Dr. Steven R. Little

Photo by Joshua Franzos

The Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh is proud to announce that Associate Professor Steven Little, PhD has been appointed Chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, effective May 1, 2012.

Dr. Little’s research focuses on the controlled release of drugs. He holds the Bicentennial Board of Visitors Endowed Faculty Fellowship and also retains appointments in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Recently, he was elected Chair of the Drug Delivery Special Interest Group in the Society for Biomaterials.

Dr. Little joined the Swanson School of Engineering in 2006 where his research focuses on the controlled release of drugs. He holds the Bicentennial Board of Visitors Endowed Faculty Fellowship and also retains appointments in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine and in the Swanson School’s Department of Bioengineering. Recently, he was elected Chair of the Drug Delivery Special Interest Group in the Society for Biomaterials.

Dr. Little holds eight US patents and provisional applications for patents including new methods to fabricate controlled release vehicles in a high throughput fashion; dissolvable synthetic-vasculature; novel complex delivery vehicles; and a description of the first degradable, artificial cell. Since joining Pitt, Dr. Little has received funding from the National Institutes for Health, the National Science Foundation, the US Army, the US Department of Defense, the American Heart Association, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, and several industrial sources that total almost $5 million.

Dr. Little received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 2005 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he held three National Graduate Fellowships and received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Excellence in Research Award for his work on engineered therapies that interface with the human immune system. He received a bachelor of engineering in Chemical Engineering from Youngstown State University in 2000.

Edward W. Powers Women in Science and Engineering Career Day Sets Record in Attendance

This year’s career day on March 3, 2012 smashed the previous attendance record. One hundred and eighty five middle school and high school girls from over 50 different schools attended.

The keynote speaker, astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, gave an exciting presentation on the history of space exploration and how students have contributed to scientific discovery in the field.

After the talk, the students attended panels where professional women who are working in science and engineering discussed their careers, their training, their lives and the highlights of their jobs. A number of the panelists were YSU graduates, emphasizing the quality education in STEM available at YSU. In the afternoon, STEM faculty and other professionals led a variety of hands-on workshops that allowed the students to experience science and engineering in action. Two new workshops were added this year. The girls built motors and learned about electricity in one and used protein chemistry to identify a suspected criminal in another.

More than 35 Youngstown State University graduate and undergraduate students volunteered their time, helping in workshops and acting as chaperones. This year’s program was enhanced through an endowment from the Edward W. Powers Foundation, which allowed for increased activity, broader workshops, and more well-known speakers.

Not only was this the largest group of participating girls we have had, but they were also very engaged. This shows that word is getting out about the career day and also that area schools are increasing their emphasis on science and technology. We are already looking forward to next year’s program and hope to continue to build on this year’s success.

Cushwa Fellows

Three STEM graduate students are taking the next step in their academic aspirations. YSU graduates Kristin Frank, Michael Kovach, and Adam Palumbo are the recipients of the 2011-2012 Cushwa Commercial Shearing Graduate Fellowship. Established in 2003 by the Cushwa family, in cooperation with the YSU Foundation, the Fellowship gives outstanding graduate students real work experience through research and internships (working 20 hours a week for 16 weeks) and lessens the financial burden by granting a $15,000 stipend. For the Fellows, a great deal of their preparation began as an undergraduate.

For chemistry student Kristin Frank, she said “as an undergraduate I spent the majority of my time studying and preparing for classes to ensure the best grades possible.” Her dedication has paid off. With YSU chemistry professor Dr. Brian Leskiw, Frank is conducting research in the physical chemistry field, and will be interning with Timothy Eastly, another YSU faculty member, through Toxicology Enterprises Inc., a Warren based drug and alcohol detection laboratory. Frank will be assisting Eastly with probationary drug testing. Frank said that the Fellowship…” has provided me with several opportunities I would have probably not otherwise had access to.” Frank’s future plans include obtaining her Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

Michael Kovach’s mechanical engineering background has given him the opportunity to work with General Motors, Lordstown. Kovach is working on one of the main robotic arms in the planting department conducting a failure analysis (weakening of frequently used parts). Kovach said that when one of these arms fails, the production slows or shuts down; this can potentially cause a considerable loss of revenue. After completing his project Kovach said that…”we are trying to develop a monitoring system that would give an early indication of trouble so it could be fixed. If successful, it may be implemented on other robotic arms and /or other GM facilities.” With the Fellowship, Kovach said that he has gained “real life experience” and plans on obtaining his Professional Engineering license.

Adam Palumbo, another mechanical engineering Fellow, has taken a different route with his research. Palumbo is working on using different technologies to cool surfaces of solar panels. Palumbo said that he was fortunate to have begun research as an undergraduate with faculty member Dr. Ganesh V. Kudav. Palmubo said this helped him transition to the graduate program, and the Fellowship has provided him with a “sense of responsibility.” Like Kovach, Palumbo also plans on obtaining his PE license in the future, after working full-time with a company.

The Cushwa Commercial Shearing Fellowship provides students with unique opportunities, and experience in their field. In addition to the three students highlighted, other Fellows include Brianne Ciccone, industrial systems engineering, Mark Macali, mechanical engineering, and Brandon McMillen, mathematics. Students with an undergraduate degree from any STEM discipline, including those who have obtained their degrees from other institutions, are encouraged. Also for the first time, students interested in the new PhD in Materials Science and Engineering are welcome to apply; the PhD stipend level has been established at $25,000 The next application deadline will be April 2012.

More information about the Fellowship is available here.