April 23, 2019
Researchers earn NSF grant for autism therapy development
A Pitt research team recently received a $550,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new brain-computer therapy method to help people with autism.
The team is led by Murat Akcakaya, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, and Carla A. Mazefsky, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology in the Department of Psychiatry.
They will develop social interaction scenarios in virtual environments while recording EEG responses simultaneously in order to detect patterns that represent changes in distress levels. The virtual scenario will then present audio or visual cues to help remind them how to handle stress. The project will also develop new machine learning algorithms and neuroscience methods to identify EEG features associated with emotion regulation to classify between distress and non-distress conditions, and to distinguish among different distress levels.
April 22, 2019
Leanne Gilbertson receives early engineering educator grant
Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, was selected to receive the Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant from the American Society for Engineering Education’s Women in Engineering Division. The award recognizes her contributions to engineering education and will provide travel to the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference from June 15-19 in Tampa, Fla.
Gilbertson’s research group aims to inform sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. Read more about the award.
April 19, 2019
Mohammed A. Bamyeh elected president of Arab Council for the Social Sciences
Mohammed A. Bamyeh, professor of sociology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, was elected president of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences during its fourth conference this April. From its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, the council oversees the largest and most active social science network in the Arab region. It has supported hundreds of social science researchers in 22 Arab countries and among diaspora communities of scholars, through fellowships and grant programs.
Bamyeh has been at Pitt since 2007. His work focuses on comparative social and political theory and globalization, revolutions and social movements, Islamic studies, culture, religion and secularism.
April 17, 2019
Michael Kenney to contribute to report on countering extremism
Michael Kenney, an associate professor and program director of international affairs at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been commissioned by the British government’s Commission for Countering Extremism to contribute an academic paper to a comprehensive report on extremism.
Kenney’s contribution will explore the links between extremism and terrorism through a deep dive into the first UK-based proscribed Islamist group, Al-Muhajiroun. This is an extension of Kenney’s research into this organization, which is the subject of his recent book, “The Islamic State in Britain: Radicalization in an Activist Network.” Kenney’s paper will draw on dozens of interviews with activists and former activists, and hundreds of hours of direct observation of their activities over a period to several years.
His research focuses on Islamist extremism, terrorism and transnational organization crime. He serves on the editorial board of Terrorism and Political Violence, the leading academic journal in terrorism studies.
April 8, 2019
Robert Sweet honored by American College of Psychiatrists
Robert Sweet, a UPMC endowed professor in psychiatric neuroscience and professor of neurology and clinical and translational science at Pitt, was recently given the Award for Research in Geriatric Psychiatry by the American College of Psychiatrists.
Sweet is recognized internationally for his investigation of the mechanisms which lead to the generation of psychotic symptoms that are core features of schizophrenia, but also occur in about 50 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
His research suggests there are common genetic risk factors and vulnerable brain circuits that act together to cause positive symptoms across these disorders.
April 3, 2019
Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew receives lifetime achievement award
Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, an adjunct professor at the School of Medicine, will be honored with the Gateway Medical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Larkins-Pettigrew, who is a former president of the society, is a Pitt alum. She received her doctor of medicine degree, a baccalaureate degree in nursing, and a master’s in public policy and international affairs from the University. She is currently the Edgar B. Jackson Chair for Clinical Excellence and Diversity, heads the Office of Community Impact, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and is an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Case Western University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. She is also an assistant dean in the Office of Student Affairs at Case Western Reserve University and heads global health programs in her discipline.
She is the founder of W.O.N.D.O.O.R. (one door), Women and Newborns, Diversity, Outreach, Opportunity and Research, an innovative program that educates global physicians, students, residents and junior faculty through local and international health care collaborations.
The Gateway Medical Society is a component of the National Medical Association, whose objectives are to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health.
April 2, 2019
University’s retirement savings plan wins 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award
The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Human Resources is the recipient of the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award in the Public Defined Contribution category for the University's retirement savings plan. Pitt was recognized for its Write Your Own Financial Story communications campaign, education initiative and overall updates made to the retirement savings plan.
The Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success. Finalists are judged on a variety of factors including richness of program offerings, commitment to the program, leadership and innovation.
“We are thrilled for the University to again be recognized for our distinguishable efforts and commitment to developing customized educational programs to increase financial literacy, as well as help our generationally diverse workforce address their personalized needs and goals,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson.
The Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program is sponsored by PLANSPONSOR, a magazine and website that provides news and research for retirement benefits decision makers, and it recognizes retirement plan sponsors that show a commitment to their participants' financial health and retirement success. Pitt was among 38 finalists in 10 categories.
Read more about the University’s award-winning plan and the 2019 Plan Sponsor of the Year Award program.
April 1, 2019
Jeannette South-Paul honored by Pennsylvania governor
Jeannette South-Paul, the Andrew W. Mathieson professor and department chair in the Pitt Department of Family Medicine, was recently honored by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, first lady Frances Wolf and Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli at the fourth annual Female Veterans Day Ceremony in celebration of Women’s History Month.
