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UMD Research Finds Congo Basin Native Forests Vanishing at Alarming Rate

November 9, 2018
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- New research from the Department of Geographical Sciences finds that tropical forests in the Congo Basin are being cleared at an increasingly fast pace, and if the trend continues, its native forests could vanish by the end of this century.   

Using time-series satellite data, researchers analyzed the extent and immediate causes of forest loss in this region of sub-Saharan Africa, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, from 2000 to 2014. Their results, published yesterday in Science Advances, demonstrate that 84% of forest disturbance in the region was due to small-scale, predominantly manual clearing for agriculture, and that the annual rate of this type of clearing almost doubled in this period.

The findings are particularly alarming amid the United Nations’ predictions that the number of people living in the Congo Basin will increase fivefold by 2100, with the population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone reaching 400 million, said Alexandra Tyukavina, a postdoctoral associate and one of the lead authors of the study. “People in this region rely on the natural resources in primary forests to survive, but the forests won’t be able to keep pace with demand for long.”

This is the second in a series of detailed studies by the Department of Geographical Sciences on the causes of forest loss across the three major tropical forest regions. The first, published in 2017, focused on the Brazilian Legal Amazon. A future study will examine factors driving forest loss in Indonesia.

“Topical forests play a crucial role in climate regulation and provide critical ecosystem services,” said Professor Matthew Hanson, the study’s other lead author. “Our research seeks to assess and quantify the factors impacting forest loss across large regions in a methodologically consistent manner so we can figure out ways to slow or stop the process before it’s too late.”

Funding for the study was provided by the United States Agency for International Development, through its Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

 

UMD Releases First of Seven New Apples Bred for Maryland Growers

November 7, 2018
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters 301-405-2434 

 

COLLEGE PARK,Md. – Researchers in the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are releasing the university’s first ever patented apple variety, Antietam Blush. This and the six more varieties of sturdy, disease-resistant dwarf apple trees are a culmination of 27 years of research and crossbreeding.

 

Christopher Walsh, professor in the department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, said these new apples are part of his Maryland Apple Tree Architecture Project, launched to create apple varieties tailored for growers in Maryland, and the Appalachian region and intended to replace older varieties of apples, such as Red and Golden Delicious, which have lessened in popularity among consumers. The new Maryland apple variety is named Antietam Blush based on its color and on the Civil War battlefield Antietam that is just north of the Western Maryland Research & Education Center where the variety was bred.

 

Walsh said these new types of apple trees are resistant to disease, shorter (aka dwarf) with stronger tree architecture for easier maintenance and harvesting. They are more cost effective because more trees can be planted in a small area and because the sturdiness and low height of these trees makes them ideal for pick- your-own farm operations . These advances create potential for broad adoption and use, while improving orchard and farm viability and potentially strengthening the state and regional apple industry, according to Walsh.

 

The new Maryland apple variety is named Antietam Blush based on its color and on the Civil War battlefield Antietam that is just north of the Western Maryland Research & Education Center where the variety was bred.

 

“In Maryland, we have a very good climate for apple production, but we also have a couple of limitations because of our hot summers and rainy weather,” he said. “One day they're green. The next day they fall on the ground. We needed [varieties] that were heat tolerant. We also needed things that fit into the climate and didn't require spraying for a particularly bad bacterial disease called fire blight. "

 

“The primary goal [of these new apples] is for eating fresh, not cooking or cider. The return to the grower is greater for fresh fruit than fruit that is grown for processing,” Walsh said.

 

Julia Harshman, a former student of Walsh’s and a co-creator of the new apples said: “The mid-atlantic apple region has a need for new varieties. It's a fairly large region, and most apple varieties do not fit well for several reasons. It's my hope that our work here can fill that void."

 

“We targeted the mid-October harvest season for Antietam blush because that's when the pick your own markets are really popular. That's when people want to take their kids to the farm, pick pumpkins , drink cider, have that full farm experience. And that includes apples,” said Harshman.

 

Bob Black, owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, has been unofficially growing Antietam Blush for a few seasons for grower taste testing. “[Antietam Blush] will be very important, especially in October because the regular Pink Lady most times is not quite ready - it’s an advantage for this apple to be ready when lots of folks are picking apples and pumpkins.”

