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Professional development events available to UT women in science fields

University of Toledo female students, staff and faculty interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields are encouraged to take advantage of upcoming Association for Women in Science (AWIS) opportunities.

AWIS logo“The Association for Women in Science is the largest multidisciplinary organization for women working in STEMM,” said Dr. Susanne Nonekowski, associate lecturer in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and president of the AWIS Northwestern Ohio Chapter. “These events are designed to support equity and full participation of women in all science-related disciplines and across all employment sectors.”

A workshop for preparing a professional social media profile titled “How to Craft the Perfect LinkedIn Profile in 30 Minutes” will take place Wednesday, Nov. 2, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Martin Conference Room of the Frederick and Mary Wolfe Center on Health Science Campus.

awis flyerMary Jo Borden, practicum coordinator in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will share best practices for creating a presence online and explain how to use LinkedIn’s search functions to build a professional network. A photographer also will be on hand to take professional headshots.

“This workshop will be valuable to students, faculty and staff,” Nonekowski said. “Whether you are new to LinkedIn or if it has been a while since you updated your profile, this event will have you looking your best online.”

The group also is seeking individuals interested in becoming members of its Mentorship Circle.

“We are looking for anyone interested in connecting with other women in the STEMM fields in order to build relationships and learn from those who were once in their shoes,” Nonekowski said. “Mentors can be from any science-related career field, whether academic or professional. We want individuals who are motivated and interested in supporting other women as they grow in STEMM careers.” 

Mentors and mentees will be paired according to career interest and meet once a month throughout the academic year.

“The Mentorship Circle is in the planning stages, but we want to be sure that everyone who is interested has the chance to join us before mentoring teams are established,” she said. “There have been several successful Mentorship Circles across the country, and we are excited to bring this program to the Toledo area.”

Nonekowski said UT is an institutional partner with AWIS, which means any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a STEMM field can register with the organization for free at awis.org/utoledo. When registering, students should be sure to choose the Northwestern Ohio Chapter to be notified of local activities.

“We are grateful to the University for their support of AWIS,” Nonekowski said. “This partnership is instrumental to the support of female science students and professionals across northwest Ohio.”

For more information about AWIS, to join the Mentorship Circle, or to register for the LinkedIn event, call 419.530.1979 or email susanne.nonekowski@utoledo.edu.

Faculty member receives career award to advance research

Dr. Emily Diehm, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, has received the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association’s 2016 Advancing Academic Research Career Award.



According to the association, this honor is intended to support young faculty members advance their academic and research careers in the field of communication sciences and disorders. The award is a formal mentorship program and also includes $5,000.

The award not only focuses on research, but also funds proposals that include a teaching component.

“My teaching portion of the application I wrote included a lot of discussion of a ‘flipped classroom’ as I’d eventually like to provide my students with lots of hands-on opportunities while in graduate school to learn how to conduct assessments and develop practice intervention techniques,” Diehm said.

She began researching child language and literacy problems during her undergraduate studies in 2007 and became a speech-language pathologist in 2010.

Along with child literacy problems, Diehm is researching the content and pedagogical knowledge that speech-language pathologists and teachers have with respect to dialectal variations.

“All of us speak a dialect. Linguistically, there is no single dialect that is better than the others,” she explained. “I want to make sure that teachers and speech-language pathologists are able to identify features of non-standard dialect use and provide culturally sensitive instruction.”

With a background in American Sign Language, Diehm became interested in the connection between language and literacy after she learned of low literacy rates among those who communicate through sign language.

“The long-term goal of my research would be to better identify students who are likely at risk for literacy disorders and provide appropriate interventions that target their specific deficit areas before they even begin to struggle with reading and writing,” Diehm said.

Conference celebrates conclusion of NURTURES science education program

The University of Toledo will recognize the conclusion of a successful science education program with a conference to showcase how local educators incorporated high-quality science inquiry into their curriculum.

The NURTURES program, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University enRich Early Childhood Science, was a five-year, $10 million program funded by the National Science Foundation to engage teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive science lessons.

The NURTURES conference will take place Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. It will feature presentations from local teachers and administrators who incorporated science inquiry and engineering in their classrooms and schools through the program.

Educators from Toledo Public Schools, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo and local charter schools will present topics that include:

• Overcoming common science misconceptions in the classroom;

• Developing discourse and critical thinking skills around science;

• Incorporating engineering design at the early childhood level;

• Integrating common core subjects with science; and

• Engaging with parents and community resources to promote science.

