Meet the New 2020-21 Sciences Faculty

The 1911 building on the Court of North Carolina

The College of Sciences is welcoming 15 new tenured, tenure-track and professional faculty members from all over the world in 2020-21.

Meet these extraordinary scientists, and find out why they’re excited to join the Wolfpack.

Luke Castle

Luke Castle

Teaching Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Teaching Focus: I am primarily interested in creating contextualized content for general education math courses. I hope to create a classroom environment where students develop transferable skills like writing, presenting and understanding data alongside mathematical maturity relative to their field of interest.

Why NC State?: I received my Ph.D. from NC State, and I really loved the atmosphere of the university and the Department of Mathematics as a graduate student. I knew that I would have supportive colleagues, the opportunity to work with a diverse student population and ample resources to support my professional goals.

Shobhan Gaddameedhi

Shobhan Gaddameedhi

Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

Research Focus: My research studies the impact of circadian rhythm disruptions on human health. A strong correlation exists between circadian (biological) clock disruption and environmental disease outcomes, including cancers and heart diseases, but there is still much to learn about its role in gene-environment interactions and its impact on disease prevention and therapeutic efficacy.

Why NC State?: The state-of-the-art research facilities, excellent supportive research environment, outstanding environmental health sciences faculty and colleagues, and interdisciplinary research programs at NC State attracted me. The outstanding neighboring research institutes (UNC-Chapel Hill, NIEHS and Duke) in the Research Triangle Park area make working here even more appealing.

Rafael Guerrero

Rafael Guerrero

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Research Focus: I’m an evolutionary geneticist, which means I’m interested in exploring genetic information to understand how groups of organisms change over time. I use computational and mathematical methods to tackle issues that range from the evolution of different sexes (and sex chromosomes) in plants to the genetic basis of gestational diabetes in humans.

Why NC State?: NC State has been a powerhouse of genetics research for a long time. I jumped at the chance to be at an institution in which so much foundational work in my field has been done. I’m excited to be part of a diverse institution that values and cares for its community members.

Emily Hector

Emily Hector

Assistant Professor, Statistics

Research Focus: My research develops statistical methods to draw inference from big biomedical data, such as data from wearable devices, brain images and measures of metabolism. I am particularly focused on leveraging recent developments in distributed computing so that analyses of massive data sets can be done quickly without loss of useful information.

Why NC State?: I was attracted by the importance and diversity of the research conducted in the department, the talented students I had the pleasure to meet and the very warm welcome I received from everyone I interacted with. I am excited to work in a supportive and collaborative environment, to develop new research areas with my colleagues and to mentor students.

Paata Ivanisvili

Paata Ivanisvili

Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Research Focus: I am an analyst by training. Certain objects (for example, heat distribution or run time of an algorithm) can be described in terms of functions, integrals, sums or more complicated operators, and sometimes we do not have a formula describing them at all. A big part of my research is estimating these complicated expressions in terms of simple known parameters.

Why NC State?: I like the diversity of the Department of Mathematics at NC State, the fact that many new faculty members are joining the department this year, and its location in the Research Triangle area and on the East Coast.

Corey Jones

Corey Jones

Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Research Focus: My research is focused on understanding generalized concepts of symmetry that arise in quantum physics. I develop mathematical tools for analyzing the algebraic structures underlying low-dimensional quantum field theories, which have applications in both condensed-matter and high-energy physics. I enjoy collaborating with physicists to turn physical intuition into mathematical theorems.

Why NC State?: NC State has a strong interdisciplinary spirit, and I look forward to participating in the vibrant research community here. I am a Raleigh native, so it’s very exciting to be returning after so many years away!

Sharonda LeBlanc

Sharonda LeBlanc

Assistant Professor, Physics

Research Focus: I am fascinated by how large numbers of enzymes coordinate to carry out complex biological processes in living systems. Usually, enzymes change shape dynamically to interact with their binding partners and fulfill their functions, and we can detect those changes by studying individual molecules. In the case of many diseases, enzymes fail to do their jobs, so I want to figure out how changes in shape and enzyme malfunction are related. The impact of my research may lead to new therapeutic targets.

