Swanson School’s Neeraj Gandhi Earns Funding for Brain Perception Study

Neeraj Gandhi, professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1.5 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to study how the brain perceives moving objects by comparing the neural mechanisms of eye movements directed to stationary and moving objects.

Gandhi leads the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory, which investigates neural mechanisms involved in the multiple facets of sensory-to-motor transformations and cognitive processes. In this project, the group uses eye movement as a model of motor control.

Rory Cooper Awarded American Institute for Biomedical Engineering Advocacy Award

Rory Cooper, founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was awarded the American Institute for Biomedical Engineering’s 2018 Advocacy Award for outstanding and lasting contributions to humanity and the field of bioengineering.

The nomination, which cannot come from a home institution, noted the breakthrough devices that he helped to create to transform the lives of people with disabilities, and how his research and development ‎exemplifies the highest qualities of bioengineering.

The institute makes a maximum of three awards each year in advocacy, education and public policy. Cooper is the first person from Pitt to receive any of these awards.

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis Named Searle Scholar

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, an assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will receive $300,000 over the next three years from the Searle Scholars Program to support her research, which focuses on addressing questions about the uniqueness of different animal species. These questions include how new genes can emerge without having parent genes, how networks of interacting molecules form and change within cells and how these networks differ across species.

The Searle program funds “exceptional young scientists who participate in high-risk, high-reward independent research” and have recently become tenure-track assistant professors. Read more about Carvunis and her work.

University Library System Acquires Rare Jorge Luis Borges Book

Pitt’s University Library System has acquired a rare manuscript notebook that contains some of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges — an Argentine short story writer, essayist and poet who is considered one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. The spiral notebook, used by Borges in 1950 and 1951, contains the first draft of the important story “La espera” (The Wait), included in the second edition of “El Aleph” in 1952. It also contains notes for Borges’s famous essay, “El escritor argentino y la tradición” (The Argentine Writer and Tradition), first presented as a talk in 1951 and published two years later.

“The essay on the Argentine writer and tradition is a central text to Latin American debates about the relations between Latin American literature and the Western tradition, and was presented in response to Peronism and cultural nationalism,” said Daniel Balderston, Pitt’s Mellon Professor of Modern Languages and director of its Borges Center. The English-speaking world became familiar with Borges’s work with the publication of the anthology “Labyrinths” in 1962.

The notebook is intact, meaning that it is possible to study the sequence of texts that Borges wrote in 1950-51. It will be housed in Archives and Special Collections and will be a rich addition to the Eduardo Lozano Latin American Collection.

Engineering’s Mostafa Bedewy Earns Manufacturing Award

Mostafa Bedewy was recently named a 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers for his contributions to the field of nanomanufacturing. A member of the society since 2017, Bedewy is among 18 recipients from the U.S. and China.

Bedewy is an assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and principal investigator of the NanoProduct Lab at Pitt.

The award is given to “exceptional young manufacturing engineers (35 years old or younger) from academia and industry for their contributions in manufacturing.” Recipients are selected based on work in emerging manufacturing applications, technical publications, patents and academic or industry leadership.

Center for African American Poetry and Poetics Creative Writing Fellow Wins 2018 Whiting Award

Rickey Laurentiis — the inaugural fellow in creative writing in the Department of English’s Center for African American Poetry and Poetics — is one of 10 writers in the nation awarded a 2018 Whiting Award. Granted annually in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama, the $50,000 award is based on early career accomplishments and potential for continued success.

Laurentiis’ debut poetry collection, “Boy with Thorn,” won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Levis Reading Prize and the Julie Suk Award. His work has been published in such notable publications as the Boston Review, The New York Times,and The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. Laurentiis is Pitt’s second recent Whiting Award winner, English lecturer Jenny Johnson won the award in 2015.

University of Pittsburgh Press Names Marketing Director

The University of Pittsburgh Press — the book publishing division of the University — has chosen Pitt alumnus John R. Fagan (CGS ’86) as its new marketing director. Fagan spent 17 of his more than 30 years in book publishing as vice president and director of marketing for Penguin Books and Penguin Classics. In his new role, Fagan is responsible for the promotion, distribution and sales of books in print and digital formats and works with other senior managers to develop overall policies and strategic goals. He studied English literature as a student in Pitt’s College of General Studies.

