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Student wins NASA fellowship to help hunt for Earth-like planet with future space telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the 26-year-old Hubble, will be the largest and most powerful ever sent into orbit when it blasts off in fall 2018.

To prepare for Webb’s decade in space in search of a planet that could support life, NASA selected a University of Toledo PhD student studying small stars and the exoplanets closely orbiting them to join the team.

UT doctoral student Kevin Hardegree-Ullman is part of a NASA team that will help select what planets the new James Webb Space Telescope will focus on when launched in 2018.

UT doctoral student Kevin Hardegree-Ullman is part of a NASA team that will help select what planets the new James Webb Space Telescope will focus on when launched in 2018.

Kevin Hardegree-Ullman will contribute to choosing which planets the new space telescope will observe.

“There is going to be a lot of competition between astronomers for time on that telescope, which has an enormous gold-coated mirror and is much larger than Hubble,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “Before Webb launches, we will choose the best stretches of sky to look for another Earth-like planet. The best candidates are around low-mass stars that are less than half the size of the sun. Those are the stars that I have been focused on for years. This is an awesome opportunity.”

Because of his published work and experience collecting data about brown dwarfs using the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hardegree-Ullman won a NASA Graduate Fellowship that will pay for him to work with NASA scientists for six months.

In January, Hardegree-Ullman will head to the NASA Infrared Processing and Analysis Center for Infrared Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to identify a handful of locations to target in our galaxy where it’s most possible to find planets with water.

“We’ve already identified a bunch of star systems with planet candidates,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “My job will be to make sure there is a planet there using the data from the Spitzer Telescope and then figure which of these planets are the best to look at in follow-up observations with the future telescope.”

Hardegree-Ullman is the second UT PhD student in astronomy to recently win one of these competitive awards. Aditya Togi won the same NASA Graduate Fellowship in 2014.

“Kevin will get to interact with some of the best scientists in the world in an entirely new academic environment — something graduate students very rarely get to do,” said Dr. Mike Cushing, associate professor of astronomy and director of UT’s Ritter Planetarium, who is Hardegree-Ullman’s faculty advisor.

Hardegree-Ullman worked as a NASA Space Grant intern in 2011 while an undergraduate at the University of Arizona. He studied a specific molecule in interstellar clouds where stars form.

The PhD student now hunts for exoplanets by identifying dimming patterns caused when a planet blocks out a portion of a star’s light.

“It’s easier to find a smaller planet around a smaller star,” Hardegree-Ullman said. “Low-mass stars have a lower temperature, and that means a habitable planet has to orbit a lot closer to the star. It’s beneficial to an astronomer because you might only have to wait a couple weeks to watch the transit and find an Earth-size planet that could potentially contain water. You can determine size and radius monitoring the star’s light output. With a star the size of the sun, you have to wait an entire year.”

“Winning this fellowship highlights the caliber of scientist that Kevin has become during his time at UT,” Cushing said.

Draft of campus master plan shares 10-year vision for UT facilities

Tonight The University of Toledo will share a draft of its campus master plan, which establishes a 10-year vision for University facilities.

The presentation at 6 p.m. in the Nitschke Hall SSOE Seminar Room will be led by Jason Toth, UT associate vice president for facilities and construction, and Doug Kozma, co-leader of planning practice for Smith Group JJR, the consulting firm assisting with the plan.

Business Hlogo 1c BlackThe presentation, which is open to UT faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni and the public, will be streamed live on the University’s YouTube page for those unable to attend in person. The recording of the full presentation also will be available afterward at the same link.

“This plan reflects the many ideas we’ve gathered from stakeholders during the last 18 months to maximize the function and efficiency of our assets,” Toth said. “I hope our community agrees this plan will benefit our students, faculty and staff and will guide future decision making related to the physical assets on our campuses.”

The master plan, which will next go to the UT Board of Trustees for consideration, is focused on four themes: repositioning the academic core, investing in research, consolidating athletics, and enhancing student life.

Repositioning the academic core

The draft of the plan to be presented tonight includes renovations of classroom buildings among the first projects to reposition the academic core. Snyder Memorial Building, Stranahan Hall and McMaster Hall are candidates for such activity. The Thompson Student Union also looks to be renovated, while renovations to Carlson Library continue.

