2008/2009 Annual Report
New faculty (not including research and clinical faculty) recruited in 2008 and beginning their appointments in 2009/10.
Peter Alrenga (Romance Studies) joined our linguistics program in September, following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in semantics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. There he worked with Professor Chris Kennedy on a National Science Foundation-funded project on the “Parameters of Comparison” across languages, which was an extension of his dissertation research at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Ph.D. 2007). His research interests include the structure and interpretation of comparative constructions; gradability, scalarity, and vagueness; (in)definiteness and anaphora; and negation. He teaches courses here in formal semantics, pragmatics, and general linguistics.
Jonathan Appavoo (Computer Science) completed his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Toronto in 2005. Jonathan’s research interests encompass multi-processor operating systems and “cloud computing” on large clusters of computers. In his doctoral thesis, he devised a technique called “Clustered Objects” that tackled inherent problems in the design of large-scale multi-processing computer platforms. Before joining BU, he was a research staff member at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in New York, where he worked in the Advanced Operating Systems Group. While at IBM, he initiated Project Kittyhawk to support a global-scale computational utility. The idea attracted significant attention in the increasingly popular area of cloud computing. His work on Kittyhawk has been applied to the IBM Blue Gene System.
Ivan Arreguín-Toft (International Relations). Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1998. Professor Arreguín-Toft specializes in asymmetric conflict (insurgency, counterinsurgency, small wars, terrorism), international relations theory, strategy, Russian politics and foreign policy, and gender and world politics. His current research focuses on the utility of barbarism—the systematic or deliberate harm of non-combatants in pursuit of a military objective—as a strategy in war. This research—which constructively integrates human rights and interstate security issues—has culminated in a second book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Futility of Barbarism.
Margaret Beck (Mathematics and Statistics) received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from BU in 2006. Her major field is dynamical systems. She has been a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow for the past three years at the University of Surrey (UK) and Brown University. She created a number of powerful new mathematical techniques to solve long-open problems about the essential spectra of solutions, their long-term stability, and their intermediate time asymptotics. Moreover, she used new ideas from the field of spatial dynamics to determine the stability of certain patterns in two and three space dimensions.
Taylor Boas (Political Science) is a political scientist who studies electoral campaigns, voting behavior, and political communication in new democracies, particularly Latin America. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009. During the 2009-2010 academic year, he is on leave from BU as a visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is presently working on a book manuscript on the evolution of presidential campaign strategies in Chile, Brazil, and Peru since their transitions to democracy. His publications include articles in Studies in Comparative International Development, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Latin American Research Review.
Laurent Bouton (Economics) received his Ph.D. in 2009 from the European Centre for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. Previously, he was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He is an applied game theorist whose interests include political economy, voting theory, microeconomics, and public economics. His current work examines the properties of various electoral systems such as the plurality rule, two-round elections and approval voting. His paper, “Redistributing Income under Fiscal Vertical Imbalance,” recently appeared in the European Journal of Political Economy.
David Bronstein (Philosophy) specializes in the work of Aristotle, particularly his philosophy of scientific investigation. In 2008, he received his doctorate from the University of Toronto with a dissertation on “Learning and Meno’s Paradox in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics.” He is currently completing a prestigious three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Balliol College of Oxford University. He will begin lecturing in the Department of Philosophy in the fall of 2010.
Peter Buston (Biology) is an evolutionary ecologist whose work focuses on understanding the evolution of cooperation and conflict in the breeding systems of marine fishes. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2002, and was then a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Robert Warner at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 2005, he has been a Ramon y Cajal fellow at Spain’s premier ecology institute, Estacion Biologica de Donana. His research, published in journals including Nature and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has led to a new paradigm of evolutionary behavior, namely the recognition that size and growth rate of an animal can be controlled by social cues.
Luis Carvalho (Mathematics & Statistics) received his Ph.D. from Brown University in 2008. His major fields include Bayesian statistics, computational biology, and statistical inference. His research brings a diverse set of skills to problems at the frontier of high-dimensional data analysis and computational biology. To date, the research has focused on the estimation of high-dimensional discrete parameters, for example involving DNA sequences, RNA secondary structure, genetic traits, and phylogenetic trees, (unusual in that most statistical methods assume continuous parameters, such as arise frequently in the modeling and analysis of high-throughput biology data).
Jeremy DeSilva (Anthropology). Professor DeSilva’s research focuses on locomotor evolution in ancient apes and the earliest humans. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University, he spent five years developing and teaching programs in human anatomy and evolution at the Boston Museum of Science. His interest in human evolution led him to the University of Michigan, where he received a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2008. He studies the fossilized remains of the earliest apes and the early humans (hominins) in East and South Africa, and has a particular interest in the evolution of the foot and leg. His research includes a study of locomotion in modern primates, including wild chimpanzees, in order to better interpret the functional morphology of early human and ape fossils.
