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University of Maryland to Host Spring 2019 Commencement

May 21, 2019
Contacts: 

Jennifer Burroughs 301-405-4621

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s class of 2019 will celebrate the culmination of their collegiate experience as they attend the campus-wide ceremony on Friday, May 24, 2019 at the Xfinity Center. After a commencement address delivered by Michael R. Bloomberg, successful entrepreneur and three-term mayor of New York City, the University of Maryland will award 6,062 bachelor’s degrees, 1,595 master’s degrees and 592 doctoral degrees. Graduates and their families will also hear remarks from this year’s student speaker, Amy Landiorio, who is graduating with a degree in criminology and criminal justice.   

WHO:

  • University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh
  • The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
  • Student Commencement Speaker Amy Landiorio
  • Class of 2019 University of Maryland Graduates 

WHEN:

Friday, May 24, 2019

  • Doors Open – 11 a.m.
  • Processional – 12:20 p.m.
  • Ceremony – 1 p.m.

*Media should arrive no later than noon prior to the processional* 

WHERE:

Xfinity Center, University of Maryland, College Park

Xfinity Center is located on Paint Branch Dr. near the intersection of Paint Branch Dr. and Route 193 (University Blvd.) Click here for directions. 

PARKING/CHECK-IN:

To ensure parking and access to the commencement ceremony, media must RSVP to mediainfo@umd.edu. Media must park in lot 4b, enter through the loading dock at Xfinity Center and show their credentials.

Media seating, risers and a mult box will be available. 

LIVE VIDEO STREAM:

The ceremony will be streamed live on the University of Maryland’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/wTaC1NYf148

HASHTAG:

Follow the conversation on social media and join in using #UMDGrad.

 

For more information, visit www.commencement.umd.edu.

 

 

UMD ‘Hyperdimensional’ AI Might Lead to Major League Improvements in Robotic Abilities

May 16, 2019
Contacts: 

Rebecca Copeland 301–405–6602, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – New  University of Maryland research could fundamentally improve the ability of artificial intelligence to control how robots and other “agents” translate what they know and sense into what they do.

When a baseball or softball player hits a fast ball, their brain (human intelligence) seamlessly, and almost instantly, combines sensory input (sight & sound information about the pitcher’s release, the speed and movement of the ball), with knowledge (memories of the pitcher’s tendencies, information on the batter’s own abilities, the number of balls and strikes, the game situation, etc.) to send nerve signals (motor commands) to muscles resulting in a powerful mid-air impact of bat and ball.

Even with the best current AI and sensory capabilities,  a robot facing the same pitcher would have no chance. AI uses a linkage system to slowly coordinate data from sensors and stored data with the robot’s motor capabilities and actions. In addition robots can’t remember anything.

However, for robots with big league aspirations, hope may be found in a new paper by University of Maryland researchers that was just published in the journal Science Robotics. Their work introduces a new way of combining, or integrating, AI perception and  motor commands using the what’s called hyperdimensional computing theory.

The authors—UMD computer Science Ph.D. students Anton Mitrokhin and Peter Sutor, Jr.; Cornelia Fermüller, an associate research scientist with the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies; and Computer Science Professor Yiannis Aloimonos—say that such integration is the most important challenge facing the robotics field, and their new paper marks the first time that perception and action have been integrated.

Currently, a robot’s sensors and the actuators that move it are separate systems, linked together by a central learning mechanism that infers a needed action given sensor data, or vice versa.  This cumbersome three-part AI system—each part speaking its own language—is a slow way to get robots to accomplish sensorimotor tasks. The next step in robotics will be to integrate a robot’s perceptions with its motor capabilities. This fusion, known as “active perception,” would provide a more efficient and faster way for the robot to complete tasks.

