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The Future of Information Alliance Looks at Crowdsourcing

January 16, 2013

David Ottalini 301-405-4076

FIA Event Logo

The Future of Information Alliance at the University of Maryland holds a special afternoon event called "Crowdsourcing for Creativity & Human Potential." The program is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.
Monday, February 4, 2013, 2:00 PM- 4:00 PM
Orem Hall, Samuel R. Riggs Alumni Center, University of Maryland

Crowdsourcing has become a critical component of today’s emerging information technologies and practices. Innovators are using it to respond to natural disasters, call attention to human rights abuses, and harness the combined potential of people all over the world in both creative and scholarly ways. But are there also barriers that keep crowdsourcing from being as effective as it might be? What kinds of research might be done to overcome those barriers and lead to even more effective action?

The Future of Information Alliance, (FIA) based at the University of Maryland, presents a program on February 4 that will explore both the opportunities and challenges associated with crowdsourcing. The FIA was created to serve as a catalyst for dialogue across disciplines and to promote research on issues related to the evolving role of information in our lives. The program will feature three new FIA “Visiting Future-ists”:

  • Craig Newmark - craigslist and craigsconnects founder.Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist, launched craigconnects in 2011 as a platform for extending the reach of technology and social networking for philanthropy, public service and the public good. He is a technology advisor to more than a dozen non-profits and government agencies and serves on the boards of directors of the Center for Public Integrity, the Sunlight Foundation, Consumers Union/Consumer Reports, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

  • Dr. Jennifer Chan - Global Emergency Medicine DirectorJennifer Chan, MD, MPH, is director of Global Emergency Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and associate faculty and member of the Crisis Dynamics Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. In addition to being a practitioner of emergency medicine who has been involved in disaster relief efforts in Haiti and elsewhere, she is involved in using, evaluating and improving crowdsourced crisis mapping tools such as Ushahidi.

  • Sam Gregory, is Program Director and leads the Cameras Everywhere initiative at WITNESSSam Gregory, a non-profit co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel to use video and participatory technologies to expose human rights abuses. He helped launch the YouTube Human Rights Channel and the ObscuraCam and InformaCam tools. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, was a Rockfeller Foundation Bellagio Resident on the future of video-based advocacy, and was named a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2012.

Dan Russell is Google's "director of user happiness."In addition, Dan Russell, Google's "director of user happiness" who has been involved with the FIA since its inception, is this year’s FIA “Future-ist in Residence” and will take part in the program on Feb. 4. He and UMD Computer Science Professor Ben Bederson, an expert in human-computer interaction and mobile technology, will demonstrate uses of tools for crowdsourcing.

American Studies Professor Sheri ParksThe panel will be moderated by Sheri Parks, Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming in UMD’s College of Arts and Humanities and Associate Professor of American Studies. Dr. Parks is also a cultural critic for WYPR, the NPR radio station in Baltimore.

This program was made possible with generous support from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation,and the University of Maryland.

The Future of Information Alliance was created to serve as a catalyst for dialogue across disciplines and to promote research on issues related to the evolving role of information in our lives. By identifying shared challenges and encouraging innovative solutions, the Future of Information Alliance seeks to facilitate a future in which information in all its forms can be an effective resource for all.

The Future of Information Alliance is co-directed by Professor Allison Druin of Maryland's iSchool and by Ira Chinoy, Associate Dean and Associate Professor in Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The FIA operates under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President for Research and is supported by the deans of all colleges and schools across campus, a broad-based campus advisory board, and 10 Founding Partners.

The Future of Information Alliance will stream this event to its FIA/YouTube Channel
Members of the press are welcome to attend and cover the event. Interviews with presenters can be arranged. PLEASE REGISTER on the FIA Website.
For more information, email:

President Loh's Statement of Support for Governor O'Malley's Budget

January 16, 2013

Brian Ullmann 301-314-6650

Wallace LohCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Once again, Governor O’Malley has solidified his reputation as the Education Governor.  His budget for the coming year provides support for expanded collaborations with University of Maryland, Baltimore, critical funding to expand STEM programs, and additional financial support for innovation, entrepreneurship and technology commercialization initiatives.  These investments in higher education will make Maryland more competitive economically both nationally and internationally.

Film Producer's "Pi" in the Sky Dreams Become Reality

January 14, 2013

Dave Ottalini 301-405-4076

Lee Berger '76 is president of the film division of Rhythm & Hues Studios in Los Angeles.

