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Wednesday, December 17, 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

UMD Studies: To Boost Maryland Jobs, Target Job Hubs

December 10, 2014

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - To stimulate economic development and job creation, state and local governments should target incentives to specific "employment centers" that have the greatest growth potential and regional accessibility, recommends a pair of studies by the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG). 

NCSGOne of the studies, "Employment Centers and Agglomeration Economies: Foundations of a Spatial Economic Development Strategy," has been published online by Economic Development Quarterly. The other, "Polycentrism as a Sustainable Development Strategy: An Empirical Analysis from the State of Maryland," will appear next month in the Journal of Urbanism (it is currently available at  Both recommend a stronger focus on "concentrated employment hubs," in future state decisions on smart growth, land use and transportation policy.

Whereas most Maryland economic development policies focus on specific industries - such as motion pictures - or target populations- such as the chronically unemployed - the reports suggest that the state also needs to consider the locations where new firms are most likely to thrive.

"Creating jobs statewide is a vital necessity, but the natural magnets for new firms are the areas where the transportation infrastructure, skilled workforce, and complementary businesses are already in place," says Gerrit Knaap, director of the university’s NCSG.  "This is what is needed for new businesses to survive and what leads to higher transit ridership.  Most state smart growth policies fail to take this into consideration."

For example, many state economic development programs - such as the job creation tax credit program - provide incentives for firms to locate in Priority Funding Areas, Knaap says. But Priority Funding Areas were drawn based on residential densities and primarily designed to contain residential growth. To promote smart economic development, incentives should be directed to areas where firms have the greatest chance of survival, he recommends. Job hubs offer firms the benefit of proximity to existing firms, while the state gets the greatest return on its investment in transportation infrastructure.

These "employment centers" represent the largest concentration of jobs per square mile within a region. Downtown Baltimore, the 270 corridor, Hunt Valley and Greenbelt-College Park all represent areas of concentrated employment within the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, each boasting between 10,000 and 360,000 jobs. 

While the footprint of these employment centers is small - about one percent of the state’s land area, the studies report - they offer the highest concentration of high-paying jobs. According to the NCSG, these employment hubs host 40 percent of the state’s jobs and 46 percent of the total wages paid. Compared with employers not located in these centers, NCSG researchers found firms located in the top 23 hubs employ nearly twice as many workers per firm and pay nearly 30 percent higher wages. 

Not only do these hubs attract businesses, the studies found them critical engines for innovation, new business and economic growth. Business "births" are higher in employment centers than in any other area of the state, reports "Employment Centers and Agglomeration Economies."

"These economic centers act like natural business incubators," says Professor Chengri Ding, the study’s lead author. "We found that in the period just before the great recession in 2008, a significantly larger proportion of firms in the Construction; Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE); Professional Services; and Administrative Services were born inside economic centers rather than outside them."

Paying more attention to these hubs of employment could also influence future transportation planning and policy, particularly when weighing new public transit projects. Using the Maryland State Transportation Model, the NCSG researchers estimate that the 23 centers attract 21 percent of all automobile trips and 39 percent of all transit trips.  Research also found that private sector creation and growth was strongly affected by the availability—and location—of transportation infrastructure. 

According to Eli Knaap, lead author of "Polycentrism as a Sustainable Development Strategy: An Empirical Analysis from the State of Maryland," "these results suggest that locating jobs near transit stations might be the most effective means of increasing transit ridership in the state."

The report findings have strong implications on future housing development as well, particularly when considering the influx of millennials and immigrants into the workforce. The researchers conclude that encouraging housing development within transit commute sheds of these employment hubs—particularly those with strong transit accessibility—can best accommodate both the desires of a changing, more urban-focused workforce and long-term sustainability.

"By making Maryland job-ready in the centers most desirable to future employers, the state can light up an 'open for business' sign," concludes NCSG director Gerrit Knaap.  

