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Saturday, April 30, 2016

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Al Gore, Former U.S. VP and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project, to Discuss Future of Climate Action

February 25, 2016

Graham Binder 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project, visits the University of Maryland for a conversation titled “The Future of Climate Action.” Following the historic climate accord in Paris that established a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, Vice President Gore will discuss outcomes and subsequent steps for implementation of the landmark agreement.

This event will also formally announce The Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland, housed within the School of Public Policy. Vice President Gore arrives at UMD in support of the Center’s mission to facilitate policy design and a multi-stakeholder approach to climate implementation organized around four topical areas that draw from existing strengths at the University: Climate Mitigation Policy; Energy Pathways; Resilience and Adaptation; and Ecosystems and Health. 

The Center for Global Sustainability is uniquely positioned to be a driving force for worldwide climate implementation. Its proximity to Washington, robust network with D.C.-based organizations, the U.N., and national governments, and leading policy researchers are unmatched assets, making UMD a leader for climate change policy.  


  • Al Gore, Former Vice President of the United States 
  • Wallace Loh, University of Maryland President
  • Robert Orr, University of Maryland School of Public Policy Dean


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

  • Doors Open: 4:15 p.m.
  • Event: 5:00 p.m.

NOTE: Security requires that all media with video or still cameras must arrive for check-in and be set up no later than 3 p.m. for a security sweep.

All additional media should arrive prior to the event start time of 5 p.m.


The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
Dekelboum Concert Hall 
8270 Alumni Dr., College Park, MD 20742


Information to be sent upon RSVP


Media will be required to show identification and credentials at the media check-in table outside of Dekelboum Hall prior to entering the event. 


A mult-box audio feed will be available at the event.


All media should RSVP to Graham Binder at binderg@umd.edu

UMD Announces 2016 Sustainability Fund Projects

February 25, 2016

Andrew Muir 301-405-7068

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland Office of Sustainability has announced the first round of Sustainability Fund projects approved for 2016.  The Sustainability Fund allocates money for students, faculty and staff to finance projects that will improve sustainability initiatives on campus.  

Projects approved for funding by the Student Advisory Subcommittee and the University Sustainability Council include: 

“The University Sustainability Fund continues to be a critical source of support for many innovative ideas and initiatives that further our campus sustainability efforts,” said Scott Lupin, Director, Office of Sustainability. “This year’s first round of projects will benefit the campus, and particularly students, whose fees form the Fund. The Office of Sustainability congratulates the award winners and is excited to support the approved projects.” 

The Transforming Student Culture through Green Housing grant sets a new precedent for the Sustainability Fund: it is the first time the Fund has administered a grant to create an employee position at the university. 

“The drive to encourage students to live sustainably in UMD housing has been strong for years, but has never taken full, permanent flight,” said Samantha Bingaman, Undergraduate Student representative for the Sustainability Council.  “This position adds a whole new level of cohesiveness to the endeavor, promising to bring truly sustainable student living to fruition.”

The two-year pilot position will develop and manage the Green Rooms and Green Chapters programs, implementing sustainable culture change across the University of Maryland student housing experience. The employee will work jointly between the Office of Sustainability, Department of Resident Life, and Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Applications for the position will be accepted this spring.    

“We’re very excited about this opportunity to bring Maryland’s outstanding culture of sustainability into the residence halls and Greek houses at a very personal, student-centered level, said Deb Grandner, Director, Department of Resident Life. “When fully implemented, I believe that the Green Rooms and Green Chapters programs will serve to educate and inspire our students toward life-long behaviors on behalf of a healthy and sustainable environment.  This grant allows us to provide dedicated resources to advance our goal.”

The Library Sustainability Committee received a grant to create a living green wall at McKeldin Library. The installation of the green wall will enhance the overall air quality and aesthetics in the library, in addition to potentially having a positive effect on energy efficiency.  The wall will be located on the first floor and construction will start in fall 2016.   

“In addition to improving aesthetics and air-quality, the living wall will demonstrate the university's commitment to sustainability,” said Gary White, Associate Dean for Public Services, University of Maryland Libraries.  “It is also meant to symbolize the role of the modern research library in the university in which the library is alive and vibrant.  It is a place where people come together to explore, collaborate and create. The living wall will be a highly visible representation of the 21st century library.”

The Fund also supported two sustainability-focused programs that provide real world experience to students: the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) and the College Park Scholars program.

PALS, which has achieved great success since its original Sustainability Fund grant in 2014, is ready to begin its fourth state of Maryland project in Anne Arundel County.  College Park Scholars is continuing their Scholars Talk Trash series, with a focus on bringing waste education events and speakers to campus.  

The Sustainability Fund was created in April 2007, when 91 percent of undergraduate students voted in favor of increasing student fees to create a University Sustainability Fund. Since 2011, the fund has granted over $1.5 million to 72 sustainability projects.   

For more information about the University Sustainability Fund: sustainabilityfund.umd.edu.  

UMD Engineering Professor Receives Presidential Early Career Award

February 23, 2016

Pamela R. M. Phetphongsy 301-405-6266
Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – President Barack Obama has named Anya Jones, a University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering faculty member, a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said in a White House press release. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.”

Jones, whose PECASE nomination was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, has been a member of the Aerospace Engineering faculty at the University of Maryland since 2010. She earned her doctorate in experimental aerodynamics from the University of Cambridge, her Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a dual bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in aeronautical and mechanical engineering.

“Dr. Jones’ unmistakable leadership in our field so early in her career gives me great hope for the future of engineering and our country,” said Darryll J. Pines, Clark School Dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Engineering.  

Jones is chair of a NATO Research Technology Organization task group on gust response and unsteady aerodynamics and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She also serves as a member of the AIAA Applied Aerodynamics Technical Committee, the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, and the Maryland Robotics Center, is a faculty advisor to the UMD Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and serves on the Raising Excitement for Science Engineering and Technology (RESET) board of directors.

Just this week, Jones was notified that she had received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award for research to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of air vehicles by gaining a deeper understanding of the physics of the large flow field disturbances encountered in high winds and gusty flight environments.

Jones has developed unique experimental capabilities at UMD to allow for the exploration of the interaction between a wing and a large, well-characterized gust in a repeatable and controlled environment. By modeling this interaction both experimentally and analytically, her research offers a new approach to validating classical aerodynamic theories and a new framework for physics-based models of separated flow.

The PECASE awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

UMD Named a Top 20 Public College by Business First

February 23, 2016

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been named a Top 20 Public College by Business First. The annual list ranked 477 four-year public institutions across the country based on 20 indicators of academic excellence, prestige, affordability, diversity and economic strength. UMD took No. 11 on the list and No. 3 among public Big Ten institutions. 

According to Business First, “the 20-part formula pinpointed the public universities and colleges that offered the best educational experiences to their students. It gave the highest marks to schools with highly selective admissions processes, strong retention and graduation rates, prestigious reputations, generous resources, affordable tuitions and housing costs, diverse faculties and student bodies, and economically robust communities.”

Business First's rankings were based on the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. College rankings recently issued by three national publications (Forbes, Kiplinger’s and U.S. News and World Report) were also taken into account.

Business First is a Buffalo-based publication owned by American City Business Journals Inc. 

The story and full rankings are available here. UMD’s profile is available here

UMD Climbs to No. 11 on Peace Corps' 2016 Rankings of Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges

February 19, 2016

Kristen Seabolt 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland was ranked No. 11 in the Peace Corps’ annual list of the Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities in the large school category, with 41 alumni currently volunteering worldwide.  

Since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961, 1,214 UMD graduates have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers. UMD’s No. 11 showing marks a significant jump from its previous ranking of No. 18 in 2015, continuing a three-year climb and placing UMD on the list for the sixth consecutive year.

“The University of Maryland consistently produces competitive Peace Corps applicants by promoting volunteerism and community engagement, supporting students' academic success, exposing students to diverse multiculturalism and new languages, and providing access to a host of service learning opportunities,” said Anna Holland, Peace Corps Campus Recruiter at UMD. “I am constantly impressed with the students for their accomplishments, professionalism, and dedication to making a sustainable social impact.” 

“The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service.”

The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing colleges and universities annually according to the size of the student body. See the 2016 Top Colleges and Universities here.

UMD students interested in learning more about the Peace Corps may contact peacecorpsumd@umd.edu.

UMD-led Team First to Solve Well-known Game Theory Scenario

February 16, 2016

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267

New algorithm could help political strategists, business leaders make better decisions

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A team of computer scientists from the University of Maryland, Stanford University and Microsoft Research is the first to solve a game theory scenario that has vexed researchers for nearly a century. The game, known as “Colonel Blotto,” has been used to analyze the potential outcomes of elections and other similar two-party conflicts since its invention in 1921. Until now, however, the game has been of limited use because it lacked a definitive solution. 

A new algorithm developed by the UMD-led team is capable of solving the Colonel Blotto scenario. A notable achievement in its own right, the algorithm could also provide political strategists, business leaders and other decision-makers with a powerful new tool for making informed choices. The team reported its findings at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Conference in Phoenix on February 15, 2016. 

“Our algorithm can potentially be used to compute the best resource investment strategy for any competitor up against a single opponent,” said Mohammad Hajiaghayi, the Jack and Rita G. Minker Associate Professor of Computer Science at UMD and lead on the project. “As long as we have sufficient data on a given scenario, we can use our algorithm to find the best strategy for a wide variety of leaders, such as political candidates, sports teams, companies and military leaders.”

Colonel Blotto pits two competitors against one another and requires each to make difficult decisions on how to deploy limited resources. In its simplest form, each player assigns a limited number of resources, or troops, to a number of battlefields. Players must do this without any knowledge of their opponent’s strategy. Players win a given battlefield if they allocate more troops than their opponent; the player who wins the most battlefields also wins the game. 

The game can be extended to real-world scenarios, such as a U.S. presidential general election. In this example, each candidate is a player; resources such as campaign staff, stump time and funding are the troops; and each state is a battlefield. The game can also apply to high-profile consumer product competition, such as the ongoing battle between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android mobile phone products.

“From presidential elections to marketing decisions, competition for attention and loyalty is a part of daily life. However, the behavior of individuals in response to such competitions is not yet well understood,” said Hajiaghayi, who also holds a joint appointment at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS). “We show that such strategic behavior is computationally tractable. Given a description of the competition, we can determine which strategies will maximize the outcomes for a given player.”

Although the rules of Colonel Blotto are relatively simple, the potential strategies a player can employ are nearly limitless, depending on the number of battlefields and the total resources available to each player. The solution achieved by Hajiaghayi and his colleagues does not necessarily favor one player over another, but rather represents an equilibrium in which both players have deployed the best strategy they possibly can in relation to their opponent’s strategy. 

The large variety of possible strategies has been the key obstacle to finding a computational solution to the game. Hajiaghayi and his team overcame this issue by limiting the total number of possible strategies to a relative handful of representative choices. 

“We found that the strategies of the players can be accurately represented by a reasonably small number of possibilities,” Hajiaghayi said. “This is a more general approach, but it works well as a proof-of-concept. Many others have tried to solve Colonel Blotto for specific scenarios, but we are the first to take a more general approach and solve the theory.”

This solution enabled the team to develop a generalized algorithm, which can now be applied to specific scenarios, such as the 2016 presidential election.

“Our algorithm only works for two competitors, so we will need to wait for the general election to try this,” said Saeed Seddighin, a graduate student in computer science at UMD who will present the group’s findings at the AAAI meeting. “If we know how a given state voted in previous elections relative to the resources each candidate invested in that state, then we can use the same investment data from this year’s election cycle to predict whether each candidate has deployed his or her best possible strategy nationwide.”

The study, “From Duels to Battlefields: Computing Equilibria of Blotto and Other Games,” AmirMahdi Ahmadinejad, Sina Dehghani, MohammadTaghi Hajiaghayi, Brendan Lucier, Hamid Mahini and Saeed Seddighin, was presented on February 15, 2016, at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) Conference in Phoenix. 

Gravitational Wave Detection Validates Einstein & Early Work of UMD Physicists

February 12, 2016

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

Discovery opens new window on the universe with observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An international team of scientists that includes UMD physicists has opened an unprecedented new window on the universe with the first observation of ripples in the fabric of space-time. These ripples, known as gravitational waves, were generated by the colliding of two massive black holes a billion light-years away from Earth. Though such black hole collisions have long been predicted, they had never before been observed.

University of Maryland Physics Professor Joseph Weber (1919-2000) with a gravitational wave detector. Credit: Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries This finding confirms Albert Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves in his 1915 general theory of relativity, and it is built on more than 50 years of work by UMD physicists, starting in the  early 1960s when the late UMD Physics Professor Joseph Weber, who was also a pioneer of lasers, built the world’s first gravitational wave detectors on the university’s College Park, Md. campus, inspiring a new field of gravitational waves research.

“Sharing the detection of the binary black hole merger event GW150914 is a sheer joy for all of us who have been working in this field,” said Peter Shawhan, an associate professor of physics at UMD and a principal investigator in the  Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration that announced these findings on February 11. “It’s a dream finally realized, but it is just the beginning of the science that we can do with LIGO and other gravitational wave detectors.”

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity and of the universe that cannot be obtained any other way.  This first detection of gravitational waves occurred on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (9:51 UTC) by both of the twin LIGO detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built, and are operated by Caltech and MIT. The discovery, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy) and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

Shawhan helped to validate the analysis software that identified the black-hole merger signal a few minutes after the LIGO detectors recorded it. He also acted as a liaison with astronomers before and during the LIGO observing run.

This simulation shows the two black holes with 29 and 36 solar masses, which dance around each other and will merge in a few moments. They emit gravitational waves, which have been observed in terrestrial detectors. Credit: Numeric-relativistic simulation: S. Ossokine, A. Buonanno (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics) / Scientific visualization: W. Benger (Airborne Mapping Hydro GmbH)Alessandra Buonanno, a UMD professor of physics who also has an appointment as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany, together with many students and postdoctoral researchers at both institutions, have developed highly accurate models of gravitational waves that black holes would generate in the final process of orbiting and colliding with each other.

"We spent years modeling the gravitational-wave emission from one of the most extreme events in the universe: pairs of massive black holes orbiting each other and then merging. And that’s exactly the kind of signal we detected!” said Buonanno, who is also an LSC principal investigator.

Buonanno also co-led an effort to determine whether the signal detected by LIGO matches exactly the predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. So far, all tests find the signal to be consistent with this theory.

“It is overwhelming to see how exactly Einstein’s theory of relativity describes reality,” said Buonanno. “GW150914 gives us a remarkable opportunity to see how gravity operates under some of the most extreme conditions possible.”

Early UMD work rings through LIGO finding

With this new LIGO discovery, UMD physicists continue the university’s more than 50 year tradition of gravitational wave research. Weber’s early detectors used “resonant bars”, which were designed to ring when a gravitational wave passed through them. UMD Physics Professors Emeriti Ho Jung Paik and Jean-Paul Richard improved on Weber’s technique to develop more sensitive resonant detectors. Later technology improvements enabled the more-sensitive laser interferometer technique used by LIGO, which was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus, from MIT; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, also from Caltech.

“LIGO has been a half century quest,” said Thorne, during a press conference announcing the detection of gravitational waves.” It arose in part in the 1960s from pioneering work by Joseph Weber at the University of Maryland.”

Over the years, the gravity theory research group at UMD has also made many key contributions to the theory of black hole dynamics, gravitational wave emission and possible alternative theories of gravity, through the work of UMD Physics Professors Emeriti Dieter Brill and Charles Misner and UMD Physics Professor Ted Jacobson.

LIGO research is carried out by the LSC, a group of more than 1000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration.

UMD students and alumni who contributed to the new LIGO research include UMD physics graduate student Min-A Cho, who developed software to communicate the properties of promising signals to astronomers for follow-up observations with their telescopes and other instruments. Cregg Yancey, also a UMD physics graduate student, helped to check that the detectors operated properly when the signal was detected. The black-hole merger signal stood up to all scrutiny during months of painstaking analysis and cross checks and was ultimately named GW150914, indicating the date of its arrival at Earth.

UMD alumnus Andrea Taracchini (Ph.D. ’14, physics), who is now a postdoctoral researcher in Buonanno’s division at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, Buonanno,  Yi Pan, a former assistant research scientist in physics at UMD and Enrico Barausse, a former postdoctoral researcher in physics at UMD, developed waveform models that were employed in the search that observed the black-hole merger with high-enough significance to be confident in its detection. Researchers then used the waveform models to infer the actual astrophysical parameters of the source—the masses and spins of the two black holes, the binary black hole’s orientation and distance from Earth, and the mass and spin of the enormous black hole that the merger produced.

UMD Researchers Assess Potential Public Health Impacts of Fracking in Maryland

February 10, 2016

Kelly Blake 301-415-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Following their release of a state-commissioned study on the potential public health impacts of fracking in Western Maryland, University of Maryland researchers are helping to inform the conversation about the potential risks associated with unconventional natural gas development and production.

While other states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have already begun drilling along the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, the Maryland government awaits direction from the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission before deciding whether and how to tap the state’s natural resource. 

