UT News » Research

UT News


Search News




Professors assessing financial damage from water crisis

The memories of last year’s water crisis in and around Toledo are still fresh in the minds of most residents, and the anxiety about a repeat event in 2015 is high.

But two University of Toledo professors are hard at work at one of the critical issues surrounding last year’s three-day event: What was the economic impact of the 2014 Toledo water crisis on the local economy?

Aug.24.FA.inddDr. Andrew Solocha, professor in the Department of Finance in the College of Business and Innovation, along with Dr. Neil Reid, director of the UT Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center and professor of geography and planning in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, are researching that very issue, funded by a grant from the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago. They began their research in May and will have an initial impact report by the end of August.

“Lake Erie is an enormously important resource,” Solocha said. “I didn’t know anything about the science behind this, but I was really concerned about what happened here last year, and so I volunteered my time for this research. We envision a series of reports, the first one in August about the three days from last year, and then other reports over time.

“My training is in economics, data and model building, and for this research and report it is essential to have someone with experience in both business and economics because we have to interpret this data, find out what the data is saying to us; sometimes it doesn’t say anything at all. We have to go and interview people, and people can be confused or have misinformation. This is a work in progress, and we don’t yet know where all the answers are to make this complete.”

“One of the main challenges in doing this research is getting reliable data,” Reid said. “Often in the research we do, you can go to a public data source like the census and use data that has been collected in a systematic fashion. But with unanticipated one-off events like this, there are no data that are systematically collected.

“So it becomes like doing a jigsaw puzzle, but one in which you have to go out and find all the data pieces,” Reid said. “And, unfortunately, many of the pieces are either very hard to find or may not even exist. Our task here is to find as many of the pieces as possible and put them together to paint as complete a picture as we possibly can.”

“We need to be able to assess what the damages — all the damages — are. We know several sectors that were impacted by the 2014 water crisis, including hospitals, the food processing industry, restaurants, tourism and consumers, plus we will probably see an impact on housing,” Solocha said.

“But there may be impacts that we can’t see, and there could be a long-term impact. For example, people who typically go to Lake Erie beaches who have decided that now they can’t go there in the future because of the negative publicity for the region.

“Of course, there was also good news, such as the charities that came out, mobilized and helped,” he observed. “For example, the American Red Cross brought in water for people, and the National Guard distributed water and food.”

Solocha added, “The University of Toledo has been fantastic in helping us with this project, as have other organizations such as the United Way of Greater Toledo. It is absolutely critical that people know we are working on this report and that they help us.”

If you have information you would like to share about the economic impact of the 2014 water crisis, contact Solocha at Andrew.Solocha@utoledo.edu or Reid at Neil.Reid@utoledo.edu.

Students helping TARTA revamp downtown routes

For some time, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority has been working to change their routes downtown — and they’re getting some help from students at The University of Toledo.

Right now, TARTA is working on finding a way to replace its five-station bus loop downtown with a single bus terminal. To do this, TARTA is considering route proposals from Taslima Akter and Jonathon Ousky, two UT grad students.

Dr. Bhuiyan Alam, associate professor of geography and planning, center, posed for a photo with graduate students Taslima Akter and Jonathon Ousky, who put together new route proposals for TARTA for the Community Planning Workshop class.

Dr. Bhuiyan Alam, associate professor of geography and planning, center, posed for a photo with graduate students Taslima Akter and Jonathon Ousky, who put together new route proposals for TARTA for the Community Planning Workshop class.

“It may seem small,” said Dr. Bhuiyan Alam, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, “but given that TARTA is the sole public transportation system in Lucas County and since it involves 12 major blocks in the heart of the city, changing this plan and the proposal given by the students is very important and will have a long-term impact on downtown Toledo.”

Akter and Ousky are part of a planning workshop class led by Alam. For a semester, they analyzed data from TARTA and came up with proposals for changing most of the routes that would lead into the downtown hub.

“We could change whatever we wanted, but our main concern was to reduce the route length,” Akter said.

And the students were successful in that sense — if TARTA accepts their proposal, they could save up to 46 hours of driving time each week. This would have an impact on the amount of time riders spend on buses, as well as the amount of gas used by TARTA.

“It could be convenient for both TARTA and the passengers,” Akter said.

Alam has taught this course for six years, with the exception of 2014 when he was on sabbatical. Each year, he tries to get his students involved in projects that have real impacts on the local community.

