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President and CEO of The Education Trust John B. King Jr. to Address University of Maryland’s 2018 Winter Graduates

November 1, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announces today that President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. will deliver the university's winter commencement address on Dec. 18, 2018 at the XFINITY Center. 

Headshot of John King“Throughout his career, John King has fought on the front lines of education reform to make the system more equitable and help all students succeed,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “As one of our visiting professors, Dr. King is inspiring a new generation of leaders, and will similarly inspire our graduates and their families.”

“It is an honor for me to deliver the Winter 2018 commencement address at the University of Maryland, and to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of the graduates, as well as their families, who supported them on their journey,” stated John B. King Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Education and President and CEO of The Education Trust. “Speaking at this graduation ceremony on this campus carries special significance for me as an educator teaching at the University of Maryland, and as a member of this diverse and vibrant learning community.”

John B. King Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps, from preschool through college. King served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong dedication to education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems.

Before becoming education secretary, King carried out the duties of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, King also oversaw the agency’s operations. King joined the department following his tenure as the first African American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State Education Commissioner.

King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, Mass., and as a middle school principal.

King’s life story is an extraordinary testament to the transformative power of education. Both of King’s parents were career New York City public school educators, whose example serves as an enduring inspiration. Both of King’s parents passed away from illness by the time he was 12 years old. He credits New York City public school teachers — particularly educators at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island — for saving his life by providing him with rich and engaging educational experiences and by giving him hope for the future.

King holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. King serves as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Education and is a member of several boards, including those for The Century Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation, and Teach Plus. He also serves on several advisory boards, including Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, the Rework America Task Force, the GOOD+ Foundation’s Fatherhood Leadership Council, and the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California.

King lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and his two daughters, who attend local public schools.

John King with student

John King with student

 

University of Maryland Releases Fall 2018 Enrollment Data

October 31, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland today releases data from the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment regarding the university's fall 2018 enrollment figures. This fall, the university welcomed an incoming freshman class of 4,714 students from 39 different states and 16 foreign countries.

The university is reporting a decline in the number of new African-American students who chose to enroll this year. Last fall, 12 percent of UMD’s new students--freshmen and transfers--were African-American. This year, that percentage dropped to 10 percent and the decrease was greatest among new freshmen.

“The University of Maryland is deeply committed to providing the best education possible for our students. The outstanding diversity of our student body is essential to achieving that goal,” said UMD’s Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “We are proud to be a leader in the Big Ten in African-American enrollment and graduation rates, but more work is needed to ensure that our educational programs continue to be strengthened by a diverse and talented student body.”

The university will implement many new actions and initiatives to enhance student financial support and address issues of campus climate aimed at reversing this trend. As a first step, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh will appoint an Enrollment Action Council made up of administrative and student leaders from across campus to ensure that all eligible Maryland students can access the extraordinary educational resources available to them at their flagship university.  

In addition, the university is hiring a Coordinator of Admission and Diversity Initiatives to enhance the robust recruitment and application support efforts already underway; and the university continues its comprehensive efforts to positively impact our campus climate, including a national search for a new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.  

Addressing financial aid is a centerpiece of Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, the university's $1.5 billion fundraising campaign. Thanks to a generous matching gift from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, UMD is has created The Clark Challenge for the Maryland Promise, which will establish a $100 million endowment that will provide need-based scholarships to undergraduate students from underserved populations in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

There are several factors and challenges the university and Enrollment Action Council will take into consideration during this important work. First being to consider how heavily recruited our state’s many academically talented students of color are by out-of-state private and public institutions who can offer tailored financial incentives; as well as how the university competes with many strong HBCUs in our area and the option of free community college for Baltimore city students. 

“We would be naïve to think that the tragic incidents of the last two years on our campus have not contributed to our African-American student enrollment decline this year. We must address the concerns about campus climate and hate-bias incidents that UMD and many of our peers are facing,” said Provost Rankin.

To see the full enrollment data report for Fall 2018, visit https://irpa.umd.edu/

 

UMD to Co-Lead First-of-its-Kind FEMA Study Of Health Effects on Wildland Firefighters

October 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Melissa Andreychek, 301-405-0292

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland (UMD) Associate Professor Michael Gollner will co-lead a first-of-its-kind research effort to quantify the pulmonary and cardiovascular health consequences to firefighters exposed to wildland fire smoke. the research is supported  by a $1.5 million award from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a Department of Homeland Security agency.

