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Susan Whitney in a black top

Susan Whitney Provides Health Recommendations to Department of State

Susan Whitney, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently provided recommendations to the U.S. Department of State.  She presented her expertise on vestibular disorders and concussions to the Standing Committee to Advise the U.S. Department of State on Unexplained Health Effects on U.S. Government Employees and their Families at Overseas Embassies.

Whitney provided guidelines and best practices on treating current patients/government workers and potential patients if this should happen again. This committee will be writing recommendations on how to deal with possible future incidents. The goal is to not have to pull workers from their positions in other countries if there are more episodes. 


Alaina Roberts in a black top

Alaina E. Roberts Publishes Essay on Tulsa Massacre

Alaina E. Roberts, assistant professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences' Department of History, wrote an essay that appeared in History@Work, a blog of the National Council on Public History, on the commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre. 

The massacre, which occurred from May 31 to June 1, 1921, was an attack by White Americans on Black residents and their businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a wealthy community known as “Black Wall Street.” An estimated 100 to 300 African Americans were murdered.

In her essay, "Commemorating the Tulsa Massacre: A Search for Identity and Historical Complexity," Roberts discusses her personal connection to this point in history and the discovery of her Native American ancestry. According to Roberts, the broader historical context behind the massacre is not widely known—namely, the stories of the Native American and Black people who immigrated to and shaped the area almost a century before the massacre.

“Just as my research on Black-Native history helped me better understand myself and my career trajectory, the broader history behind the Tulsa Massacre allows us to better understand that Tulsa was a place shaped by its history of settlement by Native Americans and the people of African descent who lived within their nations,” Roberts said. “Acknowledgment of these intersections makes the process of telling and illustrating history more complex but also more accurate and inclusive.”

Roberts will further explore this topic in her upcoming book, “I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land,” which will be published in April 2021 by the University of Pennsylvania Press.


Ivet Bahar in a light blue collared shirt with bookcases in the background

Ivet Bahar Elected Member of National Academy of Sciences

Ivet Bahar has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Bahar is a distinguished professor and the John K. Vries Chair of the Department of Computational and Systems Biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The National Academy of Sciences provides independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Academy membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

Bahar has been elected “in honor of outstanding contributions to computational biology.” Among other research accomplishments, she is a pioneer in structural and computational biology, and developed widely used elastic network models for protein dynamics.

She also co-founded the internationally acclaimed Ph.D. Program in Computational Biology, jointly offered by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.


Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood in suits

Engineering Researchers Studying Efficient Data Storage

Pitt engineering researchers Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood secured a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to study how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials.

The researchers will examine how certain 2D materials interacts with the light used in optical storage and gain a better understanding of its properties. This will allow researchers to advance technology and improve the use of 2D materials for high-speed, reliable and efficient memory and computation.

Both researchers are assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.


Carli Liguori

Carli Liguori Named Finalist for American Society for Nutrition Translation Award

Carli Liguori, a visiting instructor in the School of Education, has been named a finalist in the American Society for Nutrition Translation Award Program.

The award recognizes “outstanding early-career scientists and clinicians interested in translating their research to a defined audience to improve public health and/or health outcomes.”

Liguori was one of four finalists chosen from a pool of 70 applicants for the award.

In particular, Liguori, along with fellow School of Education faculty members in the Department of Health and Human Development, John Jakicic and Renee J. Rogers, were recognized for their study, “Changes in Dietary Intake with Varying Doses of Physical Activity within a Weight Loss Intervention: The Heart Health Study.”

In the study they found that following a calorie-restricted diet resulted in roughly the same amount of weight loss, about 20 pounds, regardless of a person’s level of physical activity. The team also saw that participants’ level of physical activity did not affect their ability to keep their calorie and fat consumption within bounds.

The team was honored at a virtual event held by the American Society for Nutrition in June 2020.


Luca Deseri in a dark gray shirt

New Research Investigates the Role of Lipid Rafts in Virus Infiltration

New interdisciplinary research co-led by Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and Carnegie Mellon University sheds light onto how and why the cell membrane forms and grows “lipid rafts” triggered by ligand-receptor activity. The work could lead to new strategies and innovative approaches to prevent or fight the action of the virus through the integration of biomedical and engineering knowledge.

“Our team used an interdisciplinary approach to better understand why active receptors tend to cluster on lipid rafts. More importantly, we confirm and predict the formation of the complex ligand receptors,” said Luca Deseri, professor in the Swanson School’s Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department.

Other institutions involved with the research include DICAM-University of Trento in Italy and the University of Naples-Federico II in Naples, Italy. The research was published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids.


Janey Freburger and Sara Piva in black and white shirts, respectively

SHRS Professors Named Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association

Two professors in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences recently earned a prestigious honor in physical therapy.

Janet Freburger, professor, and Sara Piva, associate professor, have been named Catherine Worthingham Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the highest honor among APTA’s membership categories. To be eligible, individuals must have advanced the physical therapy profession through frequent and sustained efforts for a period of no less than 15 years. They also must have demonstrated excellence in one primary domain, such as advocacy, education, practice or research, and made significant contributions, achievements or leadership to at least two other domains.

Freburger and Piva become the 9th and 10th current and former Department of Physical Therapy faculty members, respectively, to receive designations as Catherine Worthingham Fellows.


Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis in a black suit and white shirt

Giannis Mpourmpakis Paper Published in ACS Catalysis, Featured on Cover

New research from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions. The paper was published in ACS Catalysis and featured on the cover of the print edition.

Computational catalysis, a field that simulates and accelerates the discovery of catalysts for chemical production, has largely been limited to simulations of idealized catalyst structures that do not necessarily represent structures under realistic reaction conditions. 

The paper was authored by Raffaele Cheula, PhD student in the Maestri group; Matteo Maestri, full professor of chemical engineering at Politecnico di Milano; and Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis (pictured), Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical engineering at Pitt.


Michele Cruse in a black suit jacket

Michele Cruse Named Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs at Pitt-Bradford

Catherine Koverola, president of Pitt’s Bradford and Titusville campuses, has named Michele Cruse vice president and dean of student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

In the role, Cruse will oversee career, counseling and health services; new student orientation and first-year experience; residence life and housing; student engagement, leadership development and community engagement; and student care and conduct. She will also continue to serve as a member of the President’s Cabinet.

“Since she joined us last fall, Michele has proven to be a strong, compassionate and transformative leader, whose priority is the students,” said Koverola. “During the spring semester, when we all left campus to work remotely, she worked tirelessly with others in Student Affairs to help our students with the transition and keep them engaged.”

Previously, Cruse was the associate dean of student affairs and experiential education, a role she began in November; she has been an integral part of the team determining that students could safely return to campus in the fall and planning for their return.

“I am very honored to be here at Pitt-Bradford, empowering every student to succeed through meaningful and inclusive experiences. It’s my ultimate goal to ensure that we provide students with a campus environment where every student feels valued, respected and that they belong here at Pitt-Bradford,” Cruse said.

Cruse comes to Pitt-Bradford from Portland (Oregon) Community College, where she served as the dean of student development. She has previously served as a director of TRIO Student Support Services at Portland Community College, led student accounts, and was an adjunct instructor. She has owned her own business and served as co-founder of an organization focused on workshops and education for community members, women, disenfranchised youth and those in alternative education.

Read more in the press release.


Frances Mary D'Andrea in a black and red top

Frances Mary “FM” D’Andrea Provides National Guidance on Braille Code Changes

Frances Mary “FM” D’Andrea (EDUC ’10G), assistant professor of practice in the Vision Studies program in the School of Education, is working to ensure a smooth transition with the Braille standards in the United States by publishing a policy brief “Considerations for States Providing Materials in Braille,” which recently appeared in the National Center for Educational Outcomes.

The country’s Braille community is adjusting to major changes in the Braille code, with the old code, English Braille American Edition being phased out, to Unified English Braille (UEB).

D’Andrea is also the chair of the UEB committee for the Braille Authority of North America and has been a board member for more than 20 years. 

