Db-SERC Leader Awards given to 12 faculty members

Twelve faculty members in the natural sciences departments in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences were recently awarded the Discipline-based Science Education Research (Db-SERC) Leader Award.

This yearly award recognizes and celebrates the contributions to the Db-SERC faculty learning community, which promotes and supports evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning in the natural sciences, and their active participation in many Db-SERC events during the past academic year.

 Db-SERC Leader Award winners (2018-2019 year):

  • Peter Bell, Chemistry

  • Russell Clark, Physics and Astronomy

  • Sean Garrett-Roe, Chemistry

  • Joe Grabowski, Chemistry

  • Ericka Huston, Chemistry

  • Kirill Kiselyov, Biological Sciences

  • Barb Kucinski, Psychology

  • James Mueller, Physics and Astronomy

  • David Nero, Physics and Astronomy

  • Welkin Pope, Biological Sciences

  • Jackie Powell, Chemistry

  • Brianna Reed, Biological Sciences

Find more information about Db-SERC here.


Michel Gobat headshot

History professor Michel Gobat honored by American Historical Association

Michel Gobat, professor in the Department of History in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, has been recognized by the American Historical Association with an award for the best book in Latin American and Caribbean history.

Gobat will receive the Friedrich Katz Prize for his book “Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America.

The association annually recognizes “exceptional books, distinguished teaching and mentoring in the classroom, public history and other historical projects.”

Carolyn Carlins Keller headshot

Education affiliate Carolyn Carlins Keller receives 30 Under 30 Award

Carolyn Carlins Keller, operations manager for the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate housed within the School of Education, received Pittsburgh’s 30 Under 30 Award given by the Pittsburgh Business Times in partnership with Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc.

The award recognizes leaders in Pittsburgh’s nonprofit and business landscape who “exemplify the creativity, passion and perseverance that have come to characterize western Pennsylvania’s new economy.”

The award recognizes Keller’s work outside of Pitt as the founder of Curio412, a consulting firm for mission-driven organizations including nonprofits, foundations and social businesses. In the School of Education, she coordinates, manages and monitors the various operations of the Carnegie Project, an international nonprofit consortium of more than 115 schools of education.

Willa Doswell headshot

Willa Doswell named 2019 Woman of Excellence by New Pittsburgh Courier

Willa Doswell, associate professor in the School of Nursing, has been named a 2019 Woman of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier.

The awards are given annually to 50 African-American women who have made significant contributions to the community.

Doswell will be recognized at a luncheon in downtown Pittsburgh on Dec. 12. She is also a member of the Internal Advisory Council for Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers.

Jill Krantz named to oversee construction of new rec center and other campus rec activities

Jill Krantz has been named the executive director of campus recreation.

Krantz will oversee the construction of the new wellness and recreation center scheduled to open in 2023 — one of the largest construction projects in recent campus history.

Additionally, Krantz will be responsible for the oversight and management of other campus recreation facilities, operations, personnel, budget, fitness, aquatics and outdoor programs, as well as programs and services including both intramural and club recreation sports. She will also support University-wide initiatives and events pertaining to student wellness. 

“Jill has the demonstrated leadership ability, professional knowledge and enthusiasm to lead the University in this next stage of campus development,” said Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner. “My team and I are looking forward to working closely with Jill as she gets to know Pitt and brings her own vision for how to best serve our students, staff and faculty.”  

“I’m honored to be joining the University of Pittsburgh and to be part of supporting its exceptional commitment to recreation and wellness,” Krantz said. “It’s especially exciting to be involved in helping to shape the future of campus recreation and to work with an incredible team.”

Krantz served for more than six years as associate athletics director and department director of intramural-recreational sports at the University of Virginia. Before her tenure at UVA, Krantz served as the facility manager at the Chilson Recreation/Senior Center in Loveland, Colo.; as a principal with GreenPlay, LLC; as the recreation and tourism director/instructor in the School of Business at the University of Colorado; and as the recreation supervisor for Onslow County, N.C. She is an active member of the National Recreation and Park Association and of NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation.

