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Football legend, technology expert to speak at UT commencement ceremonies

Chuck Ealey and Dr. Helen Sun will return to The University of Toledo to give addresses during spring commencement ceremonies Saturday, May 5, in the Glass Bowl.

Ealey, the football star and businessman, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony at 10 a.m. Sun, a technology strategist known for transforming companies, will come out for the graduate commencement at 3 p.m.

There are 3,094 candidates for degrees from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Health and Human Services; Graduate Studies; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College. There are 987 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates, and 2,107 for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees.

The public ceremonies can be viewed live at utoledo.edu/video.

Ealey

UT will award Ealey an honorary doctor of humane letters.

“It is amazing, wonderful and humbling to have the opportunity to speak to the 2018 graduates of The University of Toledo,” Ealey said. “What I want to share is what I have learned — and am still learning — after I graduated. It’s about a legacy dream that can come true.”

He made dreams a reality as the UT quarterback who became a legend leading the Rockets to 35 victories in three seasons and as a trailblazer for African-American QBs in the Canadian Football League.

After finishing 18-0 in high school in Portsmouth, Ohio, Ealey received a football scholarship to the University. While earning a business degree in economics, he earned some nicknames for his exploits on the field: Mr. Cool, The Wizard of Oohs and Aahs. With Ealey at quarterback, Toledo went 35-0 from 1969 to 1971. He racked up 5,903 yards in total offense and 54 touchdowns while leading the Rockets to final Associated Press rankings of No. 20 in 1969, No. 12 in 1970, and No. 14 in 1971, finishing eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year.

Despite the eye-popping numbers, Ealey was passed over as a quarterback in the 1972 NFL draft. Although offered other positions, he was committed to becoming a professional quarterback and elected to go to the Canadian Football League. As a rookie, he led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the Grey Cup Championship in 1972 and was named Most Valuable Player. During his seven years in the CFL, he also played for the Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

After hanging up his helmet, Ealey was a certified financial planner with Investors Group for 30 years. He recently stepped out of his role as regional director to do more client and corporate coaching. The 1972 UT alumnus also inspires through the Chuck Ealey Foundation, which helps people discover and embrace their undefeated spirit to better themselves and their community.

Sun

Sun, chief technology officer of architecture, engineering and data management at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Chicago, received a PhD in educational technology from UT in 2001. She is an expert in revolutionizing businesses through innovative solutions, including artificial intelligence, cloud, analytics and architecture.

“I’m very excited to be coming back to campus and reflect on how my IT career took shape during the years I attended UT,” said Sun, who developed websites while in graduate school.

“I’ll wrap my speech around three personal experiences: How I started a career in technology — find where your passion lies; how my seemingly diverse career path has taken me to where I am — take risks and never let fear of failure deter you away from opportunities; and who my true hero is throughout these years — don’t let what others do to you change who you are,” she said.

Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase & Co., Sun was vice president for cloud computing, information and architecture at Motorola Solutions Inc. She has held senior leadership positions at some of the world’s most recognizable companies, including Harbor Capitol Advisors, NewEdge Group, Oracle Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc.

At Oracle, Sun became the first woman to achieve Oracle Enterprise Architect status and was honored as Oracle Enterprise Architect of the Year in 2011. In 2016, the Chicago Business Journal named her one of 50 honorees for its Women of Influence Awards.

She is the co-author of “Oracle Big Data Handbook,” “Pro Salesforce Analytics Cloud: A Guide to Wave Platform, Builder and Explorer” and “Master Competitive Analytics With Oracle Endeca Information Discovery.” Sun is a frequent speaker at major conferences and symposia; she gave the keynote address at the Open Group Big Data Conference in 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.

In addition to her passion serving as a mentor for women, Sun was a member of the UT Business Advisory Board from 2012 to 2016. She is co-chair of the Computer Science Advisory Board at Bowling Green State University.

Those planning to attend commencement are advised to use the west entrance off Secor Road and the south entrance off Dorr Street to avoid congestion on West Bancroft Street.

