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Thursday, June 22, 2017

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Gravitational Waves Detected a Third Time

June 5, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – On January 4, 2017, at 11:11:58 CET, scientists from the University of Maryland and other physicists observed gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of spacetime—for the third time, concluding that the latest observed gravitational waves were produced in the final moments of the merger of two black holes, the same type of event determined to have generated the gravitational waves detected in the first two historic observations. 

Photo of a Gravitational Waves

Gravitational waves carry information about their origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. All three detections of gravitational waves were made by science teams using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington.  The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration observed the third gravitational wave event, named GW170104, on January 4, and published a report describing the discovery and its implications in the journal Physical Review Letters

LIGO’s first detection, on September 14, 2015, resulted from a merger of two black holes about 36 and 29 times the mass of the sun. In contrast, the black holes that created the second event were relative flyweights, tipping the scales at 14 and eight times the mass of the sun. 

The third and most recent detection lies in the middle, resulting from a merger between two black holes, more than 31 and 19 times the mass of the sun, respectively. The merger produced a single, more massive black hole that is slightly less than 49 times the mass of the sun, and transformed the remaining mass into gravitational energy. 

“The observation and interpretation of yet another LIGO signal, GW170104, confirms the success of our theoretical program to model binary black holes,” said Alessandra Buonanno, a UMD College Park Professor of Physics and LSC principal investigator who also has an appointment as Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany. Buonanno has led the effort to develop highly accurate models of gravitational waves that black holes would generate in the final process of orbiting and colliding with each other.

“For the third LIGO signal we could gather some evidence that at least one black hole might be rotating in a direction misaligned with the overall orbital motion—a spin configuration favored by some astrophysical formation scenarios of binary black holes” Buonanno added, noting that her team made substantial improvements to their methodology throughout 2016, in between LIGO’s observing runs.

The newly detected merger occurred approximately 3 billion years ago, making it more than twice as old (and more than twice as distant) as the first two events, which occurred 1.3 and 1.4 billion years ago, respectively. Based on the arrival time of the signals—the Hanford detector measured the waves 3 milliseconds before the Livingston detector—researchers can roughly determine the position of the source in the sky.

The first detection of gravitational waves, announced on February 11, 2016, was a milestone in physics and astronomy. It confirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and marked the beginning of the new field of gravitational wave astronomy. 

“The latest detection adds to the diversity of black hole merger events we’ve been able to observe directly,” said Peter Shawhan, an associate professor of physics at UMD and an LSC principal investigator who serves as Data Analysis Committee Chair for the LSC. “We’re conducting a census of black holes in binary systems in our universe and we expect to discover other types of signals too. Besides just counting them, we can learn from their properties how they were born and how they evolved.”

The researchers also looked for an effect called dispersion, which is known to occur when light waves in a physical medium such as glass travel at different speeds depending on their wavelength. This is how a prism creates a rainbow, for example. Einstein's general theory of relativity forbids dispersion from happening in gravitational waves as they propagate from their source to Earth. LIGO did not find evidence for this effect in GW170104.

"Even for this new event, which is about two times farther away than our first two detections, we could not find any evidence that gravitational waves disperse as they travel in the fabric of space-time," Buonanno said. 

“Einstein still seems to have been right about the true nature of gravity,” Shawhan added.

The new detection occurred during LIGO's second observing run, which began November 30, 2016, and will continue through August 2017. The LIGO-Virgo team is continuing to search the latest LIGO data for signs of space-time ripples from the far reaches of the cosmos. They are also working on substantial technical upgrades for LIGO's third run, scheduled to begin in late 2018, with help from the nearly completed Virgo detector in Italy collecting data simultaneously. 


 

Image shows a numerical simulation of a binary black hole merger with masses and spins consistent with the third and most recent LIGO observation, named GW170104. The strength of the gravitational wave is indicated by elevation as well as color, with blue indicating weak fields and yellow indicating strong fields. The sizes of the black holes are doubled to improve visibility. Image Credit: Numerical-relativistic Simulation: S. Ossokine, A. Buonanno (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics) and the Simulating eXtreme Spacetime project Scientific Visualization: T. Dietrich (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), R. Haas (NCSA).


 

Trustees of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation June 2, 2017 Statement

June 2, 2017

We, the Trustees of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, are UMD alumni, community members and donors.  We serve and support the programs of the University and advance the interests of the members of our campus community – students, faculty, staff and our fellow alumni.

