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UToledo Students to Compete on Unified Team With Special Olympics Athletes in National Tournament

Four students at The University of Toledo are heading to Maryland this week to compete in a national basketball tournament.

They’re playing on a team alongside Special Olympics athletes from Lucas and Wood counties in the National Intramural Recreation Sports Association tournament April 14-16 at the University of Maryland.

The Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Unified Intramural League plays at the UToledo Student Recreation Center. The league is inspired by a simple principle: training, playing and competing together is a quick path to friendship, understanding and meaningful inclusion. The league welcomes student partners and Special Olympics athletes at any level of skill or experience.

The team going to the national tournament features five Lucas County Special Olympics athletes, one Wood County Special Olympics athlete and UToledo students Ray Shaver, Greg Seditz, Eric Briggs and Cole Tessena.

Media are invited to meet the athletes Wednesday, April 12, at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus. All teams in the league play from 6 to 7 p.m. The team going to the tournament has its final practice together before the tournament from 7 to 8 p.m.

Seditz, a senior studying finance at UToledo, joined the Unified Sports League in 2019 as a freshman.

“It is a distinct honor to head to the nationals with this team,” Seditz said. “I enjoy playing with all the amazing Special Olympics athletes and getting to know them and having the opportunity to leave an impact on them. These games give me great joy, and it is even more rewarding when I can win with the athletes to give them an experience they will never forget. I am a very competitive person, and being able to compete with these athletes is something I’ll never forget.”

“I like competing in the sport of basketball and doing community service,” said Shaver, a 5th-year student studying mechanical engineering. “I think it’s a great opportunity to travel and represent the team in our goal of winning.”

Thomas Laube, a Lucas County Special Olympics athlete, said the unified basketball program offers an equal opportunity to compete and play at a higher level.

“It helps build confidence on and off the court,” Laube said. “I am excited to go to Maryland. I have never been there. Playing on college courts is something very few people get to do, so it is a great honor to be part of this tournament.”

Special Olympics college programs connect college students and individuals with intellectual or other developmental disabilities through shared experiences. Together, college students and Special Olympics athletes can work together to build accepting campus communities and friendships that help lead the social inclusion movement of Special Olympics.

“The Unified Sports partnership with the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities is important to the UToledo community because it allows us to truly live in our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, community and well-being,” said Tony North Jr., associate director of recreational services at UToledo. “It allows our campus to connect on a person-first level. When we’re competing in sport, everyone is an athlete where an individual’s abilities are able to be highlighted.”

“We continue to expand unified sports offerings through our Special Olympics program, and, whether it’s our unified softball team last year at state or this unified basketball team going to nationals, we continue to see great successes for these athletes,” said Nabil Shaheen, public information manager with the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “On the field or on the court, these teams help us raise awareness and show off the inclusive community we live in.”

New Pesticide Exposure Test Developed to Protect Inexperienced Cannabis Farmers

A chemical analyst and expert in micro-extraction at The University of Toledo created a more reliable, robust and efficient way to monitor pesticide exposure and help protect the health and safety of agricultural workers, especially for emerging sectors like the cannabis industry.

Dr. Emanuela Gionfriddo, an assistant professor of analytical chemistry, and Nipunika H. Godage, a Ph.D. candidate in UToledo’s Dr. Nina McClelland Laboratory for Water Chemistry and Environmental Analysis, published research in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry outlining their groundbreaking method that is able to detect 79 pesticide residues in human blood plasma at “ultra-trace” levels, or parts per trillion.

“This has the potential to be applied to human exposure studies for the general public such as exposure through food or contaminated water but, most importantly, agricultural workers who have a higher potential for acute exposure to these toxic chemicals, which typically occurs through the skin, with pesticides then passing into the bloodstream and circulating through the body,” Gionfriddo said.

Pesticides are widely used in farming to prevent or reduce produce losses caused by pests and improve the quality of fruits and vegetables, but human exposure during mixing or application has been reported to cause neurological disorders, poisoning, cancer, reproductive disruptions, respiratory problems and chronic kidney diseases among farm workers.