The College of Law will hold its commencement Sunday, May 6, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium.

And the College of Medicine and Life Sciences’ graduation ceremony will take place Friday, May 25, at 2 p.m. in Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. in Toledo.

Kindergarteners through college seniors to present research projects at UT

More than 120 students from Ohio and Michigan ranging from kindergartners to college seniors will present science research projects at The University of Toledo from 9:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 1.

The annual SATELLITES student research conference is part of GLOBE MISSION EARTH, a $10 million project funded by NASA and led by a UT researcher that is transforming the way science is taught to students throughout the United States.

Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, UT professor of geography and planning, has been spearheading the development of new K-12 science curriculum that relies on hands-on experiments to build knowledge using the resources of NASA and education partners across the country.

“We’re using real-life research experiences to spark the imagination of the next generation of scientists, engineers and doctors,” Czajkowski said.

The presentations will take place in Thompson Student Union’s Ingman Room and Room 2582.

The keynote speaker, John Moore, director for geoscience and STEM education at Palmyra Cove Nature Center in New Jersey, will provide hands-on demonstrations of the HoloGLOBE, a 3D visualization system with virtual reality headsets that uses NASA data to explore Earth. Moore will talk with middle and high school students at 11:40 a.m. and elementary school students at 12:40 p.m.

Judges for the conference are local scientists and teachers. Students are coming from as far north as Detroit and as far south as Mansfield.

“Science is more fun when students are participating in data collection and the scientific process, as opposed to conducting preplanned experiments in a classroom or lab,” Czajkowski said. “Through these research projects, students answer their own science questions about their environment by creating hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and sharing their results through their poster presentation.”

Czajkowski created the SATELLITES program, which stands for Students and Teachers Exploring Local Landscapes to Interpret the Earth from Space.

Through the SATELLITES program, students have access to GLOBE resources to help answer their research questions. GLOBE is the acronym for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, which is an international science and education program that connects students, teachers, scientists and citizens from different parts of the world to conduct real, hands-on science about their local environment and put it in a global perspective.

University recognizes faculty, staff for advising, research, teaching, outreach work

UT outstanding advisors, researchers and teachers, and recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement, were recognized last week.

Recipients of the Outstanding Advisor Award were:

Winners of the Outstanding Adviser Award were Dr. Jerry Van Hoy and Amanda Seabolt.

Amanda Seabolt, academic advisor in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The UT alumna received a bachelor of science degree in biology, a master of public health degree, a master of science degree in nursing, and a graduate certificate in gerontological practice. She will graduate with a doctor of philosophy in curriculum and instruction from the University next month. Seabolt started advising students in 2015, the same year she received one of UT’s Outstanding Staff Awards.

“She is always giving students opportunities, whether it be in getting a new job, joining an organization, or participating in research,” one nominator wrote. “She is always pushing students to do their best.” “She shows great knowledge through her own personal experience and continued education. She never stops learning,” another nominator wrote. “If she doesn’t know something, she doesn’t stop looking until she finds the answer. She is always working for the student. She has been one of the most influential people during my time at the University.”

Dr. Jerry Van Hoy, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Letters. He is co-director of the Program in Law and Social Thought and director of the Master of Liberal Studies Program. Van Hoy joined the University in 2000 and received one of UT’s Outstanding Teacher Awards in 2013.

“He flips the notion that advising is purely transactional on its head by listening to students’ needs and concerns. He helps students develop academic plans that work for them, addressing weaknesses and creating pathways to not only graduation, but to a life after college that students are excited about,” a nominator wrote. Another noted, “As a recent graduate, I faced some distressing events during my capstone project. Dr. Van Hoy provided objective feedback to let me know the problem wasn’t unusual, the troubling issues were not caused by me, and that they were not insurmountable. His advice was calming and reassuring. He was sensitive, diplomatic when needed, and direct as required.”

Recipients of the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award were:

Receiving Outstanding Research and Scholarship Awards were, from left, Dr. Vijay Devabhaktuni, Dr. Yanfa Yan and Nicole Buonocore Porter.

