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Voyager 1 Has Left the Solar System, Says New Study

August 15, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune, UMD Communications 301-405-4679
Marc Swisdak, UMD research scientist, 301-405-1495

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers.

Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers. Photo source: NASA.gov Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments – including the Low Energy Charged Particle detector designed, built and overseen, in part, by UMD's Space Physics Group – NASA's Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, these researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun's influence.

"It's a somewhat controversial view, but we think Voyager has finally left the Solar System, and is truly beginning its travels through the Milky Way," says UMD research scientist Marc Swisdak, lead author of a new paper published online this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Swisdak and fellow plasma physicists James F. Drake, also of the University of Maryland, and Merav Opher of Boston University have constructed a model of the outer edge of the Solar System that fits recent observations, both expected and unexpected.

Their model indicates Voyager 1 actually entered interstellar space a little more than a year ago, a finding directly counter to recent papers by NASA and other scientists suggesting the spacecraft was still in a fuzzily-defined transition zone between the Sun's sphere of influence and the rest of the galaxy.

But why the controversy? 
At issue is what the boundary-crossing should look like to Earth-bound observers 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away.  The Sun's envelope, known as the heliosphere, is relatively well-understood as the region of space dominated by the magnetic field and charged particles emanating from our star.  The heliopause transition zone is both of unknown structure and location.  According to conventional wisdom, we'll know we've passed through this mysterious boundary when we stop seeing solar particles and start seeing galactic particles, and we also detect a change in the prevailing direction of the local magnetic field. 

NASA scientists recently reported that last summer, after eight years of travel through the outermost layer of the heliosphere, Voyager 1 recorded "multiple crossings of a boundary unlike anything previously observed."  Successive dips in, and subsequent recovery of, solar particle counts caught researchers' attention.  The dips in solar particle counts corresponded with abrupt increases in galactic electrons and protons.  Within a month, solar particle counts disappeared, and only galactic particle counts remained.  Yet Voyager 1 observed no change in the direction of the magnetic field. 

To explain this unexpected observation, many scientists theorize that Voyager 1 has entered a "heliosheath depletion region," but that the probe is still within the confines of the heliosphere. Swisdak and colleagues, who are not part of the Voyager 1 mission science teams, say there is another explanation.

In previous work, Swisdak and Drake have focused on magnetic reconnection, or the breaking and reconfiguring of close and oppositely-directed magnetic field lines.  It's the phenomenon suspected to lurk at the heart of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and many of the sun's other dramatic, high-energy events.  The UMD researchers argue that magnetic reconnection is also key to understanding NASA's surprising data. 

Though often depicted as a bubble encasing the heliosphere and its contents, the heliopause is not a surface neatly separating "outside" and "inside."  In fact, Swisdak, Drake and Opher assert that the heliopause is both porous to certain particles and layered with complex magnetic structure.  Here, magnetic reconnection produces a complex set of nested magnetic "islands," self-contained loops which spontaneously arise in a magnetic field due to a fundamental instability.  Interstellar plasma can penetrate into the heliosphere along reconnected field lines, and galactic cosmic rays and solar particles mix vigorously. 

Most interestingly, drops in solar particle counts and surges in galactic particle counts can occur across "slopes" in the magnetic field, which emanate from reconnection sites, while the magnetic field direction itself remains unchanged.  This model explains observed phenomena from last summer, and Swisdak and his colleagues suggest that Voyager 1 actually crossed the heliopause on July 27, 2012.

In a NASA statement, Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist and a professor of physics of the California Institute of Technology, says, in part, "Other models envision the interstellar magnetic field draped around our solar bubble and predict that the direction of the interstellar magnetic field is different from the solar magnetic field inside. By that interpretation, Voyager 1 would still be inside our solar bubble. The fine-scale magnetic connection model [of Swisdak and colleagues] will become part of the discussion among scientists as they try to reconcile what may be happening on a fine scale with what happens on a larger scale."  Read the full NASA Voyager statement here: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/voyager20130815.html.

