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Rory Cooper in a dark suit and white collared shirt

Pitt Selected to Study Improved Mobility Access in AI Vehicles

The University of Pittsburgh was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to help advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing the US. 

The department awarded Pitt $1 million to study the implications of accessible automated vehicles and mobility services for people with disabilities, in consortium with the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and The Catholic University of America.

Rory Cooper will lead the project from Pitt’s end. He is director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt and associate dean for inclusion in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Cooper has over two dozen patents related to improved mobility for people with disabilities, including wheelchair accessories and improved prosthetics.

The team has partners and advisors from Toyota Mobility Foundation, Merlin Mobility, Paralyzed Veterans of America, UPMC Health System, and the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Task Force on People with Disabilities.

Heinz Chapel with pink flowers in the foreground

New Funds for Community Behavioral Health Projects

Pitt’s Center for Interventions to Improve Community Health (CiTECH) recently awarded more than $100,000 from the Office of the Provost for projects designed to improve behavior health outcomes in local neighborhoods. Learn about the four projects:

The CHURCH Project—which stands for Congregations as Healers Uniting to Restore Community Health—will develop and pilot an intervention that takes place in the context of African American churches. “Because of issues like stigma, mistrust and absence of insurance, many Black people rely on informal church support for emotional problems, rather than visiting mental health clinics,” said John Wallace, the David E. Epperson Professor of Social Work and co-investigator. The goal is to increase the mental health awareness, knowledge and skills of the clergy, who then in turn can help parishioners. The project is a partnership between Pitt’s School of Social Work, faculty members in the Department of Psychiatry and leaders from Homewood Community Ministries.

Marlo Perry, assistant research professor in the School of Social Work, will collaborate with Wesley Family Services and the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families to pilot Intensive Family Coaching (IFC) with families of young children involved with the child welfare system. IFC is a home-based intervention that helps young children with emotional and behavioral challenges, as well as their caregivers who may struggle with discipline issues. The project also seeks to increase collaboration between the child welfare and behavioral health systems.

Child maltreatment can lead to mental health issues, trouble in school and other problems. Professionals in Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) work together to investigate abuse and provide resources for victims of child abuse and their families. But CACs in rural areas often have limited resources. Their teams have members from a variety of disciplines—police, advocates and child welfare workers. To help a team like this work more effectively, Elizabeth McGuier, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychiatry, will work with the CAC in McKean County on the use of TeamSTEPPS, an evidence-based intervention to improve teamwork

The final project will focus on improving overall community mental health and reducing teen violence in the City of Pittsburgh’s Fineview and Perry Hilltop neighborhoods. Associate Professor of Social Work Mary Ohmer will oversee a training program that focuses on collective efficacy by facilitating trusting relationships between younger and older residents and increasing the residents’ ability to safely intervene to address neighborhood problems. Ohmer will be working with members of the Perry Hilltop Citizens Councils.

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Pitt Collaborative Receives $7 million for COVID-19 Outpatient Convalescent Plasma Therapy Trial

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and other universities was recently awarded more than $7 million in funds to collaboratively study the role of convalescent plasma in mitigating symptoms of COVID-19 in patients with mild illness and preventing the progression of the disease from mild to severe.

Convalescent plasma is derived from blood donated by persons who have already had COVID-19 and have recovered. Convalescent plasma contains antibodies that can bind to the virus that causes COVID-19 and neutralize it.

“We are going to recruit patients who are at high risk for developing severe illness and may be most likely to benefit from a preventative treatment, such as patients over 50, those with heart disease, lung disease or diabetes and patients who are immunocompromised,” said Clifton Callaway (pictured), executive vice-chair of emergency medicine at Pitt.

The award comes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Researchers on the team also come from Michigan MedicineMedical University of South Carolina and Stanford Medicine.

A man in a dark suit

Political Discussions with Chancellor Emeritus Nordenberg Available for Public, Instructors

The Institute of Politics (IOP) and Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy are encouraging faculty and staff to use the video series, “Governing in Crisis: Preserving Democracy, the Rule of Law and American Values,” as part of their online educational offerings for the upcoming semester. The series launched in May with a goal of helping policymakers and interested citizens, whatever their political leanings, understand critical governance issues that have arisen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg, who is IOP chair and director of the Dick Thornburgh Forum, has interviewed six local and national subject matter experts on issues surrounding public health, the economy, the state of government and public institutions, criminal justice reform and systemic racism, among other topics. 

Each video features links to a teaching guide as well as a “Learn and Do More” informational page that coincides with the lecture. The goal is to use the views of newsmakers addressing key issues such as former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe on the organization’s financial crisis and voting by mail, or President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark on a fairer and less costly criminal justice system, to spark class discussions or supplement ongoing teachings related to these timely issues. 

