Accolades


Cathedral of Learning against backdrop of blue sky with clouds

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher Announces First-ever Pitt Seed Project Recipients

Twenty-three projects supporting the University of Pittsburgh’s strategic goals will receive funding from the new Pitt Seed Project, allowing faculty and staff to develop their ideas for transforming the University.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the new initiative earlier this year, and received 171 applications for funding. The awardees were chosen after 125 faculty and staff members spent weeks reviewing the proposals.

The entries represent a wide range of interests and individuals within the University and all six goals within the Plan for Pitt. Funded projects come from areas including critical care medicine, Africana studies, bioengineering, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Research, law and computer science.

The complete list of awardees gives a brief description of the project and names the office or department and the lead applicant associated with each proposal.


Sharrad in a blue top

Aurora Sharrard Appointed Pitt's First-ever Director of Sustainability

Aurora Sharrard, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance, has been named the University’s first Director of Sustainability. She will assume her new role on July 9, reporting to Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations Gregory A. Scott.

Pitt’s new Office of Sustainability was established to coordinate the University’s many sustainability initiatives, foster collaboration and monitor progress toward the bold goals outlined in the Pitt Sustainability Plan.

Sharrard earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Tulane University and holds master’s and PhD degrees in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University. During her 11-year tenure at the Green Building Alliance, Sharrard co-founded the Pittsburgh 2030 District, convened the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and created Pittsburgh Green Story to highlight the region’s sustainability achievements.


Catherine Palmer headshot wearing coral colored jacket

Catherine Palmer Named American Academy of Audiology President-Elect

Catherine Palmer, audiology program director and associate professor of audiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will serve as president-elect of the American Academy of Audiology.

The position is elected by the academy’s general membership and carries a three-year term (one year as president-elect, one as president and one as past president). Palmer’s term begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2021.

Palmer also serves as director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, including the UPMC Children's Hospital.

Dining Services Achieves Sustainability Milestone

Pitt Dining Services has reached its initial Real Food Challenge goal at Market Central two years early.

The nationwide Real Food initiative toward more sustainable dining aims to shift 20 percent of university food budgets to local, humane, ecologically sound and fair food by 2020. To date, 43 schools and four statewide university systems have signed on to the challenge.

In March 2015, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher committed Pitt to the goal of serving 20 percent “Real Food” at Market Central by 2020. At the time, only 9 percent of food served at Market Central fit the criteria of meeting at least one of the four requirements.

Now, locally grown fruits, vegetables, milk and chicken; organic fair trade coffee and organic quinoa and tofu are among the qualified “Real Food” served regularly on campus. A biweekly summer farmers market outside the William Pitt Union adds to the Real Food options.

The University’s next milestone, as stated in the Pitt Sustainability Plan, is to expand beyond Market Central to serve 25 percent Real Food campus wide by 2025.


David Hickton headshot in suit jacket, shirt and tie

Pitt Cyber Director David Hickton Leads Election Security Commission

David Hickton, founding director of The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, has announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania Election Security.

The independent, nonpartisan commission will be led by Hickton, former U.S. Attorney for Pennsylvania’s Western District and Grove City College president Paul McNulty, former Deputy Attorney General of the United States. It will feature more than a dozen additional commissioners from public policy, advocacy, industry and other sectors.

Commissioners will examine cybersecurity issues surrounding voting machines and voter registration information as well as the resiliency of Pennsylvania’s electoral system following a potential breach. The commission, which is supported by a grant from The Heinz Endowments, will create a report with recommendations based on its findings to submit to the Pennsylvania governor’s office in 2019.

Angela Gronenborn Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Angela Gronenborn, distinguished professor of structural biology in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was recently elected as a member of the prestigous American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The academy’s projects and publications generate ideas and offer recommendations to advance the public good in the arts, citizenship, education, energy, government, the humanities, international relations, science and more. Gronenborn’s research combines nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy with biophysics, biochemistry and chemistry to investigate cellular processes at the molecular and atomic levels in relation to human disease.