Still image from "Making Montgomery Clift" film, showing a circular viewfinder with images of the actor standing against a red-planked wall

Film professor’s ‘Making Montgomery Clift’ wins documentary feature award

The documentary “Making Montgomery Clift,” directed by Pitt assistant professor of film and media studies Robert Clift and his wife, senior lecturer Hillary Demmon, has been honored by the University Film & Video Association.

The film won the Silver Award in the Documentary Feature category at the UFVA 73rd Conference Award Ceremony, held recently at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.

“It was a great honor to have the film recognized by my academic peers,” said Clift, the legendary actor’s nephew, of the association's event. 

Clift and Demmon have spent the last year screening the documentary at film festivals around the globe. It has played at more than 50 venues, including at a packed house at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre during Frameline 43, one of the largest LGBTQ+ film exhibition events in the world.

The film is now heading to streaming and on-demand services. Check its Facebook page for how and when to watch.

Erv in Dyer headshot

Ervin Dyer receives Pulitzer Center international reporting grant

Pitt Magazine’s senior editor, Ervin Dyer, is the recipient of a 2019 Pulitzer Center international reporting grant. The center partners with individual journalists and news organizations to support in-depth, high-impact reporting on topics of global importance, including telling stories on problems that are often overlooked by mainstream U.S. media.

Dyer will use the grant to report from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on an emerging and innovative urban church and its pastor. He will chronicle how the church is helping to strengthen the congregation members and build programming to battle the forces of inequality and corruption.

Dyer earned a doctorate in sociology from Pitt studying African immigrant settlement into urban America and is an award-winning former reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He is also the founder of a storytelling collective that takes journalists, photographers and others to Haiti to share the voices of the ordinary men and women who fight back against oppression. 

“We know that poverty is a huge challenge for many Haitian citizens. This Pulitzer Center grant is important because it allows me to tell one story of how oppressed Haitians are challenging and resisting poverty to make their lives better," Dyer said. "There is a humanity in their resistance that we don’t hear much about.”

Headshot of Lauren O. Wallace

Lauren O. Wallace recognized on 40 Under 40 list

Lauren O. Wallace (BUS ’12, EDUC ’12G), director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, has been named an honoree to the 40 Under 40 List by Pittsburgh Magazine and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project.

The award annually recognizes 40 “outstanding” individuals who meet the age requirement whose “creativity, vision and passion” enrich the Pittsburgh region. Since 1998, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, educators, nonprofit executives and public figures have been among the recipients of this honor.

Wallace is also currently enrolled in the Doctor of Education Program in the School of Education.

Paul Cohen headshot

Pitt’s newest school builds its expertise with new faculty

New faculty members with backgrounds vital to building expertise in the School of Computing and Information (SCI) have recently joined the school, which was established in 2017 as Pitt's first new school in 20 years..

“SCI is very excited to welcome 18 new faculty,” said Paul Cohen, founding dean. “Each faculty member has a deep understanding of cross-disciplinary collaboration and a commitment to furthering SCI’s mission of making the world a better place through polymathic education and the science of interacting systems.”

SCI welcomed the following faculty at the start of the fall 2019 term:

