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Jun

Jun
22
2018

BioE Alumna Sharlene Flesher Talks With Gizmodo UK About Neural Engineering Research

Bioengineering

Sharlene Flesher (BioE PhD '17) contributes to Gizmodo UK's article about research from Johns Hopkins University's Department of Bioengineering. Current prosthetic limbs aren’t yet capable of transmitting complex sensations like texture or pain to the user, but a recent breakthrough by scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in which a synthetic layer of skin on an artificial hand transmitted feelings of pain directly to the user, takes us one step closer to that goal. Pain sucks, but we’d be lost without this extremely valuable sensation. “Pain helps protect our bodies from damage by giving us the sensation that something may be harmful, such as the sharp edge of a knife,” Luke Osborn, a co-author of the new study and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, told Gizmodo. “For a prosthesis, there is no concept of pain, which opens it up to the possibility of damage. We found a way to provide sensations of pain in a meaningful way to the prosthesis as well as the amputee user.” Working with JHU neuroengineer Nitish Thakor, Osborn and his colleagues developed a system called e-dermis—a skin-like layer that gives prosthetic limbs the capacity to perceive touch and pain. Pressure applied to the e-dermis is transmitted to the user’s brain via an electric nerve stimulator implanted in the arm above the prosthesis, allowing the system to emulate actual sensations. In tests of the e-dermis system, a volunteer amputee said he could tell the difference between objects that were rounded or sharp, saying the sensation of pain registered a three out of 10 in terms of severity. This study was published today in Science Robotics. Read the full story and Flesher's comments at GizmodoUK.

Jun
20
2018

ECE’s Aryana Nakhai Wins Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 20, 2018) … The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has selected Aryana Nakhai, an undergraduate electrical engineering student, as the recipient of its 2018 Lockheed Martin Corporation Scholarship totaling $2,500 for the 2018-19 academic year. “This award is recognition of Aryana’s incredible passion for power systems and electrical engineering, and it speaks to the engineering community’s confidence that she will contribute great things during her professional career,” said Gregory Reed, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering and director of Pitt’s Center for Energy and the Energy GRID Institute.SWE Scholarships recognize outstanding academic achievement and strong engineering potential, according to the SWE website. Recipients must be women admitted to accredited baccalaureate or graduate programs in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science. The SWE Scholarship Selection Committee chose 2018 award recipients from a pool of more than 1,800 applicants.Aryana has been a member of Pitt SWE since her freshman year in 2014. She said, “SWE is an organization that has always stood out to me. I strongly believe in the importance for a female support system and everything that SWE stands for.”“I am especially excited since Lockheed Martin has been one of my biggest inspirations for pursing a degree in electrical engineering,” Aryana continued. “As an engineer, I very much enjoy being part of a team to develop solutions to exciting and new, complex challenges.”Aryana is studying electrical engineering with a concentration on power systems. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2018 and plans to pursue a master’s degree at Pitt after graduation.While an undergraduate student, Aryana completed three co-op rotations as a Process Planning Engineer at BMW U.S. Manufacturing Co. She also represents the University of Pittsburgh on the Student Innovation Board for the Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) Consortium. In this role, Aryana addresses and explains power related topics on campus.“My goal is to inspire students to gain interest in power engineering, allow them the opportunity to learn about distributed technology, and express the need for power engineers in industry,” she said. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
19
2018

ChemE Graduate Student Alexandra May Receives Willem Kolff Award at ASAIO Annual Meeting

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 19, 2018) …The American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) selected Alexandra May, a chemical engineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, as a finalist for the Willem Kolff Award at its 64th annual meeting. The award, named after the late Dutch physician who invented the original artificial kidney, recognizes the top abstracts at each annual meeting. May is a graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program and works in the Medical Devices Laboratory under the direction of William Federspiel, a William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt. The lab develops clinically significant devices for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. May’s research focuses on the development of the Pittsburgh Pediatric Ambulatory Lung (P-PAL), an artificial lung device developed to bridge pediatric acute or chronic lung failure patients to transplant. The P-PAL integrates the blood pump and gas exchanging hollow fiber membrane bundle into a single compact unit and provides 70 percent to 90 percent of the patient’s oxygenation needs. The compact design of the P-PAL provides children with increased mobility pre-transplant, a factor which has been shown to improve post-transplant outcomes. The ASAIO Annual Meeting was held June 13-16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. May’s abstract titled Acute in vivo Performance of a Pediatric Ambulatory Artificial Lung was awarded second place out of approximately 300 accepted abstracts, and she presented her work during the conference’s opening general session. “Alex deserves this recognition,” said Federspiel. “She is an extremely hard worker and devoutly dedicated to our mission of improving the lives of kids with respiratory failure.” ###

Jun
18
2018

Swanson School professors capture award to improve engineering instruction and learning

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (June 18, 2018) … When imagining a college classroom, one might imagine a professor standing at a podium and lecturing a room full of students taking notes. A pair of professors from the University of Pittsburgh want to reimagine this simplistic approach with a more interactive experience. Renee Clark, research assistant professor of industrial engineering, and Sam Dickerson, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, hope to impact education at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering through widespread propagation of active learning. In an effort to strengthen the role of teaching at Pitt, the Provost’s Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) created the Innovation in Education Awards Program to support faculty proposals which aim to reinvent traditional classroom instruction. Clark and Dickerson received one of eight awards this year for their project. “With active learning, we ask students to do something in the classroom beyond just listening to a lecture and taking notes,” explained Clark. “Students should be engaged and interacting with class content. Whether through brainstorming solutions to a problem, solving calculations in a group, or writing a one-minute reflection at the end of class, the goal is to have professors take a step back from lecturing and allow students to participate in the lesson. This promotes critical thinking and improves knowledge retention” Clark began working with Dickerson in July 2016 after they attended a Swanson School active learning workshop. They decided that they wanted to take their experience a step further and coach other instructors in how they can implement what they learned from this workshop in their classrooms. Clark and Dickerson’s project will begin this summer with a cohort of nine professors. This pilot group will work to implement simple active learning activities for their courses in two engineering departments (IE and ECE). Clark said, “We want to create a supportive learning community where we can exchange ideas and plans for the use of active learning.” Clark and Dickerson will coach each of the professors throughout the school year by observing their classrooms and giving feedback. At the end of the year, they will reunite the professors for a focus group to further improve their model for future participants. While there are many useful advanced active learning techniques, Clark and Dickerson plan to start simple. Dickerson’s implementation of the “think, pair, share” activity in his classroom demonstrates the success of this approach. He explains, “Rather than starting a class with an example and running through it, you give the students a problem, allow them to individually think about it, then ask them to come up with a solution as a group.” He discovered that using this activity changed the dynamic of his classroom. He said, “It became completely normal for students to speak up when they didn’t understand a concept or offer help to peers who were struggling with certain topics.” The ease of execution is a selling point for instructors who may debate changing their classroom structure. “Many professors do not have the time for more-involved active learning so we are sharing simple activities that require little preparation,” Clark said. “Instructors can introduce these methods on the fly or in response to a lack of classroom interaction. It is easy to stop a lecture and allow students to think about what they’re learning.” Dickerson has found that using these activities has been beneficial to more than just the students. He said, “Using active learning has helped me reflect on the way I teach; what I thought were easy concepts, were not. This strategy has allowed me to reevaluate my lessons and improve student comprehension.” Clark and Dickerson have had positive feedback on their efforts and found that students quickly become comfortable in this kind of environment. Based on data collected over the past two years, simple active learning has also positively impacted exam scores. This response encouraged them to apply to the Innovation in Education program and adapt their experience into a school-wide effort. Dickerson said, “Although these types of teaching techniques work well, the number of adopters is low. We want to change that.” The overall goal of this project is to have other Swanson School professors adapt this successful model to their classrooms. They hope to enhance student engagement, increase information retention, and improve students’ ability to use gained knowledge. “We want to make classrooms more learner-centered. In a teacher-centered environment, the focus is on content delivery. With a learner-centered classroom, we switch the spotlight to the student,” said Clark. “With simple active learning, class may still be lecture based, but you add some elements to make the students more active and turn the focus on them.” ###

Jun
18
2018

When It Rains, It Pours for Pitt IE Awards

Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 18, 2018) … The scholarships came pouring in with the spring rain this year for several students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Industrial Engineering (IE). Two IE professional organizations announced five scholarships last month to support the students’ tuition during the 2018-19 academic year. “So many of our students work incredibly hard in their classes yet still manage to engage with professional societies and lay the groundwork for their upcoming careers,” said Karen Bursic, associate professor of industrial engineering and director of the IE undergraduate program. “We always look forward to this kind of recognition for their outstanding efforts and encouragement for their professional futures.”The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) awarded three scholarships to Pitt IE students during its annual meeting, which took place from May 19-22 in Orlando, Fla. The award recipients and their scholarships were:• Dina Perlic, Dwight D. Gardner Scholarship• Regina Munsch, Harold & Inge Marcus Scholarship• Marni Sirota, Marvin Mundel Memorial ScholarshipThe IISE awards scholarships to active members enrolled full time in graduate or undergraduate industrial engineering programs. Recipients must have an overall grade-point-average of 3.40 or higher. They must be nominated by IE department heads or faculty advisors. The IISE evaluates nominees based on scholastic ability, character, leadership, and potential service to the industrial engineering profession.The Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. (MHEFI) awarded two scholarships to Pitt IE students. The award recipients and their scholarships were:• Julie Shields, Rack Manufacturers Institute/John Nofsinger Honor Scholarship• Dina Perlic, Southworth International Group, Inc. Honor ScholarshipScholarships from the MHEFI range from $1,500 to $6,000. Students must have completed at least two years of study and must be enrolled or provide proof of plans to enroll as a full-time undergraduate or graduate student. All applicants must have maintained a “B” equivalent grade point average in post-secondary studies.About IISESystems world view. Productivity. Efficiency. These are words that describe the distinctive attributes of industrial engineering, and IISE is the world's largest professional society dedicated solely to the support of the industrial engineering profession and individuals involved with improving quality and productivity. Founded in 1948, IISE is an international, nonprofit association that provides leadership for the application, education, training, research, and development of industrial engineering. ISEs figure out a better way to do things and work in a wide array of professional areas, including management, manufacturing, logistics, health systems, retail, service, and ergonomics. They influence policy and implementation issues regarding topics such as sustainability, innovation, and Six Sigma. And like the profession, ISEs are rooted in the sciences of engineering, the analysis of systems, and the management of people. About MHEFIThe Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. is an independent charitable organization that was established in 1976 with a mission to promote the study of material handling, logistics and supply chains by exposing students and educators to the industry through financial support. Since 1976, more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants have been awarded to students at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
14
2018

Postdoctoral Positions in Neural Engineering

Bioengineering, Open Positions

Positions are available at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Bioengineering. Our group focuses on seamlessly integrating the brain to implantable technologies by studying the molecular, cellular, and tissue-scale processes that regulate regeneration, inflammation, and electrical or optical recording and stimulation of the brain. Projects involve using brain-computer interfaces to study and treat the progression of neurological diseases and brain injuries. Postdoctoral Associate candidates will possess a Ph.D. degree in a related field including but not limited to, Biomedical Engineering, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Molecular/Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Optics, Material Science, and Mathematics. Animal surgery experience is preferred. The candidate should have a strong research background in neural engineering, in vivo electrophysiology, or in vivo two-photon microscopy. Experience with biomaterial fabrication, electrochemistry, material characterization, neural tissue histology, functional/evoked electrophysiology/imaging, functional electrical stimulation, neurochemical sensing, and advanced biological imaging (two-photon and confocal microscopy) are desired. Successful candidate will work on the chronic neural interface with special focus on implant-tissue interaction. Candidate will be working with an interdisciplinary team of neural engineers, neuroscientists, neurosurgeon, biologists, and material scientists. The research environment at the University of Pittsburgh includes a dynamic community of bioengineers. Contemporary Pittsburgh is a diverse vibrant city undergoing a renaissance led by world class Universities and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The University of Pittsburgh is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply. Interested applicants should forward their CV, statement of research interests, and references to: TK Kozai (tdk18@pitt.edu)Assistant Professor of Bioengineering University of PittsburghPittsburgh PA 15219 The Department of Bioengineering is strongly committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University of Pittsburgh is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Jun
11
2018

Breaking Tradition: PittServes Students Spend “Alternative May Break” in Iceland

Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 11, 2018) … Spring break evokes images of palm trees, white sand beaches, and the gentle ocean breeze. But what about Icelandic Birch trees, black sand lava fields, and 70 mile-per-hour arctic winds? Although a mainstream beach trip might sound tempting after a long winter studying, a group of students from the University of Pittsburgh’s PittServes office had no trouble trading fun in the sun for lending a hand in Iceland.As part of the inaugural PittServes Alternative May Break, a dozen University of Pittsburgh students traveled to Iceland for the opportunity to learn about sustainability issues while helping local organizations with service projects. The trip took place from May 13 – 23 and was co-sponsored by PittServes, the Student Office of Sustainability, and the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.  “The students spent 10 days learning about the successes and challenges of sustainability in Southern Iceland, worked on sustainability focused services projects at Sólheimar eco-village, and collaborated with Iceland’s oldest conservation organization Landvernd,” said Erika Ninos, PittServes sustainability program coordinator and staff representative for the trip.Sólheimar, the world’s oldest eco-village, is home to roughly 100 people, nearly half of whom live with disabilities. The community houses the nation’s largest solar panel, the only certified organic farm on the island, and a sustainability education hub called the Sesseljuhús Center for Sustainable Development, which is named after the community’s founder Sesselja. Her vision to create a self-sustaining, equitable, and enriching community continues today, almost 90 years since its founding. The Sólheimar community hosted the Pitt students for most of the trip.“One aspect of service in a different community, whether it be three or 3,000 miles away, is getting to know the community before and during the service experience. This is essential to make an impactful and lasting difference,” said Ellie Cadden, who will start her junior year this fall studying Environmental Studies at Pitt.At Sólheimar, the students spent their time volunteering to improve two main areas: the “Troll Garden” and the “Tree Museum.” The former is a garden used as a food source and for therapeutic exercise with a large troll statue at the entrance; the latter is an arboretum for housing and preserving Iceland’s biological diversity.“There are only three native tree species in Iceland, and only roughly four percent of the land has sufficient forests today. To have this ‘Tree Museum’ with about 36 different types of tree species which can thrive in the Icelandic climate is precious,” explained Cadden.The PittServes volunteers didn’t get to catch waves or soak up rays for their break. Instead they got to discuss sustainability with writer and environmental activist Andri Snœr Magnason, visit Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant Hellisheiði, and plant 1,200 trees to combat soil erosion in the foothills of Mount Hekla, one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes. After all, they still spent their spring break on a beautiful, exotic island in the Atlantic Ocean.Read the PittServes AltBreak daily blog and see more photos from the trip at: https://www.studentaffairs.pitt.edu/pittserves/altbreak/iceland/ ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jun
7
2018

