Electrical engineers and molecular
biologists at the University of Maine have joined forces in an effort to
develop a new sensor that can rapidly detect pathogens in water.
The goal is to develop a device that can help protect public and private
With funding from the National Science Foundation, electrical engineer
Mauricio Pereira da Cunha and biochemist Paul Millard are conducting
their research in the UMaine College of Engineering and the Laboratory
for Surface Science and Technology on campus.
Their proposed technology combines proteins and nucleic acids with
crystals that vibrate under the influence of an alternating electric
current. The frequency of that vibration changes when molecules bind to
the crystal surface, and that change can be easily detected. For this
project, the researchers will use langasite crystals and attach nucleic
acids or proteins to the surface that can recognize and bind to a
possible contaminant, such as E. coli, Salmonella typhi or Vibrio
Currently used laboratory technology is costly and takes too long to
return a result, says Pereira da Cunha. By the time water is taken to a
lab for analysis and the results come back, there is a risk of
contaminating a population, he says.
To develop a device that has the ability to recognize specific
pathogens, the UMaine researchers must find ways of attaching and
maintaining the sensitivity of molecules that bind biochemicals or
organisms in a water sample.
In addition, because the sensor will be in the water it is monitoring,
one of the research hurdles involves creating an electronic device that
does not short out or attenuate.
Blueberries may be little, but
scientists are finding that they have the potential to pack a healthy
Researchers at the University of Maine and elsewhere are studying the
compounds in blueberries that could protect vision, maintain memory,
keep arteries flexible and reduce some of the side effects of diabetes.
UMaine has a long history of supporting the wild blueberry industry
through agricultural and food product research to develop new markets.
Physicians and health-conscious consumers also need sound information
about how blueberry consumption may promote health.
Much of the research focuses on anthocyanins, pigments that make fruits
and vegetables red, blue or purple. The colorful compounds are strong
antioxidants that protect cells by scavenging free radical molecules in
"Maine wild blueberries are unique because of the diversity of
anthocyanin and other phenolic compounds they contain," says Mary Ellen
Camire, professor of food science and human nutrition. For example,
elderberries have two or three anthocyanins; wild blueberries have 15 or
In recent research, Camire demonstrated that blueberries can inhibit an
enzyme involved in diabetes side effects, such as blindness, heart
disease and kidney damage. Research elsewhere also has shown that some
compounds in the fruit may help the body regulate blood sugar.
In an ongoing project with Vision Care of Maine, participants are
drinking blueberry juice and having periodic eye exams to test for
vision changes. And in research in cooperation with the UMaine
Department of Psychology, participants are taking powdered blueberries
in capsule form to explore effects of anthocyanins on memory.
Books in French are strengthening ties between people in Quebec and
Maine, and helping Franco-Americans maintain their culture and language.
The nearly 10,000 books were donated by schools, businesses and
individuals in Quebec and distributed to Maine communities by the
Franco-American Centre at the University of Maine.
The book distribution program was organized by Le Conseil de la vie
française en Amérique (the Council on French Life in America), a
Quebec-based group committed to helping people of French heritage in
North America better understand and maintain their culture and language.
The donated volumes include children's books, dictionaries, novels and
biographies. They were made available to the public in the regions of
Biddeford-Sanford, Augusta- Waterville, Lewiston-Auburn, Bangor-Old
Town, and the St. John Valley.
Previously, Le Conseil de la vie française en Amérique collected books
for distribution in Louisiana. Yvon Labbé, the director of UMaine's
Franco-American Centre and a member of the council, says he hopes more
books can be collected for distribution to other New England states.
Make no bones about it, Angela Ferran loves biomedical engineering. The
University of Maine senior has studied the use of bone in sensors and
the separation of E. coli bacteria in liquid. NASA funded her most
recent project – a study of diet and bone strength.
The results of her research could help the space agency address bone
loss that astronauts commonly experience during extended space flights.
It also could contribute to dietary recommendations for people who
suffer from osteoporosis.
Ferran's is one of three UMaine student research projects currently
supported by the Maine Space Grant Consortium. Two others focus on
detecting and controlling vibrations in composite structures.
Ferran, who grew up in South China, Maine, chose to major in
bio-resource engineering on the basis of her strengths in math and
biology. The potential for engineers to solve practical problems also
was an incentive.
"Helping people is a big part of why people do engineering," Ferran
says. "If my research can be even a small part of doing something that
helps somebody else, that would be very satisfying."