Upcoming speakers will be announced soon. For more information or to be added to the mailing list, visit the Thornburgh Forum website.

A depiction of a flag

Winner Announced for Art of Diversity People’s Choice Award

The public had a chance to weigh in on the People’s Choice Award for the Art of Diversity Showcase and Competition, as Diversity Forum 2020 came to a close. And the people have spoken: "We have been enslaved in this country far longer than We have been Free. We have not seen Liberation... yet," by René LaPointe Jameson, was named the winner.

A total of over 1,200 votes were cast, and Jameson’s work emerged as the clear favorite, said Erik Schuckers, manager of communications and programming for Pitt’s Center of Creativity.

Jameson is a junior at Tufts University studying environmental engineering and a 2019 University of Pittsburgh Hesselbein fellow.

Passionate about public health and racial justice, Jameson works to address health disparities caused by environmental racism. Her art works examine social issues varying from medical racism, senior isolation and police brutality.

View the other winners of the Art of Diversity Showcase and Competition. If you missed the forum, here’s a recap of highlights on Pittwire.

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Chris F. Kemerer Wins Best New Author Award

Pitt Business faculty member Chris F. Kemerer is the recipient of the Best New Author Award in business case publisher Ivey Publishing’s 2019-2020 Best Seller Awards.

Kemerer is the David M. Roderick Professor of Information Systems, professor of business administration and area director for information systems and technology management in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

The award is presented to an author who published their first Ivey Publishing case within the last three years, and who had the highest total case usage across this time period.

Kemerer’s latest cases, Netflix Inc.: The Disruptor Faces Disruption and Apple v. The FBI, have seen interest worldwide, with the Netflix case being the second highest selling case in the world this past academic year.

Kemerer began writing business IT cases for use in his own classes, including in the Katz school’s Executive MBA program, and began submitting them for publication in order to make them widely available to other business school faculty.

A woman on a laptop with a Pitt sticker

Seven Pitt Alums Named to Pittsburgh Business Times 30 Under 30 List

Meet the 2020 class of 30 Under 30 award winners, named by the Pittsburgh Business Times and Leadership Pittsburgh. Seven of them have Pitt degrees.

The awards recognize up-and-coming executives, innovators and thought leaders who will shape the future of Pittsburgh. Look out for a special report in the Pittsburgh Business Times that will feature the impressive young leaders on Sept. 25.

Bryant A. Andrews (A&S ’14, LAW ’17), 28, associate attorney, Cozen O-Connor

Blake Dube (ENGR ’17), 25, founder and CEO, Aeronics Inc.

Max Gelernter (LAW ’17), 28, associate attorney, K&L Gates LLP

Samantha Levinson (A&S ’15), 27, senior policy analyst, Allegheny HealthChoices Inc., Pitt Young Alumni Advisory Team member 2019-2021 Term

Sydney Rochelle Normil (LAW ’15), 29, associate attorney, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC 

Robert Septak (UPG ’13, BUS ’17G), 29, vice president of operations, GT Entrepreneurs

Alexander Sundermann (GSPH ’14, alumni ambassador), 29, senior associate health scientist, Cardno ChemRisk

Shannon Reed in a yellow scarf in front of a red background

Shannon Reed’s (A&S ’15G) Work Named ‘Book of the Week’ by People Magazine

Shannon Reed, a visiting lecturer in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Writing Program, was recognized by People magazine for her new book, “Why Did I Get a B?: And Other Mysteries We’re Discussing in the Faculty Lounge.” 

Reed’s new work of memoir and humor was named Book of the Week by the magazine for its July 6th issue. In the write-up, the magazine calls the book “funny” and “revealing,” and also encourages readers to “send this book to your favorite teacher.”

The book, which was released on June 30, is composed of essays full of “humor, heart and wit,” and draws upon Reed’s 20 years working with students in ages ranging from preschool to college.

Writer’s Digest also featured Reed’s new book in its July/August 2020 issue. Reed earned a master of fine arts degree from the English department in 2015.

Will Conkright in a blue suit

Doctoral Student Major Will Conkright Receives Army Medical Award

On June 30, Major Will Conkright received the 2020 Colonel Mary Lipscomb Hamrick Army Medical Specialist Corps Manuscript Award for a study he led, investigating tactically related physical performance and body composition recovery following U.S. Army Ranger training.

