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Women in Science at Duquesne University

Women in Science at Duquesne University (WIS@DU) promotes and supports women in basic and applied sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics career paths at Duquesne University. The goals of WIS@DU are as follows:

  • Recognize Duquesne women in science for their scientific, teaching and community achievements.
  • Advocate for women's issues in STEM fields at Duquesne and in the broader community.
  • Identify positive strategies for women at all professional stages to navigate successful STEM and health sciences careers.
  • Provide a strong network of women in science who are willing to support and serve as role models for both graduate students and their peers.

WIS@DU meets twice per semester to discuss professional and personal development, as well as provide opportunities for women in the Duquesne University science community.  

Check out Pittsbugh's Action News 4 coverage of our spring seminar 'The Gender Leadership Gap' by Dr. Kevin Miller, senior researcher at AAUW.   

Buy an official WIS@DU T-shirt


Recent achievements by women in science at Duquesne 

Dr. Mihaela-Rita Mihailescu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received $414,000 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health for Investigation of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein Interactions with the miRNA Pathway.

Dr. Sarah Woodley, an associate professor of biological sciences received $10,300 from the Samuel and Emma Winters Foundation for Antimicrobial Properties of Skin Secretions from Lungless Salamanders.

Dr. Regina Harbourne, an assistant professor of physical therapy received $854,980 from the Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences for Efficacy of the START-Play Program for Infants with Neuromotor Disorders.

Dr. Fatiha Benmokhtar, an assistant professor of physics received $61,000 from the National Science Foundation for RUI: Studies of Parton Distributions Using Kaons at Jefferson Lab.

Dr. Sarah Wallace, an associate professor of speech-language pathology received $112,542 from a National Institutes of Health sub-award from Miami University of Ohio, for Strategies to Accommodate Reading in Aphasia: Using Assistive Technology to Support Reading by People with Aphasia.

Drs. John Pollock, Wook Kim, Rehana Leak, John Stolz and Allyson O'Donnell received $333,191 from the National Science Foundation for MRI: Acquisition of a Confocal Microscope for Research and Teaching.

Congratulations to doctoral students Renee Gilhousen (Nursing), Katelyn Sadler (Biology), and Sara Tavela (English) for receiving 2017 Distinguished Dissertation Awards!  

Dr. Jennifer Aitken, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received $5,250 from the American Chemical Society for the Project SEED Program, which provides chemistry lab experience to economically disadvantaged high school students.

Dr. Jelena Janjic, associate professor of pharmaceutics, received $72,600 from the National Institute of Biomedical Imagining and Bioengineering for Multimodal (PET/MR/NIR) Imaging Supported by Drug Delivery in Inflammatory Diseases.

Drs. Allyson O'Donnell and Sarah Woodley in biological sciences received $23,010 for the CIRCLE program to support research experiences to underserved middle and high school students.

Dr. Anne Burrows, professor of physical therapy, received a $24,284 National Science Foundation subaward for her proposal titled 'Collaborative Research: Skeletal Muscle Constraint on Relative Brain Size.'

Dr. Rachael Miller Neilan, assistant professor of mathematics, received the 2017 McAnulty College Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.  

Tiffany Sizemore-Thompson, assistant clinical professor of law, and Dr. Tammy Hughes, professor of counseling, psychology and special education, received $25,000 from the Nimick Forbesway Foundation to enable the Education Law Clinic to expand community outreach and provide expert advice for clinical clients.

Dr. Pamela Spigelmyer, assistant professor of nursing, received a $8,719 Faculty Development Fund Award for 'Improving Family Caregivers' Self-Management and Coping with Memory-Related Behaviors of People with Dementia'.

Dr. Mishook Heo, professor of instructional technology, received a $6,802 Faculty Development Grant for 'Visuals, Multimedia and Learner Characteristics in Online Learning: Systematic Design to Enhance Learner Motivation.'

The American Physical Therapy Association has presented its highest honor upon Dr. Regina Harbourne, naming her a Catherine Worthingham Fellow and making her the first faculty member at the University to receive the prestigious recognition. Read more here.  

Autumn Chilcote, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology, just published her first book, co-authored with colleague Freeman Woolnough from Queens University, entitled 'Adaptable Interventions for Counseling Concerns'.  Read more about the book.  

Dr. Devika Manickam, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutics, was recently awarded $5,000 from the Hunkele Dreaded Disease Review Committee at Duquesne. Her project, 'Gene Delivery to the Blood-Brain Barrier for Stroke Therapy', will focus on protecting the brain from suffering damage during a stroke. Read more here.

Dr. Jelena Janjic, Associated Professor of Pharmaceutics, was recently interviewed by The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine regarding the Chronic Pain Research Consortium at Duquesne and her research in chronic pain and inflammation. Listen to the podcast here.   

Dr. Jennifer Padden Elliot, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the School of Pharmacy, received a $100,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments for her research exploring asthma prevention in school children. Read more here.

Dr. Kathleen Sekula, Professor of Nursing, has been awarded two prestigious American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards. Read more here

Dr. Devika Manickam, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy, received a 2017 New Investigator Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). Her research project is titled 'DNA Nanoparticles for Ischemic Stroke Therapy.'  Read more here

Dr. Allyson O'Donnell, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences, has been awarded $201,809 for the second year of an NSF CAREER grant entitled ‘Regulation of Cargo Selection and Ubiquitination by Protein Trafficking Adaptors'.  

Manasa Punaha Ravindra received First Place for her poster presentation at the 7th Annual Pharmaceutical Sciences Research Symposium on October 7th at Duquesne Univerisity.  Her poster was titled 'Design and synthesis of antifolates as targeted antitumor agents: Exploring the benefits of fluorine substitution on the side chain (het)aryl ring for improved selectivity and potency.' 

