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UMD Higgs Hunters Celebrate Nobel Prize in Physics

October 8, 2013

Lee Tune, 301-405-4679
Heather Dewar, 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 to François Englert and Peter Higgs to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which scientists say gives mass to subatomic and atomic particles, thus making possible the universe and everything in it. The Nobel Committee noted that the ideas of Englert and Higgs "were confirmed by the discovery of a so called Higgs particle at the CERN laboratory outside Geneva in Switzerland."

University of Maryland scientists played a significant role in the world-wide scientific collaboration that discovered this particle in 2012, when two multi-national research teams generated and detected the long-sought Higgs, or Higgs boson, which scientists say confirms the theory of the Higgs field, an invisible energy plane that exists throughout the universe.

"It is fitting that the Nobel Committee has recognized these theorists," said University of Maryland Physics Professor Nicholas Hadley, chair of the U.S. collaboration board for one of the two experimental teams. "And it is an honor that I and 21 other UMD scientists have been part of the historic international particle accelerator experiments that proved them correct. I congratulate the winners, the particle physics community, and my Maryland colleagues."

Englert and Higgs and colleagues first proposed the existence of the Higgs field in three scientific papers published in 1964. A key concept held that as particles pass through the Higgs field, they interact with a fundamental particle, the Higgs boson, that endows them with mass. Without mass, particles would not be attracted to one another, and would simply float freely around the universe at light speed.

To test the theory, researchers worked for decades to plan and conduct experiments at the world's largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. On July 4, 2012, members of the two teams, known by the acronyms ATLAS and CMS, announced that they had independently found a subatomic particle that fit the criteria for the Higgs boson.

"Without some kind of Higgs-like field, there really wouldn't be a universe at all," said Hadley. "Because the particles would have no mass, and if everything were massless, there wouldn't be atoms, there wouldn't be planets, there wouldn't be stars and there wouldn't be people. The great question has been did Higgs, Englert and colleagues get it right with their particular model? And now it appears the answer is yes."

UMD's 22 scientists are among nearly 1,300 U.S. researchers from 89 U.S. universities and seven U.S. Department of Energy laboratories who participate in the two ongoing Large Hadron Collider experiments. Maryland's team helped to build the CMS particle detector and analyzed the masses of data - many times greater than the contents of all the books in the Library of Congress - generated by the experiment, thus helping to confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

"To find the Higgs boson, we used a collider to smash together protons traveling just a gnat's eyebrow below the speed of light," said UMD Physics Professor and Chair Andrew Baden. "We reconstructed these tremendously high-energy collisions, which recreate the conditions that existed when the universe was about one-billionth of a second old, and tried to find evidence of a new particle, a Higgs boson. And we found it."

The majority of U.S. scientists participating in Large Hadron Collider experiments do so from their home institutions, remotely accessing and analyzing data through high-capacity networks and grid computing. The United States plays an important role in this distributed computing system, providing 23 percent of the computing power for ATLAS and 40 percent for CMS. Maryland's researchers also helped to build the very high speed electronics transmitting data for CMS.

Students Take Top Prize for Intelligent Trashcan

October 7, 2013

Carrie Hilmer 301-405-4471

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland electrical and computer engineering students Andres Toro, Zachary Lawrence and Joshua Drubin took home all the marbles at the Fall 2013 MHacks competition, which took place at the University of Michigan.

The team won first prize for building an intelligent trash can that sorts recyclables from garbage, at the world's largest college hackathon. MHacks drew 1,214 participants from 100 schools around the country for 36 hours of building innovative projects from scratch.

Toro, Lawrence and Drubin built a single-stream receptacle bin with a swing top that pivots in a different direction based on measuring the frequency of the sound an object makes when it hits the receptacle. Cans and bottles that create a "ping" end up on one side of a partition, and items like plastic foam cups that generate a "thud" go on the other.

UMD MHacks TeamThe Maryland team was one of only a few to build a physical object rather than an app or web tool. "I never dreamed of coming here and actually winning," Drubin said. "It feels unbelievable" — even on six hours sleep total for the past two nights.