By Monette Bailey and Lauren Brown

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - You may not know Lee Berger by name, but you may have seen the work of his production teams in many of 2012’s biggest movies: “Django Unchained,” “The Hunger Games,” “Life of Pi” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

Berger ’76 is president of the film division of Rhythm & Hues Studios, a Los Angeles-based company that does everything from animating the Chipmunks to creating fantastic worlds (“The Chronicles of Narnia”).

“This is a very competitive industry,” says Berger. “We don’t normally get to pick and choose, and we’re lucky that Ang Lee chose us (for ‘Life of Pi’).”

“Life of Pi” snagged 11 Academy Award nominations last week, including Best Picture, with “Django” receiving five and “Snow White” getting two. Winners will be announced Feb. 24.

Berger’s main role at Rhythm & Hues, where he’s been since 1999, is to nurture working relationships with movie studios. He’s also the chief executive officer of East Grand Films, an investment fund created by the studio to help finance and produce Hollywood feature films for the global market.

His career clearly pulls from his days as a Maryland radio, television and film student and includes stints as a cameraman, grip, film supervisor and director.

“I took at least 10 courses with Robert Kolker. He had a really big influence on me,” he says. “I still have a relationship with him 40 years later. It’s really about who your teachers are.”

Such a varied career prepared him for working with the creators of such disparate movies as those nominated. “Although ‘Django Unchained’ is not considered a visual effects movie, we wanted to work with Quentin Tarantino, so we were excited by the opportunity to contribute to the movie and build that relationship at the same time.”

Berger’s expertise is in digital filmmaking, so it makes sense that his favorite shot in “Pi,” whose Oscar nominations include Best Visual Effects, reflects that background.

Pi tosses O.J. the orangutan a life jacket in one of the many special effects that meld real and computer-generated images. The animal, for all of its lifelike detail and movements, is just pixels and code. The jacket was real until it got to O.J.’s hands.

“Then we took it over,” says Berger. “Our job is to make sure that the work is so seamless that it doesn’t take you out of the movie.”

Life of Pi the Movie

UMD NanoCenter Creates Tiny Inchworm Motor with Flexible Arms

January 11, 2013

Martha Jordan Heil 301-209-3088

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland NanoCenter engineers Ivan Penskiy and Sarah Bergbreiter have developed a new micromechanical motor, which has flexible arms used to alternately grab and pull a tiny silicon beam thousands of times per second, moving only a couple micrometers at a time. This action simulates a movement similar to a person grabbing and pulling a rope hand over hand. These motors could someday be used to power a tiny insect-sized robot or provide autofocus and zoom in a smartphone camera.

UMicromechanical Motornlike other similar efforts, the inchworm motor is simple to manufacture and provides significantly greater force. The motor is very efficient due to its use of electrostatic actuation, in which two tiny silicon plates are pulled toward each other when a voltage is applied. Penskiy and Bergbreiter optimized the layout of these plates along with the flexible arms that they drive to improve efficiency in addition to force output. The researchers made the device in the University of Maryland’s Fab Lab, where only a single etch was required to pattern these plates and flexible arms on a silicon chip.

Next, Penskiy and Bergbreiter will work on integrating this motor with mechanical structures like legs along with tiny power supplies for integrated microrobots. 

Smith School Names 2013 China Business Plan Competition Winner

January 11, 2013

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business awarded $10,000 in cash prizes on Tuesday to the winners and finalists of the 2013 China Business Plan Competition, organized by the Smith School’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management in Beijing. For the competition, students from the Smith School traveled to Beijing to compete with teams from five Chinese universities and the Technion Israeli Institute of Technology.L-R, John Lapides, Dingman Center entrepreneur-in-residence; Elana Fine, Dingman Center managing director; Yuan He, grand prize winner; Holly DeArmond, Dingman Center assistant director

Smith School student Yuan He won the competition’s top prize of $3,000 with his pitch for Honeymoon Honey, a plan to rent honey bees to farmers and harvest the honey to make cosmetics. The competition, now in its eighth year, was the culmination of a business plan course and study trip to China for Smith School MBA students, led by the Dingman Center.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship is an important topic drawing significant attention from governments and business schools around the world. The capabilities of innovation and entrepreneurship are particularly important for China, which is undergoing a key period of overall economic transition,” said Hongbin Cai, dean of Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. “Leading the edge of innovation and entrepreneurship education in business schools, the China Business Plan Competition hosted by Guanghua School of Management in collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business manages to enhance the communication of innovative ideas and cultivate entrepreneurial practices.”

