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Mary Margaret Kerr

Mary Margaret Kerr Receives Education Policy and Leadership Center Alumni Award

Mary Margaret Kerr, a professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, was recently named a winner of the Education Policy and Leadership Center’s (EPLC) 2020 Leadership Program Alumni Award.

The EPLC is a Pennsylvania nonprofit focused on developing and implementing state-level education policies designed to improve PreK-12 student learning, increase the effective operation of schools and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages. Among its various initiatives, it offers an annual education policy fellowship program for policy makers and education leaders.

“I was amazed to receive the alumni award,” said Kerr. “The other alums who have received awards are so well respected. This is an honor I can’t even describe.”

Kerr has devoted her career to promoting mental health, suicide prevention, school safety and compliance with laws protecting students with disabilities. Not only has she worked in policy in Pennsylvania, but she has worked across the nation, including a long court-appointed leadership role in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California.

Read more at the School of Education.

Anette Nance in a yellow suit

Anette Nance (SOC WK ’20) Named to Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs

Master of Social Work Alumna Anette Nance (SOC WK ’20) has been sworn in as commissioner on Gov. Wolf’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs (GACAAA).

The commission was established in 2015 to serve as the commonwealth’s advocate agency for the African American community in Pennsylvania. GACAAA’s mission is to ensure that state government is accessible and accountable by advising the governor on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations. The group also works to expand and enhance the civic, social, educational, cultural and economic status of the African American community.

During graduate school, Nance was president of Pitt Vets and a finalist for student veteran of the year by Student Veterans of America. She is currently a project manager in Pitt’s Office of Child Development. 

Read more about the commission and Nance’s leadership.

New Machine Learning Methods Could Improve Environmental Predictions

Machine learning algorithms do a lot for us every day—send unwanted email to our spam folder, warn us if our car is about to back into something and give us recommendations on what TV show to watch next. Now, we are increasingly using these same algorithms make environmental predictions for us. 

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, University of Minnesota and U.S. Geological Survey recently published a new study on predicting flow and temperature in river networks in the 2021 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics International Conference on Data Mining proceedings. 

The research demonstrates a new machine learning method where the algorithm is taught the “rules” of the physical world in order to make better predictions and steer the algorithm towards physically meaningful relationships between inputs and outputs. 

The study presents a model that can make more accurate stream temperature predictions, even when we have little data available, which is the case in most streams. The model can also better generalize to different time periods.

“Water temperature in streams is a ‘master variable’ for many important aquatic systems, including the suitability of aquatic habitats, evaporation rates, greenhouse gas exchange and efficiency of thermoelectric energy production,” said Xiaowei Jia, a lead author of the study and assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Computer Science in the School of Computing and Information. “Accurate prediction of water temperature and streamflow also aids in decision making for resource managers, for example helping them to determine when and how much water to release from reservoirs to downstream rivers.”

Chris Clifford in a blue suit

Chris Clifford Joins Pitt-Bradford Auxiliary Operations

Chris Clifford, who has spent most of his career overseeing auxiliary services at colleges and universities, has been named associate vice president for business affairs and director of auxiliary services at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

Clifford, who began his position on June 16, is responsible for the overall administration and leadership of Pitt-Bradford’s auxiliary operations, including dining services, housing and auxiliary facilities, laundry and vending, the Panther Shop, conference services and the mail center. He also will provide strategic planning and vision for financial, operational, marketing and facility development.   

“We are thrilled to have Chris join the Pitt-Bradford community and are confident that he will continue the tradition of providing high quality, student-centered services and facilities to our campus,” said Rick Esch, vice president for business affairs.

Read more about Clifford at Pitt-Bradford’s website.

Cathedral of Learning with pink flowers

Two Win 2021 Orosz Award for Excellence in Emerging Leadership

Kayla Banner from the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (OUR) and Jasmine Dixson from the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics are this year’s Orosz awardees.

The Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Orosz Award was established to honor Michael Orosz, a staff member in the Department of Biological Sciences who passed away unexpectedly in 2003. It recognizes staff members in the early stages of their careers who have exhibited excellence in their performance and displayed leadership qualities among their peers. To be nominated, staff must have worked for the University at least one year but not more than five years. Staff nominees must also have worked in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences/College of General Studies for at least one full year.

Banner serves as the BRIDGES program manager and outreach coordinator in OUR, providing mentorship and academic and social support to traditionally underrepresented students in the Dietrich School. She also leads a team of 20 peer mentors who provide support to program participants, impacting nearly 1,000 students in the school. Additionally, Banner is an instructor for OUR’s First Approaches to Research and the Summer Undergraduate Research Awards courses.

Dixson serves as the academic coordinator in the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics. Her nominators shared the numerous and innovative ways that she has made an impact on their lives and the lives of students, from developing databases to creating virtual graduation ceremonies, from sorting through datasets to extract detailed information to reducing red tape in departmental processes.

Panther Statue

William Wagner and Savio Woo Inducted to International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering

Two faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh were elected fellows of the International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE). William R. Wagner and Savio L-Y. Woo were selected for this competitive election alongside 24 other internationally recognized leaders in the field. To date, there are fewer than 250 fellows of the academy throughout the world.

Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering, was selected for “pioneering contributions to regenerative medicine and for integrating engineering expertise within the clinical environment, and championing innovation investment at the state and national level.” 

Woo, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Bioengineering, was selected for “pivotal contributions and leadership in biomechanics and bioengineering, leading to revolutionary treatments and rehabilitation strategies for improved patient care for ligament and tendon injuries worldwide.”

Read more at the Swanson School of Engineering website.

Joseph Mahoney in a navy suit

Joseph Mahoney (SOC WK ’10) Named Executive Director of Butler Treatment Program

Joseph Mahoney (SOC WK ’10) has been named executive director of Ellen O’Brien Gaiser Center, a treatment program for alcohol and substance use disorders located in Butler, Pennsylvania. With more than 15 years of experience in behavioral health services, including oversight of outpatient clinics and a partial hospitalization program, Mahoney brings a focus on the link between mental health disorders and substance abuse to his post.

Previously, Mahoney was director of mental/behavioral health and social work services for school districts and communities in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.

Alberto Guzman-Alvarez in a black shirt

PhD Student Alberto Guzman-Alvarez Receives National Dissertation Fellowship

Alberto Guzman-Alvarez, a PhD student in Learning Sciences and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, has received a 2021 Dissertation Fellowship from the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation (NAEd Spencer).

Providing $27,500 in funding support, NAEd Spencer dissertation fellowships support emerging scholars who are undertaking new research that is relevant to the improvement of education. Thirty-five fellowships were awarded this year, following a competitive review of applications. 

“I am incredibly humbled to receive the fellowship and am very lucky to have been chosen,” says Guzman-Alvarez. “I am excited to get the time and space to be part of the fellowship and to have that time to devote to my dissertation.”

In his work, Guzman-Alvarez seeks to use data as a tool for social justice. He explores education policies and interventions, particularly as they relate to college access for historically marginalized students.

Read more about his work at the School of Education’s website.

Two students walking with the sunset behind them

2021 Nordenberg Leadership Scholars Announced

The University of Pittsburgh has announced its 2021 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 the 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.

“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. 

Nordenberg Scholar Gal Yovel said, “The Nordenberg Scholarship will provide me with the incredible opportunity to connect with talented young leaders from across the state. I’m excited to start studying neuroscience at a school that offers unique paths of learning and to collaborate with other curious students who work to make a meaningful impact.” 

