Accolades

Singh honored with Dwight Nicholson Medal for Outreach

Chandralekha Singh received the 2022 Dwight Nicholson Medal for Outreach, which recognizes the humanitarian aspect of physics and physicists created through public lectures and public media, teaching, research, or science related activities. This award is provided through the American Physical Society (APS), a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities

Singh earned the medal “for work in broadening access to physics through research into removing barriers to success in the field faced by marginalized groups and how to overcome them, and addressing those challenges directly through meaningful, research-based action.”

Singh is a distinguished professor and director of the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Pitt’s Laura Kingsley re-elected to National Council of University Research Administrators board

10/11/22 correction: This story was updated to reflect Kingsley's role on the National Board of Directors.

Laura Kingsley, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of Pittsburgh, was re-elected to serve on the the National Board of Directors of the National Council of University Research Administrators.

Kingsley represents Region II, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 

“In this next term, I plan to continue to advocate for Region II research administrators, build stronger relationships within the regional and national networks and continue to promote an inclusive environment where all feel welcomed, heard and valued,” wrote Kingsley in a statement of interest she provided to her colleagues.

Kingsley also serves on council's Board of Directors Remote Work Survey Task Force, examining the impact of remote work arrangements on research administration.

The organization, formed in 1959, promotes the field of research administration by building communication and consensus nationally and abroad. It has over 7,500 members from more than 1,100 higher education institutions in 40 countries.

 

Edouard Machery elected president of Society for Philosophy and Psychology

Edouard Machery, distinguished professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, has been elected president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology for 2023-24. 

The society is a professional organization for “philosophically interested psychologists and psychologically interested philosophers” in North America. 

Machery, who also serves as director of Pitt’s Center for Philosophy of Science, is no stranger to the border between those two disciplines. An author of more than 150 papers across journals focusing on cognition, psychology, behavior and philosophy, his work tackles the philosophical issues raised by cognitive science. 

He also does research on issues of methods and statistics in experimental psychology and is a leader of the Geography of Philosophy Project, a global network of scholars tackling cross-cultural differences and similarities in perceptions of wisdom and knowledge.

Pitt Bradford: $40,000 gift supports Duke Engineering and Information Technologies Building

Although her father, Paul C. Duke III, died when she was a little girl, Sarah Duke knows she takes after him in many ways.

She loves animals the way he did and owns four “bully breed” dogs. And she loves cars the way he did, too. And she loves to share what has been given to her.   

As a girl, she collected funds for animals at the McKean County SPCA, and as she grew older, she quietly helped classmates at Bradford Area High School who could not afford to purchase yearbooks. She purchased a bench in memory of 2019 BAHS grad Peyton Kirk who had just finished his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford when he died in 2020.

Now she is following in her father’s footsteps by promoting technology education at Pitt-Bradford with a $40,000 gift toward the George B. Duke Engineering and Information Technologies Building named in honor of her uncle. Paul Duke worked with engineering at Zippo and was an early contributor to Pitt-Bradford’s technology endowment fund. In honor of that gift, Pitt-Bradford named its aquatic center in his honor, and young Sarah cut the ribbon.      

In recognition of the gift, the office of the engineering technology director will be named in her honor.

She is the latest generation of the Blaisdell-Duke family to take up a philanthropic tradition that has supported everyone from individuals to Bradford institutions such as Pitt-Bradford since its founding in 1963, and evidence of that can be seen in the names of the Miriam Barcroft Blaisdell Endowed Scholarships, Blaisdell Hall, Harriett B. Wick Chapel, Sarah B. Dorn Residence Hall as well as the aquatic center and new engineering building.   

Like her father, grandmother Sarah B. Duke and great-grandfather George G. Blaisdell, she believes in sharing what she has.   

The new Duke Building is making it possible for Pitt-Bradford to offer new majors in energy engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology as well as providing a new home for existing programs in energy science and technology, computer information systems and technology, and information systems.   

For more information about the building and programs, visit upb.pitt.edu/engineeringbuilding.

Scientists awarded $8 million for neurotechnology to restore arm and hand movements after strokes

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery Dr. Marco Capogrosso was awarded a five-year, $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechologies (BRAIN) Initiative to design and test a system for the electrical neurostimulation of the cervical spinal cord to reduce arm and hand motor impairments in people with severe stroke. 

