Accolades

Panther Statue

Wagner and Woo inducted to International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering

Two Pitt faculty members were elected fellows of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE). William R. Wagner and Savio L-Y. Woo were selected for this competitive election alongside 24 other internationally recognized leaders in the field. To date, there are fewer than 250 fellows of the academy throughout the world.

Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering, was selected for “pioneering contributions to regenerative medicine and for integrating engineering expertise within the clinical environment, and championing innovation investment at the state and national level.” 

Woo, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Bioengineering, was selected for “pivotal contributions and leadership in biomechanics and bioengineering, leading to revolutionary treatments and rehabilitation strategies for improved patient care for ligament and tendon injuries worldwide.”

Read more at the Swanson School of Engineering website.

Ryan McDermott in a white shirt

Ryan McDermott receives $300K from National Endowment for the Humanities

Associate Professor of English Ryan McDermott and colleagues received a $300,000 National Endowment for the Humanities award to support the Genealogies of Modernity Project (GenMod).

The project’s podcast, website and colloquia seek to motivate and organize a critical, cross-disciplinary inquiry into influential narratives of the origins of modernity in the humanities with a special focus on theological genealogies. 

GenMod is based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture and Pittsburgh’s Beatrice Institute. McDermott is founder and faculty director of Beatrice Institute.

The GenMod project recognizes that the stories we tell ourselves about the passage to modernity are many and often conflicting, even within one discipline. Attention to the complexity of the intertwined genealogies of the present opens the possibility to forge new relationships to the past and discover resources for life-giving responses in the present. 

The journal and podcast offer a place for graduate students, early career and established scholars to parse these narratives and to make legible the intellectual and cultural kinships that often unconsciously subtend these narratives. 

Robert Schoen in a black suit

Pitt expert details history of refugee physicians in the U.S.

Robert Schoen, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in conjunction with prominent Holocaust scholar Laurel Leff, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, has published an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine recounting the history and oppression of Jewish physicians seeking refuge in the United States during WWII.

Barred from practicing medicine in their home countries by the Nazi regime and hoping to find new opportunities, nearly 5,500 Jewish physicians successfully emigrated from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other European nations to the U.S.

Many refugees were met with anti-Semitism and restricted from practicing medicine through regulations that prevented them from taking state licensing examinations. Professional medical organizations urged state medical boards to require full citizenship before foreign medical school graduates could take a licensing exam—amounting to, at minimum, a five-year hiatus in employment as the refugees waited for citizenship. Schoen and Leff tell the story of David L. Edsall, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, and his efforts to lobby on behalf of these physicians.

Rob A Rutenbar in a black suit

Rob Rutenbar earns Distinguished Professor honor

Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research, has been appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor in the School of Computing and Information, and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering.

Designation as a Distinguished Professor recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field. Rutenbar was recommended for this high distinction by Interim Dean Bruce Childers, Dean James R. Martin II and Provost Ann Cudd, and was approved by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher in May 2021. 

Rutenbar’s research focuses on tools for integrated circuit design, especially analog circuits, and hardware architectures for artificial intelligence. He has launched two successful companies in these areas:  Neolinear Inc., the first commercial toolchain for analog chips (acquired by Cadence in 2004); and Voci Technologies, Inc., for ultra-fast enterprise voice analytics (acquired by Medallia in 2020).  He has published more than 200 research papers and books and mentored more than 50 graduate students.  A set of courses on chip design he devised for the global Coursera MOOC platform has attracted nearly 100,000 registered learners.

As senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt, Rutenbar leads the Pitt Research organization which supports the full breadth of the University’s enterprise, and provides strategic vision, leadership and partnership expertise to help Pitt researchers and scholars. 

Since his arrival, he has launched several initiatives that exemplify his exceptional commitment to the University: The Pitt Momentum Funds, to catalyze new directions in scholarship and support large-scale team science; LifeX Labs, to enhance Pitt’s abilities to transfer life science innovations into commercial use; and the new Office of Industry and Economic Partnerships, which aligns Pitt's research expertise with industry partners to advance scientific and technological opportunities.

Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu receives Behavioral Science and Policy Association award

Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of marketing at the Katz Graduate School of Business, has received the Behavioral Science and Policy Association (BSPA) 2021 New Investigator Award.

The award “recognizes an early career scholar who received his or her doctoral degree in the last five years whose body of work has advanced the rigorous application and development of behavioral/social science to policy and practice in public, private and/or nonprofit sectors.” The award was announced at BSPA’s virtual conference this May.

This award from BSPA is one of numerous honors and awards that Liu has recently received, including being named a Society for Consumer Psychology 2021 Early Career Award Winner, a 2021 Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, and a Poets & Quants 2020 Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors.

