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Alaina Roberts in a black top

Alaina E. Roberts Publishes Essay on Tulsa Massacre

Alaina E. Roberts, assistant professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences' Department of History, wrote an essay that appeared in History@Work, a blog of the National Council on Public History, on the commemoration of the Tulsa Massacre. 

The massacre, which occurred from May 31 to June 1, 1921, was an attack by White Americans on Black residents and their businesses in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a wealthy community known as “Black Wall Street.” An estimated 100 to 300 African Americans were murdered.

In her essay, "Commemorating the Tulsa Massacre: A Search for Identity and Historical Complexity," Roberts discusses her personal connection to this point in history and the discovery of her Native American ancestry. According to Roberts, the broader historical context behind the massacre is not widely known—namely, the stories of the Native American and Black people who immigrated to and shaped the area almost a century before the massacre.

“Just as my research on Black-Native history helped me better understand myself and my career trajectory, the broader history behind the Tulsa Massacre allows us to better understand that Tulsa was a place shaped by its history of settlement by Native Americans and the people of African descent who lived within their nations,” Roberts said. “Acknowledgment of these intersections makes the process of telling and illustrating history more complex but also more accurate and inclusive.”

Roberts will further explore this topic in her upcoming book, “I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land,” which will be published in April 2021 by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dara Mendez in a royal blue top

Epidemiology’s Dara Mendez Featured in Webinar on COVID-19

Dara Mendez, assistant professor of epidemiology in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, was recently featured on a webinar hosted by 1Hood Media and UrbanKindInstitute to talk about COVID-19 and Black communities in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The interview covered COVID-19 inequities, testing and contact tracing. 

Mendez is on the Black COVID-19 Equity Coalition and ACHD/DHS COVID Advisory Committee and is collaborating with birth and maternal health experts in the community on a new virtual doula program to support pregnant people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the full episode, visit 1Hood Media’s Facebook page.

Lisa Schrieber in a black top

SCI Alumna Lisa Schreiber Named Among Top Women Leaders in Cybersecurity

Lisa Schreiber, alumna of the School of Computing and Information (SCI) and member of the school’s board of visitors, has been named one of the top 25 women leaders in cybersecurity of 2020 by The Software Report.

According to The Software Report, hundreds of women were nominated for this year’s list and were evaluated based on “demonstrated cybersecurity expertise, longevity in the industry, career progression and current position among other factors.”

Schreiber is a native of northwestern Pennsylvania and serves as the chief customer success officer for Forcepoint, a cyber security company.  She graduated from SCI with a degree in computer science. Her career has spanned startups and Fortune 500 companies.

The University of Pittsburgh campus, featuring the Cathedral of Learning

Climate Solutions Grant Will Aid Oakland Energy Master Plan

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a $2,600 Second Nature Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund grant that will help support energy modeling at the district level for Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, in partnership with the Green Building Alliance and Oakland institutions, is developing an Oakland Energy Master Plan to help the city and its universities reach their carbon reduction goals. 

The city has committed to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, from 2003 levels. 

Earlier this year, the University committed to become carbon neutral by 2037—the University’s 250th anniversary—by signing the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. Pitt will build on the success of its ambitious Sustainability Plan and existing greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 22% between 2008 and 2017.

“Addressing global climate change is a vital issue—one that can’t be reduced to a single issue or a single panacea,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am thankful for Second Nature's support, which will advance our quest for carbon neutrality and our role in combating climate change in truly meaningful ways."

“We were positively overwhelmed and impressed with the quantity and quality of submitted proposals,” stated Tim Carter, president of Second Nature, in congratulating awardees. “It emphasized that even in the midst of a global pandemic, the higher education sector not only understands how crucial it is to continue to accelerate climate action, but is committed to doing so.”

Evan Facher in a light purple collared shirt and black suit

Pitt Ranks Among Top Recipients of U.S. University Patents

The University of Pittsburgh once again ranked among the top recipients of U.S. patents issued worldwide to universities in 2019, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

The report ranks the top 100 universities named as first assignee on utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the 2019 calendar year. Pitt is in a three-way tie for the 28th spot with University of Maryland and the University of Massachusetts. 

“Pitt researchers are determined for their work to not only lead to new knowledge, but also make an impact on the world through commercial translation. An important step in that process is to protect the intellectual property inherent in their discoveries.” said Evan Facher, Pitt’s vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, which is responsible for the protection and licensing of intellectual property arising from Pitt research.

Charleen Chu in a yellow top

Charleen Chu Wins Distinguished Educator Award

Charleen T. Chu, professor of pathology and the A. Julio Martinez Endowed Chair in Neuropathology, received the 2020 Robbins Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology. The award recognizes individuals whose exemplary contributions to education in pathology have demonstrated a manifest impact at a national and international level.

Chu’s research focuses on understanding cellular, biochemical and molecular genetic mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Her work has been recognized with other honors, including the Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award, election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation Honor Society and the ASIP Outstanding Investigator Award.

Shannon Wanless in a dark purple shirt

Shannon Wanless Co-Authors Book Chapter on Children and Racism

Shannon Wanless, director of the Office of Child Development in the School of Education, co-authored a chapter in an upcoming book, “The Legacy of Racism for Children.”

The book explores “the challenges that racial minority children face due to racism within US law and public policy,” and the interdisciplinary nature of the book’s context is meant for an audience of scholars and practitioners within psychology, sociology, social work, education, the legal system, criminal justice, public policy and race studies.

Wanless’ chapter focuses on the racial disproportionality in the school to prison pipeline. In it, she cites research by Pitt scholars past and present, with connections to the Center for Urban Education, School of Social Work, the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology, the School of Education and the Center on Race and Social Problems.

The book will be available on July 1, and it is currently available for pre-order.

Two people walk on Pitt's campus with the sun shining behind them

School of Pharmacy Helps Launch Collaborative Podcast Effort

The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association has partnered with Pharmacy Podcast Network to bring a series of podcasts designed to help community pharmacists implement change and practice transformation.  

The podcasts have been developed in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and their “Flip The Pharmacy” team and paid for through grant funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.  

The series, titled "Beyond the Sig,” will feature pharmacy industry leaders, pharmacy owners, academia, student pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to showcase the transformation of pharmacy. 

Hayley Germack in a burgundy sweater

Hayley Germack Leads Blog on Nurse Practitioner Practice During COVID-19 Pandemic

Hayley Germack, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, leads a blog with two other members of the AcademyHealth Interdisciplinary Research Group on Nursing Issues that illustrates the important impact of recent policy changes on the ability of nurse practitioners to deliver care to vulnerable populations most impacted by the coronavirus. 

At Pitt, Germack has taught health policy, quantitative methods,and community based participatory research to undergraduate students and nurses. Her research focuses on eliminating the mortality gap for patients with serious mental illness by increasing access to primary care services, as well as examining the role of the interprofessional behavioral health and primary care play in providing holistic care to this vulnerable population.

Evan Facher in a black suit and light purple collared shirt

LifeX Offering Wet Lab Space for Pittsburgh Science Startups

LifeX Labs, which offers various resources to help new life sciences companies in Pittsburgh thrive, is now offering wet laboratory space to grow Southwestern Pennsylvania’s life sciences ecosystem. LifeX Labs is supported by the University of Pittsburgh, Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The addition of the lab facilities in the Chocolate Factory of the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, scheduled to open in June, highlights an expanding suite of programs and resources for early stage life sciences startups provided by LifeX Labs.

"Securing affordable, flexible lab space is one of the biggest obstacles to growing a biotech company,” said Evan Facher, interim CEO of LifeX Labs and director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We believe that offering physical space in conjunction with a robust resource network and solid training opportunities will accelerate commercialization timelines for the Pittsburgh region’s growing life science sector.”

Celedón in a dark suit

Juan C. Celedón Named President of American Thoracic Society

Juan C. Celedón was recently named president of the American Thoracic Society for the 2020-21 term. Celedón is the Niels K. Jerne Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine and chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

His research focuses on asthma, COPD and health disparities in airway diseases. Celedón’s scientific contributions have been acknowledged through his election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, as well as through the ATS Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments, among other honors.

