Maryland Moments, September, 2007
(New Programs, Awards, Rankings)
President C.D. Mote Jr. co-authored a report from the National Academies in October 2005 warning that the United States would soon face an acute shortage of scientists and engineers, which could undermine the country's global lead in trade and jeopardize its ability to compete. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education: "The report helped galvanize policy makers in Washington. Last month President Bush signed legislation that will put in place, at least in part, several of the academies' major recommendations, including significantly increasing federal spending on physical-science research and intensifying efforts to train more science teachers. ... Supporters note that the $10-billion called for by the National Academies report is just a small fraction of the money the federal government spends on other issues, not least the war in Iraq.'It's not about the money,' says C.D. Mote Jr., president of the University of Maryland at College Park. 'It's more about will.' "
A presidential profile, in the Washington Examiner: " 'Drop by my office to shake my hand,' President Dan Mote told the new freshmen at the University of Maryland the day before classes started, and by early afternoon two young women in shorts and flip-flops had shown up at his office door. 'We're here to shake hands with Professor Mote,' they told his assistant, who advised them to return at a time when he wasn't tied up in a meeting. 'We'll be getting a steady stream of freshmen from now on,' she said with a sigh, clearly accustomed to Mote's random invitations. The book-lined president's office is not an ivory tower for Mote ... . It's the place from which he has launched plans to change the University's physical plant and student culture."
UM launches a School of Public Health, the first new school on the campus since 1981, when it opened the doors to the School of Public Affairs (now the School of Public Policy). The "University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health" looks at human behavior, social and environmental factors that are at the root of many of today's major health problems, including obesity, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. President Mote: "As the state's flagship university, it is critical that we leverage our world-class resources to tackle the state's most pressing needs -- in technology, education, workforce development, research and, now, in public health."
School of Public Health Dean Robert Gold, writing in The Baltimore Sun: "Our nation faces daunting health challenges that call for new public health strategies. A 2003 report from the Institute of Medicine, Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? concludes, 'We are now facing problems that no one has seen before.' It predicts that all cities and states in the 21st century will face changing disease patterns linked to climate change. The toll of poor lifestyle choices will mount. Alarming statistics on obesity, especially childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes and mental health problems, along with the aging of the baby boomers, point to an even greater load for our health care delivery systems. The good news is that efforts to create a 'new public health' have begun, and universities - including, starting today, the University of Maryland, College Park - are helping to lead this major re-engineering project."
A Mote research initiative is dedicated. Maryland Daily Record: "The University of Maryland, College Park will open a $69 million bioscience research building, the home of the school's new Maryland Pathogen Research Institute, on Tuesday. The 134,000-square-foot facility includes state-of-the-art equipment and 35 laboratories to support interdisciplinary programs including the institute and its studies of infectious diseases. ... The 50 faculty members who will be part of the institute will work to find new ways to treat infections, new methods of tracking and predicting the spread of diseases, and even new strategies for biodefense-related public policy, said David Mosser, director of the institute and a professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the university's College of Chemical and Life Sciences.
Norma Allewell, Dean, Chemical and Life Sciences, is appointed to Gov. Martin O'Malley's new Life Sciences Advisory Board. The Baltimore Sun: "Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to announce ... members of a new Life Sciences Advisory Board, which was created to further his professed mission of making 'Maryland the bioscience capital of the world.' ... The life sciences industry -- which encompasses biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, food science and medical devices and technologies -- has repeatedly been tagged by state politicians and officials as key to economic growth."
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation names Ruth DeFries, a UM professor who studies how humans are transforming the Earth's surface, as one of its 24 MacArthur Fellows for 2007. DeFries receives $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years. She is an environmental geographer who explores the relationship between the Earth's vegetative cover, human modifications of the landscape, and the biochemical processes that regulate the Earth's habitability, using both satellite data and field work. "I study land cover change and what people are doing to the landscape. I look at the role of land cover changes in climate, in terms of effects on the carbon cycle, as well as the implications for conservation and other services people derive from ecosystems," says DeFries.