During the NURTURES program, 330 teachers of preschool through third grade and administrators participated in a total of 544 hours of professional development in the teaching of science inquiry and engineering design for early childhood classrooms.

Through NURTURES, teachers were exposed to high-quality science and engineering activities and worked to use them within their classrooms to increase student comprehension and academic achievement, said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering. Data from standardized testing in Toledo Public Schools show an increase in reading, early literacy and math scores in students of teachers who have participated in NURTURES, she added.

“These findings are very significant and provide evidence that the teachers in Toledo Public Schools and area schools worked diligently to improve science teaching and learning,” Czerniak said.

Led by UT, the NURTURES program engaged a number of local partners for a community-based complementary learning model to support early learners. Those partners include Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Catholic Schools, Monroe County Schools, the former Apple Tree Nursery School, the East Toledo Family Center Day Care, UT Ritter Planetarium, Imagination Station, Toledo Zoo, Metroparks Toledo, Toledo Botanical Gardens, the former Lourdes University Nature Laboratory, Challenger Learning Center, YMCA, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and WGTE Public Media.

UT astronomer helps capture first sharp image of famous exploding star’s raging winds

A researcher at The University of Toledo is part of an international team of astronomers pioneering a new way to understand how extremely massive stars lose mass as they evolve.



The research team focused on the most luminous and massive stellar system in the Milky Way galaxy called Eta Carinae. Its primary star is 100 times more massive and five million times more luminous than the sun. That star also is famous for losing 10 suns worth of material — huge amounts of gas and dust — into space in an enormous explosion in the 1830s.

These astronomers are the first to use what is called the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at the the European Southern Observatory in Chile to study the violent wind collision zone between two stars in the system and discover new and unexpected structures.

The nebula surrounding Eta Carinae as imaged with the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope at left. At right is a high-resolution image of the wind collision zone in the central region of Eta Carinae. The two red dots indicate the positions of the two stars. 

The nebula surrounding Eta Carinae as imaged with the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope at left. At right is a high-resolution image of the wind collision zone in the central region of Eta Carinae. The two red dots indicate the positions of the two stars. 

“The scale of the images is roughly equivalent to being able to read the small print in a newspaper from 50 miles away,” said Dr. Noel Richardson, postdoctoral research associate in UT’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The team’s methods used to revolutionize infrared astronomy and the resulting discoveries recently were published in the international journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

This 3-D print of wind collision cavity in Eta Carinae system is based on models of Dr.Thomas Madura at San Jose University.

This 3-D print of wind collision cavity in Eta Carinae system is based on models of Dr. Thomas Madura at San Jose University.

The researchers used interferometry, which is a technique combining the light from up to four telescopes to obtain an image about 10 times higher than the resolution of the largest single telescope.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Richardson, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and master’s degree in physics from UT in 2004 and 2006. “Until now, we couldn’t study the Eta Carinae star system’s wind collision zone because it was too small for the largest telescope.”

The Eta Carinae star system is 7,500 light years from Earth where winds from two tightly orbiting stars smash together at speeds up to 10 million kilometers per hour approximately every five years. Temperatures reach many tens of millions of degrees – enough to emit X-rays.

This shows three 1.8-meter telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer of the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

This shows three 1.8-meter telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer of the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Richardson said the star is too far south to observe from UT’s telescope. The collaborators in South America sent him data to analyze every night in mid-2014, the last time the stars passed close to each other. Richardson observed the images with spectroscopy and spotted structures in the data that hadn’t been seen before.

“We’ve learned the secondary star’s wind is carving a cavity into the primary star’s enormous wind,” Richardson said. “We saw large structures pushed out into space after the winds collide, were able to pinpoint how they were moving, and learned they keep that geometric shape. It’s amazing to see the tails coming off, which are the shocks in the secondary star going into orbit. We have computer and 3-D print models that can now explain the X-rays, Hubble Space Telescope observations, unusual spectroscopic features, and the incredible images from the Very Large Telescope Interferometer.”

“Our dreams came true because we can now get extremely sharp images in the infrared regime,” said Dr. Gerd Weigelt of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, who led the team of astronomers from the U.S., Canada, Chile, Japan and Brazil.

“Dr. Richardson’s work is a nice example of the kinds of international collaborations with which our UT astronomers are involved,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the UT College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “The results, which use data from the Hubble Space Telescope, show a very interesting way to map the fossil remnants of material thrown off by a famously unstable binary star system. I congratulate him on this work and am proud to note that he is a UT alumnus.”

Richardson hopes this new research helps astronomers come closer to understanding what triggered Eta Carinae’s explosion in the 1800s.