Photo of Dr. Michael GollnerThe smoke of wildland fires—such as California's Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures (including 157 residences), and killed a firefighter during the 2018 wildfire season—contains particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic carbon compounds, and other toxic hazards that could put firefighters at risk for chronic illnesses such as ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis).

But unlike structural firefighters who have relatively well-defined respiratory personal protective equipment standards for fighting fires in and near buildings, wildland firefighters have no standards or requirements for prescriptive respiratory protection. And because wildland firefighters are often deployed to a fire for weeks at a time with sometimes repeated deployments for several months over a summer, they experience an exposure pattern with unknown health risks.

“We put wildland firefighters in harm’s way to protect the natural environment, homes and property, and lives. The focus on firefighter safety has largely been about physical injuries such as burns—but as you can imagine, these firefighters are also exposed to a great deal of smoke,” explains Gollner, a fire protection engineer in UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. “We know there can be health consequences to this, but we have no data on the long-term effect of wildland fire emissions on the heart, blood vessels, and lungs of front-line wildfire responders, because it’s incredibly difficult to study.”

The FEMA-funded research will look at different smoke exposures that mimic both smaller prescribed fires (i.e., planned fires that are used to meet management objectives and that consider the safety of the public, weather, and probability of meeting burn objectives) and larger wildfires—as well as the benefit provided by different types of simple respiratory personal protective equipment.

The research team, led by principal investigators and bioengineers Jessica Oakes and Chiara Bellini of Northeastern University, hopes the three-year project will inform which fire scenarios are the most dangerous with greatest risk to firefighters’ pulmonary and cardiovascular health—and perhaps most importantly, lead to recommendations for respiratory personal protective equipment that is easily implemented in the field and/or possible changes in tactics to mitigate exposure, with the goal of preserving firefighters’ long-term health.

“Unlike structural firefighters, who will put on an air-purifying respirator or a self-contained breathing apparatus when they enter a building, wildland firefighters typically cover their face with only a simple bandana,” says Gollner. “Bandanas are a common tactic because they don’t add an additional burden of weight to firefighters’ already strenuous activity. However, it is unknown if, or to what extent, this provides health benefits.”

The research team will combine their expertise to solve this challenging problem: Gollner will contribute novel expertise in firefighting practices and fire generation, while Oakes and Bellini will offer interdisciplinary bioengineering expertise that’s critical to understanding this complex health problem. They will also work with the International Association of Fire Fighters and National Fire Protection Association to facilitate input from stakeholder partners including firefighters from several departments across the country, fire organization representatives, health researchers, governmental agencies, and members of technical committees overseeing personal protective equipment standards.

To learn more about Gollner's research:

 

Nature + Art + Climate + Change: International Forum in Washington

October 22, 2018
Contacts: 

Hayley Barton, 202-387-2151 x235

WASHINGTON—Academic and artistic partners The Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland (UMD) will present the International Forum in Washington on Saturday, November 10, 2018, 2–5 pm.

Phillips Collection International ForumThe Phillips Collection’s annual International Forum is rooted in the institution’s aim to contribute to the global conversation through the language of modern and contemporary art. A joint presentation with the University of Maryland, this year’s afternoon of dialogue will bring together leaders across disciplines to discuss the implications and meaning of "Nature + Art + Climate + Change."

The program will include presentations by Meg Webster, Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass (founders of Random International and creators of Rain Room), and a presentation by Henry Elkus (CEO of Helena) about Helena’s support of Factory in the Sky, the first commercial direct-air carbon capture machine, located in Switzerland. The presentations by Random International and Henry Elkus will be followed by one-on-one conversations with UMD scholars, including Dr. Hester Baer (Associate Professor and Head of the German Department) and Dr. Robert Orr (Dean of the School of Public Policy and former Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, United Nations). Conversations will explore shared perspectives on the increasingly significant role artists are playing in discourse about the environment.

“Our position as an arts institution in the nation’s capital provides us with a unique platform to discuss pressing contemporary and global issues. The Phillips Collection is pleased to host this discussion surrounding the intersections of art, nature, and climate, which will be informed by some of the most important artists and visionaries addressing these topics,” said Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski.

