Pitt | Swanson Engineering
News Listing

Sep

Sep
10
2019

Adding a Human Touch to Engineering

Civil & Environmental, Diversity, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (September 10, 2019) … During his undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, Isaiah Spencer-Williams (BSCEE ’19) traveled across the globe, witnessing the impact of engineering in places like Flint, Michigan and South Africa. These experiences left a lasting impression and inspired him to reframe his approach to engineering. Spencer-Williams, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, wants to remind his peers that they are designing for humanity and has worked to create an environment where students can focus on their wellbeing and grow to better understand the needs of others. “Human needs and problems often direct technological developments, so I think that we need a better understanding of human values and emotions to create the most effective designs,” said Spencer-Williams. “I think this concept is underrepresented in our undergraduate curriculum so I wanted to create a space for students to express themselves and learn to connect with their peers.” CREATING A SAFE SPACE Spencer-Williams and a friend founded The I.N.N.A.T.E. Project, which is dedicated to providing a space in which community members, specifically youths and young adults, can network with artists, challenge normalcy, and spark impactful conversations using natural and developed artistic abilities. The project not only provides a venue for students to have healthy discussions surrounding mental health, societal normalcies, and community engagement, but it also pushes them to explore their creativity, which Spencer-Williams encourages. “Whether it be writing, drawing, painting, or dancing, everyone should find something to distract themselves from the stress of their academic career,” he said. “People really value having this space to create. Engineering students have very rigorous curriculums and often feel siloed in the STEM world. This venue provides a safe space for many of us to branch out and connect with students from across the university and in the greater Pittsburgh community.” The I.N.N.A.T.E. Project holds their events at The Corner in West Oakland and has grown from a small gathering to a group of more than 40 students. They have recently been on hiatus but are working to restart and revamp programming in fall 2019. Finding Inspiration Away from Home Spencer-Williams started writing poetry in 2012, using music as inspiration for his work. He later began performing his poetry during his freshman year at Pitt and has since taken inspiration, in part, from experiences during his undergraduate studies. After his sophomore year, he had the opportunity to travel to South Africa through the Global Engineering Preparedness Scholarship (GEPS), where students are encouraged to think both locally and globally in terms of how to approach different problems in the classroom. New to international travel, this trip inspired him to write Aquatic Rose and Moonlit Lotus, his first poetry collection. Including pieces like “Orchid’s Obituary” and “No Longer With Us,” Spencer-Williams highlighted critical, recent American events in a creative way and called for us to remember our purpose in order to make positive change. “… I pray that our world mirrors your beautiful image, grasps onto your heavenly traits, and realizes that though you are no longer with us physically, you are eternally in the purity of our hearts.” - A line from "No Longer With Us" “My experience in South Africa really expanded my mindset and made me question how engineers can design for a larger community in a way where they balance the impact on the environment with the needs of the people they are serving,” said Spencer-Williams. “The trip also made me reflect on the privileges that we have in America and wonder how we can use that as a platform to better serve those who may be less fortunate.” After his junior year, Spencer-Williams traveled to Flint, MI, a city that has been in the national spotlight for its 2014 water crisis where insufficient water treatment exposed residents to lead and other toxins. Though this experience was difficult for him to write about, it further demonstrated the impact that engineering can have on a community. The Art of Communication “Taking poetry classes alongside my engineering coursework helped me manage my mental health,” Spencer-Williams explained, “but in addition to that, it has also made me a better communicator and has really helped elevate my academic career.” During the 2017 Fall Regional Conference of the National Society of Black Engineers, he participated in the Art of Technical Communication, a competition that challenges future engineers to develop innovative and imaginative techniques to express their knowledge of STEM. He presented Push, a poem communicating engineering principles and the black engineering experience and was awarded first place and the People’s Choice award for his performance. “…ultimately, what I'm trying to say, is that understanding the difficulty of being a black engineer is something on the orders of quantum mechanics…” - A line from "Push" “Developing my writing skills has helped me more effectively communicate my research, which is an important skill to have when trying to teach the general public about engineering,” he said. Spencer-Williams matriculated at the Swanson School’s civil engineering graduate program in August 2019. His goal is to become a professor so that he can encourage students to focus not only on academics but also on developing a stronger sense of self and understanding of how one’s work can impact the lives of others. He believes that fostering a greater sense of community, self-care, and global-mindedness may not only benefit society but also influence the way we teach, learn, and create. ###

