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UMD Students Get Taste of Developing Fearless Ideas

November 11, 2013
Contacts: 

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Teaching the courses is Erica Estrada-Liou, a lecturer on innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, who recently joined the university from Stanford's d.school.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Students at the University of Maryland are getting a taste of what it takes to develop fearless ideas during a series of two-week, mini-courses. The courses, integrated into existing classes, are being taught to more than 600 students this semester.

Teaching the courses is Erica Estrada-Liou, a lecturer on innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, who recently joined the university from Stanford's d.school. "In the 21st century, we need to be teaching students how to create innovative ideas, and especially how to embrace not only their successes, but failures as well," says Estrada-Liou. "These courses are intended to help students understand the design thinking process, which will inevitably lead them to develop big, creative ideas that can have a lasting impact."

Each course begins with an introduction to "design thinking"—a human-centered, iterative innovation process used to design products, systems and services. Then, students are tasked with completing a full design project in one hour. Each course begins with an introduction to "design thinking"—a human-centered, iterative innovation process used to design products, systems and services. Then, students are tasked with completing a full design project in one hour. For the project, they are asked to take on the role of a designer, understand their clients need, define the problem, brainstorm solutions to the problem, and finally create several low-resolution prototypes to test out potential solutions. The idea is to have the students build rough prototypes so they can easily and quickly test their solutions with potential users.

The second portion of the course is focused on applying the design thinking process to projects the students are already working on. Some examples include coming up with solutions to decrease local health disparities and developing community-based learning projects. A key component to this process is working in multidisciplinary teams, allowing the team members to work together to leverage everyone's individual strengths. Students taking these courses come from disciplines across campus, from business and science to arts and journalism.

The idea is to have the students build rough prototypes so they can easily and quickly test their solutions with potential users. "Through these new mini design thinking courses, we are able to give undergraduates, and particularly freshman, the opportunity to immerse themselves in the types of innovation courses that are only offered at a limited number of universities, and usually only to graduate students," says Dean Chang, UMD's associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. "Our goal is to create life-long innovators by embedding design thinking and 'startup incubator' experiences in courses all throughout campus, including in such diverse areas as public health, environmental sciences, education, the social sciences, and the arts."

“The Honors College and College Park Scholars are two of this university’s signature undergraduate education programs, so piloting these innovation modules in those programs was a perfect way to kick off UMD's mission of embedding innovation and entrepreneurship into the academic core of the university across every discipline,” said Donna Hamilton, Dean for Undergraduate Studies.

Erica Estrada-Liou is a lecturer in UMD's Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, designing learning experiences focused on teaching design thinking and innovation to students throughout campus. She is a co-founder of d.light design, a social enterprise that provides affordable light and power products to people living off of the electrical grid.  After seeing d.light's first product to market, Estrada-Liou joined Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school) as a Design Fellow, and later became the co-founder and director of the Social Entrepreneurship Lab. While at the d.school, she taught various classes and workshops on human-centered design applied to poverty and various social issues, both in the United States and abroad. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.

This December, Estrada-Liou will appear in a documentary film premiering on PBS based on a design thinking course she previously taught. The film, Extreme by Design, follows the Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability course where students design products and services along with business plans for people living in the developing world. The film is currently being promoted in various cities to facilitate the film's accompanying "Watch & Design" workshop series aimed at K-12 students.

These design thinking courses are part of UMD's larger goal of embedding innovation and entrepreneurship into the academic core of the university across every discipline.

UMD prides itself as a pioneer in educating the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, ranked as one of the nation's top schools for entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2013, the University of Maryland ranked No. 15 and No. 16 in The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine's "Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs" for its undergraduate and graduate programs, respectively, with exceptionally strong "outside the classroom" entrepreneurship programs and resources. The university was also recently recognized as No. 1 among public universities No. 2 overall for tech entrepreneurship by the 2013 StartEngine College Index.

In addition, the university celebrates an annual "30 Days of EnTERPreneurship," awarding more than a quarter million dollars for the best ideas and innovations in technology, business, healthcare, social value, and clean energy.

For more information on the university's resources for innovators across campus, visit innovation.umd.edu.

