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Noelle Conover Receives Professional Achievement Award

Noelle Conover, a project coordinator in the Hematology/Oncology Division of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, has been awarded the Professional Achievement Award by Pitt’s School of Computing and Information. Noelle, who holds a master’s degree from Pitt's formerly named School of Library and Information, has worked in the IT field for more than 30 years and puts her web design and marketing expertise to use for Matt’s Maker Space, a nonprofit STEAM education organization she and her husband started, which is named for her son who had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Pitt-developed Innovations Win Chancellor's Commercialization Funding

Two faculty-led innovation teams were awarded a total of $25,000 in Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds at the Pitt Ventures First Gear summer Demo Day.

EyeCures, a technology that enhances the effectiveness of medicated eye drops, which was developed in the lab of ophthalmology faculty member Robert Shanks, received $20,000.

Hearing for Health, a hearing screening device developed by Catherine Palmer of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Department of Communication Science and Disorders and Jeffrey Vipperman of the Swanson School of Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, received $5,000.

Sally Wenzel Receives European Respiratory Society Presidential Award

Professor of Medicine Sally Wenzel has earned the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) Presidential Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the strengthening of respiratory medicine worldwide. The ERS noted in its announcement that "Wenzel has a passion for understanding and improving the treatment of asthma, in particular severe asthma. She has promoted severe asthma as a complex, even novel disease and her studies of asthma phenotypes have led the field in understanding these complexities." Wenzel serves as director of Pitt's Asthma Institute and is the UPMC Chair of Translational Airway Biology.

Tuan in a white coat and a blue tie

Team Led By Rocky Tuan Receives $1.2 Million Grant to Create 'Joint-on-a-Chip'

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.2 million grant to a multi-institutional project led by the University of Pittsburgh to engineer a three dimensional joint-on-a-chip called the “microJoint.” The microJoint will replicate a human joint on a small scale and be used to study and test drugs for the treatment of arthritic joint diseases. 

“We’re building what will be the first joint-on-a-chip that we hope will accurately replicate arthritic diseases in humans, and thus allow in-depth understanding of the disease process that will lead to discovery of potential therapies,” said principal investigator Rocky Tuan, director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering, and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

Neuro-Oncology Researcher Gary Kohanbash at Children’s Hospital Receives Grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Gary Kohanbash, a neuro-oncology researcher and assistant professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been awarded a scholar grant of $298,000 from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. These grants provide resources to institutions to conduct more research and enroll more children in ongoing clinical trials. Kohanbash and his team will look at improving immunotherapy for ependymomas, the third most common kind of brain tumor in children.

“As a scientist and a father, I am driven to help save kids from brain cancers, so I am very excited about the potential of immunotherapy. Unimaginable advances within the last 10 years are enabling us to create new, safer and more effective treatments,” said Kohanbash, who works at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “With this funding from the St. Baldrick's Foundation, I am hopeful that we can bridge the gap between lab research and clinical care for kids with ependymomas.”

Pitt Earns Top Award in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge

Pitt has retained its crown in the university division in Sustainable Pittsburgh’s 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge, placing first among a half-dozen universities. Pitt has won in its division in each competition since it first took up the challenge in 2013-2014.

More than 90 businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and universities completed the challenge in which employers earn points for taking sustainable actions in areas including energy and water usage, waste reduction and transportation. Together, they saved more than 16 million kilowatt hours of power, 33 million gallons of water and 552 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Winners received awards made of upcycled materials.

Barbara A. Epstein Serving as President of the Medical Library Association

Barbara A. Epstein, director of Pitt's Health Sciences Library System, has begun her tenure as the 2017-18 president of the Medical Library Association (MLA). An organization of more than 2,700 members, the MLA supports the professional practice and leadership of health sciences library and information professionals in order to enhance the quality of health care, education and research throughout the world. Members work in academic health centers, hospitals, colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies and other commercial entities, healthcare associations, and health agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

National Science Foundation Funds Study Led By Leanne Gilbertson to Design Sustainable Carbon Nanomaterials

A research project led by Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received $285,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation. Gilbertson’s project will focus on the inner workings of carbon nanomaterials, strong tiny structures made of carbon on the nanometer scale, or about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Gilbertson hopes to develop best design practices that result in environmentally sustainable carbon nanomaterials, enhancing the ability to control their desirable and undesirable impacts.

