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Starr, wearing a gray shirt and glasses, in front of a bookcase

John R. Starr Wins Beinecke Scholarship

Undergraduate student John R. Starr has been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship worth $34,000 in support of his graduate education.

Starr, a third year student from Warminster, Pennsylvania, is currently completing a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in linguistics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Writing, with a minor in Persian.  He plans to obtain a PhD in linguistics with a focus on Persian.

The Beinecke Scholarship Program “seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue opportunities available to them and to be courageous in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts humanities and social sciences.” Starr is one of eighteen students from across the country to receive the scholarship this year. This is the third consecutive year a Pitt student has received the prestigious scholarship.

In 2018, Starr completed a Brackenridge Summer Research Fellowship through Pitt Honors, where he researched the history of Chinese immigration to the United States, philosophical interpretations of identity and a wide range of literary forms. Starr also serves as musical director of “The Songburghs,” a co-ed a cappella group on Pitt’s campus. He is proficient in Spanish, Persian, Homeric Greek and Python.

Panther statue

University’s Retirement Savings Plan Wins 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources is the recipient of the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year award in the Public Defined Contribution category for the University's retirement savings plan. Pitt was recognized for its Write Your Own Financial Story communications campaign, education initiative and overall updates made to the retirement savings plan.

The Plan Sponsor of the Year annual award program recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success. Finalists are judged on a variety of factors including richness of program offerings, commitment to the program, leadership and innovation.

“We are thrilled for the University to again be recognized for our distinguishable efforts and commitment to developing customized educational programs to increase financial literacy, as well as help our generationally diverse workforce address their personalized needs and goals,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson.

The Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program is sponsored by PLANSPONSOR, a magazine and website that provides news and research for retirement benefits decision makers, and it recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants' financial health and retirement success. Pitt was among 38 finalists in 10 categories.

Read more about the University’s award-winning plan and the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program.

South-Paul in a dark jacket and blue scarf

Jeannette South-Paul Honored by Pennsylvania Governor

Jeannette South-Paul, the Andrew W. Mathieson Professor Department Chair at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Family Medicine, was recently honored by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, First Lady Frances Wolf and Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli at the fourth annual Female Veterans Day Ceremony in celebration of Women’s History Month.

South-Paul served in the U.S. Army for 21 years beginning with ROTC and retiring as a colonel. During her time of military service, she worked as an Army physician, her last duty station being at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Her research focuses on maternal-child health, particularly teen pregnancy.

h2p written with sparklers at night

WISER Celebrates 25 Years in 2019

The Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research, or WISER for short, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.

WISER is an internationally renowned simulation center at the University of Pittsburgh that focuses on healthcare education, improving patient safety, and the professional development of simulation educators and technicians around the world.

The institute currently supports over 60,000 hours of simulation and over 2,000 classes, which impacts 5,000 healthcare professionals and trainees each year.

flowers blooming in front of the Cathedral

Food Recovery Heroes Wins Zero Waste Award

Pitt student group Food Recovery Heroes was recognized for its environmental leadership with a Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) Zero Waste Excellence Award, presented at PRC’s fourth annual Zero Waste Event.

Since its start in 2014, Food Recovery Heroes has worked to recover more than 28,000 pounds of surplus food from campus; fighting hunger while keeping leftovers out of landfills. It also has inspired a student-supported composting initiative that is advancing toward the Pitt Sustainability Plan goal of composting 50 percent of campus food waste by 2025.

The Zero Waste award is icing on the cake for these heroes, whose efforts led to Pitt’s recent recognition in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Challenge.

Read more about these sustainability-minded students in this 2017 Pittwire feature.

Quigley with dark brown hair in front of trees

School of Education’s Cassie Quigley Named PA STEM Ambassador

Cassie Quigley has been named a 2019 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador.

The PA STEM Ambassador Program aims to “shape the future of STEM education in the commonwealth targeting vital policy conversations to legislative leadership in the areas of STEM Learning ecosystems, computer science, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs.”

Quigley, an associate professor of science education in the School of Education, received this honor along with thirty-one other leaders across Pennsylvania.

“Because of my commitment to improve STEM experiences for our youth, being able to sit at the table with the decision-makers allows me to help influence the type of experiences students will have,” said Quigley. “My hope is that students will be positioned to be change-makers in their schools and society, and STEM education is one way to do that.”

Added Quigley, “For the past five years, I have been working with my colleague Dr. Dani Herro to help teachers shift their practices, and I have seen the results in the students.  Students are engaged, excited and informed about how to solve some of the most pressing problems in our world. Between this research, and the opportunity to work with Pennsylvania lawmakers, I am excited about the potential for our students.”

Quigley also has a new publication, “An Educator’s Guide to STEAM,” which will be released late in March 2019.

person walking down a tree-lined sidewalk

University Retirement Savings Plan Receives Award

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources, in partnership with TIAA, is the first place winner of the 2019 Eddy Awards in the Plan Transitions category, recognized for its implementation and communication efforts in updating the 2017-2018 University's Retirement Savings Plan. The Plan Transitions category honors select organizations for their investment in education and communication materials for employees eligible to participate in a retirement plan or who are impacted by plan changes. Read more about the award.

Greg Scott, John Kozar, Nichole Dwyer, Cheryl Johnson

University Retirement Savings Plan Receives Award

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources, in partnership with TIAA, is the first place winner of the 2019 Eddy Awards in the Plan Transitions category. Pitt was recognized for its implementation and communication efforts in updating the 2017-2018 University’s Retirement Savings Plan.

The University of Pittsburgh and TIAA, a leading financial services provider in the academic field, received this honor at Pensions & Investment’s annual East Coast Defined Contribution Conference on March 10-12, 2019, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Pitt joins 66 defined contribution communication campaigns that were honored for their efforts to motivate and educate participants. 

“We are honored to receive first place in the Plan Transitions category at the Eddy Awards,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson. “Our team is proud to be recognized for the efforts taken to make improvements to the University’s retirement savings plan and to communicate them to the Pitt community in a way that honors our generationally diverse staff and faculty; recognizes that people are on individual journeys and need to be empowered; and, is accessible, motivational and educational.”

Read more about the award-winning plan and the Eddy Award.

a panther fountain

Three Faculty Members Recognized for Teaching Excellence

Julie Beaulieu, lecturer in the Gender, Sexuality, & Women's Studies Program; Geoffrey Glover, lecturer in the Department of English; and Jeffrey Wheeler, lecturer in the Department of Mathematics, have won the 2019 Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Award.

The award, established in 1998 to honor exceptional undergraduate teaching in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, gives a one-time cash prize of $6,000 to recipients.

“As a first-generation college graduate and PhD, I am acutely aware of the various things that had to perfectly align to get where I am today,” said Beaulieu, who began full-time teaching at Pitt in 2013. “I had tremendous support along the way. When teaching, I hope to always stay grounded through a deep awareness of my role as part of a larger collective. I am very grateful for the recognition.”

Glover, who started teaching in 2012, said, “We never succeed alone. I am supported by a network of gifted teachers in and out of the English department and by students who define themselves by their eagerness to learn.”

Beaulieu, Glover and Wheeler, who has taught at Pitt since 2008, will be honored at the Bellet dinner on Tuesday, April 2.

three photos of the winners stitched together

Cathedral of Learning and downtown

University Center for Teaching and Learning Hosts Regional Faculty Symposium

The University Center for Teaching and Learning hosted more than 250 regional and international professionals at the second annual Pittsburgh Regional Faculty Symposium, which was held on Pitt’s campus on March 11.

The symposium drew registrations from faculty from universities and colleges in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Ontario.

“The symposium was the first of its kind here on Pitt’s campus, and brought together talents and expertise from across the entire spectrum of higher education,” said Erik Arroyo, director of academic support services for the Teaching Center.

