Accolades

Adriana Kovashka in front of trees

Adriana Kovashka’s research aims to 'teach' computers object detection

Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor of computer science in Pitt's School of Computing and Information, recently received an National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop a framework to train computer vision models for the detection of objects from weak, naturally occurring supervision in the form of text or speech language and additional multimodal signals.

The framework considers dynamic settings, where humans interact with their visual environment and refer to the encountered objects, such as: “Carefully put the tomato plants in the ground,” and “Please put the phone down and come set the table,” as well as captions written for a human audience to complement an image, like news article captions.

The project will benefit society by exploring novel avenues for overcoming this challenge and reducing the need for expensive and potentially unnatural crowdsourced labels for training.

Karen Bursic in a blue top with a dark jacket

Karen Bursic wins Grant Award for best paper in the Engineering Economist

The Engineering Economist recently published an article by Karen Bursic, associate professor of industrial engineering and undergraduate program director at the Swanson School of Engineering, that evaluates a concept inventory to determine students’ learning in engineering economy courses. The article, “An Engineering Economy Concept Inventory,” was recently awarded the Grant Award, an award given annually by the Engineering Economy Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

“With all the changes in engineering education, like flipped classrooms or problem-based learning, it’s especially important to have an unbiased, targeted assessment tool to make sure students are learning important core concepts,” said Bursic. “The Engineering Economy Concept Inventory I have developed can help instructors understand whether the pedagogical changes they make to their course have been effective.”

Papers considered for the Grant Award are evaluated on originality, importance of the problem they address, logic and clarity, and adequacy of the proposed solution. The award includes a cash prize of $1,000.

Bursic will receive the award at the ASEE conference in Long Beach, California, on July 28, 2021.

Chad Jurica

Disability specialist Jurica receives IUP Impact award

Chad Jurica, disability specialist in the Office of Disability Resources and Services, recently received the Indiana University of Pennsylvania College of Education and Communications Impact Award.

The awards recognize College of Education and Communications alumni for their outstanding achievement in their profession, their engagement with IUP, and/or their leadership in their discipline or community.

Jurica was a member of the second graduating class from the IUP Disability Services program and was invited to be the commencement student speaker for his graduating class. Following graduation, he continued his education at IUP, focusing on Student Affairs in Higher Education. He has worked the past 11 years in a role of advising and disability support services.

In addition to his disability services responsibilities at the University of Pittsburgh, Jurica is very involved with Staff Council. He also sits on the board of Academic Success Advocates, a nonprofit organization supporting parents of children with special needs.

 

Wolfe and Gaskew named associate deans at Bradford

Angie Wolfe, who has spent much of her career working with and advocating for college students, has been promoted to new associate dean of student affairs and experiential learning at Pitt–Bradford. Tony Gaskew, professor of criminal justice, has been named the associate dean of academic affairs at Bradford.

Wolfe’s previous work at Pitt-Bradford includes serving as the director of leadership learning, service and advocacy and as the director of community engagement and the Harriett B. Wick Chapel. She also coordinated the Pitt-Bradford Academic Coaching and Tutoring Center.

She will continue as an active instructor in the Pitt-Bradford Freshmen Seminar Program, an instructor of yoga, and a weekly campus mindfulness meditation facilitator. She holds Master of Science in Education in community counseling from St. Bonaventure University and a Bachelor of Science in German and acting performance from Augustana College and Universität Passau.

In his role as associate dean, Gaskew will provide senior leadership in all matters related to the course curricula, which includes the scheduling of classes and instructor assignments, curriculum compliance, course evaluations, division and program reviews, and the development of new degree programs.

Gaskew has served as a faculty member at Pitt-Bradford since 2006. He is a Fulbright Hays Scholar, and has conducted critical ethnographic research in Africa and the Palestinian Territories.

A panther statue

United Way, Pitt partnership enhances regional database of community needs

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh collaborated to add PA 211 Southwest data to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) open data portal in an effort to provide a better understanding about community needs in the region.

