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University of Maryland Announces Appointment of New Director for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute

January 2, 2018

Katie Lawson 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland announced today the appointment of Michael E. Cox, Jr., as the new Director of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) after a nationwide search.  Cox replaces Steven T. Edwards whose retirement begins January 5, 2018.

Headshot of Michael Cox Jr. Headquartered at the University of Maryland, MFRI is the state’s comprehensive training and education system for emergency services. The institute plans, researches and delivers high quality, state of the art programs that enhance the ability of emergency service providers to protect, life, property and the environment. MFRI employs 65 full-time faculty and staff positions supported by more than 700 state-certified instructors who deliver programs at six statewide regional training facilities, as well as site specific locations.

“I commend Steve Edwards on his quarter century of excellence in guiding and preparing Maryland first responders to be among the best in the country and around the world,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “In our search for a new Director, we determined that Michael Cox was the right emergency services leader to continue the level of quality training and continue to move MFRI forward.”

Cox has been a MFRI employee and management team member since January of 2015.

“I want to thank President Loh for this tremendous opportunity, and I look forward to working in an innovative and collaborative fashion with the MFRI faculty and staff to continue to provide world class programs and customer service that the agency is known for nationally, and internationally,” said Cox. “Director Edwards has been a mentor to many people over the years and has contributed greatly to our profession.  I am honored to serve in this role and look forward to building on his accomplishments.”    

At age 16, Cox began his career in the fire service at the Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Edgewater, Maryland where he remains a life member. At age 20, Cox accepted a career position within the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.  Throughout his 27-year career, Cox worked in virtually every bureau and division in the Department. Cox ultimately advanced through the ranks to become the Department’s tenth Fire Chief where he led a combination force of more than 1,400 career and volunteer personnel serving a population of more than 550,000.

During his time as Anne Arundel County Fire Chief, Cox worked on numerous new initiatives to address critical issues facing the department, including the enhancement of responder and citizen safety, the correction of substandard insurance service office ratings in multiple areas of Anne Arundel County, the improvement of 911 call processing times and work flows, the development of a diversity recruitment plan, and the enhancement of communications with volunteer and career associations and groups within the department. 

Cox earned an associate’s degree in emergency medical services from Anne Arundel Community College; a bachelor’s degree in fire science from the University of Maryland University College, and a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. Cox also is a graduate of the United States Fire Administration’s Executive Fire Officer Program and has been designated as a Chief Fire Officer from the Center for Public Safety Excellence. Additionally, Cox holds national and state certifications as a fire officer, an emergency medical technician paramedic and an emergency services instructor.  Cox is also a graduate of Leadership Anne Arundel’s 2015 Flagship Program and Leadership Maryland Class of 2017.

Cox has been a resident of Anne Arundel County for the last 36 years and currently resides in Edgewater with his daughter Megan and his son Michael. 

UMD Awarded $2.5M Grant from U.S. Department of State to Support Women Leaders in the Middle East, North Africa

December 19, 2017

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland's George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace was recently awarded a two-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of State to promote women’s leadership and gender inclusive policies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The grant will support Women as Partners in Progress (WPP), a new initiative that will help expand women leaders’ access to policy-making and increase gender-inclusive policies by building their knowledge, skills and leadership capacity. Led by UMD, and in partnership with Joussour in Morocco, World of Letters in Jordan and Abolish 153 in Kuwait, the project will identify established and emerging women leaders to participate in WPP workshops and seminars.

“This project will have an enormous impact on leadership development for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Gregory Ball, dean of UMD’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, where the Gibran Chair academic program is endowed. “The work aligns with our focus on investigating the social and behavioral dimensions of international challenges and supporting the development of practical applications and policies to bring about lasting change. Our College is proud to engage in this effort.”

Through Women as Partners in Progress, a total of 90 women leaders will receive training to increase and deepen their knowledge about gender roles and women’s rights in their specific countries and in the Arab world. The program will equip women leaders with tools to organize effective campaigns and build a network across the MENA region supporting gender-inclusive policies. Program participants will decide upon key women’s issues to advance, and engage civil society organizations, political leaders, media and a newly established virtual hub in an effort to achieve progress in establishing new policies that address these key issues.

