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UMD Scientists Discover Protein that Enables Safe Recycling of Iron from Old Red Blood Cells

February 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Offers promise of new treatments for iron deficiency and parasitic worm infections

Human heme recycling: Microscopic image of a macrophage digesting worn-out red blood cells. The blue is the nucleus of the macrophage. The red within the macrophage is HRG 1 protein molecules (highlighted by HRG1 antibodies containing red dye).  The circle of red shows HRG1I proteins surrounding a red cell and ready to take its iron-containing heme.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Humans survive by constantly recycling iron, a metal that is an essential component of red blood cells, but which is toxic outside of those cells. More than 90 percent of the iron in an adult human's 25 trillion life-sustaining red blood cells is recycled from worn-out cells.

Almost 50 years ago scientists first began hypothesizing that our bodies must have a special protein 'container' to safely transport heme -- the form of iron found in living things – during the breakdown and recycling of old red blood cells and other types of heme metabolism. Now a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Utah School of Medicine have identified this long-sought heme-iron transporter and shown that it is the same HRG1 protein that a common microscopic worm, C. elegans, uses to transport heme. In humans, the iron in heme is the component that allows hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry the oxygen needed for life.

The team's findings are based on studies in human, mouse, zebrafish and yeast systems and are published in the Feb. 5 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

Adult worms are aligned to form the chemical structure of heme, for delivery to a stylized embryo, superimposed over a scanning electron micrograph of an adult nematode. The image is courtesy of David Hall and Iqbal Hamza. Artwork by Chris Crocker”. "Our current work reveals that the long-sought heme transporter that permits humans to recycle over 5 million red blood cells per second in our spleen and liver, is the same HRG1 transporter protein that my students and I discovered in worms in 2008, and which we showed at that time is used by C. elegans to safely carry heme-iron that it obtains from dirt into its intestine," says team leader and corresponding author Iqbal Hamza., a University of Maryland associate professor in the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences.

"Moreover, we show in this current study that mutations in the gene for HRG1 can be a causative agent for genetic disorders of iron metabolism in humans," he says.

First author Carine White, a UMD post-doctoral researcher and three other students from his lab joined Hamza in the research, along with researchers from Harvard, NIH and Utah.

This study's findings are the third major piece that Hamza and his Maryland lab have added to the puzzle of understanding how humans and other organisms safely move heme around in the body. In addition to their two studies showing the role of the HRG1, that Hamza showed in a 2011 Cell paper that in C. elegans there is a different, but related, protein called HRG3 that transports heme from the mother worm's intestine to her developing embryos.

According to Hamza, the HRG3-mediated pathway that worms use for transporting heme to developing oocytes also appears to be an excellent target for stopping the reproduction of hookworms and other parasites that feed on host red blood cell hemoglobin. Together these three findings could lead to new methods for treating two age-old scourges - parasitic worm infections, which affect more than a quarter of the world's population, and problems of iron metabolism and iron deficiency. The latter is the world's number one nutritional disorder. With the help of UMD's Office of Technology Commercialization and the university's Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, Hamza has started a company, Rakta Therapeutics, Inc. that focuses on developing anti-parasitic drugs that specifically target the parasite's variation of HRG1 and HRG3 transporters.

Heme, Humans and Bloodless worms
In living organisms -- ranging from humans to baker's yeast -- iron enclosed in a heme cage is a critical molecule for health because it binds to oxygen and other gases needed for survival. However, because heme is toxic, scientists long ago started searching for the existence of proteins that could safely transport heme between cells and throughout the body.

However, identifying such proteins has been a very difficult task because organisms generate heme in a complicated eight-step process that is hard to control for in studies of heme transport pathways.

Hamza first started trying to uncover the secrets of heme transport in 2003. After  briefly and unsuccessfully studying the question of heme carrying proteins in traditional bacteria and mice models, Hamza switched to a non-intuitive study subject, one that doesn't make heme, but needs it to survive, that doesn't even have blood, but shares a number of genes with humans - the C. elegans roundworm. C. elegans gets heme by eating bacteria in the soil where it lives. "C. elegans consumes heme and transports it into the intestine.

