Xiayun (Sharon) Zhao and Albert To

Swanson School professors to study 3D printing of turbine components

The U.S. Department of Energy, through its University Turbine Systems Research program, has awarded researchers at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering $802,400 to find an effective quality assurance method for additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, of new-generation gas turbine components.

The three-year project has received additional support of $200,600 from Pitt.

Xiayun (Sharon) Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, will lead the research, working with Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, and Richard W. Neu, professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Mechanical Engineering. The team will use machine learning to develop a cost-effective method for rapidly evaluating, either in-process or offline, the hot gas path turbine components that are created with laser powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technology.



Sahel and Pitt ophthalmology get grant for cortical vision research

Pitt received a $6 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support the development of a cortical vision research program in the Pitt School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology. The program will aim to understand how the eye and the brain work together to help us see the world and use that knowledge to develop new ways to restore vision using various technologies such as brain computer interfaces and novel genetic technologies.  

“The RK Mellon Foundation’s investment is a resounding vote of confidence in a world-renowned talent — Dr. José-Alain Sahel — and his team’s groundbreaking efforts to preserve and restore the gift of sight for millions of people across the world,” says Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “I am deeply grateful for the Foundation’s support and excited to watch this next chapter in vision research and care unfold right here in Pittsburgh.”    

“As the world’s population continues to grow and age, the number of individuals with visual impairments is expected to triple by the year 2050, and Pittsburgh, with its aging population, will be highly affected by this epidemic of vision loss,” said Sahel, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and Pitt chair of ophthalmology. “We have established world class vision research and clinical care in Pittsburgh, and the cortical vision program will bring together the brightest minds to develop therapies that will directly benefit the people in our communities and around the world.” 

Precision Medicine Institute, UPMC get $2.8M grant

The Pitt Institute for Precision Medicine and UPMC received a three-year $2.8 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for implementation of precision medicine initiatives, including whole genome sequencing of critically ill infants, genomics education and translational research pilot projects intended for commercialization.

The IPM, a joint effort of Pitt and UPMC, was created in 2013 to help researchers and clinicians discover features about an individual’s risk of disease, select best treatments and predict treatment response, and move these insights into clinical practice.  

“UPMC and Pitt are regional and national leaders in developing and implementing precision medicine efforts in the clinic,” said Adrian Lee (pictured), director of the IPM and professor of pharmacology and chemical biology at Pitt. “This grant will advance research and clinical care, and also help drive the field forward by commercializing technologies that have the potential to impact people at scale.”


Mark Gladwin

NIH grant of $19.2 million to support sickle cells study

Researchers at Pitt and UPMC, supported by a $19.2 million National Institutes of Health grant, will lead the largest clinical trial of its kind to test a technique called red cell exchange transfusion in prolonging life and slowing or reversing organ damage for patients with sickle cell disease. 

“Currently there is no standard of care for patients with sickle cell at high risk of organ damage,” said principal investigator Mark Gladwin (pictured), professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Medicine and director of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute. “We are proud to lead this collaborative effort among major centers of excellence to tackle an important open question in how we treat and manage the disease.” 

Nationally, about 100,000 people live with sickle cell disease, a genetic condition that disproportionately affects individuals of African descent. Approximately 30 percent of patients with sickle cell develop serious organ damage, such as cardiopulmonary complications, and kidney or liver failure, with the risks steadily increasing with age. 


Two Innovation Institute licensing managers promoted

The Innovation Institute has promoted two of its licensing managers into newly established managerial roles.

Maria Vanegas is now senior licensing manager for life sciences and George Coulston is now senior licensing manager for physical sciences.

In these new roles, Vanegas and Coulston each oversee a team of licensing managers and associates and help plan and execute strategies for commercializing the University’s life science and physical sciences intellectual property portfolios. Both will continue to oversee substantial innovation portfolios of their own. They will report to Alex Ducruet, director of licensing and intellectual property.

Click here for more information.

the Cathedral on a blue sky day

Pitt Cyber announces Accelerator Grant recipients

Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security has announced the grant recipients of its third round of Pitt Cyber Accelerator Grants .

The grants to Pitt faculty provide initial funding for novel and innovative projects that advance Pitt Cyber’s mission: to bring the breadth of one of the world’s leading public research universities to bear on the critical questions of networks, data and algorithms, with a focus on the ever-changing gaps among law, policy and technology.

This term’s recipients are:

  • Vladimir Zadorozny (School of Computing and Information), Panos Chrysanthis (SCI), Michael Colaresi (Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences), Patrick Manning (Dietrich) for their project, Social Weather Service: A Cyber-enabled Forecasting of Social Unrest and Conflicts.

  • Kevin Ashley (School of Law) and Jaromir Savelka (Intelligent Systems Program) for their project, Annotating Cases for Learning.

  • David Tipper (SCI) and Alexis Kwasinski (Swanson School of Engineering) for their project, Toward Resilient Smart Critical Infrastructure.

  • Rosta Farzan (SCI), Dmitriy Babichenko (SCI), and Zak Risha (SCI) for their project, Fighting Cyberbullying: A Transformative and Educational Game for Promoting Empathic Understanding.

“Pitt Cyber is excited to support the ever-expanding group of Pitt researchers exploring the many challenges of networks, data and cybersecurity,” said Pitt Cyber academic director and law professor Michael Madison.

Learn more about the grants at Pitt Cyber.

Panther statue on campus

Office of Child Development develops parenting guide

Over the past decade, experts at the Office of Child Development, part of the School of Education, developed a set of parenting guides designed to help raise healthy children.

“You and Your Child” is a series of 49 guides, broken down into categories of behavior, health and nutrition, parenting, development and safety. The guides contain best practices described by the Office of Child Development and have been reviewed by development experts and practitioners.  

“These guides are an easy way for parents and caregivers to gain knowledge and answer specific questions they might have,” said Shannon Wanless, director of the Office of Child Development.

The guides are available online free of charge to parents, family organizations, agencies, professionals and others who work with children and their families. They are also available in Spanish.

Huguley in a dark suit and yellow tie, holding a microphone to his mouth

Just Discipline Project shows progress in new report

A project out of Pitt’s School of Social Work designed to reduce out-of-school suspensions at the Woodland Hills Intermediate School has shown that, after two years, there has been a 28 percent decrease in the number of students suspended.

The Just Discipline project, funded by the Heinz Endowments, established community-building activities at the school, professional development courses for faculty and staff, and training for adolescent student leaders who have been able to successfully diffuse behavioral problems at the school before they escalate. Just Discipline leaders Assistant Professor of Social Work James Huguley (pictured) and Associate Professor of Education Ming-Te Wang have released a report citing the progress made since the program’s 2017 inception.

Key findings include:

  • A 28 percent decrease in the number of individual students receiving suspensions

  • A 20 percent decrease in the number of individual students receiving office referrals

  • A 19 percent increase in the students’ perception of school safety

  • Academic gains in math, language arts and science

  • 91 percent of the teachers would like the program’s work to continue

“We’re still working toward where we want to be in terms of the resources and systems, but we’re certainly encouraged by this progress,” said Huguley, who hopes to expand the program in the near future to other schools in Woodland Hills.

The project was one of five awarded $2,000 prizes at the first Partnerships of Distinction Awards from the office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey.

Rinaldo in a tan suit coat

Pitt Men’s Study renewed by NIH, for fourth decade of HIV research

The Pitt Men’s Study, part of the national Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, will be renewed into 2026 at nearly $4 million per year. The funding from the National Institutes of Health will carry the long-running study into its fourth decade.

The confidential study on the natural history of HIV/AIDS is part of the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and is directed by the department's chair, Charles Rinaldo (pictured).

Read more about the study at UPMC.