The 2021 Nordenberg Leadership Scholars are: 

  • Caleb Buzard of Erie, Pennsylvania
  • Morgan Madison of Monessen, Pennsylvania
  • Olivia Terry of Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Gal Yovel of Merion Station, Pennsylvania
  • Grace Zellers of Palmyra, Pennsylvania
Students crossing the street

2021 Stamps Scholars Look Forward to the Fall

Five students will join the Stamps Scholars Program at Pitt this fall. The prestigious scholarship is awarded to incoming undergraduates from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

With the support of E. Roe Stamps, his late wife Penny and the University of Pittsburgh, the Stamps Scholarship is valued in excess of $150,000 over four years, coving full tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, an allowance for books and supplies and enrichment funds for research and other co-curricular opportunities. 

New awardee Kayla Moitui said, “The Stamps Scholarship is more than just a scholarship: it’s a blessing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of the cohorts have been so welcoming, and I cannot wait to meet my cohort in person. I am excited to contribute toward making the world a better and more promising place through research, advocacy and volunteer work.” 

The 2021 Stamps Scholars are: 

  • Melina Bradley of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Jake Lorenz of West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Kayla Moitui of Easton, Pennsylvania
  • Niosha Parvizi of Gladwyne, Pennsylvania
  • Ramsey Smith of Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania
Robert Schoen in a black suit

Pitt Expert Details History of Refugee Physicians in the U.S.

Robert Schoen, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in conjunction with prominent Holocaust scholar Laurel Leff, a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, has published an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine recounting the history and oppression of Jewish physicians seeking refuge in the United States during WWII.

Barred from practicing medicine in their home countries by the Nazi regime and hoping to find new opportunities, nearly 5,500 Jewish physicians successfully emigrated from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other European nations to the U.S.

Many refugees were met with anti-Semitism and restricted from practicing medicine through regulations that prevented them from taking state licensing examinations. Professional medical organizations urged state medical boards to require full citizenship before foreign medical school graduates could take a licensing exam—amounting to, at minimum, a five-year hiatus in employment as the refugees waited for citizenship. Schoen and Leff tell the story of David L. Edsall, a former dean of Harvard Medical School, and his efforts to lobby on behalf of these physicians.

Ryan McDermott in a white shirt

Ryan McDermott Receives $300K from National Endowment for the Humanities

Associate Professor of English Ryan McDermott and colleagues received a $300,000 National Endowment for the Humanities award to support the Genealogies of Modernity Project (GenMod).

The project’s podcast, website and colloquia seek to motivate and organize a critical, cross-disciplinary inquiry into influential narratives of the origins of modernity in the humanities with a special focus on theological genealogies. 

GenMod is based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture and Pittsburgh’s Beatrice Institute. McDermott is founder and faculty director of Beatrice Institute.

The GenMod project recognizes that the stories we tell ourselves about the passage to modernity are many and often conflicting, even within one discipline. Attention to the complexity of the intertwined genealogies of the present opens the possibility to forge new relationships to the past and discover resources for life-giving responses in the present. 

The journal and podcast offer a place for graduate students, early career and established scholars to parse these narratives and to make legible the intellectual and cultural kinships that often unconsciously subtend these narratives. 

Geovette E. Washington in a black shirt

Geovette Washington Elected Chair of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees

Geovette E. Washington, senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer of the University of Pittsburgh, has been elected chair of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees. 

Washington joined the Carnegie Museums board of trustees in 2017, was named vice chair earlier this year and succeeds William E. (Bill) Hunt, president of The Elmhurst Group, who has chaired the board of trustees for the past seven years.

“I’m incredibly honored to have this opportunity to be an integral part of the Carnegie Museums story,” said Washington. “The four museums play such a vital role in our lives—in the education and inspiration of our children and the cultural vitality of our community. Now more than ever, we need the expansive view of the world that these world-class museums have to offer. I am excited to continue and build upon the good work and leadership of Bill Hunt.”

Active in civic and professional organizations, Washington is also secretary of the International Women’s Forum of Pittsburgh and a member of the Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts Board of Advisors. She is also a member of the Pittsburgh Chapter of The Links, Inc.

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.