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Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Focus on Nature: Winners of Lake Erie Photo Contest Announced

A total of 135 spectacular shots were submitted for the 10th annual Lake Erie Photo Contest.

Winners in three categories were announced recently during a ceremony at the Lake Erie Center.

The contest’s theme, “The Nature of Our Region: From Oak Openings to Maumee Bay,” invited photography enthusiasts to submit up to three shots featuring nature scenes throughout northwest Ohio.

First-place winners received a $25 prize, and the best of show honoree took home $100. Entries are on display in the lobby of the Lake Erie Center.

Listed by category, the winners are:

• Best of Show — Eric Crowther;

• Adult — Phil Cogar;

• Teen (13 to 18 years old) — Eric Crowther; and

• Youth (7 to 12 years old) — Jessica Watts.

“We look forward to seeing the amazing submissions for this contest every year,” said Rachel Lohner, education program manager for the Lake Erie Center. “Local photographers explore our wonderful region and capture cool aspects of nature to share.”

Eric Crowther won Best of Show for this photo of a great blue heron.

Phil Cogar took top honors in the adult category with this shot.

Eric Crowther also won first place in the teen category with this photo of a muskrat.

Jessica Watts placed first in the youth category with this photo taken at Maumee Bay State Park.

UToledo Launches New Degrees in Data Science and Analytics

Due to skyrocketing demand from employers for data-savvy professionals, The University of Toledo is offering two new undergraduate degrees in data science and analytics.

Beginning in fall 2020, the University will debut a bachelor of arts degree in data analytics in the College of Arts and Letters, and a bachelor of science degree in data science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“The ability to interpret large quantities of data, translate insight, and understand broader implications is critical to success in modern organizations throughout every industry,” Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “These degrees will give our students a competitive edge in our rapidly changing economy driven by big data and the increasing exchange of information as part of our everyday life and culture.”

Employment in data science is expected to grow nearly 20% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The undergraduate programs prepare students for employment in positions dealing with big data and data analysis in nonprofit, government and business environments. They share a core set of courses in econometrics, geographic information systems, data visualization and ethics.

UToledo is enrolling students to start in the fall semester who are interested in learning how to make informed, mathematically valid and ethically sound decisions based on the analysis of data.

The bachelor of arts degree in data analytics has an emphasis on social sciences and will prepare students for careers that focus on interpreting and applying structured data for clients who can use the data to make decisions.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the data analytics degree draws on the wide range of expertise in the College of Arts and Letters, from the social sciences to philosophy and visual arts. It includes courses in social statistics and quantitative research methods; computer science and engineering technology; and research and writing for different audiences.

“Focusing on important social, behavioral and cultural contexts, this experience will empower students to better understand the results of their work and to better communicate those results to their employers, policymakers or others in need of the information, especially nonprofit organizations that desperately need individuals trained to use data effectively in order to better leverage their resources as they work to solve challenging problems,” Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said.

The bachelor of science degree in data science is designed to prepare students for careers that involve statistical tools to extract meaning from large data sets for specific applications. It includes courses in calculus; statistics and probability; object-oriented programming; and machine learning.

The data science degree emphasizes the analysis of data in the applied sciences with training in math and computer science to develop data from different sources and apply the results in fields ranging from astronomy to the environment to human health and beyond.

“In the past few years, our ability to collect detailed data has dramatically expanded, impacting every area of modern life,” Dr. John Plenefisch, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said. “However, our ability to extract useful information from this sea of data has lagged because we simply don’t have enough data scientists. This new degree program will help our students gain the knowledge, skills and experience that will position them to succeed in this expanding career area.”

Beyond the undergraduate degrees, UToledo also offers master’s degree programs in business analytics in the College of Business and Innovation; a minor in data science in the College of Health and Human Services; a minor in data analytics in the College of Arts and Letters; and a concentration in data science in mathematics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Research Pioneer to Discuss Optic, Nanotechnology Tools to Treat Cancer

Dr. Brian C. Wilson, an expert in the field of photo-diagnostic research and photodynamic therapy for cancer, will visit The University of Toledo this week to talk about his work.