Sharon Goldberg (Computer Science) received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Princeton University in 2009. She specializes in the use of formal techniques from cryptography and computational game theory to design and model secure protocols for data networking. The Internet, as it currently exists, makes it very difficult to know if messages are getting to their destinations, what routes they are taking to get there, and which router may be responsible for delayed or undelivered data. In her dissertation, she ruled out entire classes of approaches that had been proposed for addressing this problem, mathematically proving that they will be either not secure enough or not efficient enough. Her results, which surprised many researchers, saved people from pursuing dead-end approaches. She is on leave as a postdoctoral fellow at Microsoft’s New England Research Laboratory. She will join BU full-time in the fall of 2010.
Gisele Hocherl-Alden (Modern Languages and Comparative Literature; Director of Language Instruction). PhD in German, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Professor Hocherl-Alden will join the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature in 2010 and become assistant dean and director of language instruction. Currently an associate professor of German with tenure at the University of Maine at Orono, in her work in the field of German she has focused on transnationalism; multiculturalism and citizenship in film and television; intellectuals, writers and film makers in the Weimar Republic; and the history of Germanics in the United States. She is also an expert in the field of teaching and learning languages, second language writing, and community and place-based pedagogies. She is a successful grant writer and is internationally recognized for her work in language teaching and learning.
William Huntting Howell (English) comes to BU from a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of English and Center for Material Culture Studies at the University of Delaware. He earned his B.A. at Cornell University and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University. He works at the intersection of literature and material culture in the early American republic, a vital area of American studies. He is working on a book, American Unexceptionalism: Imitation, Emulation, and Literary Culture in the Early United States, that challenges longstanding paradigms of American uniqueness by showing how eighteenth-century Americans worked creatively within, not against, European traditions. He has also held a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the prestigious McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and has four published or forthcoming essays in major journals, including American Literature and the William and Mary Quarterly.
Emily Hudson (Religion) earned a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Texas, M.A. degrees in both Western and Eastern classics from St. John’s College, an M.A. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago, and, in 2006, a Ph.D. from Emory University. She situates herself methodologically at the crossroads of religion and literature, the history of religions, and religious ethics. Her teaching and research interests focus on South Asian literature and literary theory, Greek epic and tragedy, and comparative religious ethics. Her current research project, Disorienting Dharma: Ethics and the Poetics of Suffering in the Mahabharata, explores the relationship between aesthetics, ethics, and religion in one of the most celebrated and enigmatic literary texts to emerge from the Sanskrit epic tradition. One of her more ambitious scholarly goals is to transform the field of religion and literature—now largely Western in orientation—by placing non-Western religions, literatures and literary theories center stage.
Lucy Hutyra (Geography & Environment). Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University. Professor Hutyra will join the Department of Geography & Environment as a specialist in carbon-cycle science. Her dissertation research explored the seasonal dynamics of carbon and water exchange within Amazonian rainforests. Upon completing her Ph.D., she pursued a postdoctoral
program at the University of Washington with the specific goal of broadening her training to better understand how humans are influencing ecosystem function and carbon at multiple time and space scales. Her current research interest is land-atmosphere
carbon exchange processes within urbanizing ecosystems and tropical rainforests.
Ramesh Jasti (Chemistry) received his Ph.D. in the field of organic chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, under the mentorship of Scott Rychnovsky. As a graduate student, Ramesh authored several highly cited articles regarding mechanistic and stereochemical aspects of the Prins cyclization reaction. He then moved on to conduct his postdoctoral studies with Carolyn Bertozzi, working jointly at UC Berkeley and the Molecular Foundry—a nanoscience facility located at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. At Berkeley, he addressed a longstanding and challenging problem at the interface of organic chemistry and materials science: the synthesis of the basic building blocks of carbon nanotubes. He has since expanded on this work and continues to investigate the synthesis and properties of carbon-based nanomaterials in his laboratories at BU.
Mark Kramer (Mathematics & Statistics) received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2005. He is associated with the Computational Neuroscience Group. The major research interests of his research group include neural rhythms (What paces brain rhythms? Do rhythms serve functional roles?); brain diseases (What mechanisms support epilepsy? Can data analysis reveal precursors to Alzheimer’s disease?); dynamical systems (What dynamical mechanisms govern neural activity and rhythms?); and data analysis (How do we quantify interacting rhythms? How do we make sense of high-density data?).
Sanjay Krishnan (English) is a specialist in world Anglophone literature. He comes to BU from the University of California, Irvine, and previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his B.A. from London University, his M.A. from the National University of Singapore, and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His book, Reading the Global: Troubling Perspectives on Britain’s Empire in Asia (Columbia UP, 2007), reconsiders what we mean by “globalization” by bringing together discussions of an unexpected set of texts: by the economist Adam Smith, Thomas De Quincey, the Malay-language novelist Abdullah Munshi, and the Polish English-language novelist Joseph Conrad. This fall, he is teaching “Introduction to the Postcolonial Novel,” the first time we have had such a course in our curriculum.
David Liebesman (Philosophy) received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2009. His research focuses on philosophy of language, metaphysics, and especially the intersection of the two. More specific research interests include predication, generics, and kind reference. David’s paper “Sider On Existence” (co-authored with Matti Eklund) was recently published in the prestigious philosophy journal, Nous, and his paper “Simple Generics” was recently accepted at Nous.
Timothy Longman (Political Science; Director of African Studies Center) is director of the African Studies Center at BU. From 1996 to 2009, he taught political science and Africana studies at Vassar College, where he served as chair of the political science department and director of the Africana Studies Program. He has also taught at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa; the National University of Rwanda in Butare; and Drake University in Des Moines. His research interests center on state-society relations in Africa, in particular religion and politics, identity politics, human rights, and transitional justice. He has served as a consultant in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo for USAID, the State Department, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and Human Rights Watch, for whom he served as director of the Rwanda field office from 1995 to 1996. His book Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda was recently published by Cambridge University Press.
Alisdair McKay (Economics) will receive his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2009. He is a macroeconomist interested in the interplay between information frictions and economic inequality. In his Ph.D. dissertation work, he investigated the role of the financial decisions of imperfectly informed households in shaping the distribution of wealth and the impact of these decisions on the analysis of proposals for social security privatization. He has also worked on the dynamics of output and employment during recessions, attempting to understand episodes in which the unemployment rate rises sharply over a short period of time.
Ashley Mears (Sociology) joins the faculty of the Department of Sociology. Her research focuses on how popular culture is shaped by gender and racial stratification. Her combination of cultural sociology with economic sociology also involves a comparative perspective across nations and regions of the world. Her dissertation, entitled “Pricing Beauty: The Production of Value in Fashion Modeling,” is under contract with University of California Press. In it, she examines how the modeling industry creates ideas about beauty and what factors shape the social production of the resulting advertisements and popular media images. She is a 2009 Ph.D. graduate of New York University and a long-time participant in NYLON, a New York-London culture research network.
Magdalena Ostas (English) earned her B.A. at the University of California, San Diego, and her Ph.D. at Duke University. A specialist in British romanticism and literary theory, she brings a profound knowledge of nineteenth-century German philosophy to her research in Romantic poetry. She has two books under way, Romanticism and the Forms of Interiority: Poetry, Narrative, Theory and Nietzsche and Aesthetics: Countermovements. One of her forthcoming essays offers a challenging reinterpretation of the poetry of Keats, and part of the Nietzsche book has been published as an article in International Studies in Philosophy. Her work in philosophy, language theory, and literary theory adds significantly to her strong credentials in Romanticism.
Teena Purohit (Religion) earned her B.A. in Classics from Kenyon College, her M.A. in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and her Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University (2007), specializing in the history of Islam in South Asia. She is currently working on a book manuscript, The Modernity of Muslim Identity: Ismaili Sectarianism in Colonial India, which explores how the vernacular poetic form of the ginan came to define Muslimness in the colonial state. Her work on Muslim identity in a South Asian context demonstrates the necessity of a new, more expansive definition of Islam. With her knowledge of Sanskrit and Hindi as well as Gujarati and Urdu, she is able to draw connections across the “Muslim-Hindu” divide. She will make important contributions to the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations as well as the new BU Center for the Study of Asia.
Simon Rabinovitch (History) comes to BU after two years at the University of Florida as the Alexander Grass postdoctoral associate in Jewish history. He received his B.A. in History and Jewish Studies from McGill University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative History from Brandeis University. His published articles, on topics ranging from Jewish nationalist thought and politics to folkloristics and ethnography, have appeared in East European Jewish Affairs and Haaretz, among other places. He is currently working on a monograph provisionally entitled Homeland Bound: Jewish Autonomism in Revolutionary Russia, as well as the anthologies Diasporic Nationalism in Modern Jewish Thought (Brandeis University Press) and, with David Rechter, Modern Jewish Politics: Ideologies, Identities and the Jewish Question (University of Wisconsin Press).
Dylon Robbins (Romance Studies) is our new professor in the area of Latin American literature and culture. He comes to us from Princeton University, where he recently completed his dissertation entitled “Music and Citizenship in Brazil and Cuba: Theme, Counterpoint, Variation.” Robbins is also fresh back from the Universidade de São Paulo and the Cinemateca Brasileira, where he did research funded by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship. Robbins earned his B.A. in Physics (with a minor in math) from the University of Texas, Austin, before returning to the same institution to do a B.A. in Spanish (with a minor in music). He subsequently received his M.A. in Spanish from Rice University. Robbins’ research interests center largely on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and Brazil, and on the culture of the African diaspora in the Americas. Film and media studies are also among his fields of interest.
Sunil Sharma (Modern Languages and Comparative Literature) is a scholar of medieval Persian literature and a leading authority on the vast body of literature composed in Persian on the Indian subcontinent. He received his Ph.D. in Persian Literature from the University of Chicago in 1999 and has published several scholarly books since then. He has also co-curated three art exhibits at Harvard University museums and holds numerous fellowships. His teaching experience includes Hindi-Urdu and Persian language as well as Persian literature, Indian literature and film, and comparative literature.
Nima Shokri (Earth Sciences) studies terrestrial hydrology: the physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling the cycling of water through the soils, groundwater, rivers and lakes. He specializes in the design and interpretation of laboratory-scale experiments to test and refine theories of multiphase flow in soils. He received his Ph.D. from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where his experiments resulted in a new understanding of the combined effects of vapor and liquid transport on soil evaporation, and new methods for predicting the impact of hydrophobic soils on water transport. To study flow processes at the scale of soil pores, he applies methods such as x-ray synchrotron and neutron radiography, as well as acoustic emissions. For his thesis work, he was awarded two outstanding student paper awards by the American Geophysical Union.
Helen Tager-Flusberg (Psychology) comes to us from the Boston University School of Medicine Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, where she was a full professor. She graduated from University College, University of London and earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University. She is one of the most prominent researchers in the world studying language in autism and related disorders. She has implemented research on normal and pathological language development that sheds new light on both domains. Her edited book on neurocognitive developmental disorders virtually defined a new field. Her numerous publications appear in such prestigious journals as Nature and Cell. She has been principal investigator on a large number of research grants from four different institutes of the National Institutes of Health and a number of prestigious foundations. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Evimaria Terzi (Computer Science) earned her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Helsinki in 2007. Her research focuses on algorithms for data mining and very large-scale data analysis. She has developed data-mining algorithms and techniques to analyze and summarize sequential data sets, to analyze and rank query results in databases, and recently to analyze graph data. For example, she has developed new algorithms for segmentation problems of large sequential data, like-time series, web logs, or biological sequences (e.g., DNA). In her most recent work, she has proposed new algorithms for data mining of very large, graph-structured datasets, which can be used in the analysis of social networks and biological networks. Before joining BU, she was a research staff member at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.
Andrew West (Astronomy) is an observational astrophysicist who joins us from a postdoctoral position at MIT. He earned his B.S. with honors in Physics and Astronomy at Haverford College, and then his Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of Washington in 2005. He is using the vast Sloan Digital Sky Survey to help assign ages to old stars by using measurements of their velocities. Older stars will have had more chance encounters with other stars, and because of these encounters are boosted to higher speeds. This technique is a novel approach that may solve a long-standing problem. He also is committed to increasing diversity in the sciences. Although he is white, he is a member of the National Society of Black Physicists and routinely participates in mentoring programs for underrepresented high school students.
Wesley Yin (Economics) received his Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University in 2005. He comes to BU from the University of Chicago, where he was an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. He is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a former Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in health policy at Harvard University. He currently studies the interaction between the public and private sectors in health insurance markets; the relationship between health, labor productivity, and earnings; and how information, income, and competitive forces impact the delivery of health care in developed and developing countries.
Andrew Duffy (Physics) received his Ph.D. in Physics from Queen’s University (Canada) in 1995. He has been at BU since then, and was appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Physics from 1999-2009, just recently being appointed a master lecturer. In addition to teaching undergraduate physics, he teaches courses for high school physics teachers, as well as, during the summer, immersion courses in science for elementary and middle school teachers.
Roberta Micallef (Modern Languages & Comparative Literature), master lecturer in Turkish, received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Texas in Austin in 1997, with an emphasis on Uzbek studies. She taught Turkish language and culture and women’s studies at Uppsala University in Sweden and at the University of Utah before joining BU. She has published numerous articles in Turkish studies and gender studies. She is secretary of the American Association of Teachers of Turkic and sits on several national and international boards and committees related to Turkish studies. She is also among the first group of educators to receive ACTFL training for oral proficiency testing in Turkish.