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College Welcomes New Faculty in New Academic Year

College Welcomes New Faculty in New Academic Year

The College of Natural Sciences welcomes 11 new faculty this fall. Whether searching for evidence of exotic new physics, enabling the creation of personal robots, or addressing critical problems in cancer research, these industrious and innovative faculty members build on the college's reputation for pioneering research and research-based teaching.

Timothy Andeen
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics

Andeen's research in experimental particle physics extends from the most precise single measurement of the W boson mass in 2009 to a more recent search for evidence of exotic new physics, particularly the possibility of heavy quarks that may decay into the recently discovered Higgs boson. He also develops new instrumentation for particle physics detectors, particularly focusing in the area of fast, low power, radiation-hard electronics. Andeen received his undergraduate degree in physics from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in physics from Northwestern University in 2008. He spent two years as a CERN Fellow in Geneva, Switzerland, where he joined the ATLAS Experiment. Andeen then moved to Nevis Laboratories at Columbia University, where he stayed until joining the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin.

Carlos Baiz
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Baiz received his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2011 after receiving his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan Technological University in 2005. He conducted postdoctoral research as an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Fellow in the group of Andrei Tokmakoff, first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later at the University of Chicago. His work focused on mapping protein-folding mechanisms using multidimensional infrared spectroscopy. Currently, Baiz's research interests straddle the interface between biophysics and physical chemistry, with a focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of spontaneous phase separation in biological membranes and probing the mechanisms of membrane-assisted protein folding. His group also develops new optical techniques by combining ultrafast spectroscopy with near-field microscopy to probe the molecular dynamics of biological interfaces.

Brett Baker
Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Science

Baker is a microbial ecologist whose research intersects the fields of ecology, evolution, oceanography, and geochemistry. His work harnesses omic approaches (genomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics) to understand whole communities in nature. Baker is particularly interested in how novel and uncultured microbes interact and are involved in important global processes such as carbon cycling. By obtaining genomes of entirely new branches on the tree of life his research also provides insights into how life has evolved on the planet. The Baker laboratory focuses on a variety of marine and subsurface environments, including deep sea and estuary sediments and the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone and oil spills. Baker obtained his Ph.D. in 2014 from the University of Michigan where he studied microbes in deep sea hydrothermal plumes.

Michael Boylan-Kolchin
Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy

Boylan-Kolchin studies connections between the physics of cosmological structure formation and galaxy formation, with a focus on the Milky Way and other nearby galaxies. His research combines theoretical work, supercomputer simulations, and observations (often using the Hubble Space Telescope) to explore a variety of topics, including the earliest stages of galaxy formation and the nature of dark matter. Boylan-Kolchin received his bachelor's degree in astrophysics from Columbia University and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the faculty at UT Austin, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, a Center for Galaxy Evolution fellow at the University of California at Irvine, and an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland.

Caitlin Casey
Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy

Casey examines the formation and evolution of the most luminous galaxies in the Universe. These extreme galaxies are thought to be short-lived starbursts, triggered by either major mergers of gas-rich disk galaxies, like the Milky Way, or unique gas conditions in the Universe billions of years ago. They pose a unique challenge to cosmological simulations and galaxy formation theory. Casey received her bachelor's degree in physics, astronomy and applied mathematics from the University of Arizona and her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where she was also a Gates Cambridge Scholar. After obtaining her doctorate in 2010, Casey completed a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Hawai'i and a McCue Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Irvine, before joining the team at UT Austin to further pursue her research in galaxy evolution.

Livia Eberlin
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Eberlin received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the State University of Campinas, Brazil, in 2007, and her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Purdue University in 2012. In recognition of her doctoral thesis research in mass spectrometry, she received the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. Eberlin then moved to Stanford University for postdoctoral research in the Department of Chemistry as a L'Oréal for Women in Science Fellow. Eberlin's research focuses on applying novel mass spectrometry imaging technology to health related research. In particular, she is interested in using ambient mass spectrometry in creative ways to address critical problems in cancer research. Eberlin is passionate about interdisciplinary research and enjoys working with biologists, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists and statisticians to develop powerful chemical approaches that can be used in real life scenarios, such as in clinical practice.

Raphael Flauger
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics 

Flauger works on models of the early universe and looks for their predictions using cosmic microwave background data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and Planck satellite missions. He also studies the astrophysical processes vital to understanding the very early universe. In addition to cosmology, Flauger is interested in both the formal aspects and the applications of quantum field theories. Flauger completed his undergraduate studies at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany and then moved to Imperial College in London to earn his master's degree in quantum fields and fundamental forces in 2003. He received his Ph.D. in 2009 under the supervision of Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg at UT Austin. Flauger then conducted postdoctoral research at Yale, followed by a joint position between the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and New York University. Afterwards, he spent a year as an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the faculty at UT Austin. In 2015, Flauger was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Scott Niekum
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science 

Niekum joins the Department of Computer Science as an assistant professor and director of the Personal Autonomous Robotics Lab (PeARL). His research interests include robot learning from demonstration, robotic manipulation, time-series analysis, and reinforcement learning. The goal of his research is to enable personal robots to be used in the home and workplace with little expert supervision. Niekum received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2013 under the supervision of Andrew Barto, and his bachelor's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. Before joining the faculty at UT Austin, Niekum studied as a postdoctoral fellow at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked with Chris Atkeson.

Stefania Patrizi
Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics 

Patrizi's research focuses on partial differential equations, in particular free boundary problems, geometric properties of the solutions to elliptic equations, non-local operators, and homogenization problems. Her research has applications in many areas of mathematics and science, such as segregation phenomena in social and biological processes and the theory of plastic deformations in crystals. Patrizi received her Ph.D. in mathematics from the Sapienza University of Rome in 2010. She spent the next three years as a postdoctoral fellow in the International Collaboratory for Emerging Technologies (CoLab) initiative as part of the UT Austin|Portugal Program, followed by two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics in Berlin.

Stephen T. Russell
Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Russell will join the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at UT Austin as the Priscilla Pond Flawn Regents Professor in Child Development. He studies adolescent development, with an emphasis on adolescent sexuality, LGBT youth, and parent-adolescent relationships. Much of his research is guided by a commitment to create social change to support healthy adolescent development. Russell is chair of the Board of Directors of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and was an elected board member of the National Council on Family Relations.

Fatima Varner
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Varner's major research interests include the roles of ethnicity, gender, and context on parenting, family processes and adolescent outcomes. She is especially interested in the pathways through which racial discrimination influences parenting and adolescents' academic achievement in African American families. Varner joins UT Austin after serving as an Assistant Professor at Fordham University. She is a graduate of Northwestern University's Ph.D. program in Human Development and Social Policy and received her bachelor's degree from North Carolina State University. Varner was also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context at the University of Michigan.

In addition to the eleven faculty joining the college this fall, more will join in the year ahead: 

​Post updated October 23, 2015

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