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New Faculty for the 2013–2014 Academic Year


Paul Harrill
Associate Professor of 4-D and Transmedia Design
Paul Harrill, a UT alumnus with a BA in College Scholars, received an MFA in film and media arts at Temple University and then became a member of the faculty at Virginia Tech. Harrill’s short films include Gina, An Actress, Age 29, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking, and Quick Feet, Soft Hands, a co-production with the Independent Television Service. His work has been supported by the Aperture Film Grant, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

John Powers
Assistant Professor of 3-D
John Powers earned a BA in art history at Vanderbilt University and an MFA in sculpture at the University of Georgia. In 2008 he joined the art faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Powers is the recipient of a prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, a Joan Mitchell Residency in New Orleans, a Southeast College Art Conference Individual Artist Fellowship, and the 2001 Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award. In May, he was awarded first place in the annual Virginia Groot Foundation Grant Program, an award of $35,000 to support his work.

Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology

Francisco Barrera Oliveras
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology
Francisco Barrera Oliveras received a PhD in chemistry from Miguel Hernández University in Spain. Prior to joining UT, he held a postdoctoral associate position in molecular biophysics and biochemistry in the lab of Donald Engelman at Yale University. Oliveras’s research involves the investigation of the mechanisms of protein and lipid interaction and assembly in cellular membranes of biomedical relevance. His recent work has focused on the use of biophysical approaches to develop protein and peptide therapeutics that target cancer cells.

Maitreyi Das
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology
Maitreyi Das received a PhD in biosciences from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, India. Before joining UT, she held postdoctoral associate positions in the Cancer Biology Program at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of Miami. Das’s present work focuses on the use of the powerful genetic model system Schizosaccharomyces pombe (fission yeast) to gain insight into the molecular underpinnings of the establishment of cell polarity and architecture.


Tessa Calhoun
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Tessa Calhoun earned a BS in chemistry from Iowa State University and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. Calhoun’s research focuses on dynamic interactions at biological membranes, particularly focused on imaging the underlying mechanisms of drug-membrane interactions. The engineering of novel drugs is limited by an incomplete understanding of how molecules react to different biological environments. To study these systems in vivo, she uses advanced nonlinear optical microscopy techniques.

Mike Kilbey
Professor of Chemistry
Michael Kilbey received a BS in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Kilbey previously was on the faculty of Clemson University in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The principal area of Kilbey’s research is surface and interface engineering using soft materials. He and his research group focus on studying the intrinsic links between assembly, structure, and properties of ultrathin polymer films at surfaces and of molecular assemblies in solution.

Earth and Planetary Sciences

Anna Szynkiewicz
Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Anna Szynkiewicz earned a PhD at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, where she carried out research on the impact of acid rain on freshwater ecosystems in Eastern Europe. She has since studied sulfur cycling in saline lakes in Texas while employed as a postdoctoral fellow or research assistant professor at the University of Indiana and the University of Texas in El Paso. Her current research is funded by a NASA grant to study sulfur deposition in a volcanic caldera in New Mexico, which is used as an analog for volcanoes on Mars.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Charles Kwit
Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Charles Kwit earned a PhD in plant biology with a minor in applied statistics at Louisiana State University. Kwit previously was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Florida and the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and was assistant professor at Wittenberg University. His research interests concern the impacts of disturbance and invasive species on succession within plant communities and on populations of endangered birds. Kwit’s recent work also has addressed ecosystem sustainability and biofuel production.


Jeffrey Ringer
Assistant Professor of English
Jeff Ringer earned an MA in English from the University of Vermont and a PhD in composition studies from the University of New Hampshire, where he wrote a dissertation titled “Who Do I Say I Am? Evangelical Identity and Academic Writing.” Ringer’s dissertation challenges composition specialists “to complicate their assumptions regarding evangelical Christians and to re-envision evangelical identity as a resource for academic writing and civic engagement.” Ringer previously served at Lee University as director of First Year Writing, the University Writing Center, and the Studio Writing Program.


Kelsey N. Scheitlin
Assistant Professor of Geography
Scheitlin earned an MS in geosciences from Mississippi State University, and a PhD in geography from Florida State University. She previously spent three years teaching at Longwood University. Scheitlin specializes in meteorology and climatology, and her current research focuses on the spatial and temporal variability of atmospheric hazards—primarily hurricanes. She is also interested in aspects of applied climatology, such as the impact of land use on climate. Scheitlin not only publishes about severe weather, but also travels each spring with students to the Great Plains to forecast and observe supercell thunderstorms in person.