We collectively mourn the loss of Second Lt. Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University who had just been commissioned in the U.S. Army and was within days of his graduation. It is a tragedy.

We also recognize that acts on campus have caused division and fear within our community with acts of hatred, bigotry and violence. They have left many wondering where free speech ends and hate speech begins. We denounce all acts that are intended to create emotional or physical harm to any individual or group.

This is a difficult time on many college campuses across the country. We are fearless in our determination to maintain the University of Maryland as an institution of higher education that welcomes, celebrates and respects diversity in all forms. We stand firm in our support of the actions proposed by President Loh in his letters to the community. And we as a Board are committed to creating a more inclusive and safer community for all.

--Signed by the Executive Committee of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees on behalf of the full Board

Annual Survey Finds Bee Loss Somewhat Reduced at 33 Percent

May 25, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267

 

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Beekeepers across the United States lost 33 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2016 to April 2017, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—improved compared with recent years.

“While it is encouraging that losses are lower than in the past, I would stop short of calling this ‘good’ news,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It’s hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses.”

The survey, which is conducted each year by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, found total annual losses in 2016-17 were the lowest since 2011-12, when the survey recorded less than 29 percent of colonies lost throughout the year. Winter losses last year were the lowest recorded since the survey began in 2006-07. 

According to vanEngelsdorp, the primary reason for the drop in colony loss appears to be that efforts by beekeepers to control varroa mite infestations were more successful during the past year.  Among the many different factors that contribute to colony losses, the lethal varroa mite parasite is considered to be at the top of the list. 

In the fall months of 2016, varroa mite levels across the country were noticeably lower in most beekeeping operations compared with past years. The researchers said this is likely due to increased vigilance on the part of beekeepers, a greater availability of mite control products and environmental conditions that favored the use of timely and effective mite control measures. For example, some mite control products contain essential oils that break down at high temperatures, but many parts of the country experienced relatively mild temperatures in the spring and early summer of 2016.

Beekeepers who responded to the 2015-16 survey lost a total of 33.2 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks a decrease of 7.3 percentage points over the previous study year (2015-16), when loss rates were found to be 40.5 percent. Winter loss rates decreased from 26.9 percent in the previous winter to 21.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates decreased from 23.6 percent to 18.1 percent.

The survey asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the survival rates of their honey bee colonies. Survey results for this year and all previous years are publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

“This is a complex problem,” said Kelly Kulhanek, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who helped with the survey. “Lower losses are a great start, but it’s important to remember that 33 percent is still much higher than beekeepers deem acceptable. There is still much work to do.”

In addition to the varroa mite, factors contributing to colony losses include other parasites, such as the gut parasite Nosema, and viral and bacterial diseases. Poor nutrition (due in part to loss of natural foraging habitat) and pesticide exposure also take a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers. These and other stressors are likely to synergize with each other to compound the problem, the researchers said.

This is the 11th year of the winter loss survey, and the seventh year to include summer and annual losses. More than 4,900 beekeepers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to this year’s survey. All told, these beekeepers manage about 13 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.78 million honey bee colonies.

The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Honey bees pollinate an estimated $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. annually.

“Bees are good indicators of the health of the landscape as a whole,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. “Honey bees are strongly affected by the quality of their environment, including flower diversity, contaminants and pests. To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honey bee health is a community matter.”

2016-2017 survey results as well as previous years’ results are publicly available on the Bee Informed Partnership’s website.

 

Amidst Mourning, UMD President Loh Announces Action Plan to Combat Hate and Create a Safer Campus

May 24, 2017

Attributed to University of Maryland President, Wallace D. Loh: 

As we grieve the loss of Lt. Richard Collins III of Bowie State University, we must also act to combat hate and create a safer campus.

The investigation and prosecution of this heinous crime is underway, led by the State's Attorney for Prince George's County, supported by the Prince George's County Police Department, the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We must allow these law enforcement agencies the time to do their work with due diligence.

But we must do more. Based on advice I have received from a broad coalition of campus partners, I am announcing the following University actions, effective immediately.

1. We have asked the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) to create a trained, rapid-response team for any hate-bias incident. This action team -- comprised of faculty, staff, and students -- would provide support and services to any member of our community who is the subject of a hate incident.

2. We will allocate $100,000 in supplemental funds for the ODI to support diversity and inclusion efforts that educate all members of our community.

