New nano capabilities
high-tech Maine companies
that produce miniature smart sensors
and detectors already have emerged
from LASST research. New products
are being commercialized to monitor
contaminants in our environment, assess food quality and diagnose
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With passage of a jobs bond last
November, the University of Maine Laboratory for Surface Science and
Technology (LASST) will receive $2 million to enhance its nano-technology
research and development capabilities.
The monies will be invested in state-of-the-art microfabrication and
nanotechnology equipment for LASST's "clean room," advancing
capabilities in such areas as semiconductors, sensors, precision
manufacturing and biomedical technology.
For example, the equipment will facilitate research on biomedical
microinstruments that one day could provide automated drug delivery,
disease diagnostics and implantable bio-sensors.
Like the 2003 bond that allowed UMaine's Advanced Engineered Wood
Composites Center to expand and subsequently land a $6.2 million U.S.
Army research program, the latest LASST funding is expected to allow
UMaine to continue to attract multimillion-dollar R&D grants from
federal agencies, hire and train a skilled workforce in Maine, and
provide resources for businesses.
Neuroscience in the K-12 classroom
Cognitive neuroscientist and clinical
psychologist Herbert Weingartner will bring his extensive experience in
mind/brain research to the University of Maine as the 2005–06 Shibles
Distinguished Visiting Professor in the College of Education and Human
An acclaimed researcher who has held top leadership positions at the
National Institutes of Health, Weingartner will work with UMaine faculty
to develop a blueprint for applying basic cognitive neuroscience
knowledge to practical problems associated with development and
education, and to build an interdisciplinary approach to investigating
the various psychological and neuroscience bases of human intelligence.
During his UMaine visits in the next 18 months, Weingartner will work
with faculty, students, educators and policymakers.
The cognitive neuroscience initiative within the College of Education
and Human Development focuses on emerging brain research and its
implications for teaching and learning. Employing the latest in brain
imaging technology, faculty researchers and students will observe
cognitive functioning and development in children and adults, and
determine what adaptations need to be made in pedagogy to affect growth
and development of cognitive abilities.
The initiative will feature interdisciplinary approaches among faculty
in child development, education, psychology and the biological sciences.
Horses have been racing on tracks for centuries, but the conditions of
the surfaces they run on are still characterized in vague, qualitative
terms, such as fast and hard, or wet. To improve track conditions, as
well as the safety of jockeys and horses, a University of Maine
mechanical engineer has prototyped a machine that can quantitatively
evaluate track shear strength and stiffness.
Associate Professor Michael Peterson has developed a device that can be
mounted on the back of a vehicle and taken to the track, where, based on
biomechanics, it replicates the strain rate and loads applied by horse
hooves to the soil. Working like a dual-axis drop hammer with a
synthetic hoof attached, the machine can collect load, acceleration and
velocity that are used to estimate the stiffness of each of the layers
of the soil, and the shear strength of the soil.
Peterson has found that the loading and load rates that occur in the
bones of the horses with each stride can be affected by the composition
of the track base layers up to a foot below the surface.
The robotic system, developed in collaboration with researchers at
Colorado State University, was tested at Santa Anita Park, and has been
used at other tracks, including Hollywood Park, Fairplex and Del Mar.
It is now providing quantitative data from tracks around the country and
is being used in conjunction with ground penetrating radar to evaluate
The goal is for the data to help maintain, control and standardize track
surfaces, regardless of weather.
Helping adversaries become allies
A new research-based curriculum is designed to help middle schools
change the subtle yet hurtful ways girls fight and bully one another.
"From Adversaries to Allies: A Curriculum for Change," developed by
researchers and students at the University of Maine and Colby College,
offers strategies for girls to relate to one another and better
understand stereotypical messages that often lead to behaviors such as
betrayal, exclusion, rumor mongering, teasing and harassment.
The curriculum will be piloted in 10 Maine schools, then evaluated and
refined. It is available to any interested school, according to Mary
Madden, an assistant research professor in the UMaine College of
Education and Human Development. Madden coauthored the curriculum with
Lyn Mikel Brown, professor of education and women's, gender and
sexuality studies at Colby.
The curriculum is based on research by Madden and Brown, and others in
the past 25 years who examined the ways adolescent girls interact and
express themselves as they struggle to find a place in a culture that
overvalues beauty, romance and perfection.
"Girls too often come to see themselves and each other as bodies to be
looked at or as girlfriends of popular boys," say Madden and Brown.
