Accolades

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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). 

woman with glasses and a dark jacket, on which a blue puzzle piece is pinned

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.

University Library System Acquires Rare Jorge Luis Borges Book

Pitt’s University Library System has acquired a rare manuscript notebook that contains some of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges — an Argentine short story writer, essayist and poet who is considered one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century. The spiral notebook, used by Borges in 1950 and 1951, contains the first draft of the important story “La espera” (The Wait), included in the second edition of “El Aleph” in 1952. It also contains notes for Borges’s famous essay, “El escritor argentino y la tradición” (The Argentine Writer and Tradition), first presented as a talk in 1951 and published two years later.

“The essay on the Argentine writer and tradition is a central text to Latin American debates about the relations between Latin American literature and the Western tradition, and was presented in response to Peronism and cultural nationalism,” said Daniel Balderston, Pitt’s Mellon Professor of Modern Languages and director of its Borges Center. The English-speaking world became familiar with Borges’s work with the publication of the anthology “Labyrinths” in 1962.

The notebook is intact, meaning that it is possible to study the sequence of texts that Borges wrote in 1950-51. It will be housed in Archives and Special Collections and will be a rich addition to the Eduardo Lozano Latin American Collection.

Engineering’s Mostafa Bedewy Earns Manufacturing Award

Mostafa Bedewy was recently named a 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers for his contributions to the field of nanomanufacturing. A member of the society since 2017, Bedewy is among 18 recipients from the U.S. and China.

Bedewy is an assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and principal investigator of the NanoProduct Lab at Pitt.

The award is given to “exceptional young manufacturing engineers (35 years old or younger) from academia and industry for their contributions in manufacturing.” Recipients are selected based on work in emerging manufacturing applications, technical publications, patents and academic or industry leadership.

Center for African American Poetry and Poetics Creative Writing Fellow Wins 2018 Whiting Award

Rickey Laurentiis — the inaugural fellow in creative writing in the Department of English’s Center for African American Poetry and Poetics — is one of 10 writers in the nation awarded a 2018 Whiting Award. Granted annually in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama, the $50,000 award is based on early career accomplishments and potential for continued success.

Laurentiis’ debut poetry collection, “Boy with Thorn,” won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Levis Reading Prize and the Julie Suk Award. His work has been published in such notable publications as the Boston Review, The New York Times,and The Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. Laurentiis is Pitt’s second recent Whiting Award winner, English lecturer Jenny Johnson won the award in 2015.

University of Pittsburgh Press Names Marketing Director

The University of Pittsburgh Press — the book publishing division of the University — has chosen Pitt alumnus John R. Fagan (CGS ’86) as its new marketing director. Fagan spent 17 of his more than 30 years in book publishing as vice president and director of marketing for Penguin Books and Penguin Classics. In his new role, Fagan is responsible for the promotion, distribution and sales of books in print and digital formats and works with other senior managers to develop overall policies and strategic goals. He studied English literature as a student in Pitt’s College of General Studies.

PhD Candidate Named Woodrow Wilson Fellow

University of Pittsburgh graduate student María Lis Baiocchi is one of 10 PhD candidates nationwide named as Dissertation Fellow in Women’s Studies by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Baiocchi is a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and a certificate student in the Cultural Studies Program and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and in the Center for Latin American Studies.

The foundation recognized Baiocchi with $5,000 in funding for her dissertation, “Becoming Workers: Changing Labor Laws and Domestic Workers’ Challenges in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” which explores the legal reconfiguration of paid domestic work in Argentina and the ways in which such changes in law translate into domestic workers’ daily lives. The foundation calls the fellowship “the only national dissertation award for doctoral work on women’s and gendered issues.”

 

Angela Gronenborn Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Angela Gronenborn, distinguished professor of structural biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was recently elected as a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The academy’s projects and publications generate ideas and offer recommendations to advance the public good in the arts, citizenship, education, energy, government, the humanities, international relations, science and more. Gronenborn’s research combines nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with biophysics, biochemistry and chemistry to investigate cellular processes at the molecular and atomic levels in relation to human disease.