James McKone in a black suit

James McKone selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator

James McKone, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was selected as a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation for his work recycling carbon dioxide into useful fuels and chemicals. 

He received funding from the program to develop new catalysts and chemical reactors that can recycle carbon dioxide and other chemical wastes back into useful fuels and raw materials.

“We ultimately want to build a circular chemical economy — a sustainable approach to chemical manufacturing where every molecule that comes out of a smokestack or a tailpipe is captured and reused hundreds or thousands of times instead of being discarded as waste,”McKone said.

The Beckman Young Investigator program provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences. It challenges researchers to pursue innovative and high-risk projects that seek to make significant scientific advancements and open up new avenues of research in science.

Stein in a blue suit, white shirt and green tie

Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence donating printers to Pittsburgh businesses

In an effort to help small businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions, Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence recently coordinated a program to donate office printers to Pittsburgh businesses. Last week, the institute was able to begin distribution to more than 160 small businesses at a curbside pickup event at the Pitt Mailing Services building in Homewood. 

“Right now, it’s important to get these underserved and impacted businesses the help they need to maintain operations and grow during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bob Stein (pictured), executive director of the institute. “These printers will help small business owners work from home or at the office. The IEE is committed to helping Pittsburgh-area businesses during these trying times.”

The effort is being coordinated with Pitt's purchasing department and Pitt Mailing Services. It’s also being coordinated through a partnership with HP and University-wide contracted suppliers Supra Office Solutions and Office Depot.

Jeane Doperak in a light blue shirt

Pitt, UPMC team creates ‘playbook’ for return of youth athletics

A multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers at Pitt and UPMC has developed guidelines to assist coaches, athletic trainers and organizers with creating a safe environment for youth athletes, fans and staff as they consider a return to play.

The UPMC Youth Sports Playbook contains recommendations for establishing a minimal set of standards in several categories for resuming athletic programs, including pre-participation physicals, social distancing, equipment sanitization, personal protective equipment, acclimation phases, practice and competition tactics and illness protocols.

Among the people involved with the creation of the playbook are Jeane Doperak (pictured), assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and program director for the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship; and MaCalus V. Hogan, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and vice chairman of education and residency program director.

Pharmacy associate dean named to AMA advisory committee

School of Pharmacy Associate Dean Melissa A. McGivney has been appointed to the American Medical Association Health Care Professional Advisory Committee as an alternative advisor representing the Pharmacy Health Information Technology Collaborative.

McGivney is only the third pharmacist to serve on the committee, which advises the AMA’s Current Procedural Terminology Editorial Panel. The panel is responsible for revising, updating and modifying codes utilized in medical billing across the United States. McGivney will serve through June 2022.

Physical therapy faculty members to lead LeaRRn program

Physical Therapy Professor Janet Freburger and Assistant Professor Joel Stevans will help create and lead the Learning Health Systems Rehabilitation Research Network (LeaRRn), a national resource network to advance rehabilitation learning health systems research.

LeaRRn, a a collaborative effort of Pitt, Brown University and Boston University, will be funded through a $5.5 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.

LeaRRn plans to transform the delivery, quality and outcomes of rehabilitation care by creating a Learning Health System Innovation Hub that partners researchers with health care systems and engages stakeholders, including patients, providers, administrators, payers and policymakers to develop rehabilitation-focused LHS research questions. It also will provide funding and methodological/technical support for LHS scholars and pilot study awardees to transform research ideas into full-scale studies conducted in real-world practice.

Freburger will direct the LHS Innovation Hub and will lead the Collaborative Opportunities Component of LeaRRn jointly with Rosa Baier from Brown University School of Public Health. Stevans, will lead the Techniques Development Component of LeaRRn. 

Rose Constantino receives Nursing Hall of Fame Award

Rose Constantino, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, is one of three people this year to receive the American Nursing Association’s Hall of Fame Award.

The award recognizes individual’s commitment to the nursing field and their impact on the health and social history of the United States.

