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UMD Biological Sciences Senior Elfadil Osman Named 2017 Gates Cambridge Scholar

February 9, 2017
Contacts: 

Abby Robinson 301-405-5845

COLLEGE PARK, Md.– University of Maryland senior Elfadil Osman has been named a 2017 Gates Cambridge Scholar. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which allows students outside of the United Kingdom to pursue graduate study at the University of Cambridge, is considered one of the most prestigious academic awards available to college graduates. Osman is the university’s second Gates Cambridge Scholar, following in the footsteps of Krzysztof Franaszek (B.S. ’13, biological sciences; B.A. ’13, economics). 

“Elfadil is a remarkable young man,” said Norma Allewell, professor emerita in the UMD Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. “He is equally passionate about biomedical research and contributing to society, and he has a compelling personal vision of how he can meld the two.” 

Osman—who is majoring in biological sciences with a specialization in physiology and neurobiology, and minoring in creative writing—plans to use the scholarship toward a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. His long-term plans include pursuing an academic career studying infectious diseases. 

“My passion for science developed late because I wanted to make a difference in the Islamic world in which I grew up and I thought that studying law was a far better bet,” said Osman, who is Sudanese and emigrated with his family from Saudi Arabia to the United States at five years old. “My future path changed in 12th grade while working on an independent research project. My mentor, Dr. A. Kwame Nyame, a professor at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, showed me that science could be used as a tool to fight injustice—a tool that could mitigate or perhaps even eradicate an infectious disease whose burdens fall heaviest on those with the least resources.” 

The infectious disease Osman wishes to eradicate is malaria. Growing up, he witnessed the destructive impact malaria had on his own family and others in nearby villages in northern Sudan. Today, he pursues research projects that allow him to gain a better understanding of malaria and Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria. 

Osman spent the past two summers studying Plasmodium gene expression in the laboratory of Joseph DeRisi, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. This research, which was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), led to a poster presentation by Osman at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students last November. 

With his Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Osman plans to expand his understanding of Plasmodium gene expression and help identify novel antimalarial targets by working with Christopher Howe, professor of plant biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. 

In addition to conducting malaria research, Osman also spent time in UMD laboratories during his undergraduate career helping to develop a universal influenza vaccine and studying the pathogen that causes Chagas’ disease and African sleeping sickness. 

Among his many community service activities, Osman helps lead Students Helping Honduras, an international organization dedicated to providing Honduran youth with educational opportunities to mitigate the effects of gang violence and poverty. In addition to fundraising for school supplies and equipment, Osman travels to Honduras each winter to help local community members build new schools. 

He also serves as co-chair of the College Success Scholars program, which aims to combat the low retention rate of minority males at UMD. He leads the program’s efforts to design and implement a support system that facilitates student success inside and outside of the classroom. 

As a student in the university’s Gemstone Honors Program, Osman’s team is investigating political polarization and how an individual’s definition and rank-order of values influence his or her political and moral decision-making. The team hopes its findings will identify a role personality could play as an indicator of voting patterns. 

“Elfadil is an exceptional young man who epitomizes the value of an honors education at a public research university,” said Susan Dwyer, Osman’s Gemstone team mentor and executive director of the Honors College at UMD. “He is an exciting scientist and a reflective human being fully attuned to the ethical dimensions of his work. I have enjoyed being regularly on the receiving end of Elfadil’s probing questions for the past three years.” 

Osman is a Banneker/Key Scholar and a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Honor Society and the Primannum Honor Society. He also enjoys reading and writing short stories, with a special interest in the literary forms associated with magical realism. 

“The first thing you notice about Elfadil is his imagination,” said Richard Bell, a UMD associate professor of history who serves as UMD’s faculty advisor for United Kingdom fellowships. “He is not only a first-rate scientist with an instinct for attacking difficult problems from unusual directions, he’s also a very talented creative writer. He thinks big, dreams big and will accomplish great things.” 

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in 2000 by a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge. Over 1,600 scholarships have been awarded to students from 104 countries to date, with 36 awarded to U.S. students in 2017. 

The scholarships, which are for three years but may be extended for a fourth year, provide university fees, cost of living expenses, and fares to and from the United States. Additional funding is available for other expenses, such as attending conference and courses.

