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Study explaining side effects of statins finds drug can have unexpected benefits

While investigating why cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins cause negative side effects such as blurred vision, short-term memory loss or increased risk for diabetes, cellular chemists at The University of Toledo discovered several previously unknown benefits.

It is well-established statins can help lower the risk of heart attack by lowering blood cholesterol, but statins also may play a protective role in the event of a heart attack because they can suppress a biological process that disrupts cardiac function.

Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in The University of Toledo Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, monitors Mithila Tennakoon, UToledo Ph.D. student, as she exposes living cells to statins in his lab.

By suppressing the activity of key cellular receptors called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and their interacting partners called G proteins, statins have the potential to alter various bodily functions controlled by this important pathway, according to research published in the journal Molecular Pharmacology.

“We believe this and our future investigations can help physicians make more informed decisions about prescribing statins, opening a whole new door to what statins can do in addition to cholesterol control,” said Dr. Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in The University of Toledo Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

GPCR signaling pathways are crucial to our survival. They are the largest pharmaceutical drug target — more than one-third of all drugs on the market — because GPCR pathways regulate the body by controlling a variety of functions from vision to heart rate and neurotransmission.

Statins are designed to target and inhibit the cholesterol-synthesis pathway, which is why it is an effective and popular drug to lower cholesterol. But parts of the cholesterol-synthesis pathway are needed for the GPCR signaling pathway to function, which explains the temporary negative side effects while taking statins, such as blurred vision or short-term memory loss.

The UToledo scientists also revealed another crucial finding: The cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce the ability of migratory cells, such as cancer and immune cells, to travel.

When testing GPCR-directed cell invasion, Karunarathne’s lab found that statins reduced movement more than 10-fold compared to the control group.

“This indicated that GPCR-governed cancer cell migration also can be reduced by statins,” Karunarathne said.

The research was done using cells, not human patients. Karunarathne’s lab uses light to control cell behavior — through a novel method named subcellular optogenetics — and studies the way cells respond to light through signal transduction pathways.

“We observed that different types of statins induce very different deviations or changes to G proteins in the GPCR pathway,” said Mithila Tennakoon, a UToledo Ph.D. student in Karunarathne’s lab and first author of the study.

“The side effects of statins are not uniform,” Karunarathne said. “Cells in the eyes, brain, heart and lungs can have completely different impact levels because they have different types of G proteins.”

These findings help explain the molecular sources for side effects of statins, which Karunarathne’s lab discovered can have different effects on tissues and organs.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Former NSF director, water quality expert to speak at University

A former director of the National Science Foundation who is known worldwide for her work in addressing water quality issues will visit The University of Toledo next week as part of the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series.

Dr. Rita Colwell was the first scientist to discover cholera can enter a dormant state and lurk in water until conditions are again favorable for it to grow. Her finding opened the door to new research about the link between the natural environment, climate, and the spread of infectious diseases.

Colwell

She is working with the British government on a project to track and better respond to likely cholera outbreaks.

“Dr. Colwell is one of the most influential and well-known life scientists in the world today,” said Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College. “She is a leader not only in her academic discipline, but in pulling people together from many academic disciplines to focus on water quality and interdisciplinary approaches to solve major societal challenges.”

Colwell is scheduled to present a pair of lectures at the University:

• A public presentation of how connections between climate and oceans affect human health on Monday, March 25, at 6 p.m. in Doermann Theatre on Main Campus.

• A technical talk about how next-generation DNA sequencing has revolutionized the study of the relationship between microbial communities and how that new knowledge can be used in diagnostics, drug development, public health and water safety Tuesday, March 26, at noon in Radisson Hotel Suite C on Health Science Campus.

Both lectures are open to the public, but reservations are requested to the technical talk luncheon; go to the Distinguished Lecture Series website.

Much of Colwell’s six decades of research has been dedicated to understanding and preventing cholera outbreaks. Among her many discoveries, she demonstrated how algal blooms, spurred by high nutrient loads and warming ocean waters, increases the population of cholera-carrying zooplankton.