In the past, students in this course have researched predicted impacts of community hub schools on their students and communities, land-use classification and suitability analysis of walkability and bikeability in Toledo’s uptown district, brownfield redevelopment potentials in Toledo, and streetscape planning of Broadway Street in Toledo. This year, he approached TARTA, where officials were open to receiving help from students.

Throughout the semester, the students worked and met with TARTA officials to create their proposal. TARTA gave the students suggestions, reviewed drafts of routes, and answered their questions.

“It’s been a really nice experience for me to work with TARTA, and I’m surprised by how much they helped us to complete the project,” Akter said.

Though no plans have yet been finalized for TARTA’s downtown hub, administrators have a wealth of ideas for routes to use thanks to the efforts of these two students.

For more information on Alam’s Community Planning Workshop class, email Bhuiyan.Alam@utoledo.edu.

Professor receives high honors at national conference

Having received many awards over the years, the most recent one is the cherry on top of the sundae for a University of Toledo professor of chemistry and biochemistry.



Dr. Jared Anderson was named the recipient of the 2016 Pittsburgh Conference Achievement Award sponsored by the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh. Each year the society solicits nominations and recognizes one individual with outstanding achievements in the fields of analytical chemistry and applied spectroscopy within 10 years after receiving his or her PhD. Anderson earned his doctoral degree in 2005 from Iowa State University.

“This is probably the most prestigious award I’ve won because I know there’s a lot of other very deserving candidates out there at a number of other universities in the world that get nominated,” Anderson said. “Since there’s a timeline, it has to be 10 years or you’re no longer eligible, and they only give one award a year; that makes the competition very fierce.”

But Anderson said he couldn’t have done it without his research team: “It’s certainly a great, great honor. But the award would not be possible without my research team. I’ve amassed a truly tremendous research team here at UT. Their hard work and dedication to promoting our science resulted in this award.”

Anderson will receive the honor during the Pittsburgh Conference Achievement Award Symposium held in his honor at the 2016 conference, which will be in Atlanta in March. He will be presented with a scroll and a cash award at the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh Awards Reception and Dinner. Several of Anderson’s colleagues, including Dr. Jon Kirchhoff, Distinguished University Professor and chair of UT’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, will speak about the great work he has done over the past 10 years.

In addition to receiving the award, Anderson will have the opportunity to present some of his work at the symposium — namely his research in new methods to extract and preserve the structure of nucleic acids.

“It’s still a very large challenge for those working with DNA and RNA to extract those compounds from a very complicated cellular matrix and store those under appropriate conditions without degradation of the nucleic acid,” he said. “We’re working on developing novel materials that allow us to extract those materials, but then also store the molecules at room temperature or different conditions that will prevent degradation.”

The research has been funded by a National Science Foundation grant totaling $400,000.

“Good science is being done here at the University,” he said. “It’s awesome to get this award because it shows that UT is regarded. If the committee didn’t believe UT was a good school, I don’t think they’d have chosen me. This proves we are doing great work.”

UT resident presents stenting research in Italy

A University of Toledo resident presented research at an international conference, showing that patients who have narrowed arteries to their kidneys are not benefiting from opening up the narrowed arteries by stenting and therefore should not have the surgery.

Mark Yu, a third-year internal medicine resident, discussed his work at the European Society of Hypertension Conference in Milan in June.

Yu was part of an international research project led by Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, that investigated whether the use of stents helped reduce blood pressure and provided additional benefit beyond medicine. The study focused on patients with renal artery stenosis, or blockage of the arteries to the kidneys, and found stents provided no additional benefit.

Yu’s presentation was titled “Stenting of Atherosclerotic Renal Artery Stenosis Does Not Improve Clinical Outcomes in Patients Presenting With Congestive Heart Failure: An Analysis of the Cardiovascular Outcomes in Renal Atherosclerotic Lesions Trial.”

“This is a very prestigious study, and I was honored to be a part of the research led by Dr. Cooper,” Yu said. “He is an outstanding faculty member and an expert in this field of study.”

Yu said renal atherosclerotic lesions have been a challenging medical topic. Past clinical trials were criticized because they were poorly designed and executed, he added. However, Cooper’s study is the largest ever and showed convincingly evidence that stenting does not help.

“We looked at 123 patients, which is significant because the past three studies, added together, looked at 90 patients total,” Yu said. “I feel very lucky to be a part of Dr. Cooper’s group. He is leading this cutting-edge research. It was a wonderful opportunity to present this work. I am blessed.”

Cooper said the completion of the study was made possible by the excellent residents at UT.

