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Student Voter Participation at University of Maryland Increased by 27 Percent in 2018

October 7, 2019
Contacts: 

Patrick Saumell, 443-886-4084

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland today reported that student voting on campus was up in last year’s mid-year election, increasing to 46 percent in 2018 from a rate of 19.3 percent in 2014. The full campus report can be viewed here. 

UMD’s joint student and faculty chaired TerpsVote Coalition played a vital role in promoting voter education and engagement. Throughout the fall 2018 semester, TerpsVote led a campaign to engage students on voting through classroom presentations, registration drives, early voting buses, and free stamps and envelopes for absentee voting.

"Reaching a 46 percent student voting rate during a midterm election is a huge milestone, but we're already preparing for next fall’s presidential election,” said Patrick Saumell, Student Co-Chair for the TerpsVote Coalition. “Increasing student engagement requires reducing informational and psychological barriers to voting. As a result, we're working with student and faculty stakeholders to increase education about voting and promote a civically inclined campus culture over the next year."

The latest report is part of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. The study shows that nationwide, the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared to the previous 2014 midterm. In 2018, the Average Institutional Voting Rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1 percent, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7 percent. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an improvement over 2014.

The NSLE is the only national study of college-student voting. It is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; IDHE does not receive any information that could individually identify students or how they voted. The study provides reports to the University of Maryland and participating colleges and universities, which use them to support political learning and civic engagement, as well as to identify and address gaps in political and civic participation.

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Part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) is an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and engagement in democracy. IDHE researchers study student voting, equity, campus conditions for student political learning, discourse, participation, and agency for underrepresented and marginalized students. IDHE's signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, (https://idhe.tufts.edu/nslve) is a service to colleges and universities that provides participating institutions with tailored reports of their students' voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

TerpsVote is a non-partisan campus coalition working to promote voter engagement at the University of Maryland. TerpsVote's efforts range from increasing voter registration to spreading civic education to prepare UMD's student body for local, state, and national elections. For the fall of 2019, TerpsVote's primary goal is educating UMD to increase comprehension and engagement on voter procedures, local elections, and the census.

 

New statistical method delivers first comprehensive global picture of the mutual prediction of atmosphere and ocean

October 6, 2019
Contacts: 

Lee Tune media relations 301-405-4679, Eviatar Bach researcher

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- University of Maryland (UMD) scientists have carried out a novel statistical analysis to determine for the first time a global picture of how the ocean helps predict the low-level atmosphere and vice versa. They observed ubiquitous influence of the ocean on the atmosphere in the extratropics, which has been difficult to demonstrate with dynamic models of atmospheric and oceanic circulation. The results are published today in the Journal of Climate, “Local atmosphere–ocean predictability: dynamical origins, lead times, and seasonality.”  

The research draws on a classic statement often heard in introductory statistics classes that “correlation is not causation.” Clive Granger was a Nobel-laureate mathematician who came up with a novel method to address this issue by distinguishing correlation from causation. 

“The Granger method relies upon a simple but important notion that a cause precedes its effect, and should improve the prediction of reffect in the future. We realized that this could be a powerful method to study the interactions between atmosphere and ocean, and to provide a global picture of how well they predict each other,” said applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei, an Environmental Systems Scientist at UMD. “This method sheds light on both the potential to better predict regional climate as well as the nature of the interactions.” 


World renowned climate scientist J. Shukla calls the new paper by University of Maryland scientists “a very important paper in the history of predictability research.”


“There are many physical processes that govern the interaction between the atmosphere and ocean,” said lead author Eviatar Bach, PhD student in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (AOSC) at UMD. “For example, wind blowing on the ocean surface creates currents, and the sea surface heats up the lower atmosphere. These interactions between the atmosphere and ocean play a major role in climate and our ability to predict it, so understanding their geographical structure is important.”

