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Archive for December, 2018

Researcher awarded $2.1 million NIH grant to study fungal infection common in cancer patients

A University of Toledo scientist has been awarded a $2.1 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue her research into one of the most common and debilitating conditions experienced by patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancers.

Dr. Heather Conti, UT assistant professor of biological sciences, studies a fungal infection called oral candidiasis. The infection is more commonly known as thrush.

Conti

In otherwise healthy individuals, the condition is minor, but for those with compromised immune systems or undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, oral candidiasis can turn into a serious and potentially dangerous illness.

“Unfortunately, many patients who develop this condition choose to forego their cancer treatment,” Conti said. “It can actually have a direct link to cancer prognosis because the symptoms are too hard to deal with.”

The five-year grant, which is distributed through the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, will fund research into the role blood platelets play in the body’s natural defense against oral candidiasis.

“Platelets are commonly thought of for their role in blood clotting. But what we’re finding more and more is that platelets also play a very important role in the immune response,” Conti said. “They can protect against various bacteria — or in our case, fungi — which is a novel thought in the field. Platelets can be a much more complicated cell than just taking part in blood clotting.”

She is collaborating with Dr. Randall Worth, UT associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology, on the project.

The reason oral candidiasis can cause such serious problems in cancer patients is the fact that chemotherapy and radiation often destroy the mucous membrane in the mouth, allowing the fungi to grow unchecked. That, Conti said, can lead to sores on the gums or tongue, difficulty swallowing, bleeding and pain. If the fungal infection reaches the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body, it can become life-threatening.

Patients with HIV are also at greater risk of serious infection from oral candidiasis.

Candidiasis can be successfully treated with antifungal medications, but Conti said there is an emerging trend of strains that have developed resistance to commonly prescribed drugs. That limits clinicians’ options, particularly in individuals who are already in poor health.

The goal of this study, Conti said, is better understanding how the body fights the infection and how researchers might be able to leverage that response to formulate new treatments.

“The immune response to oral candidiasis is quite complicated. If platelets play an important role, we need to understand that response. The hope would be to develop therapeutics that not only kill the fungus directly, but can also bolster the immune response,” she said.

Faculty: Jan. 16 deadline to apply for research funding

Wednesday, Jan. 16, is the deadline for UT faculty members to apply for more than $200,000 in internal funding administered by Research and Sponsored Programs.

“Our annual internal grant programs support a wide range of faculty research and scholarship at the University,” Dr. Richard Francis, director of research advancement and information systems in Research and Sponsored Programs, said.

The Jan. 16 deadline is for the Research Awards and Fellowship Program; the deArce-Koch Memorial Endowment Fund in Support of Medical Research and Development; and the Archaeological Research Endowment Fund.

Also due on January 16 are full proposals to the STEM Research Innovation Program; the Biomedical Research Innovation Program; and the Interdisciplinary Research Initiation Award. However, only those invited to apply on the basis of letters of intent, which were due Nov. 7, may submit to these three programs.

In addition, there are several minor programs that faculty can apply for that do not have deadlines.

“We encourage all full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty from all disciplines to find a program that could help advance their scholarly efforts,” Francis said. “These awards also provide support to help faculty gather preliminary data that will enhance their ability to receive external competitive awards.”

For more information, including details on submitting proposals, visit the Research and Sponsored Programs website.

UT engineers create method to save at least $120,000 per mile on road pavement projects

Before orange construction barrels dot pot-holed streets or highways, a vital part of planning a pavement project is determining how thick the next layer of asphalt needs to be, taking into consideration the layers that already lie beneath the surface.

A team of engineers at The University of Toledo created a new procedure and design software to more accurately estimate the structural capacity of existing pavement that could save the Ohio Department of Transportation millions of dollars on road improvement projects and be adopted by states across the country.

Dr. Eddie Chou is leading a team of UT engineers that designed software to estimate the structural capacity of existing pavement that could save the Ohio Department of Transportation millions of dollars on road improvement projects.

The Transportation Research Board, a unit of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, selected UT’s project for developing a revised pavement overlay thickness design procedure as one of 32 High-Value Research projects nationwide to be highlighted at its annual meeting Jan. 13-17 in Washington, D.C. The meeting attracts 13,000 transportation professionals from around the world.

The new method is specifically designed for composite pavement — concrete pavement already topped with a thick layer of asphalt — which accounts for the majority of ODOT’s four-lane and interstate highways. Previously, ODOT used a design method that was originally developed for rigid, concrete pavements that tended to produce designs often deemed too thick and wasteful for today’s roadways, as pavement becomes thicker with each additional overlay.

For an update, ODOT turned to the engineer who crafted the original design 25 years ago: Dr. Eddie Chou, UT professor of civil and environmental engineering, and director of the Transportation Systems Research Lab.

“The previous procedure did not work well with thick composite pavement. With this particular type of road, it tended to underestimate the existing structure’s worth,” said Chou, who worked on the project with Dr. Liango Hu, UT associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Many existing pavement sections we examined now require several inches thinner than previously demanded to withstand traffic for an additional 20 to 25 years.”

The UT research team adopted a three-layer model for back-calculating the properties of the soil subgrade and pavement layers, instead of the old two-layer model that combined cement and asphalt into one.

Chou said the new design reduces on average about five inches of overlay thickness, and the reduction of each additional inch of overlay can save approximately $120,000 per mile.

“In addition to being more environmentally friendly, the potential cost savings can be substantial considering each year ODOT rehabilitates several hundred miles of existing composite pavements by laying additional asphalt on top,” Chou said.

The revised design procedure was implemented into design software that adopts the improved back-calculation model. The software also offers an optional feature that takes into consideration the effects of temperature.

The Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration sponsored the UT research.

“This UT research developed a revised rehabilitation design procedure for composite pavement structures in Ohio and more accurately characterizes pavement layers for this analysis,” Patrick Bierl, pavement design engineer and pavement rating coordinator in ODOT’s Office of Pavement Engineering, said. “This revised procedure allows ODOT to continue to produce efficient and cost-effective rehabilitation designs to manage our composite pavements.”

Football player named Second-Team Academic All-America

Toledo senior wide receiver Cody Thompson has been named to the Google Cloud Academic All-America Second Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

He is Toledo’s first Academic All-American since Dan Molls earned First-Team honors in 2012.

Thompson, who earned Academic All-District honors in 2017, graduated last December with a 3.66 GPA in marketing. He is pursuing his master’s degree in recreation and leisure and holds a 3.83 graduate GPA.

Thompson has 43 receptions for 592 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, earning first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors for the second time in his career. He is Toledo’s all-time leader in career TD receptions (30) and ranks second all-time in receiving yards (3,257).

The native of Huron, Ohio, was a first-team All-MAC selection in 2016, catching 64 passes for a then school-record 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has been on the official watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the top receiver in the country, in each of the past two seasons.

This season, Thompson also was a candidate for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year, the Wuerffel Trophy, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award, and the NCAA Senior CLASS Award.

Thompson will play his final game as a Rocket when Toledo takes on Florida International University in the 2018 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl Friday, Dec. 21.

Special services, discounts offered to employees

Human Resources is pleased to remind University of Toledo employees that as part of your comprehensive package of benefits, many resources and special discounts are available to you. These include discounts on products and services available on UT campuses, as well as through local, regional and national vendors.

“We’re always striving to ensure UT is the No. 1 destination to work,” said Wendy Davis, associate vice president and chief human resources officer. “As the second largest employer in the region, we continually work to offer our employees a wide range of diverse products and services to help them achieve a healthy work/life balance.”

Whether you are looking to purchase electronics, find a new day care or financial institution, receive special savings when booking travel plans, or purchase discounted tickets to movies and sporting events, the HR employee resources website puts myriad resources at your fingertips. Review a complete list of services and special discounts available on the site.

“Recently we’ve added more vendors and services to our website so employees have a convenient way to find resources 24/7,” said Michelle Peterson, program manager for retention, appreciation and awards. “These include discounts on certain UT products and services, as well as reduced-rate tickets for Walleye games, movie theaters and more.

“While we can’t endorse any of the outside businesses, products or services included on UT’s HR Employee Resource page, we want our employees to have ready access to many different types of products and services throughout our region and across the country,” Peterson said. “I think employees will be pleased to see that they can save money throughout the year by using this site.”

Information on the site is updated routinely throughout the year.

Men’s basketball team moves up in Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll

Toledo moved up three spots in this week’s Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll released Monday evening and are now ranked No. 6.

The Rockets extended their winning streak to seven games last week with a 101-57 victory over Detroit Mercy and a 75-74 overtime win at 2018 NCAA Tournament participant Marshall.



Junior Willie Jackson and the Rockets are ranked No. 6 in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll.

Toledo’s 9-1 start to the 2018-19 season is its best since winning its first 12 games in a record-breaking 2013-14 campaign that ended with a 27-7 record. In addition, UT’s .900 winning percentage is tied for 11th best in the nation.



The Rockets’ highest ranking ever in the Mid-Major poll is No. 2 Dec. 30, 2013.



Toledo will begin a four-game homestand Saturday, Dec. 15, against Middle Tennessee. UT will then host Cornell Wednesday, Dec. 19, and Penn Saturday, Dec. 29, before opening Mid-American Conference play in Savage Arena vs. Ball State Friday, Jan. 4.

