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College Park Ready to Deliver Amazon HQ2

September 11, 2017
Contacts: 

Jessica Jennings, 301-405-4618

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland is prepared to partner with the State of Maryland, Prince George’s County, the City of College Park and neighboring jurisdictions to position College Park as a top location in Amazon’s national search for a second headquarters.  

College Park meets all of the requirements in the Request for Proposals issued last week, including direct access to mass transit and international airports, potential to attract and retain technical talent and a connection to world-class higher education. The RFP also requires the ability to deliver a campus environment with millions of square feet available for development.

“When you read through the entire Amazon H2Q RFP it screams the University of Maryland and College Park,” said Chief Strategy Officer Ken Ulman. “We hit the marks in every category – land availability, business friendly environment, labor force, logistics, cultural community fit and so much more. We are shovel ready and can handle the entire requirement in our thriving Discovery District. Our highly educated, diverse community welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with one of the world’s great companies.”

Located inside the Capital beltway with direct access to Metro and home to future Purple Line stations, the University of Maryland is one of the nation’s premier public research institutions. Its Greater College Park initiative is a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor, strengthen the academic core and create a dynamic Discovery District.

Within the next five years, the Discovery District, located across from the main entrance to campus and anchored by The Hotel at UMD, will include 2.7 million gross square feet of space in new or renovated facilities for research, startup and existing companies, housing, public space, an innovative arts and culinary venture and coworking.

Greater College Park partners, including the City of College Park and Town of Riverdale Park, expressed their support to pursue the Amazon RFP. "Our collaborative efforts to create one of the most desirable places to live, work and learn makes Greater College Park the perfect location for Amazon's second headquarters. With thousands of potential employees in our cities and beyond, a talented pipeline of students coming out of the university and a growing innovation ecosystem, we, as the mayors of College Park and Riverdale Park, know our community will keep Amazon competitive and future-focused in our global economy.”

College Park has already caught the eye of Amazon as home to Amazon@CollegePark, and as one of the first five locations of Amazon’s Instant Pickup service.

Statement from President Wallace D. Loh on Title IX

September 8, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Attributed to University of Maryland President, Wallace D. Loh: 
 
The University of Maryland is steadfastly committed to a learning, living and working environment on campus that is free from sexual violence and misconduct.
 

We will continue to comply with the existing laws and regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. We will submit comments during the notice and comment period for any rule-making, as invited yesterday by the U.S. Secretary of Education, advocating for changes that would result in more -- not less -- safety and fairness on campuses in Maryland and across the country.    

We are implementing the initiatives recommended last spring by the Joint President/University Senate Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention. 

A reminder that confidential services for sexual assault survivors​ are available at CARE in the University Health Center and in the Counseling Center. A further reminder that all University employees (except for those working in confidential roles, such as counselors) ​should report any incidents of sexual assault or misconduct to the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct or to ​the University of Maryland Police Department.  

UMD Named Top Producer of Minority Graduates

September 6, 2017
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland has been named a Top 100 Minority Degree Producer by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. Based on totals from the previous year, UMD ranked No. 34 overall for conferring the most undergraduate degrees to minority students and No. 66 overall for graduate and professional degrees.

UMD ranked No. 9 for conferring bachelor degrees in agriculture & agriculture operations, No. 12 for bachelor degrees in social science, No. 13 for bachelor degrees in mathematics and statistics, No. 18 for bachelor degrees in engineering, and No. 19 for bachelor degrees in computer and information science.

Furthermore, among specific minority groups, UMD ranked No. 2 for graduating African American students with Bachelor degrees in social science, No. 4 for graduating African American students with Bachelor degrees in agriculture and foreign languages, and No. 4 for graduating Asian American students with Masters degrees in Interdisciplinary studies. UMD also holds the No. 1 ranking for total minority students with doctoral degrees in mathematics and statistics. 