Why NC State?: During my time as a postdoctoral researcher at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was co-mentored by Keith Weninger in the Department of Physics. I felt welcomed, and I was really impressed by the strong core of biophysics faculty. I’m excited about the amazing students who I will meet at NC State and the contributions we will make to science.

Peter McGrath

Peter McGrath

Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Research Focus: My research area is differential geometry; more specifically, I study minimal surfaces, which are the mathematical realizations of soap film or soap bubble surfaces. I have developed computer-generated three-dimensional models of some of these surfaces.

Why NC State?: I am excited to have many new colleagues at NC State. Everyone I have met so far has been warm and engaging, and I am looking forward to being a part of the academic community here.

Jun Ohata

Jun Ohata

Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Research Focus: Our research group focuses on the chemistry of proteins. We use chemical reactions to study functions of proteins in living systems relevant to serious diseases such as cancers. We also prepare new types of protein-based medicine or materials through chemical reactions.

Why NC State?: I like NC State particularly because of the friendly, supportive environment.

Andrew Papanicolaou

Andrew Papanicolaou

Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Research Focus: My research is in financial mathematics and data science. Currently, I am working on solving previously unsolvable problems using recent advances in machine learning methods and applying the solutions to financial data to determine how the methods affect financial decision making.

Why NC State?: I was attracted to NC State’s math department because it is a rich environment with strong faculty and strong students. I felt that this would be the best place for me to achieve my research goals.

Stepan Paul

Stepan Paul

Teaching Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Teaching Focus: My focus is on teaching at the undergraduate level. I’m interested in promoting student learning in visualization-intensive courses like multivariable calculus through the use of computer-based interactions and physical manipulatives. I am also interested in communicating research-level mathematics to a broad audience through illustration, such as sculpture, 3D printing, computer graphics and animation.

Why NC State?: I really appreciate the department and university’s commitment to developing undergraduate instruction. The opportunity to live and work in the Research Triangle was also a big draw.

Teemu Saksala

Teemu Saksala

Assistant Professor, Mathematics

Research Focus: I focus on the field of geometric inverse problems, a sub-branch of mathematics with a general goal of finding an unknown input from a measured output when some information about the process leading to the output is known. The goal of my research is to obtain a better mathematical understanding about the deep structures of terrestrial bodies like Earth.

Why NC State?: The Department of Mathematics is very well known around the country. Its size makes it possible to teach many different types and levels of classes in pure and applied mathematics and offers many possibilities for research collaborations. NC State also has an extremely nice location as part of the Research Triangle, providing many opportunities to work with scientists at the neighboring schools and high-tech businesses.

Srijan Sengupta

Srijan Sengupta

Assistant Professor, Statistics

Research Focus: I work in three areas of statistics: developing statistical methods to model and analyze data systems in the form of networks or graphs; understanding health care through a statistical lens and using that understanding to develop data-driven policies to improve it; and developing new resampling techniques and applying them to problems in space science, spatiotemporal data and related disciplines.

Why NC State?: NC State is a leading public university, and the Department of Statistics is among the most reputed and versatile in the world. I am excited for the opportunity to work with world-class colleagues and talented students and collaborate with other universities in the area. I am also looking forward to the many activities, cuisines and cultural events that the area has to offer.

Arianna Soldati

Arianna Soldati

Assistant Professor, Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (starting January 2021)

Research Focus: As a volcanologist, my research is about lava flows: how can they flow and how long it takes them to get there. To try to answer these questions, I melt rocks (literally turning them back to lava!) in the lab and measure their viscosity. I also use similar materials such as syrups and oils to simulate flow behavior.

Why NC State?: At NC State there are incredible opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across departments, as well as to engage the North Carolina community through the many outreach programs led by the university, something that is very important to me. I am excited to join the MEAS department, a growing research community that brings together scientists with expertise in many different geoscience disciplines. It has everything a new faculty member needs to thrive!

Brian Space

Brian Space

Professor of Chemistry (starting January 2021)

Research Focus: My research group is a computational chemistry group concerned primarily with modeling of materials and developing molecular modeling technology to solve pressing environmental and technological problems. We collaborate with leading experimental groups throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Why NC State?: I was attracted by the diverse portfolio of science and engineering activities at NC State and the state of North Carolina’s commitment to higher education. During the interview process, I met with incredible individuals at all levels. Without exception, I encountered professionalism and enthusiasm.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.