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Biomedical company created by UT faculty celebrates FDA clearance, first product launch

Two local bioengineers are officially in the business of back pain relief.

A new medical device developed by researchers at The University of Toledo to help reduce infections from spinal surgery is making its market debut.

Spinal Balance created Libra, a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room.

Spinal Balance created Libra, a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room.

Spinal Balance will celebrate the launch of its first locally grown product called the Libra Pedicle Screw System Wednesday, May 25, at 6 p.m. at the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex on UT’s Main Campus.

Libra is a pre-sterilized, individually packaged screw system designed to combat contamination in the operating room as a result of contact with people, containers or surfaces. The product will help surgeons at hospitals worldwide improve patient care and reduce costs.

“Deep bone infections are a serious problem,” said Dr. Anand Agarwal, CEO of Spinal Balance and UT professor of bioengineering. “Keeping anything from touching or contacting the threads of a screw is very important. Our aim is to provide the surgeon with technically advanced implants that are easy to handle and can be implanted using improved aseptic technique.”

“We reduce the variables in the operating room that contribute to infections,” said Don Kennedy, director of sales and marketing for Spinal Balance. “No one ever has to touch the implant prior to it being placed into a patient.”

spinal balance logoThe Food and Drug Administration cleared the Libra system last year to be used for spine fusion and to treat back pain in cases of degeneration, trauma and deformity.

Agarwal and Dr. Vijay Goel, UT Distinguished University Professor and the McMaster-Gardner Endowed Chair of Orthopedic Bioengineering, launched Spinal Balance in 2013 and developed the Libra technology through support from the state of Ohio’s Third Frontier Program, Rocket Innovations and UT’s LaunchPad Incubation program.

“We value, foster and invest in the entrepreneurial spirit here at The University of Toledo,” said Jessica Sattler, UT director of economic engagement and business development programs. “Our LaunchPad Incubation program provides faculty members and community entrepreneurs intensive entrepreneurial assistance and state-of-the-art facilities for research, development, manufacturing and storage as they navigate the long road from concept to commercialization. The success of Drs. Agarwal and Goel also is a proud accomplishment for our program.”

The celebration of the Libra product launch will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by presentations at 6:15 p.m. and a dinner at 7:15 p.m.

Spinal Balance is one of three private companies Agarwal has located in the LaunchPad Incubation program with other UT research faculty members.

Agarwal’s company called IntelliSenze recently received $150,000 in state funds to help commercialize microprocessor chips under development that can detect the presence of bacteria and viruses.

Associate professor to screen film in England

Holly Hey, UT associate professor and head of film, has been invited to screen her film, “the dum dum capitol of the world,” at Future Now: The Aesthetica Art Prize Symposium in York, England,Thursday and Friday, May 26-27.

“the dum dum capitol of the world” will be shown as part of the specially curated selection of artists’ films and moving image works selected from the winners of the Aesthetica Short Film Festival over the last several years.

Hey stillsHey’s film screened at the 2015 Aesthetica Short Film Festival and will be showcased with high honor among the best at the Future Now: The Aesthetica Art Prize Symposium. “the dum dum capitol of the world” received the LEF Moving Image Award.

She said the first-person experimental documentary is a moving-image meditation that contemplates landscape, home, recollection, queerness and time.

“The project uses personal history to reflect on universal themes about home, life, love, parenting, memory and death,” she said.

Hey began the project in 2005 when she received funding from the LEF Moving Image Foundation. She later received funding from The University of Toledo in 2012 and completed the film in 2014.

Future Now: The Aesthetica Art Prize Symposium is an extension of Aesthetica Magazine, a British art and culture publication that covers photography, visual art, music, film and theater. It has a readership of more than 284,000 and national and international distribution.



The symposium will consist of more than 40 speakers who will address diverse art topics. It also offers learning and networking opportunities through the industry sessions for artists.

Hey, who holds a master of fine arts degree in filmmaking from the Art Institute of Chicago, makes a broad range of work that can be seen in galleries, film festivals, live performances and on television. Her works have screened both nationally and internationally, and the National Educational Telecommunications Association distributed her major release, “Rat Stories,” which aired on PBS affiliates in the United States, British Columbia and Puerto Rico.

For more information on the event, click here.

Glass Bowl’s new FieldTurf surface project complete and ready for action

The University of Toledo football team will be playing on a brand-new field when the Rockets run onto the gridiron in the home opener vs. Maine in the Glass Bowl Saturday, Sept. 10. Installation of the new FieldTurf playing surface was completed last week.