Though Lake Erie’s algal blooms raise concerns of microcystin — not cholera — Colwell’s innovative research methods and multidisciplinary way of developing solutions could prove a helpful roadmap to addressing the problem in northwest Ohio.

“We believe the kinds of tools she’s developed and the way of thinking about interdisciplinary research-based problem solving will be of interest and value to the people in our region who are dedicated to protecting water quality,” Appel said.

Colwell was the first woman to lead the National Science Foundation, serving as director from 1998 to 2004. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2006 and the Stockholm Water Prize in 2010.

She has a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology, master’s degree in genetics and doctorate in oceanography. She holds distinguished professorships at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Physicist’s review article featured on cover of high-impact, international scientific journal

A review article by Dr. Yanfa Yan, professor of physics at The University of Toledo, was chosen as the cover story for the February issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Yan is the lead author on the paper titled “Oxide Perovskites, Double Perovskites and Derivatives for Electrocatalysis, Photocatalysis and Photovoltaics.” He is an expert in theory of defect physics and electronic properties in semiconductors, materials synthesis and thin film solar cell fabrication.

“Energy & Environmental Science happens to be one of the highest impact-factor journals — with an impact factor of 30 — in all of science,” said Dr. Sanjay Khare, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “It is truly an achievement and honor to get such a cover page feature and invitation.”

Energy & Environmental Science links all aspects of the chemical, physical and biotechnological sciences relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. Its readership spans the globe and includes chemical scientists, chemical and process engineers, energy researchers, bioscientists, and environmental scientists from across academia, industry and government.

Practical utilization of clean energies requires energy conversions among solar energy, electrical energy and chemical energy, involving different processes such as from solar energy to electrical energy, from electrical energy to chemical energy, and from solar energy to chemical energy.

The key to realizing high-efficiency conversion is searching novel, stable, low-cost and environmentally friendly functional materials.

“Due to the extreme flexibilities in terms of their structures and compositions, oxide perovskites and their derivatives provide a rich family of materials candidates that may meet the diverse applications aforementioned,” Yan said. “This review highlights the progress of oxide perovskites and their derivatives in this field. It describes connections between the structural and compositional flexibility and the resulting tunable materials properties desirable for those applications.”

UToledo researchers capture first newly hatched invasive grass carp within Great Lakes watershed

A genetic analysis conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey recently confirmed that larval, or newly hatched, fish collected by researchers at The University of Toledo from the Maumee River during summer 2018 are grass carp, one species of invasive Asian carp that threaten the Great Lakes. The Maumee River is a tributary to Lake Erie.

These young fish are the first grass carp collected in their larval stage from within the Great Lakes watershed. Other life stages, including fertilized eggs, juveniles and adults, have been previously documented in tributaries and shoreline areas of Lake Erie. Identifying locations with larval grass carp in the Maumee River will help inform management decisions and allow natural resource agencies to better focus limited resources on grass carp removal efforts.

These images taken by Nicole King, aquatic ecology research technician at The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center, show grass carp larvae from the Maumee River. Characteristics of larval grass carp include overall length, left, skeletal muscle development, center, and presence of an eye spot that lacks pigmentation (pigment starting to develop on lower eye).

“If grass carp become abundant in Lake Erie, they could consume large amounts of aquatic vegetation, ultimately reducing habitat for native fish and other aquatic animals, and diminishing food resources for waterbirds,” said Patrick Kočovský, U.S. Geological Survey scientist. “The Lake Erie ecosystem is a major contributor to the Great Lakes’ multi-billion-dollar fishery.”

On June 13 and 26, 2018, a sampling crew from The University of Toledo collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey sampled the Maumee River in Toledo for early life stages of grass carp. The larval grass carp were collected near the I-280 bridge in the city of Toledo and near the river mouth adjacent to Brenner’s Marina during high water flow events typical of spawning conditions for grass carp. While the samples were being processed in January 2019, six larval fish resembling grass carp were identified.

