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Conversant Labs: Improving assistive technology for the visually impaired

Chris Maury’s vision has been on the decline since he was diagnosed with Stargardt macular degeneration in early 2011. The genetic eye disorder causes progressive vision loss, usually to the point of legal blindness. 

Shortly after his diagnosis, Maury left his job as product manager at Klout in San Francisco to develop accessibility technology for those who suffer from vision loss and impairment. In 2012, he founded Conversant Labs to improve the lives of the blind through improved access to technology. The following year, Maury moved the company to Pittsburgh. 

“While we are an accessibility company, our core technology is speech recognition and voice-enabled applications,” says Maury. “Carnegie Mellon is where a lot of the research in these fields was started, and being based here in Pittsburgh allows us to draw on that expertise.”

Conversant Labs builds audio-only applications for the blind and visually impaired. The company is one of the start-ups in the current cycle at AlphaLab, a leading accelerator in the country. In addition to Founder/CEO Maury, the Conversant Labs team includes Greg Nicholas, a software developer with a background in natural language processing and building applications for the accessibility industry, and Fran Kostella, who has 30 years of experience building alternative user interfaces 

“The tools currently available for the blind to interact with everyday technologies are severely limited,” says Maury.  “Expensive, difficult to learn, and not supported by many common services, these products leave the majority of the blind community without access to computers or the internet.”

Maury recently spoke at the 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego. His talk focused on the limitations of traditional accessibility technology known as screen readers, which display web content visually for users on a monitor and convert text to synthesized speech so users can listen to the content.

“Screen readers are amazing tools for making computers and mobile devices minimally accessible, but the standard that we set for our tools should be much, much higher,” Maury says. “We should be creating applications and experiences that go beyond plain accessibility and focus instead on usability.”

“Our approach throws out the visual component, creating an audio-only experience optimized for blind users,” says Maury. “Using voice commands, users are able to complete tasks they might otherwise avoid.”

Conversant Lab’s first commercial application “Say: Shopping,” a voice-enabled shopping client for making online purchases that will allow blind users to shop independently.

“Shopping is one of these tasks that is difficult for the blind and visually impaired to do independently, often relying on others to go to the store for them,” says Maury. “Creating an experience that allows people to shop independently and from the comfort of their homes is a big win for improving quality of life.”

Say: Shopping is now in beta testing and will likely be released into the Apple App Store by the end of May. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Chris Maury, AlphaLab and conversantlabs.com

Who's hiring in PGH? Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pitt and more...

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news via email.

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
Desmone & Associates, an architectural firm located in Lawrenceville, is hiring a self-motivated marketing manager to provide leadership for all firm marketing and public relations activities.
 
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is hiring a communications associate with at least three years of professional experience and a communications manager with at least five years of professional experience.
 
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is looking to hire a program coordinator. PASA works to improve the economic viability, environmental soundness and social responsibility of food and farming systems across Pennsylvania and throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. As one of the largest statewide sustainable farming organization in the United States, PASA conducts programs that include farm-centered education, regional marketing and business support, consumer outreach, farmer advocacy and community building strategies. The successful candidate will be an important team player in advancing this overall mission.
 
The University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business is seeking a qualified associate director of career and academic advising to assist full and part-time MBA students and alumni with developing and refining a comprehensive strategy for securing an internship and/or full-time employment. Ideal candidates will have at least six year of relevant experience.
 
Carnegie Science Center is hiring a development manager with at least three years of success as a development professional and excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills. Responsibilities include overall coordination of development-related special events, including budget and resource management; enhancing existing relationships with donors; generating reports and proposals; and working cooperatively as part of the overall development team. Application materials will only be accepted online through the employer’s website, carnegiemuseums.org/hr.
 
Carnegie Museum of Art is hiring several positions, including a construction and facilities coordinator to provide support for the administration and execution of all aspects of construction-related activities associated with the museum's temporary exhibitions, major permanent collection installations, and special projects.

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s Technology Department seeks a software systems administrator to oversee all aspects of the Institute’s software inventory, licenses and server farm. Ideal candidates will have a bachelor's degree and four to six years of relevant experience in the IT field. Supervisory experience required. Application materials will only be accepted online through the employer’s website, carnegiemuseums.org/hr.
 