In collaboration with co-principal investigator Douglas Weber, professor of biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Germany-based neurotech company CorTec GmbH, the Pitt team will develop and test a fully implantable spinal cord neurostimulation system that could be used to control electrical stimulation patterns in real time. 

The device developed by CorTec will be designed to specifically target the cervical spinal cord and used to determine stimulation parameters that improve strength and motor control of the arm and hand in patients who are partially unable to move their limbs after a severe stroke. 

The researchers seek to obtain regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the device in clinical rehabilitation settings and to test its efficacy to improve motor control in combination with physical training.

This project follows Capogrosso’s work on spinal cord stimulation showing that electrical stimulation improves arm control in paralyzed monkeys. The Pitt research team is now working to enroll participants in a clinical trial testing spinal cord stimulation to restore arm movement in people with stroke.

— Ana Gorelova

School of Public Health names two new department chairs

Two School of Public Health departments welcomed new leaders for the fall 2022 semester. 

Mary Hawk has been appointed chair of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and Yan Ma will lead the Department of Biostatistics. Both positions were effective Sept. 1. 

“We are excited to welcome these leaders,” said Maureen Lichtveld, Pitt Public Health dean and Jonas Salk Professor of Population Health. “They bring extensive research and teaching experience, compelling visions and effective management skills to their new roles.”

Hawk is currently associate professor of behavioral and community health sciences and the department’s vice chair for research.

“Our students, staff and faculty do amazing work and are clearly committed to our department’s vision,” said Hawk, who completed her DrPH and MPH at Pitt. “I look forward to advancing collaborative leadership in the department and across the health sciences.”

Among her research interests are the assessment and implementation of interventions to improve health outcomes for underserved populations, including those with substance use issues; enhancing the delivery of needed services; and developing community-engaged approaches to promote public health. She is principal investigator of a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded investigation to explore stigma and health outcomes for people living with HIV.

Hawk cofounded The Open Door Inc., a harm reduction housing program to improve health outcomes for chronically homeless people living with HIV, and is actively engaged with community organizations locally, nationally and globally. Her contributions to research and education have been honored with many awards, including the school’s James L. Craig Excellence in Education Award. 

Ma comes to Pitt Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, where he served as professor and vice chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics. Ma is also founding director of its PhD program in Health and Biomedical Data Science and director of Biostatistics and Epidemiology Consulting Services.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be selected to lead this elite department of biostatistics,” said Ma, adding that Pitt health sciences also has an international reputation for excellence in research and education. “I look forward to working with the outstanding faculty, staff and students in years to come.”

Ma’s theoretical and computational statistical research interests include missing data imputation, machine learning, meta-analysis, methods for assessing interrater reliability, causal inference, complex sample surveys and longitudinal methods. Ma has collaborated on investigations touching orthopedics, anesthesiology, health disparities, cancer, HIV/AIDS, psychiatry and emergency medicine.

Ma is currently principal investigator of a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities-funded project developing data driven methods for missing data imputation in surgical outcome disparities. He is a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistics in Epidemiology and the Achievement in Academia Award from the American Public Health Association.

— Michele Baum

Dietrich music department's Eric Moe wins Barlow Endowment commission

Eric Moe, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Music in the Department of Music in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was awarded a $9,000 commission from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University. 

The endowment, one of the premier commissioning organizations for new concert music in the U.S., selected Moe and twelve other composers to write 20-minute works in the coming year. Moe’s composition will be for an ensemble featuring flute, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion instruments.

Moe is the co-director of the Music on the Edge concert series and is the director of Pitt’s electronic music studio.

National Institute of Mental Health Center awards Pitt Psychiatry $16.2M grant to study suicide among Black and Hispanic Youth

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has awarded Pitt Psychiatry a Center of Excellence (P50) grant renewal for Enhancing Triage and Utilization for Depression and Emergent Suicidality (ETUDES), led by David Brent, MD (Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Epidemiology, and Clinical and Translational Science, and Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies). The Center is co-led by Bruce Rollman, MD, MPH, (University of Pittsburgh Professor and UPMC Endowed Chair in General Internal Medicine), and Jami Young, PhD (Professor and Associate Chair for Psychiatry Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Thirty additional investigators from Columbia University, Georgia Tech, Hunter College, the University of Oregon, and Kaiser Permanente, representing psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics, internal medicine, nursing, epidemiology, implementation science, statistics, bioinformatics, computer science, and economics also hold leadership positions in the Center.