 

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

New UMD Center Aimed at Influencing Education Policy

November 11, 2013
Contacts: 

Halima Cherif 301-405-0476

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In an effort to forge stronger linkages between education researchers and state policymakers, and encourage an informed policy dialogue to end disparities in educational opportunities, the University of Maryland's College of Education and Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership (TLPL) have launched the Maryland Equity Project.

In an effort to forge stronger linkages between education researchers and state policymakers, and encourage an informed policy dialogue to end disparities in educational opportunities, the University of Maryland's College of Education and Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership (TLPL) have launched the Maryland Equity Project. The Maryland Equity Project will draw on a network of scholars at UMD and beyond to conduct, synthesize and distribute research on key educational questions in the state of Maryland. The goal is to provide research and policy analysis that focuses on education issues and related social and economic challenges in Maryland. Donna Wiseman, dean of the College of Education, and Francine Hultgren, chair of TLPL, both indicate that the Maryland Equity Project will provide faculty in the college the opportunity to connect their research to the educational policy agenda in Maryland.

The project will focus on a broad range of factors that influence schooling in Maryland. Although Maryland has been a top-rated school system, it still faces many challenges to ensure equitable opportunities for all students. Inequities between racial and socioeconomic groups persist and the needs of many special populations of students, such as special education students or English language learners, remain unmet.

"So often the social and economic contexts in which children grow up are ignored when in fact, they are among the strongest predictors of how well a child will do in school," says Gail Sunderman, project director. The project's immediate agenda will address the increasing diversity of the state's school-age population and identify the policies and practices that have been successful at educating a diverse school-aged population.

The project hopes to foster an informed policy debate by equipping local leaders, educators and state policymakers with independent, non-partisan research and policy analysis on important issues.

"We want to make education research more accessible to Maryland policymakers and education leaders," says Robert Croninger, faculty advisor to the project.

The project officially launches tomorrow with a panel discussion on the steps to college enrollment and how these steps present barriers to four-year college enrollment. Daniel Klasik, post-doctoral fellow with the Maryland Equity Project, will present, with responses from Julie Park, University of Maryland, Andrew Nichols, Maryland Higher Education Commission, and Ed M. Pacchetti, U.S. Department of Education.

At the launch, the Maryland Equity Project will release the policy brief, The College Application Gauntlet: A Systematic Analysis of the Steps to Four-Year College Enrollment by Daniel Klasik.

The launch event is scheduled for Nov. 12, 2013, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in UMD's Stamp Student Union Juan Ramon Jimenez Room 2208. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available at www.mdequity.org.

 

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

UMD Initiative Supporting the Health of Md. Veterans

November 8, 2013
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – More than 28,000 Maryland veterans have returned home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most have made a successful transition to civilian life.  But for some, the road home from war has included challenges unique to their military service. The Maryland Veterans Resilience Initiative (MaVRI), a project led by the University of Maryland School of Public Health in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is making sure that those who have served our country receive quality health care and support.  

Maryland Veterans Resilience InitiativeMultiple deployments to combat zones have stressed veterans and their families, contributing to health problems such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. Growing numbers of veterans are turning to civilian health professionals for care, but many of these providers have not been sufficiently trained to treat veterans’ health issues, MaVRI researchers have found. To address this knowledge gap, the MaVRI project is training mental health and primary care professionals throughout Maryland to better understand military culture and experiences and to appropriately treat the health care needs of veterans and their family members.

In addition, as record numbers of veterans return to college under the post-9/11 GI Bill, the MaVRI project is developing peer support networks for veterans on community college and university campuses across the state to help them achieve their educational and personal goals.

“Maryland veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for our nation and they deserve all the support we can provide,” said Public Health Professor Sally Koblinsky, lead investigator of MaVRI.  “They bring tremendous resources to our state, including leadership, global experience, and unique skills, but they may also face some challenges as a result of their wartime experience.”

When the MaVRI project launched in 2012, Dr. Koblinsky and colleagues surveyed more than 3,000 licensed mental health and primary care professionals to gauge their knowledge and confidence in treating veterans’ conditions. This survey is believed to be the first statewide effort in the U.S. to assess the knowledge and training needs of health care professionals related to veterans’ issues. Notably, the vast majority of those surveyed were not veterans themselves, lacked familiarity with military culture and best practices for treating veterans’ conditions, and had limited confidence in treating them. 

