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August 31, 2000

Pitt's faculty recruits for 2000-2001 include established stars, promising junior professors

Pitt's full-time faculty, some 3,200 members strong, includes 350-plus new faces this academic year.

In his July 26 University Update, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg lauded what he called a recent series of "remarkable recruitment successes, which have included established academics attracted to the opportunities available at Pitt, as well as talented individuals accepting their first faculty appointments."

Associate Chancellor Vijai Singh said, "In reviewing the dossiers of new faculty, one thing that struck me was the impressive number of faculty who are coming to Pitt this year from Ivy League schools and elite public universities." After a cursory search through his dossier pile, Singh rattled off the names of several such professors, including:

* Neil Resnick and Susan Greenspan, a husband-and-wife team recruited from Harvard as Pitt professors of medicine. Resnick also is the medical school's new geriatrics division chief.

* John Jeffrey Inman, recruited from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be the inaugural holder of the Thomas Marshall Chair in Marketing at the Katz Graduate School of Business.

* Sanjeev Shroff, who left the University of Chicago to fill Pitt's Gerald McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering.

* You Hua Liu, recruited from Brown, who begins this fall as a Pitt associate professor of pathology.

And then there's Minking Chyu, recruited from Carnegie Mellon University to chair Pitt's Department of Mechanical Engineering…prominent brain tumor expert Clifford Schold, lured from Duke University to direct the neuro-oncology program and co-direct the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute…international minority health expert Stephen B. Thomas, recruited from Emory University to become the new director of Pitt's Center for Minority Health and inaugural holder of the Philip Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice….

Remarkable recruitment successes, indeed.

But, insecure Pittsburghers ask: Why leave Ivy League and elite public schools to come to Pitt?

The medical school's Greenspan said it's hard for faculty couples to find good opportunities at the same university, but Pitt and the surrounding region were a great match professionally for her and her husband. "Neil and I are both interested in geriatrics," she said. "I'm particularly interested in osteoporosis in older women, and western Pennsylvania has a huge older population."

Thomas said that when he would tell colleagues he was leaving Emory to head Pitt's Center for Minority Health, "they'd say to me, 'Pittsburgh?' with a question mark hanging in the air. It's because, for many people, Pittsburgh is still the old steel mill town with smoke so thick you can't see the city.

"It wasn't until I came to Pittsburgh for an interview that I discovered what a great city you have here. The physical beauty, the richness of the arts community, the great legacy of Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health dating back to the 1940s, the infrastructure of foundations — this area really has no peers in many ways."

Having lived in the suburbs of Atlanta and, before that, Washington, D.C., Thomas said he and his wife appreciate the fact that, in Pittsburgh, they will be able to live in the city itself, in Highland Park.

* What follows is a sampling of the new Pittsburgh campus faculty members, "established academics" as well as promising assistant profs, as noted by deans and department chairpersons. Those administrators — and the University Times — want to emphasize that this is only a sampling. "I would hate for my other new faculty to think they weren't equally valued just because I didn't mention them," said one dean who hesitated, then grudgingly agreed, to single out an especially dynamic recruit.

Provost's Area "I'm very pleased indeed with both the quality and diversity of our new faculty this year," said Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean N. John Cooper. The 26 new recruits in FAS represent a wide range of disciplines and include 10 women and several minorities, Cooper said.

Among the new FAS faculty are four professors in economics, a department that lost several key faculty members to Northwestern, Ohio State and other schools in recent years. "We have been hit quite hard but we got some great new recruits this year," said economics chairperson Jean-Francois Richard. He mentioned senior professor Andreas Blume, an expert in economic and game theories recruited from the University of Iowa, and, among the younger faculty, assistant professor Marla Ripoll, a new Ph.D. from the University of Rochester who specializes in international trade and macroeconomics.

History chairperson Reid Andrews said his department is excited about new assistant professor Alejandro de la Fuente, an expert on race relations in Cuba and author of an important new book on the subject. "It was a big hire," Andrews said. "This greatly strengthens us in the area of Latin American Studies and particularly in Cuban studies, where Pitt has long had a very strong presence."

