Having trouble seeing this newsletter? Read it online.

University of Pittsburgh PITT HomeFind PeopleContact Us
Polypropylene surgical mesh implant - Bryan Brown

Swanson School of Engineering Research

Fall 2017 e-Newsletter

Volume 5, Issue 1


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”  ― Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, 1879 – 1955.

On behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering and US Steel Dean Gerald Holder, it's my pleasure to send you this Fall 2017 issue of our Research e-Newsletter. As in previous issues, this e-Newsletter is full of examples of our innovative faculty, who never “stop questioning,” and who indeed fully embody the above famous mantra of Albert Einstein.

Dr. Bryan Brown, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, “learned from yesterday” that the human inflammatory response is the enemy of implantable medical devices, which more and more of our aging population rely on for the highest possible quality of life. His research of “today” is providing new understanding of the immune system response of aged individuals to implanted materials. Dr. Brown and his team will use what they have learned to develop new means to lengthen the lifespan of implants. This indeed should give “hope for tomorrow” to those of us who are among the 2 billion people who will be over the age of 65 by the year 2050. 

Scrolling through the various research vignettes below will provide many other examples of our faculty providing such “hope for tomorrow” with their impactful work. For example, the Swanson School was recently awarded its third NSF National Research Center. Joining the existing NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials and the recently added NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing is the NSF Center for Chemo-Mechanical Assembly (CCMA). The CCMA principal investigator is Dr. Anna Balazs, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and the John A. Swanson Chair of Engineering. Researchers within the CCMA will develop and use new techniques to manipulate the behavior, movement and self-assembly of particles using the actions of catalysts.

Dr. Kevin Chen, our Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his multi-institutional team received funding from the DOE to develop fiber sensors and sensor-fused components to be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency. Dr. Wei Xiong, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, will lead a team of researchers funded by the Office of Naval Research to explore next-generation metals, especially steel, for use in additive manufacturing of new metallic alloy compositions that are resistant to the effects of the maritime environment. As a final example, Dr. Piervincenzo (Piero) Rizzo, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will use an NSF EAGER grant to develop techniques using acoustic diodes to mitigate ambient noise to enhance the comfort of occupants inside of a building.

Please enjoy looking through this e-Newsletter and reading about these and other exciting 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
John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering

Working the [Immune] System

The National Institute on Aging awarded Bryan Brown, assistant professor of bioengineering, a five-year, $1.57 million R01 grant to examine how aging affects implantable medical devices. This is the second R01 grant from the NIH Dr. Brown has received this year to support his research of implantable materials.


Two national NSF Centers join Swanson School of Engineering

The National Science Foundation's national Centers are one of the most coveted research programs. The Swanson School is proud to welcome two more in 2017, joining the established Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (ERC-RMB) program with North Carolina A&T University, University of Cincinnati, and Hannover Medical School in Germany.

Building a Pump without Parts: NSF awards $1.8 million to Pitt establishing national center to develop nanoscale chemical reactions that drive fluid flow

From Schenley Place to Outer Space: NSF Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing and its founder Alan George found a new home at Pitt

Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor Rob A. Rutenbar to continue his computational research in Swanson School of Engineering

To continue his research in computational engineering, Rob A. Rutenbar,Pitt’s new senior vice chancellor for research, has accepted a research position in the Swanson School of Engineering. The appointment will enable Dr. Rutenbar to expand his computational problem research while contributing to the breadth and depth of the Swanson School's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.


Research collaboration led by University of Pittsburgh could treat Type I Diabetes by engineering pancreatic islets outside the body

The NSF has funded a multi-university study led by Pitt Chemical Engineering researchers who are investigating the use of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to engineer pancreatic islets in the lab. A major goal of the research is to develop a method of vascularizing islets in vitro—which studies suggest will result in higher viability and enhanced function after the transplant.


Pitt leads $1.3 million nuclear energy research effort in 2017 DOE funding

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Swanson School of Engineering will receive $1.275 million for collaborative research that includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Reactor Laboratory, Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.Kevin Chen, the Paul E. Lego Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Pitt, will lead the collaborative study to develop radiation-hard, multi-functional, distributed fiber sensors, and sensor-fused components that can be placed in a nuclear reactor core to improve safety and efficiency.


Office of Naval Research award to fund next-generation steel for additive manufacturing

Thanks to a three year, $449,000 award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering will explore next-generation metals, especially steel, for use in additive manufacturing. Funding is provided by the ONR Additive Manufacturing Alloys for Naval Environments (AMANE) program to design, develop and optimize new metallic alloy compositions for AM that are resistant to the effects of the Naval/maritime environment.


Piervincenzo Rizzo receives NSF-EAGER award to study new acoustic barriers

Although it may not fit the traditional definition, acoustic noise is a form of pollution because of its negative impact on human health. Indoor-generated noise is especially a problem in the workplace, where noise can cause minor distractions or even mental stress. Thanks to an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Civil and Environmental Engineering researchers at Pitt are exploring fundamental new research that may lead to new sound barriers that mitigate acoustic noise.


Pitt Bioengineer receives $338K award to develop ‘smart biomaterials’ capable of reprogramming mammalian cell signaling

Warren Ruder, assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, is developing microparticles that carry engineered bacteria known as ‘smart biomaterials.’ As the basis of a study recently supported by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Ruder will use the biomaterials to reprogram mammalian cell signaling.


How do you build a metal nanoparticle?

A study recently published in Nature Communications by chemical engineers at the Swanson School of Engineering explains how metal nanoparticles form. “Thermodynamic Stability of Ligand-Protected Metal Nanoclusters” was co-authored by Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and PhD candidate Michael G. Taylor.


NIH continues Pitt’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program with five-year, $1.9 million award

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has renewed funding for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program (CBTP). The program - which educates students who are interested in cardiovascular research and pursuing a PhD in bioengineering - will receive nearly $1.9 million over the next five years.


Coulter Program awards $650,000 to six teams developing novel biomedical technology

Pitt's Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program awarded grants totaling $650,000 to six translational research teams through its most recent funding cycle. The Program aims to identify, select, and develop promising late-stage biomedical projects that address significant unmet clinical needs and have the potential for positive clinical and economic impacts.


Center for Medical Innovation awards three novel biomedical devices with $65,000 total Round-1 2017 Pilot Funding

The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $65,000 to three research groups through its 2017 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for reducing risk of post-partum uterine hemorrhage, a thermal device for inducing nerve block in pain control, and a system to improve transplanted organ viability.


New research reveals potential for synthetic materials systems that can “count” and sense their size

From the smallest cell to humans, most organisms can sense their local population density and change behavior in crowded environments. For bacteria and social insects, this behavior is referred to as “quorum sensing.” Chemical engineering researchers at Pitt have utilized computational modeling to mimic such quorum sensing behavior in synthetic materials, which could lead to devices with the ability for self-recognition and self-regulation.


NSF REU award provides research opportunities for Pitt undergraduates

The NSF awarded a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant to provide undergraduate students with research opportunities in the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. The three-year, $425,000 grant will fund a 10-week summer research program for students and provide them with a stipend and financial assistance for food, housing, and travel.


Pitt research indicates graphane could act as efficient and water-free hydrogen fuel cell membrane

Chemical engineering researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have found that the unusual properties of graphane – a two-dimensional polymer of carbon and hydrogen – could form a type of anhydrous “bucket brigade” that transports protons without the need for water, potentially leading to the development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles and other energy systems.


Fueling the future

The Royal Society of Chemistry journal Energy & Environmental Science recently published research by a team from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oklahoma investigating the full life cycle impact of one promising “second-generation biofuel” produced from short-rotation oak. The study found that second-generation biofuels made from managed trees and perennial grasses may provide a sustainable fuel resource.


Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation awards $100,000 to BioE’s Abhijit Roy

The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) has chosen Dr. Abhijit Roy, a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, as a recipient of its Junior Investigator Award to help fund his research into a novel bone grafts with the potential for complete bone generation in areas with defects.


Faculty Accomplishments

Chancellor Gallagher appoints Chemical Engineering Distinguished Professor Anna Balazs to the John A. Swanson Endowed Chair of Engineering

Christopher Wilmer wins AIChE Young Investigator Award for Modeling and Simulation

Minking Chyu appointed Distinguished Service Professor

Three Swanson School faculty recognized at 2017 Carnegie Science Awards

ChemE’s Taryn Bayles named American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow

ChemE Department appoints two new Vice Chairs

Royal Society of Chemistry journal names ChemE’s John Keith a materials chemistry “Rising Stars”

IE’s Joel Haight receives ASSE 2016-17 President’s Award for Contributions to Safety Engineering

IE Chair Bopaya Bidanda named IISE Outstanding Faculty Advisor

Swanson School’s Gilbertson and Bedewy win ORAU Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards

Pitt’s Industrial Engineering program recognized at IISE Conference in Pittsburgh

Article by ECE's Kevin Chen highlighted by Nature Physics' "News and Views"

Carborane research by ChemE researcher Giannis Mpourmpakis lands cover of Catalysis Science & Technology

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering appoints Amro El-Jaroudi as Associate Chair

ECE’s Ervin Sejdic becomes IEEE Signal Processing Magazine Area Editor of eNews

Student Research

MEMS students bring the heat at International Research Competitions

Pitt students’ autonomous drone ‘Flies High’ at International Robotics Competition

Roc-ettes have fun, gain real-world experience at Red Bull Flugtag

Pitt Engineering students find sustainable solutions through summer research

Erosion triggers most bridge collapses, so a Pitt engineer buried an alarm

Robots at Pitt scan millions of barcodes to figure out why they fail

US DOD selects Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate researcher Lisa Stabryla for competitive NDSEG Fellowship

Pitt PhD Student Lin Cheng captures first place in poster competition at international additive manufacturing conference

Pitt IEEE students win big at student activities conference

Two MEMS PhD Candidates named Department of Defense Fellows

Of Bicycles and Glaciers

Pitt engineering students study Chartiers Creek pollution

Ambient cybersecurity and tiny lasers win big prizes for ECE Students at startup competition

The ‘Can’-Do Spirit

Four MEMS undergraduates win "Best Overall" at Spring 2017 Design Expo

“Rescue Stent” Wins Another Award from Society For Biomaterials

Upcoming International Research Conferences in Pittsburgh

Electric Power Industry Conference, November 13-14, 2017

National Society of Black Engineers, March 21-25, 2018

American Institute of Chemical Engineers, October 28-November 2, 2018

ASCE International Conference on Transportation & Development, July 15-18, 2017


Learn more about research at the Swanson School:

View the 2017 Summary of Faculty Research.

View the 2017 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

I invite you to join the Swanson School of Engineering on Facebook, or "like" this eNewsletter: Facebook Like Button

Get the latest updates on our research and more - follow us on Twitter, or tweet this eNewsletter: Tweet Button

If you no longer wish to receive our eNewsletters, please click here to unsubscribe.

Not on our e-mail list? Heard about this newsletter from a colleague? Sign up now to receive your own copy via e-mail twice a year.

Subscribe Now

Know anyone who might be interested in reading our E-Update? Forward this to as many as five friends at a time.

Forward to a Friend

Swanson School of Engineering
104 Benedum Hall, 3700 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15261

If you no longer wish to receive these emails you may instantly unsubscribe.