The grassy area south of Memorial Field House will be redesigned to have wide sidewalks and landscaping to better connect Centennial Mall with the western side of Main Campus.

Investing in research

A new multidisciplinary research center near Nitschke Hall is planned in a location with convenient access to parking for researchers from different disciplines to conduct work, collaborate and share technology resources. Palmer Hall is slated to be replaced with a green open space for the engineering campus area, with the classrooms in Palmer moved into a renovated North Engineering Building.

Consolidating athletics

The varsity athletic facilities on Scott Park Campus will move to Main Campus as part of the effort to consolidate athletics and better incorporate baseball, softball and soccer into the student experience. A new synthetic soccer field is planned for the inside of the running track. The baseball and softball fields would be relocated to where Carter East and West residence halls currently stand. The Carter residence halls will be taken down, and a portion of Carter Field will be maintained for intramural and recreational use.

The campus master plan also calls for offices currently located at Scott Park to move to Main Campus.

Enhancing student life

The master plan built into its projections a 1 percent enrollment increase each year, which combined with the two-year residency requirement, would require additional beds on campus by the end of the 10-year time period. Renovations are already underway for Parks Tower; the plan incorporates opportunities for McComas Village to expand for additional Greek housing; and a second phase of the Gateway on the corner of Secor Road and Dorr Street would add apartment living options on upper floors above retail stores.

A new outdoor recreational area on the south side of Dorr Street east of Byrne Road would create a dedicated recreation complex on campus, which currently does not exist. A new public safety building to replace the Transportation Center, which currently houses the UT Police Department, would be located next to the fenced-in recreational facility. The parking area currently on Scott Park Campus for first-year students would be relocated to the north side of Dorr Street just west of Byrne Road.

The campus master plan is scheduled to be implemented in phases throughout the next decade, with some projects expected within the next five years and the remaining completed in a second phase in years six through 10. A University financial investment of $100 million is expected, through future state capital dollars and a potential bond issue, as well as additional external philanthropic support to implement the plan.

As decisions are made and plans solidified, the University will communicate more. To keep up to date on the process, visit utoledo.edu/facilities/master-plan.

Major themes emerging in strategic planning process

Using the input received from more than 700 people online and at discussion sessions throughout the University, the strategic planning committee has been meeting regularly to understand and organize the ideas and suggestions.

Once all of the ideas were sorted into categories, the committee created work groups to conduct brainstorming sessions on each topic. Dozens of individuals with specific areas of expertise or experience relating to each of the topic areas were invited to participate in the brainstorming sessions, where associated challenges and opportunities were discussed.

The topics of the work groups included the following: research; reputation and visibility; undergraduate student success; athletics; comprehensiveness; working at UT; graduate and professional education; community engagement; fiscal health; and fundraising.

“I am very pleased to see meaningful strategic direction and initiatives generated at the grassroots level through a bottom-up process,” said Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and leader of the strategic planning initiative. “We were also excited to see that there was overlap in the ideas generated in different groups, which indicates we are generally aligned as a community on the direction we should be taking our university.”

After sharing the input from the work groups, the planning committee has begun to narrow the focus a bit more. It will be working to identify major themes and associated initiatives in the coming months.

“I am very pleased at the progress we are making,” said President Sharon L. Gaber. “We recognize that this process requires a great deal of time from a lot of people who also have day jobs. We are so appreciative of all the work that has gone into this, and I am personally very excited to see how this will guide and shape The University of Toledo in the future.”

State certifies UTPD for adopting standards to strengthen community and police relations

The Ohio Department of Public Safety certified The University of Toledo Police Department for meeting new state standards for the use of deadly force, agency recruitment and hiring.

The standards are the first of their kind in the state developed by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board last year to strengthen community and police relations.

UT police logoThe UT Police Department joins more than 120 other agencies throughout the state that have become certified.

The state has partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police to help certify nearly 1,000 law enforcement agencies through a process to ensure they are in compliance with Ohio’s new standards.

“The Ohio Collaborative focused on police hiring practices and use of force, and we are pleased the University meets or exceeds the state standards,” UT Police Chief Jeff Newton said. “Building trust begins with assuring our community The University of Toledo Police Department is using best practices.”

For more information on the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, the certification process, and a list of certified agencies, go to ocjs.ohio.gov/ohiocollaborative.

