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Physician/author to discuss health and race

Being black can be bad for your health — Dr. Damon Tweedy wrote about hearing that as a first-year medical student at Duke University in 1997.

His book, “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine,” became a New York Times Bestseller and was one of Time magazine’s top 10 nonfiction books in 2015.

Tweedy

“From the beginning of life to the very end — and everywhere in between — African Americans continue to experience disproportionately worse health outcomes,” Tweedy said. “You can name pretty much any disease, and you’re likely to find that it’s either more common in black people; black people who get the disease have a worse course; or both of these conditions. There are a lot of factors involved with this, and I explore many of them in my book.”

Tweedy will discuss race and health disparities Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1200.

For several years, the assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and staff physician at the Durham Veteran Affairs Medical Center has written and lectured on race and medicine. His articles have been published by The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, as well as by several medical journals.

In his book, he wrote, “Whether it is premature birth, infant mortality, homicide, childhood obesity or HIV infection, black children and young adults disproportionately bear the brunt of these medical and social ills. By middle age, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer have a suffocating grip on the health of black people and maintain this stranglehold on them well into their senior years.”

“I wanted to put a human touch to these issues of racial health disparities — examining how this impacts real people in everyday life,” Tweedy said. “Many people are more likely to engage in these issues when they are presented as stories rather than simply as statistics.

“I also wanted to explore some of the unique challenges faced by African-American doctors — a largely unexplored perspective in popular medical narratives,” he added.

His free, public talk is sponsored by We Are STEMM, a UT organization dedicated to empowering and inspiring students from underrepresented populations who are interested in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. Led by faculty and staff, the group celebrates and supports diversity in several UT colleges: Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Engineering; Medicine and Life Sciences; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Health and Human Services.

“I found Dr. Tweedy’s book to be inspirational. While it reveals a story often heard in the community of underrepresented groups pursuing higher education, I think he has been able to deliver many aspects in a manner that may be enlightening and perhaps more palatable to those freed from this ‘experience,’” said Dr. Anthony Quinn, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and chair of We Are STEMM.

“In contemporary society, there is the perception that history can be wiped clean with a single piece of new legislation — no need to deal with lasting psychological scars inflicted by past overt and covert policies or the entrenched social norms that are retained and vigorously guarded for generations in spite of new laws,” Quinn continued. “Dr. Tweedy brings out the adverse and lasting impact that discriminatory practices can have on individuals and society long past the time of those who initially implemented them.”

Tweedy’s talk is one of the University’s events scheduled for Black History Month.

Journal of Great Lakes Research names UT algae expert’s paper as one of most highly cited

The Journal of Great Lakes Research identified a University of Toledo ecologist’s “high-quality research” on harmful algal blooms as one of its five most highly cited papers for nearly three years.

In 2013, the quarterly journal published the paper titled “A Novel Method for Tracking Western Lake Erie Microcystis Blooms, 2002-2011,” by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and associate professor of ecology.

Dr. Thomas Bridgeman held a jar containing concentrated algae pulled up last spring from Lake Erie using the plankton net hanging on the side of the boat. In mid-May, the golden algae called diatoms is good for the lake, according to the researcher.

Dr. Thomas Bridgeman held a jar containing concentrated algae pulled up last spring from Lake Erie using the plankton net hanging on the side of the boat. In mid-May, the golden algae called diatoms is good for the lake, according to the researcher.

Bridgeman’s paper was cited 33 times between January 2014 and June 2016, according to Scopus Article Metrics. It ranks in the 98th percentile compared to aquatic science articles of the same age.

“It’s nice to know that other people are using your work and building on what you have done,” Bridgeman said. “Our goal is to advance the science and provide knowledge that ultimately benefits society, and I think my students and I did that here.”

Bridgeman and his students developed a new method to measure how much harmful algae there is in the lake over the course of the summer and compared the harmful algal bloom from one year to another. In the paper, Bridgeman included data on a decade of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie from 2002 to 2011.

“Other researchers are now using this method, and therefore cite our method when they publish their own studies,” Bridgeman said. “In addition, the annual records are extremely valuable for any researcher who is trying to understand how the health of the lake has been changing and what we need to do to get harmful algal blooms under control.”

“The widespread use of Dr. Bridgeman’s work demonstrates that UT research is integrated into the region,” said Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor and chair of the UT Department of Environmental Sciences and interim director of the Lake Erie Center.