In announcing the award, the association said, “Dr. Rose Constantino is an outstanding teacher and a powerful role model. She has engaged in local, state, national and international nursing organizations and other health-related organizations through direct patient care, impactful committee service and program development. Dr. Constantino’s distinguished service and exceptional leadership have guided and inspired peers and students.”

She has taught psychiatric mental health nursing at the Pitt School of Nursing since 1971, during which time she completed a Ph.D. (1979) and a law degree (1984).

In addition to psychiatric mental health nursing, her teaching and research focus on family law practice and research studies on health outcomes of women who experience intimate partner violence and women whose spouses committed suicide.

Mostafa Bedewy wins outstanding young investigator award

Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected as winner of the 2020 M&D Outstanding Young Investigator Award from the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers Manufacturing & Design Division.

The award recognizes outstanding early-career M&D Division members, who have made “high impact scientific contributions to the manufacturing and design field as evidenced by their research endeavors including publications, intellectual property and other funding and dissemination activities.”

Linda Tashbook in a pink top

Pitt Law’s Linda Tashbook honored for book on mental illness

Pitt International Law Librarian Linda Tashbook has received an award from the Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section for her book "Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law." The 2020 ALL-SIS Publication Award recognizes “a significant non-periodical contribution to scholarly legal literature.”

Tashbook says she is  honored to have her book recognized.

“Librarians, in general, are very discerning readers,” she said. “Law librarians in academic settings have especially high standards for quality. They expect to see very interesting writing, clear explanations of law, good organization and a clear purpose for the content.”

Tashbook’s volume does just that. It provides nuts-and-bolts legal information and problem-solving steps for millions of people who have family members battling mental illness. From helping a loved one prepare for a hearing, to ensuring they receive their medication in prison, the problems and possible solutions outlined in the book cover a wide range. The book also provides how-to boxes that assist families in navigating these roads. 

Writing the book was a natural for Tashbook, who began her career as the children’s librarian at the main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Her outreach work—helping to supply books to homeless shelters that took in families—exposed her to a population with problems. Seeking to be a firmer advocate, she earned a degree from the Pitt School of Law, and has for years spent much of her time providing counsel to those who are struggling, as well as their loved ones.

Evan Facher in a light purple collared shirt and black suit

Pitt ranks among top recipients of U.S. university patents

The University of Pittsburgh once again ranked among the top recipients of U.S. patents issued worldwide to universities in 2019, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

The report ranks the top 100 universities named as first assignee on utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the 2019 calendar year. Pitt is in a three-way tie for the 28th spot with University of Maryland and the University of Massachusetts. 

“Pitt researchers are determined for their work to not only lead to new knowledge, but also make an impact on the world through commercial translation. An important step in that process is to protect the intellectual property inherent in their discoveries.” said Evan Facher, Pitt’s vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and director of the Innovation Institute, which is responsible for the protection and licensing of intellectual property arising from Pitt research.

The University of Pittsburgh campus, featuring the Cathedral of Learning

Climate solutions grant will aid Oakland energy master plan

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a $2,600 Second Nature Climate Solutions Acceleration Fund grant that will help support energy modeling at the district level for Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, in partnership with the Green Building Alliance and Oakland institutions, is developing an Oakland Energy Master Plan to help the city and its universities reach their carbon reduction goals. 

The city has committed to a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, from 2003 levels. 

Earlier this year, the University committed to become carbon neutral by 2037 — the University’s 250th anniversary — by signing the Second Nature Climate Leadership Statement and Carbon Commitment. Pitt will build on the success of its ambitious Sustainability Plan and existing greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 22 percent between 2008 and 2017.

“Addressing global climate change is a vital issue—one that can’t be reduced to a single issue or a single panacea,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am thankful for Second Nature's support, which will advance our quest for carbon neutrality and our role in combating climate change in truly meaningful ways."

“We were positively overwhelmed and impressed with the quantity and quality of submitted proposals,” stated Tim Carter, president of Second Nature, in congratulating awardees. “It emphasized that even in the midst of a global pandemic, the higher education sector not only understands how crucial it is to continue to accelerate climate action, but is committed to doing so.”

