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Jul
18
2018

Pitt bioengineer receives $390K NIH grant to develop imaging technology that may improve brain implant design

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (July 18, 2018) … Chronic brain implants are long-term devices used to record brain activity or stimulate neurons with electrical pulses and are a crucial component of neuroprosthetics. The performance of these devices depends on the host tissue response, which is often inflammatory and results in device performance degradation. Takashi Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded an NIH R21 grant to improve device design by investigating the role of oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in this process. Kozai will work with Franca Cambi, professor of neurology at Pitt, to develop in vivo imaging technology that will explore how these cells cause negative tissue response to chronic brain implants. Supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Kozai and Cambi received a two-year, $386,645 award for their research. Kozai and his collaborators recently published work that reveals the importance of the brain’s glial cells. Oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) are a type of glia or connective tissue in the central nervous system that play an important role in brain injury and neuronal activity, including the body’s response to brain implants. Oligodendrocytes are crucial for normal signaling in the brain. They produce proteins that help neurons grow, form synapses, and may even help neurons survive traumatic injuries. They play a key role in myelination, a process where oligodendrocytes wrap a fatty substance around the neuron’s axon to help insulate electrical signals and allow neural signals to move more rapidly. “Oligodendrocytes, like neurons, consume enormous amounts of energy,” explained Kozai. “Neurons require the energy to maintain membrane potential, while oligodendrocytes require energy to maintain high production levels of protein and lipids. As a result oligodendrocytes and neurons are one of the first cell types to die following brain injury.” “Because the oligodendrocytes provide growth factors and support for neurons, the idea is maybe if we can help to oligodendrocytes to survive after injury, they can, in turn, help the neurons to survive,” said Kozai. They plan to apply a similar logic to OPCs, which are a subtype of glia that are of particular interest because they have the capacity to differentiate into oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, or neurons during tissue repair. Kozai said, “If we can maintain a healthy environment for OPCs, maybe they can help replenish the oligodendrocyte and neuronal population, instead of turning into scar tissue forming astrocytes.” Kozai and Cambi hope to gain insight by getting a more detailed look at the life span of these cells using multiphoton imaging and neural engineering technology. Kozai said, “Much of the work on oligodendrocytes and OPCs has been carried out with post-mortem immunohistochemistry and molecular assays in disease models. As such, we only get a snapshot of the dead cells in their last moments, instead of seeing how and when they got there so that we can identify when and where to apply treatments and employ intervention strategies.” By using in vivo imaging techniques like multiphoton imaging and pinpointing brain injury using neural engineering technology, Kozai and Cambi can map out the spatiotemporal relationships between oligodendrocyte loss, neuronal cell death, and OPC tissue repair and identify targets for intervention strategies, not just for brain implants, but also many neurodegenerative diseases. ###

Jul
16
2018

A Foundation for Future Founders: The Swanson School Empowers a New Generation of Entrepreneurs

All SSoE News, Chemical & Petroleum, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

.pullquote-feature { width: 50%; border-top: 1px solid #151414; border-bottom: 1px solid #151414; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; display: block; } With a 95–97 percent job placement rate for graduates over the past three years1, the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering provides a well-manicured path for those traveling from Benedum Hall to the halls of Fortune 500 companies. At an increasing rate, students who embrace risk and uncertainty for the sake of innovation are also finding the tools they need at the Swanson School to carve their own paths to success. Aspiring entrepreneurs can attend networking opportunities, compete for seed money, and receive one-on-one mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and educators right on campus. There were 23 startups originating from the University of Pittsburgh in the 2017-18 fiscal year, a 53 percent increase from the previous year. In the spring of 2017, two of those companies—one with a tomato-picking robot and the other with nanoparticle-filled oxygen tanks—took their first steps off the Pitt campus and into the startup world. “Engineering students are adept at solving real-world problems. That is why so many of the students we have participating in our entrepreneurship programs and competitions come from the Swanson School. They want to see their ideas translated into new products and services that advance the state of the art and improve people’s lives,” said Babs Carryer, Director of the Big Idea Center for student entrepreneurship at the Pitt Innovation Institute. “We know we’re undertaking a good amount of risk, but knowing that there is a whole industry that needs the product we are building helps mitigate that. At the end of the day, there always is risk, but for me, to not do this would lead to regrets. We are all about solving the problem.” --Brandon Contino, CEO at Four Growers, Pitt ECE ‘17 Four Growers team: Brandon Contino (left) and Dan Chi (right). Instead of taking a traditional route upon graduation, two recent University of Pittsburgh graduates have taken a risk on a project cooked up during their undergraduate studies in the Swanson School of Engineering. Brandon Contino (ECE ‘17) and Dan Chi (MEMS ‘18) have spent the past year tirelessly promoting their startup, Four Growers, in a series of competitions, and their most recent success will take them to Silicon Valley where they will be among the leading minds of innovation and technology. Brandon and Dan met while working in the lab of David Sanchez, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Pitt. The two collaborated on different projects involving hydroponics, a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient rich solution. Growing increasingly interested in this method of farming, the pair visited a hydroponic tomato greenhouse in Chicago where they learned of a pressing problem facing the industry. Brandon explained, “More than 50% of the tomatoes consumed in the US are grown in greenhouse farms, but the industry is facing an issue with labor. After talking to the farmers, we discovered that there are shortages in the availability and reliability of the labor force, and we wanted to find a solution through robotics and automation.” This spurred the creation of Four Growers. Brandon and Dan planned to develop a product that provides reliable harvesting year-round for greenhouse farms. Creating a startup is a high risk, high reward endeavor, but Brandon and Dan had faith in their idea. “After speaking with other greenhouses about the industry, we learned that labor was a common problem, and when you have a strong need, clearly defined from your future customer, it really helps to lower the risk,” said Brandon. Confident in their mission, the Four Growers team developed a robotic tomato harvesting device for commercial greenhouses that can efficiently find and pick ripe tomatoes off the vine. The robot’s decision making is controlled by an algorithm that uses cameras and a neural network trained to find the proper fruit. A robotic arm and custom gripper enable the robot to harvest the tomatoes without damaging them. Additionally, their device provides analytics to the growers to help improve profitability. Creating the product is only one step towards entrepreneurial success; getting your product to market requires a bit of business acumen. Brandon and Dan believe they have benefitted from their past experiences at Pitt. During Brandon’s undergraduate years, he served as president of multiple organizations including Pitt Engineering Student Council, the Robotics and Automation Society, and the Panther Amateur Radio Club. Dan created the Hydroponics Club in Dr. Sanchez’s lab, was a member of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and acted as fundraising director of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers. These experiences have introduced them to aspects of leadership and management applicable to their new executive roles. The Four Growers team has also taken advantage of various entrepreneurial programs and resources like Pitt’s Innovation Institute and Carnegie Mellon University’s Project Olympus, which have both provided valuable mentorship and contacts. Brandon said, “The connections we’ve made along the way have played a large role in our success. We’ve been able to discuss business aspects of the company with our mentors and advisors, and their expertise and guidance have refined our ability to operate both the technical and business sides of Four Growers.” Hydroponic tomato greenhouse. Photo credit: Shutterstock. The journey, however, has not been entirely smooth sailing. “Creating and running a business has a steep learning curve, and Dan and I have been drinking from the fire hose for a while now,” said Brandon. “One of our biggest hurdles has been financing. While Dan finished his degree, we decided to bootstrap and as a hardware company, it takes money to iterate on a product. Initially, we just didn’t have much funding so we had to spend a lot of time searching for lower cost options or workarounds, which slowed some of our technical development.” To overcome this setback, Brandon and Dan have spent the past year trying to raise funds through a series of competitions. Their first success was with Pitt’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition where they won first place and $25,000 to help launch their idea. Then they took second place and $10,000 against some of the most innovative students from the 15 Atlantic Coast Conference schools at the ACC InVenture Prize competition. Their last event took them to Texas where they became one of the first two Pitt teams to compete in the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition and made it to the semi-finals. With funds starting to accumulate and Dan’s graduation imminent, they looked for the next step towards success and applied to Y Combinator, a highly competitive startup accelerator in Mountain View, California whose alumni include Airbnb, Dropbox and reddit. Four Growers was accepted as one of 90 teams and will receive $120,000 in exchange for 7 percent equity position in their company. Brandon and Dan will travel back and forth between greenhouse farms, Pittsburgh, and Silicon Valley for three months during the summer and receive intensive training to refine their business and prepare pitches to investors. Four Growers has successfully completed autonomous tomato harvesting inside greenhouses with their device and plan to have a beta prototype in operation by December 2018. Brandon and Dan’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for sustainable farming helped lead them down this career path. The team looks forward to the challenges ahead and hopes to reap the harvest of a successful business. Brandon said, “We know we’re undertaking a good amount of risk, but knowing that there is a whole industry that needs the product we are building really helps mitigate that. At the end of the day though there always is risk, but for me, to not do this would lead to regrets. We are all about solving the problem.” “I don’t think this could have happened at another university without these kind of resources. Once I dug into something and realized someone at my age could actually do this and find the support—all the support that’s out there—it really propelled the business into reality, and it became the thing I knew I wanted to do.” --Blake Dubé, CEO and Co-Founder at Aeronics Inc., Pitt ChemE ‘17 Aeronics team: Alec Kaija (left), Blake Dubé (middle), Mark Spitz (right). With his sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh nearing an end, the last thing Blake Dubé (ChemE ’17) was looking to do was start a business. “I didn’t just breeze through the first two years of college,” he recalls. “It took a lot of work focusing on my classes and learning about chemical engineering. It wasn’t like I decided to start a business because I was looking for a bigger challenge.” Nearly three years later, Blake has won about a dozen startup competitions, he has a product scheduled to go to market this year, and he works full-time as CEO of the company he co-founded, Aeronics, Inc. Back in the spring of 2015, the only thing Blake was looking for was a lab to do summer research. After a visit to the ninth floor of Benedum Hall, Blake started research in the lab of Chris Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical engineering and himself an entrepreneur. Dr. Wilmer and his team were researching ways to use nanomaterials to improve gas storage, transportation, and safety in the many industries kept aloft by gas. Blake spent his time in the lab running computer simulations to find the best nanomaterial configurations for maximizing gas storage without the high levels of heat and pressure caused by putting too much gas into too small a container. “I realized gas storage was such a broad field and started wondering where I could make a difference in the three months I would be working in the lab,” says Blake. “Most of the focus seemed to be on energy sources like methane and hydrogen, and there wasn’t as much work being done with oxygen. I started to think about how better oxygen storage could make an impact.” The following semester, Blake enrolled in ChE 314: Taking Products to Market taught by Eric Beckman, Distinguished Service Professor of Chemical Engineering and co-director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. Dr. Beckman, who had co-founded his own business for commercializing technology, guided students through the process of turning ideas into marketable products. When Blake showed an interest in applying his lab research to the class, Dr. Wilmer suggested he enter the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, a university-wide innovation challenge. Everyday Oxygen prototype. The Randall Family competition takes place from February to March each year and awards $100,000 in prizes to Pitt students working on interdisciplinary teams to bring product ideas to market. Blake recruited teammates Alec Kaija, a PhD candidate in Dr. Wilmer’s lab, and Mark Spitz, a kinesiology and exercise science student and long-time friend of Blake from their hometown of York, Pa. Dr. Wilmer served as the team’s faculty advisor. “We started the Randall Family competition with the idea of fitting oxygen and the materials from Dr. Wilmer’s lab in a soda can. By the end of it, we actually had plans for a viable product, and since we won the grand prize, we had money to get started,” says Blake. The team won first place and the grand prize of $25,000 to get their company up and running. Blake, Mark, and Alec became co-founders of the startup Aeronics and went on to win several more competitions. By the spring of 2017, Aeronics had claimed more than $120,000 in prize money. While Blake and Mark were getting fitted for their graduation robes, they were measuring up the odds of successfully running their own business. “BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world, offered me a full-time job before I graduated. It would have been a great way to start my career. Around the same time, Aeronics was incorporated,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur at the university, before you graduate is different than after you graduate. Now you better make it work. The pressure is on.” Fortunately, Aeronics handles pressure well. Their prototype could store about three times as much oxygen as a standard portable oxygen tank at the same pressure. Still considering a more traditional career path, Blake consulted with Steve Little, the chair of the chemical engineering department, for advice. Dr. Little had been helping Aeronics navigate some of the issues with starting a private company at a university. “I remember asking Dr. Little for advice because he had experience starting his own business. He helped us a lot throughout the beginning stages, but he said to me, ‘I can give you all the advice you want, but sooner or later you’re just going to have to do it to find out if it will work,’” says Blake. One year later, Aeronics has completed two startup accelerator cohorts, found its own lab space to operate, and developed a product called Everyday Oxygen, which stores three times the oxygen as competitors’ cans. Everyday Oxygen is available for pre-order on their website and will be ready to ship in the fall. Looking back, Blake says he liked most of his experiences with research, internships, and studying chemical engineering at Pitt in general. He didn’t dream of becoming an entrepreneur as a kid, but now that he’s running his own business, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. “I don’t think this could have happened at another university without these kind of resources. Once I dug into something and realized someone at my age could actually do this and find the support—all the support that’s out there—it really propelled the business into reality, and it became the thing I knew I wanted to do,” he says. ### 195 to 97 percent job placement rate over the past three years, http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/Friends-Giving-Administration/Office-of-the-Dean/Quick-Facts/
Leah Russell (Four Growers feature) and Matt Cichowicz (Aeronics feature)
Jul
12
2018

