Accolades

Jem Spectar, UPJ president

UPJ President Spectar named to central Pa. business development list

Pitt–Johnstown President Jem Spectar has been named to the Pennsylvania Business Central top 100 people in business and economic development list.

The list honors men and women from a variety of industries within the Pennsylvania Business Central’s 16-county coverage area who have advanced the community around them through job creation, charity and hard work.

“It is an honor to receive this outstanding distinction by Pennsylvania Business Central,” Spectar said. “This recognition reinforces the Pitt–Johnstown commitment to developing a more distinctive, explicit and intentional Pitt-Johnstown signature and a first-class educational experience.”

Spectar has been president of Pitt–Johnstown since 2007. Previously, he served as provost/vice president and professor at Western Oregon University, associate provost and professor at the University of Scranton, director of studies and lecturer at Princeton University and assistant dean and associate professor of law at the University of La Verne College of Law. 

Cathedral of Learning on a sunny blue day

Pitt joins EPA’s Green Power Partnership

Pitt has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership. The program aims to increase the use of green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. 

Currently, 15 percent of Pitt’s electricity comes from renewables. The University’s green power usage is equal to the electric power used by approximately 3,000 typical American homes.

To meet the goals of the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan, the University aims to produce or procure 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Pitt recently announced its intent to purchase 100 percent of the power produced by a proposed hydroelectric plant to be built on the Allegheny River at the existing Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2, just below the Highland Park Bridge. This is the University’s largest-ever commitment to renewable power.

The hydropower facility, which is expected to begin commercial operation in 2022, will generate enough electricity to supply 25 percent of the Pittsburgh campus’ electricity needs.

Swan in a brown sweater

Pitt professor helps translate Holocaust-era diary of Warsaw ghetto survivor

Oscar E. Swan, professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and advisor for the Polish minor, translated the memoir of a Warsaw ghetto survivor that has topped the list of new releases in Jewish Biographies on Amazon.

Swan met Leokadia Schmidt in 1972 and translated her diary from Polish to English. Schmidt’s journal recounts her traumatic experiences evading the Nazis with her husband and 5-month-old son, and eventually hiding in a tinsmith’s shed in the “Aryan side” of Warsaw. It wasn’t until recent years that Schmidt’s son contacted Swan about publishing his translation.

Swan’s English translation of “Rescued from the Ashes: the Diary of Leokadia Schmidt, Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto” comes on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

a group of people walking around campus

Education, Social Work, CEC named finalists for challenge grant

The Schools of Education and Social Work, in partnership with the Homewood Children’s Village and Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood, have been collectively selected as finalists for the William T. Grant Foundation’s Institutional Challenge Grant.

The Institutional Challenge Grant “encourages university-based research institutes, schools and centers to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations in order to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.”

This proposed research project will “empirically demonstrate the impact of simultaneous parent and child interventions to improve key student educational outcomes — grades, school attendance, and behavior.” The Pitt-Homewood Children’s Village project is one of four research-practice partnerships selected as a national finalist. The winning partnership will be announced at the end of March 2019.

“This opportunity is consistent with our university’s focus on engaging in impactful work with communities, building and sustaining educational partnerships, and contributing to community engaged work and research-practice partnerships,” said Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education and the project’s principal investigator.

Co-principal investigators are John Wallace, professor in the School of Social Work, Katz Graduate School of Business, and Department of Sociology; and Walter Lewis, President and CEO of Homewood Children’s Village.

Zhang in a collar shirt and sweater

New documentary based on ULS initiative puts China’s Cultural Revolution in context

A new feature-length documentary is in production that will highlight the CR/10 Project — an ongoing University Library System initiative that records, preserves,and publishes video interviews with Chinese citizens sharing their memories of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Launched in 2015 by the ULS East Asian Library, CR/10 illuminates a watershed 10-year period in China, where an attempt by Chairman Mao Zedong to protect the Communist Party’s purity resulted in a serious class struggle. From 1966 through 1976, universities and schools were forced to close; teachers and scholars were publicly beaten and tortured. The oral histories in CR/10 present a variety of memories — views not from scholars or politicians, but from the common man. The project began with around 30 oral histories and now hosts more than 100.

With funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, the 90-minute documentary, “Unreconciled Memories: Reflections on China’s Cultural Revolution,” will help put the CR/10 project in context. In addition to online accessibility, hundreds of DVDs will be produced and distributed in 2020, mainly for use in high school and college classrooms and conferences. The project’s academic director is Edward Gunn, professor emeritus of Modern Chinese Literature at Cornell University. He is supported by Haihui Zhang (pictured), executive director and head of the ULS East Asian Library, and Kun Qian, professor of modern Chinese literature and film at Pitt.

gate in the Cathedral

Pitt Cyber announces new affiliate scholars

The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security has announced three new affiliate scholars — Rosta Farzan, Maria Kovacs and Ana Radovic — as well as affiliate practice scholar Keith Mularski.

Pitt Cyber affiliate scholars are drawn from faculty across the University and are selected for their excellence in cyber-themed research and teaching. Affiliate scholars are a source for transdisciplinary collaboration and innovation across Pitt and beyond. Affiliate practice scholars are selected from across industries and disciplines to be a source of practical experience and expertise for research, experiential learning and discussion.

Rosta Farzan is an associate professor at the School of Computing and Information where she researches social computing and socio-technical systems; studying how technology and people can come together to tackle major societal challenges.  

Maria Kovacs is distinguished professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and professor of psychology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences. Kovacs has been studying the role of emotion regulation in depression across the life span and in multiple generations. She is currently exploring research on the processing of disinformation and its affective context by youths and young adults.

Ana Radovic is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine. Radovic practices at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh's Division for Adolescent and Young Adult Health. Her research focuses on using technology in the real world to help adolescents with depression or anxiety access earlier treatment and support.

Keith Mularski is an advisory executive director in the cybersecurity practice at Ernst & Young LLP. He was previously supervisory special agent assigned to the Pittsburgh division of the FBI, where he worked to develop proactive targeting protocols for emerging cyber threats. Mularski has worked undercover to infiltrate international underground cyber-criminal organizations and led investigations with Pitt Cyber Founding Director David Hickton into the indictments of members of the People’s Liberation Army of China, the GameOver Zeus botnet, the Avalanche botnet takedown and other significant cyber enforcement actions.

Costello in a blue bowtie and black jacket

Dental Medicine dean begins tenure as Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association president

Bernard J. Costello, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, has begun his year as president of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA).

Costello, who is also a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, said in a recent welcome message that the association will “aim to improve upon the notable successes of the past and innovate for the future.”

“The chance to help lead this organization is a rare privilege and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with such fantastic leaders,” he said. “ACPA is filled with people who know teamwork like no other organization that I am a part of.”

Kovashka

Adriana Kovashka receives funding from Amazon Research Awards

Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor of computer science,  recently received funding from Amazon Research Awards for her project studying how objects foreshadow film plots and explain advertisements. She proposes to understand two artistic media — movie plots and advertisements — via the objects emphasized in movie frames.

“We propose to understand objects in film and ads through models that rely on common-sense knowledge extracted from: movies and knowledge bases. We use films as a medium to visually capture life experiences, including the context (i.e.objects) in which they occur,” Kovashka said.

This funding will help strengthen the relationship and collaboration between the School of Computing and Information and Amazon Research.

Russell in a white jacket in front of a panther statue

Jennifer Russell receives $1.4 Million grant to improve schools

Jennifer Russell, associate professor in the School of Education and research scientist in the Learning and Research Development Center, was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for her project titled, "Conceptualizing and Measuring Network Health in the Networks for School Improvement Initiative."

The NSI Initiative funds organizations who will “support groups of middle and high schools working together to identify and solve common problems that best fit their needs, learning what works as they go and refining their approaches.”

At LRDC, Russell leads the Partners for Network Improvement team that specializes in the developmental evaluation of improvement networks. Other Pitt group members include scientist Jennifer Post Iriti, research associate Jennifer Shearer, and research assistant Christ Matthis.

Pitt–Bradford signage

Pitt–Bradford recognized as military-friendly school

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has for the 10th year been named a Military Friendly School for its dedication to the success of veterans and their spouses. Among the resources that Pitt–Bradford makes available to these students are academic coaching and tutoring, an academic advising center and career and counseling services.

“The Military Friendly school designation is a reflection of the hard work and dedication made by so 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.

Designated a recipient in the small public school category, Pitt–Bradford was one of just 766 schools to earn the designation among the nearly 9,000 schools evaluated nationwide by Viqtory Media (previously Victory Media). Institutions are evaluated based on survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, degree advancement or transfer and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans. 

