UMD CMNS Physics S1 Color

UMD, Italy & MoonEx Join to Put New Laser-Reflecting Arrays on Moon

The University of Maryland, The National Laboratories of Frascati, Italy, and Moon Express (MoonEx), a leading contender in the Google Lunar X Prize competition, recently announced they will deliver a new set of lunar laser ranging arrays to the Moon over a series of missions that are anticipated to begin in 2017.

Physics Professor Michelle Girvan Receives $3M NSF Grant to Train Graduate Students in Network Biology

As researchers in the life sciences cope with the data explosion resulting from the advent of powerful new technologies, they must learn to transform this raw data into useful information from which new biological insights can be inferred.

To address this challenge, the University of Maryland recently received a five-year, $3 million National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to establish a new training and research program in network biology. Graduate students in the Computation and Mathematics for Biological Networks (COMBINE) program will learn to marry physics-style quantitative modeling with data processing, analysis and visualization methods from computer science to gain deeper insights into the principles governing living systems.

"More data does not mean better information without the interdisciplinary tools required to make the transformation," said COMBINE's principal investigator Michelle Girvan, an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology. In her own research, Girvan combines methods from statistical physics, nonlinear dynamics and computer science to develop network science tools that can address problems in computational biology and sociophysics.

The COMBINE program anticipates training approximately 60 Ph.D. students, including 35 who will be supported by 12-month fellowships. Participants will receive training in four areas of network analysis: quantitative metrics for biological networks; mechanistic models of biological networks; network statistics and machine learning for biological applications; and visualization techniques for large, complex biological data sets. This training will provide the foundation for research in at least one of the following areas: biomolecular, neuronal and/or ecological/behavioral networks.

Research experiences, interdisciplinary coursework, peer-to- peer tutorials and internships with partners—including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and industry partners—will provide the graduate students with the skills needed to communicate complex scientific ideas to diverse audiences to maximize impact. Outreach activities will extend the benefits of the program to undergraduates, middle and high school students, and to the public at large. COMBINE brings together a unique, multidisciplinary team of researchers. Co-principal investigators of the program are Associate Professor Daniel Butts and Professor Bill Fagan of the Department of Biology, and Associate Professor Hector Corrada Bravo and Professor Amitabh Varshney of the Department of Computer Science and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. Varshney also serves as interim vice president for research and chief research officer at UMD. The highly competitive NRT program fosters development and implementation of bold, new, potentially transformative models for graduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Fewer than 10 percent of proposals submitted to the program are funded.

"Innovative and interdisciplinary approaches will be key to tackling tomorrow's scientific challenges, and today's STEM graduate students will need to develop the skills to meet those challenges," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for education and human resources. The NSF Research Traineeship program is testing new models to train graduate students across STEM disciplines and to prepare them for contributions in diverse careers."

Media Relations Contact: Abby Robinson, 301-405- 5845, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Writer: Barbara Brawn-Cinani

University of Maryland

College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

2300 Symons Hall,

College Park, MD 20742


About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

Inaugural Plasma Award Announced

The inaugural Ronald C. Davison Award for Plasma Physics (2016) was presented to Gregory Howes of the University of Iowa for research done in conjunction with UMD's Professor William Dorland of Physics and IREAP and Jason TenBarge, an Assistant Research Scientist in IREAP. The Davidson award recognizes the research described by the most notable paper published in AIP's Physics of Plasmas over the last five years. It will be presented annually at the APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting, and carries a cash prize of $5,000 for the first author.

This new prize honors Ron Davidson, a member of the University of Maryland Department of Physics from 1968-78. Prof. Davidson moved from Maryland to MIT and then to Princeton University, where he served as Professor, as Director of the national laboratory for plasma physics research from 1991-96, and as editor of the journal Physics of Plasmas. Davidson himself authored more than 500 papers, many of which were seminal, covering a wide range of plasma physics phenomena. He won the James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics in 2008, and is one of five current and former University of Maryland faculty to be so honored.

Howes, TenBarge and Dorland's paper, entitled "A weakened cascade model for turbulence in astrophysical plasmas", Phys. Plasmas, 18. 102305 (2011), presented the first high-resolution, kinetic simulations of turbulence in the solar wind together with a theoretical framework for interpreting and generalizing the predicted fluctuation spectra to a wide range of physical conditions. This research project represents an "export" of theoretical and computational tools from the international magnetic confinement fusion research program to non-laboratory, natural settings. For magnetic confinement fusion research to pay off, it is essential to control plasma turbulence (among other problems), and the University of Maryland has long been a leading institution in the theory and simulation of plasma turbulence. The collaboration between UMD and the University of Iowa grew out of a national, five-year Department of Energy Fusion Science Center (2006-2011), led by Dorland and Prof. Steven Cowley (FRS), now at the University of Oxford. A central goal of the Fusion Science Center was to identify and nurture broader applications of fusion-inspired theory.

The Chirps Heard Round the World

Two black holes, locked together in close orbit for eons, abruptly ended their dance in spectacular fashion about 1.3 billion years ago. In two-tenths of a second, the pair of objects—about 29 and 36 times the mass of our sun—drew closer together, accelerated and merged to form a single black hole. The cataclysm instantly obliterated three suns' worth of mass and transformed it into gravitational energy, which radiated outward in waves traveling at the speed of light, warping the fabric of space and time along the way.  Read more

Photos from the Gravitational Waves event on November 1, 2016.