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April 21, 2011

UMBC Featured in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges”

Eleanor Lewis
(410) 455-2065

Jeanne Krier
The Princeton Review
(212) 539-1350

Marisa Long
U.S. Green Building Council
(202) 552-1500

UMBC is one of the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges according to The Princeton Review. The nationally known education services company selected UMBC for inclusion in the just-released second annual edition of “The Princeton Review's Guide to 311 Green Colleges.” UMBC was also included in the 2010 edition.

Developed by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the “Guide to 311 Green Colleges” is the only free comprehensive guidebook focused solely on institutions of higher education who have demonstrated a notable commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation. Schools were chosen based on a survey of administrators at hundreds of colleges polled in 2010 about their school’s sustainability initiatives.

“This is wonderful recognition of the strong commitment of so many students, faculty and staff to safeguarding our environment, responding to climate change and engaging as much of our community as possible in these efforts,” said Lynne Schaefer, vice president for administration and finance. “Special thanks goes to our undergraduate and graduate student government leaders, Students for Environmental Awareness, Daejayon, the Climate Change Task Force, our student sustainability interns and the many individuals who have pushed forward an aggressive agenda even in the face of limited resources.”

Since UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, UMBC has worked toward supporting green efforts in campus in a multitude of ways through the Climate Change Task Force. The group is comprised of students, faculty and staff engaged in encouraging sustainability on campus.

This fall, UMBC broke ground on its first LEED Silver building, an addition to Patapsco residence hall. The addition includes the university’s first green roof, which will also be used for research by faculty and students. UMBC has developed sustainability initiatives across campus through its dining service, Chartwells, and facilities management, among other programs, and regularly participates in green activities including the annual Ecofest, Recyclemania and the 2009 National Teach-in. Last year, students voted to increase their fees to support four sustainability interns each year to push forward environmental initiatives. The University is also finalizing a contract to have two Zipcars on campus this spring.

The Department of Geography and Environmental Systems offers academic programs in environmental studies and environmental science including master’s and Ph.D. programs focusing on environmental systems, human geography and remote sensing technology. The campus is also the field headquarters for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a federally funded urban ecology project, and is home to the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education. Its research and technology park, bwtech@UMBC, includes the U.S. Geological Survey’s regional water science center and other companies focusing on environmental research and technology.

Other departments that have sustainability-related majors and courses include biochemistry and molecular chemistry, biological sciences, biotechnology, civil engineering, economics, geographic information systems, human context of science and technology, interdisciplinary studies, marine biotechnology, marine-estuarine environmental science, philosophy, physics and public policy.

The Princeton Review first created this one-of-a-kind resource for college-bound students in 2010 with the U.S. Green Building Council, which is best known for developing the LEED standard for green building certification. This past fall, USGBC launched its Center for Green Schools ( to increase its efforts to drive change in how campuses and schools are designed, constructed and operated so that all educational facilities can enhance student learning experiences.

The free guide can be downloaded at and

Posted by elewis

April 13, 2011

UMBC Hosts 4th Annual Crime Victims Rights Summit Monday, April 18, 7-9 p.m.

Eleanor Lewis

Baltimore, Md. – UMBC will host the 4th Annual Crime Victims Rights Summit on Monday, April 18, 7-9 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. The event, sponsored by UMBC’s Police Department, the Baltimore County Police Department and Catonsville- and Arbutus-area organizations, is free and open to the public.

This year’s summit focuses on relationship violence and will address the following issues: determining who is at risk, identifying warning signs, escaping dangerous relationships and understanding bystander intervention. There also will be a discussion on the role of the victim during prosecution.

Keynote speakers are Yasmin Karimian, president of UMBC’s Student Government Association; State’s Attorney for Baltimore County Scott Shellenberger; and William D. Mitchell, president and founder of the Kristin Mitchell Foundation, which supports educational efforts that raise awareness among young adults about the dangers of unhealthy dating relationships. Mitchell’s daughter was murdered by her boyfriend while in the midst of a breakup.

Panelists are Kim Leisey, UMBC associate vice president for student affairs and chair of the Verizon Foundation Relationship Violence Prevention Grant Committee, and Deborah Miller, domestic violence coordinator for the Baltimore County Police Department.

“Recognizing the victims of crime and especially those victims of domestic violence is especially important as it affects each of us in some way,” said Karimian. “The only way we can address the issue of domestic violence as a community is if we begin to spread the word and show the support we can provide to the victims. The summit will continue this needed conversation and will open the eyes and ears of community members to signs of domestic violence while showing the strong support our community has for victims and those affected by it.”

This fall, UMBC launched a campaign against relationship violence, funded by a grant from the Verizon Foundation. The campaign includes a lecture series, campus awareness programs and a relationship violence prevention advocates group. The campus also has a longstanding Voices Against Violence program designed to address issues around domestic or relationship violence, sexual assault, and other forms of person-to-person violence, including stalking and sexual harassment.

The summit was founded to support National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and the Office for Victims of Crime.

Sponsors for the April 18 event include the UMBC Police Department, the Arbutus Business & Professional Organization, Baltimore County Police Department – Wilkens Precinct 1, CCBC Foundation Catonsville, CCBC School of Justice, Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, Lansdowne Business & Professional Assocation, Saint Agnes Hospital, Soroptimist International of Arbutus, and the Wilkens Police & Community Relations Organization.

For more information, contact the UMBC Police Department at 410-455-5555.

Posted by elewis

March 3, 2011

TIAA-CREF Honors Freeman Hrabowski with 2011 Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence

Jeannine DeFoe, TIAA-CREF

Eleanor Lewis, UMBC

New York, March 7, 2011

TIAA-CREF has announced that Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has been awarded the 2011 TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence. Dr. Hrabowski was selected by an independent panel of judges based largely on his work to increase the representation of minority students in science and engineering and create an institutional model of inclusive excellence.

Established in 1993, the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award is named in honor of Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, nationally renowned educator and world humanitarian. Father Hesburgh also served on the TIAA and CREF Boards of Overseers for 28 years.

"I am honored to accept this award on behalf of my UMBC colleagues and students, and to have our work associated with the example of extraordinary leadership provided by Father Hesburgh. It takes all of us in the academy to build our institutions and prepare the next generation of leaders. Higher education is more important than ever before for both our nation and humankind. We know that education transforms lives," said Dr. Hrabowski.

Stephanie Bell-Rose, head of the TIAA-CREF Institute, will present the honor this afternoon at the American Council on Education (ACE) annual meeting in Washington D.C.

“Dr. Hrabowski’s leadership at UMBC and commitment to underrepresented groups in science and engineering has had a powerful impact on both the Maryland system and on higher education as a whole,” said Bell-Rose. “The Hesburgh award honors those higher education leaders who demonstrate innovative thinking, a positive impact on both higher education and society and a willingness to collaborate both within and outside the university, all of which are embodied by Dr. Hrabowski’s work.”

Dr. Hrabowski has served as president of UMBC since 1992. He has worked with campus colleagues to create a model public research university focused on building research in science, engineering, and public policy, while emphasizing undergraduate liberal arts education and creating an environment in which students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds thrive and succeed academically.

In 2008, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, which in 2009 and 2010 ranked UMBC the No. 1 “Up and Coming” university in the nation. In 2009, Time magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents. UMBC ranks 2nd nationally in research funding received from NASA, ranks among the top 10 universities nationally in public policy research productivity, and is among the nation’s leading public universities in prestigious scholarly awards per capita to faculty in arts and humanities.

With Baltimore philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, Dr. Hrabowski co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC in 1988 for minority students committed to pursuing advanced degrees in science and engineering. Today, UMBC is among the nation’s leading institutions in producing African American graduates who go on to complete Ph.Ds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and M.D./Ph.Ds.

The Hesburgh Award, which includes a $20,000 prize, recognizes a current college or university president/chancellor who:

• Is a visionary, demonstrating innovative thinking about strategic challenges and opportunities, sustaining the institution’s core values and mission, and adopting strategies to ensure future institutional vitality.

• Has had or is having through his/her personal involvement a positive impact on higher education and/or on society in general through his/her institutional leadership role.

• Demonstrates collaborative partnerships within the campus or externally that enhance institutional ability to achieve excellence both within the institution and for the greater good.

• Is a futurist comfortable in “stretching the envelope,” uncovering and seizing opportunities to advance the institution.

• Positions the institution to thrive in an uncertain future, anticipating trends and developing strategies to manage change.

About the TIAA-CREF Institute
The mission of the TIAA-CREF Institute is to foster objective research, build knowledge, support thought leadership, and enhance understanding of strategic issues related to higher education and lifelong financial security. For additional information, please visit

TIAA-CREF ( is a national financial services organization with $453 billion in combined assets under management (as of 12/31/10) and provides retirement services to the academic, research, medical, governmental, and cultural fields.

Posted by elewis

February 22, 2011

UMBC Named One of Nation’s “Best Value” Public Universities by The Princeton Review

Eleanor Lewis

UMBC is one of 50 public institutions in the United States recognized by The Princeton Review as a “Best Value College” offering a combination of educational excellence and affordability. The ranking was announced February 22 on the Today Show and in USA Today.

The honor is the third major national distinction UMBC has received from leading higher-education rankings publications this academic year. For the second year in a row, UMBC was named America’s #1 “Up-and-Coming” national university by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Guide. The University was also included on Kiplinger’s Best Value Public Colleges list.

The Princeton Review recognizes UMBC, a research university with nearly 13,000 students, for attracting serious students and supporting them with undergraduate research opportunities throughout the Baltimore-Washington region and beyond. The campus location near BWI-Marshall Airport gives students access to internships with government agencies, nonprofits and leading private-sector companies.

“UMBC provides a distinctive undergraduate education to outstanding students, many of whom go on to prestigious graduate schools and professional opportunities. We’re delighted to be recognized by The Princeton Review’s list of ‘Best Value Colleges,’ ” said UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III.

The Princeton Review selected schools by using institutional data and student opinion surveys. Broadly speaking, it examined factors covering undergraduate academics, costs and financial aid. A school’s academic rating was derived from admissions and other institutional data and student opinion surveys.

A school’s financial aid rating was based on data about tuition, fees, room and board and need-based financial aid packages and student opinion surveys regarding award packages and the service provided by a school’s financial aid office. Approximately seventy-seven percent of students at UMBC receive some financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans and grants.

Dale Bittinger, director of undergraduate admissions and orientation, said, “Being named to the ‘Best Value Colleges’ list once again is something that we are proud of as it reaffirms, among many values, our commitment to attracting a highly diverse community of high-achieving students."

UMBC was also named a “Best Value College” in 2009 and in 2008 was ranked the second “Most Diverse Student Body” in The Princeton Review’s “The Best 368 Colleges: 2009 Edition.”

Posted by elewis

January 31, 2011

UMBC Joins Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans



Eleanor Lewis – UMBC
Office: 410-455-2065

Mike Raia – Office of the Lt. Governor
Office: 410-260-3888
Cell: 443-336-3032

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 31, 2011) – UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, joined his counterparts from community colleges and public four-year institutions in Annapolis today to sign the Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans. The Compact aims to improve on-campus services for student veterans. Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown – a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, a graduate of ROTC and the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to serve a tour of duty in Iraq – convened the meeting and worked closely with veteran advocates and higher education leaders to forge the important partnerships that will ease student veterans’ transition to campus life.

During his opening remarks, Brown cited a troubling essay published in the Community College of Baltimore County student newspaper detailing a student veteran’s war experience and the College’s controversial, but necessary, decision to remove the student until a psychological evaluation could be performed as one of several catalysts to create the Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans.

“Veterans bring a unique maturity and life experience to the classroom – an experience that in most cases enhances classroom discussions and benefits every student’s learning. But as each war is different, so is every generation of veteran,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “We have an obligation to serve those who served and we must do more to ease student veterans’ transitions from combat to campus. While the urgency to sign this agreement was sparked by an atypical and unfortunate incident on one of our campuses, I am proud that higher education leaders from across the state will work together to improve the services we provide to the men and women who served on our behalf.”

The Compact calls on Maryland’s higher education community to do more for the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and seeks to ensure the educational success of veterans who choose to return to a Maryland school through greater awareness and understanding of the unique challenges student veterans face.

“The UMBC community is proud to welcome returning veterans to campus,” said President Hrabowski. “We know the transition back to the classroom can be challenging, and we are committed to supporting student veterans with access to the information and services they need to be successful.

Participating institutions pledge to designate an office or staff person as a ‘go to’ for all student veterans to help them navigate everything from GI Bill paperwork to behavioral health counseling. The Compact requires campus officials to provide training for faculty, staff and student leadership to promote greater awareness of veteran issues; and it encourages campuses to create student veteran organizations to provide incoming student veterans with necessary support from their peers who are also transitioning back into our communities.

Today’s veterans face unique challenges. Studies show that one out of five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are also more likely than veterans of any previous conflict to attempt suicide. More than 22,000 Iraq-Afghanistan veterans have returned to Maryland in recent years, and thousands more are coming home. More than 15,000 Maryland veterans received GI Bill education benefits during the fall 2010 semester – including 219 at UMBC. As more veterans enroll in college and training courses, colleges and universities – especially community colleges – must make concerted efforts to better understand the behavioral health challenges many veterans face.

Posted by elewis

December 31, 2010

UMBC Chess Team Finishes Strong to Place Second in “World Series of College Chess”

Contact: Daniel Clemens

BALTIMORE -- Battling weather-induced travel delays, illness and the nation’s top collegiate players, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) chess team turned in a strong performance to place second in the “World Series of College Chess” that concluded yesterday in Milwaukee.

UMBC earned a draw against the University of Texas-Brownsville in its sixth and final match at the Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships, which began Monday. The Retrievers rebounded after a hard-fought loss in a key match Wednesday night against the University of Texas-Dallas, the eventual champion.

“It came down to the critical match against Dallas,” said Alan T. Sherman, UMBC chess director. “It just didn’t go our way.”

By finishing in the top four, UMBC qualifies for the other preeminent college chess event: the President’s Cup, scheduled for April 2-3 in Tyson’s Corner, Va. The Retrievers are defending champs of President’s Cup, also known as the “Final Four of College Chess.”

UMBC also was the Pan-Am defending champ, after capturing the last year’s title outright and earning a share of the 2008 title. Today the Retrievers found themselves in unfamiliar territory: second place.

“It feels a little like a defeat that we didn’t finish first,” Sherman said. “It’s a weird feeling.”

Said Sam Palatnik, UMBC’s associate chess director who coached the team at the tournament, “It’s not every time you can be the best in the competition. Every one was fighting and competing. It’s a good place for us. We’ll take it.”

UMBC sent two teams to the tournament and a bright spot was the fifth-place finish of the B-team. Sabina Foisor, a former A-team alternate who led the B-team in Milwaukee, won all five of her games. Against the eventual champs, Foisor, an International Woman Grandmaster from Romania, beat Alejandro Ramirez, a Grandmaster and UT-Dallas’ top player.

“Playing on the first board and going five for five [games], that’s outstanding,” Palatnik said. UT-Dallas went 6-for-6 in its team matches en route to the title. “They really had a well deserved victory,” Sherman said. “They beat all the strong teams.”

UMBC’s task in the crucial match with UT-Dallas was made tougher when one of the Retrievers top players, Giorgi Margvelashvili, played after coming down ill. Margvelashvili came up short in his match, as did Leonid Kritz, another top UMBC player.

“It definitely affected his play,” Sherman said. “If Giorgi had won his game, the outcome could’ve been different.

“Even though they play six rounds, it always comes down to a very short, critical path. A very small number of games determines the outcome. It makes it exciting and frustrating.”

UMBC faced challenges before the tournament began. Last weekend’s major winter storm led to travel delays for some team members.

But Sherman and Palatnik refused to make excuses. Challenges such as weather, travel and illness are part of the game, they said.

“If you had a choice, you’d choose not to have those things,” Palatnik said yesterday by telephone from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, site of the tournament. “But sometimes they happen.”

UMBC has won a record nine Pan-Am titles, including six outright championships to go with three co-titles.

Twenty-eight teams took part in the 2010 Pan-Am, which attracts the top college programs. The event is the most celebrated intercollegiate tournament in the Americas, open to any college or university team from North, South or Central America. Since the tourney’s inception in 1946, dozens of universities throughout the Americas have participated.

The 2010 field included teams from such far-flung schools as the University of Toronto and the University of the West Indies, as well as squads from prominent U.S. schools such as Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

For UMBC, the focus now turns to the President’s Cup, where the Retrievers will square off against the University of Texas-Brownsville and Texas Tech University, in addition to UT-Dallas.

“We’ve got our ticket to the Final Four,” Palatnik said. “We’ll try our best to be ready. We need some work. The competition is much, much stronger.”

For more information on the UMBC team, contact Alan T. Sherman, director, UMBC Chess Program, 410-963-4779 (c),

For more information about the 2010 Pan-Am and college chess, visit or

Posted by elewis

November 1, 2010

UMBC Launches Campaign Against Dating Violence; Receives $25,000 Verizon Foundation Grant to Educate, Train Students, Faculty & Staff on Violence Prevention

Eleanor Lewis

Sherri Cunnigham

College students are at a high risk of either acting as perpetrator or being a victim of dating violence – both physical and sexual. In response, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has joined a public awareness effort to stop dating violence on college campuses.

The Red Flag Campaign helps students and others in the campus community identify the “red flags” of dating violence in their friends’ relationships and intervene. In addition, UMBC has received a $25,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation to launch a Violence Prevention Advocates program to educate and train students, faculty and staff on specific violence prevention efforts.

The campaign kickoff event will be held at UMBC Wednesday, November 3, 12:10-12:35 p.m. in The Commons Sports Zone (mezzanine level). Speakers will include UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski, Vice President for Student Affairs Nancy Young, SGA President Yasmin Karimian, Melanie Ortel of Verizon Wireless and Diane Miles of Verizon Maryland.

The Red Flag Campaign, a project of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, was created with support from the Verizon Foundation and Verizon Wireless. Red flags posted around the campus are designed with a “bystander intervention” strategy to raise awareness and encourage the campus community to “say something” when they see the warning signs - “red flags” - for emotional or physical violence in a friend or colleague’s relationship. Accompanying posters include on- and off-campus resource information.

UMBC’s Violence Prevention Advocates Program will include relationship violence prevention education and training for volunteer student, faculty and staff advocates; a poster and speaker series; and a relationship violence prevention resource website and online campaign on UMBC websites.

“Recent tragedies related to relationship violence and bullying on campuses across the nation call our attention to these issues and remind us that no campus is exempt,” says Young. “UMBC is fortunate to have received a grant from the Verizon Foundation to raise awareness, educate the campus community on issues related to relationship and dating violence and provide information to members of our community about resources and help.”

Karimian adds, “As unfortunate as it is that we have to face and discuss issues of domestic violence, it is absolutely necessary that we have real and honest campus conversations that face this issue. I feel the need to speak out, helping others recognize the red flags that exist in every community. Relationship violence does not discriminate. Anyone can be affected, so we need to be proactive in safeguarding ourselves and our community.”

Melanie Ortel, associate director of public relations for Verizon Wireless in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., says, “It’s important for young people to know that abuse does not have to be physical to be damaging. Emotional abuse needs to be taken just as seriously, and this campaign helps us all identify it. We’re proud to fund this award-winning, effective program, which is being embraced by colleges across the nation.”

The Red Flag Campaign is a result of the combined work of students, faculty and victim advocates from nearly 20 colleges and universities. For more information, visit

Since it was launched nationwide in 2001, Verizon Wireless’s HopeLine program has collected more than 7 million phones and awarded more than $7.9 million in cash grants. No-longer-used wireless phones – all models, from all wireless carriers – are collected and accessories are refurbished, recycled or sold. Proceeds benefit victims of domestic violence through grants and the donation of wireless phones and service. Phones are accepted at Verizon Wireless stores across the nation and on UMBC’s campus at The Commons. For additional program information, visit

Posted by elewis

October 1, 2010

UMBC Announces 2010 Alumni Association Awards

Eleanor Lewis

Each year, UMBC’s Alumni Association presents annual awards to honor alumni for their professional and personal achievements and service to the University.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony Thursday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery. A reception will follow.

UMBC’s 2010 Outstanding Alumni of the Year (bios follow list):

Engineering & Information Technology
Michael George ’87 Information Systems
Vice President,

Vikki Valentine ’96 English
Supervising Editor (Science), National Public Radio

Natural & Mathematical Sciences
Michael Nishimura ’80 B.A. ’84 M.S. ’89 Ph.D. Biological Sciences
Professor of Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina

Social & Behavioral Sciences
Chad Cradock ’97 Psychology
Director of Aquatics, UMBC

Visual & Performing Arts
Dean Alexander ’88 Visual Arts

Distinguished Service to the University and Alumni Association
Gene Trainor ’86 Health Science & Policy and Economics
Chair, Exceptional by Example Campaign alumni committee

Young Alumni Rising Star Award
Aaron Merki ’05 Political Science
Associate, Venable LLP

Engineering & Information Technology
Michael George ’87 Information Systems
Vice President,

Michael George has spent the past 12 years with in Seattle. He started his Amazon career as director of systems and networking operations. Since then, he has held senior positions that span several areas, including director of WW third party platforms, general manager/director of WW marketplace, vice president of human resources, vice president of WW payments, vice president of spoken word audio and now vice president of a yet-to-be-announced new business. He joined Amazon in 1998 through the acquisition of the Junglee Corp. where he was vice president of business development. Prior to Junglee, he spent 14 years in the newspaper industry.

Vikki Valentine ’96 English
Supervising Editor (Science), National Public Radio

Vikki Valentine, an award-winning science journalist, is science editor for NPR’s science unit and lead editor of NPR’s environment, energy and climate coverage. Before that, she managed the desk’s daily digital output of science, environmental, health and technology stories, and initiated major features and series. Prior to NPR, Valentine worked at and Baltimore Her writing has been published by the Smithsonian Channel, the New York Times, National Geographic, Marketplace Radio, Science and Washingtonian. She graduated with honors from the University College London Wellcome Trust Centre in the History of Medicine master’s program.

Natural & Mathematical Sciences
Michael Nishimura ’80 B.A. ’84 M.S. ’89 Ph.D. Biological Sciences
Professor of Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina

Michael Nishimura has devoted his career to developing novel immunologic approaches for cancer therapy and is recognized for his talents as a scientific mentor. Building upon his strong genetics and immunology training at UMBC, he pioneered the use of retroviral vectors encoding T cell receptor (TCR) genes to engineer an individual’s own lymphocytes to be able to recognize and control the patient’s cancer cells or virus-infected cells. The first clinical trial using TCR gene modified T cells was conducted in Denmark using one of Nishimura’s TCRs targeting the melanoma protein MART-1. He serves as the vice chair for research in the Department of Surgery at the Medical College of South Carolina and has assembled a strong clinical and scientific team committed to bringing this and other novel cellular therapies to the clinic.

Social & Behavioral Sciences
Chad Cradock ’97 Psychology
Director of Aquatics, UMBC

Chad Cradock was named to UMBC Athletics’ Hall of Fame in 2004 after a stellar career as a Retriever from 1993 until his graduation in 1997 and immediately became an assistant coach, but his greater contribution to the UMBC family would begin in 2001 when he became just the second head coach of the swimming and diving program. Since he took over, the Retriever men have won nine consecutive conference championships, including seven straight America East titles, while the women have won four conference crowns. In addition, the amount of alumni giving has gone up over 1,200% during his tenure. Cradock and his staff have been named Coach/Coaching Staff of the Year six times, including being named 2010 America East Coaching Staff of the Year.

Visual & Performing Arts
Dean Alexander ’88 Visual Arts

Dean Alexander is a photographer and the owner of Dean Alexander Productions, Inc., based in Baltimore. His work, from advertising and editorial to fine art, has taken him to over 40 countries throughout the world. Clients range from IBM and UnderArmour to non-profits such as the National Institute of Health and HealthCare for the Homeless, while his subjects range from Oprah Winfrey and Lady Sutherland (Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen of England) to Baltimore’s homeless. He has won nearly 100 international awards in his career.

Distinguished Service to the University and Alumni Association
Gene Trainor ’86 Health Science & Policy and Economics
Chair, Exceptional by Example Campaign alumni committee

Gene Trainor is chief operating officer of Foundation Capital, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm. Previously, Trainor served for 10 years as the administrative general partner and the chief operating officer for New Enterprise Associates. He has also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn, LLC, CFO/Controller of a Mid-Atlantic venture capital firm and a member of the audit group for Ernst & Young, LLP. A certified public accountant, he received his MBA from Loyola College of Maryland. Gene serves on the board of the non-profit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Young Alumni Rising Star Award
Aaron Merki ’05 Political Science
Associate, Venable LLP

Aaron Merki graduated from UMBC as a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and then attended University of Maryland School of Law as the Bekman Leadership Scholar. While there, Merki founded the FreeState Legal Project, which provides legal services to low-income LGBT clients throughout the Greater Baltimore region. He was named the National LGBT Bar Association's 2008 student leader of the year. After graduating law school, Merki accepted a judicial clerkship with the Hon. Susan K. Gauvey of the United States District Court for Maryland. Now an associate at Venable LLP, Aaron's clients range from Fortune 500 companies to low-income individuals. He continues to serve as chairman of the FreeState Legal Project Board of Directors, which now includes judges, professors, elected officials and some of Walter Sondheim's closest friends.

Posted by elewis

September 28, 2010

UMBC Creating Retriever Learning Center to Enhance Academic Support for Students

Eleanor Lewis

Preparation has begun to transform an 8,000-square-foot area of UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library into a social learning space that will facilitate student success through peer-to-peer teaching, group learning, tutoring and informal interactions among students and faculty. The Retriever Learning Center (RLC) will be completed in the summer of 2011.

The RLC will feature movable furnishings that groups can configure into study spaces, and will be located near library services, tutoring, information resources and information technology. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, consolidating late-night study space into one location and providing improved safety and security through key card access, video monitoring and other enhancements.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski said, “The Retriever Learning Center represents another example of UMBC’s innovation in teaching and learning. We are determined to be as proactive as possible in providing an environment that encourages substantive interaction among students, faculty, and staff. It’s always encouraging to see our students learning and growing intellectually.”

The impetus for this project came from students, including the Student Government and Graduate Student Associations, who advocated for a large, open, flexible, inviting space for group study with food and drink permitted. Library planning for this project began in 2006, but was accelerated by a 2008 bequest from the estate of Richard Roberts, a founding faculty member of UMBC and former chair of the Department of Mathematics. All colleges and divisions at UMBC will be committing resources to support the project, and UMBC is working with alumni, parents, friends and foundations to secure the final funds necessary to complete this important project.

Provost Elliot Hirshman emphasized, “The creation of the Retriever Learning Center is a critical addition to the institution’s commitment to support success for all students. By supporting active learning, group discussion, and peer tutoring, and integrating the resources of the Learning Resources Center and the Division of Information Technology in a single location, the Retriever Learning Center will play a central role in supporting student success and academic excellence at UMBC."

Students look forward to utilizing the resources that the new RLC will offer. “As a scientist, I want to have strong writing skills in order to clearly convey my research results and ideas. I will definitely spend time in the Retriever Learning Center as I continue to develop into an independent researcher,” said Genaro Hernandez, Jr. ’15, computational biology.

In preparation for construction, government documents and reference materials have been moved from the first floor of the library to the lower level. The Learning Resources Center’s Mathematics Lab and Writing Center have moved to the first floor, where they will operate temporarily during the 2010-2011 academic year. The final location of these services will be in newly renovated space of the RLC.

Posted by elewis

September 23, 2010

False Report of a Shooting on Campus

September 23, 2010

To: The UMBC Community

Fr: Mark Sparks, Chief of Police

Re: False Report of a Shooting on Campus

This morning, Baltimore County Police responded to a 911 call of a possible shooting in front of the Retriever Activities Center within about two minutes of receiving the call. Both police agencies did a thorough search of the RAC and surrounding area and found no evidence of a shooting through the search or citizen interviews on the scene. The call was apparently unfounded, and is being treated as a False Report call by the Baltimore County Police Department.

An e2Campus text alert was sent out once the UMBC officers developed enough information about the call, to tell the campus the nature of the call and that it was unfounded.

Members of the campus community are encouraged to sign up for e2campus, an emergency alert text-messaging system that will permit the University to notify subscribers to any campus-related emergency (such as potential campus safety hazards or campus closures due to weather). It is compatible with mobile phones, Blackberries, "smart phones," satellite phones, e-mail, wireless PDAs and pagers. Normal text-messaging rates apply. There are no additional charges. Sign up for this important service today at

Posted by elewis

September 10, 2010

UMBC Ceremonial Groundbreaking for LEED Silver Performing Arts & Humanities Building 9/17

Eleanor Lewis

Baltimore, MD – On Friday, September 17, UMBC will celebrate the construction of its second LEED Silver building – the Performing Arts & Humanities Building (PAHB). A reception at 2:30 p.m. on the construction site will be followed by a groundbreaking ceremony at 3 p.m.

The event includes remarks by Governor Martin O’ Malley; Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith; University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwin; UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski; Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences John Jeffries; and performing arts and humanities students.

The PAHB will provide new, state-of-the art facilities for performing arts and humanities departments and programs, enhancing UMBC’s teaching, research and public outreach and heightening the visibility of the arts and humanities as major components of campus and community life.

"We're celebrating the beginning of a new chapter for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County,” said Governor O’Malley. “The new Performing Arts and Humanities Building is a true investment in the talents, skills, creativity, ingenuity and education of our people. Its ‘green’ design will help develop a more sustainable environment, and in these tough economic times, its construction will provide much-needed jobs for our hardworking families. Together, we can continue to nurture our students’ talents and gifts while providing them with the tools they need to build a better future.”

The first construction phase, scheduled to open in fall 2012, will provide space for the Department of English, the Department of Theatre, the James T. and Virginia M. Dresher Center for the Humanities, the Humanities Scholars Program, the Linehan Artist Scholars Program, and arts management offices; the second phase will provide space for the Departments of Ancient Studies, Dance, Music and Philosophy. The cost for Phase I is $87.6 million.

The PAHB will be situated on 4.8 acres on the west side of Hilltop Circle, adjacent to the existing Fine Arts, Engineering and Information Technology/Engineering Buildings. More information on the building is available at A UMBC campus map (PDF) is available here:

Building images are available at

UMBC’s first LEED Silver building, an addition to Patapsco Residence Hall, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2011.

Posted by elewis

August 31, 2010

UMBC Breaks Ground on LEED Silver Residence Hall Addition September 3, Noon


Eleanor Lewis

Baltimore, MD – On September 3, UMBC will celebrate the construction of its first LEED Silver building – an addition to Patapsco Hall, which is scheduled to open in fall 2011.

The event begins at noon on the lawn outside of True Grits dining hall by the construction fence (Poplar Avenue). It will include remarks by President Freeman Hrabowski, Vice President for Student Affairs Nancy Young and President of the Resident Student Association Carl Gruhn. A reception will follow.

The $14.8 million project includes:

*189 new beds

*The university’s first green roof. This roof will also be used for research by faculty and students.

*Classroom in Patapsco lobby

*New volleyball and basketball courts

*Improvements in accessibility for the disabled at Susquehanna Hall and in the existing Patapsco Hall, including new elevators

*Landscaping, outdoor gathering areas and pedestrian paths

The project designer/builder is KBE Building Corporation and Newman Architecture, PC.

A UMBC campus map (PDF) is available here:

Posted by elewis

August 6, 2010

Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium and UMBC Announce Agreement with Google


Tamara Petronka

Eleanor Lewis

All MEEC Institutions Now Able to Contract for Google Apps

The Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) have announced an agreement that makes Google Apps for Education available to the 189 K-12 and higher educational institutions in Maryland that are members of MEEC. Google Apps, which is free for educational institutions, currently provides email, documents, group pages, chat and other products to over eight million students.

UMBC was the lead institution working with MEEC, and will be the first campus in the USM to implement the Google suite of products under the new contract. The University worked with MEEC, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and Google to develop a contract that can be used by any MEEC member.

UMBC’s decision to migrate to Google comes after engaging in conversations with students, faculty and staff. “As we discussed options for outsourcing email with students, they overwhelmingly recommended Google because it works exceptionally well with their mobile lifestyle,” said Mike Carlin, UMBC assistant vice president of IT. “UMBC will immediately set up the 3,000 new students enrolling for classes this fall on Google email and will provide the 10,000 existing students with the option to convert their accounts over to Google in late August 2010. By the start of the spring 2011 semester, we anticipate having all students moved over to Google.”

Through this contract, UMBC also licensed Google Message Security, a secure, hosted service that provides enterprise-grade spam and virus protection and email content filtering for use with the University’s existing email infrastructure for faculty and staff this fall.

Carlin said, “This is an important change that will help keep UMBC IT resources secure. Google Message Security is one of the premier email security packages on the market. Once this is in place, all UMBC faculty and staff should see significant improvement in our ability to filter these messages and other unwanted spam.” Starting this fall, staff in UMBC’s Division of Information Technology will pilot using Google Apps for faculty and staff email and calendaring.

MEEC is now working with Google to provide MEEC members with an overview of the capabilities found in Google Apps for Education and how it can meet each institution’s needs. MEEC is a statewide K-20 Consortium, hosted by the University System of Maryland, that leverages its size to negotiate hardware, software and services contacts that can be used by MEEC members. MEEC has 189 members, including all 24 public K-12 districts, private K-12 institutions, libraries and public and private higher education institutions.

Posted by elewis

August 4, 2010

UMBC Begins a New Tradition with “Ten Days of Awesomeness”

UMBC Hillel will host High Holiday celebrations on campus for the first time this September.

“It's the right time. UMBC has come such a long way,” said Rabbi Jason Klein, director of UMBC Hillel. “It's important to deliver on students' needs where they are: on campus.”

Klein adds that the events are meant to connect with the entire university.

“It will help take campus life to a new level for everyone, not just the Jewish community,” said Klein.

During Hillel's “Ten Days of Awesomeness,” members of the UMBC community and their guests can participate in activities that include holiday services on campus, meals, spiritual prep programs and music programs. There will also be a Pentagon Memorial and DC monument night tour and a visit to UMBC’s telescope.

“Holiday celebrations are natural to do at home,” Klein said. “As we become a more residential campus, UMBC becomes a reflection of home for students.”

The events will begin in the Interfaith Center with Shabbat services and dinner September 3 at 6 p.m., followed by spiritual preparation for the High Holidays at 8:30 p.m.

Members of the UMBC community and guests that wish to sign up for meals at the events must register by August 26. Anyone who would like to volunteer to help set up, clean up, greet guests, read Torah, or have another role in any of the services should email for details.

For more details and information, go to:

Posted by elewis

July 26, 2010

UMBC Named a “2010 Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education

Eleanor Lewis

Baltimore, Md. – The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The results, released Monday, July 26, in the Chronicle’s third annual report on The Academic Workplace, are based on a survey of more than 43,000 employees at 275 colleges and universities nationwide, including UMBC.

UMBC received high ratings in three categories:

-Collaborative Governance
-Respect and Appreciation
-Tenure Clarity and Process

“The recognition by the Chronicle is especially meaningful now,” said UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski. “The campus has made supporting people a priority as we face challenging times together. We are a ‘Great College to Work For’ because of the people here.”

