Natural Sciences Division Welcomes 12 New Faculty Members

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Jenny Gov 07/30/2021

As UW enters a new academic year, the university is excited to welcome 12 new faculty members into the Natural Sciences Division. The new hires will join colleagues in the departments of Applied Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Statistics. 

Daniel Pollack, divisional dean of the Natural Sciences, credits the success of the 2020-2021 faculty recruitment effort on the remarkable work and attention that the faculty contributed to their department searches. Additionally, support from the Office of the Provost played a key factor in the university’s ability to bring on the new faculty members.

“Faculty hiring is one of the most impactful decisions we make as institution,” said Pollack. “I am very excited to welcome these 12 new faculty to our campus. I know that their presence here will be a tremendous benefit for our students and our broad research community.”

According to Pollack, great universities are defined by their faculty – and it’s important that teachers bring new vigor, ideas, and perspectives to students. He’s excited to the witness the energy, commitment, and knowledge that the new faulty members will bring to campus. “These young scholars will come to the University of Washington and potentially spend decades teaching and working with our students, while exploring and expanding our knowledge of the world in which we live.”

Below are short biographies on the new faculty members.

Applied Mathematics

Bamdad Hosseini, Assistant Professor, Applied Mathematics
Bamdad Hosseini's research interests lie at the intersection of applied mathematics, probability theory, and statistics. In particular, his research focuses on the analysis and development of computational methods for extracting meaningful information from data. Hosseini's research also centers on the rigorous theoretical understanding of machine learning algorithms and the incorporation of uncertainty quantification in data science tasks.

Hosseini earned his PhD and MS in Mathematics from Simon Fraser University. He received the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Canadian Governor General's Academic Gold Medal in 2018. He also served as a von Karman instructor and senior postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. He will join the applied mathematics department in autumn quarter 2021.

Jingwei Hu, Associate Professor, Applied Mathematics
Jingwei Hu is currently an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University where she also holds a courtesy appointment at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. At Purdue, she has been recognized by the Teaching for Tomorrow Award and her research is currently supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under CAREER and CDS&E awards. She also serves on the editorial boards of several mathematical journals including “La Matematica”, the new flagship journal of the Association for Women in Mathematics. As a board member, Hu supports the success and achievements of all mathematicians by embracing equitable practices in STEM publishing.

Her research interests lie in the area of numerical analysis and scientific computing. In particular, she’s interested in the development of numerical methods for multiscale kinetic equations arising in various science and engineering applications. Hu earned her PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin. She will join the applied mathematics department in autumn quarter 2021.

Biology

Matt Akamatsu, Assistant Professor, Biology
Matt Akamatsu has extensive teaching experience and will take part in an innovative, evidence-based teaching approach that is common in biologyHe will use live cell microscopic imaging along with genome editing and biophysical modeling to understand how cell membranes change their shapes.

Akamatsu earned his BS from Brown University and was the first PhD student at Yale University's Integrated Graduate Program in Physics, Engineering, and Biology. As a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, he held an NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award and received the 2020 Porter Prize for Research Excellence from the American Society for Cell Biology. He will join the biology department in spring quarter 2022.

Chemistry

Lauren Rajakovich, Assistant Professor, Chemistry
Lauren Rajakovich’s research focuses on the metabolism of dietary nutrients associated with cardiovascular disease by the human gut microbiota. Her independent research program will focus on the discovery and characterization of novel microbial metabolic functions and enzymes - along with its impact on the human health and environment. Her work will integrate approaches in bio(in)organic chemistry, chemical biology, enzymology, microbiology, and bioinformatics to study the chemistry in host-associated microbiomes such as the human body. Rajakovich’s research will also highlight the influence of microbes on the natural world. Particularly, it will also enable the use or manipulation of microbes and their enzymes for biocatalysts, synthetic and environmental biology, and therapeutics.

She is currently a Merck Postdoctoral Fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation with Professor Emily P. Balskus in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. Rajakovich will join the chemistry department in winter quarter 2022.

Physics

Di Xiao, Professor, Physics, Materials Science and Engineering
Di Xiao’s research focuses on predicting and understanding electronic properties of new materials. His work encompasses the understanding of atomically thin layered materials where a broad range of strongly correlated electronic phases may be engineered and studied. He works closely with experimentalists that study and produce these materials. Xiao is particularly known for his work that shows how quantum interference affects electrical transport and other properties of unusual materials. This physics underlies many exotic effects in topological materials – a subclass of more unusual materials. Currently, there is much interest in this research area as topological materials have novel potential technical applications.  

Xiao earned his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a Professor of Physics at Carnegie Mellon University since 2019, where he was named Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics. He will join the physics department in autumn quarter 2021.

Psychology

Sama Ahmed, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Sama Ahmed is a molecular neuroscientist whose research focuses on utilizing computational approaches to study the connections between locomotion and neural circuitry in the genetically tractable Drosophila (fruit fly) system. His most recent work addresses how distinct behaviors are coordinated during multitasking – it also reveals how multitasking modulates and constrains nervous system function.

His scholarship was funded by the BRAINS Fellowship, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, National Science Foundation, and Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority Fellowship. Additionally, he co-founded an award-winning podcast titled Carry the One. On the show, Ahmed interviews scientists while sharing their research and career paths with the general public. Ahmed was recently announced as one of four inaugural Bridge to Independence (BTI) fellows by The Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain (SCGB)."

Ahmed earned his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California San Francisco and BS in Engineering from University of Pennsylvania. He will join the psychology department in autumn quarter 2022 after completing his Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Princeton University.

Tyler Jimenez, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Tyler Jimenez’s research integrates individual and population-level data to address social inequality and injustice - focusing particularly on health and policing. His published articles discuss topics such as fatalistic health beliefs, attitudes toward equitable health policies, and cultural revitalization programs. As a member of Nambé Pueblo, Jimenez seeks to improve indigenous health and well-being through research, teaching, and community action.

He earned his BA in psychology from Fort Lewis College and PhD in social and personality psychology from the University of Missouri. Jimenez also served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar. Jimenez joins UW’s psychology department in autumn 2021 and will expand the undergraduate curriculum with a new course in Native American psychology. 

Lucía Magis Weinberg, Assistant Professor, Psychology
Lucía Magis Weinberg is a cross-cultural developmental psychological scientist whose work investigates the transition to adolescence, with a focus on neuroscience, technology usage, and well-being. Her most recent project is a significantly cultural and developmental grounded school intervention in Peru and Mexico which explores growing up in the digital world. She is also the Executive Editor and co-founder of Neuroméxico, a leading Latin-American science outreach website.

Originally trained as a medical doctor at the National Autonomous University of México, Weinberg then completed her MSc and PhD with a focus in developmental cognitive neuroscience at University College London. After, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. Weinberg’s scholarship was funded by the Bezos Family Foundation, Jacobs Foundation, and National Council for Science and Technology. Weinberg will join the psychology department in winter quarter 2022.

Z Yan Wang, Assistant Professor, Psychology and Biology
Z Yan Wang is an evolutionary neuroscientist who studies the origins of neural, molecular, and behavioral complexity in cephalopods and social insects. Her current research on the neurobiology of senescence focuses on how the brain encodes end-of-life changes to mediate death. Wang’s research has been funded by notable organizations including the Pritzker Fellowship in Neuroscience, the National Science Foundation, and the Whitman Fund at the Marine Biological Laboratory. She is also the recipient of multiple teaching awards. 

Wang earned her PhD in Neurobiology at the University of Chicago and her undergraduate degree in Biology, English literature, and Asian American Studies at Cornell University. She will join the psychology department in autumn quarter 2022 after completing her postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Wang will introduce a new course, titled “Racism in Neuroscience,” which seeks to explore the colonial roots and ongoing power structures in neuroscience.

Clara Wilkins, Associate Professor, Psychology
Clara Wilkins is a social psychologist whose research examines prejudice, stereotyping, and the self. Her research explores how social change affects high-status groups’ perceptions of victimization. She also examines how variation in racial and ethnic minorities’ physical appearance shapes stereotyping and identification. The overall goal of her scholarship is to understand social inequities and how to minimize their negative effects on individuals, groups and society. 

Wilkins earned her PhD and MS from the University of Washington and her BA with honors from Stanford University. She was previously a tenured faculty member at Wesleyan University and Washington University in St Louis. She is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Templeton Foundation. Her work has been featured in several major media outlets including the New York Times and National Public Radio. She also serves on numerous editorial boards including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. She will join the psychology department in winter quarter 2022.

Statistics

Carlos Cinelli, Assistant Professor, Statistics
Carlos Cinelli's research focuses on the development of new theories, methods, and software that help data scientists make reliable causal inferences under realistic settings. Specifically, his research enables empirical scientists to assess the robustness of their scientific findings against plausible violations of traditional assumptions. He is especially interested in the inferential challenges faced by social and health scientists as well as the intersection of causality with artificial intelligence. 

His work has been published in prestigious outlets of statistics, epidemiology and machine learning. Most notably, it has made real impact in research practices and has been applied by scientists across different disciplines including economics, political science, neurodevelopment, epidemiology and genetics. Cinelli is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles. He will receive his degree in Statistics this year and join the department in autumn quarter 2021.

Armeen Taeb, Assistant Professor, Statistics
Armeen Taeb's research interests lie at the intersection of statistics and optimization. His work focuses on developing methods for latent-variable modeling and techniques to control false discoveries in contemporary data analysis settings. Taeb’s interests also include exploring the utility of statistical methodologies for real-world applications such as water resource management.

Taeb earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Caltech. He has received several notable awards such as the W.P. Carey & Co. Prize for outstanding dissertation in Applied Mathematics for his PhD thesis, “Latent-variable modeling: inference, algorithms, and applications". He was also awarded the Resnick Institute Fellowship for Sustainability Research for his research on developing statistical models for the California reservoir system. Taeb will join the statistics department in autumn quarter 2022.

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