Our Team

Danielle Andrews-Brown

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability

Dr. Danielle Andrews Brown received her PhD (Soil Science) in 2011 at The Pennsylvania State University.  She remained at Penn State as post-doctoral scholar and research associate. Dr. Andrews came to the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 as a lecturer and the advisor and coordinator of the Environmental Studies program.  For over 14 years, she has conducted lab and field scale research as it pertains to water and soil quality.  Presently, her research is focused on carbon, nitrogen and emerging contaminants mainly estrogens and antibiotics.  She has conducted research at two nationally known research sites – The Susquehanna Shale Hill Critical Zone Observatory and The Living Filter.  More recently, research interests are also centered on informal and formal science education.  Dr. Andrews-Brown is a member of the University Faculty Sustainability Task Force and leads the committee aimed at incorporating sustainability education more broadly into the Pitt curriculum.  

Eric J. Beckman

Codirector, Science and Technology
Bevier Professor of Engineering
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Eric J. Beckman

Eric Beckman received his BS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1980, and a PhD in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts in 1988. Dr. Beckman assumed his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1994, and full professor in 1997. He received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1992, and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2002. He previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Chairman of Chemical Engineering. In 2003, Dr. Beckman co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, a school of engineering institute that examines the design of more sustainable infrastructure. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market. Dr. Beckman's research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. He has published over 175 papers and has received more than 40 US patents.

Melissa Bilec

Deputy Director
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Melissa Bilec MCSI

Dr. Bilec is an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; she is the Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.  Dr. Bilec’s research program focuses on the built environment, life cycle assessment, sustainable healthcare, and indoor air impacts.  She is interested in improving system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of indoor environmental quality, occupant impacts, and energy use.  She is the Principal Investigator of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research project, NSF EFRI-Barriers, Understanding, Integration – Life cycle Development (BUILD). Dr. Bilec has over 40 journal publications and has secured over $6 million in funding, including 8 National Science Foundation grants.  She has received four education excellence awards.   Dr. Bilec’s work prior to academia included tenure at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh where she worked on green infrastructure projects, including the conversion of a 100-year bridge into a pedestrian bridge.  Dr. Bilec serves on the Green Building Alliance board.

Michael Blackhurst

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability

Dr. Michael Blackhurst is a Research Scientist and Professional Engineer (licensed in Texas) at the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Blackhurst oversees applied and basic research and consulting projects in the energy, water, and climate sectors.  His record demonstrates strong leadership in developing robust, data-driven decision-support resources for public and private sector clients.  Current research and consulting domains include energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, regional climate change mitigation and adaptation, regional water resource planning, and urban stormwater management.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times and National Geographic.  Dr. Blackhurst is a member of the University Faculty Sustainability Task Force and leads the committee aimed at Sustainability Communications Training for Faculty.

Ellie Cadden

Sustainability Engagement Assistant
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Ellie headshot

Ellie graduated in April 2020 from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Environmental Studies, minors in legal studies and Spanish, and a GIS certificate. As an undergraduate, Ellie served as a Sustainability Program Associate for the Office of PittServes and co-directed the Student Office of Sustainability.  She is from Erie, Pennsylvania and loves to kayak and bike around the lake! 


Anna Coleman

Sustainability Intern
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Anna is a junior from Hulmeville, Pennsylvania. She is majoring in Statistics with a minor in Spanish and a Global Studies certificate in Ecology and Sustainability. Anna loves to read, make things and be outside

Gena M. Kovalcik

Codirector, Administration and External Relations
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Gena rejoined Pitt's School of Engineering in July 2003 as codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. She has 23 years of experience in development, marketing, and external relations.

Gena previously served as vice president for development at Shady Side Academy and, before that, as senior executive director of development and alumni relations at Pitt's School of Engineering. Prior to working at Pitt's engineering school, she managed donor relations and special events at Carnegie Mellon University. A native of Pittsburgh, she holds a BA from Penn State University in journalism and political science and a Master's of Management and Public Policy with a certificate in nonprofit management from Pitt.

Gena currently serves as a member of the Allegheny County Green Action Team and on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators.

Gabrielle Sampson

Sustainability Intern
Gabrielle Sampson

Gabby (she/her) is a senior Environmental Studies major and pursuing a certificate in Global Studies. Outside of coursework, Gabby is a Pitt Pathfinder and member of her service and pre-law fraternities. She was also a JumpStart Americorps member and research assistant for Dr. Gamper-Rabindran.

David V.P. Sanchez

Assistant Director
Education and Community Engagement
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
David Sanchez

David V.P. Sanchez is an Assistant Professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department and serves as the Assistant Director for the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. Dr. Sanchez is the Program Director for the Mascaro Center’s Sustainability programs overseeing the Master’s in Sustainable Engineering and the Undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability. He coordinates the Design EXPO that showcases 90+ projects from ~400 students every semester and serves as the Director for the Manufacturing Assistant Center’s Makerspace, Constellation Energy’s Inventor Labs, the Series Workshops and some engineering collaborations in the community of Homewood.  

His research is focused on identifying sustainable designs that address the Water and Energy grand challenges in the natural and built environment on a local/regional scale. Current projects include engineering electrode morphology for bio-electrochemical systems, designing sensors to identify water quality trends in real-time and, developing hydroponic systems for the phytoremediation of PFAS, removing off-flavors from Recirculating Aquaponic systems, and enhancing community agricultural systems.  

Dr. Sanchez is the recipient of several awards including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, IGERT Traineeship, Alfred P. Sloan Scholarship, Pittsburgh Business Time Energy Award, and the Best Mentor Award for Pitt’s Excel program. David actively leads international engineering trips on behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering.


Mascaro Center

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
153 Benedum Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261


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