Seven new faculty members join the School of Science this fall

October 21, 2016

The School of Science recently welcomed seven new professors in the departments of Chemistry; Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; Mathematics; and Physics. Their research ranges from the hunt for dark matter to climate modeling to mapping the three-dimensional structure of the genome.

Riccardo Comin is a condensed-matter physicist who focuses on ordering phenomena in high-temperature superconducting materials. He has investigated and discovered new electronic properties of several oxide-based quantum materials (cuprates, ruthenates, iridates), using angle-resolved photoemission and various types of X-ray spectroscopies. During his graduate work, he designed new experimental methodologies to resolve the inter- and intra-unit cell symmetry of the electronic density in charge-ordered systems. Currently, he is investigating molecular ordering phenomena in hybrid halide thin films using innovative schemes that combine X-ray absorption and scattering methods with the capability of applying and in situ electric field to probe ferroelectric effects in these systems. In his future research, he plans to develop new advanced X-ray methods for the study of the electronic structure and related ordering phenomena and broken symmetries in charge-, spin- and orbitally-ordered materials. He further plans to develop a new platform of correlated systems based on transition metal oxides and halides, single crystals, and thin films.

Comin comes from Italy, where he did his undergraduate and master’s studies at the University of Trieste. In 2009, he moved to Canada to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of British Columbia, followed by a postdoc appointment at the University of Toronto from 2014 to 2016. For his work on quantum materials and optoelectronic materials, he is a recipient of the G. Michael Bancroft Ph.D. Thesis Award (2014), Fonda-Fasella Award (2014), John Charles Polanyi Prize (2015), McMillan Award (2015), and the Bryan R. Coles Prize (2016). He joins the faculty in the Department of Physics as an assistant professor.

Timothy Cronin

Timothy Cronin is a climate physicist interested in problems relating to radiative‐convective equilibrium, atmospheric moist convection and clouds, and the physics of the coupled land‐atmosphere system. His work so far has focused on developing a better understanding of radiative‐convective equilibrium, which is the simplest model of planetary climate that can adequately address questions of sensitivity and stability that are fundamental in the context of global warming and planetary habitability. His long‐term research goals are centered on major questions in climate science, including the importance of clouds in global climate sensitivity and determinism, and the coupled dynamics of the land surface‐atmosphere system.

After Cronin earned a BA in physics with high honors from Swarthmore College in 2006, he worked as a researcher in the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution until 2009, where he worked to improve the representation of biogeochemistry and biophysics in a terrestrial ecosystem model. He received his PhD in climate physics and chemistry at MIT in 2014 and then was appointed an NOAA Environment Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, where he studied how Arctic air formation is suppressed in a warmer climate. Cronin joins the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences as an assistant professor.

Andrew Lawrie is an analyst studying geometric partial differential equations (PDEs). His research focuses on the asymptotic dynamics of solutions to various geometric dispersive equations, such as the wave map equation. Wave maps, which arise as a model in mathematical physics, are the simplest fully geometric wave equations, and their study brings together techniques from harmonic analysis, PDEs, and geometry.

Lawrie completed a BA in mathematics at Columbia University in 2007, and received a PhD from the University of Chicago in 2013. He was appointed an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California at Berkeley from 2013 to 2016, and was concurrently a research member of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute during the fall term 2015. He joins the Department of Mathematics as an assistant professor.

Elchanan Mossel works in probability, combinatorics and inference. His interests include combinatorical statistics, discrete Fourier analysis, randomized algorithms, computational complexity, Markov random fields, social choice, game theory, evolution, and the mathematical foundations of deep learning. His research in discrete function inequalities, isoperimetry, and hypercontractiviting led to the proof that Majority is Stablest and confirmed that optimality of the Goemans-Williamson MAX-CUT algorithm under the unique games conjecture from computational complexity. His work on the reconstruction problem on trees provides optimal algorithms and bounds for phylogenetic reconstruction in molecular biology and has led to strong results in the analysis of Gibbs samplers from statistical physics and inference problems on graphs. His research has resolved open problems in computational biology, machine learning, social choice theory, and economics.                                 

Mossel received a BS from the Open University in Israel in 1992. He received both MS (1997) and PhD (2000) degrees in mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was a postdoc at the Microsoft Research Theory Group and a Miller Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 2003, where he was a professor of statistics and computer science. He spent leaves as a professor at the Weizmann Institute (2008-2010) and at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (2014-2016). Mossel joins the faculty of the Department of Mathematics as a full professor, with a joint appointment at the Statistics and Data Science Center of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.

Kerstin Perez investigates cosmic particles to look for physics beyond the Standard Model, in particular, evidence of dark matter interactions. She leads the silicon detector program for the General Antiparticle Spectrometer (GAPS) experiment, a balloon‐borne instrument that aims to detect antideuteron and antiproton evidence of dark matter annihilation in the galactic halo. As the first optimized experiment to search for low‐energy antideuterons, which have been discussed for over a decade as a particularly low‐background signature of dark matter, GAPS is poised to make a major contribution to the field. In addition, Perez is head of the analysis of high‐energy X‐ray emission in the inner parsecs of the galaxy using the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) telescope array, and is involved in searches for X‐ray signatures of exotic particle physics processes. She has also begun work on the prototype X‐ray optics for the International Axion Observatory, the upgrade to the CERN Axion Solar Telescope experiment.

Perez earned her BA in physics from Columbia University in 2005. She received her PhD in 2011 from Caltech, where her research focused on commissioning the ATLAS pixel detector in preparation for the very first LHC collisions and on understanding hadronic jet physics with initial data. She then returned to Columbia University as an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow, developing the GAPS Si(Li) detectors and NuSTAR Galactic Center analysis. In January 2015, she began as an assistant professor of physics at Haverford College, and now joins the Department of Physics as an assistant professor.

Alexander Radosevich works at the interface of inorganic and organic chemistry to design new chemical reactions. In particular, his interests concern the invention of compositionally new classes of molecular catalysts based on inexpensive and earth-abundant elements of the p-block. This research explores the connection between molecular structure and reactivity in an effort to discover new efficient and sustainable approaches to chemical synthesis. 

Radosevich received his BS from the University of Notre Dame in 2002, and his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2007. After completing an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at MIT with Daniel Nocera, he joined the faculty at the Pennsylvania State University in 2010. He has been the recipient of a number of awards, including an Amgen Young Investigator’s Award (2015), a Sloan Research Fellowship (2014), and an NSF CAREER Award (2014). He returns to the Department of Chemistry as an associate professor.

Bin Zhang's area of interest includes three-dimensional genome folding and stochastic gene regulation. His primary research goal is to develop theoretical and computational approaches to elucidate the structure-dynamics-function relationships of the genome. Using a combination of statistical mechanics, computational modeling, and bioinformatics approaches, Zhang aims to achieve predictive modeling of the genome's three-dimensional organization and function. Zhang’s fundamental research has potential applications to rational design of the genome to engineer novel functions. He was recently a finalist at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Awards at the Scientific Interface.

Zhang received his BA in chemical physics from the University of Science and Technology of China in 2007. He earned his PhD in chemistry from Caltech, where, together with his advisor, Thomas F. Miller, he developed theoretical and computational models to unravel the molecular mechanism underlying protein translocation across the cell membrane. In addition, he earned Caltech’s highest honor for chemistry graduates, the Herbery Newby McCoy Award. After a postdoctoral fellowship with Peter G. Wolynes at Rice University, he joins the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor.