UT News » Medicine and Life Sciences

UT News

Categories

Search News

Archives

Resources

Medicine and Life Sciences

Toledo-born actress to give commencement address

Katie Holmes, an internationally recognized actress, producer and director, will return to her hometown to inspire The University of Toledo graduates at the spring commencement ceremony.

Holmes

The Toledo-born actress who has appeared in more than 30 films and television programs will be the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony Saturday, May 4, at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The UT Board of Trustees approved Monday an honorary degree for Holmes, in addition to several other board actions.

Holmes made her feature film debut in “The Ice Storm” in 1997, and her breakout role came a year later as Joey Potter in the television series “Dawson’s Creek,” which she portrayed for six years.

Her film credits include “Go,” “Wonder Boys,” “Batman Begins” and “All We Had,” which is one of several projects in which she served as director and producer. In addition, her Broadway experience includes appearing in “All My Sons” and “Dead Accounts.”

Holmes managed and designed the fashion line Holmes & Yang, with her partner Jeanne Yang from 2009 to 2014, and is the co-founder of the Dizzy Feet Foundation that supports dance education in the United States. Holmes is a graduate of Toledo’s Notre Dame Academy. Her father, Martin Holmes Sr., and brother, Martin Holmes Jr., are graduates of the UT College of Law.

Parazynski

Trustees also approved an honorary degree for Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician, astronaut and inventor, who will address graduates of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences at its commencement ceremony Friday, May 10, at 4 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Parazynski spent 17 years as an astronaut during which time he flew five space shuttle missions and conducted seven spacewalks. In 2016, he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center.

Parazynski trained for a career in emergency medicine and trauma and has applied his expertise in the human adaptation to stressful environments. He is founder and CEO of Fluidity Technologies, a company focused on developing disruptive robotic control devices for everything from drones to surgical robots.

In other business, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a new Master of Applied Business Analytics Degree Program in the College of Business and Innovation. The program’s goal is to meet a growing demand for skilled professionals with analytical problem-solving skills who can apply real-time solutions to business problems.

The proposed 30-credit-hour program combines functional areas of business with business analytics courses and would conclude with an internship project or thesis. The proposal next will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. With approval, the program would start by fall semester 2020.

Also approved by trustees were housing and meal plan rates for the upcoming academic year for continuing and incoming students who are not in the current cohort of the Toledo Tuition Guarantee Plan. Dining rates will increase 2.8 percent, with a maximum of $4 more per week depending on the meal plan selected, and housing fees will increase an average of 2.9 percent, which represents an increase of up to $19.60 per week. The new housing and dining rates will help to cover increased costs of operations.

A new collective bargaining agreement with The University of Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association (UTPPA) also was approved by the trustees. The agreement, which runs from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021, was ratified by the union Jan. 9. There are 26 employees represented by the UTPPA who will receive wage increases of 1.8 percent effective Jan. 1, 2019, 2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2020, and 2.2 percent effective Jan. 1, 2021.

Health Science Campus Artist Showcase to open Feb. 18

The 14th annual Health Science Campus Artist Showcase will take place from Monday, Feb. 18, through Wednesday, April 10, on the fourth floor of Mulford Library.

This year’s exhibit features work from more than 30 artists who are students, faculty and staff in the health sciences from Health Science and Main campuses, as well as UT Medical Center.

On exhibit will be a variety of 2-D and 3-D artwork, including paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and mixed media.

An artist reception will be held Friday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the fourth floor of Mulford Library.

Dr. Paul Brand, UT associate professor emeritus of physiology and pharmacology, will speak at 4:30 p.m. at the reception. His talk is titled “Create Your Own World.”

“I paint and draw first for the simple pleasure of putting color on paper, and then to create paintings that stand out because they fuse realistic images and strong abstract designs,” Brand said.

A longstanding participant in the Health Science Campus Artist Showcase, Brand paints diverse subjects, most often landscapes, but also still-life and abstracts, using watercolors, acrylics, pastels or charcoal. He has four works in this year’s exhibit.

“I love watercolors for their luminous, fresh appearance, acrylics for their immediacy and simplicity, pastels for their intense colors and ease of application, and charcoal for the range of values and richness,” he said.

For the past two decades, paintings by the award-winning artist have been featured at several juried shows. In addition, Brand has taught art classes at the Toledo Botanical Gardens, Toledo Museum of Art and Art Supply Depo.

Like the exhibit, the reception and lecture are free and open to the public. Visitors can view the artwork during regular library hours: Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight.

For more information, visit the University Libraries website or contact Jodi Jameson, assistant professor and nursing librarian at Mulford Library, and member of the artist showcase committee, at 419.383.5152 or jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu.

UT researcher awarded $792,000 grant to further work on new way to detect early-stage breast cancer

Without treatment, more than 40 percent of precancerous breast lesions could develop into invasive breast cancer.

But what if scientists could more accurately predict which lesions are likely to become cancerous, or better yet, provide women a way to prevent the lesions from forming in the first place?

Dr. Saori Furuta, front left, received a $792,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to study precancerous breast lesions with her team, from left, Dr. Xunzhen Zheng, postdoctoral researcher;
Dr. Gang Ren, graduate student in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Matthew Bommarito, research technician; and Joshua Letson and Yashna Walia, graduate research assistants.

Dr. Saori Furuta, assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology, believes that might be within reach.

Furuta has spent years exploring the role nitric oxide plays in the development of precancerous lesions. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule produced throughout the body, and abnormal levels of it in mammary cells has been implicated in the formation of early-stage cancer.

Now Furuta is investigating how nitric oxide, in its proper concentration, can suppress tumors from forming, and whether its abnormal concentrations might be able to be used as a biomarker that identifies women with or at risk of developing early-stage cancer.

“We have made great progress in diagnosing and treating breast cancer, but it remains a lethal disease. One in eight women will get breast cancer during her lifetime, making it the second leading cause of cancer death among women,” Furuta said. “The hope is that this study will not only advance our understanding of the cause of breast cancer, but also contribute to the development of new approaches to prevention and early detection methods. Taken together, those methods could save lives.”

Furuta’s research is being funded by a multi-year $795,000 research grant from the American Cancer Society. The study was one of 74 funded earlier this year by the American Cancer Society across the United States.

“Dr. Furuta’s goal in finding the causes of precancerous lesions could further the progress in breast cancer prevention and treatment, helping to save lives,” said Sarah Wells, executive director of the Northern Ohio American Cancer Society. “This new research grant at The University of Toledo is just one example of how the American Cancer Society is leading the fight against cancer with the support of our local community and partners.”

Furuta has already examined the link between abnormal — too high or too low — levels of nitric oxide and mammary tumor formation. This research will take that prior work a step further by investigating the mechanisms by which a normal level serves to protect breast cells.

To do that, Furuta’s lab will use a mouse model in which tumor-promoting genes have been altered so they would not be affected by nitric oxide. Researchers will be able to test whether those specific genes produce mammary tumors, similar to how they do when nitric oxide levels are abnormal.

Lab tests also will be conducted on normal human breast tissue, as well as tissue from different stages of cancer to determine how the level of nitric oxide changes as cancer develops and progresses.

“Ultimately, we want to test whether proteins secreted in the blood and urine are also modified by nitric oxide and whether such analyses could be utilized in biological tests to diagnose breast cancer,” Furuta said. “Since there is no such diagnostic test available for many types of cancers, this would be a breakthrough.”

The grant from the American Cancer Society was preceded by an anonymous $50,000 gift from one of the members of The University of Toledo Medical Research Society to begin preliminary research.

“Utilizing the donation, we finished some of the critical experiments and re-sent our proposal,” Furuta said. “Without the generous support, this would have been impossible.”

UT research looks at fiber as a trigger and cure for inflammatory bowel disease

New research from The University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences may give patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease a better roadmap for managing their symptoms by changing the type of fiber they eat during flare-ups.

Because there’s no cure for the chronic condition, patients living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis — the two most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — often rely on anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive drugs and careful diet planning to manage their symptoms, said Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, the senior author on the study and director of the UT Microbiome Consortium and associate professor in the UT Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Research conducted by Dr. Vishal Singh suggests foods high in the dietary fiber pectin, found in apples and extractable from orange peels, may help individuals with inflammatory bowel disease.

But even that can seem like guesswork.

“IBD can be a debilitating condition and its prevalence is on the rise. For IBD patients, there has been a puzzling question of why they report poor tolerance to certain types of dietary fibers,” said Dr. Vishal Singh, a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Fellow mentored by Vijay-Kumar at UT.

