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New Faculty Winter 2020
9 April 2020

Emily DavenportEmily Davenport, assistant professor of biology, seeks to understand the complex relationship between humans and our microbiomes— the collection of microorganisms that live within or on our bodies. She is interested in what determines gut microbiome composition, how our microbiome affects our health, and how the relationship between humans and our microbiomes evolved. Davenport approaches these questions using a genomic perspective, with high-throughput microbiome and metagenomic sequencing technologies and novel computational and statistical techniques.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Davenport was a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany from 2018 to 2019 and a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University from 2014 to 2019. She earned a doctoral degree in human genetics at the University of Chicago in 2014 and a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2007.

Ramesh GiriRamesh Giri, Weinreb Early Career Professor of Chemistry, focuses on solving chemical problems that could ultimately change the way that researchers make complex molecules and could have important implications in the fields of energy, materials science, and health. His research group has developed innovative strategies to manufacture molecules by forming more than one bond at a time using sustainable and cost-effective metals, like iron, cobalt, nickel, and copper. Giri’s work has led to a new process that allows for synthetic modifications of two commercial pharmaceutical drugs and has potential to guide the production of renewable diesel fuel.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Giri was an assistant professor, then associate professor, of chemistry and chemical biology at the University of New Mexico from 2012 to 2019. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois from 2009 to 2012. Giri earned a doctoral degree in organic chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, in 2009, a master’s degree in bioorganic chemistry at the University of Cambridge in 2003, a master’s degree in organic chemistry at Tribhuvan University in Nepal in 1998, and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Trichandra College in Nepal in 1995.

David Koslicki.David Koslicki, associate professor of computer science and engineering and of biology, focuses his research on developing efficient algorithms to extract information from high-throughput DNA sequencing data. He develops new compressive sensing, probabilistic, and optimization algorithms for computational biology. He specializes in the analysis of metagenomic data—the study of microbial communities through their sampled DNA. Koslicki is passionate about fostering an interdisciplinary community of methods developers in computational biology and helps to run the Computational Genomics Summer Institute at UCLA.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Koslicki was an assistant professor of mathematics at Oregon State University from 2013 to 2019 and a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University from 2012to 2013 and atDrexel University in 2012. He earned a doctoral degree in mathematics at Penn State in 2012 and a bachelor’s degree in theoretical mathematics at Washington State University in 2006.

Eric Nacsa.Eric Nacsa, assistant professor of chemistry, is primarily interested in addressing important challenges in synthetic organic chemistry. In particular, he is seeking to accelerate the discovery of new, life-saving drugs by developing novel strategies to access key molecular features of biologically active compounds.The tools he develops should streamline the preparation of the thousands of chemical compounds that are typically evaluated on the way to developing a new drug. This work will involve designing new reactions, catalysts, and reagents. Nacsa also hopes to harness new reactivity principles in organic chemistry to develop tools for chemical biology, identify scalable approaches to renewable organic feedstocks, and prepare organic polymers with improved functionality.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Nacsa was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, where he worked from 2016 to 2019. He earned a doctoral degree in chemistry at Columbia University in 2015 and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Harvey Mudd College in 2010.

David Radice.David Radice, assistant professor of physics and of astronomy and astrophysics, focuses his research on the study of explosive astrophysical events that produce gravitational waves and light, such as neutron-star mergers and core-collapse supernovae. His research makes use of large-scale supercomputing simulations. He is also interested in the development of new computational techniques and in the understanding of fundamental physics questions such as the nature of turbulence.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Radice was an associate research scholar at Princeton University and at the Institute for Advanced Study from 2016 to 2019 and a Walter Burke Fellow in Theoretical Astrophysics and Relativity at the California Institute of Technology from 2013 to 2016. He earned a doctoral degree in gravitational wave astronomy at the Leibniz Universität in Hannover, Germany, in 2013 and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mathematical engineering at Politecnico di Milanoin Italy in 2009 and 2006, respectively.

Hyungsuk Tak.Hyungsuk Tak, assistant professor of statistics and of astronomy and astrophysics, works closely with other astronomers and astrophysicists to analyze astronomical time-series and imaging data, developing practically motivated data-analytic tools. Specifically, his research focuses on time-delay cosmography for estimating the Hubble constant, statistical computation, robust inference on pulsar timing arrays for detecting gravitational waves, and Bayesian hierarchical modeling with frequency coverage evaluation.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Tak was an assistant professor of applied and computational mathematics and statistics at the University of Notre Dame from 2018to 2019 and a postdoctoral fellow at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute in North Carolina from 2016to 2018. He earned doctoral and master’s degrees in statistics from Harvard University in 2016and 2012, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in statistics from Korea University in 2009.

Emily Weinert.Emily Weinert, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, focuses her research on understanding signaling pathways that allow bacteria to sense and respond to their environment. She uses tools from chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology to develop a molecular-level understanding of the proteins and small molecules involved in these systems as well as their roles in bacterial growth and virulence.Her work to understand how the globin-coupled sensor protein family in bacteria senses oxygen and transmits the signal into downstream events could potentially yield starting points for the development of novel antibacterial agents.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Weinert was an assistant professor of chemistry at Emory University from 2011 to 2019 and a postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, from 2006 to 2011. She earned a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of Maryland in 2006 and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Duke University in 2002.

Howard Weiss, professor of biology and mathematics, is a biomathematician who works closely with biological and medical scientists to study the population and evolutionary dynamics of bacteria in physically structured environments, strategies to improve antibiotic therapy, transmission of respiratory viruses, and microbiome assembly and dynamics. He is the principal investigator of the Boeing-sponsored FlyHealthy research study,whose goal is to understand the rates and routes of transmission of infectious diseases in an airplane cabin during flight and to find strategies to mitigate transmission.

Weiss returns to Penn State, where he initially joined the faculty as an assistant professor of mathematics and rose through the ranks to professor. He moved to Georgia Tech in 2006 as a professor of mathematics and held adjunct professor appointments at Emory University in biology and public health. Weiss received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Maryland and then spent four years at Caltech as a postdoctoral fellow.