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February 19, 2004

Chancellor’s annual faculty awards announced

Winners of the 2004 chancellor’s awards for distinguished teaching, research and public service were announced by Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg at Senate Council last week.

Teaching award recipients are: Elmer J. Holzinger, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine; Paul J. Kameen, Arts and Sciences (A&S), Department of English; Stephen Murabito, Division of Humanities /English, Pitt-Greensburg, and Lauren Yaich, Division of Natural Sciences — biology, Pitt-Bradford.

The Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award winners are: Kathleen Blee, A&S, Department of Sociology; Jeremy Levy, A&S, Department of Physics and Astronomy; George DeWitt Stetten, School of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering; Angus Thomson, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery; Connie Tompkins, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Communication Science and Disorders.

Blee, Thomson and Tompkins were honored as senior research scholars, that is, those working in the field more than 12 years after earning their highest degree; Levy and Stetten were honored in the junior scholar category.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award winners are: Jerlean E. Daniel, School of Education, Department of Psychology in Education; Sabina E. Deitrick, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, urban and regional analysis program; Christina J. Groark, School of Education, Office of Child Development; Linda M. Siminerio, School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, and Stella Smetanka, School of Law.

The winners of the three faculty awards will be recognized, along with winners of the newly expanded annual chancellor’s awards of excellence for staff — one for community service and one for University service — at Pitt’s 28th annual honors convocation on Feb. 27.

Each of the faculty awards carries a $2,000 cash prize plus a $3,000 grant for the recipient’s work, administered through the home school. Winners’ names will be inscribed on a bronze plaque in the William Pitt Union, and a reception will be held in their honor this spring.

Chancellor Nordenberg sent letters to the winners drawing on the information provided in support of the winners’ nominations and the letters of recommendation from peers and other authorities to cite some of their accomplishments.

• The medical school’s Elmer Holzinger was recognized for his passion for and dedication to clinical education over the past 44 years. “Your exceptional diagnostic skills, encyclopedic medical knowledge and compassion for patients are legendary among students and colleagues,” Nordenberg wrote.

Holzinger is a devoted physician who serves as a role model for all medical students, helping them learn the science and art of internal medicine, as well as research-based thinking, the chancellor stated.

Holzinger exhibits a respectful, quiet and confident demeanor that endears him to third- and fourth-year students as they participate in rotations and electives in ambulatory care, Nordenberg wrote.

“Your efforts do honor to the title of teacher, and I am pleased to play a part in recognizing those efforts in this tangible and visible way,” Nordenberg added.

• Paul J. Kameen of the English department was honored for his commitment to undergraduate education, particularly through 23 years of teaching writing. “Whether you are teaching composition, literature or creative writing, you are able to engage students by forming questions that spark productive discussion,” Nordenberg noted. The chancellor pointed to Kameen’s role as departmental mentor of teaching assistants and part-time faculty, as well as his writing project activities with teachers and students in regional primary and secondary schools.

He further noted Kameen’s awards for his textbook on the teaching of writing and the 2001 Tina and David Bellet CAS Teaching Excellence Award that “confirm the high esteem in which you are held by students and colleagues.”

• Nordenberg recognized the efforts of Stephen Murabito over 16 years to develop and strengthen the writing program at Pitt-Greensburg. These efforts include authoring a college composition textbook that incorporates student writing, and founding and directing UPG’s English writing workshop to improve student education and confidence. The workshop also provided valuable experience for advanced undergraduate tutors under Murabito’s mentoring. As a result, these students had the opportunity to present their ideas at professional conferences, Nordenberg noted.

As a self-described “teaching-writer and writing teacher,” Murabito merges classroom and discipline accomplishments, the chancellor maintained. “Students benefit from your classroom organization, ability to promote discussion, constructive feedback and the enthusiasm you have displayed across a range of teaching assignments,” he added. “Your individual efforts stand as an inspiring example of excellence in the role of University teacher.”

