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Pitt ensures healthier organ transplants with new preservation system

A successful organ transplant requires a delicate balance of time and preservation. But as UPMC transplant surgeon Dr. Paulo Fontes points out, 21 percent of donor livers are rendered unusable due to oxygen deprivation during storage and damage sustained during transport.

“The current utilization of livers in our country is much lower than expected, and we still face a significant mortality on the waiting list due to our inability to properly serve our patients with organs being effectively preserved,” says Fontes.

Fontes is the senior investigator on a series of animal studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where researchers are setting out to prove the effectiveness of a new machine-perfusion (MP) organ preservation system. The system was developed by optimizing an existing MP device with a chilled, oxygen-rich fluid. The liver is immersed in the fluid, which further oxygenates the tissue by being pumped through the organ via tubes inserted into the large blood vessels.

Tests conducted on pigs suggest that the MP system can keep donor livers in better condition than current methods. The research team transplanted six pigs with livers that had been kept for nine hours -- roughly the average time between recovering the organ and transplantation -- in the MP system, and another six pigs with organs that were treated with conventional cold static preservation (CSP). Overall, 100 percent of the pigs who received MP livers survived, compared to 33 percent with the CSP-treated organs. Researchers also noticed that the MP pigs recovered more quickly from surgery, and looked healthier than their CSP counterparts.

“Cold preservation is the current standard of care for clinical transplantation, but unfortunately has no impact in avoiding or minimizing the irreversible decay of organ quality inflicted over time when tissues are kept under hypothermic and anoxic conditions,” says Fontes. “Recovery time for livers submitted to CSP appears to be longer than the ones preserved with machine perfusion due to the significant impact of the injuries induced by CSP.”

The findings, which were published online in the American Journal of Transplantation, suggest that the MP system could potentially increase the number of healthy donor livers and save more lives. Data from the studies has been shared with federal regulators in hopes of launching a clinical trial with transplant patients at UPMC later this year.

Who's hiring in PGH? YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Warhol Museum and more

More snow means more time indoors, which means more time to devote to your latest job search. Each week, Pop City scours the web to bring you exciting career opportunities in Pittsburgh. Employers, if you have a job opening or internship you would like to promote, please email innovationnews@popcitymedia.com with "Hiring" in the subject line. Hit us up on Twitter @popcitypgh if our job listings put you on the path to success.
 
The Carnegie Museum of Art is hiring a curator of photography to serve as head of the photography department. Qualified candidate will be responsible for the presentation, loan, and development of the museum’s collection of photographs, comprising more than 4,500 works acquired since the 1970s. Requirements include an M.A. or Ph.D. in the history of photography, art history or other relevant field.

The RAND Corporation is looking for an interactive multimedia designer (Job ID: 3952). Responsibilities include recording, editing, and encoding audio and video products. Other duties include interactive web work, such as front-end development of web applications, media players, and data visualization tools.
 
The Warhol Museum is hiring a full-time director of exhibitions to oversee the management and direction of all exhibition galleries.
 
The Phipps Conservatory has multiple positions available, including openings for a volunteer coordinator and a science education research manager. They’re also seeking interns for their community-focused Homegrown program, as well as their summer Horticulture and Discovery education programs.
 
The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh is seeking a director of information technology. Interested candidates must have a B.S. or B.A. and a minimum of 15 years of related information technology experience. Please send resumes to itjobs@ymcapgh.org.
 
The Hilltop Alliance, a nonprofit community development organization committed to preserving and creating community assets in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop neighborhoods, is hiring a full-time project manager. The application deadline is Feb. 20, 2015.
 
Check out last week's listings for more opportunities.

Who's hiring in PGH? Venture Outdoors, Allegheny CleanWays and more

Each week, Pop City scours the web to bring you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Employers, if you have a career opportunity you would like to promote, please email innovationnews@popcitymedia.com with "Hiring" in the subject line. Hit us up on Twitter @popcitypgh if our job listings put you on the path to success.