Dress for Success is hiring a branch/development coordinator; the ideal candidate has retail, job training or social services management experience. Dress for Success is a nonprofit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and life.
 
ACTION-Housing Inc. is hiring a program manager for the One Stop Energy Shop, which works to improve and preserve existing multi-family affordable housing in Western PA through energy performance auditing, energy and water retrofits, and educational services. Candidates should have a bachelor's degree in sustainability or business and a minimum of five years of full-time work experience in building performance and/or sustainability field; master's degree preferred. ACTION-Housing Inc. empowers people to build more secure and self-sufficient lives through the provision of decent, affordable housing, essential supportive services, asset building programs, and educational and employment opportunities.
 
Conversant Labs, which builds applications tailored to the specific needs of the visually impaired, is hiring an iOS Engineer who is deeply curious about speech recognition technologies. Candidates should express interest via the company’s website.
 
American Eagle is hiring several positions, including an associate marketing manager to drive sales and effectiveness of AE Rewards and AE Credit Card programs through solid execution of strong marketing plans, an associate inventory planner with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, supply chain/logistics, finance, or related field, an art director with at least 8 years of professional graphic/web design experience.
 
Dick’s Sporting Goods is hiring a manager of marketing-planning with at least five years of professional experience to manage the integration of category marketing plans for direct mail, email, promotional digital marketing, TV and radio.
 
Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie

Science fiction or future of emergency medicine?

Suspended animation sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. That’s why the investigative team at UPMC Presbyterian describes the lifesaving technique they are ready to perform on humans for the first time ever as “Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation” or EPR.
 
The new technique, which requires the cooling of the body by 50 degrees, is designed to improve survival rates and protects brain function in trauma patients who suffer cardiac arrest due to massive bleeding from gunshot or stabbing wounds.
 
Currently, patients who suffer cardiac arrest from major trauma rarely survive,” says Dr. Samuel Tisherman, associate director of Shock and Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Safar Center for Resuscitation Research and director of the Neurotrauma Intensive Care Unit at UPMC Presbyterian.  “Less than 1 out of 10 of these patients leave the hospital alive. EPR, or emergency preservation and resuscitation, is a novel way that we’re hoping to try to resuscitate trauma patients who suffered a cardiac arrest.”
 
Using a large tube to administer ice-cold fluid to lower the patient’s body temperature by 50 degrees, EPR gives the medical team time to get the patient to the operating room for surgeons to control the bleeding before resuscitating patients.
 
“The body can’t tolerate the lack of blood flow for even more than just a few minutes,” says Tisherman. “By cooling them, we can buy time by slowing down processes that occur when there is no blood flow to the vital organs like the heart and brain. This will allow the surgeons to repair injuries and save the patients.”
 
Tisherman is now leading the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest from Trauma (EPR-CAT) Study, which will use the profound cooling technique on about 10 patients throughout the next one to two years.
 
Ideal candidates for the trial are 18-65 year-olds with penetrating trauma who experience cardiac arrest less than five minutes before arriving in the emergency department and show no response to standard care, including airway intubation, blood transfusions and opening the chest.
 
The interest in using hyperthermia therapeutically in the treatment of cardiac arrest from trauma came about through the observation of “patients who drowned in cool water and survived incredibly long times underneath the water,” says Tisherman. “So it appears that hyperthermia could have a great preserving effect if you have a cardiac arrest.”
 
Traditional therapeutic hyperthermia after cardiac arrest involves cooling patients by only about six or seven degrees below normal. “For EPR, we’re talking about cooling them by almost 50 degrees below normal temperatures,” he says. “This type of cooling has never been tried before in trauma patients.”
 
Tisherman and his team have been ready since the beginning of April to use this new emergency medicine technique that could save the lives of patients experiencing cardiac arrest from severe trauma at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. They are the only team in the country ready to perform EPR-CAT, though teams at the University of Maryland and the University of Arizona are expected to start performing EPR-CAT on humans within the next few years.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Source: Dr. Samuel Tisherman

Pittsburgh Fringe Festival receives catalytic Sprout Seed Award

Next month, Pittsburgh will kick off its inaugural Fringe Festival, modeled after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is the largest arts festival in the world. The Pittsburgh theater arts festival recently announced it received a Sprout Seed Award  help fund 24 theatrical performances in various Shadyside venues this May.
 
Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, led by its founder and executive director Dan Stiker, supports adventurous and exploratory performing artists by presenting their uncensored artistic expression to equally adventurous audiences. In addition to performances, the Fringe Festival will facilitate continuing education, workshops, discussions and forums. 

“I think Pittsburgh has a great arts community, and the theater community is one aspect of that,” says Stiker. “I think interesting theater is just starting to be supported in Pittsburgh. This is just the right time for the city to have its own Fringe Festival.”

Stiker’s interest in organizing Fringe stems from his theater background in New York City, where he performed in the NYC Fringe Festival and was in a company that did a lot of experimental theater. Stiker also has a background in theater management, and the management strength of the collective Fringe Festival team he's assembled helped attract The Sprout Fund's support. 

“The Seed Award is The Sprout Fund’s catalytic funding program for community innovation projects, and we are pleased to be able to support Pittsburgh's first organized Fringe Festival with a $7,500 grant,” says Mac Howison, Senior Program Officer for Catalytic Funding at The Sprout Fund. “The Sprout Fund has been hearing about the need for a Fringe Festival for years from the Pittsburgh theater community.  We're happy to be able to support Dan Stiker’s project, which highlights community partnerships and supportive collaboration among businesses, city officials and the performing arts companies making it happen, through the launch this spring and then hopefully as an annual event.”
 
The Seed Award Fund for Community Innovation offers grants to support, celebrate and showcase the initiatives of creative people in the greater Pittsburgh region with the cumulative power to create a critical mass of positive change. Seed Award projects are innovative, non-traditional ideas that focus on current issues and challenges faced by the community, and inspire a diverse group of participants to be more active, involved and civically-engaged.
 
Since 2001, Sprout Seed Awards have supported hundreds of dynamic local innovators and exciting community projects making an impact in the Pittsburgh area. Sprout provides critical financial support for projects and programs in the early stages of development—when just a small amount of investment has the potential to yield big results in the community.

"Sprout understands that Pittsburgh Fringe can be a catalyst for enhancing the performing arts community in Pittsburgh and we are grateful for their support," says Stiker.
 
Check out the 2014 Fringe lineup and purchase tickets at pghfringe.org.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Dan Stiker and Mac Howison

Who's hiring in PGH? The Sprout Fund, Carnegie Museums, Venture Outdoors and more....

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news via email.


Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
GTECH Strategies is hiring a membership and relationship manager with excellent communication skills and a minimum of two years of experience in the development of corporate fundraising partnerships and sponsorship proposals.
 
The Sprout Fund is looking for a business manager with a strong desire to work with diverse communities to leverage Sprout resources to create change in the Pittsburgh region.
 
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is looking for a director of science education and research and event sales administrator.
 
Venture Outdoors is hiring a director of membership and annual giving and a public program administrator who are passionate about the organization’s mission of connecting people to the outdoors.
 
Gateway Rehabilitation Center is hiring a high-energy and entrepreneurial director of development who demonstrates a proven track record in building strong relationships with supporters and meeting fundraising goals.
 
Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, opening this summer, is hiring a chief operating officer and administrative assistant to support its mission to provide inspiration and education about the quality of life that can result from teaching people how to live in harmony with the earth.
 
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is hiring an executive assistant (Andy Warhol Museum), assistant director of membership, education department administrative manager, and a part-time communications specialist (Natural History).
 
Carnegie Robots, a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, is hiring a software engineer and has several openings for technical associates and software associates.
 
The National Aviary is hiring a marketing associate with at least two years of experience. The marketing associate’s responsibilities will include advertising, print production, public relations, social media, web site management, direct mail, promotions, signage projects, and special event and promotion.
 
The Senator John Heinz History Center is hiring a development officer with at least five years of nonprofit development/fundraising experience.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), a professional organization located in RIDC Park West, is seeking candidates for multiple positions, including a chief executive officer to ensure the organization’s future success and fulfillment of the mission to promote excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care. In addition, ONS is looking for a staff editor for the publishing department, a digital marketing coordinator, web developers, project managers, a director of development, and a customer service representative. Learn more on the ONS careers website.
 

Are you hiring in Pittsburgh? Email Pop City with links to job postings.
 
 Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
 

Carnegie Mellon robot plays mean game of SCRABBLE

There’s some stiff SCRABBLE competition at Carnegie Mellon University. So stiff in fact, that the fierce competitor inhabits a body encased in plastic. Victor the Gamebot, the latest in a series of social robots developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, is a limbless torso with a mobile head and animated face who spends most of his time trash-talking opponents across a SCRABBLE board. 

“We believe that robots will soon be ubiquitous in society,” says Reid Simmons, research professor and associate director for education at the CMU Robotics Institute. “We want them to be able to interact with people just in the same way people interact with other humans.”

If an elderly person or someone with disabilities has a service robot with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, people will begin to feel it is more than a machine — and expect it to interact with them in anthropomorphic ways they would not expect from their dishwasher or microwave, says Simmons.

The research team behind Victor includes collaborators from robotics, computer science, drama, design and entertainment technology. They wanted to develop a robot that would interact with people while completing a joint task. 

Located near a cafe on the third floor of CMU's Gates and Hillman centers, Victor electronically move his tiles while his human opponents move their virtual tiles on the touchscreen board using their fingers. Victor converses with opponents with his voice, and people reply to him using keyboards. 

“We figured people would like to play games, so we’d make the robot play games with people,” says Simmons. “They could interact during the game, and the robot could comment on the moves the people make and how it’s doing relative to the person.” 

Indeed, Victor speaks freely throughout gameplay. Perhaps a little too freely.

After his opponent played the word “wave” for 14 points, Victor chides, “I have seen better, but not from you.”

Simmons says he was surprised by how strongly people react to Victor when he becomes angry while losing a game. Opponents can observe Victor’s mood thanks to a light over the gamebot’s heart that changes color and pulsates at different speeds depending on his mood. 

“When he’s in a good mood and kind of bantering, people don’t tend to type much to him,” says Simmons. “But when he starts trash talking them, they start trash talking right back. …I think people feel that the robot — just because he’s losing — he shouldn’t be a bad sport.”

While Victor has a high opinion of his SCRABBLE skills, he is not a strategic player. He’s not particularly concerned with double- and triple-word scores, and his 8,600-word vocabulary is hardly a match for the 178,000 words in the Official SCRABBLE Player Dictionary. Eventually, the researchers will enable him to recognize previous players and adjust his level of play to that of his opponents. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh celebrates National Robotics Week

April 5-13 marks the fifth annual National Robotics Week, which celebrates the United States as a leader in robotics technology development and educates the public about how robotics technology impacts society. With Pittsburgh playing a major role in robotics innovation, it’s no surprise that there are lots of robotics events taking place throughout the city this week.

Robo Day in Pittsburgh
On April 9, AlphaLab Gear will host a robotics week event in its East Liberty facility that will feature speakers from 4moms, MYRIA RAS, and Girls of Steel FIRST Team, and demos by two start-ups in the accelerators current class, IdentifIED and Rapid TPC.

Dick Zhang,  cofounder and CEO of IdentifIED, says, “Industrial businesses, in oil and gas, agriculture, mining, or safety, all require massive amounts of data to increase their outputs, decrease their inputs and operate safely. Unfortunately they don't have access to this information because aerial sensing is extremely expensive, time-consuming and requires a lot of special equipment. We are an aerial data and sensing company focused on delivering this information through small unmanned aerial vehicles.” 

The IdentfIED demo will feature a small quadrotor, a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors, that will fly around the office among attendees and a video reel highlighting the company’s vehicles in action.

International Space Apps Challenge
The International Space Apps Challenge, led by NASA, government collaborators and more than 100 organizations around the world, is a two-day hackathon that embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and in space. The Pittsburgh event will take place at the TechShop in Bakery Square on April 12-13.

“The International Space Apps Challenge lets people in Pittsburgh collaborate with others around the globe using NASA open source data to build and program robotic solutions to global problems,” says Richard Behana, executive director at Space Challenges, Inc., the host of the Pittsburgh Space Apps Challenge. “Challenges range from creating a robot with salvaged parts controlled from your smartphone to creating a simplified kid friendly rover using a single-board microcontroller known as an Arduino.”

Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University Celebrates National Robotics Week
The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will celebrate National Robotics Week on April 10 with the Teruko Yata Memorial Lecture with special guest speaker Marc Raibert, chief technical officer & director of Boston Dynamics followed by a satellite screening and performance of the Robot Film Festival. The celebration will continue on April 11 with project demonstrations, lab tours, and the annual Mobot (mobile robot) races. (RSVP required to attend.)

The Secret Life of Robots
Artist Toby Atticus features a dozen scenes of robots in everyday scenarios in The Secret Life of Robots exhibition. Robots are constructed from vintage thermoses, picnic coolers, and various found objects, and some include animatronic elements that control eyes and accent lights. Peaking into the sometimes mundane daily activities of a typical robot through various stages of their lifespan reveals a glimpse of our lives through the looking-glass. The free and public Pittsburgh Cultural Trust exhibition is on display through April 27 at SPACE art gallery, located at 812 Liberty Avenue. See website for gallery hours.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: nationalroboticsweek.org, AlphaLab, Dick Zhang, spaceappschallenge.org, and Richard Behana

Who's hiring in PGH? IBM Watson Group, MARC USA, Jawbone and more...

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
Mayor Bill Peduto's office is looking to fill three servePGH 2014-15 AmeriCorps VISTA positions to work on a variety of service initiatives designed to impact Pittsburgh neighborhoods and youth: community & youth engagement associate, neighborhood service associate and sustainabiltiy service associate. Learn more online.

Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh works to reduce the literary gap by providing more than 20,000 of the city’s most economically disadvantaged children with access to self-selected books to create positive environments that motivate children to develop a lifelong love of reading and engage families in reading in the home. The organization is looking to fill two positions, Storymobile co-director and a Fall 2014-15 AmeriCorps KEYS position as children’s literacy outreach coordinator.
 
Carnegie Mellon University is looking to fill several interesting positions, including leadership coach of the Tepper School of Business, manager of workplace safety and Professional Development Services program coordinator.
 
The University of Pittsburgh is hiring a director for its Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. In addition, Pitt is looking to hire a Network Operations Center manager, network engineer with at least five years of experience, donor relations coordinator and an alumni coordinator.

ANSYS, Inc., an engineering simulation software developer that has been recognized as one of the world's most innovative and fastest-growing companies by BusinessWeek and FORTUNE magazines, is hiring a marketing communications manager with at least 10 years of experience as a writer in a technical business setting and at least five years of management experience.
 
IBM Watson Group is hiring 18 positions, including software developers, software test specialists, UX designer, and front end developer. View all opportunities online.
 
MARC USA is hiring an interactive web developer who is proficient in XHTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery and has a working knowledge of Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
 
AIReS Corporate Relocation Services, which was named to the 2013 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing independently owned businesses in the U.S., is hiring a Java developer with at least four years of experience.
 
Jawbone, which has developed human-centered wearable technology and audio devices for more than 10 years, is looking to hiring a Java applications developer with 3-5 years of object oriented software development experience.
 
DICK’S Sporting Goods is hiring a mobile product manager for its ecommerce department with at least three years of experience in mobile product management and product development for a consumer website.
 
Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie

Plugged in: CMU's Electric Garage now offers the only public Tesla charging station in Pittsburgh

Need to recharge? Carnegie Mellon University’s Electric Garage is now home to a high-power wall connector for Tesla electric cars, joining eight existing vehicle recharging stations available for public use in the Oakland facility. All of the charging stations are available at no cost 24 hours a day on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Located at 4621 Forbes Ave., a former gas station now houses ChargeCar, a community-centered electric vehicle research project that wants to make electric vehicles practical and affordable enough to revolutionize urban commuting.  

“This is definitely the largest charging infrastructure of any institution in this half of Pennsylvania, and likely anywhere in the state,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, CMU professor of robotics and project director. “And the Tesla charger is the only one available to the public locally.”

Made possible through private donations, the Tesla High Power Wall Connector at CMU’s Electric Garage can provide 58 miles of range per hour of charge.

In January, Tesla’s first Supercharger station in Pennsylvania opened in Somerset off of exit 110 of the I-70/I-76 turnpike, a toll road connecting Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Superchargers can replenish half of the battery in as little as 20 minutes. The Somerset station supports the Tesla cross-country route that will soon enable Model S owners to drive from Los Angeles to New York without paying a cent to refuel.

