Accolades

Kyaien Conner named director of Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems

Kyaien Conner was a student in the School of Social Work when the Center for Race and Social Problems (CRSP) launched at Pitt in 2002. On July 1, 2023, she’ll return to CRSP as its new director. 

In this role, she will oversee the center as it continues to conduct social science research on race, ethnicity and the various ways they impact Americans.

As Conner finishes up her time as an associate professor of mental health law and policy at the University of South Florida (USF), she looks forward to advancing social justice and health and racial equity with like-minded groups of researchers and teams across the University.

“I see many opportunities and possibilities available at CRSP at a time right now when research on these issues is desperately needed,” Conner said.  “I’m excited to return to my alma mater and collaborate with scholars and researchers across campus to make the center a robust platform for doing important work that moves our field forward and each of those areas.”

Conner, whose work specializes in racial trauma and minority health disparities, has earned $2 million in funding for her research.

She is also a licensed social worker with more than a decade of experience as a community-based mental health practitioner in predominantly low-income African American communities. Conner was also vice president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for the state of Florida from 2018 through 2021.

Conner earned her bachelor’s degrees in psychology and Africana studies, her master’s degrees in social work and public health and her doctorate in social work from Pitt. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

Among other awards, Conner was a USF Outstanding Black Faculty Member of the Year in 2020 and won the school’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2016.

Anjali Vats named a 2022 Soros Equality Fellow

The Open Society Foundations has named Anjali Vats, associate professor in Pitt's School of Law, a 2022 Soros Equality Fellows. The diverse cohort includes documentary filmmakers, professors, archivists, grassroots organizers, policy advocates, journalists and authors. Working across the United States, the 12 fellows will take on a range of issues at the core of Open Society’s work advancing racial justice, including voting rights, immigration, asylum practices, intellectual property law and media accountability.

Vats will focus on race and equity in intellectual property law, developing multimedia educational resources designed to reach a range of audiences, including teachers, lawyers, policymakers, creators and activists.

Pitt Dean of Students Carla Panzella now associate vice provost, too

Carla Panzella, dean of students at Pitt, has taken on an additional role as associate vice provost, effective Dec. 1. Panzella will continue as dean of students while serving as a liaison to the Office of the Provost.

“As the Division of Student Affairs and Office of the Provost continue to enhance the student experience, our emphasis on assessment and student support programs will be vital to our success,” Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd said in a letter announcing the appointment. “Carla’s expertise and experience in both areas will be a key factor in that success.”

Panzella joined Pitt as dean of students in 2021 and played an important part in reorganizing the Division of Student Affairs, Cudd said, realigning its programs to advance strategic priorities and improve student experiences.

In her new role, Panzella will focus on maximizing the impact of student success programs for minoritized, first-generation and Pell-eligible students, along with supporting graduate and professional students. She will also work with the data analytics team in the Office of the Provost to collect data alongside student surveys to better understand the student experience at Pitt.

Dan’Talisha Deans joins Pitt’s Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement in director role

Pitt's Division of Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement has named Dan’Talisha Deans (SOC WK ’12G) its inaugural director of development for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB).

In the new position, her core responsibility is to facilitate fundraising and programming that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion at Pitt and within the communities the institution serves. Additionally, she will be a content expert and thought leader on general DEIB engagement.

She returns to Pitt after experience as the management director for The White House’s Presidential Personnel Office under the Obama administration, where she fostered retention and connectivity for presidential appointees nationwide through leadership programs.

She also spent more than three years with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in two different roles: Presidential Management Fellow and a management analyst. There, she oversaw agency policy, program development and implementation to drive outcomes, including improved performance management and employee engagement. Deans is also an adjunct professor at Howard University’s School of Social Work.

Deans received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University before earning her master’s degree from Pitt with a concentration in community organizing and social administration. While at Pitt, she also worked in the Center on Race and Social Problems as a project and research coordinator.

Deans said she hopes the role will enable her to be a positive force, cultivate change and support growth in individuals, organizations and communities. 

“My motto in life is to be impact driven,” said Deans. “What better way to give to my alma mater than to serve in this inaugural role as a thought partner and leader in the DEIB space? I come to this role with the intention to listen, learn, evaluate, create, implement and drive change that will be long-lasting and impactful.” 

The Times UK names Lise Vesterlund’s ‘The No Club’ one of 2022’s best business books

Pitt economist and author Lise Vesterlund’s latest book, “The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work,” was listed by The Times as a top 12 business book for 2022.

The book was a collaborative effort between Vesterlund, who is the Andrew W. Mellon professor of economics, and her friends, Carnegie Mellon University professors Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser and Laurie Weingart. Together they formed the “No Club” after feeling overburdened at work by task lists and requests that fell outside the scope of their day jobs.  

The four sought to reclaim control in their professional lives, better understand gender equality in the workforce and determine if their experiences were isolated. Upon finding minimal data on the topic, they conducted their own research within the Pittsburgh Experimental Economics Laboratory (PEEL).

In addition to teaching, Vesterlund is director of PEEL and the Behavioral Economic Design Initiative and is a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Pitt recognized for promoting high student-voter participation

The University of Pittsburgh has been recognized as an ALL IN Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting for its efforts in promoting student voting participation in the 2022 election.

ALL IN, a nonpartisan democratic participation advocacy organization, selected Pitt as one of 394 colleges and universities as a part of the organization’s ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge.

The challenge encourages colleges and universities to increase student participation in state, local and federal elections ensure students become informed, active and politically engaged citizens.

ALL IN collaborates with more than 960 high education institutions across the U.S. to help inform students about democratic engagement.

Two Pitt dental medicine leaders elected presidents of national professional organizations

Bernard J. Costello (pictured, right), former dean of Pitt Dental Medicine and current associate vice chancellor for health science integration at Pitt, was recently named president of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (ABOMS). He will serve a one-year term at the helm of the board that certifies surgeons for the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery in the U.S. Overseen by an eight-member board of directors, the mission of ABOMS is to ensure that face, mouth and jaw surgeons meet the highest standards of training, education and professionalism in the field through a certification process. Following a term serving as vice president of ABOMS from 2021-2022, Costello described the nomination as “a career pinnacle.” Costello is also professor and chief of pediatric oral and maxillofacial surgery at UPMC Children’s Hospital.

At the same October meeting in New Orleans, Paul J. Schwartz (pictured, left), was named president of the the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), a century-old professional organization. Schwartz is an assistant professor in School of Dental Medicine’s departments of anesthesiology and of oral and maxillofacial surgery. According to the historians at AAOMS and ABOMS, the organizations have never had presidents from the same institution at the same time before. These nominations support Pitt’s excellence in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Winners named of Dr. Larry E. Davis Black Excellence in the Academy Awards

More than 70 Black faculty members and administrators from Pitt gathered at the National Aviary on Nov. 3 to honor the life and legacy of Larry E. Davis, to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP) and to celebrate Black academic excellence at the University of Pittsburgh during the inaugural Dr. Larry E. Davis Black Excellence in the Academy Awards.

“Black faculty are core to the academic mission of the institution,” said John Wallace, vice provost for faculty diversity and development and interim director of CRSP. “We want to take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate them and their achievements.” 

Five faculty received awards for their scholarship and leadership at the event. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher was also present to congratulate the faculty and express his appreciation for their contributions to Pitt. Trina Shanks, the Harold R. Johnson Collegiate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and a former student of Davis’ delivered the keynote address. 

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Proclamation from Mayor Ed Gainey declaring Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, Dr. Larry E. Davis Day in the City of Pittsburgh. Davis was the former dean of Pitt’s School of Social Work, the founding director of CRSP and a leader in the field of race and social justice studies. He died in 2021.

The inaugural award winners are: 

Emerging Scholar: Amanda Boston

Excellence in Faculty Mentorship: Esa Matius Davis

Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship: James P. Huguley

Excellence in Leadership: Valerie Kinloch

Academic Excellence: Sandra A. Murray

Pitt alumna Jennifer Bertetto named Publisher of the Year

Trib Total Media president and CEO Jennifer Bertetto (A&S ’97) received the Publisher of the Year award from Editor and Publisher during the 2022 News Media Business Summit in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Bertetto has led Trib Total Media, a digital newspaper platform serving Southwestern Pennsylvania, since 2015. Under her leadership, the company has won three regional Emmy Awards.

The annual award honors individuals who have risen “above the rest and accomplished what seems like the impossible, outmaneuvering the competition, outthinking the future and maintaining profitability.” 

Bertetto’s career began in high school, when she a contributor for the sports department at the Valley News Dispatch. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, she became a sales representative for the Tribune-Review’s expansion into the Pittsburgh market in 1997. She climbed the ranks to become a sales manager, a director, a vice president and eventually chief operating officer. In 2016, she helped launch the digital marketing agency 535media and continues to help Trib Total Media navigate its digital evolution within the news industry.

Bertetto serves on the News Media Alliance board, which represents over 2,000 news organizations worldwide. She is also on Westminster College’s board of distinguished visitors, Pitt’s board of visitors, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association board, the board of trustees for the National Aviary and is vice president of the National Flag Foundation.

Jamie Hanson, Cory Holding receive 2022 Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring

The Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences recently recognized two faculty members with the Award for Excellence in Graduate Mentoring: Jamie Hanson, an assistant professor of psychology and Cory Holding, a teaching professor in composition.

The award celebrates early-to-mid-career faculty members who excel in mentoring students. Candidates must not only show that they help their students learn, but also promote an inclusive and supporting environment and encourage their students in professional development and work-life balance. 

This year’s awardees were celebrated at an event hosted by Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Jonathan Woon. The ceremony also served as a recognition of the past two years of awardees: Associate Professor Rachel Bezanson and Associate Professor Michelle Granshaw in 2021, along with Associate Professor Jennifer Josten and Assistant Professor Khirsten Scott in 2020.

J. Timothy Greenamyre wins Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research has awarded its 2022 Robert A. Pritzker Prize for Leadership in Parkinson’s Research to J. Timothy Greenamyre, the Love Family Professor of Neurology in Pitt’s School of Medicine. The annual $100,000 award recognizes researchers who make exceptional contributions to understanding Parkinson’s disease and who are outstanding mentors to the next generation of scientists.

Greenamyre’s trailblazing research focuses on the genetic and environmental factors key to understanding Parkinson’s disease. His work helped provide evidence that pesticides like rotenone and paraquat contribute to the disease, and his development of a rotenone model continues to have far-reaching impacts on the field, enabling the work of other researchers studying the causes and treatments of Parkinson’s.

Research on cell biological pathways also stands out among Greenamyre’s contributions, particularly the role of mitochondria in the disease. Mitochondria are the energy producers within cells, and evidence suggests that their function could go awry in Parkinson's.

“My relationship with my patients is what motivates me,” said Greenamyre, who is also the vice chair of neurology and director of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Pitt. “Working with these families over many years and seeing the impact of the disease drives my dedication to identify causal factors and biological contributors toward therapies and policies to stop Parkinson’s. To have those efforts recognized with this prize is an honor.”

Christel Temple named Journal of Black Studies editor-in-chief

Christel N. Temple, professor of Africana Studies, has been named editor-in-chief of the Journal of Black Studies, effective in January 2023. The 53-year-old publication is considered one of the most important journals in the field of Afrocentric scholarship. 

In addition to her work with Africana Studies, a department she once chaired, Temple also is an affiliate of the Graduate Program for Cultural Studies and the Critical European Culture Studies doctoral program. Her research focuses on Africana cultural memory studies, comparative Africana literature, Black nationalism, pan-Africanism and Afro-European Studies.

She is the author of “Black Cultural Mythology,” “Muhammad Ali in Africana Cultural Memory” and other texts.

Haitao Liu wins $500,000 grant to explore using DNA to create computer memory

A new $500,000 grant co-led by University of Pittsburgh Professor of Chemistry Haitao Liu in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences will explore using DNA to manufacture the necessary components for computer chips on hyper-thin materials.

While silicon forms the basis for current computer chips, components using the material can only shrink so small. Liu’s research — along with his colleagues at three other institutions — will make use of DNA as a template to create the necessary components for computer memory on materials like graphene, which are only a single molecule thick.

Kate Ledger named American Marketing Association Foundation’s Higher Education Marketer of the Year

Kate Ledger (EDUC ’06G) , acting vice chancellor for Communications and Marketing, was named the American Marketing Association Foundation’s Higher Education Marketer of the Year.

The AMA seeks to elevate marketing visionaries, empower future generations, inspire a more diverse industry and ensure marketing research impacts the public good. 

Ledger, selected by a committee of marketing experts and practitioners, was recognized for showing “extraordinary leadership and achievement in the field of higher education marketing.”

“I’m passionate about the University’s brand because of its impact on our reputation and the enthusiasm of the Pitt community. I’m honored to receive this recognition for marketing work that I love to do, especially with the great team at the University,” said Ledger.

During her tenure at Pitt, she’s held five unique marketing roles across the University, progressively increasing the size and scope of her teams.

Ledger formerly served as the marketing and communications leader in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, the College of Business Administration, the Office of the Provost and the Swanson School of Engineering. 

As executive director of marketing and engagement in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Ledger led the marketing and on-campus visit teams, helping to increase the quality of Pitt’s incoming class and exceeding enrollment goals each year. Among many creative projects, she helped the team implement Salesforce, automate more than 800 segmented emails and rebrand the campus visit program. 

Ledger launched the University’s first master brand in 2019 and, as assistant vice chancellor for marketing, the first University-wide brand campaign in 2022 while concurrently leading Pitt’s COVID-19 communications strategy.

Peggy Liu receives early career award from Association for Consumer Research

Peggy Liu, the Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and associate professor of business administration for Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, was awarded the 2022 Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Consumer Research by the Association for Consumer Research (ACR).

The award, announced at ACR’s annual conference in Denver on Oct. 20-22, 2022, honors excellent research contributions of one or more consumer behavior researchers who received their PhD between 5-8 years ago. Award selection criteria includes innovation, methodological rigor and the potential to substantially advance the understanding of consumer behavior. The award committee chose Liu as this year’s sole recipient. 

“I am deeply honored to receive the ACR Early Career Award,” Liu said. “I am very grateful to my advisors, mentors and coauthors at Katz, other Pitt schools and at other universities, as well as my students. I am very excited about continuing to conduct research aimed at understanding and improving the lives of consumers, especially in the domains of health and social connection.”

Liu also received the Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) Outstanding Reviewer Award at the ACR conference, which is awarded to members of the JCR Editorial Review Board who provided constructive, benevolent and punctual reviews during the previous year. 

In 2011, Liu received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in psychology with distinction from Yale University. In 2016, she received her doctoral degree in business administration from Duke University. She teaches both undergraduate and PhD-level consumer behavior courses within Pitt Business. 

Liu has also received numerous other research and teaching awards. She currently serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, and Journal of Consumer Psychology. She was named one of Poets & Quants Top 50 Undergraduate Business School Professors in 2020 and has received the Katz Excellence in Teaching Award several times.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation honors two Pitt scientist

Two Pitt scientists received 2022 Outstanding Achievement Prizes in Mental Health awards from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, the world’s largest private funder of mental health research. 

In recognition of his extraordinary work in developing trans-neuronal tracers able to reveal the brain’s complex wiring, the foundation awarded the Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience to Peter Strick, who is the Thomas Detre Professor and chair of neurobiology in Pitt’s School of Medicine. 

“This award is very special to me,” said Strick, who also serves as scientific director of Pitt’s Brain Institute. “Patricia Goldman-Rakic was an exceptional neuroscientist who made landmark contributions to our knowledge of frontal lobe structure and function. She also was a wonderful friend, and I am deeply honored to be chosen for a prize that bears her name.” 

Honoring his contributions to research on bipolar spectrum disorders in adolescents, Boris Birmaher, distinguished professor of psychiatry and endowed chair in early onset bipolar disease, was awarded the Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research.

“I am so grateful for this recognition. I have been fortunate to work with many people who are dedicated to the assessment, treatment and research of youth living with diverse psychiatric disorders,” said Birmaher. “The field of pediatric mood and anxiety disorders continues to advance, and we expect that many of those advances will help improve the lives of patients and their families, something I am deeply passionate about.”

Strick and Birmaher presented their work at the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation 2022 International Mental Health Research Symposium on Oct. 28 in New York City.

— Anita Srikameswaran and Ana Gorelova

Gwen Sowa elected to National Academy of Medicine

Gwen Sowa, UPMC Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation professor and chair of the School of Medicine's Department of Physical Medicine, was recently elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), considered one of the highest honors in health care and medicine.

Sowa is also co-director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research at Pitt and holds joint appointments in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering. Her research focuses on the mechanobiology of the intervertebral disc and molecular biomarkers of low back pain.

NAM addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. The organization also works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conducts other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions.

Peter Wipf honored for creative organic chemistry

Peter Wipf, professor in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, received the 2023 Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. 

A prolific organic chemist, Wipf has been a faculty member in Pitt’s Department of Chemistry since 1990, focusing on organic compounds — how to synthesize them and how they work — including those with potential uses in medicine. His research has been cited more than 37,000 times.

Wipf is a fellow of the American Chemical Society as well as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He’ll be honored at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 28, 2023.

Mitali Ray named National Institutes of Health MOSAIC Scholar

Mitali Ray, a postdoctoral associate doing research in Pitt's schools of Nursing and Public Health, has been named a National Institutes of Health MOSAIC (Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers) Scholar. 

The competitive program is part of NIH’s efforts to enhance diversity within the academic biomedical workforce and is designed to facilitate a timely transition of promising postdoctoral researchers to independent, tenure-track or equivalent research-intensive faculty positions. 

Ray, who was born to Indian immigrants and grew up in the Lehigh Valley, had her love of science sparked during an undergraduate prerequisite biology course at Towson University. After earning her PhD in biomedical sciences at Temple, Ray joined Pitt, where she researches pregnancy-related cardiovascular disease, exploring the biological underpinnings that explain how chronic stress drives racial disparities of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. 

She also is the postdoctoral representative for the Pitt Senate’s Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Advocacy Committee and a board member for the Queer Family Planning Project, a nonprofit dedicated to offsetting family planning costs for the queer community in Pittsburgh.

Paolone honored with American Physical Society Fellowship

Vittorio Paolone, professor of physics and astronomy, was awarded an American Physical Society Fellowship. The honor has gone to 45 Pitt faculty members since 1930, including Singh in 2011 and, most recently, John Swanson Endowed Professor Scott Mao in the Swanson School of Engineering in 2020. Earlier this year, Paolone received the 2022 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics from the APS.  

“It’s humbling to have your colleagues in the field consider your work significant,” Paolone said. “It’s a prestigious recognition by my peers since the number of recommended nominees in each year does not exceed one-half percent of the then-current membership of the society.”