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Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Gives Pitt Silver Rating

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has recognized Pitt’s sustainability accomplishments with a STARS Silver rating.

STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. Pitt’s rating was based on its achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation and leadership.

Among Pitt’s many sustainability initiatives, AASHE reviewers noted the University-wide commitment to sustainable landscape design; the University of Thriftsburgh campus thrift store that encourages re-use; and sustainable dining practices.

“We are proud to have achieved STARS Silver in our first-ever  AASHE rating,” said Richard Heller, senior manager of electrical utilities and energy initiatives in Pitt’s Facilities Management Division, who coordinated the development of the University’s new sustainability plan. The plan’s measurable goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and landfill waste and increasing the percentage of renewable energy used on campus.

“The Pitt Sustainability Plan provides a framework for expanding on our longstanding commitment to sustainability. “I look forward to seeing how the ongoing implementation of the plan improves our future STARS performance,” he said.

Steven Little headshot in jacket and tie

Steven Little Honored with Controlled Release Society's Young Investigator Award

Steven Little was recently named the recipient of Controlled Release Society’s 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release.

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.

His focuses are on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.

Catherine Palmer headshot wearing coral colored jacket

Catherine Palmer Named American Academy of Audiology President-Elect

Catherine Palmer, audiology program director and associate professor of audiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will serve as president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology.

The position is elected by the academy’s general membership and carries a three-year term (one year as president-elect, one as president and one as past president). Palmer’s term begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021.

Palmer also serves as director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, including the UPMC Children's Hospital.

headshot of Melanie Hughes in red jacket and white shirt and headshot of Müge Finkel wearing gray jacket and black and white pattern shirt

Gender Inequality Research Lab Co-directors Awarded Provost’s Integrative Social-science Research Initiative Funds

Two Pitt professors were awarded funds from the Provost’s Integrative Social-Science Research Initiative for “The Global Glass Ceilings Database: Measuring Women’s Access to Decision-Making in Public Administration Worldwide.”

Melanie Hughes of the Department of Sociology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Müge Finkel of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs won support to convene an interdisciplinary and international advisory board for two workshops and to conduct a mixed-methods pilot study, including research trips to Colombia, Denmark and South Africa. The project will be the first endeavor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL).

The Social-Science Research Initiative awards up to $50,000 to expand Pitt social scientists' involvement in research that uses integrative approaches from multiple disciplines.

GIRL, which launched in November 2017, is a new interdisciplinary research forum for scholars and practitioners to collaborate on policy-relevent research on gender inequality. Faculty, students and staff who are interested in researching gender inequality around the world are encouraged to contact Pitt’s Gender Inequality Research Lab.

Alumnus Andy Rhodes Named Chief Information Officer at UNICEF USA

Andy Rhodes (SCI ’87) was recently named chief information officer for UNICEF USA. He is member of the UNICEF USA executive management team and is responsible for the organization’s technology, as well as its digital and data strategy, which includes governance, control and policy development. Rhodes was previously CIO for the United States Golf Association (USGA) and vice president of technology for public relations firm Publicis Groupe.

Faculty, Staff, Alumnae Named Girl Scouts Women of Distinction

Among the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania’s 2018 Women of Distinction — representing various job sectors — are four women with ties to the University of Pittsburgh:

  • Amy Hart (SOC WK ’86), president and CEO of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services Inc. (community and nonprofit).
  • Director of Athletics Heather Lyke (athletics).
  • Elizabeth Miller, professor of pediatrics in Pitt’s School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (health care).
  • Janera Solomon (A&S ’98), executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (arts and education).

The eight Women of Distinction were recognized at a luncheon on May 18.

W. Paul Duprex to Lead Center for Vaccine Research

W. Paul Duprex, has been named the Jonas Salk Chair for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh and will lead Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research.

Duprex is an expert in measles and mumps viruses and studies barriers that stop viruses jumping from animals to humans. He comes to Pitt from the Boston University School of Medicine, where he served as professor of microbiology and director of bioimaging at the university’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories.

He will direct Pitt’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, a high-security facility embedded in the Center for Vaccine Research that allows scientists to safely contain and examine potentially dangerous pathogens. Read more about Duprex at UPMC.

Historian Keisha N. Blain Appointed to Distinguished Lecturer Program

Keisha N. Blain, an assistant professor in the Department of History, has been appointed to the Organization of American Historians (OAH)’s Distinguished Lectureship Program. The OAH is the premier professional association for historians of the United States. Their Distinguished Lectureship Program was created in 1981 as a speakers’ bureau, serving as a resource for those seeking top-notch historians to speak to a popular audience. OAH Distinguished Lecturers speak at college and university campuses, student conferences, teacher seminars and public events sponsored by historical societies, museums, libraries and humanities councils.

Dining Services Achieves Sustainability Milestone

Pitt Dining Services has reached its initial Real Food Challenge goal at Market Central two years early.

The nationwide Real Food initiative toward more sustainable dining aims to shift 20 percent of university food budgets to local, humane, ecologically sound and fair food by 2020. To date, 43 schools and four statewide university systems have signed on to the challenge.

In March 2015, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher committed Pitt to the goal of serving 20 percent “Real Food” at Market Central by 2020. At the time, only 9 percent of food served at Market Central fit the criteria of meeting at least one of the four requirements.

Now, locally grown fruits, vegetables, milk and chicken; organic fair trade coffee and organic quinoa and tofu are among the qualified “Real Food” served regularly on campus. A biweekly summer farmers market outside the William Pitt Union adds to the Real Food options.

The University’s next milestone, as stated in the Pitt Sustainability Plan, is to expand beyond Market Central to serve 25 percent Real Food campus wide by 2025.

New Leadership for Undergraduate Engineering Programs Announced

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced new leadership for its undergraduate programs. 

Samuel Dickerson, assistant professor and associate director of computer engineering, was promoted as the program’s full director. Robert Kerestes, assistant professor, was named director of the electrical engineering program. 

Dickerson succeeds Alex Jones, professor of computer engineering, who last year was appointed associate director of the National Science Foundation Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) at Pitt. Kerestes succeeds Irvin Jones Jr., who will continue in the department as assistant professor.

Both Dickerson and Kerestes are triple alumni of the Swanson School, each having earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical and computer engineering. 

Pitt Biotech Startup Completes Series A Funding

Globin Solutions, Inc., a biotechnology startup formed in 2017 by School of Medicine faculty members Mark T. Gladwin, Jack D. Myers, Jason J. Rose and Jesus Tejero Bravo to develop a rapidly acting antidote to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, in April completed a Series A funding round of more than $5 million. Tus S&T Service Group of Beijing, China, led the round with participation from UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of UPMC.

The funding will support further development of the lead compound, recombinant neuroglobin. Globin Solutions is the exclusive licensee of the University-owned intellectual property.

Nutrition and Dietetics Program Ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania

The University of Pittsburgh placed highly in a recent national ranking of dietetics and clinical nutrition services degree programs. College Factual ranked Pitt seventh out of 72 nationwide programs offered by four-year colleges. Pitt’s dietetics and clinical nutrition services program, part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was also ranked first in Pennsylvania. The University has achieved this ranking 2 years in a row.

Choukas-Bradley in front of a leafy backdrop

Early Career Researcher Wins Grant to Study Body Image, Social Media in Teens

Division 7, the official developmental psychology section of the American Psychological Association, has selected assistant professor Sophia Choukas-Bradley as this year’s winner of the Early Career Research Grant in Developmental Psychology. The $1,000 award is given annually to one or two early career scientists.

Choukas-Bradley will use the funding to support a pilot study which will use eye-tracking technology to examine how adolescent girls pay visual attention to social media photos, with an emphasis on body image. The acceptance letter noted that from a competitive pool, “the committee ranked [Choukas-Bradley’s] proposal as most likely to advance scientific knowledge and theory in developmental psychology.”

“Through social media, today’s adolescent girls are bombarded by images of their peers, which are often carefully curated and ‘Photoshopped,’” Choukas-Bradley said. “The proposed study will be the first to use eye-tracking technology to examine girls’ eye gaze while they are exposed to attractive peer social media images, and may shed light on the connection between social media use and body dissatisfaction. I’m grateful to have the support of APA’s Division 7 as I launch this exciting new line of work.”

