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University of Maryland Celebrates Opening of A. James Clark Hall

November 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

Tour state-of-the-art bioengineering facilities that will spark innovations in human health

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- University of Maryland, state and local officials will gather to dedicate A. James Clark Hall, the university’s new engineering facility that will transform the region’s biotech corridor. Media will be able to tour the 184,000-square-foot building and see the state-of-the-art bioengineering facilities where students from one of the university’s fastest growing degree programs will spark innovations in human health.  A. James Clark Hall will serve as a hub for new bioengineering partnerships and collaborations throughout the Baltimore-Washington region.

WHO:

  • Wallace D. Loh, President, University of Maryland
  •  Robert L. Caret, Chancellor, University System of Maryland
  • Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., Maryland Senate President
  •  Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Maryland House of Delegates
  • Courtney Clark Pastrick, Board Chair, A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation
  • Darryll Pines, Dean and Farvardin Professor, A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland

WHEN:

Friday, November 10, 2017

9:15 a.m. - building tour for media

10:30 a.m. - speaking program begins

 

WHERE:

 

A. James Clark Hall

8278 Paint Branch Dr.

College Park, MD 20742

 

PARKING:

Media must RSVP by Nov. 9 to secure nearby complimentary parking. General parking is available at the XFINITY Center.  

MEDIA CHECK-IN:

Media will be required to show identification and credentials at the media check-in table prior to entering the event. 

AUDIO:

A mult-box audio feed will be available at the event.

University of Maryland Statement on Flyers Targeting Campus — November 2, 2017

November 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Statement from university spokesperson Katie Lawson:

The university has been targeted by an online campaign that puts up posters in public areas, and particularly college campuses, with the goal of provoking controversy. The organizers' stated goals are to cause "overreactions" and get "air-time on some local stations," and say that resulting protests would be a "bonus." Posters have reportedly been found in several other communities.

Further questions should be referred to PGPD. We urge our community to report these posters and all instances of hate to UMPD. Hate is not welcome here.

University of Maryland Statement on #UMDNotaHome — November 2, 2017

November 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Statement from university spokesperson Katie Lawson:

Attorney Diane Krejsa's recent remarks were part of a complicated discussion about the tension between the constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech and the importance of creating a safe and inclusive campus environment. The university regrets that these comments were misunderstood as unwelcoming, when we are working tirelessly to be a welcoming and inclusive campus for all. Krejsa's comments were intended to highlight legal and other differences between a public university residence hall and a private home. In a university residence hall, students should expect to meet people who hold different opinions from their own and to talk about these differences. This is a valuable part of the college experience. We are proud that the University of Maryland is considered "a home" by thousands of our current and former students.

 

UMD Doctoral Student’s Brief Video on his Revolutionary Finding about Bee Health Wins International Competition

November 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Mary Carroll-Mason, 301-405-7792    

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A University of Maryland doctoral candidate in the Department of Entomology, Samuel Ramsey, has been named both the Judge’s First Place and People’s Choice award winners in the annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) contest, sponsored by Universitas 21 (U21), a global network of leading research universities. The contest challenges graduate students to communicate the significance of their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes.

Ramsey competed against 16 other finalists from U21 member institutions across the world. He was selected for the judge’s First Place Award by a distinguished international panel of judges, and received the People’s Choice award as a result of online popular voting. 

“This experience has been challenging but in the best way possible,” said Ramsey. “So many groundbreaking scientific discoveries never move beyond the pages of journals to public consciousness or public policy, partly because it’s difficult to explain things briefly without sacrificing accuracy. That’s why I’m so glad that I entered this contest. It forced me to refine this skill; one that I’m certain will serve me well throughout my career in science.”

Ramsey conducts research on a tiny parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, which is the single biggest contributor to the decline in health of honey populations worldwide. Originating in Asia, the invasive Varroa mite is wreaking havoc on honey bee colonies, both by feeding on adult and immature bees, and by serving as a vector for five debilitating viruses. 

