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Monday, July 14, 2014

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University Launches Dynamic, Interactive Information Website UMD Right Now

December 4, 2012

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618

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,, 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

Highly Regarded Medical Director, Clinician and Administrator Joins UMD as Director of the University Health Center

July 14, 2014

Graham Binder301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland today announced the appointment of Dr. David Robert McBride as Director of the University Health Center. He will arrive in September to assume this critical leadership position. Dr. McBride’s role centers around oversight of all health center operations, service delivery, budget, and administration that includes myriad medical and laboratory services. He will also serve as the University’s Chief Medical Officer. Dr. McBride’s substantial experience and far-reaching reputation as Director of Student Health Services at Boston University for the past eight years position him perfectly to manage UMD health care services and David McBridewellness education for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Dr. McBride’s extensive work history dates back to 1997 as a Clinician and Medical Director at the Lynn Community Health Center. From there he moved on to positions as Clinician with the Northeastern University Student Health Center and acclaimed Tufts University Family Medicine Residency before achieving a career milestone as Director for Boston University Student Health Services. 1997-2006 also brought a series of high-profile academic appointments, most notably Clinical Instructor and Lecturer at Northeastern, Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts and Assistant Professor for Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center.

“Dr. McBride’s prior role as Director of Boston University Student Health Services, combined with his extensive background as a clinician, physician and administrator make him the ideal candidate to lead UMD’s University Health Center,” says Linda Clement, UMD’s Vice President for Student Affairs. “We are confident that his proven ability to provide overall leadership and vision for multi-faceted, large-scale health centers will be of significant value to the UMD community.”

“I feel so lucky to be joining the excellent team in Student Affairs at the University of Maryland and to have great new colleagues at the University Health Center,” says Dr. McBride. “The Health Center at UMD has such an excellent array of services and a focus on prevention, which I really value. I know that I can help the University Health Center to build on the excellent foundation established by the staff and Dr. Bodison.”

Dr. McBride holds a B.A. in chemistry from Miami University, where he graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He received his M.D., cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 2009 saw the acquisition of his pocket MBA for Physicians in the Boston University Executive MBA Program.



Human cells’ protein factory has an alternate operating manual

July 10, 2014

Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

College Park, MD -- Working with a gene that interacts with HIV, University of Maryland researchers have discovered that some human genes have an alternate set of operating instructions written into their protein-making machinery. The alternate instructions can quickly alter the proteins’ contents, functions and ability to survive.

This phenomenon, known as programmed ribosomal frameshifting, was discovered in viruses in 1985. But the UMD study, published online July 9, 2014 in the journal Nature, is the first to show that a human gene uses programmed ribosomal frameshifting to change how it assembles proteins, said senior author Jonathan Dinman, UMD professor of cell biology and molecular genetics.

In the immune system-related gene that Dinman and his colleagues studied, programmed ribosomal frameshifting triggers a process the body can use to eliminate some immune system molecules, thereby reining in potentially harmful side effects such as fever, inflammation and organ failure. The discovery could lead to better treatments for AIDS, allergies and rejection of transplanted organs, Dinman said.

“This has useful implications in situations where you want to shut down the immune response in one part of the body but not in another, or shut down one facet of the immune response,” Dinman said. “It could lead to very specific therapies without side effects.”

The ribosome, the protein factory in every living cell, gathers amino acids and assembles them into protein chains to make almost anything the cell needs. A strand of ribonucleic acid, or messenger RNA, is the template. Each amino acid is represented by a group of three molecules called nucleotides; each triad is called a codon. Specialized molecules called transfer RNAs “read” each codon and deliver the matching amino acids to the ribosome for assembly. Some codons act as stop signs, instructing the ribosome to release the finished protein chain.

Imagine the messenger RNA is a text made up of three-letter words (codons), spaces, and punctuation (stop codons), like this:

Can any fat cat fly?

To assemble proteins in the right order, the ribosome has to read all three parts of each codon, the spaces, and the stop codons. But sometimes the messenger RNA contains signals that reprogram the ribosome to jump forward or back by one or two places – that is, to shift the frame that it is reading. This alters the text. The transfer RNA now reads either new commands to fetch completely different proteins, or meaningless, nonsense RNA, like this:

Ana nyf atc atf ly?

Frameshift signals are common in some viruses, which use them to cram multiple sets of commands onto a single RNA strand. Dinman has long suspected that human cells also have frameshift signals, and that they are useful.

