News from around Pitt: Institute for Politics, HR, Pitt–Greensburg and more

There’s so much activity on Pitt’s campuses that sometimes news gets overlooked by the wider University community. We’ll spotlight some changes and achievements here each issue of the University Times. If you have news you want to share, email editor Susan Jones at


Mark NordenbergChancellor Emeritus Mark Nordenberg has been named director of the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law & Public Policy, which also is being moved into the Institute of Politics, which Nordenberg chairs.

The forum was established in 2007 by former Pennsylvania Gov. Thornburgh — a graduate of Pitt’s School of Law who serves as an emeritus trustee — and his wife, Ginny. Thornburgh also served as U.S. attorney general from 1988-91; and under-secretary general of the United Nations. The forum seeks to build upon Thornburgh’s legacy to advance his vision of creating effective and principled governance. Its programs include the American Experience Lecture Series; the Thornburgh Family Lectures on Disability Law & Policy; and the Thornburgh Lectures on Governance.  

The Forum also sponsors a number of student awards and supports both faculty and student research projects involving the Thornburgh Archives, which were transferred to the University in 1998.


Lisa Garland will be Pitt’s new director of talent acquisition in the Office of Human Resources, starting on Feb. 11.

Garland is currently the diversity and multi-cultural program manager for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Before coming to Pitt, she spent 17 years at Highmark Health as a program operations manager, senior talent recruiter and consultant, and finally as university relations and diversity recruitment program manager. 


The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg has received a $1.5 million grant from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation to provide support for the Pitt-Greensburg bachelor’s of science in nursing program, now in its second year. More details here.


Dr. Jean Nachega was named member-elect of Academy of Science of South Africa and elected fellow to the African Academy of Sciences in recognition of his excellence in research on patient care, teaching and research in epidemiology and infectious diseases and microbiology, here and in Africa.


Justin Kitzes, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has one of 11 winners of an AI for Earth Innovation Grant, awarded by Microsoft and National Geographic. Kitzes aims to develop an open source model to allow academic researchers to identify bird songs in acoustic field recordings.


Jennifer Laaser, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to investigate how the structure and dynamics of polymeric networks influence force-driven processes at the molecular scale. She also will develop curricular materials and outreach activities to promote education and diversity in polymer science. Click here to read the abstract.  


  • Petroleum Experts Limited (Petex) has donated the MOVE suite of software, valued at $2.1 million to the Department of Geology and Environmental Science. The MOVE suite provides the complete range of tools to build, balance, restore and analyze cross-sections at a local and regional scale as well as build detailed and complex 3-D models linking surface and subsurface geology and geometry. More details here.
  • Emily Elliott, associate professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science, received the 2018 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education from American Geophysical Union “for significant contributions as a role model and mentor for the next generation of biogeoscientists.”


The National Science Foundation BIGDATA program awarded $1.2 million to a research team led by the Swanson School of Engineering to study the big brain data for complex brain disorders and design new algorithms that address computational challenges in multi-site collaborative data mining. Heng Huang, professor of computer engineering, is principal investigator of the study, "Asynchronous Distributed Machine Learning Framework for Multi-Site Collaborative Brain Big Data Mining." More details here.