Areas UMD ranked in the top 5 include:

•Total Minority students with Doctoral degrees in Mathematics and Statistics (1)

•African American students with Bachelor degrees in Social Sciences (2)

•Asian American students with Doctoral degrees in Mathematics and Statistics (2)

•Total Minority students with Masters degrees in Interdisciplinary studies (3)

•African American students with Bachelor degrees in Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (4)

•African American students with Bachelor degrees in Agriculture and Agriculture Operations (4)

•African American students with Bachelor degrees in Foreign Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (4)

•African American students with Masters degrees in Engineering (4)

•Asian American students with Masters degrees in Interdisciplinary studies (4)

 

For more information and complete Diverse rankings, visit http://diverseeducation.com/top100/

 

New UMD Hyperloop Pod Races Against Rivals this Weekend

August 25, 2017
Contacts: 

Abby V. Robinson, 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A team of University of Maryland students will compete this weekend against 24 international teams in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition in Hawthorne, California. This weekend's competition is the second held by SpaceX to advance the "hyperloop" concept for a long-distance, high-speed transportation system that would send pods full of people or cargo through a near-vacuum tube at speeds up to 700 mph.

This weekend's contest focuses on a single criterion: maximum speed. It will be the second for the team, named UMD Loop, which competed in January 2017, winning the performance in operations award and placing fifth for overall pod design. Taking what the students learned from the January competition, UMD Loop's new pod—named Nemesis—will have revamped design features including:

  • A frame that is 60 pounds lighter with integrated pneumatics and electronics, leaving a cleaner exterior.
  • Brakes that allow operators to vary the drag and center the forces the pod experiences when racing down the track.
  • A magnetic levitation system that allows the pod to maneuver on wheels at low speeds and decreases magnetic drag so that the pod reaches levitation speeds sooner.

Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO and the originator of the hyperloop concept, announced recently that his latest startup, the Boring Company, received verbal government approval to build a hyperloop that would enable travelers to make the trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes.

To accelerate the development of functional prototypes and encourage innovation, the SpaceX competition challenges teams to design and build the fastest pod. The pod prototypes are scaled-down versions designed to operate on SpaceX's one-mile test track.

Hyperloop pod concept illustration

Hyperloop pod concept illustration 

 

 

 

 

 

For full story: https://go.umd.edu/p3f

 


Hyperloop Competition Timeline

February 1, 2017

UMD Team Tops for Performance & Operations at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland team, UMDLoop won the performance and operations award and placed 5th in pod design and construction at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition held in Hawthorne, California, January 27-29.
 
This competition was the second in a series of a SpaceX competitions aimed at encouraging student innovation and advancing the Hyperloop concept for a new form of transportation in which passenger-carrying pods travel between cities at very high speeds through above-ground, low-pressure tubes.

During the current three-day event, 27 teams from around the globe pitted pod against pod to see which teams would have a chance to test their creation in SpaceX's vacuum-sealed one-mile test track adjacent to its headquarters. As part of the competition, teams underwent rigorous safety inspections and testing that evaluated all aspects of the pod's design from structural and functional to mechanical and navigation. In addition, each team had the opportunity for an open-air run, where they operated their pod on the test track without vacuum pressure.

Photo of hyperloop team"This has been a remarkable experience for our students, staff and advisors," said Darryll Pines, Dean of UMD's A. James Clark School of Engineering and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering. "UMD Loop competed well, and it has been a great partnership between two UMD colleges. We are extremely proud of the UMD Loop Team who strongly represented the University of Maryland."

It's been over a year since the UMD team successfully competed in the first SpaceX hyperloop event, an initial competition during which pod designs from more than 115 teams were winnowed down to those from 30 teams selected to move forward in the next phase of competition and take their pods from design to reality. During that year, the UMD team—which now includes more than 60 students from the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering; College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; and Department of Communication—devoted itself to the possibilities of Hyperloop travel and built one of the first pods of its kind.

