Bradford’s Ibañez gets Hero Award from financial aid group

Melissa Ibañez, associate vice president of enrollment management and director of financial aid at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, has received the 2021 Hero Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administration.

The award, which was presented to only six financial aid administrators in Pennsylvania this year, is given to a PASFAA member who has made significant contributions, often behind the scenes, to the association.

This is not the first time Ibañez has been recognized by the PASFAA. In 2017, she received the Distinguished Service Award for her leadership, activities and research in financial aid. In 2015, she received the President’s Award, which is awarded to a financial aid professional whose actions have helped to advance the goals and objectives of the association.

Ibañez has worked at Pitt-Bradford since September 1999. In addition to her work in the Financial Aid Office, she also is a Veterans Affairs official for the campus.           

Before coming to Pitt-Bradford, she served as the associate director and director of financial aid at Syracuse (N.Y.) University College of Law and as the assistant director of financial aid at Seattle University School of Law.

Meyer named visiting scholar at Oxford’s Centre for Life-Writing

Michael Meyer, a professor of English in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has been selected to be a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Life-Writing. Founded by Dame Hermione Lee, author of the acclaimed biography “Virginia Woolf,” the program brings together authors from around the globe to produce the best in biography.

While in residence, Meyer is finishing research on a book recounting a scandalous 1877 trial in London over a woman’s defiant publication of a birth control pamphlet. His forthcoming book “Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet,” detailing the 200-year legacy of Franklin’s bequests to working-class Americans, will be published by HarperCollins in April. Meyer will also be a Fulbright Scholar to Taiwan in spring 2022.

Reeser named fellow at University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study

Todd Reeser, professor and chair of French and Italian in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been selected as a 2021 fellow of the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study. The prestigious fellowship allows international researchers to travel to Strasbourg, France, to advance their research. 

One of 14 researchers selected for the honor, Reeser’s work focuses on gender and sexuality in France, folding in topics of politics, identity and culture. Reeser will be working on a book project titled “Transgender France: universalism and sexual subjectivity,” in which he is exploring transgender representation in the country and the ways in which trans representation challenges assumptions about French citizenship.

As part of the fellowship, Reeser will spend next spring in residence at the University of Strasbourg, hosted by Professor Marine de Lassalle.

Mascaro Center, Covestro team up on new Circular Economy Program

The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, the Swanson School of Engineering and polymer supplier Covestro have teamed up to bring a new effort called the Covestro Circular Economy Program to the University of Pittsburgh.

This graduate-level circular design academic program will specifically address the challenge of global waste and material use while creating opportunities for research, education and innovative advancement of circular economy principles. The goal is to germinate ideas in the academic setting that will take root and drive real-world solutions designed to save the planet

Through the program, Covestro and Pitt plan to create new fundamental science that supports the assembly of tools to aid circular design. The program will enable graduate students at Pitt to become experts in circular economy principles, informed by Covestro's advances in this area, and ultimately create sustainable products and service solutions. The first cohort of graduate students will be recruited for fall 2022.

Learn more about the program. 

Pitt researchers part of international team awarded $1 million Magee Prize

The Magee-Womens Research Institute awarded its $1 million Magee Prize to an international team led by Pamela Moalli, professor in Pitt’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and director of urogynecology and pelvic reconstruction surgery at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

The team — which includes Kyle Orwig, of the Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and the Pitt School of Medicine, and Caroline Gargett, of Monash University in Australia — is working to develop new biomaterials to repair tissue loss in people with compromised vaginal structure and function.

Their project seeks to identify stem cell populations that restore vaginal structure and function and isolate the cellular ecosystems needed for stem cell survival, proliferation and engraftment.

The Magee Prize, which is funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, is among the largest grants of its kind in women’s health that is awarded by a non-government institution. To qualify for the prize, teams must include at least one MWRI researcher and at least one international collaborator.

Read more about the award.

Cunningham appointed interim executive director of Center for Neural Basis of Cognition

Robert K. Cunningham has been appointed interim executive director for the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), a joint venture of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University that focuses on research into the cognitive and neural mechanisms that give rise to behavior.

