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UT engineering team first to make 3D objects with high-temperature shape memory alloys

A University of Toledo engineering team’s research on additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, could lead to smaller, lighter aircraft and biomedical devices that can be customized to a patient’s specific needs.

The team, led by UT Professor Mohammad Elahinia, was the first to successfully make 3D objects using high-temperature shape memory alloys, smart materials used in the next generation of airplanes and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).


The group published its findings in the March issue of Scripta Materialia, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

To understand the importance of this research, one needs to understand actuators. Actuators are the components of a machine that control motion, like the mechanisms that trigger anti-lock brakes, open a valve, or help a prosthetic limb move.

Scientists are always seeking to improve the manufacture of actuators and to find ways that they can better mimic organic motion.

Shape memory materials offer simple and lightweight actuators. Unfortunately, the usual process of machining creates heat, which makes manufacturing challenging.

Additive manufacturing — building a 3D shape by adding layer upon layer of a material — solves that problem.

It has other benefits as well. It allows for the creation of more complex shapes, Elahinia said, and is a quicker, more efficient and adaptable process that can be customized to specific needs.

Another huge plus: Manufacturers can make actuators with more flexible motion, such as the ones used for morphing airplane wing tips.

The UT research is of special interest to NASA, which helped fund the work and is a partner in the project, said Elahinia, professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering in the College of Engineering.

“They have expertise in alloy development and were instrumental in identifying the right composition of alloy for our research,” he said.

The breakthrough in UT’s research involved the high-temperature shape memory alloys. The team was able to 3D print the alloys to harness their ability for faster and more powerful actuation, which makes them more practical to use when manufacturing actuators in the aviation, automotive and biomedical fields. Actuators made with these alloys can operate at much higher temperatures and are faster and more powerful, Elahinia said.

“It’s an enabling technology,” he said. “Once you harness it, you can use it for many systems and make many different shapes. It opens the door to a lot of possibilities.”

For instance, it could be possible to replace the heavy, noisy hydraulic systems in the wings of fighter jets, drones and commercial airplanes with lighter, less costly actuators. An added bonus? Nervous flyers would no longer hear the churning hum of the hydraulic system as the plane takes off and descends.

Additive manufacturing with high-temperature alloys also could have implications for the biomedical field, Elahinia said, because manufacturers could customize medical devices quickly based on the anatomical needs of the patient.

This new technology probably won’t replace conventional manufacturing, Elahinia said, but is a better alternative for building actuators that are sensitive to heat and complicated to create.

The UT team’s next step is to fabricate prototype actuators using this technology and test them in vehicles.

Elahinia’s research was funded by more than $700,000 in grants from the Ohio Federal Research Network and the NASA Glenn Research Center. Research partners include the University of Dayton Research Institute, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University.

UT recognizes areas of research excellence

The University of Toledo has identified three areas of research excellence as it pursues its goal of achieving national recognition for contributions to advancing knowledge.

UT’s current areas of research excellence identified by the University Research Council and endorsed by external reviews are:

• Astronomy and Astrophysics;

• Solar Energy, Water Quality and Sustainable Technologies; and

• Cell Architecture and Dynamics.

“These areas emerged from a yearlong review process and were selected because of the highly accomplished faculty members UT has in these areas who are recognized nationally for contributions to their fields of study,” Vice President for Research Frank Calzonetti said. “Identifying these areas of excellence will help promote the University’s standing as a strong research university and create opportunities for collaboration.”

This will be a continual process with ongoing invitations to consider new areas and to update existing areas of excellence, Calzonetti said.

UT astronomers have produced groundbreaking discoveries in the origins of stars and star clusters. They have access to highly competitive time on the world’s best telescopes, including NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory. UT also is a partner with Lowell Observatory, which provides guaranteed access to the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona. The University regularly engages undergraduate and graduate students in research projects with that telescope.

The strength of the University’s astronomy and astrophysics program was recognized nationally in 2016 when UT was selected to join the prestigious Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which includes many of the country’s top programs.

Solar energy, water quality, and sustainable technologies were identified in part due to the University’s strong reputation in research, development, and commercialization of thin-film photovoltaic technologies. For example, in solar energy, Dr. Yanfa Yan, Ohio Research Scholar chair and UT professor of physics, has one of the strongest publication records among researchers in his field.

The UT Lake Erie Center receives attention for its work studying harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and its efforts to protect the quality of the region’s drinking water. Additional faculty members are making important contributions to green chemistry and other sustainability studies.

The cell architecture and dynamics category recognizes the basic science researchers involved in the study of the cell and its structures to better understand cell movement and how that affects disease progression. For example, Dr. Rafael Garcia-Mata, associate professor of biological sciences, has three active National Institutes of Health grants to study the migration of cancer cells away from the primary tumor and their subsequent metastasis to distant organs.

The identification of these areas of research excellence and a plan to advance them is part of the University’s strategic plan. As part of the process to identify existing strong research programs, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs also recognized spotlight areas of unique distinction, areas of emerging research excellence, and areas of future opportunity.

The spotlight areas of unique distinction include programs that have received national recognition with strong faculty leadership, but with few faculty experts on campus currently advancing that field of study. Those spotlight areas identified are:

• Human Trafficking, led by Social Work Professor Celia Williamson and supported by the UT Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute;

• Disability and Society, which includes Professor Kim E. Nielson, who is the author of the only book to cover the entirety of American disability history titled “A Disability History of the United States.” UT also offers the only humanities-based undergraduate degree in disabilities studies; and

• Hypertension and Precision Medicine, led by Distinguished University Professor Bina Joe, a recognized leader in the field of genetic determinants of high blood pressure.

Identified areas of emerging research excellence are those with growth opportunities based upon the significance of their work to science and society. The areas that could benefit from further development are:

• Legacy Cities, which includes a collaborative group of faculty members across the social sciences who study how former industrial cities that experienced massive decline are being reinvented, and

• Cancer, Immune Therapy and Precision Molecular Therapy, which features advances in targeting specific genes or proteins for more effective and less invasive treatment options.

Lastly, areas of future opportunity were identified where a group of faculty members are working in an area of emerging importance in science, technology and society. The areas that could gain recognition through focused investment are:

• Vector Biology, which studies mosquitos and other insects that transmit diseases and affect public health;

• Smart Transportation, which includes advances in autonomous vehicles;

• Data 2 Decision, which is the study of big data and how it is used, analyzed and protected;

• BioPsychoSocial Determinants of Chronic Disease, which studies the economic and social conditions that impact health factors, such as the work underway by UT’s opioid task force; and

• Community-Based STEAM, which features community partnerships, such as with the Toledo Museum of Art, that advance the arts and promote continued education. STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“The University of Toledo has strong research programs across the institution,” said Jack Schultz, senior executive director for research development. “Our goal with this process was to identify those areas with a high level of recognition at the national level. We look forward to exploring opportunities to elevate their standing and bring more attention to these areas of research excellence.”

The identification of the University’s focus areas does not imply that research without these designations will be unsupported. The University values all faculty research and the contributions each faculty member makes in their fields.

Bee proactive: UT students to compete in Biodesign Challenge in New York

A team of University of Toledo students is buzzing with excitement, preparing to compete against 29 schools in the Biodesign Challenge Summit in New York this month.

The four students will present “Apigiene Hive: Rethinking Bee Hygiene” at the international contest Thursday and Friday, June 21-22, at the Museum of Modern Art.

“We decided to focus on bees because of the recent problems with colony collapse disorder,” said Madeline Tomczak, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science in May.

“And we simply found those tiny yellow-and-black insects adorable,” added Domenic Pennetta, a sophomore majoring in art. “By focusing on bees and their problems, we could help both bees and apiarists here in Ohio, and also have solutions that could potentially be used to benefit others around the globe.”

