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Accolades

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Affinity Group Honored Regionally for Workplace Pride Efforts

The Pitt Queer Professionals (PQP) faculty and staff affinity group recently won an award at Vibrant Pittsburgh’s Regional Economic Inclusion Summit. The Workplace Award, which honors employee resource groups who are committed to creating an inclusive workspace culture, was accepted at the summit awards luncheon, Sept. 17, 2018. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher was also recognized.

Vibrant Pittsburgh is an organization devoted to attracting, retaining and elevating a diversity of talent in the region.    

Pitt’s PQP affinity group, established in 2016, promotes the professional and social development of LGBTQIA+ staff and faculty by supporting active recruitment and retention, engaging in dialogue with administrators surrounding issues the community faces, and in general, assessing the campus climate for inclusivity.

Learn more about the list of Pitt faculty and staff affinity groups linked by common interests, and find out how to get involved at https://bit.ly/2Q1WvHR.

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Faculty Honored for Evidence-Based Methods that “Transform” Instruction

Recognizing efforts to use more evidence-based methods to improve student performance, the Discipline-Based Science Education Resource Center (Db-SERC), located in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, gave 10 Pitt faculty members awards to “transform” the way their classes are taught.

Faculty members selected for the award receive up to $10,000. Uses for the money can include equipment, summer salaries for faculty or for paying graduate or undergraduate students for help in transforming the class.

Awardees included:

Faculty members are also encouraged to share their course transformations within faculty learning communities. This sharing of information supports and promotes scholarly approaches to teaching and learning, and faculty members can help each other learn about evidence-based approaches they can use in their own courses.

Read more about the recognized projects and evidence-based teaching transformations in the University Times.

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Faculty Promotions at Swanson School of Engineering

Ten professors across three departments in the Swanson School of Engineering received promotions for the 2018-2019 academic year.

They include:

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Andrew Bunger, Associate Professor
Kent Harries, Professor
Piervincenzo Rizzo, Professor

Department of Industrial Engineering
Joel Haight, Professor
Bo Zeng, Associate Professor

Department of Mechanical and Materials Science
G. Paolo Galid, Distinguished Professor
Jung-Kun Lee, Professor
David Schmidt, Associate Professor
Nitin Sharma, Associate Professor
Sung-Cho Sung, Professor

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Swanson School of Engineering Welcomes Six New Faculty Members

Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering has six new assistant professors beginning as faculty members in the 2018-2019 academic years. Their areas of expertise range from innovative health and energy systems to mechanical and materials science, and they will join colleagues in four departments within the school.

The new faculty members include:

David Anderson
With a focus on electroacoustics, tactile audio and audio signal processing for virtual reality applications and papers published in leading acoustics journals, Anderson joins the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Masoud Barati
With particular interest in developing new optimization and control algorithms for electric power systems, Barati’s current research focus includes the intersection of data science and optimization theory with power grid applications. Barati joins the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Sarah Haig
Joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Haig has published papers on environmental engineering and microbiology in leading journals. Her research combines microbiology, environmental chemistry and public health with a focus on drinking water systems.

Joaquin Rodriguez
Rodriguez brings more than 15 years of technical expertise in the manufacture of refinery special products and thermal conversion processes to the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

Liang Zhan
Joining the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Zhan’s research includes bioinformatics, machine learning and algorithm development. In 2017, he received an award from the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging to study early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

Xiayun Sharon Zhao
Zhao brings to the Department of Mechanical and Materials Science her research in real-time process monitoring, measurement science and control technology for additive manufacturing.

Read more about the appointments at the Swanson School site.

Swanson School Pair Receives Gilliam Fellowship

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected Swanson School of Engineering PhD student Emily Ackerman (pictured, left) and her thesis adviser Jason Shoemaker as one of 45 doctoral student-adviser pairs to receive a 2018 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study. The Gilliam Fellowships encourage a more diverse and inclusive environment in science and academia. Each pair will receive an annual award totaling $50,000 — which includes a stipend, a training allowance and an institutional allowance — for up to three years. As part of their three-year grant, Ackerman and Shoemaker will organize a symposium at the University that will examine science, technology and diversity. Ackerman is pursuing her doctorate in chemical engineering, and Shoemaker is an assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.

Bernard Rousseau Named Chair of Department of Communication Science and Disorders

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) has named Bernard Rousseau as the new chair of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. He will officially assume his position on Sept. 1, 2018.

Rousseau joins Pitt from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he most recently served as associate vice chair for research and director of the Laryngeal Biology Laboratory, and as chancellor faculty fellow and associate professor of otolaryngology, hearing and speech sciences and mechanical engineering.

Two National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research projects are coming to Pitt with Rousseau, along with a majority of his research team from Vanderbilt. The first project focuses on improving outcomes for patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis through innovative technology designed to improve pre-operative surgical planning. The second project seeks to determine the safety and efficacy of treatments for voice disorders.

“As I step into my new role at Pitt, I am energized by the fact that the university and the city of Pittsburgh have all the necessary ingredients to truly advance the study of communication science and disorders,” said Rousseau. “The outstanding faculty, the clinical infrastructure, and the exciting opportunities to leverage and strengthen partnerships across the various schools, programs and highly ranked departments at Pitt will allow us to take this program and this field to the next level.”


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Pitt Cyber Announces First Awardees of Accelerator Grants Program

Pitt's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security has announced the first 10 awardees of the first cycle of its Accelerator Grants Program. The honorees will receive funding for projects designed to advance Pitt Cyber’s mission to investigate critical questions surrounding technology law, policy and security.

Awards have been granted to: Kevin Ashley, professor of law and intelligent systems; Matthias Grabmair, Carnegie Mellon University Systems Scientist; Julia Santucci, senior lecturer, intelligence studies; Daniel Cole, associate professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Alex K. Jones, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Swanson School of Engineering; Bo Zeng, assistant professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Zhi-Hong Mao, associate professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor Swanson School of Engineering; Mai Abdelhakim; visiting assistant professor School of Computing and Information; James Joshi, professor School of Computing and Information; Balaji Palanisamy, assistant professor School of Computing and Information.


blue bag with gold printing that says BYO[Bag] on it, with a grassy background and vegetables tumbling into the bag

Pitt BYO[Bag] Featured in 2018 Sustainable Campus Index

Pitt’s BYO[Bag] reusable shopping bag program is among the impactful initiatives highlighted in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) 2018 Sustainable Campus Index.

To encourage use of reusable bags at Pitt, after the first two weeks of each term, students pay 25 cents for a plastic bag at campus dining or bookstore locations. Half the proceeds from the fee and from sales of BYO[Bag] reusable bags go to the Pitt Green Fund to support other sustainability initiatives.

The program, one of many Pitt dining sustainability initiatives, has cut the number of plastic bags used at campus dining locations and book stores by 98 percent — from 30,000 per week to about 600 per week, said Nick Goodfellow, sustainability coordinator for Sodexo Dining Services at Pitt.

That’s more than 1.3 million bags saved and nearly $6,500 raised for the Pitt Green Fund since BYO[Bag] launched in 2014.

The AASHE Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), and highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from STARS institutions.

Pitt achieved a STARS Silver rating its first-ever STARS submission this year.


Roderick Tan headshot in suit jacket and blue shirt and tie

School of Medicine’s Roderick Tan Wins Grant to Research Blood Vessels in Kidney

Roderick Tan, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Renal-Electrolyte at Pitt’s Department of Medicine, has been awarded the 2018 Edith H. Blattner Grant Young Investigator Grant from the National Kidney Foundation for research that will use high-resolution ultrasound to closely examine the human kidney’s vital small blood vessels.

Tan received the grant as part of the NKF Young Investigator Research Grant Program, which strives to improve the quality of life for those with kidney disease by funding scientists in their research to discover the causes of kidney disease, how to prevent its progression and ways to improve treatment for those living with it.


Kirk Holbrook headshot in suit jacket with tree in the background

Kirk Holbrook to Lead Pitt’s Hill District Community Engagement Center

Kirk Holbrook has been named director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Hill District Community Engagement Center (CEC).