Recent growth of and political demand for unconventional natural gas development and production (UNGDP) has outpaced research into the risks those efforts pose for population health, according to the team of health researchers who worked on the Maryland Marcellus Shale Public Health Study. Two recently published papers from the study team provide important insights for researchers and communities that can be applied when assessing potential health risks from fracking in other settings. 

Ranking Potential Health Hazards from Natural Gas Fracking 

Devon Payne-Sturges, assistant professor in the UMD School of Public Health’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health (MIAEH) and Meleah Boyle, project manager for MIAEH, were lead authors of a study published in the journal PLOS One, describes the “hazard ranking” methodology they developed to assess the potential public health impacts of fracking on a variety of areas, including air quality, social determinants of health, water quality, occupational health and healthcare infrastructure.

“We felt it was important to publish this assessment methodology so other researchers and communities could benefit from a systematic public health evaluation process, which they could easily adapt for any other proposed UNGPD or resource extractive development projects,” said Dr. Payne-Sturges. “So often decisions made in sectors outside of the traditional health care sector rarely consider linkages to health, and this leaves open the potential for unintended consequences. Our methodology brings public health to the table.”

Of particular importance to the research team was developing a system that would be simple to communicate.

"We wanted a way to explain our findings to the community and policymakers that was clear and easy to understand," Ms. Boyle said. 

The study looked at two Maryland counties, Allegany and Garrett -- the only anticipated areas of Marcellus gas production in the state -- though its authors say their methodology can be expanded to examine other areas. Researchers conducted an extensive scoping process, including site visits and a literature review, to identify specific hazards that should be addressed in a Health Impact Assessment (HIA). Hazards were organized into eight categories that would specifically impact the unique populations of Allegany and Garrett counties: 1) air quality, 2) water quality (including water quality, soil quality, and naturally occurring radiological materials), 3) noise, 4) earthquakes, 5) social determinants of health (e.g. crime, injuries, mental health, sexually transmitted infections, and substance abuse), 6) occupational health, 7) healthcare
infrastructure, and 8) cumulative exposures and risk. 

The final impact assessment methodology, modified from an existing HIA, consisted of a qualitative ranking and scoring system across those eight categories. Researchers also added a color-coded system to rank evaluations in terms of the potential risk of impact to public health. Each of the hazards was assessed according to established criteria, and assigned a score, which was then summed to produce a qualitative ranking: High, Moderately High, or Low levels of negative public health impact.

The manuscript uses three examples -- air quality, water quality and healthcare infrastructure -- to illustrate in detail how researchers applied the ranking method to each hazard. 

“Should Maryland decide to move forward with fracking, our hazard ranking and overall report provided a set of recommendations that will minimize public health impacts,” wrote the study’s authors. “Our approach can be easily adapted by other communities facing similar situations as well as in other settings that entails making decisions with limited information.”

The Impacts of Fracking on Perceptions of Place and Identity

Thurka Sangaramoorthy, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology of UMD’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, was the lead author of the study examining community perspectives and experiences with fracking published in the journal Social Science and Medicine. It examined community perspectives and experiences with ongoing fracking operations in Doddridge County, West Virginia. The findings from these interviews and site visit helped inform the baseline assessment of current regional population health, the assessment of potential public health impacts, and possible adaptive and mitigation strategies.

“Fracking does a lot more than just disrupt the environment. It disrupts people’s sense of place and identity, which is very important to this region of Appalachia,” explained Dr. Sangaramoorthy. “The residents we spoke to expressed deep distress over the transformation of their land, their homes, and their relationships with each other as a result of fracking, which also influenced their perceptions of environmental and health impacts.”

The study published in Social Science and Medicine examined how community residents perceive and experience fracking in Doddridge County, West Virginia, which has a similar demographic and health profile to Maryland’s Allegheny and Garrett counties. All three are rural, with high rates of poverty, and have populations that are older, more racially homogenous and more likely to lack health insurance and suffer from chronic diseases than both Maryland and West Virginia state averages. 

The research team conducted focus groups and a multi-day site visit with Doddridge County residents to gain insight into how individuals living in communities where fracking is underway are being impacted.

