Diane Litman Elected Association for Computational Linguistics Fellow

Diane Litman — director of the Intelligent Systems Program, a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science within the School of Computing and Information and a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center—has been elected one of six new Association for Computational Linguistics Fellows for 2017.

The fellows program recognizes association members whose contributions to the field have been most extraordinary in terms of scientific and technical excellence, service to the association and the community and/or educational or outreach activities with broader impact.

Litman has been selected for her key contributions to dialog research, especially the application of reinforcement learning and multimodal analysis to tutoring dialog. The Association for Computational Linguistics began in 1968 and has since promoted innovative research in computational linguistics, the study of language from a computational perspective. Researchers such as Litman who are involved in this field are interested in providing computational models of various kinds of linguistic phenomena, and their accomplishments are incorporated into many working systems today, including speech recognition systems, digital voice assistants and text editors. 

Swanson School Dean to Receive Distinguished Service Award

Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering and Distinguished Service Professor of Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers—Pittsburgh Chapter with its Distinguished Service Award.

Holder will be recognized at an event in February for his contributions to the engineering profession and his legacy in engineering education. He came to the University in 1979 and served as chair of chemical engineering from 1987-95 and became dean of engineering in 1996.

“The University of Pittsburgh’s engineering program is one of the oldest in the U.S., and Dean Holder has helped to establish its national and international reputation for excellence,” said Scott Sukits, president of the society's Pittsburgh chapter. 

McGowan Institute Honored for 25 Years of Accomplishments

The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was given a citation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commemorating the institute's quarter-century existence and a 2017 Innovation Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times recognizing the accomplishments of the institute’s faculty.

The institute, directed by William Wagner, has been committed to its mission to develop technologies that address tissue and organ insufficiency since 1992 with the aid of over 240 affiliated University of Pittsburgh faculty members from 31 academic departments.

The institute celebrated its 25th anniversary in November.

H. Richard Milner IV Named to RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings

H. Richard Milner IV has been recognized within Education Week’s 2018 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings.

Milner is ranked 70th in the national list, which identifies the nation’s top 200 university-based scholars who are doing the most to shape educational practice and policy. Milner is the sole Pitt faculty member listed, and he is the only scholar named from an educational institution in Western Pennsylvania.

At Pitt, Milner conducts in-depth research on the impact race and poverty plays on educational access. He is considered a national authority on the barriers to educational opportunities for traditionally underrepresented communities.

A Pitt faculty member since 2013, Milner is the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education and the director of the Center for Urban Education, both within the University’s School of Education. Additionally, Milner also holds secondary appointments in Pitt’s School of Social Work, as well as the departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. 

Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Faculty Members Honored for Early Career Research

Two junior faculty members in the Swanson School of Engineering were among a class of 58 early career researchers recognized for their nascent research in energy storage.

James McKone  and Christopher Wilmer, both assistant professors of chemical and petroleum engineering, along with their peers were honored as new Fellows at the first Scialog: Advanced Energy Storage meeting in Tucson, Arizona, in November, hosted by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

According to Scialog, these rising stars participated in intensive discussions aimed at developing proposals for seed funding of transformative energy storage systems and novel research ideas to improve efficiencies in advanced batteries, supercapacitors and related systems.

Physical Therapy Professors Win State Association Awards

Two University of Pittsburgh faculty members from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences were recognized with awards from the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association.

Physical therapy assistant professor David Wert received the association’s Neurological Special Interest Group’s Award of Excellence. The award honors a member of the physical therapy association who has made a lasting contribution to the state of Pennsylvania in the field of neurology.

Vice dean and physical therapy associate professor Debora Miller received the Carlin-Michels Achievement Award, which recognizes her numerous contributions and accomplishments as a clinician and educator.

David Brienza Awarded $2.6 Million From the National Institutes of Health to Study Bed Sore Prevention

David Brienza, associate dean of research at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study which hospital-bed technologies work best to prevent and treat bed sores — pressure wounds that can lead to serious infections and death. The grant will be used for a randomized study of 800 patients at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore over the next three years to determine whether special mattresses that wick away moisture and circulate air under the patient are effective at preventing pressure injuries.

Education's Thomas Akiva Awarded $300,000 From National Science Foundation

Thomas Akiva, an assistant professor in the School of Education, has been awarded a grant of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation. The funding supports his efforts to study and enhance makerspaces — specifically, areas for children to create, build and explore with various tools and materials — within Pittsburgh-area libraries. Through the project, Akiva hopes to develop new ways support adults who work with youth in program settings.

