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University of Maryland Names Adriene Lim Dean of University Libraries

May 28, 2019
Contacts: 

 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

Adriene Lim, Ph.D., Dean of University LibrariesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has named Adriene Lim, Ph.D., Dean of University Libraries, effective August 19, 2019. As dean, Lim will work with constituents across campus to develop and implement a vision and strategic plan for the Libraries, including optimizing library programs and campus learning resources, and ensuring the highest level of service to the campus community.

“To step into this role at the University of Maryland is a great honor,” said Lim. “It’s a pivotal time for the university, and the Libraries’ mission is a crucial one for advancing campus goals for teaching, learning and research. With great excitement, I look forward to joining my new colleagues to work on important initiatives and spearhead innovation with partners across the university, the state and beyond.”  

Lim currently serves as the Dean of Libraries and Philip H. Knight Chair at the University of Oregon, where she has strategically led a complex library organization, revitalizing systems, workflows, technologies and operations. In this role, Lim led and provided hands-on work for technology-intensive library operations; restructured and reinvigorated organizations, systems, and workflows; developed and advanced librarians and library workers; improved numerous service models, policies, programs, and collections; led and participated in fundraising initiatives and proposals; and initiated and completed major building renovation and space-repurposing projects.

“Dr. Lim’s 20 years of extensive leadership and management experience will be a great asset to our university,” said UMD’s Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin. “I am enthusiastic about the future of the University Libraries under Dr. Lim’s leadership.”

Prior to joining the University of Oregon, Lim was Dean of Libraries at Oakland University and Interim University Librarian and Associate University Librarian for Resource Services at Portland State University. She previously served as Head of Digital Library Services at Wayne State University and the Systems Librarian and Head of Database Management for the Detroit Area Library Network.

Lim currently serves on the boards of the Association of Research Libraries and the Center for Research Libraries. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University, a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. in Library and Information Science from Simmons University.

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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 58 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.

Scientists Revisit the Cold Case of Cold Fusion

May 28, 2019
Contacts: 

Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Scientists from the University of Maryland (UMD), the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and Google are conducting a multi-year investigation into "cold fusion", hypothized to occur in benchtop apparatus at room temperature. The group, which included about 30 graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists, has not yet found any evidence of the phenomenon, but they did find important new insights into metal-hydrogen interactions that could impact low-energy nuclear reactions. The team says they remain excited about investigating this area of science and hope their ongoing journey will inspire others in the scientific community to contribute data to this intriguing field.

Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the Sun. It is so named because it involves fusing atoms, and 30 years ago two scientists made sensational claims about achieving a version of the process at room temperture — a claim offering the promise of limitless, cheap energy. However, those results were soon disproved and the topic has been generally avoided by reseachers since that time.

The new multi-institution group's progress report, published in the May 27 Nature publicly discloses the group’s collaboration for the first time.

“We came together to work on an interesting problem with the potential for significant impact,” said Jeremy Munday, a principal investigator on the project and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland. “Even if we do not find a better way to produce clean energy, our discoveries along the way will still contribute to the scientific community.”

Operating as a “peer group” with a stringent internal review process, the team started out by vetting previous claims of cold fusion, which have not been pursued in mainstream academic research for the past 30 years. If cold fusion could be realized, the heat released by this process might offer an attractive option for decarbonizing the global energy system.

“We need a fundamentally new energy technology that can be scaled within the span of a human lifetime, and this requires scientists to be afforded the opportunity to do daring work,” said Curtis Berlinguette, a principal investigator and professor of chemistry and chemical and biological engineering at UBC. “This program provided us with a safe environment to take the long shot – given the profound impact cold fusion could have on society, we should remain open to it even if there is an unknown probability of success.”

“If any research project ever met the definition of high-risk, high-reward, this would be the one,” said Yet-Ming Chiang, a principal investigator and Kyocera professor of materials science and engineering at MIT.  “Electrochemistry can create interesting states of matter. If those states of matter help us in the search for new clean energy sources, all the better.”

The collaborative effort has produced nine peer reviewed publications and three arXiv posts. The team continues to search for a reproducible reference experiment for cold fusion.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to look into areas that may have been written off,” said Thomas Schenkel, a principal investigator and acting director of the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division at Berkeley Lab. “Not frivolously – but with new ideas and a recognition that there are things we don’t know and that we should be curious about.”