The military-friendly designation aims measure and assess an organization’s commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefit for the military community.

sparklers in the dark spelling H2P

Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence receives grant to help small businesses in coal-impacted communities

A $1.035 million Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant will assist individuals displaced by the declining market for Appalachian coal by providing job-search and business startup assistance through Western Pennsylvania Small Business Services for Coal-Impacted Communities (SBS) programs.

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), part of the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, has received $285,000 for its part in the program and will match the ARC grant for a total of $664,950. The IEE will offer three programs through its Small Business Development Center:

  • Launch My Business” for startups and those thinking of starting a business due to displacement.
  • Planning for Profits” where business owners use the Business Model Canvas tool to analyze direct feedback from existing and potential clients for sales growth and revenue.
  • Decision Makers” in which business owners resolve issues in a confidential group setting. 

It also will draw upon the expertise of PantherlabWorks, a resource for innovative companies seeking to bring new technologies, services and products into the marketplace.

“We have a long history of working with manufacturers, small businesses and individuals in communities affected by shifts in the economy,” said IEE executive director Robert Stein. “This partnership is an important outreach to communities where job losses have accelerated with the closing of coal mines.”

The SBS is a joint initiative of Pitt’s IEE, Innovation Works/Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. Working together, these organizations provide coworking spaces, accelerators and incubators to serve business owners, independent contractors and entrepreneurs in communities where there are limited resources.

tree-lined sidewalk near the Cathedral

Center for Urban Education receives portion of $1.5 million grant

The Center for Urban Education (CUE) has been awarded a portion of a grant totaling $1.5 million that will help support the re-emergence of the Ready to Learn program.

The Chan Zuckerburg Initiative grant was awarded to researchers at CUE and its partners at Carnegie Mellon to “support a group of urban and rural districts in the Pittsburgh region … to develop a set of culturally sustaining and digital approaches to improving literacy and numeracy.”

The year-long Ready to Learn program will provide math tutoring and culturally relevant mentoring to kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools — matching students with Pitt undergrads who can apply to serve as mentors across three different school sites.

Housed in the School of Education, CUE is planning for a 2019 launch date for Ready to Learn.

“Our school partnerships are deeply meaningful to us. This program underscores CUE’s two-fold commitment to educate the whole student and to identify the pathways and possibilities for change in education systems. I am excited about what this program can mean for student learning and support in the Hill District and surrounding communities,” said CUE Director T. Elon Dancy II.

“We look forward to supporting students in learning not just math skills, but other life skills that will support them in their futures,” added Kenny Donaldson, associate director of strategic programming and initiatives at CUE. “We recognize the communities we are collaborating with already have tremendous assets, and we are just aiming to partner and engage with these entities.”

Kavalieratos

Dio Kavalieratos honored for work in palliative care

Dio Kavalieratos, assistant professor of medicine, palliative care and medical ethics and director of implementation research for the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, has been awarded the 2019 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Early Career Investigator Award. 

Kavalieratos, who is the first Ph.D. to ever win this award, is a health services researcher who is passionate about studying and developing best practices regarding palliative care implementation within health systems. 

Robert Arnold, medical director of the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute, and Yael Schenker, director of palliative care research at Pitt, nominated Kavalieratos for this distinction. They describe him as “one of the most talented Ph.D. health services researchers in palliative care.”

“My overarching goal for my work is to create systems, based on scientific evidence, that make palliative care an assumed part of everyone’s health care,” Kavalieratos said.

Fullerton in a gray jacket and purple collar shirt

Susan Fullerton awarded NSF funding for ‘2D’ materials research

Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, recently received the $540,000 CAREER Award for her research in super-thin “2D” materials.

The award, which comes from the National Science Foundation, supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Fullerton and her group invented a new type of ion-containing material, or electrolyte, which is only a single molecule thick. This will ultimately introduce new functions that can be used by the electronic materials community to explore the fundamental properties of new semiconductor materials and to develop electronics with completely new device characteristics.

Wang in a tan coat and blue shirt in front of a panther statue

Ming-Te Wang receives American Psychological Association award

Ming-Te Wang, who serves as associate professor in both the School of Education and the Department of Psychology, and as a research scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center, received the 2019 American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions to Psychology. 

