University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

New Faculty 2016-2017

Dr. Alexander Anievas researches the development of non-Eurocentric approaches to international historical sociology and political economy, with a particular emphasis on the study of epochs of macro-historical change and conjunctures of interstate conflict, war, and revolution. He is the author of Capital, the State, and War: Class Conflict and Geopolitics in the Thirty Years’ Crisis, 1914-1945 (University of Michigan Press, 2014), for which he was awarded the Sussex International Theory Prize, and co-author of How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (Pluto, 2015). He is currently working on co-authoring a manuscript entitled Legacies of Fascism: Race and the Far-Right in the Making of the Cold War.

Cara Battersby is excited to join the UConn physics faculty, specializing in astrophysics. Her research is focused on understanding how stars form out of the gas and dust that pervades our galaxy, especially in the extreme Galactic Center.  She is currently leading a large, international team of scientists in a submillimeter survey to uncover the hidden process of how stars are born in the center of our Galaxy, which provides insight on this phenomenon in the distant universe. Cara has founded two major outreach initiatives, BiteScis (connecting graduate students with K-12 teachers to bring modern science research into the classroom) and CU-STARs (training, mentorship, and community to recruit and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds in science).

Fabrice Baudoin is interested in Stochastic analysis, Riemannian and sub-Riemannian geometry, rough paths theory, functional inequalities, heat kernels, and harmonic analysis.

Brenda Brueggemann teaches rhetoric, creative non-fiction, and pedagogy. In the past decade, she has concentrated her research on disability studies and deaf studies, authoring books such as Deaf Subjects: Between Identities and Places (New York UP, 2009); Lend Me Your Ear: Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness (Gallaudet UP, 1999); and the SAGE Reference Series Arts and Humanities on Disability: Key Issues and Future Directions (SAGE Publications, 2012). She is also co-author of a composition textbook among other publications as co-author, editor, and co-editor. Formerly the editor and currently the president and chairperson of Disability Studies Quarterly, her recent projects include an oral history and documentary film project with the Council on Developmental Disabilities, an educational blog on the Nazi Aktion T-4 program, and an epistolary biography of Mabel Hubbard Bell.

Noel Card studies child and adolescent social development, with specific interests in peer relations, aggression, and peer victimization. He also studies quantitative methodologies used in developmental and related social sciences, focusing on meta-analysis, structural equation modeling, and the analysis of longitudinal and dyadic data.

Debanuj DasGupta holds a Ph.D. in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from the Ohio State University and a MA in geography and urban planning from the University of Akron. His research interests are broadly in the areas of feminist geography, transnational migration, international health, and South Asia studies. DasGupta is currently working on two projects: The first documents the geopolitics of immigration detention and the human rights abuses faced by transgender detainees within multiple U.S. immigration detention facilities. His second project interrogates the economic and political shifts within present day India and their relationship with sexuality rights politics in post-socialist states such as West-Bengal and Kerala. His work has been published in journals such as Disability Studies Quarterly, Contemporary South Asia, SEXUALITIES, and the Scholar and the Feminist (S&F online). Prior to earning his Ph.D., DasGupta worked for more than sixteen years within several international development, HIV/AIDS, LGBT rights and immigrant rights organizations in India and the U.S. He is the recipient of the Ford Foundation funded New Voices Award, Association of American Geographers national award in Disability Studies, and the International AIDS Society Emerging Activist Award.

Shardé Davis specializes in interpersonal communication, with emphases in race, gender, identity, intergroup communication, and supportive communication. Her specific line of research explores how Black women’s complex identities—and the power-laden social structures that create them—influence the way they communicate with close others. These interests are represented in her new theory called The Strong Black Woman Collective (SBWC; Davis, 2015). The theory explicates how Black women use their communication during group-level interactions with other Black women to collectively manage their marginal position in U.S. society.  Research on the theory connects Black women’s culturally nuanced behavior to important outcomes such as self-reported mental health; well-being; stress and anxiety; relational closeness; and group solidarity and esteem. While her primary line of research focuses on communication among Black women groups, a secondary interest involves investigating communication behavior of other marginalized groups, like elderly in the U.S., people of color, and low income families. Her prior work has used a variety of methods from post-positivist, feminist, and critical perspectives to address these inquiries.

