Science

Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the chance to believe in themselves. Tech Trek is based off of the research titled “Why So Few?” which shows that women enter STEM fields at much lower rates compared to their male peers.  The research also showed that the crucial time to get to girls before they give up on STEM careers is in junior high. “The most critical time to impact them is between seventh and eighth grade,” said…

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Photochemist Alexis Ostrowski brings $850,000 in grants to BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green State University photochemist Dr. Alexis Ostrowski and her lab are venturing into a whole new world of materials with properties as yet unknown, but that offer the promise of beneficial applications in health, industry, agriculture and other fields. In recognition of the potential of Ostrowski’s work, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded her a CAREER grant of nearly $600,000 to fund her research over the next five years. Ostrowski also recently learned that she has received another $250,000 in funding for a second project looking at using the power of light to transform animal waste into usable fertilizer. “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization,” according to the NSF. “Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education.” “The overall goal of my lab is to make photoresponsive materials,” Ostrowski said. “And those materials have in them metal ions for unique reactivities.” By mixing metal ions with polymers, or plastics, and exposing the resulting materials to light, Ostrowski aims to open up new avenues of discovery. “We may be making materials with really interesting properties we don’t even know yet. This is fundamental research,” she said. “Alexis is a rising star in the field of inorganic photochemistry, applying well-constructed experiments and syntheses to novel materials and photochemical reactivity,” said Dr. Malcolm Forbes, director of the…


BG seeks scientific facts surrounding pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials would like to dig into the facts around the Nexus pipeline but have no interest getting tangled in a lawsuit. City council was presented with some unsettling scientific information Monday evening, and was asked to file a motion to intervene with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – which is on the edge of approving the pipeline plans. “We still have the right to insist that the dangerous situation at the pipeline river crossing be fully analyzed,” Lisa Kochheiser, of Bowling Green, said to council. “Time is of the essence here.” A grassroots group opposed to the Nexus pipeline as it crosses Wood County has worked with a Bowling Green State University professor who is a geologist and environmental policy expert. Based on the information found by Dr. Andrew Kear, the group filed a formal motion to intervene with FERC. Kear spoke directly to city council. “I’m not an advocate against natural gas,” he said, noting his appreciation for hot showers. However, the route of the Nexus pipeline, “poses unnerving public health and safety risks.” The initial report submitted to FERC said the Bowling Green Fault Line is deep below the surface, so it is not a concern. However, the fault is so close to the surface that it is visible in places, and is even pointed out by a marker in Farnsworth Park on the other side of the Maumee River. “The pipeline crosses the fault right near the Bowling Green drinking water supply,” Kear said. While the fault line is not active, drilling and lubrication can cause earthquakes,…


Ostrowski named ’emerging investigator’

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Dr. Alexis Ostrowski’s childhood fascination with light and its properties led her to a career in photochemical sciences and a faculty position at BGSU. Since joining the chemistry  faculty in 2012, she has published novel research on using light to control the mechanical properties of biomaterials and metal-containing polymers. Ostrowski was recently named as one of 16 “ Emerging Investigators in Inorganic Photochemistry and Photophysics” by the American Chemical Society and was featured in the ACS Select Virtual Issue. The 16 researchers, all of whom received their doctorates in 2004 or thereafter and are working in inorganic photochemistry and photophysics, were chosen based on papers published in such journals as Inorganic Chemistry and Chemistry of Materials. Ph.D. student Anton Razgoniaev and recent Ph.D. graduate Giuseppe Giammanco are co-authors on the two papers published in 2016 and 2015 in Inorganic Chemistry and Chemistry of Materials, respectively. The 16 researchers’ work “highlights the exciting diversity of research surrounding the utilization, generation and/or manipulation of photons (fundamental particles of light),” according to the ACS. Ostrowski’s BGSU group’s research focuses on the development of photoresponsive materials that utilize metal coordination. The group is interested in understanding the fundamental photochemistry of these materials, specifically how the polymers affect the photochemical mechanisms and dynamics of the metal coordination groups. Her group’s publications highlighted by the ACS build on research by students in her lab on a method of making biomaterials light responsive. “These are just a few representative examples of new, promising classes of optomechanical materials that are poised to emerge from this laboratory,” wrote Dr. Felix Castellano in the…


Top scientists engage youngsters in Kids’ Tech University at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Paul Morris knows that Kids’ Tech University presented at Bowling Green State University has a lot going for it. Each of the four weeks features an esteemed scientist who knows how to talk to children age 9 to 12 about their research. And then the kids have carefully designed activities related to the science that allow students to do the work of science themselves. Then there’s Morris’ hair. He sports a frizzy mop of white hair. Morris said he’s gotten enough comments on it, he’s decided to stop cutting his hair. “I look the part.” It’s a silly way to get across a key element of the program. “The idea that children are being directed by a real scientist that’s part of the excitement we want to capture.” Registration is now underway for the program that runs four Saturdays throughout the semester starting Feb. 11 and continuing Feb. 25, March 18, and April 8. Each starts at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. or so. Registration is $90. Visit http://kidstechuniversity-bgsu.vbi.vt.edu/. The mission is to get children excited about science, technology, engineering and math before they get into middle school. The Feb. 11 session will feature Dr. Jennifer M. DeBruyn, who works at the Body Farm in Tennessee, a lab which studies decomposition of human bodies. DeBruyn is a microbiologist who studies how all manner of matter decomposes. Her talk is: “Life after Death: Exploring the decomposer organisms that recycle corpses back to soil.” In the afternoon, Morris said, students will do an array of experiments involved in forensics, including fingerprinting and DNA analysis…


Ohio EPA: Lake Erie ‘impaired’ status unnecessary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioners were asked this year by an environmentalist to sign onto a request that Lake Erie’s Western Basin be declared “impaired.” They were also asked this year by a farmer to not seek the “impaired” designation. Not certain of the best course of action, the commissioners asked the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to help clear up the issue. But the issue seemed to get more complicated instead. “As clear as mud,” Karl Gebhardt said as he left the commissioners’ office on Tuesday. Gebhardt, deputy director of the Ohio EPA Water Resources and Lake Erie Programs and executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, said the phosphorus causing algae problems in the lake is already being worked on by the state – and federal involvement is not needed. Ohio EPA officials hear the complaints: “Why is Lake Erie green? Why can’t my grandchildren go swimming in the lake?” But efforts are already underway, Gebhardt said. Based on the marine life in the lake, the shoreline of Lake Erie has already been declared “impaired.” And based on the water treatment steps needed, the areas of Lake Erie around water intakes have been declared “impaired.” The U.S. EPA would like Ohio to designate the Western Lake Erie Basin as impaired, Gebhardt said. But there is currently no science-based criteria for that designation. “We really want to base this on science,” he told the county commissioners. Ohio EPA officials have asked the U.S. EPA to establish “impaired” criteria for open waters. But so far, that has not been done. “We’re saying it’s multi-jurisdictional,”…


BGSU graduate Julia Arroyo receives sociology fellowship

BGSU alumna Julia Arroyo ’14 is one of five individuals selected for the American Sociological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. The national program recognizes and supports exceptional minority Ph.D. candidates. Arroyo, who is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Florida, worked as a research assistant at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at BGSU. Arroyo’s research interests include race and ethnicity, child welfare systems and families, children and youth. Her work promotes positive outcomes among racial-ethnic minority youth and youth in zero-parent households, which includes living with grandparents or foster parents, and creates space for their experiences in theories of their well-being. Her dissertation examines the changing prevalence and characteristics of zero-parent households in the United States. Applying qualitative and quantitative methods, it links the formation of these households, and the destinies of those within them, to broader social, economic and political circumstances. Arroyo’s co-authored works address historical change in women’s age at first birth and marriage, and child welfare caseworkers’ attitudes toward nonresident fathers. Among works that are forthcoming are an interdisciplinary brief on preventing children’s use of racial-ethnic stereotypes and a review of “Spheres of Influence” by Massey and Brodmann (2014). Her in-progress works problematize the role of caseworkers’ attitudes in father-engagement outcomes, critique measurements of family environments and characterize young adult pathways out of non-parental households. Her awards include the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research summer program’s Clifford C. Clogg Scholarship (2014); UF Sociology, Criminology and Law’s Gorman Award for Innovative Methods (2014), and the UF Connor Dissertation Award (2016). Learn more about the Minority Fellowship Program.