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PInCh Offering Bonus Prize Money for Pandemic Health Ideas

The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh) 2020 is now offering a bonus award of up to $25,000 for ideas that impact aspects of health that are related to an epidemic or pandemic.

Proposals are not required to address this issue, but those that do would be eligible to receive additional funding. Applications will continue to be accepted for any innovative solution to a challenging health problem, from any discipline and on any topic that impacts health.

Two-minute video applications are due Wednesday, April 29, by 5 p.m.

A total of $555,000 in awards are available, with individual project awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. Teams that enter must include at least one University of Pittsburgh faculty member. Find more information or assistance with your submission online.

A sign for the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford

Joshua Groffman Selected for Bradford Campus Teaching Award

Joshua Groffman, assistant professor of music, will receive the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford’s Chairs’ Faculty Teaching Award. Groffman is the director of Pitt-Bradford’s music programs.

Jeff Guterman, associate professor of broadcast communications and chair of the campus's Division of Communication and the Arts, cited Groffman’s creation of a music minor and pep band in 2018 as well as positive teaching reviews and making a point of connecting visiting musicians directly with students in a learning environment.

Groffman is also a prolific composer and active performer. Several performances planned for spring and summer have been postponed, most notably a June pre-premiere workshop of a new opera, “Halcyon.” Groffman now expects that to take place in 2021.

Bright pink flowers on a tree, with the Cathedral of Learning in the background

12 Pitt Students Recognized by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Twelve Pitt graduate students have been recognized by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for their work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at the University.

The country’s oldest fellowship program that supports STEM, the NSF GRFP helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States.

Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development and the freedom to conduct their research.

Pitt recipients include:

  • Janet R. Canady, STEM education and learning research, technology education
  • Julia Lucette Driscoll, chemistry, chemical synthesis
  • Alex Michael Francette, life sciences, systems and molecular biology
  • Zachary Fritts, engineering, bioengineering
  • Brian Gentry, engineering, mechanical engineering
  • Douglas Getty, pyscholinguistics, psychology
  • Veronica Iriart, life sciences, ecology
  • Anne Maheux, psychology, development psychology
  • Evan Vincent Miu, engineering, chemical engineering
  • Benjamin Patty, life sciences, systems and molecular biology
  • Rachel Anne Reeb, life sciences, ecology
  • Mariya Alisa Savinov, mathematical sciences, applied mathematics
A University of Pittsburgh-Bradford Sign

Bradford Campus Named to Transfer Honor Roll

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has been named to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society's Transfer Honor Roll in recognition of the dynamic pathways it has created to support transfer students.

Phi Theta Kappa is the honor society for students at two-year colleges and universities. It recognizes four-year colleges and universities deemed most friendly to transfer students. This is the first year that Pitt-Bradford has been recognized.

The Bradford campus was one of only two public universities in Pennsylvania that were recognized.

Pitt-Bradford provides an extensive database of courses at other universities for students to identify potential transfer credit. 

An aerial view of downtown Oakland

Alumna Delivers Meals to Essential Health Care Workers

Pitt alumna Sara Cannon (A&S ’06) was one of 10 volunteers responsible for distributing more than 400 meals to Pittsburgh-area hospitals this month.

On April 12, just 10 days after its establishment, Frontline Foods PGH distributed 165 meals to West Penn and Allegheny General Hospitals with local restaurant partners. And on April 17, the organization and its restaurant partners provided 300 additional meals to Allegheny General and UPMC East.

Frontline Foods PGH is a local chapter of a national grassroots organization Frontline Foods that raises money from the community to support local restaurants and feed health care workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The Pittsburgh chapter was established earlier this month by a small crew of volunteers that included Cannon who met through college and work experience in Pittsburgh.

“We have an amazing pipeline of restaurant and hospital partnerships in addition to those who have already executed on deliveries,” said Cannon.

Frontline Foods PGH intends to remain a resource and partner to hospitals and restaurants as long as it takes, collecting donations for restaurants, who prepare and deliver meal boxes safely.

“The restaurant industry has been absolutely crushed by stay-home orders, and this has been an effective formula to lend them some stability while taking care of our local caregivers,” said Cannon, who was blown away by the response from hospitals.

“After our first delivery, we received so many messages from meal recipients thanking us, and telling us that the meal box they received was a bright spot in their stressful days,” she said.

