Inspired Scholarship Endless Discovery

Purpose-driven with a history of innovation —  it’s what sets apart research and scholarship at the University of Dayton. Our faculty, researchers, students and partners embrace the challenge to explain, enlighten and improve the world around us. Our Catholic, Marianist heritage propels us to focus on the common good as we build new knowledge, new products, new technology — from an aha moment to results that create jobs for our economy. We combine timeless strategies in inventive ways to interpret our pasts and enrich our future.

This is a great place to do research and to have research done. I invite you to interact with the stories in Discovery 2014, stories that speak to what’s important in our home, head, heart and hands. If it’s important to you, it’s important to us. Let’s discover together.

— Mickey McCabe
Vice President for Research &
Executive Director, Research Institute


Made in Dayton

A century-old tradition is taking flight again thanks to ingenuity and pride in this city by the river.

18 wheels on five rivers

Planning on the ripple effect

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A river is a powerful thing — especially in the hands of University of Dayton students who use it to teach about the community, history, politics, economics and environment of the Miami Valley region to local schoolchildren. These UD River Stewards conceived of, fundraised for and programmed the 53-foot-long tractor-trailer-turned-classroom, now a highly visible billboard for the University’s commitment to link learning and scholarship with leadership and service. A program of UD’s Fitz Center, the RiverMobile visited its first school in fall 2013 with the goal of reuniting Dayton and its rivers.

Said Paul Benson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, “In the RiverMobile, we see our best academic talents in learning and research brought together with student leadership and a tremendous service ethic to create something that’s going to benefit our community, our region and hopefully become a model around the country for environmental education.”

Exploring Our History


Visit each mobile classroom to hear from children the lessons they learned inside.

Taking flight

Aviation opportunities soar on site of former brownfield thanks to industry-university partnership

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While it is common for small companies to find their start in incubation spaces on university campuses, it is not common for a top Fortune 500 corporation to locate a multimillion-dollar research facility on a college campus.

The GE Aviation Electrical Power Integrated System Center opened in 2013 on eight acres of University of Dayton campus overlooking the Great Miami River. The $53 million, 138,000-square-foot facility with labs and offices is part of a 50-acre largely vacant parcel the University purchased from NCR Corp. in 2005.

"This project serves as a cornerstone in the revitalization of this part of the city and is the foundation of the University's vision to transform a former urban brownfield into a thriving academic and research development," said Daniel J. Curran, University of Dayton president.

The EPISCenter is the University of Dayton's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified (LEED) building. The Ohio Economic Development Association named the GE Aviation EPISCenter as the 2013 best economic development project in the state.

"The GE EPISCenter will be a catalyst for new contracts and products resulting in job growth not only at the center but also for the greater Dayton area and businesses," said Vic Bonneau, president of Electrical Power for GE Aviation.

In 2010, GE and the University announced plans to build the center, which focuses on computer modeling, simulation and analysis of advanced, dynamic aviation electric power systems design and controls.

GE Aviation expects its EPISCenter workforce to grow from 50 employees to between 150 and 200 within five years, depending on future programs. GE Aviation, the world's largest jet engine supplier, operates six facilities and employs more than 9,000 people in Ohio, helping to rank the state No. 3 in aircraft-related jobs in the U.S.

Joining the GE Aviation researchers will be University researchers, professors and students, who will be tapped for their expertise on specific projects. GE Aviation will fund student positions with an eye toward developing and recruiting talent through a $1 million annual research-and-development contract with the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Even before the researchers moved in, the EPISCenter was already creating significant economic impact. During construction, 49 contractors provided 665 construction jobs, with a total estimated construction payroll of $15.1 million.

Going green
gets green going

Portable algae farm delivers homegrown carbon pollution solution

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In the coldest of winters, Sukh Sidhu shows his green thumb by cultivating a homegrown climate change solution to help the Air Force become carbon neutral.

Since summer 2013, researchers at the University of Dayton Research Institute have been producing a high volume of algae in an outdoor, fully automated, closed system designed to operate 24/7, 365, regardless of the weather.

“Our goal was to design and build an economical and efficient system that could be transported anywhere, easily assembled and operate in any climate, and we’ve done just that,” says Sidhu, head of UDRI’s energy technologies and materials division.

UDRI has been performing research, testing and development of algae and algae-growing systems for pollution control and alternative energies since 2009 under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory. AFRL’s Advanced Power Technology Office funding to UDRI for algae research and development thus far has been $3.5 million. The office executes technology development and demonstration of alternative energy technologies on behalf of deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, energy.

