Pitt | Swanson Engineering

Welcome from the Associate Dean of Diversity

Sylvanus WosuIt is my pleasure to welcome you to the Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE) Office of Diversity. SSOE diversity refers to the integrated differences and similarities that all individuals and programs contribute in the academic mission of the school. The mission of the Engineering Office of Diversity (EOD) is to create and sustain learning and working environments where those differences and similarities are valued and respected, and all students, especially women and underrepresented students are included and empowered to excel in engineering education. EOD provides continuous academic and community support services through four program areas: the Pitt Engineering Career Access Program (PECAP) pre-college INVESTING NOW and college Pitt EXCEL Programs, Diversity Graduate Engineering Program (DGEP), and Diversity Education Program (DEP).

Sylvanus N. Wosu, PhD

Associate Dean for Diversity Affairs


University of Pittsburgh’s Anna C. Balazs elected to National Academy of Sciences

Chemical & Petroleum, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (April 26, 2021) … Anna C. Balazs, an award-winning University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor in the Swanson School of Engineering, has added one of the nation’s top honors to her portfolio. The National Academy of Sciences announced today that Balazs is among its 120 newly elected members, recognizing distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Balazs, who also holds the John A. Swanson Chair of Engineering in the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, is internationally recognized for her theoretical and computational modeling of polymers. For the past decade, her research has focused on mimicking biological processes in polymeric materials which could contribute to the advancement of soft robotics or “squishy robots.” “Throughout her career, Anna has advanced the field of materials and computational modeling, and we are so proud that the National Academy of Sciences has bestowed her with this honor,” said James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. “Her research has built the foundation for future materials and their use in ways that even only a decade ago were science fiction. She has fulfilled the passion of every engineer – to create new knowledge that one day will benefit the human condition. I congratulate her on this exceptional achievement and look forward to one day celebrating with her in person.” Balazs, a fellow of the American Physical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Materials Research Society, has also received some of the leading awards in her field, including the Royal Society of Chemistry S F Boys - A Rahman Award (2015), the American Chemical Society Langmuir Lecture Award (2014), and the Mines Medal from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (2013). In 2106 she was named the first woman to receive the prestigious Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society. “The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh could not be more proud of Anna’s selection to the National Academy of Science, which is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a U.S. scientist,” noted Steven R. Little, Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. “There is no one more deserving than Anna. She has envisioned (and continues to envision) the materials that future generations will use to create a better world, and she continues to lead scientists to make these materials a reality. She is a role model to our faculty and our students. Her work in her field is truly unparalleled in its breadth, quality and impact.” This year’s NAS member cohort includes 59 women, the most elected in a single year. “The historic number of women elected this year reflects the critical contributions that they are making in many fields of science, as well as a concerted effort by our Academy to recognize those contributions and the essential value of increasing diversity in our ranks,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt in the announcement. Anna C. Balazs (second from left) presents her Provost Inaugural lecture on 13 September 2018, recognizing her Distinguished Professorship. To her left is Chancellor Patrick Gallagher; from her right is Provost Ann Cudd and Dean James R. Martin II. (Photo: Aimee Obidzinski) ### About Dr. Balazs Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh in 1987, Anna C. Balazs held a postdoctoral position in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Balazs' research involves theoretical and computational modeling of the thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of polymer blends and composites. She is also investigating the properties of polymers at surfaces and interfaces. Her awards and recognitions include the Polymer Physics Prize (2016); S. F. Boys-A. Rahman Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Faraday Division (2015); ACS Langmuir Lecture Award (2014); Greater Pittsburgh Women Chemists Committee Award for Excellence in the Chemical Sciences (2014); Fellow, Materials Research Society (2014); South Dakota School of Mines’ Mines Medal (2013); Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2010); Donaldson Lecturer, University of Minnesota (2007); Honoree, “Women in the Material World,” Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania (2006); Maurice Huggins Award of the Gordon Research Conference for outstanding contributions to Polymer Science (2003); Visiting Fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford University (2000 – 2001; 2007- 2008); Special Creativity Award, National Science Foundation, (1999-2001); Fellow, American Physical Society (1993); and Invited Participant, National Academy of Sciences' 6th Annual Frontiers of Science Symposium (November 3-5, 1994). About the National Academies The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars. Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. Scientists are elected by their peers to membership in the NAS for outstanding contributions to research. The NAS is committed to furthering science in America, and its members are active contributors to the international scientific community. Approximately 500 current and deceased members of the NAS have won Nobel Prizes, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, founded in 1914, is today one of the premier international journals publishing the results of original research. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, formerly the Institute of Medicine) -- were founded under the NAS charter in 1964 and 1970, respectively. The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.  The National Academies' service to government has become so essential that Congress and the White House have issued legislation and executive orders over the years that reaffirm its unique role.