Pitt Establishes New Chair of Indian Studies

Sandeep Chakravorty, the Consul General of India in New York (pictured), had a recent whirlwind visit to campus in March to celebrate the establishment of a new Chair of Indian Studies at Pitt. A rotating scholar from India, who will teach in different Pitt departments, will be in the post for each of the next five years beginning in January 2019. The move is a partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an organization that works to promote a wider understanding of Indian culture and history. Chakravorty met with Pitt leaders to discuss the chair as part of the Asian Studies Center's new India initiative. A reception at the Frick Fine Arts cloister was followed by dinner with the local South Asian community, breakfast with staff from Pitt’s Asian Studies Center and an informal meeting over coffee with a group of 15 students interested in Indian studies.

“There’s tremendous enthusiasm about this new chair,” said Joseph Alter, director of the Asian Studies Center. “He or she will teach a course on modern Indian culture and help to develop programming that serves the interests of students who want to learn more about this significant region of the world.”


Headshot of Elaine Mormer

Elaine Mormer Receives State Speech-Language Hearing Association Award

Elaine Mormer, associate professor and audiology clinical education coordinator in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at Pitt’s School of Rehabilitation Sciences, received the Pennsylvania Speech-Language Hearing Association's 2018 Clinical Achievement Award

In her University roles, Mormer provides education to the health services staff about hearing loss and the profession of audiology, supervises audiology students who assist in all aspects of the clinic’s management and provides clinical outreach and care to members of university populations who might be vulnerable to hearing loss due to unprotected noise exposure.


man smiling

Matt Ziance (UPJ ’13) Wins Sports Emmy Award

Alumnus Matt Ziance, a social media and consumer engagement coordinator at NBC Sports, was part of a team that won the Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Trans-Media Sports Coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The award ceremony was held in New York City on May 9. Ziance's social media content was a large contributor to NBC’s coverage of the games.

“It’s a special feeling, something that definitely brought a smile to everyone’s face, something that you really want to work hard for,” said Ziance, who has worked at Stamford, Connecticut–based NBC Sports since 2014. Previously, Ziance was part of a team nominated for an Emmy for its coverage of the 141st Kentucky Derby in 2015. Read more about Ziance and his time at the University of Pittsburgh–Johnstown.

Innovation Institute Recognized at Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute was recognized for its commitment to building programs that accelerate innovations from the laboratory and research into commercialization at the recent Deshpande Symposium on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education. “It is an honor to receive the Deshpande Symposium award for Exemplary Practice in Technology Commercialization,” said Rob Rutenbar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for research.

“This award is a reflection of the talent and dedication of the Innovation Institute staff, and of the commitment of Pitt leadership to growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University. While proud of our progress, we understand that innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education is a relatively young and ever-evolving domain, and we look forward to continuing to share our experience, while learning from our colleagues at other institutions. This is the value that Deshpande Symposium brings to us all,” he added.

The Deshpande Symposium Awards recognize outstanding accomplishments in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship on college campuses.

David Vorp Named Fellow of the American Heart Association

David A. Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) in recognition of his innovative and sustained contributions in scholarship, education and volunteer service to the organization. Vorp’s election was conferred by the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) recognizing his work in those fields over the past 26 years. 

Vorp has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles and currently serves on three editorial boards. His research has been supported by over $14 million from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and other sources. He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and is a co-founder of Neograft Technologies, Inc., a startup that uses technology developed in his lab to help produce arterial vein grafts. Read more about the honor.


Belle in a light blue collared shirt in front of a splotchy gray background

Public Health’s Steven Belle Named Society for Clinical Trials Fellow

Steven Belle, co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, has been named a fellow of the Society for Clinical Trials.

Belle was recognized for his outstanding leadership of data coordination for several multicenter studies of surgical outcomes and other treatment trials across a wide range of conditions and applications, including obesity and liver disease. He was also cited for his work combining information across multiple clinical trials.

His work has also aided in research and treatments for conditions including hepatitis C, pediatric acute liver failure, liver transplantation and Alzheimer’s disease.

Eight Boren Awardees Set New Record for Pitt

The National Security Education Program has recognized eight University of Pittsburgh students with Boren Awards — Pitt’s largest number of Boren awardees. These study-abroad awards enable their recipients to further their studies of “languages and cultures most critical to our nation’s security.” This is the 25th consecutive year that Pitt students have won this prestigious award.

The Boren Scholarship was awarded to five seniors:

And three graduate students received Boren Fellowships:

After returning to the United States, the Boren recipients will work in a federal government agency for a minimum of a year. Visit www.borenawards.org for more information about the Boren Awards.


