|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
The Engineer / 23 February 2011
UK and Russian bodies study fluid behaviour in microgravity
Великобритания и Россия подписали соглашение о космических исследованиях. Ряд экспериментов будет осуществлен в рамках "Британо-российского года космоса-2011". Например, Кингстонский университет и Российское федеральное космическое агентство (Роскосмос) изучат свойства жидкостей в микрогравитации. Университетский колледж Лондона и Институт медико-биологических проблем (ГНЦ РФ ИМБП РАН) проведут психологическое исследование поведения экипажа в космосе.
Kingston University and the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos are to conduct studies into how fluids behave in microgravity.
The work is part of a wider collaboration on space science research between the two countries this year.
It also sees University College London and Russia's Institute of Medical and Biological Problems study crew behaviour in space.
Speaking from Moscow, David Willetts, minister for universities and science, said: "We need to continue to share this knowledge and expertise, and the UK-Russia Year of Space 2011 is an opportunity to do that. I hope this partnership will lead to groundbreaking work."
As part of the venture "Space Science Cafes" will be organised, allowing UK and Russian space scientists to share knowledge, and discuss future projects.
Joint research will also be done on board the International Space Station.
The alliance also aims to focus on life sciences, physics, climate science, energy efficiency and nanotechnology.
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Russia-IC / March 4, 2011
Semiconductors from Alcohol - Only in Russia
Ученые Института химии твёрдого тела и механохимии СО РАН предложили простой метод подготовки сырья для изготовления электропроводящих полимеров. Добавление насыщенного водного раствора мочевины в раствор поливинилового спирта приводит к образованию волокон. После выдерживания и просушивания полученный материал можно использовать для синтеза волокон органического полупроводника полиацетилена. Такой полимер сочетает способность проводить электрический ток с механическими свойствами пластмасс, поэтому одна из наиболее перспективных областей его применения - создание гибких дисплеев.
Russian researchers have developed a simple technique for raw material preparation in order to produce electrically conducting polymers. These polymers are an essential part of flexible displays, another technological breakthrough.
Scientists from Novosibirsk (the Institute of Solid Body Chemistry and Mechanical Chemistry of Siberian branch of Russian academy of sciences) have found out that adding saturated aquatic solution of urea to alcohol promoted alcohol molecules to form fibers. When heated, mentioned mixture can turn into an organic semiconductor, called polyacetylene.
Electrically conducting polymers are of interest to researchers because of a number of unique properties. These polymers, unlike standard conductors and semiconductors, combine ability to conduct electric current with standard mechanical properties of plastic materials. Moreover, production of electrically conducting polymers is often reasonably cheap. A good example of promising applications of electrically conducting polymers is making flexible displays.
In standard state molecules of a polymer look like a ball of threads, tangled by a cat, and are not very good at conducting electricity. In order to make electron transfer between polymer molecules much more effective, one has to promote formation of intermolecular aggregates from straightened polymer chains. A Russian think-tank suggests using a common and cheap chemical compound - urea or carbamide or carbonic acid diamide - for this purpose.
Scientists mixed a saturated aqueous solution of urea with 10%-solution of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and let the mixture stand at room temperature for several days - not a complicated technological process at all. After incubation the solution was full of fibers, some of which were one centimeter long.
The effect urea had on formation of ordered structures from polyvinyl alcohol was studied by means of transmission electron microscopy. A net was put in a solution with low polyvinyl alcohol content, and then it was used as a substrate for a polymer material. Later on urea molecules were removed from a sample surface, and a net, covered with polyvinyl alcohol, was transferred to a transmission electron microscope chamber. Images, taken by means of the microscope, clearly demonstrate distinctive bands, indicating presence of filamentous formations.
Interactions between urea molecules and polyvinyl alcohol molecules were also confirmed by means of infrared spectroscopy and Raman scattering spectroscopy, which indicates that the process really happens. Urea molecules, when added to polyvinyl alcohol solution, apparently enable formation of specific filamentous aggregates and fill gaps between these aggregates as well. According to the Russian researchers, this filamentous material can be dried and used for synthesizing fibers of an organic semiconducting material - polyacetylene.
