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University of Maryland Ranked Among the Top 15 Public Colleges in the Nation

August 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621 

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In its annual assessment of the best colleges, Forbes has ranked the University of Maryland as the No. 2 public university in the state and No. 12 public university in the country. Maryland’s overall ranking puts the institution in the top 10 percent of the 650+ schools listed. 

In its 11th year, the Forbes ranking urges students to make the best college decision based on the academic criterion they value most. This unique ranking highlights higher education outputs such as retention & graduation rates, debt after graduation and alumni salaries.The universities included have proven, through a host of many factors, to prepare students best for post-graduate success. 

Emphasis on new academic discoveries and proximity to the nation’s capital contribute to UMD’s top 50 ranking among best research universities and best colleges in the northeast. The University of Maryland has also been honored as the best in state, and is No. 15 among public colleges in the Forbes ranking of America’s Best Value Colleges

The full Forbes list of America’s Top Colleges is available here

$1 Million from the State of Maryland will Match Brin Family Donation for Two Endowed Professorships in Computer Science at UMD

August 29, 2018
Contacts: 

Abby Robinson, 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md.–  The University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) will receive $1 million from the state’s Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (MEI) to match a private donation establishing two Brin Family Endowed Professorships in Theoretical Computer Science.

“The Brin family is extremely grateful to the state of Maryland for this match,” said Samuel Brin (B.S. ’09, computer science), who spearheaded the effort on behalf of his family. “Our family is committed to Prince George’s County and the University of Maryland, our home for many years. These professorships will help the computer science department continue to push forward and thrive, across all frontiers of computation.”

In addition to Samuel, the Brin family includes his brother and Google co-founder, Sergey Brin (B.S. ’93, mathematics and computer science); his father, UMD Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Michael Brin; and his mother Eugenia Brin, a retired NASA scientist who worked on issues related to climate and weather forecasting.

The MEI, which launched in 2015, is designed to spur private donations to universities in the state for applied research in scientific and technical fields by matching such donations. UMD has received over $8 million from MEI—more than any other institution in the state.

“This strong public-private partnership will help generate the knowledge that powers high-tech innovation in the state,” said UMD President Wallace D. Loh. “Together, the Maryland Department of Commerce and the Brin family will enable us to recruit two more world-class scientists to our growing computer science hub. We appreciate this important support.”

CMNS has received $7.3 million from the program to establish six new endowed professorships in computer science and four new endowed chairs in computer science, the life sciences and mathematics. The endowed chair in mathematics was created in 2015 thanks to a donation from Michael and Eugenia Brin that was matched by the state. The Michael and Eugenia Brin E-Nnovate Endowed Chair in Mathematics is currently held by Visiting Professor Michael Rapoport

“These endowed faculty positions allow us to expand our college’s innovation ecosystem by recruiting new faculty members and providing them with the critical resources they need to enhance the regional and state economy through their research endeavors and the students they teach and mentor,” said CMNS Dean Amitabh Varshney.

The new Brin Family Endowed Professorships will be held by computer science faculty members who work in the area of theoretical computer science. By applying rigorously developed theory and algorithms, computer scientists are solving practical problems arising in networks, computer graphics, image processing, architecture, social networks and epidemiology. Theoretical computer science also provides the foundation for research priorities such as cryptography, data science and machine learning, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. 

“Theoretical computer science continues to make important contributions to computing by laying the foundational building blocks for the technologies of today and the future,” said Ming Lin, chair of the UMD Department of Computer Science and holder of the Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Endowed E-Nnovate Chair. “With the support of the Brin Family Professorships, the Department of Computer Science at Maryland can further solidify its global status and reputation in these important research areas.”

In addition to the Brin Family Endowed Professorships in Theoretical Computer Science, the computer science MEI endowments include:

  • The Elizabeth Stevinson Iribe Endowed E-Nnovate Chair, held by Lin since January 2018, which was funded by Elizabeth Iribe and funds from the state.
  • The Paul Chrisman Iribe Endowed E-Nnovate Professorship, held by Dinesh Manocha since May 2018, which was funded by Elizabeth Iribe and an equal match from the state. It honors Elizabeth’s brother.
  • The Reginald Allan Hahne Endowed E-Nnovate Professor in virtual reality, held by Matthias Zwicker since March 2017, which was funded by Elizabeth Iribe and an equal match from the state. It was named for her son Brendan Iribe’s high school computer science teacher.
  • One Capital One Endowed E-Nnovate Chair and two Capital One Endowed E-Nnovate Professors in machine learning, data science and cybersecurity, funded by Capital One and an equal match from the state.

