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Swanson School of Engineering Research Spring 2016 e-Newsletter

Volume 3, Issue 1


“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” William G. Pollard, physicist, 1911–1989. 

“Technological innovation is indeed important to economic growth and the enhancement of human possibilities." Leon R. Kass, American physician, scientist & educator, 1939– .

On behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering and U.S. Steel Dean Gerald Holder, it’s my pleasure to send you this Spring 2016 issue of our Research e-Newsletter. As stated by the noted “Manhattan Project” physicist William Pollard, change is needed to set the “innovation” cascade into motion: Change begets incentive for improvement begets creativity begets innovation. Approximately six months after assuming his role as the University’s 18th Chancellor, Dr. Patrick Gallagher announced change that will usher in a new era. In his February 18, 2015, memo entitled “Making an Impact through Commercialization,” Chancellor Gallagher wrote “we need to work with business both for research support, and for collaboration in research activities.” The memo goes on to state that “working at the intersection of basic research and applied commercial work will require us to be effective at forming and managing effective partnerships with…businesses.” 

Given the new era being ushered in at the University, and the applied nature of engineering-based research, the Swanson School of Engineering is well-positioned to be on the forefront of this shift in paradigm. Since FY 2009, with respect to the entire University, the Swanson School primary-appointed faculty were responsible for an average of 15% of submitted invention disclosures, 16% of all patents issued, and 29% of all start-ups initiated.

To facilitate the School’s expansion of innovative, applied research and interaction with industry, I am excited to report that we have recently signed an agreement to occupy significant space in the newly developed Pittsburgh Energy Innovation Center (EIC). In this newsletter you'll read how the School’s space in the EIC will house three different programs in energy-based applied research – electric power, energy storage and materials in extreme environments. As expressed by presidential advisor Leon Kass, one of the goals of the technological innovations that will come out of the School’s work at the Energy Innovation Center is to help drive economic development, especially in the Pittsburgh region, and in general enhance the human condition.

I am also proud to unveil in this e-Newsletter our second issue of Ingenium: Undergraduate Research at the Swanson School of Engineering, which is based on research performed during Summer 2015, and our third edition of the Swanson School of Engineering Summary of Faculty Research. Links to both of these can be found to the right.

Please enjoy looking through this e-Newsletter and reading about these and other research advances being made by my faculty colleagues and trainees at the Swanson School of Engineering. Hail to Pitt!

David A. Vorp, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering
William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering

Pitt, Swanson School of Engineering to begin construction on 18,600 square feet at Energy Innovation Center

Pitt and the Swanson School are set to begin an expansion of engineering, energy research and entrepreneurship at the Energy Innovation Center (EIC) in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

The 18,600-square-foot laboratory and incubator – which will occupy more than one-fourth of the EIC’s Central Lab area, making it the largest tenant – represents Pitt’s initiatives to provide more flexible, large-scale space for energy research and to encourage partnerships with industry.


Group image with preview (from left): Swanson School U.S. Steel Dean Gerald Holder; National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Director Dr. Grace M. Bochenek; Associate Dean David Vorp; Vice Provost Mark Redfern; Dr. Prashant Kumta, Dr. Gregory Reed; Chancellor Patrick Gallagher

"PITT@EIC" image above courtesy of Pittsburgh Gateways.

Study of enzymatic chemical reactions by Pitt and Penn State researchers may indicate how the first cells formed colonies

A novel investigation of how enzymatic reactions can direct the motion and organization of microcapsules may point toward a new theory of how protocells – the earliest biological cells – could have organized into colonies and thus, could have ultimately formed larger, differentiated structures.


The War of the Currents, revisited in Pittsburgh

Over the past year, with the help of a $400,000 grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, Pitt's Gregory Reed established the DC-AMPS program (Direct Current Architecture for Modern Power Systems) and has been working to bring DC technology to the forefront, as well as bringing local and regional companies, the City of Pittsburgh, and community partners into the fold.


Pitt bioengineers receive $4.7 million in NIH grants toward advancing brain implant technology

Two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants totaling $4.7 million to researchers at theSwanson School of Engineering will help to further research in improving how the implants perform in the brain and survive the body's immune responses.


