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UMD Establishes Orbital Debris Research Center

May 21, 2014

Jennifer Rooks 301-405-1458

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—The University of Maryland has announced the establishment of the Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) to address critical issues in orbiting space debris and serve as a hub for academic, industry and government research collaboration.

    Image credit: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office
  Computer-generated image shows objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. 95% of the objects shown are orbital debris-not functional satellites. Image credit: NASA Orbital Debris Program Office

"CODER is the first academically led center established to address the full range of issues surrounding the orbital debris problem," said founding faculty member and Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering Raymond Sedwick. "Most existing organizations focus on just one aspect of the problem—tracking, modeling, remediation, mitigation, policy, etc.—but CODER will serve as a research collective to provide expertise in all of these areas."

Orbital debris is a global issue. The increasing volume of orbiting space debris could significantly hinder future economy and national security as the world's reliance on satellites for communications, research and defense grows. Orbiting debris can travel faster than three times the speed of a bullet and poses a threat to space-based communications, weather forecasting, commerce, scientific exploration, Earth observation and future space activities.

The past 50 years of space exploration and use have created an orbiting junkyard of debris. Over 22,000 pieces of space 'junk'—10 centimeters or larger—are currently being tracked in Earth's orbit. However, there is a much larger junkyard of smaller debris, with pieces numbering in the hundreds of thousands to millions that are beyond the scope of current tracking capabilities and are just as capable of causing significant damage.

Sedwick sees CODER as a nexus for bringing together resources and ideas from across government, industry and academic communities to advance research aimed at addressing the orbital debris issue.

There are several existing government, industry and academic organizations in the U.S. that already support critical functions for the orbital debris enterprise, but they are limited by their authority, capacity and budgets. 

"The goal of the center is to raise awareness and financial support, help to coordinate, conduct and establish collaborative research and ultimately to provide new funding streams to accelerate these efforts," said Sedwick, who is also director of UMD's Space Power and Propulsion Laboratory. "The University of Maryland is well-positioned to take the lead in creating a multi-disciplinary, multi-organizational, collaborative research center that will pursue orbital debris solutions through research in new technologies, policies and economic solutions."

CODER will include a core interdisciplinary team at UMD to conduct and coordinate orbital debris research activities in science and technology as well as policy and economics. The center will spearhead research in each area of orbital debris, including modeling, tracking, mitigation and remediation, assist in developing international policies regarding orbital debris, and serve as a clearinghouse for orbital debris knowledge and findings.

The space community has worked hard to mitigate excessive proliferation of debris by establishing voluntary rules for spacecraft manufacturers and operators that help minimize the creation of new debris. However, there is no system or program in place to remove or clean up near-Earth orbit and there is no program addressing the long-term environmental control of space.

So far, debris has been a nuisance and has created minimal damage—the threat has been "acceptable"—because the cost of cleaning it up is so much greater than the satellite damage, thus far. But, in the not-too-distant future, the cost of continuous damage to satellites may approach, and exceed, the cost of cleaning up space. While any cleanup program will take years to implement and possibly decades to carry out, the future and efficacy of orbital operations lies in tackling this critical issue.

The Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) will address all issues related to orbital debris. These include technology and systems, space policy, economics, legal, and sociological issues. A long-term goal is the development of policies, laws and space systems that will lead to the efficient remediation and control of space environmental pollutants. The center seeks domestic and international collaboration and inclusiveness and envisions multiple sources of government and industry support. CODER will be an international clearinghouse for research and educational programs that address orbital debris issues and it will be a focal point for idea interchange through conferences, meetings and outreach.

For more information visit

Sikorsky and United Technologies Pledge $1M to UMD

May 21, 2014

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., along with its parent company, United Technologies Corp., have pledged one million dollars to endow a fund to create the Igor Sikorsky Distinguished Professorship in Rotorcraft at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering. Sikorsky Aircraft is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture and service, headquartered in Connecticut, and is a subsidiary of United Technologies.

