Accolades

Stephen D. Meriney

Stephen Meriney receives grant for neuromuscular disease research

Pitt’s Stephen D. Meriney has received one of 26 Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) grants for rare neuromuscular disease research.

Meriney, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry, focuses on studying the mechanisms that control peripheral nervous system plasticity, including mechanisms that underlie neuromuscular diseases. The MDA awarded him more than $300,000 in critical funding to support the development of a new therapeutic approach for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  This novel therapy is based on a new small molecule that was developed in a collaboration between the Meriney lab and Professor Peter Wipf from the Department of Chemistry. 

Meriney’s lab focuses on regulating and modulating presynaptic ion channels — essentially looking at how one neuron “talks” to another by releasing neurotransmitters across both healthy and diseased synapses. He will use the grant to address current gaps in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that destroys motor neurons which control essential voluntary muscle movements such as speaking, walking and swallowing.  

Hall in a black top in a lab

Martica Hall receives outstanding educator award

Martica Hall, professor of psychiatry, psychology, and clinical and translational science, recently received the Sleep Research Society Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award for excellence in education related to sleep and circadian research. The award honors outstanding educational contributions to disseminating the knowledge base, research methods and health and safety significance of the field.

Hall’s research explores the effect of sleep on behavioral and physical health, and she has published more than 175 peer-reviewed articles on topics in this area. Her current research pertains to sleep, circadian rhythms and cardiometabolic risk in retired shift workers.

Hall received the award at SLEEP 2019, the annual meeting of the Sleep Research Society.

Gill-Peterson in a red coat and white sweater

Gill-Peterson wins Lambda Literary Award in transgender nonfiction

Julian Gill-Peterson, an assistant professor in the Department of English, received top honors in the category of Transgender Nonfiction during the 31st Annual Lambda Literacy Awards in June. The awards, known as the “Lammys,” recognize the year’s best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature. Gill-Peterson was nominated for their book, “Histories of the Transgender Child.” Gill-Peterson is also a member of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program steering committee at Pitt.

Oscar E. Swan

Oscar E. Swan receives award from president of Poland

Oscar E. Swan, professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and advisor for the Polish minor, was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Poland.

The award comes after Swan published the translated memoir of a Warsaw ghetto survivor, titled “Rescued from the Ashes.” The award is given to “foreigners and Polish citizens permanently living abroad… [who have made] outstanding contributions to international cooperation and to bonds between the Republic of Poland and other nations and countries.”

The memoir, translated by Swan from Polish to English, recounts Leokadia Schmidt’s 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.

Swan received the prestigious award, presented by the Polish ambassador to the United States, in May.

Kumta in a suit and tie

New Pitt partnership expands research into rechargeable battery systems

The Next-Generation Energy Conversion and Storage Technologies Lab at the Pitt’s Energy Innovation Center recently announced a new energy research partnership with Malvern Panalytical that will enable the lab to see the chemistry of what is happening inside a battery while it is in use.

The lab, headed by Prashant N. Kumta, focuses on energy conversion and storage, including rechargeable battery systems. Malvern Panalytical’s Empyrean X-ray Platform, a multipurpose diffractometer, will be used in the lab to identify solid-state materials by determining their internal structure, composition and phase while they are in use.

Blain smiling

History Professor Keisha N. Blain wins book prize

Keisha N. Blain, associate professor in the Department of History, has been awarded the annual Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize 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 book prize is given annually for “a first book that deals substantially with the history of women, gender and/or sexuality.”

According to a statement, the selection committee said, “Featuring an impressive archive and transnational in scope, every single chapter in this book offers serious interventions, contributions, and reinterpretations of familiar historical narratives.”

Blain also won the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians for the same publication.

Delitto in a light shirt and red tie

SHRS Dean Delitto appointed member of national advisory council

Anthony Delitto, dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, was recently appointed as a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health.

The council is responsible for advising, consulting with and making recommendations to the director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health on matters relating to the research activities and functions of the center.

Delitto treats people with painful musculoskeletal disorders, and his current research is focused on implementing classification and treatment effectiveness studies into quality improvement initiatives. He is also conducting trials in exercise interventions for people with Parkinson's disease.

Runyan in a dark blouse with flowery spots

Caroline Runyan named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has been named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The program provides funding to promising young investigators advancing human health who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level.