Before coming to UConn, David G. Embrick spent a decade at Loyola University Chicago in the Sociology Department. He received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2006. He is a former American Sociological Association Minority Fellow, Past-President of the Southwestern Sociological Association, and current Vice President-Elect of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. In addition, he serves as founding co-editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, the newest ASA-sponsored journal of the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities; and associate editor of Social Problems. Embrick’s research has centered largely on the impact of contemporary forms of racism on people of color. While most of his research is on what he has labeled “diversity ideology” and inequalities in the business world, he has published on race and education, the impact of schools-welfare-and prisons on people of color, and issues of sex discrimination. He has been published in a number of journals including American Behavioral Scientist, Critical Sociology, Race and Society, Sex Roles, Sociological Forum, and Symbolic Interaction, among others. He has been invited to give talks on his work in over 90 venues, both academic and public.

Julie Fosdick specializes in tectonics, low-temperature thermochronology, and basin analysis. Her research focuses on reconstructing ancient phases of mountain building and erosion to understand how tectonics, surface processes, and climate interact to form the Earth’s dynamic mountain belts. Research methods include field mapping, stratigraphy, (U-Th)/He thermochronology, provenance analysis, geochronology, and structural reconstructions. Ongoing projects include work in the Magallanes-Austral Basin in the Patagonian Andes, the Argentine Precordillera of the southern Central Andes, and the San Andreas Fault System in California.

Dexter Gabriel's research interests include the history of bondage, resistance, and freedom within the Black Atlantic, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to slavery within popular culture and media. His current projects examine British emancipation in the Anglo-Caribbean and its impact on abolitionist strategies in nineteenth-century North America.

Carlos Garcia-Robledo is an evolutionary ecologist working at the interface of population, community ecology, and evolution. He is interested in understanding the process of organismal adaptation to novel environments using plant-arthropod interactions as a model system. His current research program studies the adaptation of insect herbivores to novel host plants, adaptation to novel climatic conditions, and the process of co-extinction in complex plant-insect and herbivore-insect parasite networks. Some topics of his current research program include: 1. the development of novel molecular technology to identify species and their interactions, 2. demographic and quantitative genetic studies of insect adaptations to exotic plants and novel conditions such as projected global warming,  3. physiological studies to understand the resilience of insects to projected global warming along elevational and latitudinal gradients, and 4. the study of co-extinction in complex plant-arthropod interaction networks.

Aoife Therese Heaslip’s lab focuses on understanding the biology of human pathogen Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite and the causative agent of Toxoplasmosis. Parasite survival and hence disease pathogenesis rely on its ability to secrete proteins from specialized secretory organelles, called the dense granules, into the host. We are using a combination of parasite cell biology, live cell imaging and single molecule biophysics to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying dense granule transport and secretion. By understanding the mechanisms underlying this essential process it is our goal to identify new targets for the development of anti-parasitic drugs.

Sarah Hird is an evolutionary biologist interested in the processes that structure microbial communities, especially those associated with vertebrate hosts. Vertebrates share their bodies with trillions of microbes (our "microbiota") that help us with everything from digestion to brain development to behavior. Hird is most interested in how the microbiotas of wild animals have evolved and in answering questions like: What structures the microbiota? What aspects of the microbiota are inherited from our parents versus derived from the environment? What influence does the microbiota exert on the long- and short-term evolution of the host? More broadly, Hird is interested in microbial biodiversity and in understanding how individual lineages came to exist at specific times and places (including inside hosts). Her research uses field biology, molecular methods, and computational tools to address questions on microbial phylogeography, host-associated microbiota (especially in avian hosts), and evolutionary biology.

Jungbin Hwang’s research mainly focuses on the efficiency and approximation issues in Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) methods for economic data in the presence of dependence and heterogeneity. He is developing new, more accurate, and easy-to-use approximations to the nonparametric estimator of GMM weighting matrix. In addition, Hwang also applies the idea of new asymptotics to other modern econometric models, such as triangular cointegration regression and long-horizon predictive regression. He is also interested in applied econometrics, financial econometrics, and Bayesian econometrics.

Chihwa Kao’s research focuses primarily on large dimensional econometrics, such as testing and estimation arising in the cross-sectional dependence, panel change points, large factor models, and asset pricing. His work has been published in top economics and statistics journals, including Econometrica, Journal of the American Statistical Association, Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Business, Econometrics Journal, and Econometric Reviews.

Maria LaRusso is interested in the influence of social contexts and interactions on children and adolescents’ social and emotional development, risk behaviors, and well-being. Her research has focused on evaluating clinical and school-based interventions and practices, including how the implementation context supports or impedes program success. Her projects have also examined how youth experience social contexts, relationships, and developmental supports as they change over time, from childhood through adolescence.