He will deliver the Physics and Astronomy Department Colloquium Thursday, Feb. 27, at 4 p.m. in McMaster Hall Room 1005. The title of his talk is “Translational (Nano) Biophotonics for Cancer Applications: Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Biology.”


Wilson is internationally known for his research on optical tools that can be used for minimally invasive cancer treatment and early diagnosis. With support from the Canadian Cancer Society, he started a program in translational research and clinical trials of photodynamic therapy — the use of light-activated drugs — for brain, prostate and gastrointestinal cancers.

The professor of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto played a pivotal role in the development of fluorescence and other endoscopic imaging techniques, as well as pioneered optical imaging to guide surgery for head, neck, prostate and brain cancer.

Moreover, Wilson also has expanded his work to include the development of nanotechnologies in cancer treatment, diagnosis and research.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Wilson to campus,” Dr. Aniruddha Ray, UToledo assistant professor of physics, said. “He is a world-renowned medical researcher and a pioneer in light mediate cancer diagnostics and therapy. His presentation will be of interest to those working and studying in the interdisciplinary areas of physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, bioengineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.”

Wilson, who is also a senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, will explain how the application of optics in life sciences and medicine — with or without the complementary use of nanotechnologies — requires integrating physics, biomedical engineering, chemistry, biology and medicine.

He will illustrate this by highlighting four research and development projects focused on addressing unmet clinical needs in oncology: quantitative fluorescence spectroscopy and imaging to guide cancer surgery; multifunctional nanoparticles for image-guided phototherapies; non-linear optical microscopy for cancer pathology; and the use of optically active nanoparticle-linked photosensitizer molecules activated directly or indirectly by X-rays.

“Dr. Wilson will walk us through the journey from technology development to application on cancer patients,” Ray said.

Wilson is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the International Society for Optics and Photonics, and he has received numerous national and international awards, including the Canadian Cancer Society’s prestigious Robert Noble Prize.

For more information on the free, public colloquium, contact Ray at aniruddha.ray@utoledo.edu.

From UToledo to NASA, Recent Graduate’s Discovery Sheds New Light on Newborn Stars

Making her dreams come true, a recent graduate of The University of Toledo’s physics program is in the midst of a sky-rocketing year.

Dr. Nicole Karnath earned her Ph.D. last summer and quickly moved to California to serve as instrument scientist at the SOFIA Science Center, which is based in NASA Ames Research Center, where she flies regularly aboard the world’s largest airborne observatory.

Dr. Nicole Karnath, UToledo alumna and instrument scientist at the SOFIA Science Center in California, stands in front of SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory.

On top of her already soaring career success, this week the Astrophysical Journal published Karnath’s research completed while she was a UToledo student, sharing her discovery that reflects a new understanding of what happens at the early stages of star formation.

She credits her student research and the support of her advisor, Dr. Tom Megeath, UToledo astronomy professor, for the job offer from NASA before she had her diploma.

“I am very happy. I enjoy the science, and I love studying the universe,” Karnath said. “Astronomy is an international, collaborative field because we’re working on telescopes all over the world and taking in huge amounts of data. The opportunities are there for students to break in. UToledo astronomy professors know so many people all over the world. Take advantage of their expertise, connections and need for help analyzing data. That’s how I ended up here.”

“Nicole made one of the most exciting discoveries to come out of our UToledo star formation group,” Megeath said. “Just as a talent agent’s biggest dream is to find the actor or actress who will become the next star, for an astronomer, the dream is to find the blob of gas that’s in the process of becoming a star. Nicole has found four such blobs — collapsing gas clouds that are in the first 6,000 years of forming what is called protostar. In ‘star years,’ this is the first 30 minutes of their lives.”

While a graduate student at UToledo, Karnath was part of an international team of astronomers who used two of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world to create more than 300 images of planet-forming disks around very young stars in the Orion molecular clouds.

Pointing both the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to the region in space where many stars are born, the result is the largest survey to date of young stars, called protostars, and their protoplanetary disks, or planets born in rings of dust and gas.