MaVRI used feedback from the survey participants to design trainings for state providers that covered topics such as the deployment cycle and reintegration challenges, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), sleep disorders, family stress and relationship problems, suicide prevention, and women veterans’ health.  To date, 700 state social workers, psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, and primary care providers have completed these trainings.  In a recent, two-day MaVRI program, the Center for Deployment Psychology trained 140 licensed mental health professionals on Prolonged Exposure Therapy, an evidence-based treatment for PTSD.

“MaVRI has been a tremendous success, greatly increasing the numbers of health providers who are educated about veteran-specific issues,” said Shauna Donahue, director of Maryland’s Commitment to Veterans, a program of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The project should have a significant impact on our state’s ability to provide high quality behavioral health care to veterans and their family members.”

The MaVRI project is also making a difference in the lives of veterans attending college. Student veterans from the University of Maryland work as peer support facilitators at six of the state’s college campuses with the goal of establishing new student veteran organizations and developing support communities for those adapting to post-military life.

Jason Theis, a junior microbiology major at UMD and a veteran of the U.S. Army, worked as a peer support facilitator last semester at UMBC and Howard Community College. Theis facilitated focus groups and met with student veterans at UMBC, organized veterans’ community service activities and helped Howard Community College to open a new student veterans’ center.

Henry CarbajalesHenry Carbajales (pictured left), who began work as a peer support facilitator with MaVRI in fall 2012, got involved to help veterans navigate an academic world that is often much different than the military one. Carbajales, a Marine Corps veteran who served three deployments in Iraq, understands the adjustments involved in returning to civilian life.

“There are lots of things in the military that you take for granted: food, housing, friends, companionship,” Carbajales said. “I was gone for eight years … It’s like everybody already has their own lives, so where do I stand now?”

A senior geography major, Carbajales remembers being new to the maze of financial aid forms, veterans benefits and scholarships. “Through MaVRI, I can pass information on to fellow veterans at other schools who might not have the same resources,” Carbajales said. He is also building camaraderie by bringing community college veterans to University of Maryland’s annual veterans’ football game and organizing a Veterans’ Ball for student veterans on three college campuses.

With the enhanced and growing network of health care professionals equipped to help veterans successfully transition back to civilian life, and the creation of peer support systems on college campuses, the MaVRI project is insuring that Maryland veterans receive the attention they need and deserve.

Visit http://www.sph.umd.edu/fmsc/mavri/ for more info on the Maryland Veterans Resilience Initiative.

 

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

Helping Citizens Deal with Food Stamp Cuts

November 8, 2013
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) ProgramCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – On November 1, 47 million people across the country saw cuts to their benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Nearly 800,000 of those affected were Maryland citizens.

Since the cuts took place, nutrition educators with the Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program administered through University of Maryland Extension have been helping residents across the state adjust to the reduction in benefits without sacrificing healthy food choices.

University of Maryland Extension nutrition educator Joi Vogin leads a grocery store tour. Image Credit: Zainab Mudallal, Capital News ServiceExtension educators are teaming up with the organization Share Our Strength to provide grocery store tours throughout the state. During the tours, nutrition educators teach participants how to compare food labels, develop a budget and shopping list, and prepare low-cost, healthy meals. After completing the tour, participants are provided $10 in free groceries courtesy of Share Our Strength.

"Food stamps were never designed to be all of a family's food dollars. They were designed to be a supplement but for a lot of people it is their whole food budget so they do stretch it really far," said FSNE Director Lisa Lachenmayr.

FSNE – which encompasses more than 40 Extension professionals throughout the state -- is also directing residents to other forms of assistance to help stretch their food stamp dollars. For instance, educators are encouraging parents to inquire about free breakfast and reduced price lunch programs at their children's schools, find out if they qualify for the federal Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, or get in touch with local food banks.

"Most people will sacrifice food before they sacrifice money for bills like utilities and mortgages so the more resources we can provide for them the better," said Lachenmayr.

