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Renata Mitchell Receives National Collegiate Honors Council’s Highest Student Award for Service to Diversity

Renata Mitchell has been awarded the Freddye T. Davy Student Scholarship, the National Collegiate Honors Council’s (NCHC) highest student award for service to diversity, the University Honors College announced. The $1,000 award was created to help students attend the NCHC Annual Conference, which takes place Nov. 8-12 in Atlanta. Mitchell is one of three students nationally to receive the award. Mitchell is a fourth-year undergraduate majoring in history and philosophy of science, with minors in classical studies and administration of justice, and certificates in children’s literature and medieval and renaissance studies.

She has participated in a study abroad program on Irish myths and legends at the University of Limerick in Ireland, and completed a Brackenridge Research Fellowship project focused on diversifying children’s literature. She supports LGBTQ youth as part of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, pushes campus sustainability initiatives through the Pitt Green Team and promotes literacy among children in underserved neighborhoods as a program coordinator with the Carnegie Library.

At the NCHC conference, Mitchell will network and attend workshops focused on honors education and diversity initiatives. She’ll also take notes and compile a report on how Pitt can strengthen its honors education and programs and become more diverse as an institution. 

Pitt Sophomore Receives Support to Study Epilepsy

Jacqueline Bridges is one of six undergraduates nationwide to be named a 2017 Education Enrichment Fund Scholar by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). The scholarship supports those living with epilepsy or the family members and caregivers of those affected by the disease, funds personal research, coursework, tuition, awareness and/or advocacy.

Bridges, whose younger sister has epilepsy, said it has renewed her enthusiasm and motivation for studying neuroscience.

“Being able to learn more about the brain and what might be causing her to have seizures has been very eye-opening. Receiving this scholarship was an honor and I hope to make the foundation proud by continuing to learn about the causes of seizures as well as pursue a career in pediatric neurology.”

Pitt Police Officer to Be Honored at Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards

Pitt Police Officer Mario Devine is among 18 area police officers to be honored Nov. 3 at the Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Luncheon. The annual event, hosted by the nonprofit Amen Corner, honors local law enforcement officers for heroic bravery and dedication above and beyond the call of duty.

Devine, who joined the Pitt Police in 2015, is being awarded an honorable mention for his off-duty rescue of a woman from the ledge of the Hulton Bridge in June. 

three women in front of the Cathedral

3 Learning Research and Development Center Grad Students Awarded University Research Grants

The University Research Council Research in Diversity program awarded three Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) graduate students for their projects.

Jamie Amemiya, with co-applicant and faculty advisor Ming-Te Wang, received a grant for “Promoting Cycles of Engagement: A Daily Diary Study of African American Adolescents’ Experiences of Teacher Critical Feedback and Engagement in Math Class.” Allison Liu will study “Bridging the minority achievement gap in mathematics: Testing a cognitive-based training program to improve number sense and math anxiety in underrepresented college students” with psychology faculty member Christian Schunn. And Emily Braham, with co-applicant and faculty advisor Melissa Libertus, received funding for “The Latino-White Math Achievement Gap: The Role of Toddlers’ Early Math Skills and Parents’ Math-Related Practices.”

Each project aims to develop or advance research in the area of diversity and inclusion, as well as promote interdisciplinary collaboration and new research partnerships. 2017 marks the first year of the Research in Diversity program, which awarded 31 projects submitted by both graduate students and faculty.

Donald Yealy

Donald Yealy Elected to National Academy of Medicine

Donald Yealy, chair of emergency medicine at UPMC and professor of medicine and clinical and translational sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

“This is a wonderful honor, being selected to join a highly accomplished group of leaders and innovators in medicine,” Yealy said. “I am blessed to have been taught by, worked alongside and shared opportunities with the best in Pittsburgh; giving care and creating new knowledge about how to better care for those with acute illness or injury, always supported by my family. That is really ‘who’ is selected, not me.”

The academy addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. Yealy was among 70 new members recognized for outstanding contributions to the health sciences and public health.

Cathedral in the fall season

Office of Child Development Honored with UPSIDE Award

The Office of Child Development (OCD) has been awarded the Chancellor’s University Prize for Strategic, Inclusive and Diverse Excellence (UPSIDE) Award. The honor — formerly known as the Chancellor’s Affirmative Action Award — acknowledges university departments, units and programs that strive for excellence in diversity and inclusion.

Established in 1986, the Office of Child Development, a community engagement program of the School of Education, works to develop resources to improve the lives of children and families in key areas. Kathy W. Humphrey, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for engagement and chief of staff, and Pamela Connelly, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, presented the award to OCD’s senior leadership.

Larry E. Davis

Larry E. Davis Earns Career Achievement Honors

Pitt’s School of Social Work Dean Larry E. Davis has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Nabhi Christian Ministries of Lincoln/Larimer for his work in strengthening communities, one of two recognitions he has recently received.

“We are so pleased to honor Dean Davis,” said the Rev. Jacque Fielder, pastor of Nabhi Christian Ministries. “His accomplishments at Pitt and in many more realms throughout his lifetime make him an ideal candidate for this award.”