• Bradford’s Lauren Yaich was recognized by the chancellor for her commitment to teaching and curricular development in the biology program, as well as her organization, meticulous presentations, active-learning activities and hands-on learning experiences for her students.

Yaich’s teaching record includes responsibility for nine different courses and associated labs for majors and non-majors across the undergraduate curriculum, Nordenberg noted. Yaich also received the first annual Bradford campus outstanding teaching award.

“This University-wide award extends that recognition of your teaching excellence,” the chancellor added.

• Senior research scholar Kathleen Blee has been credited with shaping a new intellectual and research tradition that will inspire future research agendas. Her publications also have received national and international academic acclaim, Chancellor Nordenberg wrote. “Your scholarship on racist and extremist politics has been lauded both as a stunning theoretical breakthrough and for its methodological rigor, meticulous historical scholarship and rigorous empirical field research,” the chancellor maintained.

Blee’s most recent book, “Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement,” merited full-page coverage in The New York Times, a rare occurrence for a scholarly publication, Nordenberg noted.

Blee’s accomplishments and supporting materials demonstrate that she has achieved national and international eminence as an outstanding scholar in her field, Nordenberg added.

• Jeremy Levy of the physics and astronomy department has blurred the line between pure science and technology through his work in nanoscience and the emerging field of quantum information, contributing to the University’s international reputation in these fields, Nordenberg wrote.

Levy’s work includes designing novel nanostructured materials that ultimately may lead to a quantum computer, and pioneering “spin control” techniques using electrical fields instead of more cumbersome magnetic fields, the chancellor stated.
The junior research scholar also has advanced the theoretical front by demonstrating the possibility of encoding quantum information in ways that bring quantum computation closer to reality, Nordenberg added.
• The chancellor praised junior research scholar George Stetten as a cross-disciplinary innovator in electronics, computer science and medicine. He cited Stetten’s efforts to help create the Insight Toolkit for the National Library of Medicine. The goal of the toolkit, an open-source software system that supports the Visible Human Project, is to create complete, anatomically correct three-dimensional representations of normal human bodies, Nordenberg noted.

Stetten is best known for his work on a handheld, real-time tomographic reflection device called the Sonic Flashlight to help guide invasive clinical procedures complicated by the physician’s need to coordinate eye and hand between the patient and an ultrasound monitor, Nordenberg pointed out. Stetten’s flashlight eliminates this problem by superimposing ultrasound images on the part of the body being scanned, the chancellor stated.

“I understand and appreciate the hard work that you have devoted to your research, and the results of that work provide clear evidence of your talent and dedication,” he added.

• Angus Thomson, a senior scholar in the Department of Surgery, is internationally recognized for his research in transplant immunology and groundbreaking work on the mechanisms of graft tolerance, the chancellor wrote.

Thomson discovered that donor-derived dendritic cells could induce immunological tolerance and subsequently prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.

The researcher demonstrated that these cells also could be agents of immunological tolerance, “a once heretical idea that is now universally accepted,” the chancellor pointed out.

Thomson’s research now forms the foundation for clinically based strategies that safely achieve transplantation tolerance, the chancellor maintained. “Your outstanding record of research and scholarship adds to the distinction of the University of Pittsburgh,” Nordenberg added.

• Senior research scholar Connie Tompkins was praised by the chancellor as a pioneer for her research with brain-damaged patients. That highly acclaimed work includes better understanding of the processing of pragmatic aspects of language, their impairment as a result of right hemispheric lesions, and the nature of the underlying mechanisms responsible for these impairments, Nordenberg wrote.

Tompkins has been able to entice and motivate generations of students and scholars by explaining theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the effects of right hemispheric damage on language, as well as how knowledge should be adopted to the clinical management of those with these communicative impairments, the chancellor maintained.

Public Service
• The education school’s Jerlean Daniel was honored by Chancellor Nordenberg for her extensive work in early childhood care and educational services for young children and their families, including her national positions and advisory committee memberships, as well as publications and presentations.

