Murrell in a goldish tan top

Audrey J. Murrell giving keynote at national higher education conference

Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the University Honors College, is set serve as a keynote speaker at a national conference on student success, hosted virtually by Suitable on July 23.

The conference, Pathways 2020, will bring together leaders from across higher education to discuss ways to enhance student success initiatives and elevate the student experience.

Murrell’s session is titled, “Speaking From Experience: How To Construct, Launch, and Get Your Student Success Initiatives Funded.”

In addition to her role with Pitt Honors, Murrell is a professor of business administration in the Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, and holds secondary appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.

Swaminathan in a dark blazer

Katz co-authors win best-article award

A paper by Vanitha Swaminathan (pictured), a Katz Graduate School of Business marketing professor, and her then-Ph.D. advisee Christian Hughes has won the American Marketing Association’s 2020 Don Lehmann Award. The award recognizes the best dissertation-based article published in the Journal of Marketing or Journal of Marketing Research in the previous calendar year. 

The paper, “Driving Brand Engagement Through Online Social Influencers: An Empirical Investigation of Sponsored Blogging Campaigns,” co-authored by Gillian Brooks of the University of Oxford, was among the top three most-cited articles in the Journal of Marketing and among the journal’s most-downloaded articles in the past six months. Read a summary of the findings.

Swaminathan is director of the Katz Center for Branding. Hughes, now a marketing faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics and her Ph.D. in marketing at Pitt.

Heinz Chapel with pink flowers in the foreground

Swanson School receives $1.9 Million in awards From U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Program

Four researchers at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering have received a total of $1.7 million in faculty awards from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program, and two students were awarded a total of $168,500.

The awards are part of more than $65 million in investments the Department of Energy announced on June 16.

The Nuclear Energy University Program “seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities,” according to the DOE.

The awards went to:

  • Heng Ban, professor of Mechanical Engineering, director of the Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program: $300,000 for High Temperature Thermophysical Property of Nuclear Fuels and Materials

  • Kevin Chen, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Albert To, professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science: $1 million for Fiber Sensor Fused Additive Manufacturing for Smart Component Fabrication for Nuclear Energy

  • Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science: $400,000 for Multicomponent Thermochemistry of Complex Chloride Salts for Sustainable Fuel Cycle Technologies; along with co-PIs: Elizabeth Sooby Wood (University of Texas at San Antonio), Toni Karlsson (Idaho National Laboratory), and Guy Fredrickson (Idaho National Laboratory)

In addition, Jerry Potts, a senior mechanical engineering student, was one of 42 student students in the nation to receive a $7,500 nuclear energy scholarship. Iza Lantgios (BS ME ‘20), a matriculating mechanical engineering graduate student, was one of 34 students nationwide to be awarded a $161,000 fellowship.

Read more about the individual projects here.

Santucci in a black top with floral patterns

Julia Santucci named director of the Johnson Institute, Hesselbein Leadership Forum

Julia Santucci, a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, has been named director of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership and Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum. Santucci brings more than a decade of national security and foreign policy experience to the role and has held positions with White House National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Department of State. The Johnson Institute aims to produce professionals with the highest standards of ethics and accountability.

The Hesselbein Forum, within the Johnson Institute, provides a variety of opportunities for fostering and growing leadership, including the Leadership Program in International Affairs, which was designed and directed by Santucci.  

Mostafa Bedewy in a black suit and gray tie

Industrial Engineering’s Mostafa Bedewy earns NSF’s EAGER Award

Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, was recently given a nearly $245,000 EAGER award by the National Science Foundation to study a new scalable laser patterning process for directly growing tailored nanocarbons on flexible polymers.

The research will enable patterning functional nanocarbons needed for a number of emerging flexible-device applications in healthcare, energy and consumer electronics.

“The multi-billion dollar global market for flexible electronics is still in its infancy, and is expected to grow exponentially because of accelerating demand in many applications,” said, Bedewy, who also leads Pitt’s NanoProduct Lab. “Exploring potentially transformative carbon nanomanufacturing processes is critical for realizing cutting-edge technologies.”