UMD Physics Professor Confirmed as Head of ARPA-E

December 10, 2014

Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

After more than a year, Williams voted in as director of advanced energy projects         

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams was confirmed by the U.S. Senate yesterday as the new Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). President Obama nominated Williams in November 2013 to direct the agency, which was launched with bipartisan support in 2009 to advance high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early in development for private-sector investment.

University Professor Ellen Williams. Copyright Mike Morgan"ARPA-E is central to the Department's advancement of energy technology innovation, and Ellen Williams will provide outstanding leadership based upon her combination of world class research in condensed matter physics and insight into how technology impacts the energy marketplace," said U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz in a release. "I'm excited to work with Ellen on expanding the scope and impact of ARPA-E."

According to the DOE press release, Williams, as Director of ARPA-E, will ensure that the technologies assisted through ARPA-E will help change the energy landscape and better meet the nations changing energy needs.

"We are delighted at the news of Prof. Williams’ confirmation," said Patrick O’Shea, Vice President and Chief Research Officer of the University of Maryland.  "Ellen has had an extraordinarily accomplished career as an educator and researcher in surface science and nanotechnology, which has prepared her well for her new position."

Prior to her new DOE appointment, Williams was Chief Scientist for BP, a position she had held since 2010. She is currently on a leave of absence from the University of Maryland where she is a Distinguished University Professor in the department of physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology

Williams came to UMD in 1981 for a post-doctoral fellowship and became a full professor in 1991. At Maryland, she pioneered the use of very powerful electron scanning, tunneling microscopes to study the surface of materials like silicon at the atomic level. In 1996 Williams founded the University of Maryland Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, serving as its director until 2009. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2005. 

Williams has served on the board of reviewing editors of Science Magazine since 2003. She also has participated in technical assessments for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense, National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Energy. 

Read a profile of Professor Williams in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or listen to her talk about what inspired her to go into science in an NAS podcast.


Astronomers Discover Unique Spiral Galaxy with Twin "Jets" and "Halo"

December 9, 2014

Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - With the help of citizen scientists, a research team that includes University of Maryland astronomers has found an important new example of a very rare type of galaxy that may yield valuable insight on how galaxies developed in the early universe.

Radio-optical overlay image of galaxy J1649+2635. Yellow is visible-light image; Blue is the radio image, indicating the presence of jets. Credit: Mao et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Sloan Digital Sky SurveyThe galaxy they studied, named J1649+2635, nearly 800 million light-years from Earth, is a spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, but with prominent "jets" of subatomic particles propelled outward from its core at nearly the speed of light. The problem is that spiral galaxies are not supposed to have such large jets.

"The conventional wisdom is that such jets come only from elliptical galaxies that formed through the merger of spirals. We don't know how spirals can have these large jets," said the study's lead author Minnie Mao, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

J1649+2635 is only the fourth jet-emitting spiral galaxy discovered to date, and the first example of a "grand design" spiral galaxy with a large "halo" of visible-light emission surrounding it. UMD Astronomy Professor Sylvain Veilleux and graduate student Vicki Toy, two of the study's co-authors, discovered the "halo" while observing the galaxy with the Discovery Channel Telescope near Flagstaff, Ariz.

"Our discovery supports the idea that the central bulge and halo of this galaxy may have been formed through a major galaxy merger, but the spiral structure formed later on," said Veilleux. "The findings also indicate that J1649+2635 is the central member of a rich galaxy group that has likely undergone one or two major mergers in the past."

A study detailing the discovery and appearance of J1649+2635 has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Mao and her colleagues dubbed these rare galaxies "Spiral DRAGNs," an acronym for the technical description, "Double-lobed Radio sources Associated with Galactic Nuclei."

Pro-Am Science
The new discovery also exemplifies the growth over the past decade of professional and amateur (Pro-Am) scientific collaborations.  In astronomy, such Pro-Am projects include Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, and Stardust at Home that engage the public to participate in and contribute to research efforts.