You can read more on the subject in the recent paper of the Russian chemists, published in the Russian-language science journal "Solid body physics".
© Guarant-InfoCentre, 2004-2010.
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The Washington Post / Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Should last remaining known smallpox virus die?
Некоторые специалисты по инфекционным заболеваниям и эксперты по национальной безопасности настаивают на уничтожении вируса оспы, хранящегося в двух правительственных лабораториях в США и в России. Однако правительства двух стран утверждают, что ученым нужен живой вирус для создания более качественной вакцины и завершения разработки способов лечения на случай, если микроорганизм по какой-то причине вновь окажется на свободе.
Окончательно вопрос должен быть решен в мае, на очередной сессии Всемирной ассамблеи здравоохранения.
More than three decades after smallpox was eradicated, an international struggle has reemerged with new intensity about whether to destroy the only known specimens of the virus that causes one of humanity's worst scourges.
Some public health authorities, infectious-disease specialists and national security experts say the time has come to autoclave hundreds of vials of the pathogen held in two high-security government labs in the United States and Russia.
"We feel the world would be safer without having these stocks in existence. Why risk it escaping and resurging again?" said Lim Li Ching, a researcher at Third World Network, an international research and advocacy group based in Malaysia.
But the U.S. and Russian governments, which have repeatedly delayed incinerating the samples, are fighting for another stay of execution. Scientists need the living virus, they say, to make a better vaccine and finish developing the first treatments in case the deadly microbe is unleashed again - by accident, by a bioterrorist or by re-creating it from the computerized records of its DNA sequences.
"We still have work to do to protect the public," said Ali Khan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which guards one of the collections containing about 450 strains.
The debate will culminate in May, when the World Health Assembly, which governs the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), will vote whether to condemn the virus to extinction.
Smallpox is caused by the variola virus. Victims suffer high fevers, wracking headaches and body pain, pus-filled skin ulcers, vomiting and bleeding. About one-third die. There is no approved treatment.
A WHO-sponsored campaign pushed the virus back to a single last natural case, which occurred in Somalia in 1977. The World Health Assembly officially declared smallpox eradicated in 1980.
Every laboratory except one in the United States and one in Russia subsequently agreed to destroy any samples they had, and the WHO set a deadline in 1990 for getting rid of the last two by 1993. But the United States balked in 1994 after revelations emerged that the former Soviet Union had worked to develop smallpox as a biological weapon. Since then, the United States and Russia have repeatedly postponed, citing concerns that others might be hiding the virus and the imperative to conduct more research.
Because of the successful eradication program, vaccination initiatives stopped worldwide, leaving most defenseless against the disease. In the United States, anyone born after 1967 is vulnerable.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the United States stockpiled enough vaccine to inoculate every American against smallpox. But AIDS patients, transplant recipients and others with weak immune systems cannot use it safely. Two new drugs appear to be effective but have not undergone sufficient testing to win Food and Drug Administration approval.
"We better have the countermeasures available to deter any attacks so the bad guys, whoever they might be, know we could defend well against a very deadly attack," said Kenneth W. Bernard, a national security and homeland security adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
In a recent statement reported by the Russian news agency Interfax, Gennady G. Onishchenko, Russia's chief health official, echoed the U.S. position: "It would be premature and even harmful to dispose of these collections." The State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Siberia, also known as the VECTOR Institute, has the other repository of about 120 strains.
But others argue that the existing vaccine is sufficient, two promising antiviral agents are in hand and the genetics of 49 strains of the virus have been catalogued, giving scientists whatever they need. The collections only leave open the possibility that the virus could escape accidentally or be smuggled out.
"There is no other disease that has come close to this through history in terms of killing people," said D.A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Biosecurity in Baltimore, who led the WHO eradication program and has been pushing for decades to destroy the stocks. "We have to worry about the threat that it still poses."
By holding on to the virus, "some countries might suspect that the U.S. and Russia have a hidden agenda, such as developing the virus for offensive purposes," said Jonathan B. Tucker, a biosecurity expert. "While I definitely do not believe that the U.S. is engaged in offensively oriented research with the smallpox virus, the resulting suspicions could prove politically corrosive."
A new vaccine and drugs can be evaluated without the virus, Henderson and others argue. In the meantime, the existing vaccine could snuff out any outbreaks, and the FDA could grant emergency authorization to use the two experimental drugs, Henderson said.
"If the stocks were to be destroyed and something is passed through the Security Council of the United Nations or the World Health Assembly that says anyone with smallpox virus would be charged with crimes against humanity, it would be a deterrent to anyone using it," Henderson said.
But others scoff at that suggestion.
"Do you think really that if al-Qaeda had smallpox, they wouldn't use it because it would be deemed by Western lawyers as a crime against humanity?" Bernard said.
© 1996-2011 The Washington Post.
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Independent / Sunday, 6 March 2011
Adjust your compass now: the north pole is migrating to Russia
Movement of the magnetic north is causing problems for aviation, navigation and wildlife
Северный магнитный полюс Земли мигрирует из Канады в Россию со скоростью около 60 км в год.
Полюс был открыт в 1831 г., а в 1904 г. выяснилось, что он перемещается. До 1970-х гг. северный магнитный полюс "путешествовал" по канадской Арктике со скоростью 10-15 км в год, после чего устремился в Сибирь по практически прямой линии. С 1989 года движение заметно ускорилось. Впрочем, в любой момент полюс может остановиться или сменить направление движения.
It sounds unlikely but it's true: the magnetic north pole is moving faster than at any time in human history, threatening everything from the safety of modern transport systems to the traditional navigation routes of migrating animals.
Scientists say that magnetic north, which for two centuries has been in the icy wilderness of Canada, is currently relocating towards Russia at a rate of about 40 miles a year. The speed of its movement has increased by a third in the past decade, prompting speculation that the field could be about to "flip", causing compasses to invert and point south rather than north, something that happens between three and seven times every million years.
Already the phenomenon is causing problems in the field of aviation. Tampa International airport in Florida has just spent a month renaming its three runways, which in common with those at most US airports are identified using numbers that correspond to the direction, in degrees, that they face on a compass. "Everything had to be changed; it was a huge project," Brenda Geoghagan, a spokeswoman for the airport, said.
The current rate of magnetic north's movement away from Canada's Ellesmere Island is throwing out compasses by roughly one degree every five years, prompting the US Federal Aviation Administration to re-evaluate runway names across the country every five years. Similar changes were recently made to runways at Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach.
Geologists believe that magnetic north pole (which is different from the true North Pole, the axis on which the Earth spins) moves around due to changes in the planet's molten core, which contains liquid iron. They first located it in 1831, and have been attrying to follow its progress ever since.
Records indicate that the pole's location barely moved in the early decades, but in about 1904, it began tracking north-east at a rate of about nine miles a year. That speed increased significantly from about 1989, possibly because of a "plume" of magnetism deep below ground. The pole is now believed to be heading towards Siberia at about 37 miles each year. "Earth's magnetic field is changing in time. And as far as we know, it has always been changing in time," geophysicist Jeffrey Love of the US Geological Survey in Colorado told Discovery News, which investigated the issue last week.
GPS systems, which rely on satellites, have replaced compasses as the means by which the majority of professional navigators orientate themselves. But compasses are still valuable, and are widely used by hikers and other amateur map-readers. In some environments, such as underwater or beneath ground, which cannot be reached by satellite signals, they remain the only option. The oil industry, which uses magnets to determine which angle it should drill into the earth, needs to keep track of the exact location of magnetic north.
Birds that fly south for the winter, along with migratory sea creatures, could face confusion. Long-living animals, such as whales and turtles, may in future be required to recalibrate their navigational instincts.
Despite the cost and inconvenience of altering runway names, not to mention the indignity of losing magnetic north to Russia, inhabitants of North America stand to benefit from the changes in at least one respect: it will give them more opportunities to observe the aurora borealis.
