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UMaine Bioengineering Students Collaborate With The Jackson Laboratory, IDEXX Laboratories on Capstone Projects

Three University of Maine student research teams in bioengineering are collaborating with The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and IDEXX Laboratories Inc., in Westbrook on senior capstone projects.

Working under the supervision of Professor David Neivandt, director of UMaine’s Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, and coordinator of the undergraduate bioengineering program, the bioengineering seniors are involved in semester-long capstone projects in which they develop device concepts and methods to improve biological systems that benefit society.

“In the early stages of our classes, we have a lot of canned problems,” says Jeff Servetas, Hancock, Maine, of his bioengineering coursework. Now as seniors, the students are developing solutions to open-ended questions that have not been addressed before.

Two teams are working with IDEXX — one team will work to develop a device veterinarians could use to test for ear mites in dogs, while the other team’s focus is to design a method to provide precise, accurate and rapid quantification of spot density in the IDEXX SNAP® test for screening for diseases.

“I really feel like I’m making a difference,” says Servetas of the project. “If the work I do relieves pet owner of the burden, we’re making a difference.”

Tony DiMarco, vice president for research and development at IDEXX, says working with UMaine students in co-ops and on capstone projects is enjoyable. “The students are fantastic — they jump headlong into projects and thrive on working through complex design problems, using a systematic approach that reveals their intense training. It allows us to get a head start on new projects, or explore some new areas that we might not otherwise work on,” he says.

A third bioengineering team was asked by Jackson Laboratory to develop a device to keep mice warm during embryo transplant surgery, thereby improving the success rates.

The next project in the course will send the students to Dirigo Pines in Orono, where they will be working with the residents and staff to identify problems that can be addressed with engineering solutions.

Majoring in bioengineering at UMaine means majoring in problem-solving, says Coady Richardson of Madison, Maine. “I’ve always liked puzzles and solving problems. (Bioengineering) is the most challenging program on campus,” says Richardson, adding that working with Jackson Lab mentors has taught him how to effectively communicate about research.

Having a well-rounded “toolbox” of problem-solving and communication skills with which to address bioengineering challenges is a true boon, according to the students.

“We learn to be professionals,” says Haylea Ledoux of Bedford, N.H. While communicating in different “engineering languages” is important, being able to learn in different styles has made the most difference, she says.

“It’s a big test for us to prove to ourselves that we have the knowledge and are capable of doing this,” says Ledoux.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

Workshop Introduces Systematic Approach to Innovation

The University of Maine Foster Center for Student Innovation will offer a workshop Friday, April 11, for businesses and community members to learn a systematic approach to innovation. The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the UMaine Hutchinson Center in Belfast.

Participants will learn about the Innovation Engineering (IE) system, which includes tools and methods for creating, communicating and commercializing meaningfully unique ideas. IE addresses the biggest threats to innovations at the beginning of the process, thereby speeding up innovation while decreasing risk.

This is a Blackstone Accelerates Growth-sponsored event. Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) is developing innovation hubs in various regions of the state. Entrepreneurs leading startup and existing companies become part of a network to learn from each other and to cost-effectively access entrepreneurial support resources. The workshop costs $149 for business and community members. Lunch is included. Full scholarships are available for growth-oriented, for-profit companies. To learn more and to register, visit the Foster Center’s website.

Foster Center for Student Innovation Hosting Big Gig Finale April 8

The University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation is hosting the Big Gig finale from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8. Finalists from the last three Big Gig pitch-off events will compete for a $1,000 grand prize sponsored by University Credit Union.

The winner will be chosen by audience vote. Admission is free, but online registration is requested. Food and a cash bar will be available.

Finalists are John and Christine Carney of Thick & Thin Designs; Bruce and Kathy Chamberlain of Stone Fox Farm Creamery; and Jessica Jewell of Northern Maine Distilling Co.

The Big Gig is a series of business pitch events for entrepreneurs in Greater Bangor designed to bring together Bangor-Orono area innovators and entrepreneurs and offer networking opportunities. It was started by a partnership between UMaine, Old Town, Orono and Husson University and is supported by Blackstone Accelerates Growth. More information about Big Gig is online.

UMaine Environmental Horticulture Students Can Now Earn Degree in Turfgrass Science and Management

During their senior year, University of Maine students majoring in environmental horticulture can now earn an associate of science degree in turfgrass science and management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Under a new agreement, qualified students in the Environmental Horticulture Program at the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture will spend their senior year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture pursuing a concentration in turfgrass science and management.

In the Stockbridge School program, students study topics that include turfgrass management, pest and weed management, plant nutrients and equipment maintenance to prepare them for careers in turfgrass management with golf courses, athletic facilities, lawn care and park maintenance industries, according to the Stockbridge School of Agriculture website.

UMaine students will be accepted to the Stockbridge School after completing the first three years of their degree and maintaining at least a 2.5 cumulative grade point average. Credits earned at the Stockbridge School toward the associate of science degree will also count for the completion of the bachelor’s degree at UMaine.

“Our faculty look forward to offering more diverse academic options to environmental horticulture students through this agreement with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture,” says Stephanie Burnett, UMaine associate professor of horticulture who, along with professor emeritus William Mitchell, spearheaded the agreement. “These students will be highly competitive in the job market with both a bachelor’s degree in environmental horticulture from UMaine and an associate degree in turfgrass management from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

Conference Focuses on ‘Living With Acquired Brain Injury’

“Living with Acquired Brain Injury” offering the latest information on research, innovation and services is the focus of a daylong conference Friday, March 28 at the University of Maine.

The free public conference, 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m. in Wells Conference Center, is offered through a community-university partnership by UMaine and the Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Council of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. Lunch and refreshments will be included.

Topics will include categories of acquired brain injuries, associated health conditions, environmental risks for traumatic brain injury in children and older adults, and new technology for detection and treatment.

For more information, or to request a disability accommodation, contact UMaine professor Marie Hayes, 207.581.2039. To preregister, contact Lewis Lamont, Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Council, llamont4@roadrunner.com.

A conference brochure and more information about the presenters are online. CME and CEU credits are available.

Target Technology Incubator Earns Excellence Award

The New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) honored the University of Maine Target Technology Incubator at the 12th annual New England Higher Education Excellence Awards celebration March 7 at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel.

More than 400 people attended the event, including leaders of education, business and government from across the six New England states.

Located in the Target Technology Center in Orono, Maine, the Target Technology Incubator received NEBHE’s 2014 Maine State Merit Award. Target Technology Incubator is a partnership of the University of Maine, Bangor Area Target Development Corporation, the town of Orono, and the state of Maine. The incubator provides scalable innovation-based companies with access to resources they need to grow and attain long-term success within an environment that fosters businesses development, commercialization and successful management practices.

In the past year, which was marked by slow job recovery in the employment market, the incubator’s tenants and its affiliates created more than 15 new jobs.

“The connection between universities and technology development is a hallmark of New England’s economy,” said NEBHE President and CEO Michael Thomas. “Incubators like this one allow a great idea to become a real value-producing company.”

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745;

Digital Journalism Class, BDN Collaborate on Bangor 2020 Project

The future of Bangor, Maine, is the focus of a multimedia project that pairs University of Maine journalism students with mentors at the Bangor Daily News (BDN).

UMaine professor Jennifer Moore is leading CMJ 481: Digital Journalism students in the project called Bangor 2020. The journalism juniors and seniors are conducting research, doing journalistic fieldwork and producing news packages using a variety of technologies for the online, multimedia project in partnership with the BDN.

The goal of the course is to create a discussion about the future development of the Greater Bangor Area. The class is about providing students with a learning environment both in and out of the classroom, and experience working on a project that can significantly add to their professional portfolio and make them competitive on the job market.

The theme of the project is “livable cities,” a term associated with promoting economic growth while maintaining sustainable living environments.

“Students will gain valuable, hands-on experience reporting on important issues facing Bangor,” Moore says. “We’re focusing reporting and production in a ‘digital-first’ mindset that’s so important for anyone who wants to enter the world of professional journalism.

“Working this closely with mentors at the BDN — in a collaborative learning environment — is new in CMJ curriculum, and we hope to continue this relationship in future classes.”

Anthony Ronzio, BDN director of news and audience, says the course will “challenge the students into conceptualizing, analyzing and, ultimately, storytelling an issue of great local importance, with advice and guidance from professionals along the way. The final product would be of high enough quality to publish in the BDN.”

At the end of the semester, students also will give a public presentation to showcase their work.

“This project requires curiosity and hones the information-gathering skills that you need to satiate that curiosity. It also gives you, as a student journalist, a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the different ways to tell a story while sharpening the basic journalistic skills we’ve developed in our other courses,” says Jonathan Ouellette, a senior in the class.

Ronzio says UMaine’s journalism department and the BDN can learn from each other. “By working together, we can make a brighter future for UMaine journalism students and help the BDN adapt to the new journalism that must be done in the 21st century,” he says.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

UMaine Earns Gold

The University of Maine, one of four recipients of the 2014 Gold Star Standards of Excellence awards from the Maine Tobacco-Free College Network, will be recognized at a ceremony March 19 in Bangor. Following the ceremony, a peer-to-peer tobacco-free college workshop will focus on successes and challenges of adopting, implementing and enforcing tobacco-free campus policies.

From Recipe to Market: Learn to Cash in on Opportunities

University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a six-session course that covers moving a specialty food product to market.

The class, which meets 5:30–9 p.m. each Tuesday, April 8–29, will be held in two locations — 7 County Drive, Skowhegan, and 165 East Main St., Dover-Foxcroft. Two May class sessions will include individual business consultations and a tour of the Dr. Matthew Highlands Pilot Plant, a state-of-the-art UMaine facility that assists food processors, entrepreneurs, farmers, researchers and students in the food industry.