The Ministries’ mission is to “build safe pathways for the healthy development of children victimized by or exposed to drugs, violence, and other harsh environments in Allegheny County.”

Davis was recognized this month at the Ministries’ awards dinner. It was the 20th year the organization has awarded community members.

Davis is also the recipient of the 2018 Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Distinguished Career Achievement Award, which will be presented to him in January at the SSWR annual conference in Washington, D.C. The honor cites Davis’ outstanding scholarship, impact on the profession and major contributions to social work knowledge development.

David Brienza and Jon Perlman

Wheelchair Testing Methods Receives $5 Million in Funding

Research by University of Pittsburgh professors that will develop new test methods for wheelchairs and seating systems was recently awarded nearly $5 million through the National Institute on Disability’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) program.

The five-year project is being led by School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ David Brienza, associate dean of research, and Jon Pearlman, associate professor.

Test methods to be researched will address stability, rolling resistance, durability and overall product performance in wheelchairs. The goal is to benefit clinicians and consumers during the selection of seating and mobility technology and enhance rehabilitation services. 

W. Vincent Liu and Adam K. Leibovich

Pitt Physics and Astronomy Professors Elected American Physical Society Fellows

Pitt Physics and Astronomy professors Adam K. Leibovich and W. Vincent Liu have been elected 2017 Fellows of the American Physical Society for their work in the divisions of particles and fields and atomic, molecular and optical physics.

Liu, a condensed matter theorist, was recognized for elucidating Landau damping of collective excitations in Bose-Einstein condensates, advancing the study of spin-polarized Fermi gases by introducing the concept of breached pair superfluidity, pioneering the theory of higher orbital bands in optical lattices and working with experimentalists to confirm the theory.

Leibovich, a high energy theorist who also serves as associate dean for faculty affairs in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was cited for pioneering contributions to the heavy quark effective field theory and its application to the color-octet mechanism for quarkonium production.

Rob Rutenbar

Rutenbar Honored for Distinguished Contributions to Electronic System Design

Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob A. Rutenbar has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Phil Kaufman Award for Distinguished Contributions to Electronic System Design. Rutenbar is being honored for his academic and entrepreneurial contributions to algorithms and tools for analog and mixed-signal designs.

As an academic, he developed a range of fundamental models, algorithms and tools for analog integrated circuit designs. As an entrepreneur, he cofounded Neolinear, an analog tool company, to bring his research efforts to the larger design community.

The Kaufman award is presented annually by the Electronic System Design Alliance and the IEEE Council on Electronic Design Automation and honors individuals who have had a demonstrable impact on the field of electronic system design through technology innovations, education/mentoring or business or industry leadership. The award is a tribute to the late Phil Kaufman, an industry pioneer who turned innovative technologies into commercial businesses that have benefited electronic designers.

Rutenbar will be honored at an award ceremony on Feb. 8, 2018, in Silicon Valley, California.

Africana Studies Faculty Member Recognized by the Association for Africanist Anthropology

Yolanda Covington-Ward, an associate professor of Africana Studies, has been honored with the Elliot P. Skinner Book Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology. She will be recognized during the association’s annual meeting in November 2017. Given annually, the award acknowledges scholars in Africanist anthropology whose books make significant advances in ethnographic and theoretical scholarship. This year’s honor recognizes her book, "Gesture and Power: Religion Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo," which examines the BisiKongo ethnic group and shows how their gestures, dances and spirituality are critical to mobilizing social and political action.

Covington-Ward holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology. She also is an affiliated faculty member in the Global Studies Center, the African Studies Program, and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program. Covington Ward’s research examines the dynamic multidirectional relationship between physical bodies and individual and group identity.

woman with blond hair and a brown shirt in front of a tan background

Alyson Stover Receives Occupational Therapy Award

Assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Alyson Stover recently received the Occupational Therapy Award of Recognition from the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association.

The award recognizes an occupational therapist whose knowledge and expertise have made a significant contribution to the profession of occupational therapy and provides an incentive to contribute to the development and growth of occupational therapy and the association. Stover teaches in the Pitt's Department of Occupational Therapy and the Undergraduate Program in Rehabilitation Science.

Beach in front of a blue background, wearing a suit and tie

Scott R. Beach Awarded NIH Grant to Study Financial Exploitation of Seniors

Scott R. Beach has been awarded a five-year $3.2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study will explore risk factors for financial frauds and scams in 700 adults age 60 and older. Financial exploitation is an increasing threat to the economic security of older adults. The study will explore cognitive decline, financial skills deficits and psychosocial factors as potential pathways to financial exploitation, and will potentially contribute to the development of interventions to heighten awareness and minimize risk.