Hyun Lee’s research revolves around two main themes. First, he uses heterogeneity in macroeconomic models to study cross-sectional and distributional issues. Second, he studies the economic growth and development implications of major changes to the economic environment, such as increase in immigration and road improvements. He is also interested in computational economics, in which he uses parallel computing to solve dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models that have no closed-form solution.

Eva Lefkowitz’s research focuses on sexual health; using a developmental perspective to examine predictors of negative and positive aspects of sexual health; and the broader health and relationship implications of sexual health during adolescence and the transition to adulthood. She also studies romantic relationship development; communication and sexuality and other health topics; peer influences on sexual and dating experiences; and the role of gender in sexuality development, romantic relationships, and risky behaviors.

Janna Lierl's research focuses on diffusions and jump type processes, and weak solutions to the corresponding differential equations. Her work is concerned with sharp estimates of transition densities, boundary decay rates of harmonic functions, and Harnack inequalities.

Caitlin Lombardi examines contextual influences on the development of children’s academic and behavioral skills. The overarching goal of this research is to understand how policy can best promote young children’s well-being. To this end, her work integrates the goals of policy research with the theoretical frameworks and methodologies of developmental psychology. Her current research program examines the contexts of parental employment, family economics, early childhood education, and parenting investments.

Guozhen Lu's research interests lie in the interaction between harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, and geometric analysis. Subjects he has worked on include: sharp geometric inequalities on Euclidean spaces, Riemannian manifolds and non-abelian Heisenberg groups, and their applications to geometric analysis and PDEs; multi-parameter harmonic analysis (singular integrals and Hardy spaces, Fourier multipliers, pseudo-differential operators and Fourier integral operators); and analysis on Lie groups and Carnot-Carathedory spaces. Prior to joining UConn, he taught at the California Institute of Technology, Wright State University, and Wayne State University. He has published over one hundred research papers and currently serve on the editorial boards of numerous mathematical research journals, including Nonlinear Analysis-Theory, Method and Applications, Advanced Nonlinear Studies, Acta Mathematica Sinica, and English Series. He was awarded a Simons Fellowship from the Simons Foundation in 2015.

Tomoyasu Mani’s research group focuses on photo- and radiation- induced fundamental chemical reactions in condensed phase. The goal of his research program is to understand how to control electronic excited states; charge and exciton transfer; and spin dynamics in molecules and molecular assemblies. His group is also interested in exploiting new knowledge gained to pursue developments of new biomedical imaging and energy technologies. His research approach is a seamless transition between synthetic chemistry and physical chemistry.

Alexus McLeod’s research is in the areas of early Chinese philosophy and comparative philosophy. His most recent work focuses on the philosophical thought of the Western and Eastern Han periods in China (206 BCE-220 CE), particularly surrounding issues in the philosophy of language and metaphysics. He also works on ethical thought in early Confucianism (Pre-Han), and has published on Mesoamerican (Maya) Philosophy, Indian Philosophy (especially early Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, and Mimamsa), and the Philosophy of Science (astronomy). He has published numerous articles in journals such as Philosophy East and West, Dao: A Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, and Comparative Philosophy, and has published four books. His most recent is a monograph forthcoming with Lexington Books: Philosophy of the Ancient Maya: Lords of Time, a comparative work on Pre-Columbian Maya philosophy and early Chinese philosophy.

Yonatan Morse researches the intersection of authoritarian politics, elections, and democratization in developing countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently working on a book that examines the role of ruling parties in sustaining non-democratic rule. His research sheds light on the internal structures and processes of parties and their divergent ability to provide members with voice. He also maintains an interest in qualitative methodology and the subject of state development in low-income settings.

Jennifer Mozeiko focuses on the optimization of aphasia rehabilitation. She is interested in how clinicians can manipulate the neuroplastic response to treatment for the best possible language outcomes. Dosage, durability of treatment over time and generalization of gains to discourse production are predominant themes in her work.

Melanie Newport's research focuses on the policies and institutions of urban criminal justice systems in the United States since the 1950s. She looks to Chicago's Cook County Jail to explore how contests over reform, human rights, and race came to constitute everyday experiences of state violence among marginalized people in American cities. She is also interested in histories of money bail; particularly, how criminal courts developed legal technologies to set the price of freedom for people accused of crimes in the modern U.S.

Becky Quardokus focuses on the reliability and engineering of surface-confined molecules and new materials for next-generation electronics. Her research group is specifically interested in studying individual molecules and their interactions with their local environment and response to perturbations. The systems of interest include self-assembled monolayers, two-dimensional materials, surface-confined reactions, hierarchical designs, and surface-confined-molecular motors and switches.

