Tag: university of maryland

This Week in Research: God is Green; When Good Marketing Backfires

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A University of Maryland study undermines easy ideas about how religion and politics overlap.  The study, which surveyed nearly 1,500 Americans, many who self-identified as Catholic or Evangelical, found that those who believe in God also favor international efforts aimed at curbing climate change.  Seventy-five percent of believers considered it a moral obligation to act as good stewards for the environment. Two-thirds thought that meant supporting pro-environment laws and regulations.  The same goes for nuclear proliferation.  John Steinbruner, Maryland public policy professor and co-author of the study, notes that the findings “challenge common political stereotypes that pigeonhole religious Americans as liberal or conservative” on these issues.  However, fewer than half of the believers surveyed thought that there was a scientific consensus that climate change was an urgent problem. They were more likely to think that not enough was known to take action.

Advertising can play funny tricks on the brain.  It’s not surprising that boldly packaged products are more likely to fly off the shelves, as a recent Johns Hopkins study found.  But less expected is the fact that consumers actually use these products more slowly — presumably because the packaging has tricked them into thinking that they work more effectively.  In this way, strong marketing cues can have unintended self-defeating side effects.  The so-called “ironic effects” of packaging and marketing might make the products that move off the shelves quickly end up lingering longer on household shelves.  “People tend to be lazy,” said lead researcher Meng Zhu. “When we’re shopping, we don’t generally study the ingredients on the package. We look for the salient cues, such as brand names and strong images. Those things are easy to process, and whether they’re presented in a bold fashion or not makes a huge difference in how we judge products.”

University of Maryland has the Coolest Final Exam We’ve Ever Heard of

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It’s starting to be final exam time, and students citywide are devoting themselves to their projects, papers, essays, reports and… hovercrafts? Yes, you read that right.  Today, in fact, freshmen engineering students at the University of Maryland’s Clark School are engaging in the most exciting final exam we’ve ever heard of:  crafting hand-built, autonomous hovercraft  to navigate around a track.  For the first time, the hovercrafts will have to “retrieve and transport a randomly located payload.”

So, how do you build a hovercraft? Apparently it just takes foam, batteries, fans, sensors, and an Arduino UNO microcontroller. Oh, and some basic engineering skills. Piece of cake!

If you happen to be on campus today, you can watch the hovering in person at the Kim Engineering Building from 9am to 5pm. You can also watch a livestream of the competition here.

This Week in Research: Show Less Skin, Eat More Avocados

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How much skin you’re showing affects people’s opinion of your abilites and self-control, according to a study by scientists at Harvard, Yale, Northeastern, and the University of Maryland. The researchers showed subjects photographs of men and women’s faces, and then the same image zoomed out to show the face plus a bare torso. When asked to judge how much experience (defined here as the ability to perceive and feel) and agency (self-control, the power to make decisions) the people in the photos had, the subjects said the face-only folks had plenty of both. But the skin-showing photos were judged as both more reckless and less composed. In other words, the more revealing your clothes, the less perceived personal power you have.

Meanwhile, researchers at Johns Hopkins think you should eat more avocados and less pasta. According to research by Meghana Gadgil, a postdoctoral fellow in internal medicine, certain sources of unsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts) help manage insulin levels. Gadgil and her fellow scientists weren’t interested in helping subjects lose weight; they wanted to see how diets affected cardiovascular health. So they fed subjects three different diets — one with lots of carbs, one with lots of protein, and one with lots of unsaturated fats. The unsaturated fats won out. The extra good news here is that the healthy-heart effects were apparent even without the subjects shedding pounds:  “What we found is that you can begin to see a beneficial impact on heart health even before weight loss,” Gadgil says.

Domestic Violence Symposium in Baltimore Next Week

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Victor Rivas Rivers might look familiar from playing a bad guy in various films and TV shows. But his stop in Baltimore next week has a very different motive; Rivers will be giving the keynote address at next Wednesday’s  Patricia and Arthur Modell Symposium on Domestic Violence, an annual gathering that examines the reach and impacts of abuse… and considers how it can be prevented.

