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Four Terp Students Named 2019 Goldwater Scholars

May 10, 2019
Contacts: 

Irene Ying 301-405-5204,

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Four University of Maryland undergraduates have been awarded scholarships by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and research careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics

Over the last decade, UMD’s nominations have yielded 33 scholarships—the most in the nation, followed by Stanford University with 29. Goldwater Scholars receive one- or two-year $7,500 scholarships intended as a stepping-stone to research careers.

UMD’s four winners—a computer science and mathematics double major and three physics majors—all plan to pursue Ph.D.s.

Yaelle Goldschlag is seeking double degrees in computer science and mathematics and is a member of the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES) program in the Honors College as well as a Banneker/Key Scholar. She is interested in computer security and privacy, with a focus on identity verification.She began conducting research with Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at UMD, in 2018 and is a founding member of Levin’s Breakerspace, a laboratory for undergraduate cybersecurity research. Goldschlag searches for more effective ways to verify the identity of web domain owners, and co-presented research on hackers’ ploys to impersonate legitimate sites at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2018 Internet Measurement Conference.

In addition to internships at Facebook and elsewhere, she taught a student-initiated course (STIC) in computer science and served as an ambassador for the Maryland Center for Women in Computing.

“Yaelle repeatedly exhibits initiative, creativity, skill at problem selection, and a slew of intangibles that will collectively serve her in becoming a leader in what I expect to be a very long career in research,” Levin said.

John Martyn, a physics major and member of the University Honors Program in the Honors College, is interested in quantum information and quantum matter, as well as quantum computing. Since 2017, he has worked with physics Assistant Professor Brian Swingle on various aspects of quantum information, and developed a method to prepare approximations to thermal states that may one day enable quantum computers to study quantum matter systems and models of black holes. Martyn presented this work at the 2019 American Physical Society March Meeting and the 2019 National Collegiate Research Conference.

Martyn helped administer the High Energy Physics computing cluster at UMD and conducted research with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team at the California Institute of Technology, where he investigated quantum noise in LIGO’s gravitational wave detectors. For this work, Martyn received the 2018 Carl Albert Rouse Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the National Society of Black Physicists.

“John really strives for perfection in his work and has already demonstrated many of the skills needed to function as an independent researcher,” Swingle said.

Nicholas Poniatowski, who is majoring in physics, is interested in the study of superconductivity in unconventional materials. Working with UMD physics Professor Richard Greene at the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials, Poniatowski studies a family of copper-oxide materials called cuprates—high-temperature superconductors that can exhibit superconductivity closer to room temperature.

In one project, Poniatowski and collaborators found that a particular cuprate responded in unexpected ways to variations in temperature and magnetic field, offering clues to the origin of high-temperature superconductivity in cuprates. This work will be published later this month in Science Advances, and  Poniatowski presented further results related to this work at the 2019 APS March Meeting.

In addition, Poniatowski authored an article, forthcoming in the American Journal of Physics, describing the theoretical relationship between superconductivity and the Higgs mechanism in the standard model.

“Nick is extraordinary at both theory and experiment, a combination of skills that is very rarely seen,” said Greene. “He has tremendous potential for significant experimental research contributions in the future.”

Mark Zic, also majoring in physics, is a member of the University Honors Program in the Honors College. He focuses on topological materials and superconductors, which have potential applications in quantum computing.

Working with Johnpierre Paglione, professor of physics and director of the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials, Zic helped discover and characterize a novel potential superconductor, with a resulting study published in Physical Review B in 2018.

In addition, Zic led an effort to use the UMD Radiation Facilities to irradiate quantum materials to characterize their physical properties for potential use in quantum technologies, presenting this work at the 2018 Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Quantum Materials Summer School and Program Meeting. Zic also assisted in experiments using ultracold temperatures to characterize a new superconductor that survives under extremely high magnetic fields. This work will be published in the journal Science.

“Mark has continued to surprise me with his abilities, initiative and progress,” Paglione said. “He has engaged in not one, but three graduate or even postgraduate-level projects in the last year and shows no signs of slowing down. He is a true asset to our center.”




For Some Fish Deep and Dark May Still be Colorful

May 10, 2019
Contacts: 

Kimbra Cutlip 301-405-9463

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – An international team of researchers discovered a previously unknown visual system that may allow color vision in deep, dark waters where animals were presumed to be colorblind. The research appears on the cover of the May 10, 2019, issue of the journal Science.