James Cassaro in a blue shirt

Pitt wins NEH grant to digitize silent film sheet music

The Theodore M. Finney Music Library at the University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a $145,897 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), under its Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program. The funding will help the library finish processing and digitizing the Mirskey Collection, an archive of sheet music for silent film accompaniment.

James Cassaro (pictured), professor of music and head of the Finney Music Library, is the principal investigator for this project.

The Mirskey collection is named after  Polish composer Nek Mirskey, who collected this music for his Polonia Orchestra, which was the house orchestra for the Metropolitan Theatre in Washington, D.C., from 1916 until Mirskey’s death in 1927. This music has been used by silent film scholars to reconstruct scores for various films. Among them are Gillian Anderson’s restoration of the score to “Rosita”—an Ernst Lubitsch film that opened the 2017 Venice Film Festival—as well as the score to “Forbidden Paradise,” another Lubitsch film. Currently, Anderson is using the collection to restore the score to “Way Down East,” a D.W. Griffith film, starring Lillian Gish

The collection comprises approximately 3,000 sets of photoplay music, or music published specifically for cinema orchestra, with each set averaging fifteen instrumental parts, for a total of 45,000 pages to be digitized and made available globally and open access via a dedicated website on the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s Digital Research Library.

As of right now, approximately 87 percent of the collection is cataloged, with full level records appearing in PittCat and OCLC WorldCat. The funds from the two-year grant will not only cover the digitization costs, but also the cataloguing of the collection and creation of a dedicated website.

Gayle Rogers in a dark suit, with flowers in the background

Gayle Rogers elected to Association of Departments of English leadership

Gayle Rogers, professor and chair of English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the 12-member executive committee of the Association of Departments of English (ADE) for a three-year term, running 2022-25. 

This organization advocates nationally for the study of literature, writing and culture across many forms and supports departments in their disciplinary work, especially through its constitutive affiliation with the Modern Language Association. The ADE also hosts professional networks, data resources and annual conferences for chairs and other campus leaders.  

Rogers’s work focuses on the history of ideas, global modernisms, translation theory, comparative literature, critical history and the intersections of literature, economics and risk theory. Read a piece he wrote for The Conversation about financial speculation through the ages.

Jamie Ducar with blurred trees in the background

Jamie Ducar named member of Engaged Scholars Initiative cohort

Jamie Ducar was recently named a member of the 2021-22 Engaged Scholars Initiative cohort. Ducar serves as the director of community engagement in Pitt's Office of Community and Governmental Relations, a role she has held since 2019. 

The Engaged Scholars Initiative is a yearlong program designed to develop community-engagement professionals, empowering them to lead equity-focused work within their institutions and spheres of influence. The 2021-22 cohort will include virtual retreats, monthly meetings, mentorship, scholarly coursework and peer collaboration. 

The initiative is a Campus Compact program, in partnership with the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility at Swarthmore College. Campus Compact’s approach of attracting, developing and retaining critical public scholars from diverse backgrounds across the nation encourages participants to expand their understanding of community engaged work and scholarship. 

“I’m very excited to be a part of the first national ESI cohort. My professional development interests are being realized thanks to Pitt’s relationship with compact. I hope to advance institutional ties to innovative practice, ‘stretch’ my role at Pitt and apply what I learn to our Community of Practice,” Ducar said.

Garrett Grindle kneeling on the left and Rory Cooper in a wheelchair on the right.  Both hold up their Pennsylvania Veterans Service Awards.

Cooper, Grindle honored with Pa. Veterans Service Award

On May 6, leaders of the Pennsylvania National Guard awarded Pitt’s Rory Cooper and Garrett Grindle, both of Pitt's Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award for their work protecting veterans and their caregivers during the pandemic.

In April 2020, HERL pivoted from their usual technology research and development to producing nasal swabs, face shields and other medical supplies to meet demand during the crisis. Their work helped keep VA hospitals open and safe for workers, patients and caregivers.

“I am extremely proud of the team at HERL,” Cooper told the VA’s Research Currents publication last spring. “They have risen to the challenge of assisting with VA’s response to COVID-19 and have performed outstandingly. The work of the team at HERL has likely helped slow the spread of the disease and has assisted VA health care providers in saving the lives of veterans.”

Among other titles, Cooper is the FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and Distinguished Professor of Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and founding director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist at HERL. Grindle is the associate director for engineering at HERL and a research scientist at Pitt.

Read more about HERL’s pandemic pivot.

Julie Donohue in a black shirt on a grey background

Health Policy chair one of the editors of new JAMA journal

Julie Donohue, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Graduate School of Public Health, is among the editors of JAMA Health Forum, the newest peer-reviewed, print journal in the JAMA network. 

The open-access journal’s mission is to publish original research, evidence-based reports and opinion about national and global health policy; innovative approaches to health care delivery; and health care economics, access, quality, safety, equity and reform.