The Allegheny County Parks Department is hiring a senior park ranger. Duties include training newly hired park rangers and providing customer service to county parks visitors. Requires current first aid and CPR certification and a valid Class C driver's license.

Community Care Behavioral Health is hiring a full-time web operations analyst to maintain and update the organization's website and secure web portal.

The Neighborhood Learning Alliance is hiring part-time high school tutors to provide instruction on a variety of subjects.

4moms, a company that develops innovative juvenile products, is hiring a full-time international marketing manager and a full-time eCommerce manager

Daedalus, an established Pittsburgh consulting firm, is looking for a software engineer to join the team. Must have experience in embedded software development for micro-controllers in C and C++, knowledge of app development for both iOS and Android, and familiarity with PC, Linux, and web development. The firm is also looking for a business development manager and sales representative.

The Innovation Works/CMU/Alpha Lab Gear robotics startup BistroBot needs a full-time entry-level mechanical engineer and a full-time senior mechanical engineer. Both positions require degrees in mechanical engineering or a related field, and experience in designing, building and testing robots or mechatronic systems. BistroBot also has an available software engineering internship. Please send all application materials to jobs@bistrobot.com.

Venture Outdoors, a nonprofit that promotes outdoor recreation, is hiring for multiple positions, including a youth program coordinator and a program administrator.

Allegheny CleanWays, a nonprofit organization committed to to eliminating illegal dumping and littering in Allegheny County, is hiring a full-time programs director. Applications materials must be received by Feb. 11, 2015.

Check out last week's listings for more opportunities.

Carnegie Mellon University makes robots easier to use with customizable system

With a name like Snake Monster, the latest success story from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute sounds more like an urban legend than a technological advancement. But the six-legged invention from CMU Professor Howie Choset marks a big step -- or, at least, a big spider-like crawl -- toward changing the way people build robots.

Completed in just six months, the Snake Monster, which was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), represents the kind of robot that can be created using a reconfigurable modular system. As opposed to traditional industrial robots, modular architecture allows users to easily customize the system to suit their needs, an ability Choset believes will make robots more accessible.

“We want to make it so that you don’t need a specialized industrial engineer with years of experience to go install and program this robot,” said Choset. “We want to have people who are just really good programmers installing robots.”

Previously, Choset and his lab spent years developing snake-like robots -- or snakebots -- that moved according to a careful coordination of repeated component joints. Due to their specific design, the robots were able to mimic natural movement, primarily the smooth undulation of snakes. They were agile enough to shimmy through pipes, which made them ideal for a number of applications, including urban search and rescue, archaeological exploration, and the inspection of power plants, refineries and sewers.

By taking that research and combining it with innovative new software and technology -- including a series elastic actuator, which uses sensors that help the robot feel and react to its environment -- they were able to envision the Snake Monster as a small, powerful robot that can navigate its surroundings. The system runs on Ethernet technology, making it easier to use by allowing designers to focus on modifying the robot without having to worry about using the right computer. Currently, Choset and his lab are building on the project's potential by working on modules such as force-sensing feet, wheels and tank-like treads, which could be used in the assembly of totally different robots.

Want to see more of this amazing robot? The Snake Monster will make its official debut this June at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in Pomona, Calif.
 

Phipps simplifies grocery shopping with Green Light Foods app

Obesity has become one of the country's most dire health concerns, especially among children. To help curb the epidemic throughout the region, Let’s Move Pittsburgh has launched a new mobile application to help consumers make healthier choices at the grocery store.

Developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University students, Red House Communications and Wahila Creative, the Green Light Foods app works to quickly identify packaged food and beverages with the best nutritional profiles. Users can determine fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar levels in products by scanning barcodes and pulling information from a database. An easy-to-understand traffic light color system then indicates whether the amounts fall into the low (green light), moderate (yellow light) or high (red light) range.

Let’s Move Pittsburgh is a program of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens modeled after First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to curb childhood obesity.

Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini believes that, unlike many wellness aids, Green Light Foods will streamline the buying process for busy parents and other consumers unable to spend time scrutinizing nutrition facts.

