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Engineering classmates win first-place prize in 2017 business plan competition

The SpecuLIFT Team claimed the $10,000 prize last month in the seventh annual UT College of Business and Innovation’s Business Innovation Competition.

The award will help the team develop its idea into a successful business.

Winning the College of Business and Innovation’s Business Innovation Competition and $10,000 were members of the SpecuLIFT Team, from left, Michael Peachock, Rachel Wagner, Andrew Oehrtman, Mark Caris, Melissa Brodsky, and Dr. Ronald Fournier, professor of bioengineering and team adviser. The team posed for a photo with Dr. Sonny Ariss, professor and chair of the Department of Management.

The winning team — Michael Peachock, Rachel Wagner, Andrew Oehrtman, Mark Caris and Melissa Brodsky — all met in the College of Engineering, are all bioengineering majors, and have remained close friends through their shared five-year educational journey. Their competition idea submission, developed for their engineering senior design project, was for a Novel Vaginal Speculum, a medical diagnostic device for which they are pursuing a patent.

“We started with about 50 different ideas for our senior design engineering project,” Wagner said. “Melissa and I worked on research. My sister works in the health-care field, and current specula are uncomfortable. Our team member, Michael, is a business minor and gave us a lot of insight into developing our business plan.”

“Since our major is bioengineering, we saw that it has good market potential,” Caris said, “so it was one of our top three ideas. The device is used by gynecologists for a pelvic exam, and a likely scenario for our device would be in an emergency room setting. Our goal was to maximize patient comfort with functionality.”

Caris added, “We all met in engineering and have known each other for five years. They are all great people, and we are great friends.”

Brodsky said, “The $10,000 prize will enable us to do more prototyping, such as a version that has a light source. Entering the business plan competition was a very eye-opening experience.”

“We are willing to support you, to provide free advice about how to spend, where to spend and when not to spend,” advised Dr. Sonny Ariss, professor and chair of the Department of Management in the College of Business and Innovation. “Statistically, you have a 5 percent chance of success, and I’m telling you this so you will be diligent not to fail. Your prize money is a major leap. Don’t underestimate yourself. Surround yourself with a great advisory board.”

“We are pursuing a patent for the device and, ultimately, will need to obtain FDA approval,” Caris said. “I am super-excited about this and fully expect to work lots of hours. We are ready to proceed.”

Finishing in second place was Green Agrothermal LLC, submitted by Mohammadmatin Hanifzadeh and Dr. Dong Shik Kim, associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, who received the $5,000 prize to develop their business.

Honorable mention went to RowBot, submitted by Jeffrey Darah and Andrew Puppos.

The College of Business and Innovation’s business plan competition received 31 entries this year and was open to all UT faculty, staff and students.

UT faculty, students to present diverse water quality research at Great Lakes conference in Detroit

An ongoing study on the height of the annual algal bloom in the water near the Toledo Water Intake in Lake Erie is one of 34 University of Toledo research projects being presented this week at the annual conference of the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

The study, which measures the algal bloom over 24 hours in rough and calm waters, is entering its second year. The goal is to make recommendations to water plant operators on the best time to pump water and reduce intake exposure to microcystin.

Last year, Ken Gibbons pulled up a water sample using a long, white tube that reaches the lake bottom. The water was emptied into the orange bucket held by Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology.

“This has the possibility to provide a practical way to protect the public drinking water,” Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology, said. “We want to develop a model that tells the water utilities where to expect the algae to be and when to pump more or less to avoid it.”

Graduate student researcher Eva Kramer will present the research, which is titled “Avoiding Harmful Algal Blooms at Toledo’s Drinking Water Intake by Observing Vertical Distribution and Migration,” during poster presentations Wednesday, May 17.

“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by hundreds of people working to understand, protect and restore the Great Lakes from a broad range of backgrounds,” said Kramer, who is pursuing a master’s degree in ecology. “I look forward to hearing their stories and learning from their successes and struggles.”