“These are really complex RNA structures. It takes a lot of computer memory to search for them in human cells,” said Dinman, who has been studying ribosomal frameshifting since the 1990s. “It wasn’t until the past decade that computers were fast and powerful enough to find these signals.”

Dinman and lead author Ashton Trey Belew, a UMD research associate, looked at CCR5, a gene on the surface of humans’ white blood cells. CCR5 is important to the immune system, but some forms of HIV use it to enter healthy cells.

The researchers found a molecular pattern that acts as a frameshift signal in CCR5. In tests on live human cells and rabbit cell extracts, they found the signal prompted the ribosome to frameshift 10 to 15 percent of the time. Using mass spectroscopy, they confirmed frameshifting was happening within CCR5 at the sequence predicted to be the frameshift signal. Then they searched another laboratory’s published database of human ribosomes and found confirming evidence of frameshifts in that spot, at about the same rate.

They also found that a small specialized piece of RNA, called microRNA-1224, attaches itself to CCR5’s messenger RNA at the frameshift site. The microRNA braces the messenger RNA, making it less flexible and causing the ribosome to stop there and slip by one or two spaces more often.

“The biggest question in this field has been, what regulates frameshifting? And that’s essentially what microRNA-1224 is doing,” Dinman said. “Then the question becomes, what are the consequences?”

In the case of CCR5, the frameshift changes the codons behind it into nonsense RNA. Since the ribosome can’t read them, other components of the cell step in and destroy the messenger RNA and its associated proteins.

This might seem like a bad thing. But symptoms like fever are caused by our bodies’ immune response, not the underlying illness. And the immune response occasionally gets out of control, causing serious, sometimes fatal side effects.

Dinman believes that by killing the messenger RNA and its array of immune system proteins, frameshifting acts like a dimmer switch, lowering the immune response to a safe level.

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (GM058859, GM068123, AI051967, GM080201 and HHSN261200800001E) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) (MCB-0084559). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the NIH or NSF.

Jonathan Dinman lab


“Ribosomal frameshifting in the CCR5 mRNA is regulated by miRNAs and the NMD pathway,” Ashton Trey Belew, Arturas Meskauskas, Sharmishtha Musalgaonkar, Vivek M. Advani, Sergey O. Sulima, Wojciech K. Kasprzak, Bruce A. Shapiro and Jonathan D. Dinman, was published online July 9, 2014 in Nature and can be downloaded at


China’s hidden water footprint

July 7, 2014

Andrew Roberts, 301.405.2171
Graham Binder, 301-405-4076

Highly developed but water-scarce regions in China, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin, are contributing to water depletion in other water-scarce regions of the country through imports of food, textile, and other water intensive products, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. For example, purchasing cloth in Shanghai may not consume water directly, but the production of cloth requires cotton, which is water intensive to cultivate - indirectly contributing to the water scarcity in the less-developed cotton production regions. This dynamic also holds true for food and other products. Only 20% of Shanghai’s scarce water footprint, or the amount of scarce water consumed, is from local watersheds while 80% is from water resources of other water-scarce regions, such as Xinjiang, Hebei, and Inner Mongolia.

This disproportionate consumption of water by wealthier regions has environmental impacts and potential future impacts on water availability for the entire country.

The new study used the concept of “virtual water,” an economic concept used to track water flows through trade, to track how water is traded through agricultural products and other goods that require water to produce. But while previous virtual water studies had treated all water equally, the new study accounts for water scarcity to assess China’s hidden flows.

 “When goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water,” explains University of Maryland and IIASA researcher Laixiang Sun, a study co-author. “For example, it takes about 1,600 cubic meters of actual water to produce one metric ton of wheat. When a country or region imports a ton of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it saves most of that.”

In China, water resources are distributed unevenly, with ample water in the wealthier southern region, and scarce water availability in most northern provinces. The study, titled Virtual Scarce Water in China, shows that trade between these water-scarce regions tends to draw more sharply on water resources in the less developed, poorer regions. For example, the highly developed provinces of Shanghai, Shandong, Beijing, and Tianjin import large amounts of virtual water at the expense of less-developed provinces such as Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei.

“This study goes beyond many other water footprint studies that it takes into account virtual water flows from water-scarce regions. This allows us to identify cases where importing water-intensive goods from other water-scarce regions may just shift the pressure to other regions. On the other hand we don’t need to worry about a large water footprint if the water is imported from water abundant areas. Previous studies often failed to account for this important difference,” says co-author Klaus Hubacek, a researcher at the University of Maryland.