"There are a lot of green apps out there, and some of them might be cumbersome to use, or they might try to give you so much information that it's overwhelming," said Piacentini. "The goal for this app was to make it very quick and simple for people to make healthy choices while they're in the store."

A major advantage of the app is its ability to make sense of confusing food labels. As Piacentini explains, if one box of cereal contains five grams of sugar per one cup serving size, and another box contains four grams of sugar per half cup serving size, shoppers may make the incorrect assumption that the latter has less sugar. The app helps prevent this common mistake by automatically converting and comparing the equal weights of different products.

The app fits into Phipps' continued commitment to both environmental and human well-being. Through Let’s Move Pittsburgh, Phipps created Homegrown, a program that installs vegetable gardens at households throughout the underserved Homewood neighborhood. Phipps also promotes healthy living by refusing to sell soda and junk food at the Conservatory's eatery, Cafe Phipps.

Smartphone users can download the Green Lights Food app for free through iTunes and Google Play.

Who's hiring in PGH? IKM, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and more

Each week, Pop City scours the web to bring you select career opportunities in Pittsburgh. Employers, if you have a job opening or internship you would like to promote, please email innovationnews@popcitymedia.com with "Hiring" in the subject line. Hit us up on Twitter @popcitypgh if our job listings put you on the path to success.

IKM, an established architecture, planning and interior design firm, is looking to fill two to three architect positions to work on mid-sized to large projects. Main qualifications include a professional degree in architecture, completion of all IDP and ARE requirements, and registration in Pennsylvania. The firm is also looking for a full-time architectural intern. 

Medical Science Associates (MSA), a diversified information management company, is hiring a senior level user experience designer for the research, development and production of an innovative medical application. Requires a relevant four-year degree or equivalent experience, and a minimum of four years' related experience with user interface design, application analysis or related position. 

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has an immediate opening for a part-time community outreach coordinator. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a related field or equivalent experience and a minimum of two years of outreach, issue or fundraising campaign management, or similar professional organizing experience. 

The Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID), a public organization that works to strengthen and enhance the Central Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, is seeking a full-time marketing and communications coordinator. Requires a bachelor’s degree in communications, marketing, or a related field with two to four years of relevant experience. Candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, two writing samples, and three references by Feb. 4, 2015, to Executive Director Georgia Petropoulos at georgia@oaklandbid.org. 

Boyd Community Center, a nonprofit cultural, educational, and recreational space in O'Hara Township, needs a full-time marketing and development director for their Lauri Ann West Community Center, a new facility scheduled to open this year. The position requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of five years' leading marketing and development efforts for a nonprofit, membership-driven organization. Interested candidates should send resumes and cover letters to topmccomb@boydcommunitycenter.org. 

Direct Energy, a major energy and energy-related services provider, is seeking a full-time senior content strategist to manage content for the company website, blog, and social media channels. Qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communication, or related field and four years of experience in a digital content role. 

Carnegie Museum of Natural History is hiring a full-time director of marketing. Candidate must have a bachelor’s degree and at least seven years of increasingly responsible marketing experience, including supervising staff and budgets. 

Check out last week's listings for more opportunities.  

UPMC and Pitt make strides in robot arm study

In 1996, Jan Scheuermann was a healthy 36-year-old woman running a small business and raising two children in California. Everything changed, however, when she suddenly came down with a mysterious illness. Soon her arms and legs weakened to the point where she became confined to a wheelchair, and could no longer feed, dress or bathe herself. When she relocated to Pittsburgh in 1998, she was diagnosed with spinocerebellar degeneration, a condition that progressively deteriorates connections between the brain and muscles.

But over the past few years, Scheuermann, who now resides in Whitehall Borough, worked with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC to help develop a technology that could make a huge difference to those living with quadriplegia. In 2012, she was outfitted with a human-like robot arm that could interpret signals sent from electrodes implanted in her brain. Before long, Scheuermann was giving out high fives and feeding herself chocolate thanks to the mind-controlled appendage she nicknamed Hector.

