Accolades

To suggest an accolade, please fill out a submission form.
Watt Geer in a pink blazer and white shirt

Alumna Bobbi Watt Geer Chosen to Lead United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Bobbi Watt Geer (GSPIA ’09) has been named the new president and chief executive of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, one of the region’s largest organizations dedicated to charitable giving. She will be the first woman to lead the nonprofit, after having worked for more than a decade with United Way, serving in Westmoreland, Allegheny and Butler counties.

Watt Geer earned a doctorate in public administration and public policy from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Watt Geer began her new role on July 1, following a seven-month national search. She succeeds Robert Nelkin, who retired after 12 years of leading the local United Way branch.

Brooks and Barrios head shots stitched together with a white bar separating them

Robin Brooks and Esther Palacios-Barrios Named 2019 Ford Foundation Fellows

Robin Brooks, an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies, and Esther Palacios-Barrios, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology who also works with the Learning Research and Development Center, have been accepted to the 2019 Ford Foundation Fellowship Program.

The program, administered by the Fellowships Office of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is designed to increase diversity among faculty in the nation’s colleges and universities.

Brooks, who was recognized in the postdoctoral competition, will be working on a book manuscript with host institution, Emory University, during the fellowship. Palacios-Barrios, recognized in the predoctoral competition, will continue her work in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology Program.  

Mitchell in a cream-colored jacket, holding a flute with a curved mouthpiece

New Jazz Studies Director Nicole Mitchell Tops Jazz Polls

Two significant honors were recently announced for Nicole Mitchell, Pitt’s new William S. Dietrich II Endowed Chair in Jazz Studies, who arrived at Pitt this month. The prestigious 2019 Downbeat International Critics Poll named Mitchell the winner in the flute category. Downbeat Magazine is one of the country’s oldest jazz magazines and critically reviews the top talent in jazz each year. The complete 2019 Critics Poll list is in Downbeat’s August issue.

In addition, members of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) named Mitchell “Flutist of the Year” this past spring. The JJA is a global professional organization of media content providers who disseminate news and views about jazz. 

Mitchell says she is “truly honored” to have received both of these awards. Said Music Department Chair and Professor Mathew Rosenblum: “The Department of Music is thrilled to hear about the latest honors bestowed upon Nicole. Her original creative voice continues to make a huge impact in the music world at-large, and we greatly look forward to the leadership that she will bring to our department and to the City of Pittsburgh.”

Gellad in a light blue shirt and dark blue tie

Walid Gellad Receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Walid Gellad, associate professor of medicine and health policy was named a winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) — “the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”

Gellad’s research focuses on physician prescribing practices and on policy issues affecting access and adherence to medications for patients. Read a recent Pittwire story about his work using artificial intelligence to better predict opioid overdose risk in patients.

George in a dark suit and white shirt

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Receives NSF Funding for New Tech

The National Science Foundation has awarded $10 million to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint research center between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, to build a new supercomputer.

The supercomputer, Bridges-2, will contain different types of state-of-the-art hardware and larger memory space for solving problems in engineering, biology and artificial intelligence, for example. It will also be more user-friendly for researchers who may not be well-versed in supercomputing.

“PSC is unique in combining the strengths of two world-class universities (CMU and Pitt) and a world-class medical center. Bridges-2 will amplify these strengths to fuel many new discoveries,” said Alan D. George, interim director of PSC and department chair of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Cunningham in a dark suit, white shirt and gold tie

Larry Cunningham Jr. Appointed Chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Associate Dean of Hospital Affairs

Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine has announced Larry Cunningham Jr. as its next chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and associate dean for hospital affairs.  Cunningham, a native of Texas, comes to the University of Pittsburgh after an 18-year career at the University of Kentucky, where he served as professor and chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. 

Cunningham has a broad clinical interest in maxillofacial surgery and is an internationally recognized expert in the management of traumatic facial injuries. He has 18 years of experience as a member of the cleft lip and palate team, where his practice included alveolar cleft repairs and jaw surgery for patients with facial differences. He is particularly skilled in the surgical management of patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disease, including total joint replacements. Cunningham frequently lectures on the management of injuries to the nerves that innervate of the lower lip and tongue.

At Pitt, Cunningham also will serve as interim program director for the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency Program.

