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Inexpensive agricultural waste product can remove microcystin from water, new UToledo research finds

Scientists at The University of Toledo have discovered that rice husks can effectively remove microcystin from water, a finding that could have far-reaching implications for communities along the Great Lakes and across the developing world.

An abundant and inexpensive agricultural byproduct, rice husks have been investigated as a water purification solution in the past. However, this is the first time they have been shown to remove microcystin, the toxin released by harmful algal blooms.

Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, right, Dr. Dragan Isailovic, center, and doctoral student David Baliu-Rodriguez have published a paper, along with UToledo graduates, Dr. Dilrukshika Palagama and Dr. Amila Devasurendra, about using rice husks to remove microcystin from water.

The results of the study were recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

“Delivering safe water is critical, and finding an economically viable solution to deliver safe water to people all over the world is going to be really important. The ability of this simple material to be powerful enough to address this issue is impressive,” said Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

The research, led by Kirchhoff and Dr. Dragan Isailovic, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, used organic rice husks that were treated with hydrochloric acid and heated to 250 degrees Celsius.

The rice husks were then dispersed in a series of water samples collected from Lake Erie during the 2017 harmful algal bloom to measure how much of the toxin they could absorb.

UToledo researchers say rice husks are effective at removing microcystin from water. In addition, the rice husks are economical and, after soaking up microcystin, can be heated to destroy the toxins and create silica particles that can be used for other applications.

Researchers found the rice husks removed more than 95 percent of microcystin MC-LR — the most common type found in Lake Erie — in concentrations of up to 596 parts per billion (ppb). Even in concentrations approaching 3,000 ppb, more than 70 percent of the MC-LR was removed, and other types of MCs were removed as well.

“We looked at the removal of microcystins from real environmental samples and the material has performed really well,” Isailovic said. “We are talking about extremely high concentrations of microcystins originating from cyanobacterial cells. Normally during summer, we have much, much lower concentrations in Lake Erie.”

Devasurendra

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends a 10-day drinking water guideline that young children not drink water containing more than a total of 0.3 ppb of microcystin and school-age children and adults not drink water containing more than a total of 1.6 ppb of microcystin.

Beyond their effectiveness, rice husks have a number of other appealing attributes. They’re cheap — researchers paid $14.50 for half a cubic foot, and buying in bulk would bring that price down significantly — and they’re able to be repurposed.

Heating microcystin-laden rice husks to 560 degrees Celsius destroys the toxins and produces silica particles, which can be used in other applications.

Palagama

The researchers are hopeful their discovery could be scaled up beyond the lab to develop a more environmentally friendly method for treating water that has been contaminated by harmful algal blooms or cheap but effective filtration systems for the developing world.

“We could potentially use this readily available material to purify water before it even gets into Lake Erie,” Isailovic said. “There are engineering solutions that need to be done, but one of our dreams is to apply what we develop in our labs to provide safe drinking water.”

Other authors of the study were doctoral students Dr. Dilrukshika Palagama and Dr. Amila Devasurendra, who first proposed looking at rice husks as a way to remove microcystin and have since graduated from UToledo, and current doctoral student David Baliu-Rodriguez.

UToledo researcher using drones to measure algal blooms to speak May 23 at National Museum of the Great Lakes

Determined to protect drinking water and avert another water crisis, a scientist at The University of Toledo deploys drones to snap a quick assessment of water quality during algal bloom season, no boat or satellite required.

Dr. Richard Becker, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, will give a presentation titled “Using Drones to Answer Questions in Environmental Science” Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at the National Museum of the Great Lakes, located at 1701 Front St. in Toledo.

Dr. Richard Becker uses drones to help monitor water quality during algal bloom season.

The researcher will discuss his use of low-flying unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor the health of Lake Erie.

The free, public event is the final presentation in the 2018-19 UToledo Lake Erie Center Lecture Series.

“As remote sensing technology advances, monitoring lakes using satellites, aircraft and drones is becoming more effective,” Dr. Tom Bridgeman, professor of ecology and director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center, said. “Dr. Becker’s research in coupling remote sensing data with boat-based water monitoring has improved the accuracy of harmful algal bloom assessments. Also, his research to develop drones as inexpensive tools to measure algal blooms is helping to fill a gap left by more expensive methods.”

