Pitt | Swanson Engineering
News Listing

May

May
14
2021

Building a Foundation for High-Power Tech

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (May 14, 2021) — As electrification advancement accelerates and more renewables are integrated into the electric grid, improved power electronics systems are needed to convert AC or DC power into a usable form. New semiconductor device materials and advanced magnetic materials can enable an unprecedented combination of voltage levels and power handling capabilities. However, the latest class of new switching devices, which use so-called ultra-wide bandgap (UWBG) semiconductor materials, will also require improved soft magnetic materials and manufacturing approaches not currently available. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering are working to solve that problem with new materials and manufacturing processes that will establish a foundation for UWBG semiconductors in novel power electronics switching devices. Their investigation received $820,000 in funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research to support graduate students to explore new ideas in magnetic materials, advanced manufacturing, and advanced component design methods and techniques. “Ultra-high frequency soft magnetics technologies, ranging from 50 kilohertz to as high as the megahertz range, are going to play an important role in the next generation of power electronics and power conversion technologies,” said  Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, director of the Engineering Science program and the Advanced Magnetics for Power and Energy Development (AMPED) consortium. “Our work will help to overcome limitations of current materials and manufacturing, and we will also develop and demonstrate new methods and techniques for optimized magnetic component design leveraging these latest advances.” Applications for this new technology include power dense electrical power conversion technologies for electric vehicle design, aircraft electrification, or power converters for grid integration applications. For many of these, the converters need to be as small and light as possible while still handling the same amount of electric power. The higher switching frequencies made possible by these new materials would be more efficient and could, for example, increase the range of electric vehicles. Ohodnicki is leading the project with Ahmed Talaat, visiting assistant research faculty, and Brandon Grainger, Eaton Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Grainger is also associate director of the Energy GRID Institute and co-director of AMPED at the University of Pittsburgh. The four-year project will address the need for advanced ultrahigh frequency soft magnetics and focus on creation of new ferrite-based systems, advanced manufacturing of components for optimal performance, and the design of optimized transformer and inductor components. The work will also demonstrate enhanced design and optimization tools for inductors. “Emerging ultra-wide bandgap semiconductor materials have enormous potential for high-power applications, but there needs to be a pathway for the magnetic material and component design first,” said Brandon Grainger. “Our project will establish the fundamental research necessary to make that happen.”
Maggie Pavlick
May
10
2021

MEMS Department Recognizes Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Assistant

MEMS, Student Profiles

In the times of COVID and hybrid class delivery, teaching assistants have become more valuable than ever to faculty instructing large courses. Samantha Wismer, ME junior, and TA for three ENGR and MEMS courses this past academic year, has gone above and beyond to ensure her student peers have the best learning experience possible. Some of Wismer’s duties included reviewing instructor and student lecture slides for errors (typographical, mathematical, conceptual, grammatical, etc.) to ensure a top-tier product was delivered to students. She was responsible for reviewing several semesters of homework, quizzes and exams to provide students with study aids and access to materials. She was also tasked with the creation of 3-5 minute post-recorded lecture video questions, along with the creation of worksheets to give students extra practice. These activities require the use of LaTex, Adobe Illustrator and Top Hat, all of which Wismer has become proficient in. Wismer holds weekly office hours and is constantly available via Zoom and by email for not only the classes she is TA for, but any class students’ may be struggling with. She has put in evening and weekend hours to help build “At Home Makerspace Kits” to ship out to students. Professor Matt Barry is the instructor for all three classes Wismer is a TA for.  He notes, “For all of these classes, there have been numerous compliments and glowing reviews of Samantha's helpfulness and willingness to go above and beyond to help her fellow students. Many from ENGR 0135 enrolled in MEMS 0031 and MEMS 0051 based solely on Samantha's presence as the UTA.” Barry also says he admires her tenacity, perseverance and patience. Outside of the Department, Wismer is a level II national accredited tutor for the Physics Lab at Pitt, where she uses these skills and knowledge to better serve MEMS students. Additionally, Wismer has co-authored a textbook which is currently used in a Pitt engineering class. She also co-authored two conference papers. Wismer is one shining example of the amazing undergraduate students in MEMS, and the Department would like to recognize and thank her for her dedicated commitment and service!

May
6
2021

Upcoming Psyche Inspired Showcase

MEMS, Student Profiles

Psyche Inspired is a cross-discipline internship program for undergraduate students designed to share NASA’s Psyche mission in a unique way through artistic and creative works. These works are published online and collected in downloadable books which tell the story of Psyche through musical scores, sculptures, painting, 3-D models, photography, acrylic art, needlepoint, stop-motion films, and mixed media. The program rolled out nationally in 2018 and this year’s cohort is known as the Nickel Class. Aarti Patel, ME junior, was a part of the Nickel cohort. Read more about her experience and the Brooke Owens Fellowship she received here. You can also register now to view the Psyche Inspired Online Showcase, which runs from May 10-24, 2021. Applications are now being accepted for 2022.