“It has been known that in the tropical oceans, the ocean is predominantly driving the atmospheric changes, while in the extratropics the atmosphere generally drives the ocean,” said co-author Eugenia Kalnay, Distinguished University Professor of AOSC at UMD. “I developed a dynamical rule to determine the direction of the forcing in 1986, and others have addressed this question using climate models. This study provides a definitive answer.”

The basic Granger method was introduced in 1969, but the authors “cleverly applied it for the first time to atmosphere and ocean data," said Juergen Kurths, Head of Complexity Science Department at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was not a co-author. Kurths is a prominent physicist who has developed many novel mathematical methods for studying climate and other nonlinear systems. 

“The most novel finding of this research is that the method of Granger causality found the ocean to influence the atmosphere almost everywhere in the extratropics,” said Samantha Wills, a postdoctoral researcher at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, who was not a co-author. “This can be a challenging task given that the atmosphere dominates air–sea interaction in the extratropics, and the influence of the ocean on the atmosphere is not much larger than internal variability.”

“This had not been demonstrated by previous General Circulation Model experiments. Although there have been a few special cases where it has been shown that mid-latitude sea-surface temperatures have a significant impact on the atmosphere, this relationship was not known to be as ubiquitous as this paper has shown,” said J. Shukla, University Professor at George Mason University, who was not a co-author. Shukla is a world renowned climate scientist who pioneered studies of predictability.

Moreover, the study's estimates of the spatial structure of predictability could help to further advance the science of coupled data assimilation, the nascent field that attempts to leverage the interactions between atmosphere and ocean to improve climate prediction.

“The ability to anticipate changes to the ocean or atmosphere based on information from the other system provides society with the opportunity to prepare for future impacts, such as to agriculture and fisheries,” said Wills.

“This is a very important paper in the history of predictability research,” said Shukla, “It will surely inspire further research by the predictability research community. In particular, this paper identifies geographical regions on the globe over which there exists potential predictability which can be harvested for improving operational predictions.”

Members of the press can direct inquiries and receive a copy of the paper by contacting the corresponding authors, Eviatar Bach (ebach@umd.edu) and Safa Motesharrei (ssm@umd.edu).

Credits: Greta Easthom conducted the interviews with non-co-author experts who are quoted above.

The paper was published Open Access today, 2019 October 7 in the Journal of Climate, at https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0817.1

 

University of Maryland, City of College Park Host College Park Day

October 3, 2019
Contacts: 

University of Maryland: Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

City of College Park: Ryna Quinones, 240-487-3508

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and the City of College Park will host the 10th annual College Park Day on Saturday, October 5, 2019 from 12-6 pm at the College Park Aviation Museum.The annual event includes tons of free fun activities and performances. Activities include touch-a-truck and snow-plow painting, a gigantic kids zone, arts n crafts, face painters and more.  

The day’s many performers include Funsho Adenugba, an alum of both UMD and NBC’s show The Voice, who sings and plays guitar and piano; Fantasm, Baltimore Sun’s 2019 Readers Choice for Maryland’s Best Party Band; and UMD student groups Gymkana (acrobatics and gymnastics) and Dacadence (co-ed acapella). A full list of performances can be found here.

There also will be food and drink for purchase, an appearance by Testudo and entry to the College Park Aviation Museum is free during the event! 

 

Analysis of U.S. Labor Data Suggests 'Reskilling' Workers for a 'Feeling Economy'

September 30, 2019
Contacts: 

Roland Rust Researcher, Greg Muraski Media Relations  301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Being able to solve problems and analyze data will not be the keys to your success in the future, says marketing professor Roland Rust at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Artificial intelligence will soon have that covered. If you expect to have a viable career, you better get in touch with your emotions, he says, because the "Feeling Economy" is coming.

 The first wave of AI already has replaced humans for physical repetitive tasks like inspecting equipment, manufacturing goods, repairing things and crunching numbers. That shift started way back with the Industrial Revolution and gave rise to our current Thinking Economy, where employment and wages are more tied to workers’ abilities to process, analyze and interpret information to make decisions and solve problems. But be prepared, because AI is already starting to take over those thinking tasks, Rust says.

