Graduate Student Accolades

Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement winners Announced

Nikki Cristobal

Nikki Cristobal, a graduate student in Social and Comparative Analysis program in the School of Education, earned the graduate student award. Her work focuses on the resiliency of Indigenous Hawaiian women from Kaua’i island.

Empathetic and Whole Patient Approaches May Improve Women’s Heart Health in Appalachian Communities

Dr. Jessica Thompson

Dr. Jessica Thompson, who recently completed her Ph.D. at Pitt Public Health, received an American Public Health Association award for her dissertation research. Her "research among Appalachian women has been recognized for the ways in which it provides a framework for future action-oriented and community-specific strategies to improve cardiovascular disease prevention."

Grad student Sean Sweat presented at a Smithsonian forum on reckoning with our racial past

Sean Sweet

In August, Sean Sweat, a second-year MD/PhD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, spoke during a segment at the Smithsonian virtual forum, Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past.

Yunxing Lu receives Geothermal Rising Marcelo Lippmann Graduate Award

Yunxing Lu

Yunxing Lu, a PhD student in civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been named a winner of the Geothermal Rising Marcelo Lippmann Graduate Award. The $2,500 scholarship is given to five graduate students based on academic record, student activities, geothermal industry experience and career goals. As a recipient, Lu’s research will be featured in the journal GR Transactions, and he will get a chance to present his work at the organization’s meeting.

Sabrina Helbig receives Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship

Sabrina Helbig

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Educational Activities Board has selected Sabrina Helbig, a first-year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, to receive the Charles LeGeyt Fortescue Graduate Scholarship.

Postdoc Newman-Griffis Wins Dissertation Award

Denis Newman-Griffis

Denis Newman-Griffis, a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Medicine's Department of Biomedical Informatics, has received the American Medical Informatics Association's 2021 Doctoral Dissertation Award for his dissertation “Capturing Domain Semantics with Representation Learning: Applications to Health and Function.”

PhD Student Wins ‘Top Chef Amateurs’

If psychology graduate student Brett Bankson were to create a dish inspired by the University of Pittsburgh and the city at large, it would be a dish with undeniable character. (Pittwire)

Top student to ‘Top Chef’: Pitt Ph.D. candidate to appear on cooking show

Brett Bankson

Brett Bankson came to Pittsburgh in 2017 to pursue an advanced degree and a future in academia. Four years later, he’s leaving with designs on being a “Top Chef,” and he’ll have a nationally televised exam Thursday night. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
 

Student SciComm YouTube Channel Expands

still from bioZone video showing three participating PhD students

A YouTube channel run by Pitt students, bioZone, has expanded, adding new members and content to the educational effort. Joining the crew are PhD students Marissa Di, Dante Poe, Roshni Bhatt and Mark Ebeid.
 

Pitt Project Addresses Teen Mental Health through Lens of High School Students

Sarah Baumann

Sara Baumann, a postdoctoral associate in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health whose specialty is visual research methods, led a project in which cameras were given to young people they were doing research with to have them film aspects of their lives. The cameras were given to Pittsburgh teens to learn about their mental health just before the pandemic hit, and as a result, there are now a variety of films made by Pittsburgh area high schoolers that give an up-close look at the state of their mental health. Also see: Pitt Research Project Explores Mental Health Of Teenagers, KDKA-TV

PhD Student Alberto Guzman-Alvarez Receives National Dissertation Fellowship

Alberto Guzman-Alvarez

Alberto Guzman-Alvarez, a PhD student in Learning Sciences and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, has received a 2021 Dissertation Fellowship from the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation (NAEd Spencer).

Social Work Student Tre Tipton Wins Student-Athlete Achievement Award

Tre Tipton

Master of Social Work student and Pitt wide receiver Tre Tipton (A&S ’19) has been named a recipient of the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, presented annually by the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals.

From Togo to Pittsburgh and Beyond: He Focuses on Human Rights

Koffi Kengbo

Driven by his experiences in a country known for human rights abuses and government infringement on individual freedoms, Koffi Kengbo (GSPIA ’21) hopes his Pitt education will help him fight for the oppressed.