Photo by Al Santos, University of MarylandThe Igor Sikorsky Distinguished Professorship in Rotorcraft will be part of UMD's Department of Aerospace Engineering and is intended to support enhanced research specialization in areas related to rotorcraft, such as autonomous flight operations, flight control and system identification, aeromechanics, composite structures and computer aided manufacturing.

Sikorsky's donation is aimed at expanding UMD's rotorcraft education and curriculum, research programs and intellectual capital to be a continuous source for the best rotorcraft engineers in the world. The endowment is part of an ongoing effort between Sikorsky and the Clark School to enhance UMD's robust rotorcraft program, and provides for continued support for developing not only cutting-edge technology for future helicopters, but also the next generation of innovative rotorcraft engineers.

"We are very grateful to Sikorsky and UTC for this generous investment in the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center and our aerospace engineering program," said Clark School of Engineering Dean and Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Darryll Pines. "Our partnership with Sikorsky has been a tremendously successful one, advancing innovation in rotorcraft education, research and technology development through our shared commitment to excellence."

Sikorsky is a committed Corporate Partner of UMD's Clark School of Engineering. Since 2011, the company has donated nearly $400,000 to support programs for Clark School students, such as scholarships, fellowships and the Sikorsky Aircraft Colloquium Series in Aerospace Engineering. To date, 42 Sikorsky awards have been made to UMD students.

"Sikorsky has seen a direct benefit from many of the best and brightest alumni of the University of Maryland who now are exceptional engineers and senior leaders at our company. As Sikorsky continues its leading role in redefining the future of vertical flight, what better way to extend the legacy of our founder than by supporting this professorship so that future innovators may join the broader mission of rotorcraft engineering," said Mark Miller, Sikorsky vice president of research & engineering.

The Clark School is home to one of the world's leading programs in helicopter engineering. In 2013, Clark School students continued to set U.S. and world records for flight duration of a human-powered helicopter and have won the American Helicopter Society's graduate student design competition for the 12th time in 15 years.

A new senior faculty member will be hired to fill the Igor Sikorsky Distinguished Professorship in Rotorcraft.

Beyond Red vs Blue: Study of States Finds 'Tight' vs 'Loose'

May 20, 2014

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Most people in the United States probably would agree that priorities and values can vary greatly from region to region and even state to state. Although these differences have largely been characterized along political lines, little has been understood about why this cultural regionalism exists and exactly how it impacts national dialogues and policy decisions.

Why for example, is illicit substance use greater in states like Hawaii and New Hampshire relative to Mississippi and Ohio, but incidents of discrimination much higher in the latter than the former? Why do states like Colorado and Connecticut score low on trait conscientiousness—a characteristic associated with greater self-constraint and conformity—and high on trait openness—a characteristic associated with greater tolerance and non-traditional values—relative to states like Alabama and Kansas, which exhibit the opposite pattern? Why do some states such as Oregon and Vermont exhibit high levels of creativity, whereas other states, such as Kentucky and North Dakota, do not?

For the first time, a group of University of Maryland researchers has discovered a parsimonious explanation—one both simpler and deeper than politics. States differ systematically on whether they are "tight"—have strong norms and little tolerance for deviance—or are "loose"—have weak norms and high tolerance for deviance.

Loose states are found primarily in the North East, the West Coast, and include some Mountain states, while tight states are primarily in the South and parts of the Midwest. This distinction "goes far beyond the typical red state versus blue state dichotomy. Our unique study shows there is a quantifiable principle that can account for a large swath of state differences in ecological and human-made conditions, personality characteristics, and various state outcomes," said UMD Professor of Psychology Michele J. Gelfand, who, along with graduate student Jesse R. Harrington, wrote the study that will appear in a new issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors not only document whether states are tight or loose (see figure below), but also provide an explanation: state tightness-looseness is highly associated with how much ecological and historical threat they have faced. Tight states tend to have higher rates of natural disasters, greater environmental vulnerabilities, fewer resources, and greater incidence of disease. States without these threats can "afford" more deviant behavior, the authors conclude.