These larval fish were sent to the U.S. Geological Survey for genetic confirmation. Scientists analyzed DNA extracted from each larva in early February and confirmed with high confidence that the species of every hatchling was grass carp. Subsequent genetic sequencing of the larval fish DNA in late February confirmed that the larvae were grass carp.

Mayer

“Collecting larval fish in a Great Lake is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Dr. Christine Mayer, professor in the UToledo Department of Environmental Sciences and Lake Erie Center. “Our finding helps make the haystack smaller when looking for spawning grass carp.”

The capture of these larval grass carp confirms previous evidence that they spawn in the Maumee River, and the capture of larvae during separate high flow events confirms the possibility of more than one successful spawning event within a year. This new discovery does not indicate the population size in the Maumee River, but underscores the continued need for early detection.

The U.S. Geological Survey and The University of Toledo have previously documented grass carp spawning in the Sandusky River.

For more information about the threat of Asian carp in the Great Lakes, visit the U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Restoration Initiative website.

NIH grant supports study of central nervous system’s precise connections

A University of Toledo researcher who studies embryonic development has received a $448,500 research grant to further understanding of how the central nervous system’s extraordinarily precise connections are made in the first few weeks of life.

With that information, it might be possible to address brain disorders such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and dyslexia during development, or to rewire the central nervous system in people who have had strokes or spinal cord injuries.

Liu

The three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will enable Dr. Guofa Liu, associate professor in the UT Department of Biological Sciences, to study the role of microRNA in mapping the central nervous system.

The brain and spinal cord each have two sides, which link together to control everything from movement to the sense of touch.

Those connections between the two sides are made early. Commissural neurons in a developing embryo send out a tiny fiber known as an axon that finds its way to a corresponding target cell to link the two sides of the central nervous system.

Scientists know there’s a process that works almost like a relay race as the axons cross the midline of the central nervous system. As the axon approaches and crosses the embryonic midline, there’s a sort of molecular switch that hands off guidance from one side of the central nervous system to the other.

“Axon pathfinding is very important for early development of the nervous system, but we don’t know much about the switch that pushes or pulls the nerve fiber to make the right connections,” Liu said. “If we find that mechanism, we may be able to find a way to rescue defects in axon guidance that lead to neurodevelopmental disorders.”

MicroRNA are tiny molecules that work as biological programming to regulate gene expression. Liu’s previous research has suggested they play a key role in the handoff as axons cross from one side of the central nervous system to the other.

Work funded by the new grant will dig deeper into how that molecular switch actually works.

Beyond understanding how the central nervous system develops, the new knowledge could be applied toward nervous system regeneration in individuals impacted by paralysis.

“If we find the mechanics that can promote axon growth and reach the proper target, that could give us potential treatment for stroke or brain trauma patients,” he said. “Currently, there are some clinical methods to create axon growth, but because scar tissue can create a barrier, the axon cannot reach the right place. Even if they can grow past the scar, they don’t know where to go. Understanding this mechanism and the role microRNA plays might allow us to help route the axon pathways.”

Insects hijack reproductive genes of grape vines to create own living space on plant

A team of scientists at The University of Toledo uncovered new, galling details in the intimate relationship between insects and plants, opening the door to new possibilities in protecting the source of wine and raisins worldwide from a major agricultural pest.

The biologists discovered grape phylloxera — the insect that nearly wiped out wine production at the end of the 19th century in France — hijacks a grape vine’s reproductive programs to create a leaf gall, which it uses as a pseudo apartment for the parasite to siphon off the plant’s nutrients. The research is published in the latest issue of Nature Scientific Reports.

The researchers studying how insects control grape vines are, from left, Dr. Melanie Body, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Environmental Sciences; Dr. Jack Schultz, senior executive director for research development; and Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College and professor of environmental sciences.

A gall is an organ a little smaller than a marble on a plant that can look like a wart, flower or fruit and provides insects with a protected place to feed and reproduce.

“When galls form on a leaf, the flower genes are on. They shouldn’t be activated, but the insect is manipulatively inserting its own signals into the pathway to get a flower-like result,” said Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College at The University of Toledo and professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

The insect lays an egg and starts the process to exploit the plant’s reproductive genetic machinery, directing the plant to create these structures.

