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November 22, 2006


Several researchers at Pitt’s School of Engineering recently have received national attention for their work.

• Michael Sacks, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the school’s Department of Bioengineering, and William Wagner, who is associate professor of surgery, chemical engineering and bioengineering at Pitt and deputy director of the University’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, were named among the 2006 “Scientific American 50.”

The pair were recognized in the December issue of Scientific American magazine for their research contributions to the development and biomechanical analyses of novel cell micro-integrated biodegradable scaffolds that mimic many of the critical properties of cardiovascular tissues.

Sacks’ research focuses on quantifying and modeling the structure-mechanical properties of native and engineered soft tissues, particularly tissues of the cardiovascular and urological systems. Sacks directs the Engineered Tissue Mechanics Laboratory, and his team has concentrated on the mechanical behavior and function of heart valves and scaffold design, including the development of stress-strain models for these native and engineered tissues using a structural approach.

Wagner’s research is in the area of cardiovascular engineering with projects that address medical device biocompatibility and design, tissue engineering and imaging. While at Pitt, he has researched and participated in the development of ventricular-assist systems, membrane oxygenators and tissue-engineered lungs.

• William “Buddy” Clark and Peyman Givi, professors of mechanical engineering, were elected fellows of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for their significant engineering achievements and contributions to the profession.

Clark’s primary research interest is in the area of smart structures and microsystems. He directs the Vibration and Control Lab, in which current research foci include vibration control with variable stiffness and damping materials, energy harvesting, smart materials in micro-electromechanical systems, and the use of smart materials in cell biology studies.

Givi is the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests include turbulence, combustion, computational fluid dynamics, propulsion and stochastic processes. Givi directs the Laboratory for Computational Transport Phenomena and is a previous recipient of the NASA Public Service Medal.


The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) has awarded its Walter J. Zeiter Lectureship to Ross Zafonte, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the School of Medicine and vice president of clinical rehabilitation services for UPMC.

AAPM&R is the national medical specialty society for physicians who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation, called physiatrists.

The Walter J. Zeiter Lectureship is awarded each year to a physiatrist who shares Zeiter’s qualities of statesmanship, scholarship, executive leadership and camaraderie within the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Zafonte will present the Zeiter Lecture during the 67th AAPM&R annual assembly in Honolulu.

Zafonte’s pioneering work on rehabilitation for traumatic brain injuries has earned him many awards. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Zafonte has additional academic appointments at Pitt’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Molecular Medicine Institute.


Seven instructors recently received awards for outstanding teaching from Pitt’s Fraternity and Sorority Life, part of the Division of Student Affairs.

Receiving the awards as Fraternity and Sorority Life’s 2006 Professors of the Year were:

Jack Anderson, director of bands, Department of Athletics; George Bandik, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies, Department of Chemistry, who gave the keynote speech Oct. 18 at the awards presentation and scholarship dinner; Daniel Budny, associate professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Jason Dechant, instructor/course director, Department Health Promotion and Development, School of Nursing; Robert Donaldson, professor, Department of Political Science; Ethan Pullman, a faculty member in the University Library System who teaches Arabic, and Rick Relyea, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences.

Fraternity and sorority members nominate faculty members for the award program, now in its second year. The Greek community votes on the nominees and the top seven vote-getters were chosen for the awards.


Albert L. Etheridge, president of Pitt’s Johnstown campus, is being honored for his achievements with a scholarship endowment in his name.

Etheridge, who has headed UPJ for 13 years, will retire June 30.

Concurrent Technologies Corp. (CTC) has made a leadership gift toward the scholarship initiative.

Jeanne Gleason, chair of the Pitt-Johnstown advisory board and an emeritus trustee at Pitt, said, “During his tenure, Dr. Etheridge has certainly left his mark. He has provided leadership for these significant achievements:”

• Growing the stature of the campus by achieving “3rd in the North” status among public comprehensive colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report rankings;

• Raising $11.5 million, which surpassed the campus’s capital campaign goal of $10 million;

• Building the new Willow Hall student dormitory;

• Establishing new areas of study in secondary education and environmental science, and a Master of Social Work degree program;

• Establishing new campus landmarks, such as Heritage Square, Memorial Tree Grove and the mountain cat statue;

• Establishing academic facets, including a chapter of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society, the rising senior scholarship program, the President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence and Service Excellence and freshman convocation;

• Participating in an educational mission to Cuba, and

• Receiving the Distinguished Alumnus Award from his alma mater.

The scholarship endowment was announced Nov. 15.

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