Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Aug

Aug
23
2019

Five Pitt engineering faculty capture nearly $3 million in total NSF CAREER awards for 2018/2019

Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (August 23, 2019) … Five faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been named CAREER Award recipients by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Recognized as the NSF’s most competitive award for junior faculty, the grants total nearly $3 million in funding both for research and community engagement. The CAREER program “recognizes faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” The five awards – one each in the departments of Bioengineering, Chemical and Petroleum, Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science – ties the record from 2017 for the most received by Pitt and Swanson School faculty in a single NSF CAREER funding announcement. “Federal funding for academic research is extremely competitive, especially for faculty just beginning their academic careers. Receiving five prestigious NSF CAREER Awards in one cycle is a reflection of our winners’ distinctive research and support by their respective departments and the Swanson School,” noted David Vorp, PhD, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Research. He added, “Since a CAREER Award is also focused on community engagement, this is an opportunity for our faculty and their graduate students to promote STEM to children in the area, especially in underserved populations, and we will be working with them to develop impactful outreach programs.”Dr. Vorp also noted that the Swanson School’s recent success with CAREER awards can be attributed to a number of factors, including the School’s Center for Faculty Excellence, directed by Prof. Anne Robertson, and the CAREER writing group developed and run by Julie Myers-Irvin, PhD, the Swanson School’s Grants Developer. “Participating faculty acknowledge that the writing group focus on early preparation, group comradery, technical feedback, and discussions of grantsmanship practices attribute to more well-rounded proposals,” Dr. Myers-Irvin says.The award recipients include:Murat Akcakaya, Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, with Carla A. Mazefsky, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology ($550,000)Title:Toward a Biologically Informed Intervention for Emotionally Dysregulated Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (#1844885)Summary: Although clinical techniques are used to help patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) respond to stress and other factors, none are known to couple with technology that could monitor brain response in real time and provide the patient with feedback. Drs. Akcakaya and Mazefsky are developing a new intervention using electroencephalography (EEG)-guided, non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology could complement clinical treatments and improve emotion regulation in people with ASD.Dr. Akcakaya will also develop courses related to the research and outreach activities to promote STEM and ASD research to K-12 populations and the broader public. Outreach will focus especially on individuals with ASD, their families, and caretakers. Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering ($540,000)Title:Scaling Electrolytes to a Single Monolayer for Low-Power Ion-Gated Electronics with Unconventional Characteristics (#1847808)Summary: Two-dimensional (2D) materials are being explored for their exciting new physics that can impart novel functionalities in application spaces such as information storage, neuromorphic computing, and hardware security. Dr. Fullerton and her group invented a new type of ion-containing material, or electrolyte, which is only a single molecule thick. This “monolayer electrolyte” will ultimately introduce new functions that can be used by the electronic materials community to explore the fundamental properties of new semiconductor materials and to increase storage capacity, decrease power consumption, and vastly accelerate processing speed.The NSF award will support a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, as well as an outreach program to inspire curiosity and engagement of K-12 and underrepresented students in materials for next-generation electronics. Specifically, Dr. Fullerton has developed an activity where students can watch the polymer electrolytes used in this study crystallize in real-time using an inexpensive camera attached to a smart phone or iPad. The CAREER award will allow Dr. Fullerton to provide this microscope to classrooms so that the teachers can continue exploring with their students. Tevis Jacobs, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science ($500,000)Title:Understanding Nanoparticle Adhesion to Guide the Surface Engineering of Supporting Structures (#1844739) Summary: Although far thinner than a human hair, metal nanoparticles play an important role in advanced industries and technologies from electronics and pharmaceuticals to catalysts and sensors. Nanoparticles can be as small as ten atoms in diameter, and their small size makes them especially susceptible to coarsening with continued use, which reduces functionality and degrades performance. Dr. Jacobs will utilize electron microscopy to develop new methods to measure the attachment and stability of nanoparticles on surfaces under various conditions, allowing researchers to enhance both surfaces and nanoparticles in tandem to work more effectively together.Additionally, Dr. Jacobs and his lab group will engage with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and a local elementary school to create and nationally disseminate surface engineering-focused curricular units for sixth- to eighth-grade students and professional development training modules for teachers. Carla Ng, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering ($500,000)Title:Harnessing biology to tackle fluorinated alkyl substances in the environment (#1845336) Summary: Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes, and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the undesired release of these chemicals into the environment. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Dr. Ng wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She plans to elevate K-12 and undergraduate education through the use of collaborative model-building in a game-like environment. Dr. Ng in particular will utilize the agent-based modeling language NetLogo, a freely available and accessible model-building tool that can be equally powerful for cutting edge research or for students exploring new STEM concepts in science and engineering. Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering ($805,670)Title: Novel human-in-the loop approach to increase locomotor learning Summary: Many stroke survivors who suffer from impaired gait benefit from rehabilitation using robotics. Unfortunately, motor improvements following training are not maintained in the patient’s daily life. Dr. Torres-Oviedo hypothesizes that some of these individuals have difficulty perceiving their asymmetric movement, and she will use this project to characterize this deficit and indicate if split-belt walking - in which the legs move at different speeds - can correct it. Her lab will track how patients with brain lesions perceive asymmetries in their gait. They will then measure how their perception is adjusted once their movements are adapted in the split-belt environment. In the second part of this study, the lab will use these data and a unique method to manipulate how people perceive their movement and create the illusion of error-free performance during split-belt walking. The goal is for the changes in their movements to be sustained in the patient’s daily life. Dr. Torres-Oviedo will also use this project as a way to increase the participation of students from underrepresented minorities (URM) in science and engineering. She will recruit, mentor, and prepare URM students from K-12 and college to pursue advanced education, with the ultimate goal of broadening the professional opportunities for this population. ###

Aug
23
2019

Pitt Bioengineer Aims to Change Stroke Patients’ Perception to Improve Gait Rehabilitation

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 23, 2019) … For stroke survivors whose ability to walk has been impaired by neurological damage, rehabilitation using robotics has proven to be an effective therapy to improve their gait. However, one of the major issues with this type of rehabilitation is that following training with a robotic device, motor improvements are not maintained in the patient’s daily life. Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded a $805,670 CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation to apply a novel approach to improve locomotor learning in stroke patients. She is the fifth Swanson School CAREER Award recipient in 2019, tying the school’s record from 2017. “Our bodies adjust their movement to adapt to changes in the environment, but the very first thing that we need to do is sense that environment,” explained Torres-Oviedo, who directs the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory at Pitt. “We then use this sensory information as input to our motor system, which drives our movement.” The challenge with measuring sensation in people is that it is an internal variable; therefore, Torres-Oviedo’s group will use mathematical tools and perception experiments to estimate what individuals feel. “We think that some stroke survivors have difficulty perceiving their asymmetric movement, and these proposed studies will help us characterize this deficit and indicate if split-belt walking - in which the legs move at different speeds - can correct it,” she said. In the first part of this study, the lab will track how patients with brain lesions perceive asymmetries in their gait. They will then measure how their perception is adjusted once their movements are adapted in the split-belt environment. In the second part of this study, the lab will use these data and a unique method to manipulate how people perceive their movement and create the illusion of error-free performance during split-belt walking. They will use a human-in-the-loop (HITL) method, which is a closed-loop approach in which the behavioral output is feedback to tune the input to the motor system - in this case, the speed difference. This strategy creates an individualized outcome for each subject, which is a more effective method for training purposes. “The idea is that if we understand how each patient adjusts their perceived movements, we can create the illusion of error-free performance where they think that they’re walking normally even though their movements are changing,” said Torres-Oviedo. “If they never perceive that they are doing something different, the hope is that changes in their movements can be carried over to the patient’s daily life.” This research aims to enhance the generalization of movements from devices like treadmills and exoskeletons to daily activities. “If Professor Torres-Oviedo and her group are successful in their work, it could have a profound effect on gait rehabilitation for stroke survivors,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and the Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. Torres-Oviedo will also use this project as a way to increase the participation of students from underrepresented minorities (URM) in science and engineering. She will recruit, mentor, and prepare URM students from K-12 and college to pursue advanced education, with the ultimate goal of broadening the professional opportunities for this population. ###

Aug
21
2019

Youngjae Chun Receives American Heart Association’s 2020 Innovative Project Award

Bioengineering, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 21, 2019) —Coronary artery disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with about 370,000 Americans dying from the disease each year. Stents are a life-saving procedure used to prop open narrowing blood vessels; however, over time, tissue can regrow into the mesh stent and cause the artery to narrow again, putting the patient at risk. Knowing that regrowth is happening as soon as possible is crucial in saving the patient’s life, but monitoring is a challenge. Youngjae Chun, PhD, associate professor of industrial engineering and bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, has received a funding award from the American Heart Association for his project creating a stent that will use sensors to monitor for signs of restenosis and alert the patient’s doctor without the need for endless follow-up visits. Dr. Chun’s project has been selected by the American Heart Association for its 2019 Innovative Project Award, which supports highly innovative, high-impact research that could lead to major advancements and discoveries that accelerate cardiovascular and cerebrovascular research. The award includes a total of $200,000 over two years and began on July 1, 2019. “Stenting to treat coronary artery disease is a well-established and widely used interventional procedure. This new stent will minimize the follow-up imaging procedures that can be inconvenient, expensive, and sometimes invasive for the patient,” says Dr. Chun. “Our device would continuously monitor restenosis providing valuable information to the patients.” This project will be conducted through a multidisciplinary collaboration with W. Hong Yeo, PhD, assistant professor of Department of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and John Pacella, MD, cardiologist at UPMC. “Real-time surveillance would be critical for the patient whose stented blood vessels are re-narrowing, putting them at risk for heart attack or stroke,” says Dr. Chun. “The device would provide critical information directly to patients and their doctors and could potentially save many lives.”
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
21
2019

IE Students Help a Local Caterer Develop a Recipe for Success

Industrial, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (August 21, 2019) … A team of industrial engineering (IE) students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering created a solution to help a small business owner increase production of her popular cookies that tell the tale of Pittsburgh’s storied jazz history. With the students’ help, Leeretta Payne will be able to expand operations of her catering company, the Legacy Café, and help preserve the jazz culture in a time of rapid revitalization. Throughout the twentieth century, Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District neighborhood was home to many clubs frequented by local and national artists. The Hill was an influential part of Payne’s life so she uses her business as an opportunity to teach customers about the neighborhood’s celebrated past. This goal was the inspiration for the Legacy Café’s “Heritage Collection” menu, which features items named after famous entities of Pittsburgh’s jazz era, such as Calloway Beans and Rice, GreenLee Spicy Cucumber, and her most famous offering - the Loendi Club Chocolate Chip Cookie. “The Loendi Club was a very elite establishment that, I believe, paints the picture of the Hill District during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s,” said Payne. “My aunt was a singer and used to let jazz musicians spend the night at our house while they were in town. It was a fun environment to grow up in, and I want to share this history with my customers.” According to Payne, making the Loendi Club cookies is a laborious process so she sought the help of Swanson School students to develop a more efficient procedure that would increase production and reduce pain in her hands. IE students Ashley Dacosta, Elsie Wang, Keegan MacDougall, and Yang Ren embraced the opportunity for their senior capstone project, an undergraduate program where students help local businesses grow while they gain valuable industry experience. “The Industrial Engineering capstone program provides our graduating seniors with opportunities to work with a company on a real problem without a structured solution,” said Louis Luangkesorn, assistant professor of industrial engineering and coordinator of the capstone program. “Working with a small company that is community-focused like the Legacy Café requires that the students deal with issues that are very different than the big companies usually featured in their textbooks. This forces them to think differently and be creative in how they approach the problem and come up with solutions that are very specific to the individuals involved, skills that are invaluable in the world that they will be entering.” The student team met with Payne to discuss her difficulties and create a strategy to improve the way she bakes the chocolate chip cookies. Ms. Payne with students from Pitt's National Society of Black Engineers “There are two main time-consuming steps in this process: weighing each piece of the cut cold dough and molding the dough into a specific pan using one’s fingers,” explained Wang. “Ms. Payne’s current system would not be effective enough to produce the numbers demanded so our team came up with a solution that could potentially remove the weighing step and move the stress from her fingers to her arm.” The students used a mechanical extrusion tool to pump the warm dough into a uniform cylinder which was then cooled and cut into equal sized cookies, giving a uniform weight throughout. It also incorporated a tamper that would allow the cookies to be pressed into the mold, moving some of the force and pressure from the fingers to the wrist and the lower arm. “Testing showed that this new method would increase throughput by 40 percent, allowing our client to meet current demands,” said Dacosta. “Since Ms. Payne rents time at different certified kitchens, we made sure that our design was portable enough to fit her needs.” Increased demand for the cookies necessitated an updated process, and the students’ new method will help Payne produce the quantity needed for her customers. Throughout the warmer months, she is the sole cookie vendor at Pittsburgh farmers markets in the Carrick, Larimer, Southside, and Beechview neighborhoods. New opportunities like this will help Payne expand her business and spread the history of the Hill District to a wider audience. “The students and I had fun with this project,” said Payne. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them, and I want to use my positive experiences with the University to show residents in my community the impact that can be made if we, as a greater Pittsburgh community, work together to improve our city.” The University’s work with the Legacy Café is just one example of its growing partnership with the Hill District. Pitt is opening a Community Engagement Center in the neighborhood, and while the University not yet secured a permanent facility, it continues to offer educational programming to residents. The University is also working to strengthen its relationship with a community scarred by public housing issues and displacement during the urban redevelopment movement of the late 1960s. “The University’s Community Engagement Center in the Hill District is an opportunity to reimagine the relationship between the community and Pitt, fostering mutually beneficial collaborations that advance the community’s agenda by putting our teaching, research, and capacity building programs at the service of the community,” said Kirk D. Holbrook, Director of the Community Engagement Center in the Hill District. Payne wants to see her neighborhood shine like it did during the jazz era and help current residents feel proud of where they live. She said, “I use the Legacy Café to teach my customers about the Hill District’s past because it is our history, and I don’t want people to forget it.” ###

Aug
19
2019

MCSI Summer Research Symposium Showcases Undergrad Sustainability Research

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 19, 2019) ­— From using machine learning to identify birdsongs to finding a way to use silk as a plastic alternative, students in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation’s (MCSI) Undergraduate Summer Research Program have been working hard all summer on research that contributes to sustainability. On Wednesday, July 24, the 12-week program culminated in the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, where 21 students in the program presented their research with a poster, a 10-minute presentation and a two-minute video. Attendees voted at the end of the symposium, and Mason Unger’s presentation “Recirculating Aquaculture: Managing Water Quality in a Closed System” won first place. Kareem Rabbat’s presentation “Small & Mighty: Exploring Nature to Identify Bacteria Capable of Degrading a New Generation of Environmental Contaminants,” was awarded second place. “All of the students have done amazing work and learned a great deal about the future of sustainability,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of MCSI. “Our planet depends on the innovative thinking that the students practiced this summer.” First Place: Recirculating Aquaculture: Managing Water Quality in a Closed SystemMason Unger, who is majoring in civil and environmental engineering, worked with David Sanchez, PhD, on a project related to land-based fish farming, or recirculating aquaculture. This fishing method helps reduce overfishing in the oceans, and it is a way to provide a sustainable protein source. However, one major issue is that the fish can take on an unpleasant flavor due to the chemical compounds that build up in the water. Mason and Dr. Sanchez have worked toward a way to identify and, eventually, remove the compounds causing the unpleasant flavors without creating additional waste water. Second Place: Small & Mighty: Exploring Nature to Identify Bacteria Capable of Degrading a New Generation of Environmental ContaminantsKareem Rabbat, who is majoring in civil and environmental engineering, worked with his advisor Sarah Haig, PhD, to identify and isolate bacteria that are capable of degrading emerging contaminants—namely, nonylphenol and bisphenol (BPA)— in the environment. These contaminants are unregulated in Pennsylvania, allowing companies to release as much as they need to meet production. The team hopes that these bacteria, once found, can sustainably remove nonylphenol and BPA from contaminated water and soil, replacing current cleanup methods that include removal and incineration of thousands of tons of soil.
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
16
2019

NTE Lab’s Asiyeh Golabchi Receives Poster Award at Pitt’s Data and Dine Symposium

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 16, 2019) … A poster presented by Asiyeh Golabchi, a bioengineering postdoctoral research associate at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected as one of the best poster presentations at the 2019 Postdoctoral Data & Dine Symposium. Hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Postdoctoral Association, the Data & Dine Symposium is an opportunity for postdoctoral associates and scholars at Pitt to present their research to colleagues, faculty, and administrators. The event recognizes 10 participants with a $750 travel award for the best poster presentations. Golabchi received an award for her work titled “Neuronal cell adhesion molecule L1 improves quality of the chronic neural recording in mouse visual cortex.” Golabchi works in the Neural Tissue Engineering (NTE) Lab directed by Xinyan Tracy Cui, professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Golabchi’s research focuses on developing a molecular-level understanding of neurobiological interactions to neural implants. Golbachi explained that these devices, which are used to record and stimulate the brain, have been an invaluable tool for neuroscience research and clinical applications, but their functional longevity has proven to be a hurdle for researchers. “Neural implants have been used to help people who have lost abilities due to trauma or disease regain those abilities and improve their quality of life,” said Golabchi. “However, many medical, biological, and technical considerations have to be taken into account when using these devices. “Current neural implants are limited by the body’s natural conditions to safely operate and avoid toxicity and degradation,” she continued. “The requirements for a functional and stable long-term neural interface are still relatively unknown.” Golabchi’s research develops biomaterial strategies and novel technologies to control neuroinflammatory responses, both acute and chronic, to implantable devices. “Asiyeh is most deserving of this award from Pitt’s Postdoctoral Association. Her work with neural implant technology demonstrated the potential to improve neural recording stability and longevity through biomimetic coating,” said Cui. “Such coating may be optimized for commercial translation and benefit many implantable devices in both research and clinical settings.” Golabchi received her PhD in neuroscience and brain technologies from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, in collaboration with the University of Genoa, under the supervision of Dr. Axel Blau. During Golabchi’s doctoral research, she used microfabrication methods to develop a flexible polymer-based microelectrode array for interfacing with neurons at a high spatiotemporal resolution for both in vivo and in vitro applications. ###

Aug
15
2019

Strong Pitt Showing at Gordon Research Conference on High Temperature Corrosion

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (August 15, 2019) … Students in Brian Gleeson’s research group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering very recently participated in the Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) and Conference (GRC) on High Temperature Corrosion in New London, NH. The GRS is limited to young investigators in the field and was held during the weekend of the start of the GRC, which was held July 21-26, 2019. One student presented his work at the Seminar, and two students won awards in the poster competition. According to Gleeson, Tack Chaired Professor and Department Chair of MEMS, the strong showing by his students at such prestigious meetings is a credit to the high quality of their research coupled with hard work and unbridled enthusiasm. Patrick Brennan, a PhD student, gave a presentation entitled “Reproducing and Elucidating the Mechanisms of Rapid CaSO4-Deposit-Induced Degradation of Nickel-Based Superalloys.” This work is in collaboration with G.E. Aviation and supported by the United States Office of Naval Research. His research addresses novel modes of degradation induced by CaSO4 deposits. There were 60 attendees at the Seminar and Patrick was one of 11 speakers. Grace Vanessa de León Nope, a PhD student, received second place in the Gordon Research Seminar poster competition, where a total of 49 posters were presented. Her poster was titled  “Oxidation Behavior of Inconel 625 Made by Additive Manufacturing.”  The work presented is supported by the National Science Foundation. Her research focuses on understanding the differences in oxidation behavior between conventional alloys and those processed using additive manufacturing methods. Emily Kistler, a PhD student, won the Best Student Poster Award at the GRC out of a field of 71 student posters (included were postdoctoral researchers). Her poster was titled “A New Solid-State Mode of Hot Corrosion Occurring Below 700°C: Mechanistic Understanding and Mitigation Strategies.”  The research is being conducted in collaboration with Pratt & Whitney and supported by the United State Office of Naval Research and an NDSEG Fellowship. The work addressed the mechanism of a recently identified form of low-temperature deposit-induced corrosion, occurring in aero and marine engines, and identified mitigation methods to the attack. At the same GRC, Professor Gleeson gave a presentation entitled “Beyond Conventional Hot Corrosion.”  Also attending the GRC and presenting posters were Professors Judith Yang (ChemE) and Wissam Saidi (MEMS). There are over 300 GRCs and associated GRSs, providing an international forum for the presentation and discussion of frontier research in a given topic area of the biological, chemical, physical, and engineering sciences. ###
Brian Gleeson, PhD
Aug
14
2019

Making a Sustainable Mark in Pittsburgh

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (August 14, 2019) ... From the hazy industrial city it once was to the city it is today, Pittsburgh’s environmental outlook has come a long way, thanks to the dedication and ingenuity of its people. The Incline recognized 13 of the people who are making Pittsburgh a greener city in its inaugural Who’s Next: Environment and Energy class, including three from the Swanson School of Engineering: Kareem Rabbat (CEE ’20), Noah Snyder (PhD BioE ’15) and Aurora Sharrard, director of sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh.“These three individuals are true innovators, and we are exceptionally proud of their connection to the Swanson School.” says U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James R. Martin. “Our community has proven a clear dedication to pursuing new ideas and technologies that will make the city and the planet more ecologically sound.”Kareem Rabbat, Chief Innovation Officer, Ecotone RenewablesKareem’s company, Ecotone Renewables, earned him a spot in the Who’s Next class. The company converted shipping containers into biodigesters and greenhouses throughout the city. In addition to Ecotone Renewables’ work, his research at Pitt looks at ways to use bacteria and fungi to naturally and sustainably remove contaminants from soil and water.“I was always fascinated by the natural world growing up and I have decided to dedicate my life to preserving its integrity for generations to come,” Rabbat told The Incline. “… we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors but we borrow it from our children.”Noah Snyder, President & CEO, Interphase MaterialsNoah founded Interphase Materials in 2015 when he realized the impact that biodegradable materials used for the medical brain implants he was researching could have on industrial and commercial heat exchangers. His company’s shown that commercial applications of the materials reduces energy consumption of large water-cooled HVAC units and heat exchangers, which has a positive impact on the local environment as well as the energy grid.Aurora Sharrard, Director of Sustainability, University of PittsburghAurora’s work at Pitt has had a far reaching impact in making the school greener. She enabled Pitt’s first Sustainability Plan and created the Office of Sustainability to make the plan a reality. The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and landfill waste and focus on using renewable energy on campus. She’s also worked with the Green Building Alliance, co-founding Pittsburgh’s 2030 District, which aspires to reduce energy use, water consumption and transportation emissions 50 percent by 2030. ###
Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer
Aug
13
2019

Mastering a New Level of Success

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2019) ... Earning a graduate degree can be a worthwhile investment in a career. People with a master’s degree make, on average, $17,000 more per year than those with only an undergraduate degree. But the cost of earning an advanced degree can be prohibitive for some, making graduate school financially unattainable. There is currently little, or no financial support or scholarships offered for terminal MS degrees, where the norm is a focus on providing full support for PhD studies and no funding stream for prospective MS degree students.To help overcome that barrier, a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation will provide 30 high-achieving, low-income students who demonstrate financial need with two-year scholarships to pursue Master of Science (MS) degrees at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dr. Sylvanus Wosu (right) with Sussan Olaore, the Pitt STRIVE program coordinator. The scholarships will encompass all six departments: bioengineering, chemical and petroleum, civil and environmental, electrical and computer, industrial, and mechanical engineering and materials science. The program, coordinated through the Swanson School’s Office of Diversity, will also provide students with academic and co-curricular support to encourage success. Sylvanus Wosu , associate dean for diversity affairs, explains that the program is designed to eliminate barriers that low-income students may face in transitioning to graduate school. “Diverse backgrounds and experiences fuel innovation. Our goal is to provide more high-achieving students with the opportunity and tools to earn graduate degrees and excel in their professional careers,” says, Dr. Wosu, who will serve as principal investigator with Tagbo Niepa , assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, serving as co-principal investigator. “We want to not only make graduate degrees attainable, but also build bridges to professional careers and entrepreneurial pursuits.” Dr. Tagbo Niepa listens as Mostafa Bedewy, assistant professor of industrial engineering, comments at the Pitt STRIVE retreat. Some of these bridges will include industry internships, faculty-structured apprenticeships, graduate-centered community engagement, and research focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. The five-year program which launches this fall is funded by NSF's Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program , which seeks to increase the number of low-income academically talented students with demonstrated financial need who earn degrees in STEM fields. ###
Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer
Aug
13
2019

International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory and University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute Form Biomedical Research Alliance

Bioengineering

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), August 12, 2019 – The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory is embarking upon a multi-year research alliance with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to push the limits of biomedical research and development aboard the orbiting laboratory. This alliance — a core element of the ISS National Laboratory Industrial Biomedicine Program — was unveiled at the 8th annual ISS Research and Development Conference held in Atlanta earlier this month. This new partnership will serve as a benchmark for how the ISS National Laboratory develops similar programs in the future involving research and development activities aboard the space station. The ISS National Laboratory and MIRM will collaborate with partners from industry, other academic research centers, and government agencies to drive the progress of regenerative medicine research onboard the ISS.  As part of this alliance, Pitt will develop Earth-based facilities on campus to advance research and meet with potential partners, while working in coordination with the ISS National Laboratory on flight opportunities to the orbiting laboratory. The program will focus on microgravity life sciences research and development, with a line of sight toward products and services for clinical application on Earth. For instance, exploiting the unique behavior of stem cells in microgravity could improve cell-based therapies for a variety of diseases and impairments, such as traumatic brain injury and type I diabetes. Similarly, microgravity could allow 3D printers to create complex tissue structures that are difficult to achieve in the presence of full gravity. “As the premier partner for the Industrial Biomedicine Alliance with the ISS National Laboratory, we look forward to using the space station as a testbed for regenerative medicine advances and product development in low Earth orbit,” said MIRM Director William R. Wagner, Ph.D. “The McGowan Institute has built on its deep history advancing the development of artificial organs to establish a position of internationally recognized leadership in regenerative medicine,”said Rob A. Rutenbar, Ph.D., senior vice chancellor for research at Pitt. “The ISS National Laboratory will benefit from that deep expertise, as well as our commitment to rapid clinical translation.” The products of the Industrial Biomedicine Program and this research partnership will help build the fundamental business case for the industrialization of crewed platforms in low Earth orbit. In future alliances, the ISS National Laboratory will work with companies and research partners who seek to better understand and find solutions to common problems on Earth through space-based experimentation on the ISS National Laboratory. “The ISS National Laboratory is proud to announce this alliance with Pitt and MIRM in order to develop biomedical products in space that could benefit human health on Earth,” said ISS National Laboratory Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach, Ph.D. “Part of the role of the ISS National Laboratory is to create and implement innovative strategies to enhance the research capacity of the orbiting laboratory, and we believe alliances like this will pave the way for future collaborations to advance the discoveries of space-based science.” To learn more about innovative research taking place aboard the ISS National Laboratory, visit www.ISSNationalLab.org. Media Contacts:Patrick O’Neill(321) 480-1054PONeill@issnationallab.org Erin Hare (MIRM)412-738-1097HareE@upmc.edu Amerigo Allegretto (Pitt)412-624-6128aallegretto@pitt.edu # # # About the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory: In 2005, Congress designated the U.S. portion of the ISS as the nation’s newest national laboratory to optimize its use for improving quality of life on Earth, promoting collaboration among diverse users, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. This unique laboratory environment is available for use by non-NASA U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The ISS National Laboratory manages access to the permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. About the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine:  The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC established the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine in 2001. The McGowan Institute serves as a single base of operations for the university’s leading engineers, scientists and clinical faculty working in the areas of tissue engineering, cellular therapies, and medical devices. The Institute’s mission includes the development of innovative clinical protocols, as well as the pursuit of rapid commercial transfer of its technologies related to regenerative medicine. There are more than 250 McGowan-affiliated faculty who have collectively filed over 1,600 patents worldwide, licensed or optioned 185 patents with outside partners and produced more than 30 spinout companies. For more information, visit www.mirm.pitt.edu. About the University of Pittsburgh: A nonsectarian, coeducational, state-related, public research university founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is a member of the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities and internationally renowned as a leading center of learning and research in the arts, sciences, humanities, professions, and health sciences. Comprising a Pittsburgh campus, which is home to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, and four Western Pennsylvania regional campuses, Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs and confers more than 8,500 degrees annually. Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998 and is ranked among the top 10 American research universities nationally in terms of total federal science and engineering research and development obligations. For more information, visit www.pitt.edu.

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
Aug
12
2019

Pitt ChemE Department Recruits Expert in Interfacial Transport Phenomena Dr. Thomas Schutzius as Assistant Professor

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 12, 2019) — The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced that Thomas Schutzius, PhD, will join the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering faculty as assistant professor. Dr. Schutzius is currently the group leader of Interfacial and Micro-Nanoscale Transport Phenomenon and Thermodynamics at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. His research intersects multiple fields, including energy, surface science and engineering, and thermofluidics. He investigates how material properties can be engineered to beneficially interact with micro- and nano-scale and interfacial transport phenomena. For example, recent work developed a nanoscale-thick coating made from gold and titanium dioxide that could concentrate solar energy and aid in windshield defrosting. “We were blown away by Tom’s expertise and research in his field,” says Steven Little, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “He has developed innovative processes for developing nanotechnology and novel materials that are highly impactful in fields ranging from the water-energy nexus to healthcare. He will be an excellent addition to our faculty.” Dr. Schutzius has published 31 peer-reviewed papers, many of which have been published in top journals, including Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano. He currently has five U.S. non-provisional patents for his work. His research has also been featured in the media, including New Scientist, the New York Times, the Nature Podcast and PBS Newshour. Dr. Schutzius earned his bachelor of science and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois in Chicago. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at ETH Zurich before his appointment as group leader there.
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
10
2019

Expect more blackouts unless we invest in our energy grid

Electrical & Computer

Gregory F. Reed is a professor and director of the Energy GRID Institute at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. This op-ed appeared in The Hill on Saturday, August 10, 2019. Even before summer’s hottest months, utility providers in California warned they might cut power on windy days to prevent wildfires caused by falling power lines. In Texas, utilities said they would urge consumers to conserve electricity to avoid the need for rolling blackouts when record heat leads to record electricity usage that can overwhelm the system. Despite having one of the most reliable electricity systems in the country, much of midtown Manhattan and parts of the Upper West Side were plunged into darkness last month, 42 years to the day of the New York City blackout of 1977. A contributing factor was that some of the electrical infrastructure of the Con Edison system in the city is old enough to have been involved in both outages. A week after the blackout, Con Ed had to cut power to more than 50,000 customers in Brooklyn and other boroughs to prevent a larger outage. Across the country, and especially in major metropolitan areas, the power grid is in need of repairs, updates and, in many cases, redesign. As demand for electricity continues to increase, we cannot ignore the impact of our energy production on the environment and vice versa. These blackouts underscore a significant, persistent threat to our country’s electric power grid — and they won’t be the last. Nearly 600,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and approximately 15,000 interconnected substations serve the U.S.’s intricate power grid. Nearly 5.5 million miles of low-voltage distribution circuits and 60,000 stations serve large cities and remote rural areas. Much of the infrastructure and equipment is over 40 years old (in some cases, 80 years), built during times of prosperity after both world wars, with technology that would be recognizable to George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla, the inventors of our current system, were they to visit a power station today. Those stations did not anticipate today’s power demands, nor were they designed to easily integrate sustainable power generation or two-way interactions between the grid and consumers. New resources such as solar, wind, wave and battery energy systems are based on power electronics and direct current (DC) technologies. But the grid was constructed using alternating current (AC) and moves electricity primarily in one direction from large-scale centralized resources to consumers. Today, many new resources are being located on the consumer, or distribution end of the system, presenting a challenging paradigm for our energy infrastructure and markets. Overhauling the power grid would be an enormous endeavor — a modern-day equivalent of building the 1940s highway system across the country — but it is necessary. We need a national power grid infrastructure that is reliable and sustainable, as well as resilient to the challenges of a changing climate. We need the power equivalent of our commitment to the Manhattan Project or NASA’s endeavor in the 1960s to put a man on the moon. And while space exploration is important to our future, the immediate need to secure and modernize our nation’s electrical infrastructure remains much more critical and necessary. Because we no longer are tethered to coal as the primary energy source, “microgrids” are one way that communities can provide independent energy from sustainable sources such as solar power and wind farms. Smaller grids can restore power more rapidly in the event of an outage and better meet the demands of a concentrated area. But even this isn’t enough to secure a sustainable, efficient and secure grid. A national high-voltage direct current (HVDC) system would create opportunities for technological leadership and economic growth for this country. It would maximize investments in large-scale energy developments in remote areas of the country, as well as offshore. The redesigned architecture would be designed with DC in mind, meaning consumers would see increased efficiency and lower operating costs. Though it would be no small investment, it’s one that the United States should prioritize. From construction to advanced research and development, from engineering to innovative technology, there would be blue-collar and white-collar employment opportunities that would benefit communities across the country — the 21st century equivalent of Roosevelt’s New Deal. July’s power outage in New York City was just a glimpse at what could happen if our overtaxed power grid were to fail on a larger scale: trains interrupted, buildings hot and quiet, and people left in the dark, some stranded on elevators. It is worth considering that nearly everything we do in modern society is dependent upon the reliable supply of electricity. Our nation’s power grid is at a critical crossroads.We need to seize this opportunity to protect our nation’s security and our way of life. ###
Gregory Reed, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director, Energy GRID Institute
Aug
7
2019

Amazon Web Services Teams with Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance to Improve Care

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 7, 2019) ... In the latest sign of Pittsburgh’s growing importance as a center of health care technology innovation, the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA) announced today that it is working closely with Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company, through a machine learning research sponsorship, to advance innovation in areas such as cancer diagnostics, precision medicine, voice-enabled technologies and medical imaging. A unique consortium formed four years ago by UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, the PHDA uses the “big data” generated in health care — including patient information in the electronic health record, diagnostic imaging, prescriptions, genomic profiles and insurance records — to transform the way that diseases are treated and prevented, and to better engage patients in their own care. New machine learning technologies and advances in computing power, like those offered by Amazon SageMaker and Amazon EC2, are making it possible to rapidly translate insights discovered in the lab into treatments and services that could dramatically improve human health. “We believe that machine learning can significantly accelerate the progress of medical research and help translate those advances into treatments and improved experiences for patients,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of machine learning for AWS. “We are excited to bring our machine learning services and cloud computing resources to support the high-impact work being done at the PHDA.” Through the AWS Machine Learning Research sponsorship, PHDA scientists from both Pitt and CMU expect to accelerate research and product commercialization efforts across eight projects, including those with the potential to create an individual risk score for every cancer patient, thus enabling doctors to better predict the course of a person’s disease and response to treatment; use a patient’s verbal and visual cues to diagnose and treat mental health symptoms; and reduce medical diagnostic errors by mining all the data in a patient’s medical record. Data are secure, anonymized and stay with PHDA institutions. Pitt researcher David Vorp, Ph.D., and his team are using AWS resources to improve the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms, the 13th-leading cause of death in western countries. Currently, clinicians can use only the simple measurements of an aneurysm’s diameter and growth rate to predict the risk of a rupture. “With the latest advances in machine learning, we are developing an algorithm that will provide clinicians with an objective, predictive tool to guide surgical interventions before symptoms appear, improving patient outcomes,” said Vorp, associate dean for research at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. Likewise, a CMU team led by Russell Schwartz, Ph.D., and Jian Ma, Ph.D., will use AWS support to develop algorithms and software tools to better understand the origin and evolution of tumor cells. This project will use machine learning to gain insights into how tumors develop and to predict how they are likely to change and grow in the future. “Data-driven, genomic methods guided by an understanding of cancers as evolutionary systems have relevance to numerous aspects of clinical cancer care,” said Schwartz, professor of biological sciences and computational biology at CMU. “These include determining which precancerous lesions are likely to become cancers, which cancers have a good or bad prognosis, and which of those with bad prognoses might respond long-term to specific therapies.” Formed in 2015, the PHDA brings together the leading health sciences research at Pitt, world-class computer science and machine learning at CMU, and the clinical care, extensive patient data and commercialization expertise at UPMC, one of the nation’s leading integrated health systems. “This collaboration with AWS complements the unique strengths of the PHDA’s founders and will provide unparalleled resources to our researchers,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, which funds the PHDA and focuses on commercializing its breakthroughs. “By leveraging AWS machine learning and artificial intelligence services, we can help Pittsburgh become the premier hub of technology innovation in health care, drawing innovators from companies big and small to join us in this critical effort to revolutionize the delivery of health care.” ###
Wendy Zellner, Vice President, UPMC Public Relations
Aug
5
2019

Associate Dean for Research David Vorp Receives Research Leader Fellowship from APLU

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (August 5, 2019) … The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Council on Research (CoR) has named the University of Pittsburgh’s David Vorp as one of eight fellows in its third Research Leader Fellowship Program cohort selected nationwide. Dr. Vorp is Associate Dean for Research for Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, and Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, and the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.According to APLU, the CoR Research Leadership Program is designed to provide training and skill development necessary in the breadth and depth of the academic research enterprise. The APLU notes that because many universities have segmented research support organizations, rising research leaders often oversee relatively confined areas such as research administration, research development, research compliance, research communication, economic development, or sponsored programs. The APLU CoR Fellowship is designed to allow rising research leaders to gain expertise outside of their respective portfolios and to foster connections with CoR’s extensive network of senior research officers through site visits and participation in CoR meetings. The fellowship is 18 months in duration.“This is a tremendous opportunity for me that I will ensure also greatly benefits Pitt and the Swanson School,” Dr. Vorp said. “In the past few years we have expanded and diversified our research portfolio, increased our public-private research partnerships through the creation of our Making Research Work initiative, and more. But there is so much more that we can do, and I’m excited to see up-close the best practices and novel programs developed by other research universities and learn from the best minds in the business.”During his fellowship, Dr. Vorp intends to focus on working more closely with Pitt’s Office of Community and Governmental Relations; integrating research data and analytics into proactive planning and research portfolio management; and developing more sustainable revenue models for the Swanson School’s several research centers and institutes. He also plans to investigate how the Swanson School can play a greater role in regional economic development as well as develop stronger multidisciplinary and sponsored research programs. ### About Dr. VorpDavid Vorp is the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, with secondary appointments in the Departments of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, and the Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, he is the Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering and serves as a Director of the Center for Vascular Remodeling and Regeneration, a Co-Director of the Center for Medical Innovation, as well as the Director of the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory. He previously served as Interim Director of Pitt’s Petersen Institute for Nano-Science and -Engineering. he research in Dr. Vorp’s lab focuses on the biomechanics, “mechanopathobiology,” regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering of tubular tissues and organs, predominantly the vasculature. He is currently studying the biomechanical progression of aortic aneurysms by modeling the mechanical forces that act on the degenerating vessel wall. He is developing a treatment strategy for abdominal aortic aneurysms by delivering adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells to the periadventitial side of the aneurysm to inhibit the matrix degradation commonly seen in the disease progression and promote its regeneration. He is also using varied regenerative medicine-based approaches to develop a small diameter tissue engineered vascular graft to treat cardiovascular diseases. His research has been supported by $9 million in funding as principal investigator (PI), and an additional $4 million as collaborating investigator, from foundation and federal agencies, including the American Heart Association (AHA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Whitaker Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, and other sources.  He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and was a co-founder of the start-up Neograft Technologies, Inc., a company that developed technology from Dr. Vorp’s laboratory relating to biodegradable support for arterial vein grafts.In 2011 Dr. Vorp was recognized with the Van C. Mow Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), was twice awarded a Pitt Innovator Award, and received the Carnegie Life Sciences Award in 2013.  He served on the Executive Committee of the ASME Bioengineering Division (BED; 2006-2015), serving as ASME BED Chair from 2013-2014. Dr. Vorp was elected to the Board of Directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) for two terms (2006-2009; 2009-2012), and was elected BMES Secretary, an executive post, for two terms (2012-2014; 2014-2016).  He was Co-Program Chair of the 2018 World Congress of Biomechanics. In 2012, Dr. Vorp became the first non-MD President of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology, and was re-elected for a second term in 2014.  Dr. Vorp is a Fellow of ASME, BMES and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

Aug
2
2019

NSF Grant Funds Research at the University of Pittsburgh and Drexel University That Could Revolutionize Water Sanitation

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 2, 2019) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund collaborative research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Drexel University’s College of Engineering that could transform the way we sterilize water on demand and in larger scales. The project, “Collaborative Research: Regulating homogeneous and heterogeneous mechanisms in six-electron water oxidation,” will receive $473,065, with $222,789 designated for Pitt’s team. Led at Pitt by John Keith, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, the research aims to discover a simpler and less energy-intensive way to create ozone, a molecule that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved for water and food sanitation since 2001. “Whether ozone is good or bad depends on where it is,” explains Dr. Keith. “Ozone in the upper atmosphere shields the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but it's also the main ingredient in smog that damages your lungs if you breathe it.” However, what makes ozone hazardous for lungs also makes it excellent for water sanitation. When ozone is “bubbled” into bacteria-infected water, it kills the bacteria and sterilizes the water, similar to chlorine in swimming pools or sanitation facilities. But unlike chlorine, which can persist in the environment and cause problems over time, ozone safely and fully decomposes in water after a few hours. Countries like Brazil have used ozone as a substitute for chlorine disinfectants for decades, but current technologies usually require too much energy, which increases the cost. Dr. Keith’s research group will use computer modeling to study how water can react to form ozone in electrochemical cells. “Fuel cells can be used to cleanly convert molecules like hydrogen and oxygen into useful electricity to power homes and cars with little to no harmful waste,” explains Dr. Keith. “We want to find out how to flip that around and use electricity to cleanly convert water into useful ozone.” Besides making safe drinking water more accessible, energetically efficient production of ozonated water would be extremely helpful for hospitals that need a continual supply of fully sterile water. If an electrochemical process is found, it potentially could be commercialized, perhaps as portable appliances available world-wide for home and commercial use. Dr. Keith will be working with Maureen Tang, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The grant spans four years and begins in 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Aug
1
2019

Building a Better Chemical Building Block

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 1, 2019) — Olefins, simple compounds of hydrogen and carbon, serve as the building blocks in chemical industry and are important for the synthesis of materials, including polymers, plastics and more. However, creating them can be problematic: it requires the use of fossil fuels, energy intensive “cracking” facilities, and limited production control. But engineers at the University of Pittsburgh are using advanced computing to develop more efficient means of production. The National Science Foundation has awarded Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, PhD, bicentennial alumni faculty fellow and assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, $354,954 to continue his research into a promising but poorly understood method of creating olefins: the dehydrogenation of alkanes on metal oxides. The team in Dr. Mpourmpakis’s CANELa lab will use computational modeling and machine learning to understand how the reaction takes place, and use that knowledge to screen a wide range of metal oxides and their properties for use in the process. “The success of shale gas in the U.S. has transformed the chemical market and have made light alkanes a great feedstock for the production of olefins. However, there is a knowledge gap in the understanding of the mechanism behind turning alkanes into olefins,” says Dr. Mpourmpakis. “Determining how this reaction takes place will allow us to computationally screen metal oxide catalysts and identify the exact active sites on the catalyst, limiting costly and lengthy trial-and-error experiments in the lab.” The advancement of catalyst discovery will have wide-ranging impacts for the chemical industry and the U.S. economy as a whole, enabling more efficient and cost-effective chemical production using the nation’s abundant natural gas reserves. Dr. Mpourmpakis’ team will work with the RAPID Manufacturing Institute and Pitt’s Center for Research Computing on this project from September 2019 through August 2022.
Maggie Pavlick

Jul

Jul
31
2019

The ExxonMobil Foundation gifts $147K to the Swanson School

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (July 31, 2019) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering received a $147,000 gift through the ExxonMobil Foundation’s Educational Matching Gift Program. Nineteen employees from ExxonMobil and its subsidiary XTO Energy selected the University of Pittsburgh for their donations, which were then matched on a 3-1 basis by the company. One of the aims of the ExxonMobil Foundation is to improve U.S. math and science education by supporting programs that benefit both students and teachers. The organization hopes that the funds will be used to provide professional development for math and science teachers, attract young people to teach math and science, and encourage women and minorities to become scientists and engineers. “ExxonMobil employees, retirees and surviving spouses donated nearly $18 million to institutions of higher education in 2018, which is being matched by the ExxonMobil Foundation with educational grants totaling more than $32 million,” said Karen Matusic, regional public and government affairs for ExxonMobil and XTO. “We are pleased that the University of Pittsburgh is among the more than 800 colleges and universities that benefit from our program.” The Educational Matching Gift Program is intended to encourage giving to higher education by ExxonMobil employees, retirees and surviving spouses. “The Swanson School prides itself on academic excellence and strives to create a more diverse and well-prepared engineering workforce,” said James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering. “These efforts are exemplified by our alumni and donors whose generous contributions will help us continue our mission of elevating the next generation of engineers.” ###

Jul
29
2019

MEMS PhD Student Takes Home Third Place in Poster Competition

MEMS, Student Profiles

Yunhao Zhao, a PhD student working under Dr. Wei Xiong in the Physical Metallurgy and Materials Design Laboratory placed third in a poster presentation competition at the 5th World Congress on Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) 2019 Conference.  The conference was hosted by The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) in Indianapolis, IN this past July.   According to TMS, the IMCE, “convenes leading researchers and practitioners of ICME to share the latest knowledge and advances in the discipline. This congress is the recognized hub of interaction among software developers and process engineers along the entire production chain, as well as for materials scientists and engineers developing new materials.” Zhao’s PhD thesis is titled “Phase Transformation Modeling and Post-Processing Design for Additively Manufactured Inconel 718 Superalloys.” He aims to employ ICME methods to predict the microstructures of additively manufactured Inconel 718 and design post-processing strategies to improve the properties of the alloys.
Meagan Lenze
Jul
25
2019

Tenure/Tenure-Stream Faculty Position in Cardiovascular Bioengineering

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering (engineering.pitt.edu/bioengineering) and the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine (anesthesiology.pitt.edu) invite applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or closely related disciplines for an open-rank, tenured/tenure-stream faculty position. We wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in Cardiovascular Bioengineering with preference given to research focus on cardiovascular monitoring with mobile and wearable devices and associated data analytics for anesthesia, perioperative medicine and critical care applications. It is expected that this individual will also complement the current strengths of the two departments in medical devices, patient monitoring, and data analytics. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine is the largest academic program in the US and is a pioneer in clinical and scientific research. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (mirm.pitt.edu), the Vascular Medicine Institute (vmi.pitt.edu), the Brain Institute (braininstitute.pitt.edu), and Starzl Transplantation Institute (http://www.stiresearch.health.pitt.edu/) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Center for Medical Innovation (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/CMI/), the Coulter Translational Partnership II Program (engineering.pitt.edu/coulter) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu (include “AY20 PITT BioE-Anesthesiology” in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by September 30, 2019. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received.  Early submission is highly encouraged. The Departments of Bioengineering and Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine are fully 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 affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.

Jul
23
2019

Pitt Bioengineering Alumna Named NSF Program Director

Bioengineering

Laurel Kuxhaus, an associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at Clarkson University, has recently been named Program Director of the Biomechanics & Mechanobiology Program within the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation, Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Kuxhaus comes to the position directly from serving as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Congressional Fellow in Bioengineering. She has been working on Capitol Hill this year in the office of Congressman Lipinski, learning about how Congress works and crafting science and technology policy.  Key accomplishments include the drafting of the Growing Artificial Intelligence Through Research (GrAITR) Act, and the Medical Device Sterilization Challenges Act of 2019. “It’s been an incredible experience to work on Capitol Hill for the year and see how policy is created at the top,” said Kuxhaus, “I look forward to serving at the National Science Foundation." At the National Science Foundation, her background in both bioengineering and policy will enhance the management, operation, and evaluation of programs within the Division. She will also gain experience in the development of large and complex Federal programs. In this position, Kuxhaus will be responsible for long-range planning and budget development for the Biomechanics & Mechanobiology Program. She will oversee the NSF award process for researchers in her program, which includes merit review, award and declination process, and identifying future funding opportunities. In 2018, Kuxhaus was named a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She was nominated for her continued dedication to engineering education, scholarly research, and service to the ASME Bioengineering Division.  She concentrates her research in orthopedic biomechanics. Kuxhaus received bachelor’s degrees in engineering mechanics and music from Michigan State University in 2001, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in 2003, and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008. As a private, national research university, Clarkson is a leader in technological education and sustainable economic development through teaching, scholarship, research and innovation. We ignite personal connections across academic fields and industries to create the entrepreneurial mindset, knowledge and intellectual curiosity needed to innovate world-relevant solutions and cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region, Beacon, N.Y., and New York City, Clarkson educates 4,300 students across 95 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, the arts, education, sciences and health professions. Our alumni earn salaries that are among the top 2.5% in the nation and realize accelerated career growth. One in five already leads as a CEO, senior executive or owner of a company.

Jul
19
2019

ChemE Assistant Professor Susan Fullerton featured in Penn State Engineering's alumni magazine

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, was featured in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Engineering Penn State, the magazine of the Penn State College of Engineering. View her spotlight on page 38.

Jul
18
2019

Pitt ChemE Professor Wins Prestigious Distinguished Young Greek Scientist Award From Bodossaki Foundation

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (July 18, 2019) — Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, PhD, Bicentennial Alumni faculty fellow and assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, won the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientists Award in Chemistry and was honored at a ceremony in Athens by the president of Greece. The Distinguished Young Scientists Award honors the most outstanding scientists of Greek descent under the age of 40 and is given once every two years. The award was presented on June 19, 2019, and included a prize of 20,000 euros. The award takes into consideration the individual’s achievements in their field, their contribution to the cultural, scientific and economic development of Greece, and their contribution to the international promotion of Greece through their work and ethics. Dr. Mpourmpakis was nominated by Steven R. Little, PhD, chair of the chemical engineering and petroleum department, and Sunil Saxena, PhD, chair of the chemistry department. “We were honored to nominate Yanni for this prestigious award,” says Dr. Little. “Yanni has made tremendous advances in our knowledge of the chemistry of nanomaterials. We are excited that his impressive work will be recognized on the global stage.” Dr. Mpourmpakis’s Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) uses theory and computation to investigate the physiochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnology areas, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. Dr. Mpourmpakis earned his PhD at Theoretical and Computational Chemistry from the University of Crete and was a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware. “After careful deliberation on the ten excellent nominations received, the selection committee, consisting of distinguished scientists of Greek origin working in the field of chemistry all around the globe, unanimously recommended Dr. Giannis Mpourmpakis for the 2019 Bodossaki Young Scientist award in Chemistry,” said Professor Theodoros Theodorou, Associate Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Bodossaki Foundation. “The committee appreciated Dr. Mpourmpakis’s creative use of state-of-the-art multiscale modeling and simulation methods to understand and predict the properties of materials systems ranging from colloidal metallic nanoparticles to kidney stones. Dr. Mpourmpakis’s work can guide experimental efforts towards the development of new, efficient, and environmentally friendly materials and processes. The Bodossaki Foundation will be pleased to present its 2019 Chemistry Award to Dr. Mpourmpakis.”
Maggie Pavlick
Jul
16
2019

Mangesh Kulkarni receives $18K award from Pitt’s Central Research Development Fund

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (July 16, 2019) … Mangesh Kulkarni, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded $17,793 in funding from the Central Research Development Fund (CRDF) to support research for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Kulkarni’s project aims to develop an integrative treatment approach utilizing the interspecies interactions between innate immunity cells and gut microbiota, which is a collection of microorganisms in the intestine. While these microorganisms can positively affect one’s health, a microbial imbalance - or dysbiosis - in the body has been associated with a variety of illnesses and diseases. Researchers speculate that dysbiosis may have an effect on the body’s immune system - specifically on macrophages, which are multifunctional white blood cells in the body. “This project will seek to understand how dysbiosis during colitis affects the intestinal macrophages at the molecular level and get insights into pathways affected by colitis, focusing on those regulating the macrophage polarization,” said Kulkarni. Macrophage polarization refers to the process in which macrophages adopt different functions in response to signals from their microenvironment. A functional imbalance among the macrophages may have a connection to a number of immunity-related diseases, including IBD. “As a step towards developing a novel therapeutic avenue for colitis, we seek to examine the feasibility of specific and relevant miRNA therapy to modulate the macrophage polarization,” Kulkarni continued. “This strategy holds the promise of curbing the progression of intestinal inflammation and thus provide therapeutic benefit in IBD.” Kulkarni joined the Department of Bioengineering in fall 2018 and works with Bryan Brown, assistant professor of bioengineering, at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “I’m very excited about the work that Dr. Kulkarni is doing,” said Brown. “This grant from the CRDF will enable him to perform studies that will inform the development of new therapeutic strategies for a disease which currently has few effective treatment options.” The CRDF Small Grants Program aims to provide opportunities for faculty, especially early career faculty, at the University of Pittsburgh to engage in high-quality research, scholarship, and creative endeavors. The program provides seed funding to develop ideas to the point where external funding can be obtained and awards support for scholarship in areas where external funding is extremely limited. ###

Jul
12
2019

STEM Camp Sparks Pittsburgh Kids’ Curiosity

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

Reposted from PittWire. Click here to view the original story. When Ameena Bradford entered the University of Pittsburgh Cen