Meet the New Faculty Members in Natural Sciences

December 13, 2019 • by Esther Robards-Forbes
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As the year draws to a close, we're looking back on highlights of 2019, including the arrival and hiring of dozens of new tenured and tenure-track faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences. Below are some of the stellar scientists and mathematicians new to our college community.

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Joydeep Biswas

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Biswas' research areas include perception, planning and failure recovery for autonomous mobile robots. These topics support his goal of having autonomous service mobile robots deployed on a campus-to-city scale, both indoors and outdoors, in real-world human environments, performing assistive tasks accurately and robustly on demand, over deployments spanning years. Prior to joining UT Austin, Biswas was an assistant professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at University of Massachusetts Amherst. He earned his Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2014, and his B.Tech in engineering physics from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in 2008. Read more about Dr. Biswas »

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Catherine Calder

Professor and Department Chair, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences

Calder's research focuses on the development of statistical models, along associated inferential techniques, for phenomena that exhibit complex dependencies, particularly when the dependencies are spatial and/or temporal in nature. Much of her research is motivated by applications in the environmental, social, and health sciences, including through her work on the Adolescent Health and Development in Context Study, a longitudinal study of adolescents and their daily activity patterns. Prior to joining UT, she spent 16 years on the faculty of The Ohio State University. Read more about Dr. Calder »

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Lauren Dobbs

Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Dobbs studies the neurobiology of addiction, and she takes a systems-level approach to identifying the neural substrates, circuits and behavioral motivations driving the co-abuse of addictive drugs. Her research examines pairs of commonly co-abused drugs to determine how they interact at the behavioral, molecular and synaptic levels to drive their synergistic intake when co-abused. She received her B.S. in psychology from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University. Dobbs conducted postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, where she examined the neural circuits underlying drug-related behaviors.

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Katherine Freese

Professor and Jeff and Gail Kodosky Endowed Chair, Department of Physics

Freese works on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and astroparticle physics, including working to identify the dark matter and dark energy that permeate the universe and to build a successful model for the early universe immediately after the Big Bang. Before joining UT, she was the Director of the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics and Guest Professor of Physics at Stockholm University, where she has a $14M grant over ten years from the Swedish Research Council. Freese received a B.A. in physics at Princeton University, M.A. from Columbia University and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard, Berkeley and the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara. She has served on many international scientific committees and has been honored with multiple awards, the most recent of which is the 2019 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize from the American Physical Society. Read more about Dr. Freese »

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Feliciano Giustino

Professor and W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, Jr. Endowment in Simulation-Based Engineering and Sciences Endowed Professor, Department of Physics

Giustino specializes in electronic structure theory, high-performance computing, and the atomic-scale design of advanced materials using quantum mechanics. He is primarily known for his work on electronic structure methods, and in particular for enabling accurate and efficient atomic-scale calculations of electron-phonon interactions and materials properties at finite temperature. Prior to joining the University of Texas, he was a Professor of Materials at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and the Mary Shepard B. Upson Visiting Professor in Engineering at Cornell University. Giustino earned his Ph.D. in physics at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and held a postdoctoral appointment at the University of California, Berkeley. Read more about Dr. Giustino » 

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Maria Gualdani

Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Gualdani's research is in the areas of applied mathematics, non equilibrium statistical physics and analysis of partial differential equations (PDEs). It is driven by applications in gas dynamics and plasma physics as well by mathematical interests in analysis, PDEs and mathematical physics. Before joining UT Austin's faculty, she served as an associate professor at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Sweden and held a faculty position at George Washington University. Gualdani obtained her Ph.D from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany) and was a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin. 

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Sae Hwang Han

Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Han's research explores social relationships and health in middle and later adulthood, examining health consequences of social and productive engagement in middle and later adulthood. He focuses on examining how various forms of helping behaviors, such as volunteering and caregiving, influence behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms linked to health, and on the health behaviors and health outcomes of coupled individuals. Han received his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Massachusetts Boston and his M.A. and B.S. degrees from Yonsei University, Republic of Korea.