 “It means that if humans want jobs, they better get good at feeling,” Rust says. “Things like interpersonal relationships and emotional intelligence will be much more important.”  Even though people skills have always been important, what the researchers conclude is that the value of these skills will soon be of unprecedented importance.

Rust and Maryland Smith finance professor Vojislav Maksimovic, along with Professor Ming-Hui Huang of National Taiwan University, have been studying this shift. They sifted through U.S. Department of Labor data about work tasks associated with jobs and the people who perform those jobs, covering millions of workers throughout the U.S. economy. They coded the things people report doing in their day-to-day jobs as physical tasks, thinking tasks or feeling tasks and compared the breakdown for each job in 2006 and 2016. Their results reveal a profound shift across the board toward feeling tasks, a big indication that the move to a Feeling Economy is already under way.

Their paper, The Feeling Economy: Managing in the Next Generation of Artificial Intelligence” (https://go.umd.edu/wBf), appears in the most recent issue of the peer-reviewed California Management Review that examines how AI will change business.   

 “This is something that is going to hit people before they know it,” says Rust. “It’s already happening. We’re already seeing the shift in feeling as being more important, not only in terms of employment growth, but in terms of compensation growth. There is greater compensation growth in feeling than there is in thinking. This is really across the board – you name a job and we can show a shift from thinking to feeling.” 

Take the job of a financial analyst, for example. Think that sounds pretty quantitative and thinking-oriented? No so, says Rust. The research reveals it has become much more feeling oriented in the last 10 years. “People are using more AI-powered tools that can do a lot more of their analytical work for them, and what’s left in their job is to hold people’s hands and to reassure them about things like stock market dips,” he says. Going forward, those “feeling” skills become even more critical. 

“What we’re expecting is ‘people-people’ will be the ones who will be the big successes,” says Rust. “This is different from how it is right now and how people assume it’s going to be in the future.” 

Since AI can do more of the thinking tasks, firms need to recruit people who can perform well in feeling tasks and jobs, say the researchers. People management, working with others, emotional intelligence and negotiation skills are already in strong demand and will continue to be top skills for the future.

As the Feeling Economy emerges, the nature of all jobs will change, so companies and individuals should prepare, says Rust. Organizations need to manage differently, with more emphasis on feeling, empathy and emotional intelligence. The companies that take advantage of this trend will be the most successful, he says. There will be new opportunities for feeling-oriented companies and products. This also creates opportunities to pull ahead in the global market, says Rust. 

Individual workers can safeguard their jobs by enhancing their feeling and empathetic skills and gravitating toward jobs that emphasize those tasks. The most successful workers will be those who can manage relationships in an empathetic and emotionally intelligent way. Managerial jobs need to be more people-oriented and feeling-conscious. This may give the edge to women for their emotional intelligence, say the researchers. The “people” person becomes much more valuable than the anti-social tech geek. 

Rust says there are also big implications for education at all levels, where more emphasis is needed on developing emotional intelligence.

“You certainly don’t need to worry about things like multiplication tables,” he says. “You can do that on a machine, and everybody’s cell phone will do that for them. That kind of skill is just useless.” 

Rust says we better get used to the idea of AI doing more. He thinks AI will eventually even take over most of the emotional tasks of relating to people. And as AI gets more sophisticated, there’s no going back, he says. “The genie is out of the bottle.”

Rust, with Huang, is working on a book on this topic and discussed the findings in a recently recorded video: https://go.umd.edu/wBY.

Full-text copy of the study is available to media on request. Contact Greg Muraski: gmuraski@rhsmith.umd.edu

 

 

UMD Researchers to Investigate Effects of Fetal Exposure to Opioids

September 27, 2019
Contacts: 

 Audrey Hill 301-405-3468

College Park, MD—University of Maryland researchers will conduct an unprecedented investigation into how fetal exposure to opioids affects children’s brain development and health outcomes as part of a sweeping National Institutes of Health initiative to apply scientific solutions to help reverse the nation’s opioid crisis.

