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Pitt Engineering Team Wins Award for Big Brain Data Research

The National Science Foundation BIGDATA program awarded $1.2 million to a research team led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering to study data of complex brain disorders and design new algorithms that address computational challenges in multi-site collaborative data mining.

Heng Huang, the Swanson School’s John A. Jurenko Professor of Computer Engineering, is principal investigator of the study. In this project, Huang will create a framework to address these issues and facilitate data and computing resource sharing.

The goal of this project is to ease computational challenges and enable investigators in neuroimaging, genomics, neuroscience and other brain-related disciplines to securely and more efficiently further their research.

Panther head fountain

LifeX to Partner in ‘Liquid Biopsy’ Cancer Diagnostics

GeneNews Limited, which provides innovative solutions for early cancer detection, has announced a partnership with LifeX to develop strategies for incorporating several proprietary early-cancer diagnostics into healthcare settings to improve patient compliance with cancer screening, as well as to bridge diagnostic gaps in current screening procedures.

Early detection of cancer is known to improve outcomes. Toronto-based GeneNews has several tests proven to detect cancer at an early stage using a simple blood test, or “liquid biopsy.”

“Other liquid biopsy companies are focused on monitoring response to chemotherapy or detecting recurrence of tumors after initial treatment,” said LifeX founder Dietrich Stephan.

“GeneNews, one of the pioneers of the liquid biopsy principle, has developed the ‘holy-grail’ — a suite of tests that have the correct sensitivity and specificity to see tumors in Stage 1 and perform correctly as a screening tool at the population level. We look forward to bringing these solutions to the marketplace to make a tangible difference in global health by enabling cures when tumors are most treatable.”

LifeX, based on Pittsburgh’s South Side, develops first-in-class solutions to alleviate suffering and death from prevalent and intractable diseases. The LifeX team partners with innovator-entrepreneurs to unlock the potential of their technologies and deliver them to patients and their physicians across the globe. LifeX was founded with support from the University of Pittsburgh and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

Carson in front of a blue background

Urban Studies Advisor Recognized for Outstanding Work

Carolyn Carson, coordinator and undergraduate advisor in the Urban Studies program and senior lecturer in the Department of History, has been awarded the 2019 Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize for Excellence in Advising. The $4,000 cash award honors outstanding faculty and staff academic undergraduate advisors.

Carson started at Pitt in 1996 and began her advising position in 1998. To be considered for the Ampco-Pittsburgh Prize, faculty members must be nominated by their department chair and two or more undergraduate students whom they have advised.

“This award means a great deal to me,” said Carson. “Most of my time in this position has been spent with students, teaching as well as advising. I have found it to be very rewarding as I have learned a great deal from my students. I am humbled knowing that I have had an impact on their lives. I really love them all and have worked very hard to help them get the most out of their experiences here as they prepare for the future. I am extremely grateful that they recognized the effort and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

Evans in front of a dark background

Katz Accounting Professor Receives Lifetime Contribution Award

John H. Evans III, the Katz Alumni Professor of Accounting and professor of business administration at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, received the 2019 AAA Lifetime Contribution Award for his 40-plus years of research and teachings of key management accounting issues and other contributions to the profession.

Given by the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the award recognizes professionals who have made a significant contribution to management accounting education, research and practice. The award is given on behalf of the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which distinguishes a unique group of 150,000 management accountants worldwide who have reached the highest benchmark of quality and competency.

Evans has received numerous awards for his research, including the Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award from the AAA in 2012 and the Best Paper Award for the Management Accounting Section from the Journal of Management Accounting in 2012. He is also recognized for his excellence in teaching. In 2011, he was honored with the University of Pittsburgh’s Provost Award for Excellence in Mentoring and has been named teacher of the year numerous times.

Murphy in a blue shirt and black blazer

SHRS’s Emily Murphy Earns ‘Educator of the Year’ Honor

Emily Murphy, an assistant professor and clinical coordinator in the University of Pittsburgh Physician Assistant Studies Program won the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants’s Physician Assistant Educator of the Year Award.

It’s the second year in a row that a Pitt physician assistant faculty member has received this honor — David Beck, an assistant professor in the program, receiving the award last year.

The PA program is part of Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. It is committed to the development of highly qualified physician assistants who will serve as tomorrow’s leaders in the delivery of health care, patient education and professional service.

Kitzes in front of a blue background

Justin Kitzes Receives Grant From Microsoft and National Geographic to Study Bird Songs

Justin Kitzes, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been awarded a $91,000 grant from Microsoft and National Geographic AI for Earth Innovation to develop the first free, open source models to allow academic researchers, agencies, non-profits and citizen-scientists to identify bird songs in acoustic field recordings. The goal is to use the system to improve research and conservation efforts by monitoring bird species population change. Work is expected to kick off in early 2019, with the models and associated software to be released by the end of the year.

