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Going Green Vertically

April 22, 2013

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

ENST graduate student Scott Tjaden holds plans for the green wall he is installing on the Animal Sciences building.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Inside one of the wings of the Animal Sciences building on the University of Maryland campus, students with the Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST) are constantly researching, testing and analyzing ways to make systems more energy efficient and sustainable. But ENST graduate student Scott Tjaden (pictured right) decided his latest project would be more appropriate for the outside of the building. "What better way to show what we're learning about and what we're researching on a large scale?" says Tjaden.

About a year and a half ago, Tjaden applied for and received a grant from the university's Sustainability Fund to install a green wall on the southern side of the Animal Sciences building. Green walls, or green façade systems, are designed to reduce the sun exposure of buildings in order to cut down on energy needed to condition the interior. They can also help protect a building's exterior, provide cleaner air and promote biodiversity.

Once completed, Tjaden's project will create UMD's very first green wall. "We're hoping this will spur more green walls on campus," he says.

Green Wall DiagramConstruction began early this spring on the wall's trellis system made of tension cable and horizontal rods. Vine-based plants will be installed at the base of the wall that will grow up the trellis system. Tjaden carefully chose plants native to Maryland including passion flowers and jasmine, incorporating school colors into his design. He also plans to create a butterfly garden at the bottom of the structure to make it more aesthetically pleasing. A group of five undergraduate students are assisting Tjaden as part of a capstone project.

Additionally, the green wall and one of the existing brick walls will both be equipped with monitoring devices. This will allow Tjaden to collect and compare data on temperature and energy fluxes between the two surfaces. He also plans to display that data on a TV monitor live inside the building's lobby. "This will extend the passing students' and visitors' knowledge of the system and they can see by the numbers how the system benefits buildings," says Tjaden.

Although Tjaden plans to have the plants installed at the green wall by Maryland Day, April 27, it will be a couple of years before the surface is completely grown in. Tjaden is set to graduate with his master's degree next May but hopes his efforts will inspire other students to take over his green wall project or, create their own.

Mourning the Loss of UMD Alum Jack Kay

April 22, 2013

Monique Everette, 301-405-6714

From the College of Arts and Humanities

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland is saddened by the death of Jack Kay, a distinguished alumnus and benefactor.  A 1947 Maryland graduate, Mr. Kay lived in Chevy Chase, Md. and Palm Beach, Fla. He was 87 years old.

With his father, Abraham S. Kay, Jack pioneered development of the Maryland suburbs after World War II, including such communities as Kemp Mill Village. In his own right, Jack Kay became a business and community leader and a dedicated philanthropist. His business interests included a real estate management firm, Kay Management.

During his life, Jack Kay was recognized with a number of prestigious community awards. At the University of Maryland, his philanthropic legacy is reflected in the academic programs, scholarships and facilities he made possible.

More than five years ago, he endowed the Abraham S. and Jack Kay Chair in Israel Studies to further an understanding of the cultural, historical and social dynamics of life in Israel, as well as to honor his father’s personal commitment to Jewish education.  He furthered his own educational commitment by funding the Jack Kay Program in Advanced Israel Studies.

For decades, he helped support the Banneker Key Scholars Program, the University’s most prestigious academic award for undergraduates.  Each year, his endowment provides a merit-based scholarship award for an outstanding student in the Banneker Key Program.

His support for the University’s state-of-the-art performance center is recognized in the naming of the proscenium theatre that bears his name, and the name of his late wife, Ina.




Bat and Rat Brain Rhythms Differ When on the Move

April 18, 2013

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

A big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, flying in the University of Maryland’s Auditory Neuroethology laboratory. Photo credit: Jessica Nelson, University of MarylandCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - To get a clear picture of how humans and other mammals form memories and find their way through their surroundings, neuroscientists must pay more attention to a broad range of animals rather than focus on a single model species, say two University of Maryland researchers, Katrina MacLeod and Cynthia Moss. Their new comparative study of bats and rats reports differences between the species that suggest the need to revise models of spatial navigation.

