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School of Computing and Information Marks Third Anniversary with Accomplishments, Leadership Changes

The School of Computing and Information (SCI) is marking its third year as Pitt’s newest school. Since launching on July 1, 2017, SCI has committed to teaching and research that focuses on tackling the most pressing, complex challenges of today that require a new level of integrative thinking.

Among SCI’s accomplishments over the past three years:

  • Becoming a four-year admitting undergraduate program
  • Launching the Modeling and Managing Complicated Systems (momacs) Institute, aimed at using artificial intelligence and machine learning to model large-scale societal challenges such as food insecurity, national security and the opioid epidemic
  • Redesigning the Master of Library and Information Sciences (MLIS) degree program
  • Hiring tenure and appointed stream faculty, including nine new faculty members for the fall 2020 term
  • Launching a Professional Institute, with its first offerings in cybersecurity to fill critical skills gaps in the industry and allow professionals to gain up-to-date competencies in this ever-changing field

As of July 1, founding dean Paul Cohen has transitioned into the role of director of the momacs Institute, as well as a faculty member of the Department of Computer Science. Bruce Childers has been appointed SCI’s interim dean. Childers has been with Pitt’s Department of Computer Science since 2000, and he has held a leadership role within SCI since its opening. Read Childers’ annual update message to the SCI community.

For more information about SCI’s new faculty, achievements and transitions as the School reflects on its first three years, visit SCI’s website.

Mostafa Bedewy in a black suit and gray tie

Industrial Engineering’s Mostafa Bedewy Earns NSF’s EAGER Award

Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, was recently given a nearly $245,000 EAGER award by the National Science Foundation to study a new scalable laser patterning process for directly growing tailored nanocarbons on flexible polymers.

The research will enable patterning functional nanocarbons needed for a number of emerging flexible-device applications in healthcare, energy and consumer electronics.

“The multi-billion dollar global market for flexible electronics is still in its infancy, and is expected to grow exponentially because of accelerating demand in many applications,” said, Bedewy, who also leads Pitt’s NanoProduct Lab. “Exploring potentially transformative carbon nanomanufacturing processes is critical for realizing cutting-edge technologies.”

Swaminathan in a dark blazer

Katz Co-authors Win Best-article Award

A paper by Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business marketing professor Vanitha Swaminathan (pictured) and her then-PhD advisee Christian Hughes (A&S’12, ’13G; KATZ ’19) has won the American Marketing Association’s 2020 Don Lehmann Award. The award recognizes the best dissertation-based article published in the Journal of Marketing or Journal of Marketing Research in the previous calendar year. 

The paper, “Driving Brand Engagement Through Online Social Influencers: An Empirical Investigation of Sponsored Blogging Campaigns,” co-authored by Gillian Brooks of the University of Oxford, was among the top three most-cited articles in the Journal of Marketing and among the journal’s most-downloaded articles in the past six months. Read a summary of the findings.

Swaminathan is the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing and director of the Katz Center for Branding in the Katz school.

Hughes, now a marketing faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics and her PhD in marketing at Pitt.

Murrell in a goldish tan top

Audrey J. Murrell to Serve as Keynote at National Higher Education Conference

Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the University Honors College, is set to serve as a keynote speaker at a national conference on student success, hosted virtually by Suitable on July 23.
The conference, Pathways 2020, will bring together leaders from across higher education to discuss ways to enhance student success initiatives and elevate the student experience.

Murrell’s session is titled, “Speaking From Experience: How To Construct, Launch, and Get Your Student Success Initiatives Funded.”

In addition to her role with Pitt Honors, Murrell is a professor of business administration in the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, and holds secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

James Cassaro in a blue shirt

Grammy Museum Grant Will Help Digitize Pitt Concert Recordings

Pitt’s Theodore M. Finney Music Library has received a Grammy Museum Grant to support the digitization and preservation of 210 hours of performances from its Emerging Masters Collection.

The endangered recordings are currently on 395 open reel audio tapes. Once transferred to digital files, the recordings will be available to researchers worldwide on the ULS Digital Collections website. The grant is for $11,461.