The Department of History and Philosophy of Science is crowing over its recruitment of new professor Paul E. Griffiths, a prominent specialist in the history and philosophy of biology from Australia's University of Sydney. Griffiths authored "What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories" and co-authored "Sex and Death: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Biology."

Griffiths said, "I'm currently working on three things: How to develop a science of emotion, responding to developments in science since the publication of my book; how to convince philosophers, on the basis of psychological findings about what concepts are, that they can't answer philosophical questions about many concepts — including ideas like 'mind,' 'human nature' and 'feelings' — without the actual science of those; and studying different concepts of the gene in biological science. I have found significant differences in how molecular and evolutionary biologists define a gene."

John Earman, chairperson of history and philosophy of science, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the recruitment of Griffiths and Sandra D. Mitchell, a philosopher of biology and social sciences hired away from the University of California at San Diego last January, will put Pitt's philosophy of biology program on the map.

FAS Dean Cooper said that other outstanding hires in his school include Latin American literature expert Hermann Herlinghaus, a new associate professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, and philosophy department professor Anil Gupta, a prominent logician who earned his Ph.D. from Pitt in 1977.

The Katz Graduate School of Business lured John Jeffrey Inman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become a professor and inaugural holder of the school's Thomas Marshall Chair in Marketing. Before beginning his academic career at UCLA in 1991, Inman held management jobs at Texas Instruments, Inc. and General Motors Corp. At the University of Wisconsin, he has received numerous grants and teaching awards.

Dean Alan Lesgold noted three promising new junior education faculty members.

Clementina Acedo, assistant professor of administrative and policy studies, is a Stanford Ph.D. in international education. She did research and development work in Venezuela while pursuing her doctorate. Some of her recent publications address issues of developing education in the Philippines.

Bena Hefflin Hartman, assistant professor of instruction and learning, earned her Ph.D. at Pitt and worked at the University of South Florida. Lesgold said, "Her research interests include literacy practices of African-American children, culturally responsive pedagogy and the use of multicultural children's literature in teaching reading and language arts."

Trenia Walker, assistant professor of instruction and learning, received her Ph.D. from the University of Houston. She has done important work on technology and its effects on social studies education and training of social studies teachers, Lesgold said.

Engineering school recruits include two chaired professors and new leaders for the school's freshman and minority programs.

Daniel Budny, associate professor of civil engineering and academic director of the Freshman Engineering Program, was recruited from Purdue, where he won several teaching awards. His research has focused on development of programs that assist freshman engineering students.

Minking K. Chyu is the school's Leighton and Mary Orr Professor in Mechanical Engineering and mechanical engineering chairperson. His primary research area is in thermal issues related to gas turbine systems and microtechnology. He comes to Pitt from Carnegie Mellon.

Sylvanus N. Nwoso, assistant dean for diversity and minority programs and professor of mechanical engineering, was recruited from Dillard University; there, he was the Conrad Hilton Endowed Professor of Physics and Mathematics and director of the Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation. His research is in impact physics and engineering of composite materials, dynamic problems in composites failure and new composite development and characterization.

Sanjeev Shroff, professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering, comes to Pitt from the University of Chicago, where he was a professor of medicine. "Professor Shroff is one of the three fully endowed chairs in the school," Dean Gerald Holder said. "We were recruiting for this important position for several years and are happy he is the choice. He brings a distinguished record in both bioengineering research and bioengineering education and will strengthen our newest department."

New law school professor Thomas C. Buchele heads the school's recently established Environmental Law Clinic. He comes to Pitt from the Environmental Law and Policy Center for the Midwest in Chicago, where he specialized in legal advocacy regarding public lands management and preservation and wildlife issues.

School of Information Sciences Dean Toni Carbo cited two new assistant professors, Peter Brusilovsky and David Robins.

One of Brusilovsky's specialties is e-commerce. After earning his Ph.D. from Moscow State University, he did research at Carnegie Mellon before Pitt recruited him, Carbo said. "David Robins, we stole away from Louisiana State University. He's been doing a lot of research concerning content on the World Wide Web — improving access to it, determining ways to find out what's out there," Carbo said.

