August 1, 2014


School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Adds Expertise to Ranks

New Faculty Series

News Center is posting profiles of tenured and tenure-track professors who have recently joined the University. The following schools' profiles have been published:

UT Dallas’ School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has added 24 faculty members in the past two years, and is on track to hire 15 more in the next academic year.

The strongest growth comes in areas such as mathematics, bioinformatics and energy-related subfields, said Dr. Bruce Novak, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“In mathematics, we’ve added about 10 positions, supporting interdisciplinary individuals who interact not just with other departments in our school, but also with engineering and ATEC (Arts and Technology), as well as collaborators at UT Southwestern Medical Center,” said Novak, Distinguished Chair in Natural Sciences & Mathematics.

New faculty are drawn to the University in part because the school’s six departments are experiencing rapid growth.

“We tell incoming faculty that they will play a very active role in defining the direction of their respective departments," Novak said. "That is a unique experience for an assistant professor, and it’s true for every school that’s in this hiring process. UT Dallas is able to present opportunities that exist almost nowhere else.”

The following are among the tenured and tenure-track faculty members hired this school year.

Julia Chan

Dr. Julia Chan, professor of chemistry

Previously: Professor of chemistry, Louisiana State University

Research interests: Solid-state and materials chemistry; single-crystal growth; structure and characterization of novel intermetallics and oxides with unusual magnetic, electrical and energy applications

“We discover materials with rare-earth elements, which are not so rare but have been classified as critical elements. Until we understand the chemistry and physics of these materials and develop alternatives, we will not know how not to depend on the critical elements. Because we are highly dependent on these elements in energy applications, I’ve been thinking more broadly about the economics and supply risk aspects, and not just the science. I especially enjoy seeing so many UT Dallas faculty members doing work at the interface of many different areas of science and engineering and the humanities. It’s quite unique, and the interactions can lead to big science.”

Min Chen

Dr. Min Chen, assistant professor of statistics

Previously: Assistant professor of biostatistics, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Research interests: Methodology development in genome-wide association studies, genetic mapping, network-based modeling, next generation sequencing data analysis, statistical preprocessing of genomic data; Bayesian modeling; ranked set sampling

“My primary research field is statistical genomics and bioinformatics, with a focus on developing statistical and bioinformatical methods that can lead to an integrated understanding of genetic and molecular pathogenesis, and eventually lead to innovative strategies for diagnosis, prevention and intervention of complex human diseases.”

Jeremiah Grassensmith

Dr. Jeremiah Gassensmith, assistant professor of chemistry

Previously: Postdoctoral fellow, Northwestern University

Research interests: Study and use of self-assembly properties of biological materials as templates to create novel synthetic materials, with applications in advanced battery technology, transistors and nanomedicine

“UT Dallas has an extremely gifted president and a very energetic dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. They clearly have a vision, and that vision is obviously being manifested. What really drew me here is the opportunity to be a part of an institution that lives and breathes the will to academically outpace any university anywhere in the world.”

Xingang Chen

Dr. Xingang Chen, assistant professor of physics

Previously: Stephen Hawking Advanced Fellow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge

Research interests: Theoretical cosmology; early-universe models; primordial density perturbations; cosmic microwave background and other large-scale structures; dark matter; string cosmology

“The structures in the universe that scientists observe through satellite experiments and ground-based telescopes originated from primordial ‘seeds’ that were present at the Big Bang. Through gravitational instability they formed the structures we see today. Those seeds have been measured in various ways, and we are finding they have very interesting and mysterious properties. My job as a theorist is to use fundamental physics to analyze those properties and build theoretical models of the early universe in order to understand how it began.”

Lunjin Chen

Dr. Lunjin Chen, assistant professor of physics

Previously: Assistant researcher, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of California-Los Angeles

Research interests: Magnetospheric physics; interaction of electromagnetic waves and energetic charged particles in Earth’s geospace; modeling of radiation belt dynamics; instability and propagation of plasma waves

“I am looking at the upper part of the Earth’s atmosphere, called the magnetosphere, which is a few thousand kilometers above the Earth’s surface. This environment consists of ionized charged particles, which can damage electronics on spacecraft or can be dangerous to astronauts. So it’s very valuable to predict the dynamics of those energetic charged particles. My research focuses on using numerical models to better understand and predict the dynamics and variability of charged particles, as well as the magnetosphere in general.”

Michael Kesden

Dr. Michael Kesden, assistant professor of physics

Previously: James Arthur Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, New York University

Research interests: Theoretical astrophysics and cosmology; binary black holes; gravitational waves; tidal-disruption events; galactic dynamics; gravitational lensing of the cosmic microwave background

“Gravity is the most important force for shaping the evolution of the universe on large scales, but it's also the most poorly understood. Because gravitational fields on Earth are relatively weak, we must rely on astronomical observations to study gravity in extreme environments. Fortunately, we are on the cusp of a revolution in terms of our observational capabilities. Within the next 10 years, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) will detect gravitational waves directly for the first time, and the James Webb Space Telescope and Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will enable us to monitor more of the sky with greater depth, resolution and cadence than ever before. This will allow us to study rare events like binary black hole mergers and tidal disruption that may yield new insights into the nature of gravity. I am working to develop models of these events to maximize the scientific yield of this exciting new data as soon as it becomes available.”

Media Contact: Amanda Siegfried, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4335,
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155,

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