3. We will task the Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct to lead in the development and dissemination of an annual report on all hate-bias incidents on campus. This will provide information about incident rates and ongoing prevention, response and education measures.

4. We will ask the Athletic Council to immediately consider how to strengthen existing Intercollegiate Athletics policy to explicitly prohibit any hate-bias symbols or actions in any athletic venue, subject to immediate removal of the violator from that venue.

5. We will establish a task force on hate-bias and campus safety -- comprised of faculty, staff, students, and alumni -- to conduct a comprehensive review of all relevant university policies and procedures.  This task force will submit a final report with recommendations and guidelines to foster an environment where hate is not tolerated.

- It should engage the entire UMD community on difficult issues at the intersections of free speech, hate speech, and freedom of association.

- It should consider strengthened or new educational and curricular initiatives, and any special programming.

- And, it should work with UMD's communications staff on a public awareness effort to inform our campus community about its work.

This is the beginning. There will be more actions once the task force submits its final recommendations.

Today, UMD students, faculty, staff, and friends gathered for a moment of reflection to honor Lt. Collins and to draw strength from each other. We all want a culture that rejects hate and forges a more perfect union in our nation's rich multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity.

But these are fraught times, on our campus, across the nation, and the world. It is on all of us to stand up and fight the racism, extremism, and hate that are cancers in our body politic.

United by this recent tragedy, we can be a force for good. Together, we can be stronger and smarter than those who would divide us and subvert the values that undergird our University and our democracy.

 

UMD Responds to Tragedy: University Community Grieves Loss of Life on Campus, Offers Resources and Moment of Reflection

May 22, 2017

Statement from University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Faculty Staff Assistance Program in the University Health Center, LGBT Equity Center, Nyumburu Cultural Center, Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct, Office of Community Engagement, Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education, Office of Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy, President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues, University Counseling Center and University of Maryland Police Department: 

We are devastated by the murder of Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III this weekend. We are devastated by the racism and hate that exists in this world.  And we are devastated that hate may have played a role in this and other horrific crimes across the country.

We want each of us to have the space and time they need to grieve and we need to collectively honor this young man’s life, offer our support to the other communities mourning right now, especially Bowie State University, and simultaneously find a path forward as a community.

We want to begin by making sure our community understands how they can be supported in the next week.  Here are collective resources you should be aware of:

  • Tuesday, May 23, 12-1:30pm, A place to gather, to share our thoughts and experiences with one another in a supportive environment.

- MICA Conference Room in the Stamp Student Union. Please note: This is specifically a space for students.

- Nyumburu Cultural Center Conference Room 0120. Facilitated by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and the Counseling Center, this is a space for students, staff, and faculty.

- LGBT Equity Center in 2218 Marie Mount Hall.  This is a space for students, faculty, and staff.

  • Thursday, May 25th, 3pm-4:30pm, A place to gather, to share our thoughts and experiences with one another in a supportive environment.

- MICA Conference Room in the Stamp Student Union. Please note: This is specifically a space for students.

- LGBT Equity Center in 2218 Marie Mount Hall.  This is a space for students, faculty, and staff.

  • Counseling: For those able to come to campus, the University Counseling Center has established special drop-in hours anytime Monday - Friday between 8:30 am to 4:30 pm to meet with a counselor.  During evening and weekend hours, you may call the counseling center 301-314-7651 and receive immediate, brief support from a counselor by phone. For faculty and staff, the Faculty Staff Assistance Program is also available for support.
  • Wednesday, May 24, 1pm, Garden of Reflection of Remembrance, Memorial Chapel. We invite the campus community to join us for a moment of reflection hosted by the University Chaplains, to honor Lieutenant Collins and to stand in solidarity with his family, friends and the entire Bowie State University community.
  • Thursday, May 25, 11am-12pm, a community Twitter conversation about how to recover from racial trauma. We recognize that many of you are not physically present on campus, but are in need of community at this time.  We invite all students, faculty and staff to join in a supportive Twitter conversation, facilitated by the University Counseling Center. Please note this is not a confidential space.

The University is working closely with Bowie State University to help them celebrate their commencement exercises on campus tomorrow morning.  They very much appreciate the outpouring of support for their community.

We understand this may impact people differently, with a range of experiences and emotions.  That is okay. Please make a point of connecting with each other, taking care of yourself, and be gentle with yourself.

Please remember that you can report hate/bias through the University of Maryland Police Department or the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct (OCRSM), which is responsible for monitoring the university’s civil rights response. Visit OCRSM online to report or learn more.