Interested in joining the electric car revolution but can’t afford a new electric car? ChargeCar can help. In addition to lowering the costs for commercially-developed electric vehicles, the project helps people convert their cars in collaboration with local mechanics and garages. ChargeCar is hosting an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 4, during which gas vehicles converted to electric power and other electric vehicles will be on display. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon University, ChargeCar, Tesla Motors

Pittsburgh Modular makes synthesizers used by musicians around the world

Richard Nicol is the creator and founder of Pittsburgh Modular, a synthesizer company that sells its music gear worldwide through about 25 dealers in the United States and a dozen more overseas. As a musician, Nicol has been fascinated with synths for many years and enjoys experimenting with them to produce new sounds. 

“You can create thousands of different worlds with the smallest turn of the knobs,” he says. 

About five years ago, Nicol took an advanced circuit building class at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA), where he met his instructor Michael Johnsen, who is now the “mad scientist” who designs the equipment that Nicol manufacturers and sells at Pittsburgh Modular. Johnsen still teaches analog circuit building classes at PCA, and is currently teaching a beginner level audio circuit course that covers such basics as soldering, construction, schematics and the idiosyncratic world of “circuit bending.”

Johnsen, who also teaches filmmaking to high school students, has nurtured a longterm interest in electronic music and the techniques that have been used to make it throughout the years. Helping people understand electronic music — all the way down to the circuit board — is practical knowledge to have in a very digital era, says Johnsen. 

Nicol began building handmade synthesizer modules in his basement as a hobby while working as a full-time software developer. Using bold components and dynamic layouts to promote interaction and experimentation, his creations resembled something built in a 1950s science fiction laboratory. It didn’t take long for people in the synth community to take notice and express interest in purchasing Nicol’s creations of modern analog circuitry, marking the birth of Pittsburgh Modular.

Pittsburgh Modular, which quickly outgrew Nicol’s basement, is headquartered in the former Mine Safety Appliance factory building, located at 201 North Braddock Ave. in Pittsburgh’s East End. 

Though Pittsburgh Modular is relatively young, there are some big names using its gear. Because the synths are sold through dealers, it’s not always possible to know who’s using them. But some of the big names they know of include Trent Reznor, Deadmau5 and Depeche Mode. 

In January, Pittsburgh Modular announced a full line of synthesizers and modular gear, which the company just began to ship. 

“Pittsburgh is a big music town — but it’s a rock ’n roll town,” says Nicol. “We weren’t sure how well [our synths] would sell in Pittsburgh.”

But to Nicol’s delight, Pittsburgh Modular gear is selling very well at its local dealer, Pianos N Stuff on Freeport Road.

“Pittsburgh is a great city to start a company,” says Nicol. “I don't think we could have built this company from ground zero to where we are now in most cities.”

The company also recently started Pittsburgh Modular Records and its first release was "Encryption Cypher,” a project with Herman Pearl (a.k.a. Soy Sos) of Tuff Sound Recording, who paired its synth sounds with remixed beats by Pittsburgh’s top hip-hop artists.  

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Richard Nicol & Michael Johnsen

Who's hiring in PGH? Summa Technologies, Heinz, 4moms and more...

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.

CEI is hiring .NET developers/architects, mobile developers, web developers, and SharePoint developers/architects. Interested applicants should contact Laura Oblich at loblich@ceiamerica.com.
 
Carney_Co., a marketing and technology firm in Greensburg, is hiring a full-time designer/art director and full-time backend software engineer. Interested applicants should contact Caroline Moore at caroline.moore@carneyplusco.com.
 
Heinz is hiring an execution specialist and two management positions, a warehousing cost and strategy manager with at least five years of experience and a supply chain manager with at least four years of experience.
 
ThermoFisher Scientific is hiring a digital designer with at least five years of broad graphic design experience and a senior content quality assurance specialist with at least five years of experience in a digital marketing content management and quality assurance role.
 
UPMC Shadyside is hiring a flexible full-time MRI Tech I to help its Shadyside and Hillman Cancer Center locations. This position will work varying days and shifts including weekends and holidays as needed by the department. 
 
Logix Guru is looking to fill several positions, including information security analyst (six-month contract) and project manager (one-year contract).
 
