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June 25, 2015

People of the Times

The University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) presents the Steven D. Manners Faculty Development Awards annually to promising research projects in the social, behavioral and policy sciences on campus.

The awards honor the memory of Manners, a sociologist who began working at the center in 1974 and served as its assistant director from 1989 until his death in 2000.

The 2015 Manners award winners are:

Carissa A. Low, faculty member in medicine and psychology, biobehavioral oncology program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, for “Technology-based Assessment of Stress During Cancer Treatment.”

Low’s pilot study will use passive data collected by mobile devices (i.e., smartphones and wearable direct-to-consumer fitness trackers with built-in heart rate monitors) to predict ecological momentary assessment of psychological stress during cancer treatment.

The goals of the proposed research are to test the feasibility and acceptability of using smartphone and wearable wrist sensors to predict stress ratings during chemotherapy for colorectal cancer and to develop preliminary machine learning models to predict patient-reported stress from passively sensed data.

Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, faculty member in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology, for “The Intersection of Race and Socioeconomic Status in Early Family Life.”

Votruba-Drzal’s study will identify the causal pathways through which distal family factors influence micro-level processes in the family, and thus inform future empirical work and theoretical perspectives on how racial and economic skills gaps emerge and take shape.


Amy Williams, faculty member in the Dietrich school’s Department of Music, has been named a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow.

Williams was one of 175 scholars, artists and scientists selected from more than 3,100 applicants. She intends to spend her fellowship year composing three new pieces and recording a second album of music devoted to her compositions.


School of Social Work Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Valire Copeland has been named associate editor of the journal Race and Social Problems.

The journal provides an international and multidisciplinary forum for issues germane to race and its relationship to psychological, socioeconomic, political and cultural problems.


Adriana E. Ramírez, a faculty member in the Dietrich school’s English department, has been awarded the first PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize.

The award, which carries a $10,000 prize, recognizes a promising writer under age 35 for an unpublished work of nonfiction that addresses a global or multicultural issue.

Ramirez submitted her manuscript for “Dead Boys,” described by the PEN/Fusion judges as “an unflinching look at the bodies of those who have died too young: nine people hanged by a drug cartel on the U.S.-Mexico border; the washed-up casualties of Colombian strife; a young boy unable to outrun a loan shark, and even a tragic death in the author’s own family.”


David Birnbaum, faculty member in Slavic languages and literatures in the Dietrich school, has won the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences’ Marin Drinov Medal. The award is conferred on Bulgarian and foreign scientists, cultural and public figures for contributions to Bulgarian science and culture.

The medal was presented to Birnbaum June 8 by Stefan Vodenicharov, president of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.


Abdus Wahed, faculty member in biostatistics at the  Graduate School of Public Health, has been named a fellow of the American Statistical Association.

ASA is the world’s largest professional society of statisticians. This year, only 62 statisticians from around the world have been chosen to receive this honor, based on their commitment to advancing research and using statistics to improve the overall quality of life for people around the world.

Wahed’s work focuses on methodology for dynamic treatment regimes and sequential randomized trials. He also works to promote statistics in developing countries. He conducts workshops in countries such as Bangladesh, training statisticians and biostatisticians in modern statistical methods.


ColwellStaff Association Council President Rich Colwell, at right, of engineering operations, and Vice President of Finance Monika Losagio, of both Hispanic and French and Italian languages and literatures, ran unopposed and were re-elected June 17, while external relations committee chair Andy Stephany of research administration, also unopposed, was elected vice president of public relations.

Lindsay Rodzwicz of bioengineering, vice president of public relations, is the incoming executive vice president, and Fiona Seels of the School of Education technology department, vice chair of the external relations committee, will be parliamentarian.


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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