Pharmacy's Shilpa Sant Named a Young Innovator of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

Assistant Professor Shilpa Sant, in the School of Pharmacy, was named a 2017 Young Innovator by Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE). Sant’s research focuses on developing in vitro disease models and therapies for stress-induced heart calcification, a condition wherein calcium deposits form on the aortic valve of the heart, reducing blood flow and causing heart disease. Her work on combating this condition is featured in the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering's October 2017 issue. Each year, the editors of CMBE dedicate the Young Innovators special issue to highlighting the work of assistant professors conducting innovative bioengineering research at the molecular, cellular and multi-cellular level. Sant is one of 11 people to receive the honor this year.

Geovette E. Washington Joins Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees

Geovette E. Washington, senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer for the University of Pittsburgh, has accepted a position on the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh's board of trustees. She will serve a three-year term. Washington came to Pitt in August 2015, after working in private practice with both corporate and nonprofit clients and, most recently, as general counsel and senior policy advisor in the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

“Coming from Washington, D.C., a place with many museums, I am interested to see how a city this size maintains its world-class museums,” said Washington. “This post will give me insight into how the museum runs and how it continues to be a first-rate facility.”

Brienza in front of a tan background wearing a white collared shirt with blue and green stripes

David Brienza Awarded $2.6 Million From the National Institutes of Health to Study Bed Sore Prevention

David Brienza, associate dean of research at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study which hospital-bed technologies work best to prevent and treat bed sores — pressure wounds that can lead to serious infections and death. The grant will be used for a randomized study of 800 patients at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore over the next three years to determine whether special mattresses that wick away moisture and circulate air under the patient are effective at preventing pressure injuries.

Akiva, a man in a navy blue sweater and glasses, standing in front of the Cathedral of Learning

Education's Thomas Akiva Awarded $300,000 From National Science Foundation

Thomas Akiva, an assistant professor in the School of Education, has been awarded a grant of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation. The funding supports his efforts to study and enhance makerspaces — specifically, areas for children to create, build and explore with various tools and materials — within Pittsburgh-area libraries. Through the project, Akiva hopes to develop new ways support adults who work with youth in program settings.

A faculty member at Pitt since 2012, Akiva focuses his research on understanding and improving out-of-school learning programs by examining instructor practices, staff professional development and cross-program networks.

University Recognized for Its Commitment to an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Environment

Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that identifies LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, has awarded the University of Pittsburgh a Campus Pride Index score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. “The University is very excited about this recognition. It is a public affirmation of the University-wide efforts to make the University an inclusive educational and employment environment for all, including for our very important LGBTQIA+ community members,” said Pam Connelly, Pitt’s vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “We will use it as motivation to continually grow and improve.”

The score is based on policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. Among the many factors that contributed to Pitt’s score were student organizations, such as the Rainbow Alliance; the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program; and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which led the recognition effort.

4 Researchers Receive New Initiatives Grants From Charles E. Kaufman Foundation

The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Charles E. Kaufman Foundation has named Tia-Lynn Ashman and James Pipas as recipients of one of its New Initiatives grants for their project “Pollen as the next viral frontier: Unrecognized threat to food security and native biodiversity.” Ashman is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution, and Pipas is the Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology; both are faculty members in Pitt’s Department of Biological Sciences. With their $300,000 grant payable over two years, Ashman and Pipas will unearth how pollen can transmit viruses between plants. Their research could have implications for the nation's food supply.

Michael Hatridge and Roger Mong’s proposed research on “Protecting quantum wires for quantum computing” was also recognized with a $300,000 New Initiatives grant, from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation. Hatridge and Mong are assistant professors of condensed matter physics in Pitt’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Hatridge and Mong hope that their research will help to make a real quantum computer feasible; a quantum computer would process information at a rate even faster than that of a supercomputer.


woman in a navy shirt with medium length brown hair

Pitt Cyber Resident Scholar Named Influential Figure in National Security

Kiersten E. Todt, resident scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, has been designated one of 2017’s Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine. The annual honor recognizes top security executives and leaders who are positively impacting their industry and broader security landscape.

