MARCH 3, 2011
Chancellor’s faculty awards announced
Thirteen faculty members have been honored as winners of the 2011 chancellor’s awards for distinguished teaching, research and public service.
Distinguished teaching award winners are:
• Graham F. Hatfull, Eberly Family Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences;
• Mary Margaret Kerr, professor and chair of the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies and professor in the Department of Psychology in Education, School of Education;
• Matthew R. Luderer, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Pitt-Greensburg;
• John M. O’Donnell, associate professor in the Department of Acute and Tertiary Care and director of the nurse anesthesia program, School of Nursing, and
• Sanjeev G. Shroff, professor and Gerald McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering and professor of medicine.
Distinguished research award winners in the senior scholar category are:
• Jeremy Levy, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy;
• Mary L. Marazita, professor and vice chair of the Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dental Medicine, director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics, professor of human genetics in the Graduate School of Public Health and professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine, and
• John D. Norton, director of the Center for Philosophy of Science and professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science.
Distinguished research award winners in the junior scholar category are:
• Edouard Machery, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, and
• Alexander Star, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.
Distinguished public service award winners are:
• Marie R. Baldisseri, associate professor in the Department of Critical Care Medicine in the School of Medicine and medical director, critical care services and the intensive care unit at Magee-Womens Hospital;
• Rory Cooper, Distinguished Professor and FISA-Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and director of Human Engineering Research Laboratories, and
• Laurence Glasco, associate professor in the Department of History.
Each awardee will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant for the support of his or her teaching, research or public service activities. The awardees were recognized Feb. 25 during Pitt’s honors convocation. Their names will be inscribed on plaques in the William Pitt Union.
Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award
A selection committee, chaired by Juan J. Manfredi, vice provost for undergraduate studies, recommended the teaching award winners after reviewing supporting materials. Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg sent congratulatory letters to the winners, citing some of their accomplishments.
“The very existence of this award underscores the high institutional priority that we assign to our teaching responsibilities, and your individual efforts stand as an inspiring example of excellence in the role of University teacher,” Nordenberg wrote to the teaching award winners.
Graham Hatfull of biological sciences, who previously was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in both the junior and senior scholar categories, was recognized for having a constructive impact on his department’s teaching mission.
“Your positive influence on the undergraduate learning experiences of your students has enabled them to pursue their education in dynamic and intellectually challenging ways,” Nordenberg wrote in his Feb. 9 letter to Hatfull. “As is evident from your excellent student evaluations, your commitment to teaching and creating learning opportunities for students — both inside and outside the classroom — inspires and stimulates students to pursue their academic interests outside a traditional course curriculum.”
The chancellor noted that in 2010 the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awarded a four-year, $1.2 million grant to support Pitt’s academic initiatives, through the Department of Biological Sciences, that cultivate high school and undergraduate students’ interest in science and biology by involving them in active research. At the same time, HHMI renewed Hatfull’s appointment as one of just 13 HHMI Professors nationwide and the only one in Pennsylvania.
Hatfull told the University Times that when he learned he had won the teaching award, “I was shocked and surprised. But very pleased.”
Hatfull teaches both graduate and undergraduate students in typically small classes.
“Effective teaching requires active engagement of students in their own learning. This is true in both the classroom and in the research laboratory,” Hatfull said. “The role of teacher as a passive communicator of information is, frankly, a pretty nutty idea. But an instructor that can unleash the power of motivated self-learning is unstoppable.”
Separating Pitt’s three-pronged mission of teaching, research and service is a mistake, Hatfull maintained. “When approached effectively, each can advance the other. The University can thus optimize its effectiveness and the use of its resources by having its research programs advance its educational mission and vice versa,” he said.
“So, I don’t really view myself as a ‘teacher,’ but as a scientist-educator. I was led to this in part by recognizing that success in science is perhaps not so much about facets such as being ‘smart,’ ‘gifted,’ ‘creative’ — or whatever — as much as it is about having access to opportunities. I was given those opportunities as an undergraduate, and without them I am sure that I would not have had an academic career. I have tried to provide similar opportunities to others.”
