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When Frogs Die Off Snake Diversity Plummets

February 12, 2020

Kimbra Cutlip 301-405-9463

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The global loss of amphibians is having negative impacts on snakes according to a new study by researchers from the University of Maryland and Michigan State University. 

Since 1998, scientists have documented the global loss of frogs and other amphibians. More than 500 amphibian species have declined in numbers, including 90 that have gone extinct, due to the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium, commonly known as chytrid. 

The new study, published in the February 14, 2020, issue of the journal Science, shows for the first time ripple effects on snakes of this amphibian die off. The findings reveal that after chytrid swept through a remote forest in Panama, decimating frog populations, the number of snake species scientists detected declined dramatically, causing the snake community to become more homogenized. 

“This study highlights the invisibility of other changes that are occurring as a result of losing amphibians,” said Karen Lips, a professor of biology at UMD and a co-author of the study.

Many snakes rely on frogs and frog eggs as part of their diet, so the researchers expected a decline in frogs to impact snake populations. But the slithery reptiles are notoriously cryptic and difficult to study in the wild. How snakes fare following a chytrid epidemic was mostly a matter of conjecture until this study. 

Lips and her colleagues compared seven years of survey data collected in a national park near El Copé, Panama, before the 2004 chytrid outbreak caused mass amphibian die-off, with six years of survey data collected after the die-off. 

“Comparing the after with the before, there was a huge shift in the snake community,” Lips said. “The community became more homogeneous. The number of species declined, with many species going down in their occurrence rates, while a few species increased. Body condition of many snakes was also worse right after the frog decline. Many were thinner, and it looked like they were starving.” 

The researchers cannot say exactly how many snake species declined because snake sightings are rare in general. Some species were only seen once in the pre-chytrid surveys. The researchers could not confirm that a species had disappeared just because it was absent in the post-chytrid surveys. However, over half of the most common snakes (those observed more than five times throughout the total study) had declined in occurrence rates after the frog die-off. Further statistical analysis of the data confirmed a considerable drop in species diversity.

Researchers are confident the changes they observed in the snake community were due to the loss of amphibians and not some other environmental factor. The study area is in a national park with limited impacts from habitat loss, development, pollution or other phenomena that might affect snake populations directly. The remoteness of the El Copé research site and the fact that Lips had been conducting annual surveys in the years prior to the chytrid epidemic combined to provide a rare window into the rapid changes in an ecosystem following the catastrophic loss of amphibians.

“This work emphasizes the importance of long-term studies to our understanding of the invisible, cascading effects of species extinctions,” Lips said. “Everything we watched changed after the frogs declined. We have to know what we are losing, or we run the risk of undermining effective conservation.”

In addition to Lips, authors include UMD alumni Elise Zipkin (Ph.D ‘12, biological sciences) now at Michigan State University, and Grace DiRenzo (Ph.D. ‘16, biological sciences) now at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The research paper “Tropical snake diversity collapses after widespread amphibian loss,” Elise F. Zipkin, Graziella V. DiRenzo, Julie M. Ray, Sam Rossman, Karen R. Lips, was published in the February 14, 2020, issue of the journal Science. 

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award Nos. EF-1702635, PRFB-1611692, DEB-0717741, DEB-0645875, IBN-0429223, IBN-0429223, and IOB-0519458). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.

UMD Science Major Wins Prestigious Churchill Scholarship

February 4, 2020

Chelsea Torres 301-405-5204

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Senior Tanay Wakhare from the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) has been awarded a 2020 Winston Churchill Scholarship, which offers him full funding to pursue a one-year master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Nationally, 15 students in the sciences, engineering or mathematics receive Churchill Scholarships annually. Four UMD students have received the award since 2018 and five total since its inception in 1963. The scholarship—valued at around $60,000—covers all educational fees and provides living and travel allowances.

“Tanay is already making his mark on the field of mathematics, through his achievements in the classroom as a student and teacher and through his research,” said CMNS Dean Amitabh Varshney. “The Churchill Scholarship will offer him unique opportunities to deepen his interests in math and computer science.”

Wakhare—a mathematics and computer science double degree student who is a member of the University Honors program in the Honors College and a Banneker/Key Scholar—will pursue a Master of Philosophy degree in advanced computer science.