According to Hamza, C. elegans has had several other benefits for studying heme transport. Hamza's team had control of the amount of heme the worms were eating. With only one valve controlling the heme transport, the scientists knew exactly where heme was entering the worm's intestine, where, as in humans, it is absorbed.

Moreover, C. elegans is transparent, so that under the microscope researchers could see the movement of the heme ingested by a live animal. 

 

"HRG1 Is Essential for Heme Transport from the Phagolysosome of Macrophages during Erythrophagocytosis," Cell Metabolism, Feb. 5, 2013.

Scientist Contact:  Iqbal Hamza, Ph.D., associate professor, University of Maryland, College Park; Phone: 301-405-0649; Email: hamza@umd.edu

Comet Debuting in New Deep Impact Movie Expected to Star this Winter

February 5, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

The  Deep Impact spacecraft, pictured here in an artist rendering, carries a solar panel (right), a high-gain antenna (top), a debris shield (left), instruments for high and medium resolution imaging, infrared spectroscopy, and optical navigation (yellow box and orange cylinder, lower left)COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The newly discovered comet ISON, which late this year could give sky watchers one of the brightest shows ever, shines in a new movie made by a University of Maryland-led team of scientists. The team recently began tracking and studying the comet with NASA's historic Deep Impact spacecraft. 

The "movie"—a brief clip of comet ISON—won't win any Oscars, but it is an early look at a comet that promises to be a major light in the night sky during its close up with the sun beginning November 2013. This close encounter also holds the potential for exciting new scientific insights into the composition of comets, the most pristine remnants of the early days of our solar systems, says Maryland astronomer Tony Farnham and other members of the Deep Impact science team. 

"This appears to be this comet's first ever journey into the inner solar system and it is expected to pass much closer to the sun than most comets—within a distance of only a few solar radii," says Farnham, a research scientist at Maryland. "Thus it offers us a novel opportunity to see how the dust and gas frozen in this comet since the dawn of our Solar System will change and evolve as it is strongly heated during its first passage close to the Sun."

Farnham -- whose fellow team members include Ken Klaasen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and five Maryland colleagues, including Deep Impact Principal Investigator Michael A'Hearn -- says this comet also stands out because it was discovered much earlier on its first tour of the inner solar system than most other comets. "We see sun grazers [comets that pass relatively close to the sun] all the time, but most are only seen as they flare up very close to the sun. With this comet we are able to study it from where it is currently, farther from the sun than Jupiter and about five times farther from the sun than Earth, until its closest approach to the Sun, called its perihelion, on November 28th."

Comet ISONComet ISON is already developing an entourage (coma and tail) of dust and gas that will continue to grow in size and reflect brilliance as it moves nearer to the sun. Its first solar close-up will cause this luminance to peak and could result in an historic starring role in the night sky.

However, this hot encounter also could result in a spectacular breakup. If ISON survives, it is expected to shine even brighter as it moves away from the sun—bright enough to be seen with the naked eye and possibly even brighter than a full moon, astronomers say. In total, Comet ISON could be visible to sky watchers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres for at least a couple of months, from about November 2013 through January 2014.

"This is the fourth comet on which we have performed science observations and the farthest point from Earth from which we've tried to transmit data on a comet," said Tim Larson, project manager for the Deep Impact spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. 

Deep Impact has executed close flybys of two comets – Tempel 1 and Hartley 2 – and performed scientific observations on two more – comet Garradd and now ISON.  Its first comet flyby was an historic encounter on July 4, 2005, that saw it smash a probe craft into Tempel 1 generating world-wide headlines and unprecedented comet science.