The WPRDC was created in 2015 and is managed by the Pitt Center for Urban and Social Research, in partnership with Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. This new partnership adds the latest information from United Way’s 211 Counts dashboard directly to the WPRDC open data portal every day. The addition of 211’s data to the data already shared by the county’s 911 and city’s 311 systems provides a more comprehensive look at requests for services in the region.

“United Way's PA 211 Southwest’s partnership with WPRDC enhances their trusted database and provides an even greater centralized resource for information about the region," said Michele Sandoe, senior director of United Way's PA 211 Southwest. "Through this transparent sharing of up-to-date information, we are helping people find and use information to help their communities."

Over the last 10 years, United Way’s PA 211 Southwest has answered 1,102,843 requests for help (650,887 requests via call or text and 451,956 inquiries online). The top three needs across the region are consistently related to housing, utility assistance and access to food.

“Sharing the 211 data as open data enables people to start to look at service demand in context with other information. For example, people can now make a map of requests for food assistance by ZIP code and overlay that with information on grocery stores and food bank locations without first having to transcribe or scrape the data from the 211 dashboard,” said Robert Gradeck, project director for the WPRDC. “This is also a great opportunity for us to use highly relevant community level data in our efforts to build data literacy, and gives students and researchers another important dataset for research and teaching.”

If you or someone you know in the region needs help financially or with basic needs, contact PA 211 Southwest by dialing 2-1-1, texting your zip code to 898-211, visiting the PA 211 website, or accessing the web app.

Hands on a laptop

Spring 2021 Pitt Cyber Accelerator grant recipients announced

Pitt Cyber announced the 2021 awardees for its Accelerator Grant program. The grants provide initial funding for novel and innovative multidisciplinary efforts that advance Pitt Cyber’s mission:  to bring the breadth of one of the world’s leading public research universities to bear on the critical questions of networks, data and algorithms, with a focus on the ever-changing gaps among law, policy and technology.

Influencing Detection through Multimodal Discourse and Vividness Analysis 

Aim: To pilot the methods and ideas for extracting or completing agendas, detecting concerns and emotions, and modeling different types of vividness. 

  • Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor, computer science, School of Computing and Information 

  • Diane Litman, professor, computer science, School of Computing and Information 

  • Rebecca Hwa, professor, computer science, School of Computing and Information 

  • Malihe Alikhani, assistant professor, computer science, School of Computing and Information  

  • Yu-Ru Lin, associate professor, informatics and networked systems, School of Computing and Information 

  • Tessa Provins, assistant professor, political science, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

  • Jeffrey Cohn, professor, psychology, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

The Pittsburgh Data Jam: Increasing Data Science Education in High Schools

Aim: To test the effectiveness of a high school data science curriculum.  

  • Judy Cameron, professor, psychiatry, School of Medicine 

  • Bryan Nelson, assistant instructor, statistics, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

  • Thomas Akiva, associate professor, human health and development, School of Education  

Framework for Qualitative Research into Social Media and Misinformation:  A Relational/Ecosystemic Approach 

Aim: To develop protocols for conducting qualitative research into the dynamics of disinformation in social media spaces, ensuring that research is transparent, ethical and documented in ways that are consistent with data privacy as well as academic disciplinary standards. 

  • Lara Putnam, UCIS Research Professor of History, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

  • Rosta Farzan, associate professor and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, School of Computing and Information 

  • Mehr Latif, postdoctoral research associate, sociology, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

Modeling the Effect of Disinformation on COVID-19 Vaccination Discourse in Online Social Networks

Aim: To investigate and model how disinformation propagates through online social networks and how it affects discourse and beliefs related to COVID-19 vaccination topics. 