The Modell Symposium is a chance for advocates, activists, and interested parties to get together to discuss domestic violence — its impact on families, strategies for combatting it, and ideas for how to prevent it. Hosted by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the event will explore innovative techniques for reaching women, families, students, and social workers.

The title of Rivers’ keynote speech, “A Private Family Matter,” gets at one way the conference hopes to inspire attendees — by making it clear that domestic violence is not a taboo subject, or something that’s none of anyone else’s business. As Carole Alexander, who will moderate Wednesday’s discussion, puts it,”I know this is an issue that people are quick to turn away from, and there’s no  pain free – I guarantee way to turn around our destruction of our families, relationships, and our children.  But we can prevent it and effectively intervene” — but only if we’re talking about it.

To that end, many local private schools are suspending classes so students can attend. The 2010 death of UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of her ex-boyfriend made many students and parents sit up and pay attention. Organizers hope that the conference will inspire young people to greater awareness of how domestic violence may affect their lives, and the lives of those around them.

Besides Rivers, speakers at the conference include Jay Perman, president of UMD; Richard Barth, dean of the School of Social Work; Maryland first lady/judge Catherine O’Malley, as well as representatives from the University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women; the Children’s National Medical Center in DC; and Second Chance Employment Services.

For more details about the conference program, and for information about how to reserve your spot, click here.

Which State Has the Most-Educated Lawmakers?

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As more and more jobs require bachelor’s or even master’s degrees, it’s comforting to know that there’s one place you can succeed without the benefit of a college education:  government.

According to an extensive survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the 7,400 people who make up our states’ legislatures have a varied set of educational credentials. Expectedly, the state legislators are a more diverse and populist bunch than their Congressional counterparts. About one in four lawmakers at the state level lack a college degree. When the Chronicle asked state legislators about their educational backgrounds, a few listed themselves as “self-educated,” or students of the “School of Life,” or — most frighteningly — “gun school.” For comparison, 75 percent of U.S. senators have advanced degrees; more than half of them are lawyers.

How does Maryland stack up? As you might’ve guessed, our state legislators are more educated than average. Fourteen percent have no/some college, a third have a bachelor’s, and 52 percent have an advanced degree — 11 percentage points more than the national average. (The national average for state lawmakers, that is; nationwide, 28 percent of adults have bachelor’s degrees.) In other words, 97.4 percent of lawmakers have at least some college in their background — the second highest rate in the country, in fact. (South Carolina beats us, barely, with 97.7 percent.) The most popular school in our state house is, unsurprisingly, the University of Maryland at College Park, where 31 of them got their degrees.

The states with the least-educated legislatures? New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, New Mexico, and Arkansas. Hopefully they all went to the school of life instead.

Can Textbooks Get Cheaper By Going Digital?

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As any empty-pocketed student (or parent) knows, the cost of college hardly ends when you’ve ponied up for tuition and room & board. Textbooks can add up quickly (just look at this list of last year’s most expensive textbooks — all over $500 — to see what we mean). At the University of Maryland at College Park, the average student will spend over $500 each semester on textbooks (whose prices have increased four times as quickly as the rate of inflation since 1994) — that’s nearly 13 percent of the cost of in-state tuition. In an attempt to stem these skyrocketing costs, Maryland is one of several states to have a law mandating affordable textbooks.

Prices are high in part because textbook publishers know they have a built-in market; they also tend to bundle extras — CDs, workbooks, etc. — that drive up costs even further. But some professors (and students) are taking matters into their own hands, by harnessing the power of the internet to re-sell old textbooks, and even to make their own customized textbooks at a fraction of the cost.

The Chronicle says that new services like AcademicPub, which allow profs to compile articles, case studies, reports, book chapters, and white papers into tailor-made, class-specific texts, also drive down costs by allowing students to download them as e-books. (One custom marketing text was priced at $14.95 for the digital edition, $27 for the paperback, or $45 for the hardcover). AcademicPub takes care of collecting and paying out the royalties.

Does this sound like the future of textbooks to you?

Someone IS Making Money on the Internet!

