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Newest faculty members find home at KU

Friday, September 09, 2016

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Neeli Bendapudi meets with KU's newest faculty members during the 2016 New Faculty Orientation.LAWRENCE — The collection of new faces at the University of Kansas includes more than just incoming students. Forty-one faculty and faculty administrators have joined the KU Lawrence and Edwards campuses since the start of the year, many of them arriving on campus for the onset of the fall 2016 semester.

The cohort of new faculty members includes seven distinguished professors, a past Langston Hughes Visiting Professor and deans for the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and KU Libraries.

“Our newest faculty members bring with them an amazing range of interests and expertise,” said Mary Lee Hummert, vice provost for faculty development. “In addition to the final six Foundation Distinguished professors, KU has a new distinguished professor with a joint appointment in the departments of English and American Studies. It will be exciting to witness what they and our other talented scholars undertake to engage students and advance knowledge in their fields as well as across disciplines.”

The office of Faculty Development hosted a New Faculty Orientation in mid-August to further acquaint faculty with KU people, programs and goals.

New KU faculty

Folashade Agusto,* assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was most recently an assistant professor at Austin Peay State University. She earned her doctorate in mathematics from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, and also served a semester as a Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at KU. Agusto studies the use of mathematical and statistical modeling approaches to gain insight into the epidemiology of and ecology of some emerging and re-emerging human (and zoonotic) diseases of public health importance.

Reza Ahmadi, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, comes to KU from Southern Illinois University, where he was an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. Ahmadi earned his doctorate from Missouri University of Science and Technology. His research interests include power systems and renewable energy harvesting.

Nicole Beckage, acting assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she studied predictive modeling. In 2015, she was a research intern at Microsoft Research-Cambridge in the United Kingdom studying learning algorithms and using neural networks to construct state representations.

James Bever,* Foundation Distinguished Professor in ecology and evolutionary biology and senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey, earned his doctorate at Duke University. He most recently served as a professor of biology and section chair of evolution, ecology and behavior at Indiana University, Bloomington. Bever is considered a world leader in microbiology, especially plant-soil microbial interactions.

James Blakemore,* assistant professor of chemistry, earned his doctorate at Yale University. He most recently served as a senior postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on developing sustainable catalytic technologies for producing fuels and useful chemicals from renewable feedstocks.

Holger Brandt, assistant professor of psychology, earned his doctorate at the Goethe-University Frankfurt in Germany and the University of Western Ontario. His research interests include latency variable models, modeling of heterogeneous growth patterns, development of a test for the measurement of basic numerical skills. Brandt comes to Kansas from the University of Tübingen, Germany, where he was a postdoctoral scholar.

Amy Jo Burgin* is an associate professor in the departments of Environmental Studies and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and an associate scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey. She comes to KU from the University of Nebraska School of Natural Resources. Burgin is an aquatic ecologist and studies aquatic ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, the effects of global change on biogeochemical cycles and microbial metabolic diversity.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Joe Heppert, right, talks with new faculty members, including Assistant Professor of Mathematics Agnieszka Miedlar, left, during a networking and welcome session of the 2016 New Faculty Orientation.Geng Chen, assistant professor of mathematics, comes to KU from Pennsylvania State University, where he was serving as a research associate. He earned his doctorate from the University of Massachusetts. His broad research interests include applied mathematics, analysis, partial differential equations, fluid dynamics, mathematical physics and mathematical modeling.

Robert Davison, assistant professor of organizational behavior, comes to KU from Texas Tech University, where he was an assistant professor in the area of business management. He earned his doctorate from Michigan State University in organizational behavior and resource management. His research interests include determinants of optimal performance in multi-team system settings with a specific interest in division of labor, processes of coordination and integrative leadership.

Jill Ellingson, professor of management, is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. She most recently served as an associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Her research focuses on managing human resources and assessing individual differences.

Melissa Grady, assistant professor of music education, earned her doctorate at the University of Kansas. Grady comes to KU from Valdosta State University, where she served as an assistant professor of music. She studies the effects of conducting gestures on choral sound, choral music and music education.

