To suggest an accolade, please fill out a submission form.
a gate in the Cathedral

New Awards Celebrate Pitt’s Community Partnerships

Five outstanding community partnerships were recognized in the University’s first annual Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Awards, presented as part of the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum.

Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement, presented the awards to five exemplary community engagement partnerships. Honorees receive $2,000 in support of their work.

The inaugural awards were presented to:

Read more about these vital local partnerships in this feature story from the awards event.

Banerjee in a black top

Ipsita Banerjee Wins 2019 Faculty Diversity Award

Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the School’s 2019 Faculty Diversity Award. 

“It would be an understatement to say that Ipsita earnestly strives each year to improve the academic environment fostering the success of under-represented minority students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels,” says Steven Little, department chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. Read more at the Swanson School’s website.

painting of Cooper using a wheelchair with a blue and gold background

HERL Director Rory Cooper Joins Hall of Inventors

Rory A. Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt, was recently honored with his U.S. Patent and Trademark Office inventor trading card and portrait.

Cooper is the 28th inventor and the first Pitt professor to receive this honor, which was established in 2012. Other inventors who have received this honor include Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Abraham Lincoln and Hedy Lamarr, among others.

Cooper has over two dozen patents in his name, with his portrait featuring one of them — the Ergonomic Dual Surface Wheelchair Pushrim, a wheelchair accessory designed to relieve stress on the wheelchair pusher's upper body. He is also the associate dean for inclusion and the FISA/Paralyzed Veterans of America Distinguished Professor at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

See Cooper’s inventor card here.

Runyan in a black speckled blouse

Neuroscience’s Caroline Runyan Wins Searle Scholarship

Caroline Runyan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has been named a 2019 Searle Scholar. She is one of 15 young scientists selected for recognition this year.

The Searle Scholars Program awards grants to support the independent research of exceptional young faculty in the biomedical sciences or chemistry who are in their first tenure-track position. An advisory board of eminent scientists chooses the scholars based on rigorous standards designed to find the most creative talent pursuing academic research careers. The recognition comes with an award of $300,000 in flexible funding to support work over the next three years.

Runyan’s research at Pitt focuses on sensation and how the meaning of sensory stimuli can change in different contexts to enable survival. The goal of her research is “to understand the circuit mechanisms that control the flow of information between brain regions. How do networks filter out irrelevant information? How does incoming sensory information interact with the animal’s internal brain state?” she said.

panther statue on a sunny day

Lab Safety Program Wins National Recognition

The Department of Chemistry and Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) have won the American Chemical Society (ACS) 2019 SafetyStratus College and University Health and Safety Award for Pitt’s “outstanding comprehensive laboratory safety program in higher education (undergraduate study).”

EHS director Jay Frerotte credited chemistry faculty member Ericka Huston’s successful Safety in the Chemistry Laboratory (CHEM1010) course, developed with input from EHS staff led by environmental manager Keith Duval, as key to the award.

Awards committee chair Kimi Brown, a senior lab safety specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, called Pitt’s approach to chemical safety education a model for other institutions.  

“Dr. Huston is passionate about ensuring that all Pitt chemistry students are educated in the philosophy of risk assessment and control, regardless of whether they participate in her CHEM1010 course,” Brown said. “To that end, she has added more engaging and informative safety content to both the undergraduate teaching lab curriculum and to the graduate student research-safety training. Furthermore, those students who do enroll in CHEM1010 are given a unique opportunity to develop important leadership skills and deepen their understanding of how safety integrates with science.” 

In addition to a plaque, the award includes $1,000 for expenses to present at the ACS national meeting in San Diego in August.

Ducar in a black sweater with a chunky metallic necklace

Jamie Ducar Earns Community Partnership Micro-credential

Jamie Ducar, director of community engagement in the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, is among the first individuals in the higher-education civic and community engagement field to earn a micro-credential in Community Partnerships through Campus Compact’s new Community Engagement Professional Credentialing Program.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. 

Ducar earned this distinction by demonstrating competency in effectively cultivating, facilitating and maintaining high-quality partnerships with community organizations and representatives. 

