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Apr

Apr
19
2019

Pitt ChemE Promotes Two to Associate Professor with Tenure

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 19, 2019) – Two professors in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering received promotions this week. John Keith, PhD, and Giannis (Yanni) Mpourmpakis, PhD, have both received promotions to Associate Professor with tenure. “John and Yanni have made outstanding contributions to the department, its students and our reputation,” says Steven R. Little, PhD, professor and chair of the department. “Their letters of support from around the world were truly inspiring, and they made the Promotion and Tenure Committee’s decision an easy one.” About John Keith: John A. Keith, PhD, is an R.K. Mellon Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. His Computational Chemistry lab studies atomic scale reaction mechanisms to understand how to design solar fuels catalysts, environmentally green chemicals, and anti-corrosion coatings. Dr. Keith earned his PhD in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and pursued postdoctoral research in electrochemistry at the University of Ulm in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. About Giannis Mpourmpakis: Giannis Mpourmpakis, PhD, is the Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. His Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELa) uses theory and computation to investigate the physiochemical properties of nanomaterials with potential applications in diverse nanotechnology areas, ranging from green energy generation and storage to materials engineering and catalysis. Dr. Mpourmpakis earned his PhD at Theoretical and Computational Chemistry from the University of Crete and was a Marie-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Delaware. ###
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
19
2019

Four Projects Receive Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation Seed Grants

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

PITTSBURGH (April 19, 2019) — The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has announced its 2019-2020 seed grant recipients. The grants support graduate student and post-doctoral fellows on one-year research projects that are focused on sustainability. “All of the projects we have selected this year have the potential to make a lasting, positive impact on the environment,” says Gena Kovalcik, co-director of the Mascaro Center. “The Mascaro Center is excited to support these core teams of researchers who are passionate about sustainability.” This year’s recipients are: Towards Using Microbes for Sustainable Construction Materials:  Feasibility StudySarah Haig, civil & environmental engineeringSteven Sachs, civil & environmental engineeringMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering*Jointly funded by MCSI and IRISE Chemical Recycling of Polyethylene to EthyleneEric Beckman, chemical & petroleum engineeringIoannis Bourmpakis, chemical & petroleum engineeringRobert Enick, chemical & petroleum engineeringGoetz Veser, chemical & petroleum engineering Investigating flexible piezoelectric materials with lower water pressuresKatherine Hornbostel, mechanical engineering & materials scienceMax Stephens, civil & environmental engineering Amplifying the efficiency of Tungsten Disulfide Thermoelectric DevicesFeng Xiong, electrical and computer engineering
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
19
2019

Freakonomics Spotlight

MEMS

Katherine Hornbostel, mechanical engineering assistant professor, was invited to be a guest on the popular podcast, Freakonomics Radio Live.  The offer came after a producer of the show came across an article published on the SSOE website last December.  The article described Hornbostel’s postdoctoral work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and her continued efforts at Pitt to find a safe, cheap and efficient method of carbon-capture. Hornbostel flew to New York City to be on the live show which was held at City Winery on March 9.  She was one of six guests on the episode called on stage to give a 15-minute interview with show creator Stephen Dubner and co-host Angela Duckworth (author of Grit, a NYT best seller). The show was recorded in front of a live audience of approximately 200 people. During her interview, which begins at 42:10, Hornbostel discusses using tiny capsules to capture carbon dioxide from the exhaust of a power plant. Hornbostel describes the method invented and studied by her team at LLNL: “…this particular combination — water and sodium carbonate — if you dissolve it in water, can react with carbon dioxide and extract it from a gas stream coming off a coal plant. And the really interesting thing that I’ve studied is that if you put these chemicals into little capsules that look like caviar, you can actually pack them into a reactor, attach it to a power plant, and selectively take out the carbon dioxide that’s being released from the exhaust.” Hornbostel and Dubner joked that the technology should be re-branded as “carbon capture caviar.” Hornbostel’s team at LLNL is currently working with small-scale partners, such as a biogas company and a microbrewery, to pilot this technology. Hornbostel’s group at Pitt is also researching how to use this “carbon capture caviar” to extract CO2 from the ocean to reverse acidification.
Meagan Lenze
Apr
18
2019

2019 Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship Awarded to Ryan Brody

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 18, 2019) — Ryan Brody, a first-year MS student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive this year’s Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship for $10,000. The scholarship is named for Peter Hammond, inventor of the Perfect Harmony drive and long-time engineer at Siemens who is now retired. Hammond’s Perfect Harmony drive is a high-power machine that controls the speed of large motors; today, it is a key part of Siemens’ medium voltage variable frequency drive portfolio. The resulting energy savings on large pumps, fans, compressors, and other industrial equipment have had an enormous environmental impact, the carbon footprint equivalent of removing millions of cars from the road. The annual scholarship, which is in its third year, is open to any student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School. Students must complete an application, supplementing it with an essay, letters of recommendation, a resume and their transcript. “Peter Hammond represents the inventive thinking and hard work that is central to engineering,” says Brandon Grainger, PhD, associate director of the Electric Power Systems Laboratory and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Swanson. “This scholarship selects students who are not only qualified academically but who also share those qualities that have made Peter a successful engineer.” The first Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship recipient was Jacob Friedrich, MS EE, who is currently working at Aptiv on electric vehicles; the second was Thomas Cook, BS, who is currently pursuing his MS at Swanson and plans to go on for a PhD. Brody says he values learning and wants to use his experience to find solutions to interesting, practical problems and to mentor others. He plans to complete his master’s degree and pursue a PhD, studying power conversion in electric vehicles. “I hope my research will find a simple, energy efficient, low-cost, lightweight active battery cell balancing system for electric vehicles by integrating the cell balancing circuitry into the drive-train power electronics,” says Brody. “I’m grateful that this scholarship will help me achieve my goals of becoming a researcher, professor and entrepreneur.” The scholarship was presented April 10, 2019 and included a presentation by Jason Hoover, director of business development at Siemens Industry, called “Using Digitalization for Motors and Drives to Improve Productivity in Process Industries.” “We’re pleased to invest in our collective future through the Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship,” says Hoover. “We know the recipients of this scholarship will go on to mold the future with the same passion and ingenuity that allowed Pete to imagine the Perfect Harmony and bring it to life.”
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
17
2019

The Promise of Nuclear Engineering at Pitt

MEMS, Nuclear

The nuclear industry in the U.S. is at a crossroads, as several plants are scheduled for permanent shutdown, including three in Pennsylvania, the second-largest nuclear energy-producing state. However, in his brief tenure at Pitt, Professor Heng Ban, director of the Swanson School’s Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering Program, sees opportunity ahead for students, alumni and faculty researchers. Dr. Ban joined Pitt in 2017 from Utah State University (USU), where he served as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and founding Director of the Center for Thermohydraulics and Material Properties. In addition to continuing to serve as principal investigator on a fuel safety research program at USU, he holds a research portfolio of nearly $1 million per year in nuclear-related research. He believes that Pittsburgh’s nuclear history – and Pitt’s distinctive program – allow the Swanson School to better compete in a global energy industry. “Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest power resources and is a vital component not only of our nation’s energy portfolio, but also the U.S. naval nuclear fleet and several countries around the world. Research is ongoing into additive manufacturing of nuclear components, smaller reactor systems as well as sensors and controls for reactor safety and machine learning for facility maintenance,” Dr. Ban says. “The Swanson School has assembled diverse faculty expertise in these areas, and so we can offer technological breakthroughs and outstanding graduates in field.” Pitt currently offers an undergraduate certificate and graduate certificate and master of science in nuclear engineering through the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Dr. Ban says that what sets the Swanson School program apart is the ability to draw upon adjunct faculty in the area who have direct ties to the nuclear industry. “Pittsburgh was the birthplace of the nuclear energy industry,” Dr. Ban notes. “The first peacetime nuclear reactor was built near here in Shippingport, and the first nuclear submarine engine was developed at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in West Mifflin. Those current and former employees have such a combined wealth of knowledge about the industry, and are a unique feature of our curriculum. Dr. Ban adds that since many of those engineers are nearing retirement, there is a great need for a new generation of nuclear employees. “From Bettis, Westinghouse, Bechtel Marine and so many other in the supply chain, employers are telling us not only that they need engineers, but are helping us structure the curriculum so that we educate the best engineer for the field.” And the research that students engage in spans the nuclear industry. For example, Dr. Ban’s research includes a large project with participation of Westinghouse, GE, Framatome, several universities and the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory on fuel safety and advanced sensor systems for a next-generation sodium-cooled test reactor in Idaho; Professors Albert To and Wei Xiong are working industry to optimize designs of 3-D printing of nuclear parts, Professor Jeffrey Vipperman is studying vibration detection while Kevin Chen is developing optical fiber sensors for reactor environments; Sangyeop Lee is focused on molecular dynamics computational studies for molten salt reactors, Daniel Cole is working with Rolls-Royce on nuclear plant operation using machine learning; and Katherine Hornbostel is developing system analysis tools. “As long as nuclear energy remains a reliable, clean, efficient and safe energy resource, we will have a greater need for the engineers who can be competitive in the global nuclear energy marketplace, as well as who can develop the next ground-breaking technologies,” Dr. Ban says. “And the Swanson School is at the nexus of this industry that is a critical part of our national safety, from power generation to defense, and a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions worldwide.” ### Associated Awards in Nuclear Engineering Predictive Solutions for Prevention and Mitigation of Corrosion in Support of Next Generation Logistics PI/Co-PI: Brian Gleeson (PI), Heng Ban (Co-PI), Qing-Ming Wang (Co-PI)Grant Source: Battelle Memorial InstituteGrant Amount: $1,145,931Grant Period: 04/20/2018 – 05/30/2018Preparatory Out-of-pile Lead Loop Experiments to Support Design of Irradiation Test Loop in VTR PI: Heng BanGrant Source: University of New Mexico/DOE Grant Amount: $150,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2019Transient Reactor (TREAT) Experiments to Validate MDM Fuel Performance Simulations PI: Heng BanGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,000,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018– 08/31/2020Preparatory Out-of-pile Lead Loop Experiments to Support Design of Irradiation Test Loop in VTR PI: Heng BanGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $450,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2019Integrating Dissolvable Supports, Topology Optimization, and Microstructure Design to Drastically Reduce Costs in Developing and Post-Processing Nuclear Plan Components by Laser-Based Powder Bed Additive Manufacturing PI: Albert To Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,000,000Grant Period: 10/01/2018 – 09/30/2021Advanced Manufacturing of Embedded Heat Pipe Nuclear Hybrid Reactor PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: ARPA-E through Los Alamos national LabGrant Amount: $200,000Grant Period: 2018-2021Self-regulating, Solid Core Block “SCB” for an Inherently Safe Heat Pipe Reactor PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: ARPA-E through Westinghouse Grant Amount: $670,000Grant Period: Oct. 2018 – Sept. 2021.Radiation Effects on Optical Fiber Sensor Fused Smart Alloy Parts with Graded Alloy Composition Manufactured by Additive Manufacturing Processes PI: Kevin Chen Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $1,250,000Grant Period: Oct. 2017 – Sept. 2020Nuclear Regulatory Commission Graduate Fellowship Award PI/Co-PI: Dan Cole (PI), Heng Ban (Co-PI)Grant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $450,000Grant Period: 2017-2020Nuclear Regulatory Commission Faculty Development Award PI: Dan ColeGrant Source: DOEGrant Amount: $300,000Grant Period: 2016-2019

Apr
17
2019

Nine Pitt Students Awarded 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH—Nine University of Pittsburgh students were awarded a 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Seven Pitt students and one alumnus also earned an honorable mention. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program is designed to ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce in the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $34,000 for three years, as well as a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees. The support accorded to NSF Graduate Research Fellows is intended to nurture awardees’ ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching. “Receipt of an NSF Fellowship award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our undergrad and graduate students, and to their faculty mentors and advisors. It is also one of the most highly recognized indicators of early success in a scientific research career,” said Nathan Urban, vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives at Pitt. “The University is committed to increasing support for future NSF-GRFP applicants through the application process while we congratulate this year’s winners.” Four Swanson School students received an award: Nathanial Buettner, a civil engineering undergraduate student, works in the Pavement Mechanics and Materials Laboratory where he aims to advance research on concrete pavements. Starting in summer 2019, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh under the advisement of Dr. Julie Vandenbossche. Charles Griego, a chemical engineering graduate student, works with Dr. John Keith to evaluate computational models used for high-throughput screening of catalysts that improve chemical processes. He graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 2017 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. He serves as President of Pitt’s Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association and plans to become a professor to fulfill his desire for teaching and inspiring students in STEM. Dulce Mariscal, a bioengineering graduate student, works in the lab of Gelsy Torres-Oviedo where she aims to identify biomechanical factors that modulate the generalization of treadmill learning to ultimately improve rehabilitation treatments for patients with gait impairments. She graduated from the Universidad del Turabo, PR in 2014 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Kalon Overholt, a bioengineering undergraduate student, has worked under the mentorship of Dr. Rocky Tuan in the Center for Cellular and Molecular Engineering (CCME) for the past three years. His research focused on developing a device to study how biochemical crosstalk between bone and cartilage may contribute to the mechanism of osteoarthritis. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology starting in fall 2019. Two Swanson School students received honorable mentions: Ethan Schumann graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He worked on medical device development with Dr. Jeffrey Vipperman at Pitt and hardware design and testing of a bipedal robot with Dr. C. David Remy at the University of Michigan. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Harvard University with Dr. Conor Walsh in the Biodesign Lab starting fall 2019. Sommer Anjum, a bioengineering graduate student, is pursuing a Ph.D. in the area of computational modeling and simulation. She works in the MechMorpho lab of Dr. Lance Davidson where she aims to develop computational models capturing the complex biophysical properties of developing organisms. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2018 with a degree in Biological Engineering, where she discovered her passion for trying to understand the behaviors of biological systems through computational models. Andrea Sajewski, an undergraduate student from Duquesne University who works with Dr. Tamer Ibrahim, was also awarded a fellowship. She will join the bioengineering graduate program in the fall and continue her magnetic resonance imaging research in the Radiofrequency Research Facility. Current Swanson School students who hold or previously held the NSF-GRFP award include, Sarah Hemler (BioE), Angelica Herrera (BioE), Monica Liu (BioE), Patrick Marino (BioE), Erika Pliner (BioE), Donald Kline (BioE), Megan Routzong (BioE), Michael Taylor (ChemE), Drake Pedersen (BioE), Natalie Austin (ChemE), Gerald Ferrer (BioE), Alexis Nolfi (BioE), Carly Sombric (BioE), and Elyse Stachler (CEE). ###

Apr
16
2019

BioE graduate students capture top prizes at the Pitt Three Minute Thesis competition

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 16, 2019) … After their success in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, bioengineering graduate students Piyusha Gade and Gerald Ferrer participated in the university-wide event hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Office of the Provost on April 1, 2019. Gade was awarded first place while Ferrer captured the runner-up prize and the People’s Choice award. The Pitt 3MT competition was held during National Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week, a celebration to emphasize the contributions, impact, and value of graduate and professional students on campuses throughout the United States. The Provost’s Office presented four prizes for the 3MT competition: first place was awarded a $1000 travel grant, two runner-ups were each awarded a $500 travel grant, and for the first time at Pitt, a $1000 travel grant was awarded to a People’s Choice winner. “I am proud that both Piyusha and Gerald received awards at the university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Nickolas A. Dececco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “We try to prepare our Swanson School students for successful careers in STEM, and effective communication is an important but often overlooked part of that.” Gade, who placed first in both the Pitt and Swanson School 3MT competition, is a bioengineering a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Anne Robertson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. She presented her research which involves rationally designing in situ engineered vascular grafts in young and aged hosts. “Piyusha is an outstanding researcher – extremely smart, innovative and versatile,” Robertson said. “She is always ready to take on new challenges, both intellectually and professionally. I am so proud of Piyusha and her accomplishment!” Ferrer, who was a runner-up in the Swanson School competition, presented his work from the Orthopaedic Robotics Lab of Dr. Richard Debski, professor of bioengineering. His current research is focused on quantifying location specific mechanical properties in tendons using different ultrasound techniques and understanding key biomechanical factors that influence rotator cuff tear propagation through computational models. "I enjoyed the challenge of communicating the significance and impact of our research in a way that everyone - regardless of their background - could understand and relate to, all in under 3 minutes,” Ferrer said. “Being able to communicate with a diverse audience is important because it allows us to bridge the gap between scientists and nonscientists thus increasing awareness of the societal impact of your research.” The 3MT Competition, developed by The University of Queensland, is designed to encourage students to communicate the importance of their research to the broader community. Since its launch in 2008, the 3MT competition has expanded to 67 countries, and events are currently held at more than 600 universities worldwide. ###

Apr
15
2019

Happy Retirement for Two MEMS Faculty Members

MEMS

The Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science department celebrated the retirements of two full professors this year at the faculty meeting last Friday. • Anthony DeArdo: Deardo spent 43 years teaching at Pitt, plus one year as an emeritus professor. He served as director of Pitt’s Basic Metals Processing Research Institute (BAMPRI).  He has received numerous awards, included one at the Prof. A.J. DeArdo Symposium on Microalloyed Steels, International Conf. Thermec, Las Vegas, 2013. • Gerald Meier: Meier served 49 years at Pitt, plus one year as an emeritus professor.  He published two successful books, Introduction to the High-Temperature Oxidation of Metals in 2006 and Thermodynamics of Surfaces and Interfaces: Concepts in Inorganic Materials in 2014. The MEMS department would like to congratulate Tony and Jerry on successful careers!
Meagan Lenze
Apr
12
2019

Swanson School Professor Leanne Gilbertson receives ASEE Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 12, 2019) … Leanne Gilbertson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was selected to receive the Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Women in Engineering Division (WIED). The award recognizes her contributions to engineering education and will provide travel to the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida, June 15-19. The Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant honors and supports women who at the beginning of their academic career have the potential to contribute to the engineering education community and support the mission of WIED. In 2019 a total of four awards were presented to female faculty and students who have a demonstrated commitment to innovation in teaching and/or potential for substantial contributions to the field. Gilbertson earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Yale University in 2014 with support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. She joined Pitt in 2015 after completing her postdoctoral research in Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Hamilton College in 2007 and was a secondary school teacher for several years before going to graduate school. Gilbertson’s research group aims to inform sustainable design of existing and novel materials to avoid potential unintended environmental and human health consequences while maintaining functional performance goals. Her research includes both experimental and life cycle modeling thrusts. “Leanne is an advocate for STEM education and is dedicated to making science and engineering fun, challenging, and accessible to students of all ages,” said Radisav Vidic, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. “Through her research, coursework, and mentorship, she has been a major asset to our department and the Swanson School. She is most deserving of this award!” ### Background of Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant Dr. Mara H. Wasburn (February 22, 1941 –  March 27, 2011) was a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership/Supervision at Purdue University; her work on mentoring is recognized worldwide. Her mentoring model, Strategic Collaboration, was copyrighted and has been applied to both business and academic environments internationally. Dr. Wasburn was very active in ASEE, particularly in WIED. Through this grant, we honor Dr. Wasburn's commitment to mentoring and the academic advancement of women in engineering/technology. The applicants and awardees represent an embodiment of Dr. Wasburn’s legacy.

Apr
11
2019

New Research Adds to Work of Prandtl, Father of Modern Aerodynamics

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... In 1942, Ludwig Prandtl—considered the father of modern aerodynamics—published “Führer durch die Strömungslehre,” the first book of its time on fluid mechanics and translated to English from the German language in 1952 as “Essentials of Fluid Dynamics.” The book was uniquely successful such that Prandtl’s students continued to maintain and develop the book with new findings after his death. Today, the work is available under the revised title “Prandtl—Essentials of Fluid Mechanics,” as an expanded and revised version of the original book with contributions by leading researchers in the field of fluid mechanics. Over the years, the last three pages of Prandtl’s original book, focusing on mountain and valley winds, have received some attention from the meteorology research community, but the specific pages have been largely overlooked by the fluid mechanics community to the point that the content and the exact mathematical solutions have disappeared in the current expanded version of the book. But today in the age of supercomputers, Inanc Senocak, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is finding new insights in Prandtl’s original work, with important implications for nighttime weather prediction in mountainous terrain.Drs. Senocak and Cheng-Nian Xiao, a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Senocak’s lab, recently authored a paper titled “Stability of the Prandtl Model for Katabatic Slope Flows,” published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (DOI: 10.1017/jfm.2019.132). The researchers used both linear stability theory and direct numerical simulations to uncover, for the first time, fluid instabilities in the Prandtl model for katabatic slope flows. Katabatic slope flows are gravity-driven winds common over large ice sheets or during nighttime on mountain slopes, where cool air flows downhill. Understanding those winds are vital for reliable weather predictions, which are important for air quality, aviation and agriculture. But the complexity of the terrain, the stratification of the atmosphere and fluid turbulence make computer modeling of winds around mountains difficult. Since Prandtl’s model does not set the conditions for when a slope flow would become turbulent, that deficiency makes it difficult, for example, to predict weather for the area around Salt Lake City in Utah, where the area’s prolonged inversions create a challenging environment for air quality.“Now that we have more powerful supercomputers, we can improve upon the complexity of the terrain with better spatial resolutions in the mathematical model,” says Dr. Senocak. “However, numerical weather prediction models still make use of simplified models that have originated during a time when computing power was insufficient.”The researchers found that while Prandtl’s model is prone to unique fluid instabilities, which emerge as a function of the slope angle and a new dimensionless number, they have named the stratification perturbation parameter as a measure of the disturbance to the background stratification of the atmosphere due to cooling at the surface. The concept of dimensionless numbers, for example the Reynolds number, plays an important role in thermal and fluid sciences in general as they capture the essence of competing processes in a problem.An important implication of their finding is that, for a given fluid such as air, dynamic stability of katabatic slope flows cannot simply be determined by a single dimensionless parameter alone, such as the Richardson number, as is practiced currently in the meteorology and fluids dynamics community. The Richardson number expresses a ratio of buoyancy to the wind shear and is commonly used in weather prediction, investigating currents in oceans, lakes and reservoirs, and measuring expected air turbulence in aviation.“An overarching concept was missing, and the Richardson number was the fallback,” says Dr. Senocak. “We’re not saying the Richardson number is irrelevant, but when a mountain or valley is shielded from larger scale weather motions, it doesn’t enter into the picture. Now we have a better way of explaining the theory of these down-slope and down-valley flows.”Not only will this discovery be important for agriculture, aviation and weather prediction, according to Dr. Senocak, but it will also be vital for climate change research and associated sea-level rise, as accurate prediction of katabatic surface wind profiles over large ice sheets and glaciers is critical in energy balance of melting ice. He notes that even in the fluids dynamics community, the discovery of this new surprising type of instability is expected to arouse a lot of research interest.Next, Dr. Senocak is advising and sponsoring a senior design team to see if researchers can actually observe these fluid instabilities in the lab at a scale much smaller than a mountain. ### The paper was published online in February and will appear in print April 25, 2019. Acknowledgements Research was sponsored by the Army Research Office and was accomplished under Grant no. W911NF-17-1-0564 with Dr J. G. Baryzk as the program manager. This research was supported in part by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research Computing through the resources provided.
Maggie Pavlick, Senior Communications Writer
Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Presents Ruthann Omer with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is Ruthann Omer, P.E., BSCE ‘83, President and CEO of Omer Advisors. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “For more than 150 years, civil engineering alumni from Pitt have made outstanding contributions to society and human life, and Ruthann is no exception,” said Dean Martin. “We would like to recognize her for her impact on the field of civil engineering in the region, as well as her philanthropic support of the next generation of women engineers.” About Ruthann L. Omer Ms. Ruthann Omer was the President of The Gateway Engineers, for 25 years where she helped create and implement successful business strategies. The company has over 150 employees and three offices in the region. Ms. Omer spent over three decades serving on the Board of Directors while also managing a wide range of civil engineering projects for seven municipalities in Southwestern PA. She has broken barriers in the engineering business as the first female municipal engineer in Allegheny County. As a female executive in a historically male-lead industry, Ms. Omer implemented creative strategies that allowed a boutique local engineering firm to grow into a full service engineering company that ranked consistently among the ENR’s top 500 A/E firms. Ms. Omer was the youngest graduate of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Leadership Pittsburgh Program Year VIII. After taking her EIT in college, she went on to obtain her Professional Engineers license from Pennsylvania. She has received numerous accolades for her achievements including the “Pennsylvania State Engineer of the Year” and the “Pittsburgh Business Times Woman of Influence Award,” and is touted as an expert in local government relations and infrastructure systems regional planning and implementation. After 40 years with Gateway Engineers, Ms. Omer retired and started another consulting firm, Omer Advisors, Inc., where she continues to work in the government relations field. ###

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Presents Hanwant Singh with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering is Hanwant Singh, MS ’70, PhD ChE ‘72, Scientist (retired) at the NASA Ames Research Center and Director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory at SRI. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “For the past 25 years, Dr. Singh has applied the knowledge he gained from the Indian Institute of Technology and Pitt to better understand the composition and chemistry of our atmosphere,” said Dean Martin. “We would like to acknowledge him for his contributions in the field of climate science and in recognition of his research legacy at NASA.” About Hanwant B. Singh Hanwant Singh graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi, India in 1968 and earned his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972. He completed further postdoctoral research at Rutgers University. His research focus shifted from engineering to the environment. His primary research goal has been to better understand the impact of human activities on the chemistry and climate of the earth's atmosphere through direct observations and data analysis. Together with his co-workers, Dr. Singh has published over 220 scientific papers (h-index: 84; 21000 citations) and one textbook in this area. An environmental focus has provided him the opportunity to dedicate his efforts towards a highly relevant societal concern as well as the privilege of collaborating with partners from around the world. He shared the HJ Allen Prize for best paper with Nobel Laureate P. Crutzen. Prior to his recent retirement, Dr. Singh led a group of scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center and was a Director of the Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory at SRI, formerly the Stanford Research Institute. Dr. Singh believes the rigorous scientific training he received at the University of Pittsburgh has provided him with the solid foundation to embrace new ideas and challenges. Being recognized by the Chemical Engineering Department and receiving the “225 medallion” from the University of Pittsburgh are “momentous.” ###