The study also examined the impact of international exports on water resources, showing that production of international exports in China’s top exporting regions also draws on water resources in water-scarce northern provinces.

Dr. Feng, first author of the study, adds, “With the fast growth of China’s economy, and increasing urbanization, this trend is likely to continue in the next few decades.”

Recognizing the problem of water scarcity, China has launched a multi-billion dollar water transfer project to divert water from the South to the North. But the authors suggest that replacing production of water intensive products from the North with goods imported from the South could be a more efficient and sustainable solution to the problem.

The researchers suggest that the study lays the groundwork for smarter water resource management. Says Sun, “This is the first study that incorporates water consumption and flows, water scarcity, and ecosystem impacts into an analysis that conveys the pressures on water resources. Using virtual water as a policy tool only makes sense if you take water scarcity into account.”


Next Step Forward for University Hotel Project

July 2, 2014

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

Board of Public Works Approves Sale of Land for Hotel

University of MarylandCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s planned hotel and conference center took a major step forward today.  The three-member State of Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) unanimously approved the sale of a three-acre parcel of University land along Route 1 for construction of the hotel.

This project will be the cornerstone of to the University’s vision to encourage redevelopment of the existing downtown College Park business district, in conjunction with strategic development along the Route 1 corridor. 

This approval comes shortly after the BPW's approval in March of the declaration of the three-acre parcel of University land as surplus.

The proposed hotel and conference center, a $115 million project planned for a parcel of land on the east side of campus opposite Turner Hall, includes approximately 276 guest rooms, 23,500 square feet of ballroom, conference and meeting space, both interior and exterior street level retail, and a café, restaurant, and bar.

Groundbreaking is expected in Spring 2015 with an anticipated opening by Fall 2017.

UMD Researchers Demonstrate Alarming Indonesian Forest Loss

July 1, 2014

Laura Ours 301-405-5722
Graham Binder 301-405-4076

Deforestation Rate Surpasses Brazil's, Despite Moratorium

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A new study published in Nature Climate Change demonstrates an alarming increase of rainforest loss in Indonesia during the past 12 years—this loss is greater and faster than the rate shown in Brazil in 2012 which gained global attention as a harbinger of environmental stability.

rainfall in Indonesian rainforestThis new study indicates that forest loss rates are accelerating despite a 2011 moratorium on deforestation issued by the Indonesian government that was designed to combat climate change as well as to protect wildlife—for example, the conservation of orangutan and tiger habitat. The study also reveals a new scientific fact that demonstrates importance of preserving degraded forest, as more than 90 percent of the natural forest loss occurred within the degraded type, which contains significant carbon content.

The study, Primary forest cover loss in Indonesia over 2000–2012, was written by UMD geographical sciences professors Matthew C. Hansen and Peter V. Potapov, UMD geographical sciences graduate research assistant Belinda Arunarwati Margono and research associate Svetlana Turubanova, as well as Fred Stolle of the World Resource Institute. The researchers used earth observation data to quantify spatial and temporal trends of forest change in Indonesia.

Indonesia's virgin forest loss totaled 23,000 square miles over the 12-year period. Unlike Brazil, which has managed to reduce forest losses in recent years, the pace of Indonesia's losses has increased from year to year. The new study reports that the forests were cleared in part to make room for palm oil plantations and other agricultural endeavors. The study reveals an increasing proportion of natural forest loss over wetlands from 2000 to 2012 with bigger patches compare to of lowlands.

"We need to improve forest governance, the control of the forest itself, particularly on the area where forested wetland present" said Margono, who in addition to her service at UMD is an official at the Ministry of Forestry of Indonesia in Jakarta. "Improved forest management across the tropics is needed, and starts with accurate and timely baseline data of forest resources and their change over time; and made it publicly available to improve the good forest governance."

Indonesia's deforestation crisis has attracted worldwide attention, especially from Norway, which has pledged $1 billion if Indonesia passes and enforces legislature that slows the rate of forest loss as part of a larger plan to slow global rates of climate change.

Also among the study's key findings:

  • Implications for carbon emissions due to primary forest cover loss are very substantial given the carbon make up of primary forest and large wetland clearings;
  • These high rates of primary forest cover loss has made Indonesia the third largest global emitter of carbon dioxide;
  • Indonesia's forests contain 10% of the world's plants, 12% of the world's mammals, 16% of the world's reptile-amphibians, and 17% of the world's bird species. Indonesia is a mega-diverse country. Therefore, the primary forest cover loss directly results in habitat loss and plant and animal extinctions;
  • The details on Indonesian forest change had been murky prior to this study; the public and the scientific community now have data to improve the transparency of forest change in Indonesia.