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Antonio Linero

Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences

Linero's research is broadly focused on developing flexible Bayesian methods. His work has focused on developing appropriate Bayesian methods for complex longitudinal data, as well as developing model selection and variable selection tools within the Bayesian nonparametric framework for high dimensional problems. Before joining UT Austin, Linero was an Assistant Professor in the Statistics Department at Florida State University. He received his B.S. in finance and his Ph.D. in statistics, both from the University of Florida.

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Elizabeth Munoz

Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Munoz's research involves applying a lifespan developmental perspective to evaluate the role of psychosocial and environmental stress on cognitive health, considering how early environments and exposures influence cognitive outcomes in later life. Through her research, she also aims to understand how genetic risk and other biological predispositions and culture-specific factors may shape the association between stress and cognitive health throughout adulthood. Munoz received her B.S. in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine and her M.S. and Ph.D. in human development and family studies from Pennsylvania State University. 

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Felicity Muth

Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Muth researches why animals behave the way that they do, including working with commercial and wild bumblebees and using experimental approaches to investigate broad questions in animal behavior and cognition from an ecological perspective. Her work spans from understanding how bees perceive and learn about pollen and using the nectar and pollen bees collect as a means of understanding decision-making with multiple rewards to exploring how neonicotinoid pesticides affect bees' behavior and ability to learn. She earned her B.S. and Ph.D. at the University of St. Andrews and held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Nevada, Reno, and at the University of Arizona.

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Brian Sedio

Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Sedio's research seeks to understand the origins and maintenance of biodiversity in forest communities by integrating perspectives from analytical chemistry, community ecology, macroevolution, historical biogeography and theoretical ecology. He explores the role that plant secondary metabolites play in limiting the host ranges of herbivores and pathogens, essentially defining chemical 'niches' that may stabilize competitive coexistence in communities and drive evolutionary lineage diversification in plants. Sedio earned his B.S. in genetics and biochemistry from Texas A&M University and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Before joining UT, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. 

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Keiko Torii

Professor and Johnson & Johnson Centennial Chair in Plant Cell Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Torii is a plant biologist who studies functional tissue patterning, stem cell maintenance and differentiation, and how plant cells determine function. Much of her work has focused on plant stomata, the mouth-like structure on the surfaces of land plants that allow for gas and moisture to be exchanged with the atmosphere. Before joining UT, Torii was a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. She earned her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D in biochemistry and biophysics from the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Read more about Dr. Torii »

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Amy Wolf

Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology

Wolf's research blends plant community and ecosystem ecology to understand how human-driven perturbations interact with environmental variability to affect plant communities and ecosystem processes. She explores the mechanistic underpinnings of species interactions, their effects on resource distribution and how these individual-level interactions affect ecosystem processes at broader scales. She received her B.A. in chemistry from Colorado College and her Ph.D. in ecology from Stanford University, after which she conducted postdoctoral research at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA.

The College also welcomed earlier this year Heather Leidy, an associate professor of nutritional sciences; Elif Cenik, an assistant professor of molecular biosciences; and Anna Tenerani, an assistant professor of physics. Last year's new faculty announcement has more details.

Also hired and joining us on campus in the New Year are:

  • Maria Arredondo, assistant professor of human development and family sciences
  • Kimberly Boddy, assistant professor of physics
  • James Bornholt, assistant professor of computer science
  • Swarat Chaudhuri, associate professor of computer science
  • Eunsol Choi, assistant professor of computer science
  • Andreas Karch, professor of physics
  • Despoina Mavridou, assistant professor of molecular biosciences
  • Urbain Weyemi, assistant professor of molecular biosciences
  • John Wright, assistant professor of computer science
  • Yuke Zhu, assistant professor of computer science


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