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Maseru in a gray suit

Health Equity Director Co-Authors March of Dimes Consensus Statement on Birth Equity

Women of color are 50 percent more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, and three times as likely to die from pregnancy complications. Noble Maseru, director of Pitt’s Center for Health Equity is working to change that.

Maseru, who’s also professor of behavior and community health sciences at Pitt, recently co-authored the March of Dimes "Birth Equity For Moms and Babies Consensus Statement" to advance social determinants pathways for research, policy and practice.

Among the recommendations: Improve maternal death surveillance, expand research, engage in health system reform, empower communities through inclusion and change social and economic conditions.

Read the Consensus Statement on the March of Dimes website.


T-Cell Project Awarded Major Funding

Gary Kohanbash, assistant professor of neurological surgery and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory (PNIO) at the University of Pittsburgh, was one of four researchers awarded a total of $3 million by the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative to help fund primary brain tumor immunotherapy research. Kohanbash’s project involves interrogating anti-tumor T-cells to develop adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy for pediatric high-grade gliomas.

Kohanbash and an interdisciplinary team of investigators at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Children’s National and the University of California, San Francisco have developed a new method for identifying the most tumoricidal T-cell within a patient’s tumor. Using this approach, the team will isolate these T-cells from pediatric glioma and DIPG tumors, validate the safety and tumor-killing ability of these cells and develop a strategy for expanding these cells for re-infusion into patients.

If the project is successful, it could become a cutting edge, off-the-shelf approach in which a T-cell identified in one patient could be used to create T-cells that could kill tumors in a majority of patients with the similar disease. Long-term the approach could be used to develop a highly personalized strategy in which the most effective cytotoxic T-cells within each patient would be identified and used to creating millions of these as a therapy for that patient. Read more at neurosurgery’s website.

H2P written with sparklers in the dark

Undergrad Team Captures Silver Medal for ‘Molecular Movie Camera’

The ability to measure and record molecular signals in a cell can help researchers better understand its behavior, but current systems are limited and provide only a “snapshot” of the environment rather than a more informative timeline of cellular events. In an effort to give researchers a complete understanding of event order, a team of University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students prototyped a frame-by-frame “video” recording device using bacteria.

The group created this project for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, an annual synthetic biology research competition in which over 300 teams from around the world design and carry out projects to solve an open research or societal problem. The Pitt undergraduate group received a silver medal for their device titled “CUTSCENE.”

The iGEM team included two Swanson School of Engineering students: Evan Becker, a junior electrical engineering student, and Vivian Hu, a junior bioengineering student. Other team members included Matthew Greenwald, a senior microbiology student; Tucker Pavelek, a junior molecular biology and physics student; Libby Pinto, a sophomore microbiology and political science student; and Zemeng Wei, a senior chemistry student.

Read more about the team at the Swanson School’s website.

Shields in a dark jacket

Engineering Alumna Julie Shields Named 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year

Recognizing her exceptional performance at FedEx Supply Chain, University of Pittsburgh Julie Shields (ENGR ’18) was selected as the 2019 National Co-op Student of the Year by the Cooperative Education and Experiential Division (CEED) of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Shields received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering this December, having completed three, four-month rotations with FedEx Supply Chain and will join their company this January.

During her third rotation, Shields played a critical role in a competitive bid with a major company. Based on her performance during her first two rotations, she was trusted to represent FedEx during the initial phases of the bid process. Impressed by her success, she was selected as lead engineer on the project and developed plans for a new one million square foot building with automation. This design helped secure a win for the company.

Within FedEx, Shields received two Bravo Zulu awards, which is the second highest performance award at the company. She was extended an offer to join FedEx Supply Chain and will start as a project engineer in January 2019. Read more about the honor at the School of Engineering’s website.

Nachega in a dark brown suit

Public Health's Nachega Recognized by African Science Institutions

Jean Nachega, associate professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases and microbiology in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, recently received recognition from two Africa-based science organizations.

The African Academy of Sciences elected him fellow in recognition of his efforts to develop patient care, teaching and research around epidemiology and infectious diseases in Africa. In addition, the Academy of Sciences of South Africa — which aims to provide evidence-based scientific advice on issues of public interest — named him a member-elect.

Badylak in front of shelves in a lab

Stephen Badylak Named 2018 Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator

For his dedication to achieving impact through commercialization, Stephen Badylak has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award from the Innovation Institute. He is a professor of surgery at Pitt and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

In his prolific 15 years at Pitt he ranks among the University’s all-time leaders in terms of invention disclosures filed, patents issued and technologies licensed. Earlier this year, Badylak became chief scientific officer of ECM Therapeutics, a new Pittsburgh-based startup company that has licensed a patent portfolio from Badylak’s lab and is seeking to commercialize those discoveries across a broad range of therapeutic targets.

More information can be found at the Innovation Institute’s website.

Carla Ng Receives $500K NSF CAREER Award

Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are manmade chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She received a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER award to pursue this research.

Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the release of these chemicals into the environment. According to Ng, more than 4,000 different kinds of PFAS may have been for decades, and detailed toxicity data does not exist for the large majority of these. The goal of Ng’s CAREER award is to address these issues through a complementary approach using predictive modeling and experiments.

