2019 Distinguished Alumni
Pietra Bruni participated in the 2007 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with St. Thomas More School, supported by educator Gina Callahan and mentor Patricia Wattick.
Pietra graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 with a Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and Film Studies, with a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. She was inducted as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Xi Chapter of Pennsylvania.
She is now a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and is on track to earn her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology in 2023.
Some of Pietra’s undergraduate research at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic focused on understanding the changes in the brain associated with aging, as well as computational modeling approaches to understand cognitive control and their disturbances in serious mental illness and early psychosis. A funded London Field Studies Program gave her the opportunity to examine the role of cultural, social and political influences on urban street art.
Her post-baccalaureate work investigated numerous topics in the affective science realm, including the behavioral reactivity of individuals with PTSD, the effects of alcohol on emotion/ social bonding, and how infants respond affectively to a change in social interaction with their mother. She is certified in the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) by the Paul Ekman Group.
Pietra’s doctoral work currently focuses on the analysis of non-verbal and interpersonal behavior and the influence emotion regulation techniques have on facilitating and maintaining meaningful social relationships. Earlier this year, she received a Certificate in College Teaching from the Graduate School at Vanderbilt University—Pietra currently teaches biology and neuroscience classes for gifted students through the Programs for Talented Youth (PTY).
Pietra has published and presented her research at numerous conferences, both locally and abroad, and her work has been funded by the Community Foundation of Louisville, Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Development Institute, and the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR). Pietra is a proud member of the Graduate Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Vanderbilt University and enjoys exploring innovative ways to disseminate science.
Pietra Reflects on her Future City Experience:
“Because of excellent teachers and mentors that exposed me to the STEM fields at a very young age, I have always intended on pursuing a career in science. However, there is a difference between learning about science in a static classroom setting and having the opportunity to develop the necessary modeling, planning and critical thinking skills in a more hands-on environment. Future City bridged that gap. My Future City experience fostered in me a love of problem-solving that is the backbone of all empirical, data-driven research. Being given the space and ability to work as a small team to solve a 'real world' problem at such an early point in my education instilled a greater sense of independence and excitement, helping me realize the explorative autonomy that comes with scientific discovery. The technical writing and strategic building skills I gained from participating in Future City provided a foundation that proved integral in my success in future educational experiences. I am now a PhD student in the Clinical Science program at Vanderbilt University, utilizing many of those same skills in my own program of research!”
Alexandra Delazio participated in the 2008 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with St. Bede School, supported by educator Elizabeth Killmeyer and mentor Paul Lovejoy.
Alexandra graduated from the University of Pittsburgh-Swanson School of Engineering in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Bioengineering with a Mechanical Engineering minor, and a Concentration in Medical Product Engineering.
During Alexandra’s time as a student at Pitt, she worked in many research positions. She was a part of teams that created apps to aid blind students’ learning, developed sensor holders for monitoring post-surgery knee-rehabilitation, developed a now-patented fiber optic cable safety cover to prevent burns in hospital operating rooms and developed a prosthetic ankle angle measurement system that won several national awards. In conjunction with CMU faculty, she worked on a novel hand-mounted intelligent haptic device called PalmSight that aims to help those who are blind and visually impaired identify, locate, and grasp objects in their surroundings.
Upon graduation, Alexandra worked as a Research Associate for Disney Research Pittsburgh, a research division of the Walt Disney Company, where she specialized in haptics technology and multi-modal interaction. She was the lead researcher for the development of the “Force Jacket”, a haptic jacket featured in Popular Science that allowed users to touch and feel various sensations in virtual reality settings.
Currently Alexandra is a Research Engineer at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology where she designs and evaluates technology for those with disabilities.
Alexandra Reflects on her Future City Experience:
“When I was in grade school one of my favorite places to be was in our Science classroom. I loved participating in hands-on lab activities and enjoyed learning about the scientific process. But I loved one particular after-school activity that took place there – Future City. Each week I came together with my fellow classmates to build and create a new infrastructure from the ground up for a city that was our own. It was a process that required equal parts engineering and creativity and something that I still carry with me today as a Bioengineer with a minor in Mechanical Engineering and a concentration on Medical Device Engineering.