“For healthy people, dietary fibers are good,” he said. “But when it comes to the IBD patients, not all-natural fibers are created equal; thus, their metabolism is distinct. We wanted to understand why.”

In a study published last month in the gastroenterology journal Gut, a team of UT researchers demonstrated a diet rich in pectin or pectin-derived fibers may be a better alternative to the prevailing dietary fiber guidelines aimed at helping patients improve their IBD symptoms.

The study also confirmed that inulin and inulin-like fiber exacerbated colitis in lab mice.

Inulin and pectin are two of the most common refined fibers added to processed foods as a way to add texture and boost their health appeal. Both are indigestible soluble fibers, Vijay-Kumar said, but they require different bacterial enzymes to be broken down in the gut into short-chain fatty acids.
“Many patients try to avoid fiber,” said Singh, the study’s first author. “However, the research shows it’s not about reducing fiber in general, but getting the right kind into your system.”

Singh and his fellow researchers said the finding could assist patients in developing a better diet for managing or preventing flare-ups.

“Following strict dietary guidelines is not new for IBD patients. Physicians often recommend patients limit or avoid a group of foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates, commonly known as the low-FODMAP diet,” Vijay-Kumar said. “Pectin is not included in that diet, but our research shows it brings a clear benefit.”

The study was supported by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

In the study, researchers examined the role played by bacteria that naturally reside in the gut. They demonstrated that inulin promoted accelerated growth of one particular harmful bacterial strain, while pectin did not.

They also found that a brief period of fasting may boost the body’s production of a physiological inflammation inhibitor that can protect against the inflammatory reaction caused by the gut bacteria processing inulin.

“For me, this study connects very well from bench to bedside,” Singh said. “If an IBD patient is noticing complications after eating some type of food, they can look to see if it is rich in inulin or inulin-type fibers. If it is, they can switch to foods enriched with pectin.”

Pectin is found naturally in a variety of foods, including apples. It also can be derived from other natural sources, such as orange peels, and used as a food additive.

Though the study looked only at pectin and inulin, the team hopes to conduct similar studies on a wide variety of dietary fibers present in processed foods with the goal of learning more about how different types of fiber cause or reduce colonic inflammation.

UT scientists advance new technology to protect drinking water from Lake Erie algal toxins

Before the 2014 Toledo Water Crisis left half a million residents without safe drinking water for three days, Dr. Jason Huntley’s research at The University of Toledo focused on bacteria that cause pneumonia.

After the harmful algal bloom prompted the city of Toledo’s “Do Not Drink” advisory, the microbiologist expanded his research projects to target microcystin.

Huntley

“I live here, and I have a young son,” said Huntley, associate professor in the UT Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “I don’t want toxins in the water, and I am committed to helping the water treatment plant protect the public.”

Huntley’s research lab recently made major progress in his mission to create a biofilter that uses naturally occurring Lake Erie bacteria to remove microcystin released by harmful algal blooms from drinking water, reducing or eliminating the use of chlorine and other chemicals.

“We’ve identified groups of bacteria in Lake Erie that can be used to naturally purify water. To our knowledge, these bacteria have not been previously used to fight harmful algal blooms in other parts of the world,” Huntley said.

The microbiologists successfully isolated bacteria from Lake Erie that degrade the microcystin toxin known as MC-LR — the most toxic, most common and most closely linked to liver cancer and other diseases — at a daily rate of up to 19 parts per billion (ppb).

Water analysts and toxicologists measure microcystin and other contaminants using the metric of ppb; one ppb is one part in 1 billion. These ppb numbers are important for human health because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that young children not drink water containing more than 0.3 ppb of microcystin and adults not drink water containing more than 1.6 ppb of microcystin.

“The bacteria we’ve identified can degrade much more toxin than was reported in the 2014 water crisis,” Huntley said. “Based on recorded toxin levels in Lake Erie in recent years, these rates would be able to effectively remove microcystin from water supplies.”