Drubin added, "Participating in MHacks has made me value my education in ECE much more than pre-hackathon. We ended up applying concepts that we've learned in foundation classes such as digital logic and physics in a very real and hands-on way, which is extremely rewarding, and fun."

Fight against Hunger Heads to UMD

October 3, 2013

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) are helping to stop the world's number one killer – hunger. With the global population projected to expand to 9 billion people by 2050, it will be up to the leaders of tomorrow – students here at the University of Maryland – to create innovative, sustainable solutions that meet the challenge of feeding our world.

HungerUThe College of AGNR is teaming up with HungerU to host the HungerU Tour on the College Park campus October 7 and 8, 2013. HungerU is a special project of the Farm Journal Foundation's Farmers Feeding the World effort that enlists students to join in the conversation about global hunger issues and the essential role modern agriculture has to play in solving them. The HungerU Tour travels to university campuses across the country, raising awareness among students about the devastating impact of hunger, while empowering them to take action in their own communities.

"The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is excited to form this partnership with HungerU and to broaden the discussion on campus about how to get involved in solving the world food crisis," says AGNR Dean Cheng-i Wei, Ph.D. "Global hunger is an issue many faculty and students in our College are studying and discussing on a daily basis but it's a problem we all need to pay more attention to and work together to overcome."

HungerU's mobile education classroom, which features a mobile education exhibit with digital displays and interactive kiosks, will be outside Cole Field House (at the Farmers' Market location) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on October 7 and 8. This mobile classroom is designed as a space for discussion and engagement on global food and hunger issues and the critical role modern agriculture must play in solving them. Stop by and join the conversation, become empowered and be a part of the solution about how to meet the world's growing demand for safe, nutritious and affordable food.

Click here for more information.

UMD Receives Largest-Ever Archival Gift from AFL-CIO

October 1, 2013

Eric Bartheld 301-314-0964

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today it has received a gift from the AFL-CIO of its historical archive, an extensive collection of documents, photographs, books and audio and visual recordings pertaining to this federation of labor unions based in Washington, D.C.

The University of Maryland announced today it has received a gift from the AFL-CIO of its historical archive, an extensive collection of documents, photographs, books and audio and visual recordings pertaining to this federation of labor unions based in Washington, D.C. With materials that fill six miles of shelving, the collection is the largest such donation to the university and a boon to scholars of labor studies. Complementing other labor-related collections at the University Libraries, the AFL-CIO archive will establish the university as a top archival repository for labor history in North America.

The collection, appraised at $25 million, dates back to the mid-19th century and fills approximately 20,000 boxes.  The 40 million documents and other materials will help researchers better understand pivotal social movements in this country, including those to gain rights for women, children and minorities.

“This tremendous historic treasure covers some of the most vital periods of our history, and it needs careful exploration,” says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. “U.S. labor history is an area of faculty strength for us, so I know it will get heavy use from the UMD community, as well as from scholars around the world. We are honored by the gift and the trust placed in our hands.”

“This tremendous historic treasure covers some of the most vital periods of our history, and it needs careful exploration,” says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. “U.S. labor history is an area of faculty strength for us, so I know it will get heavy use from the UMD community, as well as from scholars around the world. We are honored by the gift and the trust placed in our hands.”“The archive is a game-changer for us,” says Patricia Steele, dean of UMD Libraries. “Because it is comprehensive and so rich in intellectual value, it vastly expands our ability to support researchers on this campus and beyond. The AFL-CIO collection offers unique opportunities for us to collaborate in innovative ways with academic departments, government agencies and partners from labor and industry. We are pleased leaders of the AFL-CIO placed such a high degree of confidence in us to provide a new home for their collection.” 

Additionally, Steele says, the AFL-CIO will also fund a position to support the collection by serving as a liaison with researchers, identifying components for digitization and partnering with interested groups. 

Transfer of the collection to UMD is complete. Materials will be accessible from Hornbake Library, the university’s library for special collections, which features comprehensive environmental controls, a large reading room and exhibition space. Special collections, identified as such because of their rarity or format, frequently distinguish a library’s unique offerings at a time when information is broadly available online.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, is the umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 56 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women.
For more than 30 years the University Libraries have acquired archival resources that document the history of the labor movement in North America. Included in the collections are the archives of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; the International Union of Marine Shipbuilding Workers of America; the International Labor Communications Association; and the Cigar Makers International Union.
UMD is situated within a key national research hub, and the UMD Libraries make up the largest university library system in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area. The eight-library system supports the teaching, learning and research needs of students and faculty. 