“This is all about cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner energies,” Sidhu says.

It’s also about carbon-sequestration at the point where carbon dioxide is produced.

“Algae feeds on carbon dioxide and converts it to a highly desirable oil, which accounts for as much as 70 percent of the organism’s body weight in some strains,” Sidhu says. “So we can capture carbon dioxide from stacks of coal boilers and other combustion processes before it’s released into the atmosphere and run it through algae growing systems. We consider this a far better alternative for dealing with CO2 emissions than geosequestration, where carbon dioxide is pumped deep into the earth.”

Algae oil can then be extracted and, along with the proteins and carbohydrates that also make up the body of algae, used to create renewable resources for biofuel.

The new system protects the fragile algae from fluctuations in weather and temperature, which has limited commercial growers and researchers alike in their selection of growing systems and locations. It is also “greener” than other algae operations, using livestock manure instead of chemical/inorganic fertilizers as the nitrogen and phosphorus food source for the algae.

After demonstrating the technology — which includes proprietary design modifications engineered by program principal investigator Moshan Kahandawala — the next step will be to investigate the potential application of a fully operational system at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“The University of Dayton Research Institute has developed the technology to generate a cost-competitive biofuel intermediate in the United States,” Sidhu says. “We’ve taken it from beakers and jars in the lab to full-size and fully operational modules that can be transitioned to the marketplace for commercial use. And we’re pretty proud of that.”


What You Get is What You See

But how do you see it? We have our eyes open to the possibilities and how the outcomes might influence our lives.

Google, Gadgets & Guilt

What happens to justice when your smartphone wants to testify?

Trial by tweet. Guilty by Google Earth. It’s not the way the judicial system in supposed to work, says law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister.

“You see more and more instances where people are researching details about the case or posting comments about the trial,” he says. “In one sexual assault case in England, a juror held a poll with Facebook friends about whether she should vote guilty or not guilty. A judge in Arkansas overturned a death penalty case because one juror wouldn’t stop tweeting.”

While judges may instruct jurors to stay off their smartphones during trials, the explosion of social media has made it harder to guarantee an impartial jury, says Hoffmeister, who has written a book on the phenomenon, Social Media in the Courtroom: A New Era for Social Justice.

“The biggest problem is that jurors are relying on information that’s not presented in court,” says Hoffmeister, pointing out that some jurors will download Google Earth to view the crime scene. “Everyone is an expert after a minute or two on Google.”

He recommends that judges and lawyers take steps to address the growing problem of jurors pulling out their smartphones during jury duty.

  • Allow jurors to ask questions of the witnesses. “They can even write their questions on a piece of paper and hand it to the judge. We’re seeing a push for this.”
  • Improve instructions to the jurors. “Juries need to know why they shouldn’t be using their phones. Treat jurors like equal partners, not children.”
  • Penalize them. “I’m not a big proponent of this, but courts are taking a harder stance. They’re giving jail time or a high fine when they catch jurors using social media inappropriately.”
  • Offer rewards for good behavior. “In one case, the judge promised to keep a journal for every juror with every story written about the case if they stayed off their phones.”

Hoffmeister, who blogs about juries and teaches a course in social media and criminal law, recently wrote a chapter, “The Impact of Social Media on Criminal Law,” for The Practitioners’ Guide on Social Media Use.

“If you’re a digital native, born and raised with the Internet, your answer to everything is, ‘I’ll Google it,’” he says. “Technology is going force the courts to change, and that change will empower the jurors.”

Jon Doughnut


Jon Doughnut

Case Number:

2013 CR 08


Aggravated Murder


Sienna County Clerk of Courts

Case # Action name Case status Party Type Disposition
2008MF07 Mortgage Foreclosure Closed Defendant -
2009CR08 Domestic Violence Closed Defendant Acquitted
2009DRC70 Divorce with Children Closed Plaintiff -
2010PI03 Personal Injury Closed Closed Plaintiff Dismissed
2010PI99 Personal Injury Closed Closed Plaintiff Dismissed
2010FE26 Forcible Entry Closed Defendant Convicted
2013CR82 Possession of Heroin Closed Defendant Dismissed
2013CR08 Aggravated Murder Open Defendant -

Jon Doughnut Jon Doughnut:
Neighborhood watch president claimed he was acting in self-defense; prosecutor to seek murder charges
“Sienna County mechanic Jon Doughnut is accused in a fatal shooting Sunday. It happened at about 8:40 p.m. outside a home located in the 100 block of Main Street, where the accused lives. In a statement to police, Doughnut said he spotted an unknown person on his neighbor’s porch and confronted him.”