Shared governance is one example of the value placed on collaboration and support for people at UMBC.

“The administration, faculty and staff believe that our success as a University depends on contributions and discussions from all involved,” said L.D. Timmie Topoleski, Faculty Senate president and professor of mechanical engineering. “The Faculty Senate's voice is strong, and we feel comfortable addressing difficult issues because we know the administration will be responsive. Shared governance at UMBC works because all parties see it as the pathway to continued success.”

Tim Sparklin, president of the Professional Associate Staff Senate (PASS) and administrator in the Human and Animal Protections Office, added, “The Professional Associate Staff Senate (PASS) is committed to maintaining open lines of communication among all staff, faculty and students of the university. We think it is essential to provide information and recommendations to the decision-makers of UMBC to recognize staff contributions and allow them to excel….We also take an active part in campus life by sponsoring activities that will provide an opportunity for non-work social events to encourage comradeship.”

Terry Aylsworth, acting president of the Non-exempt, Excluded Staff Senate and executive administrative assistant in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences said, “At the core of shared governance is the structural principle that University-wide committees include students, staff and faculty who act as voices for their constituents. It is at the committee level that the exchange of thoughts, concerns, and possible solutions to university challenges takes place. This unique structure encourages students, staff and faculty to be an integral part of shaping UMBC."

“Great Colleges to Work for” survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.

For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit

Posted by elewis

July 13, 2010

UMBC, Baylor Ecologists Say Current Methods for Monitoring Aquatic Life are Inadequate

Anthony Lane
Communications Manager
(410) 455-5793

Current methods used to detect how aquatic life responds to environmental degradation fail to show thresholds where significant biological changes are occurring, according to an analysis by ecologists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Baylor University.

“The measuring sticks we use are really insensitive to certain kinds of biodiversity loss,” said Matthew Baker, an assistant professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC.

In a new paper, Baker and Ryan King, a biology professor at Baylor University, demonstrate that two prevailing methods for monitoring water quality – which consider dozens of types of aquatic insects and other invertebrates – miss abrupt declines and increases in certain species that can occur even with minimal development, such as the construction of roads, roofs and other impervious surfaces on 1 to 3 percent of land in a watershed.

“More than 40 percent of the regional species pool is declining due to very low levels of impervious cover, but we’re not detecting it with current methods.” Baker said.

Baker compared current methods to stock market indices: “The Dow Jones measures a sector of our economy, but even when it shows little or no change, people invested in particular stocks can still be making vast profits or losing their shirts.”

In a paper published earlier this year, Baker and King detailed a new method – Threshold Indicator Taxa Analysis (TITAN) – for detecting impacts to individual species. Baker said it essentially amounts to a “much more precise measuring stick.”

The new paper, now available online, will appear in September’s Journal of the North American Benthological Society as part of a special focus section highlighting thresholds in environmental management. Though the analysis focused on the changes caused by increased runoff and pollution from development, Baker said he believes the method could be used to get a clearer picture of the biological changes associated with many other forms of human activity, such as mountaintop mining.

On the bright side, Baker said, their method could help target the mechanisms responsible for biodiversity losses, allowing for improved low-impact development designs, and giving land managers a better indication when environmental restoration efforts are working.

Posted by elewis

July 1, 2010

Former UMBI Institutes Launch July 1 as Newly Aligned Research Centers at Partner USM Campuses


Mike Lurie
University System of Maryland (USM)
Phone: 301-445-2719

Anthony Lane
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
Phone: 410-455-5793

Adelphi, Md. (July 1, 2010) - Research centers previously aligned with the former University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) officially begin their realignment today with other institutions within the University System of Maryland (USM).

This restructuring, approved by the USM Board of Regents in June 2009, is expected to pave the way for more multi-disciplinary and collaborative research across the system and increase access to outside funding for research. It is also expected to yield a higher level of technology transfer, commercialization, and business start-ups, and thereby advance economic development statewide.

The action followed the recommendations of an ad hoc committee of regents appointed by Board Chairman Clifford Kendall in February 2009 to review UMBI's mission and organization as well as consider alternative organization options.

Following is a summary of the newly created centers, once based at the former UMBI.

*Institute for Bioscience Biotechnology (IBBR). The IBBR is a research collaboration among the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The IBBR will build upon the resources and strengths of the former Center for Advance Research in Biotechnology (CARB) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG, one of the USM's two system-wide regional centers) and the former Center for Biosystems Research (CBR) at UMCP.

Under IBBR's inaugural director, Donald L. Nuss, Ph.D., the center will focus predominantly on three complementary research areas: nanobiotechnology, drug and vaccine discovery, and pathobiology (the study of disease processes). UMCP will have administrative responsibility for the joint research center. The center will be headquartered at USG.

* Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). IMET is a joint USM research center at which the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES); and UMB will share facilities and resources. The partner institutions will collaboratively advance research and create technologies for the protection and restoration of marine systems and watersheds, sustainable use of their resources, and improvement of human health. Yoni Zohar, Ph.D., a UMBC faculty member, will serve as IMET interim director. Russell Hill, Ph.D., an UMCES faculty member, will serve as IMET interim associate director. The center will be based at the Columbus Center in downtown Baltimore at the former Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB).

* Medical Biotechnology Center (MBC) at UMB. The MBC is affiliated with the UMB campus, home of the University of Maryland School Of Medicine. The center's research will include health-related aspects of molecular biology and biotechnology, molecular medicine, and molecular genetics. In addition, research here will be enhanced by collaboration with the bioengineering and computational faculty at UMCP. W. Jonathan Lederer, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the School of Medicine, will serve as interim director. The center will be based at the UMB campus.

* Institute of Fluorescence (IOF). UMBC will have administrative responsibility for this former UMBI institute. Research is centered on the development of new leading-edge and existing fluorescence phenomena to resolve clinically, biologically and industrially important questions, such as technologies to facilitate early and rapid detection of bio-warfare agents. The institute will be based at the Columbus Center in downtown Baltimore. Chris D. Geddes, Ph.D., will serve as director.

* Towson University Center for STEM Excellence. The center's main goal is to provide statewide leadership in supporting the USM's STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) initiatives. This center will integrate Towson University's STEM education programs to establish the Baltimore Excellence in STEM Teaching (BEST) program. It will be based at the Columbus Center in downtown Baltimore.

"With a focus on collaboration--across disciplines and across institutions--and with recognition of the exceptional talent within the UMBI community and the system's other institutions, this action positions USM to take fuller advantage of its system-wide strengths in the biosciences and to fuel the state's knowledge economy even more," said Kendall, the board chair.

A subcommittee of regents in 2009 reviewed UMBI's history and structure. It also solicited the views of individuals and groups, including UMBI administrators, faculty, staff, and graduate students; members of the UMBI Board of Visitors; external scientists and administrators from higher education and government; and representatives from business and economic development organizations.

As a result of its comprehensive review, the committee found that "the organization of UMBI as a geographically dispersed, free-standing entity has created intractable problems." These included the lack of scale of UMBI programs, isolation among UMBI's research centers, lack of a critical mass of graduate and undergraduate students involved in UMBI research, and administrative inefficiencies.

The board directed the USM office to complete the restructuring by June 30, 2010, the end of the 2010 fiscal year. The regents charged USM Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan to work with the UMBI center directors and the appropriate institutional presidents on memoranda of understanding (MOUs) outlining details of the future operations and collaborations. The chancellor presented the MOUs to the board as they were negotiated during the fiscal year. The first approval occurred in October 2009 and all MOUs were approved by February 2010.

"The launch of these realigned centers provides a tremendous opportunity for the University System of Maryland to increase the volume and impact of its basic and applied research in the biosciences," Kirwan said. "This restructuring has the potential to double the research productivity of UMBI's current assets within five years. Once these assets are joined with activities system-wide, USM will play an even greater role in positioning the State of Maryland as a national and international leader in the biosciences."

Posted by elewis

June 15, 2010

UMBC Computer Science Graduate Selected to Head Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Anthony Lane
Communications Manager
(410) 455-5793

Ralph Semmel, who completed his doctorate in computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in 1992, has been selected to become the next director of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL).

APL, located in Laurel, Md., has close to 5,000 employees conducting and supporting research related to national defense and security.

Semmel, who finished his degree in 1992, focused his dissertation research at UMBC on the problem of how to get information from a database without knowing beforehand how the database is structured.

“He was an extraordinary student,” said James Mayfield, who was Semmel’s thesis advisor at UMBC. “He was not only academically rigorous, but he also accomplished a lot.”

Mayfield, who now works at Hopkins’ Human Language Technology Center of Excellence, said he’s also been impressed with the leadership skills Semmel has shown during his 23-year career with APL.

Semmel will begin his new position July 1, replacing Richard Roca to become the eighth director of APL in the laboratory’s 68-year history.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski praised Semmel’s accomplishments.

“We are extremely proud of Ralph Semmel and the leadership role he is taking at one of our nation’s foremost research centers.”

Semmel is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and he completed master’s degrees at Hopkins and the University of Southern California.

Posted by elewis

May 27, 2010

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski Receives Honorary Degree from Harvard

Honor Recognizes Impact of Leadership at UMBC and Beyond

Chelsea Haddaway, UMBC
(410) 455-6380

May 27, 2010 – UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, is among 10 national and world leaders recognized with honorary degrees at Harvard University’s Commencement exercises in Cambridge, Massachusetts today.

Hrabowski, who has served as UMBC’s president since 1992, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard in recognition of his inspirational leadership of UMBC’s rise as a new model for American higher education and a premier training ground for the next generation of researchers and scholars. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust hailed Hrabowski as “a galvanic force in his university’s ascent.”

Among the other honorands at Harvard this year are retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, former Howard Hughes Medical Institute President Thomas Cech and actress Meryl Streep.

“The respect our colleagues at Harvard have for UMBC as a research university is clear,” Hrabowski said. “This honor reflects on the work of a campus community that celebrates the life of the mind and believes that students from all backgrounds will excel when expected to do so and when given support.” UMBC consistently sends its graduates on to graduate and professional programs and post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard in fields ranging from medicine and science to law and public policy.

Hrabowski’s research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. He currently chairs the National Academies’ Committee on Underrepresented Groups and the Science & Engineering Workforce Pipeline.

He has authored numerous articles and co-authored two books, “Beating the Odds” and “Overcoming the Odds” (Oxford University Press), focusing on parenting and high-achieving African American males and females in science. Both books are used by universities, school systems and community groups around the country.

In 2008, Hrabowski was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report, which in 2009 ranked UMBC the #1 “Up and Coming” university in the nation and fourth among all colleges and universities in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching. In 2009, Time Magazine named him one of “America’s 10 Best College Presidents.”

He serves as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Academies. He also serves on the boards of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation (Chair) and The Urban Institute.

Hrabowski also holds honorary degrees from more than a dozen institutions, including Princeton, Duke, Haverford College, the University of Michigan and Georgetown University.

Click here to see the presentation of the honorary degree.

Posted by brhuber

April 21, 2010

UMBC Included in "Guide to 286 Green Colleges" by Princeton Review and U.S. Green Building Council

B. Rose Huber, UMBC
(410) 455-8117 ,

Leah Pennino, The Princeton Review
(508) 663-5133


Free Guidebook Profiles the Nation’s Most Environmentally-Responsible Colleges & Universities

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, APRIL 21, 2010 – UMBC is one of the country’s most environmentally-responsible colleges according to The Princeton Review. The nationally known education services company selected UMBC for inclusion in a unique resource it has created for college applicants - “The Princeton Review's Guide to 286 Green Colleges.”

Developed by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the “Guide to 286 Green Colleges” is the first, free comprehensive guidebook focused solely on institutions of higher education who have demonstrated an above average commitment to sustainability in terms of campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.

The Princeton Review's Guide to 286 Green Colleges” looks at an institution’s commitment to building certification using USGBC’s LEED green building certification program; environmental literacy programs; formal sustainability committees; use of renewable energy resources; recycling and conservation programs, and much more.

“One of the key reasons UMBC has been successful in our efforts to be a sustainable campus and to begin to significantly reduce our impact on global climate is that so many students, faculty and staff have come together to work as partners in this effort,” said Lynne Schaefer, vice president of administration and finance. “Our students, faculty and staff are all passionately engaged, serving as wonderful role models for living a more sustainable life.”

Since UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007, UMBC has worked toward supporting green efforts in campus in a multitude of ways through the Climate Change Task Force. The group is comprised of students, faculty and staff engaged in encouraging sustainability on campus through academics and other initiatives.

The Department of Geography and Environmental Systems offers academic programs in environmental studies and environmental science including master’s and Ph.D. programs focusing on environmental systems, human geography and remote sensing technology. The campus is also the field headquarters for the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, a federally funded urban ecology project. It hosts the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, the U.S. Geological Survey’s regional water science center and two NASA centers that research Earth systems and monitor the Earth’s surface and atmosphere.

Other departments that have sustainability-related majors and courses include biochemistry and molecular chemistry, biological sciences, biotechnology, civil engineering, economics, geographic information systems, human context of science and technology, interdisciplinary studies, marine-estarine environmental science, philosophy, physics and public policy.

UMBC regularly participates in green activities including the annual Ecofest, Recyclemania and the National Teach-in (in 2009). Through engagement with Students for Environmental Awareness, these events have been well attended.

“Students and their parents are becoming more and more interested in learning about and attending colleges and universities that practice, teach and support environmental responsibility,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president and publisher, The Princeton Review. “According to our recent College Hope & Worries Survey, 64 percent of college applicants and their parents said having information about a school’s commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to or attend it. We created this guide to help them evaluate how institutions like UMBC focus on environmental responsibility so that they can make informed decisions as they move through the college assessment and application process.”

UMBC joins the ranks of outstanding universities and colleges nationwide that are leading the “green” movement through their own special programs and initiatives.

The free Guide can be downloaded at and

How the Schools Were Chosen

The Princeton Review chose the 286 schools included in the Guide based on the “Green Rating” scores the schools received in summer 2009 when The Princeton Review published Green Rating scores for 697 schools in its online college profiles and/or annual college guidebooks. The Princeton Review's “Green Rating” is a numerical score from 60 – 99 that’s based on several data points. In 2008, The Princeton Review began collaborating with USGBC to help make the Green Rating survey questions as comprehensive and inclusive as possible. Of 697 schools that The Princeton Review gave “Green Ratings” to in 2009, the 286 schools in the Guide received scores in the 80th or higher percentile. The Princeton Review does not rank the schools in this book hierarchically (1 to 286) or in any of its books based on their “Green Rating” scores.


Posted by brhuber

April 20, 2010

UMBC and Social Security Administration (SSA) Partner to Deliver Graduate Courses and Training at SSA

April 20, 2010

Eleanor Lewis
Senior Director, Communications
(410) 455-2065

Baltimore, MD - UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and the Social Security Administration Commissioner, Michael Astrue, recently announced the creation of the SSA University Partnership Program. Beginning this fall, UMBC will offer graduate courses at the SSA, while UMBC Training Centers will begin offering non-degree training from the SSA headquarters campus this spring.

"We are excited about building a strong partnership with the Social Security Administration,” said Hrabowski. “Most of us have grown up hearing about Social Security from our parents or grandparents. In fact, few people know that the Social Security Act was signed into law 75 years ago as a way of supporting vulnerable families and older citizens. It is our honor to provide education for employees at Social Security as they work to help fellow Americans."

The partnership provides a unique opportunity for SSA employees to conveniently earn graduate credits at work, delivered by some of UMBC’s top research faculty. Qualified students who take these courses can apply for admission to full degree programs at UMBC if they choose to do so.

For more information, visit
SSA is partnering with other local colleges, universities and vendors in addition to UMBC.

Posted by elewis

March 25, 2010

Chile Earthquake Fact-Finding Mission Finds Building Codes Saved Tens of Thousands of Lives

BALTIMORE -– A fact-finding mission sent to Chile in the aftermath of the most powerful earthquake in recent history determined that Chile’s adoption of California earthquake building codes in the early 1960s likely prevented the deaths of tens of thousands of people but did not prevent the failure of communications in the nation’s healthcare system.

A research team including Rick Bissell, director of the Center for Emergency Education and Disaster Research at UMBC, toured earthquake damaged Chile March 13 to 21 under a “rapid reconnaissance” grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the effects of earthquake building damage on health care delivery systems. The group was part of a larger team from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and included experts from Johns Hopkins University, FEMA, the Chilean Ministry of Health and the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile.

The team found that one of the greatest obstacles to uninterrupted healthcare delivery in the aftermath of the earthquake was the complete failure of Chile’s communications system. The nation’s highly-centralized national hospital and public health system had no way to communicate other than through ambulance VHS radio relays established by emergency responders.

“It was very critical to investigate not only why Chile’s buildings held up so much better than in Haiti and many other places, but also to see how the delivery of healthcare and operation of hospitals held up in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake,” Bissell said.

The most important factor was Chile’s adoption of, with California and Japan, earthquake building codes first developed in the 1960s, and regularly upgraded since. Chile, Japan and California are among the most active earthquake areas along the Pacific Ocean basin known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire” for its volcanic and seismic activity.

Although Chile’s earthquake damage was catastrophic, destroying many roads, bridges and the homes of 800,000 people, there were fewer than 500 deaths and 500 injuries thanks to strict building codes and the fortuitous early morning timing of the earthquake, Bissell said.

The team found that no hospital in Chile suffered complete structural failure. The government of Chile reports that of 79 affected hospitals, 54 suffered minor damage, eight suffered major damage and 17 will require a complete rebuild. All affected hospitals lost power, water and communications.

Among the team’s other findings was that Chilean hospitals -- cut off from communications with their superiors -- saved lives without using patient transfer protocols typical of emergency plans for U.S. hospitals that have been damaged. Instead of closing the hospitals and transferring all patients out, all stable patients were discharged, and remaining patients and earthquake victims were moved to undamaged parts of the hospital.