"I'm blown away by our team's performance this week. We truly earned our spot as a top team in this competition," said Kyle Kaplan, aerospace engineering senior and team captain. "At the end of the day, I could not be more proud of our team and how well we worked together to succeed. Even though I wish we were given the opportunity to push the limits of our pod, I was extremely impressed by how we performed! Top five in the world, that's nothing to be disappointed about."

The Delft Hyperloop team, of Delft University in the Netherlands, got the highest overall score. Technical University of Munich, Germany secured the award for the fastest pod. And MIT placed third overall in the competition, which was judged by SpaceX engineers.

"The team has been a dream to work with," said chief faculty advisor Noah Ryder, a research associate and lecture in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering. "They have logged countless hours and made numerous sacrifices to be a part of making history, and their hard work has paid off."

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and the originator of Hyperloop concept, spoke at this weekend’s competition and described the event as a way to encourage innovation in transport technology and get people excited about new forms of transport.

"It was fantastic to see so many different perspectives and people so passionate about working toward pushing the boundaries of transportation," said physics major and team project lead Erich Robinson-Tillenburg.

For computer science major and aerodynamics lead Paul Garvey, the competition was "hours upon hour of problem solving, and we loved every minute of it!"

Building on the enthusiasm and engineering achievements of the most recent competition, SpaceX will host another pod competition weekend during the summer of 2017. The UMD team plans to be there with a redesigned pod that has already been accepted for the competition.

"They are already gearing up to start all the analysis, building and testing that is needed to get race-ready again," said Ryder. "While some students will be graduating and won't be participating, we have recruited a new group of eager students to ensure that the program is able to thrive with the continued support of the university and our generous sponsors without whom we wouldn't have been able to bring our ideas to fruition."

UMD's pod Prometheus featured a passive magnetic levitation control and breaking using neodymium magnets—the strongest type of commercially available permanent magnet, a unique chainmail breaking system and a multi-link suspension system for smoothing the ride.

UMD, Catholic Charities DC Team Up to Provide Free Dental and Health Care to Local Community

August 25, 2017
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake, 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – More than 30 percent of adults have not had a dental visit in the past year, and about one in three are living with untreated dental caries. Nearly 20 percent of low-income Maryland adults say their mouth and teeth are in poor condition. Most say that the reason for not visiting the dentist more frequently is the high cost. 

To help provide stopgap care and connect local community members with resources that will support their ongoing health, the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival, organized by the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Maryland State Dental Association and Foundation, will provide free, emergency dental and health care to adults in need on Friday, September 8 and Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Oral health is closely linked to overall health, and people who are forced to delay regular dental care because of inability to pay are at higher risk for preventable oral diseases and other chronic conditions. At the event, a full range of dental services and diverse preventive health screenings will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis in the University of Maryland’s XFINITY Center. 

This is the second time that the University of Maryland has partnered with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to host this large event, which features 120 comprehensive dental stations staffed by hundreds of volunteer dental professionals. University of Maryland athletes, faculty, staff and students will make up some of the more than 500 general volunteers from across the region that will help participants connect with needed services, and The Cigna Foundation and Adventist Healthcare have stepped in as major sponsors. When this event was held in 2014, more than one thousand people received the equivalent of more than $1.2 million in care.

“I am so proud that this is the fourth time that Catholic Charities has been a leader in providing dental services through M.O.M. in different localities throughout the state of Maryland,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “Thank you to the University of Maryland for partnering with us. More than 1,500 patients will receive more than $1M in pro bono dental care. My heart is always warmed seeing the newly-found smiles on the faces of our clients, but my hope is that we will ultimately be able to serve the many people who aren’t able to get the care they need at this amazing event. Through this effort, we will change thousands of lives and guide them to healthier futures through Catholic Charities’ partnership with the University of Maryland.”

“We want to alleviate human suffering and instill the value of empathy toward our less fortunate neighbors, an important core ethic to be embraced by our students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity in the UMD School of Public Health. “This is how we create a culture of health not only on our campus but throughout the region.”

