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Assistant professor elected to lead international neuroscience society

Dr. F. Scott Hall, assistant professor of pharmacology at The University of Toledo, recently was elected president of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society.

Hall

Hall

The society is a nonprofit organization that consists of scientists, clinicians, therapists and educators from 34 countries. It encourages research and education in the relationship between the brain and behavior.

“The goals of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society closely align with my own career aspirations and are important to the field of neuroscience,” Hall said. “I hope to continue the tradition of providing a learning environment that is focused on science and research, which also encourages interactions between students and established scientists with opportunities for mentorship and career development.”

Hall is interested in the study of neurodevelopmental and genetic rodent models of addiction and psychiatric disorders. His newest book, Negative Affective States and Cognitive Impairments in Nicotine Dependence, explores the psychiatric reasons individuals become addicted to nicotine and is scheduled to be published by Elsevier Science Publishing Co. Inc. in September.

UT students take daily dip to predict public swim safety at Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay State Park beach

Battling nine-inch waves in chest waders one windy Wednesday morning, University of Toledo senior Kevin Corbin managed to stay dry.

“It’s not a bad way to start every day,” Corbin said while holding steady a wave stick.

UT senior Kevin Corbin held a wave stick at Maumee Bay State Park to collect data that helps forecast water quality for Lake Erie swimmers.

UT senior Kevin Corbin held a wave stick at Maumee Bay State Park to collect data that helps forecast water quality for Lake Erie swimmers.

The environmental science major is part of the Lake Erie Center team that tests water quality at the Maumee Bay State Park beach for E. coli bacteria levels Monday through Friday during the summer through Labor Day.

“We get the results up on the Ohio Nowcast website by 9:30 a.m. to inform families if there is a swimming advisory before they leave the house and head for the beach,” said Pam Struffolino, UT Lake Erie Center research operations manager. “It’s convenient.”

Although the traditional E. coli test takes a lab, a petri dish and 24 hours to process sample results, the UT Lake Erie Center team has developed a model using weather and water conditions to forecast a prediction immediately. The traditional water sample results are later used to validate the model.

“We collect environmental data, including wind direction, solar radiation, change in lake level, rainfall and water clarity. No delay in a decision thanks to our database,” Struffolino said while barefoot on the beach. “We’ve been more accurate using the model than the traditional method since we began collecting data eight years ago.”

“Sunshine actually kills bacteria,” said sunglasses-clad Ryan Jackwood, a UT graduate student, while recording numerical values on a clipboard. “A south wind is good, too, to drive bacteria and sediment out into the lake rather than onto the shore.”

On this first Wednesday of June, the lake was wavy with a northeast wind.

Dr. Daryl Dwyer, UT ecology professor, and Pam Struffolino, research operations manager at UT Lake Erie Center, are on the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park to oversee the daily water testing.

Dr. Daryl Dwyer, UT ecology professor, and Pam Struffolino, research operations manager at UT Lake Erie Center, are on the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park to oversee the daily water testing.

“The rougher it is, the more E. coli in the water,” Struffolino said. “It stirs up the sediment on the lake bottom and pulls it to shore.”

The UT team ended up issuing its second swim advisory of the 2016 season.

The University is under contract with the Ohio Department of Health to post swimming advisories for the beach with the Lake Erie Center’s forecasting model based on the likelihood that E. coli exceeds safe levels.

“We’re out here working to inform members of the public of a potential health hazard if they choose to swim on days that have an advisory posted,” Jackwood said.

Last year, the team saw a reduction in the amount of beach postings caused by E. coli. It’s attributed to work being done to help improve the water.

Dr. Daryl Dwyer, UT ecology professor, recently headed a $1.8 million wetland restoration project on the edge of Maumee Bay State Park through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant. That wetland also captures phosphorous and sediment in the watershed before it can enter Lake Erie.

“We’re getting 70 to 90 percent reduction in bacteria coming through the wetland, depending on the day,” Dwyer said.

This marks the seventh year UT is using predictive forecasting for E. coli.

“We’re now starting to develop a model for toxins, like microcystin,” Struffolino said.

As the group leaves the beach, Corbin is already thinking about tomorrow morning.

“Next time I’ll bring my swimming trunks,” Corbin said. “I could do without the waders.”

Clinical trial for new breast cancer detection method underway at UTMC

An investigational technology is being studied to determine if it can assist in early breast cancer detection. This investigational technology that is being studied at The University of Toledo Medical Center uses thermal imaging to see if it can identify tumors. The radiation-free and painless test uses cool air and a camera to measure the temperature of the skin surface.

Throughout 2016, patients visiting the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center for a mammogram will be offered the opportunity to participate in the First Sense Medical research study to evaluate the effectiveness of the investigational First Sense Breast Exam® procedure. The goal is to enroll up to 2,000 women who are 18 years of age or older in order to compare the results of both tests to determine the potential for the thermal scan to be used as an additional breast cancer detection tool.

breast cancer study“The mammogram has long been used as the standard of care in screening for breast cancer and, through this clinical trial, we are evaluating the First Sense Breast Exam as an adjunctive screening device for the detection of breast cancer that is radiation-free and pain-free with no breast compression or any physical contact with the patient. In this study, the First Sense Breast Exam is performed immediately prior to the mammogram in the same clinic visit,” said Dr. Haitham Elsamaloty, a UT radiologist and professor of radiology, who is the principal investigator for the study.

The First Sense Breast Exam procedure takes less than 10 minutes. The patient disrobes from the waist up and sits on a chair in front of the machine’s infrared and 3D cameras. Thermal images are then taken from the front and sides of the breasts both before and after cool air is blown on the patient.

The patient is exposed to a cool air to cause normal blood vessels to contract and reduce the temperature of normal tissue, but the blood vessels that feed the tumor do not contract so the temperature of the tumor does not change. The infrared thermal imaging camera measures the difference in skin surface temperature to identify abnormalities.

“The thermal imaging screening could be particularly helpful for younger patients and women with dense breast tissue for which it is more difficult to detect tumors using mammography,” Elsamaloty said.

Lake Erie Center researchers, students collect samples to analyze water quality during algal bloom season

The long red-bearded scientist didn’t lose his smile or his mesh-vented hat once during the six hours and 40 miles on board The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center’s 28-foot research vessel.

“I love being out on the water,” said Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and associate professor of ecology. “That’s why I got into the business.”

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

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

Bridgeman is on the front lines of the effort to protect the public drinking water supply for the greater Toledo region throughout the summer algal bloom season.

His weapon of choice is information gathered by boat and by buoy.

“We give the early warning to the water treatment plant operators,” Bridgeman said. “Algal blooms start here in Maumee Bay. We’re looking to find if there is anything in the bay heading to the city of Toledo’s water intake pipe that pumps raw lake water to the plant.”

The city of Toledo’s water intake was the first sampling location of the day.

The city of Toledo’s water intake was the first sampling location of the day.

The intake, or what’s known as the crib, was the first of eight spots his team dropped anchor to collect samples and other data in mid-May. It marked the first sampling day of the year and the first trip for UT student Zach Swan, who is working as a technician for the summer.

“This is a big bay,” said the rookie, a junior majoring in environmental studies.

Before departing the dock at Meinke Marina, Bridgeman knew they wouldn’t find any toxins on the year’s inaugural ride.

Zach Swan, a junior majoring in environmental studies, left, Ken Gibbons, research associate at the Lake Erie Center, center, and Dr. Thomas Bridgeman Toledo aboard the center’s 28-foot research vessel.

Zach Swan, a junior majoring in environmental studies, left, Ken Gibbons, research associate at the Lake Erie Center, center, and Dr. Thomas Bridgeman Toledo aboard the center’s 28-foot research vessel.

“It’s too early,” Bridgeman said. “We wouldn’t expect to find any microcystin toxin in the lake before mid-July.”

Using a rope and pulley on the starboard side, Bridgeman lowered a plankton net six meters to the lake bottom and towed to the surface golden algae called diatoms.

“This is quite a diatom bloom,” Bridgeman said as he concentrated the sample from a few thousand liters down to a few tablespoons. “It’s the good algae, not the bad, bright green algae. This is beneficial-like grass of the lake.”

Ken Gibbons drove the boat past the city of Toledo’s water intake.

Ken Gibbons drove the boat past the city of Toledo’s water intake.

Ken Gibbons navigated the waters between each sampling location on the bright spring day with the help of the boat’s state-of-the-art GPS system.

“It’s interesting to be part of something relevant,” said the Lake Erie Center research associate, who graduated from UT last year with a master’s degree in biology.

During each stop, Gibbons also had massive straw duty. He stuck a long, white tube down to the bottom of the lake, pulled it up, and emptied it into an orange bucket.

Ken Gibbons pulled up a water sample using a a long, white tube that reaches the lake bottom. The water was emptied into the orange bucket held by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman.

Ken Gibbons pulled up a water sample using a a long, white tube that reaches the lake bottom. The water was emptied into the orange bucket held by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman.

“It’s like when you’re at a restaurant and you put your finger over the top of a straw,” Gibbons explained to Swan. “We don’t just want to sample the surface water. We want water from top to bottom.”