None of the 13 microcystin-degrading bacterial isolates has been associated with human disease, so their use in future water-purifying biofilters is unlikely to be a public health concern. The identified bacteria are Flectobacillus major, Pseudomonas lutea, Agrobacterium albertimagni, Leadbetterella byssophila, Pseudomonas putida, Flectobacillus major, Pseudomonas hunanensis, Runella slithyformis, Porphyrobacter sp., Pseudomonas parafulva, Sphingobium yanoikuyae, Pseudomonas fluorescens and Sphingobium yanoikuyae.

The research is published in the February issue of the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Researchers in Australia, China and other countries also have identified bacteria that can chew up and break down microcystin from algal blooms; however, Huntley said those specific types of bacteria were not found in any of his Lake Erie studies.

The lab-scale biofilters used during Dr. Jason Huntley’s research are sand filters that contain biologically active bacteria that break down microcystin toxins.

Thirteen water samples used for the study were collected from visible algal blooms in the summers of 2014 and 2015 in the western basin of Lake Erie. The scientists added MC-LR to each water sample every three to four days for approximately four weeks, alongside a control group that did not receive additional MC-LR.

The lab used multiple approaches to confirm the microcystin degradation results, including mass spectrometry and the ELISA test, which is the standard method water treatment plant operators use to measure microcystin concentration during algal bloom season.

His lab is now in the process of identifying the enzymatic pathways the bacteria use to break down microcystin.

Currently, municipal water treatment plants remove or degrade microcystin using methods such as chlorination, ozonation, activated carbon adsorption and flocculation.

“Those techniques are not ideal because of high costs, limited removal efficiencies, and they lead to the production of harmful byproducts or hazardous waste,” Huntley said. “Biofilters are a cost-effective and safe alternative to the use of chemicals and other conventional water treatment practices.”

“We’re very excited about the research and the findings,” said Andrew McClure, administrator for the city of Toledo’s Collins Park Water Treatment Plant. “We’ve had preliminary talks with Dr. Huntley about ways we can implement it as a treatment technique in our plant’s process.”

Huntley’s team is developing and testing biofilters — water filters containing the specialized bacteria that degrade microcystin toxins from lake water as it flows through the filter. Huntley holds a provisional patent on this technology.

The research was supported by grants from the Ohio Department of Higher Education through the state’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative, which consists of 54 science teams at universities across the state seeking solutions to address toxic algae in Lake Erie.

“This is another great example of how Ohio Department of Higher Education-funded research is producing solutions that directly benefit Ohio EPA and those water treatment plant operators responsible for managing our drinking water,” said Dr. Chris Winslow, director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University.

Inaugural class of Toledo Fire Department paramedics among this year’s inductees to UT Emergency Medicine Wall of Honor

The University of Toledo will add 14 names to the Emergency Medicine Wall of Honor at the eighth annual induction ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 5. Inductees will include the first group of Toledo firefighters to be certified as paramedics.

This year’s other honorees are a longtime clinical nursing educator and an emergency medical services outreach education coordinator.

The ceremony will begin at noon in Collier Building Room 1000B on Health Science Campus with a welcome from UT President Sharon L. Gaber. A reception with light refreshments will begin at 11:30 a.m.

Dr. Kristopher Brickman, professor and senior associate dean for innovation in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, also are scheduled to give remarks.

“This award recognizes people who have been instrumental in developing and defining what emergency care is in our region,” Brickman said. “We want to honor some of our unsung heroes of emergency medicine who have helped save lives and made a real difference in our community.”

The Emergency Medicine Wall of Honor, made possible through funding from IPI Insta-Plak Inc. and The Blade, was established in 2011 to celebrate the achievements of those who are committed to service within the emergency medicine community.

Each year, nominations are submitted by a committee of community stakeholders and reviewed by a multidisciplinary selection committee. This year’s group is larger because of the inclusion of all 12 members of the Toledo Fire Department’s first paramedic class.

“Those firefighters were a unique group of people who basically were out there doing something that nobody else had done before,” Brickman said. “For our region they were the pioneers.”

The honorees this year are:

• Patricia Rice Yancy, registered nurse. Yancy, who earned master’s degrees in education and public health from UT after completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mary Manse College, initiated several training courses for nurses, including critical care and flight nurse programs. She has been instrumental in training thousands of nurses, doctors and other pre-hospital employees throughout her career. She recently retired from Lourdes University.

