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October 15, 2015

People of the Times


The American Concrete Pavement Association has named Julie Vandenbossche, faculty member in civil and environmental engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, as the winner of the 2015 Marlin J. Knutson Award for Technical Achievement.

The award is presented annually to an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the development and implementation of innovative technical approaches in design or construction of concrete pavements.

Vandenbossche will receive the award at the ACPA’s annual meeting in December.

According to the award letter, Vandenbossche has “made many significant, high-quality contributions to our industry. In particular, recent work on design of concrete overlays on asphalt pavements is the foremost achievement represented through this award. The design models you have develo ped offer the concrete pavement industry new opportunities as we continue on our quest to provide alternatives to traditional asphalt resurfacing.”

Vandenbossche leads the Swanson school’s Pavement Mechanics and Materials Lab, which casts, cures and tests concrete specimens as well as other pavement materials. Prior to joining Pitt in 2002, she was senior engineer at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, where she researched the design, analysis and rehabilitation of concrete pavements.

Vandenbossche received her bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering from Michigan State University and her PhD in civil engineering from the University of Minnesota.


Kannu Sahni, director of community relations, has been appointed to a two-year term on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian American Affairs and to the Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council.

The commission advises the governor on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations that affect Asian-American communities; develops, reviews and recommends policies in the areas of health and human services, housing, education, employment, business formation and other relevant areas, which affect Asian-American communities; provides assistance and advice to state agencies; and works with state officials, among other duties.

Sahni also was one of several Pitt faculty and staff appointed to Welcoming Pittsburgh, a city-wide initiative designed to celebrate the city’s immigrant past and lay the groundwork for greater immigrant integration.

Other current and former Pitt faculty and staff appointed to Welcoming Pittsburgh were Andrew Pugh, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs; Josephine Olson, Katz Graduate School of Business; Sheila Wells Rathke, All Temps; and Carol Mohamed, former director of diversity and inclusion as well as Title IX coordinator, who retired in June.

The 40-member council’s main task over the coming months will be working with a facilitator to write a long-term and sustainable Welcoming Pittsburgh implementation plan. That plan will include efforts to engage both existing Pittsburgh residents and new ones, and synthesize welcoming practices into city government and its partners in local business, nonprofit and community groups.


A Pitt faculty member who has received numerous national and international accolades — among them an Olympic gold medal — now will have an award medal struck in his honor.

Established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) on the recommendation of its bioengineering division, the award celebrates the achievements of Savio L-Y. Woo, a distinguished University professor of bioengineering in the Swanson school and the founder/director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at Pitt.

The ASME Savio L-Y. Woo Translational Biomechanics Medal will recognize ASME members whose work has resulted in the development of a medical device or equipment, contributed to new approaches of disease treatment or established new injury treatment modalities.

Woo, an ASME life fellow and former chair of the bioengineering division, is a pioneer in translational biomechanics who has conducted research in the healing and repair of tissues for more than 40 years.

Woo joined the Pitt faculty in 1990 after spending 20 years as a faculty member in surgery and bioengineering at the University of California-San Diego. His research has had a significant impact on the management of ligament and tendon injuries.

Woo has been inducted into the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering and the Academia Sinica, one of only four persons who have gained all three honors.


Kyle Bibby, faculty member in civil and environmental engineering in the Swanson school, is one of 70 educators selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s seventh annual Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium, Oct. 25-28.

According to the NAE, the symposium brings together some of the nation’s most engaged and innovative engineering educators in order to share ideas, learn from research and best practice in education and leave with a charter to bring about improvement in their home institution.

Bibby’s interests include understanding the presence, ecology and diversity of microorganisms, such as viruses and bacteria, in an environmental engineering context.

As the most abundant and genetically diverse biological entities on earth, microorganisms are at the core of many of society’s environmental challenges, including sustainable energy production, waste treatment and environmentally transmitted disease.


The Department of Philosophy’s 2015 Nicholas Rescher Prize for Systematic Philosophy was awarded to Hilary Putnam, the Cogan university professor emeritus at Harvard, Oct. 9.

As part of the award ceremony, which included presentation of a medal and a $30,000 check, Putnam delivered a public lecture titled “Realism.”

The award honors Rescher, distinguished University professor of philosophy, who has been on Pitt’s faculty since 1961.

Putnam was selected for the prize because of his influential publications spanning 50 years in various fields. He established himself as a prolific and innovative contributor to the philosophy of mathematics, neo- or postanalytic philosophy and the reaffirmation of key themes in American pragmatism.

His recent writings reject a scientism that disdains religious commitments on the mistaken grounds of a conflict with scientific understanding.


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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