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Tuesday, September 16, 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

Hydrogen & Solar Power Boosted by New Ability to Shape Nanostructures

September 15, 2014

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Findings promise wide-ranging advances from clean energy to new sensors

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – New nanotechnology findings from physicists at the University of Maryland have moved us significantly closer to a "holy grail" of clean energy research – the efficient, cost effective generation of  clean hydrogen fuel from sunlight.

The UMD team created a fundamentally new synthesis strategy for hybrid nanostructures that they and other scientists say make possible new nanostructures and nanotechnologies with huge potential applications ranging from clean energy and quantum computing advances to new sensor development. 

The team demonstrated the power of their method by creating a photocatalyst that is almost 15 times more efficient in using solar energy to split water (H2O) into hydrogen and  oxygen than conventional photocatalysts. Photocatalysts are substances that use light to boost chemical reactions. Chlorophyll is a natural photocatalyst used by plants.

"The ingenious nano-assemblies that Professor Ouyang and his collaborators have fabricated, which  include the novel feature of a silver-gold particle that super-efficiently harvests light, bring us a giant step nearer to the so-far elusive goal of artificial photosynthesis: using sunlight to transform water and carbon dioxide into fuels and valuable chemicals," says Professor Martin Moskovits of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a recognized expert in this area of research and not affiliated with the paper.

Lighting the Way to Clean, Efficient Power 

Hydrogen fuel cell has long been considered a tremendously promising, clean alternative to gasoline and other carbon based (fossil) fuels that are currently used for cars, electrical generation and most other energy applications. A fuel cell combines stored hydrogen gas with oxygen from the air to produce electricity that can power vehicles, homes and businesses. The only byproduct of hydrogen fuel cells is water. Combustion of gasoline and other carbon-based fuels emit pollutants, including carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Solar Water Splitting: A Step Towards Carbon-Free Energy and Environment.  Credit: Md. Golam Kibria, McGill University. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Solar Water Splitting: A Step Towards Carbon-Free Energy and Environment.
Credit: Md. Golam Kibria, McGill University. Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

It's expected that in 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although these will be zero-emissions vehicles, most of the hydrogen fuel to power them currently is made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change and increasingly is being produced by the controversial process known as fracking.

The cleanest way to produce hydrogen fuel is using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, decades of research advances have not yielded photocatalytic methods with sufficient energy efficiency to be cost effective for use in large scale water splitting applications. Efficient creation of hydrogen fuel from sunlight is also critical to development of large scale solar energy plants because hydrogen fuel is an ideal way to store for later use, the energy generated by such facilities.

The UMD team's work advances the efficiency of photocatalysts and lays the foundation for much larger future advances by more fully realizing a light-generated nanoparticle effect first used by ancient Romans to create glass that changes color based on light. This effect, known as surface plasmon resonance, involves the generation of high energy electrons using light.

UMD team leader Min Ouyang, an associate professor in the department of physics and the Maryland NanoCenter., explains that plasmon resonance is the generation of a collective oscillation of low energy electrons by light. The light energy stored in such a "plasmonic oscillator" then can be converted to energetic carriers (i.e., "hot" electrons) for use in photocatalysis and many other applications.

"Using our new modular synthesis strategy, our UMD team created an optimally designed, plasmon-mediated photocatalytic nanostructure that is an almost 15 times more efficient than conventional photocatalysts," says Ouyang.

In studying this new photocatalyst, Min and his colleagues identified a previously unknown "hot plasmon electron-driven photocatalysis mechanism with an identified electron transfer pathway."

It is this new mechanism that makes possible the high efficiency of the UMD team's new photocatalyst. And it is a finding made possible by the precise materials control allowed by the team's new general synthesis method.

The UMD team says their findings hold great promise for future advances to make water splitting cost effective for large-scale use in creating hydrogen fuel. And the team's newly-discovered mechanism for creating hot (high energy) electrons should also be applicable to research involving other photo-excitation processes.