Bridgeman’s research was a major contribution to the development of models that directly link the size of the annual harmful algal bloom with the amount of spring and summer phosphorus discharge from the Maumee River.

“Several of my colleagues are pursuing this line of research now,” Bridgeman said. “Together, our findings helped to convince the U.S. and Canadian governments that we need to decrease phosphorus entering Lake Erie by about 40 percent in order to reduce harmful algal blooms to a level that we can live with.”

Saturday Morning Science programs return

Why humans love music, this year’s solar eclipse, and bees — these are some of the topics that will be addressed during Saturday Morning Science.

The free, public programs will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100. A light breakfast sponsored in part by Barry Bagels will be available prior to the talks.

NSM 62_1 Saturday Morning Science flyer .inddPresented by the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Saturday Morning Science aims to educate, engage and entertain.

“We try to come up with topics that are of general public interest as well as interesting to us. Everyone should feel welcome to come,” Dr. Joseph Schmidt, UT professor of chemistry and an organizer of the event, said.

Listed by date, the programs and speakers are:

• Feb. 4 — “From Scorpion Skin to Photonic Devices: New Technology Inspired by Nature” by Bruno Ullrich, owner of Ullrich Photonics LLC, Wayne, Ohio.

• Feb. 18 — “From the River to Our Taps: The Poisoning of a City” by Monique Wilhelm, laboratory manager and lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Michigan in Flint.

• Feb. 25 — “From Science Labs to Your Homes: Be Citizen Scientists During the Solar Eclipse (Aug. 21)” by Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, UT professor of geography and lead director for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment MISSION EARTH.

• March 18 — “From Petroleum to Fuel: Boiling Oil in Modern Times” by Aaron Coulter, process engineering manager at the Toledo Refining Co. LLC.

• April 1 — “From Pollen to Honey: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” by Joan Mandell, beekeeper and educator with Citybees Detroit and Green Toe Gardens.

• April 29 — “From the Stone Age to Today: Why Do Humans Love Music, and What Has Physics Got to Do With It?” by Dr. Steven Errede, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

“These programs are designed to pique interest in all ages. I hope the younger members who attend the talks think about science as a career,” Schmidt said.

He invited anyone with questions regarding the programs or topic suggestions for future programs to contact him at joseph.schmidt@utoledo.edu.

Free parking will be available in area 13 and the west parking ramp.

For more information about Saturday Morning Science, go to facebook.com/SaturdayMorningScience or contact Schmidt at joseph.schmidt@utoledo.edu.

Ecologist elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science

A University of Toledo ecologist is being honored for her work to advance science as a newly elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Stepien

Stepien

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, is among the 391 AAAS Fellows elected in 2016 who will be recognized at the association’s annual meeting Feb. 18 in Boston.

AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific and engineering society. Since 1874, it has elected Fellows to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

“You are being honored for distinguished contributions to the fields of molecular evolutionary ecology and conservation genetics, particularly invasive and native populations, and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students,” Rush D. Holt, AAAS chief executive officer, wrote in a letter to Stepien informing her of the recognition.

“I am honored to be recognized by our nation’s scientific community,” Stepien said. “My special emphasis has been helping to train and mentor UT graduate and undergraduate students, and our local high school students in aquatic ecology, to aid conservation efforts in the Great Lakes.”

Stepien is internationally recognized for her research in the areas of invasive species and fish genetics. She joined UT’s Department of Environmental Sciences in 2004 and also served as director of the Lake Erie Center until 2016. She was appointed a Distinguished University Professor in 2012.

“Recognition as an AAAS Fellow is an enormous honor and a credit to Dr. Stepien and her impressive body of research to advance our knowledge of marine biology,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “The University of Toledo is proud to have a faculty member selected to the AAAS and looks forward to more faculty receiving prestigious national awards.”

Stepien is on a leave of absence from the University while continuing her active research program and working with UT graduate students. She is serving as an Ocean Environment Research Division leader at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

She is the author of the book “Molecular Systematics of Fishes” published in 1997 and reprinted in 2002, as well as more than 90 scholarly publications. She has received more than $12 million in grants and awards for her studies of molecular ecology, population genetics, evolutionary patterns and genomics.

Climate change disruption to be discussed Jan. 19

The University of Toledo is hosting an event to discuss the polarizing topic of climate change.

Jorgensen

Jorgensen

Dr. Andy Jorgensen, associate professor of chemistry and environmental sciences at UT and senior fellow for the National Council for Science and the Environment, will lead a talk titled “Climate Change Disruption: How Do We Know? What Can We Do?” as part of the Lake Erie Center Public Lecture Series.

