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UT ecologist elected Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science

A University of Toledo ecologist is being honored for her work to advance science as a newly elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Carol Stepien, Distinguished University Professor of Ecology, is among the 391 AAAS Fellows elected in 2016 who will be recognized at the association’s annual meeting Feb. 18 in Boston.

AAAS is the world’s largest multi-disciplinary scientific and engineering society. Since 1874 it has elected fellows to recognize members for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.



“You are being honored for distinguished contributions to the fields of molecular evolutionary ecology and conservation genetics, particularly invasive and native populations, and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students,” Rush D. Holt, AAAS chief executive officer, said in a letter to Stepien informing her of the honor.

“I am honored to be recognized by our nation’s scientific community,” Stepien said. “My special emphasis has been helping to train and mentor UT graduate and undergraduate students, and our local high school students in aquatic ecology, to aid conservation efforts in the Great Lakes.”

Stepien is internationally recognized for her research in the areas of invasive species and fish genetics. She joined UT’s Department of Ecology in 2004 and also served as director of the Lake Erie Center until 2016. Dr. Stepien was appointed a Distinguished University Professor in 2012.

“Recognition as an AAAS Fellow is an enormous honor and a credit to Dr. Stepien and her impressive body of research to advance our knowledge of marine biology,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “The University of Toledo is proud to have a faculty member selected to the AAAS and looks forward to more faculty receiving prestigious national awards.”

Stepien is currently on a leave of absence from UT while continuing her active research program and working with UT graduate students. She is serving as an Ocean Environment Research Division Leader at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.

Stepien is the author of the book “Molecular Systematics of Fishes” published in 1997 and reprinted in 2002, as well as more than 90 other scholarly publications. She has received more than $12 million in grants and awards for her studies of molecular ecology, population genetics, evolutionary patterns and genomics.

ESPN host to speak at UT Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth

An award-winning national sports journalist and analyst on ESPN is the keynote speaker at The University of Toledo’s 33rd Annual Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth Saturday, Jan. 28.

Sponsored by Toledo Excel and the UT Joint Committee, the conference for 7th and 8th graders, high school students, parents and the community takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. This year’s theme is “Expectations vs. Reality: Exploring Gender Roles in Society.”

Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill

Jemele Hill, co-host on ESPN2’s “His and Hers” with Michael Smith, is scheduled to take over as co-host of the 6 p.m. broadcast of “SportsCenter” next month. “SportsCenter” is the iconic sports show that established ESPN as a brand.

“Jemele Hill broke down barriers as a woman achieving at such a high level in the world of sports and sports media dominated by men,” David Young, director of the Toledo Excel program at UT, said. “She is a great role model for our students, and we are inspired by her perspective and passion. Jemele also shares a background that is familiar to many of our students, and attended Michigan State University on academic scholarship from a program that has similarities to Toledo Excel.”

For 28 years Toledo Excel has provided college preparation and scholarships to underrepresented students, including African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans. Through services such as summer institutes, academic retreat weekends, campus visits and guidance through the admission process, students increase their self-esteem, cultural awareness and civic involvement.

“Our goal is to empower students to not set limitations on themselves when deciding on potential career choices,” Young said. “We want them to reconsider their ideas about stereotypically men’s and women’s careers. Jemele is a wonderful example of a successful individual who chose a career typically not thought of for her gender. She is flourishing.”

Last year Hill moderated President Barack Obama’s town hall discussion on race relations, justice, policing and equality that was broadcast on ABC and ESPN titled “The President and the People: A National Conversation.”

Before joining ESPN in 2006, Hill worked as a sports columnist in Orlando and Detroit. She began her career in 1997 as a general assignment sports reporter in Raleigh, N.C.

A native of Detroit, Hill graduated from Michigan State University in 1997 with a degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish.

After Hill’s keynote address at the conference, breakout sessions for parents and students will be held to discuss career obstacles and how others have overcome the obstacles.

“We want to empower families to view options in the workplace as unlimited,” Young said.

Toledo Excel is based in the Office of Multicultural Student Success, which is part of the Division of Student Affairs. The UT Joint Committee includes representatives from UT, Toledo Public and Parochial schools, and civic and community leaders from the city of Toledo. The mission of the committee is to bring together people in the Toledo community interested in the education of underrepresented youth. The UT Joint Committee also serves as an advisory board and support system for Toledo Excel.

