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UMD’s Rita Colwell, World-Renowned Microbiologist and Science Leader, to Receive the Vannevar Bush Award

April 26, 2017

Lee Tune, University of Maryland College Park, (301) 405-4679

Kim Silverman, National Science Board Office, (703) 292-4515



COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Rita Rossi Colwell, Distinguished University Professor in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, will receive the 2017 Vannevar Bush Award, the National Science Board (NSB) announced today. The NSB, which supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science, will present Colwell with the award on May 9 during the National Science Foundation (NSF) Annual Awards Ceremony held in Washington, D.C. 

The Vannevar Bush Award honors truly exceptional lifelong leaders in science and technology who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service activities in science, technology, and public policy. Colwell, whose work bridges many areas, including microbiology, ecology, infectious disease, public health and computer and satellite technology is recognized for her significant, life-saving contributions in the areas of global infectious diseases, water and health. 

"It is a great honor for me to be the recipient of the 2017 Vannevar Bush Award. It is extraordinarily humbling when one looks at the remarkable people who have received this award in the past," Colwell said. "This is a challenging time for science and a difficult one for those scientists, engineers, and technologists who are pursuing discovery and creativity driven research. Dr. Bush can be considered the father of the research enterprise of our country.  It is especially gratifying to me to be honored for research and educational accomplishments as that would be the very spirit of Vannevar Bush and his hope for the future as he saw it. As a woman I am proud to be a scientist and contributing as part of the entire talent pool that allows the U.S. to continue to excel." 

Colwell’s passion for science was obvious at an early age. As a sixth-grader, her school principal said to her, “You received the highest science test score ever.  You have a responsibility to meet your potential and you must go to college.” But this was in the 1940s, and discrimination against women, especially in the sciences, was an obstacle.  Hurdles she faced included a high school science teacher who told her not to bother with chemistry in college, as it was not a career suitable for women, and a department chair who denied her a master’s degree fellowship because they were “wasted on women.” Colwell’s steely determination to succeed was apparent, then and now.

Her decision to pursue a career in genetics introduced her to the emerging field of molecular biology and the very earliest use of computers in the pursuit of understanding complex biological systems. In the 1960s, Colwell was the first researcher in the U.S to develop a computer program to analyze bacteriological data. She continued and expanded this work at the University of Maryland, which she joined as a tenured professor in 1972. Today, bioinformatics is used at the very forefront of biological scientific research due to her efforts, along with colleagues, to promote the use of computing tools to facilitate the study of biology.

Colwell’s lifelong passion for studying environmental microbiology, especially in marine environments was fostered by her childhood fascination with the ocean. This passion led to her discovery, in the 1970s, of the presence of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, in the waters of Chesapeake Bay. At the time, conventional wisdom held that cholera was spread from person to person, or from consuming tainted food or drinking water and that its presence in the environment could only be due to the release of sewage into rivers, lakes, streams, and other waters. She proved that the bacteria were native to the aquatic environment, attached to zooplankton, and that that certain bacteria, such as Vibrio species, are capable of entering a dormant state.

The last cholera epidemic in Central and South America in the 1990s brought this disease and Colwell’s work onto the world stage. Colwell advised numerous governments and groups during this epidemic; her extensive knowledge of the organism, public health, genetics, and ecology was used to combat the disease and save numerous lives. She assisted Ecuador to address this epidemic by providing rapid identification of V. cholerae in the hospitals and in the shrimp industry, the latter being a major portion of Ecuador’s gross national product at the time. Similarly, she worked with IMARPE in Peru, playing a role in the development of drinking water criteria that helped guide policies to curb spread of the disease.

Today, bacterial zoonosis is a well-established and increasingly important field of study. Colwell’s interdisciplinary work paved the way for researchers from ecological disciplines and epidemiological disciplines to cross over into each other’s area of study, leading to a better understanding of disease transmission and ways to approach their control.

“Rita Colwell’s leadership and contributions to science and humanity are extraordinary. She made numerous scientific advances and revolutionary discoveries that have been translated into preventing countless of people from suffering with cholera,” said Vicki Chandler, chair of the NSB’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Rita is a positive role model, both in her passion for her work, her amazing record of service to science nationally and worldwide and in her resolve to succeed and make a difference in spite of barriers.  The National Science Board is proud to bestow her with this award.”

