Accolades

Blain in a dark shirt

Keisha N. Blain awarded best book in African-American women’s and gender history

Keisha N. Blain, assistant professor in the Department of History, received the 2019 Darlene Clark Hine Award from the Organization of American Historians.

The prestigious award, given annually for the “best book in African-American women’s and gender history,” was presented to Blain for her recent publication, “Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.” The book, which “[draws] on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry,” tells the stories of Black women nationalists in the 20th century.

The award committee calls Blain’s work a “major contribution to existing historiographies that centers on African American women, black internationalism, intellectual history and African American history.”

The Organization of American Historians, founded in 1907, is the world’s “largest professional association dedicated to American history scholarship.”

Smith in a red blouse

Education professor emerita and LRDC scientist wins lifetime achievement award

Peg (Margaret) Smith has been awarded a 2019 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award “honors NCTM members who have exhibited a lifetime of achievement in mathematics education at the national level.” Smith is one of three recipients of the prestigious award.

Smith is a professor emerita of mathematics education in the Department of Instruction and Learning in the School of Education, and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC).

Smith studies how teachers support student learning through the use of rich mathematical tasks. Over the course of her career, she has published more than 75 journal articles, book chapters and books. Notably, her “5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion,” which she co-authored with Mary Kay Stein, sold more than 35,000 copies in its first two years.

Smith will be recognized at the recognized in April during the Opening Session of the 2019 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego.

Yong-Zhuo Chen

Bradford mathematics professor Chen wins President's Award

Yong-Zhuo Chen, Pitt–Bradford professor of mathematics, was presented the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service during Honors Convocation on April 19.

“In 30 years at Pitt-Bradford, Dr. Chen has consistently performed admirably,” said Lawrence Feick, interim president of Pitt-Bradford, who presented the award. “Students routinely give him strong assessments of his teaching, despite his teaching rigorous and technical classes. On top of that, he is a prolific scholar, advancing the frontiers of mathematics.”

Stephen Hardin, vice president and dean of academic affairs, nominated Chen for the honor.

 “Because of his unimposing nature, I believe that Dr. Chen does not always get the recognition and attention that he rightly deserves,” Hardin wrote. “Dr. Chen truly is excellent in all three areas of responsibility as a faculty member — teaching, scholarship and service.”

See more details here.

Richard Kahle

Facilities director Kahle honored with staff award at Pitt–Bradford

Richard Kahle, facilities director of the Richard E. and Ruth McDowell Sport and Fitness Center at Pitt–Bradford received the President’s Award for Staff Excellence during Honors Convocation on April 19.

“Rich is one of those unsung heroes whose work might be easy to overlook because everything he touches goes smoothly,” said interim President Larry Feick, who presented the award. “We are so pleased to honor him in this way and to shed a little bit of light on all of the behind-the-scenes work he does in one of the most visible buildings on our campus.”

Kahle’s supervisor, Athletic Director Bret Butler, nominated him for the award. Kahle handles not only the details of setting up, running and tearing down athletic events in the Sport and Fitness Center, but also commencement, admissions programs, summer camps, Midnight Madness, Big 30 events, and non-university programs such as the annual Senior Expo and the recent veterans benefits fair.

Additionally, he does the same for events held at the Kessel Athletic Complex and for numerous fun runs, trail walks or tailgate events that happen at the university, including several statewide Little League tournaments.

See more details here.

Dostilio in a royal blue blazer

Lina Dostilio named first research fellow for Coalition for Urban and Metropolitan Universities

Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement, has been named the first research fellow for the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities. During a five-month appointment, Dostilio will work to establish a cross-city research agenda on the effects of hyper-local engagement on community capacity. Over the course of the fellowship, she will work to create a space for dialogue and collaboration on data, instruments, policy and strategies.

“This project is interested in how universities honor the existing capacities of the communities they engage and how hyper-local efforts may influence those capacities over time. Examples of the kinds of capacity we are exploring are community readiness for change, civic engagement and social connectedness, among others,” Dostilio said.

“There’s never been a more important time for institutions to be authentic about their responsibility and capacity for place-based engagement and service. Lina’s scholarship on hyper-local engagement will help to define CUMU’s research agenda and move this important work forward,” said Bobbie Laur, CUMU executive director.

Xiong in a dark suit

Feng Xiong receives grant to develop conversion method for heat energy

Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Jonathan Malen, professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, recently received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric semiconductor using tungsten disulfide to convert waste heat into energy. 

This collaboration seeks to make converting heat lost in energy production back into usable electricity that’s more efficient.

The team will work closely with local communities to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore engineering careers and foster interest in nanotechnology. Outreach efforts will include lab demonstrations, summer internships and career workshops.

Researchers earn NSF grant for autism therapy development

A Pitt research team recently received a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new brain-computer therapy method to help people with autism.