The recordings cover many concerts given at Pitt between 1969 and 1989, most of it contemporary music by Pitt-trained composers such as David Stock and Reza Vali. While the annual Pitt Jazz Concert is not included, there are recordings that Pitt Jazz Studies Program founder Nathan Davis made when he joined the faculty in 1969. There is also early music by the late Geri Allen when she was a student of Davis’ in the early 1980s. Some concerts were given by visiting performers. Others are full-length operas conducted by professor emeritus Don Franklin. The Music on the Edge series and Heinz Chapel Choir concerts are not included.

“Having this music available digitally will demonstrate Pitt’s rich heritage of music performance as well as the Music Department’s cutting-edge programs in composition and performance,” said library head and Professor of Music James Cassaro, from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “Pitt leads the way in support of music both old and new.”

Pitt is one of 13 institutions to receive a total of more than $200,000 in Grammy Museum grants this year. The museum is a nonprofit cultural organization that has awarded $7.5 million to more than 400 grantees.

Evan Facher in a black suit and light purple collared shirt

Pitt Ranks in Top 20 Among Innovative Universities

The University of Pittsburgh ranks no. 18 among 195 U.S. universities for creating impact through innovation, according to a new report issued by the George W. Bush Institute, a nonpartisan policy center housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Building a robust innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem has been a strategic focus under the Plan for Pitt, and has resulted in significant increases in the number of patents issued and licenses of Pitt-developed technologies over the past five years.

“Pitt innovators, today more than ever, are excited to see their research translate into products and services that improve lives and make a positive economic impact,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the University’s Innovation Institute.

Santucci in a black top with floral patterns

Julia Santucci Named Director of The Johnson Institute, Hesselbein Leadership Forum

Julia Santucci, a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been named director of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. Santucci brings more than a decade of national security and foreign policy experience to the role and has held positions with White House National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Department of State. The Johnson Institute aims to produce professionals with the highest standards of ethics and accountability.

The Hesselbein Forum, within the Johnson Institute, provides a variety of opportunities for fostering and growing leadership, including the Leadership Program in International Affairs, which was designed and directed by Santucci.  

Heinz Chapel with pink flowers in the foreground

Swanson School Receives $1.9 Million in Awards From U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Program

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invested more than $65 million to advance nuclear technology, announced June 16, 2020. Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering received a total of $1,868,500 in faculty and student awards from the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).
According to the DOE, “NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.”

Read about the projects at the Swanson School’s website.

Christopher Kirchhof in a white dress shirt

Christopher Kirchhof Selected as NACADA Mentor for Emerging Leaders

NACADA, an association of professional advisors, counselors, faculty, administrators and students working to enhance the educational development of students, has named Christopher Kirchhof, coordinator of Transfer Student Services in the Swanson School of Engineering, as a mentor for its 2020-2022 Class of Emerging Leaders. Only 10 mentors are selected internally, and Kirchhof was selected for his commitment to the program and his involvement and leadership within the organization.


David Fitz in a gray suit and light pink dress shirt

David Fitz Named Vice President of Institutional Integration and Community Engagement at Pitt–Bradford

David Fitz has been named vice president of institutional integration and community engagement at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

In the role, Fitz’s responsibilities will include increasing engagement between the Bradford community and the University. Fitz, who has served on Pitt–Bradford’s President’s Cabinet for the last several years, also will work closely with colleagues to develop a new strategic plan and provide oversight in its implementation.

Fitz has been with the University since 2011, when he became the vice president of academic affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. In 2012, when Pitt-Bradford assumed administrative responsibilities for the Titusville campus, he was named interim campus dean, then campus dean a year later.

“I have been very impressed with David and the strong and sound leadership he has provided to the Titusville campus for several years,” said Catherine Koverola, president of Pitt–Bradford and Pitt–Titusville. “I look forward to David helping us develop additional partnerships to further advance our mission.”

Previously, Fitz served as campus dean for Pitt–Titusville, where he will continue to have a presence: He will serve as interim executive director of the campus’s new Education and Training Hub, which launches in August. He will remain in that role until a permanent replacement is named.

“I am excited about serving the University in these new positions,” Fitz said. “I am thrilled to be helping Pitt–Bradford move forward with its strategic plan and to more fully integrate the campus and the Bradford community, and I am looking forward to helping the hub in Titusville succeed.”

Read more about Fitz.

Andrew Ellis and Chevy Graham, both in suits

Two Katz Graduates Named Among Poets & Quants 2020 MBAs to Watch

Andrew Ellis (pictured, right) and Chevy Graham, members of the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business Class of 2020, have been named to the Poets & Quants “2020 MBAs To Watch” list.

