Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Since its founding in 1893 by two legends, George Westinghouse and Reginald Fessenden, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt has excelled in education, research, and service.  Today, the department features innovative undergraduate and graduate programs and world-class research centers and labs, combining theory with practice at the nexus of computer and electrical engineering, for our students to learn, develop, and lead lives of impact.





Apr
16
2018

ECE Chair Alan George presents Inaugural Lecture

Electrical & Computer

In celebration of his appointment as the Ruth and Howard Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Pittsburgh Provost Patricia Beeson hosted Alan George's Inaugural Lecture on Thursday, April 5.

Apr
9
2018

Request your tutor

Electrical & Computer

Read the full story at Pittwire. University of Pittsburgh administrators traditionally thought that student success was reflected primarily in graduation rates, said Patricia E. Beeson, Pitt’s provost and senior vice chancellor. They later found, she said, that measuring student success required a multifaceted approach that considered experiences — for example, internships and study abroad — that catered to students’ individual preferences. With this perspective in mind, Beeson and her colleagues in the Office of the Provost launched the Personalized Education Initiative to encourage faculty, staff and students to personalize the academic experience. The first recipients of grants from the Personalized Education Grants Program were recognized by Beeson at a March 26 reception. “As the higher education landscape and the needs of our students continue to evolve, our efforts to transform the student experience are setting a new standard,” said Beeson. “Through innovative uses of technology and novel approaches to teaching, advising and mentoring, Pitt is ideally positioned to provide national leadership in the area of personalized education.” According to Beeson, the initiative received 42 proposals; 17 projects were selected for funding ranging from $1,000 to $26,000 each. Request your tutor In his research on geographic information systems (GIS), Swanson School of Engineering faculty member Robert Kerestes has seen how programs like Google Maps and Yelp can match people to what they are looking for based on location. Kerestes, director of the electrical engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, wondered if GIS was applicable to academics, too. He partnered with his colleagues Samuel Dickerson, director of the computer engineering undergraduate program and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Anita Persaud, director of retention. Together, they drafted a proposal for a real-time tutor sourcing application. The app, similar to ride-sharing apps like Lyft or Uber, would allow students to locate and request tutors near them that have academic expertise in a particular subject. At first, students would have access to a hand-picked pool of tutors, but the app would eventually allow people who are interested in serving as tutors to offer their services. Kerestes hopes to use the grant to allow students to use the app at no charge. In the initial phase of the project, the app’s use will be limited primarily to members of the Swanson School. Kerestes imagines expanding the project to other parts of the University and even outside Pitt at a later phase.
Katie Fike, University Communications
Apr
6
2018

Eleven Pitt Students Awarded 2018 National Science Foundation Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH – Eleven University of Pittsburgh students and four alumni were awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Eleven Pitt students and four alumni also received honorable mentions. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 as well as a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees. The fellowship program has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The support accorded NSF Graduate Research Fellows nurtures their ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. Among this year's Pitt cohort, eight undergraduate and graduate students were awarded fellowships, joined by two Swanson School alumni now in graduate school. Four undergraduate and graduate students and one alumnus received honorable mentions. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, attributed this year's increase in winners from engineering to a strategically focused mentor-mentee program. “The program diversity among this year’s Swanson School NSF fellows is thanks in great part to Bioengineering Professor Pat Loughlin for working with each department to identify strong candidates and faculty mentors to help them build winning portfolios,” Dr. Besterfield-Sacre said. “The NSF Graduate Research Program is incredibly competitive and we’re especially proud that undergraduates make up half of our fellows.” Current Pitt students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship are seniors from: - Swanson School of Engineering: Abraham Charles Cullom (civil and environmental engineering), Vani Hiremath Sundaram (mechanical engineering and material science), Adam Lewis Smoulder (bioengineering) and Henry Phalen (bioengineering); and graduate students Megan Routzong (bioengineering), Monica Fei Liu (bioengineering), Angelica Janina Herrera (bioengineering) and Sarah Hemler (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: Graduate students Brett Baribault Bankson (psychology), Stefanie Lee Sequeira (psychology) and Alaina Nicole McDonnell (chemistry). Current Pitt students who received honorable mentions are from: - Swanson School of Engineering: seniors Anthony Joseph O’Brian (chemical and petroleum engineering), Anthony Louis Mercader (mechanical engineering and material science), Zachary Smith (electrical and computer engineering); and graduate student Maria Kathleen Jantz (bioengineering). - Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences: graduate students Amy Ryan (chemistry), Kathryn Mae Rothenhoefer (neuroscience), Andrea Marie Fetters (biological sciences), Mariah Denhart, (biological sciences), Timothy Stephen Coleman (statistics), Hope Elizabeth Anne Brooks (biological sciences), Mary Elizabeth Rouse Braza (geology and environmental science). Alumni who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include Thomas Robert Werkmeister (engineering science) and Luke Drnach (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, and Julianne Griffith (psychology and sociology) and Aleza Wallace (psychology) from the Dietrich School. Alumni who received honorable mentions include Corey Williams (bioengineering) from the Swanson School, Sarah Elise Post (biological sciences), Hannah Katherine Dollish (neuroscience and Slavik studies) and Krista Bullard (chemistry), the latter three from the Dietrich School. Visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/grfp/Login.do for a full list of fellows and honorable mentions and to learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. # # #
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Apr
5
2018

