Maryland Moments, June 2008
(New Programs, In the Community, Research Awards)
A white paper issued by an American Academy of Arts and Sciences panel urges the strategic targeting of research dollars to support early-career scientists. UM president C.D. Mote, Jr., is a member of the panel that wrote ARISE - Advancing Research in Science and Engineering: Investing in Early-Career Scientists and High-Risk, High-Reward Research. "If America is to maintain its scientific and technological edge, it needs to inspire and support its most talented scientists and engineers through the early stages of their careers to address their most important problems," says Mote, a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences who is actively involved in national efforts to maintain U.S. science and technological competitiveness. "When we recruit a most promising scholar, it takes about a decade to determine if a super star will arise. The scholar's transition from the career start-up phase through to true distinction in the field is most critical and difficult to support. ARISE addresses the challenge."
Washington Post: "The D.C. chapter of AARP, the senior citizen advocacy group, has transformed a vacant red brick house in Northeast Washington into a model home for universal design. It had help from the D.C. government, which owns the house, as well as from a number of contributors, including renowned architect Michael Graves. ... The University of Maryland chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students volunteered to help with the conversion of the garage into an accessible bedroom, laundry room and bath. (Architect Michael) Graves, who uses a wheelchair after a virus in 2003 destroyed nerve endings in his spine, mentored the students. ... 'We didn't get to build anything while we were in school, so to build something like this that has a purpose and that will affect people's lives was an amazing opportunity,' said Jason Langford, who graduated from the University of Maryland last month."
Washington Business Journal: "The Maryland Technology Development Corp. has given $400,000 to eight researchers at local universities to help them turn their work into commercial products. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland received grants of $50,000 each to test prototypes and the viability of products coming from their studies." Three UM faculty members received awards:
Marcus Dagenais, a professor (electrical and computer engineering, Clark School) at the University of Maryland, College Park, working on an inexpensive laser to improve home Internet connections;
Douglas English, an assistant professor (chemistry and biochemistry, Chemical & Life Sciences) at the University of Maryland, College Park, working on technology used to evaluate properties of DNA and RNA;
and, Norman Wereley, a professor (aerospace engineering, Clark School) at the University of Maryland, College Park, working on a device to harvest power from vibrations and use it to save energy.
AccuStrata Inc., TRX Systems Inc. and Zymetis Inc., three early stage companies in the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute's (Clark School) Technology Advancement Program (TAP), each took first place in their respective categories at the 2008 Maryland Incubator Company of the Year Awards ceremony. The companies were selected from 21 finalists in seven categories. "All three are promising companies with innovative technologies," said Steve Kozak, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council and a member of the selection committee. "Each is on the path to greatness and the State of Maryland is better for it." ... The Maryland Incubator Company of the Year awards, sponsored by TEDCO, RSM McGladrey, the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development and Saul Ewing LLP, publicly recognize achievements by current clients and graduates of Maryland incubators and provide a forum for the nominees to increase their visibility in the business, technology and investment communities."
Washington Post: "Less than nine miles separate the University of Maryland, College Park from the City of Seat Pleasant, yet their worlds are starkly different. One is highly educated, big and bustling. The other struggles with diametrical demographics. For the past decade, however, these two Prince George's County communities have been linked in an unusual collaboration. Professors and students from the campus have worked alongside Seat Pleasant residents trying to improve the health of children and adults there. They've organized health fairs and screenings, helped uninsured neighbors apply for health coverage and researched drug assistance programs for those unable to pay the cost of their medications. ... Before the Seat Pleasant-University of Maryland Health Partnership, virtually no health services were available in the city of about 5,000. 'This is a critical responsibility we have, to stay connected to the community,' said Robert Gold, dean of the School of Public Health at UM. who believes the program could be a model for other jurisdictions. The challenge, he said, 'is not to solve problems for them but to be engaged with them.' "
WTOP Radio, Washington: "Five area universities are joining forces to boost innovation and competitiveness in the Washington region's economy, aiming to train entrepreneurs who can bring jobs to the area. The Chesapeake Crescent Innovation Alliance brings George Mason, George Washington and Johns Hopkins Universities, as well as the University of Maryland and Virginia Tech together to find additional funding for science and technology. The group's leaders say that with $18 billion invested in research and development in the area, it may rival Silicon Valley in funding innovative ideas."
DoD: "Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the membership of the task force asked to review DoD's nuclear weapons management. The task force, announced by Gates June 5, will provide independent advice on the organizational, procedural and policy improvements necessary to ensure that the highest levels of accountability and control are maintained in the department's stewardship of nuclear weapons, delivery vehicles, sensitive components and basing procedures." A member of the six-person task force is Dr. Jacques Gansler, University of Maryland Roger. C. Lipitz chair in public policy and Private Enterprise and former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics."
