Giuseppe Intini in a light striped shirt

Pitt researchers helping study bone health in space

The University of Pittsburgh is teaming up with medical device company RevBio, Inc. to study the effects of an adhesive biomaterial on bone health in space.

An experiment will take place onboard the International Space Station later this year, where the material Tetranite’s effectiveness on the bone healing process will be examined. A side-by-side experiment will be conducted on Earth to examine the differences between healing under both normal and osteoporotic conditions induced by the micro-gravity environment of outer space.

“Tetranite is a uniquely osteoconductive biomaterial that is also adhesive and injectable,” said Giuseppe Intini, associate professor of periodontics and preventive dentistry at Pitt, and faculty member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who will serve as the principal investigator for this study. “If we are able to show that this novel scaffold can facilitate bone repair in space, new methods may be developed to treat or prevent bone fractures in osteoporotic patients on Earth as well.” 

Jen Brach and Vanitha Swaminathan side by side

Pitt researchers awarded grant to increase mobility program for older adults

University of Pittsburgh researchers recently received a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award to help implement and market a Pitt program to improve health among older populations.

The award will go toward “On the Move,” a group-based exercise program for older adults designed to target the timing and coordination of walking. The program challenges the brain to match the timing and sequences of people’s movements with their posture to improve the smoothness and efficiency of walking. The program was established under a previous PCORI award received by the University and proved beneficial in improving mobility in older adults.

Through the latest PCORI award, the research team will develop and implement a strategic plan to disseminate the program to community-based organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The researchers include Jen Brach, professor of physical therapy in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Vanitha Swaminathan, director of the Center for Branding at Katz Graduate School of Business.

Freddie Fu in a black jacket and white shirt

Freddie Fu is the most-cited author on ACL reconstruction

A study published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine identifying the top 100 most-cited articles on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, the procedure to fix the most commonly injured ligament in the knee, found that the University of Pittsburgh was the most prolific institution of influential ACL research. Furthermore, Freddie Fu, chair of orthopaedic surgery at Pitt, was the number one author.

Researchers at the Central South University in Changsha, China, reviewed more than 17,000 articles on ACL reconstruction published since 1950. When they narrowed the list down to the top 100 most cited articles, the University of Pittsburgh was the most productive research institution, publishing 14 of these top 100 articles. Fu authored 13 of these, making him the researcher with the most total publications on the top 100 list. These findings reinforce the degree of international influence the University of Pittsburgh and Fu have established in the field of ACL research.  

Fu has been investigating the ACL since the start of his career, and has worked to better understand ACL reconstruction while also fostering the spirit of collaboration that allowed research at the department to flourish. In addition to establishing the Sports Medicine Fellowship program at Pitt, Fu has also served as the head team physician and orthopaedic surgeon for the University of Pittsburgh athletic department for nearly 35 years, and has been the David Silver Professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine since 1998.

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis in a black top

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis earns prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

Anne-Ruxandra Carvunis, assistant professor of computational and systems biology in the School of Medicine, is among 128 early career researchers receiving a 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“I am incredibly proud of the honor granted to me,” said Carvunis, expressing “immense gratitude” to her lab members, collaborators, the Pitt community and many supportive colleagues around the world.

“A Sloan Research Fellow is a rising star, plain and simple,” said foundation President Adam F. Falk. “To receive a fellowship is to be told by the scientific community that your achievements as a young scholar are already driving the research frontier.”

A Sloan Fellowship offers investigators $75,000 over two years. Carvunis promised forthcoming “ambitious and risky evolution projects.” Her research encompasses the principles that underlie change and innovation in living systems. She works at the cross section of evolutionary and systems biology to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that make each species unique, including the origins of new species-specific genes.

Keisha Blain in a black top

Keisha Blain awarded fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study

Associate Professor Keisha N. Blain from the Department of History in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences has been awarded a prestigious fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. 

IAS is one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The IAS collaborates with Princeton University and Rutgers University, as well as other nearby institutions. Previous IAS members and faculty include Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Clifford Geertz. During the 2012-22 academic year, Blain will be one of 25 distinguished fellows in residence at the institute's School of Social Science.

Blain will be writing a new book on the history of Black women and the struggle for human rights. 

Elaine Vitone in a blue top

Pitt Med's Vitone shares her science writing origin story

How do you get started in science writing? Elaine Vitone, senior editor of Pitt Med magazine and writer/producer of Pitt Medcast, recently shared her story with The Open Notebook, a nonprofit organization that provides tools and resources to help science, environmental and health journalists at all experience levels sharpen their skills.

Vitone, who earned her MFA from Pitt’s Writing Program in 2006, has been on the staff at Pitt Med since 2010. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including the inaugural Excellence in Institutional Writing Award from the National Association of Science Writers. She also mentors early career writers through the magazine’s internship programs.

Her latest feature story, “No Recharge for the Weary: Stress is an Inequitable Arbiter of Health,” was published in the winter 2021 issue of Pitt Med. Her latest podcast episode, “Like Daughter, Like Mother,” was released in February.

A student in a blue shirt writing

Teaching Center’s 2020 Advancing Educational Excellence awardees announced

Nine Pitt staff members earned the University Center for Teaching and Learning’s 2020 Advancing Educational Excellence Award.

Andrew P.K. Bentley (instructional designer), Lex Drozd (instructional designer), Max Glider (learning space services coordinator), Joy Hart (senior program coordinator), Cressida Magaro (assistant manager of educational software consulting) and Team Testing (Sue Richardson, manager, and testing coordinators Joe Hogle, Brandon Styer and Eric Weaver) all received the award.

The annual honor is a peer-driven award that recognizes teaching center staff members who exemplify the values of the center, demonstrate a positive attitude and commitment to responsibilities and make above and beyond contributions to the University.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Professors win NSF award for project on public access to justice

Professors Kevin Ashley from the School of Law and Diane Litman from the Department of Computer Science were honored with a National Science Foundation (NSF) award, FAI: Using AI to Increase Fairness by Improving Access to Justice. Part of the NSF Fairness in Artificial Intelligence (FAI), their project works to improve public access to justice. Ashley and Litman are also professors in the Intelligent Systems Program and senior scientists at the Learning Research and Development Center.

Ashley and Litman’s project applies artificial intelligence to increase social fairness by developing two tools to make legal sources more understandable: Statutory Term Interpretation Support (STATIS) and Case Argument Summarization (CASUM). STATIS is an AI-based legal information retrieval tool that will help users understand and interpret statutory terms. CASUM summarizes case decisions in terms of legal argument triples: the major issues a court addressed in the case, the court’s conclusion with respect to each issue and the court’s reasons for reaching the conclusion.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Six Pitt dining locations designated ‘Live Well Allegheny’ restaurants

Five campus dining locations have become Live Well Allegheny Restaurants: The Eatery at The Towers, Schenley Cafe, Cathedral Cafe, plus Pitt Subs and Shake Smart at the Petersen Events Center.

They join The Perch at Sutherland, which became Pitt’s first Live Well Allegheny Restaurant location in 2019.

This designation by the Allegheny County Health Department is part of its Live Well Allegheny initiative for improving the health and wellness of county residents. Municipalities, school districts, restaurants and workplaces in Allegheny County may commit to the campaign, which highlights the importance of increasing physical activity and healthy eating, and of taking a proactive approach to health. 

The University of Pittsburgh has been a Live Well Allegheny Workplace since 2017.

Live Well Allegheny Restaurants recognizes restaurants or food businesses that have eliminated trans-fat oils, are smoke free and do not sell tobacco products, and that take additional action steps toward improving good health.

On campus, the additional actions include providing calorie counts and nutritional information; offering low-calorie alternatives; vegetarian and vegan fare; healthful side dish choices that include fruits or vegetables; low-calorie salad dressings; brown rice and whole grain options; using plant-based oils and providing bicycle parking nearby.

Alyson Stover in a black shirt

Alyson Stover named president of American Occupational Therapy Association

Alyson Stover, assistant professor of occupational therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, was recently elected president of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She will begin her three-year term on July 1.

According to school leadership, she is the first Pitt occupational therapy alumnus or faculty to ever hold this national position, and will serve as the face of occupational therapy to more than 100,000 practitioners. Stover's interests include using occupational therapy as a force for larger health care change, advancing occupational therapy’s national and global relevance and its role as a leader in policy development and implementation. Stover is also interested in access to care for underserved and underrepresented populations. 

"I am confident that I have the passion to fulfill these responsibilities with enthusiasm, innovation and unity for the profession,” she said.

The Cathedral of Learning

Five Pitt-UPMC faculty elected into American Society for Clinical Investigation

The American Society for Clinical Investigation recently elected its 2021 membership class, which includes five faculty members and clinical leaders at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. The society seeks to support the scientific efforts, educational needs and clinical aspirations of physician-scientists to improve the health of all people.

The five new members are as follows:

They will be officially inducted into the society on April 8 as part of the 2021 AAP/ASCI/APSA joint meeting.

Michael Goodhart in a blue shirt in front of a map of the world

Michael Goodhart named fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study

Michael Goodhart, professor of political science in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and director of Pitt’s Global Studies Center, has been named a fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study for 2021-22.

The Swedish Collegium aims to articulate the significance of the social and human sciences for an understanding of the contemporary and historical condition of humankind in its diverse global contexts. It is a global scholarly community where fellows pursue research of their own choosing in a context of interdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation, free from the teaching and administrative obligations of ordinary university life.

Babs Carryer in a multicolored jacket

Big Idea Advantage Fund launched to support Pitt student entrepreneurs

Pitt students who want to explore innovation and entrepreneurship now have a new resource to help them bridge the critical period between the initial idea and having a prototype or beta version of their product or service.

The Big Idea Advantage Fund, a new resource by the Big Idea Center, part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute, will provide investments between $10,000 and $25,000 to Pitt students of any level—first-year to postdoc—from any part of the University. The first investments to approximately three to five student startups will occur this May. Moving forward, three to five teams will receive awards in both the fall and spring semesters.

“Since its launch in 2018, the Big Idea Center for student innovation has been building a suite of programs, events and resources that provide Pitt students with experiential innovation and entrepreneurship learning opportunities,” said Babs Carryer (pictured), director of the Big Idea Center. “Through the Big Idea Advantage Fund we can provide students who demonstrate exceptional commitment and whose ideas show commercial potential with critical early funding to support them before they are able to generate revenue.”

The Big Idea Advantage Fund is being made possible by donors who have stepped forward to accelerate the growth of student innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt.

Visit the Big Idea Advantage Fund website for more information.

The Cathedral of Learning behind flowers

Three Pitt professors named to National Academy of Inventors senior members class

The National Academy of Inventors (NAI) has selected three University of Pittsburgh professors among 61 academic inventors for the 2021 class of NAI senior members.

They are:

  • Bryan Brown, associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering

  • Michael Lotze, professor in the Department of Surgery

  • Kacey Marra, professor in the Department of Plastic Surgery

NAI senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have growing success in patents, licensing and commercialization.

“I want to congratulate Drs. Brown, Lotze and Marra on joining an exclusive society of academic inventors,” said Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt and director of the Innovation Institute. “They all have demonstrated exceptional commitment to achieving impact for their research through commercial translation. Importantly, they have years of innovating ahead of them. We look forward to helping bring more of those discoveries to market where they can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Rosta Farzan against a dark background

Rosta Farzan to lead diversity efforts at School of Computing and Information

Rosta Farzan, an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information, was recently appointed associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the school.

In this new role, Farzan will look to create more inclusive space, provide scholarships and increase inclusive activities for students, using perspectives from the school’s students, faculty and staff. The role complements her research in social computing, which examines the interplay between technology and social issues, in the school’s Department of Informatics and Networked Systems.

“I became interested in diversity for this field during my graduate studies, including what ways we can increase representation,” said Farzan, who received her Ph.D. from Pitt’s Intelligent Systems Program in 2009. “It’s been a centerpiece for my research. I want voices in the school to be heard.”

Diana Khoi Nguyen in a light top in front of a body of water

Diana Khoi Nguyen wins 2021 NEA Literature Fellowship

Diana Khoi Nguyen, assistant professor in the Writing Program of the Department of English in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in poetry.

