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A panther statue

Pitt Students to Host Graduate Symposium for American Chemical Society

Six Pitt graduate students and a student from Carnegie Mellon University have been selected for the American Chemical Society Spring 2021 National Meeting Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC).

Emily Eikey, Paige Moncure, Xing Yee Gan, Zoe Simon and Sydney Brooks from the Department of Chemistry and Michael Cowan from the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, in the Swanson School of Engineering will organize a full-day symposium at the ACS National Meeting in March 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. 

The Graduate Student Symposia series was created to increase graduate student involvement in planning for ACS meetings and encourage conversation among scientists at all stages of their careers. The symposium, entitled “Bridging Disciplines to Build Better Materials,” is designed to highlight successful collaborations in the field of materials chemistry. The symposium will feature talks from a variety of distinguished scientists.

Jeff Capel

Basketball’s Jeff Capel Treats Hillman Cancer Center Staff with Lunch

Doctors, researchers and staff critical to the essential needs of patients at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center were recently treated to lunch, courtesy of Pitt men’s basketball Head Coach Jeff Capel and his wife, Kanika.

Every Hillman staff member received the meal, catered by Oakland-neighborhood deli Food for Thought, on April 2.

Capel recently penned a message about adapting during times of adversity and how he’s reinforcing with his team the importance of showing gratitude. Read his letter to Panther Nation on

Sarah Braza and Christopher Smith

Two Seniors Named to P&Q Best & Brightest Business Majors

Seniors Sarah Braza and Christopher Smith of the College of Business Administration have been named to the Poets & Quants "Best & Brightest Business Majors of 2020."

The business education publication’s annual list recognizes the top 100 members of the graduating class across the nation’s leading business schools.

Braza, of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is a triple major in business information systemssupply chain management and marketing. Following graduation, she plans to join Deloitte as a business technology analyst in Arlington, Virginia.

Smith, of West Orange, New Jersey, is a double-major in marketing and business information systems. He plans to remain in Pittsburgh after graduation to join Dick’s Sporting Goods as a retail marketing associate.

Read more about these two students in this Pitt Business feature.

J. Jeffrey Inman

J. Jeffrey Inman Named Fellow of the Society for Consumer Psychology

J. Jeffrey Inman, associate dean for research and faculty and Albert Wesley Frey Professor of Marketing in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business has been named a fellow of the Society for Consumer Psychology.

One honoree is named each year in recognition of unique and outstanding contributions to the field of consumer psychology.

“It’s humbling and flattering to be selected by my peers for a prestigious recognition such as this,” said Inman, who presented a Fellow’s Address at the Society’s annual meeting in early March.

Inman was president of the society in 2017 and served on the editorial board of the Journal of Consumer Psychology 2005-2017.

He is currently editor-in-chief of the Journal of Consumer Research, has published more than 50 articles and has more than 11,000 Google Scholar citations. His current research includes cutting-edge consumer-technology interaction and applied consumer behavioral theory in health care.

Read more about this honor.

Babs Carryer in a red jacket

Big Idea Competition to be Held Virtually

Despite social distancing efforts in place at the University of Pittsburgh, the annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition is still on with final round submissions due Wednesday, April 8 at 11:59 p.m.

This year’s competition, hosted by the Big Idea Center in Pitt’s Innovation Institute, will be held virtually after polling from interested graduate and undergraduate students indicated they still wanted to compete. Student teams will pitch their innovative ideas via video to a panel of judges consisting of local entrepreneurs. A total of $100,000 in prize money will be awarded, with the winning idea taking home the grand prize of $25,000.

The competition’s award ceremony will now be held virtually on Wednesday, April 22, at 5 p.m. virtually on the Big Idea Center’s YouTube page. For questions, please contact Babs Carryer (pictured), director of the Big Idea Center.

Thyra-Lilja Altunin Wins Beinecke Scholarship

Third-year student Thyra-Lilja Altunin has been awarded a Beinecke Scholarship of $34,000 to support her graduate education.

Altunin is set to graduate in April 2021, with majors in the  Department of Music, under the music and cultural history track, and the Department of Classics Greek language track in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. She is also minoring in classics, under the Latin language track. She is also pursuing certificates in Western European Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The scholarship, which was established in 1971, is meant to “encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue opportunities available to them and to be courageous in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities and social sciences.” This is the fourth consecutive year a Pitt student has received the scholarship, and Altunin is one of 18 scholars nationwide to be awarded this year.