Voyager Interstellar Mission
In the 36th year after their 1977 launches, the twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Their primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there -- such as active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io and intricacies of Saturn's rings -- the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The current mission for both spacecraft, the Voyager Interstellar Mission, is to explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain and beyond. Both Voyagers are capable of returning scientific data from a full range of instruments, with adequate electrical power and attitude control propellant to keep operating until 2020. Voyager 2 is expected to enter interstellar space a few years after its twin. The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif.

University of Maryland scientists lead the Deep Impact spacecraft science team and are part of the science teams of many of the other spacecraft exploring our Solar System, including both Voyagers and Cassini.

This work by Swisdak, Drake and Opher was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant AGS-1202330 to the University of Maryland, and NSF grant ATM-0747654 and NASA grant NNX07AH20G to Boston University.

 

Written by Barbara Brawn-Cinani and edited by Lee Tune.

UMD Forms Partnership with KIPP Charter Schools Network

August 15, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh, UMD, 301-405-4625
Steve Mancini, KIPP, 415-531-5396

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) announced today the creation of a formal partnership to attract and recruit KIPP students, including those in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. regions. Through this partnership, KIPP students will have access to existing programs and resources created for low-income or first-generation college students, as well as scholarships created through a gift from Charles Daggs, UMD class of 1969 and a KIPP Bay Area board member. This partnership will also help to support KIPP's mission to increase college competition rates for underserved KIPP students throughout the country.

Charles Daggs with UMD’s incoming KIPP FreshmenCharles Daggs with UMD’s incoming KIPP Freshmen"We all win by creating new opportunities and upward mobility," says University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "This new partnership extends our success with talented, low-income students, and our progress closing the achievement gap. It creates a much richer learning environment for all students. Congratulations to KIPP and our alums, whose vision makes this possible."

This fall, four KIPP students – three from Baltimore City and one from Washington, D.C. – will enter UMD's freshmen class. Three of these students have been awarded full scholarships through the Daggs gift and the UMD Incentive Awards Program.

"This partnership will support our hardworking KIPP students as they work toward a degree from one of the best public universities in the country," says Richard Barth, CEO at KIPP. "We are so grateful for Chuck Daggs's generous gift, which is helping to support this partnership and providing much-needed resources to some of our top graduates who have excelled in their schools and communities, to help them attain an excellent college education."

Established in 2002, KIPP Baltimore consists of two schools – one elementary school and one middle school. In Washington, D.C., KIPP operates nine schools – one high school, three middle schools, and eight elementary schools. All schools are free, open-enrollment charter schools that offer a rigorous, college preparatory education.

KIPP Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are part of a national network of 141 KIPP public charter schools. A report released this year by independent research firm Mathematica showed that KIPP middle schools nationwide are producing positive, significant and substantial achievement gains for students in all grades and four subjects—math, reading, science, and social studies. Mathematica researchers found that KIPP achieved these academic gains with students that entered middle school with lower achievement scores than their peers in neighboring district schools.

KIPP – the Knowledge Is Power Program – is a national network of open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.  KIPP was founded in Houston in 1994 and has grown to 141 schools serving more than 50,000 students in 20 states and Washington, D.C.  More than 95 percent of students enrolled in KIPP schools are African American or Latino, and 86 percent qualify for the federal free and reduced-price meals program.

 

Read a story from The Baltimore Sun on the new KIPP partnership here.

Meet the Potential Future of Electricity Generation

August 14, 2013
Contacts: 

Eric Schurr 301-405-3889

CThe PowerSERG 2-80, also called "The Cube," which provides efficient, always-on, affordable, uninterrupted electricity to business or homes, with just a connection to a natural gas line.OLLEGE PARK, Md. — University of Maryland researchers have partnered with Redox Power Systems LLC to deliver breakthrough fuel cell technologies for providing always-on electricity to businesses, homes and eventually automobiles, at about one-tenth the cost and one-tenth the size of current commercial fuel cell systems.

Those fuel cells, based upon patented technology developed by professor Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, are the foundation of a system being commercialized by Redox that provides safe, efficient, reliable, uninterrupted power, on–site and optionally off the grid, at a price competitive with current energy sources.