At Pitt Cyber, Todt is a part of the senior leadership team, playing an integral role in bringing the University to the forefront of national cybersecurity policy development. Before coming to Pitt, Todt headed up the national cybersecurity commission, which helped carry out then-President Barack Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan. 

Alison Slinskey Legg Awarded NSF Grant to Steer Underrepresented Groups Toward STEM Education

Alison Slinskey Legg, a senior lecturer in Pitt’s School of Biological Sciences, and 10 collaborating investigators have been approved for $300,000 in funding through the National Science Foundation's INCLUDES Program to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and careers. Legg and partners from five Pitt schools will launch a pilot that recruits high school students for STEM precollegiate programs, develops a metric to evaluate those programs, credentials precollege STEM programs based on the metric and introduces a badging system to credit student participants.

Legg’s collaborators on the project are Alaine Allen, David Boone, Jennifer Iriti, Lori Ann Delale-O’Connor, Rebecca Gonda, Mackenzie Ball, Anne Sekula, Kellie Kane, Kashif Henderson and Lina Dostilio. Read more about the project at NSF's site.

Sonya Borrero

Researchers Receive Grant to Help Women Make Informed Decisions About Sterilization

The University of Pittsburgh received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve the ability of low-income and minority women to make informed decisions about permanent surgical procedures to prevent pregnancy.

Sonya Borrero, associate professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the Pitt School of Medicine and director of the Pitt Center for Women's Health Research and Innovation, said the grant will help researchers develop and test a web-based decision support tool to help women better understand female sterilization and choose birth control options that align with their preferences, values and reproductive goals.

Catherine Bender

Professor Catherine Bender Receives of Oncology Nursing Society's Distinguished Researcher Award

Catherine Bender, a professor and Endowed Oncology Chair at Pitt’s School of Nursing, is this year’s recipient of the Oncology Nursing Society’s Distinguished Researcher Award.

Bender was recognized for her research in describing the effects of endocrine therapy with aromatase inhibitors on cognitive function in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Her studies suggested that compared to matched healthy women, women with breast cancer have poorer executive functioning before they began therapy and that women who received aromatase inhibitors had significantly poorer executive function through the first 18 months of treatment. Bender will present her research results at the ONS Annual Congress next May in Washington, D.C.

panther statue

10 Faculty Members Honored with Course Transformation Awards

Ten natural-science faculty members in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been awarded support for projects to improve teaching and learning strategies in their classrooms. The annual course transformation awards, given by Pitt’s discipline-based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC), funded the following faculty in projects ranging from improving math education for chemists to incorporating more hands-on learning in environmental science classrooms: Kevin R. Binning, Walter P. Carson, Sungkyu Jung, Nancy Kaufmann, Kirill Kiselyov, Daniel Lambrecht, Lucas Mentch, David Nero, Eugene Wagner and Kyle Ann Whittinghill.

Read more details about each director and project on dB-SERC’s website.

a blue 71D bus

Multidisciplinary Team Receives National Science Foundation Funding to Improve Transit

A multidisciplinary team of Pitt investigators has received a three-year, $1.44 million NSF grant to build and evaluate a marketplace and a mobile app for multimodal transportation. The marketplace will provide incentives such as discounts at nearby businesses to encourage riders to take a later bus if the next one is full.

The funding will enable the Pitt Smart Living Project to place additional multimodal, realtime transportation information screens around the city. A half-dozen screens are located in Oakland and Downtown in collaboration with TransitScreen, through seed funding from the University.

Principal investigators are Alexandros Labrinidis, Adam J. Lee, Yu-Ru Lin and Konstantinos Pelechrinis of the School of Computing and Information; Sera Linardi of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; and Kent Harries and Mark Magalotti of the Swanson School of Engineering. External partners include the Port Authority, Healthy Ride, the City of Pittsburgh, the Oakland Business Improvement District and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.