Martin Weiss

Pitt professors part of $25 million grant-funded project on radio waves

A new $25 million grant from the National Science Foundation will fund researchers from 29 organizations — including two from Pitt — developing new approaches and techniques for divvying up the valuable and highly contested real estate of radio waves that connect many of our devices.

Martin Weiss (pictured), a professor in the School of Computing and Information, leads the program’s economics and policy working group, which will study social and economic factors like how telecommunications companies share spectrum space and the regulations that govern the technology. The group’s other goal is training the next generation of spectrum experts with a focus on underrepresented groups in the industry.

He and Ilia Murtazashvili, associate professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs also will pursue specific research projects, including one focusing on enforcing regulations, which Weiss says could open the door to more cooperation.

“The economic stakes are very high,” Weiss said. “We’re not going to get to a world where people are sharing spectrum more freely until there are good enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure that people can protect what they want, what they need and what’s important to them.”

Randi Congleton

Chatham VP named Pitt’s AVC for equity and inclusion

Randi Congleton, vice president for equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Chatham University, has been named assistant vice chancellor for equity and inclusion in Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

She will join the University in November 2021 to provide oversight to advance strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives and provide guidance on matters as they pertain to equity, diversity and inclusion.

In her scholarship and career, Congleton focuses on the ways in which institutional policies and practices inhibit thriving, full equity, inclusion and justice for underserved communities. Her work also brings people together to unpack challenging social justice conversations and asks individuals and teams to think through systems challenges to improve equity outcomes.

Congleton earned her Ph.D. in education and organizational leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.S. in Community Services from Michigan State University and a B.S. in agricultural and extension education from Penn State University.

In 2019, Congleton was named a Woman of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier. She is also a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and an alumna of its Standards of Professional Practice Institute. Congleton serves on the Black Girl Equity Alliance Advisory Board, the research arm of Gwen’s Girls and the GED Testing Service Transformation Team.

Darris Means selected for Rockefeller Fellowship to study rural education

Darris Means, an associate professor in the School of Education, has been selected as a 2021 Richard P. Nathan Policy Fellow of the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Through the one-year fellowship, Means will conduct state policy-focused research related to rural education and equity. Based on this work, he will create a report and deliver a public presentation.

"Rural communities are sometimes an afterthought with some of the policies that do exist," he said. Means seeks to change that.

"I will review state policy related to higher education retention, attainment and graduation to better understand how inclusive state policy is of rural education, rural communities and rural students. And, based on state policies, how might they support and/or hinder educational equity for rural college students."

In addition to the Rockefeller fellowship, Means was recently named as a 2021 Dean's Scholar in Equity, Justice and Rural Education at Pitt Education.

Read more about Means.

Pitt Libraries a contributor to Google Arts & Culture site

Content from Pitt’s Archives and Special Collections have been featured in a digital exposition hosted by Google Arts & Culture. Pittsburgh joins just four other American cities in being featured on the prestigious platform, which is free to the public.

“Pittsburgh embodies the American work ethic: Grit, know-how and a can-do attitude,” the site says.

Contributions from the University Library System (ULS) include exhibits focusing on the Cathedral of Learning, the evolution of artistic representation of the Point and photos from a peace march in the city following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. ULS joins several other local organizations include the Carnegie Museum of Art and the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to proudly display Pittsburgh on such a prominent global platform.

Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rory Cooper

Rory Cooper receives Science and Society Award

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, has honored Pitt’s Rory Cooper with the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award. Recipients of this award represent individuals who have supported research, the communication of science and the impact of science on society.

Presentation of the award will take place at the virtual Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference on Nov. 4 to 7. Cooper will present talk, "Participatory Action Design and Engineering: Forging a New Freedom!" that will suggest pathways to expand the talent pool of scientists and engineers. Cooper will also speak about the work that he and his colleagues are doing to create technologies and systems for older adults and people with disabilities.

Cooper is the founding director and VA senior research career scientist of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Pitt. He is also an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and has authored or co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed journal publications.

Keisha Blain

Keisha Blain named to New American National Fellows class

Keisha N. Blain, associate professor of history in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has joined the New America National Fellows Class of 2022. New America is an organization committed to investing in thinkers who generate ideas that impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.

Blain is currently a fellow for the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry, whose previous members and faculty include Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Her 2018 book "Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Woman and the Global Struggle for Freedom" won several awards, and in 2021, she and Ibram X. Kendi edited the collection, "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619 -2019.” She has a new book due out this month — “Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America” (Beacon Press), about the early civil rights leader.

Blain is also an opinion columnist for MSNBC.

Ariel Armony in front of books

Armony named fellow of Hispanic colleges leadership academy

Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Director of the University Center for International Studies Ariel C. Armony is one of 25 fellows named to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ Leadership Academy/La Academia de Liderazgo.

The one-year program seeks to increase the number of talented individuals who aspire to leadership positions at Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and emerging HSIs. Fellows participate in an array of leadership development activities to prepare them for leadership roles in the full spectrum of institutions of higher learning with an emphasis on HSIs and emerging HSIs.

At Pitt, Armony leads University-wide initiatives to expand international partnerships and global impact, among many other duties. He also holds faculty appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Department of Political Science in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.

Waverly Duck wins Charles Horton Cooley Book Award

Waverly Duck, an associate professor of sociology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has won the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction’s Charles Horton Cooley Book Award for “Tacit Racism.”

The book, co-authored with Ann Warfield Rawls, was published by University of Chicago Press. It lays out the many ways in which racism is coded into the everyday social interactions of Americans.

The award is given annually by the society — an international professional organization of scholars interested in the study of social issues with an emphasis on identity, everyday practice and language — for a book that represents an important contribution to the perspective of symbolic interaction.

Duck’s fields of interest include urban ethnography.

Shelome Gooden named Research Leader Fellow

Shelome Gooden, Pitt’s inaugural assistant vice chancellor for research in the humanities, arts, social sciences and related fields, is one of eight new Research Leader Fellows, named by the Council on Research, which is part of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The one-year fellowship helps rising research leaders develop expertise in areas outside of their current responsibilities.

Researchers get $100K grant to track aneurysms and predict rupture

The Swanson School of Engineering’s David Vorp and Timothy Chung are working in collaboration with the School of Medicine’s Nathan Liang to develop a new model to better predict patients at-risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm, the 15th leading cause of death in the U.S.

They received a $100,000 award from Precision Medicine Initiative for Commercialization for this effort.

The team is using tools to perform shape analysis and biomechanical simulations and will use these data to train a machine learning algorithm to classify different types of aneurysm outcomes. This classifier will be used to develop a predictive model that can help guide clinicians and determine the need for surgical intervention.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the aorta weakens and begins to irreversibly dilate, like a slowly inflating balloon. If left untreated, the risk of rupture increases and has a 90 percent rate of mortality. 

Greensburg’s Ghilani receives PA GOAL award

Jessica Ghilani, associate professor of communication at Pitt–Greensburg, is among the inaugural recipients of a PA Grants for Open and Affordable Learning (GOAL) award.

GOAL provides grants and stipends to “encourage and support faculty in creating, adapting and adopting open educational resources and other zero-cost learning materials for students in institutions of postsecondary and higher education across the commonwealth.” Thirty projects across 23 Pennsylvania institutions were funded. Ghilani is the only recipient of a PA GOAL award in the Pitt system.

She will use the funding to support the creation of materials for her Public Speaking course, a general education requirement for all students on the campus. Ghilani also was selected to present on her project at the 2021 Affordable Learning PA Summit taking place Aug. 17 to 19.

Erica Owen takes on associate dean role at GSPIA

Erica Owen has been named associate dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. 

Owen, a specialist in international political economy who has been on the faculty at GSPIA since 2018, began her new appointment on July 1. In her new position, she will serve as the chief academic officer of the school, fostering the development of faculty and research while working to implement the diversity, equity and inclusion strategy and initiatives related to curriculum.

In addition to a long track record of published research, Owen has held a range of leadership positions at GSPIA, including service as the director of the doctoral program, an elected member of the Faculty Assembly Committee, Faculty Assembly president and the co-convenor of GSPIA’s Internal Research Seminar. 

As associate dean, Owen will be actively engaged in curriculum initiatives, mentoring new faculty and continuing to grow community engagement initiatives.

Read more about the appointment on GSPIA’s website.

Chance Wideman named Student Affairs’ director of new student programs

Chance Wideman has been named director of new student programs in Student Affairs.

Wideman has worked with the Community College of Allegheny County’s Homewood-Brushton Center, where he served as director from 2018-21. Prior to that role, Wideman served as the student success career coach at the center, delivering comprehensive support services to students in the Pathway to a Technology Career grant program.

He graduated from Robert Morris University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication and a Master of Science in instructional leadership.

Jeremy DeRicco named director of Animal Research Protection

Jeremy DeRicco, a 2005 graduate of the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has been named director of the Office of Research Protections’ Animal Research Protection division, which supports the activities of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).  He replaces Denise Capozzi, who retired earlier this year.

