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Astronomers Take a Closer Look at Comet ISON

March 29, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Astronomers from the University of Maryland, along with Lowell Observatory, have had the rare opportunity to observe comet ISON in close detail, which may become one of the most dazzling in decades when it rounds the sun later this year.

Using images acquired over the last two months from NASA's Swift satellite's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT), the team has been able to make initial estimates of the comet's water and dust production and used them to infer the size of its icy nucleus.

"Comet ISON has the potential to be among the brightest comets of the last 50 years, which gives us a rare opportunity to observe its changes in great detail and over an extended period," says lead investigator Dennis Bodewits, an astronomer at UMD.

The Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope aboard NASA's Swift imaged comet ISON (center) on Jan. 30, when it was located about 3.3 degrees from the bright star Castor in the constellation Gemini. At the time of this 5.5-minute optical exposure, ISON was about 5,000 times fainter than the limit of human vision.In late February, a team of comet experts initiated the Comet ISON Observing Campaign (CIOC) to assist ground- and space-based facilities in obtaining the most scientifically useful data.

Like all comets, ISON is a clump of frozen gases mixed with dust. Often described as "dirty snowballs," comets emit gas and dust whenever they venture near enough to the sun that the icy material transforms from a solid to gas, a process called sublimation. Jets powered by sublimating ice also release dust, which reflects sunlight and brightens the comet. Typically, a comet's water content remains frozen until it comes within about three times Earth's distance to the sun.

In January, UVOT observations found that ISON was shedding a significant amount of dust, but a much smaller amount of water. "The mismatch we detect between the amount of dust and water produced tells us that ISON's water sublimation is not yet powering its jets because the comet is still too far from the sun," Bodewits says. "Other more volatile materials, such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide ice, evaporate at greater distances and are now fueling ISON's activity."

Similar levels of activity were observed in February, and the team plans to do additional UVOT observations.

While the water and dust production rates are relatively uncertain because of the comet's faintness, they can be used to estimate the size of ISON's icy body, which they've found is a typical size for a comet.

An important question is whether ISON will continue to brighten at the same pace once water evaporation becomes the dominant source for its jets.

"It looks promising, but that's all we can say for sure now," said Matthew Knight, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., and a member of the Swift and CIOC teams. "Past comets have failed to live up to expectations once they reached the inner solar system, and only observations over the next few months will improve our knowledge of how ISON will perform."

Based on ISON's orbit, astronomers think the comet is making its first-ever trip through the inner solar system. The first of several intriguing observing opportunities occurs on Oct. 1, when the inbound comet passes about 6.7 million miles from Mars. Fifty-eight days later, on Nov. 28, ISON will make a sweltering passage around the sun. Around this time, the comet may become bright enough to glimpse just by holding up a hand to block the sun's glare. Following ISON's solar encounter, the comet will depart the sun and move toward Earth, appearing in evening twilight through December.
From now through October, comet ISON tracks through the constellations Gemini, Cancer and Leo as it falls toward the sun.
Whether we'll look back on ISON as a "comet of the century" or as an overhyped cosmic dud remains to be seen, but astronomers are planning to learn the most they can about this unusual visitor no matter what happens. 

Watch this animation showing the comet's approach and departure from the inner solar system from various perspective:

30 Days of EnTERPreneurship Returns

March 28, 2013

Crystal Brown 301-405-4618

Cupid's Cup LogoCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announced today the second annual '30 Days of EnTERPreneurship.' The month-long celebration of our creative spirit kicks off with Cupid's Cup, now a nationwide student competition hosted by Under Armour founder and Terp alumni Kevin Plank. The event is free and open to the public at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 5 in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. 

Do Good ChallengeLectures, special events and competitions, including the Do Good Challenge on Wednesday, April 10, sponsored by actress Fran Drescher, founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, will fill the calendar for the '30 Days.' It will all culminate with Maryland Day, our community showcase of our great university with over 400 events.

Dean ChangUMD also launched a new web portal for innovation and entrepreneurship at the university. will serve as a central site for the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, academic programs, university resources, events and competitions, and innovation news.  The site contains a complete list of all of the events that are a part of our '30 Days' celebration. 