Gibbons transferred that water into bottles that then rode back to the lab in a cooler.

“I think of the algae as an agricultural crop,” Bridgeman said. “Every year is different. What is the problem going to be this year?”

The city of Toledo issued a ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory in 2014 for three days due to the level of the toxin microcystin in the drinking water. Last summer, the algal bloom nearly reached a record size, but did not impact the public water supply.

This photo of the GPS screen on board the UT research vessel showed the 40-mile diamond route on a map.

This photo of the GPS screen on board the UT research vessel showed the 40-mile diamond route on a map.

“In 2015, we had a really large bloom, but the toxicity was much lower. It was probably half the previous year,” Bridgeman said.

At least two months ahead of the 2016 algal bloom season, the UT team — which includes Brenda Snyder, the former chief chemist of Toledo’s water treatment plant — already has begun testing the waters for phosphorous and nitrogen.

The farthest and deepest sampling location is off the northwest corner of West Sister Island.

“Almost no diatoms here,” Bridgeman said.

The weather conditions were so vividly clear on the ride toward Monroe, Mich., the team could see wind turbines in Canada, approximately 20 miles away.

The sampling spot near the end of the shipping channel 10 miles east of the Monroe power plant had the greatest clarity, according to the Secchi disk attached to a rope. The crew recorded how far below the surface the black-and-white pie graph disappeared from view: 270 centimeters.

Zach Swan lowered the light meter into the water to measure how far light penetrates into the water.

Zach Swan lowered the light meter into the water to measure how far light penetrates into the water.

Swan manned the light meter, a sensor shaped like a light bulb that is attached to a rope and lowered incrementally to measure how far light penetrates into the water.

“Algae can’t grow without light,” Bridgeman said. “The murkier the water, the less light there is to grow algae.”

Heading back toward Toledo past Turtle Island and Point Place, the team reached the UT remote sensor buoy that will stay in place through at least August. Bridgeman pulled up live data from the buoy on his cell phone.

“There is no blue-green algae to speak of yet,” Bridgeman said. “We will mainly look for the blue-green algae pigment and when it starts to rise.”

The buoy is armed with a YSI EXO sonde, comprised of several probes to measure water quality parameters, including water temperature, oxygen levels and pH. It’s the same tool that Swan lowered to the lake floor at each sampling location.

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to do this as a student,” Swan said. “My family lives in Toledo. They care about what we’re doing out here.”

After completing the diamond-shaped route through the western Lake Erie basin, the crew returned to the Lake Erie Center lab. Some of the test results were instantaneous. Others required processing.

“I plan to call the city water managers and let them know they’ve got a lot of diatoms out there,” Bridgeman said. “Diatoms can cause potential taste and odor problems in drinking water; however, there’s no issue with toxins.”

Discovery by UT researcher reveals a new way the body fights viruses

We live in a world of viruses, and our bodies are constantly under attack. The immune system is our defense shield, continuously defending us against illness and disease.

A study by researchers at The University of Toledo and Cleveland Clinic revealed a new pathway in the way the body fights disease.

Chattopadhyay

Chattopadhyay

“The immune system is made up of two categories: the innate and the adaptive,” said Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay, UT assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology. “Both are required for a successful defense against virus infection.”

The innate immune system is the body’s first line of defense. It must activate quickly and correctly to begin the elimination of viruses from the body. The adaptive immune system is dependent on the innate system and is activated at a later stage. The innate immune system triggers sensors within the body’s cells, creating antiviral proteins called interferons that serve as messengers alerting uninfected cells of the unwanted virus.

But viruses don’t give up easily. Some have evolved to find ways to dodge the body’s defenses. Fortunately, our bodies have yet another way to fight back against stubborn viruses.

“As a new line of defense, virus-infected cells rely on a mechanism called apoptosis, or premature suicide, in order to keep the virus from spreading,” Chattopadhyay said. “In this process, proteins in the cells are activated, causing the infected cells to be killed in an effort to efficiently remove virus from our bodies.”

A recent study by Chattopadhyay and his team revealed a new way the body triggers this process. Using common respiratory viruses, they discovered a pathway named RLR-induced IRF3-mediated Pathway of Apoptosis, or RIPA.

“This discovery explains how the virus-infected cells trigger apoptosis,” Chattopadhyay said. “Once RIPA is activated, the cell begins apoptosis, leading to cell destruction and elimination of the virus.”

The results of this study were recently published in the scientific journal Immunity.

“We are very excited that this pathway may also provide insight into the impact of RIPA against other viral, bacterial, parasitic and non-microbial diseases,” Chattopadhyay said.

