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Sara Kuebbing in a black top

Sara Kuebbing Named Ecological Society of America Early Career Fellow

Sara Kuebbing, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been named a 2020 early career fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Kuebbing was chosen for her research on the impacts of invasive plant species on terrestrial plant communities and ecosystems and her efforts to apply research to management of invaded systems. The five-year program will support fellows’ competitiveness and advancement to leadership positions.

A panther statue

Listen to a Follow-up Discussion from Pitt Panelists on COVID-19

On February 12, Pitt’s Global Studies and Asian Studies Centers hosted an information session to answer the community’s questions about the novel coronavirus. The event drew approximately 250 people, and it featured two Pitt scientists, two Pitt historians and an epidemiologist from the Allegheny County Health Department.

Two months later, the event’s moderator, Global Studies Center director and professor of political science Michael Goodhart brought two of the panelists together for a follow-up discussion.

In the podcast, Goodhart spoke with Megan Freeman, a pediatric infectious diseases senior fellow in the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, and Mari Webel, assistant professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences' Department of History. Goodhart, Freeman and Webel discussed the developments in the understanding of the disease and the social response that’s come along with it.

"The Global Studies Center wanted to continue this conversation both as a service to our communities and as an intellectual contribution to our evolving understanding of this pandemic and its effects, said Goodhart.

“One of the things most interesting for me to track as a historian has been the way people have been talking about what they should be doing, and how it impacts their lives,” said Webel, who has recently published two articles in The Conversation about the dangers and implications of identifying the virus with its place of origin.

“The translation of early information about COVID-19—which focused on older demographic populations being most at risk, which focused on men—and the early guidance about mask-wearing, we’re seeing that change over time … It’s been an interesting phenomenon see to play out,” Webel said.

Goodhart said that the Global Studies Center will be organizing related online events throughout the summer and encouraged people to check their website for information.

A person uses a laptop

Pitt Business Student Volunteers Provide Tax Preparation Aid

Fifteen student volunteers from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration doubled the impact of Pitt’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in partnership with the Carnegie Library in Oakland this season.

Despite the mandate to close the library site due to COVID-19, the project doubled its returns from its pilot season in 2019. During six weeks of operations in 2020, student volunteers completed 146 tax returns with a total of $206,390 in refunds and a total of $68,967 in earned income credit.

The program, which provides free tax help to people with low-to-medium incomes, the elderly, people with disabilities and those with limited English fluency, supports the Pittsburgh community while providing experience-based learning for Pitt Business students.

Volunteering this year were: James Campbell, Jie Chu, Justin Coughenour, Joshua Gailey, Weichun Hsieh, Han Luo, Muxiao Niu, Rebecca Power, Taylor Stein, Damon Singleton, Connor Taljan, Xingchen Yao, Quan Yang, Anqi Zang and Wenzhao Zhang.

The students completed over 24 hours of training and passed five IRS examinations to qualify as volunteers.

The Pitt VITA program is funded through the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership in Pitt Business. Jocelyn Carlin, clinical assistant professor of business administration, is its faculty advisor.

Alexandros Labrinidis

Got Toilet Paper? There’s a Website for That

The Pitt Smart Living Project team has launched a crowdsourcing website to help people in the Pittsburgh area shop for essential items during the pandemic.

The website allows users to search for a store on a map and view information about how busy the store is at any time of day, or even on a different day, with data provided by Google. Users can also find and contribute information about which items are in or out of stock, such as toilet paper, eggs and paper towels. They can also search for an essential product and see a map of all locations that have that item in stock.

“Our goal is to make everyone’s lives a bit easier during the pandemic and help flatten the curve,” said Alexandros Labrinidis, project leader and chair of the Department of Computer Science in the School of Computing and Information (SCI). “We hope that the site will help unnecessary trips to the grocery store, and ultimately keep essential workers and our neighbors safe.”

Along with Labridinis, the project team also includes Kristi Bushman and Konstantinos Pelechrinis (SCI), Sera Linardi and Robizon Khubulashvili (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs) and Mallory Avery (Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences).

Nicole Mitchell plays the flute in a red top

Pitt Jazz Launches New Video Blog on International Jazz Day

The Pitt Jazz Studies Program is launching a new initiative: a video blog called Jazz Talk, hosted by Nicole Mitchell, director of the Jazz Studies program, which is in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The series, which will feature solo performances by local jazz musicians who will be interviewed by Mitchell, will premiere at noon on April 30, International Jazz Day. To view it, visit Pitt Jazz Studies’ Facebook page.

“Featuring Pittsburgh jazz artists on an online platform will hopefully bring more outside attention to the great talent that Pittsburgh jazz has to offer,” said Mitchell. “It will also help local fans get to know the musicians more personally. I’d also like to make space for voices of artists in other disciplines whose work is informed by jazz and improvisation.”

Jazz Talk’s first installment will feature bassist Dwayne Dolphin and vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield. Dolphin was playing bass with jazz greats Geri Allen, Nathan Davis, Pete Henderson, Roger Humphries and Fred Wesley by the time he was 15. He toured with famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis throughout the U.S. and appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Dolphin’s diverse experience has included a performance with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s production of “Indigo in Motion.” He is an adjunct professor of jazz at Duquesne University.

Wingfield is a vocalist and teaching artist specializing in opera, classical, jazz and soul.  She is the founding director of Groove Aesthetic, a Pittsburgh-based multidisciplinary artist collective. Wingfield has performed such lead operatic roles as Magda Sorel in Carl Menotti’s “The Consul,” Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” and Zerlina in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” As the education director for the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, she oversees early childhood programs in schools and communities.

For more information, contact the Jazz Studies office at 412-624-4187 or pittjazz@pitt.edu.

Alicia Koontz in a green shirt

Alicia Koontz Inducted Into American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

University of Pittsburgh researcher Alicia Koontz has been inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Koontz is an associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and associate director for research at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories.

Election to the institute’s College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top 2% of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering and medicine research, practice or education and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing and implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education." 

A yellow compass

Pitt’s Global Hub Still Abuzz with Free Events, Watch Parties, Virtual Tours

Pitt’s Posvar Hall may be shuttered, but its Global Hub is still buzzing with activity, albeit virtual in nature. There are the regular ongoing offerings, like the United Nations noon briefings, and virtual tours of sites ranging from world-class museums to Croatia’s national parks. Then there are the special events—live interviews, lectures, webinars, panel discussions and watch parties. The content is developed by all of the units under the University Center for International Studies (UCIS), but it is promoted by the Hub, the central place at Pitt to find ways to stay globally engaged. All of the activity is free to the public.

Hub Manager Karen Lue says she is especially proud to promote the virtual International Tea Time Workshops, at which students from around the globe have a space to air concerns, ask questions or just feel included.

“These are hard times for everyone, but particularly for international students who are, in effect, ‘stuck’ here in a place that is not their home culture,” said Lue. “Having a space where they can speak with students who are going through similar challenges, in a discussion led by professional counselors, is a way for them to feel like they are part of a community.”

The Hub is also a resource for those students completing UCIS certificates or the Global Distinction credential. And the Hub’s Instagram account features clips from its Experience Wall, as well as testimonials from UCIS students.

The main goal: global engagement. “Now more than ever, it is clearly evident that we live in an interconnected world that requires our ability to understand and empathize with one another,” said Belkys Torres, executive director of global engagement. “That is only possible through increased knowledge of other cultures, peoples and experiences.”

Two people talk with one another over graphs and other data

PInCh Offering Bonus Prize Money for Pandemic Health Ideas

The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh) 2020 is now offering a bonus award of up to $25,000 for ideas that impact aspects of health that are related to an epidemic or pandemic.

Proposals are not required to address this issue, but those that do would be eligible to receive additional funding. Applications will continue to be accepted for any innovative solution to a challenging health problem, from any discipline and on any topic that impacts health.

Two-minute video applications are due Wednesday, April 29, by 5 p.m.

A total of $555,000 in awards are available, with individual project awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. Teams that enter must include at least one University of Pittsburgh faculty member. Find more information or assistance with your submission online.

A sign for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Joshua Groffman Selected for Bradford Campus Teaching Award

Joshua Groffman, assistant professor of music, will receive the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s Chairs’ Faculty Teaching Award. Groffman is the director of Pitt-Bradford’s music programs.

Jeff Guterman, associate professor of broadcast communications and chair of the campus's Division of Communication and the Arts, cited Groffman’s creation of a music minor and pep band in 2018 as well as positive teaching reviews and making a point of connecting visiting musicians directly with students in a learning environment.

Groffman is also a prolific composer and active performer. Several performances planned for spring and summer have been postponed, most notably a June pre-premiere workshop of a new opera, “Halcyon.” Groffman now expects that to take place in 2021.

A University of Pittsburgh-Bradford Sign

Bradford Campus Named to Transfer Honor Roll

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has been named to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society's Transfer Honor Roll in recognition of the dynamic pathways it has created to support transfer students.