Choukas-Bradley is the director of Pitt’s Teen and Young Adult Laboratory (TAYA Lab). 

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Alumna Angela Timashenka Geiger Rings Closing Bell at Nasdaq

To mark World Autism Month, Pitt alumna Angela Timashenka Geiger (’92, ’97G) rang the April 5 closing bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square.

Geiger is president and CEO of New York City-based Autism Speaks. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication, rhetoric and English writing at Pitt in 1992 and an MBA at Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in 1997.

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McGowan Institute Director Named Pittsburgh Inventor of the Year

William Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and professor of surgery, bioengineering and chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, recently received the 2018 Inventor of the Year award by the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association.

The award recognizes the “positive, significant economic impact” the McGowan Institute has had within the western Pennsylvania region, including work in translating research from the bench to the bedside and developing technologies that address unmet clinical needs.

Wagner also co-founded Neograft Technologies, which is developing new treatment options for coronary artery bypass surgery, and has raised over $34 million in funding. Wagner has 26 issued patents and 27 additional patent filings to his name.

Anne Newman Named Clinical Director of Aging Institute

Anne Newman, department chair of epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health was recently announced as the new clinical director of the Aging Institute of UPMC and Pitt. Newman will lead efforts to translate research into clinical practice and policy at the institute, which brings together researchers, scholars and clinicians to create innovative therapies for older adults and to provide resources for seniors and their caregivers.

Newman holds the Katherine M. Detre Endowed Chair of Population Health Sciences and has served as the director of the Center for Aging and Population Health at Pitt Public Health since 2006.

She also has been a member of the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Department of Medicine since her fellowship in 1985 and is the co-director of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center in the Division of Geriatric Medicine.

David Hickton headshot in suit jacket, shirt and tie

Pitt Cyber Director David Hickton Leads Election Security Commission

David Hickton, founding director of The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, has announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania Election Security.

The independent, nonpartisan commission will be led by Hickton, former U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Western District and Grove City College president Paul McNulty, former Deputy Attorney General of the United States. It will feature more than a dozen additional commissioners from public policy, advocacy, industry and other sectors.

Commissioners will examine cybersecurity issues surrounding voting machines and voter registration information as well as the resiliency of Pennsylvania’s electoral system following a potential breach. The commission, which is supported by a grant from The Heinz Endowments, will create a report with recommendations based on its findings to submit to the Pennsylvania governor’s office in 2019.

Neeraj Gandhi headshot wearing black crew neck

Swanson School’s Neeraj Gandhi Earns Funding for Brain Perception Study

Neeraj Gandhi, professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1.5 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to study how the brain perceives moving objects by comparing the neural mechanisms of eye movements directed to stationary and moving objects.

Gandhi leads the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory, which investigates neural mechanisms involved in the multiple facets of sensory-to-motor transformations and cognitive processes. In this project, the group uses eye movement as a model of motor control.

Rory Cooper Awarded American Institute for Biomedical Engineering Advocacy Award

Rory Cooper, founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was awarded the American Institute for Biomedical Engineering’s 2018 Advocacy Award for outstanding and lasting contributions to humanity and the field of bioengineering.

The nomination, which cannot come from a home institution, noted the breakthrough devices that he helped to create to transform the lives of people with disabilities, and how his research and development ‎exemplifies the highest qualities of bioengineering.

The institute makes a maximum of three awards each year in advocacy, education and public policy. Cooper is the first person from Pitt to receive any of these awards.

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis Named Searle Scholar

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, an assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will receive $300,000 over the next three years from the Searle Scholars Program to support her research, which focuses on addressing questions about the uniqueness of different animal species. These questions include how new genes can emerge without having parent genes, how networks of interacting molecules form and change within cells and how these networks differ across species.

The Searle program funds “exceptional young scientists who participate in high-risk, high-reward independent research” and have recently become tenure-track assistant professors. Read more about Carvunis and her work.