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A panther statue

United Way and University of Pittsburgh Partnership Enhances Regional Database Highlighting Community Needs

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh collaborated to add PA 211 Southwest data to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) open data portal in an effort to provide a better understanding about community needs in the region.

The WPRDC was created in 2015 and is managed by the Pitt Center for Urban and Social Research, in partnership with Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. This new partnership adds the latest information from United Way’s 211 Counts dashboard directly to the WPRDC open data portal every day. The addition of 211’s data to the data already shared by the county’s 911 and city’s 311 systems provides a more comprehensive look at requests for services in the region.

“United Way's PA 211 Southwest’s partnership with WPRDC enhances their trusted database and provides an even greater centralized resource for information about the region," said Michele Sandoe, senior director of United Way's PA 211 Southwest. "Through this transparent sharing of up-to-date information, we are helping people find and use information to help their communities."

Over the last 10 years, United Way’s PA 211 Southwest has answered 1,102,843 requests for help (650,887 requests via call or text and 451,956 inquiries online). The top three needs across the region are consistently related to housing, utility assistance and access to food.

“Sharing the 211 data as open data enables people to start to look at service demand in context with other information. For example, people can now make a map of requests for food assistance by ZIP code and overlay that with information on grocery stores and food bank locations without first having to transcribe or scrape the data from the 211 dashboard,” said Robert Gradeck, project director for the WPRDC. “This is also a great opportunity for us to use highly relevant community level data in our efforts to build data literacy, and gives students and researchers another important dataset for research and teaching.”

If you or someone you know in the region needs help financially or with basic needs, contact PA 211 Southwest by dialing 2-1-1, texting your zip code to 898-211, visiting the PA 211 website, or accessing the web app.

A panther statue

Business and Operations Names Victoria Lancaster and Rebecca Roadman to Leadership Roles

Victoria Lancaster and Rebecca Roadman have recently been named to leadership roles in Pitt’s Business and Operations (B&O).

Lancaster, director of HR shared services, will begin as assistant vice chancellor for operational excellence on April 1. In her new role, Lancaster is responsible for providing leadership and enhancing the performance of the B&O units, supporting the senior vice chancellor and the University as a whole, and maximizing organizational and overall workforce efficiency to align with the University’s strategic objectives.

Roadman, senior project manager in the Office of Human Resources, will serve as chief of staff of senior vice chancellor of B&O, effective March 8. In her new role, she is responsible for mobilizing and working with unit leaders in B&O across the University and externally to connect, promote and make actionable the senior vice chancellor’s strategic and operational priorities. Roadman will provide essential leadership to develop employees and teams’ synergies across units and functions.

Melanie Königshoff in a pink and white top

Pitt Consortium to Research Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments

The schools of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Yale will lead a consortium to accelerate research into understanding and treatments of pulmonary fibrosis (PF). Pitt’s School of Medicine will receive a grant to develop and refine a new model to better understand the progression of PF and to identify possible therapies.

PF is a chronic, degenerative lung disease that causes lung tissue to become damaged and scarred, making it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Each year, 40,000 Americans die from PF, yet very little is known about the mechanisms of the disease.

Melanie Königshoff, visiting professor of medicine at Pitt, is the lead investigator of the consortium. “I wanted to understand how diseased lungs can look so different from healthy lungs,” Königshoff said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for a deeper understanding of and more effective therapies for chronic lung conditions. As more people recover from COVID-19, therapies for living with long-term effects of lung diseases have become increasingly important.

Peggy Liu against a blue background

Peggy Liu Receives Society of Consumer Psychology Early Career Award

Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of marketing in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business has received the Society of Consumer Psychology (SCP) 2021 Early Career Award.

The award “recognizes significant scientific contributions to consumer psychology by a scholar whose PhD was obtained in 2012 or later and emerging scholars whose research shows promise in shaping the field of consumer psychology.” Selection is based on nominations received by the SCP.

Among other honors and awards, Liu, whose research expertise is in consumer behavior,  was selected as a 2021 Marketing Science Institute (MSI) Young Scholar and was named among the Poets & Quants 2020 Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors.

