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June 17, 2019
Caroline Runyan Named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has been named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The program provides funding to promising young investigators advancing human health who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level.
Runyan, who arrived at Pitt in 2017, was one of 22 early career researchers named to the 2019 class of scholars by leading U.S. academic and research institutions. The award comes with four years of flexible funding to invest in exploratory research.
Runyan’s research focus is on the brain’s ability to flexibly control perception and behavior in different situations — specifically, she images and manipulates cells and circuits to learn how the brain is able to shift gears quickly, as well as how it processes different types of sensory information depending on behavioral context.
The Pew funding is helping the lab image activity both within and between brain regions, “so we can start to get a sense of how the brain is able to filter out irrelevant information, or amplify important information. We’re developing methods to study the local circuit mechanisms that control how two brain regions interact to transmit information.”
This will all hopefully enable new, systems-level approaches to understanding brain disorders with altered network communication, such as autism and schizophrenia, Runyan said.
June 21, 2019
Pitt Spinout Aruga Vascular Graft Wins Business Pitch Funding
While the contest traditionally focuses on energy, waste and climate change, it was Aruga CEO and Pitt alum Joseph Pugar’s 20-minute pitch on the company’s unique synthetic vascular graft implant technology that won second prize among 12 competitors.
The graft imitates the natural wrinkling that prevents platelets from clumping and blood from clotting inside blood vessels, making it more long-lasting than typical grafts.
The Aruga technology is the product of a series of collaborations between Pitt and the UPMC vascular surgery group. Luka Pocivavsek, a vascular surgeon, is the primary inventor of the technology and worked through Pitt’s Innovation Institute to begin commercializing it.
Pugar, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Pitt in 2017, joined the team as a student, initially helping to prototype the technology's surface mechanics.
The company was spun out of Pitt in 2018 and is a portfolio company of LifeX Labs, a Pittsburgh-based life science startup accelerator.
June 21, 2019
Oscar E. Swan Receives Award from President of Poland
Oscar E. Swan, professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and advisor for the Polish minor, was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Poland.
The award comes after Swan published the translated memoir of a Warsaw ghetto survivor, titled “Rescued from the Ashes.” The award is given to “foreigners and Polish citizens permanently living abroad… [who have made] outstanding contributions to international cooperation and to bonds between the Republic of Poland and other nations and countries.”
The memoir, translated by Swan from Polish to English, recounts Leokadia Schmidt’s traumatic experiences evading the Nazis with her husband and 5-month-old son, and eventually hiding in a tinsmith’s shed in the “Aryan side” of Warsaw.
Swan received the prestigious award, presented by the Polish Ambassador to the United States, in May.
June 19, 2019
Pitt–Johnstown Is Pennsylvania's First Campus Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary
The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has been designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Pitt–Johnstown is the first Pennsylvania university to earn this certification, and only the eighth overall.
Pitt–Johnstown Supervisor of Campus Grounds Dave Finney, who led the effort to obtain sanctuary designation, was recognized by Audubon for his environmental stewardship. The Johnstown campus maintains a 655-acre grounds with 15 miles of trails.
"The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on their property," said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “By taking action to implement indoor and outdoor conservation projects, the administration, faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown have demonstrated their commitment to the sustainable management of their natural resources.”
Certification demonstrates an organization’s leadership, commitment and high standards of environmental management 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.
June 19, 2019
Pitt Researchers' Report Pushes for Regional Green Infrastructure Database
The Pittsburgh Collaboratory on Water Research, Education, and Outreach, has released the white paper “Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management: Knowledge Gaps and Approaches.” The paper proposes methods to comprehensively study stormwater management and green infrastructure projects underway in local governments throughout Allegheny County. The recommendations are based on a meeting of 32 stakeholders in water management, including representatives from Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Allegheny County Sanitary Authority. The collaboratory is an initiative founded by Professor Emily Elliott, Associate Professor Daniel Bain and Assistant Professors Eitan Shelef and Brian Thomas, all from the Department of Geology and Environmental Science, with support from The Heinz Endowments.
June 19, 2019
New Pitt Partnership Expands Research into Rechargeable Battery Systems
The Next-Generation Energy Conversion and Storage Technologies Lab at the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Innovation Center recently announced a new energy research partnership with Malvern Panalytical that will enable the lab to see the chemistry of what is happening inside a battery while it is in use.
The lab, headed by Prashant N. Kumta, focuses on energy conversion and storage, including rechargeable battery systems. Malvern Panalytical’s Empyrean X-ray Platform, a multipurpose diffractometer, will be used in the lab to identify solid-state materials by determining their internal structure, composition and phase while they are in use.
June 19, 2019
SHRS Dean Delitto Appointed Member of National Advisory Council
Anthony Delitto, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, was recently appointed as a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health.
The council is responsible for advising, consulting with and making recommendations to the director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health on matters relating to the research activities and functions of the center.
Delitto treats people with painful musculoskeletal disorders, and his current research is focused on implementing classification and treatment effectiveness studies into quality improvement initiatives. He is also conducting trials in exercise interventions for people with Parkinson's disease.