Brain Trust

Artificial intelligence gets boost from a gamer’s dream

Video game fanatics may think University of Dayton researcher Tarek Taha has the best job in the world. His work involves a room full of 1,716 PlayStation 3s at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

He is having fun — working with these gaming systems to find ways to make computers smarter by mimicking human brains. Computers have evolved through the years, but not to the point of humans when it comes to image recognition, language processing and learning, he says. According to Taha, the human brain has about 100 billion neurons, with each neuron connecting to 10,000 other neurons to create nearly 100 trillion connections.

But, by developing computing systems that mimic processes in the brain, he hopes to develop smarter smartphones, more intelligent robots and more superb supercomputers.

See Through

Vision Lab cuts through the fog to reveal scenes for safety

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The lazy, crazy, hazy summer days are clearer, rainy and foggy days sunnier, and shadowy scenes less ominous thanks to Vijayan Asari, Ohio Research Scholar in Wide-Area Surveillance, 11 faculty and 23 students in the University of Dayton Vision Lab. They are using nearly $1 million in annual funding to develop software and hardware for automatic object detection, recognition and tracking to make any scene look better — a whopping 25 times better — with the result of making us safer. 

Pipelines are the current focus of this eye-popping technology housed in the School of Engineering's Kettering Laboratories. Researchers are working on an automated monitoring system to quickly identify threats or damage to pipelines and relay information to pipeline operators and first responders.

With more than 2 million miles of pipelines spanning the U.S. — impacting virtually every community — the need for advanced technologies to ensure safe operation is essential. Recent successes with the pipeline project have helped the Vision Lab establish a long-term relationship with the Pipeline Research Council International and secure additional funding. This technology could also be applied to bridges, railroads, highways and other areas where secure right of ways and damage assessment. 

The Vision Lab also is home to a robot that may someday save your life. Equipped with facial recognition capabilities, researchers hope this robot one day can be air dropped into dangerous areas to rescue injured persons.

"We want it to be as a human sees," Asari says. "We want the robot to be able to identify bleeding or whether the patient can't move their hand. If the robot can identify a hand or arm injury, it will not try to lift the patient by the hand or arm."

The robot would first filter from its sight environmental distractions such as smoke, fire, haze and rain; then identify that the injured is indeed a human. The robot checks the soldier’s identity against its database, then moves in to assess whether the robot can evacuate the injured soldier or if a full rescue crew needs to be dispatched. 

In addition to image processing and computer vision, researchers are also working on 3-D scene creation from 2-D video, scene analysis, change detection, video stabilization, brain wave analysis, facial dynamics technology and brain machine interface — all in the name of safety and to benefit society.


Heart of Gold?

We preferred the cold cast-iron engine that roared with drive and determination, but new discoveries and dreams may bring us closer to what we really hold dear.

Frozen Alive

A tiny tree frog holds big promise for organ transplants


Technology paves a rough road for America’s beloved automobile

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The 1950s and 1960s were a golden age for the automobile. Drive-ins, fast food drive-thrus and shade tree mechanics abounded from sea to shining sea.

"Cars were more than just machines, they were primary objects of desire," says John Heitmann, professor and auto historian. "That era marked the zenith of America's love affair with the automobile." But Americans are fickle lovers.

The story of the automobile in American life is one of how technology can change the course of history and our lives, for better and sometimes for worse.

Today, Motown is bankrupt, less than half of American teenagers get their driver's license within a year of reaching the legal age, and automobiles are associated with car bombs, global warming and pollution.

We rarely work on our cars ourselves and someday — if Google has its way — we won't even drive them.

"You can't say the love affair with the automobile is totally dead," says Heitmann, author of The Automobile and American Life. "There will always be a number of car enthusiasts, but in American culture, and especially with young people, it has really diminished over the last 30 years."

The exceptions, Heitmann said, are the high-end luxury cars (which still represent status) and nostalgia. President of the international Society of Auto Historians, he drives a restored, forest green 1971 Porsche 911 Targa he named Lazarus (because he brought it back from the dead).

Heitmann says the automobile, once an object of desire, has become for many an appliance, clogging up our streets, lengthening our commutes and polluting the air. In the last decade, mobile technologies have appeared on scene, in many ways doing for the modern world what automobiles did a century ago.

"Today we've taken mobility to the global, instant level. Yet we've developed similar dependencies,” Heitmann says.

