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Graduate student awarded Spitzer Fellowship in astronomy

“As a teenager, gazing at the stars on the dark canvas of the sky was like entering the most luxurious cinema,” reminisced Thomas Lai, a graduate student studying astronomy. “Soon I picked up the habit of staying in the dark whenever I could, and to recognize as many constellations as possible during my high school years.

“In retrospect, I can see this as a sparkle of the beginning of my interest in the enigmatic cosmos.”


Lai’s passion and hard work were recognized by the Department of Physics and Astronomy: He recently received the Doreen and Lyman Spitzer Graduate Fellowship.

The fellowship is named after Toledo natives. Lyman Spitzer was a world-renowned physicist and astronomer, who was an early proponent of a project that became the Hubble Space Telescope. The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003, is named after the scientist. Doreen Spitzer was a prominent archaeologist who had an affinity for all things Greek.

Lai, with assistance from Dr. Adolf Witt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, and Dr. JD Smith, associate professor of astronomy, was able to publish a study on light emissions from nebulae in the Cassiopeia constellation.

“I was extremely pleased that we were able to offer the Spitzer Fellowship to Thomas. He was clearly qualified; he was eager to start an independent research project during his first year as a graduate student at UT, which the Spitzer Fellowship made possible,” Witt said. “The data for this project had been secured beforehand by my collaborator, Ken Crawford, and myself. This allowed Thomas to enter right at the data calibration, reduction and analysis stage of the project — the phase where scientific results and conclusions are being extracted from a collection of images and numbers.

“I enjoyed working with Thomas. The fact that the project resulted in a peer-reviewed scientific paper in a major journal within about two years speaks for itself.”

“They showed me not only the method in conducting research, but also the right attitude in finding the reasonable answer,” said Lai, regarding the aid he received from Witt and Smith.

On the results of his study, Lai said, “I am particularly interested in extended red emission, because we understood little about the exact emission process and the carrier involved in producing such light, even though it has been studied for more than 40 years. To summarize this study, we attributed the extended red emission to a fluorescent process, namely the recurrent fluorescence, which enables small and fragile particles in interstellar space to dissipate their energy efficiently after being bombarded by high-energy photons originating in an illuminating star. This mechanism prevents particles from getting destroyed in the harsh environment filled with ultraviolet radiation from stars, and it may be a crucial process for increasing the survival rate of small carbonaceous molecules, which might be the building blocks of life.”

Though great progress has been made, Witt pointed out the work of a scientist is never finished: “It is an important part of the research experience that every successfully completed project should lead to new questions, which then demand follow-up studies. This has been the case with our work as well. A new question has emerged from some of our current findings, the solution to which we are pursuing through observations with the 4.3-meter Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona and the 10-meter Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. This will most likely be part of Thomas’s PhD thesis.”

Luckily, Lai’s passion for this field will surely lead to many more years of scientific discovery.

“Having this paper published means a lot to my career in astronomy,” Lai said. “It encourages me to find more intriguing phenomena provided by the universe and to reveal those profound facts hidden by wonders of the nature.”

Portion of Bancroft Street scheduled to close Aug. 8-10

A section of Bancroft Street is slated to close early next week so crews can install a new sewer line.

The city of Toledo plans to close Bancroft Street between University Hills Boulevard/North Towerview Boulevard and North Westwood Avenue from Tuesday, Aug. 8, through Thursday, Aug. 10.

A detour via Secor Road to Dorr Street to Parkside Boulevard will be established in both directions.

The intersection of University Hills Boulevard/North Towerview Boulevard and Bancroft Street will remain open during those three days.

After this portion of the work is complete, lane restrictions will begin on Bancroft Street and continue to move westbound to Meadowwood Drive until the sewer line project is finished. Traffic will be maintained in both directions during this time, which is estimated to be about 30 days, weather permitting.

“We will keep the campus community informed as we receive updates from the city of Toledo on this project,” Doug Collins, director of grounds and transportation, said.

To avoid congestion on Bancroft Street during peak times, visitors to Main Campus are encouraged to use the west entrance off Secor Road or the south entrance off Dorr Street.