Researchers led by Distinguished University Professor Nathan A. Fox, of the College of Education, will examine how brain growth is affected by pre- and postnatal opioid exposure and how that causes cognitive and behavioral changes in childhood.

The University of Maryland’s award is one of 375 grant awards across 41 states made by the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2019 to apply scientific solutions to reverse the national opioid crisis through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or the NIH HEAL Initiative. The National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study addresses an urgent public health need: the use of opioids by pregnant women and mothers has increased by 300% since the early 2000s, with the number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, caused by withdrawal from drugs they were exposed to in the womb, increasing by approximately 400%. In 2016, more than 31,000 babies were born with the  syndrome, causing symptoms including tremors and sleep problems.

“We know very little about the effects of early exposure to opioids on brain development,” said Fox, of the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology and a renowned expert in child development. “There has never been a national study of even normative brain development during the early years of life. Our research will help fill a gap in understanding of the basic science of early brain development, as well as identify the effects of early drug exposure on the brain, along with prevention strategies.”

The University of Maryland is part of a five-institution consortium that is laying the groundwork through this initial study for a large-scale national, 10-year longitudinal study that examines the effects of in utero exposure to opioids on children through the age of 8.

The 18-month study will begin in October, with a research team that includes Professor Brenda Jones-Harden of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and psychology Associate Professors Tracy Riggins and Elizabeth Redcay, and Luiz Pessoa, professor of psychology and director of the Maryland Neuroimaging Center. 

Unlike many previous studies, the project will not only examine fetal exposure to opioids like fentanyl and prescription painkillers, but also include pregnant women who are poly-drug users. Following babies as they develop will allow researchers to better understand how opioid and other drug use, in combination with family, environmental and socioeconomic factors, influences babies’ development through childhood.

“For many of these children, this initial exposure to opioids is only the first in a series of challenges they experience that may affect their health and development, and could lead to ‘a crisis cascade’ as they age and interact with school systems and social services,” Fox said. “Our research aims to take a holistic approach to early childhood exposures in order to pinpoint critical areas and timelines for intervention, which will help guide the response to this major public health concern.”

In the initial phase, the University of Maryland researchers will recruit 20 pregnant women (and their infants  at age 3 months), including those who use opioids, and 20 12-month olds and 20 2.5 year-old children from diverse populations at Howard University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital. The study will carefully address ethical concerns relating to the topic of opioid use in pregnancy, and will include an external Community Advisory Board to provide strategic guidance on legal and ethical questions.

In addition to Maryland, the consortium includes Brown University, Harvard University at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boy’s Town in Omaha, Nebraska, and Avera Health in South Dakota, allowing them to recruit from rural areas that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

The NIH Heal Initiative

The National Institutes of Health launched the NIH HEAL Initiative in 2018 to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management. The initiative aims to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.

“It’s clear that a multipronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain, and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who launched the initiative in early 2018. “This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis.”

Coastal Birds Can Weather the Storm but Not the Sea

September 26, 2019
Contacts: 

Christopher Field, 860-798-3981 

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- How can birds that weigh less than a AA battery survive the immense power of Atlantic hurricanes? A new study in Ecology Letters finds that these coastal birds survive because their populations can absorb impacts and recover quickly from hurricanes—even storms many times larger than anything previously observed.

 

“Coastal birds are often held up as symbols of vulnerability to hurricanes and oil spills, but many populations can be quite resilient to big disturbances,” explains lead author Christopher Field, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland’s National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). “The impacts of hurricanes, in terms of populations rather than individual birds, tend to be surprisingly small compared to the other threats that are causing these species to decline.” 

 

Field and colleagues from five other universities studied the resilience of four species of coastal birds, including the endangered Saltmarsh Sparrow. The researchers developed simulations that allowed them to explore how disturbances like hurricanes would affect the birds’ populations over time. They started with models that project population sizes into the future based on the species’ birth and death rates. The research team then subjected these populations to simulated hurricanes that killed a certain number of birds. Because they were using computational simulations, the researchers were able to look at the full range of potential hurricane sizes—from storms that caused no bird deaths to storms that were more severe than anything ever observed. 

