Awards & more

Issue Date: 
January 9, 2012

Pitt researcher Michael Wood-Vasey, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, was elected spokesperson for the latest generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III). An international collaboration of 600 astronomers, the SDSS-III is mapping the Milky Way Galaxy, searching for extrasolar planets, and unearthing the mystery behind the dark matter and
dark energy that determine the structure and expansion of the Universe. The SDSS-III project’s first data release used information from two previous SDSS surveys to provide the largest color image of the sky ever made, as well as a catalog of the 500 million galaxies and stars visible in that image. Wood-Vasey is responsible for promoting the project’s scientific success and serves as the point person for the public and for other scientists.

Jonathan Lucks, a Pitt freshman who has played the saxophone since age 8, won the 2011 Pitt-BNY Mellon Jazz Scholarship, awarded annually to a Pitt music student. Lucks, an 18-year-old bioengineering major, won the $5,000 tuition prize in December. His selection was based upon a submitted tape of jazz standards that was judged by a panel of nationally recognized jazz musicians. The award marks the 25th year that Pitt and BNY Mellon have funded the scholarship.

In an effort to help advance the use of solar power, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $315,697 to a coalition of private and public organizations—including the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) program of the Center for Metropolitan Studies in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Specifically, the funds are to be used to help standardize and streamline ordinances and processes for the installation of solar power in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The grant is part of the DOE’s Rooftop Solar Challenge, which awarded a total of $12 million to 22 teams across the country to help increase the installation of solar power in homes and businesses and to reduce the administrative costs associated with solar power installation.

Steven R. Little, assistant professor of biochemical engineering at Pitt, received the 2012 Young Investigator Award from the Society for Biomaterials. This annual award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding achievements in the field of biomaterials research within 10 years of having achieved his or her terminal degree or formal training. Little will formally accept the award at the society’s 2012 Fall Symposium in New Orleans, Oct. 4-6, 2012.

Randall Brand, a visiting professor of medicine at Pitt, director of UPMC’s Gastroenterology Malignancy Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Prevention Program, and an internationally recognized authority on pancreatic cancer, was named the 2011 recipient of the national Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research’s First Annual Moore Memorial Award. The award was presented in Steubenville, Ohio, in November 2011 during the Second Annual Purple Palooza Gala, which raises money for pancreatic cancer research. The award is named in honor of Ken Moore, who was an active volunteer fundraiser for the Hirshberg Foundation. Moore had pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2010.