Petek in front of a tree-filled landscape

Hrvoje Petek Honored by American Chemical Society

Hrvoje Petek, R.K. Mellon Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has received the Ahmed Zewali Award in Ultrafast Science & Technology from the American Chemical Society. Petek will be honored during an awards ceremony April 2 during the 257th ACS national meeting in Orlando. The award is sponsored by the Ahmed Zewali Endowment fund established by Newport.

panther statue in front of a lush green background

Six Receive Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability Awards

Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) has named the 2019 awardees in the John C. Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability.  

The program is designed to enhance the University’s mission of interdisciplinary excellence in research and education. Faculty from all Pitt schools and disciplines are eligible to apply as faculty fellows, faculty scholars or faculty lecturers.

Awards are for one year with the option for renewal for an additional year for the Mascaro fellowships and scholarships.

During the year, fellows are expected to contribute to intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and/or education as well as help to team-teach one sustainability course as part of the University’s undergraduate certificate in sustainability and master’s degree in sustainable engineering.

photo of the sign

Historical Marker on Campus Celebrates City’s Early Radium Industry Ties

A Pennsylvania Historical Marker commemorating Standard Chemical Company and its role in radium production has been dedicated outside Allen Hall.

Already famous for steel, Pittsburgh became the worldwide center for radium production in the early 20th century thanks to the entrepreneurship of brothers J.J. and Joseph Flannery, founders of Standard Chemical Co.

Their company, founded in 1913 and headquartered at Forbes and Meyran Avenue in Oakland, was the nation’s first commercial producer of radium.

By 1920, Standard Chemical radium researchers Glenn D. Kammer and Henry J. Koenig, two 1912 graduates of Pitt’s School of Chemistry, were supervising the production of more than two-thirds of the world’s radium.

The company produced the gram of radium that was presented to French physicist Marie Curie in 1921 as a gift from the women of America. During her tour of the U.S., Curie asked to visit Standard Chemical’s headquarters and production facilities. She also was conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Pittsburgh in a convocation at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.

Flannery family members, including Sarah Flannery Hardon, great-great granddaughter of J.J. Flannery, were among the guests at the Nov. 12 marker dedication.


University of Pittsburgh Press Publication in Running for America Literary Award

A University of Pittsburgh Press publication has landed on the PEN America Literary Awards longlist for 2019.  

Shauna Barbosa’s “Cape Verdean Blues” is a semi-finalist in the PEN Open Book Award category. This specific award honors “an exceptional book-length work of any genre by an author of color, published in the United States.” A collection of poetry, “Cape Verdean Blues” addresses Barbosa’s upbringing as a Cape Verdean living in Boston.

The PEN America Literary Awards honor “literary excellence and celebrate voices that challenge, inform, and inspire.” The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in February.

DeMarco in a pink top in front of green leaves

Pitt Alumna, Sustainability Advocate Receives Visionary Award

Patricia DeMarco (A&S ’68, ’71G) recently received the Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light Visionary Award, after publishing a book on sustainability with the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The annual award honors “a Pennsylvania visionary who has engaged in significant actions ‘to tend and sustain’ the earth and all its creatures.”

In her book, “Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective,” DeMarco uses Rachel Carson as inspiration to explore Pittsburgh’s path to achieving a sustainable future — and the challenges the city faces.

A Pittsburgh native, DeMarco is a councilwoman for the Borough of Forest Hills, Pennsylvania. She formerly served as executive director of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association and director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University.

a statue of a panther on the campus

Pitt–Greensburg Nursing Program Awarded $1.5 Million

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg was recently awarded $1.5 million in grant money by the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation in support of a growing nursing degree program at the school.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is in its second year at the Greensburg campus and follows the same curriculum as the Pitt School of Nursing, the latter of which is consistently ranked among the top 10 nursing schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

The foundation has supported a wide range of important initiatives at the Greensburg campus throughout the years, including supporting two academic building on campus, McKenna Hall and Frank A. Cassell Hall; upgrading and improving technology resources; and helping to address economic growth and revitalization through the Smart Growth Partnership

Leland in a dark sweater in front of a tan background

Natalie Leland Named Fellow of Gerontological Society

Natalie Leland, an associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, has been named a fellow of The Gerontological Society of America.

Leland's research focuses on understanding and improving care quality for older adults, with a particular interest in how occupational therapy can contribute to interdisciplinary patient-centered outcomes.

The society is the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging. The status of fellow — the highest class of membership within the society — is an acknowledgment of outstanding and continuing work in gerontology. Leland was one of 89 fellows selected for the class of 2018.