  • Malihe Alikhani, assistant professor, computer science, School of Computing and Information 

  • Dmitriy Babichenko, clinical associate professor, informatics and networked systems, School of Computing and Information 

  • Kar-Hai Chu, associate professor, behavioral and community health sciences, Graduate School of Public Health 

  • Michael Colaresi, William S. Dietrich II Professor, political science, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences; Pitt Cyber research and academic director; affiliate scholar, Intelligent Systems Program 

  • Jason Colditz, research project manager, PhD candidate and instructor, Institute for Clinical Research Education, School of Medicine 

  • Beth Hoffman, graduate student researcher, Institute for Clinical Research Education, School of Medicine 

  • Patrick Healy, PhD candidate, School of Computing and Information 

  • Jaime Sidani, assistant professor, general internal medicine, School of Medicine 

A panther statue

Business & Operations names Lancaster and Roadman to leadership roles

Victoria Lancaster and Rebecca Roadman have recently been named to leadership roles in Pitt’s Business & Operations.

Lancaster, director of HR shared services, will begin as assistant vice chancellor for operational excellence on April 1. In her new role, Lancaster is responsible for providing leadership and enhancing the performance of the B&O units, supporting the senior vice chancellor and the University as a whole, and maximizing organizational and overall workforce efficiency to align with the University’s strategic objectives.

Roadman, senior project manager in the Office of Human Resources, is now chief of staff to the senior vice chancellor of B&O, effective March 8. In her new role, she is responsible for mobilizing and working with unit leaders in B&O across the University and externally to connect, promote and make actionable the senior vice chancellor’s strategic and operational priorities. Roadman will provide essential leadership to develop employees and teams’ synergies across units and functions.

Melanie Königshoff in a pink and white top

Pitt consortium to research pulmonary fibrosis treatments

The schools of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Yale will lead a consortium to accelerate research into understanding and treatments of pulmonary fibrosis (PF). Pitt’s School of Medicine will receive a grant to develop and refine a new model to better understand the progression of PF and to identify possible therapies.

PF is a chronic, degenerative lung disease that causes lung tissue to become damaged and scarred, making it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Each year, 40,000 Americans die from PF, yet very little is known about the mechanisms of the disease.

Melanie Königshoff, visiting professor of medicine at Pitt, is the lead investigator of the consortium. “I wanted to understand how diseased lungs can look so different from healthy lungs,” Königshoff said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for a deeper understanding of and more effective therapies for chronic lung conditions. As more people recover from COVID-19, therapies for living with long-term effects of lung diseases have become increasingly important.

Peggy Liu against a blue background

Peggy Liu receives Society of Consumer Psychology Early Career Award

Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of marketing in the Katz Graduate School of Business, has received the Society of Consumer Psychology (SCP) 2021 Early Career Award.

The award “recognizes significant scientific contributions to consumer psychology by a scholar whose PhD was obtained in 2012 or later and emerging scholars whose research shows promise in shaping the field of consumer psychology.” Selection is based on nominations received by the SCP.

Among other honors and awards, Liu, whose research expertise is in consumer behavior,  was selected as a 2021 Marketing Science Institute (MSI) Young Scholar and was named among the Poets & Quants 2020 Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors.

“Within the business school, we have not witnessed such rapid and prolific progress from any faculty member in his or her first four years,” said Arjang Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration. “Peggy’s research productivity is simply in a class of its own.”

Read more about Liu’s most recent award.

Dean Kinloch selected for American Council of Education Fellowship

Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education, has been selected to join the 2021-22 class of the highly prestigious American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows Program.

The ACE Fellows Program is the longest-running, cohort-based higher education leadership development program in the United States. Many of its alumni are now university presidents and provosts.

“To be selected as an ACE Fellow is a tremendous honor, and I am looking forward to having an opportunity to engage, connect, and think with other higher education leaders and administrators across multiple institutions,” Kinloch said. “The fellowship experience will allow me to deepen my perspectives on, and approaches to, current, emerging, and ongoing institutional challenges facing higher education institutions in the country. My hope is to apply this knowledge to further strengthen administrative capacity, implement strategic and academic priorities, and enhance philanthropic engagements, especially with regards to our Pitt School of Education.”

Acceptance into the ACE Fellows Program is extremely competitive at the national level. The 2021-22 cohort has 52 college and university leaders. Eleanor Feingold, executive associate dean of the Graduate School of Public Health, was also selected from Pitt. 

