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Climate change disruption to be discussed Jan. 19

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

Jorgensen

Jorgensen

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

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

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

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

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

Academic research uses hacked Ashley Madison data to map areas with most cheating husbands

The Bridgeport, Conn., metropolitan area led the nation last year in active use of Ashley Madison, the matchmaking website for extramarital affairs, with 6.23 subscriptions and $1,127 spent for every 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 79, according to research at The University of Toledo.

Graduate student researchers used customer data exposed by anonymous hackers last year to analyze the geography and market characteristics of active users.

The research titled “Infidelity and the Internet: The Geography of Ashley Madison Usership in the Unites States” recently was published in the journal Geographical Review.

Chohaney

Chohaney

The common characteristics identified of cheating husbands are financially well-off, younger, not retired and less religious.

Michael Chohaney, a PhD student studying spatially integrated social science at UT, and Kimberly Panozzo, who recently graduated with a master’s degree from the Department of Geography and Planning, conducted the research.

“This is the only academic geography article we know of that collects, processes and analyzes publicly available data originally stolen and released by Internet hackers,” Chohaney said. “Due to ethics concerns, we handled the Ashley Madison user account information with the utmost respect for personal security and privacy. No individual user identities or locations can be derived from our work.”

Although the scandalous data dump included 7 million subscribers in the U.S., this research analyzed the accounts and narrowed it down to 702,309 active profiles. Researchers eliminated inactive users, such as people who visited the site once for free out of curiosity to view other members’ profiles. Unusable billing addresses and duplicate profiles paid for by a single credit card account also were removed.

“Women were not required to pay, so only heterosexual men are included in our sample,” Chohaney said. “We focus on users who put their money where their mouse is in order to measure and better understand the characteristics of those vulnerable to cheating.”

The top three areas with Ashley Madison subscription rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Boulder, Colo.; and Jacksonville, N.C. The markets with the top spending rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; and Boston.

“Income is the leading market determinant for Internet-facilitated infidelity,” Chohaney said. “The service of allowing people to pay to engage in an extramarital affair behaves as a luxury good, which means people with disposable incomes are willing to pay for a service that facilitates extramarital affairs and promises anonymity during the process. It makes sense; Bridgeport is wealthy.”

Chohaney said metropolitan statistical areas with the highest rates also housed large numbers of armed forces personnel and families with children headed by male breadwinners.

At the local level, spatial distribution of user and spending rates are most highly clustered in the Atlanta and Chicago areas. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Atlanta were Buckhead and Roswell. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Chicago were Lincoln Park and Aurora.

The research finds that locations with higher proportions of Asians and older married men were less likely to subscribe or spend money on Ashley Madison than locations with large proportions of African-Americans, Hispanics and younger married men. Further, the research found Ashley Madison subscription rates drop 18 percent and spending rates drop 13 percent for every additional religious congregation per 1,000 people.

“That indicates religiosity prevents individuals from using the Internet to cheat on their spouse,” Chohaney said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office of Research to gain support of two faculty members

Two senior UT faculty members will bring their experience to help advance UT’s research enterprise.

Schall

Schall

Dr. Connie Schall, professor of chemical engineering, will be the interim associate vice president for research beginning Jan. 1, and Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health, will join as a faculty fellow for the remainder of the 2016-17 academic year.

“I am delighted that President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu are such strong advocates of UT’s research mission by providing the financial support to have two talented individuals contribute their expertise to our research office,” Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president of research, said.

Schall will represent the UT Research Office both on and off campus in Calzonetti’s absence. She also will provide leadership and support to the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Schall, who has a strong record of publications and external funding on protein crystallization and ionic liquids, can help provide support to faculty members preparing and submitting grant proposals to external agencies.

Thompson

Thompson

Working closely with the University Research Council, Thompson will focus her energies on the assessment of the University’s research enterprise that will be incorporated into the UT strategic plan. This assessment will examine UT’s current research support infrastructure and staffing, as well as provide direction for strategic investments to enhance the institution’s national research stature.

