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November 7, 2018
Heather Tomko Wins Disability Service Award
Heather Tomko was recently awarded with the Dick Thornburgh Forum Disability Service Award.
This $4,000 award, named for the former governor of Pennsylvania and disability rights advocate, is available each year to a University of Pittsburgh student from any campus whose service has made a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities. The winner is selected by a review committee of Pitt administrators.
Tomko is a master’s student studying health policy and management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. She has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair.
Her work in activism includes taking part in the Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Jonas Salk Health Activist Fellowship, blogging on “The Heather Report” and creating the advocacy organization, Accessible YOUniverse. She was named Ms. Wheelchair USA 2018 in July and will spend this year promoting her platform, "Increasing Inclusion of People with Disabilities into their Communities.”
November 5, 2018
Adrian Lee Receives Distinguished Mentor Award
Adrian Lee, a biomedical professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, recently received the Distinguished Mentor Award from Pitt’s Biomedical Graduate Student Association.
Lee earned the award for his “service to graduate students through research training, teaching and administration.”
Lee also serves as director of the Institute for Precision Medicine and director of the Womens Cancer Research Center. His research areas include pharmacology of cell and organ systems, cancer genomics, systems biology of cancer and hormone signaling and action.
October 30, 2018
Rory Cooper Is Fastest American Handbiker in Berlin Marathon Race
Rory Cooper, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, was the top finishing American to complete the men’s handbiker competition of the Berlin Marathon, held in September. Cooper placed 49th out of 111 finishers with a time of 1:26:17.
“The course had a lot of turns, and a couple of grades, but no hills. The roads are very fast,” Cooper said. “I was able to stay with a small group of the ‘fast’ riders until mile 22, which helped me to finish in about 86 minutes.”
Cooper also serves as associate dean for inclusion in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and is a distinguished professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.
October 29, 2018
Susan Fullerton One of Five Nationwide to Receive Chemical Sciences Award
Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received the 2019 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences.
Fullerton was one of five recipients nationwide recognized for “extraordinary contributions through their research programs and demonstrate a commitment to move their fields forward.” Her research group seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of ion-electron transport at the molecular level to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage.
October 24, 2018
Postdoctoral Researcher Earns Competitive $1.4 Million Grant to Study Social Media’s Impact on LGBT People
César G. Escobar-Viera, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, received a $1.4 million competitive federal research grant to study whether social media connects and promotes acceptance among LGBT people or could fuel depression in that population.
“The odds are that the impact of social media use on gay, lesbian and bisexual people is not so black-and-white,” said Escobar-Viera, a native of Paraguay, where he previously served as chief medical officer of the country’s only public psychiatric hospital. “There is likely a middle ground where it brings some good with the bad, but we need to understand that in a quantifiable, scientific context because social media is with us for the foreseeable future. Instructing people to stay away from it is not practical and may not be particularly beneficial.”
The award comes from the National Institutes of Health’s Pathway to Independence program, which provides up to five years of support and mentoring for postdoctoral trainees. Read more at UPMC.
October 22, 2018
3 Pitt Researchers Named to National Academy of Medicine
Three medical researchers from the University of Pittsburgh were recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine.
The elected researchers are Amy Houtrow, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and pediatrics at Pitt’s School of Medicine; Clifton Callaway, professor and Ronald D. Stewart Endowed Chair in Research in Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine; and Robert Friedlander, the Walter E. Dandy Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurobiology at Pitt’s School of Medicine.
The academy addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. It also works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation, and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.
October 18, 2018
Associate Professors Adam Lee and Rosta Farzan Receive NSF Award for Privacy Work
Adam Lee and Rosta Farzan, associate professors in the School of Computing and Information, recently received more than $280,000 from the National Science Foundation for their project that explores privacy-enhanced sensor designs that provide people with the knowledge and assurance of when they are being recorded and what data is being captured.
Today, casual conversations and encounters, that were once thought to be private, may now be recorded and archived digitally. Networked microphones and cameras can give rise to serious electronic privacy concerns. While these types of devices that listen to us and capture data can benefit users in many ways, users may also face serious privacy violations. Their project brings together expertise in computer security and privacy, access control, human computer interaction and social computing. Through this interdisciplinary team, the goal is to make socio-technical contributions to both theory and practice. Lee and Farzan’s project combines hardware and software techniques to tangibly and visually convey a sense of privacy to people who are impacted by sensors.
October 18, 2018
Epidemiologist Jane Cauley Wins Prestigious Service Award
Jane A. Cauley has received the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2018 Shirley Hohl Service Award. Cauley is a distinguished professor and executive vice chair of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. She received the award after volunteering for numerous positions and projects with the society.
