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July 23, 2009


Megan Spence, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation CAREER award based on her proposal, “Discrepancies in Raft Size Between Cellular and Model Membranes: Solid-State NMR Measurements of Protein Effect on Lipid Raft Size.”

The CAREER program is an NSF-wide activity that offers awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

Spence’s research focuses on peripheral and integral membrane proteins with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques. Although one-third of eukaryotic proteins are membrane proteins, only a handful have been structurally characterized, putting membrane-associated proteins at the frontier of structural biology. The partly ordered nature of these membrane-associated systems requires researchers to develop new NMR techniques for systems at the solids/liquids interface as well as employing existing solid-state and solution-state NMR techniques.


Audrey Murrell, associate professor of business administration and director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership at the Katz Graduate School of Business, recently was awarded a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Minority Small Business Champion Award. The award recognizes Murrell’s volunteer and research efforts to advance the small business interests of underrepresented populations.

Murrell is involved in an initiative to create a network of suppliers focused on building capacity in supplier diversity.

“The project not only focuses on minority businesses, but also on training and education for firms on how to best engage and provide meaningful opportunities for qualified minority business enterprise (MBE) in the area,” Murrell explained. “This is important work because it moves beyond the discussion of discrimination to solutions that impact sustainability of MBE’s and the health of our region.”

Murrell was among 10 local small business owners and advocates to receive the SBA award.


Ann Dugan, founder and director of Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), recently received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the upstate New York/western Pennsylvania/West Virginia region from Ernst & Young LLP.

Dugan is a pioneer in the area of developing essential infrastructure for entrepreneurs that enables the growth and sustainability of businesses — utilizing the resources of a large public research university. Dugan understood that Pittsburgh-area businesses needed assistance as the region transitioned from a steel-based to a technology-based economy. She developed IEE, one of the largest institutes in the country dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs and privately held businesses manage core issues.

IEE has provided more than 84,000 hours of consulting services and offered more than 700 training programs to the transitioning Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Last year, it provided more than 10,000 hours of individual consulting services to more than 100 privately held companies.


Alexandros Labrinidis, associate professor of computer science, recently was elected to a four-year term as secretary/treasurer of the Association for Computing Machinery SIGMOD. SIGMOD is the Special Interest Group on Management of Data, an international professional organization for database researchers and practitioners.

Labrinidis also is co-director of Pitt’s Advanced Data Management Technologies Laboratory.


Several faculty in the Schools of the Health Sciences have been honored recently.

• Gonzalo E. Torres, assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine, is one of 100 recipients of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The national awards are the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. Nominations come from 11 federal departments and agencies.

Torres’s research interests include the function and regulation of monoamine transporters in the brain, and the study of early-onset torsion dystonia, the most common and severe form of a group of movement disorders known as dystonias. His research on cellular and molecular regulation of monamine transporters and the relationship to psychiatric disorders and drug addiction is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

• Kathy S. Magdic, coordinator of the acute care nurse practitioner area of concentration at the School of Nursing, was elected president of the Nurse Practitioner Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania, an organization of nurse practitioners who work in many clinical settings.

• Jinhan He, postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Pharmacogenetics in the School of Pharmacy, has won an American Liver Foundation Irwin M. Arias postdoctoral research fellowship. Only eight scholars nationwide are selected for the fellowship each year.

The foundation’s mission is to facilitate, advocate and promote education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.

• Mark W. Ochs, associate dean and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in the School of Dental Medicine, received the American Dental Association’s 2009 Golden Apple Award for Inspiring Careers in Dental Education. This student-nominated award is presented nationally to one individual each year.

Ochs was recognized for his teaching skills, dedication to education and encouragement of students to enter the dental profession, pursue postdoctoral training and consider career opportunities in dental education.

• Richard Henker, vice chair of the Department of Acute and Tertiary Care in the School of Nursing and nurse anesthetist at UPMC Presbyterian, has received a 2009 Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) Golden Apple Award. The award honors extraordinary educational contributions of volunteers to international program sites.

