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Gayle Rogers in a dark suit, with flowers in the background

Gayle Rogers Elected to Association of Departments of English Leadership

Gayle Rogers, professor and chair of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been elected to the 12-member executive committee of the Association of Departments of English (ADE) for a three-year term, running 2022-25. 

This organization advocates nationally for the study of literature, writing and culture across many forms and supports departments in their disciplinary work, especially through its constitutive affiliation with the Modern Language Association. The ADE also hosts professional networks, data resources and annual conferences for chairs and other campus leaders.  

Rogers’s work focuses on the history of ideas, global modernisms, translation theory, comparative literature, critical history and the intersections of literature, economics and risk theory. Read a piece he wrote for The Conversation about financial speculation through the ages.

Jonathan Helm in a black suit and blue shirt

New Registrar Named

After a national search, the University of Pittsburgh has named Jonathan Helm its new registrar, effective June 14, 2021. Helm comes to Pitt from Baylor University, where he has served as registrar since 2011. 

Helm also served as an associate university registrar at the University of Virginia and as assistant registrar at the University of Missouri-Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology. In addition, Helm has been active in the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. 

Helm holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts from Missouri University of Science and Technology .

Schuler in a black suit

Greg Schuler Steps Down as Chief Investment Officer

Following three years of service to the University of Pittsburgh, Greg Schuler is stepping down from his role as chief investment officer effective June 30, 2021, to pursue other opportunities. Paul Lawrence (BUS ’93G) will serve as acting chief investment officer in addition to his permanent duties as treasurer. The University will immediately begin a national search to find the next chief investment officer.

Bronze panther statue with red flowers at its base

Alumni Startup Wins Health Care Safety Prize

Lumis, a healthcare simulation and data startup company founded by Pitt alumni, recently became one of the winners of a competition sponsored by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Innovation Works. This competition, the Healthcare Safety Challenge, sought to award promising startups in the fields of patient safety and innovation. Lumis won $5,000 in kicker prize money to aid in the application of their proprietary technology to issues of patient safety. 

Lumis was spun out of Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Joseph Samosky’s research group, the Simulation and Medical Technology R&D Center.

Doug Nelson, the cofounder, CEO and president of Lumis, earned his doctorate in engineering from Pitt in 2017. Samosky (ENGR ’85, A&S ’86), Nelson’s PhD supervisor, is cofounder and director of innovation and engineering for Lumis. John O’Donnell, their director of curriculum and customer engagement, earned a doctorate in public health from Pitt in 2009. Likewise, one of Lumis’ software developers, Alexandra Gales, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Pitt in 2011. The company has also hired current Pitt students as interns. 

Jamie Ducar with blurred trees in the background

Jamie Ducar Named Member of Engaged Scholars Initiative Cohort

Jamie Ducar was recently named a member of the 2021-22 Engaged Scholars Initiative cohort. Ducar serves as the director of community engagement in the University of Pittsburgh Office of Community and Governmental Relations, a role she has held since 2019. 

The Engaged Scholars Initiative (ESI) is a yearlong program designed to develop community-engagement professionals, empowering them to lead equity-focused work within their institutions and spheres of influence. The 2021-22 cohort will include virtual retreats, monthly meetings, mentorship, scholarly coursework and peer collaboration. 

ESI is a Campus Compact program, in partnership with the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility at Swarthmore College. Campus Compact’s approach of attracting, developing and retaining critical public scholars from diverse backgrounds across the nation encourages participants to expand their understanding of community engaged work and scholarship. 

“I’m very excited to be a part of the first national ESI cohort. My professional development interests are being realized thanks to Pitt’s relationship with compact. I hope to advance institutional ties to innovative practice, ‘stretch’ my role at Pitt and apply what I learn to our Community of Practice,” said Ducar.

Garrett Grindle kneeling on the left and Rory Cooper in a wheelchair on the right.  Both hold up their Pennsylvania Veterans Service Awards.

Two Honored With Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award

On May 6, leaders of the Pennsylvania National Guard awarded Pitt’s Rory Cooper and Garrett Grindle (ENGR ’04, ’07G) the Pennsylvania Veterans Service Award for their work protecting veterans and their caregivers during the pandemic.

In April 2020, the University’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) pivoted from their usual technology research and development to producing nasal swabs, face shields and other medical supplies to meet demand during the crisis. Their work helped keep VA hospitals open and safe for workers, patients and caregivers.

“I am extremely proud of the team at HERL,” Cooper told the VA’s Research Currents publication last spring. “They have risen to the challenge of assisting with VA’s response to COVID-19 and have performed outstandingly. The work of the team at HERL has likely helped slow the spread of the disease and has assisted VA health care providers in saving the lives of veterans.”

Among other titles, Cooper is the FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and Distinguished Professor of Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, and founding director and VA Senior Research Career Scientist at HERL. Grindle is the associate director for engineering at HERL and a research scientist at Pitt.

Read more about HERL’s pandemic pivot.

Cathedral of Learning with a blooming pink tree in the foreground

Institute for Learning Receives Grant for Middle School Mathematics

The Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, has been awarded a planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be part of the foundation’s effective implementation cohort. 

The vision for the Gates Foundation effective implementation cohort is that “education agencies, schools, and the organizations that support them have reliable, practical evidence and measures to apply in planning and implementing a high-impact math improvement initiative district-wide.” 

IFL will partner with Canutillo Independent School District, Fabens Independent School District and Tornillo Independent School District, all of which are in the El Paso area of Texas, to design a multi-year plan for each district for implementing a high-quality mathematics curriculum. The goal is to develop a multi-year plan for each district that will lead to coherent instructional systems that result in deeper mathematics learning for 6th through 8th grade students.

The team working on this planning grant include: Joe Dostilio, IFL mathematics fellow and principal investigator on the grant; Laurie Speranzo, IFL mathematics fellow and lead designer on the project; Beatriz Strawhun, IFL mathematics & bilingual ed fellow; Ivonne Durant, IFL leadership fellow; Rosa Apodaca, IFL executive director; Carol Chestnut, IFL mathematics content developer, Aaron Anthony, IFL director of analytics and operations; Chris Schunn, LRDC senior scientist and IFL co-director; and Rip Correnti, LRDC research scientist.

Julie Donohue in a black shirt on a grey background

Health Policy Chair is Editor of New JAMA Journal

Julie Donohue, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, is among the editors of JAMA Health Forum, the newest peer-reviewed, print journal in the JAMA network. 

The open-access journal’s mission is to publish original research, evidence-based reports and opinion about national and global health policy; innovative approaches to health care delivery; and health care economics, access, quality, safety, equity and reform.

“Our goal is for JAMA Health Forum to play a leading role as a peer-reviewed journal, bringing rigorous evidence forward from a diverse community of authors to inform readers who will use this evidence to improve health outcomes and advance health equity,” Donohue and her fellow editors wrote in an editorial introducing the first issue

Robert Friedlander wearing a black suit on a blue background

Neurology Chair Named Distinguished Professor

Robert Friedlander, the Walter E. Dandy Professor and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery, has been appointed to the special faculty rank of Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, the highest honor the university can accord a faculty member.

A noted neurosurgeon and an expert in Huntington’s disease, ALS and stroke research, Friedlander has received a number of significant academic awards and accolades over the years, most significantly an induction into the prestigious National Academy of Medicine in 2019, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. In addition, Friedlander is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association of Physicians.

Read more about the appointment.

Ilyas Kamboh in a black suit

Public Health Researchers Awarded $10.7M for Alzheimer’s Research

Despite decades of research and investment, the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease are still largely unknown, stymieing drug development and early diagnosis efforts. A new $10.7 million, five-year project led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis aims to change that with the first comprehensive study using whole genome sequencing to address a critical gap in knowledge about the disease.

With funding from the National Institute on Aging, the research team plans to identify the genetic variants, genes and pathways that lead to formation of plaques and tangles, two specific biomarkers that begin accumulating in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s 15 to 25 years before they show symptoms. 

Read more about the grant and researcher Ilyas Kamboh, professor of human genetics and epidemiology.

Hands on a laptop

Pitt Cyber Announces New Affiliate Scholars

Pitt’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security welcomes Jacqui Lipton and Jennifer Keating as its newest affiliate scholars. 

Lipton is an assistant professor of legal writing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Her scholarship focuses on law and digital technology. 

Keating is a senior lecturer and the writing in the disciplines specialist in the William S. Dietrich II Institute for Writing Excellence in the Composition Program in the Department of English. Her work includes exploring the influence of advancing technology on society and the politics of language.

Pitt Cyber affiliate scholars are drawn from faculty across the University of Pittsburgh and are selected for their excellence in cyber-themed research and teaching. Affiliate scholars are a source for transdisciplinary collaboration and innovation across Pitt and beyond.  

Yvonne Powers in a grey suit on a white background

Human Resources Names New Director

Yvonne Powers has been named director of employee and labor relations in the Office of Human Relations. Powers will be responsible for the management of the collective bargaining agreements and oversight of the personnel policies for the University. She will work closely with University leadership, managers and union representatives to build collaborative relationships for the oversight of employee and labor relations.

Read more at OHR’s website.

Matt Schultz wearing a blue shirt

Alum, Staffer Releases Indie Horror Film

Matt Schultz (A&S ’10), manager of recruitment in the University Honors College, recently debuted “The Boonies,” a feature-length horror film shot primarily in Cambria, Somerset and Allegheny counties. 

Schultz co-wrote and acted in the film, which was released widely in April and had a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles. The plot follows campers who find themselves fighting for survival against cannibals in the Appalachian woods.

Watch the trailer or download the full film on Amazon, iTunes and other video on demand sites.

Aarti Patel in a white shirt in front of a snowy field

Aarti Patel Receives Fellowship for Women in Aerospace Industry

Senior Aarti Patel was named to the 2021 class of the Brooke Owens Fellowship. The organization recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities who are entering the aerospace industry. Patel is a mechanical engineering major in the Swanson School of Engineering. 

Fellows are matched with an executive-level mentor to help launch their careers and will be invited to the annual Brooke Owens Summit, to be held virtually at the end of the year. This year, 44 undergraduates were chosen as “Brookies” out of more than 800 applicants. The selected fellows have demonstrated “their desire to pursue a career in aerospace, a record of leadership, a commitment to their communities and their inexhaustible creativity,” according to the organization. 

In her studies at Pitt, Patel has taken an interest in mechanical design, analysis and mission operations for launch vehicles. In addition to her engineering classes, internships in the aerospace industry and undergraduate research, Patel was a co-founding member of Pitt’s Society of Astronautics and Rocketry and now serves as one of the chief engineers of the NASA Student Launch Team at Pitt.

Brooke Riscoe in a red and white shirt on the left and Emi Finkelstein in a black shirt on the right

Two Named to German Academic Exchange Service

Pitt undergraduate student Brooke Riscoe (left) and graduate student Emi Finkelstein have been named to the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), translated in English as the German Academic Exchange Service.

The DAAD is Germany’s national agency for the support of international academic cooperation. The agency provides a variety of educational and research opportunities, including support of study abroad experiences within German laboratories and research institutions.

Riscoe graduated this year from Pitt with a major in geology, minor in German and certificate in Global Studies focusing on sustainable development, critical world ecology and sustainability. She plans to continue her studies in Germany through a master of science in applied and environmental geosciences at Universität Tübingen or a master of science in climate and environmental sciences at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in order to prepare for related doctoral studies and improve her German skills. 

Finkelstein is a PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. Her dissertation examines the afterlife of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in contemporary Germany’s cultural institutions and public spaces. She will spend next year based at the University of Leipzig where she will carry out research on the display of modern art from East Germany in regional museums in Leipzig, Halle (Saale) and Rostock.

Birdseye view of Oakland

Fortune Ranks Katz MBA No. 7 for Online Programs

The part-time MBA program at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business has been ranked the No. 7 online MBA program nationwide by Fortune’s first-ever ranking of this category, announced April 26.

“We’re thrilled to not only be part of the newest Fortune Online MBA rankings, but also to be ranked in the top 10,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the Katz Graduate School. “I’m continually proud of the adaptability of our programs and how our school continues to excel.” 

The ranking takes into account four components: program score, Fortune 1000 score, brand score and prestige score. 

Accounting for the majority of their ranking methodology, the program score outlines incoming student GPA and GMAT numbers, program retention and graduation rates, and program size. The second component, Fortune 1000 score, focuses on the number of MBA alumni who are C-suite level executives at Fortune 1000 companies. Brand score considers surveys of business professionals conducted by Fortune, partnered with Ipsos Global Market Research, while prestige scores focuses on an aggregate of other rankings results, including the Princeton Review, Poets & Quants and U.S. News & World Report. 