UT researchers take regular samples near the Toledo Water Intake in Lake Erie.

The annual conference of the International Association of Great Lakes Research is taking place from Monday, May 15, through Friday, May 19, at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

UT researchers will present from diverse areas of study, including economics; engineering; environmental sciences; chemistry and biochemistry; geography and planning; and medical microbiology and immunology.

A full list of the UT researchers and their projects can be found at utoledo.edu/nsm/lec/news/abstracts.html.

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, and Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, professor and director of the UT Center for Geographic Information Sciences and Applied Geographics, organized a special session titled “Pathways for Invasions Into the Great Lakes: Detection, Monitoring and New Technology” that will run from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 17. Stepien and Czajkowski work with bait shops and fishermen for invasive species prevention.

PhD student researcher Alison Brandel, who works in the lab of Dr. Jason Huntley, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology, will present a talk titled “Isolation and Characterization of Lake Erie Bacteria That Degrade the Microcystin Toxin MC-LR” Friday, May 19, at 10:40 a.m. during the session titled “Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiatives: Field to Faucet and Beyond.”

During that same session, Dr. Kevin Egan, associate professor of economics, will present “Benefit-Cost Analysis for Policy Options (e.g. Fertilizer Fee, Wetlands) to Reduce Nutrient Runoff” Friday, May 19, at 8 a.m.

Water quality is a major research focus at the University. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT is studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants, and looking for pathways to restore the greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

Researchers and students help to protect the public drinking water supply for the greater Toledo area throughout summer algal bloom season by conducting water sampling to alert water treatment plant operators of any toxins heading toward the water intake. UT’s 28-foot research vessel enables the University to partner with the city of Toledo and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to monitor the health of the lake and provide real-time data.

The UT Lake Erie Center is a research and educational facility focused on environmental conditions and aquatic resources in Maumee Bay and western Lake Erie as a model for the Great Lakes and aquatic ecosystems worldwide.

UT ranked 66th in nation for technology transfer, commercialization

The University of Toledo is ranked 66th in the nation by the Milken Institute’s Center for Jobs and Human Capital in its list of Best Universities for Technology Transfer.

The 2017 report focuses on innovative discoveries at public and private research universities that lead to new products and a rise in entrepreneurial success and regional economic impact through job creation and growth.

The ranking measurements include a four-year average of research expenditures, patents, licenses executed, licensing income and start-up companies. The University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Index uses data from 2012 to 2015.

In fiscal years 2012 through 2015, the University received 258 invention disclosures and entered into 59 option or license agreements. Eleven start-up companies were established to commercialize UT technology.

“I was pleased to see the University was ranked in the top 75 Best Universities for Technology Transfer by the Milken Institute,” Stephen Snider, UT associate vice president of technology transfer, said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the participation of faculty, staff and students throughout the institution who help our office to protect and transfer novel innovations to the commercial marketplace.”

According to the report, “More than 1,000 firms were launched in fiscal year 2015 through [technology transfer offices] at research universities, with more than 70 percent of start-ups located in the same state as the affiliated university.”

“The University of Toledo’s Technology Transfer Office has been one of the top performers in the state for many years under the leadership of Stephen Snider,” Dr. Frank Calzonetti, UT vice president of research, said. “We are proud to support faculty and students who are coming up with creative ways to solve problems and helping generate high-tech jobs.”

Ohio State University is ranked No. 55 on the Milken Institute’s list. Ohio University is ranked No. 113 and University of Dayton No. 200. The University of Utah is No. 1.

For the entire report, click here.

Girls in Science Day at UT May 10

More than 140 sophomore high school girls will visit The University of Toledo Wednesday, May 10, when prominent female scientists and engineers across the region will introduce them to the exciting world of science and technology careers through hands-on experiments and demonstrations.

The eighth annual Women in STEMM Day of Meetings, which goes by the acronym WISDOM, will take place from 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on UT’s Main Campus and Health Science Campus.