“We are committed to providing MBA students with hands-on global learning opportunities and this competition has been a hallmark of that pledge, as students take advantage of the wealth of entrepreneurial opportunities in China’s flourishing economy,” said G. “Anand” Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with the Guanghua School of Management to offer this rich learning experience to our students and students in China and Israel. Regardless of their home country, MBA students benefit from exploring entrepreneurial ventures in new markets.”

Each finalist team was tasked with pitching a plan for a venture that would do business in China or leverage Chinese resources in some way. Second place and $2,000 went to Love-Link, a plan for a company that addresses vegetable food safety from a Tianjin University team. A team from Zhejiang University won third place ($1,000) with its pitch for SmartWheel, a high-tech wheel chair. Additional finalist teams were recognized and earned smaller cash prizes. Judges included Smith School and Dingman Center leaders, and entrepreneurial experts from China.

The competition was the highlight of the Smith School students’ week of exploring venture creation and global operations in China’s rapidly evolving economy. The trip was the conclusion of a three-credit course on global learning experiences led by J. Robert Baum, associate professor of entrepreneurship. The trip also included meetings with successful local entrepreneurs and visits to multinational corporations’ manufacturing facilities to better understand the Chinese market.

In addition to leading study trips to China, the Smith School also offers an executive MBA degree program in Beijing with partner the University of International Business and Economics. In both its China and U.S. programs, entrepreneurship is a key area of focus for the Smith School. The school is internationally known for its entrepreneurship research and programs, ranking among the best in the world for its offerings, according to U.S. News & World Report and the Financial Times.

UMD Doctoral Student Recognized for Outstanding Research in Entrepreneurship

January 10, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

Shweta GaonkarCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Shweta Gaonkar, a Doctoral student in the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, has been honored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Emerging Scholars Program for her significant contributions to research in entrepreneurship.

Gaonkar is one of 15 exceptional students from across the country recognized by the Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship Program and will receive $20,000 to support her dissertation research. The Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship Program is one of several programs established by the Kaufmann Foundation designed to create a substantial body of research on entrepreneurship and innovation.

"We are proud to honor these bright emerging scholars for their outstanding work in academic entrepreneurship study," said Robert J. Strom, director of research and policy at the Foundation. "Not only is their work significant, but they represent some of the brightest future leaders in the field of entrepreneurship research who will influence our next generation of academics."

Visit the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s website to view the full list of Emerging Scholars Program winners.

UMD’s Director of Public Safety Named Finalist for Campus Safety’s Director of the Year Award

January 10, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

David MitchellCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – Campus Safety Magazine has named UMD’s Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, David Mitchell, a finalist for the 2012 Campus Safety Director of the Year award. Mitchell, along with the other finalists, was chosen for his outstanding leadership skills, ingenuity, selflessness and overall achievement.
Mitchell’s accomplishments at UMD have been numerous, including creating a state-of-the-art K9 unit that can detect bombs and person-borne explosive devices; and properly and fully staffing the Emergency Operations Center. His tremendous efforts have led to decreased crime at the university and improved relationships between the police department and the University of Maryland community.
To vote for Mitchell as the 2012 Campus Safety Director of the Year, visit

UMD Language Research Center Names Amy Weinberg Executive Director

January 9, 2013

Pamela R. Morse 301-226-8899

Amy Weinberg, Ph.D.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) has named Amy Weinberg, Ph.D., as its new executive director, replacing Founding Director Richard Brecht, Ph.D., who will retire in January 2013. As CASL’s deputy executive director, Weinberg has been instrumental in molding the center’s strategic partnerships and research agenda.

“The University of Maryland has provided world-class research to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for many years and we look forward to continuing this service to our nation,” said Patrick O’Shea, Ph.D., vice president and chief research officer for the University of Maryland. “With Amy Weinberg at the helm at CASL, I am confident in the continued excellence of our programs in the language sciences, as well as our graduates who go on to serve the country.”

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. in linguistics and philosophy, Weinberg worked as an associate professor in the University of Maryland’s Department of Linguistics and the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) until 2004, when she joined CASL as area director for technology use.