Ironically, the combination of these two mobile technologies can become a deadly mix, with distracted driving becoming a leading cause of accidents, especially among youth. It's one of the reasons, Heitmann believes, Americans are ready to embrace a concept General Motors reportedly abandoned in the 1950s — the self-driving car.

"In our caffeinated world, we're always trying to multitask,” Heitmann says. “A self-driving car would free us up to do work, to eat or even to sleep in our cars."

Technology can also influence regional economies. Heitmann believes the auto industry is on the cusp of a technological revolution that will not revive Detroit but California.

"Detroit was too wedded to traditional ways of doing things — particularly identifying itself with the internal combustion engine — and failed to embrace a new energy technology and relationships," Heitmann says.

In spring 2014, Heitmann will release a new book with co-author Rebecca Morales, Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino. In it, Heitmann looks at how technology, anti-theft devices and pop culture have led to a techno-savvy hacker/car thief who is a mix of villain, ingenious thrill-seeker and sympathetic outlaw.

In Her Image

Whether in film, ink, clay or wood, an artist’s vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, incorporates our culture and spirituality, as well as the personal attributes her life models for our own.

Images from the Marian Library collection.

In her image

Popular media mirrors the importance of the mother of Jesus in our lives


A Simple Touch can
Help Us Navigate the World

But what happens when the body fails us? We come up with a good idea and lend a hand.

Press for success

Press for success

The iPad gets innovative, accessible upgrades in the hands of early engineers

Kettering Health Network has put its money where the minds are — the University of Dayton’s first-year engineering innovation class.

Therapists at Kettering’s NeuroRehab & Balance Center had the problem; Kettering Innovation Center had the resources; and students in engineering professor Kim Bigelow’s entry-level design course had the ideas. Through this triple partnership, UD students are creating tools to improve the quality of life for patients with disabilities.

The most recent is an adaptive iPad device that makes the technology accessible to people with neurological and motor disabilities, including stroke patients and those recovering from concussions. It’s part of Bigelow’s broader research focus in biomechanics — the study of engineering as applied to the human body — which has looked at balance, posture, and gait and fall prevention in older adults.

“It empowers my students, that Kettering would approach them with a real problem, with real financial support, and say, ‘We trust you, at the first-year level, to tackle this,’” Bigelow says, noting that her lab has received about $50,000 through Kettering Innovation Center for the project. “My favorite things to do are read the students’ final reflections and see the motivation it has sparked, the careers they’re now considering and how meaningful a project like this is to them.”

And she loves hearing student comments like this: “I was willing to work much harder here than in any other class because it was for a real person.”

Kettering’s occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists had tapped into the benefits of electronic tablets (like iPads) as communication and therapy tools, especially patients with aphasia — a disorder caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. However, many of these individuals also experience side effects such as tremor and vision loss, meaning the usually simple touch required to operate iPads renders them inaccessible.

To make the iPads accessible, students designed seven prototypes. After testing them with their own patients, the therapists chose two as the most promising and useful, allowing work to proceed in subsequent semesters with other engineering students in Bigelow’s senior design capstone and research lab.

Just over a year later, one of the designs — an adjustable stand — emerged as the best solution. After four iterations and several modifications, plans are under way to mass-produce the stand for Kettering Health Network patients within the year.

Originally crafted from balsa wood, metal hinges and adhesive wall hooks, the final version was generated by the University’s 3D printer and made from red molded plastic, with a lip across the bottom that holds the iPad in place. A movable prop stand in the back helps users adjust the screen’s height and perspective.

“The stand is very unique in the way it adjusts. It doesn’t have to be used on a flat surface; it can sit in someone’s lap if they’re using a wheelchair. It also has a lot of adjustment for people with visual impairment in terms of glare and brightness,” Bigelow says.

Students further refined the design to make it smaller, lighter, more portable and adaptable for iPads in a case up to 1 inch thick.

In 2013, the project earned Bigelow a $24,000 Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network topical grant. KEEN supports entrepreneurial education for undergraduate engineering students.

Bigelow’s students continue to work on projects aimed at improving patients’ quality of life, including an LED dome that helps identify and correct vision problems and a hydraulic cart that allows people with limited hand mobility to safely move dishes in and out of the oven. One team of students crafted a platform device out of a bass drum harness that helps carry a laundry basket up stairs, while another brainstormed ways to reach wet laundry at the bottom of the machine.

Innovation? You don’t need an app for that.