DeRicco has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Pitt. He worked for five years as a research technician in the Cardiovascular Institute while earning an MBA from the Katz Graduate School of Business. He then joined the IACUC Education and Compliance Office where he served as Pitt’s Education and Compliance Coordinator.

He then spent three years helping establish a research and compliance office at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts, West Indies. Since returning to the U.S. in 2014, DeRicco has directed research compliance programs for Penn State.

Shahfar Shaari named acting assistant vice chancellor, HR Operations

Shahfar Shaari will serve as acting assistant vice chancellor of Human Relations Operations, from Aug. 16 through March 4, 2022.

Shahfar currently works in Pitt IT as the director of organizational transformation. He recently supported the launch of Pitt Worx. In his role, Shahfar will support and oversee Human Resources’ teams in information systems, Shared Services, and Talent Acquisition, as well as collaborate with additional projects and initiatives throughout OHR and the University community.

He is stepping in for Michelle Fullem, who is leaving HR for a position in Pitt IT as senior director of IT Programs. Fullem has worked in HR for the past 13 years, including as director of Talent Acquisition and Pitt Worx project manager.

Richard Schulz wins Distinguished Career Contribution to Gerontology Award

Richard Schulz, a Pitt professor of psychiatry and director of the gerontology research program in the University Center for Social and Urban Problems, has received the 2021 Distinguished Career Contribution to Gerontology Award, Behavioral and Social Sciences section, from the Gerontology Society of America.

The award recognizes career contributions that have articulated a novel theoretical or methodological perspective or synthesis that addresses a significant problem in the literature.

The award presentations will take place at society’s annual Scientific Meeting from Nov. 10 to 14 in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Audrey Murrell named Onyx Woman of the Year

Audrey Murrell, a professor of Business Administration, Psychology, Public and International Affairs at Pitt, has been named the 2021 Onyx Woman Leadership Awards Woman of the Year.

The Pittsburgh-based OWN: Onyx Woman Network was created by Ola Jackson in 1991 as a career, entrepreneurial and financial platform for women of color. Later, the network expanded into television by producing shows featuring women who shared their experiences and advice about issues that impacted your quality of life.

The leadership awards, which were presented on July 11, are for women who empower other women and are from the state of Pennsylvania.

Murrell, when asked by Onyx about what role other women played have in her success, said: Women are powerful allies as they understand how to balance the mind and the heart in helping others striving toward mutual success. Women are strong collaborators who pour into others and then celebrate their success. Some of my most invaluable and impactful mentors throughout my career have been women. 

Murrell also has served as acting dean of the Honors College, associate dean of the College of Business Administration and director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership during her 34 years at Pitt.

Woman in front of greenery

Greensburg professor honored with YWCA Racial Justice Award

Melissa Marks, an associate professor of Education at Pitt–Greensburg, was honored recently with the YWCA Westmoreland County’s 2021 Racial Justice Award because of her work in diversity education.

The Racial Justice Award has been given by the YWCA’s Racial Justice Committee since 1993 to an individual or group who demonstrates commitment to racial equity and inclusiveness.

Marks is the director of the Pitt–Greensburg’s Education Program and teaches a wide variety of courses, including strategies, diversity and social studies methods. Her books include “Teaching About Diversity: Activities to Start the Conversation” (2020) and “How to Talk to Families About Child and Adolescent Mental Illness” (co-authored with Diane Marsh, 2009).

Toren Finkel in a black suit

Toren Finkel receives Scholar-Innovator Award

Professor of Medicine Toren Finkel is one of eight physician-scientists awarded a 2021 Scholar-Innovator Award from the Harrington Discovery Institute. 

Finkel, who is also director of the Aging Institute of UPMC, researches mitochondrial function, cellular metabolism, oxidative stress and aging.

The Harrington Discovery Institute seeks to accelerate the development of new treatments to address major unmet needs in medicine and society. Harrington scholar-innovators are accomplished physician-scientists whose research demonstrates innovation, creativity and potential for clinical impact. 

In addition to grant funding, scholar-innovators receive guidance and oversight in all aspects of drug development.

Student writing on a paper

Study Lab wins award for website excellence

The University of Pittsburgh’s Study Lab won third place in the 2021 National College Learning Center Association/Learning Support Centers in Higher Education Website Excellence Awards. The award recognizes superior technology work.

The Study Lab provides in person and online tools and resources to students in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences to help them study smarter, not harder, and make the most of their time at Pitt. 

Winners will receive their award at the Forging Academic Success conference in Birmingham, Alabama, this fall.