A gate in the cathedral of learning

2020 Nordenberg Leadership Scholars Announced

The University of Pittsburgh has announced its 2020 Nordenberg Leadership Scholars—five exceptional Pennsylvania high school seniors who have demonstrated excellent leadership skills, innovative thinking, intellectual curiosity and community involvement. Nordenberg Scholars are awarded full-tuition scholarships to attend Pitt and participate in this unique program.

Named in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Mark A. Nordenberg, the program provides students with opportunities for continued academic achievement, leadership development, civic engagement and professional experiences with organizations and corporations in the Pittsburgh region. 

“The program is unique because it incorporates rigorous academic engagement with an ambitious and structured curriculum outside the classroom that is designed to challenge the scholars to excel in leadership, global awareness, citizenship, and civic engagement,” said Kenyon Bonner, vice provost and dean of students. 

The 2020 Nordenberg Leadership Scholars are:

  • Thomas Barnes of Havertown, Pennsylvania
  • Samurah Curry of Clarion, Pennsylvania
  • Kim Le of West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Camryn Rogers of Pottstown, Pennsylvania
  • Pedro Schmitt of São Paulo, Brazil
A student in a blue shirt studies

Six Stamps Scholars Look Forward to the Fall

Six students will join Pitt this fall as Stamps Scholars. The prestigious scholarship is awarded to incoming undergraduates from the state of Pennsylvania through the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.  

Jointly funded by the Strive Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh, the Stamps Scholarship is valued in excess of $150,000 over four years—covering full tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, an allowance for books and supplies, and enrichment funds for research and other extracurricular learning opportunities. The 2020 Stamps Scholars are:

  • Jolie Marcia Haertter of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Gloria Kehinde of Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Nathaniel Keller of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania
  • Madelynn Grace Lederer of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania
  • Caleb Nesbit of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Sophia Shapiro of Rydal, Pennsylvania

“I can hardly put into words what this scholarship means to me,” said Kehinde, a senior at Exeter Township High School. “I’m just so blessed to be in such a prestigious cohort of diverse people before freshman year even starts,” she says.

“We are living in such uncertain times and we really do not know what the fall will bring, but I am really glad that I have the other incoming Stamps Scholars as people I know I can count on,” said Shapiro, a senior at Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy. “I already have been able to get involved (virtually) and help found a Pitt Students for Biden group. I think the fact that as an incoming freshman I was welcomed and able to get involved like that speaks volumes about the school and culture.”

Steven Little in a dark suit

Engineering Researcher Steven Little Elected into College of Fellows

Steven Little was recently elected to the Controlled Release Society’s College of Fellows. Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

He was elected for outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of 10 years.

Little’s novel drug delivery systems mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation, allowing for dosages millions of times smaller than current treatments. These systems need only be applied once and then are released over a period of days or months, depending on the medication. Little also published research revealing a new immunotherapy system that mimics how cancer cells invade the human immune system to reduce the risk of transplant rejection.

a panther statue

Pitt News Writers Win Student Contest

Writers from the student newspaper, The Pitt News, won two of the three awards in the 64th Annual Gertrude Gordon Scholarship Contest sponsored by the Women's Press Club of Pittsburgh. Participants attended a press conference and then had two hours to write a feature story based on the event.

Second place in the contest went to Neena Hagen, a senior staff writer for The Pitt News. Third place went to Janine Faust, who just graduated from the University after completing a year as editor in chief. Faust will intern this summer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Yu-Ru Lin in a gray top

Research Team Receives Grant to Form AI System to Debunk False COVID Information

Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information (SCI), Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor in SCI and Wen-Ting Chung, research assistant professor in the School of Education, have been awarded a RAPID Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a debunking system for COVID-19 related misinformation.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAPID Grants have been awarded to research teams to “mobilize the scientific community to better understand and develop measures to respond to the virus.”

“We rely so much on mass media and social media to get information, even more so during the pandemic,” said Lin, the project’s principal investigator, whose research focuses on using data science to understand collective behavior and social movement. “The mission of this project is to reduce the harmful impact of misinformation.”

Using machine learning and data mining, the team will create an AI system that identifies which false information is most influential, who is most affected by it and how to "debunk" the problematic information automatically in social media. Their debunking system will rely heavily on citizen journalism and crowdsourcing images that counter misinformation on Twitter.