Insects have set up house in phylloxera galls on this leaf. This cross-section of a gall taken with a stereosmicroscope shows an insect mom — the orange ball in the center — surrounded by eggs she laid — the yellow ovals.

Appel and Dr. Jack Schultz, senior executive director for research development at The University of Toledo, said Charles Darwin guessed at the idea in 1867 when he observed that the gall bears a certain degree of resemblance to the inside of a peach when cut open.

“We examined Darwin’s hypothesis and found the insect forces the plant to use the same genes to make a gall that the plant uses to make a flower or fruit,” Schultz said. “The plant produces the central part of a flower known as the carpel in a place the plant would never produce one on its own.”

“In each case as we genetically held up a mirror to see the differences in the plant at each stage of galling, an insect injected some kind of signal into the plant,” Appel said. “The signal took over the plant’s development and told the plant to make a gall on a leaf instead of normal plant tissue.”

Galls damage grape vines by draining resources and getting in the way of photosynthesis, resulting in lower yields.

By identifying the genes in grape vines that have to be activated for an insect to produce a gall, scientists can next find a way to block the insect from attacking the plant.

“While North American grape vines have developed the ability to resist phylloxera, one option is to crossbreed plants to be genetically resistant,” Schultz said. “Another option is to create a biologically based pesticide to spray on grape vines to manipulate the hormones in plants to be active at different times.”

World Languages and Cultures Department to explore global topics this spring

Three talks are scheduled for the UT Department of World Languages and Culture’s spring colloquium.

The free events will take place at noon in Memorial Field House Room 2420.

“Arab Refugees in Germany Reloaded” will be the first topic presented by Dr. Gaby Semaan, director of Middle East Studies and coordinator of the Arabic program, Wednesday, Feb. 27.

“Between 2015 and 2016, Germany received about one million refugees of whom approximately 40 percent were from Arab countries, the majority of them being from Iraq and Syria,” Semaan said.

The UT associate professor of Arabic will provide snapshots from his ongoing research on Arab refugees in Germany.

“Attendees will get to know more about the challenges, successes and failures of the acculturation process of the Arab refugees in Germany,” Semaan said. “I hope to provide a better understanding of the complexities of identify formation the European countries and the Arab refugees are facing.”

Next month, Dr. Linda M. Rouillard, professor of French and chair of the World Languages and Cultures Department, will discuss “The Sin That Stinks to High Heaven: Disbelief in Gautier de Coinci’s Marian Miracles” Wednesday, March 27.

And on Wednesday, April 17, Dr. Manuel R. Montes, assistant professor of Spanish, will give a presentation titled “The Assassination of Don Quixote by the Coward Sansón Carrasco: A Rereading of Cervantes’ Classic Through a Western Film.”

“The colloquium lecture series the Department of World Languages and Cultures organizes every semester is a space where the department shares the scholarship and research of its faculty, students, alums and others with the University and local community,” Semaan said. “Presenters share their work and address a wide range of topics stretching from cultural aspects of pharmaceutical practices in Europe and Asia to other issues that are of cultural, technological, literary, pedagogical, communicative and linguistic nature.”

For more information, contact the Department of World Languages and Cultures at 419.530.2606 or Semaan at gaby.semaan@utoledo.edu.

UT researchers develop new mouse model for Type I diabetes that mimics full scope of the human disease

Researchers at The University of Toledo have found a new way to replicate in lab mice the development and progression of Type I diabetes, a breakthrough that has the potential to reshape how the chronic disease is studied.

An estimated 1.25 million Americans are living with Type I diabetes. While the condition can be managed with insulin, finding a treatment or cure for the disease has been elusive — in part because scientists have not had a reliable animal model that mimics the full scope of human Type I diabetes.

Dr. Shahnawaz Imam, left, and Dr. Juan Jaume display an array of diabetes management tools that patients rely on to control their disease. A new mouse model developed at UT may open the door to research that finds new therapies.

