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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 11 

College of Science welcomes new faculty to departments, Academy of Integrated Sciences, and School of Neuroscience

November 13, 2015

The Virginia Tech College of Science recently welcomed 12 tenured and tenure-track faculty members to its ranks, bringing the total number of faculty within the college and its affiliated programs to more than 215.

The College of Science is made up of the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Economics, Geosciences, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, and Statistics, in addition to a new School of Neuroscience, and the Academy of Integrated Science, which includes the Division of Nanoscience, programs in Computational Modeling and Data Analytics, and Science Technology and the Law, in addition to the Integrated Science Curriculum.

New faculty members, by department or program, are:

Department of Biological Sciences

  • Jing Chen earned a doctoral degree in biophysics from University of California, Berkeley. Now a postdoctoral fellow in theoretical cellular physics at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, Chen will join Virginia Tech as an assistant professor next month as part of the college’s new Integrated Science Curriculum and the systems biology degree program. She uses a variety of modeling and mathematical techniques to study biological mechanisms, currently focusing on bacterial motility and the eukaryotic mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint mechanism. 
  • Caroline N. Jones, appointed as assistant professor, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell University in 2002 and 2003, respectively, and a doctorate in biomedical engineering from University of California at Davis in 2010. She previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital from 2010 to 2015. Her research focuses on bridging cutting-edge engineering disciplines with immunology to prevent, diagnose, and treat immune-related disorders. Work within the Jones Lab includes lab-on-a-chip platforms to model and study immune cell-pathogen interactions with single cell precision.
  • Shihoko Kojima, an assistant professor, earned a doctorate in human genetics from University of Tokyo and then completed postdoctoral work at the Misubishi Kagaku Institute of Life Science, the University of Virginia, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She is a Fellow of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, where her research laboratory is housed. Her research focuses on understanding circadian rhythms in animals at the level of mRNA and protein expression. Kojima research group uses the mouse as an experimental model for this work, integrating a variety of approaches including genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, neuroscience, and molecular/cellular biology.

Department of Chemistry

  • Nicholas Mayhall joins Virginia Tech as an assistant professor of computational chemistry. He previously served as a post-doctorate associate at University of California Berkley from 2011 to 2015. He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Southern Indiana in 2006 and a doctoral degree from Indiana University in 2011. His research focuses on the development of novel quantum chemistry methods and the application of these methods to investigate the chemical foundations of renewable energy sources.

Department of Economics

  • Alec Smith, appointed as assistant professor, studies behavioral economics and neuroeconomics. He uses modeling tools and experimental methods from experimental economics, psychology, and neuroscience to study how biological and psychological forces shape economic behavior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Dartmouth College in 1993 and master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from University of Arizona in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

Department of Geosciences

  • Ryan Pollyea is an assistant professor with a research focus on computational geofluids and energy resources, including geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, geothermal energy systems, and continental scale fluid regimes. Previously an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University and before that working in private and public industry, he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental geology from Ohio’s University of Dayton in 1999 and a doctoral degree in geology from University of Idaho in 2012.
  • D. Sarah Stamps is an assistant professor of geophysics with a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude with honors, in earth sciences from the University of Memphis in 2007. She earned a doctoral degree in geophysics/geodesy from Purdue University in 2013, where she was a National Science Foundation graduate research Fellow. She earned the National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellowship for studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California Los Angeles and was a National Geographic Explorer for her work on the tectonics of Madagascar. Her research also focuses on lithospheric dynamics, mantle-lithosphere interactions, and active tectonics. 

Department of Mathematics

  • Timothy Warburton is the John K. Costain Faculty Chair for the mathematics department and will take a lead role in the Computational Modeling and Data Analytics program, part of the college’s Academy of Integrated Science. His research focuses on creating robust, accurate, and scalable algorithms for computationally solving partial differential equations. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Oxford University and master’s and doctoral degrees in applied mathematics from Brown University.
  • Honghu Liu is an assistant professor who focuses his research on partial differential equations and stochastic partial differential equations, deterministic and random dynamical systems, model reductions, and scientific computing. He previously was a post-doctorate researcher in the Theoretical Climate Dynamics group at University of California Los Angeles. He earned a doctoral degree in mathematics from Indiana University in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Sichuan University in China in 2007.
  • Department of Physics

  • Edwin Barnes, appointed as assistant professor, works on topics in theoretical condensed matter physics and quantum information science. He studies non-equilibrium and many-particle quantum dynamics in novel materials. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University in 2001  and a doctoral degree in physics from the University of California San Diego in 2006.
  • Sophia Economou, appointed as associate professor, is a theoretical physicist working at the interface of condensed matter physics and quantum information science, with an interest in understanding and designing “quantum hardware” for future technologies based on quantum mechanics. Her interests include spin physics in nanostructures, quantum optics, superconducting qubits, quantum control, and decoherence. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Crete in Greece in 2000 and her doctoral degree from the University of California, San Diego, in 2006.
  • Sara Petty is an assistant professor whose astrophysics research focuses on the evolution of galaxies in the universe. She observes distant galaxies with multi-wavelength data from ground and space-based observatories, utilizing sophisticated data and imaging analysis techniques. She previously was a senior research scientist at Virginia Tech and before that a post-doctoral research scholar at University of California Los Angeles. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and master's and doctoral degrees in physics from Catholic University of America.

Earlier this year, the College of Science announced several department and program head appointments, including the hiring of Sudipta Sarangi as the head of the Department of Economics, Ronald Fricker Jr. as the head of Department of Statistics, and Harald Sontheimer as head of the School of Neuroscience, the latter recently announced by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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