In 2018, Altunin completed a research fellowship through Pitt Honors, where she worked on an analysis of the accentuation patterns that appear in the Bankes Homer papyrus. She is also president of the classical civilizations club and a Nationality Rooms Tour Guide with Quo Vadis.

Altunin said that she plans to complete a masters and PhD in classics, with a focus on the reconstruction, study and performance of ancient music.

“I hope that the Beinecke Scholarship will help me to become involved with institutions where scholars have already been doing research in these areas and which have access to original documents and resources that I could use in my research,” Altunin said.

Graduate Students Find Small Ways to Help

Helping others in the community during a public health crisis need not always mean large food shipments or cases of water. Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences doctoral student Mariah Callas (pictured) has found that smaller gestures can go a long way. She and her roommate and fellow doctoral student Kayley Renz have been writing letters to elderly people in personal care homes, and dropping hand-written notes in older neighbors’ mailboxes, offering to buy groceries. They baked a four-layer “isolation cake” and dropped slices off on the doorsteps of other physical therapy students.

And then there are the bugs. Callas purchased live caterpillars and praying mantises online and is taking photos of them daily, sending them to a friend who is a nanny, who in turn shares them with the child she cares for.

“We are watching them grow together,” said Callas. "After they cocoon and become butterflies, I plan on posting and sharing their journey for even more people to enjoy!” 

The two are helping coordinate online exercise classes and Callas has joined an online group of people seeking to learn sign language. “It could help me better serve my patients in the future,” she said.

“It feels easy to want to hide away and focus on what is directly in front of us as individuals,” she added. “Shifting my focus and supporting those around me really gives me my sense of purpose back, even from my couch. And seeing people’s reactions just brings so much light to a time that could feel very dark and lonely.”

David Vorp

Swanson School Labs Donate Supplies to Fight COVID-19

Knowing that health care workers need personal protective equipment and other supplies in the effort against COVID-19, faculty and staff at the Swanson School of Engineering organized a donation of supplies to UPMC.

The effort began when Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, contacted Associate Dean for Research David Vorp (pictured) to find out where she could donate her lab’s unused supplies. After contacting UPMC’s Clinical Laboratories with the idea, Vorp coordinated a donation.

“Once I saw the excitement and happiness that the idea brought to the laboratory staff, I knew that we needed to respond in a big way, so I sent the request out to our faculty and tried to get the request out to a wider group with some success,” said Vorp. “In the end, I was blown away by the response of my Pitt colleagues. It truly was humanity at its finest. It was Pitt at its finest!”

The effort collected five pallets of personal protective equipment, such as masks (including the much-needed N95 masks that protect against the virus), peroxide, sanitizers, eye protection and other supplies. The pallets were delivered to UPMC to be distributed to health care facilities in need.

Götz Veser

Swanson Lab Repurposes Equipment to Produce Sanitizer for UPMC

When labs at the Swanson School of Engineering closed for research purposes, Götz Veser (pictured), the Nickolas DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and associate director of the Center for Energy, looked for a way his equipment could be put to use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riddhesh Patel, one of Veser’s graduate students, had an idea: Use the lab’s large-scale batch reactors—essentially enormous stirred glass containers—to blend hand sanitizer for UPMC, which is experiencing a severe shortage for their medical personnel.

After receiving permission to return to the Pittsburgh campus, Goetz, Patel and graduate student Nasser Al Azri set to work. Al Azri maintains and cleans the equipment with support from Patel, as the scope of the effort has increased.

Goetz supervises production, solicits donations of chemicals needed and shuttles the sanitizer to UPMC’s South Side operation. “I do what any good professor does: Stay out of the way and make sure that my students have what they need to do their good work,” he said.

To date, the lab has produced about 75 gallons of sanitizer and just received a significant donation of ingredients, which should yield another 50 gallons. The lab plans to continue to produce sanitizer as long as it can get supplies.

Judith Camarda

Staff Member Gets Crafty to Make Masks for Health Care Workers

Judith Camarda, payroll specialist in Facilities Management, has been a seamstress since her mother taught her the craft when she was 12 years old. Over the years, she has sewn clothes for herself and her daughter, as well as household décor like curtains and pillows.

Now, she’s putting her talent to use making masks for health care workers fighting COVID-19.

Camarda saw an interview with a New York-based physician talking about the need for supplies like masks. “I thought, ‘I can do that,’” she said, having all the needed supplies already.