Solving problems creatively is what the Biodesign Challenge is all about. The Genspace NYC program offers college students the chance to envision future applications of biotechnology by working together interdisciplinarily.

At UT, the Biodesign Challenge class in spring semester brought together students majoring in art, bioengineering and environmental science, as well as peers from the Jesup Scott Honors College.

“The really wonderful part about participating in this challenge is it started with the students — they approached us about having the class,” Eric Zeigler, associate lecturer in the UT Department of Art, said.

“One thing we thought was paramount in teaching this class: We were their peers. We were in the trenches with the students, asking questions, learning together,” Brian Carpenter, lecturer and gallery director in the UT Department of Art, said. “It’s been so inspiring. I tell everyone this is my favorite class I’ve taken.”

Carpenter and Zeigler will travel with the team to the Big Apple, where the UT students will vie with teams from across the country, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Japan and Scotland for awards, including the Animal-Free Wool Prize sponsored by PETA, Stella McCartney and Stray Dog Capital.

“These finalists were selected from a pool of 450 participants,” Daniel Grushkin, founder and director of the Biodesign Challenge, said. “I firmly believe that they are leading us into a sustainable future with their visions.”

Tomczak and Pennetta worked with Jesse Grumelot, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science degree in bioengineering, and Lucya Keune, a senior studying visual arts, to create additions for the popular Langstroth hive to fight one of the bees’ biggest foes: mites.

“A fibrous brush filled with zebra mussel diatoms will target Varroa destructor mites on the surface of adult bees,” Grumelot said. “In addition, mint-infused wax frames will eliminate Acarapis woodi mites, as well as Varroa destructor juveniles.”

“We researched the problem, talking to specialists and professionals, and focused on natural ways to give bees a better environment to thrive,” Keune said.

Part of that new environment includes placing a brush at the hive entrance to use what beekeepers call the sugar shake — but in a new way. To encourage bees to be more hygienic, beekeepers sometimes put powder sugar on the insects so they’ll clean off the sweet stuff — and the nasty Varroa destructor mites.

“We use powdered zebra mussel to increase hygiene behaviors, which in turn helps kill the mites,” Tomczak said.

The zebra mussel powder acts like diatomaceous earth, which, when crushed, can be used as a treatment for fleas and ticks on household pets.

“Since diatomaceous earth is often from oceanic rocks, we wanted to bring this part of the hive closer to home by looking at Lake Erie,” Tomczak said. “Zebra mussel shells are abundant and easy to collect, and can be ground down to a fine powder.”

The powder is then baked, sterilized, and made finer with a mortar and pestle. It will prompt the bees to clean up and get rid of the mites, and it will help kill any mites inside the hive.

And to tackle the Acarapis woodi mites, which invade the hive and lay eggs, the team turned to a natural deterrent: mint.

“We wanted to avoid the chemical sprays that can be harmful and stressful to the bee colony,” Keune said. “We learned mint is used to fight mites; it’s better for the bees and the honey.”

“Our new hive features starting frames of beeswax infused with natural corn mint and peppermint,” Grumelot said. “This method is a more accurate way to focus on the mite infestation, and it avoids spraying the entire hive, leaving the honey untouched and the bees happy.”

In New York, the UT students will present their project to more than 200 scientists, designers, entrepreneurs and artists.

“This is a great resumé-builder for our students,” Zeigler said. “Their design is economically feasible; beekeepers would just add two simple modifications to their existing hives. It’s a happy solution, and one that could have tremendous market impact all over the world.”

“This challenge is fantastic. It encourages students to think creatively, take risks, and gather science and data. They realize their designs can work,” Carpenter said.

“I hope that by participating in this challenge that others will begin to look at relevant issues critically and try to find better solutions in creative ways,” Pennetta said.

UT students dig into history during archaeology field school at Side Cut Metropark

If you walk the trails at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee, you may catch a glimpse of University of Toledo students armed with shovels and trowels on an archaeological dig.