  • Wonsun Ahn, visiting lecturer, obtained his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Samsung Frontier founding member. His research interests include computer architecture, compiler optimization, scripting languages, speculative parallelization and parallel computing.
  • Katharine Anderson, visiting assistant professor, models and analyzes the structure, formation and dynamics of scientific collaboration networks, skill diversity and synergy and the complexities of human capital. She earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan in 2010.
  • Amy Babay, assistant professor, focuses on modeling and designing new internet services with demanding performance requirements and on building dependable critical infrastructure systems. Babay received her Ph.D. in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in 2018.
  • Jacob Biehl, associate professor, comes to Pitt after a decade with FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Fuji Xerox’s computer science research laboratory in Silicon Valley, California. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008.
  • Seong Jae Hwang, assistant professor, concentrates his research on medical imaging, computer vision and machine learning with an emphasis on modeling disease progression. He earned his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019.
  • Stephen Lee, assistant professor. His research interests span several areas of computer systems, including distributed systems and cyber-physical systems, with an emphasis on domains such as smart cities, smart buildings and transportation. He earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019.
  • Eleanor “Nora” Mattern (SCI 14G), teaching assistant professor. Mattern returns to Pitt, where she earned her PhD, after serving as a librarian at the University of Chicago. Prior, she held a joint visiting position with the University Library System’s Digital Scholarship Services and SCI at Pitt. With SCI, she previously taught courses in preservation, archival ethics and metadata and archival access systems and developed experiential learning projects.
  • Luis de Oliveira, visiting lecturer, graduated from the University of Porto, Portugal, with a Ph.D. in 2016, with a thesis focused on wireless communications and localization for small teams of mobile robots. His current research interests are the preservation of reproducible software execution, real time communication protocols for teams of mobile agents and anchorless localization using RF signals.
  • Song Shi, visiting assistant professor, does research on new media interventions for development and social change initiated by activists, NGOs and the government as detailed in his monograph “China and the Internet: Using New Media for Development in Social Change.” Shi received his Ph.D. in communication and media studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013.
  • Xulong Tang, assistant professor. His research interests include modeling and designing high-performance computing and parallel computer architectures and systems. He earned his Ph.D. in computer engineering from the Penn State in 2019.
  • Lingfei Wu, assistant professor, is a computational social scientist whose current research aims at unleashing the power of artificial neural network techniques to overcome cognitive and social constraints of human knowledge creation. Additionally, Wu co-founded one of the largest non-governmental science associations in China, which is the incubator of three million-dollar AI startups in self-driving, natural language processing and urban planning.
  • Joseph Yurko, teaching assistant professor, has a background that spans both machine learning and traditional engineering applications. He comes to Pitt from Arconic, a manufacturing company, where he served as a data scientist. He earned his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additional faculty who joined SCI in the last academic year:

  • Kayla Booth, research assistant professor. Her research interests include diversity and social inclusion, social and health informatics, and social media. She obtained her Ph.D. from Penn State.
  • Matt Burton, lecturer, was previously a visiting assistant professor at SCI before becoming a lecturer. His research interests focus on infrastructure studies, data science, and scholarly communication. He holds a Ph.D. in information from the University of Michigan.
  • Timothy Hoffman, lecturer, is a former corporate trainer for software development and former assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University. His interests center on developing software tools to streamline the grading and administrative aspects of course management, along with tools to assist department researchers working on issues such as early identification of struggling students, tools for tutoring and remedial work for struggling students and the gathering of meta data relating to pedagogy.
  • Vinicius Petrucci, lecturer, was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He obtained his Ph.D. in computer science at Fluminese Federal University in 2012. 
  • Marcia Rapchak, lecturer. Her research interests span multiple areas and include information literacy, academic libraries, computer-supported collaborative learning and critical librarianship. She obtained her Ed.D. from Duquesne University and has several recent publications. Rapchak is the 2018 recipient of the Routledge Distance Learning Librarianship Conference Sponsorship Award.
  • Erin Walker, associate professor, completed her in Ph.D. in 2010 at Carnegie Mellon in Human-Computer interaction. Her research uses interdisciplinary methods to improve the design and implementation of educational technology and then to understand when and why it is effective.


Karen Enos

Former school superintendent to head Titusville training hub

Karen Enos, former superintendent of the Titusville Area School District, has been appointed interim executive director of Titusville’s new Education and Training Hub.

“I am so pleased that Karen has accepted the invitation to serve in this role and have no doubt that she will be a tremendous asset as we move forward with launching the hub at Titusville,” Catherine Koverola, president of Pitt–Titusville, said in a news release. “As an educator for more than 30 years, Karen has dedicated her career to ensuring that students reach their fullest potential.”

Koverola will introduce Enos at a community celebration on the Titusville campus at 1 p.m. Oct. 4, at which time Koverola and Pitt Provost Ann Cudd will give an update on the new Education and Training Hub.

