New Faculty 2016-2017

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Dan Bergstralh

Assistant Professor of Biology

Dan Bergstralh joins the University after postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina and the University of Cambridge. Using multiple model systems, he explores the biology of epithelia, the most common type of tissue in the human body. Specifically, his lab is interested in how epithelial cells divide and in how they adhere to one another. By exploring the relationship between division and adhesion, the lab aims to understand how epithelial tissues are built during development and maintained over the lifespan of the organism. 

In addition to his postdoctoral appointment at Cambridge, he held a Marshall Sherfield Fellowship, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie (European Commission) Fellowship, and a Research Fellowship at Clare Hall College. An undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Bergstralh undertook predoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health. 

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Thomas Fleischman

Assistant Professor of History

Thomas Fleischman joins the faculty after postdoctoral appointments in Yale University’s Agrarian Studies Program, as visiting assistant professor at Bowdoin College, and as writer-in-residence at New York University’s Jordan Center for the Study of Russia. 

Environmental history, the history of state socialism, economic history, the history of modern Germany, and the history of animals all intersect in Fleischman’s work. His forthcoming book, Three Little Pigs: East Germany’s ‘Green’ Revolution, 1945–2000, focuses on East Germany’s decision in the 1970s to develop a large-scale pork industry, which culminated in an environmental disaster. Fleischman argues that practices of industrial agriculture in state socialist and capitalist economies were very similar and led to parallel environmental problems. 

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Gregory Heyworth

Associate Professor of English

Gregory Heyworth joins the faculty from the University Mississippi, where he has taught since 2001.

Heyworth is the founder (2010) and director of the Lazarus Project, a nonprofit initiative to recover damaged cultural heritage objects using imaging technologies. The Lazarus Project has digitally restored scores of damaged works and objects in libraries and collections around the world, including the Vercelli Book and the Martellus Map, and has launched major multispectral digitization projects in Chartres, France; Tblisi, Georgia; and Vercelli, Italy.

Heyworth has published and lectured extensively on medieval literary criticism and on his work with the Lazarus Project. His major publications include a monograph, Desiring Bodies (Notre Dame, 2009), and a critical edition, Les Eschéz d’Amours, with Daniel O’Sullivan (Brill, 2013). He currently is preparing a publication, Textual Science and the Future of the Past, with Roger Easton of Rochester Institute of Technology. A work of intellectual history and a practical introduction to the latest technologies and techniques of textual recovery, the book will explore topics such as codicology; paleography; imaging techniques and processing; and the history of the book, manuscripts, and textual science. Heyworth’s digital research has been funded by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Pengfei (Frank) Huo

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Pengfei (Frank) Huo joins the tenure-track faculty at the University after serving as a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Rochester for the past year. Frank’s PhD work focused on developing efficient and accurate theoretical methods to better understand energy transfer processes in the natural light harvesting systems that perform photosynthesis.

In 2012, he was appointed a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology, where he simulated the dynamics of electron and proton transfer mechanisms in catalysts that are used to produce fuels from sunlight. He was recognized as one of the top reviewers for the Journal of Chemical Physics (2012) and received an ACS PHYS Division Postdoctoral Research Award (2014).

At Rochester, Huo will lead a group to investigate the complex chemical and molecular dynamics associated with harvesting and storing solar energy. The group’s primary interests include the charge transfer dynamics in organic photovoltaic devices; the coupled transfer of electrons and protons in photo-catalytic systems; and research to active small molecules as a more efficient source for solar energy storage.

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Kathryn Knowles

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Kathryn Knowles joins the Rochester faculty after completing work at the University of Washington as an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Postdoctoral Research Fellow. In that appointment, she studied luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals and their application to solar energy.

Knowles plans to establish an interdisciplinary research program focused on investigating the fundamental properties of nanoscale materials and their interactions with light. Initial projects will involve the synthesis and development of mixed-metal oxide semiconductor nanomaterials, a diverse class of materials with optical, electronic, and magnetic properties that vary widely depending on their composition. In addition to exploring the rich chemistry and physics of such materials, Knowles aims to exploit their potential as cheap and efficient alternatives to expensive and precious metal catalysts for photocatalytic applications and especially those relevant to solar fuels production.