Make a reservation beginning Tuesday, Jan. 17 for the free, public conference by visiting or calling 419.530.3820.

UT recognized as first university in U.S. to dedicate both Blue and Gold Star Memorial markers on campus

The University of Toledo is nationally recognized as the first University campus in the country to simultaneously honor all service members of the armed forces and the families who lost a loved one defending the United States by dedicating both a Blue Star Memorial marker and Gold Star Memorial marker.

UT unveiled the new markers at the UT Veterans Memorial Plaza on Veterans Day.

blue-star-memorialAndrea Little, national chairman of The Blue Star and Gold Star Families Memorial Marker Program, recently wrote a letter on behalf of the program and National Garden Clubs to Navy Reserve Lt. Haraz Ghanbari, UT director of military and veteran affairs, to notify the University of the pioneering honor.

“By these actions taken, you and your staff have elevated this Program’s Standards; and a distinct precedent has been established by which all other University campuses should emulate,” Little said. “There is no greater way to honor all our Armed Forces and their families.”

UT student Clinton Grantham, a senior studying social work, spearheaded the effort with Ghanbari. Grantham, who is a medically retired active-duty Army veteran, served a tour in Afghanistan as a member of the 10th Mountain Division based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

gold-star-memorial“UT has a lot of student veterans, and I wanted to do something special not only for them, but for families who lost a loved one in combat,” Grantham said. “When I started the process, I had no idea that no one had done this before. I’m proud we accomplished it in seven weeks, on time for Veterans Day. Future students will walk by every day, hopefully read the memorial markers and understand what service members and their families sacrifice to serve and defend their country.”

The Blue Star Memorial reads, “A tribute to the Armed Forces who have defended the United States of America.”

The Gold Star Memorial reads, “A tribute to Gold Star Families whose loved one paid the ultimate price defending the United States of America.”

The University has long been recognized as a military-friendly school for its commitment in providing exceptional assistance and support to service members, veterans and their families.

In 2017, UT was again recognized by Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 rankings and by Military Advanced Education & Transition as a top school in its 2017 MAE&T Guide to Colleges & Universities research study.

Public invited to talk on climate change disruption Jan. 19

The University of Toledo is hosting an event to discuss the polarizing topic of climate change.

Dr. Andy Jorgensen, associate professor of chemistry and environmental sciences at UT and senior fellow for the National Council for Science and the Environment, will lead a talk titled “Climate Change Disruption: How Do We Know? What Can We Do?” as part of the Lake Erie Center Public Lecture Series.

Dr. Andy JorgensenThe event, which is free and open to the public, is 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Rd. in Oregon.

“Climate change and the cost of carbon dioxide pollution is a very intense topic in our country, which finds its way into political, business and social conversations, often with vocal disagreement,” Jorgensen said. “This presentation will give background information about the phenomenon and methods that have been used to characterize these changes. The human dimension of the problem will be emphasized in order to consider solutions.”

People who attend the event will be able to ask questions and share opinions. Participants also will be encouraged to share their views using a “clicker” or personal response device to compare their replies to those of more than 3,000 members of Jorgensen’s previous audiences.

NASA and the National Science Foundation have supported Jorgensen’s work on science education. He helped create an online program with more than 800 resources on climate change for students and teachers. The free, web-based curriculum can be found at


UT research shows cigarette smoke exposure increases scar tissue in kidney, heart

Smoking cigarettes leads to fibrosis in the kidneys and heart and accelerates kidney disease, according to research at The University of Toledo.

“Smoking is bad for the kidneys and heart together,” said Dr. Christopher Drummond, post-doctoral fellow in the cardiovascular division of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Tobacco and nicotine increase the formation of injury or scarring called fibrosis. That reduces cardiac function, so your heart isn’t operating as efficiently. It also makes it so your kidneys can’t filter toxins from your blood as effectively.”

Dr. Christopher Drummond

Dr. Christopher Drummond

His research titled “Cigarette Smoking Causes Epigenetic Changes Associated With Cardiorenal Fibrosis,” which was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and done in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego, was recently published in the journal Physiological Genomics.

“The results of this study are a public health concern because a significant portion of the U.S. population suffers from kidney disease and heart-related side effects,” Drummond said. “When you smoke, you’re speeding up the development of kidney disease.”

An estimated 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Drummond exposed two groups of rats to cigarette smoke five days a week for four weeks. One group had chronic kidney disease. The other group had normal renal function. Drummond compared those two groups with two control groups of rats – one with chronic kidney disease and one with normal kidney function – that were kept in a room with no smoke.