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering Presents Thomas Gilbert with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Bioengineering is Thomas Gilbert, PhD BioE ‘06, Chief Science Officer at ACell, Inc. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “Dr. Gilbert’s research in scaffold materials for regenerative medicine led him to faculty positions in surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and bioengineering here at Pitt,” said Dean Martin. “His fascinating work shows how the engineering principals we studied for complex systems can just as easily, and successfully, be applied to healing the human body.” About Thomas W. Gilbert Thomas Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Gilbert has served as Chief Science Officer at ACell, a leading regenerative medicine company, since 2015 and provides leadership to the Research and Development, Clinical Research, and Quality organizations.  In this role, Dr. Gilbert has responsibility for the continuum of product development from concept through clinical evaluation, with careful attention given to regulatory requirements.  Previously, he served as ACell’s Vice President of Research and Development from 2012-2015. During his time at ACell, Dr. Gilbert has provided technical and organizational leadership, and has overseen renewal within each of his departments. Before joining ACell, Dr. Gilbert was Assistant Professor of Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh as well as a faculty member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His research includes the study of processing and use of extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold materials for the development of regenerative medicine strategies in a variety of body systems. Dr. Gilbert has co-authored several book chapters and more than sixty peer-reviewed articles. In addition, he has received five patents related to ECM technology. His research funding sources include the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He has also worked as a Metallurgist for the Perryman Company in Houston, PA. ###

Apr
11
2019

The Swanson School Presents David Toth with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

All SSoE News, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) ... This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. The distinguished alumnus chosen to represent the Swanson School of Engineering overall in 2019 is David Toth, BSEE ’78, President and CEO (retired) of NetRatings, Inc. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards.  James R. Martin II, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “We may not think about it, but in some ways the Internet itself is not a product. It is a conduit, a medium. And we are not its customers,” said Dean Martin. “We, its users, are the product, and David and his peers were the first to realize that how people use the internet could provide an amazing amount of information, maybe even more so than more traditional media such as television, magazines, and newspapers.” About David Toth Mr. Toth, the Swanson School’s Distinguished Alumnus, has held several senior executive roles throughout his career. He co-founded NetRatings, Inc. in 1997 and served as President & CEO, leading the company to its position as the foremost provider of Internet audience information and analysis. Mr. Toth formed strategic partnerships with Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen; together, the three companies developed Nielsen//NetRatings service, the leading global Internet Audience Measurement service with deployments in 29 countries throughout the world. Prior to forming NetRatings, Mr. Toth was Vice President at Hitachi Computer Products where he led the Network Products Group and was responsible for the development, sales and marketing of numerous hardware and software products. Other former affiliations include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Interlink Computer Sciences and PPG Industries. Mr. Toth is currently a member of the Board of Directors at HiveIO, LeadCrunch.AI, and GutCheckIt.com. He was formerly a Director at NexTag (acquired by Providence Equity Partners), TubeMogul (acquired by Adobe) and Edgewater Networks (acquired by Ribbon Communications). In 2003, Mr. Toth was recognized as the Swanson School Distinguished Alumnus for the Department of Electrical Engineering, having graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1978. ###

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Presents Robert Van Naarden with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is Robert Van Naarden, BSEE ’69, CEO of Delta Thermo Energy. The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “We like to ask our alumni what they remember most while at Pitt, and Robert said that his Pitt engineering education ‘prepared me for the real world not only for design engineering, which is how I started my engineering career, but even more importantly the discipline of critical thinking,’” says Dean Martin. “That education is apparent from the many things Robert has achieved—from the first minicomputer that he worked on in 1970 to the leadership in sustainable energy he provides today.” About Robert Van Naarden Robert Van Naarden began his technology career after earning Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering (University of Pittsburgh) and Master of Science degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. While pursuing his PhD he was offered a position with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to design defense critical systems computers. He was on the original design team of the PDP 11, which became the world’s most successful mini-computer. After migrating through various engineering and engineering management roles, he originated the idea to design and bring to market the world’s first microcomputer, the PDP 16, based partially on the successful PDP 11 design. He grew to be the youngest Profit and Loss Group Manager at DEC and managed its fastest growing business. While in Philadelphia, Mr. Van Naarden earned an Executive Master of Business Administration degree at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by Digital. In 1979, he co-founded Convergent Technologies (CT). CT became the fastest growing company in the computer industry. He and his partner at Convergent started another company, Ardent Computer, which was focused on the single user supercomputer space. After four years, the company merged with its principal competitor, Stellar Computer, to form Stardent Computer. Two years later, at Rob’s direction, the company was sold by splitting it up into its four components/divisions. Mr. Van Naarden moved on to start and fix a variety of other companies: Supermac, Firepower, Netframe, AMT, Sensar and Authentidate, where he started the company as its founder and CEO. In 2004, Mr. Van Naarden became CEO of Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc, turning it into a profitable company within nine months after running at a loss for seven years. After four years, Mr. Van Naarden returned to his roots in technology and is currently the CEO of Delta Thermo Energy an alternative energy company which uses innovative technologies for converting waste materials to energy. Mr. Van Naarden also serves as a General Partner at BVB Capital Group and on the boards of several technology companies. ###

Apr
11
2019

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

Industrial

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

Apr
11
2019

Swanson School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Presents Kevin McAllister with 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 11, 2019) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course, graduation from the University of Pittsburgh. This year’s recipient for the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science is Kevin McAllister, BSMEMS ‘ 86, executive vice president of The Boeing Company and president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). The six individuals representing each of the Swanson School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin, US Steel Dean of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at Pitt in the fall. “An degree in MEMS from Pitt is an invitation to create and influence things that affect our everyday lives, and Kevin is a great example of that,” says Dean Martin. “The knowledge and skills he learned here at Swanson gave him a solid foundation. From his aviation work at GE and Boeing to his role as Chairman of the Board of Directors of ORBIS International, dedicated to preserving and restoring eyesight worldwide, he’s expanding he is influential both on and off the tarmac.” About Kevin McAllister Kevin McAllister is Executive Vice President of The Boeing Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). He is a member of Boeing’s Executive Council and serves as Boeing’s senior executive in the Pacific Northwest. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. Named BCA president and CEO in November 2016, he is responsible for delivering on a record backlog and overseeing the growth of its commercial airplane programs. Before joining Boeing, McAllister was President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Aviation Services, a more than $9-billion business committed to helping operators of the more than 34,000 GE and CFM commercial engines achieve the lowest lifecycle cost of ownership via a fully customizable suite of products and offerings. Prior to leading GE Aviation Services, McAllister was Vice President and General Manager, Global Sales and Marketing, leading record growth in the GE Aviation backlog. He was appointed an officer of the General Electric Company in 2008 and was appointed as a member of GE Company's Corporate Executive Council in 2013. He was honored with the Chairman's Leadership Award in 2012 and Heroes of Growth Award in 2010. McAllister first joined GE Aviation Services in 1998 as a Master Black Belt leading Six Sigma productivity improvements across the global network of Component Repair Operations. Later that year, he was selected to lead Six Sigma program across Services, including Overhaul & Repair Operations, Materials, Engineering and Marketing & Sales. In 2000, he became General Manager of a newly formed GE Engines Services Customer Satisfaction Organization. From 2001 to 2005, McAllister was general manager of global Customer & Product Support Operations. McAllister joined GE Aviation from Howmet Corporation in 1989 and held various materials engineering leadership roles. ###

Apr
10
2019

Quality Tour, Quality Steels

MEMS

Five faculty members, three graduate students and thirteen undergraduates traveled to New Castle, PA last Saturday to visit Ellwood Quality Steels (EQS), part of the Ellwood Group.  Three of the tour guides were recent graduates from the MEMS Department, including Brendon Connolly, who helped organize the trip. Connolly is the manager of steelmaking technology at EQS and is also a member of the MEMS Department’s Visiting Committee. The tour began with a video introducing the company and facilities as well as providing safety information.  After suiting up in personal protective equipment, the group then visited the electric arc furnace (EAF) shop, the ingot pouring area, the forging area, and a new building nearing completion, which will house new electroslag remelting (ESR), vacuum arc remelting (VAR), and grinding facilities. The tour concluded with a question and answer session, where the three Pitt graduates spoke about their experiences working in the steel industry and what a typical day working at EQS entails. The tour was a very positive experience for everyone involved.  Materials science and engineering junior, Joseph Damian, describes the trip, “I really enjoyed the tour, it was interesting to see some of the processes that I learned about in my classes in person.  I was surprised by how big the furnaces, ladles, and ingots were and how much power the plant consumed.  The tour guides were also very knowledgeable about the operations of the plant and offered valuable information about the equipment and processes.  Overall, it was a great experience.”

Apr
9
2019

Pitt Chem-E-Car Team Qualifies for National Competition in the Fall

All SSoE News, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2019) — Undergraduate students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering brought two cars sailing to the finish line in this year’s Regional Chem-E-Car Competition at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) MidAtlantic Regional Student Conference. Their placements qualify them to compete in the AIChE Chem-E-Car International Competition at the AIChE Annual Conference, held in Orlando, Fla., in November. The Pitt team placed third and fifth for their two cars out of the 23 raced in the competition.  The qualifying teams are: 1.Virginia Tech 2.Stony Brook University3.University of Pittsburgh4.City College of New York 5.University of Pittsburgh (2)6.Rutgers University The Chem-E-Car Competition requires student teams to create a small car with chemical propulsion and stopping mechanisms such that it will travel a specified distance and carry a payload (0-500 ml of water). Prior to the competition, all teams had to complete safety training and testing and submit an engineering documentation package. Teams also had to provide a poster detailing the research they conducted for the creation of their car and pass the safety inspection to ensure that their car will compete safely. “The team was able to successfully create not only one car that placed in the top five, but two. It’s an impressive feat that they should be proud of,” says Taryn Bayles, PhD, vice chair for education and professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Swanson School. “We’re excited to see what the competition in November brings.” On the day of the competition, the team received their chemicals and were provided the distance that their car must travel, which was 56 feet this year. The MidAtlantic Regional Student Conference, which included institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, took place April 5-7, 2019, at Penn State University. Pitt’s Chem-E-Car team is made of a diverse group of students who range from freshmen to seniors with majors in chemical engineering, biology, and electrical and computer engineering. Chem-E-Car team members who were at the Regional Conference include:  Michael Bosley, Michael Bremer, Simon Cao, Claibourne Countess, Jean Fiore, Nicholas Hages, Pamela Keller, Harold Moll, Kevin Padgett, Anthony Popovski, Charles Robinson, Mor Shimshi, Grace Watson and Shiva Yagobian. The team was sponsored by Lubrizol and BASF. In addition to the ChemE Car competition, the ChemE Jeopardy team competed against 18 other teams, and after three rounds of competition made it to the finals to face teams from UPenn and Johns Hopkins. Jeopardy team members included Michael Bremer, Kenton Quach, Charles Robinson and Nicholas Youwakim.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
9
2019

Maria Jantz Receives the 2019 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Award

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 9, 2019) … Maria Jantz, a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was selected to receive the 2019 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship Award. The competitive fellowship, which received more than 2,900 applications, recognizes academic excellence in STEM fields and awards up to three years of full tuition, a monthly stipend, health insurance, and a travel budget for research-related training and/or conferences. Jantz received her undergraduate degree in physics at Goshen College, where she developed an interest in prostheses. Following college, she worked with Professors Lee Miller and Matthew Tresch at Northwestern University to use functional electrical stimulation to restore locomotion following spinal cord injuries. She has continued to explore these interests at Pitt and joined the lab of Robert Gaunt, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, where she studies epidural stimulation of the spinal cord to improve bladder control. “After spinal cord injuries, bladder control is one of the most important functions people want to have restored,” said Jantz. “By applying electrical stimulation to the surface of the spinal cord, we can activate nerves in that region to produce bladder reflexes that improve continence and voiding. “Spinal cord stimulation is a really exciting area of research with a lot of possibilities that we are only now figuring out, and I'm very happy to be a part of that,” Jantz continued. “With an application in bladder control, specifically, I get to improve an issue that many people deal with daily that regularly goes unaddressed, and I think it's really important to meet that need.” In 2018 Jantz was awarded an honorable mention from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and was the recipient of the best oral presentation award from the Society for Pelvic Research. “I feel very fortunate to have Maria working in my lab on a problem that is such a significant issue for so many people,” said Gaunt. “This award recognizes Maria’s outstanding talents and abilities, and I’m really looking forward to see what she is able to accomplish with this generous support!” ###

Apr
8
2019

NSF Awards $500,000 to Pitt and CMU for Engineering Research on Thermoelectric Devices

All SSoE News, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 8, 2019) — As much as half of all U.S. energy production each year is lost as waste heat, but new research led by the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, seeks to make converting that heat back into usable electricity more efficient. Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School, and Jonathan Malen, professor of mechanical engineering at CMU, received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric semiconductor using tungsten disulfide to convert waste heat into energy. Using a novel doping approach, they will enhance the tungsten disulfide’s electrical conductivity while lowering its thermal conductivity—it will be able to efficiently conduct electricity without conducting heat. Tungsten disulfide is thin and flexible, making it a promising new option with diverse potential uses. “Once we’ve developed an effective technique to improve thermoelectric efficiency, it will pave the way for the wide use of thermoelectric devices to scavenge heat from sources such as electronics and even the human body,” says Dr. Xiong. “A two-dimensional semiconductor like this would be useful for everything from high-performance 2D transistors to wearable electronics that harvest body heat for power.” The project length is three years, with a possible extension into a fourth. The award is split between Dr. Xiong’s lab ($270,000) and Dr. Malen’s lab ($230,000). The team will work closely with local communities to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore engineering careers and foster interest in nanotechnology. Outreach efforts will include lab demonstrations, summer internships and career workshops. “Climate change is a pressing concern in today’s world, and developing ways to use our resources more efficiently is critical,” says Dr. Xiong. “Converting waste heat into electricity could improve energy efficiency dramatically and sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Through this project, we hope to encourage the next generation to explore even more innovative options for energy.”
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
8
2019

University of Pittsburgh Appoints Medtech Executive and Alumnus Scott Morley as Director of its Coulter@Pitt Medtech Accelerator

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (April 8, 2019) ... Building upon its successes in translational biomedical research and commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh, the Swanson School of Engineering has named Scott Morley as Director of its Coulter@Pitt medtech accelerator program.  Morley succeeds Allison Formal who left the University in February to pursue new opportunities outside of the region. Morley is a seasoned life sciences executive with broad experience in technology development, clinical trials, regulatory strategy, marketing, and sales.  He began his career at ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device company spun out from the University of Pittsburgh.  As ALung’s fourth employee, he quickly rose to become the lead engineer responsible for design and development of ALung’s artificial lung technology, the Hemolung RAS, which was originally developed in the lab of Bioengineering Professor William Federspiel. Morley went on to lead clinical studies in India and Germany resulting in global product approvals. Simultaneously, he built a new therapeutic market for the technology, establishing ALung’s leadership position through a strategy of clinical collaboration with global key opinion leaders and medical societies. After running a global product launch, Morley oversaw the start of ALung’s VENT-AVOID Trial, a 40-center pivotal IDE trial aimed at securing US FDA approval. Most recently, he founded 3Rivers MedTech LLC, providing innovation and commercialization services to the medtech industry. Morley is a two-time graduate of the University of Pittsburgh having earned a BS from the Swanson School of Engineering (Bioengineering) and an MBA from Katz Graduate School of Business (Marketing).  “We are excited to welcome Scott back to Pitt,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of of Bioengineering. “Scott brings extensive experience in developing and commercializing medical devices from bench to the bedside, and our translational research teams across campus will be well served by his expertise.” In tandem with his duties as the Coulter@Pitt Program Director, Morley is also an Entrepreneur in Residence with the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute where he is supporting the commercialization of life science innovations with a focus on medical devices and diagnostics. “There is a great collaboration between the Coulter Program and the Innovation Institute,” said Evan Facher, Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Innovation Institute. “Scott’s dual-role on campus will only further strengthen our partnership as we collaborate to build a robust engine for commercialization of Pitt’s biomedical technologies.” “Pitt has taken great strides to develop a new culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Morley. “University research is a primary catalyst for growth of the Pittsburgh life sciences industry. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to work with our partners across Pitt and the region as we seek to drive important advances in healthcare to successful commercialization for the benefit of patients and our regional economy.” ### About the Coulter@Pitt Program The Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program (Coulter@Pitt) is a University based accelerator which helps faculty researchers translate their innovations to commercialization. By way of a competitive grant program, training processes, and collaborative services, University technologies are de-risked and viable commercial pathways identified. Coulter@Pitt extensively engages with business partners, mentors and clinical experts to bring industry perspectives to translational research. In 7+ years, the Coulter Program has attracted over 260 applications and funded 36 projects leading to eight Pitt start-up companies and 5 licenses. About the Department of Bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering Bioengineering is the application of engineering principles to analyze native biological systems and to design and manufacture tools, structures, and processes for solving problems in the life sciences. Successful patient-focused and commercialization-oriented collaborations between engineers and physicians who traditionally employ differing methodologies are critical to the burgeoning field and to regional economic development. Pitt's Department of Bioengineering, established in 1998 as part of the Swanson School of Engineering and ranked as one of the nation's top bioengineering programs, is credited for developing many major biomedical technologies: cardiac-assist device for infants, a blood-treatment tool that can free patients from ventilator dependence, materials that help regenerate various tissues and organs, to name a few. About the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute Established in 2013, The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute is the University’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.  The Innovation Institute provides a comprehensive suite of services for Pitt Innovators, from protecting intellectual property to the commercialization of new discoveries through licensing and/or new enterprise development. The Institute also provides a wealth of educational programming, mentoring and networking for Pitt faculty, students and partners. The Innovation Institute strengthens the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt and is eager to facilitate and support entrepreneurial initiatives across the university and beyond. It is also invites alumni, entrepreneurs and industry partners to collaborate with our faculty and students to help achieve societal impact through commercialization.
Lindsay Rodzwicz, Coulter@Pitt Manager
Apr
5
2019

Pitt Faculty Awarded $175,000 NSF RAPID Grant to Study Effects of PWSA’s Anti-Corrosion Measures

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 5, 2019) — Two professors at the University of Pittsburgh received an NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant for $175,000 to study the environmental effects of new anti-corrosion treatments currently being used on Pittsburgh’s lead pipes. Like many cities across the country, Pittsburgh’s water system still uses some lead pipes, and over time, those can corrode, leaching lead into the drinking water system. To combat this, the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) is introducing orthophosphate into Pittsburgh’s water system, which will coat the insides of the lead pipes and help prevent the harmful corrosion. PWSA produces approximately 70 million gallons of treated drinking water per day, which meets all EPA Safe Drinking Water Act standards. Orthophosphate is a food-grade additive that has been shown to be more effective than the soda ash and lime previously used for PWSA’s corrosion control. Sarah Haig, PhD, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering with a secondary appointment in Environmental and Occupational Health at the Graduate School of Public Health, and Emily Elliott, PhD, associate professor of Geology and Environmental Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Director of the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory, will evaluate water samples provided by the PWSA. They will assess and monitor changes in the microbial ecology, water chemistry and nutrient availability in the water collected from pipes and urban streams connected to the system. The grant was awarded April 1, 2019, and the project is expected to last about one year. Orthophosphate has been approved by the EPA and used in drinking water systems across the world, but there is a need to study phosphate levels in the environment. “Pittsburgh’s drinking water pipe system loses more than 25 million gallons per day due to leaks and other water discharges, so it’s important to understand what happens if orthophosphate enters the groundwater and surface water” says Dr. Haig. “This grant will allow us to set a baseline and evaluate any changes that the added orthophosphate causes to streams connected to the system.” “NSF RAPID grants help researchers respond when data needs to be collected urgently to address an important scientific issue” said Matt Kane, a program director at the National Science Foundation, which funded this research.  “Dr. Haig and her team need to respond immediately to be able to understand the impact of the orthophosphate additions on Pittsburgh’s aquatic ecosystems.” Though PWSA’s larger goal of replacing all of the lead pipes is already underway, it will take years to complete. In the meantime, the addition of orthophosphate is expected to reduce lead levels in drinking water across the system. PWSA began feeding orthophosphate to the drinking water on April 2nd. “This project will help answer fundamental ecological questions about how leaking infrastructure can impact nutrient cycling and aquatic ecosystems in urban streams,” says Dr. Haig. “Not only will this project reveal the treatment’s immediate effects on Pittsburgh’s ecosystems, but it will also provide insights that will benefit other cities implementing this treatment.”
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
5
2019

Bioengineering’s Role in Regenerative Medicine

Bioengineering

Starfish can repair injured arms and reptiles can regrow severed tails; from bacteria to humans, every species is capable of regeneration, albeit to variable extents. These functions help make species more resilient, but how can we apply the knowledge of these regenerative mechanisms to improve human health? The University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering has been collaboratively working to address this question through research efforts in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In 1981, upon the arrival of Dr. Thomas E. Starzl at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh quickly became world-renowned in transplantation. This helped put Pittsburgh on the map in the medical community, eventually leading to increased interest in artificial organs and the establishment of the McGowan Center for Artificial Organ Development in 1992. This Center, which later became the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, continues to flourish and develop therapies that reestablish tissue and organ function impaired by disease, trauma, or congenital abnormalities. The McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine (MIRM) received its current title in 2001 when the Center's mission was expanded to include tissue engineering, adult-derived stem cell and wound healing research, and several other areas of investigation. “We could have carried on with medical device and artificial organ research, but we recognized that we wanted to address the problem – organ and tissue failure – and begin to develop a wider range of technologies,” said William R. Wagner, PhD, director of MIRM and professor of surgery at Pitt. Dr. Wagner, who joined the University in 1991, saw his own research begin to evolve beyond artificial organs. He studied blood coagulation from an engineering perspective, which turned out to be useful in understanding why artificial hearts were forming blood clots, but he later wanted to move beyond artificial hearts and look at ways to make tissue for cardiac repair. His research group currently focuses on developing cardiovascular technologies, with projects that address medical device biocompatibility and design, hypothesis-driven biomaterials development, tissue engineering, and targeted imaging. Dr. Wagner believes that advancements in regenerative medicine require a collaborative effort in which bioengineering plays a large role. “An interdisciplinary approach is what makes the McGowan Institute thrive,” he said. “The problem we are trying to solve is what happens when a part of the body is no longer working. A clinical viewpoint is necessary, but medical training doesn’t give you an engineer’s perspective of design and manufacturing. You need a solid foot in both camps to make progress.” This approach is well-suited for the University of Pittsburgh, which ranked fourth among U.S. universities in funding by the National Institutes of Health in FY 2018. These research opportunities are complemented by the world-renowned University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has helped to create a collaborative environment conducive to productive medical research. “Institutes are created to bring people from different disciplines together to solve a common problem, and that is exactly what we are doing at the McGowan Institute,” said Dr. Wagner. “If you look in our laboratories, you could find a nursing professor, a pathology professor, a cardiac surgeon, or a bioengineer – it is a very diverse population. We have a wide range of research, and this center allows these collaborations to be built and supported.” Among this wide range of researchers are 16 primary bioengineering faculty. From the design and development of novel artificial lung devices to the creation of an injectable gel technology that helps injured peripheral nerves repair and regenerate, bioengineering faculty have made an impact on biomedical translational research and innovation at Pitt. “I think we are at a very exciting point where the commercialization of a lot of our inventions is not only possible but practical,” said Wagner. “Our ideas and the technology we have developed are more mature, and the investment community has a better idea of what we are trying to do.” The translational research efforts at MIRM have led to 30 spinout companies derived from MIRM-affiliated faculty. Bioengineering has contributed to the success of these efforts by offering the Center for Medical Innovation, which provides early-stage seed grants to projects, and the Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program, which provides funding and helps lead the projects to commercialization. Beyond research, education is another priority of the McGowan Institute. Part of their mission is to educate and train scientists and engineers to pursue technologies related to regenerative medicine and train a generation of clinicians in the implementation of regenerative therapies. Bioengineering makes up a large part of MIRM graduate student population, which also includes surgical fellows and residents. MIRM-associated faculty currently participate in three NIH training grants to support the educational efforts: the Biomechanics in Regenerative Medicine (BiRM) program, the Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP), and the Cellular Approaches to Tissue Engineering and Regeneration (CATER) program. In addition, MIRM serves local, national, and international undergraduate students through the Regenerative Medicine Summer School, a hands-on experiential learning program launched by Bioengineering Assistant Professor Bryan Brown, which aims to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds, including those at universities without significant bioengineering and/or regenerative medicine programs. This educational program nicely complements the CampBioE effort by the Department of Bioengineering, which is a tissue engineering summer camp for middle and high school students. “I consider MIRM to be a scaffold that brings together individuals interested in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine and facilitates their interactions,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “The symbiotic relationship between MIRM and the Department of Bioengineering greatly benefits our students and faculty, offering outstanding opportunities for training and research collaborations.” All of these efforts have led the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine to be one of the most prominent institutes of its kind. As this dynamic field evolves and grows, the Department of Bioengineering will continue to contribute to the diverse group of researchers at MIRM who pursue the development of innovative technology and new therapies for patients in need. ###