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Perhaps your poison is Scrabble, or maybe you’re more of the Farmville type. Me, I’m old school:  Spider Solitaire all the way. But whatever your passion, you probably think of your favorite Facebook app as a place where time and brain cells get lost. Thanks to a study just released by the University of Maryland, though, you can feel better about yourself:  your participation in the app economy has helped create more than 182,000 new jobs in the U.S. and added more than $12.19 billion to the U.S. economy, in the form of wages and benefits.

Sure, the bulk of these jobs are programmers who create the apps we know and love. And the study found that the average salary of a start-up firm is $61,000 a year (more than $66,000 for IT start-ups). But there’s a whole deeper side to the app economy. According to the study’s authors, when you “Like” a book or movie or other product on Facebook, you’re creating economic value. By sharing your experience with your friends, you’ve set in motion a chain of events:  your friends “provide increased referral traffic for companies’ websites, which in turn creates value for those companies, which in turn results in hiring new employees and retaining existing ones, which in turn results in those employees making purchases and paying rent or making mortgage payments.”

It’s a rosy view of the internet economy, all right. And it goes a little of the way to explain how anyone begins to make money on the internet. Are you persuaded?

Don’t Mind the Haters, Terps – Your New Look is Great

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Today’s biggest fake scandal:  The University of Maryland Terps got new uniforms, and everyone who’s anyone thinks they’re a big fashion faux pas. Or something like that. Last I checked, no one actually was that upset — but the Baltimore Sun insists that the blogosphere was simply erupting with indignation over the University of Maryland’s new football uniforms. Which actually look pretty cute.

“For most of the game, on Facebook, on Twitter, on people’s blogs, folks went on and on and on about the uniforms and their instantaneous, visceral disgust for them,” the Sun frets. The uniforms in question incorporate the black and yellow checkerboard and the red and white cross of the Maryland state flag.

However:  No less a source than the State Flag Power Rankings blog (actually a real thing) finds the flag insidiously compelling (“more and more boss the more I think about it”); and here, another ranking awards it the top spot. In conclusion:  the Maryland flag looks cool, and these uniforms also look cool. Don’t mind the haters, Terps. You guys look great.

Local Universities Feed Teach for America’s Ranks

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A couple local universities rank as some of the top contributors to national education service corps Teach for America.

Overall, the program boasted a record 48,000 applications for around 5,200 jobs serving as teachers for two years in urban and rural public schools. The University of Maryland-College Park ranked tenth among large schools, sending 56 graduating seniors to the program. Johns Hopkins, contributing 25 students, ranked 14th among medium schools. (Nearly 8 percent Johns Hopkins undergrads applied to the program.)

TFA corps members are an elite group:  “Incoming corps members earned an average GPA of 3.6, and 100 percent have held leadership positions. Twenty-two percent are the first in their family to graduate from college, and nearly one-third received Pell Grants. More than one-third are people of color, including 12 percent who are African American and 8 percent who are Hispanic.”

Though most of these local grads will end up serving communities across the U.S. — from Oklahoma City to the Bronx to Appalachian Kentucky — some may wind up back here in Baltimore; the city hosts 325 of these teachers, meaning that they teach more than 20,000 students over their tenure in the city’s highest-need schools.

UMD Security Dispatcher’s Secret Other Life

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Between the hours we log at our jobs, some of us garden; others watch TV. Very few of us spend our extra time training to be a professional athlete — but that’s just what Andrew Pedrick, University police dispatcher for the University of Maryland, College Park, does. At least if you consider professional bowlers to be athletes — but, hey, they’re on ESPN so why not?

What does it take to be a professional bowler? More and better bowling, it turns out — Pedrick will have to end the year with an average score of 200 or more to be considered a pro. (Remember that a perfect game — 12 strikes in a row — comes to 300.) And while Pedrick has scored his fair share of perfect games, he still has a ways to go.

So between his 4 PM to 2 AM security shifts, Pedrick is spending his spare time (pun intended) taking a tour of local bowling alleys —  thanks to unique oil patterns, each alley has its own quirks and demands a slightly different style of play. “You can get a different shot every time,” Pedrick told the UMD’s Diamondback. “It’s like tennis, with clay courts and then grass.” If you care to cheer Pedrick on, he competes alongside his parents most Fridays at the AMF Country Club Lanes in Rosedale.

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