Some UT’s players got a chance to test out the new surface Monday and gave it their enthusiastic approval.

The new FieldTurf playing surface was completed last week.

The new FieldTurf playing surface was completed last week.

“It’s nice, a lot different from the old turf,” said junior quarterback Logan Woodside. “It’s thicker and softer. It feels more like real grass. It’s not as hard, so I think that could help prevent injuries.”

“I think it’s going to be faster,” added junior linebacker Ja’Wuan Woodley. “I think our cleats will sink into it better and give us better traction.”

The new FieldTurf surface is called Revolution 360 and features the latest in cutting-edge playing surface technology. The new surface will replace a FieldTurf surface that was installed in 2008. The project took about a month to complete.

“Any time you can make improvements to your stadium, it’s good for the program,” said Head Coach Jason Candle. “Our players are excited about playing on a new FieldTurf surface next fall.”

The look of the new field did not change dramatically. “We made a few tweaks, but overall we felt we wanted to stay with our current look,” said Tim Warga, assistant athletic director for operations and events. “The bench areas are solid blue and the numbers on the field are outlined in blue, but otherwise from a fan’s perspective it looks very similar to our current field.”

Other changes include a new angle for the Rocket logo at midfield so it fits inside the interior yard markers per NCAA rules. Also, the words “Glass Bowl” are stitched into each sideline.

The Glass Bowl was built in 1936 and had a grass playing field until Astroturf was installed in 1974. The Rockets played on Astroturf until 2001 when a new surface called Nexturf made its debut. That surface was replaced by Field Turf in 2008.

Toledo will open the 2016 season on the road at Arkansas State Sept. 3 before returning to the Glass Bowl to take on Maine Sept. 10.

Season tickets are available at the UT Athletic Ticket Office, online or by calling 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Outstanding staff members celebrated

Five employees recently received the University’s 2016 Outstanding Staff Awards.

Nearly 40 nominees were honored at a ceremony in the Student Union Auditorium.

Winners this year were:



• Tammy Brittian, administrative assistant in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She has worked at the University 22 years.

“Tammy is a natural-born helper and ridiculous multi-tasker; she’s never too busy to stop the millions of projects she’s simultaneously working on to help anyone who asks,” one nominator wrote. “Tammy emulates our mission by continuing to provide everyone she encounters on a daily basis with the utmost respect. On top of that, she serves as each of these constituent’s personal guide, helping him or her navigate the complex University system.” Another noted, “Tammy pushes herself and leads by example. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do or how to get something done; she’s resourceful and doesn’t stop until she accomplishes what she set out to. Tammy is motivated by organization; the more organized, the better functioning her department.”



• Peggy Ery, publications editor of the Law Review in the College of Law. She has worked at the University for 29 years, first in Carlson Library, then transferring to the College of Law as a secretary before taking on Law Review for the past 22 years.

“As a student-run journal, we all must work as a team, and she is a great silent captain,” one nominator wrote. “She brings with her 22 years of experience and shares her knowledge with all who ask. Because of her dedication and hard work, she holds those around her accountable for their work and expects the highest degree of effort.” Another noted, “She motivates and inspires every member of the Law Review to do our best. Our Law Review is ranked 109th out of more than 500 general journals. Our success and continued excellence as a publication can be directly attributed to Peggy’s dedication. Peggy is always willing to drop her administrative and editorial duties — even if it makes her job harder — to answer editing questions and address managerial concerns.”



• Katherine Goans, associate director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources. She began her career at MCO in 1975 in Environmental Services, leaving in 1977 to continue her education at UT and start a family. She returned in 1982 to the Medical Records Department. One year later, Goans transferred to her current department as a laboratory animal aide. She has been promoted throughout the years to her current position.

“Dedication, commitment, helpful, pleasant — all of these words describe Kathy. She will be missed when she retires in 2017,” one nominator wrote. “The facilities are well-maintained, and the research animals receive premium care and treatment.” “She began working as an animal care aide before moving into the role of operations manager and in recent years associate director. In each of these roles, she has been an active team member in assisting department staff and UT faculty, staff and students to promote an excellent environment for research involving laboratory animals,” another noted. And another wrote, “She considers no question unworthy of a thoughtful answer and no individual beyond her ability and willingness to train to a successful level of proficiency. Her positive attitude inspires others to believe in themselves.”



• Scott McBride, business services officer in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He has worked at the University since 1994.