Enos will work closely with the three partners that have joined with Pitt to further develop the hub. Those partners, the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center, the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College, and Manchester Bidwell Corp., will provide education and job training programs to meet the educational needs of the six-county region beginning August 2020.  

Enos, who served as Titusville’s school superintendent for 13 years, will serve in the role until May 31, 2020. A search for her successor will commence in the spring.


Bruce Childers

SCI’s Childers to add role in provost’s office

Bruce Childers, who currently serves as senior associate dean in the School of Computing and Information and professor of Computer Science, will take on an additional role in the Office of the Provost as special assistant to the provost for Data Science.

Over the next two years, Childers will collaborate across the University to develop policies and examine opportunities regarding data science. As a first step, he will help the provost to populate and charge the Task Force on Data Science. The task force will work to further propel Pitt’s educational and research mission through data in all its forms.

According to a message from Provost Ann Cudd, “Many academic units at the University of Pittsburgh recognize this need and are responding individually with initiatives around data science. We have a burgeoning variety of ‘analytics,’ ‘digital,’ ‘computational,’ ‘informatics,’ and ‘-omics,’ in fields as far flung as business, health sciences, social sciences, law, and humanities, as well as adaptive learning and student advising platforms. Coordinating and collaborating on these activities could leverage our collective ability, jointly build capacity to meet the demand, and foster opportunities for new interdisciplinary educational and research programs.”

Headshot of  Dana Thompson Dorsey

Center for Urban Education to house Educational Researcher journal

The Center for Urban Education (CUE) within the School of Education has been selected as the new home institution of the academic journal Educational Researcher

Educational Researcher is a publication of the American Educational Research Association. One of the journal’s goals is to “make major programmatic research and new findings of broad importance widely accessible.”

Dana Thompson Dorsey, CUE’s associate director of research and development, will be one of the journal’s five senior editors situated across the country. CUE director T. Elon Dancy II will serve as associate editor, along with Jennifer Russell, assistant professor of Learning Sciences and Policy and research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), and Lindsay Page, assistant professor of research methodology and research scientist at the LRDC.

The Center for Urban Education will house the journal from 2019 to 2022. It is customary for the assignments to rotate every three years among the top schools of education.

headshot of Toi Derricotte

Professor emerita Derricotte honored by Modern Language Association

Toi Derricotte, professor emerita in the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been recognized by the Modern Language Association with its Phyllis Franklin Award for Public Advocacy of the Humanities.

Derricotte received the award along with her colleague Cornelius Eady, with whom she co-founded Cave Canem, a national poetry organization that cultivates “the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.”

“The contributions that Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady have made in African-American and African Diasporic poetry are immeasurable. Their visionary work at the Cave Canem Foundation helped open doors once difficult to access for black poets.” said Dawn Lundy Martin, director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

“Derricotte made Pitt the beacon for African-American poetry and poetics that it is today, and we remain grateful for her lasting contributions —a gratitude that remains visible in our having a chair in poetry named in her honor,” said Gayle Rogers, chair of the Department of English.

The namesake of the award, Phyllis Franklin, served as Modern Language Association’s executive director from 1985 until 2002. Derricotte will be presented with the award at a ceremony in January.

David Birnbaum headshot, Kathryn Haines headshot

Two From Pitt receive grants from National Endowment for the Humanities

Two Pitt projects will get a big boost from grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • David J. Birnbaum, professor and chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was awarded an Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities Grant. The $249,456 award will support “Advanced Digital Editing: Modeling the Text and Making the Edition,” a two-week summer institute on the theory and development of digital scholarly editions.
  • Kathryn Haines, associate director of the Center for American Music in the University Library System, received a Landmarks of American History Grant of $169,803 to support “The Homestead Steel Strike and the Growth of America as an Industrial Power,” a two one-week workshops for K-12 educators.