Read more about his goals in these new roles at UPMC.

Lyke in a yellow dress and Boissonneault in a gray blazer, each holding the shoulder of a jersey with the latter's name on it

Emily Boissonneault Named First Head Coach in Pitt Lacrosse

University of Pittsburgh Director of Athletics Heather Lyke has announced the hiring of Emily Boissonneault as the first head coach in Pitt lacrosse history. Boissonneault has spent the past four seasons at James Madison helping guide the Dukes to three Colonial Athletic Association Conference Championships, four NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2018 National Championship.
 
“It takes a special individual to build a program from scratch. You need someone who has great vision, relentless energy and confidence to build something unprecedented,” said Lyke in a statement. “I am excited we have found that type of person and leader in Emily Boissonneault. She brings to Pitt an excellent pedigree as a coach and player and knows what it takes to compete against the premier lacrosse conference in the country. Emily’s experience helping to bring a national championship to James Madison University will be invaluable. Moreover, her tremendous contacts in the sport, both across the country and internationally, will be major assets in building Pitt lacrosse into a program that will make a mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. We are thrilled she will be joining Pitt, bringing the highest level of lacrosse to the city of Pittsburgh and confident in her ability to attack this unique challenge and opportunity.”

See footage of the announcement and watch a video of Boissonneault’s first day.

a panther statue

Pitt Law Launches Graduate Program on Human Resources Law

Pitt’s School of Law is now taking applications for a new online graduate certificate program that tackles the legal issues that sometimes arise in the human resource industry. Human Resources Law Online will consist of courses that explore the practical application of the law within that field. Students will learn key negotiating skills to help improve their ability to manage difficult workplace situations, such as employee contract negotiations, workplace accommodations requests and employee terminations.

Human Resources Law Online Program Director Joseph Hornack said that human resources, like many areas of business, has become more complicated. “Artificial intelligence has been playing a larger role in hiring, work evaluation and termination decisions at some of the larger companies,” he said. The algorithms are established in ways that may contain biases.”

Pitt professor of law and director of online legal programs Alan Meisel said the program is aimed at non-lawyers. “We’re trying to provide a legal education for people already working in the industry,” he said. “Legal problems can arise but people don’t realize it’s a legal problem until they need a lawyer. With the knowledge gained through these courses, one can head off serious legal problems.”

The courses will take 40 weeks to complete and will be taught by Pitt Law’s expert faculty and local practitioners.

Meyer in a black and white blouse in front of a Pitt seal

Susan Meyer Receives Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award

Susan Meyer, associate dean for education and professor in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, recently received the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award. The award recognizes an individual’s excellence in teaching, scholarship and service in pharmacy education.

At Pitt, Meyer is director of the Interprofessional Center for Health Careers and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. Her work in the School of Pharmacy focuses on curricular and institutional quality improvement, instructional design and assessment, faculty development and interprofessional health professions education.

two people walking in front of the sun

Three English Affiliates Receive 2019 Investing in Professional Artists Grant

Three affiliates of the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been awarded funds from the Investing in Professional Artists Grant, a shared program of the Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

The foundations recognized fifteen local artists and organizations and selected the grantees based on “not only the quality of their work, but also on the potential of their proposals to advance their careers.”

The three Pitt affiliates and their projects are:

Cameron Barnett (A&S ’16G), faculty of the Falk Laboratory School, received a grant of $8.500 to “support a second full-length book of poetry centered on the historical and racial roots of the artist’s heritage in the U.S. and Canada, and the histories of slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement.” Barnett earned his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in poetry from Pitt in 2016.

Adriana Ramirez (A&S ’09G) received a grant of $10,000 to “complete research and manuscript for a book on the history of violence in the Americas, from Pittsburgh to Colombia and back, blending family and oral histories with larger national narratives.” Ramirez earned her MFA degree in creative nonfiction writing from Pitt in 2009.

Anjali Sachdeva, lecturer in the Composition Program and Writing Program in the Department of English, received a grant of $10,000 to “support development of a novel set in a near-future world where people are segregated by gender.”

Mohamed in a gray suit jacket and dark shirt

Alumnus Wasi Mohamed Named Thomas Merton Center’s 2019 New Person of the Year

Pitt alumnus Wasi Mohamed has been named the Thomas Merton Center’s 2019 New Person of the Year. He was recognized at a June 25 event. The annual award honors a local Pittsburgh activist working towards peace and justice. 

