Julia Ross, Dean of the College of Engineering and IT, receives $3 million grant for engineering education

Julia Ross, Dean of the College of Engineering and Information and Technology along with her colleagues: Jon Singer and Chris Rakes from the Department of Education at UMBC and Richard Weisenhoff from Baltimore County Public Schools, received an NSF $3 million grant for engineering education.

Dr. Julia Ross (UMBC)In this study UMBC will partner with the Baltimore County Public School System to implement a professional development model that incorporates engineering curriculum in high school biology and technology classrooms.

Erle Ellis: Nature

Erle Ellis, Geography and Environmental Systems, was recently quoted in the Nature article written by Virginia Gewin, Science and politics: Hello, Governor.

“Although there is little disagreement that abrupt shifts occur in Earth systems, including climate and the composition of ecosystems, some scientists baulk at the suggestion that there is enough evidence to predict a single tipping point for the whole planet. “I thought it was a great review of the evidence for rapid shifts in ecology, but then it switched to a series of unsupported statements — at best a hypothesis — about how a global tipping point in the biosphere could happen,” says Erle Ellis, a landscape ecologist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who was involved in a response to the paper.

Yet Ellis understands why the term appeals to politicians. “It’s an extraordinarily simple way to look at human-induced global change. It effectively creates a binary Earth; a line drawn in the sand,” he says. “Doing so gives a false sense of security on the ‘safe side’ and a false sense it is too late to act on the other.” But the concept has power. In fact, game-theory simulations have shown that the kind of coordination needed to solve global environmental problems is much easier to achieve if a tipping point can be predicted with high certainty.”

Read the article

Meyerhoff Expansion Program: Nature Jobs

Virginia Gewin writes in Nature, about diversity in science and the problems facing minorities in science. Gewin writes that, Neil deGrasse Tyson has suggested that the low numbers of minorities and women in the US science workforce are due in large part to a lack of equal access to opportunities for entering that workforce.

“To solve that problem, universities are now looking to the example of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). It has crafted a formula for mentoring students from minority groups underrepresented in the sciences and helping to guide them into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers. And that formula seems to work — African American Meyerhoff scholars are five times more likely than their counterparts at other US universities to pursue STEM PhDs (K. I. Maton et alMt Sinai J. Med. 79, 610–623; 2012).”

“Now, with US$7.75 million in funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in University Park and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) are trying to replicate the programme, which for two and a half decades has led the nation in the number of its minority graduates who go on to earn STEM PhDs.”

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Yonathan Zohar, NPR’s Morning Edition, Father of Bluefin Tuna

Yonathan Zohar, professor of marine biotechnology, was recently featured on NPR’s Morning Edition for his success in keeping, as Dan Charles of NPR says, “the tiger of the ocean,” bluefin tuna larvae alive for 10 days.

“It’s amazing. We cannot stop looking at them! We are here around the clock and we are looking at them, because it is so beautiful,” says Yonathan Zohar.

Charles says, “The fish can grow to 1,000 pounds. They can swim up to 45 miles per hour and cross entire oceans.”

To learn more about this remarkable research:

Listen to the story

Visual Ecology, Tom Cronin

A new book written by Tom Cronin and colleagues — the publisher’s note says:

“Visual ecology is the study of how animals use visual systems to meet their ecological needs, how these systems have evolved, and how they are specialized for particular visual tasks. Visual Ecology provides the first up-to-date synthesis of the field to appear in more than three decades. Featuring some 225 illustrations, including more than 140 in color, spread throughout the text, this comprehensive and accessible book begins by discussing the basic properties of light and the optical environment. It then looks at how photoreceptors intercept light and convert it to usable biological signals, how the pigments and cells of vision vary among animals, and how the properties of these components affect a given receptor’s sensitivity to light. The book goes on to examine how eyes and photoreceptors become specialized for an array of visual tasks, such as navigation, evading prey, mate choice, and communication.”

LA Times: Mantis shrimp wear tinted shades to see UV light, Tom Cronin and Michael Bok

“When you look at a mantis shrimp, you see a vivid lobster-like crustacean whose forearms can strike with the force of a .22-caliber bullet. But when a mantis shrimp looks at you, we have no idea what it sees. That’s because the mantis shrimp possesses one of the most complex eyeballs on the planet, an organ that allows it to perceive a rainbow of colors in both the visible and ultraviolet spectrum without the massive brainpower required for human vision,” so writes Julia Rosen of the Los Angeles Times.

Rosen’s story, Mantis shrimp wear tinted shades to see UV light, tells of Tom Cronin and Michael Bok’s paper. Cronin is a professor of biology and Bok a graduate student who has now moved on to a post doc at Lund University.

The paper, which was recently published in the journal, Current Biology, reported that, “that that mantis shrimp use a set of filters to separate ultraviolet light into discrete colors that get picked up by the animals’ photoreceptors.”