Pitt’s first CEC, directed by Daren Ellerbee, is set to open in Homewood in September. Pitt’s next CEC, the Hill District center, is expected to open in 2019.

Holbrook, a resident of the Hill District, most recently was chief of staff in the district office of State Representative Jake Wheatley. He previously was a community organizer for A+ Schools and program director for the Hill House Association.

“Kirk’s deep connections to the Hill District and record of community engagement will ensure the Hill District CEC fulfills its mission,” said Lina Dostilio, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement. “His strength as an organizer and leader will allow him to be a trusted bridge between campus and community.”

Pitt’s CECs, announced in 2016 as an initiative of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s office, aim to strengthen communities by coordinating University activities already underway and building alliances within city neighborhoods that are eager to partner with Pitt. The CECs are guided by an internal advisory council and neighborhood advisory councils.

Hesselbein Global Academy Celebrates 10 Years of Nurturing the Next Generation of Leaders

The Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement brought students from 15 countries to Pittsburgh for a four-day Student Leadership Summit in July. Delegates participated in workshops, service projects, attended lectures and dined with local Pittsburgh leaders in every sector. Over its history, student leaders from 72 countries have participated. 

Tapping an alumni network of nearly 500, the Hesselbein Global Academy also welcomed back speakers and mentors to inspire this year’s cohort. Luis Miranda, a 2012 participant, spoke about his struggles and triumphs in international peace keeping efforts, specifically with the Colombian peace process. Aster Teclay, a 2009 participant and a 2010 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance of self-belief. “If your actions inspire others to learn more, become more, you are a leader,” said Teclay, senior project manager at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.

Major General Randall Fullhart, Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, was honored this year for being a Hesselbein Global Academy mentor for all 10 years of the program’s existence.

Pitt launched the Hesselbein Global Academy as a way of honoring the legacy of Frances Hesselbein (pictured), one of the most highly respected experts in the field of leadership development. For more about this year’s event, visit the Student Affairs website or watch a recap.


pruskowski with black rimmed glasses and a cheetah print shirt

Pharmacy’s Jennifer Pruskowski Receives New Clinical Practitioner Award

Jennifer Pruskowski, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, is the recipient of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s 2018 New Clinical Practitioner Award.

This annual award recognizes a member who has made outstanding contributions to the health of patients and to the practice of clinical pharmacy. The award is given to those who are less than six years past completion of their pharmacy training.

Pruskowski’s research interests include education of effective and safe use of medication for palliative care patients, development of institute-wide, evidence-based pain and symptom management treatment algorithms, management of delirium at the end of life and refractory pain, and the role of pharmacists on the improvement of health-related functions and quality of life for palliative care patients.


Bedewy in dark rimmed glasses and a suit

Mostafa Bedewy Awarded $330,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded $330,000 by the National Science Foundation to better understand and control the internal structure of nanotube-based materials for emerging applications.

Carbon nanotubes are hollow, cylindrical nanostructures made of carbon atoms. They are smaller than one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. These nanotubes are used in a variety of commercial products from baseball bats and bicycle frames to aerospace structures. They also have a tensile strength 20 times higher than steel and an electrical conductivity 10 times that of copper. Read more about his work.

Joseph Glorioso Awarded $500,000 to Advance Melanoma Vaccine

School of Medicine faculty member Joseph Glorioso is among the recipients of a 2018 Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy research grant.

Glorioso and University of Pennsylvania microbiology professor Gary H. Cohen will share a $500,000, two-year grant to advance a vaccine for melanoma. Their research builds on previously successful results using a tumor-targeted, actively replicating herpes virus to infiltrate cancers and stimulate an immune system assault.

Glorioso calls the methodology a “heat-seeking missile that targets metastatic cancer for destruction.” Once the cancer is eliminated, the vaccine inserts an immunity barrier to protect against recurrence. Melanoma is among the most deadly cancers and this treatment offers new hope.

Glorioso, who founded the Pitt medical school’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 1989, is a pioneer in the design and application of herpes simplex virus gene vectors.

Pitt–Johnstown Hosts 10th Annual Older Youth Retreat

Some 100 teenagers who are about to or who have recently transitioned from foster care are convening on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus starting Aug. 6 for the tenth annual 2018 Older Youth Retreat — an event that welcomes foster teens from across Pennsylvania for activities and workshops in a college campus setting. From rural areas in Butler County or the urban core of Philadelphia, these teens convene to begin charting a course for their future, alongside others who have experienced substitute care.

“They work on goal setting, planning, advocacy, leadership and building relationships, all while experiencing college life with its structure and support,” said Helen Cahalane (pictured), principal investigator of Pitt’s Child Welfare Education and Research Programs, within the School of Social Work. The school, along with the state Department of Human Services’s Office of Children, Youth and Families hosts the event, with support from several partners across the state. In its ten years, the retreat has supported more than 1,000 young people ages 16 to 21.

“We’re helping youth create positive change in the child welfare system,” said Cahalane.

Giannis Mpourmpakis Named Emerging Investigator by American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data named Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, an “Emerging Investigator” in a special issue of the publication. The issue highlights work from 25 researchers at the forefront of their discipline. Mpourmpakis contributed his paper “Understanding the Gas Phase Chemistry of Alkanes with First-Principles Calculations” to the ACS special issue. Read more about the paper and his work at the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab.

Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Robert Brandom Named Fellow of the British Academy

Robert Brandom, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy, has been named a Fellow of the British Academy. The British Academy is the United Kingdom’s 116-year old national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Brandom, who was recognized for his research on the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, philosophy of logic, pragmatism, German idealism, Wilfrid Sellars, Frege and Wittgenstein, is one of 20 Corresponding Academics elected to the Academy from outside of the U.K. In total, 76 academics were added this year. Past fellows include Winston Churchill, C.S. Lewis and Beatrice Webb.

Public Health Graduate Student Named Miss Wheelchair USA

University of Pittsburgh student Heather Tomko represented Pennsylvania in the Miss Wheelchair USA pageant and won the pageant’s top prize. At the pageant, Tomko also won the Invacare People’s Choice Award and the Dr. Georgi Hudson Smith Quest for Knowledge Award. Her platform, “Increasing Inclusion of People with Disabilities into their Communities,” aims to advocate and educate the community about disabilities and accessibility.

Tomko is a student and part of the research staff in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, pursuing her master’s in public health in Health Policy and Management.

Vanitha Swaminathan to Serve as President of American Marketing Association’s Academic Council

Vanitha Swaminathan, the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, will serve as President of American Marketing Association’s Academic Council from July 2018 through June 2019.

Swaminathan, who joined Pitt in 2002, is the director of the Katz Center for Branding. Her research focuses on branding strategy and the conditions that foster consumer-brand relationships. Her research investigates how firms can successfully design brand strategies such as co-branding, brand extensions, brand acquisitions, marketing alliances to strengthen customer loyalty as well as firm stock market performance. More recently, her focus is on understanding how brand managers can leverage the power of social media to build stronger relationships with customers.

As president of the council, Swaminathan will lead the 12-member group that represents the diversity of scholarly interests in managerial, behavioral, modeling and public policy perspective with attention to strategic marketing implications.


Ruiz in a blue and green scarf

Alumna Monica Ruiz Lauded for Work in Latino Community

The Thomas Merton Center named Monica Ruiz (SSW ’15 SSW ’17G) its New Person of the Year 2018. The organization lauded Ruiz as “a talented organizer and tireless advocate for immigrant rights and racial and economic justice.”

Ruiz is the civic engagement and community organizer at Casa San José, an organization that advocates for and empowers the Latino community in and around Pittsburgh. She organizes around immigrant rights, housing and legal issues, advocates for policies that support immigrants, and builds coalitions to boost racial and workers justice movements.

“As a community organizer and alumnus, she represents well the social work values of worth and dignity for all and social and economic justice,” said Tracy Soska, chair of the School of Social Work’s concentration, Community, Organization, and Social Action, the first and longest standing community organizing program in any professional school in the country.

“We are proud of her work, tenacity, and commitment to the cause that demonstrates our school’s legacy for community organizing and social change,” Soska added.