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Meet Our New Faculty: Natural Sciences

Every fall, Arts & Sciences welcomes new faces to our community. In addition to a talented group of undergraduate and graduate students, this year's recruits include 34 new faculty members.

"I'm happy to welcome this large and outstanding group of new faculty," says Barbara Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences. "The work they do will contribute greatly to our ongoing efforts in teaching and research across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities."  

This week, we are highlighting our new natural science faculty. Please read below to discover their varied research interests and professional backgrounds.

 


Chemistry

Joseph Fournier, PhD, joins the chemistry department as an assistant professor. His research focuses on the characterization of short-lived reaction intermediates and revealing molecular-level mechanistic details of fast chemical processes using ultrafast spectroscopic techniques.  He is specifically interested in studying reaction dynamics and mechanisms of proton-coupled electron transfer processes and small molecule catalysis. He earned his doctorate from Yale University.

Mathematics

Likai Chen, PhD, joins the mathematics department as an assistant professor. Her research interests include statistical learning for time series; high-dimensional testing and inference; structured high-dimensional models; temporal and cross-sectional dependence; non-linear processes; changepoint detection; and robust statistics. She earned her doctorate from the University of Chicago in statistics.

 

Laura Escobar Vega

Laura Escobar Vega, PhD, joins the mathematics department as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on the interplay between combinatorics and algebraic geometry.  She has developed combinatorial models to understand the geometry of varieties. Previously, she served as the J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor at University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign. She was also an Einstein fellow at TU Berlin and a postdoctoral fellow at The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences. She earned her doctorate from Cornell University.
 

 

Silas Johnson

Silas Johnson, PhD, joins the mathematics department as a lecturer. His research interests include number theory and arithmetic statistics. Previously, he served as a postdoctoral lecturer at Northwestern University. Originally from Bloomington, MN, Johnson received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

 

 

Martha Precup, PhD, joins the mathematics department as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on the interactions between algebraic geometry, combinatorics, and representation theory. Much of her work involves using Lie theory and combinatorics to characterize the geometry of Hessenberg varieties, Springer fibers, and other subvarieties of the flag variety.  Previously, she served as a postdoctoral lecturer at Northwestern University. She earned her doctorate from Notre Dame.

Physics

Michael Nowak, PhD, joins the physics department as a research professor. His research focuses on high energy phenomena as related to the physics of black holes—stellar mass black holes in our galaxy, as well as supermassive black holes in our galactic center and in the centers of other galaxies—and neutron stars. Most recently, he served as a research scientist at the Chandra X-ray Science Center at the MIT-Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research where he conducted research with NASA and ESA satellites. He earned his doctorate from Stanford University.

 

Saori Pastore

Saori Pastore, PhD, joins the physics department as an assistant professor. Her research focuses on theoretical nuclear physics. Previously, she served as a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. Originally from Italy, she earned her doctorate from Old Dominion University.

 

 

 

Maria Piarulli, PhD, joins the physics department as an assistant professor. Her research activity is mainly focused on ab-initio studies of structure and reactions of atomic nuclei and nucleonic matter equation of state. In particular, she is interested in developing chiral effective field theory potentials that can be used in Quantum Monte Carlo calculations. From 2015-18, Piarulli was a postdoctoral fellow at Argonne National Laboratory. She earned her doctorate under the supervision of Prof. Rocco Schiavilla from Old Dominion University and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

 

Mikhail Tikhonov

Mikhail Tikhonov, PhD, joins the physics department as an assistant professor. His research lies at the intersection of statistical physics, bioinformatics and microbial ecology. His other interests include genetic regulatory networks, developmental biology and information theory. He earned his doctorate from Princeton University before serving as a postdoctoral fellow at first Harvard University and then Stanford University.

 

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