Accolades

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Faculty Member Inducted Into French Order

Pitt faculty member David Pettersen has been inducted into the Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of the Academic Palms) as a Chevalier (Knight) by the French government. The honor, said Pittsburgh’s Honorary French Consul Jean-Dominique Le Garrec, recognizes Pettersen’s efforts in establishing a faculty exchange between Pitt and the Université Lumière Lyon 2, his contributions to the expansion of French culture around the world and his research and writing about French literature and cinema. Pettersen is an associate professor of French and film and media studies and the associate director of the newly renamed Film and Media Studies Program in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. He will be recognized at an award ceremony in February.

Weber and Fisher

Duo Wins Award to Research Prosthetic Improvements

Doug Weber, associate professor of bioengineering, and Lee Fisher, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, were one of four University of Pittsburgh teams to receive a $5.3 million National Institutes of Health BRAIN award. 

The pair will research ways to eliminate phantom limb pain, a phenomenon where amputees feel pain from the missing limb, which can be long-lasting and severe. They will investigate how electric stimulation may both counter phantom limb pain and improve movement and balance in patients. If successful, improvements in sensory feedback could improve the quality of life for prosthetics users.

Two Psychologists Awarded for Early Career Achievement

Tristen Inagaki and Jamie Hanson have been named 2017 Rising Stars by the Association for Psychological Science, the leading international organization devoted to advancing psychology across disciplines. The Rising Star award is given to newly minted PhDs whose earliest work has already shown promise for broad impact far into the future of the field.

Inagaki is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. Using methods from social and health psychology, as well as pharmacology and affective neuroscience, she studies how we form and maintain social connections, and how those bonds positively influence our mental and physical health.

Hanson is an assistant professor of psychology and a research scientist at Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center. His work focuses on the neural circuitry that children and adolescents use to learn about different aspects of their environment. He also studies how such circuits are shaped by early life stress and why neural changes due to this stress confer risks for negative outcomes.

Honors Convocation Speaker Announced

Brian Primack, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Honors College, will address faculty, students and guests as speaker of Pitt’s 42nd annual Honors Convocation at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland. Primack is also the Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Endowed Chair; the director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health; and a professor of medicine, pediatrics, and clinical and translational science. He was named leader of the University Honors College in summer 2017.

Peter Gianaros Helps Create New Health Disparities Report for American Psychological Association

At the beginning of 2018, the American Psychological Association published its first comprehensive report on stress and health disparities, compiled by a working group of interdisciplinary scientists from top institutions around the country, which included the University of Pittsburgh’s Peter Gianaros.

A professor of psychology and of psychiatry, Gianaros studies how the human brain influences and is influenced by physical health — particularly cardiovascular health, a major focus of the APA report. He directs the behavioral neurophysiology lab at Pitt and he is the former director of the Multimodal Neuroimaging Training Program of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Gianaros and Anna Marsland, also a professor of psychology and leading expert on the immune system and stress, funding to study socioeconomic disadvantage and brain aging.

“The new APA report is timely. Discrimination, living in poverty, and other sources of stress are linked to inequalities in health and longevity,” Gianaros said. “These problems will continue to grow unless there is more evidence-based support and advocacy for research funding on health disparities, greater public education and awareness, and community-level interventions that promote health equality for everyone in this country. The work that Dr. Marsland and I are doing is directed at better understanding and addressing these pressing issues.”

Melanoma Research Gets Financial Boost

The Woiner Foundation of Pittsburgh recently donated $50,000 to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s Melanoma and Skin Cancer Treatment Program, directed by John Kirkwood to support his internationally acclaimed melanoma research.

Under Kirkwood’s direction, more than 20 faculty researchers are leading multiple local, national and international studies that are advancing new therapies for the treatment of melanoma, a cancer that kills more than 10,000 people in the United States each year.

Kirkwood leads a number of highly promising clinical trials with cancer vaccines to spur the body’s own immune system into recognizing and destroying melanoma.

Department of Occupational Therapy Welcomes New Faculty Member

Natalie Leland joined the Department of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences on Jan. 1. 