Mohamed is the Pittsburgh Director of Community Entrepreneurship for Forward Cities and was formerly director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. 

Mohamed earned a BS in Neuroscience and a BA in history and philosophy of science and philosophy at Pitt, both in 2017. 

Donald in a green polo shirt with navy collars

Aaron Donald Football Performance Center Unveiled, Supported by Historic Gift

The University of Pittsburgh officially unveiled the newly dedicated Aaron Donald Football Performance Center this June, with the two-time reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in attendance.

The ground floor of the Duratz Athletic Complex, Pitt Football's daily home and practice facility, was renamed in honor of Donald after the Pitt legend and current Los Angeles Rams star recently pledged a historic seven-figure donation to the program. Donald donated to the Pitt Football Championship Fund, which serves the program in key areas such as facility improvement, recruiting, technology and student-athlete development. At 27 years old, Donald is the youngest seven-figure donor in the history of the University of Pittsburgh. It also marks the largest donation ever by a Pitt football letterman to the program.

“It was a dream come true to play for the University of Pittsburgh,” said Donald, who starred at Pitt from 2010-13. “My experience as a Panther is something that influences my life every day and I want to pay that forward. I believe in what Coach Narduzzi is building at Pitt and this was an opportunity for me to make a difference for our current and future players. Pitt will always be my school and I'm honored to be able to support the Blue and Gold.”

Hall in a black top in a lab

Martica Hall Receives Outstanding Educator Award

Martica Hall, professor of psychiatry, psychology, and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh, recently received the Sleep Research Society Mary A. Carskadon Outstanding Educator Award for excellence in education related to sleep and circadian research. The award honors outstanding educational contributions to disseminating the knowledge base, research methods and health and safety significance of the field.

Hall’s research explores the effect of sleep on behavioral and physical health, and she has published more than 175 peer-reviewed articles on topics in this area. Her current research pertains to sleep, circadian rhythms and cardiometabolic risk in retired shift workers.

Hall received the award at SLEEP 2019, the annual meeting of the Sleep Research Society.

Stephen D. Meriney

Stephen D. Meriney Receives Grant for Neuromuscular Disease Research

Pitt’s Stephen D. Meriney has received one of 26 The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) grants for rare neuromuscular disease research.

Meriney, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry, focuses on studying the mechanisms that control peripheral nervous system plasticity, including mechanisms that underlie neuromuscular diseases. The MDA awarded him more than $300,000 in critical funding to support the development of a new therapeutic approach for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  This novel therapy is based on a new small molecule that was developed in a collaboration between the Meriney lab and Distinguished University Professor Peter Wipf from the Department of Chemistry

Meriney’s lab focuses on regulating and modulating presynaptic ion channels — essentially looking at how one neuron “talks” to another by releasing neurotransmitters across both healthy and diseased synapses. He will use the grant to address current gaps in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that destroys motor neurons which control essential voluntary muscle movements such as speaking, walking and swallowing.  

Cathedral of Learning Commons Room

Three Graduate Students Win Contest for Thesis Elevator Pitch

Piyusha Gade took first place in this past academic year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Pitt Competition, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, University Center for Teaching and Learning and the University Library System. Gerald Ferrer won runner-up and the first-ever people’s choice award; and Jacqueline Lombard was a second runner-up and, separately, received a DAAD Graduate Scholarship (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst).

The Three Minute Thesis Competition, started by the University of Queensland in Australia and now in its second year at the University of Pittsburgh, invites PhD candidates ahead of their dissertation defense to effectively present their research in three minutes or less to a non-specialist audience.

Gade, a student in the Swanson School of Engineering, presented a Rational Design of Vascular Grafts in Aged Hosts. Ferrer, also of the Swanson School, explained Improving Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment Decisions. Lombard, from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, spoke about Constructing Racial Identity in Medieval European Art.

“It was great fun trying to sum up five years’ worth of work in three minutes! As scientists, we often talk only about the details of our work. 3MT made me think about what the details add up to. That was a lot of fun!” said Gade.

“As a humanist, I felt some need to pitch not only the importance of my own individual work but also the importance of the Humanities as a field, which is a real challenge when you only have so little time,” said Lombard. “I’m sure, however, that this won’t be the last time that will be necessary, so 3MT was good practice.”