“We see these patients every day. We see them come to the hospital, we see how they struggle,” said Dr. Juan Jaume, professor of medicine in UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and senior author of the new invention. “Unfortunately, research has been held back because the scientific community didn’t have a good model to study the disease and its progression. Now we do. We have developed a mouse model that is a step forward toward finding a cure.”

The first peer-reviewed study using the UT-developed mouse model was published Feb. 7 in the natural sciences journal Scientific Reports.

In that study, Jaume, who is also chief of the Division of Endocrinology and director of UT’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, and co-collaborator Dr. Shahnawaz Imam, a senior researcher in the Department of Medicine and an associate member of the Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Research, looked at how a certain protein can influence T-cells in the pancreas to delay the onset of diabetes.

While the study adds to the overall knowledge about diabetes, it is the mouse model that holds the real potential.

In the new model, mice spontaneously develop Type I diabetes and, importantly, the full range of complications experienced by diabetes patients. That allows study of the disease and its natural progression in a way not previously possible.

“Our model is showing exactly the same physiopathology that humans with diabetes suffer,” Imam said. “Our mice are getting eye problems, they are getting kidney problems and also neuropathy. That’s a very important part of this — they have the same human complications that all diabetes patients have, not just those with Type I.”

The laboratory mice were developed through a series of selective breeding experiments and genetic modification that included adding human genes to the mice.

A provisional patent on the Spontaneous Type I Diabetes Mouse Model was filed last year.

Type I diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, results from an autoimmune attack on cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot process the sugars in food, leading to dangerously high blood sugar.

Though many species develop diabetes, Jaume said the process of Type I diabetes seems to be unique to humans. And while scientists have frequently used other specially bred mice, including what’s known as the non-obese diabetic mouse, to study diabetes and test treatments, those lab animals don’t mimic the exact human pathophysiology of the disease.

“The existing non-obese diabetic mouse model does not completely resemble the human condition,” Jaume said. “There are more than 125 different therapies that cure Type I diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice. Clinical trials were developed because of that model, but none have worked in humans. Everybody has been searching for a better model.”

Jaume and Imam have been working on their model for more than a decade. It is already showing research promise.

Using the same idea behind CAR T-cell therapy for cancer, in which certain immune system cells are taken from a patient and paired with an artificial receptor that once reintroduced into the body homes in on the tumor, the team is developing cellular therapies for diabetes that use the mice’s regulatory cells to cool down the immune response.

The University also has filed a provisional patent on the treatment method, and Jaume and Imam soon will begin a more in-depth study of its effectiveness.

UT to develop training tool to better care for patients who are homeless

The University of Toledo is developing a virtual reality training to improve Ohio Medicaid providers’ cultural competency and reduce implicit bias as a way to better understand the patients they serve. The virtual reality training focuses on the barriers to health care faced by those without stable, permanent housing.

UT faculty from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences and the College of Health and Human Services will conduct interviews and observe interactions in an area homeless shelter to build a realistic portrait of the health-care struggles experienced by individuals who depend on urban homeless shelters for their housing.

A multidisciplinary team from UT is building a virtual reality training program to help Ohio Medicaid providers better treat patients without stable, permanent housing. The investigators are, from left, Dr. Thomas Papadimos, medical director and associate dean for immersive and simulation-based learning; Dr. Shipra Singh, assistant professor of health education and public health; Dr. Lance Dworkin, professor and chair of medicine; and Dr. Scott Pappada, assistant professor of anesthesiology and bioengineering.

From that data, faculty and staff from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the School of Population Health in the College of Health and Human Services, and the Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center will create an interactive experience that will electronically place clinicians into a model homeless shelter as fly-on-the-wall observers.

“There’s a lot of attention nowadays to how one’s background and social structure impact not only their health, but also how successful they are in using the health-care system,” said Dr. Lance Dworkin, professor and chair of the UT Department of Medicine, and the primary investigator for the project. “If we understand that, we can integrate that knowledge into the care we provide so it’s more effective.”