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Narayana Kocherlakota

Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics

Narayana Kocherlakota joins the faculty as the Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics. As a leader of a recent economic analysis on taxation and social insurance called the New Dynamic Public Finance (also the title of his 2010 book published by Princeton University Press), Kocherlakota asks how best to design social insurance or redistribution systems while maintaining incentives for individuals to work and save. The field was essentially launched with an article coauthored by Kocherlakota along with Mikhail Golosov and Aleh Tsyvinski in 2003.

He has made a number of other significant contributions in areas of economic inquiry such as financial and monetary economics. His current research focuses on how the existence of a lower bound on (nominal) interest rates influences monetary policy and macroeconomic outcomes.

Kocherlakota served as the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 2009 to 2015. His earlier academic appointments include professorships at Stanford University and the University of Minnesota. He was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society and has handled editorial duties at several journals in economics, including Review of Economic Studies, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Economic Theory, and Theoretical Economics.

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Mauricio Ibanez-Mejia

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Mauricio Ibanez-Mejia joins the University after a two-year appointment as a W. O. Crosby Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ibanez-Mejia is interested in the geologic history of the solid Earth and its chemical evolution. His research primarily focuses on studying the processes responsible for the growth and modification of Earth’s lithosphere, using a combination of field observations and laboratory geochemical analyses. A central theme of his research is the application of isotope geochemistry to determine crystallization and cooling ages of rocks and minerals. The information allows him to place temporal constraints on rock-forming processes to reconstruct the tectonic history of continents and the development of magmatic systems and to study mountain-building events in deep geologic time.

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Kathryn Mariner

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Kathryn Mariner joins the faculty after finishing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. 

As a cultural anthropologist, Mariner examines the intersection of race, class, and kinship in the United States through the frame of adoption and social inequality. She is currently working on a book manuscript, Contingent Kinship: The Flows and Futures of Adoption in the United States, based on her research at a private adoption agency in Chicago between 2009 and 2016. The book explores the speculative logics of adoption by attending to how raced and classed exchanges of power, money, and knowledge produce notions of the child as an imagined future. The book is based on Mariner’s doctoral dissertation, which won the Lichtstern Distinguished Dissertation Prize from the University of Chicago’s Department of Anthropology. Mariner is also trained in clinical social work and uses that background to inform her ethnographic practice. 

Mariner’s teaching experience includes courses on writing, race, and social inequality. Her planned teaching for the 2016–17 academic year includes courses on the black body, kinship, reproduction, and whiteness. 

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William Miller

Assistant Professor of English

William Miller joins the faculty from Johns Hopkins University, where he earned his PhD in English in 2016. 

His current book project is titled Counter-Enthusiasms: The Rationalization of False Prophecy in the Early English Enlightenment. In that work, he argues that unlicensed popular prophesying in the mid–17th century necessitated a thorough revision of the link between revelation and political legitimacy, resulting in new notions of language and rationality. Miller focuses on the construction of the English language idea of “enthusiasm” and the figuration of “the enthusiast,” showing that the concepts shift the burden in detecting false prophecy from belief—“what theological positions does this purported prophet hold?”—to style—“how does this purported prophet appear, sound, and behave?” His scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as New Literary History, Renaissance Drama, and Studies in Philology. 

Miller has served as managing editor of ELH: English Literary History and has taught on 17th- and 18th-century British literature; the novel; literature and language theory; the relation among religion, science, and literature; and other topics. His research and teaching have been supported by fellowships and grants from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Texas at Austin and from the Modern Language Association and the Newberry Library. 

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Sergio Montero

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Sergio Montero joins the faculty from the California Institute of Technology, where he was awarded the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences Chair’s Council Fellowship. 

Montero’s research interests include applied microeconomics, econometrics, industrial organization, and political economy. His current research uses structural models to explain patterns of campaign spending and elections in Mexico. He is also working on developing new machine-learning techniques for understanding electoral behavior in Mexico. 

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Lee Murray

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Lee Murray joins the University after conducting postdoctoral research jointly at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

An atmospheric chemist, he examines the coupling between the chemically reactive components of Earth’s atmosphere and its climate. He develops and uses complex three-dimensional models that resolve the spatial and temporal evolution of atmospheric composition and energy, informed by satellite and other big-data observations. His research focus to date has been on the human and climate-driven factors that alter the atmosphere’s ability to remove air pollutants and reactive greenhouse gases such as methane. One area of interest has been the role that lightning plays in influencing air quality and climate through its production of reactive nitrogen oxides, and how chemistry and climate in turn influence lightning by perturbing the physics of clouds.

