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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012
Contacts: 

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618 crystalb@umd.edu

College Park, Md. – Today, the University of Maryland launched a brand-new multimedia news and information portal, UMD Right Now, which provides members of the media and the public with real-time information on the university and its extended community.

UMD Right Now replaces Newsdesk, which previously served as the university’s news hub and central resource for members of the media. The new site is aimed at reaching broader audiences and allows visitors to keep up with the latest Maryland news and events, view photos and videos and connect with the university across all of its social media platforms.

“We designed UMD Right Now to be a comprehensive, vibrant site where visitors can find new and exciting things happening at Maryland,” said Linda Martin, executive director, Web and New Media Strategies. “Through social media, video, photos and news information, we hope to engage visitors and compel the community to explore all that Maryland has to offer.”

The new website, umdrightnow.umd.edu, contains up-to-date news releases and announcements, facts and figures about the university, a searchable database of faculty and staff experts, information highlighting innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, additional resources for news media and other campus and athletics news.

“UMD RightNow is the place to go to find out all the things happening on and around campus on any given day,” said Crystal Brown, chief communications officer. “This website brings real-time news, events and information right to your fingertips.”

For more information and contact information for the Office of University Communications, please visit umdrightnow.umd.edu.

UMD Recognized in EPA'S 2014-2015 College & University Challenge

May 5, 2015
Contacts: 

Julie Kromkowski 301-405-3209
MaryAnn Ibeziako 301-314-0474

UMD honored alongside Big Ten schools as Collective Conference Champion for green power use 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been recognized as one of six schools in the Big Ten conference to be honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as 2014-2015 Collective Conference Champions for using green power. The Collective Conference Champions Award recognizes the conference, and its respective participating schools, whose collective green power use was the largest among all participating conferences.

Since April 2006, EPA’s Green Power Partnership has tracked the collegiate conferences with the highest combined green power use in the nation. UMD’s use of more than 25 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power, which is the equivalent to the electricity use of more than 2,000 average American homes annually, helped contribute to the winning conference effort. The Big Ten’s collective green power use of more than 375 million kWh is equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 36,000 average American homes.

UMD generates green power from an on-site renewable energy system using solar resources, which demonstrates a proactive choice to switch away from traditional sources of electricity generation and support clear renewable energy alternatives. In addition, UMD plans to purchase a combination of power purchase agreements, renewable energy certificates (RECs), and a utility green power product from Constellation NewEnergy, Pinnacle Wind, Roth Rock North Wind Farm, and WGL Energy. 

"The EPA applauds the University of Maryland as part of the Big Ten Conference in the College and University Green Power Challenge," said James Critchfield, Program Director of EPA's Green Power Partnership. "By choosing to use green power, UMD is cutting its carbon footprint and setting an example for others to follow."

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use.  For additional information, please visit http://www.epa.gov/greenpower.

For more information about ongoing UMD energy conservation efforts, visit http://sustainability.umd.edu/content/campus/energy.php

For Batteries, One Material Does It All

May 1, 2015
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Revolutionary material made by UMD engineers could create safer, simpler and more efficient batteries

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  - Engineers at the University of Maryland have created a battery that is made entirely out of one material, which can both move electricity and store it.

“To my knowledge, there has never been any similar work reported,” said Dr. Kang Xu of the Army Research Laboratory, a researcher only peripherally related to the study. “It could lead to revolutionary progress in area of solid state batteries.”

A battery made of all one material created by engineers at UMD. The electrolyte (green) forms the basis of the battery, and the electrodes at top and bottom are created by adding carbon (gray). This solid state battery is forty times thicker than current examples, which are made with thin films. Credit: Maryland NanoCenter

Envision an Oreo cookie. Most batteries have at either end a layer of material for the electrodes like the chocolate cookies to help move ions though the creamy frosting – the electrolyte. Chunsheng Wang, a professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and his team have made a single material that incorporates the properties of both the electrodes and electrolyte – the crunchy cookie and the smooth center. 

“Our battery is 600 microns thick, about the size of a dime, whereas conventional solid state batteries are thin films -- forty times thinner. This means that more energy can be stored in our battery,” said Fudong Han, the first author of the paper and a graduate student in Wang’s group. 

The new material consists of a mix of sulfur, germanium, phosphorus and lithium. This compound is used as the ion-moving electrolyte. At each end, the scientists added carbon to this electrolyte to form electrodes that push the ions back and forth through the electrolyte as the battery charges and discharges. Like a little bit more sugar added at each end of a cookie-cream mixture, the carbon merely helps draw the electricity from side to side through the material. 