The awards were part of $29 million total in grants to fund 215 humanities projects and programs across the country to “support vital research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.”

headshot of Maureen Porter, wearing black, blue and white patterned blouse

Education professor Porter receives Outstanding International Educator Award

Maureen Porter, associate professor in the School of Education, received the David Portlock Outstanding International Educator Award.

The award is given by the Pennsylvania Council of International Education and recognizes international educators “who have exhibited evidence of ongoing mentoring of colleagues in the field, exemplary leadership in international education on their campuses and consistent contribution to the field as seen in presentations, papers, publications or other academic enterprises.”

Porter, who has developed education projects around the world in countries such as Bolivia and Ethiopia, said the award is an honor because it recognizes how her programs have been sustained for many years.

“It shows that people can look to the School of Education as a destination for pedagogically sound and culturally inclusive international education programs,” she said.

Vélez Martínez to receive IMPACTO Award

Professor Sheila I. Vélez Martínez, of the Pitt School of Law, was named the recipient of the 2019 IMPACTO Award.

The award is presented by the Latinx Law Students Associations to a Latinx lawyer or ally whose work in the legal academy, judiciary, private practice of law, government, public service agency, or community organization has positively impacted Latinx communities.

Vélez Martínez will accept the award on Sept. 19 at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo headshot in blue jacket.

Bioengineering researcher Torres-Oviedo awarded grant to study stroke patients

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, recently received a $805,670 CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation to apply a novel approach to improve locomotor learning in stroke patients. 

Torres-Oviedo’s lab will record how patients with brain lesions perceive asymmetries in their gait, then measure how their perception is adjusted once their movements are adapted in the split-belt environment. In the second part of this study, the lab will use these data and a unique method to manipulate how people perceive their movement to create the illusion of error-free performance during split-belt walking. The goal is for patients to sustain these movement changes in daily life.

The project also aims to increase participation by underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. 

Cathedral of Learning with blue sky and white clouds in background

Pitt online master of science in nursing program ranks third in national report

Pitt's School of Nursing was ranked third in the 15 Best Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs for 2020 by Best Health Degrees.

The ranking website makes note of the University’s “cutting-edge” research in STEM fields like nursing, which “increases the prestige of such programs.”

“Few train nurses for clinical management roles as the program at Pitt does,” according to the ranking’s statement on Pitt’s placement in its annual list. “Nurses who want to advance to management roles but still work in the clinical side of nursing should consider Pitt to be one of the best MSN programs for their needs, and one of the top RN to MSN online programs overall.”

Ryad Benosman and Feng Xiong headshots.

Pitt researchers to create vision system mimicking human sight

Ryad Benosman, professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine who holds appointments in electrical engineering and bioengineering, and Feng Xiong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, are leading the effort to develop a neuromorphic vision system that takes a new approach to capturing visual information that is based on the human brain, benefitting everything from self-driving vehicles to neural prosthetics.

The project will receive $500,000 from the National Science Foundation.

The team will use a “spiking neural network” with realistic dynamic synapses that will enhance computational abilities, develop brain-inspired machine learning to understand the input, and connect it to a neuromorphic event-based silicon retina for real-time operating vision.

Education professor Shafiq to head prestigious international society

School of Education faculty member M. Najeeb Shafiq has been named executive director for the Comparative and International Education Society, which will now make its home at the University of Pittsburgh.

Shafiq, who is a professor of education, economics and international affairs, has been at the School of Education since 2010. He also has appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Economics in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences.

“The University of Pittsburgh is one of the world’s premier institutions supporting our field, having produced numerous CIES presidents and leaders since the late 1950s,” said David Post, president of CIES and a faculty member at Penn State University, in the official announcement.

CIES is a global association for educators and practitioners whose professional work is built on cross-disciplinary ideas, systems and practices in international education. The society has more than 3,000 members around the world.

The School of Education is expected to host events with leaders in the field, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Policy Institute, the RAND Corporation, and the American Institutes for Research.

“We will be at the forefront of where education policy around the world is headed. It really is an exciting time to be a Pitt Education student, alumnus, or faculty member,” Shafiq said in a news release.

Find more information here.