Facebook Icon Youtube Icon Twitter Icon Flickr Icon Vimeo Icon RSS Icon Itunes Icon Pinterest Icon

New, All-Digital American Journalism Review Launches

December 5, 2013

Dave Ottalini 301-405-1321

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The award-winning American Journalism Review is back in an all-digital format. Published by the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, the new student-driven AJR will now focus on media innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Journalism has entered a new era, and so has AJR," said Lucy Dalglish, publisher of AJR and dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. "The online-only version of AJR will offer more frequent news, context and commentary and provide a platform for dialogue about the enormous changes transforming the news industry."

AJRThe revamped website is available now in an "alpha version" at ajr.org to get reader feedback.

The American Journalism Review announced in July it would halt production of its print magazine as part of a strategic makeover involving the launch of a new website and deeper integration into the journalism school at the University of Maryland.

The new AJR covers all aspects of the news industry and journalism, with a core focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, ethics and evolving journalism careers.

Stories in the debut digital edition tackle such subjects as:

  • The role of photojournalists in the era of Instagram
  • The rise of robotic services that use software to automatically generate news stories
  • Cutbacks and expanded Web editions for college newspapers nationwide
  • Drone journalism (video story)

More About the New AJR
AJR is free and designed to be a participatory platform engaging a community of journalists, students, professors, media scholars and communication professionals who are interested in the seismic forces changing how news is reported, shaped, shared and consumed.

AJR will ramp up production in February after finishing development and testing of its new website.  The new design is fully responsive, optimized for smartphones and tablets as well as desktop computers and social networks.

The all-digital AJR offers original news and commentary from journalists, students and top media thinkers.  In addition to text articles, AJR will include compelling video stories taking viewers inside newsrooms across the country to profile innovators.

Content is organized into two channels at launch: News, containing articles and video stories; and Voices, showcasing commentary, analysis and shorter items in blog-post format. Additional channels are planned early next year.

The new AJR aims to innovate along with the industry. It will experiment with new ways of telling stories, presenting news and curating information. In the coming months, AJR will introduce user-generated databases showcasing best practices in digital storytelling along with other interactive features.

Back (Left to Right) : Editorial Interns Lyle Kendrick and Mary Clare Fischer. Web developer Sean Henderson and Co-Editor Leslie Walker. Front (Left to Right) : Video Editor Bethany Swain, Co-Editor Sean Mussenden and News Editor Lisa Rossi.Student Involvement
Students are playing a greater role in helping shape AJR. At the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, where AJR is produced, students have been writing for the publication for several years. Now a series of journalism courses will be contributing content as part of their class assignments. The goal is for students to learn about media change by reporting and writing about it under the guidance of faculty.

"We are expanding the so-called "teaching hospital model" Merrill has followed for decades and integrating publishing into our curriculum in new and exciting ways," Dalglish said.

AJR is overseen by co-editors Leslie Walker and Sean Mussenden and news editor Lisa Rossi. News tips, story ideas and feedback should be directed to editor@ajr.org.

In addition to using the AJR.org website, readers can join the AJR conversation on: Twitter, Facebook , Pinterest, Google+ and other social networks.


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

Human Activity, Forest Loss Threaten Closest Kin

December 4, 2013

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

BonoboCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the first time, a detailed, range-wide habitat assessment of the bonobo, a great ape native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has found that the already endangered species is under immediate threat of losing forest space due to human activity and growing human populations. University of Maryland Department of Geographical Sciences professor Janet Nackoney is one of the authors from international universities and institutions that were part of this critical study, which appears in the December edition of Biodiversity and Conservation.

The study revealed that the bonobo is threatened by a combination of habitat fragmentation and human activities that put pressure on existing habitat and contribute to increased poaching.

The bonobo is smaller in size and more slender in build than the common chimpanzee. Its social structure is complex and matriarchal. Unlike the common chimpanzee, bonobos establish social bonds and diffuse tension or aggression with sexual behaviors. A stable, sustainable habitat is critical for the species' survival. Using data from nest counts and remote sensing imagery, the research team found that the bonobo—one of humankind's closest living relatives—avoids areas of high human activity and forest fragmentation, and about 28 percent of its range is characterized as suitable for habitation.

"Bonobos that live in closer proximity to human activity and to points of human access are more vulnerable to poaching, one of their main threats," Dr. Nackoney said. "This research increases our understanding of threats to bonobos and their distribution, and we hope it will help prioritize conservation interventions. Overall, the results show enormous challenges for future bonobo conservation efforts in a country with persistent poverty and growing human populations that depend heavily on resources from surrounding ecosystems. Maps and models such as those produced by this study are essential tools for protected area planning and for targeting locations of future conservation activities."

Dr. Nackoney's research focuses on developing spatial models and using remote sensing technology for assisting biodiversity conservation efforts in Africa. UMD was recently ranked fourth globally for its leadership in remote sensing research and technology by the journal Scientometrics.

MapThe entire range of the bonobo lies within the lowland forests of the DRC, the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa and currently beset with warfare and insecurity. The research team created a predictive model using available field data to define bonobo habitat and then interpolated to areas lacking data.  Specifically, the team used data on bonobo nest locations collected by numerous organizations between the years 2003-2010.  The team compiled data from 2,364 "nest blocks," with a block defined as a one-hectare area occupied by at least one bonobo nest.

The team then tested a number of factors that addressed both ecological conditions (describing forests, soils, climate, and hydrology) and human impacts (distance from roads, agriculture, forest loss, and density of "forest edge") and produced a spatial model that identified and mapped the most important environmental factors contributing to bonobo occurrence. The researchers found that distance from agricultural areas was the most important predictor of bonobo presence.  In addition to discovering that only 28 percent of the bonobo range is classified as suitable for the great ape, the researchers also found that only 27.5 percent of that suitable bonobo habitat is located in existing protected areas.

This collaborative effort was initiated at a bonobo conservation action planning meeting held in Kinshasa, DRC in January 2011.

"Our research would not have been possible without contributions from the numerous bonobo scientists who came together to provide key data on locations of bonobo observations.  Although compiling and standardizing the data was challenging, it was a rewarding experience to help facilitate this collaboration in order to develop a map and consensus about threats to suitable bonobo habitat," Dr. Nackoney said.

Read the full article in Biodiversity and Conservation.


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

UMD Praised for Women in Engineering Program

December 4, 2013

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

A. James Clark School of EngineeringCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The A. James Clark School of Engineering's Women in Engineering (WIE) Program at the University of Maryland has been featured as one of NerdScholar's Favorite Women in Engineering Programs, a list of programs that provide unique resources and opportunities for female engineers.

According to NerdScholar, men earn the overwhelming majority of degrees in engineering (82 percent) from the top 50 academic institutions that award them. Furthermore, total enrollment of women in engineering programs dropped from 19.8 percent in 1999 to 17.9 percent in 2009. NerdScholar's list of women in engineering programs features schools, such as UMD, that are tackling this problem head on and can serve as inspiration for other programs hoping to close the gender gap.

WIE's efforts, along with the university's push for diversity and inclusion, have resulted in a steady increase in the enrollment of female engineers over the past decade. As of fall 2013, 29.4 percent of UMD's first-year engineering students are women, placing the university well above the national average.

As quoted by NerdScholar, WIE's director Paige Smith says, "Diversity and the inclusion of women are critical to the field of engineering. Diversity inspires creativity, which in turn drives innovative design. Inclusion ensures that all people have a seat at the table. At the University of Maryland, we send a clear message to prospective engineering students that engineering is not only an exciting career, but one that is critical for improving lives and the world around us."

UMD's Women in Engineering Program was established in January 1995 through a grant from the Sloan Foundation. WIE is actively involved in the recruitment of women to the Clark School and holds an annual DREAM Conference designed to show high school students the innovations and opportunities engineering has to offer. WIE offers scholarships, fellowships, and volunteer opportunities. WIE students are also able to participate in a living-learning community, which allows them to live and connect with each other in a setting conducive to study groups, networking, and social activities.

To learn more about UMD's Women in Engineering Program, visit http://www.wie.umd.edu.


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

Subtle Signs of Water on Faraway Planets

December 3, 2013

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

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Using the powerful eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two University of Maryland-led teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets.

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterThe presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets – planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. However, this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.

University of Maryland astronomy professor L. Drake Deming led the census of exoplanet atmospheres that produced the new findings. Deming and colleagues characterized two of the five planets in a study published Sept. 10 in Astrophysical Journal. The findings for the three other exoplanets were reported in the same journal today.

"To actually detect the atmosphere of an exoplanet is extraordinarily difficult. But we were able to pull out a very clear signal, and it is water," said Deming, an expert at using data from space and ground-based telescopes to deduce the characteristics of exoplanets, from massive "hot Jupiters" to planets with more Earth-like traits.

"We're very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets," said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the journal article published today. "This work really opens the door for comparing how much water is present in atmospheres on different kinds of exoplanets, for example hotter versus cooler ones."

The observations are the latest in a wave of new insights about exoplanets, made possible by new information from Hubble and NASA's Kepler space telescope, which searches a nearby region of the Milky Way for Earth-sized planets capable of supporting liquid water.

These exceptionally challenging studies can be done only if the planets are spotted while they are passing in front of their stars. Researchers can identify the gases in a planet's atmosphere by determining which wavelengths of the star's light are transmitted and which are partially absorbed. Deming's team employed a new technique with longer exposure times, which increased the sensitivity of their measurements.

In both studies, scientists used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to explore the details of absorption of light through the planets' atmospheres. The observations were made in a range of infrared wavelengths where a pattern that signifies the presence of water would appear if water were present. The teams compared the shapes and intensities of the absorption profiles, and the consistency of the signatures gave them confidence they saw water.

The five planets -- WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b -- orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b and HD209458b had the strongest signals. The signatures for the other three planets, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b, also are consistent with water.

The Sept. 10 research paper described findings for HD209458b and XO-1b, while today's publication describes WASP-12b, WASP-17b and WASP-19b.

The five planets are hot Jupiters, massive worlds that orbit close to their host stars. The researchers were initially surprised that all five appeared to be hazy. But Deming and Mandell noted that other researchers are finding evidence of haze around exoplanets.

"These studies, combined with other Hubble observations, are showing us that there are a surprisingly large number of systems for which the signal of water is either attenuated or completely absent," said Heather Knutson of the California Institute of Technology, a co-author on Deming's paper. "This suggests that cloudy or hazy atmospheres may in fact be rather common for hot Jupiters."


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

Evolution, Civil War History Entwine in Fossil Find

December 2, 2013

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

The compound leaves of Potomacapnos apeleutheron identify the 120 million-year-old plant fossil as the earliest known North American member of the eudicots, the largest group of flowering plants. The fossil plant, which resembles a modern bleeding heat, was found in a fossil bed at Dutch Gap, VA. Photo: Nathan JudCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – A fossil leaf fragment collected decades ago on a Virginia canal bank has been identified by a University of Maryland doctoral student as one of North America's oldest flowering plants, a 115- to 125-million-year-old species new to science. The fossil find, an ancient relative of today's bleeding hearts, poses a new puzzle in the study of plant evolution: did Earth's dominant group of flowering plants evolve along with its distinctive pollen? Or did pollen come later?

The find also unearths a forgotten chapter in Civil War history reminiscent of the film "Twelve Years a Slave," but with a twist. In 1864, Union Army troops forced a group of freed slaves into involuntary labor, digging a canal along the James River at Dutch Gap, Va. The captive men's shovels exposed the oldest flowering plant fossil beds in North America, where the new plant species was ultimately found.

University of Maryland doctoral student Nathan Jud, a paleobotanist – an expert in plant fossils and their environments – identified the species and its significance. Jud named it Potomacapnos apeleutheron - Potomacapnos for the Potomac River region where it was found, and apeleutheron, the Greek word for freedmen. A paper describing the new species was published in the December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Botany.

Jud is studying the change that began 140 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous period, when plant communities of ferns gave way to a world dominated by flowering plants. In December 2011 he was at the Smithsonian Institution, where he is a pre-doctoral fellow, looking through clay-encrusted fossil ferns from Dutch Gap. Jud spotted one tiny leaf tip that seemed different.

A technician scraped away clay to reveal compound leaves, which placed the specimen in the flowering plant group known as eudicots. Today, most flowering plants are eudicots, but they were rare in the Early Cretaceous. Potomacapnos apeleutheron is the first North American eudicot ever found among geologic deposits 115 to 125 million years old.

University of Maryland paleobotanist Nathan Jud identified the fossil plant and its significance and named it in honor of the freedmen whose labor made the discovery possible. Photo courtesy of Nathan JudJud consulted paleobotanist Leo J. Hickey, who collected the leaf fossil at Dutch Gap in 1974. Hickey, a former director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, agreed the plant is an early eudicot.

One feature all eudicots share is the shape of their pollen grains, which have three pores through which the plant's sperm cells are released. But there is no three-pored pollen in the clay where the fossil was found. That's puzzling, Jud says, since pollen has a hard shell that preserves it in the fossil record. Scientists use pollen as a marker of geologic time and environmental conditions, so a change in the evolutionary sequence of eudicots and their pollen could have important implications for many types of analyses.

"Either the plant was very rare, and we just missed its pollen," Jud says, "or it's possible that eudicot leaves evolved before (three-pored) pollen did."

Hickey was excited that the Dutch Gap find might shed light on a crucial stage in flowering plant evolution. He became a co-author of Jud's research paper, but he died of cancer in February 2013, before the paper could be published.

It was Hickey who told Jud the history of the Dutch Gap site, where Union generals trying to capture Richmond in 1864 thought the canal would be a strategic shortcut. Hickey knew the black laborers who dug the canal were forced to work against their will, though most modern histories don't say so.

Union soldiers used trickery and force to compel freed slaves to dig a canal at Dutch Gap, VA in 1864. The freedmen's shovels exposed the fossil bed where North America's oldest known eudicot was found. Photo: Matthew Brady Collection, 1864, National ArchivesJud turned to Steven Miller, co-editor of the University of Maryland's Freedmen and Southern Society Project, where researchers analyze 2 million documents about former slaves' passage from bondage to freedom. Miller unearthed a protest letter from 45 impressed freedmen to the command of Union Gen. Benjamin Butler.

The men wrote that they were taken to Dutch Gap "at the point of the bayonet" and forced to dig for weeks without pay. When more laborers were needed "guards were then sent … to take up every man that could be found indiscriminately young and old sick and well. the soldiers broke into the coulored people's houses taken sick men out of bed … " A Union lieutenant endorsed the letter, writing that the men "were brought away by force" and were suffering greatly.

The Union Army's impressment of freed slaves into involuntary servitude "happened pretty regularly," Miller says. Black soldiers served in the Union ranks, black laborers did much of the Army's heavy work, and "for big projects like the Dutch Gap canal they would dragoon people from wherever they could get them – voluntarily if they could, and if they could not, by forced impressment."

After visiting the site, where cobblestones top heavy clay, Jud decided to commemorate the freedmen's "horrific" suffering in the fossil's name. "The reason you can dig fossils there is because of what they went through," he says. "I thought that instead of naming it after another scientist, I should name it after the people who made this discovery possible."


Photo 1: The compound leaves of Potomacapnos apeleutheron identify the 120 million-year-old plant fossil as the earliest known North American member of the eudicots, the largest group of flowering plants. The fossil plant, which resembles a modern bleeding heart, was found in a fossil bed at Dutch Gap, VA. Photo: Nathan Jud
Photo 2: University of Maryland paleobotanist Nathan Jud identified the fossil plant and its significance and named it in honor of the freedmen whose labor made the discovery possible. Photo courtesy of Nathan Jud
Photo 3: Union soldiers used trickery and force to compel freed slaves to dig a canal at Dutch Gap, VA in 1864. The freedmen's shovels exposed the fossil bed where North America's oldest known eudicot was found. Photo: Matthew Brady Collection, 1864, National Archives


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

UMD Senior Named Marshall Scholar

December 2, 2013

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625
Francis DuVinage 301-314-9458 (National Scholarships Office)

Senior Erin Hylton has been named a 2014 Marshall ScholarCOLLEGE PARK, MD - University of Maryland Senior Erin Hylton, a civil engineering major in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, has been named a 2014 Marshall Scholar. She is one of approximately 40 Marshall Scholars selected from a pool of more than 900 nominees nationwide to receive a scholarship, which fully supports two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom. 

“Erin's achievement places her in the front ranks of aspiring global leaders and reminds us all of the outstanding caliber of Maryland’s students,” said History Professor Richard Bell, UMD’s faculty advisor for U.K. postgraduate fellowships. 

Founded by a 1953 Act of the United Kingdom Parliament, and named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan, which contributed vitally to the reconstruction of Europe following World War II, and they express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts. Prominent Marshall Scholars include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist Thomas Friedman.

Hylton, who is currently studying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has focused her academic and future professional pursuits on water resource engineering and aims to devote her career to improving water resource access and quality in the developing world. With the support of the Marshall Scholarship program, Erin will first pursue a master’s degree in hydrology and sustainable development at Imperial College London, followed by a master’s degree in water science, policy and management at the University of Oxford. 

According to Hylton, “Water is our most basic and precious natural resource, and its allocation must be balanced across a variety of conflicting uses, from irrigation and energy to sanitation and consumption. As a Marshall Scholar, my studies will prepare me to design and execute context-sensitive water management practices that will help propel us toward a sustainable hydrologic future."

At UMD, Hylton has served as president of Engineers Without Borders and co-founder and president of Maryland Sustainability Engineering. A member of the University Honors Program and a Federal Semester participant, Erin has held internships with the Environmental Protection Agency and with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. She has conducted research on the robustness of mathematical models used to estimate the magnitude of extreme flooding events. After her junior year, Hylton carried out an independent summer research project in Sao Paulo, Brazil, analyzing the social and ecological impacts of the Belo Monte dam project. During her senior year she studied abroad in Denmark, where she took graduate-level coursework in civil engineering. 

Hylton has received numerous awards and citations for academic excellence and civic contributions from the Clark School and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is a previous winner of two national scholarships -- a 2012 Udall Scholarship recognizing her environmental leadership and a 2013 Boren Scholarship to pursue advanced Portuguese language studies in Brazil. 

Hylton is UMD's second Marshall Scholar and fourth recipient of a major United Kingdom scholarship in the last four years. Krzysztof Franaszek, a biology major, received a 2013 Gates Cambridge Scholarship. In 2011 Dylan Rebois, a mechanical engineering major, won a Marshall Scholarship and Ethan Schaler, also a mechanical engineer, won a Churchill Scholarship. Students interested in learning about the Marshall Scholarships and other national scholarship opportunities should contact the National Scholarships Office.

About the Marshall Scholarship
Marshall Scholarships finance young Americans of high ability to study for graduate degrees in the United Kingdom. Up to forty Scholars are selected each year to study at graduate level at an UK institution in any field of study. As future leaders, with a lasting understanding of British society, Marshall Scholars strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions. Their direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programs contributes to their ultimate personal success. A two-year award, the Marshall Scholarship covers all university fees, cost of living expenses and includes an annual book grant, thesis grant, research and daily travel grants, and fares to and from the United States.

UMD Scientist Writes First Grammar for Language Used by Millions

December 2, 2013

Keva Marable 301-226-8873

Anne Boyle David, associate research scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL), has written the first volume in a multi-authored series of grammars, or sets of rules for using a language, describing under-documented and under-resourced world languages. Descriptive Grammar of Pashto and its Dialects is a comprehensive description of a language used by millions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Anne Boyle David, associate research scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL), has written the first volume in a multi-authored series of grammars, or rules for the structure of a language, describing under-documented and under-resourced world languages. Descriptive Grammar of Pashto and its Dialects is a comprehensive description of a language used by millions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The Pashto language is a fascinating case of dialect divergence. Isolating geography has combined with continual movement of people due to political and social upheaval to create a complex dialectal situation," David said. "A few Pashto grammars have been published before, but for the most part they confined themselves to one dialect, and there were some dialects with little or no published information on them."

The CASL Pashto grammar will provide critical information for linguists and language learners, such as detailed morphological descriptions, dialectal information, and annotated examples showing the language in use, all in both native and Roman scripts. "The new grammar serves both linguists and learners by putting descriptions of dialectal varieties side-by-side and presenting information on lesser-known dialects, including real-world examples from native speakers."

In February 2012, five CASL scientists signed a contract with publisher De Gruyter Mouton to produce a trailblazing series of grammars to include Bangla, Dhivehi (Maldivian), and Punjabi. De Gruyter Mouton is an international academic press based in Berlin and one of the leading publishers in the field of linguistics.

To learn more about the CASL grammar series, visit ter.ps/grammars.

The University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language conducts innovative, academically rigorous research in language and cognition that supports national security. CASL research is interdisciplinary and collaborative, bringing together people from the government, academia, and the private sector. CASL research is both strategic and tactical, so that it not only advances areas of knowledge, but also directly serves the critical needs of the nation. For more information, visit www.casl.umd.edu.


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

Idea Central (BizEd)

Elana Fine, director of the Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, is quoted in a BizEd article about how institutions are doing more than creating entrepreneurs – they are creating entrepreneurial thinkers as well. 

UMD Celebrates Year of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

November 22, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In the spirit of National Entrepreneurs' Day and Global Entrepreneurship Week, the University of Maryland is celebrating its great successes in innovation and entrepreneurship over the past year.

UMD LogoFrom incredible student feats and fearless competitors, to game-changing technology advancements and a unique set of collaborative partnerships, UMD has a lot to boast about its ongoing list of accomplishments in innovation and entrepreneurship.

"University of Maryland President Wallace Loh has elevated innovation and entrepreneurship to the highest levels campus-wide," says Dean Chang, UMD's associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. "What better way to acknowledge Global Entrepreneurship Week and National Entrepreneurs' Day than to recap some of UMD's finest student, faculty, and institutional highlights in innovation and entrepreneurship from this past year."

Here is a sampling of what the university has accomplished in innovation and entrepreneurship in only one year:

  • UMD doctoral student Shweta Gaonkar was one of 15 exceptional students from across the country honored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Emerging Scholars Program for her significant contributions to research in entrepreneurship.
  • The Gamera human-powered helicopter team, comprised of students from the A. James Clark School of Engineering, officially had its Aug. 28, 2012 flight certified as a world record of 65.1 seconds by The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), also known as The World Air Sports Federation.
  • Valerie Sherry, a UMD Master of Architecture candidate, was one of only 21 students from universities nationwide, and the first-ever UMD student, to be honored with the University Innovation Fellowship by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter).
  • UMD was recognized as the top public school in the U.S. and ranked second overall for tech entrepreneurship, according to the newly released 2013 StartEngine College Index, as reported in the Silicon Valley publication PandoDaily. The Princeton Review ranked UMD No. 15 for its undergraduate entrepreneurship program and No. 16 for its graduate entrepreneurship program, up eight spots from the 2013 rankings.
  • A group of UMD students won the inaugural U.S. Major League Hacking (MLH) Championship, beating out Rutgers, long-time hackathon heavyweights MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Michigan and Stanford, and more than 100 other schools.
  • UMD launched the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a signature initiative to infuse the university with a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across all colleges and curriculum.
  • Two of UMD's signature undergraduate education programs, the Honors College and College Park Scholars, piloted innovation modules in their courses to increase the number of UMD students enrolled in innovation and entrepreneurship courses by 60 percent this fall.
  • The UMD-led DC Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a National Science Foundation-backed program aimed at translating the region's vibrant research community into successful startups and licensed technologies, kicked off its first two regional cohorts of teams of inventors and entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., and at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md.
  • UMD's College of Arts and Humanities announced an agreement with former Ravens cornerback and NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth '04, and his wife, Ashley Manning Foxworth, to launch Foxworth Creative Enterprise Grants. Their gift of $150,000 will fund a three-year pilot program intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts and humanities in developing solutions to some of society's most pressing issues.
  • UMD alum and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank worked with the Robert H. Smith School of Business and Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship to make the annual Cupid's Cup a national competition.

To view a full list of UMD's accomplishments in innovation and entrepreneurship over the past year from the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, MTECH, the Center for Social Value Creation, the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, and other campus partners, click here. To learn more about innovation at the University of Maryland, visit www.innovation.umd.edu.


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.

The Era of Neutrino Astronomy Has Begun

November 21, 2013

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

Update: The IceCube neutrino telescope has been named the “2013 Breakthrough of the Year" by the British magazine Physics World. Read more here.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Astrophysicists using a telescope embedded in Antarctic ice have succeeded in a quest to detect and record the mysterious phenomena known as cosmic neutrinos – nearly massless particles that stream to Earth at the speed of light from outside our solar system, striking the surface in a burst of energy that can be as powerful as a baseball pitcher's fastball. Next, they hope to build on the early success of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory to detect the source of these high-energy particles, said Physics Professor Gregory Sullivan, who led the University of Maryland's 12-person team of contributors to the IceCube Collaboration.

Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice. Events selected for physics studies are sent north via satellite for use by any member of the IceCube Collaboration. The UMD Maryland IceCube team designed the data collection system. Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF"The era of neutrino astronomy has begun," Sullivan said as the IceCube Collaboration announced the observation of 28 very high-energy particle events that constitute the first solid evidence for astrophysical neutrinos from cosmic sources. 

By studying the neutrinos that IceCube detects, scientists can learn about the nature of astrophysical phenomena occurring millions, or even billions of light years from Earth, Sullivan said. "The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, has been a mystery for more than 100 years. Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It's working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years."   

Hit distribution (red, early; green, late) of a neutrino interaction with the Antarctic IceCube neutrino detector on 14 July 2011. Light from this transfer of 250 teraelectron volts of energy fills a sphere 600 meters across. This event, among the highest-energy neutrino interactions ever observed, forms part of the first evidence for a high-energy neutrino flux of astrophysical origin. Credit: IceCube Collaboration The collaboration's report on the first cosmic neutrino records from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, collected from instruments embedded in one cubic kilometer of ice at the South Pole, was published Nov. 22 in the journal Science.

"This is the first indication of very high-energy neutrinos coming from outside our solar system," said University of Wisconsin-Madison Physics Professor Francis Halzen, principal investigator of IceCube. "It is gratifying to finally see what we have been looking for. This is the dawn of a new age of astronomy."

"Neutrinos are one of the basic building blocks of our universe," said UMD Physics Associate Professor Kara Hoffman, an IceCube team member. Billions of them pass through our bodies unnoticed every second.  These extremely high-energy particles maintain their speed and direction unaffected by magnetic fields. The vast majority of neutrinos originate either in the sun or in Earth's own atmosphere. Far more rare are astrophysical neutrinos, which come from the outer reaches of our galaxy or beyond.

The origin and cause of astrophysical neutrinos are unknown, though gamma ray bursts, active galactic nuclei and black holes are potential sources. Better understanding of these neutrinos is critically important in particle physics, astrophysics and astronomy, and scientists have worked for more than 50 years to design and build a high-energy neutrino detector of this type.

Members of the IceCube Collaboration pull cables to connect light sensors deployed in subsurface ice to the IceCube Lab’s servers in December 2010. Credit: Freija Descamps, IceCube/NSFIceCube was designed to accomplish two major scientific goals: measure the flux, or rate, of high-energy neutrinos and try to identify some of their sources. The neutrino observatory was built and is operated by an international collaboration of more than 250 physicists and engineers. UMD physicists have been key collaborators on IceCube since 2002, when its unique design was devised and construction began.

IceCube is made up of 5,160 digital optical modules suspended along 86 strings embedded in ice beneath the South Pole. The National Science Foundation-supported observatory detects neutrinos through the tiny flashes of blue light, called Cherenkov light, produced when neutrinos interact in the ice. Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect near-real-time data from the optical sensors and send information about interesting events north via satellite. The UMD team designed the data collection system and much of IceCube's analytic software. Construction took nearly a decade, and the completed detector began gathering data in May 2011.

"IceCube is a wonderful and unique astrophysical telescope – it is deployed deep in the Antarctic ice but looks over the entire Universe, detecting neutrinos coming through the Earth from the northern skies, as well as from around the southern skies," said Vladimir Papitashvili of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Polar Programs.

In April 2012 IceCube detected two high-energy events above 1 petaelectronvolt (PeV), nicknamed Bert and Ernie, the first astrophysical neutrinos definitively recorded by a terrestrial detector. After Bert and Ernie were discovered, the IceCube team searched their records from May 2010 to May 2012 of events that fell slightly below the energy level of their original search. They discovered 26 more high-energy events, all at levels of 30 teraelectronvolts (TeV) or higher, indicative of astrophysical neutrinos. Preliminary results of this analysis were presented May 15 at the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Symposium at UW–Madison. The analysis presented in Science reveals a highly statistically significant signal (more than 4 sigma), providing solid evidence that IceCube has successfully detected high-energy extraterrestrial neutrinos, said UMD's Sullivan.

Since astrophysical neutrinos move in straight lines unimpeded by outside forces, they can act as pointers to the place in the galaxy where they originated. The 28 events recorded so far are too few to point to any one location, Sullivan said. Over the coming years, the IceCube team will watch, "like waiting for a long exposure photograph," as more measurements fill in a picture that may reveal the point of origin of these intriguing phenomena.

New detection systems for astrophysical neutrinos are also in the works. Hoffman is leading the development of the Askaryan Radio Array, a neutrino telescope that uses radio frequency, which transmits best through very cold ice, to detect the particles. Plans are underway for 37 subsurface clusters of radio antennae

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory was built under a NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction grant, with assistance from partner funding agencies around the world. The NSF's Division of Polar Programs and Physics Division continue to support the project with a Maintenance and Operations grant, along with international support from participating institutes and their funding agencies.

UMD contributors to the IceCube collaboration include Sullivan and Hoffman; UMD faculty and staff members Jordan Goodman, Erik Blaufuss, John Felde, Henrike Wissing, Alex Olivas, Donald La Dieu, and Torsten Schmidt; and graduate students Elim Cheung, Robert Hellauer, Ryan Maunu, and Michael Richman.

Photo 1: Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice. Events selected for physics studies are sent north via satellite for use by any member of the IceCube Collaboration. The UMD Maryland IceCube team designed the data collection system. Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF
Photo 2: Members of the IceCube Collaboration pull cables to connect light sensors deployed in subsurface ice to the IceCube Lab’s servers in December 2010. Credit: Freija Descamps, IceCube/NSF


For the latest news and happenings at the University of Maryland, follow us on Twitter at @UMDRightNow.


CRSPR Gene editing Artistic rendering by Ernesto del Aguila III NIH_NHGRI
September 21
 Scientist’s work advances plant genomics research and better crop production worldwide   Read
September 18
UMD astronomer co-authored report that outlines a long-term strategy to  study distant planets that might harbor... Read