Since then, Scheuermann has achieved a wider range of motion. At first, the arm demonstrated 3-degree control, meaning she could reach it in and out, move it left and right, and up and down. Within three months, she graduated to what scientists call 7-degree control, which includes flexing the wrist back and forth, moving it from side to side, and rotating it clockwise and counter-clockwise, as well as gripping objects. Recently, the Pitt School of Medicine published its latest findings detailing how Scheuermann used Hector to reach, grasp, and place a variety of objects, making it the first-ever instance of 10-degree brain control of a prosthetic device.

Senior investigator Jennifer Collinger credits the study’s success partly to Scheuermann’s dedication.

“We asked her to come in a couple times a week initially for a year,” said Collinger. “And she ended up coming into the lab for more than two and half years, and was extremely motivated and committed.”

The groundbreaking development means that, with the device, paralyzed individuals will not only regain an arm, but one that mimics natural movement involving more coordinated use of the individual fingers and thumb. Though Scheuermann ended her participation in the study last October, tests to improve the brain-computer interface technology will continue with other subjects, preferably outside of a lab setting.

“We’d like to be able to demonstrate this level of control with multiple individuals and have it work in a home environment,” said Collinger. “That requires not only making sure the system is more robust so that it works outside of the laboratory, but that the equipment itself is wireless and more portable.”
 

CMU soft robot inspires Disney's Big Hero 6

A new Disney movie featuring an inflatable robot hero credits Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute with inspiring the Michelin Man-style character, according to the university.

The robot, named Baymax and starring in the animated film Big Hero 6 out in theaters now, was inspired by an inflatable robotic arm developed in Robotics Professor Chris Atkeson’s lab by Siddharth Sanan during his Ph.D. thesis research.

Atkeson said the film's director, Don Hall, visited the lab and was inspired by what he saw. "When Disney animation makes a movie, like academics they do research first. They were looking for a robot that was different from all the robots that you see in the movies-- like the Terminator or the Transformer -- and at the time we were building inflatable arms. We were interested in arms with no bones what so ever, so essentially ballon-like arms," Atkeson said in a video made by Carnegie Mellon University. 

When Hall saw the balloon arm, he knew the character of Baymax would be a soft robot. "It really became apparent when we saw the soft robotics that that would be our ticket to putting a robot on the screen we had never seen before," Hall told the university.

The film is described as an action-packed, comedy-adventure in which Baymax, a gentle robot designed to care for humans, is transformed into a warrior and joins a band of high-tech heroes. 


"Most people have no idea what a soft robot is and I think in a few weeks everyone will and that's going to be a huge change for our field," Atkeson said. The film is currently showing at various area theaters.

Let Spliddit figure out your tab

Hoping to make battles over bills a thing of the past, Carnegie Mellon computer scientists have developed Spliddit, a new website that promises "provably fair" methods of dividing checks, bills and goods.

Spliddit takes into account a range of factors depending on what's being split. The site even has a section dedicated to sharing credit on intellectual property, to ensure everyone feels good about contributions and attributions in group projects.

When it comes to sharing rent, the website is able to suggest who should occupy which room based upon data provided by potential occupants. Roommates can rate each room based upon individual preferences including size of the room, closet space, number of windows, and then estimate how much each room is worth to them. The algorithm then recommends who should occupy which room and how much each person should pay.

It may sound like magic, but according to Ariel Procaccia, an assistant professor of computer science who leads the Spliddit project, people in the fields of math, economics and computer science have been using complicated algorithms to divide goods fairly for years. Now, average people without high-level math skills can have access to these tools. 

"When we say that we guarantee a fairness property, we are stating a mathematical fact," reads the site's lofty About section. "Formulating fairness in mathematical terms is the beauty of the scientific field of fair division," according to the website.

Any child with a sibling can attest to the beauty of fairness.

Spliddit is a non-profit currently in its beta phase and hopes to deliver results so fair that fighting among children might even be eliminated. But, according to the site, while envy-free splitting is the desired goal, it cannot ever be 100 percent guaranteed.