Photo collage of faculty and students

“Women as Partners in Progress will amplify women’s voices through a knowledge-based, results-oriented program that will help current women leaders, as well as the next generation across the MENA region, grow and develop their skills, and build a strong network to advance their ideas,” said Gibran Chair Director and principal investigator for the Women as Partners in Progress project May Rihani. “We are very pleased to be working with three local women's organizations in Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait on such a promising project.”

Rihani is a pioneer in girls’ education and a tireless advocate of women’s rights and empowerment. Her knowledge on the subject is drawn from years of experience designing and implementing programs in more than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. She previously served as co‐chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative between 2008 and 2010. Her seminal book, Keeping the Promise, is a framework for advancing girls’ education that is used by global organizations.

The first phase of the project will focus on sharing knowledge with the women leaders about existing research on pathways and obstacles to increasing women’s rights and leadership in the Arab world, and in particular, the three countries where the project activities will take place: Morocco, Jordan and Kuwait. This synthesized knowledge will serve as a basis for the second phase, which will focus on the organization of knowledge seminars for established and emerging women leaders beginning in Morocco in December, then Jordan and Kuwait, in coordination with the partner organizations in each of the three countries. The seminars will provide the women leaders the opportunity to focus on key issues they wish to address in their countries. The third phase will focus on training workshops designed to empower the women leaders to apply their knowledge and build their leadership capacity in order to further address the key priority issues previously identified through the seminars. The fourth and final phase will increase regional and national awareness regarding these key women’s issues in each of the three countries through a social mobilization campaign comprised of a variety of activities that will engage civil society organizations and government institutions.

By creating a network of women leaders in each one of the three countries with help from the partner organizations, and then by linking them together and connecting them with other women’s organizations in other Arab countries, Women as Partners in Progress will establish a virtual hub that will build community and bring together individuals with different backgrounds and knowledge. Building and expanding this virtual hub will help advance key women’s issues and gender-inclusive policies, and will ensure that these activities will grow and achieve greater impact and sustainability in the years to come, well after the project term is over.

The U.S. Department of State's support for the Women in Partners in Progress initiative is part of the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative program, which helps governments and their citizens to achieve shared political, economic and stability objectives. For more information, visit gibranchair.umd.edu.


University of Maryland to Host Winter 2017 Commencement

December 14, 2017

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s winter 2017 main commencement ceremony will take place on Dec. 19, 2017. Graduates will celebrate the culmination of their UMD experience while receiving a commencement address by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, who will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service from the university. He will be joined by this year’s student speaker, Rachel Smith, who is graduating with a degree in immigration and ethnic studies. 



  • University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh
  • Commencement Speaker Elijah E. Cummings, United States Congressman, Maryland 7th District 
  • Student Commencement Speaker Rachel Smith
  • December Class of 2017 University of Maryland Graduates


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

  • Processional – 5:40 p.m.
  • Ceremony – 6:00 p.m.

*Media should arrive prior to the processional*


Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park

Xfinity Center is located on Paint Branch Dr. near the intersection of Paint Branch Dr. and Route 193 (University Blvd.) Click here for directions.


To ensure access to the ceremony, media must RSVP and show credentials upon entry. Media must park in lot 4B and enter the Xfinity Center through the loading dock. 


The ceremony will be streamed live on the University of Maryland’s YouTube channel here.


For more information, visit www.commencement.umd.edu


UMD's IBBR Awarded NIH Grant to Investigate Body's T-cell Mechanism of Attack

December 14, 2017

Vicki Buckholz240-314-6274


COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A new research initiative by the University of Maryland's Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) and the University of Pittsburgh could help uncover how T-cells—the "killer cells" that defend the body from microbes—are alerted to hazardous invaders in the body.  Funded by a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research will be the first to combine X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for a unique view of the cell's alert system, which could lead to innovative therapeutics to fight viruses and tumors.