Runyan, who arrived at Pitt in 2017, was one of 22 early career researchers named to the 2019 class of scholars by leading U.S. academic and research institutions. The award comes with four years of flexible funding to invest in exploratory research.

Her research focus is on the brain’s ability to flexibly control perception and behavior in different situations — specifically, she images and manipulates cells and circuits to learn how the brain is able to shift gears quickly, as well as how it processes different types of sensory information depending on behavioral context.

The Pew funding is helping the lab image activity both within and between brain regions, “so we can start to get a sense of how the brain is able to filter out irrelevant information, or amplify important information. We’re developing methods to study the local circuit mechanisms that control how two brain regions interact to transmit information.”

This will all hopefully enable new, systems-level approaches to understanding brain disorders with altered network communication, such as autism and schizophrenia, Runyan said.

Two from anesthesiology named as top Pa. physicians under 40

Trent D. Emerick (pictured), assistant professor, and Alex M. Dressler, pain medicine fellow, both in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, will be named to the 2019 Pennsylvania Medical Society Top Physicians Under 40. This recognition spotlights talented early career physicians in the state who are performing at a high level. Winners are nominated by colleagues and selected by a committee of physician members.

 

Sakai to head transplant anesthesia society

Tetsuro Sakai, director of scholarly development in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and faculty member in the Clinical Translational Science Institute and McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine, was selected as president-elect for the Society for the Advancement of Transplant Anesthesia for a two-year term (2019-2021). SATA is a professional association serving the needs of anesthesiologists and critical care specialists involved in the practice of transplantation medicine and surgery.

Shear in front of a green chalkboard

Chair of religious studies receives grant from American Academy for Jewish Research

Adam Shear, associate professor of history and associate professor and chair of religious studies, is part of a team of scholars who received a special initiatives grant from the American Academy for Jewish Research. The grant will help fund a training workshop and series of webinars that will teach a growing number of students and early career scholars how to read early modern Hebrew handwriting.

“Most paleography training is for medieval handwriting but we are interested in the handwriting of people who were writing in their printed books after the invention of print,” Shear said.

Shear, who studies medieval and early modern Jewish cultural and intellectual history, says the workshop is still in planning phase.

The yearlong training course will begin with a three-day intensive workshop in New York tentatively scheduled for January 2020. Follow up webinars through spring, summer and fall 2020 will reinforce and expand upon lessons. The training is part of the larger Footprints project, a research project and database that tracks the movement of Jewish books since the inception of print. 

Rogers in a red blouse

Renee J. Rogers inducted as fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine

Renee J. Rogers (EDUC ’09G, ’12G), assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education, was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at their conference in May. The fellowship “recognizes individuals who exhibit a deep and ongoing interest and dedication to the goals and long-range activities of the ACSM.”

Rogers’ work includes research on the health benefits of physical activity, with an emphasis on research into practice.

Rogers, who is also the programming director of Pitt’s Healthy Lifestyle Institute, also recently appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine for her expertise on weight loss and exercise physiology.

Pitt–Bradford named military spouse friendly

Pitt–Bradford has been named a Military Spouse Friendly School by Viqtory Media.

“The Military Spouse Friendly Schools designation helps military spouses select schools that will support them in their education journey by meeting their unique needs as a part of a military family,” said Brian Hucik, national program manager, Military Friendly.

The list is created using data sources from federal agencies and proprietary survey information from participating organizations to create a comprehensive guide for military spouses looking to further their education.

This year 196 schools earned the designation. The list will be published in the September issue of Military Spouse magazine and can be found at militaryfriendly.com. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer) and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Pitt–Bradford was the only campus in the University of Pittsburgh system and one of only two small public universities in Pennsylvania, along with Edinboro University, to earn the Military Spouse Friendly designation.

In January, Pitt–Bradford received the Military Friendly School designation for its 10th year.

Pitt med school researchers part of team on $6.2 million study

An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the Pitt School of Medicine, along with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Hawaii at Mānoa, have secured a five-year, $6.2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study how HIV puts children at greater risk of contracting and dying from tuberculosis.

The grant will fund nonhuman primate experiments to understand disease mechanisms and explore a potential therapeutic approach. Then, extending from the laboratory to the field, the researcher will investigate whether the same findings are true for children living in Myanmar, where rates of HIV and TB are both high.    