Robert A. Washington-Allen
Assistant Professor of Geography
Robert A. Washington-Allen was a high school science teacher in Peace Corps Lesotho and a lecturer at the Lesotho Agricultural College after earning a BS in zoology from The Ohio State University. He then earned an MS in rangeland science and a PhD in ecology at Utah State University. Washington-Allen’s research focuses on the ecological monitoring and assessment of the sustainability of natural resources using remote sensing technologies. He serves on the US Global Change Research Program and is the remote sensing chair of the Society of Rangeland Management.


Charles Sanft
Assistant Professor of History
Charles Sanft received a PhD in Chinese studies from the University of Muenster and has degrees in Chinese and Asian studies from the University of Minnesota. He has published widely in his field on the political thought and practice of early imperial China, and next year will publish his first book, Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China (State University of New York Press). Sanft was previously a visiting professor at the University of Arizona, taught at the University of Muenster, held a postdoctoral position at Kyoto University, and was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton).

Tore Olsson
Assistant Professor of History
Tore Olsson earned a PhD in history from the University of Georgia. His research centers on the politics of food, and he is working on a manuscript, “Agrarian Crossings: The American South, Mexico, and the Twentieth-Century Remaking of the Rural World.” Last year Olsson was a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs, and in 2011 he was an international dissertation research fellow with the Social Science Research Council.


Abner Salgado
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Salgado earned a PhD in mathematics from Texas A&M University and subsequently was a faculty research associate in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Maryland. Salgado’s research is in the area of numerical analysis, which uses computers to solve complex problems in mathematics. His work has applications to the study of diffusion and incompressible fluids. In particular, he is involved in developing new, “non-standard” models of diffusion to replace earlier models that require assumptions that may not be realistic.

Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures

Yen-Chen Hao
Assistant Professor of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures
Hao earned a PhD in linguistics from Indiana University, with a dissertation focusing on the acquisition of Chinese sounds by second-language learners at different proficiency levels. She has taught courses in beginning Chinese, introductory phonetics, and introductory Chinese linguistics. Hao’s publications include refereed articles in the Journal of Phonetics and Current Issues in Chinese. She also has served as a research assistant on an NSF grant examining Korean-speaking second-language learners of English.

Rudyard (Rudy) Alcocer
Shumway Chair of Excellence in Romance Languages and Associate Professor of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures
Rudy Alcocer earned a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Iowa. His profile as a researcher rests primarily on two monographs: Time Travel in the Latin American & Caribbean Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan) and Narrative Mutations: Discourses of Heredity and Caribbean Literature (Routledge). His refereed articles have appeared in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, PALARA, and Literature/Film Quarterly. His courses have focused on Caribbean fiction, the legacy of slavery, Cuba, Afro-Hispanic literature and culture, Latin American culture, and Hispanic Caribbean literature and culture. Alcocer’s research is at the forefront of African Diaspora studies nationwide.


Allison Dromgold Adams
Assistant Professor of Music
Allison Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in music education and performance from Ithaca College, a master’s degree in music performance from the University of Minnesota, and a doctorate in music performance from Arizona State University. Her dissertation, “Yoga and Saxophone Performance: The Integration of Two Disciplines,” explores the use of yoga in collegiate music programs and the benefits of pairing yoga with musical training. Adams’s other creative interests include chamber music and promoting new works for the saxophone. She is an active performer and clinician and enjoys working with musicians of all ages.

Katie Johnson
Assistant Professor of Music
Katie Johnson recently earned an MM and a DMA in horn performance with a doctoral minor in musicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a Eugenie M. Bolz Fellowship. Her graduate research focused on both contemporary and historical performance practice, and her dissertation focused on the cataloguing and pedagogical analysis of the collected compositions for horn by Douglas Hill. Johnson has performed with the National Repertory Orchestra, the Kent/Blossom Music Festival, the chamber music training program of the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Aspen Music Festival.


Adrian Avery Archer
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Adrian Avery Archer earned an MPhil in philosophy from the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, an MA in theological studies from Harvard University, and a PhD in philosophy from Columbia University. He previously was a scholar-in-residence fellow at Carleton College. Archer’s research lies at the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind, and action theory. He is particularly interested in the rational significance of practically oriented mental states and in exploring the analogies and disanalogies between them and theoretically oriented mental states. He works also on issues relating to the conceptual analysis of knowledge.

Physics and Astronomy

Nadia Fomin
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Nadia Fomin earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and computer science from Georgetown University and a PhD in physics from the University of Virginia. She previously was a postdoctoral research associate at both UT and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Fomin’s research covers fundamental neutron physics and short-range nuclear structure and medium modification of nucleon behavior. She conducts experiments at national facilities like the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia. Among her recent publications is a paper selected as an Editor’s Suggestion in Physical Review C.

Anthony Mezzacappa
Newton W. and Wilma C. Thomas Endowed Chair in Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics
Anthony Mezzacappa earned a PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2012, he was named director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). A leader in computational astrophysics and a pioneer in the field of supernova science, Mezzacappa joined ORNL in 1996 after holding positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 1999 President Bill Clinton presented him with the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.

Political Science

Danielle Atkins
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Danielle Atkins received a PhD and an MPA from the University of Georgia. She studies reproductive health policy, representative bureaucracy, and education policy. Her current research focuses on contraceptive parity policy, the effect of teacher representation on student health and education outcomes, and how increased access to emergency contraception affects women’s reproductive health-related decisions. Articles by Atkins are forthcoming in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Management Review, and the Journal of Public Health Policy.


Jioni A. Lewis
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Jioni A. Lewis earned a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and recently completed an APA-accredited, pre-doctoral internship at the University of Maryland Counseling Center. Lewis’s research is broadly focused on multicultural psychology and diversity issues—specifically the psychological effects of subtle forms of racism on mental health and health disparities, as well as the experience of racial microaggressions on people of color. She recently developed a scale to measure black women’s experiences with gendered racial microaggressions (that is, the intersection of subtle forms of racism and sexism).

Chris Elledge
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Chris Elledge earned an MS in experimental psychology with a developmental specialization at Florida Atlantic University and a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Arkansas. He was the recipient of the prestigious Ruth L. Kirstein National Research Service Award through the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded his individual postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Kansas. Elledge’s current research focuses on child aggression, with a particular emphasis on developing interventions for aggressive and bullied children.

Timothy L. Hulsey
Associate Professor of Psychology
Timothy Hulsey received a BA in psychology from Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, an MA in clinical psychology from Trinity University, and a PhD in clinical psychology from UT. He completed pre- and postdoctoral fellowships in clinical psychology at Dartmouth Medical School and served as dean of the Honors College and associate professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Hulsey has published the book Moral Cruelty: Ameaning and the Justification of Harm and serves as associate provost for honors and scholars programs at UT.

Leticia Y. Flores
Associate Professor of Psychology
Leticia Flores earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington at Seattle. Flores has practiced psychotherapy, taught undergraduate and graduate courses at several universities, and most recently served as director for Virginia Commonwealth University’s training clinic for six years. Her clinical interests focus on serving and advocating for LGBT communities.

Erin Hardin
Director of Undergraduate Studies in Psychology and Associate Professor of Psychology
Erin Hardin earned a PhD in counseling psychology at The Ohio State University. She previously was a faculty member at Texas Tech University for ten years. Much of Hardin’s research has focused on cultural influences on the self, particularly as they relate to well-being and career development. Most recently she has investigated factors that contribute to the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in STEM fields. She teaches, writes, and has led workshops on the teaching of psychology, with emphasis in the areas of graduate student training in teaching and multicultural training.

Jeff T. Larsen
Associate Professor of Psychology
Jeff Larsen earned an MA and a PhD in social psychology from The Ohio State University. He studies emotion and is particularly interested in the experience of mixed emotions. Larsen’s work has appeared in a variety of outlets, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Emotion, and Psychophysiology, for which he is an associate editor.


Michelle Christian
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Michelle Christian received a PhD from the Department of Sociology at Duke University and in 2012 was a postdoctoral scholar with the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University. Her research focuses on forms of racial inequality in the global economy as it pertains to the global South and the tourism industry. Christian has conducted field research in Kenya, Uganda, and Costa Rica and was a tourism sector coordinator from 2009 to 2013 for Capturing the Gains, a global research project of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

Religous Studies

Megan Bryson
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Megan Bryson received a PhD in religious studies from Stanford University and a BA in religious studies and Chinese from the University of Oregon. Her research focuses primarily on intersections of religion, gender, and ethnicity in Southwest China. Bryson recently published an article in Asian Ethnology and is currently revising her book manuscript, tentatively titled Dragon Maiden, Mother, and Martyr: Changing Ethnicity in China’s Deep Southwest. A winner of the UT Alumni Association’s Outstanding Teacher Award, Bryson teaches courses on Zen Buddhism and the religions of China and Japan.