New Pitt Faculty Bring Diversity, Commitment to Excellence in Teaching

Issue Date: 
August 19, 2008

The University welcomes a number of new faculty this year who bring a tremendous breadth and diversity of experience as well as a shared commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and service. The profiles here offer an introductory sampling of those new faculty members.


Amy Ai,
School of Social Work

Ai is a former associate professor at the University of Washington and a Hartford Geriatric Faculty Scholar and Affiliated Researcher of Integrative Medicine in the University of Michigan Health System. She joins the University as a professor in the School of Social Work. Her research interests include the interdisciplinary study of aging, for which she won the Association for Gerontology in Social Work’s prestigious Leadership Award; the interdisciplinary study of health and related well-being; and the connection between post-traumatic stress disorders and post-traumatic growth following crisis or adversity. She received her PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Ai’s other areas of research interest include research methodology issues in clinical studies on psychosocial-behavioral and faith-related intervention and mind-body medicine; complementary and alternative medicine and that area’s implications for integrative medicine and health care policy; and health care disparity and its implications for research, practice, and policy.


Ipsita Banerjee,
Department of Chemical Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering

After pursuing postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Engineering in Medicine, Banerjee joins the Department of Chemical Engineering as an assistant professor. She received her PhD in chemical engineering from Rutgers University.

Her primary research interest is in process systems engineering and its application in different chemical and biomedical problems. She also is interested in reaction network modeling and the development of reduced reaction networks for energy-efficient combustion processes.


Daniel Balderston,
Mellon Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, Arts and Sciences

Balderston joined the School of Arts and Sciences in January as professor and Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Modern Languages in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures. A literary scholar and critic of Latin American literature, Balderston came to Pitt from the University of Iowa, where he held affiliations in the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature, the Sexuality Studies Program, Latin American Studies Program, and International Studies. Balderston received his doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton University.

Balderston is the editor of Variacones Borges, the major international journal devoted to the study of Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges, and he is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on Borges. He also is director of the Borges Center and current president of the Instituto Internacional De Literatura Iberoamericana. He has published four scholarly monographs, a high-profile book of collected essays, an index, and an extensive guidebook. He also has coauthored two books, edited or coedited 10 books, and contributed extensively to various journals.

David G. Binion,
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine

Binion joins Pitt as a professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. He also will serve as codirector of the UPMC Irritable Bowel Disease Center and director of the center’s new translational research program. He formerly served as a professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, a joint effort between the medical college and Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital.

Binion’s research is focused on identifying cellular factors contributing to such inflammatory bowel diseases as Crohn’s disease and developing novel anti-inflammatory therapeutics. He is the associate editor of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and serves on the editorial advisory board for the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Binion received his medical degree from the State University of New York, Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.


Brian D’Urso,
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Arts and Sciences

D’Urso, recently a Wigner Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, joins the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He earned his PhD in physics at Harvard University, where he studied atomic physics and received the Hertz Foundation Fellowship for exceptional creativity and outstanding potential in research.

D’Urso’s research involves the fabrication and properties of nanostructured surfaces, as well as new research trapping extended molecules such as carbon nanotubes with atomic physics techniques.

Ira J. Fox,
Department of Surgery, School of Medicine

Fox is a professor of surgery and director of the Center for Innovative Regenerative Therapies, a collaborative activity between Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine (MIRM), and Pitt’s Department of Surgery. He also will serve as a core faculty member at MIRM. Fox comes to Pitt from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he was the Charles W. McLaughlin Professor of Surgery.

Fox’s research focuses on developing novel therapeutics to restore liver function and regenerate damaged livers. Fox has more than 100 publications and two patents to his credit. He serves as ad hoc associate editor for Liver Transplantation, is on the editorial board of Stem Cells, and serves as a reviewer for several other peer-reviewed professional journals. Fox received his MD from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.


Mark T. Gladwin,
Department of Medicine, School of Medicine

Gladwin joins the University as a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine. He also will serve as director of the newly created Hemostasis and Vascular Biology Research Institute. Gladwin previously served as branch chief of vascular medicine and director of the functional genomics core at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Gladwin’s research focuses on nitric oxide and its many contributions to vascular biology, including vasodilation, pulmonary hypotension, vasospasm, and hemolysis-associated pulmonary hypertension in sickle cell disease. Gladwin was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and has received an NIH Merit Award as well as the NIH Director’s Award for Mentoring. He received his MD from the University of Miami Honors Program in Medical Education.


