Briefcase Departments

Briefcase

UMass President Awards $750,000 for Innovative Faculty Research
BOSTON — UMass President Robert Caret recently announced nearly $750,000 in grants to faculty members from the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund to support six promising research projects, which range from creating standards for testing robotic systems to detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data to developing new skin-cancer imaging technologies. The initiatives showcase a range of innovative research being undertaken by UMass faculty members that contribute to the growth of the Commonwealth’s economy, especially in the science and technology sectors, and extend the boundaries of human knowledge. The grants provide seed funding to accelerate research activity across all five campuses and position researchers to attract larger investments from external sources to expand the scope of their projects. “The Science & Technology fund advances the work of producing the discoveries and technological breakthroughs that will improve lives, create jobs, and preserve our planet,” said Caret. “It supports the ideas and inventiveness of our faculty and fosters a culture of collaboration across all five campuses that attracts investments and underscores our role as an innovation engine for the Commonwealth.” This marks the ninth year the President’s Science and Technology Initiatives Fund awards have been handed out. It’s one of three funds that President Caret taps to help advance the work of UMass faculty members: the other two are the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property Technology Development Fund and the Creative Economy Initiatives Fund. Since 2004, the Science & Technology Fund has provided $7.5 million to UMass researchers, which, in turn, has generated $207 million in funding from outside sources for vital research efforts and led to the creation of nearly 20 research centers on the five campuses. UMass’s annual research expenditures climbed to $587 million in fiscal year 2011; that same year the university generated income of $36.5 million from faculty discovery and innovation. To date, the President’s Science & Technology Fund has financed more than 60 projects representing the breadth of academic inquiry at UMass. Locally, a grant project at UMass Amherst called ‘Big Data Informatics Initiative (BDI2)’ focuses on areas such as detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data, correlating video/audio surveillance data to spot trends or anomalies in real time, and smart-meter data processing by energy utilities. Collaborators include the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Holyoke Gas & Electric, MIT, and commercial partners such as EMC, Nokia, GE Global Research, and Yahoo Research. The total awarded was $136,250.

MCDI Transitions to Family Self-sufficiency Focus
SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Career Development Institute Inc. recently announced a transition in its core services that will increasingly revolve the agency around family self-sufficiency initiatives and de-emphasize some workplace-training programs, many of which are now being undertaken at the community-college and vocational-secondary-school level. The move will have the immediate impact of downsizing the organization by 15% of its current workforce. The agency will also plan to relocate to a smaller, more efficient training and educational facility within Springfield as it transitions to a more appropriate operating model, according to Timothy Sneed, executive director of MCDI. The new emphasis at MCDI will be on career counseling and training tracks that are in high demand, eliminating those that are being shifted to other training sources. However, MCDI will continue its vocational training programs that address the growing employer demand in health care through its Certified Nurse Aide/Home Health Aide and Medical Office Professional training programs. Sneed said he anticipates an opportunity for MCDI to grow into other health-related training programs based on employers’ needs. Sneed indicated that, in an effort to focus on program strengths, MCDI is evolving into an agency that supports “family self-sufficiency” and will provide a host of direct and indirect resources in support of the family. “There has been a shift in the funding landscape with respect to vocational training, and most federal and state dollars are targeted at funding community colleges and technical-high-school programs,” said Sneed. “So, in many areas MCDI has been duplicating services with more training funding going to the community colleges and vocational programs at the secondary-school level. We will continue to provide multiple levels of adult basic education and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) together with career and academic advising. Our support-services strategy will include job-readiness and life-skills training, which is so critical in today’s job market. We will temporarily discontinue our trade programs in culinary arts, precision-manufacturing technology, and sheet-metal welding and fabrication.” He continued, “while this reorganization is difficult, we see this as an opportunity to strengthen our core training programs with a vision of future expansion opportunities. The impact upon a portion of our workforce is truly unfortunate. At the same time, our management and board of directors see this as a positive step in the long-term viability of MCDI and, most importantly, those we serve in our community.”

GSCVB Unveils 2012-13 Pioneer Valley Visitor Guide
SPRINGFIELD — The Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (GSCVB) has unveiled the new 2012-2013 Guide to Masachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, which is now available by ordering online at www.valleyvisitor.com. The guide is free of charge and is a collaboration between the GSCVB and the Franklin and Hampshire County Regional Tourist Councils. The guide, a 112-page publication, contains information about some of the region’s top attractions, accommodations, and restaurants. The book offers new features, including a listing of farmers’ markets and expanded listings of attractions, accommodations, restaurants, shopping, transportation, recreational sites, colleges, and prep schools.

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