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April 6, 2020
Thyra-Lilja Altunin Wins Beinecke Scholarship
Third-year student Thyra-Lilja Altunin has been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship of $34,000 to support her graduate education.
Altunin is set to graduate in April 2021, with majors in the Department of Music, under the music and cultural history track, and the Department of Classics Greek language track in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. She is also minoring in classics, under the Latin language track. She is also pursuing certificates in Western European Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
The scholarship, which was established in 1971, is meant 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.” This is the fourth consecutive year a Pitt student has received the scholarship, and Altunin is one of 18 scholars nationwide to be awarded this year.
In 2018, Altunin completed a research fellowship through Pitt Honors, where she worked on an analysis of the accentuation patterns that appear in the Bankes Homer papyrus. She is also president of the classical civilizations club and a Nationality Rooms Tour Guide with Quo Vadis.
Altunin said that she plans to complete a masters and PhD in classics, with a focus on the reconstruction, study and performance of ancient music.
“I hope that the Beinecke Scholarship will help me to become involved with institutions where scholars have already been doing research in these areas and which have access to original documents and resources that I could use in my research,” Altunin said.
April 6, 2020
Graduate Students Find Small Ways to Help
Helping others in the community during a public health crisis need not always mean large food shipments or cases of water. Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences doctoral student Mariah Callas (pictured) has found that smaller gestures can go a long way. She and her roommate and fellow doctoral student Kayley Renz have been writing letters to elderly people in personal care homes, and dropping hand-written notes in older neighbors’ mailboxes, offering to buy groceries. They baked a four-layer “isolation cake” and dropped slices off on the doorsteps of other physical therapy students.
And then there are the bugs. Callas purchased live caterpillars and praying mantises online and is taking photos of them daily, sending them to a friend who is a nanny, who in turn shares them with the child she cares for.
“We are watching them grow together,” said Callas. "After they cocoon and become butterflies, I plan on posting and sharing their journey for even more people to enjoy!”
The two are helping coordinate online exercise classes and Callas has joined an online group of people seeking to learn sign language. “It could help me better serve my patients in the future,” she said.
“It feels easy to want to hide away and focus on what is directly in front of us as individuals,” she added. “Shifting my focus and supporting those around me really gives me my sense of purpose back, even from my couch. And seeing people’s reactions just brings so much light to a time that could feel very dark and lonely.”
April 3, 2020
Swanson School Labs Donate Supplies to Fight COVID-19
Knowing that health care workers need personal protective equipment and other supplies in the effort against COVID-19, faculty and staff at the Swanson School of Engineering organized a donation of supplies to UPMC.
The effort began when Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, contacted Associate Dean for Research David Vorp (pictured) to find out where she could donate her lab’s unused supplies. After contacting UPMC’s Clinical Laboratories with the idea, Vorp coordinated a donation.
“Once I saw the excitement and happiness that the idea brought to the laboratory staff, I knew that we needed to respond in a big way, so I sent the request out to our faculty and tried to get the request out to a wider group with some success,” said Vorp. “In the end, I was blown away by the response of my Pitt colleagues. It truly was humanity at its finest. It was Pitt at its finest!”
The effort collected five pallets of personal protective equipment, such as masks (including the much-needed N95 masks that protect against the virus), peroxide, sanitizers, eye protection and other supplies. The pallets were delivered to UPMC to be distributed to health care facilities in need.
April 3, 2020
Swanson Lab Repurposes Equipment to Produce Sanitizer for UPMC
When labs at the Swanson School of Engineering closed for research purposes, Götz Veser (pictured), the Nickolas DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and associate director of the Center for Energy, looked for a way his equipment could be put to use during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Riddhesh Patel, one of Veser’s graduate students, had an idea: Use the lab’s large-scale batch reactors—essentially enormous stirred glass containers—to blend hand sanitizer for UPMC, which is experiencing a severe shortage for their medical personnel.
After receiving permission to return to the Pittsburgh campus, Goetz, Patel and graduate student Nasser Al Azri set to work. Al Azri maintains and cleans the equipment with support from Patel, as the scope of the effort has increased.
Goetz supervises production, solicits donations of chemicals needed and shuttles the sanitizer to UPMC’s South Side operation. “I do what any good professor does: Stay out of the way and make sure that my students have what they need to do their good work,” he said.
To date, the lab has produced about 75 gallons of sanitizer and just received a significant donation of ingredients, which should yield another 50 gallons. The lab plans to continue to produce sanitizer as long as it can get supplies.