Christopher Kirchhof in a white dress shirt

Christopher Kirchhof selected as NACADA mentor for emerging leaders

NACADA, an association of professional advisors, counselors, faculty, administrators and students working to enhance the educational development of students, has named Christopher Kirchhof, coordinator of Transfer Student Services in the Swanson School of Engineering, as a mentor for its 2020-2022 Class of Emerging Leaders. Only 10 mentors are selected internally, and Kirchhof was selected for his commitment to the program and his involvement and leadership within the organization.


Susan Whitney in a black top

Susan Whitney provides health recommendations to Department of State

Susan Whitney, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, recently provided recommendations to the U.S. Department of State.  She presented her expertise on vestibular disorders and concussions to the Standing Committee to Advise the U.S. Department of State on Unexplained Health Effects on U.S. Government Employees and their Families at Overseas Embassies.

Whitney provided guidelines and best practices on treating current patients/government workers and potential patients if this should happen again. This committee will be writing recommendations on how to deal with possible future incidents. The goal is to not have to pull workers from their positions in other countries if there are more episodes. 

Carli Liguori

Carli Liguori named finalist for American Society for Nutrition Translation Award

Carli Liguori, a visiting instructor in the School of Education, has been named a finalist in the American Society for Nutrition Translation Award Program.

The award recognizes “outstanding early-career scientists and clinicians interested in translating their research to a defined audience to improve public health and/or health outcomes.”

Liguori was one of four finalists chosen from a pool of 70 applicants for the award. In particular, Liguori, along with fellow School of Education faculty members in the Department of Health and Human Development, John Jakicic and Renee J. Rogers, were recognized for their study, “Changes in Dietary Intake with Varying Doses of Physical Activity within a Weight Loss Intervention: The Heart Health Study.”

In the study they found that following a calorie-restricted diet resulted in roughly the same amount of weight loss, about 20 pounds, regardless of a person’s level of physical activity. The team also saw that participants’ level of physical activity did not affect their ability to keep their calorie and fat consumption within bounds.

The team was honored at a virtual event held by the American Society for Nutrition in June 2020.

Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood in suits

Engineering researchers studying efficient data storage

Pitt engineering researchers Feng Xiong and Nathan Youngblood secured a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to study how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials.

The researchers will examine how certain 2D materials interacts with the light used in optical storage and gain a better understanding of its properties. This will allow researchers to advance technology and improve the use of 2D materials for high-speed, reliable and efficient memory and computation.

Both researchers are assistant professors of electrical and computer engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Richard Garland, left, in a gray hat and shirt, and David Harris in a black suit and red tie

Two Pitt professors named to Pittsburgh Task Force on Police Reform

Seeking to make “people-oriented solutions that make Pittsburgh a better place for all,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has convened a Pittsburgh Community Task Force on Police Reform, and two Pitt professors are among its members.

David Harris, professor of Law, and Richard Garland, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, join 15 others on the team. They range from CCAC President Quintin Bullock to various community leaders, foundation heads and neighborhood advocates, some of whom have been organizing recent Black Lives Matter protests.

Their goal is to review current police practices as well as police-community relations and deliver recommendations to the mayor by this fall.

“We need to focus on change that will give all people in Pittsburgh the kind of public safety they want so that everyone will feel safe,” said Harris, a national expert on policing and racial profiling.

Garland said he hopes to bring to the task force his years of experience working in communities that experience violence.

“I’m not going to be someone who rubber stamps something that is put on the shelf to collect dust,” he said. “I will push for immediate change and steps to assure the community is represented.”

Both men said what is needed is a total commitment from the mayor and City Council to make sure the recommended changes actually take place.

Five researchers win Pa. Community and Economic Development grants

Five researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through the Manufacturing PA initiative. The department has approved more than $2.8 million in grants to 43 projects that will “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector,” according to their press release.