Apr
5
2019

For Those Too Tired to Brush

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Reposted with permission from Pittwire. Emily Siegel, a Pitt senior majoring in chemical engineering and biological sciences, admits she’s part of a generation of ever busy, on-the-go multitaskers. Like many people her age, she’s fallen into bed after a long day of classes and late night of studying without even brushing her teeth, too drained to get up. The exhausting experience has propelled Siegel’s entrepreneurial path. In a product design class last fall, chemical engineering professor and veteran innovator-entrepreneur Eric Beckman gave an assignment: “He challenged us to think of a problem and come up with a product to solve it,” she said. The memory of those multiple late nights sparked her idea. “If I had something on my nightstand that I could use right then…” she thought. Her solution: Trek, a biodegradable chewing gum that kills bacteria and removes and prevents plaque, marketed initially toward busy young adults. Siegel’s attention-grabbing pitch cites a study by insurer Delta Dental that leaves little doubt that there’s a real problem for Trek to solve: The research found that 37 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 have gone two or more days without brushing their teeth. Siegel pitches Trek as better than what’s on the market today: It removes and prevents plaque, something ordinary gum can’t do, she said. “And it’s better for the environment because it creates no plastic waste, unlike disposable single-use toothbrushes. It’s 100% biodegradable.” Siegel envisions that this product not only will benefit busy millennials, but also will appeal to travelers, members of the military and people in places where clean water is difficult to come by. It’s a winning idea that’s being advanced through the Big Idea Center, the Pitt Innovation Institute’s hub for student entrepreneurship programming. Trek took the top prize in the most recent Big Idea Blitz, a 24-hour event in which student innovators recruit fellow students to their teams and work with Innovation Institute entrepreneurs-in-residence to develop their ideas, understand the market need and hone their pitches. More big ideas The Randall Family Big Idea competition, coordinated by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, is open to all Pitt students from first-year through postdoc. Established in 2009 by Pitt alumnus Bob Randall (A&S ’65) and family, the competition is the region’s largest student innovation and entrepreneurship program. The annual competition kicks off in February, and culminates in a final round in March, in which 50 teams vie for a total of $100,000 in prize money. That’s where the product became Trek, as Siegel — with only five minutes left to complete her pitch — hurriedly searched for synonyms for “on-the-go” and found the short and sweet name that connotes being on the move. In March, Siegel paired up with Lauren Yocum, a biology major, as Team Trek to compete in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. They finished first among 50 finalists. Sam Bunke, a chemical engineering major, who, like Siegel and Yocum will graduate in December, has joined the team to further advance the product. Trek’s prize money — $1,500 from the Big Idea Blitz and the $25,000 Randall Family Big Idea Competition grand prize — are going toward further development of this idea around which Siegel intends to create a company and an entrepreneurial career. Her summer plans include participating in Pitt’s Blast Furnace student accelerator. Babs Carryer, director of the Big Idea Center, said, “We offer award money to teams like Trek to encourage and support them in their innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors. I have high hopes for Trek being one of the Big Idea Center’s latest student startups.” Siegel’s drive and desire to take this product to market were key factors in the Big Idea Center’s decision to send Trek to represent Pitt in the ACC InVenture Prize competition set for April 16-17 at North Carolina State University. The choice was made before the Randall Family Big Idea Competition winners were selected. “The Randall judges’ agreement is added confirmation that Trek is a strong competitor,” Carryer said. In 2018, Pitt’s Four Growers team, which is developing a robotic tomato harvesting system, placed second in the ACC competition after winning the Randall Family Big Idea competition. The company recently moved into offices on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. The ACC InVenture Prize is an innovation competition in which teams of undergraduates representing Atlantic Coast Conference universities pitch their inventions or businesses to a panel of judges in front of a live audience. Five finalists will compete for a total of $30,000 in prizes. Innovation Institute entrepreneur-in-residence Don Morrison, who mentored Trek through the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, is helping the team hone its pitch and business model in anticipation of this next challenge. Morrison, former CEO of American Eagle Outfitters, is committed to helping young entrepreneurs by being the mentor he never had. “I had great business mentors who helped me understand retail, but I didn’t have an entrepreneurial mentor. Throughout my career I developed innovations that solved real problems for my companies. My solutions could have been taken to market to solve the same problem for other retailers. That’s why I’m passionate about paying it forward through entrepreneurial mentorship,” Morrison said. “The Trek team is very coachable and passionate about what they’re doing. Their idea solves a real problem. These are key ingredients for success,” he said. “I think that Trek really is a big idea.” The Randall Family Big Idea competition, coordinated by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, is open to all Pitt students from first-year through postdoc. ### Established in 2009 by Pitt alumnus Bob Randall (A&S ’65) and family, the competition is the region’s largest student innovation and entrepreneurship program. The annual competition kicks off in February, and culminates in a final round in March, in which 50 teams vie for a total of $100,000 in prize money. Read more about this year’s winning teams on the Innovation Institute blog, or take a peek at the finalists’ pitch videos.
Kimberly K. Barlow, University Communications
Apr
4
2019

Good Vibrations: Pitt Undergraduates Create a Device to Help Deaf Kids Experience Music Through Tactile and Visual Feedback

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2019) … Through the Swanson School of Engineering’s The Art of Making class, an interdisciplinary group of eleven University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students connected with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) and Attack Theatre to create a device that can help hearing-impaired children experience music and express themselves through dance. Attack Theatre holds a recurring dance workshop for three-to-six-year-olds at WPSD. The group previously tried using a Bluetooth speaker in a trash can to produce a vibratory effect that the children could touch and interact with, but this design was not kid-friendly and lacked mobility for lessons that necessitate free movement. The Pitt team saw an opportunity to take a fresh look at the problem and design a new system that addresses the needs of both the instructors and the children. However, with no hearing-impaired members, the undergraduates had to find a way to step into the shoes of their end users to better understand their needs. “This was a profoundly human-centered design problem with multiple stakeholders,” said Dr. Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering and director of The Art of Making course. “A new technology, even if it works perfectly, is useless if it isn’t accepted by and accessible to the end user. This team of student innovators really understood and acted on that insight.” Issam Abushaban, a sophomore bioengineering and computer engineering student, said that the group learned more about their target audience from WPSD teachers. “We discovered that the rhythm of music and the visualization of colors can reflect a certain mood and affect the way that you feel,” he said. “That was something we really wanted to incorporate into our design.” To better understand the dance element of their task, the group participated in one of Attack Theatre’s workshops catered to deaf and hard-of-hearing children. “A lot of their dance moves were geared toward expressing an emotion, such as stomping to express anger or frustration or skipping to express joy,” said Farah Khan, a senior bioengineering student. “I think this demonstration gave us a different perspective and helped us view music in a new, productive way.” After completing their background research, the team decided to explore the use of both visual and tactile feedback for their design. They created several early prototypes, including a wrist strap with haptic motors and a disc “floor mat” with multi-hued illumination around the periphery. When the vibrating wrist strap was sampled by the children, the team learned the value of making early prototypes and getting feedback from their users to empirically test design concepts. “During our first round of testing, we wanted to pay attention to the reactions that the kids made, rather than focusing on the messages that the interpreter relayed,” said Abushaban. “Some of the kids seemed to be wary or afraid of the wrist strap so the lesson we learned from that meeting was that our product perhaps wasn’t kid-friendly. We then brainstormed new ideas of how to provide vibrational feedback in a more toy-like system.” The custom-designed plush toy houses sound transducers and a wireless communication system. The soft straps of the backpack/frontpack are adjustable, comfortable for the kids, and allow greater mobility for the dance workshop. Natalie Neal, a junior mechanical engineering and materials science student, was inspired to create patterns and hand sew a series of plush toy monkeys that incorporate a Bluetooth receiver, audio amplifier, vibrational transducers and battery power supply. This new iteration, dubbed Vibrance, can be worn either as a backpack or a “frontpack” - what the team calls “hug mode.” Additional testing and user feedback led to supplementing the tactile feedback with a projected visualizer that produces colorful circles based on the audio input. The Vibrance team presented their work at the Swanson School of Engineering’s fall 2018 Design Expo and swept the top three awards: first place in The Art of Making category, the People’s Choice Award, and the Best Overall Design. “Receiving those three awards really validated all of the hard work we did throughout the semester,” said Khan. The students’ innovative design has also received an enthusiastic response from kids, teachers, and parents. One parent of a child at WPSD wrote to the team, “I hope I’ll get the chance to see my son experience the vest vibration device. What an awesome idea!” Dr. Samosky was recently awarded a Provost’s Personalized Education Grant to support high-potential – and potentially high-impact – student design projects like Vibrance, enabling them to continue beyond the class in which they originate and be nurtured toward real-world impact. The Vibrance team will continue to develop and improve Vibrance under this new Classroom to Community initiative in Dr. Samosky’s lab. The goal is to create a device that meets the needs of both WPSD and Attack Theatre, but most importantly, the team wants to continue to positively affect the lives of the children using their device. As stated by Jocelyn Dunlap, a senior communication science student, “We are heading back to WPSD to continue building a project that claims a spot in all of our hearts.” ### This video of the Vibrance project, also created as part of the students’ coursework in The Art of Making, shows the system in action as it is used by instructors and kids at WPSD and with Attack Theatre. The Vibrance team includes, Issam Abushaban, a sophomore bioengineering and computer engineering student; Dani Broderick, a senior mechanical engineering student; Tom Driscoll, a junior computer engineering student; Jocelyn Dunlap, a senior communication science student; Austin Farwell, a junior mathematics student; Farah Khan, a senior bioengineering student; Stephanie Lachell, a senior mechanical engineering student; Evan Lawrence, a junior mechanical engineering student; Natalie Neal, a junior materials science and engineering student; Jesse Rosenfeld, a junior mechanical engineering student; and Caroline Westrick, a junior bioengineering student.

Apr
4
2019

Let's Clear the Air

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2019) — For the past 40 years, research has proven that people of color, low-income communities and ethnic minorities suffer the effects of environmental contamination more than other communities. The Flint, Mich., water crisis and the Dakota Pipeline protests serve as national examples of environmental injustices, but similar issues affect communities across the country. New research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, in partnership with the Kingsley Association and funded by the Heinz Endowments examined the impact that bottom-up, community-level initiatives have in addressing environmental justice issues. They found that the best way to address a community’s environmental injustices is to meet them where they are, integrating into the community and building trust over a long-term partnership. Pittsburgh has long struggled with air quality since its early industrial days, and the effects of environmental pollution on health are well-known. Residents in the Greater Pittsburgh region are at twice the cancer risk of surrounding counties, and disadvantaged communities see the worst of it. The East End of Pittsburgh is among the city’s most underserved boroughs, struggling with crumbling infrastructure, community disinvestment, and high traffic density. These factors all contribute to the poor air quality affecting citizens’ health and wellness, which is what their program, the Environmental Justice Community Action Matrix (EJCAM), is designed to address. “When your house is in need of repairs, it can’t effectively keep the outdoor air out. Since Americans spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors, the concentration of pollution inside the house could be a significant contributor to poor health,” says Melissa Bilec, PhD, the Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “I visited one community member’s home and noticed that she was using an oxygen tank, and it struck me just how much these environmental issues are impacting people’s health inside their own homes.” Dr. Bilec and her team, with PhD student, Harold Rickenbacker as a lead, have partnered with the Kingsley Association, a community organization in Larimer, since 2007 on environmental justice initiatives. EJCAM, their most recent collaboration, went through four stages, using the Theory of Change paradigm: outreach, involvement, participatory research and consultation. It culminated in in-house air quality testing that Dr. Bilec says wouldn’t have been possible without the trust that their partnership built, especially Harold’s commitment and time spent in working with the community. EJCAM created Community Action Teams (CATs), which trained community members to become leaders who would train others and advocate for environmental issues; the Urban Transition Cities Movement (UTCM) brought together unlikely stakeholders community members, non-profit leaders, small businesses, universities, governmental agencies, youth and public officials. Because of these initiatives, community members have become more involved and aware of environmental issues, knowledgeable about green materials, infrastructure and land use practices. They’re active in the management of forthcoming landscape features in housing developments and pollution control schemes. The most important thing Dr. Bilec learned through this process was that in order to be effective, the first step must be building trust. And the way to build trust is to be visible in the community over time. Harold Rickenbacker, a PhD candidate working with Dr. Bilec on the initiative and lead author of the paper, dedicated himself to integrating with the community to truly understand its needs and the best way to fill them. He attended community meetings, church gatherings and other events. A mobile air quality monitoring bicycle campaign took researchers and community members to the streets, riding bikes mounted with air particulate counters that give a real-time map of air quality in the area. More than that, it gave the researchers a way to be visible and connect with the community, who would often stop them to ask what they were doing. “We found the most important thing we could do was to be present, to listen to the citizens and figure out how our research can help them,” says Mr. Rickenbacker. “Community-based initiatives are effective, but they have to be a sustained partnership, not a one-off event.” The team is currently performing indoor air quality assessments with the community members, counseling them on measures they can take to improve it and the supplies they’ll need to do so. They hope that their program model will be replicable in other communities in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. The project recently won the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award, and Mr. Rickenbacker won the Carnegie Science Award in the College/University Student category this year for his work on EJCAM. The paper, “Creating Environmental Consciousness in Underserved Communities: Implementation and Outcomes of Community-Based Environmental Justice and Air Pollution Research,” was published in Sustainable Cities and Society (DOI10.1016/j.scs.2019.101473) and was coauthored by Dr. Bilec and Fred Brown of the Forbes Fund.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
3
2019

Director of Engineering Student Services at Swanson Receives 2019 Provost’s Personalized Education Grant

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (April 4, 2019) — Cheryl Paul, director of engineering student services at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named the recipient of a 2019 Provost’s Personalized Education Grant. The award includes up to $15,000 toward the implementation of her project, “Inclusive Dialogue: Inviting Mental Wellness Understanding & Planning into Everyday Academics.” The project will help to educate faculty and staff about mental health and guide students toward the resources available through Pitt’s Disability Resource Services, Student Health Services and Student Affairs. U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering James Martin has embraced this project as a signature initiative for Swanson and pledged that the school will match two-thirds of the grant. “For years, discussions around mental disorders and their impact on a student’s ability to pursue a college degree has been spoken about in hushed tones or in private,” says Ms. Paul. “This program aims to bring those conversations into the light, ensure students have access to the resources they need, and help faculty and staff recognize when a student is struggling and respond appropriately.” Research shows that reported rates of mental health disorders on college campuses are increasing, with one in three college freshmen worldwide reporting a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression. In addition to increasing understanding and awareness of this issue, Ms. Paul’s project will train faculty and staff in “Mental Health First Aid,” which will help them to identify and respond to mental health concerns for students in the Swanson School. The Provost’s Personalized Education Grant Program awards grants for ideas that bring advances in technology and novel approaches to teaching, advising and mentoring to Pitt. Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann Cudd recognized the recipients at a reception on March 19. Ms. Paul’s grant began on March 1 and will extend through June 30, 2020.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
3
2019

Allderdice Senior Caroline Yu to Present Research at IEEE International Conference on Biomedical and Health Informatics

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (April 3, 2019) — High school students in the Pittsburgh area get the chance to work with groundbreaking researchers—and, sometimes, even become published authors before high school graduation. Caroline Yu, a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, worked in Ervin Sejdic’s iMed Lab through the University of Pittsburgh Computer Science, Biology and Biomedical Informatics (CoSBBI) program. Working closely PhD candidate Yassin Khalifa, Miss Yu co-authored a paper titled “Silent Aspiration Detection in High Resolution Cervical Auscultations,” which has been accepted at the IEEE International Conference on Biomedical and Health Informatics. The authors will present their findings at the Dorin Forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago, held May 19-22, 2019. The CoSBBI program is part of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy. This UPMC partnership invites high school students to work on an authentic cancer research project while receiving mentorship and training. “Caroline did an amazing job, and I’m proud and excited to see her success in her first publication,” says Dr. Sejdic, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “We know she is headed for great things.” After graduation, Miss Yu says that while she is still waiting to hear back from a few schools before making her final decision, she plans to major in computer science.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
3
2019

Personalizing Education: Empowering Student Experiences One Grant at a Time


Originally posted @Pitt. Read the full article with all awardees here. Personalizing education “is a culture and a way of life,” Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd told the recipients of this year’s Personalized Education Grants at a March 19 reception honoring them. “It’s a commitment to our students that says we’ll do our best to understand you and to offer the best opportunities to you and to help you achieve your goals and your dreams,” said Cudd. Initiated in 2018 by the Office of the Provost to engage the campus and support efforts to personalize students’ experiences, the grants this year were awarded to 17 proposals; three of those were projects that had been funded last year and will receive continued support. “This year’s award-winning proposals came from all corners of this campus and our regional campuses,” said Cudd, who called the scope and breadth of ideas “truly inspiring. … All have aligned their goals with our goal of doing everything within our power to make sure that students are best positioned to thrive and to live lives of impact.” Civic engagement driving student experiences With Classroom to Community, Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, aims to provide space, resources and mentorship for teams of students designing solutions for human-centered, real-world problems. The pilot program intends to provide support to student projects beyond the course in which the designs originated and to be able to provide real-world impact. Recognizing student needs and learning styles At the Swanson School of Engineering, Jenette Phillips and Kent Harries, professor of civil and environmental engineering, will study the interaction between the learning styles of neurodiverse STEM students (that is, individuals from different neurological backgrounds, including but not limited to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, etc.) and pedagogical practices in STEM courses. The ultimate goal of their project, Interaction Between Engineering Education Pedagogies and Neurodiverse Learning Styles, is to refine classrooms to provide the best education possible for the broadest spectra of individuals. Mental wellness Cheryl Paul, director of engineering student services, will map out the initial stages of a comprehensive plan for the Swanson School to begin inviting conversation and training among students, faculty and staff around mental wellness through her proposal Inclusive Dialogue: Inviting Mental Wellness Understanding & Planning into Everyday Academics. Through implementing three interventions, Paul said that the goal of the project is to propel students to experience unprecedented support, success in their studies and prepare for life beyond the University.
Author: Will Entrekin, University Communications
Apr
1
2019

The Next Generation of Nuclear Engineers

MEMS, Student Profiles, Nuclear

PITTSBURGH (April 1, 2019) ... Two outstanding MEMS students won scholarship and fellowship awards from the Department of Energy (DOE), part of an annual program sponsored by the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP). Both students are working with Dr. Heng Ban, director of the Nuclear Engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering. The recipients:• Evan Kaseman, a mechanical engineering junior won a $7,500 scholarship designated to help cover education costs for the upcoming year. Kaseman is currently enrolled in the co-op program at Philips Respironics. His first co-op rotation at Emerson Automation Solutions this past summer sparked his interest in nuclear energy.• Brady Cameron, a first-year mechanical engineering PhD student won a $150,000 graduate fellowship for three years. The fellowship also includes $5,000 to fund an internship at a U.S. national laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and DOE’s energy research programs. Since 2009, the DOE has awarded over $44 million to students pursuing nuclear energy-related degrees. This year, more than $5 million was awarded nationally to 45 undergraduates from 26 universities and 33 graduate students from 20 universities. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy, Edward McGinnis, stated, “The recipients will be the future of nuclear energy production in the United States and in the world.” ###
Meagan Lenze, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Apr
1
2019

The Swanson School of Engineering Office of Research Publishes the Fifth Edition of Ingenium

All SSoE News, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (April 1, 2019) … David A. Vorp, Associate Dean for Research and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, recently unveiled the fifth edition of Ingenium: Undergraduate Research at the Swanson School of Engineering. The publication is a collection of articles that highlight student research accomplishments from the School’s 2018 summer research program. “With each edition of Ingenium we have produced, it has been exciting to witness the growth of our undergraduate students when presented with the opportunity to directly engage in scientific research,” said Dr. Vorp in an introductory statement. “Applying what is learned in the classroom is only the beginning of an engineer’s career. The application of this knowledge and information presents countless opportunities to create, build, and encourage the students of today to create the prospects of tomorrow.” To be considered for publication in Ingenium, undergraduate students submitted an abstract summarizing the results of their research to an editorial board comprised of 41 Swanson School graduate student researchers across all departments. The highest-ranking abstracts were invited to submit a full manuscript to undergo a peer-review process by the editorial board. The co-editors-in-chief for the 2019 publication were Michelle Heusser, a bioengineering graduate student, and Lisa Stabryla, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student. "Working on Ingenium was an extremely rewarding experience because it taught us about the peer-review process from an editorial standpoint and allowed us to provide the undergraduate students with a similar professional experience from an author's standpoint,” said Stabryla. “It was also a nice opportunity to implement new ideas that I felt would have helped my professional development when my undergraduate work was published in the 2016 edition of Ingenium." For the first time since its launch, the Ingenium editorial board selected an “Editors’ Choice” article that represents an outstanding and well-presented piece of student work that provides scientific enhancement to its field. The designation went to Lydia Kuebler, an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering and materials science, for her research article, “The influence of nitrogen doping on electrocatalytic activity of FeN4 embedded graphene.” "Lydia's manuscript was nominated by the editorial board and ultimately selected because the reviewers felt her work was well-written at every stage — from initial abstract to final revised manuscript — and because she demonstrated professionalism in her response-to-reviewer document,” said Heusser. “Her exemplary manuscript reflects the type of student work we strive to showcase in Ingenium." Another change to this year’s publication was the use of categories to give a more viewer-friendly experience. Ingenium is color-coded into four different categories: computational research, device design, experimental research, and review. The new format also highlights the researchers by including a headshot and brief biography of the students and mentors. Read the full publication at https://issuu.com/pittswanson/docs/ingenium_2019. ###

Apr
1
2019

Swanson Faculty Honored in First Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Awards

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2019)—The inaugural Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award honored several faculty members and students from the Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, in recognition of their community-impacting research and initiatives. The highly competitive award recognizes partnerships that are exemplars of community engagement at Pitt. Up to five partnerships are chosen each year to receive the award and a $2,000 grant to support their work. Melissa Bilec, Roberta A. Luxbacher Faculty Fellow and associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Harold Rickenbacker, a PhD candidate in Civil Engineering, are receiving the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award for their partnership with the East End’s Kingsley Association on community-based environmental justice and air pollution initiatives. Dr. Bilec and Mr. Rickenbacker’s current initiative in the East End of Pittsburgh, the Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix (EJCAM), has provided trainings for over 200 residents on the importance of environmental sustainability and the training to do so over the past five years. The team worked with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation’s co-director of administration and external relations, Gena Kovalcik, to form the partnership with the Kingsley Association. Residents of Larimer learned the technical knowledge to identify environmental concerns within their homes while learning the importance of sustainability in water use, energy consumption and air pollution. “Working with the Kingsley Association allowed the University to impact the greater Pittsburgh community while responding directly to a community’s definition of their needs,” says Dr. Bilec. “As a result of the EJCAM, community members are knowledgeable about green materials, infrastructure and land use practices, and they are more active in the management of forthcoming landscape features in housing developments and pollution control schemes.” An article detailing the outcomes of this program was recently published in the journal Sustainable Cities and Society. Mr. Rickenbacker also won the Carnegie Science Award in the College/University Student category this year for his work on EJCAM. “When addressing environmental justice issues, long-term, community-based initiatives like this one are important and effective,” says Mr. Rickenbacker. “In order to build partnerships with the community, you have to make sure they have a vested interest in your shared success. And to do that, you have to build lasting partnerships, not hold singular community events. With this award, we can continue to build our relationship with the Kingsley Association and replicate this model in neighboring communities impacted by environmental justice issues.” Dr. David Sanchez, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and research students from the Sustainable Design Labs, were selected as an honorable mention this year for the Sustainability and STEM initiative. Sustainability and STEM is a long-term engineering educational outreach program with a focus on sustainability that brings a team of high-energy Pitt students to Manchester Academic Charter School to engage the students there in STEM modules focused on sustainability. The students instruct progressively challenging “stacked” modules to six classes of sixth- to eighth-grade science students annually, allowing Dr. Sanchez and his team to engage with the same middle-school students every year as they advance in their education. Previous Sustainability in STEM modules have included: Future Cities Design; DIY Solar Houses, Cars, Water Filters and Wind Turbines; Understanding Renewable Energy; and Life-Cycle Assessment/Reducing Solid Waste. “Our goal is to share high-quality STEM modules that teach, engage and inspire the next generation of young scientists,” says Dr. Sanchez. “But it is also to leverage the resources available in the Swanson School of Engineering Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation to make a positive difference in our community.” The winners and honorable mentions will be listed as exemplar partnerships in the University’s application for the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement. The awards were presented at the University’s Community-Engaged Scholarship Forum on Friday, March 29.