Nutrition Educator Quinney Harris leads a grocery store tour in Baltimore - See more at: http://agnr.umd.edu/news/umd-nutrition-educators-help-citizens-deal-food-stamp-cuts#sthash.QdJs9HSh.dpufThe current reduction in benefits amounts to $11 a month for a single recipient all the way up to $52 a month for a family of six or more. However, Congress is currently considering legislation that would lead to more drastic reductions to SNAP. A Senate version would cut the program by roughly $4 billion over the next several years while the House is contemplating cuts as deep as $40 billion. As a result, Lachenmayr and her FSNE colleagues know their services will continue to be in high demand down the road in a state where the number of food stamp recipients has more than doubled in the last five years.

"It's unfortunate further cuts are being so strongly considered at a time when food insecurity and hunger – particularly in children – are so prevalent in this country," said Lachenmayr.

Photo Caption (Left): University of Maryland Extension nutrition educator Joi Vogin leads a grocery store tour. Image Credit: Zainab Mudallal, Capital News Service
Photo Caption (Right): Nutrition Educator Quinney Harris leads a grocery store tour in Baltimore.

 

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

UMD Student Earns National Innovation Fellowship

November 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland Master of Architecture candidate has been honored as the first-ever UMD student to receive a University Innovation Fellowship by the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation (Epicenter). Valerie Sherry is one of only 21 students from universities nationwide accepted to the program this year.

Valerie SherryThe University Innovation Fellowship is part of a national effort to arm students with the knowledge and expertise to create, innovate and compete in a global economy. Working closely with fellowship colleagues and peers on campus, fellows mobilize their student body and create resources that foster innovation, entrepreneurship and cutting-edge creativity. The program is funded in partnership with Stanford University and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).

"We are thrilled to have Valerie participating in such a ground-breaking program," said David Cronrath, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "She is an exceptionally talented and creative thinker who will bring some great ideas to the table."

In an official statement released Tuesday, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy praised the program for "empower(ing) student leaders to survey entrepreneurship programs at their own schools, check out what's going on at other schools, and organize fellow students around the most compelling and successful models."

The core mission of the University Innovation Fellowship is to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship within the student community by pinpointing campus needs, identifying gaps and uncovering opportunities. Fellows undergo a deep dive analysis of their campus ecosystem to determine student needs and investigate how to make existing resources more accessible. In previous years, fellows have created events, organized competitions, hosted speakers and collaborated on new classes.

Among the strategies Sherry outlined during fellowship training is a new initiative called the Maryland Design Impact Lab (mDIL), a dynamic environment for students across campus to collaborate, generate and test innovative concepts and ideas. It aims to be a venue not just for idea collision but implementation and impact, nurturing action with social significance. Specifically designed to harness the collective ingenuity of UMD's student body, mDIL will fold in disciplines from across all of the university's colleges and schools.

The concept behind mDIL stresses the importance of bringing a variety of design thinkers to the table—architecture, engineering, technology, the arts and business—at both undergraduate and graduate levels.  Related activities, such as weekend workshops, coined "Design Tent," will promote freestyle hacking and idea building, where students can quickly give form to ideas in a supportive, collaborative environment. Students have already started to hold planning meetings and design sessions as the program builds momentum, with a big university launch planned for January.

"With mDIL, we want to provide students with this great creative outlet, but also an outlet where different disciplines can create positive impact together," says Sherry. "Working in a venue where you can share your expertise and learn from others is where ideas graduate to the next level. It's a way to shake things up a bit." 

Aside from individual campus work, the fellows are also undertaking a groundbreaking wiki, which outlines each of the participating universities current initiatives and recommended strategies. This open-sourced platform is geared to evolve as other students join the movement, using crowd-sourced information for sharing best practices and roadmaps for creating programs that have proven to engage the student body and bring about successful ventures.

"With these models, students and university program leaders nationwide can evaluate whether the programs are a good fit to bring to their campus, or whether they can cobble ideas from multiple initiatives to provide a hybrid resource that better serves their university's needs," explains Sherry.

