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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.

Alan Juffs in a light brown suit and collared white shirt

Alan Juffs Publishes First-of-Its-Kind Book on ESL Development

Alan Juffs, professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School’s Department of Linguistics and director of the English Language Institute and center associate in the Learning Research Development Center (LRDC), recently published a book titled “Aspects of Language Development in an Intensive English Program.”

According to the book’s description, it is the “first of its kind to track the development of specific language abilities in an Intensive English Program (IEP) longitudinally and highlights the implications of this particular student’s findings for future IEP implementation and practice and ESL and SLA research.” The book also references data and research compiled at an IEP at Pitt.

In addition to his work at Pitt, Juffs has also taught in Asia and Europe.

Mostafa Bedewy

Mostafa Bedewy Wins Outstanding Young Investigator Award

The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers' Manufacturing and Design (M&D) Division has selected Mostafa Bedewy as winner of the 2020 M&D Outstanding Young Investigator Award. Bedewy is assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

The award recognizes “outstanding early-career M&D Division members for their technical contribution to manufacturing and design.”

Social Equity, Sustainable Business Talks Now Available to View

Social equity is an aspect of sustainability that can be overshadowed by an emphasis on environmental issues, yet it’s among the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that target global challenges affecting people and the planet—including poverty, inequality, and peace and justice issues—with an aim “to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Recently, Pitt’s Global Studies Center (GSC) Director Michael Goodhart moderated a panel discussion co-hosted by the GSC and Pitt’s Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) that explored the role of business in driving social change in accordance with the U.N. SDGs framework.

The March 3 event drew an audience of more than 150 students, faculty, staff and community members to the University Club to hear panelists CB Bhattacharya, H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability and Ethics in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and director of the Pitt CSB; Pitt Director of Sustainability Aurora Sharrard; City of Pittsburgh Chief Resilience Officer and Sustainability Manager Grant Ervin; and University of Connecticut Professor of Political Science and Human Rights Shareen Hertel.

View their discussion, “Corporate Purpose, (Social) Equity, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” online.

Hertel, the Global Studies Center Heinz Foundation visiting fellow, also delivered the inaugural Pitt CSB lecture. View her talk, “New Views on Stakeholder Engagement: Insights from ‘Tethered Fates,’” on My Pitt Video.

Mary Marazita in a purple-blue top with a white collar

Dental Medicine Researcher Mary Marazita Earns Distinguished Professor Honor

Mary Marazita from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine was recently awarded the designation of distinguished professor in recognition for her internationally renowned, groundbreaking and widely heralded work in the genetics of craniofacial disorders. The appointment is effective in Sept. 1, 2020.

The appointment of a faculty member to a distinguished professorship constitutes the highest honor that the University can accord a member of the professorate. The designation recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized, scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field. These individuals are expected to make special contributions to the intellectual advancement of their home departments and schools, as well as to the institution as a whole.

Marazita has published over 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 23 book chapters or monographs and over 500 abstracts. Her work has been represented in scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature, among others. She also directs Pitt’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.

Daniel Kraus in black glasses and an orange patterned collared shirt

University Library System Acquires Daniel Kraus Papers

There’s a significant new addition to the Horror Studies Collection at Pitt. The University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) has acquired the papers of Daniel Kraus—a prolific writer in the horror genre who currently lives in Chicago. It represents the first addition to the collection from a literary figure and author, thus expanding the scope of the collection beyond filmmaking as established through the inaugural acquisition of the George A. Romero Archival Collection.

Two of Kraus’ novels, “Rotters” and “Scowler,” received the American Library Association Odyssey Award honoring excellence in children’s and young adult audiobooks. He was asked by George A. Romero’s literary agent to finish Romero’s epic zombie novel, “The Living Dead,” which is set to publish in August of this year. Kraus also has collaborated with horror filmmaker and Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro, in co-authoring the novels “Trollhunters” and “The Shape of Water.”

“I’m the writer I am today because of George A. Romero,” said Kraus. “So, it makes perfect sense to me that I follow his giant footsteps in placing my past work with the University of Pittsburgh.”

The Daniel Kraus Archive, which will be processed later this year, will document the beginning of his career and includes works he produced as a child and teenager. It will also include manuscripts and drafts of his published works: “The Monster Variations,” “Rotters,” “Scowler,” andThe Life and Death of Zebulon Finch.”