Rockets announce ticket information for Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

The University of Toledo has announced ticket information for the 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. Central time (5:30 p.m. Eastern time) Saturday, Dec. 17, in the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. The Rockets (9-3, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) will play Sun Belt Conference co-champion Appalachian State (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt).

bowl ticketsTicket orders are being taken now online, by phone or in person at the UT Athletic Ticket Office in Savage Arena.

Tickets may be picked up at the UT Athletic Ticket Office beginning Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m. Tickets also will be available for sale at the ticket window beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Tickets can be purchased through UT through Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 5 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for the general public and $10 for UT students limit one with ID for in-person sales only. Students also may purchase up to four $30 tickets for guests. Students may purchase tickets beginning Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m. at ticket office.

Fans who order tickets online will be assessed a $6 processing fee; they can pick up tickets at the UT box office from Wednesday, Dec. 7, through Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. Tickets not picked up at the UT Athletic Ticket Office will be available at Cramton Bowl Stadium at Gate 4 beginning at 2:30 p.m. Central time through halftime. When picking up tickets, fans must present ID and the major credit card used to purchase the tickets.

Because this is a bowl game, there are no UT employee, retiree or Varsity T discounts.

Toledo tickets purchased at the $30 ticket price will be placed on the West side of the stadium in sections E and F.

Fans that want to sit together in a group, must place one order.

There is a limit of 10 tickets per online orders. If you have a group larger than 10, contact the UT Ticket Office at 419.530.GOLD (4653).

The UT Athletic Ticket Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Information about a possible UT Alumni charter plane trip and pregame reception will be forthcoming. For more information, contact the UT Alumni Office at 800-235-6766.

For more information, call the UT Athletic Ticket Office at 419.530.4653 (select option two).

UT homepage updated to improve communication, user experience

The new homepage for The University of Toledo embraces advances in technology to improve communication and appeal to a broader audience.

Launched Dec. 5, the updated utoledo.edu features bolder headlines and additional opportunities to share news, a new video feature, and “UT at a glance” facts.

homepage-2016“Technology is ever-changing, and we are pleased to continue to keep the UT homepage and website current in trends, best practices, compliance and features that are appealing to our key audiences,” said Kathleen Walsh, director of web development.

The University’s Office of Marketing and Communications and the Center for Creative Instruction collaborated for months researching, designing and building the updated version of the homepage. Research showed key audiences desired interesting facts about UT prominently displayed on the website and had an interest in accessing high-quality videos about the University, which coincides with UT’s efforts to increase the use of video to engage people and provide a prominent place to feature that work.

Prospective students will continue to be able to find their programs and easily connect with admission resources, which is a primary use of the University’s homepage. There is extensive work underway to revise all of the web pages describing UT’s majors, which will be easier to access with the homepage updates. Prospective students will benefit from those features in the new layout, as well as more easily learn interesting news and facts about the University they are looking to attend.

The responsive design works in all web browsers and adjusts to the user’s technology to be viewed on a computer monitor, tablet or phone.

Researchers take cross-disciplinary look at addressing side effect of cancer treatment

Radiation and chemotherapy treatments can have negative impacts on normal functions in the body and become so severe that some patients choose to discontinue their treatment plans.

Dr. Heather Conti, UT assistant professor of biological sciences, recently was awarded $60,000 from Ohio Cancer Research to support a study titled “Proinflammatory Cytokines IL-23 and IL-17 in Radiotherapy Induced Oral Mucositis” to explore what mechanisms cause one of the most common debilitating complications of cancer treatment called oral mucositis.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Conducting research to better understand oral mucositis with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, right, and Dr. Heather Conti are, from left, Nathan Schmidt, research assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences; Jackie Kratch, graduate student in the Department of Biological Sciences; Lisa Root, director and attending vet in the Department of Lab Animal Resources; and Dr. Nicholas Sperling, assistant professor of medical physics. They are standing by the Varian Edge System at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center.

Oral mucositis occurs when cancer treatments break down the lining of the inside of the mouth, leaving it open to sores and infection. Patients experience sores on the gums or tongue, difficulty swallowing, bleeding and pain.

“Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation of the head and neck can develop severe damage to the lining of the oral cavity,” Conti said. “The inflammation and sores can make it difficult and painful for the patient to speak, eat or drink, and can lead to an increased risk of serious infection.”