ChemE’s Giannis Mpourmpakis named “Emerging Investigator” by ACS Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (July 12, 2018) … The American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data named Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, an “Emerging Investigator” in a special issue of the publication. The issue highlights work from researchers at the forefront of their discipline. Mpourmpakis leads the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELA) where his group researches the physicochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnological areas ranging from energy generation and storage to materials design and catalysis. Mpourmpakis contributed his paper “Understanding the Gas Phase Chemistry of Alkanes with First-Principles Calculations” (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jced.7b00992) to the ACS special issue. “Alkanes are molecules commonly found in petroleum and shale gas,” explained Mpourmpakis. “Their conversion to higher-value chemicals involves high temperature conditions that often result in the production of gas-phase radical species, which are very reactive and difficult to track in experiments.” “This work utilizes very accurate computational chemistry calculations to explain the reaction preference of alkyl radicals under experimental conditions,” continues Mpourmpakis. “The generated reaction data can be used to optimize processes for the conversion of alkanes to olefins, which are important building blocks for the production of plastics.” With the cost of olefins growing due to the high demand for its associated chemicals and plastics and the low abundance of its common resource, Mpourmpakis  believes the findings may provide valuable insights towards more efficient production. This research was supported by the Doctoral New Investigator award given to Mpourmpakis by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Funds. (Read the SSoE press release about this award) “I am very honored to be named an Emerging Investigator and have our work highlighted in this special issue of the journal,” said Mpourmpakis. “This accomplishment belongs to the very talented students that I am fortunate to work with in our lab.” Another achievement from this journal article is the work done by Jonathan Estes, a chemical engineering junior who was first author on the publication. Mudit Dixit, a postdoctoral researcher in Mpourmpakis’ lab, co-authored the article. “Jonathan did a phenomenal job in calculating thermochemical and kinetic data for a wide range of hydrocarbon species and their associated reactions,” said Mpourmpakis. “These involved hundreds of computationally demanding calculations that were performed on supercomputing facilities at Pitt’s Center for Research Computing. This is a great accomplishment for an undergraduate researcher.” Click here to view the Emerging Investigators Special Issue. ###

Jul
10
2018

Fishy Chemicals in Farmed Salmon

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 10, 2018) … Persistent organic pollutants—or POPs—skulk around the environment threatening human health through direct contact, inhalation, and most commonly, eating contaminated food. As people are becoming more aware of their food’s origin, new research at the University of Pittsburgh suggests it might be just as important to pay attention to the origin of your food’s food.The American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology featured research by Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, on the cover of its June 19 issue. Dr. Ng tracked the presence of a class of synthetic flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were once a popular additive to increase fire resistance in consumer products such as electronics, textiles, and plastics (DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00146).“The United States and much of Europe banned several PBDEs in 2004 because of environmental and public health concerns,” says Dr. Ng. “PBDEs can act as endocrine disruptors and cause developmental effects. Children are particularly vulnerable.”The Stockholm Convention, an international environmental treaty established to identify and eliminate organic pollutants, listed PBDEs as persistent organic pollutants in 2009. Despite restrictions on their use, PBDEs continue to be released into the environment because of their long lifetime and abundance in consumer goods. They are particularly dense in areas such as China, Thailand, and Vietnam that process a lot of electronic waste and do not regulate much of their recycling.“The international food trade system is becoming increasingly global in nature and this applies to animal feed as well. Fish farming operations may import their feed or feed ingredients from a number of countries, including those without advanced food safety regulations,” explains Dr. Ng.Most models to predict human exposure to pollutants typically focus on people in relation to their local environment. Dr. Ng’s model compared a variety of factors to find the best predictor of PBDEs in farmed salmon, including pollutants inhaled through gills, how the fish metabolized and eliminated pollutants, and of course, the concentration of pollutants in the feed.She says, “We found that feed is relatively less important in areas that already have high concentrations of pollutants in the environment. However, in otherwise clean and well-regulated environments, contaminated feed can be thousands of times more significant than the location of the farm for determining the PBDE content of salmon fillets.”Dr. Ng says the model could be modified and applied to other fish with high global trading volumes such as tilapia or red snapper. It could also be used to predict pollutant content in livestock or feeds produced in contamination “hot spots.”“Hot spots are places identified as having high levels of pollutants,” says Dr. Ng. “As these chemicals circulate through the environment, much ends up in the ocean. It’s extremely important to pay attention to the sourcing of ocean commodities and areas where pollutant concentrations are particularly high.”Dr. Ng’s model also helps inform contamination control strategies such as substituting fish oils for plant-based materials or taking measures to decontaminate fish oil before human consumption. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
6
2018