Steven Little headshot in jacket and tie

Steven Little Honored with Controlled Release Society's Young Investigator Award

Steven Little was recently named the recipient of Controlled Release Society’s 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release.

Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

His focuses are on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.


headshot of Melanie Hughes in red jacket and white shirt and headshot of Müge Finkel wearing gray jacket and black and white pattern shirt

Gender Inequality Research Lab Co-directors Awarded Provost’s Integrative Social-science Research Initiative Funds

Two Pitt professors were awarded funds from the Provost’s Integrative Social-Science Research Initiative for “The Global Glass Ceilings Database: Measuring Women’s Access to Decision-Making in Public Administration Worldwide.”

Melanie Hughes of the Department of Sociology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Müge Finkel of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs won support to convene an interdisciplinary and international advisory board for two workshops and to conduct a mixed-methods pilot study, including research trips to Colombia, Denmark and South Africa. The project will be the first endeavor of the University of Pittsburgh’s Gender Inequality Research Lab (GIRL).

The Social-Science Research Initiative awards up to $50,000 to expand Pitt social scientists' involvement in research that uses integrative approaches from multiple disciplines.

GIRL, which launched in November 2017, is a new interdisciplinary research forum for scholars and practitioners to collaborate on policy-relevent research on gender inequality. Faculty, students and staff who are interested in researching gender inequality around the world are encouraged to contact Pitt’s Gender Inequality Research Lab.

New Leadership for Undergraduate Engineering Programs Announced

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced new leadership for its undergraduate programs. 

Samuel Dickerson, assistant professor and associate director of computer engineering, was promoted as the program’s full director. Robert Kerestes, assistant professor, was named director of the electrical engineering program. 

Dickerson succeeds Alex Jones, professor of computer engineering, who last year was appointed associate director of the National Science Foundation Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) at Pitt. Kerestes succeeds Irvin Jones Jr., who will continue in the department as assistant professor.

Both Dickerson and Kerestes are triple alumni of the Swanson School, each having earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical and computer engineering. 

Pitt Biotech Startup Completes Series A Funding

Globin Solutions, Inc., a biotechnology startup formed in 2017 by School of Medicine faculty members Mark T. Gladwin, Jack D. Myers, Jason J. Rose and Jesus Tejero Bravo to develop a rapidly acting antidote to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, in April completed a Series A funding round of more than $5 million. Tus S&T Service Group of Beijing, China, led the round with participation from UPMC Enterprises, the commercialization arm of UPMC.

The funding will support further development of the lead compound, recombinant neuroglobin. Globin Solutions is the exclusive licensee of the University-owned intellectual property.


Neeraj Gandhi headshot wearing black crew neck

Swanson School’s Neeraj Gandhi Earns Funding for Brain Perception Study

Neeraj Gandhi, professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1.5 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to study how the brain perceives moving objects by comparing the neural mechanisms of eye movements directed to stationary and moving objects.

Gandhi leads the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory, which investigates neural mechanisms involved in the multiple facets of sensory-to-motor transformations and cognitive processes. In this project, the group uses eye movement as a model of motor control.

Rory Cooper Awarded American Institute for Biomedical Engineering Advocacy Award

Rory Cooper, founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was awarded the American Institute for Biomedical Engineering’s 2018 Advocacy Award for outstanding and lasting contributions to humanity and the field of bioengineering.

The nomination, which cannot come from a home institution, noted the breakthrough devices that he helped to create to transform the lives of people with disabilities, and how his research and development ‎exemplifies the highest qualities of bioengineering.

The institute makes a maximum of three awards each year in advocacy, education and public policy. Cooper is the first person from Pitt to receive any of these awards.

PhD Candidate Named Woodrow Wilson Fellow

University of Pittsburgh graduate student María Lis Baiocchi is one of 10 PhD candidates nationwide named as Dissertation Fellow in Women’s Studies by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Baiocchi is a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and a doctoral certificate student in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

The foundation recognized Baiocchi with $5,000 in funding for her dissertation, “Becoming Workers: Changing Labor Laws and Domestic Workers’ Challenges in Buenos Aires, Argentina,” which explores the legal reconfiguration of paid domestic work in Argentina and the ways in which such changes in law translate into domestic workers’ daily lives. The foundation calls the fellowship “the only national dissertation award for doctoral work on women’s and gendered issues.”