“Rob Cunningham has an extraordinary national track record of helping large teams organize and strategize to take their efforts to the next level. This new interim leadership role will allow him to use both his organizational savvy and his neuroscience background to move CNBC to even greater impact,” said Rob Rutenbar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for research.

“I am excited to help guide the next stage of evolution of the CNBC and to be given the opportunity to revisit my neuroscience background,” said Cunningham, who also serves as Pitt’s vice chancellor for research infrastructure. “The CNBC is a groundbreaking organization, and the center’s collaborations continue to enable breakthrough results as we continue to seek to understand the mind and brain.”

The collaboration has received two sizeable grants, including $6 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support the launch of CNBC.

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, CNBC co-director at Carnegie Mellon, said, “CBNC has a worldwide reputation that draws trainees to Pittsburgh to study how computations in the brain control perception, cognition and behavior. It’s what attracted me here, as well. I look forward to working with Pitt to reexamine how CNBC can maintain its vitality throughout the 21st century and beyond."

Tracey Conti named chair of family medicine department

Tracey Conti has been appointed chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine.

Conti began her new position on Nov. 1, 2021. She has served many leadership roles within the department over the past 20 years and also directs the family medicine residency program at UPMC McKeesport and serves as executive vice chair of the department.

Conti has been recognized for her clinical contributions, which include being named a Pittsburgh Top Doctor and a Pittsburgh Top Black Doctor. She also has been recognized for her leadership with the Mon Valley Women of Achievement award, and most recently the UPMC Physician Excellence Award — Excellence in Leadership. She holds leadership roles within the hospital community and currently serves as the board chair of the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians.

Jill Sarada named director of Falk Laboratory School

Jill Sarada (A&S ’93, Education ’94G) has been named the new director of Falk Laboratory School, a K-8 institution affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

Sarada has worked at Falk for 26 years, beginning as a student-teacher. As director, she will be responsible for leading with strategic vision, fostering academic excellence, strengthening Falk’s overall community and ensuring Falk’s financial future.

Sarada’s vision for education includes promoting a wide variety of partnerships and collaborations between the school, the Pittsburgh community and beyond. Guided by the principles of progressive education, she believes in learning experiences that are rooted in identity, culture and development. Her term begins July 1, 2022. 

Jeff Suzik, who has been director of of the school since 2014, will leave his position effective June 30 to become director of Cranbrook Schools, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Retired instructional designer Frey honored for contributions to online learning

Barbara Frey, an instructional designer who retired from the University Center for Teaching and Learning in 2020 after nearly two decades of work, earned the Quality Matters Directors' Award for Exceptional Service during a Nov. 3 virtual conference for her contributions to quality assurance efforts with online and/or blended education at institutions and for learners.

“Over the past 15 years, I’ve volunteered many hours to promoting and improving online learning through Quality Matters,” Frey said.  “I am honored and touched by this award.”

Quality Matters is a leader in quality assurance for online education. In the early 2000s, it became one of the first organizations to standardize and certify online courses.

Public Health’s Garland receives grant for Reimagine Reentry

Richard Garland, assistant professor of behavioral and community health sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health, has received a $1.5 million grant for three years from the Hillman Foundation for his program, Reimagine Reentry, for people returning home to Allegheny County after incarceration

The program is committed to reducing recidivism by offering holistic services to returning citizens, including case mentoring and management, workforce training, family reunification education and housing assistance planning in a state where 63 percent of parolees return to corrections within three years.

The program’s mission is to offer these resources to counteract systemic barriers and ensure the success of program participants. To enroll in the three-year program, applicants must obtain a referral from the state's Department of Corrections, submit an application and complete an interview.

Reimagine Reentry is in partnership with Operation Better Block, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Graduate School of Public Health. It is one of four programs that make up the Violence Prevention Initiative — a project dedicated to addressing community violence.

Garland leads this initiative with Steven Albert, professor of behavioral and community health sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health and the Philip B. Hallen Endowed Chair in Community Health and Social Justice.