"The University of Maryland has a rich array of over 60 innovative and entrepreneurial programs, from all corners of campus," says Dean Chang, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship. "The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was specifically created this semester to help grow those programs and launch new ones in this critical area. The '30 Days' celebration and new web portal are terrific showcases of the entrepreneurial culture here on campus."

UMD Students to Compete to 'Do Good' at UMD April 10

March 28, 2013

Jennifer Lynn Talhelm 301-405-4390

Actress Fran Drescher, Olympian Carl Lewis and Morgan Stanley’s Melanie Schnoll Begun to be Do Good Challenge Celebrity Judges

Do Good ChallengeCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland is proud to announce that philanthropists – acclaimed television star Fran Drescher and nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis – will headline an “American Idol”-style celebrity panel of judges for the final round of the Do Good Challenge on the College Park campus, April 10.  They will be joined by Melanie Schnoll Begun, managing director and head of philanthropy management at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, the lead sponsor of the Challenge.

The second-annual competition is run by the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at the UMD School of Public Policy.  It’s a unique part of a new effort in higher education to encourage students to make a difference locally or around the globe. 

Student contestants had between Feb. 4 and March 24 to “do good” for a cause or charity by advocating, raising money, volunteering, or developing a creative new solution to a social problem.  The student teams are now in the process of being pared down to five finalists.  On April 10, those teams will pitch their work to the celebrity judge panel and a live audience, which will vote for the winner via text message.  This year’s winners will receive $5,000 for their cause, and all the finalists will receive cash prizes. 

Fran DrescherDrescher, an award-winning actress (TV’s “The Nanny” and “Happily Divorced”), cancer survivor and leading public health advocate, officially kicked off the competition with a video recorded from New York City.

The Do Good Challenge is “a terrific opportunity for you to take your passion and turn it into something that’s personal to you and can make a difference….,” she says in the video.  “It’s really exciting that I got to take what I’m passionate about and become a do-gooder … I hope you do too!”

Says Professor Robert T. Grimm, Jr., Director of the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership: “The Do Good Challenge has rapidly become one of the important – and really fun – ways we’re creating a new culture of philanthropy on campus.  The competition is part of making philanthropy a pillar of the Maryland experience.  No other university includes Maryland's extensive and innovative hands-on philanthropic experiences.”

Grimm says that while the celebrity judges add excitement and intensity to the contest, they’re also important role models for the students.    

“Our judges demonstrate that philanthropy can be both fun and serious business.  All three of them are a driving force for innovative and high-impact efforts that literally change lives,” Grimm says.  

After surviving uterine cancer, Drescher decided “to turn my pain into purpose and ensure no woman dies because of a late stage cancer diagnosis.”  In 2007, she started the Cancer Schmancer Movement to promote cancer prevention and awareness.  She was instrumental in getting the United States’ first Gynecologic Cancer Education and Awareness Act passed into law, and was appointed to the distinguished position of Special Envoy for Women’s Health Issues by the U.S. State Department.

Carl LewisLewis, a track-and-field star who has competed in four Olympic games and won nine gold medals, was voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and named Sports Illustrated “Olympian of the Century.”  In his retirement from active competition, Lewis has used his profile and become active in philanthropic work, founding “The Carl Lewis Foundation,” which serves as an umbrella for the many charities that Lewis supports including the “Best Buddies” organization, The Wendy Marx Foundation (for organ donor awareness), and many youth fitness groups. 

Melanie Schnoll BegunAt Morgan Stanley, Schnoll Begun serves as a philanthropic counselor to families, foundations, family offices and nonprofits wishing to give back to their communities.  She is also a nonprofit leader herself, serving as board president of the New York City chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and on the advisory boards of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center and Grameen America, a non-profit microfinance organization whose mission is to help entrepreneurial individuals, especially women, build credit and defeat poverty.

“Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management is proud to be the lead sponsor of the Do Good Challenge.  The mission of the competition – to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of young people and develop future citizens and leaders committed to improving our world – is one Morgan Stanley believes will help drive meaningful change and innovative ideas,” Schnoll Begun says.  “Personally, I’m thrilled to join the panel of judges and be a part of this fun and novel event.  I can’t wait to see how Terps do good!”