PhD Candidate Named Woodrow Wilson Fellow

University of Pittsburgh graduate student María Lis Baiocchi is one of 10 PhD candidates nationwide named as Dissertation Fellow in Women’s Studies by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Baiocchi is a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and a certificate student in the Cultural Studies Program and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and in the Center for Latin American Studies.

The foundation recognized Baiocchi with $5,000 in funding for her dissertation, “Becoming Workers: Changing Labor Laws and Domestic Workers’ Challenges in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” which explores the legal reconfiguration of paid domestic work in Argentina and the ways in which such changes in law translate into domestic workers’ daily lives. The foundation calls the fellowship “the only national dissertation award for doctoral work on women’s and gendered issues.”


Angela Gronenborn Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Angela Gronenborn, distinguished professor of structural biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was recently elected as a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The academy’s projects and publications generate ideas and offer recommendations to advance the public good in the arts, citizenship, education, energy, government, the humanities, international relations, science and more. Gronenborn’s research combines nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with biophysics, biochemistry and chemistry to investigate cellular processes at the molecular and atomic levels in relation to human disease.

Pitt Establishes New Chair of Indian Studies

Sandeep Chakravorty, the Consul General of India in New York (pictured), had a recent whirlwind visit to campus in March to celebrate the establishment of a new Chair of Indian Studies at Pitt. A rotating scholar from India, who will teach in different Pitt departments, will be in the post for each of the next five years beginning in January 2019. The move is a partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an organization that works to promote a wider understanding of Indian culture and history. Chakravorty met with Pitt leaders to discuss the chair as part of the Asian Studies Center's new India initiative. A reception at the Frick Fine Arts cloister was followed by dinner with the local South Asian community, breakfast with staff from Pitt’s Asian Studies Center and an informal meeting over coffee with a group of 15 students interested in Indian studies.

“There’s tremendous enthusiasm about this new chair,” said Joseph Alter, director of the Asian Studies Center. “He or she will teach a course on modern Indian culture and help to develop programming that serves the interests of students who want to learn more about this significant region of the world.”

Faculty Chosen for Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Patricia E. Beeson recognized four faculty members from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences with the 2018 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. They were chosen for their commitment to mentoring and working with doctoral students, leading to the students’ career success. The awardees are Jonathan Arac, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Department of English’s Literature Program and founding director of the Humanities Center; Lucy Fischer, Distinguished Professor in the Department of English and Film and Media Studies Program; Robert M. Hayden, professor in the Department of Anthropology; and Satish Iyengar, professor in the Department of Statistics. Learn more about the awardees at the University Times.

Rachel Kranson Receives Honorable Mention From Immigration and Ethnic History Society

The Immigration and Ethnic History Society has chosen Pitt faculty member Rachel Kranson’s book “Ambivalent Embrace: Jewish Upward Mobility in Postwar America” for an honorable mention in the society’s First Book Award competition. Kranson is an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. In her book, Kranson examines how American Jews after World War II felt conflicted about their rising economic status. While they enjoyed their new, middle-class lifestyles, they also suspected that this success compromised their authenticity as Jews.

Swanson School Names 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer

Harvard University’s George Whitesides (pictured) has been named the 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. 

Whitesides currently is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship is presented annually by Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research.

The Covestro lectures will be on Thursday, April 19 at 5:00 pm with a reception following, and Friday, April 20 at 9:30 am. Both lectures will be presented in Benedum Hall Room 102, 3700 O’Hara Street. The lectures are open to the public. For more information, email or call 412-624-9630.

French Faculty Member Todd Reeser Awarded International Fellowship

The European Institutes for Advanced Study (EURIAS) Fellowship Programme has awarded Pitt faculty member Todd Reeser a senior residential fellowship based at the Collegium de Lyon, an interdisciplinary research center in Lyon, France. Reeser is a professor of French and the director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The highly competitive fellowship will provide him time to write his next book “Transgender France” and to conduct archival work in French archives. The fellowship, which begins in July 2018, will also allow him to join a research team at the Max Weber Center exploring gender and sexuality.