“The collaborative efforts of dental professionals at Mission of Mercy projects change patients’ lives,” said Dr. Diane Romaine, president of the Maryland State Dental Association and Foundation. “Working together beyond these projects will be the key to developing ongoing access to oral health care in Maryland.”

Photo of 2014 Mission of Mercy Event at UMD

The Health Equity Festival

The Health Equity Festival, a unique feature of this specific Mission of Mercy, includes more than 25 health and wellness stations hosted by the United States Public Health Service, Adventist Health Care, Doctors Community Hospital, Walgreens Pharmacy, the Lion’s Club, Cigna Foundation and many more. 

Recognizing that oral health is not separate from overall health and that individuals seeking emergency dental care may also face other health, social and economic issues, the Health Equity Festival brings teams of physicians, nurses, public health educators, legal advocates, hospital systems and the US Public Health Service to provide a range of health, education and counseling services. While people are waiting to receive dental care, they can visit with one of the exhibitors and receive services including:

  • HIV, Hepatitis C, diabetes, blood pressure and vision tests
  • Health literacy and medication counseling
  • Assistance navigating insurance options through the Maryland Health Connection, Maryland’s health insurance marketplace
  • A legal clinic to counsel people who have significant medical debt 

Festival participants will be entertained with music by performers with UMD and local gospel choirs, and have a chance to relax in an atmosphere designed to promote stress relief and healing. 

Research and Training to Advance Health Equity 

While there are other Missions of Mercy that serve the mid-Atlantic region, another unique component of this one co-organized by the University of Maryland is the integration of research, teaching and service to the event. Data collected by researchers from the Maryland Center for Health Equity will help to better understand the health care needs of our region and will provide important information for policymakers to increase access to care. Participants will be able to join a study looking at how to best use text-messaging to promote health and prevent chronic disease.

UMD public health students will gain important experience serving and interacting with community members from diverse backgrounds and with a range of health concerns. 

Mission of Mercy events play an important role in preventing catastrophic health situations for some people.  “While the Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival cannot solve all the problems that drive the lack of access to dental care that people face, we have a moral obligation to do our best to reduce the immediate human suffering while we also work towards a comprehensive policy solution to provide affordable care,” said Dr. Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health. 

All participants will receive dental care and public health education delivered by qualified and dedicated volunteers. The event is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the national health care crisis in our state and nation and hopefully stimulate meaningful policy discussion and change. 

The 2017 Mission of Mercy & Health Equity Festival’s treatment days are September 8 & 10, 7am-5pm at the UMD’s Xfinity Center. For more information, visit www.sph.umd.edu/center/che or https://www.catholiccharitiesdc.org/mom/

 

 

Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought

August 24, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew E. Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A team of astronomers, led by University of Maryland professor James Bauer, has found that there are about seven times more long-period comets measuring at least 1 kilometer across than previously predicted.

Notoriously difficult to study, long-period comets are comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the sun. Because they spend most of their time far from the solar system, many "long-period comets" will never approach the sun in a person's lifetime. In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud—a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 300 billion kilometers away from the sun—can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

Bauer, together with colleagues from the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Planetary Science Institute (PSI)  and eight other institutions, made the discovery using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. The researchers also found that these long-period comets are, on average, nearly twice as big as short-period comets.  Short-period comets have periods of less than 20 years and are also known as "Jupiter family” comets, because their orbits are shaped by Jupiter’s gravity.

The findings were published July 14, 2017, in The Astronomical Journal and reinforce the idea that comets that pass by the sun more frequently tend to be smaller than those spending much more time away from the sun. That is because Jupiter family comets get more sunlight, which causes volatile substances like water to sublimate and drag away other material from the comet’s surface as well.

"The number of comets speaks to the amount of material left over from the solar system's formation," Bauer said. "We now know that there are more relatively large chunks of ancient material coming from the Oort Cloud than we thought."