 

The researchers found that the four coastal species were able to absorb the impacts of storms across a wide range in severity. For example, the study found that a storm could cause mortality for a third of Saltmarsh Sparrows and Clapper Rails in one year, and it would still be unlikely that their populations would deviate significantly from their trajectories over time. 

Resilience can be defined in many ways, so Field and colleagues borrowed concepts from classical ecology and applied them to bird populations. They used these concepts to better understand the risk that these species could face from storms that are strengthening because of climate change. The research team looked not only at the ability of populations to absorb impacts, but also the birds’ ability to recover over time after large disturbances. Two of the species in the study, Saltmarsh Sparrows and Clapper Rails, are declining, largely from increased coastal flooding caused by higher sea levels. The researchers found that populations were often able to recover from large storms within 20 years, even when populations continued to decline from other threats, such as regular flooding.

 

If coastal birds are resilient to hurricanes, does that mean they will be resilient to climate change? “It’s tempting to focus on dramatic events like hurricanes, especially as they get stronger from climate change,” Field says. “But less visible threats like sea-level rise and increased coastal flooding are here to stay, and they are they are going to continue to drive coastal birds, like Saltmarsh Sparrows, toward extinction.”

 

Chris Elphick, a coauthor on the study from the University of Connecticut, suggests that there are lessons here for people too. “After a big event like a hurricane, we often rush to rebuild and improve coastal resilience without thinking as much as we perhaps should about the longer-term chronic changes in the system. Obviously, we need to respond to the damage done, but addressing the gradual, less noticeable changes, may be just as important to coastal communities in the long run.”

This research was funded by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), National Science Foundation, and Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds. 

Read the full article at Ecology Letters

 

About SESYNC

The University of Maryland's National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Annapolis brings together the science of the natural world with the science of human behavior and decision making to find solutions to complex environmental problems. SESYNC is funded by an award to the University of Maryland from the National Science Foundation. For more information on SESYNC and its activities, please visit www.sesync.org.

 

 

University of Maryland Ranked Amongst the Best Public Colleges in the Nation by The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report for 2020

September 9, 2019
Contacts: 

Hafsa Siddiqi, 301-405-4671

Students walk near the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center (ESJ)

COLLEGE PARK, MD -- The University of Maryland kicks off the 2020 academic year by once more ranking among the best public colleges in the nation, according to The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education and U.S. News & World Report. The university ranked #17 on WSJ/THE and #24 on U.S. News & World Report. The newly released annual lists recognize the college’s dedication for placing student success and learning, both in the classroom and beyond, at the forefront. 

The university’s rankings highlight performance indicators designed to answer the questions that matter to both students and their families when deciding on a college. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2020 list used a methodology exploring four key areas including available teaching resources to students and faculty, effective engagement between the campus and its students, college graduation rates and degree value in the workforce, and providing a conducive learning environment for all. 

Multiple factors determined the results of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Ranking, including “Graduation and Retention,” one of the more heavily weighted factors out of the eight variables analyzed. According to U.S. News, only thoroughly vetted academic data from their surveys and third-party experts were used to calculate each variable. The ranking additionally listed the university in the top 40 as a Best College for Veterans and was recognized for its Ethnic Diversity and its Learning Communities. 

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking used similar analytics along with comprehensive data analyzed via experts. These measures included: THE US Student Survey, US Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System by the National Center for Education Statistics (IPEDS), College Scoreboard, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), THE Academic Survey, and Elsevier bibliometric dataset.

