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Meet Our New Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty

The college is welcoming eight new tenured and tenure-track faculty members to our ranks in 2019-20. Meet these extraordinary scientists, and find out why they’re excited to join the Wolfpack.

Mohammad FarazmandMohammad Farazmand
Title: Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Research Focus: I work on a range of problems in applied mathematics such as dynamical systems, optimization and control. But mostly I focus on understanding, predicting and mitigating extreme events in nature and in engineering. These events, such as rogue waves, extreme weather events and epileptic seizures, have adverse consequences. It is very important to be able to predict them and, if possible, mitigate them by disrupting the mechanisms that contribute to their formation.
Why NC State?: The university has a rapidly growing reputation for excellence in scientific research, and the Department of Mathematics is very strong both in teaching and in research. The active scientific community in the Research Triangle is ideal for an early-career assistant professor.


Sebastian KoenigSebastian Koenig (starting January 2020)
Title: Assistant Professor, Physics
Research Focus: My research focuses on understanding the force that binds protons and neutrons together into atomic nuclei. I am particularly interested in aspects that are universal in the sense that they apply to very different systems — not limited to nuclear physics — at the same time. My research addresses fundamental questions (like what governs the matter that we and the world are made of) by solving concrete, practical problems. It is fascinating to see complex phenomena emerge out of seemingly simple scenarios.
Why NC State?: I am excited to join an outstanding research institution in a thriving location that I already had the pleasure of visiting as a student for a couple of weeks in 2012. I look forward to working with the great team in my department and the excellent students at NC State.


Yerkin KitapbayevYerkin Kitapbayev
Title: Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Research Focus: In my research I apply probability theory methods to solve optimization problems under uncertainty. Applications include finance and economics problems involving risky projects like fossil fuel plants or green energy. I am also interested in the pricing of complex financial derivative and mortgage contracts.
Why NC State?: I’m impressed by the department’s excellent research and the university’s growth and promotion of interdisciplinary work. I’m looking forward to collaborating with my colleagues and teaching in the Master of Financial Mathematics program.


Ryan MurrayRyan Murray
Title: Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Research Focus: I use tools from mathematical analysis to study a variety of problems from physics, engineering and statistics. Recently, I’ve been developing mathematical tools to provide performance and robustness guarantees for machine-learning algorithms. I’m excited about using (and advancing) tools from math to provide a better understanding of real-world problems.
Why NC State?: I was attracted to NC State for a number of reasons: the strong math and statistics departments, the focus on applied fields, the friendly faculty, the diverse student body. The warm weather and opportunities to collaborate around the Research Triangle certainly were also attractive. I’m excited to meet and work with the great scientists and students at NC State.


Lewis OwenLewis A. Owen
Title: Professor and Department Head, Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences
Research Focus: I work on understanding past and present environmental change, landscape evolution and geohazards along active plate margins in groups of mountain ranges all over the world. Work in these areas is important for understanding how our planet evolves and aiding in geologic hazard mitigation and sustainable development in some of the most populated areas of our planet.
Why NC State?: I was attracted by the prospect of working with the very diverse and talented students, faculty and staff at NC State. In particular, leading one of the largest geoscience departments in the nation is a great honor as we all work to help address many of the grand environmental challenges facing us in the coming years. And being in North Carolina affords me the chance to work on geoscience projects locally in a wide range of environments, from the coast to the mountains, and to apply this knowledge to national and international concerns.


Minh TangMinh Tang
Title: Assistant Professor, Statistics
Research Focus: My research involves analysis of social networks. Examples of problems I am trying to solve include finding groups of individuals who are most similar, finding occurrences of anomalous patterns (such as the formation or splitting of a community) over time on a dynamic network, and determining whether two social networks (such as Instagram and Facebook) have similar social structures.
Why NC State?: I am particularly attracted to NC State’s motto, “Think and Do.” The Department of Statistics has a long and well-regarded history, stellar undergraduates and graduate students, and a congenial and inclusive culture. I am especially excited to collaborate with my colleagues and students on the abundance of interesting open problems in my current field of research.


Jonathan WilliamsJonathan Williams
Title: Assistant Professor, Statistics
Research Focus: I am interested in developing statistical methods and tools that are useful for advancing data-driven science. Currently, I am most excited about a research project in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic to develop a statistical model for detecting internal bleeding events in real time in an intensive care unit and making data-driven decisions about when to transfuse a patient with blood products. The methodology I am developing falls within the broad categories of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Why NC State?: I was most attracted to the quality and diversity of the research environment, and I’m excited about my future research collaborations with the faculty and students. It is amazing to think that I will have an office in the same building as some of the most prominent statistics professors of my time. Additionally, the Triangle is a great place to live and work, and North Carolina has mountains, an ocean coastline and beautiful winters.


Christina ZakasChristina Zakas
Title: Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
Research Focus: I am broadly interested in understanding the evolution of life history strategies and developmental processes. To understand how the environment influences genetic variation, I use an integrative approach combining genomics, population genetics and evolutionary developmental biology. I use marine invertebrates as model systems because they have a wide array of fascinating developmental modes. By studying organisms with atypical reproductive and developmental strategies, I can learn about the rules that govern major evolutionary transitions.
Why NC State?: I received my bachelor’s degree just down the road at UNC-Chapel Hill, and I am looking forward to coming back to the Triangle with new skills, knowledge and research projects. I am excited for opportunities to work collaboratively with other labs across the university. My work is interdisciplinary, and I want to draw from the expertise in many different fields at NC State.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.