The free event will take place Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

“Climate change and the cost of carbon dioxide pollution is a very intense topic in our country, which finds its way into political, business and social conversations, often with vocal disagreement,” Jorgensen said. “This presentation will give background information about the phenomenon and methods that have been used to characterize these changes. The human dimension of the problem will be emphasized in order to consider solutions.”

People who attend the event will be able to ask questions and share opinions. Participants also will be encouraged to share their views using a “clicker” or personal response device to compare their replies to those of more than 3,000 members of Jorgensen’s previous audiences.

NASA and the National Science Foundation have supported Jorgensen’s work on science education. He helped create an online program with more than 800 resources on climate change for students and teachers. The free, web-based curriculum can be found at camelclimatechange.org.

800-pound, interactive periodic table at UT inspires living science

It’s the first of its kind at a university or museum in Ohio and Michigan and possibly the only life-size periodic table in the world built and filled by a community.

The 800-pound, interactive periodic table bolted to the wall inside the main entrance to The University of Toledo’s Wolfe Hall features 118 LED-illuminated glass boxes.

“Living Science: The Ever-Changing Periodic Table” is located in the main entrance of Wolfe Hall.

“Living Science: The Ever-Changing Periodic Table” is located in the main entrance of Wolfe Hall.

Each box represents an element, and members of the community are invited to fill the boxes with examples of how each element relates to everyday life and current events.

The display features touch-screen technology that allows visitors to explore a variety of apps that share stories and videos about the elements, contents of the element boxes, and who donated the items for each element.

The display titled “Living Science: The Ever-Changing Periodic Table” was funded by a $31,465 grant from UT’s Women & Philanthropy, a collaborative effort of area women and the University’s Division of Advancement that supports institutional initiatives.

“You’ll be surprised how you can relate to the periodic table,” said Dr. Kristin Kirschbaum, director of the UT Instrumentation Center, who worked for five years to bring this project to life. “This unique display is so inspiring — both visually and educationally — for anyone who walks through the doors. We want the whole community — not only chemists — to participate in filling it in.”

Kirschbaum

Kirschbaum

As part of the grant for the project, Kirschbaum can reimburse donors up to $50 for an item.

“Through all of my research, this is the first and only community-built periodic table in the world,” Kirschbaum said. “We didn’t buy it pre-made with elements already inside. A local carpenter built this from scratch, and we are asking the public to help fill it up. We also will be able to regularly change the items in the boxes.”

Eight-year-old Destiny Zamora furnished the element box labeled “Au” with a gold-plated coin minted to celebrate the 100th year of Mexico’s independence, a gold medal, and a picture of Scrooge McDuck diving into his money vault.

“I chose gold because it’s my favorite color, and I want to be rich someday,” said the second-grader at Napoleon Elementary School whose father’s fiancee works in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Did you know Olympic gold medals only contain 1.34 percent of gold?”

Alyson Lautar, a UT student studying pharmacy, donated a smoke detector to represent americium, which is made in nuclear reactors and was first produced in 1945 as part of the Manhattan Project. The symbol for the element on the periodic table is Am.

“Americium-241 is a vital ingredient in ionization-style smoke alarms, which are inside homes and help save lives in the event of a fire,” Lautar said. “A tiny piece of the radioactive americium can detect smoke. When americium-241 decays, it releases positively charged alpha particles. The alarm has two ionization chambers — one is closed to everything but the alpha particles, while the other is open to the air. Normally, these two ionization chambers would receive the same amount of positive charge, but if a small amount of smoke gets into the open chamber, the balance of charge between the chambers is thrown off and triggers the alarm.”

Destiny Zamora, 8, pointed to the gold element box, which she filled.

Destiny Zamora, 8, pointed to the gold element box, which she filled.

Dr. Steven Toth, a lecturer and lead expert at the University of Michigan in Flint who earned his bachelor’s degree and PhD in chemistry from UT, is donating a bottle of Flint water for the box representing lead to help teach about the city’s recent water crisis. The symbol for lead is Pb.

“Lead used to be thought of as a ‘wonder’ chemical. It doesn’t store heat for nearly as long as other metals and has fast-drying powers, so it was used in pipes, paint and makeup,” Toth said. “We now know that lead can be toxic, and pretty much all products are sold lead-free. However, people in Flint were drinking water with high levels of lead after the city changed the water source in 2014. The city treated the water with chlorine to kill bacteria, and the chlorine started leaching lead out of the older, lead-lined pipes.”