Daniel Hernandez,* assistant professor of mathematics, earned his doctorate at the University of Michigan. Hernandez comes to KU from the University of Utah, where he has served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. His research interests include singularities and invariants in positive characteristic commutative algebra defined using the Frobenius morphism.

Keith Jones,* professor and area director of accounting and information systems, conducts research in the areas of fraud, earning management, risk assessment and ethics in business. Jones comes to KU from George Mason University, where he was area chair in accounting. He earned his doctorate from the University of Arizona.

Masoud Kalantari, assistant professor in chemical & petroleum engineering, comes to KU from Occidental Petroleum, where he developed reservoir simulation models for water flood performance optimization. He received a doctorate in petroleum and natural gas engineering from West Virginia University. His research interests are in the areas of numerical simulation and advanced data analytic techniques for conventional and unconventional resources.

Margaret Kelley, associate professor of American studies, comes to KU from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was an associate professor of sociology. She is a specialist in the sociological investigation of the role of natural mentors in adolescent development, and she earned her doctorate from New York University.

Elise Kirk, assistant professor of design, earned her M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she also worked in freelance production as a producer, writer, researcher and photographer. Kirk is a visual storyteller whose work currently gravitates toward the mythologies of place and liminal states most prominently in her native Midwest.

Gibum Kwon, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, earned his doctorate in materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan. He most recently served as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research interests lie in developing functional surfaces with special wettability.

Carl Lejuez,* dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and professor of psychology, was formerly an associate dean for research and professor of psychology at the University of Maryland. His research brings state-of-the-art, evidenced-based treatments to low-income communities in Washington, D.C., and countries around the world in a manner that respects and fits the unique needs of these settings. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from West Virginia University.

KU alumnus Shahin Negahban returns to Lawrence as an associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and the new director of the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project. He is among 41 new faculty members who have joined the KU Lawrence and Edwards Campuses since the start of the year.Ian Michael Lewis,* assistant professor of physics and astronomy, earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He most recently served as a research associate at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Menlo Park, California. His research focus is in theoretical high energy physics.

Terrence Loecke,* assistant professor of environmental studies and assistant scientist for Kansas Biological Survey, earned his doctorate at Michigan State University. Loecke comes to KU from the University of Nebraska, where he served as an assistant research professor in the areas of qualitative ecology, biogeochemistry, agroecology and global change ecology in the school of natural resources.

Bill Matney, assistant professor of music therapy, was previously an assistant professor and clinical manager at Nazareth College. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a doctorate in music education/music therapy. His research interests include percussion-based interventions in music therapy, music therapy philosophy and design thinking.

Ben Merriman, acting assistant professor of public affairs and administration, is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Chicago, where he studied new conservative politics in American states. His research centers on state-federal and interstate conflicts in policy areas such as immigration, voting, environmental protection and health care.

Agnieszka Miedlar, assistant professor of mathematics, comes to KU from the University of Minnesota, where she has served as a postdoctoral researcher in computer science and engineering. Miedlar earned her doctorate from the Technical University Berlin, and studies numerical methods, computational mathematics and scientific computing.

Dennis O'Rourke,* Foundation Distinguished Professor of anthropology, earned his doctorate at KU. He most recently served as a professor at the University of Utah and is considered one of the foremost experts in the United States on the use of ancient DNA to reconstruct human settlement in the Americas. His research interests include population and evolutionary genetics, ancient DNA analysis, molecular and quantitative methods, and bioethical issues in anthropology and genetics.

Martin Nedbal, assistant professor of musicology, comes to KU from the University of Arkansas, where he was an assistant professor of musicology. Martin earned his doctorate from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He studies the music of the Classical and Romantic periods, with an emphasis on the operatic and theatrical traditions in Central Europe, especially in Vienna and Prague.

Shahin Negahban, director of the Tertiary Oil Recovery Project and associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, is an alumnus of KU’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. He returns to Kansas from ADCO, Abu Dhabi, where he was the vice president for research and development focusing on carbonate subsurface efficient recovery. His research focuses on energy and the environment.

Panying Rong, assistant professor in speech-language-hearing: sciences and disorders, earned his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include motor speech disorders, speech physiology, and computational modeling of normal and disordered speech production mechanism. Most recently Rong served as a postdoctoral fellow at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston.

