Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Alumni News

Apr

Apr
30
2018

Bioengineering alumna Alexandra Delazio part of team developing Disney's "Force Jacket"

Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Virtual reality is a gateway to powerful experiences. Strap on a pair of VR goggles, look around, and the scene you see will adjust, in real time, to match your gaze. But the technology is a visual one. Virtual reality doesn’t include touch, although there are controllers that provide “hand presence,” allowing you to manipulate objects in the virtual world, or shoot a simulated gun. So while VR today could simulate a Westworld-like setting, you’re not going to be actually feeling the hug of a cowboy-robot on your body while using any of the major platforms—at least not for a while. The Force Jacket, a garment from Disney Research, aims to address that gap. Made out of a converted life jacket, the prototype uses embedded airbags that inflate, deflate, or even vibrate to literally give its wearer a feeling of being touched. When coupled with VR software, the setup can simulate something bizarre—a snake slithering on you—or more pedestrian: getting hit by a snowball. In brief, the sensation of touch you feel on your actual body can match what you see in a virtual one. (The device is the result of a research project, so these lifejacket-garments aren’t exactly on sale on Amazon. It’s also not the first research to focus on incorporating haptics into VR.) “If you’ve experienced virtual reality or augmented reality, it’s largely based in this immersive visual world,” says Alexandra Delazio, the lead researcher on the jacket project and currently a research engineer at the University of Pittsburgh, where she works on technology for people with disabilities. “The real world is not just visual—it’s full of force and pressure-based interaction.” The goal of the jacket is to bring that sense of touch to the virtual world, or maybe even offer a way for someone far away to give you a hug. Read the full story at Popular Science.

Apr
24
2018

Pitt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering appoints two alumni as new undergraduate program directors

Electrical & Computer, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced new leadership for its undergraduate programs. Samuel J. Dickerson, assistant professor and associate director of computer engineering, was promoted as the program’s full director. Robert Kerestes, assistant professor, was named director of the electrical engineering program. Dr. Dickerson succeeds Alex K. Jones, professor of computer engineering, who last year was appointed associate director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) at Pitt. Dr. Kerestes succeeds Irvin Jones Jr., who will continue in the department as assistant professor. Both Dickerson and Kerestes are triple alumni of the Swanson School, each having earned a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in electrical and computer engineering. “Professors Dickerson and Kerestes are two of the finest teachers in our department, two of our most active in education research, and they bring a deep commitment to guiding students in the COE and EE undergraduate programs in ECE,” explained Alan George, the R&H Mickle Endowed Chair and Department Chair, and SHREC Director. “Each is an alumnus of the program that he now directs, with a special perspective on the needs of our students and how best to support their academic growth and success. “They are both taking over from the strong leadership of Alex and Irvin, who have helped to shape the undergraduate programs and nurture them through incredible expansion. I cannot thank them enough for their continued dedication to our students, as well as their contributions to our research programs.”About Dr. DickersonDr. Dickerson’ research focuses on electronics, circuits and embedded systems and, in particular, technologies in those areas that have biomedical applications. He has published in several journals research on the design and simulation of mixed-signal integrated circuits and systems that incorporate the use of both digital and analog electronics, in particular optics, microfluidics and devices that interface to the biological world. Prior to joining the faculty in 2015, he was a co-founder and the president of Nanophoretics LLC, where he led the research and development of a novel dielectrophoresis-based “lab-on-chip” technology for rapidly detecting drug-resistant bacteria strains. He has received three patents based on the technology, and in 2013 received the Pitt Innovator Award for his research. Because of his focus on undergraduate engineering education, he was one of 48 innovative engineering faculty members invited to the National Academy of Engineering’s 2016 annual Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium. The FOEE engages young engineering faculty who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches in a variety of engineering disciplines where they can share ideas, learn from research and best practice in education, and leave with a charter to bring about improvement at their home institution.Dr. Dickerson received his B.S. in computer engineering (2003) and M.S. (2007) and PhD (2012) in electrical engineering from Pitt. About Dr. KerestesDr. Kerestes’ research is balanced between the classroom and the laboratory: engineering education and stem curricula, mathematical modeling and simulation of physical systems, power systems control & stability, electric machinery, power quality and renewable energy technologies. Prior to his appointment as assistant professor in 2016, he was an adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Senior Engineer at Emerson Process Management, where he was project lead for the dynamic simulation of thermal power plants, electrical power systems and microgrids. He is a veteran of the United States Navy (Active Duty and Naval Reserve), having served as Third Class Petty Officer, and has published research on medium voltage DC architecture and infrastructure, and energy storage systems. He received his bachelor’s (2010), master’s (2011) and PhD (2014) in electrical engineering from Pitt. ###