Joe Slater, labor and employment law expert and the Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values in the UT College of Law, designed the radium display that contains an old alarm clock, paint brush, New Haven watch box, black-and-white factory photo, description of legal cases, and program from the play titled “Radium Girls.” Radium’s symbol is Ra on the periodic table.

The display in the radium box was created by Joe Slater, the UT Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values.

The display in the radium box was created by Joe Slater, the UT Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values.

“Women who worked at the factory in New Jersey in 1917 used self-illuminating paint that contained radium to make the dials on the watches, and they were told to lick the brushes to give them a fine point,” Slater said. “Some women got radiation poisoning and sued the company because they had been told the paint was harmless. That was the start of health and safety law in the workplace, a very important part of current American employment law.”

Matt Hafner, the local carpenter who built the massive periodic table in seven weeks, wants to do something for hafnium simply because it’s similar to his last name. Hafnium is Hf on the periodic table.

“While researching hafnium, I discovered it is used in tips of plasma torches,” said Hafner, owner of MDH Construction in Maumee. “I have one of those torches, so I’m considering making a video of how they are used on construction projects.”

Only a small handful of the element boxes contain items. A toy-sized Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” stands behind the glass labeled “Sn.”

A radiologist supplied a small bottle of gadodiamide, a gadolinium (Gd) that is used as a contrast agent in MRIs. Gadolinium’s box also contains a CD and the magnetic Pokémon called Magneton as it’s one of the few magnetic elements.

“We’re hoping the community will help us fill the empty element boxes,” Kirschbaum said. “Sparkplugs could be used for iridium (Ir), a tool set or dietary supplement for vanadium (V), dynamite for nitrogen (N). It can be anything from the pure element to something related to it. The possibilities are endless.”

To make a contribution to the periodic table, contact Kirschbaum at kristin.kirschbaum@utoledo.edu or 419.530.7847.

For more information, go to utoledo.edu/nsm/ic/periodictable.html.

UT astronomer selected as member of elite NASA group focused on cosmic origins

A University of Toledo astronomer who specializes in the formation of stars and planets has been named to a 12-member NASA advisory group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, shown here with the APEX telescope at an altitude of 16,750 feet on the Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert in Chile, has been selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

Dr. Tom Megeath, shown here with the APEX telescope at an altitude of 16,750 feet on the Llano de Chajnantor in the Atacama Desert in Chile, has been selected to serve a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee for NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

“His appointment is yet another national recognition of the astrophysics expertise at UT,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “This means that he and UT will have significant input on the science and technology priority decisions for NASA’s future directions.”

Megeath was the primary investigator for the Herschel Orion Protostar Survey, one of 21 competitively awarded Key Programs on the European Space Agency’s Herschel far-infrared space-based telescope. Megeath’s program studied the creation of stars by combining data from Herschel and several other space telescopes.  

He has used the Herschel, Spitzer and Hubble Space telescopes throughout his career. He also observed Orion from a flight from Canada to the Pacific Ocean on a NASA airplane called the SOFIA.

“When it comes to allocating resources, NASA needs guidance from the astronomers who use its huge range of instruments to collect data,” Megeath said. “The work I do with the advisory group will influence and contribute to NASA missions 10, 20 years from now. This is a huge opportunity for us here at UT.”

Megeath’s term on the NASA executive committee began in November and ends in November 2019.

Other members are from Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, NASA’s Goddard Flight Space Center, Johns Hopkins University, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ball Aerospace, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Saint Michael College, University of Minnesota and University of Washington.

In a letter to Megeath, Mario Perez, executive secretary of the committee and scientist in the Cosmic Origins Program, wrote, “Over the rest of the decade the [Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group] will play an important role in the future of NASA’s investment in cosmic origins science.”

Megeath is the first UT faculty member to serve on this advisory group.

“Cosmic origins covers everything from the Big Bang to the origin of our world and others,” Megeath said. “The goal is to understand the entire sequence of events that led to us.”

Dr. JD Smith, UT associate professor of astronomy, is the chair of the NASA Far Infrared Science Interest Group.

Dr. Adolf Witt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, served on the NASA Universe Working Group from 2005 to 2008.

Distinguished educator to deliver commencement address Dec. 17

Toledo native Dr. Timothy Law Snyder, president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will present the keynote address at the UT fall commencement Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. in Savage Arena.

