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Collaborative Program Provides Funding for High Need Special Education Professionals

Tessa McCarthy and Doug Kostewicz, faculty members in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education's Department of Instruction and Learning, will be co-principal investigators on Project Certifying Orientation and Mobility/Behavior Specialists (COMBS), a professional training grant funded by the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for $1.1 million over the next five years.

The purpose of Project COMBS is to provide tuition assistance for master’s level students who wish to pursue degrees in either orientation and mobility or applied behavior analysis and work with blind or visually impaired students upon graduation. The project focuses on giving certified teachers of visually impaired students the opportunity to become highly qualified, highly collaborative professionals who also are certified as orientation and mobility, and behavior specialists.

Fifteen scholars studying Vision Studies will have the opportunity to add certification as an orientation and mobility specialist and certification as a behavior specialist to their prerequisite certification as a teacher of students with visual impairments. Nine scholars focusing on applied behavior analysis will have the opportunity to gain additional expertise in working with students who are blind or visually impaired in order to implement more accessible interventions and assist with identification and referrals of students who are blind and visually impaired.

Aryana Nakhai headshot

Swanson School Student Aryana Nakhai Receives Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has selected Aryana Nakhai, a University of Pittsburgh undergraduate electrical engineering student, as the recipient of its 2018 Lockheed Martin Corporation Scholarship totaling $2,500 for the 2018-19 academic year. 

“This award is recognition of Aryana’s incredible passion for power systems and electrical engineering, and it speaks to the engineering community’s confidence that she will contribute great things during her professional career,” said Gregory Reed, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering and director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute.

Nakhai has been a member of Pitt SWE since her freshman year in 2014.

Nakhai is studying electrical engineering with a concentration on power systems. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2018 and plans to pursue a master’s degree at Pitt after graduation.


Cathedral of Learning against backdrop of blue sky with clouds

Psychology and Engineering Team Up for Longitudinal Look at Brain Aging Disparities

Pitt professors of psychology Anna Marsland and Peter Gianaros have received a five-year Research Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health to revisit decade-old data from Pittsburgh residents. They’re trying to understand what aspects of health and the social environment matter for brain aging among middle-aged people. The work is part of a larger project that was initiated by Stephen Manuck, Distinguished University Professor of Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, called the Adult Health and Behavior Project.

Now, Marsland and Gianaros are teaming up with associate professor of bioengineering and radiology Tamer Ibrahim, director of the Radiofrequency (RF) Research Facility, to bring as many of the initial participants back into the lab for testing as possible, 10 and 15 years after they were originally seen.

The unique imaging technology developed in the RF Research Facility will let Marsland and Gianaros use an unconventional form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain in a level of detail that ordinary MRI techniques can’t achieve. With this new level of detail, the psychology-engineering team can link current features of brain health to prior information about inflammation, heart health and many other factors that influence memory, thinking, attention, and other phenomena sensitive to aging.

Being able to predict brain aging starting in midlife could be critically important for prevention and intervention — helping reduce health disparities that follow a social and economic gradient, said Marsland. “We’re trying to encourage participants to stay involved.”

Said Gianaros: “It’s important for us to show them how much we care about them and how important they are. If we see them one time, that’s great; they’ve made a contribution to science. But our interest is really more dynamic in how people change in their life. A snapshot is not the same thing as a movie.”Anna Marsland, Peter Gianaros and Tamer Ibrahim headshots

Cathedral of Learning against backdrop of blue sky with clouds

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher Announces First-ever Pitt Seed Project Recipients

Twenty-three projects supporting the University of Pittsburgh’s strategic goals will receive funding from the new Pitt Seed Project, allowing faculty and staff to develop their ideas for transforming the University.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the new initiative earlier this year, and received 171 applications for funding. The awardees were chosen after 125 faculty and staff members spent weeks reviewing the proposals.

The entries represent a wide range of interests and individuals within the University and all six goals within the Plan for Pitt. Funded projects come from areas including critical care medicine, Africana studies, bioengineering, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Research, law and computer science.