Apr

Apr
29
2021

Alumni Focus - Ken Balkey

MEMS, Nuclear

Joseph C. Balkey (on left with extended right leg) at Westinghouse Gearing Division – Nuttall Plant, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA – Circa 1941 Ken Balkey’s history at the University of Pittsburgh began long before his current position as an adjunct lecturer in the MEMS department. In fact, the entire Balkey family has a history with Pitt and it begins with Ken’s father, Joe. Joe Balkey worked at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company’s Nuttall Plant in Lawrenceville where he manufactured large gear motor parts starting in 1941. When the Westinghouse plant closed in 1960, he took his life savings and began a renewal parts business named Joseph C. Balkey Sales with the full devotion of his wife Marie. He became well-known for solving breakdown issues and some of his customers included the Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh Asphalt Company and the U.S. Navy. As a teenager attending North Catholic High School, Ken helped cut keyways in gears for his father’s customers, a technical endeavor that influenced his decision to become a mechanical engineer. When it came time for college, Balkey’s parents encouraged him and his two brothers to pursue engineering, and all three siblings obtained advanced degrees from Pitt. Ken earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1972 and his master’s in the same concentration in 1980. His elder brother, Joe, received degrees in chemical engineering and his younger brother, Dave, acquired his degrees in industrial engineering. During his time at Pitt, Balkey noted how he greatly respected all of his engineering professors. He says, “They all had their own unique teaching styles that caused students to adjust their way to learn and understand the important information that was provided in each course, which reflects the real world.” One instructor that particularly stood out to Balkey was Professor Roy Marangoni. Professor Marangoni taught Balkey in both undergraduate and graduate courses on vibration, which he says had direct use and were greatly beneficial to him during the early days of his career. More prominently, Professor Marangoni was Balkey’s faculty advisor for his team’s senior capstone project on determining the natural frequencies of a three-mass torsional system. Balkey was the group’s presenter and project report creator which he says prepared him well for the industry. He notes, “I could readily pull together efforts from addressing complex issues in a succinct and straightforward manner that everyone can understand. I have published many articles on a wide range of challenging topics during my career.  I thought of Dr. Marangoni many times over the last 50 years when I found myself in similar situations as our senior capstone design project.” Balkey served as secretary of the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), which he describes as one of the best decisions he made as a student. He was encouraged to join as a sophomore by a senior student, Tim Andreychek. Post-graduation, the two men ended up working together at Westinghouse where they often reminisced about their time as ASME students. During the summer after his freshman year, Balkey interned at Houser & Carafas Engineering Company where he assisted draftsman supporting the steel industry. That led to a position with Reliance Engineering Company, where he was able to do his own engineering drawing work. Balkey says all this experience was quite helpful to have on his resume as he applied for engineering jobs upon graduation. Ken Balkey running track for Pitt at the Fitzgerald Field House circa 1971 Balkey had an impressive athletic tenure at Pitt which started with a recommendation from retired Pitt track and field coach, Carl Olson, to join the track and cross teams as a walk-on.  Coach Olson made the recommendation upon learning Balkey completed the 1968 Boston Marathon as a high school senior. He joined the teams as a freshman and continued to win and improve throughout the year.  By the end his freshman year, Balkey shaved over 30 seconds off of his mile time, eventually completing a 4 minute 17 second indoor mile. Since he was running better than many of the other top freshman in the eastern half of the country, he was offered an athletic scholarship for his remaining three years on the teams. Balkey admits much of his success was likely due to trying to impress his future wife, Ruth Anne. He met Ruth Anne during his freshman year at Pitt while ice skating at a public session at the Civic Arena. Ruth Anne was a junior in high school at the time. He says it was love at first sight! But, he told her that he was not able to ask her on a date due to his engineering course load and commitments to the Pitt track team. Ruth Anne agreed to come watch him at a track meet at the Fitzgerald Field House instead. It was this meet that Balkey first shattered his record mile time. Ruth Anne came to Pitt two years later to pursue a degree in education. Balkey saved a few of his electives so they could take classes together. He says, “Without a doubt, Ruth Anne has had the most significant impact on my life from helping me with my engineering studies, to supporting many leadership roles at Westinghouse, ASME and numerous other organizations.” However, managing his workload and demanding sports schedule proved to be difficult and Balkey found his grades slipping.  He recalls being approached by Coach Olson one day after practice freshman year. Coach asked him how his grades were, and when he replied that he was receiving B’s and C’s, coach scolded him.  Balkey said he was stunned and that the interaction had a powerful impact on him. The next semester during his sophomore year, Balkey began the ME program. He met with three friends every day after class to strategize how to address their homework problems. They would then disburse to work on the problems on their own.  Balkey said this approach made a huge difference to him, “It reduced the time it took me to do my homework while better understanding the material that was presented in class.” He began getting better grades and by his second semester junior year he was one of six out of over 400 Pitt student-athletes to earn a 4.0 that semester. He was also the only engineering student-athlete to do so. Balkey was so excited he went to find Coach Olson right away to share the news. He says, “I ended up graduating with honors with an overall GPA of 3.41 that got me in the door to be interviewed for my job at Westinghouse. Coach Olson’s push made an enormous difference for me in getting a great job and launching my 42-year career at the company for which I am eternally grateful.” Balkey’s 42-year Westinghouse career began in 1972 in the Pressurized Water Reactor Systems Division. He notes, “[The] work included use of static and dynamic analysis methods that aligned with material learned in my Pitt M.E. undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with methods of analytical dynamics, advanced vibrations, and theory of elastic/plastic analysis.” As the 70s became the 80s, Balkey continued to advance his career at Westinghouse. In 1983, he was recognized in the industry for leading team efforts in integrating probabilistic risk assessment pressurized thermal shock event frequencies with probabilistic fracture mechanics methods to address concerns with reactor pressure vessel integrity at nuclear power plants in the U.S. and many other countries. This state-of-the-art approach kept five U.S. reactors from facing immediate shutdown, and further work over the last decades in this area has assured safe continued operation of nuclear power plants around the world today in the generation of reliable, emission free electricity. This work opened opportunities in management for Balkey, which he declined in order to pursue a technical leadership path. The inspiration to take this path came from a conversation he had with respected Westinghouse consulting engineer, Floyd Moschini. Moschini said his senior technical leadership position afforded him the opportunity to influence the nuclear industry in a unique, positive way and that he derived much personal satisfaction from his work. Balkey realized this was something he also wanted. In his last position before retiring from Westinghouse in 2014, Balkey was promoted to the same engineering consulting position Moschini held years earlier. He concluded his career at Westinghouse with over four decades of service in the global nuclear power industry. As Balkey advanced his career at Westinghouse, he also advanced his roles and responsibilities within ASME which eventually led him to serve as vice president, ASME Nuclear Codes and Standards (2005-2008) and then the highly respected role of senior vice president, ASME Standards and Certification (2011-2014). The latter organization is comprised of more than 5,500 dedicated ASME staff and volunteers from around the world.  As senior vice president, Balkey had oversight of the development of more than 500 standards used across many industries and in over 100 countries. He also chaired the ASME Council on Standards and Certification from 2011 to 2014. Balkey is the only in the Pittsburgh region ever to serve this role, which is chosen based on peer recommendation and appointment by a wide range of industries and government organizations. The role afforded him the opportunity travel and work with highly respected engineers and other leaders from around the globe. Today, Balkey remains an active volunteer with ASME (over 50 years!) where he works to raise funds for ASME engineering scholarships and other philanthropic programs. He also strives to get engineering standards content infused into undergraduate mechanical engineering curricula in the U.S. and in other countries accredited by ASME. Other notable accomplishments throughout Balkey’s career include receiving the IntraFirm Volunteer of the Year Award by the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering for enhancing the relationship between Westinghouse Electric Company and the University of Pittsburgh. He arranged annual updates from SSOE’s Development office to employees at Westinghouse and encouraged them to participate in the nuclear engineering program at Pitt. Additionally, he received an invitation from the Executive Office of the U.S. President to attend a strategic White House workshop on critical infrastructure priorities post 9/11. He also joined a group of recognized experts in publishing a special ASME report on nuclear safety construct following the Great East Japan earthquake in March 2011. Balkey has authored over 150 publications and technical reports related to risk evaluations, and holds two patents on pressure vessel integrity and risk-informed inspection of heat exchangers. His honors include the ASME Melvin R. Green Codes and Standards Medal (2008), the ASME Bernard F. Langer Nuclear Codes and Standards Award (2002) and numerous other awards from ASME, Westinghouse, and more. Throughout his impressive tenure with Westinghouse and ASME, Balkey interacted with numerous associates also involved with Pitt SSOE in some capacity. Westinghouse colleague and fellow Pitt grad, Dr. Gary Elder, has worked with Balkey since 2010 to co-teach to their Pitt graduate course in nuclear engineering dealing with real world applications of nuclear codes and standards. Balkey notes, “Any recognition that has come my way during my career, it has always come by working with so many other talented people.  I am forever grateful for having the honor and privilege of working with so many talented people from around the globe during my career.” Balkey credits the help and support of his parents, along with his athletic scholarship, as the reasons to why he was able to obtain his education from Pitt. He notes that his scholarship was invaluable and came at a time that he really needed the help. Joseph and Marie Balkey (seated in front) 40th Wedding Anniversary September 14, 1986. Back row: Joe and Ann Balkey, Kathleen and David Balkey, Ruth Anne and Ken Balkey; Grandchildren Keith and Karen Balkey standing next to their grandparents. Therefore, when their father passed in 2013, the Balkey brothers decided to establish the Joseph C. and Marie A. Balkey Family Engineering Legacy Fund to honor their parents for the significant sacrifices they made to support their children in engineering education and careers. The income from the fund is used for the purpose of supporting the Swanson School of Engineering at the discretion of the Dean. In the spirit of giving, Ken and Ruth Anne have also recently pledged to fund two endowed scholarships, one for a MEMS student and the second for an ASME scholarship. Balkey notes the scholarships have been something he has wanted to do for a while as a way to pay it forward in the hopes that it will help others as he was helped 50 years ago. Balkey notes one of the key intentions of making his pledge to endow a Pitt engineering scholarship is to encourage others to follow in his example. Ken and Ruth Anne have been together for 52 years and just celebrated their 47th year of marriage. They have two children, Karen and Keith, and three grandchildren, Lucas, Max and Nina.  Keith also attended the University of Pittsburgh where he obtained his bachelor’s in business administration in 2004. Keith joined his father at Westinghouse for the last six years of his career at the company. Balkey’s current involvement at Pitt does not stop with his generous donations and adjunct lectureship.  He is also a member of the Pitt Panther Club and Varsity Letter Club. He regularly attends the Swanson School of Engineering golf outings and the Distinguished Alumni Banquet each spring. Additionally, he is a reviewer for the senior design projects.  He says, “It is quite enjoyable to connect with current and past faculty, alums, students, and Development Office staff each year at these events.” Balkey hopes to inspire others to pursue the field of engineering for the self-fulfillment derived from contributing to the improvement and advancement of everyday society and the excitement of participating in future global initiatives.