“My heartfelt thanks to the Brin and Iribe families, as well as Capital One,” Lin said. “If they didn’t have the vision and desire to give back, none of this would have been possible. The students are the biggest beneficiaries of these gifts, which also help elevate the department to the next level.”

As the Department of Computer Science searches for candidates to fill the Brin Family Professorships and the Capital One Chair and Professorships, construction continues on the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation. A cutting-edge research, education and entrepreneurship facility for computer science at UMD, the facility is expected to open in 2019. The new building became a reality thanks to a $31 million gift from alumnus Brendan Iribe, co-founder of the virtual reality company Oculus. 

These generous gifts support Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign focused on elevating and expanding the university’s mission of service, enhancing academic distinction and bolstering UMD’s leading-edge research enterprise.

“The support for a new building and endowed faculty positions is transforming the university, the region and the state, as our students graduate and go on to develop technological innovations that impact society and drive the economic growth for the state of Maryland,” Lin said.

 

Responding to Cholera Before It Strikes

August 28, 2018
Contacts: 

Leon Tune, 301-405-4679

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Research by University of Maryland microbiologist Rita Colwell is enabling a new British-led international aid effort to predict and stop potential epidemics of the disease cholera before they happen.

This international effort, which has already begun in Yemen, draws on decades of Colwell’s work to understand the water-borne bacterium Vibrio cholerae that causes the disease, and uses a computer model designed to forecast cholera outbreaks developed by a team of U.S. scientists led by Colwell, a Distinguished University Professor in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, Antar Jutla, a hydrologist and civil engineer at West Virginia University, and UMD’s Anwar Huq, a former graduate student of Colwell’s who is a research professor in the university’s Maryland Pathogen Research Institute.

Colwell—who began studying the bacterium in the late 1960s and first conceived the idea of forecasting and proactively fighting cholera outbreaks in 1995—said seeing her vision realized in this new endeavor “is the greatest satisfaction any scientist, mathematician, or engineer could possibly have… essentially a dream fulfilled.”  

Using data from NASA satellites and other sources, the team's computer model provides risk maps for cholera in Yemen and other regions in the world based on factors that include air and water temperatures; precipitation amounts; severity of natural disasters; availability of clean water; sanitation and hygiene infrastructure; population density; and severity of natural disasters.

“By being able to predict when and where cholera is of highest risk, it makes it possible to deliver supplies and arrange for safe drinking water effectively and accurately,” said Colwell, a former director of the U.S. National Science Foundation whose highly acclaimed career bridges the disciplines of microbiology, genetics, ecology, infectious disease, public health, data analysis and satellite technology.

This spring, based on the model’s predicted locations and timing for cholera outbreaks in war-torn Yemen, the British government together with UNICEF began providing aid to lessen both the spread and severity of the illness, which causes severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration, and even death, if untreated. Aid workers have distributed supplies for water sterilization and personal hygiene to reduce people’s exposure to the bacteria, and provided rehydration salts, intravenous fluid packs and other supplies to reduce the severity illness in those that became infected.   

“The conflict in Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with millions of people at risk of deadly but preventable diseases such as cholera,” said Department for International Development Chief Scientist, Professor Charlotte Watts. “By joining up international expertise with those working on the ground, we have, for the very first time, used these sophisticated predictions to help save lives and prevent needless suffering for thousands of Yemenis.”

“This [collaborative effort] means public health intervention accurately, precisely delivered when and where needed,” said Colwell. “It is truly satisfying to be able to see one’s research, including that done here at the University over the past forty plus years, incorporated into an effective public health success on a global scale.”  

“I certainly hope other governments, NGOs, and the United Nations will incorporate our model into their ongoing work,” she said. “Cholera offers a superb model for other waterborne and vector transmitted diseases.”

A Vision Realized

The ability to predict and better respond to potential cholera epidemics is the direct result of Colwell’s five decades of award-winning work to understand Vibrio cholerae and how it multiples and spreads to cause disease.

