headshot of Maureen Porter, wearing black, blue and white patterned blouse

Education professor Porter receives Outstanding International Educator Award

Maureen Porter, associate professor in the School of Education, received the David Portlock Outstanding International Educator Award.

The award is given by the Pennsylvania Council of International Education and recognizes international educators “who have exhibited evidence of ongoing mentoring of colleagues in the field, exemplary leadership in international education on their campuses and consistent contribution to the field as seen in presentations, papers, publications or other academic enterprises.”

Porter, who has developed education projects around the world in countries such as Bolivia and Ethiopia, said the award is an honor because it recognizes how her programs have been sustained for many years.

“It shows that people can look to the School of Education as a destination for pedagogically sound and culturally inclusive international education programs,” she said.

Vélez Martínez to receive IMPACTO Award

Professor Sheila I. Vélez Martínez, of the Pitt School of Law, was named the recipient of the 2019 IMPACTO Award.

The award is presented by the Latinx Law Students Associations to a Latinx lawyer or ally whose work in the legal academy, judiciary, private practice of law, government, public service agency, or community organization has positively impacted Latinx communities.

Vélez Martínez will accept the award on Sept. 19 at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo headshot in blue jacket.

Bioengineering researcher Torres-Oviedo awarded grant to study stroke patients

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received a $805,670 CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation to apply a novel approach to improve locomotor learning in stroke patients. 

Torres-Oviedo’s lab will record how patients with brain lesions perceive asymmetries in their gait, then measure how their perception is adjusted once their movements are adapted in the split-belt environment. In the second part of this study, the lab will use these data and a unique method to manipulate how people perceive their movement to create the illusion of error-free performance during split-belt walking. The goal is for patients to sustain these movement changes in daily life.

The project also aims to increase participation by underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. 

Cathedral of Learning with blue sky and white clouds in background

Pitt online master of science in nursing program ranks third in national report

Pitt's School of Nursing was ranked third in the 15 Best Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs for 2020 by Best Health Degrees.

The ranking website makes note of the University’s “cutting-edge” research in STEM fields like nursing, which “increases the prestige of such programs.”

“Few train nurses for clinical management roles as the program at Pitt does,” according to the ranking’s statement on Pitt’s placement in its annual list. “Nurses who want to advance to management roles but still work in the clinical side of nursing should consider Pitt to be one of the best MSN programs for their needs, and one of the top RN to MSN online programs overall.”

Ryad Benosman and Feng Xiong headshots.

Pitt researchers to create vision system mimicking human sight

Ryad Benosman, professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine who holds appointments in electrical engineering and bioengineering, and Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, are leading the effort to develop a neuromorphic vision system that takes a new approach to capturing visual information that is based on the human brain, benefitting everything from self-driving vehicles to neural prosthetics.

The project will receive $500,000 from the National Science Foundation.

The team will use a “spiking neural network” with realistic dynamic synapses that will enhance computational abilities, develop brain-inspired machine learning to understand the input, and connect it to a neuromorphic event-based silicon retina for real-time operating vision.

Education professor Shafiq to head prestigious international society

School of Education faculty member M. Najeeb Shafiq has been named executive director for the Comparative and International Education Society, which will now make its home at the University of Pittsburgh.

Shafiq, who is a professor of education, economics and international affairs, has been at the School of Education since 2010. He also has appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Economics in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.

“The University of Pittsburgh is one of the world’s premier institutions supporting our field, having produced numerous CIES presidents and leaders since the late 1950s,” said David Post, president of CIES and a faculty member at Penn State University, in the official announcement.

CIES is a global association for educators and practitioners whose professional work is built on cross-disciplinary ideas, systems and practices in international education. The society has more than 3,000 members around the world.

The School of Education is expected to host events with leaders in the field, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Policy Institute, the RAND Corporation, and the American Institutes for Research.

“We will be at the forefront of where education policy around the world is headed. It really is an exciting time to be a Pitt Education student, alumnus, or faculty member,” Shafiq said in a news release.

Find more information here.

Dana Thompson Dorsey

Leading education journal to be housed at Center for Urban Education

The Pitt Center for Urban Education has been selected as the new home institution of the influential journal Educational Researcher, from 2019 to 2022.

