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UT scientists, students help U.S. Geological Survey develop model to predict algal bloom toxins

Water quality researchers and students at The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center who make daily E. coli forecasts for the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park are helping the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) develop a model to estimate the level of harmful algal blooms in Ohio waters.

Sampling is underway for the USGS-led project at seven water treatment plant intakes and four recreational sites throughout the state, including the public beach at Maumee Bay State Park.

Kevin Corbin, UT senior, left, Ryan Jackwood, UT PhD student, and Jessica Reker, a senior at Xavier University, collected water samples at Maumee Bay State Park.

Kevin Corbin, UT senior, left, Ryan Jackwood, UT PhD student, and Jessica Reker, a senior at Xavier University, collected water samples at Maumee Bay State Park.

A USGS scientist joined the UT team to collect samples and other data earlier this month.

“We are helping the USGS build a database in order to be able to make real-time predictions for toxins, like microcystin, in Lake Erie and inland lakes in northeast and southwest Ohio using environmental factors such as turbidity, pH, phycocyanin and water level change, instead of waiting for test results,” Pam Struffolino, UT Lake Erie Center research operations manager, said. “The goal is to use the standard toxin-measuring methods to verify the model — similar to how we developed our swimming safety nowcasts for bacteria levels.”

“Site-specific models are needed to estimate the serious public health concern from toxin concentrations at a water intake or beach,” said Donna Francy, a USGS hydrologist and water-quality specialist. “Models help estimate toxin concentrations so that swimmers and boaters can be warned and water treatment plants can take measures to avoid or appropriately treat the raw water.”

Scientists are scheduled to collect data at the sites several times a week through algal bloom season this year. This marks the third year of collecting samples for the project.

For more information about the project, click here.

Students to share water research findings at UT Lake Erie Center

Undergraduate students from across the country who spent the summer researching water health at The University of Toledo will share their findings today during a poster gala at the UT Lake Erie Center.

The students enrolled in UT’s National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer program “Using the Lake Erie Sensor Network to Study Land-Lake Ecological Linkages” will display their work Wednesday, July 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the center, located at 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

Nate Marshall, a UT graduate student and a mentor for the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, left, watched as Hannah Scheppler, a senior at Bowling Green State University, center, and Jochannan Mitchell, a junior at Central State University, examined a juvenile grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, at the Lake Erie Center.

Nate Marshall, a UT graduate student and a mentor for the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, left, watched as Hannah Scheppler, a senior at Bowling Green State University, center, and Jochannan Mitchell, a junior at Central State University, examined a juvenile grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, at the Lake Erie Center.

The program places undergraduate science and engineering students in UT laboratories to provide mentoring in science, technology, engineering and math research and careers. Topics explored this summer included a performance assessment of green storm water infrastructure; detection and prevention of invasive species from retail stores; using geographic information system to characterize water usage in the Lake Erie western basin; water treatment options for the removal of cyanotoxins; VHS fish virus in the Great Lakes; and analyzing historical microcystin data.

The research projects were conducted by students from UT, Bowling Green State University, Cheyney University, Iowa State University, Pitzer University, the University of South Carolina, theUniversity of Colorado, Central State and Hanover College.

UT researchers partner with Green Ribbon Initiative to identify invasive plant species

Three University of Toledo researchers have teamed up with the Green Ribbon Initiative to develop a strategy for partner organizations to prioritize and manage invasive plant species common in the Oak Openings Region.

Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, professor of ecology, Dr. Todd Crail, UT lecturer in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and Sara Guiher, a graduate student, are working with the initiative, designed to preserve the natural landscape in the region, to compile a list of what are known as terrestrial invasive plant species. Invasive plant species can be non-native to a region, though only a small percentage of non-native plants qualify as invasive.

UT graduate student Sara Guiher pointed out a black oak at the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve in Swanton. Black oak is one of the native species that the Green Ribbon Initiative is trying to protect.

UT graduate student Sara Guiher pointed out a black oak at the Kitty Todd Nature Preserve in Swanton. Black oak is one of the native species that the Green Ribbon Initiative is trying to protect.