“For research, he manages grant paperwork — $2 to $4 million a year — and is responsible for purchasing, accounting, balancing, and then fixing and adjusting to best meet faculty requests when all does not go as planned,” one nominator wrote. “He demonstrates extraordinary creativity to support faculty wishes while always meeting regulations. He confronts challenges with humor and creativity, always with the highest ethical standards.” Another wrote, “Scott has been running the business component of our department since he arrived. And he does so with a smile on his face every day and without complaining. Quite frankly, in our discipline with a combined annual budget of some $3 million in externally funded research and several dozen graduate assistants on the payroll, we would be lost without his competent help.”



• Marissa Reid, success coach in You College. She has worked at UT since 2013. Reid received a bachelor of arts degree in pyschology from the University in 2011.

“When success coaching started, new coaches were faced with the task of building a program from scratch that would retain students and build confident young adults,” one nominator wrote. “Marissa took the initiative right off the bat to begin organizing experiential learning opportunities for You College students. She spent her own personal time organizing, planning and prepping students to experience volunteerism and service learning through the Boys and Girls Club.” “She knows how to connect with her students and even provide tough love when needed,” another noted. “Marissa also gives back to the community, and it is not uncommon to find her at campus events or representing UT on various community groups where she is passionate about helping students be successful at UT.”

Assistant to chair receives Hymore Award

Lisa Akeman, assistant to the chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, is the 2016 winner of the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award.

She received the honor named for the longtime executive secretary to former President Lloyd Jacobs May 3 during the Employee Service Recognition Program. The award is presented annually to an individual whose work defines the core values of the University in Hymore’s spirit of support, encouragement and service. Hymore, 58, passed away in 2015.

Lisa Akeman received the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award from President Sharon L. Gaber, left, and Jovita Thomas-Williams, vice president and chief HR officer for human resources and talent development.

Lisa Akeman received the Diane Hymore Exemplar of Excellence Award from President Sharon L. Gaber, left, and Jovita Thomas-Williams, vice president and chief HR officer for human resources and talent development.

Akeman joined the University staff in 1989 as a clerk in the Records Management Department. She served as a technical typist in the Department of Medical Records and the Department of Medicine. Prior to her current position, she was an administrative assistant in the Department of Surgery and later in the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research.

“Lisa consistently promotes kindness and positivity throughout her daily activities and encounters in the department,” one nominator wrote. “Her positive and upbeat personality is contagious, and we have all benefited greatly from her kind example.”

Another noted, “She has a high level of compassion and integrity that matches no other.”

“I am impressed with the quality and quantity of work that Ms. Akeman gets done in short amounts of time,” a nominator wrote. “She handles difficult situations with an impressive calm and composed nature that stimulates positivity even during stressful conditions.

“Ms. Akeman is indeed a role model for her demonstration of professionalism. She is calm and composed and in that sense exemplary to our students in particular.”

“Although I did not have the opportunity to know Ms. Hymore, this award attests to the type of person she was and the outstanding service she provided to the UT community. It was a privilege to meet members of her family and learn more about her and her service to our institution,” Akeman said.

“I am very grateful for this award and the recognition I have received, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to work in such an outstanding environment surrounded by such wonderful faculty, staff and students,” she added. “I have worked at UT for almost 27 years and have formed great relationships along the way. I enjoy coming to work every day and take pride in being part of such an exceptional community.”

UT College of Medicine to host commencement May 27

Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Desjardins will serve as the commencement speaker for The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences graduation ceremony Friday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater.

There are 254 candidates for degrees: 169 who will receive doctor of medicine degrees; five who will receive doctor of philosophy degrees; 65 who will receive master’s degrees; and 15 who will receive graduate certificates.



Desjardins will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree.

“We are honored to have General Desjardins speak to our graduating class,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, senior vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Her professional accomplishments and commitment to community exemplify the leadership traits we desire to see in all of our graduates.”

“Public service takes many forms, and it is gratifying that an institution dedicated to public service through teaching the healing arts and sciences has recognized that serving in the military also enhances the well-being of our fellow citizens,” Desjardins said. “I am humbled by the great honor bestowed upon me by the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.”

A command pilot with more than 3,800 flying hours, Desjardins retired after a 32-year career in the Air Force. Her final active duty assignment was as the director of plans and policy for U.S. Strategic Command.

Desjardins received her commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy and her bachelor of science degree in international affairs/political science. She also holds master of arts degrees in industrial psychology and human relations from Louisiana Tech University and national security and strategic studies from the Naval Command and Staff College.