Apr
1
2019

Swanson Faculty Honored with Two American Society for Engineering Education Awards

All SSoE News, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

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

Mar

Mar
29
2019

BioE graduate student Piyusha Gade to advance to university-wide Three Minute Thesis competition

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2019) … The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition, developed by The University of Queensland, helps higher degree students hone their research communication skills by challenging them to effectively explain their research in three minutes to a non-specialist audience. The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering held a school-wide event where the Department of Bioengineering swept all three awards. Piyusha Gade, a graduate student researcher in the lab of Dr. Anne Robertson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, captured first place. Her work involves rationally designing in situ engineered vascular grafts in young and aged hosts. “I think effective science communication is extremely vital,” said Gade. “Especially today, it is not enough to just do good scientific work; you also need to communicate its relevance and impact to really make a change. Being a part of this competition helped me to take a step back and look at the big picture to understand where my work fits into it. I loved trying to figure out how to boil down five years worth of research into three minutes!” Gerald Ferrer, a graduate student in the Orthopaedic Robotics Lab helmed by Bioengineering Professor Richard Debski, tied for second place with Aneesh Ramaswamy, a graduate student in the Vascular Bioengineering Lab of David Vorp, Associate Dean for Research and John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering. 3MT is designed to encourage students to communicate the importance of their research to the broader community. Since its launch in 2008, the 3MT competition has expanded to 67 countries, and events are currently held at more than 600 universities worldwide. This was the first time that the Swanson School hosted its own prequalifying event. Gade will move on to the university-wide competition on April 1, and the winner of the university competition will go on to compete in the 2019 Trans-Tasman 3MT Competition. “The Three Minute Thesis competition provided an excellent opportunity for our graduate students to reflect on their work and strengthen their ability to clearly and effectively communicate their research,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Nickolas A. Dececco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “These professional development activities help inspire our students to pursue academic excellence, and I look forward to holding this event again next year.” ###

Mar
28
2019

Four Pitt engineering faculty capture more than $2 million in total NSF CAREER awards for 2018/2019

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

PITTSBURGH (March 28, 2019) … Four faculty members from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering have been named CAREER Award recipients by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Recognized as the NSF’s most competitive award for junior faculty, the grants total more than $2 million in funding both for research and community engagement. The CAREER program “recognizes faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” The four awards – one each in the departments of Chemical and Petroleum, Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science – are the second most received by Pitt and Swanson School faculty in a single NSF CAREER funding announcement. Previously in 2017, five Swanson School faculty were recipients. “Federal funding for academic research is extremely competitive, especially for faculty just beginning their academic careers. Receiving four prestigious NSF CAREER Awards in one cycle – exceeded only by our five two years ago – is a reflection of our winners’ distinctive research and support by their respective departments and the Swanson School,” noted David Vorp, PhD, the Swanson School’s Associate Dean for Research. He added, “Since a CAREER Award is also focused on community engagement, this is an opportunity for our faculty and their graduate students to promote STEM to children in the area, especially in underserved populations, and we will be working with them to develop impactful outreach programs.”Dr. Vorp also noted that the Swanson School’s recent success with CAREER awards can be attributed to a number of factors, including the School’s Center for Faculty Excellence, directed by Prof. Anne Robertson, and the CAREER writing group developed and run by Julie Myers-Irvin, PhD, the Swanson School’s Grants Developer. “Participating faculty acknowledge that the writing group focus on early preparation, group comradery, technical feedback, and discussions of grantsmanship practices attribute to more well-rounded proposals,” Dr. Myers-Irvin says.The award recipients include:Murat Akcakaya, Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, with Carla A. Mazefsky, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and PsychologyTitle: Toward a Biologically Informed Intervention for Emotionally Dysregulated Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (#1844885)Summary: Although clinical techniques are used to help patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) respond to stress and other factors, none are known to couple with technology that could monitor brain response in real time and provide the patient with feedback. Drs. Akcakaya and Mazefsky are developing a new intervention using electroencephalography (EEG)-guided, non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology could complement clinical treatments and improve emotion regulation in people with ASD.Dr. Akcakaya will also develop courses related to the research and outreach activities to promote STEM and ASD research to K-12 populations and the broader public. Outreach will focus especially on individuals with ASD, their families, and caretakers. Susan Fullerton, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering ($540,000)Title:Scaling Electrolytes to a Single Monolayer for Low-Power Ion-Gated Electronics with Unconventional Characteristics (#1847808)Summary: Two-dimensional (2D) materials are being explored for their exciting new physics that can impart novel functionalities in application spaces such as information storage, neuromorphic computing, and hardware security. Dr. Fullerton and her group invented a new type of ion-containing material, or electrolyte, which is only a single molecule thick. This “monolayer electrolyte” will ultimately introduce new functions that can be used by the electronic materials community to explore the fundamental properties of new semiconductor materials and to increase storage capacity, decrease power consumption, and vastly accelerate processing speed.The NSF award will support a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, as well as an outreach program to inspire curiosity and engagement of K-12 and underrepresented students in materials for next-generation electronics. Specifically, Dr. Fullerton has developed an activity where students can watch the polymer electrolytes used in this study crystallize in real-time using an inexpensive camera attached to a smart phone or iPad. The CAREER award will allow Dr. Fullerton to provide this microscope to classrooms so that the teachers can continue exploring with their students. Tevis Jacobs, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science ($500,000)Title: Understanding Nanoparticle Adhesion to Guide the Surface Engineering of Supporting Structures (#1844739) Summary: Although far thinner than a human hair, metal nanoparticles play an important role in advanced industries and technologies from electronics and pharmaceuticals to catalysts and sensors. Nanoparticles can be as small as ten atoms in diameter, and their small size makes them especially susceptible to coarsening with continued use, which reduces functionality and degrades performance. Dr. Jacobs will utilize electron microscopy to develop new methods to measure the attachment and stability of nanoparticles on surfaces under various conditions, allowing researchers to enhance both surfaces and nanoparticles in tandem to work more effectively together.Additionally, Dr. Jacobs and his lab group will engage with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and a local elementary school to create and nationally disseminate surface engineering-focused curricular units for sixth- to eighth-grade students and professional development training modules for teachers. Carla Ng, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering ($500,000)Title: Harnessing biology to tackle fluorinated alkyl substances in the environment (#1845336) Summary: Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes, and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the undesired release of these chemicals into the environment. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Dr. Ng wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She plans to elevate K-12 and undergraduate education through the use of collaborative model-building in a game-like environment. Dr. Ng in particular will utilize the agent-based modeling language NetLogo, a freely available and accessible model-building tool that can be equally powerful for cutting edge research or for students exploring new STEM concepts in science and engineering. ###

Mar
28
2019

Northwestern Engineering Dean Julio M. Ottino Selected as 2019 Covestro Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

All SSoE News, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 27, 2019) — In honor of his influential work in diverse fields from fluid dynamics to geophysical sciences, Northwestern University’s Julio M. Ottino, PhD has been chosen as this year’s Covestro Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Dr. Ottino is currently the dean of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University and Applied Science at Northwestern University. He also holds the titles of Distinguished Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. His research has been featured on the covers of Nature, Science, Scientific American, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and other publications. The Covestro Distinguished Lectureship (a continuation of the Bayer Distinguished Lectureship) is presented annually by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and recognizes excellence in chemical education, outreach and research. The lecture is sponsored by Covestro LLC, a world-leading supplier of high-tech polymer materials. “The effects of Dr. Ottino’s work have rippled through so many fields, including fluid dynamics, granular dynamics, microfluidics, geophysical sciences, and nonlinear dynamics and chaos,” says Steven R. Little, PhD, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School.  “Our department is honored to welcome such a widely influential scientist to our campus.” “Covestro is proud to sponsor the Distinguished Lecture Series through our continued partnership with the Swanson School of Engineering, and we join the university in extending a warm welcome to this year’s deserving honoree,” said Don S. Wardius, Senior Manager of University Relations, Covestro LLC. “Dr. Ottino’s impressive career reflects a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability – all of which align with Covestro’s vision to make the world a brighter place.” Dr. Ottino received his PhD in chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and held positions at UMass/Amherst and chaired and held senior appointments at Caltech and Stanford. He has been recognized by AlChE with the Alpha Chi Sigma Award, the William H. Walker Award, the Institute Lecture, and was named one of the “100 Chemical Engineers of the Modern Area.” He was awarded the Fluid Dynamics Prize from the American Physical Society. In 2017, Ottino was awarded the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education from the National Academy of Engineering, the nation’s highest award for engineering education, for the development of Whole-Brain Engineering at Northwestern. He is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Covestro lectures will be held on Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. with a reception to follow, and on Friday, April 5, at 9:30 a.m. Both lectures will be held in 102 Benedum Hall, 3700 O’Hara Street. The lectures are open to the public. For more information, email che@engr.pitt.edu or call 412-624-9630. Lecture 1: When Art, Technology, and Science Were One: Why They Split, and Why They May Join AgainThursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. – Benedum 102 (Reception follows) There was a time before science and technology were known by those names. Art, technology, and science formed a continuum, and the modes of thinking enriched each other. The 16th century has many examples of cooperative enterprises between scientists and artists; Galileo Galilei may be the clearest case of Italian Renaissance art affecting the course of science. Galileo is also associated with birth of the scientific method, and the scientific method changed everything: science broke company with art, and mixing imagery with analytical thinking became suspect (at least by some). This view is far too narrow—visual imagination is a central element of scientific imagination. This talk with cover the links between art, technology, and science through time, starting when people had a foot in two camps and when new technologies appeared and the scientific basics of those technologies were still evolving, until reaching examples of the present time. It closes with lessons that can be transferred across domains. Lecture 2: The Evolution of Mixing: From Stretching and Folding to Cutting and Shuffling: Parallels, Divergences, and LessonsFriday, April 5, at 9:30 p.m. – Benedum 102 The birth of mixing of fluids and some of the first incursions into granular matter and segregation offer valuable insights and lessons. These two topics developed in wildly different ways and serve as examples of the power of couching ideas in mathematical formalisms, but also of the challenges that ensue when a general formalism is elusive. We present an array of results, spanning fluid mixing at one extreme and granular matter and segregation at the other. Examples cover vibration, surface flow, segregation, and pattern formation, and serve to illustrate how fundamental work can affect fields as far apart as multiple branches of engineering and geophysical sciences. ### About Covestro LLC Covestro LLC is one of the leading producers of high-performance polymers in North America and is part of the global Covestro business, which is among the world’s largest polymer companies with 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, electrical and electronics, and healthcare industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employed approximately 16,800 people at the end of 2018. About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty has a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department’s  research expenditures exceeded $9 million in 2018.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
28
2019

Swanson School of Engineering Names Sam Dickerson as 2019 Outstanding Educator

All SSoE News, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) — The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering has presented Sam Dickerson, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Computer Engineering undergraduate program, with this year’s Outstanding Educator Award. This competitive award recognizes his excellence in teaching and innovative work in developing and improving the department’s undergraduate program. The award includes a $2,000 grant to further enhance the recipient’s teaching. Dr. Dickerson joined the Swanson School as assistant professor in 2015 after completing his PhD, MS and BS degrees in electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. In addition to teaching, Dr. Dickerson plays an influential role in the development and improvement of the ECE and EE curriculums, with enthusiasm that does not go unrecognized by his peers. “Sam has modernized the way we teach our Senior Design Project course in a way that challenges the students and pushes them out of their comfort zones,” says Amro El-Jaroudi, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He has innovated in all aspects of the course: group formation, project selection, progress monitoring and project presentation. The impact of his hard work was immediately evident in the quality and depth of the designs and products created by the students.” Pushing students out of their comfort zone, while unreservedly providing the support they need, is a hallmark of Dr. Dickerson’s teaching style. “Dr. Dickerson is one of those professors who is so passionate about what he teaches that it makes students more excited to learn the material,” says Abigail Wezelis, a recent graduate who took several of Dr. Dickerson’s courses and served as a teaching assistant for his Advanced Digital Design course. “He strives to find real-world examples of the concepts that he teaches and is not afraid to teach relevant cross-disciplinary material in his classes.” “I’ve found that when students don’t see the big picture or understand how what they are learning fits in, then they quickly categorize it as being unimportant,” says Dr. Dickerson. “In order to combat this, through both lectures and laboratory exercises, I constantly give them examples where they can see how what they are learning is applied in industry.” Nominators noted that abundant examples of Dr. Dickerson’s method can be found throughout his courses. For example, in a recent course covering digital electronics, he showed students datasheet parameters, which serve as instruction manuals for electronic components, from real integrated circuit processes. According to Dickerson, these real-world examples showed students exactly why the material is relevant and how they, as future designers, will use what they are learning. In addition to teaching, Dr. Dickerson personally serves as an advisor and mentor to the over 300 students in the Computer Engineering undergraduate program. “When I asked him in 2017 to assume the leadership role as director of our undergraduate program in computer engineering, a major expansion to his faculty role, his response was amazing and refreshing, replying that he would be happy to serve in this role but regretful that it would mean a reduction by one in his teaching load each year,” says Alan George, professor and department chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “He truly loves working with and helping students; it is his calling and passion.” “The most important thing in teaching is to care about your students,” continues Dr. Dickerson. “This principle helps me overcome many of the flaws I have as an educator and drives me to work hard at improving my teaching abilities. I care deeply about student success and am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that my students learn.”
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
28
2019

Pitt Undergraduates Win First Place in Ergonomics Design Competition

All SSoE News, Industrial

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2019)—Undergraduate students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering won first place this year at the International Ergonomics Design Competition hosted by Auburn Engineers, Inc. “We only had one team enter in this competition in the fall, and they came in first place,” says Joel Haight, professor of industrial engineering and director of Pitt’s Safety Engineering Program. Dr. Haight is faculty advisor to the Ergonomic Design Competition teams. “I’m especially proud of our students’ innovation in this event, and the application of their coursework to solve a workplace issue.” The award grants the team a $5,000 towards a professional conference of their choice in 2019, as well as $300 per team member, a team plaque, certificates and the “eTools” Prize Statue. Throughout the fall semester, students worked on two design projects and two lightning round smaller design solution applications All of these projects required that the students identify workplace ergonomic stressors and apply design principles to alleviate them. The most significant of these was to develop solutions to address the ergonomic stress associated with working in the cramped quarters of a food truck. The winning team is comprised of five industrial engineering majors who were enrolled in Dr. Haight’s Human Factors Engineering course.  They are Alexander Hartman, Maiti Keen, Megan McCormick, Dina Perlic, and Abigail Pinto. The University of Pittsburgh teams have historically done well in this competition, coming in second place for the past three years. With this win, they are making their debut in first place.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
27
2019

MEMS Undergraduate Trevor Kickliter Selected to Represent Pitt at the ACC Meeting of the Minds

Bioengineering, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 27, 2019) … Trevor Kickliter, a junior mechanical engineering student in the Swanson School of Engineering, was selected as one of six undergraduate researchers to represent the University of Pittsburgh at the 2019 ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference hosted by the University of Louisville, March 29-31, 2019. Kickliter will present his research on the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSCs) as a promising alternative to traditional surgical therapy for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). With a mortality rate of 90 percent and no sufficient strategy for early intervention, rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, which runs from the heart, through the chest, and down to the abdomen. Due to its size, an AAA can lead to massive internal bleeding, which is typically fatal. According to Kickliter, due to inadequate diagnostic markers, surgical intervention for this disease often fails to treat those in need of care while subjecting others to unnecessary risks. His work in the lab of David Vorp, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering, addresses these shortcomings through the use of stem cell therapy. “Our lab has previously investigated the use of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in therapies for abdominal aortic aneurysm, but a method to effectively target ADMSCs to the aorta has yet to be developed or tested in large animals,” said Kickliter. “Since the use of ADMSCs as a therapeutic treatment seems promising, the primary goal of this study was to design and create a method for localizing ADMSCs in large animal aortas.” The group implanted a diametric magnet into a harvested aorta loaded with ADMSCs that were treated with iron nanoparticles. The internal magnet was then able to draw the ADMSCs to the aortic adventitia - the outermost layer of connective tissue in the aorta. “We looked at a cross-section of the treated aorta under fluorescent microscopy, and we found a significantly greater concentration of ADMSCs both on and around the aortic adventitia in the group where an internal magnet was used,” said Kickliter. “These results suggest that our method can be used to localize stem cell-based vascular therapies in other large animals, including humans.” Each participating institution in the ACC Meeting of the Minds conference is allowed to select a total of six students to give three oral presentations and three poster presentations. Kickliter will present his research during the poster session. “This is another outstanding recognition for Trevor, who continues to impress me with the quality of his research,” said Dr. Vorp. “This work introduces a novel way to localize delivery of stem cell therapy in large animals, and we hope that it will lead to improved treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysms.” ###

Mar
26
2019

Sound sense: Brain 'listens' for distinctive features in sounds

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 26, 2019) … For humans to achieve accurate speech recognition and communicate with one another, the auditory system must recognize distinct categories of sounds - such as words - from a continuous incoming stream of sounds. This task becomes complicated when considering the variability in sounds produced by individuals with different accents, pitches, or intonations. In a recent Nature Communications paper, Shi Tong Liu, a bioengineering PhD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, details a computational model that explores how the auditory system tackles this complex task. The research is led by Srivatsun Sadagopan, assistant professor of neurobiology, whose lab studies the perception of complex sounds in realistic listening conditions. “A ‘word’ may be pronounced in different ways by different voices, but you are still able to lump all of these utterances into a category (a specific word) with a distinct meaning,” said Sadagopan. “In this study, we examined how the brain achieves this by using animal calls as a greatly simplified model system. Vocal animal species such as marmosets, macaques, and guinea pigs produce several types of calls which carry distinct behavioral ‘meanings,’ but they also face the problem that different animals produce these calls with a lot of variability.” The published paper, “Optimal features for auditory categorization” (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09115-y), focuses on vocalizations of the common marmoset. Xiaoqin Wang, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, provided a large set of marmoset vocalizations that captured the wide range of variability in these sounds. The team then used information theory and a “greedy” search algorithm to find features of each vocalization type that consistently occurred despite all of the variability. Their strategy was to select a set of features that jointly maximized performance, but avoid features that were too similar to each other. “We fed our algorithm a bank of marmoset calls and asked it to find the most informative and consistently recognizable features,” explained Liu. “The final output was a set of ‘most informative features’ that are characteristic to a particular call type - much like the distinguishing features of a face (e.g. finding eyes or a nose in an image). By detecting the presence or absence of these most informative features in incoming sounds, the model can identify the vocalization type with very high accuracy.” After the features were shown to be effective in the theoretical model, the team returned to the animals to test if the brain was in fact looking for these informative features. They found interesting results when they compared data from their model to neural responses recorded from marmoset auditory cortex by Sadagopan when he was a graduate student in Xiaoqin Wang’s lab. “The neural evidence supports our model, which means it can be used as a solid foundation for future studies,” said Liu. “Our model gives powerful and accurate predictions of what the brain is listening for in vocalizations. This research has applications in advancing speech recognition technology and auditory prostheses, and I plan to use this work to better understand how the brain can isolate relevant sounds in crowded spaces.” The team’s work was supported by research grants from the National Institutes on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the Pennsylvania Lions Hearing Research Foundation, and the Samuel and Emma Winters Foundation. ###

Mar
26
2019

Ipsita Banerjee Wins 2019 Faculty Diversity Award

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) — Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, is the recipient of the School’s 2019 Faculty Diversity Award. “It would be an understatement to say that Ipsita earnestly strives each year to improve the academic environment fostering the success of under-represented minority students at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels,” says Steven Little, department chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. The Faculty Diversity Award Committee cited Dr. Banerjee’s accomplishments as: Commitment to community engagement through active participation in INVESTING NOW program, as well as collaboration the Carnegie Science Center and REU programs; Leadership and mentorship for women in STEM, through participation in the Women in STEM Conferences and AlChE Women’s Initiative Committee (WIC); Recognized excellence in mentorship, including the 2016 Summer Research Internship (SRI) Faculty Mentor Award by PITT EXCEL program; Service to the Swanson School in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students through various internal and external programs. Beyond her work with organizations on campus, Dr. Banerjee devotes time and effort into programs like the Carnegie Science Center’s CanTEEN Career Exploration Program, sharing her experience with middle school girls and encouraging them to pursue an education in STEM.  She has also been involved with the Women Student Networking conference, AlChE Women’s Initiatives Committee, and in panels for Women in Science and Medicine organized by UPMC. In addition to the award, Dr. Banerjee will receive a $2,000 grant and induction into the Office of Diversity’s Champions for Diversity Honor Roll. Dr. Banerjee’s mentees endorsed her nomination for this award because of her thoughtful support, encouragement and motivation. Her own professional success, they noted, makes her a valuable role model for other women and under-represented minorities in STEM. “Being a Hispanic woman in the field of science and technology, it is sometimes hard to find examples of other women and/or minorities who have gone through the process of pursuing a career in academia with as much success as Dr. Banerjee has,” says Dr. Maria Jaramillo, a senior scientist at IVIVA Medical and the first graduate student to work with Dr. Banerjee at Pitt. She adds that Dr. Banerjee’s help and encouragement to network, collaborate with other scientists at Pitt and beyond, and present her research are among the things that have been most influential to her career. “These opportunities were instrumental for the continuance of my career in academia, and even today, several years after finishing my PhD under her supervision, Dr. Banerjee still provides great support.” “Dr. Banerjee embodies the phrase ‘women empowering women,’” says Brittany Givens Rassoolkhani, a former PITT EXCEL Summer Research Intern who is now a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa. “Throughout my time working with her, it was apparent that she was both brilliant and dedicated. Most importantly, I was encouraged to also be dedicated and brilliant in my own work via the way she mentored myself and other students in the laboratory.” Not only did Dr. Banerjee’s mentorship inspire her students to conduct their own research and find their professional paths, but it also inspired them to be better mentors themselves. Brittany Givens Rassolkhani notes that now she is also a mentor and never forgot the lessons Dr. Banerjee taught. “Throughout this process, Dr. Banerjee has been instrumental in reminding me how important it is as a woman, particularly a woman of color, in the sciences and engineering to be cultivated in an environment that encourages women to be equal, if not better than, their male counterparts,” she says. “Dr. Banerjee never let my goals be big and scary, as I so often saw them; instead, in her eyes our goals as researchers were always achievable. I hope that when I become a professor and start my own laboratory, I am able to provide even half as much support to and faith in my students as I witnessed from Dr. Banerjee.” ###

Mar
22
2019

Bioengineering undergraduates take their diagnostic innovation to the Rice 360° Global Health Competition

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 22, 2019) … Two junior bioengineering students from the University of Pittsburgh were accepted to the Rice 360° Global Health Design Competition where more than 20 national and international student teams will present low-cost global health innovations. Sneha Jeevan and Shivani Tuli will be representing Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering at the competition in Houston, Texas on March 29, 2019. They will demonstrate their handheld complete blood count (CBC) point-of-care device, which can be used as a diagnostic tool for doctors working in underdeveloped nations. The competition asks teams to identify a challenge in delivering healthcare in developing countries and propose a potential technological solution. Tuli was inspired to create this device after a visit to India where she had the opportunity to travel to underprivileged areas and witness healthcare problems first-hand. “Disparities in healthcare access and quality can greatly affect the health of residents in third world countries,” said Tuli. “Diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are rampant, and the lack of quality healthcare prevents proper treatment and contributes to further spread of disease. In developed areas, these illnesses are typically diagnosed through primary blood tests, specifically complete blood count testing, so we wanted to create a tool to help make this technology widespread.” Their team, Blodot, used lab-on-a-chip technology and microfluidic concepts to develop a prototype CBC point-of-care device. Their portable technology uses a drop of blood and receives results within a few minutes. “A CBC test checks several measurable components of your blood in order to detect possible diseases and assess overall health,” said Jeevan. “In underdeveloped countries, however, CBC testing cannot be easily implemented because the machinery involved is expensive and unsuitable for the unhygienic conditions. Additionally, the time it takes for families to receive their results - typically two-to-four days - is impractical for residents who need to travel hours for their appointments with a physician.” According to the competition, teams will be judged on “the quality of the problem definition, the effectiveness and potential impact of the design solution, and the likelihood that the solution can be successful in improving healthcare delivery in low-resource settings by faculty, clinicians, and private and public sector partners from around the country.” “It is an absolute delight to see our undergraduates take advantage of such initiatives to become innovators of the future,” said Arash Mahboobin, assistant professor of bioengineering and coordinator of the undergraduate program. “I have known Shivani and Sneha since the start of their engineering endeavors in the Swanson School and am very proud of their achievements thus far. I will certainly continue to watch their careers develop with great interest and high expectations.” Tuli and Jeevan recently participated in the final round of the Innovation Institute’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an event that awards $100,000 in cash prizes to Pitt student innovations with the goal of helping teams discover how to take their idea to the next level towards startup creation. Blodot placed second in the competition and won a $15,000 prize. ###

Mar
22
2019

SSOE Associate Dean for Diversity and MEMS Associate Professor Receives Award

MEMS, Diversity, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Sylvanus Wosu, associate dean for diversity and MEMS associate professor, was the recipient of this year’s DuPont Minorities in Engineering Award given by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).  The award is intended to recognize the outstanding performance of an engineering educator for their efforts in increasing student diversity within engineering and engineering technology programs. The award consists of a $1500 honorarium, a $500 grant for travel expenses to the ASEE Annual Conference and a certificate.

Mar
21
2019

Pitt researchers receive $550,000 NSF CAREER award to develop new brain-computer therapy method for people with autism

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (March 21, 2019) … Autism was first described by U.S. researchers more than 70 years ago, and today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 59 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), affecting more than 3.5 million Americans. Although clinical techniques are used to help patients with ASD respond to stress and other factors, none are known to couple with technology that could monitor brain response in real time and provide the patient with feedback. However, thanks to a $550,000 award from the National Science Foundation, engineers at the University of Pittsburgh and clinicians at the UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, a new intervention using electroencephalography (EEG)-guided, non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology could complement clinical treatments and improve emotion regulation in people with ASD. The multidisciplinary team includes Murat Akcakaya, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, and Carla A. Mazefsky, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology in Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry. The proposal is funded through an NSF CAREER award, which supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.“People on the autism spectrum today have access to effective clinical strategies or technologies, but none are coupled effectively to provide real-time feedback in real-life activities. This limits reinforcement techniques that the patient can utilize on his or her own, without the need for a clinical appointment,” Dr. Akcakaya explained. “However, by utilizing EEG to couple clinical techniques with BCI technologies, we can develop a closed-loop system that will help patients better learn how to recognize emotional triggers and respond with appropriate techniques generalizing the effects of clinical treatment strategies to real-life activities.” Akcakaya and Mazefsky will develop social interaction scenarios in virtual environments while recording EEG responses simultaneously in order to detect patterns that represent changes in distress levels. The virtual scenario will then present audio or visual cues to help remind them how to handle stress. The project will also develop new machine learning algorithms and neuroscience methods to identify EEG features associated with emotion regulation to classify between distress and non-distress conditions, and to distinguish among different distress levels.The two will also investigate the promise of these EEG and virtual reality approaches within the context of Mazefsky’s randomized controlled clinical trial funded by the US Department of Defense. The clinical trial is testing the efficacy of an intervention Mazefsky and colleagues developed, called the Emotion Awareness and Skills Enhancement (EASE) program, in 12- to 21-year-old verbal youth with ASD. “EASE emphasizes awareness of one’s own emotional responses as a foundational skill that promotes the ability to manage intense negative emotions, which is taught through mindful awareness,” Mazefsky explained. “By coupling the clinical strategies we teach in EASE with technological interventions, we believe we can enhance patients’ ability to distinguish different distress levels and therefore potentially reap even greater (and more generalized) benefit.”The CAREER award will also enable Akcakaya to develop courses related to the research and outreach activities to promote STEM and ASD research to K-12 populations and the broader public. Outreach will focus especially on individuals with ASD, their families, and caretakers.  “Early diagnosis and intervention can help patients with ASD and their families improve quality of life, and so providing clinicians with a new tool that both enhances and reinforces what patients learn is critical to closing the loop between triggers and responses,” Akcakaya said. “Additionally machine learning based on biological responses could also be integrated in to the existing technologically driven intervention techniques targeting patients across the autism spectrum.  Eventually, the technology could be incorporated in an accessory like a smart watch or glasses, enhancing patient privacy and building confidence.” ###

Mar
21
2019

Bistra Iordanova receives a $25K award to address the differences between men and women in Alzheimer’s disease risk and progression

