Pitt | Swanson Engineering
News Listing

Aug

Aug
13
2019

Engaging Women in Academia

Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 13, 2019) — Women in male-dominated fields can feel like their performance represents not only their ability but the ability of an entire gender. Anna Svirsko, PhD IE ‘19 found herself in such a position, often being one of the only woman in the class as she earned her doctorate in industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. “That can surprisingly be a lot of pressure. Sometimes people don’t think about it, but while you’re in that situation, it can be difficult to think that everyone’s perspective of how women perform is based on you,” she says. “That can make you be a little bit shy when it comes to asking questions. You don’t want to make it seem like you’re not following what the rest of the class is following.” Dr. Svirsko elaborated on her experience in a video for the Spotlight on Women Leaders program, which was created by the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns (PACWC) to highlight women whose actions model good leadership and have made a difference in the Pitt community. Dr. Svirsko is now an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. While at Pitt, she worked as a research assistant with Geisinger Health System and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh doing data analysis and writing programs that would help streamline processes there. She was president of the University of Pittsburgh’s INFORMS chapter, an organization that helps prepare graduate industrial engineering students for academia and industry. She earned her master of science degree in statistics and operations research from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and her bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. While Dr. Svirsko found a welcoming environment at Pitt, she recommends simple steps that can help women feel like they belong in male-dominated fields like hers. “People don’t realize the influence of just having a woman speaker at seminars every once in a while,” she notes. “Whenever I was president of INFORMS, we would invite two speakers over the course of the year, I made sure we invited one woman and one man so we had equal representation and so that women would get to see someone who is doing great research in that role.” Dr. Svirsko was nominated for the Spotlight by a fellow student. She joins the many women, from undergraduates to faculty and staff, whose stories are shared through the Spotlight on Women Leaders program.
Maggie Pavlick

Jul

Jul
11
2019

New Superomniphobic Glass Soars High on Butterfly Wings Using Machine Learning

Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 11, 2019) — Glass for technologies like displays, tablets, laptops,  smartphones, and solar cells need to pass light through, but could benefit from a surface that repels water, dirt, oil, and other liquids. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have created a nanostructure glass that takes inspiration from the wings of the glasswing butterfly to create a new type of glass that is not only very clear across a wide variety of wavelengths and angles, but is also antifogging. The team recently published a paper detailing their findings: “Creating Glasswing-Butterfly Inspired Durable Antifogging Omniphobic Supertransmissive, Superclear Nanostructured Glass Through Bayesian Learning and Optimization” in Materials Horizons (doi:10.1039/C9MH00589G). They recently presented this work at the ICML conference in the “Climate Change: How Can AI Help?” workshop. The nanostructured glass has random nanostructures, like the glasswing butterfly wing, that are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light. This allows the glass to have a very high transparency of 99.5% when the random nanostructures are on both sides of the glass. This high transparency can reduce the brightness and power demands on displays that could, for example, extend battery life. The glass is antireflective across higher angles, improving viewing angles. The glass also has low haze, less than 0.1%, which results in very clear images and text. “The glass is superomniphobic, meaning it repels a wide variety of liquids such as orange juice, coffee, water, blood, and milk,” explains Sajad Haghanifar, lead author of the paper and doctoral candidate in industrial engineering at Pitt. “The glass is also anti-fogging, as water condensation tends to easily roll off the surface, and the view through the glass remains unobstructed. Finally, the nanostructured glass is durable from abrasion due to its self-healing properties—abrading the surface with a rough sponge damages the coating, but heating it restores it to its original function.” Natural surfaces like lotus leaves, moth eyes and butterfly wings display omniphobic properties that make them self-cleaning, bacterial-resistant and water-repellant—adaptations for survival that evolved over millions of years. Researchers have long sought inspiration from nature to replicate these properties in a synthetic material, and even to improve upon them. While the team could not rely on evolution to achieve these results, they instead utilized machine learning. “Something significant about the nanostructured glass research, in particular, is that we partnered with SigOpt to use machine learning to reach our final product,” says Paul Leu, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering, whose lab conducted the research. Dr. Leu holds secondary appointments in mechanical engineering and materials science and chemical engineering. “When you create something like this, you don’t start with a lot of data, and each trial takes a great deal of time. We used machine learning to suggest variables to change, and it took us fewer tries to create this material as a result.” “Bayesian optimization and active search are the ideal tools to explore the balance between transparency and omniphobicity efficiently, that is, without needing thousands of fabrications, requiring hundreds of days.” said Michael McCourt, PhD, research engineer at SigOpt. Bolong Cheng, PhD, fellow research engineer at SigOpt, added, “Machine learning and AI strategies are only relevant when they solve real problems; we are excited to be able to collaborate with the University of Pittsburgh to bring the power of Bayesian active learning to a new application.” “Creating Glasswing-Butterfly Inspired Durable Antifogging Omniphobic Supertransmissive, Superclear Nanostrcutured Glass Through Bayesian Learning and Optimization” was coauthored by Sajad Haghanifar, and Paul Leu, from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering; Michael McCourt and Bolong Cheng from SigOpt; and Paul Ohodnicki and Jeffrey Wuenschell from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Laboratory. The project was supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
9
2019