The University also is building a robust evaluation component into the program that will monitor physical biomarkers such as heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate while participants are engaged in the simulation. Using assessment software developed by Dr. Scott Pappada, UT assistant professor of anesthesiology and bioengineering, and a co-investigator on the project, researchers will collect data before and after the simulation to learn how the program affects clinicians and whether it helps them connect with individuals who are marginalized by society.

The project is funded by a $1.24 million grant from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

UT’s work is part of a larger partnership between the Ohio Department of Medicaid and Ohio’s medical schools, administered by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. Like many projects managed by the center, the Medicaid equity simulation project is aimed at reducing health disparities, addressing the social determinants of health, and improving patient care and health outcomes for Ohio’s Medicaid population.

During the course of the homeless shelter simulation, health-care providers will see rudimentary sleeping quarters, dining and social areas, observe the interactions between guests and staff, and listen in on conversations gleaned from the real-life interviews.

“The big message here is how does one change clinical decision making based on what is learned about an individual in this environment,” said Dr. Shipra Singh, UT assistant professor of health education and public health, and a co-investigator on the project.

Singh, who is directing the scripts that will be used in the simulation, said those changes could be as simple as not forcing someone who has no access to reliable transportation to go to the back of the line if they’re late for an appointment, or understanding that immediate lifestyle changes may not be possible.

“You need to listen to the patient rather than just look at them and understand the cultural context they’re coming from and what really matters to them,” Singh said.

The program is expected to be ready to launch to Ohio Medicaid providers within The University of Toledo Medical Center in May and disseminated throughout the community by June.

UT engineering assistant professor receives $558,795 award for sustainability research targeting industrial smokestacks

Since she was a little girl growing up in Málaga, Spain, Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio brainstormed ways to motivate those around her to protect the planet.

“When I was 12 years old, I heard a neighboring community obtained a recycle bin,” Alba-Rubio said. “I talked with my teacher and organized our own paper collection system. My friends and I hauled that garbage from school to the other neighborhood once a week to recycle.”

Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio, assistant professor of chemical engineering, holds a Lego model showing how the dual-function material would capture carbon dioxide and convert it into methanol and higher alcohols that could be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity to power factories.

Now an assistant professor of chemical engineering at The University of Toledo, she is pioneering a new method for factories to approach environmental stewardship and fight pollution with help from a five-year, $558,795 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The Faculty Early Career Development award, known as CAREER, is one of the most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through the integration of research and education.

Alba-Rubio is creating a dual-function material, which acts as an absorber and a catalyst, that could be placed at the top of industrial smokestacks as an alternative to current processes of capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide. The material would capture carbon dioxide and convert it into methanol and higher alcohols that could be fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity to power the plant.

Alba-Rubio’s method would eliminate the energy requirement, corrosion and transportation issues associated with the processes currently used. Instead, the new material would transform carbon dioxide into a useful product on site.

“We must do as much as we can to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate climate change,” Alba-Rubio said. “Converting carbon dioxide into something useful could be a great economic benefit for the industry while reducing emissions.”

World carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, according to the Global Carbon Project, including 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018, the largest jump in seven years.

As part of the grant-funded research, Alba-Rubio plans to engage students from elementary school to high school in her activities to expose them to chemical reactions and catalysis, as well as raise awareness of the effects of carbon dioxide on global warming.

“As a Hispanic woman, I have a strong interest in increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in science, and I will continue providing hands-on experiences to migrant students in Ohio’s rural communities and other underrepresented students through the programs that The University of Toledo offers to Toledo Public Schools,” Alba-Rubio said.

She is especially passionate about serving as a role model to encourage girls to pursue careers in science. Alba-Rubio is gathering support from other successful women across northwest Ohio in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to create a coloring book titled “Women Scientists Near You” to distribute to elementary schools throughout the region.

“The coloring book will feature stories of each of us to inspire girls to envision themselves on a similar path to success,” Alba-Rubio said. “Each ‘character’ in the book will visit schools to share her experiences and do experiments. The goal is to catch their curiosity and build their confidence. Becoming a scientist is within their reach. It’s an exciting career that can help change lives and create a better world.”