Swanson School of Engineering Statement on Anti-Asian Hate

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

To our Swanson School Community, I join with Chancellor Gallagher, Provost Cudd, and our University of Pittsburgh colleagues in condemning the rising tide of crime and hate against Asians and Asian-Americans in our country, especially the heinous murder of eight this past week in Atlanta: Daoyou Feng, 44  Hyun Jung Grant, 51  Suncha Kim, 69  Paul Andre Michels, 54  Soon Chung Park, 74  Xiaojie Tan, 49  Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33  Yong Ae Yue, 63 I encourage you to read the statements released yesterday in Pittwire, as well as that of Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and note the resources available to our students, faculty, and professional staff. Engineering is an ancient and universal profession that links its practitioners with one noble goal – the betterment of the human condition. Universities throughout the U.S. have long been an international destination for engineering education, and so many of our students, alumni and faculty have charted new courses back into the world to improve the lives of others, from the greatest cities to the most remote villages. The Asian and Asian-American members of our community have likewise contributed to our breadth and depth of engineering excellence. As we mark this year the 175-year  anniversary of engineering education at Pitt, it is important to remember that Asians and Asian Americans have been part of our shared Pitt Engineering community for more than a century. As colleagues, collaborators, researchers, and teachers, they are integral to our success. Together we share a passion for engineering that allows us to make the world a better place through innovation and imagination. This past year we have battled not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also an epidemic of bigotry, racism, misogyny, and hate in our country. Yet, just as defeating the coronavirus requires a shared respect for science, education, and each other – as much as it does a vaccine – so too does combatting racial and social injustice demand an understanding of and appreciation for each other. No matter our color, creed, nationality, sexuality, or ability, we must stand together as a community to face hate with resolve and deny it a voice on our campus and in our neighborhoods – whether here in Pittsburgh or elsewhere around the world. Our long fight against injustice is never easy nor brief; as I have previously noted the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To continue that arc requires that we not only stand together, but also that we stand as exemplars of equity and inclusion through actions, words, and deeds. This includes incorporating concepts of cultural competence and humility in our curriculum. Both the University and the Swanson School have integrated new programs toward this goal, and we are developing more initiatives that we will launch in the coming months. I and the senior leadership of the Swanson School are committed to creating powerful and needed change in our academic and research environment, but it will require an investment by everyone for it to succeed, and for us to make our community a better place for all. As distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine grows exponentially and the semester nears an end, the light of resolution burns brighter – but we still have a journey ahead of us. Reaching that destination of change and a new future requires a shared commitment to each other’s success, one that I know we as engineers can accomplish and carry forward in our lives and those of others throughout the world. We have 175 years of excellence as our foundation – let’s make the next 175 years a testament to the change we make today. Best,  -Jimmy
Author: James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering

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

Pitt’s Manufacturing Assistance Center Expands to Pitt Titusville and Partners with Conturo Prototyping in Homewood