Among the hundreds of survey images, four protostars looked different than the rest and caught Karnath’s attention.

“These newborn stars looked very irregular and blobby,” Karnath said. “We think that they are in one of the earliest stages of star formation and some may not even have formed into protostars yet.”

It is significant that the scientists discovered four of these objects, which Karnath estimates to be younger than 10,000 years old.

“We rarely find more than one such irregular object in one observation,” said Karnath, who used these four infant stars to propose a schematic pathway for the earliest stages of star formation.

To be defined as a typical protostar, stars should not only have a flattened rotating disk surrounding them, but also an outflow — spewing away material in opposite directions — that clears the dense cloud surrounding the stars and makes them optically visible. This outflow is important because it prevents stars from spinning out of control while they grow. But when exactly these outflows start to happen is an open question in astronomy.

One of the infant stars in this study, called HOPS 404, has an outflow velocity of only 2 kilometers per second, or 1.2 miles per second. A typical protostar outflow has a range of 10 to 100 kilometers per second, or 6 to 62 miles per second.

“It is a big puffy sun that is still gathering a lot of mass, but just started its outflow to lose angular momentum to be able to keep growing,” Karnath said. “This is one of the smallest outflows that we have seen, and it supports our theory of what the first step in forming a protostar looks like.”

“These very young protostars don’t match existing theory very well, meaning that we still have a lot to learn from future studies,” Megeath said.

This schematic shows a proposed pathway, top row, for the formation of protostars, based on four very young protostars, bottom row, observed by Very Large Array (orange) and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) (blue). Step 1 represents the collapsing fragment of gas and dust. In step 2, an opaque region starts to form in the cloud. In step 3, a hydrostatic core starts to form due to an increase in pressure and temperature, surrounded by a disk-like structure and the beginning of an outflow. Step 4 depicts the formation of a class 0 protostar inside the opaque region, which may have a rotationally supported disk and more well-defined outflows. Step 5 is a typical class 0 protostar with outflows that have broken through the envelope — making it optically visible — an actively accreting, rotationally supported disk. In the bottom row, white contours are the protostar outflows as seen with ALMA. This image is courtesy of ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), N. Karnath, and NRAO/AUI/NSF, B. Saxton and S. Dagnello.

Karnath’s stellar work continues in California at the SOFIA Science Center. SOFIA is a flying observatory made out of a modified Boeing 747, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes.

SOFIA, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center and under contract with the Universities Space Research Association.

As an instrument scientist, Karnath is responsible for one of five instruments rotated on and off the telescope on the plane, depending on the type of data astronomers are looking to gather.

“I work on an instrument called FORCAST. It’s an imaging instrument and also a spectrometer,” Karnath said. “I’m up there making sure we’re getting the filters needed or the different wavelengths, or looking at a certain target for the right amount of time, and also troubleshooting issues.”

Karnath also is using SOFIA to continue her own research. She submitted a proposal and was awarded observation time on SOFIA scheduled for February 2021.

The curiosity and determination that first fueled her journey as a little girl still powers this successful woman in science today.

“My dad was an amateur astronomer who had a telescope and regularly had me looking at Saturn or a meteor shower,” Karnath said. “I thought astronomy was the most fascinating subject I ever studied. In high school I enjoyed physics and learned that you could make a living off of this. I never looked back, and I’m so lucky that I still love it.”

Karnath said she couldn’t have accomplished so much so soon without the support of Megeath, the UToledo astronomy program, and past advisors at Lowell Observatory and Ohio State University.

“The best part of my job is handing over astronomical data from a cutting-edge observatory, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, ALMA, or the Lowell Discovery Telescope, to a graduate student and seeing the discoveries they make from the data. They never know exactly what they will find,” Megeath said.

“In Nicole’s case, she did an extraordinary job working with an international team spanning three continents and involving universities and institutes across the U.S., Chile and Spain. She combined data from two of the most powerful radio telescopes on Earth to discover these objects. The exciting part is that every discovery brings new mysteries to solve.”

