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H2P spelled out in sparklers in the dark

Engineering E-Car Team Qualifies for National Competition in the Fall

Undergraduate students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering brought two cars sailing to the finish line in this year’s Regional Chem-E-Car Competition at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) MidAtlantic Regional Student Conference. Their placements qualify them to compete in the AIChE Chem-E-Car International Competition at the AIChE Annual Conference, held in Orlando, Florida, in November. Read more and see a photo of the team at the Swanson school website.

Psychiatry Professor Mary Ganguli Honored With Distinguished Scientist Award

Mary Ganguli, professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and neurology in Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry, was recently given the 2019 Distinguished Scientist Award by the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry.

Ganguli received the award in recognition of her many years of significant contributions to the field and her mentorship of successful junior researchers in the field of geriatric psychiatry.

Ganguli has conducted seminal research on the epidemiology of the aging brain and late life mental disorders and is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of geriatric psychiatry.

Two people in silhouette walking on Pitt campus with sunlight breaking through

Pitt+Me Registry Tops 200,000 Participants

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of Pittsburgh announced that the Pitt+Me® Registry — currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary — enrolled its 200,000th participant in March 2019.

This large and diverse group of adult and pediatric participants helps Pitt and UPMC researchers make groundbreaking discoveries, gives Western Pennsylvanians access to innovative research studies, and contributes to advancing exceptional medical care across the region.

Recognizing the need for an innovative way to connect people with research opportunities, CTSI Director Steven Reis, MD, started the registry in 2008, with just 4,200 participants and 75 studies using the service during its first year. Participants may join research studies to find treatments for their own health conditions, to advance knowledge in the hopes of preventing disease in the next generation, or to help move science forward in general. Many studies also provide compensation for a participant’s time and effort. Since 2008, Pitt+Me has assisted with more than 1,000 research studies and made over 123,000 participant referrals to study teams.

Michel Gobat headshot

Michel Gobat Named Finalist for PROSE Award

Michel Gobat, associate professor in the Department of History, has been named a finalist for the 2019 PROSE Awards for his book, “Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America.”

Each year, the Association of American Publishers presents its PROSE Awards to “recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content.”

Gobat’s book centers around William Walker, a believer in the nation’s manifest destiny, and the “untold story” of the rise and fall of the first U.S. overseas empire in Nicaragua.

Sweet wearing a bright red collared shirt

Robert Sweet Honored By American College of Psychiatrists

Robert Sweet, a UPMC Endowed Professor in Psychiatric Neuroscience and Professor of Neurology and Clinical and Translational Science at Pitt, was recently given the Award for Research in Geriatric Psychiatry by the American College of Psychiatrists.

Sweet is recognized internationally for his investigation of the mechanisms which lead to the generation of psychotic symptoms that are core features of schizophrenia, but also occur in about 50% of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

His research suggests there are common genetic risk factors and vulnerable brain circuits that act together to cause positive symptoms across these disorders. 

Reed in a maroon baseball cap

Justin Phillip Reed Named Fellow in Creative Writing at CAAPP

The Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) has named Justin Phillip Reed as its new creative writing fellow.

The Fellowship in Creative Writing at CAAPP was established in 2017 as a two-year opportunity to provide an early-career poet with time and space to pursue their own creative work while they participate in community and classroom activities at the University.

A South Carolina native, Reed is the author of Indecency, which won the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry and was a finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He also wrote the chapbook A History of Flamboyance. Reed earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing at Tusculum College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry at Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as junior writer-in-residence. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Conversation Literary Festival and the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. His work has also been featured in Best American Essays.

"We're extremely excited that poet and essayist Justin Phillip Reed will be joining us as the next CAAPP Fellow,” said Dawn Lundy Martin, director of CAAPP. “We have every confidence that whatever he does during his two years at Pitt will be important to the literary community writ large, and we have every confidence that he will contribute in beautiful and unexpected ways to intellectual and creative life in Pittsburgh." 

Housed within Pitt’s Department of English in the Dietrich School, CAAPP was founded in 2016 as a creative think tank for African American and African diasporic poetries and poetics. Its mission is to highlight, promote and share the work of African American and African diasporic poets and to pollinate cross-disciplinary conversation and collaboration.

Larkins-Pettigrew with her hand on her chin

Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will be honored with the Gateway Medical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Larkins-Pettigrew, who is a former president of the society, is a Pitt alum. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree, a baccalaureate degree in nursing, and a master’s in public policy and international affairs from the University. She is currently the Edgar B. Jackson Chair for Clinical Excellence and Diversity, heads the Office of Community Impact, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also an assistant dean in the Office of Student Affairs at Case Western Reserve University and heads global health programs in her discipline. 

She is the founder of W.O.N.D.O.O.R. (one door), Women and Newborns, Diversity, Outreach, Opportunity and Research, an innovative program that educates global physicians, students, residents and junior faculty through local and international health care collaborations.

The Gateway Medical Society is a component of the National Medical Association, whose objectives are to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health.

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.