Aug

Aug
28
2019

In Pursuit of Inclusive Excellence

Diversity

WHEELING, W.V. (Aug. 28, 2019) — Graduate school isn’t just about earning a degree. It’s about a shared experience, a community of scholars sharing little moments of connection across cultures. And that means learning to grow and thrive as a diverse team. That was the message at the 2019 PITT STRIVE retreat, which took place at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center on Aug. 8 and 9. The fourth annual retreat brought together Swanson School of Engineering faculty mentors and PhD mentees from the PITT STRIVE program, which  strives for excellence in academic and faculty engagement cultures that promote the success, transition, representation, innovation, vision, and education of URM PhD students. The program supports underrepresented students as they transition into doctoral engineering programs at the Swanson School, and fosters an inclusive environment that supports their retention and graduation by strong graduate students and faculty community building activities. “PITT STRIVE’s annual retreat gives our fellows and scholars the opportunity to cultivate relationships that will carry them forward into their professional and academic pursuits,” says Sylvanus Wosu, PhD, associate dean for diversity affairs. “A culture of inclusivity is invaluable in academia, and we all have a vital role to play in building it.” The retreat’s goal was clear from the first session. Michael Eatman, a diversity professional who helps organizations develop cultural competence and inclusive learning and working environments, led sessions designed to break down barriers and foster discussion about what inclusivity and diversity truly mean. What We Do Not See Eatman asked the group to find one individual that they do not work with on a regular basis for an exercise called “What We Do Not See.” In this team-building activity, partners looked at one another for two minutes without speaking and took note of the observations and assumptions they made about their partner. “Part of the work building community is being able to honestly share with those we are in community with,” Eatman noted. “Getting to the heart of community is moving through the use of our observations and assumptions as the only reality. Some of our work may be to create communities that allow room to discover who is beneath the facade we learn to put on for survival in institutions.” Some of the participants found this activity to be the most meaningful at the retreat. “I found this activity so significant because not only did I get to learn about another person, but I also gained a new tool to use in order to confront my own biases that I may have about people from now on,” said Isaiah Spencer-Williams, a civil engineering alumnus and rising graduate student. “As a community builder, I think building relationships and getting comfortable enough with people to have real conversations is a quintessential skill that a lot of people aren’t willing to invest into.” Eatman likened the dichotomy between diversity and inclusion to an hourglass, with “diversity” at the top and “inclusion” underneath. The bottleneck prohibiting the free flow of sand from one to the other was marked “share, respect, appreciate.” In order to navigate intercultural perspectives, he explained, we must pursue a shared goal, respect one another’s identity and appreciate cultural differences. “We have to be able to talk openly about diversity,” said Eatman. “We need to be soft on people, but hard on barriers to inclusion.” Building Communities and Ecosystems, Not Silos James R. Martin II, PhD, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering, also discussed building community, specifically how participants can work together as a team to pioneer a new educational paradigm. He discussed how higher education is being disrupted and how as a greater community, we need to determine what we value in education. “We are all a part of the same community to help solve these challenges,” he said. “Universities are supposed to be platforms of upward social mobility. By not investing in higher education, we are undervaluing the creation of new knowledge.” In order to thrive, he said, higher education must value diversity: “Diversity is critical because you need the gathered perspective that not one person has,” he said. “We must build communities and ecosystems in higher education, not silos.” “The dean’s presence made a positive impact on the participants,” says Wosu “Some participants felt the dean’s presence and his remarks on diversity and inclusion were some of the highlights of the event.” Breaking Barriers Medeva Ghee, PhD, executive director of the Leadership Alliance and an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, delivered the keynote address this year. Her talk, entitled “The Leadership Alliance: Removing Barriers to Accelerate the Diversification of the Research Workforce,” discussed the lack of diversity in academia and research communities, and the importance of addressing this concern. The Leadership Alliance, a national consortium of 35 institutions of higher education, provides programming to develop underrepresented students into thought leaders in academia and industry. Programs like this one, she explained, remove barriers that prevent underrepresented students from pursuing careers in academia and in research, such as workshops on how to market oneself for research careers, training activities for faculty to learn to recruit and retain diverse talent, and grant writing coaching groups to provide opportunity for junior faculty from minority-serving institutions to develop proposals to fund research. “These barriers are not new and have existed for decades,” said Sossena Wood, BSEE ‘11 PhD BioE ‘18, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Biomedical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  “It becomes very discouraging at times but supportive networks like the Leadership Alliance allow us to have a community that is equally invested in our success.  As much as programs like the Leadership Alliance support the development of URM graduate students for post-graduate careers in academia and research, continual work and partnership must evolve to reform the environments in which we choose to work.” Ghee also led a workshop titled “Faculty as Change Agents: You Got This!” The workshop provided a toolkit that can promote institutional change in diversity and inclusion. Building a culture of change starts with collaboration, an ecosystem informed by a university-wide strategic plan and evidence-based programs. “My biggest takeaway from the retreat was that in order to continue to build an inclusive and integrated community in the Swanson School of Engineering, efforts like this need to be supported and mobilized,” says Spencer-Williams. “The dean often talks about being the pioneers of a new educational system, and I think having conversations surrounding not only inclusivity, but also realistic integration can help make that transition.” After Ghee’s keynote address, Eatman reconvened with the group to help them gather their thoughts and discuss their response to the topics that were addressed throughout the day. The group then recognized four former PITT STRIVE fellows with the Pacesetter Award: Brandon Jennings, MSCoE ‘16, PhD ECE ‘19; Harold Rickenbacker, PhD CEE ‘19; Florencio Serrano Castillo, PhD ChemE ‘19; and Dr. Wood. The award honors them for serving as a role model in the PITT STRIVE community and for their commitment to the success of underrepresented minority graduate students in the Swanson School. This year’s PITT STRIVE retreat enacted the “Five I’s of Inclusive Excellence” during its two-day run. The community got a chance to come together and solidify its identity. Attendees interacted with one another, asking tough questions and learning about one another’s experiences. The speakers revealed ways to get involved in creating a more inclusive culture and have a real impact on the environment at Pitt. ### Brandon Jennings, PhDJennings, a senior system engineer for Raytheon in Tucson, Ariz., was the first PITT STRIVE Fellow to graduate from the program. He participated in numerous programs encouraging diversity in STEM, teaching robotics for three years for the INVESTING NOW program at Pitt. Jennings published six papers and won several awards during his time at Swanson, including K. Leroy Irvis Fellowship, the AGEP/PITT-STRIVE Fellowship and Chuck Cooper Foundation Scholarship. Harold Rickenbacker, PhDRickenbacker enrolled in the Pre-PhD Program offered by the Office of Diversity at Swanson in 2014. During his time at Swanson, he was awarded the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement’s Partnerships of Distinction Award in 2019, the National Science Foundation Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation Scholar Grant Supplement Award in 2018, the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership: Research Grant in 2017, the Mascaro Center for Innovation Grant Award in 2016, and the Heinz Endowments Next Oxygen-eration Grant Award in 2015. He published six papers, two of which list him as first author. Florencio Serrano Castillo, PhDSerrano Castillo joined the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at Pitt as a PITT STRIVE Fellow in 2014. While earning his doctorate, Serrano Castillo was first author on two peer-reviewed publications and presented his work at several national and international conferences. He joined Fourth Rivers Consulting, where he participated in several engagements for healthcare startups in the Pittsburgh area. He was also part of the winning team of the Pitt Challenge Healthcare Hackathon. Serrano Castillo served two years as vice president of the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association, two years as the Chemical Engineering Department Representative to the Engineering Graduate Student Organization, and one year as the Graduate Student Representative for Pitt SHPE. Serrano Castillo will be starting a new role in industry as a clinical research scientist with Amgen at the Clinical Pharmacology, Modeling and Simulations division, developing system pharmacology models for the development of large molecule therapeutics for various indications. Sossena Wood, PhDWood is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow within the Biomedical Engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University. As she earned her doctorate in bioengineering at Pitt, she was a PITT STRIVE Fellow and a  K. Leroy Irvis and National GEM Consortium Fellow. Additionally, Wood won a number of awards, including being one of the University of Pittsburgh’s Rising Afriacan American Leaders, the National Institutes of Health F31 award, the New Pittsburgh Courier’s FAB 40, NSBE’s 2017 Mike Shinn Distinguished Member of the Year award, and Professional Women’s Network award. She served two terms as the National Chairperson of the National Society of Black Engineers. She is committed to engaging and empowering underrepresented youth to pursue STEM degrees locally and globally.
Maggie Pavlick and Leah Russell
Aug
23
2019

