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September 5, 2018
Chemistry’s Kabirul Islam Awarded $650,000 from NSF to Study Cell Lineage
Kabirul Islam, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Chemistry, recently won a three-year $650,000 grant from the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences area of the National Science Foundation to develop answer a central question in mammalian biology: how is it that identical DNA in an organism can create diverse cell lineages?
The grant funds an integrated chemical biology research and educational program, which will reprogram expression of genes that underlie cell division, differentiation, lineage and ultimately, organismal development.
“The interdisciplinary research setting that brings together organic synthesis, protein engineering and cell biology, will provide a unique training ground for graduate and undergraduate students,” Islam said.
September 5, 2018
Law Alumnus Appointed Staff Judge Advocate to Commandant of Marine Corps
The Department of Defense has announced that Marine Corps Col. Daniel J. Lecce (LAW ’87), has been promoted to major general. He will be the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the senior legal adviser in the Marine Corps. Among Lecce’s personal awards are the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
Lecce will join fellow Pitt alum Brigadier General John G. Baker (LAW ’97) as the only active duty Marine Judge Advocate general officers.
September 4, 2018
Med Students Receive Innovative Programming Award at Family Physicians Conference
The Family Medicine Interest Group at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine received the 2018 Award of Excellence for Innovative Programming at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) National Conference in Kansas City in early August.
Elise Pearson (left) and Sarah Minney (right), both members of the Pitt School of Medicine’s Class of 2020, accepted the award on behalf of the group, which promotes advocacy, service and education regarding current issues in family medicine. Both are coordinators for the group.
The group’s initiatives, which helped earn them the award, included connecting with local organizations to offer blood pressure and blood sugar screenings at health fairs, holding a fundraiser and day of service benefiting a local food pantry, hosting a family medicine mixer event for students to meet family medicine physicians in an informal setting, and participating in the creation of a five-session mini-elective for students called “Transitions: Primary Care’s Role in Addiction Medicine.”
August 31, 2018
Diane Litman Awarded Research Grant from Institute of Education Sciences
Diane Litman, director of the Intelligent Systems Program, professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information and senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), has been awarded a research grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to study undergraduate STEM education.
With colleagues Muhsin Menekse and Ala Samarapungavan of Purdue University, Litman will pursue research titled “Enhancing Undergraduate STEM Education by Integrating Mobile Learning Technologies with Natural Language Processing.” In this project, the researchers will use the mobile application CourseMIRROR in large science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lectures to monitor student engagement and the effect of feedback on learning. Developed by researchers at LRDC, CourseMIRROR is a mobile application that prompts students to reflect on their learning in the classroom. It also provides immediate and continuous feedback to instructors about the difficulties that their students encounter, providing insight to instructors on what was and was not learned.
This grant is under the program Postsecondary and Adult Education, which strives to support research for the betterment of student education at both the college level and in adult education programs.
August 31, 2018
Interim Executive Director Named at Institute for Learning
There is a new leader at the helm at Pitt’s Institute for Learning (IFL). Rose E. Apodaca, who is nationally recognized with a proven track record in improving equitable outcomes for underserved students, is the new interim executive director of the IFL, which is part of Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center. Apodaca most recently served as director of outreach and development at the IFL, and prior to that, she was a senior cabinet-level officer in large urban school districts, a teacher and a principal of a foreign language school. She also led bilingual education programs for three major urban districts and served as an expert witness in federal court on the teaching and learning of English language learners.
Said Anthony Petrosky, IFL codirector and associate dean of Pitt’s School of Education: “Under Rosita’s leadership, the IFL will continue its important work in urban schools while growing its national and international presence. She exemplifies the bold thinking and action needed to ensure that every child receives the best educational opportunities.”
August 30, 2018
Physics Student Conducts Research at CERN with ThinkSwiss Scholarship
Andrew Aukerman spent the summer researching at the world’s largest particle physics lab with the ThinkSwiss Scholarship.
He conducted research with the ATLAS experiment at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland. His project focused on particles called Higgsinos, the theorized super-partners to the Higgs boson. He also conducted archival research at the CERN library to investigate the impact that CERN has had on regional and global politics.
August 29, 2018
Bernard Rousseau Named Chair of Department of Communication Science and Disorders
The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) has named Bernard Rousseau as the new chair of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. He will officially assume his position on Sept. 1, 2018.
Rousseau joins Pitt from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he most recently served as associate vice chair for research and director of the Laryngeal Biology Laboratory, and as chancellor faculty fellow and associate professor of otolaryngology, hearing and speech sciences and mechanical engineering.
Two National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded research projects are coming to Pitt with Rousseau, along with a majority of his research team from Vanderbilt. The first project focuses on improving outcomes for patients with unilateral vocal fold paralysis through innovative technology designed to improve pre-operative surgical planning. The second project seeks to determine the safety and efficacy of treatments for voice disorders.
“As I step into my new role at Pitt, I am energized by the fact that the university and the city of Pittsburgh have all the necessary ingredients to truly advance the study of communication science and disorders,” said Rousseau. “The outstanding faculty, the clinical infrastructure, and the exciting opportunities to leverage and strengthen partnerships across the various schools, programs and highly ranked departments at Pitt will allow us to take this program and this field to the next level.”