The ISON imaging campaign is expected to yield infrared data, light curves (which are used in defining the comet's rotation rate) in addition to visible-light images. The current movie of comet ISON was generated from initial data acquired during this campaign. Preliminary results indicate that although the comet is still in the outer solar system, more than 474 million miles (763 million kilometers) from the sun, it is already active. As of Jan. 18, 2013, the tail extending from ISON's nucleus was already more than 40,000 miles (64,400 kilometers) long.

ISON poses no threat to Earth – getting no closer to our planet than about 40 million miles on Dec. 26, 2013. The comet was discovered on Sept. 21, 2012, by two Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network's 16-inch (40-centimeter) telescope near Kislovodsk.

Frequently referred to as "dirty snowballs," comets consist of varying amounts of dust and ice particles. The ices in a comet are both frozen gases and frozen water. Comets warm up and give off gas and dust whenever they venture near the sun. According to current scientific understanding, what generally powers this activity is frozen water transforming from solid ice to gas, a process called sublimation. Jets powered by ice sublimation release dust, which reflects sunlight and brightens the comet. Typically, a comet's water content remains frozen until it comes within about three times Earth's distance to the sun, or 3 astronomical units (3AU), so astronomers regard this as the solar system's "snow line."  At distances beyond 3 AU, other ices, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, sublimate to drive the comet's activity.

The University of Maryland is the Principal Investigator institution for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Deep Impact spacecraft and its missions  for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

UMD Landscape Architecture Students Take Learning Beyond the Classroom

February 4, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

NIST Courtyard DesignCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – A group of University of Maryland landscape architecture students were recently given an opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world situation. Officials at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg enlisted the students to redesign an outdoor space and help turn their underutilized courtyard into an inviting space for employees.

Taking on the challenge, the group of sophomore College of Agriculture & Natural Resources students visited NIST, talked with NIST staff members who care for the grounds or work near the courtyard in question, and came up with plans to redesign it into more of a destination space.

"This NIST courtyard doesn't invite people now. People are just walking through it, getting from point A to point B," says Kelly Cook, an adjunct assistant professor for UMD's Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA). "There was a desire to have someone rethink what this space could be—to come up with ways to make it more comfortable, to create sheltered places in it where people can get out of the lab and read a book. There's also the opportunity to redesign the more formal outdoor space right outside the library to make it a more inviting place to work or congregate."

Final Courtyard DesignThe students created 20 different designs, which they recently shared with NIST staff. Their innovative plan featured fountains, pools, shaded arbors, comfortable chairs and tables in sheltered spaces, a 30-foot-long piece of a twisted World Trade Center steel girder as a commemorative object and sculptural element, and ground plants and shrubbery that deer don't like to eat.

NIST architect and planner Susan Cantilli says the students' work is generating interest among NIST employees in creating a more inviting space. "Clearly people see the need for these kinds of enhancements. I'm hoping that we might be able to do something in the future," says Cantilli.

New Criminology Chair Aims High

February 4, 2013
Contacts: 

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

By Laura Ours

James P. LynchCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - James P. Lynch, a prominent expert on crime statistics and victimization is settling in as the new chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) at the University of Maryland. In his new role, Lynch will build upon the remarkable work of the department's interim chair, Professor Charles Wellford, and its former chair, Professor Sally Simpson, to continue expanding the scope and raise the profile of the top-ranked criminology program in the nation.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Lynch to the College," says Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean John Townshend. "We are extremely fortunate to have attracted such an outstanding scholar and academic leader."

Lynch - who has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago - previously served as director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the U.S. Department of Justice from June 2010 until his arrival at Maryland in early January.  Lynch says he was proud to help the bureau expand and update the major data collections it has built and oversees - statistical series that provide timely information on crime and the criminal justice response that ultimately can be used to inform national crime control policies.

Universities Helped BJS Efforts
At the BJS, Lynch witnessed the important role of universities in analyzing and utilizing information gathered by the federal government to better inform public policy.