“Plants that are able to exclude native plants, take habitats away from native animals, those are the ones we are really trying to address,” Guiher said.

The project began in May 2015 with the identification phase, during which Guiher and Bossenbroek devised an assessment for partner organizations to determine where their priorities for invasive species management should be focused. After figuring which invasive plants each partner organization is dealing with, the goal is to develop best management practices for the conservation of the area. The development of the Oak Openings Region invasive species strategy brings together organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, the Olander Parks System, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, among many others, to make informed decisions about how to control invasive species.

“A big part of this is communication between partners,” Guiher said. “There are all those different agencies, and they each have their own approach; we’re basically trying to bring all of them together and communicate about the spread of invasive plants and decide on consistent strategies to manage them.”

“All these organizations have their own properties and their own, sometimes different management goals — the metroparks have a different mission than the Nature Conservancy, different from the Department of Natural Resources — trying to find a framework for dealing with terrestrial invasive species is what we’ve been asked to do,” Bossenbroek said.

Bossenbroek said his experience includes similar projects geared toward aquatic invasive species, such as the zebra mussel. His work has always included examination into spread of invasive species into the environment they might take over, which translates to this project on terrestrial invasive species as well.

“You use the same tools, the same types of analyses, to predict where things are going to live and how they get around,” Bossenbroek said. “There are usually two ways they move around: They get moved around naturally — birds, wind, streams — or by people. A lot of invasive species are easily transmitted by people.”

The next phase of the partnership will include digital modeling situations, in which variables such as topography and vegetation can be manipulated to figure out ideal habitats for invasive plant species. This type of model was what Bossenbroek said he used when examining aquatic invasive species.

“The next step is the modeling using software; taking those variables and possible vectors and trying to determine where the plant species may establish in the region, which will streamline the process,” Guiher said. “We can’t necessarily cover all the partners’ land, but we can try to give them guidance as to where those plants might show up.”

To learn more about the Green Ribbon Initiative, visit the Oak Openings Region’s website at oakopenings.org/about.

UT startup company participates in government contract to develop new radiation detector

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded two Toledo area companies a contract to develop a new device that could enhance security at ports and monitor the more than 17 million land, sea and air shipping containers in transit each day.

Lucintech logoLucintech, a University of Toledo LaunchPad Incubation startup company owned by UT Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy Al Compaan, will work with Lithium Innovations Co. LLC to create a lightweight, portable, sensitive and low-cost radiation detector that can discover neutrons in industrial shipments entering the country.

Lithium Innovations, a Toledo-based company, will provide foil that is nearly 100 percent lithium-6, an isotope that captures neutrons to start the detection process.

“The neutron subatomic particles are very difficult to detect and can penetrate a meter or more through steel or concrete,” Compaan said.

This collaboration leverages each local company’s technologies recently developed for applications outside of radiation detection.

“We are following on our successful exploratory work, which demonstrates a new approach to high-efficiency neutron detection,” Compaan said. “Neutron detectors are also important for oil and gas exploration, as well as nuclear medicine.”

“Advanced screening is an important component of domestic security,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “I am especially pleased that two northern Ohio companies are collaborating to produce a nationally significant, state-of-the-art technology that enhances our nation’s security efforts.”

Compaan has been leading a research effort for nearly 30 years in thin-film photovoltaic materials and devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity. His company Lucintech is developing and scaling up innovative processes for making solar windows and sunroofs for vehicles.

Lithium Innovations, which is led by CEO Ford Cauffiel, leads this Phase II Homeland Security Small Business Innovation Research project. The company supplies pure lithium sources for use by manufacturers of dynamic windows that darken by applying a small voltage.

Former chief chemist at Toledo Water Treatment plant on H2O quality quest at UT

When Brenda Snyder was 10 years old, her mother dragged her to a park along the Maumee River in Toledo before sunrise to witness a phenomenon.

“I remember I felt a little crazy climbing up on the monkey bars at five o’clock in the morning to look at a comet,” Snyder said. “But my mother was always interested in science, and that moment perked my interest.”