Capturing light in a waveguide array

Electrical & Computer

Originally published by Penn State University Eberly College of Science. Reposted with permission. UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Cheaper and more efficient photonic devices, such as lasers, optical fibers and other light sources, may be possible with confined light that is unaffected by imperfections in the material that confines it, according to new research. A team of physicists and engineers from Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois have demonstrated in a proof-of-concept experiment that they can contain light in such a way that makes it highly insensitive to defects that might be present in a material. The results of the research appeared online on June 4 in the journal Nature Photonics (DOI: 10.1038/s41566-018-0179-3). “Photonic technology involves the generation, transmission and manipulation of light, and it is used ubiquitously across industries,” said Mikael Rechtsman, the Downsbrough Early Career Assistant Professor of Physics at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “It underlies the fiber optic network that forms the skeleton of the internet; solar cells used in the generation of sustainable energy; and high-power lasers used in manufacturing, among many other applications. Finding a way to confine and manipulate light so that it is insensitive to defects could have a huge impact on this technology. To confine the light, the researchers used a complex lattice structure composed of “waveguides” precisely carved in glass. These waveguides act like wires, but for light instead of electricity. In this structure, light enters at one end of the waveguide and gets trapped and confined as it propagates forward through the wires. There, the trapped light becomes immune to imperfections in the positions of the waveguides, and thus significant imperfections in the structure can be tolerated. “The light becomes insensitive because of the phenomenon of ‘topological protection,'” said Rechtsman. “This concept has been used extensively in the context of solid-state electronic physics. The waveguide structure is a photonic analogue of the so-called ‘topological crystalline insulators,’ and this form of topological protection can potentially be used across a range of photonic devices, including in nano-scale lasers, specialized nonlinear optical fibers, and for robustly and precisely coupling between photons and electrons for manipulating quantum information.” "From the perspective of photonic engineers, this is an wonderful learning opportunity to see the connections between lightwave engineering at length scale of micrometers, and quantum mechanics that typically deals with electron waves at length scale 10,000 times smaller," noted Kevin P. Chen, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. "It's also a fine example of precision laser manufacturing that took three generations of graduate students to perfect." Confining light in this way could make many photonic devices both more efficient and cheaper to produce. Beyond that, this is an example of the potentially cross-disciplinary — uniting photonics and solid-state electronics — use of topological protection and demonstrates the broad applicability of this phenomenon beyond its conception in electronic solid-state physics. “In photonics, it is extremely important to be able to trap light and confine it to very small spaces,” said Rechtsman. “It compresses the maximum amount of optical power into the smallest area or volume inside a material, making it interact more strongly with the material, and thus it is more efficient at whatever it is meant to do. A major difficulty with doing this has been that strong confinement brings with it extreme sensitivity to any imperfections in the material, which can often either inhibit efficiency or make the device very expensive to fabricate. Our results suggest that we can overcome this difficulty.” In addition to Rechtsman, the research team includes Jiho Noh and Matthew J. Collins at Penn State; Wladimir A. Benalcazar and Taylor L. Hughes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Sheng Huang and Kevin Chen at the University of Pittsburgh. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Penn State Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigators Program. ###
Sam Sholtis, Penn State University
Jun
4
2018

David Vorp named Fellow of the American Heart Association

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (June 4, 2018) ... David A. Vorp, Associate Dean for Research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named a Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA) in recognition of his innovative and sustained contributions in scholarship, education, and volunteer service to the organization. Vorp’s election was conferred by the Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) recognizing his work in those fields. Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. They provide funding for innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide critical tools and information to save and improve lives. The ATVB is recognizing Vorp for his achievements in cardiovascular research over the past 26 years. He has published more than 120 peer-reviewed research articles and currently serves on three editorial boards. His research has been supported by over $14 million from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and other sources. He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and is a co-founder of Neograft Technologies, Inc., a startup that uses technology developed in his lab to help produce arterial vein grafts. Vorp’s lab applies its strengths in computational and experimental biomechanics, image analysis, cellular and molecular biology, and tissue engineering to understand and seek solutions to pathologies of tubular tissue and organs. His current research aims to develop regenerative treatments for vascular diseases such as aortic aneurysm and coronary heart disease. John Curci, associate professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University, said, "Dr. Vorp's scientific discoveries in vascular biomechanics and biology have independently created incredible advances in the discipline. More importantly, his collaborative leadership in the field has been generous and insightful, allowing many others to increase their scientific productivity exponentially." Vorp has worked closely with clinical colleagues to develop a multi-disciplinary, NIH-funded research program focusing on abdominal aortic aneurysm disease, vascular “mechanopathobiology,” and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications for vascular and urethral systems. “Dr. Vorp has very effectively and creatively applied his unique expertise as a bioengineer to advance our understanding of the pathogenesis and treatment of several potentially lethal clinical problems, such as aortic aneurysms,” said Marshall Webster, Senior Vice President of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “He has mentored and promoted the careers of a new generation of bioengineers and has established our University as a world class research and training environment, widely recognized.” Vorp has had 14 PhD students graduate from his lab and is currently advising two. He has supervised or mentored 10 medical students, 16 postdoctoral research associates and visiting scholars, and over 80 undergraduate students. Additionally, he has served on over 40 graduate student thesis committees. Vorp has also made scholarly contributions to the American Heart Association. He has participated as an invited speaker and panelist at three different AHA Scientific Sessions and has served as a reviewer for multiple AHA journals, including Circulation and Circulation Research. Other organizations have recognized Vorp’s contributions to the field. He is an elected Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In 2012, he became the first non-MD President of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology and was re-elected for a second term in 2014. His other executive roles include his appointment as ASME Bioengineering Division Chair from 2013-2014, two terms on the BMES Board of Directors, and two terms as BMES Secretary. Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt, said, “Dr. Vorp has been an integral part of our bioengineering department since it was founded in 1996. His election as a Fellow of the American Heart Association underscores his dedication and commitment to and high accomplishments in cardiovascular research.” ###

Jun
4
2018

Katherine Hornbostel featured on WTAE for her breastfeeding device

MEMS

Swanson School professor Katherine Hornbostel was featured on WTAE for her Pump2Baby invention. Watch the video on WTAE's website. University of Pittsburgh mechanical engineering professor Dr. Katherine Hornbostel developed a device to help other breastfeeding moms after her twin boys struggled to nurse. "When they came, I put a lot of pressure on myself to nurse them exclusively and to make sure I made enough milk for both of them," Hornbostel said. "That led to a lot of stress and a lot of sleepless nights." Because her boys weren't latching on very well, she was pumping almost exclusively. "I was hooked up to a big breast pump, sitting down every two to three hours around the clock, every day, for 30 minutes at a time," Hornbostel said. A few years later, while a grad student at MIT, Hornbostel invented the Pump to Baby Bottle. Read the full transcript from WTAE here.

May

May
30
2018

Pitt Engineering Professor Steven Little receives international Young Investigator Award for development of novel drug delivery systems

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 30, 2018) … The Controlled Release Society has announced that University of Pittsburgh Professor Steven Little is the recipient of its 2018 Young Investigator award. The honor annually recognizes one individual in the world, 40 years of age or younger, for outstanding contributions in the science of controlled release. Dr. Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.Dr. Little’s focuses on novel drug delivery systems that mimic the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation.  This allows for dosages that are millions of times smaller than current medicine, and his next-generation treatments have shown promise for addressing a number of conditions including glaucoma, periodontal disease, wound healing, cancer, skin allergic dermatitis, and even transplantation of tissues and limbs.  New “controlled release” systems developed by Dr. Little are applied once and then released over a period of days or months, depending on the medication. His controlled release discoveries resulted in the co-founding of Pittsburgh-based Qrono Inc., which provides custom designed controlled release formulations for academic laboratories and agricultural and pharmaceutical companies.Previous Young Investigator Award recipients include:2017   Zhen Gu2016   Ryan Donnelly2015   Twan Lammers2014   Suzie Pun2013   Ali Khademhosseini2012   Cory Berkland2011   Molly Stevens2010  Krish Roy2009   Justin Hanes2008   Samir Mitragotri2007   David Putnam2006   Stefaan De Smedt2005   Mark Prausnitz2004   Jean-Christophe Leroux2003   Duncan Craig2003   Glen Kwon2002   Steve Schwendeman2001  Jeffrey Cleland2001   Saghir Akhtar2000   Claus-Michael Lehr1999   Derek O'Hagan1998   Antonios Mikos1997   Martyn Davies1996   W. Mark Saltzman1996   Joke Bouwstra1995   Rainer Mueller1994   Kam Leong1993  Ruth Duncan1992   Joachim Kohn1992   Kinam Park1991   Vincent Lee1990   Patrick Couvreur1989   Ronald Siegel1988   Richard GuyMore About Dr. LittleDr. Steven Little is a William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Immunology, Ophthalmology and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 2005, with his thesis winning the American Association for Advancement of Science's Excellence in Research Award. Researchers in Dr. Little’s Lab focus upon therapies that are biomimetic and replicate the biological function and interactions of living entities using synthetic systems. Areas of study include bioengineering, chemistry, chemical engineering, ophthalmology, and immunology, and the health issues addressed include autoimmune disease, battlefield wounds, cancer, HIV, ocular diseases, and transplantation. Dr. Little currently has 10 provisional, 2 pending, and 5 issued patents.Dr. Little has been recognized by national and international awards including the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award from the ASEE, being elected as a fellow of the BMES and AIMBE, a Carnegie Science Award for Research, the Society for Biomaterials' Young Investigator Award, the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Research Award, being named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, being named an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator, and being elected to the Board of Directors of the Society for Biomaterials. In addition, Dr. Little's exceptional teaching and leadership in education have also been recognized by both the University of Pittsburgh's Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award and a 2nd Carnegie Science Award for Post-Secondary Education. Dr. Little was also recently named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 40 under 40, a “Fast Tracker” by the Pittsburgh Business Times, and also one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are “reshaping our world” by Pop City Media. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum EngineeringThe Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty holds a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. Chemical Engineering departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million. ###

May
24
2018

Helping stroke survivors walk as normally as possible

Bioengineering

Reposted from NSF Science Nation. Click here to view the original article. A major issue in rehabilitation robotics is that devices such as exoskeletons and treadmills correct patients' movements only while they are using the device. Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, who has a doctorate in biomedical engineering and is the director of the Sensorimotor Learning Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, hopes to change that. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Torres-Oviedo leads a research team that uses rehabilitation robotics and motion capture cameras to study "locomotor learning." That's the ability of a patient with an impaired gait to adapt their walking patterns and learn new movements. This research has broad impact for public health because it aims to guide the use of technology for effective gait rehabilitation after stroke, which is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. "We're very interested in understanding the factors that determine that specificity in learning and how we can manipulate them. We want to help patients retain what they've learned and carry it over to their daily living," says Torres-Oviedo. The ultimate goal is to use quantitative tools to characterize in a very systematic way the impairments that every stroke survivor has and tailor the intervention. .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; padding-top: 30px; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1535036, the role of naturalistic movements on the generalization of locomotor learning. Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent Kate Tobin, Science Nation Producer

May
24
2018

Bon Voyage! BioE Undergraduate Receives Gilman Scholarship to Study Abroad in France

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (May 25, 2018) … Madeline Hobbs is an active student at the University of Pittsburgh- she is an engineering student, a member of the Blue and Gold Society, an ambassador for the Swanson School of Engineering, and a defensive player on Pitt’s varsity D1 women’s soccer team. This summer, she plans to take on another role: a world traveler. Hobbs, a rising junior bioengineering student, used her savoir-faire to become one of four Pitt students to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Supported by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Gilman Scholarship provides up to $5,000 for students to study or intern abroad. Its goal is to broaden the student population that is able to have an international experience during their undergraduate studies. The program encourages students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions. Inspired by her father’s time abroad in Bologna, Italy, Hobbs applied to the Gilman Scholarship so that she too could have an enriching experience in Lyon, France. “I think there is a huge value in studying abroad because of the challenges it presents. You have to get out of your comfort zone, try new things, and make mistakes along the way,” said Hobbs. “I believe it is important to understand other cultures and keep your mind open to trying things that are not part of your everyday life.” Hobbs has always had a penchant for the French language and culture. She said, “When I was little, my parents took a trip to Paris and brought back an Eiffel Tower t-shirt that I adored! That’s when I became a francophile, and since then, I’ve grown to love the French language, culture, and gastronomy.” According to Hobbs, France is home to many prestigious engineering schools and is an up-and-coming leader in industry. As a Gilman Scholar, she will receive financial support for her studies at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Lyon, France. During her studies, she will take a course called Connected Devices and the Internet of Things where students will examine devices and sensors, determine how they are used in French society, and design and build a device to help solve a need that she and her fellow students identify is prevalent. During her month-long experience, Hobbs hopes to explore the language and culture of France. She will be taking a conversation course to help improve her speaking proficiency and learn more about French society. She said, “French is an extremely useful and beautiful language spoken by many people around the world. I am excited to study alongside French students and improve my speaking skills while learning about their way of life.” Over 2,900 scholarships were awarded to American undergraduate students this year. Hobbs said, “I have always enjoyed traveling and exploring new places. As a kid, I loved being outside and going on little adventures. I’m grateful that the Gilman Scholarship has allowed me to go on this big adventure to a country whose language, food, and culture have captivated me.” ###

May
18
2018

Shoe Tread Research Gains Traction

Bioengineering

Reposted with permission from Pittwire. Shoppers looking for new shoes are liable to consider safety and slipperiness, whether they’re looking for high heels or high tops. A safe, sturdy shoe is made possible by proper treads. But treads come in a variety of forms, and not all are designed to help prevent slips an­­d falls, one of the biggest causes of workplace injury in the U.S. and a highlight of many children’s stories and TV shows. “I have kids and when I read children’s books to them, it seems like one in every three books has someone falling,” said Kurt Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Falling accidents are really ubiquitous.” Beschorner and graduate student researcher Seyed Moghaddam recently developed a new computational model that simulates shoe and floor friction interactions at multiple scales, from visible to micrometer. “Our modeling approach can predict the impact of new tread designs on their traction performance,” said Beschorner. “This can lead to shoe designs with better traction and to a more efficient design process.” The shoe simulations were created by measuring different parts of the shoe on a microscopic level, including tread patterns and materials, which the researchers used to create computerized models that measure friction and traction. By modeling shoe tread in various circumstances, the team found three things shoes need for good traction on oily, indoor surfaces: softer rubber or polyurethane materials, wider heels and a curved heel. Along with that, shoes that distribute a person’s weight over a larger tread area can improve traction. Some shoes’ treads stop before the edge of the shoe. Beschorner said shoes with treads that extend to the outermost edge are about 20 percent less slippery. The model was created in Pitt’s Human Movement and Balance Laboratory, which focuses on developing ergonomic solutions for preventing falls. Beschorner said it is one of the first labs to use computational modeling to study friction between shoe and floor surfaces. “The model also has the capability of including human-specific walking styles to see how that affects the amount of friction a person would receive from their shoes,” Moghaddam said, which could help with designing custom shoes for people with different walking styles. Beschorner has studied different mechanics and functions of shoes for the past 10 years, but modeling predicted friction only came about for this most recent project. “We had spent a lot of time testing different shoes before this project, but that was inefficient and would not give us a lot of information about the mechanism behind the friction,” he said. “Computer modeling has allowed us to sort of peek inside the box and understand what was causing different shoes to either have good or poor friction.” The team aims to work with footwear companies to integrate these methods in their design process to efficiently develop safer shoes. While the model has only been tested for oily indoor surfaces, Beschorner said the team is also interested in extending the research to outdoor surfaces like soil. “We think that this a natural extension of the model, although additional research would be needed to develop this functionality,” he said. The study was funded by a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
May
17
2018

