Accolades

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Rob Rutenbar and William Federspiel

Two Pitt Researchers Named Fellows for National Academy of Inventors

Rob Rutenbar, Senior Vice Chancellor for Research at Pitt, and William Federspiel, the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, were recently named fellows for the National Academy of Inventors’ 2019 fellowship class.

The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Election to NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.  

Rutenbar and Federspiel have a combined 26 patents to their names, respectively, and have over 300 peer-reviewed journals and papers published.

The complete list of NAI Fellows is available on the NAI website

John Jakicic

Healthy Lifestyle Institute Hosts Second Annual Summit, Announces ‘Schools on the Move’ Initiative

The Healthy Lifestyle Institute (HLI) hosted its second annual summit on Friday, Dec. 6 on the Pittsburgh campus. The summit consisted of presentations and updates from researchers across campus on their work to transform lifestyle research into health and wellbeing for people in all stages of life.

Housed within the School of Education, HLI was founded in 2017 with a mission “to develop, translate and implement health and wellness programs” for the Pitt community and around the Pittsburgh region.

At the summit, HLI’s founding director John Jakicic (EDUC ’95G), introduced HLI’s Schools on the Move initiative, which will provide grants to support innovative physical activity programming at 43 K-12 schools in the Pittsburgh area.

“We’re asking teachers to get creative. We’re not just providing schools with basketballs and nets,” said Jakicic, who also serves as chair of the Department of Health, Physical Activity, and Exercise in the School of Education. “We’re really interested in seeing how these projects unfold.”

Brenda Cassidy, Jennifer Lingler and Patricia Tuite

Pitt Nursing Faculty Stand Out in Statewide Awards

Three University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing faculty members were recognized in November at the 30th annual gala and celebration of the Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania. Each faculty member who was nominated for her category received the award. 

Brenda Cassidy (NURS ’86G, ’97G, ’11G), assistant professor, won the Doctorate of Nursing Practice award; Jennifer Lingler (NURS ’98G, ’04G; A&S ’03G), professor, won the Nursing Research award; and Patricia Tuite (NURS ’85, ’92G), assistant professor, won the Nursing Education-Academia award.

The Nightingale Awards are a statewide program designed to recognize excellence in nursing. Over the past 30 years, more than 100 nursing professionals who best exemplify compassionate care, clinical expertise, education and leadership have been celebrated at the awards ceremony.

Grace Campbell

Grace Campbell Selected for Inaugural National Recognition

Nurse researcher and faculty member Grace Campbell (SOC WK ’85G, NURS ’94,’13G) is among an elite group of nurses included in the inaugural cohort of fellows of the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN). 

Campbell is one of fewer than 20 nurses from across the United States who were selected for this inaugural cohort of fellows. Nurses were selected based on their leadership in rehabilitation nursing, as well as contributions, service and commitment to the specialty and the ARN. 

Campbell’s research focuses on the impact of chronic disorders on physical function and developing behavioral interventions to improve physical function. She is specifically interested in fall risk and fall prevention in individuals who are chronically ill, including those who are stroke and cancer patients. 

Inmaculada Hernandez

Inmaculada Hernandez Earns Emerging Leader Award

Inmaculada Hernandez, assistant professor of pharmacy and therapeutics in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, was recently presented the 2019 Seema S. Sonnad Emerging Leader in Managed Care Research Award by the American Journal of Managed Care.

This award recognizes an individual whose early achievements in managed care demonstrate the potential for making an exceptional long-term contribution as a leader in the field. 

With over 40 published peer-reviewed manuscripts, Hernandez has contributed to 25 as a first author and eight as a senior author. These articles have been published in various medical journals and their findings have been featured on NPR, Forbes, ABC, CNBC, BBC, Fox News and Bloomberg. Hernandez was also recently included on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list as a young leader in health care research.

Cathedral of Learning against blue sky with clouds

Eight Receive Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability Awards

The University of Pittsburgh’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation named eight faculty awardees for the 2020 John C. Mascaro Faculty Program in Sustainability.

The one-year awards, created to enhance the University’s mission of interdisciplinary excellence in sustainability research and education, go to faculty members from all disciplines, who may apply as faculty fellows, scholars or lecturers.