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (March 21, 2019) Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the leading causes of disability in the elderly, affecting 5.4 million people in the United States and 35 million people worldwide.1 Two-thirds these individuals are women, and though they are disproportionately affected, the biological basis of the sex differences in AD onset and progression is not well understood. Bistra Iordanova, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, received a $25,000 award from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center to collect data from female rodent models, integrate it with her existing datasets from males, and begin to examine whether AD onset and progression differs between the two. One reason AD research lacks female data is because in a significant portion of human studies, the sex variable is regressed out, and the data are pooled together. And until recently, the bulk of animal studies exclusively used males in an effort to keep costs low. “A long-held view for the cause of the disparity between men and women developing Alzheimer’s disease pointed at the greater female lifespan,” said Dr. Iordanova. “However, a growing number of studies demonstrate that even if we control for the fact that women live longer, they are still at higher risk than men to develop dementia, and we have only recently begun to examine the cause.” According to Dr. Iordanova, research suggests that vascular dysfunction and oxygen deficiencies may be major risk factors in AD for both men and women, however, evidence reveals that the pathways may be different and some susceptibilities may be significantly stronger in one sex. “The aging metabolic transitions in women have a specific bioenergetic profile with early mitochondrial dysfunction, a drop in vascular reactivity, and reduced oxygen availability,” said Dr. Iordanova. “This transitional stage makes women particularly vulnerable to vascular and metabolic assaults. It is important to note that the unique aspects of woman’s aging do not happen in isolation but interact with the genetic and environmental factors that are common for all humans.” Dr. Iordanova plans to use this award to compare metabolic and vascular health between male and female rat models and correlate the data with well-established hallmarks of AD such as amyloid plaques in brain tissues and blood vessels. Her laboratory, located at the Center for Bioengineering, develops multi-level imaging platforms to understand the neurovascular unit - a system that supports proper brain function through communication between neurons, which drives cerebral blood flow and local delivery of oxygen and glucose. “In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a number of cellular events precede the onset of clinical symptoms, but the causal relationship between these events is still unclear,” said Dr. Iordanova. “For example, cerebral blood flow decreases, causing the delivery of nutrients and waste clearance to decrease; the neural responses asking for more oxygen and glucose from the blood flow also decrease; and amyloid accumulates in the blood vessels, while neurons degenerate and lose communication with each other.” Dr. Iordanova will use high field 9.4 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging at the Advanced Imaging Center to measure the sex-specific decline in cerebrovascular reactivity, cerebral blood flow, and oxidative and glucose metabolism in rodent models of AD. She will then use in vivo two photon microscopy to correlate these measures with the amyloid plaque accumulation in the blood vessels. She hopes that starting this data collection will spur other researchers to do the same and perhaps reveal biological differences between the sexes related to AD development. Dr. Iordanova is also the current recipient of a three-year, $175,000 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant and an award from the Brain Institute to develop multimodal platforms for systems-level brain imaging in rodent models of dementia. “The use of knowledge about the sex differences in metabolic and vascular contributions to AD will benefit both men and women,” said Iordanova. “It will allow earlier diagnosis on a sex-specific timeline, improve personalized therapy development, and provide more accurate biomarkers for treatment monitoring.” ### 1 https://www.alz.org/media/HomeOffice/Facts%20and%20Figures/facts-and-figures.pdf

Mar
20
2019

Pitt Bioengineering Graduate Students Take Their “Smarter Cardiac Triage” Technology to the Rice Business Plan Competition

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 20, 2019) … More than 400 student startups applied to the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition, and only 42 teams were selected from the world’s top institutions to compete for over $1,500,000 in prizes. Among this elite group of teams will be Heart I/O, a digital diagnostics startup led by University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering graduate students Utkars Jain and Adam Butchy. Their “smarter cardiac triage” technology uses artificial intelligence to detect problems with a patient’s heart more quickly and accurately at a fraction of the cost of current technology. The Heart I/O team includes four co-founders: Mr. Jain, a bioengineering graduate student and the chief executive officer; Mr. Butchy, a bioengineering graduate student and the chief strategy officer; Michael Leasure, a Pitt School of Business alumnus and the chief operating officer; and Nick Flanigan, a business student at Carnegie Mellon University and the chief technology officer. “When an individual reports to the hospital with chest pain, they enter triage, which determines treatment based on the severity of presented symptoms,” explained Butchy. “Using artificial intelligence to read an electrocardiogram (ECG) signal, our technology will more efficiently determine if the patient is experiencing a serious cardiac event in a mere 10 seconds - a vast improvement from the current process, which can take 8-72 hours for a diagnosis.” The Heart I/O technology feeds ECG signals to an artificial intelligence model, which takes the delivered data, learns from it, and determines the most efficient pattern recognition based on what it has learned. In time, the computer trains itself on how to diagnose cardiac events from an ECG. Their inexpensive and cloud-based tool will help emergency providers rapidly and effectively sort patients that need further diagnostic testing from those who can be safely discharged. “Heart I/O is the result of a class project during my undergraduate studies at Pitt,” said Jain. “ECGs are one of the first tests that patients reporting with chest pain receive, and I thought that if I could equip ECGs with the computational power of artificial intelligence, I could improve the accuracy of diagnoses.” Jain’s grandfather, who passed away from the misdiagnosis of a cardiac event, was the inspiration for this project. “When my grandfather reported to the hospital with chest pain, physicians assumed it was a heart attack and prescribed blood thinners,” explained Jain. “This caused an ulcer to burst, and he died almost instantly. If they had more information about whether or not he was actually experiencing a cardiac event, it might have saved his life.” The team tested their technology by feeding it a collection of ECG data to see if the computational results matched the actual diagnosis. Based on their studies, their tool is currently 95-97 percent accurate. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, which also makes it one of the most costly,” said Butchy. “Not only will our tool help save lives, but it will also save money for patients and insurance providers.” Before heading to the Rice Business Plan competition, the Heart I/O team will participate in the Innovation Institute’s Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an event that awards $100,000 in cash prizes to Pitt student innovations with the goal of helping teams discover how to take their idea to the next level towards startup creation. The team plans to continue developing their technology and raising money with the hope of eventually moving their tool toward commercialization. ### Acknowledgement: Heart I/O would like to thank all the great minds and leaders at the Innovation Institute. In particular, Babs Carryer for her endless enthusiasm, support, and guidance; Joanna Sutton for being an early sounding board, really refining a lot of our ideas to what they are today; Philip Marzolf for all his work with us on our Rice application, Don Morrison for his feedback on revenue models and commercialization; Ketaki Desai for her incredible insight into the healthcare market; and Jess Malandro for all the work she does behind the scenes. In addition, Heart I/O has had the support of many University of Pittsburgh students who have contributed their time, effort, and passion to making Heart I/O into a reality. In particular, Katherine Poduska, a senior Bioengineering student; Mazen Megahed, a sophomore Mechanical engineering student; and Adam Duca, a junior in Rehabilitation Science and Assistive Technology. Lastly, Heart I/O would like to thank, Matt Kesinger, John Cordier, and Lou Camerlengo for their endless patience with revisions, guidance, and support; John Marous, a great mentor who is helping us through the commercialization process; and Dr. Veronica Covalesky and Dr. Emerson Liu,  great physicians helping us with clinical studies and overall medical knowledge.

Mar
20
2019

Pitt's Coulter Program recently invested $575,000 in five innovative medical device technologies to advance them towards commercialization


The Coulter Program, Pitt’s on-campus biomedical accelerator housed in the Department of Bioengineering, recently invested over $575,000 in 5 innovative medical device technologies to advance them towards commercialization. This investment is in collaboration with Magee-Womens Research Institute, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the Department of Plastic Surgery. 2018 Funded projects: Lipostore ModELAS PneuScooter VASFAS Push to Spin Syringe In 2018, the Coulter Program also seed funded, Biodynamic Stereo-Radiography project in collaboration with the Innovation Institute and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Learn more about a few successful, Coulter-funded projects: Koutif Therapeutics, which licensed patents from Pitt and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is pursuing a Phase I clinical trial of an investigational new drug targeted to diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Chrohn's Disease.  Coulter funded the E3: Novel FBXO3 anti-inflammatories technology which was a collaboration between Rama Mallampalli, MD and Bill Chen, PhD. Read more. > Renerva, a Coulter funded, University of Pittsburgh spin-out company, received a $2.4 Million Department of Defense award to advance its peripheral nerve matrix technology to the clinic. Read more. > AtlasMedTech, recently spun-out of the University under the leadership of CEO Joe Marcanio who incubated the company’s surgical tools technology as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Innovation Institute with funding and support from the Coulter Program. Read more. > ###

Mar
19
2019

Gelsy Torres-Oviedo Receives Early Career Award from the Society for the Neural Control of Movement

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (March 19, 2019) … Gelsy Torres-Oviedo, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, was awarded the Society for the Neural Control of Movement’s 2019 Early Career Award. She will be presented the award at the NCM Annual Meeting on April 23-27, 2019 in Toyama, Japan. NCM’s Early Career Award recognizes outstanding contributions by scientists who have significantly advanced the understanding of the neural control of movement within 10 years of receiving their doctoral degree. The recipient is chosen by NCM’s board and will have the opportunity to present a lecture at the annual meeting. Prof. Torres-Oviedo is the second recipient of this competitive award for junior faculty members, which receives close to 100 nominations annually. She leads the Sensorimotor Learning Laboratory in the Swanson School of Engineering where her research group investigates the ability of the human motor system to adapt walking patterns and learn new movements upon sustained changes in the environment. “My long-term research goals are to advance the current understanding of walking deficits post-stroke and develop treatments to improve their gait,” said Prof. Torres-Oviedo. “My approach has been to combine quantitative tools from engineering and experimental work based on post-stroke neurology.” She will present a talk titled, “Sensorimotor adaptation studies to advance neurorehabilitation after stroke,” where she will discuss her work related to the generalization of movements from trained to untrained situations. “My work is just an example of scientific efforts to address clinical problems through a combination of computational and laboratory-based studies,” said Prof. Torres-Oviedo. “I envision that my research will contribute to the progress of gait rehabilitation and ultimately improve the quality of life of patients and caregivers.” Prof. Torres-Oviedo will receive travel support to the meeting, accommodation at the conference hotel, complimentary conference registration, an engraved plaque, and a $500 award. “I am delighted that Prof. Torres-Oviedo’s work in the area of neural control of movement is being recognized by her colleagues,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “Her work nicely complements the strengths we have at Pitt in systems neuroscience in general and neuro-prosthetics and rehabilitation neural engineering in particular.” ###

Mar
19
2019

BioE’s Brown Lab Receives Two Carnegie Science Award Honorable Mentions

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (March 19, 2019) … Bryan Brown, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and Alexis Nolfi, a graduate student researcher in Brown’s lab, were recognized by the Carnegie Science Awards, announced on March 13 by the Carnegie Science Center. Brown received an honorable mention for the for the Post-secondary Educator Award, and Nolfi received an honorable mention for the College/University Student Award. The Post-secondary Educator Award recognizes educators for innovation and impact in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including: inspiring students to understand, appreciate, and apply science, technology, engineering, or math; and strengthening the teaching profession through the spread of innovative practices. Brown, who joined the Department of Bioengineering in 2011, has mentored two visiting scholars/junior faculty, four post-doctoral fellows, nine PhD students, and one MS student. He has taught three distinct courses, with a total of 13 course offerings. He is also a member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where he serves as the Director of Educational Outreach. In July 2014, Brown organized and launched the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine Summer School, a hands-on experiential learning program that aims to provide regional, national, and international students an opportunity to explore the multidisciplinary field of regenerative medicine. Through lectures and laboratory experiences, undergraduate students have the opportunity to interact with more than 20 faculty members from across the University. A goal for this program is to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds, including those from universities that lack significant bioengineering and/or regenerative medicine programs. “We want to reach a diverse audience of students and help them develop a better understanding of the field and career options within regenerative medicine,” said Brown. In addition to the summer camp, Brown also started a course on regenerative medicine through the Carnegie Mellon University Osher Center for Lifelong Learning. “The Osher course, which continues to be well attended every semester, targets continuing learners and is intended to make the possibilities of regenerative medicine understandable to a lay population,” said Brown. “Dr. Brown’s educational outreach efforts have improved awareness and understanding of the University’s world class regenerative medicine efforts,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “His work with our graduate students and the McGowan Institute Summer School helps to build the nascent careers of future engineers and innovators.” The student award recognizes an individual working towards a degree in a STEM field, for impact and innovation: preparing youth to consider career opportunities in STEM fields and pursuing research that contributes to the societal or economic well-being of the region. Nolfi is involved in numerous projects centered on how the immune system is involved in the pathogenesis of disease and how we can modify immune response to biomaterials and with biomaterials-based approaches. Much of her work has a distinct focus in women’s health applications, including a polypropylene mesh often used in pelvic surgery and a novel ovarian hydrogel that could one day be used to generate a tissue-appropriate model of endometriosis. “Since joining Dr. Brown’s lab, I have realized that the immune system is really at the core of most disease processes,” said Nolfi. “It’s not that we are trying to ‘turn off’ the immune response to biomaterials or in disease; rather, we are trying to harness and modify this response so that we can engage the body to help us generate better outcomes. “This research is incredibly important to me - aside from having a vested interest in women’s health initiatives, the field of basic science research in women’s health topics is underserved by the biomaterials and regenerative medicine community,” continued Nolfi. “This research helps to shine light on topics deserving of more attention, and the experimental findings and developments will be applicable to not only biomaterials-based urogynecologic applications, but also to furthering advancement of other biomaterial and immunology-based fields.” ###

Mar
19
2019

Dr. William Federspiel Receives the Carnegie Science Award for Life Sciences

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (March 19, 2019) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. William Federspiel was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Carnegie Science Award for Life Sciences, one of 16 categories announced March 13 by the Carnegie Science Center. The award recognizes and honors scientific advances in new and innovative biomedical and life sciences endeavors that benefit the economy, health, or societal well-being of the region. Dr. Federspiel, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, directs the Medical Devices Lab in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine where researchers develop clinically significant devices for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. In particular, Dr. Federspiel’s lab  have created next-generation artificial lung devices, including portable, wearable devices for adults and children suffering from lung disease. His research in artificial lung technology eventually led Dr. Federspiel to co-found ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device startup company that develops technology for treating respiratory failure. He serves as head of the scientific advisory board for the company, which is currently running clinical trials for their Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), a dialysis-like alternative for or supplement to mechanical ventilation which removes carbon dioxide directly from the blood in patients with acute respiratory failure. “What motivates me about the research we do is that it all focuses ultimately on saving lives of patients, many of whom have no alternatives,” said Dr. Federspiel. In addition to his research, Dr. Federspiel also actively teaches and mentors: he has developed five courses in the Swanson School and has been the primary advisor for 15 PhD students and 15 master’s students. “Dr. Federspiel has been a major asset to our bioengineering program, both through his research and academic leadership” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “His innovative and highly translatable work with respiratory assist devices has the potential to affect the lives of thousands of patients suffering from lung disease.” Other awards and honors Dr. Federspiel has received include, Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering (AIMBE), member of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO), and in 2014 he received an honorable mention in the Startup Entrepreneur Award category from the Carnegie Science Awards. Dr. Federspiel and the rest of the awardees, including two winners and three honorable mentions from the Swanson School,  will be recognized at the 23rd Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration on May 10, 2019. ###

Mar
14
2019

Renerva Receives $2.4 Million DoD Award to Advance Its Peripheral Nerve Matrix Technology to the Clinic

Bioengineering

Renerva, LLC, a medical device company whose technology is based on research from the University of Pittsburgh (Bryan Brown) and Cornell University (Jonathan Cheetham), received a $2.4 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense.Click here to read the original article. PITTSBURGH, Dec. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --  Renerva, LLC, a medical device company developing innovative technology for peripheral nerve injuries, announced today that they have received $2.4 million in nondilutive financing from the U.S. Department of Defense through a Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC) Award (https://mtec-sc.org/press-releases/). Renerva's first product, peripheral nerve matrix (PNM), is an injectable gel derived from porcine tissue that promotes and supports repair and regeneration in injured peripheral nerves. The award will enable Renerva to complete its preclinical program and begin human clinical trials. PNM has the potential to play a significant role in accelerating and improving structural and functional recovery following different modalities of nerve injury. "Remarkably, based on the impact shown in several animal studies, PNM has the potential to return functionality to patients that are left otherwise disabled from different types of nerve injury," noted Chief Technology Officer Dr. Bryan Brown, who holds equity in the company and also serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Renerva's PNM technology is based on 4 years of research in Dr. Brown's laboratory and the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Cheetham, Associate Professor of Clinical Sciences at Cornell University and Chair of Renerva's Scientific Advisory Board.  PNM is protected by five patents licensed from the University of Pittsburgh and Cornell University. "With 20 million patients suffering from different types of peripheral nerve injuries in the U.S. alone, our technology has the potential to treat a broad range of nerve injuries. A peripheral nerve surgeon enthusiastically called PNM the 'Neosporin® of Nerve Repair', hinting at its broad potential and widespread adoption," said Lorenzo Soletti, PhD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Renerva. "Our commercial rollout will first focus on PNM as an adjunct treatment for existing surgical procedures to repair or release traumatically or chronically injured peripheral nerves. That market will then be expanded to treat patients affected by nerve injury through ultrasound or image-guided delivery of PNM to the affected nerves." Renerva's Chief Medical Officer, Paul Gardner, MD, said, "While our initial clinical focus for PNM is in the upper extremities, which are associated with the highest incidence of traumatic nerve injuries, I treat many patients affected by nerve injuries in the head and neck as a result of tumors, traumatic injuries and other conditions. Facial nerve injuries have a very debilitating social impact on patients as the face is so intimately involved in our nonverbal communication and appearance. Indeed, nerve injury affects everything from facial sensation to swallowing and speech.  Giving these patients even a portion of their function back would make a world of difference. Enhancing the ability of a nerve to heal would represent a true paradigm shift in this space." Dr. Gardner holds equity in the company and is an Associate Professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurological Surgery and the Executive Vice Chair of Surgical Services and Neurosurgical Director of the UPMC Center for Cranial Base Surgery. "Renerva combines solid IP and innovative science with broad applicability to several clinical applications, and has a management team that has the experience, dedication, and passion to bring this technology to patients," said Pete DeComo, Chairman and CEO of ALung Technologies, Inc. and member of Renerva's Board of Managers. "Renerva has a platform core technology with the potential to ameliorate several conditions of the peripheral nerve system in a space ripe for adoption of new therapeutic solutions." About Renerva, LLC.Renerva is a medical device company developing solutions for peripheral nerve injuries and damage. Renerva's initial therapeutic focus is on the 500,000 Americans suffering from acute nerve injuries every year, with other indications including the treatment of chronic compressive nerve injuries and other conditions affecting the peripheral nerves. Privately held, Renerva is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To learn more or stay in touch, please visit www.renerva.com. About MTECMTEC is a biomedical technology consortium collaborating with multiple government agencies under a 10-year renewable Other Transaction Agreement with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.  To find out more about MTEC, visit mtec-sc.org. Media Contact InformationLorenzo Soletti(412) 841-7966206433@email4pr.com Related Links https://www.renerva.com
Renerva, LLC
Mar
13
2019

In memory of Dr. Karl Lewis, PhD, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering (retired) and founder of the Pitt Engineering IMPACT Program

Civil & Environmental

Professor Emeritus Karl H. Lewis, a doctor of philosophy in Civil Engineering who played a pivotal role in changing the cultural diversity of engineers produced at the University of Pittsburgh, died on March 5, 2019 in Pittsburgh, PA. He was 83. Born on January 15, 1936 in St. Lawrence, Barbados to Everett and Ione Lewis, Karl was known as “Kirby” by his secondary school classmates in Barbados because he was great at most things he put his mind and hands to do, similar to Rick Kirby who was a superman comic in England. Before coming to United States from Barbados, he was a Victor ludorum (Latin for “the winner of games.”) as well as captain of the Cricket and football teams. Arriving in America, Karl lived in New York City with his aunt. He went to Howard University where he majored in Civil Engineering. Subsequently, in 1966, he received his PhD in Civil Engineering with specialization in Geotechnical from Purdue University and then accepted a tenured track professorship at the University of Pittsburgh. A faculty member for less than 5 years, Lewis founded the Pitt Engineering IMPACT Program in 1969 to recruit, retain and successfully graduate black and other underrepresented engineers. He officially retired in 1999, but remained very active at the University of Pittsburgh until recently. Passion, mentorship and intellectual generosity “In the 173-year history of engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, few professors have had such a tremendous impact on the careers and lives of engineers around the globe, as did Dr. Karl Lewis. His legacy of engineering education and his contributions to the profession are respected by generations of engineers who, to a person, note his passion, mentorship, and encouragement," said, James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. "For so many Pitt alumni, Dr. Lewis was and always will be the face and spirit of engineering. His focus on mutual support – which purposefully taught students to learn from each other, and not simply from a textbook – imbued a sense of humanity within our profession, one that we must revisit as we educate the next generation of engineers. "I personally feel a direct connection to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Lewis, who by virtue of tireless efforts created a safe, fertile space in which a diverse community could take root, grow and begin to flourish. He built a bridge to a better future. It is our mission to do the same. "May we all be better engineers – and better people – for the wealth of life that Dr. Lewis shared with us.” Enduring contribution to fundamental issues about equal access Dr. Lewis’ work centered largely on ensuring all students were afforded the right to be the best in their profession. From IMPACT students to students in Civil Engineering, he helped everyone the same regardless of race, religion or national origin. As an immigrant in America, he understood the struggles of equal access so he wanted to ensure everyone received the same level of support with the same level of dignity. Although he officially retired almost 20 years ago, Dr. Lewis maintained a relationship with his former colleagues, students and Swanson School of Engineering alumni. His generosity was far reaching. IMPACT became a big success story for the University. As early as 1975, IMPACT had been recognized by agencies such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science as one of the outstanding science-engineering projects of its type. IMPACT was one of the first two recipients of the Chancellor’s Award for Achievement in Affirmative Action. It has also received excellent ratings from the PA Department of Education. A 2001 study conducted by the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies, Inc. (AAES) showed the University’s commitment to recruiting women and minorities was successful. Pitt’s Engineering program was ranked first in the State in total number of Black engineering graduates. Nationally, Pitt ranked third out of more than 600 schools the AAES surveyed in the United States in the number of engineering doctorates awarded to Blacks. It was also ranked 22nd in the number of engineering Bachelor of Science degrees and in the overall number of engineering degrees awarded to Blacks. IMPACT became the model for other predominantly White institutions (PWI) that were looking to increase the number of minority students that successfully graduated with an engineering degree. In 2004, an IMPACT alumnus established an endowment in Dr. Lewis’s honor at the University of Pittsburgh, named the Dr. Karl H. Lewis Engineering IMPACT Alumni Endowed Fund. Following the momentum of the endowment, Dr. Lewis was nominated by a couple of his former IMPACT students and received a Golden Torch Lifetime Achievement in Academia Award in 2006 from the National Society of Black Engineers in recognition of his work to increase the number of minority students in engineering. In addition, he was entered into the Swanson School of Engineering’s Hall of Fame the same year. Dr. Lewis often said, “I didn’t want recognition. I just wanted to change the system. Some people came back and thanked me, but that wasn’t my point. I had people that helped me change the narrative. People like to help people that help people. Since IMPACT was successful, we had a lot of support. Mr. K. Leroy Irvis became a very close friend of mine and one of my biggest supporters.” Family pride and joy Karl Lewis’ biggest achievement was his loving family. He often shared stories of his son Kirby excelling in engineering and law at the greatest institutions in the world. His yearly visits, driving from Pittsburgh to Boston with a pit stop in New York, to see his beautiful granddaughters was the center of his pride and joy. Everyone knew Karl as a private man, but if you ever had the chance to hear him speak of his family you would have witnessed how his face always lit up when he shared stories about them and their accomplishments. He wanted most for his family to be secure. His past-time was day trading. Karl said he did this because an engineering salary wasn’t enough to retire on, so he wanted to ensure that his family had financial security. Many of his students had conversations with Karl once they started their career and he would emphatically share the importance of saving and investing in the early years of their career. He shared his discipline of reading the Wall Street Journal daily and watching the markets. Karl emphasized building financial wealth to leave a legacy for your family. Anyone that knew Karl understood his love for his family and ensuring they were better off than he was growing up. Karl’s grandmother sent him to New York to live with his aunt so he could have a better life than what he could achieve in Barbados. That never stopped him from loving his country. He often commented how beautiful his country was and enjoyed visiting there with his family. He is survived by his lovely wife Gretchen; son Kirby (Janelle) of McLean, VA; grandchildren: Alexandra, Evelyn, and Veronica; beloved siblings: Doris E. Green of Queens, NY (1 nephew and 4 nieces in Doris’ family); Gloria “June” Lewis-Callender of Laurelton, NY (1 nephew and 1 niece in June’s family); Grace White of Queens, NY; Neville Lewis of Corona, CA; brother in-law Karl Schultz of Sherwood, OR; and a host of IMPACT alumni. A memorial service is planned for Friday, June 21, 2019, at 7:30 PM at the Heinz Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mar
12
2019

The ups and downs of sit-stand desks: Pitt bioengineer Dr. April Chambers compiles studies to examine the comprehensive benefits of the popular accessory

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (March 12, 2018) … Have a seat. No, wait! Stand. With researchers suggesting that “sitting is the new smoking,” sit-stand desks (SSD) have become a common tool to quell sedentary behavior in an office environment. As this furniture becomes ubiquitous, conflicting opinions have arisen on its effectiveness. The University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. April Chambers worked with collaborators to gather data from 53 studies and published a scoping review article detailing current information on the benefits of SSDs. “There has been a great deal of scientific research about sit-stand desks in the past few years, but we have only scratched the surface of this topic,” said Chambers, assistant professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “With my background in occupational injury prevention, I wanted to gather what we know so far and figure out the next steps for how can we use these desks to better benefit people in the workplace.” This work was done in collaboration with Dr. Nancy A. Baker, associate professor of occupational therapy at Tufts University, and Dr. Michelle M. Robertson, executive director for the Office Ergonomics Research Committee (OERC). The scoping review, published recently in Applied Ergonomics (DOI: 10.1016/j.apergo.2019.01.015), examines the effects of a sit-stand desk in the following domains: behavior, physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture. “The study found only minimal impacts on any of those areas, the strongest being changes in behavior and discomfort,” said Baker. Their work showed that use of a SSD effectively got participants to sit less and stand more and that the device made users more comfortable at work. However, many frustrations with SSDs stem from the physiological outcomes. Early adopters were fed the idea that these desks would be the miracle cure for obesity, but users were not achieving the results they expected. According to the review, physiological effects were the most studied, but within that domain, there were no significant results with regards to obesity. “There are health benefits to using sit-stand desks, such as a small decrease in blood pressure or low back pain relief, but people simply are not yet burning enough calories to lose weight with these devices,” said Chambers. “Though these are mild benefits, certain populations might benefit greatly from even a small change in their health. In order to achieve positive outcomes with sit-stand desks, we need a better understanding of how to properly use them; like any other tool, you have to use it correctly to get the full benefits out of it.” There are many considerations to most effectively use a SSD, such as desk height, monitor height, amount of time standing, or the use of an anti-fatigue mat. Chambers believes that workplace setup and dosage are two factors that should be further studied. “There are basic ergonomic concepts that seem to be overlooked,” said Chambers. “Many workers receive sit-stand desks and start using them without direction. I think proper usage will differ from person to person, and as we gather more research, we will be better able to suggest dosage for a variety of workers.” Chambers noted that the current research is limited because many of studies were done with young and healthy subjects who were asked to use the desk for a week or month at most. Since some of the significant benefits are with cardiovascular health or muscle discomfort, it may be beneficial to perform additional studies with middle-aged or overweight workers. “There is still more to learn about sit-stand desks,” said Chambers. “The science is catching up so let’s use what we’ve studied in this area to advance the research and answer some of these pressing questions so that people can use sit-stand desks correctly and get the most benefit from them.” ###

Mar
12
2019

University of Pittsburgh expert in fluid dynamics, combustion and aerodynamics to co-chair mini symposium at NC19

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 12, 2019) … Peyman Givi, developer of the Filtered Density Function (FDF) used in very high fidelity numerical simulation of chemically reactive flow fields, will co-chair a mini symposium on the subject at the 17th International Conference on Numerical Combustion (NC19) in Aachen, Germany from May 6-8, 2019. Dr. Givi is a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the James T. MacLeod Professor in Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.The mini symposium “Filtered Density Function Methods for Turbulent Reactive Flows” will include 60 participants and 28 presented papers. According to Dr. Givi, participants will learn the latest developments and innovations in enhancing the computational and predictive capabilities of the FDF methodology.“When I first developed and introduced FDF, many thought it was mathematically complex and too computational intensive,” Dr. Givi says. “However, I have worked with my outstanding PhD students at Pitt to develop methodologies to address the computational complexity and further refine its adoption. Today, I could not be more pleased by the number of colleagues from outstanding institutions around the world who will be joining us in Aachen to share their success stories using our method.” For more information, visit http://givi.pitt.edu/news/. About Dr. GiviPrior to his tenure at Pitt, Dr. Givi held the rank of University Distinguished Professor in Aerospace Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he received the Professor of the Year Award by Tau Beta Pi (2002). He also worked as a Research Scientist at the Flow Industries, Inc. in Seattle. Dr. Givi has had frequent visiting appointments at the NASA Langley & Glenn (Lewis) centers, and received the NASA's Public Service Medal (2005). He is among the first 15 engineering faculty nationwide who received the White House Presidential Faculty Fellowship. He is also a recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, and the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Givi is the Deputy Editor of AIAA Journal, member of the editorial boards of Computers & Fluids, Journal of Applied Fluid Mechanics; the Open Aerospace Engineering Journal, an Associate Editor of Journal of Combustion; and a past advisory board member of Progress in Energy and Combustion Science. He received his Ph.D. from the Carnegie Mellon University (PA), and BE (Summa Cum Laude) from the Youngstown State University (OH), where he was named the 2004 Phi Kappa Phi Distinguished Alumnus, and the 2012 STEM College Outstanding Alumnus. Dr. Givi has achieved Fellow status in AAAS, AIAA, APS, and ASME; and was designated as ASME's Engineer of the Year 2007 in Pittsburgh. ###

Mar
12
2019

2019 Carnegie Science Awards include six honorees from the Swanson School of Engineering

Bioengineering, Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (March 12, 2019) ... Each year, Carnegie Science Center celebrates some of the Pittsburgh region’s most inspiring science and technology innovators with the Carnegie Science Awards. Today, the Science Center announced the recipient of the Chairman’s Award and the winners and honorable mentions in 16 categories, who will be celebrated at the 23rd Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration on Friday, May 10, 2019. Carnegie Science Award winners are selected by a committee of peers—both past awardees and industry leaders—who rigorously reviewed more than 200 nominations and selected the most deserving scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, communicators, educators, and students whose contributions have led to significant economic or societal benefit in western Pennsylvania. This year’s exceptional innovators include a tuition-free technical education program that has connected thousands of unemployed and underemployed individuals to a job and living wage; a graduate student who trains residents in under-served neighborhoods to identify environmental concerns in their homes; a team that created an open-source database that will assist research teams in taking energy-saving action to reduce methane leaks; and the fastest-growing food recovery organization in the country whose app brings fresh food to those who need it most. “The Carnegie Science Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate the remarkably talented individuals and organizations in our region’s science community,” said Jason Brown, Henry Buhl, Jr., Interim Director of Carnegie Science Center. “These innovators have had immeasurable impact on Pittsburgh’s healthcare, manufacturing, energy, environmental, and education industries. Their achievements, dedication, and perseverance are truly inspiring.” Winners and honorable mentions along with three student winners who will be selected later this month at the Covestro Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair, will be honored during the 23rd Annual Carnegie Science Awards Celebration at Carnegie Science Center on Friday, May 10, 2019. The Swanson School recipients include: Life Sciences: Dr. William J. Federspiel, William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Dr. Federspiel is an internationally recognized pioneer, innovator, and technical expert in the medical devices arena. His research has led to the design and development of novel artificial lung devices, membrane and particle-based blood purification devices, and oxygen depletion devices for blood storage systems. His success lies in his commitment to ensure that each project begins with and is supported by a strong foundation in life science and engineering. His contributions have strengthened Pittsburgh’s stance as a hub for medical device development and manufacturing, and his work has led to the formation of new companies that provide more than 50 high-tech jobs to the Western Pennsylvania region. Leadership in Career and Technical Education: University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center Since 1994, the University of Pittsburgh Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) has connected thousands of people with meaningful careers in manufacturing. The programs at MAC are accelerated and often available at no cost to the students, so unemployed and underemployed individuals can be connected to a job and a living wage in as little as six weeks. In addition, MAC has strengthened career pathways for high school students across Southwestern Pennsylvania by offering certification opportunities to partnering high schools and career and technical centers. With the opening of the MAC Makerspace in 2018, MAC has provided a place for future manufacturers to engage with technological tools and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. College/University Student: Harold Rickenbacker, Swanson School Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation While pursuing his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh, Harold has integrated engineering and environmental justice with community-based organizations to address the pressing issue of indoor and ambient air quality in under-served Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Through an initiative in Pittsburgh’s East End called the Environmental Justice Community Alert Matrix, Harold led trainings to provide over 200 residents with the technical knowledge to identify environmental concerns within their homes, while detailing the importance of addressing environmental sustainability at the nexus of water use, energy consumption, and air pollution. Harold is committed to paying it forward, and his efforts are improving the health and quality of life of the communities he works with for years to come. Honorable Mentions: Postsecondary Educator – Bryan Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering College/University Student – Alexis Nolfi BSBioE ‘11 BSPsych ‘11, Department of Bioengineering PhD Candidate Science Communicator – Paul Kovach, Director of Marketing and Communications, Swanson School of Engineering About Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Established in 1895 by Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a collection of four distinctive museums: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. In 2017, the museums reached more than 1.4 million people through exhibitions, educational programs, outreach activities, and special events. ###
Kaitlyn Zurcher, Carnegie Science Center Senior Manager of Marketing
Mar
11
2019

MEMS professor co-authors review paper in Materials Today Physics

MEMS

Sangyeop Lee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, is co-author of a recent article, “Survey of ab initio phonon thermal transport” in Materials Today Physics (vol. 7, 2018, pp. 106-120, DOI 10.1016/j.mtphys.2018.11.008). According to the abstract: The coupling of lattice dynamics and phonon transport methodologies with density functional theory has become a powerful tool for calculating lattice thermal conductivity (k) with demonstrated quantitative accuracy and applicability to a wide range of materials. More importantly, these first-principles transport methods lack empirical tuning parameters so that reliable predictions of k behaviors in new and old materials can be formulated. Since its inception nearly a decade ago, first-principles thermal transport has vastly expanded the range of materials examined, altered our physical intuition of phonon interactions and transport behaviors, provided deeper understanding of experiments, and accelerated the design of materials for targeted thermal functionalities. Such advances are critically important for developing novel thermal management materials and strategies as heat sets challenging operating limitations on engines, microelectronics, and batteries. This article provides a comprehensive survey of first-principles Peierls-Boltzmann thermal transport as developed in the literature over the last decade, with particular focus on more recent advances. This review will demonstrate the wide variety of calculations accessible to first-principles transport methods (including dimensionality, pressure, and defects), highlight unusual properties and predictions that have been made, and discuss some challenges and behaviors that lie beyond. Dr. Lee, who joined Pitt in 2015, studies nanoscale thermal transport in solid materials, and his research is currently focused on hydrodynamic phonon transport in graphitic materials and thermal transport in fully or partially disordered phase. His group utilizes Boltzmann transport theory, Green's function method, and molecular dynamics simulation, all of which use interatomic force constants calculated from density functional theory. He earned his BS and MS in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT. Funding for this research was provided by: Office of Science Oak Ridge National Laboratory National Science Foundation (1709307, 1150948, 1705756) Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (HR0011-15-2-0037)

Mar
6
2019

ECE Chair Alan George Named Interim Director of Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

All SSoE News

Alan D. George, the Ruth and Howard Mickle Endowed Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering and department chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been named the interim director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC). “Alan is the perfect person to serve in this role and provide experienced leadership during this interim period,” said Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research. “We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his willingness to contribute his vast expertise in this area to the strategic and operational needs of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.” George said, “Throughout my career, I have admired PSC for its pioneering achievements in high-performance computing and data analytics, and I am happy to help PSC while the search committee completes its important work in identifying the new PSC director.” George is the founder and director of the Center for Space, High-Performance and Resilient Computing (SHREC), an NSF consortium of more than 30 partners from industry, government and academia that work collaboratively to solve research challenges. The main research focus of SHREC is “mission-critical computing,” which includes space computing, high-performance computing and data analytics and resilient computing to ensure computer dependability in harsh environments like space or the ocean floor. SHREC currently has a computer experiment on board the International Space Station, and expects a second to launch to the ISS this spring. Established in 1986, the PSC is a joint effort between Pitt and CMU to provide university, government and industrial researchers with access to several of the most powerful systems for high-performance computing and data storage available to scientists and engineers nationwide for unclassified research. PSC advances the state of the art in high performance computing, communications and data analytics, and offers a flexible environment for solving the largest and most challenging problems in computational science. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) launched a nationwide search for a new PSC director in December 2018. George will serve as interim until that search is completed, which is expected to be later this year. He succeeds Nick Nystrom who is returning to his role as PSC’s senior director of research to focus on research initiatives.

Mar
4
2019

Solving a Sticky Problem

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 4, 2019) … Although far thinner than a human hair, metal nanoparticles play an important role in advanced industries and technologies from electronics and pharmaceuticals to catalysts and sensors. Nanoparticles can be as small as ten atoms in diameter, and their small size makes them especially susceptible to coarsening with continued use, which reduces functionality and degrades performance. To advance the understanding of micro- and nano-surfaces and to engineer more stable nanoparticles, the National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Pittsburgh’s Tevis Jacobs a $500,000 CAREER Award, which supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Dr. Jacobs, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, will utilize electron microscopy to directly study and measure adhesion properties of nanoparticles and their supporting substrates. “Research has already shown that nanoparticle coarsening is related to nanoparticle adhesion; however, those prior studies measured the aggregate behavior of billions of particles simultaneously. The large number of particles prevented systematic investigation of the key factors governing adhesion. To gain a better understanding, we need to be able to study individual nanoparticles in action, in real time,” Dr. Jacobs explains. “Our suite of tools for performing mechanical and materials testing inside of a transmission electron microscope allows for direct measurements of adhesion under different circumstances. These measurements will enable greater understanding of the atomic-scale relationships between nanoparticle adhesion and coarsening.” Dr. Jacobs noted that current processes to counter nanoparticle coarsening utilize stabilizing materials, but matching the most effective stabilizer to a nanoparticle is a time-consuming and costly trial-and-error process. The CAREER award will enable Dr. Jacobs and his lab group to develop new methods to measure the attachment and stability of nanoparticles on surfaces under various conditions, allowing researchers to enhance both surfaces and nanoparticles in tandem to work more effectively together. Additionally, the CAREER award allows Dr. Jacobs and his Surfaces and Small-Scale Structures Laboratory  to engage with the University of Pittsburgh School of Education and a local elementary school to create and nationally disseminate surface engineering-focused curricular units for sixth- to eighth-grade students and professional development training modules for teachers. “Incorporating engineering projects in early grades has the potential to inspire more students of all backgrounds to become interested in STEM, and can have particularly strong effects on groups that are underrepresented in STEM careers today,” Dr. Jacobs said. “And on the research side, the improvements in nanoparticle performance will have direct benefit in applications such as manufacturing, solar energy, and sensors for the detection of pollutants in the environment and diseases in the body.” ### Above from left: PhD students Sai Bharadwaj Vishnubhotla, Yahui Yang, and Dr. Jacobs with the FEI Titan Themis aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope in the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering (PINSE) and Nanoscale Fabrication and Characterization Facility.

Mar
1
2019

Shifting Into High Gear

Industrial, MEMS, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

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

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

Industrial, Student Profiles

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

Feb

Feb
28
2019

Swanson School Undergrad Kaylene Stocking Wins the University’s Top Student Award for Scholarship

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

Click here to view the PittWire Accolade. PITTSBURGH (February 28, 2019) … The 43rd annual Honors Convocation recognized the academic achievements of nearly 3,700 students and 478 faculty members, including the University’s highest awards for undergraduate students. The Emma W. Locke Award, given to a graduating senior in recognition of high scholarship, character and devotion to the ideals of the University of Pittsburgh, went to the Swanson School of Engineering’s Kaylene Stocking. “We are very proud of Kaylene’s accomplishments,” said Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “She has effectively leveraged Swanson School resources and her own ingenuity to achieve academic excellence within and outside of the classroom and make impactful contributions to the University community. We know she has a bright, successful future ahead!” Stocking is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in both bioengineering and computer engineering. Her research has led to three journal publications, two presentations and a Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention. She is also an undergraduate teaching assistant, an Honors College ambassador and member of the Pitt orchestra. For the past two years, she has been working in the BIONIC Lab led by Takashi D. Y. Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering. Her work focuses on how researchers can improve the longevity of neural implant technology. "It has been an amazing experience to work with Kaylene,” said Kozai. “Her off-the-cuff insights into projects and scientific discussion as well as her simultaneous bird's-eye view perspective and understanding of how each individual piece of data fits into the larger story has been a major driving force in our research lab." Stocking plans to continue her education after graduating this spring. Regarding her time at Pitt, she said, “I'm so grateful for the many opportunities I've had thanks to the amazing Engineering and Honors College communities. I'd like to thank my professors, mentors, family, and friends for their encouragement and support over the last four years.” ###

Feb
26
2019

Pennsylvania's Climate Moment

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Nuclear

Forty-two percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity is generated by nuclear plants, but that percentage may decline as a result of the announced closure of two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear plants in 2019 and 2021, respectively. To explore what impact those closures will have on the Commonwealth's energy portfolio, as well as on decarbonization plans, the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Energy will host a special forum, "Pennsylvania's Climate Moment," on Friday, March 8 from 11:00am - 12:30 pm in Posvar 3911. Heng Ban, PhDR.K. Mellon Professor in Energy, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Director of the Stephen R. Tritch Nuclear Engineering ProgramUniversity of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering Hillary BrightDirector, State Policies Blue Green Alliance Sam RessinFormer PresidentUniversity of Pittsburgh Climate Stewardship Society Kathleen RobertsonSenior Manager of Environmental Policy and Wholesale Market DevelopmentExelon John WalliserSenior Vice-President, Legal AffairsPennsylvania Environmental Council For more information, contact the Center for Energy at 412-624-7476 or centerforenergy@engr.pitt.edu.

Feb
25
2019

Pitt engineer receives $500K NSF CAREER Award to investigate potentially harmful man-made chemicals

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (February 25, 2019) … Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are useful in a variety of industries because of their durability, but do not naturally break down in the environment or human body. With evidence showing that PFAS may have adverse effects on human health, Carla Ng, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wants to further investigate the potential impacts of these chemicals and identify ways to remove them from the environment. She received a five-year, $500,000 NSF CAREER award to pursue this research. Because of their useful oil- and water-repellent properties, PFAS are used in many consumer products, industrial processes, and in firefighting foams, but unfortunately, their manufacturing and widespread use has contributed to the undesired release of these chemicals into the environment. According to Dr. Ng, more than 4,000 different kinds of PFAS may have been for decades, and detailed toxicity data does not exist for the large majority of these. “One of the pressing concerns with PFAS is its adverse effects on human health,” said Dr. Ng. “Conventional drinking water treatment is not effective at removing most PFAS from water so they can build up in the bodies of humans and wildlife, disrupt normal development, and impair the immune system. Some PFAS have been associated with increases in kidney and testicular cancers in humans.” The goal of Dr. Ng’s CAREER award is to address these issues through a complementary approach using predictive modeling and experiments. “In this project, we will use molecular and organism-scale models to conduct large-scale predictive screening of PFAS hazards,” said Dr. Ng. “With the information gathered from our predictive models about the structure-interaction relationships, we will design new bio-inspired sorbents to remove PFAS from water. “Because we have so little information about potentially thousands of these substances, we cannot experimentally assess each one; the costs would simply be too great in time, testing, and resources,” continued Dr. Ng. “This is where models can be very powerful tools because they allow researchers to concurrently conduct virtual experiments on many chemicals. When these models are tied to targeted experiments, their predictions can be evaluated and the models improved to be more accurate.” Beyond understanding the effects of these chemicals, models can also provide clues on how to remove them from the environment. Dr. Ng will employ the very characteristics that make PFAS so dangerous against them. By using her models to discover which biological molecules react strongly with PFAS, her group will be able to design a new class of selective sorbents that remove them from water in an efficient and targeted way. She hopes that the knowledge gained during this five-year CAREER award will also help identify hazardous properties in future chemicals. An important objective of this CAREER award is to engage middle and high school students in STEM research by exposing them to the power of modeling and simulation. To do so, Dr. Ng will implement formal educational programs and informal STEM outreach. She plans to elevate K-12 and undergraduate education through the use of collaborative model-building in a game-like environment. “The agent-based modeling language NetLogo is a freely available and accessible model-building tool that can be equally powerful for cutting edge research or for students exploring new concepts in science and engineering while learning useful model-building and coding skills,” said Dr. Ng. “I hope to enhance systems-level thinking and self-confidence among students in STEM so that we can cultivate diverse cohorts of future STEM leaders.” ###

Feb
25
2019

BioE Alumna Sossena Wood Featured on NBC

Bioengineering

Reposted from PittWire. Read the original here. Sossena Wood, a Pitt alumna twice over who most recently earned a Doctor of Philosophy in bioengineering in 2018, developed a realistic phantom head for magnetic resonance research while at the Swanson School of Engineering. Now, Wood and her research are featured in NBC News Learn’s new online video collection “Discovering You: Engineering Your World.” Debuting during National Engineers Week, which runs through Feb. 23, the series highlights the careers of engineers in a variety of sectors and offers insights to the next generation of students. The video segment on Wood’s research delves into her work while she was a doctoral student at Pitt. She is now a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. Read more about her work and watch the NBC segment.

Feb
20
2019

Swanson School Dean Brings Humanistic Vision, Values to Engineering

All SSoE News

This article was originally published in @Pitt: News of note for the faculty & staff community. Reposted with permission. As a city of steel, iron, glass and natural resources, Pittsburgh has historic ties with the Industrial Age and the engineering innovations that helped to transform human life and the world. Today, however, the city and its research efforts are gradually transitioning into a “Knowledge Age,” where the integration of diverse ideas and disciplines is necessary to improve society. James R. Martin II, the new U.S. Steel Dean for the Swanson School of Engineering, plans to leverage new paradigms in organizational leadership to transform not only the curriculum, but the traditional hierarchies of academia and management. "If you were making something back then, like an automobile, it was a linear process. Individuals were responsible for individual components, working toward assembling the whole,” said Martin of the Industrial Age. “Thus, the organizations themselves mimicked this process and evolved as linear hierarchies, and that structure still remains, even in organizations that don’t create the stereotypical ‘widget’ but now create ideas and knowledge.” “That worked during the time where our threats were predictable and size and scale were synonymous, but the world has pivoted into an age where things are quite nonlinear and unpredictable, and the pace of change is accelerating,” Martin continued. “We now live in a global market economy, and the currency now is knowledge, not the products we make. Apple, for example, does not manufacture anything; their manufacturing is done overseas. They are a knowledge organization, where they continue to adapt.” It’s been six months since Martin arrived at Pitt to begin his deanship, and the growing sense of interdisciplinary community that he hopes to further at the University has been noticeable. The Swanson School has been taking steps in this humanities-driven direction since even before Martin was named dean. The school’s first-year programming has for several years collaborated with Pitt’s Writing Center, and undergraduate engineering students are required to take at least three humanities credits each semester. “The strength of our programs, the community that we have and the quality of the people — including students, faculty and leadership — is just incredible,” Martin said. “As one of the oldest engineering departments in the country, Pittsburgh’s engineering heritage means Pitt was at the epicenter of the American Industrial Revolution. We played a critical role in seeding 19th and 20th century American innovation.” Martin said by removing barriers between departments and other schools, Pitt could be “the best in the world in a number of things.” Martin’s framework in action There are three phases to Martin’s strategic approach: develop a framework of understanding to build a sense of community around a common transformative purpose, shape ideas based on that unified framework and make decisions on impactful initiatives. “We know how to work well as individuals, but the opportunities for transformative impact, be it in the Swanson School, the University or the city, require lots of people from different backgrounds and sectors,” Martin said. “As an engineering school, we need to shift from silos to systems, and few places are suited as well as Pittsburgh for this kind of shift to knowledge ecosystems that spawn innovation.” One example of this framework already in action at Pitt is the newly formed Organizational Innovation Lab, established under Martin, to build the school into an exponential knowledge organization that will learn and adapt to address societal needs. As Martin notes, traditional STEM occupations are changing rapidly, and disruption from technologies such as AI and robotics are already occurring. The dean’s focus is to bring a stronger sense of “robot-proof” humanness back into engineering using the latest social science theories to provide new insights in organizational behavior patterns, mental models, adaptability and emergence of awareness and purpose. “Humility really will be the new smart going forward,” he said. “This work is guided by a powerful new social change approach, Complexity Leadership Theory, which is unprecedented for use at an academic institution,” he said. Martin’s group has already partnered with colleagues from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University on this ground-breaking research to accelerate the impact of this approach to engineering education. The key for innovation and survival in a modern knowledge organization, Martin believes, is a focus on is on continuous learning, not efficiency. He said universities are not exempt from the disruptive forces that have re-shaped most segments of our society. “Disruption is already occurring, but we have been slow to recognize these changes because exponential trends typically begin with small, almost imperceptible changes,” he said. “This means we must also examine our hierarchal operational and leadership structures and disciplinary silos which have not fundamentally changed for centuries.” For students, this framework of knowledge and continuous growth is intended to increase their awareness and contextualize what can be done to improve society — which will ultimately help them discover and cultivate their individual sense of purpose. “It builds in students a recognition that they need to have a lifelong platform of engagement and learning that reflects Pitt’s mission,” Martin said. “We as a University need to pivot to make sure that we understand that most of the education and growth is going to occur outside the four years they have here. “The jobs that most of them will have have not been invented yet. Our mission is to help establish their trajectory as purpose-driven, adaptive problem solvers that will continue for a lifetime. In essence, we are enkindling the flames of universal lifetime learners and leaders.”
Author: Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications
Feb
20
2019

Second Swanson Center for Product Innovation aims to help faculty and businesses

All SSoE News

When the Pitt swim team wanted to find out whether changing their stroke techniques or their training would affect their abilities to compete in the pool, they needed a tiny, waterproof, high-tech measuring device with results they could read on their phones. That’s where the Swanson Center for Product Innovation (SCPI) stepped in. It specializes in product design, development and light manufacturing, from circuit board printing and the latest in 3D metal printing to electromechanical designs and data acquisition (involving, for instance, motion capture technology). There has long been a product innovation center for students, SCPI-Academic, which has been running since the late 1990s, but the new center, SCPI-Professional/Industrial, or SCPI2, aims to serve both University faculty research and local businesses. Funding for the swimmer-testing device had just come from the Innovation Institute’s Performance Innovation Tournament: $80,000 in first-place prize money, won by one of the swim team’s coaches, partnering with researchers from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Now it was time to design the prototype device to measure the force of swimmers’ efforts, with the help of SCPI2. “We get a lot of that,” says research engineer Jarad W. Prinkey, who is in charge of SCPI2. “People in these competitions have an idea but they can’t make the device.” So Prinkey helped figure out how to make the swim-testing device a reality, from estimating the cost and designing the circuit board to devising a waterproof case and 3D-printing a prototype. He took it from concept last August to a prototype in November, when swim team members were able to test it while tethered to their starting blocks. In January, they were able to see a finished product, and SCPI2 has now built five of them. Prinkey says he is already working on a more advanced model. While SCPI2 has its own facility on the fourth floor of Benedum Hall, it also can take advantage of machinery available in many other centers at the Swanson School of Engineering, and the expertise of Swanson faculty. “If someone needs basic design prototyping, even light manufacturing that doesn’t involve intellectual property concerns,” SCPI2 can accomplish it, says David Vorp, associate dean for research. “A lot of places don’t have the one-stop shop,” adds Assistant Dean of Engineering Schohn Shannon, of local businesses that might want to use SCPI2. “There’s no one typical project, and I can’t reveal some of the ones we’ve had people approach us on.” SCPI2 also can take advantage of Swanson faculty’s capabilities in industrial art design, Shannon says, since businesses often want to make their wares more marketable. “We can bring all of those other capabilities into the project as needed,” he says, “to anybody who believes they have an important project.” To get started using the Swanson Center for Product Innovation, contact Jarad W. Prinkey at 412-648-7364.
Marty Levine, University Communications Staff Writer
Feb
20
2019

MEMS Startup Diamond Kinetics Strikes Deal with SeventySix Capital and Former Philly Ryan Howard

MEMS

Read the full article by Andrew Cohen at SportTechie. Sports tech investment firm SeventySix Capital announced it has contributed to the latest round of funding for Diamond Kinetics, a company that develops swing analysis products for baseball and softball. Financial terms of the investment were not included in a press release from SeventySix Capital. Former Philadelphia Phillies All-Star Ryan Howard is a leading partner at SeventySix Capital, which was founded in 1999. With new financial support, Diamond Kinetics plans to continue to develop and refine its bat sensor technology, smart balls, and mobile apps. The company’s SwingTracker training tool includes a bat sensor that measures key swing metrics and can capture real-time analysis of a player’s swing. Though sensors can be attached to handles, through partnerships with more than a dozen bat manufacturers bats can also be purchased with SwingTracker already embedded. ... C.J. Handron and Dr. William Clark founded Diamond Kinetics in 2013. The company is based in Pittsburgh, and previous investors include Bob Nutting, principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Diamond Kinetics has partnered with several youth baseball organizations, including Perfect Game and Ripken Baseball, and also elite collegiate baseball and softball programs from schools such as Vanderbilt University and the University of Georgia. ----- More coverage is available at the Pittsburgh Business Times (subscription required): "Former Phillies slugger invests in local baseball tech company." (Julia Mericle, February 20, 2019) Original news release: "SeventySix Capital, sports tech venture capital fund led by MLB great Ryan Howard, invests in baseball technology company Diamond Kinetics." (Jessica David, Director of Marketing, SeventySix Capital)

Feb
19
2019

Tenure/Tenure-Stream Faculty Position in Synthetic or Systems Biology

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or closely related disciplines for an open-rank, tenured/tenure-stream faculty position. We wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in Synthetic or Systems Biology, with preference given to research focus areas related to mammalian cellular engineering, immune engineering, or neural regeneration. It is expected that this individual will complement our current strengths in biomechanics, bioimaging, molecular, cellular, and systems engineering, medical product engineering, neural engineering, and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate  and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (mirm.pitt.edu), Computational and Systems Biology (https://www.csb.pitt.edu/), the Vascular Medicine Institute (vmi.pitt.edu), the Brain Institute (braininstitute.pitt.edu), Starzl Transplantation Institute (http://www.stiresearch.health.pitt.edu/), and the Drug Discovery Institute (upddi.pitt.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Center for Medical Innovation (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/CMI/), the Coulter Translational Partnership II Program (engineering.pitt.edu/coulter) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu (include “AY20 PITT BioE SynBio-SysBio” in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by June 30, 2019. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received. Early submission is highly encouraged. The Department of Bioengineering is fully committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.