They’re among 142 graduates from more than 70 top fulltime business programs named to the business education publication’s 2020 list of “high-potential MBAs who are gaining momentum.”

Ellis earned his bachelor’s degrees in economics and anthropology from Wake Forest University and was a math teacher in the San Antonio Independent School District before enrolling at Katz. He interned at IBM and is joining the company as a senior financial analyst.

“Andrew exemplifies the characteristics and qualities not only for this award but for what we strive for each of our Katz graduates to become through our program,” said Lynn Rosen, assistant director of career management. “Andrew will always be known by his peers for his smile, laugh, and truly genuine interest in helping others.”

Read more about Ellis in a Poets & Quants interview.

Graham earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Kansas, where he played Division 1 football. While at Katz, Graham secured a sought-after internship at AstraZeneca in Wilmington, Delaware, and will be joining them full-time as a U.S. commercial associate.

“Chevy is not only a great MBA student but he is truly one of our best and brightest,” said Melanie Krugel, assistant director of MBA admissions and diversity student recruiter. “In my five years working for Katz, I have worked with some incredible students, but Chevy is truly one of the standouts. We are sad to see him graduate, but cannot wait to see all the amazing things he accomplishes in the future.”

Read more about Graham in a Poets & Quants interview.

Susan Whitney in a black top

Susan Whitney Provides Health Recommendations to Department of State

Susan Whitney, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently provided recommendations to the U.S. Department of State. She presented her expertise on vestibular disorders and concussions to the Standing Committee to Advise the U.S. Department of State on Unexplained Health Effects on U.S. Government Employees and Their Families at Overseas Embassies.

Whitney provided guidelines and best practices on treating current government workers and potential patients for unexplained health effects while working at overseas embassies. This committee will be writing recommendations on how to deal with these incidents.The goal is to not have to pull workers from their positions in other countries if there are more episodes. 

Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood in suits

Engineering Researchers Studying Efficient Data Storage

Pitt engineering researchers Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood secured a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to study how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials.

The researchers will examine how certain 2D materials interacts with the light used in optical storage and gain a better understanding of its properties. This will allow researchers to advance technology and improve the use of 2D materials for high-speed, reliable and efficient memory and computation.

Both researchers are assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Carli Liguori

Carli Liguori Named Finalist for American Society for Nutrition Translation Award

Carli Liguori, a visiting instructor in the School of Education, has been named a finalist in the American Society for Nutrition Translation Award Program.

The award recognizes “outstanding early-career scientists and clinicians interested in translating their research to a defined audience to improve public health and/or health outcomes.”

Liguori was one of four finalists chosen from a pool of 70 applicants for the award.

In particular, Liguori, along with fellow School of Education faculty members in the Department of Health and Human Development, John Jakicic and Renee J. Rogers, were recognized for their study, “Changes in Dietary Intake with Varying Doses of Physical Activity within a Weight Loss Intervention: The Heart Health Study.”

In the study they found that following a calorie-restricted diet resulted in roughly the same amount of weight loss, about 20 pounds, regardless of a person’s level of physical activity. The team also saw that participants’ level of physical activity did not affect their ability to keep their calorie and fat consumption within bounds.

The team was honored at a virtual event held by the American Society for Nutrition in June 2020.

Luca Deseri in a dark gray shirt

New Research Investigates the Role of Lipid Rafts in Virus Infiltration

New interdisciplinary research co-led by Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and Carnegie Mellon University sheds light onto how and why the cell membrane forms and grows “lipid rafts” triggered by ligand-receptor activity. The work could lead to new strategies and innovative approaches to prevent or fight the action of the virus through the integration of biomedical and engineering knowledge.

“Our team used an interdisciplinary approach to better understand why active receptors tend to cluster on lipid rafts. More importantly, we confirm and predict the formation of the complex ligand receptors,” said Luca Deseri, professor in the Swanson School’s Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Department.

Other institutions involved with the research include DICAM-University of Trento in Italy and the University of Naples-Federico II in Naples, Italy. The research was published in the Journal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids.

H2P written in sparklers at night

Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program Receives Program of Merit Designation

Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences officially announced that its Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is the first graduate program in the nation to attain the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education Program of Merit Health Professions designation. The program is also the first rehabilitation and occupational therapy program in the U.S. to be awarded this distinction.  

Ranked third in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report, Pitt’s OTD program, was named a Program of Merit for its commitment of incorporating gerontology and geriatrics throughout its curriculum. The program meets, and in some cases exceeds Program of Merit Health Professions program expectations. The review team cited several program highlights and strengths as reasons for awarding the designation, such as a 100% student retention rate, among several other factors.

The Cathedral of Learning

Pitt Hosts “Holes in the Safety Net: The Forgotten Needs of People with Disabilities Under Quarantine” Town Hall

The University of Pittsburgh’s offices of Diversity and Inclusion and Health Sciences Diversity hosted a town hall to raise awareness of some of the greatest barriers to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic—and what needs to be done to alleviate these challenges. The conversation was held ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26.

During the discussion, which was attended via Zoom and YouTube by more than 300 people, the panelists agreed that the challenges that people with disabilities face aren’t new, but have been further amplified by the pandemic. Among some of the greatest barriers: access to a variety of needs, including medical care, food and supplies, telemedicine, public transportation and support systems, like a school counselor; social isolation and related mental health risks; conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19; and issues related to online accessibility and remote learning.

The event was an installment of Pitt’s running town hall series “This Is Not ‘Normal’: Allyship an Advocacy in the Age of COVID-19.” The town hall series will culminate in Pitt’s Diversity Forum 2020, Advancing Social Justice: A Call to Action, to be held July 28-30. Secure your spot for the free event, which is open to the public.

Richard Garland, left, in a gray hat and shirt, and David Harris in a black suit and red tie

Two Pitt Professors Named to Pittsburgh Task Force on Police Reform

Seeking to make “people-oriented solutions that make Pittsburgh a better place for all,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has convened a Pittsburgh Community Task Force on Police Reform, and two Pitt professors are among its members.

David Harris, the Sally Ann Semenko Professor of Law, and Richard Garland, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, join 15 others on the team. They range from CCAC President Quintin Bullock to various community leaders, foundation heads and neighborhood advocates, some of whom have been organizing recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Their goal is to review current police practices as well as police-community relations and deliver recommendations to the Mayor by this fall.

Said Harris, a national expert on policing and racial profiling: “We need to focus on change that will give all people in Pittsburgh the kind of public safety they want so that everyone will feel safe.” 

Garland said he hopes to bring to the task force his years of experience working in communities that experience violence.

“I’m not going to be someone who rubber stamps something that is put on the shelf to collect dust,” he said. “I will push for immediate change and steps to assure the community is represented.”

Both men said what is needed is a total commitment from the Mayor and City Council to make sure the recommended changes actually take place.

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Awards Five Researchers Grants

Five researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The DCED has approved more than $2.8 million in grants to 43 projects that will “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector,” according to their press release.

“As engineers, we are applied scientists, and our singular goal in performing research is to produce public impact,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of bioengineering. “I am proud that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the potential of these projects by our Swanson School faculty and their industrial partners to have benefit to their citizens.” 

The five researchers to receive funding at the Swanson School are:

  • Kevin Chen, Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for Femtosecond Laser Manufacturing of 3D Photonics Components in Nonlinear Optical Substrates for Electro-Optic Applications
  • Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, for Improving 3D Binder Jet Printed Tungsten-Carbide Parts via Strategies to Increase Green Density and Strength
  • Jung-Kun Lee, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, for Smart Crucible: Monitoring Damage of Crucibles by Embedded Electric Resistance Sensor
  • Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, for A Computational Tool for Simulating the Sintering Behavior in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing
  • Xiayun Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, for Pushing the Boundaries of Ceramic Additive Manufacturing (CAM) with Visible light initiated Polymerization (ViP)
Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis in a black suit and white shirt

Giannis Mpourmpakis Paper Published in ACS Catalysis, Featured on Cover

New research from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions. The paper was published in ACS Catalysis and featured on the cover of the print edition.

Computational catalysis, a field that simulates and accelerates the discovery of catalysts for chemical production, has largely been limited to simulations of idealized catalyst structures that do not necessarily represent structures under realistic reaction conditions. 

The paper was authored by Raffaele Cheula, PhD student in the Maestri group; Matteo Maestri, full professor of chemical engineering at Politecnico di Milano; and Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis (pictured), Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical engineering at Pitt.