The promise is this: generate your own electricity with a system nearly impervious to hurricanes, thunderstorms, cyber attacks, derechos, and similar dangers, while simultaneously helping the environment.

"Every business or home should be able to safely generate its own energy," said Warren Citrin, CEO and director of Redox. "We currently rely upon a vulnerable electrical grid. The best way to decrease that vulnerability is through distributed energy, that is, by making your own energy on-site. We are building systems to do that, with an emphasis on efficiency and affordability. These should be common appliances."

The PowerSERG 2-80, also called "The Cube," connects to your natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. Just larger than a dishwasher, the system sits comfortably in a basement, outside of a building, or on a roof, and—with no engine and virtually no moving parts—quietly goes about its business of providing power.

The initial breakthrough in the PowerSERG is in the fuel cells, which Wachsman, over a 25-year period, has improved to produce significantly more power at a lower temperature. More power means fewer cells to do the work of larger power generation systems, enabling the devices to be much smaller. Also, lower operating temperatures allow for the use of conventional materials in The Cube, driving costs down exponentially.

A solid oxide fuel cell developed at the University of Maryland Energy Research Center.Conventional solid oxide fuel cells operate as high as 950 degrees Celsius to run effectively. At this high temperature, the system can't be easily turned on and off, performance degrades, and the balance of the system requires expensive, high-temperature alloys that drive up prices.

Wachsman decreased the operating temperature of solid oxide fuel cells to 650 degrees Celsius, with future reductions likely to 300 degrees. At these lower temperatures, the system can turn on much more rapidly, operate with greater reliability, allowing The Cube to be built with conventional stainless steel parts rather than expensive alloys.

But Wachsman didn't stop there. Drawing upon scores of graduate and undergraduate students over two and a half decades, millions of dollars in research funding and a state-of-the-art laboratory at UMD, he created fuel cells that generate ten times the power at these lower temperatures than anything else on the market, cutting the system's cost by a factor of ten.

He did this by tackling nearly every aspect of the cell. He developed dual-layer electrolytes using new materials and dramatically improved the anode so it can withstand cycling the system on and off. No part escaped his expert touch, and the entire family of materials he created allows Redox to build systems for a wider range of applications.

"Over a 25-year time period, we have achieved major advances in both the composition of fuel cell materials and the micro and nanostructure of those materials," said Wachsman. "Putting these together has resulted in a cell that has an extremely high power density, on the order of two watts per square centimeter."

The first-generation Cube runs off natural gas, but it can generate power from a variety of fuel sources, including propane, gasoline, biofuel and hydrogen. The system is a highly efficient, clean technology, emitting negligible pollutants and much less carbon dioxide than conventional energy sources. It uses fuel far more efficiently than an internal combustion engine, and can run at an 80 percent efficiency when used to provide both heat and power.

Redox plans to release The Cube in 2014. The first version will be configured to 25 kilowatts, which can comfortably power a gas station, moderately sized grocery store or small shopping plaza. Additional power offerings will follow. Using different-sized fuel cell stacks, the company can offer The Cube at 5 kW, to provide always-on electricity for an average American home, or up to 80 kW in one system.

Additional information is available here.

New UMD Tech Could Revolutionize Satellite Use

August 14, 2013
Contacts: 

Jennifer Rooks 301 405 1458

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – New technology being tested by the University of Maryland's Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory (SPPL) on the International Space Station could revolutionize the capabilities of satellites and future spacecraft by extending their lifecycle through the use of a renewable power source.

Graduate student Allison Kyeong Porter and Associate Professor Ray Sedwick prepare the RINGS to go to the International Space Station.Finite storage for propellants—a chemical used in the production of energy—is often the limiting factor on the number of times a satellite can be moved or repositioned in space. However, a new propulsion method that uses a renewable, onboard electromagnetic power source, and does not rely on propellants, could exponentially extend a satellite's useful life span and provide greater scientific return on investment.