Leland is an associate professor whose health services research program evaluates the quality of long-term care for older adults and examines best practices to improve quality of care and outcomes. Most recently, Leland received a $4 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcome Research Institute to conduct a comparative effectiveness research study examining two non-pharmacological treatment strategies for older adults with dementia.

French Faculty Member Named Officer in Medieval Academy of America

The Medieval Academy of America has named Pitt faculty member Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski an officer of the organization. Blumenfeld-Kosinski is a distinguished professor of French in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences whose research interests include French medieval literature and culture. She was affiliated with the Medieval Academy of America as a councilor (1998-2000), member of its nominating committee (2001-03) and book review editor (French) for the journal Speculum (2007-12). In 2020, she will assume the presidency of the organization, which has fostered medieval studies since 1925.

English's Dawn Lundy Martin Awarded Creative Writing Fellowship From National Endowment for the Arts

Dawn Lundy Martin, a professor in the Department of English and co-director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, has been awarded a 2018 Creative Writing Fellowship in nonfiction from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Martin is one of only 36 literary professionals awarded this fellowship for 2018.

The NEA’s most direct investment in American creativity, the fellowship program is designed to encourage ascending writers to produce new works of literature. It seeks to give fellows the means, space, and time to develop individual projects. Martin will use the award to write a collection of linked autobiographical essays. These essays will serve as a memoir of Martin’s experiences growing up in a working-class Black community in Hartford, Connecticut, and being bussed to the affluent, predominantly Caucasian suburb of Glastonbury for school. The memoir will highlight the effects of these divergent race and class experiences.

Marlene Cohen Receives National Academy of Sciences Award

Marlene Cohen, associate professor of neuroscience, has won a Troland Research Award, bestowed by the National Academy of Sciences. The $75,000 grant is given annually to two young researchers whose work is expanding empirical research in the broad field of experimental psychology.

Cohen’s research in neuroscience looks at how visual information is encoded and processed in the brain, and how quick decisions get made based on that visual information. By recording simultaneous responses from multiple neurons at a time, she’s able to get a clearer picture of the mechanisms behind cognitive processes like paying attention and perceptual learning.

Cohen will accept the Troland Award at the 155th NAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, April 19, 2018. 

Associate Dean Minking Chyu Presented With Distinguished Service Professor Medallion

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Provost Patricia E. Beeson recently presented the Swanson School of Engineering's Minking Chyu with a medallion recognizing his appointment as Distinguished Service Professor. The presentation was held during a virtual board meeting between representatives at Pitt and Sichuan University in December. Chyu is currently the Leighton and Mary Orr Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Associate Dean of International Initiatives, and the inaugural Dean of the Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute in China. Read more about the award and Chyu's work here.

Mervat Abdelhak Named to Information Management Organization Board of Directors

Mervat Abdelhak, department chair and associate professor of Health Information Management and Health Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, was recently named to the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education’s board of directors.

The commission is the accrediting body for health information management education programs.

Abdelhak is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on health information practice issues and education. She is widely published with more than 40 publications in top health information management and health informatics journals including the textbook, “Health Information: Management of a Strategic Resource,” now in its fifth edition.

Pitt Computer Engineers Win Best Paper Award at International Big Data Conference

A team of computer engineering and bioengineering researchers from the University of Pittsburgh won the Best Paper Award at the 3rd International Conference on Machine Learning, Optimization & Big Data (MOD 2017). The paper titled, “Recipes for Translating Big Data Machine Reading to Executable Cellular Signaling Models,” describes how automated machine reading can be used to pore over volumes of research and use that information to create models for understanding biological processes.

“These models are used to conduct and explain hundreds of thousands of simulated experiments, which would be impractical if done with biological material in the lab,” said Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Our paper won the Best Paper Award because the methods it presents are critical to automating the process of model generation from vast amounts of literature without human intervention.” 

Read more about the research at the Swanson School of Engineering's website.

