UMD Researchers Fearlessly Pursue Solutions in Health, Security, Energy, and More

UMD Researchers Fearlessly Pursue Solutions in Health, Security, Energy, and More

The year 2017 marked yet another exciting period of innovation and growth for the University of Maryland (UMD) research community, with over 170 inventions disclosed and 52 patented, 46 technologies licensed, and the receipt of the largest investment in UMD history in total of $219.5 million from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation. Researchers broke barriers in fields related to agriculture, information management, biotechnology, and energy, making discoveries and inventing technologies that have the potential to make positive impacts on the planet and on people’s lives around the globe.

Each year, UMD honors exceptional inventions that have the potential to influence science, society, and the free market. A total of nine Invention of the Year award nominees have been named across three categories: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Information Sciences. One invention from each category will be selected to win the Invention of the Year Award, to be celebrated at the 2018 Innovate Maryland, UMD’s annual celebration of research and innovation, on April 11, 2018.

The nominees were selected from the vast number of inventions disclosed by UMD researchers in 2017.

The nominees in the Physical Sciences category are:

Integrated Power Electronics Interface for Enhanced Electric Vehicle Charging

Hybrid and all-electric vehicles are steadily gaining popularity, but their charging systems are not yet sophisticated enough for widespread adoption. Hybrid and electric vehicles currently have two separate chargers: one for the engine and one for onboard infotainment systems. However, UMD researchers have invented a new interface that simplifies the circuitry in electric vehicles and allows the entire vehicle to be charged through a single charger. The system additionally is simple enough that it can be incorporated into many vehicle makes and models, and it even allows the car battery to be used as a power source in the event of a power outage. 

The invention team includes researchers from the A. James Clark School of Engineering:

  • Alireza Khaligh, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Systems Research (ISR)

  • Jiangheng Lu, Ph.D. Student, ISR

  • Ayan Mallik, Ph.D. Student, ISR

Cost Effective Brillouin Scattering Retrofit for Confocal Microscopes

The prominent role of a cell’s mechanical properties in cell functioning has gained increasing recognition over the past two decades. One of the best methods for measuring the elasticity of a cell is called Brillouin microscopy, which sends light toward cells and measures the changes in wavelengths once the light scatters. UMD researchers have developed a new method of combining Brillouin scattering measurements with fluorescence microscopy, to obtain even more accurate results.

The invention team includes:

  • Giuliano Scarcelli, Assistant Professor, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

  • Jitao Zhang, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

  • Milos Nikolic, Ph.D. Student, Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST), College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

Improved Wetland Soil Assessment Utilizing Oxide-Coated Plastic Films

A UMD researcher has invented a new method for measuring the quality of wetland soils which is easier to use, more accurate, and more environmentally friendly than the current method. Wetland soil is currently tested by pushing a plastic tube coated in a special oxide paint that changes color based on the quality of the soil into the ground, then analyzing the soil based on the paint color. However, the tubes are not reusable, the paint is not durable, and obtaining a 2D image from the surface of the tube is difficult. The new method eliminates these problems by using reusable plastic tubes to insert oxide-coated plastic films into the ground for analysis.

The inventor of this technology is:

  • Martin Rabenhorst, Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The nominees in the Life Sciences category are:

Flexible Urinary Catheter Inserts to Detect and Prevent Bacterial Infections

Catheters are often used to help drain urine from the body in patients suffering from a variety of illnesses. However, bacterial biofilm often forms on the surface of catheters, infecting the body. These bacterial biofilms can sometimes be difficult to treat, but UMD researchers have invented a method to delay or even prevent the biofilms from forming, detect the formation of bacterial biofilms, and alert physicians that the biofilm has formed, allowing for real-time monitoring and prompt intervention.

The invention team includes researchers from the A. James Clark School of Engineering:

  • Ryan Huiszoon, Ph.D. Student, Fischell Department of Bioengineering and Institute for Systems Research (ISR)

  • Pradeep Rajasekaran, Post-Doctoral Researcher, ISR

  • Reza Ghodssi, Herbert Rabin Distinguished Chair in Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and ISR

Transformational Electronic Tool for Chemical Analysis: Oxidative Stress Detection

Oxidative stress is long-term damage to cells which can lead to chronic conditions such as schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. A fast and safe method of measuring oxidative stress combined with other health markers could potentially lead to early detection of such diseases, but, unfortunately, no such test currently exists. However, researchers at UMD have invented a disruptive technology that uses iridium reducing salt and spectrographs to measure oxidative stress cheaply, quickly, and reliably.

The invention team includes:

  • Gregory Payne, Professor, Institute for Bioscience & Biotechnology Research (IBBR) and Fischell Department of Bioengineering

  • Mijeong Kang, Post-Doctoral Associate, IBBR

  • Eunkyoung Kim, Research Associate, IBBR

  • Deanna Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry, Affiliate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Science, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore

Multicompartment Capsules Enabling Targeted and Programmable Multi-Drug Delivery

UMD researchers have invented a multi-compartment capsule system that mimics biological cells. Each capsule is capable of delivering a different payload, which makes them ideal for targeted drug delivery, drug abuse deterrence, and advanced materials synthesis.

The invention team includes researchers at the A. James Clark School of Engineering:  

  • Hyuntaek Oh (Ph.D. ’14), Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

  • Srinivasa Raghavan, Patrick and Marguerite Sung Professor of Chemical Engineering

The nominees in the Information Sciences category are:

Global Terrorism Database

As terror attacks have become more commonplace in the 20th century, researchers have attempted to create databases compiling information about the attacks for study, unsuccessful until now. However, a team of UMD researchers has created the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), an open-source database that records the date and location of terrorist attacks around the globe, the weapons used and the kind of target, the number of casualties, and the group or individual responsible. This information has been used by academics, lawmakers, and law enforcement to make the world safer.

The invention team includes researchers from the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences:

  • Gary LaFree, Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)

  • Erin Miller, GTD Program Manager, Researcher, START

  • Laura Dugan, Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Discriminative Facial Verification Software

Facial recognition software has developed rapidly since its inception, but many improvements still need to be made before it reaches maximum accuracy. UMD researchers have invented a method of adding additional constraints to existing facial recognition software, increasing the number of accurate positive matches while reducing the number of false matches.

The invention team includes:

  • Rajeev Ranjan, Graduate Student, Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

  • Carlos Castillo, Assistant Research Scientist, UMIACS, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

  • Ramalingam Chellappa, Minta Martin Professor of Engineering and Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Market Exchanges with Continuous Scaled Limit Orders

In the past decade, High Frequency Traders (HFTs) have come to dominate the stock market with technology and advanced algorithms that allow them to complete trades within milliseconds, putting traders without this technology at a serious disadvantage. However, researchers from UMD and Washington University in St. Louis have invented a new market limit order and exchange design that brings parity to the market by limiting the speed and size of orders.


  • Albert “Pete” Kyle, Charles E. Smith Chair Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business

  • Jeongmin Lee, (Ph.D. ’14), Assistant Professor of Finance, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis; former graduate student, Robert H. Smith School of Business

March 6, 2018

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