Carnegie Mellon University

Dear CMU Ambassadors,

Greetings from Pittsburgh! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy and finding ways to connect with each other.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges, the Carnegie Mellon community has shown great resilience in creatively advancing our mission each and every day. Similar to our posture for fall, we are operating in a hybrid learning model during this spring semester, with more than half of our students in Pittsburgh and the rest studying from their homes around the world. With a robust mitigation strategy and a campus community taking its Tartan’s Responsibility pledge resolutely, students have been able to continue their life-changing CMU educations without any interruptions caused by outbreaks. I continue to be grateful for our success during this unprecedented time.

The pandemic has also presented opportunities for incredible innovation. One of the projects I’m most proud of is our Tartan COVID-19 Asymptomatic Testing Program. This spring, we opened a new facility in the Pittsburgh Technology Center, where certified CMU lab personnel are processing and analyzing thousands of COVID-19 tests each week, assisted by complex robotic systems. The high-volume lab produces results within three days, allowing every Pittsburgh-based student, faculty member and staff member, as well as our campus dining and custodial affiliates, to be tested each week. We are one of the few universities in the country without a medical school that has its own COVID-19 testing lab, and this cutting-edge technology is allowing us to monitor and reduce the virus’ spread within our community.

While many CMU faculty members have made remarkable pivots to address issues related to the pandemic, our broader research and scholarship work continues to generate results with real-world impact. I’m pleased to share four stories of groundbreaking projects:

  • Imagine that a team of doctors could use an MRI scan of a diseased human organ to print a 3D model and practice interventions prior to surgery. Our researchers have developed such a process using a low-cost 3D printer, a flexible material and a container of gelatin that enables the production of unique life-sized, anatomically accurate hearts that have similar elasticity to real tissue. Creating operational 3D bioprinted organs is still years away, but this research moves the field one step closer to its goal while also providing a valuable tool to the medical community.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices have become commonplace — your refrigerator might be connected to your Wi-Fi right now — but do you know how your data is being shared by the manufacturers? "The Wall Street Journal" recently profiled researchers in our CyLab Security and Privacy Institute who have proposed a data-use-notification prototype for consumers. In the future, your device might have a data-privacy label much like the nutrition label on a box of cereal, helping you to better digest how your personal information might be used.
  • Nanoparticles have great potential to revolutionize the delivery of therapeutics, such as cancer drugs, allowing them to evade the immune system as they transport their precious cargo. Unfortunately, natural exosomes are unstable and quick to break down. An international, cross-disciplinary research team led by Carnegie Mellon has solved that problem by developing a hybrid exosome with polymer surfaces that can precisely and consistently deliver therapeutics while remaining stable. As often happens, the inspiration for the project began socially — when two graduate students sharing a night out quite literally were studying beer bubbles that reminded them of the particles.
  • Our CMU Computer Science Academy has become an essential resource, especially during COVID-19, for students and teachers in K-12 schools with limited opportunities to engage with a topic that’s critical for future high-tech careers. The program provides a free online computer science curriculum, which is being used by 1,200 schools and 22,000 students in 30 countries this year. In the United States, 60% of the public high schools benefiting from the program are high-need, reaching students underrepresented in tech fields. Amazon recently provided a $2 million grant to support the CMU CS Academy over the next three years, enabling the program to further develop its curriculum and expand to additional schools and students.

Finally, I wish to highlight new additions to our senior leadership team. In recognition of unprecedented growth in technology as a key driver of our missions, Dr. Stan Waddell has been promoted to vice president for information technology and chief information officer. Dr. Waddell joined CMU in 2019 as associate vice president for Computing Services. I look forward to his contributions in this new role, especially as we continue to activate CMU's technology-enabled future. And in April, Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant will join CMU as the university’s inaugural vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. Dr. Heading-Grant most recently served as vice president of DEI at the University of Vermont, where she has had a 30-year tenure advising leadership on policies, programs and strategies to achieve inclusive excellence. I look forward to relying on her significant expertise as we advance our DEI goals.

As always, thank you for all you do to support and advocate for Carnegie Mellon. While I don’t know when we will be able to gather for in-person events, the university continues to create exceptional virtual events featuring our faculty, students and alumni. I invite you to visit to view a calendar of events and register for upcoming opportunities.

I hope to see you in person just as soon as we are able to safely do so. Until then, be well.


Farnam Jahanian
President and Henry L. Hillman President's Chair