Drivers, You're Not Alone. Pittsburgh Really Does Have Frustrating And Short On-Ramps

Civil & Environmental

Driving in Pittsburgh is confusing. The streets aren’t on a grid system and going over the wrong bridge could result in a long, unwelcomed detour. Learning to maneuver the city’s streets is frustrating, but listener Ron Dylewski found that merging onto the region’s highways to be particularly challenging. “Why are there so many on-ramps in the Pittsburgh area that are so dangerous and so short?” Dylewski asked. In the infrastructure's defense, most of Pittsburgh’s highways were built in the mid-20th Century, they weren’t really made to be highways like in other parts of the country. University of Pittsburgh Civil Engineering Professor Mark Magalotti said most of the region’s parkways were built in the 1950s and '60s, early in the era of interstate highways. Your browser does not support the audio element. Read and listen to the full story at WESA 90.5/NPR.
Katie Blackley, 90.5 WESA
May
16
2018

Concerns about Pittsburgh infrastructure loom ahead of Amazon bid

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh's government has been pushing to bring Amazon's HQ2 to the city, which comes with the promise of 50,000 new jobs. But along with the potential for a big boom is concern about how Pittsburgh's infrastructure would handle the influx of people and business. Watch Aaron Martin's complete report in the video below.
Aaron Martin, WPXI
May
15
2018

Swanson School of Engineering Names Art of Making Professor Joseph Samosky as its 2018 Outstanding Educator

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (May 14, 2018) … In recognition of his excellence in teaching and development of its Art of Making program, the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering presented Joseph Samosky, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioengineering, with its 2018 Outstanding Educator Award. Dr. Samosky joined the Swanson School full time in 2014 after seven years at the Pitt medical school. He came from an interdisciplinary educational background with undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and behavioral neuroscience from Pitt, a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in medical engineering from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology. These diverse academic experiences helped shape his unique pedagogical approach. “I’m an enthusiastic advocate of experiential and exploratory learning, and the idea that building is a way of thinking,” said Dr. Samosky. “I hope to engage students in a process of hands-on experience and active discovery of the why to motivate learning the how of engineering.” In 2013, Pitt joined the NSF’s Epicenter (Engineering Pathways to Innovation) program, which created an opportunity for Dr. Samosky to utilize his passion for this style of learning to develop a design-centered course called The Art of Making. In this course, students apply innovative methods to solve real-world problems while gaining hands-on experience with cutting-edge technologies including robotics, smart systems, and user interfaces. It is offered in the Swanson School to first-year and upper-level undergraduate students. Dr. Samosky said, “I recruited a group of the most innovative and enthusiastic engineering students I could find, and we started weekly brainstorming meetings we called ‘jam sessions’, using jazz as a metaphor for combining creative improvisation and rigorous technique.” The team also designed a new learning environment for the course: they explored and tested different technology learning tools, brought in carloads of furniture and prototyping supplies, and built out Benedum Hall’s G34 Innovation Space. The result was a 24/7 resource that provides students with a “home base for innovation” and the freedom to explore their creativity. “G34 is a collaborative space that promotes peer-to-peer learning. Our first rule of use for the room is: help each other and share your ideas,” explained Dr. Samosky. “There are a lot of materials and tools in G34, but the most important part of G34 is the people. We made design choices considering carefully how and what we wanted the space itself to communicate, as a communal place to gather and explore.” As one student describes, “G34 is so much more than a workspace. It is a home for a diverse community of students, course alumni, and staff who support and bring out the best in one another.” (See a video of G34 in action. ) Outside G34 are interactive display cases of student projects and a “Video Wall” display that streams student projects and activities for passersby. Currently, over 350 students have access to the Innovation Space; students from all Swanson School departments in 14 courses, 3 student clubs, and multiple Innovation Institute competitions have used the space to develop projects. Art of Making students and TAs explore creating a novel human-computer interface in the G34 Innovation Space. Enthusiasm for The Art of Making is evident in the course evaluations, which played a role in Dr. Samosky’s selection for this highly competitive award. In the most recent two offerings of the course, he received overall teaching effectiveness scores of 4.92 and 4.93/5. The human-centered design approach of the course has achieved important results for students, including student teams from The Art of Making winning the Overall Best Project award at the Swanson School Design Expo twice in two years. A student describes the course as, “How to design the world I want to live in. The skills and perspectives I cultivated in this class make me view our world in a completely new way, and because of this class I believe I'll be able to effectively begin developing answers to ambiguous ‘big-idea’ problems.” Another states, “We learned more in a semester than I thought I could learn from 4 years of classes.” A course alumna and teaching assistant said, “The Art of Making gave me not only concrete skills but, more importantly, the confidence to believe that I have something valuable to contribute, even this early in my engineering education. It truly changed my life.” In addition to the establishment of this course, Dr. Samosky has served as a mentor for 27 bioengineering senior design teams, advising a total of 130 students. The undergraduate projects mentored by Dr. Samosky have led to 33 students being co-authors on 14 papers and conference presentations, and co-inventors on 8 invention disclosures and provisional patents and 2 issued patents. “Joe is an outstanding educator who has developed and continues to develop novel approaches to experiential learning and incorporating design thinking in engineering education,” said Sanjeev Shroff, professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “I strongly believe that he has positively impacted the innovation and entrepreneurship culture within the Swanson School.” Dr. Samosky plans to continue encouraging students to push the boundaries of engineering. He said, “As an engineering educator I want to empower students to innovate effective solutions to real-world problems, inspire them to have creative confidence, help them enjoy the creative paradigm of engineering that transforms thoughts into new and useful artifacts in the world, and enhance their ability to successfully invent the future, including their own life and career pathways.” ###

May
15
2018

Gateway Engineers along with past President establish funds to help women engineering students at Pitt

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 15, 2018) … Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a greater need for engineers over the next ten years, data show that women who earn an engineering degree are less likely to work in the engineering profession.1 At the same time, the percentage of women with engineering degrees has remained flat for more than a decade.2 However, a recent gift to the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering from one of Pittsburgh’s most successful woman engineers hopes to attract more women to the profession and help to build the professional networks needed to continue in the profession. Ruthann L. Omer, P.E. earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Pitt in 1983, and was the first female municipal engineering in Allegheny County and recently retired as President of Gateway Engineers. She and Gateway Engineers established two funds at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering to help the next generation of engineers succeed at the University and beyond. While the Omer Family Scholarship Fund will support undergraduate tuition and other educational expenses and to support furthering the diversity of the undergraduate student body in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund established by Gateway Engineers will enhance student success by supporting the School’s award-winning chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).  Gateway Engineers’ CEO, Jason Jesso, applauds the mission of SWE. “SWE offers engineering students with opportunities to network, obtain leadership training, earn scholarships and advance their careers,” Mr. Jesso said. “We’re incredibly thankful for Gateway Engineers and Ruthann’s commitment to engineering education and student success,” noted Gerald D. Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “They are well respected by their engineering peers in the region and are an example of the success our women engineering students can achieve in the profession.” The Omer Family Engineering Legacy Fund will enable Pitt SWE members to attend the national conference, beginning with WE18 in Minneapolis, October 18-20, 2018. ### For more information about how to give to these funds or other programs, visit the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. About Gateway EngineersGateway is a full-service civil engineering and consulting firm with multiple offices that can design and manage a project from concept to completion. For more than 60 years, the company has been at the forefront of innovation in the engineering industry. Today, the company effectively and efficiently manages literally thousands of projects a year for a diverse group of clients throughout the country. Headquartered in Pittsburgh with offices in Butler, Pa. and Cecil Township, Pa., Gateway employs more than 160 and is consistently ranked as one of the top 500 firms in the U.S. by Engineering News-Record.1 Corbett, C., & Hill, C. (2015). "Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing." Washington, DC: American Association of University Women.2 Yoder, B. L. (2017). Engineering by the Numbers. American Society for Engineering Education.

May
15
2018

Bringing MomTech to Life: MEMS Professor Katherine Hornbostel Designs a Gadget To Help Moms Breastfeed

All SSoE News, MEMS

Read coverage by Anya Sostek at the Post-Gazette here. PITTSBURGH (May 15, 2018) … Breast milk has many known health benefits, but breastfeeding is not always an option for moms, and many turn to pumping as an alternative. Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wanted to make this often cumbersome process easier. She decided to tackle the antiquated design of modern breast pumps and create a clever attachment that would make pumping more like nursing. Hornbostel found herself in this parenting world after giving birth to twins during her doctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and decided to participate in their Breast Pump Hackathon six months into motherhood. “‘Mom-tech’ is really behind the curve, and there is a lot of room for innovation,” said Hornbostel. “The hackathon put me into the mindset of creating new products for mothers, and two years later, I found myself filing my first ‘mom-tech’ patent for Pump2Baby.” “Whether it is difficulty latching, giving birth to multiples, returning to work, or a host of other common issues, many women struggle with nursing and start pumping to produce breast milk,” explained Hornbostel. “I wanted to create something to ease frustration with the pumping process.” Pump2Baby is a breast pump accessory that connects to any Medela breast pump. The user begins hands-free pumping with a pumping bra, and once some milk has accumulated in the bottle, the baby can suck it out through tubing to a nipple.  A special valve in the bottom of each bottle prevents milk from leaking until the baby starts sucking. Between pumping, cleaning, and feeding, the current process can take an hour for each feeding session. With around 8 feedings a day for newborns, pumping quickly becomes a full-time job for moms. Hornbostel’s Pump2Baby design saves time and stress by allowing moms to pump and bottle-feed simultaneously. “Many women, myself included, get burned out on pumping milk around the clock. I think the hardest part for me was that I could not take care of my twin infants when I was constantly attached to that pump,” said Hornbostel. “If I had Pump2Baby back when my boys were newborns, I almost certainly would have stuck with pumping longer because I could have actually fed them while pumping milk.” In addition to its time saving features, Pump2Baby also returns another benefit of breastfeeding- the mother’s bonding experience with her child. The ability to pump and feed at the same time means the user can now hold their baby while pumping which simulates the bond moms create while breastfeeding. “There are human factors to the production of milk,” explains Hornbostel. “Some women struggle to produce milk because the process of pumping is too mechanical. Holding your child and connecting with them often helps encourage production.” Hornbostel believes that this product is going to change the way we approach “mom-tech” and hopes it will spur future innovations. She calculates that this product could save the user a total of 180 hours over six months if they exclusively pump. These precious hours mean more time spent with your little one or better yet...more sleep. ###

May
9
2018

MEMS Undergraduate Wins National Center for Women & Information Technology Collegiate Award

MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (May 9, 2018) … Joanna Rivero, a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is one of four recipients of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Collegiate Award. Though careers in technology are on the rise, the number of women in the field is small. NCWIT is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in computing starting from K-12 and continuing through their professional careers. This award recognizes technical projects that demonstrate a high level of creativity and potential societal impact. Rivero received the award for her work with thermoelectric generators (TEG). She explained, “There is an urgent need to find a renewable and sustainable source of energy as an alternative to the fossil fuels that we heavily depend upon. TEGs are a potential alternative that use heat to produce energy through a thermal gradient formed between two dissimilar conductors.” Diagram of a TEG showing an optimized leg (right) and the constant (left) in a per slice basis. Rivero works as a student researcher for Dr. Matthew Barry, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, and their project combines multiphysics and multi-method algorithms to develop mathematical models to optimize TEG power systems. Barry and Rivero’s work builds upon established methods that determine an optimized leg shape profile of a TEG for an accurate prediction of performance. Their research, however, is unique in its execution. “Our model gives an accurate geometric prediction that uses both numerical and analytical methods, which has never been done before,” said Rivero. “This thermal-electric coupled solution algorithm allows for the simultaneous resolution of temperature and current and, therefore, power within the TEG.” The result of the optimized leg shape for a TEG with the materials used. “Both algorithms take the cross-sectional area of each TEG leg in slices. One leg is optimized while the other is kept constant, which allows the geometric properties to be solved in relation to one leg,” explained Rivero. “We used this method because it results in more accurate performance predictions by taking into account the intermediate temperatures between each slice. The methods used showed an increase in performance for both efficiency and power output when compared to conventional modeling.” In addition to the $10,000 prize, recipients of the NCWIT Collegiate Award are also given a scholarship to attend the organization’s Summit on Women in IT from May 15-17 in Grapevine, Texas. In the fall, Rivero will continue her studies as a PhD student in the Swanson School and looks forward to taking advantage of more opportunities as she continues to grow at Pitt. She said, “I had no clue I would end up in this field. Dr. Barry’s work is heavily dependent on computing and technology, and what began as a requirement to work in his group turned into a passion of mine after I realized the huge impact technology brings to advancing and aiding research.” ###

May
9
2018

NCDMM Honors Howard A. Kuhn as the Recipient of the 2018 Lawrence J. Rhoades Award

Industrial

Reposted from the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM). View the article here. Prestigious Award Recognizes Achievement in Dedication to Advancement of Manufacturing Technology Presented at NCDMM’s Annual SUMMIT Event Blairsville, Pa. — May 9, 2018. The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) proudly announces that today at its annual SUMMIT event, it awarded its highest honor, the Lawrence J. Rhoades Award, to Howard A. Kuhn, Ph.D., P.E. Each year, the NCDMM awards the Lawrence J. Rhoades Award to an individual who shares Mr. Rhoades’ tireless commitment, futuristic vision, and unwavering dedication to the defense manufacturing industry. “On behalf of all of us at the NCDMM, I am most honored to present the Lawrence J. Rhoades Award to our long-time friend and esteemed colleague, Dr. Howard Kuhn,” said NCDMM President and Executive Director Ralph Resnick. “Throughout his illustrious 50-year career, Howard has been a force within both the manufacturing industry and academic institutions, serving as an esteemed, innovative thought-leader and mentor. Howard also shares many of the same extraordinary qualities as Larry Rhoades and namesake of this award. You could say they are cut from the same cloth. Like Larry, Howard is also a visionary, as well as a collaborator in the truest sense of the word, possessing an almost effortless ability to bring and inspire mutual efforts together to advance manufacturing technology for the betterment of our industry. He has set a standard that many aspire to meet. “Therefore, in recognition of his tireless commitment, steady leadership, dedication, and actions on behalf of the national manufacturing community and the mission of NCDMM, we congratulate Dr. Howard Kuhn as the 2018 NCDMM Lawrence J. Rhoades Awardee,” continued Mr. Resnick. NCDMM established the Lawrence J. Rhoades Award to honor the memory of Mr. Rhoades whose entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to the advancement of manufacturing processes was known industry-wide. Mr. Rhoades was one of the founding fathers of the NCDMM, and an inaugural member of the Board of Directors where he served until his untimely death in 2007. At the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, Dr. Kuhn is an adjunct Professor in industrial engineering, instructing courses in manufacturing, product realization, entrepreneurship, and additive manufacturing. He also conducts research on additive manufacturing of biomedical devices for tissue engineering at the University. Dr. Kuhn also serves as a consultant at local industry-leading organizations, including America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which is managed by the NCDMM, and The Ex One Company. At America Makes, he is a Technical Advisor, teaching a course, titled “Fundamentals of Additive Manufacturing Materials and Processes.” Upon its founding in August 2012, Dr. Kuhn also served as the Acting Deputy Director of Advanced Manufacturing Enterprise. At Ex One, he is currently a Research Consultant, but also previously served as the Director of Prometal Technology for Ex One. Previously, Dr. Kuhn, as the co-founder of Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), served as the company’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for 12 years. He also co-founded Deformation Control Technology, a consulting firm serving the metalworking industry. Prior to this, Dr. Kuhn held joint appointments in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Material Science at Drexel University and the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Kuhn is a Fellow of the American Society for Materials International and SME. In 2008 and 2011, respectively, he received the ASM Gold Medal and the SME Eli Whitney Productivity Award. In 2014, America Makes awarded Dr. Kuhn with its Distinguished Collaborator Award for his exceptional commitment and dedication to advancing additive manufacturing technology, practices, and innovation in the manufacturing industry through collaborative partnerships and contributing to the overall mission of America Makes. Dr. Kuhn is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and pursued all of his undergraduate, graduate, and doctorial degrees in mechanical engineering at the university. He is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania. ### About NCDMM NCDMM delivers optimized manufacturing solutions that enhance the quality, affordability, maintainability, and rapid deployment of existing and yet-to-be developed defense systems. This is accomplished through collaboration with government, industry, and academic organizations to promote the implementation of best practices to key stakeholders through the development and delivery of disciplined training, advanced technologies, and methodologies. NCDMM also manages the national accelerator for additive manufacturing (AM) and 3DP printing (3DP), America Makes—the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. For additional information, visit NCDMM at ncdmm.org.
NCDMM
May
4
2018

Planet Philadelphia interviews Dr. Eric Beckman for segment, "What To Do About Plastic?"