Dr. Vijay Devabhaktuni
, professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering. He is executive director of emerging technologies and special advisor to the UT vice president, chief information officer and chief technology officer. Devabhaktuni joined the faculty as an associate professor in 2008.

He is a renowned expert in computer-aided design, machine learning, modeling, optimization and simulation as applied to electromagnetics, big data, biomedical engineering, cyber security, energy efficiency, virtual reality, wireless sensor networking, image and signal processing, and more. Since 2009, the National Science Foundation has supported his work. While at UT, he has received about $2 million in funding from more than 30 external grants and has published more than 80 papers. According to Google Scholar, Devebhaktuni’s work has been cited 3,200 times since 2013.

Nicole Buonocore Porter, professor of law in the College of Law. She joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 2007.

Porter is a nationally recognized scholar on the employment rights of women and individuals with disabilities. She is the author of a disability law casebook, published by a leading legal academic publisher, and is the co-editor of a forthcoming book titled “Feminist Judgments: Employment Discrimination Opinions Rewritten.” Her published articles address the persistent pay gap between men and women, discrimination against workers with caregiving responsibilities, and the employment rights of individuals with disabilities. Her work has been cited more than any other faculty member in the UT College of Law, and she is frequently invited to speak at symposia and national conferences. In addition, Porter was invited to join the Labor Law Group, a prestigious organization that produces scholarship on labor and employment law.

Dr. Yanfa Yan, professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He joined the UT faculty in 2011.

For two decades, Yan has been researching photovoltaics, solar fuels and energy storage techniques using a combination of theory, material synthesis, device fabrication, and material and device characterization. He has written or co-written more than 350 articles and has given more than 50 invited talks. According to Google Scholar, Yan’s work has been cited 16,868 times. His work has been funded with more than $5 million from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research and private industry.

Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement were:

Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement were Dr. Susan Batten and Kenneth Kilbert.

Dr. Susan Batten
, professor in the College of Nursing. She joined the University in 1995.

Batten coordinates patient intake for the UT Community Care Clinic at Cedar Creek Church, provides care during Labre Traveling Clinic in south and east Toledo, and for migrant workers at their resident camps in northwest Ohio. She also has mentored nursing, medical and pharmacy students during annual medical missions to Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti. Batten has worked with more than 1,000 UT students with her community outreach and service projects. Their work has impacted more than 4,000 chronic disease patients in northwest Ohio, 500 immigrant workers and their families in rural Ohio, and more than 40,000 patients in Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti.

Kenneth Kilbert, professor and director of the Legal Institute of the Great Lakes in the College of Law. He joined the University in 2006.

A scholar of environmental law, Kilbert’s work focuses on water issues affecting the Great Lakes region. Since 2006, he has planned UT’s annual Great Lakes Water Conference, which addresses legal and policy issues important to the region and its water resources. Each year, the conference draws approximately 300 guests and garners extensive media coverage. In addition, Kilbert has received multiple grants to study harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. His scholarly work increases awareness, promotes best practices, and suggests legal solutions to address the algal bloom problem.

Recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award were:

Kara Bruce, professor in the College of Law. She joined the faculty in 2010.

“Professor Bruce exemplifies everything a professor should be — teacher, mentor, friend,” a nominator wrote. “Professor Bruce strives to engage her students while teaching difficult, sometimes less-interesting classes. She provides practical examples, makes jokes, and she goes out of her way (sometimes at the expense of getting behind schedule) to make sure we all understand what she is teaching. Honestly, I wish I could take Professor Bruce for every class in law school.” “Professor Bruce is excellent at taking complicated and challenging material and making it manageable for her students. She presents the material in a way that acknowledges the difficultly without making it seem daunting,” another wrote. “Not only is she passionate about students passing her class, she is passionate about making her students pass the bar.”

Dr. Edward Cancio, associate professor of special education in the Judith Herb College of Education. He came to UT in 2007.

