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January 7, 2010

People of the Times

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, recently recognized two Pitt faculty members as AAAS fellows in honor of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science.

Graham F. Hatfull, chair and Eberly Family Professor of Biological Sciences, and Michael Zigmond, professor of neurology, neurobiology and psychiatry in the School of Medicine and director of Pitt’s Morris K. Udall Center for Parkinson’s Disease Research, were selected by their fellow AAAS members to be among the 531 2009 fellows. The fellows will be honored at the 2010 AAAS annual meeting in San Diego Feb. 20.

Hatfull was recognized for his contributions to the fields of site-specific recombination, mycobacterial genetic analysis and bacteriophage evolution, as well as for educating undergraduates and high school students in science. As a microbiologist, Hatfull primarily focuses on bacteriophages — viruses that infect bacteria studied for their insight into the genetic structure and development of viruses and more complex creatures.

He co-founded the Pitt-based Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute and, as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, engages high school and undergraduate students in “phage hunting” field studies geared toward collecting and analyzing bacteriophages.

Since 2006, he’s collaborated with a professor from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to improve the treatment and detection of tuberculosis. In March, their team revealed a TB detector developed from bacteriophages with fluorescent proteins that glow bright green when in contact with drug-resistant strains of TB bacteria.

Zigmond was recognized for his contributions to understanding the factors that influence neuro-degenerative disease and for his service to academia, including his promotion of professional development and ethics training.

Zigmond directs a research team studying Parkinson’s disease. His particular interest is in the risk factors for this disease, which affects some 1.5 million people in the United States. His current focus is studying the ability of added exercise to reduce the vulnerability of the brain to toxins that can cause a Parkinsonian syndrome in animal models. He also is interested in other risk factors, such as stress and traumatic brain injury.

In addition to his research efforts, Zigmond was the founding director of the survival skills and ethics program, which provides workshops on professional skills and responsible conduct, and directs two training grants in the neurosciences sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Susanne Gollin, faculty member in the Department of Human Genetics Gollin at the Graduate School of Public Health, has been appointed to serve on the Pennsylvania Cancer Control, Prevention and Research Advisory Board, which advises the state secretary of health. The eight-member board approves a plan for cancer control, prevention and research each year, known as the Pennsylvania Cancer Plan. The board also makes recommendations to the secretary of health regarding grants and contract awards.

Gollin was appointed to a four-year term by Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

Gollin also is professor of otolaryngology and pathology at the School of Medicine; director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Cytogenetics Facility, and director of research and clinical cytogenetics consultant in the Pittsburgh Cytogenetics Laboratory. She is a researcher, teacher and clinical cytogeneticist, board certified by the American College of Medical Genetics.

Gollin’s research is focused on understanding the biology of these disorders with the goals of improving disease diagnosis and discovering genetic alterations that could serve as biomarkers of diagnosis and prognosis as well as targets for therapy. Over the past seven years, she has been investigating the mechanism of chromosomal instability in cancer cells, including the role of the cytoskeleton in chromosomal instability and the process of gene amplification and their translational implications.

The Swanson School of Engineering announced its second annual staff awards, which recognize staff members who provide outstanding performance and service to the Swanson school. The 2009 recipients are:

• Rama Bazaz, associate director of administration.Rama Bazaz

Bazaz has served the University for 20 years, 15 at the Swanson school. According to the award notification, she is best known for her administrative support for the school’s research function and for helping faculty members at the school with preparing grant applications. She is cited regularly for her administrative skills, efficiency, competence, grace and professionalism, often under intense time constraints. Bazaz’s support is said to contribute greatly to the schoool’s high level of research activity.

James Lyle, electronic specialist III, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

J. LyleDuring his nine years at Pitt Lyle has gained a reputation for consistently outstanding service and for his willingness to help with any needs arising for faculty, students or staff. Starting off with very basic computer-related tasks, he has over the years steadily increased his workload to include a wide variety of technical and computer-related responsibilities to support teaching, research and support functions of the department. His service is best captured by a quote from one faculty member: “Having people like Jim that can be depended upon makes my life so much easier as a faculty member.”

