Inaugural internal funding showcase highlights interdisciplinary research

Three panel members talk as moderator looks on


Two interdisciplinary research groups — one attempting to combat global plastic waste and one developing the Pittsburgh Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation in Medical Imaging — were awarded $400,000 each in scaling grants at the inaugural Fueling Our Future Showcase on Feb. 24.

Those projects were among many interdisciplinary efforts highlighted at the showcase, a new effort from Pitt’s administration to celebrate grant winners and increase the visibility of internal grants.

What started as an “aspirational conversation” between Provost Ann Cudd and Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob Rutenbar evolved into the showcase, which was held in Alumni Hall.

It honored the grant winners of the Pitt Research Momentum Funds and Forge Your Own Path grants (formerly the Personalized Education grants) among other internal grants. It also featured presentations on Course Incubator Projects and past Pitt Seed Grant and Innovation in Education Innovation Award winners.

“Creativity and expertise exist in great abundance on all the Pitt campuses,” Cudd said in her opening address. “And it’s vital to develop as many funding opportunities as possible to propel progress forward, especially in the areas of interdisciplinary work.” 

Sponsored by the Office of the Provost, Pitt Research and the Office of the Chancellor, the showcase also served as a platform to highlight interdisciplinary, team-based scholarship, Rutenbar said. 

“While we remain committed to providing support for the initiatives of individual scholars, research and impact often involves work at many different scales of activities and team-based research,” Rutenbar said in his opening address. “And before today, Pitt really did not offer faculty a clearly defined vehicle to support building big transdisciplinary teams to pursue team-based scholarly work and responsibilities.”

A panel discuss on academic innovation featured an interdisciplinary group of people who received grants in 2018, including Brian Galla, a faculty member of the Department of Psychology in Education; Lorna Kearns, director of online programs at the University Center for Teaching and Learning; and Jane Wallace, co-director of undergraduate studies at the Department of Economics.

Julia Spears, associate vice provost for academic innovation, moderated the panel, where participants explained their grant-winning projects, how their projects evolved as research was conducted and how the process helped them seek out funding for additional research.

For further information on the grants, projects, grant winners and previous grant winners, visit the official program booklet here

Frits Pil and Provost Ann Cudd

Grant winners and projects


The scaling grants are for up to $400,000 given out over two years.

Attacking the Global Plastics Waste Problem: Eric Beckman and Götz Veser, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; Melissa Bilec and Vikas Khanna, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Peng Liu, Chemistry; and Amy Wildermuth and Joshua Galperin, School of Law

Pittsburgh Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation in Medical Imaging: Shandong Wu, Ashok Panigrahy, Rivka Colen, Jules Sumkin, Wendie Berg and Robert Nishikawa, Radiology; David Vorp, Bioengineering; John Gilbertson, Kayhan Batmanghelich and Michael Becich, Biomedical Informatics; and Seong Jae Hwang, Computer Science


These are awarded in amounts up to $60,000 for a one-year term.

A Black Women’s Health Agenda: Applying an Intersectional Systems Approach and Reproductive Justice Lens: Dara Mendez and Tiffany Gary-Webb, Epidemiology; Esa Davis, Medicine; Abi Fapohunda, Africana Studies; Tomar Pierson-Brown, School of Law; Jada Shirriel, Healthy Start, Inc.; Alysia Tucker and Dannai Wilson, Allegheny County Health Department; and La’Tasha Mayes, New Voices for Reproductive Justice

Deciphering Redox Free Radical Mechanisms of 15LOX/PEBP1-driven Ferroptosis in Skin: Yuri Bunimovich, Dermatology; Valerian Kagan, Environmental and Occupational Health; and Sunil Saxena, Chemistry

Developing University Infrastructure to Foster Equity and Inclusion in College Classrooms: Kevin Binning and Christian Schunn, Psychology; Lorna Kearns, University Center for Teaching and Learning; Linda DeAngelo, Administrative and Policy Studies; and Erica McGreevy, Biological Sciences

History and Future of the “Neglected Tropical Diseases”: Integrating Qualitative and Quantitative Research to Improve Public Health Outcomes: Mari Webel, History; Sarah Krier, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology; Thuy Bui, Medicine; Matiangai Sirleaf, School of Law; Michael R. Dietrich, History and Philosophy of Science; and Wilbert Van Panhuis, Epidemiology

Identification of Factors Associated with Subsequent Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis Using Machine Learning over Complex Large-scale Longitudinal Health Data: Richard Boyce, Biomedical Informatics; Steven Albert, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences; and Paul Munro, Informatics and Networked Systems

Pittsburgh Phage Project: John Williams, Geoff Kurland, Marian Michaels and Anna Wang-Erickson, Pediatrics; Jennifer Bomberger, Vaughn Cooper and Seema Lakdawala, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; Tim Corcoran, Ghady Haidar, Alina Iovleva, Joe Pilewski, Yohei Doi, Ryan Shields, Fernanda Silveira and Daria Van Tyne, Medicine; Balasubramani Goundappa and Steve Wisniewski, Epidemiology; Graham Hatfull and Jim Pipas, Biological Sciences; Stephanie Mitchell, Pathology; Lisa Parker, Human Genetics; Doug Reed, Immunology

Transnational Dialogues in Afro-Latin American and Afro-Latinx Studies: Michele Reid-Vazquez, Africana Studies; Shawn Alfonso-Wells, Dietrich School Advising Center; George Reid Andrews, History; Jerome Branche, Hispanic Languages and Literatures; Gina Garcia, Administrative and Policy Studies; Martha Mantilla, Hillman Library; and Luis Van Fossen Bravo, Center for Latin American Studies


These grants provide up to $25,000. 

Biology Transfer Students: Building Personalized Connections: Jessica Wandelt, Christine Berliner and Kevin Wu, Biological Sciences

Changing the Narrative of Student Success: Mary Napoli and Rebecca Farabaugh, Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences

Developing Self-care and Personal Wellness in Graduate Students in Health Professions: Jamie Kulzer and Laura Dietz, Rehabilitation Science and Technology

Expanding and Refining First-year Learning Communities at Pitt-Greensburg: Kayla Heffernan, Division of Natural Sciences, and Frank Wilson, Social Sciences

Expanding STEAM Education Pathways: Opportunities for Deeply Personalized Education: Cassie Quigley, Department of Instruction and Learning

Persistence, Performance, and Law School: Implementing Interventions to Encourage Growth Mindset, Maximize Education, and Ensure Practice-ready Professionals: Ann Sinsheimer and Leigh Coogan, School of Law

Personalized Course Coaching at Scale: Bringing ECoach to Pitt: Jennifer Ganger, Psychology; Lingfeng Liu, Chemistry; and Jessica Wandelt, Biological Sciences

Personalized Education Opportunities within Pitt Studios: Kelly Hammonds, Athletics

Professional Development Advisor Training and Educational Resources Development: Colleen Culley, Karen Pater and Kristine Schonder, Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics

Using Data Analytics for Advisors: StudentPaths and Concept Progression Maps: Daniel Mosse, Sean Bridgen and Nathan Ong, School of Computing and Information


A Flexible and Scalable Approach to Multidisciplinary Introductory Computer Science: Nicholas Farnan and William Garrison, Computer Science

An Augmented Reality Platform for Clinical Procedure Training: Dmitriy Babichenko, Informatics and Networked Systems

Championing Hearing Using Accessible Medication Experts at the Community Pharmacy: An Over-the-counter Hearing Aid Certificate Program for Student Pharmacists: Lucas Berenbrok, Pharmacy and Therapeutics, and Elaine Mormer, Communication Science and Disorders

Instructional Design for Teaching Clinical Skills in a Flipped Classroom: Dawna Duff, Communication Science and Disorders

Integration of Computer-aided Design into Electrical Engineering Curriculum Using COMSOL Multiphysics: Robert Kerestes, Electrical and Computer Engineering

#FakeNews: Understanding Journalism, Mass Communication Technologies, and the Rise of Clickbait: Jessica Ghilani, Division of Humanities, Pitt–Greensburg


Department of Biological Sciences (BIOSC 0150): Suzanna Gribble, Lesley J. Ashmore, Candice L. Damiani, Samuel S. Donovan, Kathryn E. Gardner, Erica M. McGreevy, Valerie Oke, Linda P. O’Reilly, Laurel B. Roberts, Zuzana Swigonova and Laura S. Zapanta

Department of Chemistry (CHEM 0110): Sean Garrett-Roe, Tara Meyer, Tamika Madison and Jill Millstone

Department of Economics (ECON 0100): Jane Caldwell Wallace, Katherine Wiley Wolfe, David Hewitt, Svitlana Maksymenko, James Maloy, Kevin Shaver and Margarita Zabelina

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905. 


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