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March 5, 2015

People of the Times

Paul Floreancig, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Michael Glass, a lecturer in the urban studies program, are this year’s winners of the Tina and David Bellet Teaching Excellence Awards.

The annual award recognizes outstanding and innovative teaching in undergraduate studies in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Students and faculty nominate candidates and a committee reviews nominations then requests dossiers from candidates.

Award recipients each receive a cash prize of $5,000.

The winners will be honored April 14 at a private dinner and reception.

Floreancig joined the chemistry department in 1999 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 2005 and full professor in 2010.   He has taught the honors organic chemistry sequence, as well as the large-section “Introduction to Organic Chemistry,” the advanced organic chemistry sequence and “Experimental Technique in Organic Chemistry.”

In his dossier, Floreancig told the Bellet committee: “The realization that organic chemistry is intimidating to many students is fundamental in my approach to teaching the subject. Organic chemistry requires greater effort than many courses and is viewed as being a barrier to future career objectives, particularly for students who wish to attend medical school. Therefore I begin the course by presenting a validated study strategy and examples of the way in which humanity has benefitted from organic chemistry. These efforts are made to show the students that I intend to be a guide rather than a gatekeeper, and that their efforts can produce tangible and beneficial results.”

Of the honors version of the introductory organic chemistry course, he said: “It parallels the material in the large sections but probes much more deeply with the objective of making the class a special learning experience. The students often guide the direction of the lectures by asking questions about peripheral aspects of the topic. This leads to a dynamic class that is seldom scripted and, despite its difficulty, is often fun. Discussions are augmented by primary literature additions to the CourseWeb site.”

Floreancig.TAltanyFloreancig earned his PhD in chemistry at Stanford, his master’s in chemistry at Yale and his BS in chemistry at Indiana University.

Glass has been a lecturer in the urban studies program since 2013. He was a visiting lecturer in the program, 2010-13, and a visiting instructor there, 2008-10. He also is a faculty fellow in the University Honors College and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

His urban studies courses have included a field research course in Singapore and Malaysia, “Social Justice and the City,” “Urban Economic Geography,” “Urban Politics, Regional Governance,” an urban research capstone seminar and an urban skills seminar.

In the dossier Glass submitted to the Bellet committee for consideration, he wrote: “My academic background is in human geography — a discipline I associate with the principles of context-based explanation, curiosity-driven exploration and theoretically-grounded exposition. I use these three principles to guide my teaching in the classroom and when I have students conduct fieldwork.”

He summarized his approach to teaching: “The training I provide at the University of Pittsburgh is based on the notion that academic research is an embodied practice. I attempt to reinforce similar skills and approaches to academic research over time across my undergraduate courses to provide students with the rigor necessary for their future vocations: whether that is further study or professional careers.”

GlassGlass earned his PhD at Penn State and his master’s and bachelor’s at the University of Auckland; all of his degrees were in geography.

The Bellet awards are open to full-time Pittsburgh campus faculty members who have taught undergraduates in the Dietrich school for at least three years. Faculty members must receive at least three nominations in order to be invited to submit a dossier for consideration to the awards committee.

Teaching excellence is evaluated based on how the candidate:

— Communicates subject matter to students of varied backgrounds and skill levels;

— Encourages high standards of attainment for all undergraduate students;

— Advises and mentors students and expands intellectual development beyond the classroom;

— Has influenced undergraduates, colleagues or departmental instruction, and

— Has integrated scholarship with teaching.


The School of Social Work’s Cynthia K. Bradley-King, academic coordinator for child welfare education for baccalaureates, was chosen as one of “10 Dedicated and Deserving Social Workers” featured in the January/February issue of Social Work Today.


jakielaPitt-Greensburg faculty member Lori Jakiela is the recipient of the 2015 City of Asylum/Pittsburgh Prize.

Jakiela was chosen from a pool of writer-applicants, residents of western Pennsylvania age 30 and over, who have published at least one full-length book of poetry, fiction or nonfiction. The prize consists of a month-long, all-expenses-paid writing residency in Brussels, Belgium.

Applications were judged by Chuck Kinder, faculty member emeritus in Pitt’s English department.

The prize is part of City of Asylum’s Bridges initiative, which will create a number of international writer residencies for western Pennsylvania writers. This residency is a collaboration with the Belgian literary organization, Het beschrijf, and is hosted at the Passa Porta literary center in Brussels.

City of Asylum is a model for arts-based community development, bringing writers, readers and neighbors together through global literature and cultural exchange. Located on Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh’s North Side, City of Asylum’s campus of redeveloped houses serves both as homes for exiled writers and as public artworks. It has presented more than 250 authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts.

Sampsonia Way, the publishing arm of City of Asylum, specializes in banned books in translation and anthologies of contemporary writing from countries where free speech is under threat;, its online journal of free speech, literature and justice, serves as a virtual home for persecuted writers and serves a growing global audience online.

Jakiela is the author of the memoirs “The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious” and “Miss New York Has Everything,” as well as the poetry collection “Spot the Terrorist.”


Webster_MarshallMarshall W. Webster, a distinguished service professor in the School of Medicine and senior vice president of UPMC, has been selected to serve on the Commission on Care established by Congress to examine how to best deliver health care to the nation’s veterans.

Appointed to the commission by Harry Reid, minority leader of the U.S. Senate, and nominated by Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., Webster will be one of 15 voting members on the panel, which was established by the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014. The goal of the commission is to examine how best to strategically organize the Veterans’ Health Administration, locate health care resources and deliver care to veterans.

Since 2012, Webster has been working on strategic development for UPMC. He also oversees graduate medical education for UPMC and serves as interim chair of the Department of Anesthesiology. From 2002-12, he was president of the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, president of the UPMC Physician Services Division and executive vice president of UPMC.

Webster held the Mark M. Ravitch Endowed Chair in Surgery for nearly 10 years. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, completed his surgical residency at Pitt and is board-certified in general, thoracic and vascular surgery.

Webster was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserves and was promoted to lieutenant in 1965. Following the completion of his surgical training, he served on active duty as a lieutenant commander stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, 1970-72.


Jill E. Millstone, faculty member in chemistry, was one of 15 researchers to receive a Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). Millstone’s project is “Using Metal-Ligand Chemistry to Understand, Form and Tailor Nanoscale Alloys.”

The awards cover a wide range of research in astronomy, chemistry and physics, targeting researchers who are believed to be the best and brightest among America’s young academic scientists. RCSA President Robert Shelton said: “RCSA has always been about finding and supporting the next big scientific paradigm, the theory or discovery that will revolutionize and advance an entire field of study.”


Two Swanson School of Engineering faculty were recognized by the IEEE  Industry Application Society (IAS) for their research in the application of control systems for improving the performance of metal rolling mills.

John Pittner, research faculty in electrical and computer engineering who has expertise in the control of metal rolling processes and more than 25 years’ experience in this field, and Marwan A. Simaan, emeritus professor of electrical and computer engineering and currently distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Central Florida, were recognized by IEEE/IAS/Metals with its Outstanding Paper Award for “ Improvement in Control of the Tandem Hot Strip Mill.”

The award is presented for significant contributions in the electrical and control fields related to the advancement of the theory and practice in the making or treating of metals.


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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