -- that space should not be an arena for the major powers to compete for military advantage,' said Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org."
Since 1988, UM political communication research professor Kathleen Kendall has followed presidential candidates through New Hampshire in the run-up to the nation's first primary. Kendall, the author of Communication in the Presidential Primaries: Candidates and the Media, 1912-2000 and in 2004, has also produced the video Primaries: Defining the Battle in New Hampshire Primaries. She was joined this year by Shawn Parry-Giles, who heads the campus's Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership and who is writing a book about Hillary Clinton. Both were frequently quoted in New England and national media coverage. Visitors to UM's Newsdesk could read daily blogs about their insights into the intensely competitive New Hampshire primary.
Associated Press: "Poor ballot design on touch-screen voting systems can cause voters to make errors and force them too often to ask for help, according to a study released yesterday on the widely used but controversial balloting technology. The five-year study of voter experiences concludes the problem can be fixed by simplifying the appearance of ballots on the touch screens to prevent voters from making errors such as unintentionally selecting the wrong candidate or not casting a vote. Despite the problems, the study's authors, led by a University of Maryland political scientist, say voters generally were confident in and satisfied by the six electronic voting systems tested. 'Tremendous improvement in voters' abilities to cast their votes accurately and without assistance can be accomplished simply by improving the way ballots are laid out on touch screen and paper-based systems,' said Maryland professor Paul Herrnson, who conducted the study with researchers from the University of Rochester and the University of Michigan."
Associated Press: The vagaries of the young voter leaves political operatives speechless--and powerless. " 'Political professionals haven't liked dealing with them. They'd rather not deal with the wild card, but in a very close election, you need to play your wild cards,' says Peter Levine, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, also known as CIRCLE. His organization has tracked the marked increase in young voter participation in the 2004 and 2006 elections and, as recent exit polls for The Associated Press and TV networks have shown, in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. CIRCLE also has compiled a new study of young voters with Rock the Vote, one of the more widely known get-out-the-vote organizations that targets young people. The study found that increased voter participation extends beyond college students to young people from many walks of life, working to unemployed, Asian American to Hispanic."
Health Day: "The whole food production system has grown increasingly concentrated, overwhelmingly complex, and -- paradoxically -- at times fragmented. At the same time, critics charge, U.S. government oversight is not adequate. 'Our real issue here comes down to appropriate oversight and regulation by our government agencies,' said Mickey Parish, chairman of the department of nutrition and food science and acting chairman of the Center for Food Systems Security at the University of Maryland. 'They have been cut back so severely in the last six to eight years that, quite frankly, it is more difficult to do the proper inspections that need to be done to ensure that the food is absolutely as safe as it possibly can be.' "
Washington Examiner: "In an era of high-stakes testing brought on by the No Child Left Behind Act, new research finds the overall quality of reading and math instruction to be in decline, and the students most in need of high-quality teaching as the least likely to receive it. Linda Valli, the University of Maryland education professor who collected the data, said her findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of NCLB, the federal legislation signed in 2001 aimed at raising standards and closing the 'achievement gap' between high-performing and low-performing students. Valli and her colleagues spent 2002-2005 observing fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms in an undisclosed school district. 'One of the real ironies is that the whole purpose of NCLB was to provide a rigorous education for students,' Valli said. 'The test scores are going up, but they don�t look inside the classrooms to see what�s going on to make those test scores go up.' "
The Economist (UK): "A dash of otherworldliness is part of the charm of academic conferences. But this year's annual meeting of the American Economic Association (AEA) in New Orleans afforded little shelter. Reality gatecrashed the very first morning of the three-day meeting, the world's largest convention of dismal scientists, with the release of a report on January 4th showing that America's unemployment rate had spiked from 4.7% to 5% in December. The bad news made a presentation by Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University, on the final day all the more timely. His paper, written with Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and part of a larger historical study, sets out some parallels between America's subprime mess and 18 previous banking crises in the rich world. For an audience recovering from a Saturday night on Bourbon Street, the conclusions were aptly sobering."
Inter Press Service: "Amid reports that the administration of US President George W Bush is considering aggressive covert actions against armed Islamist forces in western Pakistan, a new survey released here Monday suggested that such an effort would be opposed by an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis themselves. The survey, which was funded by the quasi-governmental US Institute of Peace and designed by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, also found that a strong majority of Pakistanis consider the US military presence in Asia and neighboring Afghanistan a much more critical threat to their country than al-Qaeda or Pakistan's own Taliban movement in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan."
Science & Technology
NASA and the National Science Foundation achieved a new milestone in conducting scientific observations from balloons, by launching and operating three long-duration flights within a single Antarctic summer. The payload included UM's Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM) experiment, the Balloon borne Experiment with a Superconducting Spectrometer (BESS) developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Japan's High Energy Accelerator Center, Tsukuba, Japan, and Louisiana State University's Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter (ATIC). The CREAM (Institute for Physical Science & Technology) investigation will search for characteristic changes in elemental composition and energy spectra of very high-energy cosmic rays that might be associated with a particle acceleration limit in supernovae.
