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School of Science Welcomes 11 New Full-time Faculty Members

The School of Science is pleased to welcome 11 new full-time faculty members for Fall 2019.  Brief biographical sketches are listed below.

Front Row (left to right): Levi Ekanger, Brian O’Neill, Rebecca Hunter, and Zach Grochau-Wright; Back Row (left to right): Edward Voskanian, Gregory Stock, Shannon Graham, Lauranne Lanz, and Donna Bassolino; Not Pictured: Bill Franczak and Glenn Rhoads.

Donna Bassolino (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry) is a biophysical chemist and chemistry educator.  She received her Bachelors in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Rutgers University. She continued at Rutgers for a Ph.D. in Biophysical Chemistry on a Supercomputer Fellowship. After a post-doc at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), she joined BMS’s Department of Macromolecular Structure where she worked for 14 years. Donna’s research interests include the structure and dynamics of biologically relevant molecules including lipid membranes, drug permeation, and drug delivery. She is also interested in the dynamics of enzyme-substrate complexes, particularly in the area of drug discovery. Some of her other interests include food chemistry and metabolism. She has published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and has presented work at regional and national meetings. She served as Chair or the Trenton Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) as well as Co-chair of ACS Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting. Donna has taught General Chemistry and Biochemistry at TCNJ as well as chemistry, and physics at other local colleges. She is interested in developing new methods to improve the general chemistry classroom experience and passing on the love of science to future students. Her background in pharmaceuticals enables her to bring real world examples and case studies into the classroom.

Levi Ekanger (Assistant Professor of Chemistry) is a bioinorganic chemist. He received a B.S. in Chemistry (American Chemical Society Certified) with a Mathematics minor from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI and a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. During his doctoral career, Levi synthesized and characterized lanthanide-containing complexes to detect tumor necrosis in carcinoma models using magnetic resonance imaging. Levi then performed research at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA as an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow. At Caltech, Levi studied the interaction between the signaling molecule nitric oxide and the iron-sulfur cluster of a bacterial DNA repair enzyme. During his time at Caltech, Levi designed and instructed a special topics course for undergraduate students on the topic of metals in medicine. His interdisciplinary research program at TCNJ aims to discover fundamental chemical principles of iron-sulfur cluster repair in proteins because this process contributes to the virulence of many pathogenic bacteria.

Bill Franczak (Visiting Assistant Professor in Mathematics) is a pure mathematician specializing in algorithmic randomness – the study of attempting to quantify the amount of randomness that a sequence exhibits according to the constructs of computability theory. Bill earned his Bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and computer science from TCNJ, and went on to earn his Ph.D. In mathematics from Lehigh University.

Shannon Graham (Assistant Professor of Physics) is a geophysicist specializing in crustal deformation and earthquake cycle modeling. She earned her Ph.D. in Geophysics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where her dissertation focused on combining geodetic and seismic data to constrain slip on faults due to earthquakes, afterslip, and slow slip events in Mexico and Central America. During her Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University, she developed a global block model, using techniques often associated with regional geodetic earthquake cycle studies, to study Earth in its entirety – estimating seismic potential and slip partitioning between complex networks of faults. Using computer-based models at both the regional and global scale, she strives to answer questions regarding how motion is accommodated across plate boundaries and what impact it has on both future earthquakes and the seismic hazard for local communities. Prior to joining TCNJ she was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology at Boston College. Dr. Graham is an enthusiastic professor and loves teaching students about the planet we all call home.

Zach Grochau-Wright (Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology/Teacher-Scholar Faculty Fellow) is an evolutionary biologist and astrobiologist. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology with an Ecology emphasis from Humboldt State University, and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Astrobiology from the University of Arizona. His research uses the volvocine green algae as a model system for studying the evolution of multicellular life and the major transitions in evolution. In particular, he is interested in understanding how the genetic and developmental programs that control multicellular development and cellular differentiation evolved during the transition from single-celled life to multicellular life. Zach is also passionate about science education and outreach. As a graduate student, he developed new teaching and laboratory activities for several courses and helped renovate a major evolutionary biology course in his department. He also organized K-12 and public outreach events with local school districts and non-profits in the Tucson area and is currently serving on the Communication and Outreach Subcommittee of the Genetic Society of America’s Early Career Leadership Program.