“This is the first paper that examines a diverse set of fishes and finds how versatile and variable their visual systems can be,” said Karen Carleton, a biology professor at the University of Maryland and co-author of the paper. “The genes that determine the spectrum of light our eyes are sensitive to turn out to be a much more variable set of genes, causing greater visual system evolution much more quickly than we anticipated.”

Vertebrate eyes use two types of photoreceptor cells to see—rods and cones. Both rods and cones contain light-sensitive pigments called opsins, which absorb specific wavelengths of light and convert them into electrochemical signals that the brain interprets as color. The number and type of opsins expressed in a photoreceptor cell determine the colors an animal perceives.

Before this new study, it was accepted that cones are responsible for color vision, and rods are responsible for detecting brightness in dim conditions. 

This new work indicates that is not strictly the case. By analyzing the genomes of 101 fish, the team of researchers from the University of Maryland, the University of Queensland in Australia, Charles University in the Czech Republic and the University of Basel in Switzerland discovered that some fish contained multiple rod opsins raising the possibility they have rod-based color vision.

Cones typically contain genes for expressing multiple opsins, which is why they are used for color vision. But they are not as sensitive as rods, which can detect a single photon and are used for low-light vision. In 99% of all vertebrates, rods express just one type of light-sensitive opsin, which means the vast majority of vertebrates are colorblind in low-light conditions.

Vision in most deep-sea fish follows this same pattern, but the new research revealed some remarkable exceptions. By analyzing the genes for expressing opsins in rods and cones of fish living from the shallow surface waters down to 6,500 feet of depth, the researchers found 13 fish with rods that contained more than one opsin gene. Four of those, all deep-sea fish, contained more than three rod opsin genes.

Most remarkable was the silver spinyfin fish, which had a surprising 38 rod opsin genes. That is more opsins than the researchers found in the cones of any other fish and the highest number of opsins found in any known vertebrate. (Human vision by comparison uses four opsins). In addition, the rod opsins found in silver spinyfin fish are sensitive to different wavelengths.

“This was very surprising,” Carleton said. “It means the silver spinyfin fish have very different visual capabilities than we thought. So, the question then is, what good is that? What could these fish use these spectrally different opsins for?”                                               

Carleton believes the answer may have to do with detecting the right prey. It has long been presumed that animals living in very deep water have no need for color vision, because only blue light penetrates deeper than 600 feet. But despite the lack of sunlight, the deep sea is not devoid of color. Many animals that live in darkness generate their own light through bioluminescence.

The new study found that in fish with multiple rod opsins, the specific wavelength of light their opsins are tuned to overlap with the spectrum of light emitted by the bioluminescent creatures that share their habitat.

“It may be that their vision is highly tuned to the different colors of light emitted from the different species they prey on,” Carleton said.

It’s important to note that the four species of fish found to have more than three rod opsins are unrelated species. This suggests that rod-based color vision, which can be thought of as deep-water color vision, evolved independently multiple times and must confer some benefit to survival.  

The researchers say their next steps are to broaden the study to other deep-sea fish and to look for shallow-water relatives of silver spinyfin fish that may have evolved a large number of rod opsins.

The research paper “Vision using multiple distinct rod opsins in deep-sea fishes,” Zuzana Musilova, Fabio Cortesi1, Michael Matschiner, Wayne I. L. Davies, Jagdish Suresh Patel, Sara M. Stieb, Fanny de Busserolles, Martin Malmstrøm, Ole K. Tørresen, Celeste J. Brown11, Jessica K. Mountford, Reinhold Hanel, Deborah L. Stenkamp, Kjetill S. Jakobsen, Karen L. Carleton, Sissel Jentoft, Justin Marshall, Walter Salzburger, was published in the journal Science on May 10, 2019.

This study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (Award No. 16-09784Y), the Swiss National Science Foundation (Award Nos. 166550, 156405, 176039, 165364), the Basler Stiftung für Experimentelle Zoologie, a UQ Development Fellowship, the Australian Research Council (Award Nos. FT110100176, LP0775179), a Discovery Project grant (Award No. DP140102117), the Research Council of Norway (Award No. 222378), the Center for Modeling Complex Interactions sponsored by the NIGMS (Award No.  P20 GM104420), the National Science Foundation (Award No. OIA1736253), the National Institutes of Health (Award Nos. 01EY012146, R01EY024639) and the European Research Council. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

Reversible Chemistry Clears Path for Safer Batteries

May 9, 2019
Contacts: 

Martha Heil 301-405-0876 

Ji Chen (R) and Chongyin Yang (L) show Prof. Chunsheng Wang (C) energy performance results for the group's new battery

 

COLLEGE PARK -- Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) and US Army Research Lab (ARL) have taken a critical step on the path to better high energy batteries by improving their water-in-salt battery with a new type of chemical transformation of the cathode that creates a reversible solid salt layer, a phenomenon yet unknown in the field of water-based batteries.