 

Walsh notes that this apple program came about naturally and without initial external funding. “It was serendipity I guess you’d call it,” he said. “No one else was doing it, and it just needed to be done. So Western Maryland Research & Education Center] gave me the land and the support, and we just started following a dream.”

 

However, the growth of the Maryland Apple Tree Architecture Project really took off in 2007 when Harshman came into the picture. She met Walsh in the Plant Sciences building. That chance interaction led to a change in direction: from undergraduate biochemistry work to enrollment in the horticulture program and involvement in the apple project.

 

The apple program is now seeing the fruits of its labors with multiple apple patents. And growers have said they are very excited by the new varieties, and love the taste of Antietam Blush. “Consumers like it,” said Walsh. “When Bob Black brings them to the winter horticulture society meetings, he gives away 10 or 20 bushels one apple at a time. The growers eat them. So that tells us that this is a good one. We expect to have a commercial nursery selling trees for commercial growers in two years.”

 

“[Antietam Blush] was developed here,” said Black, “and I think it's going to go a long ways for a lot of folks. It just puts Maryland on a map as one of the states to watch and see what's next, because I know Chris has some other apples in the pipeline, and that's what it's all about - producing an apple that'll do well here in this region.”

 

According to Walsh both traditional and organic apple growers can benefit from the new varieties. Organic apple production is very difficult in the eastern US, because the heat and rainfall in the summer make it difficult for organic farmers to keep diseases in check. “These [varieties] would help sustainability as the resistance to fire blight reduces problems with that disease, which damages and frequently kills many apple trees.”

 

President and CEO of The Education Trust John B. King Jr. to Address University of Maryland’s 2018 Winter Graduates

November 1, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announces today that President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. will deliver the university's winter commencement address on Dec. 18, 2018 at the XFINITY Center. 

Headshot of John King“Throughout his career, John King has fought on the front lines of education reform to make the system more equitable and help all students succeed,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “As one of our visiting professors, Dr. King is inspiring a new generation of leaders, and will similarly inspire our graduates and their families.”

“It is an honor for me to deliver the Winter 2018 commencement address at the University of Maryland, and to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of the graduates, as well as their families, who supported them on their journey,” stated John B. King Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Education and President and CEO of The Education Trust. “Speaking at this graduation ceremony on this campus carries special significance for me as an educator teaching at the University of Maryland, and as a member of this diverse and vibrant learning community.”

John B. King Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps, from preschool through college. King served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong dedication to education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems.

Before becoming education secretary, King carried out the duties of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, King also oversaw the agency’s operations. King joined the department following his tenure as the first African American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State Education Commissioner.

King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, Mass., and as a middle school principal.

King’s life story is an extraordinary testament to the transformative power of education. Both of King’s parents were career New York City public school educators, whose example serves as an enduring inspiration. Both of King’s parents passed away from illness by the time he was 12 years old. He credits New York City public school teachers — particularly educators at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island — for saving his life by providing him with rich and engaging educational experiences and by giving him hope for the future.

King holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. King serves as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Education and is a member of several boards, including those for The Century Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation, and Teach Plus. He also serves on several advisory boards, including Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, the Rework America Task Force, the GOOD+ Foundation’s Fatherhood Leadership Council, and the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California.

King lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and his two daughters, who attend local public schools.

John King with student

John King with student

 

University of Maryland Releases Fall 2018 Enrollment Data

October 31, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland today releases data from the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment regarding the university's fall 2018 enrollment figures. This fall, the university welcomed an incoming freshman class of 4,714 students from 39 different states and 16 foreign countries.

The university is reporting a decline in the number of new African-American students who chose to enroll this year. Last fall, 12 percent of UMD’s new students--freshmen and transfers--were African-American. This year, that percentage dropped to 10 percent and the decrease was greatest among new freshmen.

“The University of Maryland is deeply committed to providing the best education possible for our students. The outstanding diversity of our student body is essential to achieving that goal,” said UMD’s Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “We are proud to be a leader in the Big Ten in African-American enrollment and graduation rates, but more work is needed to ensure that our educational programs continue to be strengthened by a diverse and talented student body.”

The university will implement many new actions and initiatives to enhance student financial support and address issues of campus climate aimed at reversing this trend. As a first step, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh will appoint an Enrollment Action Council made up of administrative and student leaders from across campus to ensure that all eligible Maryland students can access the extraordinary educational resources available to them at their flagship university.  