Brenda Snyder posed for a photo in her lab at the UT Lake Erie Center next to the SEAL AutoAnalyzer, a new lab instrument that she is working to get up and running by mid-July. Instead of sending samples to another lab to be analyzed for levels of nutrients, she will be able to do it at the Lake Erie Center – which means results will be available sooner.

Brenda Snyder posed for a photo in her lab at the UT Lake Erie Center next to the SEAL AutoAnalyzer, a new lab instrument that she is working to get up and running by mid-July. Instead of sending samples to another lab to be analyzed for levels of nutrients, she will be able to do it at the Lake Erie Center – which means results will be available sooner.

Fast-forward half a century and the grandmother of six still harbors a zeal for astronomy. However, her chosen scientific career is chemistry.

Snyder is a senior researcher at the UT Lake Erie Center who focuses on water quality.

“It is my job to do everything in my power to make sure that drinking water is safe,” said Snyder, a UT alumna and licensed water operator in the state of Ohio.

“She’s a heck of a chemist,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and associate professor of ecology, said. “I learn something new every day working alongside her in the lab.”

Bridgeman hired Snyder after she retired from the city of Toledo, where she spent 15 years as a chemist at the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant overseeing chemical processes that transform raw water from Lake Erie into high-quality drinking water.

In 2014, Snyder was the chief chemist who navigated through the Toledo water crisis when the city issued a ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory for half a million residents for three days due to the level of the toxin microcystin detected in the drinking water.

This is a close-up shot of the SEAL AutoAnalyzer. In the tubes, the bubbles separate samples. The instrument can run up to four different analyses at once on one sample; it measures how much phosphate, silica, nitrate and ammonia are in the water.

This is a close-up shot of the SEAL AutoAnalyzer. In the tubes, the bubbles separate samples. The instrument can run up to four different analyses at once on one sample; it measures how much phosphate, silica, nitrate and ammonia are in the water.

A year later, the algal bloom in Maumee Bay was much larger, but did not impact the public water supply.

“I would like to find some answers as to what happened that day,” Snyder said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here at UT. What is triggering the production of toxin? Why is the size of the algal bloom not related to the amount of toxin released? There is still a ton of science that needs to be done.”

Snyder’s public health mission has shifted to early warning. She is working to find faster ways to alert water treatment plant operators if there is anything in Maumee Bay heading toward the city of Toledo’s intake pipe.

“Information that is two-weeks-old doesn’t do them any good,” Snyder said. “By then the water has already come, gone and is back through the wastewater treatment plant.”

“Brenda’s extensive experience helps us academics connect with the professionals who deal with water treatment on a daily basis,” Bridgeman said. “She knows most of the water utility managers and chemists along Lake Erie. She speaks their language, knows what challenges they face, and what information they need from us to help meet those challenges.”  

Throughout the summer algal bloom season, Snyder is part of Bridgeman’s team that collects water samples aboard UT’s 28-foot research vessel throughout Maumee Bay and the open waters of the western basin. She then runs those samples through what is called the ELISA test, the standard method of measuring the concentration of toxins, like microcystin, associated with cyanobacterial blooms, or harmful algal blooms, in Lake Erie.

Snyder also is tasked with getting a new lab instrument up and running called the SEAL AutoAnalyzer, which analyzes nutrients found in the water, such as phosphorus, ammonia, silica, nitrate and nitrite.

“This tool will help us look at things that feed the algae, which create the microcystin,” Snyder said. “We know the growth of algae is linked to phosphate and nitrogen in the water. But what other subtle things are triggering the overgrowth of the blue-green algae? That’s what we need to find out.”

The machine moves small water samples separated by bubbles through thin tubes that look like clear spaghetti. The tubes thread into different chemicals, and the data is graphed on a computer in the lab.

“The biggest way having this instrument in our lab will change how we conduct research is to get us the results in a more timely fashion,” Snyder said. “Dr. Bridgeman has had to send our samples to another lab to be analyzed for nutrients. We tend to send them in a batch at the end of summer. Instead of taking months to process, we hope to get results within a week of collecting the samples.”