Building on their previous discoveries of the water-in-salt electrolytes reported in Science in 2015, the researchers added a new cathode. This new cathode material, lacking transition metal, operates at an average potential of 4.2 volts with excellent cycling stability, and delivers an unprecedented energy density comparable, or perhaps higher than, non-aqueous Li-ion batteries. The authors report their work on May 9 in the journal Nature.

“The University of Maryland and ARL research has produced the most creative new battery chemistry I have seen in at least 10 years,” said Prof. Jeffrey Dahn of Dalhousie University in Canada, an expert in the field not affiliated with the research. “However, it remains to be seen if a practical device with long lifetime can be created."

Leveraging the reversible halogens intercalation in graphite structures, enabled by a super-concentrated aqueous electrolyte, the team generated an energy density previously thought impossible. The researchers found that the super-concentrated solution of the water-in-salt battery, combined with graphite anode’s ability to automatically build and re-form a protective layer within the battery, gave a stable and long lasting battery with high energy.

“This new cathode chemistry happens to be operating ideally in our previously-developed ‘water-in-salt’ aqueous electrolyte, which makes it even more unique - it combines high energy density of non-aqueous systems with high safety of aqueous systems,” said a co-first author of the paper, Chongyin Yang, an assistant research scientist in the UMD department of chemical & biomolecular engineering.

“This new ‘Conversion-Intercalation’ chemistry inherits the high energy of conversion-reaction and the excellent reversibility from intercalation of graphite,” said Ji Chen, co-first author of the paper and a research associate in the department of chemical & biomolecular engineering.   

The team of researchers—led by Chunsheng Wang, ChBE Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry;  Kang Xu, ARL Fellow; and Oleg Borodin, ARL scientist -- have advanced the battery into a testable stage: the size of a small button, typically used as a test vehicle in research labs. More research is needed to scale it up into a practical, manufacturable battery.

The energy output of the water-based battery reported in this study boasts 25% increased energy density of an ordinary cell phone battery based on flammable organic liquids, but is much safer. The new cathode is able to hold 240 milliamps per gram for an hour of operation, roughly twice that of a typical cathode currently found in cell phones and laptops.

The water-in-salt battery could ultimately be used in applications involving large energies at kilowatt or megawatt levels, or where battery safety and toxicity are primary concerns, including non-flammable batteries for airplanes, naval vessels, or spaceships.

For additional information:

Aqueous Li-ion Battery Enabled by Halogen Conversion-Intercalation Chemistry in Graphite

Nature, May 9, 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1175-6: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1175-6

The principal investigators (C.W. and K.X.) received financial support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) ARPA-E Grant DEAR0000389. This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory, and was supported by the U.S. DOE under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357, and the Canadian Light Source and its funding partners.

Previous UMD water-in-salt battery stories:

https://umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/more-salt-equals-more-power-safe-green-water-based-battery-tech

https://umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/umd-army-researchers-discover-solution-better-safer-batteries

 

Student Team Adds Fifth National Championship to UMD Dynasty in Soil Judging

May 1, 2019
Contacts: 

 Samantha Watters 301-405-2434


University of Maryland 2019 National Championship Soil Judging Team.  Left to right: Front Row – Yunxuan Pei, Aubrey Wiechecki (5th Place Individual), Cathelyn Wang (7th Place Individual), Rachael Heisey. Back Row – Dr. Martin Rabenhorst (Coach), Antonio Vega, William Mast, Dyani Frye, Anna Lowien, Barret Wessel (Asst. Coach), Jonathan Moy, Isabella Bruno.

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- A student team from the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) took first place in the recent 58th National Collegiate Soils Contest in San Luis Obispo, California. The win builds on the college’s long history of excellence in the field of soil science and solidifies UMD’s current dynasty in the competition with three championships and one fourth place finish in the past seven years. Maryland has won the competition a total of five times.

