Accolades

Runyan in a black speckled blouse

Neuroscience’s Caroline Runyan wins Searle Scholar award

Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has been named a 2019 Searle Scholar. She is one of 15 young scientists selected for recognition this year.

The Searle Scholars Program awards grants to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences or chemistry who are in their first tenure-track position. An advisory board of eminent scientists chooses the scholars based on rigorous standards designed to find the most creative talent pursuing academic research careers. The recognition comes with an award of $300,000 in flexible funding to support work over the next three years.

Runyan’s research at Pitt focuses on sensation and how the meaning of sensory stimuli can change in different contexts to enable survival. The goal of her research is “to understand the circuit mechanisms that control the flow of information between brain regions. How do networks filter out irrelevant information? How does incoming sensory information interact with the animal’s internal brain state?” she said.

panther statue on a sunny day

Lab safety program wins national recognition

The Department of Chemistry and Department of Environmental Health and Safety have won the American Chemical Society 2019 SafetyStratus College and University Health and Safety Award for Pitt’s “outstanding comprehensive laboratory safety program in higher education (undergraduate study).”

Environmental Health and Safety director Jay Frerotte credited chemistry faculty member Ericka Huston’s successful Safety in the Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM1010) course, developed with input from EHS staff led by environmental manager Keith Duval, as key to the award.

Awards committee chair Kimi Brown, a senior lab safety specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, called Pitt’s approach to chemical safety education a model for other institutions.  

“Dr. Huston is passionate about ensuring that all Pitt chemistry students are educated in the philosophy of risk assessment and control, regardless of whether they participate in her CHEM1010 course,” Brown said. “To that end, she has added more engaging and informative safety content to both the undergraduate teaching lab curriculum and to the graduate student research-safety training. Furthermore, those students who do enroll in CHEM1010 are given a unique opportunity to develop important leadership skills and deepen their understanding of how safety integrates with science.” 

In addition to a plaque, the award includes $1,000 for expenses to present at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Diego in August.

Ducar in a black sweater with a chunky metallic necklace

Jamie Ducar earns Community Partnership micro-credential

Jamie Ducar, director of community engagement in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, is among the first individuals in the higher education civic and community engagement field to earn a micro-credential in Community Partnerships through Campus Compact’s new Community Engagement Professional Credentialing Program.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. 

Ducar earned this distinction by demonstrating competency in effectively cultivating, facilitating and maintaining high-quality partnerships with community organizations and representatives. 

The program provides formal recognition for the knowledge and skills practitioners develop throughout their careers and provides a framework for them to grow and achieve in the field in ways that encourage effective, inclusive and equity-based partnerships and practices. Practitioners who earn a requisite number of micro-credentials may apply for Campus Compact’s full certification as a Community Engagement Professional.

Among the content advisers to this new program is Pitt Assistant Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement Lina Dostilio.  

Chaves-Gnecco in a white shirt in front of a brown background

Diego Chaves-Gnecco named 2019 Pediatrician of the Year

Diego Chaves-Gnecco, associate professor at the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, has been named 2019 Pediatrician of the Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania Chapter (PA AAP).

The Pediatrician of Year award recognizes a chapter member who exemplifies excellence in the profession. The award was presented during the group’s annual meeting on May 4.

Diego’s clinical and academic interests include the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, providing care to families and children with disabilities, providing care to children from minority and underserved populations and addressing barriers to health care access.

He has been a long-time PA AAP chapter member and involved with many chapter activities including Healthy Teeth, Healthy Children and the Traffic Injury Prevention Project. In the summer of 2002, Diego created the First Pediatric Bilingual-Bicultural Clinic in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Since its creation, this clinic has expanded to the program Salud Para Niños (Health for the Children), which provides culturally and linguistically competent primary care for children and families is complemented with activities oriented toward prevention and empowering the community about its own health.

studio portraits of each winner, stitched together

Jayant Rajgopal and Sylvanus Wosu honored with American Society for Engineering Education awards

Honoring commitment to excellence and diversity in engineering education, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has selected professors at the Swanson School of Engineering to receive two of its annual awards. 

Jayant Rajgopal, professor of industrial engineering, won the John L. Imhoff Global Excellence Award for Industrial Engineering Education, and Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs and associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, won the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award.

The ASEE will honor Rajgopal and Wosu at the annual awards luncheon during their Annual Conference and Exposition on June 19 at the Tampa Convention Center. Read more here.

Kinloch in a yellow shirt

Valerie Kinloch to speak at Brown v. Board of Education anniversary event

Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education, spoke at a national symposium of education, law and policy scholars to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The civil rights case declared that the segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment, and therefore, unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling was delivered on May 17, 1954, by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.

Kinloch was selected among a handful of speakers to discuss Brown’s “promise of integration amid major contemporary threats to civil rights in education.” Kinloch, who has built her career on working to change the narrative of equity in education, spoke on the topic of “Growing Critically Conscious Teachers.” The event, titled Brown@65, was May 10 at Penn State.

