Shain-Dow Kung’s years at UMBC, 1974-1986, were distinguished by his tenure in the Department of Biological Sciences and his research into the enzyme RuDP (ribulose), one of the most abundant on earth. He studied the genetics and structure of the enzyme as well as ways to adjust the activity of the enzyme to control photosynthesis in various kinds of plant leaves including those from tobacco plants. The student shown in the photograph is doing a preparation from tobacco leaves. Kung was born in China, received his undergraduate education in Taiwan, and was awarded his doctorate in Canada at University of Toronto. He became a full professor at UMBC before accepting a position in the Botany Department at University of Maryland, College Park. He later moved into administrative positions in the U.S. and China.
UMBC’s earliest access to mainframe computing was through telephone connections to a Univac computer at University of Maryland, College Park. In 1981, UMBC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Walter Jones was presented with an opportunity to acquire a Control Data mainframe computer system called “Cyber.” UMBC did not have the $3 million price of the system, and Jones did not expect the state government to pay for the system without incentive to do so. He arranged to rent the computer to diverse clients including the Baltimore City Public Schools to help gain the funds for the computer. By 1985, a new VAX computer was acquired to replace the Cyber. As computers became central to the campus for many purposes, a computer center was established on the third floor of the Social Sciences Building, and this document was produced to publicize the available computing services.
The Maryland State Board of Higher Education approved engineering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs at UMBC in 1984, though not without heated competition from Morgan State University. Previously, pre-engineering classes were offered at UMBC, but students had to transfer to University of Maryland, College Park to complete their degrees. Both Morgan and UMBC desired an engineering program, but ultimately, the decision was made that each school would receive half of a full engineering program; electrical, civil, and industrial engineering were given to Morgan and chemical, biological, and mechanical engineering programs were given to UMBC. The first UMBC class of engineers in 1986 were awarded eight bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree. Engineering student organizations ASME, AIChE and the Council of Majors were also established that in 1986. Dr. Severino Koh was a founder of the program and served as associate dean of the College of Engineering until 1991, and he taught as a mechanical engineering professor until he retired in 2002.
In Spring 1994, Academic Computing Services offered classes for UMBC faculty and staff, including an introductory class about the Internet and how to use word processors and spreadsheets. The classes were co-sponsored by Continuing Education.
In 1995, UMBC entered a cooperative agreement with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and formed a multidisciplinary program called the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET). Through this agreement, JCET faculty members held joint appointments with Goddard and UMBC, conducted original research, and also taught UMBC courses.
In 1994, UMBC was awarded a teaching grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The funding was directed towards the HHMI Scholars Program, an educational program that works with students from diverse backgrounds. Dr. Michael Summers was named an HHMI investigator in 1994, and his groundbreaking research at UMBC has focused on HIV-1, the retrovirus that causes AIDS, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, a technique for learning more about the molecular components of the HIV-1 retrovirus. Dr. Summers has also been an active teacher and supporter of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, including working to assist other universities to duplicate the success of the program at UMBC. In 2003, he spoke with pride for the work at UMBC: "While I’m very proud of our research, it may be that in the end what I do with minority students is more important than what I do in the lab. I never thought I would be involved in a social movement like this."
In 2000, UMBC received its largest research contract in the university’s history when it was selected to lead a group of universities and private sector companies in a $70 million, five-year cooperative agreement with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to develop the Goddard Earth Science and Technology (GEST) Center. The team included Howard University, Hampton University, Northrop Grumman, and Caelum Research Corporation. The agreement developed collaborative research programs in Earth science and a working relationship between government, university, and private industry. A renewal of the GEST agreement in 2005 brought the total contract amount to $140 million, but the agreement ended in 2011 when the contract was awarded to the University Space Research Association. The resulting Goddard Earth Science Technology and Research (GESTAR) Center is located in Greenbelt, MD.