“Our work in this area is intended to better understand the Native American use of the floodplain of the Maumee River,” Dr. Melissa Baltus, archaeologist and assistant professor of anthropology, said. “We want to know if people were using this landscape for long-term villages or short-term resource extraction and campsites and when in the past this usage may have changed.”

Dr. Melissa Baltus, archaeologist and UT assistant professor of anthropology, sifted through the soil from the excavation site at Wildwood Preserve Metropark.

With permission from the Metroparks of the Toledo Area and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, Baltus is running the UT Archaeological Field School as a summer class to combine hands-on learning of archaeology techniques and local history research.

Artifacts students found last week during a survey at Side Cut led the team to this week’s site in the park’s Riverview Area.

“The refuse pit and the amount of pottery indicate likely habitation, and the different kinds of pottery suggest re-use of the site over many generations,” Baltus said. “On the other hand, if we find the different types of pottery in the same contexts or in association with each other, this may suggest different groups of people gathering together at the same time.”

The initial survey yielded grit-tempered pottery from the Late Woodland Period after A.D. 700, as well as shell-tempered pottery from the Late Pre-Contact Period between around A.D. 1300 and early contact with Europeans.

Students are receiving training in excavation techniques, record keeping, artifact identification, processing, cataloguing and classification.

Baltus ran an Archaeology Field School at Wildwood Metropark in 2016.

UT awarded $275,000 to help restore native fish habitat in Great Lakes shipping corridor

As part of a large-scale effort by state, national and international agencies to restore giant, ancient sturgeon and other native fish to the Great Lakes, the U.S. Geological Survey awarded The University of Toledo $275,000 for a yearlong project to study how well Lake St. Clair serves as nursery habitat for those species to spawn and grow.

Lake St. Clair, which connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie along with the Detroit River and St. Clair River, is 17 times smaller than Lake Ontario and sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake.


“This is a critical habitat corridor that historically served as home to stocks of important native fish such as walleye, yellow perch, whitefish and sturgeon that migrated from Lake Erie to spawn,” said Dr. Christine Mayer, professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences and Lake Erie Center. “Our research will contribute to the ongoing multi-agency effort to restore fish habitat in this important Great Lakes passageway.”

Mayer said in the early 1900s, the corridor was altered to accommodate shipping and industry, resulting in the destruction of rocky and shallow areas needed for young fish to spawn, feed and grow safely.

“This research project will examine how young fish use habitat within Lake St. Clair and help create a more complete picture of what habitats are still impaired and how future restoration of key habitat features may increase productivity of native fish species,” Mayer said.

The research team is made up of aquatic ecologists in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences. The team is led by Dr. Robin DeBruyne, an assistant research professor, and includes Jason Fischer, a PhD student who has studied how fish use constructed reefs and softened shorelines, as well as how future reefs can be positioned to minimize sand infiltration and maximize the benefit to fish.

UT also is involved in the project to restore lake sturgeon to Lake Erie. Most recently, researchers helped the Toledo Zoo secure $90,000 in federal grant money to build a sturgeon rearing facility along the Maumee River, which flows into Lake Erie, by verifying that spawning and nursery habitat still exist in the Maumee River to sustain a population of the fish that can live to be 150 years old and grow up to 300 pounds and eight feet long.

Men may contribute to infertility through newly discovered part of sperm

Life doesn’t begin the way we thought it did.

A new study at The University of Toledo shows that a father donates not one, but two centrioles through the sperm during fertilization, and the newly discovered sperm structure may contribute to infertility, miscarriages and birth defects.

The newly discovered centriole functions similarly and along with the known centriole. However, it is structured differently.

Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss and Lilli Fishman worked on the study titled “A Novel Atypical Sperm Centriole is Functional During Human Fertilization,” which was published in Nature Communications.

“This research is significant because abnormalities in the formation and function of the atypical centriole may be the root of infertility of unknown cause in couples who have no treatment options available to them,” said Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor in the UT Department of Biological Sciences. “It also may have a role in early pregnancy loss and embryo development defects.”