South-Paul served in the U.S. Army for 21 years beginning with ROTC and retiring as a colonel. During her time of military service, she worked as an Army physician, her last duty station being at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
Her research focuses on maternal-child health, particularly teen pregnancy.
March 26, 2019
WISER celebrates 25 years in 2019
The Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation, Education, and Research, or WISER for short, is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2019.
WISER is an internationally renowned simulation center at the University of Pittsburgh that focuses on health care education, improving patient safety, and the professional development of simulation educators and technicians around the world.
The institute currently supports more than 60,000 hours of simulation and more than 2,000 classes, which impacts 5,000 health care professionals and trainees each year.
March 25, 2019
School of Education’s Cassie Quigley named PA STEM Ambassador
Cassie Quigley has been named a 2019 Pennsylvania STEM Ambassador.
The PA STEM Ambassador Program aims to “shape the future of STEM education in the commonwealth targeting vital policy conversations to legislative leadership in the areas of STEM Learning ecosystems, computer science, state and federal policy for formal and informal education, and workforce needs.”
Quigley, an associate professor of science education in the School of Education, received this honor along with 31 other leaders across Pennsylvania.
“Because of my commitment to improve STEM experiences for our youth, being able to sit at the table with the decision-makers allows me to help influence the type of experiences students will have,” said Quigley. “My hope is that students will be positioned to be change-makers in their schools and society, and STEM education is one way to do that.”
Added Quigley, “For the past five years, I have been working with my colleague Dr. Dani Herro to help teachers shift their practices, and I have seen the results in the students. Students are engaged, excited and informed about how to solve some of the most pressing problems in our world. Between this research, and the opportunity to work with Pennsylvania lawmakers, I am excited about the potential for our students.”
Quigley also has a new publication, “An Educator’s Guide to STEAM,” which was released in March.
March 22, 2019
University retirement savings plan receives award
The Pitt Office of Human Resources, in partnership with TIAA, is the first place winner of the 2019 Eddy Awards in the Plan Transitions category. Pitt was recognized for its implementation and communication efforts in updating the 2017-2018 University’s Retirement Savings Plan.
The University of Pittsburgh and TIAA, a leading financial services provider in the academic field, received this honor at Pensions & Investment’s annual East Coast Defined Contribution Conference on March 10-12, 2019, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Pitt joins 66 defined contribution communication campaigns that were honored for their efforts to motivate and educate participants.
“We are honored to receive first place in the Plan Transitions category at the Eddy Awards,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Cheryl Johnson. “Our team is proud to be recognized for the efforts taken to make improvements to the University’s retirement savings plan and to communicate them to the Pitt community in a way that honors our generationally diverse staff and faculty; recognizes that people are on individual journeys and need to be empowered; and, is accessible, motivational and educational.”
Read more about the award-winning plan and the Eddy Award.
March 12, 2019
Stephen Badylak named 2018 Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator
For his dedication to achieving impact through commercialization, Stephen Badylak has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Marlin Mickle Outstanding Innovator Award from the Innovation Institute. He is a professor of surgery at Pitt and deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
In his prolific 15 years at Pitt he ranks among the University’s all-time leaders in terms of invention disclosures filed, patents issued and technologies licensed. Earlier this year, Badylak became chief scientific officer of ECM Therapeutics, a new Pittsburgh-based startup company that has licensed a patent portfolio from Badylak’s lab and is seeking to commercialize those discoveries across a broad range of therapeutic targets.
More information can be found at the Innovation Institute’s website.
March 12, 2019
Health Equity director co-authors March of Dimes consensus statement on birth equity
Women of color are 50 percent more likely than white women to give birth prematurely, and three times as likely to die from pregnancy complications. Noble Maseru, director of Pitt’s Center for Health Equity is working to change that.
Maseru, who’s also professor of behavior and community health sciences at Pitt, recently co-authored the March of Dimes "Birth Equity For Moms and Babies Consensus Statement" to advance social determinants pathways for research, policy and practice.
Among the recommendations: Improve maternal death surveillance, expand research, engage in health system reform, empower communities through inclusion and change social and economic conditions.
Read the Consensus Statement on the March of Dimes website.
March 12, 2019
T-Cell project awarded $3 million by Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative
Gary Kohanbash, assistant professor of neurological surgery and director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery ImmunoOncology Laboratory at Pitt, was one of four researchers awarded a total of $3 million by the Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative to help fund primary brain tumor immunotherapy research. Kohanbash’s project involves interrogating anti-tumor T-cells to develop adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy for pediatric high-grade gliomas.
Kohanbash and an interdisciplinary team of investigators at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Children’s National and the University of California, San Francisco have developed a new method for identifying the most tumoricidal T-cell within a patient’s tumor. Using this approach, the team will isolate these T-cells from pediatric glioma and DIPG tumors, validate the safety and tumor-killing ability of these cells and develop a strategy for expanding these cells for re-infusion into patients.