The team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and Carla A. Mazefsky, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology in the Department of Psychiatry.

They will develop social interaction scenarios in virtual environments while recording EEG responses simultaneously in order to detect patterns that represent changes in distress levels. The virtual scenario will then present audio or visual cues to help remind them how to handle stress. The project will also develop new machine learning algorithms and neuroscience methods to identify EEG features associated with emotion regulation to classify between distress and non-distress conditions, and to distinguish among different distress levels.

woman in a dark blazer

Leanne Gilbertson receives early engineering educator grant

Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was selected to receive the Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant from the American Society for Engineering Education’s Women in Engineering Division. The award recognizes her contributions to engineering education and will provide travel to the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference from June 15-19 in Tampa, Fla.

Gilbertson’s research group aims to inform sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. Read more about the award.

Bemyeh smiling

Mohammed A. Bamyeh elected president of Arab Council for the Social Sciences

Mohammed A. Bamyeh, professor of sociology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, was elected president of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences during its fourth conference this April. From its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, the council oversees the largest and most active social science network in the Arab region. It has supported hundreds of social science researchers in 22 Arab countries and among diaspora communities of scholars, through fellowships and grant programs.

Bamyeh has been at Pitt since 2007. His work focuses on comparative social and political theory and globalization, revolutions and social movements, Islamic studies, culture, religion and secularism.

Kenney in a blue suit

Michael Kenney to contribute to report on countering extremism

Michael Kenney, an associate professor and program director of international affairs at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been commissioned by the British government’s Commission for Countering Extremism to contribute an academic paper to a comprehensive report on extremism.

Kenney’s contribution will explore the links between extremism and terrorism through a deep dive into the first UK-based proscribed Islamist group, Al-Muhajiroun. This is an extension of Kenney’s research into this organization, which is the subject of his recent book, “The Islamic State in Britain: Radicalization in an Activist Network.” Kenney’s paper will draw on dozens of interviews with activists and former activists, and hundreds of hours of direct observation of their activities over a period to several years.

His research focuses on Islamist extremism, terrorism and transnational organization crime. He serves on the editorial board of Terrorism and Political Violence, the leading academic journal in terrorism studies.

Sweet wearing a bright red collared shirt

Robert Sweet honored by American College of Psychiatrists

Robert Sweet, a UPMC endowed professor in psychiatric neuroscience and professor of neurology and clinical and translational science at Pitt, was recently given the Award for Research in Geriatric Psychiatry by the American College of Psychiatrists.

Sweet is recognized internationally for his investigation of the mechanisms which lead to the generation of psychotic symptoms that are core features of schizophrenia, but also occur in about 50 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

His research suggests there are common genetic risk factors and vulnerable brain circuits that act together to cause positive symptoms across these disorders. 

Larkins-Pettigrew with her hand on her chin

Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew receives lifetime achievement award

Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine, will be honored with the Gateway Medical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Larkins-Pettigrew, who is a former president of the society, is a Pitt alum. She received her doctor of medicine degree, a baccalaureate degree in nursing, and a master’s in public policy and international affairs from the University. She is currently the Edgar B. Jackson Chair for Clinical Excellence and Diversity, heads the Office of Community Impact, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also an assistant dean in the Office of Student Affairs at Case Western Reserve University and heads global health programs in her discipline. 

She is the founder of W.O.N.D.O.O.R. (one door), Women and Newborns, Diversity, Outreach, Opportunity and Research, an innovative program that educates global physicians, students, residents and junior faculty through local and international health care collaborations.

The Gateway Medical Society is a component of the National Medical Association, whose objectives are to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health.

Panther statue

University’s retirement savings plan wins 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award

The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources is the recipient of the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award in the Public Defined Contribution category for the University's retirement savings plan. Pitt was recognized for its Write Your Own Financial Story communications campaign, education initiative and overall updates made to the retirement savings plan.

The Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success. Finalists are judged on a variety of factors including richness of program offerings, commitment to the program, leadership and innovation.

“We are thrilled for the University to again be recognized for our distinguishable efforts and commitment to developing customized educational programs to increase financial literacy, as well as help our generationally diverse workforce address their personalized needs and goals,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson.

The Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program is sponsored by PLANSPONSOR, a magazine and website that provides news and research for retirement benefits decision makers, and it recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants' financial health and retirement success. Pitt was among 38 finalists in 10 categories.

Read more about the University’s award-winning plan and the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program.

South-Paul in a dark jacket and blue scarf

Jeannette South-Paul honored by Pennsylvania governor

Jeannette South-Paul, the Andrew W. Mathieson professor and department chair in the Pitt Department of Family Medicine, was recently honored by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf and Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli at the fourth annual Female Veterans Day Ceremony in celebration of Women’s History Month.