In addition, the university is hiring a Coordinator of Admission and Diversity Initiatives to enhance the robust recruitment and application support efforts already underway; and the university continues its comprehensive efforts to positively impact our campus climate, including a national search for a new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.  

Addressing financial aid is a centerpiece of Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, the university's $1.5 billion fundraising campaign. Thanks to a generous matching gift from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, UMD is has created The Clark Challenge for the Maryland Promise, which will establish a $100 million endowment that will provide need-based scholarships to undergraduate students from underserved populations in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.

There are several factors and challenges the university and Enrollment Action Council will take into consideration during this important work. First being to consider how heavily recruited our state’s many academically talented students of color are by out-of-state private and public institutions who can offer tailored financial incentives; as well as how the university competes with many strong HBCUs in our area and the option of free community college for Baltimore city students. 

“We would be naïve to think that the tragic incidents of the last two years on our campus have not contributed to our African-American student enrollment decline this year. We must address the concerns about campus climate and hate-bias incidents that UMD and many of our peers are facing,” said Provost Rankin.

To see the full enrollment data report for Fall 2018, visit https://irpa.umd.edu/

 

UMD to Co-Lead First-of-its-Kind FEMA Study Of Health Effects on Wildland Firefighters

October 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Melissa Andreychek, 301-405-0292

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland (UMD) Associate Professor Michael Gollner will co-lead a first-of-its-kind research effort to quantify the pulmonary and cardiovascular health consequences to firefighters exposed to wildland fire smoke. the research is supported  by a $1.5 million award from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a Department of Homeland Security agency.

Photo of Dr. Michael GollnerThe smoke of wildland fires—such as California's Mendocino Complex Fire, which burned 459,123 acres, destroyed 280 structures (including 157 residences), and killed a firefighter during the 2018 wildfire season—contains particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic carbon compounds, and other toxic hazards that could put firefighters at risk for chronic illnesses such as ischemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis).

But unlike structural firefighters who have relatively well-defined respiratory personal protective equipment standards for fighting fires in and near buildings, wildland firefighters have no standards or requirements for prescriptive respiratory protection. And because wildland firefighters are often deployed to a fire for weeks at a time with sometimes repeated deployments for several months over a summer, they experience an exposure pattern with unknown health risks.

“We put wildland firefighters in harm’s way to protect the natural environment, homes and property, and lives. The focus on firefighter safety has largely been about physical injuries such as burns—but as you can imagine, these firefighters are also exposed to a great deal of smoke,” explains Gollner, a fire protection engineer in UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. “We know there can be health consequences to this, but we have no data on the long-term effect of wildland fire emissions on the heart, blood vessels, and lungs of front-line wildfire responders, because it’s incredibly difficult to study.”

The FEMA-funded research will look at different smoke exposures that mimic both smaller prescribed fires (i.e., planned fires that are used to meet management objectives and that consider the safety of the public, weather, and probability of meeting burn objectives) and larger wildfires—as well as the benefit provided by different types of simple respiratory personal protective equipment.

The research team, led by principal investigators and bioengineers Jessica Oakes and Chiara Bellini of Northeastern University, hopes the three-year project will inform which fire scenarios are the most dangerous with greatest risk to firefighters’ pulmonary and cardiovascular health—and perhaps most importantly, lead to recommendations for respiratory personal protective equipment that is easily implemented in the field and/or possible changes in tactics to mitigate exposure, with the goal of preserving firefighters’ long-term health.

“Unlike structural firefighters, who will put on an air-purifying respirator or a self-contained breathing apparatus when they enter a building, wildland firefighters typically cover their face with only a simple bandana,” says Gollner. “Bandanas are a common tactic because they don’t add an additional burden of weight to firefighters’ already strenuous activity. However, it is unknown if, or to what extent, this provides health benefits.”

The research team will combine their expertise to solve this challenging problem: Gollner will contribute novel expertise in firefighting practices and fire generation, while Oakes and Bellini will offer interdisciplinary bioengineering expertise that’s critical to understanding this complex health problem. They will also work with the International Association of Fire Fighters and National Fire Protection Association to facilitate input from stakeholder partners including firefighters from several departments across the country, fire organization representatives, health researchers, governmental agencies, and members of technical committees overseeing personal protective equipment standards.