Snyder and the team of researchers at the UT Lake Erie Center will use the SEAL AutoAnalyzer as another tool in their arsenal to help search for answers and develop new protocols for monitoring source water in Lake Erie that could benefit water treatment plants across the country that are affected by algal blooms.

“It’s darn near everywhere,” Snyder said. “They’re having problems in Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, California and anywhere in the South.”

With a wry sense of humor, Snyder said she mixes science and a little bit of art in her water quality quest. It’s one that began at UT.

“I went back to school at the age of 40,” said Snyder, who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology. “My son graduated from UT a year later. I joke that I had to wait until he was old enough to tutor me through the calculus classes, which he did.”

But you’d have to rewind farther to discover the moment a little girl on the monkey bars with her eyes in the sky found a love of science in her heart to last a lifetime.

Graduate student to discuss invasive plants July 13 at Lake Erie Center

UT graduate student Sara Guiher will deliver a talk titled “Neighborhood Watch: Learn to Identify and Manage Invasive Plants in Your Yard” Wednesday, July 13, at 7 p.m. at the Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road, Oregon.

The free event is part of the UT Lake Erie Center’s Naturalist Series, which welcomes a variety of speakers from different areas of expertise to share their insights.

invasive plant flyerGuiher’s talk connects to a larger project she began last year with Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, UT professor of ecology, and Dr. Todd Crail, UT lecturer in the Department of Environmental Sciences. In partnership with the Green Ribbon Initiative, the three worked to compile a list of invasive plant species prevalent in the Oak Openings Region.

Invasive plants can exist anywhere. Even home gardens can act as habitats for invasive species, and Guiher hopes to inform attendees of the various types of invasive species to look for in their yards.

Garlic mustard, honeysuckle, and landscaping plants such as Callery pear and Japanese barberry are among the species that can be prevalent and possibly invasive in home gardens. Guiher said she will not only highlight which plants to look out for, but also offer some native alternatives for those plants and how homeowners can move forward in their gardens.

“My goal is to introduce local residents to invasive plants that are common in the area and likely already present on their properties, along with some effective management strategies. Controlling invasives in our yards can have a positive impact in our neighborhoods, as well as on native plant and animal communities,” Guiher said.

“I’m excited to provide examples of native plants that can be used in home landscapes,” she added. “Following the talk, we plan to take a short walk to get some experience identifying invasive plants in the field.”

To learn more about the Lake Erie Center and its events, click here.

Assistant professor examines nicotine addiction in new book

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances with 13 percent of Americans dependent on its use, despite sharp declines in smoking rates during the last 30 years.

While most adults have tried nicotine, not all become addicted. A new book by a University of Toledo researcher explores why some people are more likely to begin smoking and have a more difficult time giving up the nicotine habit.

Hall

Hall

“Everyone has a different reason to smoke,” said Dr. F. Scott Hall, assistant professor of pharmacology. “The key to helping someone quit is exploring why they begin smoking and continue to use nicotine.”

Negative Affective States and Cognitive Impairments in Nicotine Dependence explores the idea that there could be more to nicotine addiction than its “feel good” effects and the avoidance of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

When a smoker inhales nicotine, the body reacts within seconds and the brain releases dopamine, which regulates behavior and mood and gives smokers a pleasant feeling. Getting that happy nicotine rush is a major part of the attraction of smoking. However, other effects of nicotine on other brain systems, particularly those involved in attention and cognition, could be as important in some people.

“This positive reinforcement response tapers with time as a smoker builds tolerance to nicotine,” Hall said. “Eventually, a smoker needs nicotine not to feel good, but to feel normal.”

Once nicotine and dopamine levels drop, smokers may react with a depressed mood, greater appetite, slower heart rate and problems focusing.

“That’s why it can be so difficult for smokers to quit,” Hall said. “They continue to use nicotine to avoid the negative effects of nicotine withdrawal.”

Hall’s book is the first of its kind to examine other contributing factors to nicotine addiction such as an underlying psychiatric disorder.

“Nearly 80 percent of schizophrenia patients are smokers, and individuals with ADHD are two times more likely to use nicotine,” Hall said. “Patients with other disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder may be using nicotine as a way to self-treat these conditions.”

