UT College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics News

UT Chemistry doctoral student wins 2011 Santosh Nigam Outstanding Young Scientist Award

UT Chemistry doctoral student Shu Xu won the 2011 Santosh Nigam Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the Eicosanoid Research Foundation at the Bioactive Lipids in Cancer, Inflammation, and Related Diseases Conference in Seattle on September 20, 2011.  He received an engraved plaque and a $1,000 prize for his research presentation titled, “The Structure of the Catalytic Domain of 12-Lipoxygenase”.   Pictured with Xu are Professor Lawrence J. Marnett of Vanderbilt University, a conference organizer, and Renate Nigam, widow of Santosh Nigam and patron of the award.

UT Alum Helps Uncover Hidden Planets

Check out this link to read about a recent discovery made by John Wisniewski and colleagues.  John received his Ph.D. from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UT under the direction of the current Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Dr. Karen Bjorkman and is currently at the University of Washington in Seattle.

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics recognizes alum fighting cancer

By Jon Strunk : October 19th, 2011

In 1990, Dr. Joel Mayerson left UT as the Outstanding Graduate in Biology with high honors from The University of Toledo Department of Biology. In the two decades since, Mayerson has become a leading physician in the field of musculoskeletal oncology whose procedures have transformed the lives of his patients.



Mayerson, chief of the Division of Musculoskeletal Oncology at the Arthur James Cancer Hospital of Ohio State University and co-director of the Bone Tumor Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, has been selected to receive the 2011 College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Distinguished Alumni Award.

This is the first time the newly created college has selected a recipient, and Dean Karen Bjorkman said the college wanted to honor someone who has made a major impact in his or her field and has had a significant impact on others.

“We wanted to honor someone who has earned national and international renown for his or her work, and the extent of Dr. Mayerson’s accomplishments is very impressive,” Bjorkman said. “UT’s mission is to improve the human condition, and Dr. Mayerson has done so much in terms of teaching residents and other physicians as well as improving the quality of life of his patients.”

In August, Mayerson’s work was in the news following a reconstructive surgery called rotationplasty he performed on a young boy who had part of his leg amputated due to a bone tumor. In a rotationplasty, the end of the thighbone and top of the shinbone around the knee along with all of the muscles are surgically removed to eradicate a cancerous bone tumor, and the lower leg is rotated 180 degrees and reattached to the remaining thighbone.

Dr. Joel Mayerson demonstrated how a cast is put on and removed on his son, Drew. The photo was taken in Drew’s first grade class in 2005.

“In effect, the ankle serves as a new knee and having that joint dramatically decreases the amount of energy needed to walk and run,” Mayerson said, adding that it takes 70 percent more energy to run with an amputation with no functional knee joint, and only 30 percent more energy to run with a prosthesis with the joint.

Mayerson said he received a great education at UT, one that enabled him to earn a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, one of the premier medical schools in the nation.

“I received a presidential scholarship and as a result, I would meet regularly with President McComas to review my academic progress,” Mayerson said. He also was able to take advantage of UT’s study abroad opportunities and spent his junior year studying at the University of Salford in Manchester, England.

Mayerson said his return for the week’s Homecoming celebration will be the first since 2000, and he’s excited to see the many changes from the past decade.

He will be recognized with distinguished alumni from each of UT’s colleges at the Alumni Gala and Awards Ceremony Friday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium. Tickets are $30 per person. Members of the Student Alumni Association may use their free event benefit to attend.

For more information or to make reservations, call the Alumni Relations Office at 419.530.ALUM (2586).

Research Changed My Life!

Posted by Rosaline Cordova:  October 13, 2011

This summer I had the privilege of working in Dr. Jason Huntley’s lab through the undergraduate research program, USRCAP. My project involved testing a vaccine from immunization to infection. The experience that I had this summer was life changing for a few reasons.

First, this project opened my eyes to the world of real science, and how important scientific research truly is to continue our knowledge and understanding of our surroundings. Working in the lab was much different than the cookie cutter experiments that we are used to from Gen Chem and Bio, the results you yield are real and have to be interpreted, and sometimes you may not even get the same result twice. Real science involves real hard work and real thinking, but it also involves real fun and real gratification!

Secondly, the opportunity to be mentored by someone that will help you grow as a student and person was an incredible experience. Dr. Huntley has been an awesome mentor to me, so much so that I have chosen to continue to work in his lab this semester on my honors thesis! He has taught me so much about vaccines, biochemistry, and lab technique, which has been so cool because my research project actually relates to what I am learning in class!  He also taught me how to build a good presentation, showed me the importance of following through on everything I do, and motivated me to meet due dates. Dr. Huntley has been so patient with me every step of the way, and I am glad that my first research experience was in his lab.  He is a great mentor and teacher.

Lastly, my research project is something that I earned that will help me in my future education and career. When I was growing up my dad would always tell me that the choices I make today effect my experiences tomorrow. My decision to conduct this research project definitely has impacted my future experiences in such a positive way, especially as an aspiring doctor.

If you couldn’t already tell, from student to fellow students, I highly encourage you to participate in undergraduate research if you have the opportunity. Hands down it will be one the best choices you make as a student, and it will change your life. The experience will benefit you greatly enhancing your classroom experience in ways you never thought possible. Also, performing research will open many doors for you as you continue your academic journey. Of course it will be hard work, but anything in life that is actually worth something comes with the price of hard work. Trust me, it’s so worth it!

Check out your opportunities on the Office of Undergraduate Research home page on UT’s website. And if I can help you in any way just let me know!


ps. can’t wait for another Rocket victory over BGSUcks!!! GOOO Rockets!

Ritter Planetarium to debut new 3-D projector to UT community Oct. 15

By Jon Strunk

Ritter Planetarium will reopen its doors to the UT community Saturday, Oct. 15, following a six-month renovation and the installation of one of the most advanced 3-D projectors in the world.

Dr. Michael Cushing looked up at a depiction of a star warping the fabric of space in Ritter Planetarium. The brilliant image is courtesy of a new Spitz SciDome XD projector.

Members of the UT community are invited to experience “Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity” during free viewings at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. The film is narrated by Liam Neeson.

“Viewers are going to be absolutely blown away by the visual effects we’re now able to project,” said Dr. Michael Cushing, assistant professor of astronomy and director of Ritter Planetarium. “Everyone from the person who can name every constellation in the sky to those unfamiliar with astronomy will walk away with a better understanding of science and with a really exciting experience.”

The new Spitz SciDome XD projects more than 6.5 million pixels across the entire hemisphere of the 40-foot dome, more than double the resolution of the best HD television screens. The result is a feeling of immersion as planets, stars and nebulae rush past.

“Ritter Planetarium is the first facility in the nation to utilize this projection system, and we wanted to be sure the University community got the first chance to see it,” Cushing said.

The planetarium will open to the public Saturday, Oct. 29.

While the projector will be the most obvious transformation, the planetarium also had new carpet and seats installed, and the exterior of the building was revamped as well.

The renovations will ensure that Ritter Planetarium remains central to astronomical education and the sharing of new research results with the public well into the next several decades, said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“University of Toledo scientists have earned international acclaim for discoveries investigating the origins of planets, stars, galaxies and celestial phenomena,” said Bjorkman, Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy. “With some 25,000 people, many of them school children, counting on The University of Toledo for the most dramatic and lasting lessons on the universe, Ritter Planetarium provides us a unique opportunity to tell our students, our community and the world about a universe we’re understanding more every day.”

Some Talk, Some Do

Posted by Rosaline Cordova: August 7, 2011

This summer has been so much fun as a scribe in the Toledo Hospital ER! There are sooo many wonderful staff members, but two incredible gentlemen come to mind… Dr. Rob Wood and Moe Jallad, NP.

Dr. Rob Wood is one of my favorite physicians to work with because he is intelligent, cares about the patients, and is very efficient in the ED. Dr. Rob graduated from OSU with his PharmD and was first a pharmacist before an MD, he graduated from UTMC (then MUO). He is a very hard worker and great teacher, every time we work together I learn so much. This summer Dr. Rob made bracelets that say “some talk, some do.” Dr. Rob and Moe exhibit this philosophy so well, they are some of the hardest workers I know.