Illustration of tcell fighting cancer cellsT-cells defend the body by recognizing and attacking a foreign invader, such as a virus, through a receptor on its surface (TCR).  When viruses infect cells, they are broken up into pieces (peptides) that move to the cell surface where they are recognized by TCR's.  This causes the T-cell to activate and kill the infected cell, allowing the immune system to stop the spread of the virus.

"We have long known about the process of T-cell recognition, but not how the receptors signal to the T-cell that this recognition has taken place," says Dr. Roy Mariuzza, who, along with Dr. John Orban, are IBBR's principal investigators on the project.  "Understanding the TCR signaling mechanism may allow researchers to develop new, targeted immunotherapies, such as those used in immuno-oncology to control or eliminate tumors."

The team will apply a new approach, combining X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, two complementary techniques used for determining the structure and dynamics of proteins.  "Proteins transmit signals by undergoing changes in their structure and dynamics," says Dr. Orban.  "When the viral peptide binds to the TCR, there may be perturbations in the TCR that trigger signaling.  Our goal is to shed light on this process using our combined approach."

Mariuzza and Orban will analyze and present hypotheses about the structural changes to Dr. Dario Vignali, a prominent molecular immunologist from the University of Pittsburgh and the third principal investigator.  Vignali will test these theories by making mutations in the TCR and analyzing the effect of the mutations in biological systems.

"This research is an excellent example of fundamental science conducted at the institute that may lead to new therapeutic products.  The Institute facilitates application of groundbreaking, basic scientific research to address significant unmet medical needs.  We thank the NIH for their support of this promising area of research." said Dr. Thomas Fuerst, IBBR Director.

UMD President Joins Big Ten Colleagues in Support of DACA

December 13, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Today, Big Ten presidents issued the following letter in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy: 

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

On behalf of the Big Ten universities, we urge you to take action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and pass a long-term legislative solution as soon as possible to protect Dreamers, outstanding young people brought to our country as children.

The stories we hear on our campuses are troubling—high achieving young adults with uncertain futures. They are nurses, engineers, and pharmacy students. They are student athletes, leaders in music programs, and active across campus.

These young people are Americans in every way but immigration status. It remains in our country’s best interest to enable them to use their knowledge, skills and energy to continue to make the strongest possible contribution to our communities.

Please let us know what we can do to support you in protecting Dreamers and finding a permanent legislative solution to protect these bright, young Americans.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Chancellor Robert J. Jones

Indiana University
President Michael A. McRobbie

University of Iowa
President J. Bruce Harreld

University of Maryland
President Wallace D. Loh

University of Michigan
President Mark Schlissel, MD, Ph.D.

Michigan State University
President Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

University of Minnesota
President Eric W. Kaler

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Chancellor Ronnie D. Green, Ph.D.

Northwestern University
President Morton Schapiro

Ohio State University
President Michael V. Drake, MD

Penn State University
President Eric J. Barron

Purdue University
Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
President Robert L. Barchi

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chancellor Rebecca Blank

UMD’s Discovery District to Host 2018 Association of University Research Parks International Conference

December 13, 2017

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland’s Discovery District, an epicenter of academic, research and economic development, will host the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) annual International Conference, Oct. 22- 26, 2018.

“The University of Maryland is very proud to act as the host for AURP’s 2018 International Conference,” said Brian Darmody, associate vice president for corporate and foundation relations at UMD, and past AURP president. “The Baltimore-Washington area is a thriving technology corridor, and the University of Maryland Discovery District is a perfect venue to demonstrate the value of research parks as the true intersections of science and innovation.”

The Discovery District has been widely recognized for its leadership in research. Most recently, UMD was awarded two Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its Greater College Park initiative, of which the Discovery District is a cornerstone. In addition, in 2015, prior to its name change, the University of Maryland Research Park was recognized as AURP’s Research Park of the Year. 

“There’s no better place than Maryland to hold the 2018 AURP International Conference,” said Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. “Our network of university research parks – coupled with nearly 75 federal labs – make Maryland a center of science, technology and innovation. In short, our state is the perfect location to explore unparalleled research facilities, expand partnerships at home and abroad, and enjoy all that Maryland has to offer.” 

