Accolades

Becich named interim co-director of Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Michael J. Becich, associate vice chancellor for informatics in the health sciences at Pitt and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics, will serve as interim co-director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University joint initiative. He will be joined by Curtis Meyer, professor of physics and associate dean of research for the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon.

The changes are a result of Shawn Brown announcing his resignation from the University. Brown served as Pitt’s vice chancellor for research computing and head of the supercomputing center since 2019.

N. John Cooper, former dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has agreed to return to Pitt to serve as interim vice chancellor for research computing to fill the other half of Brown’s role. Cooper also has served as deputy vice chancellor for research at Pitt.

Bruno receives immunotherapy research award

Tullia C. Bruno, an assistant professor in School of Medicine’s Department of Immunology and a UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist, has been presented with the Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund Award to advance innovative research in cancer.

Bruno’s work focuses on developing cancer therapeutics that harness the power of the immune system. More specifically, her research team focuses on B cells and tertiary lymphoid structures within the tumor microenvironment to improve the number of patients who respond favorably to immunotherapy.

The Holzer Fund, now in its fourth year, was established to honor Sy Holzer’s philanthropic work as the long-time president of PNC and his many years of service as chair of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Council. This award, once again, is being matched by the Stanley M. Marks Endowed Research Fund at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Bruno received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Vanderbilt University and then earned her Ph.D. in immunology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Pitt among Forbes’ top 300 best employers for new grads

The University of Pittsburgh has been named among the Best Employers for New Graduates by Forbes for the second year in a row.

Forbes recognized Pitt as one of the top 300 employers in America for new grads, spanning all industries, at No. 139. Within higher education, Pitt ranked at No. 13, ahead of other universities including Ohio State University and Harvard University. Auburn University was the top ranked university on the list.

The 2022 rankings were based on a survey of 20,000 Americans with less than 10 years’ professional experience at companies with at least 1,000 employees. Respondents evaluated their employers on a variety of factors including safety of work environment, competitiveness of compensation, opportunity for advancement, and effectiveness of diversity and inclusion efforts.

Overall, Indeed, the job search website, was ranked as the best employer for new graduates.

Hoefnagel to coordinate belonging and inclusion in Student Affairs

Ali Hoefnagel has been named Pitt’s new coordinator of belonging and inclusion by the Division of Student Affairs. They also will serve as an advisor to the Rainbow Alliance and LGBTQIA+ students.

“I’m creating the role as I move through it, and I’m excited to be bringing [my] experience to the University,” said Hoefnagel, who for the past decade has focused on facilitating the intersections of queer artmaking and social justice among youth.

Originally from Chicago, Hoefnagel was a 2014 Chicago Artists Month featured artist and named a 30 under 30 award recipient by the Windy Times for contributions to the queer community.

Hoefnagel also was a board member for the Pride Youth Theatre Alliance, a cohort of activists representing queer youth theater programs from across the U.S. and Canada. They taught theater activism classes and workshops with numerous organizations and universities in Illinois, including Lake Forest College, where they earned a bachelor’s degree in theater and women’s and gender studies.

In Pittsburgh, they spent five years as the program director for Dreams of Hopean arts-focused organization for queer and allied youth, and a performer for the 2020 TransPride Pittsburgh Health and Wellness Conference. 

SHRS names Rodakowski as occupational therapy chair

The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has appointed Associate Professor Juleen Rodakowski as chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy, effective June 1.

After a yearlong national search, the committee selected Rodakowski for her “bold vision and demonstration of exceptional abilities to lead the department in its ongoing pursuit of excellence in academics, research, equity and inclusion, and service through partnerships regionally, nationally and internationally,” according to a news release.

“Juleen is an extremely bright and committed faculty member whose scholarly productivity is impressive and whose dedication to the OT profession is unquestioned,” Dean Anthony Delitto said.

Rodakowski’s research focuses on evidence, methods and applications to support the “aging in place” of vulnerable older adults by addressing their needs and the needs of their caregivers. Her federally funded research, totaling more than $4 million, seeks to slow the progression of disability attributed to early changes in cognition.

Her research also seeks to optimize the health and wellness of caregivers to minimize the need for the institutionalization of older adults with cognitive disorders.

Rodakowski has repeatedly been recognized for her work. During this year’s American Occupational Therapy Association annual conference, she received the American Occupational Therapy Foundation Mid-Career Research Excellence Award for her contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the field. In 2020, Rodakowski was inducted into the association’s Roster of Fellows for Advancing Occupational Therapy for Aging in Place and earned the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association Research Award.