In a paper appearing in the April 19, 2013 issue of Science, the UMD researchers and two colleagues at Boston University reported significant differences between rats’ and bats’ brain rhythms when certain cells were active in a part of the brain used in memory and navigation.

These cells behaved as expected in rats, which mostly move along surfaces. But in bats, which fly, the continuous brain rhythm did not appear, said Moss, a professor in Psychology and Biology and the Institute for Systems Research.

The finding suggests that even though rats, bats, humans and other mammals share a common neural representation of space in a part of the brain that has been linked to spatial information and memory, they may have different cellular mechanisms to create or interpret those maps, said MacLeod, an assistant research scientist in Biology.

“To understand brains, including ours, we really must study neural activity in a variety of animals,” MacLeod said. “Common features across multiple species tell us ‘Aha, this is important,’ but differences can occur because of variances in the animals’ ecology, behavior, or evolutionary history.”

The research team focused on a brain region that contains specialized “grid cells,” so named because they form a hexagonal grid of activity related to the animal’s location as it navigates through space. This brain region, the medial entorhinal cortex, sits next to the hippocampus, the place that, in humans, forms memories of events such as where a car is parked. The medial entorhinal cortex acts as a hub of neural networks for memory and navigation.

Grid cells were first noticed in rats navigating their environment, but recent work by Nachum Ulanovsky (Moss’s former postdoctoral researcher at UMD) and his research team at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, has shown these cells exist in bats as well.

In rats, grid cells fire in a pattern called a theta wave when the animals spatially navigate. Theta waves are fairly low-frequency electrical oscillations that also have been observed at the cellular level in the medial entorhinal cortex. The prominence of theta waves in rats suggested they were important. As a result, neuroscientists, trying to understand the relationship between theta waves and grid cells, have developed models of the brain based on the assumption that theta waves are key to spatial navigation in mammals.

However, Moss said, “recordings from the brains of bats navigating in space contain a surprise, because the expected theta rhythms aren’t continuously present as they are in the rodent.”

The new Science study doubles down on the lack of theta in bats by reporting that theta rhythms also are not present at the cellular level. “The bat neurons don’t ‘ring’ the way the rat neurons do,” says MacLeod. “This raises a lots of questions as to whether theta rhythms are actually doing what the spatial navigation theory proposes in rats or even humans.”

UMD, Xerox Seek to Improve Mobile Document Scanning

April 18, 2013

Tom Ventsias 301-405-5933

David Doermann, senior research scientists in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland computer scientist has begun collaborating with researchers at a leading document management corporation to advance high-quality mobile scans of business, legal or personal documents.

David Doermann (pictured right), a senior research scientist in the university's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), and Raja Bala, a principal research scientist in the Xerox Research Center Webster facility near Rochester, N.Y., are combining their expertise in document imaging to design next-generation scanning tools that are easy to use and computationally efficient.

The research is funded in part by a $30,000 gift, renewable for three years, from the Xerox Foundation. 

While today's optical character recognition technology is very good for cleanly scanned images, attempting to replicate such success with mobile devices is still a significant challenge, Doermann says. Many handheld users have problems visually framing the document, with their captured images often suffering from poor lighting, blurring and/or optical scaling.

Doermann and Bala plan to apply recent advances in computational photography—where a camera can take multiple images simultaneously, each having a different field of depth or light-setting that are immediately merged together—to overcome these problems in the document domain.

A UMD computer scientist is working with a document-imaging specialist at Xerox to improve the capabilities of mobile scanning devices like smartphones.Traditional flatbed scanners often don't need the intricacy of computational photography, says Bala, because documents are normally properly placed on the scanner and are well illuminated.

But with many smartphones having somewhat limited camera quality and computing power—and their users having differing skill levels—the challenge for the UMD/Xerox team is to scale the sophistication of computational photography to a small device. Applications might include a landlord scanning a lease for a tenant, a graduate student e-delivering a research paper on time or a 9-year-old sending his grandparents a hand-drawn holiday greeting.

"Ultimately, we want a handheld product that can offer legal-quality reproductions, yet is also very reliable and affordable, and provides a positive user experience," says Doermann, who leads the Laboratory for Language and Media Processing in UMIACS.