NSF funds Bridges-2 supercomputer at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 9, 2019) ... A $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding a new supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint research center of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. In partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), PSC will deploy Bridges-2, a system designed to provide researchers in Pennsylvania and the nation with massive computational capacity and the flexibility to adapt to the rapidly evolving field of data- and computation-intensive research. Bridges-2 will be available at no cost for research and education, and at cost-recovery rates for other purposes. "Unlocking the power of data will accelerate discovery to advance science, improve our quality of life and enhance national competitiveness," said Nick Nystrom, PSC's chief scientist and principal investigator (PI) for Bridges-2. "We designed Bridges-2 to drive discoveries that will come from the rapid evolution of research, which increasingly needs new, scalable ways for combining large, complex data with high-performance simulation and modeling." Bridges-2 will accelerate discovery to benefit science, society, and the nation. Its unique architecture will catalyze breakthroughs in critically important areas such as understanding the brain, developing new materials for sustainable energy production and quantum computing, assembling genomes of crop species to improve agricultural efficiency, exploring the universe via multimessenger astrophysics and enabling technologies for smart cities. Building on PSC's experience with its very successful Bridges system, Bridges-2 will take the next step in pioneering converged, scalable high-performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence (AI) and data. Designed to power and scale applications identified through close collaboration with the national research community, Bridges-2 will integrate cutting-edge processors, accelerators, large memory, an all-flash storage array and exceptional data-handling capabilities to let researchers meet challenges that otherwise would be out of reach. By enabling AI to be combined with simulation and modeling and through its focus on ease of use and researcher productivity, Bridges-2 will drive a new era of research breakthroughs. "Bridges-2 is a major leap forward for PSC in high-performance computing and data analytics infrastructure and research," said Alan D. George, Interim Director of PSC. "PSC is unique in combining the strengths of two world-class universities (CMU and Pitt) and a world-class medical center (UPMC). Bridges-2 will amplify these strengths to fuel many new discoveries." "Enabling the execution of science, engineering and non-traditional workflows at scale while leveraging and further developing artificial intelligence is vital to keeping the United States at the forefront of scientific discovery now and into the future," said Paola Buitrago, Director of Artificial Intelligence & Big Data at PSC and co-PI of Bridges. "The Bridges-2 system is the way to realize this and more. I look forward to all the knowledge, discoveries and progress this new system will produce." Bridges-2's community data collections and user-friendly interfaces are designed to democratize participation in science and engineering and foster collaboration and convergence research. The Bridges-2 project includes bringing the benefits of scalable data analytics and AI to industry, developing STEM talent to strengthen the nation's workforce and broadening collaborations to accelerate discovery. The NSF is funding Bridges-2 as part of a series of awards for Advanced Computing Systems & Services. "The capabilities and services these awards will provide will enable the research community to explore new computing models and paradigms," said Manish Parashar, Office Director for the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at NSF. "These awards complement NSF's long-standing investment in advanced computational infrastructure, providing much-needed support for the full range of innovative computational- and data-intensive research being conducted across all of science and engineering." Bridges-2 will be deployed in the summer of 2020. ###