Charleen Chu in a yellow top

Charleen Chu wins Distinguished Educator Award

Charleen T. Chu, professor of pathology and the A. Julio Martinez Endowed Chair in Neuropathology, received the 2020 Robbins Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology. The award recognizes individuals whose exemplary contributions to education in pathology have demonstrated a manifest impact at a national and international level.

Chu’s research focuses on understanding cellular, biochemical and molecular genetic mechanisms that contribute to neurodegeneration and neuroprotection. Her work has been recognized with other honors, including the Carnegie Science Emerging Female Scientist Award, election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation Honor Society and the ASIP Outstanding Investigator Award.

Two people walk on Pitt's campus with the sun shining behind them

School of Pharmacy helps launch collaborative podcast effort

The Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association has partnered with Pharmacy Podcast Network to bring a series of podcasts designed to help community pharmacists implement change and practice transformation.  

The podcasts have been developed in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and their “Flip The Pharmacy” team and paid for through grant funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.  

The series, titled "Beyond the Sig,” will feature pharmacy industry leaders, pharmacy owners, academia, student pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to showcase the transformation of pharmacy. 

Evan Facher in a black suit and light purple collared shirt

LifeX offering wet lab space for Pittsburgh science startups

LifeX Labs, which offers various resources to help new life sciences companies in Pittsburgh thrive, is now offering wet laboratory space to grow Southwestern Pennsylvania’s life sciences ecosystem. LifeX Labs is supported by the University of Pittsburgh, Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The addition of the lab facilities in the Chocolate Factory of the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, scheduled to open in June, highlights an expanding suite of programs and resources for early stage life sciences startups provided by LifeX Labs.

"Securing affordable, flexible lab space is one of the biggest obstacles to growing a biotech company,” said Evan Facher, interim CEO of LifeX Labs and director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We believe that offering physical space in conjunction with a robust resource network and solid training opportunities will accelerate commercialization timelines for the Pittsburgh region’s growing life science sector.”

Hayley Germack in a burgundy sweater

Hayley Germack leads blog on nurse practitioner practice during pandemic

Hayley Germack, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, leads a blog with two other members of the AcademyHealth Interdisciplinary Research Group on Nursing Issues that illustrates the important impact of recent policy changes on the ability of nurse practitioners to deliver care to vulnerable populations most impacted by the coronavirus. 

At Pitt, Germack has taught health policy, quantitative methods,and community based participatory research to undergraduate students and nurses. Her research focuses on eliminating the mortality gap for patients with serious mental illness by increasing access to primary care services, as well as examining the role of the interprofessional behavioral health and primary care play in providing holistic care to this vulnerable population.

Celedón in a dark suit

Juan C. Celedón named president of American Thoracic Society

Juan C. Celedón was recently named president of the American Thoracic Society for the 2020-21 term. Celedón is professor of Pediatrics and Medicine and chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at the Pitt School of Medicine.

His research focuses on asthma, COPD and health disparities in airway diseases. Celedón’s scientific contributions have been acknowledged through his election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, as well as through the ATS Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments, among other honors.

Yu-Ru Lin in a gray top

Research team receives grant to form AI system to debunk false COVID information

Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information (SCI), Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor in SCI, and Wen-Ting Chung, research assistant professor in the School of Education, have been awarded a RAPID Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a debunking system for COVID-19 related misinformation.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAPID Grants have been awarded to research teams to “mobilize the scientific community to better understand and develop measures to respond to the virus.”

“We rely so much on mass media and social media to get information, even more so during the pandemic,” said Lin, the project’s principal investigator, whose research focuses on using data science to understand collective behavior and social movement. “The mission of this project is to reduce the harmful impact of misinformation.”

Using machine learning and data mining, the team will create an AI system that identifies which false information is most influential, who is most affected by it and how to "debunk" the problematic information automatically in social media. Their debunking system will rely heavily on citizen journalism and crowdsourcing images that counter misinformation on Twitter.

“When people are used to consuming the same media sources or discussing news with people strictly in their social circles, they lose out on the opportunity to see alternative information, or other points of view,” said Chung, whose research interests include group bias and sociocultural factors on learning and motivation. "The system could be a learning device that helps cultivate people with a more critical view in discerning the features of problematic information."