The Oort Cloud is too distant to be seen by current telescopes, but is thought to be a spherical distribution of small icy bodies at the outermost edge of the solar system. The density of comets within it is low, so the odds of comets colliding within it are low. Long-period comets that WISE observed probably got kicked out of the Oort Cloud millions of years ago. The observations were carried out in 2010 during the spacecraft's primary mission, before it was renamed NEOWISE and reactivated to target near-Earth objects in 2013.

"Our study is a rare look at objects perturbed out of the Oort Cloud," said Amy Mainzer, a co-author of the study based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and principal investigator of the NEOWISE mission. "They are the most pristine examples of what the solar system was like when it formed."

Photo of long comet

Astronomers already had broader estimates of how many long-period and Jupiter family comets are in our solar system, but had no good way of measuring the sizes of long-period comets. This is because the cloud of gas and dust that surrounds each comet—known as a coma—appears hazy in images and obscures the comet’s nucleus.

“These results suggest there are roughly a billion more Oort cloud objects than there are Jupiter Family comets” says Tommy Grav, the second author of the work, based at PSI in Tucson, Arizona.

By using WISE data that shows the infrared glow of the coma, the scientists were able to "subtract" the coma from each comet and estimate the size of the nucleus. The data came from WISE observations of 164 cometary bodies—including 95 Jupiter family comets and 56 long-period comets.

"Our results mean there's an evolutionary difference between Jupiter family and long-period comets," Bauer said.

The existence of so many more long-period comets than predicted suggests that more of them have likely impacted planets, delivering icy materials from the outer reaches of the solar system. Researchers also found clustered orbits among the long-period comets they studied, suggesting there could have been larger bodies that broke apart to form these groups.

The results will be important for assessing the likelihood of comets impacting our solar system's planets, including Earth.

"Comets travel much faster than asteroids, and some of them are very big," Mainzer said. "Studies like this will help us define what kind of hazard long-period comets may pose." 

“With the number of Oort Cloud objects numbering in the trillions,” says Bauer, “ and several times more long-period comets, there are significantly more opportunities than we previously thought to study these time capsules from our early solar system’s formation.” 

 

UMD Recognized Nationally in Sierra Club Sustainability Rankings

August 22, 2017
Contacts: 

Andrew Muir, 301-405-7068

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland improved its overall nationwide sustainability ranking in the recently released Sierra Magazine Cool Schools listing. The university finished No. 33 overall on the list, up from No. 44 in last year’s rankings, and No. 2 out of the Big Ten Conference.

“We are once again honored to be recognized by such an outstanding organization like the Sierra Club for our ongoing campus wide sustainability efforts,” said Scott Lupin, director, Office of Sustainability. “All Terps should be proud of this achievement as we continue to make progress in our Climate Action Plan goals.” 

The Sierra rankings included more than 200 colleges and universities who supplied sustainability data and metrics for reporting. Areas of high performance for UMD included the categories of waste reduction, food, transportation, innovation, and academics. The university also improved in the energy category thanks to ongoing efforts implemented through the President’s Energy Initiatives

The University of Maryland continues to take pride in the campus-wide engagement of staff, students and faculty in developing a culture of sustainability.  The upcoming Sustainability Progress Report set for release this October, will highlight an array of achievements made towards achieving the campus Climate Action Plan goal of carbon neutrality in 2050. 

 

UMD and Bowie State Univ. Launch Training Program to Increase Diversity in Education Research

August 22, 2017
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, 301-405-3468

College Park, MD--The University of Maryland College of Education and Bowie State University received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences to train undergraduate students from underrepresented populations for doctoral study. Designed to increase diversity in education research, students in the Research Institute for Scholars in Education (RISE) training program will receive research mentoring on language and literacy topics from UMD faculty, while receiving academic mentoring from BSU faculty.

The RISE program, led by UMD College of Education Professor Susan De La Paz and BSU College of Education Professor William Drakeford, will include students and faculty from both universities. The undergraduate juniors selected for the program will be from traditionally underrepresented groups, including students who belong to an ethnic or racial minority and/or are low-income, first generation college students, veterans, or students with disabilities. 