Receiving her undergraduate degree in kinesiology from the University of Minnesota, Rodakowski went on to earn her master of science and doctor of occupational therapy degrees through the University of Illinois at Chicago. She completed her certificate and master of science in clinical research with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she also conducted her post-doctoral training. Rodakowski first joined the Department of Occupational Therapy faculty in 2014.

Rodakowski is just the fourth department chair in Pitt Occupational Therapy’s 40-year history.

Read more about Rodakowski on the SHRS website.

Valerian Kagan is the ‘cover scientist’ of an academic journal

Valerian Kagan, professor of environmental and occupational health at the School of Public Health, was honored as the “cover scientist” of the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, for his pioneering work in the field of redox biology.

In addition to gracing the cover of the premier journal’s May issue, Kagan’s life and scientific achievements are the subject of an article in the journal.

“Professor Kagan’s story is that of a quintessential scientist from the start. Always a doubter, but one working diligently to find the truth. The world of redox lipidomics, of which he is a major founder, is vastly richer for his contributions to these truths,” said Sally Wenzel, chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

Historian Roberts wins Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize

Alaina E. Roberts, an assistant professor of history in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded the Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize for her first book, “I've Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land.”

The prize celebrates the most outstanding work about the Great Plains during the past year and is accompanied by a medal and a $10,000 check.

The prize committee said Roberts’ book is "a transformative work in its conceptualization of narratives about slavery, indigenous people, and settler colonialism in the Great Plains."

Earlier this year, the book was also named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize.

Read an excerpt from the book that discusses the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Two medical faculty elected to American Society for Clinical Investigation

Zachary Freyberg and Jason L. Sperry of Pitt’s School of Medicine are among 95 newly elected members of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI).

ASCI, founded in 1908, is one of the oldest and most esteemed nonprofit honor societies of physician-scientists. Membership is by election only and serves as a recognition of a researcher’s significant contributions, at a relatively young age, to the understanding of human disease.

The Society seeks to support the scientific efforts, educational needs and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists across the breadth of academic medicine to improve the health of all people. Members are committed to mentoring future generations of physician-scientists of diverse backgrounds and biomedical disciplines.

Freyberg, assistant professor of psychiatry and cell biology, focuses on improving our understanding of the mechanisms associated with disorders such as addiction, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

Sperry, professor of surgery and critical care medicine, focuses on pre-hospital trauma care and sex-based outcome differences following injury or surgery.

They were formally inducted in April.

Sandra Murray elected president of the American Society for Cell Biology

Sandra A. Murray, a professor in Pitt’s Department of Cell Biology in the School of Medicine, was elected president of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) for 2024. She will serve as president-elect on the executive committee in 2023. Murray is the first person of color to lead the organization, which was started in 1961.

ASCB is an inclusive, international community of biologists studying the cell, the fundamental unit of life, with members in more than 60 countries. More than 40 past or current ASCB members have won Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine or in chemistry.

The society is dedicated to advancing scientific discovery, advocating sound research policies, improving education, promoting professional development and increasing diversity in the scientific workforce.

Read more about Murray’s career as a storied researcher and champion of diversity in science.

Lai named director for partnerships and innovations at Swanson School

Eva Lai has been impressed by the innovative research at the University of Pittsburgh for some time. Now she’s part of the team that’s growing its potential. 

Lai was named director for partnerships and innovations at the Swanson School of Engineering, with an additional appointment as visiting research professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. She began her appointment Feb. 1, 2022.

Lai made a site visit to Pitt in 2006 when she was building a national research program for regenerative medicine for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to address wounded warriors’ injuries. Lai, a chemical engineer and deputy chief scientist with the DoD, was in the process of meeting with experts from universities, government and industry to understand the state of the science and determine how to create a program that could move more discoveries from laboratories into commercialization. She was impressed by the depth and collaborative spirit of the bioengineering work underway at Pitt. 

Over the years, as Lai continued developing and managing complex multi million-dollar research programs for the DoD, she was always impressed when she came across conference posters or plenary talks about Pitt research and technologies. Now she is working at Pitt to elevate research and the transfer of the University’s technologies into real-world uses. 

She earn a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Johns Hopkins University and later worked as a senior scientist for NASA. At the Office of Space Flight, she led a $1 billion robotics development and acquisition program.

Lai served in multiple positions, including as deputy chief scientist, with the DoD’s U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command from 2006 to 2021. She played a key senior role in launching the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine that resulted in more than $200 million in research investments, provided oversight of $500 million in annual research programs for the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center as its deputy chief scientist, and leveraged the Small Business Innovation Research program to fund more than $40 million in new product lines ranging from mobile health applications to sensors to cell therapies.

Aurora Sharrard

Aurora Sharrard now Pitt's executive director of sustainability

Aurora Sharrard has been promoted to Pitt’s executive director of sustainability.

In her leadership role, Sharrard spearheads sustainability initiatives and green practices throughout the University, advancing Pitt as a global sustainability leader. A national environmental expert, Sharrard leads Pitt Sustainability strategic planning, implementation and analytics, collaborating across departments to reach collective goals.

Sharrard joined Pitt in 2018 to lead the first Office of Sustainability, championing innovative solutions that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, incorporated sustainability into the curriculum and embedded a culture of sustainability university-wide.

Prior, Sharrard worked at Green Building Alliance for 11 years, leading the nonprofit in advancing innovation in the built environment. She holds a master’s and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tulane University.

Social work research associate professor selected for Fulbright Specialist Program

Mary Beth Rauktis, research associate professor in the School of Social Work, was awarded a Fulbright Specialist Program grant, part of the larger Fulbright Program, to travel to Assam, India, in August.

Rauktis will work with faculty and students at Don Bosco University, which offers a two-year MSW program and a doctoral program at its Tapesia campus. Her seminars will touch on subjects including global perspectives of social work; locating the self in the journey of social work; and principles and approaches of child- and family-centered social work practice. She will also assist faculty in preparing their textbook on community-engaged practice and research.

2 Pitt professors rank among top marketing researchers

Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration researchers have again been recognized as among the most productive in their field by the American Marketing Association.

J. Jeffrey Inman, associate dean for research and faculty, and Peggy J. Liu, the Ben L. Fryrear chair in marketing, tied for No. 42 among all marketing scholars worldwide on the companion Author Productivity in the Premier Marketing Journals list (2012-21). The professors contributed nine of the 57 publications from Pitt Business’ marketing faculty members between 2012 and 2021.

Pitt Business’ marketing area ranked No. 14 on the recently released University Research Productivity in the Premier Marketing Journals list compiled by the AMA’s Doctoral Student Special Interest Group.

Pitt Law Professor Kevin Ashley receives CodeX Prize

School of Law Professor Kevin Ashley, also a senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, received the second annual CodeX Prize.

The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics announced the recipients at this year’s CodeX FutureLaw 2022 Conference, which brought together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors and policymakers worldwide to focus on how technology is changing the legal profession and the law itself and how these changes affect us all.

Edwina Rissland, University of Massachusetts Amherst, also received the award, which acknowledged the pair’s work on case-based reasoning in automated legal analysis and the development of the HYPO system while Ashley was at the University of Massachusetts for precedent-based legal rationale.

The CodeX Prize is given to individuals for a noteworthy contribution to computational law — an idea, article, book, computer application, computer tool, organization, etc., that has had a significant and enduring positive impact on the field.

[Read more here]

2022 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring winners announced

The Provost’s Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring recognizes outstanding mentors who have the greatest impact on students seeking research doctorate degrees.

Up to four awards are presented each year and come with a $2,500 prize to the graduate faculty member.

This year’s awardees included:

The group was honored publicly March 30 in the William Pitt Union at an event hosted by Provost Ann E. Cudd. This marked the seventeenth year for the award.

Pitt Police department promotes four officers

The University of Pittsburgh Police Department announced four promotions, which took effect on April 3.

Brooke Riley and Michael Mock were promoted to lieutenants, and Jessica Urban and Scott Dubrosky were promoted to sergeants.

“I believe we are very fortunate to have such high caliber personnel in our department," Deputy Chief Holly Lamb said. "These four individuals will bring integrity, a great work ethic and leadership abilities to their new positions. These values will serve as examples for everyone, which will make the department much better as a whole.”

Riley, who joined the department in 2013, has spent the last three years as supervisor for the Community Programs Unit, which provides outreach to the campus community. She also oversees the Citizens Police Academy and the department's internship program.

Mock joined the department in 2005 and has overseen the emergency dispatchers and implementation of the Emergency Notification Service and the Rave Guardian mobile app. He also assists in compiling the data used to ensure the University is in compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires that schools report campus crime data

Urban is a member of the motorcycle unit who's spent seven years with the department.

Dubrosky's 11 years with the Pitt Police department have been spent in a number of roles. He's a member of the department's Specialized Emergency Response Team, serves as a field training officer and firearms instructor, and he is an instructor in the Active Killer program, which provides guidance on situational awareness and reaction to a real-time campus crisis.

As per department policy, all officers have four-year college degrees.

Bradford’s Ogundayo receives Fulbright to study in Burkina Faso

’BioDun Ogundayo, associate professor of French and comparative literature at Pitt–Bradford, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study, teach and research in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa.

Ogundayo, who is the director of Africana studies and foreign languages at Pitt–Bradford, will spend the 2022-23 academic year teaching in the Department of Anglophone Studies at the Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo in Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation.

“I will be bringing a relevant and specifically American cultural, academic and cross-cultural input and perspective to their curriculum,” Ogundayo said. He hopes to connect his Pitt-Bradford students with his new students in Burkina Faso through the videoconferencing platform Zoom as well.

When not teaching, Ogundayo plans to conduct research on how the oral traditions of the country’s dominant ethnic group, the Mossi, shape Burkinabe attitudes, conversations and responses to the challenges of Islamist fundamentalism and violence facing the country.

Ogundayo has published on African spirituality, ethics and modern African politics, the African American experience and the African diaspora and has long been interested in the myriad of cultures that are part of the African diaspora.

At the University of Pittsburgh, he is involved with the University Center for International Studies and the Center for African Studies, and designed and managed Pitt­–Bradford’s undergraduate certificate in African Studies. He plans to use what he learns in Burkina Faso to contribute to the University’s curriculum, diversity initiatives and Center for African Studies.

Ogundayo is uniquely qualified for these studies, in part because of his fluency in English, French and dialects of several West African languages. A native of Nigeria, he attended boarding school in Ghana some 100 miles south of Ouagadougou.

Ogundayo has taught at Pitt-Bradford since January 2001. He earned his doctoral degree in French and Francophone literature and cultures at the State University of New York at Buffalo, a master of arts in French from Queen’s University in Canada and a master of arts and bachelor of arts in French from the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He also studied for a master’s degree in International Management at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash.

Dietrich School's Blain and Harvey named Guggenheim Fellows

Two professors in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been named 2022 Guggenheim Fellows.

Historian Keisha N. Blain, an associate professor in the Department of History, and poet Yona Harvey, an associate professor in the Department of English, are among 180 individuals chosen from nearly 2,500 applicants for the prestigious award, which recognizes “prior achievement and exceptional promise” among its broad selection of scientists, writers and artists across 51 fields of expertise.

The Guggenheim signifies excellence, thought leadership and innovation of craft among its recipients. Grants from the fellowship vary between $35,000 and $45,000 to use as the recipients choose.

Blain is an accomplished historian and writer focusing on African American history, the modern African diaspora and women’s and gender studies. A two-term former president of the African American Intellectual History Society, Blain has received wide praise for her writing: her book “Set the World on Fire” won the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians, and her recent book “Until I am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” was recognized by Smithsonian Magazine as among the best history books of 2021.

“Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” which she co-edited with Ibram X. Kendi, garnered significant media attention and debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

In addition to her research and book writing, Blain holds fellowships at New America, Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights and the Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as being an opinion columnist for MSNBC. Blain has been on the faculty at Pitt since 2017, having received a bachelor’s of history and Africana studies from Binghamton University and her doctorate in history from Princeton University.

Harvey is the author of the poetry collections “You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love,” which won the Believer Book Award for Poetry and “Hemming the Water,” winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She co-wrote with professor and essayist Roxane Gay “Marvel’s World of Wakanda” and co-wrote with author and MacArthur “genius grant” winner Ta-Nehisi Coates “Black Panther & the Crew.” She has also worked with teenagers writing about mental health issues in collaboration with Creative Nonfiction magazine. In addition, she is the recipient of the inaugural Lucille Clifton Legacy Award in poetry from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Harvey earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University, a Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh.

“I’m honored. I’m thrilled. I think I’ve accepted it as real now,” Harvey wrote on Twitter in reaction to the announcement. “Congratulations to all Fellows. Thank you thank you thank you.”

Physical Therapy professor named a Gerontological Society of America fellow

Jessie VanSwearingen, professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was named a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America for her outstanding contributions to the group.

The society is the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging and being named a fellow is an acknowledgment of not only remarkable research, but also extraordinary dedication to the field of gerontology.

VanSwearingen is also a Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association, the association’s highest membership category.

Professor earns $3 million grant to improve aphasia treatment

Will Evans, assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, received a five-year, $2.98 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve aphasia treatment.

Through the study, titled “Integrating complementary learning principles in aphasia rehabilitation via adaptive modeling,” Evans and his team will develop and evaluate novel adaptive computer-based aphasia treatments to help improve the efficiency and long-term impact of language treatment.

Aphasia, commonly caused by stroke or other acquired brain injuries, can have a negative effect on an individual’s quality of life, often leading to depression and feelings of isolation. A primary frustration for people with aphasia is anomia, or word-finding difficulty.

Evans has studied the language disorder for more than a decade, investigating methods to help people with aphasia improve their communication abilities.

His team includes Lauren Terhorst, professor, Department of Occupational Therapy; Peter Brusilovsky, professor, School of Computing and Information; Jeff Starns, associate professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Will Hula, speech-language pathologist, Veterans Health Foundation.

Learn more about his work.