“The University of Maryland's partnership with The Phillips Collection is rooted in the idea that scholarship and the arts work hand-in-hand to advance dialogue on important, global issues. We are pleased that our scholars will be contributing to these important conversations on art, nature, and climate alongside key thought leaders, and look forward to the discussions that unfold,” said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin.

Admission for the event is $12; free for students and Phillips members. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.phillipscollection.org/events/2018-11-10-international-forum

ABOUT MEG WEBSTER
Meg Webster is a San Francisco-born, New York-based artist recognized for her work in sculpture and installation that evoke a connection between the Earth’s environment and elements of existence. For 40 years, Webster has utilized spaces with totemic qualities and natural materials like stone, soil, ash, beeswax, and spices to continue the conversation about social relations to the environment. Her large-scale installations and precise structures inspired by the 1970’s Land Art Movement often reflect basic forms and minimalism. 

ABOUT HANNES KOCH AND FLORIAN ORTKRASS
Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass founded Random International in 2005, an art collective and collaborative studio for experimental practice. Combining Koch’s and Ortkrass’s passion for art and science, the collective’s work encourages and welcomes active participation in questioning aspects of identity and autonomy in the post-digital age. The studio is based in London and continues to grow a talented and diverse team. 

Their most recent work is the permanent installation Rain Room—a large-scale environment of responsive rainfall. Using digital technology, Rain Room offers visitors the experience of controlling rainfall, creating a unique choreographed downpour and encouraging visitors to interact in a unexpected space and atmosphere. Rain Room is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection but has also been exhibited at the YUZ Museum in Shanghai (2015), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), and London's Barbican (2012). 

ABOUT HENRY ELKUS
Founder and CEO of the Helena Group Foundation Henry Elkus is passionate about creating systems that can be leveraged to enact global, scalable, and systemic change. The Helena Group Foundation consists of leaders across the globe and each member represents a specific field. Members include General Stanley McChrystal, actress Chloe Grace Moretz, Nobel Laureate Myron Scholes, and producer Brian Grazer, along with Fortune 500 executives, technologists, and acclaimed activists. The group develops and implements strategies that can produce positive change for the world. Outside of running Helena, Elkus is also a social entrepreneur resident at the Boston Consulting Group, holds an advisory role at the Berggruen Institute, and serves as a Special Advisor to the forthcoming Avatar Technology Xprize. 

ABOUT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of Modern art, presents one of the world’s most distinguished Impressionist and American Modern art collections. Including paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh, Diebenkorn, Daumier and Lawrence, among others, the museum continues to actively collect new acquisitions, many by contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, Zilia Sánchez, and Leo Villareal. Its distinctive building combines extensive new galleries with the former home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The Phillips’s impact spreads nationally and internationally through its highly distinguished special exhibitions, programs, and events that catalyze dialogue surrounding the continuity between art of the past and the present. Among the Phillips’s esteemed programs are its award-winning education programs for educators, students, and adults; well-established Phillips Music series; and sell-out Phillips after 5 events. The museum contributes to the art conversation on a global scale with events like Conversations with Artists and the International Forum. The Phillips Collection values its community partnerships with the University of Maryland—the museum’s nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and interdisciplinary collaborations—and THEARC—the museum’s new campus serving the Southeast DC community. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations. 

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 37,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty includes three Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 47 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.8 billion operating budget and secures $550 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, visit www.umd.edu.  

 

Hornbake Library explores American Dream in Occupied Japan

October 11, 2018
Contacts: 

Eric Bartheld, 301-314-0964

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Featuring materials from the University of Maryland's renowned Gordon W. Prange Collection of publications issued during the Allied occupation of Japan, a new exhibit opening on October 19, Crossing the Divide, focuses on residents of communities built for U.S. military and civilians following the end of World War II. After Japan surrendered unconditionally to the United States and Allied Powers in August 1945, thousands of service members moved to Japan to oversee its rehabilitation.  

These U.S. transplants created self-contained communities, or “Little America” enclaves, where they enjoyed an American middle-class lifestyle in contrast to the poverty of the war-torn city.

“Crossing the Divide” explores how Japanese people participated in building an American Dream for the occupying military personnel and how through this experience the Japanese began to rebuild their lives and construct a new nation.