Thompson, who also is the co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living, has a broad portfolio of publications and external grants, and most recently has been involved in cancer survivorship, firearm violence, and public health policy research.

Both Schall and Thompson will have offices in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs administrative suite in the Research and Technology Building.

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

Scientists have studied silver for centuries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researchers take cross-disciplinary look at addressing side effect of cancer treatment

Radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have negative impacts on normal functions in the body and become so severe that some patients choose to discontinue their treatment plans.

Dr. Heather Conti, UT assistant professor of biological sciences, recently was awarded $60,000 from Ohio Cancer Research to support a study titled “Proinflammatory Cytokines IL-23 and IL-17 in Radiotherapy Induced Oral Mucositis” to explore what mechanisms cause one of the most common debilitating complications of cancer treatment called oral mucositis.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Oral mucositis occurs when cancer treatments break down the lining of the inside of the mouth, leaving it open to sores and infection. Patients experience sores on the gums or tongue, difficulty swallowing, bleeding and pain.

“Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation of the head and neck can develop severe damage to the lining of the oral cavity,” Conti said. “The inflammation and sores can make it difficult and painful for the patient to speak, eat or drink, and can lead to an increased risk of serious infection.”

She has joined forces with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, radiation oncology professor and chief of the Medical Physics Division, to take a cross-disciplinary approach in examining oral mucositis in mouse models.

“I am thrilled to be working alongside Dr. Parsai. He has amazing, cutting-edge radiology equipment that he uses to treat patients, and it is one of the leading reasons why I chose to come to UT to conduct my research,” Conti said. “He will provide radiation treatments to the mouse models that are very similar to what cancer patients receive. We can then examine how interleukins, IL-23 and IL-17 are involved in cell-to-cell communication and are involved in the development of oral mucositis.”

These proteins are proinflammatory cytokines produced by both humans and mice.

Candida albicans is a yeast fungus that naturally occurs within the mouth, gut and vaginal tract, but given the chance to flourish in a patient where damage to the mucosal tissue has occurred due to radiation treatments, it can take hold and cause inflammation. It is the most common secondary infection in cancer patients.

Parsai said that despite advances in radiation treatment that have made it highly precise, such as the Varian Edge System used at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center, healthy tissue still can be affected.

“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Conti to better understand how oral mucositis develops,” he said. “This research could lead to the development of better drugs to treat it and its associated infections, so that patients are able to successfully complete their course of cancer treatments.”

UT awarded federal innovation grant to invest in academic researchers throughout northwest Ohio

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded The University of Toledo $500,000 to help launch startup companies, move ideas to market, and spur job creation through faculty research.

Nearly $15 million was given to 35 organizations from 19 states through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. 

Business Hlogo 1c BlackThe total available to researchers in the northwest Ohio region is nearly $1.3 million after the University matched the i6 Challenge grant with an additional $767,903 through the Rocket Fuel Fund.

Researchers from academic and other nonprofit institutions are eligible to receive funding.

“This is an incredible opportunity for UT faculty and academic researchers throughout the northwest Ohio region to apply for this funding and help move their new technologies toward commercialization, including women and minorities who are typically underrepresented in innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Anne Izzi, licensing associate at UT’s Office of Technology Transfer. 

The selected recipients of Rocket Fuel grants will be awarded between $5,000 and $50,000 each to enhance the scope or patentability of inventions and improve market potential through targeted research, customer discovery, and development of a prototype and business model.

“The Regional Innovation Strategies program advances innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. “As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the visionaries and job creators of tomorrow. Congratulations to today’s awardees who will make U.S. communities, businesses and the workforce more globally competitive.”

Dr. William Messer, professor in the UT Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, plans to apply for i6 Challenge grant funding as his lab creates a drug to help autism patients make new patterns of behavior to live a more normal life. 

“There is a lot of work to do, but we would like to move this compound into clinical trials to see if it can help treat restricted and repetitive behaviors associated with autism,” Messer said. “We are exploring a number of options to obtain the funding needed to develop the patented technology, and the i6 Challenge grant represents an important new source of funding at the local level.”