UMD Engineers made a battery of all one material simply by sprinkling carbon (red) into each side of a new material (blue) that forms the electrolyte and both electrodes at the ends of the battery. Credit: Maryland NanoCenter

Though the battery is extremely easy to make – a powder compressed in a plastic and steel cylinder – it is still at the proof-of-concept stage, Han said. “We are still testing how many times it can change and discharge electricity to see if it is a real candidate for manufacturing.”

The reason the new battery is revolutionary is because it solves the problem of what happens at the interface between the electrolyte and the electrode. A prolonged interaction between the two can result in a wall of useless material that keeps the batteries from working well. The wall increases the resistance at this solid-electrolyte interface.  This in turn increases the heat in the battery, rendering the battery even less useful.

Because Han and Wang’s battery is all one material, energy can flow through without a lot of resistance.  This means that the battery easily charges up and discharges smoothly.

Sulfide-based compounds are not particularly environmentally friendly materials, Han said. “So next we will try to use oxides, which do not degrade into a poisonous gas,” instead. The battery’s solid powder is, however, safer than the current liquid-based batteries. 

The research was done as part of the Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES) project from the Department of Energy, and is also funded by the National Science Foundation. 

The work was published on April 29, 2015 in the journal Advanced Materials.

UMD MakerBot Innovation Center: Fostering Entrepreneurship

May 1, 2015

On April 23, UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering launched its MakerBot Innovation Center, the first center of its kind in the Baltimore-Washington region and the sixth university-based MakerBot Innovation Center in the world. Learn more: http://go.umd.edu/Zjf

Emissions from Natural Gas Wells May Travel Far Downwind

April 30, 2015
Contacts: 

Faye Levine 301-405-0379
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

New UMD study sees steep rise in ethane accompanying the rise in fracking

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Emissions linked to hydraulic fracturing, the method of drilling for natural gas commonly known as “fracking,” can be detected hundreds of miles away in states that that forbid or strictly control the practice, according to a UMD study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. The study is among the latest data presented in the ongoing debate over fracking’s long-term effects on the environment.

The team used years’ worth of hourly measurements from photochemical assessment monitoring stations (PAMS) in the Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., areas to identify the sources of organic carbons in the region’s air. Starting in 2010, the data didn’t seem to make sense.

“While there’s been an overall decline in non-methane organic carbons and improvement in air quality since 1996, the atmospheric concentration of ethane, one of the components of natural gas, rose 30 percent between 2010 and 2013,” says Sheryl Ehrman, professor and chair of UMD’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the paper’s corresponding author.

Methane accounts for 80-95 percent of the makeup of natural gas, and it is thought to have a global warming potential roughly 30 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.  However, until recently, monitoring it has not been a priority. Ehrman and her team could not acquire enough long-term methane data for the study, so they instead tracked other “tracer” species (molecules) such as ethane, the second most abundant compound in natural gas, and indicative of emissions associated with natural gas drilling, production, and transport.   

Preliminary research revealed that there was nothing happening in Maryland that could account for the steep increase. Maryland does not currently permit fracking, but when Ehrman’s team compared the rise in ethane to the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale play in neighboring states, they found a month-to-month correlation. After running a wind rose analysis – a tool used by meteorologists to track the wind direction, distribution and speed in a specified area – they felt even more confident that Maryland was receiving the tail end of emissions originating from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio.

“Two thirds of the time the Baltimore region was downwind of the Marcellus shale play,” Ehrman says.

“The question you start to ask yourself is, if ethane levels are going up this much, and it’s only a small percentage of all natural gas, how much methane and other, more reactive emissions are escaping from these wells?,” asked Ph.D. student Tim Vinciguerra, the paper’s lead author. “Following the fracturing process, the well undergoes completion venting to clear out fluid and debris before production. A substantial amount of hydrocarbons are emitted as a result of this flowback procedure.” 

And harmful emissions don’t necessarily have to come from the well to be a byproduct of fracking, Vinciguerra adds. “The diesel engines running the trucks and drilling equipment over long periods of time emit additional pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and larger hydrocarbons that also affect air quality.”  

Over the course of the project, Ehrman’s group ruled out other possible sources of ethane that did not produce enough of the gas to explain the change. These included vehicles, natural gas pipeline losses, and natural gas storage fields in Garrett County, Md., located 155 miles away from the area covered by the study. When the team performed the same ethane analysis for Atlanta, Ga., which is located in a region without new and widespread natural gas operations, they did not see the same spike in ethane concentrations. 