“Kids are not small adults. They have distinct immune responses. You can’t necessarily extrapolate results from adults to kids,” said principal investigator Charles Scanga, research associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. “Our first goal is to check whether we see in kids what we have already shown in adults—in a model of kids who may go many months or years without being diagnosed, which is the unfortunate clinical reality in underserved parts of the world.” 

Scanga’s lab is located in Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research, which is one of the few infectious disease labs in the world equipped with a PET-CT scanner. That imaging technology allows Scanga to observe disease progression in infected animals over time. 

 

Barcic elected officer of the American Society for Engineering Education board

Maureen Barcic, director of the Cooperative Education Program at the Swanson School of Engineering, is one of eight officers elected to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Board of Directors. She will serve a three-year term which begins at the end of the ASEE annual meeting June 15 to 19 in Tampa, Fla.

Barcic will chair the Professional Interest Council V, which consists of three ASEE divisions: Continuing Professional Development, College and Industry Partnership, and Cooperative and Experiential Education. 

Barcic has been a member of ASEE since 1991 and was elected as a fellow in 2013. Her main involvement is with the Cooperative and Experiential Education Division of ASEE, which focuses on the improvement and promotion of experiential learning through cooperative education, internships, and other quality work integrated learning programs.

See more details here.

Falk staff honored at Medical Library Association meeting

Several Falk Library of the Health Science staff were honored at the Medical Library Association meeting last month.

  • Michele Klein-Fedyshin, research and clinical instruction librarian, was named a fellow of the Medical Library Association. Fellows are elected by the board of directors in recognition of sustained and outstanding contributions to health sciences librarianship and to the advancement of the purposes of MLA.

  • Barbara Epstein, director of the Falk Library, and Melissa Ratajeski, coordinator of data services, were recognized for completing their term as immediate past president and Chapter Council chair, respectively.

  • Elaina Vitale, academic and data services coordinator, was selected for the 2019-20 cohort of the MLA Rising Star program, which gives members the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge needed to become a leader in MLA.

  • Carrie Iwema, coordinator of basic science services, was recognized for serving on the MLA Educational Steering Committee, which received the 2019 President’s Award.

Mpourmpakis selected for Young Scientists Award

Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientists Award in Chemistry.

The Distinguished Young Scientists Award honors the most outstanding scientists of Greek descent under the age of 40 and is given once every two years. The award will be presented at a ceremony on June 19 in Athens, Greece, where Mpourmpakis will be honored by the Greek president. It also includes a prize of 20,000 euros ($22.447). 

Mpourmpakis’ Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) uses theory and computation to investigate the physiochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnology areas, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis.

 

Michael Pinsky

Critical care medicine professor Michael Pinsky becomes society fellow

Michael Pinsky, professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, has been elevated to the rank of APS Fellow by the American Physiological Society

The fellowship is an honor bestowed on senior scientists who have “demonstrated excellence in science, have made significant contributions to the physiological sciences and served the society.”

Pinsky has been a society member since 1984. During his professional career, he has edited 27 medical textbooks, authored over 350 peer-reviewed publications and over 250 chapters and supported over 400 abstract presentations. He is also the editor-in-chief of Medscape’s critical care medicine section.

Kinloch in a yellow top

Valerie Kinloch elected vice president of National Council of Teachers of English

Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education, has been elected vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

According to its website, the NCTE “amplifies the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.”

“It is my honor to have been elected as NCTE’s next vice president,” said Kinloch. “Being a member of NCTE for more than 20 years has allowed me to partner with, learn from and be inspired by dedicated educators from around the world who have an unwavering commitment to language and literacy teaching, learning, practice and research.”

Kinloch will take office during NCTE’s annual convention in Baltimore this November.

Jakicic in a suit and tie

John Jakicic wins Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine

John Jakicic, chair of the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education received the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Citation Award — one of the most prestigious honors given by the organization.

The award recognizes individuals who have made “significant and important contributions to the fields of sports medicine and/or exercise science.” According to its website, ACSM is made up of more than 50,000 members and certified professionals, and “is the authority for sports medicine and exercise science.”

Jakicic, who is also the founding director of Pitt’s new Healthy Lifestyle Institute, accepted his award at an Orlando conference in late May.