Alyson Stover in a black shirt

Alyson Stover named president of American Occupational Therapy Association

Alyson Stover, assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was recently elected president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She will begin her three-year term on July 1.

According to school leadership, she is the first Pitt occupational therapy alumnus or faculty to ever hold this national position, and will serve as the face of occupational therapy to more than 100,000 practitioners. Stover's interests include using occupational therapy as a force for larger health care change, advancing occupational therapy’s national and global relevance and its role as a leader in policy development and implementation. Stover is also interested in access to care for underserved and underrepresented populations. 

"I am confident that I have the passion to fulfill these responsibilities with enthusiasm, innovation and unity for the profession,” she said.

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Five Pitt-UPMC faculty elected into American Society for Clinical Investigation

The American Society for Clinical Investigation recently elected its 2021 membership class, which includes five faculty members and clinical leaders at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. The society seeks to support the scientific efforts, educational needs and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists to improve the health of all people.

The five new members are as follows:

They will be officially inducted into the society on April 8 as part of the 2021 AAP/ASCI/APSA joint meeting.

Michael Goodhart in a blue shirt in front of a map of the world

Michael Goodhart named fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study

Michael Goodhart, professor of political science in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of Pitt’s Global Studies Center, has been named a fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study for 2021-22.

The Swedish Collegium aims to articulate the significance of the social and human sciences for an understanding of the contemporary and historical condition of humankind in its diverse global contexts. It is a global scholarly community where fellows pursue research of their own choosing in a context of interdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation, free from the teaching and administrative obligations of ordinary university life.

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Three Pitt professors named to National Academy of Inventors senior members class

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has selected three University of Pittsburgh professors among 61 academic inventors for the 2021 class of NAI senior members.

They are:

  • Bryan Brown, associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering

  • Michael Lotze, professor in the Department of Surgery

  • Kacey Marra, professor in the Department of Plastic Surgery

NAI senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have growing success in patents, licensing and commercialization.

“I want to congratulate Drs. Brown, Lotze and Marra on joining an exclusive society of academic inventors,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt and director of the Innovation Institute. “They all have demonstrated exceptional commitment to achieving impact for their research through commercial translation. Importantly, they have years of innovating ahead of them. We look forward to helping bring more of those discoveries to market where they can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Rosta Farzan against a dark background

Rosta Farzan to lead diversity efforts at School of Computing and Information

Rosta Farzan, an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information, was recently appointed associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the school.

In this new role, Farzan will look to create more inclusive space, provide scholarships and increase inclusive activities for students, using perspectives from the school’s students, faculty and staff. The role complements her research in social computing, which examines the interplay between technology and social issues, in the school’s Department of Informatics and Networked Systems.

“I became interested in diversity for this field during my graduate studies, including what ways we can increase representation,” said Farzan, who received her Ph.D. from Pitt’s Intelligent Systems Program in 2009. “It’s been a centerpiece for my research. I want voices in the school to be heard.”

Babs Carryer in a multicolored jacket

Big Idea Advantage Fund launched to support Pitt student entrepreneurs

Pitt students who want to explore innovation and entrepreneurship now have a new resource to help them bridge the critical period between the initial idea and having a prototype or beta version of their product or service.

The Big Idea Advantage Fund, a new resource by the Big Idea Center, part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute, will provide investments between $10,000 and $25,000 to Pitt students of any level—first-year to postdoc—from any part of the University. The first investments to approximately three to five student startups will occur this May. Moving forward, three to five teams will receive awards in both the fall and spring semesters.

“Since its launch in 2018, the Big Idea Center for student innovation has been building a suite of programs, events and resources that provide Pitt students with experiential innovation and entrepreneurship learning opportunities,” said Babs Carryer (pictured), director of the Big Idea Center. “Through the Big Idea Advantage Fund we can provide students who demonstrate exceptional commitment and whose ideas show commercial potential with critical early funding to support them before they are able to generate revenue.”

The Big Idea Advantage Fund is being made possible by donors who have stepped forward to accelerate the growth of student innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt.

Visit the Big Idea Advantage Fund website for more information.

Diana Khoi Nguyen in a light top in front of a body of water

Diana Khoi Nguyen wins 2021 NEA Literature Fellowship

Diana Khoi Nguyen, assistant professor in the Writing Program of the Department of English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in poetry.

