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Nominations sought for Rathbun Outreach and Engagement Excellence Award

Nominations are being accepted for the Edith Rathbun Outreach and Engagement Excellence Award. 

It’s time to recognize a deserving colleague who has distinguished himself or herself through exceptional community outreach and excellence in community-engaged scholarship, whether in research, teaching or professional service.  

Each recipient of the Edith Rathbun Outreach and Engagement Excellence Award will receive a $750 award. Two awardees will be chosen.

The Rathbun Excellence Award was endowed through a generous and growing gift from Edith Rathbun and further gifts from campus and community donors. It recognizes outstanding outreach and engagement scholarship in any field, discipline or area at The University of Toledo. Full-time faculty members in all colleges are eligible to receive the award.

The deadline to submit nominations is Friday, Feb. 24.

The one-page nomination form is available here.

Winners will be recognized at the UT Outstanding Awards Reception Monday, April 17, at 5:30 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Ingman Room.

The selection committee is composed of faculty members who served on the Scholarship of Engagement subcommittee of UT’s former Council on Outreach and Engagement.

For more information, contact Penny Thiessen in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at penny.thiessen@utoledo.edu or 419.530.6171.

Journal of Great Lakes Research names UT algae expert’s paper as one of most highly cited

The Journal of Great Lakes Research identified a University of Toledo ecologist’s “high-quality research” on harmful algal blooms as one of its five most highly cited papers for nearly three years.

In 2013, the quarterly journal published the paper titled “A Novel Method for Tracking Western Lake Erie Microcystis Blooms, 2002-2011,” by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and associate professor of ecology.

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

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

Bridgeman’s paper was cited 33 times between January 2014 and June 2016, according to Scopus Article Metrics. It ranks in the 98th percentile compared to aquatic science articles of the same age.

“It’s nice to know that other people are using your work and building on what you have done,” Bridgeman said. “Our goal is to advance the science and provide knowledge that ultimately benefits society, and I think my students and I did that here.”

Bridgeman and his students developed a new method to measure how much harmful algae there is in the lake over the course of the summer and compared the harmful algal bloom from one year to another. In the paper, Bridgeman included data on a decade of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie from 2002 to 2011.

“Other researchers are now using this method, and therefore cite our method when they publish their own studies,” Bridgeman said. “In addition, the annual records are extremely valuable for any researcher who is trying to understand how the health of the lake has been changing and what we need to do to get harmful algal blooms under control.”

“The widespread use of Dr. Bridgeman’s work demonstrates that UT research is integrated into the region,” said Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor and chair of the UT Department of Environmental Sciences and interim director of the Lake Erie Center.

Bridgeman’s research was a major contribution to the development of models that directly link the size of the annual harmful algal bloom with the amount of spring and summer phosphorus discharge from the Maumee River.

“Several of my colleagues are pursuing this line of research now,” Bridgeman said. “Together, our findings helped to convince the U.S. and Canadian governments that we need to decrease phosphorus entering Lake Erie by about 40 percent in order to reduce harmful algal blooms to a level that we can live with.”

Physician’s research earns Sigma Xi award

Dr. Blair Grubb, director of UT Medical Center’s Cardiac Electrophysiology Program, has been named the 2015-2016 winner of the Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research, an honor given by the University’s Sigma Xi chapter.

Dr. Steven Federman, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and president of UT Sigma Xi, presented a plaque and cash award of $1,500 to Grubb Jan. 25 during a ceremony on Health Science Campus.

Dr. Steven Federman, right, shook hands with Dr. Blair Grubb after presenting him with the 2015-2016 Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research.

Dr. Steven Federman, right, shook hands with Dr. Blair Grubb after presenting him with the 2015-2016 Dion D. Raftopoulos/Sigma Xi Award for Outstanding Research.

Grubb, who also is Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and director of the Syncope and Autonomic Disorders Clinic, said he and a team of international researchers have studied the field of autonomics for more than 30 years. The Baltimore native is one of the world’s authorities in the treatment of illnesses that include syncope (abrupt, brief loss of consciousness) and other disorders of the autonomic nervous system.

“This award is presented to faculty who have made significant contributions in their fields of research,” Federman said. “Dr. Grubb’s accomplishments in the study of autonomic disorders while a professor at UT are truly impressive, and UT Sigma Xi is pleased to honor him.”

Internationally recognized as a pioneering researcher, Grubb identifies autonomics as a new field. His work has had a significant impact on the practice of medicine across the globe, and has improved the lives of hundreds of patients suffering from these disorders.

Grubb, who called his study of autonomic disorders his “life’s work,” discussed his research in a lecture titled “Autonomics: The Birth of a New Science” during the ceremony.

“When I began in this field,” Grubb said, “we knew virtually nothing about these disorders, and patients were often disabled and without hope. Over the last three decades, we have carefully characterized and classified these illnesses and established diagnostic criteria for them. Recently, we have embarked on an ambitious program to identify the molecular, genetic and immunologic causes of these disorders. In addition, we have used this information to discover a series of new and innovative therapies that can return close to 80 percent of these patients to near-normal lives.”

His patients, he added, routinely come to UTMC from around the world for treatment.

He added that he is humbled by the Sigma Xi award, noting that Sigma Xi’s national office has honored a number of Nobel laureates, including Albert Einstein and Al Gore. It is the most recent recognition for Grubb’s dedication to medical research and patient care. In 2016, he was the recipient of UT’s Career Achievement Award. The year before, he was named Dysautonomia International’s Physician of the Year, as well as the British Heart Rhythm Society and Arrhythmia Alliance’s Medical Professional of the Decade — one of the only non-British citizens to be so honored.

He has authored more than 240 scientific papers, five books and 35 book chapters during his career in medicine.

Also known for a creative prowess, Grubb has published more than 50 essays and poems, including a book titled “The Calling.”

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, is a national organization that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of scientific research and knowledge. A voiceover on the Sigma Xi website stated, “The honor of members is that we are a society of integrity… that we have been chosen and selected to represent science, that we are members of a society with Nobel laureates, and we carry a tradition more than 100 years old.”

The organization has 60,000 members worldwide. Chapters usually are found in universities, industrial facilities and government laboratories, as well as other locations where scientific research is conducted.

Grubb succeeds Dr. Yanfa Yan, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the 2014-2015 Sigma Xi awardee.

Ecologist elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science

A University of Toledo ecologist is being honored for her work to advance science as a newly elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Stepien

Stepien

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, is among the 391 AAAS Fellows elected in 2016 who will be recognized at the association’s annual meeting Feb. 18 in Boston.

AAAS is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific and engineering society. Since 1874, it has elected Fellows to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

“You are being honored for distinguished contributions to the fields of molecular evolutionary ecology and conservation genetics, particularly invasive and native populations, and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students,” Rush D. Holt, AAAS chief executive officer, wrote in a letter to Stepien informing her of the recognition.

“I am honored to be recognized by our nation’s scientific community,” Stepien said. “My special emphasis has been helping to train and mentor UT graduate and undergraduate students, and our local high school students in aquatic ecology, to aid conservation efforts in the Great Lakes.”

Stepien is internationally recognized for her research in the areas of invasive species and fish genetics. She joined UT’s Department of Environmental Sciences in 2004 and also served as director of the Lake Erie Center until 2016. She was appointed a Distinguished University Professor in 2012.

“Recognition as an AAAS Fellow is an enormous honor and a credit to Dr. Stepien and her impressive body of research to advance our knowledge of marine biology,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “The University of Toledo is proud to have a faculty member selected to the AAAS and looks forward to more faculty receiving prestigious national awards.”

Stepien is on a leave of absence from the University while continuing her active research program and working with UT graduate students. She is serving as an Ocean Environment Research Division leader at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

She is the author of the book “Molecular Systematics of Fishes” published in 1997 and reprinted in 2002, as well as more than 90 scholarly publications. She has received more than $12 million in grants and awards for her studies of molecular ecology, population genetics, evolutionary patterns and genomics.

UT research shows cigarette smoke exposure increases scar tissue in kidney, heart

Smoking cigarettes leads to fibrosis in the kidneys and heart and accelerates kidney disease, according to research at The University of Toledo.

“Smoking is bad for the kidneys and heart together,” said Dr. Christopher Drummond, postdoctoral fellow in the Cardiovascular Division of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Tobacco and nicotine increase the formation of injury or scarring called fibrosis. That reduces cardiac function, so your heart isn’t operating as efficiently. It also makes it so your kidneys can’t filter toxins from your blood as effectively.”

Drummond

Drummond

His research titled “Cigarette Smoking Causes Epigenetic Changes Associated With Cardiorenal Fibrosis,” which was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and done in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego, recently was published in the journal Physiological Genomics.

“The results of this study are a public health concern because a significant portion of the U.S. population suffers from kidney disease and heart-related side effects,” Drummond said. “When you smoke, you’re speeding up the development of kidney disease.”

An estimated 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Drummond exposed two groups of rats to cigarette smoke five days a week for four weeks. One group had chronic kidney disease. The other group had normal renal function. Drummond compared those two groups with two control groups of rats — one with chronic kidney disease and one with normal kidney function — that were kept in a room with no smoke.

“We designed and built a system to expose rats to a constant concentration of smoke from cigarettes,” Drummond said. “Those were lit and the animals inhaled around five cigarettes’ worth of combustible smoke a day.”

In the smoke groups, researchers found a decrease in the genetic material called microRNA associated with slowing or preventing fibrosis in the organ tissue.

Smoking alone drove the rats into renal dysfunction, according to Drummond. Also, blood pressure increased, the heart enlarged, and scar tissue developed in the heart muscle and kidneys.

“If you are concerned or have a pre-existing condition, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health,” Drummond said.

He is currently investigating the effects of e-cigarettes on the kidney and heart.

Climate change disruption to be discussed Jan. 19

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

Jorgensen

Jorgensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chohaney

Chohaney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office of Research to gain support of two faculty members

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

Schall

Schall

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

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

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

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

Thompson

Thompson

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

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

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

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

Scientists have studied silver for centuries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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