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Shear in front of a green chalkboard

Chair of Religious Studies Receives Grant from American Academy for Jewish Research

Adam Shear, associate professor of history and associate professor and chair of religious studies, is part of a team of scholars who received a Special Initiatives Grant from the American Academy for Jewish Research. The grant will help fund a training workshop and series of webinars that will teach a growing number of students and early career scholars how to read early modern Hebrew handwriting.

“Most paleography training is for medieval handwriting but we are interested in the handwriting of people who were writing in their printed books after the invention of print,” Shear said.

Shear, who studies medieval and early modern Jewish cultural and intellectual history, says the workshop is still in planning phase.

The yearlong training course will begin with a three-day intensive workshop in New York tentatively scheduled for January 2020. Follow up webinars through spring, summer and fall 2020 will reinforce and expand upon lessons. The training is part of the larger Footprints project, a research project and database that tracks the movement of Jewish books since the inception of print. 

Runyan in a dark blouse with flowery spots

Caroline Runyan Named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has been named a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The program provides funding to promising young investigators advancing human health who are in their first few years of their appointment at the assistant professor level.

Runyan, who arrived at Pitt in 2017, was one of 22 early career researchers named to the 2019 class of scholars by leading U.S. academic and research institutions. The award comes with four years of flexible funding to invest in exploratory research.

Runyan’s research focus is on the brain’s ability to flexibly control perception and behavior in different situations — specifically, she images and manipulates cells and circuits to learn how the brain is able to shift gears quickly, as well as how it processes different types of sensory information depending on behavioral context.

The Pew funding is helping the lab image activity both within and between brain regions, “so we can start to get a sense of how the brain is able to filter out irrelevant information, or amplify important information. We’re developing methods to study the local circuit mechanisms that control how two brain regions interact to transmit information.”

This will all hopefully enable new, systems-level approaches to understanding brain disorders with altered network communication, such as autism and schizophrenia, Runyan said.

Harry Colmery

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of G.I. Bill, Drafted by Pitt Law Graduate

June 22 marks the 75th anniversary of the original G.I. Bill, which has benefited 8 million veterans by providing education and training benefits. And it was made possible through the vision of Harry Colmery, a Pittsburgh native and 1916 graduate of Pitt’s School of Law.

Born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Colmery (1890-1979) put his law career on pause when the U.S. entered World War I. After serving as a first lieutenant in the Army Air Service, Colmery settled in Kansas and went on to a successful career practicing law, arguing two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Having a degree from Pitt Law meant that Colmery had a secure professional path after the war, which was not the case for many other veterans. In 1936, Colmery served as the national commander of the American Legion, advocating for a better future for other servicemen and women when they returned to civilian life.

In 1944, handwritten on Mayflower Hotel stationery in Washington, D.C., Colmery wrote the initial draft of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the original G.I. Bill of Rights. The bill, signed by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, would provide education benefits to veterans and help ease their transition into civilian life.

As a result, 8 million World War II veterans — and millions more in subsequent wars — used the G.I. Bill to obtain an education. After World War II, over half of the country’s college students were veterans, who then went on to reinvigorate the economy and bolster the American identity. A multitude of programs were created as a result of the G.I. Bill, having effects in education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loan and health care.

“Harry Colmery’s commitment to helping veterans has translated into creating one of the most significant pieces of legislation of the 20th century,” said David Roudabush, outreach coordinator for Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services. “He has positively impacted so many lives, including the veterans that we’re proud to have as faculty, staff and students at Pitt.”

a man and a woman in graduation garb

Pitt-affiliated School Sends Off Inaugural Class

The Nazarbayev University School of Medicine saw its first class graduate this spring.

NUSOM, a school of Nazarbayev University in the Republic of Kazakhstan, selected the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as its strategic academic partner to assist in the development of the medical school. Since then, Pitt has helped NUSOM institute a curriculum based on the Pittsburgh model, as well as state-of-the-art teaching facilities, school leadership and faculty, policies, courses and more, allowing the new school to stand out in the republic.

Out of 937 graduates from the inaugural class, 41 received degrees from NUSOM, with 14 medical doctors, 27 master’s graduates and 42 registered nursing to Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates.

Mpourmpakis in a light gray jacket and white shirt without a tie

Giannis Mpourmpakis Earns Prestigious Grecian Award

Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, will be honored June 19 with the Bodossaki Award in the Applied Chemical Sciences.