Kimberly Gomez,
Department of Instruction and Learning, School of Education; Research Scientist, LRDC

Gomez, associate professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Education and a researcher in its Learning Sciences Research Institute, joins the School of Education’s Department of Instruction and Learning and its Learning Policy Center as an associate professor. She also will be a research scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center.

Gomez’ funded research projects include a study of the relationship between reading and science achievement and a study of technology-rich urban after-school programs, with a particular focus on the development of new media literacies. She recently published an edited volume, with Katherine Richardson Bruna, on The Work of Language in Multicultural Classrooms: Talking Science, Writing Science (Routledge/Erlbaum, 2008).

Gomez earned her PhD degree in educational psychology at the University of Chicago.


Louis Gomez,
Helen Faison Professor, School of Education; Senior Scientist, LRDC

Gomez, currently Aon Professor of Learning Sciences, professor of computer science, and Learning Science Program coordinator at Northwestern University, will join the University in January as Pitt’s first Helen Faison Professor of Urban Education. He will lead the school’s Center for Urban Education and, in addition to holding his chair in the School of Education, will be a senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center.

Gomez works with school communities to create social arrangements and curricula that support school improvement. He will play a key leadership role in the University’s partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ University Prep 6-12 school at the former Milliones School in the Hill District.

Gomez has served as a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and is a member of the Mathematical Sciences Education Board and the Advisory Board of the Center for Education at the National Research Council. Gomez received a PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of California at Berkeley.


Jeffrey Kharoufeh,
Department of Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering

Kharoufeh, formerly of the faculty of the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management and of Northeastern University, is an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering. He earned his doctorate in industrial engineering and operations research from Pennsylvania State University.

Kharoufeh is primarily interested in the application of probability and stochastic processes for the design, performance evaluation, control, and optimization of stochastic engineering and service systems. His focus areas include queueing systems, reliability modeling and analysis, maintenance optimization, and models for computer and communication networks and transportation systems.

Kharoufeh serves as an associate editor for Operations Research Letters and IEEE Transactions on Reliability and as area editor (stochastic models) for the forthcoming Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and Management Science. He is a professional member of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the INFORMS Applied Probability Society, and the Board of Directors (Operations Research Division) of the Institute of Industrial Engineers.

Suzanne Staggenborg,
Department of Sociology, Arts and Sciences

Staggenborg joins the School of Arts and Sciences as a professor of sociology, coming to Pitt from McGill University in Montreal, where she was professor and chair in its Department of Sociology. Staggenborg works on political and social movements that originate at a grassroots level and that may influence politics, public opinion, government policy, and law. Her focus is on issues of gender, leadership, and culture in social movement organizations in the United States and Canada. She earned her PhD in sociology at Northwestern University.

Staggenborg has authored an award-winning monograph published by Oxford University Press titled The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict, and she recently coedited a major methodological compendium, Methods of Social Movement Research. Staggenborg is a past chair of the Collective Behavior and Social Movements section of the American Sociological Association.

Bennett Van Houten,
Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, School of Medicine

Van Houten is a senior investigator in molecular genetics and branch chief for program analysis in the Division of Extramural Research and Training of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. He joins Pitt as a professor of pharmacology and chemical biology.

Van Houten’s research focuses on molecular aspects of nucleotide and base excision repair in E.coli, yeast, C. elegans, and mammalian cells. He has been honored five times with an NIH Merit Award and also has received the NIH Director’s Award and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholar Award in Toxicology. He earned his PhD in biomedical sciences and genetics at the University of Tennessee.

Jean-Pierre Vilardaga,
Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, School of Medicine

Vilardaga, an assistant professor of pharmacology and chemical biology, was recruited from Harvard Medical School, where he was an assistant professor of medicine. His research examines the molecular basis underlying functional properties of G-protein coupled receptors, which are key initiators of biological signaling in every cell type.

Vilardaga received the Santiago Ramon y Cajal Award in neuroscience from Spain and the Young Investigators Award from the Advances in Mineral Metabolism/American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. He received his PhD in biological chemistry from the Free University of Brussels in Belgium.

Randall Walsh,
Department of Economics, Arts and Sciences

Walsh, associate professor in the Department of Economics, comes to the School of Arts and Sciences from the University of Colorado. He is an applied microeconomist whose research has focused on problems bridging environmental, urban, and public economics.

Walsh has adapted an empirical equilibrium model that handles spatially distributed goods to explore the economic impacts of environmental improvements. His locational equilibrium models explore a range of environmental improvement issues; other projects include addressing the impact of intrahousehold negotiation on household decision-making and the use of data based on analysis of the game show The Weakest Link.
Walsh received his doctorate in economics from Duke University.