Ray Sedwick, associate professor of aerospace engineering at UMD, and his research team have been developing technology that could enable electromagnetic formation flight (EMFF), which means using locally generated electromagnetic forces to position satellites or spacecraft without relying on propellants. Magnetic forces and torques are generated by circulating electrical current through a coil attached to each vehicle which can be used to reorient the satellites relative to one another. Their research project is titled Resonant Inductive Near-field Generation System, or RINGS.

RINGS achieved the first and only successful demonstration of EMFF in full six degrees of freedom to date. Pictured, graduate student Dustin Alinger (left) and RINGS on board NASA's reduced gravity airplane. RINGS was sent to the International Space Station on August 3 on a Japanese resupply spacecraft and is scheduled for four test sessions on the research station. Astronauts will unpack the equipment, integrate it into the test environment and run diagnostics. From there, RINGS will undergo three science research sessions where data will be collected and transmitted back to the ground for analysis.

In the spring of 2013, RINGS was tested for the first time in a microgravity environment on NASA's reduced gravity aircraft. UMD graduate students Allison Porter and Dustin Alinger were on hand to oversee the testing. RINGS achieved the first and only successful demonstration of EMFF in full six degrees of freedom to date.

"While reduced gravity flights can only provide short, 15-20 second tests at a time, the cumulative test time over the four-day campaign provided extremely valuable data that will allow us to really get the most from the test sessions that we'll have on the International Space Station," said Sedwick.

The RINGS Team. Pictured left to right – Graduate students Dustin Alinger and Allison Keong Porter, and Associate Professor Ray Sedwick.In addition to EMFF, the RINGS project is also being used to test a second technology demonstrating wireless power transfer (WPT). WPT may offer a means to wirelessly transfer power between spacecraft and in turn power a fleet of smaller vessels or satellites.

The RINGS project has been a collaborative effort between UMD SPPL and partners from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Aurora Flight Sciences (AFS). SPPL began work on RINGS in 2011, and the project is funded under a joint DARPA/NASA program that aims to demonstrate and develop new technologies that could enable future space missions by using a network of smaller spacecraft.

For more information, visit www.sppl.umd.edu.

New Dean Envisions UMD as World Leader in Business Education

August 12, 2013
Contacts: 

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

The University of Maryland has appointed Alexander J. Triantis as dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has appointed Alexander J. Triantis as dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Triantis has been with the Smith School for 17 years and is currently a professor of finance. He succeeds G. “Anand” Anandalingam and assumes his new role Sept. 1, 2013.

The announcement, by Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, concludes a national search.

"As a current member of the Smith School community, Alex is perfectly positioned to build on the school's remarkable achievements and capitalize on its unique strengths," says Rankin. "Alex has been an extraordinary asset to the university and will be an exciting, visionary leader for the Smith School."

Dean Triantis will build on the Smith School’s advances in student experience, alumni engagement, and connections with business leaders, policymakers and the media. The Smith School’s MBA program is currently recognized as No. 24 among business schools nationwide in the most recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek rankings — which also rated the school No. 2 in student satisfaction, career services and teaching. New regional alumni clubs in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Beijing, China, reflect revitalized alumni engagement.

“I am very honored to be appointed to this role,” says Triantis. “The Smith School already has strong momentum with exceptional faculty intellectual capital, leading centers of excellence, and diverse, creative and entrepreneurial students. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work in a new way with Smith’s outstanding community of faculty, students, alumni and staff to help the school reach its full potential as a world leader in business education.”

Triantis joined the Smith School faculty in 1996 and served as chair of the department of finance from 2006-2011. Under his leadership, the Smith School launched a master’s degree program in finance, innovative undergraduate fellows programs, and the groundbreaking Center for Financial Policy, which connects faculty with Washington policymakers to leverage the impact of faculty research on important financial policy issues. He has built strong connections between the Smith School and the corporate community, and has been actively engaged in executive programs. He is consistently recognized for his outstanding teaching, twice with the Krowe Award, the Smith School’s top honor.

Triantis’s research analyzes corporate financial strategies related to investment, financing, and risk management, as well as the valuation of strategic investments. His articles have been published in numerous leading academic and practitioner journals. He has served on the editorial boards of several major academic publications.