The authors not only document whether states are tight or loose, but also provide an explanation: state tightness-looseness is highly associated with how much ecological and historical threat they have faced. Tight states tend to have higher rates of natural disasters, greater environmental vulnerabilities, fewer resources, and greater incidence of disease. States without these threats can "afford" more deviant behavior, the authors conclude.

"This suggests that tightness is at least in part a reaction to ecological and historical factors; strong social norms develop to coordinate individuals and protect against threatening environments. Importantly, these same relationships were previously found between nations," said Gelfand, who in 2011 led an international research team that was the first to investigate how "tightness" and "looseness" applied to global cultures, examining responses from 7,000 people across 33 nations. The team developed a measure for these 33 countries, which was published in Science.

Tightness-looseness also relates to average state "personality." Individuals in tighter states tend to exhibit higher "conscientiousness"—a trait associated with greater impulse control, conformity to social norms and self-constraint. Looseness is associated with higher "openness"—a trait associated with greater tolerance and curiosity, non-traditional values and beliefs, and preference for originality.

"There are pros and cons related to each side of the tightness-looseness continuum. Tight states tend to be more socially stable, orderly and exhibit more personal self-control—yet tightness is also linked to higher incarceration rates, greater discrimination, lower creativity, and lower happiness," Harrington said. "Loose states tend to be more creative, have greater equality and tolerance, and be happier. But they also exhibit higher drug and alcohol abuse and greater social instability."

As with the previous international study, Gelfand said she and Harrington hope that their new research on tightness and looseness across the 50 states will ultimately inform national conversations and policy decisions on critical topics.

"A better understanding of the cultural variation across the 50 states is critical to improving communication, cooperation, and progress when it comes to making decisions that affect our nation," Gelfand said. "The challenges we face as a nation require cooperation if we want real change. This research might help us understand why we differ and to help us to develop common ground."

The full study is available at

Racing the Clock to Help Young Patients with Old Hearts

May 19, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

UMD study of premature aging may help explain effects of normal aging

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Children with progeria, a rare disorder that causes premature aging, die in their teens of ailments that are common in octogenarians: heart failure and stroke. Kan Cao, a University of Maryland assistant professor of cell biology and molecular genetics, urgently wants to help find a cure. Cao and her colleagues have taken a big step in that direction, showing that a toxic protein destroys muscle cells inside the patients' arteries. The researchers suspect the damaged arteries are more prone to failure.

The researchers conducted their experiments on smooth muscle cells that they genetically engineered. "This gives us a very good model for testing drugs to treat progeria," said Cao, senior author of a research article published in the May 19, 2014 online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "And it may help us understand how cardiovascular disease develops in people aging normally."

    Seen through a microscope in Asst. Prof. Kan Cao's laboratory, these color-enhanced skin cells from progeria patients have been induced to become smooth muscle cells, some with abnormalities such as double nuclei.
  Seen through a microscope in Asst. Prof. Kan Cao's laboratory, these color-enhanced skin cells from progeria patients have been induced to become smooth muscle cells, some with abnormalities such as double nuclei. Image by Haoyue Zhang.

Progeria is extremely rare—about 100 patients worldwide have been diagnosed—and always fatal at an early age. Patients typically die around age 13. The disorder is difficult to study because patients are so few, and their rapid decline mostly affects internal organs. That makes the effects hard to track without invasive testing, from which researchers want to spare these young patients.

Until now, researchers didn't know what mechanism was causing the patients' deaths. They knew a genetic mutation makes patients' cells produce progerin, a toxic form of a protein that, in healthy people, forms the skeletal structure of cell nuclei. In previous studies Cao and others found that progerin builds up in cells of elderly people, suggesting that it is also linked to normal aging. But progerin's effects on smooth muscle cells were unknown before this study.

