Jamie Ducar named to Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership Advisory Team

Jamie Ducar, executive director of the engaged campus within Pitt’s Office of Engagement and Community Affairs, was recently elected to the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP) Advisory Team for the 2023-25 cohort. She is one of four new members to the team.

The GPNP, which is part of the Forbes Funds, is a growing coalition of more than 500 member organizations across 10 counties working together to unify the nonprofit sector, build capacity and leverage collective resources.

The GPNP Advisory Team represents the diverse membership of the coalition — in mission, size and leadership demographics — and its members are able to speak cogently on the challenges and opportunities facing the nonprofit sector in real-time.

“The nonprofit sector is a big part of my professional journey here in Pittsburgh,” Ducar said. “I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer at the GPNP Summit to build my professional network as an emergent practitioner, joined GPNP as a member as former President of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Pittsburgh and now get to reinforce my work within the engaged campus by being part of the advisory team.

“I’m thrilled that GPNP membership considered me a good fit, and I am eager to support the initiatives and convenings that Emily Francis, program manager for the GPNP, and the entire Forbes Funds team are building to increase capacity across the sector.”

Simone Brixius-Anderko gets research award from American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

Simone Brixius-Anderko, assistant professor in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, earned a 2023 New Investigator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

The award will fund Brixius-Anderko’s development of an independent research program on fatty acid metabolism’s contribution to cancer progression, expanding on her lab’s research at Pitt. The seed funding supports early-career faculty in generating preliminary data and setting a foundation for extramural funding success.

A wide breadth of research areas are funded by the long-running AACP program, including basic understanding of disease states and drug discovery, medication adherence and improving student learning experiences. Nearly 500 principal investigators across more than 100 colleges and schools of pharmacy have received the award.

Meta Platforms awards Pitt researchers with Foundational Integrity Research award

Pitt researchers studying how conspiratorial content spreads online received a Foundational Integrity Research award from Meta Platforms.

The project, which will use population-level sampling to trace and measure the influence of online conspiratorial content, is led by Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor in Pitt’s School of Computing and Information. It will build on the work Lin does as principal investigator of the Pitt Computational Social Dynamics (PISCO) Lab, analyzing patterns of change within complex social systems.

The team of researchers — which includes co-investigator Amin Rahimian, assistant professor of industrial engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering — hopes to identify communities that are particularly vulnerable to conspiratorial content.

Meta received more than 500 proposals from 349 universities and institutions around the world for the research award, and Lin’s project on the spread of conspiratorial content was one of 11 winners. The winning research projects focus on domains such as misinformation, violence and incitement, hate speech and coordinated harm.

Salah Al-Zaiti receives Fulbright Scholar Award

Salah Al-Zaiti, vice chair of research in Pitt’s School of Nursing, received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award to conduct research in Jordan.

Al-Zaiti’s research interests lie at the intersection of cardiovascular disease, biomedical informatics and machine learning. He has received nearly $8 million in funding through the National Institutes of Health.

Along with nearly 100 scholarly publications in peer-reviewed journals and 50 scientific presentations, Al-Zaiti helped develop the 2020 American Heart Association guidelines for preventing and mitigating the risk of exercise-related adverse cardiac events. The associate professor also earned a 2023 Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award from the University.

The Fulbright Program, founded in 1946, is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. Fulbright alums have gone on to become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs and university presidents. They include 62 Nobel Laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 78 MacArthur Fellows and world-renowned experts in many fields across the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

David Waldeck gets $7.5 million grant from U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research

David Waldeck, a professor in Pitt’s Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, earned a $7.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The award will fund a five-year project.

MURI funds teams from across universities investigating high priority topics and opportunities that intersect more than one traditional technical discipline. Waldeck will lead researchers from seven universities, including Pitt, Duke University and the University of Southern California, to develop the understanding of the interaction between electron spin and chiral matter.

In 1999, Waldeck — along with Ron Naaman and others at the Weizmann Institute of Science — first reported a strong spin-filtering of electrons by chiral molecules, called Chiral Induced Spin Selectivity (CISS). The MURI researchers aim to develop a fundamental quantum mechanical description for CISS and to explore and demonstrate its use for communicating spin information over long distances, its application for affecting chemical reactions and its manifestations in redox biology.

Gauvin named SHRS associate dean of diversity and inclusion

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has named Assistant Professor Nancy Gauvin as its new associate dean of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement.

Gauvin joined Pitt in 2021 as a member of the initial cohort of scholars from the university’s “Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health and Well-Being Cluster Hire and Retention Initiative.”  She is a speech-language pathologist and tenure-stream faculty in the school’s Department of Communication Science and Disorders and has experience leading diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives throughout her clinical and academic career.

“Nancy has the expertise to address the challenges we face in recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and students of diverse backgrounds,” Dean Anthony Delitto said in a news release. “She also has the academic, clinical and research knowledge to drive change and create actionable plans to foster more equitable and inclusive learning and working environments spanning from the classroom to the lab, in the clinic and our communities.”

Gauvin directs the Communication Science and Disorders Department's new Communication and Health Equity Outcomes Research Initiative.

Read more on the SHRS website.

Law school alumnus Ted Black named Point Park University’s SVP of institutional advancement and strategy

Ted Black (LAW ’90) is the new senior vice president of institutional advancement and strategy for Point Park University.

Black will lead alumni affairs, enrollment and university marketing, external relations and strategic partnerships for the school, located in downtown Pittsburgh. He is currently president and CEO of the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg.

The Pitt School of Law alumnus was a former general counsel for the Pittsburgh Penguins and served as president of the Buffalo Sabres NHL franchise. Through roles in entertainment, sports and media — including as general manager of Fox Sports Network Pittsburgh — Black has managed more than $1 billion in assets throughout his career.

D. Michael Elnicki named editor-in-chief of Journal of General Internal Medicine

D. Michael Elnicki, professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine, was named as one of three upcoming editors-in-chief for The Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM).

Elnicki will help lead the official journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine, whose topics include clinical medicine, epidemiology, prevention, health care delivery and curriculum development.

The director of international education in Pitt’s School of Medicine has worked with medical schools in Kazakhstan, Spain, Vietnam and Uzbekistan. Elnicki also directs the section of general internal medicine at UPMC Shadyside and the Combined Ambulatory Medicine and Pediatrics Clerkship program. ambulatory Clerkship Director, and chair of the Academy of Master Educators.

Elnicki will begin his five-year term as JGIM editor-in-chief on July 1.

Pitt’s HexAI lab receives grant to address challenges in total joint arthroplasty research

The Pitt Health + Explainable AI (HexAI) Research Laboratory, which is studying how to improve healthcare with artificial intelligence, earned a grant to improve care and diagnosis for total join arthroplasty (TJA).

With funding from Oracle for Research, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences lab aims to develop and validate AI models to tackle clinically significant challenges in TJA research. This could lead to more accurate and effective joint replacement treatment in the future.

Pitt’s HexAI lab, directed by Assistant Professor of Health Informatics Ahmad P. Tafti, has already conducted research into machine learning and AI models to predict and improve outcomes for various total joint replacement operations.

Oracle for Research project awardees receive cloud credits — which can be used to access AI programs, cloud computing, cloud storage, database services and more — and hands-on support to accelerate and simplify the technical components of research.

Pitt researchers earn EPA grant to study health impacts of increased rainfall

Three Pitt faculty members are on a team that earned an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to study the health impacts of increased rainfall among residents in predominantly Black, low-income neighborhoods.

The $1.3 million grant will fund new data collection among homes in a Black, disinvested urban neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Researchers have been studying the cohort for the past decade. This project builds on that infrastructure to focus on bacterial and fungal pathogens and indoor air quality in the residential basements.

Sarah Haig, assistant professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, will lead the project; also on the team are Daniel Bain, associate professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and Emily Elliot, professor in the Dietrich School and director of the Pittsburgh Collaboratory for Water Research, Education and Outreach.

The team — which also includes researchers from the Rand Corporation, Homewood Children’s Village and the Black Environmental Collective — will also generate community-based solutions to address health risks related to wet basements and heavy rainfall.

Pitt-Bradford named a Top 10 Military Friendly school

Pitt-Bradford was named a Top 10 Military Friendly School among small public universities.

The Viqtory Media list, now in its 13th year, uses data sources from federal agencies and proprietary survey information from participating organizations to help provide the best opportunities for veterans and their spouses. Pitt-Bradford has been recognized for 13 consecutive years, though this is the first time the regional campus has earned the Top 10 designation for embracing military students and their families.