Colwell is distinguished university professor at UMD and the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, the senior advisor and chairman emeritus at Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. and the founder and chairman at CosmosID, Inc. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including 55 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education and is the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, bestowed by the Emperor of Japan, 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States, and 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded by the King of Sweden.  A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the Polar Regions.

Colwell served as the 11th director of the National Science Foundation and co-chair of the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council.  She has held a number of advisory positions in the U.S. Government, nonprofit science policy organizations, and private foundations and has authored or co-authored 17 books and more than 800 scientific publications.  Colwell also served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington Academy of Sciences, American Society for Microbiology, Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, International Union of Microbiological Societies, and American Institute of Biological Sciences.  She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Royal Society of Canada, Royal Irish Academy, Bangladesh Academy of Science, Indian Academy of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Philosophical Society.  

The NSB established the award in 1980 in the memory of Vannevar Bush, who served as a science advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II, helped to establish Federal funding for science and engineering as a national priority during peacetime, and was behind the creation of the National Science Foundation. The NSB and the National Science Foundation Past award recipients include: Norman Augustine (Lockheed Martin), James Duderstadt (University of Michigan), Leon Lederman (Fermilab), Shirley Ann Jackson (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), David Packard (Hewlett-Packard Company), and most recently Robert Birgeneau (University of California, Berkeley). 

Jointly, the NSB and the NSF Director pursue the goals and function of the NSF, an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. The National Science Board also serves as an independent body of advisors to the U.S.  President and Congress on policy matters related to science and engineering and education in science and engineering.





Hundreds of Free Activities Planned for UMD’s 19th Annual Maryland Day

April 24, 2017

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will host its 19th annual Maryland Day on Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event, a campus-wide celebration of innovation, creativity and academic excellence, offers more than 400 free, educational, family-friendly activities that teach and inspire future innovators.  

Events and activities will span the entire campus, across six learning neighborhoods: Terp Town Center, Ag Day Avenue, Art & Design Place, Biz & Society Hill, Sports & Rec Row and Science & Tech Way.

Highlights for this year’s Maryland Day include:

  • No Excuses Workout and World Record Attempt – University of Maryland alumnus and celebrity trainer Steve Jordan will lead a group fitness exercise and an attempt to break the world record for most people to hold an abdominal plank for 60 seconds.
  • Do Good – Learn, serve and grow with UMD students who are taking on real-world issues. #DoGoodUMD while participating in community service efforts and a scavenger hunt for prizes. UMD chefs will also prepare Do Good recipes that are cost-effective, taste great and offer plenty of variety.
  • The Portal – Connect with someone across the world! Portals is a global network of gold-painted shipping containers that are equipped with immersive audio and video technology that allows guests to experience face-to-face communication though thousands of miles apart.
  • Men’s and Women’s Basketball, and Football Autograph Sessions – Join members of the teams for a photo and autograph session. Members of the football team will also facilitate a training activity.
  • An Afternoon with Sonia De Los Santos – Latin children’s music artist, De Los Santos, performs family-friendly music that reflects on her experiences growing up in Mexico, moving to another country and learning about other countries.
  • Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel – Experience rare access to the university’s wind tunnel, which has been used in aerodynamics research since 1949.
  • One Stop Health Fair – The university, along with its community partners, will offer free health screenings and health information.
  • Kid Play Theatre Workshop –A half-hour acting workshop for budding actors includes fun theater games.
  • Maryland Equestrian Club Horse Show–The club hosts a live horse show, exciting demonstrations and interactive opportunities for the whole family. 

In addition, visitors can learn about UMD’s schools and colleges, participate in a campus tour, catch up with fellow Terps, attend a UMD vs. Penn State softball game, and enjoy live performances and food.

To view the full Maryland Day schedule, visit www.MarylandDay.umd.edu. Follow the celebration and join on social media with #MarylandDay.

Maryland Day will take place rain or shine. Parking and admission are free.