Summa Technologies is hiring a director of delivery operations to provide leadership in our consulting resource planning and delivery management initiatives and a mobile & application modernization solution architect.
 
4moms, a high-tech baby gear company, is looking to hire a user experience designer with at least three years of project leadership experience to join its Pittsburgh team. The user experience designer will lead efforts to integrate the problem-solving discipline of UX Design to deliver intuitive and cohesive experiences across the brand’s consumer touch points.
 
DICK’S Sporting Goods recently posted openings for several positions in its corporate office, including senior designer – store environment, systems analyst, compensation analyst, associate buyer – camping, senior network technician with at least three years of experience, and international logistics analyst.  
 
American Eagle Outfitters is hiring several UX positions, including a UX lead,  UI engineer, and UX architect.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie

Who's hiring in PGH? MAYA Design,Phipps Conservatory and more...

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.

Business & Finance
TIAA-CREF is hiring a wealth management advisor.
 
Morgan Stanley is hiring a regional business development manager with 7+ years of industry experience.
 
Education
The University of Pittsburgh is hiring to fill many positions, including an instructional technology support specialist, a graduate enrollment manager, an on-campus recruitment coordinator, and a Latin American Studies Association 
operations manager.
 
Carnegie Mellon University is hiring to fill many positions, including a director of career services and alumni relations for Civil and Environmental Engineering department, an assistant vice president for media relations, and an information security analyst at the Supercomputing Center.
 
Nonprofits
Sarah Heinz House, a Boys & Girls Club, is looking for a director of business operations and performance management.
 
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh is looking for a site-based enrollment and match support specialist to coordinate one-to-one mentoring programs in partnership with area schools and corporations.
 
Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is looking for an advancement coordinator
 
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Inc. is looking for an event sales supervisor.
 
The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh is now hiring two temporary full-time event managers for Pittsburgh Pride. Send cover letter and resume to jobs@pittsburghpride.org to apply.
 
Tech
MAYA Design is looking to fill five positions, including senior designer in the Visual Design Group, software design engineer, senior design researcher and interaction designer, systems administrator, and virtual interaction designer.
 
YinzCam, the leading mobile developer for sports-team apps in the country, is hiring several positions, including mobile developers, programmers, and .NET/web/JavaScript developers. Apply at jobs@yinzcam.com.
 
Atmosferiq, East Liberty based startup that helps small businesses make smarter marketing and advertising decisions, is hiring software developers with Ruby or Rails experience.
 
Confluence, a global leader in investment data management automation, is hiring several positions, including global software development director, project manager, and technical writer.

Safaba Translation Solutions, Inc. is looking to fill several positions, including director of marketing, director of research and development, research scientist, and two senior software engineer positions. 

Other
A. Merante Contracting, Inc. is looking to fill many positions, including controller, project manager/estimator, administrative assistant, concrete construction foreperson, and others as listed on its website.

 
Have hiring news? Send details to innovationnews@popcitymedia.com.
 
Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie

The Global Switchboard will offer coworking space for international-minded organizations

There’s a new Lawrenceville co-working space opening in May that will bring fresh resources to the city and cultivate new global ideas and connections. Known as The Global Switchboard Project, this shared-space, community-oriented work-center will be Pittsburgh’s home for organizations committed to global engagement.

Nathan Darity, project manager of The Global Switchboard, says it will bring together dozens of organizations in Pittsburgh already working on global and local connections and enhance their work through collaboration. 
 
“Pittsburgh is a global city,” says Brandon Blache-Cohen, executive director of Amizade Global Service-Learning, the organization leading the project. “It was built and continues to grow from an ever-changing group of immigrants, and the contributions of their children. We believe The Global Switchboard will both export the best practices of community development that we have pioneered here, and begin to import new ideas from our friends around the world.”
 
Amizade’s mission is to empower individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning. Blache-Cohen says he expects The Global Switchboard to significantly improve the way Amizade connects its community partners abroad with Pittsburgh and transform the way Pittsburghers engage with the rest of the world.
 
The Global Switchboard is the in midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 to complete its office space at 3406 Ligonier Street. The facility near Doughboy Square will serve as headquarters for both Amizade and anchor organization Global Solutions Pittsburgh, a nonprofit providing non-partisan, internationally focused education to schools and communities throughout western Pennsylvania.  