“Each year our selection committee works hard to find the best locations to showcase our host parks and the incredible innovations happening across the world at university research parks,” said AURP CEO Carol Stewart. “In 2018, the University of Maryland and its Discovery District will provide ample opportunities for some of the most innovative minds in the world to experience a stellar research park and its community.”

UMD debuted the Discovery District in 2017, which encompasses more than 150 acres that stretch from Baltimore Avenue to the research-rich and metro-accessible community along River Road. The Discovery District is home to the research park formerly known as M Square, and features amenities like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and the The Art Walk. 

The Discovery District is part of UMD’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes dynamic academic spaces, a public-private research hub and vibrant downtown community. Earlier this week, the university announced that Capital One will be the first major private sector anchor to join the Discovery District with the launch of an innovation lab, which will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom—in topics like data science, technology and automation—to real-world problems and experiences.

To learn more about the Discovery District, visit https://greatercollegepark.umd.edu/discovery-district.html


University of Maryland, Capital One Partner to Drive Innovation, Fueling Talent Pipeline in Data and Machine Learning

December 12, 2017

 Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland and Capital One today announced a partnership aimed at developing a talented pipeline of students to join the workforce in areas of key national need, such as machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity.

A cornerstone of the new partnership will be the launch of an innovation lab in the university’s Discovery District. Situated along Baltimore Avenue, the lab will give UMD students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom—in topics like data science, technology and automation—to real-world problems and experiences.

Capital One has also invested $3 million through an endowment gift to help advance machine learning leadership at the university. The gift’s impact includes $2.1 million used to endow a faculty chair in the Department of Computer Science, and $900,000 to help support research and educational initiatives in machine learning, data analytics and cybersecurity. In addition, the university will collaborate with Capital One to develop academic courses offered through its First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program. 

“The opportunities that this partnership will bring to UMD will have a tremendous impact on our students’ ability to meet urgent workforce needs,” said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “This partnership will not only help attract and retain top faculty and students, but will also propel UMD to national prominence and excellence in these critically important fields.”

“We are thrilled to extend our long-standing partnership with the University of Maryland to this important initiative, which will further position the University as one of the leading academic institutions and talent hubs for machine learning, data analytics, and cyber security not only in the region, but in the nation,” said Adam Wenchel, vice president of AI and data innovation, Capital One. “At Capital One, we are steadfast in our belief that machine learning and data analytics can greatly enhance our customers’ experience, and we are proud to support the next generation of technology innovators from UMD that will continue to harness these opportunities more broadly.”

“Thanks to Capital One and Adam Wenchel, the Computer Science Department will be able to add more outstanding faculty to our machine learning and cyber security groups," said Larry Davis, professor and interim Chair, Department of Computer Science. "This partnership will provide more of our 3200 undergraduates and 250 graduate students opportunities to take specialized classes and work with machine learning and cyber security experts who will make major contributions to the field.” 

In August, the Maryland Department of Commerce, through the state’s Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative, provided the University of Maryland with $2.1 million in matching funds for its Capital One Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Science. These funds will endow an additional two professorships in the field, and will help elevate research, education and entrepreneurship activities. 

“Higher education institutions are significant economic drivers for the entire state of Maryland," said Commerce Secretary Mike Gill. "The research they conduct and the bright young minds they nurture fuel Maryland's economy and keep our state on the cutting edge of technology and discovery. We are proud to partner with the University of Maryland and look forward to seeing the fruits of the professorships for years to come.”

The University of Maryland maintains academically strong programs in data analytics, cybersecurity and machine learning, a subfield of computer science that allows analyses of and conclusions from patterns in data. Through the partnership, UMD will create FIRE research streams that focus on research problems in these fields. Each FIRE stream will be jointly designed by Capital One’s senior scientists and researchers in collaboration with UMD faculty.