To learn more about Gollner's research:

 

Nature + Art + Climate + Change: International Forum in Washington

October 22, 2018
Contacts: 

Hayley Barton, 202-387-2151 x235

WASHINGTON—Academic and artistic partners The Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland (UMD) will present the International Forum in Washington on Saturday, November 10, 2018, 2–5 pm.

Phillips Collection International ForumThe Phillips Collection’s annual International Forum is rooted in the institution’s aim to contribute to the global conversation through the language of modern and contemporary art. A joint presentation with the University of Maryland, this year’s afternoon of dialogue will bring together leaders across disciplines to discuss the implications and meaning of "Nature + Art + Climate + Change."

The program will include presentations by Meg Webster, Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass (founders of Random International and creators of Rain Room), and a presentation by Henry Elkus (CEO of Helena) about Helena’s support of Factory in the Sky, the first commercial direct-air carbon capture machine, located in Switzerland. The presentations by Random International and Henry Elkus will be followed by one-on-one conversations with UMD scholars, including Dr. Hester Baer (Associate Professor and Head of the German Department) and Dr. Robert Orr (Dean of the School of Public Policy and former Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, United Nations). Conversations will explore shared perspectives on the increasingly significant role artists are playing in discourse about the environment.

“Our position as an arts institution in the nation’s capital provides us with a unique platform to discuss pressing contemporary and global issues. The Phillips Collection is pleased to host this discussion surrounding the intersections of art, nature, and climate, which will be informed by some of the most important artists and visionaries addressing these topics,” said Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski.

“The University of Maryland's partnership with The Phillips Collection is rooted in the idea that scholarship and the arts work hand-in-hand to advance dialogue on important, global issues. We are pleased that our scholars will be contributing to these important conversations on art, nature, and climate alongside key thought leaders, and look forward to the discussions that unfold,” said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin.

Admission for the event is $12; free for students and Phillips members. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.phillipscollection.org/events/2018-11-10-international-forum

ABOUT MEG WEBSTER
Meg Webster is a San Francisco-born, New York-based artist recognized for her work in sculpture and installation that evoke a connection between the Earth’s environment and elements of existence. For 40 years, Webster has utilized spaces with totemic qualities and natural materials like stone, soil, ash, beeswax, and spices to continue the conversation about social relations to the environment. Her large-scale installations and precise structures inspired by the 1970’s Land Art Movement often reflect basic forms and minimalism. 

ABOUT HANNES KOCH AND FLORIAN ORTKRASS
Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass founded Random International in 2005, an art collective and collaborative studio for experimental practice. Combining Koch’s and Ortkrass’s passion for art and science, the collective’s work encourages and welcomes active participation in questioning aspects of identity and autonomy in the post-digital age. The studio is based in London and continues to grow a talented and diverse team. 

Their most recent work is the permanent installation Rain Room—a large-scale environment of responsive rainfall. Using digital technology, Rain Room offers visitors the experience of controlling rainfall, creating a unique choreographed downpour and encouraging visitors to interact in a unexpected space and atmosphere. Rain Room is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection but has also been exhibited at the YUZ Museum in Shanghai (2015), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), and London's Barbican (2012). 

ABOUT HENRY ELKUS
Founder and CEO of the Helena Group Foundation Henry Elkus is passionate about creating systems that can be leveraged to enact global, scalable, and systemic change. The Helena Group Foundation consists of leaders across the globe and each member represents a specific field. Members include General Stanley McChrystal, actress Chloe Grace Moretz, Nobel Laureate Myron Scholes, and producer Brian Grazer, along with Fortune 500 executives, technologists, and acclaimed activists. The group develops and implements strategies that can produce positive change for the world. Outside of running Helena, Elkus is also a social entrepreneur resident at the Boston Consulting Group, holds an advisory role at the Berggruen Institute, and serves as a Special Advisor to the forthcoming Avatar Technology Xprize. 

ABOUT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of Modern art, presents one of the world’s most distinguished Impressionist and American Modern art collections. Including paintings by Renoir and Rothko, Bonnard and O'Keeffe, van Gogh, Diebenkorn, Daumier and Lawrence, among others, the museum continues to actively collect new acquisitions, many by contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Laib, Whitfield Lovell, Zilia Sánchez, and Leo Villareal. Its distinctive building combines extensive new galleries with the former home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The Phillips’s impact spreads nationally and internationally through its highly distinguished special exhibitions, programs, and events that catalyze dialogue surrounding the continuity between art of the past and the present. Among the Phillips’s esteemed programs are its award-winning education programs for educators, students, and adults; well-established Phillips Music series; and sell-out Phillips after 5 events. The museum contributes to the art conversation on a global scale with events like Conversations with Artists and the International Forum. The Phillips Collection values its community partnerships with the University of Maryland—the museum’s nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and interdisciplinary collaborations—and THEARC—the museum’s new campus serving the Southeast DC community. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations. 