A Fundamental Nanotechnology Advance

The findings of Min and his colleagues were published recently in Nature Communications. Their primary discovery is a fundamentally new synthesis strategy for hybrid nanostructures that uses a connector, or "intermedium," nanoparticle to join multiple different nanoparticles into nanostructures that would be very difficult or perhaps even impossible to make with existing methods. The resultant mix and match modular component approach avoids the limitations in material choice and nanostructure size, shape and symmetry that are inherent in the crystalline growth (epitaxial) synthesis approaches currently used to build nanostructures.

"Our approach makes it possible to design and build higher order [more complex and materially varied] nanostructures with a specifically designed symmetry or shape, akin to the body's ability to make different protein oligomers each with a specific function determined by its specific composition and shape," says Ouyang. "Such a synthesis method is the dream of many scientists in our field and we expect researchers now will use our approach to fabricate a full class of new nanoscale hybrid structures," he says.

One of the many scientists excited about the new UMD method is the University of Delaware's Matt Doty, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, physics, and electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the UD Nanofabrication Facility. "The work of Weng and coauthors provides a powerful new tool for the 'quantum engineering' of complex nanostructures designed to implement novel electronic and optoelectronic functions. [Their] new approach makes it feasible for researchers to realize much more sophisticated nanostructure designs than were previously possible." he says.

UMD Announces Largest Gift in University History

September 12, 2014

The University of Maryland announced today a gift of $31 million from Oculus VR co-founder and CEO and UMD alumnus, Brendan Iribe – the largest gift in the university's history. The majority of the gift, $30 million, will help fund construction of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, and the remaining $1 million will establish the Brendan Iribe Scholarship in Computer Science.

Brendan Iribe, Oculus CEO, Gives $31M for New UMD Computer Science Building

September 12, 2014

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622

Largest Gift in University History Set to Transform Computer Science Education

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today a gift of $31 million from Oculus co-founder and CEO and UMD alumnus Brendan Iribe – the largest gift in the university's history. The majority of the gift, $30 million, will help fund construction of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, a new computer science building designed for cutting-edge work in virtual reality, augmented reality, computer vision, robotics and future computing platforms. The remaining $1 million of the gift will establish the Brendan Iribe Scholarship in Computer Science.

"The University of Maryland was an inspiration for me, and the relationships I made there have lasted a lifetime," says Iribe. "I've always wanted to give back to the school and public education system, and I hope this building will shape the future of computer science students at the university. The space is designed for hackers, makers and engineers, which will help give rise to future breakthroughs, products and startups that will transform the way we live and interact with the world around us."

In addition, Oculus chief software architect and co-founder and 2003 UMD graduate Michael Antonov is making a gift of $4 million to the university. Most of this gift, $3.5 million, will support construction of the building, and $500,000 will fund scholarships. An additional gift of $3 million from Elizabeth Iribe, Brendan's mother, will establish two endowed chairs in the Department of Computer Science.

Brendan Iribe"I've been passionate about computer science my whole life, and my experience at the University of Maryland fed that passion even more," says Antonov. "My hope is that this gift will give UMD students access to world-class resources and facilities for computer science that enables them to achieve the seemingly impossible."

"The transformative vision and support of Brendan, together with the exceptional commitment of his mother, Liz, and his UMD classmate Michael, will create a unique space where students from all disciplines can imagine, build, collaborate, and succeed together," says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. "This is truly a space that will mold future innovators and entrepreneurs and spark economic vitality in Maryland and beyond."

The new, state-of-the-art facility will be a hub for cutting-edge computer science research and an incubator for technology and innovation. The building's design encourages collaboration, with an emphasis on hacker/maker spaces and team breakout areas.

"The Iribe Center will feature state-of-the-art maker spaces with access to new equipment and resources that enable students and faculty to bring their ideas to life in ways that were previously inaccessible," says Jayanth Banavar, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. "It's exciting to be working on the cutting-edge of the field, alongside Brendan, Michael, and the team at Oculus, and I'm looking forward to seeing what our community creates."