Japanese architects, designers, and engineers, for example, helped shape the communities by creating single-family households that fused Western and Eastern design sensibilities. These households, in turn, provided opportunities for young Japanese women to learn Western ways, often as domestic maids.

“Lots of women’s magazines published reports of these domestic maids and what they learned,” says Yukako Tatsumi, curator of the Prange collection and librarian for East Asian Studies. “How to cook, how to make the bed, how to make a table setting. That kind of modern expertise is something Japanese women longed for.”

Complex dynamics developed in the household relationships, Tatsumi says, but at their foundation was a desire of the women to learn English and household-management skills, and to earn income or materials goods to help support their families. “Japanese young women, highly educated, had the opportunity to gain firsthand experience of modern American household life,” Tatsumi says.

“This exhibit highlights the relevance of the Prange Collection beyond just those interested in Japan Studies,” says Tatsumi. “By showing the American influence, we’re showing the relevance to local audiences.”

The Gordon W. Prange Collection is the most comprehensive archive of publications issued in Japan during the first four years of the Allied Occupation (1945-1949).

Since the early 1990s, the UMD Libraries have partnered with the National Diet Library of Japan  to preserve and provide access to the materials in the collection, which fill a gap in the Diet Library’s historical record. Digitization of the 71,000 books in the collection began in 2005.   

UMD Researchers Receive $1.3M Grant to Build App Targeting Underserved Populations

October 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake, 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A team of University of Maryland researchers is developing a new mobile app to help people without regular access to health care cut through the thousands of fitness, nutrition, brain health and other offerings by providing a sort of one-stop wellness shop.

UMD School of Public Health researchers are tailoring the app for African-American and Spanish-speaking users of smartphones, who will be able to set personal goals, enter personal and family health histories and access a variety of evidence-based information on disease prevention and health promotion. The project is supported by a new four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

“Increasing amounts of health information and services are online, and many people have only a mobile phone, not a desktop or laptop computer,” said Cynthia Baur, an endowed professor and director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy who’s overseeing development of the app. “Designing a smartphone app for multiple health topics, instead of one for a specialized purpose, allows the app to be more relevant and useful in everyday life.”

Dr. Baur is a recognized leader in developing easy to use tools for health promotion including CDC’s health literacy website, which provides resources and online training to improve health literacy and public health and the CDC Clear Communication Index, a set of scientific criteria for creating clear public communication materials. Her approach is based in communication science and focuses on providing diverse audiences with information in ways they can understand and use.

The intended users frequently lack convenient access to doctors or hospitals, and only a handful of Spanish-language health promotion apps now exist. Researchers hope the app empowers these vulnerable populations to make the best health decisions.

The multidisciplinary team working on the free app includes faculty members in the departments of Behavioral and Community Health and Health Services Administration and the Center for Health Equity, as well as faculty from the Department of Computer Science. They will work with a community design team and conduct a yearlong field test with the people who will be its end users.

“We're working with community partners to include user feedback throughout,” Baur said. “we're using health literacy principles to make the app, navigation and content easy to understand and use.”

October is Health Literacy Month. The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy is one of the sponsors of the Health Literacy in Action Conference on Oct 25-26 at UMD. 

 

UMD Celebrates Homecoming 2018

October 8, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will host its annual Homecoming Week from Sunday, October 7 to  Sunday, October 14, 2018. UMD’s campus-wide celebration is centered around the Maryland Terrapins Football Game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday, October 13 at noon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. This year’s Homecoming celebration will also offer dozens of Fearless and family-friendly events, including alumni gatherings, artistic performances, service projects and athletic competitions. 

 

Homecoming Week will kick off on Sunday, October 7 at 9:45 a.m. with a Terps Against Hunger Homecoming Service Project at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union. The two-day event will bring together volunteers from across campus and the local community to package 400,000 meals for local children and families suffering from food insecurity. 

 

A Conversation with AOL Co-founder Steve Case will take place on Tuesday, October 9 from 5 to 6 p.m. at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Organized by the Robert H. Smith School of Business, Case will share stories about his career as a founder, investor, presidential advisor, best-selling author and philanthropist. To register for this event, visit https://go.umd.edu/SteveCase.