A shuttle will be available to transport visitors from UToledo’s Main Campus to the National Museum of the Great Lakes and back. The shuttle will depart at 6:15 p.m. from the south side of Bowman-Oddy Laboratories. Passengers must reserve a spot by Tuesday, May 21.

Email lakeeriecenter@utoledo.edu or call 419.530.8360 to make a reservation for the shuttle.

Breakthrough in new material to harness solar power could transform energy

The most affordable, efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world is one step closer to reality.

The University of Toledo physicist pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material.

Dr. Zhaoning Song holds a perovskite solar cell minimodule he developed with Dr. Yanfa Yan. The higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cell technology could revolutionize energy generation around the globe.

Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, envisions the ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell will be ready to debut in full-sized solar panels in the consumer market in the near future.

Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon, which — for now — remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun’s light into electrical energy.

“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”

The new research paper, which is published in the journal Science, outlines how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin to advance the technology closer to its maximum efficiency. Efforts have currently brought the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23 percent. In comparison, silicon solar panels on the market today have around an 18 percent efficiency rating.

Scientists used a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to dramatically improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films.

“Science is the top academic journal in the world, alongside Nature, which published other research by Dr. Yan only five months ago after he discovered a single material that produces white light, which could boost the efficiency and appeal of LED bulbs,” Dr. Sanjay Khare, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, said. “His significant sustainability work at The University of Toledo can help power the world using clean energy.”

About five years ago Yan’s team at UToledo identified the ideal properties of perovskites, and he has since focused his 20 years of experience on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.

Last month the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Yan a $1.1 million grant to continue his research in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“This is the material we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Yan said. “The solar industry is watching and waiting. Some have already started investing in this technology.”

Yan is an expert in theory of defect physics and electronic properties in semiconductors, materials synthesis and thin-film solar-cell fabrication.

“Our UToledo research is ongoing to make cheaper and more efficient solar cells that could rival and even outperform the prevailing silicon photovoltaic technology,” said Dr. Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, and co-author on the study. “Our tandem solar cells with two layers of perovskites deliver high-power conversion efficiency and have the potential to bring down production costs of solar panels, which is an important advance in photovoltaics.”

While Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost, more progress needs to be made.

“The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability.”

“Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”

Families invited to Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium May 18

A graduate student at The University of Toledo who aspires to someday teach at a planetarium went above and beyond to elevate an annual event aimed at inspiring and motivating children to engage with science.

From playing hide-and-seek moon using binoculars to creating a pocket solar system to scale to using a tub of water to explain rising sea levels and climate change, this year’s Earth and Space Exploration Day at Ritter Planetarium will feature a new set of hands-on activities in astronomy and earth science using interactive demonstrations in collaboration with NASA and the National Informational STEM Education (NISE) Network.

Heidi Kuchta received kits from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network that will be distributed during Earth and Space Exploration Day Saturday, May 18, at Ritter Planetarium.

Heidi Kuchta, who started working as an assistant at Ritter Planetarium five years ago as a freshman, applied for and secured one of 350 kits distributed nationwide.

“I love that families in our community will have something incredibly interesting to do and stuff to take home,” Kuchta said. “With the support of the NISE Network and NASA, we are able to add a wonderful spark to our annual Astronomy Day by expanding and escalating the overall fun, learning experience for children.”

Earth and Space Exploration Day will take place Saturday, May 18, from noon to 4 p.m. at Ritter Planetarium. The free, public event also will include planetarium shows running in full dome every hour starting at 12:30 p.m., as well as solar observing, weather permitting.

“From the beginning, Heidi has shown tremendous dedication to our outreach efforts,” Alex Mak, associate director of Ritter Planetarium, said. “This workshop is just one example of her ability to expand upon our traditional educational mission.”

Children use binoculars and play hide-and-seek moon with a kit from NASA and the National Informational STEM Education Network.

Kuchta earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and geology from UToledo last year and is pursuing her master’s in an accelerated teaching program in the Judith Herb College of Education.

