Selected Speeches

MPowering the State Testimony

Feb. 21, 2019
MPowering the State Testimony

On March 1, it’ll be seven years since our two universities first joined together in a formal partnership. MPowering the State, established in 2012, set the stage for the even stronger alliance that would follow with the Strategic Partnership Act of 2016.

This partnership has been the driver of our connections and collaborations. And as the program matures, we see more and broader possibilities for our work together—possibilities for students and faculty, for research and commercialization, for strengthening Maryland’s reputation and invigorating its economy.

Another thing we’ve seen, as this program matures, is an amazing amount of cross-over,  between people, programs, and research. And that crossover strengthens the partnership even more. We’ve found this is especially true in MPower’s UM Scholars Program and other cross-university exchanges where students from one campus participate in research at the other. Students who do this exchange often end up in MPower projects.

We have UM Scholars at the SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors and in our pain management clinic. Bioengineering students from College Park come to Baltimore to work with our surgeons, who show them the medical devices they have—and what they actually need. One of our nursing students with training in addiction began working with College Park’s Center for Substance Abuse Research. One of College Park’s agriculture students was linked up with our Carey law school through the Ag Law initiative and is now weighing law school admission offers—including one from us.

These students—and a half-dozen more—are presenting at MPower Day next week, Feb. 28. If you want a first-hand look at the incredible impact of this partnership, I urge you to swing by. We’ll have posters and displays and lightening round presentations by the students, and you can pop in and out as your schedule allows. I know the legislators & staffers who dropped by last year came away with a better understanding of how this partnership is growing and deepening, and the impact it’s having in Maryland.

MPower has tremendous breadth—more than we initially conceived. We’re operating in all these different spaces that capitalize on our collective strengths—from high touch to high tech. We’re having an impact from the molecular level to the very human level—human trafficking, community policing, toxic stress among city schoolchildren.

And last fiscal year, we created & funded 11 new programs and centers, effectively doubling our collaborations. We got funding for our two centers in innovation and entrepreneurship—the Center for Maryland Advanced Ventures at UMB and the University of Maryland Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Development at College Park. In my earlier testimony, I spoke about the huge commercialization successes CMAV has already racked up. The return on the state’s investment with these two centers alone could be staggering.

We’ve added a research center in cochlear implants. We’re developing a Health Informatics and Data Science program for undergraduates. We have the Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices now operating at both universities to bring together—in a real way—engineering design and medical application.

We have the Maryland Blended Reality Center playing such a huge role in our research on opioids and pain management. This cross-over—between medicine and virtual & augmented reality—has been fascinating to watch. I actually went to Dr. Luana Colloca’s lab at UMB and took part in one of her experiments, where she put me into a virtual reality environment and then measured my response to pain. Earlier in my career as a physician, I’d never have believed what we could do with technology, and where we still might go.

This fiscal year, we received funding for the Maryland Center for Advanced Molecular Analysis at our Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research in Montgomery County. We partner in IBBR with the National Institute of Standards & Technology. We’re using the money to buy sophisticated cryo-electron microscopes, a breakthrough tool for understanding and treating disease. It gives us the chance to look at proteins in a way we couldn’t before, and it’s critical to developing new drugs & medical treatments.

Our new additions emphasize BIG IDEA research responding to important, compelling needs in science and in Maryland. But they also emphasize academic opportunities for students—and, this is important, they emphasize sustainability beyond initial funding.

MPower is meant to be seed funding. It provides the start for projects that can grow and expand. Many of our collaborations that have their roots in MPower are growing beyond it, and that’s because we’re funding teams that have the highest potential to benefit the state.

For instance, the SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors has gotten grants from the Department of Justice, from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, from Prince George’s County. The Maryland Blended Reality Center was awarded more than $1 million in external grants last fiscal year. Our Center for Health-related Informatics and Bioimaging links our computer science, engineering & medical expertise—and has brought in tens of millions of dollars to both universities.

MPower has always been about strength in collaboration, because we fund the projects that would be difficult—or impossible—to pull off if not for the engagement of both universities. These are traditional and non-traditional collaborations—among engineers, biomedical researchers, computer scientists, physicians, educators, lawyers, social workers, journalists, public health experts, and students.

This is how we’ll answer the questions we couldn’t answer until now. This is how we’ll move forward.

Thank you.


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