Hyperdimensional Computing for active perception and memory

In the authors’ new hyperdimensional computing theory a robot’s operating system would be based on hyperdimensional binary vectors (HBVs), which exist in a sparse and extremely high-dimensional space. HBVs can represent disparate discrete things—for example, a single image, a concept, a sound or an instruction; sequences made up of discrete things; and groupings of discrete things and sequences. They can account for all these types of information in a meaningfully constructed way, binding each modality together in long vectors of 1s and 0s with equal dimension. In this system, action possibilities, sensory input and other information occupy the same space, are in the same language, and are fused, creating a kind of memory for the robot.

A hyperdimensional framework can turn any sequence of “instants” into new HBVs, and group existing HBVs together, all in the same vector length. This is a natural way to create semantically significant and informed “memories.” The encoding of more and more information in turn leads to “history” vectors and the ability to remember. Signals become vectors, indexing translates to memory, and learning happens through clustering.

The robot’s memories of what it has sensed and done in the past could lead it to expect future perception and influence its future actions. This active perception would enable the robot to become more autonomous and better able to complete tasks.

“An active perceiver knows why it wishes to sense, then chooses what to perceive, and determines how, when and where to achieve the perception,” says Aloimonos. “It selects and fixates on scenes, moments in time, and episodes. Then it aligns its mechanisms, sensors, and other components to act on what it wants to see, and selects viewpoints from which to best capture what it intends.”

“Our hyperdimensional framework can address each of these goals, ” he says.

Applications of the Maryland research could extend far beyond robotics. The ultimate goal is to be able to do AI itself in a fundamentally different way: from concepts to signals to language. Hyperdimensional computing could provide a faster and more efficient alternative model to the iterative neural net and deep learning AI methods currently used in computing applications such as data mining, visual recognition and translating images to text.

“Neural network-based AI methods are big and slow, because they are not able to remember,” says Mitrokhin. “Our hyperdimensional theory method can create memories, which will require a lot less computation, and should make such tasks much faster and more efficient.”

Combining Hyperdimensional Computing with Better Motion Sensing

The authors also note that one of the most important improvements needed to integrate a robot’s sensing with its actions is better motion sensing. Using a dynamic vision sensor (DVS) instead of conventional cameras for this task has been a key component of testing their hyperdimensional computing theory.

Most computer vision techniques use images whose quality is determined in pixel density. Pixel density represents moments in time well, but are not ideal for representing motion because motion is a continuous entity. A a dynamic vision sensor (DVS) is different. It does not “take pictures” in the usual sense, but captures motion, particularly the edges of objects as they move. DVS imaging thus is better suited to robotic needs for ‘seeing” motion. Inspired by mammalian vision, DVS accommodates a large range of lighting conditions, from dark to bright, and can resolve very fast motion with little delay in transmission (low latency). These are ideal properties for real-time applications in robotics, such as autonomous navigation. The data DVS accumulates are much better suited to the integrated environment of the hyperdimensional computing theory.

“The data from this sensor, the event clouds, are much sparser than sequences of images, says Fermüller. “Furthermore, the event clouds contain the essential information for coding space and motion, conceptually the contours in the scene and their movement.”

 

Citation: A. Mitrokhin, P. Sutor, C. Fermüller, Y. Aloimonos, Learning sensorimotor control with neuromorphic sensors: Toward hyperdimensional active perception. Science Robotics.

The authors acknowledge the funding support of the National Science Foundation under grant BCS 1824198, the Office of Naval Research under grant N00014-17-1-2622, and the Northrop Grumman Mission Systems University Research Program.

 

The Moon is Quaking as it Shrinks

May 13, 2019
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright 301-405-926

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- In 2010, an analysis of imagery from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found that the moon shriveled like a raisin as its interior cooled, leaving behind thousands of cliffs called thrust faults on the moon’s surface. Now a new analysis suggests that the moon may still be shrinking and actively producing moonquakes along these thrust faults.

A team of researchers including Nicholas Schmerr, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Maryland, designed a new algorithm to re-analyze seismic data from instruments [seismometers] placed by NASA’s Apollo missions in the 1960s and ’70s. Their analysis provided more accurate epicenter location data for 28 moonquakes recorded from 1969 to 1977.