Jul
2
2019

Preparing for a Sustainable Future

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2019) — When it comes to finding sustainable solutions for our planet, there is no time to waste. Luckily, students in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation’s (MSCI) Undergraduate Summer Research Program don’t have to wait until graduation to start working on projects that can make a big difference. From data that can help replace lead pipes here in Pittsburgh to devices that can identify and track birdsongs out in the field, students are doing work that will help solve the problems facing our planet “Our students are passionate about sustainability and truly want to make a difference in the world,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of MCSI. “The Undergraduate Summer Research Program gives them a chance to learn new skills while contributing to important sustainability research. Students work 40 hours a week for 12 weeks over the summer and meet weekly with their advisors. In addition to the research, students in the program have to write a final paper, produce a two-minute video detailing their work and its significance for sustainability, and give an oral presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, which will be held on July 24 this year. The program, currently in its 15th year, was started in 2004 with just five students participating. In all, there are 22 MCSI Undergraduate Summer Research Program projects across the University this year. Here is a look at five of them. Recirculating Aquaculture: Managing Water Quality in a Closed System Over-fishing is a problem in many oceans and waterways, and companies are turning to land-based fish farming (recirculating aquaculture) to provide a more sustainable protein source. But one major risk is that farmed fish can end up tasting a little off—hints of earthy, musty flavors can taint some of the fish raised this way. This summer, Mason Unger, senior civil and environmental engineering major, and his adviser David Sanchez, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, are trying to solve that problem. “There’s a risk to flavor profiles of farmed fish because of an off-flavor produced by chemical compounds like geosmin. To avoid this, the fish go through ‘purging,’ where they run clean water through the tank over the fish for 7-10 days,” Mason explains. “During that time, they aren’t fed, so the fish lose mass, and it’s not great for water use. If you could figure out how the compounds are created and degrade them, it’d have economic and environmental benefits.” Using samples from fish farms across the country, Mason is working to verify protocols for collecting samples and detecting the off-flavors in the water. The ultimate goal is to find a way to eliminate the compounds causing the musty taste as soon as they are identified, saving water and keeping sustainable fish accessible and affordable. “The state of the industry is changing. Land-based farming systems have been around for a while, but there have been a lot of false starts,” says Dr. Sanchez. “This time is quite different, companies are scaling up successful operations and the World Bank projects that aquaculture will supply more than half of all fish globally by 2030.” Using Data to Improve Drinking Water: Identifying Lead Water Lines in Allegheny County Lead water pipes are an issue elevated to national attention when the horrific water quality in Flint, Mich., was discovered, but lead pipes are widely used in Pittsburgh, as well. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is replacing those lines; in the meantime, homeowners may want to test their own water’s safety. Testing your own tap water, though, is notoriously tricky, explains Michael Blackhurst, PhD, Co-Director of Urban & Regional Analysis Program and Research Development Manager at the Center for Social & Urban Research. “There is a lot of variation in the amount of lead you’d observe in your tap water, depending on whether or not you were able to capture the water that had been stagnant in the lead pipes,” he says. “Even if you do, there is a lot of evidence that lead pipes can be coated to varying degrees, affecting how much lead will leach into the pipe.” According to Dr. Blackhurst, it is important to understand how accurate these home water tests are. Arianna Heilbrunn, senior environmental studies major, will spend much of her summer with Dr. Blackhurst combing through data from PWSA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to compare home test results with the known locations of lead pipes. “We’re combining data from historical records and excavations, comparing whether the materials that we know the pipes are made from match up with the results people are getting in their homes,” she says. Generally, people are advised to test their water first thing in the morning, flushing the line by running the water for one or two minutes and then collecting a sample to send in for testing. It is not clear, however, that these guidelines provide consistently accurate results. Though previous internships put Arianna out in the field, doing water and soil testing, she wanted to learn new skills. The trove of data and the program used to sift through it will build skills that will be useful in a future career in consulting or federal environmental work, which is Arianna’s current goal for the future. By working with the PWSA and Pennsylvania DEP, the team hopes they can help lower lead exposure, something especially important for children. “From an ethics standpoint, the problem is hard to ignore,” says Dr. Blackhurst. “Lead has a greater effect on children, and they have no say in how much lead they’re exposed to.” The data the team is working with can help not only see where the city’s lead pipes are but can also predict where they’ll find lead lateral lines, which bring the water from the main line to the house, even if homeowners aren’t aware of them. “People don’t want to know [how much lead is in their water], but they should want to know,” says Arianna. “Everyone thinks of Flint’s water as a tragedy, but no one wants to hear that their own water contains lead, too.” Using acoustic sensors and machine learning to locate birds and bats in the field It took a little time for Jiade Song, senior industrial engineering major, to get used to working in the Kitzes Lab, a biology lab. But now that he has, his work will contribute to a system that can record birds in the field and, using AI and machine learning, learn to locate the sounds and tell which creatures are making them. Eventually, they hope their software will be able to pinpoint and ID species recorded in the field on a device called the AudioMoth. “I’m in industrial engineering, and we work in all types of fields. I’ve taken a variety of courses—production optimizations, coding, data analysis and physics—but this lab was different from my previous working spots in an industrial or production department,” says Jiade. “It has been really great in helping me get used to working in a new environment.” Jiade’s particular goal this summer is creating a tool called a calibration chamber that uses code to detect if the devices are working well. The team puts a batch of the AudioMoths in the box-like device, which then plays a recording. Afterward, they use Jiade’s program to see if all of the AudioMoths are “hearing” the same sounds. The method will produce a visualized report and help the team weed out malfunctioning devices before they are sent into the field, or check their quality after spending weeks outdoors. “One cool thing here is that Jiade is here as an engineer, and I’m an engineer,” says Trieste Devlin, a technician in the Kitzes Lab. “Dr. Kitzes is intentional about creating an interdisciplinary approach to biology.” What the Frack: Designing nanocatalysts for responsible use of natural gas “Fracking” is a buzzword that most people, especially in western Pennsylvania, are familiar with. It is at once an important economic driver in the state and a process that has a striking environmental impact. This summer, Albert Lopez-Martinez, a junior chemical and petroleum engineering major, is working with Götz Veser, PhD, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, to find ways to make fracking more sustainable. “When