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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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University of Maryland Statement on a Hate-Bias Incident Regarding a Swastika on Campus

October 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

On October 5, UMPD served a criminal summons to an individual for one count of malicious destruction of property and one count related to disturbing the operations of a school. This person has been served with a denial of access to campus and is no longer an employee of the university.  

Diversity and inclusion are core values of our institution, and these values will and must be upheld. We are currently leading forward a campus-wide action plan to combat hate and create a safer campus for all. 

In addition to long-standing programs to increase dialogue and promote diversity, recent initiatives include a task force to review all policies and practices with the goal of shaping a culture that is more inclusive and respectful; developing a trained, rapid-response team for hate-bias incidents; and compiling and publishing an annual report on hate-bias incidents on campus. To support this work, we have increased funding for campus-wide diversity and inclusion efforts.

Statement on UMPD Reward Announcement

October 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

UMPD recently announced a reward for information leading to the identification of individuals spreading hate on campus. Offering this reward is one of many ways our university community is demonstrating our deep commitment to combating hate and creating a safer campus. We encourage anyone with information about these reprehensible incidents to contact UMPD. 

We are currently leading forward a campus-wide action plan to reaffirm our core values of diversity, inclusion, respect and civil discourse, and we are proud that Congressman John Lewis is joining us on campus tonight as part of these efforts. In addition to long-standing programs to increase dialogue and promote diversity, recent initiatives include a task force to review all policies and practices with the goal of shaping a culture that is more inclusive and respectful; developing a trained, rapid-response team for hate-bias incidents; and compiling and publishing an annual report on hate-bias incidents on campus. To support this work, we have increased funding for campus-wide diversity and inclusion efforts.

UMD-led Research Will Leverage Technology to Create “Smarter Baltimore”

October 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Maggie Haslam202-258-8946

College Park, Md. — Four of Maryland’s leading universities are developing a plan that applies cutting-edge technologies—such as free public internet, smart street lights and innovative transportation hubs—to improve the lives of residents in West Baltimore. Led by the University of Maryland, College Park, and supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the “Smart Cities” initiative will pair smart technology with the latest research in equity, health and urban planning to outline a roadmap for city policymakers as they work to increase quality of life in Baltimore. Other universities involved include the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University and the University of Baltimore.

Baltimore is poised to integrate smart cities technology, with infrastructure components such as fiber backhaul already in place, and 5G wireless technology a future initiative. The university team will evaluate how to couple these existing resources with new innovations to create a pilot smart community. In addition to bringing Wi-Fi to residents and businesses, the team will look at how to enhance school technologies, improve health service delivery, ease traffic congestion, elevate public safety initiatives and increase public transportation access. Technical and social scientists from the four university partners will work with smart city technology providers to guide recommendations. 

“We know from other places that new technologies can enhance the quality of life of city residents,” said Dr. Gerrit-Jan Knaap, project lead and director of the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth. “How to do that in Baltimore in an equitable and effective way is what this study is intended to identify.”

"We are excited to hear the news that Morgan will be a part of the NSF-funded planning grant that proposes a research center focused on developing ‘Smart Cities,’” said Michael G. Spencer, Dean of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering at Morgan State University. “With Baltimore poised to implement smart technology, such a center will be a great resource for all citizens of Baltimore."

Central to this effort will be engaging Baltimore residents in the design, use and evolution of technology resources. The university team will engage with West Baltimore residents to understand which technologies would improve their quality of life and have the potential to become a sustained part of their community. Coupled with comprehensive research on the impact of smart city investments, the residents’ insight will help to inform the city’s strategic plan.

"The opportunity to use community-based knowledge and data to best deploy and integrate smart technology in our neighborhoods is exciting," said Seema D. Iyer, who oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at the University of Baltimore. "Many of our neighborhoods are looking for ways to address entrenched issues while building capacity to use technology to do so."

While the plan will focus on the area of West Baltimore, the university team expects their findings to have city-wide and national implications. In particular, their approach will address the “digital divide” that often accompanies the adoption of smart technology, in which disadvantaged populations often have less access or ability to utilize the technological resources. Their plan will ensure that the implementation of smart city technology increases access to opportunity and shapes social mobility, particularly for young people in low-income areas. 

"By leveraging existing technologies and mobile applications, we will be able to gather rich behavioral data, revealing hurdles that residents experience on a daily basis with the urban infrastructure,” says Dr. Vanessa Frias-Martinez, assistant professor at the UMD College of Information Studies and co-lead on the project team. “We will share these findings with decision makers and the residents to raise awareness, empower residents and shape the smart city plan in a way that will truly be accessible and beneficial to the community.” 

