University of Pittsburgh Appoints Steven Little as Distinguished Professor
“Steve is a truly outstanding individual whose academic and research career trajectory has made a remarkable impact in his field, but also among his fellow academicians and the many students he has taught and mentored. To attain such recognition from the University when he is only at the midpoint of his career is a recognition of his dedication, creativity, and passion for engineering education and research.”
Steven R. Little, internationally recognized for his research in pharmaceutics and biomimetic drug delivery systems, now adds the University of Pittsburgh highest honor for faculty. Recognizing his contributions to the professoriate as well as research, scholarly impact, and leadership, Little was appointed Distinguished Professor by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
Little, who also serves as the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Department Chair of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, has developed numerous new drug formulations including controlled drug release that mimics the body’s own mechanisms of healing and resolving inflammation. Unlike traditional medications that require large doses administered via ingestion, inoculation or intravenously, biomimetic treatments recruit a patient’s own cells to treat disease at the source. In particular, Little’s research shows potential new applications for glaucoma, gum disease, and even transplant organ rejection.
“Steve is a truly outstanding individual whose academic and research career trajectory has made a remarkable impact in his field, but also among his fellow academicians and the many students he has taught and mentored,” noted James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt. “To attain such recognition from the University when he is only at the midpoint of his career is a recognition of his dedication, creativity, and passion for engineering education and research.”
Since joining the Pitt faculty in 2006 after his doctoral training, Little has secured nearly $30 million in peer-reviewed funding from federal sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. His publication record includes more than 100 high-impact publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie, Science Advances, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ACS Nano, Advanced Materials, Biomaterials, and two separate feature review articles in Journal of Materials Chemistry. His work has been highlighted several times by Nature, Nature Methods, NIH, NSF, and several local and national media sources including the Wall Street Journal.
Harvey S. Borovetz, Distinguished Professor and Former Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt who chaired Little’s nomination committee, noted “It is a tremendous accomplishment for an academic to be recognized as Distinguished Professor at the zenith of their career, and even more rare for someone to be so honored in such short time. Dr. Little’s impact is far-reaching, not only within his field but regarding the growth of his own department at Pitt.”
Through his seven-year tenure as Chair, the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering has seen over a two-fold increase in grant proposal submissions, approximately a two-fold increase in peer-reviewed publications, an increase of undergraduate revenue generation of nearly 60 percent, and an increase in net graduate tuition generation of 175 percent. Supporting this growth, he has hired 14 new faculty members and five staff, increasing the Department’s faculty size by over 60 percent.
“Steve’s research cuts across the traditional boundaries of scientific disciplines, an area where he clearly thrives,” noted Robert S. Langer Jr., one of Little’s references and his PhD advisor at MIT. “In this way, he is a superb example of a modern-day young innovator who attacks problems from different perspectives when compared to his peers.” Langer currently is the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT.
“I am honored and humbled to have been nominated for this caliber of appointment and to have been supported by so many at the Distinguished Rank from around the world,” Little said. “It’s been those people who have inspired me to innovate and train the next generation of scientists. I can only hope to support others the way that they have supported me.”
More About Dr. Little
Dr. Steven Little is the William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Immunology, Ophthalmology, and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT in 2005, with his thesis winning the American Association for Advancement of Science’s Excellence in Research Award.
Researchers in Dr. Little’s Lab focus upon therapies that are biomimetic and replicate the biological function and interactions of living entities using synthetic systems. Areas of study include bioengineering, chemistry, chemical engineering, ophthalmology, and immunology, and the health issues addressed include autoimmune disease, battlefield wounds, cancer, HIV, ocular diseases, and transplantation. Dr. Little currently has 10 provisional, 2 pending, and 5 issued patents, and is co-founder of Qrono, Inc, a specialty pharma company in Pittsburgh, PA.
Dr. Little has been recognized by national and international awards including the Curtis W. McGraw Research Award from the ASEE, being elected as a fellow of the BMES and AIMBE, a Carnegie Science Award for Research, the Society for Biomaterials’ Young Investigator Award, the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award, being named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar, being named an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator, and being elected to the Board of Directors of the Society for Biomaterials. The Controlled Release Society (CRS) awarded Little with two of its top honors, the Distinguished Service Award (2021) and Young Investigator Award (2018); and in 2020 elected him its College of Fellows for “outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of delivery science and technology over a minimum of ten years.”
Dr. Little’s exceptional teaching and leadership in education have also been recognized by both the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and a second Carnegie Science Award for Post-Secondary Education in 2012, followed by the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award in 2013, and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 2019. He is the only individual in the Swanson School’s history to receive more than one of the Chancellor’s awards, and the only individual to receive all three of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards in the history of the university.
Dr. Little was also named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40, a “Fast Tracker” by the Pittsburgh Business Times, and also one of only five individuals in Pittsburgh who are “reshaping our world” by Pop City Media.
About the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering
The Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering serves undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the University and industry, through education, research, and participation in professional organizations and regional/national initiatives. Active areas of research in the Department include Biological and Biomedical Systems; Energy and Sustainability; and Materials Modeling and Design. The faculty holds a record of success in obtaining research funding such that the Department ranks within the top 25 U.S. Chemical Engineering departments for Federal R&D spending in recent years with annual research expenditures exceeding $7 million.