Phi Theta Kappa is the honor society for students at two-year colleges and universities. It recognizes four-year colleges and universities deemed most friendly to transfer students. This is the first year that Pitt-Bradford has been recognized.

The Bradford campus was one of only two public universities in Pennsylvania that were recognized.

Pitt-Bradford provides an extensive database of courses at other universities for students to identify potential transfer credit. 

The Cathedral of Learning

OHR Recognized Nationally for COVID-19 Resources for Supervisors

The Office of Human Resources (OHR) has been nationally recognized for its guidance in helping supervisors during the COVID-19 crisis.

EAB, a higher education firm, cited OHR in its April 13 article “3 ways to engage staff with excess capacity during coronavirus.”

The article highlights OHR’s new framework to help supervisors keep their employees engaged and productive during the pandemic. The framework offers tools and tips for supervisors on different ways they can shift their thinking “from challenge mode to opportunity mode,” as their staff’s normal responsibilities and routines may have changed due to the pandemic. The tips are:

  • Think AHEAD: Use this time for long-term, strategic planning.
  • Think BACK: Examine data on previous projects.
  • Think DEEP: Analyze systems currently in place.
  • Think ACROSS: Brainstorm ways to help others in their work.
  • Think GROWTH: Focus on self and team development.
  • Think WELL-BEING: Prioritize physical and mental health.
  • Think NOW: Consider which tasks are critical to tackling immediately.

Visit OHR’s website for more guidance, and additional COVID-19 resources for faculty and staff.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Back Issues of Environmental Magazine Now Available Online

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the University Library System (ULS) is making available nearly 300 back issues of Environmental Action Magazine, a publication of Environmental Action, Inc., which helped establish the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The back issues, spanning 1970 to 1995, are available online, through Pitt’s ULS Digital Collections.

Environmental Action stopped operations in 1996 but was known for its pioneering work to pass clean air and water laws; reform electric utilities; oppose the construction of new urban highways; stop the production of supersonic aircraft; battle solid waste and the introduction of throwaway bottles and cans; ban toxic chemicals; and promote legislation that covered the production, use and disposal of dangerous substances. Articles in its magazine reflect these initiatives.

ULS also holds the records of the Environmental Action Foundation and contains a number of other environmental collections, including Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Records, 1970-1997, AIS.2000.16; Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) Records, 1968-2002, AIS.1979.21; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Records, 1885-2006, AIS.1999.13 and many others.

Ben Rottman in a blue collared shirt

Program Connects Pitt Community for Shopping, Delivery Help

Ben Rottman, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, wanted to make it easier for people to find the help they needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. His solution? The Pitt Shopping Helper program.

“There are so many people in the Pitt community who don't own a car, don't have extra money for delivery services or recently moved to Pittsburgh and don't have extensive social support,” said Rottman.

Working with Anthony Peck, a University technical consultant in Pitt IT, Rottman built the map-based tool that members of the psychology department and Learning Research and Development Center could use to find people who lived nearby and needed help with shopping and other necessities.

It came to the attention of Frits Pil, provost fellow for faculty and director of instructional innovation and faculty development at Pitt Business. Pil connected Rottman with the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative, hosted by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, which enabled the tool to become a cross-University effort.

“We are now looking for ways to reach the full Pitt community. What’s super exciting about this is that it’s Pitt colleagues helping each other,” said Pil. “The goal is for this to present minimal incremental risk to volunteers … We hope that they can provide the assistance when they would be going out for themselves any way.”

Currently, the Pitt Shopping Helper tool is part of the My Pitt platform, accessible to anyone with a pitt.edu email address.

“The current focus is shopping, but it can provide a framework and volunteer base to build off if the needs get more complex,” said Pil, who encouraged people to sign up as helpers and to request help if they need it.

“We would like for everyone in the Pitt community who needs help to ask for it. There is no stigma to requesting assistance at this time. We stay through this as a community. We support each other.”

A collection of bottles of hand sanitizer

Chemistry Department Making Hand Sanitizer for Community Nonprofits

Three members of the Department of Chemistry in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences are using their spare time and the department’s extra resources to make hand sanitizer and donate it to local community groups.

Department Chair and Professor Sunil Saxena, Dietrich School Director of Shared Research Support Services Peter Chambers and graduate student Joshua Casto used compounds left in the department to create batches of hand sanitizer that were distributed to the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh’s North Side, the Community Engagement Association in Homewood and Meals on Wheels in the Hill District. Saxena said the effort will continue as long as there is a community need.