This year’s honorees are:

John C. Mascaro Faculty Fellow in Sustainability

  • David Finegold, professor of human genetics, Graduate School of Public Health

John C. Mascaro Faculty Scholars in Sustainability

  • Tony Kerzmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, Swanson School of Engineering
  • Sara Kuebbing, assistant professor of invasion ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences

John C. Mascaro Faculty Lecturers in Sustainability

  • Joshua Groffman, assistant professor of music, Division of Communication and the Arts, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
  • Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, Swanson School of Engineering
  • Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Swanson School of Engineering
  • Pamela Stewart, senior research associate, Department of Anthropology, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Andrew Strathern, Andrew Mellon Professor, Department of Anthropology, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
The Cathedral of Learning

Three Researchers Named to American Association for the Advancement of Science

Three University of Pittsburgh researchers have been named to the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2019 fellowship cohort. 

Kathryn Albers, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology in the School of Medicine, was recognized for accomplishments in molecular and cellular neuroscience, including studies of sensory neuron development and its relation to nerve injury and pain. 

Tao Han, distinguished professor of high energy physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was recognized for contributions to understanding physics beyond the standard model, specifically his work at high energy particle accelerators. 

Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research in the Office of the Chancellor, was recognized for contributions to tools for the design of custom integrated circuits and systems, as well as novel architectures for curricula in computer science and engineering.

In February, the fellows will be honored during the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle.

Kathryn Albers, Tao Han and Rob Rutenbar.

Mathew Rosenblum

Mathew Rosenblum Collaboration Performed in Poland and Boston

Mathew Rosenblum, chair of the Department of Music in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, is just back from hearing his most personal composition to date performed for an international audience. His clarinet concerto “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath” is a collaboration with American clarinetist David Krakauer, a high school friend of Rosenblum’s from New York City. The Polish National Radio Symphony recently performed the piece in Warsaw and again in Katowice, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project presented the work at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.

The composition tells the story of Rosenblum’s grandmother, Bella Liss, whose family fled Proskurov, Ukraine, in 1919 during that town’s massacre. Every Passover, in the family’s crowded Bronx apartment, Bella would gather Rosenblum and her other grandchildren to relate how she and her six children fled out the back door and got onto a hay cart to make their escape. Before they left, Bella tied the family’s sterling silverware to her legs, underneath her long skirts. As she fled, she stopped in the woods to give birth to Rosenblum’s mother. Eventually, they crossed the border and ended up in Vienna, where Bella sold the silver for tickets to Palestine, where she and her family lived for four years. Sometimes Bella wailed and cried while telling the tale, making it a passionate lament.

The work combines actual recorded Ukrainian and Jewish laments, Bella’s own voice, Krakauer’s clarinet and a strong allusion to Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique,” all in Rosenblum’s microtonal musical language.

“Through the mining of diverse musical and cultural sources … and addressing the universal and timely themes of migration, loss and cultural transformation, the work speaks to diverse audiences, both in the U.S. and internationally,” said Rosenblum.

Hear Rosenblum explain a portion of the composition in a Music at Pitt podcast.

Catherine Palmer

Study on Hearing Loss and Social Participation Receives Award

Catherine Palmer, associate professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at Pitt, has been approved for a $2.23 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study hearing aids’ role in participation in senior communities.

Through this three-year award, Palmer and her team in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) will find out if people are more satisfied with their social participation when more hearing support is available, and if people with hearing loss find their quality of life improves when they have access to hearing help more frequently.

Palmer’s study was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

Palmer is also director of the SHRS Audiology Program, director of the Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the current president of the American Academy of Audiology. Other Pitt researchers who will work with Palmer in this study include audiology associate professor Elaine Mormer, occupational therapy associate professor Natalie Leland and physical therapy professor Charity Patterson.

Gina Garcia

Gina Garcia Appointed to Board of Directors of National Higher Education Organization

Gina Garcia, assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, has been elected to the board of directors of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).

With over 2,000 members, ASHE is a national organization for scholarship in higher education administration. Garcia’s appointment will run from 2019-2021.

Garcia focuses her research on Hispanic-Serving Institutions (not-for-profit, degree-granting colleges and universities that enroll at least 25% or more Latinx students) in post-secondary education, Latinx college student experiences and the effects of racism and microaggressions in collegiate settings. Pitt celebrated the launch of her book, “Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities,” on Oct. 15.

Peter Strick

Peter Strick Honored for Brain Research

Peter Strick, founding scientific director of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, was selected for a 2019 Krieg Cortical Kudos Discoverer Award in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of the cortical circuits involved in motor control.

He was presented the award by the Society for Neuroscience at the Cajal Club in Chicago. Each year, neuroscientists at senior, intermediate and beginning stages in their careers are honored by the society for outstanding research on the structure and connections of the cerebral cortex.

