Posted on in College & Campus

College Welcomes Twelve New Faculty

The College of Natural Sciences welcomes twelve new faculty members this fall. Whether studying star formation, unraveling the effects of epigenetics on gene expression, or understanding the dynamics of ionized matter, these innovative faculty members build on the college’s reputation for groundbreaking research and research-based teaching.

Michael BarnesMichael Barnes

Assistant Professor, Department of Physics

Barnes studies the turbulent dynamics of ionized matter, with applications to fusion energy experiments and to various space and astrophysical systems. These turbulent dynamics often play a critical role in regulating the system’s behavior. His research combines analytic theory with advanced computing techniques that utilize the world’s fastest supercomputers. Significant discoveries include the possibility of bifurcated temperature and rotation profiles in fusion plasmas, critically balanced turbulence in fusion plasmas, and a novel heating mechanism that may explain observations of mass-dependent ion temperatures in the solar wind. Barnes received his bachelor’s of science from the University of Arkansas and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He held the Oxford-Culham Fusion Research Fellowship at the University of Oxford and a Department of Energy Fusion Energy Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin.

Molly BrayMolly Bray

Professor, School of Human Ecology

Bray’s research focuses on the relationship between energy balance and lifestyle factors such as exercise, nutrition, and circadian patterns of behavior. Her recent findings related to the genetic underpinnings of exercise adherence and the relationship between timing and quality of energy intake and weight gain/metabolic health have been featured on national and international news programs, a myriad of websites, and popular news media. Bray currently leads one of the largest genetic studies of exercise adherence established to date, the Training Interventions and Genetics of Exercise Response (TIGER) study, with a total planned cohort of more than 5,000 individuals. Her research has included investigations of aerobic fitness and resting and exercise energy expenditure in children and adolescents, circadian studies of feeding and metabolic response, and clinical studies of morbidly obese adolescents undergoing bariatric surgery. A nationally recognized expert on the genetics of obesity, energy balance, and exercise response, Bray has published extensively in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals, with her work being featured at national and international scientific meetings. Bray has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and a Ph.D. in human and molecular genetics. She has served as the director of the Heflin Center for Genomic Sciences Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine Genetics Core Laboratory.

Robert DickeyRobert Dickey

Professor and Chair, Department of Marine Science

Dickey has worked as a research scientist for 29 years and comes to The University of Texas at Austin from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory and Division of Seafood Science and Technology in Dauphin Island, Alabama where he served as director. He has substantial leadership and administrative experience in marine sciences, research facility administration, and a successful record of advocacy for marine science research and outreach programs that serve the public interest. His expertise and research interests are in the areas of marine botany/phycology, marine toxins and bioactive natural products, and seafood safety. Dickey is also the director of the UT Marine Science Institute.

Isil DilligIsil Dillig

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Dillig is a graduate of Stanford University, where she received both her bachelor's degree as well as her Ph.D. in computer science. After completing her doctorate in 2011, she worked as an assistant professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Dillig's research interests include program analysis, programming languages, and automated logical reasoning. The main goal of her research is to make software systems more reliable, secure, and easier to build in a robust way.

Thomas DilligThomas Dillig

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Dillig received his undergraduate degree and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University. The goal of his research is to make programs more reliable through static reasoning. Specifically, Dillig is interested in developing precise static analysis techniques that work on real programs. He is also interested in constraint solving and simplification techniques and applying them to program analysis problems. Dillig was an assistant professor at the College of William and Mary before joining the Department of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin.

Adam KrausAdam Kraus

Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy

Kraus received bachelor's degrees in physics, astronomy, and mathematics from the University of Kansas in 2003, and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology in 2009. From 2009-2012 he was a Hubble prize postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and from 2012-2013 he was a Clay prize postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Kraus's research focuses on the formation and evolution of planetary systems, including programs to directly image gas giant planets as they form in orbit around other stars. He also studies the process of star formation, which sets the stage upon which planet formation occurs. His research uses observations from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, as well as large ground-based telescopes like the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes. He will make use of UT’s McDonald Observatory, especially the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and will use the future Giant Magellan Telescope that UT and its partners are constructing in South America.