fracking happens in oil shales, natural gas is burned off using flares. Instead of combusting it we’re trying to find a way to convert it into a more viable, eco-friendly alternative by turning methane into benzene,” says Albert. “My job is to help find that catalyst, varying parameters and seeing how it is affected by microwave heating.” In collaboration with Shell, West Virginia University and the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the team is looking for a new way to convert methane to a liquid chemical like benzene. This would make it a valuable chemical resource that could be transported, lessening the environmental impact while acting as an economic boon in the region. “Here in Pennsylvania, we’re not doing as much flaring, but the issue is that our natural resources are being stripped from under us, and we are left with nothing but the pollution,” says Dr. Veser. “If we can turn natural gas into a valuable product on its own here in the region, it could balance the environmental impact with a positive economic impact.” For Albert, the project is an opportunity to get started on work he is passionate about. Now that he has gotten involved in research, he is considering pursuing a masters or even a doctorate after graduation. “I know I want to work in sustainability, giving back to the community and working against climate change,” says Albert. “The Mascaro Center’s summer research program seemed like a good fit for my future goals. Durable Antireflective, Anti-Soiling and Self-Cleaning Solar Glass When it comes to renewable energy, solar panels are perhaps the most promising. There is more energy in the sunlight that hits the earth’s surface in one hour than all of humanity uses in an entire year. But solar panels do have their challenges: conventional solar panels only convert about 20 percent of the sun’s light to electricity. The top glass on a solar panel is partially reflective, losing valuable rays that could be converted to energy as they bounce off the glass. Solar panels may also be installed in desert and urban environments, where particulates and pollutants may dirty the glass, resulting in less sunlight being converted to electricity. Sooraj Sharma, senior materials science and engineering (MSE) major, has been working with Paul Leu, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering, since last summer on a way to make anti-reflective, anti-soiling and self-cleaning glass for solar panels. While conventional anti-reflective coatings aren’t effective against all wavelengths, the team in Leu’s lab is using sub-wavelength nano-structures to reduce broadband reflection over a wide range of incidence angles to as low as 0 percent. In addition, the glass repels water and can use naturally forming dew droplets to remove dirt. Last year, they were able to show these properties on a four-inch piece of glass, but this year, they’re hoping to improve the method so it could be used to create the glass for solar panels, which are usually over one square meter. “The end product will have the same properties, but this year, our big focus is on using larger and more scalable methods that could translate to the factory level,” says Sooraj. “The viability of this glass depends on the ability to recreate it with more robust and scalable methods.” Sooraj and the team are looking at not only the process used to coat the glass but the method used to apply it. “We’re looking at scalable methods to deposit the coating on the glass, and we’re engineering that glass to be more anti-reflective to different angles and wavelengths,” explains Sooraj. The new process Sooraj is working with is called sol-gel, an extremely powerful fabrication process that can effectively produce a large variety of material end products. For solar, this means creating a porous, antireflective coating that should achieve similar results to the conventional nanostructures. The upside is that this method is far more economical, as creating the latter requires the use of expensive machines that operate on a small scale. Though Sooraj’s original interest was in working with silicon and other semiconductor materials, he was surprised to find that he found glass so fascinating to work with. “As a sophomore, I was feeling the pressure to get a co-op, but most of the ones I found weren’t that interesting to me,” he says. “When I talked to my adviser, Dr. Nettleship, he suggested I look into the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Undergrad Summer Research Program. I found this project to be really interesting with enormous real-world potential, and I was later able to continue working on it throughout the rest of my junior year. I never knew working with glass would be so interesting to me. I think it confirmed and aligned my interests.” Last year, Sooraj won the Best Presentation Award at the Mascaro Undergraduate Research Program Symposium and later submitted his summer findings to Science 2018, where he won the Innovation Institute’s Award for Best Poster on Innovation. Sooraj presented his work this year at Allegheny SolarFest at Frick Environmental Center on June 23, marking the second year in a row they attended the event. Though the event is usually represented by community groups and solar panel vendors, Sooraj felt their contribution was valuable. “We were sort the ‘black sheep’ of the event,” says Dr. Leu. “But I know the other attendees found our research interesting and valuable, and we were excited to present again.” ### Other Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Beyond the MCSI Undergraduate Summer Research Program, students have plenty of opportunities to pursue research alongside renowned faculty before donning their caps and gowns. SSOE Summer Undergraduate Research ProgramThe decade-long program enables around 80 Pitt students to propose a topic of their choosing and work with a faculty mentor to pursue their research for 12 weeks over the summer. Contact: Mary Besterfield-Sacre (mbsacre@pitt.edu) Excel Summer Research Institute (SRI)The EXCEL program focuses on preparing under-represented minority students for graduate education and professional careers, and the EXCEL Summer Research Institute helps achieve that goal by giving students research experience in their freshman, sophomore or junior year.  The program offers eight to 10 students a nine-week summer research internship, pairing students with faculty mentors to complete a research project in their engineering field. Contact: Yvette Moore, Director of Pitt EXCEL (yvettemoore@pitt.edu) NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) ProgramsEach year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) provides funds for researchers to engage undergraduates in their work. Swanson has such programs in Civil Engineering and Chemical Engineering. Contact: Civil Engineering: Kent Harries (kharries@pitt.edu)Chemical and Petroleum Engineering: Joseph McCarthy (joseph.john.mccarthy@gmail.com) Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC) Summer Undergraduate Research Group (SURG)The NSF Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC), recently responsible for a supercomputer sent to the International Space Station, invites 24 undergraduate students in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science to work alongside researchers in this important national research center. Contact: Alan George (alan.george@pitt.edu) Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC)The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) is a joint effort between Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University, founded over 30 years ago. It offers undergraduate students the opportunity to work with university, government and industrial researchers on high-performance computing, communications and data analytics. Contact: Alan George (alan.george@pitt.edu) NSF International Research Experiences for StudentsThis NSF-funded opportunity sends students to research battery-less embedded systems in Internet of Things devices in China, which has one of the world’s largest electronic industry and market. Five graduate students and two graduate students are selected each year to participate in this research at Tsinghua University for eight weeks. Contact: Jingtong Hu (jthu@pitt.edu)
Maggie Pavlick

Jun

Jun
25
2019

Louis Luangkesorn and Rachel Chung represent the INFORMS program to receive the 2019 Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award

Industrial

Originally published in INFORMS Analytics. Reposted with permission. Louis Luangkesorn, INFORMS member and assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was awarded the Outstanding Community Partner Volunteer Award from Houston Methodist Hospital, along with Rachel Chung, clinical associate professor of business analytics at College of William and Mary, for their work on volunteer on-boarding and retention analytics done as part of the INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics program. The award is given to the community partner that made the greatest impact within the department, and is presented as part of the Annual Volunteer Appreciation event for Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH), an event organized by the Volunteer Services department of HMH. The Houston Methodist Hospital project was announced as a question of what factors affect volunteer retention. Luangkesorn and Chung both had experience with volunteer retention projects and research, which made them a great fit for the HMH project. “We thought that this project would provide an opportunity to put into practice some of our thoughts on how to look at volunteer retention as well as provide a student an opportunity to work with a data analysis project from the very beginning,” said Luangkesorn. The team started the project by examining the data sets, which presented difficulty because the data was in a form that was common in data on staff and abilities but not amenable to analysis. They conducted an exercise in data munging to convert the data into standard forms and then developed a number of visualizations of the volunteers including their geographic distribution, age, employment status, volunteer roles and tenure (length of volunteering). Presenting data to a nontechnical audience is an important part of the decision-making process. “Our Volunteer Services staff has very little analytical knowledge, and the community partners [Pro Bono Analytics team] were able to break down the information in a way for us to understand,” said Cheronda Rutherford, senior volunteer coordinator at Houston Methodist Hospital. Luangkesorn and his team chose to present their exploratory data analysis with a discussion on how the Houston Methodist Hospital Volunteer staff could interpret the output and take action based on different presentations. The team presented several visualizations in a dashboard to track volunteer activity, number of active volunteers, new volunteers and volunteers becoming inactive. Using a Jupyter Notebook – a notebook that can be shared via Dropbox, GitHub, etc. – with the code hidden allowed the dashboard to be viewed in any browser and allowed the team to provide text to remind HMH staff how to interpret the results alongside the plots. As a result of this Pro Bono Analytics project, HMH is in the process of updating its computer system to use the dashboard created by Luangkesorn and Chung. Luangkesorn has been an INFORMS member since 1999, joining as a student member while completing a Ph.D. program in industrial engineering at Northwestern University. This was his first volunteer project with INFORMS Pro Bono Analytics. ###
Kara Tucker, assistant editor of OR/MS Today and Analytics magazine
Jun
18
2019

A Forest of Nano-Mushroom Structures Keep This Plastic Clean and Stain-Free

Chemical & Petroleum, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (June 18, 2019) ­—Technologies like solar panels and LEDs require a cover material that repels water, dirt and oil while still letting plenty of light through. New flexible materials would allow these devices to be incorporated into a variety of creative applications like curtains, clothes, and paper. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have created a flexible optical plastic that has all of those properties, finding inspiration in a surprising place: the shape of Enoki mushrooms. The research, “Stain-Resistant, Superomniphobic Flexible Optical Plastics Based on Nano-Enoki Mushrooms,” was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A ( doi:10.1039/C9TA01753D). The researchers created a plastic sheet surface with tall, thin nanostructures that have larger tops, like an Enoki mushroom. Named nano-enoki polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the nano-structures in the coating make the plastic sheet superomniphobic, repelling a wide range of liquids, while maintaining a high transparency. The surface can repel a variety of liquids, including water, milk, ketchup, coffee, and olive oil.  It also has high transparency and high haze, meaning it allows more light through, but that light is scattered. That makes it ideal for integrating with solar cells or LEDs, and combined with its flexible and durability, means it could be used in flexible lighting or wearable technology. “The key thing with these structures is the shape - it keeps liquid on top of the nanostructure. This is the best in the literature so far in terms of high transparency, high haze and high oil contact angle,” explains Sajad Haghanifar, lead author of the paper and doctoral candidate in industrial engineering at Pitt. “We show that substances that usually stain and leave residue behind, like mustard and blood, fall completely off the surface, even after they’ve dried.” Videos show how the dried mustard and blood flake off the surface when the surface is tilted. “The lotus leaf is nature’s gold standard in terms of a liquid-repellant and self-cleaning surface,” says Paul Leu, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering, whose lab conducted the research. Dr. Leu holds secondary appointments in mechanical engineering and materials science and chemical engineering. “We compared our nano-enoki PET with a lotus leaf and found that ours was better at repelling more kinds of liquids, including olive oil, blood, coffee, and ethylene glycol. The surfaces not only resist staining from various liquids, but may be adapted for medical applications to resist bacteria or blood clotting.” The paper was coauthored by Sajad Haghanifar, Anthony Galante, David Pekker and Paul Leu, from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Luke M. Tomasovic from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
Maggie Pavlick