“These FIRE streams will allow motivated students to gain valuable experience in tackling relevant challenges in these critical areas early in their academic careers," said FIRE Program Director Patrick Killion, Ph.D. "Capital One's commitment to and use of machine learning in their daily operations provides an opportunity that will greatly improve our program and help us produce the country's best and brightest graduates in these fields.”

The partnership between the university and Capital One is part of the university’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus, which includes creating a dynamic public-private research hub. Capital One is the first, major private sector anchor to join UMD’s Discovery District, leasing 7,500 square feet in the “Diamondback Garage”, a mixed-use development located behind The Hotel at UMD that will bring new jobs to Prince George’s County.

“We are taking a major step forward in growing the Discovery District with Capital One’s presence in a new and dynamic facility located in Diamondback Garage,” said Ken Ulman, chief strategy officer for economic development at UMD. “This means more jobs for Greater College Park, more vibrancy in our surrounding communities, and a new model for how the University can engage private sector partners.”  

As a historically data-driven company, Capital One continuously seeks opportunities to create breakthrough consumer experiences through new technologies. The company’s Center for Machine Learning, which is home to several leading machine learning experts, focuses on the hiring and empowering of data scientists and the centralization of knowledge in a rapidly changing business industry. Along with the University of Maryland, the group has developed strategic partnerships with marquee universities across the country to attract and retain the best data science and machine learning talent. This builds on Capital One’s existing partnership with UMD as the university’s banking partner and generous supporter of Maryland Athletics. 

UMD and NASA Join Forces to Improve Global Food Security through Satellite Data

December 8, 2017

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Inbal Becker-Reshef, Ph.D. from the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Geographical Sciences has been selected by NASA to lead a new multidisciplinary consortium dedicated to enhancing the use of satellite data for improving food security and agriculture around the world. The Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium (EOFSAC) will combine the expertise of more than 40 partners to advance the adoption of Earth observations in informing decisions affecting the global food supply. The consortium will partner with NASA’s Food Security Office at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC), strengthening the long-standing collaboration between GSFC and the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences (GEOG). 

EOFSAC image“Events such as food price spikes and food shortages related to severe weather illustrate the risks associated with knowledge gaps around food production and supply,” explained Becker-Reshef, Associate Research Professor and co-lead of UMD’s Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research (CGAMR). “Satellite data can help identify areas vulnerable to things like drought, flooding and fire, as well as variability in soil, crop conditions and yield status. The goal of this new consortium is to get this data into the hands of more people making decisions about agriculture and food production.”

The EOFSAC’s core objectives are to enhance the use of Earth observations by key decision- and policymakers, which can:

  • increase food security and resilience
  • reduce food price volatility and vulnerability
  • improve awareness and understanding of the applications of NASA’s and other satellite data products by users from a wide range of sectors. 

NASA awarded the EOFSAC a total of $14.5 million over a five-year period through its Research Opportunities in Earth and Space Science (ROSES) grant program. The consortium aligns with NASA’s priority to make its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues such as food security, changing freshwater availability and human health. It will also constitute NASA’s contribution to the G20-GEOGLAM initiative, with which faculty members from UMD GEOG are significantly involved. 

“NASA’s observations of Earth’s complex natural environment are critical to understanding the global food system. Through this partnership, NASA is interested in how uses of remote sensing data can enhance organizations’ planning and operations, and support broader food security assessments, commodity pricing, risk assessments and policy analysis,” said Dr. Christa Peters-Lidard, Deputy Director for Hydrosphere, Biosphere and Geophysics in the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Through this innovative effort, UMD is partnering with top researchers, humanitarian aid organizations, economists, policymakers, agribusiness, defense and intelligence specialists, high-tech companies, financial experts, and other disciplines and sectors. Collaborators include other U.S. institutions such as UC Santa Barbara, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, University of Vermont, USAID, USDA; and a range of international organizations, UN organizations, NGOs, and ministries in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, and Canada.

“The UMD Department of Geographical Sciences is uniquely qualified and deeply honored to lead this innovative program that will harness expertise from around the world to develop new solutions to challenges facing the global food supply,” said Dr. Chris Justice, Chair of the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences and scientific lead for the EOFSAC. “Providing decision-makers with access to timely, objective, accurate and actionable information can strengthen food security, market stability and human livelihoods.”