Nancy MoranNancy Moran

Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Moran obtained her bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and her doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. She is an evolutionary biologist whose research intersects the fields of genetics and genomics, microbiology, entomology, and ecology. Moran’s focus is on genome evolution in host-associated microorganisms, especially bacterial symbionts of insects, and on the consequences of symbiotic associations for biological diversity and ecological relationships. She has authored 200 research papers. Moran was elected as a Member of the National Academy of Science in 2004 and was awarded the International Prize for Biology in 2010. Before coming to The University of Texas at Austin, she was Regent's Professor at the University of Arizona (1986-2010) and the William Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University (2010-2013).

Howard OchmanHoward Ochman

Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Ochman was originally trained as a population geneticist at the University of Rochester, where he received his Ph.D. in 1984. Technical advances in molecular biology prompted his switch to studying the organization and evolution of bacterial genomes and for the past three decades he has been investigating molecular evolution and the diversity of interactions among microbes. After a postdoctoral stint in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, he worked as a research scientist on the Human Genome Project and in 1987 moved to Washington University to study the evolution of bacterial pathogenesis. Prior to joining the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin, Ochman held faculty appointments at the University of Rochester (1991-1998), the University of Arizona (1998-2010), and Yale University (2010-2013).

Hong QiaoHong Qiao

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Qiao received her Ph.D. degree from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGDB). She subsequently moved to the lab of Joseph Ecker, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Investigator at the Salk Institute for Biological studies at San Diego. Qiao’s research focuses on chromatin remodeling and the establishment of the specificity of gene expression in response to hormones and stressors. Her highly interdisciplinary research program combines aspects of genetic, genomic, proteomic, molecular, and biochemical approaches and her long-term goal is to curb the susceptibility of crops to certain stressors, allowing for higher yields during stress conditions to support profitable crops and feed the world's growing population. Her research will also have great potential for both the agricultural and the pharmaceutical industries.

Sean RobertsSean Roberts

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Roberts received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2003, and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in late 2009 with Andrei Tokmakoff. His thesis work focused on using nonlinear infrared spectroscopy to visualize time-dependent fluctuations of water’s hydrogen bonding network and to understand how these fluctuations contribute to the transport of protons throughout the liquid. Roberts was then named an American Competitiveness in Chemistry Fellow by the National Science Foundation and carried out postdoctoral research under the guidance of Stephen Bradforth and Alexander Benderskii at the University of Southern California. While at USC, he worked as a member of the Center for Energy Nanoscience to characterize the structure and electronic dynamics of materials with applications in solar energy and solid-state lighting. When Roberts joins us in spring of 2014, his research group will use both existing techniques and develop new spectroscopic techniques to investigate the fundamental chemical interactions that dictate the behavior of electronics, based on nanoscale materials such as organic semiconductors and semiconducting nanocrystals.

WalkerStephen-170x200.jpgStephen Walker

Professor, Department of Mathematics and Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation

Walker received his bachelor's degree in mathematics at the Oriel College of Oxford University, being awarded Open Exhibition on entry to the college. He received his Ph.D. in statistics from Imperial College London in 1995 with Jon Wakefield. The focus of Walker's research was on Bayesian parametric and nonparametric methods with applications in medical statistics. After graduation, he taught at Imperial College London, the University of Bath, and most recently at the University of Kent. Walker will join the Department of Mathematics, the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation, and will serve as the Paul D. and Betty Robertson Meek and American Petrofina Foundation Centennial Professor in Business.

Blerta XhemalceBlerta Xhemalce

Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Xhemalce received her Ph.D. at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France and performed her postdoctoral training at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The focus of her research is to unravel how gene expression is regulated by epigenetic modifications of chromatin and RNAs. The ultimate goal of her lab is to discover novel enzymes, writers, or erasers of such modifications that are potential targets for therapeutic drugs that could alleviate human diseases including cancer. To achieve this goal the Xhemalce lab will use a diverse array of approaches, including cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, and mass spectrometry. The Xhemalce lab is also committed to supporting its members to achieve their academic goals and to think outside the box.

Steve is the marketing coordinator for the College of Natural Sciences. He has a BS in Ecology from Evergreen State College and a BS in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from UT Austin.


  • No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Leave your comment

Guest Saturday, April 19, 2014