Tom Cronin, Biology, in WIRED

What’s the Absurd Creature of the Week in WIRED science? Why it’s none other than one of biologist Tom Cronin’s favorite sea critters, the mantis shrimp. And the eyes of these creatures are Cronin’s specialty and that’s where he comes into the article.

“As with bees or flies or crabs, they are compound eyes, but unlike those creatures, mantis shrimp “have a very unusual adaptation in that multiple parts of the same eye view the same point in space,” said biologist Tom Cronin of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, “which is sort of like having multiple eyes in one, in a way.” Whereas we use two eyes to judge distance, mantis shrimp can do that with a single eye.”

“On top of that, some mantis shrimp can see a variety of colors in ultraviolet, so “they’re seeing colors that no other animal can see, in a sense,” said Cronin. “Basically color is a property of the nervous system so it’s not really present in the real world, but they can see aspects of the ultraviolet that nothing else can see.”

There are some neat photos with the article and some videos. Well worth a read.

U.S. News Ranks UMBC’s Information Systems Online M.S. as a Top Program

Congratulations to UMBC’s Department of Information Systems for being ranked a top online graduate program in information technology by U.S. News & World Report. The UMBC program was ranked #19 in the nation, and is one of just two programs in Maryland to appear on the list.

See the rankings.

Learn how U.S. News & World Report calculated the rankings.

Chess Team Places 2nd in “World Series” of College Chess

Congratulations to the UMBC Chess team for placing second in the 2013 Pan-Am Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship held December 27-30, 2013 at Texas Tech. The team will advance to the “Final Four” of chess to be held in New York City in the Spring along with Webster Univ. (1st), Illinois (3rd) and Texas Tech (4th).

During the championship, UMBC defeated the University of West Indies, the University of Toronto, the University of Texas, Brownsville, Webster University C, and the University of Texas, Dallas A. UMBC’s only loss was to Webster University A, in round three. UMBC Team B won the Division V prize.

The UMBC Chess Team A for the 2013 Pan-Am Champioship had the following members.

UMBC chess team fun chess2013-5308

  • Board 1: GM Niclas Huschenbeth (USCF rating 2610)
  • Board 2: GM Akshayraj Kore (2519)
  • Board 3: M Levan Bregadze (2469)
  • Board 4: IM and WGM Nazi Paikidze (2378)
  • Alternate: WGM Sabina Foisor (2315)

Read more about the Pan Am.

Stuart Schwartz, CUERE, on the Marc Steiner Show

On December 17, Stuart Schwartz, a senior research scientist at the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE) was a guest on the Marc Steiner Show.

Schwartz discussed his latest research which uses a kind of Asian radish

“This radish can grow to the size of something between a fat carrot and an egg plant,” says Schwartz to Steiner.

“It’s able to penetrate pretty compacted soils,” adds Schwartz.

And says Schwartz, “We’ve been looking at compacted soils in Baltimore because that creates a lot of runoff.”

Planting these radishes on vacant lots, says Schwartz, is a natural low cost way to address run off problem without having to bring in bulldozers to de-compact the soil.

Find out how the radishes help control run off.


Gymama Slaughter, CSEE, Receives NSF CAREER Award

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on December 11, 2013 that Gymama Slaughter, an assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering (CSEE), received an NSF CAREER Award.

NSF notes, “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

“We are delighted about this NSF CAREER Award to Dr. Slaughter,” says Dr. Karl Steiner, Vice President for Research at UMBC. “This prestigious award recognizes Dr. Slaughter’s rapidly growing reputation as a productive and promising researcher and teacher and it also reflects well on UMBC’s ability to attract and nurture top faculty talent as embodied by Dr. Slaughter.”

Slaughter will use the $400,000 award to “fabricate and characterize a self-powered biosensing microsystem that simultaneously generates bioelectricity and monitors glucose.”

Read more about Gymama Slaughter.


First hackUMBC concludes successfully

“Held in the UMBC Skylight Room from 7:00pm Friday to 7:00pm Saturday this past weekend, UMBC’s first-everhackathon was open to all UMBC students of any skill level, from innovators and explorers to designers and hardcore coders. Its purpose was to allow students to mingle and collaborate for 24 continuous hours of community exploration to grow technology projects from scratch while expanding their connections to other students, industry leaders, and faculty. Admission was free and attracted students from across the UMBC campus community, including CS, CE, EE, IS, Biology, Biotechnology, Math, Physics, and Media Studies.”

Read the full story

Amy Hurst, Information Systems, Collaborates on $3.7 million project

Amy Hurst, Collaborates on Multi-University Project To Improve Web and Cloud Computing Accessibility

Will Help People With Disabilities Take Full Advantage of Online Resources

“The researchers are working on methods for easily modifying software to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Researchers will develop ways to make it easier for people with disabilities to log on to the Web, make user interfaces more accessible, and change the presentation of information on the Web to streamline experiences for people with disabilities, caregivers and service providers. The researchers also will look for ways to leverage help from other people on the Web — crowdsourcing — to increase accessibility for all.

“Authentication or logging into a service is an integral yet mundane part of peoples’ Internet experience,” said Yang Wang, assistant professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse. “However, most existing authentication schemes tend to be difficult to use for people with disabilities. We’re very excited about this opportunity to explore new authentication schemes that can provide a much better experience for people with disability.”

The team also will explore ways to dynamically change pointing and clicking actions on Web pages. “For example, if an individual is having difficulty smoothly controlling a mouse, we could detect this and smooth their input,” said Amy Hurst, assistant professor of human-centered computing in the Information Systems Department at UMBC.”

Read the full article 


Susan Hoban Brings the Mars Rover to the UAE

Susan Hoban made the, Nationalin a story about a science fair in the UAE.

Dr Susan Hoban, associate professor of physics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, introduced students to the wonder of Nasa’s Mars Rover, before allowing them to build their own, albeit smaller, versions.hoban2012

“We want to use Mars as an inspiration to show the students that engineering is a career that they should choose, especially for girls, who maybe do not think that it is something they can do,” she said.

“My hats off to the organisers because it is a great undertaking. We hope that kids leave here thinking that engineering is fun.”

Read the story.

Manil Suri, Math and Fashion

Manil Suri was featured in a “Math and Fashion” episode on the
Scholastic website. This is their first episode with the specific aim of
popularizing mathematics among school kids by tying it to a popular


Tim Gunn, the super host of the hit TV series “Project Runway” introduced Suri, where he talked about math for about 90 seconds right near the beginning of the 26 minute show. The famous fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, also talks about how math is useful in her line of work.

Watch the video