“Dr. Cancio has been the most knowledgeable and inspiring professor I have had in my four years at UT. Every week Dr. Cancio showed the same passion for the subject that he taught and brought out the best from my classmates and I. It is easy to see from his lectures, published articles, and just speaking to him that Dr. Cancio is an expert in his field and was happy to pass his knowledge on special education to the class,” one nominator wrote. “Dr. Cancio’s class focused on teaching students with emotional behavioral disorder, which is one of the most intimidating sections of special education. After taking his class, I know that I am more than prepared to go into this field.”

Elyce Ervin, senior lecturer in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Health and Human Services. She has been teaching at the University since 1999.

“I had Elyce Ervin for Anatomy and Physiology, which has never been so easily comprehendible than it was in her class. She provided mini-activities every other class that helped us to understand the material. She also provided great lecture notes that were organized and easy to keep up with. The notes were fill-in, which helped people pay attention in her class. She would always ask if anyone had any questions in between every slide to ensure we were understanding the material,” one nominator wrote. “The one thing that makes Elyce Ervin stick out is how she is continuing to have an impact on me. She is without a doubt one of the best people I have met in my life.”

Dr. Jackie Layng, professor of communication in the College of Arts and Letters. She has taught at the University since 1997.

“Dr. Layng has by far been the most knowledgeable and personable professor I have had at UT. Her classes always push me to do my best work and achieve professional-level skills. Many times her class assignments seem intimidating at first, but Dr. Layng is always available to guide students throughout the process,” a nominator wrote. Another noted, “Selfless, dedicated, inspiring, caring: If you asked me to list all of the amazing things about Jackie, I think it’d be impossible because she’s had such a profound impact on my life. She genuinely cares about her students. Her constant words of encouragement, honest critiques, and passion for her career genuinely keep me going, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.”

Dr. Kim E. Nielsen, professor of history, disability studies, and women’s and gender studies in the College of Arts and Letters. She joined the faculty in 2012.

“Dr. Nielsen creates a classroom atmosphere that makes all of her students feel comfortable to share stories, ideas and opinions. She listens to every student and encourages all of her students to have a voice,” a nominator wrote. Another noted, “Dr. Nielsen goes out of her way to make sure every student succeeds. Her sense of humor makes every class intriguing and makes me want to learn more. I wasn’t much of a history buff until taking classes with her and hearing her passionate views. Dr. Nielsen is always available when you need her. She always comes to class with a smiling face even considering the boatload of other work she has to do. I wish I could have her for more classes.”

John J. Schlageter III, senior lecturer in the Paralegal Studies Program housed in the School of Social Justice in the College of Health and Human Services. He is a graduate of the UT College of Law and has been teaching at the University since 1998.

“He is truly the best professor that I had throughout my college career — always willing to listen, help in any way he can, and truly do everything in his power to help you begin your career in law,” one nominator wrote. Another noted, “Professor Schlageter goes above and beyond to help the students achieve great success in the paralegal classes. He always offers support, help and resources. He strives hard to make sure all students find a good quality internship. He always checks in on students and always offers support.” Another wrote, “He listens to every concern and teaches with such a passion. You can tell John loves what he does. He has helped myself and many others land jobs.”

Taking home Outstanding Teacher Awards were, from left, Elyce Ervin, Dr. Jackie Layng, John J. Schlageter III, Dr. Kim E. Nielsen, Kara Bruce and Dr. Edward Cancio.

Distinguished University Professors also were recognized at the ceremony:

Dr. Abdollah Afjeh of the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering in the College of Engineering;

Dr. Paul Hong of the Department of Information Operations and Technology Management in the College of Business and Innovation; and

Joseph Slater of the College of Law.

Read more about them here.

And Distinguished University Lecturers were honored:

Amy O’Donnell of the Department of Management in the College of Business and Innovation;

Sherry Tripepi of the School of Social Justice in the College of Health and Human Services; and

Sara Yaklin of the Department of English in the College of Arts and Letters.

Read more about them here.

UT, NOAA research team to host town hall on invasive species prevention in Great Lakes

A team of researchers at The University of Toledo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host a public education forum to help prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes through bait shop retailers and their customers.