A faculty member at Pitt since 2012, Akiva focuses his research on understanding and improving out-of-school learning programs by examining instructor practices, staff professional development and cross-program networks.

University Recognized for Its Commitment to an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Environment

Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that identifies LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, has awarded the University of Pittsburgh a Campus Pride Index score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. “The University is very excited about this recognition. It is a public affirmation of the University-wide efforts to make the University an inclusive educational and employment environment for all, including for our very important LGBTQIA+ community members,” said Pam Connelly, Pitt’s vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “We will use it as motivation to continually grow and improve.”

The score is based on policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. Among the many factors that contributed to Pitt’s score were student organizations, such as the Rainbow Alliance; the Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program; and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which led the recognition effort.

4 Researchers Receive New Initiatives Grants From Charles E. Kaufman Foundation

The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Charles E. Kaufman Foundation has named Tia-Lynn Ashman and James Pipas as recipients of one of its New Initiatives grants for their project “Pollen as the next viral frontier: Unrecognized threat to food security and native biodiversity.” Ashman is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution, and Pipas is the Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology; both are faculty members in Pitt’s Department of Biological Sciences. With their $300,000 grant payable over two years, Ashman and Pipas will unearth how pollen can transmit viruses between plants. Their research could have implications for the nation's food supply.

Michael Hatridge and Roger Mong’s proposed research on “Protecting quantum wires for quantum computing” was also recognized with a $300,000 New Initiatives grant, from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation. Hatridge and Mong are assistant professors of condensed matter physics in Pitt’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Hatridge and Mong hope that their research will help to make a real quantum computer feasible; a quantum computer would process information at a rate even faster than that of a supercomputer.


Pitt Cyber Resident Scholar Named Influential Figure in National Security

Kiersten E. Todt, resident scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, has been designated one of 2017’s Most Influential People in Security by Security Magazine. The annual honor recognizes top security executives and leaders who are positively impacting their industry and broader security landscape.

At Pitt Cyber, Todt is a part of the senior leadership team, playing an integral role in bringing the University to the forefront of national cybersecurity policy development. Before coming to Pitt, Todt headed up the national cybersecurity commission, which helped carry out then-President Barack Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan. 

Alison Slinskey Legg Awarded NSF Grant to Steer Underrepresented Groups Toward STEM Education

Alison Slinskey Legg, a senior lecturer in Pitt’s School of Biological Sciences, and 10 collaborating investigators have been approved for $300,000 in funding through the National Science Foundation's INCLUDES Program to encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM education and careers. Legg and partners from five Pitt schools will launch a pilot that recruits high school students for STEM precollegiate programs, develops a metric to evaluate those programs, credentials precollege STEM programs based on the metric and introduces a badging system to credit student participants.

Legg’s collaborators on the project are Alaine Allen, David Boone, Jennifer Iriti, Lori Ann Delale-O’Connor, Rebecca Gonda, Mackenzie Ball, Anne Sekula, Kellie Kane, Kashif Henderson and Lina Dostilio. Read more about the project at NSF's site.

Researchers Receive Grant to Help Women Make Informed Decisions About Sterilization

The University of Pittsburgh received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve the ability of low-income and minority women to make informed decisions about permanent surgical procedures to prevent pregnancy.

Sonya Borrero, associate professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the Pitt School of Medicine and director of the Pitt Center for Women's Health Research and Innovation, said the grant will help researchers develop and test a web-based decision support tool to help women better understand female sterilization and choose birth control options that align with their preferences, values and reproductive goals.

Professor Catherine Bender Receives of Oncology Nursing Society's Distinguished Researcher Award

Catherine Bender, a professor and Endowed Oncology Chair at Pitt’s School of Nursing, is this year’s recipient of the Oncology Nursing Society’s Distinguished Researcher Award.

Bender was recognized for her research in describing the effects of endocrine therapy with aromatase inhibitors on cognitive function in postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Her studies suggested that compared to matched healthy women, women with breast cancer have poorer executive functioning before they began therapy and that women who received aromatase inhibitors had significantly poorer executive function through the first 18 months of treatment. Bender will present her research results at the ONS Annual Congress next May in Washington, D.C.