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

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

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

Jul

Jul
19
2019

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

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

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

Jun

Jun
28
2019

Two Swanson School Alumni Elected to Pitt's Board of Trustees

Civil & Environmental, MEMS, Diversity, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

PITTSBURGH (June 28, 2019) ... The University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees elected five new trustees during its annual meeting on Friday, June 28. The new members, all distinguished Pitt alumni, bring to the board a range of experience that spans decades in industry and public service. The five new trustees are: Robert O. Agbede (ENGR ’79 G ’81) SaLisa L. Berrien (ENGR ’91) Sundaa Bridgett-Jones (GSPIA ’95) Wen-Ta Chiu (GSPH ’89) Adam C. Walker (A&S ’09) Their terms are effective July 1. The board also re-elected Eva Tansky Blum to her fifth and final term as chair of the board, a position she has held since 2015. Thomas E. Richards, a long-serving Pitt trustee and executive chair of the board of directors for the technology services corporation CDW, was named chair-elect of the University’s Board of Trustees. In this capacity, he will become chair after Blum’s final term, which will conclude in June 2020. The board also nominated Richards, Vaughn Clagette, James Covert and John Verbanac to serve on the UPMC Board of Directors. Biographical information for the new members follows:Robert O. Agbede currently serves as vice chair of Hatch USA, a global management, engineering and development consulting firm. He is the former CEO and owner of Chester Engineers, which merged with Hatch Ltd., in 2017. Agbede built Chester Engineers into one of the largest African American owned water/wastewater, energy and environmental engineering firms in the United States. There, he developed a work culture that emphasizes the importance of giving back and viewing corporate social responsibility as good business. He has earned several awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year—Business Services, the Minority Enterprise Development Agency’s Minority Small Business Award and the NAACP Homer S. Brown Award. In 2000, Agbede was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Swanson School of Engineering, where he is currently a member of the Board of Visitors and chair of its Diversity Committee. Agbede helped establish several mentorship and scholarship opportunities at the Swanson School, including the Robert O. Agbede Scholarship for African American students pursuing engineering degrees, as well as the Robert O. Agbede Annual Diversity Award to encourage recruitment and retention of African American faculty and students. In 2009, the University’s African American Alumni Council presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement in Business. SaLisa L. Berrien is the founder and CEO of COI Energy and has more than 25 years of experience in the electric power and smart grid space, working in areas ranging from vertically integrated utility companies to an energy service company on smart grid, clean tech and big data analytics. Berrien is also founder and board chair of STRIVE Inc., a charitable organization that focuses on STEM leadership development training for students in grades three through 12. In 2013, she established COI Ladder Institute to focus on delivering leadership and empowerment services to millennials and women. In 2004, Berrien established the Karl H. Lewis Engineering Impact Alumni Fund for Pitt students of underrepresented groups enrolled in engineering. She later elsewhere established, in honor of her aunt, the Talibah M. Yazid Academic Excellence scholarship for college-bound high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Berrien has earned service awards from the City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Lehigh University; the National Society of Black Engineers and the YMCA. She is also the recipient of the Allentown Human Relations Commission Human Relations Award and the National Society of Negro Women Mary Jackson Engineering Award. Sundaa Bridgett-Jones leads the Rockefeller Foundation’s support for policy innovations to help solve pressing international development issues, including achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She has more than 20 years of experience designing and executing global initiatives and public-private partnerships. Between 2010 and 2012, Bridgett-Jones led the Office of Policy, Planning and Public Diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in groundbreaking advocacy on internet and religious freedoms and served as a member of the White House National Security Staff interagency committee. She previously managed C-suite affairs at the U.N. Department of Political Affairs, working on preventive diplomacy plans in South Asia. Bridgett-Jones launched the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative at Princeton University to encourage talented women and men to enter public service. She has taken on lead roles with Global Kids, an organization that develops youth leaders for the global stage. She also serves as a member of the Board of Visitors for Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Wen-Ta Chiu serves as a co-CEO of California-based AHMC Healthcare Inc., a hospital and health system committed to improving access to health care services for the most vulnerable members of the San Gabriel, California, community. In 2011, Chiu was appointed Minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Taiwan. During nearly four years of service, he successfully implemented the second-generation National Health Insurance, along with many other health policies. He also led the ministry through several public health crises in Taiwan. Prior to his appointment as minister, Chiu led the successful growth of Taipei Medical University, a world-class medical university and hospital system. Chiu is an accomplished traumatic brain injury researcher who has made significant leadership contributions in public health through the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium, the Academy for Multidisciplinary Neurotraumatology, the Taiwan Neurotrauma Society and the Asia Oceania Neurotrauma Society. His numerous career honors include earning the Contribution Award for Public Health from the Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium, distinction as a Distinguished Alumnus of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health and the University’s Legacy Laureate Award. Adam C. Walker is CEO of Summit Packaging Solutions, a leading global supply chain firm, taking the helm in 2014 and applying nearly 20 years of industry expertise to set in motion an accelerated growth strategy. Walker previously co-founded Homestead Packaging Solutions, overseeing facilities in Tennessee and Michigan and garnering industry recognition such as the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council’s Supplier of the Year and the U.S. Department of Commerce–MBDA Manufacturer of the Year. Walker was a National Football League player for seven consecutive seasons, beginning and ending his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1990 and 1996, respectively. From 1991 until 1995, he played for the San Francisco 49ers, including the 1994 Super Bowl championship team. Walker has earned the Atlanta Tribune Men of Distinction award and recognition as a New Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence honoree. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council and as a member of Procter & Gamble’s Supplier Advisory Council. # # #
Kevin Zwick, University of Pittsburgh News