“Your work is solidly grounded in the principles of child development and has been reinforced by your dedicated involvement in a variety of urban contexts,” Nordenberg wrote.

Especially notable, the chancellor said, is Daniel’s recent service with the national Head Start Bureau in Washington, D.C., where she was recruited for her academic credentials, reputation and achievements in early childhood education as well as her talents as a communicator, manager and trainer.

“Particularly impressive are your in-depth knowledge of research on early childhood curriculum, assessment and professional development; your breadth of understanding of public policy … and your recent leadership of innovative national projects, such as a satellite-based distance learning teacher training program on early literacy, and an effort to develop research-based child outcome standards in oral language development,” Nordenberg wrote.

• The chancellor recognized Sabina Deitrick for her contributions and unstinting personal efforts to community economic development while establishing student service learning opportunities.

Deitrick has worked diligently to mobilize University resources to address community problems in the region, while mentoring and encouraging students to learn and produce scholarship through their community service, Nordenberg wrote.

He pointed to Deitrick’s role in establishing and serving as co-director of the University’s Community Outreach Partnership Project. He added that her research and scholarship as co-director of Pitt’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis “has generated studies, reports and writing on urban economics and demographics that have helped shape important regional responses to pressing urban issues.”

Deitrick also has lent her academic and community development and planning expertise to important community initiatives such as the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, the chancellor pointed out.

• Co-director of Pitt’s Office of Child Development Christina Groark has made major contributions to partnerships such as the Healthy Start program, Alliance for Infants, Family Foundations, A Better Start, Early Head Start and the region’s recently re-configured Early Childhood Initiative, the chancellor pointed out. “To create viable partnerships,” Nordenberg wrote, “you have demonstrated perseverance and have devoted large amounts of time, often at unconventional hours, in frequent meetings with a variety of players, negotiating, mentoring and explaining.”

Groark also has contributed to traditional voluntary public service through her work on community advisory boards, task forces and planning groups, Nordenberg added. Groark has used her public service experiences in program development, writing and grant seeking to design and conduct her course on Program Development and Proposal Writing, he noted.

Groark’s success in fostering partnerships has led her to create research-based developmental models for the benefit of children with special needs and their families, the chancellor wrote.

• Pitt medical faculty member Linda Siminerio was recognized for promoting high-quality care for people with diabetes regionally, nationally and internationally, and for promoting training related to diabetes care for nurses, dieticians, pharmacists and students. “You have devoted over 30 years of your professional life to improving and promoting diabetes education for patients and health care professionals,” Nordenberg wrote.

The chancellor cited Siminerio’s role in organizing the first camp in western Pennsylvania for children with diabetes; her 25 years of volunteer service locally for the American Diabetes Association, and her service on regional and national task forces and boards, including the board of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the education committee of the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), North American Region.

Siminerio recently was re-elected as senior vice president of the IDF and in that role serves as the only American representative for worldwide diabetes efforts, Nordenberg noted.

• Stella Smetanka, who is supervising attorney of the law school’s Health Law Clinic, was honored for her efforts on behalf of the disabled, particularly those with limited income, and for her service to KidsVoice, a county non-profit organization that represents more than 5,000 dependent children.

As a result of Smetanka’s efforts as KidsVoice board president, the organization more than tripled its budget and expanded its legal and support staff, Nordenberg noted. “KidsVoice attorneys now work in interdisciplinary teams with social work professionals and handle far fewer cases than before and the attorneys are truly able to be zealous and effective advocates for their child clients,” the chancellor wrote. “The KidsVoice team approach to the representation of dependent children is fast becoming a national model.”

Nordenberg added that Smetanka’s position with KidsVoice has benefited participating law students who gain insights into public child welfare systems. “Your public service work, beyond its substantial impact on the welfare of indigent clients and the training and teaching of law students, has enhanced the University’s reputation as a significant contributor to the implementation of laws related to the health care system,” Nordenberg noted.

—Peter Hart

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