“That is one of the driving motivators for myself,” Richardson said. “How do we connect the physics of what is happening today to what happened back then? There is still a lot we don’t understand about the stars we have looked up and seen in the sky for a long time. Science is a process, and we want to push the envelope to solve the mystery.”

Book on global brewing industry dedicated to late UT grad student

Michael Moore enjoyed sharing a pint of cold beer, but had no thirst for the standard domestic titans.

The University of Toledo PhD student researcher was a craft beer aficionado who found a way to combine his passion with his academic work.



“He loved geography and craft beer,” Andy Moore, Mike’s brother, said.

Moore’s research on the rapidly growing artisanal industry recently was published more than a year after he died at the age of 34 from an aortic aneurysm while at a local brewpub.

“The large vessel that comes out of the heart ruptured unexpectedly,” Andy said. “Doctors told our family it’s very rare for someone that young. The fact that it happened where it did is so unusual because we loved to hang out there and watch a Tigers game.”

“Mike enjoyed debating varieties of hops and India pale ales as much and as easily as he dove into complex statistical analyses of the industry,” said Dr. Neil Reid, professor of geography and planning and director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center, who is known as UT’s “Beer Professor.” “It’s devastating and sad, yet if he had to choose how to go, that’s what he would’ve chosen.”

Dr. Neil Reid and Andy Moore, Mike Moore’s brother, got together recently at the Black Cloister Brewing Co. in Toledo.

Dr. Neil Reid and Andy Moore, Mike Moore’s brother, got together recently at the Black Cloister Brewing Co. in Toledo.

The editors of a new volume published on the craft brewing industry called Brewing, Beer and Pubs: A Global Perspective dedicated their book to Moore, who co-authored a chapter with Reid and Ralph McLaughlin, a colleague from California. The chapter is titled “The Locational Determinants of Micro-Breweries and Brewpubs in the United States.”

The editors wrote in the dedication at the beginning of the book, “It is very fitting that Mike passed away in a local brewery.”

Moore collapsed and fell to the floor April 8, 2015, as he was sitting on a bar stool enjoying a beer.

The Black Cloister Brewing Co. last year created a beer in Mike Moore’s honor: Michael’s Memory.

The Black Cloister Brewing Co. last year created a beer in Mike Moore’s honor: Michael’s Memory.

“I was sitting next to him when it happened. We were drinking Summer Stinger, an American pale wheat ale that was just bottled the day before,” Reid said. “We were talking with a visiting scholar from Turkey about our upcoming trip to a geographers’ conference and attending the Beeronomics Conference in Seattle in the fall when I heard a thud. I thought a bar stool had fallen over. I looked down and Mike was on his back on the floor.”

“It’s still hard for our family and Mike’s longtime girlfriend, Jeanette, to process, but seeing Mike’s work being published and honored helps us find closure,” Andy said.

Moore was a doctoral student studying spatially integrated social sciences in UT’s Department of Geography and Planning.

His dissertation — left incomplete — was an examination of the spatial dynamics of the American craft beer industry.

“The craft brewing industry is growing so fast and changing the whole brewing landscape,” Reid said. “Mike analyzed where it’s growing and why. He was well on his way to being a really successful academic.”

UT posthumously awarded Moore a PhD based on his completed course work and publications while a student.

The Department of Geography and Planning created a scholarship in his memory for UT students pursuing the geography and planning field.

“I miss our Monday morning meetings and the occasional exchanging of beer-related gifts,” Reid said. “I cherish the memories — memories, by and large, created around a common love and appreciation of craft beer, the people who brew it, and the people who drink it.”

Black Cloister Brewery in downtown Toledo created a special brew last year to commemorate Moore’s life and called it Michael’s Memory. The owners contributed some of the profits to the scholarship fund.

“The outpouring of support is amazing and unexpected,” Andy said. “It’s excellent to see the fruit of all the research he had done. The recognition of Mike’s work makes it just a little bit easier to deal with his loss.”

Moore’s family is working to organize a golf outing next year to raise money for the scholarship fund.

Gifts can be made at give2ut.utoledo.edu to the Geography and Planning Progress Fund.

Green chemistry, safer products to be discussed during Oct. 12 webinar

UT and the School of Green Chemistry and Engineering are sponsoring a webinar on the increasing demand for green chemistry and safer products. It will take place Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Nitschke Hall SSOE Seminar Room.

The School of Green Chemistry and Engineering is partnering with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio EPA and Spartan Chemical for this event.

web Green Chemistry Safer Choices Webinar - UpdateThis webinar will showcase a company’s decision to develop green products under the EPA’S Safer Choice Program.