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 37,000 students, 9,000 faculty and staff, and 250 academic programs. Its faculty includes three Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners, 47 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The institution has a $1.8 billion operating budget and secures $550 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, visit www.umd.edu.  

 

Hornbake Library explores American Dream in Occupied Japan

October 11, 2018
Contacts: 

Eric Bartheld, 301-314-0964

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Featuring materials from the University of Maryland's renowned Gordon W. Prange Collection of publications issued during the Allied occupation of Japan, a new exhibit opening on October 19, Crossing the Divide, focuses on residents of communities built for U.S. military and civilians following the end of World War II. After Japan surrendered unconditionally to the United States and Allied Powers in August 1945, thousands of service members moved to Japan to oversee its rehabilitation.  

These U.S. transplants created self-contained communities, or “Little America” enclaves, where they enjoyed an American middle-class lifestyle in contrast to the poverty of the war-torn city.

“Crossing the Divide” explores how Japanese people participated in building an American Dream for the occupying military personnel and how through this experience the Japanese began to rebuild their lives and construct a new nation.

Japanese architects, designers, and engineers, for example, helped shape the communities by creating single-family households that fused Western and Eastern design sensibilities. These households, in turn, provided opportunities for young Japanese women to learn Western ways, often as domestic maids.

“Lots of women’s magazines published reports of these domestic maids and what they learned,” says Yukako Tatsumi, curator of the Prange collection and librarian for East Asian Studies. “How to cook, how to make the bed, how to make a table setting. That kind of modern expertise is something Japanese women longed for.”

Complex dynamics developed in the household relationships, Tatsumi says, but at their foundation was a desire of the women to learn English and household-management skills, and to earn income or materials goods to help support their families. “Japanese young women, highly educated, had the opportunity to gain firsthand experience of modern American household life,” Tatsumi says.

“This exhibit highlights the relevance of the Prange Collection beyond just those interested in Japan Studies,” says Tatsumi. “By showing the American influence, we’re showing the relevance to local audiences.”

The Gordon W. Prange Collection is the most comprehensive archive of publications issued in Japan during the first four years of the Allied Occupation (1945-1949).

Since the early 1990s, the UMD Libraries have partnered with the National Diet Library of Japan  to preserve and provide access to the materials in the collection, which fill a gap in the Diet Library’s historical record. Digitization of the 71,000 books in the collection began in 2005.   

UMD Researchers Receive $1.3M Grant to Build App Targeting Underserved Populations

October 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake, 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A team of University of Maryland researchers is developing a new mobile app to help people without regular access to health care cut through the thousands of fitness, nutrition, brain health and other offerings by providing a sort of one-stop wellness shop.

UMD School of Public Health researchers are tailoring the app for African-American and Spanish-speaking users of smartphones, who will be able to set personal goals, enter personal and family health histories and access a variety of evidence-based information on disease prevention and health promotion. The project is supported by a new four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine.

“Increasing amounts of health information and services are online, and many people have only a mobile phone, not a desktop or laptop computer,” said Cynthia Baur, an endowed professor and director of the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy who’s overseeing development of the app. “Designing a smartphone app for multiple health topics, instead of one for a specialized purpose, allows the app to be more relevant and useful in everyday life.”

Dr. Baur is a recognized leader in developing easy to use tools for health promotion including CDC’s health literacy website, which provides resources and online training to improve health literacy and public health and the CDC Clear Communication Index, a set of scientific criteria for creating clear public communication materials. Her approach is based in communication science and focuses on providing diverse audiences with information in ways they can understand and use.

The intended users frequently lack convenient access to doctors or hospitals, and only a handful of Spanish-language health promotion apps now exist. Researchers hope the app empowers these vulnerable populations to make the best health decisions.

The multidisciplinary team working on the free app includes faculty members in the departments of Behavioral and Community Health and Health Services Administration and the Center for Health Equity, as well as faculty from the Department of Computer Science. They will work with a community design team and conduct a yearlong field test with the people who will be its end users.

