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UT chemist first to accurately predict structure of nano-sized silver

Scientists have studied silver for centuries.

However, silver nanoparticles that are too small for the naked eye to see – less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair – long remained a powerful germ-killing mystery.

Silver nanoparticle moleculeIn new research published in the journal Science Advances, a chemist at The University of Toledo and his collaborators at Georgia Tech proved for the first time they can predict the molecular structure of a tiny, complex metal particle that physicians might use to fight infections, detect cancer and possibly kill tumors.

The pioneering research opens the possibility for the design of metal and alloy nanoparticles, including silver, gold, platinum and copper, to create new medical therapies and treatment.

“If you want to design a drug for use inside the human body, knowing the structure and how it changes and interacts within the body is critically important,” Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the UT Department of Chemistry, said. “By knowing the positions of all the atoms that make up the silver nanoparticle, it’s possible for scientists to get much more sophisticated with how they use these for medical applications.”

Raw silver nanoparticles are already used for their antibacterial ability in a number of consumer products, including bandages, socks, underwear, athletic shirts, bedding, toys, refrigerators, cutting boards, throat spray, foam neck-support pillows, yoga mats, toothbrushes and soap.

“They’re crude chunks of silver in those antibacterial applications,” Bigioni said. “None are the same. Each particle is a random collection of silver atoms, but that works because you want the silver particles to dissolve and form silver ions. That is what kills the bacteria. Because they are used outside the body, it’s OK that their structures are random and unknown. The rules are very different, though, if you are going to use a silver nanoparticle as an antibiotic or cancer marker inside the human body.”

Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the UT Department of Chemistry, holding a vial of silver nanoparticles in liquid form.

Dr. Terry Bigioni, professor in the UT Department of Chemistry, holding a vial of silver nanoparticles in liquid form.

With the support of a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant, Bigioni’s team opened the door to sophisticated design of new, advanced therapies by better understanding how these molecules are put together after making a prediction last year and conducting experiments to confirm the accuracy. The scientists observed, predicted and measured the structural, electronic and spectral properties of the monolayer-protected silver nanoparticle.

The research, titled “Confirmation of a de novo Structure Prediction for an Atomically Precise Monolayer Coated Silver Nanoparticle,” will be used to develop a structure forecasting method for silver nanoparticles not possible to measure in order to help scientists advance the understanding of the health impacts of these molecules.

Metal nanoparticles also can be used in other applications, from catalytic converters to electronics to sensors, which the UT work should accelerate.

“Chemists are very good at understanding how the atoms in most materials are connected, but this is an entire class of molecules where we didn’t understand these basic rules,” Bigioni said. “It’s even further complicated because they are capped by sulfur-containing ligands.”

Vials of gold and silver nanoparticles in liquid form

Vials of gold and silver nanoparticles in liquid form

For example, chemists had been unable to predict simple things with gold and silver nanoparticles, such as which sizes will form and what their shapes, structures and properties will be.

“That is now beginning to change,” Bigioni said. “Our research using a combined theoretical and experimental approach opens up a new, fascinating chapter for chemists. This is a landmark moment because if you know the properties of the structure, you can figure out the properties in great detail, how it works, what its functions are and what it’s good at. It becomes possible to explore using the nanoparticles in a much more sophisticated way.”

Graduate students Brian Conn and Aydar Atnagulov helped Bigioni perform the work at UT supported by the NSF award.

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Energy supported the work at Georgia Tech, which was led by Professor Uzi Landman and performed by Drs. Bokwon Yoon and Robert Barnett.

New UT Press book showcases voices of Beat poetry legends in 1960s

Members of the Toledo Poets Museum will read excerpts from the new University of Toledo Press book titled “The Sullen Art” 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 in Carlson Library Room 1005.

The free event will take place on author David Ossman’s 80th birthday and is co-sponsored by the UT Press and the UT Department of English Language and Literature.

With reel-to-reel tapes recording, Ossman was on the air at WBAI in New York City, where he talked to poets and editors in 1960 and 1961. His show was called “The Sullen Art,” a reference to Dylan Thomas’ poem about the solitary nature of writing. Among those stopping by to share thoughts were Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, Paul Blackburn, Rochelle Owens and Jackson Mac Low. Corinth Books published some of Ossman’s transcripts in 1963.

An expanded edition of “The Sullen Art: Recording the Revolution in American Poetry” recently was published by the UT Press. The 268-page work includes 28 interviews and a CD recording of Ossman’s 1961 radio documentary.