Nguyen’s work includes traditional poetry and prose as well as multimedia and sculptural pieces. The excerpt submitted to the NEA for consideration comes from a larger project which includes video, plays, prose and poem pieces and focuses on the Vietnamese diaspora, family history and the refugee experience. She hopes to use the funding in part for post-pandemic travel to continue research in Vietnamese diaspora communities outside of North America.

Nguyen earned a B.A. in English and Communication Studies from UCLA, an MFA from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. She is the author of the chaplet “Unless” (Belladonna, 2019) and debut poetry collection, “Ghost Of” (Omnidawn Publishing, 2018). “Ghost Of” was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It also received the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and Colorado Book Award. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in magazines and journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review and PEN America.

A panther statue

Pitt professor joins Alpha Chi Forum on Race, Privilege and Responsibility

Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, was one of three panelists in a forum hosted Feb. 6 by Alpha Chi on race relations and social justice called, “Personal Perspectives on Race, Privilege and Responsibility.”

The three panelists included: Dwonna Goldstone, associate history professor and director of the African American Studies program at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; Justine Pas, associate professor of English and associate dean in the School of Humanities at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri; and Abramowitch, who focused on positive actions students can take to address diversity issues. The seminar was hosted and moderated by Lara Noah, executive director of Alpha Chi.

“And Justice for All…” is the theme for the organization’s 2021 virtual convention, and this event was planned to help raise awareness of these issues among the Alpha Chi community.

Alpha Chi National College Honor Society was founded in 1922 to recognize and promote academic excellence among college and university students of all disciplines, to encourage a spirit of service and leadership, and to nurture the elements of character that make scholarship effective for good. Alpha Chi is a member in good standing with the Association of College Honor Societies.

Corey Robinson in a dark top with glasses

Corey Robinson will focus on commuting alternatives with Parking and Transportation

Corey Robinson joined the Department of Parking and Transportation in January 2021 to focus on alternative commuting options for the University community. If you have questions about moving to more shared, active and low carbon commuting, she will be deploying and developing programs to assist you.

While completing her degree in sustainability at Chatham University, Robinson served in multiple roles reporting on and researching for Chatham’s sustainability initiatives. Outside of her new role as Mobility Specialist at Pitt, Robinson also maintains sustainable practices in her personal life, including growing her own food, composting at home and training to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., this fall.

Rosemary Hoffman in a light top against a multicolored background

Nursing’s Rosemary Hoffman wins educator leader award

Rosemary Hoffman, associate professor at the School of Nursing, was recently recognized as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Educator Award winner, given each year by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Commission on Nurse Certification.

Hoffmann is being recognized for her success with the post-baccalaureate CNL program (Model A), which led Pitt to creating an entry into practice CNL program (Model C) that will take effect within the next year. Hoffman will receive the award later this month.

“Dr. Hoffmann was selected for this award for personifying the idea of expanding the role of the CNL and being able to think holistically,” according to a statement made by the association. “She is praised by her colleagues for having a particular skill in challenging her students and peers to think bigger by using their credentials and skills as a CNL to become problem solvers and patient advocates.”

Paul Ohodnicki in a dark sweater and a dress shirt

Paul Ohodnicki receives $1 million grant to ‘innervate’ pipelines

Research led by Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1 million in funding to utilize Pitt-developed optical fiber sensor technology as the “nerves” of critical infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines, to mimic the principle of a nervous system. Ohodnicki also teaches in the electrical and computer engineering department.

The research will embed optical fiber sensors internal to the pipeline to create an “innervated” pipeline system that enables monitoring the integrity of the pipes through acoustic and vibrational signatures of defects. By combining the embedded sensors with artificial intelligence and machine learning and integrating into an overarching digital twin of the pipeline system, an “intelligent” pipeline can be realized that allows for targeted in-situ repairs of defects. It utilizes an emerging robotic crawler deployable technology, known as “cold-spray,” with reduced downtime and dramatically reduced repair costs.

The team also plans to develop an economic model for in-situ repair and sensor-embedded coating technology as well as a detailed set of modifications to the existing and standard regulatory requirements required for commercialization.

Zongqi Xia in a black suit and white dress shirt

Zongqi Xia named fellow for research initiative

Zongqi Xia, assistant professor of neurology and biomedical informatics, was named a fellow for Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s (RCSA) new Scialog initiative, “Microbiome, Neurobiology and Disease.”