Her first key discovery was that the natural habitat for this bacterium was water, particularly among and within the microscopic animals and plants that constitute plankton. This meant that cholera outbreaks must first arise from consumption of contaminated drinking water drawn from sources such as rivers and ponds. Later she identified environmental conditions that determine whether these disease-causing bacteria lie dormant in their aquatic environments or flourish and proliferate.   She also developed a simple, inexpensive and effective method of using readily available used sari cloth to filter pond and river to greatly reduce the incidence of cholera in villages in Bangladesh. 

 In 1995, while looking at colorful NASA satellite imagery showing a coastal bloom of plankton that are home to Vibrio cholerae, Colwell realized that satellite data could be used to forecast potential cholera outbreaks. More recently, Colwell has worked with colleagues Jutla, Huq and others to advance the science and computer science needed to develop this predictive capability. She also has led research that has increased our understanding of how changing environmental factors, such as the world’s warming climate, are affecting the health risks posed by Vibrio cholerae and other vibrio bacteria.

“We still have a lot of work yet to do to increase accuracy and geographic applicability [of our predictive model]," said. “We also need to continue to accumulate ground truth data to strengthen the model. This means continuing our valuable molecular biology and genomic research on cholera done here at the University of Maryland.  And we will be expanding our work in Africa where cholera continues to be devastating.”

In addition to her cholera work, Colwell is known for pioneering research in computational biology and DNA sequencing that helped lay the groundwork for the bioinformatics revolution. She holds a dozen U.S. patents and is founder and chairman of CosmosID, Inc., a microbial genomics company focused on molecular diagnostics of human pathogens and antimicrobial resistance. Colwell has received many national and international awards and recognitions, including the 2017 Vannevar Bush Award given by the U.S. National Science Board; the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded by the King of Sweden; the 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the president of the United States; and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star bestowed by the Emperor of Japan.

A member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the first female director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (1998-2004), Colwell also has long been a powerful voice calling for investment in and encouragement of STEM (science technology engineering and math) research and careers as essential to the health, welfare, social stability and national security of the U.S. and all nations.

 


Video: Using Precipitation Data to Assess Risk of Cholera Outbreaks. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

University of Maryland Named a Top Producer of Minority Graduates

August 27, 2018
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland has been named a Top 100 Minority Degree Producer by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. UMD is listed as No. 1 in the state for conferring bachelor degrees to minority students. 

In the only national reporting of its kind, UMD ranked in the top 25 for Asian American bachelor's (19), African American bachelor's (21) and total minority professional doctoral degrees (24) in all disciplines. 

Specific program areas UMD ranked in the top 5 include:

    • Total minority students with Doctoral degrees in Mathematics and Statistics (1)
    • African American students with Bachelor's degrees in Social Sciences (2)
    • Asian American students with Doctoral degrees in Mathematics and Statistics (2)
    • Total minority students with Master's degrees in Multi/interdisciplinary studies (3) 
    • African American students with Bachelor's degrees in Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (4)
    • African American students with Bachelor's degrees in Agriculture and Agriculture Operations (4)
    • African American students with Master's degrees in Engineering (4)
    • Asian American students with Master's degrees in Multi/interdisciplinary studies (4)
    • African American students with Bachelor's degrees in Natural Resources and Conservation (5)

Diverse reports the number of combined bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral-level degrees awarded increased across the country by more than 58,000 degrees since last year. 

For more information and complete Diverse rankings, visit http://diverseeducation.com/top100/

 

 

University Statement on Jacksonville Shooting

August 27, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4621

The alleged shooter in the August 26, 2018 Jacksonville, FL, shooting was previously a University of Maryland student enrolled beginning in September 2014. David Katz was not registered for classes as of 8/26/2018 and did not live on campus. His major was Environmental Science and Technology.

 

University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said today: 

“Our community grieves for the families of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s horrific shooting in Jacksonville. When our community was directly impacted by the shooting in Annapolis this summer, I said that more than silent reflection is needed to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country, and I will say that again today. The alleged shooter was previously enrolled here and was not registered for classes this semester. I encourage anyone at our university with relevant information to reach out to law enforcement to aid in the investigation happening in Florida.” 

