Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Welcome New Faculty

This fall, we welcome 20 new tenure and tenure-track faculty to 15 of the departments and schools in the college.

Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology

Jianbin Wang

Jianbin Wang, Assistant Professor

Wang’s research focuses on programmed DNA elimination specifically, on the mechanisms of DNA break formation and new telomere addition during DNA elimination. He joins UT from the University of Colorado School of Medicine where he was a research assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics.

Department of Chemistry

Viktor Nemykin

Viktor Nemykin, Department Head

Nemykin received his BS and MS in chemistry from the Kyiv State University and a PhD from the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine working on transition-metal and lanthanide phthalocyanines. He received a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship, supported by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, which he completed at Tohoku University working on the preparation of phthalocyanines and their analogs. After completing another postdoctoral program at Duquesne University in bio-inorganic chemistry, Nemykin joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Minnesota Duluth. In 2016, Nemykin was recruited as a department head to the University of Manitoba. He joined the UT chemistry department in August 2020.

Joshua Baccile

Joshua Baccile, Assistant Professor

The focus of Baccile’s doctoral research applied analytical chemistry approaches for a comprehensive annotation of cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) in filamentous fungi. Central to his efforts was the use of 2D-NMR and HPLC-MS-based comparative metabolomics. Correlating changes in fungal metabolomes with genetic modification of BGCs enabled the synchronous discovery of new chemical species and enzymatic activity. His team expanded the recently emerging class of natural products, fungal isoquinolines, to include the imizoquins from the imq cluster in the plant pathogenic fungus Aspergillus flavus. Beyond detailing imq biogenesis, they discovered a functional basis for the imizoquins through characterizing antagonistic cross-talk with the ralstonins of the bacterium Ralstonia solanacearum. While thousands of natural products have been described, their functions within the producing organisms are largely unknown. Baccile’s efforts to bridge this gap, such as his study of the imizoquins, will be important for sustained agriculture, biotechnology, and drug discovery.

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Bradley James Thomson

Bradley James Thomson, Assistant Professor

As a planetary geologist, Thomson is interested in understanding the physical processes that have shaped the surfaces of the terrestrial planets, including impact, eolian, fluvial, lacustrine, and volcanic processes. He has endeavored to unravel the complex geologic histories of Mars, the Moon, and Venus using geologic mapping and geologic analysis with diverse types of remotely sensed data, including radar, optical, near-IR, thermal, and surface contact data. An overarching theme of his research is to constrain the nature and timing of physical processes in ancient planetary environments, particularly the drivers of planetary-scale climate change. He has also employed terrestrial analogs to provide greater insight into planetary processes. He has developed numerous pieces of custom-built software (particularly in MATLAB) to facilitate his research.

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Laura Russo, Assistant Professor

Department of English

Iliana Rocha, Assistant Professor

Poet Iliana Rocha received her PhD in English with a creative writing emphasis from Western Michigan University, and, before joining us, taught at the University of Central Oklahoma. Karankawa, her first book of poetry, won the AWP Donald Hall Prize for poetry, and her second poetry volume, The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez, has won the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second book of Poetry. She has also published numerous individual poems as well as prose and creative nonfiction. She will be a fine addition to our Creative Writing Program.

Department of Geography

LaToya Elise Eaves, Assistant Professor

Eaves’s research analyzes the simultaneous dimensions of race, gender, class and sexuality in order to understand more fully Black place-making practices in the US South. She centers Black women and Black queer communities in the Carolinas to explore the relationships among multiple elements of social life, including home and land claims, rurality, religious ideologies, and political activism. Eaves received her PhD from Florida International University in 2014 and served as an assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University before coming to UT.

Katherine Nicole Heidbreder Luke, Assistant Professor

Luke is an urban geographer who studies energy and labor politics and specializes in qualitative, community-engaged methodologies. Her research examines how energy infrastructure and policy reproduce uneven power relations rooted in gender, race, class, nationality, and ability. Luke received her PhD from the University of Georgia in 2020.

Department of History

Beau D.J. Gaitors

Beau D.J. Gaitors, Assistant Professor 

Gaitors is a historian of Latin America with emphasis on the economic, political, and social impacts of African descendants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His research interests also focus on the intersections of race, environment, and public health in nineteenth-century Latin America. He earned his PhD in Latin American History at Tulane University and spent one year as a Fulbright Fellow in Mexico conducting research on African descendants in Mexico.

Michael Eugene Woods

Michael Eugene Woods, Associate Professor

Woods studies the political and cultural history of the nineteenth-century United States, with particular interest in partisanship and the politics of sectionalism and slavery from the 1830s through Reconstruction. Woods is also director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson and looks forward to working with a diverse range of scholars and audiences. Read more about his vision for the future of the project.