If the project is successful, it could become a cutting edge, off-the-shelf approach in which a T-cell identified in one patient could be used to create T-cells that could kill tumors in a majority of patients with the similar disease. Long-term the approach could be used to develop a highly personalized strategy in which the most effective cytotoxic T-cells within each patient would be identified and used to creating millions of these as a therapy for that patient. Read more at neurosurgery’s website.
March 12, 2019
Moni Datta receives $300K award to develop quicker diagnoses technology for cardiomyopathy
Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier. Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming and expensive.
Prashant N. Kumta, the Edward R. Weidlein chair and distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormos, the Brack G. Hattler professor of cardiothoracic surgery.
Read more at the Swanson School’s website.
March 12, 2019
Public Health's Nachega recognized by African Science Institutions
Jean Nachega, associate professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases and microbiology in the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, recently received recognition from two Africa-based science organizations.
The African Academy of Sciences elected him fellow in recognition of his efforts to develop patient care, teaching and research around epidemiology and infectious diseases in Africa. In addition, the Academy of Sciences of South Africa — which aims to provide evidence-based scientific advice on issues of public interest — named him a member-elect.
February 27, 2019
Distinguished history professor examines historical context of Spielberg film
Marcus Rediker, distinguished professor in the Department of History, recently published an essay in “Writing History with Lightning: Cinematic Representations of Nineteenth-Century America.”
In his essay, Rediker critically examines Steven Spielberg’s film “Amistad,” and compares it to his own extensive historical research. Rediker says he found that Spielberg “distorted and omitted a great many important things about the ‘Amistad’ story, and that we must not leave the teaching of history to Hollywood.”
“My approach is called ‘history from below,’ which emphasizes the history-making power of ordinary people who are normally left out of the history text books,” said Rediker. “My account of the Amistad revolt stresses the power of enslaved people to emancipate themselves and challenge the institution of slavery.”
The essay also serves as a spin-off of Rediker’s 2012 book, The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom.
February 20, 2019
Pitt sets record for low employee injury rate
Pitt has set a record-low employee injury rate for the third year in a row.
The University’s 2018 employee injury rate fell to 0.94, calculated in incidents per 100 full-time workers, down from 1.04 in 2017 and 1.15 in 2016.
Pitt’s employee injury rate consistently has been below the national average for colleges and universities since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began its current industry classification system in 2003. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors workplace injuries and illnesses.
The OSHA recordable injury rate for colleges and universities held steady at 1.7 in 2016 and 2017. National figures for 2018 have yet to be posted.
Gregory A. Scott, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, credited a campuswide dedication to safety for Pitt’s positive trend.
“This achievement is the result of a conscious effort — by supervisors, faculty and staff — to create a culture of safety at Pitt by consistently considering safety in all activities,” he said. “Their commitment is making a measurable difference.”
February 20, 2019
John Wallace named fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare
John Wallace, Dave E. Epperson Chair and Professor of Social Work, has been named a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The academy is a society of distinguished scholars and practitioners dedicated to achieving excellence in social work and social welfare through work that advances social good.
Wallace does this in a number of ways, particularly in Homewood, the neighborhood in which he was born and raised. He is a co-founder of the Homewood Children’s Village and board president of Operation Better Block, both of which use community-based research to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable city residents. His Pitt-Assisted Communities & Schools (PACS) program enriches the education of Westinghouse High School students. Through PACS, members of a group of teenaged Justice Scholars are taking Pitt courses, visiting Pitt for college-prep workshops and engaging in community service.
Wallace, also the pastor of Bible Center Church in Homewood, helped launch the Everyday Cafe coffee shop in Homewood two years ago, partners with colleagues in business and engineering to lead the Direct Curent HEaRT (Direct Current Humanity, Energy, and Regional Transformation) initiative and plays a key role with programming at Pitt’s Community Engagement Center.
“I am humbled to have been inducted into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare,” said Wallace. “Having my work recognized by such an accomplished group of scholars is truly an honor.”
February 20, 2019
Healthy Lifestyle Institute leaders to give keynote at professional summit
John Jakicic (EDUC ’95G), chair of the Department of Health and Physical Activity (HPA) in the School of Education, and Renee Rogers (EDUC ’09G, ’12G), assistant professor in HPA, will give a keynote presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) International Health and Fitness Summit in March.
Jakicic, who is also the founding director of Pitt’s new Healthy Lifestyle Institute (HLI), and Rogers, who serves as HLI’s programming director, will jointly present on the scientific evidence regarding the health benefits of physical activity.
Particularly, Jakicic and Rogers will focus on “novel science that contributed to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” Jakicic served on the advisory committee that revised the guidelines.
“It is an honor to be asked by the American College of Sports Medicine to give a featured presentation at the International Health and Fitness Summit. As leaders at the Healthy Lifestyle Institute at PITT, we are passionate about translating research into practice,” said Jakicic.
Rogers added, “The opportunity to do this on a broader scale not only highlights the innovative work being done at Pitt, but allows for us to engage and inspire health, wellness and fitness professionals from all over the country.”