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March 3, 2016

People of the Times

Three Pitt faculty members were among the 106 researchers named winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

A former Pitt faculty member also was named an award winner for the work she did while at the University.

The University awardees are Ervin Sejdic, faculty member in electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering; Elizabeth Skidmore, faculty member in and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; and Tina Goldstein, faculty member in psychiatry in the School of Medicine.

Cynthia Puranik, former faculty member in communication science and disorders, also won for work done while at Pitt.

Pitt tied for the most faculty on the president’s award list with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California-Berkeley.

The Presidential Early Career Awards highlight the key role that the administration places in encouraging and accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest challenges. This year’s recipients are employed or funded by the following departments and agencies: Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of the Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, and the Intelligence Community. These departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

During his undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario, Sejdic specialized in wireless communications, while his PhD project focused on signal processing. During his postdoctoral fellowship, Sejdic focused on rehabilitation engineering and biomedical instrumentation. He also was a research fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School cross-appointed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he focused on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular monitoring of older diabetic adults.
Sejdic’s research interests include biomedical signal processing, gait analysis, swallowing difficulties, advanced information systems in medicine, rehabilitation engineering, assistive technologies and anticipatory medical devices.

Skidmore’s research program focuses on interventions designed to promote independence and community re-engagement after stroke and other forms of brain injury.

She says that individuals with brain injury frequently experience cognitive impairments that contribute to significant long-term disability. These individuals may have difficulty with simple activities such as bathing, dressing or walking, as well as more complex activities such as managing their home or completing school or work-related activities.

Her National Institutes of Health-funded work has identified innovative rehabilitation treatments that can be started within a few days after brain injury onset and are associated with significant reductions in disability in the long term. These treatments have been developed and tested within six of the inpatient rehabilitation units in the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.

Skidmore is planning the next phase of her research program, which is focused on studying a wide-scale implementation of these treatments in selected rehabilitation centers outside the region.

Skidmore earned her master’s degree in occupational therapy and PhD in rehabilitation science at Pitt.

Goldstein’s work focuses on the assessment and psychosocial treatment of youth with and at risk for bipolar disorder, with a particular interest in suicide prevention in this population.

She aims to develop improved prevention and intervention strategies for young people informed by an enhanced understanding of the complex relationship between biological and psychosocial determinants of mood disorder and suicide.

A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, she earned her PhD in clinical psychology in 2003 and relocated to Pittsburgh, where she completed the clinical psychology internship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and a federally funded postdoctoral fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry. She was recruited to the department faculty in 2006. She was appointed director of psychotherapy for pediatric mood disorders in 2014.

The winners will receive their awards at a Washington, D.C., ceremony this spring.

Engineering faulty member John Murphy is the winner of the Erskine Ramsay Medal, presented by the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) and the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.potts.John MurphyMurphy is a research professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s
Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and executive director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

He was recognized for his contributions to the coal industry, safety and health research, public outreach, professional development, mentoring and to the SME.

Cait Lamberton, faculty member in business administration and Ben R. Fryrear Faculty Fellow at the Katz Graduate School of Business, is the recipient of the 2016 Erin Anderson Award from the American Marketing Association Foundation.

Recipients are chosen based on the impact of their research publications and on the degree to which they exceed expectations in mentoring others.

An expert on consumer behavior, self-control, and the role of interpersonal and social relationships on decision-making, Lamberton has been a member of the Katz School faculty since 2008. She teaches courses in consumer behavior and project-based marketing to undergraduate students and those in the MBA, doctoral and executive education programs.

Lamberton also is the Katz marketing PhD program coordinator and has co-authored papers with a number of doctoral students at Katz and other schools.

She provides mentoring as an associate editor for the Journal of Consumer Research and an area editor for research reports for the Journal of Consumer Psychology.  The award honors the late Erin Anderson, whose research made significant contributions to the marketing discipline.

“Cait deserves the award based on her research and mentoring alone,” said Leigh McAlister, chair of the awards committee. “But, like the person for whom the award is named, Cait doesn’t just meet the requirements for awards. She goes above and beyond in seemingly everything.”

Shilpa Sant, faculty member in pharmaceutical science in the School of Pharmacy, received a Rising Star Award for Early Career Faculty from the Biomedical Engineering Society during the Biomedical Engineering Society-Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering meeting held in New Orleans.

Peter Strick, Thomas Detre Professor of Neuroscience, distinguished professor and chair of neurobiology, scientific director of the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute, and director of the Systems Neuroscience Institute, has been appointed to the editorial board of the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

John Ference and Robert Engelmeier of the Department of Prosthodontics in the School of Dental Medicine, and Mark Chmielus, Department of Mechnical Engineeering and Materials Science in the Swanson School of Engineering, have won the 2016 American Dental Education Association Gies Award for Outstanding Innovation by an Academic Dental Institution for their roles in understanding the physical and mechanical properties in the fabrication of a three-dimensional printed metal removable partial denture framework.

English faculty member Terrance Hayes won the NAACP Outstanding Literary Work award for his poetry collection “How to Be Drawn.”

President Obama has nominated former School of Information Sciences faculty member Carla D. Hayden as the next librarian of Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African American ever to lead the world’s largest library.

Hayden currently is CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.


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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