Strick's research focuses on four major areas: the generation and control of voluntary movement by the motor areas of the cerebral cortex; the motor and cognitive functions of the basal ganglia and cerebellum; the neural basis for the mind-body connection; and unraveling the complex neural networks that comprise the central nervous system.

Alex Toner

Alex Toner Recognized as Western Pennsylvania Rising Star

Alex J. Toner (SCI ’11G), assistant director of community engagement in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, was recognized as a 2019 Western PA Rising Star by Get Involved!, Inc., at its 10th annual Pittsburgh Service Summit on Sept. 12.

The Rising Star awards recognize 21 local young professionals who “dedicate their time and talent to community organizations and who are making a positive difference in the region.”

In addition to his role at Pitt, Toner serves as a high school mentor at Brashear High School through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor 2.0 program, is an active member of Brookline Together and is pursuing a Masters of Public Policy and Management from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

According to its website, Get Involved!, Inc. “provides leadership and development programs and initiatives that engage, energize, educate and empower students, young professionals and lifelong learners to make a positive difference in their communities and to become civically engaged.”

Jeanne Marie Laskas

“The Mister Rogers No One Saw”: Jeanne Marie Laskas Pens Essay in The New York Times Magazine

Jeanne Marie Laskas, Distinguished Professor of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and founding director of Pitt’s Center for Creativity, published an essay in The New York Times Magazine on her friendship with Fred Rogers.

Laskas first met Rogers after finishing graduate school and remained friends with him until his death in 2003.

“Fred Rogers’ philosophy guided me to teach in the way that I do now. He gave me the confidence to become a writer,” said Laskas, a New York Times best-selling author of eight books.

During Pitt’s Year of Creativity, Laskas said we can all learn a lot from Fred Rogers. “Fred believed that the creative process was a fundamental function at the core of every human being,” Laskas wrote in her essay.

Her essay appeared in The New York Times Magazine, on shelves Nov. 24. In addition to serving as a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Laskas is also a correspondent at GQ. Her bylines have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Esquire.

Haihui Zhu, Christopher Paquinelli and Roman Hamilton

Student Engineering Team Wins Award for ASL Translator Device

A student team in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering recently took the Bronze Award at the InnovateFPGA 2019 Global Contest Regional Final for a program that translates American Sign Language (ASL) to voice using machine learning. 

Led by Haihui Zhu, Christopher Pasquinelli and Roman Hamilton, all undergraduates in computer engineering, the team is developing a sign language reader that uses a camera and artificial intelligence to identify the hand gestures used in ASL and translates them into sentences, which would benefit the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who rely on ASL to communicate.

The award includes a certificate, a cash award of $800, and the Max 10 Plus FPGA main board. Team members say they will continue working on the project and are seeking students to join their team.

The Cathedral of Learning

Pitt, UPMC to Lead New National Research and Training Center on Family Support

The University of Pittsburgh and UPMC have been selected to create the National Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Family Support

Through a $4.3 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), the center will serve as a national hub that leverages state-of-the-art research to improve the care, health and quality of life of all persons with disabilities and the families who support them.

The center, which builds upon 30-plus years of Pitt’s efforts in support of caregiving, is directed by Heidi Donovan, professor in the School of Nursing’s Department of Health and Community Systems; Scott Beach, interim director and director of survey research of the University Center for Social and Urban Research; and Bambang Parmanto, professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Health Information Management in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

“The need nationwide for this center is huge. Despite the important role that caregivers provide to our health system, there are still gaps in knowledge in the field of family caregiving,” said Gabriela Prudencio, Hunt Research Director at the National Alliance for Caregiving. “Pitt and UPMC bring over 30 years of extensive research experience in this field and have been leveraging key relationships to translate research into programs and policies.”

Using sparklers to write H2P

Pitt Hosts Students from Franklin Regional School District for Disability Mentoring Day

The University of Pittsburgh hosted 13 students from Franklin Regional School District as they participated in Disability Mentoring Day on Oct. 16. Disability Mentoring Day is a nationwide effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration. The effort began in 1999 and takes place annually on the third Wednesday of October.

The Franklin Regional students toured Panther Central, University Mailing Services and the University Store on Fifth in the morning, where they received Pitt IDs, learned how to use student mailboxes and explored the ins and outs of running and working in a retail space. In the afternoon, representatives from the Office of Human Resources, Department of Athletics and Office of Diversity and Inclusion met with the students to talk about what they do at Pitt, assist with resume building and practice mock interviews. They also enjoyed lunch together and took pictures with Roc.