Apr
4
2018

The Swanson School Presents Wesley C. Pickard with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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. The distinguished alumna chosen to represent the Swanson School of Engineering overall in 2018 is Wesley C. Pickard, BSMIN ’61, retired Chief Financial Officer of Synergy, Inc. 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. “Through his career, Wes has always found a commitment to community service, especially at Pitt,” said Dean Holder. “He has served on the board and executive committee of the alumni association and established a scholarship for students in Washington D.C. to attend Pitt. It has been my honor as dean to get to know Wes in this capacity, as well as for his generosity to the Swanson School and for his passion for student success in engineering.” About Wesley C. Pickard Wesley C. Pickard received his bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering from University of Pittsburgh in 1961. He also holds a master’s degree in Mineral Economics from The Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the University of Chicago, where he also completed coursework and exams for a PhD in economics. In 2000, the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Science named Mr. Pickard a Centennial Fellow. Mr. Pickard started his professional career at Bethlehem Steel Corporation as an Economic and Market Research Analyst. In 1972 he joined Synergy, Inc., a provider of strategic planning analysis and technology solutions for defense operations and logistics. Major clients of Synergy have included the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior Energy and Materials, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and various other Department of Defense offices and agencies. 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. Mr. Pickard served many roles at Synergy including Chief Financial Officer throughout his entire 33-year tenure, as well as President, Vice Chair, Senior Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer. Pickard helped grow the company from five employees to more than 200, with revenues of approximating $25 million when the company was sold to IFC Consulting in 2005. He is actively involved with the University of Pittsburgh and served as a Board Member of the Pitt Alumni Association (2007-2011) and on the Executive Committee (2007-2008). He also established a scholarship for Washington, D.C. area students who attend Pitt. In D.C., Mr. Pickard serves on the board of Resources to Inspire Students and Educators (RISE), which provides professional tutoring services for charter schools. At RISE he has held the positions of Chair and Treasurer. Mr. Pickard also serves on the board of Signature Theatre, which received the 2009 Tony Award for excellence in regional theater, and previously held the position of Board Treasurer. In 2010 Mr. Pickard was named the University of Pittsburgh Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Alumnus. He also received the Pitt Volunteer of Excellence Award in 2012 and was named a “Significant Sig” in 2017 by Sigma Chi Fraternity. Finally, thanks to his strong philanthropic support of Pitt, Mr. Pickard was inducted into the Cathedral of Learning Society in April, 2016. ###

