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School of Science Welcomes Eight New Faculty Members


The School of Science is pleased to welcome eight new faculty members for the 2018-2019 academic year.  Brief biographical sketches are listed below.


Eight New Faculty Members
L-R: Melkamu Woldemariam (Biology), Zaara Sarwar (Biology), John DeGood (Computer Science), Sharif Mohammad Shahnewaz Ferdous (Computer Science), Timur Akhunov (Mathematics & Statistics), Rebecca Triano (Chemistry), David Kamber (Chemistry). Not pictured: Jeff Charney (Physics).


Timur Akhunov (Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics) is a mathematician focusing on nonlinear waves.  He discovered that educators in general, and mathematicians more specifically, are nice people during his BA/MA at the SUNY Buffalo. The rest was history. More precisely, his Ph.D. at the University at Chicago focused on partial differential equations of wave type.  For example, what is the difference between a tsunami wave and a wake of a boat? During his postdoctoral work in Calgary (Canada) Rochester (NY), and Binghamton (NY) Dr. Akhunov expanded his research to hypoellipticity, which can be described as: what happens if rays of light take infinitely long to reach a star. On a day-to-day level that mostly involves changing variables and integrating by parts, while hoping for the best. In 2015 he completed “Project NExT Fellowship” sponsored by the American Mathematical Society/Mathematical Association of America, learning a lot about innovative pedagogy and joining a network of educators passionate about teaching. Dr. Akhunov loves multivariable calculus and has taught most introductory courses as well as transitions to advanced mathematics, analysis, and financial mathematics. He has mentored over a dozen students, most recently supervising a project on modeling the flow of traffic.


Jeff Charney (Visiting Assistant Professor of Physics) is a science education researcher and teacher/administrator educator.  After completing his Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources at the University of Michigan, he taught high school Biology in Englewood, New Jersey.  He attended graduate school at New York University where he completed a masters degree in Field Biology.  He completed his doctorate in Science Education with a focus on how novice learners process complex information in enriched science environments.  He has served as an Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and Science Supervisor/Director of Educational Technology in several New Jersey school districts and has focused on teacher-led professional development as a vehicle for educational reform.  He supervises pre-service science teachers in the field, acting as a mentor and evaluator.  He has published in the area of science learning and teaching.


John DeGood (Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science) is a computer scientist specializing in real-time embedded systems and computer security.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry followed by graduate study in Electrical Engineering at the Missouri University of Science of Technology.  He spent the next 19 years in R&D (research and development) at Hewlett-Packard (now Agilent) helping develop three generations of gas chromatography products.  He proposed and led the development of Agilent’s first PC-based chromatography data acquisition and analysis product line.  While at Agilent, John earned a Master of Science in Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Delaware.  He then spent eight years at Sarnoff Corporation (now SRI International) in a broad range of research including software defined radio, ad hoc networking, and high-performance computing.  He then joined the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories where he performed government-funded computer security research for 15 years. John was an adjunct professor of Computer Science at TCNJ in the 2017-2018 academic year.


David Kamber (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry / Teacher-Scholar Fellow) is a chemical biologist. He received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Benedictine University, where he worked on the synthesis of transition metal complexes with redox-active ligands. He completed his doctoral degree at the University of California, Irvine. For his Ph.D., he worked on the development of new chemical reagents for the site-specific labeling of biomolecules and live cells. In 2016, he undertook a postdoctoral position at Yale University, where he worked on the development of an in silico method to discover potent and selective ligands to target G-protein coupled receptors. While at Yale, he also participated in teaching workshops and outreach activities as a Yale Scientific Teaching Fellow.


Sharif Mohammad Shahnewaz Ferdous (Assistant Professor of Computer Science) is a computer scientist specializing in virtual reality, augmented reality, and game development.  He received his bachelor’s degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in Computer Science and Engineering and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio. His research interests focus on using virtual reality and gaming to help improve quality of life for people with special needs.  In particular, his dissertation focused on improving postural stability in virtual and augmented reality for people with balance impairments.  He is experienced in interdisciplinary research activities and collaborates with kinesiologists, health care professionals, and first responders.  He has published in peer-reviewed conferences, served as a program committee member in international workshops, and applied for a U.S. patent based on his work.


Zaara Sarwar (Assistant Professor of Biology) is a microbiologist and biochemist. She received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Mathematics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.  She then earned her Ph.D. in Structural Biology, Biochemistry, and Biophysics from Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY.  During her Ph.D. work, she studied regulation of biofilm formation in the predatory bacterium Myxococcus xanthus.  As a postdoctoral fellow at State University of New York (SUNY)–College of Environmental Science and Forestry, her research focused on understanding the role of signal transduction networks in virulence in the pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  Her current research aims to understand the mechanisms of signal transduction and gene regulation in pathogens in order to understand the molecular basis of virulence and identify potential therapeutic targets.  Zaara is passionate about mentoring students in research, and she has designed her research program to provide undergraduates with a comprehensive and multidisciplinary experience in cutting edge research in microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry.


Rebecca M. Triano (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry) is an organic chemist and chemistry educator.  Rebecca received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Fordham University and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California–Berkeley, where she was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.  After completing her doctoral degree, which focused on synthetic supramolecular systems, Rebecca served as Lecturer of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and as an Adjunct Professor in Chemistry at Diablo Valley College.  As a graduate student, she collaborated on a major project to publish and implement a new General Chemistry curriculum for non-majors at UC Berkeley.  This curriculum aimed to meet the needs of all students, including those balancing classes with athletic activities, jobs, or other responsibilities outside academics.  Her experiences in both research and education, have taught Rebecca how to design more engaging, collaborative classroom environments, where students can learn how to think about chemistry instead of memorizing facts.


Melkamu Woldemariam (Assistant Professor of Biology) is a plant biologist specializing in molecular and chemical ecology.  After receiving his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, he worked as a lecturer and researcher at the Mekelle University (Ethiopia) for four years.  Then, he joined the Fredrich-Schiller University and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (Jena, Germany), where he earned his Ph.D.  He then worked at the Boyce Thompson Institute (Ithaca, NY) for four years first as a post-doctoral researcher, and briefly, as a Research Associate before joining TCNJ as a visiting assistant professor.  His research utilizes large-scale metabolomics and transcriptomics analysis and quantitative genetics approaches to identify novel regulatory genes that orchestrate plant defense responses against insect herbivores.  He has published in the area in peer-reviewed scientific publications.


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