One-two Punch

Kickboxing helps strengthen MS patients while providing relief to a busy health care system

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High-intensity activity engaging the entire body in throwing kicks and punches turns out to be good exercise that does the body good, even when the body has multiple sclerosis.

"Kickboxing's fast, interactive movements improve energy and muscle power, and they can challenge the visual and vestibular systems (the inner ear responsible for balance)," says Dr. Kurt Jackson, physical therapist and neurology coordinator of the University of Dayton's doctor of physical therapy program

Kickboxing as therapy for people with MS — who can suffer from chronic fatigue and balance problems — is just one of the many ways Jackson and the faculty in the health and sports science department are developing new and practical ways to help people with neurological disorders such as stroke, MS and Parkinson's disease improve their health and well-being.

"At UD, we're bridging the gap between the clinic and the community," Jackson says. "As health care costs rise and more people seek treatment, it will be hard to provide ongoing long-term therapy to people who need it. We're identifying activities they can do at home and in the community that are therapeutic and promote maintenance of health, improve quality of life and save money by reducing trips to the doctor."

A local personal trainer approached Jackson a few years ago about people with MS visiting her gym, prompting him to conduct research on the viability of kickboxing for managing the disease.

He found that, with proper screening and precautions, kickboxing is safe and feasible in a community setting. Following training, participants in his two clinical trials demonstrated improvements in a variety of measures of balance and mobility. He published the findings of the trials in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2010) and Journal of Neurological Physical Therapy (2012).

In his most recent research, published in 2013 by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Jackson provides guidance for physical therapy clinicians looking for best practices in both patient care and evaluations critical for insurance requirements. He also recently contributed to a chapter in The American College of Sports Medicine's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Ninth Edition, focused on how to develop exercises for people with multiple sclerosis.

Anyone with a neurological disease should be working with a medical professional in physical rehabilitation and checking up regularly, he says. But in between those episodes of care, they should be looking for safe, appropriate ways to exercise.

"We have to develop relationships between physical therapists and people who work in community-based exercise classes to work as a team to provide the care these people need," he says. "At the University of Dayton, we encourage our students to think about how they can be involved in community wellness programs, to think differently about their vocation. They have a responsibility to meet the needs of their patients long term, and they need to think out of the box from just working in a hospital or clinic."

Next Move

Therapies help breast cancer survivors regain full range of arm motion

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As survivor rates for breast cancer continue to increase, professor Mary Fisher is looking to decrease patient pain and other treatment complications by advocating for a system with familiar language — early detection and intervention.

The National Institutes of Health reported in 2013 a 90.5 percent survival rate for U.S. patients five years after breast cancer diagnosis. Survivors often struggle with newfound physical challenges, such as pain in their arms and shoulders, or limbs that swell to twice their original size.

Fisher contends quality of life could be improved through exercise and physical therapy. In January 2013, she joined a National Institutes of Health team working with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C., to promote prospective surveillance — monitoring patients to observe pattern development — and early intervention efforts to improve survivors’ physical capabilities and prevent long-term functional limitations.

The group has been collecting data since 2004 on the arm function of women diagnosed with breast cancer, taking measurements before treatment and at different intervals post-treatment. A common diagnosis is lymphedema, a disorder in which fluid fails to drain from body tissues, causing them to swell. Cancer treatment that removes axillary nodes (lymph nodes) is a risk factor, and incidence is reported to be up to 60 percent among breast cancer survivors.

Unless detected and treated early, lymphedema is often irreversible.

“At the first hint of lymphedema, which is a 3 percent difference in arm volume from the pre-treatment measure, they’ll put a (compression) sleeve on the patient, teach her how to do manual lymph drainage and start an exercise program,” Fisher says. “They’ve found it very effective in often reversing lymphedema.”

Prospective surveillance of lymphedema is just one facet of Fisher’s overall work studying arm function in breast cancer survivors. Among her findings is that not all breast cancer survivors regain full arm function even six years after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, and she argues that early intervention can help women recover fully. In a different study, she’s examining the effects of yoga on arm volume or function.

Data collection on healthy control subjects in the NIH study will begin in early 2014, giving Fisher’s group the opportunity to conclusively determine that decreased arm function does result from breast cancer treatment, ruling out other factors such as normal age-related declines. The NIH team is also working to develop more sensitive tools to measure arm function and standard tests of muscular endurance for post-treatment evaluations.

Prospective surveillance represents a paradigm shift in addressing the needs of breast cancer survivors after treatment — a change Fisher says will improve the quality of life for women long after they’ve overcome cancer.