“I am very proud of the accomplishments of our trainees,” Cooper said. “Mark did an outstanding job presenting the findings of the study. As a result of disseminating this information, it is possible that fewer patients will have to deal with the recovery and cost of inserting a stent surgically.”

UT microbiologist seeks better treatments for Lyme disease with immune response research

Singer Avril Lavigne recently talked publicly about how she was bedridden for five months due to Lyme disease and thought she “was dying” because she couldn’t eat, talk or move.



By studying the real-time immune response to the bacteria that causes the disease, a University of Toledo researcher is hoping to help create better treatments so that fewer people have to experience what the songstress did.

“What we are trying to figure out is what ‘tricks’ that the bacteria play so that our immune response can’t clear the infection on its own,” said Dr. Mark Wooten, UT associate professor of microbiology and immunology. “If we figure that out, we will have a better idea of what type of vaccine is needed to prevent this disease, which can be quite debilitating in some patients.”

Previously, when the bacteria was injected into mice, researchers were limited on what they could see and when. Wooten came up with the idea to make the bacteria fluorescent (glow green) so it could be studied in real-time using a high-tech multiphoton microscope.

Wooten uses special mouse strains with fluorescent immune cells, injecting them with the Lyme disease-causing bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is also fluorescent. He then uses high-powered microscopy to observe the fluorescent bacteria in the skin of the living mice to see how they interact with the different immune cells.

Initial findings show that the immune system starts to fight the bacteria, but backs down after a few days, even though large numbers of the bacteria remain. Figuring out why the immune system starts and then stops is crucial to finding a way to treat those infected by Lyme disease, the No. 1 vector-borne disease in the United States that sees an increase this time of year during tick season.

“For the first time we are seeing what the bacteria does in the mice and how the immune cells respond to them,” Wooten said. “We can see where the deficiencies are, which in return allows us to figure out how to improve the immune response in humans.”

Wooten said people getting bitten by an infected tick is a growing problem in the Midwest and Northeast because humans are increasingly living in close proximity to the animals, such as deer, that carry the bacteria.

“Not only are the numbers in the New England states continuing to rise,” he said, “but the bacteria now can be found throughout much of Ohio.”

More than 300,000 cases are believed to occur each year; however, it is estimated that only 10 percent to 20 percent of Lyme disease cases are actually reported.

“Our latest findings indicate that the bacteria can literally outrun our immune cells within the host,” Wooten said. “We figured they would get in the skin and go hide from our immune response. Actually, we are finding that they don’t hide. They continue to move for months or years, and our immune system isn’t clearing them. Why is that? That is what we hope to unravel.”

UT Health doctor named Physician of the Year by Dysautonomia International

Laura Ruszczyk could not sit upright and think for long periods of time. She was continually dizzy and had to give up her beloved road bike. She even had to retire from her job as an elementary school counselor.



Her dysautomomia, which was diagnosed in August 2011, was ruining the only thing she wanted out of life — normalcy.

It wasn’t until she secured an appointment with Dr. Blair Grubb at The University of Toledo Medical Center that she began to hope and think that life with an autonomic nervous system disorder was manageable.

She waited 16 months to meet the world-renowned autonomic specialist who has a wait list of more than 600 people. The distance did not matter. She drove 300 miles from Buffalo, N.Y., to Toledo.

“You hear his name, see it throughout the research on dysautomomia, and expect a giant when you finally meet him,” Ruszczyk, 51, said. “He walked into my exam room and greeted my husband and me with a warm handshake and smile. He listened, explained the autonomic nervous system to us, examined me and gave answers and hope that we would — together — find a treatment plan that gave me a better quality of life.”

Ruszczyk will get to thank Grubb for his medical efforts and well-known bedside manner when Dysautonomia International presents him with the 2015 Physician of the Year Award at its annual conference July 17-20 in Washington, D.C.

Ruszczyk nominated Grubb, specifically citing a life-changing operation to implant a Biotronik Evia pacemaker that works well for her because it responds to both heart rate and blood pressure.

“This award means a lot to me because of all the work that I have done in creating this subspecialty of medicine,” said Grubb, director of Electrophysiology Services at UTMC and Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics. “However, this award isn’t about me. It is about patients and changing their lives. My nurse practitioner and I do what we can for our patients. It is one day at a time with our huge waiting list. We wish we could do more.”

Dysautonomia affects the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the heart, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, pupils and blood vessels. Symptoms can include rapid heart rate or slow heart rate, excessive fatigue, thirstiness, shortness of breath, blood pressure fluctuations and bladder problems.

