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
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.
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
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
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
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.”
February 13, 2019
Jonathan Woon named associate editor of the American Journal of Political Science
Professor Jonathan Woon, chair of the Department of Political Science, has joined a team of associate editors of the American Journal of Political Science, a leading political science journal and the flagship publication of the Midwest Political Science Association.
Woon also has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Experimental Political Science. His research focuses on political behavior, American politics, game theory and political economy.
February 11, 2019
Mark Magalotti wins award from Engineers’ Society of W.Pa.
Mark Magalotti, professor of practice in civil and environmental engineering and assistant co-director of the Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure, recently received the William Metcalf Award at its 135th annual Engineering Awards Banquet for the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP).
The William Metcalf Award, named in honor of ESWP’s first president, recognizes an outstanding engineer who is a resident of the United States and whose field of engineering accomplishment relates to those normally associated with Western Pennsylvania, such as steel, aluminum, power, coal, electrical equipment, chemical, glass, construction, etc. Thirteen faculty or alumni of the University of Pittsburgh have received the Metcalf Award since its inception in 1963, representing more than a quarter of all awardees.
February 8, 2019
Iris Marion Young Award winners announced
The Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program honored four from the Pitt community with the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement for outstanding efforts in social justice in the University, at the local or national level, or across the globe
The following honorees were recognized during a ceremony in January:
Crystal McCormik Ware, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives at the University Library System, received the 2019 staff award. Ware directed the Welfare to Work program in the School of Social Work, which trained lifelong welfare recipients with job skills and job placement at Pitt and UPMC, and serves as a founding member of the Greater Pittsburgh Higher Education Diversity Consortium.
Kari Kokka, assistant professor of mathematics education in the School of Education, received the 2019 faculty award. Kokka researches student and teacher perspectives of social justice mathematics and the longevity of STEM teachers of color in urban schools. In her teaching, Kokka incorporates social justice issues into course readings and assignments.
Dighan Kelly, a junior who received the 2019 undergraduate award, has been active with Pitt student organizations that register voters and research sexual assaults on campus. Kelly has served on the local International Women’s Strike chapter’s steering committee and as president of Pitt’s Planned Parenthood Club.
Medha Kadri is pursuing a degree in the School of Social Work and received the 2019 graduate award. Kadri has a master’s in health psychology and worked for a child-rights focused, nongovernmental organization in India that primarily rescued bonded child laborers and mainstreamed them back into school education.
February 7, 2019
UPJ President Spectar named to central Pa. business development list
Pitt–Johnstown President Jem Spectar has been named to the Pennsylvania Business Central top 100 people in business and economic development list.
The list honors men and women from a variety of industries within the Pennsylvania Business Central’s 16-county coverage area who have advanced the community around them through job creation, charity and hard work.
“It is an honor to receive this outstanding distinction by Pennsylvania Business Central,” Spectar said. “This recognition reinforces the Pitt–Johnstown commitment to developing a more distinctive, explicit and intentional Pitt-Johnstown signature and a first-class educational experience.”
Spectar has been president of Pitt–Johnstown since 2007. Previously, he served as provost/vice president and professor at Western Oregon University, associate provost and professor at the University of Scranton, director of studies and lecturer at Princeton University and assistant dean and associate professor of law at the University of La Verne College of Law.
February 4, 2019
Education, Social Work, CEC named finalists for challenge grant
The Schools of Education and Social Work, in partnership with the Homewood Children’s Village and Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in Homewood, have been collectively selected as finalists for the William T. Grant Foundation’s Institutional Challenge Grant.
The Institutional Challenge Grant “encourages university-based research institutes, schools and centers to build sustained research-practice partnerships with public agencies or nonprofit organizations in order to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.”
This proposed research project will “empirically demonstrate the impact of simultaneous parent and child interventions to improve key student educational outcomes — grades, school attendance, and behavior.” The Pitt-Homewood Children’s Village project is one of four research-practice partnerships selected as a national finalist. The winning partnership will be announced at the end of March 2019.
“This opportunity is consistent with our university’s focus on engaging in impactful work with communities, building and sustaining educational partnerships, and contributing to community engaged work and research-practice partnerships,” said Valerie Kinloch, dean of the School of Education and the project’s principal investigator.