Last year with actor Kevin Bacon as the lead celebrity for the Challenge, student teams tackled issues from hunger to breast cancer awareness.  Last year’s winning team, Food Recovery Network, which collects and delivers unsold food from campus cafeterias and sporting events to area shelters, has since become a nonprofit, cumulatively recovered over 130,000 pounds of food for shelters, and expanded to 17 other college campuses across the country.

Grimm concludes, “The Do Good Challenge isn’t just about winning a prize – it’s about arousing a passion for doing good.  The potential is enormous – just look at what Food Recovery Network has been able to accomplish in the last year.  I expect great things from this year’s teams!”

Along with Morgan Stanley’s lead sponsorship, other key sponsors and partners of the Challenge include the UMD Colonnade Society and the Center for Social Value Creation at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.  

UMB and UMCP Celebrate First Year of Collaborative Success

March 28, 2013

Lee Tune, UMCP, 301-405-4679
Alex Likowski, UMB, 410-706-3801

Innovation strengthens Maryland's economy, creates jobs and opportunities for students

University of Maryland: MPowering the State

Adelphi, Md. — University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Jay Perman and University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) President Wallace Loh celebrate the first year of the University of Maryland: MPowering the State collaboration.  One year ago, the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland (USM), with guidance from the Maryland General Assembly, charted this bold new course, using the resources of the two universities to better serve students, attract more exceptional faculty and researchers, and boost research, technology transfer and commercialization.

"Maryland has tremendous competitive advantages in research and education," says USM Chancellor William Kirwan.  "In just one year, MPowering the State is already producing significant results, creating new business partnerships and jobs."

A core mission of MPowering the State is better commercializing the more than one billion dollars in grant-based research conducted by the two universities.  "We launched UM Ventures because it positions us to strengthen our technology transfer efforts and commercialization statewide," says UMCP President Wallace Loh.  "A fully coordinated innovation ecosystem and unified technology transfer improves our ability to work with industry and bring innovative products to the market."

MPowering the State is also providing new educational opportunities for Maryland students, including the creation of a collaborative school of public health, which will build upon the strengths of the existing School of Public Health in College Park and the epidemiology and public health program in the School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Students have greatly improved opportunities to take advantage of the complementary strengths of both campuses," says UMB President Jay Perman.   "And they'll be better equipped to take their place in the high quality, increasingly complex health care system of Maryland's future."

Other accomplishments of MPowering the State's first year include:

  • Creating a new center for health-related informatics and bioimaging, combining the advanced computing resources of UMCP with the clinical data and biomedical expertise of UMB;
  • Creating the Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI), leveraging the health sciences work of UMB and the engineering expertise of UMCP;
  • Implementing a seed grant program, resulting in more than $6 million in joint research awards;
  • Combining the research efforts at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research—a joint UMB-UMCP institute—and those at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Montgomery County with new educational programs in health, law, human services and the sciences; and
  • Working together with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the Institute for a Healthiest Maryland (IHM) to improve wellness in areas such as obesity and tobacco prevention.

The University of Maryland: MPowering the State brings together two universities of distinction to form a new collaborative partnership.  Harnessing the resources of each, the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore will focus the collective expertise on critical state-wide issues of public health, biomedical informatics, and bioengineering. This collaboration will drive an even greater impact on the state, its economy, the job market, and the next generation of innovators.  The joint initiatives will have a profound effect on productivity, the economy, and the very fabric of higher education.

Entrepreneurs to Compete for $70k in Cupid's Cup

March 26, 2013

Greg Muraski, 301-405-5283


Cupid's CupSix startups, including two from the University of Maryland, will compete in the April 5 final round of Cupid's Cup, the national business competition held by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at UMD's Robert H. Smith School of Business. The annual competition is sponsored by Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour.

