Graduate Student Spotlight


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, 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 Francette, Douglas Getty, Veronica Iriart
Anne Maheux, Evan 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, pyscholinguistics, 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

The winning team was made up of five 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

Jason Hoover, Brandon Grainger, Michael Sullivan, Marc Aiello, Mukul Rastogi, and Tony Pollice. Sullivan was awarded the Siemens Peter Hammond Scholarship on Feb. 21, 2020.

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

Zing 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

four people from biostatistics department

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

smiling woman with long dark hair in front of fountain

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

woman with long curly hair and glasses in dark red blazer

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

four students attending annual meeting

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

Man with glasses and short brown hair

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

woman holding box in front of audience, man standing by

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

Piyasha 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

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 Echeverri and Nikkie 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

Tiffany Lynn Betras, Shirley Duong, Samantha Fontaine, and Esther Palacios-Barrios

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, 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.