Natasa Vidic in a light blue shirt and dark blue scarf

Natasa Vidic Named Swanson School's 2020 Outstanding Educator

The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering recognized Natasa Vidic, assistant professor of industrial engineering, with the 2020 Outstanding Educator Award. This competitive award recognizes her excellence in teaching and innovative work in improving learning methodologies for undergraduate students and includes a $2,000 grant to further enhance her teaching.

Vidic received her PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 and was hired as a visiting professor immediately after. She joined the Department of Industrial Engineering as an assistant professor in 2010. Since then, she has taught over 3,500 engineering students and frequently has more than 200 students per semester.

“Natasa has worked tirelessly as a valued member of the Undergraduate Committee to make sure our students receive the best possible learning experience,” said Bopaya Bidanda, Ernest E. Roth Professor and chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering.

In addition to her course load and committee work, Vidic has spent the past decade researching engineering education, where she focuses on improving engineering students’ learning strategies through models and modeling.

Jessica Ghilani

Jessica Ghilani Selected for Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Award

Jessica Ghilani, associate professor of communication at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, was selected by the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum as the 2020 Aviation Space Writers Foundation Award Winner.

The award is offered in even numbered years and carries with it a $5,000 grant to support research on aerospace topics. Additional details are available on the website

Ghilani's project, "Advertising Military Innovation: Technological Visualizations in American Military Recruitment," will result in a book chapter to be included a manuscript she is writing. She intends to use the funds to conduct research at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center annex of the National Air and Space Museum.

Jason Shoemaker in a gray suit with a multicolored tie

Engineer Jason Shoemaker Receives NSF Award for Virtual Infection Modeling

Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received an NSF CAREER Award for $547,000 for his work modeling the immune system response to viral lung infections.

The predictive computational model will show how the human body will react to a viral lung infection and will flag biomarkers present for people whose immune systems react with excessive inflammation, which is what makes these infections so dangerous. Though it’s modeled on the influenza virus, once completed, it will be applicable to other viral lung infections, like COVID-19.

Joshua Matilla in a light blue dress shirt

Joshua Matilla Awarded Public Policy Fellowship

Joshua Matilla was recently selected for the 2020-2021 class of Public Policy Fellows at the American Association of Immunologists. Matilla is assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The fellowship program provides early-career researchers, who are within 15 years of receiving their terminal degree and committed to a career in biomedical research, with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the public policy and legislative activities of the association. Up to 10 fellows are selected to participate annually. Fellows serve from May 1 of their selection year to April 30 of the following year.

Ted Fritz in a black suit and white collared shirt

Ted Fritz Named Vice Chancellor for Public Safety and Emergency Management

Ted P. Fritz has been promoted to vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management at the University of Pittsburgh.

In this role within the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, Fritz is responsible for all health and safety-related oversight for the 40,000-member University community across five Pitt campuses and multiple off-campus locations.

In 2013, Fritz became Pitt’s first associate vice chancellor for public safety and emergency management, appointed to bring together Pitt Police, Environmental Health and Safety, Emergency Management and Integrated Security under one unified business unit.

Fritz joined the University in 1998 as associate general counsel. In that capacity, he represented University officials in litigation and was Pitt’s primary legal advisor for constitutional, law enforcement, student affairs, cyber, copyright and international issues.

A U.S. Army veteran, Fritz is a magna cum laude distinguished military graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and pre-law. He earned his juris doctor degree cum laude at Stetson University College of Law.

The Cathedral of Learning

Pitt Chapter of Civil Engineering Society Wins Distinguished Award

The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) received the organization’s Distinguished Chapter Award for Region II. The chapter is also one of five selected as a finalist for the Robert Ridgway Student Chapter Award, presented annually to the single most outstanding ASCE student chapter nationwide.  

The Distinguished Chapter Award is based on the chapter’s annual reports from the previous year. Among the highlights of this year was the chapter’s first Civil Engineering Day, which introduced high school students in the area to civil engineering through hands-on experiences. Students from Pitt ASCE won first place overall at the 2019 Ohio Valley Student Conference, attended the ASCE National Conference in Miami, presented at the Environmental and Water Resources Institute Conference, and sent seven students to the Region II Assembly at Drexel University.

The Pitt ASCE student chapter has been a finalist for this award three times in five years and has received the Distinguished Chapter Award for Region II four times in five years.