UT student discovers first grass carp eggs in Great Lakes tributary

A graduate student at The University of Toledo is the first researcher to find direct proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.

Holly Embke collected eight grass carp eggs last summer in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie. She discovered the eggs between Fremont, Ohio, and Lake Erie’s Sandusky Bay after a period of heavy rains.

UT graduate student Holly Embke is the first researcher to discover direct proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.

UT graduate student Holly Embke is the first researcher to discover direct proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.

The fish eggs, which were confirmed through DNA testing, mark the first direct evidence of the invasive species reproducing in the Great Lakes basin. Embke’s paper is published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Embke also will present her work at the annual conference of the International Association for Great Lakes Research Thursday, June 9, at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

This research was conducted as a follow-up to U.S. Geological Survey findings in 2013 that indicated four young grass carp taken from the Sandusky River were the result of natural reproduction.

“Lake Erie commercial fishermen have reported catching grass carp since the mid-1980s, but those catches were thought to be sterile escapees from ponds and small lakes that were legally stocked for aquatic weed control,” said Embke, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology in the Department of Environmental Sciences. “The discovery of these eggs in the Sandusky River means that this invasive species of Asian carp, which consumes large amounts of freshwater vegetation, is naturally reproducing in our Lake Erie watershed.”

UT graduate student Holly Embke examined grass carp eggs.

UT graduate student Holly Embke examined grass carp eggs.

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, which are the two invasive Asian carp species of great concern in the Mississippi River basin. 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.

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. They can alter habitats for native fish communities near the shoreline by eating submerged, rooted plants and weeds.

Scientists with UT, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey are collecting additional samples from the Sandusky River to continue studying the habitat requirements of grass carp spawning in order to inform methods for control of all invasive species of Asian carp.

UT graduate student Holly Embke took this photo of a single grass carp egg through a microscope.

UT graduate student Holly Embke took this photo of a single grass carp egg through a microscope.

“While the discovery of eggs is disconcerting, grass carp continue to remain present in the Lake Erie system in very low abundance,” said Rich Carter, executive administrator for fish management and research with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. “There is currently no evidence of negative impacts to the Lake Erie ecosystem that can be attributed to grass carp. However, it is important that we remain vigilant and continue to build understanding about this species in Lake Erie and throughout the Great Lakes.”

“Given the similarities in reproductive strategies, this ongoing research on grass carp spawning may help us minimize the risk of bighead carp and silver carp from establishing a foothold in the Great Lakes,” said Patrick Kocovsky, a U.S. Geological Survey research fishery biologist. “What we learn here also might apply to potential control strategies in tributaries to the Mississippi River.”

Sterile grass carp can be legally stocked in Ohio, as well as Indiana, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. They are a popular pond and small lake management tool because they control aquatic weeds. Ohio has banned the stocking of fertile grass carp, and Michigan has banned all grass carp. The fish was first imported to the United States from Taiwan and Malaysia in 1963.

Last summer, UT graduate student Holly Embke collected eight grass carp eggs in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie.

Last summer, UT graduate student Holly Embke collected eight grass carp eggs in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie.

Researchers will next work to identify the spawning and egg hatching locations for the Sandusky River.

“Predicting locations and conditions where grass carp spawning is most probable may aid targeted efforts at control,” Embke said.

Embke is based out of UT’s Lake Erie Center, where she does all of her sample processing and analysis.

The UT Lake Erie Center is a research and educational facility focused on environmental conditions and aquatic resources in Maumee Bay and western Lake Erie as a model for the Great Lakes and aquatic ecosystems worldwide.

“This discovery was student research,” Dr. Christine Mayer, UT ecology professor, said. “Our graduate students are doing work that is useful. They’re not just in the lab. They’re out in our region’s rivers and lakes providing information that helps solve problems.”

For more information on Asian carp or how to report sightings, go to wildlife.ohiodnr.gov.

Assistant professor gets $10,000 New Investigator Award to help kickstart research

One assistant professor at The University of Toledo is a step closer to solving one of the mysteries of the human body with the help of an award and some seed grant money.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi, assistant professor in the UT Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, recently received the New Investigator Award from the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy. The award, worth $10,000, is given to faculty members in the early stages of their career.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi performed experiments on cells from mice and humans with polycystic kidney disease to confirm studies performed on patients.

Dr. Wissam AbouAlaiwi performed experiments on cells from mice and humans with polycystic kidney disease to confirm studies performed on patients.

“This is a very prestigious award,” AbouAlaiwi said. “Only 13 people received this award in the United States this year, and I was one of them. I feel very proud of this.”