The event was part of National Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week.

Berringer in a coral top

New Director Named for Office of Veterans Services

Aryanna Berringer, an Iraq War veteran, is now serving as director of the Office of Veterans Services (OVS). 

At age 18, Berringer enlisted in the U.S. Army just months after the attacks of September 11, 2001. She was deployed to Jordan in February 2003 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the XVII Airborne Corps and served honorably through 2004. An Oregon native, Berringer was the first in her family to join the military.

In addition to her service in the military, Berringer has a diverse range of professional experience, ranging from IT project management consulting to starting a nonprofit geared toward improving nutrition in schools and military installations as a matter of national security.

“Aryanna is very dynamic and personable, and she’s eager to get started,” said Antonio Quarterman, director of the McCarl Center for Nontraditional Student Success and College of General Studies in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “She will bring a lot to the role, to the University and to OVS — as she builds relationships with the veteran and military community in the city and in Pennsylvania.”

“As someone who has made a deep commitment to continued service to my community after I left the military, I am very honored to join the Pitt family in support of our military veterans and families,” said Berringer. “I look forward to the mission of engaging and strengthening our veteran community — students, families, staff and faculty alike.

Berringer is the recipient of numerous awards including the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.

Gill-Peterson in a red coat and white sweater

Julian Gill-Peterson Wins Lambda Literary Awards Prize in Transgender Nonfiction

Julian Gill-Peterson, an assistant professor in the Department of English, received top honors in the category of Transgender Nonfiction during the 31st Annual Lambda Literacy Awards in June. The awards, known as the “Lammys,” recognize the year’s best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature. Gill-Peterson was nominated for their book, “Histories of the Transgender Child.” Gill-Peterson is also a member of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program steering committee at Pitt.

Joseph Pugar

Pitt Spinout Aruga Vascular Graft Wins Business Pitch Funding

Pitt spinout Aruga Technologies won a $25,000 prize in a business pitch competition hosted by the Biomimicry Institute at the recent GreenBiz Circularity19 conference in Minneapolis.

While the contest traditionally focuses on energy, waste and climate change, it was Aruga CEO and Pitt alum Joseph Pugar’s 20-minute pitch on the company’s unique synthetic vascular graft implant technology that won second prize among 12 competitors.

The graft imitates the natural wrinkling that prevents platelets from clumping and blood from clotting inside blood vessels, making it more long-lasting than typical grafts.

The Aruga technology is the product of a series of collaborations between Pitt and the UPMC vascular surgery group. Luka Pocivavsek, a vascular surgeon, is the primary inventor of the technology and worked through Pitt’s Innovation Institute to begin commercializing it.

Pugar, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Pitt in 2017,  joined the team as a student, initially helping to prototype the technology's surface mechanics.

The company was spun out of Pitt in 2018 and is a portfolio company of LifeX Labs, a Pittsburgh-based life science startup accelerator.

Oscar E. Swan

Oscar E. Swan Receives Award from President of Poland

Oscar E. Swan, professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and advisor for the Polish minor, was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Poland.

Swan received the award "in recognition of [his] outstanding services in promoting Polish language and Polish culture, and for outstanding achievements in Slavic Studies."  

Swan accepted the prestigious award, presented by the Polish Ambassador to the United States, in May in Washington, D.C.

Pitt¬–Johnstown Supervisor of Campus Grounds Dave Finney

Pitt–Johnstown Is Pennsylvania's First Campus Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has been designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Pitt–Johnstown is the first Pennsylvania university to earn this certification, and only the eighth overall. 

Pitt­–Johnstown Supervisor of Campus Grounds Dave Finney, who led the effort to obtain sanctuary designation, was recognized by Audubon for his environmental stewardship. The Johnstown campus maintains a 655-acre grounds with 15 miles of trails.

"The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. They are to be commended for their efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on their property," said Christine Kane, CEO at Audubon International. “By taking action to implement indoor and outdoor conservation projects, the administration, faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown have demonstrated their commitment to the sustainable management of their natural resources.”

Certification demonstrates an organization’s leadership, commitment and high standards of environmental management in areas such as environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, water quality and conservation, resource management and outreach and education. Recertification is required every three years to maintain the designation.