Nationally, Frontline Food’s 500 volunteers have helped raise more than $2 million and deliver more than 70,000 meals to workers in over 150 hospitals nationwide.

The Cathedral of Learning

Office of Human Resources Recognized Nationally for COVID-19 Resources for Supervisors

The Office of Human Resources (OHR) has been nationally recognized for its guidance in helping supervisors during the COVID-19 crisis.

EAB, a higher education firm, cited OHR in its April 13 article “3 ways to engage staff with excess capacity during coronavirus.”

The article highlights OHR’s new framework to help supervisors keep their employees engaged and productive during the pandemic. The framework offers tools and tips for supervisors on different ways they can shift their thinking “from challenge mode to opportunity mode,” as their staff’s normal responsibilities and routines may have changed due to the pandemic. The tips are:

  • Think AHEAD: Use this time for long-term, strategic planning.
  • Think BACK: Examine data on previous projects.
  • Think DEEP: Analyze systems currently in place.
  • Think ACROSS: Brainstorm ways to help others in their work.
  • Think GROWTH: Focus on self and team development.
  • Think WELL-BEING: Prioritize physical and mental health.
  • Think NOW: Consider which tasks are critical to tackling immediately.

Visit OHR’s website for more guidance, and additional COVID-19 resources for faculty and staff.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Back Issues of Environmental Magazine Now Available Online

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the University Library System (ULS) is making available nearly 300 back issues of Environmental Action Magazine, a publication of Environmental Action, Inc., which helped establish the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The back issues, spanning 1970 to 1995, are available online, through Pitt’s ULS Digital Collections.

Environmental Action stopped operations in 1996 but was known for its pioneering work to pass clean air and water laws; reform electric utilities; oppose the construction of new urban highways; stop the production of supersonic aircraft; battle solid waste and the introduction of throwaway bottles and cans; ban toxic chemicals; and promote legislation that covered the production, use and disposal of dangerous substances. Articles in its magazine reflect these initiatives.

ULS also holds the records of the Environmental Action Foundation and contains a number of other environmental collections, including Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter Records, 1970-1997, AIS.2000.16; Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) Records, 1968-2002, AIS.1979.21; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Records, 1885-2006, AIS.1999.13 and many others.

Ben Rottman in a blue collared shirt

Program Connects Pitt Community for Shopping, Delivery Help

Ben Rottman, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, wanted to make it easier for people to find the help they needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. His solution? The Pitt Shopping Helper program.

“There are so many people in the Pitt community who don't own a car, don't have extra money for delivery services or recently moved to Pittsburgh and don't have extensive social support,” said Rottman.

Working with Anthony Peck, a University technical consultant in Pitt IT, Rottman built the map-based tool that members of the psychology department and Learning Research and Development Center could use to find people who lived nearby and needed help with shopping and other necessities.

It came to the attention of Frits Pil, provost fellow for faculty and director of instructional innovation and faculty development at Pitt Business. Pil connected Rottman with the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative, hosted by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, which enabled the tool to become a cross-University effort.

“We are now looking for ways to reach the full Pitt community. What’s super exciting about this is that it’s Pitt colleagues helping each other,” said Pil. “The goal is for this to present minimal incremental risk to volunteers … We hope that they can provide the assistance when they would be going out for themselves any way.”

Currently, the Pitt Shopping Helper tool is part of the My Pitt platform, accessible to anyone with a pitt.edu email address.

“The current focus is shopping, but it can provide a framework and volunteer base to build off if the needs get more complex,” said Pil, who encouraged people to sign up as helpers and to request help if they need it.

“We would like for everyone in the Pitt community who needs help to ask for it. There is no stigma to requesting assistance at this time. We stay through this as a community. We support each other.”

Bharath Chandrasekaran in a blue collared shirt

Bharath Chandrasekaran Appointed to National Institutes of Health Study Section

Bharath Chandrasekaran, a communication science and disorders associate professor and vice chair of research in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been appointed to a four-year term to serve as a charter member of the Language and Communication Study Section, beginning July 1, 2020, and ending June 30, 2024. The section is part of the Center for Scientific Review of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Members of NIH study sections are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors. 

Chandrasekaran’s research examines the neurobiological computations that underlie human communication and learning.