Felege-Selam Solomon Yirga

Felege-Selam Solomon Yirga, Assistant Professor

Yirga is a historian of the Late Antique/Early Medieval Near East and Red Sea regions. He is interested particularly in the study of early Byzantine historiography and how people who did not live under the Roman Empire (particularly post-Roman Copts, Syrians, and medieval/early modern Ethiopians) remembered it and used its memory to forge their own religious and political identities. He conducts research through the study of the transmission and reuse of historical and hagiographic texts from Greek into Classical Ethiopic (Gə’əz), Coptic, and Syriac.

Department of Mathematics

Ioannis Sgouralis, Assistant Professor

Sgouralis received his PhD from Duke University in the area of mathematical physiology. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS in Knoxville, he served as a postdoctoral research scholar at the Center for Biological Physics at Arizona State University. Sgouralis has broad research interests ranging from computational statistics and data analysis to mathematical biology and numerical mathematics. Since he was a graduate student, Sgouralis has published more than 20 papers and has more than 350 citations.

Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

Brittany Murray, Assistant Professor of French

Murray earned her PhD in French from Northwestern University in 2016. She served as adjunct assistant professor, International Studies Program and Program Coordinator, The Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, at Vassar College since 2018. Her research and teaching on migration in France often intersect with questions of race, racialization, and anti-racist social movements. She has published a co-authored monograph with the University of Illinois Press, and she has a new monograph under review. 

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Adrian Del Maestro, Professor

Del Maestro joins UT as a full professor of physics with part-time appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Del Maestro is a theoretical and computational physicist with interest in the study of phase transitions and entanglement in quantum fluids, ultra-cold bosonic gases, superconductors, and topological states of matter. He recently worked on the quantification of ‘quantum entanglement’, the foundational principle for the operation of future quantum technologies including quantum computation. Del Maestro obtained his PhD from Harvard University in 2008, and held postdoctoral positions at the University of British Columbia and Johns Hopkins University before joining the faculty at the University of Vermont in 2011. He won numerous research grants including the prestigious NSF career award, and served as lead PI and Director of the Vermont Advanced Computing Core. Del Maestro will lead the theory effort of the recently established interdisciplinary research cluster on Quantum Materials for Future Technologies. In this role, he will develop new interdisciplinary courses in machine learning and quantum technologies.

Joon Sue Lee

Joon Sue Lee, Assistant Professor

Lee joined the physics department in January 2020. He is an experimental condensed matter physicist, received his PhD degree from Penn State University in 2014, and completed his postdoctoral work at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Lee is interested in the electronic, magnetic, and superconducting properties of semiconductors and novel quantum materials with potential applications for quantum computing and spintronics. His expertise includes thin film synthesis via molecular beam epitaxy, fabrication of nanoscale devices, and quantum transport experiments.

Toya Ray Holmes

Tova Ray Holmes, Assistant Professor

Holmes is an experimental high-energy particle physicist and received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 2016. Holmes held a postdoctoral appointment at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and was stationed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. Her primary research interest is the search for physics beyond the venerable Standard Model of particle physics. In this endeavor, she joined a large international collaboration in large-scale particle collider experiments in Geneva, Switzerland. Holmes’s expertise includes the identification of long-lived subatomic particles, hardware-based pattern recognition, and electronic trigger systems.

Department of Political Science

Leah Christiani

Leah Christiani, Assistant Professor

Christiani received her BA from the University of Connecticut and just finished her PhD at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Leah’s research focuses on the politics of race, gender, and ethnicity in the United States with special attention to the language that individuals and politicians use to talk about identity, as well as with the way that identity shapes interactions with institutions, like the police, in society.

Michael D. Jones, Associate Professor

Jones received his undergraduate degree from Idaho State University and his PhD from the University of Oklahoma. He had a postdoctoral fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He is editor-in-chief of the Policy Studies Journal. Jones has published in a wide range of disparate disciplinary venues. His primary research interest is policy theory, where he has focused most of his attention on developing the narrative policy framework, focused on understanding the role of stories in shaping policy processes and outcomes.

Shayla Nunnally

Shayla C. Nunnally, Professor

Nunnally received her BA from North Carolina Central University and her PhD from Duke University. She last taught at the University of Connecticut. She specializes in American politics and political behavior, with concentrations in African American politics and race and politics and political behavior, and with research interests in political trust and African American political development (political socialization and political institutions). Nunnally is also the new director of the Africana Studies program.

