Meet the New Faculty

New Faculty

New members of the faculty include (L-R) Wendy Wilson-Fall, Clara Validano-López, Neha Vora, Julia Nicodemus, Christopher Anderson, Rachel Brummel, and Daniel Quirós (seated, center).

by Siusanne Nichols | photo by Chuck Zovko

Eight professors have joined the faculty this year, bringing the College’s total to 215 full-time, tenure-track faculty members.

They are part of the College’s strategic initiative outlined in “The Plan for Lafayette” approved in 2007, to increase the size of the permanent faculty by 20 percent and decrease the student-faculty ratio from 11:1 to 10:1.

Two of the incoming professors represent new positions. So far, Lafayette has allocated or filled 18 new faculty positions and has commitments for three more, which will bring the total to 21. The strategic plan calls for 35 new faculty positions.

CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, comes to Lafayette from The College of New Jersey, where he helped develop the bioengineering program; taught courses in medical imaging, bioengineering fundamentals, and drug delivery; and mentored senior design projects. He also served as head of product development at Targeson, Inc., a start-up company where he led the development of novel contrast agents for use in the diagnosis and therapy of cardiovascular disease and tumor growth. He holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in biomedical engineering from University of Virginia, where his research focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of blood vessel growth.

RACHEL BRUMMEL, assistant professor of environmental studies, is the first professor hired for this new interdisciplinary major program. Brummel’s research focuses on environmental policy and governance, including examining how institutions respond to complex environmental problems. She earned a Ph.D. in conservation biology from University of Minnesota, where she also taught courses in environmental policy and conservation biology. Brummel received a UM doctoral dissertation fellowship for her work on collaborative governance and wildland fire planning in the U.S. and New South Wales, Australia, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship supporting her research in Australia. She also collaborated on interdisciplinary National Science Foundation-funded research through UM’s Department of Forest Resources focusing on how social networks affect dairy farmers’ decisions concerning sustainable production and land-use systems.

MICHAEL BUTLER, assistant professor of biology, comes to Lafayette from Arizona State University, where he recently completed a Ph.D. in biology. At ASU, he developed and taught a graduate student seminar on tools and strategies to promote effective scientific instruction at the faculty level. He served as director of ASU’s Graduate Partners in Science Education program, a project-based outreach program that allows graduate students to serve as science mentors for Phoenix-area school children. For his dissertation, Butler studied how developmental immune history affects adult immune function in mallard ducks. His research on animal behavior has been featured in Science News, Science NOW, Discover Magazine, and on BBC.

JULIA NICODEMUS, assistant professor of engineering studies, earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and master’s degrees in science technology & environmental policy and mechanical engineering from University of Minnesota, as well as a master’s in middle childhood mathematics education from Brooklyn College. Her research is focused on developing methods of chemical storage of solar energy. She is currently working on a “two-step solar thermochemical cycle” for fuel production, which has the potential to produce renewable fuels with minimal greenhouse gas emissions. The major benefit of chemical storage is that it allows transient solar energy to be stored indefinitely. While at University of Minnesota, she received two doctoral fellowships as well as a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation supporting her work on solar energy. She has published her research in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national conferences.

DANIEL QUIRÓS is assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, specializing in Spanish. His research and teaching interests include Central American literature, Latin American crime fiction and cinema, and Conquest and Colonial studies. A native English and Spanish speaker, Quirós received his Ph.D. in Latin American literature from University of California-San Diego. He has published two works of fiction, the novel Verano Rojo-Red Summer (2010) and a short story collection A Los Cuatro Vientos-To the Four Winds (2009). In 2010, Verano Rojo won the National Award Aquileo J. Echeverria, the highest award for literature in Costa Rica.

CLARA VALDANO-LÓPEZ is assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, specializing in Spanish. She completed a Ph.D. in Spanish American literature at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. She has been a Spanish instructor for Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and has taught a variety of courses in Spanish language and literature. Her primary area of research is Colonial Spanish American literatures and cultures. Her approach is interdisciplinary, grounded in visual studies, cultural geography, and gender studies. Valdano-López has received numerous grants supporting her research and has published in scholarly journals and presented at national and international conferences.

NEHA VORA, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, comes to Lafayette from Texas A&M University where she was assistant professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies and taught courses in gender and anthropology, women in the Middle East, South Asian diasporas, feminist theory, and migration and globalization. Her research focuses on forms of citizenship, belonging, and exclusion within the contemporary Gulf Arab States, which is the topic of her book, Impossible Citizens: Dubai’s Indian Diaspora, forthcoming from Duke University Press. She earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from University of California-Irvine.

WENDY WILSON-FALL, associate professor and chair of Africana studies and the first professor hired into the College’s interdisciplinary program, comes to Lafayette from Kent State University, where she served as an associate professor and chair of Pan African Studies. Prior to KSU, she was director of West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal, from 1999 to 2004. Wilson-Fall’s research interests include pastoralism in Africa, African Diaspora communities in North America, and slavery and unfree systems of labor in Africa. In addition to numerous published articles and book chapters, she has written a manuscript, “Dignity in Memory: the Performance of Difference,” currently under revision for an academic press. Wilson-Fall received her Ph.D. in social anthropology and African Studies from Howard University.