“A lot of planetariums are in schools, so I thought this innovative path would be a good way to combine education and what I love to do here,” Kuchta said. “At a planetarium, we only have students for a short period of time. They’ll learn here, but, more importantly, it will get them asking questions, expand their curiosity, and maybe nourish the dream of becoming the scientists who get people to Mars or become the first person to walk on Mars.”

Kuchta’s connection to the cosmos began as a baby, according to family legend.

“My mom took me to a planetarium at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I was a few months old because she was chaperoning a trip for one of my older siblings,” Kuchta said.

Ritter Planetarium proved to be the deciding factor in choosing a college.

“During a campus tour, I was hooked when we walked through the planetarium and checked out the telescope,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta helps put on planetarium shows that explain current celestial phenomena and leads tours from different groups of visitors ranging from residents of a senior center to a preschool class. She also helps create content.

“Heidi is creative, energetic, and always willing to find new ways to help people learn more about the universe,” Mak said. “She has a bright future.”

Entertainment icon Katie Holmes to deliver commencement address May 4

Katie Holmes, a native Toledoan who rose to fame as an actor, producer and director, will return to her hometown to deliver the keynote address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, May 4.

A Notre Dame Academy alumna and international icon of screen, stage and film, Holmes will address 2,078 candidates for degrees — 2,023 bachelor’s and 55 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The University’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled the same day at 3 p.m. in the Glass Bowl, and will commemorate 915 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Analese Alvarez, an educator and musician who has recorded with the Grammy Award-winning rock group Fleetwood Mac, will be the keynote speaker. She is a candidate for a doctoral degree.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the University Views website.

President Sharon L. Gaber will present Holmes with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree before the keynote address.

“The University of Toledo is pleased to welcome Katie Holmes as our commencement speaker to inspire our newest alumni as they celebrate receiving their degrees,” Gaber said. “As a Toledo native with close, personal connections to the University, we are eager for her to share her experiences and accomplishments in the entertainment industry and as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

Holmes

Holmes is an internationally recognized film and television actor, producer and director, as well as a Broadway actor and an entrepreneur.

An exceptional student at Notre Dame Academy, Holmes was accepted to Columbia University, but deferred to embark on an entertainment career. She made her feature film debut in “The Ice Storm” in 1997, then established herself as a rising young actor the next year in the television show “Dawson’s Creek.” For six years, she played Joey Potter, a character still recognized in pop culture.

Holmes has appeared in supporting or starring roles in more than 30 films and television programs, including acclaimed performances as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in “The Kennedys” and “The Kennedys: After Camelot,” Hannah Green in “Wonder Boys,” Rachel Dawson in “Batman Begins,” April Burns in “Pieces of April,” Rita Carmichael in “All We Had,” and Paige Finney in “Ray Donovan.”

Her credits as a director and producer include “All We Had,” “Touched With Fire,” “The Romantics” and “The Kennedys: Decline and Fall.”

Holmes made her Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” in 2008 and played the role of Lorna in “Dead Accounts” in 2012.

As an entrepreneur, Holmes managed and designed a well-received fashion line, Holmes & Yang, with Jeanne Yang, from 2009 to 2014.

Her philanthropic efforts include the Dizzy Feet Foundation, an organization Holmes co-founded in 2009 that increases access to dance education in the United States. She also supports the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes; Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit organization that fights violence and neglect against U.S. children; Raising Malawi, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping vulnerable children in extreme poverty through health, education and community support; and the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.

Alvarez

Graduate ceremony speaker Alvarez has been an educator for nearly two decades and is a candidate for an education doctorate in educational administration and supervision.

The Santa Barbara, Calif., native has enjoyed an outstanding career teaching high school music, highlighted by leading her previous school’s music department to become a Grammy Signature Schools recipient in 2015. She has continued teaching music while pursuing her doctorate at UToledo by serving as a graduate assistant for the Rocket Marching Band and athletic bands since 2015.

Alvarez”s long career as a musician includes recording with Fleetwood Mac on “The Dance” and appearances on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and Nickelodeon’s “The Big Help.” She also was a member of the Los Angeles Laker Band, a subset of the University of Southern California’s Trojan Marching Band. She has performed with numerous professional ensembles, including The Desert Winds and the Gold Coast Wind Ensemble.