The finalists will compete for the Cupid's Cup, $70,000 in cash funding, and exclusive access to a member of Plank's professional network. Each will deliver a six-minute business pitch to Plank and a panel of judges in front of 1,000 attendees at UMD's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. The final competition day will also include a business and innovation showcase highlighting more than 50 startups and entrepreneurship organizations. Additional information is available at


Friday, April 5, 2013

  • Business & Innovation Showcase, sponsored by BB&T: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center)
  • Cupid's Cup final competition: 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center)


  • Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour

Cupid's Cup finalists:

  • Diagnostic anSERS, University of Maryland -- maker of ink-jet printed sensors for detecting trace amounts of chemicals, from explosives to narcotics
  • Earth Starter LLC, University of Maryland -- maker of products to accelerate and simplify growth and yield for gardens
  • CoverPlay LLC, University of Virginia -- maker of an ultra-thin Bluetooth speaker for mobile devices called the Mojo
  • Hole Patch LLC, Case Western Reserve University -- developer of a new method for patching potholes
  •, Florida State University -- a study tool for college students that rewards academic effort
  • Neural Analytics, University of California Los Angeles -- a developer of a portable non-invasive medical device to diagnose traumatic brain injuries on the football field or the battlefield

2013 Cupid's Cup Finalists


START Hosts State Dept.'s Tara Sonenshine

March 25, 2013

Under Secretary to Discuss "Public Diplomacy and Countering Violent Extremism"

U.S. Department of State Under Secretary Tara SonenshineCOLLEGE PARK, Md. -  The University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) will host U.S. Department of State Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine as she discusses "Public Diplomacy and Countering Violent Extremism" at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27.

Sonenshine will speak about international terrorism, public diplomacy, why we use online media and social networking and the power of video games to counter extremism.

The event will be held in the Stamp Student Union's Atrium (Rm. 1107) and is free and open to the public.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to

Sonenshine was formerly Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace. Prior to joining the United States Institute of Peace, she was a strategic communications adviser to many international organizations including USIP, the International Crisis Group, Internews, CARE, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the International Women's Media Foundation. Sonenshine served in various capacities at the White House during the Clinton Administration, including Transition Director and Director of Foreign Policy Planning for the National Security Council and Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications for the NSC.

UMD Celebrates Good Neighbor Day

March 25, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Good Neighbor Day

Mulching the Paint Branch Elementary playground during last year's Good Neighbor DayCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will celebrate Good Neighbor Day, an annual cross-campus service project, on Saturday, April 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Good Neighbor Day is a partnership between UMD, the City of College Park and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and represents a renewed commitment by the UMD community to being a good neighbor in College Park.

During the event, the university community will focus on clean-up efforts that contribute to a great quality of life for all College Park residents and celebrate being a good neighbor, every day of the year.

This year's projects include:

  • Cleaning up the Old Town playground;
  • Cleaning up Old Parish House;
  • Participating in the 5K Lakeland Discovery Trail hike;
  • Serving as a Lakeland history expert and curator at Lake Artemesia, along the Lakeland Discovery Trail Hike;
  • Donating and sorting non-perishable goods to the College Park Food Bank;
  • Participating in an interactive workshop about the history of College Park's Lakeland Neighborhood at the College Park Community Center;
  • Repairing the Paint Branch Elementary School basketball court; and
  • Assisting with neighborhood clean ups.

Leading up to April 6, the Good Neighbor Day partners are sponsoring a food drive. Drop-off boxes are currently placed throughout campus and at local businesses in College Park. The non-perishable goods will be distributed to a local food pantry.

For more information or to participate in Good Neighbor Day, visit

UMD Earns Highest Honor for Community Service

March 22, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

President's Higher Education Community Service Honor RollCOLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland has been named to the 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation is the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement. 

The Honor Roll, launched in 2006, annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.

"We are extremely honored to be named to the 2013 Honor Roll, solidifying our efforts to create positive social change through transformative learning and community engagement," says Deborah Slosberg, coordinator for local community service-learning on campus. "We are proud that the incredible service work UMD students have done in our community has been recognized and we are grateful to everyone in the university community who helped earn this honor."