"Partnering with other leading institutions, GovEx will bring our expertise in data management to the discussion around creating community-based solutions in West Baltimore that will be meaningful and sustainable,” said Katherine Klosek, Director of Applied Research at GovEx. “Because we are building on best practices from cities that have already explored Smart Cities technology, we have a unique perspective to address critical aspects of smart cities planning."

The team will work closely with a number of stakeholders on this effort, including the mayor’s office, Baltimore city planning, Baltimore Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Authority, Mt. Royal Community Development Corporation, and Upton Planning Committee.

“The possibilities for smart technology solutions are endless, and we are beyond excited about the doors this will open for the city and the residents and visitors to Baltimore City,” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. “I know that to fully become a smart city requires careful planning, enlightened collaboration, innovation and lots of hard work; these challenges are opportunities for us, so I look forward to the smart growth and development solutions that will grow from this initiative.”

UMD Research Finds Human Brains Synchronize, Coordinate Under Collective Threat

October 12, 2017
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—When humans encounter threatening scenarios such as natural disasters, pandemics or terrorism, their survival often depends on the ability to cooperate and coordinate with others. New research from the University of Maryland Department of Psychology reveals how humans actually synchronize brain waves with one another when they are exposed to these threats.

Photo of brain synchronyDistinguished University Professor Michele Gelfand and Post-doctoral Associate Yan Mu recruited students from Peking University in Beijing, China for the research. Participants were divided into pairs and asked to read articles outlining a specific societal threat, such as increased military pressure from Japan. Afterwards, the teams had to work together to complete a task-- counting time in unison without the aid of a watch or clock.

Using hyperscanning electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor the brain activities of the participants, researchers discovered the students’ high frequency gamma brain waves, which are related to fear and threat processing, became synchronized and helped to facilitate coordination.

“While past research has suggested that humans need to have a heightened ability to work together when under threat, we didn’t know what neurobiological mechanisms help to make this happen,” Gelfand said.

“We were excited to find out how societal threats become ‘embrained,’” Mu added.

Findings from the research were published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Gelfand and Mu say their study represents an important frontier in social neuroscience: moving beyond single-brain analysis to study the collective brain processes of human groups. It also adds to growing literature on how societal threat affects the tightness of human groups, originating with Gelfand’s work published in Science.

“Through new technologies such as EEG and fMRI, we can study the neural mechanisms underlying group processes like decision-making, negotiation, leadership and many other important phenomena,” Gelfand said.  

The research was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Professor Shihui Han from Peking University is a study co-author.

UMD College of Education Launches Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement

October 11, 2017
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, 301-405-3468

College Park, MD—The University of Maryland College of Education announced today the launch of its new Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement. Designed to foster collaborations between the university, school systems and educational organizations that focus on improving pre-K-12 education, the Center will serve as an incubator for innovative initiatives that address critical issues in public education in Maryland and the region, advance collaborative research partnerships and provide professional education programs. 

“The Center is designed to cultivate robust partnerships amongst the university and pre-K-12 educators across Maryland, so that together we can help improve teaching and learning in school districts,” said Segun C. Eubanks, director of the Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement and chair of the Prince George’s County Board of Education. “We want to ensure that faculty research and expertise are meeting the needs of the school districts and addressing their most pressing issues.”

The Center will bring together key faculty from UMD, educators from area school systems, and policymakers from local, state and national organizations to tackle challenges in pre-K-12 education, such as the growing student population of English learners and teacher attrition. The Center will also serve to advance school leadership and teacher preparation in Maryland and the region through the development and expansion of new and existing professional education programs. The Center will  house the Doctorate of Education in School System Leadership, an innovative, practice-based model that brings together school administrators from a particular county to work collaboratively on solving a problem in the school system.

"The Center will serve as a vehicle for an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach that enables us to address critical issues that face our school systems and the state,” said College of Education Dean Jennifer K. Rice. “With our faculty expertise in research and educator preparation, the Center will also help expand the College of Education’s role as a local and national leader in education policy, scholarship and practice.”

An advisory committee, comprised of members who hold college and pre-K-12 leadership roles, will play an important role in providing input that will help guide the Center. 

“The Center is grounded in an improvement science model, which is a problem-centered approach to issues in education,” said Margaret McLaughlin, associate dean for research and innovations and partnerships at UMD College of Education. “We can help school districts address significant issues and provide tools to ensure that improvements are measurable. Our goal is to foster interaction between researchers and those responsible for developing research based policies and practices to create meaningful and sustainable change.”

FDA Awards $17M to UMD to Improve Food Safety

October 10, 2017
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters301-405-2434

College Park, Md -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has awarded $17M to the University of Maryland (UMD) to help improve national food safety programs and international food standards. The grant will allow the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), a partnership between the FDA and UMD that is focused on increasing global knowledge of effective food safety practices, to conduct multi-institutional, multidisciplinary research projects over the next five years. These research projects, along with the development of innovative education and outreach programs, will help JIFSAN create strategies to improve public health, food safety, and applied nutrition using risk analysis principles.