Apr
28
2021

Designing New Alloys for Additive Manufacturing

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 28, 2021) — Additive manufacturing (AM), a burgeoning technology for alloy fabrication, allows engineers to specifically manufacture a complex component in any shape. However, due to the unique processing involved, the alloy behaves differently during fabrication using AM when compared with other traditional manufacturing techniques. The alloy components produced by AM can easily develop a texture that makes them behave like wood in some ways—stronger along the grain than against it—and thus limits the strength (its resistance to distortion and fracture) and ductility (how much it can elongate before it breaks). There is a well-known trade-off between strength and ductility, which cannot be fully solved using current AM techniques, like reducing the grain size through externally applied deformation. Wei Xiong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, will study the fundamental mechanisms behind this trade-off in a new project that received a $526,334 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The five-year project, titled “Unraveling Fundamental Mechanisms Governing Grain Refinement in Complex Concentrated Alloys Made by Additive Manufacturing Towards Strong and Ductile Structures,” began on April 15, 2021. “The ability to produce strong yet tough structural alloys is a necessary step toward getting the most out of new, innovative materials and manufacturing,” said Xiong, who last year also received the Early Career Faculty Fellow Award from the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (known as TMS). “This project will provide a fundamental understanding that can overcome the well-known problem that, in general, the stronger a material is, the less ductile it becomes. Moreover, we will also design new alloys that can be additively manufactured”. Grain refinement is a method used to augment a material by changing the size of its grain structure, improving both its strength and ductility. Xiong’s project aims to understand the underlying mechanism of grain refinements in complex concentrated alloys made by additive manufacturing of combinations of multiple chemical element additions. Xiong’s Physical Metallurgy and Materials Design Lab will investigate whether increasing entropy, or disorder, in an alloy system will slow grain coarsening and stabilize microstructures, making the material both strong and ductile. Particularly, they will focus on mixing alloy powders to print complex concentrated alloys, which is a new type of material that usually stabilizes the microstructure due to its resulting high entropy. There are plenty of earthly reasons that AM has exploded as a way to fabricate alloy parts. There are some good interplanetary reasons, too. “Think about, in the future, if we colonize Mars and want to build stations using 3D printing. No one wants to bring hundreds of different alloy powders to travel with the rocket,” said Xiong. “We want to bring maybe only three or four different types of powders to serve the needs of building an entire station on Mars, so we can mix them with different ratios to fabricate different parts by additive manufacturing.” “The developed technique can also help to save the cost of alloy powder production for various engineering purposes and enhance the sustainability of 3D printing by providing recipes to recycle and reuse existing metal powders," he continued. “Therefore, it is important to explore the effective pathways of microstructure engineering of these alloys by additive manufacturing, and that is why I proposed such a topic.” According to the NSF, the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is its most prestigious award in support of 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. This award marks the fourth consecutive year that a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science has received a CAREER Award.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
15
2021

Swanson School Faculty and Students Named MCSI Sustainability Champions

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (April 15, 2021) — Tony Kerzmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been named the 2021 Pitt Sustainability Champion in the faculty category by the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) for his work on renewable energy and sustainability. The program honors faculty, staff and students who have gone above and beyond to support campus sustainability in any of the three categories of the Pitt Sustainability Plan: Stewardship, Exploration, and Community and Culture. “This year’s winners are integral in cultivating a culture of sustainability at Pitt,” said Gena Kovalcik, co-director of MCSI. “We’re excited to honor their contributions and inspire the next generation to take up the mantle of building a more sustainable world.” Kerzmann is one of this year’s Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows and co-teaches the “Current Issues” and “Sustainability Capstone” core courses for MCSI’s Sustainability Certificate. His research focuses on the energy sector, leading projects that relate to energy and sustainability, including solar energy. He is currently working on offshore hydrogen production and 3D printed building optimization. Jessica Vaden, graduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was also among the winners for her work on the Pitt’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which has been a critical analysis for future planning and the Pitt Climate Action Plan. Additionally, two MCSI interns, Anna Coleman and Gabrielle Sampson, were selected in the undergraduate student category. Coleman, a senior majoring in Global Studies, leads the peer training, coordination and execution of the First Year Presentations that introduce first year students to sustainability. Sampson, a senior studying geology and environmental science, has created two comprehensive Year of Engagement grant proposals, including one on indoor air quality. All 25 honorees will be recognized at the Student Sustainability Symposium on April 23, 2021. The full list of 2021 Sustainability Champions is available here.
Maggie Pavlick
Apr
12
2021

Pitt SOAR Named Finalist in NASA Sponsored Innovation Challenge

All SSoE News, MEMS

The Pitt Society of Astronautics and Rocketry (SOAR), comprised of several MEMS undergraduates, has been named a finalist in NASA’s 2021 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Special Edition: Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge. In 2020, NASA confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon and ice at its poles, in addition to extensive subsurface water-ice deposits at mid to high latitudes on Mars. The Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge invites universities to compete to develop technologies capable of extracting water from these sources. This challenge is a part of a larger suite of competitions under The Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkages (RASC-AL), which sponsors university engineering design challenges that “help inform NASA’s approaches for future human space exploration and prompt collegiate students to investigate, plan, and analyze space exploration design at differing states of development” (nasa.gov). Periodically, RASC-AL calls for a special edition challenge, as was the case this year, to elicit students’ fresh perspective on developing concepts that may provide solutions to specific design problems and challenges currently facing human space exploration (specialedition.rascal.nianet.org). SOAR’s project is titled Vaporizer of Underground Liquid for Consumption by Astronaut coloNists (VULCAN) and the team received a $5000 stipend to build their system when they were identified as semi-finalists. As finalists, they will receive an additional $10,000 to further develop their system and use on expenses such as hardware development, materials, testing equipment, hardware, software, and travel. On a yet-to-be-determined date this summer, the team will travel to the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, VA to test their prototype against the other university finalists in a multi-day competition.  The teams will compete to extract the most water from an “analog environment simulating a slice of a combined lunar and Martian surface, while simultaneously using system telemetry to distinguish between overburden layers and create a digital core of the various layers” (specialedition.rascal.nianet.org). Teams will also present their work in a technical poster session and with a technical paper. MEMS professor Matt Barry is the Faculty Mentor of SOAR and Mars Ice. Barry effused that he is "…continually amazed by what the students within SOAR and Mars Ice Challenge teams accomplish. Having teams in their infancy, such as these, continually and successfully competing in NASA competitions is a remarkable feat, and a true testament of the students' abilities, their commitment to the team and missions, and their perseverance to overcome any and all barriers in their way. These amazing students not only represent themselves well, but the University as a whole, and I could not be more proud of them." The MEMS students on this team, all ME undergraduates, include; Cole Bowman, Andrew Horton, Benjamin Moyer, Jack Cornell, Justin Olah, Marissa DeFallo, Sam Hunn, Ronald Musto, and Elliot Kerachsy. We wish SOAR the best of luck at finals this summer!