Final ratings were determined by combining survey scores with an assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for retention, graduation, degree advancement or transfer, job placement, loan repayment and loan default rates for all students as well as for student veterans specifically.

“The Military Friendly School designation is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of many different offices and people at Pitt-Bradford who actively help returning veterans and their dependents to be successful in their pursuit of higher education,” said James Baldwin, vice president of enrollment management at Pitt-Bradford.

Support at Pitt-Bradford for veterans includes academic coaching and tutoring, disability resources, writing and mathematics centers, an academic advising center, and career and counseling services.

The 2023-24 Military Friendly Schools list will be published in the May and October issues of G.I. Jobs magazine.

Gina Bleck joins Business and Operations as vice chancellor for planning, design and construction

Gina Bleck joined Pitt’s Business and Operations as vice chancellor for planning, design and construction.

As leader the University’s new Office of Planning, Design and Construction, Bleck will oversee the completion of projects and develop long-term strategies consistent with Pitt’s Campus Master Plan and Institutional Master Plan. She will engage internal University partners as well as local stakeholders, such as the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation and the City of Pittsburgh.

Bleck most recently served as university architect at Georgetown University, where she also earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. During her tenure there, Bleck led projects to renovate all existing residence halls and construct new residence halls, athletic and academic buildings on campus with careful attention on accessibility and sustainability.

An alumna of Boston Architectural College, Bleck is a member of the American Institute of Architects, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and the Association of University Architects.

Jason Togyer co-authors book about local journalism during 2020 events

Jason Togyer, communications manager for Pitt’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI), authored a book that uses reporting by local journalists to reexamine the events of 2020, including the presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice protests.

“American Deadline: Reporting from Four News-Starved Towns in the Trump Era” highlights Togyer’s coverage of McKeesport, Pa. Along with founding the nonprofit news website and internet radio station Tube City Online, Togyer has worked as a journalist across Western Pennsylvania, including in Washington, Greensburg and Pittsburgh.

Prior to joining OEDI, Togyer also worked for the University as associate editor of Pitt Magazine and senior editor of Pitt Med Magazine.

Preorder “American Deadline,” out in May from Columbia University Press.

David Hickton advisor at Center for Strategic and International Studies

David Hickton has been invited to join the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. The founding director of Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security will serve as a nonresident senior advisor to the bipartisan think tank’s Strategic Technologies Program (STP).

The STP brings together technologists, policymakers, civil society and business leaders to develop policy recommendations around changing technology like cybersecurity, digital governance frameworks, 5G networks and telecommunications, surveillance and privacy, and how technology impacts power and conflict.

During his tenure as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Hickton created a dedicated section to focus on cybercrime and national security. As leader of Pitt Cyber, Hickton oversees research to answer critical questions and fill policy gaps around subjects like networks, data and algorithms.

Celiwe Jones joins Pitt’s CECs as workforce development career counselor

Celiwe Jones (SOC WK ’00) will help job seekers revamp their resumes and find jobs within the Pitt as the new workforce development career counselor for the University’s Community Engagement Centers (CEC).

The new position will work with communities in Homewood and the Hill District, offering career counseling, resume and cover letter support and employment workshops. Along with providing resources for job seekers, Jones will connect local residents with opportunities within the University.

The career counselor will meet with community residents in-person at the Homewood CEC on Mondays and Wednesdays and at the Hill District CEC on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Appointments are available 9 a.m.-noon, or you can visit during walk-in hours 2-4 p.m. You can also meet with Jones virtually on Fridays by appointment only.

To schedule an appointment, email Celiwe Jones at

Pitt Law alumnus Todd Clark named dean of Delaware Law School

Todd Clark (LAW ’03) was named dean of Widener University’s Delaware Law School, which holds a historic reputation as the state’s only law school.

The professor of law at St. Thomas University in Florida is a recognized expert in corporate governance, contracts, employment discrimination, hip-hop law and sports law. During his tenure as senior associate dean of academic affairs, he also co-chaired the school’s Center for Pandemic, Disaster and Quarantine Research. Clark also taught at North Carolina Central University School of Law after receiving his J.D. from Pitt’s School of Law.

Delaware Law School has graduated more than 200 judges, including a sitting Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court and a sitting Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Clark, who was president of the Black Law Students Association while studying at Pitt, will lead the school as it faces its first competitor — Wilmington University’s School of Law — since its first class graduated in 1975.