The complete list of awardees gives a brief description of the project and names the office or department and the lead applicant associated with each proposal.

Innovation Institute Recognized at Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute was recognized for its commitment to building programs that accelerate innovations from the laboratory and research into commercialization at the recent Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. “It is an honor to receive the Deshpande Symposium award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization,” said Rob Rutenbar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for research.

“This award is a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Innovation Institute staff, and of the commitment of Pitt leadership to growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University. While proud of our progress, we understand that innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education is a relatively young and ever-evolving domain, and we look forward to continuing to share our experience, while learning from our colleagues at other institutions. This is the value that Deshpande Symposium brings to us all,” he added.

The Deshpande Symposium Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship on college campuses.

David Vorp Named Fellow of the American Heart Association

David A. Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) in recognition of his innovative and sustained contributions in scholarship, education and volunteer service to the organization. Vorp’s election was conferred by the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) recognizing his work in those fields over the past 26 years. 

Vorp has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles and currently serves on three editorial boards. His research has been supported by over $14 million from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and other sources. He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and is a co-founder of Neograft Technologies, Inc., a startup that uses technology developed in his lab to help produce arterial vein grafts. Read more about the honor.

Education Faculty Awarded Federal Funds for Urban Special Education Doctoral Program

A group of faculty from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education recently received a leadership training grant from the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for a new urban special education program. The grant, which totals more than $1 million, will operate the Urban Special Education Scholars (USES) program as a collaboration between Pitt’s Special Education Program and the Center for Urban Education. Doug Kostewicz, associate professor of Instruction and Learning, leads the team which includes IL’s associate professor Sheila Conway and assistant professor Rachel Robertson, along with Rich Milner, professor and director of the Center for Urban Education, and Lori Delale-O'Connor, assistant professor and CUE’s associate director of research.

USES is a four-year program designed to prepare a team of five special education doctoral graduates with a focus in implementing multi-tiered systems of supports in urban settings starting in fall 2018. Scholars will be prepared to provide in-service and pre-service preparation for teachers of high-need students with disabilities, to conduct and publish scholarly research that furthers the knowledge base and improves practice, and to serve in positions of leadership at local, state or national levels. Additionally, the program requires fellows spend two semesters supporting special education teachers and students with special needs in an inclusive, high-poverty, high-needs school. Upon graduation and employment, the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh will continue to support fellows through an induction program.

Belle in a light blue collared shirt in front of a splotchy gray background

Public Health’s Steven Belle Named Society for Clinical Trials Fellow

Steven Belle, co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, has been named a fellow of the Society for Clinical Trials.

Belle was recognized for his outstanding leadership of data coordination for several multicenter studies of surgical outcomes and other treatment trials across a wide range of conditions and applications, including obesity and liver disease. He was also cited for his work combining information across multiple clinical trials.

His work has also aided in research and treatments for conditions including hepatitis C, pediatric acute liver failure, liver transplantation and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharrad in a blue top

Aurora Sharrard Appointed Pitt's First-ever Director of Sustainability

Aurora Sharrard, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance, has been named the University’s first Director of Sustainability. She will assume her new role on July 9, reporting to Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations Gregory A. Scott.

Pitt’s new Office of Sustainability was established to coordinate the University’s many sustainability initiatives, foster collaboration and monitor progress toward the bold goals outlined in the Pitt Sustainability Plan.

Sharrard earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Tulane University and holds master’s and PhD degrees in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University. During her 11-year tenure at the Green Building Alliance, Sharrard co-founded the Pittsburgh 2030 District, convened the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and created Pittsburgh Green Story to highlight the region’s sustainability achievements.

Eight Boren Awardees Set New Record for Pitt

The National Security Education Program has recognized eight University of Pittsburgh students with Boren Awards — Pitt’s largest number of Boren awardees. These study-abroad awards enable their recipients to further their studies of “languages and cultures most critical to our nation’s security.” This is the 25th consecutive year that Pitt students have won this prestigious award.

The Boren Scholarship was awarded to five seniors:

And three graduate students received Boren Fellowships:

After returning to the United States, the Boren recipients will work in a federal government agency for a minimum of a year. Visit for more information about the Boren Awards.

fireworks at night spelling h2p

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Gives Pitt Silver Rating

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has recognized Pitt’s sustainability accomplishments with a STARS Silver rating.

STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. Pitt’s rating was based on its achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation and leadership.

Among Pitt’s many sustainability initiatives, AASHE reviewers noted the University-wide commitment to sustainable landscape design; the University of Thriftsburgh campus thrift store that encourages re-use; and sustainable dining practices.

“We are proud to have achieved STARS Silver in our first-ever  AASHE rating,” said Richard Heller, senior manager of electrical utilities and energy initiatives in Pitt’s Facilities Management Division, who coordinated the development of the University’s new sustainability plan. The plan’s measurable goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and landfill waste and increasing the percentage of renewable energy used on campus.

“The Pitt Sustainability Plan provides a framework for expanding on our longstanding commitment to sustainability. “I look forward to seeing how the ongoing implementation of the plan improves our future STARS performance,” he said.

Steven Little headshot in jacket and tie

Steven Little Honored with Controlled Release Society's Young Investigator Award

Steven Little was recently named the recipient of Controlled Release Society’s 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release.

Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

His focuses are on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.

Catherine Palmer headshot wearing coral colored jacket

Catherine Palmer Named American Academy of Audiology President-Elect

Catherine Palmer, audiology program director and associate professor of audiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will serve as president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology.

The position is elected by the academy’s general membership and carries a three-year term (one year as president-elect, one as president and one as past president). Palmer’s term begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021.

Palmer also serves as director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, including the UPMC Children's Hospital.

headshot of Melanie Hughes in red jacket and white shirt and headshot of Müge Finkel wearing gray jacket and black and white pattern shirt

Gender Inequality Research Lab Co-directors Awarded Provost’s Integrative Social-science Research Initiative Funds

Two Pitt professors were awarded funds from the Provost’s Integrative Social-Science Research Initiative for “The Global Glass Ceilings Database: Measuring Women’s Access to Decision-Making in Public Administration Worldwide.”

Melanie Hughes of the Department of Sociology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Müge Finkel of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs won support to convene an interdisciplinary and international advisory board for two workshops and to conduct a mixed-methods pilot study, including research trips to Colombia, Denmark and South Africa. The project will be the first endeavor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL).

The Social-Science Research Initiative awards up to $50,000 to expand Pitt social scientists' involvement in research that uses integrative approaches from multiple disciplines.

GIRL, which launched in November 2017, is a new interdisciplinary research forum for scholars and practitioners to collaborate on policy-relevent research on gender inequality. Faculty, students and staff who are interested in researching gender inequality around the world are encouraged to contact Pitt’s Gender Inequality Research Lab.

Alumnus Andy Rhodes Named Chief Information Officer at UNICEF USA

Andy Rhodes (SCI ’87) was recently named chief information officer for UNICEF USA. He is member of the UNICEF USA executive management team and is responsible for the organization’s technology, as well as its digital and data strategy, which includes governance, control and policy development. Rhodes was previously CIO for the United States Golf Association (USGA) and vice president of technology for public relations firm Publicis Groupe.

Faculty, Staff, Alumnae Named Girl Scouts Women of Distinction

Among the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania’s 2018 Women of Distinction — representing various job sectors — are four women with ties to the University of Pittsburgh:

  • Amy Hart (SOC WK ’86), president and CEO of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services Inc. (community and nonprofit).
  • Director of Athletics Heather Lyke (athletics).
  • Elizabeth Miller, professor of pediatrics in Pitt’s School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (health care).
  • Janera Solomon (A&S ’98), executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (arts and education).

The eight Women of Distinction were recognized at a luncheon on May 18.

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.