"Universities work with the BJS to take data collected for statistical purposes and use it for research purposes—a lot can be learned from the supplemental analysis of that kind of data," the new CCJS chair says. "The information that comes from universities doing secondary analyses of statistical data can help bring these data to bear on key topics— victimization rates, crime, de-institutionalization and gun control."

The desire to do academic research that could influence policy debates was one of the reasons why he chose to leave government service and return to academia along with a desire for a change of pace.

"Being a civil servant is an honor but it can be an exhausting honor," he said. "While I loved the BJS and the people I worked with, I missed teaching and collaborating with academic colleagues."

Reputation of the CCJS Program a Major Draw
Lynch says he was drawn to BSOS and to CCJS because of the high caliber of the department's faculty and the unparalleled reputation of the program.

"There is a great faculty here, with a world-renowned senior faculty and a lot of 'muscle' coming from the associate and assistant professors," Lynch says. "You lead departments like that, you don't run them. I look forward to taking some time to get to know the department and find ways that I can help it move forward."

"In the past 20 years the department has focused on substantive areas at the heart of criminology and more recently faculty members are doing research on emerging issues, such as terrorism, cybercrime and white collar crime. I look forward to the discussions we're going to have about the new areas of research we're going to pursue," he said.

He also is eager to begin teaching in the fall semester—after he's had some time to get the lay of the land and discover where his teaching expertise is most needed. Dr. Lynch focuses on teaching and research in the areas of data collection methodologies, victimization, offender re-entry and the role of punishment in social control.

Distinguished Career
Lynch's academic career includes serving as a distinguished professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at John Jay College, City University of New York. He was a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University from 1986 to 2005 and chair of that department from 2003 to 2005.

He was the vice president of the American Society of Criminology and served on its board as well as on the Committee on Law and Justice Statistics of the American Statistical Association. Dr. Lynch was co-editor of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. From 2007 to 2009, he was a member of the National Academy of Science panel evaluating the programs of the BJS.

Lynch has published four books and numerous articles on crime statistics, victimization surveys, victimization risk, and the role of sanctions in social control.

Caribbean Adventure Offers Unique Education Abroad Opportunity for UMD Students

February 1, 2013
Contacts: 

Andrew Roberts 301-405-2171
Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076

By Andrew Roberts

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Studying abroad at the University of Maryland is life changing. Recently, 24 Maryland students took to the high seas on a magnificent sailing ship traveling to the Caribbean archipelago - a volcanic cluster of islands stretching from the southeast coast of the United States to just off the northern coast of South America. 

24 UMD students traveled to the Caribbean archipelago for education abroad programThe Geography of the Southern Caribbean is a two week education abroad program offered during winter term 2013. The course gave these Maryland students - many of whom had never traveled beyond the borders of the United States - a truly unique opportunity to study the physical and cultural geography of the Caribbean, as well as the history that has shaped the region, its landscape and its people.

Led by Joseph Trocino, a lecturer in the Department of Geographical Sciences, the students gained the type of cultural appreciation, universally applicable skills, and international exposure that the University of Maryland prides itself on offering.

A One-Of-Its-Kind Program
The journey took the Maryland students throughout the Leeward Islands, where they learned about the physical and cultural geography of the Caribbean, the complex history of the region, the cultures that define each island, and the economic, political and sustainability issues facing them – individually and collectively. Aboard the Star Clipper, a 360-foot full-rigged clipper ship, the students also learned about life at sea and had the opportunity to learn hands-on about the operation of a complex sailing vessel. The combination of these focuses during a short-term education abroad program makes this class the only program of its kind in the United States.

Caribbean"It was priceless," says Dan Zawacki, an English and secondary education major and a senior at Maryland. "One of my biggest weaknesses as an educator, about to enter the workforce, is having limited experience with different cultures, languages, nations and socioeconomic conditions. I think having gotten this exposure on the trip is extremely valuable for someone in education. It prepares you for appropriately addressing the students you will go on to work with."