Moe’s story is shows how true dedication and hardwork can get you far. Moe graduated from Bethlehem Univeristy with BSN in nursing with honors in 1998. He worked in the ER in Palestine in a level one trauma center for 2 years. Moe moved to the US in 2000, where he had to work as an NA in the ER because he had to take his Ohio board exam for foriegner nurses. He passed the board and in few years progressed to an ER nurse, then ER charge nurse. Moe joined the first rapid response team at TTH while he was going to NP school part time, he kept his full time job and was also a part time clinical associate at Owens at the same time! Then he was hired by  Emergency Physicians of Northwest Ohio, there were only 2 NPs at that time . Moe changed the whole impression about the midlevel, creating new exprectations and setting the bar high for all midlevels. EPNO was so satisfied and stunned with his hard work that he was assigned to be the lead midlevel provider. He then hired and trained more midlevels, and now EPNO has 12 midlevels, Moe trained them all.

Needless to say, Dr. Rob and Moe exemplify the hard work that the healthcare providers give at the Toledo Hospital and I have to say that I am so honored and lucky to have the privilege to work with them. They truly are great men who inspire me in my journey to becoming a healthcare provider myself. Some people talk about getting things done, and others actually DO IT!

Read the First Read Book!

Posted by Rosaline Cordova
July 29, 2011

For the past few months I have had the pleasure of sitting on the First Read Committee as the student representative. Honestly, I was excited to help pick out the new first read book because I have enjoyed reading the first read book for the past two years, but I have to say I’m not a “reader,” so I wasn’t all too excited about actually reading the book. After we chose Everything Matters I was gently forced into reading the book by Jim Zubricky and Jennifer Rockwood, who sit on the committee, because they wanted my advice for the assignments that the committee created for the orientation classes. So, I began reading the book, and the beginning is a little weird (ok, maybe a lot weird), but the first half of the book awkwardly entertains you. But once you get to the second half of the book, this is where I honestly could not put it down, you are fully engaged by suspense, and the author even manages to grab ahold of your heart strings. With out giving away too much… You meet Junior as a fetus and the Voices start talking to him, and they tell him that the end of the world will happen when he is 36. The story continues to develop as Junior gets older, as he goes through awkward school phases, meets his first love Amy, the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, and all the way to adulthood. The author keeps you engaged by giving different points of view from the characters and their perspectives of their life, none of whom know that the world is going to end. The book takes a turn about 1/2 to 2/3 the way through and this is the part that really grabs you. Ahh! trust me I want to explain it to you, but if I do it either gives away the whole story or you will hate me for telling you what happens when you read it yourself. Just trust me, this first read book is the best first read book since I was a freshman. I am totally looking forward to all of the fun programming that the FYE program has in store for the new Rockets and UT community. I hope that everyone chooses to read Everything Matters! I never understood how books bring people together, but seriously I think this book could definitely spark interesting conversation and bring people together. I know from reading it, the message of the book definitely inspired me and has given me a new perspective on life.

So what are you waiting for? Go pick up a copy at the bookstore or online or borrow a copy, and read the book! Listen: Everything ends, everything matters.

Happy reading!

UT astronomer discovers room-temperature stars

Written by Jon Strunk

There have been hotter days in Toledo this summer than in the atmosphere of a new class of stars discovered right in our galactic neighborhood by a University of Toledo researcher.

Dr. Michael Cushing, assistant professor of astronomy and director of the Ritter Planetarium, shown here in the Brooks Observatory, is part of a team that discovered a new type of star, the Y Dwarf.Dr. Michael Cushing, assistant professor of astronomy and director of the Ritter Planetarium, shown here in the Brooks Observatory, is part of a team that discovered a new type of star, the Y Dwarf.

While stars with searing temperatures as high as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon, Dr. Michael Cushing, assistant professor of astronomy, is part of a team of scientists that has discovered brown dwarf stars, called Y dwarfs, with atmospheric temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Brown dwarfs have the mass of very small stars, but never got hot enough to ignite the thermonuclear fires that keep stars like our sun shining for billions of years. Instead they’ve just gradually cooled down over time,” Cushing said.

In a statement released by NASA, Cushing told the space agency that “Finding brown dwarfs near our sun is like discovering there’s a hidden house on your block that you didn’t know about. It’s thrilling to me to know we’ve got neighbors out there yet to be discovered. With WISE [NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer], we may even find a brown dwarf closer to us than our closest known star.”

This NASA artist's conception illustrates what a Y dwarf might look like. Y dwarfs are the coldest star-like bodies known, with temperatures that can be even cooler than the human body.This NASA artist’s conception illustrates what a Y dwarf might look like. Y dwarfs are the coldest star-like bodies known, with temperatures that can be even cooler than the human body.