 

On Wednesday, October 10 at 7 p.m. at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, Maryland Athletics will host a Mid-Field Homecoming Gathering, a rare opportunity to take a commemorative photo midfield under the lights while enjoying free Maryland Dairy ice cream.

 

The Homecoming Comedy Show, presented by Student Entertainment Events, features Ali Wong this year. The show will include a book reading and a Q&A session. There are two scheduled shows on Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum. 

 

On Friday, October 12, Maryland will host Terp Carnival on McKeldin Mall, offering rides, games, prizes and entertainment for students, families, and the local community from 4 to 8 p.m. Guests will also enjoy a fireworks and laser light display on McKeldin Mall. 

 

To view the full Homecoming Week schedule, visit https://homecoming.umd.edu/. Follow the celebration and join in on social media with #UMDHomecoming.

Mountaintop Observatory Sees Gamma Rays from Exotic Milky Way Object

October 8, 2018
Contacts: 

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The night sky seems serene, but telescopes tell us that the universe is filled with collisions and explosions. Distant, violent events signal their presence by spewing light and particles in all directions. When these messengers reach Earth, scientists can use them to map out the action-packed sky, helping to better understand the volatile processes happening deep within space.

For the first time, an international collaboration of scientists has detected highly energetic light coming from the outermost regions of an unusual star system within our own galaxy. The source is a microquasar—a black hole that gobbles up stuff from a nearby companion star and blasts out two powerful jets of material. The team’s observations, described in the October 4, 2018 issue of the journal Nature, strongly suggest that electron acceleration and collisions at the ends of the microquasar’s jets produced the powerful gamma rays. Scientists think that studying messengers from this microquasar may offer a glimpse into more extreme events happening at the centers of distant galaxies.

The team gathered data from the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory (HAWC), which is a detector designed to look at gamma-ray emission coming from astronomical objects such as supernova remnants, quasars and rotating dense stars called pulsars. Now, the team has studied one of the most well-known microquasars, named SS 433, which is about 15,000 light years away from Earth. Scientists have seen about a dozen microquasars in our galaxy and only a couple of them appear to emit high-energy gamma rays. With SS 433’s close proximity and orientation, scientists have a rare opportunity to observe extraordinary astrophysics.

“SS 433 is right in our neighborhood and so, using HAWC’s unique wide field of view, we were able to resolve both microquasar particle acceleration sites,” said Jordan Goodman, a Distinguished University Professor of physics at the University of Maryland and U.S. lead investigator and spokesperson for the HAWC collaboration. “By combining our observations with multi-wavelength and multi-messenger data from other telescopes, we can improve our understanding of particle acceleration in SS 433 and its giant, extragalactic cousins, called quasars.”

Quasars are massive black holes that suck in material from the centers of galaxies, rather than feeding on a single star. They actively expel radiation, which can been seen from across the universe. But they are so far away that most known quasars have been detected because their jets are aimed at Earth—like having a flashlight aimed directly at one’s eyes. In contrast, SS 433’s jets are oriented away from Earth and HAWC has detected similarly energetic light coming from the microquasar’s side.

Regardless of where they originate, gamma rays travel in a straight line to their destination. The ones that arrive at Earth collide with molecules in the atmosphere, creating new particles and lower-energy gamma rays. Each new particle then smashes into more stuff, creating a particle shower as the signal cascades toward the ground.

HAWC, located roughly 13,500 feet above sea level near the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, is perfectly situated to catch the fast-moving rain of particles. The detector is composed of more than 300 tanks of water, each of which is about 24 feet in diameter. When the particles strike the water they are moving fast enough to produce a shock wave of blue light called Cherenkov radiation. Special cameras in the tanks detect this light, allowing scientists to determine the origin story of the gamma rays.

The HAWC collaboration examined 1,017 days’ worth of data and saw evidence that gamma rays were coming from the ends of the microquasar’s jets, rather than the central part of the star system. Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that electrons in the jets attain energies that are about a thousand times higher than can be achieved using earthbound particle accelerators, such as the city-sized Large Hadron Collider, located along the border between France and Switzerland. The jets’ electrons collide with the low-energy microwave background radiation that permeates space, resulting in gamma ray emission. This is a new mechanism for generating high-energy gamma rays in this type of system and is different than what scientists have observed when an object’s jets are aimed at Earth.

