A new partnership between the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Windber Research Institute (WRI) will improve the quality of life in the greater Johnstown region by creating new opportunities for students and scientists and stimulating interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. The partnership became official today with a signing ceremony held on the Pitt-Johnstown Campus.
The collaboration will focus on three primary areas: internships/educational opportunities, faculty/scientist exchange, and scientific and scientific symposia. By joining forces, the two organizations will create opportunities for the region to continue to thrive and be an active contributor to the fields of science and education. This is not the first collaboration between the two institutions. Three years ago, Pitt-Johnstown and WRI teamed up to offer a highly successful community forum on global health. The event featured panelists from the World Health Organization and the International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services.
Pitt-Johnstown is already nationally recognized for its outstanding academic programs and success in preparing students for the real world through its signature RealWorld Action Program. Nearly 20% of all Pitt-Johnstown students are pursuing majors in the medical professions, including pre-medicine and the school's new bachelor's degree in nursing. Windber Research Institute has distinguished itself, through its pioneering research and programs in areas including breast cancer, health promotion, and disease prevention, as a key player in the future health and well-being of people all over the world.
Emphasizing the importance of this partnership, Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar commented, "This exciting new initiative further advances Pitt-Johnstown's strategic efforts to enhance leading-edge learning in the sciences, to expand practical real-world experiences for our students, and to collaborate with key community partners in the broader effort to improve science education at the regional and national levels. We could not think of a better partner to link up with than the Windber Research Institute - given WRI’s preeminent status in biotechnology, its enormous research capabilities, and its commitment to enhancing the health and wellness of our people and our communities." He added, “We are grateful to WRI and its President and CEO, Tom Kurtz, for joining us in this first of its kind collaboration and we are hopeful that this framework for collaboration will lead to a vibrant partnership between our two organizations for the betterment of our region.”
Tom Kurtz, president and CEO of WRI, echoed Dr. Spectar's comments by saying, “A troubling fact is that the number of students at the high school and college level interested in science has been decreasing. America’s economic future depends on the strength of our scientific and technology core. The objective of this collaboration is to provide incentive, encouragement, and motivation to students to pursue science as a career.”
The core areas of focus will be:
By working directly with scientists at WRI, Pitt-Johnstown students will gain real-world experience and perspective in key areas including informatics, biomedical research, and health prevention and disease through mentorships and internships. These opportunities will provide Pitt-Johnstown students with a distinct advantage over others entering the highly competitive job market. Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown and WRI will jointly explore, on a national level, funding sources to support an enhanced Pitt-Johnstown Pre-Health Professions Program and expanded research opportunities at WRI.
Both the faculty at Pitt-Johnstown and scientists at WRI, who come to the region from around the world, represent a wealth of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. By working collaboratively, members of the Pitt-Johnstown faculty will share insights into the pedagogical aspects of teaching science to undergraduate students, while WRI scientists will be engaged in course delivery and serving as guest lecturers in a variety of courses. The collaboration will result in an unprecedented exchange of theories and practices in the fields of science and education in our community.
Additionally, the two institutions will foster and support an exchange of ideas regarding teaching methods in high schools, which will directly benefit students and teachers by preparing students for study at the college level.
An annual Pitt-Johnstown/WRI Collaborative Scientific Symposium will provide an opportunity to extend the benefits of the collaboration beyond the two partner institutions and into the region. In addition to presenting cutting-edge scientific theories, research, and practice, the symposium will include emphasis on teaching methods and programs that will be of interest to a number of groups within the community.
Pictured above: (seated) Tom Kurtz, President of Windber Research Institute, and Dr. Jem Spectar, President of Pitt-Johnstown; (standing, left-to-right) Nursing Students Megan Corle and Andrea Delic; Pitt-Johnstown Advisory Board Chairperson Dr. Barbara Parkins; Windber Research Institute founding Board member Ted Hollern; Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Stephen Kilpatrick; Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Janet Grady; Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Lisa Bell-Loncella; Natural Sciences Division Chairperson Dr. Steven Stern; WRI scientists and Pitt-Johnstown alumni Seth Rummel and Jesse Dorchak; Pitt-Johnstown senior and WRI intern Brianne Seitz.
Celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The University offers a high-quality educational experience in a supportive living-learning environment designed to prepare students for the real world of the 21st century. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best Northeastern College,” by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization" for 2011. Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Windber Research Institute (WRI) is a private, non-profit biomedical research institute focused on issues of women's health and cardiovascular disease. The Institute is organized around technology-based platforms and research programs reflecting best practices from academia as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology research groups. These technology platforms include Tissue Repository, Biomedical Informatics, Genomics and Cell Culture. WRI has worked closely with its partners to develop an integrated research environment that is being extended to support physician decision-making in collaboration with the patient. Major efforts in tissue banking, patient data acquisition, biomedical informatics and genomic research (sequencing, genotyping, gene expression, whole genome analysis) comprise the experimental focus.