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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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Exercise Keeps Hippocampus Healthy in People at Risk for Alzheimer's

April 23, 2014

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

Dr. Carson SmithCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – A study of older adults at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease shows that moderate physical activity may protect brain health and stave off shrinkage of the hippocampus – the brain region responsible for memory and spatial orientation that is attacked first in Alzheimer's disease. Dr. J. Carson Smith, a kinesiology researcher in the University of Maryland School of Public Health who conducted the study, says that while all of us will lose some brain volume as we age, those with an increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease typically show greater hippocampal atrophy over time. The findings are published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

"The good news is that being physically active may offer protection from the neurodegeneration associated with genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Smith suggests. "We found that physical activity has the potential to preserve the volume of the hippocampus in those with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, which means we can possibly delay cognitive decline and the onset of dementia symptoms in these individuals. Physical activity interventions may be especially potent and important for this group."

Dr. Smith and colleagues, including Dr. Stephen Rao from the Cleveland Clinic, tracked four groups of healthy older adults ages 65-89, who had normal cognitive abilities, over an 18-month period and measured the volume of their hippocampus (using structural magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) at the beginning and end of that time period. The groups were classified both for low or high Alzheimer's risk (based on the absence or presence of the apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 allele) and for low or high physical activity levels.

Of all four groups studied, only those at high genetic risk for Alzheimer's who did not exercise experienced a decrease in hippocampal volume (3 percent) over the 18-month period. All other groups, including those at high risk for Alzheimer's but who were physically active, maintained the volume of their hippocampus.

"This is the first study to look at how physical activity may impact the loss of hippocampal volume in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," says Dr. Kirk Erickson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. "There are no other treatments shown to preserve hippocampal volume in those that may develop Alzheimer's disease. This study has tremendous implications for how we may intervene, prior to the development of any dementia symptoms, in older adults who are at increased genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease."

Individuals were classified as high risk for Alzheimer's if a DNA test identified the presence of a genetic marker – having one or both of the apolipoprotein E-epsilon 4 allele (APOE-e4 allele) on chromosome 19 – which increases the risk of developing the disease. Physical activity levels were measured using a standardized survey, with low activity being two or fewer days/week of low intensity activity, and high activity being three or more days/week of moderate to vigorous activity. 

"We know that the majority of people who carry the E4 allele will show substantial cognitive decline with age and may develop Alzheimer's disease, but many will not. So, there is reason to believe that there are other genetic and lifestyle factors at work," Dr. Smith says. "Our study provides additional evidence that exercise plays a protective role against cognitive decline and suggests the need for future research to investigate how physical activity may interact with genetics and decrease Alzheimer's risk."

Dr. Smith has previously shown that a walking exercise intervention for patients with mild cognitive decline improved cognitive function by improving the efficiency of brain activity associated with memory. He is planning to conduct a prescribed exercise intervention in a population of healthy older adults with genetic and other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and to measure the impact on hippocampal volume and brain function.

UMD Announces President's Energy Initiatives

April 22, 2014

Andrew Muir 301-405-7068

Campus wide policies aim to reduce electricity use 20 percent by 2020 and set a new standard in energy conservation

Earth Day 2014COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland President Wallace Loh celebrated Earth Day by announcing three historic energy initiatives to be adopted by campus.

"We can all take pride in the University of Maryland's longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, as well as the tremendous growth in our sustainability programs," stated Dr. Loh in a campus wide email.  "We exemplify what is possible, but we can do even more.  Today, I announce three new University-wide initiatives on energy that will help us achieve the goal of reducing our carbon footprint in half by 2020."

The energy initiatives include:

  1. Energy conservation.  We will reduce electricity use on campus by 20 percent by 2020 via energy efficiency upgrades that reduce operating expenses and preserve occupant comfort.
  2. Carbon-neutral new construction.  We will off-set new greenhouse gas emissions from our new construction by designing new buildings to strict energy-efficiency standards and using energy from renewable sources.
  3. Purchased power.  We will eliminate carbon emissions from purchased electricity by 2020 by purchasing only from renewable sources.

The University of Maryland cannot prevent the effects of climate change on its own, but it can be part of the solution.  However, these actions, though significant, will not be enough to meet that goal. It will take a campus-wide effort.

"Ultimately, group success relies on individual participation.  If we are to meet our promises, each of us must do what we can to reduce our environmental footprints.  This is the enduring lesson of Earth Day," said Dr. Loh.

University Debuts Crowdfunding Platform: Launch UMD

April 21, 2014

Alana Carchedi 3031-405-0235

Campus Groups Tap Social Networks to Fund Unique Projects

Launch UMDCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland recently introduced a first-of-its-kind crowdfunding initiative called LAUNCH UMD.  The platform provides an opportunity for faculty and students to tap into social networks to raise money for small yet impactful projects.

LAUNCH UMD debuted with five projects that gave students the opportunity to innovate outside-the classroom, inspire social change and foster Terp pride. The pilot projects include:

Crowdfunding is one of the fastest growing areas of philanthropy.  According to Forbes magazine, crowdfunding raised over $5 billion in 2013.  Crowdfunding relies on peer-to-peer connections to raise relatively small amounts of money from a large number of supporters.

"For the University of Maryland, LAUNCH UMD is a terrific way for alumni and friends to connect intimately with causes that are important to them," said Brian Logue, director of alumni participation.  "These projects are excellent examples of how small gifts can make a huge difference."

The Division of University Relations provides support, training and the fundraising platform at no charge to campus groups.  Participating groups are required to report out on how they used social media and other promotional tools to work toward their fundraising goals.  Additional student and faculty causes are expected to launch in full in Fall 2014.

For more information, please visit

University Introduces TERPRIDE

April 21, 2014

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Department of Transportation Services and University Relations Partnership Creates Mobile 'Experience Vehicle'

TERPRIDECOLLEGE PARK, Md. – On April 22, the University of Maryland will debut TERPRIDE, a retro-fitted Shuttle-UM bus now transformed into a mobile 'experience vehicle.'  Reengineered by technology and wrapped in UMD colors, TERPRIDE will be officially unveiled at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.  Students, faculty, staff and media are invited to explore TERPRIDE. The event will feature interactive games, music and a chance to win prizes including a free two-hour TERPRIDE rental.

TERPRIDE, created in partnership between the Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) and University Relations (UR), allows the University to take Maryland Pride on the road, transforming any location into a hub of Terp spirit.  It will also be available for rental for UMD related events.

"We are extremely excited for TERPRIDE to hit the road," said David Allen, executive director of DOTS.  "We've created something unique and innovative and we can't wait for people to experience it."

"This campus hosts thousands of visitors each year, and yet there are opportunities out there – state and county fairs, high schools recruiting events, alumni gatherings – that we haven't fully taken advantage of," said Brian Ullmann, assistant vice president, marketing and communications. "TERPRIDE gives us an unbelievable opportunity to extend the University beyond College Park, and reach thousands of alumni and friends."

TERPRIDEEquipped with flat panel monitors, computers, and satellite television, TERPRIDE is the perfect vehicle for red carpet photo opportunities, tailgates, and alumni events. 

TERPRIDE will be in New York City on April 24 for the Alumni Association's Maryland in Manhattan event, as well as other alumni events in Rockville (May 1) and Arlington (May 8). At Maryland Day on April 26, TERPRIDE will feature games like Fearless Factor, which will include mystery boxes, trivia, and blind taste tests. 

When Terps spot the bus at events or on the road, they are encouraged to mention the location or snap a photo and post to social media using the hashtag #TERPRIDE. Also, visit the UMD Facebook page for a behind-the-scenes look on the making of TERPRIDE.

Faculty and staff can rent TERPRIDE by contacting DOTS at 301-314-7271.  Learn more about TERPRIDE availability by emailing


UMD Students to Compete to 'Do Good' at UMD April 29

April 18, 2014

Megan Campbell 301-405-4390

Former NFL MVP and CBS NFL Today Analyst Boomer Esiason, Legendary Sports Agent David Falk and Morgan Stanley's Bob Seaberg to be Do Good Challenge Celebrity Judges

Do Good ChallengeCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland is proud to announce that philanthropists NFL MVP and CBS NFL Today Analyst Boomer Esiason '84 and Legendary Sports Agent David Falk will headline a high profile panel of judges for the final round of the Do Good Challenge on the College Park campus, April 29. Bob Seaberg, board member, Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust, will join them as a representative of Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, the lead sponsor of the Challenge.

Creating a new way to engage UMD students in philanthropy, the third-annual innovative prize competition inspires Terps to make the greatest social impact they can for their favorite cause. The competition is run by the School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. New this year, the Center has partnered with the Robert H. Smith School of Business Center for Social Value Creation to create two tracks for the challenge:

  • Projects: student-run initiatives that maximize impact for a particular cause or organization through volunteering, fundraising, and/or awareness efforts; and
  • Ventures: independent, student-founded and student-run organizations intended to be self-sustaining entities in the long run.

Student projects and ventures had between Feb. 10 and April 6 to "do good" for a cause or charity by advocating, raising money, volunteering, or developing a creative new solution to a social problem. The student teams are now in the process of being paired down to six finalists: three ventures and three projects. On April 29, those teams will pitch their work to the celebrity judge panel and a live audience and will be evaluated on the impact, leverage and creativity of their project or venture. This year's winners in each track will receive $6,000 for their cause, and all the finalists will receive cash prizes.

The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences will also be sponsoring a $2,500 "Be the Solution" audience choice prize for the project or venture that receives the most overall votes. In addition, UMD's National Scholarship Office will be announcing the recipients of the Maryland Leadership and Discovery Grant, a scholarship that awards up to $6,000 to UMD students to implement an innovative social impact project, at the Do Good Challenge finals. 

Boomer Esiason"The Do Good Challenge has rapidly become one of the important – and really fun – ways we're creating a new culture of philanthropy on campus," says Professor Robert T. Grimm, Jr., director of the School of Public Policy Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. "The competition is part of making philanthropy a pillar of the Maryland experience.  No other university includes Maryland's extensive and innovative hands-on philanthropic experiences."

About the judges
Esiason, a former Terp, had an All-America career at the University of Maryland and went on to become one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history, including being a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback and named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1988. He launched the Boomer Esiason Foundation in 1994, a dynamic partnership of leaders in the medical and business communities joining with a committed core of volunteers to heighten awareness, education and quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis, while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure.

David FalkFalk, the founder of FAME, a boutique sports agency, one of the sports marketing industry's leading figures and most talented innovators, has had a 40 year career in representing the top players in NBA history. In 1984, Falk negotiated Michael Jordan's ground-breaking record deal with Nike, and in the process coined the nickname "Air Jordan" which led to the most successful endorsement relationship in sports history. In 2009, Falk released his first book, The Bald Truth, in which he shares the secrets to his success and talks about his experiences in the sports marketing field.

Bob SeabergSeaberg, Board member of the Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust and President of Intersect Consulting has had over 30 years in the financial services industry, as a financial advisor, professional development executive, strategic marketing professional and director of financial and wealth planning. As president of Intersect Consulting he advises financial services firms and financial advisors as well as nonprofit boards, philanthropists and exploring the lines where different disciplines, such as philanthropy and social impact, meet.

Along with Morgan Stanley's lead sponsorship, other key sponsors and partners of the Challenge include the Center for Social Value Creation, the National Scholarship Office, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Freed Photography and Pepsi.

More information about the Do Good Challenge is available at

Meteorites Yield Clues to Mars' Early Atmosphere

April 17, 2014

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

Data will help scientists read Curiosity samples for signs of life, UMD expert says

Mars: Closest Approach 2007. Photo from http://hubblesite.orgCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars have unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published April 17 in the journal Nature, shows that the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways very early in the 4.6 billion year evolution of our solar system.

The results will help guide researchers' next steps in understanding whether life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars and how water—now absent from the Martian surface—flowed there in the past.

Heather Franz, a former University of Maryland research associate who now works on the Curiosity rover science team at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, led the study with James Farquhar, co-author and UMD geology professor. The researchers measured the sulfur composition of 40 Mars meteorites—a much larger number than in previous analyses. Of more than 60,000 meteorites found on Earth, only 69 are believed to be pieces of rocks blasted off the Martian surface.

The meteorites are igneous rocks that formed on Mars, were ejected into space when an asteroid or comet slammed into the red planet, and landed on Earth. The oldest meteorite in the study is about 4.1 billion years old, formed when our solar system was in its infancy. The youngest are between 200 million and 500 million years old.

A microscope reveals colorful augite crystals in this 1.3 billion-year-old meteorite from Mars, which researchers studied to understand the red planet's atmospheric history. Photo: James DayStudying Martian meteorites of different ages can help scientists investigate the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere throughout history, and learn whether the planet has ever been hospitable to life. Mars and Earth share the basic elements for life, but conditions on Mars are much less favorable, marked by an arid surface, cold temperatures, radioactive cosmic rays, and ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.  Still, some Martian geological features were evidently formed by water – a sign of milder conditions in the past. Scientists are not sure what conditions made it possible for liquid water to exist on the surface, but greenhouse gases released by volcanoes likely played a role. 

Sulfur, which is plentiful on Mars, may have been among the greenhouse gases that warmed the surface, and could have provided a food source for microbes. Because meteorites are a rich source of information about Martian sulfur, the researchers analyzed sulfur atoms that were incorporated into the rocks.

In the Martian meteorites, some sulfur came from molten rock, or magma, which came to the surface during volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes also vented sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, where it interacted with light, reacted with other molecules, and settled on the surface.

Sulfur has four naturally occurring stable isotopes, or different forms of the element, each with its own atomic signature. Sulfur is also chemically versatile, interacting with many other elements, and each type of interaction distributes sulfur isotopes in a different way. Researchers measuring the ratios of sulfur isotopes in a rock sample can learn whether the sulfur was magma from deep below the surface, atmospheric sulfur dioxide or a related compound, or a product of biological activity.

Using state-of-the-art techniques to track the sulfur isotopes in samples from the Martian meteorites, the researchers were able to identify some sulfur as a product of photochemical processes in the Martian atmosphere. The sulfur was deposited on the surface and later incorporated into erupting magma that formed igneous rocks. The isotopic fingerprints found in the meteorite samples are different than those that would have been produced by sulfur-based life forms.

Under a microscope, crystals of skeletal magnetite in this 1.3 billion-year-old Martian meteorite reminded scientists of a piranha. Photo courtesy of Heather FranzThe researchers found the chemical reactions involving sulfur in the Martian atmosphere were different than those that took place early in Earth's geological history. This suggests the two planets' early atmospheres were very different, Franz said.

The exact nature of the differences is unclear, but other evidence suggests that soon after our solar system formed, much of Mars' atmosphere was lost, leaving it thinner than Earth's, with lower concentrations of carbon dioxide and other gases. That is one reason why Mars is too cold for liquid water today—but that may not always have been the case, said Franz.

"Climate models show that a moderate abundance of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere after volcanic episodes, which have occurred throughout Mars' history, could have produced a warming effect which may have allowed liquid water to exist at the surface for extended periods," Franz said. "Our measurements of sulfur in Martian meteorites narrow the range of possible atmospheric compositions, since the pattern of isotopes that we observe points to a distinctive type of photochemical activity on Mars, different from that on early Earth."

Periods of higher levels of sulfur dioxide may help explain the red planet's dry lakebeds, river channels and other evidence of a watery past. Warm conditions may even have persisted long enough for microbial life to develop.

The team's work has yielded the most comprehensive record of the distribution of sulfur isotopes on Mars. In effect, they have compiled a database of atomic fingerprints that provide a standard of comparison for sulfur-containing samples collected by NASA's Curiosity rover and future Mars missions. This information will make it much easier for researchers to zero in on any signs of biologically produced sulfur, Farquhar said.

UMD Announces Changes to Alert Messaging System

April 16, 2014

Crystal Brown 301-405-4621

University of MarylandCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today changes to its UMD Alerts system, a channel used to provide critical information and instructions to members of the university community, especially during emergency situations.

During the last 12 months, university officials have undergone an evaluation of the emergency notification process and alert system in an effort to improve communication with staff, faculty and students.

Since 2007, any person affiliated with UMD has been able to subscribe to UMD Alerts. To improve the speed of notification to the campus community, effective today, the UMD Alerts text and email messaging system will send updates only to current students, faculty and staff. This reduced number of subscribers will improve the delivery speed of notifications to those who need to take action in an emergency – the campus community.

All registered students and employees with active UIDs will remain in the system and no action is required to remain subscribed to UMD Alerts. Current students and employees can change or update their contact information for alert notifications at

Those who are not current students, faculty or staff, such as parents, media, and alumni, may receive updates when UMD Alerts are issued by following the University of Maryland Police Department on Twitter (@UMPD) and Facebook (University of Maryland Department of Public Safety) or by subscribing to the UMPD news site ( Instructions on how to subscribe to UMPD News are available at  College Park residents not affiliated with UMD may register to receive relevant updates here.

For additional information, visit


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