Because many of the sufferers are women, Grubb said he has seen that their concerns are sometimes not taken as seriously by doctors and they are told to rest or drink more water.

Before becoming Grubb’s patient, Ruszczyk’s heart was beating only 40 to 50 beats per minute compared to a healthy rate of 60 to 100. Her heart now beats 62 beats per minute with the pacemaker.

“I can drive almost an hour now, where before I could not drive for more than five minutes,” she said. “Since the pacemaker, I can go into stores. I can shop for 20 minutes. I didn’t think I would ever bike again. I just finished a 10-mile charity ride.”

Lauren Stiles, president of the Dysautonomia International board, said Grubb was chosen from among 50 nominations. This is the second year for this award.

“This award is important because our patient community has a hard time finding doctors who understand autonomic nervous system diseases and how to treat them,” she said. “We think it is important to recognize doctors who are making a difference for these patients.”

Stiles said one of the common themes among Grubb’s patients is how much time he takes with every patient.

“He is a very special physician. He never stops learning. He is inquisitive,” she said. “He has an excellent bedside manner. He never rushes his patients. In addition to advanced research, he understands the psychology of suffering. Patient-centered medicine is a buzzword these days, but Dr. Grubb has been implementing a patient-centered practice for over 20 years, which is why his patients adore him.”

At the conference, Grubb will address the medical community when he talks about how to talk with patients who are suffering from symptoms that aren’t easily explained.

“Some physicians don’t take this area of medicine as seriously as they should,” Stiles said. “Dr. Grubb helps many of his patients feel so much better. He figures them out the best he can. Even when he can’t immediately figure it out, he says, ‘This is real and we’re going to work together to help you get your life back.’”

Ruszczyk remembers when she called Grubb in the middle of the day because she was nervous about her upcoming surgery. He got on the phone with her immediately.

“Dr. Grubb examines patients from all over the world, and he is usually behind schedule and works long into the evening to see everyone,” Ruszczyk said. “He spends as much time as necessary to see each patient in the clinic, but yet he did not rush me on the telephone.”

Dan Barbee, vice president of clinical services at UTMC, said Grubb is a testament to UTMC’s approach to putting the patient first. His waiting list is indicative of how much his expertise and compassion is valued. Patients come from Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Great Britain.

“He’s regarded, literally, as the global leader in his field, and patients came from all around the world to see him here at UTMC,” he said. “We are proud that Grubb is one of our own.”

Stoepler Professor of Law and Values named

Dean Daniel J. Steinbock has named Professor Lee J. Strang the next John W. Stoepler Professor of Law and Values, effective July 1.



Strang follows Professor Susan Martyn, who became the John W. Stoepler Professor of Law and Values Emeritus following her retirement last month.

“Professor Strang’s outstanding national scholarly reputation and concern for values in his work put him squarely within the aims of this professorship,” Steinbock said. “He joins three other distinguished scholars on the College of Law faculty, Professors Geoffrey Rapp, Joseph Slater and Rebecca Zietlow, in holding one of our named professorships.”

Strang is the author of more than 20 law review publications, a constitutional law casebook, as well as several book chapters and book reviews. He has published in the fields of constitutional law and interpretation, property law, and religion and the First Amendment.

Among other scholarly projects, he is editing the second edition of his casebook for LexisNexis, writing a book titled Originalism’s Promise and Its Limits, and authoring a book on the history of Catholic legal education in the United States.

He frequently presents at scholarly conferences and participates in debates at law schools across the country. He also is regularly quoted in the media. Strang was named the college’s director of faculty research in 2014. This fall, he will be a visiting scholar at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, where he will complete his book on originalism.

A graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was articles editor of the Iowa Law Review and a member of Order of the Coif, Strang also holds a master of law degree from Harvard Law School.

Before joining the UT College of Law faculty, Strang was a visiting professor at Michigan State University College of Law and an associate professor at Ave Maria School of Law.

Prior to teaching, Strang served as a judicial clerk for Chief Judge Alice Batchelder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and was an associate with Jenner & Block LLP in Chicago, where he practiced general and appellate litigation.

The professorship is named after Stoepler, the seventh dean of the College of Law. He was an alumnus and longtime faculty member before being named dean of the college in 1983. Stoepler served as interim president of the University in 1988.

The Stoepler Professorship of Law and Values is funded out of a bequest by Eugene N. Balk, a former general counsel of The Andersons Inc.

Child has asthma? Ask pediatrician to test for peanut allergy

Children with asthma should be tested for a peanut allergy or sensitivity, according to research conducted by a former resident at UT Health.