“Within the business school, we have not witnessed such rapid and prolific progress from any faculty member in his or her first four years,” said Arjang Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. “Peggy’s research productivity is simply in a class of its own.”

Read more about Liu’s most recent award.

Page Pennell in a blue jacket and white top

Page B. Pennell Named Chair of Neurology

Page B. Pennell, MD, will serve as the next chair of the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine, beginning July 1, 2021. She comes to Pitt from Harvard Medical School, where she serves as a professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Neurology, among other responsibilities.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Pennell will work to continue advancing the neurology department’s mission, which is to accelerate understanding of and treatments for many neurological disorders and conditions, including ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy.

Pennell has focused her research to date on patients with epilepsy. She has examined, among other topics, maternal and fetal outcomes of women with epilepsy, pharmacokinetic changes of anti-seizure medications concerning pregnancy and exogenous hormones, and the effects of neuroactive steroids on seizure provocation. 

Read Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine Anantha Shekhar’s full message announcing Pennell’s appointment.

Jeremy Levy in a striped shirt

Jeremy Levy Awarded Grant to Develop New Type of Quantum Computer

The Office of Naval Research has awarded $7.5 million to a multidisciplinary research team led by Jeremy Levy, Distinguished Professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, and four other universities to develop more effective quantum computers.

Levy, who is also founding director of the Pittsburgh Quantum Institute, will lead this Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative involving quantum computers, which use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations. The title of the project, “Topological Spin Qubits Based on Graphene Nanoribbons,” seeks to develop a new type of quantum bit or “qubit” based on tiny strips of carbon atoms called graphene. 

Levy, the principal investigator, is joined by Pitt’s Hrvoje Petek, R.K. Mellon Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Other researchers include: Tyler Cocker from Michigan State University; Chang-Beom Eom from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Philip Kim and Prineha Narang from Harvard University; and Alexander Sinitskii from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The $7.5 million grant will support interdisciplinary research over a five-year period, contingent upon satisfactory research progress and the availability of funds.

“Meeting all of the requirements for a scalable quantum computer is exceedingly challenging, and so far no approach has been able to address all of these requirements decisively,” Levy said. He noted the team’s approach combines advanced “top-down” lithographic capabilities with advanced “bottom-up” synthetic chemistry protocols, so that atomically precise graphene nanoribbons can be created and manipulated in ways that may be useful for future quantum computing architectures.

“We would not have succeeded without the strong complementary expertise of our team,” Levy said. "We are deeply honored to have been chosen for this challenging project, and excited to get started.”

Jen Brach and Vanitha Swaminathan side by side

Pitt Researchers Awarded Grant to Increase Mobility Program for Older Adults

University of Pittsburgh researchers recently received a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award to help implement and market a Pitt program to improve health among older populations.

The award will go toward “On the Move,” a group-based exercise program for older adults designed to target the timing and coordination of walking. The program challenges the brain to match the timing and sequences of people’s movements with their posture to improve the smoothness and efficiency of walking. The program was established under a previous PCORI award received by the University and proved beneficial in improving mobility in older adults.

Through the latest PCORI award, the research team will develop and implement a strategic plan to disseminate the program to community-based organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The researchers include Jen Brach, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Vanitha Swaminathan, director of the Center for Branding at Katz Graduate School of Business.

Donal Yealy in a black suit and white shirt with a purple tie

Donald Yealy Wins 2021 AACEM Distinguished Service Award

Donald M. Yealy, professor and chair of emergency medicine, professor of medicine and professor of clinical and translational science, received the Association of Academic Chairs in Emergency Medicine (AACEM) 2021 Distinguished Service Award. The award is given to a chair who has brought honor and distinction to AACEM by displaying outstanding leadership and significant contributions to the advancement of academic emergency medicine through leadership, education, research, clinical care, administration, public and professional service, and civic duties on behalf of academic chairs of emergency medicine. Established in 1989, AACEM’s mission is to enhance and support academic departments of emergency medicine as they improve health care through high-quality education and research.

