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Students compete for chance to travel to NYC for Biodesign Challenge

On Wednesday, April 17, four groups of University of Toledo students will vie for the chance to compete at the International Biodesign Challenge in June in New York City.

Each group will go head to head at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion, where they will present their projects focusing on biotechnology and biomaterials that address complex global challenges.

The event will start at 6 p.m. with a preview of the students’ work, followed by group presentations at 7 p.m. A reception will start at 8 p.m., and the winner will be announced at 8:30 p.m.

The first group consists of art students Colin Chalmers and McKenzie Dunwald; bioengineering student Michael Socha; and environmental science student Ysabelle Yrad. Together, with assistance from Tamara Phares, instructional laboratory coordinator in the Bioengineering Department, they created an innovative solution to the problem of microplastics in the environment, working on a genetically modified plant that allows for an increased production of specific proteins.

Group two — art students Tyler Dominguez and Andrea Price; environmental science student Anna Pauken; and bioengineering student David Swain — are collaborating with Dr. John Gray, professor of biological sciences, to design a genetically modified plant with enhanced carbon sequestration, while improving soil quality and rainwater infiltration.

The third group is composed of art student Valerie White; bioengineering students Adam Kemp and Anthony Shaffer; and environmental science student Michala Burke. The four are creating a biological solution to indoor air quality issues utilizing emerging knowledge about the microbiome — micro-organisms in a particular environment.

Group four — bioengineering students Sherin Aburidi and Timothy Wolf; environmental science students Courtney Kinzel and Sarah Mattei; and art student Tyler Saner — is working with Dr. Von Sigler, professor of environmental sciences, to create a non-antibacterial resistant treatment for MRSA and other superbugs.

“The UToledo Biodesign Challenge Course offers students firsthand experience in interdisciplinary research and innovative prototype solutions to real-world issues,” said Brian Carpenter, assistant professor of art.

The class is offered to students majoring in art and design; bioengineering; and environmental science. It is taught by Carpenter and Eric Zeigler, assistant professor of art.

“By crossing philosophy, science, technology, art and design, students explore real-world problems and imagine alternative presentations of space, place, body and environment through interdisciplinary research,” Zeigler said.

Carpenter added, “We really want students to be inspired. We want students to think creatively about the solutions that are required to solve the pressing issues of our time.”

University to host panel on cybersecurity March 21

With the dawn of the digital age, cybersecurity has become ultra- important. Cases like Equifax and Target losing access to their customers’ private, personal data has business owners and IT managers scrambling to protect their companyʼs data.

The University of Toledo Launchpad Incubation program will host an event to tackle this topic Thursday, March 21, at 11:30 a.m. in Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex Room 2075.

A panel series lunch-and-learn-style event to discuss business cybersecurity best practices will feature three guests:

• David Cutri, executive director of internal audit and chief compliance officer for The University of Toledo, and vice president of the northwest Ohio chapter of ISACA (formerly known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association), a worldwide group of IT governance professionals;

• Dr. Jared Oluoch, assistant professor and program director of computer science and engineering technology in the University’s College of Engineering; and

• Brian Schrock, information security officer at First Federal Bank, will serve on
This program is part of Launchpad Incubationʼs Launch Hour series, a panel series where local experts share their business and specific experience to help business owners around the region. The panel will be moderated by Adam Salon, partner at JumpStart Inc.

The LaunchPad Incubation Program at The University of Toledo is northwest Ohio’s premier business startup and entrepreneurial assistance program for innovative and high-tech companies. Housed at a renowned public research university, LaunchPad Incubation is a pioneer for business development in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

Register for the free event on the Launchpad Incubation website.

For more information, call the Launchpad Incubation program at 419.530.3520.

UToledo graduate programs jump in U.S. News rankings

The University of Toledo’s graduate programs are recognized among the best in the nation, according to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools rankings.

The College of Nursing and College of Law, in particular, jumped dramatically in the most recent rankings released Tuesday.

The master’s degree in nursing jumped up to 135 from the previous year’s ranking of 183. The doctor of nursing is ranked 135 compared to 152 the previous year.

The full-time law program is now ranked 126. It had been 137 in the 2018 rankings.

“The significant increases in the U.S. News rankings in just one year reflect the University’s increasingly positive reputation and the progress we are making advancing our academic and research excellence,” President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We are proud of these rankings, but, more importantly, the outcomes they represent in student success, program quality and accomplished faculty.”

In addition to the nursing and law programs, UToledo’s graduate programs in education and social work moved up in the rankings. Education is now ranked 172 up from 176, and social work is listed as 196 up from 201 the previous year. In addition, the engineering graduate program is now ranked and listed as 148.