• Patricia Ann Ambrose, paramedic. Ambrose was the EMS outreach education coordinator for Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center Life Flight and Mobile Life. She also was a lifelong EMS and life support educator, including playing an integral role in the paramedic education program and the former Medical University of Ohio. Ambrose died in 2018.

• Members of the Toledo Fire Department paramedic class of 1974. They are William Brown, Michael Condon, James Dugan, David Hilton (posthumous recognition), Alan Janney, Paul Johnston, Renzo Meraldo, James Markland, Ralph Mungons, Samuel Reynolds, Barney Rouster (posthumous recognition) and Daniel Thedford. The 1974 class was the first group of firefighters to train as paramedics in Toledo as part of a joint project with the former Medical College of Ohio. They were pioneers in their field and are uniquely responsible for building and advancing emergency medical services in Lucas County.

A plaque for each honoree will be added to the wall, located in the Emergency Department of The University of Toledo Medical Center, near the ambulance entrance.

New report highlights commitment to community engagement

The University of Toledo has released its initial annual engagement report to highlight the impact UT has on the community through the efforts of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The report is the first of an annual effort to document the University’s community engagement activities as part of an initiative launched last academic year to enhance opportunities for partnership and collaboration.

“UT takes great pride in being a public research university that serves the community,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Since our founding, we’ve been committed to public service, and we remain focused on our goal to effect positive change in the community, the state, the nation and the world.”

The 2018 Annual Report on The University of Toledo’s Community Engagement, available on the Community Engagement website, organizes UT’s engagement activities through the lenses of talent development, innovation and place.

In the area of talent development, the University took a look at its academic and experiential learning programs that prepare students with the strong educational foundation needed to succeed in the workplace. At the same time, UT provides area businesses with a strong pool of interns and employees to help advance their operations. One example of UT’s impact — 78 percent of the 2017 College of Business and Innovation graduates found employment in the northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan communities.

UT’s business incubation efforts are highlighted in the innovation section, noting that since the inception of the LaunchPad incubation program in 2014, there have been more than 250 entrepreneurs served, nearly 250 jobs created, and nearly $30,000,000 in sales revenue and professional investment in the region.

Lastly, the report looks at the University’s role in improving the quality of life in the place it calls home. The CommunityCare Clinic run by students in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences served nearly 5,000 patients last year, and all UT students collectively performed nearly 40,000 hours of community service, volunteering their time beyond the hours they give back through student teaching, clinicals and unpaid internships.

“UT faculty, students, staff and alumni have so much to be proud of when reflecting on the strong, positive impact we have on our community and the many ways we connect with and enrich the lives of our neighbors,” said Margie Traband, senior director of community engagement. “This new annual report is one way we celebrate the University’s role in the region and look for ways to continue to enhance our efforts.”

UTMC, local mental health boards partner to improve adolescent mental health care

The University of Toledo Medical Center is launching a new partnership with mental health boards throughout northwest Ohio to create a better model of care for adolescents dealing with particularly challenging mental health issues.

Through service agreements with the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County and 10 other boards representing 22 additional Ohio counties, UTMC will be able to provide longer, more intensive inpatient care for patients between the ages of 13 and 18.

The longer stay will enable clinicians to dig deeper into the root causes of the adolescents’ mental health issues and establish a more coordinated long-term treatment plan to address the problem of patients repeatedly going in and out of inpatient treatment without advancement.

“We want to be taking on the most difficult cases and also helping the community with its biggest needs. Right now, there’s a lot of fragmentation of services and limited access to care,” said Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith, professor and chair of the UT Department of Psychiatry. “This innovative collaboration enables an expansion of services without duplicating resources.”

In many cases, insurers will only cover a few days of inpatient treatment. While that can be enough time to stabilize many patients in crisis, some patients need a more in-depth psychiatric and medical examination, monitoring of new medications, and coordination of continuing outpatient treatment, McCullumsmith said.

“There’s a high need for some adolescents to get more intensive evaluation and treatment plans,” McCullumsmith said. “We want the inpatient stay to advance the treatment plan, to be a constructive part rather than the Band-Aid it often is now. We’re trying to give them a comprehensive assessment and evaluation and kind of a restart. Let’s take some time, wipe the slate clean, start from the beginning, and figure out a true diagnosis and plan.”

Under the new service agreements, the boards will pay for days not covered by insurance, allowing UTMC to treat adolescents for longer stays as needed.