Though pesticides are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gionfriddo said the legalization of cannabis recently in several states has led to “inexperienced” farmers exposing themselves to the harmful chemicals since those workers are less familiar with pesticide safety equipment and procedures as well as proper pesticide storage and handling.

The pesticides selected for her study are the most commonly used pesticides during cannabis cultivation.

Gionfriddo’s new testing method uses what’s called bio solid-phase microextraction with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

“To meet the growing demands of regulatory agencies and routine analysis laboratories, sample throughput and method tunability is critical,” Gionfriddo said. “Using automated samplers, the preparation time per sample is 1.7 minutes.”

And as occupational exposure to pesticides can occur at varying concentration levels, it is important for any method to quantify pesticides at low concentrations. The new testing method demonstrated higher sensitivity, precision and accuracy and a drastic reduction in abnormalities compared to the commonly used approach, known as QuEChERS, which stands for Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged and Safe but can be labor intensive with prolonged workflows.

Last week during National Farmworker Awareness Week, the U.S. EPA said pesticide exposure doesn’t only happen when working in the fields. The federal agency said pesticide take-home exposure can occur when farm workers go home bearing pesticide residues that may cling to their skin, clothing, hats, boots, tools, lunch coolers or other items in their work environment. Their children may then be exposed to these pesticide residues.

“Assessing pesticide exposure quickly and thoroughly is crucial for the health and safety of workers and their families, to correct malpractices in pesticide storage and application, and to prevent further exposure,” Godage said. “Our new method can extract and analyze simultaneously a wide variety of pesticides from human plasma.”

To learn more about the U.S. EPA’s Occupational Pesticide Safety and Health program, visit the agency’s website.

Sensors for Lake Erie Smart Buoy Network to Get Tune-up for Algal Bloom Season

It’s almost time to deploy the high-tech buoys that float 24-7 in all weather conditions throughout Lake Erie during the spring, summer and fall to monitor water quality and help us understand and protect our freshwater resources.

Each smart buoy carries a solar-powered sensor that provides real-time data measurements remotely accessible to scientists, regional water utility managers and the general public — including fishermen and boaters — to help track toxic algal blooms and water conditions.

But before sending the buoys out for the season to bob in the open waters as floating laboratories, water-quality experts across the region need to synchronize the sensors that are a key part of Lake Erie’s early-warning system.

Scientists and water treatment plant operators throughout the region are visiting The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center in Oregon this week to make sure equipment that measures water quality throughout algal bloom season is ready to be deployed in buoys and treatment plants across Lake Erie.

Since the calibration event started in 2015, the collaboration helps to ensure conformity of data coming from the probes over the next few months.

Media are invited 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 5, as partners in the early-warning buoy network do the calibration. Partners include researchers from UToledo, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University, as well as water treatment plant operators in Cleveland, Toledo, Oregon, Defiance, Elyria, Avon, Painesville, Sandusky, Lorain, Ottawa and Huron.

LimnoTech and YSI are companies providing technology support.

The buoys are equipped with what is called the YSI EXO sonde, a yellow and blue instrument consisting of several probes to measure various water quality parameters, including how much blue-green algae are present, water temperature, clarity, oxygen levels, turbidity and pH.

“These buoy and sensors are the first line of defense against harmful algal blooms,” said Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, a professor of ecology and director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center. “Real-time data coming from buoys spread across western Lake Erie is used to map the growth and movement of blooms as they approach water treatment plants, giving water plant operators ample time to respond.”

Bridgeman’s laboratory is one of the key locations for tracking and providing early warning of harmful algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie.

UToledo’s water quality and sensor buoy annually rides the waves off the shore of the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon. It is part of the Great Lakes Observing System’s early-warning network of buoys throughout the western Lake Erie basin that provides live data vital in the assessment of harmful algal blooms.

A UToledo alumnus who now works for Ann Arbor-based LimnoTech as an environmental scientist is organizing the calibration event. Ken Gibbons graduated from UToledo in 2015 with a master’s degree in biology.

”The sonde calibration event started when I was a graduate student at UToledo, and I’m excited to be still involved,” Gibbons said. “In addition to calibrating the sondes, this event teaches participants how to clean and maintain the sonde, which can help them if they encounter any issues during the bloom season.”

This year the calibration event is expanding to also include a Cleveland location on Wednesday, April 26, at the Cleveland State University MakerSpace, located at 2121 Euclid Ave.

“Having two events is helping us expand our footprint and make it easier for in-person participation,” Gibbons said. “We have people from as far west as Defiance and as far east as Ashtabula. We also have a participant coming up from the Columbus area.”

Community Invited to Rocket Spring Festival at UToledo on 419 Day

The University of Toledo will continue its 150th anniversary celebration and celebrate 419 Day with the outdoor Rocket Spring Festival on Centennial Mall on Wednesday, April 19.

Beginning at 5 p.m., the free, public festival sponsored by Huntington Bank will end with a bang featuring a 13-minute fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. that will illuminate the sky over Main Campus to the tunes of popular hits and UToledo favorites

Rocket Spring Festival follows President Gregory Postel’s State of the University Address that will take place at 3 p.m. in Doermann Theatre in University Hall on Main Campus.

Local food trucks will be on campus selling their popular dishes, a DJ will provide music entertainment, and fun games and activities will be provided by SuperGames.

A pep rally will take place 6:30 p.m. in front of Thompson Student Union and feature cheerleaders, dance teams, mascots and Rocket student-athletes.

“We are excited to share the Rocket Spring Festival with the Toledo community and cap off our year-long sesquicentennial celebration recognizing the historic milestones, achievements and positive impact the University has had since its founding 150 years ago,” Postel said.

The activities taking place on April 19 also recognize Toledo’s unofficial 419 Day holiday connected to our 419 area code and celebrate UToledo’s connection to the city and region.

Community partners, including the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo-Lucas County Public Libraries, Healthy Lucas County and Urban Wholistics, also will participate in the event.

Jupmode will sell UToledo gear on campus to celebrate the University’s 150th birthday in style.

Complimentary parking, sponsored by ParkUToledo, will be provided to attendees from 4 to 10 p.m. in Areas 2, 1N, 1S, 12, 13, 17, 5, 6 and 10 — with the exception of metered, handicapped and reserved spaces. Parking in other areas will require payment via the ParkMobile app or a parking meter. Visit the ParkUToledo website for more information.

To view a map of the parking lots, visit the website featuring a campus map.

To learn more about UToledo’s 150th anniversary, visit the sesquicentennial website.

Lecture, Exhibit Highlight Events that Shaped Medical Education in Toledo

As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, The University of Toledo is presenting “Medical Education in Toledo: 140 Years of Progress,” a lecture by Barbara Floyd, UToledo professor emerita and author of “An Institution for the Promoting of Knowledge: The University of Toledo at 150.”

The free, public talk will examine the first medical school established in 1882, the founding of the Medical College of Ohio in 1964 and its merger with The University of Toledo in 2006.

The event is from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in Health Education Building Room 105 on Health Science Campus.

When the Medical University of Ohio merged with UToledo in 2006, the combined institution was seen as something brand new, Floyd said, but this was the second time a medical college had merged with the University. From 1904 to 1918, UToledo and a school called the Toledo Medical College were one. When that school closed in 1918 due to financial constraints and demands for improving medical education and licensing physicians, medical education ended in Toledo until 1964.

In addition to the lecture, The Ward M. Canaday Center’s exhibit commemorating UToledo’s sesquicentennial, “Faith, Vision, and Hard Work: The University of Toledo, 1872-2022,” can be experienced on Health Science Campus in a display that features UToledo’s historical timeline, reproductions of photographs and documents following the institution’s trajectory from the 1872 Articles of Incorporation through today, and trivia.

The satellite exhibit is open and available for viewing until May 8 in the walkway that connects the Frederic and Mary Wolfe Center to the Mulford Library Building.

The full exhibit in the Canaday Center runs until August 1. Viewing hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Both displays are free and open to the public.


Rockets Raise the Bar With $2.19 Million in Day of Giving Fundraising

In an already historic sesquicentennial year for The University of Toledo, Day of Giving supporters set a new milestone with $2,193,302 in donations Wednesday and Thursday, March 29-30. The total is a nearly 11% jump from 2022 and a record in the six-year history of the campaign.

