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College Welcomes New Faculty at Start of the Academic Year

College Welcomes New Faculty at Start of the Academic Year

CNS welcomes new tenured and tenure-track faculty members this fall. Whether searching for insight into the fundamental nature of spacetime, studying cellular mechanisms that lead to disease, or determining ways to strengthen disadvantaged families, these industrious and trailblazing scientists build on the college's reputation in research and teaching.


Brendan Bowler
Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy

Bowler's research focuses on the formation, architecture and atmospheres of extrasolar planets by directly detecting their photons at infrared wavelengths. He uses the largest telescopes in space and on the ground, together with adaptive optics, to image exoplanets and spectroscopically characterize their atmospheres. He is also interested in the statistical properties of planets and their evolution over time. Bowler received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy in 2013. He followed up with two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. Bowler then moved to UT Austin as a McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in 2015 and as a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow in 2016 before joining the faculty this fall.


Elena Caceres
Associate Professor, Department of Physics

Caceres's research interests lie in the area of string theory and quantum gravity. She has worked on different aspects of gauge/gravity duality, supergravity solutions and black holes. Caceres's current work focuses on the relationship between quantum information constructs and holography and the insights they provide into the fundamental nature of spacetime. She is also passionate about science outreach. Caceres earned her undergraduate degree in physics from Universidad Catolica in Lima, Peru, and her Ph.D. in physics from UT Austin. She then spent time as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles and the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Before joining the faculty at UT Austin she served as a professor at Universidad de Colima, Mexico. Caceres has been a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences since 2010.


Xiaolu Ang Cambronne
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Cambronne's current research focuses on understanding how metabolites impact cellular signaling cascades and epigenetic regulation. Her approach is to develop fluorescent biosensors for tracking the subcellular availability of specific metabolites. Cambronne received her Hon.B.Sc in molecular genetics from the University of Toronto, followed by her Ph.D. from the Division of Medical Sciences at Harvard University under the tutelage of Wade Harper. She then completed postdoctoral training with Richard Goodman in microRNA target identification and NAD+ biology at the Vollum Institute. Cambronne has been honored both at the pre-doctoral and post-doctoral levels with individual Kirschstein National Service Research Awards and Albert J Ryan and Samuel Lunenfeld Fellowships. In 2013, she was named the Oregon Health & Science University New Inventor of the Year for her development and commercialization of the RISC-trap/miR-trap assay to empirically identify targets for specific microRNAs in cells.


Daniel Dickinson
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Dickinson's research examines the molecular mechanisms of cell polarization, which is a basic property of animal cells that is often disrupted in human diseases, especially cancer. He uses a unique, interdisciplinary approach that combines single-molecule microscopy, targeted genome editing, biochemistry and fluorescence imaging of living cells. Dickinson obtained his B.S. in biochemistry from Iowa State University in 2005, then spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Switzerland before earning his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2011. Prior to joining UT Austin, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Gregory Durrett
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science

Durrett's research is centered on solving core natural language processing problems, all of which are fundamentally concerned with turning unstructured text into structured information. This kind of text processing is a critical step for allowing computers to access all of the information that's available on the web. In order to tackle this problem, Durrett's work uses structured machine learning methods, especially joint models that integrate multiple approaches or address multiple tasks simultaneously. Such models need to be sophisticated and high-capacity so they can make use of large datasets, yet also tailored to capture the key linguistic phenomena specific to each task. He has studied a range of these problems, including coreference resolution, entity linking, syntactic parsing and document summarization. Durrett received his B.S. in computer science and mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.


Marcel Goldschen-Ohm
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Goldschen-Ohm's research focuses on single-molecule approaches as a means to probe the dynamic motions of proteins that underlie their biological function. He is particularly interested in developing novel approaches to resolve the interplay between distinct domains within individual proteins. Goldschen-Ohm obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2009, where he also did his postdoctoral research in ion channel biophysics and later continued as an Assistant Scientist prior to joining UT Austin. He has received recognition over the years, including fellowships from the Epilepsy Foundation and American Heart Association and invitations to speak at international conferences including Gordon Research Conferences and Biophysical Society annual meetings.


