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Innovation Institute Recognized at Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute was recognized for its commitment to building programs that accelerate innovations from the laboratory and research into commercialization at the recent Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. “It is an honor to receive the Deshpande Symposium award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization,” said Rob Rutenbar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for research.

“This award is a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Innovation Institute staff, and of the commitment of Pitt leadership to growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University. While proud of our progress, we understand that innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education is a relatively young and ever-evolving domain, and we look forward to continuing to share our experience, while learning from our colleagues at other institutions. This is the value that Deshpande Symposium brings to us all,” he added.

The Deshpande Symposium Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship on college campuses.

David Vorp Named Fellow of the American Heart Association

David A. Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) in recognition of his innovative and sustained contributions in scholarship, education and volunteer service to the organization. Vorp’s election was conferred by the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) recognizing his work in those fields over the past 26 years. 

Vorp has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles and currently serves on three editorial boards. His research has been supported by over $14 million from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and other sources. He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and is a co-founder of Neograft Technologies, Inc., a startup that uses technology developed in his lab to help produce arterial vein grafts. Read more about the honor.

Education Faculty Awarded Federal Funds for Urban Special Education Doctoral Program

A group of faculty from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education recently received a leadership training grant from the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for a new urban special education program. The grant, which totals more than $1 million, will operate the Urban Special Education Scholars (USES) program as a collaboration between Pitt’s Special Education Program and the Center for Urban Education. Doug Kostewicz, associate professor of Instruction and Learning, leads the team which includes IL’s associate professor Sheila Conway and assistant professor Rachel Robertson, along with Rich Milner, professor and director of the Center for Urban Education, and Lori Delale-O'Connor, assistant professor and CUE’s associate director of research.

USES is a four-year program designed to prepare a team of five special education doctoral graduates with a focus in implementing multi-tiered systems of supports in urban settings starting in fall 2018. Scholars will be prepared to provide in-service and pre-service preparation for teachers of high-need students with disabilities, to conduct and publish scholarly research that furthers the knowledge base and improves practice, and to serve in positions of leadership at local, state or national levels. Additionally, the program requires fellows spend two semesters supporting special education teachers and students with special needs in an inclusive, high-poverty, high-needs school. Upon graduation and employment, the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh will continue to support fellows through an induction program.

Belle in a light blue collared shirt in front of a splotchy gray background

Public Health’s Steven Belle Named Society for Clinical Trials Fellow

Steven Belle, co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, has been named a fellow of the Society for Clinical Trials.

Belle was recognized for his outstanding leadership of data coordination for several multicenter studies of surgical outcomes and other treatment trials across a wide range of conditions and applications, including obesity and liver disease. He was also cited for his work combining information across multiple clinical trials.

His work has also aided in research and treatments for conditions including hepatitis C, pediatric acute liver failure, liver transplantation and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharrad in a blue top

Aurora Sharrard Appointed Pitt's First-ever Director of Sustainability

Aurora Sharrard, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance, has been named the University’s first Director of Sustainability. She will assume her new role on July 9, reporting to Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations Gregory A. Scott.

Pitt’s new Office of Sustainability was established to coordinate the University’s many sustainability initiatives, foster collaboration and monitor progress toward the bold goals outlined in the Pitt Sustainability Plan.

Sharrard earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Tulane University and holds master’s and PhD degrees in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University. During her 11-year tenure at the Green Building Alliance, Sharrard co-founded the Pittsburgh 2030 District, convened the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and created Pittsburgh Green Story to highlight the region’s sustainability achievements.

Eight Boren Awardees Set New Record for Pitt

The National Security Education Program has recognized eight University of Pittsburgh students with Boren Awards — Pitt’s largest number of Boren awardees. These study-abroad awards enable their recipients to further their studies of “languages and cultures most critical to our nation’s security.” This is the 25th consecutive year that Pitt students have won this prestigious award.

The Boren Scholarship was awarded to five seniors:

And three graduate students received Boren Fellowships:

After returning to the United States, the Boren recipients will work in a federal government agency for a minimum of a year. Visit for more information about the Boren Awards.

fireworks at night spelling h2p

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Gives Pitt Silver Rating

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has recognized Pitt’s sustainability accomplishments with a STARS Silver rating.

STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education. Pitt’s rating was based on its achievements in five overall areas: academics, engagement, operations, planning and administration and innovation and leadership.