Our community of nearly 400,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni can be a powerful force for good. Together, and only together, can we fight back against hate in all its insidious forms.  We are building a coalition of individuals and groups across campus dedicated to ensuring an environment where we fight back against hate and bias, and where we can all thrive.

University Statement Regarding 2017 Student Commencement Speaker

May 22, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, lawsonk@umd.edu, 301-405-4622

Statement from the University of Maryland:

"The University of Maryland, like all public universities, is a marketplace of ideas. It is a place founded on academic freedom, the freedom of expression, and the right of every individual to share their thoughts and views in a welcoming and nurturing academic environment.

As a top student, Shuping Yang was selected by committee to deliver remarks during our university's commencement exercises on Sunday, May 21. She expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to study in the United States at the University of Maryland and shared her views on aspects of that experience.

The University believes that to be an informed global citizen it is critical to hear different viewpoints, to embrace diversity, and demonstrate tolerance when faced with views with which we may disagree. Listening to and respectfully engaging with those whom we disagree are essential skills, both within university walls and beyond.

The University proudly supports Shuping's right to share her views and her unique perspectives and we commend her on lending her voice on this joyous occasion."
 
View Shuping Yang’s personal statement here:
https://m.weibo.cn/status/4110271301535592?wm=3333_2001
 

President Wallace D. Loh Statement on May 20, 2017 Campus Tragedy: Update

May 21, 2017

Update from President Wallace D. Loh on May 20, 2017 campus tragedy:

The horrific assault that took the life of a young man on our campus on Saturday morning has shocked, saddened, and angered our community and beyond.

His name is Richard W. Collins III, an African-American student at Bowie State University (BSU) who was recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  Lt. Collins was scheduled to graduate this Tuesday.

The suspect is Sean Urbanski, a UMD student. He has been charged by the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD) with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault. He is being held without bond.

New information obtained today from witnesses and other sources has led law enforcement officials to consider a hate-bias motive in this case. To ensure a comprehensive investigation, UMPD today asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to provide technical and forensic expertise, which it agreed to do. Prince George's County Police Department is also part of the investigative team.

It is essential that law enforcement agencies have the time to conduct the thorough investigation needed for law and justice to prevail. I have requested that they provide periodic updates to the UMD and BSU communities, as appropriate.

The safety of our campus community remains a top priority. UMPD has increased substantially its visible patrols, on and off campus. The Prince George's County Police has also increased its patrols in the College Park community. UMPD is monitoring 24/7 the hundreds of video security cameras throughout the campus. The Department of Transportation Services has initiated NITE Ride, a curb-to-curb bus service that runs from dusk to 6 AM. 

However, increased police security is not sufficient. We must all do more to nurture a climate -- on campus and beyond -- where we stand against hate, we fight against hate crimes, and we reaffirm the values that define us a university and as a democracy.

As we search for answers to this senseless crime, please continue to keep the family and friends of Lt. Collins, and the BSU community, in your thoughts and prayers. We all grieve together for a promising life ended far too early. 

President Wallace D. Loh Statement on May 20, 2017 campus tragedy

May 20, 2017
Statement from President Wallace D. Loh on May 20, 2017 campus tragedy: 
 

I am writing to all of you today with a heavy heart. This morning, shortly after 3 a.m., a male student from Bowie State University was assaulted with a knife on Regents Drive near Montgomery Hall. He was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. 

 

The suspect, a male University of Maryland student, was immediately apprehended and taken into University of Maryland Police Department custody. The investigation into the circumstances of the assault is underway, and charges are pending.

 

Words cannot express my deep anguish over this horrific tragedy. My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim, and to the entire Bowie State community. I ask that every member of our campus community join me in keeping the victim’s family in their thoughts and prayers. 

 

There is strength in our unity as we grieve. For this reason and in solidarity with the Bowie State community, we will honor a moment of silence to begin tomorrow's commencement exercises.

 

In addition, counselors are available today from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Counseling Center in Shoemaker Hall for any members of our community who need support. 

UMD Names Laurie E. Locascio Vice President for Research

May 17, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Laurie E. LocascioCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has named Laurie E. Locascio as its new Vice President for Research, effective October 1, 2017. In this role, Locascio will be responsible for sustaining strong growth and excellence in the university’s research programs.