Chemical & Petroleum

Visit the Planet Philadelphia Radio Show for the original post. Plastic has innumerable good uses in our modern world, but we’re drowning in plastic waste. What should we do about it? Tune in to this Planet Philadelphia environmental radio show to find out about what we can do, as the guests discuss new, environmentally sensitive approaches to waste. Reducing waste and saving businesses money: Alisa Shargorodsky, founder and chief source reductionist at Echo Systems, a consulting business, will talk about ways to help businesses and organizations move towards zero waste while saving money in their operations. She specializes in group empowerment, leadership and shifting the culture of the work force. Using nanotechnology to make unrecyclable packing recyclable: Dr. Eric Beckman, professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He was recently awarded a large grant by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and NineSigma as one of the five University of Pittsburgh Departmental winners of the Circular Materials Challenge. (Dr. Beckman's segment begins at 00:23:48.)

May
3
2018

“Doping” to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (May 3, 2018) …  A recent article in the sustainable chemistry journal ChemSusChem revealed researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are “doping” nanoparticles to enhance their ability to capture carbon dioxide and provide a raw source of carbon for industrial processes. Not to be confused with its negative use in athletics, “doping” in chemical engineering refers to adding a substance into another material to improve its performance.Along with global temperatures, research into the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) is on the rise. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has reached a historic high of 408 parts per million, according to the latest measurements by NASA. Previous studies have shown the connection between greenhouse gases like CO2 and the warming trend, which began around the turn of the 20th century.“Many of our industrial processes contribute to the alarming amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, so we need to develop new technologies to intervene,” says Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it to useful chemicals can be both environmentally and industrially beneficial.”Dr. Mpourmpakis co-authored the study titled “Design of Copper-Based Bimetallic Nanoparticles for Carbon Dioxide Adsorption and Activation” (DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201702342) in ChemSusChem, with other researchers in Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering including Professor Götz Veser and three PhD students: James Dean, Natalie Austin, and Yahui Yang. An artistic depiction of the zirconium-doped copper nanomaterials appeared on one of the journal’s covers for Volume 11, Issue 7 in April 2018.Through a series of computer simulations and lab experiments, the researchers designed and developed a stable catalyst for the capture and activation of CO2 by doping copper nanoparticles with zirconium. The researchers believe the nanoparticles have large potential for reducing the carbon footprint of certain processes such as burning fossil fuels. However, CO2 molecules are rather reluctant to change.“CO2 is a very stable molecule which needs to be 'activated' to convert it. This activation happens by binding CO2 to catalyst sites that make the carbon-oxygen bond less stable. Our experiments confirmed the computational chemistry calculations in the Mpourmpakis group that doping copper with zirconium creates a good candidate for weakening the CO2 bonds,” explains Dr. Veser. Mpourmpakis’ group used computational chemistry to simulate hundreds of potential experiments vastly more quickly and less expensively than traditional lab methods and identified the most promising candidate dopant which was then experimentally verified. Copper nanoparticles are well-suited for the conversion of CO2 to useful chemicals because they are cheap, and they are excellent hydrogenation catalysts. Through hydrogenation, CO2 can be converted to higher-value chemicals such as methanol (CH3OH) or methane (CH4). Unfortunately, converting CO2 also requires its activation which copper is not able to deliver. Zirconium gets along well with copper and naturally activates CO2.“To have an effective dopant, you need to have sites on the catalyst surface that pass electrons to CO2,” says Dr. Mpourmpakis. “The dopant changes the electronic characteristics of materials, and we found zirconium is particularly effective at activating the CO2.”The Pitt researchers tested a number of different nanoparticle configurations and found the zirconium-doped copper nanoparticles particularly promising catalysts for hydrogenating CO2 and have already begun testing their effectiveness. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Apr

Apr
30
2018

Pitt Industrial Engineer Mostafa Bedewy Receives Top Honor from Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (April 30, 2018) ... In recognition of his contributions to the field of nanomanufacturing, Mostafa Bedewy was named a 2018 recipient of the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). Dr. Bedewy is assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and principal investigator of the NanoProduct Lab at Pitt. The Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award is given to exceptional young manufacturing engineers (35 years old or younger) from academia and industry for their contributions in manufacturing. According to SME, recipients are selected based on work in emerging manufacturing applications, technical publications, patents, and academic or industry leadership. Dr. Bedewy, a member of SME since 2017, is among 18 recipients from the U.S. and China. “This is an incredibly competitive award, and we are proud that Mostafa has been recognized by his peers for his advances in nonmanufacturing and nanoscience,” noted Bopaya Bidanda, the Ernst Roth Professor and Chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering. “His interdisciplinary research has been a great addition to our department and this award truly validates his impact in the field.” Dr. Bedewy’s research interests include nanomanufacturing and micromanufacturing; surface engineering and coating technology; materials characterization and metrology; design and mechanics of surgical tools and medical devices; synthesis and self-organization of nanofilaments and fibers; bottom-up self-assembly of 2D/3D nanoparticles; and structuring of biointerfaces and biomolecular systems.“In our interdisciplinary research group, we leveraging precision engineering, biomimetic/bio-inspired designs, and quantitative tools to tackle fundamental research questions at the interface between nanoscience, biotechnology, and manufacturing engineering,” said Dr. Bedewy.He joined the Swanson School of Engineering in fall 2016 after a postdoctoral associate position in bionanofabrication at MIT. He completed his doctorate at the University of Michigan in 2013 after having received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical design and production engineering from Cairo University. Dr. Bedewy’s other awards include the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (2017); the Robert A. Meyer Award from the American Carbon Society (2016); the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement from the University of Michigan (2014); and the Silver Award from the Materials Research Society (2013). ### About the NanoProduct LabThe NanoProduct Lab (nanoproductlab.org), also known as the Bedewy Research Group, focuses on fundamental experimental research at the interface between nanoscience, biotechnology, and manufacturing engineering. The group explores basic scientific discoveries and applied technological developments in the broad area of advanced manufacturing at multiple length scales, creating solutions that impact major societal challenges in energy, healthcare, and the environment.

Apr
30
2018

Pitt Civil Engineering Graduate Student Uses Social Media Math to Link U.S. Trade Networks

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Nemi Vora at the 3MT competition PITTSBURGH (April 30, 2018) … Developing a PhD thesis is a time-consuming process that involves committees, defenses, rewrites, and dissertations. But one University of Pittsburgh student was able to distill hers into a three-minute pitch – and was awarded for her presentation. Nemi Vora, a graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), was one of two runner-up winners at the University of Pittsburgh’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition earlier this month. Between 2012 and 2016, California faced one of its most severe droughts. Farmers risked losing their crops unless they tapped into the only other water source: groundwater. However, pumping water out of the ground requires electricity, and power plants require water for cooling. It didn’t take long before the largest electricity supply company in Southern California had to shut down two of its nuclear reactors. The drought set into motion a chain reaction threatening the region’s energy, water, and food. “We know these resources are connected. Stress in one may affect the other two, so we need to manage them together,” says Vora. “Currently, our policies are not designed to look at the whole picture. This is where my work comes in.” Vora studies how the same algorithms that power social media can be applied to government survey data about food, water, energy, and other essential resources. She is preparing her thesis titled “A systems-level framework for understanding sustainability and resilience of the U.S. Food-Energy-Water Nexus” under the advisory of CEE Associate Professor Vikas Khanna. Last year, the American Chemical Society journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering published a paper (DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b02122) based on Vora’s research, which was highlighted on the issue’s cover page. Just as information travels through social media networks, U.S. natural resources travel through complex trade networks. Instead of sharing ideas, photos, and events, these networks share food, water, and energy. Government reports about these resources rarely go viral, but the complex statistical equations used to hone social media experiences can also help explain the interconnectivity of resources. Image: A visualization of energy embodied in irrigation from U.S. domestic food transfers. Embodied energy accounts for the total amount of energy consumed by a process. The network represents 1719 interstate transfers amounting to 274 billion megajoules of embodied energy, or roughly the amount of energy in 45 million barrels of oil.Credit: Swanson School of Engineering/Nemi Vora “We trade a lot of food in the United States, and the result is a chaotic network,” Vora explains. “To make sense out of it I use social network analysis, which is the same math used by social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. We find some interesting insights that would be much harder to piece together with traditional strategies.” For example, Vora’s analysis revealed that Texas imports more grains than any other state. Although a complete statistical analysis would be necessary to pinpoint why Texas imports so many grains, the Lone Star State most likely uses them for raising cattle, food processing, or exporting from its ports. The bulk of the grain imports into Texas are from neighboring states like Oklahoma and Kansas because transportation costs are low. However, all states in the Midwest rely heavily on the same groundwater source called the Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer. Roughly the size of Lake Huron, the aquifer supplies 30 percent of all water used to irrigate U.S. agriculture. In some areas, like Nebraska, the water supply replenishes itself faster than it’s pumped, but most of the water is being pumped out or “mined” faster than the natural hydrology can replenish itself. At the current rate, it will eventually run dry. Texas could relax its burden on local groundwater by importing water from the eastern U.S., where it’s more abundant. Although this may seem like a simple solution, eastern states rely on high-polluting pumping fuels to extract groundwater, and importing food and water would require building costly conveyance systems. Vora’s research shows how a singular focus such as “pump more ground water when water supplies are low” or “import water from another region” can have ripple effects beyond state borders. “Any increase in sourcing resources from other regions or agricultural output without a change in the current technology would end up increasing pollution,” she says. “Our reliance on trade can be a good negotiation point for convincing the states to work together on resource management and distribution decisions that will be the most beneficial for everyone.” Vora also points out that some states, such as Kansas, are committing to changes that will help preserve the Ogallala/High Plains Aquifer for future generations. Her research quantifies relationships between energy, water, and food so people can avoid crises downstream by understanding the interconnectivity of these vast, complex networks of resources. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
30
2018

A Reimagined Future for Sustainable Nanomaterials

Civil & Environmental

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (April 30, 2018) ... Engineered nanomaterials hold great promise for medicine, electronics, water treatment and other fields. But when designed without critical information about environmental impacts at the start of the process, the materials’ long-term effects could undermine those advances. With a Yale-led project, a team of researchers hopes to change that. In a study published today in Nature Nanotechnology, Yale researchers outline a strategy to give materials designers the tools they need to make the necessary assessments efficiently and at the beginning of the design process. Engineers traditionally focus on the function and cost of their products. Without the information to consider long-term environmental impacts, though, it is difficult to predict adverse effects. That lack of information means that unintended consequences often go unnoticed until long after the product has been commercialized. This can lead to hastily replacing the material with another that proves to have equally bad, or even worse, effects. Having materials property information at the start of the design process could change that pattern. “As a researcher, if I have limited resources for research and development, I don’t want to spend it on something that’s not going to be viable due to its effects on human health,” said Julie Zimmerman, professor of chemical & environmental engineering and co-senior author of the study. “I want to know now, before I develop that product.”To that end, the researchers have developed a database that serves as a screening tool for environmentally sustainable material selection. It’s a chart that lists nanomaterials and assesses each for properties such as size, shape, and such performance characteristics as toxicity and antimicrobial activity. Mark Falinski, a PhD student and lead author of the study, said this information would allow researchers to weigh the different effects of the material before actually developing it. “For instance, if I want to make a good antimicrobial silver nanoparticle and I want it to require the least amount of energy possible to make it, I could look at this materials selection strategy,” he said. The database is also designed to allow researchers to enter their data and make the chart more robust. The researchers say the project is a call to action to both environmental and materials researchers to develop the data needed to aid sustainable design choices. “While materials selection is a well-established process, this framework offers two important contributions relevant to designing tomorrow’s products,” said Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. “It includes engineered nanomaterials alongside conventional alternatives, as well as providing human health and environmental metrics for all materials.” Desiree Plata, John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and co-senior author, said they want to give engineers the means to avoid unintended consequences when creating materials. “I think engineers of all categories are hungry for this type of information,” she said. “They want to build materials that solve major crises of our time, like access to food and water and sustainable energy. The problem is they have no way to assess that sustainability in a quick and easy fashion. The article published today seeks to overcome that challenge and pave the way for sustainable nanotechnologies.”The study’s authors also include Shauhrat S. Chopra and Thomas L. Theis of the University of Illinois at Chicago. ### Yale University news release; reposted with permission. "A framework for sustainable nanomaterial selection and design based on performance, hazard, and economic considerations." doi:10.1038/s41565-018-0120-4
William Weir, Yale University
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
26
2018

Expanding Boundaries: Pitt Bioengineering undergraduate Andrea Hartman wins Vira I. Heinz award to study abroad

