Accolades

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University Wins Innovation and Economic Prosperity Innovation Award

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded the Association of Public and Land-grant University (APLU) Innovation and Economic Prosperity Innovation award. The award recognizes exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development. Winners are limited to universities that have conducted internal studies examining its local and regional economic engagement and have been designated by APLU as Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities. The University of Pittsburgh earned the designation in 2014; 64 institutions have been named IEP University designees since the program was launched in 2012.

In its announcement of the award, the APLU praised Pitt and its Office of Economic Partnerships for work with the Brookings Institution and Pitt’s Immune Transplant and Therapy Center, noting the latter as "one of a host of innovation hubs the university is launching across the city to support pathbreaking research and business development."

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Mary Rugh Inducted Into Electric League of Western Pennsylvania’s Hall of Honor

Mary Rugh, senior manager for electrical in Facilities Management, has been inducted into the Electric League of Western Pennsylvania’s Hall of Honor.

This lifetime achievement award recognizes those who have made significant contributions in furthering the high ideals and goals of the industry. 

Rugh’s career in electrical engineering includes her work over the past 33 years on the University’s electrical infrastructure systems.

She is responsible for operation and maintenance of the University’s Pittsburgh campus 5kV electric power distribution system. Rugh has negotiated University electric contracts since the inception of deregulation, saving the University more than $10 million over the past two decades.

A professional engineer, she came to Pitt in 1985 as a control systems engineer, was promoted to senior electrical engineer in 1997 and became senior manager for electrical in 2015.

She has been part of the Electric League since 2008 and serves on its education and expo committees.

Pitt Alumna is First Female Infantry Officer in PA Army National Guard

Second Lt. Caileigh Carei (A&S ’17) has become the first female infantry officer in Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

In December, Carei graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in political science, with certificates in Latin American Studies and Global Studies, and a minor in linguistics. Upon graduation, she was commissioned into the Army. In July, she completed her infantry officer basic course and then conducted her pre-deployment training in the Mojave Desert in California. There, she commenced her assigned role as infantry platoon leader.

“We are very proud to have her on board. She is very squared away and we are sure that she is going to be a great leader in our ranks,” said Capt. Justin Shedron, Officer Strength Manager for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Western Region. “We are proud to be on the leading edge of the policy to integrate females into Combat Arms because it is the right thing to do and we are hopeful that her example will inspire other female cadets and Soldiers to accept the challenge to join the Infantry and serve their Commonwealth and Nation as well.”

In September, Carei returned home to Pennsylvania and is planning to pursue law school next year. She is currently undergoing intensive training to prepare for U.S. Army Ranger School, the Army’s most elite program.

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Heather Tomko Wins Disability Service Award

Heather Tomko was recently awarded with the Dick Thornburgh Forum Disability Service Award.

This $4,000 award, named for the former governor of Pennsylvania and disability rights advocate, is available each year to a University of Pittsburgh student from any campus whose service has made a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities. The winner is selected by a review committee of Pitt administrators.

Tomko is a master’s student studying health policy and management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. She has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair.

Her work in activism includes taking part in the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship, blogging on “The Heather Report” and creating the advocacy organization, Accessible YOUniverse. She was named Ms. Wheelchair USA 2018 in July and will spend this year promoting her platform, "Increasing Inclusion of People with Disabilities into their Communities.”

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Adrian Lee Receives Distinguished Mentor Award

Adrian Lee, a biomedical professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, recently received the Distinguished Mentor Award from Pitt’s Biomedical Graduate Student Association.

Lee earned the award for his “service to graduate students through research training, teaching and administration.”

Lee also serves as director of the Institute for Precision Medicine and director of the Womens Cancer Research Center. His research areas include pharmacology of cell and organ systems, cancer genomics, systems biology of cancer and hormone signaling and action.

Rory Cooper Is Fastest American Handbiker in Berlin Marathon Race

Rory Cooper, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, was the top finishing American to complete the men’s handbiker competition of the Berlin Marathon, held in September. Cooper placed 49th out of 111 finishers with a time of 1:26:17.

“The course had a lot of turns, and a couple of grades, but no hills. The roads are very fast,” Cooper said. “I was able to stay with a small group of the ‘fast’ riders until mile 22, which helped me to finish in about 86 minutes.”

Cooper also serves as associate dean for inclusion in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and is a distinguished professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.

Susan Fullerton One of Five Nationwide to Receive Chemical Sciences Award

Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received the 2019 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences.