August 29, 2018
Swanson School Pair Receives Gilliam Fellowship
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has selected Swanson School of Engineering PhD student Emily Ackerman (pictured, left) and her thesis adviser Jason Shoemaker as one of 45 doctoral student-adviser pairs to receive a 2018 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study. The Gilliam Fellowships encourage a more diverse and inclusive environment in science and academia. Each pair will receive an annual award totaling $50,000 — which includes a stipend, a training allowance and an institutional allowance — for up to three years. As part of their three-year grant, Ackerman and Shoemaker will organize a symposium at the University that will examine science, technology and diversity. Ackerman is pursuing her doctorate in chemical engineering, and Shoemaker is an assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering.
August 28, 2018
Pitt Cyber Announces First Awardees of Accelerator Grants Program
Pitt's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security has announced the first 10 awardees of the first cycle of its Accelerator Grants Program. The honorees will receive funding for projects designed to advance Pitt Cyber’s mission to investigate critical questions surrounding technology law, policy and security.
Awards have been granted to: Kevin Ashley, professor of law and intelligent systems; Matthias Grabmair, Carnegie Mellon University Systems Scientist; Julia Santucci, senior lecturer, intelligence studies; Daniel Cole, associate professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Alex K. Jones, professor of electrical and computer engineering, Swanson School of Engineering; Bo Zeng, assistant professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Zhi-Hong Mao, associate professor, Swanson School of Engineering; Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor Swanson School of Engineering; Mai Abdelhakim; visiting assistant professor School of Computing and Information; James Joshi, professor School of Computing and Information; Balaji Palanisamy, assistant professor School of Computing and Information.
August 27, 2018
4 Students and Alumni Named 2018 Critical Language Scholars
Five University of Pittsburgh students and alumni have been named 2018 Critical Language Scholars, an overseas intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment program designed to promote rapid language gains.
Joseph Acevedo, a Marine Corps veteran and junior majoring in Russian and Economics and minoring in Chinese with certificates in Russian and East European Studies and Asian Studies, will study Hindi in Jaipur, India.
Matt Eskuchen, a current Boren Scholar in China, this August will receive a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences, a Chemistry minor; and a Conceptual Foundations of Medicine certificate. He will study Mandarin in Tainan, Taiwan.
The Critical Language Scholarship is a program of the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
August 27, 2018
Physical Therapy Students Win Annual Donation Challenge
Physical therapy students at the University of Pittsburgh took first place in the 2017-2018 Mercer-Marquette Challenge by raising $50,552 for the Foundation for Physical Therapy. They also earned the title of "Leaders Society" for bringing the University’s total donations to more than $600,000 over the last 30 years. Students from Pitt’s Department of Physical Therapy, which is part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, have won the challenge 15 times in its 30-year history.
The money raised in the annual challenge helps fund scholarships and grants that advance patient care. The challenge also supports the rigorous scientific review process for all foundation grants and scholarships. See a photo of the team.
August 22, 2018
Pitt BYO[Bag] Featured in 2018 Sustainable Campus Index
Pitt’s BYO[Bag] reusable shopping bag program is among the impactful initiatives highlighted in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) 2018 Sustainable Campus Index.
To encourage use of reusable bags at Pitt, after the first two weeks of each term, students pay 25 cents for a plastic bag at campus dining or bookstore locations. Half the proceeds from the fee and from sales of BYO[Bag] reusable bags go to the Pitt Green Fund to support other sustainability initiatives.
The program, one of many Pitt dining sustainability initiatives, has cut the number of plastic bags used at campus dining locations and book stores by 98 percent — from 30,000 per week to about 600 per week, said Nick Goodfellow, sustainability coordinator for Sodexo Dining Services at Pitt.
That’s more than 1.3 million bags saved and nearly $6,500 raised for the Pitt Green Fund since BYO[Bag] launched in 2014.
The AASHE Sustainable Campus Index recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 sustainability impact areas, as measured by the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), and highlights innovative and high-impact initiatives from STARS institutions.
Pitt achieved a STARS Silver rating its first-ever STARS submission this year.
August 15, 2018
Kirk Holbrook to Lead Pitt’s Hill District Community Engagement Center
Kirk Holbrook has been named director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Hill District Community Engagement Center (CEC).
Holbrook, a resident of the Hill District, most recently was chief of staff in the district office of State Representative Jake Wheatley. He previously was a community organizer for A+ Schools and program director for the Hill House Association.
“Kirk’s deep connections to the Hill District and record of community engagement will ensure the Hill District CEC fulfills its mission,” said Lina Dostilio, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement. “His strength as an organizer and leader will allow him to be a trusted bridge between campus and community.”
Pitt’s CECs, announced in 2016 as an initiative of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s office, aim to strengthen communities by coordinating University activities already underway and building alliances within city neighborhoods that are eager to partner with Pitt. The CECs are guided by an internal advisory council and neighborhood advisory councils.