“A diverse group of education researchers is important because addressing cultural and linguistic diversity remains a significant challenge for literacy and language scholars,” Dr. De La Paz said. “The goal of this grant is to enhance the pipeline of education scientists by developing the capacity of underrepresented undergraduates to contribute to rigorous scientific research in the field.”

The five-year grant will fund fellowships for up to 48 pre-doctoral fellows. Through the RISE program, the students will work with researchers from four departments within UMD’s College of Education and College of Behavioral & Social Sciences-- Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education (CHSE), Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership (TLPL), Human Development and Quantitative Methodology (HDQM) and Hearing and Speech Sciences (HESP). Fellows will be paired with researchers who study language and literacy issues for a wide range of student groups, including those who are culturally or linguistically diverse, students who have learning disabilities, are English learners, or have speech, language, or hearing impairments. The research will focus on the needs of students who range from preschool to high school age or who are adults.

Fellows will attend an eight-week summer and two-week winter research seminar, participate in two semester-long research opportunities and receive academic mentorship from BSU faculty and peer mentorship from graduate students on either campus. 

Susan De La Paz is a faculty member in the UMD College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education. William Drakeford, RISE project lead at BSU, is a faculty member in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching, Learning and Professional Development. 

The grant award is funded through the Institute of Education’s Pathways to the Education Sciences Research Training Program.

 

UMD Announces Updates to Fan Code of Conduct and Prohibited Items & Behavior Policies to Enhance Fan Safety

August 18, 2017
Contacts: 

Zack Bolno, 301-314-1482

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has adopted a series of changes to the university’s “Fan Code of Conduct” and “Prohibited Items & Behavior” policies to enhance fan safety during sporting events. Following a recommendation from the university's Athletic Council, the changes strengthen and clarify the existing policies, and affirm the university’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect.

"We engaged in a comprehensive review of our policies as a reflection of our campus’ ongoing work to combat hate and create a safer campus,” said Kevin Anderson, Director of Athletics. “We are incredibly proud of the positive and supportive behavior that fans of the Maryland Terrapins exhibit, and believe these proactive changes to our policy will ultimately benefit the fan experience for all.”

“The Athletic Council felt strongly that our policies against items and behavior designed to intimidate our fans should be as clear and specific as possible to allow our fans to feel both physically and emotionally safe at our events. We are pleased that our recommendations have been accepted and put into effect,” according to a joint statement from the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Athletic Council.

Changes to the “Fan Code of Conduct” emphasize the university's commitment to creating a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience not only for fans of all ages, but for student-athletes, coaches and officials; and the importance of that experience both in the athletic venue and across the entire campus. The changes also clarify that fighting, as well as obscene, profane or abusive language or behavior can result in ejection from games.

While intimidating items and actions have already been banned from athletic events, the revised “Prohibited Items & Behavior” language is intended to strengthen the policy. Several items were added to the policy’s prohibited list, including facsimile weapons and flammables of any kind. The changes also reflect clarity in prohibited signage, apparel or other items that display, depict or represent recognizable symbols and/or words that incite, intimidate, or threaten members of the UMD community, specifying both nooses and swastikas in the new policy.

The new policies can be found here: http://www.umterps.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=29700&ATCLID=211662019

 

UMD's Colwell Awarded 2017 International Prize for Biology

August 18, 2017
Contacts: 

Lee Tune, 301-405-4679
Tom Ventsias, 301-405-5933

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Rita Colwell, a Distinguished University Professor in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), has been named the 2017 laureate of the International Prize for Biology for her outstanding contributions to marine microbiology, bioinformatics and the understanding and prevention of cholera.

Photo of UMD Professor Rita ColwellColwell is the 33rd recipient of the International Prize for Biology, generally recognized as one of the most prestigious honors a natural scientist can receive. Past laureates include other renowned biologists, such as John B. Gurdon, Motoo Kimura, Edward O. Wilson, Ernst Mayr and Thomas Cavalier-Smith.