“This study shows the potential contribution of shale gas extraction in Pennsylvania to air quality in downwind states, and the need to consider interstate transport when formulating environmental regulations for particulate matter and ozone control,” says R. Subramanian, a research scientist at Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, whose own research has shown that ethane is a unique marker for methane emissions from the natural gas system. “The strong correlation between Marcellus shale gas production and ethane concentrations in Maryland in particular is a very intriguing result.”

“We’ve seen a statistically significant difference in the air quality on the days the wind passed over areas heavy in natural gas production versus the wind coming from areas with no known production,” says Ehrman Group member Alexa Chittams, a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering sophomore currently performing detailed wind trajectory analyses that could provide quantitative evidence that the ethane in Maryland came from neighboring states. “This suggests that areas of natural gas production contributed to the ethane increase trends.”

“What these results mean to me is that we’ve got strong indications that it’s a regional issue,” says Ehrman. “What we want to do is bring this to people’s attention, advocate for long-term methane monitoring, and promote regional cooperation in monitoring and reducing emissions from natural gas production.”

These new findings on natural gas emissions also are consistent with established findings by University of Maryland scientists showing westerly winds can carry power plant emissions and other pollution from states like Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to the Washington, D.C., region and elsewhere on the East Coast of the U.S.  

Food Safety, Energy Storage & Video Authentication Innovations Honored at UMD's Annual Invention of the Year Awards

April 30, 2015
Contacts: 

Ted Knight 301-405-3596
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new method for quickly detecting bacteria in complex food samples, a revolutionary, high energy density nanopore battery, and a new technique for verifying the source of video streams are the three winners of the annual University of Maryland Invention of the Year Awards.

The Invention of the Year Award winners were announced at the university’s Celebration of Innovation and Partnerships event on April 29, attended by more than 200 guests gathered at the University House on the College Park campus.  Also announced at the event were the winners of the Corporate Connector of the Year Awards, which were received by mechanical engineering professor Reinhard Radermacher, who is director of the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering, and by the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) program, which provides company-matched funding for university research that helps companies develop new products. The award is given each year to an individual or a program in the university who has established partnerships with the private sector in corporate research, philanthropy, and/or student support. 

UMD’s Office of Technology Commercialization, part of the Division of Research, received a total of 187 disclosures in 2014. Nine nominees for Invention of the Year were selected based upon their potential impact on science, society, and the open market, and the three winners in the categories of physical sciences, life sciences, and information sciences, were selected by a panel of independent judges.

“We are very proud of the innovations our faculty researchers develop here on our College Park campus,” said Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick O’Shea. “The high quality of each year’s finalists demonstrate the strength of our research enterprise and the power of our innovation ecosystem.”

Winner in the Life Sciences category:

A Groundbreaking New Bacteria Detection Method for Testing Complex Food Samples
Another groundbreaking life sciences invention is an apparatus developed by Dr. Javier Atencia-Fernandez, research assistant professor at the Fischell Department of Bioengineering. The device can cause bacteria present in food to actually self-separate so that researchers and users in independent labs that perform food safety tests for the food industry can rapidly detect pathogens in food samples. It only takes the device 30 minutes to extract 75 percent of the bacteria in a food sample, and 2 hours and 30 minutes to extract 99 percent. By comparison, existing processes take 12 to 36 hours.

Winner in the Physical Sciences category:

A Revolutionary, High Energy Density Nanopore Battery
Dr. Gary Rubloff, professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Maryland NanoCenter, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Sang Bok Lee, and their research team invented a nanopore battery with high energy density and excellent capacity retention. The battery is made of nanotubular electrodes and an electrolyte, all confined in an anodic aluminum oxide nanopore. It is an all-in-one device and shows promise for higher energy availability for a given power density due to larger surface area and shorter transport time for the ions in the electrode material. It signifies the potential that nanostructure design has for high power electrochemical storage.

Winner in the Information Sciences Category:

Verifying the Source of Video Streams Using Electric Network Frequency (ENF) Signals 
This nomination is a novel technique to measure Electric Network Frequency (ENF) signals by exploiting the rolling shutter mechanism in a modern Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor or CMOS-based camera. The technology, developed by Dr. Min Wu, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Institute for Systems Research, along with her research team, enables the source verification of a video stream by extracting the ENF signals using a camera that views objects lit with incandescent or fluorescent lighting with a rolling shutter.