Ke Fang, a co-author of the study and former postdoctoral researcher at the Joint Space-Science Institute, a partnership between UMD and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said that this new measurement is critical to understanding what is going on in SS 433. 

“Looking at only one kind of light coming from SS 433 is like seeing only the tail of an animal,” said Fang, who is currently an Einstein Fellow at Stanford University. “Thus, we combine all of its signals, from low energy radio to X-ray, with new high-energy gamma ray observations, to find out what kind of beast SS 433 really is.”

Until now, instruments had not observed SS 433 emitting such highly energetic gamma rays. But HAWC is designed to be very sensitive to this extreme part of the light spectrum. The detector also has a wide field of view that looks at the entire overhead sky all of the time. The collaboration used these capabilities to resolve the microquasar's structural features.

“SS 433 is an unusual star system and each year something new has come out about it,” said Segev BenZvi, another co-author of the study and an assistant professor of physics at the University of Rochester. “This new observation of high-energy gamma rays builds on almost 40 years of measurements of one of the weirdest objects in the Milky Way. Every measurement gives us a different piece of the puzzle, and we hope to use our knowledge to learn about the quasar family as a whole.”

 

In addition to Goodman and Fang, UMD Department of Physics co-authors of the paper include graduate students Kristi Engel and Israel Martinez-Castellanos; postdoctoral researcher Colas Rivière; and research scientist Andrew Smith.

The HAWC collaboration is funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF); the US Department of Energy Office of High-Energy Physics; the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, México (grants 271051, 232656, 260378, 179588, 239762, 254964, 271737, 258865, 243290, 132197, and 281653) (Cátedras 873, 1563); Laboratorio Nacional HAWC de rayos gamma; L’OREAL Fellowship for Women in Science 2014; Red HAWC, México; DGAPA-UNAM (Dirección General Asuntos del Personal Académico-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; grants IG100317, IN111315, IN111716-3, IA102715, 109916, IA102917); VIEP-BUAP (Vicerrectoría de Investigación y Estudios de Posgrado-Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla); PIFI (Programa Integral de Fortalecimiento Institucional) 2012 and 2013; PRO-FOCIE (Programa de Fortalecimiento de la Calidad en Instituciones Educativas) 2014 and 2015; the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the Institute of Geophysics, Planetary Physics, and Signatures at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Polish Science Centre grant DEC-2014/13/B/ST9/945 and DEC-2017/27/B/ST9/02272; and Coordinación de la Investigación Científica de la Universidad Michoacana. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

 


Photo: The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory (HAWC) is a detector designed to look at gamma-ray emission coming from astronomical objects such as supernova remnants, quasars and rotating dense stars called pulsars. Located roughly 13,500 feet above sea level near the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, the detector is composed of more than 300 tanks of water, each about 24 feet in diameter. When particles strike the water, they produce a shock wave of blue light called Cherenkov radiation. Special cameras in the tanks detect this light, allowing scientists to determine the origin of incoming gamma rays. Image credit: Jordan Goodman/University of Maryland 

 

 

Tropical Frogs Found to Coexist with Deadly Fungus

October 5, 2018
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Amphibian biologists from around the world watched in horror in 2004, as the frogs of El Copé, Panama, began dying by the thousands. The culprit: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a deadly fungus more commonly known as chytrid fungus. Within months, roughly half of the frog species native to the area went locally extinct. 

A new study led by University of Maryland researchers suggests that, within a decade, the species remaining in El Copé developed the ability to coexist with chytrid fungus. In a field study spanning the years 2010-2014, the researchers found that frogs infected with the fungus survived at a nearly identical rate compared with uninfected frogs. 

The results, published October 3, 2018 in the journal Ecological Applications, suggest that frog populations in El Copé underwent ecological and/or evolutionary changes that enabled the community as a whole to persist, despite severe species losses. According to the researchers, the results could mean good news for other hot spots of amphibian biodiversity hit hard by the chytrid fungus, such as South America and Australia. 

“Our results are really promising because they lead us to conclude that the El Copé frog community is stabilizing and not drifting to extinction,” said Graziella DiRenzo , Ph.D. ’16, biological sciences, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the lead author of the research paper. “That’s a big concern with chytrid worldwide. Before this study, we didn’t know a lot about the communities that remain after an outbreak. In some areas, it’s still a black box.”