Industrial, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 1, 2021) … In a strategic move to adapt to the economic challenges of COVID-19 while providing greater reach and more flexible programming, the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) will expand its program to Pitt’s Titusville campus while launching a new hands-on partnership with Conturo Prototyping LLC in Homewood. The restructuring extends the MAC’s career training and placement program to prospective students in Crawford and surrounding countries, and links with Conturo Prototyping to continue to provide the hands-on curriculum to students in Homewood. Remote learning will still be provided from the MAC’s current home location at 7800 Susquehanna Street, and eventually extended to the Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Homewood and the Hill District CEC . Additionally, the curriculum will be made more accessible for working students by front-loading the three-week computer-based sessions, followed by a three-week machine program. Since many of the MAC’s students are adult learners with different time constraints than traditional students, the shift to a 50-50 hybrid model and compressed curriculum will be more accessible. “This restructuring is an exciting urban-rural partnership that will expand the reach of the University of Pittsburgh in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Catherine Koverola , Pitt-Titusville president. “We look forward to continuing to work with all of our hub partners to bring to fruition this innovative educational model, which will help to meet the education and workforce needs of our neighbors in the Titusville region.” Bopaya Bidanda , co-founder of the MAC and department chair of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, explained that COVID-19 required a reimagination of the MAC’s day-to-day operations by integrating virtual learning with the instruction of competitive manufacturing skills. “There continues to be a pressing need for advanced manufacturing training both in the city and across Pennsylvania’s rural counties, especially those surrounding Pitt’s Titusville campus. By streamlining our delivery system, we can reach more students while operating more efficiently within our resource constraints,” Bidanda said. “COVID-19 created a financial hardship for our operating model and so pivoting to an online curriculum and a shorter, intensified hands-on component allows us to reformat the MAC, serve a greater population, and more quickly get our graduates in front of employer demand.” Bidanda added that the MAC will be another strong component for the Titusville Education and Training Hub and further support workforce training in Crawford and surrounding counties. The University in 2018 began its transition of the Titusville campus to a community-focused resource with a combination of traditional college courses and vocational training, with both academic and corporate partners. The MAC’s new partnership with Conturo Prototyping, according to company founder and Swanson School alumnus John Conturo, helps to solve three obstacles: maintaining the MAC’s presence in Homewood; providing accessible training for communities east of the City; and addressing the “skills gap” in the machining and manufacturing industries. “Over the past few decades there has been a sharp decrease in the number of individuals pursuing trades rather than a traditional 4-year degree, especially in manufacturing. Because of this, the skills gap is making it difficult to keep up with demand for precision parts and machining services. If the workforce to address that demand doesn't exist, we need to create it,” Conturo explained. Indeed, Conturo and his company were planning on developing their own advanced training facility and curriculum until he learned that a partnership with the MAC would address public, private, and community needs. “I’ve employed a handful of MAC students, so I know the quality of students that come out of the program. By creating this partnership with the MAC, I can expand to a new facility in Homewood to accommodate more full-time staff and resources; absorb the classes currently offered; provide more advanced resources for hands-on training in a state-of-the-art facility; and provide a stronger, successful resource for Homewood and surrounding communities.” Lina Dostilio , associate vice chancellor for community engagement, noted that Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers (CECs) will be an important resource that was unavailable when the MAC relocated to Homewood from Harmar Township in 2018. “The CECs will lift some of the burden from the MAC’s operational structure,” she explained. “We can help to market the MAC to prospective students, especially in the city’s underserved neighborhoods, and will include virtual programming through our CEC in the Hill’s Digital Inclusion Center. The delivery of the online interface, any proctoring or office hours, and educational support will still be led by the MAC.” Bidanda noted that most student costs are absorbed through external funding, including grants, workforce redevelopment funds, trade adjustment, and the GI Bill. The MAC’s placement rate for graduates is a healthy 95%. James R. Martin II , U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt, emphasized that this new model maintains the MAC’s mission and Pitt’s commitment to the communities it serves while addressing employer demand for workforce manufacturing skills. “The strength of a major university like Pitt is its ability to see beyond traditional academics and research to support the people who live in its communities and to provide lifelong learning skills,” Martin said. “Engineering in particular, which throughout history has helped people develop tools and new learning that then advance society, is the perfect conduit for connecting people with the knowledge they need to advance their own lives. The disruption caused by COVID-19 has forced academia and industry alike to regroup and develop new programs that address the needs of the communities we serve. I am incredibly proud of how the MAC, Dr. Koverola, the CECs, and John have come together to develop what I think will be a stronger program than when we started.  This is a win-win all around.” ### About Conturo Prototyping LLCConturo Prototyping is a precision manufacturing company located in the East End. With a specialty in producing complex machined components, Conturo plays a vital role in the local technology ecosystem by providing parts for autonomous vehicles, cutting edge robotics, moon landers and much much more.  The business was founded in 2016 by Pittsburgh native, John Conturo after he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Since inception, the enterprise has experienced rapid growth and now occupies 17,000 sq ft with a staff of 21 full time machinists, engineers, technicians and administrators across both of locations in Pittsburgh, PA and Boston, MA.