The centriole is the only essential cellular structure contributed solely by the father. It is the origin of all of the centrioles in the trillions of cells that make up the adult human body. Centrioles are essential for building the cell’s antennae, known as cilia, and cytoskeleton, as well as completing accurate cell division.

A zygote, or fertilized egg cell, needs two centrioles to start life. It was previously thought that sperm provides a single centriole to the egg and then duplicates itself.

“Since the mother’s egg does not provide centrioles, and the father’s sperm possesses only one recognizable centriole, we wanted to know where the second centriole in zygotes comes from,” Avidor-Reiss said. “We found the previously elusive centriole using cutting-edge techniques and microscopes. It was overlooked in the past because it’s completely different from the known centriole in terms of structure and protein composition.”

The atypical centriole contains a small core set of proteins needed for the known sperm centriole to form a fully functional centriole after fertilization in the zygote using the egg’s proteins.

This discovery may provide new avenues for diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for male infertility and insights into early embryo developmental defects, according to the research titled “A Novel Atypical Sperm Centriole is Functional During Human Fertilization” that was published June 7 in Nature Communications.

In addition to human sperm, Avidor-Reiss and his research team studied the sperm of flies, beetles and cattle.

“The whole idea for this study started with the fly,” said Lilli Fishman, UT PhD candidate, who is being honored with the 2018 Lalor Foundation Merit Award from the Society for the Study of Reproduction for her work on the project. “Basic fly research indicated the misconception in sperm structure. It has been incredible to be part of the ensuing process that included incredible scientists from four states and two countries.”

The leading-edge techniques and microscopes used on this research include super-resolution microscopy; electron microscopy with high-pressure freezing; and correlative light and electron microscopy.

“The super-resolution microscopy was critical for this discovery,” Avidor-Reiss said. “The technology allows you to see proteins at the highest resolution.”
The University of Toronto, National Cancer Institute, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pittsburgh also contributed to the research.

Avidor-Reiss and his team are taking this research to the clinical level.

“We are working with the Urology Department at The University of Toledo Medical Center to study the clinical implications of the atypical centriole to figure out if it’s associated with infertility and what kind of infertility,” Avidor-Reiss said.

UT researchers discover lizards immediately adjust sun-basking behavior to offset warmer temperatures

When in Rome, lizards do as the Romans do.

A team of scientists and students at The University of Toledo found that desert short-horned lizards in southeastern Utah immediately adjust sun-basking behavior to offset warmer temperatures or minimize exposure to dangerous heat, according to climate change research published in the scientific journal Functional Ecology.

This short-horned lizard sported a data logger that continuously recorded light levels in different environments in the Abajo Mountains in Utah. UT researchers found the reptiles immediately adjusted sun-basking behavior to offset warmer temperatures or minimize exposure to dangerous heat.

The study conducted in the Abajo Mountains, a small, isolated range near the town of Monticello, in July and August 2016 shows that the ectotherms, or cold-blooded animals whose body temperatures are the same as the environment around them, find levels of shade or sun to match the local lizard population when transplanted between cool and warm sites.

“Individual lizards are able to adjust their sun-basking behavior to compensate for a different climate,” said Dr. Jeanine Refsnider, herpetologist and assistant professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences. “This is critical because it is a way that lizards can respond immediately to changes in environmental conditions.”

Refsnider said this flexibility is one way that lizards and other ectotherms might survive at least small amounts of climate change and avoid extinction.

“It’s a much faster response than evolutionary adaptation, which occurs over multiple generations,” Refsnider said.

The UT research team posed for a photo at Canyonlands Research Center near Monticello, Utah. They are, from left, Sarah Carter, Tyara Vazquez, Dr. Henry Streby, Ian Clifton, Adam Siefker and Dr. Jeanine Refsnider, who is holding Sora Streby.

The UT team attached to the lizards data loggers that continuously record light levels to measure and analyze how much time the reptiles spent basking in full sun, sitting in a shrub, or buried underground at warm and cool sites on a mountain. Then the scientists transplanted lizards to the opposite site for a week so that they were exposed to a new climate.