10 Faculty Members Honored with Course Transformation Awards

Ten natural-science faculty members in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been awarded support for projects to improve teaching and learning strategies in their classrooms. The annual course transformation awards, given by Pitt’s discipline-based Science Education Research Center (dB-SERC), funded the following faculty in projects ranging from improving math education for chemists to incorporating more hands-on learning in environmental science classrooms: Kevin R. Binning, Walter P. Carson, Sungkyu Jung, Nancy Kaufmann, Kirill Kiselyov, Daniel Lambrecht, Lucas Mentch, David Nero, Eugene Wagner and Kyle Ann Whittinghill.

Read more details about each director and project on dB-SERC’s website.

Multidisciplinary Team Receives National Science Foundation Funding to Improve Transit

A multidisciplinary team of Pitt investigators has received a three-year, $1.44 million NSF grant to build and evaluate a marketplace and a mobile app for multimodal transportation. The marketplace will provide incentives such as discounts at nearby businesses to encourage riders to take a later bus if the next one is full.

The funding will enable the Pitt Smart Living Project to place additional multimodal, realtime transportation information screens around the city. A half-dozen screens are located in Oakland and Downtown in collaboration with TransitScreen, through seed funding from the University.

Principal investigators are Alexandros Labrinidis, Adam J. Lee, Yu-Ru Lin and Konstantinos Pelechrinis of the School of Computing and Information; Sera Linardi of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; and Kent Harries and Mark Magalotti of the Swanson School of Engineering. External partners include the Port Authority, Healthy Ride, the City of Pittsburgh, the Oakland Business Improvement District and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Nursing Professor Margaret Rosenzweig Wins PNC Caring Award

University of Pittsburgh professor of nursing Margaret “Peg” Rosenzweig has been selected as this year’s recipient of the PNC Caring Award. She was recently featured on CBS Pittsburgh's Sunday Business Page.

Rosenzweig was selected because of her involvement in the local community, which includes encouraging diversity within the health sciences. At Pitt, Rosenzweig is a representative from the School of Nursing on health science programming for urban high school age children. Rosenzweig also leads research teams to ensure women with breast cancer receive timely diagnoses, treatment and support across the cancer-care continuum. Although PNC sponsors the Caring Award, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Susan G. Komen foundation selects recipients.

Chuck Perfetti Elected to the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Charles “Chuck” Perfetti, a distinguished professor of psychology, has been honored by the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) for his decades of work to demystify how humans learn language. The director of and senior scientist for Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center has spent much of his career at Pitt studying reading and language processing at various stages, including adults who are learning to read Chinese. Perfetti was nominated for the FABBS honor by colleagues recognizing his legacy of scholastic contribution.

Pitt Alumna Chosen for U.S.-German Cultural Exchange Program

Pitt alumna Aditi Kumar (A&S '17) has been selected to participate in the 2017-18 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX). She is one of only 75 Americans selected for this cultural exchange opportunity, which provides one year of academic, cultural and practical work experience in Germany. In turn, 75 German students will spend one year working and studying in the United States.

Kumar, of Hillsborough, New Jersey, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, as well as a certificate in global studies and a minor in German studies from Pitt. During her time in Germany, she will complete a physical therapy internship, study at a German university and participate in an intensive German language course.

Established in 1983, the CBYX program is sponsored by the United States Congress and the German Bundestag, the country’s equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Four Undergraduate Students Named David L. Boren Scholars

Four Pitt undergraduate students have been honored with David L. Boren Scholarships from the National Security Education Program. The scholarships will provide up to $20,000 for Pitt’s winners to partake in extended study endeavors in Brazil, China, South Korea and Tanzania.

Katherine Andrews, of York, Pennsylvania, is entering her senior year as a political science major with certificates in global and Latin American studies. She will study Portuguese through the Council on International Education and Exchange in the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, beginning in January.

Matthew Eskuchen, of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a fourth-year biology major and chemistry minor with a conceptual foundations of medicine certificate, will study Mandarin at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in China starting in January.

Capri Gaines, of Randallstown, Maryland, entering her senior year as a political science and urban studies major and U.S. Army reservist, is studying Korean at the Korea University in Seoul, South Korea until December.

Nora Wagman, of Villanova, Pennsylvania, a fourth-year economics major with a global studies certificate focusing on global economy and Chinese, is studying Swahili through the African Flagship Languages Initiative in Arusha, Tanzania until March 2018.

The David L. Boren Awards for International Study are named for the principal author of the legislation that created the National Security Education Program in 1991. The program focuses on geographic areas, language, and fields of study critical of U.S. national security including sustainable development global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and environmental degradation. In exchange for funding, Boren Scholars commit to working in the federal government for at least a year after undergraduate or graduate school.