UT faculty and industrial professionals from Marathon Petroleum Corp. and Spartan Chemical Co. Inc. will help inspire a passion for science careers by exploring the tools of the trade. The visiting high school students also will get to interact with female graduate students in the various areas in science, engineering and the health sciences.

The girls will carry out investigations in a number of areas, including physics and astronomy, chemistry, biology, engineering, pharmacy, and medicine.

Activities for students will include building solar cells; using liquid nitrogen to make objects float in the air; swabbing their cheeks for a DNA sample; building a motor; generating electricity on a bike; making biodiesel fuel; using patient simulators to practice patient interventions; and making lip balm.

During lunch in the Brady Center on the Engineering campus, the students will learn about coding and its importance for future careers in STEMM.

“Girls are just as interested in science and technology as their male peers, but the number of girls that make it to college to pursue a major and get a job in a STEMM field is not growing as we need it to do,” said Edith Kippenhan, senior lecturer in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, director of WISDOM, and past president of the Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the Association for Women in Science. “Women approach problems differently, and they come up with different, equally valid solutions. We need them in the workforce to better design products and solutions for the various problems facing our society and our planet.”

Students from Toledo Public, Washington Local and Oregon Schools, as well as from the Toledo Islamic Academy and Wildwood Environmental Academy, will participate in WISDOM at the University.

“It is our goal to show the students they have a real and doable pathway to their dream career in STEMM,” Kippenhan said. “It is our hope that a visit to UT for events such as WISDOM will inspire them to embrace science and technology, and turn their dreams into reality.”

The event is hosted by the Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the Association for Women in Science. Sponsors include Marathon Petroleum Corp., Columbia Gas, Spartan Chemical Co., the Toledo Section of the American Chemical Society, the Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women, and the UT colleges of Engineering, Medicine and Life Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Study shows UT has $3.3 billion economic impact on community

The University of Toledo’s impact to the region’s economy totals $3.3 billion, according to a comprehensive study by UT economists.

That is equivalent to 9.7 percent of the region’s gross metropolitan area product.

“As the second largest employer in northwest Ohio with an enrollment of more than 20,000 students, we are proud to be one of Toledo’s anchor institutions contributing as a major force to the region’s growth and development,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “The University of Toledo continues to work hard to strengthen the community.”

Dr. Oleg Smirnov, associate professor of economics, and Dr. Olugbenga Ajilore, associate professor of economics, completed the analysis this academic year.

“We show the short-term and cumulative, lasting contributions the institution makes to the region,” Smirnov said. “If the University had not been opened in Toledo 145 years ago, these impacts would not exist.”

The UT economists not only charted University, student and employee spending over the 2015-16 academic year and its ripple effect, they also calculated the long-term value of the educated workforce of UT alumni and faculty living in the area.

Of the $3.3 billion, $1.98 billion in economic growth and competitiveness is contributed by UT faculty and alumni who live in the region. Thirty-three percent of UT alumni have remained in the Toledo area after graduating.

UT is the top-ranked institution in the region for social mobility and second in Ohio. UT also ranks among the highest compared to other Ohio public research universities for income mobility.

“UT provides a path to success and professional opportunity for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access higher education,” Ajilore said. “Because of this University, they are thriving. Plus, many of them stay in the region and impact the economy once they graduate.”

Of the $3.3 billion in total economic impact, $1.35 billion goes from UT to the Toledo area through payroll, local purchases for day-to-day operations, and expenditures by students and visitors at local businesses. That includes direct impacts of $769 million, which lead to an additional $582 million in indirect and induced effects.

The study finds that for every job at UT, the local economy gains 2.6 full-time equivalent jobs.

According to the study, UT directly generates more than 5,000 full-time jobs, and economic activity by the University leads to the creation of over 8,000 additional direct and indirect jobs. A total of 13,498 jobs were created directly or indirectly because of UT’s presence.

UT’s 20,381 students and visitors to the campus contributed an estimated $340 million to the Toledo area economy in fiscal year 2015-16, according to the report.

