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New faculty members enhance UTSC community

by Eleni Kanavas

The University of Toronto Scarborough welcomes a slate of talented new individuals this fall to its teaching and research roster. These academics bring with them specialized knowledge of areas that run the gamut from the physical structure of hummingbirds to black Canadian cultural studies to statistical probabilities in mathematics.

"The incredible range of specialties represented by the faculty who are joining us will greatly enrich our campus community," says Professor Rick Halpern, dean and vice-principal (academic). "These individuals are at the top of the class. They have been recruited from around the world, and we’re fortunate to have them at UTSC."

Below are descriptions that provide a brief glimpse of 19 new full-time hires to both the teaching and research streams. Their names are: Aarthi Ashok; Johann Bayer; Christine Ann Berkowitz; Shelley Brunt; Marc Cadotte; Ling Cen; Girish Daswani; Maria Dittrich; Yi Gu; Karolina Huebner; Marney Isaac; Kagan Kerman; Ata Mazaheri; Mike Moras; Elizabeth Page-Gould; Jin-Kyung Park; Alejandro Paz; Mahinda Samarakoon; Effiette Sauer; Daniel Scott Tysdal; Karina Vernon; Kenneth Welch Jr.; and Xiao-an Zhang. They are profiled in alphabetical order.

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Aarthi Ashok

Aarthi Ashok recently joined the biological sciences department. She is interested in the cell biology of human genetic diseases, and focuses on genetically-inherited prion diseases (progressive conditions that affect the brain and nervous system.) She also studies: protein biogenesis and intracellular transport; the folding and maturation of glycoproteins; and intracellular trafficking of human pathogens. She studied at the University in Sheffield in England, earned her PhD in molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry from Rhode Island’s Brown University, and conducted postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health in the United States. "I am fascinated by most topics in biology, and I’m very eager to pass on this fascination to my students," she says. "I like to offer the metaphor of teacher as team captain. In such a role, I can create an atmosphere where learning is a group activity, one from which I am not exempt. I believe in creating a learning environment in which students are not given the answers but are taught how to seek answers to both existing questions or to ones that they coin."
BSc, PhD (Brown)


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Johann Bayer

Johann Bayer is an astrophysicist who studies the process of gravitational lensing (when light from a bright and distant source is "bent" around a large object). He is currently working on a paper about simulations that characterize lensing systems that exhibit the maximum number of images. Bayer says that what excites him most about his research is "pushing the boundaries on the details of a theory and testing the strange and interesting cases that nature gives us to explore." He will be teaching several courses in physics, physical sciences and astronomy within the physical and environmental sciences department.
BSc, MSc, PhD (Toronto)


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Christine Ann
Berkowitz

Christine Ann Berkowitz specializes in modern North American labour and working class history. She is in the final stage of writing Railroad Crossings: Railway Workers and the Transnational World of North America, 1877-1910. This project expands on her dissertation and explores labour migration, working-class culture and borderland identities in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, with a comparative examination of Mexican-U.S. and Canadian-U.S borderlands. Crossing between three nations and questioning categories such as race, citizenship and nation, Berkowitz studies workers relationally – to their families, fellows and communities, and to larger processes, capitalist expansion and nation-building. Berkowitz has taught general humanities, world history and American studies and has teaching expertise in Canadian and U.S. universities. She will be teaching history courses within the humanities department. She says "what we choose to learn is fundamentally connected to who we are, and as a result, all learning – to be meaningful – must in some way relate to an individual’s experience and way of understanding the world."
B.A., PhD (Toronto)


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Shelley Brunt

Shelley Brunt has joined the department of biological sciences as a lecturer. Her teaching and research interests centre on molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying development, with a specific interest in unicellular eukaryotes (organisms containing a cell type with specialized organelles in the cytoplasm.) She has been teaching various courses in a sessional capacity at UTSC since 1999. Her research focuses on the role of molecular chaperones (proteins) in the development, regulation of gene expression, fungal and protist (simple organism) development and microbiology.


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Marc Cadotte

Community ecologist Marc Cadotte focuses his research on understanding the ecological drivers of changes in diversity (extinctions and invasions) in plant communities and studies the consequences of these changes. He plans to develop a series of experiments at the U of T’s Koffler Scientific Reserve, a biological field station at Jokers Hill in King City, Ont., where he aims to disentangle the role of species differences and the number of species in regulating community processes and in resisting invasions. Cadotte says that with every experiment performed, our understanding of nature changes and our knowledge increases. He will work in the area of ecology and evolutionary biology within the biological sciences department. For more details, visit his web site: www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~mcadotte.
BSc, MSc, PhD (Tennessee)


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Ling Cen

Management professor Ling Cen studies behavioural finance with research interest in analyst behaviours, equity issuance (IPOS and SEO) and information diffusion mechanism between vertically-related firms. Joining the management department as an assistant professor, Cen will be teaching courses in finance. His previous experience includes teaching at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, the University of Toronto and at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Cen says he strives in his teaching to "keep a balance between students’ interest in the course material and providing the knowledge in an optimal way – that’s the key to being a good teacher." The best part of his research, he explains, is how financial practitioners can explicitly test his theories by carrying out relevant trading strategies. Therefore, his "research is able to link the beauty of theories with the wisdom of real-world practice."
B.Sc, M.Sc, PhD (Hong Kong)


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Social anthropologist Girish Daswani focuses on the West African country of Ghana, including religion and Pentecostal Christianity in Ghana, transnational and diasporic networks and area concerns in that country and among the Ghanaian diaspora of England and North America. He has been teaching several classes in socio-cultural anthropology in our social sciences department since 2007. Daswani is the assistant coordinator of UTSC’s emerging Centre for Ethnography, which organizes seminars titled ‘Ethnographies of the City’ featuring prominent speakers. In his teaching, he says he aims to encourage students to critically engage with academic material by linking readings with contemporary social issues and by drawing from personal experiences so that students can apply classroom learning to their own surroundings. Daswani is the recipient of a research grant from the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) for a project titled "Citizenship and Suburban Space: Intersections of Housing, Services, Identity and Belonging for Newcomers in Kingston/Galloway/Orton Park, Scarborough." This research examines the spatial distribution, housing contexts and everyday citizenship practices of newcomers to these neighbourhoods.
BSc, BSc (Hon.), MSc, PhD (London)



Maria Dittrich

Aquatic ecologist Maria Dittrich joins the physical and environmental sciences department. A Russian-born German citizen, Dittrich most recently served as head of a research group at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in aquatic science. Her current research focuses on calcite biomineralization by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and diagenetic modeling of anaerobic sediments (which involves the physical and chemical changes occurring in sediments between the times of deposition and solidification). She applies novel microscopic and spectroscopic methods in biogeochemistry. She has taught courses ranging from field excursions in marine geomicrobiology to lectures on biogeochemical cycles. Following her PhD dissertation in water management from Berlin’s Humboldt University through the Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Dittrich worked as an assistant professor and as head of the Biomineralization Research Group at its Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology. Prior to that, she earned a double major in solid state physics and theoretical physics from Moscow State University, where she focused on electron structures in nickel, copper and their alloys. For more information, visit her web site at www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~mdittrich
MSc, PhD (Humboldt)


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Yi Gu

Yi Gu specializes in late 19th Century and 20th century Chinese art and visual culture. She is teaching courses in the humanities department on art and visual culture in Asia, especially modern and contemporary China. Her research interests include the history of perception, cultural translation, the relationship between art replication technologies and canon formation, and the historiography of art. Gu’s dissertation, "Scientizing Vision in China: Photography, Outdoor Sketching, and the Reinvention of Landscape Perception, 1912-1949," examines how traditional style painters altered the ways artists perceived and depicted nature by anchoring their practice in outdoor sketching. This dissertation restores to this group of painters their role as agents of change and provides an alternative account of modern Chinese art history and culture. Gu is currently developing a new project, "AssassiNation: Photography, Political Violence, and the 1911 Revolution" which investigates how changes in display technology mediated public opinion on body, violence, and justice during China’s transition from an imperial dynasty to a republic. "I strive to reveal to students the contingent of nature values and at the same time convince them of the importance of making commitments," Gu says. She is also the recipient of a number of grants including the Harvard-Yenching doctoral fellowship.
BA, MA, PhD (Brown)


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Karolina Huebner

Karolina Huebner has joined the humanities department as an assistant professor. She is teaching introductory courses in ancient philosophy and early modern philosophy and rationalism. Huebner is an advanced graduate student in the University of Chicago’s department of philosophy, and is scheduled to receive her PhD in February 2010. Huebner’s areas of specialization are Spinoza, early modern philosophy, and the history of metaphysics. Her dissertation is titled "Spinoza on Substance as Cause." At present, she is working on articles that offer new interpretations of several of Spinoza’s basic metaphysical concepts, in particular, the concepts of cause, essence, and finite individuality.
BA, PhD (Chicago)