Mary Margaret Kerr of the School of Education was recognized by Nordenberg for training future teachers to identify troubled students and to help those students progress with effective behavioral interventions.
“This honor, more particularly, recognizes your passion for using inventive real-world approaches to classroom teaching and your ability to develop, and teach, innovative curricula,” the chancellor wrote. “Inside the classroom, you prepare students for concrete problems by creating a classroom environment that prompts them to respond, examine and hone their behavioral observational skills, thus preparing them for careers as educators.”
Nordenberg further noted, “As is clear from your student evaluations, your teaching provokes, challenges and educates students while also providing a firm theoretical foundation that will remain an important asset throughout their careers.”
Kerr told the University Times that, given the caliber of previous winners, she was stunned to win the teaching award. “Ironically, I had just come from a conference session on how to be a better on-line instructor [when I learned I’d won],” Kerr said.
“The biggest influences on my teaching have been my mentors, especially Nicholas J. Long — a charismatic educator and clinician — and my imaginative and accomplished students, who continue to amaze and delight me,” she said. “My largest classes in recent years have been around 40 or so. Without question, class size makes a difference in teaching techniques. In a large class, it’s a bigger challenge to make each student feel known and engaged.”
It takes effort to learn how to be a good teacher, Kerr maintained. “On the other hand, an individual who does not possess fundamental traits is not likely to enjoy the role. Those traits include patience, energy, curiosity and comfort when all eyes are upon you,” she said.
Kerr’s primary teaching values are academically engaging instructional practices; content knowledge and skills derived from the best research in the field, and meaningful assessments.
“I believe that graduate students expend optimal effort in a classroom where high expectations are coupled with an instructor’s personal interest in their academic and career goals. Meaningful assessments, such as those developed by students in some of our courses, not only document mastery of competencies but also give students a unique opportunity to contribute to their field,” Kerr said.
She noted that student work in those courses is posted on the School of Education’s school-based behavioral health web site (www.sbbh.pitt.edu), which receives approximately 800,000 hits a year from professionals, families and youth seeking resources in children’s mental health.
Matthew Luderer of Pitt-Greensburg’s Department of Chemistry was recognized by Nordenberg for his many contributions to the biology and chemistry curricula on his campus.
Specifically, the chancellor noted Luderer’s development of an organic chemistry laboratory manual published by McGraw Hill in 2007. Luderer also developed a teaching assistant training program for the organic laboratories designed for students who plan to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry or biology.
“Your classroom teaching is inspiring while simultaneously making a traditionally difficult subject, organic chemistry, enjoyable for your students,” Nordenberg wrote. “Your efficacy as a teacher is demonstrated in the 45 students who sought you to mentor them through their undergraduate senior capstone experiences. You consistently provide your students with the tools and methods to pursue their professional goals.”
Luderer told the University Times, “Anytime you have the privilege to win an award like this, one has to acknowledge those mentors who got you there.” He cited his parents, his brother and in particular John Wood, “a very caring — tough but fair — professor of organic chemistry” at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who at first failed Luderer and then took him under his wing. He also cited William “Wild Bill” Bailey, a professor at the University of Connecticut, where Luderer earned his PhD.
“These two individuals made such a positive impact on my life and career that I love them like a second father. If it wasn’t for them, I would not be where I am today,” Luderer said.
He also extended thanks to his students, past and present. “I have been very fortunate to have a very good relationship with all of my students. My ultimate goal as a teacher is not to win awards, but to do anything I possibly can to help my students achieve their goals in life. That is truly the best award any teacher can receive,” Luderer said.
“My classes range from 12 to 65 students. For me it doesn’t really matter the size. I do my best so they can learn as much information as possible to help realize their dreams,” he said.
“When I cover advanced topics, I always relate them back to the basics. It’s just like building a house, you have to start with a strong foundation. If the foundation isn’t there, the student will have a very hard time succeeding as the course wears on. Along with that, I also try to instill confidence with as many students as I can with praise and admiration.”
