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University of Maryland, Governor Hogan, Announce New Center to Advance Workforce Readiness for Youth with Disabilities

July 30, 2018
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, MD—The University of Maryland, together with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, today announced a new center at UMD designed to improve college and career outcomes for students and youth with disabilities. 

Group photo of Hogan, Jennifer Rice, Carol Beatty, Ellen Fabian and RIchard LueckingThe Center for Transition and Career Innovation (CTCI), housed in the University of Maryland College of Education, will foster partnerships among university faculty and local, state and national agencies and organizations to promote research, improvements in practice, and supportive governmental policies that advance workforce readiness for youth with disabilities. 

Governor Larry Hogan made the announcement at an event in Annapolis today honoring the 28th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act, organized by the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD). He was joined by MDOD Secretary Carol A. Beatty, representatives of Maryland state agencies, University of Maryland College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice, disability advocates, local business owners, and members of the community.

“The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 28 years ago was a critical step forward to expanding opportunities and equal access to employment, communication, transportation, and quality of life for our citizens with disabilities,” said Governor Hogan. “Under our administration, Maryland is an ‘Employment First State,’ which means that everyone – including those with significant disabilities – can join our workforce. Maryland is committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities, and this new initiative at UMD will help increase employment and promote economic self-sufficiency for young people with disabilities.”

“The launch of the UMD Center for Transition and Career Innovation is an opportunity for the state and the University of Maryland to collaborate on identifying and implementing best practices in career and education to improve the lives of youth with disabilities,” said UMD College of Education Dean Rice. “Bringing this important work together under one center provides benefits to the state, the university, the field – and most importantly, promotes meaningful work and academic opportunities for youth with disabilities.”

The center, co-directed by University of Maryland College of Education researchers Ellen S. Fabian and Richard Luecking, will house existing programs that prepare youth with disabilities for college and careers that are funded by the state of Maryland, as well as by federal agencies, and develop new initiatives to improve outcomes for people with disabilities. The major goals of CTCI include:

  • Partner with Maryland government agencies to develop a comprehensive database on transition services for students with disabilities. The database will enable high-quality research on service patterns and student outcomes, which will spur recommendations to improve post-school outcomes for students with disabilities in Maryland schools.
  • Position UMD and the state of Maryland as leaders in transition practices and policy by conducting ongoing research and evaluation to determine how, when, and under what circumstances students and youth with disabilities achieve successful careers.  
  • Through strategic partnerships with Maryland government agencies, build an infrastructure within the UMD College of Education to identify and respond to state and national needs in developing and implementing evidence-based practices for students with disabilities. In collaboration with MDOD, the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services and Division of Special Education and Early Intervention Services, develop recommendations for policy and system reforms that improve outcomes. 

The ongoing collaboration between the University of Maryland and the state of Maryland on projects that help youth with disabilities access career or college opportunities reflect the importance of providing services during the transition into adulthood.

“The state of Maryland is poised to serve as a national leader in implementing solutions for youth with disabilities that help them achieve a better quality of life,” Secretary Beatty said. “For students with disabilities, the transition from school to employment and adult life is a critical time period, which is why career preparation and transition services are a priority for ensuring that youth with disabilities achieve successful employment.”

 


Photo (from l to r): UMD Center for Transition and Career Innovation Co-Director Richard Luecking, UMD College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland Department of Disabilities Secretary Carol A. Beatty, Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent for the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services

 

Advance Could Yield Safer, Longer-Range Electric Car Batteries

July 26, 2018
Contacts: 

Martha J Heil, 626-354-5613
Leon Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A team of researchers from the University of Maryland, the Army Research Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory (U.S. Department of Energy) has published findings on a new advanced battery technology that among its many possible applications has the potential to improve electric vehicle batteries in two key areas: driving range and battery safety.

Battery

The UMD-led team has created a reliable battery with significantly higher energy storage capacity, more efficiency and greater safety than current batteries. Their peer-reviewed paper on the research was published July 16 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The driving range of an electric vehicle is directly proportional to the capacity, or energy density, of its batteries. Energy density is a battery’s energy output by unit weight. A battery technology that can safely deliver high energy density is widely seen as the Holy Grail for electric vehicle batteries.

To create their new battery, the UMD-led team started with an electrode material, Li-metal, which in theory can deliver the highest possible energy density. However, Li metal is  extremely reactive. To stabilize this potent battery material, the team used a “secret” ingredient the element fluorine to create a safe electrolyte. The electrolyte is the solution in a battery that allows electricity in the form of electrons to flow between the two battery terminals (electrodes).  