UMD Announces Finalists for Annual Do Good Challenge

April 21, 2017

Kaitlin Ahmad, 301-405-6360

COLLEGE PARK, Md.–  The University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, housed in the School of Public Policy, today announced the finalists for its annual Do Good Challenge, a spring semester competition that inspires students to take a cause or issue they are passionate about and create the greatest social impact possible. The campus-wide challenge encourages students to take fearless ideas that spark innovative solutions to change lives locally and globally. 

Six student-run teams – addressing issues ranging from children’s health to medication recovery to sexual assault prevention – have been selected from more than 90 teams t0 pitch their project or venture to a panel of judges and an audience of hundreds for a chance to win a share of more than $20,000 in prize money.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Kodactive aims to make computer science more accessible through a project-based platform that uses interactive, immersive, programmable STEM toys.
  • Symbiont Health is developing an automated fall detection system that connects primary care physicians with their patients and collects real-time, vital diagnostic information used to reduce emergency responder time.
  • Preventing Sexual Assault aspires to change the culture of sexual assault in all communities at the University of Maryland by educating the community, supporting survivors and advocating for change.
  • TerpThon hosts year-round fundraising efforts that culminate in a 12-hour Dance Marathon to stand in support of current and former patient families of Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
  • The James Hollister Wellness Foundation saves viable medications for developing nations while reducing the toxic pollutants resulting from pharmaceutical and medical waste.
  • Vintage Voices aims to improve the mental health and quality of life for elderly living in long-term care facilities through the power of music.

The Challenge will take place on April 26 at 6 pm. at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Center for Performing Arts. This year’s Challenge is being judged Sherrese Clark, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley; Kirsten Craft, Program Manager, Center for Social Value Creation & 2015 Do Good Challenge Winner; and Rajiv Vinnakota, Executive Vice President of the Youth & Engagement Division, Aspen Institute. 

The Do Good Challenge started in 2012. Over the last three years, two Do Good Challenge finalists have been named to Forbes's list of top 30 social entrepreneurs under 30 and one venture received a $100,000 investment from an investor on Shark Tank. For more information about the Do Good Institute and the Do Good Challenge visit dogood.umd.edu


UMD Announces University Sustainability Fund 2017 Projects

April 20, 2017

Andrew Muir, 301-405-7068 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On the eve of the nation’s 47th Earth Day, the University of Maryland’s Office of Sustainability is pleased to announce its Sustainability Fund projects approved for 2017. The Sustainability Fund provides grants to students, faculty and staff for the implementation of projects that will improve sustainability on campus or in the local community.

Projects approved for funding by the Student Sustainability Fund Review Committee and the University Sustainability Council include:

“This year, we received a number of outstanding proposals,” said Scott Lupin, director, Office of Sustainability. “The University Sustainability Fund is an ongoing commitment by the undergraduate students to support real projects that further campus sustainability efforts. Each of the approved projects lend themselves to furthering the campus standing as a model of a green university.” 

Starting fall 2018, the Master’s Degree in Sustainability will offer two capstone project courses focused on recent developments in analytics, technology, and implementation strategies. In the capstone courses, students will work on projects driven by compelling issues for actual case studies, such as the university’s sustainability goals.

“The Master’s Degree in Sustainability grant is an exciting new educational development, setting forth steps to create an interdisciplinary sustainability master’s degree program at UMD,” said Jelena Srebric, professor, Mechanical Engineering. “The main project idea is to have a program that integrates interested university departments, institutes and colleges to create a campus-wide offering.”   

The Solar Decathlon grant marks an important multi-discipline collaboration for the university. UMD won first place in the 2011 Solar Decathlon for its WaterShed house, which can be viewed at the Pepco Facility in Rockville, Md. The School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and the A. James Clark School of Engineering are leading this year’s entry, entitled (re) ACT.    

"The Sustainability Fund grant is crucial to supporting Team Maryland's efforts in the Solar Decathlon 2017,” said Raymond Adomaitis, professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “The grant comes at a time when we are completing the house design. The funds will be used to support student-led prototyping and system integration teams to assess and fine-tune our design innovations."

Another noteworthy project includes “Student Leadership in Community Sustainability and Resiliency.” This grant aims to accelerate undergraduate and graduate student involvement in the development and implementation of sustainability and resiliency projects on campus and in the surrounding communities. 