June 19, 2019
Keisha N. Blain Wins Book Prize
Keisha N. Blain, associate professor in the Department of History, has been awarded the annual Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize for her recent publication “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.”
The book, which “[draws] on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs and poetry,” tells the stories of Black women nationalists in the 20th century. The book prize is given annually for “a first book that deals substantially with the history of women, gender and/or sexuality.”
According to a statement, the selection committee said, “Featuring an impressive archive and transnational in scope, every single chapter in this book offers serious interventions, contributions, and reinterpretations of familiar historical narratives.”
Blain also won the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians for the same publication.
June 19, 2019
Zina Ward Earns 2019 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
The American Council of Learned Studies has named Zina Ward, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, as one of 65 recipients of the 2019 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. The fellowship, sponsored by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides Ward and other fellows a $30,000 stipend and up to $8,000 in research funds and university fees in their final year of dissertation writing. Ward is being recognized for her dissertation, “Individual Differences in Cognitive Science: Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Issues.”
June 17, 2019
Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of G.I. Bill, Drafted by Pitt Law Graduate
June 22 marks the 75th anniversary of the original G.I. Bill, which has benefited 8 million veterans by providing education and training benefits. And it was made possible through the vision of Harry Colmery, a Pittsburgh native and 1916 graduate of Pitt’s School of Law.
Born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Colmery (1890-1979) put his law career on pause when the U.S. entered World War I. After serving as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Service, Colmery settled in Kansas and went on to a successful career practicing law, arguing two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Having a degree from Pitt Law meant that Colmery had a secure professional path after the war, which was not the case for many other veterans. In 1936, Colmery served as the national commander of the American Legion, advocating for a better future for other servicemen and women when they returned to civilian life.
In 1944, handwritten on Mayflower Hotel stationery in Washington, D.C., Colmery wrote the initial draft of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the original G.I. Bill of Rights. The bill, signed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, would provide education benefits to veterans and help ease their transition into civilian life.
As a result, 8 million World War II veterans — and millions more in subsequent wars — used the G.I. Bill to obtain an education. After World War II, over half of the country’s college students were veterans, who then went on to reinvigorate the economy and bolster the American identity. A multitude of programs were created as a result of the G.I. Bill, having effects in education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan and health care.
“Harry Colmery’s commitment to helping veterans has translated into creating one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century,” said David Roudabush, outreach coordinator for Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services. “He has positively impacted so many lives, including the veterans that we’re proud to have as faculty, staff and students at Pitt.”
June 11, 2019
Pitt-affiliated School Sends Off Inaugural Class
The Nazarbayev University School of Medicine saw its first class graduate this spring.
NUSOM, a school of Nazarbayev University in the Republic of Kazakhstan, selected the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as its strategic academic partner to assist in the development of the medical school. Since then, Pitt has helped NUSOM institute a curriculum based on the Pittsburgh model, as well as state-of-the-art teaching facilities, school leadership and faculty, policies, courses and more, allowing the new school to stand out in the republic.
Out of 937 graduates from the inaugural class, 41 received degrees from NUSOM, with 14 medical doctors, 27 master’s graduates and 42 registered nursing to Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates.
June 11, 2019
Giannis Mpourmpakis Earns Prestigious Grecian Award
One of the most prestigious awards for scientists of Greek descent, the Bodossaki Award is given every two years to the most outstanding scientist of Greek descent below the age of 40. Mpourmpakis will be honored by the president of Greece as part of the award ceremony.
Mpourmpakis heads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab at Pitt, or CANELa for short. Here, he and his research team use theory and computation to investigate the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse technological areas on the nanoscale, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. Read more about the award at the Swanson School website.
June 11, 2019
Chair of Religious Studies Receives Grant from American Academy for Jewish Research
Adam Shear, associate professor of history and associate professor and chair of religious studies, is part of a team of scholars who received a Special Initiatives Grant from the American Academy for Jewish Research. The grant will help fund a training workshop and series of webinars that will teach a growing number of students and early career scholars how to read early modern Hebrew handwriting.
“Most paleography training is for medieval handwriting but we are interested in the handwriting of people who were writing in their printed books after the invention of print,” Shear said.
Shear, who studies medieval and early modern Jewish cultural and intellectual history, says the workshop is still in planning phase.
The yearlong training course will begin with a three-day intensive workshop in New York tentatively scheduled for January 2020. Follow up webinars through spring, summer and fall 2020 will reinforce and expand upon lessons. The training is part of the larger Footprints project, a research project and database that tracks the movement of Jewish books since the inception of print.
June 11, 2019
Renee J. Rogers Inducted as Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine
Renee J. Rogers (EDUC ’09G, ’12G), assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education, was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at their conference in May. The fellowship “recognizes individuals who exhibit a deep and ongoing interest and dedication to the goals and long-range activities of the ACSM.”
Rogers’ work includes research on the health benefits of physical activity, with an emphasis on research into practice.
June 10, 2019
Valerie Kinloch Elected Vice President of National Council of Teachers of English
According to its website, the NCTE “amplifies the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.”
“It is my honor to have been elected as NCTE’s next vice president,” said Kinloch. “Being a member of NCTE for more than 20 years has allowed me to partner with, learn from and be inspired by dedicated educators from around the world who have an unwavering commitment to language and literacy teaching, learning, practice and research.”
Kinloch will take office during NCTE’s annual convention in Baltimore this November.
June 10, 2019
Critical Care Medicine Professor Michael Pinsky Becomes Society Fellow
The fellowship is an honor bestowed on senior scientists who have “demonstrated excellence in science, have made significant contributions to the physiological sciences and served the society.”
Pinsky has been a society member since 1984. During his professional career, he has edited 27 medical textbooks, authored over 350 peer-reviewed publications and over 250 chapters and supported over 400 abstract presentations. He is also the editor-in-chief of Medscape’s critical care medicine section.
June 5, 2019
Pitt Affiliates Named AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows
The American Association for the Advancement of Science has selected a graduate student and a post-graduate student from the Department of Biological Sciences as part of its 2019 Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship program.
Sebastian Alejandro Echeverri (pictured right) and Nikki Forrester are two of 26 selected for the competitive fellowship, which places undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate level scientists in media organizations across the globe for 10 weeks to participate in science journalism.
Echiverri is a PhD student in the Richards-Zawacki Lab studying the relationship between animals’ eyes and how they operate in their environments. Forrester recently earned a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology.
This summer, Echeverri will be working with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Forrester will work with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
June 5, 2019
Pitt to Dedicate Philippine Nationality Room
The formal dedication will take place in the Heinz Memorial Chapel, followed by a cultural festival filled with music, dance performances and traditional Filipino food in the Commons Room in the Cathedral of Learning. Free tours will also be offered of all 31 Nationality Rooms.
The new room brings a taste of the Philippines to the third floor of the Cathedral of Learning, containing artifacts, artwork and architecture typical to the archipelago made up of nearly 7,100 islands. The room reflects the “Bahay na Bato” style, which translates to house of stone, to make a sturdy home that can outlast typhoons, earthquakes and floods that regularly impact the islands.
Established in 1926 by then-Chancellor John Bowman, Pitt’s Nationality Rooms are representative of—and pay tribute to—the cultural groups that settled Allegheny County. The Philippine Room is the 12th room to be dedicated since E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, began leadership of the rooms in 1965. The Philippine Room is the first to be dedicated since 2015.
June 5, 2019
Record 13 Pitt Alumni Receive Fulbright Scholarships for 2019
A record-breaking 13 Pitt alumni won Fulbright scholarships in 2019, shattering the University’s historical record of 11 recipients that was set in 2015.
Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and other professionals — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and find solutions to shared international concerns.
An interactive map details each Pitt Fulbright scholar for 2019, along with their locations.
They are, also, as follows:
- Suzanna Carnevali-Doan of Washington, D.C., who graduated in 2019 with degrees in Spanish and sociology will head to Brazil.
- Fiona Eichinger of West Chester, Pennsylvania, who graduated in 2019 with degrees in biological sciences and international and area studies, is set to travel to Malta.
- Zachary Enick of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, will be abroad in France. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Italian and a minor in linguistics.
- Abigail Jarrett of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, who graduated in 2019 with degrees in biology, chemistry and English writing, will head to Germany.
- Grace McHale of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a 2018 graduate who studied Spanish and political science. She will head to Brazil with her Fulbright scholarship.
- David Nascari of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, will travel to Italy. He is a 2019 graduate with degrees in neuroscience and art history.
- Abigail Neer of Columbus, Ohio, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in linguistics. She will travel to South Korea.
- Jennie O’Donaghue of Chicago, Illinois, graduated in 2018 with degrees in Spanish and urban studies. She will head to Colombia.
- Jessica Penn of Milton, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in Chinese and a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women Studies, and she will head to Taiwan.
- Saket Rajprohat of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in marketing and a minor in political science. He is set to travel to India.
- David Skrovanek of Wexford, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with degrees in electrical engineering, German and cultural studies. He is off to Germany on his Fulbright scholarship.
- Elizabeth Withers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a 2018 graduate with degrees in English literature and history and philosophy of science. She is heading to Colombia.
- Ivy Yen of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with degrees in linguistics and psychology. She is traveling to South Korea.
June 5, 2019
John Jakicic Wins Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine
John Jakicic (EDUC ’95G), chair of the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education received the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Citation Award — one of the most prestigious honors given by the organization.
The award recognizes individuals who have made “significant and important contributions to the fields of sports medicine and/or exercise science.” According to its website, ACSM is made up of more than 50,000 members and certified professionals, and “is the authority for sports medicine and exercise science.”
Jakicic, who is also the founding director of Pitt’s new Healthy Lifestyle Institute (HLI), accepted his award at an Orlando conference in late May.