He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering science and master's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toronto, and master's and doctoral degrees in industrial engineering with a specialization in finance from Stanford University. Prior to joining the Smith School, he was an assistant and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin and a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management.


Outside academia, he has consulted and provided executive training in the areas of corporate finance and valuation, including issues related to capital investment decision making, financing strategies, risk management, real options analysis, derivatives pricing, and project finance. Clients have included multinational corporations and organizations such as Airbus Industrie, BHP Billiton, CSX, Dupont, Ernst & Young, Hyatt, Jefferies and Company, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Morgan Stanley, Northrop Grumman, PricewaterhouseCoopers, U.S. Dept. of Energy, and the World Bank. He is a frequent speaker at domestic and international conferences and executive forums.

New Initiative Helps Families Create Healthy Futures

August 9, 2013
Contacts: 

Elliot A. Segal 301-652-5001

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland School of Public Health is partnering with the Prince George's County Public School System and a local community center to improve the health of underserved families in the area.

(L to R): Elliot A. Segal, Healthy Futures program director; Lisa Sampson, Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center program manager; Laura Barbee-Matthews, Early Childhood Programs supervisor, Prince George's County Public SchoolsThe Healthy Futures Program (HFP), a UMD School of Public Health initiative focused on maternal and child health, will collaborate with the Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center in Adelphi, Md., to create a field office where local residents can receive information about and assistance with accessing health resources and services. 

Prince George's County, where UMD is located, has far fewer primary care providers for the population compared to surrounding counties and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Maryland. Only 46 percent of mothers receive prenatal care in their first trimester. Less than two percent of one-year-olds get lead screenings even though housing in the area frequently contains lead and the test costs a mere eight dollars. Many residents who are eligible for federally funded health services and benefits are unaware of or unable to access them. As Medicaid and other services become widely available through the Affordable Care Act, awareness and education will play an important role in increasing access.

"The Healthy Futures Program is actively reaching out to expectant mothers and children from birth to age five, helping to educate and improve access to care and care management," says  Elliot Segal, director of the Healthy Futures Program and a professor of the practice in the Department of Health Services Administration. "This is key to reducing child obesity early and preventing future chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease."

The UMD School of Public Health has been involved in the establishment of Maryland's Health Enterprise Zones – a program that seeks to reduce health disparities in underserved areas through incentives for health care providers and programs to locate in these neighborhoods. The school is also promoting the goals of the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods Initiative, run by CASA de Maryland in Prince George's County. The new Healthy Futures/Judy Hoyer Health Field Office will help individuals in these areas - particularly the Capitol Heights and the Hyattsville-Langley Park-Adelphi areas of Prince George's County  – obtain services such as Food Stamps/SNAP, medical assistance, family planning, and dental and vision services.

UMD School of Public Health students can receive academic credit or volunteer to serve as Healthy Futures interns, and are trained to recruit families to utilize health programs and other services available to them, said Healthy Futures director Elliot Segal. Students from the SPH departments of Kinesiology, Family Science and Behavioral and Community Health have already linked local families with needed services such as Food Stamps, dental care, child care, medical assistance and family planning services.

Junior Alaa El-Zein interns with Healthy Futures for about nine hours each week and is looking forward to helping staff the new field office. She has been in contact with dozens of community members to help them get access to health services and has visited several WIC clinics in the area to recruit others. She said the field office will be a valuable asset to the program.

"Now that we have a space it's going to be easier," she said. "We can actually have people come in and see us personally."

That personal contact could prove invaluable in setting many families on the path to a healthy future.

The Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center is the first of 25 child-development learning centers in Maryland named after Judy Hoyer, deceased wife of Congressman Steny Hoyer, U.S. Representative for Maryland's 5th congressional district. It was established to promote the school-readiness of local children through the school system and community partnerships. 

The Healthy Futures Program (HFP) was established by University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Department of Health Services Administration. The primary mission of HFP is to reduce childhood obesity, particularly among low-income young children and their families in Prince George's County. HFP aims to increase the receipt of prenatal and postpartum healthcare, as well as social services, among low-income women and their young children through partnerships and collaborations with public and private entities.