The program provides formal recognition for the knowledge and skills practitioners develop throughout their careers and provides a framework for them to grow and achieve in the field in ways that encourage effective, inclusive and equity-based partnerships and practices. Practitioners who earn a requisite number of micro-credentials may apply for Campus Compact’s full certification as a Community Engagement Professional.

Among the content advisers to this new program is Pitt Assistant Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement Lina Dostilio.  

Ressin in a green sweater

Senior Sam Ressin Receives Udall Scholarship

Sam Ressin of Vienna, Virginia, is one of only 55 college students out of 443 nationwide candidates to receive a 2019 Udall Scholarship.

The Udall Foundation gives scholarships to sophomores and juniors for “leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or to the environment.”

The funding will support Ressin’s plans to travel to Colombia in summer 2019, where he will collect independent research on food waste — one of the top contributors to global emissions.

Ressin is a rising senior studying economics and statistics in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and is completing a certificate in Global Studies out of the University Center for International Studies. Ressin serves as director of Pitt Green Fund, is a Chancellor’s Scholar and a recipient of the Summer Undergraduate Research Award. He is also founder and former president of Pitt’s Climate Stewardship Society.

studio portraits of each winner, stitched together

Jayant Rajgopal and Sylvanus Wosu Honored With American Society for Engineering Education Awards

Honoring commitment to excellence and diversity in engineering education, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has selected professors at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering to receive two of its annual awards. 

Jayant Rajgopal, professor of industrial engineering, won the John L. Imhoff Global Excellence Award for Industrial Engineering Education and Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity affairs and associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, won the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award.

The ASEE will honor Rajgopal and Wosu at the Annual Awards Luncheon during their Annual Conference and Exposition on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the Tampa Convention Center. Read more at the Swanson School.

Chaves-Gnecco in a white shirt in front of a brown background

Diego Chaves-Gnecco Named 2019 Pediatrician of the Year

Diego Chaves-Gnecco, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, has been named 2019 Pediatrician of the Year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania Chapter (PA AAP).

The Pediatrician of Year award recognizes a chapter member who exemplifies excellence in the profession. The award was presented during the 2019 PA AAP Annual Meeting on May 4.

Diego’s clinical and academic interest include the diagnosis and treatment of children with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, providing care to families and children with disabilities, providing care to children from minority and underserved populations and addressing barriers to health care access.

He has been a long-time PA AAP chapter member and involved with many chapter activities including Healthy Teeth, Healthy Children and the Traffic Injury Prevention Project. In the summer of 2002, Diego created the First Pediatric Bilingual-Bicultural Clinic in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Since its creation, this clinic has expanded to the program Salud Para Niños (Health for the Children), which provides culturally and linguistically competent primary care for children and families is complemented with activities oriented toward prevention and empowering the community about its own health.

Kinloch in a yellow shirt

Valerie Kinloch to Speak at Event for Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

Valerie Kinloch, the Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the School of Education, will speak at a national symposium of education, law and policy scholars to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The civil rights case declared that the segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment, and therefore, unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling was delivered on May 17, 1954, by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren.

Kinloch was selected among a handful of speakers who will discuss Brown’s “promise of integration amid major contemporary threats to civil rights in education.” Kinloch, who has built her career on working to change the narrative of equity in education, will specifically speak on the topic of “Growing Critically Conscious Teachers.” The event, titled Brown@65, will be held at Penn State University on May 10.

Iordanova in a dark shirt

Bistra Iordanova Receives $25,000 to Research Gender in Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly, affecting 5.4 million people in the United States and 35 million people worldwide. Two-thirds these individuals are women, and though they are disproportionately affected, the biological basis of the sex differences in AD onset and progression is not well understood. 

Bistra Iordanova, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, received a $25,000 award from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to collect data from female rodent models, integrate it with her existing datasets from males and begin to examine whether AD onset and progression differs between the two. Read more at the Swanson School.

a globe on a turquoise background

Pitt Projects Featured at ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival

Three research projects and one theatre performance from the University of Pittsburgh were selected to be featured at the ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival in Washington, D.C. this past April.

“While most think of the ACC as only an athletics conference, the ACC Academic Consortium aims to promote academic excellence and provide opportunities for collaboration between faculty, students and administrators from the 15 member institutions,” said Joseph J. McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies at Pitt.