Snyder, who will receive an honorary degree during the ceremony, will address 2,066 candidates for degrees: 93 doctoral, 584 master’s, 1,346 bachelor’s and 43 associate’s degrees.

Snyder

Snyder

The ceremony will be streamed live at http://video.utoledo.edu.

Snyder is a distinguished American educator and academic administrator whose career includes success as a computational mathematician, musician, published scholar, lecturer and podcaster. He attended Toledo Public Schools and graduated from UT in 1981 with bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and mathematics. Additionally, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from UT in 1983.

Snyder also holds a second master’s degree, as well as a doctoral degree, in computational mathematics from Princeton University.

“We’re honored to have Dr. Timothy Snyder return to his alma mater as our fall commencement speaker,” said UT President Sharon L. Gaber. “His career is proof that goals can be multidirectional, and success follows people who work hard to make lasting contributions, no matter what career paths they choose over a lifetime.”

In 2014, The University of Toledo Alumni Association recognized Snyder with its College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Outstanding Alumnus Award.

“I return to my hometown with pride and excitement to deliver the keynote commencement address. My educational path and career were profoundly shaped by my years at UT,” Snyder said. “I continue to resonate with UT’s mission to improve the human condition and advance knowledge, among its other values. I hope to inspire graduates to pursue their life goals with creativity and integrity.”

Snyder has held academic positions at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and at Georgetown University, where he was chair of the Department of Computer Science and its first dean of science. Additionally, he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut and vice president for academic affairs at Loyola University Maryland. In 2015, Snyder was appointed the 16th president of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

He has published and presented widely on his research, which includes computational mathematics, data structures, design and analysis of algorithms, geometric probability, digital signal processing, computer music, and the education of the millennial generation. More recently, he has been researching risk assessment in commercial airline safety, as well as HIV and its prevention.

A musician most of his life, Snyder was lead singer in the touring rock-and-punk band Whirlwind from 1976 to 1983. His music can be found on iTunes and SoundCloud. He is also active in social media through his Twitter handle @LMUSnyder.

The University’s fall commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters, Business and Innovation, Judith Herb College of Education, Health and Human Services, Medicine and Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Additionally, UT’s College of Engineering will hold graduation ceremonies for its undergraduate and graduate candidates Friday, Dec. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

UT chemist first to accurately predict structure of nano-sized silver

Scientists have studied silver for centuries.

However, silver nanoparticles that are too small for the naked eye to see — less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair — long remained a powerful germ-killing mystery.

Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, held a vial of silver nanoparticles in liquid form.

Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, held a vial of silver nanoparticles in liquid form.

In new research published in the journal Science Advances, a chemist at The University of Toledo and his collaborators at Georgia Tech proved for the first time they can predict the molecular structure of a tiny, complex metal particle that physicians might use to fight infections, detect cancer and possibly kill tumors.

The pioneering research opens the possibility for the design of metal and alloy nanoparticles, including silver, gold, platinum and copper, to create new medical therapies and treatment.

“If you want to design a drug for use inside the human body, knowing the structure and how it changes and interacts within the body is critically important,” Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said. “By knowing the positions of all the atoms that make up the silver nanoparticle, it’s possible for scientists to get much more sophisticated with how they use these for medical applications.”

This graphic of the molecule appeared with the article titled “Confirmation of a de novo Structure Prediction for an Atomically Precise Monolayer Coated Silver Nanoparticle” in the journal Science Advances.

This graphic of the molecule appeared with the article titled “Confirmation of a de novo Structure Prediction for an Atomically Precise Monolayer Coated Silver Nanoparticle” in the journal Science Advances.

Raw silver nanoparticles are already used for their antibacterial ability in a number of consumer products, including bandages, socks, underwear, athletic shirts, bedding, toys, refrigerators, cutting boards, throat spray, foam neck-support pillows, yoga mats, toothbrushes and soap.

“They’re crude chunks of silver in those antibacterial applications,” Bigioni said. “None are the same. Each particle is a random collection of silver atoms, but that works because you want the silver particles to dissolve and form silver ions. That is what kills the bacteria. Because they are used outside the body, it’s OK that their structures are random and unknown. The rules are very different, though, if you are going to use a silver nanoparticle as an antibiotic or cancer marker inside the human body.”

