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Inside Pitt Research
Top Stories  

Rory Cooper Honored for Lifetime of Innovation

Rory A. Cooper, assistant vice chancellor for STEM-health sciences collaborations, University of Pittsburgh


On October 24, Rory A. Cooper, assistant vice chancellor for STEM-health sciences collaborations, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Joe Biden. Cooper, distinguished professor in Pitt’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, joins a list of laureates that began with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1985 and includes the country’s foremost inventors in computer technology, biotechnology and more.

That same week, Cooper entered the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. His 25 patents span ergonomics, bioengineering and assistive technology to help people with disabilities fully participate in life.

“I have had the privilege of working with many remarkable scientists and scholars in my 40 years in academia and tech. Few manifest with impacts across as many areas vital to the nation’s interests as Rory,” says Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research. “From the first smart wheelchair patent to his selfless military service and dedication to the advances in technology for our country, the University of Pittsburgh and the Pitt Research community should take great pride in these honors of my esteemed colleague and friend.”

Read More >> via Pittwire


Pitt's BE STEM Center Is Key to Success of NSF STEM PUSH Network

Hillman Academy student looking under a microscope


The Broadening Equity in STEM (BE STEM) Center in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is launching the first longitudinal study of pre-college STEM experiences and how they contribute to the longevity of STEM careers of people in historically underrepresented populations. This BE STEM Center study will help schools and departments gather data on these programs for their own use. Alison Slinskey Legg, director of the BE STEM Center, will use the data to help validate academic performance of the center's students.

“We believe that these experiences are preparing students to succeed in undergraduate STEM, but we have to prove it,” Slinskey Legg explains. “If you talk to anybody who runs one of these programs, we believe that our programs are impactful in students’ decisions to major in a STEM field and to persist in STEM in college."



NSF Recognizes Angela Stewart with Racial Equity in STEM Award

Angela Stewart, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh


Angela Stewart, assistant professor in the School of Computing and Information, received a $1.3 million Racial Equity in STEM Education award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support her project titled, “Black Girls as Creators: An Intersectional Learning Ecosystem Toward Gendered Racial Equity in Artificial Intelligence Education.” The grant focuses on empowering Black girls ages 9-14 as artificial intelligence (AI) creators to incorporate diverse perspectives and have greater influence on how AI is created.

“As a research scientist in Pitt’s Learning Research and Development Center, I will use this award to investigate how considerations of racial equity factor into the improvement of STEM education and its workforce,” says Stewart.

Read More >> via Pittwire

Rachel Robertson and members of her Pitt Momentum Funds research team
On Campus  

Chancellor Signs Interim Policy on Research Data Management


Chancellor Joan Gabel signed an interim policy on Research Data Management on Oct. 16, 2023, to ensure that the University complies with evolving data security requirements mandated by the National Security Presidential Memorandum-33 (NSPM-33) issued by the White House and a new federal law, the CHIPS and Science Act. The prior guidelines stipulated aspects of the management of paper records, whereas the new interim policy focuses on electronic records and their storage, retention and transference.



FDA Requirement for Electronic Records Management Starts Jan. 1

Researchers at Pitt working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on clinical trials and studies for an Investigational New Drug (IND) or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) already have access to REDCap, a secure, web-based tool for optimizing data capture for clinical trials.

Although all Institutional Review Board-approved studies can use the existing REDCap program now, new IND and IDE studies with the FDA will require investigators to utilize an enhanced-security version of the tool that meets the FDA’s new requirement for a CFR 21 Part 11 validated system. Pitt Health Sciences information technology staff will work with research teams to setup and complete the transition.



SVCR Welcomes Five New Associate Deans for Research

This fall, five schools at Pitt appointed new associate deans for research (ADRs). The ADR committee meets with the senior vice chancellor for research regularly to discuss and review policies and procedures related to research, large research initiatives and programs, and ideas and insights from their respective schools to contribute to institutional research strategies.

“The ADRs as a group are the key connectors between Pitt Research and the wide and vibrant universe of research across all of the schools at Pitt,” says Rob A. Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research.