The four Pitt teams were:

The World History Center’s Digital Atlas Design Internship Program. In the semester-long internship, undergraduate students learn GIS and web design skills, and complete a research project of their choice using QGIS and ESRI StoryMaps. Each student’s project will be incorporated into a larger project, the World Historical Gazetteer: a linked open data global index of historically important place names and information. The World Gazetteer is expected to be completed in late 2019.

The Personal Mobility and Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA) and Strong Arm were both developed in the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), which are a part of the US Department of Veterans Affairs as the Center for Wheelchairs and Associated Rehabilitation Engineering.

“It’s Who You Know,” a hybrid recommender system to connect students with informal social networks of Pitt researchers is a Personalized Education Grant project, supported by the Office of the Provost, that aims to connect students with researchers with similar interests. The project, out of the PAWS Lab, will test the concept of an online system that can curate and filter vast amount of information to result in “personalized education, career pathways, and research collaborations for [students], faculty and future students.”

Directed by Cynthia Croot, associate professor and head of performance in the Department of Theatre Arts, Recoil is a Pitt-created theater piece that “explores the complexities of gun ownership, violence, and protest through the voices through young people” using real first-person accounts.

person walking down a tree-lined sidewalk

Researchers, Students Recognized by Occupational Therapy Foundation

Students and researchers from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences were recently recognized by the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF).

  • Former Occupational Therapy Department Chair and Professor Emeritus Joan C. Rogers received the AOTF Leadership Service Commendation.
  • Natalie E. Leland received the first ever AOTF Mid-Career Research Excellence Award and gave the AOTF Mid-Career Research Award Presentation at the American Occupational Therapy Association’s annual conference in New Orleans.
  • Roxanna Bendixen, assistant professor of occupational therapy, was inducted into the association’s Roster of Fellows. 

Pitt occupational therapy students also raised over $5,000, earning 3rd place in the foundation’s St. Catherine Challenge. Funds raised through this initiative support occupational therapy research grants awarded by the foundation. 

a woman in front of a bookcase in a green shirt

Sociology Department Chair Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Suzanne Staggenborg, chair of the Department of Sociology at Pitt, has been honored with the John D. McCarthy Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Scholarship of Social Movements and Collective Behavior from the University of Notre Dame Center for the Study of Social Movements. The award recognizes exceptional contributors to the field.

Staggenborg’s work centers on social movements, including abortion politics, women’s movements and grassroots environmental movements. Currently she is focusing on several local environmental organizations fighting fracking and promoting sustainable communities.

Award events include a public lecture by Staggenborg, a dinner, award ceremony and toasts at Notre Dame on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Smith in a red blouse

Education Professor Emerita and LRDC Scientist Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Peg (Margaret) Smith has been awarded a 2019 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award “honors NCTM members who have exhibited a lifetime of achievement in mathematics education at the national level.” Smith is one of three recipients of the prestigious award.

Smith is a professor emerita of mathematics education in the Department of Instruction and Learning in the School of Education, and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).

Smith studies how teachers support student learning through the use of rich mathematical tasks. Over the course of her career, she has published more than 75 journal articles, book chapters and books. Notably, her “5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion,” which she co-authored with Mary Kay Stein, sold more than 35,000 copies in its first two years.

Smith was recognized in April during the Opening Session of the 2019 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego.

man in a jacket in front of a body of water

Daniel Balderson Receives Literary Award

Daniel Balderson has been named co-winner of the 2019 Richard Finneran Award for his book about an Argentine author titled “How Borges Wrote.”

Balderson is a Mellon Professor of Modern Languages in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The award is given by the Society for Textual Scholarship to recognize the best edition of book about editorial theory and/or practice published in the English language.

Balderson’s book is “the first and only attempt at a systematic and comprehensive study of the trajectory of Borge’s creative process.”

Blain in a dark shirt

Keisha N. Blain Awarded Best Book in African American Women’s and Gender History

Keisha N. Blain, assistant professor in the Department of History, received the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians (OAH).

The prestigious award, given annually for the “best book in African American women’s and gender history,” was presented to Blain for her recent publication, “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.” The book, which “[draws] on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry,” tells the stories of Black women nationalists in the 20th century.