Giuseppe Intini in a light striped shirt

Pitt Researchers Helping Study Bone Health in Space

The University of Pittsburgh is teaming up with medical device company RevBio, Inc. to study the effects of an adhesive biomaterial on bone health in space.

An experiment will take place onboard the International Space Station later this year, where the material Tetranite’s effectiveness on the bone healing process will be examined. A side-by-side experiment will be conducted on Earth to examine the differences between healing under both normal and osteoporotic conditions induced by the micro-gravity environment of outer space.

“Tetranite is a uniquely osteoconductive biomaterial that is also adhesive and injectable,” said Giuseppe Intini, associate professor of periodontics and preventive dentistry at Pitt, and faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who will serve as the principal investigator for this study. “If we are able to show that this novel scaffold can facilitate bone repair in space, new methods may be developed to treat or prevent bone fractures in osteoporotic patients on Earth as well.” 

Ivet Bahar in a light blue collared shirt with bookcases in the background

Ivet Bahar Receives Congratulations from Consul General of the Republic of Turkey on Her Election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Ivet Bahar, distinguished professor of computational and systems biology and John K. Vries Chair in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was named the to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in April 2020.

Earlier this month, the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey visited Pitt’s campus to commemorate Bahar’s achievement as the first female member of NAS from Turkey by offering a gift and taking a photo of that exchange in the Turkish Room, part of Pitt’s Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. 

Bahar’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of functioning biological systems at multiple scales, from molecular to cellular and systems levels. Bahar is also associate director of Pitt’s Drug Discovery Institute. She received her PhD in chemistry from the Istanbul Technical Institute in Turkey and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Boğaziçi University in Turkey.

Editor’s note: A previously published version of this Accolade contained inaccurate information.

Freddie Fu in a black jacket and white shirt

Freddie Fu Is the Most-Cited Author on ACL Reconstruction

A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine identifying the top 100 most-cited articles on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, the procedure to fix the most commonly injured ligament in the knee, found that the University of Pittsburgh was the most prolific institution of influential ACL research. Furthermore, Freddie Fu, chair of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, was the number one author.

Researchers at The Central South University in Changsha, China, reviewed more than 17,000 articles on ACL reconstruction published since 1950. When they narrowed the list down to the top 100 most cited articles, the University of Pittsburgh was the most productive research institution, publishing 14 of these top 100 articles. Fu authored 13 of these, making him the researcher with the most total publications on the top 100 list. These findings reinforce the degree of international influence the University of Pittsburgh and Fu have established in the field of ACL research.  

Fu has been investigating the ACL since the start of his career, and has worked to better understand ACL reconstruction while also fostering the spirit of collaboration that allowed research at the department to flourish. In addition to establishing the Sports Medicine Fellowship program at Pitt, Fu has also served as the head team physician and orthopaedic surgeon for the University of Pittsburgh athletic department for nearly 35 years, and has been the David Silver Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine since 1998.

Eben Witherspoon in a blue jacket and white dress shirt

Eben Witherspoon (EDUC '19G) Wins Outstanding Doctoral Research Award

Pitt alum Eben B. Witherspoon (EDUC '19G), currently a researcher in education and instruction at the prestigious American Institutes for Research (AIR), received the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) 2021 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. Witherspoon completed his PhD in the School of Education's Learning Sciences and Policy Program in 2019. Witherspoon was also a postdoctoral researcher at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) working under the mentorship of professor of psychology Christian Schunn.

NARST is a global organization dedicated to improving science teaching and learning through research. The Outstanding Doctoral Research Award was established in 1992 and is given annually for the doctoral dissertation judged to have the greatest merit and significance in the field of science education.

Witherspoon’s dissertation, “Localizing and Understanding Mechanisms of Gender Differences Within Pathways Towards And Away From Science Degrees,” was also named the Outstanding Alumni Dissertation by the Pitt School of Education in 2020.

Witherspoon joins two other Pitt doctoral candidates and LRDC scholars as recipients of the NARST Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. In 2017, Anita Schuchardt was a NARST awardee. In 2011, Catherine Eberbach was granted the NARST award.