The newly selected ADRs are:

  • Paul Monga, director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center in the School of Medicine
  • Erin Walker, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information
  • Hannah Johnson, professor of English in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • Greer Donley, associate professor in the School of Law
  • Heather Bachman, professor in the School of Education

Jamelle Price Selected to Participate in Appalachian Leadership Program

Jamelle Price, external relations manager of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, joins 39 fellows from 423 counties and 13 states across the Appalachian Region in the 2023-2024 Class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute, a federal leadership development program focused on economic development in the Appalachian region. The nine-month program will conclude with a graduation in Washington, D.C., in July 2024.


Researchers In The News  
Biodegradable Heart Valves

Undergrad Makes Biodegradable Heart Valves


As a bioengineering student and Pitt Hockey right wing forward, Ben Leslie meets challenges with hard work, a team-based mindset, and a desire for actionable learning. Motivated to conduct research to solve problems in everyday life, Leslie has worked alongside researchers at Pitt since 2021 and helps create, test, and analyze polymer-based heart valve scaffolds for adults with valvular heart disease and children with congenital heart defects at the Cardiovascular Engineering Lab. The scaffolds have sizes for adults and children and provide regenerative capabilities while eliminating the risk of calcification and the use of blood thinners.

Read More >> via Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jill Henning

Pitt-Johnstown Partners with Chan Soon-Shiong Institute


Jill Henning, professor of biology at Pitt-Johnstown, is working with the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at Windber on a study to explore immune response and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in breast cancer survivors. With assistance from four of Henning’s students, the research team will analyze blood samples taken at the height of the pandemic for potentially elevated cytokines that could indicate worsening cancer prognosis, excess inflammation, and the development of autoimmune diseases in patients with a history of breast cancer.

Read More >> via The Tribune-Democrat

JoAnne Flynn, distinguished professor and chair in microbiology and molecular genetics, University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Collaboration Finds Clues for TB Control


JoAnne Flynn, distinguished professor and chair in microbiology and molecular genetics, leads a research group in Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research that recently uncovered the strength of CD8+ lymphocytes in slowing early tuberculosis (TB) infection in the lungs. The team’s study appears in the December issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine and was a collaboration among Flynn’s lab, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

Read More >> via Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Top Stories
bridge crossing the Ohio River  

Retaining a River

Wednesday, Nov. 29 | 4 to 6 PM (Hybrid)

The Ohio River begins at the nexus of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers that hug Downtown Pittsburgh and its surrounding neighborhoods. In an invited talk, Eira Tansey, a Cincinnati-based archivist, researcher, and consultant, will discuss how to sustain this Ohio River ecosystem for years to come.

Learn More and Register >>

Crystal Barksdale  

Special Guest Lecture: Mental Health Disparities in Research

Friday, Dec. 1 | 12:00 to 1:15 PM (Virtual)

Crystal Barksdale, program director for the Division of Community Health and Population Science in the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, will give a special lecture on how to speak out about mental health disparities and move forward with research toward a more diverse world.

Learn More and Register >>

Mechanics of Starting a New Business  

1st Step: Mechanics of Starting a New Business

Thursday, Dec. 7 | 6 to 8 PM (Virtual)

This no-cost series of business development and growth trainings from Pitt’s Small Business Development Center is designed to help area business owners develop a business plan and timeline of key milestones to work toward opening day. In 1st Step, plan to discuss your target market and marketing tools and strategies. If you hope to open your business within one year, get a head start on your goal with 1st Step and sign-up for 2nd Step.

Learn More and Register >>

Research Resources  

Research Demystified @ Pitt Guide

The University of Pittsburgh Library System provides a step-by-step guide to share with students on conducting research projects and writing papers. This guide offers tips on creating a research question, developing a research and search strategy with online and offline sources, and receiving additional assistance.

Learn More >>


Funding Resources for Research Development

The Office of Sponsored Programs’ Research Development Team offers an extensive list of resources to help faculty and staff better prepare their grant and funding applications. The website provides a consolidated list of tools and services from both Pitt and major funding agencies intended to help faculty and research-related staff understand, structure, and develop proposals that have a greater chance of being funded.

Learn More >>

Top Stories


Jan Scheuermann  

Controlling a Robotic Arm by Thought

A Pitt team developed a robotic arm controlled by brain signals and successfully tested it on Jan Scheuermann, who is paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a neurodegenerative condition. Two micro electric grids were implanted into her cerebral cortex to process signals that moved the robotic arm, translating her thoughts into actions. Scheuermann moved the arm just two days after surgery and not only mastered daily living tasks but also went on to a career as a mystery author and motivational speaker.