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Top Decision Makers, Experts Join UMD Researchers to Broaden the Cybersecurity Conversation

April 12, 2019

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The speed and complexity of tech innovation—from 5G networks to the prevalence of artificial intelligence—will require more sophisticated and holistic safeguards, according to cybersecurity experts who gathered last week at the University of Maryland’s first Executive Cybersecurity Summit. The first-of-its kind, three-day event assembled over 125 high-level private sector executives, senior policymakers, government leaders and academic researchers, for a broad conversation including not just technical issues but also often-overlooked intricacies of cyber threats, such as human behavior and economic impacts.

“It takes partnerships that span sectors and disciplines to understand a growing threat of this magnitude and complexity,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Academia already plays a unique role in fostering these partnerships. It’s one of the reasons for convening this summit.”

Sponsored by the University of Maryland’s Office of the Provost, the Executive Cybersecurity Summit was organized by the University’s Maryland Global Initiative for Cybersecurity (MaGIC), a campus entity that promotes and coordinates efforts across the University of Maryland to expand cyber education, research and development activities. The summit was designed to fill a critical gap in the ongoing conversation on cybersecurity by bringing the challenges facing the public and private sector to the research community, and explore not just the technical challenges of cybersecurity, but the tech-induced impacts relevant to organizational leaders.

“I think that the activities and pressures on the ground are so demanding that the public and private sectors have a tendency to move too fast to solve the immediate problem, when actually the problem is much more involved,” says Keith Marzullo, dean of UMD’s iSchool. “That need to move quickly limits their ability to think more deeply. And that’s where we can come in.”

Speakers included Rick Ledgett, former deputy director of the National Security Agency; Grant Schneider, federal chief information security officer and senior director of cybersecurity of the National Security Council; Jon Darby, director of operations for the National Security Agency; Major General Linda Singh, Adjutant General of Maryland; Curt Dukes, VP and GM of CIS; Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland’s 2nd District; and Debora Plunkett, former director of the NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate.

Many of the experts stressed the urgency for building the professional workforce on all sides of the cyber issue to include law, public policy, communications and enterprise. Schneider pointed to engagement with both cyber and non-cyber staff as critical to risk management.

“Developing that workforce is one of the most critical things we need to do,” he said. “We need more cybersecurity professionals, we need more STEM, people who can hopefully solve all of these cybersecurity challenges for us. We also need more lawyers and people who can translate what the technicians are talking about, and those who understand the business mission and values. We need a far more nuanced conversation between CEOs and CISOs.”  

Speakers also listed a variety of factors—including fledgling technologies, knowledge and communication gaps, even national and regional emergencies—that compromise security and information by offering more points of entry for cyber hackers and nation-states. Singh touched on the Baltimore riots following the death of Freddie Gray, which cyber attackers attempted to exploit to access the state’s systems. That experience was the impetus, she said, for revolutionizing the Maryland National Guard’s cybersecurity system.

“You need to gather the experts but also give them the space create and innovate,” she said.

Research also plays an important role in studying the interconnection of systems and in understanding how they can make us vulnerable. Ledgett pointed to emerging technologies and techniques such machine learning as areas not well-tested or understood in today’s threat environment. Facial recognition in particular, which is poised to change everything from how we buy things to how we travel, is particularly vulnerable.

“I’ve had colleagues tell me that it will take a cybersecurity breach equivalent to Pearl Harbor to change the game,” said Ledgett. “I think that the work that institutions like the University of Maryland and folks in the private sector can do is essential to making that not be the case.”

MaGIC’s Executive Director Daniel Ennis said he expects the summit to be an annual event at the University of Maryland, possibly bridged with a series of lectures that explore a deeper range of topics connected to the cyber issue.

 “Ultimately a lot of these solutions are going to come from the private sector and academia and the research it develops,” he said.


Professor Gives UMD $750K to Support Campus Makerspaces in New Brendan Iribe Center and Across Campus

April 11, 2019

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Bill Pugh, an entrepreneur and UMD emeritus professor of computer science, has donated $750,000 to the University of Maryland to support use of a large makerspace in the new Brendan Iribe (ee-REEB’) Center for Computer Science and Engineering and to fund efforts to coordinate use of the numerous other makerspaces around campus.

A pioneer in programming languages and software engineering, Pugh taught at Maryland for nearly a quarter century and became a successful entrepreneur. For the last several years, he’s been a passionate booster and fundraiser for the new Brendan Iribe Center.

“The Iribe Center was designed as an environment to encourage students to be inventive, to think about what they can do with technology and to partner with people outside their disciplines,” Pugh said. “They’ll come here, see research with drones and robots, art projects infused with technology–all done by students—and they’ll be excited to get involved.”