University of Pittsburgh Press Book Receives Flutter of Praise

“Butterflies of Pennsylvania: A Field Guide” — published by the University of Pittsburgh Press — was recognized with a 2017 National Outdoor Book Award in the Nature Guidebooks category. Authored by James L. Monroe and David M. Wright, the book features more than 900 color photographs of all of the recorded butterfly species in Pennsylvania. Monroe is a research associate at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainesville, Florida, and professor emeritus of physics at Penn State Beaver. Chairman of patient safety and quality control at Abington – Lansdale Hospital in Pennsylvania, Wright is an anatomical and clinical pathologist who has published extensively on the butterflies of Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

Diane LItman

Diane Litman Elected Association for Computational Linguistics Fellow

Diane Litman — director of the Intelligent Systems Program, a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science within the School of Computing and Information and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center—has been elected one of six new Association for Computational Linguistics Fellows for 2017.

The fellows program recognizes association members whose contributions to the field have been most extraordinary in terms of scientific and technical excellence, service to the association and the community and/or educational or outreach activities with broader impact.

Litman has been selected for her key contributions to dialog research, especially the application of reinforcement learning and multimodal analysis to tutoring dialog. The Association for Computational Linguistics began in 1968 and has since promoted innovative research in computational linguistics, the study of language from a computational perspective. Researchers such as Litman who are involved in this field are interested in providing computational models of various kinds of linguistic phenomena, and their accomplishments are incorporated into many working systems today, including speech recognition systems, digital voice assistants and text editors. 

Gerald Holder

Swanson School Dean to Receive Distinguished Service Award

Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering and Distinguished Service Professor of Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers—Pittsburgh Chapter with its Distinguished Service Award.

Holder will be recognized at an event in February for his contributions to the engineering profession and his legacy in engineering education. He came to the University in 1979 and served as chair of chemical engineering from 1987-95 and became dean of engineering in 1996.

“The University of Pittsburgh’s engineering program is one of the oldest in the U.S., and Dean Holder has helped to establish its national and international reputation for excellence,” said Scott Sukits, president of the society's Pittsburgh chapter. 

William Wagner

McGowan Institute Honored for 25 Years of Accomplishments

The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was given a citation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commemorating the institute's quarter-century existence and a 2017 Innovation Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times recognizing the accomplishments of the institute’s faculty.

The institute, directed by William Wagner, has been committed to its mission to develop technologies that address tissue and organ insufficiency since 1992 with the aid of over 240 affiliated University of Pittsburgh faculty members from 31 academic departments.

The institute celebrated its 25th anniversary in November.

headshot of H. Richard Milner IV

H. Richard Milner IV Named to RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

H. Richard Milner IV has been recognized within Education Week’s 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.

Milner is ranked 70th in the national list, which identifies the nation’s top 200 university-based scholars who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy. Milner is the sole Pitt faculty member listed, and he is the only scholar named from an educational institution in Western Pennsylvania.

At Pitt, Milner conducts in-depth research on the impact race and poverty plays on educational access. He is considered a national authority on the barriers to educational opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities.

A Pitt faculty member since 2013, Milner is the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education and the director of the Center for Urban Education, both within the University’s School of Education. Additionally, Milner also holds secondary appointments in Pitt’s School of Social Work, as well as the departments of Africana Studies and Sociology

James McKone and Christopher Wilmer headshots

Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Faculty Members Honored for Early Career Research

Two junior faculty members in the Swanson School of Engineering were among a class of 58 early career researchers recognized for their nascent research in energy storage.

James McKone  and Christopher Wilmer, both assistant professors of chemical and petroleum engineering, along with their peers were honored as new Fellows at the first Scialog: Advanced Energy Storage meeting in Tucson, Arizona, in November, hosted by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

According to Scialog, these rising stars participated in intensive discussions aimed at developing proposals for seed funding of transformative energy storage systems and novel research ideas to improve efficiencies in advanced batteries, supercapacitors and related systems.

headshots of David Wert and Debora Miller

Physical Therapy Professors Win State Association Awards

Two University of Pittsburgh faculty members from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences were recognized with awards from the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association.

Physical therapy assistant professor David Wert received the association’s Neurological Special Interest Group’s Award of Excellence. The award honors a member of the physical therapy association who has made a lasting contribution to the state of Pennsylvania in the field of neurology.

Vice dean and physical therapy associate professor Debora Miller received the Carlin-Michels Achievement Award, which recognizes her numerous contributions and accomplishments as a clinician and educator.