Chancellor’s 2009 Distinguished Research, Public Service Awards Announced

Issue Date: 
February 9, 2009

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg has announced the winners of the 2009 Chancellor’s Distinguished Research and Distinguished Public Service Awards.

The Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award will be given to the following five Pitt faculty members:

Jennifer R. Grandis, the UPMC Endowed Chair in Head and Neck Cancer Surgical Research, vice chair for research in Pitt’s Department of Otolaryngology, and a professor of otolaryngology and pharmacology in Pitt’s School of Medicine;

Angela M. Gronenborn, the UPMC Rosalind Franklin Professor and Chair in the School of Medicine’s Department of Structural Biology;

Thomas L. Saaty, a professor of business administration and University Professor in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business;

Judith Klein-Seetharaman, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Structural Biology; and

Kazunori Koide, a professor in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry.

Grandis, Gronenborn, and Saaty were honored in the senior scholar category, which recognizes “an outstanding and continuing record of research and scholarly activity.” Klein-Seetharaman and Koide were honored in the junior scholar category.

The three winners of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award, which honors faculty for outstanding contributions to the community, are:

John M. Burkoff, a professor in the School of Law;

Toi Derricotte, a professor of English in the School of Arts and Sciences; and

Paul Douglas Newman, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Each awardee will receive a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant for the support of his or her teaching or research. The awardees will be recognized during Pitt’s 33rd annual Honors Convocation on Friday, Feb. 27, and their names also will be inscribed on plaques to be displayed in the William Pitt Union.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Awards

Grandis has received wide scientific acclaim and support for her work, as evidenced by a 2008 report in the journal Nature in which she was one of only 22 researchers in the nation who had eight or more grants from the National Institutes of Health in 2007. Her contributions to cancer research have been recognized by the recent awarding of the prestigious American Cancer Society Clincical Professorship for 2008-2013; she was the first person at the University of Pittsburgh to be accorded this honor and has been the only woman surgeon to win this award.

“Your research has contributed greatly to the development of new targeted therapies for patients with head and neck cancer,” Nordenberg wrote in a Feb. 2 letter notifying Grandis of the Distinguished Research Award. “You were among the first to report the biological basis of enhanced growth of these tumors, and new effective drugs have been developed based upon the inhibition of this cancer growth mechanism.”

“Through your academic leadership and accomplishments in cancer research, you have brought remarkable recognition to the University of Pittsburgh,” Nordenberg added.

Gronenborn is a structural biologist whose research is aimed at uncovering the structural basis of cellular interactions. Most of the research in her lab uses Nuclear Magnetic Resonance as a tool, and there are three primary areas of ongoing research, including a large program dedicated to HIV structural studies.

Gronenborn has published more than 350 peer-reviewed articles, organized numerous international conferences, and been recognized as a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in London and a Fellow of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance. In 2007, she was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

In his letter informing Gronenborn of her Distinguished Research Award, Nordenberg said, “You have achieved national and international eminence as an outstanding scholar in your field. … The investigative methods that you developed to further your research are now used in academic and industrial laboratories throughout the world—and have been used by other scientists to conduct ground-breaking research.”

Satty is best known for developing the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP), a structured technique for assisting individuals in complex decision-making, a technique that he later generalized in the form of the Analytic Network Process (ANP).

AHP has been used in both individual and group decision-making by business, industry, and governments and is particularly applicable to complex, large-scale, multiparty, multicriteria decision problems. ANP has been applied to a variety of decisions involving benefits, costs, opportunities, and risks and is particularly useful in predicting outcomes.

Satty has been recognized as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been elected a member of the International Academy of Management and the National Academy of Engineering. He has been awarded the Gold Medal from The International Society of Multicriteria Decision Making as well as an Impact Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for the development of AHP.

“You are considered by your peers to be one of the most distinguished contributors to operations research and the general field of decision-making,” Nordenberg wrote in his letter informing Satty of his Distinguished Research Award.

As a world leader in rhodopsin research, Klein-Seetharaman has played an integral role in the development of the field, along with contributing significantly to the challenging problem of protein folding. Rhodopsin is a pigment of the retina that is responsible for both the formation of photoreceptor cells and the first events in the perception of light.

Klein-Seetharaman has served as a speaker or session chair at numerous retinal conferences and has received speaking invitations from around the world, including Germany, Japan, and Spain. She has been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Career Award, the Sofya Kovalevskaya Prize from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the Margaret Oakley Dayhoff Award from the Biophysical Society, given to “a woman who holds very high promise of achieving prominence while developing the early stages of a career.”