Nguyen’s work includes traditional poetry and prose as well as multimedia and sculptural pieces. The excerpt submitted to the NEA for consideration comes from a larger project which includes video, plays, prose and poem pieces and focuses on the Vietnamese diaspora, family history and the refugee experience. She hopes to use the funding in part for post-pandemic travel to continue research in Vietnamese diaspora communities outside of North America.

Nguyen earned a B.A. in English and Communication Studies from UCLA, an MFA from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Denver. She is the author of the chaplet “Unless” (Belladonna, 2019) and debut poetry collection, “Ghost Of” (Omnidawn Publishing, 2018). “Ghost Of” was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It also received the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award and Colorado Book Award. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in magazines and journals such as Poetry, American Poetry Review and PEN America.

Corey Robinson in a dark top with glasses

Corey Robinson will focus on commuting alternatives with Parking and Transportation

Corey Robinson joined the Department of Parking and Transportation in January 2021 to focus on alternative commuting options for the University community. If you have questions about moving to more shared, active and low carbon commuting, she will be deploying and developing programs to assist you.

While completing her degree in sustainability at Chatham University, Robinson served in multiple roles reporting on and researching for Chatham’s sustainability initiatives. Outside of her new role as Mobility Specialist at Pitt, Robinson also maintains sustainable practices in her personal life, including growing her own food, composting at home and training to bike from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., this fall.

A panther statue

Pitt professor joins Alpha Chi Forum on Race, Privilege and Responsibility

Steven Abramowitch, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, was one of three panelists in a forum hosted Feb. 6 by Alpha Chi on race relations and social justice called, “Personal Perspectives on Race, Privilege and Responsibility.”

The three panelists included: Dwonna Goldstone, associate history professor and director of the African American Studies program at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas; Justine Pas, associate professor of English and associate dean in the School of Humanities at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri; and Abramowitch, who focused on positive actions students can take to address diversity issues. The seminar was hosted and moderated by Lara Noah, executive director of Alpha Chi.

“And Justice for All…” is the theme for the organization’s 2021 virtual convention, and this event was planned to help raise awareness of these issues among the Alpha Chi community.

Alpha Chi National College Honor Society was founded in 1922 to recognize and promote academic excellence among college and university students of all disciplines, to encourage a spirit of service and leadership, and to nurture the elements of character that make scholarship effective for good. Alpha Chi is a member in good standing with the Association of College Honor Societies.

Rosemary Hoffman in a light top against a multicolored background

Nursing’s Rosemary Hoffman wins educator leader award

Rosemary Hoffman, associate professor at the School of Nursing, was recently recognized as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Educator Award winner, given each year by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Commission on Nurse Certification.

Hoffmann is being recognized for her success with the post-baccalaureate CNL program (Model A), which led Pitt to creating an entry into practice CNL program (Model C) that will take effect within the next year. Hoffman will receive the award later this month.

“Dr. Hoffmann was selected for this award for personifying the idea of expanding the role of the CNL and being able to think holistically,” according to a statement made by the association. “She is praised by her colleagues for having a particular skill in challenging her students and peers to think bigger by using their credentials and skills as a CNL to become problem solvers and patient advocates.”

Paul Ohodnicki in a dark sweater and a dress shirt

Paul Ohodnicki receives $1 million grant to ‘innervate’ pipelines

Research led by Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the Swanson School of Engineering, recently received $1 million in funding to utilize Pitt-developed optical fiber sensor technology as the “nerves” of critical infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines, to mimic the principle of a nervous system. Ohodnicki also teaches in the electrical and computer engineering department.

The research will embed optical fiber sensors internal to the pipeline to create an “innervated” pipeline system that enables monitoring the integrity of the pipes through acoustic and vibrational signatures of defects. By combining the embedded sensors with artificial intelligence and machine learning and integrating into an overarching digital twin of the pipeline system, an “intelligent” pipeline can be realized that allows for targeted in-situ repairs of defects. It utilizes an emerging robotic crawler deployable technology, known as “cold-spray,” with reduced downtime and dramatically reduced repair costs.

The team also plans to develop an economic model for in-situ repair and sensor-embedded coating technology as well as a detailed set of modifications to the existing and standard regulatory requirements required for commercialization.