Last year, Ferran and Darrell Donahue, associate professor of chemical
and biological engineering, went to California to meet with scientists
and engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center. There they learned of
ongoing projects in biomedical engineering and some techniques that can
be used to simulate the effects of space travel on laboratory mice.
When she returned to Orono, Ferran built plexiglass cages for 40 mice
and designed a study to probe the impact of dietary salt intake on
bones. Some research suggests that salt can cause bones to lose calcium
The project sets the stage for future simulated microgravity testing at
This fall, Ferran will study biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins.
She then hopes to work in industry, possibly developing new approaches
to prosthetics or tissue engineering.
A $6 million boost to biophysical
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $6 million grant to the
University of Maine, Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Maine
Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough for the establishment
of a Center for Molecular Biophysical Sciences. The funds will be used
to build a research partnership between the three institutions and to
conduct interdisciplinary work leading to better treatment of genetic
Better understanding of structure/function relationships on a molecular
and cellular level could open the way for the treatment of gene-based
disabilities and diseases. It also is expected to lead to the
development of more effective drugs and to advances in plant genome
research, and in ecological and environmental sciences.
The grant will expand existing cooperative relationships among the three
organizations. Last winter, they established an interdisciplinary Ph.D.
program in functional genomics.
The primary objective of the new grant is to create a nationally
recognized interdisciplinary center for biophysical research and
Secrets of sharing
Sharing can be a tough lesson for children to learn, but understanding
what influences positive behavior could help educators and parents to
For her project in the University of Maine Honors College, Elizabeth
Jutton, a senior in psychology, studied the factors associated with
sharing behavior in children. In particular, she focused on the aspects
of temperament that contribute to pro-social behavior.
Working with the staff at UMaine's Child Study Center and Cynthia Erdley,
associate professor of psychology, Jutton developed a study that
included questionnaires for parents and preschool teachers, as well as
direct observation of children, ages 3-5 years old.
Jutton used crayons to find out if children would exhibit cooperation
without adult intervention. Two children at a time were given a piece of
paper on which to draw. One youngster had new crayons; the other had
used and broken ones.
Cooperative sharing occurred in only four out of 18 trials, Jutton
reports. Those children who did share tended to be older and have more
open, less introspective personalities.
Last March, Jutton presented the results of her study in a poster at the
Eastern Psychological Association in Baltimore, Md. She is now in UMaine
master's program in social work, and hopes to work with expectant
parents and young families.
Hitting a high note
In the bright lights of Broadway, the Maine Steiners took third place in
the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.
Receiving the competition's top award for vocal percussionist was Ben
Feeney, a chemical engineering major at the University of Maine.
UMaine's 10-member, all-male a cappella group represented New England
and central Canada in the international competition in New York City in
late April. It was one of six collegiate groups chosen from a field of
108 to participate.
Maine Steiners was established in the late 1950s as an extension of the
Men's Glee Club. Today, the group is affiliated with the select
64-member University Singers.
Maine Steiners performs contemporary music and popular classic tunes, as
well as arrangements by its members. It has recorded four CDs.
Extending the Free Trade zone to Latin America and South America should
be a priority in a post-Sept. 11 world, according to Brian Mulroney,
prime minister of Canada from 1984-93, who delivered the University of
Maine's fourth William S. Cohen Lecture.
Expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement to include 34
countries with 800 million people would create "an area whose
socioeconomic security is indivisible," he said. "We need to act
together to protect our external borders."
Mulroney, who spoke on campus May 9, was introduced by former Secretary
of Defense William Cohen, for whom the lecture series is named. Mulroney
and Cohen are strong advocates for improving growth in trade and
cultural exchange between the United States and Canada.
Mulroney retired from political life in 1993 and currently practices law
The lecture series is a function of UMaine's William S. Cohen Center for
International Policy and Commerce, part of the College of Business,
Public Policy and Health.
It's never too early to learn. That's the philosophy behind the new
Future Teachers Academy, offered this summer by the College of Education
and Human Development at the University of Maine.
Last month, 30 Maine high school students aspiring to be teachers came
to campus for a preview of their post-secondary preparation. The seniors
and juniors have a year or more before graduating, but are highly
motivated to pursue education careers.
The four-day academy, offered at no cost to the participants, featured
workshops with UMaine faculty, high school teachers and students already
in the UMaine teacher preparation program. The goal is to provide
aspiring teachers with a realistic overview of the profession, including
opportunities, challenges, issues and the accountability standards
expected of today's teachers, as well as the latest research in teaching
Students were selected based on their academic records and interest in
teaching, especially in those areas where there are shortages of