Co-principal investigators are John Wallace, professor in the School of Social Work, Katz Graduate School of Business, and Department of Sociology; and Walter Lewis, President and CEO of Homewood Children’s Village.
February 4, 2019
Pitt professor helps translate Holocaust-era diary of Warsaw ghetto survivor
Oscar E. Swan, professor in the department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and advisor for the Polish minor, translated the memoir of a Warsaw ghetto survivor that has topped the list of new releases in Jewish Biographies on Amazon.
Swan met Leokadia Schmidt in 1972 and translated her diary from Polish to English. Schmidt’s journal recounts her traumatic experiences evading the Nazis with her husband and 5-month-old son, and eventually hiding in a tinsmith’s shed in the “Aryan side” of Warsaw. It wasn’t until recent years that Schmidt’s son contacted Swan about publishing his translation.
Swan’s English translation of “Rescued from the Ashes: the Diary of Leokadia Schmidt, Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto” comes on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
February 4, 2019
Pitt joins EPA’s Green Power Partnership
Pitt has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership. The program aims to increase the use of green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.
Currently, 15 percent of Pitt’s electricity comes from renewables. The University’s green power usage is equal to the electric power used by approximately 3,000 typical American homes.
To meet the goals of the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan, the University aims to produce or procure 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
Pitt recently announced its intent to purchase 100 percent of the power produced by a proposed hydroelectric plant to be built on the Allegheny River at the existing Allegheny Lock and Dam No. 2, just below the Highland Park Bridge. This is the University’s largest-ever commitment to renewable power.
The hydropower facility, which is expected to begin commercial operation in 2022, will generate enough electricity to supply 25 percent of the Pittsburgh campus’ electricity needs.
January 30, 2019
New documentary based on ULS initiative puts China’s Cultural Revolution in context
A new feature-length documentary is in production that will highlight the CR/10 Project — an ongoing University Library System initiative that records, preserves,and publishes video interviews with Chinese citizens sharing their memories of China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Launched in 2015 by the ULS East Asian Library, CR/10 illuminates a watershed 10-year period in China, where an attempt by Chairman Mao Zedong to protect the Communist Party’s purity resulted in a serious class struggle. From 1966 through 1976, universities and schools were forced to close; teachers and scholars were publicly beaten and tortured. The oral histories in CR/10 present a variety of memories — views not from scholars or politicians, but from the common man. The project began with around 30 oral histories and now hosts more than 100.
With funding from the Henry Luce Foundation, the 90-minute documentary, “Unreconciled Memories: Reflections on China’s Cultural Revolution,” will help put the CR/10 project in context. In addition to online accessibility, hundreds of DVDs will be produced and distributed in 2020, mainly for use in high school and college classrooms and conferences. The project’s academic director is Edward Gunn, professor emeritus of Modern Chinese Literature at Cornell University. He is supported by Haihui Zhang (pictured), executive director and head of the ULS East Asian Library, and Kun Qian, professor of modern Chinese literature and film at Pitt.
January 30, 2019
Adriana Kovashka receives funding from Amazon Research Awards
Adriana Kovashka, assistant professor of computer science, recently received funding from Amazon Research Awards for her project studying how objects foreshadow film plots and explain advertisements. She proposes to understand two artistic media — movie plots and advertisements — via the objects emphasized in movie frames.
“We propose to understand objects in film and ads through models that rely on common-sense knowledge extracted from: movies and knowledge bases. We use films as a medium to visually capture life experiences, including the context (i.e.objects) in which they occur,” Kovashka said.
This funding will help strengthen the relationship and collaboration between the School of Computing and Information and Amazon Research.
January 30, 2019
Pitt Cyber announces new affiliate scholars
The University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security has announced three new affiliate scholars — Rosta Farzan, Maria Kovacs and Ana Radovic — as well as affiliate practice scholar Keith Mularski.
Pitt Cyber affiliate scholars are drawn from faculty across the University and are selected for their excellence in cyber-themed research and teaching. Affiliate scholars are a source for transdisciplinary collaboration and innovation across Pitt and beyond. Affiliate practice scholars are selected from across industries and disciplines to be a source of practical experience and expertise for research, experiential learning and discussion.
Rosta Farzan is an associate professor at the School of Computing and Information where she researches social computing and socio-technical systems; studying how technology and people can come together to tackle major societal challenges.