“The U.S. model is to completely evacuate a hospital if it is damaged in an earthquake. But in a major earthquake such as this, thousands of square miles could be impacted, and we need to reconsider our policy of mass patient transfer, and take a stronger look at moving patients to undamaged portions of their hospital, and making room by discharging patients who are stable enough to complete their recovery process at home.” Bissell said.



UMBC's Center for Emergency Education and Disaster Research (CEEDR) provides consulting, training, assessment, and planning services for public safety and emergency management agencies, public health agencies, and private sector organizations.

Posted by kavan

February 14, 2010

Returning to Campus Monday, Feb. 15

February 14, 2010

To: The UMBC Community

From: Lynne Schaefer

Subject: Returning to Campus Tomorrow

Dear Colleagues,

As we all prepare to return to campus tomorrow, I want to share some information on what to expect so that you can plan and prepare accordingly.

First, as I’m sure is true in your neighborhoods, mountains of snow are in evidence throughout the campus. This can present challenges in seeing what’s coming, so please exercise caution, and watch out for others as you are driving or walking around campus.

Faculty, Staff and Commuting Students

Most of the main parking lots and the academic side of the loop road have been cleared of snow. You should be able to find parking either in areas you typically look for space, or in the lots around the edges of campus (13, 17, 18, 22). Pathways have been cleared from lots to buildings, but not all paths. Please look for the cleared paths, as these will be the safest routes for you to take.

Handicap Parking

For those members of our community who require accessible parking, your options may be more limited than usual, depending on your particular circumstances. The best options are handicap spaces in Lot 16, the Commons Garage, and upper Lot 10. Remember that you may also park free of charge at any of the meters on upper Lot 10, as long as you have your handicap placard. If possible, you might want to consider arriving early to ensure finding a space that will meet your needs.

Returning Resident Students

Many of the resident student parking areas remain snow-filled and not accessible for parking. A large number of student vehicles have not yet been dug out from the storms. We will be working over the course of this week to assist in moving these vehicles out, so that the lots can be cleared. In the meantime, resident students returning to campus should consider parking in Lots 13, 17 and 18. The satellite lot at South Campus is also available. Please do not park in neighborhoods adjacent to campus – those residents are already severely challenged to find parking near their homes in these conditions, and I hope you will agree that as good neighbors we shouldn’t make it worse for them.

Areas to Avoid

The Walker Garage is not in good shape yet, and it will take the next couple of days of moving cars out and clearing snow to make it available for parking. The same is true for Lots 4 and 5, the student lots. We apologize for this inconvenience, and ask that you bear with us while we continue to clear the remainder of the snow.

Please be careful out there. I urge you to dress for snowy conditions, and exercise care. I look forward to seeing everyone back on campus.

Posted by elewis

January 26, 2010

iStrategy Solutions Customer UMBC Named 2009 Ventana Research Customer Leadership Award Winner

Media Contact:

Michael Urbonas
Director of Product Marketing
iStrategy Solutions

Eleanor Lewis
Senior Director, Communications

OWINGS MILLS, MD – January 15, 2010 - iStrategy Solutions ("iStrategy"), the leading provider of higher education analytic reporting and data warehouse solutions, announced that the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) was recently honored as the 2009 Ventana Research Customer Leadership Award Winner.

The Ventana Research team of global research experts annually honors organizations that have successfully integrated people, process, information and technology to significantly improve organizational performance. UMBC was recognized for its effective utilization of the iStrategy HigherEd Analytics Student Module to enable a culture of informed, data-driven decision making across the university, resulting in improved student outcomes, effectively managed course capacities, optimized student recruitment expenditures and more.

In honoring UMBC's success with the iStrategy HigherEd Student Analytics Module, Ventana Research President Mark Smith called particular attention to recent remarks by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of UMBC. "While [many online retailers] use analytics to predict what books customers will want to purchase, too few institutions are analyzing data about our students to predict the likelihood of their success," Dr. Freeman Hrabowski said. "(That's why) we are so excited about iStrategy...I can ask a number of different questions in just a few
minutes and get all the answers myself…We can now take our analysis to a
whole new level."

"UMBC is a great example of a successful higher education institution living the ideals promoted by Ventana Research: active leadership in bringing together people, process, information and technology," said Mark Max, CEO of iStrategy Solutions. "UMBC's success is strong evidence that an institutional culture that embraces fact-based decision making, combined with the widespread adoption of effective analytic reporting capabilities, will help achieve significant institutional improvements in student outcomes, enrollment management objectives, financial and HR management, advancement and much more."

To learn more about the successful use of higher education data analytics, reporting, dashboards and more to improve institutional performance by UMBC and other award-winning colleges and universities, please visit

About iStrategy Solutions
Founded in 1999, iStrategy is the leading developer of pre-packaged data warehouse application and analytics software exclusively for higher education institutions. The iStrategy HigherEd Analytics Suite integrates out-of-the-box with Banner, PeopleSoft, and Datatel ERP systems, providing executives, managers and staff with self-service reporting, dashboards, business intelligence and more. iStrategy enables timely, data-driven decision making to improve institutional performance in student recruiting and retention; enrollment and financial aid management; budgeting, finance, human resources management, advancement and much more. The privately held firm is headquartered in Owings Mills, Maryland. Please learn more about the company and the success of its customers at

Posted by elewis

January 13, 2010

NASA and UMBC Researcher Recognized for Data that Provides Clues to Earth’s Changing Climate, Forests and Crops

A NASA-led team has been recognized with a prestigious award for helping scientists better understand our home planet. NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior presented the William T. Pecora Award to the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System, or CERES, team and to Forrest Hall, senior research scientist, Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology, at UMBC.

Led from Langley, the CERES team has compiled a critical data set for monitoring and predicting climate change. The data set, which comes from five instruments on three spacecraft, is being used to improve our understanding of the natural and human-induced changes in the climate through accurate measurements of the Earth's radiative energy balance. This balance is the amount of energy Earth receives from the sun and keeps in the atmosphere or radiates back into space. Along with measurements of oceans, land, snow, ice, clouds, aerosols and meteorology, CERES data products provide a scientific basis for developing global environmental policies.

"CERES is a major NASA success story," said Freilich. "The team has made an exceptional contribution to understanding the Earth system. This interagency, academic, international effort has resulted in critical data that, among other benefits, has supported the conclusions of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."

The CERES instruments provide highly accurate measurements of the radiative energy balance at multiple layers in the atmosphere. In addition, the CERES team developed a rapid-response product that provides a measure of the amount of solar energy at Earth's surface. These data are used by agricultural resource managers to gauge soil moisture and by engineers monitoring and designing solar power applications.

Hall has been instrumental in advancing remote sensing of Earth since the inception of the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (now known as the Landsat program) that NASA launched in 1972. Hall developed technologies for the remote sensing of vegetation, provided high-quality global data sets to the community and contributed to the science on which remote sensing was founded -- both through his leadership of major field programs and his own research.

Hall's research contributed to solving a number of crucial problems in remote-sensing science concerned with interpreting images gathered over vegetated areas. He was involved from the very start of land surface remote sensing while working at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on large-scale agricultural assessments. These pioneering efforts by NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture involved some of the earliest work in comparing surface, airborne and satellite data.

Hall also led the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study, or BOREAS, which resulted in a major advance in our understanding of the role of the far northern boreal forests in climate change. Hall's efforts in this study led to a better understanding of North America's carbon, water and energy cycles.

NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior present individual and group Pecora Awards to honor outstanding contributions in the field of remote sensing and its application to understanding Earth. The award was established in 1974 to honor the memory of William T. Pecora, former director of the U.S. Geological Survey and under secretary of the Department of the Interior. The award was presented Dec. 17, 2009, in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Posted by elewis

January 9, 2010

Research By Turkish Police Official Finds Turkish Government PKK Anti-Terror Policies Fell Short

Turkish Police Superintendent’s Ph.D. Research at UMBC Concludes Turkish Government Policies Failed To Terminate Kurdish Separatist Violence Over 23-Year Span

BALTIMORE – A Turkish National Police intelligence official researching the effects of Turkish government antiterrorism policies aimed at thwarting violence by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) concludes that those efforts fail to produce long-term reductions in violence, despite bringing about the PKK’s military defeat.

National Police Intelligence Department Superintendent Mustafa Cosar Unal completed his dissertation and received a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in December 2009. His research examined the effects of the Turkish Government’s anti-terrorism policies on reducing PKK violence from 1984-2007, the response of the PKK to those policies and the underlying causes of the violence.

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski called UNal's research “crucial to the world we live in today," during UMBC's winter commencement Dec. 22, 2009.

Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of Turkish government policies and the PKK’s internal dynamics and strategic decisions, Unal concluded that despite some short-term reductions in violence and the PKK’s eventual military defeat, Turkish government policies intended to eliminate PKK violence have been ineffective in the long term. He also determined that policies aimed at incapacitating PKK members resulted in increased retaliatory PKK-initiated violence for up to three months.

Unal emphasizes the role of the civilian population as key to reducing ethnic violence. He concluded the government’s failure to thwart PKK violence can be attributed largely to its reliance solely on criminological-based policies that disregard grievances buried in the social context and public sentiments that lead individuals to engage in terrorist activities. As a result, government policies are likely to be perceived as illegitimate by civilians and therefore increase anti-government hostility, Unal said.

“Regardless of whether or not government’s counterterrorism policies defeat the PKK and/or reduce the PKK violence, the PKK issue remains unresolved in Turkey and will be affected by internal and international events for some time to come,” Unal said.

Posted by kavan

December 30, 2009

UMBC Chess Team Captures Pan-Am Tournament


UMBC Chess Team Stands Alone Atop World of Collegiate Chess

Retrievers take all six matches in capturing record ninth title at Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship

Daniel Clemens

December 30, 2009

BALTIMORE – The chess team from University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is back on familiar ground: The summit of the college chess world.

And this time, UMBC stands alone.

Capping a near-flawless performance over the past four days at the tournament in South Padre Island, Texas, the Retrievers topped a team from the University of Texas-Brownsville today to secure the title outright for the first time since 2005.

Today’s win completed a perfect 6-0 match record for the tournament, known as the “World Series of college chess.” UMBC’s dominant performance is all the more impressive given the high quality of the 28-team field this year, said Alan Sherman, director of the school’s chess program.

The performance is an upgrade over 2008, when UMBC shared the title with a University of Texas-Dallas team that had been on a two-year Pan-Am win streak.

Today UMBC topped UT-Brownsville’s “B” team, 4-0, to complete the march to the title. But the Retrievers most of the hard work yesterday, winning decisive matches over two of the strongest teams in college chess. The Retrievers topped UT-Dallas, 3 to 1, in the early match, and then got past UT-Brownsville’s “into today’s action. The tournament also included teams from Yale, Princeton, NYU, Stanford and University of Chicago.

“It is extremely great,” Igor Epstein, a UMBC coach, said late today in a telephone interview from the Sheraton South Padre Island Beach Hotel, where the event took place.

“We did it,” Epstein said. “We clearly were at our best.”

UMBC’s “B” team also performed well, going 4-2 and finishing sixth overall.

The players on the UMBC “A” team players are: Leonid Kritz, a Grandmaster from Russia; Sergey Erenburg, a Grandmaster from Israel; Giorgi Margvelashvili, an International Master from the Republic of Georgia; Sasha Kaplan, an International Master from Israel; and Sabina Foisor (alternate), a Woman International Grandmaster from Romania.

The Pan-Am win qualifies UMBC for the other big event on the college chess calendar: the 2010 President’s Cup (known as “the Final Four of College Chess”) on April 9-10 on the campus of UT-Brownsville.

The Pan-Am is the most celebrated intercollegiate chess tournament in the Americas. Since its 1946 inception, dozens of universities throughout the Americas have participated. The tournament is open to any college or university team from North, South, or Central America.

The Retrievers won their first Pan-Am title in 1996. They went on a five-year championship tear from 1998 to 2002, which included a tie in 2001.

More information about the 2009 Pan-Am and college chess can be found at:

Upcoming chess events at UMBC (visit

UMBC Open: February 27-28
Scholastic Spectacular: May 2

Posted by elewis

December 21, 2009

UMBC Chess Team Heads to Texas for "World Series of college chess"

UMBC chess team heading to Texas this week for “World Series of college chess,” hoping to
capture first outright title since 2005

Daniel Clemens

December 21, 2009

BALTIMORE – As a powerhouse in the world of college chess, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is accustomed to the rigorous preparation required for taking on elite opponents.

But in getting ready for the 2009 Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Team Championships this
week, the team is accounting for an uncommon foe: the flu.

The plan to get the team ready for the competition in South Padre Island, Texas, included vaccinations after two UMBC players were stricken by the flu at last year’s championships. Among the symptoms that befell players were 103-degree fevers.

“This year we hope to fare better on the health front,” said Alan Sherman, director of the UMBC
chess program and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

UMBC fared pretty well on the chess front last year, persevering through illness to earn a share
of the title. The Retrievers registered a tie with the University of Texas-Dallas, another college
chess juggernaut and a perennial rival of UMBC.

The tournament, known as the “World Series of college chess,” runs from Sunday through next
Wednesday (Dec. 27-30) in South Padre Island, Texas.

UMBC seeks to win the title outright and reassert its dominance of the event. Before last year’s
tie, the Retrievers had won the event seven times, more than any other school.

But UMBC’s last outright win came in 2005. UTD has taken control since, winning the next two

Associate chess director Sam Palatnik characterized last year’s performance by the flu-stricken
players as “heroic.” One of the players who fell ill, Leonid Kritz, said the highly competitive atmosphere helped him push through.

“My style of playing is all or nothing,” said Kritz, a 25-year-old grandmaster from Russia. “I like
winning the war.”

The Pan-Am is the most celebrated intercollegiate chess tournament in the Americas. Since its 1946 inception, dozens of universities have participated.

The tournament is open to any college or university team from North, South or Central America.

This is year’s Pan Am field is formidable, Sherman said, with the Texas Tech University and the
University of Texas-Brownsville also posting strong teams.

The Retrievers won their first Pan-Am title in 1996, and embarked on a five-year title streak
from 1998 to 2002. UMBC and UTD are among a handful of schools nationwide that attract the
world's best chess players with full scholarships.

The UMBC players
Leonid Kritz, a Grandmaster from Russia, ranked 12th in the U.S. and the highest-rated college
player in the Americas
Sergey Erenburg, a Grandmaster from Israel, ranked 19th in the U.S.
Giorgi Margvelashvili, an International Master from the Republic of Georgia, ranked 57th in the U.S.
Sasha Kaplan, an International Master from Israel, ranked 93rd in the U.S.
Sabina Foisor (alternate), a Woman International Grandmaster from Romania and the nation’s sixth-ranked woman.

Follow the UMBC team during the tournament on Twitter @UMBCchess.
For real-time updates of Pan-Am matches in progress, go to
For more information on the tournament:

2009 Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships
What: Pan American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championships
When: December 27-30, 2009
Where: Sheraton South Padre Island Beach Hotel, South Padre Island, Texas
Format: Traditional six-round Fix Roster Swiss tournament
Team makeup: Four-player teams with up to two alternates

For more information on the UMBC team:
Alan T. Sherman, director, UMBC Chess Program
410-963-4779 (c)

For more information on the tournament:
Russell Harwood
(956) 882-5762 or (956) 551-0303

Posted by elewis

December 19, 2009

UMBC Featured On CBS Evening News Segment on Jobs of the Future

Watch CBS News Videos Online

BALTIMORE - CBS Evening News featured University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) President Freeman Hrabowski and faculty and students in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in a news story about how to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

A CBS news crew interviewed Hrabowski, Mechanical Engineering Professor Anne Spence, Chemistry Professor Bill LaCourse and UMBC graduate student Ashley Pearson in December regarding UMBC's leadership in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason visited UMBC's Chemistry Discovery Center, a cooperative learning program that has boosted Chemistry pass rates. Mason also interviewed Pearson teaching 6th grade students at Baltimore's KIPP Ujima middle school as part of the Sherman STEM Teacher Education Scholars Program, which supports STEM majors seeking careers in teaching.

The news story is part of a weeklong series with CBS anchor Katie Couric on "Where America Stands," addressing issues ranging from terrorism to the struggling economy.

Posted by kavan

December 14, 2009

Crazy for Politics

A news blog staffed by UMBC students aims to spark high schoolers’ interest in current events.

BALTIMORE - Do you find news and current events dull, boring and confusing?

Too many young people answer yes to that question, says political cartoonist Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher, who has launched a new political news blog aimed at getting high school students to tune-in to current events by using the humor and spirit of political cartooning.

The Web site,, is a daily news roundup edited by Kallaugher and staffed by a team of student bloggers at UMBC. Kallaugher, an award-winning, internationally syndicated editorial cartoonist for publications such as The Baltimore Sun and The Economist, conceived the site as an artist-in-residence at UMBC’s Imaging Research Center.

Using editorial cartoons, digital animation, videos and humorous blog posts about the daily news, USDemocrazy is designed to engage high schoolers in current events, Kallaugher said. Many posts are interactive and allow comments and the blog’s text is optimized so students can easily read it when projected on a large screen.

“We want to create a daily package where teachers can flip on our Web site for just a couple minutes each day and find engaging, unpredictable, accessible and fun material that can help make subjects like social studies more entertaining,” Kallaugher said.

The site launched publicly in October with a visit by Kallaugher to Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, Md., where social studies students have been the first in the nation to test USDemocrazy in the classroom.

Wheaton’s Social Studies Head David Shaffner said the multimedia Web site comes at a perfect time for social studies teachers. Schools across the country are struggling to make social studies relevant in an age of high stakes testing in reading and math and increasing emphasis on science and technology, he said.