The public is invited to a town hall meeting at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at the WGTE Public Media studio, 1270 S. Detroit Ave. in Toledo, to learn more about how non-native species may potentially find their way into the Great Lakes and what can be done to prevent it.

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and research division leader at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, second from right, with researchers at UT Lake Erie Center.

In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded UT researchers a nearly $500,000 grant through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for a three-year project to prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes through bait shops and pond stores.

The project is led by Dr. Carol Stepien, UT Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and research division leader at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, who is working with Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, UT professor of geography and planning, and Dr. Andrew Solocha, UT associate professor of finance.

“We found that bait shops sometimes accidentally sell non-native species mixed in with other bait,” Stepien said. “If non-native species such as silver carp become prevalent in the Great Lakes, it is predicted they could decimate valuable native species such as lake trout, walleye and yellow perch. They compete with these native species, depriving them of their food and habitat and can carry pathogens.”

The researchers sampled water from bait tanks for genetic material in 51 bait stores in 2016 and 2017 around Lake Erie. They found that 43 percent of the shops dispensed misidentified species. Using a technique called environmental DNA sampling, researchers sampled genetic material from bait tank water and found DNA evidence of invasive species such as silver carp, round goby, mosquitofish and tadpole snails in several bait shops.

These minnows were in a bowl at the UT Lake Erie Center, where researchers analyzed samples as part of a study to prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes through bait shop retailers and their customers.

“Retailers, customers and even some scientific experts are often unable to distinguish some of these invasive species from native species at early life stages,” Stepien said. “For example, many minnows may appear alike.”

The researchers also surveyed 217 anglers. Of those, 61 said they fished in Lake Erie.

“From our surveys, we found that 66 percent of Lake Erie anglers use live bait fish, and 50 percent of those reported discarding live bait into the water,” Stepien said. “This coupled with the instances of non-native bait in shops surrounding Lake Erie makes this region at definite risk of introduction of invasive species.”

The goal of the town hall meeting is to discuss the research findings and help the public and bait shop owners understand responsible measures they can take to prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.

“Releasing non-native pets, bait and other organisms into waterways can have unpredictable and widespread effects on Lake Erie’s long-term ecological health,” Stepien said.

The team is also planning a voluntary “invasive free” certification program for retailers.

In addition to Stepien, the panel of experts will include representatives from the Toledo Zoo, Maumee Bait & Tackle, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

UT student earns prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

A University of Toledo physics student was awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship, one of the oldest and most competitive honors in the country in the fields of science and mathematics.

Nathan Szymanski, who graduated from Genoa Area High School and is in his third year at UT, is one of 211 students in the United States chosen to receive $7,500 a year to be used for tuition, books and housing for the remainder of their undergraduate experience.

Szymanski

“It feels truly amazing to be selected for the Goldwater Scholarship, and I am very grateful for all the help that the faculty at UT, especially in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has provided me,” said Szymanski, who is double majoring in physics and mathematics. “I believe I was chosen because of my high level of research experience.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the lifetime work of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman. The foundation’s goal is to support “highly qualified undergraduates who are subsequently obtaining advanced degrees and going on to become this country’s leading scientists, engineers and mathematicians.”

Szymanski, who studies computational materials science at UT, uses supercomputers for his solid-state physics research, which includes working with lithium-ion batteries and solar cell materials for solar panels.

“I have been conducting research since my freshman year here at UT,” Szymanski said. “I have worked on a wide variety of projects. This resulted in me publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed international academic journal.”

He was first author on “Electronic and Optical Properties of Vanadium Oxides From First Principles,” which was recently published in Computational Materials Science.

“The goal of our research is to apply state-of-the-art theoretical and computational techniques to understand materials systems of significant experimental interest,” Szymanski said. “This work involves the prediction of new phenomena, as well as explanation of existing experimental data. We also are able to predict new materials that have desirable properties for a wide variety of applications, such as solar cells, lithium-ion batteries and thin-film coatings.”