The College of Nursing attributes its dramatic 48-point jump in the master’s program and increase of 17 spots in the doctoral program to attracting a more qualified student applicant pool, increasing program accessibility for students, strong graduation rates, and a growing research profile for faculty.

“We are proud of the recognition for our outstanding programs, excellent students and talented faculty, who are leaders in clinical practice, teaching and research,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing.

The 11-point increase in the College of Law rankings reflects improved bar passage results and a higher employment rate 10 months after graduation.

“The reputation of Toledo Law continues to grow in recognition of our strong faculty and commitment to student success, which includes advanced bar exam preparation and career development initiatives,” said D. Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law.

UT Engineering Spring Career Expo to take place Feb. 27

The University of Toledo Engineering Career Development Center will host the Spring 2019 Engineering Career Expo Wednesday, Feb. 27, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium.

“This year continues to mark a milestone for the center: celebrating 20 years of placing more than 20,000 engineering co-ops,” Angie Gorny, director of the Engineering Career Development Center, said.

More than 120 companies from across the United States and 700 engineering students, graduates and alumni will participate. Companies scheduled to have representatives on campus include Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Dana Inc., GEM Inc., Johnson & Johnson — DePuy Synthes, GE Appliances, Honda, Matrix Service Co., Marathon Petroleum Corp., Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois Inc., PCC Airfoils, SSOE Group, and North Star Bluescope Steel LLC.

“This event is a dynamic networking and hiring experience for students to connect with companies seeking the talent they need for success,” Gorny said. “The expo is exclusive to UT College of Engineering students who are enrolled in the mandatory co-op program, as well as UT College of Engineering alumni searching for full-time opportunities.”

Employers are seeking undergraduate students to participate in engineering co-op assignments, as well as their leadership development programs, along with seniors and graduates for full-time employment.

“The current job outlook for engineering students at The University of Toledo College of Engineering is certainly bright as indicated by the record number of students attending the college’s career expos,” Gorny said. “This reflects very positively on the quality of the University’s engineering program and its students. It also demonstrates the vital and mutually beneficial partnership they have with industry participants.”

The undergraduate mandatory co-op program is one of only eight mandatory engineering co-op programs in the country.

“Many students indicate that the co-op training is the reason they attend the College of Engineering at The University of Toledo,” Gorny said. “Students experience one full year of professional engineering experience before they graduate, and they feel confident seeking full-time employment upon graduation. Co-op businesses are able to work with these students and determine how the student fits within their organization. It’s a win-win situation for both students and the companies who hire them.”

More information can be found on the UT College of Engineering Career Development website or by contacting Gorny at angela.gorny@utoledo.edu.

UT engineering assistant professor receives $558,795 award for sustainability research targeting industrial smokestacks

Since she was a little girl growing up in Málaga, Spain, Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio brainstormed ways to motivate those around her to protect the planet.

“When I was 12 years old, I heard a neighboring community obtained a recycle bin,” Alba-Rubio said. “I talked with my teacher and organized our own paper collection system. My friends and I hauled that garbage from school to the other neighborhood once a week to recycle.”

Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio, assistant professor of chemical engineering, holds a Lego model showing how the dual-function material would capture carbon dioxide and convert it into methanol and higher alcohols that could be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity to power factories.

Now an assistant professor of chemical engineering at The University of Toledo, she is pioneering a new method for factories to approach environmental stewardship and fight pollution with help from a five-year, $558,795 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Faculty Early Career Development award, known as CAREER, is one of the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through the integration of research and education.

Alba-Rubio is creating a dual-function material, which acts as an absorber and a catalyst, that could be placed at the top of industrial smokestacks as an alternative to current processes of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide. The material would capture carbon dioxide and convert it into methanol and higher alcohols that could be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity to power the plant.

Alba-Rubio’s method would eliminate the energy requirement, corrosion and transportation issues associated with the processes currently used. Instead, the new material would transform carbon dioxide into a useful product on site.

“We must do as much as we can to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate climate change,” Alba-Rubio said. “Converting carbon dioxide into something useful could be a great economic benefit for the industry while reducing emissions.”

World carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, according to the Global Carbon Project, including 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018, the largest jump in seven years.

As part of the grant-funded research, Alba-Rubio plans to engage students from elementary school to high school in her activities to expose them to chemical reactions and catalysis, as well as raise awareness of the effects of carbon dioxide on global warming.

“As a Hispanic woman, I have a strong interest in increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in science, and I will continue providing hands-on experiences to migrant students in Ohio’s rural communities and other underrepresented students through the programs that The University of Toledo offers to Toledo Public Schools,” Alba-Rubio said.

She is especially passionate about serving as a role model to encourage girls to pursue careers in science. Alba-Rubio is gathering support from other successful women across northwest Ohio in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to create a coloring book titled “Women Scientists Near You” to distribute to elementary schools throughout the region.