Klein-Seetharaman also received a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Award for her proposal titled “Identification of New Drug Targets by Linking HIV Function to Protein Interaction Pathways.”

Nordenberg wrote, “You have an unusual gift for doing both theory and experimental work in your research. … It is remarkable that you have managed to integrate work in disparate areas of research at multiple institutions with creativity, enthusiasm, scientific depth, and broadness. Your productivity has been stellar.”

Koide has put together an acclaimed program in two different areas of chemical research. He has contributed in important ways to research aimed at the total synthesis of anticancer natural products and in the area of chemical sensors.

“This work has garnered recognition and considerable attention in both the scientific literature and the lay press. Your research also provides prime opportunities for commercialization, and the University has signed license agreements for your technologies in both areas of research,” Nordenberg wrote.

Koide is a recipient of the Pitt Innovator Award, Thieme Chemistry Journals Award, and the Merck Fellowship of the Cancer Research Fund of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, as well as the Naito Foundation Fellowship. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the University of Pittsburgh, and other organizations.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Awards

Burkoff was recognized for his public service contributions in the areas of professional and judicial ethics, continuing judicial education, and oversight of the local law enforcement system.

In choosing Burkoff, the selection committee said he has played a leading role in providing continuing education to Pennsylvania’s judges in his areas of expertise. The committee noted that he has regularly served as a faculty member at the annual Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges Judicial Education Conference since 1984, and it specifically cited his 2006 appointment by the chief justice of Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Commission on Judicial Independence.

Nordenberg wrote, “The committee also was impressed by your contributions as a member of the specially appointed panel that was convened to investigate what it ultimately concluded was the wrongful awarding of an MBA degree at West Virginia University to a highly placed executive MBA student. Closer to home, the committee noted your service as the founding chair of the City of Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board and as a member of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Use of Force Working Group.”

In a letter supporting Burkoff’s nomination, Pitt Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Cappy, former chief justice of Pennsylvania, wrote, “I am not sure I can express in this letter how important a role the professor has played over the last 25 years in our efforts to maintain a high level of commitment and competence in our state judiciary.”

Derricotte was recognized for her service as cofounder and director of Cave Canem, an organization that has fostered the development and nurturing of African American poets through a series of programs that includes a weeklong writing retreat on the Pitt-Greensburg campus. During Derricotte’s tenure as its director, Cave Canem has secured significant, multiyear capacity-building grants, including $310,000 from the Ford Foundation, $150,000 from the Lannan Foundation, and $50,000 from Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Derricotte is the author of more than a thousand poems in published anthologies and journals as well as six books, including Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997) and The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey (W.W. Norton & Company, 1999).

Nordenberg wrote, “I have long admired your work, and it gives me great pleasure to formally acknowledge your exemplary service to the greater good. The many beneficiaries of your efforts appreciate the hard work and dedication that have characterized your service to the community.”

In a letter supporting Derricotte’s nomination, David Bartholomae, chair of Pitt’s English department, wrote, “Toi’s work with Cave Canem has always been a labor of love. She receives no compensation for the time, energy, and vision she provides—and this includes her regular and constant presence at the summer workshops.”

Newman was recognized for his work in advancing knowledge of the local community’s history by working with high school teachers to involve their students in community heritage projects that immerse them in active scholarly research.

In addition to pursuing his own teaching, research, and writing on the Pitt-Johnstown campus, Newman volunteered to assist students at Northern Cambria High School with the production of the book As the Dust Settles, Revealing Those Seldom Seen (Gazette Printing, 2007), which looks at the bituminous coal mining heritage of Western Pennsylvania. He also assisted the high school students in producing Vietnam War Vets and the Approach of the Golden Anniversary, a video documentary involving in-depth interviews with local Vietnam War veterans who reflected on their wartime experiences as well as their experiences upon returning home.

In a letter supporting Newman’s nomination, Charles Cashdollar, president of the Pennsylvania Historical Association, wrote, “Paul’s editorial contribution is an important public service for scholars, public school teachers, and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Nordenberg wrote Newman that “the selection committee was particularly impressed by your work on community heritage projects with teachers and students from the Northern Cambria High School. The projects, which you coordinated and managed, provided the students with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in active scholarly research. In doing so, the students were exposed to grant writing, interview techniques, field research, publication, and video production.”