GSPIA’s 412Connect project honored at conference

This year’s inaugural Conference on Equity and Access in Algorithms, Mechanisms and Optimization by the Association of Computing Machinery awarded one of two New Horizon Awards to the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs’ Sera Linardi and her colleagues, Alex DiChristofano, Michael Hamilton and Mara McCloud for their project, 412Connect: Bridging Students and Communities. The distinction recognizes those who successfully bridge research and practice. 

The 412Connect project is committed to building and leveraging online platforms to increase the visibility of Black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh and with local universities. According to 412Connect’s website, the team is “composed of Pittsburgh community activists, Pitt alumni, faculty and staff, and students across schools and degree programs in and outside of Pitt, united in our conviction of universities’ public service role.”

The conference is a product of the Mechanism Design for Social Good initiative and was held virtually in October. The event highlighted work that increases equity and access for historically disadvantaged and underserved communities through algorithms, optimization and mechanism design techniques.

Jarvis awarded funding to assess racial equity in children’s rehabilitation therapy

Jessica Jarvis, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the School of Medicine, was awarded Gabriella E. Molnar-Swafford Pediatric PM&R Research Grant by the Foundation for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for her proposal entitled, “Equity in Rehabilitation Therapy Use During Pediatric Critical Care Among Children with Traumatic Brain Injury.”

She will be the principal investigator for a project that will assess racial and ethnic equity in rehabilitation therapy use during pediatric critical care among children with traumatic brain injuries in the 50-plus children’s hospitals participating in the Pediatric Health Information System.

Jarvis’ study will be a collaborative effort between several Pitt departments. She will be joined on the project by co-investigators Ericka L. Fink, associate professor of critical care medicine and pediatrics and Amy Houtrow, vice chair in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation for pediatric rehabilitation medicine.

NSF grant will boost Pitt’s research computing resources

Chemistry associate professor Geoffrey Hutchison (picture), along with associate professors Lillian Chong in chemistry, Inanc Senocak in mechanical engineering and materials science, and David Koes in computational and systems biology, have landed a $1.2 million National Science Foundation award for new computing resources that will greatly boost the Center for Research Computing capabilities in speed, power, and scope.

Internal Pitt funding added to the grant creates a total of more than $1.5 million for new resources.

“This is not a grant to one researcher or one project but an investment in research itself. We don’t know how wide the impact will be over the life of the technology. The multiplier effect could be huge,” Hutchison said.

The grant enables a leap in technology based on state-of-the-art graphics processing units — GPUs, a technology originally developed for computer gaming and now widely adopted for artificial intelligence and machine learning. The new GPUs are twice as fast as the previous generation and up to 50 times faster than chips used in standard computing.

More than 30 existing research groups across the University — in chemistry, computational biology, materials science, psychology, astrophysics, weather forecasting, energy and sustainability — stand to immediately benefit from the new resources.

Read more on the Pitt Research website.

Kane-Gill awarded two grants to study acute kidney injury

Pitt Pharmacy professor Sandra Kane-Gill was recently awarded two grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The first grant is for a project entitled, “Multi-hospital Implementation of an Electronic Decision Support System for Drug-associated AKI,” in which she is a co-principal investigator along with Pitt Pharmacy faculty members Colleen CulleyPamela Smithburger and Alexis Gaggini.

The project will assess the effectiveness of a clinical surveillance alert system augmented with real-time EMR predictive analytics to support a pharmacist-led intervention to reduce the progression and complications of drug-associated acute kidney injury. This work advances Kane-Gill’s research program theme of medication safety and nephrotoxin stewardship.

The second grant focuses on processes of care after acute kidney injury hospitalization, which have been found to be suboptimal — with lack of continuity of care, delayed follow-up, and suboptimal medication management exacerbating the risks of adverse outcomes.

American Physical Society recognizes Mugler and Paolone

Two Pitt physics and astronomy faculty members — Andrew Mugler and Vittorio Paolone — were honored by the American Physical Society for outstanding achievements in research, education, and public service.

Mugler, an assistant professor, received the APS 2022 Irwin Oppenheim Award for his work “Multicellular sensing at a feedback-induced critical point’ in Physical Review.

Professor Paolone was awarded the 2022 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics for "the first direct observation of the tau neutrino through its charged-current interactions in an emulsion detector."

