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Sayan Ghosh in a black suit

Sayan Ghosh Awarded Fellowship for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Research

Ophthalmology’s Sayan Ghosh has been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the BrightFocus Foundation for his research on understanding the role of inflammation in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). BrightFocus funds research into Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Ghosh, a postdoctoral associate who works in Debasish Sinha’s lab, has published numerous papers on AMD, working to unravel the molecular mechanisms associated with inflammation and the disease.

Tre Tipton in a football jersey

Social Work Student Tre Tipton (A&S ’19) Wins Student-Athlete Achievement Award

Master of Social Work student and Pitt wide receiver Tre Tipton (A&S ’19) has been named a recipient of the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, presented annually by the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals.

The award honors student-athletes who have overcome great personal, academic or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. 

Inspired by his own challenges, Tipton founded L.O.V.E. (Living Out Victoriously Everyday), a program that helps "empower, provide hope and build a community for collegiate student-athletes who are dealing with mental, emotional and physical struggles" through fellowship and access to professional help.

Read more about Tipton and the honor.

Randal Lutz in a black suit

Local Elementary School Named After Randal Lutz (EDUC ’90,’96G, ’04G)

The new elementary school in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District—the first elementary school to be built in the suburban Pittsburgh district in over 50 years—will be named after Superintendent Randal Lutz (EDUC ’90,’96G, ’04G).

Expected to be completed by August 2023, R. A. Lutz Elementary School will serve grades 3–5, with an anticipated enrollment of 1200 students. The school is being built to meet the growing population of children in the district and replaces W.R. Paynter Elementary School. 

For 25 years, Lutz has worked in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, including the past nine years as superintendent. He worked previously as a middle school vice principal, principal, supervisor of curriculum and instruction, and assistant superintendent.

Read more about the honor.

Rob A Rutenbar in a black suit

Rob A. Rutenbar Earns Distinguished Professor Honor

Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at the University of Pittsburgh, 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 E. 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.

Lauren Wheeler

Education Grad Student is Finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Lauren Wheeler, a student in the School of Education’s Doctor of Education program, is a finalist for the 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Selected from a field of more than 80,000 teachers statewide, she is vying for the state’s top honor against nine other finalists and is the only physical education teacher up for the award. 

Wheeler teaches physical education for grades 9-12 at Thomas Edison High School in Minneapolis Public Schools. The winner will be announced on August 12, 2021. 

Read more about her background and views on physical activity in the classroom.

Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu Receives Behavioral Science and Policy Association New Investigator Award

Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of marketing at the Joseph M. 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 Theodore M. 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 Kenneth P. 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.

Jonathan Helm in a black suit and blue shirt

New Registrar Named

After a national search, the University of Pittsburgh has named Jonathan Helm its new registrar, effective June 14, 2021. Helm comes to Pitt from Baylor University, where he has served as registrar since 2011. 

Helm also served as an associate university registrar at the University of Virginia and as assistant registrar at the University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology. In addition, Helm has been active in the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. 

Helm holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts from Missouri University of Science and Technology .

Schuler in a black suit

Greg Schuler Steps Down as Chief Investment Officer

Following three years of service to the University of Pittsburgh, Greg Schuler is stepping down from his role as chief investment officer effective June 30, 2021, to pursue other opportunities. Paul Lawrence (BUS ’93G) will serve as acting chief investment officer in addition to his permanent duties as treasurer. The University will immediately begin a national search to find the next chief investment officer.

Bronze panther statue with red flowers at its base

Alumni Startup Wins Health Care Safety Prize

Lumis, a healthcare simulation and data startup company founded by Pitt alumni, recently became one of the winners of a competition sponsored by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Innovation Works. This competition, the Healthcare Safety Challenge, sought to award promising startups in the fields of patient safety and innovation. Lumis won $5,000 in kicker prize money to aid in the application of their proprietary technology to issues of patient safety. 

Lumis was spun out of Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Joseph Samosky’s research group, the Simulation and Medical Technology R&D Center.

Doug Nelson, the cofounder, CEO and president of Lumis, earned his doctorate in engineering from Pitt in 2017. Samosky (ENGR ’85, A&S ’86), Nelson’s PhD supervisor, is cofounder and director of innovation and engineering for Lumis. John O’Donnell, their director of curriculum and customer engagement, earned a doctorate in public health from Pitt in 2009. Likewise, one of Lumis’ software developers, Alexandra Gales, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Pitt in 2011. The company has also hired current Pitt students as interns. 

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 the University of Pittsburgh Office of Community and Governmental Relations, a role she has held since 2019. 

The Engaged Scholars Initiative (ESI) 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. 

ESI 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,” said Ducar.

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

Two Honored With Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award

On May 6, leaders of the Pennsylvania National Guard awarded Pitt’s Rory Cooper and Garrett Grindle (ENGR ’04, ’07G) the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award for their work protecting veterans and their caregivers during the pandemic.

In April 2020, the University’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (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.

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 for each district for implementing a high-quality mathematics curriculum. The goal is to develop a multi-year plan for each district that will lead to coherent instructional systems that result in deeper mathematics learning 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 ed 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.

Julie Donohue in a black shirt on a grey background

Health Policy Chair is Editor of New JAMA Journal

Julie Donohue, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh 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

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 at the University of Pittsburgh, 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.

Ilyas Kamboh in a black suit

Public Health Researchers Awarded $10.7M for Alzheimer’s Research

Despite decades of research and investment, the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease are still largely unknown, stymieing drug development and early diagnosis efforts. A new $10.7 million, five-year project led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis aims to change that with the first comprehensive study using whole genome sequencing to address a critical gap in knowledge about the disease.

With funding from the National Institute on Aging, the research team plans to identify the genetic variants, genes and pathways that lead to formation of plaques and tangles, two specific biomarkers that begin accumulating in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s 15 to 25 years before they show symptoms. 

Read more about the grant and researcher Ilyas Kamboh, professor of human genetics and epidemiology.

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

Human Resources Names New Director

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.

Read more at OHR’s website.

Matt Schultz wearing a blue shirt

Alum, Staffer 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.