To ensure that future educators stay cutting-edge, the new Braille code standards are being taught in the Vision Studies programs at the School of Education. The school offers certifications in Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Graduates of the programs have a 100% placement rate and are employed all over the country.

Read more about D’Andrea’s policy brief and the Braille changes.


James McKone in a black suit

James McKone Selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator

James McKoneassistant professor of chemical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was selected as a Beckman Young Investigator (BYI) by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation for his work recycling carbon dioxide into useful fuels and chemicals. 

He received funding from the BYI program to develop new catalysts and chemical reactors that can recycle carbon dioxide and other chemical wastes back into useful fuels and raw materials.

“We ultimately want to build a circular chemical economy—a sustainable approach to chemical manufacturing where every molecule that comes out of a smokestack or a tailpipe is captured and reused hundreds or thousands of times instead of being discarded as waste,” said McKone.

The BYI program provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences. It challenges researchers to pursue innovative and high-risk projects that seek to make significant scientific advancements and open up new avenues of research in science.


Jeane Doperak in a light blue shirt

Pitt, UPMC Team Creates ‘Playbook’ for Athletics Return

A multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers at Pitt and UPMC has developed guidelines to assist coaches, athletic trainers and organizers with creating a safe environment for youth athletes, fans and staff as they consider a return to play.

The UPMC Youth Sports Playbook contains recommendations for establishing a minimal set of standards in several categories for resuming athletic programs, including pre-participation physicals, social distancing, equipment sanitization, personal protective equipment, acclimation phases, practice and competition tactics and illness protocols.

Among the people involved with the creation of the playbook are Jeane Doperak (pictured), assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and program director for the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship; and MaCalus V. Hogan, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and vice chairman of education and residency program director.


Linda Tashbook in a pink top

Pitt Law’s Linda Tashbook Honored for Book on Mental Illness

Pitt International Law Librarian Linda Tashbook has received an award from the Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section (ALL-SIS) for her book Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law. The 2020 ALL-SIS Publication Award recognizes “a significant non-periodical contribution to scholarly legal literature.”

Tashbook says she is highly honored to have her book recognized.

“Librarians, in general, are very discerning readers,” she said. “Law librarians in academic settings have especially high standards for quality. They expect to see very interesting writing, clear explanations of law, good organization and a clear purpose for the content.”

Tashbook’s volume does just that. It provides nuts-and-bolts legal information and problem-solving steps for millions of people who have family members battling mental illness. From helping a loved one prepare for a hearing, to ensuring they receive their medication in prison, the problems and possible solutions outlined in the book cover a wide range. The book also provides how-to boxes that assist families in navigating these roads. 

Writing the book was a natural for Tashbook, who began her career as the children’s librarian at the main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Her outreach work—helping to supply books to homeless shelters that took in families—exposed her to a population with problems. Seeking to be a firmer advocate, she earned a degree from the Pitt School of Law, and has for years spent much of her time providing counsel to those who are struggling, as well as their loved ones.


Evan Facher in a light purple collared shirt and black suit

Pitt Ranks Among Top Recipients of U.S. University Patents

The University of Pittsburgh once again ranked among the top recipients of U.S. patents issued worldwide to universities in 2019, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

The report ranks the top 100 universities named as first assignee on utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the 2019 calendar year. Pitt is in a three-way tie for the 28th spot with University of Maryland and the University of Massachusetts. 

“Pitt researchers are determined for their work to not only lead to new knowledge, but also make an impact on the world through commercial translation. An important step in that process is to protect the intellectual property inherent in their discoveries.” said Evan Facher, Pitt’s vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, which is responsible for the protection and licensing of intellectual property arising from Pitt research.


The University of Pittsburgh campus, featuring the Cathedral of Learning

Climate Solutions Grant Will Aid Oakland Energy Master Plan

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a $2,600 Second Nature Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund grant that will help support energy modeling at the district level for Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, in partnership with the Green Building Alliance and Oakland institutions, is developing an Oakland Energy Master Plan to help the city and its universities reach their carbon reduction goals. 

The city has committed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, from 2003 levels. 