Cauley’s primary research interest is the epidemiology of osteoporosis, especially the worldwide ethnic and geographic variability in fracture, osteoporosis screening and treatment, risk factors for fractures and the consequences of osteoporosis in both men and women.
October 18, 2018
4 Pitt News Staffers Nominated for National Awards
The Associated College Press has nominated four Pitt News journalists for awards this year in its national competition among college journalists. Pitt’s nominees are:
- Grant Burgman, in the Story of the Year category, for his piece "The Forgotten Champions."
- John Hamilton (CBA ’18), in the Multimedia Story of the Year category, for his photo essay "The Cathedral in photos, from the basement to the top."
- Senior Christian Snyder, in the category Photo of the Year, for this photograph.
- Theo Schwarz (ENGR ’17), in the Feature Photo category, for this photograph.
ACP will name winners at its conference later this month in Louisville, Kentucky.
October 18, 2018
Public Health Students Selected for Future Leaders Program
Three students from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health were selected for the inaugural class of The Milken Institute’s Future Leaders Program.
The students, Ashley Simenson (epidemiology), Jessica Salerno (infectious diseases and microbiology) and Kaitlyn Saal-Ridpath (health policy), are among a dozen fellows selected nationwide.
The program aims to give the students exposure to health leadership to help accelerate their future work tackling complex public health challenges. The institute plans to learn from them as well; during the year-long fellowship, they will work on projects such as helping the DEA 360 program, which is tackling the opioid epidemic, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which helps inspire and educate youth.
October 10, 2018
Two Female Faculty Members Recognized for Research in Computational Social Science
Professor Diane Litman and Associate Professor Yu-ru Lin have been named to SAGE journal’s list of 39 women doing amazing research in computational social science across the world. The list includes women who have made significant contributions to social sciences and humanities with their innovative use of computational methods and explorations of cutting edge tech.
Litman, professor of computer science and co-director of the Intelligent Systems Program, focuses on artificial intelligence and its application to a variety of areas including linguistics, education, reasoning and behavior. Lin, also in the School of Computing and Information, leads the Pitt Computational Social Dynamics Lab. Her research focuses around the ways we become more informed and how that affects our behavior.
October 10, 2018
School of Medicine’s David Binion Wins 2018 Sherman Prize
The award, presented by the Bruce and Cynthia Sherman Charitable Foundation, recognizes outstanding contributions in the fight to overcome Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which are known as inflammatory bowel diseases.
Binion was recognized for the “novelty and creativity” of his research on the immunologic, cellular and physiologic alterations associated with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, applying his insights to improving care for those most severely impacted by these diseases.
October 9, 2018
Humanity in Action Fellowship Awardees Work Toward Social Justice at Home and Abroad
A Pitt student and alumna explored today’s most challenging global humanitarian issues in Europe this summer as 2018 Humanity in Action Fellows.
The fellowship highlights models of action in social justice and examines the social and political roots of discrimination on a global scale. While abroad, fellows explore contemporary issues through the historical foundations of World War II and the holocaust.
Aditya Mittal (left) looked at xenophobia, racism and minority issues in Berlin. He’s a junior neuroscience major with a minor in chemistry. In addition to lab research, he’s also working to build awareness about lead poising in Pittsburgh communities. He plans to go to medical school before advancing a career in public health and policy.
Daria Sullivan (A&S ’17) explored human rights in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a 2017 graduate with a BA in theatre arts and communication, and has used her platform as an artist and performer to share about social justice issues. At Pitt, her work prompted discussions about issues like racial bias, and she hopes to inspire social change by continuing to portray thoughtful stories.
October 4, 2018
Three Pitt Researchers Win NIH Director’s Awards
Peter Strick, the Thomas Detre Professor of Neuroscience and distinguished professor and chair of neurobiology, was one of three Pitt people to receive NIH Director’s Awards this year. Strick earned the Transformative Research Award, part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, for his work on identifying a biological basis for the mind-body connection.
Warren Ruder, assistant professor of bioengineering, and Erik Wright, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, each won NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards, given to “exceptionally creative early career investigators who propose high-impact projects.”
Ruder’s team will work to engineer cells that can be activated by high magnetic field gradients; Wright’s group will use thousands of microbial genomes to discover new antibiotics and figure out better ways of prescribing them to address the serious public health threat of antibiotic resistance.