Soundscape.social merges video games and concerts for an interactive virtual music experience

Pat Healy and Hannah Standiford

Pitt PhD students Pat Healy and Hannah Standiford have created a new way to listen with music virtually that reinserts the interactivity and spaciality of in-person concerts into the experience.

Education Grad Student Is Finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Lauren Wheeler

Lauren Wheeler, a student in the School of Education’s Doctor of Education program, is a finalist for the 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Award. Selected from a field of more than 80,000 teachers statewide, she is vying for the state’s top honor against nine other finalists and is the only physical education teacher up for the award. 

2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Malena Hirsch, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Malena Hirsch

Malena Hirsch, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, was featured in the Poets & Quants 2021 Best & Brightest MBAs spotlight and described as “An aspirational leader with grit, agility, and a passion for servant leadership.”

Rachelle Brick Receives Doctoral Research Scholarship

Rachelle Brick

Rachelle Brick, PhD candidate in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, received the 2021 Dr. Gary Kielhofner Doctoral Research Scholarship.

Doctoral Candidates Win Dissertation Completion Fellowships

Samuel Boateng and Jennifer M. Farquhar

Pitt PhD students Samuel Boateng (Department of Music) and Jennifer M. Farquhar (Department of Anthropology), have been named Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellows by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Pitt Team Delivers Space System to NASA

Seth Roffe and team

"If I told my 10-year-old self I was going to work with NASA one day, I wouldn’t believe it,” said Seth Roffe (bottom left), a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at the University of Pittsburgh. “Any kid who is interested in space dreams of that opportunity.”

That dream became a reality for Roffe, his fellow students and their faculty leads, who recently delivered their newest space system to NASA for launch at the NASA Kennedy Space Center on SpaceX-24 this fall.

PhD Student Awarded Research Opportunity at Fermi Lab

Logan Rice

Logan Rice, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, has been selected to conduct experimental research in high-energy physics at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program. 

Castilleja F. Olmsted Wins Graduate Student Policy Award

Castilleja F. Olmsted

Castilleja F. Olmsted, a third-year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences, was recently awarded the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award.

En Pointe: Exploring Health Literacy in Dance Education

Andrea Kozai

PhD student Andrea Kozai has completed a first-of-its kind review of dance curriculums at education schools across the world. The study shows areas of improvement that can help dancers lead healthier lives. 

Will Hayden in "These 5 Pittsburgh-Area Initiatives Are Positive for the Planet"

Amanda and Will Hayden

Will Hayden, a graduate student at Pitt's School of Social Work, and his wife Amanda have started an independent recycling startup, dubbed GreenDash.

15 Pitt Students Earn NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

student working in lab

Fifteen Pitt students have been selected for the 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), which recognizes outstanding students who are pursuing full-time research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Phoebe Balascio among Ms. Magazine's 25 Women of Color to Watch

Phoebe Balascio

"25 Under 25: Women of Color to Watch": This list highlights just 25 of the young women and girls of color who are changing the cultural and political landscape, including Phoebe Balascio, whose research at Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health focuses on gender-based violence.

Doctoral Grad Student Wins Iris Marion Young Award

Kess Ballentine

Kess Ballentine, a PhD student in the School of Social Work, is among the students and staff named the 2020-21 recipients of the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement by the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and the Graduate School of Public Health.

Exploring the Rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lissette Escariz Ferrá

Why does the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” still speak to us today? Third-year PhD student and composition instructor Lissette Escariz Ferrá helps her students understand.

Grad Student’s YouTube Channel Highlights Quirks of Biology

April Rich

PhD student April Rich, who is in her second year of study in the Computational and Systems Biology program in the School of Medicine, created bioZone, a YouTube show that highlights new and unusual topics in biology.

PhD Student Robin Zwier Honored by American Association of University Women

Robin Zwier

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded one of its 2020-21 fellowships and grants to Robin Zwier, a scholar at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a PhD in rhetoric. Recipients will pursue academic work and lead innovative community projects to empower women and girls.