No one can predict the impact of "polar reversal", during which magnetic north and south reverse, since one hasn't happened for 780,000 years, the longest stable period in the past 5 million years. Some geologists think we could be about to find out, though: they believe that the current changes to magnetic north could be the early stages of a "flip". But Mr Love says we shouldn't be too concerned.
"Reversals typically take about 10,000 years to happen," he said. "And 10,000 years ago civilisation did not exist. These processes are slow, and therefore we don't have anything to worry about."
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ScienceDaily / Mar. 11, 2011
Scientists Develop High-Tech Crop Map
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, Всероссийский научно-исследовательский институт защиты растений и Всероссийский научно-исследовательский институт растениеводства им. Н.И.Вавилова, при содействии Департамента сельского хозяйства США, разработали проект "Агроэкологический атлас России и сопредельных стран: экономически значимые растения, их болезни, вредители и сорные растения" (http://www.agroatlas.ru). Это интерактивный двуязычный сельскохозяйственный атлас, состоящий из карт, текстов комментариев и метаданных.
AgroAtlas is a new interactive website that shows the geographic distributions of 100 crops; 640 species of crop diseases, pests, and weeds; and 560 wild crop relatives growing in Russia and neighboring countries. Downloadable maps and geographic information system (GIS) software are also available, allowing layering of data, such as that relating major wheat production areas to concentrations of Russian wheat aphids.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant geneticist Stephanie Greene, the impetus behind developing AgroAtlas was to promote world food security, particularly in Newly Independent States - countries of the former Soviet Union striving to broaden their agricultural base. Greene works in the National Temperate Forage Legume Genetic Resources Unit operated at Prosser, Wash., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Greene leads the AgroAtlas project with Alexandr N. Afonin, a senior scientist with St. Petersburg State University in Russia. The Internet-based map is the successful result of a proposal they submitted in 2003 for funding under a program coordinated by the ARS Office of International Research Programs (OIRP) in Beltsville, Md., and supported by the U.S. Department of State.
In September 2010, the two researchers joined their colleagues to host the first of a series of 10-day workshops in St. Petersburg teaching the use of GIS software to scientists and students from former Soviet states. OIRP also awarded scholarships supporting travel and lodging expenses for 20 students to learn about AgroAtlas and GIS software. They, in turn, were to return to their institutes to train others.
Demonstrations of AgroAtlas include showing where in Crimea, a major wine-producing region, U.S. wine grapes can be successfully grown, as well as the distribution of major wheat diseases in the North Caucasus region according to agroclimatic zones. Greene notes AgroAtlas also has potential to aid in the detection and identification of insect pests, pathogens or weeds that have entered - or could enter - the United States from Russia or neighboring countries.
Copyright © 1995-2010 ScienceDaily LLC - All rights reserved.
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Tribune de Genève / 01.03.2011
Des sous-marins russes pour explorer le lac Léman
Deux submersibles vont permettre aux scientifiques d'étudier les abysses du lac Léman. Les plongées auront lieu de juin à août.
Этим летом планируется исследование Женевского озера с помощью двух глубоководных аппаратов "Мир" Института океанологии РАН им. П.П.Ширшова. Основная цель работы - выяснить, на примере Женевского озера, как функционируют крупные пресноводные природные бассейны в современных условиях.
Grâce à deux submersibles russes MIR, des équipes scientifiques internationales vont explorer les abysses du lac Léman. Munis d'équipements de pointe, ces submersibles permettront aux chercheurs de mieux comprendre la géologie et la physique du lac et de mener des travaux, notamment dans les domaines de la bactériologie et des micropolluants.
Les scientifiques récolteront des données primordiales pour assurer la protection de ce milieu, a communiqué mardi l'Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). En été 2011, le programme scientifique elemo, coordonné à l'EPFL réunira des institutions de recherches suisses, françaises, britanniques, russes et américaines. Les plongées auront lieu de juin à août.