Plus, Smirnov and Ajilore looked at state impact. They found that for every $1 invested by the state into UT, $10 of economic impact is generated to the local economy. University operations and associated economic activity contributed $44.4 million in state and local taxes.

“When it comes to supporting higher education, every dollar counts, and any change is felt widespread,” Smirnov said.

To read the full report, go to utoledo.edu/economic-impact.

UT researchers investigate racial disparities in end-of-life planning

A national study by University of Toledo researchers shows 75 percent of adults in the U.S. have not completed end-of-life planning.

Only 18 percent of Hispanic and 8 percent of African-American respondents had a living will, durable power of attorney, or talked with family members and loved ones about their wishes, in contrast to 33 percent of whites.

The UT research study titled “Predicting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Advance Care Planning Using the Integrated Behavioral Model,” which also investigates reasons behind the racial and ethnic gap, was recently published in OMEGA: The Journal of Death and Dying.

Jordan

“We don’t like to talk about our mortality,” Dr. Timothy Jordan, professor in UT’s School of Population Health in the College of Health and Human Services, said. “But the minute we’re born, we begin the dying process.”

Jordan cites the case of Terri Schiavo, a 26-year-old Florida woman whose death more than 12 years ago still resonates.

After suffering cardiac arrest in 1990, Schiavo was the focus of a contentious, seven-year fight that pitted her parents — and many right-to-life advocates — against her husband, Michael, who vowed to remove her from artificial life support based on her previously spoken wishes.

Jordan said the lack of hard copy documentation of Terri Schiavo’s wishes propelled her case into a slew of legal machinations that twisted through the Florida governor’s office, to the U.S. Senate floor and, ultimately, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Without clear documentation of one’s end-of-life wishes, Jordan said, the battle that fueled the “what would Terri want” argument could erupt any time, with anyone at its epicenter.

“We live in a society that’s death-denying,” Jordan said, noting that current funeral practices beautify corpses with makeup and hair-styling, and use carpets of artificial grass to hide the freshly dug gravesite holding the deceased’s casket. “We don’t like to talk about death because it reminds us that we’re mortal.”

Several studies, he said, have established that racial/ethnic minority adults are less likely than whites to complete advance care planning, also called end-of-life planning.

“The question is why,” Jordan said. “[Current research] has just reported that gap. No one has really explained why it occurs.”

McAfee

Jordan and then-UT doctoral student Dr. Colette McAfee, now an assistant professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, designed a study to investigate why African Americans and Hispanics were less likely to have three of the following advance care components completed:

• Living will;

• Durable power of attorney for health-care decisions; and

• Verbal discussion with family members and loved ones.

The three-component approach is significant. Most studies, Jordan said, consider advance care planning complete if one or two of the elements have been finalized.

The study sampled a random cross-section of 386 American adults between 40 and 80 years of age; 51 percent was female, with 49 percent male. The racial/ethnic makeup and geographical locations of respondents, Jordan noted, were nearly identical to the U.S. population.

Three in four respondents had not completed advance care planning as defined by the study.

“Hispanics were two times more likely than blacks and eight times more likely than whites to say they’d never even heard of end-of-life planning,” Jordan said. “That really shocked us.”

Even more noteworthy was the finding that just 30 percent of respondents’ advance care planning intentions was explained by the Integrative Behavioral Model — a well-accepted standard that helps researchers explain and predict behaviors.

“One of the key take-home points is that 70 percent of the decision to do complete end-of-life planning in the future was outside of our behavior model,” Jordan said. “We could only explain 30 percent of respondents’ behavioral intention, so what other factors were at work?”

He cites several speculations, including lack of awareness, computer access, knowledge of end-of-life documentation and accessibility, as well as language barriers. He and McAfee may address these issues in future studies.

When McAfee presented the research at the American Public Health Association annual meeting last fall, many researchers from across the country were interested in expanding it.

“Dr. Jordan and I are already working on a follow-up study with similar parameters, but in a younger population,” McAfee said, noting the target age range for respondents will be between 20 and 40. “We know that the younger the population, the less likely they are to give attention to advance care planning.”