Using this safe, stabilizing electrolyte, allowed the researchers to use Li metal, coupled with other highly-reactive electrodes, to generate energy densities that far exceed that of current state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries. The researchers say the use of fluorine in the electrolyte, prevents the formation of small defects in the battery that could cause it to break down or catch fire, also makes the electrolyte completely non-flammable as well.

“We have created a fluorine-based electrolyte to enable a lithium-metal anode, which is otherwise known to be notoriously unstable, and demonstrated a battery that lasts up to a thousand cycles with high capacity,” said co-first authors Xuilin Fan and Long Chen, post-doctoral researchers at the University of Maryland.

The new batteries can thus charge and discharge many times over without losing the ability to provide a reliable and high quality stream of energy. Even after a thousand charge cycles, the fluorine enhanced electrolytes ensured 93 percent of battery capacity. This unprecedented technology could reliably power electric vehicles or be used for many other applications such as smartphones, power tools or large format batteries for grid-storage, the researchers say.

“The cycle lives [recharging ability] they achieved with the given electrode materials and operation voltage windows sound ‘unprecedented’. This work is a [sic] great progress forward in the battery field in the direction of increasing the energy density, although further tuning might be needed to meet various standards for commercialization,” said Jang Wook Choi, an independent battery expert who is an associate professor in chemical and biological engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea. Choi was not involved with this research.

UMD researchers Long Chen and Xiulin Fan

The team demonstrated the new batteries in coin-cell shape like a watch battery for testing, and is working with industry partners to use their approach for a high voltage battery.

Materials, such as Li-metal anode and high nickel and high-voltage cathode materials, used in this new battery are called “aggressive” materials because they react strongly with other material, meaning that they can hold a lot of energy but also tend to “eat up” any other elements they’re partnered with, eventually rendering them unusable.

 

Chunsheng Wang, a professor in the Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Department of the University of Maryland in College Park, has collaborated with Kang Xu at ARL and Khalil Amine at ANL on these new electrolyte materials for batteries. Since each element on the periodic table has a different arrangement of electrons, Wang studies how each permutation of chemical structure can be an advantage or disadvantage in a battery. He and Xu also head up an industry-university- government collaborative effort called the Center for Research in Extreme Batteries, which aims to unite companies that need batteries for unusual uses with the researchers who can invent them.

 

“The aim of the research was to overcome the capacity limitation that lithium-ion batteries experience. We identified that fluorine is the key ingredient that ensures these aggressive chemistries behave reversibly to yield long battery life. An additional merit of fluorine is that it makes the usually combustible electrolytes completely unable to catch on fire,” said Wang.

 

The team captured video of other battery cells catching on fire instantly, but their fluorine battery was impervious to this problem.

 

“You can find evidences from literature that either support or disapprove fluorine as good ingredient in interphases,” said Kang Xu, a laboratory fellow and team leader of the research at the Army Research Laboratory.

 

“What we learned in this work is that, in most cases it is not just what chemical ingredients you have in the interphase, but how they are arranged and distributed.” “We believe these fluorinated interphases serve as the key stabilization barriers to enable these aggressive electrode materials,” Xu said in an email.

 

This work was supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE) under award no. DEEE0008202 and DEEE0008200, and by UMD’s Maryland NanoCenter and its Advanced Imaging and Microscopy (AIM) Lab. 

 

Photo: Co-first-authors Long Chen (L) and Xiulin Fan (R) hold their newly-created rechargeable battery made with fluorine, a long-lasting and safe combination. Photo credit: University of Maryland       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

UMD Researchers Awarded $1.5 Million NSF Grant to Bridge Gap between Microelectronics, Biological Systems

July 24, 2018
Contacts: 

Alyssa Wolice, 301-405-3936
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, MD. – Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) are working to create first-of-a-kind microelectronic devices that can communicate with biological systems in ways that could have revolutionary impacts on the design of electronic devices and computing systems and on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. 

“Devices that freely exchange information between the electronic and biological worlds would represent a completely new societal paradigm,” said William E. Bentley, UMD Fischell Department of Bioengineering professor, director of UMD’s Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices and the project’s principal investigator. “It has only been about 60 years since the implantable pacemaker and defibrillator proved what devices could achieve by electronically stimulating ion currents. Imagine what we could do by transferring all the knowledge contained in our molecular space, by tapping into and controlling molecules such as glucose, hormones, DNA, proteins, or polysaccharides in addition to ions.”

The past two decades have produced many advances in microelectronics and in synthetic biology, which can be defined as the use of electrical engineering principles to design and build into living cells the ability to perceive and process information as well as perform desired functions. But, despite these advances, there remains a basic technology gap between microelectronics and the biological world. As a result, today’s consumers cannot yet turn to their smartphones to uncover information about an infection or illness affecting their body, nor can they use them to signal a device to administer an antibiotic or drug. 

Microelectronics are based on the generation and flow of free electrons through materials such as silicon, gold, or chemicals. However, because free electrons do not exist in biological systems, scientists face a major roadblock in bridging the gap between these different systems. 

But, Bentley and his team have found a loophole.

In

In biological systems, there is a small class of molecules capable of shuttling electrons. These molecules, known as “redox” molecules, can transport electrons to any location. But, redox molecules must first undergo a series of chemical reactions – oxidation or reduction reactions – to transport electrons to the intended target.

By engineering cells with synthetic biology components, the research team has experimentally demonstrated a proof-of-concept device enabling robust and reliable information exchange between electrical and biological (molecular) domains. 

Even more, the research group is now working to develop a novel biological memory device that can be written to and read from via either biological and/or electronic means. Such a device would function like a thumb drive or SD card, using molecular signals to store key information and requiring almost no energy. Inside the body, these devices would serve the same purpose – except, instead of merely storing data, they could be used to control certain biological functions.

“For years, microelectronic circuits have had limited capabilities in maximizing their computing and storage capacities, mainly due to the physical constraints that the building-block inorganic materials – such as silicon – imposed upon them,” said UMD team member Reza Ghodssi,  the Herbert Rabin Distinguished Chair in Engineering, with affiliations in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research. “By exploring and utilizing the world of biology through an integrated and robust interface technology with the semiconductor processing, we expect to address those limitations by allowing our researchers and students to design and develop first-of-kind innovative and powerful bioelectronic devices and systems.”

In addition to Bentley and Ghodssi, other team members include UMD Professor Gregory Payne, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research; Assistant Professor Massimiliano Pierobon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and Biotechnology Scientist Jessica Terrell, U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

The research team will work to integrate subsystems and create biohybrid circuits to develop an electronically controlled device for the body that interprets molecular information, computes desired outcomes, and electronically actuates cells, allowing external signaling and control of biological populations. The group’s hope is that such a system, for example, could seek out and destroy a bacterial pathogen by recognizing the pathogen’s secreted signaling molecules and synthesizing a toxin specific to that pathogen. Through this work, the group will, for the first time, explore electronic control of complex biological behaviors.

The SemiSynBio program, a partnership between the NSF and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), seeks to lay the groundwork for future information storage systems at the intersection of biology, physics, chemistry, computer science, materials science and engineering. The program builds on many years of NSF support for basic research in synthetic biology.

This year’s SemiSynBio awards address a range of potential applications, including storing data by using DNA, automating the design of genetic circuits, creating bioelectronics and exploring methods for molecular communication.Bentley’s group is one of eight new SemiSynBio projects to receive awards this year. Additional information is available online.

According to Bentley, the new NSF SemiSynBio grant will allow the UMD-led team to continue advancing work done with the support of a Defense Threat Reduction Agency grant, a NSF Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future grant, and a National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) grant.

UMD Assistant Professor Awarded $1.1 Million to Mitigate Rising Sea-level and Saltwater Intrusion along Maryland Eastern Shore

July 23, 2018
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters, 301-405-2434
Leon Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md.--  Katherine Tully, Ph.D., assistant professor of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland, was recently awarded $1.1 million by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to further her research on sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion on Maryland's Eastern Shore. 

Flooded corn fieldSaltwater intrusion reduces soil quality and crop productivity, and increases pollution of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into local waterways around the Chesapeake Bay. Tully’s research combines crop research, wetland ecology, geological and chemical analyses, and economic modeling to determine what crop management strategies work in saltier environments and to identify practical applications that will be the most cost effective and profitable to farmers, while also protecting the environment. 

“The first European colonies were established in the Chesapeake Bay region, making this home to some America’s first farmlands. Sadly, some of the farms losing land to sea level rise date back to the 1630s,” explains Tully, assistant professor in UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “In some places, tidal marshes are not just taking over fields, but creating ghost towns. It is another side effect of our changing climate and a threat to our agricultural industry and the viability of farming in this area.” 