Early Agriculture had Dramatic Effects on Humans

October 1, 2013

Sean Downey 240-392-0220

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The introduction of agriculture in Europe was followed by regional population crashes despite trends of demographical growth, reports research published in Nature Communications this week. Sean Downey, assistant professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Anthropology, was co-author of the paper. The work suggests that these sharp population decreases weren't due to changing climatic conditions, and therefore the authors propose internal causes. The research represents a major revision to our understanding of how the introduction of agricultural technology impacted humans.

Stephen Shennan, professor of theoretical archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, received grant funding from the European Research Council to study early agriculture and its impact on populations across Europe. His multidisciplinary team of researchers includes co-author Downey, and Mark Thomas, Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, who designed the statistical analysis necessary to produce the findings.

Agriculture was introduced in the Aegean (modern day Turkey) around 8,500 years ago and steadily spread across Europe, reaching France around 7,800 years ago, and Britain, Ireland and northern Europe approximately 6,000 years ago. In all instances, the introduction of agriculture meant a drastic change in food production and consumption patterns, which led to a population boom. Utilizing radiocarbon dating, and an innovative new method for improving the accuracy of this data, the study's authors examined how population levels changed over time across Europe during the late Mesolithic, ("Middle Stone age") and Early Neolithic ("New Stone age").

Map of Central and North Western Europe. Points indicate archaeological site locations and colours delineate the sub-regions used to estimate demographic patterns.The research team discovered that, in all of the 12 different European regions studied, from the South of France to Scotland and Denmark, drastic population fluctuations can be observed. In fact, they note that in some cases population declines were as significant as 30-60 percent from the highest levels achieved after the introduction of agriculture. These dramatic changes in population are of similar scale to the decrease estimated for the much later "Black Death".
The authors found that those fluctuations cannot be associated with climatic factors; however, the exact reasons for this population decline remains unknown.

"It's striking that the development of agriculture – one of humanity's major evolutionary steps – failed to buffer against widespread social collapse during this early period of rapid population growth in Europe," explains Downey. "At this point in the research we can only speculate at the direct causes, but the study demonstrates that agriculture-based societies in the past were vulnerable to population collapse on a broad scale." Downey continues by explaining the study's finding: "There were no correlations between the collapse of regional populations and known climate shifts. It wasn't the climate, so we think it must have been the long-term impact new agricultural technologies had on local environments in reducing resources. The stress this caused among farmers was likely exacerbated by other well-known consequences of living in higher-density populations: increased incidence of social conflict and of disease."

The paper is available free via open-access at http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/131001/ncomms3486/metrics.

Innovative Testing Program Detects Emerging Drugs

September 30, 2013

Dr. Eric Wish 301-405-9770

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Emerging drugs of abuse in communities can be rapidly identified by an innovative urine testing system, according to the results of a recently released pilot study conducted by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland and funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

The Community Drug Early Warning System (CDEWS) is designed to detect emerging drugs by re-testing urine specimens collected by traditional criminal justice system (CJS) drug testing programs, and examining them for additional drugs of abuse. These include synthetic cannabinoids, man-made chemicals that are applied (often sprayed) onto plant material and marketed as a “legal” high.  Users claim that synthetic cannabinoids mimic Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive active ingredient in marijuana. These products, commonly known as “synthetic marijuana,” “K2” or “Spice”, are often sold in legal retail outlets as “herbal incense” or “potpourri”.

There is an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available.  More than 50 synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2012, compared to just two in 2009.

SyntheticsThe CDEWS model is based on the premise that emerging drugs of abuse, such as synthetic cannabinoids, often show up in high-risk CJS populations before others in the community. In the pilot study, 1,064 anonymous specimens from five different CJS groups in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia region were sent to an independent laboratory for an expanded CDEWS panel that tests for more than 30 prescription and illicit drugs. Approximately one-half of the sample was also tested for 12 synthetic cannabinoid metabolites.