Apr
8
2021

15 Pitt Students Earn NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS, Student Profiles

Reposted from Pittwire. Click here to view the original story. Fifteen Pitt graduate students have been selected for the 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), which recognizes outstanding graduate students who are pursuing full-time research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The prestigious award provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. Its overall goal is to recruit individuals into STEM fields and to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering. Since its inception in 1952, the GRFP has supported more than 60,000 graduate students nationwide. The NSF expects to award 1,600 Graduate Research Fellowships overall. Fellows are provided a $34,000 stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance each year. Pitt’s 2021 awardees are: Max Franklin Dudek, life sciences—computationally intensive research Zachary Egolf, engineering—systems engineering Hannah C. Geisler, engineering—biomedical engineering Marcela Gonzalez-Rubio, engineering—bioengineering Sarah Clarkson Griffin, engineering—bioengineering Pete Howard Gueldner, engineering—bioengineering Elijah Hall, geosciences—hydrology Sara Jaramillo, psychology—cognitive psychology Caroline Iturbe Larkin, engineering—computationally intensive research Jennifer Mak, engineering—biomedical engineering Karen Y Peralta Martinez, life sciences—organismal biology Kevin Pietz, engineering—bioengineering April Alexandra Rich, life sciences—genomics Paul Anthony Torrillo, chemistry—computationally intensive research Carissa Siu Yun Yim, engineering—chemical engineering In addition, nine Pitt students were recognized with honorable mentions: Marissa Nicole Behun, engineering—bioengineering Emily Kaye Biermann, physics and astronomy—astronomy and astrophysics Gabriella Gerlach, life sciences—bioinformatics and computational biology Emily Anne Hutchinson, psychology—developmental psychology Kayla M. Komondor, life sciences—developmental biology Rachael Dawn Kramp, life sciences—ecology Patrick John Stofanak, engineering—mechanical engineering Madeline Torres, life sciences—microbial biology Darian Yang, life sciences—biophysics "It is very exciting that, once again this year, University of Pittsburgh students have been recognized by the National Science Foundation for their excellent work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That the country’s oldest fellowship program supporting STEM applauds the fine accomplishments of Pitt's students is as impressive as it is inspiring," said Joseph J. McCarthy, vice provost for undergraduate studies and interim dean of the University Honors College. "I sincerely congratulate this year's honorees." The University offers guidance for students who want to prepare strong applications for these and other awards. “Students in the Swanson School of Engineering successfully compete every year for NSF GRFP awards, which is a testament to their academic excellence and hard work,” said bioengineering professor Patrick Loughlin. “It is also a testament to the decade-long workshop and efforts by Swanson School faculty to assist graduate students in preparing competitive fellowship applications.” Loughlin said the Swanson School is joining forces with the University Honors College to expand its efforts with an eye toward further increasing the number of Pitt NSF GRFP recipients. Pitt Honors scholar-mentor Joshua Cannon said the Honors College’s program includes workshops throughout the summer and early fall, numerous past successful applications to read and learn from, advice on how to structure essays, and detailed reading and reviewing of essays. Awardee Marcela Gonzalez-Rubio said she felt overwhelmed as she started her NSF GRFP proposal. “Not because I didn't feel ready, but because as a graduate student it was my first time applying for such a competitive and prestigious grant. “I knew I needed mentorship, advice and new sets of eyes to provide an objective perspective on my proposal as I wanted it to be the best possible,” Gonzalez-Rubio said. “In my advisor, lab mates, fellow grad students and Pitt's Honors College prep program I found everything that I was looking for and I will be forever thankful for their support in helping me achieve what I consider to be my career's most important milestone so far.” Said honorable mention honoree Emily Bierman, "The application process allowed me to really envision what I wanted my graduate school experience to look like. After taking time to think deeply about what brought me to where I am today and what I want to accomplish, I feel much more grounded as a graduate student. Pitt's prep program really helped me through that self-reflection. The GRFP application is quite daunting, but I didn't have to do it alone." Swanson School recipients for the 2021 award include: Zachary Egolf, a mechanical engineering graduate student, works to develop a nonlinear control scheme for distributive control of robotic swarms. This controller will allow for robust tracking of randomly moving targets. (PI: Vipperman) Hannah Geisler, a bioengineering undergrad, performed research to investigate the fluid-handling capabilities of a 3D-printed peristaltic pump for application in cell-free protein synthesis systems. The overarching goal of the project was to design a microfluidic system capable of controlled, rapid SARS-COV-2 protein synthesis for downstream production of protein-based COVID-19 assays and therapeutics. (PI: Ruder) Marcela Gonzalez-Rubio, a bioengineering graduate student, studies how humans learn new ways of walking by using a split-belt treadmill where participants move each of their legs at different speeds. She is interested in quantifying their perception of leg movements once they adjust their walking patterns to this novel environment. (PI: Torres-Oviedo) Sarah Griffin, a bioengineering graduate student, studies the biomechanics and shoe-rung mechanics of ladder climbing to describe the factors affecting slip risk. The overall goal is to develop new knowledge that can be implemented in the workplace to reduce ladder slip and fall risk. (PI: Beschorner) Pete Gueldner, a bioengineering graduate student, uses novel experimental and computational techniques to analyze the biomechanics of abdominal aortic aneurysms. The central goal is to reduce the risk of patients by leveraging artificial intelligence tools on large clinical imaging datasets which will aid in the improvement of  the clinical standards as well as overall patient health. (PI: Vorp) Jennifer Mak, a bioengineering graduate student, develops innovative stroke rehabilitation strategies, involving the use of augmented reality (AR), encephalography (EEG), robotics, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). The overarching goal is to address post-stroke sensory processing issues like neglect as well as motor impairments. (PI: Wittenberg) Kevin Pietz, a bioengineering undergraduate, performed research that involved engineering stem cell-derived pancreatic islets using alginate encapsulation and islet-on-a-chip systems. The goal is to develop a long-term microphysiological culture system for studying type 2 diabetes. (PI: Banerjee) Carissa Yim, a chemical engineering undergraduate, aims to understand and improve energy efficiency in flow batteries through electrochemistry and molecular-scale structural simulations. This will enable researchers to better harness intermittent renewable energy and address climate change. (PI: McKone) Honorable Mentions Marissa Behun, a bioengineering graduate student, aims to better understand the way in which macrophage phenotypes change with age following a skeletal muscle injury. (PI: Brown) Patrick Stofanak, a mechanical engineering graduate student, works to better understand the impact that winds have on melting ice sheets and sublimation of snow in polar regions. Using fundamental thermal-fluid concepts and numerical simulation, he aims to improve our understanding of how these processes are contributing to sea level rise. (PI: Senocak) # # #
Kimberly K. Barlow, Communications Manager, Office of University Communications

Mar

Mar
30
2021

Research on New Magnetic Materials Gets AMPED Up

Electrical & Computer, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 30, 2021) — As society continues to grapple with the realities of climate change, it looks toward electric vehicles and renewable energy as technological solutions. With these growing technologies, however, there is a greater need for improved soft magnetic materials that can operate in these systems. Meeting this need requires an interdisciplinary skillset, including materials science, applied physics, and electrical engineering, as well as collaboration with end-users in industry. A new consortium created to address this gap, focused on the research and development of magnetic materials for power electronics systems, has received $60,000 in funding from a University of Pittsburgh Momentum Funds Teaming Grant. The consortium, Advanced Magnetics for Power and Energy Development (AMPED), will include members from several schools at Pitt, as well as North Carolina State University and Carnegie Mellon University. “There’s been a historical gap in research and development funding to support these quickly emerging areas, both with new and established industries in the electric power sector,” said Brandon Grainger, Eaton Faculty Fellow and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Our hope is that with this funding, we can invest in the relationships and innovation spaces needed to fill that gap.” Grainger, who is also associate director of the Energy GRID Institute and co-director of AMPED, is leading the effort to establish AMPED at the University of Pittsburgh with Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and material science and director of AMPED. Faculty leadership of the consortium also includes Director Michael McHenry and Co-Director Maarten DeBoer from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as Director Subhashish Bhattacharya and Co-Director Richard Beddingfield from North Carolina State University. At Pitt, Grainger and Ohodnicki are joined by Rabikar Chatterjee from the Katz Graduate School of Business and Daniel Mosse from the School of Computing and Information. Chatterjee will bring to the consortium his experience and research in technology-to-market planning and competitive analyses. “Understanding the potential markets and assessing their needs warrants a business perspective, for which the Katz Graduate School of Business can provide the expertise,” said Chatterjee. “I am personally very excited to be part of the team, given my industry experience and research interests that cover the analysis of business markets and assessing the markets’ response to technology-driven innovation. Energy and sustainability are important priorities at Katz for faculty and graduate students, and this project is right in our sweet spot.” On the technological side, Mosse will help to develop novel algorithms for optimizing magnetics and power electronics technology. "It is exciting to participate in this interdisciplinary team with the promises of developing new technologies that will improve efficiency in electric vehicles, the smart grid, and other devices, all with the goal carbon emissions,” said Mosse. “This is the first step toward developing a large collaborative center where industry, academia, and governmental partners will come together to make great things happen, all in pursuit of a cleaner, more sustainable world." The Teaming Grant is a one-year award to support the formation of multi-disciplinary collaborations at Pitt to successfully pursue large-scale external funding. AMPED will use the funds to establish synergies through facilitated team collaborations, supporting graduate student stipends, and investing in lab space at the Energy GRID Institute at Pitt. The group hopes to attract federal funding to further their research, and welcome corporate partners to the consortium to fuse research with industry needs. “More research into improved magnetic materials is crucial for a sustainable future, and it’s important that we’re working in harmony with people at all stages of the research and development process, from theory to manufacturing. Establishing this consortium within the university system also ensures that we can provide industry with the interdisciplinary, skilled workforce required to support their needs moving into the future,” said Ohodnicki, who is also chief technology officer for the soft magnetics manufacturing startup CorePower Magnetics. “I am thrilled to be working with a team whose skills and expertise have the potential to have an enormous impact on the future of energy.”
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
29
2021

Pitt and the Global Manufacturing And Industrialization Summit Join Efforts To Advance Research And Development Efforts In Manufacturing