“When people are used to consuming the same media sources or discussing news with people strictly in their social circles, they lose out on the opportunity to see alternative information, or other points of view,” said Chung, whose research interests include group bias and sociocultural factors on learning and motivation. "The system could be a learning device that helps cultivate people with a more critical view in discerning the features of problematic information."

Kovashka, whose expertise is in computer vision and machine learning, added, “What makes this interesting, is how it taps into the work of advertisers. It’s been shown that people will be most likely to click on something is when a post prompts an emotion—in this case it’s fear. Of course, computationally modeling what specific aspect of visual or textual content will evoke an emotion and what kind of behaviors it will prompt is challenging, so part of the goal of this proposal is to advance how we computationally analyze persuasion.”

The team expects to complete their project within the year.

Maria Tacelosky

Dental Alums, Clinic Practice Through Pandemic

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 on caregivers and health practitioners everywhere, one Pitt School of Dental Medicine alumna is treating patients who desperately need dental care.

Maria Tacelosky (DEN ’93) is a general dentist in Berwick, Pennsylvania. She was recently featured in “The Daily Item,” a newspaper in the Commonwealth’s Central Susquehanna Valley.

“Seeing patients being grateful and saying ‘You won’t believe how much that (dental problem) hurt,’ it makes your day knowing you make a difference for even one person. It touches your heart,” she said.

Pitt Dental Medicine’s clinic is also offering emergency dental services. Read more about that work in the University Times.

Maxwell Wang Named to 2020 Hertz Fellowship Class

Maxwell Wang, an MD/PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, was recently named to the 2020 Hertz Fellowship class, the first from Pitt.

The fellowship is offered by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the most promising innovators in science and technology. One of the most prestigious awards of its kind, the fellowship supports five years of graduate research and the freedom to pursue innovative ideas, wherever they may lead.

Wang was named to the 2020 class for his research in Pitt and Carnegie Mellon’s Medical Scientist Training Program, jointly offered by both universities. His research aims to understand how brain networks change during neuro-interventions, such as deep brain stimulation, and to link these changes to end-points such as symptom improvement and adverse side-effect profiles.

A dancer in for the Philippine Nationality Room Dedication

Travel the World (Virtually) with the Nationality Rooms

Pitt’s Nationality Rooms are offering a series of ethnic and cultural videos on the program’s Facebook page. An effort that’s grown from various Nationality Room committees, the videos highlight cuisine, dance, dress and other diverse cultural traditions from around the world.

On May 22 at 1pm, join the Nationality Rooms for a virtual lunch with Veni Ventzislavova, adjunct faculty member at New York University, who will present a Bulgarian egg dish called “Yaritsa po Panaguski,” while speaking about her experience immigrating to the U.S. from Bulgaria. The virtual lunch will also be featured on Pittwire Live.

Keep an eye out for more virtual lunches and ethnic videos on the Nationality Rooms Programs’ Facebook page.

Simone Rodriguez in a dark top

Katz Grad Simone Rodriguez Named to Poets & Quants Best and Brightest MBAs

Simone Rodriguez (KATZ ’20) was recently named one of the Top 100 Best and Brightest MBAs across the globe by Poets & Quants.

The business school publication’s Top 100 list celebrates leaders from the MBA Class of 2020 who embody the excellence of their schools.

With a background in biology and electrical engineering, Rodriguez was a product development engineer as Ras Labs, Inc. Among the reasons she chose to pursue her MBA at Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business was the dual master’s degree program in mechanical engineering with the Swanson School of Engineering.

At Katz, Rodriguez served as president of the Consulting Club. She was a case writer for the Katz Invitational Case Competition, an MBA Student Ambassador and tutor for financial management.

She was also named a Kenneth R. Woodcock Leadership Fellow and inducted into the 457 Club, which recognizes a select group of students for their success in the MBA program and their positive impact on the Katz community.

Rodriguez hopes to start a tech transfer consulting company that supports the commercialization of technology at academic institutions and companies.

She plans to join Cognizant Technology Solutions as a consulting healthcare manager in Dallas, Texas, this fall.

Read more about Rodriguez in this Katz school news feature.