This correlation also could explain why some individuals find it so hard to quit smoking or begin smoking again after stopping.

“It’s important for smokers to do a little self-examination about why they smoke and to talk with their doctor about what their triggers are for smoking,” Hall said. “If an underlying condition is treated, it may be much easier to kick the nicotine habit for good.”

The book, aimed at doctors and researchers, provides the psychological perspective on nicotine addiction and paves the way for improved psychiatric and addictive medications and tailored treatment programs. It is scheduled to be published by Elsevier Science Publishing Co. Inc. in September.

“There is no one-size-fits-all answer for stopping smoking,” Hall said. “The treatment plan for nicotine addiction should be just as individualized as the reason someone begins smoking in the first place.”

UT researcher receives grant to continue Alzheimer’s disease research

A University of Toledo researcher is taking a closer look at how a common food additive could reverse brain cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Midi-GAGR is a byproduct of low acyl gellan gum, a commonly used gelling agent in foods such as icing and pudding, that has been shown in lab testing to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Dr. Joshua Park, center, posed for a photo with Marianne Ballas and Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, after receiving a $50,000 grant through the UT Medical Research Society.

Dr. Joshua Park, center, posed for a photo with Marianne Ballas and Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, after receiving a $50,000 grant through the UT Medical Research Society.

Dr. Joshua Park, UT assistant professor of neurosciences, has received a $50,000 grant through the UT Medical Research Society to continue his study and seek a pharmaceutical company to assist in further testing.

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative condition affecting the intracellular network of brain cells causing neurofibrillary tangles to form inside the cells inhibiting their function and leading to their death. This damage leads to memory and cognition loss.

Midi-GAGR reverses damage to the cell network and reduces the level of proteins that generate the neurofibrillary tangles, which allows the brain to begin repairing the building blocks and signalers, improving memory and cognition.

“In animal lab tests, we have seen improvement in both behavior and in the physical structures of the brain,” Park said. “There is still much more testing to do before we will be approved for human trials, but it should move fairly quickly as low acyl gellan gum has already been approved for human consumption by the FDA.”

The Midi-GAGR treatment is administered through a nasal spray, which is significant as many people with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to swallow as the disease progresses. It also metabolizes slowly, which means it would only have to be administered once daily.

“We also have found the medication actually crosses into the brain to treat cells directly,” he said. “This is important because most medications are processed in the circulatory system and never actually make it to the brain.”

This is the second award given by the Medical Research Society since its founding in 2014. The society consists of 20 community and medical leaders with an interest in supporting UT’s junior faculty research.

“Everyone in the room felt a personal connection to Dr. Park’s research because we all know someone who has been touched by Alzheimer’s disease,” said Marianne Ballas, owner of Ballas Buick GMC and a founder of the UT Medical Research Society. “We were impressed by his tenacity, and we are confident Dr. Park and his unique research will make a difference for patients and their families.”

“Receiving this grant is a great honor,” Park said. “But even more importantly, the support from the research society and to the Toledo community is motivating. It encourages me to work even harder to find answers for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.”

Park hopes to see a medication on the market within the next 10 to 15 years.

“My parents are getting older, and many of their friends are starting to see memory loss and early stages of Alzheimer’s,” he said. “It is my hope that this research will lead to treatments that will be available to patients in my parents’ lifetime.”

UT’s Office of Technology Transfer has filed a patent for the technology, which will provide intellectual property protection and allow Park to share his research with drug companies that could sponsor additional research in this area of study.

Discovery may lead to new treatments for Type 2 diabetes

Researchers at The University of Toledo have designed a new drug that has shown promise in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Terry Hinds Jr., assistant professor in the UT Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, constructed new molecules that could lead to the development of medications that not only lower blood glucose levels for Type 2 diabetics, but also may help to manage a patient’s weight and blood pressure.

Dr. Terry Hinds Jr., left, is assisted in the lab by, from left, Assumpta Nwaneri, Imani Driskell, Vikram Sundararaghavan, Kevin Stephenoff, Lucien McBeth, Kari Neifer-Sadhwani and Justina Tain.