August 15, 2018
School of Medicine’s Roderick Tan Wins Grant to Research Blood Vessels in Kidney
Roderick Tan, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Renal-Electrolyte at Pitt’s Department of Medicine, has been awarded the 2018 Edith H. Blattner Grant Young Investigator Grant from the National Kidney Foundation for research that will use high-resolution ultrasound to closely examine the human kidney’s vital small blood vessels.
Tan received the grant as part of the NKF Young Investigator Research Grant Program, which strives to improve the quality of life for those with kidney disease by funding scientists in their research to discover the causes of kidney disease, how to prevent its progression and ways to improve treatment for those living with it.
August 8, 2018
Pharmacy’s Jennifer Pruskowski Receives New Clinical Practitioner Award
Jennifer Pruskowski, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, is the recipient of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy’s 2018 New Clinical Practitioner Award.
This annual award recognizes a member who has made outstanding contributions to the health of patients and to the practice of clinical pharmacy. The award is given to those who are less than six years past completion of their pharmacy training.
Pruskowski’s research interests include education of effective and safe use of medication for palliative care patients, development of institute-wide, evidence-based pain and symptom management treatment algorithms, management of delirium at the end of life and refractory pain, and the role of pharmacists on the improvement of health-related functions and quality of life for palliative care patients.
August 8, 2018
Hesselbein Global Academy Celebrates 10 Years of Nurturing the Next Generation of Leaders
The Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement brought students from 15 countries to Pittsburgh for a four-day Student Leadership Summit in July. Delegates participated in workshops, service projects, attended lectures and dined with local Pittsburgh leaders in every sector. Over its history, student leaders from 72 countries have participated.
Tapping an alumni network of nearly 500, the Hesselbein Global Academy also welcomed back speakers and mentors to inspire this year’s cohort. Luis Miranda, a 2012 participant, spoke about his struggles and triumphs in international peace keeping efforts, specifically with the Colombian peace process. Aster Teclay, a 2009 participant and a 2010 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, stressed the importance of self-belief. “If your actions inspire others to learn more, become more, you are a leader,” said Teclay, senior project manager at the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.
Major General Randall Fullhart, Commandant of the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, was honored this year for being a Hesselbein Global Academy mentor for all 10 years of the program’s existence.
Pitt launched the Hesselbein Global Academy as a way of honoring the legacy of Frances Hesselbein (pictured), one of the most highly respected experts in the field of leadership development. For more about this year’s event, visit the Student Affairs website or watch a recap.
August 7, 2018
Joseph Glorioso Awarded $500,000 to Advance Melanoma Vaccine
Glorioso and University of Pennsylvania microbiology professor Gary H. Cohen will share a $500,000, two-year grant to advance a vaccine for melanoma. Their research builds on previously successful results using a tumor-targeted, actively replicating herpes virus to infiltrate cancers and stimulate an immune system assault.
Glorioso calls the methodology a “heat-seeking missile that targets metastatic cancer for destruction.” Once the cancer is eliminated, the vaccine inserts an immunity barrier to protect against recurrence. Melanoma is among the most deadly cancers and this treatment offers new hope.
Glorioso, who founded the Pitt medical school’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 1989, is a pioneer in the design and application of herpes simplex virus gene vectors.
August 7, 2018
Mostafa Bedewy Awarded $330,000 National Science Foundation Grant
Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded $330,000 by the National Science Foundation to better understand and control the internal structure of nanotube-based materials for emerging applications.
Carbon nanotubes are hollow, cylindrical nanostructures made of carbon atoms. They are smaller than one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. These nanotubes are used in a variety of commercial products from baseball bats and bicycle frames to aerospace structures. They also have a tensile strength 20 times higher than steel and an electrical conductivity 10 times that of copper. Read more about his work.
August 6, 2018
Pitt–Johnstown Hosts 10th Annual Older Youth Retreat
Some 100 teenagers who are about to or who have recently transitioned from foster care are convening on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus starting Aug. 6 for the tenth annual 2018 Older Youth Retreat — an event that welcomes foster teens from across Pennsylvania for activities and workshops in a college campus setting. From rural areas in Butler County or the urban core of Philadelphia, these teens convene to begin charting a course for their future, alongside others who have experienced substitute care.
“They work on goal setting, planning, advocacy, leadership and building relationships, all while experiencing college life with its structure and support,” said Helen Cahalane (pictured), principal investigator of Pitt’s Child Welfare Education and Research Programs, within the School of Social Work. The school, along with the state Department of Human Services’s Office of Children, Youth and Families hosts the event, with support from several partners across the state. In its ten years, the retreat has supported more than 1,000 young people ages 16 to 21.
“We’re helping youth create positive change in the child welfare system,” said Cahalane.
August 1, 2018
Giannis Mpourmpakis Named Emerging Investigator by American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data named Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, an “Emerging Investigator” in a special issue of the publication. The issue highlights work from 25 researchers at the forefront of their discipline. Mpourmpakis contributed his paper “Understanding the Gas Phase Chemistry of Alkanes with First-Principles Calculations” to the ACS special issue. Read more about the paper and his work at the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab.