An illustration of hands around a crystal ball. Calendars showing February 29 float in the background
Features & Articles

Pitt experts predict the changes that will shape their field before the next leap day

  • Health and Wellness
  • Technology & Science

Feb. 29 offers a few opportunities: to bask in an extra day; to celebrate leaps, both literal and metaphorical; and to consider how much can change in just four years. In that spirit, Pittwire asked a few Pitt faculty members — leading experts in their respective fields — to tell us how they think their discipline will look different by 2028. Enjoy these dispatches from the future of public health, immunology and neuroscience.  

Maureen Lichtveld 

Dean of the School of Public Health and Jonas Salk Professor of Population Health 

“On a good day in public health nothing happens globally: The impact of climate change on health is minimal, childhood mortality is a rare event because infectious diseases are controlled and air pollution no longer prohibits asthmatic children from playing outside. 

“When the next leap year comes around, disadvantaged communities in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas may not have good public health days yearlong — but Pitt Public Health’s global health enterprise will contribute demonstrably to their resilience by advancing the science of intransigent diseases, including COVID-19, HIV and dengue, by promoting longevity, countering climate change and building a sustainable public health workforce.” 

Greg Delgoffe 

Associate Professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Immunology  

“In immunology research, it’s all about the tissues. Previously, we’ve spent most of our time studying the immune system either in vitro — in a dish — or in the blood of patients, subjects or animals. However, your immune cells can enter, reside and function in almost every tissue of your body. How the tissues talk to the immune system will be of paramount importance to study in the coming years. 

“Highly multiplexed imaging methods, spatial transcriptomics and next-generation sequencing approaches will allow us to interrogate the fate and function of immune cells in a wide variety of tissues, where previously studying the immune system would have been technically untenable. 

“Following from major successes in cancer, I believe the use of engineered immune cells to treat autoimmune, inflammatory and neurological diseases will be on the next wave of new therapies for disease.” 

Stephen Meriney 

Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences 

“Advancements in neuroscience are generally driven by technology development and the creative use of new tools. In the coming year, I expect artificial intelligence will be harnessed for significant contributions to neuroscience and other scientific fields. I expect AI will contribute to computer simulations of the brain and nervous system and to the management and mining of large data sets that otherwise might be difficult to manage.” 


— Patrick Monahan