New Building, Faculty Additions Strengthen School’s Science, Math Areas

When The University of Texas at Dallas was established in 1969, the faculty consisted of geologists, biologists, physicists and mathematicians, all working together in one building.

Those foundational academic areas remain at the core of the University, organized within the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). This fall, the school welcomed five new tenured and tenure-track faculty members, and the new Sciences Building opened its doors to new and returning Comets.

Dr. A. Dean Sherry

“The new building is fantastic; it’s beautiful,” said Dr. A. Dean Sherry, interim dean of NSM and the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology. “I can see it becoming the focal point of NSM in the future.”

The Sciences Building houses the Department of Physics, the William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, several classrooms, offices, and teaching and research labs. It also features 150-seat and 300-seat lecture halls, and an open courtyard with green space and seating areas.

“There will be many science courses taught in this building in addition to physics, so most of our science students will be passing through the building regularly,” said Sherry, who joined the UT Dallas chemistry faculty in 1972. “And, when the time is right, the courtyard outside will be a wonderful draw for socializing, activities and music. The physical location will naturally connect the residence halls and living spaces on the far north campus to the central campus.”

The five new faculty members joining the school add expertise in biology, computational chemistry and biochemistry, mathematics and actuarial science.

“Moving forward, we envision research programs that continue to bring together various disciplines such as computational resources to be shared among all of our departments,” Sherry said. “In addition, science is really evolving to the point where demarcations between departments are gradually disappearing, where the walls between physics, biology and chemistry are getting fuzzy. That’s the trend we see in the expertise we’re bringing to UT Dallas, and I think this is a good thing. If you want to do big projects, you must involve multiple disciplines.”

NSM includes the departments of GeosciencesBiological SciencesChemistry and BiochemistryPhysicsMathematical Sciences, and Science/Mathematics Education.

New Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

Dr. Ronan Conlon

Dr. Ronan Conlon, assistant professor of mathematical sciences

Education: PhD in mathematics, Imperial College London, 2011; MMath, University of Warwick, England, 2007

Previous position: assistant professor, Florida International University

Research interests: differential geometry, geometric analysis

“My research focuses on understanding and classifying singularities. The occurrence of singularities is inevitable in life, whether it be the space-time singularity at the center of a black hole or a crash in the stock market. Understanding the formation of these singularities and modeling them is important as it allows one to make predictions. The same philosophy applies in mathematics in the singularity formation of certain dynamic equations, or geometric flows. Now is a very exciting time to be working at UT Dallas. The mathematics department is investing heavily in recruiting top talent and attracts very talented students.” 

Dr. Liang Hong

Dr. Liang Hong, associate professor of mathematical sciences

Education: PhD in mathematics, Purdue University, 2009; MS in mathematics, Purdue, 2005; BA in economics, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, 2000

Previous position: associate professor of actuarial science and mathematics, Robert Morris University

Research interests: actuarial science, data science, insurance theory, statistical learning

“My main research interest is to build predictive models in insurance using cutting-edge methodologies from data science, machine learning and statistics. I’m also interested in doing theoretical research in data science and statistics. UT Dallas has a strong actuarial science faculty group, and the actuarial science program is growing to be one of the best in the U.S. I’m thrilled to join UT Dallas to contribute my expertise.”

Dr. Lin Jia

Dr. Lin Jia, assistant professor of biological sciences

Education: PhD in molecular pathology-lipid science, Wake Forest School of Medicine, 2010; MS in occupational health and toxicology, Fudan University, Shanghai, 2005; BS in preventive medicine, Fudan University, 2002

Previous position: instructor, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Research interests: alcohol-associated liver disease, obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance

“My long-term research interest is to investigate the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the development of advanced liver damage — both alcoholic and nonalcoholic — and associated metabolic disorders. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the role of organ-organ communication and cell-cell interaction in disease development. I love teaching and involving students in my research projects. The great collaborative environment and innovative research attracted me to join UT Dallas.”

Dr. Allison Stelling

Dr. Allison Stelling, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry

Education: PhD in chemistry, Stony Brook University, 2008; BA in chemistry, Reed College, Oregon, 2004

Previous position: postdoctoral research associate, biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center

Research interests: vibrational/infrared spectroscopy, solution-state structural biochemistry, bioanalytics


“My research is exploring the use of vibrational spectroscopy, which uses infrared light, to study the 3D structure and dynamics of biomolecules. My areas of expertise complement those of several faculty members in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. I’m also interested in developing infrared and Raman spectroscopy for rapid, point-of-care cancer diagnostics, so the proximity to UT Southwestern Medical Center is exciting.”

Dr. Hedieh Torabifard

Dr. Hedieh Torabifard, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry

Education: PhD in chemistry, Wayne State University, 2017; MSc in chemistry, Sharif University of Technology, Iran, 2011; BSc in chemistry, Shahid Beheshti University, Iran, 2008

Previous position: postdoctoral fellow, University of Michigan

Research interests: bio-based ionic liquids, computational chemistry, membrane transport proteins

“The primary goal of my research is to apply computational and theoretical methods to study complicated and unsolved biological problems. For example, I am studying membrane transport proteins and their role in harmful bacterial diseases. I’m excited to work at UTD and contribute by both teaching and conducting research. The University is growing fast and provides many opportunities and a supportive environment for everyone to succeed.”

New Faculty Series

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

School of Arts and Humanities

School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication

School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences

School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

Naveen Jindal School of Management

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].