Chandralekha Singh

Chandralekha Singh Named President of American Association of Physics Teachers

Chandralekha Singh, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, who is founding director of the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center, has been appointed as the 2020 president of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

Singh, who had previously served as vice president of the AAPT board of directors, will work to connect physics educators at all education levels and expand professional development activities in ways that encourage inclusion and equity. “These activities can help physics instructors improve students’ sense of belonging and create a low anxiety learning environment in which all students can contribute to physics related discussions without fear of being wrong,” she said.

A collection of bottles of hand sanitizer

Chemistry Department Making Hand Sanitizer for Community Nonprofits

Members of the Department of Chemistry in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences are using their spare time and the department’s extra resources to make hand sanitizer and donate it to local community groups.

Department Chair Sunil Saxena and graduate student Joshua Casto, along with Dietrich School director of shared research support services Peter Chambers, used compounds left in the department to create batches of hand sanitizer that were distributed to the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh’s North Side, the Community Engagement Association in Homewood and Meals on Wheels in the Hill District. Saxena said the effort will continue as long as there is a community need.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Swanson School Students Host Letter Drive for UPMC Seniors

Knowing that social isolation is particularly difficult for senior citizens and can lead to worsening dementia or depression, Swanson School of Engineering students in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Chapter are holding a letter drive.

With an ambitious goal to make sure every resident in UPMC’s two senior living communities receives a letter, the students hope to collect 249 letters. Organizers said that this is a great way for seniors to feel connected during this difficult time, and letters will be distributed to those without extended family first. Letters can be submitted electronically or by mail. To type a letter or upload a photo of a drawing or handwritten letter, use an online Google form.

Otherwise, you can mail your letter to:

Christine M Cassese
Cumberland Woods Village
700 Cumberland Woods Drive
Allison Park, PA 15101

Or to:

Canterbury Place
Attn: Crista Magness
310 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

People running on treadmills in athletic clothes

Pitt Jumps in Athletic Equality Index

The University of Pittsburgh earned a score of 95 out of 100 in the 2019 Athletic Equality Index (AEI), an increase from the previous score of 48 in the report’s inaugural edition in 2017.  A report was not issued in 2018.

The AEI, issued by Athlete Ally, provides “a comprehensive look at how member institutions of the NCAA Power 5 conferences … are utilizing policies to support their LGBTQ+ student-athletes, coaches, administrators, staff and fans.”

To measure this, institutions were asked to provide information on the following and were scored in these areas:

  1. Comprehensive nondiscrimination policies
  2. LGBTQ+ resources and educational materials
  3. An inclusive fan code of conduct
  4. Policies for transgender student-athlete inclusion
  5. Student-athlete initiatives relative to LGBTQ+ inclusion
  6. Out of ally-trained athletics staff members
  7. A co-hosted event supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion
  8. A recurring LGBTQ+ inclusive initiative or campaign

Learn more about LGBTQIA+ resources on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

the Cathedral with pretty red flowers in the foreground

Vote for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition People’s Choice Award

Anyone with a Pitt email address has one day left to cast votes for the People’s Choice winner in the 2020 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Twenty graduate students from across the University are participating in this year’s competition, now in its third year at Pitt.

Students are challenged ahead of their Doctor of Philosophy dissertation defense to effectively present their research in three minutes or less to a non-specialist audience. This year’s contestants range from engineering to psychology to public health.

Check out the current leaderboard and recorded video presentations. Voting for the People’s Choice award closes Friday, April 17, 2020 at 5 p.m. ET.

The people’s choice winner will receive a $1,000 travel grant. A panel of judges will award three additional travel grants. Prizes are sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the University Library System and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

A virtual reveal will take place Monday, April 20. Check back at Pitt’s 3MT website for details.

A student walking on a sidewalk

Carbon Commitment Committee Named

A Carbon Commitment Committee has been established in support of the University of Pittsburgh’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2037.

Director of Sustainability Aurora Sharrard will chair this subcommittee of the Chancellor’s Advisory Council on Sustainability.  