Among Pitt’s many sustainability initiatives, AASHE reviewers noted the University-wide commitment to sustainable landscape design; the University of Thriftsburgh campus thrift store that encourages re-use; and sustainable dining practices.

“We are proud to have achieved STARS Silver in our first-ever  AASHE rating,” said Richard Heller, senior manager of electrical utilities and energy initiatives in Pitt’s Facilities Management Division, who coordinated the development of the University’s new sustainability plan. The plan’s measurable goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and landfill waste and increasing the percentage of renewable energy used on campus.

“The Pitt Sustainability Plan provides a framework for expanding on our longstanding commitment to sustainability. “I look forward to seeing how the ongoing implementation of the plan improves our future STARS performance,” he said.

Steven Little headshot in jacket and tie

Steven Little Honored with Controlled Release Society's Young Investigator Award

Steven Little was recently named the recipient of Controlled Release Society’s 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release.

Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

His focuses are on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.

Catherine Palmer headshot wearing coral colored jacket

Catherine Palmer Named American Academy of Audiology President-Elect

Catherine Palmer, audiology program director and associate professor of audiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will serve as president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology.

The position is elected by the academy’s general membership and carries a three-year term (one year as president-elect, one as president and one as past president). Palmer’s term begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021.

Palmer also serves as director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, including the UPMC Children's Hospital.

headshot of Melanie Hughes in red jacket and white shirt and headshot of Müge Finkel wearing gray jacket and black and white pattern shirt

Gender Inequality Research Lab Co-directors Awarded Provost’s Integrative Social-science Research Initiative Funds

Two Pitt professors were awarded funds from the Provost’s Integrative Social-Science Research Initiative for “The Global Glass Ceilings Database: Measuring Women’s Access to Decision-Making in Public Administration Worldwide.”

Melanie Hughes of the Department of Sociology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Müge Finkel of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs won support to convene an interdisciplinary and international advisory board for two workshops and to conduct a mixed-methods pilot study, including research trips to Colombia, Denmark and South Africa. The project will be the first endeavor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL).

The Social-Science Research Initiative awards up to $50,000 to expand Pitt social scientists' involvement in research that uses integrative approaches from multiple disciplines.

GIRL, which launched in November 2017, is a new interdisciplinary research forum for scholars and practitioners to collaborate on policy-relevent research on gender inequality. Faculty, students and staff who are interested in researching gender inequality around the world are encouraged to contact Pitt’s Gender Inequality Research Lab.

Alumnus Andy Rhodes Named Chief Information Officer at UNICEF USA

Andy Rhodes (SCI ’87) was recently named chief information officer for UNICEF USA. He is member of the UNICEF USA executive management team and is responsible for the organization’s technology, as well as its digital and data strategy, which includes governance, control and policy development. Rhodes was previously CIO for the United States Golf Association (USGA) and vice president of technology for public relations firm Publicis Groupe.

Faculty, Staff, Alumnae Named Girl Scouts Women of Distinction

Among the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania’s 2018 Women of Distinction — representing various job sectors — are four women with ties to the University of Pittsburgh:

  • Amy Hart (SOC WK ’86), president and CEO of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services Inc. (community and nonprofit).
  • Director of Athletics Heather Lyke (athletics).
  • Elizabeth Miller, professor of pediatrics in Pitt’s School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (health care).
  • Janera Solomon (A&S ’98), executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater (arts and education).

The eight Women of Distinction were recognized at a luncheon on May 18.

W. Paul Duprex to Lead Center for Vaccine Research

W. Paul Duprex, has been named the Jonas Salk Chair for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh and will lead Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research.

Duprex is an expert in measles and mumps viruses and studies barriers that stop viruses jumping from animals to humans. He comes to Pitt from the Boston University School of Medicine, where he served as professor of microbiology and director of bioimaging at the university’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories.

He will direct Pitt’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, a high-security facility embedded in the Center for Vaccine Research that allows scientists to safely contain and examine potentially dangerous pathogens. Read more about Duprex at UPMC.

Historian Keisha N. Blain Appointed to Distinguished Lecturer Program

Keisha N. Blain, an assistant professor in the Department of History, has been appointed to the Organization of American Historians (OAH)’s Distinguished Lectureship Program. The OAH is the premier professional association for historians of the United States. Their Distinguished Lectureship Program was created in 1981 as a speakers’ bureau, serving as a resource for those seeking top-notch historians to speak to a popular audience. OAH Distinguished Lecturers speak at college and university campuses, student conferences, teacher seminars and public events sponsored by historical societies, museums, libraries and humanities councils.