Patricia Ritter research fields are development economics and health economics. Her work focuses on non-communicable diseases in developing countries, particularly on the global obesity epidemic. Her current research explores the extent to which poor access to clean water in developing countries acts as a driver of the obesity growth in developing countries, through the consumption of soft drinks.

Ambar Sengupta’s research spans a broad spectrum within mathematics and its interaction with other fields. A central focus of his research program has been mathematical theories of the interaction between the fundamental constituents of matter. This involves the application of geometry and probability theory in quantum gauge theories of particle physics. Sengupta has also worked in mathematical modeling of financial markets. The abstract nature of mathematics makes it possible for ideas generated in one area of application to find uses in other very different areas. Sengupta’s work explores mathematical ideas of intrinsic value and diverse applications of such ideas.

  • Manisha Sinha
  • Professor of History and James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History
  • Email:
Manisha Sinha received her Ph.D. from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. Her latest book, The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, was published in 2016. Her research interests lie in early United States history, especially the transnational histories of slavery and abolition and the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Sinha taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for more than twenty years, where she received the Chancellor’s Medal and the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award. She has written for The New York Times and The Huffington Post, appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and was an adviser and on-screen expert for the Emmy nominated PBS documentary, The Abolitionists.

Jonathan Trump studies supermassive black holes. The center of every galaxy (including our own Milky Way) hosts a supermassive black hole, with a mass of millions to billions times that of the Sun. Trump's research focuses on the formation of the first black holes in the early universe, and their subsequent growth through accretion of surrounding gas and stars. In particular, the chaotic and variable accretion flows around black holes drive powerful radio jets and relativistic winds that can strongly influence the properties of the surrounding galaxy. As an observational astronomer, Trump uses a variety of telescopes (including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) to unravel the physics of black hole formation, accretion, and feedback.

Gaël Ung’s research group will focus on synthetic organic, inorganic, and organometallic chemistry. The group will be particularly interested in creating new small molecules and ligands to develop unusual main-group and lanthanide chemistry. Their interests include: fluorination of small organic molecules, degradation of harmful chemicals under mild conditions, and small molecule luminescence and photochemistry.

Andrea Voyer’s research focuses on processes of social inclusion and exclusion on the basis of immigration, race, and class. Her research on Somali immigrant inclusion was recently published as a book, Strangers and Neighbors: Multiculturalism, Conflict, and Community in America (Cambridge 2013). Her current research, funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, examines inter-class interactions in everyday life. She is also conducting an analysis of historical changes in Emily Post’s Etiquette for the insight that manners provide into the nature of American class relations. Prior to joining the UConn, Voyer held appointments as visiting assistant professor at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhoi, China; postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University; research fellow at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden; and assistant professor of sociology at Pace University in New York City.

Ryan J. Watson’s research focuses on protective factors for vulnerable adolescents, with a focus on interpersonal relationships. To further advance the scholarship of interpersonal relationships and sexual minority youth, he has used both population-based and non-probability datasets from the U.S., Norway, and Canada to examine how social support (friends, teachers, and parents) may attenuate the impact of risk factors such as victimization, homophobia, and stigma on well-being. He continues to research how social support provides a foundation for achievement and healthy outcomes for vulnerable youth.

Jill Wegrzyn's research focuses on the computational analysis of genomic and transcriptomic sequences from non-model plant species. She does this by developing approaches to examine gene finding, gene expression, transcriptome assembly, and conserved element identification, through machine learning and computational statistics. We use these novel methods to address questions related to genome biology and population genomics. She is also interested in developing web-based applications that integrate data across domains to facilitate the forest geneticist or ecologist's ability to analyze, share, and visualize their data. Such integration requires the implementation of semantic technologies and ontologies to connect genotype, phenotype, and environmental data.

As an observational extragalactic astronomer, Kate Whitaker studies the formation and evolution of massive galaxies over the past eleven billion years of cosmic time.  She uses exquisite Hubble Space Telescope imaging and spectroscopy to open a unique window into the rich uncharted territory of the distant Universe.  Our understanding of the cosmos is fundamentally tied to the study of galaxies, the birthplace of all stars and life itself.  Whitaker and her colleagues are revealing how the most massive galaxies evolve from the earliest times to the present day, shedding light on their intriguing life cycles.

Monnica Williams’s research focuses on OCD, African American mental health, culture, and trauma. Specifically:
  • Phenomenology, assessment and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and racial trauma
  • Ethnic differences in symptoms of psychopathology and the role of ethnic identity
  • African American mental health
  • Psychometrics, scale development and validation
  • Reproductive, gender, and sexual mental health issues
  • Social anxiety disorder