The Churchill Scholarship will allow Wakhare, a 2018 Goldwater Scholar, to join the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Group in the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. There, Wakhare will work with University Senior Lecturer Thomas Sauerwald in the field of graph algorithms.

“I think that a lot of fundamental AI breakthroughs have occurred within the last decade, and that it has the potential to really change society,” Wakhare said. “It’s a place where my mathematical research background can be put to good use.”

While a student at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Wakhare worked in the Applied and Computational Mathematics Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. When he traveled to Florida to attend the 2016 International Conference on Number Theory, he met Christophe Vignat, a professor of physics at the Université Paris-Saclay and an invited professor of mathematics at Tulane University. 

Since that chance meeting, Vignat and Wakhare have collaborated on several papers on number theory and combinatorics—a branch of mathematics that focuses on counting.

“Tanay is an exceptionally talented young mathematician—by far the best student I have ever met in my career,” Vignat said. “He has a very promising future in mathematics.”

Wakhare has published 12 research papers, submitted eight papers for publication and is preparing two additional papers for publication. 

He has also taught multiple Student Initiated Courses—known as STICs—on number theory. The STICs program allows UMD students to design and teach for-credit courses with a faculty member’s guidance.

“Professors have their areas of expertise, but students also have really niche, very relevant knowledge,” Wakhare said.

In fall 2017, he began teaching the Department of Mathematics’ first STIC, the “Mathematics of Ramanujan,” about an Indian pioneer in number theory. While the topic may sound complex to a non-math major, Wakhare developed the course to make it more approachable to peers from all majors. He went on to teach other STICs such as “Proofs from the Book” and “The Mathematics of Erdos,” both on the study of counting. 

“Tanay is a genuine phenomenon, a force of nature—the definition of a fearless Terp,” said Richard Bell, a UMD associate professor of history who serves as the university’s faculty advisor for United Kingdom fellowships. “The award of the Churchill Scholarship is well-deserved recognition for one of the brightest and most gifted young mathematicians working today.”

After his time at Cambridge comes to an end, Wakhare plans to earn his Ph.D. and pursue a research career.



University of Maryland Recognized as a Recipient of the 2020 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)

January 29, 2020

Adrienne Lim, 301-405-1668

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland has been announced as one of three recipients of the 2020 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Sponsored by ACRL and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO, the award recognizes the staff of a college, community college, and university library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.

“My colleagues and I are thrilled and grateful to receive this prestigious award from ACRL,” said Adriene I. Lim, dean of libraries at the University of Maryland. “We strive to ensure that our values of compassion and inclusion drive our strategies and that a culture of innovation informs the design of our library programs and services. For this reason, it’s even more of an honor and validation when other library leaders recognize our work, because they know the dedication and resourcefulness it takes to advance those aspirations every day.”
The University of Maryland Libraries, recipient in the university category, was selected for its contributions to digital humanities scholarship and its engagement with students, faculty, and outside partners.

“The University of Maryland Libraries stand out amongst their peers for the development of a robust library staff culture of innovation, as well as their extensive collaborations and engagement with the university’s core curriculum, students, and faculty,” said Cheryl Middleton, chair of the 2020 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and associate university librarian for research and scholarly communication at Oregon State University. “The influence and impact of the libraries’ partnerships can be seen throughout the institution.”

“The libraries successfully built a relationship with the Student Government Association that resulted in increased funding to the library along with a successful crowdfunding campaign that resulted in $13,000 from the student body to support the Top Textbooks Program,” Middleton continued. “Additionally, the $60 million ‘Fearless Fundraising Campaign’ the library is participating in to endow library fellows, digitization, archivists, and the Top Textbooks Program illustrates their ongoing commitment to sustaining digital services in the future.”

The libraries’ contributions to the university’s digital humanities scholarship are illuminated by numerous projects and programs. Through its GIS and Spatial Data Center, the library has facilitated a student mapathon of buildings and roads in international disaster areas as part of a broader humanitarian effort to assist Doctors without Borders and is working to create a virtual wayfinding app to link coordinates with library rooms, services, and call numbers to help users find what they need. 