More information about each ranking and the methodology used is available. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2020 list can be found here, while U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2020 ranking is available here

Lockheed Martin Awards $3M to UMD's Clark School of Engineering

September 4, 2019
Contacts: 

Melissa Andreychek, 301-405-0292

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A three-year, $3 million gift to the A. James Clark School of Engineering from Lockheed Martin will fund aerospace research while increasing opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The gift deepens a strategic partnership established in 2010 and renewed last year between the University of Maryland and the Bethesda-based global security and aerospace firm. Lockheed Martin’s association with UMD dates back to 1944, when co-founder Glenn L. Martin funded four buildings, including the wind tunnel and classroom building that bear his name.

“Lockheed Martin has played a significant role in the storied history of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and we are proud to continue our relationship as the recipient of Lockheed Martin’s largest gift of the year to any institution,” said Darryll J. Pines, Clark School dean and Farvardin Professor. “This generous gift will empower Clark School students and faculty to remain at the forefront of innovation in aerospace technology, and to advance our commitment to a diverse and inclusive engineering community.”

The new grant will fund vertical takeoff and landing research conducted at the university’s rotorcraft lab in the E.A. Fernandez IDEA Factory, scheduled to open in 2021, and high-speed flight experiments up to Mach 8, or 6,000 mph, at the school’s new hypersonic wind tunnel. It will also underwrite programs overseen by the Clark School’s Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering and Women in Engineering Program that aim to boost the enrollment of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines.

“Lockheed Martin has partnered with the University of Maryland for more than seven decades, and we are proud to continue that successful relationship with this grant supporting aerospace innovation,” said Keoki Jackson, chief technology officer at Lockheed Martin. “We expect to hire 50,000 STEM professionals over the next decade, and together we will inspire the next generation of engineers to join us in creating breathtaking generation-after-next technology.”

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin also awarded scholarships to nine UMD students pursuing majors in engineering or computer science as part of its new STEM Scholarship Program. Each of the students will receive up to $40,000 in funding, or $10,000 per school year, from Lockheed Martin and are eligible for paid internships with the company.

Today, Lockheed Martin employs over 600 UMD graduates holding nearly 700 degrees, and it has a formal collaboration agreement in place with the school to research, develop and design advanced technology systems, products, and services.

UMD-Led Astronomy Team Finds Golden Glow From a Distant Stellar Collision

August 28, 2019
Contacts: 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – On August 17, 2017, scientists made history with the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars. It was the first cosmic event detected in both gravitational waves and the entire spectrum of light, from gamma rays to radio emissions.

The impact also created a kilonova—a turbocharged explosion that instantly forged several hundred planets’ worth of gold and platinum. The observations provided the first compelling evidence that kilonovae produce large quantities of heavy metals, a finding long predicted by theory. Astronomers suspect that all of the gold and platinum on Earth formed as a result of ancient kilonovae created during neutron star collisions.

Based on data from the 2017 event, first spotted by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), astronomers began to adjust their assumptions of how a kilonova should appear to Earth-bound observers. A team led by Eleonora Troja, an associate research scientist in the University of Maryland’s Department of Astronomy, re-examined data from a gamma-ray burst spotted in August 2016 and found new evidence for a kilonova that went unnoticed during the initial observations.

NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory began tracking the 2016 event, named GRB160821B, minutes after it was detected. The early catch enabled the research team to gather new insights that were missing from the kilonova observations of the LIGO event, which did not begin until nearly 12 hours after the initial collision. Troja and her colleagues reported these new findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on August 27, 2019. 

“The 2016 event was very exciting at first. It was nearby and visible with every major telescope, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. But it didn’t match our predictions—we expected to see the infrared emission become brighter and brighter over several weeks,” said Troja, who also has an appointment at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Ten days after the event, barely any signal remained. We were all so disappointed. Then, a year later, the LIGO event happened. We looked at our old data with new eyes and realized we had indeed caught a kilonova in 2016. It was a nearly perfect match. The infrared data for both events have similar luminosities and exactly the same time scale.”

The similarities between the two events suggest that the 2016 kilonova also resulted from the merger of two neutron stars. Kilonovae may also result from the merger of a black hole and neutron star, but it is unknown whether such an event would yield a different signature in X-ray, infrared, radio and optical light observations.