Feb
19
2019

Tenure/Tenure-Stream Faculty Position in Translational Bioengineering

Bioengineering, Open Positions

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD or equivalent degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering, or closely related disciplines for an open-rank, tenured/tenure-stream faculty position. We wish to recruit an individual with strong research accomplishments in Translational Bioengineering (i.e., leveraging basic science and engineering knowledge to develop innovative, translatable solutions impacting clinical practice and healthcare ), with preference given to research focus on neuro-technologies,imaging, cardiovascular devices, and biomimetic and biorobotic design. It is expected that this individual will complement our current strengths in biomechanics, bioimaging, molecular, cellular, and systems engineering, medical product engineering, neural engineering, and tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In addition, candidates must be committed to contributing to high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding, and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Department of Bioengineering, consistently ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs, offering undergraduate (~270 students, sophomore-to-senior years) and graduate (~150 PhD or MD/PhD and ~50 MS students) degrees. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (mirm.pitt.edu),  the Vascular Medicine Institute (vmi.pitt.edu), the Brain Institute (braininstitute.pitt.edu), Starzl Transplantation Institute (http://www.stiresearch.health.pitt.edu/), and the Drug Discovery Institute (upddi.pitt.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. The Center for Medical Innovation (https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/CMI/), the Coulter Translational Partnership II Program (engineering.pitt.edu/coulter) and the Center for Commercial Applications of Healthcare Data (healthdataalliance.com/university-of-pittsburgh) provide biomedical innovation and translation opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single, self-contained PDF attachment via email to bioeapp@pitt.edu (include “AY20 PITT BioE Translational BioE” in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record, if applicable), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement, (5) three representative publications, and (6) names and complete contact information of at least four references. To ensure full consideration, applications must be received by June 30, 2019. However, applications will be reviewed as they are received. Early submission is highly encouraged. The Department of Bioengineering is fully committed to a diverse academic environment and places high priority on attracting female and underrepresented minority candidates. We strongly encourage candidates from these groups to apply for the position. The University affirms and actively promotes the rights of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other protected class.

Feb
15
2019

Pitt Bioengineers Create Ultrasmall, Light-Activated Electrode for Neural Stimulation

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (February 15, 2019) … Neural stimulation is a developing technology that has beneficial therapeutic effects in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. While many advancements have been made, the implanted devices deteriorate over time and cause scarring in neural tissue. In a recently published paper, the University of Pittsburgh’s Takashi D. Y. Kozai detailed a less invasive method of stimulation that would use an untethered ultrasmall electrode activated by light, a technique that may mitigate damage done by current methods. “Typically with neural stimulation, in order to maintain the connection between mind and machine, there is a transcutaneous cable from the implanted electrode inside of the brain to a controller outside of the body,” said Kozai, an assistant professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Movement of the brain or this tether leads to inflammation, scarring, and other negative side effects. We hope to reduce some of the damage by replacing this large cable with long wavelength light and an ultrasmall, untethered electrode.” Kaylene Stocking, a senior bioengineering and computer engineering student, was first author on the paper titled, “Intracortical neural stimulation with untethered, ultrasmall carbon fiber electrodes mediated by the photoelectric effect” (DOI: 10.1109/TBME.2018.2889832). She works with Kozai’s group - the Bionic Lab - to investigate how researchers can improve the longevity of neural implant technology. This work was done in collaboration with Alberto Vasquez, research associate professor of radiology and bioengineering at Pitt. The photoelectric effect is when a particle of light, or a photon, hits an object and causes a local change in the electrical potential. Kozai’s group discovered its advantages while performing other imaging research. Based on Einstein's 1905 publication on this effect, they expected to see electrical photocurrents only at ultraviolet wavelengths (high energy photons), but they experienced something different. “When the photoelectric effect contaminated our electrophysiological recording while imaging with a near-infrared laser (low energy photons), we were a little surprised,” explained Kozai. “It turned out that the original equation had to be modified in order to explain this outcome. We tried numerous strategies to eliminate this photoelectric artifact, but were unsuccessful in each attempt, so we turned the ‘bug’ into a ‘feature.’” “Our group decided to use this feature of the photoelectric effect to our advantage in neural stimulation,” said Stocking. “We used the change in electrical potential with a near-infrared laser to activate an untethered electrode in the brain.” The lab created a carbon fiber implant that is 7-8 microns in diameter, or roughly the size of a neuron (17-27 microns), and Stocking simulated their method on a phantom brain using a two-photon microscope. She measured the properties and analyzed the effects to see if the electrical potential from the photoelectric effect stimulated the cells in a way similar to traditional neural stimulation. “We discovered that photostimulation is effective,” said Stocking. “Temperature increases were not significant, which lowers the chance of heat damage, and activated cells were closer to the electrode than in electrical stimulation under similar conditions, which indicates increased spatial precision.” The lab recently showed how electrical stimulation frequency can activate different populations of neurons. “What we didn’t expect to see was that this photoelectric method of stimulation allows us to stimulate a different and more discrete population of neurons than could be achieved with electrical stimulation.” said Kozai, “This gives researchers another tool in their toolbox to explore neural circuits in the nervous system. “We’ve had numerous critics who did not have faith in the mathematical modifications that were made to Einstein’s original photoelectric equation, but we believed in the approach and even filed a patent application” (patent pending:US20170326381A1), said Kozai. “This is a testament to Kaylene’s hard work and diligence to take a theory and turn it into a well-controlled validation of the technology.” Kozai’s group is currently looking further into other opportunities to advance this technology, including reaching deeper tissue and wireless drug delivery. Stocking anticipates  graduating in April 2019 and plans to pursue a doctoral degree. She said, “The University of Pittsburgh has amazing resources that have allowed me to gain meaningful research experience as an undergraduate, and I’m grateful to Dr. Kozai and the Department of Bioengineering for giving me the opportunity to do impactful work.” ###

Feb
14
2019

A New Wrinkle on Vascular Implants

Chemical & Petroleum

Joe Pugar has always been fascinated with the elegant structures, systems and mechanics of nature.  From the tensile strength of spider silk to the energy conversion ability of photosynthesis, he has been intrigued at adapting the genius of natural design to engineering challenges. That’s what attracted him as a sophomore student in chemical engineering to a summer research project in the lab of Sachin Velankar at the Swanson School of Engineering. The project was a collaboration between Valenkar, professor of chemical engineering, and Luka Pocivavsek, at the time a cardiovascular surgical resident at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, who is now at the University of Chicago. Pocivavsek had the initial idea of developing a vascular implant that mimics the natural surface “wrinkling” that occurs in real blood vessels to keep blood from clotting on the interior vessel walls. What Pugar couldn’t have imagined then is that within three years he would be taking this research out of the university in a startup company called Aruga Technologies with him spearheading the effort as CEO. Read the full article from Pitt's Innovation Institute.
Michael C. Yeomans Marketing and Special Events Manager, Innovation Institute
Feb
13
2019

Scholar Works to Restore Sensory Perception

Bioengineering

Reposted from the ARCS Foundation. Click here to see the original article. Mind over matter—a phrase meant to draw out mental fortitude in a time of physical exhaustion. For University of Pittsburgh ARCS® Scholar Christopher Hughes, this phrase takes on new meaning as he works with a quadriplegic patient to use his brain to move a robotic arm from a few feet away. Hughes, a third-year Pittsburgh Chapter Scholar, is working on the human brain-computer interface (BCI) project studying intracortical micro stimulation (ICMS) for the restoration of tactile perception.  His project team was recently featured in the New Yorker where their work to restore movement by implanting a microelectrode array in a human brain is described. Currently, he focuses on using biomimetic pulse trains to improve naturalness of sensory perception in his patients. Hughes’ work creates an environment for the electrical stimulation to more closely mimic normal neural activity. These pulses give his participants a chance to get back a sense of physical freedom and purpose. “Some of our participants feel as if their life was taken from them,” Hughes said. “Participating in research studies like this helps give them purpose and goals to help others.” He will travel to Japan in April to present findings from this project to several hundred attendees at the Neural Control of Movement Conference. A first generation college student, Hughes says the ARCS Scholar award helped him set aside financial worries and put more focus and thought into his research. The California native says ARCS has enabled him to find community in a place far from home. “Beyond the financial component, I have really appreciated my donors and I have established relationships with them that would have never existed had it not been for ARCS,” he said. "I left all of my family behind to study here in Pittsburgh. But my ARCS donors have made me feel like I have family here.” Help fund scholars like Chris who are changing lives with their passion for science and make a donation to the ARCS Foundation.

Feb
12
2019

Making a Mark on Cardiovascular Disease Detection

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (February 12, 2019) … According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death in the United States.1 Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming, and expensive. Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler, and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier. One method currently applied to cardiovascular disease diagnosis is biochemical marker testing, using only bodily fluids or tissues to search for substances that signal disease or other abnormalities. The goal of this project, “Novel Aptamer-Based Biosensor Platforms for Detection of Cardiomyopathy Conditions,” is to create a tool that more efficiently senses and detects various essential cardiac biomarkers in the bloodstream. This work has previously received funding from the Department of Bioengineering’s Coulter Program as well as the Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Translational Research Pilot Award. Prashant N. Kumta, Edward R. Weidlein Chair and Distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormas, Brack G. Hattler Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Datta said, “Dr. Kumta has extensive experience related to materials functionalization and generation of materials platforms for detection and sensing of biological markers while Dr. Robert Kormas is a renowned cardiologist and an expert in understanding the cardiac biomarkers connected to various cardiovascular diseases.” The group will develop a portable biosensor specific to the cardiac biomarkers using only a few drops of blood to detect and provide the levels within minutes. “The design will include a vertical array of metallic wires functionalized with biological sensing agents, namely the aptamer specific to binding the relevant cardiac biomarkers in the blood,” said Datta. “The resulting platform will measure the change in overall resistance due to the binding of the specific cardiac biomarker to the sensing element. The developed biosensors are extremely sensitive to the resistance changes and as a result, will accurately measure the levels of relevant cardiac markers in the blood, thereby serving as an effective measuring device.” Current biochemical marker assays in hospitals and clinics are benchtop machines that lack portability and require expensive instrumentation and training. Datta’s design will be optimized for precision, reliability, and portability, making biochemical marker testing more accessible in hospitals, emergency room settings, ambulances, and perhaps even at home. “This device will allow patients and clinicians to screen for and circumvent cardiovascular diseases at early stages, thus reducing the cardiovascular disease risk and eventual healthcare costs,” said Datta. “Development of this biosensor will create a simple, inexpensive, and efficient point-of-contact device. We hope to eventually make this versatile technology useful for detection and monitoring disease conditions outside of cardiovascular disease states.” ### 1 According to the AHA… https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics-2018---at-a-glance-ucm_498848.pdf

Feb
8
2019

Engineers’ Society of Western PA honors Pitt Engineering professor and students at 135th Annual Banquet

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (February 8, 2019) … Students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering were recognized last night at the 135th Annual Engineering Awards Banquet of the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania (ESWP), the longest-lived awards program in American history. Mark Magalotti, PhD, P.E., Professor of Practice in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Assistant Co-Director of the Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure, received the Society’s William Metcalf Award. Nathan Carnovale, a senior in electrical and computer engineering, was awarded the Swanson School’s George Washington Prize. The George Washington Prize finalists include Kaylene Stocking (BioE/ECE ’19) and Rafael Rodriguez (MEMS ’19), and semifinalist is Gillian Schriever (ChemE ’19).“The Engineers’ Society has a long and storied history, and embodies the incredible legacy of engineering in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania with luminary members such as George Westinghouse, John Brashear and Andrew Carnegie,” noted James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “Mark represents one of the outstanding sustainable transportation researchers in the U.S., and Nathan is beginning what will be an exceptional career in electrical engineering. Both represent the strong traditions of engineering, as well as the future of our profession.”The William Metcalf Award, named in honor of ESWP’s first President, recognizes an outstanding engineer who is a resident of the United States and whose field of engineering accomplishment relates to those normally associated with western Pennsylvania, such as steel, aluminum, power, coal, electrical equipment, chemical, glass, construction, etc. Thirteen faculty or alumni of the University of Pittsburgh have received the Metcalf Award since its inception in 1963, representing more than a quarter of all awardees. The George Washington Prize, founded in 2008, honors the first President of the United States and the country’s first engineer. Its mission is to reinforce the importance of engineering and technology in society, and enhance the visibility of the profession across the Swanson School’s engineering disciplines. The annual award recognizes Pitt seniors who display outstanding leadership, scholarship and performance as determined by a committee of eight professional engineers and Swanson School faculty. Winners receive a $2500 Dean’s Fellowship and award plaque. An additional $7,500 is awarded to the winner if he or she attends graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. About Mark MagalottiDr. Magalotti is a triple-alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh, having earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in Civil Engineering from the Swanson School. He is the assistant Co-Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure, which advances sustainable transportation research through collaborative, multi-disciplinary efforts, education, and dissemination of new technologies and knowledge. Dr. Magalotti has over 30 years’ experience in the management of transportation planning and traffic engineering projects, and was the founder and CEO of Trans Associates, a regional transportation consulting firm. He is a nationally recognized leader in transportation engineering and has been instrumental in assisting with the development of transportation planning policies. He served as the Chairman for the PennDOT Highway Access Occupancy Policy Changes (Chapter 441) and the Advisory Committee for the “Access Management Model Ordinances for Pennsylvania Municipalities Handbook.” In addition, Mr. Magalotti has assisted various municipalities throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with developing Impact Fee Ordinances and traffic calming policies.About Nathan CarnovaleNate Carnovale is scheduled to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a concentration in electric power, and plans to pursue an M.S. degree in electric power engineering at Pitt starting in spring 2020. During his undergraduate career, he interned with Eaton for two summers, working at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center and in Eaton’s Power Systems Automation services group in Warrendale, Pa. There he gained experience in power systems metering and monitoring, as well as experience installing, wiring, and programming Eaton demos at the Experience Center. He will be working in Eaton’s Power Systems Controls group this summer working with microgrids. For four semesters at Pitt, Carnovale has been a teaching assistant for the Art of Making, an introductory engineering course to hands-on systems design. He is currently working to develop an adapted physical education learning tool for students with physical and mental challenges at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh, a project he started during his time as a student in the Art of Making course. He is a two-time recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) Scholarship Plus Award.About ESWPFounded in 1880, ESWP is a nonprofit association of more than 850 members and 30 affiliated technical societies engaged in a full spectrum of engineering and applied science disciplines. Now in its 134th year, the annual Engineering Awards Banquet is the oldest award event in the world - predating the Nobel Prize (1901), the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1907), and the Pulitzer Prize (1917). ###

Feb
6
2019

Guest speaker Dr. Brian Burt featured on the cover of Diversity magazine

Diversity

Brian A. Burt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Iowa State University, was recently featured on the cover of Diverse magazine. Dr. Burt was a guest lecturer at the Swanson School of Engineering in December 2018, presenting "Incorporating Inclusivity in Your Research Practice." View the article and his seminar below.

Feb
4
2019

Pitt Power Engineering Seniors Nathan Carnovale and Shamus O’Haire named IEEE PES Scholars

Electrical & Computer

PITTSBURGH (February 4, 2019) … The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)Power and Energy Society (PES) selected University of Pittsburgh seniors Nathan Carnovale and Shamus (James) O’Haire as recipients of the 2018-19 IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Award. Both are majoring in electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. This is Mr. Carnovale’s second IEEE PES Scholarship in as many years. “Being named an IEEE PES Scholar is well-respected in the field of power engineering, and both Nate and Shamus are outstanding ambassadors for our program,” said Robert Kerestes, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt. “We are incredibly proud of their accomplishments and I think they have great potential in their future careers.”The IEEE PES Scholarship Plus Initiative awarded scholarships to 174 electrical engineering students from 96 universities across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Applicants for the scholarships were evaluated based on high achievement with a strong GPA, distinctive extracurricular commitments, and dedication to the power and energy field. Over the past seven years, the Scholarship Plus Initiative has awarded more than $3.5 million in scholarships to students interested in pursuing a career in the power and energy industry. Carnovale and O’Haire are the Swanson School’s 11th and 12th PES recipients since the scholarship’s inception in 2011 and continue the School’s seven-year streak of at least one awardee each year. Also, according to IEEE, Pitt is one of only 16 universities that have had at least one recipient every year since 2011. About Nathan CarnovaleNate Carnovale is scheduled to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in December 2019 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering and a concentration in electric power, and plans to pursue an M.S. degree in electric power engineering at Pitt starting in spring 2020. During his undergraduate career, he interned with Eaton for two summers, working at Eaton’s Power Systems Experience Center and in Eaton’s Power Systems Automation services group in Warrendale, PA. There he gained experience in power systems metering and monitoring, as well as experience installing, wiring, and programming Eaton demos at the Experience Center. He will be working in Eaton’s Power Systems Controls group this summer working with microgrids. For four semesters at Pitt, Carnovale has been a teaching assistant for the Art of Making, an introductory engineering course to hands-on systems design. He is currently working to develop an adapted physical education learning tool for students with physical and mental challenges at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children in Pittsburgh, a project he started during his time as a student in the Art of Making course.About Shamus (James) O’HaireShamus O’Haire is scheduled to graduate in spring 2019 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering with a concentration in power systems and a minor in computer science. During his career at Pitt, he has spent three summers interning at Exelon Corp., a Fortune 100 energy company that operates electric generation nationwide as well as electric distribution in the Northeastern US. He gained industry experience in system operations, transmission planning, and substations engineering during his time with the company, and hopes these experiences will be a springboard for his future career in the power and energy industry. O’Haire currently serves as the Chief Electronics Engineer for Pitt Aero Society of Automotive Engineers, and is a member of IEEE. ###

Feb
4
2019

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

Industrial, Student Profiles

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

Jan

Jan
31
2019

Lasting Impact

All SSoE News, Diversity, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

The sophomore engineering student was exhausted and overwhelmed. At 3 that morning, when she finally left Benedum Hall after a long study session, her brain felt scrambled and her emotions seemed out of control. She always knew that earning a degree in mechanical engineering would be hard, but now she worried she was incapable of keeping up with the rigorous workload. In tears, she called her parents in eastern Pennsylvania. Just come home, her father said. The idea was tempting, but she had worked so hard to get to Pitt. She was the first in her family to attend college; could she really give up? So, SaLisa Berrien went to someone she knew would help. In the office of Associate Professor of Engineering Karl Lewis, the young woman poured out her heart. Lewis listened, then he gave Berrien a talk that she says transformed her outlook. “He said, ‘what you want is achievable,’” she recalls. “He talked me through what I needed to do and told me that everyone goes through these pressures, but that it is how you deal with them that matters most. It seemed like he believed in me more than I believed in myself.” Read the full article at Pitt Magazine.
Mark Nootbaar, Senior Writer and Editor, Institutional Advancement
Jan
29
2019

Lights, Camera, Action: Pitt iGEM team captures silver medal for their “Molecular Movie Camera”

Bioengineering, Electrical & Computer, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (January 29, 2019) … The ability to measure and record molecular signals in a cell can help researchers better understand its behavior, but current systems are limited and provide only a “snapshot” of the environment rather than a more informative timeline of cellular events. In an effort to give researchers a complete understanding of event order, a team of University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students prototyped a frame-by-frame “video” recording device using bacteria. The group created this project for the 2018 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, an annual synthetic biology research competition in which over 300 teams from around the world design and carry out projects to solve an open research or societal problem. The Pitt undergraduate group received a silver medal for their device titled “CUTSCENE.” The iGEM team included two Swanson School of Engineering students: Evan Becker, a junior electrical engineering student, and Vivian Hu, a junior bioengineering student. Other team members included Matthew Greenwald, a senior microbiology student; Tucker Pavelek, a junior molecular biology and physics student; Libby Pinto, a sophomore microbiology and political science student; and Zemeng Wei, a senior chemistry student. CUTSCENE aims to show a “video” of cellular activity by recording events in the cell using modified CRISPR/Cas9 technology. Hu said, “By knowing what time molecular events are happening inside of a cell, we are able to better understand a cell's history and how it responds to external stimuli.” Their system improved upon older methods that could only record the levels of stimuli at a single point in time. They used a movie analogy to illustrate their objective. “Try guessing the plot of a movie by looking at the poster; you can get an idea of what is going on, but to really understand the story, you need to watch the film,” said Becker. “Unless researchers are taking many snapshots of the cellular activity over time, the image doesn’t give any sense of causality. You can see that the molecule is there, but you don't know where it has been or where it is going.” For their project, the iGEM team used modified CRISPR/Cas9 technology called a base editor. The CRISPR/Cas9 system contains two key components: a guideRNA (gRNA) that matches a specific sequence of DNA and a Cas9 protein that makes a cut at the specific sequence, ultimately leading to the insertion or deletion of base pairs - the building blocks of DNA. In addition to these components, a CRISPR/Cas9 base editor contains an enzyme called cytidine deaminase that is able to make a known single nucleotide mutation at a desired location of DNA. “We achieved a method of true chronological event recording by introducing recording plasmids with repeating units of DNA and multiple gRNA to direct our base editor construct,” said Hu. “This technique will provide an understanding of the order in which molecules and proteins appear in systems.” “A recording plasmid can be thought of as a roll of unexposed film, with each frame being an identical sequence of DNA,” explained Wei. “A single-guideRNA (sgRNA) directs the CRISPR/Cas9 base editor to move along the recording plasmid, making mutations at a timed rate and constantly shifting which frame is in front of our base editor. Activated by the presence of a stimulus, another sgRNA can mark the current frame.” The iGEM team’s approach to this technology will allow them to figure out which molecules are abundant at specific times and perhaps reveal hidden, causal relationships. The information gathered from the device has many potential applications and may allow researchers to develop medicines and therapies based on the timing of the cellular malfunction. “The team did a tremendous amount of lab work over the summer, implementing the cellular event recording methodology,” said Alex Deiters, a professor of chemistry at Pitt who helped advise the iGEM team. “Most importantly, the students developed this clever idea on their own by first identifying a current technology gap and then applying modern gene editing machinery to it. The silver medal is well-deserved!” In addition to Dr. Deiters, the 2018 Pitt iGEM team was advised by Dr. Jason Lohmueller, American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Immunology; Dr. Natasa Miskov-Zivanov, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Bioengineering, and Computational and Systems Biology; Dr. Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering; and Dr. Cheryl Telmer, a Research Biologist at Carnegie Mellon University. Funding for the 2018 Pitt iGEM effort was provided by the University of Pittsburgh (Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, Honors College, Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Swanson School of Engineering, Department of Bioengineering, and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering), New England Biolabs (NEB), and Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT). ###

Jan
29
2019

Pitt Engineering faculty and graduate students receive $150K in total funding from PA Manufacturing Fellow Initiative

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (January 28, 2019) … Four faculty and six graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (UPCAM) and the Swanson School of Engineering will benefit from the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Innovation Program (PAMIP), a university-industry collaboration supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).Funding recipients include: Markus Chmielus, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with graduate student Katerina Kimes and undergraduate student Pierangeli Rodriguez De Vecchis, and industry partner General Carbide. Research proposal: “Enabling highly complex tungsten carbide parts via binder jet 3D printing.” Funding: $64,858. C. Isaac Garcia, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with undergraduate Yasmin Daukoru and postdoctoral student Gregorio Solis, and industry partner US Steel Corporation. Research proposal: “A new approach to optimize the performance of X80 Nb-bearing linepipe steels using IRCR high temperature processing.” Funding: $28,812. Jorg M. Wiezorek, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science; and M. Ravi Shankar, Professor of Industrial Engineering, with graduate students Jaehyuk Jo and Zhijie Wang, and industry partner AMETEK, Inc. Research proposal: “Hydride-dehydride powder manufacturing intensification by up-cycling of machining chips.” Funding: $56,543. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has embraced the potential of additive manufacturing as the forfront of our next industrial revolution, and we’re excited to partner with them to advance this new research,” noted David Vorp, the Swanson School’s associate dean for research and professor of bioengineering. “Most importantly, the PAMIP program recognizes the importance of engaging the next generation of engineering researchers through funded fellowships. Our undergraduate and graduate students contribute greatly to this research, and the fellowships support their education here at Pitt.” PAMIP was established to leverage the science and engineering talent and discovery capacity of Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher education to ensure that Pennsylvania remains a national and international leader in manufacturing and achieves the full economic potential for high-paying manufacturing jobs. A main component of the PA Manufacturing Innovation Program is the Manufacturing Fellows Initiative (PMFI), a $2 million initiative to support manufacturing research collaborations between Pennsylvania colleges/universities and manufacturers. The goal of the program is to enable these institutions to seamlessly bring their capabilities to bear to support industrial innovation and position the Commonwealth at the forefront of the next wave of manufacturing. ###

Jan
29
2019

Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards five novel biomedical projects with $60,000 in Round-2 2018 Pilot Funding

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (January 29, 2019) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $60,000 to three research groups through its 2018 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new drug-eluting contact lens for treatment of dry eye disease, a new method of measuring ocular changes in glaucoma, and a new instrument for management of ketogenic diets. 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 eighth 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:  “Polyelectrolyte Multilayer Coating for Delivery of IL-4 from Contact Lenses for Dry Eye Disease” For the development of a drug-eluting contact lens for treatment of chronic “dry eye” disease.Bryan Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, Depts. of Bioengineering, Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences; McGowan Institute for Regenerative MedicineVishal Jhanji, MD, FRCSG, FRCOphth, Professor of Ophthalmology, Cornea, External Eye Diseases and Refractive Surgery Services, UPMC Eye Center Mangesh Kulkarni, MD, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and department of Bioengineering AWARD 2: “On the quantitative analysis of a new tonometer to manage/prevent glaucoma” For the development of a novel pulse wave device for measurement of ocular tissue characteristics in the detection and treatment of glaucoma.Piervincenzo Rizzo, PhD, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of PittsburghIan A. Sigal, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Eye & Ear InstituteIan Conner, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pittsburgh AWARD 3: “Acetone Breathalyzer for Monitoring the Ketogenic State” For the development of a cost-effective, rapid acetone “breath-alayzer” for clinical and consumer usage in ketogenic diets.Sung Kwon Cho, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Swanson School of EngineeringDavid Rometo, MD, Div of Endocrinology and Metabolism, U of Pittsburgh Medical CenterDavid Finegold, MD,  Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public HealthAlex Star, PhD,  Department of Chemistry, Dietrich School of Arts and Science ### 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 $1.2 million since inception. Nine companies have been formed to commercialize these early stage University of Pittsburgh technologies.
Alan Hirschman, PhD Executive Director, CMI
Jan
25
2019

Penn State Chemical Engineering features Pitt Assistant Professor Susan Fullerton in its "Alumni Spotlight"

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

Our latest Alumni Spotlight features Susan Fullerton, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. Fullerton earned her bachelor of science and PhD in chemical engineering at Penn State (2002 and 2009, respectively) and currently leads a research group that seeks to establish a fundamental understanding of ion-electron transport at the molecular level to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic, and energy storage. Among her most recent recognitions include the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2019 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Early Career (CAREER) award. Read the full spotlight here.

