College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

News

Mon, Jun 7, 2010

Rita Colwell Delivers Commencement Address at MIT/Woods Hole

Rita ColwellDistinguished University Professor Rita Colwell delivered the commencement address June 5 at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to the 2010 graduates of the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Sciences and Engineering. The event is hosted every fifth year at Woods Hole. James A. Yoder, Vice President for Academic Programs and Dean at WHOI, served from 2001-2004 as NSF's Director of the Division of Ocean Science during Colwell's tenure there. "She made a lot of contributions to our knowledge of microbiology in the oceans," he said. "We were lucky to get her [as commencement speaker]."
Fri, May 28, 2010

Marine Bacteria Pitch in to Help Clean Deepwater Horizon Spill, And May Increase, Says Rita Colwell

Marine bacteria are already hard at work to help clean the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — and their numbers are likely increasing. Among these are members of the Vibrio family, which includes the species that causes cholera. "The Vibrios use breakdown products of oil," says Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor. "When [the oil from Deepwater Horizon] reaches the estuary, Vibrios very likely will increase." Colwell warns of risk of bacterial infection in the Gulf from Vibrio fish pathogens and other species that commonly infect shellfish and may infect humans too. 
Fri, May 21, 2010

Microorganisms in Gulf Waters Help Break Down Crude Oil From Spills

Mexican marine scientists were surprised to see how quickly Campeche Sound recovered from the Ixtoc 1 oil spill there three decades ago, citing the help of naturally occurring microbes that feasted on the oil and degraded it. Distinguished University Professor Rita Colwell, an expert on the biodegradation of petroleum, says microorganisms are good at breaking down the short chain molecular compounds in crude. "For the bacteria, they really chew it and release it as CO2," Colwell said. "The longer stuff that has long ring compounds, that's the stuff that remains." Colwell warns against eating shrimp harvested in the current and next season, as they feed on the oil-consuming bacteria.

Gulf recovered from last big oil spill, but is this one different? - McClatchy Newspapers

Fri, May 21, 2010

Water Filtration Using Saris Proves Effective and Sustainable Practice to Reduce Cholera

Rita ColwellIn a 2003 field study in Bangladesh, Distinguished University Professor Rita Colwell and colleagues showed that teaching village women to filter water through sari cloth reduced the incidence of cholera by nearly 50%. A follow-up study conducted five years later shows that 31% of the women continued to filter water for their households, 60% of whom used a sari. An additional 26% of households from the control group who did not receive education or training started to filter their water. The study reports the incidence of cholera decreased by 25 percent during the five-year period. As an unexpected benefit, households that did not filter their water, but whose neighbors did, also experienced a lower incidence of cholera.

The paper, "Simple Sari Cloth Filtration of Water Is Sustainable and Continues To Protect Villagers from Cholera in Matlab, Bangladesh," appears in the inaugural issue of mBio, the first online, open-access journal published by the American Society for Microbiology.

Thu, May 20, 2010

UM Awarded $1.5 Million for Science Education from Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dean Norma Allewell and Dr. Kaci Thompson, director and associate  director of the University of Maryland HHMI programThe University of Maryland will receive $1.5 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support education in the life sciences. This marks the fifth time since 1992, and the fourth consecutive time that Maryland has received the prestigious HHMI grant, which is aimed at strengthening undergraduate and precollege science education nationwide. With the support from HHMI, the University of Maryland has developed a highly successful undergraduate research fellowship program, strengthened its undergraduate science curriculum, provided hands-on science immersion programs for high school students, and offered professional development opportunities for both university scientists and high school biology teachers.