“New faculty are the lifeblood of a robust and dynamic academic community,” says Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth. “As described in our academic strategic plan, our overarching imperative for the next decade is to grow, connect, and empower communities to enhance the creation, delivery, and translation of knowledge. These new faculty will play a valuable role in accomplishing these goals in our core missions of research, teaching, and service.”
Nine new faculty members told the Office of University Communications what motivates them in their scholarship and why Duke is the right place for this work. Duke’s strengths in interdisciplinary scholarship and collaborative inquiry stood out to many of them.
Below, we excerpt brief comments. See the full article, and meet other new faculty highlighted in Duke Today’s new faculty series.
Associate Professor of Computer Science, Biochemistry, and Electrical & Computer Engineering
The field has changed completely from 13 years ago to today. Now there are many more possibilities. I thought coming to a university environment like Duke would allow me to tap into all the different disciplines.
Here you can talk to people in the math department, the School of Medicine, biochemistry, engineering… pharmacology is on this floor. There is a wider variety of things I need, but especially math, and computer science and engineering. They have a big role to play here.
L. Neil Williams Professor of Law, School of Law
One reason that I am so excited to be part of the Duke community is that my work has become more and more interdisciplinary and focused on public policy over the years. Researchers at Duke collaborate so well across the entire university – it is such an innovative place with people dedicated to making a difference in the world through their research.
In my criminal justice research, I increasingly work with psychologists in my work on eyewitness memory and risk assessment, statisticians in my work on forensic science, and governance and finance scholars in my work on corporate crime.
Assistant Professor of Marine Conservation, Duke Marine Lab, Nicholas School of the Environment
Drawing on tools, theories and approaches from multiple disciplines, I seek to answer questions like: how does marine management affect fish populations and the wellbeing of communities? What are the economic gains from conserving coral reefs and what are the potential losses from inaction?
The Duke Marine Lab has a strong focus on interdisciplinary research and teaching on marine conservation and human-natural systems, and these closely tie into my academic interests.
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
My research looks to tailor the heat transfer properties of wearable devices. From applications in spacesuits to firefighters to everyday clothing, engineering the properties of materials can keep people—or delicate machinery—at the right temperature. We do this by engineering the nanoscale structures of fibers to interact with light or infrared radiation—better known as heat—in a specific way. This requires a wide range of expertise including material scientists, mechanical engineers and physicists.
I came to Duke because it’s a special place where there’s a variety of very talented people in the fields of heat transfer, polymer physics and biomedical applications. It’s the perfect environment to find collaborators and to find inspiration to further my research.
Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy
Growing up in Chicago and attending public schools, I felt like policies were always happening to me, and I did not quite understand why. I made a decision to learn about how the policy process works so that maybe one day I could work to make it better.
On my first visit to Sanford, I was given about 20 to 30 minutes to talk to nearly one dozen faculty members. I went over the time for each person I met with. I just found each person’s work so important, interesting, and relevant. I knew that these were colleagues that want to do work that matters to them, that want to do work that’s important. They care about the community that they’re directly involved in. That’s the kind of community I want to be a part of.
Associate Professor of the Practice, International Comparative Studies
As a professor, I have the power to help shape student experiences. So it’s good to ask: What kinds of doors to I want to open for them? For decades now people have talked about theory versus practice. That’s boring and it’s wrong. We sometimes do a disservice when we present students with a binary — the classroom versus community engagement. I’m more interested in how you make sure both spaces are influenced by each other. How can the classroom and the community work in conversation?
I’ve always taught in interdisciplinary programs, but Duke is a bigger sandbox than I’ve been able to play in before. My students here have a tremendous array of interests, in terms of regions and disciplines.
Assistant Professor, Population Health Sciences and Mathematics
Because it is hard to predict which tumors will turn out lethal, most patients are treated quite aggressively. The big question is: which of these patients are treated for a good reason, because they would eventually get lethal cancer, and how many of these are basically over-treated, for something that would never become symptomatic cancer?
For me Duke is attractive because it provides an ideal environment for my interdisciplinary research at the interface of medicine and the quantitative sciences. There are so many world experts in both areas of research, and there is a lot of data being generated — a very exciting place to be! By developing mathematical and statistical modeling techniques that integrate diverse data sources I hope to foster new bridges between the School of Medicine and Arts & Sciences.
Professor of the Practice of Music and cellist in the Ciompi Quartet
I’m looking forward to being in an academic community. It struck me during my interviews, when other professors of musicology and music theory wanted to talk to me about projects I’d been involved in, they were excited to talk about the music I was playing – and that’s just within the music department. It’s totally new for me to think about how my work can not only collaborate with other areas in the university but be influenced by, and to influence, people in other areas. And Duke gives me the space to think about the projects that have been in the back of my mind for at least five years, and to dive even deeper into string quartets and collaboration in my work with the Ciompi.
Associate Professor, Political Science
My research focuses on African-American political behavior. I try to answer why so many black Americans are so partisan, why so many are Democrats, over 90 percent — that’s an extraordinary amount of support.
The answer to that question seems obvious, you know, it must have something to do with race. I discovered a lot is race-based, but I explain that it’s also sociological, historical and even psychological. I seek to unify the explanation.
One of the reasons I came to Duke is because of the large African-American community in North Carolina. Certainly North Carolina has its share of racial politics, and very interesting racial politics. I look forward to working in the community and getting to know the political environment here.
Photos by University Communications