Calling rainforests, the "lungs of the planet," Professor Hansen said that the study's findings, while alarming, do indicate hope for critical environmental reform.

"The good news is, with this study and our continuing research, we are advancing forest monitoring methods that can feed directly into improving forest governance," Professor Hansen said. "The lessons we've learned from Brazil and now Indonesia are generating a global discussion and recommended actions that can be applied to all nations."

Professor Hansen and other UMD researchers and students have made international headlines with innovative research and technology that has drastically improved the ability to observe deforestation at both local and global levels. These researchers led an international team in creating the world's first local-to-global mapping tool of forest loss, in conjunction with NASA and Google.

UMD Marks Official Transition to Big Ten Today with Campus Celebration

July 1, 2014

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622, 240-459-2730 (cell)

Think B1GCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland marks its historic move to the Big Ten Conference today with an on-campus celebration. UMD students, faculty, staff and community members will join together to commemorate the transition at an event with performances by The Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band and UMD Spirit Squad.

The event, taking place from 12 – 1:30 p.m. on Mitchell Field, will also feature:

  • Remarks from President Wallace Loh, Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson and Johnny Holliday, who serves as the voice of the Terrapins during athletic events;
  • TERPRIDE, a retro-fitted bus featuring interactive games, music and a chance to win prizes; and
  • A new B1G ice cream flavor.

“This is truly a 'B1G' moment for us athletically and academically,” says University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “We celebrate campus wide because the benefits of membership in the Big Ten span the whole institution.”

Today’s celebration commemorates more than just a change for athletics. As a member of the Big Ten Conference, UMD has also become a member of its academic arm – the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). As a member of the CIC, UMD’s students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across all Big Ten institutions.  Some examples of these cross-institutional collaborations include:

  • Research in the area of traumatic brain injury;
  • Student leaders visiting Capitol Hill to advocate for research grants and affordable textbooks;
  • Access to research materials multiplied from more than 4 million volumes in the UMD libraries to over 90 million volumes in the combined collections of the CIC libraries;
  • Joining forces to commission plays to inspire new works by and about women, an initiative only possible through combined financial resources;
  • Maryland doctoral students now have the opportunity to work alongside Smithsonian researchers through the Smithsonian CIC Fellowship Program;
  • Through technology, unique courses from other CIC universities will be available to Maryland students; and
  • For our faculty, the CIC offers an academic leadership program to help develop emerging education administrators.

The university's celebration of its new place in the Big Ten Conference will continue through the fall, including a campus-wide launch event on the first day of classes, Sept. 2, featuring B1G games and giveaways; and Homecoming weekend celebrations from Oct. 16-19.

Celebrate the Fourth of July at UMD

June 30, 2014

City of College Park, 240-487-3570

FireworksCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and the City of College Park will host an Independence Day celebration on Friday, July 4, 2014. 

A free concert and fireworks are on tap for the night on the University of Maryland campus in Lot 1 adjacent to Campus Drive off Adelphi Road.

A performance by The Nightlife Band will begin at 7:00 p.m. Fireworks will then begin at dusk - about 9:00 p.m., for a 30 to 40 minute program. In case of rain cancellation, there will be only fireworks on Saturday, July 5.

Concessions open at 5:00 p.m. offering hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, ice cream, snow cones, soda and bottled water. Grass seating is limited, so bringing lawn chairs and blankets is recommended. Personal coolers are also allowed.

For more information, call 240-487-3570.

University of Maryland Scientists Identify New Microbes Linked to Severe Diarrhea

June 27, 2014

Tom Ventsias, University of Maryland, College Park, 301-405-5933
Christopher J. Hardwick, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 410-706-5260

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In a finding that may one day help control a major cause of death among children in developing countries, a team of researchers led by faculty from the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland School of Medicine has identified microorganisms that may trigger diarrheal disease and others that may protect against it. These microbes were not widely linked to the condition previously.

O. Colin Stine, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine"We were able to identify interactions between microbiota that were not previously observed, and we think that some of those interactions may actually help prevent the onset of severe diarrhea," says O. Colin Stine (pictured right), a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

A much better understanding of these interactions is important, Stine adds, as they could lead to possible dietary interventions. Moderate to severe diarrhea (MSD) is a major cause of childhood mortality in developing countries and ranks as one of the top four causes of death among young children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Mihai Pop, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, College ParkStine and Mihai Pop (pictured left), an associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park led the six-year project funded by $10.1 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The research results are available in a paper published today in the journal Genome Biology.