“We designed and built a system to expose rats to a constant concentration of smoke from cigarettes,” Drummond said. “Those were lit and the animals inhaled around five cigarettes worth of combustible smoke a day.”

In the smoke groups, researchers found a decrease in the genetic material called microRNA associated with slowing or preventing fibrosis in the organ tissue.

Smoking alone drove the rats into renal dysfunction, according to Drummond. Also, blood pressure increased, the heart enlarged and scar tissue developed in the heart muscle and kidneys.

“If you are concerned or have a preexisting condition, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your health,” Drummond said.

Drummond is currently investigating the effects of e-cigarettes on the kidney and heart.

UT president, Toledo mayor encourage community to attend MLK Unity Celebration to honor civil rights leader

University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson will host a news conference 10:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 13 in the Schmakel Room of the UT Driscoll Alumni Center to invite students and families throughout the northwest Ohio region to the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Celebration.

The theme of the 16th annual event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “Reconciliation through Service: Education, Social Justice and Religion,” named in honor of the three pillars that defined the philosophy of the civil rights leader who created a nonviolent social movement that changed the course of American history.

The Unity Celebration, which is free and open to the pubic, will take place 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16 in Savage Arena on the UT Main Campus. A free community luncheon will follow the ceremony.

Donzaleigh Abernathy

Donzaleigh Abernathy

The keynote speaker is Donzaleigh Abernathy, award-winning actress and daughter of civil rights icon Ralph David Abernathy. She published a book about the friendship between her parents and the Kings titled “Partners to History: Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and the Civil Rights Movement.”

The Unity Celebration will feature performances by the Scott High School marching band, UT gospel choir, UT Fire Squad dance team and students from Toledo School for the Arts, as well as recognition of MLK Scholarship recipients and African-American Leadership Council of United Way Scholarship Awards.

This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day also kicks off a week of service events for UT students. Throughout the week students are volunteering at local agencies throughout the city, including the Friendly Center, Padua Center and J. Frank Troy Senior Center.

Media are invited 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 20 to the J. Frank Troy Senior Center at 545 Indiana Ave. in Toledo when students volunteer and play games with seniors in the community.

In addition, UT is partnering with the United Way of Greater Toledo and other local colleges and universities for service activities throughout the month.

“We are proud to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King by working together and helping serve others,” Gaber said. “Selfless acts of generosity combined with conversations about issues that in the past have kept us separate will allow us to celebrate our differences.”

“Through meaningful work and ‘Reconciliation through Service: Education, Social Justice and Religion,’ we can make real our celebration of Dr. King’s life in 2017 and beyond as we strive as individuals and as a city to define ourselves by these peaceful and powerful activities,” Hicks-Hudson said.

The Unity Celebration is organized by a committee with co-chairs Dr. Willie McKether, UT vice president for diversity and inclusion, Linda Alvarado, executive director of the Board of Community Relations for the City of Toledo, and Pastor Christopher Rowell.

Academic research uses hacked Ashley Madison data to map areas with most cheating husbands

The Bridgeport, Conn., metropolitan area led the nation last year in active use of Ashley Madison, the matchmaking website for extramarital affairs, with 6.23 subscriptions and $1,127 spent for every 1,000 men between the ages of 18 and 79, according to research at The University of Toledo.

Graduate student researchers used customer data exposed by anonymous hackers last year to analyze the geography and market characteristics of active users.

The research titled “Infidelity and the Internet: The Geography of Ashley Madison Usership in the Unites States” was recently published in the journal Geographical Review.

The common characteristics identified of cheating husbands are financially well-off, younger, not retired and less religious.

Michael Chohaney

Michael Chohaney, UT PhD student

Michael Chohaney, a PhD student studying spatially-integrated social science at UT, and Kimberly Panozzo, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in the Department of Geography and Planning, conducted the research.

“This is the only academic geography article we know of that collects, processes and analyzes publicly available data originally stolen and released by Internet hackers,” Chohaney said. “Due to ethics concerns, we handled the Ashley Madison user account information with the utmost respect for personal security and privacy. No individual user identities or locations can be derived from our work.”

Although the scandalous data dump included seven million subscribers in the U.S., this research analyzed the accounts and narrowed it down to 702,309 active profiles. Researchers eliminated inactive users, such as people who visited the site once for free out of curiosity to view other members’ profiles. Unusable billing addresses and duplicate profiles paid for by a single credit card account also were removed.

“Women were not required to pay, so only heterosexual men are included in our sample,” Chohaney said. “We focus on users who put their money where their mouse is in order to measure and better understand the characteristics of those vulnerable to cheating.”

The top three areas with Ashley Madison subscription rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Boulder, Colo.; and Jacksonville, N.C. The markets with the top spending rates are Bridgeport, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; and Boston, Mass.

“Income is the leading market determinant for Internet-facilitated infidelity,” Chohaney said. “The service of allowing people to pay to engage in an extramarital affair behaves as a luxury good, which means people with disposable incomes are willing to pay for a service that facilitates extramarital affairs and promises anonymity during the process. It makes sense; Bridgeport is wealthy.”

Chohaney said metropolitan statistical areas with the highest rates also housed large numbers of armed forces personnel and families with children headed by male breadwinners.

At the local level, spatial distribution of user and spending rates are most highly clustered in the Atlanta and Chicago areas. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Atlanta were Buckhead and Roswell. The most active suburbs and neighborhoods of Chicago were Lincoln Park and Aurora.

The research finds that locations with higher proportions of Asians and older married men were less likely to subscribe or spend money on Ashley Madison than locations with large proportions of African-Americans, Hispanics and younger married men. Further, the research found Ashley Madison subscription rates drop 18 percent and spending rates drop 13 percent for every additional religious congregation per 1,000 people.

“That indicates religiosity prevents individuals from using the Internet to cheat on their spouse,” Chohaney said.

800-pound, interactive periodic table at UT inspires living science

It’s the first of its kind at a university or museum in Ohio and Michigan and possibly the only life-size periodic table in the world built and filled by a community.

The 800-pound, interactive periodic table bolted to the wall inside the main entrance to The University of Toledo’s Wolfe Hall features 118 LED-illuminated glass boxes.

Periodic TableEach box represents an element, and members of the community are invited to fill the boxes with examples of how each element relates to everyday life and current events.

The display features touch-screen technology that allows visitors to explore a variety of apps that share stories and videos about the elements, contents of the element boxes and who donated the items for each element.

The display titled “Living Science: The Ever-Changing Periodic Table” was funded by a $31,465 grant from Women and Philanthropy, a volunteer organization that promotes UT initiatives.

Kristin Kirschbaum“You’ll be surprised how you can relate to the periodic table,” said Dr. Kristin Kirschbaum, director of the UT Instrumentation Center who worked for five years to bring this project to life. “This unique display is so inspiring – both visually and educationally – for anyone who walks through the doors. We want the whole community – not only chemists – to participate in filling it in.”

As part of the grant for the project, Kirschbaum can reimburse donors up to $50 for an item.

“Through all of my research, this is the first and only community-built periodic table in the world,” Kirschbaum said. “We didn’t buy it pre-made with elements already inside. A local carpenter built this from scratch, and we are asking the public to help fill it up. We also will be able to regularly change the items in the boxes.”

Destiny ZamoraEight-year-old Destiny Zamora furnished the element box labelled “Au” with a gold-plated coin minted to celebrate the 100th year of Mexico’s independence, a gold medal and a picture of Scrooge McDuck diving into his money vault.

“I chose gold because it’s my favorite color, and I want to be rich someday,” said the second grader at Napoleon Elementary School whose father’s fiancé works in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Did you know Olympic gold medals only contain 1.34% of gold?”

Alyson Lautar, a UT student studying pharmacy, donated a smoke detector to represent americium, which is made in nuclear reactors and was first produced in 1945 as part of the Manhattan Project. The symbol for the element on the periodic table is Am.

“Americium-241 is a vital ingredient in ionization-style smoke alarms, which are inside homes and help save lives in the event of a fire,” Lautar said. “A tiny piece of the radioactive americium can detect smoke. When americium-241 decays, it releases positively-charged alpha particles. The alarm has two ionization chambers – one is closed to everything but the alpha particles, while the other is open to the air. Normally these two ionization chambers would receive the same amount of positive charge, but if a small amount of smoke gets into the open chamber, the balance of charge between the chambers is thrown off and triggers the alarm.”

Dr. Steven Toth, a lecturer and lead expert at the University of Michigan in Flint who earned his bachelor’s degree and PhD in chemistry from UT, is donating a bottle of Flint water for the box representing lead to help teach about the city’s recent water crisis. The symbol for lead is Pb.

“Lead used to be thought of as a ‘wonder’ chemical. It doesn’t store heat for nearly as long as other metals and has fast-drying powers, so it was used in pipes, paint and makeup,” Toth said. “We now know that lead can be toxic, and pretty much all products are sold lead-free. However, people in Flint were drinking water with high levels of lead after the city changed the water source in 2014. The city treated the water with chlorine to kill bacteria, and the chlorine starting leaching lead out of the older, lead-lined pipes.”

RadiumJoe Slater, labor and employment law expert and the Eugene N. Balk Professor of Law and Values in the UT College of Law, designed the radium display that contains an old alarm clock, paint brush, New Haven watch box, black-and-white factory photo, description of legal cases and program from the play titled “Radium Girls.” Radium’s symbol is Ra on the periodic table.

“Women who worked at the factory in New Jersey in 1917 used self-illuminating paint that contained radium to make the dials on the watches, and they were told to lick the brushes to give them a fine point,” Slater said. “Some women got radiation poisoning and sued the company because they had been told the paint was harmless. That was the start of health and safety law in the workplace, a very important part of current American employment law.”

Matt Hafner, the local carpenter who built the massive periodic table in seven weeks, wants to do something for hafnium simply because it’s similar to his last name. Hafnium is Hf on the periodic table.

“While researching hafnium, I discovered it is used in tips of plasma torches,” said Hafner, owner of MDH Construction in Maumee. “I have one of those torches, so I’m considering making a video of how they are used on construction projects.”

Only a small handful of the element boxes contain items. A toy-sized Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz stands behind the glass labelled “Sn.”

A radiologist supplied a small bottle of gadodiamide, a gadolinium (Gd) that is used as a contrast agent in MRIs. Gadolinium’s box also contains a CD and the magnetic Pokemon called Magneton as it’s one of the few magnetic elements.

“We’re hoping the community will help us fill the empty element boxes,” Kirschbaum said. “Sparkplugs could be used for iridium (Ir), a tool set or dietary supplement for vanadium (V), dynamite for nitrogen (N). It can be anything from the pure element to something related to it. The possibilities are endless.”

To  make a contribution to the periodic table, contact Kirschbaum at or 419.530.7847.

For more information, go to

UT bookstore to host De-Stress Fest Dec. 14 to help students during finals

The Barnes & Noble University Bookstore will host a finals week De-Stress Fest 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14.

The event features fun, free activities to help students take their minds off the stress of finals, according to Colleen Strayer, general manager of the bookstore.

There will be puppies to play with from the Toledo Area Humane Society, as well as an owl, opossum, snake, turtle and hawk from Nature’s Nursery. Students also will be able to get a massage or manicure and entertain themselves with crafts and games. 

“We want to help students manage their stress during finals week,” Strayer. “This will be an opportunity for students to relax and take a break.”

Rocky and Rocksy will be available to take holiday pictures from 3 to 4 p.m.

University of Toledo Medical Center earns national safety recognition

An increased focus on patient safety has earned The University of Toledo Medical Center a place on a ranking by Consumer Reports of the country’s safest teaching hospitals.

UTMC was named one of America’s 32 best teaching hospitals at preventing central-line infections in intensive care units (ICUs). The study used federal data from 2011 to 2015.

Central-line infections involve IV tubes and are particularly dangerous because they allow germs to directly enter a patient’s bloodstream. Up to a quarter of all central-line infections are deadly.

“Patient safety is our top priority at UTMC and this report reflects the hard work that our doctors, nurses and entire staff have put in to reduce the number of these infections,” said Dan Barbee, UTMC interim CEO.

Experts believe central-line infections are highly preventable and Barbee says “as a teaching hospital, we feel it’s vital to focus on safety as we prepare the next generation of physicians to serve northwest Ohio.”

This honor comes on the heels of recent patient satisfaction surveys that give UTMC high marks in outpatient surgery. Barbee adds “it’s great to see our staff’s efforts to improve the patient experience being recognized and we continue to focus on ways to provide high-quality life-saving care to the patients we serve.”


The University of Toledo Medical Center

The mission of The University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) is to improve the human condition by providing patient-centered, university-quality care. The University of Toledo Medical Center — the only university medical center in the region — has continuously served as an excellent teaching and learning site for students, physicians, faculty and staff.