Accolades

Pitt joins Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship program

The John Paul Stevens Foundation is expanding the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship program to eight new law schools, including Pitt's School of Law, broadening its geographic reach to six new states, and providing financial support to law students who spend their summers in unpaid legal internships serving the public interest.

The Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship Program provides grants to participating law schools to support their students working in unpaid public interest summer internships. Starting this summer, the foundation will provide support to 28 Stevens Fellows at the eight expansion law schools, which in addition to Pitt, include those at Indiana University, Seattle University, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, University of Alabama, University of Mississippi and Willamette University.

The foundation board of directors selected the schools based on factors including a commitment to public interest law, and demonstrated need for financial support for the school’s public interest students. Several schools also have faculty who clerked for Justice Stevens during his tenure at the U.S. Supreme Court, including Pitt Law Dean Amy Wildermuth.

Howe, retired Dietrich School dean, given ACS Pittsburgh Award

W. Richard Howe, retired associate dean of administration and planning for Pitt's Dietrich School, was presented with the 2021 Pittsburgh Award by the Pittsburgh Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

The Pittsburgh Award was established in 1932 to recognize outstanding leadership in chemical affairs in the local and larger professional community, and distinguished service to the field of chemistry. The presentation of the 2021 award was delayed until this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Howe joined Pitt’s chemistry department in 1970 and eventually was named assistant chair before joining the dean’s office. He coordinated a capital projects program in excess of $300 million that modernized instructional and research laboratories within the arts and sciences. He served as principal author and project coordinator for a $15 million construction award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, allowing Pitt to expand in nanoscience and experimental physics.

Xulong Tang receives $600k grant from NSF

Xulong Tang, assistant professor with Pitt’s School of Computing’s Department of Computer Science, received a three-year grant of nearly $600,000 from the National Science Foundation.

His research focuses on deep neural networks, a machine-learning technique and how to train these networks using fewer computing resources and less time.

“This is really a timely award that allows my group to continue pursuing cutting edge problems in the field,” he said. 

Spears, academic innovation vice provost, takes role at Marshall University

Julia Spears, associate vice provost of academic innovation, is leaving Pitt at the end of July to become assistant provost of online education and certification at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.

Her husband, former PItt deputy athletic director Christian Spears, was named Marshall’s athletics director in March.

Julia Spears came to Pitt in 2017 to focus on developing personalized education, which developed into the Forge Your Own Path strategy. She also was involved in the annual Mentoring and Advising Summit, the Seed Grant initiative, Pitt Commons and the Community Engaged Scholarship Forum

Yealy named Annals of Emergency Medicine editor-in-chief

Donald Yealy has been named editor-in-chief of Annals of Emergency Medicine, the official journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

As Department of Emergency Medicine chair and professor, and Pitt School of Medicine professor of clinical and translational sciences, Yealy’s research focuses on early care of life-threatening conditions. He has contributed to more than 390 publications.

Yealy, who also serves as chair of UPMC emergency medicine, has served as a member of the journal’s editorial board since 1997 and as deputy editor since 2006.

Business school's Swaminathan named co-editor at Journal of Marketing

Pitt Business professor Vanitha Swaminathan was named a co-editor for the Journal of Marketing, effective July 1. Swaminathan, the Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business, previously served as an associate editor.

She will serve alongside Editor-in-Chief Shrihari Sridhar from Texas A&M, and co-editors Cait Lamberton from the University of Pennsylvania (formerly of Pitt Business) and Detelina Marinova from University of Missouri.

Swaminathan was elected in 2020 to serve on the American Marketing Association Board of Directors for a three-year term.

 

Skinner named chair of medical school's radiation oncology department

Heath D. Skinner has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the School of Medicine, effective July 1.

Skinner completed a combined MD/Ph.D. program at West Virginia University and a combined internship and residency in radiation oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He most recently served as associate professor of radiation oncology at Pitt School of Medicine and as an investigator at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

He specializes in the study and treatment of head and neck and lung cancers. As a physician-scientist, he maintains an active translational research laboratory focused on identifying novel biomarkers of resistance to radiation that can be clinically targeted. 

 

Pitt faculty, students lauded at annual sports medicine conference

Two Pitt School of Education faculty members and three Ph.D. students were recognized for their accomplishments during the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2022 Annual Meeting and World Congresses.

ACSM is the premier association for sports medicine, exercise science, and health and fitness professionals dedicated to helping people worldwide live longer, healthier lives.

Pitt Education faculty members Christopher Kline and Sharon Ross, both associate professors in the Department of Health and Human Development, were recognized as new ACSM Fellows during the annual meeting. The fellowship program is the most prestigious distinction within ACSM and recognizes distinguished professional achievement in research and service in the fields of exercise science and sports medicine.

In addition, three Ph.D. students in Pitt Education’s Exercise Physiology program recently received scholarships and recognition from ACSM.

Caitlin Cheruka was awarded the 2022 Michael L. Pollock Student Scholarship to support her attendance at the annual meeting. JP Marrero-Rivera received first place in the ACSM Minority Health and Research Interest Group Student Awards. Rachel Sanders was accepted into the 2021-2022 cohort of the ACSM Leadership and Diversity Training Program.

Read more about these awards and recognitions on the Pitt Education website.

GSPIA receives community building inclusion award

For the second year in a row, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs has received the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs’ Inclusion Award for Community Building — this time recognizing the efforts of the Out of Afghanistan Project.

Out of Afghanistan, an initiative of the Center for Governance and Markets, mobilized around 100 volunteers to assist more than 6,000 people fleeing Afghanistan in August through September 2021. It also brought together students, faculty, staff, alumni and others to welcome threatened Afghan scholars to the University of Pittsburgh and support other newly resettled refugees in the state. Read more about the program in Pitt Magazine

The Inclusion Award recognizes the efforts of international affairs schools that “bridge different groups and deepen a sense of connection within the community.” GSPIA also won the Inclusion Award in 2021, the awards program's inaugural year, for the Students of Color Alliance’s Reflective Conversations.  

Asher named assistant dean for student engagement and professional development

School of Education alumna and longtime Pitt staffer Karin Asher (EDUC ’08G) has started a new role as the inaugural assistant dean for student engagement and professional development in the Division of Student Affairs, effective July 15. In the position, Asher will focus on bringing together the four areas of Pitt’s student engagement and professional development team — the Career Center, leadership development, involvement and student unions, and Outside-the-Classroom Curriculum — to cohesively support student success.

“Student Affairs is excited to welcome Asher to this new role,” said Carla Panzella, dean of students at Pitt. “Under her leadership in consolidating this team, we expect to be better able to meet the evolving needs of students, especially as we reevaluate our programs, resources and services following the pandemic.”
 
Prior to her new role, Asher served as the interim director of Pitt’s Career Center for the 2021-2022 academic year, after spending nearly 10 years as associate director of the Career Center. During that time, she helped to grow the center’s programs and services to assist Pitt students by forming collaborative partnerships across campus. Asher oversaw major changes to Pitt’s first destination data collection process by aligning it with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) guidelines, and she has worked to bolster access to more comprehensive data about where Pitt graduates go on to work and continue their educations. She has also worked to create and grow the Career Champions program, which offers training to faculty and advisors on career advising issues for students, and improved partnerships with academic schools and advising staff. 
 
Asher received her bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, her master’s from Penn State University and her Ed.D. from Pitt. Her research and professional interests include enhancing the use of data to understand patterns in student engagement and combining that information with access to resources to ensure these services reach all populations of students.  
 
Asher began her Student Affairs career in Residence Life and New Student Programs. She said she is committed to strengthening partnerships throughout and beyond the Division of Student Affairs and is looking forward to using those relationships to enhance student opportunities for success at Pitt.

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.