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USC College Welcomes New Faculty Members

Introducing the latest additions to the College’s teaching and research ranks.

USC College Welcomes New Faculty Members


Jody Agius Vallejo
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Irvine, 2008

Jody Agius Vallejo specializes in immigration, race/ethnicity and the Mexican-origin population. Her current research examines patterns of mobility and socioeconomic incorporation among the Mexican-origin middle class in Southern California. She is also a visiting research fellow at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

Frank Alber
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Computational Biochemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 1998
Previous Institution: University of California, San Francisco

Frank Alber brings expertise in computational chemistry to studies of cellular proteins and macromolecular assemblies. His work has led to the characterization of the structures of large cellular assemblies such as the nuclear pore complex. At USC he studies the structure, function and dynamics of protein complexes to shed light on fundamental cellular processes.

Roi Baer
Visiting Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D., Chemistry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1996
Current Institution: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Roi Baer’s research is focused on the theory of electron-dynamics in molecules, clusters and nanocrystals. He is active in developing new ways for describing electron correlation as density fluctuations within time-dependent density functional theory. Baer has contributed to diverse fields such as phase-coherent molecular electronics, conical intersections and optical properties of small gold clusters and nanoparticles.

Alexander V. Benderskii
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Utah, 1996
Previous Institution: Wayne State University

Alex Benderskii specializes in laser spectroscopy, an area of physical chemistry that interrogates structure and motion of molecules using laser pulses. His research interests range from fundamental questions about how molecules vibrate and rotate near surfaces and interfaces to characterization of molecules on surfaces of nanostructures and novel materials, self-assembled monolayers, and chemically functionalized surfaces encountered in novel nano- and biotechnology applications.

Tansu Celikel
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Cognitive Neuroscience, La Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Avanzati, 2001
Previous Institution: Max Planck Institute for Medical Research

Neuroscientist Tansu Celikel is adept in a wide range of experimental methods that allow him to study brain function and plasticity, including what happens during learning and memory. He has mapped a part of the rodent brain called the somatosensory cortex using simultaneous electrophysiological recordings from hundreds of neurons throughout the cortex.

James Collins
Assistant Professor of Classics
Ph.D., Classics and Ancient Philosophy, Stanford University, 2007

James Collins’ research focuses on the dynamics of intellectual and political life in ancient Greek and Roman culture. His dissertation examined the development of philosophical schools and the rhetoric that philosophers use to advertise their discourses and lifestyles. He co-founded the Philosophical Stages program, which develops strategies for using the dramatic arts to explore ethics and everyday virtues.

Mai’a K. Davis Cross
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Ph.D., Politics, Princeton University, 2005
Previous Institution: Colgate University

Mai’a Cross examines how transnational networks of experts — diplomats, military-defense strategists, technology experts and intelligence officers — promote integration in the European Union. She is the author of The European Diplomatic Corps: Diplomats and International Cooperation from Westphalia to Maastricht (Palgrave, 2007), and has been awarded a 2009 Fulbright Fellowship to pursue her research in Brussels, Paris and London.

Brad Damaré
Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Ph.D., Russian Literature, University of Michigan, 2008

Brad Damaré studies the interactions between musical and literary culture in Russia, especially the heritage of musical philosophy from Western Europe and its influence on the development of Russian literary aesthetics. His research has explored the formal strategies employed by artists who worked in both media, as well as those artists’ reception and impact.

Kenny Easwaran
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Ph.D., Logic and the Methodology of Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2008

Kenny Easwaran studies the ways in which probability and other mathematical tools can help shed light on the ordinary notions of knowledge and justification, as they are used in both science and everyday life. He also studies the distinctive features of mathematics, and how they relate mathematical knowledge to other scientific knowledge.

Julien Emile-Geay
Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences
Ph.D., Climate Dynamics, Columbia University, 2007
Previous Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology

Julien Emile-Geay’s research focuses on extracting dynamical information from records of past climates, with a particular emphasis on the El Niño phenomenon. It uses numerical models, geological data and sophisticated statistical techniques to understand low-frequency tropical climate variability of the past few millennia, with the goal of better predicting the future evolution of our climate under human influence.

Sarah Feakins
Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences
Ph.D., Geology, Columbia University, 2006
Previous Institution: California Institute of Technology

Sarah Feakins combines geological and biological methods to better understand the intertwined histories of the planet’s environment, climate and life. She specializes in using molecular and isotopic geochemical techniques to detect “biomarkers” (molecular signatures of life preserved in layers of ancient sedimentary rock), which she can use to reconstruct patterns of ecological, environmental and climatic change.

Christelle Fischer-Bovet
Assistant Professor of Classics
Ph.D., Classics, Stanford University, 2008
Previous Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Christelle Fischer-Bovet specializes in the social and cultural history of the Eastern Mediterranean from Alexander the Great to the Romans. Her dissertation examined the army in Hellenistic Egypt as a vehicle for land distribution, a provider of group solidarity and a place of interaction between Greek and Egyptian cultures. Her current research investigates the use of ethnic terminology in the making of administrative categories and individual identity.

Eric M. Friedlander
Dean’s Professor of Mathematics
Ph.D., Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1970
Previous Institution: Northwestern University

Eric M. Friedlander’s research interests include algebraic K-theory and representation theory, work for which he has been awarded a Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, as well as an invitation to speak at the International Congress of Mathematicians and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been elected three times to national positions of the American Mathematical Society, including two terms as a trustee.

Susan Friedlander
Professor of Mathematics
Ph.D., Mathematics, Princeton University, 1972
Previous Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago

Susan Friedlander’s research has focused on mathematical fluid dynamics and partial differential equations. For her joint work on instabilities in fluid motion, she received the medal of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris. She is currently the chief editor of the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society.

Michelle Goeree
Assistant Professor of Economics
Ph.D., Economics, University of Virginia, 2002
Previous Institution: Claremont McKenna College

Michelle Goeree’s research applies microeconomic and game theoretic models to the study of individual behavior and markets. Recently her work has focused on understanding how individuals make choices when they have limited information and quantifying the impact on market competition. Her research has implications for the design of antitrust and public policy.

Michelle Gordon
Assistant Professor of English
Ph.D., English, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008

A 2007–08 Vollrath Distinguished Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michelle Gordon studies and teaches African-American literary, intellectual and cultural history; black feminist studies; and multicultural American writing. Her current research focuses on revolutionary black literature of protest in 20th century Chicago, and the relationships among white supremacy, voodoo and the color line in postbellum New Orleans.

Erin Graff Zivin
Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Ph.D., Spanish and Portuguese, New York University, 2004
Previous Institution: University of Pittsburgh

Erin Graff Zivin’s research and teaching interests focus on representations of "Jewishness" in the Luso-Hispanic Atlantic, and the intersection of ethical philosophy and critical theory. She is the author of The Wandering Signifier: Rhetoric of Jewishness in the Latin American Imaginary (forthcoming September 2008, Duke University Press) and editor of The Ethics of Latin American Literary Criticism: Reading Otherwise (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

Wolf Gruner
Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of History
Ph.D., History, Center for the Research of Anti-Semitism, Technical University Berlin, 1994
Previous Institution: Institute for Contemporary History, Munich-Berlin

Wolf Gruner’s research focuses on the Holocaust, comparative genocide and racism in world history. He has published books on different aspects of the Holocaust, including Jewish Forced Labor under the Nazis: Economic Needs and Nazi Racial Aims, 1938–1944 (Cambridge University Press, 2006; paperback 2008). He just finished a manuscript on state discrimination against the indigenous majority in Bolivia 1825–1890.

Ange-Marie Hancock
Associate Professor of Political Science
Ph.D., Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000
Previous Institution: Yale University

Ange-Marie Hancock is a social welfare, education, and diversity (race/ethnicity and gender) policy specialist who has taught and spoken across the United States and in China. She just finished her second book manuscript, “Beyond The Oppression Olympics: A Politics of Solidarity for the 21st Century.”

Jacques E.C. Hymans
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Ph.D., Political Science, Harvard University, 2001
Previous Institution: Smith College

Jacques E.C. Hymans’ research focuses on international security and foreign policy. Hymans’ The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and Foreign Policy (Cambridge University Press, 2006) received the Edgar S. Furniss Book Award for best first book in national and international security, and the Alexander L. George Book Award for best book in political psychology.

Kara Keeling
Assistant Professor of Critical Studies and of American Studies and Ethnicity
Ph.D., Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2001
Previous Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Kara Keeling’s research focuses on Third Cinema and feminist film; representations of race, sexuality and gender in cinema; critical theory; cultural studies; and African cinema. Her book, The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007), explores the role of cinematic images in the construction and maintenance of hegemonic conceptions of the world.

James McHugh
Assistant Professor of Religion
Ph.D., Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, 2008

James McHugh’s research interests include the role of smell in religions, as well as the material culture of South Asian religions more broadly. At USC he will be teaching courses on South Asian religions and on the material culture of religion. His dissertation was entitled “Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in South Asian Culture and Religion.”

Meghan S. Miller
Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences
Ph.D., Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, 2006
Previous Institution: Rice University and the University of British Columbia

Meghan S. Miller studies earthquakes, tectonic processes and plate motions to reconstruct the evolution of the dynamic Earth. Her research focuses on the three-dimensional structural evolution of the lithosphere and mantle near plate boundaries, such as the Caribbean and the western Pacific, that are both seismically and volcanically active.