One of the most prestigious awards for scientists of Greek descent, the Bodossaki Award is given every two years to the most outstanding scientist of Greek descent below the age of 40. Mpourmpakis will be honored by the president of Greece as part of the award ceremony.

Mpourmpakis heads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab at Pitt, or CANELa for short. Here, he and his research team use theory and computation to investigate the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse technological areas on the nanoscale, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. Read more about the award at the Swanson School website.

Rogers in a red blouse

Renee J. Rogers Inducted as Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine

Renee J. Rogers (EDUC ’09G, ’12G), assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education, was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at their conference in May. The fellowship “recognizes individuals who exhibit a deep and ongoing interest and dedication to the goals and long-range activities of the ACSM.”

Rogers’ work includes research on the health benefits of physical activity, with an emphasis on research into practice.

Rogers, who is also the programming director of Pitt’s Healthy Lifestyle Institute, also recently appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine for her expertise on weight loss and exercise physiology.

Delitto in a light shirt and red tie

SHRS Dean Delitto Appointed Member of National Advisory Council

Anthony Delitto, dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, was recently appointed as a member of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Integrative Health.

The council is responsible for advising, consulting with and making recommendations to the director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health on matters relating to the research activities and functions of the center.

Delitto treats people with painful musculoskeletal disorders, and his current research is focused on implementing classification and treatment effectiveness studies into quality improvement initiatives. He is also conducting trials in exercise interventions for people with Parkinson's disease.

Kinloch in a yellow top

Valerie Kinloch Elected Vice President of National Council of Teachers of English

Valerie Kinloch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, has been elected vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

According to its website, the NCTE “amplifies the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.”

“It is my honor to have been elected as NCTE’s next vice president,” said Kinloch. “Being a member of NCTE for more than 20 years has allowed me to partner with, learn from and be inspired by dedicated educators from around the world who have an unwavering commitment to language and literacy teaching, learning, practice and research.”

Kinloch will take office during NCTE’s annual convention in Baltimore this November.

Michael Pinsky

Critical Care Medicine Professor Michael Pinsky Becomes Society Fellow

Michael Pinsky, professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, has been elevated to the rank of APS Fellow by the American Physiological Society

The fellowship is an honor bestowed on senior scientists who have “demonstrated excellence in science, have made significant contributions to the physiological sciences and served the society.”

Pinsky has been a society member since 1984. During his professional career, he has edited 27 medical textbooks, authored over 350 peer-reviewed publications and over 250 chapters and supported over 400 abstract presentations. He is also the editor-in-chief of Medscape’s critical care medicine section.

two shots of the winners, stitched together

Pitt Affiliates Named AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has selected a graduate student and a post-graduate student from the Department of Biological Sciences as part of its 2019 Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship program.

Sebastian Alejandro Echeverri (pictured right) and Nikki Forrester are two of 26 selected for the competitive fellowship, which places undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate level scientists in media organizations across the globe for 10 weeks to participate in science journalism.

Echiverri is a PhD student in the Richards-Zawacki Lab studying the relationship between animals’ eyes and how they operate in their environments. Forrester recently earned a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology. 

This summer, Echeverri will be working with the Philadelphia Inquirer and Forrester will work with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

the new room, which has wooden chairs, a big wooden display at the front and light colored walls

Pitt to Dedicate Philippine Nationality Room

The newest Nationality Room, the Philippine Room, will be dedicated in a ceremony on Sunday, June 9 — a day nearly two decades in the making.

The formal dedication will take place in the Heinz Memorial Chapel, followed by a cultural festival filled with music, dance performances and traditional Filipino food in the Commons Room in the Cathedral of Learning. Free tours will also be offered of all 31 Nationality Rooms.

The new room brings a taste of the Philippines to the third floor of the Cathedral of Learning, containing artifacts, artwork and architecture typical to the archipelago made up of nearly 7,100 islands. The room reflects the “Bahay na Bato” style, which translates to house of stone, to make a sturdy home that can outlast typhoons, earthquakes and floods that regularly impact the islands.