In awarding the prize, Japan’s Society for the Promotion of Science honored Colwell as a pioneer in the use of computational tools and DNA sequencing to identify and classify marine bacteria and other microorganisms, work that helped lay the foundation for the bioinformatics revolution.

The prize also recognizes Colwell’s life-saving contributions to the understanding and prevention of cholera, an acute diarrheal disease, caused by ingestion of water or food contaminated with Vibrio cholera, which according to the World Health Organization is responsible for approximately 1 to 4 million illnesses and 20,000 to 140,000 deaths each year.

Colwell, whose career bridges the disciplines of microbiology, ecology, infectious disease, public health and computer and satellite technology, continues to be a leader in bioinformatics, notably in understanding microbiomes and the application of this knowledge to human health and the diagnosis and treatment of disease. This includes her current work as founder and chairman of CosmosID, Inc., a microbial genomics company focused on molecular diagnostics of human pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be named recipient of the International Prize for Biology, a very special honor for a biologist,” said Colwell. “I am deeply grateful to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for this award. I have many friends and colleagues in Japan and look forward to continuing my many collaborations with them.”

The selection committee also cited Colwell's transformational work in these areas:

  • Establishing the taxonomy of vibrio bacteria, which includes Vibrio cholerae.
  • Identifying a previously unknown survival strategy of dormant vibrio cells, which the committee said "has had a profound influence on microbiology and medicine.”
  • Showing how climate change has expanded the habitat range of vibrios, and the occurrence of cholera.
  • Helping prevent the spread of cholera in developing countries by discovering and demonstrating an effective way to use the sari, the traditional dress of women on the Indian subcontinent, as a filter to remove vibrio-carrying plankton from drinking water drawn from ponds, rivers and other surface waters.

There is no Nobel Prize for biology, but Japan’s International Prize for Biology is one of three prizes often considered to be biology’s equivalent. The other two honors often placed in this category are the Balzan Prize and Crafoord Prize.

"We are extremely proud of Dr. Colwell's indelible impact on the field of biology and, more importantly, on human lives," said UMD Interim Vice President for Research Amitabh Varshney. "We applaud her fearless pursuit of translational research and life-saving solutions to global health challenges."

The International Prize for Biology was instituted in April 1985 by the Committee on the International Prize for Biology. The prize, consisting of a certificate, a medal and an award of 10-million yen (more than $90,000) is given to the recipient, along with an imperial gift, a silver vase bearing the imperial crest. The award presentation ceremony and a subsequent reception in honor of Colwell will held in late 2017 at the Japan Academy.

Since 2004 Colwell has been a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is chairman emeritus at Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. She holds a dozen U.S. patents, most involving computational biology.

Colwell has received many awards and recognitions, including the 2017 Vannevar Bush Award given by the U.S. National Science Board; the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded by the King of Sweden; the 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the president of the United States; and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star bestowed by the Emperor of Japan. She is the recipient of  61 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education and has a geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, named in recognition of her work in the polar regions.

Colwell was the 11th director of the National Science Foundation and the first woman to head the agency. She also co-chaired the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council.  She has held numerous advisory positions in the U.S. government, nonprofit science policy organizations, and private foundations and has authored or co-authored 19 books and more than 800 scientific publications.

Colwell also has 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, Royal Society of Canada, Royal Irish Academy, Bangladesh Academy of Science, Indian Academy of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of Inventors.  

 

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October 19
Artist Sanford Biggers to keynote and participate in conversations during annual event at the Phillips. Read
October 18
Thursday, October 19, marks the 60th anniversary of Her Royal Highness The Queen of England’s visit to the University... Read
October 18
Homecoming activities and events designed to demonstrate spirit, build tradition, instill pride and offer fun for... Read
October 18
Team Maryland takes Silver at the 2017 Solar Decathlon. Read