October 3, 2018
NSF Awards Pitt Engineers $200,000 to Study the Impact of Reflection on Learning
Assistant professors Samuel Dickerson and Renee Clark have received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help students in the Swanson School of Engineering start to think about thinking. The two-year, $200,000 award will support a project to improve learning and development by promoting the frequent use of reflection and “metacognition” among students in a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering class on microelectronic circuits.
“Engineering is different from other disciplines because this type of thought process isn’t inherent in our training,” Dickerson said. “Reflection and metacognition are not skills that are regularly cultivated or practiced in the engineering curriculum — in the classroom we are more focused on immediate problem-solving rather than pausing and looking at the big picture, which is more common in the engineering workplace.”
According to Clark, it is easier for a student in a classroom environment to ask a professor or teaching assistant to help them solve a problem. Outside of college however, there may be fewer resources on which to rely. Dickerson and Clark want to encourage engineering students to develop lifelong learning skills that will help them independently learn how to find a solution and ultimately give them an advantage when they join the workforce. Read more about the project.
October 3, 2018
Mary Allias Named Distinguished Fellow of American Academy of Physician Assistants
Mary Allias, an assistant professor in the Physician Assistant Studies program at Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been recognized as a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants for exemplary achievement in service to the profession, the advancement of health care and in dedication to the community. This honor is bestowed upon an elite group of less than one percent of practicing physician assistants.
Allias’ interests include instructional methods for enhancing clinical reasoning and communication, as well as workforce issues surrounding the physician assistant profession.
October 1, 2018
State Awards $2 Million for Pitt-Bradford Tech Building
Pitt-Bradford has been awarded $2 million in state funding to support development of new engineering and technology facilities.
“This grant will be critical to us in developing the facilities which will make it possible for us to offer new academic programs and expand existing ones. This is an investment that will provide benefits for many years to multiple generations of Pitt students, as well as to the companies in the region who will hire our graduates,” said Pitt-Bradford Interim President Lawrence Feick.
The campus plans to develop a building to house classrooms, engineering and computer labs and shops and other specialized spaces to support new programs to meet local education and workforce needs.
An architectural firm has been hired to study whether to construct a new building or to acquire and renovate an existing building to accommodate the new programs.
September 26, 2018
School of Pharmacy’s Janice L. Pringle Earns Grant for New Program
Janice L. Pringle, professor in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, recently received a grant to develop “Online Learning Communities: Mobile Application for Physicians and First Responders from the PA Department of Health” with primary sponsor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Program Evaluation and Research Unit will create a curriculum for a program to be used by the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to train First Responder Champions in regions across Pennsylvania to support the use of the OpiRescue application, including rescue breathing and naloxone resources embedded within the application by their peers within each of the champions’ regions.
The curriculum will also address barriers observed by first responders in naloxone access and utilization.
September 26, 2018
School of Medicine’s Ann Thompson Wins Leadership Award
Ann Thompson, vice dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was recently announced as a winner of the 2018 Leadership Award for an Individual from the Group on Women in Medicine and Science.
The award is given to people and organizations that demonstrate “a significant impact for the advancement of women’s roles in academic medicine and science.”
Thompson, who is also a professor of critical care medicine and pediatrics in the School of Medicine, will receive the award at Learn Serve Lead 2018 in Austin, Texas, Nov. 2-6. The annual event is held by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
September 26, 2018
Potential IBD Treatment Moves Toward Clinical Testing
An anti-inflammatory compound developed by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers and licensed by biotech startup Koutif Therapeutics has completed investigational new drug (IND)-enabling studies and reached clinical candidate status for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The compound, KT-1002, also shows promise in treating other inflammatory conditions including bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lung injury and rheumatoid arthritis.
Koutif has licensed several compounds including KT-1002 from the University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The intellectual property derived from research funded by multiple VA awards and National Institutes of Health grants.
Rama K. Mallampalli, professor and chief of the medical school’s Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Division and staff physician at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System developed KT-1002 with associate professor Beibei Chen, director of the division’s Center for Small Molecule Therapeutics and co-director of its Acute Lung Injury Center of Excellence. The two hold equity in Koutif Therapeutics and are paid consultants to the company.
Koutif is a start-up launched by BioMotiv, the mission-driven accelerator associated with the Harrington Project for Discovery & Development, a $340 million national initiative for advancing medicine centered at University Hospitals in Cleveland.
“We are very encouraged by the results of the lead compound both in IND-enabling studies as well as in disease models,” said Baiju R. Shah, BioMotiv CEO and chairman of Koutif Therapeutics. “Based on the data, we plan to file an IND application by the end of the year.”