Studies in mice with a genetically engineered form of progeria found the animals lost most of the smooth muscle cells in their large arteries. This muscle type, involved in involuntary movement, is in the lining of many internal organs, including blood vessels.

Cao's team couldn't obtain human smooth muscle cells from progeria patients for their study because the process would be too invasive, so they used induced pluripotent stem cells—adult cells reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells and develop into a variety of cell types.

In a first for a progeria study, the researchers induced skin cells from progeria patients and normal adults to develop into smooth muscle cells, and then compared cell reproduction and decay in healthy cells with the same processes in cells containing the progeria mutation. Both sets of smooth muscle cells began multiplying, but after two weeks the progeria cells leveled off; as many cells were dying as were reproducing. The researchers discovered that the progeria cells accumulated toxic progerin and had abnormally low levels of PARP-1, a protein that is important in repairing cell damage.

Cells constantly repair damage to their DNA, Cao explained, and they have several ways to get the job done. When one strand in the DNA double helix breaks, cells usually use the unbroken strand as a template to make a perfect copy. PARP-1 is supposed to sense the break and start this repair process. In the study's normal smooth muscle cells, that's what happened.

But sometimes a cell simply splices two broken DNA strands together end to end. If the right two strands reconnect, the cells resume normal reproduction, splitting to form two new daughter cells in the process called mitosis. But if the repair isn't right, those cells can't successfully split.

In the current study, the smooth muscle cells created from progeria patient skin cells, with high levels of progerin and low levels of PARP-1, did not use the more accurate repair method. Instead, they spliced together segments of DNA that happened to be nearby—and usually got the sequence wrong.

After the faulty repairs, these cells could not split their contents evenly during mitosis. Some cells kept trying to divide and eventually died trying, in a phenomenon called "mitotic catastrophe." Others failed to divide and ended up as one cell with two nuclei.

Researchers think that after losing so much smooth muscle tissues, the arteries are easily damaged by mechanical stresses such as blood pressure, making them vulnerable to a variety of failures that manifest as forms of coronary artery disease. They'll test that in the next phase of their research, and will try to determine why progeria cells do not use the best pathway for repairing DNA damage. They also plan to use the smooth muscle cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells to test new treatments for progeria.

Cao, who has developed friendships with some progeria patients, took her entire research team, which includes three UMD undergraduate students, to a 2013 Progeria Research Foundation workshop where they met progeria patients.

"The students began thinking, 'My research is so important for the families.' It's a lot of motivation for them," Cao said, "and a lot of pressure for all of us to work quickly."

Terp Makes Dell's List of Youth Innovation Advisors

May 16, 2014

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Individual studies major Erik Martin leads entrepreneurship efforts outside the classroom

Erik MartinCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Recognition from one of the world's largest computer technology corporations has allowed University of Maryland sophomore individual studies major Erik Martin to add one more headline to his list of esteemed accomplishments.

Martin was recently named to Dell's 12 under 22 list of Youth Innovation Advisors (YIA), where he will work to inform Dell of challenges students and young entrepreneurs face on a daily basis and will develop solutions to address these roadblocks and improve creativity among young people. As part of the YIA, Martin will represent, inspire and mentor students to engage in their respective learning communities to make a positive impact on society.

Key priorities for the YIA include the development of next-generation skills, student entrepreneurship, access to technology, connectivity in schools and other areas that affect the preparation of students for the future.

"While the ed-tech space is very exciting, sometimes efforts to push technology into education only serve to digitize broken parts of education, but don't fundamentally change anything," Martin said. "Being a part of Dell's Youth Innovation Advisory board means I can help steer that ship to create real change."

Martin's passion for education and society reform is not just a hobby. The Terp has turned his appetite for change into a major at UMD where he is studying global civics and new media.

