New Faculty, Fall 2012
Associate Professor of sociology and black studies
There is an old adage that says that for a happy and healthy career, you should get involved in a subject that you love. Scott Brooks, associate professor of sociology and black studies, took that advice to heart, combining his love of sports, particularly basketball, with his interest in sociology. Brooks sees sports as a way to investigate issues and myths of race, particularly popular myths involving race and athletic ability. He was trained in urban sociology, race and class inequality, and qualitative research methods, while earning his doctorate in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He also completed degrees at California State University, East Bay (M.A.) and the University of California, Berkeley (B.A.).
Brooks’ book, Black Men Can’t Shoot (University of Chicago Press, 2009 – PROSE Award, Honorable Mention), examines the careers of basketball players, beginning as youths, and traces how they evolve from good players to great players, and in some cases to college prospects. What he learned goes beyond the basketball floor and into people’s daily lives, emphasizing networks, exposure, planning, and hard work.
In the classroom, Brooks enjoys using his experiences both on and off the basketball court to help him teach.
“I love to tell stories and believe that that is my greatest teaching method,” he says. “Some stories are from coaching but most are just life stories.”
Brooks will be teaching introductory sociology and black studies in the fall. He comes to Columbia with his wife, Kara, and three kids–Kenan, Clay, and Maya. He is excited about MU and working with distinguished faculty across the university who are interested in studying sport or who work in sport directly.
“MU is positioned not only for outstanding athletic performance but also distinction in interdisciplinary sports scholarship,” says Brooks.
Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences
The new assistant professor in biological sciences grew up rooting for the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots, and the University of Connecticut Huskies, but she vows to become a Mizzou Tiger fan, too. Pam Brown grew up in Portsmouth, R.I., received her bachelor’s degree in molecular and cell biology, and obtained her doctorate degree in microbiology.
She will teach general microbiology where she will discuss the roles of bacteria in our environment, including the positive and negative impacts of microbes. Her class will also apply basic biological principles to the study of microorganisms.
“Bacteria can generate a myriad of different shapes, including relative simple morphologies such as rods and spheres and complex morphologies including stalked, helical, or vibrioid bacteria,” says Brown. “This observation has led to me to explore how bacterial growth has evolved to allow different shapes to be generated. I have found the ability to grow from a cell pole is a conserved trait among a group of bacterial called the Rhizobiales, and I am exploring the mechanism underlying this mode of growth using the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens.”
When she is not working with bacteria, Brown enjoys cooking for her husband, who is a research engineer in the College of Engineering, and her son. She also enjoys reading, photography, and crafting.
After high school, she lived in Portugal for six weeks, and she says it has been the most interesting place she has lived because of its long history and rich culture.
“I studied the Portuguese language, ate new foods, toured beautiful buildings, and watched soccer fanatics cheer on Portugal during the Olympics,” says Brown.
Now that Columbia is her new home, she is looking forward to getting to know her new colleagues, setting up her lab, and turning her new house into a home. She has already discovered the farmer’s market and has enjoyed preparing meals with the local, fresh ingredients she bought there.
Assistant Professor in the Department of History
Daniel Domingues, assistant professor in the Department of History, is originally from Paraná, Brazil, where he received his bachelor’s degree in history before receiving his master’s degree and doctorate from Emory University in Atlanta.
This fall, he will teach the history of modern Africa and the history of the African diaspora in the Americas.
“My research focuses on the history of the transatlantic slave trade, the largest coerced migration in history,” says Domingues. “I became interested in this field as an undergraduate student working in a research project titled “Voyages: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.”
He has lived in many places, but his top three are Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, and New Orleans because of the diversity, cultural wealth, and the proximity to the ocean. His family all still live in Brazil, but he and his wife are adapting to Columbia.
“I enjoy hiking and biking, but I must confess that I’m a historian in love with his own craft,” says Domingues. “Therefore, I spend most of my spare time reading and watching history books and movies, as well as traveling and visiting historical sites.”
