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November 11, 2010

People of the Times

Two faculty members in the Department of Occupational Therapy, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), recently were honored by the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association (POTA).

Chisholm Denise Chisholm, who is vice chair of the department, received the 2010 President’s Award for her exceptional commitment and faithful service to POTA. Outside the University, Chisholm also is a consultant for Medical Management Services and an on-call therapist at Associated Occupational Therapists in Coraopolis.


Leibold Mary Lou Leibold, who serves as the academic fieldwork educator in the occupational therapy department, received the 2010 Academic Educator Award.  Leibold was honored for her excellence in transitioning students from the classroom to the clinic.


McCord Edward McCord, director of programming and special projects for the University Honors College, was appointed director of Pitt’s Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy, effective Oct. 1.

The mission of the Dick Thornburgh Forum is to foster public education and civic action on important public policy issues by creating a framework for advancing Thornburgh’s vision of effective and principled governance.

The forum engages in a variety of activities across the University that are designed to enhance the accountability and integrity of U.S. governmental institutions. Internationally, it seeks to advance those values as well as the commitment to the rule of law for all levels of government.

McCord, an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and the environmental studies program, also is director of the American Experience Distinguished Lectures, one of the oldest lecture series held in Pittsburgh. The forum now will co-sponsor these lectures with the Honors College. Thornburgh, as governor in 1985, served as an American Experience lecturer.

McCord received his bachelor’s degree cum laude from Princeton and earned all three of his graduate degrees — an MA in cultural anthropology, a PhD in philosophy and a JD — from Pitt.

WagnerMolly Wagner has been named director of counseling and student development at the Titusville campus. She assumed her duties Nov. 1.

Wagner completed her undergraduate studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a major in criminology and pre-law and a minor in psychology. She received her M.S. in social administration from Case Western Reserve and is completing a doctoral program at Fielding Graduate University.

Wagner comes to UPT as a licensed clinical social worker with experience in presenting workshops, assessments and drug and alcohol counseling. She is a member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

Gail Austin, former director of the Academic Resource Center who retired recently after 42 years of service, received a special Sankofa Jean Hamilton Walls Award from Pitt’s African American Alumni Council (AAAC). The award is named in honor of alumna Jean Hamilton Walls, the first black woman to earn bachelor’s and PhD degrees at Pitt.

Austin was recognized for her commitment to enhancing diversity, particularly regarding African-American students; for her dedication to ensuring the educational success of thousands of students who matriculated through Project A (a 1968 Pitt summer preparatory program for African-American students); the Malcolm-Martin-Marcus scholars program; the University community education programs, and the University challenge for excellence program, as well as for her devotion to the advancement of partnerships within the larger African-American community.

With other activists from Pitt and the community, she helped form the Afro-American Cultural Society to increase the number of black students, staff and faculty at the University.

Pitt staff honorees receiving AAAC Sankofa Awards this year were James Cox, director of the University Counseling Center; Linda Williams Moore, director of the Office of Cross Cultural and Leadership Development, and Deborah Walker, student conduct officer in the Division of Student Affairs.

Sankofa awards  honor those who exhibit outstanding educational support and service to students of African descent.

StarThe National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has selected Alex Star as one of eight 2010 Outstanding New Environmental Scientists for his investigations into the health effects of the carbon nanotube.

As part of the award, Star, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, also received a five-year $2 million grant to continue his work.

Star studies the toxicity of carbon nanotubes and natural methods for dissolving the highly durable materials. Carbon nanotubes are one-atom thick rolls of graphite 100,000 times smaller than a human hair yet stronger than steel. They are used to reinforce plastics, ceramics or concrete; are excellent conductors of electricity and heat, and are sensitive chemical sensors. However, a nanotube’s surface contains thousands of atoms that could react with the human body in unknown ways. Laboratory tests have suggested that nanotube inhalation could result in severe lung inflammation and fibrosis.

Star has led or been central to studies demonstrating that the enzyme peroxidase can biodegrade carbon nanotubes. In April, he was part of a Pitt-led international team that reported in Nature Nanotechnology that carbon nanotubes exposed to the human enzyme myeloperoxidase — emitted by white blood cells — did not produce the lung inflammation that intact nanotubes have been shown to cause.

With this award, Star will examine the environmental factors and the structural characteristics of nanotubes that make them vulnerable to peroxidases.


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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