A volunteer club advisor for Gay Straight Alliances, Alvarez co-chaired the Southern Nevada chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network and served the Gay and Lesbian Center of Las Vegas. During the past year, she has been executive director at Equality Toledo, where she has worked to support the local community.

Alvarez earned a bachelor of music degree from the University of Southern California and a master of music degree from Northern Arizona University, both in music education.

UToledo’s spring commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

UToledo’s College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Angelita Cruz Bridges, a 2000 graduate of the College of Law who serves as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, will give the commencement address.

The next week — Friday, May 10, at 4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena. Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician and inventor whose career included serving 17 years as an astronaut, during which time he flew five space shuttle missions and conducted seven spacewalks, will be theutoledo.edu/commencementrmation, visit the commencement website.

Kindergarteners through college seniors to present research projects at UToledo

More than 200 students from Ohio and Michigan ranging from kindergartners to college seniors will present research projects related to the Earth’s environment Wednesday, May 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at The University of Toledo.

Teams investigated a wide variety of topics, including:

• How does energy use relate to surface temperature at school?;

• Which Michigan city uses the healthiest raw water for drinking water: Detroit, Monroe or Wyandotte?;

• Urban heat islands in Lucas County;

• Tracing it back: forensic soil science; and

• Effects of select weather factors on surface temperature during a polar vortex.

The annual SATELLITES student research conference is part of the GLOBE MISSION EARTH project, a $10 million program funded by NASA and led by a UToledo researcher that is transforming the way science is taught to students throughout the United States.

Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, professor of geography and planning, has been spearheading this effort to introduce authentic science to K-12 students through projects that rely on hands-on experiments to build knowledge using the resources of NASA and education partners across the country.

Czajkowski will give the keynote presentation at 11:45 a.m.

The student presentations will take place from 9:40 to 11:45 a.m. in the Thompson Student Union Ingman Room and Room 2582.

Judges for the conference are local scientists and teachers.

Awards will be presented at 1 p.m. to each grade level category: K-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13-16. A peer choice award also will be presented.

“Science is more fun when students are participating in data collection and the scientific process, as opposed to conducting preplanned experiments in a classroom or lab,” Czajkowski said. “Through these research projects, students answer their own science questions about their environment by creating hypotheses, collecting data, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and sharing their results through their poster presentation.”

Czajkowski created the SATELLITES program, which stands for Students and Teachers Exploring Local Landscapes to Interpret the Earth from Space.

Through the SATELLITES program, students have access to GLOBE resources to help answer their research questions. GLOBE is the acronym for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, which is an international science and education program that connects students, teachers, scientists and citizens from different parts of the world to conduct real, hands-on science about their local environment and put it in a global perspective.

Faculty recognized for tenure, promotion

The University of Toledo Board of Trustees approved during its April meeting tenure for 12 faculty members and promotion of another 31 associate professors and professors.

“We continue to have high-caliber faculty advancing through our tenure and promotion process, and this year’s cohort of faculty members all have very impressive achievements,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

The provost also noted the goal in the strategic plan to increase the percentage of professors among the total number of full-time faculty. There were 22 who became fully promoted to professor with the board’s recent action.

Faculty members who received tenure and promotion to associate professor are:

College of Business and Innovation

• Dr. Xinghao Yan, Information, Operations and Technology Management

• Dr. Marcelo Alvarado-Vargas, Management

College of Engineering

• Dr. Carmen Cioc, Engineering Technology

• Dr. Luis Mata, Engineering Technology

College of Health and Human Services

• Dr. Kimberly McBride, School of Population Health

• Dr. Shipra Singh, School of Population Health

• Dr. Heather Sloane, School of Social Justice

College of Medicine and Life Sciences

• Dr. Nezam Altorok, Medicine

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

• Dr. Trieu Le, Mathematics and Statistics

College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

• Dr. Isaac Schiefer, Medicinal and Biological Chemistry

• Dr. F. Scott Hall, Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

• Dr. Amit Tiwari, Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Faculty members promoted to professor are:

College of Arts and Letters

• Dr. Melissa Gregory, English Language and Literature

• Dr. Bhuiyan Alam, Geography and Planning

• Dr. Charles Beatty, History

• Dr. Lee Heritage, Music

• Dr. Ovamir Anjum, Philosophy and Religious Studies

• Dr. Patricia Case, Sociology and Anthropology

• Dr. Willie McKether, Sociology and Anthropology

College of Business and Innovation

• Dr. Iryna Pentina, Marketing

College of Engineering

• Dr. Yakov Lapitsky, Chemical Engineering

• Dr. Hong Wang, Engineering Technology

• Dr. Matthew Franchetti, Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

College of Health and Human Services

• Dr. Wendy Cochrane, School of Intervention and Wellness

• Dr. Jiunn-Jye Sheu, School of Population Health

• Dr. Kasey Tucker-Gail, School of Social Justice

College of Law

• Bryan Lammon

College of Medicine and Life Sciences

• Dr. Cletus Iwuagwu, Medicine

• Dr. Ruby Nucklos, Medicine

• Dr. Tanvir Singh, Psychiatry

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

• Dr. John Gray, Biological Sciences

• Dr. Dragan Isailovic, Chemistry and Biochemistry

• Dr. Alessandro Arsie, Mathematics and Statistics

College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

• Dr. Zahoor Shah, Medicinal and Biological Chemistry

Faculty members promoted to associate professor are:

College of Medicine and Life Sciences

• Dr. Sarah Gerken, Anesthesiology

• Dr. Anu Garg, Medicine

• Dr. Dani Zoorob, Obstetrics and Gynecology

• Dr. Jiayong Liu, Orthopaedic Surgery

• Dr. Waseem Ostwani, Pediatrics

• Dr. Eileen Quinn, Pediatrics

• Dr. Richard Baron, Psychiatry

• Dr. Kimberly Hunter, Psychiatry

• Dr. Jason Schroeder, Surgery

Faculty, staff members honored for advising, research, teaching, outreach work

University outstanding advisors, researchers and teachers, and recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement, were recognized last week.

Kupresanin

Recipients of the Outstanding Advisor Award were:

Max Kupresanin, academic advisor in University College. He received bachelor of arts and master of public administration degrees from the University and worked at his alma mater as a teaching assistant in 2009 and 2010 before joining the staff in 2014.

“Students put their trust in Max that he will be able to guide them down the path of exploratory studies and into a major that works for them,” one nominator wrote. “As a UToledo grad himself, he knows how campus life and academic life merge to create challenges for students. Max makes sure his students always know he is available with questions and concerns — whether they are about advising or not.” Another noted, “Max thoroughly enjoys working with students. Max is visibly passionate about our student population. He is frequently seen in Rocket Hall walking students to Financial Aid, Student Disability Services and the Counseling Center.”

Kissoff

Dr. Nicholas V. Kissoff, associate professor of engineering technology and undergraduate director of the Construction Engineering Technology Program in the College of Engineering. He joined the faculty in 1999. Kissoff received bachelor and master of science degrees in civil engineering and a doctorate in engineering science from the University.

“Working one on one with all students, whether they are straight out of high school or a transfer student like myself, Dr. Kissoff provides a game plan of classes that is easily laid out so the student can set forth short- and long-term goals to help attain the main goal of graduating with the construction of engineering degree,” one nominator wrote. “He provides all resources available to his students from the inception in the Construction Engineering Technology Program. He informs the students of all possibilities within the program, and steps and tips to help us long after we graduate to be successful engineers.”

Recipients of the Outstanding Research and Scholarship Award were:

Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. The cardiologist joined the Medical College of Ohio in 1994. Cooper was appointed interim chair of the Department of Medicine in 2012 and was named to the permanent post in April 2013. From 2002 to 2012, he served as chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, and from 2008 to 2011, he also was director of the UToledo Heart and Vascular Center. He was named medical dean in 2014. Cooper has 95 peer-reviewed publications in print.

“Dr. Cooper is a gifted and rigorous scientist whose research has truly changed the paradigm in the field of hypertension and cardiac research. His innovative work has shifted the focus from the heart to the kidneys as an important and significant and treatable contributor to illness burden in hypertension, renal failure and cardiac events,” a nominator wrote. “Many patients’ lives will be saved, and much future understanding of the complex interactions between the kidney, the heart and vascular disease has been opened up as a result of his extensive body of research.”

Dr. Youssef Sari, professor and vice chair of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, and professor of medicinal and biological chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He joined the University in 2010. Sari has published nearly 100 peer-reviewed articles.

His research has contributed significantly to the field of drugs of abuse, including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine and nicotine; currently, he is focusing on the neuropharmacology of opioid addiction. Sari’s research involves investigating potential therapeutic drugs for the treatment of drugs of abuse. He was the first investigator to demonstrate that two key transporters can be potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of drugs of abuse, specifically in alcohol dependence. In addition, he has tested and found several drugs that have the ability to increase the expression and functionality of these transporters in animal models. The long-term goal of Sari’s research is to find potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of patients suffering from addiction to these drugs of abuse. “In my 40-plus years [in higher education], I’ve not known anyone who works harder and is more focused on drug and alcohol research, including mechanisms of neurotoxicity, than Youssef,” one nominator wrote. “He is at the cutting edge of his field and looks to be a research leader for many years to come.”

Dr. Jami K. Taylor, professor of political science and public administration in the College of Arts and Letters. Since joining the UToledo faculty in 2009, she has become a respected scholar on transgender politics and public policy with an impressive list of accomplishments: authoring a book and editing a book that were both published by the University of Michigan Press; writing 14 peer-reviewed articles and 11 book chapters; and serving as an associate editor for an encyclopedia of LGBT politics that is being published by Oxford University Press.

“Professor Taylor’s work is path-breaking, widely cited and influential. She has established a substantial national reputation as the leading scholar of transgender rights policy in just 10 years at UToledo,” one nominator wrote. Another wrote, “Dr. Taylor is the country’s single highest regarded scholar working on transgender public policy; she is also a nationally recognized expert in the broader political science subfield of LGBT politics. A quick glance at her CV helps explain why this is the case: She is at once a prolific scholar, producing an enormous amount of peer-reviewed publications each year, and also produces work of such high quality that it is accepted for publication in highly regarded journals and presses and cited frequently by other scholars in our subfield.”

Receiving Outstanding Research and Scholarship Awards were, from left, Dr. Christopher Cooper, Dr. Jami K. Taylor and Dr. Youssef Sari.

Bellizzi

Recipients of the Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement were:

Dr. John Bellizzi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Dr. Joe Schmidt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

They are coordinators of Saturday Morning Science, a public outreach lecture series covering diverse topics in science, medicine and engineering, ranging from the physics of baseball to the Flint water crisis to the search for extrasolar planets. The program began in 2005; Schmidt took over coordinating the series in 2008, and Bellizzi has been co-director since 2011. “Over the past six years, attendance has grown dramatically from a small grassroots following to an average audience approaching 150 attendees per presentation,” one nominator wrote, noting the series has relocated twice to accommodate the growing numbers. Speakers include UToledo faculty and other academic researchers, NASA scientists, best-selling authors, and staff members of the Toledo Zoo, Toledo Refinery, and National Museum of the Great Lakes.

Schmidt

“This kind of scientific outreach benefits all participants,” a nominator wrote. “Researchers and other presenters get the satisfaction of sharing their experience and their passion while honing a distinct set of communication skills to make their presentation understandable by a nontechnical audience. Audience members gain knowledge, insight and inspiration. It is the intention of the program to broaden public awareness, literacy and appreciation of the methods and results of science in the hopes of encouraging students to enter scientific careers and citizens to support policies that promote scientific research and discovery.”

Recipients of the Outstanding Teacher Award were:

Dr. John Bellizzi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He joined the UToledo faculty in 2008.

“Dr. Bellizzi is the man,” one nominator wrote. “I really have a genuine respect for him. Intelligent, passionate and fair — that’s the type of professor he is. Biochemistry is a difficult course, but he really made me love it. He understands the material and breaks it down for us in ways to comprehend. Things he taught me stuck with me because he teaches in a manner that allows you to understand the material not just memorize it.” Another noted, “He is outstanding not only that he teaches well, but he is always well-prepared. I could always approach him whenever needed to solve any problems related to fields of studies. He will always try to help even though he is not teaching you in the semester. He is a gentleman and deserves to be an outstanding teacher.”