In the current study, citizen scientists helped professional astronomers identify unique spiral galaxy J1649+2635. Participants in the online Galaxy Zoo project look at images from the visible-light Sloan Digital Sky Survey and classify the galaxies as spiral, elliptical or other types. Multiple volunteers inspect each galaxy image to ensure accuracy in the classification.

The research team studying J1649+2635 started with a subset of 35,000 spiral galaxies generated by Galaxy Zoo citizen volunteers who viewed and classified more than 65,000 galaxies. For each galaxy, some 95 percent of those viewing its image agreed on the classification. Galaxy J1649+2635 had been classified as spiral by 30 out of the 31 Galaxy Zoo volunteers.

The researchers then cross-matched the visible-light spirals with galaxies in a catalog that combines data from the NRAO Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Sky Survey and the Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty Centimeters survey. They found that J1649+2635 is both a spiral galaxy and has powerful twin radio jets.

Jets such as those seen coming from J1649+2635 are propelled by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy. Material pulled toward the black hole forms a rapidly rotating disk, and particles are accelerated outward along the poles of the disk. The collision that presumably forms an elliptical galaxy disrupts gas in the merging galaxies and provides "fuel" for the disk and acceleration mechanism. That same disruption, however, is expected to destroy any spiral structure as the galaxies merge into one.

"The next step will be to look for more examples of spiral galaxies with giant radio jets and a halo of light surrounding them in the nearby universe to better understand how common this phenomenon is," said Veilleux.

Additional authors on this study included Frazer Owen, Emmanuel Momjian, Mark Lacy and Ryan Duffin of the NRAO; Bill Keel of the University of Alabama; Glenn Morrison of the University of Hawaii and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope; Tony Mroczkowski of the Naval Research Laboratory; Susan Neff of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; Ray Norris of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science in Australia; and Henrique Schmitt of the Naval Research Laboratory.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. This study used the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory. Lowell is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to astrophysical research and public appreciation of astronomy and operates the Discovery Channel Telescope in partnership with Boston University, the University of Maryland, the University of
Toledo and Northern Arizona University.

UMD to Create Region's First Online Stormwater Training Center

December 4, 2014

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

MOST Center funded by a five-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center (EFC) begins work this month on the region's first Municipal Online Stormwater Training (MOST) Center, a web-based resource to help municipalities within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed access and implement innovative stormwater management techniques to improve water quality in the Bay. The project was made possible by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), who will provide $350,000 a year for the next five years to launch and operate the center. Developed in partnership with the Low Impact Development Center (LIDC), the MOST Center will be completely virtual; it is expected to become the most wide-reaching and comprehensive stormwater initiative to date, eliminating the accessibility issues, budget restraints, and lack of expertise that often keep communities from successfully implementing effective stormwater management.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Virginia Beach Area. Photo credit: Ole Bendik Kvisberg"Communities in the Chesapeake Bay are faced with the challenges of limited capacity and very few resources available to help them meet their stormwater management needs and obligations," explains Joanne Throwe, director of the Environmental Finance Center. "Many of these communities have provided direct feedback, saying that they need an online one-stop resource that provides specific municipal stormwater program technical and management information and training. We are very excited to get this program off the ground."

The comprehensive program, which will be provided at no cost to municipalities, will offer the necessary skills to create and implement effective stormwater projects, from modernizing infrastructure to developing localized leadership teams. At the heart of the program, communities will gain the "fundamental building blocks" of storm water programs, which include leveraging existing resources, developing innovative strategies and creating new approaches to financing. Modeled after the Massive Open Online Course Model catching fire at universities across the country, the MOST Center will offer assistance and training to communities throughout the watershed, regardless of size, budget or accessibility. According to Throwe, the MOST Center will implement a number of resources in an effort to build the best comprehensive training program possible. This includes sharing relevant case studies, as well as technical and financial information from national programs and key organizations, such as the American Public Works Association, the American Planning Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers and The Water Environment Federation. Training will also be strengthened by input and expertise from many local Chesapeake Bay organizations.