A unique aspect of the fellowship is the cross-collaboration within the program, creating a supportive environment where fellows can compare notes and investigate what is working and what is not on other campuses. Throughout the academic year, the fellows will continue to meet weekly via online forums to brainstorm, strategize and collaborate. The fellows will convene in San Jose next March to attend sessions on technology entrepreneurship and take part in a design thinking workshop at Google.

"Valerie is a strong advocate who has a clear understanding of design's fundamental place in the ethos of innovation," says Michael Ambrose, assistant director of the architecture program and clinical professor. "To have a young, strong, female designer projecting the vision for what design can be and where it fits into innovation is going to change a lot of people's perspectives of what architecture is and what it can be."

"The work that Valerie will undertake as part of this fellowship fits in perfectly with the University of Maryland's overarching goal of embedding innovation and entrepreneurship into the academic core of the university across every discipline," says Dean Chang, UMD's associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. “Valerie's Maryland Design Impact Lab initiative embraces design thinking and 'startup incubator’ experiences, two key elements the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship also stresses in order to foster life-long innovators.”

UMD prides itself as a pioneer in educating the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, ranked as one of the nation's top schools for entrepreneurship and innovation. In 2013, the University of Maryland ranked No. 15 and No. 16 in The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine’s "Top 50 Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs" for its undergraduate and graduate programs, respectively, with exceptionally strong “outside the classroom” entrepreneurship programs and resources. The university was also recently recognized as No. 1 among public universities No. 2 overall for tech entrepreneurship by the 2013 StartEngine College Index.

In addition, the university celebrates an annual “30 Days of EnTERPreneurship,” awarding more than a quarter million dollars for the best ideas and innovations in technology, business, healthcare, social value, and clean energy.

To learn more about the University Innovation fellowship, visit http://dreamdesigndeliver.org. For more information on the university's resources for innovators across campus, visit innovation.umd.edu.

 

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

UMD Competition Empowers Entrepreneurs of the Future

November 7, 2013
Contacts: 

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283
Carrie Handwerker 301-405-5833

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, in partnership with Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, has officially launched the 2014 Cupid's Cup Business Competition. The annual competition offers the country's top student entrepreneurs the chance to compete for $115,000 in total cash prizes. Student can apply until Jan. 6, 2014.

The University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, in partnership with Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, have officially launched the 2014 Cupid's Cup Business Competition.The final competition will take place on Friday, April 4, 2014, at UMD's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. A panel of judges will narrow the applicant pool to five finalists in a semifinal competition round to be held at Under Armour's Baltimore headquarters in February. Finalists will pitch their businesses to Plank and a panel of judges in front of more than 1,000 attendees at the final round competition. The day's events will also include a business and innovation showcase highlighting campus and regional startups.

Applicants will compete for a transformative prize package including $115,000 in total cash prizes ($75,000 for the grand prize winner), coaching from a team of successful entrepreneurs, in-kind services from leading edge companies, and the prestigious Cupid's Cup. Plank will also grant the 2014 grand prize winner exclusive access to a member of his professional network.

"The goal of Cupid's Cup is to identify and reward students who have the entrepreneurial drive and conviction to take a risk and start a business while they are young," said Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour and founder and chairman of Cupid's Cup Business Competition. "Last year, we took the competition to the national stage, and I'm more passionate than ever about finding the best student entrepreneurs in the country. I want to help another young innovator reach the next level with crucial funding and my personal help making a business connection."

The Dingman Center, part of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, provides students with opportunities to pitch their business ideas, receive feedback from experienced entrepreneurs and access to funding. Cupid's Cup was inspired by a rose delivery business Plank started as a student at the university. As a member of the football team he wasn't permitted to have an outside job, so he turned to entrepreneurship as a way to pursue his business interests. Plank worked with the Dingman Center to create and lead a business competition to foster similar student entrepreneurship.

"The Dingman Center has been leading the way in finding creative entrepreneurs and impactful startups for more than 25 years, and thanks to our partnership with Kevin Plank we now have the resources to extend that mission to the national stage," said Alex Triantis, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. "We are committed to teaching innovation to the next generation of entrepreneurs here at the University of Maryland and beyond."