Bharath Chandrasekaran in a blue collared shirt

Bharath Chandrasekaran Appointed to National Institutes of Health Study Section

Bharath Chandrasekaran, a communication science and disorders associate professor and vice chair of research in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been appointed to a four-year term to serve as a charter member of the Language and Communication Study Section, beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2024. The section is part of the Center for Scientific Review of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Members of NIH study sections are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors. 

Chandrasekaran’s research examines the neurobiological computations that underlie human communication and learning.

Chandralekha Singh

Chandralekha Singh Named President of American Association of Physics Teachers

Chandralekha Singh, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, who is founding director of the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center, has been appointed as the 2020 president of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

Singh, who had previously served as vice president of the AAPT board of directors, will work to connect physics educators at all education levels and expand professional development activities in ways that encourage inclusion and equity. “These activities can help physics instructors improve students’ sense of belonging and create a low anxiety learning environment in which all students can contribute to physics related discussions without fear of being wrong,” she said.

Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey Wins Fellowship for Poetry

Yona Harvey, faculty member in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of English, has been awarded a fellowship from the George A. and Eiiza Gardner Howard Foundation at Brown University for the 2020-21 academic year.

The foundation awards a limited amount of fellowships annually “for independent projects in selected fields, targeting its support specifically to early mid-career individuals, those who have achieved recognition for one major project.” Harvey has won a fellowship in the poetry category.

An assistant professor in the Writing Program, Harvey is the author of the poetry collection “Hemming the Water,” winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University. Her second poetry collection, “You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love,” is set to be released later this year.

A panther statue fountain

Water Collaboratory Publishes Paper on Regional Flooding

The Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education, and Outreach, which was founded in January 2018 by faculty out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Geology and Environmental Science with support from The Heinz Endowments, has released the white paper report “Flooding in Southwestern Pennsylvania: Knowledge Gaps and Approaches.”

The paper’s recommendations are based on a meeting of regional stakeholders that included representatives from the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and over 50 participants from NGOs and local residents. Its recommendations include targeted assessments of urban watersheds to understand the true costs of flooding, the creation of a regional- or multi-municipality stormwater utility district and increased observation of tributaries. The paper is the third of a series designed to assess knowledge gaps related to regional water resources.

A student walking on a sidewalk

Carbon Commitment Committee Named

A Carbon Commitment Committee has been established in support of the University of Pittsburgh’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037.

Director of Sustainability Aurora Sharrard will chair this subcommittee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability.  

Carbon Commitment Committee members are:

  • Jennifer Barnes, supplier diversity and sustainability coordinator, Purchasing
  • Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor, Facilities Management
  • Melissa Bilec, deputy director, Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Brendan Fouracre, Executive Associate Athletic Director for Capital Planning and Projects and Facility and Event Operations, Athletics
  • Max Harleman, PhD candidate, Graduate School of Public & International Affairs
  • Mike Holland, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy & Research Strategies, Research
  • Katrina Kelly, assistant research professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mary Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor, Planning, Design and Real Estate
  • Ellen Oordt, undergraduate student, Ecology & Evolution '22
  • Rebecca Roadman, senior HR project manager, Human Resources

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the accelerated carbon neutrality goal, timed to align with Pitt’s 250th anniversary in 2037, in conjunction with the signing of the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. The University is on a trajectory to meet the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and energy use 50% by 2030 (from a 2008 baseline), while producing or procuring at least 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Pitt-Bradford monument sign

Pitt-Bradford Receives National Advertising Awards

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has received four awards in the 2019 Collegiate Advertising Awards program, which recognizes U.S. colleges and universities for excellence in communications, marketing, advertising and promotions.

Pitt-Bradford received two awards for the materials its admissions counselors use to recruit new students. It received a Gold Award in the Recruitment Series category for a series of brochures, postcards, posters and flyers; and a Silver Award in the Direct-Mail category for a postcard sent to prospective students who originally applied to the University of Pittsburgh and were accepted at Pitt-Bradford.

Pitt-Bradford received another Silver Award in the Brochure-Multiple Pages category for a case statement of support that is being used to raise funds for a new STEM building, which will house two new engineering technology programs—mechanical engineering technology and energy engineering technology—and two existing programs, computer information systems and technology and petroleum technology.

The third Silver Award was in the Newspaper Ad-Series category for print ads published in regional newspapers last spring that featured Pitt-Bradford students and graduates, including Katie Treat, a biology major from Cyclone, Pennsylvania, and Kacie Appleby, a criminal justice major from Port Allegany, Pennsylvania.