The research will be conducted through a variety of field trials and greenhouse experiments that will help determine what crops can survive and are productive in the new saltier environment. Trade-off analysis will be conducted to determine the best options for farmers economically, while also protecting the environment and the Bay from added nutrient runoff. Tully's multi-disciplinary team of collaborators includes Dr. Keryn Gedan (George Washington University), Dr. Jarrod Miller (University of Delaware), and Dr. Rebecca Epanchin-Niell (Resources for the Future).  

“Our long-term goal is the development of agroecosystems that are resilient in the face of rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion,” says Tully. “But this project is unique in that it combines many different disciplines and takes research directly into practical application and education for the farming community. Once we determine what the most cost effective strategies are, we will be sharing our results with farmers and extension agents to directly improve environmental and economic outcomes.” 

The project’s outreach initiatives will include webinars, the creation of educational materials, and train-the-trainer sessions to help ensure that the information is distributed as widely as possible. 

“We are very excited about this project and the opportunity to expand it further,” says Tully. “It supports the College’s goals to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, advance agricultural production and farm viability, and promote environmental health and awareness in the face of a changing climate.”

 

Detection of Single ‘Ghost Particle’ Yields Solution of Decade-Old Cosmic Ray Mystery

July 17, 2018
Contacts: 

Leon Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- An international team of scientists, with key contributions from researchers at the University of Maryland, for the first time have pinpointed a supermassive black hole as the source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos—ghostly subatomic particles that are among the most abundant known particles in the universe and among the hardest to detect.

Artist rendering of IceCube Lab at the South Pole shows a distant source emits neutrinos that are detected below the ice by IceCube sensors

For more than 100 years scientists have been searching for the source of cosmic rays, high energy charged particles (atoms) that move through space at nearly the speed of light.  Within cosmic rays there also are neutrinos and other subatomic particles, thus the new finding points at supermassive black holes, called blazars, as generators of neutrinos and cosmic rays.

The finding began with the detection of a single neutrino flashing through the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a sophisticated array of sensors suspended in the ice thousands of feet deep at the South Pole. The observatory is equipped with a nearly real-time alert system—developed with leadership by UMD scientists—that on Sept. 22, 2017, notified ground- and space-based telescopes around the globe capable of detecting different “messenger” signals: electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves, neutrinos, and cosmic rays. The coordinated observation and interpretation of data from these different telescopes indicated the source of that neutrino was a blazar, designated TXS 0506+056 by astronomers. 

“This result really highlights the importance of taking a multimessenger approach to these searches,” said Erik Blaufuss, a research scientist in the UMD Department of Physics who led the effort over the past several years to create and deploy IceCube’s high-energy event alert system. “Any one observation made alone would likely not have let us piece together what is actually going on inside this source.”

Work on the IceCube alert system by Blaufuss, astrophysicist Gregory Sullivan and other UMD researchers, is part of a long history of Maryland neutrino science that also includes the design of the IceCube data collection system and its software—called IceTray.

The findings that resulted from the coordinated observations of many different observatories were published in two papers in the July 13 issue of the journal Science.

“The era of multimessenger astrophysics is here,” said France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, which funds the  IceCube Neutrino Observatory. “Each messenger—from electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and now neutrinos—gives us a more complete understanding of the universe, and important new insights into the most powerful objects and events in the sky.” 

Detecting the highest energy neutrinos requires a massive particle detector, and IceCube is the world’s largest by volume. Encompassing a cubic kilometer of deep, pristine ice a mile beneath the surface at the South Pole, the detector is composed of more than 5,000 light sensors arranged in a grid. When a neutrino interacts with the nucleus of an atom, it creates a secondary charged particle, which, in turn, produces a characteristic cone of blue light that is detected by IceCube and mapped through the detector’s grid of sensitive cameras. Because a charged particle and the light it creates stay essentially true to the neutrino’s direction, they give scientists a path to follow back to the source.

Following the Sept. 22 detection, the IceCube team quickly scoured the detector’s archival data and discovered a flare of more than a dozen astrophysical neutrinos detected in late 2014 and early 2015, coincident with the same blazar, TXS 0506+056. This independent observation greatly strengthens the initial detection of a single high-energy neutrino and adds to a growing body of data that indicates TXS 0506+056 is the first known accelerator of the highest energy neutrinos and cosmic rays.

The IceCube Collaboration, with more than 300 scientists from 49 institutions around the world, runs an extensive scientific program that has established the foundations of neutrino astronomy. Their research efforts, including critical contributions to the detector operation, are funded by agencies in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is funded primarily by the U.S. National Science Foundation and is operated by a team headquartered at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. IceCube construction was also funded with significant contributions from the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS & FWO) in Belgium; the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG) in Germany; the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and the Swedish Research Council in Sweden; and the Department of Energy and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Research Fund in the U.S.

Photo: In this artistic rendering, based on a real image of the IceCube Lab at the South Pole, a distant source emits neutrinos that are detected below the ice by IceCube sensors. Photo credit: IceCube/NSF .

 

 

 

 

Semiconductor Quantum Transistor Opens Door for Photon-Based Computing

July 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The highly anticipated quantum science-based revolution in information technology requires the development of groundbreaking hardware comparable in function to the transistors used in today’s computers. Researchers at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) have cleared a hurdle in the development of such quantum-compatible hardware with their demonstration of the first single-photon transistor using a semiconductor chip. 

Transistors are tiny switches that are the foundation of modern computing. Billions of them route electrical signals around inside the computers that power our smartphones, tablets and other devices. Quantum computers will need analogous hardware to manipulate quantum information. But the design constraints for this new information technology are stringent, and today’s most advanced processors can’t be repurposed as quantum devices. That’s because quantum information carriers, dubbed qubits, have to follow the radically different rules laid out by quantum physics. 

Scientists can use many kinds of quantum particles as qubits, even the photons that make up light. Photons have added appeal because they can swiftly shuttle information over long distances, and they are compatible with fabricated chips. However, making a quantum transistor triggered by light has been challenging because it requires that the photons interact with each other, something that doesn’t ordinarily happen. 

The Maryland research team headed by Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, JQI Fellow, and Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics Affiliate Edo Waks—has used a quantum memory to make photons interact, creating the first single-photon transistor made from a semiconductor.  

The device has numerous holes in it, making it appear much like a honeycomb. Light entering the chip bounces around and gets trapped by the hole pattern. A small crystal sits inside the area where the light intensity is strongest, and, analogous to conventional computer memory, this crystal stores information about photons as they enter the device. It can then effectively tap into that memory to mediate interactions with other photons that later arrive at the chip.

The team observed that a single photon could, by interacting with the crystal, control the transmission of a second light pulse through the device. The first light pulse acts like a key, opening the door for the second photon to enter the chip. If the first pulse didn’t contain any photons, the crystal blocked subsequent photons from getting through. This behavior is similar to a conventional transistor where a small voltage controls the passage of current through its terminals. Here, the researchers successfully replaced the voltage with a single photon and demonstrated that their quantum transistor could switch a light pulse containing around 30 photons before the device’s memory ran out.

“Using our transistor, we should be able to perform quantum gates between photons,” says Waks. “Software running on a quantum computer would use a series of such operations to attain exponential speedup for certain computational problems.

Their device, described in the July 6 issue of Science, is compact; roughly one million of these new transistors could fit inside a single grain of salt. It is also fast and able to process 10 billion photonic qubits every second.

With realistic engineering improvements their approach could allow many quantum light transistors to be linked together, according to lead author Shuo Sun, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University who was a UMD grad student at the time of the research. The team hopes that such speedy, highly connected devices will eventually lead to compact quantum computers that process large numbers of photonic qubits, .

The University of Maryland (UMD) is home to one of the world’s top quantum science and technology communities, with over 200 quantum researchers on-site. UMD’s quantum science & tech partnerships and startups include:

  • the Joint Quantum Institute, (UMD the National Institute of Standards and Technology), is based on UMD’s campus and dedicated to the broad study of quantum science from theory to experiment;
  • the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS) is a UMD-NIST initiative working to understand and enable the full promise of quantum computation, including providing quantum software to go with the quantum hardware;
  • the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Center for Distributed Quantum Information—primary academic partners, the University of Maryland, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin, and University of Innsbruck—is developing quantum communication capabilities based on interfaces between quantum memory and photons;
  • IonQ, a quantum computing startup co-founded by UMD/JQI quantum scientist Christopher Monroe, UMD Bice Zorn Professor of Physics and Distinguished University Professor. Monroe also has played a leading role in creating the blueprint for a National Quantum Initiative

This work was supported by the Physics Frontier Center at the Joint Quantum Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Center for Distributed Quantum Information.

Image: Researchers used a single photon, stored in a quantum memory, to toggle the state of other photons. (Image credit: E. Edwards/JQI)

 

University of Maryland Statement on College Basketball Inquiry - July 6, 2018

July 6, 2018

Statement from the University of Maryland: 

On March 15, 2018 and June 29, 2018, the University received grand jury subpoenas for documents related to the ongoing federal investigation of college basketball. The University complied with the subpoenas by providing responsive records. None of the responsive records shows evidence of any violations of applicable laws or NCAA bylaws by University coaches, staff or players. 

The University has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing federal investigation.

To Nap or Not? UMD Researcher Studies Impact of Sleep on Memory in Pre-Schoolers

July 2, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- While many parents hope their children continue to take daily naps for as long as possible, new University of Maryland-led research aims to determine just how important napping is during the formative preschool years. The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation awarded researchers more than $1 million to examine the role of sleep on brain development and memory in children ages 3 to 5, when they typically begin transitioning out of naps. 

Napping child“Although research shows naps clearly benefit learning and memory in young children, it’s still unclear why naps are important and how they are related to development of memory-related brain structures,” explained Tracy Riggins, an Associate Professor of Psychology at UMD who is leading the study. “There is somewhat of a debate regarding whether naps should be encouraged in preschool or eliminated to provide more time for early learning. Currently, there are no formal recommendations from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, but we hope our research will help provide the basis for more informed decisions regarding naps for parents, educators and doctors in the future.”

Riggins, in collaboration with Rebecca Spencer, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will study whether the hippocampus—a part of the brain critical for formation of new memories—can retain more information as a child matures, reducing the need for periods of memory consolidation during sleep. 

For their study, researchers plan to recruit 100 4-year-olds, some of whom are non-nappers and some of whom are habitual nappers. They will observe the children napping or remaining awake during their normal naptimes in their homes. The research team will record brainwaves and muscle activity during naps to assess sleep quality and will ask the children to participate in memory games such as remembering pictures and stories. Children will also visit the University of Maryland for an MRI brain scan, which will allow researchers to examine memory-related brain structures, like the hippocampus, known to be critical for memory in adults. 

“Our study will be the first to combine measures of memory ability, sleep physiology and brain development in preschool children,” Riggins said. “Ultimately, we hope to better understand how sleep—napping, specifically—may be related to improvements in memory and the maturation of memory-related brain circuitry during these important early childhood years, when a child is learning and growing at an astonishing pace.” 

The researchers plan to follow the participants for one year in order to track changes in each child’s memory, nap status and brain development.  Parents with preschoolers who may be interested in participating should contact Dr. Riggins’ lab at KidBrainStudy@umd.edu for more information. 

 

 

University of Maryland Recognized as Top University for International Students

June 28, 2018
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- In a new listing out this year by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Maryland has been named one of the top schools in the country for international students. 

Beginning with the national universities included in its Best Colleges ranking, where UMD is listed at No. 61 nationally, U.S. News reviewed 16 different criteria together for the first time to determine which schools have had proven success supporting the needs of international students through graduation. Criteria factors include a special international student orientation, international student organizations, need based and merit aid for international students and several others. 

At the University of Maryland, International Student & Scholar Services exists to assist international students with transitioning to the U.S., advising on immigration requirements, and making the most of their academic experience at UMD. Designated advisors, an international spouses organization and international coffee hour gatherings also contribute to the university’s commitment to international students.  

The full Top Universities for International Students list and methodology are here: www.usnewsglobaleducation.com/downloads/TopUniversities2018.pdf 

 

University of Maryland, City of College Park to Host Fourth of July Celebration

June 28, 2018
Contacts: 

Ryna Quinones, 240-487-3508

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and the City of College Park will host its annual Independence Day celebration on Wednesday, July 4 from 5 to 10 p.m. at the University of Maryland, Lot 1 (adjacent to Campus Drive off Adelphi Road). The celebration will include a free concert by The Nightlife Band followed by a 30-40 minute fireworks show.  Food will also be available for purchase. 

Schedule of activities include:

  • Concessions open at 5 p.m.
  • Entertainment begins at 7 p.m.
  • Fireworks start at 9 p.m.

Grass seating is limited. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Personal coolers are also allowed. 

In the event of inclement weather, the fireworks show will be held on Thursday, July 5 at 9 p.m. For more information, click here

 

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