Apr

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Industrial Engineering Presents Kevin D. Braun with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) … 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 Kevin D. Braun, BSIE ’90, MBA, Vice President of Industrial Coatings at PPG. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “Our Industrial Engineering program is the second oldest in the U.S., and one of the top ten public programs. It has graduated outstanding IEs throughout its history, and Kevin is no exception,” says Dean Martin. “What especially is remarkable about Kevin is his understanding of disruption, and how it affects change, both good and bad. The coatings industry is no different in this regard.” About Kevin D. Braun Kevin D. Braun earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Mr. Braun joined PPG, in 1991 as a Production Engineer at the Coatings Manufacturing Facility in Delaware, Ohio. He joined the industrial coatings business in 1994 as a Sales/Service Representative in the Appliance Division. In 1997, he moved to the fiber glass business, serving as a Market Development Manager before returning to industrial coatings in 2000 as a Market Manager in Consumer Electronics. In 2001, he became a Regional Sales Manager for Industrial Coatings. Starting in 2003, Mr. Braun joined the architectural coatings business as a National Sales Manager for the Lowe’s account. He held this position until 2007 when he was named the Zone Sales Director for Midwest Dealers and Stores. Later that year, Mr. Braun relocated to Sydney, Australia as a General Manager of Architectural Coatings, ANZ (Australia and New Zealand). He was appointed the General Manager of Silica Products in 2011, then promoted as the Vice President of Global Raw Materials and Americas Purchasing in 2013. He has been in his current position as Vice President of Industrial Coatings since 2013. For the past three years, Mr. Braun has served on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and sits on the business development and nominating sub committees. ###

Apr
1
2019

Swanson Faculty Honored with Two American Society for Engineering Education Awards

Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 25, 2019) — Honoring commitment to excellence and diversity in engineering education, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has selected professors at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering to receive two of its annual awards. Jayant Rajgopal, PhD, professor of industrial engineering, won the John L. Imhoff Global Excellence Award for Industrial Engineering Education. Dr. Rajgopal is a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), a member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The John L. Imhoff Global Excellence Award for Industrial Engineering Education honors an individual “who has made outstanding contributions in the field of industrial engineering education and has demonstrated global cooperation and understanding through leadership and other initiatives,” according to the ASEE. The award was endowed from the estate of the late Professor John L. Imhoff and includes a $1,000 honorarium. Sylvanus Wosu, PhD, associate dean for diversity affairs and associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, won the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award. Under Dr. Wosu’s direction, the Engineering Office of Diversity offers programs to foster diversity at the pre-college, undergraduate and graduate levels. Previously he has been recognized by NSF and AIChE for leadership and support of current and aspiring minority faculty in chemical engineering. According to ASEE the DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award recognizes the importance of student diversity by ethnicity and gender in science, engineering and technology. The recipient demonstrates outstanding achievements in increasing student diversity within engineering programs and is charged with motivating underrepresented students to enter into and continue engineering education. Endowed by DuPont, the award includes a $1,500 honorarium, a certificate and a $500 grant for travel expenses to the ASEE Annual Conference. The ASEE will honor Drs. Rajgopal and Wosu at the Annual Awards Luncheon during their Annual Conference and Exposition on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at the Tampa Convention Center. “We at Swanson are impressed every day by our dedicated and talented faculty and their commitment to engineering education,” says U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James Martin. “The multiple awards from ASEE this year further prove our faculty’s devotion to innovation in engineering education today and into the future.”

Mar

Mar
28
2019

Pitt Undergraduates Win First Place in Ergonomics Design Competition

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2019)—Undergraduate students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering won first place this year at the International Ergonomics Design Competition hosted by Auburn Engineers, Inc. “We only had one team enter in this competition in the fall, and they came in first place,” says Joel Haight, professor of industrial engineering and director of Pitt’s Safety Engineering Program. Dr. Haight is faculty advisor to the Ergonomic Design Competition teams. “I’m especially proud of our students’ innovation in this event, and the application of their coursework to solve a workplace issue.” The award grants the team a $5,000 towards a professional conference of their choice in 2019, as well as $300 per team member, a team plaque, certificates and the “eTools” Prize Statue. Throughout the fall semester, students worked on two design projects and two lightning round smaller design solution applications All of these projects required that the students identify workplace ergonomic stressors and apply design principles to alleviate them. The most significant of these was to develop solutions to address the ergonomic stress associated with working in the cramped quarters of a food truck. The winning team is comprised of five industrial engineering majors who were enrolled in Dr. Haight’s Human Factors Engineering course.  They are Alexander Hartman, Maiti Keen, Megan McCormick, Dina Perlic, and Abigail Pinto. The University of Pittsburgh teams have historically done well in this competition, coming in second place for the past three years. With this win, they are making their debut in first place.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
1
2019

Shifting Into High Gear

Industrial, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

David Kitch holds two degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, but his connection to the Pitt community extends far beyond that. Kitch earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (1968) and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (1981). Kitch first became aware of the University of Pittsburgh at a young age, working in his father’s automobile repair shop, Kitch’s Auto Service, located in Slickville, PA, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in Westmoreland County. It was here that he gained an interest in engineering through rebuilding engines, transmissions, carburetors and more when he was just 10 years old. Kitch would often talk about his engineering interest to the shop’s customers, which included UPMC doctors and University of Pittsburgh instructors. They all encouraged Kitch to consider Pitt when the time came to apply to college. While Kitch originally intended to apply for a scholarship to the US Naval Academy, tuition benefits and other perks for the Westmoreland County native led him to attend the University of Pittsburgh Greensburg, which offered a pre-engineering curriculum. Kitch attended Pitt Greensburg for two years and then transferred to the Oakland campus in 1966. When he got to Oakland, Kitch joined the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as a student member. Kitch fondly remembers attending classes in Engineering Hall and eating brown bag lunches with other commuter students. Because of his interest in energy conversion and turbomachinery, he especially enjoyed his thermo-fluids classes. Kitch says his most influential instructors were Dr. Blaine Leidy who taught Thermodynamics 1 and 2 and Dr. Joel Peterson who taught Fluid Mechanics.  Kitch continued to work at his father’s repair shop throughout his undergraduate career. While the formal co-op program had not yet been created at the time, Kitch considers Kitch’s Auto Service to be one of the first co-op sponsors and he gives much credit to his work there in helping him achieve his degree.  When Kitch graduated in 1968, the job market for engineers was thriving. He recalls being frequently contacted by company recruiters. He took interviews with four companies, but his love for the Pittsburgh region ultimately influenced him to stay local and he accepted a position at Elliott Co. in Jeannette, PA. In the early ‘70s, the nuclear power field gained traction and was led by local company, Westinghouse Electric Co. Several Elliott engineers were recruited by Westinghouse, including Kitch, who was hired in 1973. Kitch spent the next 25 years working for Westinghouse in a variety of positions including; principal design engineer, marketing engineer, nuclear safety, and project engineering.  These positions afforded Kitch the opportunity to publish numerous technical papers and travel the world visiting suppliers and nuclear plants where Westinghouse equipment was installed. In the late 70s, Kitch began attending night school in pursuit of his master’s in Engineering Management. He notes, “I was most influenced by Dr. David Cleland, my project management professor who was also well known for his publications on the subject. Dr. Cleland asked me if would critique one of his books and I did.  I reviewed the many papers submitted by authors and picked the best, to which I was mentioned in his book and received three credits toward my degree.” Kitch was also named to the IE National Honor Society in 1981. In a long and prosperous engineering tenure, Kitch is able to identify many highlights. One highlight that particularly stands out to Kitch was when his position at Westinghouse was to mentor three young engineering new hires to work on the AP-1000 plant design. One of the three hires was a Pitt Mechanical Engineering graduate named Kyle Noel. “Kyle and I formed the pump design team for the AP-1000 and we traveled to Europe, California, and throughout the US for four years. When I retired from this job, Kyle assumed command and we have remained close friends today.”During Kitch’s time as a design engineer for Westinghouse, he stayed in touch with two of his Pitt classmates, Bernard "Bernie" Fedak and Wilson Farmerie. These men recruited Kitch to serve on the then Mechanical Engineering Department Visiting Committee, an important service the three of them still do today, 25 years later. In October 2016, Kitch received from Dean Holder a MEMS Department Service Award for his impactful and dedicated commitment to the Department and the Swanson School of Engineering in general.Currently, Kitch is an engineering consultant working for Vinoski and Assoc. Inc., and McNally LLC. “My work consists of expert witness testimony support, failure and root cause analyses, reliability/design audits, and project management.” Kitch never lost his passion for cars. He supports the Pitt FSAE team as a booster, spectator and fan. He serves as a judge for the National Corvette Restorer’s Society.  He has also restored several Corvettes and currently owns three, which he keeps in a garage he calls Dave’s Corvette Corner.
Author: Meagan Lenze, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Mar
1
2019

Pitt IE students help the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank Provide More Nutritious Milk to Preterm Babies

Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 1, 2019) … The nutritional benefits of breastmilk can positively impact the health of infants, particularly those who were born prematurely and require the immunological contents that fortified formulas cannot provide. The Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank (MAMMB) is a Pittsburgh non-profit organization that provides pasteurized milk from carefully screened donors to mothers who are not able to produce their own, and a group of University of Pittsburgh industrial engineering students teamed up with them to optimize the nutritional contents of the donated milk. This project was part of the fall 2018 Industrial Engineering Senior Design course in the Swanson School of Engineering. Team members included Jennifer Lundahl, Nick Kelly, Julian Mandzy, and Aster Chmielewski, and they were advised by Lisa Maillart, a professor of industrial engineering who had previous experience working with a milk bank in Texas. MAMMB serves hospitals and outpatient infants with medical needs in PA, WV, NJ, and MD, giving Maillart and the students an opportunity to help serve the local community. “The milk donation process consists of thawing milk deposits, pooling deposits from multiple mothers, bottling the pools, and pasteurizing the pooled milk,” said Maillart. “The product is then delivered to newborn intensive care units (NICUs), which have an acute need for the milk because of the increased health risks among premature infants.” The project scope was inspired by MAMMB’s recent purchase of a MIRIS Human Milk Analyzer, which yields accurate analysis of the macronutrient content of milk samples, allowing technicians to monitor the milk’s protein and caloric content. MAMMB wanted to create a process to optimize NICU-grade milk production by target pooling milk deposits based on nutritional content. In order to implement target pooling, the IE student group needed to create a pooling model, donor deposit database, and a standard operating procedure. According to the students, a donor deposit database was created to allow MAMMB to make thawing decisions with insight to historical donor macronutrient information rather than expiration date alone. To create the database, donor nutritional data was compiled into an Excel pivot table that includes basic caloric statistics such as donor minimum, maximum, and a weighted average. The addition of these values mitigates the risk of thawing a group of deposits with contents above or below the desired range. The resulting processing time for each optimized bottle increased from 97 seconds to 114 seconds, but the benefits of target pooling are significant, and the students hypothesized that the processing time may decrease as technicians become more familiar with the procedure. “This milk, which leverages the natural variations between mothers, will help drive better growth in preterm babies,” said Cyndy Verardi, director of operations at the Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank.  “It’s was an awesome semester and we are looking forward to utilizing their findings as we constantly work at improving outcomes for babies all across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Mid-Atlantic region.” The Senior Design course allows Swanson School students to gain valuable industry experience with local companies. “We work with a diverse set of industry partners around Pittsburgh to identify problems that take advantage of the range of skills learned in class, the industrial experiences the students have from internships and cooperative engineering programs, and the experiences of our faculty,” said Louis Luangkesorn, assistant professor of industrial engineering and coordinator of the senior design course. “The project puts the students in a setting where they have to work with the customer to identify the underlying problem and develop a solution within a limited time frame that could be implemented by a client with limited technical resources.” Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation Grant CMMI-1537992, “Optimal Management of Donor Milk Banks.” ###

Feb

Feb
4
2019

Pitt Industrial Engineering Students Apply Their Knowledge in a Collaboration with Grane Rx

Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 4, 2019) … A group of University of Pittsburgh industrial engineering undergraduate students spent the fall 2018 semester helping a local pharmaceutical supplier balance production and optimize distribution strategies. The work was part of a Swanson School of Engineering senior capstone project, a program that allows students to gain valuable industry experience with local companies while pursuing their degrees. “We work with a diverse set of industry partners around Pittsburgh to identify problems that take advantage of the range of skills learned in class, the industrial experiences the students have from internships and cooperative engineering programs, and the experiences of our faculty,” said Louis Luangkesorn, assistant professor of industrial engineering and coordinator of the department’s capstone program. “The project puts the students in a setting where they have to work with the customer to identify the underlying problem and develop a solution within a limited time frame.” The group of undergraduates worked with Grane Rx, a pharmaceutical supplier for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE),  skilled nursing centers, and personal care homes in multiple states on the East Coast. The company is planning an expansion of their PACE Pharmacy services to the West Coast with a significant amount of new participants expected in a short period of time. To help manage this growth, Grane Rx recruited the help of Pitt IE students and faculty to strategize ways to meet production and distribution needs. The students’ first goal was to create a working production scheduling model that optimizes weekly and daily production and allows for business growth. The second goal was to provide a weekly production cost analysis that compares the options for overtime production once the new Colorado facility reaches its capacity. “We created both models by having meetings with the Grane Rx resources, analyzing data sets provided by the company, holding group design sessions, and coding in VBA and Matlab,” said Julie Shields, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. “The project helped improve our coding and project management skills, both of which may be useful in our future careers.” As part of the capstone, students created weekly progress reports and met with Grane Rx employees along with University of Pittsburgh faculty who served as mentors and advisors. Quintin Graciano, an operations project manager who helped supervise the group, said, “The production model created by the students provided Grane Rx a fresh and unique view of our new PACE production processes. We have incorporated several new production tools at our Denver PACE pharmacy. The students were engaging and committed to providing a tool that made a difference.  Mission accomplished!” According to Shields, the most important skill that the group gained was effective delegation based on the talents of each team member. She said, “Being able to improve these skills and gain meaningful industry experience before we graduate was extremely valuable.” The team presented their project at the Swanson School of Engineering’s Fall 2018 Design Expo where they took first place in the industrial engineering category. Dr. Luangkesorn said, “The work with Grane Rx provided a good example of a project that showcased the abilities of our partner and our students, enhancing the students’ project management and technical skills while helping local industry grow.” ### About Grane Rx For nearly 25 years, Grane Rx has been a leader in pharmacy solutions and services for PACE organizations and post-acute care providers across the United States. Our customer centric pharmacy approach optimizes Care Center operations so providers can deliver the most seamless, accurate and convenient pharmacy experiences to their patients and participants. Our PACE Pharmacy Solutions include Meds2Home packaging, EasyRead Pharmacy labels, and LearnRx literacy tools available in 22 different languages, which are designed to revolutionize pharmacy services and outcomes. Grane Rx leverages senior care pharmacy experts and the newest technologies to provide universal, best-in-class service to patients, participants and Centers alike. For more information, contact Scott Sosso at ssosso@GraneRx.com or call 412-449-0504 or visit www.GraneRx.com.