"Congratulations to the University of Maryland, its faculty and students for its commitment to service, both in and out of the classroom," says Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which manages the Honor Roll in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the American Council on Education and Campus Compact. "Through its work, institutions of higher education are helping improve their local communities and create a new generation of leaders by challenging students to go beyond the traditional college experience and solve local challenges."

UMD students from all across campus engaged in more than 300,000 hours of community service during the 2011-2012 academic year. A few of the university's key service projects include the Northwestern High School Partnership, Partners in Print and Beyond the Classroom.

UMD students participating in community serviceThe Northwestern High School (NHS) Partnership provides NHS students with experiences and opportunities that ensure they recognize a college education is accessible and attainable. Partners in Print is a year-long bilingual family literacy program, which promotes parental involvement by providing parents with tools to engage children in reading at home in an interactive and effective way. And Beyond the Classroom is an interdisciplinary living-learning program that prepares students to be active, responsible citizens and leaders in a complex, multicultural, and global society.

These programs are a few of the many service learning opportunities available to UMD students. To learn more about the university's service learning initiatives, visit

To learn more about the Honor Roll and to view the full list of honorees, visit

Rock Star Status for New Colt on Campus

March 21, 2013

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland's Campus Farm has welcomed the newest member of the Terrapin family frolicking outside the horse barn: a thoroughbred colt. This marks the first time in three decades a foal has been born on the university’s Campus Farm.

Foal born at UMD's Campus Farm“It was the most exhausting but rewarding experience,” says junior animal science major Steven Moirano. “It was just incredible.”

Students like Moirano, enrolled in an equine reproduction course, were on “foal watch” for several days and nights prior to the colt’s arrival, sleeping inside the barn or the farm’s small office building. “All of a sudden it was happening and within 15 minutes the foal was out on the ground,” says senior animal science major Kristen Brady, who witnessed the foal stand and take his first steps within 30 minutes of his birth. “People don’t realize how much more productive a foal is than a baby being born. You can literally watch him learn everything within the first couple of hours.”

Having foals born on campus was somewhat common before roughly the mid-80s, when the Campus Farm had more acreage. However, Dr. Amy Burk, coordinator of the equine studies program in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences (ANSC), has been working for the past several years to bring foals back to campus.

“Not only is this going to make our equine studies program better but it’s going to make people more aware of the horse-breeding industry – in particular Thoroughbreds – which to me is the most rewarding part of working with horses,” says Burk.

Animal science students have been involved with the entire process of preparing the horses to foal and bringing them to campus. In order to overcome space constraints on the Campus Farm, two pregnant mares were kept on a demonstration farm in Clarksville, Md., where research is being conducted on the effects of rotational grazing on pasture management. The mares were transported to campus about a month before the first – named Cassie – was due to give birth.

Foal born at UMD's Campus FarmThe yet-to-be-named Thoroughbred colt will remain on campus throughout the fall semester so that students can continue to work with him. Faculty, staff and students within ANSC are compiling a list of suggested names for him and will eventually invite the campus community to vote for their favorite. He’ll soon have a friend to frolic with too as another mare, named Amazin’, is due to give birth April 7 on campus, setting up round two of “foal watch.”

“The horse barn is just filled with so many people with joy and excitement so it’s really lightened everybody’s spirits and put a smile on people’s faces,” says Burk.

Watch the colt in action:

Journalism Senior Scores Second Place and $2k Prize

March 21, 2013

Dave Ottalini 301-405-1321

Josh FendrickCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Josh Fendrick, a senior in the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, has been named a top five semi-finalist in the Broadcast Television News Competition of the William Randolph Hearst Student Journalism Awards Program.

Fendrick took second place and a $2,000 award in the annual contest.  His entries included a report filed for the Merrill College’s Capital News Service from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in August called, “March on Wall Street South,” as well as a report which took an in-depth look at Maryland ballot question 3 dealing with the removal of elected officials from office.

Fendrick will now submit additional entries for a semi-final round of judging, which will include the top five winners from the earlier Television Feature Reporting Competition.

Following the semi-finals, five students will be selected to participate in the championship competition in San Francisco in June, along with the radio, writing, photojournalism and multimedia finalists.

Watch Fendrick’s report about Question 3:


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