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September 3, 2015

People of the Times

Head volleyball coach Dan Fisher returned to Pittsburgh with a gold medal after leading the U.S. women’s national volleyball team past Brazil, 3-0,  in the title match of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto July 25.

The United States finished the event 5-1 overall. In winning gold, Team USA won its first Pan American Games gold medal in women’s volleyball since 1967. The U.S. had earned a bronze medal in four consecutive Games prior to this year’s event.

In 2012 Fisher was an assistant coach for the U.S. women’s national team at the Pan Am Cup, serving as the team’s offensive coordinator. He also was an assistant for Team USA during the World University Games in Thailand in 2007.

At the college level, Fisher owns a 119-22 overall record as a head coach. In 2014, he led the Panthers to their most successful season in 11 years. Pitt’s 25 wins were the most since 2003.


Harry J. Gruener received the Eric Turner Memorial Award from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. The award honors a lawyer who specializes in family law and who mentors fellow lawyers.

Gruener retired from the law school’s full-time faculty Aug. 31.


Information science faculty member Balaji Palanisamy received the Best Paper Award at the 15th IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Cluster, Cloud and Grid Computing recently held in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, for his paper entitled “Deferred Lightweight Indexing for Log-Structured Key-Value Stores.”

Palanisamy co-authored the paper with Yuzhe Tang, Syracuse University; Arun Iyengar, Wei Tan and Liana Fong, IBM Research, and Ling Liu, Georgia Tech.


Nancy Tannery, Health Sciences Library System senior associate director, has been appointed chair of the National Library of Medicine literature selection and technical review committee.

The group advises on matters of policy related to the evaluation and recommendation of biomedical publications to be considered for indexing and inclusion in MEDLINE.


Thomas E. Starzl, faculty member in the School of Medicine’s surgery department, has been awarded the fourth Anthony Cerami Award in Translational Medicine by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset.

Starzl will receive a $20,000 prize from Molecular Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the Feinstein Institute, in recognition of his research in organ transplantation and alloengraftment mechanisms.

Starzl’s monograph, “A Journey in Science: The Birth of Organ Transplantation With Particular Reference to Alloengraftment Mechanisms,” was published on Molecular Medicine’s website.


Computer science faculty member Jan Wiebe has been named general chair of the 2016 Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing Conference.


Computer science faculty member Adam Lee and PhD candidate Bill Garrison received the department’s Mentor-Mentee Teaching Award.


The Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership has announced this year’s Emerging Leader Award winners: Andrew Butcher, CEO and co-founder of GTECH, and Julie Butcher Pezzino, executive director of Grow Pittsburgh.

The award recognizes the accomplishments of individuals who, relatively early in their professional careers, have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities and high promise of future contributions.


Pitt-Greensburg President Sharon P. Smith has been elected chair of The Excela Health board of trustees for the 2015-16 fiscal year. She has served on the board since 2009.


Susan Cohen and Dianxu Ren are the 2015 recipients of the Dean’s Distinguished Teaching Awards at the School of Nursing. The awards recognize faculty members who best represent the school’s commitment to excellence in teaching.

Cohen was selected for her mentoring of graduate students. She joined the faculty in 2002 and primarily teaches graduate courses on the structure of knowledge and women’s health, as well as undergraduate research courses.

Ren is noted for his dedication to teaching a difficult subject (statistics) utilizing student-centered learning and for his willingness to lend his expertise to students who are preparing manuscripts and research projects. Ren joined the nursing faculty in 2006.
He also is the associate director for statistical support services in the school’s Center for Research and Evaluation.


The Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC)gave its 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award to Jeffrey Bisanz, chair of psychology at the University of Alberta. Bisanz earned his PhD in psychology at Pitt in 1976.

Bisanz founded the Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth and Families (CUP), which connects university researchers with the community to conduct research on the development of children and families.


Kevin Ashley, faculty member in law and the graduate program in intelligent systems as well as LRDC senior scientist, was recognized as a distinguished alumnus at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with an Outstanding Achievement and Advocacy Award. He earned his PhD in computer science there in 1988.


Several faculty members in the Swanson School of Engineering have been honored recently.

• The American Society of Mechanical Engineers gave its Robert E. Abbott Award to William W. “Buddy” Clark, faculty member in mechanical engineering and materials science at the Swanson School of Engineering.

The Abbot Award recognizes Clark “for his outstanding and sustained service to the division, technical committees, conferences and journals in support of the international design engineering community and profession.”

Bopaya Bidanda, chair of industrial engineering, was a recipient of the Duncan Fraser Award from the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies. The award recognizes individuals who have made innovative and meritorious contributions having a significant impact on the advancement of engineering education.

Bryan Brown, bioengineering, received the 2014 TERMIS-AM Educational Award.

Giovanni Galdi, mechanical engineering and materials science, was the recipient of a Mercator Professorship from DFG, the German Research Foundation. The purpose of the program is to strengthen research ties, as well as enhance research-oriented teaching at German universities.

Irvin Jones, electrical and computer engineering, was selected to participate in the National Academies of Engineering Education symposium.

Steven Little, CNG Faculty Fellow and chair of chemical and petroleum engineering, has been elected a Class of 2015 fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

BMES is an interdisciplinary professional society for biomedical engineering and bioengineering. Fellow status is awarded to members who demonstrate exceptional achievements and experience in the field of biomedical engineering, and a record of membership and participation in the society.

Anne Robertson, mechanical engineering and materials science, was named the inaugural director of the Swanson school’s Center for Faculty Excellence.

George D. Stetten and Götz Veser received the school’s Outstanding Educator Award. Stetten is faculty member in bioengineering and Veser is the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

Yadong Wang, bioengineering, was elected a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Fellows have made significant contributions to the medical and biological engineering community in academia, industry, or government and to research, industry practice and education.


Faculty appointments in the Swanson school include:

Daniel G. Cole, mechanical engineering and materials science, was named director of the nuclear engineering program. Cole had been interim director since 2013.

Gregory Reed, electrical and computer engineering, has been appointed director for Pitt’s Center for Energy in the Swanson school.

Götz Veser was named associate director of Pitt’s Center for Energy. Veser also serves as the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.

Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, was elected chair of the Engineering Deans Council executive board of the American Society for Engineering Education.


Stephanie Fiely, director of student activities at Pitt-Titusville, was named a 2015 National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) mid-Atlantic regional graduate mentor.

In this volunteer role, Fiely will be working with a graduate student in western Pennsylvania who is studying in the field of student affairs.


Michael Shullo, faculty member in the School of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics and director of pharmacotherapy for the artificial heart program, has been appointed associate director of cardiac transplantation.

He has published extensively on the care of cardiac transplantation patients and co-authored the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation guidelines for the care of heart transplant recipients.


The American Statistical Association (ASA) presented the association’s Founders Award to Sally Morton, chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Graduate School of Public Health.

The honor is bestowed annually on ASA members who have rendered distinguished and long-term service to the association.


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

We welcome submissions from all areas of the University. Send information via email to:, by fax at 412/624-4579 or by campus mail to 308 Bellefield Hall.

For detailed submission guidelines, visit “Deadlines” page.

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