Students Show "Do Good" Spirit at Challenge Finals

April 17, 2013

Jennifer Talhelm 301-405-4390

Do Good ChallengeCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Five finalist teams of University of Maryland students showed off their philanthropic and innovative thinking last week during the annual Do Good Challenge. Students participating in the challenge – modeled after "American Idol" – organized volunteers and raised money and awareness for charitable causes, with the winners receiving $5,000 to support their cause.

During Wednesday's showdown, the finalist teams had five minutes to pitch their causes to a panel of celebrity judges, including acclaimed television star Fran Drescher and nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. Melanie Schnoll Begun, managing director and head of philanthropy management at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, also joined them on the judging panel.

Chosen for their impact, leverage and creativity, this year's winners were:

  • First place: Argentine Terps, which, sparked by the Do Good Challenge, organized the first fundraising and awareness campaign for Fundacion Microjusticia Argentina, a group co-founded by a UMD student and composed of dedicated young lawyers who provide legal aid to residents in the slums of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Second place: R.I.S.E. (Rise. Rally. Smile. Entertain), a new student group launched for the Do Good Challenge that connects various homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers with student entertainment groups to improve conditions and raise awareness about the issue of homelessness.
  • Third place: Operation CHAMPS, a group founded by a UMD student who co-authored a book for children in military families (Little Champs) and leveraged the Do Good Challenge to launch Operation Champs and create corporate, community, and campus partnerships that provide a number of free services for military families.

The first place winner, Argentine Terps, was founded by Juan Bellocq, a master's student at the UMD School of Public Policy. Bellocq developed the Argentine Terps campaign, called Making the Invisible Visible, to help expand Microjusticia Argentina. He and fellow Argentinian Fernando Saltiel, who graduated from UMD's public policy master's program in 2012, built a website and raised awareness and more than $8,758 through social media, word of mouth, and by leveraging support from the Argentinian community in Washington, D.C., and from individuals in Argentina. He hopes to use the $5,000 award to continue to expand Microjusticia Argentina.

Bellocq said the group was dedicated to giving a voice to residents of Buenos Aires's slums. "It's about getting rid of that prejudice that if you are in the slum you are a drug dealer or a criminal," he said.  The reward is "seeing that you need them and they need you – and that you are members of the same society."
The Do Good Challenge competition was launched last year by the UMD School of Public Policy's Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership.  During the competition period, between Feb. 4 and March 24, student participants mobilized thousands of volunteers and donations for causes across campus, around the community and even across the globe. 
The competition is part of an innovative new approach to encouraging social innovation and entrepreneurship and fostering a culture of philanthropy on campus.
"This competition and the growing philanthropic curriculum behind it, are at the very heart of an important lesson we are committed to teaching our students: Use your skills, talent, passion and education to give back to others," UMD Presdient Wallace Loh said. "My goal is to have every student have an innovation or social entrepreneurship experience before graduating from the university. I am deeply proud of the fine, caring work of all the students who took part in this marvelous competition."
Additional information about the Challenge is available at

UMD's START Issues History of Terrorism Report

April 16, 2013

Jessica Rivinius 301-405-6632

University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In light of the series of bombs that exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on April 15, the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has compiled data on the history of terrorism in Boston, Mass., terrorist usage of coordinated attacks in the United States, and terrorist attacks at previous marathons around the world.

The START Background Report is available for download at

Quick facts from the report:

  • There have been 2,362 terrorist attacks in the United States between 1970 and 2011
  • Sixteen terrorist attacks have occurred in Boston since 1970, but only three since 1990.
  • Boston has been the 14th most frequently targeted U.S. city by terrorists in the past 40 years.
  • There have been two fatal terrorist attacks in Boston since 1970, both classified as assassinations.
  • Historically, each U.S. terrorist attack has resulted in 3.3 casualties on average. Excluding the 9/11 attacks, the average number of casualties per U.S. attack drops to 1.4 casualties per attack.
  • There have been 28 terrorist attacks in the United States since 1970 known to have resulted in more than 10 casualties.
  • Of the 2,362 attacks in the United States between 1970 and 2011, 300 qualify as part of a multiple attack.

To arrange an interview on these topics with a START terrorism expert, contact Jessica Rivinius at 301-405-6632 or

New Report Shows Terrorism is Top of Mind in U.S.

April 15, 2013

National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)COLLEGE PARK, Md. – More Americans think about terrorist attacks than violent crime victimization or hospitalization, according to a new report published by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), headquartered at the University of Maryland. A new study reveals that about 15 percent of those surveyed had thought about the prospect of terrorism in the United States during the preceding week, significantly more than the percentage who said they thought about the possibility of hospitalization (10 percent) or violent crime victimization (10 percent).

Furthermore, almost a quarter of those who said they had thought about terrorism reported that it made them extremely or very worried. 

The survey and resulting report, "U.S. Attitudes towards Terrorism and Counterterrorism," aim to provide baseline information about beliefs and attitudes on terrorism and counterterrorism in the U.S. A research brief on the report is available for download.

"Improved understanding of public attitudes can inform programs and tools related to managing public risk perception, increasing effectiveness of pre-and post-event communication by Federal, state, and local officials, and building and supporting more resilient social networks within and across communities," said Gary LaFree, professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UMD, START director and co-author of the report.

A large majority of respondents said that the U.S. government has been very effective (33 percent) or somewhat effective (54 percent) at preventing terrorism, despite the fact that 69 percent endorsed the view that "terrorists will always find a way to carry out major attacks no matter what the U.S. government does."

The survey also found that clear majorities of respondents were willing to meet with local police or officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to discuss terrorism, data which suggest that community outreach programs may be a viable strategy for countering violent extremism in the United States. 

While the survey highlights the public belief that the U.S. government is addressing terrorism effectively, the study's research team suggests that increased government support for public outreach efforts and community-engagement programs could be beneficial. More than 56 percent of respondents had not heard anything about DHS' "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign, while 85 percent of those who had heard something about the program thought it would be very or somewhat effective. The campaign is designed to raise public awareness of indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities.

Developed by leading survey methodologists in consultation with experts in terrorism, counterterrorism and community resilience, the survey was completed by 1,576 individuals 18 years of age and older in the fall of 2012. A second survey will be conducted in 2013.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's Resilient Systems Division.

UMD Celebrates Legacy of Distinguished Professor

April 10, 2013

Neil Tickner 301-405-4622

Roald SagdeevCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - In the final days of the Soviet Union, University of Maryland Physics Distinguished Professor Roald Sagdeev took a risk. In the face of having his tires slashed and apartment robbed, he pioneered U.S.-Soviet cooperation in space and was heavily involved in disarmament talks—establishing himself as a major 20th century force for peace and scientific cooperation.

Marking Sagdeev's 80th birthday, the university has recognized his lifetime of contributions and the impact he has made on modern science in the fields of plasma and space physics, scientific policy and global security.

UMD's Department of Physics hosted a special event in honor of Sagdeev, which included a public interview titled "The Day I Said 'Nyet!' to Gorbachev... and Other Life Tales of a Famous Soviet Scientist" and a Q&A with Dan Zwerdling, award-winning correspondent and investigative journalist with National Public Radio.

Watch the interview:


About Roald Sagdeev
Prior to his move to the United States in 1990, Professor Sagdeev was director of the Soviet Union's Institute of Space Research. He also led efforts for the first U.S.-Soviet joint space mission in 1975 and served as a science advisor to former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

During that time, Sagdeev had a truly remarkable impact on East-West scientific collaboration. He established himself as a major 20th century force for peace and scientific cooperation by pioneering U.S.-Soviet cooperation in space and playing a leading role in disarmament talks.

Among his many awards and accolades, Sagdeev was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1984 for his outstanding achievements in the foundations of the neoclassical theory of transport processes in toroidal plasma. In 2003, he received the Carl Sagan Memorial Award and was recently honored with the highest award in his native Tatarstan.

He is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, the Max Planck Institute, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and more.