“At Katz, we recognize that our students juggle a variety of priorities, and the ability to take classes from anywhere allows them to better balance pursuing their MBA with their personal and professional lives,” said Laura Oknefski, director of graduate programs. “The part-time program also gave us an edge when the pandemic forced all classes online, as many of our faculty already had experience teaching virtually, and we had a robust library of online content that we could quickly adapt and deploy across all of our programs. In creating flexibility for our students, we developed our own adaptability to be able to best serve them, even amidst unprecedented circumstances.”  

Pink flowers with the Cathedral of Learning in the background

Doctoral Candidates Win Dissertation Completion Fellowships

Two Pitt PhD students have been named Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows by the American Council of Learned Societies. The fellowships support promising doctoral students in the humanities and interpretive social sciences with a year of funding designed to help them complete projects that will form the foundations of their scholarly careers. The program, now in its fifteenth year, is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Samuel Boateng from the Department of Music in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is working on a dissertation titled, “Jazz Ghana: Historical Perspectives, Transnational Routes, Space and Sustainability.”

Jennifer M. Farquhar from the Dietrich School’s Department of Anthropology is writing her dissertation, “Human-Environment Interactions: The Role of Foragers in the Development of Mobile Pastoralism in Mongolia's Desert-Steppe.”

Hallway of the Cathedral of Learning, with a student walking in the background

7 Projects Granted Open Educational Resources Funding

The Office of the Provost recently awarded Open Educational Resources (OER) funding to seven projects during the spring 2021 term.

OER funding supports faculty to adapt, adopt or create OER for an existing course. These projects will enhance the educational experiences of Pitt students, save students money on course materials and provide faculty with the ability to customize their courses.

This year’s winners are:

  • OER Development for Physics of the Human Body: Matteo Broccio, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Computational Biology for All! Development of an Interactive, Accessible and Student-customizable Computational Biology Text: Nathan L Brouwer, Department of Biological Sciences, Dietrich School
  • Development of Open Educational Resources Suitable for a Majors Microbiology Course: Candice Damiani and Erica McGreevy, Department of Biological Sciences, Dietrich School
  • Open Interactive Simulations for Teaching Computer Systems: Sherif Khattab, Vinicius Petrucci, Luis Oliveira and Wonsun Ahn, Department of Computer Science, School of Computing and Information
  • OER for Sophomore Level Organic Chemistry: Manisha Nigam, Chemistry Program, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
  • Gender, Education, and Development: Maureen Porter, Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy, School of Education
  • OER for Screenwriters of Digital Media, TV and Film: Christopher Prouty, Film and Media Studies, Dietrich School
Hands on a laptop

Pitt Team Reaches Regional Round of Cyber Defense Competition

The University of Pittsburgh Cyber Competitions team competed against collegiate teams across the nation in the regional final of the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

The team, which consists of four Pitt students, placed 4th out of 25 teams in the Mid-Atlantic region of late February’s qualifying round. There, competing teams were assigned identical environments simulating the assets of a data science-focused group dealing with the pandemic. The teams were tasked to ensure that pandemic-related data from state departments of health were accurate and delivered quickly.

While each competing team was playing as a blue team (system defender), there was a red team (nationally recognized red team members and penetration testers) aiming to impede business continuity and take down the blue team’s services.

The team members are David Ayodele, master’s student in the School of Computing and Information (SCI); Jackson Frank, undergraduate in SCI; Quinnan Gill, undergraduate in the Swanson School of Engineering; and Simon Kioko, undergraduate in SCI. Their faculty advisor is Ahmed Ibrahim, assistant professor in the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems.

Rachelle Brick in a black top and necklace

Rachelle Brick Receives Doctoral Research Scholarship

Rachelle Brick, PhD candidate in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, received the 2021 Dr. Gary Kielhofner Doctoral Research Scholarship for her research titled, "Developing a Stakeholder-Driven Cancer Rehabilitation Intervention for Older Adults with Breast Cancer." Eligibility for the scholarship requires a "dedication to establishing a research agenda to impact the advancement of science for the field of occupational therapy through investigation or development.