Dr. Terry Hinds Jr., left, is assisted in the lab by, from left, Assumpta Nwaneri, Imani Driskell, Vikram Sundararaghavan, Kevin Stephenoff, Lucien McBeth, Kari Neifer-Sadhwani and Justina Tain.

“Current medications for Type 2 diabetics do a good job of reducing glucose, but they often lead to weight gain and further medical complications, including cardiovascular disease,” Hinds said. “We showed that bilirubin can reduce blood glucose and is known to lower cardiovascular events.”

Bilirubin is an orange-yellow pigment formed naturally in the liver by the breakdown of hemoglobin.

The new molecules are created from a half bilirubin structure that binds directly to a receptor that lowers blood glucose and body fat percentage. Hinds and his research team termed the new compounds Thin Molecules. He worked in collaboration with Dr. Paul Erhardt and Dr. Chris Trabbic at UT’s Center for Drug Design and Development and Dr. David Stec from the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“For a long time, we thought bilirubin was harmful to the body,” Hinds said. “In the past decade, research has shown that bilirubin is a powerful antioxidant that was inversely associated with obesity and waist circumstance.”

Hinds discovered that bilirubin has a function outside of its role as an antioxidant by also binding to the fat-burning nuclear receptor PPARalpha, which helps to more effectively metabolize fat and reduce obesity levels.

Slightly increased levels of bilirubin in the body can mean positive results for Type 2 diabetics.

“We think the Thin Molecules will be especially effective at reducing obesity and blood glucose, as well as lowering blood pressure,” Hinds said.

This discovery was published in April in the Public of Library Science journal PLOS ONE, and a provisional patent has been approved for the Thin Molecules.

Hinds and his research team now are building a library of the molecules to continue testing to determine which provide the most benefit.

College students from across country spend summer at UT for research experience

For the second year in a row, students from colleges and universities across the country are spending their summer at The University of Toledo for undergraduate research experience and mentoring.

Alex Weeden, a Wisconsin native with a passion for water quality, is preparing to enter her senior year at Hanover College in Indiana by working under the direction of a scientist in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences.

Alex Weeden, a senior at Hanover College, stood outside the Lake Erie Center, where she is spending nine weeks in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

Alex Weeden, a senior at Hanover College, stood outside the Lake Erie Center, where she is spending nine weeks in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

“I am researching the methods of toxin detection in the lake and trying to make that method more accurate,” Weeden said.

The National Science Foundation sponsors the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

“11 students are working on land-lake environmental problems, including water quality, harmful algal blooms, invasive species and climate change,” said Dr. Carol Stepien, director of the UT Lake Erie Center and Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, who leads the nine-week program. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help build research skills both in the field and in the lab for the next generation of scientists.”

315 students from 83 colleges and universities applied for less than a dozen slots in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Nate Marshall, a UT graduate student and a mentor for the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, left, watched as Hannah Scheppler, a senior at Bowling Green State University, center, and Jochannan Mitchell, a junior at Central State University, examined a juvenile grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, at the Lake Erie Center.

Nate Marshall, a UT graduate student and a mentor for the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, left, watched as Hannah Scheppler, a senior at Bowling Green State University, center, and Jochannan Mitchell, a junior at Central State University, examined a juvenile grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, at the Lake Erie Center.

“Our program targets minority students, veterans, first-generation college students, and those that lack undergraduate research opportunities on their home campuses,” Stepien said.

11 students, including one who is returning for a second year, are each paid a $5,000 stipend. The program also pays for the students to stay in residence halls on Main Campus and their travel to and from Toledo.

Dr. Song Qian, UT assistant professor of environmental science, is Weeden’s faculty mentor. Weeden is conducting experiments for Qian’s project to develop a new, more reliable method to measure the algal bloom toxin called microcystin in drinking water.

“The scientific work and bonding with new friends has been a lot of fun,” Weeden said. “It can be difficult at times because Qian is very technical and statistically minded, but that is why I am here. This is a great opportunity to learn how to measure water quality and how that impacts the community.”

Participating undergraduate students attend the University of South Carolina at Columbia, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Bowling Green State University, Central State University, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Iowa State University, Pitzer College, Hanover College and UT.