Pugh’s gift includes $500,000 to staff and operate the Jagdeep Singh Family makerspace in the Brendan Iribe Center.  This 5,300-square-foot makerspace, affectionately called the Singh Sandbox, is supported by a $1 million donation from alum Jagdeep Singh ’86 and Roshni Singh. The nickname is a nod to UMD’s first Sandbox makerspace that opened in 2016 in the Computer Science Instructional Center.

The Singh Sandbox will be guided by the interests of students from any major, who will be able make something even if it’s unrelated to research or a class. Consisting of a large, open collaboration area and six workshops on the first floor, the Sandbox provides specialized equipment that isn’t available elsewhere on campus except to students and researchers in specific departments. The facilities include two laser cutters, a fully equipped wood shop, a large-format printer, a vinyl cutter, a metal milling machine, two types of 3D printers, an advanced electronics fabrication and analysis shop, sewing machines, hot glue guns, a button maker and more.

“It’s so important for students to gain experience beyond the traditional computer science curriculum that is often focused on software,” Jagdeep Singh said. “Makerspaces are a wonderful way for students to work with tangible hardware and apply real-life problem-solving skills to create something in the real world.”

In addition, Pugh and his wife, Lisa Orange, are donating $250,000 to support coordination of campus makerspacesdesignated areas for students to invent and create that are supported and equipped by different units on campus. This gift will support the compiling of data about makerspace resources on campus and development of infrastructure, documentation and programming for the campus maker community. The funds will be administered by Terrapin Works, a collection of digital manufacturing resources/spaces provided to the campus and beyond. Terrapin Works is managed by the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Makerspaces also are available in, and run by, other units such as the Department of Physics, University Libraries and the College of Information Studies.  

Pugh and Orange have been strong supporters of innovation in computer science education over the years, donating nearly $1.5 million to UMD, including to fund the original Sandbox in the Computer Science Instructional Center. Pugh said that makerspaces are important because teaching students about innovation and entrepreneurship means giving them the skills to turn an idea into a reality.

“You have to figure out if building your idea is feasible, and what technology you should use,” he said. “You bounce it off other people. Maybe you start implementing it and find it isn’t going to work, or maybe the technology works but it just isn’t compelling, so you pivot. And you keep pivoting until you eventually come up with something that’s either useful to you or wows your friends and family.”

Statement from President Wallace D. Loh on passing of Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch – April 7, 2019

April 7, 2019

Statement from President Wallace D. Loh on passing of Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch – April 7, 2019

My deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of Michael Busch, the longest-serving House Speaker in our State's history, whose advocacy for education, health care, gun safety, and the environment helped improve the lives of all Marylanders. Flags on campus will fly at half-staff as directed by Governor Larry Hogan.

The Speaker’s legacy of public service will endure for generations.

Maryland Athletics Announces Members of its Inaugural Athletic Medicine Review Board

April 4, 2019

Jessica Jennings, 301-314-1482

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland Athletics announced today the formation of an Athletic Medicine Review Board (AMRB), which will allow independent review of student-athlete health and welfare policies and best practices. The board will be led by national sports medicine expert Rod Walters and comprised of experts from across the athletic, medical and legal professions.  

“Our mission is to ensure that every single student-athlete at the University of Maryland receives the best possible care,” said Athletic Director Damon Evans.“I am grateful that this distinguished group will bring their expertise to reviewing our practices across the full spectrum of student-athlete care and well-being as part of our commitment to ensuring that best practices and policies are adhered to every day on our campus.”

“I appreciate the University of Maryland’s full embrace of the recommendations made last fall, and look forward to continuing to work with them in support of the well-being of their student-athletes,” said Walters. “This board will bring some of the most insightful professionals from across the country to College Park to further work with current staff specific to best practices and current standards.”

The board will consist of the following members: athletic trainers Ron Courson, University of Georgia, Cynthia “Sam” Booth, and Mark Laursen, Boston University; retired orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Robert Peele; strength coach Scott Bennett, Radford University; nutritionist Jennifer Brunelli, Carolina Panthers & Roush Fenway Racing; team physician Dr. Matt Leiszler, Notre Dame; operations management expert Sean Barnes, University of Maryland; and Trooper/Flight Paramedic Ed Strapp, Maryland State Police. 

Their expertise spans the field including athletics, athletic training, physicians, injury prevention and sports performance, legal, and medical ethics. Members of the board will serve for a three-year term and meet annually.

The formation of the AMRB fulfills a recommendation outlined in the external safety review led by Walters that was completed last fall following the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair. With today’s announcement, Maryland Athletics has completed 19 of the 20 recommendations from the Walters Report, with work underway on the final recommendation.  