Maria Kovacs is distinguished professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine and professor of psychology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences. Kovacs has been studying the role of emotion regulation in depression across the life span and in multiple generations. She is currently exploring research on the processing of disinformation and its affective context by youths and young adults.
Ana Radovic is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine. Radovic practices at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh's Division for Adolescent and Young Adult Health. Her research focuses on using technology in the real world to help adolescents with depression or anxiety access earlier treatment and support.
Keith Mularski is an advisory executive director in the cybersecurity practice at Ernst & Young LLP. He was previously supervisory special agent assigned to the Pittsburgh division of the FBI, where he worked to develop proactive targeting protocols for emerging cyber threats. Mularski has worked undercover to infiltrate international underground cyber-criminal organizations and led investigations with Pitt Cyber Founding Director David Hickton into the indictments of members of the People’s Liberation Army of China, the GameOver Zeus botnet, the Avalanche botnet takedown and other significant cyber enforcement actions.
January 30, 2019
Dental Medicine dean begins tenure as Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association president
Costello, who is also a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, said in a recent welcome message that the association will “aim to improve upon the notable successes of the past and innovate for the future.”
“The chance to help lead this organization is a rare privilege and I am humbled to have had the opportunity to work with such fantastic leaders,” he said. “ACPA is filled with people who know teamwork like no other organization that I am a part of.”
January 29, 2019
Jennifer Russell receives $1.4 Million grant to improve schools
Jennifer Russell, associate professor in the School of Education and research scientist in the Learning and Research Development Center, was awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for her project titled, "Conceptualizing and Measuring Network Health in the Networks for School Improvement Initiative."
The NSI Initiative funds organizations who will “support groups of middle and high schools working together to identify and solve common problems that best fit their needs, learning what works as they go and refining their approaches.”
At LRDC, Russell leads the Partners for Network Improvement team that specializes in the developmental evaluation of improvement networks. Other Pitt group members include scientist Jennifer Post Iriti, research associate Jennifer Shearer, and research assistant Christ Matthis.
January 28, 2019
Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence receives grant to help small businesses in coal-impacted communities
A $1.035 million Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant will assist individuals displaced by the declining market for Appalachian coal by providing job-search and business startup assistance through Western Pennsylvania Small Business Services for Coal-Impacted Communities (SBS) programs.
The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), part of the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, has received $285,000 for its part in the program and will match the ARC grant for a total of $664,950. The IEE will offer three programs through its Small Business Development Center:
- “Launch My Business” for startups and those thinking of starting a business due to displacement.
- “Planning for Profits” where business owners use the Business Model Canvas tool to analyze direct feedback from existing and potential clients for sales growth and revenue.
- “Decision Makers” in which business owners resolve issues in a confidential group setting.
It also will draw upon the expertise of PantherlabWorks, a resource for innovative companies seeking to bring new technologies, services and products into the marketplace.
“We have a long history of working with manufacturers, small businesses and individuals in communities affected by shifts in the economy,” said IEE executive director Robert Stein. “This partnership is an important outreach to communities where job losses have accelerated with the closing of coal mines.”
The SBS is a joint initiative of Pitt’s IEE, Innovation Works/Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. Working together, these organizations provide coworking spaces, accelerators and incubators to serve business owners, independent contractors and entrepreneurs in communities where there are limited resources.
January 28, 2019
Pitt–Bradford recognized as military-friendly school
The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has for the 10th year been named a Military Friendly School for its dedication to the success of veterans and their spouses. Among the resources that Pitt–Bradford makes available to these students are academic coaching and tutoring, an academic advising center and career and counseling services.
“The Military Friendly school designation is a reflection of the hard work and dedication made by so many different offices and people at Pitt–Bradford who actively help returning veterans and their dependents to be successful in their pursuit of higher education,” said James Baldwin, vice president of enrollment management at Pitt–Bradford.
Designated a recipient in the small public school category, Pitt–Bradford was one of just 766 schools to earn the designation among the nearly 9,000 schools evaluated nationwide by Viqtory Media (previously Victory Media). Institutions are evaluated based on survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, degree advancement or transfer and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.
The military-friendly designation aims measure and assess an organization’s commitment, effort and success in creating sustainable and meaningful benefit for the military community.