"The university is expanding our collaborative engagement off campus, and students will play a critical role in making these initiatives a success,” said Andrew Fellows, director of the Campus Community Connection (C3) project, which is housed under the National Center for Smart Growth and the iSchool. “Enhanced experiential learning opportunities, expansion of applied research and better communications with campus neighbors are just a few of the benefits of student leadership.”

The Fund continues to support maintaining and improving existing campus infrastructure and buildings. Grants will be issued for projects to enhance and increase recycling on campus and in Old Town, as well as providing project support for energy efficient lighting upgrades in Ritchie Coliseum and evaluating the efficiency of several campus buildings.

Research and education will also continue to be a focus for the Fund, with grants issued to support the creation of a Carbon Management Course in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology, Gemstone research projects, and the Voices of Social Change lecture by Jean-Michel Costeau on UMD Social Justice Day.

The Sustainability Fund was created in April 2007 after 91 percent of undergraduate students voted in favor of increasing student fees to create a University Sustainability Fund. Since 2011, the fund has granted $1.8 million to 108 sustainability projects.  For more information about the University Sustainability Fund, please visit sustainabilityfund.umd.edu; to watch a short video on how UMD makes a big impact through small steps click here.

Students, faculty, and staff will come together to celebrate campus sustainability at the UMD Earth Day Festival on Friday, April 21 from Noon-4pm at the Stamp Grand Ballroom. Featured speakers include Dr. Sacoby Wilson, School of Public Health and Dean Gregory Ball, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. For a full listing of Earth Day and Earth Month events, visit go.umd.edu/earthmonth

UMD Graduate Student Wins Prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Innovative Bioengineering

April 19, 2017

Alyssa Wolice, 301-405-3936

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Lisa Tostanoski, a graduate student in the University of Maryland’s Fischell Department of Bioengineering, has won a $15,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize following a highly competitive nationwide search for the most inventive college students. Tostanoski was selected for her efforts to develop two novel biomaterials-based strategies to combat multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.


Photo of Tostanoski"Ms. Tostanoski’s innovation gives me great hope for the future of human health and patient care," said Darryll J. Pines, dean of the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. “Fresh approaches to bioengineering have the potential to impact millions of patients. I am incredibly proud of her and the resolve of our entire Fischell Department of Bioengineering in their efforts to dramatically alter the course of intractable diseases.”


The nine recipients of this year’s collegiate competition were selected from a diverse applicant pool of undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities across the country. Tostanoski was one of two graduate students awarded this year’s prize for the “Cure it!” category, which recognizes students working on technology-based inventions that can improve health care.


“Multiple sclerosis is estimated to affect 2.3 million people worldwide,” said Tostanoski, a member of the Fischell Department of Bioengineering Jewell Research Lab, led by assistant professor Christopher Jewell. “While current clinical therapies provide important benefits for patients, they are limited by off-target effects, which leave patients immunocompromised. They also lack cure-potential, which means patients receive regular, lifelong treatments.”


Recently, scientists have explored the potential to use vaccine-like therapies to treat autoimmunity. Such techniques aim to specifically control the body’s mistaken attack of “self-molecules” – like myelin in MS – while leaving the rest of the immune system intact. In MS, the immune system incorrectly sees myelin – which insulates and protects nerves fibers in the brain – as foreign. Thus, in MS immune cells enter the brain and attack myelin, leading to slow loss of motor function and other complications. Current therapies for this disease work by decreasing the activity of the immune system; but, they do so in a broadly-suppressive way that often leaves patients vulnerable to infection.


In search of a solution, researchers like Tostanoski are working to develop new strategies that enable control over combinations and doses of therapies that reach particular tissues in the body.


Tostanoski’s first project applies a targeted injection technique to deposit degradable polymer carriers – loaded with the desired therapeutic cargos – directly in lymph nodes, the tissues that coordinate the body’s immune responses. These particles slowly degrade in the lymph nodes, releasing signals that program cells not to attack “self” tissues. Instead, these cues aim to expand regulatory immune cells that could then leave the lymph nodes and move to the brain and spinal cord to control inflammation and disease. The research team, which joins together the Jewell Lab and the immunology lab of Dr. Jonathan Bromberg at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is currently working to understand the mechanism as well as the translational potential to other disease models.