He is looking forward to familiarizing himself with the university and the Columbia community, and because this is his first tenure-track job, he is very excited about it.
His research can be followed on academia.edu.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies
The Department of Religious Studies’ faculty will grow this fall with the addition of Assistant Professor Carrie Duncan. She will teach Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, and Jesus in Myth, Tradition, and History this fall, and Introduction to the New Testament and a graduate seminar in the spring semester.
She is an archaeologist and has worked as a senior staff member in Jordan on several archaeological excavations, which contained remains spanning 1200 B.C. to 400 A.D.
“My work focuses on the material culture of ancient religions, most specifically ancient Judaism and early Christianity,” says Duncan. “I am interested in how people’s religiosity is expressed through the things they make and own and the buildings they occupy.”
Her goal is to direct an excavation of a church, synagogue, monastery, or another religious building from antiquity in the eastern Mediterranean.
She received her bachelor’s degree in archaeology from Tufts University, her first master’s degree at Harvard University in near eastern languages and civilizations, and her second master’s degree and doctorate in religious studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Duncan spent a year studying abroad in Athens, Greece, and enjoyed the transition from being a visitor to being a resident and feeling like Greece was her home. She likes to travel, cook, hike, canoe, and explore used book stores.
Her husband is an industrial designer, but he also serves as her sous chef, dishwasher, graphic artist, and technical consultant. They have a retired racing greyhound and a cat.
“I’m really excited to meet Mizzou students and to share with them the wonder and excitement I find in the ancient world and its sacred texts,” says Duncan. “I’m looking forward to exploring Missouri and making it my new home.”
Assistant Professor in Geography
A former undergraduate student in geography, Grant Elliott returns to MU this fall as an assistant professor who will teach classes within the realms of physical geography and global environment change.
“My research focus is studying the biogeographic manifestations of climate variability in Rocky Mountain ecosystems,” says Elliott.
He became interested in this subject during family vacations to Idaho when he was a kid and when he lived in his truck in southwest Colorado while he was researching for his master’s thesis. Elliott received his master’s in geography from the University of Wyoming and his doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
Elliott enjoyed his time in Laramie, Wyo., when he lived there—he enjoyed the small-town population of 30,000 where everything was in biking distance.
“I loved the weather and beautiful geographic setting, where the High Plains meet the Rock Mountains,” says Elliott.
He is looking forward to enjoying life in Columbia with his wife, Susan, and his two daughters—Carly, 6, and Courtney, 10 months. His other hobbies include traveling, hiking, swimming, playing and watching hockey, and, of course, following Tiger football and basketball.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies
Julie Passanante Elman is the new assistant professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. Originally from Philadelphia, she double-majored in English and Hispanic languages and literatures at Stony Brook University in New York, and received her doctorate in American studies at George Washington University.
Earlier this year she was a lecturer in television studies and media theory at University College Dublin.
“The Irish countryside is stunningly gorgeous, and the music scene in Irish pubs is really vibrant,” says Elman. “I really miss the traditional Irish breakfasts and potato waffles.”
She says she felt enriched teaching American culture courses to Irish students because they approached American television and popular culture in a much different cultural and historical context than students from the United States.
Elman will teach Bodies, Nations, Cultures this fall and will develop courses in disability studies, queer theory, feminist science studies, and media studies. Her research uses queer and disability theory to critique popular media for teenagers.
She cooks and plays guitar and enjoys spending time with her partner and her dog.
“I’m looking forward to walking around the gorgeous MU campus, and I can’t wait to meet the women’s and gender studies majors,” says Elman.
Assistant Professor in Statistics
Originally from China, Tieming Ji made a detour through Iowa State University to get her doctorate in statistics before moving to Columbia to start her new job as an assistant professor.
“Ames, Iowa, was a great place to live,” says Ji. “I loved the peace and wild beauty of the Midwest area. It’s a kind of place where you could focus on your work as well as enjoying your life.”
Beginning this fall, she will teach an introductory class of probability and statistics for undergraduate and graduate engineering students.
“My statistical research focuses on developing novel methods to improve statistical inferences for high-dimensional gene expression data from microarray experiments and next generation sequencing technologies,” says Ji.
She will participate in collaborative work university-wide in biological studies in agriculture, food, and environmental sciences.
“I find my work to be interesting, valuable, and challenging,” says Ji.
In her leisure time, she practices calligraphy and cello, and she keeps her body strong and healthy by swimming and jogging.
Ji is looking forward to learning from the other professors in the Department of Statistics, and she has found them to be a united and friendly team. She plans to give the best of herself and to contribute to the department and to MU by becoming a good teacher and researcher.
“I’m so grateful for joining the statistics department, and I want to sincerely thank them for giving me the opportunity,” she says.
Assistant professor in the Department of Sociology
Erica Morales, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, will teach Education and Social Inequality this fall. Originally from Bronx, N.Y., she received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Although she is officially a Missourian now, she says she will always be a New Yorker with a ton of pride for her hometown.
“Its diverse cultures, people, and unique personality make it a great place to live,” says Morales. “There is no city quite like it in the world.”
Her research focuses on examining race, class, and gender in higher education and how it impacts the experiences of black undergraduate students on college campuses.
“I became interested in this area after working with students of color at UCLA when I was a teaching fellow and undergraduate research mentor,” says Morales. “Hearing about their experiences prompted this research.”
In her free time, she takes spin classes, cooks, and reads for fun. She is looking forward to getting to know the faculty at MU, learning about the resources available on campus, and working with her undergraduate students.
Assistant professor in the Department of Political Science
The Department of Political Science welcomes Assistant Professor Amanda Murdie this fall. She will teach graduate and undergraduate courses on international relations, specifically on conflict processes and human rights. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from Kansas State University and her doctorate is from Emory University.
“My research focuses on interventions by non-state actors like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International on a country’s politics,” says Murdie.
She grew up on national wildlife refuges in South Dakota and Kansas, which fueled her love for the outdoors. Today, she and her husband, along with their two daughters, enjoy hiking.
“I am looking forward to learning from my great colleagues and contributing to the academic community,” she says.
Assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology
Karthik Panchanathan, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, moved to Columbia from southern California where he received both his bachelor’s of science degree in biology and his bachelor’s of arts degree in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Beginning this fall, he will teach economic anthropology, cultural anthropology, and cultural evolution.
Panchanathan’s research focus is the evolution of human behavior, in particular, in the evolution of cooperation and the evolution of culture.
“My interest stems from my two undergraduate degrees,” says Panchanathan. “I loved learning about evolutionary theory and also about cultural variation. My research has focused on applying evolutionary theory to the study of human behavior, culture specifically.”
When he is not working, he enjoys hiking with his Belgian Malinois, Savannah. He also enjoys cooking.
“I love to eat, so I learned to cook and enjoy it thoroughly,” says Panchanathan.
One of the things he is looking forward to in his new home city is exploring Columbia and its surroundings.
Assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics
Peter Pivovarov comes to Columbia this fall from Calgary, Alberta. He received his bachelor’s degree in pure math from the University of Calgary, and his master’s degree and doctorate in mathematics from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He spent time at the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto and at Texas A&M University as a post-doctorate student. This fall, he will teach calculus 3.
“My research interests are in high-dimensional convex geometry,” says Pivovarov. “The blending of different areas of mathematics, from probability theory to analysis to classical convex geometry, is what drew me to the field. This area also has connections to many applied fields where high-dimensional systems arise.”
He is looking forward to getting involved in the seminars in the math department, teaching in the classroom, and getting to know his students.
In his free time, he enjoys hiking and cycling on trails, traveling, and attending live concerts.
Of the cities where he has lived so far, Toronto has been his favorite because of its diversity, but he visited Paris, Athens, and Warsaw and said they were all equally amazing.
“I love walkable cities and exploring new places on foot or bicycle,” he says.
Assistant professor in the School of Music
Paola Savvidou returns for her third semester at MU as an assistant professor in the School of Music. She has previously worked as adjunct faculty and says she is looking forward to fostering an environment in which MU students can thrive in their musical pursuits.
Originally from Nicosia, Cyprus, she received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s and doctoral degree in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Wisconsin¬–Madison. This fall she will teach piano pedagogy, keyboard skills for piano majors, and applied piano. She will also coordinate the group piano program and the experiencing piano program, which provide group and private piano instruction for beginning students ages six through nine.
Her research focus is in movement analysis and creative movement as a means of developing healthful piano technique and deepening expressivity in piano performance.
“I took dance classes when I was very young and continued through college, and I completed a dance minor with a focus on creative movement and analysis as part of my doctoral degree,” says Savvidou. “As pianists we move to play our instrument. It seems vital that we all have a basic understanding of how our alignment and movements inform and affect our musical interpretation.”
Her husband, Jonathan Kuuskoski, also works in the School of Musicas the director of entrepreneurship and community programs.
When she is not teaching and playing the piano, Savvidou enjoys yoga, cooking, and baking. The most interesting place she has lived is Wellington, New Zealand.
“It felt like living at the edge of the world,” says Savvidou. “I was fascinated by the variety of ecosystems contained within a relatively small country and the way native culture and western culture coexist harmoniously.”
Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences
Beginning this fall, Assistant Professor Laura Scherer will teach social psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences. Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., she received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Washington University in St. Louis before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.
St. Louis, she says, is probably the most under-appreciated city in the United States, but she hopes it will someday have its day in the spotlights. She loves the city for its amazing food and music cultures, but also said that Brooklyn, N.Y. was an exciting place to live because of its cultural diversity.
Scherer studies snap judgments and explores the ramifications of those judgments for personal perception and decision-making.
“I study how automatically activated stereotypes influence the way that we treat others, even when we want to be egalitarian,” says Scherer.
She also focuses on initial, gut feelings and how they lead us to choices which may or may not be the best decisions in the long run. Scherer adds that she was drawn to this field through a snap judgment.
In her free time, she plays the bluegrass guitar, runs on trails, and spends time with her husband and three-year-old daughter.
She is looking forward to getting to know the Columbia community and her new colleagues.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences
James Schiffbauer will be the new face in the Department of Geological Sciences this fall, where he will teach introduction to geochemistry and historical geology. His main focus of study is the transition from single-celled organisms to metazoans, which are animals.
“The first evidence of animal life in the fossil record comes in a geological period known as the Ediacaran,” says Schiffbauer. “Within this time frame, I specifically focus on the preservational pathways of fossils, which can tell us a lot about their original biology as well as the environments in which they lived.”
Although he was always interested in evolution and paleontology as a kid, it was his teachers in high school and college who helped him turn his interest into a career choice.
“It was the opportunity to learn from and work with my post-doctoral adviser, Shuhai Xiao, that really shaped me into the scientist I am now,” he says.
He received his honors bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University before he moved to Florida to study marine microfossils during his master’s research.
“After teaching high school biology and marine biology for a year, I went back to school at Virginia Tech where I studied Proterozoic fossil preservation for my doctoral research,” says Schiffbauer.
He and his wife have a five-month-old son named Parker, and they have two three-year-old Rottweilers and a cat named Ollie. In his spare time, Schiffbauer enjoys spending time with his family, listening to Pearl Jam, and watching football.
“I am looking forward to meeting the students in the department, getting my lab set up, and recruiting talented and interested students to study early animals and fossil preservation,” says Schiffbauer. “Oh, and I’m certainly interested in attending some MU SEC football games.”