Page Pennell in a blue jacket and white top

Page B. Pennell named chair of Neurology

Page B. Pennell will serve as the next chair of the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine, beginning July 1, 2021. She comes to Pitt from Harvard Medical School, where she serves as a professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Neurology, among other responsibilities.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, Pennell will work to continue advancing the neurology department’s mission, which is to accelerate understanding of and treatments for many neurological disorders and conditions, including ischemic stroke, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy.

Pennell has focused her research to date on patients with epilepsy. She has examined, among other topics, maternal and fetal outcomes of women with epilepsy, pharmacokinetic changes of anti-seizure medications concerning pregnancy and exogenous hormones, and the effects of neuroactive steroids on seizure provocation. 

Read Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine Anantha Shekhar’s full message announcing Pennell’s appointment.

Jen Brach and Vanitha Swaminathan side by side

Pitt researchers awarded grant to increase mobility program for older adults

University of Pittsburgh researchers recently received a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award to help implement and market a Pitt program to improve health among older populations.

The award will go toward “On the Move,” a group-based exercise program for older adults designed to target the timing and coordination of walking. The program challenges the brain to match the timing and sequences of people’s movements with their posture to improve the smoothness and efficiency of walking. The program was established under a previous PCORI award received by the University and proved beneficial in improving mobility in older adults.

Through the latest PCORI award, the research team will develop and implement a strategic plan to disseminate the program to community-based organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The researchers include Jen Brach, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Vanitha Swaminathan, director of the Center for Branding at Katz Graduate School of Business.

Donal Yealy in a black suit and white shirt with a purple tie

Donald Yealy wins 2021 AACEM Distinguished Service Award

Donald M. Yealy, professor and chair of emergency medicine, professor of medicine and professor of clinical and translational science, received the Association of Academic Chairs in Emergency Medicine (AACEM) 2021 Distinguished Service Award.

The award is given to a chair who has brought honor and distinction to AACEM by displaying outstanding leadership and significant contributions to the advancement of academic emergency medicine through leadership, education, research, clinical care, administration, public and professional service, and civic duties on behalf of academic chairs of emergency medicine. Established in 1989, AACEM’s mission is to enhance and support academic departments of emergency medicine as they improve health care through high-quality education and research.

Giuseppe Intini in a light striped shirt

Pitt researchers helping study bone health in space

The University of Pittsburgh is teaming up with medical device company RevBio, Inc. to study the effects of an adhesive biomaterial on bone health in space.

An experiment will take place onboard the International Space Station later this year, where the material Tetranite’s effectiveness on the bone healing process will be examined. A side-by-side experiment will be conducted on Earth to examine the differences between healing under both normal and osteoporotic conditions induced by the micro-gravity environment of outer space.

“Tetranite is a uniquely osteoconductive biomaterial that is also adhesive and injectable,” said Giuseppe Intini, associate professor of periodontics and preventive dentistry at Pitt, and faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who will serve as the principal investigator for this study. “If we are able to show that this novel scaffold can facilitate bone repair in space, new methods may be developed to treat or prevent bone fractures in osteoporotic patients on Earth as well.” 

Ivet Bahar in a light blue collared shirt with bookcases in the background

Bahar receives congratulations from Turkish consul general on election to U.S. National Academy of Sciences

 

Ivet Bahar, distinguished professor of computational and systems biology and John K. Vries Chair in the Pitt School of Medicine, was named to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in April 2020.

Earlier this month, the Consul General of the Republic of Turkey visited Pitt’s campus to commemorate Bahar’s achievement as the first female member of the National Academy of Sciences from Turkey by offering a gift and taking a photo of that exchange in the Turkish Room, part of Pitt’s Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. 

Bahar’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of functioning biological systems at multiple scales, from molecular to cellular and systems levels. Bahar is also associate director of Pitt’s Drug Discovery Institute. She received her PhD in chemistry from the Istanbul Technical Institute in Turkey and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Boğaziçi University in Turkey.

Editor’s note: A previously published version of this Accolade contained inaccurate information.