 

Photo (l to r): Elliot A. Segal, Healthy Futures program director; Lisa Sampson, Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center program manager; Laura Barbee-Matthews, Early Childhood Programs supervisor, Prince George's County Public Schools.

Collaboration Top of Mind for New Clarice Smith Center Executive Director

August 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Erica Bondarev 301-405-0199

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center has named long-time arts administrator Martin Wollesen as executive director.  Susie Farr, retiring this September, has served as executive director of the center for fourteen years. As executive director, Wollesen will provide innovative and strategic leadership for the Center's programmatic, educational and community activities.

The University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center has named long-time arts administrator Martin Wollesen as executive director."We are extremely pleased to have Martin join the university.  He brings more than 20 years of experience in arts administration and higher education to the Clarice Smith Center," says Mary Ann Rankin, UMD's senior vice president and provost. "His experience creating meaningful and innovative arts programs that enhance student life and support community involvement will be a great asset to our campus."

In his new role, Wollesen will work closely with university leadership to advance the Center's mission; strengthen faculty and student collaborations; and cultivate new and existing community relationships. He will work in close collaboration with the School of Music and the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies to develop activities, programs and initiatives that support and enhance the learning environment. Wollesen will also play a key role in the Center's fundraising and development efforts.

"Martin has proven his strength and leadership in creating robust partnerships that integrate the arts across campuses and within local communities," says Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. "We are pleased to have another incredible arts advocate on our campus to enhance the visibility of the Center and continue to create important connections between students, faculty, staff, alumni, artists, and the community."

"I am thrilled to be joining not only one of the best campus-based performing arts centers in the country, but a world-class university as well," says Wollesen. "While honoring the achievements of the university by strengthening current programs and partnerships, we will build a new future by working collaboratively, strategically and globally to create greater depth and breadth of dialogue in the arts through the Clarice Smith Center."

Prior to joining the Clarice Smith Center, Wollesen served as director of university events at the University of California, San Diego, where he provided oversight, management, artistic direction and strategic development for the University Events Office's programs and services, that include significant campus traditions, large-scale concerts and a highly respected presenting arts program.

Wollesen concurrently served as artistic director for ArtPower! at UC San Diego, providing artistic guidance and strategic development for the university's premiere multi-arts presenting program in dance, music, spoken word and film. In this role, Wollesen developed the Innovator-in-Residence Program that explored the intersections between the sciences and the arts; and created The Loft, a performance lounge and wine bar, the only venue of its kind on a college campus.  He also created and implemented the Place Matters Project, the most comprehensive, interdisciplinary arts initiative in the university's history. Wollesen also created an individual giving program for ArtPower! that increased giving by 40 percent each season.

Wollesen was previously the director of education and associate director of programming for Stanford Lively Arts at Stanford University. During that time, he created the "Encounter: Merce" project, the university's largest-ever interdisciplinary residency with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Prior to that, he was director of programming for University of California, Santa Cruz Arts & Lectures performing arts program. Wollesen held several other positions for UC Santa Cruz, including the Chancellor's inauguration coordinator and college programs coordinator for the university's Kresge College. He also holds a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz. 

Martin currently serves on the board of directors for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and California Presenters. He previously served in various board roles with the Western Arts Alliance and San Diego Performing Arts League. In 2012, he was awarded the Western Arts Alliance Vanguard Award for innovation in the arts for The Loft as UCSD.

He will officially assume his duties at the Clarice Smith Center on Sept. 2, 2013.

UMD Taps Seasoned Fundraiser to Lead University Development Efforts

August 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Following the successful completion of a $1 billion fundraising campaign, the University of Maryland has appointed Mary Burke as the new assistant vice president of university development. In this role, Burke will provide overall leadership and management to the university development program, overseeing fundraising teams in all schools, colleges, intercollegiate athletics, planned giving and annual giving.

