Starzl, McGowan Institute, 8 Others From Pitt Honored by Carnegie Science Center

Issue Date: 
February 1, 2010

Organ transplant trailblazer Thomas E. Starzl, Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and director emeritus of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, has been selected to receive the 2010 Carnegie Science Chairman’s Award.

In addition, the Pitt-UPMC McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and five other Pitt faculty members and one doctoral student are recipients of the 2010 Carnegie Science Awards, given annually by the Carnegie Science Center to celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and organizations that work to improve lives through their commitment and contributions to science and technology in Western Pennsylvania. Two other Pitt faculty members won honorable mentions. The honorees were announced Jan. 28; they will be recognized in a formal celebration at Carnegie Music Hall on May 7.

Starzl, who is known as “the father of transplantation,” was selected by the Carnegie Science Awards committee for his role in pioneering and advancing transplantation science. Starzl joined Pitt’s School of Medicine in 1981 as a professor of surgery and led the team of surgeons who performed Pittsburgh’s first liver transplant. Thirty liver transplants were performed that year, launching the liver transplant program—the only one in the nation at the time.

Among Starzl’s many other honors are his receipt of the 2004 National Medal of Science from then-President George W. Bush, the 2009 Gustav O. Lienhard Award from the Institute of Medicine, the David M. Hume Memorial Award from the National Kidney Foundation, the Brookdale Award in Medicine from the American Medical Association, the Rhoads Medal from the American Philosophical Society, and 24 honorary doctorates from universities worldwide.

Pitt’s other Carnegie Science Award honorees follow.

Advanced Materials Award

Di Gao, an assistant professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh.

Gao developed the first anti-icing superhydrophobic coating that is able to prevent icing of freezing rain on a solid surface.

Corporate Innovation Award

McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, an organization created by Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC Health System to tap into the vast potential of tissue engineering and other techniques to repair damaged or diseased tissues and organs.

The Science Center said in its release that “the McGowan Institute’s innovative structure has led to the development of therapies that are aligned with the regenerative medicine paradigm. McGowan faculty members have organized more than 20 clinical studies currently under way or that are anticipated to begin within a year.”

University/Post-Secondary Educator Award

Alison Slinskey Legg, (A&S ’98G), director of Outreach Programs for the Department of Biological Sciences in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences.

Slinskey Legg was selected for designing programs aimed at breaking barriers between the lab and the classroom by making cutting-edge science accessible to K-12 students.  Since its inception, the program has benefited nearly 35,000 students in Western Pennsylvania. In 2008, the program’s reach was expanded by the University’s purchase of the Pitt Mobile Science Lab, a self-contained, fully equipped, traveling laboratory.

Honorable Mention—University/ Post-Secondary Educator Award

Thad Zaleskiewicz, an emeritus physics professor at Pitt-Greensburg. He is codeveloper of an integrated natural science course that serves more than 300 students annually, and he coordinates the Summer Science Math Experience for junior high school students.

University/Post-Secondary Student Award

Bryan Brown, a Pitt bioengineering doctoral student. Brown has been recognized for his research, including fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, and awards from tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and biomaterials societies. He is a graduate student in the lab of Steven Badylak, deputy director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a professor of surgery in Pitt’s School of Medicine.

Emerging Female Scientist Award

Charleen T. Chu, a professor of pathology in Pitt’s School of Medicine and the 2010 winner of the American Society for Investigative Pathology Outstanding Investigator Award.

Chu was chosen because of the seminal discoveries she has made that have placed her at the forefront of Parkinson’s disease research.

Honorable Mention—Emerging Female Scientist Award

Kacey Marra, an assistant professor of surgery in Pitt’s School of Medicine.

As codirector of Pitt’s Adipose Stem Cell Center and a pioneer in her field, Marra focuses on regenerative medicine, particularly using fat-derived stem cells for tissue regeneration and the development of novel biomaterials.

Environmental Award

Devra Davis, founding director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and now a professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Davis was selected for creating both the Environmental Health Trust, an independent think tank devoted to studying and reducing environmental health hazards, and the world’s first Center for Environmental Oncology.

Life Sciences Award

Andrew Schwartz, a professor of neurobiology in Pitt’s School of Medicine, whose research has contributed to the development of brain-controlled prosthetic arms and hands.

Schwartz is a pioneer in the field of neural engineering and  established Pitt’s Neural Engineering Program in 2004.