“Our goal is for JAMA Health Forum to play a leading role as a peer-reviewed journal, bringing rigorous evidence forward from a diverse community of authors to inform readers who will use this evidence to improve health outcomes and advance health equity,” Donohue and her fellow editors wrote in an editorial introducing the first issue

Cathedral of Learning with a blooming pink tree in the foreground

Institute for Learning Receives Grant for Middle School Mathematics

The Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, has been awarded a planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be part of the foundation’s effective implementation cohort. 

The vision for the Gates Foundation effective implementation cohort is that “education agencies, schools, and the organizations that support them have reliable, practical evidence and measures to apply in planning and implementing a high-impact math improvement initiative district-wide.” 

IFL will partner with Canutillo Independent School District, Fabens Independent School District and Tornillo Independent School District, all of which are in the El Paso area of Texas, to design a multi-year plan to develop a high-quality mathematics curriculum for 6th through 8th grade students.

The team working on this planning grant include: Joe Dostilio, IFL mathematics fellow and principal investigator on the grant; Laurie Speranzo, IFL mathematics fellow and lead designer on the project; Beatriz Strawhun, IFL mathematics & bilingual education fellow; Ivonne Durant, IFL leadership fellow; Rosa Apodaca, IFL executive director; Carol Chestnut, IFL mathematics content developer, Aaron Anthony, IFL director of analytics and operations; Chris Schunn, LRDC senior scientist and IFL co-director; and Rip Correnti, LRDC research scientist.

Robert Friedlander wearing a black suit on a blue background

Neurology chair named distinguished professor

Robert Friedlander, the Walter E. Dandy professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, has been appointed to the special faculty rank of distinguished professor, the highest honor the University can accord a faculty member.

A noted neurosurgeon and an expert in Huntington’s disease, ALS and stroke research, Friedlander has received a number of significant academic awards and accolades over the years, most significantly an induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine in 2019, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. In addition, Friedlander is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians.

Read more about the appointment.

Hands on a laptop

Pitt Cyber announces new affiliate scholars

Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security welcomes Jacqui Lipton and Jennifer Keating as its newest affiliate scholars. 

Lipton is an assistant professor of legal writing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Her scholarship focuses on law and digital technology. 

Keating is a senior lecturer and the writing in the disciplines specialist in the William S. Dietrich II Institute for Writing Excellence in the Composition Program in the Department of English. Her work includes exploring the influence of advancing technology on society and the politics of language.

Pitt Cyber affiliate scholars are drawn from faculty across the University of Pittsburgh 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.  

Yvonne Powers in a grey suit on a white background

HR names new director of employee and labor relations

Yvonne Powers has been named director of employee and labor relations in the Office of Human Relations. Powers will be responsible for the management of the collective bargaining agreements and oversight of the personnel policies for the University. She will work closely with University leadership, managers and union representatives to build collaborative relationships for the oversight of employee and labor relations.

Powers is a licensed attorney with senior level experience in higher education, the private sector and the federal government. She has worked on a variety of HR functions including diversity and inclusion, recruitment, employee relations, employment law, civil rights law, mediation, arbitration, and union contract negotiations/policy development. Most recently, Powers was the assistant vice president of human resources at the Community College of Allegheny County.

Anna Balazs

Anna Balazs elected to National Academy of Science

Anna C. Balazs, a distinguished professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, is among 120 newly elected members to the National Academy of Sciences, which recognizes distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

Balazs, who also holds the John A. Swanson Chair of Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is internationally recognized for her theoretical and computational modeling of polymers. For the past decade, her research has focused on mimicking biological processes in polymeric materials which could contribute to the advancement of soft robotics or “squishy robots.”

“Throughout her career, Anna has advanced the field of materials and computational modeling, and we are so proud that the National Academy of Sciences has bestowed her with this honor,” said James R. Martin II, dean of Engineering. “Her research has built the foundation for future materials and their use in ways that even only a decade ago were science fiction.”

Balazs, a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Materials Research Society, has also received some of the leading awards in her field, including the Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys ­– A Rahman Award (2015), the American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (2013). In 2106, she was the first woman to receive the prestigious Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society.

Matt Schultz wearing a blue shirt

Honors College staffer Schultz releases indie horror film

Matt Schultz (A&S ’10), manager of recruitment in the University Honors College, recently debuted “The Boonies,” a feature-length horror film shot primarily in Cambria, Somerset and Allegheny counties. 

Schultz co-wrote and acted in the film, which was released widely in April and had a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles. The plot follows campers who find themselves fighting for survival against cannibals in the Appalachian woods.

Watch the trailer or download the full film on Amazon, iTunes and other video on demand sites.