Brooks and Barrios head shots stitched together with a white bar separating them

Robin Brooks and Esther Palacios-Barrios named 2019 Ford Foundation Fellows

Robin Brooks, an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies, and Esther Palacios-Barrios, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology who also works with the Learning Research and Development Center, have been accepted to the 2019 Ford Foundation Fellowship Program.

The program, administered by the Fellowships Office of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is designed to increase diversity among faculty in the nation’s colleges and universities.

Brooks, who was recognized in the postdoctoral competition, will be working on a book manuscript with host institution, Emory University, during the fellowship. Palacios-Barrios, recognized in the predoctoral competition, will continue her work in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology Program.  

Gellad in a light blue shirt and dark blue tie

Walid Gellad receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Walid Gellad, associate professor of medicine and health policy was named a winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) — “the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”

Gellad’s research focuses on physician prescribing practices and on policy issues affecting access and adherence to medications for patients. Read a recent Pittwire story about his work using artificial intelligence to better predict opioid overdose risk in patients.

Rizzo wins Durelli Award from Society for Experimental Mechanics

Piervincenzo Rizzo, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2020 A. J. Durelli Award from the Society for Experimental Mechanics (SEM).

The award is named for an experimental stress analyst known for seeking new methods to solve problems, rather than relying on existing methods. The award recognizes “a young professional who has introduced, or helped to introduce, an innovative approach and/or method into the field of experimental mechanics,” according to the society.

“Piervincenzo has made remarkable contributions to his field, and we are proud that the SEM is recognizing his achievements with this award,” says Radisav Vidic, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. “His innovations in nondestructive evaluation and structural health monitoring set him apart among his peers.”

The award will be presented at an Awards Luncheon on June 10, 2020, during the SEM Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics in Orlando, Fla.


Wagner named interim director of Dental Hygiene Program

Kelly Wagner has been appointed interim director of the Dental Hygiene Program at the School of Dental Medicine. 

Wagner graduated in 2007 from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene. In 2013, she earned a master of science in dental hygiene at the University of Maryland-Baltimore with a concentration in education. She has more than 10 years of experience in private practice and served as an adjunct faculty member at Northern Virginia Community College Dental Hygiene Program from 2014-18.

Her research interests include oral health literacy, patient outcomes in various delivery systems, and systemic diseases and oral inflammatory markers.


Lori McMaster

McMaster named president of Allegheny County Bar Association

Lori McMaster, executive director of Pitt Law's Professional Development Office and Pitt Law alumna (’86), will serve the 111th president of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

McMaster told the Pittsburgh Business Times that she hopes to create opportunities for the organization to work together with Duquesne University School of Law and University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

“This will include creating a structure that will allow more pro bono opportunities to be extended to law students at both schools as part of a partnership with the ACBA, Duquesne Law and Pitt Law,” she said. “As someone who works in legal education, I also hope to highlight initiatives and issues of importance to law students, legal education, newly admitted attorneys and practitioners who are engaged in succession planning.”

Bill Hillgrove with headset

Hillgrove honored with Voice of College Sports Award

Bill Hillgrove, the longtime radio play-by-play announcer for Pitt football and basketball, was honored in June with the Woody Durham Voice of College Sports Award by a vote of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).

Sponsored by Learfield IMG College and the University of North Carolina athletics department, the award was presented during the 60th NSMA awards banquet in Winston-Salem, N.C.

NSMA member play-by-play announcers, as well as representatives of the two sponsoring organizations vote for the award.

Hillgrove is a Pittsburgh native and Duquesne University graduate, who began his Pitt broadcast duties in 1969, doing only Panther road games. The next season, he became the full-time color commentator, alongside play-by-play announcer Ed Conway. When Conway died in 1974, Hillgrove took over as the play-by-play announcer, a job he has held ever since.

The 2019 season will mark his 46th broadcasting Pitt football. The upcoming Pitt basketball season will be his 51st.

