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Ervin Sejdić Named Editor of Engineering Journal

Ervin Sejdić, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, was recently named an associate editor of the engineering journal, Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, a publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Sejdić, who has appointments in the departments of electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering, will oversee the review of new article submissions.

the Cathedral on a sunny day

University of Pittsburgh Honored with Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded the 2017 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The honor recognizes higher education institutions that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. Pitt was one of only two institutions in the commonwealth chosen for the honor.

This recognition was based upon a holistic review of the University’s efforts relating to diversity and inclusion. “The HEED application process was an opportunity to rigorously assess our practices on an institutional level, and to receive the award is a wonderful recognition of the work of so many people across the University, both those engaged in longstanding programs and those creating new initiatives,” said Pam Connelly, vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion. “Because the challenges surrounding diversity and inclusion clearly persist, this award will serve as a motivator to continue our progress.”

Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, said: “It was evident in our review that there are many programs and initiatives in place to recruit and retain underrepresented students and employees, and that the leadership, faculty and staff are all committed to diversity and inclusion across the University of Pittsburgh campus.” 

Pittsburgh Magazine Names 13 Pitt Affiliates to Its 40 Under 40 List

Three faculty and staff members and one student joined nine alumni in Pittsburgh Magazine’s 19th Annual 40 Under 40 Awards. The list is composed of Pittsburgh residents who are younger than 40 and have made significant contributions to their communities.

The Pitt-affiliated honorees include: Julius A. Boatwright (A&S ’05, SOC WK ’11), Will Allen Foundation/Steel Smiling; Andrew J. Brennan (BUS ’17G), Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation; Natalie Bulger (SOC WK ’08, GSPH ’12), The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh; Brian Burley (BUS ’13G), Omnicell; Lacee Ecker (A&S ’09, LAW ’12), American Eagle Outfitters Inc.; Jen Harrison Fleming (BUS ’02), Merck & Co. Inc.; Marlee Gallagher (A&S ’10), Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation; Medina Jackson, Office of Child Development (P.R.I.D.E. program); J. Matthew Landis, Human Engineering Research Laboratories/No One Left Behind - Pittsburgh Chapter; Aaron V. Mares, UPMC/Pitt; Wasiullah “Wasi” Mohamed (A&S ’17), Islamic Center of Pittsburgh/Emgage Pennsylvania; Mila Sanina (GSPIA ’10), PublicSource; and Terri L. White (BUS ’19G), Carnegie Science Center.

The 40 Under 40 awardees will be honored at a reception on Nov. 3.

Tevis Jacobs Receives $305,000 From the National Science Foundation

A project led by Tevis Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received over $305,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation.

The team's project will measure surface roughness of tiny particles and characterize the fundamental relationship between adhesion and roughness at small sizes. “You can see this when you grind coffee,” Jacobs said. “The whole beans don’t stick to the side of the grinder, but a fine grind will stick to everything, especially on a dry day.” Similarly, Jacobs wants to develop a model to show what circumstances, like that dry day, affect adhesion on this small scale, using microscopy and mechanical testing and scanning techniques.

The overall goal of Jacobs' research group is to develop quantitative, fundamental and predictive understanding of contact behavior at all scales, which will enable tailored properties for advanced technologies.


Greg M. Delgoffe

Greg M. Delgoffe Recipient of NIH Director's New Innovator Award

Greg M. Delgoffe, assistant professor of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will receive the 2017 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award for his groundbreaking research on immunotherapy in the tumor microenvironment.

Studies from the Delgoffe lab in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Tumor Microenvironment Center aim to provide energy to the T cells that can destroy the cancer cells and deplete the suppressive cells that may inhibit immunotherapy responses. This could lead to the development of new drugs that can enhance cancer immunotherapy.

Yoel Sadovsky

Yoel Sadovsky Elected Fellow of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Yoel Sadovsky, director of Magee-Womens Research Institute and associate dean and distinguished professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been elected as a fellow ad eundem to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, United Kingdom. This honorary fellowship is awarded to exceptional individuals who are not members or fellows of the college but who have demonstrated, major contributions to obstetrics, gynecology or reproductive health via the advancement of the science or practice of obstetrics and gynecology in a substantial way.