The incidence of depression, suicidal behavior, and suicide among American youth has increased by more than 40% during the past decade, placing unprecedented demands on pediatric health care providers. To meet the challenge of what the US Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics have identified as a national emergency, the Center will enhance the ability of pediatric health care providers to assess, triage, and acutely manage suicidal youth who present in primary care. 
ETUDES will bring together the networks of two of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals, with three primary goals:

1.    Develop implementation-ready tools for pediatric health care providers that will reduce the rate of adolescent suicide and suicidal behavior;
2.    Augment the capacity of pediatric primary care for suicidal youth;
3.    Train a diverse national cohort of researchers with capacity to address the current mental health crisis among youth. 

Because rates of suicidal behavior have increased particularly sharply in adolescent youth of color, the Center will address racial and ethnic health disparities in adolescent suicidal behavior. To ensure that the Center’s assessments and interventions are acceptable and effective for individuals of color, Black and Hispanic youth and their families will comprise a substantial proportion of the 1,200 study participants. All of the tools and interventions tested in the Center will be developed collaboratively with adolescent patients, their families, pediatric and mental health clinicians, and community representatives, to ensure the products’ broad acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness.

The following Pitt Psychiatry investigators have key roles in the Center:

Candice Biernesser, PhD, LCSW, MPH
David Brent, MD
César Escobar-Viera, MD, PhD
Tina Goldstein, PhD
David Kolko, PhD
Nadine Melhem, PhD
Neal Ryan, MD
Stephanie Stepp, PhD

For more information about the ETUDES Center, visit www.etudes.pitt.edu. 

Cell Reports publishes new research from Caroline Runyan’s lab

The brain’s cerebral cortex is made up of distinct regions involved in myriad processes, from sensory perception to cognitive functions like memory, attention and decision-making. University of Pittsburgh neuroscience researchers have found that the properties of one neuron subtype — somatostatin-expressing neurons — are specialized in different subregions of the cortex. The study was published Sept. 6 in Cell Reports.

Caroline Runyan (pictured), assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; Christine Khoury (A&S ’22G), a postdoctoral associate in Runyan’s lab and the first author; and lab technician Noelle Fala (A&S ’20) set out to determine whether somatostatin-expressing neurons play similar or different roles in the auditory cortex, which is responsible for processing sounds, and the posterior parietal cortex, which is responsible for integrating sensory information to form perceptual decisions and guide behavior. 

The team discovered that in both regions, when somatostatin-expressing neurons became active, other nearby neurons tended to become active as well. But the distance over which somatostatin-expressing neurons shared activity expanded in the posterior parietal cortex.

Stephen Frederico receives American Brain Tumor Association fellowship to study pediatric brain cancer

In support of his neuro-oncology research, Stephen Frederico, a second-year medical student at Pitt, was recently awarded a $3,000 Jack & Fay Netchin Medical Student Summer Fellowship from the American Brain Tumor Association. This highly competitive fellowship is intended to motivate talented medical students to pursue careers in neuro-oncology research by supporting a three-month summer research experience. 

Frederico studies novel therapies to treat two of the deadliest pediatric brain tumors, which both have poor survival rates and limited treatment options. His project, “Developing an Adoptive Cell Transfer Immunotherapy for Pediatric Brain Tumors,” aims to modify a patient’s own T cells by adding a receptor to them that recognizes cancer cells, enabling these immune cells to kill the tumor while sparing healthy brain tissue. 

“Many individuals who have received this fellowship have gone on to accomplish incredible feats, so it’s a real honor to receive this award,” says Frederico. “It’s also a testament to the amazing team that I have in the laboratory who worked together on this idea.”

He is advised by Gary Kohanbash, assistant professor of neurological surgery and immunology in the School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. He is also mentored by Ian Pollack, distinguished professor of neurological surgery in the School of Medicine, chief of pediatric neurosurgery at UPMC Children’s and co-director of the Neurosurgical Oncology Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Frederico intends to use this novel approach to combat adult brain tumors as well. He was recently named a Hillman Medical Student Fellow for Innovative Cancer Research by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and was awarded $5,000 in research funding to target this approach to glioblastoma, one of the deadliest brain tumors that occurs in the adult population. 

Frederico still plays baseball for fun and gets out to the batting cages whenever he can, but his sights are now firmly set on a career as a neurosurgeon-scientist.

“Pitt is one of the best places to study neurological surgery and neuro-oncology and has one of the strongest neurological surgery departments in the country,” he says. “It feels like a dream come true to be here.” 

— Asher Jones

Multidisciplinary Pitt team won first phase of the NIH Neuromod Prize competition

A team of scientists, engineers and industry partners led by Changfeng Tai (pictured), professor of urology, pharmacology and bioengineering in Pitt’s School of Medicine and Swanson School of Engineering, is among eight teams nationwide to win the first phase of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) competition to accelerate the development of therapies that adjust nerve activity to improve organ function. Called “neuromodulation,” potential therapies hold promise to restore healthy function in organs ranging from the heart to the bowels, while limiting side effects. 

Tai’s team at Pitt’s Department of Urology has been initially awarded $100,000 for their plan, which seeks to develop a multichannel implantable device for sacral-pudendal neuromodulation to address bladder, bowel and sexual disorders. The pudendal nerve is a major nerve in the pelvis at the base of the spine, called the sacrum.  

The team will use the prize money to conduct proof-of-concept studies and compete in phase two of the competition. Winners of the second phase will be given additional monetary awards and be invited to compete for a grand prize of up to $5 million. The Neuromod Prize is an initiative from the NIH Common Fund’s Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program, which is making critical progress to help accelerate the development of neuromodulation therapies, close fundamental knowledge gaps and offer tools that enable open science and innovation through the SPARC Portal.

Abdus Wahed gets funding to develop SMART patient-centered clinical trial methods

With more than $1 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Abdus Wahed, professor of biostatistics and his team will launch a three-year project to develop methodological and statistical guidance for a new way of testing treatment sequences through adaptive and sequential clinical trials that improve center patient needs and interests. 

Called “Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials,” or SMART, these trials allow for more than one treatment to be given to a patient, or for the treatment to change partway through the trial. They also allow for the trial to change while still underway, so that if one treatment is performing better, more patients are assigned to receive it. 

“The goal is to optimize each patient’s outcome with the best therapy or sequence of therapies,” said Wahed. “We want clinical researchers to be able to adjust the treatment at each decision point in their clinical trial without sacrificing the validity of the trial. This way we’ll be able to treat more patients with more effective therapies, exposing less patients to ineffective treatments during the trial.”

SMART trials are generally more statistically complicated than traditional randomized clinical trials that assign half of the trial participants to one treatment and half to another. They also have more opportunities for data to be inadvertently not collected or reported. Wahed and his team intend to overcome these challenges by developing algorithms that account for missing data, ensuring the trial results are statistically sound. 

Co-investigators on this project include Yu Cheng and Zhao Ren of the Department of Statistics, Meredith Wallace of the School of Medicine and Jordan Karp of the University of Arizona.

3 Pitt-Greensburg faculty members receive National Endowment for the Humanities grant

Pilar Herr, associate professor of history at Pitt–Greensburg, is the recipient of a Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations Planning Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. William Campbell, visiting assistant professor of history, and Elizabeth Contreras, instructor of Spanish, will serve as co-PIs with Herr. 

The project, “Chilean Parlamentos: Digital Edition and Translation of Indigenous Treaties (1724-1870),” involves translating six representative parlamentos with a projection of completing one of them, including the annotations, edited apparatus and introductory essays in both Spanish and English. During the one-year grant period, Herr and her team also will set up a digital infrastructure and build an online presence for the translated materials. Additionally, this planning grant also will allow them to build a plan for the sustainability of the website beyond the completion of the project and apply for a second Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations Grant. 

“This is quite an accomplishment for Dr. Herr and her team,” said Courtney DeCarlucci, manager of foundation and corporate relations at Pitt-Greensburg. “NEH grants are highly competitive. Over the past five years, NEH received on average 82 applications per year in this program and were able to fund about 24% of them.” 

Herr’s project was one of 12 funded in Pennsylvania and 226 funded nationwide.

— Pittwire 

Carrie Leana lauded for poverty-tackling efforts with societal impact award

Carrie Leana, professor of organizations and management at Pitt, has won the 2022 Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management Award for Societal Impact.