Scialog is short for “science + dialog.” Scialog initiatives bring together early-career scientists from a variety of disciplines to focus their collective thinking on issues of global importance, awarding funding to promising multidisciplinary research projects.  

Co-sponsored by RCSA, the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation, the program begins with its inaugural virtual conference on April 22-23, 2021. Three yearly conferences are planned. 

Microbiome, Neurobiology and Disease will convene chemists, physicists, biologists, microbiologists, neuroscientists and bioinformaticians to explore our understanding of the gut microbiome and its relationship to the brain in both normal and disease states. 

Fellows are selected from multiple disciplines and institutions across the U.S. and Canada to maximize creative thinking and innovative ideas. At each conference, participants form multidisciplinary teams to design cutting-edge research projects, which they pitch to leading scientists who have facilitated discussions throughout the meeting.

A committee of these facilitators then recommends funding to seed the most promising team projects, based primarily on the potential for high-impact results. 

See the full list of Scialog fellows and facilitators

Lindsay Page in a pink sweater

Lindsay Page named national scholar of influence

Lindsay Page, associate professor in the School of Education and research scientist the Learning Research and Development Center, has been named a national scholar of influence in the 11th annual 2021 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, released by Education Week. The Edu-Scholar ranking names university-based scholars in the United States who had the biggest influence on educational practice and policy last year. Page was ranked 168th of a total 200 faculty members.

Given that more than 20,000 university-based faculty in the U.S. are researching education, simply making it onto the Edu-Scholar list is an accomplishment. Page joins widely known education research scholars, many with decades of experience in the field, such as Howard Gardner and Catherine Snow (Harvard), Linda Darling-Hammond and Carol Dweck (Stanford), and Diane Ravitch (NYU).

Page’s research lies at the intersection of college access and economics, with a particular focus on financial aid, college persistence and completion. She is a research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and, at Pitt, has secondary appointments in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences' economics department, and in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Page and her colleague, Benjamin Castleman from the University of Virginia, coined the phrase “summer melt” to describe students who intend to go to college but do not enroll in the fall, in their 2014 book “Summer Melt: Supporting Low-income Students Through the Transition to College.” 

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LRDC researchers to evaluate new Pittsburgh Promise Coaching Initiative

In December 2020, The Pittsburgh Promise awarded three Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) researchers a $325,000 grant to conduct an evaluation of a new program, the Promise Coaching Initiative.

Since its inception in 2008, Pittsburgh Promise has funded college scholarships for city high school students, investing about $140 million in more than 9,500 students. Not all eligible students take advantage of this opportunity, and the Promise wants to know why. Last year, the scholarship organization announced the Promise Coaching Initiative, a plan to place coaches in the three city high schools with the lowest Promise participation rates.

Jennifer Iriti, LRDC research scientist; Lindsay Page, associate professor of education and LRDC research scientist; and Danielle Lowry, an education graduate student, will provide feedback on the program’s design and implementation. The evaluations will also assess whether the program is achieving its goal of increasing the percentage of graduates eligible for and using the Promise scholarship.

The four-year pilot program will serve all students at the three schools but pay particular attention to those who risk falling below or are below eligibility. Students eligible for The Promise must have graduated from a Pittsburgh Public Schools high school with an unweighted 2.5 GPA and at least 90 percent attendance. The Promise coaches will help students develop their skills and interests, identify resources — financial or otherwise — understand their options and navigate the marketplace.

Katz MBA program ranked 30th in the world

The Katz Graduate School of Business’ Master of Business Administration program has been ranked 30th in the world — rising 23 spots to its highest ranking to date — in a new 2020-21 survey of full-time MBA programs by The Economist. The Katz MBA also ranked No. 13 among U.S. public universities and No. 20 in the nation.

The annual rankings are based on a combination of quantitative data provided by the schools, ratings by current MBA students and alumni on career opportunities, educational experience and personal growth, increase in salary and alumni networking opportunities.

“Top 30 in the world is an incredible achievement for our MBA program and for the Pitt Business community as a whole,” said Dean Arjang A. Assad. “The rigor, quality, individualized service and reputation of the Katz MBA is evident. And we have the rankings to support it.”