Once the light-level recordings were done, the team recaptured the lizards, downloaded the data and returned them to their home sites.

“We found that transplanted lizards immediately adjusted their light-level use to match local lizards,” Refsnider said. “That means light-level use, one type of thermoregulatory behavior or way to regulate their temperature, is a highly flexible behavior. Our results provide hope that lizards may respond to climate change by adjusting the amount of time they spend in different light environments in order to compensate for warmer environmental temperatures.”

Refsnider said this UT study is unique compared to previous studies trying to predict effects of climate change on lizards because the team used lizards living in desert habitat, as opposed to tropical lizard species.

“Tropical lizard species normally experience fairly constant but very warm climates,” Refsnider said. “We focused on lizards living at high elevations in the desert that experience an extremely wide range of temperatures — from well below freezing in the winter that requires hibernation to pretty hot conditions in the summer similar to those experienced by tropical species.”

The UT authors of the published research include three professors, two graduate students and two undergraduate students. The faculty members are Refsnider; Dr. Henry Streby, ecologist and assistant professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences; and Dr. Song Qian, an environmental and ecological statistician and associate professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences. The graduate students are Ian Clifton and Tyara Vazquez. The undergraduate students are Adam Siefker and Sarah Carter.

12-year-old UT student creates faster, cheaper way to make pharmaceutical drugs, agricultural pesticides

Like many 12-year-olds, Daniel Liu enjoys reading books and wears T-shirts covered in cartoon characters.

Unlike most boys and girls his age, Liu has been honored at the White House for his science achievements and is now a published scientific researcher at The University of Toledo.


The Ottawa Hills High School student has been taking classes at UT for more than a year through Ohio’s College Credit Plus program.

Liu is one of three members of a UT green chemistry lab team that created a chemical reaction that results in a faster, cheaper, more environmentally friendly way to make pharmaceutical drugs and agrochemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides.

The team’s research, which was recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, shows how carbon dioxide in the form of dry ice is used to break up carbon-hydrogen bonds, reactions known as C-H activation.

“We showed that we could run this reaction with many different starting materials and produce very diverse products,” said Liu, a co-author on the paper.

“When you take an unreactive carbon-hydrogen bond, which is found in most organic compounds, and break it to convert it into a new type of bond, you make new molecules more quickly and more sustainably, especially in pharmaceutical and agrochemical molecules,” said Dr. Michael Young, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

That means, much like Liu’s skyrocketing academic journey, you skip grades or steps in the process, reducing the time and resources it takes to achieve results.

“This chemical reaction cuts up to five steps out of a process that normally takes six or seven,” Liu said. “C-H activation also improves overall synthetic efficiency. We found a way to potentially help patients, farmers and the environment when it comes to how medicine and pesticides are made.”

Daniel Liu worked in the lab with Dr. Michael Young, left, and Dr. Mohit Kapoor.

Dr. Mohit Kapoor, UT postdoctoral researcher in medicinal and sustainable chemistry, said Liu has demonstrated an incredible ability to learn and discover at the collegiate level.

“I now see him as a co-worker in my lab. He is a genius and a prodigy,” Kapoor said. “But I remember in the beginning thinking, ‘How could he handle all these things?’ He has proven that he has the knowledge. He can do the work properly and learns quickly.”

“While this is highly unusual, Daniel has unusual talent and great support from his parents,” Young said. “He has already taken most of the junior-level course work in the chemistry program. While he doesn’t have the emotional maturity or physical stature of an older student, he is intellectually advanced compared to his peers.”

Young, Kapoor and Liu are the three authors of the research paper. The scientists say Liu was involved in every step of the project, investing more than 400 hours of work.

“Daniel made many of the starting materials for the reactions and also performed many of the key reactions. He also remade the compounds to validate that we could do this, help make enough of them to characterize them, and prove they were what we said they were,” Young said. “Plus, he helped us craft the manuscript. He went through and made suggestions on how to present our work.”