Through Pittsburgh-based crafts store Firecracker Fabrics, Camarda found Maskmakers PGH, an effort led by nonprofit Radiant Hall. The artists’ organization coordinates all logistics, including pick up and distribution. All Camarda has to do is make 50 masks.

She’s up to 35 so far. “It was so frustrating to see that our medical people don’t have what they need, but this was a small way I can help, and it does make you feel better to help.”

Carla Chugani

Pitt Professor’s Porch Pantry Supports Neighbors in Need

Before the pandemic outbreak, Carla Chugani, assistant professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Dormont resident, built a pantry with the help of a neighbor. As COVID-19 cases began to be reported in Allegheny County, Chugani moved the pantry to her porch and shared information about its location in a Facebook group.

“It just seemed really important. We saw this immediate need for basic things,” said Chugani.

The response was immediate, with donations including child-friendly staples like juice boxes and fruit snacks, as well as individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper and paper towels.

Chugani is encouraging people to leave donations near the pantry at her home at 2958 Belrose Avenue; she brings items into her home and restocks the pantry as needed. “It’s really moving to see the way this community has come together to take care of its own,” she said.

Read more about Chugani’s pantry at Trib Live.

Carrie Benson

Aspinwall Neighbors Toast Community from Afar

For the neighborhood of Aspinwall, with myriad spots to dine and socialize amidst wide sidewalks in front of large porches, social distancing can feel particularly isolating. Residents on their way to dinner or yoga are used to greeting neighbors out on walks with children or dogs.

That’s why Carrie Benson, Aspinwall resident and prevention and education coordinator in the Title IX Office in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, took to an Aspinwall Facebook page with a neighborly invite: Step out into a brisk Saturday evening and share a toast from their porches.

It worked. At 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, Aspinwall residents raised their toasts to their neighbors and community—even the firetrucks, typically reserved for the Memorial Day Parade, made an appearance.

“It was the easiest party I’ve ever planned,” said Benson. “Aspinwall is built for this type of response to social distancing.”

Read more about the neighborhood toast in Next Pittsburgh.

Mostern in a black and white top

History Professor Advocates for the Humanities on Capitol Hill

Ruth Mostern, associate professor in the Department of History in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of the World History Center, advocated for the importance of federal funding for the humanities on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., at the Humanities Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 10.

Mostern had the opportunity to talk to congressional staffers from both sides of the aisle about humanities research at Pitt—including the World Historical Gazetteer, a World History Center project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Mostern serves as the project’s principal investigator.

“I am teaching Environmental History this semester, and even before the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, students were exploring questions that are urgent for the present moment,” said Mostern. “This is a chance to make sure that our congresspeople understand how the humanities transforms their districts and the whole world through education, outreach, and new insights about human past and futures.”

a panther statue

Katz MBA Earns Highest U.S. News & World Report Ranking in 20 Years

The University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business is No. 17 among public institutions in the United States and No. 39 overall—up 4 places from 2020—in the U.S. News & World Report 2021 Best Business Schools rankings. Both are the highest rankings for Katz in 20 years.

“We’re committed to challenging our students and helping them succeed. And our increase in rankings reflects that we are doing just that,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean.

These rankings reflect Katz’s improvements in starting salary and bonuses, average GPA, average GMAT score, percentage employed at graduation and percentage employed at three months post-graduation. Employment at graduation increased 8% and starting salary reached a record high, suggesting that Katz’s commitment to experience-based learning is paying off.

“We focus extensively on experience-based learning, both in classes and in the co-curriculum,” said Laura Oknefski, director of MBA programs. “Through opportunities like consulting field projects, case competitions, management simulation capstone, global research practicums, Six Sigma, and fall and spring professional development weeks, our students take foundational business theories and apply them in real-world contexts.

U.S. News & World Report also ranked the Katz part-time MBA at No. 39, up 9 spots from 2020, and the program’s best ranking since 2011. The increase comes from improvements of average GMAT score and the program’s selectivity.

Read more on the Katz ranking news.

the Cathedral of Learning

Pitt Programs Rise in National Rankings, Physical Therapy Program Remains in Top Spot

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and School of Nursing recently announced new and improved rankings for several educational programs, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition of Best Graduate Schools.

Rankings rose for two SHRS graduate programs—occupational therapy is now ranked number three in the country, moving from its spot at number four. Speech-language pathology had the largest jump from number seven to number three. Physical therapy remains number one for the second consecutive rankings report, as well as the audiology program at number seven. No SHRS program rankings fell and no other comparable programs at other schools ranked higher in Pennsylvania.