Apr
4
2018

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

Electrical & Computer, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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
Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering Presents David VanSickle with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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 Bioengineering is David VanSickle, PhD BIOE ’98, MD ’01, Founder of South Denver Neurosurgery and Director of Denver DBS Center. 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. “In the very early days of the bioengineering program here at the Swanson School, David joined Pitt from California State University at Sacramento along with Dr. Rory Cooper. Together they would establish what would become one of Pitt’s most innovative and life-changing programs – the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL),” said Dean Holder. “Today, HERL has gained international recognition and awards for technologies that help the lives of differently abled people, especially our wounded veterans.” About David VanSickle Dr. David VanSickle earned a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998 and an MD in 2001. Originally coming to Pittsburgh with Dr. Rory Cooper in December 1993, Dr. VanSickle co-founded the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL). To get the lab off the ground, he drove one of two trucks of laboratory equipment from Dr. Cooper’s lab at California State University in Sacramento to Pittsburgh, towing his car behind. After graduating from Pitt medical school, Dr. VanSickle pursued a career in neurosurgery and completed a six-year neurosurgery residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He is board-certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and is a fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. For the past 10 years, Dr. VanSickle has been in private practice as a founding member of South Denver Neurosurgery located on the campus of Littleton Adventist Hospital, a Level II trauma center. While providing trauma and general neurosurgery care, his practice has strong emphasis on deep brain stimulation (DBS). This therapeutic system consists of placing electrodes into target areas of the brain to modify disease states such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, obsessive compulsive disorder, or dystonia. Dr. VanSickle adapted the Mazor surgical robot to an image-based electrode placement technique in 2014 – becoming the first surgeon in the U.S. to place electrodes robotically. Subsequently, Littleton Adventist Hospital established the Denver DBS Center directed by Dr. VanSickle, and it’s recognized as the worldwide leader in robotic deep brain stimulation surgery. Dr. VanSickle also performs surgery for epilepsy and holds a patent for a surgically-implanted device to record epileptic events. Dr. VanSickle is married with two children residing in Denver. ###

Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Presents James M. Pommersheim with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Chemical & Petroleum, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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 Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is James M. Pommersheim, BSCHE ’60, MS ’62, PhD ’70, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University. 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. “An accomplished researcher, Jim is also a passionate teacher and has worked to recognize our outstanding educators,” said Dean Holder. “His teaching awards at Bucknell are numerous, and in kind, he established the James Martin Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching here at our Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. We thank Jim for his dedication to teaching both the countless students of the past and our Pitt students of tomorrow.” About James M. Pommersheim James M. Pommersheim received three degrees from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Chemical Engineering: his BSCHE in 1960, his MS in 1962, and his PhD in 1970. He first became interested in teaching while serving as a teaching assistant at Pitt where he had many opportunities to interact with the faculty of the department, most notably its chair, Edward Stuart. These engagements led to his successful tenure as Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University from 1965 to 2003 and the fall semester of 2006. Dr. Pommersheim specialized in conceptual and mathematical modeling in chemical engineering with research centered on transport in cementitious systems. At Bucknell he was instrumental in establishing the transport theory sequences of courses as well as a course in applied mathematics which emphasized modeling along with mathematical methods. He also taught operations research in the Management Department. He served as Visiting Research Professor at The Pennsylvania State University in the summer semesters of 1988 and 1989. At Syracuse University, he served as Visiting Professor, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, in the Spring semesters of 2005, 2006, and 2011. In 2014, Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering established the James Martin Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching in honor of a significant legacy gift made by Dr. Pommersheim. The award recognizes one outstanding departmental faculty member annually in the areas of lecturing, teaching, research methodology, and research mentorship of students, as well as the conduction of seminars, tutorials, and recitations. In addition to his extensive teaching career, Dr. Pommersheim served as a research associate for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Occidental Research and Petroleum, Mobil Oil, and NASA. He provided consulting services for the Center for Building Technology and for the Materials Research Institute at Penn State. He has authored a number of publications and held many presentations at national and international meetings. Dr. Pommersheim is a member of AIChE as well as several other professional and honorary societies. His specific honors and awards include: Faculty Advisor to Outstanding Senior Design Teams in the Smith College of Engineering, Syracuse University (2005 and 2006); Outstanding Paper Award from the Society of Coating Technology (1996); ASEE Mid-Atlantic Region Award for Excellence in Instruction of Engineering (1984); Class of 1956 Award for Inspirational Teaching, Bucknell University (1985); Invited Scholar, Faculty Development Program of Queen’s University (1982); and the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, Bucknell University (1979). ###

Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Presents Victor Bertolina with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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 Civil and Environmental Engineering is Victor Bertolina, BSCE ’71, President of SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. 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. “After graduating from Pitt in 1971 and earning his commission in the United States Army, Vic worked at the West Virginia Department of Highways and later PennDOT and the city of Pittsburgh as a Bridge Engineer,” said Dean Holder. “This was the springboard to his now 40-plus year career at SAI Consulting Engineers. We applaud Vic for his accomplishments in the field of engineering, and for helping to build bridges that connect us.” About Victor Bertolina Victor Bertolina graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1971 and then received a commission in 1971 in the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant. He worked for the West Virginia Department of Highways as a Civil Engineer Trainee from January to June 1972 before entering Officer Basic Training at Ft. Benning, Ga. In September 1972 he was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and performed a variety of duties including bridge inspection, bridge design, and review of construction documents and inspection reports. Mr. Bertolina left PennDOT in March 1978 to serve as a bridge engineer for the City of Pittsburgh Department of Engineering and Construction. In 1977 Mr. Bertolina registered as a professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and subsequently as a P.E. in West Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and Kansas. He joined SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. in June 1979 as a project engineer in the structure department performing bridge inspections, bridge analysis, and bridge design before becoming manager of SAI’s Structure Department. Mr. Bertolina later served SAI as Vice President, Engineering and today as President where he is responsible for the management of all functions and personnel engaged in structure design, highway design, construction inspection, in-depth bridge inspection, and structural analysis. Mr. Bertolina has been involved with several notable bridge projects in the Pittsburgh region, including the Liberty Bridge, Fleming Park Bridge, Clairton-Glassport Bridge, Wabash HOV Bridge, and the rehabilitation of the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street Bridges.During his military career he was a member of the United States Army Reserve 420th Combat Engineers, rose to rank of Captain, and held the position of Company Executive Officer. Mr. Bertolina has been a member of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania’s International Bridge Conference Committee for more than 25 years. His community involvement includes being a long-term member of the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Visiting Committee, and a past parish council member and Sunday School Teacher at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. He lives in Squirrel Hill with Harriet, his wife of 45 years. ###

Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Industrial Engineering Presents Tracey Travis with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

Industrial, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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 Industrial Engineering is Tracey T. Travis, BSIE ‘83, Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer of The Estée Lauder Companies.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.“Today, at the Estee Lauder Corporation as CFO and Executive Vice President of Finance, she is responsible for global finance, IT, investor relations and process improvement among other duties,” said Dean Holder. “Our Industrial Engineering program is the second oldest in the U.S., and one of the top 10 public programs. It has graduated outstanding IEs throughout its history, and Tracey is no exception.”About Tracey TravisTracey Travis received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA in Finance and Operations Management from Columbia University. She is currently the Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer of The Estée Lauder Companies with responsibilities for global finance, accounting, investor relations, information technology, and strategy and new business development. She also co-leads the company’s major cost savings and process improvement initiatives.  Previously, Ms. Travis was Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer at Ralph Lauren Corporation from January 2005-July 2012. In both roles, she led and supported multiple acquisitions, the development of enhanced capital structures and shareholder returns, and technology transformations.     Ms. Travis was employed with Limited Brands in Columbus, Ohio from 2001-2004 as Chief Financial Officer of Intimate Brands, Inc. and as Senior Vice President of Finance for Limited Brands. From 1999-2001 she was Chief Financial Officer of the Americas Group of American National Can. Prior to this position, she held various management positions at Pepsico/Pepsi Bottling Group from 1989-1999. Ms. Travis began her career at General Motors first as an engineer, then after receiving a GM Fellowship to pursue her MBA, she returned to General Motors as a Financial Executive.She currently serves as a director on the boards of Accenture PLC and Lincoln Center Theater in New York and previously on the boards of Campbell Soup Company and Jo-Ann Stores Inc. where she chaired the Audit Committee. She is a member of the Board of Overseers for Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and recently served on the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees.  Treasury and Risk Management magazine recognized Ms. Travis as one of the Top 25 Women in Finance in 2005 and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Finance in 2012. Institutional Investor magazine granted her the Best CFO award in 2008 and Black Enterprise magazine named her one of the Top 100 African Americans in Corporate America in 2009 and 2017. In 2011 Ms. Travis served as an inaugural member of the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Forum and in 2016 she received Legal Momentum’s Aiming High Award. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
4
2018

