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USC Dornsife New Faculty 2013-14

USC Dornsife welcomed 19 new faculty members for the 2013-14 academic year. Hailing from universities around the world, this year’s group of scholars are some of the best and brightest in the nation, bringing with them years of experience and research in a wide range of disciplines.

The new faculty members join departments including biological sciences, chemistry, economics, English, French and Italian, physics and astronomy, political science, philosophy, psychology, religion and sociology.

Read more about USC Dornsife's new faculty members below.



Gian Maria Annovi

Gian Maria Annovi

Assistant Professor of French
and Italian
Ph.D., Italian Studies, 2011
Columbia University

Previous Institution: University of Denver

Gian Maria Annovi’s main interests include 19th- and 20th-century Italian literature, as well as film and visual arts. He is currently working on a book on the making of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s authorial figure. Annovi is the author of Altri corpi: poesia e corporalità negli anni Sessanta (Gedit, 2008), a study on the relationship between de-centered subjectivity and corporeality in the poetry of prominent Italian authors on the 1960s. He is the editor of Antonio Porta’s selected poems Piercing the Page (Seismicity, 2012), on the poetry of Antonio Porta, and of a collection of essays on Pasolini and youth, Fratello selvaggio: P. P. Pasolini fra gioventù e nuova gioventù (Transeuropa, 2013). He is the recipient of the 2011 Pier Paolo Pasolini Award for the best doctoral dissertation.

Carol Atkinson

Carol Atkinson

Professor of the Practice of International Relations
Ph.D., Political Science, 2003
Duke University

Previous Institutions:
Stanford University
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College
Vanderbilt University

Carol Atkinson is a retired military officer and 1984 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy (the fifth class that included women). While in the military she served in a wide range of operational assignments in the fields of intelligence, targeting and combat assessment. Her research focuses on the impact of military-to-military exchange programs on international politics. She has taught courses on a wide range of subjects in international relations, national security, military strategy and warfare. A veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Atkinson is currently a Fulbright Fellow at the Rakovski National Defense Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria.

James Boedicker

James Boedicker

Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Ph.D., Chemistry, 2010
University of Chicago

The goal of James Boedicker’s research is to quantitatively understand how microbial communities work. Using a combination of theoretical biophysics and the experimental tools of synthetic biology and microfabrication, he investigates how diverse sets of microbes make regulatory decisions by gathering information about their local environment and talking to one another using molecular signals. Such a biophysical dissection of how complex systems of microorganisms regulate their activities will enable the predictable control and design of both natural and synthetic microbial ecosystems for applications in health, the environment and biotechnology.

Rosa Di Felice

Rosa Di Felice

Associate Professor (Research) of Physics and Astronomy
Ph.D., Physics, 1996
University of Rome “Tor Vergata"
   (Italy)

Previous Institutions:
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center
National Institute for the Physics of Matter (INFM, Italy)
National Research Council (CNR, Italy)

Rosa Di Felice studies the structural, electronic and optical properties of materials by theoretical and computational methods at the atomic level. Her recent research mostly focuses on electronic charge transfer through DNA and on the fate of biological molecules (proteins and DNA) on hard inorganic surfaces, which are nonnatural environments appropriate to nanotechnology applications. She is also interested in applying new computer architectures (D-Wave) to materials optimization and design. Her research results have been published in Nature Materials and Nature Nanotechnology. She has been awarded fellowships by Italy’s National Research Council for travel to Brazil and the United States.

Brian Karl Finch

Brian Karl Finch

Professor (Research) of Sociology
and Director of the Southern California Population Research Center
Ph.D., Sociology, 2000
University of Texas

Previous Institutions:
RAND Graduate School
San Diego State University

Brian Finch’s work crosses the disciplinary boundaries of social demography, social epidemiology and medical sociology to investigate the causes and correlates of population health disparities. Specifically, Finch analyzes socioeconomic and race/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and behaviors among adults and biological/social interactions across the early life course.

