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2020 NSF CAREER Award cohort at the Swanson School of Engineering

Swanson School of Engineering Research
Fall 2020 e-Newsletter


David Vorp, PhD, associate dean for research at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering (UPMC)

“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions that a good learner would not miss.

Ralph Waldo Emerson - American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet (1803-1882)

Dear friends,

Time is indeed relative – the past few months since my May newsletter seem to have both crawled by and jumped at lightspeed. During that time, Pitt and the Swanson School, like so many other institutions, dedicated our time, care and diligence to restart research safely. As we developed mitigation plans to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we combined expertise in logistics, epidemiology, supply chains, and more to reopen research labs that had been sidelined by the onset of coronavirus quarantines.

Highlighting this issue is our 2019-2020 cohort of NSF CAREER Award winners – T.K. Kozai, Sangyeop Lee, Jason Shoemaker, and Feng Xiong. They are among 15 young faculty who have captured this competitive award over the past five years, and I am very proud of what they represent as the next generation of outstanding research at the Swanson School.

The story, “How the Swanson School is Moving Research Forward in the New Normal” embodies the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson in that we have certainly fleshed out many discoveries of value as a result of the otherwise “bad times” of the pandemic. These times have encouraged engineers and researchers to reimagine how their expertise might be used to find solutions to previously undefined problems. In this issue you will find investigations by faculty representing all of our departments who are focused on the biological, mechanical, pedagogical, and even therapeutic responses to this crisis.

In closing, I want to share my condolences for those of you who have lost family, friends, or colleagues from Covid-19. Adapting our research and teaching to this crisis has been a physical and mental challenge for many – the death of loved ones during a pandemic has proven to create additional stress that requires tremendous support in a time where physical connections are limited. I hope your memories provide you solace for your heart, as well as the passion to continue in their spirit.

David A. Vorp, PhD
Associate Dean for Research, Swanson School of Engineering

FEATURE STORY: Four Pitt Engineering Researchers Receive NSF CAREER Awards in 2019-2020 Funding Cycle

2020 NSF CAREER Award Winners

The Swanson School closed out 2020 with four faculty winning NSF CAREER awards - bringing the total to 15 CAREER awards received by Swanson School faculty since 2016.

This year's recipients include:

  • Takashi D-Y Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering
  • Sangyeop Lee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science
  • Jason Shoemaker, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering
  • Feng Xiong, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering

Read more >

How the Swanson School is Moving Research Forward in the New Normal

Professor Tamer Ibrahim prepares his lab’s 7-Tesla MRI machine for patient studies while PhD Candidate Tiago Martins manages the software in the next room.

When COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., universities were left with a difficult situation. Classes can be moved online, but labs—particularly ones that use living things like animals or cells—could not fully operate remotely or be put on hold easily. Like many institutions, the University of Pittsburgh ramped down its research to continue only the most essential work. Now, as it starts to ramp research back up, the University is helping researchers balance the risks.

Read more >

New Research in Nature Communications Examines Thermal Transport in Metal Organic Frameworks

An image of a metal-organic framework. (Chris Wilmer)

New research led by an interdisciplinary team across six universities examines heat transfer in MOFs and the role it plays when MOFs are used for storing fuel. The findings were recently published in Nature Communications.

Read more >

Improving Ladder Safety, One Rung at a Time

Beschorner's lab conducting ladder safety research in the Swanson School of Engineering's Human Movement & Balance Laboratory. Credit: Ric Evans/University of Pittsburgh.

There is an estimated $24 billion annual cost of ladder injuries in the U.S., where falls account for 26 percent of nonfatal and 16 percent of fatal workplace injuries. Kurt Beschorner will use a $1.8 million award from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop safer ladder designs and individual risk factors of ladder falls. The work will focus on measuring friction as the pathway for the ladder and individual to influence slip and fall risk.

Read more >

Pandemic Shutdown Sparks Innovation at ISE Schools

Engineering undergraduates working in a MEMS lab under new COVID-19 safety protocols. (Aimee Beattie/University of Pittsburgh)

As COVID-19 spread worldwide in early March, businesses shuttered, public places emptied and schools closed for weeks to enforce physical distancing restrictions.As University of Pittsburgh students left for spring break, officials at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering began planning how to react to the virus’ approach.

Read more >

Uncovering the Nitty-Gritty Details of Surface Tension and Flow Behavior

Shutterstock image of particles suspended in fluid

Sachin Velankar, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, received NSF funding for collaborative research that seeks to better understand the micromechanics of surface tension.

Read more >


Building a Circular Chemical Economy: James McKone selected as a 2020 Beckman Young Investigator for a project that recycles carbon dioxide back into useful fuels and chemicals

Universities Take the Lead in Reducing Pittsburgh's Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Using Artificial Intelligence to Connect Vehicles and Traffic Infrastructure

Plotting a Course for the Circular Economy

A Blueprint for Greener Catalysis

Sustainable Chemistry at the Quantum Level

Engineering a Carbon-Negative Power Plant, thanks to an ARPA-E Award

Understanding the Microbial Community Hiding in Our Showers

Searching for the Silver Lining in Drinking Water Disinfection

Is Remote Work Helping to Keep Air Pollution at Bay?