 “The Global Switchboard is an opportunity for Pittsburgh to reinvest in itself and rededicate itself to building an inclusive and engaged community, says Daniel Giovannelli, executive director of Global Solutions Pittsburgh. “Phrases like 'international relations' sound like they are only for PhDs, JDs, and MBAs, but in the 21st century Pittsburgh interacts with the world and the world interacts with Pittsburgh. The Global Switchboard is both a physical and symbolic representation of that shift… into the larger community.”
 
In addition to Global Solutions Pittsburgh, the Global Switchboard already has six member organizations: Global Pittsburgh, Rukmini Foundation, Classrooms Without Borders, ChildLight, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, and Cameroon Football Development Program.
 
Other organizations and individuals with a commitment to socially responsible international development, global education in Pittsburgh and abroad, and/or community empowerment can apply to be a paying member of The Global Switchboard at www.theglobalswitchboard.org.
 
Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Brandon Blache-Cohen, Daniel Giovannelli

Who's Hiring in Pittsburgh? Bricolage Productions, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative and more

The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative/Jewish Healthcare Foundation is looking for a Product Manager for Tomorrow’s HealthCare, the organization’s online knowledge network for healthcare quality improvement. Resumes and cover letters should be sent to Chief Analytics Officer Ken Moore.

Downtown’s Bricolage Productions is searching for a new general manager to handle the theater’s day-to-day administration and organization.Training and/or experience in arts administration are preferred.The deadline for applications is 6PM on March 14.

Elias/Savion Advertising agency is looking for a copywriter with 3-5 years’ experience.

Carnegie Mellon has a vacancy for an Assistant Director of Annual Giving Strategies. The ideal candidate will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the university’s direct mail and e-mail programs, developing and implementing communications and solicitation plans and managing all fundraising efforts related to the school’s Greek life.

Pittsburgh communications and design firm Mizrahi is looking for a senior designer with at least five years’ experience to join its creative team.

Heinz Field is looking for a Tours Assistant to help with the scheduling and booking of tours of the facility. It is a part-time opening.

Edison Learning is seeking an advisor to guide its students through their electronic learning curricula. A minimum of five years’ teaching experience in a brick-and-mortar school is necessary.

Want to post a job on "Who's Hiring in Pittsburgh?" Contact us at innovationnews@popcitymedia.com.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Local biomedical researchers win top prize from the National Academy of Sciences

About five and a half years ago, when virologist Carolyn Coyne, an associate professor at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was expecting her son, among the many questions she had about pregnancy was how viruses would treat her body and the body of her baby. Her curiosity has led to an award-winning paper about how the placenta has evolved to protect a fetus from viral infection.

Human placental trophoblasts confer viral resistance to recipient cells was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in July of last year, and in April, Coyne, along with her co-author, Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, an obstetrician/gynecologist and director of the Magee-Womens Research Insitute, will travel to Washington, D.C. to receive the Cozzarelli Prize for top biomedical sciences paper published in the journal in 2013.

The Cozzarelli prize was established in 2005 and is rewarded to papers that reflect originality and scientific excellence.
Coyne and Sadovsky’s paper showed that the placenta can prevent viruses from passing from a pregnant woman to her fetus and that this resistance can be transferred to other, non-placenta cells.

“In a general sense, we’ve identified at least one of the mechanisms that we think the human placenta has evolved to limit viral infections,” Coyne says.

The mechanism is a micro RNA that can be found in the circulation of pregnant woman. Harnessing the power of that small RNA could, in theory, help develop therapies for viruses contracted both during and outside of pregnancy. 

Sadovsky says that despite extensive study of the placenta, which is the interface between a mother and fetus, there have been very little data to illuminate the significance of viruses during pregnancy.

“This became a very intriguing collaboration to use the power of virology, obstetrics and gynecology,” says Sadovsky.

The pair are honored to have won the Cozzarelli Prize for their hard work.

Says Coyne: “We are very proud of our research paper and are gratified that the scientific community deems our work noteworthy.”

Author: Erin Keane Scott
Sources: Anita Srikameswaran, Dr. Yoel Sadovsky and Carolyn Coyne, Ph.D
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