Center for Health and Successful Living patient navigator named Healthcare Hero

Barbara Ann Oxner is always looking for someone who might need help. 

“I meet prospective clients in grocery stores, doctors’ offices, seminars, garage sales, bus trips, walking, at physical therapy,” she said. 

Barbara Ann Oxner, a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, received a Healthcare Hero Award from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio.

Oxner is a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, where she has worked since 2016 thanks to a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Before that, she volunteered there for three years.

“I love my job. I identify women in northwest Ohio who need health education and medical services, specifically, mammograms. I look for women 40 and older who are high-risk with little or no insurance.

“For a long time, my motto has been, ‘helping people to help themselves.’ That’s exactly what a patient navigator does.”

Oxner does her job so well the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio last month presented her with one of its Healthcare Hero Awards, which recognize the contributions of health-care workers in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. There were 30 nominees; Oxner and five others received that distinction during a ceremony at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

“I don’t see myself as anyone special,” she said. “Being nominated was an unbelievable honor. Being recognized as a winner and named a Healthcare Hero? Wow — just wow!”

“Barb is an inspiration to everyone she interacts with,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She tirelessly works to help those in most need receive education, screening and care during the cancer survivor journey.”

It’s a journey Oxner started in 1985.

“I was a 38-year-old registered nurse with two children when, two weeks before my daughter’s high school graduation, I discovered a lump in my breast during a self-exam,” she recalled.

Three doctors confirmed the diagnosis: breast cancer.

“I had surgery and no chemotherapy and no radiation. My help came from God,” Oxner said.

But five years later, Oxner received devastating news: She had multiple myeloma.

“I was given six months to live,” she said. “I was at death’s door — but God was at my door, and He kept me; He healed me. My oncologist said I was a miracle, and I am.”

Her faith and determination are uplifting and contagious, and she shares both.

Barbara Oxner, sporting the pink hat in the center, and members of the Breast Cancer Survivors Support Group posed for a photo with UT students who work at the Center for Health and Successful Living and Dr. Amy Thompson, kneeling.

At the Center for Health and Successful Living, Oxner is the community outreach coordinator for the African-American Women’s Cancer Support Group. And she and Lorraine Willoughby started the Pink Sneakers Program, which brings together cancer survivors, friends and loved ones to walk three times a week.

“These and other programs not only educate our ladies, but provide opportunities to socialize and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “As a 32-year breast cancer survivor and a 27-year multiple myeloma survivor, I strive to be of comfort to others as I, too, have been comforted on this continual journey.

“The support group and Pink Sneakers are priceless opportunities to celebrate survivorship and allow new survivors to see they, too, can achieve longevity one step at a time.”

“As a patient navigator who connects adults to needed services, Barb is committed, reliable, persistent and talented,” said Dr. Timothy Jordan, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She combines her knowledge and talent with genuine concern and love for people. Clients sense that Barb truly cares for them — above and beyond their health needs. That is why they respond to her so positively. This is Barb’s secret to success. It is rare to see such an effective combination of knowledge, skill and love for people.”

“The best part of my job is when clients receive the care they need. It is hearing patients’ stories. It is seeing hopelessness turn to hopefulness. It is watching others become proactive in their own health care when the tools they need are provided,” Oxner said.

“The Center for Health and Successful Living strives to do this. I’m grateful to God for allowing me to meet Dr. Thompson and Dr. Jordan; I am thankful for the opportunity to serve others.”

UT College of Medicine students to receive white coats at ceremony

The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences will recognize first-year medical students during its official white coat ceremony Thursday, Aug. 3, at 10 a.m. in Nitschke Hall Auditorium. 

The ceremony, held during the week of orientation, welcomes medical students to the college and prepares them for undertaking a medical career. Highlights of the event include a welcome from the dean of the college, a keynote address on humanism in medicine, and the presentation of white coats and recitation of the Medical Student Pledge of Ethics.

Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president of clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, will officiate the ceremony in which 175 medical students will receive their white coats. More than 75 percent of the new students are Ohio residents, and about 20 percent are from northwest Ohio.

“This traditional ceremony really underscores the foundation of the medical profession for first-year medical students,” Cooper said. “The white coat serves as a symbol of their achievement of being selected to medical school. Secondly, it reiterates their commitment to professionalism, continuing education, and their service to others through medical care.”

The annual ceremony will conclude orientation week for the medical students.

In addition to College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences holds a white coat ceremony for third-year PharmD students, and the UT College of Health and Human Services presents white coats to first-year physical therapy and occupational therapy doctoral students and respiratory care students in their junior year, which is the first year of their professional program.

Assistant provost named interim dean of students

In his new role as interim associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, Dr. Sammy Spann will encourage students to get engaged on campus.

Spann, who has served The University of Toledo for 15 years most recently as assistant provost for career services, experiential learning and international programs overseeing the Center for International Studies and Programs, was appointed to the role effective July 15.


“We are fortunate to have someone with Sammy’s commitment to students and passion for higher education on our campus. He will be an enthusiastic champion for student success as dean of students,” said Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, interim vice president of student affairs.

Spann, who has 18 years experience in higher education, joined UT in 2002 as director of Camp Adventure, a service-learning program he continues to be involved with today. Throughout his tenure at UT, he also has served as executive director of student engagement and assistant provost for international studies and programs.

“I look forward to working closely with students and my colleagues across the University to enhance the student experience here at UT,” Spann said. “I am passionate about getting students involved on campus and connected to opportunities to reinforce their education through real-world experiences. This is an exciting opportunity to help students be successful through those efforts.”

Sara Clark, director of global engagement and education abroad, will serve as the interim director for the Center for International Studies and Programs.

Spann is a UT alumnus receiving his PhD in special education from the University. He also has a master’s degree in special education and behavior disorders from the University of Northern Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Fort Valley State University in Georgia.

Prior to joining UT, Spann was a recruiter and retention specialist for Fort Valley State and a supervisor of education practicum experiences at Northern Iowa.

Undergraduate students to present summer research at symposium Aug. 3

More than 50 undergraduate students at The University of Toledo spent the past three months delving deep into research projects, including the transport and fate of algal bloom toxins in water distribution systems made of plastic pipe, preparing an experiment for microgravity crystal growth on the International Space Station, and skin penetration of caffeine from marketed eye creams.

One student studied the effect on the formation of ovarian cancer tumors of MLK3, a specific protein associated with the spread of cancer.

Students will present their work at the End-of-Summer Research Symposium Thursday, Aug. 3, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Canaday Center and Gallery at Carlson Library.

Dr. Andrew Hsu, UT provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, UT’s new director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, will give opening remarks at 9 a.m.

“These undergraduate students are enthusiastic and spent their summer working on projects ranging from molecular and cellular biology to theology, astronomy and engineering,” Bossenbroek said. “They’re strengthening their critical thinking skills and overall view of themselves as scholars with help from faculty members who serve as mentors.”

The free, public symposium celebrates the accomplishments of the students who participated in the Undergraduate Summer Research and Creative Activity Program, the First-Year Summer Research Program, the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, and the Toledo Talent Keeps Toledo Great Internship Program.

For more information, go to utoledo.edu/honors/undergradresearch.

Two men’s basketball players named to national honors court

UT men’s basketball players Zach Garber and Jordan Lauf have been named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court for a second consecutive season.


Garber and Lauf each graduated from UT following the 2016-17 academic year.

To be eligible, a student-athlete has to be a member of the varsity squad with junior or senior status and hold a cumulative 3.2 GPA or higher at the conclusion of the academic year.

A business management major, Garber started 10 of 16 contests last year while missing much of the second half of the season due to a broken foot. He averaged 3.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game in 15.4 minutes per game and was able to return to play his final contest as a Rocket in the 2017 College Basketball Invitational.