Prior to UToledo, Karnath earned a master’s in applied physics from Northern Arizona University and a bachelor’s in physics and astronomy from Ohio State University.

UToledo is a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, a prestigious consortium of 47 U.S. institutions and three international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories for the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Chocolate, Jams, Solar Cells Among Saturday Morning Science Topics

Saturday Morning Science is returning this month to The University of Toledo.

The free, public talks will begin at 10 a.m. in Wolfe Hall Room 1205 on Main Campus.

Another eclectic and cool slate of topics will be explored, according to Dr. Joseph Schmidt and Dr. John Bellizzi, co-directors of Saturday Morning Science.

“There’s really an aspect of randomness to selecting the topics,” Schmidt, professor of chemistry, said. “If it’s something that sounds fun and is even tangentially related to science we’ll do it.”

“We try to do stuff that is on the mind of people in the community as well,” Bellizzi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, added. “For instance, we had someone from Flint come down and talk about clean water.”

Schmidt and Bellizzi would like people to leave these talks with an appreciation and a greater understanding for any given field of science.

Sessions are appropriate for middle school students and older.

Listed by date, Saturday programs and speakers will be:

• Feb. 22: “Glass Is a Verb, and So Are You” by Dr. Jane Cook, director of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum and Art Gallery at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

• Feb. 29: “Bon Bon Bon and the Chemistry of Chocolate” by Alexandra Clark, chocolatier and owner of Bon Bon Bon in Hamtramck, Mich.

• April 4: “What’s Happening With Solar Cell Science and Technology These Days?” by Dr. Michael Heben, professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Endowed Chair at the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization.

• April 25: “The Science of Jams, Preserves and Marmalade” by Tara Grey, jam maker and owner of Gus & Grey in Detroit.

• May 2: “Life, But Not Alive” by Dr. Kate Adamala, assistant professor of genetics, cell biology and development at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

All talks include complimentary light refreshments donated by Barry’s Bagels. The program is funded by the Office of the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

For more information about the upcoming events, visit the Saturday Morning Science Program’s Facebook page.

Watch archived programs on WGTE’s Knowledgestream website.

Vaccine Researchers Awarded $2.3 Million to Explore Preventing Drug-Resistant Infection

A multidisciplinary research group at The University of Toledo has been awarded $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a vaccine against a bacterial infection that, once established, is nearly impossible to eradicate.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that is generally harmless to healthy individuals. However, in people with compromised immune systems or specific conditions such as cystic fibrosis, it can be deadly.

Dr. Katherine Wall, professor and chair of medicinal and biological chemistry, and Dr. Steven Sucheck, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, have received a $2.3 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine for Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Chronic lung infections, including those caused by drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, are the leading cause of death in cystic fibrosis. For example, 60% of individuals with cystic fibrosis experience such an infection, which is often chronic and leads to serious morbidity or mortality. In addition, ventilator-associated pneumonia represents a serious, and often deadly, hospital-acquired infection most commonly caused by infections from the bacterium.

“Pseudomonas, and many other bacteria, are becoming increasingly resistant to even the best currently available antibiotics. It’s a major source of hospital-acquired infections and has a high mortality rate,” said Dr. Katherine Wall, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and principal investigator on the NIH grant. “The infection is very hard to get rid of once it gets established.”

The Word Health Organization recently placed the bacterium among the most critical antibiotic-resistant pathogens, particularly because of the threat it poses in healthcare settings. In the United States alone, more than 32,000 infections of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa occurred in hospitalized patients in 2017, causing an estimated 2,700 deaths. Thousands more deaths occurred worldwide. In addition to lung infections, Pseudomonas aeruginosa can cause serious blood infections.

Researchers have been working on vaccines targeting the bacterial infection for decades, but as development of new antibiotics lags, preventing the infection has taken on a new urgency.

A 2016 report commissioned by the British government, for example, found antimicrobial resistance could cause up to 10 million annual deaths and cost $100 trillion in economic damages by the year 2050.