UT has filed a provisional patent on the work, and the team is looking to market to pharmaceutical companies that make generic drugs.

“We’re excited about the potential to commercialize this because it is much cheaper and more easily recyclable,” Young said. “This really could be a benefit to the synthetic community.”

Liu’s passion lies in developing new pharmaceutical drugs to help people fight different diseases.

“I feel like this is the start of a career, and hopefully I can do more of this research in the future,” Liu said. “I’m starting work on a couple of these projects by myself. I simply want to help people.”

Liu started high school at the age of 10.

In 2016, Liu visited the White House and met President Barack Obama after winning the national “You Be the Chemist” challenge — defeating 30,000 other students. He was the youngest ever to win the Chemical Education Foundation’s competition.

Recently, he received high honors in the National Chemistry Olympiad.

Liu also is assistant principal cellist in the University orchestra. It’s one way he has become involved in UT’s vibrant, diverse campus.

“I had an adjustment period, but this is normal to me now,” Liu said. “I feel at home here and supported in my studies. I’m trying to take advantage of all that UT has to offer so I can keep learning and growing. I want to go to graduate school. I’m also considering medical school. I want to do more stuff that changes the world and helps people.”

Medicinal chemist awarded $2 million to study Alzheimer’s, drug addiction

The National Institutes of Health awarded two grants totaling more than $2 million to a synthetic and bioanalytical organic chemist at The University of Toledo whose research is primarily focused on Alzheimer’s treatment.

The National Institute on Aging awarded Dr. Isaac Schiefer, assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, $1.9 million over five years to continue developing a drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded him $153,500 over two years to study drug targets to addiction centers in the brain.


At 33 years old, Schiefer is among the youngest investigators to receive this level of research support across all NIH institutes, according to NIH records.

“I am proud that my lab’s work in drug discovery and design at the University is garnering so much support,” Schiefer said. “Brain disease is heartbreaking, no matter if you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s or drug addiction. I hope to create new ways to understand how the brain works and help families find better treatment options for their loved ones.”

Schiefer developed a prototype molecule that improves memory in mice, which was the first step toward developing a drug that could be given to Alzheimer’s patients.

The prototype molecule was designed to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF. BDNF, a protein, is important for long-term memory, and patients with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to have less of it. Schiefer said BDNF’s ability to heal damaged brain cells could be compared to how Human Growth Hormone, known as HGH, helps athletes recover from muscle fatigue or injury.

He received a $100,000 grant from the Alzheimer’s Association in 2015 and a $10,000 grant from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy in 2014. His research was recently published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Schiefer said his goal is to translate molecules created and developed in the lab at UT into the clinic as safe and effective therapeutics for patients.

Global climate disruption topic of June 5 lecture at University

A lecture discussing climate change and global climate disruption will take place Tuesday, June 5, at The University of Toledo.

Dr. Andy Jorgensen, UT associate professor emeritus of chemistry, will present this lecture at 6 p.m. in the Driscoll Alumni Center Schmakel Room.


He will provide background information about global climate disruption and the human dimension of the problem.

“Attendees will get an idea of the changes in the climate during recent years, as well as the reasons and consequences of these changes,” Jorgensen said. “The last part of the talk will be about what can be done to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.”

Actions that the community can take to combat and reduce climate change include reducing waste, recycling, and driving less, Jorgensen said.

He is a Senior Fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment. He developed climate change curricular materials that have been featured in a web-based repository titled Climate Adaption Mitigation E-Learning with more than 300 resources. Both NASA and the Natural Science Foundation have provided grants in support of his climate research.

For his efforts to educate the public on climate change, Jorgensen was one of the 2017 recipients of UT’s Edith Rathbun Award for Outreach and Engagement.

Those who wish to attend the free, public discussion are asked to make reservations by Friday, June 1.

To register for the event, click here or call the Office of Alumni and Annual Engagement at 419.530.2586.