The $10,000 will go toward funding his research on primary cilia, organelles that were originally thought to have no function, but that AbouAlaiwi and his colleagues believe play a role in cardiovascular and polycystic kidney diseases. They already have found that when the cilia are not present or not functioning, it can cause cardiovascular and developmental problems in the heart.

Though the amount of this particular award is not enough to fully fund his lab’s research, getting some data will open doors for AbouAlaiwi to earn larger grants such as those from the National Institutes of Health. He will present his initial findings at the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy’s annual meeting in July in Nashville, Tenn.

“This is a small study, but hopefully the data that we will generate will allow us to take this project and confirm our results in animal models and, in the future, humans,” AbouAlaiwi said.

UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is no stranger to the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy; each year, a group of deans, faculty, staff and students attend the organization’s annual meeting. AbouAlaiwi also is the second faculty member who has won this award; Dr. Isaac Schiefer, UT assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, received it in 2014.

“It’s very good for our university and college because it raises the level of presence of our university among other top colleges of pharmacy in the United States,” AbouAlaiwi said.

AbouAlaiwi gives much of the credit for his success to his college, his department and his students. He said that Dr. Johnnie Early, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, as well as his colleagues, have supported and encouraged him to be active in organizations like the American Association for Colleges of Pharmacy.

He runs his lab with his students, whom he shares credit with for this success, saying that the research would not be possible without them.

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.

UT grad student travels to Guatemala for vaccination research before graduation [video]

“This has been my first official full day in Guatemala,” said Jessica Schulte in a cell phone selfie video while resting on the front steps of a medical clinic in a remote village of Central America.

The master of public health student, who will graduate May 27 from The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, recently journeyed 3,000 miles to Petén for a research project to earn her global health certificate.

Jessica Schulte held a child she met during a weeklong trip to conduct research at an OB/GYN clinic in Petén, Guatemala.

Jessica Schulte held a child she met during a weeklong trip to conduct research at an OB/GYN clinic in Petén, Guatemala.

The 24-year-old set up shop for about a week in Petén at an OB/GYN clinic founded by Toledo doctors and UT alumni Anne and Dr. Randy Ruch.

Randy, an associate professor of biochemistry and cancer biology, is Schulte’s faculty advisor at UT.

“They asked if I wanted to go down to Guatemala and actually gather data for my project instead of just reading other studies,” Schulte said.

“We’ve brought many types of students, from undergraduate students to medical students to physician assistant students and physical therapy students,” Randy said.

“I’m sure we’ve seen at least 20,000 patients over the years,” said Anne Ruch, a gynecologist who first visited Petén during a mission trip nearly 20 years ago. “We saw these people living in a garbage dump in the middle of the city and it was so overwhelming to me. The women will often come four or five hours to get to the clinic in a morning. They’ll leave their house at three or four o’clock in the morning.”

Schulte, an epidemiology major who studies the distribution of disease in large groups, surveyed mothers to learn firsthand the barriers to vaccinations for women and children living in poverty in Third-World countries.

Jessica Schulte interviewed a patient, left, with the help of her translator in Petén, Guatemala. The master of public health student conducted research at an OB/GYN clinic during a recent trip.

Jessica Schulte interviewed a patient, left, with the help of her translator in Petén, Guatemala. The master of public health student conducted research at an OB/GYN clinic during a recent trip.

“Before they went to the doctor to get a pap smear or other exam, I was at a table interviewing them,” Schulte said.

Schulte has participated in several medical mission trips as a UT college student.

“The University of Toledo is very diverse,” Schulte said. “Seeing the diversity on campus has opened my eyes into the rest of the world. We’re in this bubble of Toledo, Ohio, and the United States, but what is happening outside of the United States, especially in Third-World countries?”

Every year UT awards more than $100,000 in travel grants to students who study abroad, whether it be for a semester in major cities or a few weeks in remote villages like Petén.

“Meeting everyone has been wonderful,” Schulte narrated in her cell phone video from the clinic steps. “The people are so willing to take part in my survey. They line up before we even get to the clinic. They wait hours if there are tons of people, and they don’t complain.”

“I hope not only that students see what the rest of the world looks like, and they understand that being an American has tremendous privilege and therefore they need to give back,” Randy said.

“Every person that comes on a trip, I say, ‘You know why I brought you here … because I’m counting on you guys to change the world,’” Anne said.

“I have this passion for global health,” Schulte said. “I have this passion to bring back my knowledge to the underserved in the Toledo area. It’s a passion I’m going to have for the rest of my life.”

The College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement ceremony will be held Friday, May 27, at 2 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater.

After graduation, Schulte plans to go back to school in UT’s physician assistant graduate program to earn a master of science in biomedical sciences.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vscJrDUiepc

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.