Industrial, MEMS

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (March 29, 2021) ... The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance research collaboration and knowledge sharing in technology, manufacturing, and education across borders. The partnership will see GMIS and Pitt, in particular its Swanson School of Engineering, collaborate to explore opportunities to encourage research and development in manufacturing, develop academic papers, and facilitate knowledge exchange between different universities and educational institutes worldwide. The partnership aims to foster cross-sector collaboration through academic research and expertise to address the industry's challenges. Dr. David Vorp, the Swanson School’s John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research, and Namir Hourani, Managing Director of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) signed the MoU. The partnership is designed to further the two organizations’ shared objectives to drive sustainable innovation that will help reshape the global manufacturing landscape, serving economies, industry, and civil society better. Commenting on the partnership, Namir Hourani, Managing Director of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS), said: “We are pleased to sign the MoU with the University of Pittsburgh as we continue to rollout long-term partnerships with world-class, research-focused universities from all over the world. These partnerships play a very important role within our ecosystem and contribute to multiple activities that run alongside the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit. “The city of Pittsburgh is a major center for technological innovation and advanced manufacturing in the United States and across the world, and this partnership will provide a platform for us to jointly showcase best practices from the city on the world stage.”James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, said: “The University of Pittsburgh is indeed excited to be a global academic partner with GMIS, and reflects Pittsburgh’s commitment to excellence in academics, research, and sustainability. “Pittsburgh represents the intersection of Industry 5.0 and Society 5.0, as indicated when Worth magazine recently named it as the nation’s second-most resilient city. Pittsburgh was the burning heart of the Second Industrial Revolution, and the past three decades of re-invention have shown how our region has once again established itself as the nexus for creating new knowledge that improves the human condition. And as we celebrate the 175th year of engineering education at Pitt in 2021, the Swanson School is proud to help lead the way in research, academics, and cultural competency,”The University of Pittsburgh will join the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) in the development of its Leadership Program which was announced at #GMIS2020 and focuses on shaping future global leaders to prioritize advancing humanity and promoting global prosperity. Together with the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, the GMIS platform will work towards developing future leaders that can set their organizations on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Swanson School will be instrumental in supporting with the research, developing the curriculum, engaging with stakeholders, implementing the programs, and supporting in creating awareness of for the program amongst relevant institutions all over the world.Dr. David Vorp, the Swanson School’s John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research, added: “The integration of sustainable industrial development in the mission for GMIS sets a well-charted path for our partnership. Pitt has endeavored to be a university leader in sustainable innovation, and at the Swanson School, our faculty and students are exploring new materials, advanced manufacturing, and tools that have the potential to improve the triple bottom line – social, environmental, and economic – for industry around the world. We are excited to join the GMIS ecosystem as a global academic partner and to be able to share the city of Pittsburgh’s success stories and innovations on the world stage of industrial and manufacturing excellence.” ### About GMIS: The Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) was established in 2015 to build bridges between manufacturers, governments and NGOs, technologists, and investors in harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR) transformation of manufacturing to enable the regeneration of the global economy. A joint initiative by the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), GMIS is a global platform that presents stakeholders with an opportunity to shape the future of the manufacturing sector and contribute towards global good by advancing some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.The first two editions of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit were held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in March 2017, and Yekaterinburg, Russia in July 2019, respectively, with each edition welcoming over 3,000 high-level delegates from over 40 countries. The third edition, GMIS2020, was held virtually in September 2020 and convened over 10,000 attendees and close to 100 thought-provoking leaders from governments, businesses, and civil society. GMIS2021, the fourth edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, will be held once again in the United Arab Emirates from November 22 to 27, alongside EXPO Dubai, under the theme – Rewiring Societies: Repurposing Digitalization for Prosperity. To learn more about GMIS, please visit https://gmisummit.com/ and follow GMIS on Twitter:  @GMISummit, Instagram: @gmisummit, LinkedIn: GMIS - Global Manufacturing & Industrialization Summit, and Facebook: @GMISummit. Press Contact:Reethu ThachilCommunications ManagerM Three Marcomms LLC, Press Office for:Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity +971 58 847 6870/ press@gmisummit.com
Reethu Thachil, GMIS Communications Manager
Mar
29
2021

MEMS Student Receives Prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship

MEMS, Student Profiles

Asher Hancock, mechanical engineering junior, is a 2021 recipient of a prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The scholarship is a part of the Excellence in Education Foundation which was established by Congress in 1986 to honor the work of Senator Barry Goldwater. Award winners annually receive an amount equal to the cost of tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board until graduation. Scholarships are awarded to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. The scholarships are to help ensure the US produces many highly-qualified professionals in these critical fields. Hancock joins 68 other mechanical engineering scholars out of a pool of over 5,000 applicants. In addition to the scholarship, Hancock recently had his research published in the international archival journal Energy. He is currently completing a computational telework rotation with NASA, along with working in both Professors Albert To and Matt Barry’s labs in the MEMS Department. He is minoring in computer science and mathematics and is the Chief Wing Engineer for the Pitt Aerospace Society of Automotive Engineering (Aero SAE). Congratulations Asher!!!

Mar
29
2021

Swanson School Researchers Receive More than $270K Through Manufacturing PA Initiative

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2021) — Four University of Pittsburgh researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have received over $270,000 through Governor Wolf’s Manufacturing PA Initiative to further advance the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania. The projects are part of the fellowship program through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which will offer graduate and undergraduate students a chance to work directly with Pennsylvania’s growing manufacturing industry. “Our region has had a long history of industrial innovation and manufacturing leadership, from the steel industry that earned Pittsburgh its Steel City nickname to the emerging AI and robotics sector today,” said Brian Gleeson, Harry S. Tack Chaired Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “I’m pleased that this initiative recognizes our talented faculty and exceptional students who are advancing that work and making Pittsburgh a leader in manufacturing.” The program awarded nearly $2 million for 29 research partnerships with 15 Pennsylvania colleges and universities. The projects will “help advance innovation in several sectors of manufacturing, from advanced medical, to waste sustainability, to artificial intelligence,” according to the Commonwealth’s press release. The Swanson School’s recipients are: Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,075 for a partnership with ExOne and ANSYS Inc. The project will build reusable N95 mask filters using binder jet 3D-printing, a powder-based additive manufacturing technique that can create optimally-designed structures without the need to machine parts or build tools first. The work will be informed by 3D-modeling and builds on previous work to systematically study and optimize the process. Graduate student Aaron Acierno will join Chmielus on the project, along with an undergraduate student who is yet to be determined. C. Isaac Garcia, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,680 for work with the U.S. Steel Corporation Research and Technology Center in Munhall, Pa. The project will study the influence of casting and rolling processes on precipitation reactions in titanium/niobium (Ti/Nb) steels. Garcia will work with Pedro De Souza Ciacco, an associate researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The project will give Ciacco and an additional undergraduate student this summer the chance to integrate university coursework and sophisticated laboratory tools into problem solving with an established metals producer. Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $64,433 for work with Carnegie Mellon University and Carpenter Technology Corporation in Philadelphia. The project will explore new ways to process the high-performing commercial iron cobalt-based soft magnetic alloys developed by Carpenter Technology. While traditional processing methods result in a trade-off between mechanical and magnetic properties, the new methods would improve upon these trade-offs to optimize the material’s properties. Ultimately, the project will work towards demonstrating a commercially viable way to make these materials optimal for motors in electric vehicles and hybrid-electric aircrafts. Ohodnicki will work with Tyler Paplham, an undergraduate studying MEMS at Pitt that will be taking a PhD position within his research group, and Walter Robinson, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaborations with his colleagues Professors Maarten deBoer and Michael McHenry. Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,900 for his work with Pennsylvania companies Wabtec, ExOne, and ANSYS. The project will overcome a critical issue that hinders the broad adoption of binder jet printing: the warping of jetted parts after they’re treated with heat (sintered). The project will develop a new gradient-based method for minimizing warpage that changes the structures such that they will settle into the correct shapes after printing and sintering. To will work with Basil Paudel and Hao Deng, graduate students in mechanical engineering and materials science.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
23
2021