“As engineers, we are applied scientists, and our singular goal in performing research is to produce public impact,” said David Vorp, associate dean for research and John A. Swanson Professor of bioengineering. “I am proud that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania saw the potential of these projects by our Swanson School faculty and their industrial partners to have benefit to their citizens.” 

The five researchers to receive funding at the Swanson School are:

  • Kevin Chen, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for Femtosecond Laser Manufacturing of 3D Photonics Components in Nonlinear Optical Substrates for Electro-Optic Applications

  • Markus Chmielus, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for Improving 3D Binder Jet Printed Tungsten-Carbide Parts via Strategies to Increase Green Density and Strength

  • Jung-Kun Lee, professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for Smart Crucible: Monitoring Damage of Crucibles by Embedded Electric Resistance Sensor

  • Albert To, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for A Computational Tool for Simulating the Sintering Behavior in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing

  • Xiayun Zhao, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, for Pushing the Boundaries of Ceramic Additive Manufacturing (CAM) with Visible light initiated Polymerization (ViP)

Janey Freburger and Sara Piva in black and white shirts, respectively

SHRS professors named fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association

Two professors in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences recently earned a prestigious honor in physical therapy.

Janet Freburger, professor, and Sara Piva, associate professor, have been named Catherine Worthingham Fellows of the American Physical Therapy Association, the highest honor among APTA’s membership categories. To be eligible, individuals must have advanced the physical therapy profession through frequent and sustained efforts for a period of no less than 15 years. They also must have demonstrated excellence in one primary domain, such as advocacy, education, practice or research, and made significant contributions, achievements or leadership to at least two other domains.

Freburger and Piva become the 9th and 10th current and former Department of Physical Therapy faculty members, respectively, to receive designations as Catherine Worthingham Fellows.

Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis in a black suit and white shirt

Giannis Mpourmpakis paper published in ACS Catalysis, featured on cover

New research from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions. The paper was published in ACS Catalysis and featured on the cover of the print edition.

Computational catalysis, a field that simulates and accelerates the discovery of catalysts for chemical production, has largely been limited to simulations of idealized catalyst structures that do not necessarily represent structures under realistic reaction conditions. 

The paper was authored by Raffaele Cheula, Ph.D. student in the Maestri group; Matteo Maestri, full professor of chemical engineering at Politecnico di Milano; and Giannis “Yanni” Mpourmpakis (pictured), Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor of chemical engineering at Pitt.

Frances Mary D'Andrea in a black and red top

D’Andrea provides national guidance on Braille code changes

Frances Mary “FM” D’Andrea, assistant professor of practice in the Vision Studies program in the School of Education, is working to ensure a smooth transition with the Braille standards in the United States by publishing a policy brief “Considerations for States Providing Materials in Braille,” which recently appeared in the National Center for Educational Outcomes.

The country’s Braille community is adjusting to major changes in the Braille code, with the old code, English Braille American Edition being phased out, to Unified English Braille (UEB).

D’Andrea is also the chair of the UEB committee for the Braille Authority of North America and has been a board member for more than 20 years. 

To ensure that future educators stay cutting-edge, the new Braille code standards are being taught in the Vision Studies programs at the School of Education. The school offers certifications in Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Graduates of the programs have a 100% placement rate and are employed all over the country.

Read more about D’Andrea’s policy brief and the Braille changes.

James McKone in a black suit

James McKone selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator

James McKone, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was selected as a Beckman Young Investigator by the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation for his work recycling carbon dioxide into useful fuels and chemicals. 

He received funding from the program to develop new catalysts and chemical reactors that can recycle carbon dioxide and other chemical wastes back into useful fuels and raw materials.

“We ultimately want to build a circular chemical economy — a sustainable approach to chemical manufacturing where every molecule that comes out of a smokestack or a tailpipe is captured and reused hundreds or thousands of times instead of being discarded as waste,”McKone said.

The Beckman Young Investigator program provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences. It challenges researchers to pursue innovative and high-risk projects that seek to make significant scientific advancements and open up new avenues of research in science.