Founded in 1929, the college’s mission is to improve women’s health care across the world, with partners in the United Kingdom and globally to improve standards of care, encourage scholarly study and advance the science and practice of obstetrics and gynecology.

Weinberg and Schaffer in black and white

Researchers Awarded $1.7 Million to Study the Genetics of Human Facial Features

Seth Weinberg, an associate professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, and John Shaffer, assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health received a grant award of $1.7 million from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for their project, “The Genetic Architecture of Human Facial Morphology.” This multi-institutional project also involves investigators at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) and Stanford University. 

Building on earlier work, the study will attempt to identify genetic variants that influence human facial features. These observations will hopefully provide insight into genetic pathways and how they influence human facial development and growth. The information gathered will also be applied to studying orofacial clefting, the most common craniofacial birth defect in humans. 

Noelle Conover Receives Professional Achievement Award

Noelle Conover, a project coordinator in the Hematology/Oncology Division of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, has been awarded the Professional Achievement Award by Pitt’s School of Computing and Information. Noelle, who holds a master’s degree from Pitt's formerly named School of Library and Information, has worked in the IT field for more than 30 years and puts her web design and marketing expertise to use for Matt’s Maker Space, a nonprofit STEAM education organization she and her husband started, which is named for her son who had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Pitt-developed Innovations Win Chancellor's Commercialization Funding

Two faculty-led innovation teams were awarded a total of $25,000 in Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds at the Pitt Ventures First Gear summer Demo Day.

EyeCures, a technology that enhances the effectiveness of medicated eye drops, which was developed in the lab of ophthalmology faculty member Robert Shanks, received $20,000.

Hearing for Health, a hearing screening device developed by Catherine Palmer of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Department of Communication Science and Disorders and Jeffrey Vipperman of the Swanson School of Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, received $5,000.

Sally Wenzel Receives European Respiratory Society Presidential Award

Professor of Medicine Sally Wenzel has earned the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) Presidential Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the strengthening of respiratory medicine worldwide. The ERS noted in its announcement that "Wenzel has a passion for understanding and improving the treatment of asthma, in particular severe asthma. She has promoted severe asthma as a complex, even novel disease and her studies of asthma phenotypes have led the field in understanding these complexities." Wenzel serves as director of Pitt's Asthma Institute and is the UPMC Chair of Translational Airway Biology.

Tuan in a white coat and a blue tie

Team Led By Rocky Tuan Receives $1.2 Million Grant to Create 'Joint-on-a-Chip'

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.2 million grant to a multi-institutional project led by the University of Pittsburgh to engineer a three dimensional joint-on-a-chip called the “microJoint.” The microJoint will replicate a human joint on a small scale and be used to study and test drugs for the treatment of arthritic joint diseases. 

“We’re building what will be the first joint-on-a-chip that we hope will accurately replicate arthritic diseases in humans, and thus allow in-depth understanding of the disease process that will lead to discovery of potential therapies,” said principal investigator Rocky Tuan, director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering, and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

Neuro-Oncology Researcher Gary Kohanbash at Children’s Hospital Receives Grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Gary Kohanbash, a neuro-oncology researcher and assistant professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been awarded a scholar grant of $298,000 from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. These grants provide resources to institutions to conduct more research and enroll more children in ongoing clinical trials. Kohanbash and his team will look at improving immunotherapy for ependymomas, the third most common kind of brain tumor in children.

“As a scientist and a father, I am driven to help save kids from brain cancers, so I am very excited about the potential of immunotherapy. Unimaginable advances within the last 10 years are enabling us to create new, safer and more effective treatments,” said Kohanbash, who works at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “With this funding from the St. Baldrick's Foundation, I am hopeful that we can bridge the gap between lab research and clinical care for kids with ependymomas.”

Pitt Earns Top Award in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge

Pitt has retained its crown in the university division in Sustainable Pittsburgh’s 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge, placing first among a half-dozen universities. Pitt has won in its division in each competition since it first took up the challenge in 2013-2014.

More than 90 businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and universities completed the challenge in which employers earn points for taking sustainable actions in areas including energy and water usage, waste reduction and transportation. Together, they saved more than 16 million kilowatt hours of power, 33 million gallons of water and 552 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Winners received awards made of upcycled materials.

Barbara A. Epstein Serving as President of the Medical Library Association

Barbara A. Epstein, director of Pitt's Health Sciences Library System, has begun her tenure as the 2017-18 president of the Medical Library Association (MLA). An organization of more than 2,700 members, the MLA supports the professional practice and leadership of health sciences library and information professionals in order to enhance the quality of health care, education and research throughout the world. Members work in academic health centers, hospitals, colleges and universities, pharmaceutical companies and other commercial entities, healthcare associations, and health agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

National Science Foundation Funds Study Led By Leanne Gilbertson to Design Sustainable Carbon Nanomaterials

A research project led by Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has received $285,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation. Gilbertson’s project will focus on the inner workings of carbon nanomaterials, strong tiny structures made of carbon on the nanometer scale, or about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Gilbertson hopes to develop best design practices that result in environmentally sustainable carbon nanomaterials, enhancing the ability to control their desirable and undesirable impacts.

Pharmacy's Shilpa Sant Named a Young Innovator of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

Assistant Professor Shilpa Sant, in the School of Pharmacy, was named a 2017 Young Innovator by Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE). Sant’s research focuses on developing in vitro disease models and therapies for stress-induced heart calcification, a condition wherein calcium deposits form on the aortic valve of the heart, reducing blood flow and causing heart disease. Her work on combating this condition is featured in the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering's October 2017 issue. Each year, the editors of CMBE dedicate the Young Innovators special issue to highlighting the work of assistant professors conducting innovative bioengineering research at the molecular, cellular and multi-cellular level. Sant is one of 11 people to receive the honor this year.

Geovette E. Washington Joins Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees

Geovette E. Washington, senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer for the University of Pittsburgh, has accepted a position on the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh's board of trustees. She will serve a three-year term. Washington came to Pitt in August 2015, after working in private practice with both corporate and nonprofit clients and, most recently, as general counsel and senior policy advisor in the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.

“Coming from Washington, D.C., a place with many museums, I am interested to see how a city this size maintains its world-class museums,” said Washington. “This post will give me insight into how the museum runs and how it continues to be a first-rate facility.”

Brienza in front of a tan background wearing a white collared shirt with blue and green stripes

David Brienza Awarded $2.6 Million From the National Institutes of Health to Study Bed Sore Prevention

David Brienza, associate dean of research at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study which hospital-bed technologies work best to prevent and treat bed sores — pressure wounds that can lead to serious infections and death. The grant will be used for a randomized study of 800 patients at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore over the next three years to determine whether special mattresses that wick away moisture and circulate air under the patient are effective at preventing pressure injuries.

Akiva, a man in a navy blue sweater and glasses, standing in front of the Cathedral of Learning

Education's Thomas Akiva Awarded $300,000 From National Science Foundation

Thomas Akiva, an assistant professor in the School of Education, has been awarded a grant of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation. The funding supports his efforts to study and enhance makerspaces — specifically, areas for children to create, build and explore with various tools and materials — within Pittsburgh-area libraries. Through the project, Akiva hopes to develop new ways support adults who work with youth in program settings.

A faculty member at Pitt since 2012, Akiva focuses his research on understanding and improving out-of-school learning programs by examining instructor practices, staff professional development and cross-program networks.

University Recognized for Its Commitment to an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Environment

Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that identifies LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, has awarded the University of Pittsburgh a Campus Pride Index score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. “The University is very excited about this recognition. It is a public affirmation of the University-wide efforts to make the University an inclusive educational and employment environment for all, including for our very important LGBTQIA+ community members,” said Pam Connelly, Pitt’s vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “We will use it as motivation to continually grow and improve.”

The score is based on policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. Among the many factors that contributed to Pitt’s score were student organizations, such as the Rainbow Alliance; the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program; and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which led the recognition effort.