The award recognizes psychologists who are at early stages of their research careers. It is one of the most prestigious and influential awards for early career scholars’ scientific achievement.

Wang’s research focuses on child and adolescent development. He will be honored at the APA’s annual convention in August.

Lin in front of a white wall with gold painting behind her

Yu-Ru Lin receives funding from Adobe Research

Associate Professor Yu-Ru Lin recently received a funding from Adobe Research to support her work in data science and computational social science. The funding will provide the resources to help Lin and her team to investigate research topics including visualization for interpretable artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques for understanding human social behavioral patterns and outcomes. This gift will also help build and strengthen the collaboration between Adobe Research and School of Computing and Information at Pitt.

Evans in front of a dark background

Katz accounting professor receives Lifetime Contribution Award

John H. Evans III, the Katz Alumni Professor of Accounting and professor of business administration at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, received the 2019 AAA Lifetime Contribution Award for his 40-plus years of research and teachings of key management accounting issues and other contributions to the profession.

Given by the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the award recognizes professionals who have made a significant contribution to management accounting education, research and practice. The award is given on behalf of the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which distinguishes a unique group of 150,000 management accountants worldwide who have reached the highest benchmark of quality and competency.

Evans has received numerous awards for his research, including the Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award from the AAA in 2012 and the Best Paper Award for the Management Accounting Section from the Journal of Management Accounting in 2012. He is also recognized for his excellence in teaching. In 2011, he was honored with Pitt’s Provost Award for Excellence in Mentoring and has been named teacher of the year numerous times.

Pitt engineering team wins award for big brain data research

The National Science Foundation BIGDATA program awarded $1.2 million to a research team led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering to study data of complex brain disorders and design new algorithms that address computational challenges in multi-site collaborative data mining.

Heng Huang, the Swanson School’s John A. Jurenko Professor of Computer Engineering, is principal investigator of the study. In this project, Huang will create a framework to address these issues and facilitate data and computing resource sharing.

The goal of this project is to ease computational challenges and enable investigators in neuroimaging, genomics, neuroscience and other brain-related disciplines to securely and more efficiently further their research.

Carson in front of a blue background

Urban Studies advisor recognized for outstanding work

Carolyn Carson, coordinator and undergraduate advisor in the Urban Studies program and senior lecturer in the Department of History, has been awarded the 2019 Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize for Excellence in Advising. The $4,000 cash award honors outstanding faculty and staff academic undergraduate advisors.

Carson started at Pitt in 1996 and began her advising position in 1998. To be considered for the Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize, faculty members must be nominated by their department chair and two or more undergraduate students whom they have advised.

“This award means a great deal to me,” Carson said. “Most of my time in this position has been spent with students, teaching as well as advising. I have found it to be very rewarding as I have learned a great deal from my students. I am humbled knowing that I have had an impact on their lives. I really love them all and have worked very hard to help them get the most out of their experiences here as they prepare for the future. I am extremely grateful that they recognized the effort and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

Panther head fountain

LifeX to partner in ‘liquid biopsy’ cancer diagnostics

GeneNews Limited, which provides innovative solutions for early cancer detection, has announced a partnership with LifeX to develop strategies for incorporating several proprietary early-cancer diagnostics into healthcare settings to improve patient compliance with cancer screening, as well as to bridge diagnostic gaps in current screening procedures.

Early detection of cancer is known to improve outcomes. Toronto-based GeneNews has several tests proven to detect cancer at an early stage using a simple blood test, or “liquid biopsy.”

“Other liquid biopsy companies are focused on monitoring response to chemotherapy or detecting recurrence of tumors after initial treatment,” said LifeX founder Dietrich Stephan.

“GeneNews, one of the pioneers of the liquid biopsy principle, has developed the ‘holy-grail’ — a suite of tests that have the correct sensitivity and specificity to see tumors in Stage 1 and perform correctly as a screening tool at the population level. We look forward to bringing these solutions to the marketplace to make a tangible difference in global health by enabling cures when tumors are most treatable.”

LifeX, based on Pittsburgh’s South Side, develops first-in-class solutions to alleviate suffering and death from prevalent and intractable diseases. The LifeX team partners with innovator-entrepreneurs to unlock the potential of their technologies and deliver them to patients and their physicians across the globe. LifeX was founded with support from the University of Pittsburgh and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.