Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Apr

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
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
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
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

Mar

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

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
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.” ###

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
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. ###

Jan

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). ###