Eduardo Rosa-Molinar, director of the Microscopy and Analytical Imaging Resources Core Lab and professor of pharmacology and toxicology, earned his doctorate at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His research involves nanoscale imaging of synaptic architecture. Rosa-Molinar previously served as a nanoneuroscientist and associate professor at the Institute for Functional Nanomaterials, University of Puerto Rico.

Christophe Royon,* Foundation Distinguished Professor of physics and astronomy, comes to KU from CEA-Saclay, the scientific campus of the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay, where he earned his doctorate and served as a research director. Royon is a world leader in forward and diffractive physics, working at the major particle accelerators, including most recently, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland. His research interests include developing fast-timing detectors that will help drive future nuclear physics and Higgs particle searches.

Ben Sherwood, assistant professor of decision sciences in the School of Business, conducts research in the areas of quantile regression, genomics, semiparametric regression and high-dimensional data. Sherwood is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he earned his doctorate in statistics. He is interested in developing flexible and robust models for analyzing large data sets.

Mark Shiflett, Foundation Distinguished Professor in chemical and petroleum engineering, comes to KU from DuPont Central Research and Development, where he led research teams developing sustainable, energy-efficient processes and products. Shiflett’s research interests center on separations, ionic liquids and green chemistry, and have led to the development of three environmentally safe refrigerant mixtures. He earned his doctorate at the University of Delaware.

Adam Smith, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology, comes to KU from the National Institute for Mental Health, where he was a postdoctoral researcher. Smith’s research combines social neuroscience and neuropharmacology to explore the bi-directional relationship between stress and social behavior, utilizing a social, monogamous rodent model — the prairie vole. He earned his doctorate from Florida State University.

Kevin Smith,* dean of the KU Libraries and librarian, comes to KU after 10 years as director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communications at the Duke University Libraries. As both a librarian and a lawyer specializing in intellectual property issues, Smith’s role at Duke was to advise faculty, staff and students about the effect of copyright, licensing and the changing nature of scholarly publishing on higher education. He holds a J.D. from Capital University.

Steven Soper, Foundation Distinguished Professor in chemistry and mechanical engineering, most recently served as a professor in the departments of Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is a leading international researcher in developing new technologies that have important applications for diagnosis of cancer and other serious diseases. Soper is a KU alumnus who received his doctorate in bioanalytical chemistry.

Justin Stachnik, assistant professor of geography and atmospheric science, studies clouds, climate and precipitation with a focus on tropical meteorology and climate variability and change. He earned his doctorate at Texas A&M University in atmospheric science and most recently served as a postdoctoral scholar at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

James Thompson,* professor of special education and senior scientist in the Life Span Institute, earned his doctorate from the University of Minnesota in educational psychology. He most recently served as a professor of special education at Illinois State University. Thompson is an international leader in the field who has pioneered the application of a supports model in education and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Rob Unckless, assistant professor of molecular biosciences, comes to KU from Cornell University, where he was a postdoctoral researcher. He earned his doctorate from the University of Rochester in biology. His research interests include the evolutionary genetics of host pathogen interaction.

Robert Warrior, Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture, comes to KU from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he was director and professor of American Indian studies. His research interests include Native American and indigenous literature and literary criticism, American Indian intellectual history and tradition, and the modern Native American movement. Warrior earned his doctorate from Union Theological Seminary.

Aimee Wilson, assistant professor of humanities, earned her doctorate from Florida State University. She comes to KU from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she was an assistant professor in the Department of English. Wilson specializes in modern British and American literature, reproductive rights and feminist theory.

Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in educational psychology and leadership studies, comes to KU from the University of Oregon, where he held the presidential chair and served as a professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership. Zhao earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is known internationally for his research in creativity and entrepreneurship education, globalization and education, China and Chinese-language learning, technology in education, and schooling and education reforms.

Cuncong Zhong, assistant professor in electrical engineering and computer science, conducts research in bioinformatics and computational biology, biological big data and precision medicine, and functional non-coding RNA. Zhong earned his doctorate at the University of Central Florida. He most recently served as a postdoctoral fellow in computational biology at the J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, Maryland.

* denotes spring semester 2016 start.

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