Pitt News Business Staff Wins Awards

The Pitt News advertising and sales division won eight national awards in the College Media Business and Advertising Manager (CMBAM) contest this year, competing against college newspapers throughout the country. The awards were announced in March at the national conference in La Jolla, California.

The winners included:

  • First Place, Best Sponsored Content or Native Advertising
  • Second Place, Best College Media Sales Program
  • Second Place, Best Sales Promotion Materials
  • Second Place, Rachel Buck, Best Advertising Manager
  • Second Place, Best Ancillary Operation
  • Third Place, Kyle Guinness, Best Sales Representative
  • Third Place, Best Digital Sales Strategy
  • Honorable Mention, Best Sales Pitch or Proposal
  • Honorable Mention, Best Rate Card or Media Kit
Dawn Lundy Martin headshot with blue shirt and jacket

Dawn Lundy Martin Wins Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for 2019

Dawn Lundy Martin is the recipient of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for 2019.

Martin is a professor in the Writing Program in the Department of English and director and cofounder of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, all in the Dietrich School.

The award is “given annually in recognition of the work of a mid-career poet,” and comes with a cash prize of $100,000.

Martin is recognized for her collection “Good Stock Strange Blood,” most particularly for her “experimentation with language… for creating ‘fascinating, mysterious, formidable, and sublime’ explorations of the meaning of identity, the body, and the burdens of history along with one’s own private traumas.”

Martin will be honored at a private ceremony in April in San Marino, California.

Juleen Rodakowski in a red blouse, headshot

Occupational Therapy Researcher Juleen Rodakowski Receives More Than $3 Million for Aging Study

Juleen Rodakowski, assistant professor of occupational therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently received over $3 million from the National Institute on Aging to study the influence of strategy training on daily activities for older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Current interventions do not alter the underlying pathology for older adults in the early stage of cognitive decline. Thus, interventions that focus on slowing decline to disability are critical. Strategy Training is designed to engage at-risk older adults in daily activities.

This study is the next step in advancing strategy training as a nonpharmacological intervention designed to support independence and quality of life for older adults at-risk for decline to disability.

Rediker in a black coat

Distinguished History Professor Examines Historical Context of Spielberg Film

Marcus Rediker, distinguished professor in the Department of History, recently published an essay in “Writing History with Lightning: Cinematic Representations of Nineteenth-Century America.”

In his essay, Rediker critically examines Steven Spielberg’s film “Amistad,” and compares it to his own extensive historical research. Rediker says he found that Spielberg “distorted and omitted a great many important things about the ‘Amistad’ story, and that we must not leave the teaching of history to Hollywood.”

“My approach is called ‘history from below,’ which emphasizes the history-making power of ordinary people who are normally left out of the history text books,” said Rediker. “My account of the Amistad revolt stresses the power of enslaved people to emancipate themselves and challenge the institution of slavery.”

The essay also serves as a spin-off of Rediker’s 2012 book, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom.

Madeline Guido and Kaylene Stocking headshots.

Kaylene Stocking and Madeline Guido Win Top Undergraduate Student Awards at Honors Convocation

The 43rd annual Honors Convocation recognized the academic achievements of nearly 3,700 students and 478 faculty members, including the University’s highest awards for undergraduate students.

The Emma W. Locke Award, given to a graduating senior in recognition of high scholarship, character and devotion to the ideals of the University of Pittsburgh, went to Kaylene Stocking (pictured, right). The Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year Award, presented to a graduating senior who has attained a high standard of leadership in college activities, went to Madeline Guido (left).

Stocking is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in both bioengineering and computer engineering. Her research has led to three journal publications, two presentations and a Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention. She is also an undergraduate teaching assistant, an Honors College ambassadors and member of the Pitt orchestra. She plans to continue her education after graduating this spring.

Guido is the president of the Blue and Gold Society and director of communications for the Omicron Delta Kappa honors leadership society. She also served as the vice president and chief of finance for the Student Government Board. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with minors in Spanish and chemistry, and, outside the classroom, helps community members by translating medical Spanish.

Headshot of Heather Lyke in navy blazer and white blouse with script Pitt lapel pin and headshot of James Conner in Pitt football jersey

Heather Lyke and James Conner Honored at Dapper Dan Dinner

University of Pittsburgh Director of Athletics Heather Lyke and all-time great Pitt running back James Conner were honored at the 83rd Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction on Feb. 20.

Lyke was named Sportswoman of the Year and Conner was named Sportsman of the Year at the awards dinner and auction, held to celebrate the best in Pittsburgh sports and to benefit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dapper Dan Charities.

Lyke has been Pitt’s director of athletics for just under two years, and Conner now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Visit Pitt Athletics news site for a photo gallery and more coverage of the award ceremony.

Wood in a gold outfit in front of a yellow background

Alumna Sossena Wood Featured on NBC

Sossena Wood, a Pitt alumna twice over who most recently earned a Doctor of Philosophy in bioengineering in 2018, developed a realistic phantom head for magnetic resonance research while at the Swanson School of Engineering.