Synthetic cannabinoids were detected in the specimens from all participating sites. All of the specimens that tested positively included one or two recently identified and federally-prohibited synthetic cannabinoid metabolites.

The pilot study also found that synthetic cannabinoids were as likely to be present in specimens from individuals who had failed the limited CJS screening panel as in individuals who passed. In other words, current drug testing screens that do not include synthetic cannabinoids are likely missing significant drug use (and users) in the populations being monitored. The study’s results suggest that individuals expecting drug tests may be using synthetic cannabinoids because they know it will not be included in the screening panel.

syntheticsThe results demonstrate that CDEWS could be successfully implemented in diverse criminal justice populations, including arrestees, probationers and parolees, and drug court participants and proved its unique ability to uncover emerging drug trends. The findings from this pilot study suggest that CJS drug testing programs should weigh the value of adding synthetic cannabinoid metabolites to their testing protocols and adopting an annual CDEWS type of process for reviewing and updating the drugs included in their testing protocols. Hospital, physician, military, and workplace testing programs should also consider expanded testing of urine specimens to accurately identify drugs recently used.

Finally, the high level of synthetic cannabinoid use detected suggests that local public health systems should implement targeted prevention campaigns to educate the public, especially youth and young adults, about the rapidly changing ingredients in products sold as synthetic cannabinoids and the potential harm that can result from their use. “People who take these drugs are really playing a form of Russian roulette,” said Dr. Eric Wish, the Principal Investigator of the study. Plans are currently being developed to expand CDEWS to additional sites.

The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), at the University of Maryland at College Park, is a multi-disciplinary research center dedicated to addressing the problems substance abuse creates for individuals, families, and communities. Housed in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, CESAR conducts policy-relevant research and evaluation studies, disseminates statistical and other information, assists in training students in substance abuse research methods and policy analysis, and provides technical assistance to agencies and organizations working in substance abuse related fields.

To view the CESAR FAX Synthetic Cannabinoid Series, visit: http://ter.ps/SCSeries.

Young Children Recognize Cigarette Brands

September 30, 2013

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Nearly two-thirds of young children in low- and middle-income countries can identify cigarette brand logos, according to a study from researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD SPH) and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH).

A five year old Indian boy matches logos with products during data collection. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined the reach of tobacco and cigarette marketing among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, sampling five and six year-old children from Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia.  These countries were selected because they have the highest number of adult smokers among low- and middle-income countries.

“Previous studies show that children and adolescents who are highly exposed to pro-smoking messages are more likely to smoke,” said Dr. Dina Borzekowski, lead author of the Pediatrics study and research professor in the UMD SPH Department of Behavioral and Community Health. “It should be of great concern that the majority of very young children in our study were familiar with at least one cigarette brand.  Even in households without smokers, children could identify tobacco logos.”

The United States created stronger regulations for tobacco advertising in the 1990s after similar research found that six year olds were as familiar with Camel tobacco’s “Joe Camel” mascot as with the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse.

“Regulations created by the World Health Organization to restrict tobacco advertising exist outside of the United States, but beyond our country’s borders these regulations may not be as effective,” Borzekowski explains, referring to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. “Multi-national tobacco companies appear to have moved their promotional efforts from high-income, industrialized countries to low- and middle-income countries where there are often weak tobacco control policies and poor enforcement.” While smoking is stabilizing or decreasing in wealthy countries, people in low and middle-income countries are taking up the habit at alarming rates. In China, for example, nearly one third of adults are cigarette smokers ( about 53 percent of men) , according to WHO data.

With five and six year-old children aware of domestic and international tobacco brands, there is a need to enforce stronger regulations in countries where tobacco companies have increased efforts to attract new users. When children are aware of logos, they are more likely to like and want those products. This is concerning when the products – such as tobacco – should not be used by children. Borzekowski and colleagues suggest changes including requiring larger graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. Additionally, they urge changes to limit children’s exposure to the point of sale of tobacco products, including establishing minimum distances between these retailers and places frequented by young children.