A total of 3,177 donors collectively participated online and during live events in Toledo during the 36-hour fundraising effort.

In deciding how their gifts would be designated, donors were able to choose from more than 2,000 funds available at The University of Toledo Foundation, supporting scholarships, athletic and educational programs, research, healthcare and community services, which make an impact throughout northwest Ohio, the Great Lakes region and elsewhere.

Building on recent tradition, local businesses lent their support to Day of Giving. Customers at Toledo locations of The Blarney Irish Pub, Bubba’s 33, Buffalo Wild Wings, Campus Pollyeyes, Fusian, Home Slice Pizza and Jake’s Saloon had the opportunity to donate by rounding up their purchase during the campaign. Carlos’ Poco Loco, Domino’s Pizza, Four Seasons Bistro at The University of Toledo Medical Center, Jersey Mike’s Subs, State Bank and Rocket Sports Properties also provided support to Day of Giving.

“Our entire campus community is extraordinarily grateful to Rocket Nation for their continued support of Day of Giving this year,” said Floyd Akins, vice president for university advancement.

“This level of sustained generosity is a point of pride and a reason to celebrate The University of Toledo – every donation, no matter the amount, helps to ensure the future for our students, educators, patients, caregivers and so many others.”

For more information about the impact of the Day of Giving campaign or to support a student, college or program you care about, visit the UToledo Foundation website.

UTMC to Host National Donate Life Month Flag-Raising Ceremony April 4

The University of Toledo Medical Center, in partnership with Life Connection of Ohio, will honor National Donate Life Month with a flag-raising ceremony Tuesday, April 4.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. outside UTMC’s main entrance, near Mulford Library.

For the last two decades, National Donate Life Month has served to highlight the ongoing need for organ, eye and tissue donation and to honor those whose donations have helped save the lives of others.

This year’s flag-raising ceremony will feature Dr. Harvey Popovich, a local physician and living kidney donor, and Tammy Sprow, whose husband became an organ donor after a fatal 2012 car crash.

Nearly 43,000 organ transplants were performed in the United States last year, an all-time high. That includes new records for the number of kidney, liver, heart, and lung transplants.

UTMC, northwest Ohio’s only organ transplant center, also set a record in 2022, completing 200 kidney transplants, up from 174 in 2021.

However, the need for organ donation remains great. More than 100,000 Americans are currently awaiting an organ transplant, including more than 2,600 in Ohio and nearly 2,400 in Michigan.

“Organ donation truly is giving the gift of life,” said Dr. Kunal Yadav, a transplant surgeon at UTMC. “This event is an important way for our community to recognize donors and encourage others to think about registering as an organ and tissue donor.”

For more information on organ, eye and tissue donation or to register as a donor, visit Life Connection of Ohio’s website.

No Fooling: April 1 Songfest Great Cause for Students to Sing, Dance

Songfest returns for its 85th installment Saturday, April 1, at The University of Toledo, as students dance and sing for a philanthropic cause in the University’s second-oldest tradition.

This year Songfest supports the Bethany House, which provides long-term transitional shelter and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence and their children in Toledo. The event begins 5 p.m. at Savage Arena.

The theme is “Songfest 2023: Rocket Evolution” and will include song selections from throughout the decades, with 18 organizations participating in the men’s, women’s and co-ed divisions. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

As part of the fabric of The University of Toledo since 1937, Songfest has long been a way for students to give back to the community, with the Blue Key National Honor Fraternity and the Mortar Board National Honor Society serving as the event’s co-sponsors.

“Planning for Songfest is no easy feat, as we started almost 11 months ago preparing for this day,” said Jada Alcantara, Songfest co-emcee representing Blue Key Honor Society along with Yash Shingan, who is representing Mortar Board Senior National Honor Society.

“Being a co-emcee teaches you so much about leadership, event planning and new ways to give back to the campus and the community. I hope everyone enjoys the hard work put in to make Songfest 2023 the production that it is.”

Songfest donations to Bethany House can be made through the event’s Fundly webpage.

Day of Giving Officially Launches at UToledo

Day of Giving, the latest event in The University of Toledo’s year-long sesquicentennial celebration, has launched — and if history is any indication, its impact will be widespread.

The sixth annual, 36-hour campaign kicked off 6 a.m. EDT Wednesday, March 29, and ends 6 p.m. Thursday, March 30. Learn more about Day of Giving or donate now at

Participation is a primary goal of Day of Giving and UToledo alumni, faculty and staff members, friends and supporters around the world are encouraged to show their generosity during each campaign. The target this year is for 3,400 donors to help fuel support for students, educators, patients and caregivers on UToledo’s campuses in any amount they choose.

2022 was a record-breaking year for the campaign, when more than $1.9 million was donated to colleges and programs throughout the University.

Building on recent tradition, local businesses are lending their support. Between opening today and 2 p.m. March 30, customers at Toledo locations of The Blarney Irish Pub, Bubba’s 33, Buffalo Wild Wings (6710 Central Ave.), Campus Pollyeyes, Carlos’ Poco Loco, Fusian, Home Slice Pizza and Jake’s Saloon have the opportunity to make a campaign gift by rounding up their purchase.

Gifts may be designated to any of the more than 2,000 University of Toledo Foundation funds available. Several donor challenges and dollar-for-dollar matches are underway, allowing donors to double their impact or even “unlock” gifts for colleges and programs. Every donor and every dollar will make a difference in support of scholarships, athletic and educational programs, research, healthcare and community services.

Supporters are encouraged to use #RocketForward on social media throughout the campaign to share their UToledo spirit, spread the impact of Day of Giving and highlight the students, programs or colleges about which they’re most passionate.

Ritter Planetarium Reopens March 31 After Projection System Upgrade

The University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium reopens to the public Friday, March 31, after completing the installation of a new, upgraded digital projection system.

The Digistar 7 is a state-of-the-art projection system that provides better quality imagery at 4K and the ability to bring livestreamed events and shows from around the world to the 40-foot domed ceiling.

“Our programs are sharper and more vibrant than ever before because the new projectors have a resolution of 4K and use lasers to generate light,” said Dr. Michael Cushing, a professor of physics and astronomy and director of Ritter Planetarium. “The software controlling everything was also upgraded and so we now have the ability to do things like fly through the rings of Saturn or take a tour of the Pleiades star cluster.”

The first program with the new system is one that has never been shown before at Ritter Planetarium.

“Stars of the Pharaohs,” narrated by the actor John Rhys-Davies, debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31, and continues to be featured on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. through April 28.

The program transports you to ancient Egypt 6,000 years ago to see how astronomers made the first solar calendar, aligned their temples and pyramids and told time by the stars. You’ll discover the connection ancient Egyptians felt with the heavens and explore the most spectacular temples and tombs of the ancient world, projected all around you in their original splendor.

Through April, the planetarium also is showing “Zula Patrol: Under the Weather,” a program for children featuring heroes and villains who learn all about weather — here on Earth and on other planets.

The program is featured Saturdays at 1 p.m. from April 1 through April 29.

The program presents heroes of the Zula Patrol, who are on an expedition to collect samples of weather for scientist Multo’s research. When the Zula Patrol inadvertently hurts the feelings of their loyal pet, Gorga, he decides to leave Zula and find another planet to live on. Villain Dark Truder then tricks Gorga into helping with his latest scheme to rule the universe. The Zula Patrollers find out and go after him — in the process learning all about weather, both here on Earth and on the other planets of the solar system.

Admission to the programs is $8 for adults and $6 for children, senior citizens and UToledo community members. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to the show.

The planetarium portion of the program lasts approximately one hour, consisting of both the show and a Q&A session. Weather permitting, the evening shows will be followed by observing at Brooks Observatory atop McMaster Hall to view the stars and planets through UToledo’s Celestron 14 Edge HD telescope.

Ritter Planetarium’s new, $320,000 Digistar 7 system replaces the SciDome XD projector system acquired in 2011. The renovations were made possible by the generosity of a loyal donor.

Ritter Planetarium, which first opened in 1967, closed on Dec. 24, 2022, for the installation of the new system.

The planetarium hosts more than 300 programs each year.

Approximately 5,000 students visit the planetarium every year.

For more information about the spring programs, visit the Ritter Planetarium website.