She has joined forces with Dr. E. Ishmael Parsai, radiation oncology professor and chief of the Medical Physics Division, to take a cross-disciplinary approach in examining oral mucositis in mouse models.

“I am thrilled to be working alongside Dr. Parsai. He has amazing, cutting-edge radiology equipment that he uses to treat patients, and it is one of the leading reasons why I chose to come to UT to conduct my research,” Conti said. “He will provide radiation treatments to the mouse models that are very similar to what cancer patients receive. We can then examine how interleukins, IL-23 and IL-17 are involved in cell-to-cell communication and are involved in the development of oral mucositis.”

These proteins are proinflammatory cytokines produced by both humans and mice.

Candida albicans is a yeast fungus that naturally occurs within the mouth, gut and vaginal tract, but given the chance to flourish in a patient where damage to the mucosal tissue has occurred due to radiation treatments, it can take hold and cause inflammation. It is the most common secondary infection in cancer patients.

Parsai said that despite advances in radiation treatment that have made it highly precise, such as the Varian Edge System used at UT’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center, healthy tissue still can be affected.

“I am looking forward to working with Dr. Conti to better understand how oral mucositis develops,” he said. “This research could lead to the development of better drugs to treat it and its associated infections, so that patients are able to successfully complete their course of cancer treatments.”

Association of Black Faculty and Staff renames scholarship in honor of professor emeritus

More than 70 guests attended a tribute to Dr. Joseph C. Sommerville, UT professor emeritus in the Judith Herb College of Education, at the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting held Nov. 7 in the Law Center McQuade Law Auditorium.

UT colleagues; former students from as far away as Chicago; Toledo city government officials, including Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson; family and fellow church members; community stakeholders and friends all gathered to honor Sommerville, who retired from the University in 1992 after 22 years.

Colleagues and friends recently attended the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting during which its annual scholarship was renamed in honor of Dr. Joseph Sommerville, professor emeritus of education.

Colleagues and friends recently attended the Association of Black Faculty and Staff meeting during which its annual scholarship was renamed in honor of Dr. Joseph Sommerville, professor emeritus of education.

During his tenure, Sommerville was chairman of the Department of Education and served on numerous UT committees. Additionally, as a superannuate professor, he taught courses in administration until 1997.

Several months ago, when the Association of Black Faculty and Staff sought to rename its annual student scholarship, it decided to forgo dedicating it to a nationally known African-American leader. Explained Dr. Anthony Quinn, current association president and assistant dean in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, “We realized we didn’t need to go out of town to find a hero. Instead, we are renaming the Association of Black Faculty and Staff scholarship in recognition of Dr. Joseph Sommerville.”

During tributes, former students praised Sommerville for his approachability, consummate professionalism and gentlemanly demeanor. Stated one, Paul Raczkowski, “Dr. Sommerville gave us practical lessons to use as educators, not just concepts to apply in the classroom.

“He really appreciated what we faced every day — ‘hormones walking in tennis shoes,’” Raczkowski said jokingly referring to teenage students. “He preached to do only what’s best for students. Period. That’s something a lot of people today should still remember.”

Dr. Crystal Ellis, former superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said, “Joe Sommerville will live on and on and on in the lives he’s touched. I’m just glad we’re honoring him while he’s still with us.”

In addition to Sommerville having the association’s annual scholarship named in his honor, Toledo Councilwoman Cecelia Adams also presented him with a special resolution from the city. Further, the pastor of Sommerville’s church, the Rev. James Willis, declared that Sommerville’s ongoing contributions give credence to the old adage, “I’d rather see a sermon any day than hear one.”

Indeed, since retirement, Sommerville actively continues community, fraternal and educational service, despite declining health. He has served on the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Board of Trustees, and also was the first president of AARP Ohio for nearly six years. More recently, when UT launched Brothers on the Rise to help at-risk African-American and Latino students, Sommerville was among the first in the community to answer the call for mentors. He also continues to be a Sunday school teacher, as well as chairman emeritus of the Deacon Board of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.

Sommerville is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta — where he was an undergraduate student when the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also was enrolled — and the University of Michigan. He recounted in a recent video that documents his life — recorded with Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion — that when he lived in the South, he saw much violence over civil rights issues, such as houses being fire-bombed when homeowners were known supporters of African Americans.

Witnessing such hate crimes during his youth, Sommerville has dedicated his life to the success of students, especially underrepresented students, which also is the mission of the Association of Black Faculty and Staff.

Rockets accept invitation to play Appalachian State in Raycom Camellia Bowl

The University of Toledo has accepted an invitation to play Appalachian State of the Sun Belt Conference in the 2016 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. Central time (5:30 p.m. Eastern time) Saturday, Dec. 17, and will be televised on ESPN.

web Raycom Camellia Bowl“We are very excited to be selected to play in the Raycom Camellia Bowl,” UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien said Sunday when announcing the news. “The Rocket Nation sends a thank-you to Executive Director Johnny Williams and the entire Raycom Camellia Bowl selection committee. We have heard nothing but great things about the hospitality of the bowl committee and the city of Montgomery.

“I also want to congratulate Head Coach Jason Candle, his staff, and obviously our Rocket football team on a very successful season,” he said. “I’m confident that our players, coaches and fans will all enjoy a terrific bowl experience in Montgomery.”

Candle, who led the Rockets to a 9-3 season in his first full season as head coach, was enthusiastic about his team’s bowl destination.

“The Raycom Camellia Bowl will provide our players with an outstanding bowl experience, as well as the opportunity to play against a very tough Appalachian State team,” Candle said. “Playing in the Raycom Camellia Bowl is an excellent reward for our players, coaches and everyone involved in our team’s success.”

The Rockets (9-3, 6-2 MAC) finished in second place in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference. UT will be playing in its 16th bowl and sixth in the last seven years. UT is 11-4 all-time in bowl games, including a 32-17 victory last year over No. 24 Temple in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl in Candle’s first game as UT’s head coach.

Appalachian State is 9-3 and 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers finished as co-champions of the Sun Belt along with Arkansas State. Appalachian State is coached by Scott Satterfield, a former Toledo assistant who has been the Mountaineers’ head coach for four seasons. Satterfield was the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at UT in 2009 under then-head coach Tim Beckman.

Toledo and Appalachian State will meet on the football field for the first time in the 2016 Raycom Camellia Bowl.

This is the third year for the Raycom Camellia Bowl. Bowling Green won the inaugural matchup over South Alabama, 33-28, in 2014. Appalachian State defeated Ohio last year, 31-29.

Information on ticket sales and travel packages will be announced Monday.

UT awarded federal innovation grant to invest in academic researchers throughout northwest Ohio

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded The University of Toledo $500,000 to help launch startup companies, move ideas to market, and spur job creation through faculty research.

Nearly $15 million was given to 35 organizations from 19 states through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. 

Business Hlogo 1c BlackThe total available to researchers in the northwest Ohio region is nearly $1.3 million after the University matched the i6 Challenge grant with an additional $767,903 through the Rocket Fuel Fund.

Researchers from academic and other nonprofit institutions are eligible to receive funding.

“This is an incredible opportunity for UT faculty and academic researchers throughout the northwest Ohio region to apply for this funding and help move their new technologies toward commercialization, including women and minorities who are typically underrepresented in innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Anne Izzi, licensing associate at UT’s Office of Technology Transfer. 

The selected recipients of Rocket Fuel grants will be awarded between $5,000 and $50,000 each to enhance the scope or patentability of inventions and improve market potential through targeted research, customer discovery, and development of a prototype and business model.

“The Regional Innovation Strategies program advances innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said. “As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the visionaries and job creators of tomorrow. Congratulations to today’s awardees who will make U.S. communities, businesses and the workforce more globally competitive.”

Dr. William Messer, professor in the UT Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, plans to apply for i6 Challenge grant funding as his lab creates a drug to help autism patients make new patterns of behavior to live a more normal life. 

“There is a lot of work to do, but we would like to move this compound into clinical trials to see if it can help treat restricted and repetitive behaviors associated with autism,” Messer said. “We are exploring a number of options to obtain the funding needed to develop the patented technology, and the i6 Challenge grant represents an important new source of funding at the local level.”

A total of 215 organizations applied for the grant funding; these included nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused groups.

“The 2016 Regional Innovation Strategies grantees will reach a variety of communities and help entrepreneurs gain the edge they need to succeed,” said Jay Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “The diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country and is a recognized tool for economic growth and resilience.”