Robert Toplak, assistant chair, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering.Toplak

Toplak, who joined the department in 1989, has been instrumental in advancing and enhancing the research activities of the departmental faculty. He also has provided exceptional academic services to the department’s graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as outstanding development and organizational services. He is recognized uniformly for his extraordinary competence and professionalism. He is cited as the person who really “makes the department run.”

The Nationality Rooms and Intercultural Exchange Programs announced the 2010 John G. Bowman faculty grants for study abroad. The recipients receive a $2,000 grant to conduct research abroad for a current or soon-to-be-offered class.

The 2010 grantees are: Yoland Covington-Ward of Africana studies, who will conduct research in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Adriana Helbig of music, who will conduct research in the Czech Republic; Dennis Looney of French and Italian languages and literatures, who will conduct research in Italy; Laura Putnam of history, who will conduct research in Venezuela, and Todd Reeser of French and Italian languages and literatures, who will conduct research in France.

The faculty grants are named for Bowman, Pitt chancellor 1921-45, who was the driving force behind construction of the Cathedral of Learning.

Jinx Walton, director of Computing Services and Systems Development, was named a 2010 Computerworld Premier 100 award honoree as one of “100 men and women who are driving positive change in their businesses through technology.”

Walton was selected for “displaying exceptional technology leadership, fostering ideas and a creative work environment and effectively managing IT strategies” at Pitt, according to a congratulatory letter from Computerworld.

Honorees will receive their awards in March during the Premier 100 IT leaders conference in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Premier 100 was first created in 2000 to spotlight individuals who manage internal IT organizations; mentor and motivate their IT teams and business colleagues; create a positive work environment; envision innovative solutions to business challenges, and effectively manage and execute IT strategies. Each year, nominees are invited to complete a survey that addresses their background, experience and attitude toward risk and innovation. The 100 honorees are selected by comparing the data gathered from the surveys with Computerworld’s IT Leader Index.

Pitt and Walton also were honored by Computerworld in 2009 with laureates from the Computerworld honors program for Pitt’s computer labs, Emergency Notification System and Application Virtualization for Effective Software Delivery project.

Wesley Lipschultz, manager of student services in the School of Information Sciences, was selected to receive the 2009 Service to Commission Award presented by the National Academic Advising Association’s (NACADA) Technology in Advising Commission.

The award recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding service, leadership and commitment to a particular commission. The NACADA Technology Advising Commission helps academic advisers and advising administrators to understand the impact that technologies, such as online registration and student information systems, have on academic advising; to use technology effectively in their work, and to appreciate the appropriate uses of technology in higher education.

Yuting Zhang, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, Zhang, Yutingreceived the Excellence in Mental Health Policy and Economics Research Award from the International Center of Mental Health Policy and Economics.

She received the award for her article “Cost-Saving Effects of Olanzapine as Long-term Treatment for Bipolar Disorder,” published in the Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics.

Zhang’s research interests are pharmaceutical policy and economics, health insurance design and the economics of mental health.

Zhang received the Excellence in Mental Health Policy and Economics Research Award from the International Center for Mental Health Policy and Economics in March 2009. She was the 2008 recipient of the best New Investigator Podium Presentation Award from the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, and she was a finalist for the Hamolsky award for junior faculty at the Society of General Internal Medicine.

Suzanne O. Brody, undergraduate student advisor in the Student Services Office, was awarded the Faculty Advisor of the Year award by the Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania at their 2009 convention. Brody was nominated by the members of the Nursing Student Association at the School of Nursing.

Brody assists potential applicants and students of the accelerated second degree BSN from admission through to graduation.

Peyman Givi, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and director of the Laboratory for Computational Transport Phenomena, has been elected as a 2010 fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

AIAA fellows have made notable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics or astronautics.

AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession with more than 36,000 members worldwide and 90 corporate members.

Givi has had frequent visiting appointments at the NASA Langley Research Center and the NASA Glenn (Lewis) Research Center, and received the agency’s Public Service Medal in 2005. He also received a Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.


The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

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