She was chosen by a committee of organizational behavior scholars and practitioners for her scholarly work that is "scientifically credible, useful to society and produces knowledge that aims to make the world a better place," the academy said. 

Leana holds appointments in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business, where she is academic director of the Executive MBA-Healthcare program. She has secondary appointments in the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and the Learning Research and Development Center. She also is director of the Center for Healthcare Management and academic dean of the Marshall Webster Physician Leadership Program.

The award committee said: “Leana’s research on job loss, urban public schools, direct care workers and financial (vulnerability) demonstrates the potential for rigorous research to generate actionable insights that address societal challenges and thereby improve well-being outcomes. “Her work has been deeply theoretical but also tackling very important societal problems of poverty, inequality and making organizations more empathic toward those in need."

Pitt-Johnstown a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was recognized for their efforts toward environmental stewardship and been recertified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Pitt-Johnstown earned the certification in 2019 and is the first college campus certified in Pennsylvania.

Audubon International bestows certification to organizations that demonstrate leadership and commitment in areas such as environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, water quality and conservation, resource management, and outreach and education. Recertification is required every three years to maintain the designation.

Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, the Johnstown campus also boasts two LEED certified buildings — the John P. Murtha Center and the Nursing and Health Sciences Building — as well as pollinator gardens and native plant species across campus.

Lesley Rains joins University of Pittsburgh Press as publicity manager

Lesley Rains, former manager and buyer for the City of Asylum Bookstore in Pittsburgh, has joined the University of Pittsburgh Press as its publicity manager.

“Lesley’s experience in front-line bookselling brings a real understanding of the importance of publicity to sell books in a competitive retail environment,” said Marketing Director John Fagan.

Rains will oversee all publicity efforts at the press including review coverage, author events and prize applications. She will also work with authors published in the award-winning Pitt Poetry Series, regional interest titles and renowned scholarly monographs.

Rains holds master’s degrees in both European history and European studies. As the manager of the City of Asylum Bookstore and active member of the local and national bookselling communities, she brings valuable knowledge of the trade and first-hand appreciation of the importance of strong publicity efforts. 

“We are delighted that Lesley has joined the press, and I am particularly pleased about her scholarly background, which will serve our academic publishing program well,” said Press Director Peter Kracht.

“I’m thrilled to join the University of Pittsburgh Press,” said Rains. “I have always admired their work, both as a reader and a bookseller. To be able to help share their books and authors with the world is a dream come true.” 

National Neurotrauma Society gives Rosalind Franklin Award to Corina Bondi

Amy Lane receives Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists’ Lifetime Achievement Award

Amy Lane, an instructor and director of the Adaptive Driving Program in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. 

Lane is an occupational therapist and clinical instructor in Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology. She has worked on special projects related to the older driver and defining the spectrum of driver rehabilitation programs.

Jennifer White recognized for innovative occupational therapy practice

Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor Jennifer White (SHRS ’18G) in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences was granted the 2022 Emerging and Innovative Practice Award by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

White is one of two recipients of this year’s award, which recognizes clinicians, educators and researchers who have developed new and innovative therapy practices to serve the needs of their clients. She was recognized for her efforts to improve occupational therapy outcomes for vulnerable populations in the region, as well as her educational work, making use of innovative teaching to address racial and gender bias in medicine.

The award was granted at the association’s annual conference in April.

Molly Stitt-Fischer

Stitt-Fischer named head of Environmental Health and Safety

Molly Stitt-Fischer has been named director of Environmental Health and Safety, replacing Assistant Vice Chancellor Jay Frerotte.

Stitt-Fischer has been with the Department of Environmental Health and Safety since December 2010, most recently served as Pitt’s Biosafety Officer, where she managed biological and research laboratory safety  inspection programs for the University.

Frerotte will continue to serve as assistant vice chancellor and will work closely with Stitt-Fischer until his planned retirement in January. He has been with the University since 2002.  

Stitt-Fischer’s work has included management of a laboratory safety team and has served as the University's lead authority on matters related to research safety. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, her interpretations and recommendations were critically helpful to supporting successful emergency operations at Pitt.

Prior to joining Pitt, Stitt-Fischer worked as a fellow and associate biosafety officer within the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Before that, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Pitt’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the Graduate School of Public Health. 

She has numerous professional certifications and publications, and earned a B.S. in molecular biology from Allegheny College, an M.S. in toxicology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, environmental and occupational health from Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health.