Brendan Iribe speaks with UMD studentsSpecialized labs will support groundbreaking research in virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, computer vision and human interaction. Students will have the opportunity to learn in classrooms designed specifically for interactive, collaborative and active learning. Hands-on training will successfully prepare them for the growing technology workforce.

"This is the beginning of a long-term commitment toward transforming education -- many of my best memories and relationships came from the University of Maryland, and I hope this gift fosters more life-changing friendships and partnerships like the one between Michael and me," says Iribe. "I truly believe virtual reality is the future of computing, with an impact that will be as big, if not bigger, than the jump to 3-D graphics or mobile devices. This gift positions Maryland to be one of the leading institutions for virtual reality in the world."

This gift will support the university's growing computer science department, which recently ranked 17th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 15th in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate programs. Undergraduate enrollment in the department has more than doubled in the past eight years to over 2,000 students and more than 200 students are pursuing graduate degrees.

Photo credit: Mike Morgan

Ecosystems of U.S. Cities Show "Urban Evolution" Patterns

September 11, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

Urban waters record the salt in our food, cement in our sidewalks, UMD scientist says

This stream restoration project in Baltimore, Maryland is in an early stage of evolution towards sustainability. A concrete channel that enclosed the stream has been removed, and native tree seedlings have been planted along its banks. Credit: Tamara Newcomer Johnson, University of MarylandCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Most people think of city landscapes as simpler, diminished versions of the wild forests and free-flowing streams found in remote places. But in a series of studies published Sept. 10, 2014 in a special issue of the journal Biogeochemistry, scientists specializing in urban ecosystems say just the opposite is true. Urban landscapes are more complex than they seem, and from coast to coast these ecosystems can work in surprisingly similar ways, regardless of local conditions. And they have the potential to change quickly – for better or worse – depending on how people manage them.

In 14 studies, scientists from across the U.S. examined the impacts of human actions on the geology, chemistry and biology of urban ecosystems. The studies were carried out in a broad range of climates from Boston and Baltimore to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tucson, Arizona and Southern California, including sites in the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) network. Results were published in a special issue of Biogeochemistry exclusively devoted to urban ecosystems, edited by University of Maryland geologist Sujay Kaushal and University of New Hampshire ecologists William McDowell and Wilfred Wollheim.

"Urban ecosystems change relatively quickly in response to human activities," says Kaushal. "These changes can result in rapid losses of ecosystem functions, like flood protection and pollution filtration, or they can result in progress toward ecological health and productivity. The difference depends in large part on how they are managed."

In an overview article, Kaushal, McDowell and Wollheim point out some key factors that affect the evolution of urban ecosystems. For example, the streams, lakes and land surfaces that make up cities' watersheds show consistent patterns of change over time:

  • They are becoming saltier, partly due to road salt used for de-icing, and partly because the salt that people eat ends up in urban streams. Excess salt in the human diet is excreted in human waste, and captured by sewer systems. Crumbling sewage pipes leak this chloride-laden waste into groundwater, where it eventually mingles with surface water, say the authors of the overview paper. The researchers propose that one way to track the spread of urbanization is by looking at the chloride content of cities' freshwater rivers and streams.
  • They carry the chemical signature of dissolving concrete, a major building material in urban areas since the mid-20th century. Most concrete contains cement made of powdered limestone, which weathers easily when exposed to acid rain or chemicals. The authors say many cities now have their own human-made geology: concrete surfaces that mimic a type of limestone called karst. This "urban karst" is constantly breaking down into its constituent elements, including calcium and carbonate minerals, which flow into urban streams and affect their pH content, and therefore their ability to sustain aquatic life.
  • Urban ecosystems develop "hot spots," like road crossings where automobile exhaust, litter, de-icing salt and other human-made substances can sharply alter downstream water quality. They also experience "hot moments," such as heavy rainstorms that wash large pulses of organic matter and manufactured chemicals into streams, or cause sewage overflows. These hot moments can suddenly change water chemistry in ways that shock natural systems. 
  • The networks that supply cities with water evolve and expand over time, including not just surface waters, but also storm drains, leaking water and sewer pipes, roofs and gutters, groundwater, and waste water that humans bring into the area from other watersheds. The boundaries between nearby cities' watersheds are blurring, making it hard to define, study and manage them.