Dr. Allyson O'Donnell, an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Biological Sciences, received $50,504 sub award for 2016-2017 from the National Institutes of Health R01 entitled 'Endoplasmic Reticulum Associated Degradation (ERAD) of Membrane Proteins in Yeast', a collaborative project with Dr. Jeff Brodsky at the University of Pittsburgh.

Assistant Nursing Professor and Assistant Dean Cherith Simmer has been recognized by her peers with a Cameos of Caring award in honor of her achievements and service to the field of nursing. Presented by the University of Pittsburgh's School of Nursing, the Cameos of Caring honors outstanding nurses throughout the region for their commitment, dedication and passion for patients, families, students and more.

Anita Ghosh, a senior undergradaute in Biological Sciences, took first place in the Biological Sciences category at the 19th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Dr. Patricia Watts Kelley was recently inducted as a Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Nursing (AAN). Her program of research addresses Clinical Knowledge Development Continuity of Care for War Injured Service Members as well as other military and Veteran healthcare issues. Read more about Dr. Watts Kelley's award and research here.

Dr. Diane Borello-France recently published two papers (paper 1, paper 2) on the topic of women's health in the Physical Therapy Journal for a special series on Pelvic-Floor Rehabilitation.  

Dr. Regina Harbourne received a second year of funding for her research titled 'Efficacy of the START-Play Program for Infants with Neuromotor Disorders.'  Read more about Dr. Harbourne's research here

Dr. Nancy Trun has received the 2016 Spirit of Learning Award by the Duquesne University Chapter of the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi.

Dr. Stephanie Wetzel recently published a paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences titled, "A Study of the Presence of Gunshot Residue in Pittsburgh Police Stations Using SEM/EDS and LC/MS/MS."  Read more about it here

Khushbu Shah, a graduate student in the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy, was honored with the Graduate Student Award for Teaching Excellence. Shah was one of only four students who received the award.

Dr. Anne M. Burrows has been named the Anna Rangos Rizakus Endowed Chair in Health Science and Ethics.

Dr. Ellen S. Gawalt has been named the Hillman Endowed Chair.

Dr. Rehana Leak (Associate Professor of Pharmacology) will be inducted into the Office of Research Hall of Fame in 2016.

Dr. Sarah Woodley has been awarded Duquesne University's Creative Teaching Award for the second time. The award recognizes Dr. Woodley for providing students with a unique educational experience based on the Application-Based Service Learning pedagogy, developed with Dr. Nancy Trun and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Drs. Melanie Turk and Alison Colbert were also awarded Duquesne University's Creative Teaching Award for their implementation of a poverty simulation in a freshman-level nursing class to help build empathy for persons living in poverty. The impact on student learning was measured using the Undergraduate Perceptions of Poverty Tracking Survey and indicated an improvement in students' attitudes toward poverty and empathy for those living in poverty.

Abigail Cox, a sophomore biology major, has won an American Physiological Society (APS) fellowship, an elite Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, to continue her study of gender differences in chronic pain.

Dr. Allyson O'Donnell, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was selected for a five-year, NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program Grant, which is awarded to less than 10 percent of all applicants.

Kate Sadler, a doctoral student in biology is now in her second year of receiving funding support through a National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sadler developed a research proposal and graduate-student training plan while researching the brain's role in modulating bladder pain.

Dr. Fatiha Benmokhtar, Assistant Professor in Physics, was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to help calibrate a particle detector to study quarks. 

Dr. Jennifer Aitken, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, led another successful year of Project SEED, an eight-week program offered through BSNES and the American Chemical Society that places high achieving, economically disadvantaged high school students into chemistry labs.

Dr. Jennifer Aitken, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, was awarded a $445,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop diamond-like semiconductors that are capable of chaining the wavelength and frequency of lasers.

Dr. Jelena Janjic, Associated Professor of Pharmaceutics, and her co-investigators Drs. John Pollock and Benedict Kolber, Professor and Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, respectively, were awarded their second year of funding from the National Institutes of Health to study Theranostic Pain Nanomedicines.

Submit contributions to this list of achievements by emailing wis@duq.edu.



  • Allyson O'Donnell, Department of Biological Sciences, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Jelena Janjic, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Mylan School of Pharmacy
  • Rachael Miller Neilan, Mathematics and Computer Science, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
  • Jennifer Aitken, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Fatiha Benmokhtar, Department of Physics, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Regina Harbourne, Department of Physical Therapy, Rangos School of Health Sciences 
  • Linda Garand, School of Nursing
  • Misook Heo, School of Education

Graduate Students

  • Jackie Shane, Department of Biological Sciences, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Michele Herneisey, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Mylan School of Pharmacy
  • Cassandra Hanley, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Krista Lee Pugliesi, School of Education

WIS@DU is thankful for generous support from the following programs and individuals.

EQT Corporation 

Charles Henry Leach II Fund

Provost Timothy Austin, Academic Affairs

Dean Philip Reeder, Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Dean Cindy Walker, School of Education

Dean James Swindal, McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Dean Mary Ellen Glasgow, School of Nursing

Dean Fevzi Akinci, John G. Rangos School of Health Sciences

Dr. Simonetta Frittelli, Department of Physics

Dr. Ellen Gewalt, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Joseph McCormick, Department of Biological Sciences

Duquesne University Chronic Pain Research Consortium

Past Events

The 2016-2017 WIS@DU program included the following:

Dollars & Sense:  Workshop on negotiating with Ayana Ledford (Carnegie Mellon University)

Mentors Matter: Seminar by Dr. Linda Garand (DU Nursing)

Creating Change in Scientific Institutions: Seminar by Dr. Debra Rolison (US Naval Research Lab)

Speak Up!: Workshop for middle school schools 

Grad Gab: A panel discussion about graduate school