Pitt Nursing meanwhile is now number six among Master of Science in Nursing programs, moving up six spots from number 12. The Doctor of Nursing Practice programs is now number eight in the country, moving up from number nine.

Every four years, U.S. News collects data by surveying experts who teach and direct programs in multiple health care professions asking them to evaluate their peers. U.S. News surveys only accredited programs.

Pitt Nursing also moved up two spots in the QS World University Rankings to number 16 in the world, ninth in the U.S. These rankings represent a weighted average of indicators that include peer assessment, student selectivity and achievement, mean grade-point average, acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio, faculty credentials and academic achievements and research activity.

Khristen Scott, in a pink top, and Jennifer Josten, in a blue collared shirt.

Dietrich School Faculty Recognized in Inaugural Mentorship Award

Khristen Scott, assistant professor of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and Jennifer Josten, associate professor of history of art and architecture, also in the Dietrich School, received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring.

The Dietrich School created the award to celebrate and honor the exemplary mentorship of faculty whose practices enhance the overall quality of graduate education. All graduate students and chairs of Dietrich School departments were eligible to nominate faculty, who were then evaluated by an award committee, chaired by Holger Hoock, associate dean for graduate studies and research in the Dietrich School. 

Scott and Josten received their awards, along with a cash prize of $1,500. 

Pitt Engineering Students Win ASCE Awards

The Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has awarded the American Bridge Leadership Award to Kaitie DeOre, a senior civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. Michael Winiarczyk, a senior civil engineering student at Pitt, received an ASCE Accomplishment Award.

The Bridge Award is a highly competitive award open to all civil engineering students in the region covered by the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, and included a $7,000 cash prize. The ASCE Accomplishment Award included a $500 cash prize.

DeOre, whose concentration is geotechnical engineering, is the president of Pitt ASCE. She organized the first annual Civil Engineering Day at Pitt to introduce high school students to the field through professional demonstrations, lab tours, panels and hands-on activities. She is captain for the Geotechnical Team and is involved with the Society of Women Engineers.

Winiarczyk, who will also graduate in December 2020, is the treasurer for ASCE Pitt. He is the captain of the 2019-2020 OVSC Surveying team and has been co-captain and member of the team for the past two years. Throughout his undergraduate career, he has completed co-ops with PennDOT and GAI Consultants, Inc., where he is planning to enter a full-time position in Transmission Line Engineering upon graduation.

Carrie Leana in a black top

Carrie Leana Speaks On Financial Precarity At Aspen Institute Ideas Festival

Carrie Leana, George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, recently spoke about her research on financial precarity at the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado. 

The nation's premier public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines, the Aspen Ideas Festival presents discussions on cutting-edge ideas and issues that shape and challenge the times.

“Many of the conversations are about public policy,” said Leana. “It’s an opportunity to influence and be informed by leading policy makers, practitioners and other academics, and to put research findings into the hands of those who can make real change.”

The “Aspen Ideas: Health” track explored challenges in medicine, science and global health. Leana’s topic, “A Living Wage Buys Health,” was informed by her research that ties financial worries to impacts on health and workplace productivity. 

“Health and financial precarity go hand in hand,” said Leana. “The financially precarious tend to be less happy, less healthy and die younger than their less precarious counterparts.”

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization with a mission to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

Kinloch in a pink shirt speaking at a podium

Valerie Kinloch Releases New Co-Edited Book Advocating for Social Change

Valerie Kinoch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, has released a new co-edited book titled, Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction. It advocates for social change by encouraging educators to engage in equity and justice-centered literacy work.

“This book serves as a conversation into how and why we must engage in this work and it contributes to ongoing discussions about how this work could look in schools and communities,” said Kinloch, who is also an American Educational Research Association fellow and the vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English.

The book was co-edited with Tanja Burkhard, postdoctoral associate in the School of Education, and Carlotta Penn, director of community partnerships in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University. Leigh Patel, associate dean for equity and justice for the School of Education, also contributed to the book.

Read more about Kinloch’s new book and a recent book launch event at Pitt.

the Cathedral on a blue-sky day

Philosophy Ranks High in QS World University Rankings by Subject

The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Philosophy, in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, received recognition in the 2020 edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject.

In its latest rankings, global higher education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds named the best universities in the world for a study of 48 academic disciplines from over 13,000 individual university programs from around the world.

According to the latest QS World University Rankings, Pitt ranked no. 3 in philosophy. Pitt’s other top-ranked specific subject areas also include nursing and library and information management.