Both at my current job as a Research Engineer in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology where I design and evaluate technology for those with disabilities, and at my previous job as a Research Associate focused on haptics technology for a research division of the Walt Disney Company, Disney Research Pittsburgh, using analytical, mechanical engineering skills in conjunction with creative, artistic skills has played a critical role in my career. I look to solve every problem that I am faced with using both halves of my brain. THIS is what Future City taught me. On our Future City team, I was given the opportunity at a young age to work with an engineering mentor who pushed me to understand the critical design principles that go into making a city. I began to look at the city around me with a new eye for the inner workings of its bridges, water treatment plants, roads, landscapes, etc. While critically thinking with this engineering mindset, I found myself also constantly trying to think outside the box. I would look at an empty plastic cookie container and see the beginnings of a skyscraper and used crayons not only as a way to color but as a unique material to heat and melt into a waterfall to create the perfect illusion of running water coming from our city’s water treatment plant.
I can also reflect on my experience with Future City and recognize that our team of middle school students came together in the same way that my colleagues and I would come together now to solve any engineering problem in the workplace. We systematically work through the design process using various resources with the strength of our interdisciplinary group at our fingertips. I felt prepared moving through projects in every phase of my career, high school to present, having had this Future City experience.”
Michael Malecki participated in the 2008 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with Freeport Junior High School, supported by educator Mark Dempster and mentor Don Amadee.
West Virginia University Honors College awarded Michael a B.S. in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering with a minor in Geology in 2016 and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 2017.
While at WVU, he held leadership positions in numerous organizations including the WVU chapters of The American Association of Drilling Engineers and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
Michael received extensive training in electrical services and systems, well testing and flowback, and Marcellus and Utica drilling fluid systems through his work and internships with Eaton, Select Energy Services and LEID LLC.
Michael currently works as a Hydraulic Fracturing Field Engineer with U.S. Well Services in the Permian Basin of West Texas.
Along the way he volunteered his time, leadership and mentorship as a counselor for the Pennsylvania American Legion’s Keystone Boys State Camp and the Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club.
Michael Reflects on his Future City Experience:
“In junior high, I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of the Future City team. It was one of the first times in my life that I was recognized by educators as a student with both interest in STEM and the desire to be challenged. Future City was a unique experience in that I felt it to be such a flexible competition. The possibilities for solutions were truly endless and limited only by one’s own creativity. I recall endless brain storming and realizing the need to look at the “big picture” while developing our city. I found the macroscopic analysis and approach to the competition to be very intriguing and refreshing. It offered a whole new approach to problem solving outside of the microscopic analysis we frequently did in school in which there was one correct answer. In Future City, there are endless correct answers. It showed that creative thinking and technical problem solving are not mutually exclusive, but rather complimentary processes that benefit each other.
The “big picture” approach our team took to the Future City competition proved to be the most enduring effect on myself as a young person. I realized that looking at the “big picture” was the part that truly interested me most in STEM. Many engineers frequently have to utilize this approach to solve complex problems. My broad range of professional experience in the field has proven this to be true. When I worked on the floor in a manufacturing environment, I had to understand the life cycle of a part from initially ordering the material, to the final inspection before shipping. Understanding that “big picture” made it easier to decide what specialized tool should be used to perform one specific machining process. When I worked as an electrical field service engineer, I had to understand the entire electrical system of a NASA research center. Understanding that “big picture” enabled my team to effectively isolate and upgrade a switchgear system with minimal operational interruption and maximum results. Currently I work as a hydraulic fracturing field engineer and I look at the “big picture” now more than ever. I understand how everything from discovering a hydrocarbon reservoir to drilling a well affect what type of hydraulic fracturing stimulation system I use, and I understand how the type of hydraulic fracturing stimulation system I use will affect the production and lifespan of the well.
Future City is a catalyst for students to enter the STEM field because it allows students to see how complex problems require creative solutions. The competition’s emphasis on macroscopic problem solving teaches students a valuable skill not only in a STEM environment, but in everyday life decisions. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this competition, the skills it taught me, and the impact it has had on my career choice. The impressive, expansive, and diverse classes of alumni of the Future City Competition prove that this competition is a path to success for many young students who participate.”
Brandon D’Aloiso participated in the 2007 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with St. Thomas More School, supported by educator Gina Callahan and mentor Patricia Wattick.
Brandon received a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Bioengineering in 2015 from the University of Pittsburgh and a Cardiovascular Perfusion Certificate from UPMC in 2017.