“The Maryland ethos in soil judging is, I would say, unique,” said team coach Martin Rabenhorst, professor in Environmental Science & Technology, who first coached a Maryland soil judging team in 1983 and was a member of UMD’s first championship team in 1972 as an undergraduate. “The university itself is pretty diverse, and the members of the soil judging team tend to represent a pretty diverse cross-section of students. And yet, the team seems to be very embracing of each other. We were out there with 25 other universities, and the team spirit and general affection for one another that UMD has is unusual. Maryland’s group judging has been regularly in the top 3 or 4, and I think a lot of this has to do with the camaraderie and team working well together. You have to be able to work together as a team, and the terp soil judgers tend to do that well.”

Team placements in the annual competitions are built on a combination of both group and individual portions, and according to team coach Martin Rabenhorst, professor in Environmental Science & Technology, strength in the individual portion of the contest was a key to the team finishing ahead of Virginia Tech (#2), the University of Nebraska (#3), North Carolina State University (#4) and Kansas State University. (#5). The top Terps among the 101 students in the individual portion were Aubrey Wiechecki in 5th place and Cathelyn Wang in 7th place.

Rabenhorst and Brian Needelman, associate professor of Environmental Science & Technology, alternate coaching the UMD soil judging team ach year.  Doing so, they say is both a major commitment and a privilege that involves teaching a class, as well as coaching and mentoring students through late night studying and early morning treks out to practice pits.

In soil judging competitions, after students first arrive in the host state, they spend four days prior to the start of competition portion looking at practice sites that have been pre-assessed by official judges (local professional soil scientists). This helps them learn about the soils in a new area. During the official competition, students have an hour to characterize each new five-foot-deep pit, identifying and describing the characteristics of the layers, classification, and development processes of the soil, its ability to transmit and retain water and support plants, the geological history of the site itself, and potential challenges for various land uses.

“Soils we saw [this year] in California were very different than soils in Maryland,” said Rabenhorst. “Different climate, geology - a lot of our students saw a number of soil orders they had never seen before. That’s one of the real positives of this process -- that it exposes students to new soils and different ways of assessing soils across different regions. They are increasing the size of their ‘soil universe,’ traveling and seeing many different soils across the country.”

The combined experience of teamwork and exposure to new soil types can translate into better job opportunities for student team members.

“You get into the pits and you get to show things off,” said Barret Wessel, an assistant coach and doctoral candidate in Environmental Science & Technology. “There are certain soil features you can’t get in another class - you have to be in the pit to observe.” Rabenhorst adds, “With field skills you learn through mentoring. This is why we have employers who are specifically looking for students that have soil judging experience, because they know that they’ve got these field skills.”

And these are very specific skills that are valuable in the world of soil science. For example, students need to be able to feel for clay and sand, estimating the percent of sand, silt, and clay for each soil just by feel, within 5 percent, to get full credit. “It takes a lot of practice,” said Rabenhorst. But, he said, “They love it."

According to the coaches, during the competetion different students independently said "This is the best day of my life.’” 

“And that's prior to the win even,” said Wessel. Rabenhorst added. “They often say, ‘This was the most significant thing in my college experience.’ That comes partly from what they’ve learned, but also from this positive team experience and camaraderie.”

Wessel is studying soils for his doctoral work, and said he couldn’t imagine doing something different. “I have been interested in soil science since I was a little kid helping my mom garden and flipping over rocks, collecting bugs and worms,” said Wessel, noting that the field of soil science, while very specific, is pervasive and critical to environmental health.

“All of life is built upon the soils,” said Rabenhorst. “All the food we eat, all the fibers that go into clothing, many building materials, water and the quality of what we drink, all of those things are related to the soils. And there are literally 25,000 different types of soils mapped in the U.S., and recognizing the ecosystem services provided by different soils and landscapes helps you to be a good steward of the land.”

Maryland will be hosting the regional Soil Judging Competition this coming fall, and Rabenhorst and Wessel are both excited to showcase some of the unique properties in Maryland’s soils with a new team of soil judgers.

University of Maryland Garners Top Honors from Unique Venues

April 30, 2019
Contacts: 

Joseph E. Criscuoli, 301-314-7884, joecrisc@umd.edu

COLLEGE PARK, MD – The University of Maryland, for the third consecutive year, took home the Unique Venues’ Best of Award in the "Best Venue for Youth/Sports Groups" category. 

The Best Of Awards recognize the standout campuses, conference and business centers, sports arenas, historical and cultural venues, camps and retreat centers, and other special event venues that made a lasting impression on guests. More than 55,000 planners that regularly use the services provided by Unique Venues to connect with non-traditional spaces voted in a total of 22 categories.

The University of Maryland offers unparalleled options for youth groups, including a suburban location near the nation’s capital with 8,000 beds, two-layer security in the residence halls, plus two dining halls where attendees can convene together. 