In the second approach, Tostanoski and fellow researchers use specialized technology to create immune polyelectrolyte multilayers (iPEMs) built entirely from immune signals. These iPEMs are self-assembled on particle templates during production. Then, the templates are dissolved to leave hollow capsules that consist only of the immune cues the lab wants to deliver, eliminating the need for carrier components.


Tostanoski, Jewell, and Dr. Walter Royal of the University of Maryland School of Medicine have shown that this approach controls inflammation in samples from human MS patients, and eliminates disease in mouse models of MS. This cutting-edge technique mimics useful features of biomaterial therapeutics – such as co-delivery, targeting, and “cargo” protection – but is much simpler because no carrier components are needed. Even more, this feature also eliminates the risk of activating the immune system in the unintended or unexpected ways sometimes associated with synthetic materials.


“More specific and effective therapies for autoimmunity could transform treatment options for patients with autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and lupus” said Jewell. “Lisa has really embodied the fearlessness and rigor required to bring engineering and immunology together and push these innovative ideas forward.”


“Lisa’s work – and that of the Jewell Research Lab – demonstrates the enormous potential for bioengineers to shape the future of human health innovation,” said John Fisher, chair of the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. “Even more, her dedication to the field extends beyond the lab, as she devotes much of her time to mentoring aspiring engineers. For these reasons, Lisa exemplifies what it means to receive the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. We at the Fischell Department of Bioengineering applaud her on this most recent achievement, and celebrate this historical first for the University of Maryland.”


The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is supported by The Lemelson Foundation. Student prize applicants were evaluated by screening committees with expertise in the invention categories, as well as a national judging panel of industry leaders. Screeners and judges assessed candidates on breadth and depth of inventiveness and creativity; potential for societal benefit and economic commercial success; community and environmental systems impact; and experience as a role model for youth.


“These students display the brilliance and hope of their generation,” said Dorothy Lemelson, Lemelson Foundation chair. “We are proud to recognize them for their achievements.”


Prior to receiving the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, Tostanoski was named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and the University of Maryland’s 2015 Fischell Fellow. She has also contributed to five intellectual property filings, to date.


This work was supported by grants to the Jewell Research Lab from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Science Foundation.

University of Maryland Welcomes AWP to Discovery District

April 17, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Association for Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) will move its offices to the University of Maryland this summer, becoming the latest addition to UMD’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to revitalize Baltimore Avenue and the academic campus that further cultivates university-city partnerships. AWP, an organization that fosters literacy achievement, advances the art of writing, and advocates for arts and arts education, will be headquartered in the university’s Discovery District. 

As the epicenter of academic research and economic development, the Discovery District-- formerly known as M Square-- was selected by the AWP Board of Trustees for several reasons, including the university’s academic strength in creative writing, highly educated workforce, modern and spacious facilities, proximity to Washington, D.C, access to extensive mass transit, and community development.

“It is exciting to see major academic organizations, established businesses and more startups drawn to Greater College Park,” said Ken Ulman, the university’s chief strategy officer for economic development. “The addition of AWP to Discovery District strengthens the academic partnerships we have in place at UMD, and demonstrates that arts and humanities are essential in transforming College Park into a world class university community.”

For the past 50 years, AWP has grown to support 550 college and university creative writing programs, 150 writers’ conferences and centers, and 50,000 writers. AWP works with a growing number of allied literary organizations to build audiences for contemporary literature. Its conference attracts 12,000 each year, and AWP’s magazine has a growing circulation of tens of thousands of readers.

"We are delighted that AWP has chosen to relocate to the University of Maryland," said Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. "They will join a vibrant arts and humanities community and create opportunities for students who are interested in not only writing, but also publishing, editing and nonprofit arts management."

AWP has been affiliated with a college or university since its inception in 1967. For the past 23 years, AWP has been headquartered at George Mason University.

“AWP sought a larger home that would serve AWP well for the next 20 years,” said AWP Executive Director David Fenza. “The University of Maryland will be a great headquarters for AWP as we build upon our services to writers, teachers and students. We look forward to partnering with this flagship institution and joining the dynamic intellectual life of College Park.”