Eroding stream banks and aging sewer lines contribute to evolving water pollution problems in cities. In this photo from Baltimore, Maryland, a sewage pipe that was originally placed in a stream bed developed leaks, and is now surrounded by a concrete casing. Credit: Tamara Newcomer Johnson, University of Maryland "There is a lot of good urban restoration work underway," says McDowell, "but often it only has a short-term effect, because urban watersheds follow their own evolutionary paths. For example, utility managers may build a stormwater retention pond to capture polluted runoff, such as excess nitrogen from urban runoff. And it may work very well for a few years. But then it fills in with sediment, and becomes a wetland, and it's no longer working the way the engineers designed it to work."

"We hope scientists, managers and citizens will work together to make decisions that allow for what we call 'urban evolution,' – that is, changes in the ecology of cities over time, " says Kaushal. "If we do that, we can find effective ways to understand and manage the trajectory of urban ecosystems, from decline towards sustainability."

"This synthesis brings the power of evolutionary biology to understanding ecosystem processes in urban environments, some of the most rapidly changing habitats globally," says Saran Twombly, NSF's LTER program director.  "Merging evolutionary biology with ecosystem sciences is an exciting frontier for long-term ecological research, beginning with this issue on biogeochemical cycles."

University Names Gary Williams to Senior Role

September 10, 2014

Brian Ullmann 301-314-6650
Zachary Bolno 301-314-1482

Hall of Fame Coach to Oversee Athletic Development and Boost Alumni Outreach

Gary WilliamsCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland today named Gary Williams to a senior role overseeing athletics fundraising and spearheading university-wide alumni outreach.  As Senior Managing Director for Alumni Relations and Athletic Development, Williams will be responsible for an athletic fundraising operation that raises over $8 million annually for student-athlete scholarships and operates the 8,000-donor Terrapin Club Scholarship Fund.  He will focus on fundraising efforts to build new and renovate existing athletic facilities.

Williams will also work to integrate campus-wide alumni outreach, serve as spokesman for the Alumni Association’s new 25th Anniversary Celebration, and help manage the University’s new regional development plan in New York City, Baltimore, Los Angeles and South Florida.  He will focus on increasing the engagement and philanthropy of the University’s 320,000 alumni.

“Ultimately, I think my job is about building Maryland pride,” said Williams.  “Our move to the Big Ten, the research that we do here, the students that study here, there’s a lot to be proud of.  I think I can make a positive difference and I’m excited to get to work.”

“This is an exciting moment in the history of the University of Maryland,” said President Wallace D. Loh.  “I like to think of Gary Williams as our new head coach of athletic fundraising and alumni outreach.  And I’m confident he will have the same level of success off the court as he did on it.”

“There is no better person who represents our university than Gary Williams,” said Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson.  “When the opportunity presented itself to add Gary to our leadership team, we were eager to offer him this position to spearhead our fundraising efforts for scholarships and capital improvements.  As a student-athlete, coach and ambassador with the Terrapins over the past five decades, Gary represents our ‘Proud Past’ and will be instrumental as we welcome the new ‘Fearless Future’ era at the University of Maryland.”

Williams served as a campaign co-chair for UMD’s recently-completed $1 billion Great Expectations capital campaign.  He will now play a leadership role within the Division of University Relations.  Last year, the University raised over $142 million, best in UMD history.