“I’m proud that this important work has been given new attention through this updated edition,” Barbara Floyd, director of the Canaday Center and UT Press, and interim director of University Libraries, said. “The interviews in this book reveal these poets at a time when their styles were still evolving, and they were only just becoming well-known and critically acclaimed.”

“At the moment ‘The Sullen Art’ was on the air, I felt was doing my listeners a service by playing out to them something they couldn’t have known unless they were grubbing around in the Beat bookstores in Greenwich Village,” Ossman said during a call from his home on Whidbey Island, Wash. “I really think [the book] is a slice of history and shows when poetry began to go in several directions. The ’60s lay spread out for the poets and the writers who were writing in 1960, and if you look at that decade, how tumultuous and political and violent it was, well, all of those things were about to happen.”

Ossman went on to help create the comedy troupe, The Firesign Theatre, which received three Grammy Award nominations. The witty writer also penned several books, including “The Ronald Reagan Murder Case” and “Dr. Firesign’s Follies.” His latest collection of poems is “Marshmallows & Despair.” Other credits include directing “The War of the Worlds 50th Anniversary Production” and providing the voice of Cornelius in Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life.”

In 1977, thanks to encouragement from Noel Stock, UT professor emeritus of English, the University obtained the recordings of poets who appeared on Ossman’s radio show. The tapes and related materials are housed in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections in Carlson Library.

Two years ago, Ossman and his wife, Judith Walcutt, contacted the Canaday Center about the possibility of an expanded edition of “The Sullen Art.”

“The inspiration was: Can we get this published and on CD? And the answer was yes,” Ossman said. “I love the book, and I love the way it turned out.”

“The Sullen Art” is $29.95 and available at

UT Relay for Life to help fight cancer step-by-step Dec. 3

More than 1,700 students at The University of Toledo will split into teams and put their best feet forward this weekend to celebrate cancer survivors and raise money for cancer research.

Team members will take turns walking or running the track for 12 straight hours at the Student Recreation Center during the UT Relay for Life from 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 4.

“We want students to have a fun time and at the same time understand how cancer affects everyone,” said UT student Toby Bolte, director of this year’s Relay for Life on campus. “We want to show our appreciation for the survivors and caregivers. Most importantly, we want to honor all those we have lost to cancer.”

Relay for Life logoRelay for Life started at UT in 2001. This year’s goal is to raise $60,000.

“Our event has continued to grow throughout the years,” said UT student Kylee Peppers, external director for the event organizing committee. “If we were to meet our goal of 2,000 participants, it would help us further our mission and surpass our fundraising goal by that much more.”

So far, more than 54 teams of more than 1,700 people have raised approximately $38,000.

“We’ve been working on reaching our goal throughout the semester by holding events – bake sales, restaurant fundraisers, a 5-K – and by encouraging individuals to get donations from family and friends,” said UT student Katie Smith, administrative director of UT Relay for Life. “We also have sold luminaries that people can decorate in honor or memory of someone who has battled cancer.”

The theme of this year’s event is “Remembering the Past, Fighting the Present and Curing the Future: Relay Through the Ages.”

It will begin with a celebration of survivors. A ceremony at the halfway point will honor loved ones. Participants will have the chance to share why they relay.

“We hope to keep Relay participants busy all night long with a wide variety of games, activities, entertainment and food options,” said UT student Mitch Hering, internal director of the event.

To sign up for the event, visit

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

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

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

The UT Police Department joins more than 120 other agencies throughout the state who have become certified.

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

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

For more information on the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, the certification process and a list of certified agencies, go to

Undergraduate research in the spotlight at UT

Even with the upfront construction and ongoing maintenance costs that go into a wind turbine during its average life span of 20 years, it makes enough energy to be cost effective, according to undergraduate student research at The University of Toledo.

The life cycle analysis of wind turbines is one of more than two dozen research projects on display for the UT Scholars’ Celebration Undergraduate Research Showcase Tuesday, Nov. 29 through Friday, Dec. 9 in Carlson Library.

Provost Andrew Hsu will host a welcome reception 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 in Carlson Library Room 1005. Students will be available to answer questions about their research.

“Research is one of the best modes of experiential learning. It is something unique that a comprehensive research university like UT can offer to our students, and it is what distinguishes our students and graduates from others,” Hsu said. “This is the 10th anniversary of UT’s Office of Undergraduate Research, so it’s especially fitting to recognize undergraduate students who are participating. Our faculty members help our students link their classroom scientific knowledge to the pursuit of innovation and discovery. These students are learning how to communicate, think logically, and be patient and creative – highly-valued skills in today’s competitive world.”

Other undergraduate research projects include an analysis of the boundless beauty of women, as well as a piano performance titled “Schumann Fantasy in C, Op. 17.”

“This is a great opportunity for professional development for our students and for the community to see the depth and breadth of research that UT students are conducting,” said Dr. Thomas Kvale, professor emeritus of physics and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research.

World AIDS Day forum to be held on UT Main Campus

The University of Toledo Medical Center’s Ryan White Program will host a forum discussing the many challenges of HIV and AIDS.

The free event will take place on World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1, in the Driscoll Alumni Center Auditorium on UT’s Main Campus. Light refreshments will be served at a reception from 5 to 5:30 p.m. followed by a panel discussion.

“The goal of the Ryan White Program and World AIDS Day is to reduce the stigma surrounding the HIV epidemic and to open a dialogue to educate the public about the myths and facts associated with HIV,” said Kennyetta White, minority outreach coordinator. “We need to work together to change public perceptions. While HIV infection rates are down, we still need to talk about risk factors and preventative measures.”

Panel members will include individuals living with or affected by HIV, as well as community health-care and service providers. The panelists will offer insight into the world of HIV and field questions from audience members.

World AIDS Day has been recognized every year since 1988 to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic and recognize those who have lost their lives to the disease.

“This forum is open to students, faculty, the HIV community and anyone else interested in learning more about HIV,” said Te’Anne Townsend, senior public health major and intern with the Ryan White Program. “This is an opportunity to separate fact from fiction, educate the public, and work to end stigma.”

UTMC’s Ryan White Program offers high-quality comprehensive HIV/AIDS care services. The program uses a multidisciplinary model that incorporates health care, mental health services and case management for those affected by HIV/AIDS in Lucas County and the surrounding counties in northwest Ohio.

“We encourage UT students and young adults in the community to attend,” said Megan Cooper, master of public health student and intern with the Ryan White Program. “It’s important for young people to understand risks of contracting HIV and the effects it has on a community to make a difference for future generations.”

UT to host post-election community forum Dec. 1

More than three weeks after Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, a panel of scholars at The University of Toledo will participate in a public forum to analyze the election cycle, its results and what happens next.

The event, which is open to the public and sponsored by the UT College of Law and the School for Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Arts and Letters, is 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 in the Law Center Auditorium.

Post-Election Forum flyer“We want to bring our community together to engage in constructive discussion and debate about the changes underway with Trump’s victory,” Dr. Renee Heberle, political science professor, said. “Topics will include appointments to the White House advisory staff and cabinet, historical comparisons to past presidential elections, constitutional issues and feminist perspectives on the campaign and outcome.”

Panelists include Dr. Jeff Broxmeyer, assistant professor of political science; Dr. Jetsabe Caceres, assistant professor of political science and director of the Global Studies Program; Dr. Sharon Barnes, associate professor of women’s and gender studies; Benjamin Davis, professor of law; and Rebecca Zietlow, the Charles W. Fornoff Professor of Law and Values.

After presentations from panelists, the audience will be invited to ask questions and offer input.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ritter Planetarium showing annual holiday program for kids starting today

Come hang out with Santa and Rudolph as they learn how to find their way home using constellations in The University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium’s annual showing of “Santa’s Secret Star.”

The holiday program is shown on the full dome and targeted toward children four to eight years of age.

After Santa finishes his Christmas deliveries, he and his reindeer become lost. Without a compass, he and Rudolph turn to the constellations for help, and the stars lead them to the North Star, which guides them home.

The original show was written in 1988 by Ritter Planetarium Associate Director Alexander Mak, and it has been updated for the planetarium’s new projection system.

“It’s one of our more popular shows during the year,” Mak said. “It’s educational, it’s entertaining, and it’s seasonally appropriate.”

Admission to the program is $7 for adults and $5 for children, senior citizens and UT community members. All children younger than four are free.

The first show of the season is 7:30 p.m. today (Friday, Nov. 25). The program will be held Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m. through Dec. 17. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the show.

After Friday night programs, guests are taken to one of two of the observatories for sky viewing, weather permitting.

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

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

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

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

Researchers from academic and other non-profit institutions are eligible to receive funding.

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

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

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

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

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

215 organizations applied for the grant funding, including nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

“The 2016 RIS grantees will reach a variety of communities and help entrepreneurs gain the edge they need to succeed,” said Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “The diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country and is a recognized tool for economic growth and resilience.”