For nearly 50 years, researchers have believed that the mite fed on the hemolymph (the “blood”) of the honey bee. Ramsey’s extensive research on the feeding habits and nutrition of the Varroa mite provides strong evidence that this model is wrong, and that current methods of controlling the parasite are not only ineffective, but actually may contribute to the parasites developing resistance to pesticides as well. 

Ramsey’s research establishes that the mites are primarily feeding on the honey bee’s fat body tissue—an organ in insects that serves a similar role to the human liver. Since several existing systemic pesticides were formulated assuming that mites fed on hemolymph, this discovery explains why these pesticides were never successful in controlling the mites. The mites will never ingest enough to kill them, but frequent exposure may contribute to future resistance. Ramsey’s work also explains why honey bees suffer so many negative consequences from a parasite believed to consume a small amount of their blood. His discovery will enable researchers to develop more targeted control techniques that could help restore honey bee populations worldwide.

Steve Fetter, Ph.D., interim dean of the Graduate School and associate provost for academic affairs at the University of Maryland, spoke of Samuel’s achievement: “We are thrilled that Sammy Ramsey won both the U21 3MT® judge's prize and the People's Choice prize in this year's competition. Sammy's presentation is a wonderful example of how researchers can describe their work to a general audience in a clear, compelling and engaging manner."

Ramsey is currently a visiting researcher at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, where he is studying parasites that attack Asian honey bee populations. He plans to defend his dissertation this spring. He joins a growing list of UMD students who have successfully competed in the 3MT contest. The University  has won more awards than any other single institution. In 2015, UMD student Carly Muletz Wolz, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences, won the People’s Choice award, and in  2014, the first year that UMD entered the competition, Amy Marquardt, who completed her PhD in material science and engineering, won both the judges’ First Place and People’s Choice awards.

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings to Address UMD’s 2017 Winter Graduates

November 1, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announces today that Congressman Elijah E. Cummings will deliver the university's winter commencement address on Dec. 19, 2017 at the XFINITY Center. Congressman Cummings will also receive an honorary doctorate of public service from the university.

Headshot of Congressman Cummings“What an outstanding role model for our students and the entire campus,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Congressman Cummings rose from a humble background, embraced the power of education, and in 35 years of service has never forgotten where he came from. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle deeply admire his commitment to bipartisanship. His message has great power.”

“We are at pivotal time in our nation and our world, and it is a tremendous honor to address a bright, talented and ambitious graduating class as they enter our workforce and make an impact on the future,” said Cummings.

“Congressman Cummings embodies our university’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect,” said UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “We look forward to hearing how those values underscore Congressman Cummings' life’s work and how he can inspire our graduates to embed those values in their future endeavors.”  

Congressman Cummings began his career of public service in the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem. Since 1996, Congressman Cummings has represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Cummings currently serves as the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is also a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, serving on both the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation and the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

He serves on numerous boards and commissions, including as chairman of the Maritime Advisory Board for New Era Academy; the U.S. Naval Academy Board of Visitors; the Morgan State University Board of Regents; the University of Maryland Law School Board of Advisors; and the SEED School of Maryland Board of Directors.

Congressman Cummings is an honorary board member of KIPP Baltimore Schools and the Baltimore School for the Arts; and was also the holder of the Gwendolyn S. and Colbert I. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy Lecture Series at Howard University from 2014 – 2016.

He was born and raised in Baltimore, Md., obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University, serving as Student Government President and graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and then graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. He has also received 12 honorary doctoral degrees from universities throughout the nation.

UMD & Duke Scientists Create Molecule with Promise for HIV Vaccine Design

November 1, 2017
Contacts: 

Irene Ying, 301-405-5204

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Scientists at the University of Maryland and Duke University have created a novel protein-sugar designed to break down HIV’s sugar shield defense. In animal model research, this molecule successfully stimulated an immune response against sugars that usually shield HIV against immune system attack.  The new molecule could one day become part of a successful HIV vaccine.