Pitt study provides a roadmap for great ideas

Innovators and creative types are often told to think outside the box. But going far afield may not exactly help with problem solving, according to a new study from University of Pittsburgh researcher Joel Chan and his mentor Christian Schunn. 

Chan and Schunn, who have backgrounds in psychology and human computer interaction, decided to explore human creativity after friends in the engineering field complained about searching the United States Patent Database.

The database contains information on American inventions dating back to the year 1790, but the information is indexed based upon user tags, Chan explained. The tags don't take into account the full text of the patents and create a type of organized chaos.

If solutions to problems could be gleaned at random, Chan hypothesized that idea organization would be somewhat irrelevant and problems would be easily solved regardless of the order in which information was presented. However, in their study, Chan and Schunn found that accessing related ideas was more likely to lead to problem solving than accessing ideas at random. "If you have lots of bits of information it could be more difficult to find useful connections between ideas," Chan said.

"Now we know these things about how people do creative things, how can we develop technology that empowers people how to be more creative?" Chan asked.

Schunn said their findings also suggest a need to go beyond keyword searches, which may confuse the bank of a river with a bank that holds money. "Google depends on word overlap but they aren’t doing this sophisticated topic modeling -- like what’s the topic really about," Schunn said.

Schunn and Chan came upon their findings after asking 350 people to solve a number of real-world problems with non-indexed information online and explain their process. Their answers were judged by experts and the researchers found that people who were able to find information related to the topic in question were able to provide answers that were rated more highly by experts. Their research was published this month in Design Studies.

Carnegie Mellon professor explores facial preference

An old adage warns against judging a book by its cover, but Carnegie Mellon University Marketing Professor Chris Olivola has found that important decisions are often swayed by facial preference, or "face-ism" as he calls it. And the implications aren't good -- unless your face is a real winner.

Various studies have found universal preferences for certain types of faces, leading to bias when it comes to being elected, getting promoted, being trusted and assuming leadership positions. In court cases, judges often instruct jurors to pay attention to the demeanor of each witness, plaintiff and defendant, and Olivola suggests justice is not blind. Face-based bias exists in the legal realm as well. 

"When it comes to making legal judgments, decisions should be based on facts, not on people’s appearances," Olivola said. 

In their research, Olivola and Alexander Todorov found people were more likely to rely on their interpretation of someone's face to determine character traits or even sexual orientation than they were likely to rely on logic. "People are better than chance at guessing things about other people, but seeing faces makes them worse off than they would have been." Olivola explains that even in situations where there is a known factor-- for example: people who are LGBT represent a minority group-- viewers would keep guessing that the people they were looking at were not heterosexual. 

"When people are given appearances they place too much weight on that and neglect other information that may serve them better," Olivola said.

So how can you use your looks to best serve you? According to Olivola, if you are a man, having a more mature and more masculine look can help win elections, "above and beyond how competent a person is and their voting practice," he said. For women, things are not so simple: Looking more masculine can be good, but if you look too masculine it can backfire, he said.

Olivola's aim isn't to game the system, but to make people aware of subconscious preferences and encourage people to judge individuals based upon merit. In a world in which we make more facial first impressions than we are aware of -- think online dating sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tinder profiles -- Olivola warns against dismissing people based upon facial appearances alone. After all, there's another old adage to remember: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Small Farm Central, Tech Shop and more

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. If you have a job opportunity to list, email innovationnews@popcitymedia.com, with "hiring" in the subject line. Let us know on Twitter @popcitypgh if we've helped you snag the job of your dreams.

If you've ever thought about working in support of small farmers, now you can. Small Farm Central is looking for an off-hours farmer success specialist to work as part of a small team that handles the technology needs of small farmers. The organization provides websites, e-commerce, and CSA member management tools to about 800 farms across the United States and Canada. It also helps farmers sell more at farmers markets by creating stronger relationships between market customers and their farmers. The job entails supporting farmer customers by phone, chat, and over email. Candidates must be available during evening hours and on Saturdays for at least four hours. Time can be flexible to some extent, but they need someone available between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m., 4 days per week and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Applicants should be well-versed in technology as they will need to master the software the company uses in order to support customers. Email cover letter, resume in PDF format, and one example of how you helped someone else succeed to work@smallfarmcentral.com with the email subject line “Farms Rock!”