Pitt researchers awarded NIH High Risk, High Reward grants

Projects by five Pitt researchers in the School of Medicine were among the 106 grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health to support highly innovative and impactful biomedical, behavioral and social sciences research.

These grants — part of the High Risk, High Reward Research program — grants support transformative work that pushes the boundaries of knowledge.

“To have five of our faculty members recognized in a single year is, indeed, cause for celebration,” said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, School of Medicine. “These well-deserved awards recognize the outstanding potential of our early career investigators and highlight the academic environment at the University of Pittsburgh that fosters excellence in basic and clinical biomedical research.”

Among this year’s awardees were:

Jishnu Das, Department of Immunology

Christopher Donnelly, Department of Neurobiology

Yi-Nan Gong, Department of Immunology

Dwi Utami Kemaladewi, Department of Pediatrics

Guang Li, Department of Developmental Biology

Read more about their research on Pittwire.

GSPIA’s Kearns wins national teaching award

Kevin Kearns, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs since 1987, has received the Leslie A. Whittington Excellence in Teaching Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

This award recognizes excellence in teaching public policy, public affairs or public administration over an extended time period, demonstrating outstanding contributions and sustained excellence through course content, course preparation, quality of advising impact, teaching innovation, mentoring and receipt of teaching awards.

Kearns is known for his expertise in strategic planning, nonprofit management and leadership. He has presented more than 100 executive seminars nationally and internationally promoting ethical leadership. Along with a Fulbright Fellowship to teach nonprofit management in the Czech Republic, he has lectured in Taiwan, Indonesia, Macedonia and Brazil.

He was nominated for the award by GSPIA Dean Carissa Slotterback in recognition of his many contributions to designing and teaching in the school’s curriculum in nonprofit organizations and management, his numerous GSPIA teaching awards and the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Teaching, and his leadership of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and Hesselbein Leadership Forum.

Kearns will be recognized at the NASPAA Annual Conference virtual plenary meeting on Oct. 29.

Visit the GSPIA website to learn more.

Education’s P.R.I.D.E. expands to Philadelphia area

The Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education (P.R.I.D.E.) program of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education will extend its work to the Philadelphia region. 

The program there will feature “train the trainer sessions.” Educators will learn to talk to children about race and how to better understand and embrace racial differences. 

A division in Pitt Education's Office of Child Development, P.R.I.D.E. helps Black children, from birth to age 8, develop a positive racial identity.

“We think P.R.I.D.E is needed everywhere Children of Color are located in the country,” program director Aisha White said. “Having a presence in Philadelphia, which has a Black population that exceeds the total Pittsburgh population, will give our growing project an important start in reaching a much larger audience.”

The expansion is funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, whose vision is for “all children from low-income families in Philadelphia to have high-quality educational opportunities that lead to improved life outcomes.”

Visit the School of Education to learn more.

Piotr Hajłasz

Math’s Hajłasz wins Poland’s Sierpiński Medal

Piotr Hajłasz, a professor and graduate director of the Department of Mathematics, is the 2021 recipient of Poland’s Sierpiński Medal.

The award is given to outstanding mathematicians with Polish associations. Hajłasz, who received his doctorate from the University of Warsaw, received this honor from his alma mater and the Polish Mathematical Society. The international award is the highest honor presented by the two institutions and has recognized outstanding mathematics contributors since 1974.

Hajłasz’s research focuses on analysis and partial differential equations, topology and differential geometry. His work has been published by the American Mathematical Society, the Cornell University-owned arXiv, an open-access repository of electronic preprints and post-prints, the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Applied Mathematics and more.

The award is in memory of Polish mathematician Wacław Sierpiński (1862-1962), renowned for his work in set theory, the theory of irrational numbers and the theory of numbers.

Paul Supowitz

Supowitz named chancellor’s deputy chief of staff for special projects

Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, will transition into a new role in the Office of the Chancellor. As deputy chief of staff for special projects, he will focus on University priorities that sit at the intersection of economic and community development, civic partnerships and other external initiatives.

Supowitz joined Pitt in 2002 and has worked with lawmakers, leaders and neighbors in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and beyond to advance the University’s mission. He will continue serving as vice chancellor until a replacement is named.