Le milieu du lac Léman pose encore de nombreuses questions aux scientifiques. Quels polluants retrouve-t-on dans les eaux du lac, et comment circulent-ils dans les flux d'eau? Comment les populations de bactéries se répartissent-elles sur les fonds du lac? Selon quelle dynamique les sédiments, apportés par les divers affluents, se déposent-ils ? Actuellement, divers modèles scientifiques sont en concurrence pour répondre à de telles interrogations.
Les submersibles MIR seront d'une aide précieuse pour les scientifiques. Ils permettront de récolter des données plus précises, en plus grande quantité, et de quadriller des zones entières, a souligné l'EPFL. Les chercheurs auront un accès aisé aux plus grandes profondeurs du lac, à plus de 300 mètres de fond, où ils pourront étudier la manière dont les polluants s'accumulent, et même procéder à des expériences sur le terrain. L'embouchure du Rhône est l'une des zones qui intéresse le plus les chercheurs.
Les sédiments drainés par le fleuve forment des canyons sous-marins hauts de plus de 30 mètres une plongée devrait permettre de mieux comprendre cet environnement instable, aussi spectaculaire que méconnu. Les scientifiques exploreront également la zone de Vidy afin de connaître l'impact des micropolluants.
Au total, elemo intègre près de 15 équipes internationales de chercheurs. Des scientifiques de l'EPFL, des Universités de Genève, de Neuchâtel, de Haute-Savoie et de Newcastle, ainsi que de l'Institut suisse de recherches aquatiques EAWAG, de l'INRA de Toulouse, du CNRS, de l'Académie russe des sciences et du Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute vont conjuguer leur savoir-faire pendant cette campagne de plus de deux mois. Basée à St-Prex (VD), Ferring Pharmaceuticals finance la plus grande part du programme. Le Consulat honoraire de Russie à Lausanne soutient également le projet.
© Edipresse Publications SA.
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The New York Times / March 9, 2011
Natural Causes Drove Russian Heat Wave, Study Finds
По данным исследований Лаборатории изучения систем Земли при Национальном управлении по исследованию океана и атмосферы США (NOAA), аномальная жара в России была вызвана естественными причинами. А именно - формированием обширной зоны высокого давления, заблокировавшей перемещение холодных потоков с запада и открывшей дорогу теплому воздуху с юга. Явление не редкое, но его интенсивность в России летом 2010 г. была необычайно высокой.
Однако ученые также предположили, что случаи аномальной жары могут участиться, и к 2060 году будут повторяться раз в десять лет. Это будет вызвано уже деятельностью человека - загрязнение атмосферы приведет к росту температур в целом. Доклад опубликован в журнале Geophysical Research Letters.
The deadly heat wave that seared Russia last summer was driven primarily by a natural weather phenomenon, not man-made causes, government researchers said in a study Wednesday.
"We didn't rule out a human influence on this event, but we did conclude that the intensity of this event was mainly due to natural processes," Randall Dole, deputy director of research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory, said at a briefing.
The extraordinary heat wave killed nearly 11,000 people in Moscow alone, fueled widespread wildfires and wiped out more than a third of the country's grain harvest, helping drive up food prices globally. Russian climatologists said that no similar event could be found in a record of abnormal weather stretching back more than a thousand years.
In their report, the scientists concluded that the extreme temperatures were caused by the formation of a blocking pattern, a massive high-pressure ridge that halted the normal movement of cooling storms from the west and allowed warm air to flow north from the tropics. Such anomalies are relatively common and the result of natural actions, though the intensity of the one over Russia was highly unusual.
The role of human-caused warming could not be discerned from the natural weather patterns behind the event, Dr. Dole said.
Martin Hoerling, co-author of the study and head of the climate attribution team at the Earth System Research Laboratory, said that the frequency and intensity of blocking patterns is not driven primarily by heat and should not increase with the expected rise in global temperatures over the 21st century due to man-made causes.
Other scientists said that more research was probably needed on the subject before firm conclusions could be drawn, however.
