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Swanson School of Engineering Research Spring 2015 e-Newsletter

Volume 2, Issue 3


"Here’s to the crazy ones...Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs, American inventor and entrepreneur, 1955-2011.

On behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering and US Steel Dean Gerald Holder, it's my pleasure to send you this Spring 2015 issue of our Research e-Newsletter. The “crazy ones” referred to by Steve Jobs, the Apple Co-Founder and CEO, in his iconic quote fit those behind the excellent and impactful research that goes on at a strong academic institution. I am partial, of course, but this description is most apt for engineers. Engineers change things. Engineers push the human race forward. Engineers are crazy enough to think they can change the world. Engineers are the ones who do change the world. I look around the research labs of the Swanson School of Engineering and I indeed see “genius,” some of which is summarized in this latest edition.

Drs. Anna Balazs and Olga Kuksenok reported in Scientific Reports, published by Nature, their computational design of a synthetic polymer gel that can utilize internally-generated chemical energy to undergo shape-shifting and self-sustained propulsion. Dr. Scott Mao and his team, including colleagues from Drexel and Georgia Tech, reported in Nature Materials their milestone atomic-scale structure-function study of tungsten, observed using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. This work may ultimately enable the design of nanostructured materials to fully realize their latent mechanical strength. Dr. Kyle Bibby found through a literature review that it was unknown how long viruses like Ebola can live on solid surfaces or in waste water. He now has a grant from the NSF focused on understanding the presence, ecology, and diversity of microorganisms – such as viruses and bacteria – in water and sewer systems, which may lead to potential treatment strategies. Dr. Bibby and his team will explore surrogate viruses that are physiologically similar to Ebola and study their survival rates in water and wastewater.

Swanson School faculty are also continuing to make important contributions in several other areas, including energy and…brewing beer? The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy, housed in the Swanson School, has named a new Director and Associate Director in Drs. Greg Reed and Götz Veser, and continues to catalyze new energy-related advances.  Literally. Dr. John Keith's quantum chemistry analysis, completed at Pitt's Center for Simulation and Modeling, identified a promising design principle for renewable energy catalysts. Meanwhile, Drs. Bob Parker and Dan Cole share an engineer’s perspective on the joys and science of brewing beer in the Winter 2014 edition of Pittsburgh Engineer.

Finally, I am very proud and excited to unveil in this e-Newsletter our inaugural issue of Ingenium: Undergraduate Research at the Swanson School of Engineering, and our second edition of the Swanson School of Engineering Faculty Research Summaries.

I hope you enjoy looking through this e-Newsletter and reading about these and other research advances being made at the Swanson School of Engineering. Hail to Pitt!

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

Announcing "Ingenium, our inaugural undergraduate research journal

One of the programs at the Swanson School of which we are most proud is our Undergraduate Summer Research Internship, which is enabling outstanding undergraduate students to participate in graduate-level research. To celebrate and share their accomplishments, we put together the inaugural edition of “Ingenium: Undergraduate Research at the Swanson School of Engineering. Peer-reviewed” and edited by an Editorial Board comprised of Swanson School graduate students, Ingenium highlights just some of the exemplary work by our undergraduate students. You can read an online version in e-book form or download a pdf from our Swanson School Research page.

Toward a Squishier Robot

By developing a new computational model, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering have designed a synthetic polymer gel that can utilize internally generated chemical energy to undergo shape-shifting and self-sustained propulsion. Their research, "Designing Dual-functionalized Gels for Self-reconfiguration and Autonomous Motion" (DOI: 10.1038/srep09569), was published April 30th in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature.


Second edition of Faculty Research Summary released

The Swanson School is proud to present the second edition of our Summary of Faculty Research, with one-page features of laboratories, centers and institutes in the Swanson School.


Strength in shrinking: understanding why a material’s behavior changes as it gets smaller

To fully understand how nanomaterials behave, one must also understand the atomic-scale deformation mechanisms that determine their structure and, therefore, their strength and function.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, 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.


Faculty and students explore microorganisms in drinking water, contribute to Carnegie Science Center exhibit

The Swanson School's Kyle Bibby thinks more about water than most, focusing on understanding the presence, ecology, and diversity of microorganisms-such as viruses and bacteria-in an environmental engineering context, like a city's water and sewer system.

In addition to his academic work, Bibby is keen on education. To meld these interests, and to find out which microorganisms-almost exclusively safe for human consumption-reside in the city's drinking water, Bibby started the Pittsburgh Water Microbiome Project and developed a partnership with the Carnegie Science Center.


How Long Can Ebola Live?

Just like his fascination with microbial organisms in water, Dr. Kyle Bibby's research also focuses on the Ebola virus. In an article published Dec. 9 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, he reviews the latest research to find answers to how long Ebola can survive on surfaces or in various systems.


Greener Chemistry: Pitt researchers find link between CO2 recycling catalysts and biomolecular enzymes to open new paths for sustainable energy

Researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have identified a promising design principle for renewable energy catalysts. Utilizing advanced computational modeling, researchers found that chemicals commonly found in laboratories may play a similar role as biological catalysts that nature uses for efficient energy storage.


The State of Shale: Pitt faculty edit, contribute findings to special issue of Energy Technology

In the special issue of the journal Energy Technology focusing on shale gas, Pitt faculty authors look at "smart wells" that use wireless communication, wastewater management, and information gaps between legislators, regulators, industry representatives, researchers, and the public on the health and environmental impacts of shale gas drilling. The issue also includes contributions from experts from across the United States, Europe, and Asia.


Center for Medical Innovation awards three novel biomedical devices with $53,000 total Round-2 2014 Pilot Funding

Grants totaling $53,000 were awarded to three research groups through CMI's 2014 Round-2 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include developing super-sensitive chemical assays for detecting blood proteins, a novel retractor for abdominal and thoracic surgical procedures, and a self-monitoring device for rehabilitation of stroke patients.


Renowned tissue engineering researcher Kristi Anseth from University of Colorado named 2015 Bayer Distinguished Lecturer at Pitt

The Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering named Kristi S. Anseth, PhD as the 2015 Bayer Distinguished Lectureship. Dr. Anseth is the Tisone Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Associate Professor of Surgery, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at the University of Colorado-Boulder Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences.


Pitt professors brew a better beer

As part of its recent edition, "The Engineering Spirit Behind Spirits," The Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania quarterly magazine featured two of our Swanson School faculty who are engaged in the art of brewmaking.


Faculty Accomplishments

American Society for Engineering Education recognizes Pitt’s Dr. Steven Little with Curtis W. McGraw Research Award

Swanson School’s Dr. Gregory Reed named Director of Pitt’s Center for Energy; Dr. Götz Veser named Associate Director

Pitt ECE researchers capture IEEE IAS Outstanding Paper Award for research involving tandem hot strip mill controls

ECE's Dr. Steven Levitan named 2015 IEEE Fellow

Three Pitt faculty named 2015 Carnegie Science Award winners

Upcoming Research Conferences in Pittsburgh

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2015 in Pittsburgh,
May 10-15, 2015

The North American Catalysis Society (NAM24) 24th annual meeting, "Catalysis at the Confluence of Science and Technology" in Pittsburgh, June 14-19, 2015

SME "Environmental Considerations In Energy Production" meeting in Pittsburgh, September 20-23, 2015


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

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