"It's not surprising, then, that adolescent girls are most likely to
compete and fight with other girls over boys, sexuality, attitude and
While the subtly of "girlfighting" is often under the radar screen of
educators, the pain of targeted girls is obvious to their parents. "What
girls do to one another can be awful," Madden says. "We want girls to
understand how the culture sets them up to be cruel to one another
through unrealistic images and expectations. This causes insecurity,
which girls often divert from themselves by targeting another more
Insight Lite: Words of Love
In observance of Valentine's Day, we asked Burton Hatlen, director of
the National Poetry Foundation at the University of Maine, to cite six
of his favorite poems about love:
watched / The moon and then / The Pleiades go down. / I am in bed
Sappho, Fragment 52
translated by Mary Barnard)
"Song: Sweetest Love I Do Not Go"
"That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold"
William Shakespeare, Sonnet #73
"To His Coy Mistress"
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"
William Carlos Williams
Surveying stewardship strategies
A University of Maine cultural anthropologist is studying landowners'
stewardship strategies for Maine forests in an effort to better
understand management decisions.
James Acheson, professor of anthropology and marine sciences, says the
timing of the forest management study is important because ownership of
Maine's 17 million acres of timberlands and the entire forest products
industry are changing rapidly. Maine's forest industry generates $5.6
billion in gross economic benefits.
Acheson, an expert on resource management and governance, will work with
a team of interviewers to survey representatives from timber companies,
pulp and paper companies, small private land- owners and forest
The study, funded by an $85,000 National Science Foundation grant, is
one of the first of its kind for the nation's most heavily forested
Acheson's preliminary research has turned up a plethora of studies on
forests and forest management practices, but little information on the
attitudes of landowners, who may employ vastly different management
By asking about social, cultural, economic and political factors behind
management decisions, Acheson hopes to gain better insight into
conditions under which decision-makers do or do not conserve forest
Gardeners behind bars
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners are at work
in the Kennebec County Correctional Facility helping inmates learn to
grow food for themselves and the hungry in the area.
It all started in 1996 when an acre was donated to the correctional
facility for inmate projects. Seven years later, inmates were tilling 15
That's when correctional facilities officials sought expert assistance
from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Officers John Matthews and Michael Gagnon, and Chief Deputy Randall
Liberty enrolled in the 40-hour program offered by Kennebec County
Extension, learning the fundamentals of plant biology, soil composition,
and insect and disease control. Then they shared that expertise with the
inmates involved in the garden project.
More than 150 Kennebec County inmates have participated in the farm
project since its inception, with an average of 15 inmates per day
traveling to the site.
This past fall, inmates harvested enough produce to save the jail
$9,200. In 2004, 8,000 pounds of potatoes were donated to 10 local food
pantries, shelters and soup kitchens.
Seeing the forest through the trees
A new decision-support tool developed at the University of Maine helps
forest managers evaluate a complex set of variables when trying to
determine how and when to best thin the spruce-fir stands of northern
ThinME is a computer program created by Department of Forest Ecosystem
Science researchers Robert Seymour and Robert Wagner, and Cooperative
Forestry Research Unit and United States Forest Service colleague
KaDonna Randolph. Its customized ArcView GIS computer interface is
capable of converting the complex, multidimensional data necessary for
developing effective thinning prescriptions into an easily understood,
two-dimensional graph known as a nomogram.
The computer program allows foresters to select the best thinning
strategy based on a variety of biological and financial variables. The
nomograms graphically illustrate a range of thinning options that meet
specific criteria determined by the user, allowing forest managers to
consider factors as diverse as annual growth rate, tree size and
financial value when developing overall management plans.
Current forest models do not allow forest managers to view the
trade-offs among important physical variables and production goals
associated with commercial thinning in quite the same way.
Results from ThinME are being evaluated on a dozen study sites across
Maine in what is called the Maine Commercial Thinning Research Network.
Various thinning prescriptions have been applied to test plots that
include the annual measurement of more than 12,000 trees.
Measurements from these plots are being used to test the predictions of
ThinME and to improve the model over time.
Growing up in Maine
Hometown people and places throughout Maine were the inspiration for
stories, poems and essays by 22 students from Machias to Skowhegan who
wrote about what it means to grow up in Maine.
"Our Maine: The Way Life Is," a CD production of the Maine Writing
Project at the University of Maine, features the students in grades 3–12
reading their works that reflect some of the state's themes and
traditions, including memories of generations working together, the
connection to land and sea, the powerful influence of nature and the
importance of roots in the inevitability of change.
The 29-minute CD comes with a teacher's guide, which includes ideas and
activities for creating place-based writing and production
opportunities. Submissions for the CD were sought from students of the
186 Maine Writing Project teacher consultants across the state.
The Maine Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project,
is dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of writing across