Carbon Commitment Committee members are:

  • Jennifer Barnes, supplier diversity and sustainability coordinator, Purchasing
  • Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor, Facilities Management
  • Melissa Bilec, deputy director, Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Brendan Fouracre, Executive Associate Athletic Director for Capital Planning and Projects and Facility and Event Operations, Athletics
  • Max Harleman, PhD candidate, Graduate School of Public & International Affairs
  • Mike Holland, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy & Research Strategies, Research
  • Katrina Kelly, assistant research professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Mary Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor, Planning, Design and Real Estate
  • Ellen Oordt, undergraduate student, Ecology & Evolution '22
  • Rebecca Roadman, senior HR project manager, Human Resources

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the accelerated carbon neutrality goal, timed to align with Pitt’s 250th anniversary in 2037, in conjunction with the signing of the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. The University is on a trajectory to meet the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and energy use 50% by 2030 (from a 2008 baseline), while producing or procuring at least 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

A person riding a bicycle

Bike Share Benefit Extended to On-campus Students for April

The University’s bike share benefit has been extended to all students living on campus through the end of April 2020.

Pitt has partnered with Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share system, to provide unlimited 30-minute rides. This is an extension of a benefit originally available only to first-year residents.

First-year students who activated Healthy Ride accounts under the original benefit can continue to ride through April.

“Due to COVID-19, we are able to redistribute the benefit to all students remaining on campus for the rest of the semester,” said Aurora Sharrard, director of sustainability. “By extending the Healthy Ride benefit to them, we’re ensuring that biking is an option for their critical transportation needs as well as for physical activity and wellbeing.” 

Students are urged to be mindful of Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay at home orders and to maintain social distancing practices when riding. Healthy Ride has posted guidance for riders for avoiding the spread of COVID-19.

A student walking on a sidewalk

Pitt News Business Staff Wins National Awards

The students of the business and advertising division of The Pitt News received six awards for excellence in advertising, marketing and sales at the national College Media Business and Advertising Managers (CMBAM) national contest announced at CMBAM’s annual conference in February.

The awards received are:

  • Best marketing manager, second place, Victoria Kline
  • Best social media strategy, second place
  • Best social media promotion, second place
  • Best ancillary operation, second place
  • Best audience engagement strategy, third place
  • Best Out of Home promotion, third place
'H2P' written in lights

Pitt News Journalists Win Six National Awards

The journalists at The Pitt News won six awards in the national contest held by Columbia Scholastic Press Association. The winners are:

  • Single spot news photo, first place to Thomas Yang, "Pitt Police Officers Blocked the Fifth Avenue Entrance to Litchfield Towers as Protesters Filled the Street"
  • Single sports photo, first place to Thomas Yang, "Pitt Running Back Qadree Ollison (30) Scored the Panthers’ Only Touchdown of the First Half Against Penn State"
  • Entertainment reviews, second place to Victoria Pfefferle-Gillot, "Enchantment Runs Rampant at the Benedum Center in Disney's 'Aladdin'"
  • Informational graphic, third place to Elizabeth Seward, "Pitt Day of Giving Donation Information"
  • News writing (planned news), certificate of merit to Neena Hagen for "Grad Union Organizers Call for New Election, Accuse Pitt of 'Unfair Labor Practices'"
  • Personal opinion (off-campus issues), certificate of merit to Josh Beylinson, "Trump Protests Disrespectful to Shooting Victims"
Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey Wins Fellowship for Poetry

Yona Harvey, faculty member in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of English, has been awarded a fellowship from the George A. and Eiiza Gardner Howard Foundation at Brown University for the 2020-21 academic year.

The foundation awards a limited amount of fellowships annually “for independent projects in selected fields, targeting its support specifically to early mid-career individuals, those who have achieved recognition for one major project.” Harvey has won a fellowship in the poetry category.

An assistant professor in the Writing Program, Harvey is the author of the poetry collection “Hemming the Water,” winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University. Her second poetry collection, “You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love,” is set to be released later this year.

In the Cathedral of Learning

Student Innovation Competitions Nearing Application Deadline

Two student innovation competitions scheduled for this October at the University of Pittsburgh have submission deadlines set for May 15.

The Michael G. Wells Student Healthcare Competition and the Kuzneski Innovation Cup will award a total of over $60,000 in funds that can go back to the faculty member’s department to further commercialization efforts of their research. The Wells Competition is for students who are developing innovations related to the healthcare field, while the Kuzneski Cup is for students who are developing innovations that can positively impact people’s lives in areas outside of healthcare.

Both competitions require a student to apply, but must be working on Pitt research. The Innovation Institute will also offer a cash prize up to $1,000 for the entrepreneurial student who applies and wins.

Apply for the competitions online