Monitoring Coronary Artery Disease in Real-time

Catalyzing an Improved Arterial Bypass Graft

Team of Interdisciplinary Pitt Professors Receive $1M NSF Award to Create At-Home Glaucoma Monitoring Device

Insightin Health Works with University of Pittsburgh Students to Predict the Start of Flu Season

Plexiglass Alone Can't Protect Against Aerosolized Virus

Examining the Use of Smartphone Sensors to Detect Alcohol Intoxication

Training Algorithms to Identify COVID-19 in CT Scans

Infant Heart-Assist Pump Secures $4.7M from the DOD

Reversing Drug Resistance in Breast Cancer

A Micro Look at Metastatic Environments in Ovarian Cancer

New Research Investigates the Role of Lipid Rafts in Virus Infiltration

Crafting a Better Arterial Graft

Exploring the Neurological Male-Female Divide in Dementia


Technology Developed at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering Launched into Manufacturing at Mitsubishi Electric Company

DOE Awards $1.9M to Swanson School Faculty and Students for Nuclear Energy Research

Researching Resilience: The Data Behind the Modern Grid


Maintaining a Laser Focus: Mostafa Bedewy receives NSF EAGER award to study a new scalable laser patterning process for directly growing tailored nanocarbons on flexible polymers

Two Pitt Researchers Receive Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Funding for COVID-19 Response

Five Pitt Researchers Receive PA Department of Community and Economic Development Grants

Developing a Novel 3D-Printed Oil-Water Separating Membrane for Gas and Petroleum Industry

Center for Medical Innovation awards three novel biomedical projects with $60,000 in Round 1 2020 Pilot Funding

CMI Icon

The latest funding proposals include a virus-resistant wear-resistant textile, a system for removal of cell-free plasma hemoglobin in extracorporeal therapies, and a biocontainment unit for reducing viral transmission to healthcare workers and patients

Read more >

On the Frontier of Nanoparticle Research

Illustration of the lab's nanocluster modeling that was featured on the cover of the journal Dalton Transactions. Image reproduced with permission of Mpourmpakis and Cowan.

Research modeling metal nanoclusters that are atomically precise in structure is featured on the cover of Dalton Transactions.

Read more >

Partnering with the Carnegie Science Center to Show the Role of Filters in Stopping the Spread of SARS-CoV-2

Carnegie Science Center

Because the novel coronavirus spreads through the air, experts continue to recommend outdoor activities over remaining indoors. However, the right air filter can make indoor air safer and help prevent the spread of the virus. Melissa Bilec, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, explains how these filters work in a new exhibit at Carnegie Science Center, which employs the HEPA filters that help keep the air clean.

Read more >

Predicting Unpredictable Reactions

An illustration of nanoparticles under reaction conditions was featured on the cover of ACS Catalysis.

New research from the Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Catalysis and Catalytic Processes (Department of Energy) at Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy, advances the field of computational catalysis by paving the way for the simulation of realistic catalysts under reaction conditions.

Read more >

Shedding a New Light on 2D Materials

Fiber Optical connector interface (Shutterstock)

The University of Pittsburgh’s Nathan Youngblood and Feng Xiong secured a $501,953 NSF award to better understand how to store data more efficiently using optical and electrical techniques on two-dimensional (2D) materials.

Read more >

Related: Developing phase-change materials and overcoming the challenges inherent in the technology.

Two ChemE Faculty Receive more than $1 Million in NSF Funding

Benedum Hall

Lei Li is leading a project that will investigate the water wettability of floating graphene, while James McKone is collaborating with researchers at the University of Rochester and the University at Buffalo to develop a new generation of high-performance materials for liquid-phase energy storage systems like redox flow batteries

Read more >

Enhancing Engineering Education Research

Pitt Engineering undergraduate in lab class

Two interdisicplinary teams are investigating how to improve the engineering education environment for all students.

Melissa Bilec Leads NSF Project to Foster Inclusivity in Engineering Education

NSF award supports longitudinal study on student motivation and stress during COVID-19 remote learning

Faculty Research Accomplishments

Three Pitt Professors Selected as 2020-21 MCSI Leonard Peters Faculty Fellows

Katherine Hornbostel selected as Fellow for RCSA’s Scialog: Negative Emissions Science

Badie Morsi receives SPE Regional Distinguished Achievement Award for Petroleum Engineering Faculty

Taryn Bayles receives ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award

Brandon Barber and Joseph Samosky receive Pitt SEED funding

ISE Magazine features IE Department Chair in "What's Your Story"

Peyman Givi is lead author on NASA quantum computing research

Student Research Accomplishments

Pitt students invent Canal Battery Guard, a novel way to keep your phone battery alive longer

PhD student Lee Maccarone wins 2020 Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Award

Junior bioengineering student Audrey Case publishes her first book, which breaks down brain-computer interface research for lay-audiences

Nathan Carnovale Receives IEEE Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship

Sarah Wielgosz awarded a Naugle Fellowship in Mechanical Engineering for 2020

Bioengineering undergrads receive BMES Outstanding Chapter Industry Program Award

CEE Selects Jake Kline as the inaugural John F. Oyler Fellow

BioE Graduate Student Haley Fuller Awarded 2020 GPSG Leadership and Service Award

MEMS Students Iza Lantigios and Jerry Potts Receive Department of Energy Awards

Learn more about research at the Swanson School

View the 2019 Summary of Faculty Research.

View the 2020 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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