Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards given to 13 faculty members

Thirteen faculty members will receive this year’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards across three categories.

Each recipient receives a letter from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant to support their work. Awardees were recognized at the Faculty Honors Convocation on March 16 in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.

Distinguished Research Awards


Peter Brusilovsky, director of the Intelligent Systems Program in the School of Computing and Information, was honored for his leadership and research in adaptive hypermedia and web, user modeling technologies and intelligent education systems. He is considered a pioneer in the field, who, peers wrote, is a leader who consistently produces research at the “cutting edge of information science” and “continues to push the field forward by identifying important future directions.”

Jeanne Marie Laskas, distinguished professor of English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was recognized for her meticulous research and contributions to narrative nonfiction, which have profoundly influenced contemporary long-form journalism and nonfiction. One peer called Laskas “one of the most important and compassionate presences in American literature.”

Anuradha Ray, UPMC Endowed Chair in Lung Immunology in the School of Medicine, was honored for her role in developing new approaches to managing asthma and autoimmune diseases. One peer noted that her accomplishments related to the “fundamentals of immune cell function have been both novel and impactful.” Another wrote that her “research program has been highly influential in understanding the very complex underlying immune-mediated pathology of asthma.”


Salah Al-Zaiti, vice chair of research in the School of Nursing, was honored for the quality and early contributions of his analysis of electrocardiographic signals to derive actionable information to support early clinical diagnoses of cardiac conditions. Al-Zaiti’s peers called him “one of the most productive research contributors in the field” and noted that his scholarly achievements are “outstanding by any standard.”

Greer Donley, associate professor in the School of Law, was recognized for her research and advocacy work on health law, reproductive justice and bioethics. For her scholarship on reproductive rights, she has been cited as a “creative visionary,” a “shining light among junior law professors around the country” and “a leader among a cohort of [abortion law] scholars.”

Aidan Wright, professor of psychology in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was honored for his research on the stability and fluidity in human personality throughout the lifespan. His peers commended him as one of “the most influential researchers in any area of psychology at any level [or of his] generation.”

Distinguished Teaching Awards

James C. Coons, professor of pharmacy and therapeuticsin the School of Pharmacy, was recognized for his efforts in developing simulation-based learning and coursework in scientific discovery. Colleagues and students also praised Coons’ leadership of the Pharmacotherapy Scholars Program Area of Concentration and his ability to create an engaging learning environment inside and outside the classroom.

Michael Meyer, professor in the Writing Program in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was honored for his innovative instruction and dedication to students in Pitt’s Writing Program.

Joanne L. Prasad, assistant dean for academic affairs in the School of Dental Medicine, received the award for advocating for the inclusion of sex and gender health in dental education. Her students have consistently excelled in the national board exams’ oral pathology and radiology sections.

Liann Tsoukas, director of undergraduate studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was honored for her expert approaches to pedagogy, training colleagues and helping student-athletes succeed.

Distinguished Public Service Awards

David A. Harris, Sally Ann Semenko Endowed Chair in the School of Law, was awarded for serving on several important local government committees and task forces and providing his expert perspective in media outlets and testimony at the local, state and federal levels. Additionally, he has taught an Inside-Out Prison Exchange course on criminal justice and law and advocated for fair criminal justice policy in his teaching and scholarship.

Sera Linardi, founding director of the Center for Analytical Approaches to Social Innovation in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, was honored for her efforts in helping students create a program called Grief to Action, which supports community members in their attempts to eliminate systemic racism. She hired and trained students as project managers and served as a bridge between Pitt and the local community.

Esohe Osai, assistant professor in the School of Education, was recognized for creating the Justice Scholars Institute at three local high schools to help students earn college credits, enroll in college and subsequently graduate. Osai has also consistently and seamlessly incorporated community work advocating for children, youth and families in underserved communities in her teaching and scholarship.

— From Pittwire