Henker was recognized for his volunteer work at Cambodia’s Angkor Children’s Hospital, where he taught Cambodian nurse anesthetists to improve their anesthesia care. He also designed a nurse anesthesia program in Bhutan.

Henker serves on the steering committee for HVO’s nurse anesthesia division.

• Joseph C. Maroon, clinical professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the School of Medicine and a UPMC neurosurgeon, was honored as a 2009 inductee into the western chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. Maroon has completed more than 60 triathlon events in the Olympic distance category and six Ironman distance events.

He also is senior vice president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

• Eugene N. Myers, professor and emeritus chair in the Department of Otolaryngology, School of Medicine, received a gold medal from the International Federation of Oto-Rhino-Laryngological Societies for his international work with otolaryngology.

The award was presented at the XIX World Congress of Otolaryngology in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

• Fadi G. Lakkis, professor of surgery and immunology at the medical school and scientific director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, received the American Society of Transplantation (AST) Basic Science Established Investigator Award at the professor level.

AST is an international organization of transplant professionals dedicated to research, education, advocacy and patient care in transplant science and medicine. Recipients of AST’s 2009 achievement awards were selected for the originality, innovation and commitment they bring to the field of transplantation.

• Ty Ridenour, research associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the School of Pharmacy, has been named to a two-year term as chair of the Early Career Preventionist Network.

Ridenour also became a member of the board of the Society for Prevention Research, an international research society focusing on prevention of psychopathology, behavior disorders and some illnesses.

Ridenour’s primary areas of interest are the etiologies and prevention of substance abuse and antisocial behavior; development of methodologies to enhance these areas of science and prevention, and small-sample designs for randomized clinical trials.


Dan Songer, chief of police at the Bradford campus, was honored recently by the Northeast Colleges and Universities Security Association. NECUSA awarded Songer the Lawrence W. Joy Award for Outstanding Service, which goes to a member who has contributed to the association in an unselfish and dedicated manner. Songer is leaving the NECUSA board of directors after nine years.

Songer has been police chief and director of campus safety at Pitt-Bradford since 1996.

NECUSA, established in 1953, is the oldest campus law enforcement organization in the United States.


Ronald H. Linden, professor of political science, has been awarded a Transatlantic Academy Fellowship for the 2009-2010 academic year. The Transatlantic Academy is a partnership of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) of the United States, the Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius ZEIT Stiftung, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Each year, GMF gives four senior awards and two junior awards; awardees form a team that works in Washington, D.C., on a specific theme. Next year’s theme is “Turkey and Its Neighbors.”

Linden was chosen for one of the senior positions. He is the author of “Balkan Geometry: Turkish Accession and the International Relations of Southeast Europe,” among other publications on the Balkan states.

His work on Turkey has been aided by two European Union Center of Excellence faculty fellowships, which facilitated travel to Turkey and made possible a grant last year from the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.


Ipsita Banerjee, assistant professor of chemical engineering, received a 2009-2010 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associate Universities (ORAU).

The Powe awards are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of junior faculty at ORAU institutions and result in new funding opportunities.

Banerjee’s research interests focus on process systems engineering and optimization and their applications in different chemical and bio-engineering problems. She is developing novel methods for differentiating embryonic stem cells to the pancreatic lineage and applying systems engineering principles in analyzing the regulatory network of the differentiating cell population. She also is interested in reaction network modeling energy efficient combustion processes.

Pittsburgh Steelers team physician Anthony Yates, assistant clinical professor at the School of Medicine and co-director of the UPMC corporate health program, has been awarded the Jerry “Hawk” Rhea Award by the National Football League. The award is presented each year to an NFL team physician for years of service to the respective team and long-standing relationships with members of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.

Yates has been a Steelers physician for more than 25 years.

He is a member of several medical organizations, including the American College of Sports Medicine.

He also is president-elect of the NFL Physician Society.


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

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