Coursework Done Ahead of Time
The students have to complete their coursework before they depart. That includes the reading of two books and 12 custom-tailored online documents. They also have to complete a written essay. The students took it upon themselves to read, write and complete their assignments during the Fall 2012 semester, in addition to their existing workload.

"When the students began their study abroad program in early January, they already had a well-rounded concept of the region and knowledge of geography fundamentals to help put their experiences in context," says Trocino.

UMD students enjoy their Caribbean view during education abroad programDuring the program, the students kept a daily journal to track their activities, lessons and excursions. At the end of the program the students turned in their journals to Trocino, who reviewed them along with the other coursework.

This approach not only ensures that students in the program are able to appreciate the range of diverse cultural, political and geographical environments they are immersed in, but it also empowers students to experience, interpret and learn about the region in an educated and unique way.

Over their two week program, the Maryland students visited eight island nations – all of which have distinctly unique cultures, history, geography and challenges. Interacting with locals, exploring the natural landscape and learning from the island natives enabled the students to gain a new appreciation for the world around them – beyond the universally applicable geography knowledge and skills they acquired.

The benefits, as Trocino has learned over the years, extend far beyond graduation. "I get emails, regularly, from students about their return trips to the region…some for business, others with their families, friends or significant others…sharing things they have learned and asking questions about what they have seen," Trocino explained. "They write to boast about how much they learned, and still remembered. Some impressed friends with their knowledge of maritime navigation or geographical history…others were just proud to intimately know an island that most had never heard of."

View the full photo gallery from the students' adventures or get a taste with this slideshow:

Live from the White House: UMD's Gates Awarded Nation's Top Science Honor

February 1, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

President Obama awarded the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation during a ceremony on Friday, Feb. 1 at the White House. University of Maryland Professor of Physics Sylvester James (Jim) Gates is one of 12 recipients of the National Medal of Science this year, one of the highest honors bestowed by the United States Government upon scientists, engineers, and inventors.

Read the full announcement here and watch the ceremony:

Hear from all of the National Medal of Science and Technology and Innovation Laureates as they discuss their groundbreaking work and the importance of STEM education to prepare America for the jobs of the future:

 

Maryland Named Tree Campus USA for Fifth Consecutive Year

January 31, 2013
Contacts: 

Karen Petroff, University of Maryland, 301-405-8952
Sean Barry, Arbor Day Foundation, 402-473-9563
Luis Rosero, Toyota, 212-715-7493

Tree Campus USA LogoCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – For its fifth consecutive year, the University of Maryland has been named a 2012 Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. This national program recognizes colleges and universities for their effective campus forest management and engaging staff and students in conservation goals.

"We are privileged to live and work on one of the greenest campuses in the nation, as this Arbor Day Foundation honor reminds us," said University of Maryland President Wallace Loh.  "I thank the students, faculty and staff who earned this recognition for us through their commitment to enriching the campus environment."

Maryland achieved this honor by meeting Tree Campus USA's required five core standards, including maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures toward trees, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning projects.

University of Maryland Campus"We always strive to set the bar high. With a campus that is an arboretum and botanical garden in itself with nearly 9,000 trees and counting, we are doing just that," said Karen Petroff, assistant director for arboretum/horticultural services at Maryland. "In 2012, we planted 1,223 new trees on campus and in 2013 we have plans to continue to diversify and enhance the campus canopy and botanical collections. We are honored to have our work continually recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation."

According to Petroff, partners such as the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, the Woody Landscape Plant Germplasm Repository Program, the Anacostia Watershed Society and student groups and individuals played a key role in helping to achieve their goal of creating performance landscapes that serve ecosystem, aesthetic and academic functions.

"Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment," said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for all of us."

Tree Campus USA was created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation with support from Toyota. Through their partnership, the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota have helped campuses throughout the country plant hundreds of thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested $23 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available at arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.

UMD Technology Measures Super Bowl Reactions in Real Time

January 31, 2013
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini, University of Maryland, 301-405-4076
Bill Day,  Frank N. Magid Associates, 757-771-1230

University of Maryland Professor Philip ResnikUpdate: Below are some topline results from the study. The full results are available here.

  • Nearly 400 consumers from ages 17 to 67 and from coast-to-coast participated throughout the game.
  • Consumers had the strongest response to the Budweiser 'Clydesdale' ad; however, the respondents reported little to no intent to purchase while watching the spot.
  • Kia's 'Babylandia' ad showed strong reaction from consumers. Activation responses came late in the spot, driven largely by the technology demonstration driving the spot's punchline.
  • Subway's blooper driven 'Februhuh' spot missed the mark with consumers, eliciting high levels of "blah" and "dislike" reactions across the sample.

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland Professor Philip Resnik's React Labs is partnering with Frank N. Magid Associates this Sunday to take a comprehensive, real-time look at how consumers engage with the Super Bowl and its advertising. The research will use React Lab's innovative mobile technology - developed at the University of Maryland - to measure how engaged viewers are, their reaction to the Super Bowl and its commercials, and if they plan to buy any of the products advertised.

The React Labs technology utilizes a mobile app that enables users to react to an event moment by moment. The new real-time polling platform captures viewer engagement with what they're watching, while simultaneously collecting temporally fine-grained, interpretable data about their responses.

"React Labs harnesses the potential of mobile technology to tap into people's immediate, unmediated responses to what they're seeing and hearing," says Professor Philip Resnik, founder of Bethesda-based React Labs.

Resnik holds joint appointments at Maryland in the Department of Linguistics and at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS).

"Our goal for this project is to build a platform that seamlessly integrates with how consumers watch and react to major media events like the Super Bowl," he says.

The technology was last used to judge reactions during the presidential debates at the University of Maryland and other colleges and universities across the U.S.

This is the first time it has been used with a Super Bowl.

"We want to measure everything from the game itself, to Beyoncé's half time show, to the all-important commercials," says Magid Executive Director Bill Day. "Online polls and social TV during the game only scratch the surface of what we can learn about how people really engage with the Super Bowl."

Leveraging its domain expertise in content development and advertising effectiveness, Frank N. Magid Associates will provide a comprehensive view of the game, the ads and consumers' engagement with both. Magid's advertising experts will be available to provide instant analysis of the impact of this premier marketing event.

Additionally, a full graphics package, custom data sets and expert opinions will be available to selected media outlets in advance and immediately after Sunday's game.

About React Labs
React Labs LLC, based in Bethesda, Maryland, offers an innovative technology platform for collecting moment-by-moment reactions on a large scale using mobile devices.  Originating in research at University of Maryland by founder Philip Resnik, PhD, the technology was developed in collaboration with user experience and political science experts and made its debut with large scale collection of public opinion during the October 2012 presidential debates.  For more information, see reactlabs.org.  E-mail: reactlabs@gmail.com; phone: (302) U 2 REACT (You, too: react!  302-827-3288).

About Frank N. Magid and Associates
Founded in 1957, Frank N. Magid Associates provides research-driven, strategic media counsel on the evolving consumer mindset for clients in 37 countries. The company helps businesses that are struggling to make sense of a constantly evolving marketplace connect with an increasingly elusive, splintered consumer who is seemingly hidden behind an expansive array of technologies. Magid not only provides businesses with an understanding of the attitudes, opinions, and actions of today’s technology-saturated consumers, but also offers research-driven strategic advice on how to successfully brand, advertise, market, and design their products and services. For more information, please visit Magid on the Web at www.magid.com.

UMD Freshmen Take Second Place in Global “Code Wars”

January 30, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

UMD Students Watch Intently During "Code Wars"On Jan. 26, 17 teams comprised of more than 60 University of Maryland students competed in the 2013 Windward Code Wars, a day-long competition that gathers students from top universities around the world to analyze a programming problem, create a solution and pit their skills against each other.