“Each summer, sports camps run by Big Ten Conference coaches combine with college immersion, special studies, and STEAM programs to create a thriving campus,” said Joseph E. Criscuoli, Marketing, Sales, Publications & Outreach Coordinator for Conferences & Visitor Services. “One of the most notable is the Maryland Field Hockey Camp, held at UMD’s state-of-the-art field hockey turf facility since 1995, with instruction from current and former National & Olympic team members.”

The university can also provide in-house motor coach charters that make ground transportation to nearby Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. a breeze for additional educational components. 

“Back on campus, our ropes challenge course, rock climbing wall, ice cream socials from the Maryland Dairy, and TerpZone facility are ‘must-do’ add-ons for any youth program,” adds Criscuoli. 

The University of Maryland was also named a Runner-Up in the "Best High Tech Venue" category, citing the brand-new Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center and its position at the forefront of active engagement. The 187,000 square foot building holds twelve classrooms and nine teaching labs and in a range of sizes and layouts. Most rooms feature a Crestron touch-panel at the lectern, allowing presenters to send up to two inputs to the room’s various screens. Seamless video-conferencing is available using built-in cameras, as well as ceiling, in-table wireless handheld and lavaliere microphones. Attendees can also wirelessly project content from their personal devices using the integrated Mersive Solstice system. The “Tiered-Collaborative” lecture halls feature speaker confidence monitors, while the “6Round” spaces provide round tables for group discussion, with screens on multiple walls for ease of viewing. Situated in the heart of campus, the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center offers user-friendly technology, convenience, and an inspiring atmosphere for any event.

With the announcement of these awards, the Conferences & Visitor Services department has now brought eight Best Of Awards to the University in just four years. In 2015, the "Most Easily Accessible Venue" award and a "Runner-Up" nod in the "Best Venue for Tradeshow/Exhibits" category was received, followed by the "Best Suburban/Rural Venue" and "Best Venue for Youth/Sports Groups" in 2016, and the "Best Venue for Unique or Locally Sourced Catering" award plus the second "Best Venue for Youth/Sports Groups" award in 2017. 

 

Urban Clean Air Policies in China Shift Pollution to Other Areas

April 29, 2019
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md. University of Maryland-supported research finds that as China enacts ambitious pollution control policies to improve air quality in urban areas, these measures may be just transferring pollution problems to less developed regions of the country.

A global team of researchers used computer models of interregional trade and chemical flows in the atmosphere to simulate clean air policy scenarios in the urban Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region—home to more than 100 million people—and to evaluate the environmental impacts and spillover effects elsewhere in China.

Their results, recently published in Science Advances, found that reducing fine particle and carbon dioxide emissions as well as cutting water consumption in the urban region caused negative environmental impacts in neighboring provinces. This was due largely to the outsourcing of production and energy generation, the researchers said, pointing to the decision to close many coal power plants around Beijing and import electricity from surrounding regions where policy restrictions are more lenient.

“Our intention is certainly not to blame or discourage environmental policies designed to reduce air pollution,” said Kuishuang Feng, an associate research professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences and corresponding author on the study. “However, without considering the unintended side effects of isolated environmental policies, these might backfire and lead to an increase in environmental problems in other regions as well as an overall increase in pollution nationwide.”

Researchers say spillover effects related to environmental policy are largely ignored because authorities at various levels of government—local, regional and national—are concerned with and manage environmental issues separately. The team plans to continue its work in other regions of China to help policymakers take these environmental chain reactions into account.

Besides UMD, the research team included scientists from Beijing Normal University and Peking University in China, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.

Courtney Clark Pastrick Named Honorary Co-Chair for Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland

April 29, 2019
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Courtney Clark Pastrick, board chair of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation and a director of Clark Enterprises, will serve as an honorary co-chair for the University of Maryland’s Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, the institution today announced. The daughter of renowned builder, businessman and alumnus, A. James Clark ‘50, Pastrick and her family have been an integral part of the UMD community for over 70 years. 

“It is an honor to be in the position to help UMD reach this incredible fundraising goal,” said Pastrick. “The Clark family has always held a special place in our hearts for Maryland and I am excited to contribute to this campaign in pursuit of world-changing innovation.” 

As honorary co-chair, Pastrick will help guide the university in its most ambitious and comprehensive fundraising effort ever to invest in world-renowned faculty, support capital projects, provide more scholarships, and innovate and expand pioneering programs. As of April 27, the campaign was more than two-thirds of the way toward its $1.5 billion goal, with more than $1 billion raised from more than 94,000 donors.

