Nordenberg, Cohon to Receive Carnegie Science Award

Issue Date: 
February 10, 2014

University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and Jared L. Cohon, former president of Carnegie Mellon University, have been selected to receive the Carnegie Science Chairman’s Award for their contributions to the region’s scientific and academic excellence and growth. The award is the Carnegie Science Center’s highest commendation.

“These two individuals have had an unparalleled impact on our region’s scientific vitality,” said Ann Metzger, the Science Center’s Henry Buhl Jr. Co-Director. “As concurrent leaders of two great local universities, President Cohon and Chancellor Nordenberg forged an unprecedented relationship of mutual respect and collaboration, which has helped open the door to a new era of scientific exploration, entrepreneurial strength, and academic excellence in Pittsburgh.”

Nordenberg and Cohon began their friendship after Cohon accepted the CMU presidency in 1997. At Pitt, Nordenberg served in the role of Chancellor beginning in 1995. The two leaders encouraged and implemented collaborations between their institutions, spoke highly of one another personally and professionally, and each received an honorary doctorate from the other’s university. Nordenberg has announced that he will step down from the Chancellor’s position in August, but he will remain at Pitt. Cohon stepped down in June 2013 to return to teaching civil and environmental engineering at CMU.

In addition to Nordenberg, a number of Pitt faculty and staff members—and one organization—have been selected for six awards and two honorable mentions in this year’s Carnegie Science Awards. The science center gives the annual awards to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in western Pennsylvania. The winners, announced Jan. 30, will be formally recognized May 9 during an event at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

The names of the individual awards, the Pitt honorees, and their accomplishments are listed below.

Leadership in STEM Education Award
Michael T. Lotze, professor of surgery, immunology, and bioengineering, and assistant vice chancellor, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Lotze serves as program director for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute International Academy, a summer lab research program for high school students. Lotze and his colleague Herbert J. Zeh were recently awarded a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to study a treatment for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

Emerging Female Scientist Award
Peijun Zhang, a professor in the Department of Structural Biology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

A research team led by Peijun Zhang recently detailed the structure of HIV’s protein shell, which protects the virus’s lethal genetic material until it is released into a human cell. This work will likely lead to new drugs and treatment approaches against HIV. Her lab focuses on understanding very large chemical structures, such as viruses, by using three-dimensional cryo-electron microscopy combined with various molecular biology methods and other techniques.

Environmental Award
XuXu Liang Liang, a professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering

Her research focuses on hydrology and water resources, in particular water and energy cycles and their effects on environmental health and ecological systems. Her work includes issues associated with droughts and floods, as well as improved weather prediction accuracy, sustainable water, and technology to assess and manage water issues. 

Life Sciences Award
Angela Gronenborn, Distinguished Professor and UPMC Rosalind Franklin Chair of Structural Biology in the School of Medicine

A leading structural biologist and expert in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Gronenborn’s work aims to elucidate the structural basis of cellular processes involved in gene regulation, signaling and protein-ligand recognition. She serves as director of the Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interactions, one of five NIH-funded centers researching HIV-host protein interactions at a molecular level. In 2007, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. 

Science Communicator Award
Elaine Vitone (A&S ’06G), senior editor of Pitt Med, the Pitt School of Medicine’s magazine, and writer/producer for Pitt MedCast, a series of audio soundscapes that air on the National ScienceFoundation’s Science 360 Radio

Her stories have won awards from the International Association of Business Communicators and the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Advancement, as well as from Pitt, where she earned her MFA in nonfiction writing. 

Corporate Innovation Award
The UPMC Center for Innovation in Restorative Medicine, which partners with the University of Pittsburgh and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The center offers the most current regenerative medicine technology and treatment for head and facial injuries, scarring from burns, pain from amputation, limb injuries, and muscle loss. Its experts are evaluating a variety of potential therapies and treatments, including the use of a patient’s own fat cells to correct facial deformities or to reduce pain at amputation sites. The center’s director is J. Peter Rubin, UPMC Endowed Professor and Chair of Plastic Surgery.

Honorable Mention:
University/Post-Secondary Educator
Steven Abramowitch (A&S ’98, ENGR ‘04G), assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering, and in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, Pitt School of Medicine

Abramowitch, who directs the Tissue Mechanics Laboratory in Pitt’s Musculoskeletal Research Center, supervises teams of Pitt bioengineering undergraduates each summer in an outreach program that introduces middle- and high-school students to tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The Pitt students develop learning modules for—and then, lead—a pair of science camps in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative. His research focuses on the impact of pregnancy, menopause, and other biologic events on women’s pelvic floor.

Honorable Mention: Start-Up Entrepreneur
William J. Federspiel, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering

Federspiel is director of research in the Medical Devices Laboratory, a core lab within the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His lab developed the Hemolung Respiratory Assist System, which led to his cofounding ALung, a Pittsburgh-based company where he currently serves as chair of the scientific advisory board. He also cofounded Altercyte Inc., a company that is developing a medical device for acute inflammatory disorders.