South-Paul served in the U.S. Army for 21 years beginning with ROTC and retiring as a colonel. During her time of military service, she worked as an Army physician, her last duty station being at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

Her research focuses on maternal-child health, particularly teen pregnancy.

h2p written with sparklers at night

WISER celebrates 25 years in 2019

The Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research, or WISER for short, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.

WISER is an internationally renowned simulation center at the University of Pittsburgh that focuses on health care education, improving patient safety, and the professional development of simulation educators and technicians around the world.

The institute currently supports more than 60,000 hours of simulation and more than 2,000 classes, which impacts 5,000 health care professionals and trainees each year.

Quigley with dark brown hair in front of trees

School of Education’s Cassie Quigley named PA STEM Ambassador

Cassie Quigley has been named a 2019 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador.

The PA STEM Ambassador Program aims to “shape the future of STEM education in the commonwealth targeting vital policy conversations to legislative leadership in the areas of STEM Learning ecosystems, computer science, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs.”

Quigley, an associate professor of science education in the School of Education, received this honor along with 31 other leaders across Pennsylvania.

“Because of my commitment to improve STEM experiences for our youth, being able to sit at the table with the decision-makers allows me to help influence the type of experiences students will have,” said Quigley. “My hope is that students will be positioned to be change-makers in their schools and society, and STEM education is one way to do that.”

Added Quigley, “For the past five years, I have been working with my colleague Dr. Dani Herro to help teachers shift their practices, and I have seen the results in the students.  Students are engaged, excited and informed about how to solve some of the most pressing problems in our world. Between this research, and the opportunity to work with Pennsylvania lawmakers, I am excited about the potential for our students.”

Quigley also has a new publication, “An Educator’s Guide to STEAM,” which was released in March.

Greg Scott, John Kozar, Nichole Dwyer, Cheryl Johnson

University retirement savings plan receives award

The Pitt Office of Human Resources, in partnership with TIAA, is the first place winner of the 2019 Eddy Awards in the Plan Transitions category. Pitt was recognized for its implementation and communication efforts in updating the 2017-2018 University’s Retirement Savings Plan.

The University of Pittsburgh and TIAA, a leading financial services provider in the academic field, received this honor at Pensions & Investment’s annual East Coast Defined Contribution Conference on March 10-12, 2019, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Pitt joins 66 defined contribution communication campaigns that were honored for their efforts to motivate and educate participants. 

“We are honored to receive first place in the Plan Transitions category at the Eddy Awards,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson. “Our team is proud to be recognized for the efforts taken to make improvements to the University’s retirement savings plan and to communicate them to the Pitt community in a way that honors our generationally diverse staff and faculty; recognizes that people are on individual journeys and need to be empowered; and, is accessible, motivational and educational.”

Read more about the award-winning plan and the Eddy Award.

Kohanbash

T-Cell project awarded $3 million by Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative

Gary Kohanbash, assistant professor of neurological surgery and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory at Pitt, was one of four researchers awarded a total of $3 million by the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative to help fund primary brain tumor immunotherapy research. Kohanbash’s project involves interrogating anti-tumor T-cells to develop adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy for pediatric high-grade gliomas.

Kohanbash and an interdisciplinary team of investigators at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Children’s National and the University of California, San Francisco have developed a new method for identifying the most tumoricidal T-cell within a patient’s tumor. Using this approach, the team will isolate these T-cells from pediatric glioma and DIPG tumors, validate the safety and tumor-killing ability of these cells and develop a strategy for expanding these cells for re-infusion into patients.

If the project is successful, it could become a cutting edge, off-the-shelf approach in which a T-cell identified in one patient could be used to create T-cells that could kill tumors in a majority of patients with the similar disease. Long-term the approach could be used to develop a highly personalized strategy in which the most effective cytotoxic T-cells within each patient would be identified and used to creating millions of these as a therapy for that patient. Read more at neurosurgery’s website.

Badylak in front of shelves in a lab

Stephen Badylak named 2018 Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator

For his dedication to achieving impact through commercialization, Stephen Badylak has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award from the Innovation Institute. He is a professor of surgery at Pitt and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

In his prolific 15 years at Pitt he ranks among the University’s all-time leaders in terms of invention disclosures filed, patents issued and technologies licensed. Earlier this year, Badylak became chief scientific officer of ECM Therapeutics, a new Pittsburgh-based startup company that has licensed a patent portfolio from Badylak’s lab and is seeking to commercialize those discoveries across a broad range of therapeutic targets.

More information can be found at the Innovation Institute’s website.

Datta in a red plaid shirt in front of a blue background

Moni Datta receives $300K award to develop quicker diagnoses technology for cardiomyopathy

Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier. Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming and expensive.

Prashant N. Kumta, the Edward R. Weidlein chair and distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormos, the Brack G. Hattler professor of cardiothoracic surgery.

Read more at the Swanson School’s website.