Students sitting out on a lawn and in a gazebo at Pitt Bradford campus

Pitt-Bradford named Military Spouse Friendly School

The Pitt–Bradford has been named a Military Spouse Friendly School by Viqtory Media for being at the forefront of colleges and universities supporting the goals of military spouses. 

The group evaluated institutions using public data sources and responses from a proprietary survey. More than 1,200 schools participated in the 2021-2022 survey and 194 were selected for the Military Spouse Friendly Schools list.

Pitt-Bradford won the designation for its leading practices, outcomes and effective programs for military spouses. Pitt-Bradford is the only campus in the University of Pittsburgh system and one of only three public universities in Pennsylvania to earn the Military Spouse Friendly designation. 

“Military Friendly is committed to transparency and providing consistent data-driven standards in our designation process,” said Kayla Lopez, national director of military partnerships for Military Friendly. “Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts.” 

In February, Pitt-Bradford received the Military Friendly School designation for its 11th year.

Steven Little

Steven Little to received third Controlled Release Society award

Steven R. Little, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, will receive the Controlled Release Society’s Distinguished Service Award at its virtual annual meeting this July.

Little is internationally recognized for his research in drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.

This is Little’s third honor from the Controlled Release Society. In 2018, he received the society’s Young Investigator Award, and in 2020 was elected to its College of Fellows for “outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of ten years.”

“Dr. Little's leadership of the focus groups of the Controlled Release Society has been transformational for the society as a whole,” said nominator Justin Hanes, professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “I have never seen the young rising superstars of our field so engaged in the CRS, and their engagement is key to the long-term success of this remarkable scientific society. Dr. Little has also been a highly valued member of the CRS board of directors.  He is a visionary and a natural leader. We are so grateful to him.”

Rather than traditional drug treatments that are distributed throughout the entire body, Little’s controlled release research focuses on time-released microcapsules that target specific cells on site. In 2020, Little published a groundbreaking discovery of a new immunotherapy system that mimics how cancer cells invade the human immune system and thereby reduces the risk of transplant rejection. He has also made advancements to the fundamentals of delivery science with predictive models enabling rational design of drug delivery systems, leading to the founding of Qrono Inc., a specialty pharma company in Pittsburgh.

Pitt wins APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Award

Pitt has won the Place award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ eighth annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards.

The “Place” award recognizes a university that is excelling in community, social, and cultural development work. It is one of four awards given out each year.

Pitt was honored for its partnerships in and with the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Homewood, which have become a centerpiece of the University’s place-based community and economic engagement strategy.

“Pitt has taken a multifaceted approach to cultivating talent in Homewood, promoting innovation, and creating an environment fostering economic prosperity through its 20,000 square foot neighborhood-based Community Engagement Center and associated programs at the Manufacturing Assistance Center, BioShelter, and K12 outreach,” the award recognition said. “Building on long-standing involvement in Homewood by various faculty and schools, Pitt made a long-term institutional commitment to partner the breadth of its engagement assets, across all 16 schools and various business units, with community-based partners to pursue impact and opportunities for the residents of Homewood for the next 25 years.”

Examples of work done by Pitt include the School of Social Work partnering with community organizations and the three neighborhood schools to provide holistic support to students and their families; theInstitute for Entrepreneurial Excellence offering a six-month counseling and training program which has graduated 50 entrepreneurs in Homewood and provided consulting services to 21 area businesses since 2017; and the School of Education’s Justice Scholars Program, which has enrolled more than 40 high school students into college bearing classes, qualitative research experiences, and service-learning opportunities all focused on social justice.

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU, which recognizes institutional commitment to regional economic development. To earn the IEP designation, universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities that includes input from external stakeholders. 

Sixty-six institutions have been named IEP Universities since the program was launched in 2012.

 

Valire Copeland named to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Valire C. Copeland, a professor in the School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Public Health, and associate director of the Public Health Social Work Training Program at Pitt, has been appointed to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a major federal funder within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Copeland was appointed as a standing member of the Healthcare System and Value Research study section at the agency, which focuses on building evidence to make healthcare safer, more accessible, and more equitable.

“(Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) often asks for reviewers for a single meeting depending on expertise, but an appointment as a standing member is a high recognition that Dr. Copeland is at the top of her field and therefore trusted to make judicious decisions about what work the federal government should be funding in the areas of healthcare access and equity,” said Shaun Eack, associate dean for Research in the School of Social Work. “It also means that the expertise Dr. Copeland brings is viewed as especially deep, as she will sit on study section for all proposals that the Healthcare System and Value Research study section will receive.”

Copeland’s work as a standing member of a study section will involve providing scientific, budgetary and human subjects review of grant proposals related to healthcare safety, access and equity with a panel of other accomplished scholars to inform the federal government of the merits of project proposals received by the agency.