London Times Higher Education: UM is ranked No. 17 among the world's academic institutions in research citations. Among U.S. universities listed, it is No. 10. (Data provided by Thomson Scientific from its Essential Science Indicators, 1 January 1997 -- 31 October 2007)
Baltimore Sun: "When it comes to handing out conservation awards, the Maryland farmer should be at the head of the line, as I have said before. ... Since 1985, farmers have spent more than $11 million to match about $90 million in state water quality cost-share funds to install more than 21,000 best management practices to help protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay. ... It's now time for the rest of us to do our part in cleaning up the bay. The state Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center (Agriculture & Natural Resources) have teamed to launch an educational program, demonstrating steps that homeowners can take to help the bay. The program, Take it From Maryland Farmers: Backyard Actions for a Cleaner Chesapeake Bay, is based on the best management practices that farmers use routinely in the management of their farms."
" 'Learning music by reading about it is like making love by mail,' said eminent violinist Isaac Stern. For two decades, young musicians seeking practical experience have found plenty of it at the National Orchestral Institute. This venture, presented by the University of Maryland's School of Music in College Park brings together about 100 players each year for intensive performances and career-preparing seminars, working with a faculty that includes members of leading orchestras (including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) and other musicians (including members of the Peabody Trio). The public gets to hear the results of all this fine-tuning in performances, several of them free, throughout the run of the institute. Participants, chosen from 700 applicants, started arriving last week for the 2008 NOI, which runs through June 28."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its continuing commitment to avian influenza research by renewing the Avian Influenza Coordinated Agricultural Project (AICAP) with another $5 million for three years to the University of Maryland, College Park (veterinary medicine, Agriculture & Natural Resources) to study the prevention and control of the disease. The USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) originally awarded the AICAP in 2005 to the University of Maryland to establish a research and education project to help prevent and control avian influenza. The project was composed of a multidisciplinary team of researchers and extension specialists representing 17 states. AICAP goals include epidemiology, basic research, diagnostics, vaccines and education.
Society & Culture
The modern Olympic ideals differ dramatically from the way the games were actually played in ancient Greece. "Ancient Olympiads were more like the modern PGA golf circuit than the amateur ideal advanced for most of the 20th century," says Hugh Ming Lee, a professor of classics at UM. "The Greeks and Romans awarded honors to the most accomplished athletes and paid them for their efforts. These professionals traveled a competitive circuit. The Vince Lombardi notion of winning is much closer to the original Olympic spirit." Ancient athletes resorted to various 'potions' to gain a competitive edge. 'The dung of a wild boar was honored for the powers it conferred on charioteers,' Lee points out. 'Even the emperor Nero tried it. "
Newsweek: "Now a new poll taken in 20 countries by WorldPublicOpinion.org and released exclusively to Newsweek confirms the world's low opinion of the (U.S.) president -- but adds a twist. No other major world leader enjoys significantly greater trust abroad. In a sense, they're all Bushes now. ... While it might be exaggerating to call this the year of the autocrats, the fact is that the poll found most of the world now seems to have more confidence in undemocratic than democratic leaders. ... The WorldPublicOpinion.org survey, which is managed by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, asked 19,751 people in 20 countries how much confidence they have in each of seven key leaders 'to do the right thing regarding world affairs.' On average, only 23 percent of foreign respondents express 'a lot of ' or 'some' confidence in Bush, and only Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does worse (at 22)."
Middle East Times: "A new poll ... shows a majority of people reject the use of torture, while a significant number favor an exemption if it is a terrorist suspect. The poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org surveyed people from 19 nations, including the United States, Great Britain, China and Russia, and found that an average of 57 percent favor rules against torture. The poll also found 35 percent would allow for an exception to use torture if innocent lives are at risk, WorldPublicOpinion.org reported. ...'The idea that torture by governments is basically wrong is widely shared in all corners of the world,' Steven Kull, WorldPublicOpinion.org director, said in a statement. 'Even the scenario one hears of terrorists holding information that could save innocent lives is rejected as a justification for torture in most countries.' WorldPublicOpinion.org is a collaborative project at the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland."
Toronto Sun: "We're in the age of rage with road rage, bicycle rage, airport rage, and computer rage (keyboard frozen -- yet again!). But a different type of rage intrigued PhD student Jay Goldstein, who studied soccer parents who rant and rage during their kids' games...Goldstein, a University of Maryland School of Public Health researcher, once ran youth soccer events professionally. His interest in the subject started when he saw a parent snap and hit a child, not her own. After thinking that there was more to the incident than bad parenting, he began to research the whole area of why parents erupt in anger at their kids' sports matches. He eventually found a link between road rage and the explosions of parents at kids' sports tournaments. It's all about 'ego defensiveness' -- one of the triggers that kicks off road rage. The researcher found that the same kind of trigger is responsible for the way some parents fly off the handle at their kids' games."
