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Swanson School of Engineering Research

Spring 2017 e-Newsletter

Volume 4, Issue 2


“Research is four things: brains with which to think, eyes with which to see, machines with which to measure and, fourth, money.” - Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel Prize-winning physiologist, 1893 – 1986

On behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering and US Steel Dean Gerald Holder, it's my pleasure to send you this Spring 2017 issue of our Research e-Newsletter. Pictured above, Drs. Kyle Bibby (Civil & Environmental Engineering), John Keith (Chemical & Petroleum Engineering), Giannis Mpourmpakis (Chemical & Petroleum Engineering), Ervin Sejdić (Electrical & Computer Engineering) and Chris Wilmer (Chemical & Petroleum Engineering) each have these four things that Dr. Szent-Györgyi refers to. These five young faculty members certainly have brilliant brains to think, eyes to see, machines to measure (or in some cases compute) and now, thanks to the National Science Foundation, money to conduct their important research. All five of them are recipients of the prestigious and highly competitive NSF CAREER Award, together totaling $2.55 million.

  • Dr. Bibby will utilize quantitative viral metagenomics for viral water quality assessment. He will also expand the H2Oh! interactive exhibit he previously developed with Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center to enable children to better understand the impact of water quality on everyday life.
  • Dr. Keith’s project will address the production of carbon-neutral liquid fuels via electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol.
  • Dr. Mpourmpakis will use his funding to perform computer simulations to study the effect of growth mechanisms on the final morphology and associated properties of nanoparticles. Another major component of his award is to modernize the traditional course of Chemical Thermodynamics by introducing animation material based on nanotechnology examples, and developing a nanoscale-inspired interactive computer game.
  • Dr. Sejdić will use high-resolution vibration and sound recordings to develop a diagnostic tool for patients with dysphagia and improve how they swallow while eating or drinking.
  • Finally, Dr. Wilmer will utilize computational methods to explore the novel use of “pseudomaterials,” which represent all potential atomistic arrangements of matter in a porous material, for physical adsorption and improving gas storage and separations applications.

The Swanson School has had several other recent newsworthy research advances and accomplishments, and on behalf of the Swanson School I'm proud to share them with you below. Also, be sure to scroll down for our faculty and student awards, as well as international engineering conferences coming to Pittsburgh in the coming months.

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
John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering

Five 2017 NSF CAREER awards set record at Pitt

The National Science Foundation awarded CAREER grants totaling more than $2.5 million in research funding to five Swanson School junior faculty. The five awards – three in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and one each in Civil and Environmental and Electrical and Computer – are the most received by Pitt and Swanson School faculty in a single NSF CAREER funding announcement.


Also visit:

NSF recognizes three Pitt junior chemical engineering faculty with prestigious CAREER awards

Pitt environmental engineer receives NSF grant to improve detection of viral pathogens in water resources

Pitt electrical engineer receives NSF CAREER Award to better analyze swallowing disorders

Pitt-led team of engineers and surgeons receives $2.35 million NIH award to develop wearable artificial lung for kids

To safely bridge the time between diagnosis and transplant while allowing patient mobility, a research team led by Pitt's Department of Bioengineering, working with the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, is developing a compact respiratory assist device for children. The Pittsburgh Pediatric Ambulatory Lung (P-PAL) would replace traditional oxygenation methods as a bridge to transplant or recovery in children with lung failure.


Also: Read the Smithsonian article about Dr. Federspiel's development of an artificial lung that could fit in a backpack.

Pitt bioengineer receives NIH grant to determine how early immune system response can predict the long-term performance of biomedical implants

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Bioengineering's Dr. Bryan Brown a five-year, $1.54 million R01 grant for his investigation into the immune system response to implanted medical materials.The information gathered by the study could significantly improve the success of biomaterial implants and minimize the negative response from the patient’s immune system


Drexel, Pitt research posits that CDC/WHO Ebola Guidelines Could Put Sewer Workers at Risk

Research from Drexel University and Pitt suggests that guidelines for safe disposal of liquid waste from patients being treated for the Ebola virus might not go far enough to protect water treatment workers from being exposed.


Also: Read and listen to an interview with Dr. Bibby about his research to use DNA sequencing to detect viral loads in water systems.

Pitt engineering and medical programs receive NSF award to develop ultrasonic sensors for a hybrid exoskeleton

An award from the National Science Foundation’s Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) program will enable researchers at Pitt to develop an ultrasound sensor system at the heart of a hybrid exoskeleton that utilizes both electrical nerve stimulation and external motors.


Collaborative research between Pitt’s Mascaro Center and Phipps Conservatory examines for the first time the benefits and costs of novel water reuse systems

The “decentralized” water system at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which treats all non-potable water on site, contributes to the net-zero building’s recognition as one of the greenest buildings in the world. However, research into the efficacy of these systems versus traditional treatment is practically non-existent in the literature. Thanks to a collaboration between Phipps and the Swanson School of Engineering, researchers now have a greater understanding of the life cycle of water reuse systems designed for living buildings, from construction through day-to-day use.


Chemical engineering and chemistry researchers at Pitt and Penn State develop controlled delivery of particles via fluid flow

Capitalizing on previous studies in self-powered chemo-mechanical movement, researchers at the Swanson School and Penn State University’s Department of Chemistry have developed a novel method of transporting particles that utilizes chemical reactions to drive fluid flow within microfluidic devices.


Also: Read and listen to Dr. Balazs discuss her research on 90.5 WESA (NPR).

Pitt professor receives NSF award to study how naturally-occurring geological features can inspire new methods in petroleum engineering

The Mackenzie Dike Swarm, an ancient geological feature covering an area more than 300 miles wide and 1,900 miles long beneath Canada from the Arctic to the Great Lakes, is the largest dike swarm on Earth. This and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today’s modern world.


‘Ledger’ Becomes First Academic Journal Dedicated To Blockchain – The Technology Behind Bitcoin

Chris Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, is founder and editor of Ledger, the first academic journal for research into blockchain – the technology behind Bitcoin.


Determining patient-specific extraction decisions for implanted cardiac leads

Dr. Lisa Maillart, associate professor of industrial engineering, was recently featured as the "Author Spotlight" in INFORMS Journal Highlights for her co-authored publication, "Dynamic Abandon/Extract Decisions for Failed Cardiac Leads," in Management Science.


Third "Bamboo in the Urban Environment" symposium further develops standards for bamboo as a sustainable construction resource

Following the successful Symposia held in Pittsburgh (May 2016) and Winnipeg (August 2015), the third Bamboo in the Urban Environment Symposium was held 7-9 March 2017 in Bogor Indonesia, just outside Jakarta. The Symposia series was supported as part of a US-State Department and UK British Council-funded Global Innovation Initiative (GII) project that is supporting the development of bamboo as a sustainable and engineered alternative construction material.

Read more.>

Forbes Names Two Pitt Engineering Alumni “30 Under 30” in Manufacturing & Industry

Swanson School of Engineering alumni Noah Snyder and Kasey Catt were recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 for their work as founders of a coating and surface treatment startup.


A Deeper Look into Metal Additive Manufacturing Material Properties

Researchers at Pitt have been working with ANSYS to create a simulation technique that can evaluate the effects of additive manufacturing (AM) on the microstructure and material properties of parts produced for high-temperature applications. Up to this point, the only way to certify the quality of these parts has been to perform comprehensive, costly and time-consuming physical tests.


Swanson School well-represented among recipients of 2017 Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds

Pitt's Innovation Institute has awarded $140,000 to four Innovator teams to help them move their discoveries toward commercialization. The Chancellor’s Innovation Commercialization Funds were established to provide support for promising early-stage Pitt innovations to assist in reducing the technical and/or market risk associated with the innovations and make them more attractive to investors or potential licensees.


Center for Medical Innovation awards four novel biomedical devices with $77,500 total Round-2 2016 Pilot Funding

The Center for Medical Innovation awarded grants totaling $77,500 to four research groups through its 2016 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new technology for treatment of diabetes, a medical device for emergency intubation, an innovative method for bone regeneration, and a novel approach for implementing vascular bypass grafts.


MCSI Seed Grants Fund New Round of Sustainability Research

The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) announced the recipients of 2017-2018 MCSI seed grant funding. The annual seed grant program engages a core team of researchers who are passionate about sustainability. Seed grants support graduate student and post-doctoral fellows on one-year research projects.


Third annual "Ingenium" highlights undergraduate engineering research

Ingenium serves as more than a record of undergraduate student excellence in research at Pitt; it also serves as a practical experience in scientific writing and the author’s perspective of the peer review process. In addition, it provides practical experience for graduate students in editorial review and the reviewer’s perspective of the peer review process.


Faculty Accomplishments

ASCE Pittsburgh Names Andrew Bunger 2016 Professor of the Year

CEE’s Leanne Gilbertson Wins 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award

UK’s Leverhulme Trust awards Pitt’s Dr. Kent Harries with prestigious visiting professorship to University of Bath

IE Professor Lisa Maillart Awarded Fulbright Scholarship to the Netherlands

Civil Engineering’s Piervincenzo Rizzo recognized by ASNT for Best Paper on nondestructive testing

ChemE Professor Christopher Wilmer Joins Foresight Institute’s Inaugural Class of Fellows

New Faculty for 2017

Bioengineering welcomes three new faculty members

Penn biointerface researcher and entrepreneur Tagbo Niepa to join Pitt’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering

Student Research

BioE’s Jaeyeon Choi Awarded $45,000 to Develop New Treatment for Metastatic Melanoma

Chemical Engineering PhD Candidate Natalie Austin Invited to 67th Nobel Laureate Meeting on Chemistry

CEE Graduate Student Lisa Stabryla Inducted into Carson Scholarship Fund Hall of Fame

Pitt Team Awarded “Best in Show” for Augmented Reality Training System that Allows Students to Visualize Inside of the Human Body

Society for Biomaterials Awards Bioengineering Graduate Student with Honorable Mention for Outstanding Paper

Pitt ChemE Students Turn Class Project into $5,000 InnoCentive Award

Upcoming International Research Conferences in Pittsburgh

RAPID + TCT 2017: 3D Printing & Additive Manufacturing Event, May 8-11

IISE Annual Conference & Expo, May 20-23

IEEE NANO, July 25-28

International Pittsburgh Coal Conference, September 5-8

Electric Power Industry Conference, November 13-14


Learn more about research at the Swanson School:

View the 2016 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

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