University of Pittsburgh

Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovations


Our Team

Eric Beckman

Eric J. Beckman

Science and Technology
Bevier Professor of Engineering

Eric Beckman received his B.S. in chemical engineering from M.I.T. in 1980. Following a stint in industry, he joined the Polymer Science Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, receiving his Ph.D. in 1988. After postdoctoral work, Dr. Beckman joined the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor in 1989, rising to full Professor in 1997. He served as Associate Dean for Research for the School of Engineering from 1999-2000, then Chemical Engineering Department Chair from 2000 – 2005. In 2003, Dr. Beckman became the founding director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation.

Dr. Beckman’s research focuses on molecular design to support (a) creation of greener chemical products and (b) synthesis of materials to support biomedical research. He received a National Science Foundation Young Investigator award in 1992, and a Presidential Green Chemistry award in 2002. He became the School of Engineering’s first Bayer Professor in 2000, then was awarded the Bevier Chair in engineering in 2005. Dr. Beckman has supervised over 40 PhD students and postdoctoral scientists, published over 170 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has over 50 patents and published applications.

Dr. Beckman is also Chief Science Officer for Cohera Medical Inc., the company he co-founded with Dr. Michael Buckley in 2004. Cohera is in the process of commercializing a biocompatible, resorbable adhesive that can be used internally during surgery.

Gena KovalcikGena M. Kovalcik

Administration and External Relations

Gena rejoined Pitt's School of Engineering in July 2003 as codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation. She has 18 years of experience in development, marketing, and external relations.

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 and Renewable Manufacturing Gateways.

Laura SchaeferLaura Schaefer

Deputy Director

Dr. Schaefer is an associate professor in the Pitt engineering school's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. She received a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a BA in English from Rice University in 1995, then received her MS and PhD degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1997 and 2000, respectively. Dr. Schaefer’s research approach has been to examine energy systems both from a fundamentals viewpoint and in a societal/environmental context. These systems include absorption cycles, fuel cells, two-phase microchannel flow, multijunction solar cells, hydrokinetics, and thermoacoustics. In conducting this research, she directs an integrated team of undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. Dr. Schaefer’s research has received over $10 million in funding by organizations such as NSF, AFOSR, ASHRAE, PITA, and NCIIA.

Dr. Schaefer received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and the New Investigator Award from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers. She serves as the faculty advisor for the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and faculty counselor for the Society of Women Engineers. Dr. Schaefer holds various offices in the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME, and in the 1.1 and 8.3 TCs of ASHRAE.

Melissa BilecMelissa Bilec

Assistant Director for Education and Outreach

From a broad perspective, Dr. Bilec's research and teaching interests encompass engineering issues related to sustainability, green design, and construction. Her recent research efforts include not only creating a practical framework for hybrid life-cycle assessment modeling, including uncertainty and visualizations, but also modeling onsite construction processes and support services. She is conducting research related to green building metrics to understand and evaluate high-performance buildings. Dr. Bilec has experience in funding and managing sustainable transportation projects, including the Hot Metal Pedestrian Bridge project. In 2009, Dr. Bilec received the Provost's Innovation Award For Enhancing Crosscutting Sustainability Education in Civil Engineering. In 2011, her MCSI related team received a $2 million grant from NSF for their grant, EFRI-BUILD.
Dr. Bilec is on the board of directors for Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance.

Several of Dr. Bilec's specific research areas include:

* Hybrid life-cycle assessment modeling;
* Modeling environmental impacts of building construction, including support sector;
* Project-delivery methods and green buildings;
* Green building metrics;
* Analyzing the design and construction processes of green buildings with a focus on children's hospitals; and
* Greening government initiatives and strategies

Greenhouse Gas Inventory of University of Pittsburgh

Recent research published on work related Sustainable Healthcare:
Life Cycle Assessment Perspectives on Delivering an Infant in the US

Kim WisniewskiKim Leasure

Office Manager

Kim joined the Mascaro Center in June 2004. She manages all office activities including scheduling, purchasing, and budget management. She also helps with oversight of all Mascaro Center events, including the undergraduate summer program, annual advisory board meeting and the biannual conference; in addition, she assists with marketing efforts, including primary accountability for content on the organization’s Web site. Kim has a BA in communications from Penn State University.


BhavnaSharmaBhavna Sharma

Visiting Assistant Professor

Bhavna Sharma is a visiting assistant professor in the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. As a NSF IGERT Fellow, she completed her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010 and continued at the Mascaro Center as a post-doctoral fellow exploring sustainability and engineering in K-12 education from 2010-2012. Bhavna’s research focus is on the sustainability of infrastructure, from use of non-conventional materials to ways to reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings. Topics of interest include the use of fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) composites to retrofit and repair existing buildings and the use of bamboo for residential construction in earthquake prone regions. She continues to pursue international sustainable engineering projects, as well as explore innovative ways in which sustainable engineering concepts and technology will be integrated into K-12 education.

Get Involved

Students, teachers, professionals, partners... see how you can get involved.

Get Involved

Students, teachers, professionals, partners... see how you can get involved.