“Consumers are seeking to live more sustainably through life style choices and the use of green products,” said Dr. Glenn Lipscomb, UT professor and chair of chemical and environmental engineering, who helped organize the webinar. “However, sometimes it is not clear what labeling something green means. The webinar will help educate participants on what the Safer Choice label means and the requirements for products to receive it.”

In addition, members of the School of Green Chemistry and Engineering will describe their educational programs.

Hosting this webinar will provide regional and national visibility to UT’s programs in green chemistry and engineering, according to Dr. Mark Mason, professor of chemistry and director of the School of Green Chemistry and Green Engineering.

“The mission of the school is to improve the human condition through research, education and outreach activities that promote safe and sustainable use, production and recycle of chemical materials,” Mason said.

To register visit tinyurl.com/saferchoiceweb. Attendees may participate virtually through the live webinar or in person at the broadcast. Details on both options will be provided upon registration.

For more information, email sgce@utoledo.edu.

UT scientist uses algal bloom toxin-measuring research in new statistics textbook

Two years after the Toledo water crisis left half a million residents without safe tap water for three days, a University of Toledo faculty researcher published a new statistics textbook for scientists with Lake Erie algal bloom toxins as featured examples.

Dr. Song Qian, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, included his latest research related to the methods of measuring and reporting microcystin in the second edition of Environmental and Ecological Statistics With R.



“The increasing severity of algal blooms makes the book especially relevant,” Qian said. “We use many of the same methods for a very large-scale analysis of all the Great Lakes, as well as a very small-scale data analysis in the lab.”

Qian concentrated on making data analysis and statistical modeling accessible and understandable by applying it to real-world examples in environmental and ecological literature.

“When you package the data together with a complicated problem, such as the algal blooms here, it makes relating to the audience much easier,” Qian said. “I believe that studying statistics is not the same as learning mathematics. Statistics requires subject matter knowledge. Without knowing the nature of the data in a particular field and how the data were collected, we can rarely apply statistics well. Statistics is often the most challenging course for environmental graduate students. I hope that examples such as measuring Lake Erie harmful algal bloom toxins would make the learning process easier, especially in making connections to their individual research subjects.”

The book has received reviews on Amazon.com from environmental statistics scholars worldwide.

“The R code included in the book outlines key computational procedures and provides a workable foundation upon which researchers can conduct scientific inference and statistical analysis with their own data,” Dr. Kenneth H. Reckhow, professor emeritus at Duke University, wrote.

“This book gives us a new way to teach statistics to biological and ecological students at research level,” Dr. Bo-Ping Han, professor in the Department of Ecology at Jinan University in China, wrote.

“I particularly enjoyed the third section of the book covering interesting areas of advanced statistical modeling, where the reader can find many didactical examples that are highly relevant to environmental management such as the problem of Cryptosporidium in drinking water, the uncertainty in water quality measurements using the ELISA method as an example, or the threshold indicator taxa analysis,” wrote Dr. George Arhonditsis, professor and chair of the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto.

Researcher receives $3.38 million grant to study PTSD

A University of Toledo researcher has received a $3.38 million award from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the brain for early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an injury.

PTSD is increasingly recognized as a major mental health problem, with an estimated eight million adults suffering from some form of the disorder as a result of a traumatic event.



The largest grant received by the University from the National Institute of Mental Health, the competitive award was given to Dr. Xin Wang, associate professor of psychiatry in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, to use MRI imaging to study the early development of PTSD in trauma victims.

His study titled “Study of Early Brain Alterations That Predict Development of Chronic PTSD,” will receive $755,000 in 2016, and a total of $3.38 million over a period of four and a half years, pending oversight and review of annual congressionally approved NIH funding levels. The NIH study section that peer-reviewed Wang’s proposal ranked it in the top 4th percentile for “major research” among those competing for mental health research funding.

The research project will study trauma patients who agree to be monitored for a period of a year during which time they will be evaluated using non-invasive, functional magnetic resonance imaging technology. This state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment is only available at UT Medical Center. Study participants will be recruited from the emergency department at UTMC, as well as the ProMedica and Mercy Health Systems.

“This cutting-edge technology is a safe, non-invasive and non-radioactive way to examine the brain for mechanisms of PTSD development after acute trauma,” Wang said. “Patients will be tracked for one year to identify possible changes in the brain that differentiate the PTSD development and normal recovery free of stress symptoms. We hope to identify the early changes in the brain that occur in the days following a trauma that place a patient at high risk of developing the disorder.”