The initiative will focus primarily on adolescents who have had multiple inpatient hospitalizations during the last year, have difficult to establish diagnoses, or who have challenges with medication.

“We’re very excited and encouraged by the engagement with UT,” said Scott Sylak, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County. “The timing was right to move forward with this, and we’re really thrilled with the partnership that’s developing. Having this resource locally and being able to ensure that families stay involved and that our providers stay involved is a worthy investment from the board’s perspective.”

The Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, along with other partner boards across northwest Ohio, will refer patients into the program.

Founded in 1968, UTMC Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was northwest Ohio’s first hospital devoted to treating the emotional and behavioral needs of children and teens. Today, the center has an inpatient facility and outpatient mental health services.

University Women’s Commission program to offer advice: ‘Just breathe’

“Just Breathe: Using Technology and Relaxation to Prevent Anxiety and Improve Stress Tolerance” will be the topic of the University Women’s Commission’s Lunch and Learn Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Knox

Dr. Michele Knox, UT professor of psychiatry, will speak at the event, which will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1035 on Health Science Campus.

Acute stress often leads to muscle tension, rapid/shallow breathing, increase in heart rate, and changes in stress hormones — adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

These in turn affect the regulation of the immune system and inflammation. Prolonged stress can lead to the development of various physical and mental health conditions. Knox wants to introduce students and employees to new strategies to combat these afflictions.

“I will be showing the attendees why and how to use technology to help learn to prevent and reduce stress. I will show them technology that I use to help patients with anxiety disorders learn to bring about a state of relaxation to counter or prevent the impact of stress,” Knox said. “I hope that attendees will learn a basic skill that they can use on a daily basis to reduce or prevent stress and its outcomes.”

Campus community members are invited to bring their lunch and attend the free event.

UT research assistant to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’

This microbiologist studies Lyme disease at The University of Toledo and finally made good on his lifelong dream to appear on “Jeopardy!”

Who is John Presloid?

Correct. The UT research assistant will make his “Jeopardy!” debut Wednesday, Jan. 16.

UT alumnus and employee John Presloid, right, posed for a photo with Alex Trebek during an appearance on “Jeopardy!”

“It felt like an accomplishment just being there, just being on the stage,” said Presloid, who works in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “I watched the show every day growing up. My first audition was actually like a week after my 18th birthday. Pretty much as soon as I turned 18, I’ve been applying nonstop.”

He finally broke through in October after his fourth in-person audition, earning the right to fly to Culver City, Calif., meet longtime host Alex Trebek, and go head to head with two other trivia superstars.

The questions he answered and where he placed is a closely guarded secret — you’ll need to tune in to find out — but Presloid said the overall experience was even better than what he had expected.

“I thought it was going to be very serious and I’d be really nervous. But I just had a blast the entire time,” he said. “One of the things they tell you is they want a poker face; they want you to look serious and not give anything away.”

“One of the handlers kind of jokingly wagged her finger at me for smiling, but she was like, ‘Question right, question wrong — you’re always smiling or laughing. That is your poker face.’ It was just so much fun.”

Presloid earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from UT in 2004 and a master of science degree in biomedicine in 2008. He’s spent the last four years working in the lab of Dr. Mark Wooten, UT professor of medical microbiology and immunology, who studies Lyme disease and melioidosis, a bacterial infection common in tropical climates.

He was actually working in the lab when a colleague knocked and said he had a phone call from a “Jeopardy!” producer.

A dedicated reader who naturally soaks up information, Presloid said he felt well-prepared, though he did brush up on some fine arts topics such as classical composers and opera.

“I tried to cram a little bit, but I didn’t want to drive myself crazy,” he said. “I kind of balanced between feeling comfortable but not losing sleep over it.”

Presloid likened being on “Jeopardy!” to playing sports. There were a few anxious jitters at the start, but once you’re involved in the game, you sort of fall into the zone.

“It goes by really fast. I’m actually kind of excited to see it on TV because there’s so much I don’t remember,” he said. “All the contestants were hanging out all day and most of them were really, really cool. You expect some people might be too competitive or off-putting, but I think everyone had the same goals and the same dream, and everyone is just so excited to be there. It was just unbelievable.”

In Toledo, the episode featuring Presloid will air at 7:30 p.m. on WTOL-TV Channel 11.