Swanson School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Presents Leonard Berenfield with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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 Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science is Leonard H. Berenfield, BSME ‘64, President (retired) of Berenfield Containers, Inc.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.“Like many graduates of our Mechanical Engineering program and native Pittsburghers, Len started his career at Westinghouse Electric and the Bettis Atomic Laboratory in Dravosburg. Following a year there however, he would join the family business, Berenfield Steel Drum Company,” said Dean Holder. “The company’s steady growth in Pittsburgh necessitated a move to Cincinnati in the late 1970s where Len directed the construction of a new facility. By 1985, the company would reorganize as Berenfield Containers with Len as President.”About Leonard BerenfieldLeonard Berenfield received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. Activities while at Pitt include Pi Tau Sigma the International Honor Society for Mechanical Engineers, sports writer for The Pitt News, and intramural basketball.  After graduation, Mr. Berenfield worked for one year in the Mechanical Design Department at Westinghouse Electric/Bettis Atomic Laboratory. He left Westinghouse in 1965 and moved to Warren, Pa. to use his engineering knowledge to help grow Berenfield Steel Drum Co. – the family steel drum manufacturing business. In 1978 he moved to Cincinnati to oversee the construction and operation of the company’s new facility in Mason, Ohio. The firm’s continued growth led to reorganization as Berenfield Containers, Inc. in 1985 with Mr. Berenfield assuming the role of President. A range of industries utilized Berenfield products including food, lubricants, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Further expansions of existing plants over the years and the acquisition of plants in Harrisburg, N.C. and Pine Bluff, Ark. as well as new factories to diversify the product line into fibre drums established the company’s legacy. Mauser USA purchased Berenfield Containers in 2016.Mr. Berenfield is an active volunteer and has held posts in several nonprofit and industry boards including the American Heart Association, the United Way, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, the Steel Shipping Container Institute, the International Fibre Drum Institute, and the Industrial Steel Drum Institute. Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty/Highland Park neighborhoods, Mr. Berenfield is the only child of Tillie and Isadore Berenfield. Prior to matriculating at the University of Pittsburgh, he was a pupil in the Pittsburgh Public School District and attended Fulton Grade School. He graduated from Peabody High School in 1961. Mr. Berenfield married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Gelman, shortly after graduating from Pitt in June 1964 and they were happily joined until her passing in 2012. The couple has two children: a daughter, Joy, who currently resides in Los Angeles; and a son, Greg, who lives in Durham, N.C. Mr. Berenfield’s four grandsons range in age from six to 23 and reside in North Carolina. In 2015 Mr. Berenfield married Ann Gelke Berenfield, MD, a child psychiatrist. In the union he gained a step-daughter, Giuliana; step-grandson, Luca; and step-son, Allesandro. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Mar