If hands-on work is your thing, Verve 360, a salon and wellness center in downtown Pittsburgh, is looking for a full-time licensed massage therapist with at least three years of experience. Interested applicants should be high quality and highly motivated. Email cover letter and resume to info@theverve360.com for consideration.

If you want to help women in need, the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time advocate to answer hotline calls and work in its emergency domestic violence shelter on a variable schedule. A bachelor’s degree in social services or related field is required and fluency in another language is preferred. The applicant must have Act 33 and 34 clearances. Salary will be in the mid-$20,000 range with benefits. Email cover letter and resume by 10/24/14 to lainga@wcspittsburgh.org

Tech Shop, a full-service workshop complete with a wood shop and 3-D printers, is looking for full- and part-time dream consultants to help patrons use the shop to weld and saw and build all sorts of things. The job is perfect for artists, builders or skilled hobbyists who want to work in a creative environment. Salary will range from $10 to $14 per hour.

And if you can't get enough of 3-D printing, Maker-Bot, a company that puts 3-D printers in retail stores, is looking for someone to help customers operate the printer. "If you are an outgoing techie who wants to be a part of an expanding, exciting company, this is your chance to be a part of the Next Industrial Revolution with MakerBot," the company writes. Applicants should have between one and two years experience in retail and a strong interest in technology.

And, the University of Pittsburgh is looking for an assistant professor of cultural anthropology to fill a tenure-track position. The applicant's research should address the intersection of two or more of the following: medical anthropology; science and technology studies; environment and sustainability; and ethics, beliefs and religion. The university prefers candidates who study Latin America and Asia, particularly East Asia. Duties will include teaching university-level classes and will begin in September 2015. To apply, submit CV and information for three references by Nov. 6 in the link provided above. The university will assist with relocation costs. 

 

Who's hiring in PGH? The Scoring Factory, Early Music America and more

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. If you have a job opportunity to list, email innovationnews@popcitymedia.com, with "hiring" in the subject line. Let us know @popcitypgh on Twitter if we've helped you snag the job of your dreams.

The Scoring Factory, a Pittsburgh-based start-up, is looking for an iO6 app developer to build a basketball training platform that connects coaches and athletes. The app would serve various functions including tracking workouts and providing feedback. They're looking for someone who wants to work at the intersection of sports and technology. Submit resume with examples of past work to jmarschn@tepper.cmu.edu.

Phipps Conservatory still has a number of job openings, including: communications coordinator and director of communications and a Studio Phipps manager to lead a fee/mission-based sustainable design and consulting team to extend Phipps’ mission beyond the Schenley Park campus. They are also looking for a gift shop coordinator, building maintenance technician, an executive secretary, an IT manager, an event sales supervisor and an event sales administrator. These positions are all full-time. The conservatory is also looking to hire part-time guest service associates and a part-time event assistant.

Early Music America, an organization focused on expanding awareness of and interest in the music of the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods, is looking for a marketing and public relations director. This person would be responsible for managing ad sales for the organization's magazine, among other responsibilities. 

The Pittsburgh CLO, a not-for-profit cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, creation and promotion of American musical theater, is looking for a theater professional to manage the production elements of its performances, primarily at three theaters and to assist with the management of its building, storage and rental of sets, props and costumes. The Production Manager and Assistant Construction Center Manager will work to ensure that the organization’s theatrical production standards are successfully integrated and maintained. Applicants should have between three and five years' experience. 

GPSA, a family-owned screen printing shop in Millvale, is looking for a screen printing artist to work in the shop. The artist would work in the family business using machines to create artwork. The artist should be proficient in Adobe Illustrator and know how to use machines associated with screen printing. Health insurance including dental and vision will be eventually provided.