Now, Wood and her research are featured in NBC News Learn’s new online video collection “Discovering You: Engineering Your World.” Debuting during National Engineers Week, which runs through Feb. 23, the series highlights the careers of engineers in a variety of sectors and offers insights to the next generation of students. The video segment on Wood’s research delves into her work while she was a doctoral student at Pitt. She is now a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

Read more about her work and watch the NBC segment.

Wallace in a Navy suit

John Wallace Named Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare

John Wallace, Dave E. Epperson Chair and Professor of Social Work, has been named a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The academy is a society of distinguished scholars and practitioners dedicated to achieving excellence in social work and social welfare through work that advances social good.

Wallace does this in a number of ways, particularly in Homewood, the neighborhood in which he was born and raised. He is a co-founder of the Homewood Children’s Village and board president of Operation Better Block, both of which use community-based research to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable city residents. His Pitt-Assisted Communities & Schools (PACS) program enriches the education of Westinghouse High School students. Through PACS, members of a group of teenaged Justice Scholars are taking Pitt courses, visiting Pitt for college-prep workshops and engaging in community service.

Wallace, also the pastor of Bible Center Church in Homewood, helped launch the Everyday Cafe coffee shop in Homewood two years ago, partners with colleagues in business and engineering to lead the Direct Curent HEaRT (Direct Current Humanity, Energy, and Regional Transformation) initiative and plays a key role with programming at Pitt’s Community Engagement Center.

“I am humbled to have been inducted into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare,” said Wallace. “Having my work recognized by such an accomplished group of scholars is truly an honor.”

Jakicic in a suit, spliced with Rogers in a red shirt

Healthy Lifestyle Institute Leaders to Give Keynote at Professional Summit

John Jakicic (EDUC ’95G), chair of the Department of Health and Physical Activity (HPA) in the School of Education, and Renee Rogers (EDUC ’09G, ’12G), assistant professor in HPA, will give a keynote presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) International Health and Fitness Summit in March.

Jakicic, who is also the founding director of Pitt’s new Healthy Lifestyle Institute (HLI), and Rogers, who serves as HLI’s programming director, will jointly present on the scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of physical activity.

Particularly, Jakicic and Rogers will focus on “novel science that contributed to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” Jakicic served on the advisory committee that revised the guidelines.

“It is an honor to be asked by the American College of Sports Medicine to give a featured presentation at the International Health and Fitness Summit. As leaders at the Healthy Lifestyle Institute at PITT, we are passionate about translating research into practice,” said Jakicic.

Rogers added, “The opportunity to do this on a broader scale not only highlights the innovative work being done at Pitt, but allows for us to engage and inspire health, wellness and fitness professionals from all over the country.”

Ebel in a gray sweatshirt

First Joseph G. Jurcic Endowed Scholarship Awarded

Hanna Ebel is the first recipient of a new endowed scholarship at Pitt. The scholarship, established by Joseph G. Jurcic (A&S ’84), supports students who are eligible to enroll in Honors College courses.

Ebel hopes to be admitted to the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ Emergency Medicine program. Her ultimate goal is to become an emergency room physician.

Read about how this sophomore already is saving lives in her hometown of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in this feature story.

two people walking with a brilliant sun ray behind them

Pitt Sets Record for Low Employee Injury Rate

Pitt has set a record-low employee injury rate for the third year in a row.

The University’s 2018 employee injury rate fell to 0.94, calculated in incidents per 100 full-time workers, down from 1.04 in 2017 and 1.15 in 2016.

Pitt’s employee injury rate consistently has been below the national average for colleges and universities since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began its current industry classification system in 2003. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors workplace injuries and illnesses.

The OSHA recordable injury rate for colleges and universities held steady at 1.7 in 2016 and 2017. National figures for 2018 have yet to be posted.

Gregory A. Scott, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, credited a campuswide dedication to safety for Pitt’s positive trend.

“This achievement is the result of a conscious effort — by supervisors, faculty and staff — to create a culture of safety at Pitt by consistently considering safety in all activities,” he said. “Their commitment is making a measurable difference.” 

Wharton Boyd in front of a brown screen

Linda Wharton Boyd Named a Top Woman in Public Relations

Linda Wharton Boyd (A&S ’72, ’75G, ’79G), a past president of Pitt’s African American Alumni Council, was among the 99 women cross the nation recently honored as one of the Top Women in PR, which celebrates their achievements in the communications field. The honor was given by PRNews, an intellectual hub for the communications and marketing industry.

Wharton Boyd is the director of communications, external affairs and strategic stakeholder engagement for the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority. She was recognized for her work with the campaign DC Health Link: Get the Facts. Get Covered, a multi-year, multi-faceted effort for the District’s online marketplace, The campaign has successfully reached people where they live, work, shop, play and pray.

Woon in front of a blue screen

Jonathan Woon Named Associate Editor of the American Journal of Political Science

Professor Jonathan Woon, chair of the Department of Political Science, has joined a team of associate editors of the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), a leading political science journal and the flagship publication of the Midwest Political Science Association.

Woon has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Experimental Political Science. His research focuses on political behavior, American politics, game theory and political economy.