Larry Cunningham Jr. portrait

Cunningham named as chair and associate dean at Pitt Dental

Larry Cunningham Jr. was recently named the next chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery and associate dean for hospital affairs at the School of Dental Medicine and UPMC. He also will serve as interim program director for the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency program.

Cunningham, a native of Texas, comes to Pitt after an 18-year career at the University of Kentucky, where he served as professor and chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

“Pitt Dental Medicine is exceptionally fortunate to recruit someone of his caliber, ethics and commitment,” said Dean Bernard J. Costello. “Dr. Cunningham is well known for his loyalty, problem-solving capabilities, passion for education and masterful clinical skills.”

Cunningham received his doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Texas at San Antonio and then obtained his MD and residency certification in oral and maxillofacial surgery from the training program at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas.

For more details, go to @Pitt.

two people walking in front of the sun

Three with ties to English department receive Investing in Professional Artists grants

Three affiliates of the Department of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences have been awarded funds from the Investing in Professional Artists Grant, a shared program of the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments.

The foundations recognized 15 local artists and organizations and selected the grantees based on “not only the quality of their work, but also on the potential of their proposals to advance their careers.”

The three Pitt affiliates and their projects are:

Cameron Barnett (A&S, ’16G), faculty of the Falk Laboratory School, received a grant of $8,500 to “support a second full-length book of poetry centered on the historical and racial roots of the artist’s heritage in the U.S. and Canada, and the histories of slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement.” Barnett earned his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in poetry from Pitt in 2016.

Adriana Ramirez (A&S, ’09G) received a grant of $10,000 to “complete research and manuscript for a book on the history of violence in the Americas, from Pittsburgh to Colombia and back, blending family and oral histories with larger national narratives.” Ramirez earned her MFA degree in creative nonfiction writing from Pitt in 2009.

Anjali Sachdeva, lecturer in the Composition Program and Writing Program, received a grant of $10,000 to “support development of a novel set in a near-future world where people are segregated by gender.”

Meyer in a black and white blouse in front of a Pitt seal

Susan Meyer receives Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award

Susan Meyer, associate dean for education and professor in Pitt’s School of Pharmacy, recently received the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Pharmacy Educator Award. The award recognizes an individual’s excellence in teaching, scholarship and service in pharmacy education.

At Pitt, Meyer is director of the Interprofessional Center for Health Careers and co-director of the Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education. Her work in the School of Pharmacy focuses on curricular and institutional quality improvement, instructional design and assessment, faculty development and interprofessional health professions education.

Two professors get NSF grant to study how machines process visual information

Ryad Benosman, professor of ophthalmology at the Pitt 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, received $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on better, more efficient way for machines to process visual information..

The Pitt research will 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.

“We believe this work will lead to transformative advances in bio-inspired neuromorphic processing architectures, sensing, with major applications in self-driving vehicles, neural prosthetics, robotics and general artificial intelligence,” Benosman said. 

The grant will begin July 1 and is expected to last until June 30, 2022.


Liebschutz to partner on major opioid research in Appalachia

The Pitt Division of General Internal Medicine has received a $5.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to facilitate opioid research in Appalachia, according to a news release from Pitt Health Sciences.  

Jane Liebschutz, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Pitt, in partnership with Judith Feinberg of West Virginia University and Sarah Kawasaki of Penn State, will establish the Appalachian Node of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network to conduct opioid-related research in the region over the next five years. Emphasis will be placed on reaching rural and other underserved populations. 

“Historical and cultural factors have caused Appalachia to experience the negative consequences of the opioid epidemic at a disproportionally high rate, including overdoses, neonatal abstinence syndrome and death,” Liebschutz said in the news release. “Oftentimes, research does not include data from rural populations, meaning that the findings don’t always apply in the same way they would to an urban population. This grant will help to ensure that we are addressing the opioid epidemic in a way that truly helps those who are most impacted.” 

The team will use its funding to work with individual clinical practices throughout Appalachia to enroll patients in national studies related to opioid use and treatment.