Kovashka, whose expertise is in computer vision and machine learning, added, “What makes this interesting, is how it taps into the work of advertisers. It’s been shown that people will be most likely to click on something is when a post prompts an emotion—in this case it’s fear. Of course, computationally modeling what specific aspect of visual or textual content will evoke an emotion and what kind of behaviors it will prompt is challenging, so part of the goal of this proposal is to advance how we computationally analyze persuasion.”

The team expects to complete their project within the year.

Steven Little in a dark suit

Engineering researcher Steven Little elected into College of Fellows

Steven Little was recently elected to the Controlled Release Society’s College of Fellows. Little is professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

He was elected for outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of 10 years.

Little’s novel drug delivery systems mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation, allowing for dosages millions of times smaller than current treatments. These systems need only be applied once and then are released over a period of days or months, depending on the medication. Little also published research revealing a new immunotherapy system that mimics how cancer cells invade the human immune system to reduce the risk of transplant rejection.

Mary Marazita in a purple-blue top with a white collar

Dental Medicine researcher Mary Marazita earns distinguished professor Honor

Mary Marazita from the Pitt School of Dental Medicine was recently awarded the designation of distinguished professor in recognition for her internationally renowned, groundbreaking and widely heralded work in the genetics of craniofacial disorders.

The appointment of a faculty member to a distinguished professorship constitutes the highest honor that the University can accord a member of the professorate. The designation recognizes extraordinary, internationally recognized, scholarly attainment in an individual discipline or field. These individuals are expected to make special contributions to the intellectual advancement of their home departments and schools, as well as to the institution as a whole.

Marazita has published over 400 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 23 book chapters or monographs and over 500 abstracts. Her work has been represented in scientific journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature, among others. She also directs Pitt’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.

Daniel Kraus in black glasses and an orange patterned collared shirt

University Library System acquires Daniel Kraus papers

There’s a significant new addition to the Horror Studies Collection at Pitt. The University of Pittsburgh Library System has acquired the papers of Daniel Kraus—a prolific writer in the horror genre who currently lives in Chicago. It represents the first addition to the collection from a literary figure and author, thus expanding the scope of the collection beyond filmmaking as established through the inaugural acquisition of the George A. Romero Archival Collection.

Two of Kraus’ novels, “Rotters” and “Scowler,” received the American Library Association Odyssey Award honoring excellence in children’s and young adult audiobooks. He was asked by George A. Romero’s literary agent to finish Romero’s epic zombie novel, “The Living Dead,” which is set to publish in August of this year. Kraus also has collaborated with horror filmmaker and Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro, in co-authoring the novels “Trollhunters” and “The Shape of Water.”

“I’m the writer I am today because of George A. Romero,” said Kraus. “So, it makes perfect sense to me that I follow his giant footsteps in placing my past work with the University of Pittsburgh.”

The Daniel Kraus Archive, which will be processed later this year, will document the beginning of his career and includes works he produced as a child and teenager. It will also include manuscripts and drafts of his published works: “The Monster Variations,” “Rotters,” “Scowler,” andThe Life and Death of Zebulon Finch.”

Graham Hatfull

Graham Hatfull elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Graham Hatfull, professor of Biotechnology in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been elected a 2020 member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Hatfull’s work with SEA-PHAGES, a national program that teaches undergraduates students to discover bacteriophages, led to the creation of a phage cocktail that was used to fight an antibiotic resistant infection in a 15-year old lung transplant patient.

Hatfull joins a class of 276 new members that includes immunologist Yasmine Belkaid, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and singer Joan Baez.

“This is a truly wonderful honor, recognizing the tremendous efforts of the researchers in my lab and our collaborators over many years,” said Hatfull. “It is humbling to join an academy with such wonderful and distinguished artists and scientists.”

AAAS was founded in 1780 and its projects and publications generate ideas and offer recommendations to advance the public good in the arts, citizenship, education, energy, government, the humanities, international relations, science and more. In addition to more than a dozen current Pitt faculty members, AAAS membership includes Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost and Martin Luther King Jr.

— Pittwire