Iordanova in a dark shirt

Bistra Iordanova receives $25,000 to research gender in Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly, affecting 5.4 million people in the United States and 35 million people worldwide. Two-thirds these individuals are women, and though they are disproportionately affected, the biological basis of the sex differences in Alzheimer’s onset and progression is not well understood. 

Bistra Iordanova, assistant professor of bioengineering at Pitt, received a $25,000 award from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to collect data from female rodent models, integrate it with her existing datasets from males and begin to examine whether Alzheimer’s onset and progression differs between the two. Read more here

a globe on a turquoise background

Pitt projects featured at ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival

Three research projects and one theater performance from the University of Pittsburgh were selected to be featured at the ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival last month in Washington, D.C.

“While most think of the ACC as only an athletics conference, the ACC Academic Consortium aims to promote academic excellence and provide opportunities for collaboration between faculty, students and administrators from the 15 member institutions,” said Joseph J. McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies at Pitt.

The four Pitt teams were:

The World History Center’s Digital Atlas Design Internship Program. In the semester-long internship, undergraduate students learn GIS and web design skills, and complete a research project of their choice using QGIS and ESRI StoryMaps. Each student’s project will be incorporated into a larger project, the World Historical Gazetteer: a linked open data global index of historically important place names and information. The World Gazetteer is expected to be completed in late 2019.

The Personal Mobility and Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA) and Strong Arm were both developed in the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, which are a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Center for Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering.

“It’s Who You Know,” a hybrid recommender system to connect students with informal social networks of Pitt researchers is a Personalized Education Grant project, supported by the Office of the Provost, that aims to connect students with researchers with similar interests. The project, out of the PAWS Lab, will test the concept of an online system that can curate and filter vast amount of information to result in “personalized education, career pathways, and research collaborations for [students], faculty and future students.”

Recoil is a Pitt-created theater piece — directed by Cynthia Croot, associate professor and head of performance in the Department of Theatre Arts — that “explores the complexities of gun ownership, violence, and protest through the voices through young people” using real first-person accounts.

Joan Rogers

SHRS researchers, students recognized by Occupational Therapy Foundation

Students and researchers from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences were recently recognized by the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF).

  • Former Occupational Therapy Department Chair and Professor Emeritus Joan C. Rogers (pictured) received the AOTF Leadership Service Commendation.
  • Natalie E. Leland received the first ever AOTF Mid-Career Research Excellence Award and gave the AOTF Mid-Career Research Award Presentation at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s annual conference in New Orleans.
  • Roxanna Bendixen, assistant professor of occupational therapy, was inducted into the association’s Roster of Fellows. 

Pitt occupational therapy students also raised more than $5,000, earning third place in the foundation’s St. Catherine Challenge. Funds raised through this initiative support occupational therapy research grants awarded by the foundation. 

a woman in front of a bookcase in a green shirt

Sociology department chair wins lifetime achievement award

Suzanne Staggenborg, chair of the Department of Sociology at Pitt, has been honored with the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior from the University of Notre Dame Center for the Study of Social Movements. The award recognizes exceptional contributors to the field.

Staggenborg’s work centers on social movements, including abortion politics, women’s movements and grassroots environmental movements. Currently she is focusing on several local environmental organizations fighting fracking and promoting sustainable communities.

Award events included a public lecture by Staggenborg, a dinner, award ceremony and toasts on May 4 at Notre Dame.

man in a jacket in front of a body of water

Daniel Balderson receives literary award

Daniel Balderson has been named co-winner of the 2019 Richard Finneran Award for his book about Argentine author and poet Jorge Luis Borges, titled “How Borges Wrote.”

Balderson is a Mellon Professor of Modern Languages in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The award is given by the Society for Textual Scholarship to recognize the best edition of book about editorial theory and/or practice published in the English language.

Balderson’s book is “the first and only attempt at a systematic and comprehensive study of the trajectory of Borges' creative process.”

Blain in a dark shirt

Keisha N. Blain awarded best book in African-American women’s and gender history

Keisha N. Blain, assistant professor in the Department of History, received the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians.

The prestigious award, given annually for the “best book in African-American women’s and gender history,” was presented to Blain for her recent publication, “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.” The book, which “[draws] on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry,” tells the stories of Black women nationalists in the 20th century.

The award committee calls Blain’s work a “major contribution to existing historiographies that centers on African American women, black internationalism, intellectual history and African American history.”

The Organization of American Historians, founded in 1907, is the world’s “largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship.”

Smith in a red blouse

Education professor emerita and LRDC scientist wins lifetime achievement award

Peg (Margaret) Smith has been awarded a 2019 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award “honors NCTM members who have exhibited a lifetime of achievement in mathematics education at the national level.” Smith is one of three recipients of the prestigious award.

Smith is a professor emerita of mathematics education in the Department of Instruction and Learning in the School of Education, and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).