John Hawthorne

John Hawthorne

Professor of Philosophy
Ph.D., Philosophy, 1991
Syracuse University

Previous Institutions:
Arizona State University
Australian National University
Rutgers University
Syracuse University
University of New South Wales
University of Oxford

The research interests of John Hawthorne include epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of language and the philosophy of mind. At the University of Oxford, he was Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy. He has written or coauthored several books published by Oxford University Press, including The Reference Book (with David Manley, 2012), Relativism and Monadic Truth (with Herman Cappelen, 2009), Metaphysical Essays (2006) and Knowledge and Lotteries (2004).

S. Andrew Hires

S. Andrew Hires

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Neurosciences, 2007
University of California, San Diego

Andrew Hires leverages innovative neurotechnologies, including optogenetics, silicon probes and genetically encoded activity indicators to determine how cortical microcircuits construct sensory perception. His research focuses on how the sense of touch is represented in cortex and how to synthesize biomimetic tactile perceptions via patterned photostimulation of cortical networks. His recent work has been published in Nature Neuroscience, Nature Methods, The Journal of Neuroscience and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His co-authored work on imaging cortical activity with a novel fluorescent neural activity sensor, GCaMP3, has more than 400 citations in less than four years.

Arie Kapteyn

Arie Kapteyn

Professor of Economics and Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Social Research
Ph.D., Economics, 1977
Leiden University (The Netherlands)

Previous Institutions:
RAND Corporation
Tilburg University

Much of Arie Kapteyn’s recent applied work is in the field of aging and economic decision making, with papers on topics related to retirement, consumption and savings, pensions and Social Security, disability, economic well-being of the elderly, and portfolio choice. He has led several projects, including one that incorporates Internet interviewing into the National Institute on Aging-funded Health and Retirement Study. He is also the director of the American Life Panel, a nationally representative sample of 6,000 households whose members are regularly interviewed over the Internet. He is a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion, a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the Econometric Society. He is also the recepient of the Koopmans Medal.

Rongdao Lai

Rongdao Lai

Assistant Professor of Religion
Ph.D., East Asian Religions, 2013
McGill University (Canada)

Rongdao Lai’s current research centers on Buddhism-state relations, with a special focus on Buddhist education in Republican China. Her other research interests include modern Chinese Buddhism, Buddhist activism in contemporary Asian societies, religious practice and identity production in the Chinese diaspora, and the transnational network of modern Buddhist organizations. She held a visiting fellowship at the Center for Chinese Studies in Taiwan and received a research grant from the Sheng Yen Education Foundation. She is the co-editor of a forthcoming special issue on Engaged Buddhism for the Eastern Buddhist.

Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Director of the Master of Science in Applied Psychology Program
Ed.D., Human Development, 1986
Harvard University

Previous Institutions:
Cornell University
Scripps College
University of California, Riverside

Ellen Leggett is an applied psychologist and has been a jury consultant with more than 20 years of experience working with civil trial lawyers, corporate counsel and expert witnesses in high-stakes jury trials nationally. She conducts case-specific empirical research to develop strategic and educationally sound approaches to courtroom presentation for optimal juror comprehension. She has published and spoken widely to the legal community on jury psychology and decision-making. Her academic published works are in the areas of motivation and mindset, social cognition and the differences between lay and expert reasoning.

Naomi Levine

Naomi Levine

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences
Ph.D., Chemical Oceanography, 2010
Massachusetts Institute of Technology–Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program

Naomi Levine’s research focuses on the interactions between climate and ecosystem composition and function. By combining biological, chemical and physical observations with ecosystem models, she aims to elucidate the underlying mechanisms responsible for biogeochemical cycling in microbial ecosystems and to identify climate-ecosystem feedback loops. She is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow. She received a National Science Foundation Ocean Sciences Research Initiation Grant and has been published in Environmental Microbiology, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Journal of Geophysical Research and New Phytologist.

Smaranda Marinescu

Smaranda Marinescu

Gabilan Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D., Chemistry, 2011
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Smaranda Marinescu’s group will focus their research on the design, synthesis and study of inorganic materials for applications to solar energy conversion. With inspiration from the biological systems, she will help develop synthetic homogeneous catalysts that involve hydrogen bonding networks or hetero-bimetallic species capable of small molecule activation, and multiple proton and electron transfers. Marinescu’s program will also focus on the development of catalytic surfaces that will support homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts for the activation of small molecules, such as water or carbon dioxide. Marinescu received the Nationlal Science Foundation Centers for Chemical Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2011–13 and the Summer  Undergraduate Research Fellowship at Caltech in 2004 and 2005. In 2009, Marinescu received both the Morse Travel Grant and the Bruker-MIT Symposium Prize.

Daniel A. Nation

Daniel A. Nation

Assistant Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, 2009
University of Miami Daniel

Nation’s research focuses on vascular aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. More specifically, his research attempts to improve our ability to detect age-related cerebrovascular disease and its impact on cognitive function. Nation completed a postdoctoral training fellowship funded by the National Institutes of Health in biological psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.

Ann Owens

Ann Owens

Assistant Professor of Sociology
Ph.D., Sociology and Social Policy, 2012
Harvard University

Ann Owens’ research interests include urban sociology, sociology of education, social stratification and inequality, and social policy. Her current research explores subsidized housing policy and its impacts on neighborhoods, cities, and segregation; factors that shape families’ residential decisions; and causes and consequences of economic segregation of schools and school districts. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University in 2012–13.

Daphna Oyserman

Daphna Oyserman

Professor of Psychology, Education, and Communication and Co-director of the USC Dornsife Mind and Society Center
Ph.D., Social Work and Social Psychology, 1988
University of Michigan

Previous Institutions:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)
Wayne State University
University of Michigan

Daphna Oyserman studies how small changes in context can shift people’s mindsets, and so, the meaning they make of their own experiences. She also looks at the large downstream effects of the meaning people make of their choices, judgments and behaviors. Starting with experiments to conceptualize the underlying processes, she translates this basic research into real-world interventions. She is a fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues (Association for Psychological Science), the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Jonathan Quong

Jonathan Quong

Associate Professor of Philosophy
D.Phil., Politics, 2004
University of Oxford

Previous Institution:
University of Manchester

Jonathan Quong works in political and moral philosophy. He is the author of Liberalism Without Perfection (Oxford University Press, 2011) as well as articles on topics including public reason, democratic theory, distributive justice and the morality of defensive harm. Quong has held visiting fellowships at the Australian National University, Princeton University and Tulane University. In 2012–13, he held a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to pursue work on a monograph on the morality of defensive harm.

Elda María Román

Elda María Román

Assistant Professor of English
Ph.D., English Literature, 2013
Stanford University

Elda María Román is a scholar of 20th- and 21st-century American literature, with a focus on Latina/o literature and comparative ethnic studies. Her book project analyzes upward mobility narratives in Chicana/o and African American novels, television and film from the 1940s to the present. She is the recipient of the Beneicke Scholarship and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Social Science Resource Council. At Stanford University, she was awarded fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center and the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Norbert Schwarz

Norbert Schwarz

Provost Professor of Psychology and Marketing and Co-director of the USC Dornsife Mind and Society Center
D. Phil., Sociology, 1980
University of Mannheim (Germany)

The author or co-author of more than 20 books, including his most recent collaboration The Aging Consumer: Perspectives from Psychology and Economics (Routledge, 2010), Norbert Schwarz studies how humans make sense of the world in which we live, including public opinion, consumer behavior and subjective well-being. Schwarz is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the German National Academy of Science, Leopoldina. He received the Wilhelm Wundt Medal from the German Psychological Society in 2004 and the Wilhelm Wundt-William James Award from the American Psychological Foundation and European Federation of Psychological Associations in 2009.

Jason Zevin

Jason Zevin

Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics
Ph.D., Neuroscience, 2003
University of Southern California

Previous Institutions:
Haskins Laboratories
Weill Cornell Medical College

Jason Zevin’s research is driven by a theoretical focus on the role of domain-general learning mechanisms in the organization of the brain for language, particularly reading and speech. His work integrates a range of computational, behavioral and neuroimaging techniques. In computational models of reading across languages, he has been exploring how the same functional architecture could support reading in scripts as different as English and Chinese. In order to relate these computational models to neuroimaging studies, he has begun to apply techniques developed to study brain activity under more ecologically valid conditions than typically obtain in the psychology lab.