A Structured Solution

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (July 6, 2018) … Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is an advanced manufacturing process capable of fabricating complex components by sintering layers of powders together. This process requires support structures to maintain the component’s structural integrity during printing. Unfortunately, removing these supports is not only expensive, but can also be difficult-to-impossible if the supports are located in the interior of the component.  This limits the adoption of AM by industries such as nuclear energy, which rely on cost-effective manufacturing of complex components.To find an effective solution to these complex processes, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will be the lead investigator on a $1 million award to advance design and manufacture of nuclear plant components via AM. The award is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) program.The novel research will be directed by Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science (MEMS) at the Swanson School. Co-investigators include Wei Xiong, assistant professor of MEMS at Pitt, and Owen Hildreth, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Corporate collaborators in Pittsburgh include Curtiss-Wright Corporation and Jason Goldsmith at Kennametal Inc. The integrated approach taken by the project team will be to develop innovative dissolvable supports, greater topology optimization, and improved microstructure design to make state-of-the-art nuclear components at lower cost, with minimal distortion, and greater structural integrity.“Many gaps still remain in the scientific understanding of additive manufacturing, most especially the optimization of the assembly process while reducing build failure and cost,” Drs. To and Xiong explained. “Removing internal support structures in complex additive manufactured components via post-machining is costly and sometimes impossible. By integrating dissolvable supports, topology optimization, microstructure design, we have an opportunity to drastically reduce post-processing costs for AM components, while ensuring manufacturability of designs with complex internal features like those needed in the nuclear industry.” According to Dr. Hildreth, post-processing accounts for 30 to 70 percent of the cost of producing AM products, with support removal accounting for the majority of those costs. “Our dissolvable support technology enables consolidation of the many manufacturing steps currently required for complex nuclear components into one AM assembly. This will reduce manufacturing costs by 20 percent and improve manufacturing schedules by at least six months,” he explained. “This work will help bring dissolvable supports to not just nuclear applications, but to the broader metal AM community so that costs can be significantly reduced. Metal AM is projected to be a $21.2 billion industry in five years, and these batch-processable dissolvable supports could save the industry $10 billion while also expanding design freedom and reducing post-processing machining.” The Pitt Award is one of five NEET Crosscutting Technologies projects led by Department of Energy national laboratories, industry and U.S. universities to conduct research to address crosscutting nuclear energy challenges that will help to develop advanced sensors and instrumentation, advanced manufacturing methods, and materials for multiple nuclear reactor plant and fuel applications.This is the Swanson School’s second NEET award in as many years. In 2017, Kevin Chen, the Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt, received $1.275 million to lead a collaborative study with MIT, the National Energy Technology Laboratory and Westinghouse Electric Corporation to develop radiation-hard, multi-functional, distributed fiber sensors, and sensor-fused components that can be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency.“Because nuclear energy is such a vital part of our nation’s energy portfolio, these investments are necessary to ensuring that future generations of Americans will continue to benefit from safe, clean, reliable, and resilient nuclear energy,” said Ed McGinnis, DOE’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “Our commitment to providing researchers with access to the fundamental infrastructure and capabilities needed to develop advanced nuclear technologies is critical.” Image above: Cracking in the build resulting from excessive residual stress in the support structure from the laser powder bed additive manufacturing process. Image below: Failed build of a complex part due to excessive residual distortion from  the laser powder bed additive manufacturing process. ###