Smith studies how teachers support student learning through the use of rich mathematical tasks. Over the course of her career, she has published more than 75 journal articles, book chapters and books. Notably, her “5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion,” which she co-authored with Mary Kay Stein, sold more than 35,000 copies in its first two years.

Smith will be recognized at the recognized in April during the Opening Session of the 2019 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego.

Yong-Zhuo Chen

Bradford mathematics professor Chen wins President's Award

Yong-Zhuo Chen, Pitt–Bradford professor of mathematics, was presented the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service during Honors Convocation on April 19.

“In 30 years at Pitt-Bradford, Dr. Chen has consistently performed admirably,” said Lawrence Feick, interim president of Pitt-Bradford, who presented the award. “Students routinely give him strong assessments of his teaching, despite his teaching rigorous and technical classes. On top of that, he is a prolific scholar, advancing the frontiers of mathematics.”

Stephen Hardin, vice president and dean of academic affairs, nominated Chen for the honor.

 “Because of his unimposing nature, I believe that Dr. Chen does not always get the recognition and attention that he rightly deserves,” Hardin wrote. “Dr. Chen truly is excellent in all three areas of responsibility as a faculty member — teaching, scholarship and service.”

See more details here.

Richard Kahle

Facilities director Kahle honored with staff award at Pitt–Bradford

Richard Kahle, facilities director of the Richard E. and Ruth McDowell Sport and Fitness Center at Pitt–Bradford received the President’s Award for Staff Excellence during Honors Convocation on April 19.

“Rich is one of those unsung heroes whose work might be easy to overlook because everything he touches goes smoothly,” said interim President Larry Feick, who presented the award. “We are so pleased to honor him in this way and to shed a little bit of light on all of the behind-the-scenes work he does in one of the most visible buildings on our campus.”

Kahle’s supervisor, Athletic Director Bret Butler, nominated him for the award. Kahle handles not only the details of setting up, running and tearing down athletic events in the Sport and Fitness Center, but also commencement, admissions programs, summer camps, Midnight Madness, Big 30 events, and non-university programs such as the annual Senior Expo and the recent veterans benefits fair.

Additionally, he does the same for events held at the Kessel Athletic Complex and for numerous fun runs, trail walks or tailgate events that happen at the university, including several statewide Little League tournaments.

See more details here.

Dostilio in a royal blue blazer

Lina Dostilio named first research fellow for Coalition for Urban and Metropolitan Universities

Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement, has been named the first research fellow for the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities. During a five-month appointment, Dostilio will work to establish a cross-city research agenda on the effects of hyper-local engagement on community capacity. Over the course of the fellowship, she will work to create a space for dialogue and collaboration on data, instruments, policy and strategies.

“This project is interested in how universities honor the existing capacities of the communities they engage and how hyper-local efforts may influence those capacities over time. Examples of the kinds of capacity we are exploring are community readiness for change, civic engagement and social connectedness, among others,” Dostilio said.

“There’s never been a more important time for institutions to be authentic about their responsibility and capacity for place-based engagement and service. Lina’s scholarship on hyper-local engagement will help to define CUMU’s research agenda and move this important work forward,” said Bobbie Laur, CUMU executive director.

Xiong in a dark suit

Feng Xiong receives grant to develop conversion method for heat energy

Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Jonathan Malen, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, recently received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric semiconductor using tungsten disulfide to convert waste heat into energy. 

This collaboration seeks to make converting heat lost in energy production back into usable electricity that’s more efficient.

The team will work closely with local communities to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore engineering careers and foster interest in nanotechnology. Outreach efforts will include lab demonstrations, summer internships and career workshops.

Researchers earn NSF grant for autism therapy development

A Pitt research team recently received a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new brain-computer therapy method to help people with autism.

The team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and Carla A. Mazefsky, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology in the Department of Psychiatry.

They will develop social interaction scenarios in virtual environments while recording EEG responses simultaneously in order to detect patterns that represent changes in distress levels. The virtual scenario will then present audio or visual cues to help remind them how to handle stress. The project will also develop new machine learning algorithms and neuroscience methods to identify EEG features associated with emotion regulation to classify between distress and non-distress conditions, and to distinguish among different distress levels.

woman in a dark blazer

Leanne Gilbertson receives early engineering educator grant

Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was selected to receive the Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant from the American Society for Engineering Education’s Women in Engineering Division. The award recognizes her contributions to engineering education and will provide travel to the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference from June 15-19 in Tampa, Fla.

Gilbertson’s research group aims to inform sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. Read more about the award.

Bemyeh smiling

Mohammed A. Bamyeh elected president of Arab Council for the Social Sciences

Mohammed A. Bamyeh, professor of sociology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, was elected president of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences during its fourth conference this April. From its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, the council oversees the largest and most active social science network in the Arab region. It has supported hundreds of social science researchers in 22 Arab countries and among diaspora communities of scholars, through fellowships and grant programs.

Bamyeh has been at Pitt since 2007. His work focuses on comparative social and political theory and globalization, revolutions and social movements, Islamic studies, culture, religion and secularism.