Participating teams were challenged to write a code—or create “orders”—for an A.I. in the following scenario:

“Welcome to the booming city of Windwardopolis. The largest high-tech companies all have corporate headquarters here in Windwardopolis. You own a limousine service with one limo (yes it’s a small operation, but a proud one). These CEOs need to travel to the other corporate headquarters. Your job is to provide them the transportation from one location to the next. And to do so with a smile – no one likes an unhappy driver.”

The teams accumulated points based on how optimally their code transported the passengers to each of the locations.

During the competition, UMD students put their codes to the test against hundreds of students from schools around the world. Two of the university’s teams, “String Theory” and “Terps,” made it to the quarter-final and semi-final rounds before team “String Theory” took second place in the final competition.

“String Theory,” a team of UMD Computer Science and Computer Engineering freshmen, included Eric Jeney, Brendan Rowan, Daniel Sun, Matt Bender and Kevin Harrison. Each member of “String Theory” won an HP laptop and a Microsoft Kinect.

Windward Code Wars in Action

Iron Man Cal Ripken to Deliver Spring 2013 Commencement Address

January 29, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

Cal Ripken, Jr.COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Cal Ripken, Jr., one of the greatest baseball players of all time and a Maryland legend, will deliver the University of Maryland commencement address on May 19, 2013. Ripken, who played professional baseball for 21 years and founded Ripken Baseball, Inc. and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, will address the more than 7,000 graduates and thousands of family and friends at the spring ceremony.

“I want to thank the University of Maryland for this tremendous honor. As a Marylander I am excited and very much look forward to delivering this speech to the graduating students,” said Cal Ripken, Jr. “I hope that my life experience allows me to impart some wisdom and give them a message that will serve them as they start their careers. While I never attended college, opting to pursue my baseball career after high school, I have great respect for higher education and the great value it brings to young people.”

“Commencement is a time to recognize and honor the many outstanding achievements of our students during their time at Maryland,” said President Wallace Loh. “Throughout his career, Cal Ripken, Jr. has shown himself to be a natural educator, an extraordinary athlete, and a generous philanthropist who has exhibited dedication and heart in all that he has accomplished. His participation in our Commencement ceremony will be an inspiration to our graduates and their families.”

"On behalf of the graduating class, I am honored and privileged to welcome Mr. Ripken as our featured speaker,” said graduating senior Stephanie Barcomb, co-chair of the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee. “Through his legendary baseball career, entrepreneurial endeavors, and philanthropy, Mr. Ripken has proven to be a true leader and inspirational role model.”

“He is a local hero and has had an accomplished career both on and off the field,” said graduating senior Alysia Cutchis, co-chair of the Commencement Speaker Selection Committee. “Many Maryland students and alumni grew up idolizing Mr. Ripken’s talents, hard work and determination. To hear him address the graduating class will be a once in a lifetime experience.”

About Cal Ripken, Jr.
Born and raised in Maryland, Ripken played both shortstop and third base for the Baltimore Orioles for more than two decades – breaking many records along the way. In 1995, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s Major League record for consecutive games played – voluntarily ending the streak in 1998 with 2,632 consecutive games. Ripken, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, is one of only eight players in history to achieve 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. 

Since his retirement from the sport in 2001, Ripken is using his skills, experience and passion for baseball to help grow the game at the grassroots level through his organization, Ripken Baseball.

In 2007, Ripken was named as a Special Public Diplomacy Envoy to the U.S. State Department. In this role he travels the world using baseball as a tool to spread goodwill. He has traveled to China, Nicaragua, and most recently to Japan, where he and former teammate Brady Anderson spent time with the children impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the country.  

Ripken has always placed a strong focus on giving back to the community. In 2001, he and his family established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in memory of Ripken’s father. The foundation uses baseball themed programs to make a positive impact on young people in our countries most challenged areas.

Ripken is also a best-selling author and a popular public speaker. 

 

Click here to see students’ reaction to the news around campus.

Pages

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