Walters is CEO of Walters Inc. and has worked in athletic training for nearly 40 years. He served as the University of South Carolina’s Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine before launching his own firm in 2007. A member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, Dr. Walters served on their Board of Directors from 1997 to 2003. He received the NATA's Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer in 2003 and was inducted into the NATA's Hall of Fame in 2005. He is also a member of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.   

Barnes is an Assistant Professor of Operations Management in the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and his research interests include infectious disease modeling, healthcare analytics, agent-based modeling and simulation, machine learning, and data visualization.

Bennett has over 25 years of experience in the strength and conditioning field, currently serving as Radford University’s head strength and conditioning coach, after spending time at Virginia Tech, James Madison, University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Wyoming and Marshall University. Bennett is accredited as a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCCa) since 2006 and has served time on the CSCCa Board of Directors. He was the first strength coach to be invited as an ex officio member of the NCAA Committee for Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

Booth was a certified athletic trainer for 36 years before retiring her credential in 2017, holding positions at the University of Kansas, West Virginia University and Minnesota State University – Moorhead. She worked as a healthcare administrator for twelve years and has thirty-five years of university teaching experience. She retired in January 2018 only to re-enter the workforce as an Interim Academic Advisor at The College at Brockport in New York, but will return to retirement status at the end of this academic year. She has been a member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association for over 40 years; inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2006; and awarded the "Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer" Award in 2002.  

Brunelli is a 7-time All American swimmer and Hall of Fame athlete who is the owner of RDpro, LLC, a nutrition consulting business in North Carolina and is in her seventh year with the Carolina Panthers as the sports dietitian working directly with the players as well as serving as the sports dietitian for the NASCAR team, Roush Fenway Racing. Brunelli also serves as the sports nutritionist for LEAD, a female Olympian run business that stands to help young female athletes gain leadership skills and confidence in and out of their sport.

Courson has served as Director of Sports Medicine with the University of Georgia Athletic Association since 1995 and before that working at the University of Alabama, Samford University and with the U.S. Olympic Team. Courson has also spent time as the president of the SEC Sports Medicine Committee, chairman of the College and University Athletic Trainers' Committee of the National Athletic Trainers' Association and as a member of the NCAA Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports committee. He was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2013.

Laursen is currently the Director of Athletic Training Services at Boston University, having spent the past 11 years in this role, while also teaching as a Clinical Associate Professor of Athletic Training in BU's Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Laursen has contributed to several publications, made more than 100 presentations, and currently is a reviewer for the Journal of Athletic Training, and Athletic Training Education Journal. In 2007, he was named NCAA Division IAA National Head Athletic Trainer of the Year.

Leiszler is the head football team physician at the University of Notre Dame. Leiszler graduated from Harvard University in 2003 with a degree in biology. He was a varsity letter-winning running back on the football team while at Harvard. He finished medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 2008.He completed both a residency in Family Medicine and a fellowship in Sports Medicine at the University of Colorado, and was faculty at the University of Colorado Hospital prior to Notre Dame.  

Peele served as theTeam Orthopedist and Chief Physician for the University of South Carolina Athletic Department from 1983 to 2001. He attended medical school at Wake Forest University’s Bowman Gray School of Medicine; completed his residency in orthopaedics at the Medical University of South Carolina; and and completed his sports medicine fellowship under the legendary Dr. Jack Hughston.   

Strapp is currently a Trooper/Flight Paramedic for the Maryland State Police and has served in various roles as an athletic trainer and paramedic for more than 20 years. He is also a certified athletic trainer and flight paramedic who regularly presents on the emergency care aspect of athletic training at local, regional and national conferences.

UMD Launches Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing

April 2, 2019

Abby Vogel Robinson, 301-405-5845

Jan with Comp Sci Connect StudentsCOLLEGE PARK, Md.--The University of Maryland (UMD) announced today the creation of the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing. With a $1 million gift from Brendan Iribe (ee-REEB’), UMD alumnus and co-founder of the virtual reality company Oculus, the Initiative aims to increase diversity and foster a stronger environment of inclusion in the university’s Department of Computer Science.

The new funding will support the following programs for UMD students: tutoring for required introductory computer science classes, computing-related student organization activities, a computer science inclusion speaker seminar series and funding to attend computing conferences. The Initiative will also support after-school programs and summer camps for elementary through high school students from all backgrounds.

The Initiative will expand on the successes of the Maryland Center for Women in Computing (MCWIC)—which has provided a variety of opportunities for female students at UMD and local K-12 schools to engage in computing activities since 2014—by offering programs for students of all backgrounds. 

“I’ve been very impressed by the work Jan Plane and the center have been doing to build the pipeline for women and underrepresented groups to enter computing fields,” Iribe said. “Increasing diversity and creating a culture of inclusion in the tech industry is important to me, and I know Jan and her team will use this new funding to make an even bigger impact at Maryland.”

In 2017-18, MCWIC supported over 1,400 K-12 students and nearly 250 UMD students through its programs. Following the launch of the Initiative, MCWIC will continue to provide specific programming for women and strengthen its current partnerships with national organizations, including the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) and the Building Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity (BRAID) initiative.

“We are extremely grateful for Brendan’s generosity,” said the Initiative’s director Jandelyn Plane, a principal lecturer in the Department of Computer Science who currently directs MCWIC. “It’s very motivating to have someone who shares our vision and dedication to creating an inclusive environment for everyone interested in computing.”

The new Initiative will serve as an umbrella over MCWIC and will be guided by the Department of Computer Science’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee and a new student advisory board, which will be created this spring. In addition, the department; the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS); and the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) will continue to provide support.  

“We are grateful that Brendan Iribe has chosen the University of Maryland to launch his diversity and inclusion initiative,” said Mary Ann Rankin, UMD’s Senior Vice President and Provost. “His goal to increase diversity in computer science aligns perfectly with the university's own commitment to diversity and inclusion. His gift will not only provide additional resources to our Department of Computer Science so that they can engage with underrepresented groups in this field, but his generosity will continue to impact the academic experience for all of our students.”

The Department of Computer Science, which ranks 10th in the nation according to Computer Science Rankings (csrankings.org), boasts one of the largest computer science programs in the country and the most popular undergraduate major on campus.

Thanks to the efforts of Plane and MCWIC, the number of female undergraduates in the department more than doubled over the last five years. Over 650 women are currently pursuing undergraduate degrees in computer science, making it one of the largest female computer science populations in the country. The number of underrepresented minorities in the major also increased by 50 percent during the last five years.

“With Brendan’s new gift, we will be able to continue building undergraduate and graduate education and research programs accessible to all and providing an unbeatable foundation for our future educators, scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs just like Brendan,” said Ming Lin, chair of the Department of Computer Science and holder of the Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Chair of Computer Science. “We will also be able to better resource our inclusion speaker series, which began this year and aims to to expose our students to a wide variety of research topics from leaders in the field who represent all forms of diversity.” 

Iribe’s latest gift to UMD adds to a $500,000 donation in 2017 to MCWIC, a $1 million donation in 2014 to establish the Brendan Iribe Scholarship in Computer Science, and a donation to the Andrew Reisse Memorial Scholarship in Computer Science, which was established in memory of Iribe’s friend and colleague who graduated from UMD in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics.

In 2014, Iribe also made a $30 million donation to fund construction of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, which will be dedicated in April. Located at the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Campus Drive, the 215,000-square-foot-facility houses the Department of Computer Science and UMIACS. The building includes office and program space for the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing and MCWIC, as well as six collaborative classrooms with interactive technologies and flexible seating for collaborative group work and experiential courses, 13 spacious research labs, and two seminar rooms for in-depth coverage of special topics and creative projects in multidisciplinary computing fields.

The Brendan Iribe Center’s open floor plans and common spaces filled with natural light are designed to maximize opportunities for collaboration. Informal study-break areas on every floor give students, makers and entrepreneurs space to recalibrate and engage colleagues. The ground-level, 300-seat Antonov Auditorium brings innovation out of the labs and into the public imagination through a wide range of conferences, hackathons, and lectures. In the Brendan Iribe Center’s 5,300-square-foot makerspace, students will use state-of-the-art equipment and their imaginations to create new hardware and software. The Andrew Reisse Rooftop Park offers a place to relax along with breathtaking views of UMD’s campus and downtown College Park. 

Also in the Brendan Iribe Center, UMIACS researchers will continue their efforts to solve significant scientific and societal challenges using a team-based, interdisciplinary approach. They are pursuing research in areas such as machine learning, robotics, bioinformatics and computational biology, quantum information, cybersecurity, virtual and augmented reality, health-related informatics and bioimaging, and data science. 

“Thanks to the support Brendan Iribe has provided to the University of Maryland over the past five years, we have the resources to build the pipeline and educate a more diverse group of computer scientists and conduct high-impact computing research in a new state-of-the-art building,” said CMNS Dean Amitabh Varshney.

Photo: Jan Plane with CompSci Connect students. Credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland.