Established in 1926 by then-Chancellor John Bowman, Pitt’s Nationality Rooms are representative of—and pay tribute to—the cultural groups that settled Allegheny County. The Philippine Room is the 12th room to be dedicated since E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs, began leadership of the rooms in 1965. The Philippine Room is the first to be dedicated since 2015.

person studying at a desk

Record 13 Pitt Alumni Receive Fulbright Scholarships for 2019

A record-breaking 13 Pitt alumni won Fulbright scholarships in 2019, shattering the University’s historical record of 11 recipients that was set in 2015.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and other professionals — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and find solutions to shared international concerns.

An interactive map details each Pitt Fulbright scholar for 2019, along with their locations.

They are, also, as follows:

  • Suzanna Carnevali-Doan of Washington, D.C., who graduated in 2019 with degrees in Spanish and sociology will head to Brazil.
  • Fiona Eichinger of West Chester, Pennsylvania, who graduated in 2019 with degrees in biological sciences and international and area studies, is set to travel to Malta.
  • Zachary Enick of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, will be abroad in France. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Italian and a minor in linguistics.
  • Abigail Jarrett of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, who graduated in 2019 with degrees in biology, chemistry and English writing, will head to Germany.
  • Grace McHale of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a 2018 graduate who studied Spanish and political science. She will head to Brazil with her Fulbright scholarship.
  • David Nascari of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, will travel to Italy. He is a 2019 graduate with degrees in neuroscience and art history.
  • Abigail Neer of Columbus, Ohio, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in linguistics. She will travel to South Korea.
  • Jennie O’Donaghue of Chicago, Illinois, graduated in 2018 with degrees in Spanish and urban studies. She will head to Colombia.
  • Jessica Penn of Milton, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in Chinese and a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women Studies, and she will head to Taiwan.
  • Saket Rajprohat of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with a degree in marketing and a minor in political science. He is set to travel to India.
  • David Skrovanek of Wexford, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with degrees in electrical engineering, German and cultural studies. He is off to Germany on his Fulbright scholarship.
  • Elizabeth Withers of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a 2018 graduate with degrees in English literature and history and philosophy of science. She is heading to Colombia.
  • Ivy Yen of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is a 2019 graduate with degrees in linguistics and psychology. She is traveling to South Korea.
Jakicic in a suit and tie

John Jakicic Wins Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine

John Jakicic (EDUC ’95G), chair of the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education received the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Citation Award — one of the most prestigious honors given by the organization.

The award recognizes individuals who have made “significant and important contributions to the fields of sports medicine and/or exercise science.” According to its website, ACSM is made up of more than 50,000 members and certified professionals, and “is the authority for sports medicine and exercise science.”

Jakicic, who is also the founding director of Pitt’s new Healthy Lifestyle Institute (HLI), accepted his award at an Orlando conference in late May.

head shots of each woman

Researchers to Study Pittsburgh Lead Pipes

Two researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently received a National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant for $175,000 to study the environmental effects of new anti-corrosion treatments currently being used on Pittsburgh’s lead pipes.

Sarah Haig, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering with a secondary appointment in environmental and occupational health at the Graduate School of Public Health, and Emily Elliott, associate professor of geology and environmental science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory, will evaluate water samples provided by the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority.

They will assess and monitor changes in the microbial ecology, water chemistry and nutrient availability in the water collected from pipes and urban streams connected to the system.

Victory lights on the Cathedral of Learning

Nine from Pitt Community Named to New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab 40

Nine members of the University of Pittsburgh community have been named to the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab 40 Class of 2019 list.

The Fab 40 list recognizes African-Americans under the age of 40 who make a positive difference in the Pittsburgh area through their fields of expertise.

Current Pitt staff members that are named to the Class of 2019 include: Cassandra Brentley, program manager in the School of Education’s Center for Urban Education; Tenecia Ross, director of employee and labor relations in the Office of Human Resources; and Deborah Todd (A&S ’03), communications manager in the Office of University Communications.

The following members of the University’s alumni community were also named to the Class of 2019: Camille A. Clarke-Smith (A&S ’06, EDUC ’08G), UPMC Health Plan/T.H.A.W.; Ronald B. Coursey (A&S ’08), Woodland Hills School District; Alyssa P. Lyon (A&S ’12), Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group/AmeriCorps VISTA; Julius Ridgley (BUS ’15G), Eat ‘N Park Hospitality Group, Inc.; Aster Teclay (A&S ’10), Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh; and Terri White (BUS ’19G), Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

All Fab 40 honorees will be celebrated at the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel on July 19.