Jul
5
2018

EQT Foundation Supports INVESTING NOW Girls Programming with $15K Grant

Diversity

PITTSBURGH (July 5, 2018) … For a third consecutive year, the EQT Foundation has awarded the Swanson School of Engineering’s INVESTING NOW Female Empowerment Mission (FEM) a $15,000 grant to help fuel an ongoing commitment to provide enhanced, specialized opportunities for female high school students. At the Swanson School, The FEM program will focus specifically on engaging students in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). "The EQT Foundation is proud to provide continuing support for the University of Pittsburgh's INVESTING NOW Female Empowerment Mission," said Charlene Petrelli, president of the EQT Foundation. "Supporting diverse education initiatives in the areas where we operate is a priority for EQT, and it is our hope that by participating in this program, these young women will work to create change and a continued understanding of the role women have in STEM careers." “These funds will help us carry out programming designed to further inspire and encourage young women’s interest and participation in STEM fields,” added Alaine Allen, Director of the INVESTING NOW pre-college diversity program and the Pitt EXCEL undergraduate diversity program at the University of Pittsburgh. Three main objectives of the FEM program are to: increase the number of female participants interested in pursuing STEM fields, increase the number of female graduates choosing to major in STEM fields, and increase the confidence and knowledge of the young women entering college to pursue STEM majors. The EQT grant will help support monthly workshops led by female professionals, college students, and faculty in STEM fields. The workshops will include guest speakers who will share their knowledge and personal experiences and engage students in discussions and activities to help the students understand the significance of pursuing STEM majors and careers.“The high school students will also have the opportunity to share their personal stories and pre-conceptions about STEM careers and other STEM-related experiences,” Allen added.Allen and the Pitt INVESTING NOW team have a variety of other strategies planned that will benefit from the EQT funding and help achieve the FEM program objectives. They include: field trips designed to expose the students to STEM fields and provide more opportunities for the students to interact with professional STEM women; visits to colleges and universities to learn more about their respective STEM programs and enrollment requirements and to speak with faculty and students in these programs; attendance at regional or national diversity conferences to allow participants to network with female professionals who serve as role models in STEM fields; and two special outreach projects that will enable college students to provide mentoring and STEM exposure to girls in the Pittsburgh area. “For the outreach projects, we will connect with a local school districts or community-based organizations to identify opportunities to bring INVESTING NOW FEM participants to young girls in the community who would most benefit from their mentorship,” explained Allen.About INVESTING NOWCreated in 1988, INVESTING NOW is a college preparatory program created to stimulate, support, and recognize the high academic performance of pre-college students from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors and careers. The purpose of the program is to ensure that participants are well prepared for matriculation at the University of Pittsburgh. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
3
2018

Chemical Science Features Stunning Artwork from John Keith’s Lab

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (July 3, 2018) … The back cover of Royal Society of Chemistry journal Chemical Science featured an artistic depiction of research from the laboratory of John Keith, assistant professor of chemical engineering and R.K. Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy at the University of Pittsburgh, into a simple and effective way of modeling chemical reactions in solutions. Yasemin Basdogan, a PhD student in Dr. Keith’s lab, designed the back cover image, which shows several molecules reacting in a cross-shaped container slowly filling with a liquid. She says, “The red cross in the cover art symbolizes the medical red cross that you see on ambulances. Our model is like a paramedic team that comes with an ambulance: it’s a quick fix that can be really effective.” Their study titled “A paramedic treatment for modeling explicitly solvated chemical reaction mechanisms” (DOI: 10.1039/C8SC01424H) analyzed a very complex chemical system called the Morita-Baylis Hillman reaction. Previous modeling studies have traditionally struggled to explain subtle details of this reaction (DOIs: 10.1021/ja5111392, 10.1039/C7CP06508F), but Basdogan and Dr. Keith brought improvements to the modeling that allows better understanding of these types of chemical reactions that will impact areas of chemical engineering and chemistry. “I’m particularly interested in how characterizing chemical reactions can help improve our understanding of the human body,” Basdogan explains. “By understanding catalysts working in solution we get closer to understanding how enzymes catalyze chemical reactions in your body. We need to first understand fundamental reactions before we can understand the even more complex systems.” Basdogan developed the image for the back cover using tools and skills she learned in a course at the Swanson School of Engineering taught by Assistant Professor Chris Wilmer called ChE 3460 Advanced Scientific Visual Communication. The course teaches how to use modeling and animation tools such as GIMP, Inkscape, and Blender and the Python programming language to create professional quality artwork based on students’ research. “This cover art was my final project for the Advanced Scientific Visual Communication class,” says Basdogan. “Dr. Wilmer helped me throughout every step of the art project.” Chemistry World, a monthly chemistry news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, featured Basdogan and Dr. Keith’s work with a feature story titled “Errors in continuum solvent models unraveled at last.” The author Hannah Kerr writes: "[Basdogan and Keith] showed that continuum solvent models do not describe local solvation effects very well. This can lead to mechanistic steps like proton shuttling and charge transfer being modelled poorly. As an alternative, [the researchers] developed a strategy that can be carried out by anyone with a general grasp of quantum chemistry.” In the article, Dr. Keith also highlighted Basdogan’s efforts to complete the study: “‘What I first thought would be 6–12 months of work ended up being far more challenging. Fortunately, I had a very talented 1st year PhD student, Yasemin Basdogan, who stayed focused and never quit on the project – or me!,’ says Keith." "Basdogan adds, “This manuscript is my sixth publication, but it has a special place in my heart because it is the first work that I completed mostly myself in the Keith Group, and I learned a lot of things along the way.” Basdogan is now in her third year as a PhD student. She said she would like to stay in academia after completing her PhD to become a professor. The Pitt Center for Research Computing contributed computing resources. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
2
2018

Discovering “Virtual” Resources in the National Food System

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (July 2, 2018) … Does producing one ton of rice consume more water in Arkansas or California? Is it more sustainable for Texas to import oranges from Florida or grow its own? Will switching to water efficient irrigation pumps reduce both water and energy footprint of food production? To better integrate sustainability across multiple production systems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded two professors from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering a $305,764 grant for their research into the interconnectivity of U.S. food, energy, and water resources. The research will focus on modeling the complex network of resources in the United States and strategies for optimizing sustainability in resource production and consumption with a focus on food, energy, and water systems.“People tend to see food, energy, and water as individual diodes on a larger network, when they are more like a mesh of connections. This research is asking how you can model the nexus of these complex systems,” says Vikas Khanna, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt and principal investigator of the study.The study titled "Modeling and Optimization of Sustainable and ResilienT FEW (MOST FEW) Networks" will use publicly available data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Department of Agriculture, and related organizations to examine the environmental sustainability of U.S. national food system with an emphasis on interstate trade. The researchers in particular will focus on identifying networks of “virtual resources.”“Virtual resources are those consumed in a process but not intended to be directly used in the exchange itself,” Dr. Khanna explains. “For example, a large amount of water is consumed across the entire supply chain of corn. A singular focus on optimizing corn production could come at the expense of high water consumption or increased fertilizer use, or result in some other negative consequence if relationships within the system aren’t better understood.”Joining Dr. Khanna on the study as co-principal investigator is Oleg Prokopyev, professor of industrial engineering. Dr. Prokopyev specializes in Operations Research and develops tools and algorithms for describing complex, mathematical relationships in networks. Their collaboration began after Dr. Khanna used similar techniques and principles to model the London public transit system. Dr. Prokopyev recognized their common research interests, and the two decided to collaborate on the current project.Dr. Prokopyev says, “When looking at multiple objectives, most often efficiency with one thing will come at the expense of another. These are problems that don’t really have easy solutions, but there are mathematical ways to describe the processes and help people visualize how their decisions impact the network.”During the grant period, the researchers hope to identify “hot spots” for improvement opportunities and provide a range of solutions that minimize environmental impact and maximize the efficiency of resource production and consumption.“When your focus is sustainability, you always have a research application in mind,” says Dr. Khanna. “We face real life problems every day that require tradeoffs like quality for price or personal preference for availability. In the same way consumers can make better decision by being more informed, modeling the food, energy, and water networks will help to inform better decision making about our national resource policies by government, industry, utilities, and more.” ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jul
2
2018

Psychology and Engineering Team Up for Longitudinal Look at Brain Aging Disparities

Bioengineering

Reposted from PittWire. Read the original article here. Pitt professors of psychology Anna Marsland and Peter Gianaros have received a five-year Research Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health to revisit decade-old data from Pittsburgh residents. They’re trying to understand what aspects of health and the social environment matter for brain aging among middle-aged people. The work is part of a larger project that was initiated by Stephen Manuck, Distinguished University Professor of Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, called the Adult Health and Behavior Project. Now, Marsland and Gianaros are teaming up with associate professor of bioengineering and radiology Tamer Ibrahim, director of the Radiofrequency (RF) Research Facility, to bring as many of the initial participants back into the lab for testing as possible, 10 and 15 years after they were originally seen. The unique imaging technology developed in the RF Research Facility will let Marsland and Gianaros use an unconventional form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain in a level of detail that ordinary MRI techniques can’t achieve. With this new level of detail, the psychology-engineering team can link current features of brain health to prior information about inflammation, heart health and many other factors that influence memory, thinking, attention, and other phenomena sensitive to aging. Being able to predict brain aging starting in midlife could be critically important for prevention and intervention — helping reduce health disparities that follow a social and economic gradient, said Marsland. “We’re trying to encourage participants to stay involved.” Said Gianaros: “It’s important for us to show them how much we care about them and how important they are. If we see them one time, that’s great; they’ve made a contribution to science. But our interest is really more dynamic in how people change in their life. A snapshot is not the same thing as a movie.” Left to right: Pitt professors of psychology Anna Marsland and Peter Gianaros and associate professor of bioengineering and radiology Tamer Ibrahim are working together on a project studying brain aging.