ARHU Announces Foxworth Creative Enterprise Grants

April 9, 2013

Nicky Everette 301-405-6714

Former Ravens cornerback and NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth '04, and his wife, Ashley Manning Foxworth '06, Harvard Law School graduate. COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) announced today an agreement with former Ravens cornerback and NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth '04, and his wife, Ashley Manning Foxworth '06, Harvard Law School graduate, to launch the new "Foxworth Creative Enterprise Grants." Their gift of $150,000 will fund a three-year pilot program intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts and humanities in spurring new ideas and solutions to some of society's most pressing issues.

"The college's faculty and students are engaged in amazing, far-reaching projects, and I see this initiative as another opportunity to help cultivate their work," said College of Arts and Humanities Dean Bonnie Thornton Dill.

The Foxworth grant contributes to university-wide innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives like the Future of Information Alliance's (FIA) Seed Grant Competition and the School of Public Policy's Do Good Challenge, focusing the initiative on the application of arts and humanities skills—reading, writing, critical thinking and effective communication―and deep knowledge of language, culture and history to address real-world problems.

The college appointed Michelle Rowley, associate professor of women's studies, as the first faculty administrator to lead this exciting initiative. Rowley's research and teaching has been keenly focused on issues of gender and development, transnational feminism and women in the African diaspora.

"I have spent a lot of time thinking about this initiative and it acknowledges and provides support for the things that I value – social justice, community based pedagogy and connections between the university and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metropolitan area," said Rowley. 

The grant will fund up to three "Creative Enterprise Teams," consisting of five to eight students and one faculty mentor per team. The purpose of the program is to award competitive grants to faculty and student applicants who will partner, perhaps with outside organizations, to expand and develop innovative practices that can be shared and scaled-up to initiate change for underserved populations in the greater university community and beyond.

The college plans to announce a call for faculty and student applications later this year.

Can Unmanned Aircraft Stop Poachers in Their Tracks?

April 9, 2013

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

"Entrepreneurial Approaches to Protecting Highly Endangered Wildlife: Saving Rhinos with Math, Drones and Satellites," is free and open to the public, April 11 from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1410 Physics Lecture Hall on the College Park Campus. COLLEGE PARK, Md. - A daring experiment to use drone aircraft and intelligence tools against rhinoceros poachers in South Africa will be previewed in a free public talk April 11 at the University of Maryland. This wildlife conservation experiment is one of many peaceful uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being explored by governments, universities and the commercial sector. And it occurs as the FAA is beginning development of a comprehensive plan for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace.

Tom Snitch, Ph.D., an intelligence consultant and remote sensing expert based in Bethesda, Md., is executive officer of the United Nations' Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring Systems, a visiting professor at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) and chairman of the Board of Visitors of UMD's College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (CMNS). Snitch has organized a May 25 field test of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, for anti-poaching surveillance on a game reserve near South Africa's Kruger National Park, the center of a deadly epidemic of rhino killings.

It will be the first time unmanned aircraft are combined with satellite imagery and sophisticated mathematical modeling to catch rhino poachers in the act.  The goal is to quickly mobilize game wardens to stop the poachers, who are illegally killing one black rhino every 11 hours for their horns, prized in traditional Asian medicine. Poachers have fought a series of bloody battles with government troops and private game wardens.

UMD Mathematicians, physicists, and artificial intelligence experts are sharing ideas with the anti-poaching team. Some of the techniques to be tested were developed by UMD. Computer Science Professor V.S. Subrahmanian used a similar algorithm to find Iraqi insurgents' caches of bomb-making materials.

UMD faculty members are working on a range of other peacetime uses for unmanned aircraft, from rescuing lost hikers to controlling the spread of crop diseases. UMD aerospace engineers also are developing new types of UAVs; and the university is leading a state of Maryland effort to win a test site designation from the FAA for the integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the national airspace.

"Entrepreneurial Approaches to Protecting Highly Endangered Wildlife: Saving Rhinos with Math, Drones and Satellites," is free and open to the public, April 11 from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1410 Physics Lecture Hall on the College Park Campus.  Snitch's talk is part of a "30 Days of EnTERPreneurship," a month-long series of campus events highlighting entrepreneurship.


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