Rutenbar in a blue coat, blue and white striped shirt and red tie

Rob Rutenbar Serves on White House Academic Roundtable

Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research at the University of Pittsburgh, was recently in Washington, D.C., as part of the White House Academic Roundtable on Innovation in Quantum Information Science.

Rutenbar, along with other U.S. academic leaders and scientists, discussed ideas with federal agency representatives and government officials on ways research institutions can encourage and integrate innovation ecosystems. The goal of the National Quantum Initiative is to promote quantum information sciences for researchers and students — a field that involves both computational and physics research. 

“Pitt has been aggressively working on quantum science and technology for several years,” said Rutenbar. “Our Pittsburgh Quantum Institute includes nearly 100 quantum faculty from universities across the region, working on topics ranging from fundamental physics to computer science, all focused on advancing the field to practical applications in computing, communication and sensing.”

Audrey J. Murrell

Audrey J. Murrell to Serve as Acting Dean of the University Honors College

Audrey J. Murrell, who most recently served as associate dean of Pitt’s College of Business Administration and director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, has been appointed as acting dean of the University Honors College. She begins on June 17, 2019.

Murrell is a professor of business administration at Pitt and holds secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

In her research, teaching and consulting work, Murrell focuses on building the capacity of people and organizations, with special emphasis on enhancing outcomes for women, mentoring, diversity, ethical leadership development and social responsibility. Additionally, she pursues community service with many organizations, including through board positions with the Women and Girls Foundation, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Food21 of Pennsylvania. 

As a result of all of these efforts, Murrell has been widely recognized through prestigious awards such as the Mayor’s Citizen Service Award from the City of Pittsburgh, the “Women of Influence” award from the Pittsburgh Business Times, and the SBA Minority Business Champion of the Year Award.

“Audrey’s exceptional experience and far-reaching scholarship make her ideal for her new role in the University Honors College, where innovation and mentoring are key to the success of our students,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd. “From start to finish, she possesses the leadership qualities to further advance the scope and mission of the college.”

Chrysanthis in a suit and tie in front of a red curtain

Panos Chrysanthis Receives Alumni Honor From Alma Mater

Panos Chrysanthis, a professor of computer science in the School of Computing and Information, has been recognized by the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Information and Computer Science for Outstanding Achievements in Education. He and seven other alumni of the school were honored in April for achievements in education, entrepreneurship, research and management as well as computing for the common good and outstanding achievements by a young alumnus.

At Pitt, Chrysanthis is founding director of the Advanced Data Management Technologies Lab. He has received seven teaching awards and, in 2015, was given the University of Pittsburgh Provost Award for Excellence in Mentoring for doctoral students.

H2P written in sparklers in the dark

7 Pitt Athletics Programs Post Highest Multiyear Academic Progress Report Scores

Seven University of Pittsburgh athletic programs — baseball, football, men’s cross country, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s tennis and women’s track & field — set or matched their highest multi-year Academic Progress Report scores as released by the NCAA.

Pitt had 11 of its 17 programs perform at or above the national average for multi-year rate ending with the 2017-18 academic year, including the women’s basketball, women’s tennis and women's cross country teams that posted perfect 1,000 scores to earn APR Public Recognition honors. The women’s tennis team posted a perfect score for the fifth consecutive year and seventh time overall since the start of the APR. Women's cross country posted a perfect score of 1,000 for the second consecutive year and third time overall, while women’s basketball accomplished the feat for the first time.

Read more about these achievements at the Pitt Athletics news site.

Hornyak in a pink top

Victoria Hornyak Recognized as 2019 Geriatrics Teacher of the Year

Victoria Hornyak, assistant professor of physical therapy in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently received the 2019 Geriatrics Teacher of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Geriatrics Society — Western Division.

Hornyak is recognized for her work at Pitt, which includes coordinating and serving as the primary instructor for courses related to patient management and geriatrics in Pitt’s Department of Physical Therapy program. She also serves as the faculty mentor for the students’ Geriatrics Special Interest Group and is an SHRS representative for Pitt’s Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education.

Her research addresses advancing dementia care competency and preparedness across disciplines through a grant as part of the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program. The project’s goal is to adapt existing communication skills programs to better interact with patients who have dementia.