Jun

Jun
27
2018

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards five novel biomedical projects with $105,000 in Round-1 2018 Pilot Funding

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (June 27, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $105,000 to five research groups through its 2018 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new vascular access device for use with stent grafts, an artificial tricuspid valve for treatment of right-heart disease, a shoe insert for treatment of foot pain, a biological treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, and a biofeedback system for mobility rehabilitation training. CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. This is our seventh year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty. AWARD 1: “E-mag system for Rapid Cannulation of Fenestrated Stent Grafts to Reduce Radiation Exposure” For the development of a vascular stent graft system that will magnetically guide cannulation of endograft branches. Bryan W. Tillman, MD, PhDDivision of Vascular Surgery Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Youngjae Chun, PhDAssociate Professor, Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 2: “Valved stent conduit for the treatment of severe advanced tricuspid regurgitation” For the development of an artificial tricuspid valve that will treat decreased right ventricular performance due to cardiac disease. Catalin Toma, MDAssistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Heart and Vascular Institute Youngjae Chun, PhD Associate Professor, Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 3: “PopSoleTM Foot Off-Loading Device” For the development of a shoe insert that will reduce foot pain due to fat pad atrophy in the feet. Jeffrey Gusenoff, MD Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Beth Gusenoff, DPM Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Kurt Beschorner, PhD Associate Professor, Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering Seyed Reza Moghaddam, PhDBioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering Steven Donahoe, MSBioengineering, Swanson School of EngineeringAWARD 4: “Local Induction of Tolerogenic T cells to Ameliorate Inflammation in Inflammatory Bowel Disease”For the development of a potent IBD therapy with fewer side effects than current medical therapy. R. Warren Sands MD, PhDT32 Clinical and Research Fellow, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Steven R. Little PhD William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering David G. Binion MD, AGAF, FACGProfessor of Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh Medical SchoolAWARD 5: “MOVISU-FIT: Mobile Wearable System for Real Time Visual Feedback and Gait Training”For the development of a system to provide real-time visual feedback to patients working on gait corrections during mobility rehabilitation training. Goeran Fiedler PhDAssistant Professor, Rehabilitation Science and Technology, UPMC William Clark, PhD Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Swanson School of Engineering David Brienza, PhD Professor, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Krista Kutina, DPT Researcher, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Alicia Koontz, PhD Associate Professor, Veterans Administration Hospital April Chambers, PhD Research Assistant Professor, Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering ### About the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical InnovationThe Center for Medical Innovation is a collaboration among the Swanson School of Engineering, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 60 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $1 million since inception.
Akhil Aniff, CMI Fellow
Jun
22
2018

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

Bioengineering

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

Jun
20
2018

ECE’s Aryana Nakhai Wins Society of Women Engineers Scholarship

Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

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

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

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

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

Jun
18
2018

Swanson School professors capture award to improve engineering instruction and learning

Electrical & Computer, Industrial

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

Jun
18
2018

When It Rains, It Pours for Pitt IE Awards

Industrial, Student Profiles

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

Postdoctoral Positions in Neural Engineering

Bioengineering, Open Positions

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

Jun
11
2018

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

Student Profiles

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

Capturing light in a waveguide array

Electrical & Computer

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

David Vorp named Fellow of the American Heart Association

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

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

Jun
4
2018

Katherine Hornbostel featured on WTAE for her breastfeeding device

MEMS

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

May

May
30
2018

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

Chemical & Petroleum

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

May
24
2018

Helping stroke survivors walk as normally as possible

Bioengineering

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

May
24
2018

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

Bioengineering

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

May
18
2018

Shoe Tread Research Gains Traction

Bioengineering

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

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

Civil & Environmental

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

Concerns about Pittsburgh infrastructure loom ahead of Amazon bid

Civil & Environmental

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

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

Bioengineering

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

May
15
2018

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

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

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

May
15
2018

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

All SSoE News, MEMS

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

May
9
2018

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

MEMS, Student Profiles

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

May
9
2018

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

Industrial

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

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

Chemical & Petroleum

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

May
3
2018

“Doping” to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Chemical & Petroleum

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

Apr

Apr
30
2018

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

Industrial

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

Apr
30
2018

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

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

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

A Reimagined Future for Sustainable Nanomaterials

Civil & Environmental

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

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

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

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

Apr
26
2018

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

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

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

Apr
26
2018

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

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

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

Apr
26
2018

McGowan Institute Director William Wagner Named Inventor of the Year

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

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

Opportunities to Lean Green Extend Beyond Sustainability Week

All SSoE News

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

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

Bioengineering

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

Apr
25
2018

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

Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

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

2018 Commencement Feature: David Matelan, Veteran and Snyder Scholar

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

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

Mining the Data

Civil & Environmental

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

Apr
24
2018

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

Electrical & Computer, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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

Apr
24
2018

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

Bioengineering

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

Apr
24
2018

CEE’s Melissa Bilec Wins Faculty Diversity Award

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

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

Swanson School announces winners of Spring 2018 Design Expo

All SSoE News

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

Apr
20
2018

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

Bioengineering

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

Apr
20
2018