“This study reiterates that more needs to be done to reduce the ability of tobacco companies to market their products to children,” said co-author Dr. Joanna Cohen, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control. “Countries can implement and enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, including putting large picture warnings on the front and back of cigarette packs. Plain and standardized packaging, now required in Australia, also helps to reduce the attractiveness of cigarette packs among young children.”

For this study, researchers worked one-on-one with the participating children, asking them to match pictures of different products with their corresponding logos. In China, where roughly 71 percent of households with participating children had a tobacco user, 86 percent of children could identify at least one cigarette brand logo. Pakistan had the second highest percentage, with 84 percent of children capable of identifying at least one cigarette brand logo. Russia ranked last on the list with half of the participants able to identify any of the cigarette brand logos. 

In addition to examining a child’s familiarity with tobacco logos, the study also looked at the child’s intentions to smoke and his or her level of media exposure.

View the paper International Reach of Tobacco Marketing Among Young Children
at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/24/peds.2013...

UMD Convenes International Forum on Barriers and Opportunities in Foreign Language Education

September 30, 2013

Pamela Morse 301-226-8899

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Language leaders from government, industry, and education will gather today to examine the feasibility of eradicating barriers to foreign language education in the United States.

Language leaders from government, industry, and education will gather today to examine the feasibility of eradicating barriers to foreign language education in the United States. The forum on language education and policy, entitled “Languages for All? The Anglophone Challenge,” is convened by the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) and will result in a white paper with recommendations to be released in late fall.

“CASL has spent the last 10 years applying research to some of the most difficult problems in adult language learning and on-the-job use,” said Dr. Amy Weinberg, executive director of CASL. “Now, we are eager to use our research findings to improve instruction in K-16 settings. With our co-sponsors and distinguished panelists, we hope to break through the barriers in the entire language learning pipeline, from early childhood, through college graduation and eventual entry into the workforce.”

The event is co-sponsored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), American Councils for International Education, British Academy, Defense Language Institute Foundation, Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) and Joint National Committee on Languages – National Council for Language and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS).

National Security Agency Director of Research Michael Wertheimer, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, Vice President and Chief Research Officer Patrick O’Shea, and University of Maryland Director of Language Initiatives Richard D. Brecht will give opening remarks.

“This is an important shift in the dialogue on language,” explains Brecht, who has been at the forefront of the language policy field for more than 40 years. “Before, the question was, ‘why is foreign language learning important?’ Now, it’s ‘why aren’t more Americans learning foreign languages?’ These are two very different questions.”

The day consists of six interactive panels with representatives from the British and Australian academies, Fortune 500 companies, the Department of Education, Department of Defense, and school boards, along with researchers, school administrators, foreign language practitioners, policymakers and a former governor.  

Event participants were given a working draft of the white paper before and during the event to be released in its final form in late fall. The following questions frame both the white paper and the event:

  • Should the education system in the U.S. provide all children access to the interpersonal, developmental, and economic benefits of a second language?
  • Are our schools, colleges, and universities capable and willing to make language education universally available? If so, how? If not, why not?

In addition to the approximately 160 onsite participants addressing these questions, the event is expected to draw live streaming and live tweeting participants from around the world. To learn more, follow live at http://te.rps/lfa 

Md., N.J., Va. Support Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Effort

September 27, 2013

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The three mid-Atlantic states of Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia and their leading research universities, including the University of Maryland, have signed an agreement stating they will work collaboratively towards supporting the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) research and testing efforts aimed at integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system.

Photo Source: USAF Photographic ArchivesThe states’ proposals were submitted to the FAA by the University System of Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, representing the combined resources of New Jersey and Virginia, with Rutgers University and Virginia Tech participating in the effort.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 enacted by Congress calls for establishing six unmanned aircraft system research and testing sites in the U.S.  While a vast percentage of the work conducted to date has been accomplished under defense programs, future work on the integration of UAS into the national airspace will be implemented through a combination of federal, state and local government resources, academic institutions, and industry and aviation assets. As a result, an $89 billion commercial industry is expected to flourish over the next ten years.

The final proposals were submitted to the FAA in May, with decisions on siting the flight centers expected to be made before December 31, 2013.

