CNS Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

October 21, 2021 • by Esther Robards-Forbes

See the new faces around the College of Natural Sciences.

The College of Natural Sciences welcomed 16 new faculty members since April. They bring expertise in health, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, data science, coral reefs and much more. 

Headshot image

Aditya Akella

Professor, Department of Computer Science

Akella works on improving the performance, reliability, and correctness of Cloud and Internet infrastructure. His research straddles the boundary between computer networking and adjacent areas such as operating systems, databases and formal methods. Akella has won numerous awards for his research, teaching and service contributions. Akella's research has impacted production systems run by some of the world's largest tech companies. Akella is a Regents Chair professor of Computer Science at UT Austin. He obtained his Ph.D. from CMU and B. Tech. from Indian Institute of Technology Madras. Prior to joining UT Austin, he spent 15 years as a professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Headshot of Chawla

Shuchi Chawla

Professor, Department of Computer Science

Chawla holds an Endowed Professorship in Computer Science and is an Amazon Scholar. Chawla is a theoretical computer scientist specializing in the areas of algorithm design, and economics and computation. Chawla received a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and a B.Tech. from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Prior to joining UT, she spent 15 years as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also previously held visiting positions at the University of Washington and Microsoft Research. Chawla recently served as the PC Chair of SODA'20 and EC'21, and currently serves on the editorial boards of the ACM Transactions on Algorithms and the ACM Transactions on Economics and Computation.

Headshot of Callman

Cassandra Callmann

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Callmann's research focuses on the use of synthetic carbohydrate-based polymers to understand and manipulate biological processes, ultimately to generate novel biomaterials for applications in biology and medicine. Callmann received her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego under the supervision of Nathan C. Gianneschi. She went on to a postdoctoral position in Chad A. Mirkin's laboratory at Northwestern University. Callmann is an awardee of a First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

Headshot of Casey

Jordan Casey

Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Science

Casey is a marine ecologist who uses molecular tools to understand how marine organisms interact with one another. Most of Casey's work is based on tropical coral reefs, but she also applies molecular techniques to study food webs in the Texas Coastal Bend. Her work illuminates the diversity and resilience of tropical and temperate marine systems. Casey earned her B.S. in ecology and biodiversity and Spanish from the University of the South and her Ph.D. in marine science from James Cook University in Australia. 

Headshot of Delgadina

Matías Delgadino

Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Delgadino's research interests are mostly related to mathematical modeling through partial differential equations (PDEs). For the most part, his work is devoted to understanding self-organization phenomena in systems with a large number of particles/agents. Using this perspective, he is currently trying to understand the dynamics of parameter training in commonly used machine learning algorithms. He did his undergraduate studies at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (Argentina), and then went to the University of Maryland for his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics under the supervision of Antoine Mellet. After his Ph.D., he held postdoctoral positions at UNESCO's ICTP (Italy) under the supervision of Francesco Maggi and Imperial College (United Kingdom) under the supervision of Greg Pavliotis and Jose Carrillo.

Headshot of Farahi

Arya Farahi

Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences

Farahi's research contributes to the fields of astroinformatics and urban informatics; and is focused on understanding and mitigating the unexpected and not-well-understood consequences of AI models, including algorithmic bias and uncertainty quantification. Previously he was a Data Science Fellow at the Michigan Institute for Data Science and received his Ph.D. in physics and scientific computing from the University of Michigan. He was a Schmidt Science Fellow finalist and the recipient of the best student paper award in KDD'18. He is a co-founder of the Data Informed Cities for Everyone, a multi-institutional research collaboration that uses data to inform budget planning, resource allocation and policy evaluation in urban settings. He is an active member of several international projects and collaborations, including the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the COsmostatistics INitiative (COIN) and XMM-XXL Consortium, among others. He also has a history of successful collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the cities of Detroit and Flint.

Headshot of Harpak

Arbel Harpak

Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Harpak is an Assistant Professor affiliated with both the Division of Health Informatics and Data Science in the Department of Population Health at the Dell Medical School and the Department of Integrative Biology at the College of Natural Sciences. The Harpak Lab combines modeling and large-scale statistical inference to understand the mechanisms that generate and shape genetic variation and translate this mechanistic understanding into better genotype-to-phenotype maps. Previously, Harpak was a Simons Foundation Fellow in Molly Przeworski's lab at Columbia University. He holds a B.S. in both mathematics and physics and an M.S. in ecology, evolution and behavior from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, advised by Guy Sella. He also holds an M.S. in statistics and a Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University, where he was advised by Dr. Jonathan Pritchard as a Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary and Human Genomics Fellow.

Headshot of Hooten

Mevin Hooten

Professor, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences

Hooten develops statistical methods that allow us to best use data to learn about the natural world. He has authored three books and more than 160 scientific publications in the areas of Bayesian and spatio-temporal statistics with applications in ecology, epidemiology and environmental science. Hooten was previously a Professor at Colorado State University and Assistant Unit Leader of the Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He was elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2017 and is the 2021 Chair of the ASA Section on Statistics and the Environment.