Following the successful completion of a $1 billion fundraising campaign, the University of Maryland has appointed Mary Burke as the new assistant vice president of university development."Mary brings incredible enthusiasm, leadership and strategic know-how to this position, and will be an invaluable asset to the division," says UMD Vice President for University Relations Peter Weiler. "Mary’s long list of accomplishments includes cultivating numerous million dollar gifts and repeatedly exceeding campaign and fundraising goals throughout her career."

With more than 25 years of experience in higher education, Burke is an accomplished fundraiser and has a successful track-record in campaign planning, major gift fundraising and annual giving for several colleges and institutions. Most recently, as assistant vice president of development, principal gifts for The George Washington University, Burke worked across all schools and divisions to build and advance the principal gift market. Managing a portfolio of more than 60 principal gift prospects, Burke led a nearly 30 percent increase in principal gifts for the university over five years. She also briefly served as lead international fundraiser focusing on The Republic of Korea.

Prior to that, Burke led principle gifts for The Johns Hopkins University, where she directed fundraising efforts for gift prospects of more than $1 million. Burke has also held fundraising positions at The University of Pennsylvania, where she helped successfully close out The Wharton School's $425 million campaign.  Earlier in her career, she held fundraising positions at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University.

Burke earned a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from Boston University. She will officially assume her duties on Sept. 4, 2013.

Protein Key Found for Adults to Re-Learn How to See

August 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A new discovery by a University of Maryland-led research team offers hope for treating "lazy eye" and other serious visual problems that are usually permanent unless they are corrected in early childhood.

Illustration by Loretta Kuo.In a study of mice, the UMD-led team found that mice lacking in a particular neuronal protein called NARP did not develop amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.  Their discovery raises the possibility that treatments for humans aimed at this protein might allow correction of amblyopia, even late in life.

Amblyopia afflicts about three percent of the population, and is a widespread cause of vision loss in children. It occurs when both eyes are structurally normal, but mismatched – either misaligned, or differently focused, or unequally receptive to visual stimuli because of an obstruction such as a cataract in one eye.

During the so-called "critical period" when a young child's brain is adapting very quickly to new experiences, the brain builds a powerful neural network connecting the stronger eye to the visual cortex. But the weaker eye gets less stimulation and develops fewer synapses, or points of connection between neurons. Over time the brain learns to ignore the weaker eye. Mild forms of amblyopia such as "lazy eye" result in problems with depth perception. In the most severe form, deprivation amblyopia, a cataract blocks light and starves the eye of visual experiences, significantly altering synaptic development and seriously impairing vision.

Because brain plasticity declines rapidly with age, early diagnosis and treatment of amblyopia is vital, said neuroscientist Elizabeth M. Quinlan, an associate professor of biology at UMD. If the underlying cause of amblyopia is resolved early enough, the child's vision can recover to normal levels. But if the treatment comes after the end of the critical period and the loss of synaptic plasticity, the brain cannot relearn to see with the weaker eye.

"If a child is born with a cataract and it is not removed very early in life, very little can be done to improve vision," Quinlan said. "The severe amblyopia that results is the most difficult to treat. For that reason, science has the most to gain by a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms."

Quinlan, who specializes in studying how communication through the brain's circuits changes over the course of a lifetime, wanted to find out what process controls the timing of the critical period of synaptic plasticity. If researchers could find the neurological on-off switch for the critical period, she reasoned, clinicians could use the information to successfully treat older children and adults.

Researchers in Quinlan's University of Maryland lab teamed up with the laboratory of Alfredo Kirkwood at Johns Hopkins University to address two questions: What are the age boundaries of the critical period for synaptic plasticity, when it comes to determining eye dominance? And what developmental processes are involved?

Experiments in rodents suggested the timing of the critical period is controlled by a specific class of inhibitory neurons, which come into play after a visual stimulus activates excitatory neurons that link the eye to the visual cortex. The inhibitory neurons act as signal controllers, affecting the interactions between excitatory neurons and synapses.

"The generally accepted view has been that as the inhibitory neurons develop, synaptic plasticity declines, which was thought to occur at about five weeks of age in rodents," roughly equivalent to five years of age in humans, Quinlan said. But in earlier experiments, Quinlan and Kirkwood found no correlation between the development of these inhibitory neurons and the loss of plasticity. In fact, they found the visual circuitry in rodents was highly adaptable at ages beyond five weeks.