Rebecca Hunter (Assistant Professor of Chemistry) is a bioanalytical chemist specializing in sensor development, nanotoxicity, and nitric oxide-releasing materials. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Hood College in Frederick, MD, and went on to receive her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNC, she worked on the development of electrochemical sensors for the measurement of nitric oxide in complex biological systems, which included collaborations with the medical school and burn intensive care unit (ICU). Dr. Hunter’s current research focuses on the fabrication of sensor platforms to monitor real-time signaling changes of immune cells exposed to engineered nanoparticles and fibers, as well as the development of nanomaterials for antimicrobial and beer brewing applications. In addition to her research, she is passionate about developing new active learning materials to engage students and create a more inclusive classroom environment. Prior to her arrival at TCNJ, Dr. Hunter was an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at The Citadel, a senior military college in Charleston, SC.

Lauranne Lanz (Assistant Professor of Physics) is an observational astronomer, specializing in the evolution of galaxies and their supermassive black holes. She earned bachelor degrees in physics and astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park and a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University. Her thesis focused on the evolution of star formation over the course of galaxy mergers. Following her doctorate, she was a post-doctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, where she examined the effect of supermassive black hole activity via jets on the gas and star-forming ability of their host galaxies. Most recently, she was a post-doctoral researcher at Dartmouth College, studying the nuclear regions of galaxies and developing a research program focused on the role of supermassive black hole activity in the evolution of galaxies. She uses a variety of ground- and space-based telescopes at a range of wavelengths to investigate the stellar and gas contents of galaxies, the formation of stars in these galaxies, and their supermassive black holes. Dr. Lanz has previously worked with students, ranging from high school to graduate school, on projects investigating these questions.

Brian O’Neill (Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology) is a neuroscientist interested in various psychiatric disorders related to a single common neurotransmitter: dopamine.  He received a B.S. in chemical biology from Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ) and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH).  He had a stay at New York University (New York, NY) as a postdoctoral researcher and again at Stevens, as a teacher and researcher.  He helped train five graduate students in the techniques involved in their dissertation projects, and he has published scientific reports with most of them – as well as with one rare undergraduate working at NYU medical center.  He is passionate about influencing the public to view addiction and other psychological perturbations as disorders with a biological basis – and hopes to continue this discourse and research with the many undergraduates at TCNJ.

Glenn Rhoads (Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science) is a computer scientist whose general area of interest is algorithms. He earned a B.S. in mathematics from Allegheny College. He worked in the computer industry for a few years at a couple of intelligence and defense contractors before returning to graduate school. He earned his doctorate in computer science at Rutgers University, studying planar tilings with world famous mathematician John Conway. Dr. Rhoads has taught undergraduate computer science full time at Rutgers-Newark (NJ), Bridgewater State University (MA), and Susquehanna University (PA). He has also taught online at the University of Maryland. He is primarily interested in teaching with research interests in anything that has the flavor of recreational mathematics.

Gregory Stock (Visiting Assistant Professor of Statistics) is an applied mathematician whose work is at the interface of stochastic optimization and statistical inference. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s degree in stochastic systems, and a Ph.D. in Pure and Applied Mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology. After receiving a second master’s degree in Statistics from Rutgers University, he became a founding member of the Red Hawk Mathematics Learning Center at Montclair State University, where he designed and taught web-based courses in mathematics and statistics. Upon earning his Ph.D., he accepted a 2-year visiting position at Lehigh University where he taught courses in biostatistics, introductory statistics, and sophomore-level probability and statistics. Recent results of his research include application to the estimation of optimal portfolios from empirical stock data. Future directions for research include applications to machine learning and neuroscience. 

Edward Voskanian (Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics/Teacher-Scholar Faculty Fellow) is a pure mathematician specializing in mathematical analysis. In 2011, Dr. Voskanian earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Fullerton. Then in 2013, he earned his master’s degree in mathematics from California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Voskanian went on to complete his Ph.D. in June 2019 at the University of California, Riverside, where his research focused on mathematical quasicrystals and fractal geometry. He is a dedicated teacher who enjoys experimenting with innovative lecturing styles.

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