As an undergraduate researcher at Pitt he worked on multiple artificial lung devices for treatment of COPD, ARDS and other lung problems which is where he learned about Perfusion.
Brandon has published articles about cardiopulmonary bypass and permeability of polymer fibers used in respiratory assist devices. He also has a patent for a Cannula Stabilization Device for ambulatory ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation).
He currently works as a perfusionist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Presbyterian Hospital while pursuing a Master’s degree (M.S.) in Bioengineering at Pitt. Additionally, he serves as a co-director of a comprehensive ECMO training course for physicians to learn about this complex procedure.
Brandon Reflects on his Future City Experience:
“Future City was definitely a long time ago for me, but it feels like yesterday. Back in those days I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up, but going through the experience helped me to realize something in the engineering/problem solving field was for me. Working and presenting our project to engineers was a great experience and really allowed me to learn about the field. While I took a turn and ended up doing more medical engineering, Future City allowed me to learn what engineering was and practice some of those early skills that would later serve me in school and work. Even teamwork was something we learned in the building and development of our city. Overall it was a great experience with some of my best friends until this day.”
2018 Distinguished Alumni
Eric Belski, M.Sc.
Eric Belski participated in the 2006 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with Trinity Middle School, supported by educator Denise Cummins and mentor Daniel Swiler, Ph.D.
Eric received a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Mechanical Engineering in 2015 and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2018, both from the University of Pittsburgh.
As an undergrad IRES Scholar Research Fellow he helped to design and prototype a portable test kit to assess the mechanical properties of bamboo specimens. This would allow engineers in developing countries to give structural ratings to buildings constructed of bamboo in order that the buildings can be insured.
As a co-op student for the Human Engineering Research Laboratories Eric was involved in the prototyping process of a low cost, single motor, power wheel chair.
He currently is working as a Mechatronic Engineer in the Mechatronic Research Group at Aerotech, Inc. (Mechatronics is a multidisciplinary field of engineering that includes a combination of mechanical engineering, robotics, electronics, computer engineering, telecommunications engineering, systems engineering and control engineering.) At Aerotech his responsibilities include the research and development of control algorithms, diagnostic processes, and mechanical designs.
Eric Reflects on his Future City Experience:
"The Future City competition was one of my first exposures to a collaborative, problem solving challenge in an organized event. Prior to this I was always interested in engineering related fields such as math and science but rarely had a situation where they could be practiced on an actual problem. Enter the Future City competition, which I participated in on the Trinity Middle School team in 2006. Here was a situation that required all of these skills to be used in order to solve a challenge. As our team progressed through the different phases of the competition we quickly realized there was no "right" answer to the problem. Understanding this allowed us to iterate on designs and combine different aspects of each design to form a stronger final outcome. The essay and project plan required us to think about what we were doing and keep organized. This forethought then benefited our design as we were able to see weak points and correct them along the way. After the competition was over I realized that not only did I enjoy applying the engineering skills but that applying them in a team oriented environment was extremely rewarding. From that point on I knew that I wanted to pursue an engineering related career. Reflecting on this experience gave me the realization that my engineering skills today have their foundation in experiences like this. As I progressed into college and began pursuing mechanical engineering, the concepts and mindset I was learning were very similar to those that were introduced to me in Future City. The subject matter would vary along with the level of technicality but the underlying principles remained the same: problem solving and critical thinking. The usefulness of this was proven again when I graduated and accepted a job as a Mechatronics Engineer. A field that is halfway between a Mechanical Engineer and an Electrical Engineer. I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that I did not know but the projects still required the application of an engineering mindset, which I was already familiar with! The technical details and skills required for a project can be learned over time but the frame of mind with which to approach a problem is universal. Future City was one of my first experiences in developing that frame of mind and it has proven invaluable."
George Bivens, J.D.
George Bivens participated in the 2006 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with Conemaugh Township School District, supported by educator Renee Santa and mentor Matt Sotosky.
George graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Literature and Government from Juniata College in 2013.
He continued to Penn State University, Dickinson School of Law where he earned his Doctor of Law (J.D.), Cum Laude, in 2017.
George currently practices corporate, real estate and bankruptcy law as an Associate at Spence Custer Attorneys at Law in Johnstown, PA.