Conkright is a student in the University of Pittsburgh Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science program, part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

The study was published in the May 2020 print issue of the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports. Selection for this award is highly competitive and is given to researchers demonstrating excellence in publishing peer-reviewed literature with profound relevance and impact to the military. 

Paul Harper in a dark suit and light dress shirt

Pitt Business’ Paul T. Harper to Co-Chair Academy of Management Racial Justice Committee

Pitt Business faculty member Paul T. Harper has been named co-chair of a new Racial Justice Committee of the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management.

The committee “will work to facilitate the creation of new knowledge, new networks and a new curriculum that benefits business research and education,” said Harper and his co-chair, Robbin Derry of the University of Lethbridge in announcing the formation of the ad-hoc group.

“The establishment of this committee is evidence of our division's responsiveness to the global Black Lives Matter movement and a broader social movement to eradicate systemic racism. Given our division's emphasis on justice, it makes sense that we would seek to provide leadership during this crucial period.”

Harper is a clinical assistant professor of business administration in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, where his research and teaching are focused on entrepreneurship, strategy and business ethics. His research interests include racial justice, social entrepreneurship and inclusive innovation.

The Academy of Management (AOM) is the preeminent professional association for management and organization scholars. Its membership of nearly 20,000 spans more than120 countries. The AOM’s Social Issues in Management Division studies the social issues, institutions, interactions and impacts of management. 

Lei Li in a black suit and checkered shirt

Engineering Researcher Lei Li Studying Oily Wastewater Conversion

Lei Li, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $110,000 from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund for his work developing 3D-printed membranes that will aid in oil-water separation. The development could help convert the oily wastewater into purified, usable water.

Oily wastewater from drilling and processing crude oil is the biggest waste stream in the oil and gas industry, which produces three times as much waste as it does product.

“What’s new about this work is its focus on surface and in-pore topography: The texture of the surface of the material and even the texture inside of the pores of the material have a profound effect on the membrane’s effectiveness,” said Li.

A blue sign reading "My Pitt Business Backstory" with faces in the background

CBA’s Pitt Business Backstory Wins Graphic Design Award

The Pitt Business Backstory, an online feature created by communicators in the College of Business Administration, is among the winners in the Graphic Design USA 2020 American Web Design Awards.

Each Pitt Business Backstory features a CBA student’s individual journey from the classroom, to the city, to the world at Pitt Business.

CBA staff members RJ Thompson, Erin Noonan, Kenzie Sprague and Derek McDonald contributed to the winning series of student profiles.

To date, 18 students have told their stories in the ongoing feature, with more to come. Read about them online.

Scott in a suit and tie

Greg Scott Stepping Down as Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations

Following four years of service to the University of Pittsburgh, Greg Scott is stepping down from his role as senior vice chancellor for business and operation.

During his time at Pitt, Scott’s accomplishments included launching a comprehensive campus master plan, creating the Office of Sustainability and chairing a record-breaking United Way campaign.

Dave DeJong will continue to serve as acting senior vice chancellor for business and operations—a role that he has occupied since May—in addition to his permanent duties as vice chancellor of human resources. 

Hands on a laptop

School of Computing and Information Marks Third Anniversary with Accomplishments, Leadership Changes

The School of Computing and Information (SCI) is marking its third year as Pitt’s newest school. Since launching on July 1, 2017, SCI has committed to teaching and research that focuses on tackling the most pressing, complex challenges of today that require a new level of integrative thinking.

Among SCI’s accomplishments over the past three years:

  • Becoming a four-year admitting undergraduate program
  • Launching the Modeling and Managing Complicated Systems (momacs) Institute, aimed at using artificial intelligence and machine learning to model large-scale societal challenges such as food insecurity, national security and the opioid epidemic
  • Redesigning the Master of Library and Information Sciences (MLIS) degree program
  • Hiring tenure and appointed stream faculty, including nine new faculty members for the fall 2020 term
  • Launching a Professional Institute, with its first offerings in cybersecurity to fill critical skills gaps in the industry and allow professionals to gain up-to-date competencies in this ever-changing field

As of July 1, founding dean Paul Cohen has transitioned into the role of director of the momacs Institute, as well as a faculty member of the Department of Computer Science. Bruce Childers has been appointed SCI’s interim dean. Childers has been with Pitt’s Department of Computer Science since 2000, and he has held a leadership role within SCI since its opening. Read Childers’ annual update message to the SCI community.

For more information about SCI’s new faculty, achievements and transitions as the School reflects on its first three years, visit SCI’s website.

Mostafa Bedewy in a black suit and gray tie

Industrial Engineering’s Mostafa Bedewy Earns NSF’s EAGER Award

Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, was recently given a nearly $245,000 EAGER award by the National Science Foundation to study a new scalable laser patterning process for directly growing tailored nanocarbons on flexible polymers.