The day-long event was hosted by Pitt’s human resources office. Organizers included Tom Armstrong, Veterans and Individuals with disABILITIES recruiter, and Sarah Morgan, talent acquisition manager.

“It was a pleasure to host Franklin Regional students—they were engaging, thoughtful and such a delight,” Morgan said. “We are always happy to help our community members discuss career paths and jobs at Pitt, but this particular event gave us the chance to meet students that we might not otherwise have had the chance to meet. It was a great day.”

“Disability Mentoring Day was a real opportunity to introduce the kids to the different departments at Pitt so that they can get an idea of what everyone does around the University. We were proud to be asked to participate with the rest of the organizations in Pittsburgh, and we hope to continue to develop this event in the years to come,” said Armstrong.

Running on a treadmill

Pitt Honored in Healthiest Employers of Pittsburgh Awards

The University of Pittsburgh has been named an honoree for the Healthiest Employers Awards.

Since 2009, the Healthiest Employers Awards aim to recognize leaders in corporate wellness across the U.S. The Healthiest Employers company researches over 8,000 employers nationally to assemble trends, challenges and practices to enhance corporate wellness programs. Employers are assessed on their health and wellness programs using six fundamental areas of health programming:

  • Culture and leadership commitment
  • Foundational components
  • Strategic planning
  • Communication and marketing
  • Programming and interventions
  • Reporting and analytics

Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Benefits John Kozar is helping develop Pitt’s health and wellness program for faculty, staff and students. “This honor helps create an awareness of the University’s wellness efforts. It also further supports our designation as a Live Well Allegheny Workplace by the Allegheny County Health Department,” said Kozar.

Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Dave DeJong agrees. “Pitt is dedicated to bringing the best health and wellness services and resources to its faculty, staff and students. As a healthy employer, we are paving the way for other higher education organizations to follow our lead and support their employees in health,” said DeJong.

The University of Pittsburgh was recognized for its dedication and commitment to employee health and wellness as a large employer in the Western Pennsylvania region. One such example is the Wellness for Life program for faculty and staff, which focuses on proactive health management, positive lifestyle choices and physical activity. Pitt employees can visit the on-campus UPMC MyHealth@Work Health and Wellness Center to treat a variety of health issues, partner with a health coach to make healthy lifestyle changes and get in shape and explore Life Solutions services to help balance work and the stresses of daily life.

The University of Pittsburgh

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) turns 50 this year. 

The school began as one of the smallest schools on Pitt’s campus in 1969 and has grown to be one of the most prominent today.

“We are fortunate that the leadership in SHRS sees the challenges as opportunities to demonstrate our collective innovativeness in educational delivery. This is especially evident as we boldly move into the arena of distance education,” said Anthony Delitto, who has served as the school’s dean since 2015. 

Read more about the school over its half-century existence in the latest edition of FACETS, SHRS’ magazine.

Lisa Bodnar

Lisa Bodnar Named Committee Member for Infant Feeding Study

Lisa Bodnar, professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, has been named a full member on the National Academy of Medicine's “Committee on Scoping Existing Guidelines for Feeding Recommendations for Infants and Young Children Under Age 2.”

The committee will review existing documents and resources about what to feed and how to feed infants and children from birth up to two years of age, and assess descriptions of best practices for implementation strategies to support communication and dissemination of feeding guidance. They'll then inform stakeholders about the feasibility of consolidating feeding guidelines and/or harmonizing guidance for feeding infants and children up to two years of age, and will make recommendations about communication strategies.

Bodnar’s research focuses on discovering the healthiest weight and dietary patterns for pregnant women and their children. 

Paul Leu

Paul Leu Receives Award to Lead Effort for Better Smartwatch and TV Screens

Paul Leu, associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, will lead a collaborative study that aims to replace indium tin oxide with metal “microgrid” conductors to improve performance of organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs.

Leu will work with Electroninks, a technology company in Austin, Texas, thanks to a $1 million award from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

OLEDs are present in smartwatches and 4K television screens. Indium tin oxide is expensive, doesn’t perform well enough for larger areas and can crack with repeated touching or swiping. By using a new metal patterning technique that prints the metal grid directly on glass or plastic, the team aims to create “microgrid” conductors that can outperform indium tin oxide at a lower manufacturing cost.