Dr. Jetsabe Cáceres, associate professor of political science and public administration, and director of the Global Studies Program in the College of Arts and Letters. She has been at the University since 2011.

“Dr. Cáceres is one of the most personable, influential faculty members at the University. I had the pleasure to attend her Principles of Comparative Politics course; it was a rather black-and-white course, but she taught it in such a colorful, lively way. She recognizes students’ strengths and weaknesses early on and determines strategies for their betterment,” one nominator wrote. Another wrote, “Jetsa has exhibited compassion and care for not only me, but many students. She has helped me become a better student by motivating me to work toward my goals.” Another wrote, “Jetsa is the professor every student wishes to have and the mentor a person needs; she is an admirable person.”

Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, professor and chair of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering in the College of Engineering. A member of the UToledo faculty since 2004, Elahnia is director of the Dynamic and Smart Systems Laboratory.

“I was told by three teachers that I would never make it in engineering,” a nominator wrote. “Then I took a class taught by Dr. Elahinia. I had never had a teacher explain complex material so thoroughly and in a way that everyone could understand. He would stop and ask those who struggled how he could change his method to help them. I have never had a more attentive professor. His belief in me gave me confidence that I belong in engineering. That confidence and belief in me shaped my career. I am a mechanical design engineer for a global company in its research and development department. I know Dr. Elahinia has helped more students than just myself; he is deserving of this award.”

Dr. Karen Green, assistant professor of accounting in the College of Business and Innovation. She has taught at the University since 2015.

“Dr. Green has been a catalyst in the Accounting Department,” one nominator wrote. “She solely developed a new Certified Public Accountant review course that allows master of accounting students to complete their CPA exams. This is a distinguishing characteristic of the program.” “With Dr. Green’s guidance, many students have the competitive advantage of simultaneously testing for the CPA and earning a master’s degree, both before diving into our careers, and we know this is a luxury not available to many young professionals in the accounting field,” another wrote. “Dr. Green is more than a professor; she has become a trusted advisor, cheerleader and reliable friend to all of us. She provides support, guidance, encouragement and direction to all students who cross her path.”

Bryan Lammon, associate professor of law. He joined the College of Law in 2013.

“I have had Professor Lammon for several classes, and I cannot say enough positive words for how he conducts his class sessions,” one nominator wrote. “He actively engages with all of his students and makes the extra effort to ensure that everyone has a complete understanding of the lectures before moving on. His classroom demeanor is always personable and professional, which makes going to his classses that much more enjoyable.” Another noted, “He has an excellent work ethic, is a great teacher, and he is very friendly, yet with a professional attitude.” “Professor Lammon is one of the most approachable professors I’ve encountered. He is so passionate about the subjects he teaches and it truly shows each class,” another wrote. “It is very clear that he truly enjoys watching his students succeed.”

Dr. Heather Sloane, assistant professor of social work in the School of Social Justice in the College of Health and Human Services. She joined the UToledo faculty in 2008.

“Dr. Sloane is a perfect example of what a social worker looks like,” one nominator wrote. “She is patient, kind and sincere in all of our encounters, and she is juggling several different projects with grace and a positive attitude.” “Dr. Sloane is such a loving, thoughtful, selfless professor,” another nominator wrote. “She goes over and beyond to ensure the needs of the students are met.” “Despite all her accomplishments, Heather never acknowledges her success and doesn’t give herself the credit she deserves,” another noted. “She is a behind-the-scenes person and the reason why so many things exist. She is the definition of humility. She deserves this award more than I can express.”

Taking home Outstanding Teacher Awards were, from left, Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, Bryan Lammon, Dr. Heather Sloane, Dr. John Bellizzi, Dr. Karen Green and Dr. Jetsabe Cáceres.

Distinguished University Lecturers announced

Three Distinguished University Lecturers recently were named in honor of their exemplary teaching, support of student success, and demonstration of their commitment to UToledo’s educational mission.