“The work conducted by JIFSAN is important on a global scale, helping food safety professionals from across the world understand how to properly implement and advance a healthy food system,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean and director of UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “JIFSAN’s partnership with the FDA remains strong, and through this generous award we’re looking forward to making significant strides in the next five years.”

As an FDA Center of Excellence, JIFSAN conducts various research and outreach activities in food safety and applied nutrition to help ensure that regulatory decisions are guided by scientific research and that the best methods and tools are available to advance food safety. JIFSAN has also developed innovative capacity-building partnerships with various stakeholders to support the Food Safety Modernization Act that emphasizes the concept of preventing food safety-related problems and enhancing FDA’s global efforts to improve U.S. and worldwide health.

Since its inception in 1996, JIFSAN has funded numerous UMD faculty research projects and provided 350 undergraduate students with internships with the FDA. JIFSAN’s international food safety training programs have trained over 9,000 food safety professionals who represent more than 40 countries.

“We thank FDA for its support to JIFSAN for the past 20 years, and are excited about the opportunities it provides us to improve food safety globally through our research, education and outreach programs,” said Professor Jianghong Meng, director of JIFSAN.

Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin to Speak at UMD

October 9, 2017
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, co-authors of the University of Maryland’s 2017-18 First Year Book, March: Book Three, will speak at UMD this Thursday, Oct. 12. The lecture, “Good Trouble,” is presented by the Office of Undergraduate Studies in conjunction with the William L. Thomas ODK Lecture Series and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Each year, the university selects one book to create a shared reading and intellectual experience for first-year students, faculty and staff. UMD selects a featured book that provides an opportunity for the university community to look at a topic, issue or experience from different perspectives, from the sciences to the humanities and across diverse historical backgrounds, cultures and ideologies. The First Year Book is integrated into curriculum across disciplines, and will be used as the centerpiece of events and discussions throughout the academic year. 

This event is limited to University of Maryland students, faculty and staff who picked up tickets in advance. Ticket information for the UMD community is available here.

WHO:
Congressman John Lewis
Andrew Aydin

WHEN:
October 12, 2017, 7:00 p.m. 
Media must RSVP for this event. Media with video or still cameras should arrive for check-in and be set up by 5:00 p.m. All additional media should arrive prior to the event start time.

WHERE:
University of Maryland Memorial Chapel
7744 Regents Dr.
College Park, MD 20742

PARKING: Limited media parking will be available on Regents Drive. Please RSVP by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11 to request media parking.

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

UMD Partners with Signature Science, Fraunhofer on DNA Screening to Detect Biological Threats

October 6, 2017
Contacts: 

Abby V. Robinson, 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Computational biologists in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) are collaborating with experts from the UMD affiliated and based Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering and Signature Science LLC to develop new approaches and tools for screening DNA sequences that might accidently—or intentionally—be altered, resulting in a biological threat.

Photo of UMD computational biologists Mihai Pop and Todd Treangen developing tools for screening DNA sequences that might accidently or intentionally be altered, resulting in a biological threat.

Mihai Pop, a professor of computer science, Todd Treangen, an assistant research scientist in UMIACS, and Adam Porter, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland and executive director of Fraunhofer, are working closely with Signature Science, a scientific and technical consulting firm, on next-generation computational and bioinformatics tools that can quickly assess whether certain synthesized DNA strands could pose a risk.

“This is an ambitious project that will join experts in biology, bioinformatics, machine learning and software engineering,” says Pop. “The software underlying this project is extremely complex, involving an intricate chain of sophisticated software components. This chain has to work seamlessly—not only to reliably identify biological threats, but to do so under strict time and resource constraints.”

DNA synthesis has increased significantly during the past decade, Pop says, with scientists in academia and industry using automated machines to construct genes and other long strands of DNA by stringing together chemical building blocks called nucleotides in any desired sequence.

While these altered DNA strands can lead to revolutionary advances in medicine, agriculture and materials science, there is the possibility that someone could exploit synthetic DNA for harmful purposes—like creating a synthetic smallpox virus, a deadly plague that was eradicated in the late 1970s, and currently exists only in a few highly secure repositories.

UMD research is part of Signature Science’s Functional Genomic and Computational Assessment of Threats program, which is being funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. The research team has identified specific tasks for each group to perform in order to create a “bioinformatics analysis pipeline,” says Treangen, an expert in developing software that can quickly and efficiently analyze large amounts of genomic data. Treangen is collaborating on the project with Dan Nasko, a postdoctoral scientist, and graduate students in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, an interdisciplinary center in UMIACS with access to powerful computing and data storage resources.

“My group will develop software modules that can provide rapid sequence and protein structure comparisons to assess the threat potential of functional elements from short DNA sequences,” he says. “The biggest challenge will be adapting current tools—and developing new tools—to perform accurate taxonomic assignment, function prediction, and threat assignment of these sequences.”

The scientists at Fraunhofer will integrate the software modules designed by Treangen’s team into a larger software infrastructure that meets regulatory standards and can be optimized for peak performance. Fraunhofer will also create the visual dashboards needed for monitoring overall system performance.

“This is a large undertaking that requires robust proficiency in designing and integrating automated systems used for testing and validating large amounts of data very quickly,” says Porter. “Fraunhofer and UMIACS can provide that type of expertise in force.”

As the prime contractor for the $2.9M project, Signature Science will coordinate the work done by UMIACS, Fraunhofer and other team members.

This effort is supported by the U.S. Army Research Office. The content of this release does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.


Photo: University of Maryland computational biologists Mihai Pop (left) and Todd Treangen (right). Photo credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland

 

University of Maryland Named Finalist for 2017 APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity Universities Awards

October 6, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland has been named as one of five finalists for the  Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) fifth annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards, which recognize extraordinary university economic engagement efforts with four different awards. The winners will be announced on November 12 at APLU’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Of the four award categories, UMD is a finalist in two: the Place Award, which focuses on universities excelling in community, social, and cultural development work, and the top prize in the competition, the Economic Engagement Connections Award, which recognizes the institution that is doing the most to build connections across all categories of economic engagement — innovation and entrepreneurship, talent development, and social, community, and cultural development.

“Public research universities have a core mission to advance economic development in their regions. That responsibility takes various forms – whether through workforce development, research, or private sector partnerships – and all are critically important to creating a thriving economy,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “This year’s finalists for the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards have not just made a concerted effort to drive economic progress in their regions; they have designed programs that have delivered broad-based prosperity. APLU applauds this year’s finalists and we look forward to spotlighting their exceptional efforts so other public research universities can draw lessons from their success.”

In 2015, UMD launched the Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes dynamic academic spaces, a public-private research hub and vibrant downtown community. The initiative is the result of cooperative work between the City of College Park, Prince George’s County, state, private developers and the university. Recent additions to Greater College Park include the Edward St. John Learning & Teaching Center, MilkBoy ArtHouse, and the College Park Academy.  

As part of the Greater College Park initiative, UMD debuted the Discovery District in 2017, encompassing more than 150 acres that stretch from Baltimore Avenue to the research-rich and metro-accessible community along River Road. Discovery District is the epicenter of academic, research and economic development as home to the research park formerly known as M Square, and features amenities like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and the The Art Walk. 

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP), which brings together public university leaders focused on economic engagement issues, designed and implements the IEP Awards program. To be eligible for an award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU. To receive that designation universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement efforts that includes input from external stakeholders. 

The other finalists for the IEP awards are the Georgia Institute of Technology, Iowa State University, Kansas State University and Pennsylvania State University. 

 

City of College Park to Celebrate Community

October 5, 2017
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, University of Maryland, 301-405-4076
Ryna QuiñonesCity of College Park, 240-487-3508

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The City of College Park will host its 8th annual College Park Day on Saturday, October 7 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the College Park Aviation Museum and Airport, located at 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Drive, College Park, MD.  College Park Day, which celebrates the City, its’ residents and businesses, as well as local community groups and organizations, will include free admission to the College Park Aviation Museum and a wide variety of activities for everyone to enjoy.  

Highlights for this year’s event include:

  • Live Music and Performances – Live entertainment from several groups, including The Radiographers, The Unknowns, The Scotch Bonnets, Trio Caliente, Big Hoax, the University of Maryland’s Gymkana, will take place on two different performance stages.
  • A Taste of College Park – Local eateries-- Kapnos Taverna by Chef Mike Isabella, MilkBoy Arthouse, Fishnet, Potomac Pizza, Bagels ‘n Grinds, Heavenly Created Desserts, Bill’s Backyard BBQ and DC Empandas-- will offer food and beverages throughout the event. 
  • Get your Fitness Groove On – Barre, ZOCA and Zumba group exercise lessons will be available on the Community Stage.
  • Meet Police, Fire and Safety Crews – Local police, fire and EMS safety crews will participate in a community meet and greet, where a helicopter will be on display and fly out is scheduled.
  • A Gigantic Kids Fun Zone – Fun for children of all ages, the Kids Fun Zone will include obstacle courses, a rock climbing wall, bounce house, crafts, face painting and more.
  • Over 100 Exhibitors – Local exhibitors that represent City departments, local community groups and organizations, schools, and the University of Maryland departments 

College Park Day will take place rain or shine.  Parking and admission are free. For additional information, visit www.CollegeParkDay.org.  

 

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