“The coloring book will feature stories of each of us to inspire girls to envision themselves on a similar path to success,” Alba-Rubio said. “Each ‘character’ in the book will visit schools to share her experiences and do experiments. The goal is to catch their curiosity and build their confidence. Becoming a scientist is within their reach. It’s an exciting career that can help change lives and create a better world.”

Engineers Week events at UT designed to spark enthusiasm for local students

Two events will bring more than 600 area students to The University of Toledo to celebrate Engineers Week.

Founded in 1951, Engineers Week will be celebrated Feb. 17-23 and is dedicated to increasing understanding and interest in engineering and technology careers.

The theme of this year’s week is “Engineers: Invent Amazing.”

Approximately 200 high school students from 24 districts will be on campus Tuesday, Feb. 19, to be an Engineer for a Day.

They will arrive at 9 a.m. and watch a movie, “Dream Big,” in the Lois and Norman Nitschke Auditorium, and then learn about different careers during a tour of UT’s engineering facilities, and engage in hands-on activities with UT engineering students. After lunch, the high school students will shadow a professional engineer in the community.

“We want to show students the wide range of possibilities a career in engineering offers,” said Bryan Bosch, manager of diversity, inclusion and community engagement in the UT College of Engineering. “Engineers design, invent and create things to make our world better — and they have a lot of fun, too.”

The UT College of Engineering also will host its second annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. More than 450 sixth- through eighth-graders from 20 school districts will visit the University Thursday, Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While on campus, the girls will tour the University’s engineering facilities, eat lunch with UT engineering students, and spend the afternoon participating in hands-on activities.

“We’re extremely excited for how much growth we’ve seen in the Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, both in sheer numbers and the increase in exposure to more schools,” Bosch said. “There were 312 girls at the event last year.”

For more information, contact Bosch at bryan.bosch@utoledo.edu.

Dean named to DriveOhio Advisory Board

Dr. Michael Toole, dean of the UT College of Engineering, has been named to the DriveOhio Government Advisory Board.

He was appointed to the seven-member board by outgoing Gov. John Kasich.

Toole

DriveOhio is an initiative in the Ohio Department of Transportation charged with accelerating smart vehicle and connected vehicle projects in the state.

“It is an honor to serve on this board and represent The University of Toledo,” Toole said.

Toole, who was named dean of the UT College of Engineering in 2017, received a PhD in technology strategy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has focused his research on innovation in design, construction and infrastructure. He is a professional engineer and a Fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers.

During the past year, the UT College of Engineering has offered a five-part series on autonomous vehicles in partnership with AAA of Northwestern Ohio, Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, DGL Consulting Engineers LLC and Path Master Inc.

“The UT College of Engineering’s participation in this series has given me a strong appreciation for the important research being conducted at the University on related research topics such as cybersecurity, distributed networks, connected infrastructure, advanced materials and mechatronics,” Toole said.

DriveOhio’s mission is to serve as the state’s central hub for smart mobility — the use of technology to move people and goods from one place to another as effectively as possible.

The government organization is a single point of contact for policymakers, agencies, researchers and private companies to work together on smart transportation.

UT researcher calls on FDA to change rules to address spine screw contamination

A University of Toledo researcher is calling for a revamp of how operating room personnel store and handle the screws used in spinal fusion surgeries after results from a multicenter trial found high levels of contamination on supposedly sterile implants.

“Our findings about the prevalence of contaminated pedicle screws are concerning, to say the least,” said Dr. Aakash Agarwal, an adjunct professor in the UT Department of Bioengineering. “We immediately need to ensure all surgical implants are truly sterile. Our research unequivocally demonstrates that we have not been doing things correctly.”

Dr. Aakash Agarwal, shown here holding a prepackaged surgical screw, has petitioned the FDA to revamp how screws used in spinal fusion sureries are handled to avoid contamination.

Spinal fusion surgeries generally require four to six pedicle screws, but in the vast majority of procedures performed in the United States, surgeons begin with a tray containing 100 or more screws of different sizes to ensure the right size is immediately available within the operating room.

Because so few implants are used in each procedure, most screws are washed and sterilized repeatedly with other contaminated instruments from the operating room before they are actually used during a surgery.

But Agarwal said that isn’t practical or safe, and he’s calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban the process in the United States.

In a paper published in the Global Spine Journal, a team of experts led by Agarwal found screws that had been repeatedly reprocessed are harboring a number of contaminants, including corrosion, soap residue and organic tissue.

“We randomly selected screws from four different trays of cleaned, wrapped and sterilized screws. Every screw we took out was contaminated, and they were about to go into a patient’s body,” Agarwal said. “The health-care system and patients would really benefit if we start packaging screws individually. The repeated reprocessing system in trays should be banned.”