April 2, 2020
Staff Member Gets Crafty to Make Masks for Health Care Workers
Judith Camarda, payroll specialist in Facilities Management, has been a seamstress since her mother taught her the craft when she was 12 years old. Over the years, she has sewn clothes for herself and her daughter, as well as household décor like curtains and pillows.
Now, she’s putting her talent to use making masks for health care workers fighting COVID-19.
Camarda saw an interview with a New York-based physician talking about the need for supplies like masks. “I thought, ‘I can do that,’” she said, having all the needed supplies already.
Through Pittsburgh-based crafts store Firecracker Fabrics, Camarda found Maskmakers PGH, an effort led by nonprofit Radiant Hall. The artists’ organization coordinates all logistics, including pick up and distribution. All Camarda has to do is make 50 masks.
She’s up to 35 so far. “It was so frustrating to see that our medical people don’t have what they need, but this was a small way I can help, and it does make you feel better to help.”
March 27, 2020
Pitt Professor’s Porch Pantry Supports Neighbors in Need
Before the pandemic outbreak, Carla Chugani, assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Dormont resident, built a pantry with the help of a neighbor. As COVID-19 cases began to be reported in Allegheny County, Chugani moved the pantry to her porch and shared information about its location in a Facebook group.
“It just seemed really important. We saw this immediate need for basic things,” said Chugani.
The response was immediate, with donations including child-friendly staples like juice boxes and fruit snacks, as well as individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper and paper towels.
Chugani is encouraging people to leave donations near the pantry at her home at 2958 Belrose Avenue; she brings items into her home and restocks the pantry as needed. “It’s really moving to see the way this community has come together to take care of its own,” she said.
March 27, 2020
Aspinwall Neighbors Toast Community from Afar
For the neighborhood of Aspinwall, with myriad spots to dine and socialize amidst wide sidewalks in front of large porches, social distancing can feel particularly isolating. Residents on their way to dinner or yoga are used to greeting neighbors out on walks with children or dogs.
That’s why Carrie Benson, Aspinwall resident and prevention and education coordinator in the Title IX Office in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, took to an Aspinwall Facebook page with a neighborly invite: Step out into a brisk Saturday evening and share a toast from their porches.
It worked. At 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, Aspinwall residents raised their toasts to their neighbors and community—even the firetrucks, typically reserved for the Memorial Day Parade, made an appearance.
“It was the easiest party I’ve ever planned,” said Benson. “Aspinwall is built for this type of response to social distancing.”
March 23, 2020
History Professor Advocates for the Humanities on Capitol Hill
Ruth Mostern, associate professor in the Department of History in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the World History Center, advocated for the importance of federal funding for the humanities on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at the Humanities Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 10.
Mostern had the opportunity to talk to congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle about humanities research at Pitt—including the World Historical Gazetteer, a World History Center project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mostern serves as the project’s principal investigator.
“I am teaching Environmental History this semester, and even before the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, students were exploring questions that are urgent for the present moment,” said Mostern. “This is a chance to make sure that our congresspeople understand how the humanities transforms their districts and the whole world through education, outreach, and new insights about human past and futures.”
March 19, 2020
Katz MBA Earns Highest U.S. News & World Report Ranking in 20 Years
The University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business is No. 17 among public institutions in the United States and No. 39 overall—up 4 places from 2020—in the U.S. News & World Report 2021 Best Business Schools rankings. Both are the highest rankings for Katz in 20 years.
“We’re committed to challenging our students and helping them succeed. And our increase in rankings reflects that we are doing just that,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean.
These rankings reflect Katz’s improvements in starting salary and bonuses, average GPA, average GMAT score, percentage employed at graduation and percentage employed at three months post-graduation. Employment at graduation increased 8% and starting salary reached a record high, suggesting that Katz’s commitment to experience-based learning is paying off.
“We focus extensively on experience-based learning, both in classes and in the co-curriculum,” said Laura Oknefski, director of MBA programs. “Through opportunities like consulting field projects, case competitions, management simulation capstone, global research practicums, Six Sigma, and fall and spring professional development weeks, our students take foundational business theories and apply them in real-world contexts.
U.S. News & World Report also ranked the Katz part-time MBA at No. 39, up 9 spots from 2020, and the program’s best ranking since 2011. The increase comes from improvements of average GMAT score and the program’s selectivity.
Read more on the Katz ranking news.
March 18, 2020
Pitt Programs Rise in National Rankings, Physical Therapy Program Remains in Top Spot
The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and School of Nursing recently announced new and improved rankings for several educational programs, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition of Best Graduate Schools.
Rankings rose for two SHRS graduate programs—occupational therapy is now ranked number three in the country, moving from its spot at number four. Speech-language pathology had the largest jump from number seven to number three. Physical therapy remains number one for the second consecutive rankings report, as well as the audiology program at number seven. No SHRS program rankings fell and no other comparable programs at other schools ranked higher in Pennsylvania.
Pitt Nursing meanwhile is now number six among Master of Science in Nursing programs, moving up six spots from number 12. The Doctor of Nursing Practice programs is now number eight in the country, moving up from number nine.
Every four years, U.S. News collects data by surveying experts who teach and direct programs in multiple health care professions asking them to evaluate their peers. U.S. News surveys only accredited programs.
Pitt Nursing also moved up two spots in the QS World University Rankings to number 16 in the world, ninth in the U.S. These rankings represent a weighted average of indicators that include peer assessment, student selectivity and achievement, mean grade-point average, acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, faculty credentials and academic achievements and research activity.
March 17, 2020
Dietrich School Faculty Recognized in Inaugural Mentorship Award
Khristen Scott, assistant professor of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and Jennifer Josten, associate professor of history of art and architecture, also in the Dietrich School, received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring.
The Dietrich School created the award to celebrate and honor the exemplary mentorship of faculty whose practices enhance the overall quality of graduate education. All graduate students and chairs of Dietrich School departments were eligible to nominate faculty, who were then evaluated by an award committee, chaired by Holger Hoock, associate dean for graduate studies and research in the Dietrich School.
Scott and Josten received their awards, along with a cash prize of $1,500.
March 17, 2020
Pitt Engineering Students Win ASCE Awards
The Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has awarded the American Bridge Leadership Award to Kaitie DeOre, a senior civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. Michael Winiarczyk, a senior civil engineering student at Pitt, received an ASCE Accomplishment Award.
The Bridge Award is a highly competitive award open to all civil engineering students in the region covered by the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, and included a $7,000 cash prize. The ASCE Accomplishment Award included a $500 cash prize.
DeOre, whose concentration is geotechnical engineering, is the president of Pitt ASCE. She organized the first annual Civil Engineering Day at Pitt to introduce high school students to the field through professional demonstrations, lab tours, panels and hands-on activities. She is captain for the Geotechnical Team and is involved with the Society of Women Engineers.
Winiarczyk, who will also graduate in December 2020, is the treasurer for ASCE Pitt. He is the captain of the 2019-2020 OVSC Surveying team and has been co-captain and member of the team for the past two years. Throughout his undergraduate career, he has completed co-ops with PennDOT and GAI Consultants, Inc., where he is planning to enter a full-time position in Transmission Line Engineering upon graduation.
March 11, 2020
Carrie Leana Speaks On Financial Precarity At Aspen Institute Ideas Festival
Carrie Leana, George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, recently spoke about her research on financial precarity at the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado.
The nation's premier public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines, the Aspen Ideas Festival presents discussions on cutting-edge ideas and issues that shape and challenge the times.
“Many of the conversations are about public policy,” said Leana. “It’s an opportunity to influence and be informed by leading policy makers, practitioners and other academics, and to put research findings into the hands of those who can make real change.”
The “Aspen Ideas: Health” track explored challenges in medicine, science and global health. Leana’s topic, “A Living Wage Buys Health,” was informed by her research that ties financial worries to impacts on health and workplace productivity.
“Health and financial precarity go hand in hand,” said Leana. “The financially precarious tend to be less happy, less healthy and die younger than their less precarious counterparts.”
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization with a mission to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.
March 9, 2020
Valerie Kinloch Releases New Co-Edited Book Advocating for Social Change
Valerie Kinoch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, has released a new co-edited book titled, Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction. It advocates for social change by encouraging educators to engage in equity and justice-centered literacy work.
“This book serves as a conversation into how and why we must engage in this work and it contributes to ongoing discussions about how this work could look in schools and communities,” said Kinloch, who is also an American Educational Research Association fellow and the vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English.
The book was co-edited with Tanja Burkhard, postdoctoral associate in the School of Education, and Carlotta Penn, director of community partnerships in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. Leigh Patel, associate dean for equity and justice for the School of Education, also contributed to the book.
March 9, 2020
Philosophy Ranks High in QS World University Rankings by Subject
The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Philosophy, in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, received recognition in the 2020 edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.
In its latest rankings, global higher education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds named the best universities in the world for a study of 48 academic disciplines from over 13,000 individual university programs from around the world.
According to the latest QS World University Rankings, Pitt ranked no. 3 in philosophy. Pitt’s other top-ranked specific subject areas also include nursing and library and information management.
March 9, 2020
Student-run Saxbys Cafes to Open at Pitt in Fall 2020
Saxbys, a Philadelphia-based social impact and coffee company, will introduce two exclusively student-run cafes on the Pitt campus in fall 2020.
The cafes—Saxbys’ first in the Pittsburgh market—are part of the company’s Experiential Learning Program, which operates 10 campus cafes at eight other institutions in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Saxbys is partnering with the College of Business Administration to employ two undergraduate business students each semester as Student Cafe Executive Officers (SCEOs) who will manage all aspects of their cafe. SCEOs earn competitive wages and receive bonus opportunities and a full semester of college credit throughout their tenure, gathering invaluable experience along the way. The cafes will be staffed entirely by Pitt students.
“At Pitt Business, we take our students from the classroom, to the city, to the world, and believe that real-world experience is the best teacher. The Saxbys partnership is a great way to enable students to put what they learn in classrooms into practice in an integrative context,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. “The two Pitt Business SCEOs will work together with their peers from various majors to develop skills and promote teamwork to help them succeed in the future.”
March 6, 2020
Bruce Hapke Named American Astronomical Society Legacy Fellow
Bruce Hapke, a professor of planetary geology in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science, has been selected for the first class of American Astronomical Society (AAS) Legacy Fellows. AAS established its fellows’ program in 2019 to recognize extraordinary achievements in the field. Hapke, who correctly predicted the texture of the moon’s porous, sandy surface, was among the first scientists to receive materials for study from the Apollo 11 mission. He also predicted that particles of iron in the moon’s soil affected its brightness. When that particle was discovered, it was named Hapkeite in his honor.
March 5, 2020
School of Education Faculty Member Wins National Literacy Research Award
Jon-Philip “Jay” Imbrenda, faculty member in the School of Education, is the recipient of the 2019 Arthur Applebee Award for Excellence in Research on Literacy.
The award is known as one of the highest honors in the field of literacy education. It’s given annually to “honor an outstanding article in literary research published in a referred journal in the previous calendar year.”
Imbrenda’s “Developing Academic Literacy: Breakthroughs and Barriers in College Access Intervention,” was the article that won him this recognition. The article reports findings from Imbrenda’s analysis of a classroom intervention in which students from a comprehensive urban high school were given a curriculum designed to prepare them for reading and writing demands of early college coursework. Read more about Imbrenda and his work on the School of Education’s website.
March 4, 2020
Five Partnerships Receive Distinction at Community Engaged Scholarship Forum
More than 250 people attended the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum (CESF), now in its second year at Pitt, on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
The day featured breakout sessions, poster presentations, panel discussions and networking planned around the theme of building momentum through community partnerships, which echoes one of the pillars of the Plan for Pitt: Strengthening Communities.
“Service has always been a part of Pitt, but we’ve tried our best to move beyond a theoretical format and toward a practical format” for strengthening communities, said Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the Board of Trustees.
To that end, five projects were honored for reflecting Pitt’s highest community engagement aspirations, two Pitt staff members were recognized for their commitment to engaged leadership and collaboration and one partnership to watch was named. Learn more about the honorees in @Pitt.
The Community Engaged Scholarship Forum planning committee was co-chaired by Jamie Ducar in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations and Julia Spears in the Office of the Provost. Sixteen schools and offices across the University helped to sponsor the event.
March 3, 2020
Pitt-led Study Leads to Method to Calculate Stress on Rails
A study led by Pitt researchers calculating stress on railways was recently published in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Journal of Nondestructive Evaluation, Diagnostics and Prognostics of Engineering Systems.
The study was led by Piervincenzo Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt in the Swanson School of Engineering, and senior author on the paper, and Stanford University researcher Amir Nasrollahi, who was previously a PhD candidate and then post-doctoral researcher in Rizzo’s Laboratory for Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring Studies.
The two developed a nondestructive evaluation method to measure stress in rails, with the eventual aim of calculating when the ambient temperature will be problematic.