Doiron in a collar shirt in front of a blue background

Brent Doiron Joins NIH BRAIN Initiative as Theoretical Neuroscience Investigator

Brent Doiron, a professor in the Department of Mathematics, will work with a team from Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute to develop mathematical models of the brain’s primary visual cortex.

The effort is supported by a five year, $16.75 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s BRAIN Initiative. Doiron will serve as a theoretical neuroscience investigator, receiving $1.7M for his investigations as part of the grant. Doiron, who’s also a member of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, collaborates extensively with faculty in other departments to advance theoretical models of brain activity and cognition.

Chimielus in a suit and tie

Swanson School and General Carbide Team Up for 3D Printing Advancement

Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering is collaborating with General Carbide Corporation in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to research better base powders and 3D printing methods for more effective and economical use of tungsten carbide in additive manufacturing.

The project was financed in part by a $57,529 grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and the first round of the PA Manufacturing Innovation Program. Cost share from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and General Carbide will provide a total funding of $145,000.

Pitt’s principal investigator for this project is Markus Chmielus, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Freitag in a black and white striped shirt in front of a window

Student Thomas Freitag Wins Top Scholarship for LGBT STEM Undergraduates

Thomas Freitag won the top undergraduate National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) Out to Innovate scholarship. The $5,000 scholarships are intended for undergraduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics programs who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or an active ally of the LGBT community.

Freitag is in their third year at Pitt, double majoring in neuroscience and psychology with minors in chemistry and social work. After graduation, they plan to pursue a medical degree and a master’s in public health. They intend to work in psychiatry and public health policy focusing on issues affecting LGBT and associated communities and to conduct research on health disparities among underprivileged communities.

Freitag’s achievement follows a summer interning with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs. Freitag received a David C. Frederick Public Service Internship Award, which provides a stipend so students with an interest in leadership and community service can pursue unpaid public service internships. As an intern with the City of Philadelphia, Freitag helped craft groundbreaking legislation to make tax documents gender-neutral, which removed barriers and will help to streamline legal proceedings.

three young women packing a stack of books

Office of Child Development Donates Resources to Children in Squirrel Hill

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development held a book drive to provide resources for children affected by gun violence in Squirrel Hill and the surrounding community.

Pitt students, staff and faculty have started delivering the nearly 3,000 books to approximately 200 schools and early childcare facilities, just in time for the holidays. They plan to finish their deliveries in January.

The Pitt community and people from across the country donated the books, which will be used to help local children heal and embrace diversity.

“The outpouring of donations and support we’ve received has been remarkable, and we are hopeful that the Office of Child Development can deliver even more resources to help children process fear and embrace diversity,” said Director Shannon Wanless.

The Office of Child Development and its partners in the Pitt Early Childhood Community, including Falk School, the University Child Development Center and early childhood programs in Pitt’s School of Education, are part of this ongoing effort.

Woman riding bike in a Pitt shirt

Pitt’s Bike-friendly Efforts Recognized

Each year, the League of American Bicyclists recognizes colleges and universities that support bicycling with its Bicycle Friendly University status. This year, Pitt earned the status with a bronze distinction, joining nearly 200 other universities on the overall list.

“This is the first year we applied for recognition on campus, but we have had the infrastructure and programs in place for quite some time,” said Jeff Yeaman, senior manager, Department of Parking, Transportation and Services. Yeaman cited specific examples like the bike rooms in Nordenberg Hall and fix-it stations around campus as evidence of Pitt’s commitment to being a bike-friendly campus.

The league’s bronze distinction recognizes institutions that have taken notable steps in supporting bicycling for recreation and tranporation, which can be seen in above-average numbers of students, faculty and staff riding bikes. The league scores institutions that apply for distinction across five categories, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.

Read more information about the distinction process online.

Architectural detail in nationality room

Nationality Rooms on National Geographic Traveller UK’s ‘The Cool List 2019’

The Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh were named on the “The Cool List 2019” by National Geographic Traveller UK.

The article features 19 “destinations set to hit the headlines” in the year 2019, and names Pittsburgh as one of its “must-see” sites, with a mention of the Nationality Rooms.

The 30 Nationality Rooms inside the University’s Cathedral of Learning represent different cultures from the world. Most also function as classrooms, and the public is available to tour the rooms year-round. The 31st room, the Philippine Nationality Room, will be dedicated in a June 2019 ceremony.

Headshot of Tao Han in sweater and collared shirt

Tao Han Elected Vice Chair at the American Physical Society

Tao Han, Distinguished Professor of High Energy Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been elected vice chair of the executive committee for American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields.

The American Physical Society represents more than 55,000 physicists across the globe and uses advocacy, research journals, meetings and other forms of outreach to promote its work. Han will begin his duties in January 2019 and will assume as chair in 2021.