He was a longtime volunteer at Camp PARC, a summer camp for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and an American Red Cross disaster volunteer helping Texas communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
George Reflects on his Future City Experience:
“I really enjoyed working with my team for the Future City competition. I was a part of the first team to enter from my school. Although we weren't sure what to expect, I remember that we came away with an award for creative use of bridges. Winning that award was the result of a little brainstorming and some of our discussions leading up to the competition. The Future City competition served as an effective introduction for the in-depth projects students are asked to complete in high school and college. The competition required months of diligent planning and preparation, time management skills, and creativity, all of which are important tools for any career path.”
Ethan Crace participated in the 2006 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with Verna Montessori School, supported by educator John Jarocki and mentor Paul Hatala.
Ethan graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Vincent College in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Chemistry and minors in Physics and Mathematics.
He is now on track at Stanford University to earn a Doctor of Philosophy, (Ph.D.) Inorganic Chemistry in 2019.
While an undergrad at Saint Vincent College he was active in many groups including Radio Club and Fencing Club, was a chemistry and math tutor for both high school and college students, and interned at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
As a graduate student at Stanford he has served as a teaching assistant.
Along the way Ethan, an Eagle Scout, volunteered his time for the Boy Scouts of America, teaching younger scouts outdoor and leadership skills at Camp Conestoga.
Ethan Reflects on his Future City Experience:
“From a young age, I have been fascinated by science but up until middle school, I thought of the subject as being more academic in nature. That is to say, scientists worked in labs and made interesting discoveries but it may not have directly impacted the world as a whole. Then in middle school, I participated in the Future Cities Competition and my understanding of how science impacts our lives was expanded. When trying to run our simulated city, it became apparent that people are constantly impacted by science and it was important for maintaining public health and improving quality of life. In particular, I became interested in efficient power generation, how various fuel sources effect the environment, and pollution. Part of this interest, I think, came from growing up in Pennsylvania and West Virginia which is still resolving issues caused by abandoned mines and tailings from digging for coal and iron, fracking, and burning of fossil fuels. Thanks to the Future City project, I began to understand the problems of power production and the resulting waste that is produced. Additionally, it opened my eyes to studying science to directly improve the lives of people around me, not just studying science to advance fundamental understanding. Today I am a doctoral candidate studying materials which are relevant for solar cell and solid-state lighting and I think the reason I want to work with these materials is, in part, because the Future City Competition taught me that applied science can help to improve the world and I want to be a part of that change.”
Monica Corsetti, M.D.
Monica Corsetti participated in the 2006 Future City Pittsburgh Competition with Springdale Jr.-Sr. High School, supported by educator Sue Mellon.
Monica was awarded a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Bioengineering from the Pennsylvania State University in 2014 with honors from the Schreyer Honors College, and earned her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree at West Virginia University School of Medicine in 2018.
During her undergrad at Penn State, she was engaged in research with the bioengineering department through a grant from the American Heart Association. Her research focused on creating and testing a mechanical setup to examine the effects of shear stress on von Willebrand Factor – a clotting molecule commonly damaged in artificial hearts and ventricular assist devices. She received the Outstanding Senior Thesis Award from the Bioengineering Department in 2014 and won Second Place in Engineering at the 2014 Penn State Undergraduate Research Exhibition.
In college and medical school, Monica found time to share her talents as a volunteer: tutoring medical students and high school math, mentoring, and helping community outreach groups.
She currently serves as an Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Monica Reflects on her Future City Experience:
“Participating in Future City helped put me on the path to my career in medicine. While participating in Future City at Springdale High School, I began to develop an understanding of engineering as problem solving using critical reasoning. While trying to answer questions like, “how will we get our energy?" and then more complex questions such as, “how do we transport energy from power plants to facilities?” and “what materials do we have available to make our facilities?” I developed a passion for problem solving. I wanted to take math, science, and other STEM knowledge and put it to real life use; thus, my interest in engineering was born. Future City was one of the first things to teach me that you never approach a problem from just one angle – often a seemingly simple question or concept can have layers of complexity, and different people may have different goals or solutions for the same problem. Perhaps most importantly, Future City emphasized that teamwork is essential to solving problems effectively, whether that be designing a building, assembling an engine or even treating a patient. I still use the concepts emphasized in Future City in my work as a physician. When I see a patient in the emergency department, myself, other physicians, nurses, staff and the patient are all on a team. We all use critical reasoning skills to design and implement a treatment plan that utilizes existing resources safely, efficiently and effectively to create a great outcome for the patient.”