Dining Services Achieves Sustainability Milestone

Pitt Dining Services has reached its initial Real Food Challenge goal at Market Central two years early.

The nationwide Real Food initiative toward more sustainable dining aims to shift 20 percent of university food budgets to local, humane, ecologically sound and fair food by 2020. To date, 43 schools and four statewide university systems have signed on to the challenge.

In March 2015, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher committed Pitt to the goal of serving 20 percent “Real Food” at Market Central by 2020. At the time, only 9 percent of food served at Market Central fit the criteria of meeting at least one of the four requirements.

Now, locally grown fruits, vegetables, milk and chicken; organic fair trade coffee and organic quinoa and tofu are among the qualified “Real Food” served regularly on campus. A biweekly summer farmers market outside the William Pitt Union adds to the Real Food options.

The University’s next milestone, as stated in the Pitt Sustainability Plan, is to expand beyond Market Central to serve 25 percent Real Food campus wide by 2025.

New Leadership for Undergraduate Engineering Programs Announced

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced new leadership for its undergraduate programs. 

Samuel Dickerson, assistant professor and associate director of computer engineering, was promoted as the program’s full director. Robert Kerestes, assistant professor, was named director of the electrical engineering program. 

Dickerson succeeds Alex Jones, professor of computer engineering, who last year was appointed associate director of the National Science Foundation Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) at Pitt. Kerestes succeeds Irvin Jones Jr., who will continue in the department as assistant professor.

Both Dickerson and Kerestes are triple alumni of the Swanson School, each having earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical and computer engineering. 

Pitt Biotech Startup Completes Series A Funding

Globin Solutions, Inc., a biotechnology startup formed in 2017 by School of Medicine faculty members Mark T. Gladwin, Jack D. Myers, Jason J. Rose and Jesus Tejero Bravo to develop a rapidly acting antidote to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, in April completed a Series A funding round of more than $5 million. Tus S&T Service Group of Beijing, China, led the round with participation from UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of UPMC.

The funding will support further development of the lead compound, recombinant neuroglobin. Globin Solutions is the exclusive licensee of the University-owned intellectual property.

Nutrition and Dietetics Program Ranked No. 1 in Pennsylvania

The University of Pittsburgh placed highly in a recent national ranking of dietetics and clinical nutrition services degree programs. College Factual ranked Pitt seventh out of 72 nationwide programs offered by four-year colleges. Pitt’s dietetics and clinical nutrition services program, part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was also ranked first in Pennsylvania. The University has achieved this ranking 2 years in a row.

Choukas-Bradley in front of a leafy backdrop

Early Career Researcher Wins Grant to Study Body Image, Social Media in Teens

Division 7, the official developmental psychology section of the American Psychological Association, has selected assistant professor Sophia Choukas-Bradley as this year’s winner of the Early Career Research Grant in Developmental Psychology. The $1,000 award is given annually to one or two early career scientists.

Choukas-Bradley will use the funding to support a pilot study which will use eye-tracking technology to examine how adolescent girls pay visual attention to social media photos, with an emphasis on body image. The acceptance letter noted that from a competitive pool, “the committee ranked [Choukas-Bradley’s] proposal as most likely to advance scientific knowledge and theory in developmental psychology.”

“Through social media, today’s adolescent girls are bombarded by images of their peers, which are often carefully curated and ‘Photoshopped,’” Choukas-Bradley said. “The proposed study will be the first to use eye-tracking technology to examine girls’ eye gaze while they are exposed to attractive peer social media images, and may shed light on the connection between social media use and body dissatisfaction. I’m grateful to have the support of APA’s Division 7 as I launch this exciting new line of work.”

Choukas-Bradley is the director of Pitt’s Teen and Young Adult Laboratory (TAYA Lab). 

woman with glasses and a dark jacket, on which a blue puzzle piece is pinned

Alumna Angela Timashenka Geiger Rings Closing Bell at Nasdaq

To mark World Autism Month, Pitt alumna Angela Timashenka Geiger (’92, ’97G) rang the April 5 closing bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite in Times Square.

Geiger is president and CEO of New York City-based Autism Speaks. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication, rhetoric and English writing at Pitt in 1992 and an MBA at Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in 1997.