About Brendan Iribe
Brendan Iribe is one of the video game industry’s most successful serial entrepreneurs and an alumnus of the University of Maryland. In 2012, he co-founded the virtual reality company Oculus, which Facebook acquired for approximately $2 billion in 2014. Iribe served as CEO of Oculus until 2016 and then departed the company in 2018. Before Oculus, Iribe served as chief product officer of Gaikai, the innovative video game streaming company, until it was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment for $380 million in July 2012. Prior to Gaikai, Iribe spent a decade as co-founder and CEO of Scaleform, the leading user interface technology provider in the video game market, which Autodesk acquired in 2011. Earlier in his career, Iribe worked as a software programmer, helping the Firaxis team develop the user interface for the award-winning Civilization IV video game. Iribe attended the University of Maryland in Fall 1997 and Spring 1998.

About the Department of Computer Science
Established in 1973, the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland educates over 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students yearly. The department’s more than 50 faculty members have been recognized with membership in the National Academy of Engineering, fellowship in professional scientific organizations including ACM and IEEE, National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development awards and Sloan Fellowships. The department, in conjunction with the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, receives over $25 million annually in external research funding.





Fungal Disease Threatens Hundreds of Amphibian Species Worldwide

March 29, 2019

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267


COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland Biology Professor Karen Lips is part of a new international study that is the first to determine the comprehensive global impact of the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis—and the news is not good. The disease, which eats away at the skin of amphibians such as frogs, toads and salamanders, has caused dramatic population declines in more than 500 amphibian species—including 90 extinctions—within the past 50 years, according to the findings.

The study by more than 40 authors was led by Australian scientists with contributions from Lips and researchers from a total of 17 other countries. They concluded that chytridiomycosis is single handedly responsible for the greatest loss of biodiversity due to a disease. The team published its findings in the March 29, 2019, issue of the journal Science.

“What’s new here is the worldwide picture of the numbers. For the first time, we’re able to look at the global scale and say how many species have been affected, how many have gone extinct and how many may have potential for recovery,” Lips said. “I’ve done detailed work in Panama, for example, while others have focused elsewhere. But this is the first study to pull all these findings together in a coordinated, methodical way.”


The researchers integrated data from a number of sources, including published and unpublished data from amphibian experts around the world and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The team found thatchytridiomycosis is present in more than 60 countries, with the most extensive losses concentrated in Australia, Central America and South America.

“Highly virulent wildlife diseases, including chytridiomycosis, are contributing to the Earth’s sixth mass extinction,” said Ben Scheele, a postdoctoral researcher at the Australian National University and the lead author of the research paper. “We’ve lost some really amazing species. Knowing what species are at risk can help target future research to develop conservation actions to prevent extinctions.”

Chytridiomycosis is caused by one of two fungal species. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, first discovered in 1998, has been documented primarily in frogs and toads, while Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, discovered in 2013, preferentially infects newts and salamanders. Of the 501 amphibian species found to be in decline, only one was directly attributable to B. salamandrivorans. The remaining 500 species declines and extinctions are linked directly to B. dendrobatidis—placing that fungal species on par with rats and cats in terms of the danger they present to other species worldwide.


The research team concluded that, although species declines peaked in the 1980s, 39 percent of the species identified in the study are still experiencing losses today. The results offer some hope, however, suggesting that 12 percent of declined species have shown some signs of recovery. This is consistent with recent work by Lips and her colleagues, which showed that some species in El Copé, Panama, had developed the ability to coexist with chytrid fungus.

“Ben and his team at the Australian National University came up with some rules of thumb to put hard numbers on estimated declines due to chytridiomycosis. They applied this method to Australia first, then got lots of researchers from around the world to help round out the global picture,” Lips said, noting that more than 40 researchers contributed to the study. “This fills in some crucial gaps, especially since the IUCN has not done a global amphibian assessment since 2004. Even then, IUCN looked at declines from a more general perspective. This method allowed us to quantify the global threat of chytrid fungus specifically.”

According to Scheele, more than 40 Australian frog species have declined in the past 30 years—including seven species that have gone extinct. Despite these losses, Scheele credited conservation programs in Australia for preventing further extinctions, in part by developing effective new reintroduction techniques. To prevent further extinctions around the world, Scheele called for improved biosecurity and wildlife trade regulation at the global scale.

“Globalization and wildlife trade are the main causes of this global pandemic and are enabling the spread of disease to continue,” Scheele said. “Humans are moving plants and animals around the world at an increasingly rapid rate, introducing pathogens into new areas. We’ve got to do everything possible to stop future pandemics, by having better control over wildlife trade around the world.”  

The research paper, “Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity,” Ben Scheele et al., was published in the March 29, 2019, issue of the journal Science.


Lips’ participation in this work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

UMD Invites Leading Government, Business & Academic Experts to Discuss “Holistic” Cyber Threat Response at Executive Cybersecurity Summit

March 29, 2019

Maggie Haslam, 202-258-8946, mhaslam@umd.edu 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The first-of-its-kind summit will bring cybersecurity experts, senior policymakers and top researchers from the University of Maryland together to address cyber impacts beyond the technical— including societal risk, calculated response, and economic implications—and explore strategies for corporate level executives to pro-actively safeguard organizations in an evolving threat landscape. Topics include: cybersecurity communication and response; identifying complex attack surfaces; securing enterprise; supply chain risk; spycraft and solicitation; challenges and opportunities of IoT and cloud leveraging advanced analytics; organizational relationships and integrated risk; implementing practical and relevant security.


WHAT: University of Maryland Executive Cybersecurity Summit

WHERE: The Hotel at the University of Maryland 

WHEN: Thursday & Friday, April 4-5, 2019. Programming to begin at 9 a.m. 


    • Wallace Loh, President, University of Maryland
    • Rick Ledgett, Former Deputy Director, National Security Agency
    • Grant Schneider, Federal Chief Information Security Officer and Senior Director of Cybersecurity Policy, National Security Council
    • Jim Rosenthal, CEO, Blue Voyant
    • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, U.S. House of Representatives
    • Curt Dukes, Executive Vice President, Center for Internet Security
    • Deborah Plunkett, Senior Fellow, Harvard Belfer Center; Former Director NSA Information Assurance Directorate 
    • Mary Ann Rankin, Senior Vice President and Provost, University of Maryland
    • Researchers and faculty from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, Computer Science, College of Journalism, School of Engineering, School of Information Studies and affiliated centers

Find the full list of speakers and summit agenda here

Media interested in attending are requested to register with the Maryland Global Initiative for Cybersecurity (MaGIC), by e-mailing mhaslam@umd.edu or calling 202-258-8946.


UMD Researchers’ Wood-based Technology Creates Electricity from Heat

March 25, 2019

Martha Heil 301-405-0876

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  A University of Maryland-led team of researchers has created a heat-to-electricity device that runs on ions and which could someday harness the body’s heat to provide energy.

Led by UMD researchers Liangbing Hu, Robert Briber and Tian Li of the department of materials science, and Siddhartha Das of mechanical engineering, the team transformed a piece of wood into a flexible membrane that generates energy from the same type of electric current (ions) that the human body runs on. This energy is generated using charged channel walls and other unique properties of the wood’s natural nanostructures. With this new wood-based technology, they can use a small temperature differential to efficiently generate ionic voltage, as demonstrated in a paper published March 25 in the journal Nature Materials. 

If you’ve ever been outside during a lightning storm, you’ve seen that generating charge between two very different temperatures is easy. But for small temperature differences, it is more difficult. However, the team says they have succesfully tackled this challenge.  Hu said they now have “demonstrated their proof-of-concept device, to harvest low-grade heat using nanoionic behavior of processed wood nanostructures”.  

Trees grow channels that move water between the roots and the leaves. These are made up of fractally-smaller channels, and at the level of a single cell, channels just nanometers or less across. The team has harnessed these channels to regulate ions.

The researchers used basswood, which is a fast-growing tree with low environmental impact. They treated the wood and removed two components – lignin, that makes the wood brown and adds strength, and hemicellulose, which winds around the layers of cells binding them together. This gives the remaining cellulose its signature flexibility.  This process also converts the structure of the cellulose from type I to type II which is a key to enhancing ion conductivity.

A membrane, made of a thin slice of wood, was bordered by platinum electrodes, with sodium-based electrolyte infiltrated into the cellulose. The regulate the ion flow inside the tiny channels and generate electrical signal. “The charged channel walls can establish an electrical field that appears on the nanofibers and thus help effectively regulate ion movement under a thermal gradient,” said Tian Li, first author of the paper. .

Liwho was named as one of Forbes "30 Under 30" in Energy in 2018said that the sodium ions in the electrolyte insert into the aligned channels, which is made possible by the crystal structure conversion of cellulose and by dissociation of the surface functional groups.

“We are the first to show that, this type of membrane, with its expansive arrays of aligned cellulose, can be used as a high-performance ion selective membrane by nanofluidics and molecular streaming and greatly extends the applications of sustainable cellulose into nanoionics,” said Li summing up their paper.

This latest work builds on, and adds to, extensive previous UMD research to develop novel and potentially high impact applications of modified wood.

UMD Researchers Create Super Wood Stronger Than Most Metals (Feb. 2018)

Wood Windows are Cooler than Glass (June 2013)

A Battery Made of Wood? (August 2016)

"Cellulose ionic conductors with high differential thermal voltage for low-grade heat harvesting," Nature Materials (2019) https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0315-6

Current affiliations for the researchers are:  

University of Maryland College Park – Tian Li, Xin Zhang, Steven D. Lacey, Ruiyu Mi, Feng Jiang, Jianwei Song, Jiaqi Dai, Yonggang Yao, Robert M. Briber & Liangbing Hu of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Guang Chen & Siddhartha Das, Department of Mechanical Engineering

University of Colorado – Xinpeng Zhao & Ronggui Yang, Department of Mechanical Engineering

University of British Columbia – Feng Jiang & Zhongqi Liu, Department of Wood Science.



UMD Scientists Create Method for Remote Detection of Radioactive Material

March 25, 2019

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Physicists at the University of Maryland have developed a powerful new method to detect radioactive material. By using an infrared laser beam to induce a phenomenon known as an electron avalanche breakdown near the material, the new technique is able to detect shielded material from a distance. The method improves upon current technologies that require close proximity to the radioactive material.

With additional engineering advancements, the method could be scaled up and used to scan trucks and shipping containers at ports of entry, providing a powerful new tool to detect concealed, dangerous radioactive material. The researchers described their proof-of-concept experiments in a research paper published March 22, 2019 in the journal Science Advances.

“Traditional detection methods rely on a radioactive decay particle interacting directly with a detector. All of these methods decline in sensitivity with distance,” said Robert Schwartz, a physics graduate student at UMD and the lead author of the research paper. “The benefit of our method is that it is inherently a remote process. With further development, it could detect radioactive material inside a box from the length of a football field.”

As radioactive material emits decay particles, the particles strip electrons from—or ionize—nearby atoms in the air, creating a small number of free electrons that quickly attach to oxygen molecules. By focusing an infrared laser beam into this area, Schwartz and his colleagues easily detached these electrons from their oxygen molecules, seeding an avalanche-like rapid increase in free electrons that is relatively easy to detect.

“An electron avalanche can start with a single seed electron. Because the air near a radioactive source has some charged oxygen molecules—even outside a shielded container—it provides an opportunity to seed an avalanche by applying an intense laser field,” said Howard Milchberg, a professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at UMD and senior author of the research paper. “Electron avalanches were among the first demonstrations after the laser was invented. This is not a new phenomenon, but we are the first to use an infrared laser to seed an avalanche breakdown for radiation detection. The laser’s infrared wavelength is important, because it can easily and specifically detach electrons from oxygen ions.”

Applying an intense, infrared laser field causes the free electrons caught in the beam to oscillate and collide with atoms nearby. When these collisions become energetic enough, they can rip more electrons away from the atoms.

“A simple view of avalanche is that after one collision, you have two electrons. Then, this happens again and you have four. Then the whole thing cascades until you have full ionization, where all atoms in the system have at least one electron removed,” explained Milchberg, who also has an appointment at UMD’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics (IREAP).

As the air in the laser’s path begins to ionize, it has a measurable effect on the infrared light reflected, or backscattered, toward a detector. By tracking these changes, Schwartz, Milchberg and their colleagues were able to determine when the air began to ionize and how long it took to reach full ionization.

The timing of the ionization process, or the electron avalanche breakdown, gives the researchers an indication of how many seed electrons were available to begin the avalanche. This estimate, in turn, can indicate how much radioactive material is present in the target.

“Timing of ionization is one of the most sensitive ways to detect initial electron density,” said Daniel Woodbury, a physics graduate student at UMD and a co-author of the research paper. “We’re using a relatively weak probe laser pulse, but it’s ‘chirped,’ meaning that shorter wavelengths pass though the avalanching air first, then longer ones. By measuring the spectral components of the infrared light that passes through versus what is reflected, we can determine when ionization starts and reaches its endpoint.”

The researchers note that their method is highly specific and sensitive to the detection of radioactive material. Without a laser pulse, radioactive material alone will not induce an electron avalanche. Similarly, a laser pulse alone will not induce an avalanche, without the seed electrons created by the radioactive material.

While the method remains a proof-of-concept exercise for now, the researchers envision further engineering developments that they hope will enable practical applications to enhance security at ports of entry across the globe.

“Right now we’re working with a lab-sized laser, but in 10 years or so, engineers may be able to fit a system like this inside a van,” Schwartz said. “Anywhere you can park a truck, you can deploy such a system. This would provide a very powerful tool to monitor activity at ports.”

In addition to Milchberg, Schwartz, and Woodbury, UMD-affiliated co-authors of the research paper include Phillip Sprangle, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering with an appointment at IREAP, and Joshua Isaacs, a physics graduate student.

The research paper, “Remote detection of radioactive material using mid-IR laser-driven avalanche breakdown,” Robert Schwartz, Daniel Woodbury, Joshua Isaacs, Phillip Sprangle and Howard Milchberg, was published in the journal Science Advances on March 22, 2019.


This work was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (Award No. HDTRA11510002), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (Award Nos. FA9550-16-10121 and FA9550-16-10259), the Office of Naval Research (Award No. N00014-17-1-2705) and the Department of Energy (Award No. DE-NA0003864). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

New Experiment Aces Quantum Scrambling Test

March 15, 2019

Chris Cesare 301-405-0824

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A research team led by scientists in the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland have implemented an experimental test for quantum scrambling, a chaotic shuffling of the information stored among a collection of quantum particles. The work has potential applications in quantum computing, and might even help reveal what occurs when quantum information gets pulled into a black hole.

Their experiments on a group of seven atomic ions demonstrate a new way to distinguish between scrambling—which maintains the amount of information in a quantum system but mixes it up—and true information loss. Published in the March 7 issue of Nature, their protocol may one day help verify the calculations of quantum computers.

“In terms of the difficulty of quantum algorithms that have been run, we’re toward the top of that list,” says Kevin Landsman, a graduate student in University of Maryland department of physics, a researcher at JQI, and lead author of the new paper. “This is a very complicated experiment to run, and it takes a very high level of control.”

The research team—also includes JQI Fellow and UMD Distinguished University Professor Christopher Monroe; JQI Fellow Norbert Linke; Caroline Figgatt, now at Honeywell; Thomas Schuster at the University of California Berkeley; Beni Yoshida at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics; and Norman Yao at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—performed their scrambling tests by carefully manipulating the quantum behavior of seven charged atomic ions using well-timed sequences of laser pulses. They found that they could correctly diagnose whether information had been scrambled throughout the system of seven atoms with about 80 percent accuracy.

“With scrambling, one particle’s information gets blended or spread out into the entire system,” Landsman says. “It seems lost, but it’s actually still hidden in the correlations between the different particles.”

Quantum scrambling is a bit like shuffling a fresh deck of cards. The cards are initially ordered in a sequence, ace through king, and the suits come one after another. Once it’s sufficiently shuffled, the deck looks mixed up, but—crucially—there’s a way to reverse that process. If you kept meticulous track of how each shuffle exchanged the cards, it would be simple (though tedious) to “unshuffle” the deck by repeating all those exchanges and swaps in reverse.

Quantum scrambling is similar in that it mixes up the information stored inside a set of atoms and can also be reversed, which is a key difference between scrambling and true, irreversible information loss.

Landsman and colleagues used this fact to their advantage in the new test by scrambling up one set of atoms and performing a related scrambling operation on a second set. A mismatch between the two operations would indicate that the process was not scrambling, causing the final step of the method to fail.

That final step relied on quantum teleportation—a method for transferring information between two quantum particles that are potentially very far apart. In the case of the new experiment, the teleportation is over modest distances—just 35 microns separates the first atom from the seventh—but it is the signature by which the team detects scrambling: If information is successfully teleported from one atom to another, it means that the state of the first atom is spread out across all of the atoms—something that only happens if the information is scrambled. If the information was lost, successful teleportation would not be possible.

For an arbitrary process whose scrambling properties might not be known, this method could be used to test whether—or even how much—it scrambles.

The experiment was originally inspired by the physics of black holes. Scientists have long pondered what happens when something falls into a black hole, especially if that something is a quantum particle. The fundamental rules of quantum physics suggest that regardless of what a black hole does to a quantum particle, it should be reversible—a prediction that seems at odds with a black hole’s penchant for crushing things into an infinitely small point and spewing out radiation. But without a real black hole to throw things into, researchers have been stuck speculating.

Quantum scrambling is one suggestion for how information can fall into a black hole and come out as random-looking radiation. Perhaps, the argument goes, it’s not random at all, and black holes are just excellent scramblers.

“Regardless of whether real black holes are very good scramblers, studying quantum scrambling in the lab could provide useful insights for the future development of quantum computing or quantum simulation,” Monroe says.

This work was supported in part by the Army Research Office (ARO) through the IARPA LogiQ program, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research through the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) on Quantum Measurement and Verification, the ARO MURI on Modular Quantum Circuits, the DOE’s  Advanced Scientific Computing Research program, and the NSF Physics Frontier Center at JQI. T. Schuster and N.Y. Yao acknowledge support from the DOE under contract PHCOMPHEP-KA24 and the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Quantum Algorithm Teams Program. Research at the Perimeter Institute is supported by the Government of Canada through Industry Canada and by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Research and Innovation. T. Schuster acknowledges support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. DGE 1752814.


Reprinted with permission from AAAS
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