The Sacramento Bee: "A major new study of flood risk in California's Central Valley urges communities to use worst-case scenarios to build up their levees, rather than setting arbitrary targets based on flood probability. Sacramento, known to have the worst flood risk of any major metropolitan area in the nation, is working to erect levees strong enough to withstand a 200-year flood, a catastrophic flood predicted to have a half-percent chance of striking in a given year. The plans to fortify citywide levees by 2015 have ignited a levee war between local and federal officials because they call for restrictions that could result in a building moratorium in the city's fast-growing Natomas basin. But instead of setting 200-year safety goals, the new study suggests even stronger flood-protection measures -- guidelines that may invite even more controversy in the future. ... 'It will require higher levees,' said (Gerald) Galloway, now a professor of engineering at the University of Maryland. 'This is going to require a substantial investment in structural protection, and it's going to require wise use of the floodplain.' The study was commissioned in July by California's Department of Water Resources."
Baltimore Sun: "Carol Keefer has played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the government's deliberations on whether to permit sales of meat and milk derived from clones. An associate professor at the University of Maryland, Keefer was one of three animal scientists who reviewed the Food and Drug Administration's research into the safety of such food last year. The agency's tentative endorsement of the food's safety has been the subject of much hand-wringing among consumers, within the food industry and in Washington. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, among others in Congress, is trying to block the FDA from making a final ruling that would pave the way for grocery shelves to carry meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs and goats and their offspring." Carol Keefer is associate professor of animal and avian science.
Nature: "Blind cave fish (Cyanate's Mexicans) can sense light when young, even though their eyes lost their function over a million years of evolution. Scientists have found that the fish larvae can detect an overhead shadow and seek shelter by swimming towards it. 'We were surprised,' says Masato Yoshizawa, from the University of Maryland in College Park, who led the research. ... Yoshiko's discovered the cave fish�s shadow response while cleaning their tanks. ... The fish's lineal gland may have been retained because it also supplies the body with Platonism's, a key reproductive and seasonal growth hormone. The gland's twin roles as a hormone factory and light detector are tightly linked. 'We suspect that selective pressure to retain the body's melatonin supply was greater than the passive accumulation of melatonin that could have led to loss of the pineal gland�s light-detecting capacity,' says William Jeffery, a co-author on the study."
The Associated Press writes of several high tech advancements for the blind. "Dave Doermann, president of College Park-based Applied Media Analysis (affiliated with the Clark School of Engineering's Technology Advancement Program)said his company is working on ... software for smart phones that could be used by the military for translation and by the visually impaired. 'We don't anticipate ours being that expensive, but unfortunately we're not quite to the release yet,' said Doermann, who is also co-director of the University of Maryland's Laboratory for Language and Media Processing. Doermann said the company, which has received funding from the Department of Defense and the National Eye Institute, hopes to have its software ready in the next 12 to 18 months."
Gazette Newspapers: "University of Maryland, College Park Aerospace Engineering Department students are working to ensure that their robots have the right stuff. Dru Ellsbery, 21, a senior undergraduate, from Allentown, Pa., is designing the electronics for a prototype arm that will attach to a space suit, enabling an astronaut to retrieve tools. 'The current mockup would be like having another arm so it would make certain tasks for a person in a space suit easier to complete,' he said. 'It would be like having three arms instead of two.' Madeline Kirk, an undergraduate in aerospace engineering, is working on manufacturing and testing a docking mechanism that she designed for one of the lab�s main robots, CAMP Supplemental Camera and Maneuvering Platform. Graduate student Sharon Singer is working on improving the cooperative performance of operational and servicing activities between humans and robots. Much of this is made possible through federal funding. The department is in line to receive $900,000 in federal funding allocated in December by Congress for robotic research... David Akin, UM Space Systems lab director, works with students on the robots."
New Scientist: "Software designed to help physicists tackle complicated mathematics seems to be encouraging students to focus on the wrong aspects of scientific problems. Interested in how students use computer programs to solve problems, physicists Thomas Bing and Edward Redish of the University of Maryland, College Park analysed videos of teams of students as they worked on their assignments. Among other tools, the students used Mathematica, a program that crunches not only numbers but also symbols, enabling it to do algebra and calculus. By solving equations that might take days to solve with a pencil and paper, Mathematica frees up researchers to explore larger questions and to explore more problems. But this comes at a cost, Bing and Redish warn."
NPR: "Right now, Americans get their ethanol fuel from corn, so much of it that corn prices have been bouncing up near their historical ceiling. A lot of economists say if a country wants more ethanol, it should not come from food. Thus, switchgrass. It's a kind of prairie grass, but you don't have to go to the prairie to find it. For example, it grows on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, where Ken Staver has been tending a plot for years. It's six-feet high, yellowish, and stiff as a pencil."
Ken Staver: "As you can see, it's doing, done very well here with very little care other than when we planted it 10 years ago when we used some herbicide during the establishment phase. But since then, there's, literally, the only thing we do out here every year is harvest it."
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