The relocation of AWP to the University of Maryland will not only impact the Greater College Park community, but it is expected to boost Prince George’s County economy as well.

“Recently we announced that, since 2013, Prince George’s County has created over 15,000 new jobs,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “I am now thrilled that we can add to that and welcome AWP to the Prince George’s County business community. The University of Maryland has worldwide recognition for its research, so it is exciting to see AWP become part of the campus’s arts and humanities fabric.  AWP and the thousands of writers, teachers, and students that it represents is a superb addition to the County’s business community.”

AWP will move into their new office on Rivertech Court at the University of Maryland in summer 2017.




UMD Research Provides Comprehensive Monitoring of Forest Loss in Brazilian Amazon

April 14, 2017

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

College Park, Md.—New research led by the University of Maryland (UMD) employs satellite image time series to better understand the dynamics of forest cover loss in the Brazilian Amazon. While rates of deforestation in the country have slowed significantly over the last decade, Brazil remains the single largest contributor to natural forest loss among tropical countries.

The study uses a statistical sample to produce unbiased (free from map errors) estimates of forest loss area in different types of forests: primary and secondary humid tropical forests; natural and secondary woodlands; and plantations. It also attributes the drivers of forest loss, such as conversion of forests to pastures and croplands, selective logging, mining and fires. 

“Brazil’s current national forest monitoring system focuses almost solely on deforestation in primary forests —the process of forest clearing and conversion to nonforest land uses. However, that only tells us part of the story,” said Alexandra Tyukavina, a post-doctoral researcher with the UMD's Department of Geographical Sciences. “Our research seeks to dig deeper into the dynamic causes of forest loss in all types of forests so that we can better understand the consequences such as carbon emissions and biodiversity losses.” 

One of the major findings of the study is that by the year 2013, all other forest disturbance types surpassed deforestation in primary forests in area, but deforestation in primary forests still remained the major source of aboveground carbon loss. Results of this research were published in Science Advances on April 12.

Researchers are working to expand the current study into the other tropical regions, such as Central Africa and Indonesia, to provide a comprehensive story on forest loss drivers pan-tropically. 

Members of the research team from the UMD's Department of Geographical Sciences include Tyukavina, Matthew Hansen, Peter Potapov, Kevin Smith-Rodriguez, Chima Okpa and Ricardo Aguilar. Stephen Stehman from the Department of Forest and Natural Resource Management at the State University of New York also contributed.


Film Producer and Former MLB Player Mark Ciardi to Speak at UMD Commencement

April 13, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today that UMD alumnus Mark Ciardi ’83, Founder and CEO of Apex Entertainment and former Major League Baseball pitcher, will deliver the university’s commencement address on Sunday, May 21. Ciardi will address thousands of graduates, family and friends during the ceremony at the Xfinity Center.

Headshot of Mark Ciardi“Mark Ciardi is an outstanding example of an alum who pursued success with focus and tenacity,” says Mary Ann Rankin, UMD's senior vice president and provost. “He knows how to tell an inspirational story, and his remarks will surely prepare and motivate our University of Maryland graduates to pursue their dreams.”

The alum recently shared his enthusiasm to address a diverse and dynamic graduating class.

“I am honored by the opportunity to share my story with Terps as they make this achievement in their academic career and prepare for what comes next,” said Mark Ciardi ‘83. “I hope to encourage students and faculty by sharing the risks I have taken on my entrepreneurial path and the message of perseverance that is often found in my films. And as always, it’s tremendous to be back on the campus that I love.”

Ciardi, who played on the university’s baseball team and graduated with a B.S. in business, is a sports-film producer known for blockbuster movies such as Million Dollar Arm, Secretariat, Invincible, The Rookie, The Game Plan, McFarland, USA, and Miracle, as well as his Emmy award winning ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Big Shot.”  

Upon graduation, Ciardi was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and played in the majors in 1987. He retired a year later due to injury. Prior to starting Apex, an independent content production firm, he was the co-founder of Mayhem Pictures, where he secured a first look deal with Walt Disney Studios.

Ciardi has returned to campus on multiple occasions to share his entrepreneurial journey with students as part of the Robert H. Smith School of Business Dingman Speaker series. He also serves on the university’s Board of Trustees and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.