Opening the Door for Women in Engineering at Pitt

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

When Emmy Lou Haller decided to study engineering at the beginning of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It takes a lot of courage to go into a school where the students are all men.” The numbers have improved since Haller earned her degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Today, first-year female recruitment in the Swanson School of Engineering is nearing 40 percent, and women represent a third of the undergraduate population and more than a quarter of graduate students. That’s an impressive feat for a discipline that is typically male-dominated – and above the 21.9 percent of women who earned engineering degrees in the U.S., according to a 2018 study by the American Society for Engineering Education. “When I was an undergrad in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, I was typically one of two or three girls in a classroom of 40 students. I only had two female engineering professors during my entire undergraduate studies,” said Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. “This often led me to feel like I didn’t belong or have what it takes to be a successful engineer.” This feeling partially inspired Hornbostel to become a professor and improve female representation in engineering education. “I want future female engineering students to have a role model and feel like they belong,” she said. “Whenever I teach undergraduates at Pitt, I’m so encouraged by the number of female students in my classroom. I love how they seem so comfortable speaking up and asking questions. Representation truly makes a difference.” Back in 1933 and despite being the only woman among a crowd of male peers, Haller enjoyed her studies and graduated at the top of her class. Coming from a family of engineers and preferring mathematics to dolls, her career choice was destined, but the journey would be difficult. For Haller, who transferred to Pitt from the all-women’s Sweet Briar College after her freshman year, community had to be found outside of the classroom. In addition to her engineering studies, Haller was also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and Quax, a women's honorary science sorority founded by seven female science majors in 1919. Today, more so than in the early 20th century, women at Pitt can still find opportunities to connect with their peers through numerous groups, such as DIVA (Determined Intelligent Victorious Available), a student run organization dedicated to empowering women of color in the Swanson School. Engineering alumna Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15) got her first taste of female leadership when she was asked to lead DIVA by her mentor Yvette Moore, director of Pitt EXCEL. “I had no idea this role would unleash an unknown passion to support, challenge and help expose other women to achieving personal and professional opportunities they most likely would not consider for themselves,” she said. “Women-led organizations have also taught me that we (women) don't have to compete for success; we're stronger as a unit by encouraging and celebrating each other and building off of previous success stories.” These organizations have effectively helped women create community and network of support in pursuing research and a career in STEM. Confidence to Succeed Amid New Challenges Haller’s research at Pitt included studying downtown department stores and determining the amount of light that attracts the most public attention to store window displays. She hoped to continue research in Pittsburgh after graduation and was optimistic about her prospects. “I think the average woman can accomplish more with a buttonhook or a hair pin than the average man does with the aid of a step ladder, a whole set of tools and a wife to hand him things,” she said in the Post-Gazette article. Haller’s enthusiasm for engineering and bold career move helped open the door for other women to enter the field; however, for some, the journey still is not simple. “As a female engineer, we are often told to quickly establish our presence and find our voice amongst the sea of men in our industry; as a minority female, the pressure to define your role and prove your worth is only intensified,” Pinckney said. “With more than five years of industry experience under my belt, I've challenged myself to engage in conversations and opportunities that positively highlight my knowledge, experience and ultimately my worth as a team member.” As the field continues to grow and adapt to the changing workforce, leaders and mentors play a pivotal role in motivating and inspiring people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. “Having a support system through EXCEL, DIVA, and our advisor Ms. Moore has been crucial to my success as an engineer,” said Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student who also serves as a leader and social media chair of DIVA. “From professional workshops to wellness seminars, the ladies created a safe space and provided the motivation to keep going. It is always encouraging to engage with women who have shared experiences and who genuinely care about my success and wellbeing as an engineer and also as a friend.” During Women’s History Month and the 175th anniversary of the Swanson School of Engineering, the university community can also celebrate 98 years of women in engineering at Pitt. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished in the Swanson School, and it is a legacy which I think Emmy Lou Haller would be tremendously proud,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering. “However, we still have a way to go to not only have parity, but to improve equity within the field itself. To do that, we will continue to recruit the next generation of women engineering students to Pitt.” # # # Image 1: Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceImage 2: Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15), Business Development Engineer, Turner ConstructionImage 3: Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student and leader and social media chair of DIVAImage 4: Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering, and Director of the Engineering Education Research Center

Mar
18
2021

For Women’s History Month, Women in STEM Share Their Journeys

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 18, 2021) — The path for women in STEM fields has historically been fraught with obstacles that their male counterparts may not have had to face. The path is a bit clearer today thanks to the women who walked it before: women like Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and environmentalist; Katherine Johnson, the space scientist who made the Apollo 11 flight possible; and Edith Clarke, the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the U.S. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in celebration of Women’s History Month, a panel of women from the Swanson School of Engineering will discuss their own paths to success as women in STEM and higher education. The six faculty and staff members will discuss their journeys and lessons learned while building their fruitful careers. The panel, “My Journey, My Story: The Path to Success for Women in STEM and Higher Education,” is presented by the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Diversity. The discussion is open to all members of the Swanson School. You can find more information and RSVP here. PANELISTS: Xinyan Tracy Cui, Professor of Bioengineering Tracy Cui runs NTE Lab, where they investigate and develop tools that interface with the nervous system for neuroscience research or clinical diagnosis and therapies. One major thrust of the lab research is to understand and modulate neural tissue interactions with smart materials and biosensors—an effort that can be applied to several fields of research, including neural electrode/tissue interface, neural tissue engineering, implantable biosensors and drug delivery. The NTE Lab also designs advanced functional biomaterials and electrode devices that will intimately integrate with the host neural tissue. They simultaneously develop rigorous methods to comprehensively and accurately evaluate these novel materials and devices. Related news: $2.37M NIH Award to Deliver Improved Neural Recording Technology Katherinetarget="_blank" Hornbostel, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science On the way to renewable energy, there will still be a need for traditional power plants, like natural gas and coal, to keep the electrical grid stable during the transition. Katherine Hornbostel’s research focuses primarily on making those traditional energy sources cleaner through carbon capture technology. Her research group investigates materials for post-combustion carbon capture and direct air capture. Another project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program will model a novel plant that can capture more carbon dioxide from the air than it produces, making it carbon-negative. Related news: New Research Led by Pitt Analyzes Modeling Techniques for Carbon Capture Technology Gena Kovalcik, Co-Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) focuses on sustainability initiatives and practices through the development and integration of curriculum, groundbreaking research, community outreach and innovation. Gena Kovalcik has led MCSI since 2003, when she joined as Codirector of Administration and External Relations. Kovalcik was also recently selected as Strategic Advisor to the Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. In this new position, Gena will play an important role in helping to formalize and lead development of the Swanson School’s strategic processes and operationalizing its strategy across all units. In addition to her work at Pitt, Kovalcik serves as a member of the Allegheny County Green Action Team, which provides high-level, strategic input to Allegheny County officials to better support regional sustainability. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators. Related news: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/MCSI/News/ Carla Ng, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering There are tens of thousands of industrial chemicals currently in commerce—the majority of which were not carefully evaluated to understand their toxicity, bioaccumulation potential, or persistence. As researchers continue to discover environmental contaminants, Carla Ng’s lab works to effectively screen these potentially dangerous substances. Ng’s group works at the intersection of biology and chemistry to understand and predict the fate of chemicals in the environment. They build and validate models for legacy and emerging chemicals at multiple scales, from molecules to organisms to global systems. Recent news: Mapping PFAS Contamination in Packaged Food Cheryl Paul, Director of Engineering Student Services and Graduate Student Ombudsperson In her dual role assisting undergraduates and as the school’s graduate Ombudsperson, Cheryl Paul provides support to engineering students as they navigate academic and life challenges. Additionally, Paul extensively consults with staff, faculty, and parents in situations where extra assistance is required. As a member of Pitt’s Campus Crisis Support Team, the Care & Resource Support group, & the LGBTQI+ Task Force, she is invested in leading the effort to improve student’s educational experiences with care & compassion. Paul’s work has been widely recognized by her peers. In 2013, she received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence for her work assisting student organizations.To honor this work, Pitt’s Fraternity and Sorority Life recently named the Cheryl Paul Professional Academic Mentor of the Year Award after her. Anne Robertson, William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Anne Robertson joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1995, where she was the first female faculty member in Mechanical Engineering. Her research is focused on understanding the relationship between biological structure and mechanical function of soft tissues with a particular focus on vascular tissues. She directs a multi-institution program on cerebral aneurysms that is supported by the NIH and served a four-year term as a standing member of the Neuroscience and Ophthalmic Imaging Technologies (NOIT) Study Section of the NIH. Robertson is founding Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, which takes the lead in developing and implementing programs to enhance the effectiveness of junior faculty in building outstanding academic careers. She was recently promoted to Associate Dean of Faculty Development so that she can expand this work to include recently promoted Associate Professors. Dr. Robertson is a strong supporter of diversity-related initiatives and in 2007, she received the Robert O. Agbede Faculty Award for Diversity in the Swanson School. Related news: Pitt and Mayo Clinic Discover New, Immediate Phase of Blood Vessel Restructuring After Aneurysm
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
11
2021

2020 Scholarship Award Winner Named

MEMS, Student Profiles

The Robert E. Rumcik ’68 Scholarship in Mechanical and Materials Engineering was recently awarded to John Davison, a junior in the materials science & engineering (MSE) program. The scholarship is intended for two consecutive academic years and Davison joins MSE senior Jonah De Cortie, who first received his scholarship as a junior in 2019. The scholarship is based on academic merit, an aspirational interest in metallurgy, and leadership qualities. Selection was based on an interview process conducted by the MEMS Department. The scholarship will cover tuition costs for the school year for both recipients. The namesake of the scholarship, Robert Rumcik, retired as President of ELLWOOD Quality Steels at the ELLWOOD Group, Inc. in 2014. He earned a BS in Metallurgy from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968 and in 2000 he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Swanson School of Engineering in recognition of his significant career achievements. The ELLWOOD Group Inc. established this endowed scholarship in appreciation for Mr. Rumcik’s commendable service to the company. A socially-distanced celebration luncheon was recently held for Davison. From left, those present were; Anna Barensfeld (Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and fifth generation worker at ELLWOOD) John Davison (MSE junior, scholar recipient), Bob Rumcik (retired President of Ellwood Quality Steels), and Dr. Brendan Connolly (Operations Engineer, Ellwood Quality Steels and former Rumcik Scholar).  Also in attendance, but not shown, was Dr. Brian Gleeson, MEMS Department Chair.

Feb

Feb
10
2021

Origami Powered by Light

Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 10, 2021) — If you watch the leaves of a plant long enough, you may see them shift and turn toward the sunlight through the day. It happens slowly, but surely. Some man-made materials can mimic this slow but steady reaction to light energy, usually triggered by lasers or focused ambient light. New research from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has discovered a way to speed up this effect enough that its performance can compete against electrical and pneumatic systems. “We wanted to create machines where light is the only source of energy and direction,” explained M. Ravi Shankar, professor of industrial engineering and senior author of the paper. “The challenge is that while we could get some movement and actuation with light-driven polymers, it was too slow of a response to be practical.” When the polymer sheet is flat, the light animates it slowly, curving or curling over time. The researchers found that by forming the polymer into a curved shape, like a shell, the bending action happened much more quickly and generated more torque. “If you want to move something, like flip a switch or move a lever, you need something that will react quickly and with enough power,” said Shankar, who holds a secondary appointment in mechanical engineering and materials science. “We found that by applying a mechanical constraint to the material by confining it along on the edges, and embedding judiciously thought-out arrangements of molecules, we can upconvert a slow response into something that is more impulsive.” The researchers used a photoresponsive azobenzene-functionalized liquid crystalline polymer (ALCP) film that is 50 micrometers thick and several millimeters in width and length. A shell-like geometry was created by confining this material along its edges to create a curve. Shining light on this geometry folds the shell at a crease that spontaneously nucleates. This folding occurs within tens of milliseconds and generates torque densities of up to 10 newton-meters per kilogram (10Nm/kg). The light driven response is magnified by about three orders-of-magnitude in comparison to the material that was flat. “The outcomes of the project are very exciting because it means that we can create light powered actuators that are competitive with electrical actuators,” said Kaushik Dayal, coauthor and professor of civil and environmental engineering at CMU. “Our approach towards scaling up the performance of light-driven polymers could reinvent the design of fully untethered soft robots with numerous technological applications,” added lead author and post-doctoral researcher at CMU Mahnoush Babaei. The paper, "Torque-dense Photomechanical Actuation,” (DOI: 10.1039/D0SM01352H) was published in the journal Soft Matter.
Maggie Pavlick
Feb
4
2021

Finding Inspiration in the Stars

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 4, 2021) — Ever since her father gifted her a telescope when she was a child, Aarti Patel (BSME ‘22), a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, has had an eye toward the stars. “When I was younger, my nights looking at the sky were the most inspired I ever felt,” said Patel, who is studying mechanical engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. “With that, I became curious and eager to learn more about aerospace technology and wanted to contribute to its advancement.” Since then, she has relentlessly pursued that dream. In recognition of her drive and passion, Patel was recently named among the competitive 2021 Class of the Brooke Owens Fellowship. The organization recognizes exceptional undergraduate women and other gender minorities who are entering the aerospace industry. Fellows are matched with an executive-level mentor to help launch their careers and will be invited to the annual Brooke Owens Summit, to be held virtually at the end of the year. This year, 44 undergraduates were chosen as “Brookies” out of more than 800 applicants. The selected fellows have demonstrated “their desire to pursue a career in aerospace, a record of leadership, a commitment to their communities, and their inexhaustible creativity,” according to the organization. In her studies at Pitt, Patel has taken a keen interest in mechanical design, analysis and mission operations for launch vehicles. In addition to her engineering classes, internships in the aerospace industry and undergraduate research, Patel was a co-founding member of Pitt’s Society of Astronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) and now serves as one of the Chief Engineers of the NASA Student Launch Team at Pitt. Patel’s creativity is evident not only in her research and industry work, but also in her art—as a NASA Psyche Inspired Intern, she creates meaningful art for the upcoming Psyche Mission to explore an asteroid, with the purpose of public engagement and education. She hopes to continue that work in her career, where she plans to mentor girls and first-generation students in stem and bridge the connection between art and science. “For me, art has always been more than a creative outlet—it has inspired me to keep learning and to explore the unknown,” she said. “So, with that I hope to create inspiring and educational space art for the public and students.” Patel has worked as a Defense Division Engineering Co-op at Curtiss-Wright and is currently an Integrated Test Engineering Intern at Blue Origin. This summer, she will intern at Airbus U.S. Space & Defense in Arlington, Va. Patel hopes these experiences, along with the support and mentorship of the Brooke Owens Fellowship, will help her launch a compelling career in the aerospace industry. “It is an exciting time in the industry with the upcoming missions to the moon and Mars along with more breakthroughs being made with reusable launch vehicles,” said Patel. “I hope to have a diverse experience in the work that I do and to make a difference as I continue to explore all the super exciting roles that engineers take on.”
Maggie Pavlick

Jan

Jan
26
2021

Getting on a Pipeline’s Nerves

MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 26, 2021) — When you stub your toe, a chain of nerves sends a signal from your toe to your brain—ouch!—to let you know that there might be damage. The human body is great at monitoring its own condition. Why not apply that same system to critical infrastructure that requires nonstop monitoring? Research led by Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh, recently received $1 million in funding to utilize Pitt-developed optical fiber sensor technology as the “nerves” of critical infrastructure, such as natural gas pipelines, to mimic the principle of a nervous system. The Ohodnicki Lab will collaborate with Pitt’s Kevin Chen, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Jung-Kun Lee, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, as well as researchers Kayte Denslow and Glenn Grant from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The group received $1 million from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) REPAIR (Rapid Encapsulation of Pipelines Avoiding Intensive Replacement), a program of the U.S. Department of Energy. “The ‘legacy’ natural gas distribution pipelines, made of cast iron, wrought iron and bare steel, account for a disproportionate number of gas leaks and pipe failures,” explained Ohodnicki. “Smart monitoring technology like we are developing will allow utility providers to monitor the integrity of these pipes in real time and, when combined with artificial intelligence and in-situ cold-spray repair technology, can allow for preventive repairs prior to catastrophic failures.” The research will embed optical fiber sensors internal to the pipeline to create an “innervated” pipeline system that enables monitoring the integrity of the pipes through monitoring of acoustic and vibrational signatures of defects.  By combining the embedded sensors with artificial intelligence and machine learning and integrating into an overarching digital twin of the pipeline system, an “intelligent” pipeline can be realized that allows for targeted in-situ repairs of defects through an emerging robotic crawler deployable technology known as cold-spray with reduced downtime and dramatically reduced repair costs. In addition to technology development and demonstrations, the team also plans to develop an economic model for in-situ repair and sensor-embedded coating technology as well as a detailed set of modifications to the existing and standard regulatory requirements required for commercialization.  These economic and regulatory issues will be addressed through consultation with an industry advisory group established to collaborate with the project team. The project is titled “‘Innervated’ Pipelines: A New Technology Platform for In-Situ Repair and Embedded Intelligence” and kicked off on January 1st, 2021.
Maggie Pavlick
Jan
25
2021