The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges and universities or recent alumni of those institutions (received degree between May 2011 and December 2013). Applicants must be running a legal business entity that has generated at least $5,000 in revenue or demonstrated proof of traction.

Applications for the 2014 Cupid's Cup competition will be accepted through January 6, 2014. There is no fee to apply. More information is available at www.cupidscup.com.

Read about last year's winner, Earth Starter, here.

 

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

'Diabetic Flies' Speed up Treatment Research

November 6, 2013
Contacts: 

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

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In a new finding that has the potential to significantly speed up diabetes research, scientists at the University of Maryland have shown that fruit flies respond to insulin at the cellular level much like humans do, making these common, easily bred insects good subjects for laboratory experiments in new treatments for diabetes.

Tagging of the human GLUT4 protein in genetically altered fruit flies shows that in response to insulin, GLUT4 travels from cells' interiors to their membranes where it captures glucose.The common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster looks like a sesame seed with wings, produces offspring by the thousands, and lives for around a month. These creatures don't resemble humans in any obvious way, but they share more than sixty percent of our genetic code. And scientists like UMD's Leslie Pick and Georgeta Crivat are finding that those similarities control basic biological processes that work alike in both species.

Drosophila melanogaster is easy to breed, raise and study in the laboratory, so it's widely used in research. Pick, chairman of the UMD Entomology Department, conducts experiments that use information about the fruit fly's relatively simple genome to illuminate biological processes in humans. Her recent research focuses on whether fruit flies use the hormone insulin the same way humans and other mammals do.

"We hope to use all the genetic tools we have available for flies, and the fact that we can breed them in huge numbers, very fast, to set up efficient screening tests for assessing new diabetes treatments," Pick said.

In a new study published Nov. 6 in the peer-reviewed online journal PLOS One, Pick and her co-authors found the basic mechanisms that humans use to regulate blood sugar – the process that goes awry in diabetes – are indeed shared with flies.

In humans, insulin controls the production and movement of glucose, the form of sugar that fuels mammalian cells. The movement of glucose into individual cells begins when insulin binds to a specialized insulin receptor on a cell. That causes a sugar transporter called GLUT4 to move from the cell interior to its membrane, allowing glucose to flow through the membrane, moving from the bloodstream into the cell. In diabetics, this process fails and sugar accumulates in the blood. In the main types of diabetes - Type 1, in which the body cannot produce insulin, and Type 2, in which the cells stop responding to insulin – high blood sugar levels can gravely damage many organs. The disease is one of the world's most serious health problems.

Fruit flies' systems are very different than humans. Glucose is not their main form of sugar, and they don't have blood like mammals do, so researchers were not sure whether insulin played a role in their cells that is similar to humans. But in a 2009 experiment, Pick and colleagues used genetic engineering techniques to disable five insulin-like fruit fly genes.

The fruit fly on the right, genetically altered to disable insulin-like genes and fed a high sugar diet, has symptoms comparable to type 2 diabetes in humans. The resulting "diabetic flies" had many symptoms of diabetes in humans, Pick said. "They were very, very small and sluggish; they had decreased body fat and higher levels of circulating blood sugar; and they did not reproduce very well." Other researchers trying to understand diabetes have performed similar experiments on mammals, which usually did not survive the genetic alteration, Pick said.

"The flies are not fine, but they do live," Pick said. That meant more diabetes-related experiments, using flies instead of mammals, might be possible.

To be sure, the researchers needed to know whether the cellular processes taking place were the same in both species. Pick and her colleagues turned to Samuel Cushman of the National Institutes of Health, the co-discoverer of the glucose transport process involving GLUT4 in humans. Combining their expertise, the two research teams inserted GLUT4 into fruit flies, using a fluorescent tag to mark the GLUT4 molecules.

To the scientists' surprise, although this protein is foreign to the fruit flies, their cells moved GLUT4 to the cell membrane exactly as human cells do in response to insulin. Under a high powered microscope that picks up the fluorescent GLUT4,"You can actually track its movement onto the cell membrane."

"It's pretty amazing," Pick said. "We hoped that would happen, but there are so many differences between flies and mammals that we ourselves were skeptical."

The researchers' next step is to find the sugar transporter that fills the role of GLUT4 in fruit flies, Pick said, and "to use the fly model to see if we can screen for compounds that promote sugar uptake, alone or working together with insulin, to treat diabetes more effectively."

Full text of the study is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0077953

 

Photo 1: Tagging of the human GLUT4 protein in genetically altered fruit flies shows that in response to insulin, GLUT4 travels from cells' interiors to their membranes where it captures glucose. In two forms of microscopy, the fluorescent GLUT4 cells illuminate the flies' cell membranes. Credit: Georgeta Crivat

Photo 2: The fruit fly on the right, genetically altered to disable insulin-like genes and fed a high sugar diet, has symptoms comparable to type 2 diabetes in humans. It is smaller and less able to reproduce than the normal fruit fly on the left, but healthy enough for use in testing diabetes treatments. Credit: Jingnan Liu and Hua Zhang

 

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

UMD Selects Silver's The Signal and the Noise as First Year Book

November 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the past 20 years, the University of Maryland has stimulated intellectual discussions on a variety of issues among across campus through its First Year Book program. Each year, the Office of Undergraduate Studies selects one book to feature – based on its ability to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to analyze a topic, issue or experience from a variety of perspectives – from the sciences to the humanities and across diverse historical backgrounds, cultures and ideologies.   

UMD has selected New York Times bestseller The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver for its 2013-14 First Year Book program.The 2013-14 first year book is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. The book, a New York Times bestseller, focuses on predictions – why some fail and others don't – and what individuals can do to sift through the noise, or excess data and information, to see the signal of what is most likely going to happen. In the book, Silver analyzes a diverse array of topics, from baseball, sports, and poker to weather, the stock market, and politics, in order to demonstrate that prediction is a skill that can be practiced in order to discern the good information from the bad and used to make better decisions in daily life.

Outperforming pundits, political insiders, and campaign strategists, Silver correctly predicted Obama's 2008 win in all but one state. Additionally, he predicted the winners and losers in every Senate race.  Again in the 2012 presidential election, Silver out-predicted the competition by successfully forecasting the presidential outcomes in all 50 states.

The author will appear on campus on November 13 at 4 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to speak about this year's First Year Book, The Signal and the Noise. While the book is not required reading for all new students, faculty are encouraged to incorporate the book into their curriculums and a series of courses, lectures, living/learning programs and events will be held throughout the year to maintain the dialogue of this topic.

For the first time, the university will engage UMD alumni in the First Year Book program by hosting an online alumni book club, beginning in early 2014. UMD faculty will discuss their thoughts on the book and pose questions for discussion. For more information, email firstyearbook@umd.edu or visit www.fyb.umd.edu.

Joint Global Change Research Institute Appoints New Director

November 6, 2013
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Renowned scientist Ghassem R. Asrar has been named director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaborative effort of the University of Maryland and the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The institute, based in College Park, houses an interdisciplinary team dedicated to understanding the problems of global climate change and potential solutions.

Renowned scientist Ghassem R. Asrar has been named director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaborative effort of UMD and the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.Asrar begins his appointment Nov. 11. He comes to the institute from Geneva, Switzerland, where he has been director of the World Climate Research Programme, which coordinates international climate research and is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, the International Council for Science and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

"There is a growing need for action-oriented and science-based information at the intersection of energy, environment and economy in a rapidly developing world," Asrar said. "JGCRI is uniquely positioned based on its capabilities and track record to be an authoritative source of such information."

Before joining the WCRP, Asrar worked at NASA for several decades, serving as deputy associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate and associate administrator of the Office of Earth Sciences, as well as chief scientist for the Earth Observing System, a satellite-based program that transformed scientific understanding of the climate system. While at NASA, Asrar also established the Earth System Science graduate fellowship, as well as New Investigator Programs to promote the training of promising earth scientists and engineers.

"Dr. Asrar's past experience, particularly with NASA's Earth Science Enterprise and as director of the World Climate Research Program in Geneva, gives him a particularly broad perspective on how science can help inform our understanding of pressing environmental concerns," said Nathan Hultman, associate director of the institute and public policy professor at UMD.