He maintains ongoing collaborations with GISS and is involved with international research efforts aimed at informing the upcoming assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization established through the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization.

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John Nichol

Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy

John Nichol joins the faculty after a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Physics at Harvard University.

An experimental condensed matter physicist, Nichol investigates the quantum mechanical behavior of nanoscale objects. He has developed new techniques for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging, enabling precision two-dimensional imaging of organic samples with 10-nanometer spatial resolution. Nichol has also explored the use of individual electrons in semiconductors as quantum bits, or qubits, work that has applications for quantum computing. His recent work demonstrated precise entanglement or “spooky action at a distance” between individual electrons in a semiconductor, laying a foundation for a future quantum computer. Nichol has published in journals such as Nature Communications, Physical Review X, Physical Review B, and Applied Physics Letters, and he has delivered talks about his research at institutions around the world.

He received the John Bardeen Award for outstanding research in condensed matter physics as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

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Patrick Oakes

Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Patrick Oakes joins Rochester from the University of Chicago, where he was a postdoctoral scholar as part of the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, the James Franck Institute, and the Department of Physics.

An experimental biophysicist whose research lies at the interface of physics and cell biology, Oakes focuses on how mechanical interactions can act as signaling and regulatory mechanisms in fundamental cellular processes. Oakes applies an interdisciplinary approach that combines quantitative microscopy with computational modeling and genetic perturbations to probe mechanical interactions in systems of purified proteins, individual cells, and multicellular ensembles. His work has been published in the Journal of Cell Biology, Biophysical Journal and Physical Review Letters among other outlets.

At Rochester, Oakes aims to create a collaborative interdisciplinary laboratory that works closely with researchers from other departments, including those at the Medical Center.

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Jack Paine

Assistant Professor of Political Science

Jack Paine joins the faculty after a yearlong appointment as a postdoctoral associate in the University’s Wallis Institute of Political Economy.

Paine’s first major project examines the relationship between oil wealth and civil war from a game theory perspective. In a series of articles and papers he uses conflict bargaining models to explain why higher national-level oil wealth should decrease prospects for civil wars that aim to overthrow the government at the center—but also why oil-rich regions should be more likely to fight secessionist civil wars. His second major project examines historical causes of wars, including the long-term legacies of precolonial kingdoms, the domestic and international dimensions of colonial European settlers and decolonization wars, and the “colonial peace.” He has published articles in Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, and Journal of Theoretical Politics.

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Anna Rosensweig

Assistant Professor of French

Anna Rosensweig joins the faculty after a two-year fellowship as a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California. As a postdoctoral scholar, Rosensweig was one of six fellows selected from more than 930 applicants across more than a dozen fields of study.

Rosensweig’s scholarship and teaching focus on early modern literature and culture, the intersections of literature and political theory, and performance studies. She is currently completing a book manuscript, Tragic Opposition: Rights of Resistance on the Early Modern Stage, in which she locates a new genealogy of rights in early modern tragedy. Rosensweig has also begun a second book, Building the Royal Body, which investigates how early modern dramas and political ceremonies align the king’s body with elements of urban architecture. She has published on early modern drama, as well as on more contemporary subjects, from symbolist theater to the ethics of representing the 1994 Rwandan genocide. 

In addition to the fellowship at USC, Rosensweig’s research has also been supported by a yearlong fellowship from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation. Her work has appeared in journals such as The French Review and L’Esprit Créateur. She has presented papers at scholarly conferences, including the Modern Language Association and the American Comparative Literature Association. She also co-organizes the Early Modern French Studies Reading Group, a forum of the MLA Commons.

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Thomas Weber

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Thomas Weber joins the University after completing a postdoctoral position at the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington.

A biogeochemical oceanographer, Weber uses numerical models to explore the links among marine ecosystems, elemental cycling, and the global climate system. His doctoral work provided insights into oceanic sources and sinks of fixed nitrogen—a critical nutrient that sustains primary production in the ocean. In his postdoctoral work, Weber explored the timescales of oceanic carbon storage as well as the transfer of carbon to the deep ocean by sinking organic particles. His work has been published in the journals Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and has been recognized by awards from the Geochemical Society and the American Geophysical Union.

Weber is involved in the global GEOTRACES project, which aims to map the distributions of rare elements in the ocean and understand their cycling processes. He is designing new data-assimilating models to interpret observations from the ongoing field campaign and has received funding from the National Science Foundation to continue this work at Rochester.