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 26, 2018) … Each year, the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership (VIH) admits undergraduate women from 15 institutions across Pennsylvania into a one-year leadership development program that includes an opportunity to study abroad. One of this year’s recipients from the University of Pittsburgh is Andrea Hartman, a senior bioengineering student in the Swanson School of Engineering who will visit South Africa this summer. The VIH program provides funding for women who have never traveled internationally and prepares them for tomorrow’s global challenges. In addition to international experience, recipients are required to attend two leadership development retreats in Pittsburgh and "create a Community Engagement Experience” designed to use their new-found skills to impact their local community in a positive way. Hartman will be spending a week in Johannesburg and four weeks in Cape Town. “I chose South Africa to learn first-hand about the social, economic, and political struggles that have affected the country,” said Hartman. “I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, and I think the best way to gain a global perspective is to not only educate yourself through research, but to go there and interact with the people, immersing yourself in their culture.” Hartman looks forward to the leadership development aspect of the program. Since starting in the Swanson School, she has enhanced her leadership skills through her co-op experience with Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company in Warsaw, Indiana. She has also made personal gains from the Swanson School’s Engineering Ambassador program and her involvement with the women’s fraternity, Chi Omega. Hartman said, “I would like to be more involved in the Pittsburgh community which is why I look forward to being a part of a Community Engagement Experience that I and the cohort of awardees in Pittsburgh will do after our experiences abroad.” Hartman plans to focus her experience on education in South Africa and hopes to share that knowledge with her peers in Pittsburgh. “I believe an education system is the foundation of a society,” said Hartman. “I hope to learn about how the education system in South Africa has molded its community, and bring that back to my experience in Pittsburgh to educate others.” The program’s namesake, Vira I. Heinz, was an active member of the Pittsburgh community and engaged in philanthropic and civic work around the region and internationally. She left a lasting mark in Pennsylvania by funding international opportunities to generations of women after her. “Because of this award I will have the opportunity to travel for the first time, and I could not be more thankful for this incredible opportunity,” said Hartman. “I look forward to meeting all of the other women in the program!” ###

Apr
26
2018

Expanding Boundaries: Pitt undergraduate Nadine Humphrey wins Vira I. Heinz award to study abroad

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 26, 2018) … Each year, the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership (VIH) admits undergraduate women from 15 institutions across Pennsylvania into a one-year leadership development program that includes an opportunity to study abroad. One of this year’s recipients from the University of Pittsburgh is Nadine Humphrey, a chemical engineering sophomore in the Swanson School of Engineering who will participate in the Pitt in Japan program this summer. The VIH program provides funding for women who have never traveled internationally and prepares them for tomorrow’s global challenges. In addition to international experience, recipients are required to attend two leadership development retreats in Pittsburgh and "create a Community Engagement Experience” designed to use their new-found skills to impact their local community in a positive way. Humphrey will be spending her time abroad in Kobe, Japan where she will explore the language and culture. During the VIH Spring Retreat, participants established goals in a specific area of focus, and she chose to examine economic opportunity in Japan. “The Pitt in Japan program offers a class called ‘Doing Business in Japan,’ where we will learn about Japanese business practices and visit a company abroad. I plan to observe their work culture and compare it to the American experience,” said Humphrey. “I would also like to interact with Japanese university students to understand how they value a college education and compare their views of the working world to those of my peers.” She hopes these interactions will help improve her Japanese language skills. “I was eager to study in Japan because I have been interested in the language for a long time, but it is difficult to learn without some kind of formal education,” said Humphrey. “During this program, I want to develop my speaking and listening skills to function on a conversational level. Being able to communicate with people from another country will give me a more global perspective and will help me get a picture of current events from the eyes of another culture.” In addition to the international experience, Humphrey hopes to take away new skills from the leadership component of the program. “I heard about this opportunity from a poster in my dorm freshman year. I thought it was neat that I could travel abroad, gain leadership skills, and use what I learned to effect change back home,” said Humphrey.  “I have enjoyed participating in volunteer opportunities as a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, and I hope that my experience in this program will help me find new ways to get involved around the city.” The program’s namesake, Vira I. Heinz, was an active member of the Pittsburgh community and engaged in philanthropic and civic work around the region and internationally. She left a lasting mark in Pennsylvania by funding international opportunities to generations of women after her. ###

Apr
26
2018

McGowan Institute Director William Wagner Named Inventor of the Year

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

UPMC News Release Dr. William Wagner, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and professor of surgery, bioengineering and chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, has been honored with the 2018 Inventor of the Year award by the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association. He received the award at a recent event in Pittsburgh. “It’s an honor for my team and me to be recognized by the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association,” Wagner said. “This is a welcome recognition of our work in translating research from the bench to the bedside and developing technologies that address unmet clinical needs.” The award also recognizes the positive, significant economic impact the McGowan Institute has had within the western Pennsylvania region. Under Wagner’s direction, the McGowan Institute is a leader in medical device commercialization and regenerative medicine technologies. The institute has made an international impact on healthcare with its development of circulatory assist devices, pulmonary assist devices and extracellular matrix-based materials for regenerative repair and healing. In addition to leading the McGowan Institute, Wagner also co-founded Neograft Technologies, which is developing new treatment options for coronary artery bypass surgery, and has raised over $34 million in funding. Wagner has 26 issued patents and 27 additional patent filings to his name. Wagner and his colleagues’ most recent invention includes a fluid material that gels upon injection into tissues and then acts to control inflammation and direct tissue healing. He also has invented a series of new biodegradable, elastic polymers that can be used to slow the dilatation of the heart following a heart attack as well as be used in other applications, such as creating heart valves. ###
Madison Brunner, Communications Specialist
Apr
26
2018

Opportunities to Lean Green Extend Beyond Sustainability Week

All SSoE News

Read the full story by Kimberly Barlow at the University Times. Sustainability isn’t a new concept at Pitt. Pitt dominates the university division in Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Green Workplace Challenge and is recognized regularly on the Princeton Review’s annual list of Green Colleges and the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools ranking. From building and renovation projects that routinely aim for U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification to Dining Services menus that feature locally sourced and more sustainable plant-based fare, the University community’s well-established commitment to sustainability can be seen in nearly every corner of campus.
Kimberly K. Barlow, Communications Manager
Apr
25
2018

ShanghaiRankings Puts Pitt Bioengineering Among the Top Biomedical Engineering Programs in the World

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 25, 2018) The University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering was ranked the #14 biomedical engineering program in the world by the 2017 ShanghaiRanking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects. “It is great to see our department recognized on this international scale,” said Sanjeev Shroff Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “I am proud of the accomplishments made by our outstanding faculty, students and staff. We have a strong department, rich with academic and research opportunities, and I look forward to our continued growth and success.” In FY17, the Department of Bioengineering received over $27 million in new grants, including the renewal of its Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP) by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with more than $1.9 million in funding over the next five years. The department has two additional training grants funded by the NIH: Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine (BiRM) and Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER). Since 2009, ShanghaiRanking Consultancy, an independent organization dedicated to research on higher education intelligence and consultation, has been publishing the Academic Ranking of World Universities. ###

Apr
25
2018

Formula Won: Pitt Chem-E-Car Revs up for National Competition

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 25, 2018) … Runners, cyclists, and race car drivers can all benefit from visualizing themselves crossing the finish line before a competition. But what happens when they don’t know where the finish line will be? During the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Chem-E-Car Competition, student engineers spend months designing a shoebox-sized car powered by chemical reactants that can travel a distance between 50 and 100 feet, but judges don’t reveal that distance until an hour before the competition.A team of undergraduate students from the Swanson School of Engineering entered the Chem-E-Car Competition at the AIChE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on April 6 - 7 at Princeton University. Their car, “The Volts Wagon,” finished in the top five, earning a spot in the National Chem-E-Car Competition at the annual AIChE conference in Pittsburgh this October. Before the conference, the teams only knew they had to create a car able to travel somewhere between 15 and 30 meters (about 50 – 100 feet) while carrying a payload between zero and 500 milliliters of water (about zero – 1.1 pounds). The car had to be powered by chemical reactants and include a second chemical reaction as a stopping mechanism. It had to go the distance, but it would be disqualified for overshooting the distance by too much.On the day of the competition, the judges revealed the target distance would be 60.4 feet and the cars had to carry a payload of 400 milliliters of water. The Pitt students’ car featured a zinc air battery and a chemical chameleon stopping mechanism. It passed safety tests for pressure, gases, temperature, exhaust, and chemicals. The judges also evaluated the cars based on creativity of the design and incorporation of green engineering principles. Students completed safety training and submitted an Engineering Documentation Package containing equipment specifications, material safety documentation sheets, and other information about their design. The morning of the competition, the teams presented posters detailing research they conducted to create their cars.After the judges gathered all of their evaluation data and The Volts Wagon completed its run, the Pitt students finished in fourth place in a field of 19 teams.During the conference, another Pitt team came in third place of 18 teams in a chemical engineering-themed Jeopardy Competition. Twenty Pitt students attended the conference in total, and teams for both competitions comprised a diverse group of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering undergraduate students.Members of the Pitt AIChE student chapter received donations from alumni, family, and friends to pay for conference expenses through the Pitt ENGAGE crowdsourcing platform. The Chem-E-Car team also received support from Lubrizol, BASF Corporation, the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department, and the Student Government Board (SGA). The AIChE Mid-Atlantic Region includes professional chapters and universities throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.About AIChEFounded in 1908, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is a nonprofit organization providing leadership to the chemical engineering profession. Representing 57,000 members in industry, academia, and government, AIChE provides forums to advance the theory and practice of the profession, upholds high professional standards and ethics, and supports excellence in education. Institute members range from undergraduate students, to entry-level engineers, to chief executive officers of major corporations. ### .video-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; padding-top: 30px; height: 0; overflow: hidden; } .video-container iframe, .video-container object, .video-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
25
2018

2018 Commencement Feature: David Matelan, Veteran and Snyder Scholar

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

Reposted with permission from Pittwire. David Matelan was always building things. As an 8-year-old boy, he and his cousin found a load of bricks and built a small house in the backyard of his grandparents’ home in Pittsburgh’s Swissvale neighborhood. He helped his cousin build their own version of a Demon Drop — a free fall amusement park ride — from the top of a backyard swing. “We tested it out on his younger brother,” Matelan said. His journey to Pitt came by way of the U.S. Marines. Matelan knew by ninth grade he wanted to be part of the Band of Brothers. He spent summers installing carpet with his uncle, who had been a machinist in the Marine Corps, and whose stories were enticing. “If you’re going to join, you may as well join the best,” Matelan said. He left immediately after graduation from Gateway High School for recruit training in Parris Island, South Carolina. Now, decades after his childhood building forays, Matelan graduates from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, with hopes of working on a structural transportation project someday. Roads and subway systems interest him the most. Matelan’s five years in the military were an exciting whirlwind of being on a security guard detail for world leaders and other VIPs who would visit embassies throughout Europe and Asia. He and the other Marines in the detachment assisted the Secret Service with security sweeps before and after visits and provided 24-hour protection of the sites. His adventures included guarding the likes of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton twice in China and once in Croatia; President Jimmy Carter and his wife in China; and President Barack Obama and his wife in Ireland, with additional assignments in Japan. “I've seen more countries than U.S. states,” said Matelan. In fact, the young Marine was on duty in May 2011 inside the U.S. Embassy in Dublin when one of President Obama’s heavily-armored touring limousines “bottomed out” on the uphill exit ramp with a loud clang and actually got stuck for a while. “We heard the noise from inside but had no idea what had happened at the time,” said Matelan. The limo was carrying Secret Service staff and personnel. The Obamas were in the limo behind the stuck car. After the incident, the Secret Service released a statement that said the limo’s occupants switched to other vehicles and the entire motorcade exited the premises via another driveway. The stranded limo was freed by technicians after about 15 minutes. By late 2013, Matelan’s tours were over, and he returned to the United States and applied to a number of universities. Pitt was the first one to respond, so he enrolled the following January in the College of General Studies. As a sophomore, he transitioned into the Swanson School of Engineering. That’s when he heard from Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services that he had been nominated for and won the Lester C. Snyder, Jr. Scholarship in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, which is given to engineering students with a history of military service. The honor is named for Snyder, Jr. (ENGR ’55) who earned his civil engineering degree after twice having his studies interrupted to serve in World War II and the Korean War. His son, Les Snyder III, also earned a civil engineering degree (ENGR ’79) and decided in 2007 to establish a scholarship to honor his father’s “persistence in getting through the military, and then finishing in civil engineering, and then going on and having a very successful career.” Nonetheless, Matelan found the transition from a global career at U.S. embassies to sitting in a classroom a little tough. “Everything in the Marines came easy to me,” he said. “In college, I went from having all the answers to having all the questions.” But he persevered and was successful, which came as no surprise to Master Sergeant Chris Hoenig, who supervised Matelan in Croatia. “David is self-driven and takes the initiative to improve upon things in his scope of work to make them run smoothly,” he said. Matelan interned at Infrastructure and Industrial Constructors USA, a company owned, coincidentally, by Les Snyder III. The boy who built makeshift thrill rides was now working on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s $53.7 million Interstate 70 New Stanton Interchange Project. He oversaw the ordering of permeable concrete pavers for several sediment basins — temporary ponds built on construction sites to capture eroded soil. He also performed quantity and production rate calculations. “The real-world knowledge on that team was invaluable,” he said. Now there’s been a job offer from the company, which Matelan is considering. With his education in leadership, focus and time management as a Marine, coupled with his Pitt schooling, he has the tools for a smooth transition. ###
Sharon S. Blake, University Communications
Apr
24
2018

Mining the Data

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … Although Pennsylvania’s vast coal resources have been mined since before the creation of the United States, protection of the environment from the effects of mining have slowly evolved and expanded since the Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act of 1945. Act 54 of 1994 amended the Commonwealth’s mining statutes to include a new set of repair and compensation provisions for structures and water supplies impacted by underground mining. Under the Act 54 amendments, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is required to assess the implementation of the new repair and compensation provisions every five years.  Since 2009 the University of Pittsburgh has helped to mine the data that shapes how the Commonwealth conducts this assessment and responds to the concerns of individuals and industry.Funded by DEP and the U.S. Department of the Interior, an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by the University of Pittsburgh has begun the fifth report on “The Effects of Subsidence Resulting from Underground Bituminous Coal Mining on Surface Structures and Features and on Water Resources: Fifth Act 54 Five-year Report.” The $794,205 contract includes a comprehensive review of the built and natural environments impacted by long- wall, room-and-pillar, and retreat mining methods from August 21, 2013 – August 20, 2018. Principal investigator for the fifth report is Daniel Bain, assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering at Pitt and Faculty Fellow in Sustainability, and co-PI is Anthony Iannacchione, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Investigators from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are Stephen Tonsor, director of science and research, as well as John Wenzel, director of the museum’s Powdermill Nature Center, and Powdermill’s aquatic entomologist Andrea Kautz. “This project is an ideal wedding of the expertise in two schools at Pitt and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, providing vital information to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Dr. Tonsor said. “The project also trains students in working with government and business, applying scientific knowledge to improve management of this economically and environmentally impactful industry.” “Thanks to this regular review, the DEP has adjusted assessment focus to evolve from basic structures to water, then streams, then wetlands, taking a deeper look at the watershed as a whole,” Dr. Bain said. “The challenge is collecting sometimes limited data from various resources, as well as new types of data such as the interaction between groundwater and streams. This process is an evolving territory for everyone involved, from the Commonwealth and mining companies to public interest groups and NGOs, but it is vital research that has a tremendous impact on environmental remediation and restoration.”The fifth report, due August 20, 2019, will include sections on impacts to structures, water supplies, groundwater, streams, wetlands, and a list of recommendations presented to the Governor, General Assembly and Citizens Advisory Council, as well as through public hearings in Harrisburg and California, Pa. “For this study we’re a combination of auditors and researchers,” Dr. Iannacchione explained. “But since the first assessment was completed in 1999, the process has not only given industry, government and non-government organizations a greater look at the impact of underground mining, but how the Commonwealth can better identify and address problems, and improve the DEP process as a whole.” ### Subsidence can sometime result in planned ponding of streams. The permit process requires that these events be identified prior to mining and that interventions be developed to mitigate the ponding events. For example, the ponding of water in the field was mitigated by draining the water, followed by re-grading. After these mitigation efforts, the field is returned to its pre-mining condition. As part of the DEP research, Pitt biology faculty and students conduct field work to determine the total biological scores (TBS) of undermined streams, evaluating conditions including stream flow and species recovery. Approximately eight hours of laboratory work to identify the genus and species of life forms is needed for every one hour of field work.