“Students today are plugged-in to a more visual, media-rich environment,” Shaffner said. “We need new tools to help us un-lock those brainwaves.”

Kallaugher presented USDemocrazy as the feature speaker at the 2009 National High School Journalism Convention in Washington, D.C. this November. He plans to make presentations to the National High School Model United Nations and the National Council for the Social Studies annual meetings in 2010 to reach more teachers and students. USDemocrazy will also be introduce into the classroom this spring at Kallaugher’s alma mater, Fairfield Prep in Fairfield, Conn.

Kallaugher said the blog’s also a rich education tool for college students.

His team of student writers – which he calls his “vagabonding bloggoteers” – are tasked with populating the blog with daily posts and weekly features.

“I never used to think about getting information from blogs and used to scoff at Twitter,” said UMBC junior Marc Zerfas, a financial economics and statistics major. “Now we pride ourselves as being a sort of gateway drug to current events for people who would never read the news normally.”

Features include a daily cartoon, “What’z Up Today” news roundup and feature story; a weekly “Film Festival” roundup of videos; a weekly humorous photo “Caption Contest”; and a new feature called “Three-and-a-half Questions” highlighting the expertise of people “who are smarter than us,” Kallaugher said.

“We ask a current events expert three questions in their field of interest, plus one extra credit question in an unrelated area,” Kal said.

UMBC political science professor Tom Schaller was the latest expert to answer three-and-a-half questions, featured in an audio slide show:

Interviewed recently in UMBC Magazine, Schaller said that USDemocrazy “is classic Kal: very cheeky, very fun, very visual, and very colorful. Anyone who’s been around Kal for five minutes knows he’s all those things.”

Posted by kavan

December 7, 2009

An Up and Coming Life

UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski featured on Maryland Public Television's "Impressions of" series

BALTIMORE -- He was a "fat and nerdy" kid with a funny name who got picked on in school for being smart. Undeterred, he skipped several grades, completed college at age 19 and earned a Ph.D. in mathematics by age 24.
That's how UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski describes his passion for learning to Maryland Public Television's (MPT) Rhea Faiken in the latest edition of her one-on-one interview series "Impressions of", airing Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. on MPT.
The series, which features Maryland's best-known personalities interviewed by ArtWorks host Rhea Reikin, features a candid conversation with Hrabowski, covering his childhood growing up in segregated Birmingham, Ala., to his rise as president of UMBC.
In 2008, Hrabowski was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, which in 2009 ranked UMBC the #1 “Up and Coming” university in the nation and fourth among all colleges and universities in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching.  In 2009, Time magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents.

Posted by kavan

November 19, 2009

UMBC Researchers Use IBM Technology to Fight Rising Threats of Forest Fires


B. Rose Huber

New System will Monitor Wildfire and Smoke Patterns, Offer Real-Time Analysis

ARMONK, NY – Nov. 19, 2009 – IBM (NSYE: IBM) today announced researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) are using IBM technology to analyze smoke patterns during wildfires. The goal of the research is to provide fire and public safety officials with a real-time assessment of the fire, allowing them to make more informed decisions on public evacuations and health warnings.

Current analysis of smoke patterns is limited to weather forecasting data that is updated every six hours, observations from front-line workers and low resolution satellite imagery. Using a cluster of IBM BladeCenters housed at the UMBC College of Engineering and Information Technology’s Multicore Computational Center (MC2), the team of faculty and student researchers will be able to instantly process the massive amounts of data available from drone aircraft, high-resolution satellite imagery and air-quality sensors to develop more effective models for smoke dissipation.

According to the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires present a serious and dangerous threat to commercial buildings, private homes and people. In the last year alone, there have been more than 76,000 individual fires, consuming an approximate 5.8 million acres. And according to the agency’s recent Quadrennial Fire Review 2009, the threats are only expected to increase due to drier conditions associated with climate change and increasing population growth.

“By combining the resources and expertise of IBM and UMBC, together we not only hope to prevent a threat to lives and property, but also present a smarter, long-term system of fighting wildfire when they do occur,” said Dr. Milton Halem, director, UMBC’s MC2. “We expect this research will be of great interest for many groups – especially in state’s where these types of fires are commonplace.”

In addition to the IBM blade servers, researchers also will be using the recently announced IBM InfoSphere Streams, a technology designed to help organizations analyze information from any source; narrow it down what people are specifically looking for; and continuously refine the answer in real-time. Together, the UMBC team will have the first-ever opportunity to capture data from a network of surface, aerial and satellite sensors already established by organizations such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and provide more timely:

• identification of the location and progression of wildfires and smoke coverage;
• model forecast of fire and smoke behavior and plume dispersion for air quality monitoring;
• retasking of sensors to create new measurements;
• assistance by issuing real-time forecasts in the fire-fighting effort; and
• issuance of public safety and health alerts.

The research work is in-part funded by IBM’s Shared University Research (SUR) awards program, which is designed to connect the research and researchers at universities with IBM Research, IBM Life Sciences, IBM Global Services and IBM’s development and product labs. The SUR Awards program’s goal is, among other things, increase access to and successful use of IBM technologies for research and in curriculum.

“We are pleased to be working with the researchers at UMBC to create a breakthrough Smarter Planet application that will help save lives by predicting the movement of wildfires,” said Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation and global university programs, IBM. “UMBC students and faculty will have access to IBM’s latest hybrid computing platforms with incredibly fast predictive analytic capabilities.”

The new system will be based on a set of blade servers designed by IBM, including the JS22, HS22 and QS22 models. Together, the computing power of the blades will help process a massive amount of real-time data streams of smoke plume models, helping discern the scope and projection of wildfire lines.

The UMBC MC2 research team is currently in the design stages of their monitoring technology, and expects to have a prototype available next year.

About the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is a mid-sized, public research university located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. UMBC offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, and its student body includes over 9,900 undergraduates and 2,900 graduate students. UMBC’s leadership in technology, business and industry partnerships and ability to place students in promising careers are just a few of the reasons why students who could attend any college are choosing UMBC.

About the UMBC College of Engineering and Information Technology

The College of Engineering and Information Technology (COEIT) at UMBC includes over 3400 undergraduate and graduate students in the Departments of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Information Systems and Mechanical Engineering. Departments work collaboratively to exchange ideas with internal and external colleagues, which are housed at various locations on UMBC campus and at bwtech@UMBC, a 71-acre research and technology community. With over $14.6 million in R&E expenditures, COEIT works in partnership with state and federal agencies and industry to promote the transfer of research applications that benefit society. The College distinguishes itself by a continued commitment to cross-disciplinary research and education, and provides outstanding education opportunities for students to contribute to the professional workforce.

About IBM
For more information about IBM, visit

# # #

Posted by brhuber

November 12, 2009

UMBC Engineering Chair and Professor Selected to Participate in NAE's First Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium

CONTACT: B. Rose Huber


BALTIMORE – Julia Ross, professor and chair of chemical and biochemical engineering at UMBC, has been selected to attend the National Academy of Engineer’s (NAE) first Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium. Ross will join 49 of the nation’s brightest engineering researchers and educators who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches in a variety of disciplines and are in the first half of their careers. Ross was the only participant chosen from a Maryland institution.

Throughout the 2-1/2-day event, educators and researchers will share ideas, learn from research and best practices in education and leave with a charter to bring about improvement at their home institution. The participants were chosen from a competitive pool of applicants and were nominated by fellow engineers or deans.

Ross’s research focuses around the application of chemical engineering principles to examine how cells bind to one another. Her goal is to identify and understand the mechanisms involved in the process so cells can be manipulated to achieve advances in engineering. When it comes to education, Ross feels the need to recruit more students into engineering fields is urgent. Although employment opportunities for engineering graduates are stable, enrollments have declined. Ross’s goal is to attract more students to the engineering fields by preparing them at the high school level. She is currently working on high school curricula that will make this possible.

The FOEE program will give Ross and others a unique venue to share and explore innovations in teaching and learning. NAE President Charles M. Vest hopes that FOEE will become “a major force in identifying, recognizing and promulgating advances and innovations to build a strong intellectual infrastructure and commitment to 21st-century engineering education.”

Ross was nominated by Warren DeVries, dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology and a professor of mechanical engineering.

The symposium will be held Nov. 15-18 in Herndon, Va.

Posted by brhuber

November 9, 2009

UMBC Statement Regarding Baltimore County Police Presence on Campus

On Monday, November 9, a UMBC student left an off-campus residence following a domestic discussion. The student’s boyfriend was concerned for her safety and contacted Baltimore County Police, who mobilized in order to locate her and contacted UMBC Police. The student was located on campus and found to be safe.

If there are additional updates, the UMBC Community will be notified.

If this was a situation that impacted campus safety, we would have used our E2Campus emergency text messaging system. If you have not done so, please sign up today at

Posted by brhuber

October 27, 2009

First Voter-Verifiable Election for a Public Office

CONTACT: Dr. Alan T. Sherman

TAKOMA PARK, Md. -- For the first time, a government election will allow voters to check that their private votes are correctly recorded and included in the final tally using a new optical-scan voting technology developed by Scantegrity, an open source election verification system.

Takoma Park, Md., is running its bi-annual election for mayor and city council using the Scantegrity system. After casting their optically-scanned ballot at the polling place this Tuesday, voters will be able to check “confirmation codes” for their votes on the city’s website.

The codes are revealed, for each oval a voter fills on the ballot, by an invisible ink system akin to that used in children’s puzzle books. Voters may, if they wish, note the codes and the ballot serial number while in the booth. Because the codes are separately randomized for each oval and for each ballot, nothing about who a voter has voted for is revealed by the codes on the website.

The cost of the system is significantly lower than that of current systems since it is fully open source, the scanning setup uses commercial off-the-shelf scanners, and all printing is done with office printers.

The Scantegrity technology to be used was developed by cryptographer David Chaum together with researchers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, The George Washington University, MIT, the University of Ottawa and the University of Waterloo. The group has run a number of elections for universities and other organizations and also successfully demonstrated Scantegrity last April during a public mock election administered by Takoma Park’s Board of Elections.

Student members of the project won first prize in the National Science Foundation sponsored University Student Voting Competition in 2007, and the Scantegrity system has evolved from there. A broader research community has grown around proposals for such “voter-verifiable” election systems. The number of academic conferences on the subject has seen an increase from one every two years during the early part of the decade to two every year for the last few years and the National Institute of Standards also held a related workshop in October.

Before the election, encrypted items of data were posted on the election website. Some will not be decrypted, but the individual keys needed to decrypt others will be posted after the close of polls. Which keys will be revealed depends not only on the results and confirmation codes, but also on impossible-to-predict statistics of a set of high-tech stocks. This lets anyone verify a full public audit ensuring that the official election results are consistent with the confirmation codes published on the website.

“Something I find particularly exciting about the technology,” says David Chaum, “is that it is robust enough to be used anywhere in the world -- scanners at polling places can speed posting of results, but with centralized scanning polling places need only pens, ballots and ballot boxes.”

“We learned a lot from working with the Board of Elections of Takoma Park, who generously shared with us the wisdom obtained from running real elections,” says Prof. Poorvi L. Vora of The George Washington University, “it’s one thing to develop an academic voting system, it’s quite another to have one that can be used in a real election.”

“This represents a significant step in the evolution of election systems,” says Prof. Ron Rivest of MIT, “and though we’ve worked hard within the constraints of this volunteer project, it is a first step for a whole range of promising new types of such systems.”

Posted by kavan

Eyes of Mantis Shrimp Shed Light on DVD/CD Players, According to Research Performed at UMBC


Contact: B. Rose Huber
Telephone: 410-455-8117


Baltimore – The eyes of mantis shrimp may improve the next generations of DVD and CD players, according to new research conducted at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and published in the November issue of Nature Photonics.

Lead researcher Nicholas Roberts from the University of Bristol and colleagues from UMBC found that eyes of mantis shrimp, marine crustaceans, contain an optical structure that works almost perfectly across the whole visible spectrum. “Our work reveals, for the first time, the unique design and mechanism of the quarter-wave plate in the mantis shrimp’s eye,” Roberts said. “It is really exceptional and outperforms anything humans have been able to create.”
Mantis shrimp have the ability to not only distinguish between different forms of polarized light but also convert linearly polarized light to circular and vice versa. Their visual systems have special light-sensitive cells that act as quarter-wave retarders. While man-made plates also perform this function, they only work well for one color of light.

Roberts spent a month working at UMBC last summer in collaboration with Thomas Cronin, professor of biological sciences, and alumnus Tsyr-Huei Chiou, Ph.D. ‘08. The research also involved Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland, Australia. With the high-speed computer systems in Cronin’s laboratory at UMBC, what would have taken Roberts five days only took him 30 minutes. This allowed the researchers to change the parameters more easily and speed up the analysis by a factor of 100 or more. Cronin focused on the biological elements of the project while Roberts utilized a mathematical approach and his knowledge of optics.

“Biological inspiration has been put to use for many optical devices,” said Cronin. “The optics we discovered in the mantis shrimp eye outperforms any artificial optical device and can serve as a model for building better optics for use in devices such as DVD players, optical displays and other photonic applications.”

The unique design and structure of the eyes of mantis shrimp means that it performs well at all visible wavelengths, ranging from blue to red – a task that has eluded man-made designs. The researchers hope that optical designers will now be able to copy the design to create man-made wave plates with much better performance than currently available.

Posted by brhuber

October 19, 2009

UMBC Forum Addresses Immigrant Youth Education Challenges

Students at Risk: Helping Latin American Immigrant Youth Succeed

-- Kavan Peterson
phone: 410-455-1896

BALTIMORE - The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is hosting a forum to address academic challenges specific to children of Latin American immigrant families on Friday, Oct. 23 at the World Trade Center in Baltimore from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

Sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and UMBC's Department of Public Policy and Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, the forum will focus on the public policy implications of interventions to help immigrant students adapt to and succeed in U.S. schools.

Featuring perspectives on the Latin American immigrant family experience in the U.S., the forum will provide insights relevant to policy makers in Baltimore and other Maryland communities that are home to growing Latin American populations.

The program will include a presentation by UMBC Professors Tim Gindling and Sara Poggio on their recent policy brief Family Separation and the Educational Success of Immigrant Children, which discusses the challenges that Latin American immigrant children face, and how schools can help immigrant students adapt and succeed.

Other speakers include:

Carola Suárez-Orozco, Professor of Applied Psychology, New York University and Co-Director of Immigration Studies@NYU
Hector Torres, President, PROSABER Emergency Management Consulting
Karen Woodson, Director, Division of ESOL/Bilingual Programs, Montgomery County Public Schools

The forum is open to the public but registration is required. For more information, visit or call 410-455-8193.

The Department of Public Policy offers a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.), and a Ph.D. degree. Our major areas of focus are: educational policy, health policy, legal policy, public management, urban policy, and evaluation
and analytical methods. For more information, visit

The Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (MIPAR) is UMBC’s center for applied scholarly public policy research. MIPAR links University resources with policy makers in the state and region, conducting policy studies, program evaluations and opinion research on a wide range of topics. MIPAR activities are supported by federal agencies, private foundations, and state and local governments. For more information about MIPAR, visit

Posted by kavan

October 1, 2009

Tracking Global Sources of Local Pollution

The National Academies of Sciences featured satellite pollution-tracking research by UMBC Physics Professor Wallace McMillan in a report released Sept. 29 urging better tracking of global air-borne pollutants.

Using the most advanced methods of atmospheric monitoring and modeling, the report, “Global Sources of Local Pollution,” documents how air pollution can be transported across oceans and continents.

As a member of the science team for NASA's Aqua satellite-based Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder (AIRS), McMillan helped create a video showing plumes of carbon monoxide moving through the atmosphere to illustrate the transport of pollution around the globe.

Obtained using the AIRS, the video shows observations tracking carbon monoxide at 5.5 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. Emissions of carbon monoxide from large fires and from large urban and industrial areas, such as northeastern China, can be seen as they move with weather fronts.
View video in MP4 format
(recommended for Mac users)
View video in WMV format
(recommended for Windows users)

McMillan’s research focuses on global, regional and local measurements of pollution. Ed Olsen at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory animated the video.

Posted by kavan

July 9, 2009

Teamwork & Torque: UMBC’s SAE Baja Team Places in Top 20 Nationally


Photo Caption: A UMBC Baja SAE team member kicks up a rooster tail of dirt during a race.

UMBC’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) chapter recently placed among the top 20 teams in the country in their second Baja SAE competition of the year in Burlington, Wi.

Baja SAE is an international event where student teams design, build and race an off-road vehicle. The competitions feature various tests of car performance and design as well as an endurance race. UMBC’s team has traditionally shown strength in the cost category, building high-performing cars on much lower budgets than bigger and more well-financed university teams.

At the Wisconsin event, UMBC’s team placed second in the cost category, third in suspension and traction and sixth in the drag-race style acceleration event. This year’s cars featured a redesigned gearbox which was built with the help of the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville’s Manufacturing Technology Program.

Warren DeVries, Dean of UMBC’s College of Engineering and Information Technology, was on hand to cheer on the students, all of whom are mechanical engineering majors.

“I was very impressed,” said DeVries. “It was really amazing how well we competed against over 100 engineering schools, including ones from France, Canada and Mexico. Our team placed higher than engineering schools two to three times bigger than UMBC’s, including ones with their own trailer and mobile machine shop for their vehicles. When you combine innovation with a lot of diligence and determination, you can accomplish great things.”

“I am particularly proud of the team's perseverance in the endurance race when the team collectively disassembled the vehicle's entire rear drivetrain to fix a broken bearing in the new gearbox,” said Mark Foster ‘09, outgoing president of UMBC Baja SAE. “Our crew got the vehicle fixed and back in the race within an hour. I don’t know of many teams who could have handled the setback any better.