Luderer believes teaching excellence is a combination of native ability and dedication. “We are all born with the ability to do something great, it’s just a matter of figuring out what that unique ‘special’ quality is. When I first started teaching, I didn’t think I was doing that great of a job and it took time — years — for me to get to the point where I confidently felt I was effectively communicating with a great majority of my students,” he said.
The chancellor recognized John O’Donnell of the School of Nursing for his contributions to the school and the nurse anesthesia program in particular.
“Your dedication to teaching is clear as you have sought new opportunities for teaching students at all levels — from baccalaureate students to Pitt faculty — and in your development of workshops using innovative technologies to teach regional, national and international educators at the School of Nursing’s instructional series,” Nordenberg wrote.
The chancellor further noted of O’Donnell, “your instruction is clear and concise and your passion for your subject is palpable. Your efforts do honor to the title of ‘teacher.’”
O’Donnell told the University Times he was surprised but deeply honored to learn he had won the award. “I know how competitive this award is.”
O’Donnell primarily teaches graduate nursing students studying anesthesia, as well as some undergraduate nursing students who are interested in a career in anesthesia. His classes range from six to 50 students.
“With small groups I typically attempt to use more interactive or immersive techniques, including use of human patient simulators. With the larger groups I also prefer interactive methods such as case studies, group discussions and interactive lectures. I like using audience response systems and whiteboards to leverage engagement,” O’Donnell said.
Teaching techniques can be learned, practiced and developed, he said. “However, the ability to ‘connect’ with a class is a gift that I think you either have or you don’t. My philosophy is to try to understand and value the learning needs of each individual student. In support of this philosophy, I attempt to stimulate reflection, interaction, immersive learning and a democratic classroom environment. I also think that educational activities have to be carefully scaffolded in support of student progression.”
O’Donnell credits early role models for helping him make an easy transition from nursing training to teaching. “A big part of nursing is teaching — teaching patients, teaching other providers and teaching families,” he said. “I always admired teachers who were spontaneous, interactive and clearly in total command of their material and have tried to emulate these traits in my own teaching.”
Sanjeev Shroff of the Swanson School of Engineering and the School of Medicine was recognized by Nordenberg for his passion for teaching students both in the classroom and in the laboratory.
“Among your many accomplishments as an educator is your pioneering contribution to the creation of innovative, simulation-based teaching tools that are having a national impact on the training of bioengineers, health care providers and medical students,” the chancellor wrote. “It is evident from your student evaluations that you have a unique ability to engage students and that your instruction is precise, insightful and very exciting for them. Your instruction provides students with the tools they need to become independent researchers and to pursue careers in bioengineering and medicine.”
Shroff teaches both graduate and undergraduate students in courses ranging from five to 15 students in graduate bioengineering classes to as many as 120 students in medical school classes.
“I do not let the number of students influence my basic approach to or philosophy of teaching. However, I do make a distinction between an introductory class versus an advanced, graduate-level class. In the latter case, I am likely to hold students more responsible for their learning and use student-initiated discussions as the major component of in-class teaching,” Shroff told the University Times.
“I always believed that the best way to learn something new or to gain deeper insights into what one already knows is to teach it to someone else. I put a great deal of emphasis on learning to think ‘generically.’ The goal is to motivate students to see common conceptual patterns among problems from seemingly disparate domains, so that the knowledge and tools acquired in the context of one domain can be readily transferred to another domain.”
Shroff’s early academic career focused on conducting research in the cardiovascular area. “I find the teaching experience deeply satisfying — at par with the euphoria of discovery in the research arena,” he said.
“I do believe that some individuals have an innate ability to tell a ‘good story.’ It is quite likely that these individuals begin the teaching journey with an advantage. However, I also believe that one can learn to be a good teacher — as long as there is a strong commitment to teaching, willingness to put in the effort and willingness to learn from one’s experiences and from others,” Shroff said.
He said there are many paths to being a successful teacher and that a teacher must find his or her own way.
“However, these different paths seem to share some common features: innate love for teaching, willingness to learn and adapt and willingness to put in the necessary effort. I have learned that domain expertise is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a successful teacher. In this context, being a good teacher is not a destination; instead, it is a journey — never ending, yet quite joyous and fulfilling.”
Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award
A selection committee, chaired by George Klinzing, vice provost for Research, recommended the senior and junior scholar winners after reviewing supporting materials.
Senior Scholar category
The senior scholar category recognizes “an outstanding and continuing record of research and scholarly activity.”
Jeremy Levy of physics and astronomy, who previously won a Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in the junior scholar category, has continued to make extraordinary contributions to his field, Nordenberg noted in his Feb. 9 letter.
“The selection committee was particularly impressed by the letters of recommendation from well-known authorities in the field,” Nordenberg wrote. “Your colleagues and peers have described you as a leader in the field of oxide electronics and quantum computation. You have achieved national and international eminence as an outstanding scholar in your field and made many contributions to the basic understanding of complex oxides and their application to quantum information science.”
Levy’s research has been described as an unusual combination of depth, breadth, interdisciplinary focus, leadership, achievement and high impact, the chancellor wrote.
Nordenberg noted some of Levy’s honors for his work: the Nano 50 Award in 2008 for his invention of an oxide-based nano-transistor, and being named a fellow of the American Physical Society for inventing new approaches to creating electronic circuitry at unimaginably small scales, such as a working transistor with wires only two nanometers wide.
Levy told the University Times, “It is a great honor to be chosen. I was thrilled.”
Levy, who previously also won a Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, sees an interrelationship between his research and his teaching. “Teaching and mentoring are important for what I do — they are essential since the work is carried out by a group of investigators. Teaching as a form of communication helps in giving research talks and writing papers,” he said.
“I was always interested in math and physics. My experiences as an undergraduate — and in high school — were particularly formative for me. I also had two great physics teachers in high school,” Levy noted.
“I am interested in fundamental research in physics that also has bearing on future technologies. My goal is to discover new and interesting physics that may revolutionize the way we understand and interact with our world. Being able to conceive ideas and bring them to life is enormously addictive. I would never want to give up this line of work.”
Mary Marazita of the schools of dental medicine and medicine and the Graduate School of Public Health was recognized by Nordenberg for her work in craniofacial and dental genetics.
Marazita’s work has led to 53 grants totaling almost $48.5 million and she has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, Nordenberg noted.
“The selection committee was particularly impressed by the enormous contributions you have made to understanding the complexities of cleft lip and palate genetic birth defects,” he wrote.
“Your contributions have helped establish the School of Dental Medicine as a nationally recognized center for research in oral/dental disease, with particular strengths in genetics and tissue regeneration.”
Marazita told the University Times, “I felt very honored to receive this award as a recognition of not only my research accomplishments, but also as recognition of my terrific research group in the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics and my many productive collaborations both inside and outside of the University.”
She caught the science and research bug as far back as middle school because of an inspiring science teacher, and was introduced to genetics as an undergraduate. “I knew that human genetics was the field for me,” Marazita said. “In those days, human genetics was not yet the dominant biomedical enterprise that it is today — I feel very fortunate that my career has spanned those early days up through the accomplishment of the Human Genome Project, and beyond.”
After receiving her PhD in genetics, Marazita earned a postdoctoral fellowship in craniofacial biology. “During the course of that postdoc I became very intrigued with understanding craniofacial birth defects, particularly cleft lip and cleft palate. At that time, there were many theories about the causes of such birth defects but little was known for certain,” she said. “I am happy to say that I have played a part in the impressive accumulation of knowledge about such birth defects over the last 15 years. Although we still have gaps in our knowledge, we have made great strides.”
Marazita said doing research is highly rewarding on a number of levels.
“Nothing compares to the feeling when you discover a new gene that may be involved in cleft lip, or when you have a novel insight that helps to move the field forward. It is also wonderful to influence and train the next generation of scientists, and to interact with families of children with birth defects,” she said.
“One of my most rewarding moments occurred when my sister and her husband were considering adopting a baby girl with a cleft lip and cleft palate: I was able to answer their many questions, and was delighted to welcome my niece to the family.”
Nordenberg recognized John Norton of the Center for Philosophy of Science and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science for having achieved national and international eminence as an outstanding scholar.