In their latest research the UMD-led team looked "one synapse upstream from these inhibitory neurons," Quinlan said, studying the control of that synapse by a protein called NARP (Neuronal Activity-Regulated Pentraxin). Working with two sets of mice – one group genetically similar to wild mice and another that lacked the NARP gene - the researchers covered one eye in each animal to simulate conditions that produce amblyopia.

The mice that were genetically similar to wild mice developed amblyopia, with characteristic dominance of the normal eye over the deprived eye. But the mice that lacked NARP did not develop amblyopia, regardless of age or the length of time one eye was deprived of stimulation.

The study, published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Neuron, demonstrated that only one specific class of synapses was affected by the absence of NARP.  Without NARP, the mice simply had no critical period in which the brain circuitry was weakened in response to the impaired blocking vision in one eye, Quinlan said. Except for the lack of this plasticity, their vision was normal.

"It's remarkable how specific the deficit is," Quinlan said. Without the NARP protein, "these animals develop normal vision. Their brain circuitry just isn't plastic. We can completely turn off the critical period for plasticity by knocking out this protein."

She and her fellow researchers say that since there are indications that NARP levels vary with age, the discovery raises hope that a treatment targeting NARP levels in humans could allow correction of amblyopia late in life, without affecting other aspects of vision.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Eye Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Timber Rattlesnakes vs. Lyme Disease

August 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Karen Lips 240-393-5397
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The scientific name of the timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus, is a sign of the fear and loathing this native North American viper has inspired for centuries. But new research by a team of University of Maryland biologists shows the timber rattlesnake indirectly benefits humans by keeping Lyme disease in check. The team's findings, presented today at the annual conference of the Ecological Society of America in Minneapolis, highlight the potential benefits of conserving all species – even those some people dislike.

An adult male timber rattlesnake can remove 2,500 to 4,500 of the ticks that carry Lyme disease each year. Photo credit: Ed KabayHuman cases of Lyme disease, a bacterial illness that can cause serious neurological problems if left untreated, are on the rise. The disease is spread by black-legged ticks, which feed on infected mice and other small mammals. Foxes and other mammal predators help control the disease by keeping small mammal populations in check. The decline of these mammal predators may be a factor in Lyme disease's prevalence among humans.

Timber rattlers are also top predators in Eastern forests, and their numbers are also falling, so former University of Maryland graduate student Edward Kabay wanted to know whether the rattlers also play a role in controlling Lyme disease.

Kabay used published studies of timber rattlers' diets at four Eastern forest sites to estimate the number of small mammals the snakes consume, and matched that with information on the average number of ticks each small mammal carried. The results showed that each timber rattler removed 2,500-4,500 ticks from each site annually.

Because not every human bitten by an infected tick develops Lyme disease, the team did not estimate how many people are spared from the disease because of the ecosystem service that timber rattlesnakes provide. But Kabay, who is now a science teacher at East Chapel Hill High School, and his research colleagues will talk about the implications of their findings at 4:20 p.m. today, Aug. 6, 2013, in Room 1011 of the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Timber rattlesnakes are endangered in six Eastern states and threatened in five more.

"Habitat loss, road kills, and people killing them out of fear are the big issues," said Kabay's advisor, associate biology professor Karen Lips. "They are non-aggressive and rarely bite unless provoked or stepped upon."

Lips directs the UMD graduate program in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology. Her research focuses on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of amphibians, with interests at multiple scales (including populations, communities, and ecosystems), and with special interest in how amphibians are affected by emerging infectious disease and global change.

Lips is most widely known for her work studying, and trying to prevent, the world-wide loss of amphibian species that has been called the great amphibian extinction mystery. Read her personal, compelling account of 15 years of leading involvement in this effort in a May 15, 2013, Scientific American blog: "What If There Is No Happy Ending? Science Communication as a Path to Change." Follow her on Twitter @kwren88.

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