Forecasting the “Whether” with Computer Modeling

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 5, 2018) … Can a computer tell whether El Niño affects famine in South Sudan? How about whether national currency devaluation affects refugee displacement? Whether flooding affects government upheaval? A comprehensive model explaining whether these factors relate would require far more data than even the most brilliant minds can imagine and far more imagination than even the most powerful computers can muster.Thanks to a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University researchers are looking to harmonize the power of computation with the insight of human intuition. The result would resemble models used by meteorologists to forecast the weather but include complex socioeconomic and geopolitical dynamics. “Our first challenge is to predict food shortages in South Sudan,” says Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We not only consider numerical data but textual data from news sources, reports, and databases to predict future crises.”Dr. Miskov-Zivanov leads as principal investigator on one of eight teams in DARPA’s World Modelers program, which will focus primarily on explaining world problems like famine in South Sudan. Her study, called STORM: Standardized Technology for Optimizing Data Modeling, will attempt to automate the design of computer models to describe complex, causal relationships between current events.“Computer models can synthesize vast amounts of data, but just because two data points are correlated doesn’t mean we know how one influences the other. We want to be able to have experts analyze and tweak the computer models, and therefore strengthen our overall understanding of how each node is related,” explains Dr. Miskov-Zivanov.In the discrete modeling approach taken by Dr. Miskov-Zivanov, the nodes are things that change over time, such as crop production and exchange rates. Edges of the model are connections between nodes and their influences on each other. The result is a model that can explain “how” two events are related beyond an observed correlation. Through the combination of human expertise and Big Data processing, the World Modelers aim to create a model that accurately describes cause and effect in the real world.Drs. Eduard Hovy, Michael Trick, and Cheryl Telmer from CMU join Dr. Miskov-Zivanov’s team on the World Modelers project. Dr. Telmer previously worked with Dr. Miskov-Zivanov during the 2014-2018 DARPA Big Mechanism program aimed at creating models of cancer pathways from automated reading of research papers. Dr. Miskov-Zivanov received $2.4 million of funding during Big Mechanism for a project called Automated Integration of Mechanisms in Cancer (AIMCancer), which took a similar approach to data modeling as the new World Modelers program but focused on understanding signaling pathways of cancer.“During Big Mechanism, we developed a framework for automating assembly and explanation of models, combining the information extracted by machine reading from published papers, experimental data, and expert knowledge. While the framework has been mostly used in biology, the technology was built to apply to other systems,” says Dr. Miskov-Zivanov.Big Mechanism had the advantage of extracting information from research papers, but World Modelers will attempt to build its models based on the much less consistent information extracted from the news and discussion of current events. By finding patterns in the causes and effects of significant events, the researchers hope to develop computer models describing complex networks that cause famines or create economic trends.“The computer does not know the difference between molecules, people, or nations,” says Dr. Miskov-Zivanov. “If we collect enough information, verify how data points relate to each other with expert opinion, and model networks to describe these relationships, we will get a more accurate picture than ever before of what triggers major events.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Presents Mike Gazarik with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2018) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh.This year’s recipient for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is Mike Gazarik, PhD, BSEE ’87, Vice President of Engineering at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation.The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 54th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. Gerald D. Holder, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the final time before his return to the faculty this fall.“One of Mike’s many awards from NASA is the ‘Silver Snoopy Award,’” said Dean Holder. “An astronaut always presents the Silver Snoopy because it is the astronaut’s own award for outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety, and mission success. Less than one percent of the aerospace program workforce receives it annually, making it a special honor to receive.”About Mike GazarikMike Gazarik earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1987. He earned a master’s degree in 1989 and PhD in 1997 – both in Electrical Engineering – from the Georgia Institute of Technology.Dr. Gazarik joined Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation in March 2015 as Vice President of Engineering. He provides overall strategic and operational leadership of the organization, which includes all engineering disciplines as well as manufacturing, test, supply chain management, facilities, independent research and development, and intellectual property. Prior to this position, he served as Technical Director and worked to align Ball’s technology development with business development and growth strategies.  Before joining Ball, Dr. Gazarik worked at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. He has more than 25 years of experience in the design, development, and deployment of spaceflight systems, and he has contributed to the development of technology with applications to NASA’s exploration, space operations, and science missions. While overseeing the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, he led the rapid development and incorporation of transformative technologies that enable missions and address the nation’s aerospace community’s most difficult challenges.Earlier in his career, Dr. Gazarik served as Deputy Director for programs at NASA’s Langley Research Center in the Engineering Directorate. He led the development of an infrared camera for the Space Shuttle that allowed the astronauts to inspect the Shuttle while in orbit and led the development of entry, descent, and landing instrumentation on the Mars Science Laboratory that made the first measurements of flying and landing on Mars. Prior to joining NASA, he served as Project Manager for the Geosynchronous Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. In the private sector, he worked on software and firmware development for commercial and government applications, including telecommunications and signal processing.Dr. Gazarik is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Engineering Advisory Board for the University of Colorado Aerospace Sciences Department and the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering. He has received numerous awards including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and a Silver Snoopy Award, one of NASA’s highest honors. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

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