“The selection committee was particularly impressed with your detailed analysis of Einstein’s Zurich notebook and the many papers you have authored on Einstein’s thinking on a variety of fundamental questions.
“Your work in this area has earned you the distinction of being the world’s preeminent scholar on the genesis of Einstein’s theory of general relativity,” Nordenberg noted.
“Your contributions to the philosophy of space and time, inductive logic, the role of thought experiments and the ways scientific theories should be evaluated all are highly regarded. As one fellow scholar stated, ‘No one so brilliantly combines these disciplines as does John Norton.’”
Norton told the University Times he felt “tremendously honored” to win the senior scholar research award.
“We do the work we do because we are eager to find out answers to interesting questions, such as ‘How did Einstein find his discoveries?’ It is then quite gratifying to learn that others find the answers interesting too,” Norton said.
He said he gravitated toward science as a youth and spent much of his adolescence reading chemistry books. “I was always mixing things up in a crude lab in our family garage. I had many good teachers, but the strongest influence has always been the extraordinary pull of the science itself,” Norton said.
He said his research focus eventually moved from pure science to the history and philosophy of science. “That is a very natural evolution for some of us. We become fascinated with how all the amazing science we now have came about,” Norton said. “In my case, it was Einstein. There was a particular idea, that gravity is a curvature of space-time. That was such an extraordinary idea, I had to know how Einstein could not just think it up but establish that it is the way gravity really is,” he said.
Once one starts examining science’s big ideas — space, time and infinity, for example — “you realize that the philosophical community provides a group of like-minded thinkers, eager to get a precise understanding of the big ideas,” Norton said.
“Nothing is quite as exhilarating as that moment when you know you’ve found something. I will never forget the moment I opened a book of Einstein’s teaching notes [when he was] deep in the process of finding his general theory of relativity. Inductive inference has provided some of the most vexing philosophical puzzles. There was a moment when I realized a new approach to it — that I’d played with on a whim — was actually correct and solved many of the puzzles. There’s that voice in your head that says ‘Oh, I get it now!’” he said.
Norton said his research is inexorably linked to his teaching.
“I cannot imagine doing the work I do without being surrounded by the constant stimulation of this extended community of colleagues and students,” Norton said.
“We generally start out with a quest for these solitary moments of discovery. However, we soon learn the satisfaction of working in a community of our colleagues and students. I’ve been teaching long enough to have seen students go out and become established themselves as major figures. Like all teachers, I take an utterly unjustified pride in their success.”
Junior Scholar category
The junior scholar research category recognizes those “whose exceptional early contributions have demonstrated great potential and have already produced a measure of international standing.”
Edouard Machery of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science was recognized by Nordenberg for having achieved “an outstanding record [that] adds to the distinction of the University. You are considered one of the best philosophers of cognitive science in the world. The committee noted that in order to even find appropriate comparisons, one would need to look at scholars with considerably more years of experience.”
The chancellor noted Machery’s prolific scholarly output, which includes more than 60 articles and book chapters in the best journals in both philosophy and psychology.
Machery also is recognized as one of the leading contributors to the development of experimental philosophy, a new area within the discipline, the chancellor noted.
“Your studies also include philosophical issues raised by psychology and cognitive neuroscience with a special interest in concepts, moral psychology, the relevance of evolutionary biology for understanding cognition, modularity, the nature, origins and ethical significance of prejudiced cognition, and the methods of psychology and cognitive neuroscience,” Nordenberg wrote. “To sum up the high regard in which you are viewed, one colleague wrote that you are ‘a force of nature … a strikingly original thinker … ferociously smart and … astonishingly productive.’”
Machery told the University Times, “I discovered philosophy in high school. Before this I wanted to become a mathematician, but I found in philosophy a distinct kind of rigor. I also found it more challenging than the math I was taught in high school. So, I ‘fell in love’ with philosophy.”
He said he’s always been interested in research. “In France, where I come from, students have to specialize very early on. I specialized in philosophy from the very beginning of my undergraduate studies, although I took courses in other disciplines, such as logic, psychology, history of art,” Machery said.