Social work Dean David Epperson wrote of his school's new professor, Aurora P. Jackson, "She is unquestionably one of the strongest new faculty ever hired in the area of children, youth and families with significant social work experience in practice. Dr. Jackson is one of the most highly sought-after for positions dealing with children, youth and families in the country and is highly recommended by Columbia University, where she was teaching" when Pitt recruited her.

After an international search, Pitt chose William I. Brustein to succeed Burkart Holzner as director of the University Center for International Studies, effective Jan. 1. In addition to being UCIS director, Brustein will be a professor in the sociology department and a UCIS professor. He has held two distinguished professorships at the University of Minnesota. Pitt Provost James Maher called Brustein a scholar of international stature in historical sociology.

University Library System (ULS) director Rush Miller noted that Pitt recently hired faculty librarian Ed Galloway to coordinate ULS's digital research library. That's the unit that digitizes texts for projects such as the Historic Pittsburgh Project, which has made many rare and fragile historical documents available electronically. "Ed's a real steal for us," Miller said. "We recruited him from Carnegie Mellon, where he was head of their Helios Project, which digitized Senator Heinz's papers."

Health Sciences Unlike other Pitt schools, the School of Medicine recruits faculty continually, although hirings and departures tend to be bunched around the start of the University's fiscal year on July 1.

This summer, Pitt recruited nationally prominent brain tumor expert Clifford Schold to direct the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's neuro-oncology program and co-direct UPCI's Brain Tumor Center. Schold said UPCI may soon begin a gene therapy trial for glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Schold was head of neuroscience research at Duke University. Prior to this work at Duke, he chaired the neurology department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas from 1992 to 1998.

Two of the Pitt medical school's other prominent new professors are Joel B. Nelson, recruited from Johns Hopkins to be founding department chairperson of urology and Frederick T. Schwentker Chair in Urological Surgery, and Andrew M. Yeager, recruited from Emory University to direct the Stem Cell Transplantation Program in the division of hematology/oncology. Stem cell transplantation involves replacing malfunctioning or cancerous cells with precursors (called stem cells) of normal, healthy cells. A professor in the school's medicine and pediatrics departments, Yeager also will direct UPCI's Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Biology Program.

Dental medicine has recruited geneticist Thomas C. Hart as an associate professor to work in the school's Cleft Palate Center, while the pharmacy school has hired Randy Smith, who holds a Ph.D. in pharmacy from the University of Texas at Austin, as associate dean for research. "In this newly created position, Randy brings us both a scientist's and a business background," said pharmacy Dean Randy Juhl. "He's been the CEO of a couple of start-up companies. He will help the school with the process of creating new research programs, including one in pharmacogenetics and one in child and youth alcoholics pharmaceutical care outcomes."

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) Dean Clifford E. Brubaker cited four new assistant professors: David W. Lindell and Samuel R. Seitz (both of emergency medicine), Richard Simpson (rehabilitation science and technology) and Patrick J. Sparto (physical therapy).

Brubaker said, "Dr. Sparto is an already well-published bioengineer and biomechanist who came to Pitt to obtain his professional physical therapy degree after his doctoral training at Ohio State University, where he worked with a world-renowned expert in biomechanical modeling of low back pain." Simpson, who holds a Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, will expand SHRS's expertise in computer access, augmentative communication and interface design, the dean said.

David Lindell, formerly an EMS (emergency medical services) education specialist from Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, Pa., "brings 29 years of EMS experience and 23 years of teaching experience from out of the area to our program," Brubaker continued. "Bob Seitz brings 17 years of EMS experience and, as a graduate of our bachelor of science program, he brings insight from a former student's perspective." Seitz has served as clinical coordinator for Pittsburgh's Center for Emergency Medicine, among other positions.

End-of-life care — determining the best care for dying people — is a hot topic in the health sciences, and Pitt's nursing school has recruited an assistant professor who specializes in that area: Mary Beth Happ, who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.

Happ's research focuses on terminally ill patients who are cognitively aware but cannot talk and express verbally how they wish to die. Happ said, "I felt Pitt was an excellent fit in terms of my research and the research and clinical focus of several faculty members within the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine."

— Bruce Steele and Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 33 Issue 1

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