According to Troja, the information collected from the 2016 event does not contain as much detail as the observations of the LIGO event. But the coverage of those first few hours—missing from the record of the LIGO event—revealed important new insights into the early stages of a kilonova. For example, the team got their first look at the new object that remained after the collision, which was not visible in the LIGO event data.

“The remnant could be a highly magnetized, hypermassive neutron star known as a magnetar, which survived the collision and then collapsed into a black hole,” said Geoffrey Ryan, a Joint Space-Science Institute (JSI) Prize Postdoctoral Fellow in the UMD Department of Astronomy and a co-author of the research paper. “This is interesting, because theory suggests that a magnetar should slow or even stop the production of heavy metals, which is the ultimate source of a kilonova’s infrared light signature. Our analysis suggests that heavy metals are somehow able to escape the quenching influence of the remnant object.”

Troja and her colleagues plan to apply the lessons they learned to re-evaluate past events, while also improving their approach to future observations. A number of candidate events have been identified with optical light observations, but Troja is more interested in events with a strong infrared light signature—the telltale indicator of heavy metal production.

“The very bright infrared signal from this event arguably makes it the clearest kilonova we have observed in the distant universe,” Troja said. “I’m very much interested in how kilonova properties change with different progenitors and final remnants. As we observe more of these events, we may learn that there are many different types of kilonovae all in the same family, as is the case with the many different types of supernovae. It’s so exciting to be shaping our knowledge in real time.”

In addition to Troja and Ryan, UMD-affiliated co-authors of the research paper include Astronomy Professor Sylvain Veilleux and Adjunct Associate Professor Bradley Cenko.

The research paper, “The afterglow and kilonova of the short GRB 160821B,” Eleonora Troja, Alberto Castro-Tirado, Josefa Becerra González, Youdong Hu, Geoffrey Ryan, S. Bradley Cenko, Roberto Ricci, Giovanni Novara, Ruben Sánchez-Rámirez, Jose Acosta-Pulido, Kendall Ackley, Maria Caballero García,Stephen Eikenberry, Sergiy Guziy, Seob Jeong, Amy Lien, Isabel Márquez, Sashi Pandey, Ii Park, Takanori Sakamoto, Juan Tello, Igor Sokolov, Vladimir Sokolov, Andrea Tiengo, Azamat Valeev, Bin Bin Zhang, Sylvain Veilleux, was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on August 27, 2019.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award No. AST-1005313); the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation, and Universities (Award No. SEV-2017-0709); the Italian Space Agency (Award Nos. 2015-046-R.0 and 2017-14-H.0); the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union (Award No. 654215); and the China Scholarships Council (Award No. 201406660015).

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University of Maryland Listed Among the Nation’s Best Colleges for Student Voting

August 27, 2019
Contacts: 

 Hafsa Siddiqi, 301-405-4671

COLLEGE PARK, MD — For a second consecutive year, the University of Maryland has been listed among 80 universities in the nation that inspire students to tap into their civic responsibility and become active citizens of their communities and country through voting. 

The University joins a slew of private and public universities in the honor of creating and maintaining life-long civic engagement, as illustrated by the findings from Washington Monthly magazine. The nonprofit publication collected exhaustive data via multiple variables including; 

  • Participation in Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE), which helps colleges understand their campus’ student voting record by calculating and tracking student registration numbers and turnout rates

  • Participation in the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which helps colleges utilize NSLVE data to craft strategic plans to bolster civic engagement

  • Public release of NSLVE data as an ALL IN school

  • Public release of an ALL IN action plan 

In addition to reauthorizing its NSLVE status through 2023 and being an ALL IN school with a public action plan since 2014, UMD is a participant in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, which aims to register even more students to engage in national service. 

The full Washington Monthly list of America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting can be found here.

 

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December 3
Data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite reveal start-to-finish sequence of an outburst from comet 46P/... Read