Latinx Community Engagement Grant Awarded to Team of Engineers, Art Historians, and Public Health Educators

Bioengineering, Student Profiles, Diversity

Jorge Jimenez, a PhD candidate in bioengineering, and Marisol Villela Balderrama, a PhD student in history of art and architecture, led a team effort to earn a Year of Engagement 2020 award for “Diseño Juntxs (Design Together): Engineering and Art with the Latinx Community in Pittsburgh.” The Year of Engagement invited students, staff and faculty to create partnerships that confront challenges to engagement and co-create solutions at the institutional, local, regional, statewide, national or international levels in the 2020-21 academic year and beyond. Diseño Juntxs (Design Together) is a series of remote bilingual (Spanish/English) workshops engaging Latinx youth in prototype design activities. The project is a co-partnership with Casa San José, a local Latinx nonprofit organization in Beechview, PA. The team was developed through the Emerging Latinx Community Research and Publishing Group (ELC), a mentoring and networking program for those interested in Latinx health issues. Team members include Casa San José leaders – Executive Director Mrs. Monica Ruiz-Caraballo, Ms. Diana Escobar-Rivera, and José María Ochoa; faculty from public health – Dr. Patricia Documet and Dr. Sharon Ross; faculty from history of art and architecture – Dr. Sahar Hosseini; and the local undergraduate chapter of Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, led by president Cuatemohc Macias. “Diseño Juntxs (Design Together) originated from being an active member of the ELC since late 2018,” Jimenez said. “Through our monthly meetings I learned about their community-based research focused on the emerging Latinx presence in communities like Allegheny County. Specifically, how the Latinx community obtains resources and services related to education, finances, health, housing, and social life.” Members of the ELC have contributed to the local Latinx community by researching women’s health, parental perspectives on physical activity and healthy eating, and health education in men. Additional community projects contributed to making the Latinx presence more visible through Ojo Latino Project, a photovoice project, and Disrespecting the Border, a mural workshop. During the immediate impact of COVID-19, the ELC met remotely to share resources and work with community leaders to assess needs, and these efforts are continually transforming. “Organizations like Casa San José served as community members’ ‘go-to’ for food security, COVID-19 testing and awareness, and social support,” Jimenez explained. “Over the summer, Casa San José held virtual youth activities based on art and education, and I felt that I could make the biggest impact by contributing to their growing body of work,” they continued. “I shared my ideas with our ELC mentors and began to collaborate with Marisol, who has been integral in incorporating cultural and historical aspects of design in Latin America.” Diseño Juntxs (Design Together) will focus on art and design of the Americas in the Pre-Columbian traditions and teach the engineering design process using free, bilingual 3D prototyping software (Tinkercad.com, Autodesk Inc.). “Our culturally tailored approaches to design thinking bridge interdisciplinary perspectives, and we believe our strategy to be inclusive to our community,” Jimenez added. “I hope this project adds value to the education space as a case study in inclusive practices to teaching design.” This project is supported with matching funds from the Swanson School of Engineering’s Dr. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, associate dean of academic affairs and director of the Engineering Education Research Center, and Dr. Jennifer Josten, department chair of history of art and architecture. A virtual ceremony was held on Nov. 16 at noon via Zoom, announcing the winners for the first cycle of Pitt’s Year of Engagement 2020. # # #
Jorge Jimenez

128B Benedum Hall
3700 O'Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Tel: 412-624-9842
Email: eodadmin@pitt.edu

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