“Nathan was faced with many challenges in research, all of which he overcame with astounding proficiency,” said Dr. Sanjay V. Khare, professor and chair of the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy, and co-author on Szymanski’s published paper. “He gained a deep understanding of numerous advanced theories, such as density functional theory and special quasi-random structures, which would typically prove daunting even to senior graduate students.”

Szymanski plans to earn a PhD in materials science and work in research laboratories.

“My overall long-term goal is to make meaningful contributions to the advancement of future technology, such as solar cells and batteries, as well as hopefully improve the theoretical and computational methods being used to do so,” Szymanski said.

Szymanski is the first UT student to be named a Goldwater Scholar in 16 years. The last undergraduate was Robert Cooper in the Department of Physics and Astronomy who graduated in 2002, went on to earn his PhD from the University of Michigan in 2008, and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at New Mexico State University.

“The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship will place Nathan in the very top category of students applying for graduate programs in the best institutions of higher learning,” Khare said. “I have no doubt that Nathan will one day make great contributions to the scientific enterprise.”

The UT Office of Undergraduate Research provided funding for Szymanski’s research and oversaw his application for the scholarship.

“This is a great honor for Nathan and his mentors at the University,” Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, director of the UT Office of Undergraduate Research and professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said.

New director appointed to lead UT Lake Erie Center

The University of Toledo named a new leader for the Lake Erie Center, a freshwater research and science education campus focused on finding solutions for water quality issues that face the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants.

Dr. Tom Bridgeman, algae researcher and UT professor of ecology, will serve as director effective May 14. A welcome reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Lake Erie Center.

Bridgeman

“It is an honor to be appointed the director of a center that has done so much toward improving our ecological understanding of western Lake Erie and its watershed, not just in an academic sense, but in ways that translate into policies for protecting the lake, its fisheries and our drinking water supplies,” Bridgeman said.

“Dr. Bridgeman is one of the leading researchers studying harmful algae blooms, and his insights and leadership as the new director will be important in continuing to move the Lake Erie Center forward, and in solidifying its key contributions toward solving the problems threatening Lake Erie and the Great Lakes in general,” 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. 

Bridgeman plans to continue to build relationships with state and national funding agencies to grow the Lake Erie Center’s research programs, which consist of faculty, staff and student researchers, and connect water treatment plant operators, legislative policymakers and the public with UT water quality expertise.

Bridgeman also plans to make the Lake Erie Center the hub of the UT Water Task Force, which is composed of faculty and researchers in diverse fields spanning the University and serves as a resource for government officials and the public looking for expertise on investigating the causes and effects of algal blooms, the health of Lake Erie, and the health of the communities depending on its water. The task force includes experts in economics, engineering, environmental sciences, business, pharmacy, law, chemistry and biochemistry, geography and planning, and medical microbiology and immunology.

“I would like to help this diverse group find a cohesive voice to communicate their research to the public under the banner of the Lake Erie Center,” Bridgeman said.

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With more than $14 million in active grants underway, researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

“I’m excited about pursuing some new ideas that will increase our research and education collaborations across UT and with other universities in the region so that the Lake Erie Center becomes the core facility for anyone who wants to conduct research involving Lake Erie,” Bridgeman said. “For anyone who loves water and loves Lake Erie, I would like them to feel that the Lake Erie Center is their center. It’s a place where they can be involved, send their kids to summer science camp, or meet and organize for improving the lake. For area students, I want them to know that UT offers unparalleled opportunities for them to learn about the environment, studying our Great Lake and its tributaries.”

Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor and chair of the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, has been serving as interim director of the Lake Erie Center.

“I want to thank Dr. Fisher for his dedication and willingness to serve in this capacity for the past 18 months,” Bjorkman said.

Director of freshwater research at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to speak at UT

Dr. Andy Casper, director of freshwater research at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, will speak at The University of Toledo about invasive Asian carp in rivers around the Great Lakes Wednesday, April 11, at 4 p.m. in Bowman-Oddy Laboratories Room 1049.