Kudos to the following mechanical engineering graduate and undergraduate students and recent Class of 2009 alumni who comprised the UMBC Baja SAE team and represented UMBC so well:

James Clerkin, Samuel Markkula, Steve Storck, Pete Mech, Caroline Scheck, Scott Jones, Justin Meserve, Chuck Hebert, Eric Meyer, Phil Kendrick, Dan Caldwell, Dave Outen, David Harvey, Steve Harvey, David Will and Joe Cesea.

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June 8, 2009

CUERE Wins Grant to Combat Urban Runoff into Bay

BALTIMORE -- UMBC'S Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE) is one of 24 projects to receive a total of $12.9 million in grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to the local streams, creeks and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay.

CUERE received $312,177 to address polluted runoff from compacted soils in parks, school yards, athletic fields, residential lawns and inner city vacant lots in Baltimore City and County. The center and its project partners will develop technical specifications needed to incorporate subsoiling -- a type of deep tilling that breaks up compacted soil, allowing more water to soak in -- around Gwynns Falls, Herring Run, Henry Run and Watershed 263 in Baltimore City.

The grant was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which provides up to $1 million to innovative and cost-effective projects that dramatically reduce or eliminate the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution into local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

View the full list of grantees here.

Posted by kavan

May 4, 2009

Jessica Berman, Department of English, Receives Research Fellowship From Newberry Library

Summer Fellowship at Prestigious Chicago Library Facilitates Research on 1930s American Writers

Mike Lurie

Office: 410-455-6380
Cellphone: 443-695-0262

The Newberry Library, a leading independent research library concentrating in the humanities, has awarded its Short-Term Fellowship for Individual Research to Jessica Berman, chair of the Department of English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

The Fellowship affords Berman the opportunity to work in residence for two weeks during summer 2009 at the Chicago-based library to research her manuscript, Jack Conroy, the Community of Midwestern Radical Writers, and the Development of Political Narrative in the 1930s.

“This is an especially exciting opportunity because it offers the opportunity to do the real archival work necessary for doing first-order research in my discipline,” Berman said.

Berman is working on a book that will examine the personal papers of 1930s authors from the American Midwest, many of whom were politically engaged. Her research on Conroy will form the book’s first chapter.

The Newberry houses an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, music, manuscripts and other printed materials, according to its Web site. The Newberry acquires and preserves a variety of special collections research materials focused on civilizations of Europe and the Americas.

The Newberry was founded as a public library by a bequest of Walter Loomis Newberry, a businessman and prominent citizen in Chicago and president of the Chicago Historical Society before his death in 1868.

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April 30, 2009

In case of tornado, keep your seatbelt fastened

UMBC emergency expert crafts new tornado guidelines for Red Cross advising people to stay in their car

BALTIMORE -- For 50 years the National Weather Service (NWS) has advised people in mobile homes or driving in the path of tornadoes to abandon their cars or mobile homes and lie flat in a ditch if no other shelter is available.

UMBC Emergency Health Services Associate Professor Rick Bissell recently lead a team of researchers who crafted new public advisory guidelines for the American Red Cross that now advise people who cannot reach a sturdy building to seek shelter in a car and remain there with seat belts fastened and ignition on for the duration of the tornado warning period.

The Weather Channel, which for 20 years has repeated the NWS advice to seek shelter in a ditch, broadcast the new Red Cross public advisory guidelines for tornadoes on April 29. Click here to watch the video.

Bissell heads the Preparedness Sub-Council of the American Red Cross's scientific
advisory council (ACFASP), which recently evaluated the scientific literature behind preparedness and public safety messages related to natural hazards such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, etc.

After a rigorous literature review, ACFASP found no evidence to support the NWS suggestion that people should lie in a ditch in tornadoes if they cannot find a solid shelter, and significant evidence that automobiles provide substantially more protection than mobile homes or being outside.

The new tornado advisory guidelines recommended by ACFASP were created in consultation with Dr. Tom Schmidlin from Kent State University, one of the nation’s most active tornado safety researchers.

Posted by kavan

April 27, 2009

Historian Gets Guggenheim to Examine Plutonium Cities

Chernobyl is a household word for nuclear disaster; few Americans, however, know the story behind two fate-entwined cities in the U.S. and former U.S.S.R. which each emitted three to four times more radiation than the Chernobyl meltdown.

In April, UMBC History Professor Kate Brown received a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship to complete her book “Enriched by Plutonium: the tandem history of the secret cities plutonium built,” which aims to put these cities in the cross hairs of human history.

For nearly a half century, the cities of Richland, Wash., and Cheliabinsk-40 in Russia manufactured in secrecy the most volatile and lethal product in human history: Plutonium.

Brown hopes to shatter ideological assumptions cultivated during the Cold War by exploring remarkable similarities between the American and Soviet plutonium cities.

Top secret, highly restricted and socially engineered, these government-run communities developed on parallel paths into model cities. Each received awards for planning, community development and education. At the height of Cold War tension, some politicians feared Richland was too “socialisitic”, while some Soviet officials called Cheliabinsk-40 too “materialisitic” and “bourgeois.” Both suffer a deadly legacy of radioactive contamination.

“I will argue that in creating the means to destroy each other, the two cities came to resemble one another,” Brown said.

Brown has interviewed dozens of residents and plant operators in both cities and has accessed U.S. federal government and Communist Party personal archives. After making one more research trip to the Urals in Russia this summer she plans to complete her book by the end of the Guggenheim Fellowship year.

Sixty-two disciplines and 68 academic institutions are represented by 2009’s Guggenheim Fellows. Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $273 million in Fellowships to nearly 16,700 individuals, including scores of Nobel, Pulitzer and other prizewinners. Click here for full list of prize winners.

Brown studies and teaches Russian and Eastern European History, focusing on ethnicity and nationalism. Her recent book, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland won the American Historical Association's prestigious George Louis Beer Prize. Brown is the recipient of numerous fellowships including the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Social Science Research Center.

Posted by kavan

April 23, 2009

Adrenaline 101: Off-Road Engineers Excel

Photo Caption: A four-hour SAE Baja race is a muddy marathon.

Safety goggles are required gear in many campus labs. Mechanical engineering graduate student Sam Markkula and his teammates just prefer one that also requires a helmet, rollbars and lots of mud.

Markkula is a member of the UMBC chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), a student club of hands-on engineers who design, build and race an off-road vehicle for Baja SAE, a series of annual endurance races against national and international competition.

The group just returned triumphant from the SAE Baja East race in Auburn, Alabama, with the best overall score (7th out of 100 teams) in UMBC SAE history. Team UMBC finished ahead of cars from Georgia Tech, Auburn University, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Bucknell, Virginia Tech and other prestigious universities.

“Our months and countless hours of hard work have definitely paid off,” said Mark Foster, a senior mechanical engineering major and president of UMBC Baja SAE.

In addition to a four-hour long endurance race, Baja SAE teams are graded on their cars’ maneuverability, suspension, traction, speed, ergonomics and production cost. The 2009 UMBC team continued its tradition of excelling in the cost category, achieving their Top 10 overall results with the cheapest-to-produce car in the field.

“UMBC's Baja SAE team is now in the top 10 nationwide, but in our eyes, they are number one,” said Shlomo Carmi, professor and chair of mechanical engineering. “It is especially impressive that during this difficult budget cycle, they delivered again on the ‘best bang for the buck.’ We are so proud of this team of outstanding students.”

The Baja SAE endurance race is a sensory overload of noise and nerves. Drivers have to resist the urge to drive at top speeds so the car can last the entire duration without being disqualified, tumbling down steep hills, or crashing into logs, rocks and other cars. Other team members serve as pit crew for fuel or repair stops.

“Imagine over 100 lawnmowers all running in close proximity,” said Markkula. “It’s quite loud. We cleaned off at least 30 pounds of mud from each car, and the drivers probably have breathed in at least a half pound by the end of the race.”

This year’s team owes a tip of the helmet to nearby Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) Catonsville. A change to an independent rear suspension required moving and custom-designing the gearbox. The UMBC team was fortunate to receive help from Bill Werneke, an expert machinist and instructor of CCBC-Catonsville’s manufacturing technology program.

Werneke programmed blueprints for the gearbox design into computer-assisted manufacturing and design software, and built the rig in the workshop with the help of his students. Werneke and the CCBC program serve as an apprenticeship path and hands-on training for future machinists from across Maryland. 

Baja SAE is open to graduate or undergraduate students willing to contribute their time, learn how to operate the shop tools and who are in good academic standing. UMBC Baja SAE is advised by mechanical engineering professor Tony Farquhar.

The UMBC team’s next race is in Wisconsin in June. For more information, visit and click on the Baja SAE link.

To watch video of UMBC’s Baja SAE team in action at a 2008 event, click on the video player below:


Posted by crose

April 10, 2009

Sen Ben Cardin to Speak at UMBC April 14

blcphoto2.jpg.jpegUMBC will host Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) on Tuesday, April 14, for a discussion asking "Can We Save the Environment and the Economy?"

The discussion, sponsored by the Public Policy Graduate Student Association, will take place at 2 p.m. in the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery.

Senator Cardin served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967-1986 and as Speaker from 1979-1986. He represented Maryland's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987-2006. In 2006, he was elected by the people of Maryland to succeed Paul Sarbanes in the U.S. Senate. As a Senator, he serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, Judiciary Committee, Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Budget Committee and Small Business Committee. On the Judiciary Committee, Senator Cardin chairs the Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee, and on the EPW Committee he chairs the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee for the 111th Congress.

Posted by kavan

March 10, 2009

Darwin Birthday Bash

UMBC History Professor Sandra Herbert helped kick-off Charles Darwin's bicentennial celebration on his 200th birthday, Feb. 12, 2009, with a speech at the Library of Congress.

Herbert, one of the world's leading Darwin authorities, gave a lecture on her book “Charles Darwin, Geologist,” which explores how geology changed Darwin and how Darwin changed science.

An excerpt of Herbert's speech can be viewed below. The full lecture will be featured on CSPAN's Book TV in April. Learn more about Herbert's Darwin research here.

Posted by kavan

March 6, 2009

Green Acres: Students’ Biofuel Idea Funded by MTV Contest

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Research News

Story Note: Learn more about the UMBC Biodiesel Club on Maryland Public Television's "Motorweek" show, starting on Friday, March 13. In Baltimore County, the episode featuring coverage of Maryland's homebrewed biodiesel community will air Saturday (3/14) at 5pm and Sunday (3/15) at 2pm, Thursday (3/19) at 8pm on MPT. Check your local listings for other broadcast times.

Nothing says "reduce, reuse and recycle" like turning horse manure into fuel. Inspired by Indian innovators, four members of the UMBC Biodiesel Club recently won $1,000 in seed funding in an MTV-sponsored, international environmental contest for their idea to make biofuel at a Maryland farm.

Four  UMBC sophomore chemical engineering majors --  Nick Selock, Marsha Walker, Donterrius Ethridge and Angela Nealen – earned funding from MTV Switch's "Dream It, Do It Challenge" a global competition for the best environmental and sustainability ideas from young people around the world.

According to Selock, the Club's proposal for the MTV contest was inspired by the Gober (Hindi for cow dung) gas innovators in India, who use specially designed equipment to digest dung from sacred cows and refine it into cooking gas used by many households. The biogas produced is clean, cheap and sustainable; perfect for developing nations and for anyone looking to reduce environmental impact.

"The MTV prize money will enable us to purchase and set up an anaerobic digester to collect methane, which is a more potent and harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from horse manure and then convert it into methanol," said Selock. "The current methanol we use is made from natural gas, which is much less environmentally friendly."

MTVBioD_small.JPGPhoto Caption: UMBC Biodiesel Club members (left to right) Donterrius Ethridge, Angela Nealen, Nick Selock and Marsha Walker

Under the mentorship of Bradley Arnold, associate professor of chemistry, the Club has been working at a local horse farm in Burtonsville, Md., since September 2008 to apply classroom and lab concepts to their all-volunteer operation to improve the biodiesel brewing process.

Members have taught farm owner Dick Hunt how to brew biodiesel to power tractors and plan to use additional fuel to help heat his home. The Club regularly gathers used vegetable cooking oil from area restaurants, including the Woodberry Kitchen, and converts it to biodiesel to power their own vehicles.

The "Dream It, Do It" challenge is a joint venture between MTV Switch (the global climate change campaign of MTV Networks), the global social entrepreneurship organization Ashoka Gen V and the Staples Foundation for Learning.

The Club continues to be active in green advocacy on campus. Members were part of UMBC’s recent participation in the National Teach-in on Global Warming, and Club president Mike German recently met with members of the Maryland House Environmental Matters Committee when they visited campus in December.

To learn more about the UMBC Biodiesel Club, visit Learn more about UMBC’s Sustainability efforts at

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March 4, 2009

Icy Dilemma: Chris Swan, Geography & Environmental Systems, in Baltimore Sun's "Bay & Environment" Blog


Chris Swan, assistant professor of geography and environmental systems, was featured in a March 3 entry in the Baltimore Sun's "Bay & Environment" blog.


Swan is one of just a few researchers in the nation studying the environmental impact of salt used to clear roads after winter storms. Sun reporter Tim Wheeler quoted Swan and government officials on the balance between possible harm to Maryland waterways' frogs, zooplankton and insects versus safety for the state's drivers.

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February 24, 2009

No More Tears: Photoshop out the Tears and Sad Faces’ Emotions Turn Uncertain


Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

A noted expert on the neuroscience of laughter has turned his focus to tears. Or more precisely, how digitally removing tears from photos of crying people makes it tough to tell just what emotion is being expressed.

For research recently published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, Robert R. Provine, a professor of psychology at UMBC, gathered hundreds of slides of crying and non-crying people from photo sharing sites like Flickr. With some simple Photoshopping, tears were removed from the shots of crying people. The tear-free images and their teary counterparts were shuffled in with a long sequence of portraits of people with neutral expression and shown to undergraduate volunteers.

When asked to rate the emotions being expressed by the now-tearless faces, the results were startling: faces without tears not only don’t appear very sad, but are seen as displaying awe, concern, contemplation or puzzlement.

“Remarkably, the role of emotional tears as a visual signal has been neglected,” Provine said. “On one level, this confirms that tears signal sadness, but the surprise is that tears confer meaning to neutral faces. In other words, tears are a breakthrough in human emotional signaling.” Only humans produce emotional tears.

"Tears add meaning and nuance to the limited expressive range of the neuromuscular instrument of the human face. Like sobbing and laughing, tears are honest signals, and are hard to fake,” said Provine. “We need to replicate research on human facial expression using tears as a variable. They change everything”

Lacking Photoshop, you can approximate the effect of tear removal by using your finger to block out the tears in any photograph.

Provine’s research focuses on the neuroscience of everyday life, what he calls “sidewalk neuroscience.” He believes that common behaviors can provide startling insights into human nature and how the brain works.

Provine’s latest work on tears, yawning, laughter and many other fascinating but neglected human behaviors will be presented in a book to be published by Harvard University Press.

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January 27, 2009

Erickson School Helps Launch Nation's First Elder ER

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- In partnership with aging experts from the Erickson School at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Holy Cross Hospital (Silver Spring, Md.) recently launched one of the nation’s first emergency medical centers designed specifically for older adults.

The Seniors Emergency Center at Holy Cross Hospital opened its doors November 5, 2008, featuring a specially designed environment to reduce patients’ anxiety and risk of falling. After a 90-day observation period and review of patient outcomes conducted with Erickson School researchers, the center becomes fully operational in February.

Erickson School faculty, including internationally renowned geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas and long term care reformer Dr. Judah Ronch, led a team of researchers in designing the Seniors Emergency Center and providing specialty training in geriatrics for Holy Cross medical staff.

Holy Cross Hospital is part of Trinity Health, the nation’s fourth-largest Catholic healthcare system. Holy Cross provided emergency care to over 12,000 seniors in its emergency centers and admitted over 5,700 to its hospital in 2008. The hospital projects a sharp increase in older patients during the next decade as the nation’s population of older adults increases.

The Erickson School at UMBC offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in the Management of Aging Services (MAgS) and cutting-edge research through its Center for Aging Studies.

The Washington Post reports: "Serenity in Emergencies."

Posted by kavan

January 26, 2009

Black and Gold Is the New Green: UMBC Arts, Education, Action Planned for Feb. 5 National Teach-In on Global Warming

Former Congressman Gilchrist to Headline Panel Discussion on Maryland Environment

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

On Thursday, February 5, UMBC will join colleges and universities around the country for the 2009 National Teach-in on Global Warming. The day-long event combines education, arts and action to raise awareness of global climate change and the important personal lifestyle, societal, economic and regulatory changes necessary to confront the challenge.

The National Teach-in focuses on getting Congress and President Obama to pass laws in the first 100 days of the new administration that will stabilize the global climate. Other Maryland participating Maryland universities include Chesapeake College, Loyola College in Maryland, Howard Community College and Montgomery College.

The UMBC campus community will showcase its Sustainability Initiative and celebrate its Climate Change Task Force’s work through:

-- a fair of local green businesses, government agencies and climate action groups

-- performances and exhibitions by UMBC faculty, student and alumni artists focused on sustainability

-- campus-wide open classes on global warming across disciplines

--a panel discussion on action and legislation to avert climate change featuring former Congressman Wayne Gilchrist; Sarah Zaleski, Coordinator of the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability; and Donald Boesch, Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Climate Change Commission

-- and a film presentation and discussion of the PBS Frontline documentary "Heat."

For full details on the day's activities, please visit

Schedule of Events:

Kick Off UMBC
The Commons Mainstreet 11 a.m.

Campus leaders showcase UMBC's sustainability research and campus climate change initiatives.