"We are pleased to welcome Courtney Clark Pastrick as an honorary co-chair of Maryland’s most ambitious and comprehensive fundraising effort yet,” said Jackie Lewis, vice president for University Relations. “Pastrick’s and the Clark family’s unwavering support of the university and her commitment to lead her family’s philanthropic giving makes her a wonderful addition to the leadership team.”

Pastrick joins a dream team of co-chairs in Alma G. Gildenhorn '53, philanthropist; Barry P. Gossett '62, principal, Gossett Group; Brendan Iribe, co-founder, Oculus; (honorary co-chair), William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor emeritus, University System of Maryland; Karen B. Levenson '76, educator; Kevin A. Plank '96, founder, CEO and chairman, Under Armour; (honorary co-chair) Michelle Smith, president, Robert H. Smith Family Foundation; and Craig A. Thompson '92, partner, Venable LLP.

Continuing the Clark family legacy, Pastrick has served as both President and Board Chair of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation, an organization which continues to demonstrate its deep commitment to the University of Maryland. Notable contributions include numerous gifts to the Clark School of Engineering and an investment of $219.5 million for Building Together: An Investment for Maryland to increase college access and affordability, spark innovation that tackles the problems facing the nation and world, and inspire the next generation of leaders. 

Pastrick is a proven leader in the D.C.-Maryland region and has served in leadership roles for many local non-profit organizations.

 

 

Pioneering Breakthrough: Unmanned Aircraft Delivers Organ for Successful Kidney Transplant in Maryland

April 26, 2019
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK and BALTIMORE, MD— In a first-ever advancement in human medicine and aviation technology, a University of Maryland (UMD) unmanned aircraft has delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. This successful demonstration illustrates the potential of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for providing organ deliveries that, in many cases, could be faster, safer, and more widely available than traditional transport methods.

The landmark 2.8 mile flight was a collaboration between aviation and engineering experts at the University of Maryland; transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore; and collaborators at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland. 

“This whole thing is amazing. Years ago, this was not something that you would think about,” said the kidney recipient, a 44-year-old Baltimore resident who spent eight years on dialysis before undergoing the transplant procedure.The patient was discharged from UMMC on Tuesday. 

Maryland faculty and researchers believe this prototype organ transport blazes a trail for the use of UAS to expand access to donated organs, improving outcomes for more people in need of organ transplants. 

“This history-making flight not only represents a breakthrough from a technological point of view, but provides an exemplary demonstration of how engineering expertise and ingenuity ultimately serve human needs—in this case, the need to improve the reliability and efficiency of organ delivery to hospitals conducting transplant surgery,” said Darryll J. Pines, Ph.D., UMD, dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering. “As astonishing as this breakthrough is from a purely engineering point of view, there’s a larger purpose at stake. It’s ultimately not about the technology; it’s about enhancing human life.”

Added Joseph Scalea, MD, assistant professor of surgery at UMSOM, project lead, and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant at UMMC, “As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation.” 

The many technological firsts of this effort include: a specially designed, high-tech apparatus for maintaining and monitoring a viable human organ; a custom-built UAS with eight rotors and multiple powertrains to ensure consistently reliable performance, even in the case of a possible component failure; the use of a wireless “mesh” network to control the UAS, monitor aircraft status, and provide communications for the ground crew at multiple locations; and aircraft operating systems that combined best practices from both UAS and organ transport standards.

“We had to create a new system that was still within the regulatory structure of the FAA, but also capable of carrying the additional weight of the organ, cameras, and organ tracking, communications and safety systems over an urban, densely populated area—for a longer distance and with more endurance,” said Matthew Scassero, MPA, director of UMD’s UAS Test Site, part of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure knowing there’s a person waiting for that organ, but it’s also a special privilege to be a part of this critical mission.”

Prior to the April 19th organ delivery flight, the Maryland partners worked together to develop and test the UAS by first successfully transporting saline, blood tubes, and other materials, and then by transporting a healthy, but nonviable, human kidney. These test flights were preceded in 2016 by the state of Maryland’s first civil unmanned aerial delivery of simulated medical cargo, a collaborative effort between UMD’s UAS Test Site and the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health in Easton, Maryland, to illustrate how the use of UAS could radically change medical care and impact the lives of real people.