For the past 30 years, Locascio has worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., rising from a research biomedical engineer to senior leadership positions.

“Dr. Locascio brings just what our research enterprise needs to thrive in this increasingly competitive environment,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “In addition to her great scholarship and innovation, she has a remarkable ability to create strategic partnerships. Laurie will lead us into a vibrant research future.”

Locascio is currently acting as the Principal Deputy Director and Associate Director for Laboratory Programs at NIST providing leadership and operational guidance for NIST's seven scientific and mission-focused laboratories.

“It is an honor to be joining one of the nation’s top research universities to spearhead transformative work,” said Locascio. “I look forward to leading UMD’s research enterprise of more than a half a billion dollars directed at groundbreaking work taking place across campus.”

Previously, Locascio directed the Material Measurement Laboratory (MML), one of NIST's largest scientific labs, overseeing 1,000 research staff in eight locations around the U.S. and a $170M annual budget. As MML Director, she recruited top talent, fostered excellence, and built a collegial and collaborative workplace. She implemented strategic partnerships with universities, industry, and other government labs, including a partnership with UMD's Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research at Shady Grove. Prior to that, Locascio served as chief of the Biochemical Sciences Division in the MML.

Locascio’s most recent honors and awards include the 2017 American Chemical Society Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management, and the 2017 Washington Academy of Sciences Special Award in Scientific Leadership.  A Fellow of the American Chemical Society, of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and of the Washington Academy of Sciences, she has published 115 scientific articles and has been awarded 11 patents.

Locascio received a B.S. in chemistry from James Madison University, a M.S. in bioengineering from the University of Utah, and a Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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University of Maryland Scientists Unveil First-Ever Study of Urbanization Impact on Soils in Multiple Cities

May 16, 2017

College Park, MD -- Urban soils provide extensive ecosystem services that properly regulate the surrounding environment for all living organisms. Nutrient management, water purification and plant growth are on the short list, but these can become compromised by urbanization. To understand the deeper effects of urbanization on city soils, a team of researchers, including Stephanie Yarwood, associate professor in UMD’s Environmental Science and Technology Department, have published a first-of-its-kind study examining microbial communities in these soils within five different cities. Results uncovered an alarming decrease in ectomycorrhizal fungi, an important organism that enhances plant growth and improves overall health of soils through stabilization and aggregation. This study offers clear evidence of how human urbanization may lead to a decline in diversity of unique populations of microbes on a global scale, in some cases those that have profound implications for human quality of life.

Photo of Urban GreenspaceRecent research suggests that human health is improved when the city includes abundant greenspace. Trees are fundamental to improving air quality and are proven locations for individuals to relieve stress. Ectomycorrhizal fungi help trees take up water, mineral salts and metabolites and can also fight off harmful parasites, predators and soil pathogens. Indeed, many trees are highly dependant on their fungal partners and in areas of poor soil, might not even survive without them. The absence of these fungi in soils in urban locations results in nutrient deficiencies that may require the addition of synthetic fertilizers. 

Through an examination of the biogeography (distribution of species among different geographical areas) of microbial communities, Yarwood determined that there are unique local populations of ectomycorrhizae. Due to the overall decrease in these organisms, combined with the existence of increasing local populations, it is believed that urbanization contributes to a loss of global biodiversity.

“We are excited to unveil this first-ever comparison of five cities on three continents to report an important, impactful global trend, versus a single study and location which has been tackled in the past,” said Yarwood, PhD, of UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “This study demonstrates the need to maintain viable soil and plant areas that continue to serve as natural habitats for microorganisms such as ectomycorrhizae. At its core, this is a human health issue, and we hope our research influences city residents to become more aware of the importance of improving their soils.”

To facilitate this widespread understanding of the effects of urbanization on microbial communities, Yarwood and her team collected samples from five cities – Baltimore (USA), Helsinki (Finland), Lahti, (Finland), Budapest (Hungary), and Potchefstroom (South Africa) – as part of the Global Urban Soil Ecological Education Network, an innovative grassroots effort to coordinate international research about the effects of urbanization on microbial communities. Yarwood hopes these efforts will serve as a model for valuable new insights into emerging global trends.

The study “Urbanization erodes ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity and may cause microbial communities to converge” by Yarwood and colleagues from the USDA Forest Service, Johns Hopkins University, University of Helsinki, North-West University (South Africa), University of Veterinary Science (Budapest) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences,  was recently published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. 


Image Credit: Creative Commons License 

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