In addition to his work at the university, Martin is also a design consultant for FHI 360, where he helps create games that have a positive social impact on developing nations. He is also an education activist drafting a Student Bill of Rights and works closely with the for-students-by-students nonprofit organization, Student Voice.

"I think change has to be much more holistic than just ramping up STEM or 'teacher accountability' with testing," Martin said. "Education should foster resilient, passionate doers and thinkers—that's the change I work towards."

University Names Dr. Eric Denna as New Vice President for Information Technology

May 15, 2014

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh today named Dr. Eric Denna new Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer (CIO), effective July 1, 2014.

Currently the CIO of the University of Utah and the Utah System of Higher Education, Dr. Denna brings to the position 30 years of IT leadership experience in research universities and in the private sector.  

“Eric has a deep understanding of the role of IT in enabling a university to excel in its educational, research, innovation, and administrative functions,” said Loh.  “In today’s dynamic and challenging IT world, the university needed a proven leader, and we found that in Eric.”

“I am delighted to be joining the University of Maryland,” said Dr. Denna.  “This is an extraordinary opportunity because for over 150 years, the University of Maryland has demonstrated leadership in higher education and is poised to play an ever larger role going forward.”University of Maryland

Dr. Denna is active in national technology collaborations related to strategy, cyber-infrastructure, and cyber-security.  He currently serves as Vice Chair of the Kuali Foundation and Co-Chair of the Utah Education Network.  He works with the CIOs of the CIC (Big Ten institutions) on using technology to transform learning and teaching.

Previous positions include CIO and Chief Technology Officer of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City; CIO of Brigham Young University (BYU); and CIO for the Times Mirror Higher Education Group in Chicago. 

He was the Warnick, Deloitte & Touche Professor at BYU’s Marriott School of Management.  He has served on the boards of, and as a consultant to, several universities and private corporations.

Dr. Denna earned a B.S. in accounting from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in information systems from BYU, and the Ph.D. in information systems from Michigan State University. He co-authored two books on the use of information technology for business solutions. He has written numerous articles in refereed journals and other publications.  

Winter Losses Drop, Tough Times Linger for Honey Bees

May 15, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

UMD-led national survey suggests all bee hives should be treated for common parasite

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – U.S. beekeepers lost more than one in five honey bee colonies in the winter of 2013-2014—significantly fewer than the winter before. But tough times continue for commercial beekeepers, who are reporting substantial honey bee losses in summer as well. Beekeepers who tracked the health of their hives year-round reported year-to-year losses of more than one in three colonies between spring 2013 and spring 2014.


This nectaring honey bee is pollinating a cultivar of the plant that produces canola oil. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership.
  This nectaring honey bee is pollinating a cultivar of the plant that produces canola oil. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.

Those are the key findings of an annual national survey of honey bee colony losses, conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who directs the Bee Informed Partnership, led a team of 11 researchers who conducted the survey. A total of 7,183 beekeepers, who collectively manage about 22 percent of the country's 2.6 million commercial honeybee colonies, took part.

The survey is part of a research program aimed at understanding nearly a decade's worth of high death rates in managed honey bee colonies. The losses impose heavy costs on beekeepers and could lead to shortages of some crops that depend on honey bees for pollination.

No single culprit is responsible for all the honey bee deaths. But the Bee Informed Partnership's research shows mortality is much lower among beekeepers who carefully treat their hives to control a lethal parasite called the varroa mite.

Varroa mites, like the one on the back of the honey bee just below center in this image, can spread through a hive and decimate a colony. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership.     

Varroa mites, like the one on the back of the honey bee just below center in this image, can spread through a hive and decimate a colony. Credit: Robert Snyder, Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.


"If there is one thing beekeepers can do to help with this problem, it is to treat their bees for varroa mites," said vanEngelsdorp, a UMD assistant professor of entomology. "If all beekeepers were to aggressively control mites, we would have many fewer losses." 

Beekeeping is not only a backyard hobby, but a linchpin of the food supply. Farmers depend on honeybees and other pollinators to fertilize valuable crops, from apples and almonds to tomatoes and watermelons. The pollination provided by honey bees adds about $15 billion to the value of U.S. crops.

The survey found that 23 percent of the managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. died between Oct. 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. That's well below the average loss of 29 percent over the survey's history.

But summer death rates were nearly as high as the winter ones. Over the summer, about 20 percent of survey respondents' colonies died. Losses between spring 2013 and spring 2014 averaged 34 percent. (The winter and summer losses do not match up to the year-to-year losses because not all beekeepers filled out all sections of the survey.)

"Rising and falling rates of colony losses demonstrate how complicated the issue of honey bee health has become," said Jeff Pettis, a survey co-author and research leader of the USDA's Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Pettis pointed out that the causes of honey bee colony failures are complex, including varroa mites, other parasites and viruses; poor nutrition, which can be due to a shortage of wildflowers in herbicide-sprayed or drought-stricken farm fields; and exposure to insecticides and fungicides.


Blue bars show the percentage of winter honey bee colony losses considered "acceptable" by U.S. commercial beekeepers participating in the annual national survey. Red bars show the percentage of colonies actually lost each winter by the participating beekeepers. Credit: Bee Informed Partnership.
  Blue bars show the percentage of winter honey bee colony losses considered "acceptable" by U.S. commercial beekeepers participating in the annual national survey. Red bars show the percentage of colonies actually lost each winter by the participating beekeepers. Credit: Bee Informed Partnership. Click to download image.

Now in its eighth year, the survey originally focused on winter mortality in managed honey bee colonies. The generation of bees that lives through the winter must survive months longer than summer bees' 30-day lifespan. In winter, honey bees don't produce offspring and are confined in a hive where diseases can spread. 

"We used to think winter was the critical period," vanEngelsdorp said. "But during our field studies, beekeepers told us they were also losing colonies in the summer months. So we expanded the survey and found that in fact, colonies are dying all year round."

About two-thirds of beekeepers surveyed, who ranged from hobbyists to large businesses, said their colonies suffered unacceptable losses—greater than the 19 percent mortality rate that, on average, they were willing to absorb. It was the second year in a row that most beekeepers reported unacceptably high mortality.

The beekeepers were asked to list the probable causes of their losses; and in a separate survey, some also described how they managed their hives. Those responses are still being analyzed. But an initial review, fieldwork and past surveys all point to varroa mites as a persistent—and controllable—problem.

"Every beekeeper needs to have an aggressive varroa management plan in place," vanEngelsdorp said. "Unfortunately, many small-scale beekeepers are not treating their bees, and are losing many colonies. And those colonies are potential sources of infection for other hives."

This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA (award number: 2011-67007-20017). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA.

A summary of the 2013-2014 survey results is available at

UMD Undergrads Impress IBM, Industry Pros

May 14, 2014

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - This spring, IBM challenged University of Maryland undergraduates to develop ideas for implementing its recent customer service innovation, the Watson Engagement Advisor. The competitors were UMD Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) students. An IBM grant in 1993 helped establish QUEST as a multidisciplinary, reality- centered program for UMD undergraduates from the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the A. James Clark School of Engineering, and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences.

    Team HomeWiz took home the First Place Prize in the 2014 IBM Watson Engagement Advisor Case Competition
  Team HomeWiz took home the First Place Prize in the 2014 IBM Watson Engagement Advisor Case Competition

The UMD teams developed organization-specific strategies to acquire and implement the Engagement Advisor driven by "Watson," the supercomputer that defeated former grand champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy.

The competitors applied techniques including value analysis and quantitative and qualitative analysis in developing their proposals and "brought them together and presented them cohesively," said one of the judges, Michael Fitzgerald, global technology strategy leader in IBM's Strategy and Analytics Center of Competence. "Those were some of the best oral sessions I've seen in some time – to be done by undergraduate students in a cutting-edge field is very impressive."

"The Watson Engagement Advisor has a lot of different applications. We applied it to the home improvement industry," said UMD computer science major Brendan Rowan, who proposed HomeWiz as a one-stop home improvement knowledge base for expansive do-it-yourself projects. The idea garnered first place for Rowan and teammates – computer science major Jason Rubin and Smith School students: Praneet Puppala (computer science-finance), Yash Mehta (marketing) and Jessica Manzione (accounting and finance).

A broad sports knowledge repository including game recaps and experts' columns named Bringing IBM Watson to ESPN drew second place. The presenting students were Leah Xu (computer engineering), Stephen Barbagallo (materials engineering), Eric Bailey (materials engineering) and Eric Coraggio (civil engineering).

Third place went to an app to streamline Environmental Protection Agency compliance information for individuals and companies. The team, which created Next Generation Compliance, included Eileen McMahon (mechanical engineering), Allison Thompson (aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering), Hannah Breakstone (international business/supply chain management) and Caitlin Myers (civil and environmental engineering).

Beyond their specific ideas, the students' business-technology acumen and poise in presenting their work impressed industry professionals who judged the event.

QUEST Director Joseph Bailey, a research associate professor in the Smith School, said UMD partners, like IBM, "look for us to prepare specialists who think differently about problems with the wherewithal to acquire new knowledge. Our students were able to give some suggestions to a talented team from IBM. They also learned a lot for themselves – about how they can think about technology and apply it to markets and industries," he said.

UMD, Montgomery County Re-Think the American Suburb

May 14, 2014

Planning conference examines the changing face of Montgomery County communities and suburbs across the country

Ellen Dunham-JonesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – According to the most recent Harris poll, sponsored by American Planning Association, only 10 percent of Millennials and active boomers want to live in a suburb "where you drive everywhere." As metropolitan areas across the country grapple with the profound economic, demographic and environmental shifts of the 21st century, they also face the demand for a vastly different American suburb -- one that is more urbanized, sustainable and diverse. This past weekend, the University of Maryland's National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG), in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Planning and the UMD Urban Planning Program tackled the changing 21st century suburb with Makeover Montgomery 2 | Moving Forward Montgomery (MM2).

The conference brought nearly 300 design and development professionals, academics, students and citizens together with some of the nation's brightest minds in planning, design, economics and development to discuss strategies and examples for shaping the future of Montgomery County, Maryland suburbs and beyond. The three-day conference engaged participants in twenty-one topic specific sessions, covering subjects ranging from public/private partnerships to public art, and closely examined national examples of successful suburban redevelopment.

"The long-held myth of suburbia has always focused on the nuclear family," said David Cronrath, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation to a full auditorium opening night. "What I think this conference is trying to do is create a new myth; one that isn't built on the individual but, instead, is built on a community and the possibility of solving problems together, finding a better way to settle on this earth."

The conference kicked off Thursday evening with a keynote address delivered by Ellen Dunham-Jones, award-winning licensed architect and professor of contemporary architectural and urban design studios and theory at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture. Dunham-Jones, who co-wrote Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburb, outlined the profound challenges facing the American suburb, including rampant vacancies, inefficient infrastructure, quality of health and a changing demographic, which is more diverse and facing an explosion of aging boomers. "Who is living in the suburbs isn't who the suburbs were designed for," said Dunham-Jones.

Yet, in the face of such challenges, communities all over the country are re-dreaming suburbs through creative design and the sustainable rehabilitation of underused property, creating more walkable, thriving communities.

"At first, there was a story to be told about the tremendous opportunity for redeveloping suburban properties," said Dunham-Jones. "But now, the story isn't just 'retrofitting is happening.' The story is that there are some great examples out there of communities that are raising the bar. I think Montgomery County is a fabulous place to have the discussion of what some of those examples are."

This is the second time in three years that UMD has teamed up with Montgomery County's Department of Planning to cover this growing and serious issue. Several UMD faculty and students participated and presented sessions over the course of the conference. It is just one example of an on-going relationship between Montgomery County—known for innovative and ambitious community planning—and the university's Urban Planning and Smart Growth education programs, offering students and researchers the opportunity to learn and benefit from the challenges and successes of a rapidly changing suburban landscape.

"We have benefited tremendously from our relationship with Montgomery County," said Gerrit Knaap, director of the NCSG. "We trade on their international reputation of outstanding planning and have a terrific relationship that moves very gracefully from the county to the planning program to the NCSG. They regularly hire UMD planning students, both as interns and post-graduate employees, helping the planning program recruit the best students in the nation. The County also frequently taps into NCSG expertise on a variety of planning and smart growth issues."

The Montgomery County Planning Department will offer recaps and video of several conference sessions this week on To see the conference's keynote speech by Ellen Dunham-Jones, visit the NCSG website.

UMD Launches New Supercomputer to Expand High-Performance Computing for Research

May 14, 2014

Phyllis Dickerson Johnson, UMD, 301-405-4491
Cathie Hargett, Dell Global Communications, 512-728-7347

New Data Facility Opens to House Key University Asset

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland unveils today Deepthought2, one of the nation's fastest university-owned supercomputers, to support advanced research activities ranging from studying the formation of the first galaxies to simulating fire and combustion for fire protection advancements. Developed with high-performance computing solutions from Dell, Deepthought2 has a processing speed of about 300 teraflops.

The University of Maryland unveils Deepthought2, one of the nation's fastest university-owned supercomputers, to support advanced research.Deepthought2 is a significant asset of the new Cyberinfrastructure Center – a 9,000-square-foot data facility located in the Rivertech Building in the university's M Square Research Park.

"To be among the best requires research and educational facilities that are among the best," said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "Deepthought2 will attract top researchers and students who need its data-intensive computing power," Dr. Loh said.

Several university divisions and colleges and researchers from a variety of disciplines worked together to obtain this new central computing resource and to bring online the new Cyberinfrastructure Center – a facility specifically designed to provide the needed space, energy efficient climate control, and backup power for the supercomputer.

"Deepthought2 places the University of Maryland in a leadership position in the use of high-performance computing in support of diverse and complex research," said Ann G. Wylie, professor and interim vice president for information technology. "This new supercomputer will allow hundreds of university faculty, staff, and students to pursue a broad range of research computing activities locally – such as multi-level simulations, big data analysis, and large-scale computations – that previously could only be run on national supercomputers," Dr. Wylie said.

Deepthought2 replaces the original Deepthought, installed in 2006. The new supercomputer, which is 10 times faster than its predecessor, 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.

"Supercomputers are increasingly being used in all areas of research, and computing resources that can sift through vast amounts of data at incredible speeds are becoming essential tools in expanding the frontiers of knowledge and in solving the urgent scientific and societal problems of our times," said Fran LoPresti, deputy CIO of cyberinfrastructure and research IT for the Division of Information Technology.

Ranked among the nation's top 25 public research universities, the University of Maryland has been awarded approximately $500 million annually in external research funding in recent years.

"High-performance computing is key, and Deepthought2's expanded capabilities will further Maryland's research funding competitiveness and help UMD researchers bring in new grant money to fund the science enabled by such a powerful local facility," said Derek Richardson, UMD professor of astronomy.

Based on current standings, Deepthought2 is expected to rank among the top high-performance computing clusters located at U.S. universities and among the top 500 clusters in the world. Supercomputers are qualified according to a standardized benchmarking test, and then they are ranked by the TOP500 Project.

"We are pleased to partner with the University of Maryland as institution leaders further their high-performance computing initiatives and continue to leverage technology to provide top-notch research and scholarly pursuits for faculty, students, and staff," said John Mullen, vice president and general manager, Dell Large Institution Sales.


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