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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.
James McKone Selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator
James McKone, assistant 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Co-Authors Book Chapter on Children and Racism
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Juan C. Celedón Named President of American Thoracic Society
Juan C. Celedón was recently named president of the American Thoracic Society for the 2020-21 term. Celedón is the Niels K. Jerne Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine and chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
His research focuses on asthma, COPD and health disparities in airway diseases. Celedón’s scientific contributions have been acknowledged through his election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, as well as through the ATS Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments, among other honors.
Engineering Researcher Steven Little Elected into College of Fellows
Steven Little was recently elected to the Controlled Release Society’s College of Fellows. Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.
He was elected for outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of 10 years.
Little’s novel drug delivery systems mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation, allowing for dosages millions of times smaller than current treatments. These systems need only be applied once and then are released over a period of days or months, depending on the medication. Little also published research revealing a new immunotherapy system that mimics how cancer cells invade the human immune system to reduce the risk of transplant rejection.
Research Team Receives Grant to Form AI System to Debunk False COVID Information
Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information (SCI), Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor in SCI and Wen-Ting Chung, research assistant professor in the School of Education, have been awarded a RAPID Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a debunking system for COVID-19 related misinformation.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAPID Grants have been awarded to research teams to “mobilize the scientific community to better understand and develop measures to respond to the virus.”
“We rely so much on mass media and social media to get information, even more so during the pandemic,” said Lin, the project’s principal investigator, whose research focuses on using data science to understand collective behavior and social movement. “The mission of this project is to reduce the harmful impact of misinformation.”
Using machine learning and data mining, the team will create an AI system that identifies which false information is most influential, who is most affected by it and how to "debunk" the problematic information automatically in social media. Their debunking system will rely heavily on citizen journalism and crowdsourcing images that counter misinformation on Twitter.
“When people are used to consuming the same media sources or discussing news with people strictly in their social circles, they lose out on the opportunity to see alternative information, or other points of view,” said Chung, whose research interests include group bias and sociocultural factors on learning and motivation. "The system could be a learning device that helps cultivate people with a more critical view in discerning the features of problematic information."
Kovashka, whose expertise is in computer vision and machine learning, added, “What makes this interesting, is how it taps into the work of advertisers. It’s been shown that people will be most likely to click on something is when a post prompts an emotion—in this case it’s fear. Of course, computationally modeling what specific aspect of visual or textual content will evoke an emotion and what kind of behaviors it will prompt is challenging, so part of the goal of this proposal is to advance how we computationally analyze persuasion.”
The team expects to complete their project within the year.
Alan Juffs Publishes First-of-Its-Kind Book on ESL Development
Alan Juffs, professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School’s Department of Linguistics and director of the English Language Institute and center associate in the Learning Research Development Center (LRDC), recently published a book titled “Aspects of Language Development in an Intensive English Program.”
According to the book’s description, it is the “first of its kind to track the development of specific language abilities in an Intensive English Program (IEP) longitudinally and highlights the implications of this particular student’s findings for future IEP implementation and practice and ESL and SLA research.” The book also references data and research compiled at an IEP at Pitt.
In addition to his work at Pitt, Juffs has also taught in Asia and Europe.
University Library System Acquires Daniel Kraus Papers
There’s a significant new addition to the Horror Studies Collection at Pitt. The University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) has acquired the papers of Daniel Kraus—a prolific writer in the horror genre who currently lives in Chicago. It represents the first addition to the collection from a literary figure and author, thus expanding the scope of the collection beyond filmmaking as established through the inaugural acquisition of the George A. Romero Archival Collection.
Two of Kraus’ novels, “Rotters” and “Scowler,” received the American Library Association Odyssey Award honoring excellence in children’s and young adult audiobooks. He was asked by George A. Romero’s literary agent to finish Romero’s epic zombie novel, “The Living Dead,” which is set to publish in August of this year. Kraus also has collaborated with horror filmmaker and Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro, in co-authoring the novels “Trollhunters” and “The Shape of Water.”
“I’m the writer I am today because of George A. Romero,” said Kraus. “So, it makes perfect sense to me that I follow his giant footsteps in placing my past work with the University of Pittsburgh.”
The Daniel Kraus Archive, which will be processed later this year, will document the beginning of his career and includes works he produced as a child and teenager. It will also include manuscripts and drafts of his published works: “The Monster Variations,” “Rotters,” “Scowler,” and “The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch.”
Dental Medicine Researcher Mary Marazita Earns Distinguished Professor Honor
Mary Marazita from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine was recently awarded the designation of distinguished professor in recognition for her internationally renowned, groundbreaking and widely heralded work in the genetics of craniofacial disorders.
The appointment of a faculty member to a distinguished professorship constitutes the highest honor that the University can accord a member of the professorate. The designation recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized, scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field. These individuals are expected to make special contributions to the intellectual advancement of their home departments and schools, as well as to the institution as a whole.
Marazita has published over 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 23 book chapters or monographs and over 500 abstracts. Her work has been represented in scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature, among others. She also directs Pitt’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.
Joshua Matilla Awarded Public Policy Fellowship
Joshua Matilla was recently selected for the 2020-2021 class of Public Policy Fellows at the American Association of Immunologists. Matilla is assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
The fellowship program provides early-career researchers, who are within 15 years of receiving their terminal degree and committed to a career in biomedical research, with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the public policy and legislative activities of the association. Up to 10 fellows are selected to participate annually. Fellows serve from May 1 of their selection year to April 30 of the following year.
Engineer Jason Shoemaker Receives NSF Award for Virtual Infection Modeling
Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received an NSF CAREER Award for $547,000 for his work modeling the immune system response to viral lung infections.
The predictive computational model will show how the human body will react to a viral lung infection and will flag biomarkers present for people whose immune systems react with excessive inflammation, which is what makes these infections so dangerous. Though it’s modeled on the influenza virus, once completed, it will be applicable to other viral lung infections, like COVID-19.
COVID-19 Reveals the Need for Health Care Supply Chain Improvements, Says Pitt Supply Chain Expert
The supply chain for U.S. health care is really five different supply chains—pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical devices, medical supplies and blood—and each one has its own challenges and opportunities for improvement.
In a new paper published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Prakash Mirchandani, professor of business administration and director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, examines the effects of COVID-19 on this system and what can be done to ensure that our supply chains continue to support health care providers.
He recommends these solutions:
- Re-shore drug manufacturing or develop a dual supply chain for pharmaceuticals
- Maintain and rotate a judiciously determined emergency stockpile of PPE
- Create a more agile supply chain for medical devices such as ventilators
- Build redundancy and develop contingency plans for medical supplies such as lab kits and testing materials
- Decentralize blood collection (and centralize storage and distribution) to maintain supplies and address demand