Three UMD Students Named 2017 Goldwater Scholars

April 12, 2017

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Three University of Maryland students have been awarded scholarships by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Foundation also recognized a fourth UMD student with an honorable mention. 

UMD juniors Christopher Bambic, Eliot Fenton and Prayaag Venkat were among the 240 Barry Goldwater Scholars selected from 1,286 students nominated nationally this year. UMD junior Natalie Livingstonreceived honorable mention. All four students plan to pursue doctoral degrees in their areas of study, with aspirations to become university professors or researchers at government laboratories. 

Photo of Christoper BambicChristopher Bambic—a physics and astronomy double major who is also a member of the University Honors Program and a Stamps Banneker/Key Scholar—is interested in the role plasmas play in active galactic nuclei feedback in galaxy clusters. 

In January 2017, Bambic presented the research he completed with his faculty mentor Astronomy Professor Christopher Reynolds at the American Astronomical Society meeting. Bambic’s project addressed magnetic draping in galaxy clusters and the role magnetic fields play in active galactic nuclei feedback. He is currently preparing the work for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.  

Bambic will spend this summer working at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England. There, he will use space-based X-ray telescopes to research the roles of turbulence and sound waves in heating the plasma in galaxy clusters.  

“Christopher is an extraordinary young scientist. He is already operating at the level of an excellent graduate student, even though he is only an undergraduate,” said Reynolds. “I cannot imagine a more deserving candidate for a Goldwater Scholarship.” 

Photo of Eliot FentonEliot Fenton—a physics major who is also a member of the College Park Scholars’ Science, Discovery and the Universe program and a UMD President’s Scholar—plans to study atomic, molecular, and optical physics in graduate school. He intends to pursue an academic career in quantum mechanics and quantum computing. 

Working with his faculty mentor, Physics Professor and Joint Quantum Institute Fellow Luis Orozco, Fenton’s research has yielded significant technical breakthroughs in the production and characterization of high-quality optical transmission nanofibers used to trap atoms for quantum physics and computing studies. His achievements earned him an invitation to the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 2016, where he worked with experienced scientists to refine nanofiber fabrication techniques.

In January 2017, Fenton co-authored a peer-reviewed publication in the journal Optica that described the measurement of a nanofiber with sub-Angstrom precision—less than the diameter of an atom. Fenton will spend nine weeks this summer as an undergraduate researcher at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, where he will gain hands-on experience with subatomic physics research. 

“Eliot is a deep and fast thinker who understands the concepts explained to him, and immediately generalizes them to situations in the laboratory,” Orozco said. “He shows a rare level of intellectual leadership and a questioning mind that that is the key to a successful career in science.” 

Photo of Prayaag VenkatPrayaag Venkat—a computer science and mathematics double major who is also a member of the University Honors Programand a Banneker/Key Scholar—is interested in an area of theoretical computer science known as approximation algorithms, which look for the closest optimal solutions to complex problems for which exact solutions are impractical. 

Venkat has worked with his faculty mentor, Professor and Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science Samir Khuller, to address a number of problems suitable for approximation algorithms. He contributed to a poster presentation at a meeting organized by the National Science Foundation in October 2016, and has submitted a paper to the 2017 Algorithms and Data Structures Symposium this summer. 

One of Venkat’s first projects was to design space-efficient data structures for solving problems in computational geometry, under the guidance of Computer Science Professor David Mount. 

“Even though Prayaag is still an undergraduate, if he were to enter our Ph.D. program right now, he would easily be among the top 10 percent,” Mount said. “In spite of his intellectual ability, energy, creativity and independence, he is very down-to-earth and unassuming.” 

Photo of Natalie LivingstonNatalie Livingston—a bioengineering major who is also a member of the University Honors Program, the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and the Alpha Eta Mu Beta biomedical engineering honor society—is interested in using nanoparticles as tools for precision drug delivery. 

Working with her faculty mentor, Fischell Department of Bioengineering Assistant Professor Steven Jay, Livingston has worked to develop a new method of loading nanoparticles for drug delivery. In the summer of 2015, Livingston studied antibiotic resistance as a summer intern at the National Institutes of Health, and in the same year received a National Science Foundation-funded Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation grant. 