Stein in a blue suit, white shirt and green tie

Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence donating printers to Pittsburgh businesses

In an effort to help small businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions, Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence recently coordinated a program to donate office printers to Pittsburgh businesses. Last week, the institute was able to begin distribution to more than 160 small businesses at a curbside pickup event at the Pitt Mailing Services building in Homewood. 

“Right now, it’s important to get these underserved and impacted businesses the help they need to maintain operations and grow during and after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bob Stein (pictured), executive director of the institute. “These printers will help small business owners work from home or at the office. The IEE is committed to helping Pittsburgh-area businesses during these trying times.”

The effort is being coordinated with Pitt's purchasing department and Pitt Mailing Services. It’s also being coordinated through a partnership with HP and University-wide contracted suppliers Supra Office Solutions and Office Depot.

Jeane Doperak in a light blue shirt

Pitt, UPMC team creates ‘playbook’ for return of youth athletics

A multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers at Pitt and UPMC has developed guidelines to assist coaches, athletic trainers and organizers with creating a safe environment for youth athletes, fans and staff as they consider a return to play.

The UPMC Youth Sports Playbook contains recommendations for establishing a minimal set of standards in several categories for resuming athletic programs, including pre-participation physicals, social distancing, equipment sanitization, personal protective equipment, acclimation phases, practice and competition tactics and illness protocols.

Among the people involved with the creation of the playbook are Jeane Doperak (pictured), assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and program director for the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship; and MaCalus V. Hogan, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and vice chairman of education and residency program director.

Pharmacy associate dean named to AMA advisory committee

School of Pharmacy Associate Dean Melissa A. McGivney has been appointed to the American Medical Association Health Care Professional Advisory Committee as an alternative advisor representing the Pharmacy Health Information Technology Collaborative.

McGivney is only the third pharmacist to serve on the committee, which advises the AMA’s Current Procedural Terminology Editorial Panel. The panel is responsible for revising, updating and modifying codes utilized in medical billing across the United States. McGivney will serve through June 2022.

Physical therapy faculty members to lead LeaRRn program

Physical Therapy Professor Janet Freburger and Assistant Professor Joel Stevans will help create and lead the Learning Health Systems Rehabilitation Research Network (LeaRRn), a national resource network to advance rehabilitation learning health systems research.

LeaRRn, a a collaborative effort of Pitt, Brown University and Boston University, will be funded through a $5.5 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.

LeaRRn plans to transform the delivery, quality and outcomes of rehabilitation care by creating a Learning Health System Innovation Hub that partners researchers with health care systems and engages stakeholders, including patients, providers, administrators, payers and policymakers to develop rehabilitation-focused LHS research questions. It also will provide funding and methodological/technical support for LHS scholars and pilot study awardees to transform research ideas into full-scale studies conducted in real-world practice.

Freburger will direct the LHS Innovation Hub and will lead the Collaborative Opportunities Component of LeaRRn jointly with Rosa Baier from Brown University School of Public Health. Stevans, will lead the Techniques Development Component of LeaRRn. 

Rose Constantino receives Nursing Hall of Fame Award

Rose Constantino, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, is one of three people this year to receive the American Nursing Association’s Hall of Fame Award.

The award recognizes individual’s commitment to the nursing field and their impact on the health and social history of the United States.

In announcing the award, the association said, “Dr. Rose Constantino is an outstanding teacher and a powerful role model. She has engaged in local, state, national and international nursing organizations and other health-related organizations through direct patient care, impactful committee service and program development. Dr. Constantino’s distinguished service and exceptional leadership have guided and inspired peers and students.”

She has taught psychiatric mental health nursing at the Pitt School of Nursing since 1971, during which time she completed a Ph.D. (1979) and a law degree (1984).

In addition to psychiatric mental health nursing, her teaching and research focus on family law practice and research studies on health outcomes of women who experience intimate partner violence and women whose spouses committed suicide.