UT College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics News

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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).

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.”

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.