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.”

Say Something: Jesse Smith

The Chronicle has just featured math major and Meyerhoff Scholar Jesse Smith in their Say Something audio series.

Smith talks about his experience with the Meyerhoff program and how peer
connections through the program have given him a sense of confidence and
what is possible to achieve in his career. The article also links to the
HHMI story about the Meyerhoff Replication Project.

Zhibo Zhang receives $710K grant from NASA

Zhibo Zhang, an Assistant Professor in the Physics Department, and his collaborators received a three-year grant of $710K from NASA’s Sciences of Terra and Aqua program to study the Marine Boundary Layer (MBL) clouds.

The MBL clouds cover about 20% of Earth’s surface. They play a pivotal in Earth’s radiative energy budget. Prof. Zhang’s research will help us understand the horizontal and microphysical structure of MBL clouds and provides guidance for the development of future NASA satellite missions.

As PI, Zhang will lead a group of researchers from UMBC, NASA GISS, and the Univ. of Illinois.

Zhang was also recently selected to receive the NASA New (Early Career) Investigator Program (NIP) awards in Earth Science. The NIP is a highly competitive and prestigious award established by NASA in 1996 to encourage integrated environments for research and education for scientists and engineers at the early stage of their professional careers. This year more than 130 scientists nationwide applied for this program and only 21 were selected.

The NIP will fund Zhang and his graduate student for three years to investigate the climatic effects of above-cloud aerosols (e.g. soot and dust) using data from NASA satellites. When elevated above clouds, aerosols can generate strong warming effect on the climate due to enhanced absorption. Dr. Zhang’s research is aimed to understand the size of this effect and its potential implications to global warming.

UMBC scientist receives Maryland Innovation grant from TEDCO to advance the development of a vaccine to combat a deadly fish virus

Professor Vikram Vakharia, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore, received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). Vakhria will use the funds to develop a vaccine against viral infections in fish populations. Such viruses can be devastating to fish populations world-wide. A vaccine could have tremendous implications for hatcheries and rearing ponds that provide high-protein fish to tens millions of people.

Many viral diseases in fish have been reported worldwide. Of particular concern is infections caused by nervous necrosis virus (NNV). This virus is of concern because it impacts both warm- and cold-water fish in marine environments. The virus has resulted in severe economic losses in many Asian and European countries, Australia and North America. It is estimated that 5% of loss in the finfish aquaculture industry is due to disease and translates into over $1 billion global annual loses. The disease is associated with high mortality (up to 100 %) particularly in larvae and juvenile fish species. Therefore, technologies are needed to immunize large populations of fish with vaccines that are efficient and economical.

“The health of fish is critical to the aquaculture industry and the countless number of people who consume fish in every corner of the world,” said Vakharia, a global leader in viral diseases of aquaculture. “Nervous necrosis virus (NNV) infects more than 40 fish species and currently, there are no commercial vaccines available to prevent this disease,” Vakharia added.

The goal of Vakharia’s research is to develop and evaluate the efficacy of a recombinant NNV vaccine.

“Dr. Vakharia’s research is critically important from both an environmental and economic perspective,” noted Russell Hill, Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). “The development of a new vaccine will support the aquaculture industry and help provide food for millions of people. We greatly appreciate TEDCO’s support and foresight in addressing this important work through the Maryland Innovation Initiative.”

MARYLAND INNOVATION INITIATIVE (MII)
The Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) was created as a partnership between the State of Maryland and five Maryland academic research institutions (Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County). The program is designed to promote commercialization of research conducted among the partnership universities and to leverage each institution’s unique strengths.

TEDCO
The Maryland State Legislature created TEDCO in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State. TEDCO is an independent organization that strives to be Maryland’s lead source for entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.

INSTITUTE OF MARINE AND ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY
Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine resources to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities. IMET also contributes to sustainable marine aquaculture and fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and other marine ecosystems.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Takes UMBC’s Meyerhoff Program On the Road

Today, UMBC and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced the Meyerhoff Adaptation Project, a five-year partnership between the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Penn State, UNC Chapel Hill and UMBC.

This project will expand UMBC’s innovative Meyerhoff Scholars Program — which has seen dramatic results in successfully preparing minority students for STEM careers — to Penn State and UNC Chapel Hill. Since 1993, the Meyerhoff program has graduated more than 900 students in STEM disciplines; alumni have earned 144 PhD degrees, 39 MD/PhD degrees, 1 DVM/PhD degree, 239 Masters degrees, and 107 MD degrees.

The program is built on a complex set of “interventions,” including summer bridge programs, intensive mentoring, collaborative learning and multiple research experiences. Social scientists at all three universities will gather data to understand how each component of the Meyerhoff model contributes to its overall success.

Jeff Mervis wrote about the program on Science’s web site.

Mervis noted that HHMI will “spend $7.75 million over the next 5 years to support a partnership between UMBC and two major state institutions—the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the Pennsylvania State University in State College. The HHMI funding will help faculty members and administrators at all three schools document what is essential for success and also create a roadmap for other universities to follow. Last year both schools launched their own versions of the Meyerhoff program, which seeks out high-performing students who intend to pursue a Ph.D. in science or engineering.”

HHMI News quoted UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, “The primary purpose of the Meyerhoff Program is to produce scientists and engineers, with an emphasis on people from underrepresented groups—but also people of all races—who are interested in helping others.”

And it is with that purpose that HHMI hopes to expand Meyerhoff Scholarship Program beyond UMBC.

 Inside Higher Ed: UNC, Penn State Seek to Replicate STEM Diversity Program

 

 

 

 

UMBC Celebrates Grand Opening of Science Learning Collaboratory

CollaboratoryOpening-4756On April 28, UMBC celebrated the opening of the Science Learning Collaboratory in a festive event featuring remarks by Senator Barbara Mikulski, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) President Robert Tijan, President Hrabowski and CNMS Dean Bill LaCourse.

Located in the Meyerhoff Chemistry Building, the Science Learning Collaboratory is an innovative, interdisciplinary lab created through a partnership between UMBC and HHMI.

The event’s speakers discussed how important hands-on lab experience is to inspiring and preparing students in the sciences. Senator Mikulski remarked, “Right here at UMBC, you’re teaching the warriors of the future to go out and do things that no one had ever dreamed before.”

In the spirit of hands-on interdisciplinary learning, during the event faculty and students presented experiments that explored what “measurement” means in different fields: measuring something big (physics), measuring something small (biological sciences), measuring something invisible (chemistry and biochemistry), measuring matter (mechanical engineering), and measuring what matters (geography and environmental systems).

Click here to view Senator Mikulski’s remarks and here to read about the opening in the Baltimore Business Journal.

UMBC scientists receive Maryland Innovation grant from TEDCO to advance bioremediation of PCB-contaminated sediments

Professor Kevin Sowers, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), and Professor Upal Ghosh, at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, have received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). The grant will fund research to that will ameliorate the environmental harms of PCB’s. The program is an initiative of the Technology Council of Maryland (TEDCO) created in 1998 to spur commercialization of scientific research in Maryland as part of the state’s efforts to foster economic development through academic research.

Sowers is a global leader in environmental science and has pioneered a method that uses activated carbon pellets seeded with microorganisms that degrade the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments. In recent laboratory experiments, the cultures Sowers created resulted in over 80% reduction in the PCB mass after treatment.

“Our hope is that this method for treating PCB’s will have a tangible impact in restoring previously degraded areas – both on land and in bodies of water,” says Sowers. “PCB’s have long been a harmful and largely intransigent pollutant and our work is intended to address serious health impacts these chemicals have on people, animals and the environment.”

Sowers is collaborating in this work with Upal Ghosh, a professor at the Department of Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering at UMBC. “The magnitude of PCB sediment contamination and associated water quality problems in the United States is reflected in more than 3,200 state and local advisories that have warned the public about of the health impacts of consuming contaminated fish. These warnings cover 24% of total river miles throughout the United States,” Ghosh says. “The advisories include 100% of the Great Lakes and 35% of all other lakes nationwide.” PCBs are frequently reported as the leading contaminants at impacted sites. Current remediation technologies are expensive, destructive to environmentally sensitive areas, and difficult to coordinate with local activities. The technology proposed by Sowers and Ghosh addresses existing challenges and is especially suitable for environmentally sensitive sites such as wetlands and difficult-to-reach areas under-pier structures in contaminated harbors. This technology advances an in-situ remediation approach using activated carbon that has been recently developed by Ghosh and commercialized through a startup company Sediment Solutions.

The Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) was created as a partnership between the State of Maryland and five Maryland academic research institutions (Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County.) The program is designed to promote commercialization of research conducted between and among the partnership universities and it leverages each institution’s unique strengths.

“The MII program is critically important to our partner universities and the citizens of Maryland,” noted Russell Hill, IMET Director, “because it facilitates the transformation of basic science into practical and far-reaching applications. We are grateful for TEDCO’s support and foresight in addressing this important environmental issue and are proud of the excellent research being done by Dr. Sowers and Dr. Ghosh.”

TEDCO

The Maryland State Legislature created TEDCO in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State. TEDCO is an independent organization that strives to be Maryland’s leading source for entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.

INSTITUTE OF MARINE AND ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine resources to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities. IMET also contributes to sustainable marine aquaculture and fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and other marine ecosystems.

 

Justin Jacobs, Statistics Ph.D. Student, Receives Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering

Justin Jacobs, a doctoral candidate in statistics at UMBC, has won the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE). This is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers, and recognizes Justin’s work with the intelligence community.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presents UMBC's Justin Jacobs with PECASE honor.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (far right) presents UMBC’s Justin Jacobs (center right) with his PECASE plaque.

Justin received the award from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on January 23, 2014, and he will be recognized by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House later this month.

At UMBC, Justin is being co-advised by Anindya Roy and John Zweck (now at UT Dallas), and plans to graduate this May. His dissertation is titled, “Density Estimation on Differential Manifolds.” He is completing his Ph.D. while employed with the National Security Agency.

President Clinton established the PECASE award program in 1996. The White House website notes, “Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.” Learn more about PECASE and this year’s recipients in this White House Press release.

Congratulations, Justin, for this is a remarkable achievement!