The free, public event is titled “The Contrasting Ecological Influence of Pollution, Policy and Invasive Species: Long-Term Data Sets Reveal Complex Trends in the Ecology of the Illinois River.”

Casper (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)

“The Illinois River has been impacted by two species of invasive carp, the silver and bighead, which do not have populations in the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Christine Mayer, aquatic ecologist and professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences. “A related species, grass carp, has recently been found spawning in Lake Erie tributaries.”

“The University of Toledo is doing important work on key issues in the ecosystem,” Casper said. “I am excited about the possibility of sharing information and potential collaborations on important Great Lakes concerns, like the influence of urban development and invasive species on our common Great Lakes resources.”

In 2015, a UT graduate student was the first researcher to discover grass carp eggs in the Sandusky River providing the first proof of spawning in a Great Lakes tributary. Grass carp are a type of invasive Asian carp. Last year, a UT researcher also found grass carp eggs in the Maumee River.

Although considered a species of Asian carp, wild adult grass carp pose significantly different risks to the Lake Erie ecosystem than bighead carp and silver carp. Both bighead carp and silver carp consume plankton, and if these species were to make their way into the Great Lakes basin, they would compete for the same source of food that ecologically and economically important native fish species need to survive. Silver carp are well-known for their jumping ability and are a hazard to boaters.
Grass carp pose a risk to waterfowl habitat and wetlands, but they do not eat plankton and are unlikely to compete directly with native fish. Grass carp do not jump and are primarily herbivorous.

Later this spring, Mayer will give a seminar in Chicago at the Shedd Aquarium about the importance of healthy river habitat to Lake Erie fish and the need for tailored restoration in each river. She targets the Maumee, Sandusky and Detroit rivers.

“The rivers and river mouths are a small area compared to the whole lake, but they hold some key habitats for fish, such as the type of environment required for reproduction,” Mayer said. “Some fish species, such as walleye, spawn both in the lake and in the rivers, but having river stocks helps increase the diversity of our ‘fish stock portfolio,’ just like your financial portfolio.”

While the river habitats are important to native fish to Lake Erie, Mayer said there also is potential for invasive species, such as grass carp, to use rivers for spawning.

“Rivers are highly affected by human alteration of habitat and inputs from the land,” Mayer said. “It is important to try to envision what kinds of conservation or restoration are best suited for the three big rivers entering western Lake Erie to contribute the most benefit to Lake Erie fisheries. Each river has unique issues.”

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With more than $14 million in active grants underway, UT experts are studying algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

Alumna to receive Turin Award, give lecture on photonics

Dr. Anca Sala will return to her alma mater to receive the John J. Turin Award for outstanding career accomplishments.

The dean of the College of Engineering at Baker College in Flint, Mich., will receive the award and give a free, public lecture Thursday, March 29, at 4 p.m. in McMaster Hall Room 1005.

Sala

In her talk titled “Integrated Photonics — An Applied Perspective,” Sala will discuss photonic integrated circuits and their potential to advance the fields of communications, signal processing and sensing.

She is one of the nation’s leading high-technology educators and innovators in the development of college programs in optics and photonics. In addition, Sala is a founding member of Mi-Light, the Michigan Photonics Cluster that supports Michigan’s photonics-related businesses with the goal of growing the state’s talent pool to expand the photonics industry and stimulate innovation.

“It is a huge honor for me to be recognized with the Turin Award,” Sala said. “I received an excellent education from great professors and mentors as a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UT. It gave me the ability to thrive in research and development in the industry, as well as a professor in a college environment.”

The Turin Award is presented each year by the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy to a former undergraduate or graduate student for his or her outstanding career accomplishments.

Sala received her PhD in physics from UT after earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Polytechnic University of Bucharest in Romania.

UT scientists awarded $400,000 grant to study wildlife in Oak Openings region

A team of ecologists at The University of Toledo was awarded a two-year state wildlife grant from Ohio and Michigan to study flagship species of the Oak Openings region to better inform conservation and management strategies.

