Research Highlights
1998-99


Throughout the years, the University of Pittsburgh has established itself as one of the nation's pre-eminent research institutions. During the past year, the University has further enhanced this reputation by taking major strides in various fields of research endeavor, a sampling of which follows, taken from the University of Pittsburgh Researchreview.

Center for Combinatorial Chemistry - The Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry has established the first academic center for the study of combinatorial chemistry. An emerging field in chemistry, combinatorial chemistry is revolutionizing organic synthesis and drug discovery. Through the use of microprocessor-controlled automation, robotics, and groundbreaking new principles of chemistry, combinatorial chemists will increase the efficiency of chemical discovery through their ability to quickly prepare hundreds of new compounds.

Center for Mental Health Services Research - Through this new center, investigators from the School of Social Work and the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic are bridging an important gap between conducting research and providing research results to service providers. These investigators will study a broad range of mental health issues, determine if mental health treatment is available for those who need it, check to see if clients are completing their treatment, and determine the treatment's effectiveness.

Department of Psychiatry - A recently-published study done by a researcher from the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry, at the renowned Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic sleep study lab, is the first study to provide solid evidence that poor sleep in the elderly may compromise their immune systems and make them more susceptible to illness. Most studies up until now have concentrated on the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation on working adults or school-aged children. Elderly patients were found to have, in the morning, lower levels of natural killer cells, which are those cells that constitute the immune system's front-line attack on cancerous cells and viruses.

Department of Biological Sciences - Investigators from the Faculty of Arts and Science's Department of Biological Sciences arranged to have their experiment involving the growth of protein crystals aboard the famous John Glenn space shuttle mission. The microgravity environment in space, which has also hosted other Pitt-affiliated research on previous shuttle missions, yields better crystals. The crystals help researchers to improve the visualization of the atomic structure of protein molecules, which enables them to understand how these molecules work in living cells.

Center for West European Studies - The University of Pittsburgh has earned the distinct honor of being named one of ten European Union Centers in the United States. Pitt's center, which resides in the Center for West European Studies -- part of Pitt's University Center for International Studies -- joins with the other member-universities which share in the initiative to promote study of the European Union (EU), its institutions and policies, and EU-US relations at universities across the United States.

Basic Metals Processing Research Institute - Researchers from the School of Engineering's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, conducting their work through this affiliated institute, have developed a lead-free alternative to 12L14 steel, which is the lead-based steel presently used in the manufacture of screws, cogs, flywheels, and other parts for machines. This new type of steel, using tin in lieu of lead, a well-known pollutant added to steel to make it easier to machine, is being referred to as "green" steel. Possibly one of the most important innovations in steel making in the past 30 years, this development further demonstrates how the University, as it seeks to advance fundamental knowledge through research, develops new technologies crucial to the economic health of the region.

Department of Library and Information Sciences - Researchers in this department, of the University's School of Information Sciences, are chronicling innovative uses of technology in educational settings statewide, and in so doing, creating a multi-media presentation over the World Wide Web of their results. Through Pennsylvania's Link-to-Learn Educational Technology Impact Analysis, the project will result in case studies of schools and districts that utilized technology to solve significant educational problems.

School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences - Researchers in this school, working alongside those from the UPMC Health System and the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare Center are undertaking a study on the use of wheelchairs for illness and trauma rehabilitation. A newly-established center will be home to more than ten research projects, including the clinical efficacy of using telephone-based video and data systems for wheelchair assessment, improving on how wheelchairs are provided to multiple sclerosis patients, the evaluation of head and neck injury associated with wheelchair seating when exposed to rear-impact motor vehicle collision, evaluation of the development of new wheelchair technology, and the evaluation of the use of dogs to increase function and psychological well-being among users.


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