The award committee calls Blain’s work a “major contribution to existing historiographies that centers on African American women, black internationalism, intellectual history and African American history.”

The OAH, founded in 1907, is the world’s “largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship.”

h2p spelled out with sparklers in the dark

Four Pitt Students Earn 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships

Four University of Pittsburgh students have been named recipients of the 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships, which support outstanding students who are pursuing careers in the fields of engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences.

The Goldwater Scholarship, established in 1986 by the U.S. Congress and named for Sen. Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, is granted in either a student’s second or third year and assists in covering tuition and other educational expenses for each student’s remaining period of study.

Institutions can only nominate four students each year, and this is just the third time in Pitt’s history, in addition to the years 1998 and 2000, that all four of its nominees have won the award. In total — including this year — Pitt has produced 60 Goldwater Scholars.      

Pitt’s 2019 Goldwater Scholars, all of whom are from Pennsylvania and will be seniors in fall 2019, study within the University’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The University Honors College supported all four students throughout the application process. These students are part of a cohort of 496 peers nationwide to earn a Goldwater Scholarships for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Pitt’s honorees are:

Julia Driscoll of Pittsburgh. A chemistry major, she hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in organic chemistry, conduct research in the total synthesis of natural products and teach at a major research institution.

Driscoll works in the lab of Kazunori Koide, professor in the Department of Chemistry. She also serves as fundraising chair for The Imagination Project, a non-profit organization whose members visit pediatric hospital patients and members of the special needs community while dressed as characters from children’s stories.

Teja Peddada of Sewickley is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in math and statistics. He plans to obtain an MD/PhD in neuroscience and conduct translational research in psychopharmacology to better understand and find potential treatments for psychiatric disorders in an academic hospital setting.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, Peddada studied pharmacology at the University of Cambridge as Pitt’s 2018 Jesus College Cambridge Scholar. He also serves as president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at Pitt.

Mariya Savinov of Upper St. Clair is majoring in physics and math. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in applied mathematics, conduct research in dynamical systems with a focus in mathematical biology and teach at the university level.

At Pitt, she works in the lab of G. Bard Ermentrout, distinguished university professor in the Department of Mathematics. She is also the founder of Pitt’s TESSA Talks, which are interdisciplinary discussions that explore themes of technology, education, science, society and art. Her older brother, Andrew, also received the Goldwater Scholarship in 2009 while studying at Pitt.

Swapna Subramanian of Mechanicsburg is majoring in ecology and evolution and anthropology and minoring in chemistry. After graduation, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in evolutionary biology, conduct research in evolutionary adaptation to climate change and teach at the university level.

At Pitt, she works in the lab of Martin Turcotte, assistant professor of evolutional ecology. She also works in the Section of Herpetology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

four head shots stitched together

Xiong in a dark suit

Feng Xiong Receives NSF Grant to Develop Conversion Method for Heat Energy

Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Jonathan Malen, professor of mechanical engineering at CMU, recently received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric semiconductor using tungsten disulfide to convert waste heat into energy. 

This collaboration seeks to make converting heat lost in energy production back into usable electricity that’s more efficient.

The team will work closely with local communities to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore engineering careers and foster interest in nanotechnology. Outreach efforts will include lab demonstrations, summer internships and career workshops.

Dostilio in a royal blue blazer

Lina Dostilio Named First Research Fellow for Coalition for Urban and Metropolitan Universities

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) has named Lina Dostilio CUMU’s first research fellow. During a five-month appointment, Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement at the University of Pittsburgh, will work to establish a cross-city research agenda on the effects of hyperlocal engagement on community capacity. Over the course of the fellowship, Dostilio will work to create a space for dialogue and collaboration on data, instruments, policy, and strategies.

“This project is interested in how universities honor the existing capacities of the communities they engage and how hyperlocal efforts may influence those capacities over time. Examples of the kinds of capacity we are exploring are community readiness for change, civic engagement and social connectedness, among others,” said Dostilio.

“There’s never been a more important time for institutions to be authentic about their responsibility and capacity for place-based engagement and service. Lina’s scholarship on hyperlocal engagement will help to define CUMU’s research agenda and move this important work forward,” said Bobbie Laur, CUMU executive director.