Educational Researcher, a publication of the American Educational Research Association, is described as making “major programmatic research and new findings of broad importance widely accessible,” according to its website. It is customary for the home institution to rotate every three years between the top schools of education.

Dana Thompson Dorsey (pictured), an associate professor and associate director of research and development at CUE, will be one of the five senior editors at the journal. The others are June Ahn from the University of California, Irvine; Thurston Domina from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Sarah Woulfin from the University of Connecticut; and Andrew McEachin from the RAND Corporation.

“The presence of Educational Researcher brings important national visibility to the center. I am excited about the journal’s future under the leadership of Professor Thompson Dorsey and her senior co-editors,” said T. Elon Dancy II, the director of the Center for Urban Education and the school’s chair in Urban Education.

Additional associate editors at the Pitt School of Education include Dancy and faculty members Jennifer Russell and Lindsay Page.

“Educational Researcher is known for publishing innovative research, so the fact that the Pitt School of Education and the Center for Urban Education is hosting such a prominent, impactful journal highlights the important and ground-breaking research occurring here,” said Thompson Dorsey. “I am truly honored and excited to be a member of an incredible team of scholars serving as ER’s editors and associate editors for the next three years.”

Dancy anticipates that the journal’s presence at the Center for Urban Education will provide graduate students at the Pitt School of Education with additional opportunities to engage in scholarly work.

“We’re excited by what this means for providing our students with opportunities to publish and hope that it encourages them to aspire to be reviewers and editors one day,” Dancy said.

Piervincenzo Rizzo wearing a black top, headshot

Swanson School’s Piervincenzo Rizzo to receive Durelli Award

The Society for Experimental Mechanics has selected Piervincenzo Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, to receive the 2020 A.J. Durelli Award

The award recognizes “a young professional who has introduced, or helped to introduce, an innovative approach and/or method into the field of experimental mechanics,” according to the society.

The award will be presented at an awards luncheon on June 10, 2020, during the SEM Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics in Orlando, Fla.

Sylvia Rhor, wearing green long-sleeve top, resting hand on her chin leaning on a white cube

University Art Gallery director Sylvia Rhor selected for Getty Leadership Institute

University Art Gallery Director Sylvia Rhor was one of 35 museum leaders from around the globe selected to participate in the 2019 Getty Leadership Institute Executive Education for Museum Professionals this past June.

The Getty program, now in its 40th year, combines online coursework and a residency program on the campus of Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.

While there, Rhor discussed museum industry challenges with peers from around the world, including directors, curators and education representatives from the British Museum, The Barnes Collection, the Van Gogh Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and others. They talked about how to keep museums and galleries relevant to their communities and the importance of expanding diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on all levels of museum administration and programming.

As the representative of one of six academic museums in the cohort, Rhor said the Getty program reinforced her commitment to academic museums such as the University Art Gallery. “They can be testing grounds for innovative and challenging programs and ideas, and a platform for new methods of building exhibitions and programs,” she said, “and they offer a flexibility and nimbleness that other public institutions might not always have.”

Vorp named to Council on Research fellowship program for rising leaders

David Vorp, associate dean for research at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and professor of Bioengineering, is one of eight people nationwide named to the third cohort of the Research Leader Fellowship Program of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Council on Research.

The 18-month fellowship is designed to allow rising research leaders to gain expertise outside of their respective portfolios and to foster connections with the Council on Research’s extensive network of senior research officers through site visits and participation in council meetings.

Vorp also holds secondary appointments in Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me that I will ensure also greatly benefits Pitt and the Swanson School,” Vorp said in a news release. “In the past few years we have expanded and diversified our research portfolio, increased our public-private research partnerships through the creation of our Making Research Work initiative, and more. But there is so much more that we can do, and I’m excited to see up-close the best practices and novel programs developed by other research universities and learn from the best minds in the business.”

During his fellowship, Vorp plans to focus on working more closely with Pitt’s Office of Community and Governmental Relations; integrating research data and analytics into proactive planning and research portfolio management; and developing more sustainable revenue models for the Swanson School’s several research centers and institutes. He also plans to investigate how the Swanson School can play a greater role in regional economic development as well as develop stronger multidisciplinary and sponsored research programs.

NSF funds joint Pitt/Drexel project on ozone and water sterilization

The National Science Foundation will fund collaborative research at the Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and Drexel University’s College of Engineering that could transform the way we sterilize water on demand and in larger scales. 