Elaine Mormer Receives State Speech-Language Hearing Association Award

Elaine Mormer, associate professor and audiology clinical education coordinator in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, received the Pennsylvania Speech-Language Hearing Association's 2018 Clinical Achievement Award

In her University roles, Mormer provides education to the health services staff about hearing loss and the profession of audiology, supervises audiology students who assist in all aspects of the clinic’s management and provides clinical outreach and care to members of university populations who might be vulnerable to hearing loss due to unprotected noise exposure.

HIV Prevention and Care Project Marks Quarter-Century of Work

The HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health turns 25 years old this year.

The project started in 1993 with a one-year grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to assist and educate HIV prevention providers and the state HIV prevention planning body. Today, it has 12 staff and three faculty members who run four programs focusing on direct prevention interventions, capacity building and training, statewide integrated HIV planning with the Department of Health and the diffusion of novel, effective community programs for vulnerable communities.

The project’s work has received multiple recognitions from federal health bodies in recent years, helping Pennsylvania set the national standard in several respects for integrated HIV planning.

Dennis Doyle Named One of 20 National Beinecke Scholars for 2018

Dennis Doyle, a University of Pittsburgh junior studying studio arts and chemistry, has been named a 2018 Beinecke Scholar.

Doyle, of Pittsburgh, will receive $4,000 now and $30,000 after he graduates from Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences in April 2019 with a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science. The latter gift will support his pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts degree in interdisciplinary art.  

“This scholarship will allow me to explore my passions and forge a future in the arts,” he said. 

As student, researcher and teaching assistant, Doyle focuses on interdisciplinary artwork that spans media and concept. Through the creative process, Doyle blends media and message to incite new discussions on the notions of identity, community and the intersection of science and art.

Outside of classroom work, he is exploring artistic concepts through the London Field Study Award, the Physics Artist-in-Residence Program and the University Honors College Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship.

Erika Forbes and Jennifer Silk Named Association for Psychological Science Fellows

Jennifer Silk (left) and Erika Forbes have been named fellows of the Association for Psychological Science. The national honor recognizes “sustained outstanding contributions to the advancement of psychological science.” Their election to fellow status places them among the country’s most lauded researchers and teachers with over a decade of postdoctoral contributions.

Silk, an associate professor of psychology, and Forbes, a professor of psychiatry, both study the development of depression and anxiety in adolescents. Silk’s work looks at how teens’ emotional reactivity and regulation change during this crucial developmental period, and how these changes look different for people who develop anxiety and depression. Forbes studies reward circuits in the brain for clues as to how mood problems and substance abuse develop.  

“The prevention and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders in teens is a timely issue, and Pitt has a longstanding history of breaking ground in this area,” Silk said.

“Being named an APS fellow is a great honor, and it feels even more valuable to be named at the same time as a distinguished colleague and longtime collaborator,” Forbes added.

Pitt Nursing Programs Rank No. 1 in State, Top 10 in Nation

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing placed high in recent rankings published in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools.

Pitt Nursing’s doctor of nursing program is ranked top in Pennsylvania according to the rankings and moved up to fifth from seventh in the nation. The master of science of nursing program also moved up to seventh from eighth in the nation.

Multiple indicators are used to create these rankings, including peer assessment, student selectivity and achievement, mean grade-point average, faculty credentials and academic achievements, among others.

A list of other program rankings can be found here.

Department of Energy-backed Research Aims to Boost Rust Belt Manufacturers

Two new research collaborations led by Götz Veser, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, aim to boost manufacturing industries in America’s Rust Belt. The research is backed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and totals nearly $10 million.

One project is a collaboration between Pitt and Ohio-based chemical manufacturer Lubrizol that aims to replace Lubrizol’s current practice of batch processing chemicals with continuous processing; the latter gives much greater control over the processing conditions of chemicals. Veser's other project aims to find an efficient way to convert methane to benzene, a key part of sustainable processing that has not yet been commercialized due to low efficiency.

Read more about the grants at the Swanson School of Engineering's website.