Professional Development

Power Moves: This CMU professor joined a federal AI commission

Plus, MSA Safety CEO Nish Vartanian took on new role for the Fed, and more promotions, appointments and awards that tell us who's been leading innovation in Pittsburgh.

CMU professor Conrad Tucker.

(Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

Conrad Tucker, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, was appointed to the US Chamber of Commerce’s new Commission on Artificial Intelligence Competition, Inclusion and Innovation. The commission will bring together leaders in AI across academia and the public and private sectors, a press release from the university said, with the hope that this idea-sharing can help propel US advancements and regulations around AI.

“The establishment of this commission is extremely timely, as AI becomes more integrated into our lives. It is therefore critical that the voices and input from people across society be reflected in the U.S. vision and strategy for AI,” Tucker said in a statement. “The involvement of academia, industry and government in this effort highlights the multidisciplinary perspectives that are needed to advance AI strategies that maintain U.S. leadership in this domain.”

Chaired by former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and New Jersey Rep. Mike Ferguson, the commission will bring together Tucker and other thought leaders to discuss future research and recommendations relating to regulation, R&D competitiveness, future jobs related to the industry and more. Beyond his professorial role at CMU, Tucker also serves as the director of the Artificial Intelligence in Products Engineering for X Lab in the College of Engineering, where he leads research on machine learning applications in engineered systems.

MSA Safety exec named to new Federal Reserve role

Nish Vartanian. (Courtesy photo)

Longtime Pittsburgh safety tech developer, manufacturer and supplier MSA Safety saw CEO Nish Vartanian appointed to the board of directors of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Vartanian will now be one of nine board members responsible for communicating Pittsburgh’s business needs, conditions, insights and potential opportunities to the Federal Reserve. He will serve on the board through December 2024.


“This appointment is an honor for me personally, and I look forward to sharing with the Federal Reserve Board our perspective as a Pittsburgh-based manufacturing and technology company, as well as information about trends within the global safety industry,” Vartanian said in a statement.  “Given MSA’s western Pennsylvania roots, I’m also excited about the opportunity to work side by side with other local business leaders and share ideas on how our region can benefit from the work and policies of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in general, and the Pittsburgh branch in particular.”

Beyond his 35 years at MSA, Vartanian is also on the board of trustees for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation and the board of trustees for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, where he chairs the infrastructure committee.

CMU leadership director publishes book on career building for women

In honor of International Women’s Day this week, Leanne Meyer, the faculty director of the Women’s Executive Leadership Academy at CMU, published her book “Climbing the Spiral Staircase: How Women Can Navigate Their Career and Accelerate Success.” Meyer is also the former executive director of CMU’s Accelerate Leadership Center at the Tepper School of Business.

“My evidence-based strategies will eliminate pressure and offer practical tips to help readers succeed. Readers will be able to better understand their surroundings and what they need to advance through challenging professional environments,” Meyer said in a statement. “In this book, I cover how to identify sticking points and address any obstacles that are preventing forward progress.”

Though not specifically geared toward tech, Meyer’s overlap with the tech-focused university means her advice has a lot of overlap. The book also comes shortly after the announcement of new board members for the local chapter of getWITit, and new investment programs from the city targeted to promote entrepreneurship and business leadership among women and other minority groups.

Innovation Works portfolio company wins top prize in pitch competition

Endolumik, an Innovation Works portfolio company and Morgantown-based startup developing a fluorescence-guided surgical device won first place and $500,000 in the Fire Pitch Competition hosted by Houston-based Ignite Healthcare Network. The fifth annual pitch competition from the network, startups competing are all women-led health tech companies. The top prize was awarded through investments from the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund and Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health.

“It was such an honor for our CEO, Mara McFadden to share the stage with such an impressive group of founders,” Endolumik wrote on LinkedIn. “We are thrilled to be a part of the Ignite community, and so grateful to all of the program sponsors.”

Pittsburgh researcher nabs $50,000 for innovative glaucoma medical research

Kun-Che Chang, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was announced this week as a recipient of $50,000 in grant money from the Glaucoma Research Foundation to further his research into new treatment targets for glaucoma. He is one of six recipients of the Shaffer Research Grant from the foundation, and the only recipient from Pittsburgh.

“Glaucoma Research Foundation is funding six researchers at prestigious medical research centers with our one-year Shaffer Grants,” said Andrew Iwach, Glaucoma Research Foundation board chair, in a statement. “In addition, we will continue to fund the four principal investigators engaged in our multi-year Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative. With this diverse research portfolio, we are doing our best to invest in research that brings us closer to our goal of finding a cure for glaucoma and restoring vision, while at the same time developing better solutions for glaucoma patients today.”

Chang’s funding will go toward his research project “A New Therapeutic Gene for RGC Survival and Axon Regeneration in Glaucoma.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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