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January 6, 2011

People of the Times

SchwartzJeffrey Schwartz, a faculty member in anthropology and in history and philosophy of science, led a study that refutes longstanding claims of mass infant sacrifice in ancient Carthage culture. The study was named one of the top 10 most notable finds in 2010 by Archaeology magazine, the world’s largest general-interest publication for archaeology with a readership of more than 750,000.

Schwartz is featured in the magazine’s January/February 2011 edition for producing skeletal evidence that debunks claims from as early as the 3rd century BCE that the people of Carthage regularly sacrificed their youngest citizens.

A team led by Schwartz reported in the Proceedings of the Library of Science (PLoS) ONE in February 2010 that burial urns thought to contain the remains of sacrificed infants actually contain the remains of all young children regardless of how they died. The team’s examination of the remains revealed that most infants perished prenatally or very shortly after birth and were unlikely to have lived long enough to be sacrificed.

Rich Colwell, manager of computer services at the Swanson School of Engineering and vice president for steering of the Staff Association Council, was re-elected president of the Greater Pittsburgh VHF Society Radio Club, a nonprofit society dedicated to furthering the interest of VHF/UHF operation in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

This will be Colwell’s 31st year as president of the local ham radio club.

Colwell also is an amateur radio communication specialist for the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network.

Pitt has named Jeremy Berg as its first associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning for the Schools of the Health Sciences, a leadership role that aims to foster the University’s position on the forefront of biomedical research.

Berg expects to leave his current position as director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the end of June.

At NIH, Berg has conducted research in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. His research focuses on molecular recognition processes and the structural and functional roles that metal ions, especially zinc, have in proteins.

Berg has advanced understanding of how zinc-containing proteins bind to DNA or RNA and regulate gene activity, and has contributed to the understanding of systems that target proteins to specific compartments within cells, as well as the use of sequence databases for predicting aspects of protein structure and function. He is planning to continue his research as a faculty member in the Department of Computational and Systems Biology in the School of Medicine.

As NIGMS director, Berg oversees a $2 billion budget that primarily funds basic research in cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. The institute also supports research in selected clinical areas including trauma and burn injury, sepsis and wound healing.

Overall, NIGMS funds more than 4,500 research grants, which constitute about 10 percent of all grants funded by NIH.

Prior to his appointment at NIGMS in 2003, Berg directed the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he also served as director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry.

Pitt also has hired Berg’s wife, Wendie Berg, an imaging expert who led a major clinical trial investigating the roles of ultrasound and MRI as adjuncts to mammography in breast cancer screening. The clinical trial showed that positron emission mammography could reduce needless biopsies compared to MRI in women with newly diagnosed cancer because of its ability to better distinguish malignant from benign breast masses.

She was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and then director of breast imaging at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She currently is a study chair for the American College of Radiology Imaging Network.

She will join the Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, as a faculty member in March.

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar is being recognized by the South Asia Literary Association (SALA) as a recipient of the organization’s Certificate of Honor.

SpectarIn announcing Spectar’s selection for the honor, SALA president Pradyumma Chauhan remarked, “But for your able guidance, it would not have been possible for the journal to grow into a forum of first-rate critical exchange, useful to students and scholars working in the field of South Asian studies.”

K. D. Verma, editor of the South Asian Review and Pitt-Johnstown English faculty member, added, “Dr. Spectar is being recognized for his vision of multiculturalism and diversity in higher education and for his support of the South Asian Review.”

The South Asian Review, an international journal, has been housed at UPJ since 2001. It is published three times annually.

Tamra “Tami” E. Minnier, UPMC chief quality officer since 2008, has been appointed for a three-year term to the board of Joint Commission Resources (JCR), which sets quality and safety standards for hospitals and other health care organizations abroad. JCR is a not-for-profit affiliate of the Joint Commission, the independent organization that accredits U.S. hospitals.

As chief quality officer at UPMC, Minnier oversees quality improvement and safety initiatives throughout UPMC’s 20-hospital systems. She also has helped lead UPMC’s hospitals in Italy and Ireland through the Joint Commission International accreditation process.

Minnier, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Pitt, is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and Pitt adjunct faculty member. Previously, she served on the faculty for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

She recently was named to the editorial board of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Health Care Innovations Exchange, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Andrea V. Cotter will join the executive staff of UPMC as chief communications officer on Jan. 31. Cotter joins UPMC from IBM, where she has more than 30 years of experience in various sales and marketing divisions, most recently as director of global health care marketing.

In her new role, Cotter will have responsibility for national, regional and clinical marketing, advertising and public relations activities at UPMC. She will implement marketing, advertising and media efforts to support these efforts.

Sandra N. Danoff, who has been serving as chief communications officer since 2005, has been named senior vice president for strategic planning and special projects at UPMC. In her new role, Danoff will focus on issues of importance to UPMC’s senior leadership and board of directors.

Raman Venkataramanan, a faculty member in pharmaceutical sciences, School of Pharmacy, was awarded the American Pharmaceutical Association Tyler Prize for Stimulation of Research.

Presented every three years, the Tyler Prize recognizes individuals for encouraging research by peers, students, fellows, residents and others via publications or by directing research, serving as a preceptor or mentoring in any discipline of the pharmaceutical sciences.

Barbara Epstein, director of the Health Sciences Library System, was appointed as co-chair-designate of the future leadership committee of the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries. The committee oversees mentoring and development programs for the next generation of health sciences library leaders.


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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