Wang said PTSD can manifest itself in a number of symptoms ranging from nightmares and flashbacks to paranoia, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

“Patients experiencing PTSD can find it to be relatively minor or totally disruptive to everyday activities,” he said. “It is our goal to monitor brain changes that occur during the progression of PTSD symptoms to develop future preventative or curative treatments and improve the lives of those who experience a traumatic event.”



Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur visited Health Science Campus last week to celebrate the award.

“This is a very significant development,” said Kaptur, whose advocacy in 2006 on behalf of returning military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan led to research funds secured for what became known as the Kaptur Combat Mental Health Initiative. The Department of Defense program involved the monitoring of 3,000 members of the Ohio National Guard in research coordinated by Case Western Reserve University and The University of Toledo.

Kaptur also is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which has responsibility for funding and oversight of the National Institutes of Health.

“PTSD will touch all of our lives, either personally or through a loved one, friend or colleague,” Kaptur said. “Combat, car accidents, blunt force trauma and contact sports are but a few examples of injuries that can lead to this condition. Dr. Wang’s research could identify and lead to new medical responses for those most likely to suffer from PTSD.”

Wang first developed this acute PTSD study with civilian automobile accident victims in 2013 with support from an NIH pilot grant. His research at UT has drawn attention from national and international PTSD researchers.

Researcher receives grant to study removal of algal bloom toxins from drinking water sources

The National Science Foundation awarded a civil and environmental engineer at The University of Toledo a $224,937 grant to study a sustainable approach to water treatment and filtering toxins from harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Youngwoo Seo, associate professor of civil engineering and chemical and environmental engineering, will lead the three-year project titled “Engineering Biofilm Dynamics for Cyanotoxins in Biological Water Treatment.”



Seo is seeking to better understand how bacteria works in order to improve the filters that remove harmful toxins from drinking water.

“To protect the public from emerging contaminants like cyanotoxins in drinking water sources, various advanced water treatment processes are considered,” Seo said. “However, these processes commonly require high-energy demand and operation cost with proper waste management. This project is exploring a sustainable treatment approach using bacterially active filters to remove toxins from harmful algal blooms.”

“There could not be a more timely and more important research project to award than this,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “Lake Erie is under constant threat of toxic algal blooms, and we need to find a more sustainable way to treat the water. Our entire region — our economic future and our livelihood — relies on ongoing research such as this at The University of Toledo.”

According to the National Science Foundation grant, “Research emphasis will be placed on understanding how the bacterial biofilm formation and activity can be enhanced and maintained by engineered approaches such as bioaugmentation and bio-stimulation in order to improve performances of biological filtration systems for cyanotoxin removal.”

Physiologist receives grant to study leading cause of death in America

Atherosclerosis is the main cause of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in western societies, and costs the United States more than $200 billion in medical expenses and lost wages each year.

Also known as hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis is an inflammatory condition in which plaque builds up inside arteries and restricts blood flow, which can lead to reduced flow of blood through coronary arteries, heart attack and stroke.



A University of Toledo researcher has received a $378,750 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study a new way to treat this devastating condition.

“You hear the commercials all the time for drugs that help control cholesterol and blood pressure,” said Dr. Guillermo Vazquez, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and associate director of UT’s Center for Hypertension and Personalized Medicine. “These medications help manage two of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis progression and can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, but it is our goal to find new, complementary strategies that could also help reduce the plaque burden in coronary heart disease.”

He said the body has natural ways of clearing arteries of this buildup, but cells called macrophages that take part in this process can become overwhelmed as the plaque grows thicker.

“Specialized cells called macrophages should carry lipids out of the plaque, but they can get stuck, which then contributes to the buildup and further reduces blood supply to the heart,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez and his team have discovered that a protein named TRPC3, which is present in these macrophages, could be controlled in order to help reduce the size of the plaque inside the arteries. They say that removing or turning off the TRPC3 protein may allow the macrophages to leave the arteries, reducing plaque buildup.

“We have developed mouse models of atherosclerosis in which we can test our hypothesis that interrupting TRPC3 functions may lead to increased mobility of the macrophage cells,” Vazquez said. “This concept shows promise for the development of complementary pharmaceuticals that could eventually be used in conjunction with traditional cholesterol-lowering drugs to accelerate the reduction in plaque burden.”

Vazquez also was the recipient of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology’s Service Award in recognition for his excellent support and promotion of the department and the Center for Hypertension and Personalized Medicine. He was recognized at the department’s annual retreat last month.