 

 

University of Maryland Statement - August 23, 2018

August 23, 2018

Statement from the University of Maryland: 

On August 29, 2017, university administration first learned that the then-Athletic Director directed the hiring of an attorney, who had been representing two student-athletes in a sexual misconduct case for approximately two months. The attorney had been promised funds controlled by the Athletic Department to represent the accused. 

This was brought to the attention of the President’s Office immediately by the then-Executive Athletic Director after first learning of the arrangement when the lawyer submitted an invoice to the department. The President's Office, the Office of General Counsel, the Athletic Compliance Office and the then-Executive Athletic Director were not involved in or consulted on the original decision made to hire and pay the lawyer. Protocols requiring General Counsel to retain outside counsel had not been followed in the hiring. 

In response, the President’s Office immediately directed the then-Athletic Director to cut ties with the attorney. 

NCAA bylaws allow member institutions to pay for legal counsel for proceedings that might affect a student-athlete’s eligibility to participate in intercollegiate athletics. However, the decision to hire this lawyer showed a serious lack of judgement in a sexual misconduct case, given the university’s commitment to a fair and impartial handling of all such matters.

On September 27, it came to the attention of the President’s Office that its previous instruction to cut ties with the attorney had not been followed. The President’s Office directed the Office of General Counsel to immediately launch an internal investigation to determine why this had happened.  

This sexual misconduct case was handled by our Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct and the Office of Student Conduct independently, impartially, and without favoritism. Legal representation is common in proceedings related to sexual misconduct, and while lawyers can advocate for the rights of the accused, they do not determine the outcome or verdict. That is the job of our independent Standing Review Committee.

Federal privacy laws prevent releasing the outcomes of individual sexual misconduct cases. There were six expulsions for sexual misconduct in the last fiscal year (July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017). 

The President briefed the Board of Regents last fall to update them on this matter. 

University of Maryland Recognized as a Best College in the Nation, No. 1 in Maryland

August 21, 2018
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs, jenburr@umd.edu, 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland been named one of America’s best colleges by Money magazine, a leading source for personal finance news and advice. UMD’s value was ranked No. 1 in Maryland, in the top 20 among public colleges and top 30 among all 727 schools considered. 

In an annual ranking to help students and parents assess the costs and payoffs when making college decisions, Money pooled the nation’s top experts in education quality, financing and value to assess each institution on graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points. UMD’s 87 percent graduation rate, low average student debt and high early career earnings were key factors in the university’s ranking. 

The full Money magazine list of the Best Colleges in America is here: http://time.com/money/best-colleges/  

 

UMD Scientist Helps Harvest Wheat’s Giant Genetic Code

August 17, 2018
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters 301-405-2434, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

Wheat field in Nebraska. Credit USDA.

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland, as part of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, has helped accomplish a feat once considered impossible, sequencing the full genome of wheat, the world’s most widely cultivated crop.

Experts say that the long-awaited mapping of wheat’s vast genetic territory opens up opportunities for creating new and better strains of wheat by improving complex traits such as crop yield, grain quality, resistance to diseases or pests, tolerance to heat and drought, and even characteristics like protein content or types and amounts of allergy causing compounds. 

“The wheat genome gives us a complete picture that will be the key to unlocking genes controlling important traits for crop improvement,” said UMD consortium researcher Vijay Tiwari, who leads the Small Grain Breeding and Genetics program in the department of plant science & landscape architecture.  “When this discovery was made for rice and maize, rapid advances were made in those crops almost immediately after,” he said.

Wheat’s incredibly large and duplicative genome is not actually a single genome, but three overlapping and similar ones, the result of natural hybridisation of different grasses over thousands of years. The consortium research that has opened up its full genetic complexity was authored by Tiwari and more than 200 other scientists from a total of 73 research institutions in 20 countries. UMD is one of only seven US institutions involved as consortium partners. A paper about their work was published on August 17 in the journal Science.

“This was very much collaborative science at its best,” said Tiwari. “Without the consortium, this couldn’t have been accomplished in this amount of time.”

Wheat is the staple food of more than a third of the world’s people and accounts for almost 20 percent of the total calories and protein consumed by humans, more than any other single food source. It also serves as an important source of vitamins and minerals. 