A stamp featuring an oil painting of August Wilson

New August Wilson Forever stamp unveiled with help From Pitt’s Library System

Fans and scholars of the late playwright August Wilson are celebrating the new August Wilson Forever stamp that was unveiled Jan. 28, 2021, by the U.S. Postal Service. It is the 44th stamp in the Black Heritage Series.

At the livestreamed ceremony, U.S. Postal Service Delivery Operations Vice President Joshua Colin called Wilson “a trailblazer who brought fresh perspectives and previously unheard voices to the stage.”

Others commenting on Wilson’s impact were his widow Constanza Romero; his daughter Sakina Ansari; actor and director Phylicia Rashad; and actor Stephen McKinely Henderson. The ceremony featured a number of images provided by the August Wilson Archive, acquired last fall by Pitt’s University Library System.

The new stamp features an oil painting of Wilson by artist Tim O’Brien, based on a 2005 photograph. The picket fence behind Wilson alludes to “Fences,” Wilson’s 1985 play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for its Broadway production. It was also made into a 2016 film.

“Fences” is the sixth play in Wilson’s acclaimed “American Century Cycle” — 10 plays set mostly in Pittsburgh about the African-American experience.

Watch the USPS ceremony, visit the archives and read more about the acquisition.

Scott Bernotas

Bernotas honored for sustainability work

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Scott Bernotas has been named an Environment + Energy Leader for 2020 (E+E 100), which highlights leaders and innovators taking action to improve their organizations’ bottom lines while advancing progress toward a more sustainable world for future generations.

Bernotas oversees Pitt’s Office of Facilities Management, which operates, maintains, constructs and oversees design of more than 130 buildings and all infrastructure on the Pitt’s 145-acre main campus.

Under his leadership in fiscal year 2020, the Oakland campus attained its lowest energy use per square foot since data tracking began in 2008. Overall, the campus has realized a 22 percent reduction in campus energy use since 2015, which moves the University closer to its Pitt Sustainability Plan goal of reducing energy use per square foot 50 percent by 2030.  This also keeps Pitt on track to meet its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2037 

The Facilities Management team also has implemented solutions to cut water consumption toward Pitt’s goal to reduce water use per square foot 50 percent by 2030. Water use on campus has decreased 13.9 percent since 2015.

Bernotas and his team also have partnered on expanding the University’s renewable energy portfolio, increasing Pitt’s renewables percentage to over 23 percent in 2019 — more than five times its 2014 level.

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Pitt faculty working with U.S. Air Force on materials research

The University of Pittsburgh will receive $313,000 from the U.S. Air Force for a broadband dielectric spectrometer through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP).

The acquisition was made by a five-faculty team led by Jennifer Laaser, assistant professor of chemistry, and includes Susan Fullerton, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. The new instrument, a Novocontrol Concept 80, will be used to measure the conductivity and dielectric properties of soft materials, which will help faculty at Pitt and surrounding universities conduct research ranging from ion gel materials for carbon capture to new materials for computing. 

“This instrument fills a huge gap in our ability to characterize the dielectric properties of the materials we use in our device research,” said Fullerton. “We focus on new materials and approaches for low-power electronics, and the equipment provided by the DURIP will significantly accelerate our progress.”

Tasha Alston in a black top and gold earrings

Pitt-Bradford names Tasha Alston as inaugural diversity and inclusion officer

Tasha Alston has been named Pitt–Bradford's inaugural chief diversity and inclusion officer.

“Dr. Alston is an advocate, scholar, practitioner and interdisciplinary thinker who will build on the critical diversity, equity and inclusion work that we have already begun as a campus community,” said Catherine Koverola, president of Pitt-Bradford.

Alston began her position last week and is a senior campus leader, serving on the president’s cabinet. Additionally, she oversees the University’s Title IX office and will implement programs, partnerships and activities to advance equity and success for all members of the Pitt-Bradford community.

Alston is a social worker and educational psychologist with more than 20 years’ experience. She specializes in research and community work that focuses on advancing equity and social justice for all, with a particular emphasis on children and families.

Sue Mesick in a red top

Sue Mesick joins Office of the Chancellor

Sue Mesick (CGS ’13) has joined the Office of the Chancellor as executive assistant. She brings an impressive portfolio of supporting senior leaders in her 35-year tenure at Pitt, including administrative leadership positions in Business and Operations, the Office of Economic Partnerships, the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel, and Budget and Administration.