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
24
2018

Creating a Collaborative Community: Pitt iGEM Teammates Help Local High School Students Participate in This Year’s Giant Jamboree

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation hosts an annual synthetic biology research-focused competition that continues to draw a multidisciplinary group of University of Pittsburgh students. Participants spend the summer creating and implementing a research project, and the experience culminates at the Giant Jamboree in Boston where the students showcase their work. For the first time, high school students from the Pittsburgh region will compete in this international competition. Vivian Hu, a sophomore bioengineering student in the Swanson School of Engineering, and Dorsin Chang, a senior molecular biology student at Pitt, competed in iGEM 2017 with a project focused on controlling E. coli movement with light and won a silver medal at the Giant Jamboree. Riding off their positive experience with the competition, Hu and Chang proactively got involved with the Citizen Science Lab (CSL) and began weekly visits to assist the high school iGEM team formed there. “iGEM is a great resource to expose students to research and kindle their interests in the STEM fields,” said Hu. “Through this program, I gained valuable research experience in lab techniques, project design, and experiment planning. It is a great opportunity to collaborate with other students, and I wanted to help the high schoolers have their own rewarding experience.” “We have been helping the students formulate their project by sharing tips and getting them to engage in discussions about research articles or other information they find,” said Hu. “As they move on to more wet lab experiments, we assist them with calculations, making buffers or reagents, and carrying out experiments.” Collaborations are a strong theme in iGEM. Cheryl Telmer, a research biologist at Carnegie Mellon University, has been involved with various iGEM teams at Pitt, CMU, CMU Qatar, and the CSL since 2013. She has been working with Pitt’s 2017 iGEM team to advise the new high school group. “Alan Seadler and Andre Samuel formed the high school iGEM team, and because of my experience with the competition, they approached me to help,” said Telmer. Dr. Seadler is Chair of Biotechnology at Duquesne University, and Dr. Samuel is director of the Citizen Science Lab. “It is great to see this competition continue to expand in our region, and it has been a joy to watch undergraduates like Vivian and Dorsin contribute to this growth.” The high school team is finalizing their project idea and plans to focus on producing energy-on-demand using a coculture of two different bacteria, one engineered to feed the other.  One of the requirements for a silver medal at the Giant Jamboree is collaboration with another team so Telmer facilitated a partnership with the 2017 CMUQ iGEM team to have the CSL group characterize their salt sensor. The high schoolers will continue work on this project with the goal of participating in the 2018 Giant Jamboree from October 25-28. ###

Apr
24
2018

CEE’s Melissa Bilec Wins Faculty Diversity Award

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (April 24, 2018) … US Steel Dean of Engineering Gerald Holder announced Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and deputy director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, is the recipient of the 2017-18 Swanson School of Engineering Faculty Diversity Award. “[Melissa’s] continued accomplishments are extremely important in helping us reach our diversity goals and national prominence in this area,” wrote Gerald Holder, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, in the award letter. He added that Dr. Bilec was chosen to receive the award for creating a positive and inclusive academic environment, participation in diversity related initiatives, and diversity enrichment within the community.The Faculty Diversity Award Committee specifically cited Dr. Bilec’s achievements as: Commitment to community engagement and building relationships with underserved communities where engineering skills and student projects can better the lives of others; leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, as co-advisor of PittSWE, the Society of Women Engineers, and by incorporating strategic plans to support diversity efforts in goals as part of the ELATE program; recognized excellence in mentorship, at the graduate and postdoctoral levels, including the 2016 Outstanding Mentor Award from the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association; and service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through campus visits and conference participation. “I am committed to diversity and inclusion efforts both professionally and personally,” said Dr. Bilec. “I’m honored to be recognized for my particular role in our shared mission to respect and empower members of the Swanson School, the surrounding community, and beyond.”The award committee included Swanson School faculty members Dr. Jeffrey Vipperman, Dr. Judith Yang, Dr. David Sanchez, Dr. Steven Abramowitch, and Dr. Robert Parker, who served as the committee’s chair. Dean Holder presented the award to Dr. Bilec at the March 14 faculty meeting.The Office of Diversity encourages each department within the Swanson School to nominate a faculty member who shows commitment to diversity through service, teaching, and research. In addition to the award, Dr. Bilec received a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
23
2018

Swanson School announces winners of Spring 2018 Design Expo

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (April 23, 2018) ... The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering announced the winners of its Spring 2018 Design Expo, held Thursday, April 19 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum. The winning teams were selected from nearly 100 projects. The Design Expo showcases student engineering designs to industry and the public, and allows engineering student teams to display their creativity and ingenuity in addressing real world problems.View the 2018 Design Expo Photo Album.OVERALL WINNERSBest Overall ProjectECE-4: SoleSense    Advisors: Dr. Sam Dickerson & Dr. Ahmed Dallal Mike Gabrin, Ben Knopfmacher, Alex PattonPeople’s Choice AwardMEMS-6: Design of a Jet Motor for a Small Autonomous Boat        Advisors: Dr. David Schmidt & Dr. David Sanchez        Jordan Bichler, Connor Dayton, Connor Dudas, Brian Goettel, Peter Shilowich, Josh Winzek DEPARTMENT WINNERS1st Place BioengineeringBioE-14: A Tool for Natural Sleep Endoscopy    Advisor: Dr. Mark GartnerLarissa Allen, Shushma Gudla, Deepa Issar, Justin Ke, Henry Phalen2nd Place BioengineeringBioE-13: Output-measuring Bedpad for Incontinent Patients    Advisor: Dr. Mark GartnerIan Christman, Bianca De, Jillian Gallagher (Nursing), Brian Kolich, Nash Vedanaparti, Toby Zhu3rd Place BioengineeringBioE-4: Pediatric PCA pump redesign        Advisor: Dr. Mark GartnerAkhil Aniff, Patrick Haggerty, Joy Huang, Avin Khera, Tyler Martin1st Place Civil & Environmental EngineeringCEE-1: I-79 PA-51 Interchange Replacement Project    Advisor: Dr. Max Stephens    Nicholas Bruni, Brett Ford, Julissa Garcia, Kevin Gibson, Amedeo Hirata, David Matelan, Colin Mitchell2nd Place Civil & Environmental EngineeringCEE-6: Buttermilk Falls: Accessibility and Revitalization Project    Advisor: Dr. Mark Magalotti    Andrew     Campbell, Matthew Gregoire, Kyle Kosinski, Jacob O'Neal, Sarah Russek, Coby Sartin, Patrick Smith1st Place Electrical and Computer EngineeringECE-4: SoleSense    Faculty Advisors: Dr. Sam Dickerson & Dr. Ahmed Dallal Mike Gabrin, Ben Knopfmacher, Alex Patton2nd Place Electrical and Computer EngineeringECE-16: Measure Intuit    Faculty Advisors: Dr. Sam Dickerson & Dr. Ahmed Dallal Kevin Gilboy, Kevin Le, Dylan McGuire, Nicholas Petro3rd Place Electrical and Computer EngineeringECE-1: 6 Degree of Freedom UAV Using Side Rotors    Faculty Advisors: Dr. Sam Dickerson & Dr. Ahmed Dallal Liam Berti, Levi Burner, Ritesh Misra, Long Vo1st Place Industrial Engineering IE-2: Improving Production Efficiency at Little Earth Productions    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Louis LuangkesornEmily Ahearn, Luis Rojas-Romero, Rachel Smith2nd Place Industrial Engineering IE-7: St. Clair Hospital - Operating Room Inventory System Improvements    Faculty Advisor: Dr. Louis LuangkesornTanya Bahl, Jacob Bowley, John Cordier, Kelly Larson1st Place Mechanical Engineering & Materials ScienceMEMS-9: Design of Water Cooling System for a Linear Motor        Advisor: Dr. David Schmidt/Aerotech       Kyle Bauer, Brady Cameron, Christian Fink, Aaron Johnson, Andrew Ragonese2nd Place Mechanical Engineering & Materials ScienceMEMS-13: CubeRover - Democratizing Space Exploration        Advisor: Dr. David Schmidt/AstroboticThomas Anthony, Stephen Dolhi, Nate Grygo, David Ross, Daniel Sauder    3rd Place Mechanical Engineering & Materials ScienceMEMS-15: Defense Force Strike Meter        Advisor: Dr. Thomas Congedo        Sarah Becker, Mike Capolupo, Ian Dougherty, Isabel Hagopian, Nickolas Hokaj, Kelsey Williams    1st Place Product RealizationPR-1: Lockout - An RFID Safety Enforcing Mechanism for SSoE Makerspaces and Machine ShopsAdvisor: Dr. William (Buddy) Clark and Brandon BarberBryan Patrick Farren, Woodrow Fulmer, Kevin Gilboy, Chen Zhu2nd Place Product RealizationPR-10: The Locatable CaneAdvisors: Marc Tobias/Eric WinterSean Klevens, Sean O’Brien, Jennifer Patterson, Ethan Paules1st Place Art of Making AOM-6: uplift - Increasing Elevator Efficiency and Usability                        Advisor: Joseph SamoskyBen Codd, Colman Glagovich, Luke Karavolis, Owen Lucas, Jack Protivnak        2nd Place Art of MakingAOM-4: recycle - A Sustainable Solution for Menstrual Products      Advisor: Joseph SamoskyGracie Barrineau, Andrew Imredy, Chris Snodgrass, Tynan Tinley, Ruben Verhagen

Apr
20
2018

Pitt Researchers Develop Computational Model to Predict Friction of Shoes and Prevent Falls

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 20, 2018) … Slips and falls are one of the biggest causes of workplace injury in the U.S., and shoe choice can make all the difference in avoiding it. A proper shoe tread provides friction with the floor, which is necessary in preventing falling accidents. However, treads come in a variety of forms, and not all are designed to help prevent injury. A new computational model created by a team of researchers in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering may help in the design of safer shoes. The project is led by Kurt Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt, and graduate student researcher Seyed Moghaddam, who conduct research in the Human Movement and Balance Laboratory in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Beschorner’s lab focuses on the development of ergonomic solutions for preventing falling accidents through biomechanics and tribology fundamentals. While a lot of research has been published on how surface features affect traction or friction, there remains a need to investigate actual shoe geometries to gather an understanding of the whole shoe-floor coefficient of friction. Beschorner’s latest findings are the result of a $1.5 million NIOSH R01 award he received in 2015 to better predict the wear rate of shoes. Beschorner and his team tackled this knowledge gap and recently published an article in the Journal of Biomechanics (doi.org/10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.11.009) that discusses how they apply their computational model to measure and predict shoe-floor coefficient of friction. His lab is one of the first to use computational modeling to study friction between shoe and floor surfaces. Over the past three months, their publication has been the top downloaded article on the journal’s website. “Shoe-floor friction is influenced by microscopic and macroscopic features of the shoe and flooring,” said Beschorner. “Using our computational model, we can look at individual features to determine how it contributes to friction mechanisms.” “The model simulates shoe and floor interactions at multiple scales,” explains Beschorner. “This includes simulating the interaction of shoe and floor features at the micrometer scale as well as the visible scale. By combining information from these two scales, we can estimate the overall performance of the shoe.” Beschorner said, “In the end, this will enable us to develop safer shoes more efficiently.” The next step for this team is to work with footwear companies to integrate these methods in their design process. ###

Apr
20
2018

Covestro Distinguished Lecture honors Harvard Professor George Whitesides

Chemical & Petroleum

From The Pitt News Harvard University professor George Whitesides spoke to a crowd of about 150 people Thursday night in Benedum Hall about how chemistry can be utilized in all industries to bring opportunities for invention and productivity. “The tools from the health care and manufacturing industries can provide what we need in the real world in order to bring more opportunities that involve chemistry and innovation,” Whitesides said. The department of chemical engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering named Whitesides the 2018 Covestro distinguished lecturer — an award that recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research. The lecture was sponsored by Covestro LLC, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials, and has been given annually at Pitt since 1992. ... “We research the question of our environmental maintenance in order to understand how to make the world run,” Whitesides said. “These aspects all involve chemistry.” Read the full article at The Pitt News.
Briana Canady, Staff Writer, The Pitt News
Apr
20
2018

Engineering students present projects at Swanson School of Engineering Design Expo

All SSoE News, Student Profiles

From The Pitt News After countless hours of designing, coding and calculating, more than 400 engineering students of various disciplines traded their polo shirts and safety glasses for bow ties and blazers Thursday evening at the Spring 2018 Swanson School of Engineering Design Expo. The expo, held at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall Museum, allowed students to display their creativity and ingenuity in addressing real-word problems — from patients suffering from a lack of light in hospital rooms to people forgetting to take their medications. Read the full article at The Pitt News.
Remy Samuels, Staff Writer, The Pitt News
Apr
19
2018

A world of opportunities

MEMS, Diversity

From The Pitt News When Irene Mena got her U.S. citizenship Feb. 28 at the Pittsburgh Courthouse, her colleague and friend Dan Budny brought her a cake adorned with an American flag and the words “Congratulations Irene!” written under it. She ate a piece and then drove right back to her office in Benedum Hall. “After that, it was like, ‘Well, okay, back to work,’” she laughed. This relaxed attitude has governed Mena’s entire life. It’s what’s kept her passionate about teaching, performing arts and science and ensured she stays focused on her work as an assistant professor in Pitt’s mechanical engineering and materials science department. It’s also enabled her to undergo major life changes without phasing her confidence. Read the full article by Brian Gentry at The Pitt News.
Brian Gentry, Staff Writer, The Pitt News
Apr
17
2018