The daylong conference consisted of 35 interactive sessions, networking opportunities and a keynote address by Sarah Rose Cavanagh, associate director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College. Thirteen different Pitt faculty and staff members were involved in the symposium’s planning or in hosting a session.

Cynthia Golden, director of the Teaching Center, said that this regional collaboration created the potential to bring new ideas, partnerships and teaching strategies to Pitt campuses. “It was an honor for the University Center for Teaching and Learning to host the Pittsburgh Regional Faculty Symposium. The Pitt faculty we work with not only break new ground in research, they are leaders and innovators in effective teaching,” said Golden.

Added Arroyo, “If each of the attendees are in the position to impact 20 students, and they left the symposium with one new idea or approach or strategy, then this symposium has the potential to positively impact over 5,000 students enrolled in college right now.”

The event was organized by the Teaching Center and supported by the Colleagues in Connection, a regional professional development collaborative, and the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education.

Datta in a red plaid shirt in front of a blue background

Bioengineer Moni Datta Receives a $300K DoD Award to Design Biochemical Marker Technology

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death in the United States. Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming and expensive. Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier.

Prashant N. Kumta, the Edward R. Weidlein Chair and Distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormos, the Brack G. Hattler Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Read more at the Swanson School’s website.

Maseru in a gray suit

Health Equity Director Co-Authors March of Dimes Consensus Statement on Birth Equity

Women of color are 50 percent more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, and three times as likely to die from pregnancy complications. Noble Maseru, director of Pitt’s Center for Health Equity is working to change that.

Maseru, who’s also professor of behavior and community health sciences at Pitt, recently co-authored the March of Dimes "Birth Equity For Moms and Babies Consensus Statement" to advance social determinants pathways for research, policy and practice.

Among the recommendations: Improve maternal death surveillance, expand research, engage in health system reform, empower communities through inclusion and change social and economic conditions.

Read the Consensus Statement on the March of Dimes website.


T-Cell Project Awarded Major Funding

Gary Kohanbash, assistant professor of neurological surgery and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory (PNIO) at the University of Pittsburgh, was one of four researchers awarded a total of $3 million by the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative to help fund primary brain tumor immunotherapy research. Kohanbash’s project involves interrogating anti-tumor T-cells to develop adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy for pediatric high-grade gliomas.

Kohanbash and an interdisciplinary team of investigators at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Children’s National and the University of California, San Francisco have developed a new method for identifying the most tumoricidal T-cell within a patient’s tumor. Using this approach, the team will isolate these T-cells from pediatric glioma and DIPG tumors, validate the safety and tumor-killing ability of these cells and develop a strategy for expanding these cells for re-infusion into patients.

If the project is successful, it could become a cutting edge, off-the-shelf approach in which a T-cell identified in one patient could be used to create T-cells that could kill tumors in a majority of patients with the similar disease. Long-term the approach could be used to develop a highly personalized strategy in which the most effective cytotoxic T-cells within each patient would be identified and used to creating millions of these as a therapy for that patient. Read more at neurosurgery’s website.

H2P written with sparklers in the dark

Undergrad Team Captures Silver Medal for ‘Molecular Movie Camera’

The ability to measure and record molecular signals in a cell can help researchers better understand its behavior, but current systems are limited and provide only a “snapshot” of the environment rather than a more informative timeline of cellular events. In an effort to give researchers a complete understanding of event order, a team of University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students prototyped a frame-by-frame “video” recording device using bacteria.

The group created this project for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, an annual synthetic biology research competition in which over 300 teams from around the world design and carry out projects to solve an open research or societal problem. The Pitt undergraduate group received a silver medal for their device titled “CUTSCENE.”

The iGEM team included two Swanson School of Engineering students: Evan Becker, a junior electrical engineering student, and Vivian Hu, a junior bioengineering student. Other team members included Matthew Greenwald, a senior microbiology student; Tucker Pavelek, a junior molecular biology and physics student; Libby Pinto, a sophomore microbiology and political science student; and Zemeng Wei, a senior chemistry student.

Read more about the team at the Swanson School’s website.

Shields in a dark jacket

Engineering Alumna Julie Shields Named 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year

Recognizing her exceptional performance at FedEx Supply Chain, University of Pittsburgh Julie Shields (ENGR ’18) was selected as the 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year by the Cooperative Education and Experiential Division (CEED) of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Shields received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering this December, having completed three, four-month rotations with FedEx Supply Chain and will join their company this January.

During her third rotation, Shields played a critical role in a competitive bid with a major company. Based on her performance during her first two rotations, she was trusted to represent FedEx during the initial phases of the bid process. Impressed by her success, she was selected as lead engineer on the project and developed plans for a new one million square foot building with automation. This design helped secure a win for the company.

Within FedEx, Shields received two Bravo Zulu awards, which is the second highest performance award at the company. She was extended an offer to join FedEx Supply Chain and will start as a project engineer in January 2019. Read more about the honor at the School of Engineering’s website.

Nachega in a dark brown suit

Public Health's Nachega Recognized by African Science Institutions

Jean Nachega, associate professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases and microbiology in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, recently received recognition from two Africa-based science organizations.

The African Academy of Sciences elected him fellow in recognition of his efforts to develop patient care, teaching and research around epidemiology and infectious diseases in Africa. In addition, the Academy of Sciences of South Africa — which aims to provide evidence-based scientific advice on issues of public interest — named him a member-elect.

Badylak in front of shelves in a lab

Stephen Badylak Named 2018 Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator

For his dedication to achieving impact through commercialization, Stephen Badylak has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award from the Innovation Institute. He is a professor of surgery at Pitt and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

In his prolific 15 years at Pitt he ranks among the University’s all-time leaders in terms of invention disclosures filed, patents issued and technologies licensed. Earlier this year, Badylak became chief scientific officer of ECM Therapeutics, a new Pittsburgh-based startup company that has licensed a patent portfolio from Badylak’s lab and is seeking to commercialize those discoveries across a broad range of therapeutic targets.

More information can be found at the Innovation Institute’s website.

Carla Ng Receives $500K NSF CAREER Award

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She received a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER award to pursue this research.

Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the release of these chemicals into the environment. According to Ng, more than 4,000 different kinds of PFAS may have been for decades, and detailed toxicity data does not exist for the large majority of these. The goal of Ng’s CAREER award is to address these issues through a complementary approach using predictive modeling and experiments.

Pitt News Business Staff Wins Awards

The Pitt News advertising and sales division won eight national awards in the College Media Business and Advertising Manager (CMBAM) contest this year, competing against college newspapers throughout the country. The awards were announced in March at the national conference in La Jolla, California.

The winners included:

  • First Place, Best Sponsored Content or Native Advertising
  • Second Place, Best College Media Sales Program
  • Second Place, Best Sales Promotion Materials
  • Second Place, Rachel Buck, Best Advertising Manager
  • Second Place, Best Ancillary Operation
  • Third Place, Kyle Guinness, Best Sales Representative
  • Third Place, Best Digital Sales Strategy
  • Honorable Mention, Best Sales Pitch or Proposal
  • Honorable Mention, Best Rate Card or Media Kit
Dawn Lundy Martin headshot with blue shirt and jacket

Dawn Lundy Martin Wins Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for 2019

Dawn Lundy Martin is the recipient of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for 2019.

Martin is a professor in the Writing Program in the Department of English and director and cofounder of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, all in the Dietrich School.

The award is “given annually in recognition of the work of a mid-career poet,” and comes with a cash prize of $100,000.

Martin is recognized for her collection “Good Stock Strange Blood,” most particularly for her “experimentation with language… for creating ‘fascinating, mysterious, formidable, and sublime’ explorations of the meaning of identity, the body, and the burdens of history along with one’s own private traumas.”

Martin will be honored at a private ceremony in April in San Marino, California.