“The combined resources of the mid-Atlantic state applicants represent a majority share of the UAS research and testing assets in the United States,” said Patrick O’Shea, vice president for research at the University of Maryland College Park, the state’s flagship campus. “As a collaborative unit, our significant resources offer tremendous opportunity to satisfy the efforts envisioned by the FAA and the larger UAS community related to this important project.”

“The real strength of our combined efforts is in our technical approach as a team.  Between our university facilities, our NASA and DoD installations, and our industry and airport partners, we have a high caliber team that has been involved in this work for decades,” said Robert Walters, vice president of research at Virginia Tech.  “Being able to bring that capability to the table without having to form those relationships will save time and money, and produce a better outcome for all of us.”

The submitted proposals address all of the research and testing environments required by the FAA.  The mid-Atlantic region contains both uncongested and restricted airspace, as well as proximity to shared air routes and corridors to allow a crawl-walk-run approach to UAS integration.  The region also presents all the challenges of land and water domains, as well as the continuum of sea-level to high altitude operations.  There is significant interest in the application of UAS technology in the region, as well, since all three states have a large presence in the agriculture industry, one of the largest projected markets for UAS.

According to Thomas N. Farris, dean of the School of Engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, “The mid-Atlantic region has played a predominant role geographically and commercially throughout the first hundred years of manned aircraft flight research.  Coupled with the strength of our three universities’ ongoing collaboration and demonstrated capabilities over the past three decades within the realm of unmanned systems, we as a regional partner group are well-positioned to ensure the safe and efficient integration of UAS into our nation’s skies.”

The three states' governors — Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia — expressed their commitment to jointly support the FAA UAS test site infrastructure in a letter to the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

UMD to Lead National Strategic Transportation Center

September 27, 2013

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland was selected in a national competition to lead a two-year, $11.3 million new National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments and Decisions.  The UMD consortium includes Arizona State University (ASU), Louisiana State University (LSU), Morgan State University (MSU), North Carolina State University (NCSU), Old Dominion University (ODU), and the University of New Orleans (UNO).

TrafficThe University of Maryland National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments and Decisions (NCSTPID) is one of only five National Centers that were selected in this nationwide competition and the only one with a focus on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) strategic goal of “Economic Competitiveness.”

The theme of the TPID Center will be “Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments and Decisions for Economic Competitiveness.” The Center will conduct research and provide education and technology transfer related to this theme, and will directly support the U.S. DOT’s strategic goal of economic competitiveness with consideration for other relevant strategic goals, such as safety and environmental sustainability.

“With the growing volume of traffic, an aging infrastructure and a need for smarter, more seamless movement of freight, this new UMD-led center will offer informed guidance on how best to invest precious transportation dollars,” says UMD President Wallace Loh. “I am very proud that our engineering expertise and leadership has been recognized in this tangible way.”

The expected total funding level for the first two years for this center will be around $11.3 million, of which about $5.65 million are federal and the rest is matching funds. The University of Maryland Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Transportation Program has a distinguished history in transportation research and education, and the NCSTPID award is a recognition of the contributions of the program’s faculty to the state-of-the-art in transportation research and education.  

“With these initial resources and support from our college and university, we can further develop our transportation program into a dominant force in this topic area,” says the Director of the NCSTPID, Professor Lei Zhang.

“I congratulate the University of Maryland on being selected to lead a new National Center for Strategic Transportation Policies, Investments and Decisions,” stated Congressman Steny Hoyer. “Research and investment in infrastructure is critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness, and given their excellent civil and environmental engineering transportation program, I’m confident the University is strongly positioned to lead the consortium and help solve some of our most pressing transportation challenges.”

The NCSTPID is concerned with the integrated operations and planning of all modes serving the nation’s passenger and freight transportation system, including the institutional issues associated with their management and investments. In particular, the TPID will focus on research, education, and technology transfer activities that can lead to 1) freight efficiency for domestic shipping and for our international land, air, and sea ports; 2) highway congestion mitigation with multi-modal strategies; and 3) smart investments in intercity passenger travel facilities, such as high speed rail.


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