The researchers recently submitted a formal petition along with their data to the FDA.

Agarwal and his fellow researchers — which included Dr. Steven R. Garfin, interim dean of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, and Dr. Jeffrey C. Wang, co-director of the University of Southern California Spine Institute and president of North American Spine Society — presented evidence in a separate paper that individually sterile-packed screws also are picking up contaminants as they are handled in the operating room.

The researchers devised a study in which two groups of individually packaged screws were used during live spine surgeries at multiple centers across the United States. One group of screws had a built-in intraoperative guard, while the other group did not have such a guard. The screws were prepared for insertion then sent away for analysis.

“All 26 surgeries in the study had bacterial growth on the unguarded screws. That was the major finding, which surprised everyone,” Agarwal said. “Even if you provide screws in an individually sterile package, the way it’s handled in the operating theater makes it unsterile.”

That could potentially lead to infection and biofilm formation at the screw-bone interface.

No microbial growth was detected on the screws that had integrated guards, which is meant to shield the screw itself from being exposed to air or touch while loading it onto the insertion device.

The findings were published in Global Spine Journal and multiple conference proceedings. It also has been published by news media, including Becker’s Spine Review, Spinal News International, Orthopedic This Week and Orthopedics Today.

Also involved in the research were Dr. Vijay Goel, Distinguished University Professor and Endowed Chair and McMaster-Gardner Professor of Orthopaedic Bioengineering at UT; Dr. Anand K. Agarwal, professor at UT’s Engineering Center for Orthopaedic Research Excellence; Dr. Hossein Elgafy, professor of orthopaedic surgery at UT; and Dr. Boren Lin, postdoctoral fellow at UT’s Engineering Center for Orthopaedic Research Excellence.

Data on surgical site infections following spine surgery varies, but a recent randomized trial from Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital in New York found a 12.7 percent incidence rate. Agarwal said that could represent up to 100,000 patients suffering from surgical site infection in the United States alone.

“We shouldn’t be knowingly putting bacteria and other contaminates inside a patient’s body. With the disclosure of these evidences, it would be impossible to not undertake necessary safety measures,” Agarwal said.

In addition to his faculty appointment at UT, Agarwal is the director of research and development for Spinal Balance, a private company that was founded in 2013 by a group of UT research professors. The firm, with its corporate office at the UT LaunchPad Incubation building, was created in part to address the problem of surgical site infection stemming from contaminated implants.

Agarwal also was recently appointed to the editorial board of the Clinical Spine Surgery journal by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins for his contribution toward original research and peer reviews in the spine field.

UT engineering professors’ invention named to prestigious R&D Top 100 list

A synthetic bone graft substitute developed at The University of Toledo has been recognized by R&D Magazine as one of the year’s most exceptional innovations in science and technology.

Created by Dr. Sarit Bhaduri, UT Distinguished University Professor of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, NovoGro is a moldable bone substitute putty used to fill gaps in bone and encourage new bone growth. It is used primarily in complicated fractures that would not otherwise heal properly on their own.

Dr. Sarit Bhaduri, center, held the R&D Magazine award he received for NovoGro, a synthetic bone graft substitute he created with Dr. Anand Agarwal, left, and Dr. Vijay K. Goel. R&D Magazine named their invention as one of the year’s most exceptional innovations in science and technology.

“Our composition is innovative and quite different from any of our well-known competitors,” Bhaduri said. “The response of bone growth is much faster than other products that are currently available. Our product also incorporates innovative processing techniques that simplify production, which further sets it apart.”

R&D Magazine has annually selected the top 100 revolutionary technologies of the past year since 1963. Among this year’s other winners were Dow Chemical, Texas Instruments, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

“The R&D 100 Award is one of the most prestigious recognitions in applied science,” UT Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “This award speaks to the ability of Bhaduri and his University of Toledo colleagues in translating highest quality research into marketable products to improve the health outcomes of many.”

Bhaduri teamed up with Dr. Vijay K. Goel, UT Distinguished University Professor and Endowed Chair and McMaster-Gardner Professor of Orthopaedic Bioengineering, and Dr. Anand Agarwal, UT research professor of bioengineering, to license the technology from the University and co-found the biomedical firm OsteoNovus Inc. Agarwal also serves as the president and chief executive officer of OsteoNovus, where the product has undergone further development.

“In this category of orthobiologics — how to grow bone — there are many players, but the problem is the big guys aren’t doing much innovation,” Bhaduri said. “We wanted to disrupt that.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared NovoGro for use in two different indications — spine and the extremities.

Currently, NovoGro has a half dozen clinical users across the country and is trying to grow the client base significantly in 2019.

The company’s corporate offices and manufacturing facility are housed within The University of Toledo LaunchPad Incubation Program.

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.”