“Gary Williams is joining our team at a particularly exciting time,” said Peter Weiler, Vice President, University Relations.  “His relationships with alums and his deep affinity and love for this University will be invaluable assets as we build philanthropic support for the faculty, students and programs here at the University of Maryland.”
“Our alumni association actually began the very same year that Gary Williams arrived on campus as the new head coach in 1989,” said Nicole Pollard, President of the UMD Alumni Association.  “I can think of no better ambassador for our 25th anniversary, and to help us grow the community of Terps around the globe.”
Williams earned his Bachelor’s Degree in business administration from UMD in 1968.  He has coached at both high school and collegiate level, and has coached and led programs in the BIG EAST, ACC and Big Ten.

Williams led his alma mater’s basketball program from a period of troubled times to an era of national prominence during his 22 seasons at the helm from 1989-2011.  With 14 NCAA Tournament berths in his final 18 seasons, Williams and his staff garnered seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, a pair of consecutive Final Four showings, and the 2002 National Championship - the first of its kind in Maryland basketball history.  In November 2014, Williams earned the ultimate honor in college basketball, when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

UMD Researchers Awarded $1.6 Million to Fight Flu in Pigs

September 10, 2014

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

Approach could lead to strategies for eliminating influenza in humans

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Researchers from the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) will soon test a cutting-edge approach for eradicating the most ancient disease known to mankind – influenza – thanks to a $1.6 million grant awarded by the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Bhanu TeluguLed by Bhanu Telugu, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, the research team will use advanced genome editing technologies to engineer flu resistance in pigs and prevent the flu from spreading to other pigs and to humans, who can contract the virus from swine. Scientists will do this by deleting receptors in the pigs' genetic codes to block the virus' entry and inserting what are called "decoy" genes to prevent the disease from replicating.

"This serves as a dual mechanism for protecting the pigs from viral infection and transmission to human and pig hosts," explains Telugu. "It's a double-whammy on the virus."

An influenza outbreak in commercial swine herds, such as the pandemic of 2009, can quickly spread across the globe and economically devastate the pork industry. Meanwhile, seasonal influenza in humans leads to an estimated $11 billion in direct and indirect costs every year in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Although recorded evidence of the flu dates all the way back to Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who died in 370 B.C., scientists have yet to defeat the disease, only to vaccinate against it. Telugu is hopeful he and his team can use the domestic pig as a model for fighting the flu in humans and other species.

"Our argument is if we are to eliminate this disease, we have to go after the source – in this case, the pig," says Telugu.

The five-year study will be conducted at the Animal Bioscience and Biotechnology Laboratory, a building jointly owned by the University of Maryland and the USDA and one of only a handful around the world equipped with the biomedical tools necessary for this type of research. The UMD team was one of just six awarded a NIFA grant from a pool of approximately 170 applicants.

UMD Named Top 20 Public University by U.S. News

September 9, 2014

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Best CollegesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been ranked No. 20 among national public universities in the 2015 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released today. This is the 12th year that the university has been ranked in the top 20.

The Robert H. Smith School of Business was ranked 21st nationally, with six specialties ranked in the top 25:

  • Management information systems ranked 6th,
  • Supply chain management/logistics 9th,
  • Entrepreneurship 13th,
  • Management 14th,
  • Marketing 17th, and
  • Finance 25th.

In addition, the A. James Clark School of Engineering was ranked 22nd nationally. Its aerospace engineering specialty ranked 10th and mechanical engineering specialty ranked 21st.

The university was also touted by U.S. News for its first-year freshmen experience and learning communities.

The full U.S. News rankings are available at


September 15
UMD development of virtual and augmented reality technologies just got a big boost through a $600,000 research grant... Read
September 15
New nanotechnology findings from physicists at the University of Maryland have moved us significantly closer to a "holy... Read
September 12
The University of Maryland announced today a gift of $31 million from Oculus co-founder and CEO and UMD alumnus Brendan... Read
September 11
Scientists specializing in urban ecosystems say urban landscapes are more complex than they seem, and from coast to... Read