"The physical basis, process, and cause and effect of blocking events are poorly understood in theory and observations and less well understood in models," Ricky Rood, a meteorologist with Weather Underground, a weather Web site, said in an email message. "It is a very difficult problem, where the state-of-the-art understanding is low."
The NOAA scientists' conclusions rebut speculation by some at the peak of the crisis that the heat wave could be directly attributed to the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.
"Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past," Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president, told top advisers during a meeting on the heat wave last July.
Although they found no human fingerprint on the 2010 heat wave, the NOAA scientists cautioned that man-made emissions would cause a steady rise in background temperatures, raising the likelihood of natural heat waves' turning into far more extreme events. By 2060, they said, models show that intense heat waves could occur as frequently as once every decade.
"Such events should become less surprising to us in the future," Dr. Dole said.
The study will appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
© 2011. The New York Times Company.
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PR Newswire / March 11, 2011
Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences Joins Maryland International Incubator
Сибирское отделение РАН стало партнером Международного бизнес-инкубатора Мэрилендского университета (США). Планируется партнерство в таких областях, как нанотехнологии, энергетические технологии, биотехнологии и прикладная химия.
COLLEGE PARK, Md., March 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - The Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy Sciences (SBRAS) has joined the Maryland International Incubator at the University of Maryland, university officials announce today.
The Siberian branch, the largest in the Russian Academy of Sciences, plans to leverage its space at the incubator to collaborate with the University of Maryland, other educational institutions and businesses to develop joint technology and business projects to create new products for U.S. and international markets.
"I am very pleased that the Academy has joined the International Incubator and that our two great institutions are going to be working together," says University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. "I look forward to many collaborations with our faculty and students resulting from this partnership."
The Maryland International Incubator, a program of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) in partnership with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED), is designed to spur economic growth, bring foreign investment to Maryland and create jobs in the state.
"We welcome the Russian Academy of Sciences to the Maryland International Incubator and look forward to strengthening ties in emerging health care technologies between Maryland and Russia as well as working with the Academy to help grow their presence in our state and in the U.S.," says Robert Walker, assistant secretary of business and enterprise development at DBED.
The Academy plans partnerships in the areas such as nanotechnology, energy technology, applied chemistry and biotechnology. SBRAS has 22,526 employees, with 8,725 researchers, of whom 126 are members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
SBRAS encompasses 74 research institutions and 13 design bureaus working in different areas of physical, mathematical, chemical, and biological sciences, earth sciences, humanities and economical science. The central location of the Siberian branch is Novosibirsk.
The Maryland International Incubator provides a gateway that helps foreign businesses and institutions in the technology sector set up operations in Maryland. Incubator tenants get office space and a base for development, proximity to talent and research facilities at the university and vital networking services from Mtech, which operates the facility.
"We are honored to have one of the top national academies of sciences in the world select our incubator as a launching pad for entering into intellectual and business partnerships in Maryland and in the U.S.," says David Barbe, director of Mtech. "Technology innovation and collaboration are key drivers for creating new jobs and new products in the Maryland and U.S. economies."
High-tech firms frequently seek locations close to a major research university to benefit from its expertise and talent. The Incubator encourages research collaboration in such areas as health care, environment, agriculture, energy and fire protection.
About Mtech (www.mtech.umd.edu)
The mission of Mtech is to educate the next generation of technology entrepreneurs, create successful technology ventures, and connect Maryland companies with university resources to help them succeed. Founded in 1983, Mtech has had a $25.7 billion impact on the Maryland economy and helped create or retain more than 5,300 jobs. Top-selling products such as MedImmune's Synagis®, which protects infants from a deadly respiratory disease, and Hughes Communications' HughesNet®, which brings satellite-based, high-speed Internet access to the world, were developed through or enhanced by our programs. Billion dollar companies such as Martek Biosciences and Digene Corporation graduated from our incubator. Mtech offers three experiential learning programs, 30 entrepreneurship and innovation courses, served to 1,244 enrollees in 2010 for students from pre-college to undergraduate, graduate and executive education.
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