Three Pitt leaders named to PA higher education Power 100 list

Three Pitt leaders were included on City & State PA’s Power 100 list of higher education innovators across the commonwealth.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher was recognized for helping to steer Pitt through the COVID-19 pandemic, fostering research and expanding facilities on campus. His Pitt Success Pell Match program has also invested more than $95 million into low-income students, helping to make tuition more affordable.

Diversity and justice initiatives in Pitt’s School of Education earned Valerie Kinloch a recognition from the magazine. The Renée and Richard Goldman Dean’s research centers Black and Hispanic voices, and she has led initiatives to encourage Black students to become teachers.

Anantha Shekhar, dean of Pitt’s School of Medicine, earned a spot on the list for introducing an MD/PhD program and the school’s success in securing federal research funding. As vice chancellor for the health sciences, Shekhar also leads Pitt’s six schools, which rank consistently among the nation’s top universities in securing NIH grants.

The Power 100 lists are created based on research by City & State PA’s editorial staff and input from its advisory board.

Julia Santucci

GSPIA’s Santucci named to Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board

Julia Santucci, senior lecturer in Intelligence Studies in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been appointed to President Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board, according to a March 3rd statement from the White House.

The advisory board is an independent element within the executive office that advises the president on the effectiveness of the U.S. intelligence community, and if it is meeting the nation’s intelligence needs. 

“Deeply honored to have been appointed by President Biden to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. The PIAB plays a unique role in our intelligence system, and I'm excited to serve in this capacity,” Santucci said. 

Santucci is director of both the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. She also is an affiliate scholar of the University’s Institute of Cyber Law, Policy and Security. Santucci teaches courses centered around the U.S. intelligence community, diplomacy and the Middle East. As director of the Johnson Institute and Hesselbein Forum, she leads GSPIA’s research and teaching efforts to develop leadership skills in the next generation of public officials. 

Santucci served in the Obama-Biden administration as a senior advisor in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues from 2015 to 2017, where she worked to advance gender equality as a core U.S. foreign policy priority. From 2012 to 2014, she was director for Egypt at the National Security Council. She served for 10 years as a Middle East leadership analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Yvette Conley named associate dean for School of Nursing research and scholarship

Pitt's School of Nursing named Yvette Conley to a newly created position, associate dean for research and scholarship.

Conley, a professor of nursing and human genetics and nationally recognized researcher, will establish a new infrastructure for research within the school. “This truly is my dream role,” she said.

Pitt Nursing has been recognized by The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research as the No. 7 recipient of competitive federal research grants received in 2022 among public universities and No. 12 overall after securing nearly $5.7 million from the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 2022.

“I look forward to stimulating new research endeavors while supporting current research in the school, and I’m really looking forward to recruiting new research faculty to join us during this exciting time at Pitt Nursing,” said Conley.

In 2022, Conley earned the Eastern Nursing Research Society Distinguished Research Award, which is awarded every year in recognition of sustained and outstanding contributions to nursing research by a senior investigator. She has also been recognized as an Honorary Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing — a prestigious appointment held by few non-nurses — and has received an International Society of Nurses in Genetics Founder Award, one of the organization’s highest forms of recognition.

$750,000 NSF grant goes to Swanson School professors' circular economies study

Eric Beckman and Melissa Bilec, professors in the Swanson School of Engineering, will be co-principal investigators on a study of circular economies that earned a $750,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.

NSF’s Convergence Accelerator is funding projects to advance the circular economy, a model which keeps products and materials in continual use by design. Beckman and Bilec, along with project lead and University of Georgia Professor Jenna Jambeck, will analyze data from Pittsburgh and Atlanta. The project, "A Tale of Two Cities: Optimizing Circularity from Molecules to the Built Environment," aims to build a more circular economy in the cities — and beyond.

"We’re connecting and converging a path forward toward a circular economy across multiple materials and scales, and we’re doing it in two large metropolitan areas in geographically different regions," said Bilec, who is also a co-director of Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. "If we are successful, this model could be translated to other locations through the U.S. and globally, and maybe eventually scaling to thousands of cities." 

The success of a circular economy depends on collaboration between government, businesses, local stakeholders and many more individuals and organizations. The team will examine circularity at all levels, from molecular optimization for recycling to reusing deconstructed building materials.