Asrar, who holds two master's degrees in environmental biophysics and civil engineering, and an interdisciplinary doctorate degree in the field of environmental physics from Michigan State University, also worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as deputy administrator for Natural Resources and Agricultural Systems for the Agricultural Research Service from 2006 to 2008.

Marc Imhoff, interim director of the institute, said Asrar's vast experience in the scientific community will help the institute make progress toward its many goals. "He will bring a wealth of leadership experience working across a broad suite of national and international government agencies, organizations and businesses in developing and advancing research and applications in Earth sciences and climate change."

"Asrar is very comfortable and effective at working in interagency and international contexts," said Antonio Busalacchi, director of the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland, who worked with Asrar while on a World Climate Research Programme committee. "He'll take the institute to the next level."

That level, Asrar said, is seizing the opportunity to offer practical solutions to competing forces that don't always agree: environmental stewardship, energy independence and economic development. "There is a growing need for action-oriented and science-based information at the intersection of energy, environment and economy in a rapidly developing world," Asrar said. "JGCRI is uniquely positioned based on its capabilities and track record to be an authoritative source of such information."

The University of Maryland is a recognized leader in atmospheric, climate and earth science research, education and public policy. UMD and its adjacent research park are home to one of the largest concentrations of earth, climate and weather scientists in the world.  The Joint Global Change Research Institute is just one of many partnerships the university has with federal agencies.  Others include UMD's Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), which partners with NASA Goddard, and two major collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): the Cooperative Institute for Climate Studies, a national, UMD-led NOAA institute and an academic and research partnership with the NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate, whose building is in the University of Maryland Research Park, M Square next door to JGCRI and ESSIC.

Image courtsey of World Climate Research Programme.

 

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New UMD Center Links Business and Criminology

November 5, 2013
Contacts: 

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announces the launch of the new Center for the Study of Business Ethics, Regulation, and Crime (C-BERC), a joint effort of the university's Robert H. School of Business and Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

UMD announces the launch of the new Center for the Study of Business Ethics, Regulation, and Crime, the first venture of its kind to formally link business with criminology in an academic environment.C-BERC is the first venture of its kind to formally link business with criminology in an academic environment. Through C-BERC, UMD seeks to scientifically confront, assess, evaluate and develop best practices at the intersections of business, ethics, regulation and crime.

"Recent headlines from major news sources highlight the critical need for C-BERC, from stories about insider trading to drug-marketing settlements to corporate compliance.  Although there is a great deal of conjecture about why otherwise successful companies violate the law, as well as strong points of view about specific policies and strategies designed to prevent and control crime and victimization, there is far too little scientific investigation into these issues to answer these key questions," says C-BERC Director Dr. Sally Simpson. "The goal of C-BERC is to build a diverse scientific community of scholars and students, whose research and training will address these and other critical challenges confronting business."  

Business is at a crossroads with regard to its roles and responsibilities. Corporations are called upon not only to do well, but also to "do good" in an increasingly complex legal and social environment.  C-BERC's mission is to generate new ideas and information at the intersection of theory, policy, and practice that will serve as a resource for business leaders, policymakers and practitioners. 

The center embraces a unique interdisciplinary approach to the legal and ethical challenges of modern business operations by integrating and extending research in the fields of business ethics, regulation and criminology.  The center's scholarly work embraces multiple diverse perspectives and methods of analysis. In addition, through its graduate certificate, professionals and students will gain training in law, evidence, and auditing. 

Research topics addressed at C-BERC will include measuring the extent and pervasiveness of business-related crime, costs of business crime, evaluation of regulatory policy and accounting ethics.

The center will formally launch at an event on Friday, Nov. 8 from 12-3 p.m. in UMD's Riggs Alumni Center. The event will include a keynote by Columbia Law School Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law John C. Coffee, Jr., titled "Missing in Action?: What Explains SEC Passivity." Members of the public may RSVP for the event by contacting Rebecca Johnson at rebjoh24@umd.edu.

To learn more about C-BERC, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/cberc.

For media interested in attending the launch event, please contact Laura Ours and 301-405-5722 or lours@umd.edu.

 

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

 

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