Beach is the interim director of the University Center for Social and Urban Research and has a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychology. A Pitt faculty member since 1997, he has scholarly interests in the areas of aging and caregiver stress, elder abuse, and technology and aging. Beach has published his findings in these areas in such noted publications as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Gerontologist, and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 

Ervin Sejdić Named Editor of Engineering Journal

Ervin Sejdić, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, was recently named an associate editor of the engineering journal, Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, a publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Sejdić, who has appointments in the departments of electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering, will oversee the review of new article submissions.

the Cathedral on a sunny day

University of Pittsburgh Honored with Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded the 2017 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The honor recognizes higher education institutions that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Pitt was one of only two institutions in the commonwealth chosen for the honor.

This recognition was based upon a holistic review of the University’s efforts relating to diversity and inclusion. “The HEED application process was an opportunity to rigorously assess our practices on an institutional level, and to receive the award is a wonderful recognition of the work of so many people across the University, both those engaged in longstanding programs and those creating new initiatives,” said Pam Connelly, vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion. “Because the challenges surrounding diversity and inclusion clearly persist, this award will serve as a motivator to continue our progress.”

Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, said: “It was evident in our review that there are many programs and initiatives in place to recruit and retain underrepresented students and employees, and that the leadership, faculty and staff are all committed to diversity and inclusion across the University of Pittsburgh campus.” 

Pittsburgh Magazine Names 13 Pitt Affiliates to Its 40 Under 40 List

Three faculty and staff members and one student joined nine alumni in Pittsburgh Magazine’s 19th Annual 40 Under 40 Awards. The list is composed of Pittsburgh residents who are younger than 40 and have made significant contributions to their communities.

The Pitt-affiliated honorees include: Julius A. Boatwright (A&S ’05, SOC WK ’11), Will Allen Foundation/Steel Smiling; Andrew J. Brennan (BUS ’17G), Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation; Natalie Bulger (SOC WK ’08, GSPH ’12), The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh; Brian Burley (BUS ’13G), Omnicell; Lacee Ecker (A&S ’09, LAW ’12), American Eagle Outfitters Inc.; Jen Harrison Fleming (BUS ’02), Merck & Co. Inc.; Marlee Gallagher (A&S ’10), Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation; Medina Jackson, Office of Child Development (P.R.I.D.E. program); J. Matthew Landis, Human Engineering Research Laboratories/No One Left Behind - Pittsburgh Chapter; Aaron V. Mares, UPMC/Pitt; Wasiullah “Wasi” Mohamed (A&S ’17), Islamic Center of Pittsburgh/Emgage Pennsylvania; Mila Sanina (GSPIA ’10), PublicSource; and Terri L. White (BUS ’19G), Carnegie Science Center.

The 40 Under 40 awardees will be honored at a reception on Nov. 3.

Tevis Jacobs Receives $305,000 From the National Science Foundation

A project led by Tevis Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received over $305,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation.

The team's project will measure surface roughness of tiny particles and characterize the fundamental relationship between adhesion and roughness at small sizes. “You can see this when you grind coffee,” Jacobs said. “The whole beans don’t stick to the side of the grinder, but a fine grind will stick to everything, especially on a dry day.” Similarly, Jacobs wants to develop a model to show what circumstances, like that dry day, affect adhesion on this small scale, using microscopy and mechanical testing and scanning techniques.

The overall goal of Jacobs' research group is to develop quantitative, fundamental and predictive understanding of contact behavior at all scales, which will enable tailored properties for advanced technologies.


Greg M. Delgoffe

Greg M. Delgoffe Recipient of NIH Director's New Innovator Award

Greg M. Delgoffe, assistant professor of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will receive the 2017 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award for his groundbreaking research on immunotherapy in the tumor microenvironment.

Studies from the Delgoffe lab in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Tumor Microenvironment Center aim to provide energy to the T cells that can destroy the cancer cells and deplete the suppressive cells that may inhibit immunotherapy responses. This could lead to the development of new drugs that can enhance cancer immunotherapy.

Yoel Sadovsky

Yoel Sadovsky Elected Fellow of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Yoel Sadovsky, director of Magee-Womens Research Institute and associate dean and distinguished professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been elected as a fellow ad eundem to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, United Kingdom. This honorary fellowship is awarded to exceptional individuals who are not members or fellows of the college but who have demonstrated, major contributions to obstetrics, gynecology or reproductive health via the advancement of the science or practice of obstetrics and gynecology in a substantial way.

Founded in 1929, the college’s mission is to improve women’s health care across the world, with partners in the United Kingdom and globally to improve standards of care, encourage scholarly study and advance the science and practice of obstetrics and gynecology.

Weinberg and Schaffer in black and white

Researchers Awarded $1.7 Million to Study the Genetics of Human Facial Features

Seth Weinberg, an associate professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, and John Shaffer, assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health received a grant award of $1.7 million from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for their project, “The Genetic Architecture of Human Facial Morphology.” This multi-institutional project also involves investigators at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) and Stanford University. 

Building on earlier work, the study will attempt to identify genetic variants that influence human facial features. These observations will hopefully provide insight into genetic pathways and how they influence human facial development and growth. The information gathered will also be applied to studying orofacial clefting, the most common craniofacial birth defect in humans.