Jan
22
2019

New method uses ultraviolet light to control fluid flow and organize particles

Chemical & Petroleum

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (January 22, 2019) ... A new, simple, and inexpensive method that uses ultraviolet light to control particle motion and assembly within liquids could improve drug delivery, chemical sensors, and fluid pumps. The method encourages particles—from plastic microbeads, to bacterial spores, to pollutants—to gather and organize at a specific location within a liquid and, if desired, to move to new locations. A paper describing the new method appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie ("Organization of Particle Islands Via Light‐Powered Fluid Pumping," DOI: 10.1002/anie.201811568.) “Many applications related to sensors, drug delivery, and nanotechnology require the precise control of the flow of fluids,” said Ayusman Sen, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Penn State and senior author of the paper. “Researchers have developed a number of strategies to do so, including nanomotors and fluid pumps, but prior to this study we did not have an easy way to gather particles at a particular location so that they can perform a useful function and then move them to a new location so they can perform the function again. “Say for example you want to build a sensor to detect particles of a pollutant, or bacterial spores in a water sample,” said Sen. “With this new method, we can simply add nanoparticles of gold or titanium dioxide and shine a light to encourage the pollutant particles or spores to gather. By concentrating them in one spot, they become easier to detect. And because light is so easy to manipulate, we have a high degree of control.” Just as pollutant particles could be gathered at a particular location, the method could be used to gather silica or polymer beads that carry a payload, like antibodies or drugs, at particular locations within a fluid. The new method first involves adding a small amount of titanium dioxide or gold nanoparticles to a liquid, like water, that also contains larger particles of interest, like pollutants or beads carrying a payload. Shining a light at a specific point in the liquid heats up the tiny metal nanoparticles, and the heat is then transferred to the fluid. The warmer liquid then rises at the point of light —just as warm air rises in a chilly room—and cooler water rushes in to fill the space that the warm water just left, bringing the larger particles with it. “This causes the larger particles to collect at the point of UV light, where they form closely packed, well-organized structures called colloidal crystals,” said Benjamin Tansi, graduate student in chemistry at Penn State and first author of the paper. “Changing the intensity of the light or the amount of titanium dioxide or gold particles alters how quickly this process occurs.” When the light is removed, the larger particles randomly diffuse through the liquid. But if the light is instead relocated, the larger particles move toward the new point of light, mostly maintaining their structure as they move. This dynamic assembly, disassembly, and movement of organized particles may have important implications for sensing and drug delivery. Using the new method, the researchers gather particles of interest into an organized structure at the point of light (left). When the light is moved to a new location (right), the particles move toward the new point of light, as depicted in this video. Credit: Sen Lab, Penn State “This process is most efficient when gold nanoparticles are used, but we wanted to find an alternative that was less expensive and more accessible,” said Tansi. “We were pleased to find that this method also works with titanium dioxide, an inexpensive and harmless nanoparticle used in cosmetics and as a food additive.” In addition to water, the researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in hexadecane, an organic liquid. “Particles usually don’t assemble very well in salty or non-aqueous environments because everything sticks together,” said Sen. “But here we show that particles can assemble using this method in hexadecane, which suggests we may be able to apply this technique in, for example, biological fluids. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of light-driven fluid pumping in an organic medium.” Members of the research team at the University of Pittsburgh led by Anna Balazs used mathematical models to describe the dynamics of the system. In addition to describing how particles move in the system, the models confirm that only a minor change in temperature—less than a degree Celsius—from the ultraviolet light is required to induce the fluid flow. The research team is currently testing the limits of this method, for example if particles can move uphill toward the light source or if the method can be used to sort particles by size. “We knew that heating gold nanoparticles in suspension could create a fluid flow,” said Tansi, “but prior to this study no one had looked to see if these kinds of thermally-driven fluid flows could be used to do anything useful. Because ultraviolet light and titanium dioxide are so easy to control, we think this method could be harnessed in various technologies in the future. For example, a fluid pump that relies on this method could potentially replace the bulky and more expensive traditional pumps that require a power source or that rely on magnetics or mechanical movement to function.” In addition to Sen, Tansi, and Balazs, the research team includes Matthew Peris at Penn State and Oleg Shklyaev at the University of Pittsburgh. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF-CCI Award Number 1740630). ### Originally published by Penn State University. Reposted with permission.
Gail McCormick, Penn State University
Jan
18
2019

Tenure-Stream Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering with a Focus in Regenerative Medicine

Chemical & Petroleum, Open Positions

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering (www.engineering.pitt.edu/Departments/Chemical-Petroleum) invites applications from accomplished individuals with a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering or a closely related discipline.  This is a tenure-stream faculty position at the rank of assistant professor in the research area of regenerative medicine including focus areas of tissue engineering, organ engineering, organ/ disease on a chip, biomaterials, medical devices, synthetic biology, and immunotherapy. The candidate should have a strong interest in the translation of their research through the generation and licensing of intellectual property. This unique position will be supported by two personalized mentoring teams. One comprising a group of physicians focused on clinical need in the candidate’s topic areas, and a second group of experts in technology transfer in the medical space. The laboratories for the successful candidate will be within the highly collaborative and clinically-focused McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In addition, the candidate must be committed to contributing to the high quality education of a diverse student body at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh is a top-five institution in terms of NIH funding and provides a rich environment for interdisciplinary research, strengthened through its affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and collaborations with Carnegie Mellon University.  The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, ranked among the top programs in the country, has outstanding research and educational programs. The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (www.mirm.pitt.edu), Musculoskeletal Research Center (www.pitt.edu/~msrc), Center for Neuroscience (cnup.neurobio.pitt.edu), Drug Discovery Institute (www.upddi.pitt.edu), Vascular Medicine Institute (www.vmi.pitt.edu), and the Cancer Institute (www.upci.upmc.edu) offer many collaborative research opportunities. Interested individuals should send the following as a single PDF attachments via email to che@pitt.edu (include REGENERATIVE MEDICINE CHEME POSITION in the subject line): (1) cover letter, (2) complete CV (including funding record), (3) research statement, (4) teaching statement and (5) list of four references (names and complete contact information).  Applications will be reviewed beginning February 1, 2019. The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering 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. One of the major strategic goals of The University of Pittsburgh is to “Embrace Diversity and Inclusion”; therefore, the candidate should be committed to high quality teaching and research for a diverse student body and to assisting our department in enhancing diversity in all forms. The University of Pittsburgh is an EEO/AA/M/F/Vet/Disabled employer.

Jan
10
2019

Pitt’s Susan Fullerton recognized with James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching Chemical Engineering

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 10, 2019) … Marking her ability to inspire students through novel demonstrations of complex subjects as well as her mentoring of women and underrepresented minorities, the University of Pittsburgh’s Susan Fullerton was awarded the 2018 James Pommersheim Award for Excellence in Teaching by the Department of Chemical and Petroleum  Engineering. Dr. Fullerton, an assistant professor at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, was recognized at the end of the fall semester.The Pommersheim Award was established by the Department and James M. Pommersheim '70 to recognize departmental faculty in the areas of lecturing, teaching, research methodology, and research mentorship of students. Dr. Pommersheim, formerly Professor of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University, received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in chemical engineering from Pitt.“Susan’s accomplishments in teaching over such a short period of time speak to the heart of the Pommersheim award. Her imaginative use of hands-on experiments and demonstrations create a tremendous amount of enthusiasm among our students and generate her impressive teaching scores to match,” noted Steven Little, department chair and professor. “Also, Susan’s presentations on the “imposter syndrome” and achieving work-life balance have generated tremendous campus interest.  She has candidly shared her own experiences to help our students understand that feeling like an imposter is normal, and can drive further successes.”In addition to her commitment to the University classroom, Dr. Fullerton will extend her teaching passion to area K-12 students thanks to a coveted National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which recognizes exemplary young faculty and encourages outreach to children and underrepresented students. The CAREER Award will support a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, as well as an outreach program to inspire curiosity and engagement of K-12 and underrepresented students in materials for next-generation electronics. Specifically, Dr. Fullerton has developed an activity where students can watch the polymer electrolytes used in her NSF study crystallize in real-time using an inexpensive camera attached to a smart phone or iPad. The CAREER award will allow Dr. Fullerton to provide this microscope to classrooms so that the teachers can continue exploring with their students. ### About Susan FullertonDr. Fullerton and her research group use the interplay between ions and electrons to design next-generation electronic devices at the limit of scaling for memory, logic and energy storage. In addition to the NSF Career award, she has also been awarded the AAAS Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in Chemical Sciences (2018), and an ORAU Ralph E. Powe Jr. Faculty Award (2016). Prior to joining Pitt in fall 2015, Fullerton was a Research Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She earned her bachelor of science and PhD degrees in chemical engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

Jan
9
2019

Engineering New Career Exploration Opportunities

Bioengineering

In addition to the four weeks of camp hosted at the University of Pittsburgh, the CampBioE team also headed to the Crossroads Foundation in Homewood for a free 4-day camp experience with 19 rising sophomore scholar participants. Here is an article reposted from the Crossroads Foundation about their experience... If a mannequin head falls 25 feet from the Calland Center patio to the sidewalk below, does it make a sound? What if it’s full of gelatin? And wearing a helmet? The answer, as this year’s rising sophomore scholars can tell you, is “yes, and the brain fragments get a little messy.” The experiment was just one of the many fascinating activities exploring bioengineering at Camp BioE. Now in its 11th year, Camp BioE is an interactive week-long exploration of bioengineering and regenerative medicine, which hosted its summer mentor training week at Crossroads for the first time this summer. The camp’s theme of STEM applications in criminal investigation had scholars gathering clues to solve an office murder mystery (complete with a crime scene set up in the back hallway). Designed and facilitated by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, CampBioE invites students--especially from groups underrepresented in STEM fields--to learn with a team of college student-mentors from Pitt and working professionals in STEM education, including Dr. Juel Smith (CCAC), Dr. Steven Abramowitch (University of Pittsburgh), and Mr. Mark “Special K” Krotec (Central Catholic High School). “It’s so encouraging to see the faces of the campers, their parents and our staff as learning and growth takes place,” says Dr. Smith. “For us it’s not only about the campers themselves, but about our ability to change the lives of our interns and junior counselors as well. To expose them to diversity...and to assist in the development of the next generation of educators and scientists.” On a given day during CampBioE, guests walking through the Calland Center might find Scholars wearing giant bubble suits and building PVC pipe structures for a bio-themed relay race Raw chicken in various parts of the office for tissue regrowth testing A robotic machine serving hundreds of ping pong balls to scholars as a “lesson in biomechanics” Mr. Krotec leading an “Enzymes” singalong to the tune of The Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” “Camp BioE was an amazing opportunity to learn about the principles of engineering and biology rolled into one, enhancing our inner scientists,” said Seton sophomore Hadia Killang. “My favorite part was when we dissected a chicken leg/thigh and learn[ed] about the different parts of the leg.” Despite accounting for 30% of the population, black, hispanic, and native American students are awarded only 15% of the nation’s share of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Our goal was to try to change that,” says Dr. Smith. The program’s vision, Dr. Abramowitch adds, “is that the field of STEM should reflect the population.” ### About Crossroads Foundation: Crossroads Foundation is a non-denominational 501c3 enjoying its 30th school year as a Pittsburgh leader in providing educational equity to low-income youth.  We envision a world where all students, regardless of means, have access to the educational opportunities and support necessary to achieve their God-given potential.  Our mission is to provide promising, low-income youth who have limited access to a quality high school education, with tuition assistance to attend one of six local Catholic high schools partnered with a wide range of after-school and summer support in academics, college and career exploration, and personal guidance.  Learn more about us and our important work at www.crossroadsfoundation.org.
Esther Mellinger Stief, Executive Director, Crossroads Foundation
Jan
8
2019

Pitt Engineers Identify Novel, Affordable CO2 Capture Materials for Coal Power Plants

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 8, 2019) … A computational modeling method developed at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering may help to fast-track the identification and design of new carbon capture and storage materials for use by the nation’s coal-fired power plants. The hypothetical mixed matrix membranes would provide a more economical solution than current methods, with a predicted cost of less than $50 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) removed. The research group - led by Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, in collaboration with co-investigator Jan Steckel, research scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Pittsburgh-based AECOM - published its findings in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science (“High-throughput computational prediction of the cost of carbon capture using mixed matrix membranes,” DOI: 10.1039/C8EE02582G). “Polymer membranes have been used for decades to filter and purify materials, but are limited in their use for carbon capture and storage,” noted Dr. Wilmer, who leads the Hypothetical Materials Lab at the Swanson School. “Mixed matrix membranes, which are polymeric membranes with small, inorganic particles dispersed in the material, show extreme promise because of their separation and permeability properties. However, the number of potential polymers and inorganic particles is significant, and so finding the best combination for carbon capture can be daunting.”According to Dr. Wilmer, the researchers built upon their extensive research in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which are highly porous crystalline materials created via the self-assembly of inorganic metal with organic linkers. These MOFs, which can store a higher volume of gases than traditional tanks, are highly versatile and can be made from a variety of materials and custom designed with specific properties. Dr. Wilmer and his group explored existing databases of hypothetical and real MOFs for their research, resulting in more than one million potential mixed matrix membranes. They then compared the predicted gas permeation of each material with published data, and evaluated them based on a three-stage capture process. Variables such as flow rate, capture fraction, pressure and temperature conditions were optimized as a function of membrane properties with the goal of identifying specific mixed matrix membranes that would yield an affordable carbon capture cost.  The potential implications for the Wilmer group’s research are tremendous. Although coal-generated power plants in the U.S. alone currently represent only 30 percent of nation’s energy portfolio, in 2017 they contributed the largest share of 1,207 million metric tons of CO2, or 69 percent of the total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions by the entire U.S. electric power sector. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)“Our computational modeling of both hypothetical and real MOFs resulted in a new database of more than a million mixed matrix membranes with corresponding CO 2 capture performance and associated costs,” Dr. Wilmer said. “Further techno-economic analyses yielded 1,153 mixed matrix membranes with a carbon capture cost of less than $50 per ton removed. Thus, the potential exists for creating an economically affordable and efficient means of CO2 capture at coal power plants throughout the world and effectively tackling a significant source of fossil fuel-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” ### This technical effort was performed in support of the National Energy Technology Laboratory's ongoing research under RES contract DE-FE0004000. Funding was provided in part from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF award CBET-1653375).DisclaimerThis project was funded by the Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory, an agency of the United States Government, through a support contract with AECOM. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, nor AECOM, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

Jan
8
2019

Swanson School of Engineering announces Distinguished Alumni Award recipients for 2019

All SSoE News

PITTSBURGH (January 8, 2019) … Recognizing their impact in industry and government, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering announced its 2019 Distinguished Alumni honorees. The recipients, who represent the School’s six departments and the Swanson School overall, will be honored at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet on March 28, 2019 at 5:30 pm in the Connolly Ballroom of Alumni Hall.The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually to Swanson School alumni who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in their respective fields of engineering. For more information on the Distinguished Alumni Banquet or this year’s honorees please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at engralum@pitt.edu.“For more than 170 years, Pitt’s engineering graduates have contributed greatly to engineering disciplines, as well as to the betterment of everyday life,” noted James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “I look forward to welcoming these seven outstanding engineers back to campus this spring and celebrate their outstanding accomplishments.”This year’s honorees include:Swanson School Distinguished Alumnus: David Toth, BSEE ’78, President and CEO, retired – NetRatings, Inc.Bioengineering: Thomas Gilbert, PhD BioE ’06, Chief Science Officer – ACell, Inc.Chemical & Petroleum Engineering: Hanwant B. Singh, MS ‘70, PhD ChE ’72, Director, Atmospheric Science – NASA Civil & Environmental Engineering: Ruthann L. Omer, BSCE ’83, President, retired – Gateway Engineers, Inc.Electrical & Computer Engineering: Robert Van Naarden, BSEE ’69, Chief Executive Officer – Delta Thermo EnergyIndustrial Engineering: Kevin Braun, BSIE ’90, Vice President, Industrial Coatings, Americas – PPG Industries, Inc. Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science: Kevin McAllister, BSME ’86, President and CEO – Boeing Commercial AirplanesAbout David TothMr. Toth, the Swanson School’s Distinguished Alumnus, has held several senior executive roles throughout his career. He co-founded NetRatings, Inc. in 1997 and served as President & CEO, leading the company to its position as the foremost provider of Internet audience information and analysis. Mr. Toth formed strategic partnerships with Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen; together, the three companies developed Nielsen//NetRatings service, the leading global Internet Audience Measurement service with deployments in 29 countries throughout the world.  Prior to forming NetRatings, Mr. Toth was Vice President at Hitachi Computer Products where he led the Network Products Group and was responsible for the development, sales and marketing of numerous hardware and software products. Other former affiliations include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Interlink Computer Sciences and PPG Industries. Mr. Toth is currently a member of the Board of Directors at HiveIO, LeadCrunch.AI, and GutCheckIt.com. He was formerly a Director at NexTag (acquired by Providence Equity Partners), TubeMogul (acquired by Adobe) and Edgewater Networks (acquired by Ribbon Communications). In 2003, Mr. Toth was recognized as the Swanson School Distinguished Alumnus for the Department of Electrical Engineering, having graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1978. ###

Jan
7
2019

Changing Frequencies: Pitt Bioengineers Look Deeper Into How Electrical Stimulation Activates Neurons

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (January 7, 2019) … Electrical stimulation of the brain is common practice in neuroscience research and is an increasingly common and effective clinical therapy for a variety of neurological disorders. However, there is limited understanding of why this treatment works at the neural level.  A paper published by Takashi D. Y. Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, addresses gaps in knowledge over the activation and inactivation of neural elements that affect the desired responses to neuromodulation. The article, “Calcium activation of cortical neurons by continuous electrical stimulation: Frequency dependence, temporal fidelity, and activation density” (DOI: 10.1002/jnr.24370), was published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research. Co-investigator is Kip Ludwig, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For this study, Kozai’s group - the BIONIC Lab - used in vivo two-photon microscopy to capture neuronal calcium activity in the somatosensory cortex during 30 seconds of continuous electrical stimulation at varying frequencies. They imaged the population of neurons surrounding the implanted electrode and discovered that frequency played a role in neural activation - a finding that conflicted with earlier studies. “Electrical stimulation has a large number of parameters that can be used to activate neurons, such as amplitude, pulsewidth, waveform shapes, and frequency,” explained Kozai. “This makes it difficult to compare studies because different stimulation parameters are used in other studies. Based on the parameters that were previously employed, it was thought that activation occurs in a sphere centered around the electrode where neurons near the electrode would activate more than neurons far from the electrode. “Recent research, however, shows that stimulation mostly activates distant neurons whose axons are very close to the electrode by transmitting action potentials backward to the neuron cell body,” he continued. “We demonstrate that both of these things can be true depending on stimulation frequency and duration.” According to Kozai, the fact that researchers can use varying stimulation parameters to activate different neurons in the same location has huge implications in basic science research. The findings will allow them to activate different neural circuits with the same implant to elicit different behaviors. Beyond its research applications, Kozai believes that this knowledge may also help in clinical settings. “Empirical evidence in the field suggests that frequency plays a role in deep brain stimulation, but the why and how have puzzled scientists since the beginning,” said Kozai. “This research is a first glimpse into understanding the mechanisms underlying the role of frequency in clinical therapies. In the long-term, this research could also give insight on how to activate distinct glial and vascular populations, which could have a prolonged impact on behavior, attention, and tissue regeneration.” Kozai believes that more research needs to be done to understand neuronal activation properties and hopes that this work will lead to new tools in neuroscience and improved neuromodulation therapy by explaining why electrical stimulation produces its effective responses. ###

Jan
2
2019

A Catalytic Flying Carpet

Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (January 2, 2019) … The “magic carpet” featured in tales from "One Thousand and One Nights” to Disney’s “Aladdin” captures the imagination not only because it can fly, but because it can also wave, flap, and alter its shape to serve its riders. With that inspiration, and the assistance of catalytic chemical reactions in solutions, a team from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering has designed a two-dimensional, shape-changing sheet that moves autonomously in a reactant-filled fluid. The article, “Designing self-propelled, chemically-active sheets: Wrappers, flappers and creepers,” was published recently in the AAAS journal Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav1745). Principal investigator is Anna C. Balazs, the John A. Swanson Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School. Lead author is Abhrajit Laskar, and co-author is Oleg E. Shklyaev, both post-doctoral associates.“It’s long been a challenge in chemistry to create a non-living object that moves on its own within an environment, which in turn alters the object’s shape, allowing it to carry out brand new tasks, like trapping other objects,” Dr. Balazs explained. “Researchers previously have made chemically active patches on a surface that could generate fluid flow, but the flow didn’t influence the location or shape of the patch. And in our own lab we’ve modeled spherical and rectangular particles that can move autonomously within a fluid-filled microchamber. But now we have this integrated system that utilizes a chemical reaction to activate the fluid motion that simultaneously transports a flexible object and “sculpts” its shape, and it all happens autonomously.”The group accomplished this feat of self-propulsion and reconfiguration by introducing a coating of catalysts on the flexible sheet, which is roughly the width of a human hair. The addition of reactants to the surrounding fluid initiates both the carpet’s motion and the changes of its form. “To best of our knowledge, this is the first time these catalytic chemical reactions have been applied to 2D sheets to generate flows that transform these sheets into mobile, 3D objects,” Dr. Balazs said. Further, by placing different catalysts on specific areas of the sheet and controlling the amount and type of reactants in the fluid, the group created a useful cascade of catalytic reactions where one catalyst breaks down an associated chemical, which then becomes a reactant for the next of the set of catalytic reactions. Adding different reactants and designing appropriate configurations of the sheet allows for a variety of actions – in this study, enwrapping an object, making a flapping motion, and tumbling over obstacles on a surface. “A microfluidic device that contains these active sheets can now perform vital functions, such as shuttling cargo, grabbing a soft, delicate object, or even creeping along to clean a surface,” Dr. Shklyaev said. “These flexible micro-machines simply convert chemical energy into spontaneous reconfiguration and movement, which enables them to accomplish a repertoire of useful jobs.”Dr. Laskar added that if the sheet is cut into the shape of a four-petal flower and placed on the surface of a microfluidic device, the chemistry of the petals can be “programmed” to open and close individually, creating gates that perform logic operations, as well as generate particular fluid flows to transport particles throughout the device.“For example, like a catcher’s mitt you can use the petals of the flower to trap a microscopic ball and hold it for a finite time, then initiate a new chemical reaction on a different set of petals so that the ball moves between them in a chemically-directed game of catch,” Dr. Laskar explained. “This level of spatial and temporal control allows for staged reactions and analyses that you otherwise couldn’t perform with non-deformable materials.” The group also experimented with the placement of the catalyst on different parts of the sheet to create specific motions. In one experiment, placing the catalyst on just the body of the sheet, rather than the head and tail, triggered a creeping movement eerily similar to the movement of an inchworm. In another realization, when obstacles were placed in front of the coated sheet, it would tumble over the obstacle and continue moving, allowing it to traverse a bumpy terrain. “This research gives us further insight into how chemistry can drive autonomous, spontaneous actuation and locomotion in microfluidic devices,” Dr. Balazs said. “Our next task is to explore microfabrication by using the interaction and self-organization of multiple sheets to bring them together into specific architectures designed to perform complex, coordinated functions. Also, by experimenting with different stimuli such as heat and light, we can design mobile, 3D micro-machines that adapt their shape and action to changes in the environment. This level of responsive behavior is vital to creating the next generation of soft robotic devices.” ###