John Monterosso
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., Experimental Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998
Previous Institution: University of California, Los Angeles

John Monterosso’s research focuses on motivation, especially as it pertains to self-control struggles. His primary work combines behavioral and neuroimaging methodologies and is currently supported by the National Institute on Drug Addiction.

Sunyoung Park
Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Ph.D., English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, 2006
Previous Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

Sunyoung Park specializes in studying the literary history of modern Korea, which she approaches from the varying perspectives of world literature, postcolonial theory, and transnational feminism and Marxism. Her dissertation, “Writing the Real: Marxism, Modernity, and Literature in Colonial Korea, 1920–1941,” examines colonial Korean leftist literature within the comparative context of global literary modernity.

Brian Rathbun
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Ph.D., Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2002
Previously Institution: Indiana University

Brian Rathbun studies the interrelationship between domestic and foreign policy ideology and the influence of party politics on foreign policy decision-making. He is currently working on his second book, exploring the role of trust in the creation of international organizations. His articles have appeared in Security Studies, International Studies Quarterly and the Journal of Conflict Resolution among others.

Shana L. Redmond
Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity
Ph.D., African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University, 2008

Shana Redmond examines the relationship between culture and sociopolitical movements within the black diaspora. She is working on her manuscript, “Anthem: Music and Politics in Diaspora,” focusing on 20th century black music as an articulation of identity, labor and radicalism. She has received fellowships from the National Academies, the Association of Black Women Historians and the University of Notre Dame.

Nathan Salmon
Visiting Professor of Philosophy
Ph.D., Philosophy, University of California, Los Angeles, 1979
Current Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara

Nathan Salmon’s work pursues especially perplexing issues and problems in metaphysics through the investigation of language. His books and projects have examined subjects such as the philosophy of language, metaphysics, the philosophy of mind and epistemology. He has worked on the problem of personal identity, the nature of existence and the logic of necessity, as well as issues raised by names from fiction.

Dan Schnur
Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and Assistant Professor of the Practice in Political Science
B.A., American University, 1987
Previous Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Dan Schnur served as the national director of communications for Sen. John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, and as the chief media spokesman for former California governor Pete Wilson. He co-chairs the Voices of Reform project, a bipartisan organization devoted to making California government more responsive to voters. Schnur writes a regular column for The New York Times’ political opinion Web site, “Campaign Stops.”

Andrew Smith
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Computer Science, University of New Brunswick, 2004
Previous Institution: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Andrew Smith designs computer algorithms to answer biological questions by analyzing genomic data. His research has led to new methods for identifying patterns in DNA sequences and understanding the relationship between genome sequence and the regulation of genes. At USC, Smith will work towards elucidating gene networks and identifying parts of the genome where mutations are associated with human disease.

Barry C. Thompson
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Florida, 2005
Previous Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Barry Thompson is an organic polymer chemist who seeks to combine the tools of synthetic chemistry and materials science in order to design novel classes of polymers for application in organic solar cells. As such, he seeks to develop low-cost alternative energy resources through the rational design and synthesis of semiconducting organic polymers.

Gary Watson
Provost’s Professor of Philosophy and Law
Ph.D., Philosophy, Princeton University, 1972
Previous Institution: University of California, Riverside

Gary Watson works in moral, political and legal philosophy, with a special focus on moral psychology and issues regarding agency. He has published on the topics of freedom and responsibility, contractualism, theory of virtue, promising and asserting, and Kant’s ethics. His research and teaching interests include criminal and civil rights law and philosophical issues in race and gender.

Nicholas Weller
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations
Ph.D., Political Science, University of California, San Diego, 2008

Nicholas Weller studies political economy and human behavior/decision-making. His political economy research focuses mostly on tax policy in the U.S. and abroad. His experimental research focuses on the interaction between institutions, information and human behavior. He is currently engaged in a research project to study experimentally how network structure affects people’s ability to coordinate and cooperate.

Simon J. Wilkie
Professor of Economics
Ph.D., Economics, University of Rochester, 1990
Previous Institution: USC Gould School of Law

Simon Wilkie is chair of the Department of Economics and executive director of the USC Center for Communications Law and Policy. His research focuses on game theory and its application to business strategy, economic policy design and the telecommunications industries. He served as chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission from July 2002 to December 2003.

Justin Wood
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, Harvard University, 2008

Justin Wood is interested in the evolutionary and developmental origins of human social cognition, focusing on the capacities that allow us to understand one another’s goals, beliefs and intentions. His research approaches range from psychophysical experiments with adults to comparative experiments with wild and laboratory-raised animals. His dissertation documented his groundbreaking research on a previously undocumented memory system, involving working memory for actions and events.