In 2016, Livingston received a competitive Howard Hughes Medical Institute undergraduate research fellowship to help with her research efforts. In the same year, she co-authored a peer-reviewed publication in the journal Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering on the use of sonication to load small RNAs into extracellular vesicles to knock down oncogenes. 

“Natalie is highly mature and has a strong work ethic, and she thinks clearly about scientific problems,” Jay said. “She has already developed into a highly qualified researcher and she will be a success in whatever path she chooses.” 

The Goldwater Scholarship program was created in 1986 to identify students of outstanding ability and promise in science, engineering and mathematics, and to encourage their pursuit of advanced study and research careers. The Goldwater Foundation has honored 58 University of Maryland winners and five Honorable Mentions since the program’s first award was given in 1989. In the past five years, UMD’s 20 nominations have yielded 17 scholarships and two honorable mentions. Prior Goldwater Scholars and nominees from UMD have continued their impressive academic and research pursuits at leading institutions around the world and have gained additional recognition as:

  • A Rhodes Scholar
  • A Truman Scholar
  • A Fulbright Scholar
  • National Science Foundation graduate research fellows
  • Gates Cambridge and Churchill Scholars
  • A Clarendon Fund Scholar 

Colleges and universities may submit up to four nominations annually for these awards. Goldwater Scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. These scholarships are a stepping-stone to future support for their research careers.

University of Maryland to Lead NIH-Funded Center for Engineering Complex Tissues

April 11, 2017

Alyssa Wolice, 301-405-3936

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland (UMD) announced today that it will lead a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Biomedical Technology Resource Center (BTRC) aimed at advancing techniques to create complex tissues and parts for the body, such as organs and bones. The NIH awarded a $6.25 million grant to the newly established Center for Engineering Complex Tissues (CECT), for which Rice University and the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) will serve as key partners.

“For years, tissue engineers have worked to improve quality of life for millions impacted by illness or trauma,” said John P. Fisher, CECT director and Fischell Family Distinguished Professor and chair of UMD’s Fischell Department of Bioengineering. “By bringing together experts in bioengineering, biomaterials, and additive manufacturing, CECT will serve a critical role in fostering the kind of technological advancement that has the potential to transform how bones, tissue, and organs are repaired or replaced.”

Alongside Fisher, Rice University Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Antonios Mikos will serve as the center’s associate director. Anthony Atala, WFIRM director, and James Yoo, WFIRM associate director, will serve as co-principal investigators. Curt Civin, director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, will also provide collaborative support as part of the MPowering the State partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park and Baltimore campuses.

Building on the group’s longstanding bioengineering, biomaterials, and additive manufacturing expertise, the center will serve as a national hub for transforming current tissue engineering and 3-D printing technologies into new and improved platforms for everyday uses in regenerative medicine. 

3-D bioprinting – a technology application through which engineers create cell patterns in a confined space using 3-D printing – offers new avenues through which engineers can respond to the growing need for tissues and organs suitable for transplantation. While still a young frontier in regenerative medicine, 3-D bioprinting offers hope that one day human health advancements will no longer be mired by organ donation shortages or organ transplant incompatibility.

“CECT is unique as it focuses both on the engineering of complex tissues and on the growing field of bioprinting,” Mikos said. “This grant is a great opportunity and responsibility to further develop the field and move it to the clinic.”

At the core of CECT’s research capabilities are three technology research and development projects that will promote development across three main biological systems: stem cell culture (UMD), fabrication of cellular constructs (WFIRM), and construction of heterogeneous tissue scaffolds (Rice). Additionally, CECT will oversee six collaborative projects, six service projects, and multiple training programs to foster expert collaboration for the advancement of tissue engineering.

“We are proud to be part of this collaborative effort to advance the field of 3-D bioprinting,” Atala said. “We believe bioprinting represents one of the most promising strategies for increasing the number of patients who can benefit from replacement tissues and organs.”

“Many of today’s most transformative advancements in human health came to life because leaders in STEM worked collaboratively to share knowledge, ideas, and creative vision,” said Darryll J. Pines, Dean of the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering. “CECT will play a key role in bringing together innovators from a variety of science and engineering disciplines who are working to address a critical health need.”



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