“We're working with community partners to include user feedback throughout,” Baur said. “we're using health literacy principles to make the app, navigation and content easy to understand and use.”

October is Health Literacy Month. The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy is one of the sponsors of the Health Literacy in Action Conference on Oct 25-26 at UMD. 

 

UMD Celebrates Homecoming 2018

October 8, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will host its annual Homecoming Week from Sunday, October 7 to  Sunday, October 14, 2018. UMD’s campus-wide celebration is centered around the Maryland Terrapins Football Game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday, October 13 at noon at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. This year’s Homecoming celebration will also offer dozens of Fearless and family-friendly events, including alumni gatherings, artistic performances, service projects and athletic competitions. 

 

Homecoming Week will kick off on Sunday, October 7 at 9:45 a.m. with a Terps Against Hunger Homecoming Service Project at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union. The two-day event will bring together volunteers from across campus and the local community to package 400,000 meals for local children and families suffering from food insecurity. 

 

A Conversation with AOL Co-founder Steve Case will take place on Tuesday, October 9 from 5 to 6 p.m. at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Organized by the Robert H. Smith School of Business, Case will share stories about his career as a founder, investor, presidential advisor, best-selling author and philanthropist. To register for this event, visit https://go.umd.edu/SteveCase.

 

On Wednesday, October 10 at 7 p.m. at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, Maryland Athletics will host a Mid-Field Homecoming Gathering, a rare opportunity to take a commemorative photo midfield under the lights while enjoying free Maryland Dairy ice cream.

 

The Homecoming Comedy Show, presented by Student Entertainment Events, features Ali Wong this year. The show will include a book reading and a Q&A session. There are two scheduled shows on Thursday, October 11 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum. 

 

On Friday, October 12, Maryland will host Terp Carnival on McKeldin Mall, offering rides, games, prizes and entertainment for students, families, and the local community from 4 to 8 p.m. Guests will also enjoy a fireworks and laser light display on McKeldin Mall. 

 

To view the full Homecoming Week schedule, visit https://homecoming.umd.edu/. Follow the celebration and join in on social media with #UMDHomecoming.

Mountaintop Observatory Sees Gamma Rays from Exotic Milky Way Object

October 8, 2018
Contacts: 

Emily Edwards, 301-405-2291 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The night sky seems serene, but telescopes tell us that the universe is filled with collisions and explosions. Distant, violent events signal their presence by spewing light and particles in all directions. When these messengers reach Earth, scientists can use them to map out the action-packed sky, helping to better understand the volatile processes happening deep within space.

For the first time, an international collaboration of scientists has detected highly energetic light coming from the outermost regions of an unusual star system within our own galaxy. The source is a microquasar—a black hole that gobbles up stuff from a nearby companion star and blasts out two powerful jets of material. The team’s observations, described in the October 4, 2018 issue of the journal Nature, strongly suggest that electron acceleration and collisions at the ends of the microquasar’s jets produced the powerful gamma rays. Scientists think that studying messengers from this microquasar may offer a glimpse into more extreme events happening at the centers of distant galaxies.

The team gathered data from the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory (HAWC), which is a detector designed to look at gamma-ray emission coming from astronomical objects such as supernova remnants, quasars and rotating dense stars called pulsars. Now, the team has studied one of the most well-known microquasars, named SS 433, which is about 15,000 light years away from Earth. Scientists have seen about a dozen microquasars in our galaxy and only a couple of them appear to emit high-energy gamma rays. With SS 433’s close proximity and orientation, scientists have a rare opportunity to observe extraordinary astrophysics.

“SS 433 is right in our neighborhood and so, using HAWC’s unique wide field of view, we were able to resolve both microquasar particle acceleration sites,” said Jordan Goodman, a Distinguished University Professor of physics at the University of Maryland and U.S. lead investigator and spokesperson for the HAWC collaboration. “By combining our observations with multi-wavelength and multi-messenger data from other telescopes, we can improve our understanding of particle acceleration in SS 433 and its giant, extragalactic cousins, called quasars.”

Quasars are massive black holes that suck in material from the centers of galaxies, rather than feeding on a single star. They actively expel radiation, which can been seen from across the universe. But they are so far away that most known quasars have been detected because their jets are aimed at Earth—like having a flashlight aimed directly at one’s eyes. In contrast, SS 433’s jets are oriented away from Earth and HAWC has detected similarly energetic light coming from the microquasar’s side.