Full of Hot Air and Proud of It

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 17, 2018) … Of the four states of matter, gases are the hardest to pin down.  Gas molecules move quickly and wildly and don’t like to be confined. When confined, heat and pressure build in the container, and it doesn’t take long before the gas blows the lid. Luckily, gases are superficial. Provide them with an attractive internal surface area, and they’ll pin themselves down in no time. No, it’s not love at first sight, it’s adsorption.“Adsorption is the processes of gas pinning to the surface of another material—the inside walls of a container, for example,” says Chris Wilmer, assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “When adsorption occurs, the gas molecules stop bumping into each other, reducing pressure. So, by increasing a container’s internal surface area, we can store more gas in less space.”Dr. Wilmer directs the Hypothetical Materials Lab, where he and his research group develop new ways to store, separate, and transport gases. The study, “Thermal Transport in Interpenetrated Metal-Organic Frameworks” (DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.7b05015), published in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials, was featured on the journal cover with an image designed by Kutay Sezginel, a chemical engineering graduate student in Dr. Wilmer’s Lab, depicting interpenetrated metal organic frameworks or MOFs.MOFs are a promising class of porous materials, made of metal clusters bound to organic molecules. Discovered fewer than two decades ago, MOFs help rein in gases because their porous nanostructure has an extremely high surface area and can be custom engineered to be particularly sticky to certain gas molecules. MOFs are used for a variety of functions including gas storage, gas separation, sensing, and catalysis.In the study, the researchers discovered that MOFs can dissipate even more heat from confined gases when they are woven into each other or “interpenetrated.” In fact, parallel, interpenetrated MOFs can cool off gases roughly at the same rate of two MOFs individually. In other words, gases don’t mind close quarters if those quarters are MOFs.More efficient gas storage could lead to new possibilities in sustainable energy production and use. Oil remains the preferred power source for most transportation vehicles, but natural gas is a cheaper, more abundant, and cleaner alternative. Compressed natural gas tanks are too heavy and expensive to replace traditional gasoline tanks, but adsorbed natural gas tanks are both light and cheap. A MOF tank can store same amount of fuel as typical gas tanks but with a quarter of the pressure. That’s only one potential application.“Medical oxygen tanks, storing hazardous gases from semiconductor manufacturing, and technologies that aim to capture, separate, and store carbon from the air can all benefit from MOFs,” says Dr. Wilmer. “We believe MOFs have the same potential impact on the 21st century as plastics did in the 20th.” Idealized interpenetrated MOF structure. The entangled MOF can dissipate heat roughly two times faster than the constituent MOFs could separately, potentially enabling more efficient gas storage. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
17
2018

American Society of Safety Engineers Elects Joel Haight to Board of Directors

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (April 17, 2018) … The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) announced that Joel M. Haight, associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, will join its 2018-19 Board of Directors as a Director-At-Large after a society-wide vote earlier this year. Dr. Haight’s term begins July 1 and lasts three years.“My own professional and personal values align greatly with ASSE’s mission, and I look forward to taking on a new role to help shape an organization that has done so much to help shape the safety engineering profession,” said Dr. Haight.The ASSE Board of Directors has four Directors-At-Large and assigns duties to them based on organizational need. Candidates must be a member of ASSE to appear on ballot for the Board of Directors election. They must be involved in an ASSE committee or task force, have a record of positive contributions to the safety and health profession, show support and understanding of the Society’s vision, and be a good motivator who is results-driven.Dr. Haight has been a member of ASSE since 1985. From 2011 until 2017, he served as the chair of the research committee for the ASSE foundation and a Board of Trustees member.Read the official ASSE press release at http://www.asse.org/asse-election-results-highlighted-by-medinas-move-to-president/. About ASSEFounded in 1911, the American Society of Safety Engineers is the world’s oldest professional safety society. ASSE promotes the expertise, leadership, and commitment of its members, while providing them with professional development, advocacy, and standards development. It also sets the occupational safety, health, and environment community’s standards for excellence and ethics.ASSE is a global association of occupational safety professionals representing more than 36,000 members worldwide. The Society is also a visible advocate for Occupational Safety and Health professionals through proactive government affairs at the federal and state levels and in member-led relationships with key federal safety and health agencies.About Dr. HaightJoel M. Haight joined the Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. In the previous 33 years he served four years as Chief of the Human Factors Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at their Pittsburgh Office of Mine Safety and Health Research, where he managed a research branch of 35-40 researchers in the areas of ergonomics, cognitive engineering, human behavior, and training. Dr. Haight also served for nearly 10 years, as an Associate Professor of Energy and Mineral Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Haight worked as a manager and engineer for the Chevron Corporation for 18 years prior to joining the faculty at Penn State. His research interests include health and safety management systems intervention effectiveness measurement and optimization and human performance measurement in automated control system design.He is the editor in chief and contributing author of Handbook of Loss Prevention Engineering published by J.W. Wiley and Sons in 2013 and the Safety Professionals Handbook published by the American Society of Safety Engineers in 2012. In addition, he has published nearly 60 refereed journal articles and conference proceedings.  Dr. Haight is an active member of ASSE, HFES, IISE, and AIHA. He is a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania and Alabama and certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the American Board of Industrial Hygienists. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Apr
17
2018

Seven Bioengineering Students Recognized by the 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Bioengineering

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees. Recipients are awarded a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees. This year, six bioengineering students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering received this competitive award, and one received an honorable mention. “Needless to say, I am delighted by this outstanding outcome,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. “This underscores the quality of our students and their potential to serve as science ambassadors.  I am very happy to note that the infrastructure we had put in place six years ago to provide structured help to students applying for NSF-GRFP awards is now bearing fruit. This effort is currently led by Professor Patrick Loughlin, with support from several Swanson School faculty members and students who previously won NSF-GRFP awards.” The NSF Fellows are expected to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. Current bioengineering students who were awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship include: Henry Phalen, undergraduate student in Dr. Ervin Sejdić’s lab Adam Lewis Smoulder, undergraduate student in Dr. Neeraj Gandhi’s lab Sarah Hemler, graduate student in Kurt Beschorner’s lab Angelica Janina Herrera, graduate student in Jen Collinger’s lab Monica Fei Liu, graduate student in Doug Weber’s lab Megan Routzong, graduate student in Dr. Steven Abramowitch’s lab Maria Kathleen Jantz, a current bioengineering graduate student in Robert Gaunt’s lab, received an honorable mention. In addition to the current Swanson School students, two bioengineering alumni were also recognized: Luke Dmach, a graduate student in Georgia Tech’s biomedical engineering program, received the NSF-GRFP award; and Corey Williams, a graduate student in the University of Virginia’s biomedical engineering program, received an honorable mention. In total, 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. Read more from the University of Pittsburgh’s press release.

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
13
2018

Bioengineering and the Brain

Bioengineering

In January 2014, the University of Pittsburgh announced it would establish a new Brain Institute to “unlock the mysteries of normal and abnormal brain function, and then use this new information to develop novel treatments and cures for brain disorders.” Its founding scientific director, Peter L. Strick, PhD is Distinguished Professor & Thomas Detre Endowed Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and an expert on the neural basis of movement and cognition. He believes that the success of the program requires a multi-disciplinary approach that includes the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Dr. Peter Strick enjoys telling stories and speaks with a quiet passion that resonates with the history of neuroscience he has helped to build at Pitt. He also understands that it takes more than one discipline, one way of thinking to build upon that success and create a game-changing Brain Institute. “I started at Pitt 18 years ago as the co-director of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CBNC),” a joint venture between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, with Dr. Strick representing Pitt. “The Center took the comparable strengths of CMU robotics, computer science and statistics, and merged it with the strong neuroscience and clinical programs at Pitt. At the time, Pitt’s bioengineering program was in its infancy and wasn’t involved, but I saw that as a mistake. “Neural engineering and brain interface research was beginning to blossom and I truly thought that it could be a key player in the Center, especially because of its revolutionary work in tissue engineering.” Dr. Strick explains that bioengineering was key because of its inherent nature of being a multi-faceted discipline. “I related the potential of bioengineering to the beginning of my own career, as a neuroanatomist who cross-trained in my post-doc as a neurophysiologist. An eminent neurophysiologist told me that I would have to decide what I was going to be when I grew up.  Otherwise, I would be neither fish nor fowl – I wouldn't swim well or fly well. “Fifteen years later, when he saw me once more and it became apparent that the cross training had benefited my research [in utilizing viruses to understand neural circuitry], he said he was glad I didn’t take his advice. Neuroscience and bioengineering are similar in that both need to ask questions and then use whatever technique is most appropriate to answer them.  Bioengineers have the special challenge of combining training in hard core biology with the quantitative and computational approaches of engineering.” Dr. Strick believes that “it takes a University” to develop a leading program in brain research, one that taps into the multidisciplinary and open nature of collaboration between disciplines. One of his first recruits was Andrew Schwartz, professor of neurobiology with expertise in neural control. “Andy was responsible for the explosive growth of neural engineering research at Pitt, and led a pioneering group in brain-machine interface,” Dr. Strick says. “I saw its potential and the need to nurture and sustain it.” Dr. Strick explains that Dr. Schwartz shared his vision because he too understands the need to remove barriers to collaboration and take advantage of the open academic architecture of a university like Pitt. Over time the university would grow to include approximately 150 neuroscientists across disciplines, not including purely clinical colleagues. Dr. Strick says that the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering continues to play a key role in that growth, especially in Pitt’s growing expertise in neural engineering and brain-machine interface research. “The bioengineering faculty truly are a university resource, an intellectual resource that is active across all departments,” he explains. “The brain-machine interface program is bigger than a single department. It includes neurosurgeons who interact with physical medicine and rehabilitation scientists who work with patients to promote recovery, as well as the bioengineering faculty who explore everything from the electrode-tissue interface of brain implants to decoding neural signals to control robotic devices.” The brain-machine interface program captured international headlines when the team enabled patient Jan Scheuermann, a 53-year-old woman who suffers from a neurodegenerative disease and is paralyzed below the neck, to move a robotic arm and feed herself a bar of chocolate. The robotic arm was controlled via microeletrode arrays implanted into the surface of her cerebral cortex, enabling her to move the arm with her thoughts. “The success with Jan is a perfect example of how a multi-disciplinary program, built from the strengths of multiple departments in a major university and its medical school, can literally transform a life,” he says. Cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental interactions, as well as outside-the-box thinking were critical to the success of this project. “In the 1980s Andy proposed placing a monkey in a primate chair and training the animal to control an imaginary ball within a virtual reality environment,” Dr. Strick remembers. “People thought this research would lead nowhere, but in fact it was the foundation to allow a woman to control a robotic arm and feed herself chocolate.” WHAT MAKES A GREAT SCIENTIST AND BIOENGINEER? “There is a notion that individuals have brains with certain specific abilities that lead some of us to be writers, others to be mathematicians and scientists and still others to be artists.  According to this view, few of us have all of these abilities.  Thus, one doesn't normally expect the math genius to be the most communicative person in the room,” Dr. Strick says. “Today's modern scientist has to be multidisciplinary and broadly skilled to be successful.  He or she must write well, speak well and of course do science well.  The modern scientist must write grants that are clear and compelling and be able to communicate their ideas and findings to the lay public as well as to specialists in the field. “The modern bioengineer has an even more daunting challenge.  They must be cross-trained in math, physics, engineering, computer science and still think like a biologist.  Learning each of these disciplines is like learning a new language.  In a sense, bioengineers must be multilingual.  Not everyone is interested or even able to stretch in this way.  Our Bioengineering Department is unique in that it has attracted faculty who speak the many languages of science and recognize the value of multiple levels of analysis from cell and molecular approaches to whole systems and networks.” BUILDING A BETTER BRAIN INSTITUTE A major task of the Brain Institute, according to Dr. Strick, is to identify and provide the necessary research resources to enable world-class neuroscience at Pitt.  These resources include major equipment, outstanding faculty and research funding.  The most difficult part of this task is fundraising. “Our faculty do a wonderful job of obtaining federal grants to support their research. But, by all accounts, federal funding for research is shrinking,” Dr. Strick explains. “As a consequence, we are in danger of shutting off the pipeline for discovery.  Our representatives and the general public want the field to translate results into new treatments and cures for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.  However, this translation depends critically on new discoveries that come from basic fundamental research. “In essence, without new discoveries, there is nothing to translate.  A major task of the Brain Institute is to identify financial resources that can enable us to keep the pipeline of discovery open.” As noted earlier, the core mission of the Brain Institute is to unlock the mysteries of normal and abnormal brain function, and then use this new information to develop novel treatments and cures for brain disorders.  “I see bioengineering as a major player in this mission,” Dr. Strick says. “Indeed, the faculty and students at the Swanson School and in the Neural Engineering Track are posed to make major contributions to new areas of neuroscience such as multi-modal neuro-imaging with PET, MR and MEG; neuromodulation with deep brain stimulation, and neuro-technology with brain machine interfaces.  Faculty in Bioengineering like Aaron Batista, Tracy Cui, Raj Gandhi, Takashi Kozai, Gelsy Oviedo-Torres, and Doug Weber are all involved in cutting-edge research.  The success of the Brain Institute will depend in part on the efforts of this vibrant faculty.”
Paul Kovach
Apr
12
2018

“Tic-Tac-Toe”-Themed MRI Technology Easy Win for Neurological Disease Researchers

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 12, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh houses a whole-body 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imager (7T MRI), one of the strongest human MRI devices in the world and a powerful imaging tool that allows researchers to gain a far better understanding of brain structure and function. Tamer Ibrahim, associate professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, runs the Radiofrequency (RF) Research Facility and conducts experimental and human studies with this device - one of only five dozen 7T MRI machines in the world. Over the past two years, in collaboration with Pitt’s Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology, Ibrahim’s lab has received close to $5 million from multiple NIH grants that total more than $18 million and extend through 2022. These awards fund the development and use of innovative 7T human imaging technologies. Ibrahim and his team of bioengineering graduate students constructed and optimized the “Tic-Tac-Toe” RF coil system for 7T human MRI devices. This system is a collection of transmit antennas and receive antennas that are tightly arranged to fit the human head.  It was designed through many hours of computer simulations using full wave electromagnetic software developed in his lab. Though advancements have been made, several major obstacles still face neuro 7T imaging such as considerable scanning and preparation time for every subject; significant RF excitation intensity losses; potential RF heating; and concerns regarding the unclear RF safety assurance between different subjects. “The Tic-Tac-Toe RF coil system is a novel design that addresses many of the technical difficulties associated with ultrahigh field human MRI,” said Ibrahim. “Our system provides highly consistent and homogenous excitation across different patients, which in turn provides improved images.” In collaboration with Howard Aizenstein (MPI), Charles F. Reynolds III and Ellen G. Detlefsen Endowed Chair of Geriatric Psychiatry at Pitt, Ibrahim recently became PI/PD on an NIH R01 grant where he will use the technology developed in his lab to investigate small vessel disease in older adults with depression. This disease affects a large amount of the American population, but research has been hindered in part due to the inadequacies of traditional imaging. 7T diffusion fiber tracking. In this $3.1 million project, Ibrahim uses the “Tic-Tac-Toe” RF coil system and develops a new 7T RF coil system to better understand the neurological issues, treatment, and management of depression. “White matter hyperintensities (WMH) in the brain are a hallmark symptom of small vessel disease, which has been associated with depression in older adults,” explained Ibrahim. “Traditional MR imaging does not provide enough detail; thus, researchers cannot determine the specific mechanisms that contribute to depression. Ultrahigh field MR imaging allows for greater specificity of the WMH lesions and other components of small vessel disease, which will give us a better understanding of depression as a whole.” In addition to their work with depression, Ibrahim’s developed technology has contributed to research in a variety of other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, sickle cell disease, and major depressive disorder. Ibrahim’s lab is composed entirely of graduate and undergraduate students who aim to develop highly technical RF devices, which they typically get to implement into clinical studies. “We have applied our work to several patient and disease studies at Pitt,” said Ibrahim. “Our lab’s research is unique because its roots are in engineering and physics, but it has now matured to extensive patient-level studies.” “It has been interesting to see our work go from engineering and physics concepts to real-world applications,” Ibrahim continued. “This is a great example of how engineering innovation done in the Swanson School of Engineering translates into medicine.” ###