The five-year NIH grant, which comes through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will fund UToledo research aimed at developing new methods for creating synthetic vaccines and a workable vaccine that could protect against Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

“There have been many attempts to make protein and carbohydrate vaccines. One thing that is unique about this project is that we are combining well-defined organism-specific carbohydrate antigens with organism-specific protein antigens,” said Dr. Steven Sucheck, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and lead principal investigator on the grant.

Antigens are the toxins from a bacteria or virus that trigger the body’s immune response.

“In this work, we combine a synthetic carbohydrate antigen with organism-specific protein antigens to increase the antigen coverage,” Sucheck said. “If the strategy is successful, it greatly expands the potential applications of synthetic carbohydrates in vaccines.”

Many of the common vaccines we receive in childhood, such as chicken pox and polio, are manufactured with dead, weakened or altered pathogens to generate immunity to the infection.

Synthetic carbohydrate vaccines instead use complex chemistry to create well-defined carbohydrate antigens that can be conjugated with proteins to create a vaccine.

Sucheck and Wall have been collaborating on vaccine development for more than a decade, beginning with a project to develop synthetic vaccines to help the body’s natural immune system better engage against cancer cells.

The new Pseudomonas aeruginosa project, which also includes Dr. Erin Prestwich, assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, is a significant expansion of that, taking the basic vaccine development platform and shifting its target to bacteria rather than tumor cells.

Sucheck also is working on discovering new drugs to fight tuberculosis, another bacterial infection that is becoming increasingly difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance. In 2018, he and a former colleague now at the University of Nebraska received a five-year, $2.1 million NIH grant to continue their work.

“There’s an expertise in the lab related to carbohydrates that we’re trying to leverage in different ways. You can use them to make vaccines, or we can try to target bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis with small molecules. That’s the broader theme that runs through my work,” Sucheck said. “We’re always trying to do work that’s impactful and addresses an urgent need. New approaches to treating drug-resistant bacteria is one of those urgent needs.”

UToledo to Present Saturday Morning Math Sessions

The University of Toledo will offer six lessons on real-world math Saturday mornings starting Feb. 1 in Memorial Field House Room 1240.

These free, public sessions will begin at 11 a.m.; no registration is required to attend.

Following the success of UToledo’s Saturday Morning Science, faculty from University College and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics decided to create a program for the public that would present basic mathematical ideas in simple ways.

The sessions were designed to prove that mathematics can be simple and fun. The programs are for people considering attending college; parents of potential students who are concerned about college-level mathematics; people who realize it’s important to understand mathematics but never “got it” or have forgotten how mathematics work; and people who want to learn some new ideas.

Organizers stress math is not mysterious or impossible to understand; anyone who knows how to add, subtract, multiply and divide has the skills to be good at math.

Listed by date, the hourlong Saturday Morning Math sessions will be:

Feb. 1 — “Numbers You Can Touch and Some You Can Eat.” This session will cover the basics — fractions, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.

Feb. 15 — “Let’s Go Shopping” will discuss percents, increases, decreases, markups, discounts and taxes.

Feb. 29 — “Growth and Decay of Candy.” Exponentials, logarithms, growth, decay, effects of inflation, population trends and more will be explored.

March 21 — “Life Isn’t Fair” will spotlight ratios, proportions, probability, odds, and why the lottery isn’t a path to riches.

April 4 — “Lies and Statistics.” Mean, median, mode, distributions, normal curves, and how numbers can be misleading will be the topics of this session.

• April 18
— “What’s Slope Got to Do With It?” Graphs, slope, rates of change, maximums, minimums, and predicting the future will be covered in this hour.

Those who attend will receive free access to ALEKS, a web-based educational program for K-12 and college mathematics, to practice their skills at home.

For more information, visit the Saturday Morning Math website.

Forum to Spotlight Service Learning Opportunities in Classroom, Lab

“Creating and Supporting Community-Engaged Learning” will be discussed at the next Future of Higher Education Forum Friday, Jan. 31.

Dr. Todd Crail, associate lecturer in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Mohamed Samir Hefzy, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the mechanical and industrial engineering graduate programs, will be the speakers at the event, which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Carlson Library Room 1005.

The two will discuss community-engaged learning — the practice of connecting students and faculty members with activities that address community-identified needs in a mutually beneficial partnership. “This partnership deepens students’ academic and civic learning,” Crail said.

“We will talk about how to get a course designated as service learning,” Hefzy said.

An ecologist and naturalist, Crail has fostered undergraduate student engagement through field experiences both on campus and with the local conservation community to solve environmental issues. His project-based learning through informal classroom environments is designed to maximize students’ experiences.

Since joining the University in 1987, Hefzy has supervised more than 130 undergraduate senior design projects as part of his community engagement and service learning.

The Future of Higher Education Forums are sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

Forums are held monthly throughout the academic year. Visit the Office of the Provost website to see upcoming topics, as well as to view past forums.

For more information, contact Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of public health, at amy.thompson4@utoledo.edu.

Fellows Named for MAC Leadership Program

Four UToledo faculty members have been selected to participate in the third year of the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.

The program was created to identify, develop, prepare and advance faculty as leaders in the colleges and universities that are members of the Mid-American Conference. Fellows participating in the program have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience by working closely with select administrators from other colleges and universities in the MAC.

“We are happy The University of Toledo participates in this worthwhile program that helps faculty members reach their leadership potential,” Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of public health, said.

Fellows for the 2019-20 academic year are:

• Dr. Jonathan Bossenbroek, professor of environmental sciences and director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships and Undergraduate Research;

• Dr. Maria Coleman, professor and chair of chemical engineering and associate director of the Polymer Institute;

• Dr. Scott Molitor, professor of bioengineering and senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering; and

• Dr. Rebecca Schneider, professor of science and teacher education, and associate dean of graduate studies in the Judith Herb College of Education.

All tenured faculty with experience in administrative leadership and service are eligible to apply for the MAC Academic Leadership Development Program. Candidates submitted a letter of support from their dean, as well as an application and curriculum vitae for consideration.

“Our Fellows will work alongside UToledo leaders to learn from their experience,” Thompson said. “They also will benefit from working with administrators and peers from other MAC institutions.”

All MAC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows will attend one three-day workshop each semester. Topics to be addressed include budgeting, conflict resolution, accreditation and accountability.

“This program allows our Fellows a chance to prepare for leadership positions while experiencing the challenges and rewards of institutional service,” Thompson said. “This is a great opportunity to advance leadership for our UToledo faculty members.”

Read more about the MAC Academic Leadership Development Program on the Office of the Provost website.

Interim Leader Named Permanent Provost

Dr. Karen Bjorkman, a leading scholar in the field of astrophysics and The University of Toledo’s most senior dean, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Bjorkman, whose appointment to the permanent post is effective Jan. 13, had served as the interim provost since Jan. 15, 2019. She previously served as the dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics from 2010 to 2019.


“Dr. Bjorkman has demonstrated throughout her academic career a passion for our educational mission and is, above all else, committed to student and faculty success,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We have made great progress on achieving the goals set forth in our strategic plan, including increased retention rates and record-high graduation rates. Under her leadership, I know we will continue to enhance the educational experience for our students and opportunities for faculty scholarly research and service activity.”

Bjorkman, also a Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy, has been a member of the UToledo faculty since 1996 when she joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the University in this leadership role,” Bjorkman said. “I look forward to working with our outstanding deans and faculty across all of our colleges to realize our collective vision of being a nationally ranked, public research university.”

Bjorkman is a leader in the research field of stellar astrophysics, applying spectropolarimetry to better understand the variable gaseous disks around massive stars. Her research has focused on studying the physical characteristics of these disks and the mechanisms behind their formation and variability.

In 2017, Bjorkman was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific and engineering society, in recognition of her important contributions to scientific discovery.

“Our students, faculty and scholars are champions in our pursuit to improve the human condition. They are internationally recognized for their expertise in research, teaching and clinical practice. It is my honor to work with them in achieving our educational mission,” Bjorkman said.

Prior to joining UToledo, Bjorkman was a scientist in the University of Wisconsin’s Space Astronomy Laboratory and a systems engineer for Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace.