Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

New College Leadership for Fall 2022

Adrian Del Maestro, professor of physics and a professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the Tickle College of Engineering, stepped into the role of head for the Department of Physics and Astronomy this fall.

“The Department of Physics and Astronomy is one of the largest and most research active in the college,” Del Maestro said. “I look forward to growing our academic programs and aiding my faculty in apply their unique skillsets to solve some of the most challenging problems facing the world today.”

Del Maestro’s research involves the application of high-performance computational tools and quantum field theory methods to understand how collective and cooperative states of matter can be harnessed for future quantum technologies.

Allen Dunn, professor of English, is the new head of the Department of Philosophy. Dunn has prior administrative experience as head of the English department.

Xiaobing Henry Feng, professor of mathematics, stepped into the role of head for the Department of Mathematics this fall.

“Serving as department head gives me the opportunity to see the mathematics department from a bird’s eye view, the great work and the achievements of our faculty, staff, and graduate students. Their enthusiasm, passion and diligence in teaching, research, and service radiate to me and excite me to do the challenging job,” said Feng, who is a computational and applied mathematician. “Being the department head also provides me the opportunity to be a facilitator for the faculty, staff, and graduate students to empower them to achieve more and to reach their potential.”

A numerical analyst by training, Feng’s research has been focused on developing and analyzing fast and efficient computational methods and algorithms for solving math problems from various scientific and engineering applications on computers. He has worked at the interfaces between mathematics and sciences as well as engineering and his research has been supported by the NSF continuously for 20 years.

Susan C. Lawrence, professor of history, stepped into the head role this fall for the Department of History. She is working on a book titled American Cadavers, 1780-1980, with co-author Susan E. Lederer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, their focus is on chapters about the rise of whole-body donation in the mid-20th century when anatomists worked to change laws to allow people to donate their bodies to science. They explore why some Americans opted for this corporeal philanthropy and the effects donation had on medical education.

“I look forward to helping faculty in our department work towards their research and teaching goals and celebrating their successes, which I know will be many because we have such an outstanding group of scholars and educators,” Lawrence said. “We face a number of serious challenges in the coming years, and I plan to advocate for our department at every opportunity.”

Kenneth Martin joined UT this fall as the department head of theatre and artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre. A member of United Scenic Artists, his designs have been seen at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Florida Rep, Ocean State Theatre, The Sacramento Theatre Company, The New Theatre, Skylight Theatre, The Golden Nugget in Reno, Nevada, and many others. His current research includes non-linear narrative in virtual reality and extended reality and the future of storytelling using these technologies.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work in the unique environment that is the UT Department of Theatre and the Clarence Brown Theatre,” Martin said. “The connection of arts training with an on-campus professional theatre is rare.”

Gina Owens, professor of psychology, stepped into the role of head for the Department of Psychology this fall. Her research focus is cognitive appraisal processes that occur after traumatic events and how these appraisals impact mental health and coping. In recent research, Owens has examined meaning-making among combat-exposed military veterans and its associations with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptom severity, as well as post-traumatic growth.

“Transitions offer an exciting opportunity to work with faculty to continue building on our strengths and think about next directions and future areas of growth,” Owens said.

Brandon Prins, professor of political science, stepped into the head role this fall for the Department of Political Science.

“I am excited to work with the exceptional faculty we have in the political science program to prepare our students for a dynamic, complex, and more inter-connected world,” said Prins, a computational social scientist whose research focuses on the political, economic, and social drivers of violence, armed conflict, and maritime crime. Currently, he leads a research team funded by the US Department of Defense that is exploring sea-piracy and illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific region.

Jen Schweitzer, professor of ecology, stepped into the role of head for the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology this fall.

“I am excited about the opportunity to support the students, faculty and staff in EEB and beyond to allow us as individuals, and as larger groups, to thrive,” Schweitzer said. “I am also excited to help create a collaborative, supportive and diverse group of people at UT with opportunities for excellence for everyone.”

In her research, Schweitzer examines the role of plant-soil linkages and feedbacks to plant and soil health, and the ecological and evolutionary importance of these linkages to both soils and plants in a changing world. The approach is focused on understanding the dynamic interplay between ecology and evolution, and between above- and belowground compartments in natural and disturbed ecosystems.

Alycia Stigall joined UT this fall as the new Jones/Bibee Professor and head of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. In her research, she uses the fossil record of marine shelly animals to understand the long-term drivers of speciation and extinction during intervals of climatic and environmental change. Her research group uses a wide variety of methods from systematics to niche modeling to understand whether and how species adapt to changes in their environment over long time scales (=thousands to millions of years). In particular, she tends to work on intervals of time with biotic radiations, widespread species invasions, or mass extinctions.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to work with the incredible faculty, students, and staff of EPS to build on past successes and develop an inclusive, strong department to train the next generation of geoscience leaders,” Stigall said. “The supportive environment here at UT in the college and among the administration makes this a really dynamic institution of which to be part.”