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis in a black top

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis Earns Prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine, is among 128 early career researchers receiving a 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“I am incredibly proud of the honor granted to me,” said Carvunis, expressing “immense gratitude” to her lab members, collaborators, the Pitt community and many supportive colleagues around the world.

“A Sloan Research Fellow is a rising star, plain and simple,” said foundation President Adam F. Falk. “To receive a fellowship is to be told by the scientific community that your achievements as a young scholar are already driving the research frontier.”

A Sloan Fellowship offers investigators $75,000 over two years. Carvunis promised forthcoming “ambitious and risky evolution projects.” Her research encompasses the principles that underlie change and innovation in living systems. She works at the cross section of evolutionary and systems biology to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that make each species unique, including the origins of new species-specific genes.

Francis Celentano, Alpha Red and Orange Alternates, 1969.

Art History Students Curate Museum Exhibition

A new exhibition called Pattern Makers, designed and curated by Pitt art history students, runs through May 9 at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. The show tracks the presence and meaning of patterns across some of the museum’s collection that has rarely been on public view.

The students in Assistant Professor Alex Taylor’s Curatorial Development class mined the collection virtually—poring over spreadsheets and databases to examine thousands of pieces of art available to them. The result was an exhibition of 67 pieces of art from the museum’s permanent collection, presented in 12 clusters. It includes fine art as well as furniture, quilts and artisan-made objects. 

“I hope the students’ chief takeaway was just how many rich and complex connections one can draw across disparate works in a museum’s collection and how understanding its objects in new combinations can provide almost inexhaustible narratives,” said Taylor.

Two upcoming virtual conversations about the exhibition are scheduled:

Students who took part in the project include Annie Abernathy, Isaiah Bertagnolli, Alan London, Katie Loney, Janina Lopez, Emily Mazzola, Morgan Powell, Olivia Rutledge and Vuk Vukovic.

Pictured at left: Francis Celentano, Alpha Red and Orange Alternates, 1969.

Collection: Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

Ethan Arnold-Paine in a blue jacket and checkered dress shirt

Undergraduate Ethan Arnold-Paine Wins De Nora Student Pitch Competition

Ethan Arnold-Paine, an undergraduate studying chemical engineering, won the top prize at the De Nora Student Pitch Competition.

Arnold-Paine presented a closed-cycle PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) remediation system that uses a fast-growing plant—such as bamboo or cattails—to absorb the PFAS from contaminated water as it is run through a hydroponic system. After a growth cycle, the plants would be harvested and sent to a biomass furnace to be turned into char. The char then could be recycled as a filter bed, creating little waste.

Arnold-Paine was competing against graduate students from top-tier research universities from around the world. As a winner of the competition, Arnold-Paine received a cash prize as well as the opportunity to intern with De Nora.

“For Ethan to be as poised and prepared as he was in the midst of such tough competition is a remarkable achievement,” said David Sanchez, whose lab is developing the PFAS system. “He was an excellent standard-bearer for our lab and the work we’re doing to sustainably clean up the environment, and I look forward to all the ideas and innovations he’ll surely bring to other lab projects and the field.”

Read more about the competition.

Keisha Blain in a black top

Keisha Blain Awarded Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study

Associate Professor Keisha N. Blain from the Department of History in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences has been awarded a prestigious fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. IAS is one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The IAS collaborates with Princeton University and Rutgers University, as well as other nearby institutions. Previous IAS members and faculty include Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Clifford Geertz. During the 2012-22 academic year, Blain will be one of 25 distinguished fellows in residence at the institute's School of Social Science. She will be writing a new book on the history of Black women and the struggle for human rights. 

Ryan Davis in a checkered shirt and dark jacket

Ryan Davis (LAW ’16) Honored for Veterans Tech Transfer Work

Pitt Law alumnus and technology transfer professional Ryan Davis (LAW ’16) has been awarded for his work with the Veterans Affairs (VA) Technology Transfer Program—a unit that determines which outcomes of veterans’ health-based research may have application or commercial potential in the real world.

Davis was selected as Rookie of the Year—an award for someone in a position for no more than three years. From his Washington, D.C., work site, he manages all VA tech transfer activity across a wide swath of the U.S., overseeing patent applications and looking for people within various industries to partner with VA researchers or further develop their ideas.

Recently, he filed patent applications and eventually licensed the technology for a skin-inspection device—a wireless camera with a flexible handle that transmits video to a smartphone app and allows someone to inspect the skin on the bottom of their foot, for example. The person can take video or snapshots and easily monitor their skin for diabetic ulcers or other wounds. A southern California start-up company called Habit Camera, headed by a combat-disabled Marine veteran, will roll out the product this spring.

Davis says his Pitt degree, a Juris Doctorate with a concentration in intellectual property law along with a certificate in health law, prepared him well for his profession.

“The concept behind it—taking cutting-edge technologies straight from the lab and the minds of brilliant researchers—and finding a way to get those technologies out into the world to improve the lives, and specifically the health, of the public, was one of the main reasons I actually decided to attend law school,” said Davis. He says he finds it fulfilling to be “one of the first sets of eyes on new technology.”

The award was presented by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, a nationwide network of more than 300 labs and research centers.

A female student studying

The Pitt News Wins 15 Pennsylvania Media Awards

The Student Keystone Media Awards have honored The Pitt News staff with a record number of 15 awards this year in 12 categories. The statewide student media competition recognizing student journalists across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania announced the winners on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The awards and winners are as follows:

First place:

General News: Rashi Ranjan
Public Service/Enterprise Package: Nathan Fitchett, Martha Layne
Editorial: Leah Mensch
Column: Devi Ruia
Cartoon/Graphic Illustration: Dalia Maeroff
Layout and Design: Maria Doku, Jon Moss, Mary Rose O'Donnell, Sarah Cutshall

Second Place:

Public Service/Enterprise Package: Neena Hagen
Cartoon/ Graphic Illustration: Promiti Debi
Photo Story: Sarah Cutshall

Honorable Mention:

Ongoing News Coverage: Rebecca Johnson
Feature Story: Stephen Thompson
Cartoon / Graphic Illustration: Shruti Talekar
Sports Photo: Thomas Yang
Feature Photo: Sarah Cutshall
Website: Jon Moss, The Pitt News Staff

A full video celebrating the 2021 Student Keystone Media Awards winners will be available in the spring. In the meantime, catch up with the award-winning student newspaper on The Pitt News website.

Elaine Vitone in a blue top

Elaine Vitone (A&S ’06G) Shares Her Science Writing Origin Story

How do you get started in science writing? Elaine Vitone, senior editor of Pitt Med magazine and writer/producer of Pitt Medcast, recently shared her story with The Open Notebook, a nonprofit organization that provides tools and resources to help science, environmental and health journalists at all experience levels sharpen their skills.

Vitone, who earned her MFA from Pitt’s Writing Program in 2006, has been on the staff at Pitt Med since 2010. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including the inaugural Excellence in Institutional Writing Award from the National Association of Science Writers. She also mentors early career writers through the magazine’s internship programs.

Her latest feature story, “No Recharge for the Weary: Stress is an Inequitable Arbiter of Health,” was published in the winter 2021 issue of Pitt Med. Her latest podcast episode, “Like Daughter, Like Mother,” was released in February.

A student in a blue shirt writing

Teaching Center’s 2020 Advancing Educational Excellence Awardees Announced

Nine Pitt staff members earned the University Center for Teaching and Learning’s 2020 Advancing Educational Excellence Award.

Andrew P.K. Bentley (instructional designer), Lex Drozd (instructional designer), Max Glider (learning space services coordinator), Joy Hart (senior program coordinator), Cressida Magaro (assistant manager of educational software consulting) and Team Testing (Sue Richardson, manager, and testing coordinators Joe Hogle, Brandon Styer and Eric Weaver) all received the award.

The annual honor is a peer-driven award that recognizes teaching center staff members who exemplify the values of the center, demonstrate a positive attitude and commitment to responsibilities and make above and beyond contributions to the University.