The Washington Post writes an appreciation of how a university professor can bring life to learning, by describing a scene at College Park: "Nearly 200 students sat in the large lecture hall, staring down at their professor, Edward Redish, holding pencils at the ready to take notes in Fundamentals of Physics. It looked like a traditional lecture course, but appearance is where the tradition ended. Instead of spending 50 minutes putting students to sleep by lecturing about position, velocity and acceleration, Redish ... kept the students awake by getting them actively involved in the lesson -- all 192 of them. He called on his students by name, having taken and studied their pictures. He frequently directed students to solve a problem with their neighbors or register opinions with a 'clicker' system that, within seconds, calculates the answers and shows him the response. Sometimes he performs an experiment or shows part of a movie. And if he sees someone doing a crossword puzzle, he is liable to walk over and help out. This is Redish's version of the time-honored college lecture course, which is undergoing significant change at some universities because of technological innovations and the desire to hold the attentions of the highly structured 21st-century student."
According to the biennial Peace and Conflict report, issued by the Center for International Development and Conflict Management, world conflict rose precipitously in the past two years and is higher than at any time since World War II. CIDCM uses more than 100 statistical measures to assess the relative state of peace and conflict in each of the world's nations. "Policy interventions that disregard the connections among symptoms invite a costly and perpetual game of Whack-a-Mole," says Jonathan Wilkenfeld, one of the report's lead authors. "This syndrome, this merging of dangerous trends, presents policy-makers with a series of potential trap doors, but no clearly marked exits. What we see emerging is the potential for a generational conflict that will differ from the Cold War, but could well be as enduring and as destabilizing."
National Geographic: "A striking image of seaweed shows the complexity of even the simplest organisms. Seen here is Irish moss—Chondrus crispus—a common Atlantic red alga that is routinely harvested for its carrageenan. The chemical is used as a thickener in many processed foods. Andrea Ottesen of the University of Maryland's Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture shared a first place prize in the photography category of the 2007 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge for the natural light photo. The awards are given out each year by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science for the imagery that best conveys complex scientific information and concepts." The image adorned Science Magazine's cover.
Fortune Small Business Magazine ranks UM as one of the 'America's Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs.'
The Washington Times: "The Birchmere music hall's plans to open a second venue locally are back on track after a deal was announced ... with the University of Maryland. The Birchmere agreed to open a 500-seat music hall in College Park as part of the university's redevelopment of its East Campus. Under the deal, the Birchmere would build and operate a stage for singers and music groups in partnership with the University of Maryland"s School of Music. The university's other projects on the campus with developers Foulger-Pratt/Argo include residences, offices, a hotel and retail. 'Our goal with the East Campus development is to give the community more entertainment, retail and restaurant options, and the Birchmere will be a key part in this effort,' said Douglas Duncan, University of Maryland vice president for administrative affairs."
The Voice of America visits UM and its entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, LEAFHouse, which will be on display at the National Mall October 12 to 20. The video report is a singular chance to view all aspects of the project and see students John Kucia, Tyler Sines and Brittany Williams working on their portions of the house, along with faculty advisor Julie Gabrielli, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "In mid-October, college students from across the United States will come to Washington to compete in the Solar Decathlon. That's a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored event that challenges students to design, build and operate a house powered solely by the sun."
Washington Post Columnist Marc Fisher reflects upon a Clarice Smith Center chamber concert: "Last Friday night at the University of Maryland's Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Kronos Quartet, the extraordinary group that has spent three decades shredding the notion that chamber music is a form that completed its repertoire centuries ago, presented a piece about 9/11 called Awakenings. Those of us listening and watching suddenly felt what had been missing for these six years. A hundred minutes of sound by composers from more than a dozen countries--all blended into one extended piece by the Kronos musicians--moved inexorably from lamentation to an explosion of noise to an almost strangling confusion and grief, and finally to a deep and mysterious return to normalcy that somehow emerged as hope. This was the artists's answer to the political and moral debate we have avoided for these six years. Here finally was an effort to acknowledge the pain and fear that lingers, even as we confront our inability to decide where to go from here."
Editor & Publisher: "The University of Maryland is using Cathy Guisewite's Cathy comic to help encourage students to drink tap water rather than bottled water, according to Universal Press Syndicate. UM recently stopped offering bottled water in its dining rooms and instead installed filtered-water stations with free student access. Joe Mullineaux, associate director of dining services, saw a Sunday Cathy strip about the negative environmental impact of disposable plastic bottles and decided it would be a good visual aid for the new program. So UM posted Guisewite's August 19, 2007, strip in the dining rooms around each water station as well as on the university's Web site -- where it can be linked to on the bottom left of the home page."