The team then superimposed this location data onto LRO imagery of the thrust faults. Based on the quakes’ proximity to the thrust faults, the researchers found that at least eight of the quakes likely resulted from true tectonic activity—the movement of crustal plates—along the thrust faults, rather than from asteroid impacts or rumblings deep within the moon’s interior.

Although the Apollo instruments recorded their last quake shortly before the instruments were retired in 1977, the researchers suggest that the moon is likely still experiencing quakes to this day. A paper describing the work, co-authored by Schmerr, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on May 13, 2019.

“We found that a number of the quakes recorded in the Apollo data happened very close to the faults seen in the LRO imagery,” Schmerr said, noting that the LRO imagery also shows physical evidence of geologically recent fault movement, such as landslides and tumbled boulders. “It’s quite likely that the faults are still active today. You don’t often get to see active tectonics anywhere but Earth, so it’s very exciting to think these faults may still be producing moonquakes.”

During the Apollo missions astronauts placed a number of different instruments on the moon, including five seismometers on the moon’s surface during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions. The Apollo 11 seismometer operated only for three weeks, but the four remaining instruments recorded 28 shallow moonquakes—the type produced by tectonic faults—from 1969 to 1977. On Earth, the quakes would have ranged in magnitude from about 2 to 5.

 

Using the revised location estimates from their new algorithm, the researchers found that the epicenters of eight of those 28 shallow quakes were within 19 miles of faults visible in the LRO images. This was close enough for the team to conclude that the faults likely caused the quakes. Schmerr led the effort to produce “shake maps” derived from models that predict where the strongest shaking should occur, given the size of the thrust faults.

The researchers also found that six of the eight quakes happened when the moon was at or near its apogee, the point in the moon’s orbit when it is farthest from Earth. This is where additional tidal stress from Earth’s gravity causes a peak in the total stress on the moon’s crust, making slippage along the thrust faults more likely.

“We think it’s very likely that these eight quakes were produced by faults slipping as stress built up when the lunar crust was compressed by global contraction and tidal forces, indicating that the Apollo seismometers recorded the shrinking moon and the moon is still tectonically active,” said Thomas Watters, lead author of the research paper and senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Much as a grape wrinkles as it dries to become a raisin, the moon also wrinkles as its interior cools and shrinks. Unlike the flexible skin on a grape, however, the moon’s crust is brittle, causing it to break as the interior shrinks. This breakage results in thrust faults, where one section of crust is pushed up over an adjacent section. These faults resemble small stair-shaped cliffs, or scarps, when seen from the lunar surface; each is roughly tens of yards high and a few miles long.

The LRO has imaged more than 3,500 fault scarps on the moon since it began operation in 2009. Some of these images show landslides or boulders at the bottom of relatively bright patches on the slopes of fault scarps or nearby terrain. Because weathering gradually darkens material on the lunar surface, brighter areas indicate regions that are freshly exposed by an event such as a moonquake.

Other LRO fault images show fresh tracks from boulder falls, suggesting that quakes sent these boulders rolling down their cliff slopes. Such tracks would be erased relatively quickly, in terms of geologic time, by the constant rain of micrometeoroid impacts on the moon. With nearly a decade of LRO imagery already available and more on the way in the coming years, the team would like to compare pictures of specific fault regions from different times to look for fresh evidence of recent moonquakes.

“For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the moon,” Schmerr said. “We learned a lot from the Apollo missions, but they really only scratched the surface. With a larger network of modern seismometers, we could make huge strides in our understanding of the moon’s geology. This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the moon.”

This release is adapted from text provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The research paper, “Shallow seismic activity and young thrust faults on the Moon,” Thomas Watters, Renee Weber, Geoffrey Collins, Ian Howley, Nicholas Schmerr and Catherine Johnson, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on May 13, 2019.

This work was supported by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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.

 

 

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