Mar
1
2018

Pitt Alumnus and Veteran Energy Research Leader Named Acting Director of NETL

Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

NETL News Release. Posted with permission. Pittsburgh, Pa. – Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., a 28-year veteran of federal fossil energy research, has been named acting director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). Plasynski was named to the leadership post by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg following the retirement of Grace Bochenek, Ph.D., who served as director for three years. “This Laboratory has a long history of helping to provide energy security for the people of the United States,” he said. “It is a history accentuated by bold research and solid contributions that have had long-lasting impacts. It is an honor to have the privilege of working with a roster of talented researchers and administrators who have the skills and expertise to continue moving our nation forward.” Plasynski comes to the assignment after having served as the executive director of NETL’s Technology Development and Integration Center where he was responsible for overseeing NETL’s national programs with sister DOE National Laboratories, universities and industrial partners. In the role, he led integrated technical and business teams in managing federally sponsored, extramural research in coal, oil, and gas, and energy technology development. He has held numerous management and technical positions over his NETL career, including acting deputy director and chief operating officer, director of the Strategic Center of Coal, director of the Office of Coal and Power R&D, and Sequestration Technology manager. He has been involved in a wide spectrum of energy technology development, including advanced power and environmental systems, solids transport, biomass co-firing, and carbon capture and storage. Plasynski holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business. NETL, part of DOE’s national laboratory system, supports the DOE mission to advance the energy security of the United States. The Laboratory implements a broad spectrum of energy and environmental research and development programs. NETL, with research sites in Pittsburgh, Morgantown, W.Va., and Albany, Ore., has expertise in coal, natural gas, and oil technologies; contract and project management; analysis of energy systems; and international energy issues. The Laboratory had an FY 17 federal budget of $927 million with a research portfolio that includes more than 900 projects and activities in all 50 states, with a total value that exceeds $7 billion. More than 1,200 employees work at NETL. In addition to research conducted onsite, NETL’s project portfolio includes R&D conducted through partnerships, cooperative research and development agreements, financial assistance, and contractual arrangements with universities and the private sector. Together, these efforts focus a wealth of scientific and engineering talent on creating commercially viable solutions to national energy and environmental problems. NETL’s current mission is to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. NETL is the only national lab dedicated to fossil energy. Over the past 20 years, NETL’s scientists have earned 46 R&D 100 Awards, and 33 regional and national awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium. These awards, along with the many other individual awards won by NETL scientists and research partners, recognize NETL’s contribution to the nation’s energy future. ###
Shelley Martin, DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory
contact.publicaffairs@netl.doe.gov

Feb

Feb
20
2018

Pitt Among Top Fulbright Grant Producers

Industrial, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

University of Pittsburgh News Release The University of Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright students and scholars for the 2017-18 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Pitt is among only 16 institutions in the country to be named a top producer of both the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar programs. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Its U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects for English Teaching Assistant Programs. The U.S. Scholar Program offers awards for teaching, research or both in over 125 countries to college and university faculty as well as other professionals. Pitt affiliates earned 10 student and six scholar awards this year. The Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted the achievement on Sunday. “This designation, which just 15 other institutions across the nation received, speaks to the University of Pittsburgh’s extraordinary capacity to attract student scholars,” says Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “We are proud of their success and grateful that they are helping to advance Pitt’s mission of leveraging knowledge for society’s gain.” This is the seventh time in eight years Pitt has earned this distinction for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. “We are extremely proud of our students’ success with Fulbright scholarships,” says Brian Primack, dean of the University Honors College. “The fact that we consistently maintain our status as a Top Producing Institution demonstrates Pitt’s commitment not only to high quality instruction and research but also extending our global reach.” Four Pitt alumni are currently on Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grants in host countries around the world, including Tiffani Anne Humble and Amber Montgomery in Jordan, Melissa Kukowski in South Korea and Marjorie Tolsdorf in Russia, while John McGovern, Daniel Snyder, Sophia Winston and Benjamin Zhu are teaching in Brazil Two Pitt graduate students — Emilie Rose Coakley and Trevor Thomas Wilson — are on Fulbright research grants in Indonesia and Russia. Pitt also was the only Pennsylvania institution on the list of top producing Fulbright U.S. Scholars. Those include the following: Caitlin Bruce of the Department of Communication within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is researching a project called Citizens Voices in Aerosol: Leon’s Graffiti Worlds at the Ibero-American University in Mexico. Lauren Jonkman of the School of Pharmacy will support teaching and research at a primary clinical pharmacy practice at the University of Namibia School of Pharmacy. Lisa Maillart of the Swanson School of Engineering last fall lectured and conducted research on Markov decision models for health care maintenance optimization at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Mary Rauktis of the School of Social Work last fall lectured and conducted research on measuring the restrictiveness of living environments at out-of-home care for children and youth at the University of Porto in Portugal. Vanessa Sterling of Pitt Study Abroad and the University Center for International Studies will attend the Fulbright’s U.S.-Taiwan International Education Administrators Program in Taipei, Taiwan, this spring. Amy Williams of the Department of Music within the Dietrich School is lecturing and researching a project called Two Music Courses and an Original Song Cycle in Irish at University College Cork in Ireland. About the Fulbright Program Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research abroad each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in over 140 countries throughout the world. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education. The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas. In addition, some 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages. For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit http://eca.state.gov/fulbright. ###
Kevin Zwick, University of Pittsburgh News

Jan

Jan
11
2018

Undergraduate Bioengineering Alumna Turns Senior Design Project Into a Business

Bioengineering, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (January 11, 2018) … For undergraduates in the Swanson School of Engineering looking for a seamless transition into the “real world”, the opportunity to turn an idea into innovation and even a start-up can be a stitch in time. Lia Winter received a BS in bioengineering at Pitt in April 2017 and has since used her entrepreneurial spirit to start a business from a project whipped together in her undergraduate Senior Design class. Winter developed EasyWhip, an orthopedic surgical device that improves the whip stitching process during reconstructive procedures, like ACL surgery. “In these procedures, tendons are harvested from another part of the body and surgeons use a graft preparation station along with a whip stitching needle attached to a length of suture to construct a replacement graft for the injured ligament,” Winter explains. During her summer internship at an orthopedics medical device company, Winter saw an opportunity for improvement in the system. “I was inspired to create EasyWhip when I realized that there was an unmet medical need to make the whip stitching process easier,” Winter said. “EasyWhip is a modification to the conventional system that allows surgeons to recreate the same stitching pattern both faster and more consistently.” She worked closely with the Swanson Center for Product Innovation to create a highly functional prototype, and was awarded 3rd place at the Swanson School of Engineering Fall 2016 Design Expo. Winter took this winning project with her as she matriculated at the Dual MBA/MS Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and entered it into VolCourt, a 90-second elevator pitch competition. She was awarded first place and received $1,500, office space in the University of Tennessee Research Foundation Business Incubator, and several services to help her start a business. With the resources received from VolCourt, Winter started a sole proprietorship and filed a provisional patent application. She formulated a full business plan and was encouraged to present her idea at another pitch competition: UTK’s Boyd Venture Challenge. The Boyd Venture Challenge awards up to $20,000 in seed funding to student-owned businesses. Each participant gives a 25-minute presentation on the various elements of their business plan. Winter said, “I explained the problem at hand, detailed my innovation, gave a market estimate, illustrated my business model, presented a pro-forma budget, and projected financial statements for three years.” She was one of two student startups awarded $12,500 and plans to pursue a full patent and potentially license her product to a medical device company. Winter gives credit to Pitt for serving as a solid foundation in her biomedical engineering career. She said, “After completing a summer internship in industry and taking Senior Design, I realized that I am passionate about helping solve unmet medical needs.” Winter was awarded the Ergen Fellowship at UTK, which provided her with a scholarship and graduate research assistantship in the Department of Management. She said, “I plan to combine my biomedical engineering skills with business skills to help efficiently bring new innovative medical products to market.” She also encourages current bioengineering undergraduate students to stick with their Senior Design projects. Winter said, “A lot of these projects are actually great ideas that, with the right motivation and resources, you could use to start a business.” ###