“This major advance in human medicine and transplantation exemplifies two key components of our mission:  innovation and collaboration,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine.  “Innovation is at the heart of our focus on accelerating the pace and scope of discovery, where research can rapidly transform medicine.  At the same time, collaboration is the key to our success in providing discovery-based medicine—both in conducting research and in delivering the highest quality patient care.”

Designing a UAS Organ Delivery System

To create a UAS designed to carry an organ and provide real-time monitoring of its condition, Scalea partnered with several medical technology companies to design and develop the Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel (HOMAL; patent pending). It measures and maintains temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, vibration, and location (via GPS) during transportation and transmits the information to the smartphones of transplant personnel.

The needed unmanned aircraft and operating systems were designed by UMD UAS Test Site engineers to meet the rigid medical, technical, and regulatory demands of carrying a donor organ for human transplantation. 

“We built in a lot of redundancies, because we want to do everything possible to protect the payload,” said Anthony Pucciarella, director of operations at the UMD UAS Test Site. These safeguards included backup propellers and motors, dual batteries, a backup power distribution board, and a parachute recovery system (in case the entire aircraft fails). 

Advancing Transplantation through UAS Transport

Transportation logistics are often the most complicated part of the organ transplant process—and how long an organ remains viable throughout travel is a major issue. Transport methods typically involve expensive chartered flights or rely on variable commercial flights, and occasionally result in an organ left on a plane or other delays that destroy the organ’s viability.  These current transport methods also don’t adequately cover many parts of the county, such as rural or geographically remote areas, which limits access in these areas both to organ donations and organ transplants. 

“For more than 25 years, the University of Maryland Medical Center has provided cutting-edge care in organ transplantation,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. “Our Transplant Program cares for patients who come from our local community, the state and the nation, many of whom have been turned away at other hospitals, because we have the skill, talent and knowledge to advance even the most complex transplant cases, often times not just improving but saving lives.” 

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the organ transplant system in the United States, in 2018 there were nearly 114,000 people on waiting lists for an organ transplant; about 1.5 percent of deceased donor organ shipments did not make it to the intended destination; and nearly four percent of organ shipments had an unanticipated delay of two or more hours.

“There remains a woeful disparity between the number of recipients on the organ transplant waiting list and the total number of transplantable organs. This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation,” said Scalea. “Delivering an organ from a donor to a patient is a sacred duty with many moving parts. It is critical that we find ways of doing this better.”

Beating the organ transplant clock is a key responsibility of U.S. organ procurement organizations, including project collaborator The LLF. “The University of Maryland UAS project is incredibly important,” said Charlie Alexander, Chief Executive Officer of The LLF, noting that the work is at the proof-of-concept stage. “If we can prove that this works, then we can look at much greater distances of unmanned organ transport. This would minimize the need for multiple pilots and flight time and address safety issues we have in our field.”

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Scalea is founder of a private data analytics company, Transplant Logistics and Informatics. Funding for this research was provided by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) with additional resources from the UAS Test Site, UMSOM, UMMC, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Office of Technology Transfer, and the City of Baltimore

REFERENCES: 
Scalea et al. Am J Transplant. 2019 Mar;19(3):962-964
Scalea et al. IEEE J Transl Eng Health Med. 2018 Nov 6;6:4000107

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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.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world—with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, UMSOM works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic, and clinically-based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. UMSOM faculty, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit: medschool.umaryland.edu  

About the University of Maryland Medical Center
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) is comprised of two hospitals in Baltimore: an 800-bed teaching hospital – the flagship institution of the 14-hospital University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) – and a 200-bed community teaching hospital, UMMC Midtown Campus. UMMC is a national and regional referral center for trauma, cancer care, neurosciences, cardiac care, diabetes and endocrinology, women’s and children’s health, and has one of the largest solid organ transplant programs in the country. All physicians on staff at the flagship hospital are faculty physicians of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At UMMC Midtown Campus, faculty physicians work alongside community physicians to provide patients with the highest quality care. UMMC Midtown Campus was founded in 1881 and is located one mile away from the University Campus hospital. For more information, visit www.umm.edu.

 

 

UMD Researchers Kill Foodborne Bacteria with Electrified Air

April 25, 2019
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters 301-405-2434

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The 10-state Salmonella outbreak announced this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an example of foodborne illnesses that the CDC says sicken tens of millions of people and kill several thousand each year. But what if it was possible to easily kill potentially harmful bacteria on fruits and vegetables, without harming the food or the environment?

University of Maryland researchers are working on a plasma-based technology that could provide consumers, restaurants and food processors with a low-temperature microwave-like machine to kill pathogens, while bypassing significant problems associated with existing washing or treatment methods. Such problems include massive water use, inadvertent spread of contamination, creation of antimicrobial resistance, and chemical residues left on food.