The project, “Collaborative Research: Regulating homogeneous and heterogeneous mechanisms in six-electron water oxidation,” will receive $473,065, with $222,789 designated for Pitt’s team. Led at Pitt by John Keith, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, the research aims to discover a simpler and less energy-intensive way to create ozone, a molecule that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for water and food sanitation since 2001.  

“Whether ozone is good or bad depends on where it is,” Keith explains. “Ozone in the upper atmosphere shields the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but it's also the main ingredient in smog that damages your lungs if you breathe it.”

However, what makes ozone hazardous for lungs also makes it excellent for water sanitation. When ozone is “bubbled” into bacteria-infected water, it kills the bacteria and sterilizes the water, similar to chlorine in swimming pools or sanitation facilities. Keith’s research group will use computer modeling to study how water can react to form ozone in electrochemical cells.  

Keith will be working with Maureen Tang, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The grant spans four years and begins in 2020. 

Kramer in a gray suit

William Kramer to lead Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

William Kramer has been selected as the next director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint research center of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Kramer, currently project director and principal investigator of the Blue Waters Project and the senior associate director for @Scale Science and Technology at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, begins his new role in the fall.

Following his first academic appointment at the University of Delaware, Kramer has held leadership roles at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and at NASA Ames Research Center. Over the course of three decades, his award-winning career has focused on improving the efficiency of large-scale, complex computational and data analytics systems, and making the organizations that create and use them highly productive.

“I am extremely honored to be selected as the director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The center, which is supported by two world-class universities, is well positioned to help current and future generations of scientists, engineers and researchers create insights into a wide range of challenges in fundamental science, health care, security and other areas that will expand our understanding of phenomena that are of critical importance to society,” Kramer said.

the Cathedral on a blue-sky day in fall

Pitt innovators deliver another banner year of impactful discoveries

Pitt innovators continued to demonstrate their passion for translating lab discoveries to solutions that make an impact on people’s lives at a record pace in fiscal year 2019. They matched last year’s record number of licenses and options executed at 162 and set a new record for discoveries disclosed to the Innovation Institute at 367.

Pitt innovators were issued 91 U.S. patents and formed 17 startup companies based on intellectual property developed at the University, reinforcing a strong recent performance for those metrics.

“These results reflect the ever-strengthening culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among Pitt faculty, students and staff,” said Evan Facher, director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We have been able to put more resources at their disposal to accelerate their journey on the path to market because achieving impact through commercialization has been made a top priority by the University leadership.”

In the five years since the formation of the Innovation Institute, the activity of Pitt innovators has increased substantially across numerous metrics compared to the previous five year period as the result of increased funding and support. Invention disclosures, which are submitted to the Innovation Institute by faculty, staff and students when their research produces new discoveries with the potential for commercial translation, are up more than 25 percent in the most recent five year period; licensing transactions are up 11 percent, and issued patents are up 46 percent.

Significantly, startups formed in the 2015-2019 period are up nearly 130 percent over the previous comparable period.

In addition, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the Innovation Institute’s affiliated organization serving small businesses throughout Western Pennsylvania, is expanding its impact. During the year, the IEE served 736 clients with nearly 7,000 hours of consulting services, which resulted in 52 businesses started, $16.4 million capital formation, $28.3 million in sales increase and 433 jobs created.

cooper in a dark suit

Rory Cooper completes Heidelberg Hand-Bike Marathon

Rory Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt and associate dean for inclusion at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently raced in and completed the Heidelberg Hand-Bike Marathon. Cooper finished with a time of one hour and 27 minutes.

“The course was a bit more challenging than I thought, and I ended up most of the time by myself or pulling others along. I sported my Army jersey,” he said.

Twenty-one family members and friends came to Heidelberg to cheer for him and other participants.

Givi in a gray coat

Peyman Givi to deliver Elsevier Distinguished Lecture in Mechanics

Peyman Givi, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been invited to deliver the 13th Elsevier Distinguished Lecture in Mechanics. The lecture is sponsored by Elsevier and its publication Mechanics Research Communications. It will be hosted by the University of Pittsburgh in 2020.

Givi joins a long line of distinguished lecturers, beginning with the 2008 inaugural lecture by Jan Achenbach. The lecture will be on a topic of his choosing within the field of mechanics; previous topics have included “Structural Health Monitoring,” “Isogeometric Analysis” and “Seeking Simplicity in the Flow of Complex Fluids.”