The researchers used a technique called high-throughput 16S rRNA genomic sequencing to examine both "good" and "bad" microbiota -- the tens of trillions of microbes that inhabit the human intestinal system -- in samples taken from 992 children in Bangladesh, The Gambia, Kenya and Mali under the age of 5 who were suffering from MSD.

The researchers identified statistically significant disease associations with several organisms already implicated in diarrheal disease, such as members of the Escherichia/Shigella genus and Campylobacter jejuni. They also found that organisms not widely believed to cause the disease, including Streptococcus and Granulicatella, correlated with the condition in their study. In addition, the study revealed that the Prevotella genus and Lactobacillus ruminis may play a protective role against diarrhea.

The project is an offshoot of a $20 million study commissioned by the Gates Foundation in 2006. The Global Enterics Multicenter Study (GEMS) was launched in response to unanswered questions surrounding the burden and etiology of childhood diarrhea in developing countries.

GEMS collected troves of useful data on MSD, yet there were still some uncertainties, says Pop, who also has an appointment in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.
For example, in almost 50 percent of the children examined with diarrhea, the condition could not be attributed to a specific causal pathogen. The GEMS research also found numerous children carrying Shigella, which is known to cause problems, yet the children showed no signs of MSD.

The Gates Foundation contacted the two University of Maryland scientists in 2007, looking for new analyses of the GEMS data via a combination of computational biology, epidemiology and public health.

"New technologies have opened up new windows of discovery, so they asked us to look at the samples," says Pop, who adds that he and Stine expect to conduct further genomic and epidemiological studies to assess the potential development of diet- or microbiological-based therapeutics.

The longstanding scientific collaboration between the two researchers is enhanced by the MPowering the State strategic partnership, launched in 2011 to support collaborative research and education between the state's top two public research institutions, the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

In addition to funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this study was also supported partly by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and The Wellcome Trust.

UMD's Deepthought2 Debuts in Global Supercomputer Rankings

June 26, 2014

Deepthought2COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland supercomputer for the first time has been ranked among the most powerful supercomputers in the world, according to the 43rd edition of the closely watched list released twice yearly by Deepthought2, launched in May 2014 to support advanced research activities, ranks No. 14 among U.S. universities, making the high-performance computing system one of the nation's fastest in an academic setting.

In the recently released June 2014 TOP500 List, Maryland's Deepthought2 ranked No. 347 in the world, with performance listed as 298.2 peak teraflops. This means that Deepthought2 can complete between 250 trillion and 300 trillion operations per second. It has a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) of storage and is connected by an InfiniBand network, a very high-speed internal network. Put another way, Deepthought2 is the equivalent of 10,000 laptops working together, it has 2,000 times the storage of an average laptop, and its internal network is 50 times faster than broadband.

"Having one of the world's most powerful supercomputers demonstrates that the University of Maryland is intent on providing the local high-performance computing capabilities our faculty and student researchers need to increase dramatically the pace and scope of their scientific explorations and discoveries," said Ann G. Wylie, Professor and Interim Vice President for Information Technology. "This new research computing asset cements UMD's role as one of the country's premier academic centers for scholarship and research," Dr. Wylie said.

UMD researchers plan to use Deepthought2 in a variety of investigative fields ranging from health sciences to fire protection engineering to earth sciences.

"Supercomputing is a transformative technology for U.S. universities," said Fran LoPresti, Deputy CIO of Cyberinfrastructure and Research IT for the Division of Information Technology. "Now, Maryland's world-class supercomputer equips researchers with the computing resources and data storage necessary to make scientific and engineering advances in some of the most challenging compute-intensive and data-intensive fields," said LoPresti.

"We've established new interdisciplinary teams that will rely heavily on this superb computing platform to tackle some of the biggest challenges in astronomy, bioinformatics, and the environmental sciences," said Dr. Amitabh Varshney, Director of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and Professor of Computer Science.


July 14
SHA, UMD, College Park and Prince George’s County Officials Partner on Engineering, Education and Enforcement... Read
July 14
UMD announces the appointment of Dr. David Robert McBride as Director of the University Health Center. Read
July 10
Newly discovered process may help rein in disease-fighting side effects Read
July 7
China’s richest provinces have a substantial environmental impact on the country’s water-scarce regions. Read