Kirsten Widner

Kirsten Widner, Assistant Professor

Widner received her PhD from Emory University and her JD from the University of San Diego School of Law. Before starting her PhD program, she was a clinical instructor and advocacy director for the public policy and legislative advocacy clinics at Emory Law School. Her scholarship focuses on the political representation of marginalized groups. Her first book, Race, Gender and Political Representation: Toward a More Intersectional Approach, co-authored with Beth Reingold and Kerry L. Haynie, will be published by Oxford University Press in November 2020.

Department of Religious Studies

Larry S. Perry II

Larry S. Perry II, Assistant Professor

Perry earned his BA from Fisk University, a Master’s degree at Union Theological Seminary, and his PhD at the University of Virginia. He served as a post-doctoral research fellow jointly at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and Georgetown University. He joins UT from Northwestern University where he was a visiting assistant professor. Perry’s work focuses on the history of the American Religious Left, its thoughts, thinkers, politics, practice and its intersection (or lack thereof) with racial justice in the US. Perry’s current book project is titled A Black Spiritual Leftist: Howard Thurman and the Religious Left’s Unfinished Business of Race Relations. Perry has served as a fellow at the Center for American Progress’ Leadership Institute and as a contributor on CSPAN. He has a joint appointment with the Africana Studies Program.

Department of Sociology

Deadric T. Williams

Deadric T. Williams, Assistant Professor 

Williams’s research is organized around two general themes: (1) racism and families and (2) stress, couples’ relationships, and health. His research on racism and families uses Critical Race Theory as a theoretical perspective to challenge conventional sociological research on racial economic inequality among families. His second line of research examines stress and health as a longitudinal and dyadic process among couples. His research has been published in outlets such as Issues in Race & SocietyJournal of African American StudiesPersonal RelationshipsSociety & Mental HealthAmerican Journal of Human BiologyPopulation Research and Policy Review among others.


Alex A. Moulton, Assistant Professor

Moulton’s research draws on qualitative data to examine the intersections of race, development, and justice in human-environment relationships. Moulton received a PhD from Clark University, Graduate School of Geography and was a Provost’s Minority Dissertation Fellow in the Department of Global Studies and Human Geography at Middle Tennessee State University.

Tim Gill

Timothy M. Gill, Assistant Professor

Gill’s research looks at US democracy promotion efforts in Venezuela following the election of Hugo Chavez. Gill received his PhD from the University of Georgia, Department of Sociology and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research, Tulane University.

Department of Theatre

Katie Cunningham

Katie Cunningham, Assistant Professor

Cunningham has an MFA in acting from Florida State University in association with the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. Her research interests include dialects of Southern Appalachia, applications of vocology, and voice science to actor training. Creative activity includes regular appearances in the acting company at Utah Shakespeare Festival; recent voice/text/dialect coaching at the Clarence Brown Theatre, Southwest Shakespeare Company, and River & Rail Theatre in Knoxville.

School of Art

christopher mcnulty

Christopher McNulty, Ellen McClung Berry Professor & Director

A dual citizen of France and the US, Christopher McNulty is a visual artist who creates sculptural objects, video, and works on paper. His current work explores how environmental space penetrates the body, creating relationships among individuals, species, and objects.


Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies

Sheldon has a MFA in Visual and Media Art from Emerson College. McMillion Sheldon is an Academy Award-nominated, and Emmy and Peabody-winning documentary filmmaker and media artist who focuses on social and cultural issues. She is a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow and 2018 USA Artists Fellow.

School of Music

Kimberly Roberts, Assistant Professor of Voice

Roberts, lecturer of voice, was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and has enchanted audiences across the nation with her performances of Countless Almaviva in Le Nozze de Figaro, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Magda in La Rondine, Magda in The Consul, and the title role in Susannah. She is a frequent recitalist throughout the US and Western Europe and specializes in the works of Sven Lekberg and other American Neo-Romantics. Roberts holds a bachelor of music in education from Simpson College, as well as master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University.

Maria Fernanda Castillo

Maria Fernanda Castillo, Assistant Professor of Flute

Castillo has developed an active career in Latin America and the United States as a chamber musician, soloist, recitalist, orchestral performer, musicologist, activist, and educator. Castillo debuted in New York City with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in 2008, under Alondra de la Parra. In 2009, she had her professional debut as a soloist in Venezuela with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra under Mtro. Carlos Riazuelo. She has also performed as a soloist with the Caracas Municipal Symphony under Mtros. Rodolfo Saglimbeni and her husband, Régulo Stabilito. Co-founder of the Latin American Music Initiative (LAMI) with her husband, they are committed to advocating for raising awareness of Latin American repertoire. LAMI has allowed them to reach a large community by performing, recording, lecturing and editing Latin American works.