“I am delighted that ACRL can highlight the many contributions that academic libraries make to their institutions,” said ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen K. Davis. “This year’s recipients demonstrate a clear commitment to student success and equity, a creative and inventive approach to developing innovative programs, and engagement with their local and campus communities. Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a tribute to each library and its entire staff for outstanding services, programs, and leadership.”
The libraries are also conducting numerous digitization efforts of its special collections, including historic Maryland newspapers, AFL-CIO newspapers, back issues of its student newspaper, rare audio recordings of community-based radio stations from the National Federation of Community Broadcasting Archives, and materials related to Alice in Wonderland. Additionally, since 2005 the libraries have partnered with the National Diet Library of Japan to preserve and provide digital access to publications issued in Japan during the first four years of the Allied Occupation from 1945-1949.

Each library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each recipient’s campus.

Additional information on the award, along with a list of past recipients, is available in the awards section of the ACRL website.

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 $2.1 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit

About ACRL

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 10,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning, transforming scholarship, and creating diverse and inclusive communities. Find ACRL on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
About GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO

GOBI® Library Solutions from EBSCO offers more than 17 million print and e-books to academic, research and special libraries worldwide. From streamlining workflows to partnering with library staff, GOBI Library Solutions is committed to providing the best solution for libraries’ acquisition, collection development and technical service needs. For more than 40 years, the mission has remained same—to partner with libraries in providing access to the broadest selection of scholarly content available. For more information, visit the GOBI Library Solutions website at:


University of Maryland and Prince George's County Public Schools Announce Partnership Focused on School Improvement

January 28, 2020

Audrey Hill, University of Maryland College of Education,, 301-405-3468

Gabrielle Brown, Prince George's County Public Schools,, 301-952-6378

COLLEGE PARK, Md The University of Maryland College of Education and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) announced a new institutional partnership that focuses on K-12 school improvement issues through a range of initiatives. The PGCPS/UMD Improvement Science Collaborative will work to prepare excellent school teachers and leaders, support efforts for school improvement, advance teacher preparation programs and take a new approach to connecting research to practice.

While UMD and PGCPS have a long-standing relationship of collaborating on individual projects, this new three-year agreement represents a shared long-term institutional commitment to working together on school improvement.

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Monica E. Goldson and UMD College of Education Dean Jennifer King Rice signed the agreement. UMD President Wallace Loh and Dr. Segun Eubanks, director of the College’s Center for Educational Innovation and Improvement (CEii), and other distinguished guests gathered today at the PGCPS Sasscer Administration Building to support and celebrate the signing of this significant partnership.

“We are committed to the success of Prince George’s public school students and teachers, and this new partnership will extend our relationship and help achieve these goals,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh.  “We will become partners in classroom innovation and professional leadership training. It will also help increase the pipeline of Prince George’s students to the university.”

“As the state’s flagship public university, the University of Maryland is uniquely positioned to support Prince George’s County Public Schools in our efforts to improve teaching and learning,” said Dr. Monica E. Goldson, CEO, Prince George’s County Public Schools. “We are grateful for the university’s continued partnership as we work to enhance academic excellence and opportunities for higher learning across the school system.”

CEii will serve as the planning hub for the PGCPS/UMD Improvement Science Collaborative, which is based on improvement science principles that bring together researchers and experts in co-equal partnership with practitioners and school leaders to create evidence-based approaches to solving pressing school issues.

“Through this partnership, we are working to solve tough problems in schools, from addressing achievement gaps in math to high rates of absenteeism,” Dr. Eubanks said. “We are committed to research that is directly relevant to local schools’ needs, as they identify them.”

One innovative part of the partnership is a dual appointment model, where university faculty hold joint appointments in the school district, and district leaders serve on the university faculty as visiting professors or fellows. This model exists in very few locations in the country, Dr. Eubanks said, and further reflects the commitment to transform K-12 education.

The Collaborative will also focus on the preparation of high quality teachers and leaders, in line with the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, which examined Maryland K-12 education practices, policies and funding to improve students’ college and career readiness.

“The Kirwan Commission has underscored the importance of addressing school improvement in Maryland,” Dean Rice said. “At the University of Maryland College of Education, we are excited to be on the leading edge of this work through the design of innovative teacher and leader preparation programs that are responsive to the needs of our local school systems. Through this partnership, we will create a pipeline of highly effective and diverse educators who are prepared to address issues and challenges germane to PGCPS.”