Freddie Fu in a black jacket and white shirt

Freddie Fu is the most-cited author on ACL reconstruction

A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine identifying the top 100 most-cited articles on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, the procedure to fix the most commonly injured ligament in the knee, found that the University of Pittsburgh was the most prolific institution of influential ACL research. Furthermore, Freddie Fu, chair of orthopaedic surgery at Pitt, was the number one author.

Researchers at the Central South University in Changsha, China, reviewed more than 17,000 articles on ACL reconstruction published since 1950. When they narrowed the list down to the top 100 most cited articles, the University of Pittsburgh was the most productive research institution, publishing 14 of these top 100 articles. Fu authored 13 of these, making him the researcher with the most total publications on the top 100 list. These findings reinforce the degree of international influence the University of Pittsburgh and Fu have established in the field of ACL research.  

Fu has been investigating the ACL since the start of his career, and has worked to better understand ACL reconstruction while also fostering the spirit of collaboration that allowed research at the department to flourish. In addition to establishing the Sports Medicine Fellowship program at Pitt, Fu has also served as the head team physician and orthopaedic surgeon for the University of Pittsburgh athletic department for nearly 35 years, and has been the David Silver Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine since 1998.

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis in a black top

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis earns prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine, is among 128 early career researchers receiving a 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“I am incredibly proud of the honor granted to me,” said Carvunis, expressing “immense gratitude” to her lab members, collaborators, the Pitt community and many supportive colleagues around the world.

“A Sloan Research Fellow is a rising star, plain and simple,” said foundation President Adam F. Falk. “To receive a fellowship is to be told by the scientific community that your achievements as a young scholar are already driving the research frontier.”

A Sloan Fellowship offers investigators $75,000 over two years. Carvunis promised forthcoming “ambitious and risky evolution projects.” Her research encompasses the principles that underlie change and innovation in living systems. She works at the cross section of evolutionary and systems biology to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that make each species unique, including the origins of new species-specific genes.

Keisha Blain in a black top

Keisha Blain awarded fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study

Associate Professor Keisha N. Blain from the Department of History in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences has been awarded a prestigious fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. 

IAS is one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The IAS collaborates with Princeton University and Rutgers University, as well as other nearby institutions. Previous IAS members and faculty include Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Clifford Geertz. During the 2012-22 academic year, Blain will be one of 25 distinguished fellows in residence at the institute's School of Social Science.

Blain will be writing a new book on the history of Black women and the struggle for human rights. 

Elaine Vitone in a blue top

Pitt Med's Vitone shares her science writing origin story

How do you get started in science writing? Elaine Vitone, senior editor of Pitt Med magazine and writer/producer of Pitt Medcast, recently shared her story with The Open Notebook, a nonprofit organization that provides tools and resources to help science, environmental and health journalists at all experience levels sharpen their skills.

Vitone, who earned her MFA from Pitt’s Writing Program in 2006, has been on the staff at Pitt Med since 2010. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including the inaugural Excellence in Institutional Writing Award from the National Association of Science Writers. She also mentors early career writers through the magazine’s internship programs.

Her latest feature story, “No Recharge for the Weary: Stress is an Inequitable Arbiter of Health,” was published in the winter 2021 issue of Pitt Med. Her latest podcast episode, “Like Daughter, Like Mother,” was released in February.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Professors win NSF award for project on public access to justice

Professors Kevin Ashley from the School of Law and Diane Litman from the Department of Computer Science were honored with a National Science Foundation (NSF) award, FAI: Using AI to Increase Fairness by Improving Access to Justice. Part of the NSF Fairness in Artificial Intelligence (FAI), their project works to improve public access to justice. Ashley and Litman are also professors in the Intelligent Systems Program and senior scientists at the Learning Research and Development Center.

Ashley and Litman’s project applies artificial intelligence to increase social fairness by developing two tools to make legal sources more understandable: Statutory Term Interpretation Support (STATIS) and Case Argument Summarization (CASUM). STATIS is an AI-based legal information retrieval tool that will help users understand and interpret statutory terms. CASUM summarizes case decisions in terms of legal argument triples: the major issues a court addressed in the case, the court’s conclusion with respect to each issue and the court’s reasons for reaching the conclusion.