In a paper published in Plasma Processes and Polymers, researchers from the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources reported that 99 percent of E.coli on the surface of fresh produce were killed by one minute of a process called “etching and surface modification.”

Their method uses what is essentially electrified air, to damage the outer membrane of bacteria on food, killing them. But the process, which doesn’t involve heat, has no known impact on produce itself.

“We can use electrical energy to produce this [plasma] state from air, and the reactive species generated have very strong impacts on pathogens where they can etch part of their outer membranes and change them biochemically,” said co-author Gottlieb Oehrlein, professor of materials science and engineering with a joint appointment with the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics.

Plasma is already used in the healthcare industry to sanitize surgical tools, and clinical trials in dermatology have also been performed for the treatment of chronic skin diseases. The plasma is concentrated—almost like a tiny blowtorch—but cold to the touch.

“Microscopically the bacteria surface is bombarded by these exotic plasma species. This leads to material removal and surface modification,” said Pingshan Luan, Ph.D. ’18, lead author on the paper. “Once the composition is changed, the bacteria cell wall loses its functional and structural integrity.”

The technology could have great advantages over other means to kill bacteria, said co-author Rohan Tikekar, an assistant professor of nutrition and food science, eliminating risks associated with antimicrobials and even washing.

“The washing process is a double-edged sword,” he said. “It makes produce look appealing and removes dirt, but if it is not done properly, water becomes a carrier for this small amount of bacteria to spread to a larger batch of produce. You may start out with, say, 10 lettuce heads that are contaminated, and with improper washing, you might end up with 10 tons of lettuce that is contaminated.”

Their plasma food sanitation process potentially could be used at an industrial scale, in restaurants and dining halls, or even at the level of individual consumers.

The researchers are planning further testing, such as how the device affects the nutritional value of food. However, because it only works on a thin layer at the surface, they expect little impact, and consumers could one day have an effective safety measure that Oehrlein said would be as easy as “flipping a light switch on and off.”

 

UMD to Celebrate the Opening of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering

April 23, 2019
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076 

Exterior shot of Iribe CenterCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland will celebrate the opening of the new state-of-the-art Brendan Iribe (ee-REEB’) Center for Computer Science and Engineering on Saturday, April 27, 2019. The Iribe Center will be a hub for technology at the heart of a new innovation district, among high-tech companies, government agencies and institutional colleagues. Bringing together the university's top-ranked Department of Computer Science and its renowned Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), the Iribe Center will support groundbreaking research and education in virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, computer vision, machine learning, data science, and more.

Six floors of specialized labs, classrooms, auditoriums, offices and a fully equipped maker space offer unprecedented opportunities for students and faculty to innovate bold new applications for computer science.  The new facility is made by possible by a $30 million gift from UMD Alumnus and Oculus Co-Founder Brendan Iribe’s $30 million gift, and a $3.5 million gift from UMD Alumnus and Oculus Co-Founder Michael Antonov.

WHO:

  • Larry Hogan, Governor, State of Maryland
  • Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., President, Maryland Senate
  • Robert Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland
  • Wallace D. Loh, President, University of Maryland
  • Brendan Iribe, Co-Founder, Oculus 
  • Michael Antonov, UMD Alumnus and Co-Founder, Oculus 
  • Amitabh Varshney, Dean, UMD College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
  • Jamie Matthews, UMD Alumna and Computer Science Graduate Student

WHAT:

  • Celebration Ceremony of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering.
  • Interactive demonstrations in virtual reality, robotics, and 3D printing.
  • This event is closed to the public and open to pre-credentialed media. 

WHEN:

Iribe Center Celebration Ceremony is Saturday, April 27 at 10 a.m.

TV Cameras need to be in place for security sweeps by 8 a.m.  

Media please plan to arrive by 9:15 a.m.

Post-ceremony interactive demonstrations are from 11 a.m.  - 1 p.m.

Please note: this event will take place on Maryland Day, the university’s open house showcasing hundreds of events across campus, happening from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 

WHERE:

The Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland: 8125 Paint Branch Dr, College Park, MD 20742

Media check-in is on Floor G of the Brendan Iribe Center, near the general event registration table

Visit maps.umd.edu for a campus map

PARKING: Free parking upon request. Public transportation is encouraged. 

RSVP: Media must RSVP by Thursday, April 25 at 6 p.m. to mediainfo@umd.edu

 

 

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