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University of Pittsburgh

November 21, 2012

People of the Times

Elizabeth Skidmore, faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy, has been awarded the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences 2011-12 Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Award as an exemplary educator who masterfully integrates professional knowledge (neuroscience and neurorehabilitation), interpersonal knowledge (human interactions) and intrapersonal knowledge (reflective capacity and ethics) in her teaching.

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The Association of College Unions International (ACUI) has recognized the efforts of Christine A. Chergi, manager of the William Pitt Union for the last 31 years, by establishing an award in her name.

The Christine A. Chergi Leadership Award will be given annually to a volunteer who displays the dedication and service “that has made Chris so indispensable to ACUI and her peers.”

Chergi has been involved with ACUI for more than 20 years.

The inaugural award was presented to Chergi last month at the ACUI region 3 & 4 conference in Baltimore. ACUI’s regional director, Adam Krawsczy, said the award “recognizes a career’s worth of dedication and service to our region.”

Krawsczy credited Chergi with helping to resurrect the professional group’s region 4 during difficult times.

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RuggieroCristina Ruggiero has been appointed associate dean for the College of General Studies. She had been serving  as interim associate dean since February.

She joined the College of General Studies in 2008 as the assistant dean of student affairs.  In that role, she supervised advising, learning support and the Office of Veterans Services staff; facilitated the development of a curriculum program integrating academic support and career planning; instituted a proactive advising program targeting at-risk students; developed strategies to identify at-risk students and instituted an early warning, intrusive advising contact program; revised a summer scholarship program for underrepresented students resulting in a 93 percent retention and graduation rate of all students receiving the scholarship over the last three years, and oversaw a revision of the probation process including the development of an online academic recovery program.

Prior to joining the Pitt administration she was a faculty member and administrator at Chabot College in California and a faculty member at City College of San Francisco.

Ruggiero holds a master’s and  PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University.

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Marlene Cohen, faculty member in the Department of Neuroscience and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, is the 2012 winner of the international Eppendorf and Science Prize for Neurobiology.

The prize honors the best 1,000-word essay written by an early-career scientist describing his or her molecular and cell biology research during the previous three years.

Cohen’s award-winning essay, “When Attention Wanders,” describes her research revealing that when the mind wanders, so too does humans’ ability to notice subtle changes in a visual scene. The essay was published in the Oct. 5 issue of Science.

Cohen received $25,000 and was honored last month at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

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Staff member Mara Kudrick, the Pitt Alumni Association’s director of membership, has been elected president of the Council of Alumni Marketing and Membership Professionals.

The organization offers professional development, networking and knowledge-transfer opportunities for alumni relations staff members at institutions of higher education.

Kudrick has been part of Pitt’s alumni relations staff since 2004 and an alumna since 2009, when she received a master’s degree in administrative and policy studies from Pitt’s School of Education.

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Bopaya Bidanda, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering and the Ernest E. Roth Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the 2012 Global Award for Excellence in Engineering Education from the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies.

He was recommended for developing unique study-abroad courses for engineering students, leading train-the-trainer workshops for Pitt faculty, and emphasizing the teaching of practical skills that students will later employ in the workplace.

Bidanda was recognized during the federation’s awards dinner last month in Buenos Aires.

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Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Mathematics Thomas C. Hales is the world’s only mathematician to crack the 400-year-old mystery of the Kepler conjecture — a theory proposing that a pyramid formation is the most efficient way to stack spheres.

For this achievement, Hales has been selected to join the inaugural class of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) Fellows Program in 2013 — an honor that recognizes scholars who have contributed to the understanding of deep and important mathematical questions.

The AMS is the world’s largest and most influential society dedicated to mathematical research, scholarship and education.

Hales announced his breakthrough on the Kepler conjecture in 1998 and has spent most of the last decade engaged with the Flyspeck Project, a computer software program verifying every single line of his Kepler proof. Such meticulous examination stems from reviewers’ uncertainty regarding Hales’s proof, noting they could only be 99 percent certain. This decade-long “proving of the proof” has resulted in a new book by Hales, “Dense Sphere Packings: A Blueprint for Formal Proofs.”

“My book examines every logical inference of the Kepler conjecture proof by computer and is an indispensable resource for those who want to get up to date with research on the proof,” said Hales. “I am presenting, for the first time, a new proof of the conjecture in a very accessible way to a broad mathematical audience.”

For more information on the Flyspeck project, visit http://code.google.com/p/flyspeck.

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David A. Harris, associate dean for research at the School of Law, received special recognition this month from the Law Enforcement Agency Directors of Western Pennsylvania for his work with the western Pennsylvania community-police relations group.

Two members of the Pitt community are among the 13 men being honored at the Dec. 1 Celebrating Women gala hosted by the Women and Girls Foundation. This is the first time in the organization’s history that the group is honoring men at its gala.

The men are being honored for their work on women’s equality in society, careers, sports, etc.

The two Pitt honorees are Gregg Dietz, staff member in the Department of Health and Physical Activity in the School of Education, and Freddie Fu, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine.

“Celebrating Women began eight years ago as an annual event to recognize and honor amazing women from myriad disciplines who are serving as role models and breaking barriers in our region,” said Heather Arnet, chief executive officer of the Women and Girls Foundation.

“With so many men from our area standing up for women and serving as champions and advocates in the workplace and the community, we thought it was time to shine a light on them. This year, the name of the event stayed the same but with a slight twist to focus on those being honored — Celebrating woMEN.”

Dietz, a prevention specialist at Pitt and a counselor at Shaler Area High School, started a group for girls at the high school called M-Powerment. The group won the Jefferson Award for its work in women’s rights and received a grant from the Women and Girls Foundation to help bring its work in combating sexual harassment to other schools.

Under Dietz’s guidance, M-Powerment has held several events to empower and support women in the greater Pittsburgh area.

Fu was nominated for his efforts to bring more women into the orthopaedic surgery specialty. While the industry average for faculty and residents in orthopaedic surgery is 5 percent women, Pitt’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery maintains 19 percent female faculty and 29 percent female residents.

Fu and his wife, Hilda, made a donation of $1 million to the Orthopedic Research and Education Foundation to support initiatives that would level the playing field for women in the field of orthopaedics.

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The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

We welcome submissions from all areas of the University. Send information via email to: utimes@pitt.edu, by fax at 412/624-4579 or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall.

For submission guidelines, visit www.utimes.pitt.edu/?page_id=6807.


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