Topics to be covered include licensing, safe preparation and packaging of food, assessing potential profits and locating resources to support a developing business. The class is for people operating a value-added business and those seriously considering one; participants must have a specific food product or recipe in mind and are expected to attend all sessions. Presenters include: Beth Calder, UMaine Extension food science specialist; James McConnon, UMaine Extension business and economics specialist; and Kathy Hopkins, Debra Kantor and Donna Coffin, UMaine Extension educators.

Cost is $35 per person. Partial scholarships are available. Registrations must be received by April 1 to reserve a space. More information, including online registration is online. For questions, or to request a disability accommodation at the Skowhegan site, call 207.474.9622 or email tammy.bodge@maine.edu. For questions, or to request a disability accommodation at the Dover-Foxcroft site, call 207.564.3301 or email amanda.miles@maine.edu.

UMaine Grad Student Develops an App for Measuring Water Quality

A new app developed by a University of Maine graduate student allows iPhone users to take water quality measurements.

“The end result we want is to crowdsource water quality data,” says the 23-year-old oceanography student from Lincoln, Vt.

As part of his master’s thesis, Thomas Leeuw developed HydroColor, an app that uses three photos to measure the reflectance of natural water bodies. Based on the reflectance values, the turbidity or level of suspended sediment in a given water body can be measured.

“What we’re measuring is the reflectance of the water and the particles inside it,” Leeuw says. “To make reflectance measurements, oceanographers use precision instruments called radiometers. HydroColor is taking what a lot of ocean scientists do with radiometers and satellites, and applying it to an iPhone camera.”

The process requires three photographs, beginning with a photographer’s gray card, which calibrates the app based on how much ambient illumination is present. Gray cards reflect 18 percent of the light in the area, giving the app an initial reading of how much light is entering the water.

Next, the app directs the user to take a photograph of the sky. The app uses this image to control for the amount of light from the sky that is being reflected by the surface of the water. Surface reflection — such as the blue color seen when looking at a body of water on a clear day — offers no information about the turbidity of the water because it is light reflected by the surface of the water, not reflected from particles suspended in it.

The final photograph taken is of the water itself, which the app evaluates after controlling for surface reflection. The magnitude of reflected light in the red portion of the visible spectrum can be used to assess turbidity.

The reflected light can also offer information about the type of particles in the water.

“Turbidity actually is a measure of sidescattering, but you can use it to estimate the concentration of particles, in grams per meter cubed, so we’re able to convert turbidity to physical values,” Leeuw says.

In addition, the makeup of particles can be inferred based on the color of light reflected. Organic particles typically contain pigments that absorb light only in certain regions of the visible spectrum. This will cause the reflectance signal to vary across the visible spectrum. Inorganic particles do not contain pigments and their reflectance signature does not vary greatly across the visible spectrum.

By aggregating data from many people over large spatial and temporal scales, HydroColor can determine the typical turbidity or chlorophyll values for different environments. The interactive online database can then be used by laypeople or lake association officials to help monitor for changes, such as increased occurrence of algal blooms or erosion leading to higher suspended sediment.

Turbidity is one of many parameters for measuring water quality. Chlorophyll, for instance, reflects mostly green light and can offer a measure of the amount of algal particles in the water body. Using the different reflectance characteristics, Leeuw says HydroColor could be expanded to offer a more comprehensive readout of water quality measurements.

Leeuw next hopes to find an online host for user-gathered water quality data. “Eventually we’re going to have a button in the app so after you take a measurement, you can upload it to an online database,” he says. “The idea is that the database is open to everyone, it is a place where people can look at and compare measurements from all over the world.”

Understanding how water quality parameters like turbidity change over time is critical for scientists in many fields, Leeuw says. “One turbidity level is not necessarily better than another. We’re just very interested in fluctuations. It’s a tool for looking at changes in the environment.”

Leeuw hopes HydroColor will also provide an inexpensive, accessible learning tool for science classrooms. Compared to a professional radiometer, which can be cost-prohibitive for most classrooms, iPhones are becoming ubiquitous among students, and gray cards generally cost less than $5.

“It’s an extremely cheap lesson using a lot of technology. You can not only use it to learn about environmental science, but optics, technology and app development,” Leeuw says. “Right now, it is only for iPhone, but we’re thinking about hiring a developer to convert it to Android as well.”

Although he had experience programming before turning to app development, Leeuw had to teach himself Objective-C, the language used for the iOS platform. But developing HydroColor demanded more than learning a new programming language. The project has been in progress for about two years, a time span that has allowed Leeuw and his adviser, UMaine professor Emmanuel Boss, to gather hundreds of photos while on other excursions.

“We’d always be doing our other research, but then we’d run over and snap a few pictures to continue with development,” Leeuw says. “We used (research) trips of opportunity — anywhere we’d go, we’d make sure to grab some data.”

Those “trips of opportunity” have allowed Leeuw to aggregate images from all over the coast of Maine, Georgia and Washington, and many locations in the Arctic. Leeuw sailed to the Arctic with Boss as part of a project to study Arctic phytoplankton.

Now that HydroColor is available in the Apple app store, Leeuw’s goal is in sight. He presented his app to the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu in February and hopes to publish the project in a journal.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745


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UMaine News
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
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