Partnering with Duquesne Light to advance electric power

Duquesne Light and the Swanson School of Engineering announced their intent to partner to help redefine the future of the energy landscape in the region. This strategic partnership will include projects designed to provide Duquesne Light with critical knowledge to help inform future grid design and potential new product and service offerings, while helping to enable expanded research opportunities for students and faculty in the University's energy and electric power programs.


Size vs. Shape: Novel computational approach reveals nanoparticle morphology effects in catalysis

Researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have developed a novel methodology that can screen nanoparticles of different sizes and shapes as potential industrial catalysts with the use of computers.


New atomic-scale study aims to discover the mechanical behavior of nanodevices through direct, real-time observation

Researchers at the Swanson School, Drexel University, and Georgia Tech have engineered a new way to observe and study these mechanisms and, in doing so, have revealed an interesting phenomenon in a well-known material, tungsten. The group is the first to observe atomic-level deformation twinning in body-centered cubic (BCC) tungsten nanocrystals.


Pitt chemical engineering researcher Ipsita Banerjee working to mass-produce stem cells

Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and of bioengineering, received a $300,000 NSF grant to explore the manufacture of human pluripotent stem cells.


Hybrid walking exoskeleton research at Pitt receives funding from two National Science Foundation grants


two new grants totaling $500,209 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help researchers at the Swanson School make great strides in helping paraplegics walk while wearing a mechanical exoskeleton.


Energy, power, and propulsion systems researchadvances with $800,000 cooperative agreement from Department of Energy

Engineers at the Swanson School are leading a national research effort to utilize additive manufacturing in developing stronger coatings for materials used in harsh environments, such as the super-heated interior of a gas turbine.


International consortium led by Pitt engineer receives $200,000 grant to explore use of bamboo as an urban construction material

A Pitt-led consortium is one of 14 new multilateral university partnerships created by the Global Innovation Initiative, a program funded by the U.S. and UK governments to foster multilateral research collaboration with higher education institutions in Brazil, China, India and Indonesia. The consortium's winning proposal, "Bamboo in the Urban Environment," brings together leading experts in bamboo and sustainable design to engage in extensive, cutting-edge analysis and testing of bamboo as a safe construction resource in urban areas.


Pitt, Drexel, and NIH Team up to Study Persistence of Ebola Virus in Wastewater

New data recently published by researchers from the Swanson School, Drexel University, and the National Institutes of Health indicate that Ebola can survive in detectable concentrations in wastewater for at least a week or longer.


Pitt bioengineer receives NIH grant to study regeneration of diseased aortas

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), caused by the loss of elastin, a critical protein for blood vessel function, is responsible for approximately 10,000 American deaths every year. Through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, vascular bioengineering researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering are proposing a new strategy for delivering therapeutic cells to the diseased cells into order to restore elastin levels and regenerate the aorta.


Faculty Accomplishments

Prashant Kumta and Medicine's Rocky Tuan among this year's Carnegie Science Award winners

Pittsburgh Business Times honors four engineering faculty with Energy Leadership Award

Swanson School recognizes outstanding engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs at 52nd annual Distinguished Alumni Award Banquet

Anna C. Balazs named first woman to win prestigious Polymer Physics Prize from the American Physical Society

NAE selects Pitt’s Kyle Bibby to participate in Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium

American Concrete Pavement Association honors Pitt’s Julie Vandenbossche for contributions to research

ASME establishes new award and medal in honor of Pitt’s Savio L-Y.Woo

Patrick Smolinski named Director of Pitt’s Engineering Science Program

Anne Robertson named one of 100 Inspiring Women in STEM by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine

Piero Rizzo named 2015 Structural Health Monitoring Person of the Year

William Clark recognized by ASME with lifetime service award

Steven Little Elected Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society

John Sebastian named inaugural McKamish Director of Pitt Engineering’s Construction Management program


Learn more about research at the Swanson School:

View the 2016 Research Summary.

View the 2016 edition of Ingenium, the undergraduate research journal.


Swanson School of Engineering Associate Dean for Research
University of Pittsburgh
3700 O'Hara Street
Benedum Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

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