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New Tenure-line Faculty for the 2016-2017 Academic Year


Caela O’Connell
Assistant Professor

Caela O’Connell earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Following the completion of a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014, she was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Department of Soil Science at North Carolina State University. O’Connell is a cultural anthropologist who focuses on human-environment relations and the effects of climate change, development, natural disasters, and global economics on local agricultural communities in the developing world.   She has done field study in the Caribbean, South America, New Zealand, and the American South.


John Kelley
Assistant Professor

John Kelley earned the Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Prior to joining the faculty at UT, he was an instructor in the Department of Art at the University of Arkansas. Kelley’s studio practice consists of installed and linear video, sound, collaborative performance, and music for film. Influenced by early genre-cinema and traditional storytelling, John’s subject matter focuses on memory, the abstraction of narrative, and the ambiguity of mediated experience.

Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology

Rachel McCord
Assistant Professor

Rachel McCord earned a doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University, and completed postdoctoral research in systems biology with Job Dekker at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Her research lies at the interface of physics and mathematics, and cell biology. She employs state-of-the-art live cell imaging, deep DNA sequencing techniques, and bioinformatics/computational modeling methods to construct comprehensive three dimensional physical maps of chromosomes, revealing the importance of the 3D organization of genomes in gene expression and stability. Disruption of 3D genome structure occurs in cancer, developmental disorders, premature aging disorders and other diseases.


Konstantinos (Kostas) Vogiatzis
Assistant Professor

Kostas Vogiatzis earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Athens, a master’s degree from the University of Crete, and a doctorate from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. Before joining the UT faculty, he held a postdoctoral research fellowship at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany in 2013 and for two years at the University of Minnesota, 2014-2016. Vogiatzis’s research focuses on the development of electronic structure theory methods, elucidation of the electronic, magnetic, and catalytic properties of polynuclear molecular complexes, and the development of high-throughput computational screening algorithms for catalysis and carbon capture.

Earth & Planetary Sciences

Molly McCanta
Associate Professor

Molly McCanta earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and both the master’s and doctoral degrees from Brown University. She was awarded a NASA graduate student research fellowship, was a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, and has worked at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She came to UT from the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Tufts University. She is an expert on the geochemistry and petrology of igneous rocks, from volcanoes, meteorites, and lunar specimens. She is one of the next generations of outstanding young planetary scientists.

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Jessica Budke
Assistant Professor and Director of the University of Tennessee Herbarium

Jessica Budke earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and both a master’s degree in botany and a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Connecticut and another at the University of California-Davis, before joining the UT faculty. Budke’s research focuses on the development, evolution, and function of plant structures from phylogenetic and physiological perspectives. She studies morphological features that are used to distinguish species taxonomically and those that are important for reproduction and fitness.

Nina Fefferman
Associate Professor

Nina Fefferman earned a doctorate in mathematical biology from Tufts University. She joined the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources faculty at Rutgers University in 2008, and was promoted to associate professor in 2012. Her research has three foci: (1) mathematical modeling of infectious disease dynamics; (2) how self-organizing systems and the complexity of emergent social systems are governed by individual behavior; and (3) the development of new mathematical tools to help estimate extinction risks for at-risk populations and understanding what factors may have played the most critical roles in putting those populations at risk.

Kimberly Sheldon
Assistant Professor

Kimberly Sheldon completed a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environment at the University of Michigan, and a doctorate in biology from the University of Washington in 2011. She was associated with the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming from 2011 until joining the faculty at UT this year. In her research Sheldon seeks to understand the mechanisms, patterns and processes underlying species distributions and apply this knowledge to predict the impacts of anthropogenic environmental change on biodiversity, species abundances, and ecological communities.


Joy Harjo-Sapulpa
Professor and Hodges Chair of Excellence

Joy Harjo is a world-famous poet, musician, author, and playwright whose contributions are deeply connected to her advocacy for Native American rights and her work on behalf of her Muscogee (also known as Creek) tribe.  Harjo received the bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa’s Creative Writing Program.  She has held professorships at the University of New Mexico, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Illinois.  Among her publications are a memoir and twelve books of poetry.

Chris Hebert
Assistant Professor

Christopher Hebert received the bachelor’s degree in English from Antioch College and the Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. Before assuming his current position, he worked as a Senior Acquisitions Editor at the University of Michigan Press and as lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee. He is author of the novels Angels of Detroit and The Boiling Season, winner of the 2013 Friends of American Writers award, and numerous works of short fiction and nonfiction. His research interests include publishing and editing, contemporary American fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Sean Morey
Assistant Professor

Sean Morey completed the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2010 at the University of Florida where he also completed both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. For the past six years, Morey has taught at Clemson University. He has published two monographs, two edited collections, two textbooks, and eleven articles related to his interests that include electracy (writing in digital media), grammatology (history and theory of writing), rhetorical theory, visual rhetoric, environmental rhetoric, post-humanism, and professional communication. He published Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, and Nature, co-authored with Sidney I. Dobrin (SUNY Press, 2009). A second book is under contract.


Yingjie Hu
Assistant Professor

Yingjie Hu received the Doctor of Philosophy degree earlier this year from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A specialist in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) he studies the space, time, and semantics of geographic information, and the interactions among the three. He has applied his expertise to topics in spatial decision support, spatial data mining, and spatial data infrastructures. A productive scholar and writer, he has authored or co-authored fourteen peer-reviewed journal articles, a peer-reviewed book chapter that is in press, and ten peer-reviewed short papers or extended abstracts, as well as fourteen peer-reviewed conference articles.

Paulo Raposo
Assistant Professor

Paulo Raposo completed the Doctor of Philosophy degree this year and a master’s degree in 2011 in the Department of Geography at Pennsylvania State University. He completed a bachelor’s degree in archaeological science with geographic information systems (GIS) as a minor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto in 2008. A specialist in GIS, Raposo focuses on innovations in cartographic design, specifically multiple methods for generalizing, visualizing, and representing geographic information on maps. He authored or co-authored five refereed journal articles and two edited book sections, and presented papers at nine refereed conferences.


Yu-Ting Chen
Assistant Professor

Yu-Ting Chen earned the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of British Columbia in 2013. The following year he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Montreal. Most recently he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications at Harvard University and also held an appointment as lecturer. Yu-ting specializes in probability theory with a particular interest in stochastic spatial models that arise from biology, social dynamics, and statistical physics. Among his thirteen publications to date is a singly-authored 109-page paper in the world’s top probability journal, Annals of Probability. 


Heidi Goodrich-Blair
David and Sandra White Professor and Department Head

Heidi Goodrich-Blair joined UT from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she was professor and co-chair of the UW-Madison cross-college biology major and past director of the microbiology doctoral program. Her research focuses on molecular mechanisms of bacteria-nematode-insect symbiosis with implications for bio-control and microbial ecology. Author or co-author of nearly seventy journal articles, she is editor of the journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology. She completed a doctorate in molecular biology at the University of Albany, SUNY, in 1993, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship there and another at Harvard Medical School.

Jeremiah Johnson
Assistant Professor

Jeremiah Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree at Graceland University in Iowa, a master’s degree at Northwest Missouri State, and a doctorate in microbiology at the University of Iowa Carver College Of Medicine. He has just finished a five-year postdoctoral appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. Johnson’s research is in microbial pathogenesis with a focus on characterization of host-microbe interactions and colonization in the gastrointestinal tracts of chickens. Author/co-author of ten journal articles, he has attracted research funding from the US Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.

Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures

Thorsten Huth
Assistant Professor

Thorsten Huth holds a joint appointment with the Department of English. He earned a doctorate with honors in German Applied Linguistics from the University of Kansas in 2005. Thorsten is a co-editor of Deutsch heute, a popular introductory level textbook, and co-editor of the Special Focus Series of Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German, the leading pedagogical journal of German in North America. He is a frequent contributor of articles to Unterrichtspraxis and other journals. Thorsten serves as language program director for first- and second-year German, which enrolled 342 students in fall 2016. He teaches German, English, and Linguistics classes.

Harrison Meadows
Assistant Professor

Harrison Meadows received a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2015, with a dissertation on “The Fabric of the Baroque: Wildness and Ideology in the Spanish Comedia.” He comes to UT from Auburn University, where he was a visiting assistant professor. He is the co-editor of an annotated pedagogical volume currently in press titled (in English) In Life, All is True and False and Sometimes Dreams Come True by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Harrison will teach courses for the Spanish program and the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.


Loneka Battiste
Assistant Professor of Music Education

Loneka Battiste completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in music education at Louisiana State University in 2014. She earned a Master of Music degree in vocal performance at the University of Oklahoma in 2001, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education at Dillard University in 1999. Her research and creative activity involve various aspects of urban and multicultural music education and enhancing student learning. She is one of the leading scholars of critically-acclaimed American born composer and conductor, Moses Hogan. A lifelong musician, she has extensive experience performing choral music internationally.

Chih-Long Hu
Sandra G. Powell Endowed Professor of Piano

Chih-Long Hu completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance at the University of Michigan in 2006 earned a Master of Music degree in piano performance, at Taipei National University of the Arts in 2000 and a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree at National Taiwan University in 1998. Winner of numerous international prizes, pianist Chih-Long Hu frequently performs in Europe, Asia, and throughout North America as concerto soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. His dynamic and virtuosic performances in concerts as well as in recordings have received critical acclaim.

Alexander Lapins
Assistant Professor

Alexander Lapins completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in tuba performance at Indiana University, the Master of Music degree at the University of Michigan, and the Bachelor of Music degree at James Madison University. He is a Miraphone Artist and has performed in Europe, South America, Asia, and throughout the United States. He completed fellowships at both the Henry Mancini Institute and the Tanglewood Music Center.  His research includes study on treatises by flute, violin and keyboard baroque artists, and reconciling baroque aesthetics to modern efficient, fully-chromatic, multi-octave brass instruments. He teaches tuba and euphonium.

Alexander Van Duuren
Assistant Professor

Alexander van Duuren completed a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Arizona, two master’s degrees at the University of Michigan, and an undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. An accomplished professional musician, he has performed with the Tucson Symphony and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Sonora, the Celtic Woman, the Ohio Light Opera, and the Disneyland All-American College Band. He is a winner of numerous scholarships awarded for advanced research and superior performance. He has multiple publications to his credit, including an original work for trombone and piano (Impromptu, Potenza Music Inc., 2010).

Physics & Astronomy

Cristian Batista
Professor and Willis Lincoln Chair of Excellence

Cristian Batista earned a doctorate from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Argentina. He held a senior staff position at Los Alamos National Laboratory before joining UT. A teacher in Argentina before that, he is looking forward to being back in the classroom. A theoretical condensed matter physicist, he holds a joint appointment with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is bringing theory to the experimental research conducted at the Skull Wollan Center–a joint institute for neutron sciences (JINS). Batista was named Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2015.

Sowjanya Gollapinni
Assistant Professor

Sowjanya Gollapinni specializes in experimental high-energy particle physics. She earned the doctorate at Wayne State University in Detroit in 2012. She has just completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Kansas State University and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory before joining UT. Gollapinni developed scientific equipment for the detection of extraterrestrial neutrino particles, mysterious particles that permeate our bodies by the billions each second while moving at the speed of light.  Her research on so-called neutrino oscillations aims to answer some of the most profound questions in science, such as the mystery of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe.

Political Science

Emily Schilling
Assistant Professor

Emily Schilling completed a doctorate at the University of Iowa and a postdoctoral research fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. Her interests include American politics, methodology, and formal theory, focusing on the U.S. Congress and state legislatures. Her recent research has focused on how legislators make decisions and how they influence one another’s behavior. Employing spatial econometrics, she addresses a gap in the literature on legislative decision making between theories that emphasize how each legislator’s decisions depend on those made by their colleagues, and the empirical methods that are not able to capture this interdependence.


Shannon Ross-Sheehy
Assistant Professor

Shannon Ross-Sheehy earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. She accepted an assistant professor appointment at East Tennessee State University where she received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to study functional brain development in infants. Her primary research interests are in the co-development of visual attention and other cognitive systems, and how underlying neural substrates both support and are supported by the development of visual-cognitive competency. Her work may one day lead to identifying infants most at risk for cognitive deficits.

Kalynn Schulz
Assistant Professor

Kalynn Schulz completed a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience at Michigan State University and postdoctoral training at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where she was appointed assistant professor of psychiatry.  At the University of Colorado, she received a career development award from the Veterans Administration. Schulz’s research investigates the impact of external factors such as stress and internal factors such as gonadal steroid hormones on brain and behavioral development. She is particularly interested in determining the neural mechanisms mediating the relationship between developmental stress exposure and mental illness, and between pubertal timing and mental illness.

Religious Studies

Helene Sinnreich
Associate Professor and Director, Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies

Helene Sinnreich earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Brandeis University in 2004. She joins UT from Youngstown State University where she was Clayman Family Professor of Judaic and Holocaust Studies, Director of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, and Executive Director of Ohio Council for Holocaust Education. She is former fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2007) and Yad Vashem (2009), and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Jewish Identities. Her general research interests include the Holocaust, genocide, Jewish studies, and food and famine studies.


Gina Di Salvo
Assistant Professor

Gina Di Salvo completed a doctorate in theatre and drama at Northwestern University, a master’s degree at Ohio State University, and a bachelor’s degree at Catholic University of America. For the past two years she has been a lecturer at Northwestern University. A professional dramaturge, she is an artistic associate of Chicago’s Sideshow Theatre Company. She teaches and writes about theatre history, dramatic criticism, Shakespeare, saints, and dramaturgy. She is the author of “The Framing of the Shrew,” a chapter in Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Suiting the Action to the Word (Northern Illinois University Press, 2013).