Read the full perspective in Nature: “Revisiting the cold case of cold fusion,” Curtis P. Berlinguette (UBC), Yet-Ming Chiang (MIT), Jeremy N. Munday (UMD), Thomas Schenkel (Berkeley Lab), David K. Fork, Ross Koningstein and Matthew D. Trevithick (Google)

University of Maryland Spring 2019 Commencement Speaker Commits $2.3M to Center for Global Sustainability

May 24, 2019

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland’s (UMD) spring commencement speaker, successful entrepreneur and three-term mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg, granted $2.3 million to UMD’s Center for Global Sustainability to evaluate and analyze current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

As the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, Bloomberg will submit the findings to the United Nations to demonstrate U.S. progress in meeting carbon reduction commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement. As the next installment of America’s Pledge, a climate change initiative aimed at helping America reach its Paris Climate goals, this report will focus on developing and estimating the impact of enhanced and comprehensive U.S. climate policy. The report will be led by UMD's Center for Global Sustainability in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). 

“America’s Pledge helps to speed our progress by bringing people together, collecting data, and outlining ways we can do more. The next report will add to that momentum, and the University of Maryland is an important partner in our work,” comments Bloomberg. 

Last year’s America’s Pledge report, Fulfilling America’s Pledge was co-led by the Center for Global Sustainability. Working with 55 co-authors, seven institutional partners and using an approach of developing 10 climate action strategies in consultation with climate leaders across the economy, it showed that subnational actors have the potential to reduce emissions by more than 24 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which can bring the U.S. within striking distance of its 26 percent target. This year’s report will update these estimates and produce an even more comprehensive analysis of subnational potential in the US.

“Bottom-up climate leadership from states, cities, businesses, and universities is where the action is today,” said Robert Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy. “Our Center for Global Sustainability is proud to continue working with Bloomberg Philanthropies on America’s Pledge. Fusing strong data and analytics with political and economic leadership from below has proven to be a powerful and necessary tool to address the climate crisis we face today.”

Nate Hultman, Center for Global Sustainability director and the report’s lead author, notes that “This year, we are at a key global moment where countries around the world will be evaluating how to increase their ambition to address climate change. The America’s Pledge model shows how collaboration and analysis are key to realizing the true potential for climate action. Not only is this possible within the US, but also across other countries where coalitions of the willing can build on existing opportunity and scale up climate action to address real economic, social, and public health concerns stemming from climate change. Our unique and innovative approach does more than aggregate current emissions, it engages leaders to builds confidence among a diverse set of actors that is necessary to spark enhanced collective climate action and squeeze out additional ambition at the national level.”

In 2017, the University of Maryland united with over 1,000 leaders from across the country to reaffirm its continued support of climate action by joining the “We Are Still In” coalition. Under the university’s climate Action Plan 2.0, UMD has already cut emissions by 49 percent since 2005. The State of Maryland has also been a leader in clean energy policy. Just this week Legislature passed a bill putting the state on track for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, a key policy solution for climate change.

 

Maryland Athletics Announces Transition to Autonomous, Integrated Model for Student-Athlete Healthcare

May 23, 2019
Contacts: 

Jessica Jennings, 301-314-1482

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The University of Maryland Athletics Department has announced it will transition to a model where its athletic medical staff, including the head team physician, athletic trainers, nutritionists and mental health practitioners, will be employed outside of the athletics department, as part of the Division of Student Affairs in the University Health Center (UHC).

The implementation of this new model fulfills the final of the 20 recommendations made in an external safety review from Rod Walters, completed last fall following the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair. The Athletic Department convened a panel of national experts in sports medicine to develop specific recommendations on the model to enhance the well-being and safety of our student-athletes across all sports.

“Our priority in the last year has been implementing the recommendations from the external safety review to safeguard the health and well-being of our student-athletes,” said Athletic Director Damon Evans. “This plan will further enhance the physician-directed, autonomous care our student-athletes receive and advance our efforts to provide comprehensive, integrated, patient-centered care for our student-athletes.”

The University of Maryland is launching a national search for a head team physician who will be a full-time employee of Maryland within UHC. During the search, current care will remain in place where athletic trainers are overseen by physicians at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Once the position is hired, sports medicine staff will report to the new head team physician and be employed autonomously from Athletics within UHC.

Maryland will be one of a handful of Power-5 institutions that have medical staffs housed outside of athletics.

To learn more about the reforms made to policies and procedures following the Walters’ recommendations, please visit https://umd.edu/commitment.

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

 

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