Lauf will be entering his first season as a graduate assistant on the Rockets’ coaching staff after earning his degree in business management. He paced UT with a 59 field-goal percentage and ranked second on the team with a career-best 6.2 rebounds per game and 75 offensive boards. The Rockets’ two-time captain started 33 of 34 contests and averaged a career-high 8.3 points per game in a career-best 33.6 minutes per game en route to playing in a school-record 133 contests in his collegiate career.

Men’s tennis honored as Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team; four named scholar-athletes

For the second straight year, the Toledo men’s tennis team earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team honors with four student-athletes being recognized as scholar-athletes.

The junior duo of Vincent Anzalone and Luka Vitosevic along with Danilo Pejovic and sophomore Thawin Suksathaporn were named Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar-athletes. Anzalone and Vitosevic were named scholar-athletes for the second straight year.

Head Coach Al Wermer talked to the tennis team.

Transfer Danilo Vukotic also earned scholar-athlete honors. Vukotic joins the Rockets after transferring from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“We’re very proud of our guys’ efforts in the classroom and the great academic support UT Athletics provides,” said Head Coach Al Wermer. “Our challenges last year with injuries did not deter their academic success. We also have a few more guys who barely missed this GPA threshold.”

It’s the second straight year in which the Rockets have earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team honors. During the spring semester, the team had an overall grade point average of 3.4. Toledo along with Ball State and Western Michigan earned all-academic team honors from the Mid-American Conference.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team award is open to any member program that has a cumulative team grade point average of 3.20 or above (on a 4.00 scale).

In order to earn Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar-athlete status, a player must meet the following criteria: be a varsity letter winner; have a GPA of at least 3.50 for the current academic year; and have been enrolled at her present school for at least two semesters (including freshman through senior year).

Two women’s tennis players receive Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholarship recognition, team also honored

Senior Sidnay Huck and junior Claire Aleck have earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar-athlete honors for the 2017 season.

“I’m so proud of Sid and Claire to be named Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar-athletes,” said Head Coach Tracy Mauntler. “They are great leaders on and off the court, and they do an amazing job of balancing life as a student-athlete.”

Aleck, left, and Huck

The women’s tennis team earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team honors and joined Akron, Ball State and Western Michigan as the only schools from the Mid-American Conference to earn the award.

Both Aleck and Huck were named Academic All-MAC this season. Aleck in singles play had a record of 13-17 and captured seven two-set victories. Huck earned MAC Doubles Player of the Week honors twice with partner Deedee Leenabanchong and registered a doubles record of 19-10 and 14-6 in dual matches.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association all-academic team award is open to any member program that has a cumulative team grade point average of 3.20 or above (on a 4.00 scale).

In order to earn Intercollegiate Tennis Association scholar-athlete status, a player must meet the following criteria: be a varsity letter winner; have a GPA of at least 3.50 for the current academic year; and have been enrolled at her present school for at least two semesters (including freshman through senior year).

Scholarship established to honor former employee

A scholarship fund has been created for University of Toledo students in memory of former UT employee Larry Hilton.

“UT was such a huge part of Larry’s life, his extended family,” said Debbie Hilton, Larry’s wife of 28 years. “Larry is no longer here physically to mentor students, but we’re hopeful that this scholarship will provide monetary support that will assist future students in reaching their educational goals.”


The Larry Hilton Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to two student workers, one student who is in Plant Operations Ground/Facilities and one student in Athletic Facilities. The College of Engineering Scholarship Committee and the Athletic Department Scholarship Committee will each choose a student who is deserving of the scholarship.

“A scholarship of this magnitude will make it possible for a student to go to school who may not be able to afford college otherwise,” said Dr. Steve LeBlanc, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “It is very kind of the Hilton family to consider an engineering student for this gift.”

“We are extremely appreciative of this gift from the Hilton family,” said Mike O’Brien, UT vice president and athletic director. “When you come to a Rocket event and see a student employee in action, you will see the legacy of Larry Hilton through this scholarship.”

Hilton joined the UT staff in 1988 and worked as a mechanic and supervisor for the Motor Vehicle Department. He died in 2013 at age 54.