University employees can purchase tickets at half price, and UT students are admitted free with ID. Go to the Toledo Rockets website, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in Savage Arena.

Deadline for UT Charitable Campaign Dec. 14

All faculty and staff are reminded this is the last week to contribute to the annual University of Toledo Charitable Campaign, formerly known as the United Way Campaign. The deadline to pledge your gift is by end of day Friday, Dec. 14.

“To meet our goal of $125,000, we still need many more individuals across our campus community to make a pledge today,” urged Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, and chair of UT’s 2018 Charitable Campaign.

“There are more than 200 local nonprofit organizations that you can choose to support with your donation, and so you readily will be able to find causes that align with your passion when you review the list of charities supported by this crucial community campaign,” McKether said.

Represented by four federations — Community Health Charities of Ohio, Northwest Ohio Community Shares, EarthShare Ohio and United Way of Greater Toledo — the complete list of charities is available for your review at the campaign website.

Donors also may choose from several payment options, including cash, credit card, invoice and payroll deduction, delaying payment until early next year and spreading payments out across multiple paychecks, if preferred.

“We understand everyone has certain financial obligations, and these options help to ensure it’s easy for everyone to give whatever amount their own household can afford,” McKether said.

This year’s campaign theme is “Unity for Community” because by uniting and combining all of our gifts, we collectively can make a huge difference in the lives of others living right here in our community, he said.

If you have not yet contributed to the 2018 UT Charitable Campaign, see your email. You will receive a message from McKether each day this week as a reminder to give by Dec. 14. Simply click on the link in the email to access your personal ePledge form. Be sure to indicate which charity (or several) you would like to support with your donation.

Each faculty, staff member and retiree who makes a donation by the end of Dec. 14, regardless of the amount, will receive a complimentary gift from the University plus an invitation to a donor breakfast buffet in January hosted by President Sharon L. Gaber.

Featured at the breakfast will be many drawings for prizes, including gift cards, area restaurant vouchers and UT-branded merchandise.

Composer/conductor to discuss music Dec. 13

Former Toledo resident Robert Spano, music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and of the Aspen Music Festival and School, will visit the University for an evening of discussion with UT music students and faculty.

The talk will be moderated by Dr. Matthew Forte, UT director of orchestral studies, and held Thursday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts Recital Hall.

Spano

A reception will follow the discussion.

Tickets are $10 to $15 and are available in advance from the UT Center for Performing Arts Box Office by calling 419.530.2787 or visiting the School of Visual and Performing Arts website.

Spano is a conductor, pianist, composer and teacher known for the intensity of his artistry and distinctive communicative abilities, creating a sense of inclusion and warmth among musicians and audiences. Beginning his 18th season as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this imaginative conductor is an approachable artist with the innate ability to share his enthusiasm for music with an entire community and concert hall.

A fervent mentor to rising artists, Spano is responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous celebrated composers, conductors, and performers. As music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 2011, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students and artists.

Highlights of the 2018-19 season include Spano’s Metropolitan Opera debut, leading the U.S. premiere of “Marnie,” the second opera by American composer Nico Muhly, with Isabel Leonard, Janis Kelly, Denyce Graves, Iestyn Davies and Christopher Maltman.

Spano’s recent concert highlights have included several world premiere performances, including “Voy a Dormir” by prolific composer Bryce Dessner at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor; the Tuba Concerto by Atlanta School of Composers alumna Jennifer Higdon, performed by Craig Knox and the Pittsburgh Symphony; “Melodia for Piano and Orchestra” by Canadian composer Matthew Ricketts at the Aspen Music Festival; and “Miserere” by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra bassist Michael Kurth.

He has led Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Ravinia, Ojai, and Savannah music festivals. Guest engagements have included the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics; the San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Oregon, Utah and Kansas City symphonies; and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Minnesota orchestras.

Internationally, Spano has led the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, BBC Symphony, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, Orquestra Sinfonica Estado Sao Paulo, the Melbourne Symphony in Australia, and the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Japan.

With a discography of critically acclaimed recordings for Telarc, Deutsche Grammophon and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Media, Spano has won six Grammy Awards with the Atlanta Symphony. Spano is on faculty at Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin. He is one of two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and makes his home in Atlanta.

National science leader and Toledo native to deliver UT commencement address Dec. 15

The head of the nation’s oldest and one of its most prestigious laboratories will return home, as Toledo native Michael Witherell is set to deliver the address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 15.

Witherell, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in Berkeley, Calif., will address 1,474 candidates for degrees, including 1,437 bachelor’s and 37 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 11:30 a.m. in Savage Arena on Main Campus.

Witherell

UT’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled at 8 a.m. in Savage Arena and will commemorate 641 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Md Kamal Hossain, emerging cancer researcher and candidate for a doctoral degree at the University, will be the speaker.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the UT Views website.

Witherell, a distinguished physicist, educator and science leader, developed the foundation for his future at Toledo’s St. Francis de Sales High School. Salutatorian at age 15, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in experimental physics from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After a distinguished career as a university professor performing research in particle physics, he devoted himself to leading large research institutions.

In 2016, Witherell was named director of Berkeley Lab, the oldest of the 17 labs in the
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories systems. Berkeley Lab is a global leader in fundamental and applied scientific research in physical, biological, energy, computing and environmental sciences. The lab’s employees have earned 13 Nobel Prizes and played a role in the discovery of 16 elements on the periodic table, among its honors. The lab is managed for the DOE by the University of California.

“Our mission at Berkeley Lab is solving the nation’s most challenging problems through great scientific and technological discoveries. I believe that the national assets in addressing these problems include public universities and the students whom they are educating,” Witherell said.

Before joining Berkeley Lab, Witherell spent six years as director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. He was vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he also held a presidential chair in the Physics Department.
His primary research interest is in studying the nature of dark matter. He was a contributor to the LUX experiment, which in 2016 published the most sensitive search for interactions of dark matter particles with normal matter. He is now part of an international research team that is building a successor to LUX, known as LZ, which will be three orders of magnitude more sensitive. Data collection is expected to start in 2020.

Witherell is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He chairs the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies and serves on the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy.

“As a nationally recognized, public research university, The University of Toledo is pleased to have Dr. Witherell as our fall commencement speaker. Research not only helps us to discover new knowledge that advances all areas of study, but also instills critical thinking skills that our students can use to approach problems systematically and come up with solutions that improve everyday life,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We look forward to Dr. Witherell sharing his insights with our graduates, especially since he grew up in Toledo and has since made tremendous contributions through research.”

Witherell’s personal success can be traced back to the Glass City, as well. He and his wife, Elizabeth Hall Witherell, head of the Princeton Edition of Henry Thoreau’s writings, grew up in the same west Toledo neighborhood and were high school sweethearts. They have a daughter, Lily.

“The foundation for my career and life was my extended family in Toledo,” Witherell said. “Their support and the value they put on education and public service were central to my personal and professional development.”

Hossain

Hossain, the graduate ceremony speaker, is a native of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who came to UT as an industrial pharmacist with a passion to develop innovative medicines.

“I’ve always been interested in studying health-related fields due to the suffering of people in my homeland from different types of disease,” Hossain said. “My focus is to develop a specific targeting approach for a more effective cancer vaccine. My research examined the utilization of a natural antibody already present in human serum that makes the vaccine more convenient to target tumor cells.”

He is a candidate for a doctor of philosophy degree in medicinal chemistry in UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

UT’s fall commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

The College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Later that week — Friday, May 10, at
4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit the UT commencement website.

Bioengineer to receive international award for work in orthopaedic mechanics

Dr. Vijay K. Goel will be honored by the government of Dubai this month with the Hamdan International Award for Medical Research Excellence for his lifelong work in orthopaedic mechanics.

Goel, Distinguished University Professor and Endowed Chair and McMaster-Gardner Professor of Orthopaedic Bioengineering at The University of Toledo, was nominated for the award by UT President Sharon L. Gaber.

Goel

“This is a noteworthy award. Many of the previous winners are among the world’s top physicians and researchers. They really pick the cream of the cream,” Goel said. “I’m very honored, very excited, and very proud to have been selected. From my perspective, it is the cumulation of all the work I have done that helped me to get this award.”

The Hamdan International Award for Medical Research Excellence was established in 1999 by Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates vice president, prime minister and ruler of Dubai, to recognize those behind transformative medical research that serves the interests of humanity.

This year’s conference and awards are focused on musculoskeletal disorders, rheumatology, orthopaedics and orthopaedic mechanics. Goel is set to receive the award at a ceremony Dec. 12.

“I’m helping several institutions in India to establish bioengineering programs, and I hope with this award I may be able to help Gulf countries establish programs as well,” he said.

Goel joined The University of Toledo in 2000 after 18 years at the University of Iowa. He also spent three years as a research associate in the Department of Orthopedics at Yale Medical School.

Goel holds 18 patents and has been involved in establishing several companies, including OsteoNovus Inc. and Spinal Balance Inc. He recently received an Ohio Faculty Council Technology Commercialization Award from the Ohio Department of Higher Education for his work in developing and commercializing the Libra Pedicel Screw System.