New faculty bring expertise in abstract algebra, insulin chemistry and more to USC
Four new faculty members join the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences life sciences, physical sciences and mathematics divisions for the fall 2021 semester. They recently shared their academic work and personal interests.
Michael Campbell | Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Academic focus: Current genetic and paleontological evidence tells us that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa about 300,000 years ago and then migrated around the globe within the last 100,000 years. Demographic events along with natural selection, have shaped the patterns of genetic diversity in contemporary populations.
One of the “grand challenges” now that we’ve sequenced the human genome is to better understand the interplay between evolutionary history, genomic variation and the development of human traits. My research explores the use of statistical, computational and field-based approaches to identify polymorphisms — places where DNA on one chromosome differs from the matching spot on another chromosome — favored by evolution but that contribute to variable traits, including disease susceptibility, in diverse human populations.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Although I don’t have a lot of spare time these days, whenever it arises, I like to play trivia games. I’m a die-hard Jeopardy! fan.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would you select? What would be on the menu? While technically not one person, I would invite former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. (I consider them an inseparable marital unit.) This would be a very informal dinner with barbecue chicken and steak on the menu.
What food or condiments will we always find in your kitchen? Avocados, bread and ketchup (not necessarily eaten together).
Derrick Morton | Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Academic focus: My research focuses on incorporating genetic approaches to understand key pathways that control an organism’s growth and development, and how alterations in gene expression contribute to neurological disease.
What inspires you? The greats of the civil rights movement inspire me. I stand on the shoulders of giants, and their collective sacrifices are a constant reminder of what it took for me to achieve. There are no words to adequately express my gratitude.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would you select? What would be on the menu? This is a tough one. I would likely choose to have Barack Obama over for dinner — for the obvious reasons — he’s the former President of the U.S. and seems to be a pretty cool guy. I am a southern guy; my dinner menu would likely include a southern dish with dessert — old fashioned banana pudding!
What food or condiments will we always find in your kitchen? Chicken, seafood (ingredients for a seafood boil: snow crab legs, shrimp, potatoes, sausage and corn — my husband is from Florida), unsweetened tea (I know, not very southern of me) and wine.
Morton is teaching BISC 502a: “Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry” this fall.
In my work, I focus on the intersections between abstract algebra and mathematical physics.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Skateboard.
Where is your favorite place to travel? Oaxaca, Mexico.
Favorite book you’ve read lately? Noopiming by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
Negron is teaching the graduate course MATH 510a: “Algebra” this fall.
Academic focus: My lab’s goal is to help bridge the gap between structural biology — how biological molecules are built, function and interact — and physiology by pioneering new experimental and computational tools for multi-scale structural biology, from the atomic scale up to the level of cells. Our lab is investigating insulin chemistry and multiscale organization of pancreatic beta cells and applying new approaches to modeling entire cells.
If you could invite one person to dinner, living or dead, who would you select? What would be on the menu? Elon Musk. I wouldn’t care what we ate, just interested in the discussion.
Where is your favorite place to travel? Yosemite.
What inspires you? The unknown.