With the support of a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant, Bigioni’s team opened the door to sophisticated design of new, advanced therapies by better understanding how these molecules are put together after making a prediction last year and conducting experiments to confirm the accuracy. The scientists observed, predicted and measured the structural, electronic and spectral properties of the monolayer-protected silver nanoparticle.

The research titled “Confirmation of a de novo Structure Prediction for an Atomically Precise Monolayer Coated Silver Nanoparticle” will be used to develop a structure forecasting method for silver nanoparticles not possible to measure in order to help scientists advance the understanding of the health impacts of these molecules.

Metal nanoparticles also can be used in other applications, from catalytic converters to electronics to sensors, which the UT work should accelerate.

“Chemists are very good at understanding how the atoms in most materials are connected, but this is an entire class of molecules where we didn’t understand these basic rules,” Bigioni said. “It’s even further complicated because they are capped by sulfur-containing ligands.”

For example, chemists had been unable to predict simple things with gold and silver nanoparticles, such as which sizes will form and what their shapes, structures and properties will be.

“That is now beginning to change,” Bigioni said. “Our research using a combined theoretical and experimental approach opens up a new, fascinating chapter for chemists. This is a landmark moment because if you know the properties of the structure, you can figure out the properties in great detail, how it works, what its functions are, and what it’s good at. It becomes possible to explore using the nanoparticles in a much more sophisticated way.”

Graduate students Brian Conn and Aydar Atnagulov helped Bigioni perform the work at UT supported by the National Science Foundation award.

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Energy supported the work at Georgia Tech, which was led by Dr. Uzi Landman and performed by Drs. Bokwon Yoon and Robert Barnett.

Student wins NASA fellowship to help hunt for Earth-like planet with future space telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the 26-year-old Hubble, will be the largest and most powerful ever sent into orbit when it blasts off in fall 2018.

To prepare for Webb’s decade in space in search of a planet that could support life, NASA selected a University of Toledo PhD student studying small stars and the exoplanets closely orbiting them to join the team.

UT doctoral student Kevin Hardegree-Ullman is part of a NASA team that will help select what planets the new James Webb Space Telescope will focus on when launched in 2018.

UT doctoral student Kevin Hardegree-Ullman is part of a NASA team that will help select what planets the new James Webb Space Telescope will focus on when launched in 2018.

Kevin Hardegree-Ullman will contribute to choosing which planets the new space telescope will observe.

“There is going to be a lot of competition between astronomers for time on that telescope, which has an enormous gold-coated mirror and is much larger than Hubble,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “Before Webb launches, we will choose the best stretches of sky to look for another Earth-like planet. The best candidates are around low-mass stars that are less than half the size of the sun. Those are the stars that I have been focused on for years. This is an awesome opportunity.”

Because of his published work and experience collecting data about brown dwarfs using the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hardegree-Ullman won a NASA Graduate Fellowship that will pay for him to work with NASA scientists for six months.

In January, Hardegree-Ullman will head to the NASA Infrared Processing and Analysis Center for Infrared Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to identify a handful of locations to target in our galaxy where it’s most possible to find planets with water.

“We’ve already identified a bunch of star systems with planet candidates,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “My job will be to make sure there is a planet there using the data from the Spitzer Telescope and then figure which of these planets are the best to look at in follow-up observations with the future telescope.”

Hardegree-Ullman is the second UT PhD student in astronomy to recently win one of these competitive awards. Aditya Togi won the same NASA Graduate Fellowship in 2014.

“Kevin will get to interact with some of the best scientists in the world in an entirely new academic environment — something graduate students very rarely get to do,” said Dr. Mike Cushing, associate professor of astronomy and director of UT’s Ritter Planetarium, who is Hardegree-Ullman’s faculty advisor.

Hardegree-Ullman worked as a NASA Space Grant intern in 2011 while an undergraduate at the University of Arizona. He studied a specific molecule in interstellar clouds where stars form.

The PhD student now hunts for exoplanets by identifying dimming patterns caused when a planet blocks out a portion of a star’s light.

“It’s easier to find a smaller planet around a smaller star,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “Low-mass stars have a lower temperature, and that means a habitable planet has to orbit a lot closer to the star. It’s beneficial to an astronomer because you might only have to wait a couple weeks to watch the transit and find an Earth-size planet that could potentially contain water. You can determine size and radius monitoring the star’s light output. With a star the size of the sun, you have to wait an entire year.”

“Winning this fellowship highlights the caliber of scientist that Kevin has become during his time at UT,” Cushing said.