The Collaborative’s projects—some new, some pre-existing—include:

  • Doctorate of Education in School System Leadership Program – in this innovative, practice-based Ed.D. model, PGCPS school system leadership work collaboratively to address a problem in their school system.
  • School Improvement Leadership Certificate Program – the second class of PGCPS teachers will complete the certificate program in June 2020.
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Project – participation in the Improvement Leadership Education and Development (iLEAD) project.
  • Professional Learning Opportunities for UMD and PGCPS Faculty/Staff.
  • A Postdoctoral Network – the Network will bring together Ed.D. program graduates, along with UMD faculty and other PGCPS school leaders, to continue to address school issues and improve student outcomes in Networked Improvement Communities.
  • Data Sharing and Joint Publication.
  • High Quality Teacher and Leadership Preparation Programs – furthering the work of the Kirwan Commission, which focused on improving Maryland K-12 education, UMD will work to improve teacher preparation programs to meet PGCPS’ workforce needs.
  • Dual Appointments between PGCPS and UMD.

UMD-led Study Named Most Impactful Paper Published in the Journal Science in 2019

January 24, 2020

Kimbra Cutlip, 301-405-9463, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) awarded its 2019 Newcomb Cleveland Prize to University of Maryland entomologists Raymond St. Leger, Brian Lovett and seven West African collaborators for their study of the use of a transgenic fungus to rapidly kill malaria mosquitoes.

The prestigious award is given to the authors of the most impactful paper published in AAAS’s flagship journal Science during the previous year. The winning paper is chosen based on the quality of the scholarship, innovation, presentation, and the likelihood of influencing the field and wider interdisciplinary significance. 

This winning study is the latest step in years of work led by St. Leger to develop and test genetically engineered fungi to fight insect-borne diseases, particularly those such as malaria, dengue and Zika carried by mosquitoes.

“We’re looking for papers that change the way people think about science,” said Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of the journal Science and chair of the judging panel. “I think when it comes to a problem like malaria in a location like Burkina Faso, this was a new way of thinking about that problem. We felt that the careful way the experiments were done was very important. And I think that in terms of the public health, in terms of the science itself, in terms of the way it was rendered, it was a superb study from start to finish.”

The study, led by Lovett, St. Leger and their colleagues Abdoulaye Diabate and Etienne Bilgo from the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé and Centre Muraz in Burkina Faso, described the first trial of a transgenic approach to combat malaria mosquitoes ever to be tested outside the laboratory. The researchers first genetically modified a naturally occurring fungal pathogen to deliver a lethal, insect-specific toxin to mosquitoes. They then tested the fungi in a screened enclosure in Burkina Faso called a “MosquitoSphere,” which was specially designed to mimic conditions of a rural village. The study showed that treatment with the engineered fungi killed roughly 75% of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and caused an established population of mosquitoes to collapse within 45 days.

According to Thorp, the AAAS award selection committee felt that using a mosquito-specific fungal pathogen was an extremely creative idea. They were impressed by both the careful way the experiments were done and the fact that the researchers carried the study all the way from the idea phase to providing proof that the idea can work.

“It’s hard enough to get a research paper into Science, but for it to be judged the most impactful paper of the year is astonishing, and it suggests they feel the same way we do about this work and its potential,” said St. Leger, a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Entomology at UMD.

Lovett, who was awarded his Ph.D. in entomology from UMD in 2019 for conducting this research, was equally thrilled to receive the prize.

“It is an incredible honor for my Ph.D. work to be recognized by AAAS with the Newcomb Cleveland Prize,” Lovett said. “To have this prestigious scientific society describe our biotechnology as most promising is a testament to the interdisciplinary and application-focused approach of our international team.”

The project built on decades of creative, highly innovative work by St. Leger that has resulted in numerous new methods and discoveries which contribute to our understanding of infection in general, as well as providing surprising new strategies to combat insect pests.

“As the first transgenic malaria intervention validated outside the laboratory, this study required us to resolve not just scientific issues but many other considerations,” St. Leger said. “We had to gain support from NIH and the approval of the local agencies. Gaining regulatory permission from the National Biosecurity Agency in Burkina Faso was itself regarded as a groundbreaking accomplishment.”

St. Leger credited Lovett’s “can-do” collaborative approach for keeping the project on course through negotiations with various stakeholders and for accomplishing the important local education and training required for the study to succeed.

“The social and regulatory considerations are important aspects of this type of work that are under-supported and under-recognized in science generally,” Lovett said. “So, receiving validation from AAAS is encouraging.”

According to Thorp, the comprehensive approach of combining rigorous science with careful social and regulatory planning helped this research paper rise to the top of the year’s selections.

“A big part of what [the prize committee] focused on was the awareness that the researchers had of the way this study related to the location and regulatory interests that they had to take care of, and it made us feel really good to know that all of that was carefully registered,” Thorp said. "That’s why I say that the professionalism and the way this was done from top to bottom was really striking.”

For more information about this UMD-led research, read these 2019 and 2017 releases about the work:

In addition to St. Leger and Lovett, prize awardees include the following co-authors from the Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé and Centre Muraz in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkino Faso: Professors Abdoulaye Diabate and Roch K. Dabire, postdoctoral fellow Etienne Bilgo, graduate students Souro Abel Millogo, Issiaka Sare, Edounou Jacques Gnambani and Technician Abel Kader Ouattarra.

The award-winning research paper “Transgenic Metarhizium rapidly kills mosquitoes in a malaria-endemic region of Burkina Faso,” Brian Lovett, Etienne Bilgo, Souro Abel Millogo, Abel Kader Ouattarra, Issiaka Sare, Edounou Jacques Gnambani, Roch K. Dabire Abdoulaye Diabate and Raymond J. St. Leger, was published in the journal Science on May 30, 2019. 

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Award No RO1-AI106998). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations. 


Director of UMD Quantum Materials Center Receives $1.55 M Grant from the Moore Foundation

January 23, 2020

Chris Cesare 301-405-0824, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – UMD Physics Professor Johnpierre Paglione has been awarded more than $1.5 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to study the complex behavior of electrons in quantum materials.

“The Moore Foundation has played a pivotal role in supporting and promoting quantum materials research over the last five years, and I am extremely excited to continue to be part of this effort,” said Paglione, who directs UMD’s Quantum Materials Center (formerly the Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials).

The new grant was awarded by the Moore Foundation’s Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems (EPiQS) initiative, a quantum materials research program that funds work on materials synthesis, experiments, and theory, with an interdisciplinary approach that includes physicists, chemists, and materials scientists. EPiQS focuses on exploratory research that develop deep questions about the organizing principles of complex quantum matter, and it also supports progress toward new applications, like quantum computing and precision measurement. 

Paglione’s award for materials synthesis was one of only 13 in the U.S. and renews an earlier grant he received from EPiQS, which has provided more than $120 million to researchers since 2013.

“Fundamental studies of quantum materials play a critical role in not only supporting current development of quantum technologies, but also the discovery of new phenomena that hold promise for future applications,” Paglione said.

In recognition of that critical role, UMD’s Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials was renamed to the Quantum Materials Center (QMC) in October. The change emphasized the evolving interests of the Center’s members, and it was announced at a one-day symposium in September organized by Paglione and several colleagues.

“Our center’s purpose will remain focused on the fundamental exploration and development of advanced materials and devices using multidisciplinary expertise drawn from the physics, chemistry, engineering and materials science departments,” Paglione said. “But we will place strong emphasis on the pursuit of optimized and novel quantum phenomena with potential to nucleate future computing, information and energy technologies.”

The symposium brought together many local scientists who study quantum materials, including researchers from the university’s Departments of Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering, in addition to researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Laboratory for Physical Sciences. Amitabh Varshney, dean of UMD’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences, and Robert Briber, associate dean of UMD’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, attended and shared their perspectives on campus initiatives in quantum science, including the newly formed Quantum Technology Center.

That meeting was bookended by several exciting research results from Paglione and his colleagues in the QMC. In June, they reported capturing the best evidence yet of Klein tunneling, a quantum quirk that allows electrons to burrow through a barrier like it’s not even there. The result, which was featured on the cover of the journal Nature, arises from a duo of quantum effects at the junction of two materials. One is superconductivity, which keeps electrons paired off in highly correlated ways. The other has to do with the precise kind of superconductivity present—in this case, topological superconductivity that further constrains the way that electrons interact with the interface between the two materials. In a nutshell, electrons heading toward the junction aren’t allowed to reflect back, which leads to their perfect transmission.

In August, Paglione and his collaborators published a paper in the journal Science about a new, unconventional superconductor. That material—uranium ditelluride—may also exhibit some effects expected of a topological superconductor, including a demonstrated resilience to magnetic fields that typically destroy superconductivity. One of the paper’s co-authors, NIST scientist and Adjunct Associate Professor of Physics Nicholas Butch, called the material a potential “silicon of the quantum information age,” due to its stability and potential use as a storage medium for the basic units of information in quantum computers.

In a follow-up paper published in the journal Nature Physics in October, many of the same researchers teamed up with scientists from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory to test the properties of uranium ditelluride under extreme magnetic fields. They observed a rare phenomenon called re-entrant superconductivity, furthering the case that uranium ditelluride is not only a profoundly exotic superconductor, but also a promising material for technological applications. Nicknamed “Lazarus superconductivity” after the biblical figure who rose from the dead, the phenomenon occurs when a superconducting state arises, breaks down, then re-emerges in a material due to a change in a specific parameter—in this case, the application of a very strong magnetic field.

“This is indeed a remarkable material and it’s keeping us very busy,” Paglione said. “Uranium ditelluride may very well become the ‘textbook’ spin-triplet superconductor that people have been seeking for dozens of years and, more importantly, may be the first manifestation of a true intrinsic topological superconductor with potential for all sorts of technologies to come!”

UMD Launches New International Fire Safety Consortium to Address Urgent Global Challenges

January 21, 2020

Ted Knight,, 301-405-8761

The University of Maryland has joined forces with international research partners to launch the International Fire Safety Consortium, a new global research initiative that brings together worldwide knowledge and expertise to tackle the most critical fire safety challenges.

The Consortium is led by five leading universities in fire protection engineering: the University of Edinburgh, Lund University, the University of Maryland, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Queensland. The Consortium was established to engage in research, education, and collaboration with industry, government, and non-governmental organizations to help inform policy and practice, protect property, and save lives.

Fires result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries each year with financial losses estimated between 1-2% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a total of approximately $76 billion USD worldwide, according to the Fire Protection Research Foundation. Due to current pivotal trends in global urbanization, climate change, human migration, and social inequality, the need to address fire safety as a humanitarian issue has become urgent.

Research shows that changes in climate lead to warmer and drier conditions and longer fire seasons, resulting in increased area burned and more frequent fire occurrence. Given this trend, combined with the substantial growth of wildland–urban interface (areas where wildland vegetation and urban buildings intermix), fire-related disasters in these areas are predicted to increase. Recent wildland fires in California and the current bushfires in Australia are examples of these major disasters.

Fire is also an increasing threat to individuals living in low- and middle-income communities across the globe, making fire safety a social equality issue. Fire statistics analysis indicates that there are significantly greater fire risks associated with living in social housing (such as Grenfell Tower in London) and belonging to lower income sectors, as well as those living in informal settlements. These higher risks and poorer outcomes are reflected in greater fatalities, injuries that leave many people with permanent disabilities, and damage to properties, infrastructure and businesses, with impacts not just of immediate economic loss, but also on broader societal development.

Researchers from the five university partners bring expertise in multiple areas, including: structural fire safety, fire development modeling, wildfires, industrial fire protection systems, fire technology design, risk analysis, fire performance-based design of buildings, fire and sustainability, sociology of technology, combustion science, fire dynamics, suppression, evacuation, intelligent egress and human behavior in fire, fire service intervention, materials and engineered timber, pyrolysis, gasification, ignition and flame spread. The five universities are all members of Universitas 21, a leading global network of research-intensive universities that empowers its members collaborate across borders and nurture global knowledge exchange.


The early discussions that resulted in the Consortium were made possible by the University of Maryland's Borderless Research Administration Knowledge Exchange (BRAKE) program, which takes a unique, proactive approach to building international research partnerships by sharing knowledge and streamlining administrative functions. The University of Maryland's Division of Research developed the BRAKE training program to help international partner institutions build expertise in research administration best practices.


The International Fire Safety Consortium will hold a workshop at the University of Maryland on February 10-13, 2020, and invite partner organizations in the Washington, DC and mid-Atlantic region to engage in discussions on global fire safety initiatives. For more information, visit the International Fire Safety Consortium website. 

University of Maryland Named a Top Producer of Minority Graduates for 2019

January 7, 2020

Hafsa Siddiqi 301-405-4671


COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland has been named a Top 100 Minority Degree Producer by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education for 2019. In the only national reporting of its kind, UMD is listed as the No. 1 college in the state for conferring doctoral and master’s degrees to minority students in addition to landing in the top 25 for bachelor’s degrees. 

UMD’s top 25 ranking encompasses 19 Asian American bachelor’s, 16 African American bachelor’s and 11 total minority bachelor’s degrees across all disciplines. 

Specific program areas where UMD ranked in the top 5 include:

• Native American students with Doctoral degrees in Agriculture and Agricultural Operations (No. 1)
• Total minority students with Doctoral degrees in Multi/interdisciplinary studies (No. 1)
• African American students with Bachelor’s degrees in Social Science (No. 2)
• Asian American students with Doctoral degrees in Mathematics and Statistics (No. 3)
• African American students with Bachelor’s degrees in Public Health (No. 3)
• African American students with Bachelor’s degrees in Architecture (No. 4)
• African American students with Doctoral degrees in Engineering (No. 4)
• Asian American students with Bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences (No. 5)
• African American students with Master’s degrees in Engineering (No. 5)


For more information and the complete Diverse rankings, please visit 

UMD Celebrates 2019 Winter Graduates, Bestows Honorary Degree

December 18, 2019

Natifia Mullings 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland hosted its 2019 winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 17, 2019, at the XFINITY Center, celebrating graduates from August and December who earned an estimated 2,503 bachelor's degrees, 1,564 master's degrees and 616 doctoral degrees from programs across the university. 

The commencement address was delivered by General James R. Clapper ‘63, the fourth director of national intelligence, leading the U.S. intelligence community and serving as the principal intelligence advisor to President Obama. He encouraged students to be kind and humble, use common sense, and be a champion of the truth. Student speaker Bita Riazi ‘19, who graduated with a B.A. in Communication, spoke to graduates about overcoming fear to succeed. 

In addition, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. ’64, the longest serving senate president in U.S. history, received an honorary doctorate of public service for his decades of service to the State of Maryland, commitment to public education and dedication to the public good. 

“Senator Miller has encouraged us to think of our school as a great university and with his leadership we have become just that. Without question our university would not be where it is today without Maryland's great President Mike Miller,” said Board of Regents member Gary L. Attman during the ceremony.

Learn more about President Miller’s service and accomplishments: 


About the University of Maryland
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University of Maryland to Host Winter 2019 Commencement

December 13, 2019

Hafsa Siddiqi 301-792-1052

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland will host its 2019 winter commencement ceremony on December 17, 2019 at XFINITY Center to celebrate this academic milestone for graduates from August and December, a group that earned an estimated 2,503 bachelor's degrees, 1,564 master's degrees and 616 doctoral degrees from programs across the university. 

The commencement address will be delivered by General James R. Clapper, the fourth director of national intelligence, leading the U.S. intelligence community and serving as the principal intelligence advisor to President Obama. The student speaker will be Bita Riazi, who is graduating with a B.A. in Communication. In addition, Maryland Senate President Thomas V.
“Mike” Miller Jr. ’64 will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree. 


• University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh
• General James R. Clapper, the fourth director of national intelligence under President Obama
• Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. ’64
• Student Commencement Speaker Bita Riazi
• December Class of 2019 University of Maryland Graduates

WHEN: Tuesday, December 17, 2019

• Doors open -- 4:30 p.m.
• Processional -- 5:40 p.m.
• Ceremony -- 6:00 p.m.

*Media should arrive prior to the processional*

XFINITY Center, University of Maryland, College Park
XFINITY Center is located on Paint Branch Drive, near the intersection of Paint Branch Drive and Route 193/University Boulevard). Click here for directions.

Media must park in lot 4B and enter the Xfinity Center through the loading dock. To ensure access to the ceremony, media must RSVP and show credentials upon entry. 

The ceremony will be streamed live on the University of Maryland’s YouTube channel, here.

For more information, visit 


virtual winter 2020 commencement graphic
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