Currently, Desjardins is a consultant for Project Air Force with RAND Corp., and is a trustee and nominating committee member of the Falcon Foundation, which supports military prep school scholarships for those who desire to attend the Air Force Academy. She also serves as president of the Board of Governors of the Independence Museum and as the national defense committee chair of the Exeter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Exeter, N.H. She recently was selected to the Board of Trustees of Exeter Health Resources.

Rockets hire women’s swimming coach

The University of Toledo has hired former University of Utah Head Sprint Coach Jonas Persson as its head women’s swimming and diving coach.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jonas Persson as the head women’s swimming and diving coach at The University of Toledo,” UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “Jonas has an outstanding background in the highest levels of swimming, both internationally and collegiately. I am excited to have someone with his experience and passion for the sport join the Rocket family.”



“I couldn’t be more excited to join the Toledo program,” Persson said. “Toledo has great potential and the Athletic Department is taking the right steps in order to be more competitive, both athletically and academically. While visiting campus, I knew right away that Toledo is a place where I can make a great impact. I’m looking forward to meeting the team and start recruiting right away. I want to express my appreciation to Mike O’Brien and [Senior Associate Athletic Director] Kelly Andrews for trusting me with this great opportunity.”

Persson worked specifically with the sprinters at Utah, and in the past five years he helped student-athletes break every men’s team record and 17 women’s team records, as well as assisting them set 55 top 10 all-time performances. He has coached seven swimmers to NCAA Championship appearances and 11 swimmers who ranked in the top 50 nationally.

Persson was influential in helping Nick Soedel become the first Ute ever to medal in the Pac-12 Championships (bronze in 2013) and earn Utah’s second individual championship with his first-place finish in the 100 free (2014). Soedel also placed fifth in the 100 freestyle and 14th in the 50 freestyle at the 2015 NCAA Championships.

Persson coached All-American Traycie Swartz to an 11th-place finish at the 2014 NCAA Championships in the 100 freestyle. Swartz was a three-time PAC-12 championship finalist and still holds the records in the women’s 50 and 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke. Persson also had a hand in helping Utah earn its first Pac-12 Champion by recruiting Bence Kiraly, who won the 1,650 freestyle in 2014.

A native of Sweden, Persson has competed at the highest levels of international swimming, including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he was a member of his native country’s fifth-place 4×100 free relay team, finished 11th in the 4×100 medley relay, and 13th in the 100 freestyle. Persson was a part of the European champion 4×100 free relay in 2008 and the bronze medalist squad in 2010. He also was a finalist at the 2005 World Championships in the 4×100 free relay. He remains a Swedish record-holder and the No. 2 sprint freestyler in the history of Sweden. He won 16 Swedish national championships.

During his collegiate career, Persson set seven school records at the University of Tennessee, where he was a 13-time All-American and team captain for the Volunteers.

In the classroom, Persson obtained a master of business administration, master of science in sports studies and a bachelor of business administration from Tennessee. He served as a graduate assistant under Head Coach John Trembley, the 2011 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. Persson was an Academic All-American and SEC Academic Honor Roll selection in 2007 and 2008. Persson helped expand Tennessee’s international recruiting network by communicating with student-athletes, coaches and parents in 16 different countries.

Rockets earn 3.249 grade point average, third-highest semester GPA in school history

University of Toledo student-athletes earned a combined grade point average of 3.249 in the 2016 spring semester, the third highest department semester GPA in school history.

The GPA mark trailed only GPAs of 3.258 in the 2015 spring semester and 3.266 in spring 2012. It is also the 15th consecutive semester in which UT student-athletes earned a combined GPA of 3.1 or higher.

thumb-rocket-color-logo“Once again, our student-athletes had a terrific semester in the classroom,” Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said. “Their consistent academic success is due in large part to the type of student-athletes that we recruit to attend our University. But like many things in the world of college athletics, that success is a team effort. We have a great support network of coaches, our Student-Athlete Academic Services staff and University faculty members that help our student-athletes reach their academic goals.”

Individually, a record 49 student-athletes earned President’s List honors with a perfect 4.0 GPA, while more than 42 percent (155 of 364) earned a spot on the Dean’s List by garnering at least a 3.50 GPA, and 71 percent (260 of 364) achieved a 3.0 grade point average or better for the 2016 spring semester.

Fifteen of UT’s 16 varsity sports teams had combined GPAs of at least 3.0. Men’s golf set the all-time UT record for team GPA with a 3.759 mark, breaking the record of 3.714 set by the women’s golf team last semester. Women’s tennis (3.630), women’s golf (3.611), women’s soccer (3.582), women’s swimming (3.549) and women’s volleyball (3.534) also were above 3.5 as a team this spring.