Understanding that each community is unique and will be at different stages of knowledge and implementation, the MOST Center will offer a series of tools to gauge current knowledge and allow them to participate at the appropriate level, then advance participants as training progresses. A sliding scale of training modules will be developed to address a variety of levels of expertise, from the most basic to more advanced skill sets. This flexibility will eliminate the technical intimidation factor for audiences who may not have prior experience or expertise with stormwater management, while also providing complex and comprehensive information for the more seasoned trade professionals. The center will offer municipalities a variety of incentives for participation and completion, including continuing education hours, professional development hours, certificates of completion and recognition for projects.

The EFC is well versed in providing stormwater assistance to municipalities in the mid-Atlantic region. Over the past several years, they have assisted seventeen communities in developing stormwater policy and procedures as part of their Stormwater Financing and Outreach Unit, with dedicated stormwater revenue sources in Berlin, Oxford and most recently the City of Salisbury, Maryland. Currently, the EFC has water resource related projects in 12 locations throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and has recently expanded their reach to include a satellite office in California.

Over the next year, the EFC and LIDC will create the technical and contextual framework and foundation for the training program, tapping area leaders and organizations for input and feedback. The EFC also plans to use the first year to develop a network of relationships with professional, institutional and government stakeholders, having them act as advisors, and to partner in content creation and training. The EFC anticipates the new virtual online center will go live in early 2016, with the objective of becoming self-sustaining by the end of the project period.

"Stormwater is by far one of the biggest threats to the health of the Bay," says Throwe. "Arming communities with the tools to diminish their impact on bay resources will have lasting implications for the economic, social and environmental well-being of the state."
The University of Maryland's EFC is the largest Environmental Finance Center in the country, managing and implementing a number of environmentally minded projects throughout the mid-Atlantic Region. The Municipal Online Stormwater Training Center was one of 13 projects officially announced this past September as part of the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. To learn more about the MOST Center and other efforts by the EFC, visit the EFC's website at

President Loh to Host First-Ever Teleconference Town Hall

December 3, 2014

Brian Ullmann, 301-314-6650,

Large scale teleconference for Baltimore-area alums highlights Fearless Ideas regional campaign

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – President Wallace D. Loh will host a series of large-scale teleconferences with University of Maryland alumni, starting Wednesday, December 3.  The teleconference will use technology that will allow President Loh to take questions directly from nearly 40,000 Baltimore-area alumni. 

“Our graduates have played a critical role in the ascendency of our great University and they will continue to play a crucial role in our continued success,” said President Loh.  “I look forward to having these open conversations with our alumni.”

Future teleconferences will be held for alumni in California, New York and Florida, part of a comprehensive regional campaign to build engagement across the country.  The regional plan, developed by the Division of University Relations, also features new events and expanded outreach by the Alumni Association and a series of signature Fearless Ideas events in Baltimore, South Florida, Los Angeles and New York City.

“Connecting with our alumni has always been our top priority,” said Peter Weiler, Vice President of University Relations.  “The large teleconferences with President Loh, new Alumni Association activity and signature events will help us share the wonderful things happening at the University of Maryland.”

A series of signature events highlight the regional plan.  Scheduled for January 24 in Baltimore, January 31 in Ft. Lauderdale and March 7 in Los Angeles, the Fearless Ideas events will feature informative and engaging presentations by top UMD faculty including Hasan Elahi, Jennifer Golbeck, Michael Kaiser, Sylvester “Jim” Gates, and Dana Priest.


December 17
For the seventh consecutive year, the University of Maryland has ranked in the top 10 in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s... Read
December 10
To stimulate economic development and job creation, state and local governments should target incentives to specific "... Read
December 10
Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams was confirmed by the U.S. Senate yesterday as the new Director of the... Read
December 9
With the help of citizen scientists, a research team that includes UMD astronomers has found an important new example... Read