May

May
22
2019

Let's Clear the Air

Civil & Environmental, Diversity, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (May 22, 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
May
14
2019

Melissa Bilec Named Director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement for PITT STRIVE Program

Civil & Environmental, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (May 14, 2019) — Melissa Bilec, PhD, associate professor Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, has been appointed Director of Faculty Community Building and Engagement in the PITT STRIVE Program. The PITT STRIVE Program works to improve the transitions of under-represented minorities into doctoral engineering programs. In this position, Dr. Bilec will lead key Faculty-Centered Strategies and Faculty Learning Community Activities to help improve faculty engagement with under-represented minority students. “We are very blessed to have a colleague of Dr. Bilec’s caliber join the PITT STRIVE Program Leadership Team,” says Sylvanus Wosu, PhD, associate dean for Diversity Affairs. “Dr. Bilec is passionate and committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity.” Dr. Bilec’s commitment to diversity extends beyond her work with PITT STRIVE. Dr. Bilec serves on the Engineering Diversity Advisory Committee, is the co-faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers, and was co-faculty advisor the Graduate Women Engineering Network. She received the 2017-2018 Swanson School of Engineering Diversity Award and has worked in the disadvantaged local community of Larimer on projects including energy assessments and indoor air quality assessments for the past 10 years.
Maggie Pavlick

Apr

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
1
2019

Swanson Faculty Honored with Two American Society for Engineering Education Awards

Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

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

Mar

Mar
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.

Feb

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.

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
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.