Global Warming Solutions Fair
The Commons Mainstreet 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

A fair of local green businesses, government agencies and climate action groups. UMBC students will kick off Recyclemania, a ten-week competition among colleges to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities with prizes for bringing in recyclables.

Global Warming Solutions Fair participants:

Bluewater Wind
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Energy Star - EPA
Maryland Department of Education
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Maryland Energy Administration
Race Pace Bicycles
Sun Edison
U.S. Green Building Council
U.S. Geological Survey
Vegetarian Resource Group
Loading Dock
Terra Logos

UMBC Participants:

Commons Recyclemania and Facilities Management Waste Reduction
Graduate Student Association (GSA) and Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA)
Facilities Management UMBC Green House Gas inventory
UMBC Transit & Rideshare
UMBC Biodiesel Project
Interdisciplinary Studies: Herbert Run Greenway Exhibit

Teach-In (Wednesday, February 4, and Thursday, February 5)

Many classes across campus will open discussion to global warming and related issues.

A.R.T.S.: Arts’ Response to Sustainability
The Commons, Flat Tuesdays 2-3:30 p.m.

Multimedia presentations and live performances by a community of Baltimore artists focused on urban sustainability. The performance is organized by visual arts professor Tim Nohe.

Planet in Peril: Policy Responses to Climate Change
Panel Discussion, Library Gallery, 4-6 p.m.

Panelists: Donald Boesch, Professor of Marine Science and President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and Chairman of the Maryland Governor’s Climate Change Commission

Wayne Gilchrest, former Congressman representing Maryland’s 1st District and co-chair of the Climate Change Caucus

Sarah Zaleski, Coordinator of the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability

Ray Hoff (Moderator), UMBC Professor of Physics and Director of the collaborative NASA-UMBC research centers Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) and Goddard Earth Sciences & Technology Center (GEST)

Sponsored by The Friends of the Albin O. Kuhn Libary & Gallery.

Film Presentation and Discussion 7-9:30 p.m.,
Administration Building, Lecture Hall 3

The PBS “Frontline” documentary “Heat” examines how the world's largest corporations and governments are responding to Earth's looming environmental disaster.

Post-discussion led by Jeffrey Halverson, UMBC Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems.

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January 23, 2009

48 Hours Till Gametime: UMBC Students to Cram, Compete in Global Video Game Design Contest

"Global Game Jam" at UMBC January 30 - February 1

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

College students are notoriously voracious video game players. It’s not unusual for an entire weekend to be consumed trying to solve the challenges of the latest, hottest title.

But on the final weekend of January, students at UMBC will be spending 48 hours feverishly brainstorming and creating their own unique games as part of the Global Game Jam on January 30 – February 1.

UMBC is the only Baltimore-area host site for the Global Game Jam, a two-day game development contest sponsored by the International Game Developers Association. The Jam gives college students at 52 sites from 20 countries just 48 hours to brainstorm, pitch ideas, form teams and roll up their sleeves to produce the best game possible within the time limit of 5 p.m. on Friday, January 30 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 1.

“The Jam brings the global community together to see what kinds of games small teams can develop in 48 short hours,” said Marc Olano, director of UMBC’s Games, Animation and Interactive Media (GAIM) Program and associate professor of computer science. “Given the time limit, I expect short, unique, and creative ideas; with luck the kind of game that makes you sit up and say, ‘Wow, that's cool!’”

gunther2.PNG Photo Caption: A screen grab from "Gunther," a game under development by a team including UMBC students.

The GAIM Program at UMBC combines the serious coursework and creativity required for a career in video game development, animation and other interactive media. The program brings together computer science and visual arts majors for a rigorous academic foundation followed by final team projects modeled after how real-world companies develop new games. Skills learned in the GAIM Program can also be used in aerospace, healthcare, architecture and many other career fields beyond gaming.

Photo Caption: Screen grabs from other UMBC-student developed games: "Gwain" (top) and "Scarred Steel." gwain_small.png scarred_steel_small.jpg

“I really look forward to working with people from diverse backgrounds - peers as well as industry professionals - to make a game,” said Lesa Wilcox, president of the UMBC Game Developer’s Club and a senior Visual Arts major from Linthicum, Md. “The Global Game Jam is a great chance for us to network and showcase our skills, but also to just have a lot of fun.”

The Game Developer’s Club at UMBC consists of students from the GAIM Program and any students interested in designing, developing and even starting companies around their own game ideas. One of the club’s spring semester projects is “Gunther,” a 3-D, third-person action game about a mercenary eliminating demons from a small town.

Kyle Gabler, the independent developer of the popular game “World of Goo,” will kick off the Global Game Jam with a global keynote address via streaming video to over 1,000 participants in 22 countries on Jan. 30.

“The next big transformation in gaming won't come from a large game studio with million dollar teams and marketing budgets. It will come from some kid in their bedroom with a few pieces of free software and a never ending supply of caffeine and motivation,” said Gabler in a press release. “I can't wait to see the scraggly, brilliantly hacked-together beginnings of some of the next great games crawl out of these 48 hours.”

There is no registration fee for the Baltimore Jam site at UMBC, but space is limited so advance registration is required. Gabler’s keynote address and the weekend wrap-up will be in Lecture Hall V in the UMBC Engineering and Computer Science building. Game development will take place in the GAIM lab, Room 005a of the Engineering and Computer Science building.

Completed games are due to the judges by 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 1. Final game presentations begin at 4 p.m. on February 1 in Lecture Hall V (UMBC Engineering & Computer Science Building.)

Note to Media: Links to download higher-resolution versions of images in this release:

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December 19, 2008

Swedish Biotech Firm Licenses HIV-drug Technology from UMBC


Inventions Developed in Prof. Michael Summers’ Lab Could Lead to New HIV Drugs, Targets

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

The Swedish biotech firm Vironova has reached an agreement with UMBC to license patented technology developed in the laboratory of Michael Summers, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator at UMBC, which could lead to new anti-HIV drugs.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vironova is granted exclusive worldwide rights to two patent families owned by UMBC. The patents cover inventions related to substances and targets for so-called capsid assembly inhibitors (CAI). Capsids are the protective protein shells of viruses. CAI drugs keep viruses from becoming infectious by interfering with the precise assembly of about 60 proteins that make up the capsid.

Summers, one of only two HHMI Investigators at Maryland public universities, is a world authority in HIV research. His lab has earned national acclaim for the quality of its research as well as the diversity of its undergraduate and graduate student researchers, many of whom are Meyerhoff Scholars at UMBC.

Summers will stay in close cooperation with Vironova as the projects progress towards clinical development. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

The HIV drug development programme at Vironova is primarily focusing on CAIs. So far, much of the work has evolved around assessing the intellectual property and potential of these CAI substances at the Karolinska Institute, Huddinge (Stockholm), under the supervision of Professor Jan Bergman. These activities will now be extended to include the Summers lab at UMBC.

“By closing this agreement, we are pleased to solidify our collaboration with professor Summers and his team at UMBC. I‘m convinced our joined forces will result in many new drug candidate discoveries," said Mohammed Homman, CEO and founder of Vironova.

"We are excited about moving forward with this international collaboration," said Summers. "Vironova's expertise in drug design and optimization will hopefully lead to the breakthroughs needed to get this new class of HIV-1 capsid assembly inhibitors into the clinic."

Links to High-Resolution Photos of Dr. Michael Summers:

About Vironova

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Vironova is a young fast growing company that develops antiviral drugs targeting HIV, herpes and influenza. The company is also a leading innovator of virus diagnostics software products and virus analysis services based on transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images.

Presently, Vironova manages a number of projects to develop new image analysis techniques to detect and identify different viruses affecting humans and animals. The single most significant project concerns viruses regarded to be the most devastating in case of potential epidemic or pandemic outbreaks. Read more about the project on

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November 20, 2008

Chemistry/Biochemistry Professor's Breakthrough Provides New Ways to Design Drugs for Arthritis, Inflammation and Cancer

egarcin.jpg Photo Caption: Research by Elsa Garcin, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, appeared in the Oct. 12 issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

A proper balance of nitric oxide (NO) – the body’s highly reactive, gas-based signaling molecule and the stuff that makes Viagra work -- is crucial to health. Too much NO production caused by one particular enzyme has been linked to inflammation, arthritis, cancer and other illnesses. But NO also has its beneficial side, with closely related enzymes responsible for maintaining enough NO to regulate blood pressure and allow proper blood flow to different organs.

Elsa Garcin, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was co-author of a recent Nature Chemical Biology article that described a new method to specifically target harmful NO production while preserving beneficial NO levels. Garcin, who came to UMBC from the Scripps Research Institute, co-authored "Anchored plasticity opens doors for selective inhibitor design in nitric oxide synthase" with her former Scripps colleague, Prof. Elizabeth Getzoff.


“Nitric oxide is vital to many important functions such as blood pressure and neurotransmission related to brain function and learning,” said Garcin. “There are three different enzymes that produce NO: one for blood pressure, one for brain function/neurotransmission and one for defense against attacks by bacteria or tumor cells. But when the immune system-related enzyme gets out of balance, you can get inflammation, arthritis and other pathological conditions.”

Garcin and her colleagues looked at the binding of various drugs that inhibit these enzymes by using x-ray crystallography. Their research could provide new solutions for the development of selective drugs for a variety of health problems.

“We can actually design drugs that could help with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases,” said Garcin. “These findings could also be useful for people who are seeking to specifically target one harmful biochemical function but leave the beneficial ones untouched, to treat HIV or cancer for example.”

Garcin, who hails from France, has a personal motivation in her work. “My family has a long history of cardiovascular disease despite a typical French diet that includes red wine, garlic, olive oil and other foods that help to prevent those conditions, so I’ve always been interested in new ways to improve cardiovascular health.”

Multimedia: Watch on online video related to Garcin’s paper at:

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November 12, 2008

UMBC Excels at National Student Research Conference

ABRCMS2008.jpgPhoto Caption: UMBC students, staff and faculty pause for a group picture to celebrate their ABRCMS excellence.

UMBC and the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences were well represented at the 2008 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), the largest multidisciplinary student conference in the United States. UMBC students – including Meyerhoff, MARC U*STAR and HHMI scholars -- received nearly 10 percent of the overall awards given at the event.

45 UMBC undergraduates and three graduate students were selected to present their research at the ABRCMS, which was held Nov. 5 – 8 in Orlando, FL and featured UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski as a keynote speaker. The annual event is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology. The ABRCMS’s goal is to support the success of students pursuing advanced degrees in the biomedical sciences.

At the conference’s closing ceremony, UMBC students received 11 of the 120 awards that were given in ten categories to recognize the most outstanding presentations among the excellent 1200 undergraduate posters and 80 oral talks:

Biochemical Sciences - Nicholas Pinkin, M18, MARC, HHMI Scholar, oral presentation; George Cutsail, M18, MARC Scholar, poster presentation; Yohance Allette, M18, MARC Scholar poster presentation.

Cell Biology - Ashleigh Bouchelion, M18, MARC, HHMI Scholar, poster presentation

Molecular Biology - Gowry Kulandaivel, M19, poster presentation

Chemical Sciences - Melvin Velasquez, M18, MARC Scholar, poster presentation

Microbiological Sciences - Gabrielle McRae, M18, MARC, HHMI Scholar, poster presentation

Neuroscience - Sara Stockman, M19, poster presentation

Physiological Sciences - Anupama Divakaruni, M19, poster presentation

Quantitative Sciences - Richard Blissett, poster presentation

Developmental - Alexandria Scott, M18, MARC, HHMI Scholar, oral presentation

“I was so impressed by our students who participated in the ABRCMS,” said Hrabowski. “I must give special kudos to the faculty members who mentor these students: Lasse Lindahl for his special leadership of the MARC program, and to Ernie Baker, LaMont Toliver, and all our colleagues for their work associated with undergraduate research such as the MARC and Meyerhoff scholars programs.”

“I received several comments about the excellent performance of our students,” said Lasse Lindahl, professor and chair of biological sciences, director of the MARC U*STAR program at UMBC, and organizer of UMBC’s participation in the conference. “I congratulate all award winners, but also want to thank the staff who provided excellent support for our large student group. Everyone reinforced the image of UMBC as a place where quality is expected and delivered.”

* UMBC Research News thanks Kahy Sutphin & Ernie Baker for help with this story.

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November 11, 2008

Nobel Winner Tom Cech Headlines 'Look Ahead' Life Sciences Symposium

Tom Cech, winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry and a longtime mentor to UMBC students, headlines the 12th annual "A Look Ahead" life sciences symposium from 3:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 12 in the Engineering and Computer Science building atrium and Lecture Hall 5.

Cech, who recently stepped down from leading the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder to return to teaching, will give a lecture titled "Crawling out of the RNA World" at the event. Since 1994, Cech has mentored 20 UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars during summer internships at his lab.

Cech is joined at "A Look Ahead" by fellow esteemed scientist and speaker George Georgiou, professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin, who will give The Janice Antoine Lumpkin Memorial Lecture, to be titled "Engineering the Next Generation of Protein Therapeutics."

"A Look Ahead" is UMBC's premiere life sciences symposium, drawing several hundred students, scientists, educators and biotechnology business leaders annually to network, present research and learn from other members of Maryland's bioscience community.

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October 29, 2008

UMBC History Professor, Alumna Speak at NASA's "First 50 Years" Conference


Joe Tatarewicz, associate professor of history, and history alumna Maura Mackowski '96 speak today as part of a two-day conference honoring NASA's first 50 years.

Tatarewicz, the director of UMBC's Human Context of Science and Technology Program, is an expert on the history of science and technology, public history and policy. He worked for eight years as a Smithsonian museum curator and has written extensively about space. Mackowski has studied the history of NASA's women astronaut program and is an expert in the comparative history of twentieth-century science/technology/medicine, particularly space exploration.

"NASA's First 50 Years: A Historical Perspective Conference," will be broadcast live via streaming video by NASA TV.

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October 14, 2008

11th Annual UMBC Undergraduate Research Symposium Explores Intersections of Chemistry, Biology

UMBC hosted more than 400 participants including undergraduate researchers and their mentors from across the East Coast on Sat., Oct. 11, for the 11th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. This year’s event focused on the interface of chemistry, biology and biochemistry, a specialty of UMBC faculty researchers and one that continues to drive new discoveries in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medicine.

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the day-long symposium consisted of over 200 research poster presentations.

lacourse.jpgPhoto Caption: UMBC chemistry/biochemistry chair William LaCourse.

“UMBC is deeply committed to giving undergraduates early, real-world research experience, which sets us apart from other universities,” said William R. LaCourse, chair of chemistry and biochemistry at UMBC. “The Undergraduate Research Symposium is exciting for faculty mentors and student participants because it not only exposes UMBC undergraduates to some of the best researchers in the country; it also sharpens skills that are vital for future careers or graduate school.”

A panel of participating mentors and attendees judged each poster session and awarded first and second place rankings for each category.

This year’s winners by category are viewable online at:

Student presenters and faculty mentors came from universities and hospitals from across the U.S., including: Georgetown University, University of Massachusetts, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, North Carolina State University, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Carnegie Institution of Washington, King College, Bloomsburg University, University of Maryland School of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Medgar Evers College, University of California San Francisco, Howard University, University of Maryland, La Salle University, The College of New Jersey, State University of New York at Geneseo, Morgan State University, Hampton University, Ursinus College, Towson University, James Madison University, McDaniel College, the University of Delaware, Lebanon Valley College, Slippery Rock University, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Hood College, Lycoming College, Delaware Biotechnology Institute, William Patterson University, Goucher College, Montclair State University and many others.

To view photo galleries of all the day's poster presentations, please visit:


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October 13, 2008 Site Explores Crazy U.S. Electoral System

Confused about how an American democracy works? You are not alone.

CONTACT: Kavan Peterson
Phone: 410-455-1896

– Confused about how an American democracy works? You are not alone.

A new Web site – -- designed by Economist magazine cartoonist Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher, artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, aims to demystify and explore America’s crazy 50-state democracy in a fun and engaging way.

Designed and hand-drawn by Kal for UMBC's Imaging Research Center, was built and researched by an interdisciplinary team of UMBC students, including visual arts, web design and social sciences majors.

The site features in-depth portraits of all 50 states through exclusive Kal animations, offbeat trivia and factoids and local color from experts in each state. An animated “Uncle Sam” explains idiosyncrasies of America’s democratic system, such as the Electoral College. On the blog, Kal, along with students and faculty from UMBC, will follow America’s electoral process through the presidential race and into the next administration.

The interactive site is compiling first-hand portraits of each state from local experts in history, politics, journalism and humor through its “Crazy Talk” state survey. Click here to take the survey.

Click here to visit and to view Kal's Mission Statement video.

Posted by kavan

October 9, 2008

"Plight of the Puffins" Selected for American Conservation Film Festival


"Plight of the Puffins," the documentary film by UMBC/NASA-Goddard earth science film producer Maria Frostic, has been selected for screening at the American Conservation Film Festival.

Frostic, who produces research-oriented Web videos for UMBC's Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology (GEST) Center, filmed "Puffins" on location in Iceland thanks to funding from a Fulbright grant. The film chronicles how climate change is impacting puffins, which have great cultural and ecological significance for the Icelandic people.

The American Conservation Film Festival is held annually in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. According to the event's website, the Festival seeks to promote films "that educate and inspire people to become engaged in conservation."

"Plight of the Puffins" will be screened at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7.

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October 8, 2008

Zeynep Tufekci, Sociology & Anthropology, in the New York Times


Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, has appeared twice in recent New York Times articles for her expert commentary on the deeper meanings of social networking sites such as Facebook.

Tufekci was quoted most recently in the Sept. 24 story "Get off the Internet, and Chew Some Gum," which examined an ad campaign by the makers of Dentyne chewing gum that attempted to redefine the meanings of popular social networking terms such as "friend request accepted" with face-to-face contact.