A total of 215 organizations applied for the grant funding; these included nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused groups.

“The 2016 Regional Innovation Strategies grantees will reach a variety of communities and help entrepreneurs gain the edge they need to succeed,” said Jay Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “The diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country and is a recognized tool for economic growth and resilience.”

Undergraduate research in the spotlight at UT

Even with the upfront construction and ongoing maintenance costs that go into a wind turbine during its average life span of 20 years, it makes enough energy to be cost-effective, according to undergraduate student research at The University of Toledo.

The life cycle analysis of wind turbines is one of nearly two dozen research projects that will be on display for the UT Scholars’ Celebration Undergraduate Research Showcase from Tuesday, Nov. 29, through Friday, Dec. 9, in Carlson Library.

Provost Andrew Hsu will host a welcome reception Monday, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m. in Carlson Library Room 1005. Students will be available to answer questions about their research.

“Research is one of the best modes of experiential learning. It is something unique that a comprehensive research university like UT can offer to our students, and it is what distinguishes our students and graduates from others,” Hsu said. “This is the 10th anniversary of UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research, so it’s especially fitting to recognize undergraduate students who are participating. Our faculty members help our students link their classroom scientific knowledge to the pursuit of innovation and discovery. These students are learning how to communicate, think logically, and be patient and creative — highly-valued skills in today’s competitive world.”

Other undergraduate research projects include an analysis of the boundless beauty of women, as well as a piano performance titled “Schumann Fantasy in C, Op. 17.”

“This is a great opportunity for professional development for our students and for the community to see the depth and breadth of research that UT students are conducting,” said Dr. Thomas Kvale, professor emeritus of physics and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Department of Sociology and Anthropology to offer international field school in Dominican Republic

A new study abroad program will be offered next summer: Dr. Karie Peralta and Dr. Shahna Arps from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology will co-teach an international field school in the Dominican Republic.

“The purpose is to give students an experiential learning opportunity to develop their research skills and learn about Dominican culture and social life,” Peralta, assistant professor of sociology, said. “We will be collaborating with a community organization in the Dominican Republic to provide students a hands-on experience in participatory methods and fieldwork.”

Dr. Karie Peralta, left, and Dr. Shahna Arps conducted a workshop last summer in the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Karie Peralta, left, and Dr. Shahna Arps conducted a workshop last summer in the Dominican Republic.

The organization the program will work with, Project Esperanza, has the only grassroots bilingual school in the Dominican Republic. Participants in the program will help support the school by volunteering in the organization’s summer camp.

Students in the program will use the time facilitating activities throughout the camp to get to know the local children and become familiar with the challenges of learning in a school in a marginalized community.

“This will give students the chance to volunteer and also learn about the children’s lives and their living and educational conditions while participating in the summer camp,” Peralta said.

The students also will work with the organization to carry out a survey to gather information about the schoolchildren’s families and household demographics.

This Summer Session II program is a six-week course. The first two weeks will be spent preparing for the immersion component of the field school; the second two weeks will be held in the Dominican Republic; and the final two weeks students will analyze data collected and discussing what was learned while there.

This is a 4000-5000 level class (SOC4980/5980 or ANTH 4980/5980) and is open to students of all majors who are interested in advancing their research skills.

Peralta has 11 years of experience traveling to and from the Dominican Republic and spent some time as a Peace Corps volunteer there. She also managed a study abroad program prior to coming to UT.

Arps also has several years of experience in the Dominican Republic working with college student groups that carried out medical missions in the country.

Peralta and Arps traveled to the Dominican Republic last summer to plan the program and lay the foundation for field school activities. They also provided a two-day research training workshop to local youth who were going to carry out a survey about their community members’ interests in creating a public space.

Peralta encourages students to sign up for the program so they can apply their skills in an international setting.

“The students can get out of their comfort zone and push their own boundaries,” she said. “This will help them grow professionally and personally.”

An information session about the class will be held Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 3 p.m. in University Hall Room 4380.

To learn more about the class, click here.