Since Hispanics were the least likely to have a basic awareness of advance care planning, McAfee also intends to further explore cultural subsets, including Hispanics of Puerto Rican, Mexican and Cuban descent. Additional research may focus on Americans of Pacific-Islander and Asian origin.

McAfee taught courses on death and dying at UT and has initiated a similar class at Westminster College, where she works mostly with public health students. She and Jordan find it remarkable that a formal end-of-life curriculum is not required for all students in nursing, pre-medical and other clinical fields, considering most of these students will deal with patients’ life-threatening illnesses and death frequently during their careers.

“I think it’s extremely important,” McAfee said of exposing student populations, even those in high schools, to education regarding death and dying. “It’s a prime opportunity to bring up end-of-life issues. If you’re an oncologist or a health-care practitioner who deals with critical illnesses, you need to be able to communicate these issues with your patients or they won’t get the appropriate care.”

She and Jordan believe the general population is open to end-of-life discussions, but reticent to initiate them.

“Once you bring it up, most people are willing to discuss it,” McAfee said. “Primary care and family physicians, in particular, would provide a perfect atmosphere to intervene because they have longstanding relationships with their patients.”

If those conversations don’t take place, Jordan said people become aware of end-of-life issues when a close friend or family member becomes progressively ill or has a catastrophic situation.

“The only time you really think about it is when we have a big, national case that goes to the Supreme Court, like the Terri Schiavo case,” Jordan added. “But it’s something we need to think about and bring into the classroom, because how much more relevant can a class be?”

Bright work: UT research shines, sets low-bandgap perovskite solar cell world record for efficiency

With the depletion of nonrenewable energy sources and the increase of pollution, researchers have turned to finding ways to harness clean energy from cheap alternative sources.

Researchers at The University of Toledo have recently focused their investigation in the area of perovskite solar cell technology.

Dr. Yanfa Yan and his team make perovskite solar cells in the lab. Their research revealed a world record efficiency (low-bandgap) for the conversion of sunlight to electricity.

Perovskite is a compound material with a special crystal structure, according to Dr. Yanfa Yan, Ohio Research Scholar chair and UT professor of physics.

“Metal halide perovskites can effectively harvest sunlight and efficiently convert it into usable electrical power. They have the potential to be used for fabricating cheap and highly efficient solar cells,” he said. “Perovskite photovoltaic technology has attracted tremendous interest in the past several years.”

Current conventional solar cells are made out of materials such as silicon, a material more expensive than perovskite solar cells.

Yan explained that his research combined theoretical and experimental approaches to understand the fundamental mechanisms of the limitations of the perovskites and to develop processes and design new materials to overcome the limitations.

“Our ultimate goal is to help improve the energy conversion efficiencies of photovoltaic cells and solar fuel devices,” Yan said.

Dr. Yanfa Yan’s all-perovskite tandem solar cell combines two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.

He and his team did just that. In fact, their research revealed a world record efficiency for the conversion of sunlight to electricity in the area of perovskite solar cell technology using less toxic lead as well as demonstrated a concept for producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that can bring together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.

“We reported a method that can easily be followed by other researchers in the field,” Yan said.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Energy.

“The publication of this paper in Nature Energy shows a significant recognition of our work by the peers in the field of photovoltaics,” Yan said. “We are very proud of our achievements.”

He added, “We are thankful for collaborations with colleagues in the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization at UT.”

“Dr. Yan and his team are doing outstanding work on this promising type of solar cell, paving the way for cheaper and more efficient ways to provide clean renewable energy to meet the needs of society,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy; and Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy. “The faculty and researchers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and UT’s Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization continue to lead the way in improving photovoltaic devices to address our growing energy demands through sustainable and renewable means.”

UT advocates for science research as Earth Day nears

As Earth Day 2017 approaches, The University of Toledo is hosting a series of events to connect with science enthusiasts and interested citizens of all ages about the vital role science plays in all lives.

The Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is co-sponsoring the March for Science in downtown Toledo along with Imagination Station this weekend to correspond with the national March for Science in Washington, D.C., in celebration of science’s contributions to society.

“Our love of science has led us to advocate for using scientific evidence to help guide public policies,” said Dr. Susanne Nonekowski, associate lecturer in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and president of the AWIS Northwestern Ohio Chapter. “The mission of the march is to share and highlight the contributions of science and to inspire future generations to uphold the values of curiosity, free speech, free inquiry and critical thinking.”

The March for Science rally in Toledo will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22, at International Park. The march starts at 11 a.m. Participants will walk together across the Martin Luther King Bridge and end at Imagination Station. Interactive activities, which include UT student groups presenting Asian carp, algal bloom, physics, astronomy and chemistry research, will start at 11:30 a.m. at tables outside Imagination Station.

Speakers at the 10 a.m. rally include Dr. Tom E. Brady, founder of Plastic Technologies Inc. and sponsor of the Brady Engineering Innovation Center at The University of Toledo, and Nick Dulaney, a junior studying physics at UT who recently helped discover a new star and is the lead author in a published research paper regarding the discovery.

Several UT scientists are traveling to Washington, D.C., this weekend to participate in the national March for Science, including bird expert Dr. Henry Streby, UT assistant professor in the Environmental Sciences Department and ornithologist.

“This is a critical time for science in our country and around the world,” Streby said. “Ignoring or belittling science comes at a high cost to our society and our planet in the long run.”

UT will hold its 17th annual Earth Fest Tuesday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Centennial Mall.

The event, which is run by student organizations that include Building Ohio’s Sustainable Energy Future and the Society of Environmental Education, will focus on practicing sustainable habits and protecting the soil, water and air. Activities will include a bag and bottle swap, spring plant fair, giant Jenga, solar-powered boat races, a wind turbine, and prizes of Chipotle gift cards.

The UT Lake Erie Center will host an open house Thursday, April 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. The public is invited to experience live demonstrations, tours of the facility and a scientific poster show to learn about the wide variety of algal bloom and invasive species research being done by UT scientists. The UT Lake Erie Center is located at 6200 Bayshore Road, Oregon, Ohio.

“Water quality research at the Lake Erie Center is currently focused on the effects of excess nutrient runoff into the western basin of Lake Erie,” said Dr. Tim Fisher, geology professor, chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences, and interim director of the Lake Erie Center. “The excessive nutrients foster algae growth, some of which is toxic and known as harmful algal blooms, which is being studied by Dr. Tom Bridgeman. Dr. Daryl Dwyer’s lab works with a variety of agencies to engineer and build wetlands to remove excessive nutrients before reaching the lake.”

The UT College of Engineering will hold its Senior Design Expo Friday, April 28, from noon to 3 p.m. on the first floor of Nitschke Hall. Seniors in engineering will display and demonstrate their senior design projects.

The next Saturday Morning Science program will be Saturday, April 29, at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100 and feature the topic, “From the Stone Age to Today: Why Do Humans Love Music?” The free event is open to the public.

The Saturday Morning Science lecture series presented by the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics features presentations on a broad range of topics in science and technology.

UT to be well-represented at National Conference on Undergraduate Research

Seventeen University of Toledo students will present their projects at the 31st Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Memphis Thursday through Saturday, April 6-8.

These projects by UT students were chosen from more than 4,000 submissions.

Blen Keneni, left, and Branden Austin worked on finalizing their system prototype for their research on “Frequency Spectrum Sharing and Priority Assignment in Communication Systems.” They will present their work this week at the 31st Annual National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Memphis, Tenn.

“The abstracts by the UT students demonstrate a unique contribution to their field of study, providing them the opportunity to present their work to their peers, faculty and staff from all over the nation,” said Dr. Thomas Kvale, professor emeritus of physics and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

Branden Austin and Blen Keneni, students in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering, will present “Frequency Spectrum Sharing and Priority Assignment in Communication Systems” at the conference.

With a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant, the two worked last summer and fall on a project with Dr. Vijaya Kumar Devabhaktuni, professor of electrical engineering, as their adviser.

The purpose of their project was to build an educational prototype for attracting high school seniors and college students to pursue university degrees.

“The prototype entails demonstrable hardware and software comprised of a set of communication nodes with call priorities, which are used to help educate students on future and practical implications of spectrum sharing,” Devabhaktuni said.

“Two objectives are achieved by building this hands-on prototype: Students learn firsthand the basics of communication systems, and they are taught the concept and feasibility of ‘priority’ in radio frequency device communication.”

Devabhaktuni said this research experience provided the students with techniques beneficial in their future endeavors: hardware and software design, collaborative research skills, and time and project management.

Keneni is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering; she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in December. She was a senior while working on this research project. Austin is a senior undergraduate dual major in electrical and computer science engineering. 

“What I liked about this research is the freedom it gave me to be creative while it challenged my engineering skills,” Keneni said. “It gave me the opportunity to have a detailed understanding of topics related to communication, radio frequency devices, as well as hardware and software design.”

Keneni added, “This undergraduate research can be used to teach students about communication systems, and it will be a great project to present during job interviews.”

“The best part of the research for me is getting to work on challenging projects that make a difference,” Austin said. “It was great to work on a project applicable to teaching students about current and emerging technology. I gained valuable contacts in both academia and industry through research.

“This, and being selected to present our research at a national conference, opens up doors for both grad school and future employment,” he said.

Other UT students who will present their work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the titles of their abstracts, and faculty advisers are:

• Quinton Babcock, “Lake Erie Water Quality Survey, A Natural Treatment Option to Reduce Harmful Algal Blooms,” Dr. Kevin Egan, associate professor of economics;

• Sanskar Basnet, “Beam-Foil Measurement of the Lifetime of Ge II 4s2 4d 2D3/2 Level,” Dr. Richard Irving, research assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy;

• Jason Gonring, “Feasibility Study: Solar-Powered Electric Fencing and Hydration for the Buffalo Girls Project,” Dr. Barbara Mann, professor in the Honors College, and Richard Molyet, associate professor of electrical engineering;

• Emily Grubbs, “Women’s Involvement in the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program,” Dr. Jerry Van Hoy, associate professor of sociology;

• Wonhee Kim and Keeyong Hong, “Collaboration Art Beyond Culture,” Daniel Thobias, assistant professor of art;

• Jay Kumar, “The Effect of Nicotine on Ovarian Cancer Cells,” Dr. Deborah Chadee, associate professor of biological sciences;

• Dalal Mahmoud, “Impact of Microcystin on Pre-Exisiting Liver Disease,” Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor of medicine;

• Batool Mehdi, “Regulation of MLK3 in Ovarian Cancer Cells,” Chadee;

• Zehra Mehdi, “The Role Maternal Reminiscing Style Plays in the Accuracy of Child Reports,” Dr. Kamala London Newton, associate professor of psychology, and Monica Lawson, graduate student in experimental and developmental psychology;

• Megan Post, “Study of Furoxans in a Murine Model of Ischemic Stroke,” Dr. Isaac Schiefer, assistant professor of medicinal and biological chemistry;

• Taylor Robbins, “Comparing the Articulatory Kinematics and Acoustic Vowel Space Between Healthy and Apraxic Speakers,” Dr. Caroline Menezes, associate professor of speech-language pathology;

• Michaela Roberts, “Centriole Remodeling and Poc1 Enrichment in Drosophila Melanogaster,” Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, associate professor of biological sciences;

• Olivia Sagan, “Regulation of MLK Kinases in Ovarian Cancer Cells,” Chadee;

• Shannon Saluga, “Photoredox Catalysts and Their Applications in Organic Synthesis,” Dr. Wei Li, assistant professor of chemistry;

• Nadeen Sarsour, “Prenatal Androgen Exposure in Adult Female Wistar Rats,” Jennifer W. Hill, associate professor of physiology and pharmacology; and

• Raj Thomas, “Investigating the Role of MLK3 in Mitotic Progression of Ovarian Cancer Cells,” Chadee.

UT part of regional team awarded $4.37 million to support tech startups

The University of Toledo partnered with ProMedica, Mercy Health and Bowling Green State University to form the collaborative regional organization called NextTech to help generate high-tech jobs by supporting startup companies.

Last week the Ohio Third Frontier Board awarded NextTech a $3.75 million grant as the Entrepreneurial Service Provider for northwest Ohio for 2017-18. With matching funds from all four partners, the total amount available for NextTech’s 18-county region will be $8.7 million.

At the press conference to announce the establishment of NextTech Thursday were, from left, Dr. John Pigott, director of innovations at ProMedica; Dr. Frank Calzonetti, UT vice president of research; Dr. Michael Ogawa, vice president for research and economic engagement at Bowling Green State University; and Matt Sapara, vice president of advocacy and government relations at Mercy Health.

The Entrepreneurial Services Provider program available through Ohio Third Frontier offers a network of entrepreneurial services and capital to help accelerate the growth of early stage Ohio technology companies. Ohio Third Frontier is part of Ohio Development Agencies.

The University of Toledo will continue to help researchers launch startup companies by providing space to work and access to potential investors, as well as connecting them with business advice and patent protection.

“The University of Toledo is proud to work together through this community partnership to build technology entrepreneurship in the region,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “As a research institution, the University is fostering and developing new ideas every day to make life better. From new medical devices and therapeutic medicines to advanced manufacturing innovations and software breakthroughs, our faculty and students are coming up with creative ways to solve problems, and we look forward to inspiring more commercial success stories through UT LaunchPad Incubation and our Technology Transfer Office.”

“As anchor institutions in our communities, we are wholly committed to investing in, growing, generating jobs, creating investment capital, and strengthening our region and Ohio by fostering inclusive technology entrepreneurship,” said Randy Oostra, ProMedica president and CEO. ProMedica is the lead applicant for the project.

NextTech will be focused on helping enhance connections to assets in the region as well as access to capital and talent in an inclusive environment, including women, minority and rural populations. One key initial area of focus for NextTech is to help ensure resources are concentrated on high-potential companies that have critical business needs not currently being sufficiently addressed.

Each of the participating organizations brings an area of expertise to the project, and will have active roles in the delivery of technology commercialization services.

“This is an outstanding collaboration for northwest Ohio that will help to build a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said. “We look forward to leveraging our strengths in education, arts and sciences, digital arts, computer science, and data sciences to launch new businesses.” 

“As innovators in health care across northwest Ohio for 162 years, Mercy Health’s desire is to not only focus from a health-care end in creating new technologies and opportunities, but also ensure the community as a whole benefits through job creation and positioning northwest Ohio for growth moving forward,” Dr. Imran Andrabi, president and CEO of Mercy Health, said. “Mercy Health is proud to collaborate with these organizations through the Entrepreneurial Services Provider program and work together for the benefit of all who live and work here.”

NextTech will be prepared to provide services, including institutional technology commercialization, venture development services and enterprise development services, as well as cross-cutting activities like branding and marketing support. Offering these services will help develop a diverse pool of entrepreneurial talent, attract venture capital firms and other investors, and help support and enable company operations.

“The vision for NextTech is to create an ecosystem which consistently generates high-tech, high-wage jobs and opportunity in northwest Ohio,” said Dr. John Pigott, chief innovation officer for ProMedica. “The mission is to drive a technology-based startup environment through a broad and inclusive entrepreneurial community in northwest Ohio by providing intensive business commercialization services to prepare companies for funding and sustainability. “

Key agencies in the region, including the Toledo-Lucas Country Port Authority, Regional Growth Partnership, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Toledo Development Corp., are supportive of NextTech.