A Microscopic Look at Aneurysm Repair

Bioengineering, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 25, 2021) — Hitting a pothole on the road in just the wrong way might create a bulge on the tire, a weakened spot that will almost certainly lead to an eventual flat tire. But what if that tire could immediately begin reknitting its rubber, reinforcing the bulge and preventing it from bursting? That’s exactly what blood vessels can do after an aneurysm forms, according to new research led by the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and in partnership with the Mayo Clinic. Aneurysms are abnormal bulges in artery walls that can form in brain arteries. Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in almost 50% of cases. The research, recently published in Experimental Mechanics, is the first to show that there are two phases of wall restructuring after an aneurysm forms, the first beginning right away to reinforce the weakened points. “Imagine stretching a rubber tube in a single direction so that it only needs to be reinforced for loads in that direction. However, in an aneurysm, the forces change to be more like those in a spherical balloon, with forces pulling in multiple directions, making it more vulnerable to bursting,” explained Anne Robertson, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, whose lab led the research. “Our study found that blood vessels are capable of adapting after an aneurysm forms. They can restructure their collagen fibers in multiple directions instead of just one, making it better able to handle the new loads without rupturing.” Researchers have known that blood vessels have the ability to change and restructure over time, but this study represents the first observation of a new, primary phase of restructuring that begins immediately. The researchers used a rabbit model developed by David Kallmes of the Mayo Clinic to observe this restructuring in the brain tissue over time. To see this process up close, the researchers partnered with Simon Watkins at Pitt’s Center for Biologic Imaging, taking advantage of the center’s state-of-the-art multiphoton microscopes to image the architecture of the fibers inside the aneurysm wall. “We found that the first phase of restructuring involves laying down an entirely new layer of collagen fibers in two directions to better handle the new load, while the second phase involves remodeling existing layers so their fibers lie in two directions,” explained Chao Sang, who was a primary investigator on this research as part of his doctoral dissertation in Pitt’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science “The long-term restructuring is akin to a scar forming after a cut has healed, while this first phase that we observed can be thought of as having a role similar to clotting immediately after the cut—the body’s first response to protect itself,” added Robertson, who has a secondary appointment in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. “Now that we know about this first phase, we can begin to investigate how to promote it in patients with aneurysms, and how factors like age and preexisting conditions affect this ability and may place a patient at higher risk for aneurysm rupture.” The investigative team includes Robertson and graduate students Chao Sang and Michael Durka from Pitt, Simon Watkins from the Center for Biologic Imaging, and David Kallmes, Ramanathan Kadirvel, Yong Hong Ding, and Daying Dai from the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Radiology. The paper, “Adaptive Remodeling in the Elastase-Induced Rabbit Aneurysms,” (DOI:10.1007/s11340-020-00671-9) was published in the journal Experimental Mechanics and was authored by Chao Sang, Michael Durka and Anne Robertson at the Swanson School; David Kallmes, Ramanathan Kadirvel, Yong Hong Ding and Daying Dai at the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Radiology; Simon Watkins at Pitt’s Center for Biologic Imaging.
Maggie Pavlick
Jan
13
2021

Breathing Easier with a Better Tracheal Stent

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 13, 2021) — Pediatric laryngotracheal stenosis (LTS), a narrowing of the airway in children, is a complex medical condition. While it can be something a child is born with or caused by injury, the condition can result in a life-threatening emergency if untreated. Treatment, however, is challenging. Depending on the severity, doctors will use a combination of endoscopic techniques, surgical repair, tracheostomy, or deployment of stents to hold the airway open and enable breathing. While stents are great at holding the airway open and simultaneously allowing the trachea to continue growing, they can move around, or cause damage when they’re eventually removed. New research published in Communications Biology and led by the University of Pittsburgh is poised to drastically improve the use of stents, demonstrating for the first time the successful use of a completely biodegradable magnesium-alloy tracheal stent that avoids some of these risks. “Using commercial non-biodegradable metal or silicone based tracheal stents has a risk of severe complications and doesn't achieve optimal clinical outcomes, even in adults,” said Prashant N. Kumta, Edward R. Weidlein Chair Professor of bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering. “Using advanced biomaterials could offer a less invasive, and more successful, treatment option.” In the study, the balloon-expandable ultra-high ductility (UHD) biodegradable magnesium stent was shown to perform better than current metallic non-biodegradable stents in use in both in lab testing and in rabbit models. The stent was shown to keep the airway open over time and have low degradation rates, displaying normal healing and no adverse problems. “Our results are very promising for the use of this novel biodegradable, high ductility metal stent, particularly for pediatric patients,” said Kumta, who also holds appointments in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “We hope this new approach leads to new and improved treatments for patients with this complex condition as well as other tracheal obstruction conditions including tracheal cancer.” The paper, “In-vivo efficacy of biodegradable ultrahigh ductility Mg-Li-Zn alloy tracheal stents for pediatric airway obstruction,” (DOI: 10.1038/s42003-020-01400-7), was authored by the Swanson School’s Jingyao Wu, Abhijit Roy, Bouen Lee, Youngjae Chun, William R. Wagner, and Prashant N. Kumta; UPMC’s Leila Mady, Ali Mübin Aral, Toma Catalin, Humberto E. Trejo Bittar, and David Chi; and Feng Zheng and Ke Yang from The Institute of Metal Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Maggie Pavlick
Jan
11
2021

MEMS Team Takes Home First Place at SSoE Design Expo

Covid-19, MEMS, Student Profiles

The team and Dr. Chmielus celebrate their win which comes with a $500 prize A pandemic-inspired project received first place from judges at the schoolwide – and virtual – Fall 2020 Engineering Design Expo. The winning project was titled “Enhancement of Metal 3D Printed Respiratory Filter Design” and was conducted by MEMS students Nathan Knueppel, Fred Wohlers, Jared Melnik, Andrew Harman and Zach Ostrander. The team was sponsored by MEMS professor, Markus Chmielus in collaboration with industry partner, ExOne. The project originated in the summer of 2020 when ExOne approached Chmielus with the idea of designing a reusable metal N95 filter. N95 respirator masks are recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for healthcare professionals who are likely to come into contact with patients infected with COVID-19. They are more effective than the cloth masks recommended for public use.  The current design of N95 masks is such that they are generally unable to be sanitized and are considered disposable. The extent of the pandemic has stressed supply chains globally and led to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirators. The aim of the team’s design project was twofold. First, to alleviate shortages of N95 masks by designing a new mask that can be 3D printed with metal and can be cleaned and reused.  The second objective was to develop a testing method to determine if the design observed the necessary N95 filter standards. This required the design and manufacture of a test apparatus capable of measuring pressure drop and filtration efficiency for prototype designs. Team member Zach Ostrander models the N95 mask This project is a continuance of the work started over the summer with Chmielus’ research group. Likewise, this team’s test stand and associated developments will be used to guide future groups in the continuation of mask design and test-stand improvements. While more work needs to be completed before manufacturing a functioning N95 masks, the team made tremendous progress this semester, enough to earn them the first-place prize. The team partnered with the Swanson Center for Product Innovation (SCPI) to help with the creation of the test stand. Time constraints limited the team from exploring filtration, so this test stand currently only tests pressure drop, but has been designed to easily adapt to future modifications/additions. In fact, Chmielus has already received several requests from faculty to use the test stand for other research purposes. Therefore, the stand will serve as a permeant addition to the testing equipment available to students and faculty at Pitt. Looking ahead, once the silicone mask design is complete, a single ExOne printer will be capable of producing 90,000 masks per month, which would displace 1.5 million cloth N95 masks. Chmielus notes that the group was excited about their project and inspired by being able to see how their design and progress were directly implemented into the project for use in both the short-term and long-term. According to Chmielus, despite the challenges they faced, the team was well prepared and communicated effectively. Pressure drop test apparatus With COVID restrictions, the team was challenged with video chats instead of in-person meetings and adhering to social distancing guidelines while working on the construction of their designs. Another novelty last semester was that the Design Expo was held virtually via Zoom.  Each team was assigned a breakout room where judges and other Expo attendees were invited to visit the various rooms to learn about each project. Team Coordinator, Nathan Knueppel, said, “This project provided an amazing opportunity for our group to apply our diverse talents to a problem with very real consequences. The news every day provided a poignant reminder of why we were working and the impact we could have on a global scale if we were ultimately successful. I am excited for the progress we made and the work still to come and proud we could contribute to the battle against the current pandemic and to the preparation against the diseases of the future.”