Learn more about this invention and others at: research.umd.edu or otc.umd.edu.

Five UMD Faculty Members Honored by University System of Maryland

April 28, 2015
Contacts: 

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

Annual Board of Regents Awards Recognize Faculty for Achievements in
Public Service, Teaching, Mentoring and Research 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Five University of Maryland, College Park faculty members received honors at the 2015 USM Regents Faculty Awards hosted this month by the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents. USM presented awards to 16 faculty members across the state for their achievements in public service, teaching, mentoring, and research, scholarship, and creative activity. 

The five UMD faculty members recognized included Dr. Michael Raupp, professor of entomology; Dr. Randy Ontiveros, professor of English; Dr. Jennifer Golbeck, associate professor of information studies; Dr. Mikhail Anisimov, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Dr. Abhijit Dasgupta, professor of mechanical engineering

The Regents' Faculty Awards represent the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Regents to recognize exemplary faculty achievement.  Each award carries a $1,000 prize, provided by the institutions and the University System of Maryland Foundation.

Institutional Faculty Nominating Committees make recommendations to the institutional presidents, who review nominations and supporting material and forward recommendations to the Chancellor.  The Regents' Faculty Review Committee makes the final recommendations.

See below for additional information on each category and UMD recipient. The full list of award recipients can be found here

Public Service 

Dr. Raupp is a world leader in developing innovative pest management strategies. His high quality videos, local and national media appearances, and "Bug of the Week" blog have elevated public interest in insects and how they interact with humans and nature. Dr. Raupp is renowned for his work educating arborists, nursery and greenhouse operators, and landscape contractors. His research has played a pivotal role in developing integrated pest management for ornamental plants, and it has been applied to develop low-risk pesticides, greatly reducing threats to public health and the environment. His current research addresses the relevant issue of climate change and insects and his publication record boasts 85 peer-reviewed articles, 28 book chapters, 89 popular articles, and 58 extension papers.

Teaching

Dr. Ontiveros has brought a new dimension of scholarship and teaching to UMD through his focus on U.S. Latino literature and culture, the Chicano literature and movement, comparative ethnic studies, women's studies, and American literature of the 20thand 21st centuries. Dr. Ontiveros developed and teaches a course called Literary Maryland, which focuses on the state's cultural and literary history from colonial times to the present. For the past three years, he has served on the faculty advisory board of the U.S. Latina/Latino Studies Program in the College of Arts and Humanities.  

Mentoring

Dr. Golbeck conducts research on people's interactions with technology, specifically privacy, security, and trust in social networking and social media. She developed the iSeries course "Social Network Analysis" and wrote the textbook, Analyzing the Social Web. Since her appointment as assistant professor in 2007, she has advised or co-advised six doctoral students, served as a member of eleven dissertation committees, directed eleven M.A. theses, and directed nine undergraduate research projects.  She also directs the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory program and the Human Computer Interaction M.A. program, both of which entail extensive contact with students.  

Research, Scholarship & Creative Activity 

Dr. Anisimov's field of research includes thermodynamics of fluids, liquid crystals, polymers, surfactant solutions, and other nano-structured materials. His breakthrough work has real world applications including oil recovery, procedures for plane de-icing, food preservation, and climate research through cloud formation. His research includes collaborations with scientists from Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and he also serves on the editorial boards of five international research journals. In 2013, Dr. Anisimov established the Light Scattering Center at UMCP to promote research, education, and commerce in new fields of materials science, chemical and biomolecular engineering, colloid science, and chemistry and biochemistry for academia, government labs, and industry.  

Dr. Dasgupta is also one of the founding Principal Investigators of UMD’s Center for Advance Life Cycle Engineering. He has secured approximately $15 million in funding from industry, the National Science Foundation, and government research labs. A prolific author, Dr. Dasgupta has written on the topics of electronics packaging, smart structures, and the basic mechanics of materials. His work with CALCE has been recognized by awards from the Army Research Labs, the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, and the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology, among others. In 1994, Dr. Dasgupta helped to establish the first comprehensive electronic packaging curriculum of its kind in the world, putting UMD at the center of his discipline's map.

University of Maryland to Host 4th Annual Do Good Challenge

April 28, 2015
Contacts: 

Graham Binder 301-405-4076

Innovation-driven student groups make social impact and compete for more than $20,000 in cash prizes 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership will host the fourth annual Do Good Challenge on Tuesday, April 28, an innovative prize competition that inspires Terps to make the greatest social impact they can for their favorite cause.

Student teams were asked to “do good” for a cause or charity by advocating, raising money, volunteering, or developing a creative new solution to a social problem. The six team finalists, competing for more than $20,000 in cash prizes, will pitch their work to the judge panel and a live audience and will be evaluated on the impact, leverage and creativity of their project or venture. 

The six project and venture finalists, chosen from more than 60 student teams, are:

Projects Track

Student-run initiatives that maximize impact for a particular cause or organization through volunteering, fundraising, and/or awareness efforts during the course of the Challenge.

Help Kids Be Kids: An initiative started by UMD psychology students to support children who have experienced domestic violence.

Miles for Smiles: In support of UMD Global Dental Brigades, Miles for Smiles raises money and awareness to address the lack of oral health care for children in rural Honduras, where dental clinics and oral hygiene supplies are scarce.

Terps Against Hunger: Raises awareness of the scale and scope of hunger in the D.C. Metro area and provides emergency food assistance to local families. The group uses an efficient and low-cost process to package convenient, nutritious and non-perishable meals and distribute them to local families.

Ventures Track

Independent, student-founded and student-run organizations intended to be self-sustaining entities in the long run, whose efforts during the Challenge focus on taking the organization to the next level.

K.Sultana: A new social venture founded to address two social needs: discomfort from hot temperatures experienced by Muslim women who wear head scarves, and the lack of employment opportunities for homeless Muslim women.

MedFund: Dedicated to supporting Bolivians who are unable to afford medical services or general healthcare, this fund provides financial support to those with the greatest and most urgent needs.

Press Uncuffed: An advocacy initiative sparked by a group of journalism students who completed a research project about imprisoned journalists. These students now raise awareness about imprisoned journalists around the world and fight for their release.

The competition, founded by the School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, is run in partnership with the Robert H. Smith School of Business Center for Social Value Creation and sponsored by Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. Other sponsors include the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences; the Honors College; and Freed Photography. 

Additional event details follow below. For additional information visit http://www.dogood.umd.edu/

Who:

  • Wallace D. Loh, president, University of Maryland
  • Ben Simon, Food Recovery Network Founder and Executive Director -- and winner of the 2012 Do Good Challenge (Judge)
  • Sandra Richards, Executive Director, Diverse and Multicultural Marketing of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (Judge)
  • Devin Schain, Founder and CEO of Campus Direct, Inc. (Judge)
  • Robert Grimm, director, Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership

When:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
7 – 9 p.m. 

Where:

Orem Alumni Hall in the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center
University of Maryland, College Park, Md. 20742
Directions

Media Registration

Please send your name, title, affiliation and contact information to Megan Campbell to register to attend the event.

Megan Campbell 
School of Public Policy Communications Director
University of Maryland
301-405-4390
mcamp@umd.edu

UMD College of Journalism Dean Named "Fellow of the Society" by the Society of Professional Journalists

April 27, 2015
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini 301-405-1321

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) recently honored University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism Dean Lucy Dalglish as a Fellow of the Society. Fellow of the Society is the highest professional honor given by the SPJ and is awarded for extraordinary contribution to the profession. 

University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism Dean Lucy DalglishDalglish was recognized nationally by the National Press Foundation in 2012 with the Kiplinger Award and was honored in 1995 by the Society of Professional Journalists with the Wells Memorial Key, the highest honor bestowed upon a member of the organization.

Dalglish became the Dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in 2012. Prior to this she made substantial contributions to the profession through a broad range of career opportunities.

She served for 12 years as executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — an association of reporters and news editors dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the news media.

Dalglish also spent five years as a media lawyer in the trial department of the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney. She was a reporter and editor for the St. Paul Press from 1980-1993.

Throughout her career, Dalglish has appeared frequently in print, online and broadcast stories about issues involving the media and the First Amendment, and serves on numerous boards and advisory committees interested in furthering the cause.

In 1996, she was one of 24 journalists, lawyers, lawmakers, educators, researchers, librarians and historians inducted into the charter class of the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. Her distinguished career and recognition within the journalism profession is a testament to her place among this group.

Dalglish will be honored at the Excellence in Journalism 2015 conference in Orlando, Fla. She, in addition to one other honoree, will receive a jeweled key and a plaque on Sunday, Sept. 20, at the President’s Installation Banquet. Click here for a list of previous honorees.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information on SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.

Google Searches for "N-Word" Associated with Black Mortality

April 27, 2015
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

UMD-led study first to link an Internet query-based measure of racism to death rates

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Google searches could unveil patterns in Black mortality rates across the U.S., according to a new University of Maryland study. Researchers found that those areas with greater levels of racism, as indexed by the proportion of Google searches containing the “n-word,” had higher mortality rates among Blacks. The study, led by David H. Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, is the first to examine an Internet query-based measure of racism in relation to mortality risk, and is published in the journal PLOS ONE

Mapping Racism and Black Mortality:  Areas in orange and red indicate geographic regions with higher proportions of Google searches containing the “n-word,” which were associated with higher Black mortality rates“Racial disparities in health and disease represent a significant public health concern. Research suggests that racism is a major culprit that contributes to the gap in mortality between Blacks and Whites,” said Chae. “Our study points to the utility of an Internet-search based measure to monitor racism at the area-level and assess its impact on mortality.”

Most research examining the link between racism and health has relied on people self-reporting whether they had been the victims of racial discrimination. These measures, however, may not fully capture the extent of racism in a geographic area given that racist acts are often not committed overtly. “Contemporary forms of racism are more subtle, and people may not recognize that the social insults they experience are driven by discrimination or prejudice,” Chae explained. “Discrimination is more insidious today. Racism in major societal domains, such as in housing, employment, and criminal justice contexts continues despite the existence of protective legislation.”

Given the challenges in measuring racism through surveys, the researchers used a proxy measure previously developed by Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz, co-author on the study, that was based on the volume of searches for the “n-word” ending in -er or -ers, not including those ending in -a or -as as such searches were shown to be used in different contexts. “Such Internet query-based measures may be less susceptible to self-censorship of socially unacceptable attitudes. They may also reflect those instances of racism that are covert or hidden,” Chae explained. This measure does not necessitate that all searches containing the “n-word” are motivated by racism, or that all people holding racist attitudes conduct such searches. It only assumes that areas with a greater concentration of these searches have higher levels of racism overall. The researchers wanted to examine whether this measure would predict differences in Black mortality rates across the country. 

They examined Black mortality rates in 196 media markets, which were compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics. Each one standard deviation increase in the level of area racism was related to an 8.2 percent greater all-cause Black mortality rate, which would be equivalent to over 30,000 deaths annually in the country. When they took into account additional demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of these areas, such as the number of Blacks, and levels of education and poverty, there remained a significant effect of area racism.

Because some geographic areas may be more prone to mortality regardless of race, the researchers also adjusted for the White mortality rate in their analyses. “By doing this, we are showing that it is not only associated with the Black mortality rate, but also the excess Black mortality rate relative to Whites,” Chae explained. The researchers also found significant associations between the Google measure of area racism and Black mortality from three of the four leading causes of death in this population–heart disease, cancer, and stroke. 

“Racism is a social toxin that increases susceptibility to disease and generates racial disparities in health,” said Chae. Racism has been shown to increase the risk of disease and poor health outcomes through several channels. For example, institutional forms of racism lead to systemic disadvantage, and segregate Blacks into health-damaging environments. As a source of stress, racism also has direct effects on mental and physical well-being. 

Chae acknowledges the need to examine data collected over longer periods of time and at smaller geographic units. He also notes that because the timeframe of the Google and mortality data overlap, conclusions about the direction of the associations they found and making inferences about causality are limited. Despite these caveats, Chae said that their findings offer avenues for future research on the health implications of racism that takes advantage of newer technologies, including social media-based measures. “These findings add to mounting evidence that population-level racial disparities in health are driven by racism,” said Chae. “Racism represents a serious social and moral dilemma. The persistence of racial disparities in disease and mortality reflects the fact that issues of racism remain unresolved.”

"Association Between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality” was authored by David H. Chae, Sacoby M. Wilson, and Robert S. Gold (University of Maryland, College Park); Sean Clouston (Stony Brook University); Mark L. Hatzenbuehler and Bruce G. Link (Columbia University); Michael R. Kramer and Hannah L.F. Cooper (Emory University); and Seth I. Stephens-Davidowitz (Harvard University), and published in PLOS ONE. It is available at: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0122963

Pages

May 6
Montgomery County, Md. initiative could improve health and reduce costs. Read
May 5
UMD honored alongside Big Ten schools as Collective Conference Champion for green power use. Read
May 1
Revolutionary material made by UMD engineers could create safer, simpler and more efficient batteries.  Read
April 30
New UMD study sees steep rise in ethane accompanying the rise in fracking Read