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May 17, 2012

People of the Times

Three Pitt faculty members have been elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which was established by President Lincoln in 1863 to provide independent advice to the government on matters related to science and technology.

The School of Medicine’s Yuan Chang, Distinguished Professor and American Cancer Society Professor, Department of Pathology; Patrick S. Moore, Distinguished Professor and American Cancer Society Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and Peter Strick, Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurobiology, are among the 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 15 countries who were recognized this year for “their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research,” according to NAS.

Chang and Moore identified two of the seven known human cancer-causing viruses; Strick’s research focuses on understanding the neural circuitry that controls voluntary movement.

Chang and Moore are co-leaders of the cancer virology program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. In 1994, they discovered the virus known as Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus, or herpesvirus 8, which causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common AIDS-related malignancy.

In 2008, they identified Merkel cell polyomavirus, which causes a rare and deadly skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma.

Strick is director of the Systems Neuroscience Institute; co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, and a senior VA research career scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Strick developed the use of viruses with an affinity for neurons as a new technique for unraveling connections in the central nervous system.

SeybertAmy L. Seybert has been appointed chair of the Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, School of Pharmacy.

Seybert directs the cardiovascular specialty and critical care specialty residencies at the School of Pharmacy and is the pharmaceutical care coordinator for critical care at UPMC’s Department of Pharmacy. She also serves as associate director for pharmacy programs at the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research.

Her clinical research areas include heart failure, acute coronary syndromes, antiplatelet therapy, acute myocardial infarction and simulation education. She is the first pharmacist to publish on simulation-based learning within a school of pharmacy curriculum.

Seybert has received a number of teaching awards, including a 2006 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and a 2009 Residency Preceptor of the Year Award.

LittleSteven Little, Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and recently appointed chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, has been named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The awards program supports the research and teaching careers of young faculty in the chemical sciences by providing discretionary funding at an early stage in their careers. Criteria for selection include an independent body of scholarship attained within the first five years of their appointment as independent researchers, and a demonstrated commitment to education, signaling the promise of continuing outstanding contributions to both research and teaching. The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards program provides an unrestricted research grant of $75,000.

Little’s research focuses on the controlled release of drugs. He holds the Bicentennial Board of Visitors Endowed Faculty Fellowship and also retains appointments in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering.

Recently, he was elected as chair of the drug delivery special interest group in the Society for Biomaterials.

Little holds eight U.S. patents and provisional applications for patents including new methods to fabricate controlled release vehicles in a high-throughput fashion; dissolvable synthetic-vasculature; novel complex delivery vehicles, and a description of the first degradable artificial cell.

Recently he was named the 2012 recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Biomaterials, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding achievements in biomaterials research within 10 years of  the terminal degree or formal training.

The Office of Governmental Relations recently announced that Kenneth Lynch has been named associate director for federal relations. Lynch will assist in the development and implementation of the University’s federal advocacy strategies and will promote Pitt programs and projects to members of the U.S. Congress and federal agencies.

Lynch is a 2008 Pitt graduate, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and history.

Prior to joining the Pitt staff,  he worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Charles W. Dent, first as a staff assistant then legislative correspondent before being promoted to legislative assistant in 2009. He managed a portfolio of legislative issues including energy, natural resources, environment and agriculture.

Leo R. McCafferty, a faculty member in the School of Medicine, this month was elected president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

The society’s 2,600 members are board-certified plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery of the face and body.

McCafferty serves as chair of the society’s industry policy committee.

He also is chair of the board and immediate past president of the Allegheny County Medical Society and  a past president of the D. Ralph Millard Jr., MD, Plastic Surgery Society.

McCafferty has served as the plastic surgeon for the men’s and women’s professional U.S. Open Golf Championships and is a consultant to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

greenfieldSayre Greenfield, a faculty member in English at Pitt-Greensburg, recently received a Primary Source Award from the Center for Research Libraries. Primary Source Awards are presented annually in three categories: access, research and teaching.

Greenfield received the Primary Source Award for Teaching, which is presented to an educator, bibliographer or curriculum specialist who develops innovative ways to use primary source materials in the classroom or in a student advisory role.

Students enrolled in Greenfield’s History of the English Language course are required to conduct original research using primary source material that has been made available online. The culmination of the course is a research paper that addresses the evolution of a single word of each student’s choosing. The purpose is for the students to analyze the actual texts to determine how words evolve, rather than relying on secondary scholarly literature.

Greenfield’s research focuses on the use of digital humanities. He is writing a history of how the famous lines from “Hamlet” gained their celebrity; a portion of his research has appeared in the journal Modern Philology.

marshThe Greensburg campus dedicated its two-year-old psychology laboratory in honor of Diane T. Marsh, professor emerita of psychology, during a ceremony last month in Millstein Library.

Marsh served as professor of psychology at Pitt-Greensburg, 1977-2011.

Recently, she was named a 2012 MHA Innovations Award Winner by Mental Health America of Westmoreland County.

She also has served as chair of the American Psychological Association (APA) task force on serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance and as APA representative on the American Bar Association task force on mental disability and the death penalty.

Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) epidemiology faculty member Joel Weissfeld, who is a 1982 GSPH graduate, recently received the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Teaching and Dissemination in recognition of his leadership in cancer epidemiology training.

Weissfeld directs the cancer epidemiology training program, which offers training in cancer screening and health services. His work on the landmark Prostate, Lung, Colon and Ovarian (PLCO) Screening Study not only has had an impact on the field of cancer screening, but also has served as an intellectual foundation and training ground for a generation of students.

Kent Harries(1)Kent Harries, a faculty member in structural engineering and mechanics at the Swanson School of Engineering, was named a co-recipient of the 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) State-of-the-Art of Civil Engineering Award.

Harries and his co-authors were recognized for the 2010 paper “Seismic Design of Hybrid Coupled Wall Systems — State of the Art,” published in the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering.

The ASCE award recognizes the individual, individuals or committee authoring the most outstanding paper that reviews and interprets state-of-the-art scientific and technical information.


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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