Apr
10
2018

BioE’s Davidson, Debski, and Vande Geest Inducted into Medical and Biological Engineering Elite

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

Reprinted with permission from AIMBE. WASHINGTON, D.C.— The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the induction of three University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering professors to its College of Fellows. Lance A. Davidson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, for seminal contributions to developmental biomechanics, establishing theoretical frameworks and experimental techniques to expose design principles. Richard E. Debski, Ph.D., Professor of Bioengineering and Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, for outstanding contributions in bioengineering research, particularly in the area of biomechanics of shoulder and knee joints. Jonathan Vande Geest, Ph.D., Professor, Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, for outstanding contributions to the educational and scientific advancement of experimental and computational soft tissue biomechanics. Each professor was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows. Election to the AIMBE College of Fellows is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to a medical and biological engineer. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers. College membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering and medicine research, practice, or education” and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of medical and biological engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to bioengineering education." A formal induction ceremony was held during the AIMBE Annual Meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC on April 9, 2018. These professors were inducted along with 156 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2018. About AIMBE AIMBE is the authoritative voice and advocate for the value of medical and biological engineering to society. AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence, advance the public understanding, and accelerate medical and biological innovation. No other organization can bring together academic, industry, government, and scientific societies to form a highly influential community advancing medical and biological engineering. AIMBE’s mission drives advocacy initiatives into action on Capitol Hill and beyond. For more information about the AIMBE, please visit www.aimbe.org.
Charlie Kim, Director of Membership Services, AIMBE
Apr
10
2018

Ultrasound Technology Could Be Applied Toward Rehab In Cases Of Partial Paralysis

MEMS

Most people associate ultrasound technology with pregnancy and the little heartbeat on the monitor. A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh has a slightly different application in mind. Nitin Sharma, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Pitt, recently received more than $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop algorithms that could measure muscle function in patients with partial paralysis due to spinal cord injuries — just by looking at ultrasound images of affected areas. By stimulating muscles electrically and using a sort of robotic leg brace called an exoskeleton, Sharma can already help patients with both total and partial lower-body paralysis walk a few steps. This exercise can help the patients with partial paralysis regain movement through repetition. Read the full story at WESA.
Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA
Apr
10
2018

Pitt Kicks Off Sustainability Week, Shares Plan to Greatly Reduce Energy, Water Use

All SSoE News

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh will celebrate Pitt Sustainability Week, April 14-20, and reaffirm goals to significantly reduce energy and water usage that build upon existing eco-friendly efforts of students, faculty and staff. Sustainability Week, organized by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, highlights projects that align with the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan, released in January, which establishes goals aiming to improve the University’s environmental impact. The Pitt Sustainability Plan unifies the University’s many existing initiatives and sets ambitious, measurable goals for the future. The work will be coordinated by a new Office of Sustainability. “This plan reflects the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment, as a top global academic institution, to support long-term sustainability that extends beyond environmental practices,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “We are enacting lasting changes that will help future generations thrive in a world that is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically robust.” Bold Goals Pitt’s sustainability efforts date back to the 1975 launch of its first campus-wide energy management system. The Sustainability Plan significantly expands existing efforts across the University, which faces challenges as an urban, dense campus with limited green space and extensive paved areas. The plan’s major goals to achieve by 2030 include: Reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 percent. Produce or procure at least 50 percent of the University’s energy from renewable resources. Achieve an energy use intensity that is at least 50 percent below the national average. Achieve water use intensity that is 50 percent below the Pittsburgh 2030 District average. Reduce the level of GHG emissions from University commuting and campus transportation emissions by 50 percent. To reduce its impact on the city’s water and storm water systems, Pitt plans to divert 25 percent of storm water to rain gardens, bioswales or rainwater harvesting tanks. A greener campus will be created by replacing 15 percent of campus lawn area with indigenous and adapted plants and increasing the tree canopy by 50 percent. And a coalition is working toward the goal to compost 50 percent of the University’s food waste by 2025, including establishing compost drop-off stations on campus. The expansion of existing initiatives includes annual increases in the number of students graduating with the Undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability, along with the number of sustainability-related patents, licenses and start-ups. Pitt also is pursuing U.S. Green Building certification for nine current or recent projects. In 2005, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was the first of 12 projects to earn certification. Campus Community Input The Sustainability Plan was developed with input from across the campus community under the guidance of a University-wide committee representing faculty, staff and students. “Sustainability has been an established part of the culture at Pitt for many years,” said committee co-chair Richard Heller, senior manager of electrical utilities and energy initiatives in Pitt’s Facilities Management Division who also bicycles to the Oakland campus. “Our goal was not only to advance sustainable practices, but also to align the efforts of the many sustainability groups and stakeholders across campus. We were challenged to be bold in setting these goals. This plan will guide and focus our energies to meet the challenge.” April 14-20 Activities Pitt Sustainability Week 2018 events will feature community service, workshops on composting, spring move-out donations, the return of the monthly Farmers Market at Pitt and more. For a full list of events, visit the Sustainability Week website. The week concludes April 20 with student presentations about solutions to real-world sustainability challenges from 9 to 11 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., the 11th annual Student Sustainability Symposium will feature projects by students in Department of Geology and Environmental Science faculty member Ward Allebach’s Sustainability course. Many projects from past semesters — including pollinator gardens, a campus thrift store, the Oakland Avenue vegetable garden and the BYO [Bag] reusable shopping bag program that has diverted more than 1 million plastic bags — have been implemented on campus. # # #
Kimberly K. Barlow, University Communications
Apr
9
2018

Harvard Chemist George Whitesides Named 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2018) … In recognition of his exemplary research in the fields of surface chemistry, microfluidics and nanotechnology, Harvard University’s George Whitesides has been named the 2018 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dr. Whitesides currently is the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship (a continuation of the Bayer Distinguished Lectureship) is presented annually by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research. The lecture is sponsored by Covestro LLC, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials. “From his groundbreaking research in surface chemistry, Dr. Whitesides advanced the field of nanoscience and impacted diverse fields from electronics to medicine,” said Steven R. Little, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. “His innovations have helped to bridge so many disciplines and impacted the careers of several of our faculty, and so our department is honored to welcome him.”“Covestro is proud to sponsor this event in partnership with the Swanson School of Engineering, and we join the university in welcoming Dr. Whitesides back to Pittsburgh,” said Don S. Wardius, Manager of University Relations, Covestro LLC. “Through his pioneering contributions to diagnostics, chemistry, biology and polymer science, Dr. Whitesides embodies Covestro’s passion for pushing boundaries in the pursuit of innovation. We’re honored to support a platform where he can share his insights with the next generation of innovators.”Dr. Whitesides received his AB degree from Harvard University in 1960, and PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1964 (with J.D. Roberts). He began his independent career at M.I.T., and is now the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University. His current research interests include physical and organic chemistry, materials science, biophysics, water, self-assembly, complexity and simplicity, origin of life, dissipative systems, affordable diagnostics, and soft robotics.The Covestro lectures will be on Thursday, April 19 at 5:00 pm with a reception following, and Friday, April 20 at 9:30 am. Both lectures will be presented in Benedum Hall Room 102, 3700 O’Hara Street. The lectures are open to the public. For more information, email che@engr.pitt.edu or call 412-624-9630.Lecture 1: How to Think About “Who Cares?” in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering  Thursday, April 19, 5:00 p.m. - Benedum 102 (Reception follows) ABSTRACT: Chemistry, and the world of science and technology of which it is a part, are changing dramatically.  Biology, materials, nanotechnology, and other less familiar/popular areas offer opportunities; the decline in invention in the chemical industry, and of productivity in the pharmaceutical industry, limits opportunities. One future for chemistry is the emergence of new fields; another is absorption by other disciplines. Every area of science faces periods of maturation and reinvention. What are the indicators for chemistry at this time? Does the history of other fields offer useful lessons?Lecture 2: Simplicity as a Strategy in ResearchFriday, April 20, 9:30 a.m. - Benedum 102ABSTRACT: “Simplicity” as a Component of Invention. “Complexity” is relatively simple to think about (at least for academics); “simplicity” is more complex. This seminar will consider “simplicity” (together with an idea we call “stackability”) as a parameter to guide strategy in research, using two examples--one from ongoing large-scale technology, and one from our own research. ### About Covestro LLCCovestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world’s largest polymer companies with 2017 sales of EUR 14.1 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics and medical industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 16,200 people at the end of 2017.About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum EngineeringThe Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. ChE departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million.

Apr
9
2018

Coming into Focus: Neeraj Gandhi receives $1.5M NIH award to study how the brain perceives moving objects

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2018) … Our local environments are full of moving objects, but when we look at them, our brains can take around 50-60 milliseconds to put together an image. How does our vision compensate for that lag in time when the world around us keeps moving? Neeraj Gandhi, professor of bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received funding to explore that question by comparing the neural mechanisms of eye movements directed to stationary and moving objects. Gandhi leads the Cognition and Sensorimotor Integration Laboratory which investigates neural mechanisms involved in the multiple facets of sensory-to-motor transformations and cognitive processes. In this project, the group uses eye movement as a model of motor control. “When we look at our local environment, our eyes do not do so with steady fixation. The brain sends a signal to the eye muscles resulting in rapid eye movement -or saccade- that occurs several times per second,” said Gandhi. “Our visual information is taken from the points of fixation between these saccades. While the neural mechanisms of saccades with stationary objects have been well-researched, little is known about the interceptive saccades used for moving objects,” said Gandhi. The National Institutes of Health awarded Gandhi $1.5M to develop experimental and computational approaches to study the “Neural Control of Interceptive Movements.” “Consider catching a football. By the time the receiver’s brain gathers visual information, the ball has already moved further down the field,” explains Gandhi. “The athlete’s brain must then take velocity into the equation and develop an internal representation of the motion in order to successfully catch the ball.” The team will record the activity of neurons in the superior colliculus, which is a layered structure in the midbrain and a central element in producing saccadic eye movements. They will simultaneously compare the spatiotemporal properties of the neural activity at different speeds and directions during saccades to stationary and moving targets.  They will then integrate these results in a computational neural network model that simulates the neural signals and their contributions in producing both types of eye movements. “Vision is a complicated, multidisciplinary subject,” said Gandhi. “The results of this project will hopefully piece together a part of the puzzle by providing in-depth insight into the mechanisms for generation of interceptive saccades and give us a better understanding of how we visualize our active environment.” ###

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

Annual Banquet Honors Swanson School’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni

All SSoE News

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 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.Wesley C. Pickard, former Chief Financial Officer of Synergy, Inc., received the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Distinguished Alumni award in 2010, which qualified him to represent the Swanson School this year.  “This is my last presentation of the Swanson School Distinguished Alumni Award as Dean of the School, and I could not be more honored to present it to Wes, as well as to our other outstanding alumni this evening,” said Dean Holder.This year’s recipients include:Swanson School of EngineeringWesley C. Pickard, BSMIN ‘61Chief Financial Officer (retired), Synergy, Inc.Department of BioengineeringDavid VanSickle, PhD BioE ’98, MD ‘01Founder, South Denver Neurosurgery; Director, Denver DBS CenterDepartment of Chemical and Petroleum EngineeringJames M. Pommersheim, BSCHE ’60, MS ’62, PhD ‘70Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bucknell UniversityDepartment of Civil and Environmental EngineeringVictor Bertolina, BSCE ’71President, SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringMike Gazarik, PhD, BSEE ‘87Vice President of Engineering, Ball Aerospace & Technology CorporationDepartment of Industrial EngineeringTracey T. Travis, BSIE ‘83Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, The Estée Lauder CompaniesDepartment of Mechanical Engineering and Materials ScienceLeonard H. Berenfield, BSME ‘64President (retired), Berenfield Containers, Inc. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
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
Apr
4
2018

Pitt's Alexis Kwasinski Visits Recent Natural Disaster Sites for Insight on Infrastructure Improvements

Electrical & Computer

Originally published in Pittwire. Reposted with Permission. While some people visit faraway places to relax and enjoy the sights, Alexis Kwasinski has had different reasons to travel in the past year. Kwasinski, the Richard King Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy and an associate professor at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, has been visiting disaster-stricken areas to research how infrastructure such as bridges and power lines performs during extreme events like earthquakes and hurricanes. The goal is to find out ways to supply power during lengthy outages and while primary energy sources are being repaired. "We’re doing practical analysis to develop models to anticipate how an infrastructure would perform in these events, as well as looking at solutions to improve performance,” he said. Last year, Kwasinski took a trip to Central Mexico, the site of a deadly earthquake that killed about 370 people and caused the collapse of more than 40 buildings in September 2017. He also visited Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico — all of which were heavily damaged in 2017 by Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, respectively. Kwasinski visited downed high-voltage towers and power lines, destroyed substations, windmills with damaged blades and demolished solar farms, all caused by these extreme weather events. Most of the hurricane damage to power distribution grids, Kwasinski said, occurs on the coasts where storm surges ravage the shores. He found little damage done to high voltage lines, power generation plants, substations or distribution lines located inland. During earthquakes, however, damage to substations is more common. “The issues there (in earthquakes) are with transformers that are not properly anchored, insufficient slack in connections and excessive bent to underground cables in liquefiable areas,” Kwasinski said. “You have to dig to get to these cables (to fix them), which takes more time.” When it comes to the hurricane disaster sites, he said the damage caused to Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria was by far the worst. “The damage I saw in Puerto Rico is fairly uncommon,” he said. “I have never seen any other hurricane damage like I saw in Puerto Rico.” Kwasinski said that while 1 or maybe 2 percent of power distribution lines or towers are damaged under regular hurricane conditions, about 10 to 15 percent of lines and poles in all of Puerto Rico were damaged by Hurricane Maria. He also noted that all but one of the five large solar farms in Puerto Rico were damaged in the storm, with many panels either cracked by debris or completely stripped off their mounts. Maintenance and repair of these power lines is difficult due to the island’s thick, natural vegetation and the mountainous terrain, as compared to sites where power infrastructure is more easily accessible by road. And other statistics seem to prove his point as to Hurricane Maria’s devastating effects. Compared to the 134 deaths in the U.S. and Caribbean caused by Hurricane Irma and the 90 deaths in the U.S. caused by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria may