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15 Pitt faculty members won 2024 Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards

  • Faculty

Fifteen University of Pittsburgh faculty members earned the 2024 Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards across three categories. The awards honor outstanding individuals whose scholarly commitments and contributions in research, teaching or public service have advanced the Pitt community or their respective fields.

Each recipient receives a letter from Chancellor Joan Gabel, a $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant to support their work. Awardees will be recognized at the Faculty Honors Convocation at 3 p.m. April 5 in Carnegie Music Hall.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Awards

Senior category

Alexander Deiters, chemistry professor in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, was honored for his innovation and interdisciplinary research at the interface of chemistry and biology, which aims to discover new therapeutic approaches and improve human health, for example, by discovering inhibitors of the microRNA pathway and of enzymes involved in phase II metabolism. Deiters’ peers described him as “one of the most productive research contributors in the field” whose research program “shows both breadth and depth.”

Anne B. Newman, UPMC Chair in Geroscience and distinguished professor in the School of Public Health, was awarded for her impactful work in the epidemiology of aging and interventions to promote healthy aging through strategies like cardiovascular disease prevention. Peers said the Center for Aging and Population Health director’s research is an “exemplar of the best of scientific accomplishments, leading the development and answering of questions for the public good” and “truly a giant in clinical population research among older adults.” Newman is also clinical director for the University of Pittsburgh/UPMC Aging Institute and a professor of medicine and clinical and translational science.

Jennifer Whiting, distinguished professor of philosophy in the Dietrich School, was recognized for her depth and range of research in philosophy, which brings ancient philosophical thought into dialogue with modern debates on the nature of friendship and personal identity. Peers described Whiting as “one of the more influential and important voices in the field” and the most “sophisticated ancient philosopher of [her] generation,” adding that she is “an extraordinary figure in the world of ancient Greek philosophy,” especially regarding close readings of Plato and Aristotle.

Junior category

Peggy Liu, Ben. L Fryrear Chair in Marketing and associate professor in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, was honored for her theoretical and practical contributions to research on social and physical well-being and the intersection between the two. Considered a prominent scholar globally, Liu received recommendations from well-known authorities in the field and was described by peers as “one of the most productive junior scholars” in the discipline, with a research record that has been “staggeringly strong in quality and quantity.”

Mehret Birru Talabi is an assistant professor in the School of Medicine and associate program director of the UPMC Rheumatology Fellowship. She was awarded for her contributions to the field of reproductive rheumatology, which led to the development of a new paradigm for addressing reproductive health within subspeciality medicine and in vulnerable and high-risk populations. Her peers cited her work providing a “strong moral compass and attention to social determinants of health and reproductive justice in our field,” and predict that it will continue to transform clinical practice and theoretical approaches in rheumatology and subspecialty medicine more broadly.

Christopher Wilmer, Wellington C. Carl Faculty Fellow in the Swanson School of Engineering, was recognized for his research on porous materials, which has advanced understanding of thermal transport in these materials and played a role in the design of innovative electronic nose technology. Peers described the associate professor as “a world-leading researcher in the use of molecular simulations to study porous materials” who is “ahead of the curve, innovative and creative.”

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards

Taryn Bayles, professor and vice chair for undergraduate education in the Swanson School, was awarded for her dedication to mentoring new engineering faculty members as they strive to become exceptional instructors and securing a National Science Foundation grant to broaden participation in engineering in rural Pennsylvania counties.

Ljiljana Duraskovic, teaching professor and assistant dean of the Dietrich School, was awarded for developing an new course that examines the contemporary cultures of Eastern Europe and for her leadership as the acting academic director of Pitt’s Summer Language Institute. Colleagues and peers praised Duraskovic, who also serves as advisor for the Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian Studies minor, for her ability to create an engaging learning environment inside and outside of the classroom.

Andrew Lotz, teaching professor and academic advisor in the Dietrich School, was recognized for his role in developing the Undergraduate Teaching Assistant program in the Department of Political Science. Additionally, the assistant dean for undergraduate studies was commended for his beloved teaching style, which has been described as innovative and collaborative.

Marie Norman is founder and director of Pitt’s Innovative Design for Education and Assessment Lab and professor of medicine and clinical and translational science in the Department of Medicine’s Center for Research on Health Care. She was recognized for her role within the lab and for her contributions to the design and implementation of five online Institute for Clinical Research Education programs that target underrepresented minority researchers and mentors.

John Whitefoot, associate professor in the Swanson School, was recognized for developing the Facilitating Inclusive Research Experiences program and leadership on the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Student Advisory Board.

Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Awards

Leonora Anyango, teaching professor in the Dietrich School’s Department of English, was awarded for serving on several important efforts to address social problems, such as translating church services for East African immigrants and founding a program to pay high school fees for blind students in Kenya. Additionally, Anyango's seminars on composition have been praised for enhancing student’s experiences by enabling engagement with refugees and refugee organizations.

Thuy D. Bui, professor in the School of Medicine, was recognized for an unwavering commitment to social medicine and health justice, specifically for historically marginalized groups, which has led to distinguished, decadeslong career that has been celebrated with many awards for improving lives. Bui serves as a faculty mentor for the Refugee Health Advocacy Project. She was formerly a medical director for the Birmingham Free Clinic, where she is still active precepting students and residents. Bui also directs the School of Medicine's Social Medicine Fellows Program, volunteers as Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s lab director, and facilitates student and resident rotations at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi in Africa.

Christine R. Dahlin, biology professor at Pitt-Johnstown, was honored for endeavors to bridge the University-city divide by creating a community-based education program in public housing neighborhoods, serving as a member of Johnstown’s Unity Coalition, launching a pollinator garden at a local elementary school and writing science features for The Tribune-Democrat.

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She was awarded for making Pitt a place of refuge for at-risk scholars from Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries. She raised $2 million to support many of these scholars at Pitt and has hosted a dozen. She mobilized student volunteers to provide emergency asylum assistance to 6,000 Afghan citizens immediately following the fall of Kabul. Additionally, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Murtazashvili spearheaded fundraising initiatives, securing a $100,000 grant provide emergency support to Ukrainian scholars. The Center for Governance and Markets, where Murtazashvili serves as the founding director, was vital in this effort.


— Kara Henderson, photography by Aimee Obidzinski