Regardless of where they originate, gamma rays travel in a straight line to their destination. The ones that arrive at Earth collide with molecules in the atmosphere, creating new particles and lower-energy gamma rays. Each new particle then smashes into more stuff, creating a particle shower as the signal cascades toward the ground.

HAWC, located roughly 13,500 feet above sea level near the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, is perfectly situated to catch the fast-moving rain of particles. The detector is composed of more than 300 tanks of water, each of which is about 24 feet in diameter. When the particles strike the water they are moving fast enough to produce a shock wave of blue light called Cherenkov radiation. Special cameras in the tanks detect this light, allowing scientists to determine the origin story of the gamma rays.

The HAWC collaboration examined 1,017 days’ worth of data and saw evidence that gamma rays were coming from the ends of the microquasar’s jets, rather than the central part of the star system. Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that electrons in the jets attain energies that are about a thousand times higher than can be achieved using earthbound particle accelerators, such as the city-sized Large Hadron Collider, located along the border between France and Switzerland. The jets’ electrons collide with the low-energy microwave background radiation that permeates space, resulting in gamma ray emission. This is a new mechanism for generating high-energy gamma rays in this type of system and is different than what scientists have observed when an object’s jets are aimed at Earth.

Ke Fang, a co-author of the study and former postdoctoral researcher at the Joint Space-Science Institute, a partnership between UMD and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said that this new measurement is critical to understanding what is going on in SS 433. 

“Looking at only one kind of light coming from SS 433 is like seeing only the tail of an animal,” said Fang, who is currently an Einstein Fellow at Stanford University. “Thus, we combine all of its signals, from low energy radio to X-ray, with new high-energy gamma ray observations, to find out what kind of beast SS 433 really is.”

Until now, instruments had not observed SS 433 emitting such highly energetic gamma rays. But HAWC is designed to be very sensitive to this extreme part of the light spectrum. The detector also has a wide field of view that looks at the entire overhead sky all of the time. The collaboration used these capabilities to resolve the microquasar's structural features.

“SS 433 is an unusual star system and each year something new has come out about it,” said Segev BenZvi, another co-author of the study and an assistant professor of physics at the University of Rochester. “This new observation of high-energy gamma rays builds on almost 40 years of measurements of one of the weirdest objects in the Milky Way. Every measurement gives us a different piece of the puzzle, and we hope to use our knowledge to learn about the quasar family as a whole.”

 

In addition to Goodman and Fang, UMD Department of Physics co-authors of the paper include graduate students Kristi Engel and Israel Martinez-Castellanos; postdoctoral researcher Colas Rivière; and research scientist Andrew Smith.

The HAWC collaboration is funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF); the US Department of Energy Office of High-Energy Physics; the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, México (grants 271051, 232656, 260378, 179588, 239762, 254964, 271737, 258865, 243290, 132197, and 281653) (Cátedras 873, 1563); Laboratorio Nacional HAWC de rayos gamma; L’OREAL Fellowship for Women in Science 2014; Red HAWC, México; DGAPA-UNAM (Dirección General Asuntos del Personal Académico-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; grants IG100317, IN111315, IN111716-3, IA102715, 109916, IA102917); VIEP-BUAP (Vicerrectoría de Investigación y Estudios de Posgrado-Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla); PIFI (Programa Integral de Fortalecimiento Institucional) 2012 and 2013; PRO-FOCIE (Programa de Fortalecimiento de la Calidad en Instituciones Educativas) 2014 and 2015; the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the Institute of Geophysics, Planetary Physics, and Signatures at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Polish Science Centre grant DEC-2014/13/B/ST9/945 and DEC-2017/27/B/ST9/02272; and Coordinación de la Investigación Científica de la Universidad Michoacana. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

 


Photo: The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory (HAWC) is a detector designed to look at gamma-ray emission coming from astronomical objects such as supernova remnants, quasars and rotating dense stars called pulsars. Located roughly 13,500 feet above sea level near the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, the detector is composed of more than 300 tanks of water, each about 24 feet in diameter. When particles strike the water, they produce a shock wave of blue light called Cherenkov radiation. Special cameras in the tanks detect this light, allowing scientists to determine the origin of incoming gamma rays. Image credit: Jordan Goodman/University of Maryland 

 

 

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