Fullerton was one of five recipients nationwide recognized for “extraordinary contributions through their research programs and demonstrate a commitment to move their fields forward.” Her research group seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of ion-electron transport at the molecular level to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage.

The award is given by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read more about Fullerton at the Swanson School’s website.

Postdoctoral Researcher Earns Competitive $1.4 Million Grant to Study Social Media’s Impact on LGBT People

César G. Escobar-Viera, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, received a $1.4 million competitive federal research grant to study whether social media connects and promotes acceptance among LGBT people or could fuel depression in that population.

“The odds are that the impact of social media use on gay, lesbian and bisexual people is not so black-and-white,” said Escobar-Viera, a native of Paraguay, where he previously served as chief medical officer of the country’s only public psychiatric hospital. “There is likely a middle ground where it brings some good with the bad, but we need to understand that in a quantifiable, scientific context because social media is with us for the foreseeable future. Instructing people to stay away from it is not practical and may not be particularly beneficial.”

The award comes from the National Institutes of Health’s Pathway to Independence program, which provides up to five years of support and mentoring for postdoctoral trainees. Read more at UPMC.

3 Pitt Researchers Named to National Academy of Medicine

Three medical researchers from the University of Pittsburgh were recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

The elected researchers are Amy Houtrow, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine; Clifton Callaway, professor and Ronald D. Stewart Endowed Chair in Research in Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine; and Robert Friedlander, the Walter E. Dandy Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurobiology at Pitt’s School of Medicine.

The academy addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. It also works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation, and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

Associate Professors Adam Lee and Rosta Farzan Receive NSF Award for Privacy Work

Adam Lee and Rosta Farzan, associate professors in the School of Computing and Information, recently received more than $280,000 from the National Science Foundation for their project that explores privacy-enhanced sensor designs that provide people with the knowledge and assurance of when they are being recorded and what data is being captured.

Today, casual conversations and encounters, that were once thought to be private, may now be recorded and archived digitally. Networked microphones and cameras can give rise to serious electronic privacy concerns. While these types of devices that listen to us and capture data can benefit users in many ways, users may also face serious privacy violations. Their project brings together expertise in computer security and privacy, access control, human computer interaction and social computing. Through this interdisciplinary team, the goal is to make socio-technical contributions to both theory and practice. Lee and Farzan’s project combines hardware and software techniques to tangibly and visually convey a sense of privacy to people who are impacted by sensors.

Epidemiologist Jane Cauley Wins Prestigious Service Award

Jane A. Cauley has received the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2018 Shirley Hohl Service Award. Cauley is a distinguished professor and executive vice chair of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. She received the award after volunteering for numerous positions and projects with the society.

Cauley’s primary research interest is the epidemiology of osteoporosis, especially the worldwide ethnic and geographic variability in fracture, osteoporosis screening and treatment, risk factors for fractures and the consequences of osteoporosis in both men and women.

4 Pitt News Staffers Nominated for National Awards

The Associated College Press has nominated four Pitt News journalists for awards this year in its national competition among college journalists. Pitt’s nominees are:

  • Grant Burgman, in the Story of the Year category, for his piece "The Forgotten Champions."
  • John Hamilton (CBA ’18), in the Multimedia Story of the Year category, for his photo essay "The Cathedral in photos, from the basement to the top."
  • Senior Christian Snyder, in the category Photo of the Year, for this photograph.
  • Theo Schwarz (ENGR ’17), in the Feature Photo category, for this photograph.

ACP will name winners at its conference later this month in Louisville, Kentucky.

Public Health Students Selected for Future Leaders Program

Three students from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health were selected for the inaugural class of The Milken Institute’s Future Leaders Program.

The students, Ashley Simenson (epidemiology), Jessica Salerno (infectious diseases and microbiology) and Kaitlyn Saal-Ridpath (health policy), are among a dozen fellows selected nationwide.

The program aims to give the students exposure to health leadership to help accelerate their future work tackling complex public health challenges. The institute plans to learn from them as well; during the year-long fellowship, they will work on projects such as helping the DEA 360 program, which is tackling the opioid epidemic, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which helps inspire and educate youth.

Two Female Faculty Members Recognized for Research in Computational Social Science

Professor Diane Litman and Associate Professor Yu-ru Lin have been named to SAGE journal’s list of 39 women doing amazing research in computational social science across the world. The list includes women who have made significant contributions to social sciences and humanities with their innovative use of computational methods and explorations of cutting edge tech.

Litman, professor of computer science and co-director of the Intelligent Systems Program, focuses on artificial intelligence and its application to a variety of areas including linguistics, education, reasoning and behavior. Lin, also in the School of Computing and Information, leads the Pitt Computational Social Dynamics Lab. Her research focuses around the ways we become more informed and how that affects our behavior.

School of Medicine’s David Binion Wins 2018 Sherman Prize

David Binion, professor of medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine and co-director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, was recently named a recipient of the 2018 Sherman Prize.

The award, presented by the Bruce and Cynthia Sherman Charitable Foundation, recognizes outstanding contributions in the fight to overcome Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which are known as inflammatory bowel diseases.

Binion was recognized for the “novelty and creativity” of his research on the immunologic, cellular and physiologic alterations associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, applying his insights to improving care for those most severely impacted by these diseases.

Humanity in Action Fellowship Awardees Work Toward Social Justice at Home and Abroad

A Pitt student and alumna explored today’s most challenging global humanitarian issues in Europe this summer as 2018 Humanity in Action Fellows.

The fellowship highlights models of action in social justice and examines the social and political roots of discrimination on a global scale. While abroad, fellows explore contemporary issues through the historical foundations of World War II and the holocaust.

Aditya Mittal (left) looked at xenophobia, racism and minority issues in Berlin. He’s a junior neuroscience major with a minor in chemistry. In addition to lab research, he’s also working to build awareness about lead poising in Pittsburgh communities. He plans to go to medical school before advancing a career in public health and policy.

Daria Sullivan (A&S ’17) explored human rights in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a 2017 graduate with a BA in theatre arts and communication, and has used her platform as an artist and performer to share about social justice issues. At Pitt, her work prompted discussions about issues like racial bias, and she hopes to inspire social change by continuing to portray thoughtful stories.

Three Pitt Researchers Win NIH Director’s Awards

Peter Strick, the Thomas Detre Professor of Neuroscience and distinguished professor and chair of neurobiology, was one of three Pitt people to receive NIH Director’s Awards this year. Strick earned the Transformative Research Award, part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, for his work on identifying a biological basis for the mind-body connection.

Warren Ruder, assistant professor of bioengineering, and Erik Wright, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, each won NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards, given to “exceptionally creative early career investigators who propose high-impact projects.”

Ruder’s team will work to engineer cells that can be activated by high magnetic field gradients; Wright’s group will use thousands of microbial genomes to discover new antibiotics and figure out better ways of prescribing them to address the serious public health threat of antibiotic resistance.

NSF Awards Pitt Engineers $200,000 to Study the Impact of Reflection on Learning

Assistant professors Samuel Dickerson and Renee Clark have received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help students in the Swanson School of Engineering start to think about thinking. The two-year, $200,000 award will support a project to improve learning and development by promoting the frequent use of reflection and “metacognition” among students in a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering class on microelectronic circuits.

“Engineering is different from other disciplines because this type of thought process isn’t inherent in our training,” Dickerson said. “Reflection and metacognition are not skills that are regularly cultivated or practiced in the engineering curriculum — in the classroom we are more focused on immediate problem-solving rather than pausing and looking at the big picture, which is more common in the engineering workplace.”

According to Clark, it is easier for a student in a classroom environment to ask a professor or teaching assistant to help them solve a problem. Outside of college however, there may be fewer resources on which to rely. Dickerson and Clark want to encourage engineering students to develop lifelong learning skills that will help them independently learn how to find a solution and ultimately give them an advantage when they join the workforce. Read more about the project.

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Mary Allias Named Distinguished Fellow of American Academy of Physician Assistants

Mary Allias, an assistant professor in the Physician Assistant Studies program at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been recognized as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants for exemplary achievement in service to the profession, the advancement of health care and in dedication to the community. This honor is bestowed upon an elite group of less than one percent of practicing physician assistants.

Allias’ interests include instructional methods for enhancing clinical reasoning and communication, as well as workforce issues surrounding the physician assistant profession.

State Awards $2 Million for Pitt-Bradford Tech Building

Pitt-Bradford has been awarded $2 million in state funding to support development of new engineering and technology facilities.

“This grant will be critical to us in developing the facilities which will make it possible for us to offer new academic programs and expand existing ones. This is an investment that will provide benefits for many years to multiple generations of Pitt students, as well as to the companies in the region who will hire our graduates,” said Pitt-Bradford Interim President Lawrence Feick.

The campus plans to develop a building to house classrooms, engineering and computer labs and shops and other specialized spaces to support new programs to meet local education and workforce needs. 

An architectural firm has been hired to study whether to construct a new building or to acquire and renovate an existing building to accommodate the new programs.