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May 16, 2013

People of the Times

Radisav VidicPitt’s Radisav D. Vidic and Carnegie Mellon University’s David A. Dzombak have been honored by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers  and Scientists (AAEES) for helping to address the global water shortage for use in power plant cooling systems.

They received the 2013 Grand Prize in the university research category of the AAEES Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science Competition for a project titled “Use of Treated Municipal Wastewater as Power Plant Cooling System Makeup Water.”

Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair,  Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, said: “We need a great deal of water for electric power production to condense steam in the power plant steam cycle. Air cooling is possible but is more costly and less efficient. Water will continue to be the preferred coolant for new thermoelectric power plants.”

The CMU-Pitt research shows that treated municipal wastewater is a common and widely available alternative source of cooling water for thermoelectric power plants across the United States. However, the biodegradable organic matter, ammonia, carbonate and phosphates in the treated wastewater pose challenges, including fouling and corrosion issues. The researchers, along with their graduate students, investigated how to address these challenges.

They  noted that their work shows the need to evaluate the growing competition among the energy industry, farmers and residents for scarce water supplies. Every day, water-cooled thermoelectric power plants in the United States withdraw more than 200 billion gallons of fresh water from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers. Freshwater withdrawals for cooling thermoelectric power production alone account for about 40 percent of all withdrawals, essentially the same amount taken for agricultural irrigation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“Our research shows that alternative sources of water are needed for new power production in regions without new sources of available freshwater,” Dzombak said. “Our research will not only help promote the use of properly treated municipal wastewater at cooling plants, but help contribute to economic development.”


Alberta Sbragia, vice provost for graduate studies, was recognized last week by the European Union Studies Association for her scholarship, mentoring and promotion of European Union studies.

Sbragia, who also is a faculty member in political science, received the Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of EU Studies.

From conducting research interviews in Brussels as Germany took the first steps toward demolishing the Berlin Wall, to publishing highly regarded research on the continent’s political processes, to mentoring generations of European Union scholars, Sbragia has influenced the field of European Union studies.

Sbragia chaired the European Union Studies Association, 1993-95. The association now is headquartered at Pitt.

“The executive committee of the European Union Studies Association was unanimous in its choice of Dr. Sbragia, given her work mentoring students, her own scholarship and also for being so instrumental in bringing the European Union Studies Association to Pittsburgh and giving it a permanent home,” said Michelle Egan, vice president of the European Union Studies Association, faculty member at American University’s School of International Service — and Sbragia’s first doctoral student. “Dr. Sbragia is very well known for promoting young scholars and doctoral students, for building up European Union studies at Pitt, and for attracting scholars and practitioners to the University,” Egan added.

Sbragia, one of the world’s foremost experts on European politics and economics and a leading authority on the teaching of international affairs, joined Pitt’s faculty in 1974, teaching American and European urban politics and policy.

In 1983, she was a visiting faculty member at Harvard; she returned to Pitt the following year to become the inaugural director of Pitt’s West European studies program, now Pitt’s European Studies Center, a post she would hold until 2010.

In 1998, she was named director of Pitt’s European Union Center, one of the original 10 such centers in the United States funded by the European Commission. In 2005, the center was elevated to the status of a European Union Center of Excellence. Sbragia served as director until 2010.

Sbragia’s strengths as a teacher and mentor have been recognized through such awards as the Jean Monnet Chair ad personam, granted in recognition of her teaching and research related to the European Union, and through the 2013 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, the 2001 Apple for the Teacher Award, and her appointment as the inaugural holder of the Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg Chair (2006-10).


Jonathon Erlen, history of medicine librarian in the Health Sciences Library System (HSLS), has been appointed to the American Osler Society’s Executive Board for a three-year term.


HSLS reference librarian Andrea Ketchum has been appointed to the Medical Library Association’s scholarly communication committee for a three-year term.


Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History Marcus Rediker, who has written extensively about working men and women and how they shaped the nation, received the Sidney Hillman Foundation’s 2013 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History this month.

The honor recognizes an individual’s lifetime achievement in the field of labor history.

Rediker, who grew up in a working-class family in Kentucky amid mines and factories, has chronicled the lives and struggles of working people in a number of widely acclaimed books. In doing so, he is credited with expanding the scope of labor history.

His first work, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World,” took the study of labor out of the factories and onto the ocean; the book told of the sailors and pirates who sailed the Atlantic in the 18th century. Using many previously unknown sources, Rediker reconstructed the social world of the poor. The book won the 1988 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians for the best work in American social history and the 1988 John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association for best interdisciplinary work in American studies.

Rediker worked with a team of scholars at the American Social History Project to write “Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture and Society, Volume 1.” This reinterpretation of American history “from the bottom up” integrates the history of community, family, gender roles, race and ethnicity into the more familiar history of politics and economic development.

Rediker cowrote “The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic” and wrote “The Slave Ship: A Human History”and “The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom.”

“The Slave Ship” won the 2008 George Washington Book Prize, cosponsored by Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Mount Vernon; the 2008 Merle Curti Award, and the James A. Rawley Prize from the American Historical Association.

All three books explore the history of workers, free and unfree, in the making of Atlantic and American history.


School of Medicine faculty members Mike Becich and Rebecca Crowley, research associate Uma Chandran and Mike Davis, all of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the School of Medicine, collaborated with Adrian Lee, faculty member in pharmacology and  chemical biology and director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center, and other colleagues on the project that won the award for best project at the DataWorks Big Data Showcase recently.

The project uses the UPMC Enterprise Analytics Data Warehouse to develop a personalized medicine resource that brings together genomic and phenotypic data for patients with breast cancer.


NathanDavisMusic faculty member Nathan Davis will receive the BNY Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award in October at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The director of jazz studies is retiring June 28. He took the position in 1969 and, in addition to shaping Pitt’s jazz and ethnomusicology programs, founded the annual jazz seminar and concert.

Davis has written an assortment of jazz arrangements, several books on jazz, an opera and is working on a ballet.


Elizabeth Arkush, faculty member in anthropology, has won the 2013 Society for American Archaeology Book Award in the scholarly category for “Hillforts of the Ancient Andes: Colla Warfare, Society, and Landscape.”


The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

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