DiRenzo and her colleagues returned to the same small, 2-square-kilometer field site in El Copé every year from 2010 to 2014. They broke the field site down into smaller, 20-meter subsites, repeatedly sampling the subsites several days in a row within a season. Each time, the researchers tested individual frogs for the presence of the fungus while assessing the severity of any disease symptoms. 

The researchers then entered this data into a statistical model they developed to assess disease dynamics in communities beset by an outbreak. The frequent, repeated sampling of individual frogs in the field allowed the team to minimize biases by correcting the model for any animals that were present but unseen.  The results enabled the researchers to conclude that infected frogs were surviving at the same rate as uninfected frogs. This observation strongly suggested that the frog species remaining in El Copé developed the ability to tolerate the fungus and survive its deadly effects. 

“Our study found that, even though there are a lot of infected individuals, about 98 percent of them are infected at very low levels,” said Karen Lips, a professor of biology at UMD and the senior author of the study. “We know that, early on, several species played a key role in spreading infection, like Typhoid Mary. But some of these species are now gone, so the entire ecosystem is totally different. It’s almost not comparable to what was there before.”

DiRenzo, Lips and their colleagues suggest that the El Copé frog community stabilized through an effect known as “eco-evolutionary rescue.” In this scenario, some species may have evolved tolerance to the fungus while other highly infectious, “Typhoid Mary” species died off and stopped contributing to the spread of the pathogen. The fungus itself may have also become less virulent and the frog community as a whole may have undergone other types of restructuring.

The researchers note that, because the frog community in El Copé had been well-studied for years before the 2004 outbreak, the research site provides a rare window to assess changes to a frog community as a result of widespread chytrid infection. If the community has stabilized here, the researchers say, it is likely that other hard-hit frog communities elsewhere in the world may have undergone similar adaptations—even where disease has reduced the overall number of species and/or individuals. 

“The frogs of El Copé are not doing great, but they’re hanging on. The fact that some species survived is the most important thing,” Lips said. “If a species goes extinct right off the bat, it’s out of options. We know how all these species responded to the initial invasion. Now we know how the survivors are responding to continuing infection. We know there are several sites in the world that probably went through the same thing. If enough frog species in a given place can survive and persist, then hopefully someday a vibrant new frog community will replace what was lost.”

In addition to DiRenzo and Lips, Ana Longo, a postdoctoral associate in biology at UMD, also contributed to this research. DiRenzo completed part of the work while she was a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award No. DEB 1120161). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.


Photo (l): The emerald glass frog (Espadarana prosoblepon) is one of the most abundant species at the study site in El Copé, Panama, following an outbreak of chytrid fungus in 2004. Image credit: Graziella DiRenzo.

Photo (r): Frogs of the genus Diasporus, such as this individual, are among the most common nocturnal frogs in El Copé, Panama, to survive following an outbreak of chytrid fungus in 2004. Image credit: Graziella DiRenzo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UMD Part of Multi-Institutional Team Awarded $14.4M to Develop Innovative Language Technologies

October 3, 2018
Contacts: 

Tom Ventsias, 301-301-5933

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland (UMD) is part of multi-institutional team tasked with building a powerful set of language technologies that can unlock information that has previously been unsearchable, and ultimately unfindable.

The four-year project, funded by a $14.4M grant from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), is expected to produce a language processing system that allows a user to type in a query in English and have information returned in English—even if the content is only available in a lesser-known language like Croatian.

The project involves faculty, postdocs and students from UMD, Columbia University, Yale University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh. Columbia is the lead institution, with Kathleen McKeown, the founding director of Columbia’s Data Science Institute, serving as principal investigator.

The interdisciplinary research—already underway—includes experts in natural language processing, speech processing, and information retrieval.

“Today’s internet bring us closer together than ever before, but the diversity and richness of human language remains a challenge,” says Douglas Oard, a professor in the College of Information Studies (Maryland’s iSchool), who is heading up the UMD research team. “Computers can be trained to transform human language in many useful ways, but today that training process is still too expensive to affordably be applied to all the world’s languages, and too dependent on the artisanal skills of a small number of experts.”