Alexander Huth
Assistant Professor, Departments of Computer Science and Neuroscience

Huth researches how the many different areas in the human brain work together to perform complex tasks, such as understanding natural language. He works in computational and experimental neuroscience using fMRI to measure brain responses while subjects do real-life tasks, such as listening to a story, and then uses the data to build computational models of how the brain functions. Huth received both his bachelor's and master's degrees in computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology, where he worked with Christof Koch and Melissa Saenz. He then earned his Ph.D. and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Jack Gallant at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute of the University of California, Berkeley. In 2016, Huth was awarded a Burroughs Wellcome Career Award, which will support his research at UT Austin.


Elma Lorenzo-Blanco
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Lorenzo-Blanco's research investigates how issues related to culture, ethnicity, gender, family, and media influence the health and well-being of Latinx youth and families in the United States and Latin American countries. The long-term goal of her work is to develop social justice-oriented preventive interventions to improve Latinx health and well-being. Lorenzo-Blanco earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and women's studies from the University of Michigan. She then spent time as an assistant professor in clinical/community psychology at the University of South Carolina, before joining the faculty at UT Austin.


Jason McLellan
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

McLellan's research seeks to translate structural and mechanistic information on host-pathogen interactions into preventive and therapeutic treatments for infectious human diseases. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry, cellular, and molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, followed by postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center. Before joining the faculty at UT Austin, McLellan served as an assistant professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. McLellan's work has received much recognition, including the 2012 Norman P. Salzman Memorial award in Virology and the 2015-16 Charles H. Hood Foundation Child Health Research Award.


Joseph Neeman
Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Neeman's research interests revolve around probability and its many applications, ranging from computer science and statistics to geometry. His most recent work is on problems involving random graphs, trying to detect community structures in them, and on isoperimetric-type inequalities. Neeman received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, under the tutelage of Elchanan Mossel. He then spent time as a postdoctoral fellow at UT Austin and a Bonn Junior Fellow at the University of Bonn, Germany, before joining UT Austin as a faculty member.


Stella Offner
Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy

Offner's research uses hydrodynamic simulations, telescope observations and radiative transfer modeling to understand how stars form. Her work has broader implications for the evolution of galaxies and the initial conditions of planetary systems. She is also interested in statistical data analysis and machine learning as a means to characterize structure and extract physical properties from observational data. Offner earned her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She followed up with a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and was then awarded a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship, which she carried out at Yale University. Before coming to UT Austin, Offner was an assistant professor in astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for three years. In 2017, she received an NSF Faculty Early Career Award.


Abhra Sarkar
Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics and Data Sciences

Sarkar's research interests center around the development of novel statistical approaches that improve results and practice in an initial motivating application area while also having much broader general utility. He particularly enjoys developing sophisticated Bayesian non- and semi-parametric methods that accommodate a wide range of data-generating processes, adapting to different levels of data complexity and potentially automating various aspects of the analysis, including feature extraction, selection of variables, quantification of model uncertainty and testing hypotheses of interest. His work has won him prestigious student paper awards and research fellowships. Sarkar obtained his PhD in statistics from Texas A&M University, College Station, which he followed with a postdoctoral associate position at Duke University.


Eric Senning
Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Senning's research explores the neurons of our senses with an emphasis in understanding how ion channels affect their excitability. He is interested in how the context of the cellular environment serves to regulate the activity of ion channels and uses single-molecule fluorescence techniques to advance our understanding in this field. Senning received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 2009. He then conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Washington in Seattle before joining the faculty of UT Austin.


Ngoc Tran
Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Tran uses tools from tropical geometry and probability to create novel applications of mathematics in economics, neuroscience and other sciences. In the immediate future her research will focus on three main themes: applications of tropical geometry in economics, combinatorial stochastic processes and applications of discrete mathematics in neuroscience. Tran obtained her Ph.D. in statistics in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley. She then spent two years as a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow at UT Austin and another two years as a Bonn Junior Fellow at the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics in Germany.


Hannah Williamson
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Williamson's research focuses on strengthening families, particularly among under-served groups, including low-income and ethnic minority couples. She conducts basic and applied studies that examine relationship processes and test various theoretically-derived intervention strategies for disadvantaged couples. Williamson received her B.A. in psychology from the University of Rochester in 2008 and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2017. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Administration for Children and Families, and recognized by various organizations, including the American Psychological Association, Psi Chi, APA Division 1 (General Psychology), APA Division 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) and the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology.


Faculty scheduled to join the College in the year ahead:

*Updated 10/4/2017 to add Jason McLellan as a new faculty member in the Department of Molecular Biosciences.

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Friday, 24 November 2017

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