According to the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, which began in 2005 as an initiative by Kansas farmers, meeting future demands of a projected world population of 9.6 billion by 2050, will require wheat production to increase by more than 50 percent (1.6 percent each year). In order to preserve biodiversity, water, and nutrient resources, the majority of this increase has to be achieved through crop and trait improvement on land currently cultivated, the consortium said in a release.

The impact of their wheat sequencing findings has already been significant because the now published wheat reference sequence was made available to the scientific community in January 2017. More than 100 publications referencing the sequence have already been published. And a new publication in this same issue of Science features work using this resource done by UMD’s Tiwari as part of a collaborative team of researchers led by Professor Cristobal Uauy at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom. This team used the new genome sequence to study the expression in wheat of genes affecting resistance to heat, drought, and disease. Work they hope will pave the way for the production of wheat varieties better adapted to climate challenges, with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality, and improved sustainability.

Numerous studies have shown the susceptibility of wheat to climate changes. For example, a 2011 study in Science showed that rising temperatures are already causing declines in wheat production. And a more recent Nature research article suggested that this trend will only get worse, with a 5 percent decline in wheat yields for every one degree (Fahrenheit) temperature increase.

Taken together, the two new publications in Science provide results that will give a major boost to wheat breeding and genetic research, said Tiwari.  “Now researchers will have direct access to all the genes in the genome and information about their expression patterns, and it will allow them to unravel the genetic basis of important agronomic traits,” he said.

In previous work at the John Innes Centre, Tiwari and his fellow researchers fine-tuned a technique called speed breeding, which uses glasshouses to shorten breeding cycles. They say that earlier work combined with the new genome resources provided in these two papers, will significantly shorten the time needed to test genetic markers for traits like drought, heat, and disease resistance, getting new varieties of wheat to the growers faster.

“We are in a better position than ever to increase yield, breed plants with higher nutritional quality, and create varieties that are adapted to climate changes thanks to the research we and the international community are publishing,” said Uauy, project leader in crop genetics at the John Innes Centre.

 “It has been a bad year for wheat yields in Maryland, so we are excited to give growers and researchers this good news and bright hope. These landmark results and resources will allow us to address the imminent challenges of global food security in changing climatic conditions,” said Tiwari.

UMD to Host Press Conference with President and Athletic Director

August 14, 2018
Contacts: 

University of Maryland, 301-257-0073

WHAT:

The University of Maryland will host a press conference Tuesday afternoon with University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh and Director of Athletics Damon Evans.

WHO:

  • University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh
  • University of Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans

WHEN:

Tuesday, August 14 at 2:00 p.m.

MEDIA RSVP AND LOGISTICS

 

###

About the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park 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 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 57 members of the national academies. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

 

Inherited Brain Pathway Underlies Risk for Anxiety Disorders

August 10, 2018
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—Scientists from the University of Maryland, working with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the California National Primate Research Center, have discovered a brain circuit that appears to play an important role in the transmission of extreme anxiety from parents to their offspring. 

Although anxiety disorders are consistently ranked among the top 10 causes of global disability and sickness by the World Health Organization, existing treatments are inconsistently effective or, in some cases, associated with significant side effects. Like other mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are heritable: Parents who are anxious are more likely to have children who suffer from extreme shyness, inhibition and anxiety. Yet the brain circuits underlying the intergenerational transmission of extreme anxiety have remained mysterious.

Leveraging recent advances in genetics and brain imaging, the new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, marks the first demonstration that connectivity within the central extended amygdala plays a role in the genetic transmission of extreme anxiety. 

“We took advantage of earlier work that had painstakingly measured anxious temperament, individual by individual, in an extended family of nearly 2,000 individual monkeys,” said Alex Shackman, Ph.D.,  a professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NACS) program at UMD, and a co-author of the study. “The large sample greatly increases our confidence in the replicability and robustness of these effects.” 

Researchers used brain imaging techniques also used in human studies to look at the brains of young rhesus monkeys, who express anxiety in similar ways to human children. “This work provides invaluable new clues about the brain circuits to focus on in human patients, especially youth, and promises to accelerate the development of new treatments for early life anxiety,” Shackman said. Shackman leads several other ongoing brain imaging studies at the University of Maryland aimed at understanding the role of this circuitry in mood and anxiety disorders in adolescents and young adults.

The study was funded by the California National Primate Research Center, National Institutes of Health, University of California, and University of Maryland.

 

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