“Philosophy is difficult, but incredibly rewarding. It is fun. Thinking through difficult arguments, being cautious and sophisticated about arguments, and so on, this is one of the most exciting forms of intellectual endeavor.”
Machery added he was very pleased to win the chancellor’s award, especially given the fact that two (including John Norton) of the eight primary faculty in his department were recognized with chancellor’s awards this year.
“This is a recognition of the excellence of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, which is, incidentally, widely viewed as one of the best departments in the world in its field,” Machery noted.
Alexander Star of the Department of Chemistry was recognized by the chancellor for innovative contributions to the field of carbon nanomaterials.
“You were among the first researchers to chemically modify carbon nanotubes in an effort to affect their biological properties, paving the way for their use in medical applications, as well as their safe and effective removal from the environment,” Nordenberg wrote. “You also were one of the first researchers to recognize that single-wall carbon nanotubes are an ideal platform on which to construct chemical sensing devices.”
Star’s research also has been instrumental in fabricating new materials consisting of carbon nano-capsules for use as nano-containers, which have many potential applications such as material storage, nano-reactors, drug delivery vehicles and chemical sensing, the chancellor noted.
“Your colleagues have described your investigations as a unique blend of fundamental and applied research that have combined to propel you to the forefront of carbon nanotube research,” Nordenberg wrote.
Star told the University Times, “It is very humbling and rewarding to receive such recognition in this early stage of my career. I was very excited.”
He gravitated toward research early in his academic career.
“Growing up in a family of academics, I was always interested in science and medicine for as long as I can remember. I started to be involved in research during my undergraduate studies,” Star said.
“During my postdoctoral work at the University of California-Los Angeles, I was introduced to the exciting research field of nanoscience and to carbon nanomaterials in particular.”
His research is intertwined with his teaching, Star said. “During my tenure at the University of Pittsburgh, I have developed a new course on nanomaterials — CHEM 1620/2620. In addition to chemistry majors, I had also students from physics, materials science, chemical and electrical engineering enrolled in my class, indicating a true interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience and nanotechnology,” he said.
“I like to believe that in the long run our research will provide new and more effective tools for medical diagnostics and therapeutics.”
Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award
A selection committee, chaired by Alberta M. Sbragia, vice provost for graduate studies, recommended the winners after reviewing supporting materials.
In his letter to the public service award winners, Nordenberg stated, “This award underscores the high institutional priority that we assign to applying the expertise of faculty members to address social problems in ways that are consistent with our teaching and research missions.”
Marie Baldisseri of the Department of Critical Care Medicine was recognized by Nordenberg for her national and international humanitarian work in public health service.
“As a physician with academic and clinical responsibilities in the field of critical care medicine, you have used your expertise far beyond the University,” Nordenberg wrote.
As a volunteer for numerous medical missions, Baldisseri was instrumental in designing and implementing the first intensive care unit in the capital of Swaziland, the chancellor noted.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Baldisseri was part of a team that within three days brought the Society of Critical Care Medicine fundamentals of critical care support course to physicians in the Dominican Republic caring for Haitian victims.
“These volunteer experiences as well as many others influenced you to focus your attention on educating health care workers to prepare for natural disasters,” Nordenberg wrote.
“Of particular note is your more recent role as the founder of the Critical Care Disaster Foundation, which is dedicated to working and teaching in areas preemptively before a disaster strikes. Further, you are incorporating this new knowledge in the training of students within the University and of colleagues within the profession.”
Baldisseri told the University Times, “No one who does medical mission work is in it for the fame and glory but it is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the University of Pittsburgh where I have worked for over 20 years. I was absolutely delighted!”
She says her research overlaps nicely with her teaching, based on her training and experiences at UPMC.
“I have focused on teaching health care providers who have not been trained in critical care medicine how to manage acutely ill patients in resource-poor countries. In these resource-poor areas, the challenges are both educational and due to lack of personnel. Having worked in many areas where natural disasters have occurred, I have seen the devastation that results from poor medical infrastructure and lack of disaster-preparedness. Most recently, this has been my focus in teaching,” Baldisseri said, adding that her career goals have changed over time.