Using radio telemetry, Dr. Jeanine Refsnider, evolutionary ecologist and assistant professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Henry Streby, ornithologist and assistant professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, will focus on the productivity and survival of red-headed woodpeckers, eastern box turtles and spotted turtles particularly in the oak savanna and wet prairie habitats in northwest Ohio and southern Michigan.

Spotted turtles like this one in the Oak Openings region will be monitored by UT researchers thanks to funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The two-year study will include conservation strategies for three species.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are funding the work with a $400,000 grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Oak savanna and wet prairie habitats have drastically declined in this area during the last century,” Refsnider said. “We are interested in three flagship species of Oak Openings ecosystems. If they’re doing well, the ecosystem is probably doing well. But if the animals are there yet not successfully producing offspring, the populations will continue to decline and possibly go extinct. We want to give conservationists a powerful tool to optimize the landscape and maintain wildlife populations, and that requires knowing not just whether rare species are present, but also whether they are reproducing successfully.”

Work begins in the spring on the study, which is titled “Distribution, Density and Demography of Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Eastern Box Turtles and Spotted Turtles in Oak Openings of Ohio and Michigan.”

The eastern box turtle also is part of the UT study funded by a $400,000 grant through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“If the habitat is good for charismatic mega fauna, there’s a good chance it’s right for the whole system,” Streby said. “If it’s bad for one of these, it’s likely representing underlying problems for all species.”

Radio transmitters will be epoxied to the turtles and harnessed to the woodpeckers. They do not inhibit the animal’s movement.

For all three species, UT researchers will be conducting distribution and density surveys, monitoring adults with radio-telemetry, monitoring nests, and tracking juveniles with radio-telemetry when they leave the nest.

Researchers will then use nest and juvenile survival data to determine which landscape compositions and configurations result in the best overall productivity for any species individually and all three together. 

“We want to identify the recipe for a quality habitat and map where nests might have the highest success in getting what they need for a self-sustaining population,” Streby said. “The Oak Openings region is a complex patchwork of wetlands, uplands, thin forest, dense forest, prairie and wet prairie. This comprehensive study is necessary to demonstrate which parts of the habitat are working and inform conservation management in the future.”

Red-headed woodpeckers, like this one on the hand of UT graduate student Kyle Pagel, will be monitored in the Oak Openings region during the two-year study.

Science center CEO to discuss STEMM roles for women

Dr. Tonya Matthews, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Science Center in Detroit, will speak Tuesday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the Driscoll Alumni Center Auditorium.

She will give the keynote address as part of The University of Toledo’s celebration of Women’s History Month.

Matthews

Matthews was selected by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of the 100 most influential women in Michigan in 2016. She also was honored as a Michigan Chronicle Woman of Achievement for her act of inspiring others through vision and leadership, exceptional achievements, and participation in community service.

Since she was named president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center in 2013, Matthews has worked to increase female involvement within STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) fields. She has implemented several programs, including career exploration fairs, innovative professional development for teachers, and the STEMinista Project, an initiative supporting the science interest of middle school girls.

During her lecture, Matthews will discuss strong female leaders and their diverse management styles. She will provide emphasis on women in STEMM fields.

“I’m honored to participate in the Women’s History Month celebration at The University of Toledo,” Matthews said. “Women provide an important voice and perspective that is critical to innovation and progress. There is a need to better engage and encourage girls in STEMM and to support this need. It’s up to us to inspire the next generation of women scientists, engineers and innovators.”

Matthews also shares inspiration through poetry. She has published four poetry collections and is a Library of Congress Center for the Book honoree.

Danielle Stamper, interim program coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success, believes Matthew’s lecture will be motivating to UT students.

“I believe that Dr. Tonya Matthews will encourage and empower women, especially women of color, to pursue STEMM careers,” Stamper said. “I am excited to hear from Dr. Matthews how her passions of poetry and writing have advanced her in the STEMM fields.”

Matthews received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke University and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. She was a biomedical engineer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and she worked at museums in Maryland and Ohio.

The free, public event is sponsored by the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of Multicultural Student Success, with additional support from the Jesup Scott Honors College and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.