Our Team

Emily Albrecht

Community Engagement Intern
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Emily A. Headshot

Emily Albrecht is a senior majoring in Psychology, pursuing minors in Economics and Applied Statistics, and getting a certificate in Sustainability. At Pitt, Emily has been a part of Residence Life, participated in the MCSI Summer Research program, and serves as an officer for the Hydroponics Club. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading, rock climbing, bullet journaling, and spending time outside. Emily will lead community engagement efforts in Homewood with the Oasis Project and the Hydroponics Club. 

Danielle Andrews-Brown

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability

Dr. Danielle Andrews Brown received her PhD (Soil Science) in 2011 at The Pennsylvania State University.  She remained at Penn State as post-doctoral scholar and research associate. Dr. Andrews came to the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 as a lecturer and the advisor and coordinator of the Environmental Studies program.  For over 14 years, she has conducted lab and field scale research as it pertains to water and soil quality.  Presently, her research is focused on carbon, nitrogen and emerging contaminants mainly estrogens and antibiotics.  She has conducted research at two nationally known research sites – The Susquehanna Shale Hill Critical Zone Observatory and The Living Filter.  More recently, research interests are also centered on informal and formal science education.  Dr. Andrews-Brown is a member of the University Faculty Sustainability Task Force and leads the committee aimed at incorporating sustainability education more broadly into the Pitt curriculum.  

Eric J. Beckman

Director Emeritus
Chief of Innovation and Translation
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Eric J. Beckman

Eric sustains a strong research portfolio and works to develop new technologies that expand the frontiers of sustainability. He helps to develop mutually beneficial linkages with industry to develop partnerships and collaborative research and, where applicable, technology transfer, contract work, and commercialization of intellectual property. One key focus is the development of our innovation and translation program design for circular economy. As Director Emeritus, Eric provides strategic counsel related to the Center.

Eric Beckman received his BS in chemical engineering from MIT in 1980, and a PhD in polymer science from the University of Massachusetts in 1988. Dr. Beckman assumed his faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1994, and full professor in 1997. He received a Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation in 1992, and the Presidential Green Chemistry Award in 2002. He previously served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering and Chairman of Chemical Engineering. In 2003, Dr. Beckman co-founded the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, a school of engineering institute that examines the design of more sustainable infrastructure. In 2005, he co-founded Cohera Medical Inc. to commercialize surgical adhesive technology developed at the University. Dr. Beckman took an entrepreneurial leave of absence from the University in 2007-2009 to help move the products to market. Dr. Beckman's research group examines the use of molecular design to solve problems in green product formulation and in the design of materials for use in tissue engineering. He has published over 175 papers and has received more than 40 US patents.

Melissa M. Bilec

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Melissa Bilec MCSI

Dr. Bilec is responsible for providing research leadership and strategic MCSI direction, which includes developing new programs and promoting and facilitating leading-edge collaborative research. Dr. Bilec helps to build and provide support for a community of innovative researchers to enhance research capacity at the University and increase internal and external research opportunities for faculty and students. She works to develop networks between the Center and partners, acting as the nexus between the University and the community developing strong linkages with appropriate departments and programs. With the MCSI team, Dr. Bilec is focusing on developing and implementing a new design for circular economy program.

Dr. Bilec is an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; she is the Deputy Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.  Dr. Bilec’s research program focuses on the built environment, life cycle assessment, sustainable healthcare, and indoor air impacts.  She is interested in improving system-level environmental performance of buildings, while developing a deeper understanding of indoor environmental quality, occupant impacts, and energy use.  She is the Principal Investigator of a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research project, NSF EFRI-Barriers, Understanding, Integration – Life cycle Development (BUILD). Dr. Bilec has over 40 journal publications and has secured over $6 million in funding, including 8 National Science Foundation grants.  She has received four education excellence awards. Dr. Bilec’s work prior to academia included tenure at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh where she worked on green infrastructure projects, including the conversion of a 100-year bridge into a pedestrian bridge.  Dr. Bilec serves on the Green Building Alliance board.

Michael Blackhurst

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability

Dr. Michael Blackhurst is a Research Scientist and Professional Engineer (licensed in Texas) at the Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Blackhurst oversees applied and basic research and consulting projects in the energy, water, and climate sectors.  His record demonstrates strong leadership in developing robust, data-driven decision-support resources for public and private sector clients.  Current research and consulting domains include energy and water efficiency, renewable energy, regional climate change mitigation and adaptation, regional water resource planning, and urban stormwater management.  His work has been profiled in the New York Times and National Geographic.  Dr. Blackhurst is a member of the University Faculty Sustainability Task Force and leads the committee aimed at Sustainability Communications Training for Faculty.

Ellie A. Cadden

Sustainability Engagement Assistant
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Ellie headshot

Ellie is a critical partner to the MCSI leadership team helping to ensure successful planning and implementation of its educational programs including marketing and logistics. She manages all office activities including purchasing, student management, scheduling meetings, maintaining the appointment calendar, coordinating travel, proofreading and editing correspondence, and budget management. Ellie manages the design and content of the MCSI website, e-newsletter, and social media communications.

Ellie graduated in April 2020 from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in Environmental Studies, minors in legal studies and Spanish, and a GIS certificate. As an undergraduate, Ellie served as a Sustainability Program Associate for the Office of PittServes and co-directed the Student Office of Sustainability.

Jessica Gondak

Sustainability Intern
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
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Jessica Gondak is a sophomore pursuing both an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and a certificate in Sustainability. She is from State College, Pennsylvania. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, tending to her houseplants, and spending time with her cat. Jess will be writing our seasonal alumni newsletter and helping with edits to the website.

Tony L. Kerzmann

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Tony Kerzmann's educational background began with the attainment of a Bachelor of Arts in Physics from Duquesne University, as well as a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating from Pitt, Tony became a Mechanical Engineering Professor at Robert Morris University which afforded him the opportunity to research, teach, and advise. One of Tony’s major research projects while at RMU was his work with a research group to develop alternative fueling station optimization simulations that led to numerous publications. Tony served as the mechanical coordinator for the Engineering Department for 6 years, and was the Director of Outreach for the Research and Outreach Center in the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science. Throughout Tony’s academic career, he taught over 70 course sections and advised over 65 student projects.

Lucy Klug

Sustainability Intern
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
Lucy HS

Lucy Klug is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies and pursuing a certificate in Sustainability. She is the President of Epsilon Eta and a TA for Ward Allebach’s Sustainability course. In her free time, she enjoys bike riding and hammocking in various parks around Pittsburgh! Lucy will lead our First Year Presentations, help with student engagement, and maintain our social media accounts. 

Gena M. Kovalcik

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Gena rejoined Pitt's School of Engineering in July 2003 as codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. She has 23 years of experience in development, marketing, and external relations.

Gena provides administrative and strategic leadership for the Center, a role in which she deepens engagements and develops partnerships that promote collaboration with industry, government, foundations, and universities. Gena leads efforts and represents the interests of the Center which includes supervising personnel, financial management, and organizational practices that foster positive, impactful relationships internally and externally. She is accountable for the smooth and successful development and implementation of all MCSI events and programs. Gena concurrently serves as Strategic Advisor to the Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. In this expanded role, Gena helps to formalize and lead development of the Swanson School’s strategic processes and operationalizing its strategy across all units. She is also charged with forging new partnerships and working relationships across Pitt, our community, and our region.

Gena previously served as vice president for development at Shady Side Academy and, before that, as senior executive director of development and alumni relations at Pitt's School of Engineering. Prior to working at Pitt's engineering school, she managed donor relations and special events at Carnegie Mellon University. A native of Pittsburgh, she holds a BA from Penn State University in journalism and political science and a Master's of Management and Public Policy with a certificate in nonprofit management from Pitt.

Gena currently serves as a member of the Allegheny County Green Action Team and on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators.

David V.P. Sanchez

Associate Director
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
David Sanchez

Dr. Sanchez is responsible for building research and scholarly initiatives around Sustainable Water, Sustainable Food, Sustainable Innovation, and Global Engagement. Dr. Sanchez is also responsible for managing and directing MCSI’s Faculty, Education, and Community Engagement programs, which include the John C. Mascaro Faculty program, the Len Peters Faculty Fellows, the Community Education Fellows, the Master’s in Sustainable Engineering, the university-wide undergraduate certificate in sustainability and the Student Sustainable Innovation Fund. Dr. Sanchez continues to expand our network of positive working relationships with faculty, administration, students, and external partners (e.g. NGOs, Government agencies, Startups, and Fortune 500 companies) that support our broad education and research agenda. He also oversees the undergraduate and graduate sustainability curriculum and our K-12 programming. 

David V.P. Sanchez is an Assistant Professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Civil & Environmental Engineering department and serves as the Associate Director for the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. He coordinates the Design EXPO that showcases 90+ projects from ~400 students every semester and serves as the Director for the Manufacturing Assistant Center’s Makerspace, Constellation Energy’s Inventor Labs, the Series Workshops and some engineering collaborations in the community of Homewood.  

His research is focused on identifying sustainable designs that address the Water and Energy grand challenges in the natural and built environment on a local/regional scale. Current projects include engineering electrode morphology for bio-electrochemical systems, designing sensors to identify water quality trends in real-time and, developing hydroponic systems for the phytoremediation of PFAS, removing off-flavors from Recirculating Aquaponic systems, and enhancing community agricultural systems.  

Dr. Sanchez is the recipient of several awards including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, IGERT Traineeship, Alfred P. Sloan Scholarship, Pittsburgh Business Time Energy Award, Best Mentor Award for Pitt’s Excel program, Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Soska Wilds Outreach and Engagement Leadership award. David actively leads international engineering trips on behalf of the Swanson School of Engineering.


Patrick D. Shirey

Leonard Peters Faculty Fellowships in Sustainability
Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
pds headshot

Dr. Patrick Shirey is a Postdoctoral Associate working with Daniel Bain and Anthony Iannacchione on bituminous coal mine subsidence impacts. He is a Certified Ecologist (Ecological Society of America) and Certified Fisheries Professional (American Fisheries Society), and serves as an Associate Director with the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory (water.pitt.edu). Patrick conducts multidisciplinary research using techniques from his terminal degrees in ecology (Ph.D.) and law (J.D.). He has given over 40 scientific presentations (19 invited) and has published an invited comment in Nature and 18 peer-reviewed manuscripts in Conservation Letters, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Ecology and Society, Ecohydrology, Fisheries, the Journal of Paleolimnology, and other journals. His recently published research topics include urban stream restoration, endangered species conservation policy, environmental DNA, and science communication.

Patrick has won national research and policy awards including a George Melendez Wright Climate Change Research Fellowship from the National Park Service and was 1 of 35 early career aquatic scientists selected to participate in an NSF-funded symposium hosted by the University of Hawaiʻi – 2014 Ecological Dissertations in the Aquatic Sciences (Eco-DAS). He has been a recorded radio guest on NPR’s All Things Considered, a live radio guest on WOJB (Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation) to discuss brook trout conservation, and live radio guest answering listener questions on NPR’s Science Friday to discuss the illegal trade of endangered species.

Mascaro Center

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering
153 Benedum Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261


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