'Concrete Thinking for a Sustainable World,' a competition hosted by the Portland Cement Association and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, drew entries from 267 students from 41 universities and 14 countries. UM architecture student Daneil Lamp's project called 'Concrete and Straw: Fusion' won first place. Lamp envisioned a building for the Missouri Agricultural Export Alliance that would combine concrete and wheat straw bales, taking advantage of the strengths of each material. By building a composite wall with a structural concrete core, straw insulation, then a concrete skin, Lamp proposed to create an energy-efficient structure. For roof joists and columns, where straw bales themselves were not feasible, the concept was to use straw bales as formwork so that the resulting structural members retain a straw-like texture.
Society & Culture
Baltimore Sun "Suburban sprawl is the missing link in climate change, a group of urban planning researchers said, warning in a new report that global warming can only be slowed by changing development patterns to reduce the need for driving. Living in more compact, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods actually would do more to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide -- the chief climate-changing gas -- than driving a hybrid car while staying in a typically spread-out suburb, the report asserts. 'The research shows that one of the best ways to reduce vehicle travel is to build places where people can accomplish more with less driving,' Reid Ewing, the report's lead author and a research professor at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, said in a statement released with the report."
The BBC World Service: "Large majorities in many countries now believe human activity is causing global warming, a BBC World Service poll suggests. A sizeable majority of people agreed that major steps needed to be taken soon to address global warming. More than 22,000 people were surveyed in 21 countries and the results show a great deal of agreement on the issue. The survey is published a day after 150 countries met at the United Nations to discuss climate change. ... The survey was conducted by the polling firm Globescan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland in the US."
Chronicle of Higher Education: "The way most academics think about research has never quite worked for those in architecture, says B.D. Wortham, an assistant professor of architecture and preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park. 'Instead of trying to argue that architecture is a valid exception to the rule of research,' however, 'the discipline should seek to become a leader in changing and broadening how research is understood in academe,' she writes. Academics have always put research 'within a scientific paradigm,' says Ms. Wortham, 'which values gathering observable, empirical, measurable evidence, subject to principles of quantification and objective rationality with the intent of reducing biased interpretation.' Thus, research typically gets defined as 'a systematic inquiry leading to verifiable (and highly vetted) conclusions.' That definition has 'led to increasingly difficult hurdles' for architecture professors regarding tenure and promotion, according to Ms. Wortham -- mainly, she argues, because architecture 'is not necessarily about proving a hypothesis; it is more of an if-then proposition. ... The investigation does not lead to something revealed; the investigation is the revelation.' "
Antonio Busalacchi, director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center and wine aficionado, writes about the intersection of grapes and his academic specialty, earth science. The Academic Life: "As a grandson of Sicilian immigrants, I find it interesting how the twists and turns of life fold back on themselves. My family has been in the restaurant business for over 60 years, with nearly a dozen restaurants in Milwaukee, San Diego, and Mexico City. Early on I followed a different career path, earning a Ph.D. in oceanography. went on to study how the ocean and the atmosphere couple to yield phenomena such as El Ni�o, and, more recently, how human activities influence the atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere � climate changes popularly known as global warming." From the fruits of his knowledge, a warning about global warming: "Today's wine regions developed over several centuries within a relatively confined climatic regime, and they may now be particularly vulnerable. Be it Old World or New World, Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere, most vineyards lie within a narrow latitude range of 30 to 50 degrees from the Equator."
Ray Paternoster, professor of criminology and criminal justice, who authored a landmark report on the death penalty in Maryland four years ago, aids The Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation of the Georgia death penaly. "The death penalty carries a racial bias in Georgia, but it's not what most people think. White killers are more likely to face capital prosecution and land on death row, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found. The reason: White killers are more likely to kill white people. A statistical analysis shows Georgia prosecutors were more than twice as likely to seek the death penalty when the victim was white. The newspaper and University of Maryland criminologist Ray Paternoster analyzed 10 years of death-eligible murder convictions, asking: Does who or where murderers kill affect their chances of getting death? The answer was yes to both. Clear patterns in the data show Georgia's 49 judicial circuits carried out the death penalty in starkly different ways, Paternoster said."
John Steinbruner, director, the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, and Tim Gulden, research associate at the center, co-author a Baltimore Sun op/ed: "Those who support an indefinite commitment believe that forcefully suppressing violence is a precondition for political accommodation among the various political factions, and they claim that progress is being made. Those who want American forces to leave believe that the prospect of reduced protection is necessary to compel the accommodation that virtually everyone concedes has not yet occurred. Unfortunately, there are reasons to doubt whether Iraq's leaders could control the violence even if they wanted to."
The Secretary of the Army appoints Jacques Gansler to head a Special Commission on Army Contracting. Government Executive: "The leader of a recently announced commission on in-theater Army contracting said ... that the investigation will be forward-looking, not a 'witch hunt' for existing problems. In an interview ... Jacques Gansler said his Special Commission on Army Contracting will focus on recommending changes to better prepare the Army to do business during expeditionary engagements. Army Secretary Pete Geren announced ... that Gansler, former undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and currently the Roger C. Lipitz public policy and private enterprise chair at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs, will lead the panel."
Jay Winik, research associate, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, who earned headlines post-9/11 because his book April 1865: The Month That Saved America was reading material for President Bush, publishes a new book, The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World; 1788-1800. Boston Globe: "In the 12 years between 1788 and 1800, one revolution occurred, a second was put down, and a third was solidified. These three events -- in, respectively, France, Poland, and the United States - and their role in creating the world of two centuries yet to come, are the subject of The Great Upheaval, an authoritative study by the historian Jay Winik . It is an ambitious subject, and Winik, a senior scholar at the University of Maryland, deserves credit for laying it out with an eye for both the grand sweep and the telling details."
The world's wire services reported on a BBC poll, conducted by UM's Program on International Policy Attitudes and GlobeScan. Agence-France-Press: "Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said: 'While majorities in 19 of 22 countries polled want the US to be out of Iraq within a year, in no country does a majority think it will do so.' 'It seems the US is widely viewed as planning to make Iraq part of its long term military footprint in the Middle East,' he added. The poll came after Iraq war commander US General David Petraeus hinted at US troop cuts by March, as he prepared to give crunch testimony to the US Congress next week on President George W. Bush's surge strategy."
Reuters: "Sometimes it's best not to keep your cool. In fact, hot-headed stock investors make better decisions, a study in the Academy of Management Journal showed. Adding emotions to the decision-making process can enhance creativity, engagement and decision efficiency, Myeong-Gu Seo of the University of Maryland and Lisa Feldman Barrett of Boston College wrote in a study published in the August/September issue."
An extensive NBC News Q&A with David Segal, professor of sociology, and director, Center for the Study of Military Organization. "Question: It seems that even though we're at war, most of us go about our daily lives as if it is not happening. Is the 'disconnect' between military families and the general population as extreme as it appears? Answer: Yes. The big difference is the American military has gone to war and the country has not. In past wars everyone was asked to sacrifice, whether it was through taxes, bonds, rationing — even bringing in peach pits and rendering fat — and most importantly, sacrificing sons through conscription. Now, the sacrifice has been placed solely on military families."
Agence France-Presse: "Manila. Poor Philippine economic performance may be due to a Latin cultural heritage giving rise to powerful political families pursuing their own rather than the state's interests, a new study has said. Some 330 years of Spanish rule had influenced the Philippines greatly, an impact that survived nearly 50 years of later colonial occupation by the US, the study by Robert Nelson of the University of Maryland said. This Spanish Catholic influence, in contrast to the US Protestant model, had led to a 'dominant political role' by large landholding families in the Philippines just like in Latin America, Nelson said. A weak government and powerful political oligarchies combined to put the state in the service of private interests, he added."
Science & Technology
Baltimore Sun: "NASA's Dawn spacecraft rocketed away today toward an unprecedented double encounter in the asteroid belt. Scientists are hoping Dawn will shed light on the early solar system by exploring the mysterious dwarf planet Ceres and the giant asteroid Vesta. It is the world's first attempt to journey to a celestial body and orbit it, then travel to another and circle it as well. Ion-propulsion engines, once confined to science fiction, are making Dawn's trip possible. ... The eight-year, $449 million mission is the first designed to orbit two celestial bodies in succession and the first NASA science mission propelled by super-efficient, solar-electric ion propulsion. The engine is expected to accumulate more than five years of running time, carrying the craft almost 4 billion miles on just 72 gallons of xenon fuel. ... University of Maryland astronomer Lucy McFadden is a co-investigator and education director for the mission, which is managed by the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif."
A team of physicists exploited one of the most mysterious phenomena in nature, enabling a major advance toward the long-sought goal of super-fast quantum computing. Christopher Monroe and colleagues at UM and the University of Michigan established a "spooky," intimate quantum-mechanical condition called "entanglement" between two completely unconnected individual atoms a meter apart in separate enclosures by carefully manipulating photons emitted by the atoms. With these atoms, even though they have never come in physical contact, their properties are entangled: inextricably linked and giving precisely corresponding values if measured. "Now that this technique has been demonstrated," Monroe says, "it should be possible to scale it up to networks of many interconnected components that will eventually be necessary for quantum information processing." The team reported its results in the journal Nature.
Maryland Daily Record: "A multi-disciplinary group of researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute won a competitive, $2 million National Science Foundation grant to revolutionize the way researchers develop and test pharmaceutical drugs. The group, led by William Bentley, chair of the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering, plans to build devices that test new drugs using living, human biological components rather than animal models, to improve the accuracy and speed of drug development."
The history of life on Earth is closely linked to the appearance of oxygen in the atmosphere, which scientists think first occurred in significant amounts during a 'Great Oxidation Event' some 2.4 billion years ago. However, until now little was known of environmental changes prior to this event. New findings by two teams of scientists -- one led by geologists from the University of Maryland and the other by Arizona State researchers -- indicate that significant oxidative changes were occurring in the oceans and atmosphere before the Great Oxidation Event. "Together, these papers provide compelling evidence for a shift in the oxidation state of the surface ocean 50 million years before the Great Oxidation Event," said Alan Jay Kaufman, associate professor of geochemistry at the University of Maryland. "We believe that these findings are a significant step in our understanding of the oxygenation of Earth because they link changes in the environment with that of the biosphere."
New Scientist: "Were vast numbers of black holes spawned during our universe's earliest moments? It is an intriguing idea, made possible by the extreme densities associated with the big bang. So far, there is no hard evidence that such primordial black holes (PBHs) ever existed, but new observations just around the corner could change that." UM research sheds light on a "puzzling discrepancy between results of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which measures the CMB (cosmic microwave background) and studies of how galaxies are clustered. The two disagree on a parameter called sigma8, which describes how matter clumped together in the early universe. But according to a recent study led by Massimo Ricotti of the University of Maryland, College Park, US, the two measurements agree if PBHs are included in the models. But Ricotti himself says it is too soon to claim there is evidence for primordial black holes. It is still possible that refining the measurements will bring them into agreement without invoking these exotic objects, he says."
Reuters: "A review of 500 studies conducted over a quarter century has turned up no credible evidence that the widely used artificial sweetener aspartame is unsafe, industry-funded research released on Tuesday showed. A panel of American, British and Dutch experts rejected the notion that aspartame causes cancer, seizures, neurological damage or learning problems, or contributes to obesity. The panel did conclude that some people might be prone to headaches after consuming it.... The researchers rejected the findings of a study published in June by Italian scientists that showed aspartame might cause leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer in rats. University of Maryland food and nutrition professor Bernadene Magnuson said that study was undermined by 'numerous methodological and interpretation errors.' "
Nanotechnology: "There is a myriad of uses for nanoparticles and the list is growing. The name of the game, then, is to control their properties to match the application. Each week sees more methods to control nanoparticle size and size distribution, shape, and composition. But the crystalline purity of nanoparticles remains a tough nut to crack. Researchers from the University of Maryland have devised a means of engineering nanoparticle crystallinity that is as straightforward as it is promising. The ratio of single-crystal to multiply-twinned nanoparticles can be reliably controlled by simply adjusting the available ligands in the precursors." Yun Tang is a research graduate student in physics, and Min Ouyang is assistant professor of physics.
Fall '07 :
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