Artist's rendering of HIV covered with sugar-protein molecules“An obstacle to creating an effective HIV vaccine is the difficulty of getting the immune system to generate antibodies against the sugar shield of multiple HIV strains,” said Lai-Xi Wang, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UMD. “Our method addresses this problem by designing a vaccine component that mimics a protein-sugar part of this shield.”

Wang and collaborators designed the vaccine candidate using an HIV protein fragment linked to a sugar group. When injected into rabbits, the vaccine candidate stimulated antibody responses against the sugar shield in four different HIV strains. The results were published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology on October 26, 2017.

The protein fragment of the vaccine candidate comes from gp120, a protein that covers HIV like a protective envelope. A sugar shield covers the gp120 envelope, bolstering HIV’s defenses. The rare HIV-infected individuals who can keep the virus at bay without medication typically have antibodies that attack gp120.

Researchers have tried to create an HIV vaccine targeting gp120, but had little success for two reasons. First, the sugar shield on HIV resembles sugars found in the human body and therefore does not stimulate a strong immune response. Second, more than 60 strains of HIV exist and the virus mutates frequently. As a result, antibodies against gp120 from one HIV strain will not protect against other strains or a mutant strain.

To overcome these challenges, Wang and his collaborators focused on a small fragment of gp120 protein that is common among HIV strains. The researchers used a synthetic chemistry method they previously developed to combine the gp120 fragment with a sugar molecule, also shared among HIV strains, to mimic the sugar shield on the HIV envelope.

Next, the researchers injected the protein-sugar vaccine candidate into rabbits and found that the rabbits’ immune systems produced antibodies that physically bound to gp120 found in four dominant strains of HIV in circulation today. Injecting rabbits with a vaccine candidate that contained the protein fragment without the sugar group resulted in antibodies that primarily bound to gp120 from only one HIV strain.

“This result was significant because producing antibodies that directly target the defensive sugar shield is an important step in developing immunity against the target and therefore the first step in developing a truly effective vaccine,” Wang said.

Although the rabbits’ antibodies bound to gp120, they did not prevent live HIV from infecting cells. This result did not surprise Wang, who noted that it usually takes humans up to two years to build immunity against HIV and the animal study only lasted two months.

“We have not hit a home run yet,” Wang noted. “But the ability of the vaccine candidate to raise substantial antibodies against the sugar shield in only two months is encouraging; other studies took up to four years to achieve similar results. This means that our molecule is a relatively strong inducer of the immune response.”

The researchers’ next steps will be to conduct longer-term studies in combination with other vaccine candidates, hone in on what areas of gp120 the antibodies are binding to and determine how they can increase the antibodies’ effectiveness at neutralizing HIV.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Award No. R01AI113896). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

 


Photo caption: An artist's rendition of HIV (foreground). The knobs (purple) covering the virus are sugar-protein molecules, including gp120, that shield the rest of the virus (pink). Photo credit: National Cancer Institute 

 

UMD Researcher Awarded $1.4M NIH Grant to Study Effects of Copper on Heart Health

October 30, 2017
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters301-405-2434

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- A University of Maryland researcher received a $1.39 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of copper on human and animal health. Dr. Byung-Eun Kim, assistant professor in College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, will use the funds to continue his groundbreaking work in the field of copper signaling throughout the body.

Photo of copper"Copper is an essential mineral for sustaining life, yet it is toxic when misplaced or accumulated in excess,” said Kim. “The proper acquisition, distribution and utilization of copper and the regulation of copper metabolism are vital to normal human health.”

Copper helps promote normal organ functioning, growth and development in both animals and humans. Copper imbalance is associated with several diseases, including heart disease, the leading cause of natural death in the United States. The heart requires large amounts of copper to function correctly, especially during physical activity. The research aims to provide answers to unexplained heart attacks that occur frequently in animals and humans. Dr. Kim previously discovered that when the heart was low on copper, extra copper was exported from the intestines to the bloodstream, circulating to the heart. The discovery, which had not been observed before, suggests that tissues within the body “communicate” in order to correct copper imbalances. 