Headshot of Li

Xiuling Li

Professor, Department of Chemistry and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Li's research focuses on nanostructured semiconductor materials and devices. She has published more than 160 journal papers, holds more than 20 patents and has delivered over 120 invited lectures worldwide. She is a Fellow of the IEEE, the American Physics Society (APS), the Optical Society (OSA) and the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Li received her B.S. from Peking University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles. Following post-doctoral positions at the California Institute of Technology and University of Illinois, as well as industry experience at II-VI, Inc. (formerly EpiWorks, Inc.), she served on the faculty of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for 14 years, where she was the Donald Biggar Willett Professor in Engineering and the interim director of the Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. She is Deputy Editor of Applied Physics Letters.

Headshot of Lin

Yi-Chih Lin

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Lin's research focuses on the development of high-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) for the investigation of biological membranes, membrane-protein interactions and the function of membrane proteins in native-like environments. Lin received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Zahra Fakhraai. He went on to a postdoctoral position in Simon Scheuring's laboratory at the Weill Cornell Medicine.

Headshot of Lu

Professor, Department of Chemistry, Richard J. V. Johnson - Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry

Lu has expertise in many scientific areas including bioinorganic, bioanalytical and biomaterials chemistry. He has received many research and teaching awards, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors Award (2002), Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007), Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2015), Royal Society of Chemistry Applied Inorganic Chemistry Award (2015) and Joseph Chatt Award (2020). Lu received his B.S. degree from Peking University, and Ph.D. from University of California at Los Angeles. After two years of postdoctoral research in the Professor Harry B. Gray group at the Caltech, Lu joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994 and went on to be named the Jay and Ann Schenck Endowed Professor in 2010. In August of 2021, Lu moved to The University of Texas at Austin, becoming Robert J.V. Johnson-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry.

Headshot of ostling

Annette Ostling

Associate Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Oden Institute

Ostling's research focuses on competitive coexistence and understanding how competition influences community structure and diversity, as well as what insights observed patterns of community structure might provide about competitive coexistence. Her other research interests include macroecological spatial scaling patterns and their use in estimating extinction, as well as the influence of large-scale biodiversity loss on ecosystem function. While most of her work is broadly applicable, she is especially interested in the coexistence of tree species in forests. Ostling received her undergraduate degree in physics from Columbia University, her masters degree in physics from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her Ph.D. in energy and resources from UC-Berkeley. She previously taught at the University of Michigan.

Headshot of Ren

Hang Ren

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Ren's research interests lie in analytical chemistry and electrochemistry. His research laboratory is focused on developing nanoscale electrochemical tools to disentangle the complexity at electrochemical interfaces and to help better understand the fundamental processes controlling the energy conversion and storage processes in battery technology and electrocatalysis. The lab is also interested in developing new electrochemical tools for biological studies, including single-cell analysis. Ren received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his B.S. from Sun Yat-Sen University. He did his postdoctoral research at the University of Utah.

Headshot of Samanta

Devleena Samanta

Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Samanta's research is focused on the design, synthesis and study of size-confined materials, with an emphasis on utilizing these materials to address challenges in biology and medicine. Her research has led to an acoustically powered electroresponsive drug delivery system based on conducting polymer nanoparticles; examination of new areas of investigation in chemical reactivity in confined spaces; and exploration of new classes of DNA-based structures for chemical analysis and biological sensing. She earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University and completed her postdoctoral training at Northwestern University. Samanta is also passionate about educating the next generation of scientists and strives to create opportunities for students from underprivileged backgrounds. For her research and teaching, she has been a recipient of several awards including the Outstanding Researcher Award from the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN), IIN Outstanding Mentor Award, Hanna Gray Finalist Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, IIN Postdoctoral Fellowship, Winston Chen Stanford Graduate Fellowship and Center for Molecular Analysis and Design Fellowship. 

Headshot of Wu

David Wu

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Wu works primarily on theoretical and applied cryptography, with a particular focus on developing new cryptographic methods to enable the design of new privacy-preserving systems as well as securing and verifying computations in the cloud. Wu received his Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University in 2018 and was an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia from 2019 to 2021. He has received the NSF CAREER Award and the Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship. His research has been recognized with Best Young-Researcher Paper Awards at CRYPTO 2017 and CRYPTO 2018 as well as an Outstanding Paper Award at ESORICS.

Headshot of Zamudio

Kelly Zamudio

Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Zamudio is a biodiversity scientist with research interests in the fields of population biology, population genetics, systematics and conservation genomics. She is particularly interested in the links between patterns of geographic genetic differentiation and attributes of the ecology and life history of organisms such as mating systems, dispersal and demography. In her research she combines field and laboratory approaches to answer questions about organisms, their environments and their histories. She studies mating systems and sexual selection and evolutionary genetics of reptiles and amphibians. Applications of her basic research extend to conservation, with emphasis on the study of population genetic consequences of anthropogenic landscape change and emergent infectious disease. She received her B.A. from UC. Berkeley in Zoology and her Ph.D. from University of Washington, Seattle. She joins UT after 20 years at Cornell where she was a Distinguished Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.


A man in a Texas Robotics t-shirt speaks at a mic, gesturing with his hands as robots and people interact in the background.

UT News

3 Questions for Peter Stone