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College of Arts and Sciences

The College Welcomes New Faculty

This year, twenty new faculty members and the new dean join the College of Arts & Sciences, enriching the college with interdisciplinary strengths and enhancing the university’s nexus of innovation and ideas.

Ray Jayawardhana

The College’s commitment to the vitality of the humanities at Cornell continues, with eight new faculty members, several of whom are experts in the history of slavery. Nicole Giannella, in the Department of Classics, is working on a book entitled “The Mind of a Slave: The Limits of Ownership in Roman Law and Society.” She’s looking forward to collaborating with other faculty and teaching Race and Identity Across the Ancient World. Interdisciplinary scholar Parisa Vaziri, with appointments in the Departments of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies, is interested in the histories of slavery in the Indian Ocean world, as well as theories of race and media, and the concept of mediation. Her current project is on “Blackness in Iranian Visual Culture.”

Ray Jayawardhana, the new Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of Astronomy

Seema Golestaneh will also add to the Department of Near Eastern Studies’ breadth, with her expertise on modern Iran and the anthropology of Islam. She’s working on a book project titled “Unknowing and the Everyday: Sufism and Knowledge Production in Iran.”

Interdisciplinary endeavors are a cornerstone of the college, such as the way Christine Bacareza Balance unites disciplines in her appointment to both the Department of Performing & Media Arts and the Asian American Studies Program. Her current book project, “Making Sense of Martial Law,” looks at culture and performance as part of “the ongoing production of political affects.”

The Department of History welcomes two new faculty members this fall. Historian Olga Litvak studies Jewish intellectual history and the history of Jews in imperial Russia. Her current book project is “Zionism Before Herzl: M. L. Lilienblum and the Cultural Origins of the Jewish Revolution.” The College’s robust strength in China studies will be enhanced by historian Mara Du, whose expertise in modern Chinese history includes a focus on family law and state building as well as nationalism and statism. She’s especially looking forward to teaching Historical and Global Origins of the Chinese Nation.

Conductor James Spinazzola, who focuses on performance, orchestration, and pedagogy related to chamber and wind ensembles, is not really new to the Department of Music. He’s been working with the Cornell Wind Symphony since 2012 on an interim basis, and is now an assistant professor. “I am continually inspired by the students' curiosity, intensity, and level of engagement,” he says. “Every semester brings new collaborations and exciting challenges.”

The “vibrant and passionate intellectual environment” at Cornell is what most excites philosopher Arc Kocurek. He specializes in logic, language, and metaphysics and is working on a counterfactuals and modal metaphysics project.

Interest in politics has skyrocketed since the last presidential election, and three new faculty members in the government department bring deep expertise into understanding political dynamics in today’s world. Ali Cirone, an expert in European politics and legislative institutions who is currently researching multi-level governance in the European Union, says she is most looking forward to teaching Post Truth Politics, because “we desperately need to engage with fake news and its consequences for modern politics.” Douglas Kriner, whose research includes American politics and foreign policy, is looking forward to teaching Presidential Politics in the Age of Trump; his current book project is titled “The Myth of the Imperial Presidency: Political Checks on Unilateral Power.” Political theorist Patchen Markell looks at the history of European and American political thought and is working on a project titled “Politics Against Rule: Hannah Arendt and ‘The Human Condition.’” He says he’s excited to be part of an institution that, “though privately endowed, has a strong sense of public purpose.”

The College’s engagement with important contemporary issues will also be enhanced by the work of sociologist Cristobal Young. He studies the social policies that moderate income inequality, ranging from millionaire taxes to unemployment insurance, and is the author of “The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight: How Place Still Matters for the Rich.”

Biomedical ethicist Kim Overby, a new professor of the practice in the Department of Science & Technology Studies, will bring her extensive experience in the field of medicine to important ethical issues of the day. Her career spans both hospitals and schools of medicine, including several years at Weill Cornell College of Medicine in the Division of Medical Ethics.

Economist Giulia Brancaccio applies microeconomics and data analysis to the study of markets and firms. Her current project examines information acquisition as a motive for trade in bond markets. She’s excited about the “welcoming intellectual community” at Cornell.

The College’s commitment to education innovation continues with the hire of Michelle Smith in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her focus is discipline-based education research in biology.” What most excites her about Cornell, she says, is “the growing and enthusiastic community of people who are passionate about college teaching and education research."

The “close-knit culture and the cross-disciplinary research environment” at Cornell is what Elizabeth Kellogg in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics is most looking forward to. In her research, she uses electron cryomicroscopy to study the structure of macromolecular complexes that reorganize DNA within the genome, as well as how crucial cellular factors protect genome integrity.

Cornell’s astronomy department and Carl Sagan Institute welcome a new exoplanet researcher, Nikole Lewis, who is exploring exoplanet atmospheres with the Hubble Space Telescope. Before coming to Cornell, she was a project scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope. The astronomy department’s strength in cosmology and galaxy formation research will be enhanced by astronomer Nicholas Battaglia, who is exploring fundamental physics, galaxy formation, and the epoch of reionization using observations of cosmic microwave background.

Chemistry is also welcoming two faculty members. Phillip Milner is working on simplifying synthesis at the interface of organic and materials chemistry. He’s most excited about “the innovative and highly collaborative research being carried out across campus.” Chemist Nozomi Ando Ph.D. ’09 is a long-time user of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) in her biophysics research and is eager to make use of beam time that becomes available. Her team’s motto?  “No photon wasted.”