Postdoctoral Scholar Millie Rincon-Cortes Named Ford Foundation Fellow

Millie Rincon-Cortes

Millie Rincon-Cortes, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was named a Ford Foundation Fellowship Scholar for 2020.

Research Ties Andean Drought To Greenland Warming During Last Glacial Period

Arielle Woods

A paper published by Arielle Woods, a PhD student in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has tied abrupt warming in Greenland ice cores to changes in tropical South American climate during the last glacial cycle.

Engineering’s Shaniel Bowen Named Fellow for Health Work

Shaniel Bowen

Shaniel Bowen, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was named a Ford Foundation fellow this spring for her research on women’s health.

Student Fills Void of Black Hair Care Products for Kids in Foster Care, Peers

Ashlé Hall

Social work graduate student Ashlé Hall (SOC WK ’18) is a busy entrepreneur with a new line of hair care products designed to fill two very important needs. Read the full story in Pittwire.

Creativity Amid COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis that rapidly and significantly impacted millions of lives around the globe, starting in late 2019. In response to the growing need for supporting mental health and a strong sense of community at Pitt, Jessica Burke, professor in the department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and associate dean for education at Pitt Public Health, and Sara Baumann (BCHS '19), postdoctoral associate also in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, created a community-engaged virtual art gallery that explores resilience, social cohesion and creativity during the pandemic.

Doctoral Student Major Will Conkright Receives Army Medical Award

Will Conkright

On June 30, Major Will Conkright received the 2020 Colonel Mary Lipscomb Hamrick Army Medical Specialist Corps Manuscript Award for a study he led, investigating tactically related physical performance and body composition recovery following U.S. Army Ranger training.

Conkright is a student in the University of Pittsburgh Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science program, part of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Public Health Student Turns Trouble into Triumph in Hawaii

Ke’alohi Worthington

When her spring plans were toppled, Ke’alohi Worthington made the best of it, with help from her advisor in the Graduate School of Public Health. Worthington’s internship with the Department of Health in Hawaii examined how COVID-19 has affected indigenous and other populations.

Grad Student Examines Intersection of Culture and Medicine

Steven Moon

Steven Moon, a doctoral student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Science's Department of Music, studies musical healing in Turkish biomedical research and investigates how humans understand health.

Haley Fuller Receives Leadership and Service Award

Haley Fuller

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) presented Haley Fuller, vice president of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Engineering Graduate Student Organization, with the 2020 GPSG Leadership and Service Award.

Student Tenacity Showcased at Big Idea Competition

Jonathan Cohen, James O'Brien, and Noah Pyles

It’s a truism that businesses need to be nimble, even in the best of economic circumstances. This year is a textbook example of that.

“Entrepreneurship is about ingenuity and adaptability,” said graduate student James O’Brien, who, with fellow students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Noah Pyles and Jonathan Cohen, recently won the grand $25,000 prize for the 12th annual Randall Family Big Idea Competition.

Their startup company, Polycarbin, aims to give scientists and clinicians the opportunity to recycle valuable plastic, such as the polypropylene in N95 masks, from regulated medical waste streams leaving research institutions.

Valeria Green, an MBA student at the Katz Graduate School of Business, won the competition’s video prize for her sustainable fashion clothing app idea Chela. (Pittwire)

Shown (left to right) Jonathan Cohen, James O'Brien, Noah Pyles

12 Pitt Students Recognized by NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Alex Michael Francette, Douglas Getty, Veronica Iriart

Anne Maheux, Evan Vincent Miu, Benjamin Patty, Rachel Anne Reeb

Twelve Pitt graduate students have been recognized by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for their work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at the University. (Pittwire) Top Row (left to right): Alex Michael Francette, life sciences, systems and molecular biology; Douglas Getty, psycholinguistics, psychology; Veronica Iriart, life sciences, ecology. Bottom Row (left to right): Anne Maheux, psychology, development psychology; Evan Vincent Miu, engineering, chemical engineering; Benjamin Patty, life sciences, systems and molecular biology; Rachel Anne Reeb, life sciences, ecology.