Givi’s lecture will be available on Elsevier’s website after it is delivered. 

Millstone in a white top

Jill Millstone wins career excellence award

Jill Millstone, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded the 2019 Greater Pittsburgh Women’s Chemists Committee Award for Career Excellence in the Chemical Sciences. The honor recognizes female chemists and chemical engineers for accomplishments in their fields. Millstone’s research areas are inorganic and materials chemistry, nanomaterials, mechanochemistry and colloid chemistry.

Evan Facher headshot

LifeX Labs receives $750,000 grant to help life science startups

LifeX Labs has received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to enhance its efforts in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is among 44 organizations nationwide — and the only one in Pennsylvania — to share a total of  $23 million awarded under the administration’s i6 Challenge grant program to expand entrepreneurship.

LifeX Labs is a life science startup accelerator launched by the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 with a mission to help companies translate the region’s world-class research into breakthrough commercial products.

“LifeX helps young life science startup companies overcome the unique challenges that they face,” said Evan Facher (pictured), interim CEO of LifeX Labs and director of Pitt's Innovation Institute. “The goal of this award is to help LifeX accelerate the development of resources and programming needed to enable these companies to thrive in the Pittsburgh region. In parallel, the award will also help us build a stronger sense of community within the life sciences ecosystem.”

With this three-year award, LIfeX Labs estimates that it will have the ability to serve thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs, add dozens of startups to its portfolio, and create more than 100 jobs in the region by 2028.

In part, the funding will aid development of programming for pre-seed to Series A life-science companies; engagement of regional key opinion leaders to identify needs and opportunities in the life science community; and creation of a pipeline of life science workers at all skill levels in collaboration with local colleges and job training organizations.

Xiayun (Sharon) Zhao and Albert To

Swanson School professors to study 3D printing of turbine components

The U.S. Department of Energy, through its University Turbine Systems Research program, has awarded researchers at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering $802,400 to find an effective quality assurance method for additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, of new-generation gas turbine components.

The three-year project has received additional support of $200,600 from Pitt.

Xiayun (Sharon) Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, will lead the research, working with Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, and Richard W. Neu, professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Mechanical Engineering. The team will use machine learning to develop a cost-effective method for rapidly evaluating, either in-process or offline, the hot gas path turbine components that are created with laser powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technology.



Sahel and Pitt ophthalmology get grant for cortical vision research

Pitt received a $6 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support the development of a cortical vision research program in the Pitt School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology. The program will aim to understand how the eye and the brain work together to help us see the world and use that knowledge to develop new ways to restore vision using various technologies such as brain computer interfaces and novel genetic technologies.  

“The RK Mellon Foundation’s investment is a resounding vote of confidence in a world-renowned talent — Dr. José-Alain Sahel — and his team’s groundbreaking efforts to preserve and restore the gift of sight for millions of people across the world,” says Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am deeply grateful for the Foundation’s support and excited to watch this next chapter in vision research and care unfold right here in Pittsburgh.”    

“As the world’s population continues to grow and age, the number of individuals with visual impairments is expected to triple by the year 2050, and Pittsburgh, with its aging population, will be highly affected by this epidemic of vision loss,” said Sahel, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and Pitt chair of ophthalmology. “We have established world class vision research and clinical care in Pittsburgh, and the cortical vision program will bring together the brightest minds to develop therapies that will directly benefit the people in our communities and around the world.” 

Precision Medicine Institute, UPMC get $2.8M grant

The Pitt Institute for Precision Medicine and UPMC received a three-year $2.8 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for implementation of precision medicine initiatives, including whole genome sequencing of critically ill infants, genomics education and translational research pilot projects intended for commercialization.

The IPM, a joint effort of Pitt and UPMC, was created in 2013 to help researchers and clinicians discover features about an individual’s risk of disease, select best treatments and predict treatment response, and move these insights into clinical practice.  

“UPMC and Pitt are regional and national leaders in developing and implementing precision medicine efforts in the clinic,” said Adrian Lee (pictured), director of the IPM and professor of pharmacology and chemical biology at Pitt. “This grant will advance research and clinical care, and also help drive the field forward by commercializing technologies that have the potential to impact people at scale.”