In addition to Becker-Reshef and Justice, members of the UMD Geographical Sciences team leading the EOFSAC include: Alyssa Whitcraft, Alona Bunning, Matt Hansen, Sergii Saskum, Mike Humber, Brian Barker, Christina Justice, Ritvik Sahajpal, Indrani Kommareddy, Belen Franch, Jean Claude Roger, Varaprasad Bandaru, Cesar Izzauralde, Estefania Puricelli, Catherine Nakalembe, and Mark Sullivan.

Learn more about the EOFSAC and the NASA Food Security Initiative.



UMD Professor Receives $1M from USDA NIFA to Increase Poultry Yield and Advance Animal Well-Being

December 6, 2017

Samantha Watters, 301-405-2434

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Professor Tom Porter, Ph.D. has been awarded two grants, totaling $1M, from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) to explore ways to increase poultry yield and meat production while improving the lives of the animals. Additionally, Porter will examine the natural growth hormone processes and resistance to heat stress caused by severe weather patterns. 

“By 2050, the world will be in the wake of a large food shortage,” explained Porter, professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences. “To meet the demand of a growing population and combat hunger, it is anticipated that meat production alone will have to increase 43 to 47 percent across the board, with little to no new land or space for meat production. This presents a major food crisis.”

Porter has been studying the mechanisms behind natural growth hormone production in poultry for 27 years, with consistent federal funding for his work. His research has explored what controls production of the bird’s own growth hormone, when it begins, how to target the DNA to control growth hormone production, and what cellular mechanisms are involved. Porter will use the grant from USDA NIFA’s Animal Nutrition, Growth, and Lactation Program to continue this research. 

“If there is no new land for meat production, the best way to meet our agricultural and food supply needs is through more efficient and effective growth,” said Dr. Porter. 

By inducing the natural growth hormone production process a little earlier in chick development, critical parameters like body weight, yield, composition and feed efficiency (or the amount of feed needed to produce a pound of meat) may be improved, providing more insight into these mechanisms. 

In addition, funding from USDA NIFA’s Animal Well-Being Program will support a new research project. To improve animal welfare, well-being, and overall poultry production, Porter will use the grant to develop a protocol to easily condition chicks to better handle heat waves as adult birds. Chickens begin to exhibit significant heat stress at sustained temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. With the ever increasing extremes in our global climate, heat waves with prolonged temperatures over 95 degrees are increasingly common. Significant heat stress not only causes the birds to suffer, but often leads to premature death on a large scale. Eggs are normally incubated at 99.5 degrees, and chicks are kept at 92 degrees thereafter. Exposing chicks to 100-degree heat for an additional day when they are young, reduces heat stress and mortality rates by 50 percent.  What is not understood is how this mechanism works, how this affects poultry production and overall yield, and if the protocol can be optimized with more or less conditioning.

“I am a physiologist, and really an endocrinologist, so understanding the mechanisms that regulate hormones and stress is what I enjoy,” said Porter. “But everything we do is to improve the well-being and lives of the animals themselves and to ultimately improve poultry production. That is the key to this work.”  

Quantum Computing Moves Forward with Record Setting UMD-NIST 53 Qubit Quantum Simulator

November 30, 2017

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291
Lee Tune, 301-405-4679 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A team of scientists from the University of Maryland (UMD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created a quantum simulator using 53 interacting atomic qubits to mimic magnetic quantum matter. Prior to this breakthrough, leading researchers had only created quantum simulators of 20 qubits or less.

Artist's depiction of quantum simulation. Lasers manipulate an array of over 50 atomic qubits in order to study the dynamics of quantum magnetism

Quantum simulators are a restricted type of quantum computer that use qubits to mimic complex quantum matter. By deploying 53 individual ytterbium ions—charged atoms trapped in place by gold-coated and razor-sharp electrodes—the UMD-NIST quantum simulator is on the cusp of exploring physics that is unreachable by even the fastest modern supercomputers. 

The building of qubit simulators is a key step in efforts to build a full-fledged quantum computer capable of tackling any complex computational problem. And, according to the UMD-NIST team, adding even more qubits is just a matter of lassoing more atoms into the mix. 

“We are continuing to refine our system, and we think that soon, we will be able to control 100 ion qubits, or more,” said Jiehang Zhang, a postdoctoral researcher in the UMD Department of Physics, and the lead author of a paper about the team’s 53 qubit quantum simulator that appears in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.  “At that point, we can potentially explore difficult problems in quantum chemistry or materials design.” 

The UMD-NIST paper appears in Nature together with a complementary paper on a previously announced 51 qubit quantum simulator designed by Harvard and MIT researchers that uses rubidium atoms confined by an array of laser beams. 

“Each ion qubit is a stable atomic clock that can be perfectly replicated,” said UMD team lead Christopher Monroe, a Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Bice Sechi-Zorn Professor at UMD, and co-founder and chief scientist of IonQ Inc., a UMD-based quantum computing startup company. “They are effectively wired together with external laser beams. This means that the same device can be reprogrammed and reconfigured, from the outside, to adapt to any type of quantum simulation or future quantum computer application that comes up.”  

Monroe, who is also a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science, has been one of the early pioneers in quantum computing and the UMD-NIST quantum simulator is part of a blueprint for a general-purpose quantum computer.  

Quantum hardware for a quantum problem 

While modern, transistor-driven computers are great for crunching their way through many problems, they can screech to a halt when dealing with more than 20 interacting quantum objects. That’s certainly the case for quantum magnetism, in which the interactions can lead to magnetic alignment or to a jumble of competing interests at the quantum scale. 

“What makes this problem hard is that each magnet interacts with all the other magnets,” said UMD research scientist Zhexuan Gong, lead theorist and a co-author of the study. “With the 53 interacting quantum magnets in this experiment, there are over a quadrillion possible magnet configurations, and this number doubles with each additional magnet. Simulating this large-scale problem on a conventional computer is extremely challenging, if at all possible.” 

When these calculations hit a wall, a quantum simulator may help scientists push the envelope on difficult problems. Qubits are isolated and well-controlled quantum systems that can be in a combination of two or more states at once. Qubits come in different forms, and atoms—the versatile building blocks of everything—are one of the leading choices for making qubits. In recent years, scientists have controlled 10 to 20 atomic qubits in small-scale quantum simulations. 

Currently, tech industry behemoths, startups and university researchers are in a fierce race to build prototype quantum computers that can control even more qubits. But qubits are delicate and must stay isolated from the environment to protect the device’s quantum nature. With each added qubit, this protection becomes more difficult, especially if qubits are not identical from the start, as is the case with fabricated circuits. This is one reason that atoms are an attractive choice that can dramatically simplify the process of scaling up to large-scale quantum machinery.  

An atomic advantage 

Unlike the integrated circuitry of modern computers, atomic qubits reside inside of a room-temperature vacuum chamber that maintains a pressure similar to outer space. This isolation is necessary to keep the destructive environment at bay, and it allows the scientists to precisely control the atomic qubits with a highly engineered network of lasers, lenses, mirrors, optical fibers and electrical circuitry.  

“The principles of quantum computing differ radically from those of conventional computing, so there’s no reason to expect that these two technologies will look anything alike,” said Monroe. 

“Quantum simulations are widely believed to be one of the first useful applications of quantum computers. After perfecting these quantum simulators, we can then implement quantum circuits and eventually quantum-connect many such ion chains together to build a full-scale quantum computer with a much wider domain of applications,” said study co-author Alexey Gorshkov, a NIST theoretical physicist, JQI and QuICS fellow, and adjunct assistant professor in the UMD Department of Physics.

Photo: Artist's depiction of quantum simulation. Lasers manipulate an array of over 50 atomic qubits in order to study the dynamics of quantum magnetism. Photo credit: E.Edwards/JQI.