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New Faculty - Summer 2021

10 November 2021
Image of Jordan Bisanz

Jordan Bisanz, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, combines wet lab experimentation with computational biology and big data to understand how microbial communities (microbiomes) impact human health and physiology. He uses multiple omics techniques, anaerobic microbiology, and gnotobiotics—studying organisms that are completely germ-free—to conduct mechanistic research at the interface of host-microbe interactions.

Bisanz’s previous awards and honors include a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases K99 Pathway to Independence Award from 2020 to 2021, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Fellowship from 2015 to 2017, and the Alexander Graham Bell Doctoral Canada Graduate Scholarship from 2012 to 2015. He has published his research in journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Microbiology, and Cell Host and Microbe.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Bisanz was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco from 2015 to 2021. He earned a doctoral degree in microbiology and immunology in 2015 and a bachelor’s degree in medical sciences at the University of Western Ontario in Canada in 2010. He was a visiting student at the Institut Pasteur de Lille in France in 2015 and at the National Institute of Medical Research Mwanza in Tanzania in 2012.

Jairo Bochi

Jairo Bochi, professor of mathematics, studies dynamical systems, which describe the evolution of interdependent variables over time. His research explores connections between dynamics and other fields of mathematics, such as probability theory, geometry, and control theory.

Bochi has published more than 40 scientific articles in journals such as Geometric and Functional Analysis, the Journal of the European Mathematical Society, and Annals of Mathematics, with more than 30 coauthors from all over the world. He serves on the editorial board for the journal Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems - Series A and was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rio de Janeiro in 2018.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Bochi was an associate professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Chile from 2014 to 2020, an assistant then associate professor at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil from 2008 to 2013, an assistant professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil from 2005 to 2007, and a junior researcher at the Instituto de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) in Brazil from 2002 to 2004. He earned a doctoral degree in mathematics at IMPA in 2001 and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mathematics at UFRGS in 1997 and 1996, respectively.  


Sarang Gopalakrishnan, assistant professor of physics, studies the dynamics of quantum systems with many interreacting particles—many-body systems—that are not at equilibrium, which could have implications for quantum optics, quantum magnets, semiconductors, and other physical systems. Experiments have revealed a variety of phenomena that occur in nonequilibrium systems, but researchers have struggled to explain them with theory. Gopalakrishnan is interested in improving theory and predictions in this area and in exploring other unanswered questions in many-body physics.

Gopalakrishnan’s previous honors include a Kavili Institute for Theoretical Physics Graduate Fellowship from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2010, and many awards from Amherst College, including the Forris Jewett Moore Alumni Fellowship in 2007, the William Warren Stifler Prize in Physics in 2006, the Wood-Travis Prize in 2006, the Addison-Brown Scholarship in 2006, and the Bertram Prize in Latin in 2006. His work has been published in journals such as Science, Nature Physics, Physical Review Letters, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Gopalakrishnan was an assistant professor of physics at the City University of New York (CUNY) College of Staten Island from 2016 to 2021, a Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology from 2015 to 2016, and a Harvard Quantum Optics Center Prize Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University from 2012 to 2015. He earned doctoral and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and 2009, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics at Amherst College in 2006.

Heike Pfau

Heike Pfau, assistant professor of physics, studies materials with unique electronic properties, including those that can develop novel phenomena and unconventional electronic phases, such as superconductivity, heavy fermion behavior, nematicity, and quantum criticality. To better understand these phenomena, Pfau uses an imaging technique called angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy as well as low-temperature transport and thermodynamic probes.

Pfau has published her research in journals such as Nature, Physical Review Letters, and Physical Review B. She was awarded a DFG Research Fellowship from the German Science Foundation in 2018, an Otto-Hahn Medal from the Max-Planck Society in 2016, a Springer Thesis Award in 2016, and a Feodor-Lynen Fellowship from the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation in 2015.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Pfau was a postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2019 to 2020 and at Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory from 2015 to 2021. She received doctoral and diploma degrees in physics from Technical University Dresden in Germany in 2015 and 2010, respectively. 

Naser Talebizedeh Sardari with sunset

Naser Talebizedeh Sardari, assistant professor of mathematics, is a number theorist who studies topics related to quadratic forms, strong approximation, and the theory of automorphic forms. Sardari is also interested in the quantum gates model and navigation algorithms with arithmetic generators.

Sardari’s previous awards and honors included a AMS Simons Travel Grant from 2018 to 2020, the MSRI Uhlenbeck Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017, the Trinity College Studentship in Mathematics from 2010 to 2011.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Sardari was a postdoctoral fellow Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonne, Germany, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, from 2019 to 2021. He was Van Vleck Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 2016 to 2019 and a postdoctoral fellow at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California, in 2017. He earned a doctoral degree in mathematics at Princeton University in 2016, a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Cambridge in the UK in 2011, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in mathematics at Sharif University Tehran, Iran, in 2010 and 2009, respectively.

Ashley Villar

Ashley Villar, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, uses a data-driven approach and machine learning to study the dramatic deaths of stars through collisions and explosions and how these events inform our understanding of the late stages of stellar evolution. She studies multimessenger astrophysics, primarily relying on broadband ultraviolet, optical, and infrared light curves, paired with analytical models, to understand the physical engines and astrophysical progenitors of extragalactic transients—astronomical events that last a short time.

Villar’s previous awards and honors include a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship from 2019 to 2020, the MIT/Stanford Rising Star in Physics in 2019, a Harvard Merit/Graduate Society Research Fellowship in 2018, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship from 2014 to 2017, and the Harvard James Mills Peirce Fellowship, Albert G. Hill Prize, and Joel Matthew Orloff Award in 2014.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Villar was a Simons Junior Fellow at Columbia University from 2020 to 2021. She earned a doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Harvard University in 2020 and a bachelor’s degree in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014.

Ruobo Zhou

Ruobo Zhou, assistant professor of chemistry, studies the clustering behaviors of proteins and RNA involved in fundamental cell functions. These behaviors, such as the sorting of proteins and RNA into nano- and micro-sized compartments to facilitate cellular function, are observed in a wide variety of biological processes, and dysregulation of these behaviors has been linked to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, such as super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and transcriptome-scale imaging, Zhou seeks to elucidate the origin, structure, and function of these clustering behaviors and understand how they respond to changing conditions during growth, development, and disease.

Zhou has published his research in journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Chemical Biology, Cell, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. His previous honors include a Life Sciences Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, from 2014 to 2017 and a National Science Foundation Center for the Physics of Living Cells Fellowship in 2012. 

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Zhou was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. He earned a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in applied physics at the University of Science and Technology of China in 2006.