Earlier this year, the University committed to become carbon neutral by 2037—the University’s 250th anniversary—by signing the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. Pitt will build on the success of its ambitious Sustainability Plan and existing greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 22% between 2008 and 2017.

“Addressing global climate change is a vital issue—one that can’t be reduced to a single issue or a single panacea,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am thankful for Second Nature's support, which will advance our quest for carbon neutrality and our role in combating climate change in truly meaningful ways."

“We were positively overwhelmed and impressed with the quantity and quality of submitted proposals,” stated Tim Carter, president of Second Nature, in congratulating awardees. “It emphasized that even in the midst of a global pandemic, the higher education sector not only understands how crucial it is to continue to accelerate climate action, but is committed to doing so.”


Charleen Chu in a yellow top

Charleen Chu Wins Distinguished Educator Award

Charleen T. Chu, professor of pathology and the A. Julio Martinez Endowed Chair in Neuropathology, received the 2020 Robbins Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology. The award recognizes individuals whose exemplary contributions to education in pathology have demonstrated a manifest impact at a national and international level.

Chu’s research focuses on understanding cellular, biochemical and molecular genetic mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Her work has been recognized with other honors, including the Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award, election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation Honor Society and the ASIP Outstanding Investigator Award.


Shannon Wanless in a dark purple shirt

Shannon Wanless Co-Authors Book Chapter on Children and Racism

Shannon Wanless, director of the Office of Child Development in the School of Education, co-authored a chapter in an upcoming book, “The Legacy of Racism for Children.”

The book explores “the challenges that racial minority children face due to racism within US law and public policy,” and the interdisciplinary nature of the book’s context is meant for an audience of scholars and practitioners within psychology, sociology, social work, education, the legal system, criminal justice, public policy and race studies.

Wanless’ chapter focuses on the racial disproportionality in the school to prison pipeline. In it, she cites research by Pitt scholars past and present, with connections to the Center for Urban Education, School of Social Work, the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology, the School of Education and the Center on Race and Social Problems.

The book will be available on July 1, and it is currently available for pre-order.


Two people walk on Pitt's campus with the sun shining behind them

School of Pharmacy Helps Launch Collaborative Podcast Effort

The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association has partnered with Pharmacy Podcast Network to bring a series of podcasts designed to help community pharmacists implement change and practice transformation.  

The podcasts have been developed in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and their “Flip The Pharmacy” team and paid for through grant funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.  

The series, titled "Beyond the Sig,” will feature pharmacy industry leaders, pharmacy owners, academia, student pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to showcase the transformation of pharmacy. 


Hayley Germack in a burgundy sweater

Hayley Germack Leads Blog on Nurse Practitioner Practice During COVID-19 Pandemic

Hayley Germack, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, leads a blog with two other members of the AcademyHealth Interdisciplinary Research Group on Nursing Issues that illustrates the important impact of recent policy changes on the ability of nurse practitioners to deliver care to vulnerable populations most impacted by the coronavirus. 

At Pitt, Germack has taught health policy, quantitative methods,and community based participatory research to undergraduate students and nurses. Her research focuses on eliminating the mortality gap for patients with serious mental illness by increasing access to primary care services, as well as examining the role of the interprofessional behavioral health and primary care play in providing holistic care to this vulnerable population.


Evan Facher in a black suit and light purple collared shirt

Lifex Offering Wet Lab Space for Pittsburgh Science Startups

LifeX Labs, which offers various resources to help new life sciences companies in Pittsburgh thrive, is now offering wet laboratory space to grow Southwestern Pennsylvania’s life sciences ecosystem. LifeX Labs is supported by the University of Pittsburgh, Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The addition of the lab facilities in the Chocolate Factory of the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, scheduled to open in June, highlights an expanding suite of programs and resources for early stage life sciences startups provided by LifeX Labs.

"Securing affordable, flexible lab space is one of the biggest obstacles to growing a biotech company,” said Evan Facher, interim CEO of LifeX Labs and director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We believe that offering physical space in conjunction with a robust resource network and solid training opportunities will accelerate commercialization timelines for the Pittsburgh region’s growing life science sector.”