University of Maryland, Phillips Collection Announce Book Prize Winner

February 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622, Sarah Corley 202-387-2151 x235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. and WASHINGTON, D.C. – The University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection has awarded its 2016 University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Book Prize to the manuscript The Noisemakers: Estridentismo, Vanguardism, and Social Action in Postrevolutionary Mexico (1921-1927) by Lynda Klich, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at Hunter College, City University of New York. This is the eighth book prize awarded by The Phillips Collection since 2008, and the inaugural prize jointly awarded with the University of Maryland. 

Photograph by Roberto Portillo

The University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Book Prize supports publication of a first book by an emerging scholar presenting new research in modern or contemporary art from 1780 to the present. The book prize is awarded by The University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at The Phillips Collection, an expansion of the Center for the Study of Modern Art—the museum’s nexus for academic work, scholarly exchange, and innovative interdisciplinary collaborations. The Center is part of a larger partnership between the two institutions with a vision of dramatically transforming scholarship and innovation in the arts. 

The winning books are published by the University of California Press, in collaboration with the University of Maryland and The Phillips Collection.  The winning author also receives a $5,000 cash prize.

“I am extremely honored that the University of Maryland-Phillips Collection committee has recognized my work and placed it alongside that of scholars who have expanded the understanding of global modernisms,” said Klich. “I am particularly pleased that, through my book, Mexico will enter this 

dialogue as part of the UMD-Phillips series at the University of California Press.”

The Noisemakers examines one of Mexico’s earliest modernist movements, Estridentismo, which spurred lively and fruitful collaborations among poets, journalists, artists, and musicians during the key decade following the country’s devastating civil war. The study sheds light on Estridentismo’s cultivation of experimental visual practices and crucial contributions to the development of Mexican modernism, and examines interactions between Estridentista art and literature. 

“I am pleased that the University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Book Prize recognizes such an important area of Latin-American scholarship," said Dr. Klaus Ottmann, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs, The Phillips Collection. “Lynda Klich’s book The Noisemakers will insert one of Mexico’s earliest modernist movements into the burgeoning dialogue of international modernisms.”

“We are pleased to recognize Dr. Klich’s insightful and informative work with this award,” said Mary Ann Rankin, UMD’s senior vice president and provost. “The University of Maryland-Phillips Collection Book Prize is one of the many joint projects that make up our transformational partnership with The Phillips Collection. Dr. Klich’s powerful work on post-revolutionary art in Mexico is a wonderful example of the kind of innovative scholarship we seek to promote through this partnership.” 

Klich’s scholarship on Estridentismo has also appeared in the exhibition catalogue Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2016) and the anthologies Sighting Technology in Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art (ed. María Fernández, forthcoming) and Technology and Culture in Twentieth-Century Mexico (ed. Araceli Tinajero and J. Brian Freeman, 2013). She guest-edited, and contributed an essay on Estridentismo to the Mexico-themed issue of the Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts (2010). Klich is also Curator of the Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Collection and has published several texts on that medium.

 

Photograph by Roberto Portillo

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University of Maryland Debuts Discovery District

February 2, 2017
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland debuts today the Discovery District, encompassing more than 150 acres that stretch from Baltimore Avenue to the research-rich and metro-accessible community along River Road. Discovery District will be the epicenter of academic, research and economic development as home to the research park formerly known as M Square, and will feature amenities like The Hotel at the University of Maryland and a unique food, arts and entertainment experience envisioned by Scott Plank of War Horse Cities.

“In the Discovery District, our faculty, students, and businesses will work to turn knowledge into jobs,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “The District’s facilities and amenities will quicken the pulse of research, innovation, and learning, creating economic and social benefits for Maryland and beyond.”

The Discovery District is a key piece of the University’s Greater College Park initiative, a $2 billion public-private investment to rapidly revitalize the Baltimore Avenue corridor and academic campus. The Discovery District will strengthen existing research partnerships, retain a pipeline of talent locally and offer more experiences for residents, faculty, staff and students.

“Through public and private partnership, the university is expanding its footprint for innovation and entrepreneurship, and we are proud of the role that The Hotel at the University of Maryland will play in serving and contributing to the Discovery District,” said David H. Hillman, CEO, Southern Management Corporation.

The majority of UMD’s Discovery District is made up of the university’s former research park, which includes 130 acres dedicated to innovation—housing leading research organizations in environmental and earth sciences, food safety, agriculture policy, language and national security.

UMD and Corporate Office Properties Trust (“COPT”) (NYSE: OFC) have a long-standing partnership that has attracted a breadth of top research-oriented tenants. Notable tenants within the Discovery District are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In addition, University partnerships such as the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, the Joint Global Change Research Institute, and Center for Advanced Study for Language all call UMD’s Discovery District home.

Discovery District also borders Riverdale Park Station, a mixed-use development featuring 120 townhomes and a Whole Foods Market that is set to open in spring 2017. Additionally, UMD has partnered with St. John Properties to construct 110,000 square feet of research and development space and a 45,000-square-foot building to house College Park Academy, a public charter school, that will open in fall of 2017.

Most recently, COPT has commenced construction on a new 75,000-square-foot multi-story office building tailored to meet the needs of organizations focused on research and technology and who value location in UMD’s vibrant, mass-transit served Discovery District. A new pop-up park with food trucks, creative seating areas, games, trails and art installations, as well as access to the amenities of the new Riverdale Park Station, will give Discovery District employees and visitors easy access to spaces to relax and eat.

"We are thrilled to be part of the Discovery District, and honored to continue our successful partnership with the University of Maryland," said Stephen E. Budorick, President & CEO, COPT. "With world-class academics and research, as well as the new amenities that the Discovery District has to offer, we are well positioned to attract the area's top businesses and organizations to College Park."

The Hotel at the University of Maryland, slated to open in summer 2017, anchors the Discovery District. The employees of research agencies, start-ups, and the university community will have access to four restaurants housed in the $180 million luxury hotel, which will serve as the region’s premier venue for meetings and events. Additionally, UMD will have leasable space in the Hotel for private-sector companies that seek to partner with and serve UMD faculty and students. Nearby will be UMD alumnus Scott Plank’s concept for dining, arts, entertainment, teaching kitchen and performance space to further support the area’s start-up culture.

To learn more about the Discovery District, visit https://go.umd.edu/5v2.

UMD Team Tops for Performance & Operations at SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

February 1, 2017
Contacts: 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland team, UMDLoop won the performance and operations award and placed 5th in pod design and construction at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition held in Hawthorne, California, January 27-29.
 
This competition was the second in a series of a SpaceX competitions aimed at encouraging student innovation and advancing the Hyperloop concept for a new form of transportation in which passenger-carrying pods travel between cities at very high speeds through above-ground, low-pressure tubes.

During the current three-day event, 27 teams from around the globe pitted pod against pod to see which teams would have a chance to test their creation in SpaceX's vacuum-sealed one-mile test track adjacent to its headquarters. As part of the competition, teams underwent rigorous safety inspections and testing that evaluated all aspects of the pod's design from structural and functional to mechanical and navigation. In addition, each team had the opportunity for an open-air run, where they operated their pod on the test track without vacuum pressure.


"This has been a remarkable experience for our students, staff and advisors," said Darryll Pines, Dean of UMD's A. James Clark School of Engineering and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering. "UMD Loop competed well, and it has been a great partnership between two UMD colleges. We are extremely proud of the UMD Loop Team who strongly represented the University of Maryland."

It's been over a year since the UMD team successfully competed in the first SpaceX hyperloop event, an initial competition during which pod designs from more than 115 teams were winnowed down to those from 30 teams selected to move forward in the next phase of competition and take their pods from design to reality. During that year, the UMD team—which now includes more than 60 students from the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering; College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; and Department of Communication—devoted itself to the possibilities of Hyperloop travel and built one of the first pods of its kind.

"I'm blown away by our team's performance this week. We truly earned our spot as a top team in this competition," said Kyle Kaplan, aerospace engineering senior and team captain. "At the end of the day, I could not be more proud of our team and how well we worked together to succeed. Even though I wish we were given the opportunity to push the limits of our pod, I was extremely impressed by how we performed! Top five in the world, that's nothing to be disappointed about."

The Delft Hyperloop team, of Delft University in the Netherlands, got the highest overall score. Technical University of Munich, Germany secured the award for the fastest pod. And MIT placed third overall in the competition, which was judged by SpaceX engineers.

"The team has been a dream to work with," said chief faculty advisor Noah Ryder, a research associate and lecture in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering. "They have logged countless hours and made numerous sacrifices to be a part of making history, and their hard work has paid off."

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and the originator of Hyperloop concept, spoke at this weekend’s competition and described the event as a way to encourage innovation in transport technology and get people excited about new forms of transport.

"It was fantastic to see so many different perspectives and people so passionate about working toward pushing the boundaries of transportation," said physics major and team project lead Erich Robinson-Tillenburg.

For computer science major and aerodynamics lead Paul Garvey, the competition was "hours upon hour of problem solving, and we loved every minute of it!"

Building on the enthusiasm and engineering achievements of the most recent competition, SpaceX will host another pod competition weekend during the summer of 2017. The UMD team plans to be there with a redesigned pod that has already been accepted for the competition.

"They are already gearing up to start all the analysis, building and testing that is needed to get race-ready again," said Ryder. "While some students will be graduating and won't be participating, we have recruited a new group of eager students to ensure that the program is able to thrive with the continued support of the university and our generous sponsors without whom we wouldn't have been able to bring our ideas to fruition."

UMD's pod Prometheus featured a passive magnetic levitation control and breaking using neodymium magnets—the strongest type of commercially available permanent magnet, a unique chainmail breaking system and a multi-link suspension system for smoothing the ride.

Autism May Begin Early in Brain Development UMD Research Shows

January 31, 2017
Contacts: 

Matthew Wright 301-405-9267, Lee Tune 301-405-4679

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Autism is not a single condition, but a spectrum of disorders that affect the brain’s ability to perceive and process information. Recent research suggests that too many connections in the brain could be at least partially responsible for the symptoms of autism, from communication deficits to unusual talents.

New research from the University of Maryland suggests that this overload of connections begins early in mammalian development, when key neurons in a region of the brain known as the cerebral cortex begin to form their first circuits.  

By pinpointing where and when autism-related neural defects first emerge in mice, the study results could lead to a stronger understanding of autism in humans—including possible early intervention strategies. The researchers outline their findings in a research paper published January 31, 2017 in the journal Cell Reports.

“Our work suggests that the neural pathology of autism manifests in the earliest cortical circuits, formed by a cell type called subplate neurons,” said UMD Biology Professor and senior study author Patrick Kanold. “Nobody has looked at developing circuits this early, in this level of detail, in the context of autism before. This is truly a new discovery and potentially represents a new paradigm for autism research.”

The cerebral cortex is the outer part of the mammalian brain that controls perception, memory and, in humans, higher functions such as language and abstract reasoning. The developing cerebral cortex contains a distinct class of cells called subplate neurons, which form the brain's first connections or circuits. As the brain grows, the interconnected subplate neurons build a network of scaffolding thought to support other neurons that grow later in development. 

“The cortex is a very important region in the adult human brain that undergoes a complex, multi-stage development process,” said Daniel Nagode, a former postdoctoral researcher at UMD and lead author of the study. “Because our findings implicate the earliest stages of cortex circuit formation in a mouse model, they suggest that the pathological changes leading to autism might start before birth in humans.” 

To study the relationship between autism and subplate neuron development in mice, Kanold, Nagode and their collaborators began with a well-established mouse model of autism. The model involves dosing mouse embryos with valproic acid (VPA) on day 12 of their 20-day gestation period by injecting the drug into the mother mouse. 

VPA has a known link to autism in humans and also induces autism-like cognitive and behavioral abnormalities in mice. For example, normal newborn mouse pups will emit frequent, high-pitched noises when they are separated from their littermates, but VPA-treated pups do not.

The researchers used a technique called laser scanning photo-stimulation to map the connections between individual subplate neuron cells in the brains of the mouse pups. Within the first week after birth, the VPA-dosed mice showed some patches of abnormal “hyperconnected” subplate neurons. In contrast, control mouse pups dosed with plain saline solution showed normal connections throughout their cortical tissue.

Ten days after birth, the patches of hyperconnected subplate neurons had grown more widespread and homogeneous in the VPA-dosed pups compared with the normal (control) pups. Because subplate neurons help lay the foundation for cortical development in all mammalian brains, a thicket of hyperconnected subplate neurons in the developing cortex could result in permanent hyperconnections. 

“Subplate neurons form critical developmental structures. If their early progress is impaired, later development of the cortex is also impaired,” Kanold explained. “In a developing human fetus, this stage is a critical gateway, when subplate neuron circuits are the most abundant.”

If the same dynamic plays out in human brains, hyperconnections in the developing cortex could result in the neural pathologies observed in human autism, Kanold said. In mice as well as in humans, the critical window of time when subplate neurons develop is very short.

“The timing of the effects is important. The hyperconnectivity in VPA pups occurs only in small patches a few days after birth,” Nagode said. “But after 10 days, the hyperconnectivity becomes much more widespread.”

In mice, subplate neuron development takes place mostly after birth. Eventually, the subplate neurons die off and disappear, their job done, as other neural circuits take their place. In humans, however, the first subplate neuron connections form in the second trimester. By the time humans are born, most of their subplate neurons have already disappeared.

“Our results suggest that we might have to interfere quite early to address autism,” Kanold said. “The fetal brain is not just a small adult brain, and these subplate neurons are the major difference. There may, in fact, be other developmental disorders we can tackle using this information.”

In addition to Kanold and Nagode, the study features contributions from UMD Assistant Research Scientists Daniel Winkowski and Ed Smith; Postdoctoral Associate Xianying Meng; Undergraduate Researchers Hamza Khan-Tareen and Vishnupriya Kareddy; and UMD School of Medicine Professor Joseph Kao.

Their research paper, “Abnormal development of the earliest cortical circuits in a mouse model of Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Daniel Nagode, Xiangying Meng, Daniel Winkowski, Ed Smith, Hamza Khan-Tareen, Vishnupriya Kareddy, Joseph Kao, and Patrick Kanold, was published January 31, 2017 in the journal Cell Reports.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Award Nos. R01DC009607, R01GM056481, CEBHT32DC00046 and CEBHF32DC014887). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of that organization.

 

 

UMD Response to Executive Order

January 29, 2017

The University of Maryland joins other member institutions of the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in expressing concern over the temporary banning from entry into the U.S. of visa and green card holders of seven mostly Muslim countries. The potential for negatively impacting the educational and research missions of our campus is significant. We are currently assessing how this executive order may affect the students and scholars at our campus who come from these countries. In the meantime, I join my colleagues from across the U.S. in an emphatic message of support ​for them and their families​.

It is in America's national interest that we continue to welcome talented individuals of all nations to study, teach, and do research here and retain America's global leadership in higher education. 

 

Wallace D. Loh

President, University of Maryland

UMD’s Student-Powered News Service Launches Partnership with Associated Press

January 27, 2017
Contacts: 

Dave Ottalini 301-405-1321

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland announced today that the Capital News Service (CNS), the 26-year-old, student-powered and professionally edited news service of UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, will contribute news stories to The Associated Press.

With bureaus in Washington, Annapolis and College Park, CNS delivers public affairs news about Maryland via partner news organizations, a destination website, a nightly on-air television newscast and affiliated social media channels. CNS routinely wins awards from major journalism organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association and others.

“Since its earliest days, CNS has strived to provide the kind of unbiased and accurate news that is the hallmark of The Associated Press,” said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Merrill College. “Distributing CNS through the AP is another indication of the professionalism of our student journalists.”

“This collaboration with CNS will give more quality content to AP’s customers in Maryland even as it furthers the students’ experience,” said Ravi Nessman, AP’s interim South Region Editor.

 The AP, founded in 1846, is the essential global news network, with teams in more than 260 locations in over 100 countries. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP.

 Under the new partnership, the AP will move select stories produced by Capital News Service to its global clients. Already, CNS stories have appeared on the websites of news organizations across the country.

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