Reason Magazine: At the Copenhagen Conference: "Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an 'extra' $75 billion among the solutions over four years. ... So what proposed solutions are at the bottom of the list? At number 30, the lowest priority is a proposal to mitigate man-made global warming by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. This ranking caused some consternation among the European journalists at the press conference. Nobelist and University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling noted that part of the reason for the low ranking is that spending $75 billion on cutting greenhouses gases would achieve almost nothing. ... Noting that he has been concerned about climate change for 30 years, Schelling argued that tacking climate change will take public policy responses such as carbon taxes to address the issue. Schelling added, 'The best defense against climate change in the developing countries is going to be their own development.' "
Science & Technology
A study, co-authored by Mary Ann Ottinger, professor, animal and avian sciences, appears in the journal PLoS ONE. Asian News International: "A Galapagos Island seabird, called the Nazca booby, has a tendency to kill its own siblings from the very moment it comes out of its shell. Scientists have now attributed this murderous behaviour to high levels of testosterone and other male hormones found in the hatchlings. ... The study suggests that the high hormone levels also cause the surviving chicks to behave like bullies after growing up, making them frequently seek out nestlings in their colony. In those visits they often bite and push around the defenseless youngsters. In the study, the researchers took blood samples from Nazca booby chicks within 24 hours of hatching. In 15 nests with two eggs, blood samples were taken from both hatchlings. Samples were also taken from 15 hatchlings in one-egg nests. This was followed by analysing the hormones by researchers at the University of Maryland. For comparison, the researchers did the same for blue-footed boobies, a closely related species."
Washington Post: From an op/ed by Gerald Galloway, professor of civil and environmental engineering: "Fifteen years ago, a disastrous flood swept through the Midwest, causing an estimated $20 billion in flood damage, nearly 50 deaths and untold trauma to the hundreds of thousands whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Today we see the same kind of flooding in many of the same areas. Twenty-four deaths have been attributed to this year's floods, and economic damage is escalating into the billions of dollars. The flooding of cropland has already been reflected in rising commodity prices and will soon hit grocery store prices. Tens of thousands of people have seen their homes destroyed. The sad truth is that while we learned a lot from the 1993 flood about how to prevent losses, we have not acted on those lessons (or those from Hurricane Katrina, for that matter)."
UM's department of geography and the Instiute for Advanced Computer Studies partnered with 13 other institutions and organizations in producing a new Atlas of Africa, utilizing UM's library of NASA satellite images. Environmental News Service: "Taking advantage of the latest space technology and Earth observation science, including the 36 year legacy of the U.S. Landsat satellite program, the atlas serves to demonstrate the potential of satellite imagery data in monitoring ecosystems and natural resources dynamics. This can provide the kind of hard, evidence-based data to support political decisions aimed at improving management of Africa's natural resources."
Reuters: "Leukemia patients may be able to avoid developing resistance to the drug Gleevec through a mathematical formula that predicts when they should receive an immune-boosting vaccine... . The approach, which marries math and medicine, may help extend the effectiveness of the drug and may even help cure some patients... . 'The hope really is to get patients off Gleevec ultimately,' said Dr. Peter Lee of Stanford University School of Medicine, a leukemia specialist who worked on the study. ... Before its introduction in 2001, the five-year survival rate was 50 percent. That has jumped to 95 percent. But patients must stay on the drug indefinitely, and the fear is that they may develop resistance to it, Lee said. The idea behind the new approach is to get the body's own immune system to take over the fight against the cancer, said Doron Levy, a mathematician at the University of Maryland, whose study appears in Public Library Journal of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology."
The Chemical Engineer: "Mechanical engineers from the University of Maryland, US, are aiming to improve the effectiveness of air pollutant detection systems by mimicking the respiratory system of a mayfly. Young aquatic mayflies are known to boost their respiration performance by allowing fresh water through a series of gill plates that are arranged like a Venetian blind... 'By duplicating the action of the mayfly gill plates in a tiny robotic device,' says head researcher Ken Kiger (mechanical engineering), 'we hope to create a flow of air or water to sensors in stagnant environments, so they can operate more effectively.' " Elias Belares, mechanical engineering, and Jeffrey Shultz, entomology, are also involved in the mayfly research."
New York Times: The World Science Festival in New York City ... had 46 shows, debates, demonstrations and parties spread over five days and 22 sites between Harlem and Greenwich Village. ... I didn't know quite what to expect at the Moth, an organization devoted to live storytelling, where scientists and others bravely volunteered to tell tales of experiments gone wrong. But there was James Gates, an imposing string theorist from the University of Maryland with a silvered Afro who folded his entire life as a black man and a physicist into a 10-minute tale of almost falling to his death on a mountain in Iceland. Falling off a mountain, he recalled thinking with some dismay, would be a stereotypical death for a physicist, just as being shot by the police would be for a young black, something that almost happened to him on a stroll one night through Pasadena, Calif. 'Make your own trail,' came the voice over the Icelandic mountainside when he called for help. Dr. Gates said he still doesn't know whose voice it was. As it happens, Dr. Gates was at the Guggenheim the next night in a more familiar role, offering physics commentary as Karole Armitage's beautiful black-clad dancers bounced and spun off one another or melted like shadows or reflections in and out of the wings of the stage."
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