Dr. Anas Al-Yazji, who was a resident at UT Health from 2010 to 2013, co-authored a study that found children with asthma might benefit from such testing — and parents should ask for it because it isn’t routine for pediatricians to suggest it.

“Asthma is one of the most common diseases in pediatrics, while a peanut allergy or sensitivity can lead to one of the most severe allergic reactions,” he said. “It can be particularly dangerous for asthmatics if they are not prepared.”

The study, led by his mentor Dr. Robert Cohen, looked at 1,517 children who were treated for respiratory problems. Cohen, who at the time worked at Mercy Children’s Hospital in Toledo, presented May 17 at the American Thoracic Society’s international conference in Denver.

Al-Yazji combed through file after file to determine how prevalent peanut allergies were in asthmatics. The link became apparent.

“In general, asthmatics tend to have other allergies like food allergies and skin allergies,” he said. “Peanut allergies are usually more serious because sufferers can have an extreme anaphylactic reaction where they cannot breathe.”

Al-Yazji, who is a pediatrician at Family Care Partners in Jacksonville, Fla., said the study has changed the way he treats asthmatics.

“We recommend that doctors run a blood test called an ImmunoCap to see if their patients are sensitive or allergic to peanuts,” Al-Yazji said. “If they are, doctors should send them home with an EpiPen.”

He added, “It is good to see your hard work pay off. I spent a lot of time working on this. I went through every single chart.”

Physics professor receives fellowship honor

Dr. Jacques Amar, professor and associate chair of the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, recently was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.



The society fellowship is an honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers for exceptional contributions to the field of physics. Election to fellowship is limited to fewer than half of 1 percent of American Physical Society members.

“I am honored to have been selected to receive this award. It is gratifying to know that my work has been recognized in this way,” Amar said.

Nominated by the American Physical Society Division of Computational Physics, Amar was cited “for the development and use of novel computational methods, which have advanced our fundamental understanding of a range of problems in condensed matter and statistical physics, including the kinetics of domain growth, surface roughening, crystal growth and thin-film deposition.”

Amar is a computational physicist whose research involves the use of theoretical calculations and simulations to study non-equilibrium processes such as thin-film growth and nanoparticle self-assembly on the atomic scale.

“Many of these processes are poorly understood, so it is important to obtain a fundamental understanding of the key relevant mechanisms and how they depend on experimental parameters,” Amar said. “Since this is often difficult to obtain directly from experiments, these types of calculations and simulations can be very useful.”

As part of his research, Amar uses a variety of methods, including quantum calculations and kinetic Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations. He also is developing methods to carry out accelerated dynamics simulations over longer time and length scales.

Management professor to receive national health-care executives’ award for best published article

Dr. Clinton O. Longenecker, Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation, and his brother, Dr. Paul D. Longenecker, are the winners of the 2015 Edgar C. Hayhow Award from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Dr. Clinton Longenecker

Dr. Clinton Longenecker

They received the award for their research article, “Why Hospital Improvement Efforts Fail: A View From the Front Line,” published in the March/April 2014 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management.

The award, to be presented during ACHE’s 58th Congress on Healthcare Leadership this week in Chicago, represents breakthrough work in health-care management.

“Working with my brother, Paul, was terrific, as he has more than 30 successful years of invaluable experience in a wide variety of health-care professions. This allowed us a unique opportunity to combine his talents with my background in leadership and change,” Longenecker said.

“This recognition was very rewarding given the changing nature of health care,” he continued. “It was great to be recognized for creating some discussion and practices around how to make changes in hospitals and health-care systems more effective and timely, and we have been receiving a lot of feedback on our work since it was published.”

Paul Longenecker is a senior instructor in the Department of Health and Sports Sciences in the School of Professional Studies at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, and is a graduate of both UT’s nursing and MBA programs.

In their research study, the Longeneckers sought to help health-care leaders improve their understanding of the barriers to effective organizational change and improvement from the perspective of frontline leaders. Focus groups were conducted in four community hospitals to explore why hospital change and improvement efforts struggle and are ineffective. Analysis of the focus group data was featured in the article, as well as leadership lessons and recommendations for success based on the findings.

Paul Longenecker said, “Hospitals really need to become better at practicing the fundamentals of effective change and leadership to be able to compete in the new health-care reality.”

The American College of Healthcare Executives is an international professional society of more than 40,000 health-care executives who lead hospitals, health-care systems and other health-care organizations.