The newest Distinguished University Lecturers, who were approved and recognized by the Board of Trustees April 15, are:

Distinguished University Lecturers named this month were, from left, Linda Beall, Dr. Martin Ohlinger and Dr. Sibylle Weck-Schwarz.

• Linda Beall of the Engineering Technology Department in the College of Engineering;

• Dr. Martin Ohlinger of the Pharmacy Practice Department and clinical associate professor in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and

• Dr. Sibylle Weck-Schwarz of the Mathematics and Statistics Department in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“Being named a Distinguished University Lecturer is the highest honor the institution can bestow upon a lecturer,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This honorary title is given in recognition of lecturers who excel in advancing the University’s educational mission and facilitating student success. They play such an important role in these areas, and we are very proud of the outstanding work that they do.”

Beall joined the University faculty in 2000. She served as interim chair of the Engineering Technology Department from 2016 to 2019. Beall is a board member for the Toledo Design Center and a member of the Toledo Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, as well as a member of the American Institute of Architects Engage Studio. She was the designer for 13 local and regional projects since 2002, and has been a consultant, expert witness and designer for local and national architectural firms. Her consistently positive teaching evaluations demonstrate success in translating her extensive professional experience to the classroom.

“One of the great pleasures of teaching in Engineering Technology, and one which elicits a positive response from my students, has been the opportunity to both teach and engage in professional practice simultaneously, giving me the ability to bring active professional practice into the classroom and teaching and mentoring of interns into the office,” Beall said. “I am grateful to both all my students for being responsive to this aspect of my teaching as well as the generosity of the architectural firms who have given me great flexibility in my schedule as well as my role in their organization.”

Ohlinger came to the University in 2000. He is director of the Critical Care Pharmacy Resideny Program, a clinical pharmacy specialist in Surgical Critical Care at UToledo Medical Center, and director of the Honors Program in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Ohlinger was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Critical Care Medicine (2013) and into the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society (2017) and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society (2015). His teaching evaluations reflect the success of his experiential teaching and bedside-to-classroom approach, in which he brings real cases to students, and show his impact on students’ lives.

“I am both honored and humbled to be recognized as a Distinguished University Lecturer,” Ohlinger said. “This recognition is really a testament to the amazing faculty, staff, administration, students and patients I’ve been fortunate enough to work with, teach, and serve at this great university for nearly 20 years.”

Weck-Schwarz joined the University faculty in 1989. She is the assistant director of the Math Learning and Resource Center. Weck-Schwarz received the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014-15) and was nominated for The University of Toledo’s Outstanding Teacher Award (2013). She has developed courses; played a leading role in the department in enhancing teaching with technology; collaborated on the design of the College Algebra Camp and the Trigonometry Summer Camp; designed and programmed algorithmically generated online homework questions and feedback; and facilitated the departmental pro-seminar on teaching college mathematics.

“I love teaching. It energizes me to communicate with my students, who are so full of passion and dreams. I am awed to think of them as the doctors, engineers, researchers, inventors, educators of the future,” Weck-Schwarz said. “As every teacher will tell you, one of the most rewarding experiences of teaching is seeing the first spark of understanding, seeing that light bulb go on. It is second only to hearing about students’ success — when they let me know that they have been admitted to medical school, or to the PharmD program, or are going to join a company producing medical devices — and feeling that I have contributed a little piece along the way to achieving their dreams.”

Society of Environmental Advocates holding plant sale

The Society of Environmental Advocates is hosting its annual plant sale this week in Wolfe Hall’s DNA hallway.

The sale will continue daily through Friday, April 26, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until all plants are sold.

The Society of Environmental Advocates is selling plants this week in Wolfe Hall.

“The sale provides our organization with all of its funding, since we are too new to get funding from the University.” said Kathryn Dzyak, a senior majoring in biology. “We put on all sorts of events, for Earth Hour and things like that.”

The students are selling aloe, cacti, succulents, air plants, tomato plants, and several plants native to the Toledo area in order to fund efforts to raise awareness for environmental conservation.

The plants range in price from $3 to $10 depending on size and rarity.

According to Alyssa Kelley, a sophomore majoring in environmental science, anyone in any major is invited to join the Society of Environmental Advocates.

For more information, visit the society’s website.