If applying for jobs online isn't your thing, there will be a fall career fair on Wednesday, Oct. 22 from 9 a.m. until noon at the North Hills Community Outreach offices in Millvale, located at 416 Lincoln Ave.The fair will give job seekers the chance to meet with employers from UPMC, University of Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino, Allegheny Health Network, the Caregiver Connections program of JF&CS and more.

Race to the race exhibit at Carnegie Museum of Natural History before it's gone!

?What is race? This is the question that a traveling exhibit now on view at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History through October 27 seeks to explore. Speaking at the Carnegie Music Hall in conjunction with the exhibition, journalist Michele Norris of NPR fame interrogated the phrase "post-racial society."

"What does post-racial mean to you?" she asked the audience.

"Utopia," shouted one audience member, and everyone laughed.

It's nice to think we have evolved to value the content of character above the color of skin, but the world we live in is far from color blind, as the exhibition "Race: Are we so different?" points out. The exhibition demonstrates the ways in which historic discrimination-- including downgrading credit ratings for non-whites-- led to inequality that persists today.

"Some people still believe that people of different races have different blood," said museum spokeswoman Cecile Shellman, explaining the need for education. "The exhibition does treat that assertion that racism is prejudice plus power," she added. 

The show was organized by the American Anthropological Association in conjunction with the Science Museum of Minnesota, and perhaps its most interesting feature is its Pittsburgh-specific examination of race.

In 1951, the United Steelworkers of America asked the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to create an exhibit that would use scientific evidence to dispel racist misconceptions. This lead to the creation of the museum's 1951 exhibit, "We Humans." The show was incredibly influential and toured from coast to coast in the 1950s. Materials from that exhibit are now on display at the museum and show just how far we have and have not come. They also show the role Pittsburgh played historically in combating racism. 

The museum also re-created a Pittsburghers Speak Up column that ran in the Pittsburgh Courier, asking black Pittsburghers how they felt about race relations. The museum juxtaposed old archival photos by Charles "Teenie" Harris and interviews by George Barbour, in which black Pittsburghers spoke candidly about race with modern updated photographs by Nikkia Hall and interviews by Lynne Hayes-Freeland. People, both then and now, think we have come a long way, but more work must be done.
 

Visiting lecturer to speak on language at CMU

Learning: it may happen when you least expect it, according to Stanford University Professor Shirley Brice Heath, who will lecture on the topic of language learning on Oct. 6 at Carnegie Mellon University.

Heath is a linguistic anthropologist who has studied language acquisition in various environments. During her lecture, "Learning Language the Meandering Way: Three Instances To Ponder," she will make a case for what she calls meandered learning, or learning that takes place outside of traditional instructional situations. According to CMU, Heath has found meandered learning taking place across the life span, from seven months to 70 years old.

While these findings may seem surprising to language instructors who value workbooks, repetition and flash cards, just think of a babbling baby. She may seem to be wasting time making funny noises, but perhaps she's actually practicing skills.

According to CMU, Heath will draw on recent neuroscience research that shows "mucking about" (the British term for goofing around) may actually be beneficial, especially for those learning languages. Heath arrives at her conclusions after years spent recording language and gestures in children's play areas, science labs and art studios, among other places.

"Her work argues that ways of learning across these settings draw language development and artful thinking together toward what often evolves into thinking like a scientist," according to Carnegie Mellon University spokeswoman Shilo Rea. 

Heath, who has written numerous books and helped to discover the first known collection of English children's literature, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Carnegie Mellon in 1999. Mariana Achugar, associate professor of Hispanic Studies and Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon, thinks Heath's work will be interesting to educators, language learning researchers and policymakers alike.

"Education reform has focused on academic achievement, limiting the opportunities to engage in social play and structured types of creative work through the arts and hands-on science projects," Achugar said in a statement. "Heath reminds us of the importance of learning in everyday situations and why these experiences can be particularly important for children growing up in impoverished communities."

"Her work demonstrates the importance of socialization experiences in families and communities that enable children to develop particular ways of using language to create, imagine and acquire expertise in tasks that require guidance, critique and hypothetical thinking," Achugar added.

When: 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 6

Where: Porter Hall 100, Carnegie Mellon University
 
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