One of the key issues that fragments communities where fracking occurs relates to who owns the rights to the land. “Split estates,” which separate surface (above-ground portion of land) and mineral (sub-surface) rights, are common in the Appalachian region. These were created because of historical federal acts passed to allow the federal government to retain access to future mineral discoveries. Many homeowners own only the surface rights to their property, and by law are required to allow the use of surface property for mineral access by fracking operations. Long-time neighboring residents of the same community may have different rights -- and a different sense of control and power -- because those who own mineral rights can choose to keep or sell their land for a good profit, while those who only own surface rights are unable to stop drilling companies from taking over their land. Surface owners face the potential destruction and contamination of their land and the devaluation of their property if they try to sell. 

The study authors suggest that the rapid environmental change brought about by fracking in areas like Doddridge County is affecting the physical, mental and emotional health of residents of the area. If fracking is allowed in Maryland after the moratorium expires in October 2017, these impacts should be considered in the state’s plans for further research. 

“The complex links between environmental impacts and social disruption can have long-term impacts on health outcomes. Ongoing research should examine the full spectrum of stress placed on communities that experience fracking,” Sangaramoorthy explained. “This can aid healthcare providers, community leaders and policymakers in designing programs and services for local communities who are impacted or could potentially be impacted by fracking.”  

The article Hazard Ranking Methodology for Assessing Health Impacts of Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Production: The Maryland Case Study was written by Meleah D. Boyle , Devon C. Payne-Sturges , Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Sacoby Wilson, Keeve E. Nachman, Kelsey Babik, Christian C. Jenkins,  Joshua Trowell,  Donald K. Milton, Amir Sapkota and published in PLOS ONE.

The article Place-Based Perceptions of the Impacts of Fracking Along the Marcellus Shale was written by Thurka Sangaramoorthy, Amelia M. Jamison, Meleah D. Boyle, Devon C. Payne-Sturges, Amir Sapkota, Donald K. Milton, and Sacoby M. Wilson and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

UMD Names Susan J. Dwyer Executive Director of the Honors College

February 9, 2016

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has appointed Dr. Susan J. Dwyer as Executive Director of the Honors College. In her new role as Executive Director, Dr. Dwyer oversees all aspects of the Honors College, including establishing expectations for intellectual engagement, overseeing curricular and co-curricular activities, working with a faculty advisory committee, and maintaining regular communication with Honors students.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Susan Dwyer, who brings vision, passion, and experience to this position,” says William A. Cohen, associate provost and dean for Undergraduate Studies. “It will be exciting to witness her intellectual leadership of the Honors College, which promises to grow even stronger as a magnet for extraordinarily gifted and ambitious students at the University of Maryland."

Dr. Dwyer joined the faculty at UMD in 2009 as associate professor of philosophy, and she holds an affiliate appointment in the Women’s Studies department. She has held various leadership positions in the Department of Philosophy and the College of Arts and Humanities, including chair of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee; chair of the Committee on Programs, Courses, and Curricula; and director of Undergraduate Studies. Prior to joining UMD, Dr. Dwyer was associate professor and chair of philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she served for three years as a member of the Honors College Advisory Board. Dr. Dwyer has also taught at McGill University and at the United States Naval Academy.

She specializes in areas of moral philosophy, constitutional law, and feminist theory.  She is an internationally recognized expert on moral psychology, known, in particular, for her measured approach to research at the intersection of the cognitive and brain sciences and philosophical treatments of moral judgment. She is also well regarded for her work on three major applied ethics issues: problematic speech and free speech, abortion, and national reconciliation after great injustice.

Dr. Dwyer has been an Honors College Faculty Fellow at the university for the past six years, and has earned three recognitions during her time at UMD. In 2011, she received the UMD General Education/CORE Teaching Award; in 2012 she was named a Philip Merrill Presidential Mentor; and in 2015 she was named GEMSTONE Mentor of the Year for the Class of 2017. 

“Because the University of Maryland is a crucible for great ideas and a leader in translating research of all kinds into teaching and into innovations beyond academia, we offer our students a world-class 21st century education,” said Dr. Dwyer. “Our outstanding faculty, our commitment to inclusion and diversity, and our proximity to the Nation’s capital consistently attract the brightest young people to our campus each year. At the helm of the Honors College, I am honored to work with exceptional students, committed faculty and excellent staff to make a substantive contribution to the intellectual and moral development of the young people in whose hands our futures lie.” 

Dr. Dwyer earned her Ph.D. in philosophy, with a graduate minor in linguistics, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She received a B.A. and a B.A. Hons. 1st Class from the University of Adelaide, South Australia.


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