“I think most college kids would roll their eyes” at the ads, said Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who studies the way young people use technology to socialize. “In fact, they’re checking out these sites in the hopes that sooner or later it will end up in a hug or kiss.”

On Sept. 5, Tufekci was referenced in a New York Times Magazine feature "I'm So Totally, Digitally Close to You." The story examined how concepts of personal privacy are shifting among the Facebook and Twitter generation.


This is the ultimate effect of the new awareness: It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business. Young people at college are the ones to experience this most viscerally, because, with more than 90 percent of their peers using Facebook, it is especially difficult for them to opt out. Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who has closely studied how college-age users are reacting to the world of awareness, told me that athletes used to sneak off to parties illicitly, breaking the no-drinking rule for team members. But then camera phones and Facebook came along, with students posting photos of the drunken carousing during the party; savvy coaches could see which athletes were breaking the rules.

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October 2, 2008

Renetta Tull, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development, Wins National Honor


On September 24, 2008, Renetta G. Tull, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development at UMBC, was honored at the Library of Congress as the National GEM Consortium's University Member of the Year for her commitment to undergraduate and graduate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Tull also serves as the Director of PROMISE: Maryland's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) for UMBC, the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The GEM Consortium is a national network of universities and employers that promotes the participation of underrepresented groups in post-graduate science and engineering education and the technical workforce.

"It's so special to be recognized for mentoring students; this is work that brings joy," said Tull. "I continue to be passionate about encouraging students and helping them with setting and then reaching their goals."

Tull, an alumna of Howard University, has gained regional and national media exposure recently. On Sept. 10, she was profiled in The Hilltop, the Howard University newspaper. She was also part of a forum on university programs working to increase the number of African-American women earning Ph.D.'s in science fields. The panel discussion was broadcast Sept. 8 on the nationally syndicated public radio show, "The Best of Our Knowledge."

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October 1, 2008

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Kavan Peterson

Office: 410-455-1896
Cellphone: 443-739-3052

BALTIMORE -- The Erickson School at UMBC launched its gateway undergraduate course this fall -- Aging 100, You Say You Want a Revolution? How Baby Boomers are Revolutionizing Aging.

This groundbreaking course, designed by internationally-renowned aging experts Dr. Bill Thomas and Dr. Judah Ronch, examines how a graying Baby Boom generation will reshape aging in America.

Streaming all lectures in live video with music, art and history, the interdisciplinary course will call on experts from multiple disciplines to help students analyze the future of aging by understanding their own place in history. Guest speakers will share first hand experiences from the cvil rights movement, the culture revolution and the birth of environmentalism.

Just as the baby boom generation reshaped youth culture in the 1960s, spurred construction of new schools and an explosion of new products, Thomas and Ronch believe Boomers are poised to have an even greater impact as they age into the largest demographic group of older adults in human history. In coming decades, boomers will demand innovation in housing, health care and products designed for older adults.

"The entrepreneurs and leaders who meet the needs of this aging revolution in are sitting in our classrooms today," Thomas said.

Posted by kavan

Neal McDonald, Animation & Interactive Media, in "b"


Neal McDonald, assistant professor of animation and interactive media, was featured in "Weird 101: Baltimore’s unusual college courses," an article in "b," a free daily newspaper and site produced by the Baltimore Sun.

McDonald's "History and Theory of Games" class, part of the Games, Animation and Interactive Media program, was one of several local college courses described by b writer Matt Vensel as "actually interesting" and as "offbeat classes (that) might just make me sign up for spring classes and go after another degree."

The excerpt describing McDonald's class is below:

History and Theory of Games @ University of Maryland, Baltimore County:

Students attempting to break into the gaming industry take a lot of atypical ­— and very technical — classes, but this is a class everyone can wrap their head around. “Games are as old as people. They are what humans do, when they can,” said professor Neal McDonald. “It’s a serious, interesting, rapidly maturing field of scholarship.” This guy has the best job ever. McDonald plays a myriad of games, some dating back to the Stone Age, to show his budding game designers the origins of today’s games and the infinite possibilities for tomorrow’s.

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September 26, 2008

Social Sciences Forum: "Justice Across Borders: The Struggle for Human Rights in U.S. Courts"

Jeffrey Davis,
Professor of Political Science, UMBC



Wed., Oct. 1, 4 p.m.
Albin O. Kuhn Library, 7th Floor

This talk is based on his most recent book "Justice Across Borders: The Struggle for Human Rights in U.S. Courts" which examines attempts by human rights groups to use the law to enforce human rights norms. It explains the separation of powers issues arising when victims sue the United States or when the United States intervenes to urge dismissal of a claim.

Moreover, it analyzes the controversies arising from attempts to hold foreign nations, foreign officials, and corporations liable under international human rights law. Davis is a faculty member of the Political Science Department at UMBC, whose research efforts concentrate on U.S. and comparative judicial politics by examining judicial behavior and the interaction between courts and other political actors in the struggle to enforce human rights standards.

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September 10, 2008

UMBC Research Praised in Top Environmental Science Journal

Trends in Ecology and Evolution Article calls Prof. Erle Ellis’s Remapping of Global Biomes ‘Seminal’

A forthcoming paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the world’s most-cited journal of environmental science and ecology, praises research by UMBC professor Erle Ellis that remaps the globe’s ecosystems to account for human impact as ‘seminal.’

The paper, “Anthropogenic biomes: a key contribution to earth-system science,” by Lilian Alessa of the University of Alaska Anchorage and F. Stuart Chapin III of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, spotlighted research by Ellis and his colleague Navin Ramankutty of McGill University that was originally published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

The research uses Google Maps and Google Earth technology to map a new system of ‘anthropogenic biomes’ or human biomes, which describe the biosphere as it exists today, the result of human shepherding and reshaping of ecosystems.

To view a video on Ellis’s work, click the play button below.

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August 28, 2008

UMBC/NASA Hurricane Expert: New Orleans, Gulf Coast Should be Concerned About Gustav

Landfall, Intensity, Impact on Gas Prices Tough to Predict Precisely

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

According to Jeffrey Halverson, one of the nation’s top experts on hurricanes and severe weather, Tropical Storm Gustav has the potential to develop into a powerful hurricane that could strike New Orleans or other parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast while causing a spike in gas prices nationwide.

Halverson, associate director for academics at the UMBC/NASA-Goddard Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) and associate professor of geography and environmental systems at UMBC, said, “Folks are looking at the track projection of Gustav and getting nervous, because the center point of the track points directly to New Orleans, four days from now. Anyone living along the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Texas, should be concerned, because Gustav has the potential to be a serious storm.”

“The bottom line is that a lot can change in the next four days with regard to Gustav’s intensity and track, but certainly the potential is there for the entire U.S. Gulf Coast to be alerted,” said Halverson.

Halverson pointed out that even with state-of-the-art technology, it is still difficult to predict the precise landfall and intensity of a hurricane. “Although the track projection line represents the most probable future position of the storm, it is derived from the consensus prediction of dozens of track forecast models. Not all the models agree on the same track. One should also consider the cone of uncertainty surrounding the line, and it's important to note that the average track error in a five-day forecast is about 300 miles.”

Video: Prof. Halverson on "The Life Cycle of a Hurricane"

“Intensity forecasts are even more prone to error than are track forecasts,” Halverson said. “Conditions in the Gulf -- ocean surface temperatures around 85 degrees, a deep warm layer in the ocean and weak wind shear (which tears apart the thunderstorms and vortex) -- are ripe for intensification of Gustav to a strong, Category 3 hurricane. But forecasters still do not understand all the vagaries of the intensity change process.”

“With a potentially large and destructive storm lumbering into the Gulf, one can surmise that oil refineries will be evacuating and shutting down production. It's likely that some refineries will be damaged. Given the recent volatile price swings of crude oil, a return to high prices at the pump may be one additional consequence for Americans.”

Story Contact:
Jeffrey Halverson

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August 25, 2008

Student Researchers Explore Black Political Divides at Democratic Convention

3kg60i4ieuqf7.jpegA team of student researchers led by UMBC Political Science Professor Tyson King-Meadows will attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver August 25-29 to conduct a research project on African-American politics.

CONTACT: Kavan Peterson
Phone: 410-455-1896

BALTIMORE – Tyson King-Meadows, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), will lead a team of student researchers at the Democratic National Convention in Denver August 25-29 to conduct a research project on African-American politics.

3kg60i4ieuqf7.jpegSupported by a $16,000 grant from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), King-Meadows’ team of six student researchers will attend the convention’s Black Caucus meetings and conduct one-on-one interviews with its members.

King-Meadows said the surveys are designed to explore generational divides among African-American political leaders that emerged during the fiercely contested Democratic presidential primaries.

He intends to use the research to write a book exploring the current state of black politics in America.

King-Meadows is author of “Devolution and Black State Legislators: Challenges and Choices in the Twenty-first Century,” and an authority on Congress, African-American politics and electoral behavior.

Posted by kavan

Project Manager of Roadrunner, Record-Setting Supercomputer, Headlines "Frontiers in Multicore Computing" at UMBC

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

Andrew White, longtime leader of supercomputer development at Los Alamos National Laboratory and project manager of the world’s fastest supercomputer “Roadrunner,” is the keynote speaker at “Frontiers of Multicore Computing,” an Aug. 27-28 conference hosted by UMBC. The event will bring to campus academic, government and industry researchers focused on the science applications for the Cell Broadband Engine, IBM’s supercomputer-on-a-chip technology at the heart of the PlayStation3 video game platform.

White was one of the leaders of Roadrunner, which smashed the petaflop barrier in June 2007. If each of the six billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 46 years to do what Roadrunner would do in one day.

Established in 2007 thanks to support from IBM, UMBC’s Multicore Computational Center is using the Cell technology to better predict climate change, model financial markets and provide faster, higher-resolution visualizations for the next generation of healthcare.

The “Frontiers” conference will bring together top supercomputing researchers from across the country, including IBM, MIT, Georgia Tech, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Army, the University of Wisconsin and many more.

Topics to be covered include multicore computing research in the geosciences, aerospace, defense, interactive digital media and

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August 22, 2008

U.S. News College Guide Ranks UMBC as a Top 5 "Up-and-Coming School"

UMBC has been recognized as an “Up-and-Coming School” in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Guide. The University’s selection is based on survey responses from presidents and provosts across the U.S.

UMBC is among the Top Five national universities recognized, along with George Mason, Clemson, the University of Southern California, and Arizona State University.

Read more about UMBC’s recognition in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Guide at

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August 21, 2008

Can a Parking Lot Be Good for the Bay?

UMBC Workshop to Teach Builders, Planners
About ‘Green Concrete’ in Classroom, With Cement Truck

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

Can a Wal-Mart parking lot be good for the Bay?

The answer could be yes, if it’s made of pervious concrete, a ‘green’ building material that is the subject of a how-to workshop hosted by UMBC's Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE) on Wednesday, Aug. 27 from 8 to 11 a.m.

Pervious concrete allows stormwater to slowly drain through it like a sponge. This prevents the rapid runoff of rainwater from traditional concrete that erodes waterways and carries pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Voids left in the mix give pervious concrete a bumpy texture and allow water to soak through.

Experts from UMBC and Cleveland State University will give contractors, tradesmen, architects and municipal planners a classroom session on best practices for working with the material and for navigating Maryland's recent changes in development laws, such as the Maryland Stormwater Management Act of 2007, which calls for “environmental site design” for new construction and development.

At 10 a.m. a concrete mixer truck will arrive for a hands-on lesson in the proper pouring and installation of the material. Several test beds of pervious concrete will be installed outside of the CUERE facilities.

The test beds will be equipped with scientific instruments to give UMBC researchers long-term data on pervious concrete's effectiveness both as a building material and as a tool for environmental stewardship. Gwen Stanko, a doctoral student in CUERE's prestigious IGERT program, and other UMBC students will help monitor the test beds.

Photo Caption: Stu Schwartz (right) and UMBC Ph.D. student Gwen Stanko with pervious concrete samples near a future test site.

The event was organized by Stu Schwartz, a senior research scientist at UMBC CUERE with over 15 years of experience in land use and water quality issues.

Schwartz says the workshop’s goal is to improve understanding of pervious concrete. While there are differences in how to mix, pour and maintain pervious versus traditional, when properly installed and maintained, it is effective for light-traffic parking lots, roads and sidewalks.

“In the past, people have promoted pervious concrete as a magic pavement that makes all your water problems go away," said Schwartz. "There's no such thing as a magic bullet like that. Many of the negative stereotypes associated with the material have been caused by improper design and installation. So we want to provide information for contractors, engineers and planners to know when and how to use it effectively.”

According to Schwartz, industry is starting to invest more in pervious concrete as both a way to comply with environmental rules and as a boost to the bottom line. He noted a Wal-Mart parking lot in Denver, Co., made of pervious concrete and a seven-acre paved storage yard and parking lot by Shelter Systems, a Westminster, Md., roofing truss company.

“Pervious concrete allowed Shelter Systems to use their entire seven-acre site instead of losing an acre or acre and a half to stormwater ponds, saving the cost of a $400,000 stormwater management system,” said Schwartz.

The workshop and research effort is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, part of the organization's new Pioneer Grant Program, which focuses on larger, higher-impact grants to improve the health of the Bay.

Photo Caption: Stanko demonstrates how a pervious concrete sample lets water flow through.

Story Contact:
Stu Schwartz PhD, Senior Research Scientist
Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE)
University of Maryland Baltimore County

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August 15, 2008

A Climate Connection in the Clouds

UMBC Physics Professor Co-Authors Science Paper on How Aerosols Impact Cloud Formation, Climate

Media Contact:
Chip Rose, UMBC Science/Tech News

Researchers at UMBC, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel studying the connection between the burning of vegetation and cloud cover in the Amazon region have found a clearer picture of how aerosols – the tiny particles that make up dust, soot, smoke and ocean spray – may impact cloud formation and climate change on a global scale. The study was published today in the journal Science.

Scientists have long known that aerosols play a role in cloud formation, but were puzzled by the fact that aerosols’ impact was inconsistent, causing more cloud cover over the Atlantic Ocean while causing less in South America’s Amazon basin.

Aerosol particles are carried by the wind into the atmosphere, where they become encased by water to form rain droplets that cluster into clouds. Aerosol-rich clouds are more spread out by wind, last longer and produce less rain. Aerosol-rich clouds also trap heat in the atmosphere, making cloud growth and rain less likely.

The research team focused on the Amazon region as a test area, using NASA’s Terra satellite to study cloud and aerosol data. “During the (2005) dry season in the Amazon, the only aerosols of any magnitude are from smoke emerging from human-initiated fires,” said study co-author Lorraine Remer, a physical scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a NASA press release.

The end result of the research was an analytical model that should work across the globe.

“As we’d expected in applying our model, increased smoke from the fires created clouds rife with a more pronounced radiative effect -- rich with human-caused aerosols that absorbed sunlight, warmed the local atmosphere, and blocked evaporation. This led to reduced cloud cover over the Amazon,” study co-author Vanderlei Martins, associate professor of physics at UMBC, said in the NASA press release. “And it’s encouraging to know the science behind our model should stand no matter the region.”

The paper, “Smoke Invigoration Versus Inhibition of Clouds over the Amazon,” can be found in the Aug. 15 issue of Science.

A Science podcast featuring the Amazon aerosol research is available at:

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August 12, 2008

Plant Sensory Systems Receives DOE Grant

Funding Will Allow Company to Develop Plants with Increased Seed Oil for Biofuels

Deborah Shapiro
Marketing Manager

Plant Sensory Systems, a resident of bwtech@UMBC’s Incubator, has received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The nine-month, $100,000 grant began July 1. The grant will help the company test new genetic modifications on its laboratory plants to divert carbon into seed oil more efficiently.

Founded by the husband-and-wife team of Frank and Kathleen Turano last July, Plant Sensory Systems is a biotechnology company that develops technologies to improve agricultural productivity. The company plans to license its technologies to seed and agricultural biotechnology companies.

The grant from the DOE will be used for research on genetic modifications that will enhance the ability of plants to convert carbon to oils, thereby making the seeds they produce more oil-rich. Once extracted from the seeds, the oils could be used in either cooking oils or biodiesel production, which is consistent with the DOE’s objective to create alternative fuel sources. The company is currently using Arabidopsis plants in its research activities; if successful, it will start testing its hypotheses on canola plants.

If the company experiences success in its research and shows that the project is feasible, it will be eligible to apply for a Phase II, two-year grant from the DOE.

“We are glad that the DOE is supporting our project to develop alternative fuel sources,” said Kathleen Turano. Added Frank Turano: “We are excited about this grant and the opportunity to continue our research that we hope will benefit not only the DOE, but society in general.”

“Plant Sensory Systems is engaged in groundbreaking work in the field of agricultural technology and alternative fuel sources,” said David Fink, director of entrepreneurial services at bwtech@UMBC. “We are pleased that the DOE has recognized the potential of its research with this award.”

About bwtech@UMBC:
bwtech@UMBC ( is a 71-acre research and technology community at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). It comprises the technology business Incubator and Accelerator, home to over 30 early-stage high-tech and life science companies, and the Research and Technology Park, with a capacity of 350,000 square feet of office and laboratory space. bwtech@UMBC offers collaboration with university faculty and students, and enjoys a strategic and convenient location, close to downtown Baltimore, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, and Washington, D.C. bwtech’s annual economic impact on the state is estimated to be over $300 million.

About UMBC:
UMBC is a medium-sized public research university of 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students who collaborate with faculty to address real-world challenges. Located just south of Baltimore near I-95 and the BWI airport, UMBC's residential campus houses state-of-the-art facilities in the sciences, engineering, arts, social sciences and humanities. UMBC combines the energy of a research university with the close community feel and attention to individual students found in liberal arts colleges.

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