Chemistry Department Making Hand Sanitizer for Community Nonprofits

Joshua Casto

Members of the Department of Chemistry—including graduate student Joshua Casto (shown) and Department Chair Sunil Saxena, along with Dietrich School director of shared research support services Peter Chambers, are using their spare time and the department’s extra resources to make hand sanitizer and donate it to local community groups. (Pittwire)

Pitt MBAs Win Global Supply Chain Case Competition

 Katz MBA students Sarthak Arora, Anthony Perry, Faizan Saadullah, Shubham Kishore and Rohit Dubey

For the third year in a row, a team from Pitt’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business has placed first at the Global Supply Chain Management Initiative Case Competition at Purdue University. Katz MBA students Sarthak Arora, Anthony Perry, Faizan Saadullah, Shubham Kishore and Rohit Dubey made up this year’s winning team. (Pittwire)

Graduate Student Michael Sullivan Wins Hammond Scholarship

Michael Sullivan and team

Michael Sullivan (ENGR '19, shown third from left), a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive this year’s Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship for $10,000. The annual scholarship, which is in its fourth year, was open to any student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Swanson School. (Pittwire)

Pitt Students to Host Graduate Symposium for American Chemical Society

Sydney Brooks, Michael Cowan, Emily Eikey

Xing Yee Gan, Paige Moncure, Zoe Simon

Six Pitt graduate students and a student from Carnegie Mellon University have been selected for the American Chemical Society Spring 2021 National Meeting Graduate Student Symposium Planning Committee (GSSPC). (Pittwire) Top Row (left to right): Sydney Brooks, Michael Cowan, Emily Eikey. Bottom Row (left to right): Xing Yee Gan, Paige Moncure, Zoe Simon.

Swanson Lab Repurposes Equipment to Produce Sanitizer for UPMC

Nasser Al Azri

When labs at the Swanson School of Engineering closed for research purposes, Nickolas DeCecco Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Götz Veser was looking for a way his equipment could be put to use during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of his graduate students, Riddhesh Patel floated the idea of using the lab’s large-scale batch reactors—essentially enormous stirred glass containers—to blend hand sanitizer for UPMC, which is experiencing a severe shortage for their medical personnel. After receiving permission to return to the Pittsburgh campus, they, along with graduate student Nasser Al Azri (shown), set to work. Al Azri maintains and cleans the equipment with support from Patel, as the scope of the effort has increased. (Pittwire)

Graduate Students Find Small Ways to Help

Mariah Callas

Helping others in the community during a public health crisis need not always mean large food shipments or cases of water. Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences doctoral student Mariah Callas (pictured) has found that smaller gestures can go a long way. She and her roommate and fellow doctoral student Kayley Renz have been writing letters to elderly people in personal care homes, and dropping hand-written notes in older neighbors’ mailboxes, offering to buy groceries.

BIOST Students Jia and Liu Win National ENAR Distinguished Paper Award

biostatistics department representatives

Congratulations to Yichen Jia (BIOST ’22, front-left) and Peng Liu (BIOST '16 '21, front-right), this year’s winners of the national ENAR Distinguished Paper Award. The two doctoral students will present their award-winning work at the International Biometric Society's Eastern North American Region (ENAR) Spring Meeting in Nashville, March 22–25. (Pittwire Health)

Krueger Publishes in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Kori Krueger

An article by Kori Krueger, a graduate student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts Sciences’ Department of Psychology, was published online earlier this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It is one of the first studies to examine the reasons people post pictures of themselves with significant others on online profiles.

PhD Student Takes a Data-driven Look at Art

Sarah Reiff Conell

Sarah Reiff Conell, who is working toward a PhD in the history of art and architecture, uses data-driven methods to explore ancient artifacts and art collections, the latest being the works within the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Basdogan Wins AIChE CoMSEF Graduate Student Award

Yasemin Basdogan and other awardees

Yasemin Basdogan (third from left), a doctoral student in chemical engineering, was awarded the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Forum (CoMSEF) annual Graduate Student Award in recognition of her significant contributions in her work on using machine learning to study local solvation environments with John Keith, PhD, associate professor of chemical engineering and R.K. Mellon Faculty Fellow in Energy.