“As a young clinician, my primary goal was simply to work hard and learn as much as I could. As a more seasoned academician and clinician, I’ve now had the liberty of working outside the venue of the ICU and have been able to work in austere environments in many different countries in the world,” she said. “It gives me immense satisfaction both personally and professionally to help others through teaching and clinical activities. Working in resource-poor areas truly makes me recognize how blessed we are in the United States with outstanding medical resources.”
Rory Cooper of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology was honored for his dedication to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities.
“Your academic accomplishments have been unparalleled in the field of rehabilitation engineering, as evidenced by your distinguished academic appointments, by your nine issued or pending patents and by your receipt of countless honors, including both the Olin Teague Award and the Paul Magnuson Award, among the highest forms of recognition from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Nordenberg wrote.
Cooper founded the Human Engineering Research Laboratories in 1994 and, in 1999, this facility became the first, and remains the only national VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence in Pennsylvania, the chancellor noted.
Nordenberg wrote: “Beyond the University, you have worked tirelessly to ensure that advances in technology help the people who need it most. You have been responsible for creating and advising a myriad of veteran, military and civilian programs that have had a long lasting and enormously positive impact on people with disabilities,” including counseling the Department of Defense to establish the Armed Forces amputee patient care program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
“Your service as a leader within community organizations and as a political adviser at the state and national levels is equally distinguished. Thanks to your efforts, Pittsburgh will host the 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games,” the chancellor noted.
Cooper told the University Times, “The public service itself is a tremendous reward. I thoroughly enjoy helping other people with disabilities, and military service members and veterans. It energizes and inspires me. It is nice to see that such activities are valued by the University leadership.”
His public service work with people with disabilities is inseparable from his teaching and research efforts, Cooper said.
“My students and many of my colleagues participate in public service. It has led to new research and educational ideas and opportunities,” he said.
For example, Cooper said, conducting research at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a focal point of his programmatic research, and has led to pilot projects with educational benefits, including organizing state-of-the-science symposia at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center.
“Many students have assisted and attended, and had the opportunity to meet severely wounded, injured and ill military service members first hand. Learning public services is at the core of our program, and helps students to become better clinicians and people,” Cooper said.
“I am very fortunate. When, by a twist of fate, I acquired a spinal cord injury resulting in lower extremity paralysis, I found a calling. At first, I was able to apply my engineering research to the problems facing me and my friends. Because of the many opportunities that have been afforded to me, that reach has expanded and has greater impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities,” he said.
“My greatest thrills are seeing people with disabilities benefit from our work, and from seeing students and colleagues develop independent careers and to make their own important contributions toward helping people with disabilities.
“There are so many unanswered questions, and people with disabilities and veterans need and truly appreciate having bright and public service-oriented people dedicated to assistive technology and rehabilitation science research and development.”
Laurence Glasco of the Department of History was honored for his innovative efforts and commitment “to preserve the history of black Pittsburgh and to make that history available to current and future generations,” Nordenberg wrote. “The impact of your work, which includes documentaries, exhibits, writings, presentations and radio and television appearances, has reached far beyond the classroom and into our community.”
Glasco’s work serves the public by revealing significant accomplishments of outstanding African Americans and by celebrating black history in the western Pennsylvania region, the chancellor noted.
“As a result, individual citizens have come together in groups to form a vision for revitalizing their communities based on a collective memory,” Nordenberg wrote. “More broadly, your work has garnered national recognition, and historians are now focusing on the importance of Pittsburgh’s African-American legacy.”
Glasco told the University Times, “One of the pleasures of teaching and researching local history is that it allows me to engage with the community in a way that enhances rather than distracts from those two aspects of my professional career. It makes the community service doubly pleasurable in that I seldom have to wonder whether it is taking away from my teaching and research.”
Teaching and doing research on race-related issues is quite satisfying, Glasco said. “It allows me to apply my professional knowledge in a way that can make a practical difference. And doing it on the local level gives me the chance to see the impact up close and personal. In addition, I get to meet a lot of wonderful people outside the academy.”