“Our golf teams deserve special recognition for setting a very high bar in the classroom this past school year,” O’Brien said. “Congratulations to Head Coach Jamie Broce and the men’s golf team for an incredible semester. A 3.759 GPA is a fantastic achievement.”

GPA spring 2016 athletes

Five student-athletes qualify for NCAA East Primary Championships

Five Toledo student-athletes will continue their season at the NCAA East Regional Preliminary Meet on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville beginning Thursday, May 26.

“It’s great for the program to have five athletes in,” Head Coach Linh Nguyen said, “especially across the different event groups. It shows we can nationally compete in a number of events.”

NCAA outdoor track and field qualifiersThe top 48 competitors from each event throughout the east region qualified for the meet. Senior Kyesha Neal, junior Madeline Pacella, senior Brooke Tullis, freshman Jennifer Lichter and senior Liz Weiler qualified for the NCAA meet.

Neal qualified in two events, the shot put and the discus, with marks of 15.47 meters and 49.55 meters. Neal ranks 30th in the region in the shot put and 41st in the region in the discus.

Pacella also will represent the field events in the high jump. Pacella sits in 31st with a mark of 1.76 meters, which she earned at the Hillsdale College Gina Relays.

“Our field events have gotten stronger,” Nguyen said. “The throws have taken a big step forward, and Madeline in the high jump has done tremendous. It shows the development of the program.”

Tullis and freshman Jennifer Lichter will compete in the 10,000-meter. Tullis ranks 17th in the region with a time of 34:11.33, and Lichter ranks 35th with a time of 34:38.83. Tullis earned his best time at the Stanford Invitational, while Lichter earned her time at the Raleigh Relays.

At the Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Tullis and Lichter ran the 5,000-meter in preparation for the 10,000-meter.

“The MAC 5K was a very tactical championship race, and I think it gave them solid preparation for Jacksonville,” Nguyen said. “They had to hang tough in the 5K, and having the practice will help them.”

Lichter will run her second career 10,000-meter race at the NCAA meet.

“She’s pretty tough mentally,” Nguyen said. “Brooke has run this race here before, and Jennifer can lean on her for advice.”

Weiler will return to the NCAA meet in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Weiler sits 15th in the NCAA East Region with a time of 10:10.89 and earned that mark at the Virginia Challenge.

“Liz knows what she is capable of,” Nguyen said. “This is her third time running this in Jacksonville, and she has done better in each race.”

The top 12 from each event will move on to the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 8-11.

For updates, go to http://utrockets.com.

UT engineer’s catalysis research published in Science

New research published in the journal Science could provide an economic solution to technologies that require scarce and expensive precious metals.

Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, was part of a research team that proved that it is possible to get the same chemical reaction with much less of the precious metal when using it as a thin coating over a transition metal carbide. Technologies such as fuel cells and catalytic converters require these types of precious metals.

A sample of a core-shell nanoparticle made by the researchers is shown in images made using scanning tunneling electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. Color images show where the different elements are located in the particle, with the precious metals platinum and ruthenium concentrated in the shell, and the other constituents, tungsten, and titanium, concentrated in the core.

A catalyst made by the researchers is shown here with images from a scanning tunneling electron microscope and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy showing the different elements platinum, ruthenium, tungsten and titanium.

“One of the primarily materials used for these types of chemical reactions called catalysts is platinum, which is very expensive and not widely available,” Alba-Rubio said. “Research has been underway for some time for alternatives, but there had been a lot of trial and error in the process to find something that works.”

One of the challenges in combining a precious metal with another material is that it can be difficult to bond and also can mix with other metals and become unstable over time. The researchers succeeded with the use of carbides, which are resistant to corrosion, possess electrical conductivity, and cannot alloy with the precious metals. The developed synthesis method also prevents the catalysts from sintering and coking, which are two modes of deactivation.

Alba-Rubio’s role in the research was the characterization of the materials with a high-resolution electron microscope.

“With the microscope, we were able to see what was happening,” she said. “It helped us to not only study the synthesis progress, but also the stability of the materials.”

The project was a collaboration with Dr. Sean T. Hunt, Dr. Maria Milina, Dr. Christopher H. Hendon and Dr. Yuriy Román-Leshkov at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Alba-Rubio was part of the research team while conducting her postdoctoral research with Dr. James A. Dumesic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining UT in August 2015.

Read the article online at science.sciencemag.org.