Dr. Kim will specifically explore the communication pathway and the molecule that “tells” certain organs to export more copper. He will also examine what happens to the body when the communication pathway breaks, and when the body is stressed. Research on the signaling molecule, the communication pathway and the copper transport system in the body has huge implications in both 

“Learning about this pathway will give us a better understanding of why heart attacks occur,” said Dr. Kim. “It will also guide the development of medications and techniques that can address imbalanced copper levels in the body.”

UMD Named Top 50 Global University by U.S. News & World Report

October 27, 2017
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --  The University of Maryland has been ranked No. 50 among 1,250 universities in the world in a new ranking out this week based on academic research performance and global reputation. 

In addition, UMD’s Geosciences and Physics programs both scored in the top 20 across the globe in their subject. 

The 2018 Best Global Universities methodology is based on several key measures of quality, including global & regional research reputation, publications, books, conferences, international collaboration and citations. 

With 221 universities ranked, the United States led the rankings on the overall and subject-specific lists, which include institutions from 74 total countries. UMD is one of two Maryland schools in the top 50, with John’s Hopkins landing at No. 12.

The full U.S. News & World Report Global University rankings are available here.

 

University of Maryland SAFE Center, PGPD Receive Joint $1.3M Grant to Assist Human Trafficking Victims

October 25, 2017
Contacts: 

Mary T. Phelan410-706-3803

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors and the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) have received a joint three-year grant totaling more than $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and Bureau of Justice Assistance to coordinate work to fight human trafficking in Prince George’s County, Md. 

Photo of SAFE CENTER logo“The human toll of trafficking has terrorized families and victims across Maryland for years. Fully addressing and combatting human trafficking requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees. “This grant will allow the SAFE Center and the Prince George’s County Police Department to continue their crucial partnership battling this crisis. I’m glad to see national recognition of the outstanding work this team accomplishes, and I will continue to support funding to back anti-human trafficking initiatives at all levels across Maryland and the country.”

Prince George’s is one of only two counties in the country to receive the grant, which was created to enhance collaboration between service providers and law enforcement within human trafficking task forces. The Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force (PGCHTTF) brings together law enforcement, social services, government agencies, and community organizations to combat human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is unacceptable in this county or anywhere and it will never cease until we commit ourselves to thwarting this horrible mistreatment of innocent people,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “Since taking office, my administration has taken this issue head on through the great work of our Human Relations Commission, Prince George’s County Police Department, State Attorney’s Office and other agencies, that are combatting human trafficking.  In addition, we created the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force to bring together various partners committed to putting an end to this unthinkable treatment of people.  This grant will go a long way in assisting our efforts to eliminate human trafficking throughout this county, state, and region.  I want to thank the Department of Justice, our Congressional delegation and the University of Maryland for their partnership and fiscal support of our efforts to eradicate these inhumane acts from our communities.”

"This grant will enable the SAFE Center and our partners to provide the full range of services human trafficking victims so desperately need to rebuild their lives. It will also help get traffickers off the streets so they cannot continue to rob our community’s most vulnerable members of their freedom and dignity,” said Ambassador Susan Esserman, JD, SAFE Center founder and director.  She is a visiting faculty member in the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

The grant award is evidence of the commitment and resolve of organizations and agencies combating human trafficking in Prince George’s County, as well as the significant work of the PGCHTTF. It will amplify the task force’s multidisciplinary collaboration and coordinated approach to identify victims of all forms of trafficking; address the individualized needs of victims; and investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases at the local, state, and federal levels. 

In addition to lead service grantee SAFE Center, direct service collaborators include FAIR Girls, Amara Legal Center, and other members of the PGCHTTF that provide services to trafficking survivors. 

Law enforcement grantee PGPD is joined by law enforcement partners including the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. 

Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski III said he was “proud that the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance have acknowledged the progressive and effective police work being done collaboratively in Prince George's County and I look forward to advancing that work with these much appreciated funds.”

Added Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, “Human trafficking is a crime that is negatively impacting so many and tearing families apart. This grant will enhance our joint efforts to arrest and prosecute those who prey on innocent young women and children, while also helping us to better serve the needs of our victims.”

“Receiving this grant is a testament to the efforts of County employees and volunteers on the Task Force who have worked long and hard since 2013 to restore victims, educate the public and to show traffickers that we are dead serious about combatting human trafficking in all its forms.” said Michael Lyles, PGCHTTF chairman.

The University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors is the first university-based comprehensive direct services, research, and advocacy center on human trafficking. Its mission is to provide survivor-centered and trauma-informed services that empower human trafficking survivors to heal and reclaim their lives, and to help prevent trafficking and better serve survivors through research and policy advocacy. The SAFE Center plays a leadership role in the PGCHTTF and the community. Through in-house services and collaborative partnerships, the SAFE Center provides comprehensive legal, case management, mental health, primary medical, and economic empowerment services to U.S. and foreign-born adult and child survivors of sex and labor trafficking. 

An initiative of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) through its formal partnership for innovation, University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State, the SAFE Center draws on the wide range of disciplines of both universities to address human trafficking. 

UMD Researchers Develop Stable, Robust Li-ion Battery Chemistry

October 23, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Holland Doyle301-405-0379

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have partnered with the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and the Army Research Lab to develop an enhanced Li-ion battery that is able to maintain its mechanical integrity under adverse conditions including bending, cutting and liquid submersion. This work is a follow-up to past UMD/ARL collaborations focusing on salt-water-based battery chemistry. Earlier this year, the team revealed the creation of a 4.0-volt aqueous Li-ion battery, based on a water-in-salt concept, capable of powering household electronics. The research was published in Joule this past September.

Photo of Li-on BatteryLithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries power the lives of millions of people every day via mobile phones, laptop computers, iPods and hybrid automobiles. Although reported to be volatile, this battery chemistry remains popular due to its high energy density, quick recharge rate and ease of transport.  

“UMD and ARL have explored several anode and cathode combinations that can be used within the stability window of our electrolyte,” said Chunsheng Wang, a professor in the UMD Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “By collaborating with UMD & ARL, we are starting to transition this technology into novel battery architectures and demonstrate its practical true potential,” said Kostas Gerasopoulos, senior research scientist and principal investigator at APL.

In their most recent work, “Flexible Aqueous Li-ion Battery with High Energy and Power Densities,” the team inserted a salt water electrolyte in polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) solution to create a gel polymer electrolyte (GPE). This GPE was then combined with a material called lithium vanadium fluorophosphates, or LiVPO4F, which was utilized as both the anode and cathode, to create an incredibly stable and flexible battery. Over the last few years, LiVPO4F has frequently been used as the cathode in an organic electrolyte Li-ion, but this is the first time it’s been used in aqueous electrolyte symmetrical batteries. 

“What makes LiVPO4F attractive for us is that it can be used as both anode and cathode within the stability window of the water-in-salt GPE, or alternatively, it can be matched with other high-voltage cathodes to achieve high energy density,” said Chongyin Yang, a UMD ChBE assistant research scientist and first author of the paper.

Photo of Li-ion

The most amazing attribute of this newfound technology is its robustness. “The cell can withstand cutting and continue to operate in an open cell condition without malfunction,” said Kang Xu, electrochemistry team leader and fellow at ARL. “To the best of our knowledge, this feature has not been previously reported for battery chemistries,” the team stated in their report. “The stability of the water-in-salt electrolyte in the air was also confirmed by monitoring the weight retention of water-in-salt GPE when exposing the electrolyte to air at room temperature for 20 days.” 

This research was published in Advance Materials. To view a video demonstration of the battery, click here.

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