Cushing, who was the lead author of a paper on Y dwarfs published in the Astrophysical Journal, recently joined UT from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Because these stars are so cold, they emit almost no visible light,” he said. “By using WISE, we were able to detect what are essentially failed stars using infrared light.”

The team also used the Hubble Space Telescope to home in on candidates once WISE identified them. Cushing said they have discovered six Y dwarfs so far, all within 40 light years of Earth, but believe there could be many more out there.

“We’re looking for more Y dwarfs and we’re also looking to see if there are still colder stars out there somewhere,” he said. “Just how cold can a star get?”

So what’s in the atmosphere of a room-temperature star? According to Cushing, primarily molecular hydrogen, but also water, methane and possibly ammonia.

As part of his work at UT, Cushing also will serve as director for Ritter Planetarium, which is finalizing the installation of a new three-dimensional SciDome XD projector system. This system will use two ultra-bright digital projectors to transmit more than six million pixels onto the building’s 40-foot dome.

“We’re the first planetarium in the nation to get this new system, and we are hoping to be the first to highlight the discovery of Y dwarfs as well,” Cushing said.

UT electron microscope advances learning

Written by Meghan Cunningham : July 18, 2011

The advanced technology of a new scanning electron microscope at The University of Toledo allows a person to see details of the hundreds of lenses in the compound eye of an ant, much smaller than a grain of sand.

The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics acquired the technology, which can magnify up to one million times to see nanoparticles, with a $550,000 Chemical Research Instrumentation and Facilities Grant from the National Science Foundation’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The scanning electron microscope, located in the UT Instrumentation Center in Bowman-Oddy Laboratories, is used not only by University faculty and students, but also by area high school students through a new outreach program that implements cyber-infrastructure to virtually bring this instrument into the classrooms.

“If we can’t bring the high school students to the instrument, then we will bring the instrument into the classrooms,” said Dr. Kristin Kirschbaum, director of the Instrumentation Center.

Kathleen Singler, a science teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, used UT’s new scanning electron microscope to teach her ninth-grade biology class this spring.Kathleen Singler, a science teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, used UT’s new scanning electron microscope to teach her ninth-grade biology class this spring.

The SCOPE (Science/Scientists Changing Our Precollege Education) program provides teenagers with high-quality education experiences to generate interest and proficiency in science.

“We need to get kids into technology and into science,” Kirschbaum said. “They have to learn about technology and what is available and, really, they shouldn’t be scared to use a $500,000 piece of equipment. It’s about getting excited about science, about technology, about learning.”

The SCOPE program, which works with Ottawa Hills High School, is forming relationships with Central Catholic High School and the Imagination Station in downtown Toledo.

Kathleen Singler, a science teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, who leads all the ninth-grade biology courses, said she was excited to be able to share resources with the University and allow her students to experience the technology.

The students first used the microscope to look at various powders, such as sugar and talcum powder, to discover what type was left at the “crime scene” of a science exercise. The class also used the microscope to identify bacteria cultures and a lab involving single-cell organisms, Singler said.

The scanning electron microscope, as the name implies, uses electrons instead of light to magnify the images. It can be operated remotely through a computer program, and a camera allows its work to be watched live via the Internet. Dr. Stefania Messersmith, a lecturer at Bowling Green State University, has used the microscope in the Instrumentation Center remotely from BGSU to advance the learning in her analytical lab there.

“I’ve had students sit at my desk and manipulate this microscope and just zoom in and get a real feel for its capabilities,” she said. “Some of them thought it was really cool.”

One of Singler’s students also used the microscope as part of a science fair project working with diatoms, a unicellular type of algae.

“Any way that I can bring science and technology to them, I’m interested in,” Singler said. “I want them to love science, and they get a really nice exposure to people doing science if they are around these professors and the University.”

Dr. Dean Giolando, UT professor of chemistry, is involved with photovoltaic research and said the scanning electronic microscope has the ability to look at the individual, thin layers of a solar cell to make sure they are uniform.

“The dimensions are so small an optical microscope won’t get you that access,” he said. “This instrument will help move things forward.”

The microscope also has special attachments: an EDS detector that helps identify the elements in the subject, a STEM-detector that allows viewing samples in a transmission mode, and an EBIC detector that can show the flow of the current and thereby identify defects in semiconductors.

Prior to the scanning electron microscope, which was installed last year and began use this spring, the Instrumentation Center had an older machine that used film, which limited what could be shown.