Joining Oard at UMD are Philip Resnik, linguistics professor, Marine Carpuat, assistant professor of computer science, and Hal Daumé (professor of computer science and Language Science Center). These four faculty all have appointments in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), where they work together in the Computational Linguistics and Information Processing (CLIP) Laboratory, one of 16 centers and labs in UMIACS.

The system they are building, called SCRIPTS—which stands for System for Cross Language Information Processing, Translation and Summarization—will take advantage of the latest advances in computing technologies. This includes machine-learning algorithms that can sift through large amounts of human language, looking for commonalities in syntax and semantics.

When completed, SCRIPTS will be able to transcribe speech from multiple sources such as videos, news broadcasts and some types of social media. It will also process text documents like newspapers, reports and social media posts.

The system will use multiple strategies, such as matching an English query against translated documents and then summarizing the result. It will also be able to search and summarize directly in the foreign language, and then translate the selected summaries into English.

“The collection and analysis of information required to accomplish a specific intelligence task has increasingly become a multilingual venture,” says Carl Rubino, who is leading IARPA’s Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language (MATERIAL) program. 

For most languages, Rubino says, there are very few automated tools for cross-lingual data mining and analysis. “MATERIAL aims to investigate how current language processing technologies can most efficiently be developed and integrated to respond to specific information needs against multilingual speech and text data,” he says.

Currently, analysts must wade through multilingual document collections manually or use computers that are unable to translate languages that have a small digital footprint, known as “low-resource languages,” into English. In addition, many current systems don’t provide accurate translations of these low-resource languages.

For example, text written in Tagalog or Swahili—languages spoken by millions of people in the Philippines and East Africa, respectively—has far less digital content on which systems can be trained.

And if the language is originally retrieved from a news broadcast or other audio source, its pronunciation may not translate well to English, or there may be variable pronunciations for certain words, says Oard, who is an expert in cross-language retrieval.

“We’ve [already] built machines that learn from examples, but for these low-resource languages, we just don’t have enough examples,” he says.

This is where new technology will come into play. Using sophisticated “deep learning” systems, the SCRIPTS team will begin to compile documents in several low-resource languages that have been selected by IARPA as representative examples. They’ll develop new algorithms to analyze language patterns such as sentence structure and morphology, which is how words are formed and their relationship to other words in the same language.

Deep learning-based translation systems under development at UMD will take limited amounts of information from the low-resource languages, churn it with other language-related data from better-resourced languages, and come up with powerful new tools that will allow for the manipulation and transformation of content in those languages.

“In order for us to be able to do this kind of work, we need the ability to build new computing infrastructures that weren’t the same ones’ people were using as recently as five years ago,” says Carpuat, an expert in multilingual text analysis who is working on machine translation capabilities for SCRIPTS.

Perhaps of greatest significance, the researchers say, is that SCRIPTS is designed to incorporate four key areas of language processing—speech recognition, machine translation, cross-language retrieval, and information summarization—into one, robust platform.

“Translation, retrieval and summarization are all areas that CLIP has previously excelled in,” says Resnik, a computational linguist who is the current director of the CLIP lab. “But these tasks all needed to be done within separate systems. Now—with the use of deep learning neural networks—it allows us to combine functions and do a single ‘training’ of the system across multiple functions quickly and efficiently.”

Resnik says that in addition to the four UMD faculty, CLIP has added a postdoc and a research staff member to work on the IARPA project. There are also five UMD doctoral students involved with the research.

Looking ahead, the CLIP lab faculty envision even more powerful computing systems being used to assist with multilingual information management.

“Computational methods evolve rapidly,” says Oard, who notes that the Maryland team is already working across a full range of modern computing architectures—from high-performance computing, to the latest distributed processing systems, to deep learning clusters.

In the future, he adds, the researchers might even consider the next-generation quantum computing techniques being developed at UMD.

“We work together with sponsors like IARPA to leverage these technologies in the service of our society, to help transform the way we all can take best advantage of the increasingly information-abundant world in which we live,” Oard says.

 

About CLIP: The Computational Linguistics and Information Processing (CLIP) Laboratory at the University of Maryland is engaged in designing algorithms and building systems that allow computers to effectively and efficiently perform language-related tasks. CLIP is one of 16 labs and centers in UMIACS.

About IARPA: Launched in 2006, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs that address some of the most difficult scientific challenges faced by the U.S. intelligence community.

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