The research will enable patterning functional nanocarbons needed for a number of emerging flexible-device applications in healthcare, energy and consumer electronics.

“The multi-billion dollar global market for flexible electronics is still in its infancy, and is expected to grow exponentially because of accelerating demand in many applications,” said, Bedewy, who also leads Pitt’s NanoProduct Lab. “Exploring potentially transformative carbon nanomanufacturing processes is critical for realizing cutting-edge technologies.”

Swaminathan in a dark blazer

Katz Co-authors Win Best-article Award

A paper by Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business marketing professor Vanitha Swaminathan (pictured) and her then-PhD advisee Christian Hughes (A&S’12, ’13G; KATZ ’19) has won the American Marketing Association’s 2020 Don Lehmann Award. The award recognizes the best dissertation-based article published in the Journal of Marketing or Journal of Marketing Research in the previous calendar year. 

The paper, “Driving Brand Engagement Through Online Social Influencers: An Empirical Investigation of Sponsored Blogging Campaigns,” co-authored by Gillian Brooks of the University of Oxford, was among the top three most-cited articles in the Journal of Marketing and among the journal’s most-downloaded articles in the past six months. Read a summary of the findings.

Swaminathan is the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing and director of the Katz Center for Branding in the Katz school.

Hughes, now a marketing faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics and her PhD in marketing at Pitt.

Murrell in a goldish tan top

Audrey J. Murrell to Serve as Keynote at National Higher Education Conference

Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the University Honors College, is set to serve as a keynote speaker at a national conference on student success, hosted virtually by Suitable on July 23.
The conference, Pathways 2020, will bring together leaders from across higher education to discuss ways to enhance student success initiatives and elevate the student experience.

Murrell’s session is titled, “Speaking From Experience: How To Construct, Launch, and Get Your Student Success Initiatives Funded.”

In addition to her role with Pitt Honors, Murrell is a professor of business administration in the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, and holds secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

James Cassaro in a blue shirt

Grammy Museum Grant Will Help Digitize Pitt Concert Recordings

Pitt’s Theodore M. Finney Music Library has received a Grammy Museum Grant to support the digitization and preservation of 210 hours of performances from its Emerging Masters Collection.

The endangered recordings are currently on 395 open reel audio tapes. Once transferred to digital files, the recordings will be available to researchers worldwide on the ULS Digital Collections website. The grant is for $11,461.

The recordings cover many concerts given at Pitt between 1969 and 1989, most of it contemporary music by Pitt-trained composers such as David Stock and Reza Vali. While the annual Pitt Jazz Concert is not included, there are recordings that Pitt Jazz Studies Program founder Nathan Davis made when he joined the faculty in 1969. There is also early music by the late Geri Allen when she was a student of Davis’ in the early 1980s. Some concerts were given by visiting performers. Others are full-length operas conducted by professor emeritus Don Franklin. The Music on the Edge series and Heinz Chapel Choir concerts are not included.

“Having this music available digitally will demonstrate Pitt’s rich heritage of music performance as well as the Music Department’s cutting-edge programs in composition and performance,” said library head and Professor of Music James Cassaro, from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “Pitt leads the way in support of music both old and new.”

Pitt is one of 13 institutions to receive a total of more than $200,000 in Grammy Museum grants this year. The museum is a nonprofit cultural organization that has awarded $7.5 million to more than 400 grantees.

Evan Facher in a black suit and light purple collared shirt

Pitt Ranks in Top 20 Among Innovative Universities

The University of Pittsburgh ranks no. 18 among 195 U.S. universities for creating impact through innovation, according to a new report issued by the George W. Bush Institute, a nonpartisan policy center housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Building a robust innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem has been a strategic focus under the Plan for Pitt, and has resulted in significant increases in the number of patents issued and licenses of Pitt-developed technologies over the past five years.

“Pitt innovators, today more than ever, are excited to see their research translate into products and services that improve lives and make a positive economic impact,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the University’s Innovation Institute.

Santucci in a black top with floral patterns

Julia Santucci Named Director of The Johnson Institute, Hesselbein Leadership Forum

Julia Santucci, a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been named director of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. Santucci brings more than a decade of national security and foreign policy experience to the role and has held positions with White House National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Department of State. The Johnson Institute aims to produce professionals with the highest standards of ethics and accountability.

The Hesselbein Forum, within the Johnson Institute, provides a variety of opportunities for fostering and growing leadership, including the Leadership Program in International Affairs, which was designed and directed by Santucci.