Grebeck Wins Thornburgh Forum Award

Timothy Grebeck

Timothy Grebeck, autism awareness advocate and graduate student studying childhood and special education, is the 2019 recipient of the Dick Thornburgh Forum Disability Service Award. This award is available each year to a University of Pittsburgh student from any campus whose service has made a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities.

Researchers See Future of Dry Eye Treatment in Innovative Contact Lens

Alexis Nolfi

Pittwire explores the story of Alexis Nolfi, a graduate bioengineering student researcher in the Swanson School of Engineering, and her research to find better treatment options for dry eye syndrome.

Monangai Elected National VP of SNPhA

Kathy Monangai

Kathy Monangai, a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate in the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, was recently elected as the Student National Pharmaceutical Association’s national vice president.

Gade Participates in ACC-Wide 3MT Competition

Piyusha Gade

Piyusha Gade, a graduate student researcher in the lab of Dr. Anne Robertson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, represented the University of Pittsburgh at the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition, July 22-23, 2019, in Washington, DC. Gade took first prize in the April 2019 University of Pittsburgh 3MT competition for her three minute presentation explaining "Rational Design of Vascular Grafts in Aged Hosts."

Three Graduate Students Win Contest for Thesis Elevator Pitch

Three Minute Thesis winners

Piyusha Gade took first place in this past academic year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Pitt Competition, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, University Center for Teaching and Learning and the University Library System. Gerald Ferrer won runner-up and the first-ever people’s choice award; and Jacqueline Lombard was a second runner-up and, separately, received a DAAD Graduate Scholarship (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst). (Pittwire)

Ward Earns Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship

zina ward

The American Council of Learned Studies has named Zina Ward, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, as one of 65 recipients of the 2019 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. The fellowship, sponsored by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides Ward and other fellows a $30,000 stipend and up to $8,000 in research funds and university fees in their final year of dissertation writing. Ward is being recognized for her dissertation, “Individual Differences in Cognitive Science: Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Issues.” (Pittwire)

Echeverri and Forrester Awarded AAS Mass Media Fellowships

Sebastian Alejandro Echeverria and Nikki Forrester

Two University of Pittsburgh graduate students have been awarded highly competitive AAAS Mass Media fellowships, embedding them in news organizations for a 10-week summer program. Sebastian Alejandro Echeverri, a PhD student in the Richards-Zawacki Lab, will be working with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Nikki Forrester, who recently earned a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Pitt, will be at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The program works to strengthen the relationships between scientists and journalists while also honing the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows' ability to make complex scientific concepts easier for a lay audience to understand.

Students Receive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

NSF-GRF fellowship winners

Six University of Pittsburgh graduate students have been awarded fellowships through the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRF) program. The program provides up to three years of support for outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. This support is intended to nurture awardees’ ambition to become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.

2019 Pitt NSF-GRF recipients are:

  • Tiffany Lynn Betras, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Ecology
  • Shirley Duong, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Developmental Psychology
  • Samantha Fontaine, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Evolutionary Biology
  • Charles D. Griego, Swanson School of Engineering, Chemical Engineering
  • Dulce Maria Mariscal Olivares, Swanson School of Engineering, Bioengineering
  • Esther Esmeralda Palacios-Barrios, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, Developmental Psychology

Pictured left to right: Tiffany Lynn Betras, Shirley Duong, Samantha Fontaine, Esther Esmeralda Palacios-Barrios. Not pictured: Charles D. Griego, Dulce Maria Mariscal Olivares.

Blackwell, Givens Selected as 2019 Graduate Commencement Student Speakers

Lashon Blackwell and David Givens

Lashon Blackwell, Master of Education in Special Education Teacher Preparation P-8 from the School of Education, and David Givens, PhD in Religious Studies from the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, were chosen to deliver graduate student speeches at the 2019 Graduate Student Commencement ceremony.