“I am delighted to have this opportunity to shape CASL’s future and meet the needs of the next decade of language challenges that this changing world poses,” said Weinberg.

In 2007, Weinberg joined the university’s Division of Research, where she supported the University of Maryland National Security Advisory Board and other outreach efforts. In 2008, she earned the rank of professor of linguistics and was cross-appointed to the Department of Computer Science. A member of UMIACS, Weinberg served as a director of the university’s Computational Linguistics and Information Processing Laboratory until her return to CASL as deputy executive director in 2010.

“The federal government is playing a leading role in coping with the language needs of the nation, and CASL has the responsibility of transferring fresh policy and innovative human and technological solutions to the education system and to the country’s industry base,” said the outgoing Brecht. “Weinberg’s leadership will provide those fresh approaches that the government is looking for.”

The DoD recently exercised the next five-year option on its contract with the multi-million dollar University-Affiliated Research Center, which is the first and only national resource dedicated to addressing the language needs of the U.S. intelligence community. CASL currently employs approximately 150 scientists and support staff members at the University of Maryland Research Park, M Square, located just off campus.

Founded in 2003, CASL’s research has focused on increasing the efficiency of government professionals whose responsibilities include defense, intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, humanitarian assistance, and other important abilities.  All these global roles require skills in language, culture, and analysis that require critical research and expertise in languages and linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, human language technologies, and the behavioral and social sciences. In its first ten years, the center has dramatically improved selection, diagnosis, on-boarding, learning, and sustainment regimens for government professionals whose work depends on linguistic and cultural expertise by working closely with the military and intelligence communities to further their strategic initiatives.

CASL conducts unprecedented, academically rigorous research in language and cognition that supports national security. CASL research is interdisciplinary and collaborative, bringing together people from the government, academia, and the private sector. CASL research is both strategic and tactical, so that it not only advances areas of knowledge, but also directly serves the critical needs of the nation. The University of Maryland is unique in its comprehensive approach to language and cybersecurity research, stressing ‘more-than-tech’ interdisciplinary solutions. For more information, visit

UMD Flu Study Tracks Infection as Influenza Peaks in Maryland

January 8, 2013

Kelly Blake (301) 405-9418

Donald Milton, M.D., Dr.P.H.COLLEGE PARK, Md. - This year’s flu season started sooner, is hitting harder and is more widespread than usual. Health officials say that Maryland is one of several states on track to have one of the worst influenza seasons in recent years, although flu is notoriously hard to predict.

Donald Milton, M.D., Dr.P.H., is leading a study to track flu infection and modes of transmission at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. His research team is finding that many study participants coming in with flu recently are infected with more than one virus strain.

“This may be an important factor driving the high attack rate right now,” he explains. Dr. Milton is an expert in airborne infection transmission who directs the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. “Co-infection with more than one virus may make both of the viruses more contagious than either would be alone.”

Also, the illness’ intensity may be due to the type of influenza. The most prevalent strain this year, influenza A (H3N2), is causing more severe symptoms than influenza B alone, but many people have simultaneous influenza A and B infections or a combination of influenza B and another virus called respiratory syncytial virus.

Gesundheit IIMilton’s “Got Flu?” team has been tracking and reporting the incidence of influenza-like illness on its website and to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since October. This is the first time that influenza surveillance has been done on the College Park campus, though participants also are being recruited from the surrounding areas.

“People might be surprised to learn that we don’t know for sure how flu spreads,” says Milton. “In addition, to encourage vaccination, preventing the spread of flu requires that we better understand how the virus travels and infects people.”

Researchers take nose and throat swabs from flu sufferers and gather samples of their exhaled breath using a special machine called the Gesundheit II (see photo). It captures the virus aerosols from breath, coughs and sneezes and can determine whether there’s more virus shed in large droplet sprays or in the tiny airborne particles.

You Can Help Stop Flu: Participate in the "Got Flu?" Study
If you are 10 years or older, have a fever and sore throat or cough (whether or not you had the flu vaccine), you can come in to the University of Maryland School of Public Health Clinical Research Facility to give a nasal swab sample and be paid $20 for your time, and potentially be eligible to give breath samples in the Gesundheit II for an additional $80 compensation. You may even be retested over three days and compensated up to $300 for coming to campus and giving samples while you have the flu. Call 424-2GOTFLU (424-246-8358), email, or contact Milton's team through


Watch the WUSA-TV report on Dr. Milton's study:



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