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Marney Isaac

Marney Isaac’s research into tropical agricultural forestry systems has often taken her out into the field, where she applies ecological principles to agricultural landscapes with particular attention to identifying and developing strategies for conservation, management and system resilience. Although most of her research examines tropical systems, she is expanding to new sites internationally and within Canada. She has joined the physical and environmental sciences department, and is developing a research program in the southern Ontario agricultural and agro-forestry landscape, seeking low-input practices to minimize fertilization and reduce soil and water contamination while maintaining system productivity. "Student-centered experiential learning is central to my teaching, and I attempt to maintain an interactive environment for students," Isaac says. "I find great value in a pedagogical approach that provides students with a challenging and motivating experience." She is also a postdoctoral fellow at CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement) in Montpellier, France. For more details, visit her web site:
http://www.resalliance.org/4953.php
Bsc, MSc, PhD, (Toronto)


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Kagan Kerman

Kagan Kerman studies biological and analytical chemistry with a particular focus on biological events that will advance scientific understanding of the progress of AIDS and neurodegenerative diseases. He specifically analyzes the optical and electrochemical properties of biological molecules on solid surfaces. Kerman is the latest recipient of the Biomedical Young Investigator Award from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, which has encouraged him to further his research on that debilitating disease. Born and raised in Turkey, he earned two degrees from that country’s Aegean University. He also worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology at Osaka University, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Western Ontario before joining UTSC in October 2008. Kerman will be teaching chemistry courses to senior-year students in the physical and environmental sciences department. He likes to teach "what I find exciting and new to my students, so my lecture notes change and evolve all the time. In the field of chemistry, there are new discoveries every day, and I try to convey this to my students." For more details, visit his web site:www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kkerman
BSc, MSc, PhD (Japan)


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Ata Mazaheri

Economics professor Ata Mazaheri has joined the department of management. He focuses his research on finance, quantitative methods and development. He spent several years doing research with the World Bank and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) after completing his dissertation in economics at the University of Toronto. He and his colleague Dipak Mazumdar have published two books related to business in the developing world, The African Manufacturing Sector: An Analysis Based on Firm Surveys in Seven Countries, and Wages and Employment in Africa. They are currently working to complete their third book, Globalization and Inequality in Southeast Asia: A Comparative Study. Mazaheri has spent several years teaching part-time at U of T campuses, and will be teaching economics courses at UTSC.
BA, MA, PhD (Toronto)


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Mike Moras

Mike Moras’ interest in the mathematical field of probability has led to research that measures valued Markov processes (a mathematical model) such as Super Brownian motion. His dissertation focused on issues related to probability in mathematics, particularly on conditioning the process on non-extinction in Denjoy domains and strips in the plane. Moras has been a visiting lecturer at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Asked about his teaching philosophy, he quotes the Hungarian mathematician George Polya, a noted expert on the process of problem solving. "Polya describes the pleasure of solving a problem -- however modest -- by your own means. I couldn’t agree more." Moras joins the computer and mathematical sciences department at UTSC as a lecturer teaching courses in statistics.
BCom, MSc, PhD (York)


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Elizabeth Page-Gould

Elizabeth Page-Gould is a social psychologist who has done postdoctoral research as a mind-brain-behaviour research fellow in the psychology department at Harvard University. Her research examines the psycho-physiological and social cognitive methods of "dyadic" interactions -- social interactions between two people. Page-Gould is the recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, among many other awards. She joins the psychology department and will be teaching an introductory course in social psychology this fall. She says that "educational environments that encourage students to take multiple perspectives and think about set knowledge in new ways are the key to unlocking individual potential." Research, in turn, is "one of the most exciting and fulfilling endeavours a human being can have," and she enjoys basic science and its contributions to the human knowledge base. Visit her web site for more details at: www.page-gould.com
BSc, PhD (University of California-Berkeley)


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Jin-Kyung Park

Jin-Kyung Park examines cultural studies and gender with a focus on Korea and East Asia. A new addition to the humanities department, she will teach courses in global Asia studies and women’s studies. She describes her teaching as grounded in feminist history and cultural studies, with courses that aim to interrogate the historical, social and cultural formations of gender differences and seek diversity. Park is currently working on her first book, titled Corporeal Colonialism: Medicine, Women’s Health, and the Management of Racial Ambiguity in Colonial Korea and the Japanese Empire. Her next project will examine the cultural history of reproductive technologies and fertility in modern Korea. Born in South Korea, she is a postdoctoral fellow in the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California and a lecturer in the division of international and area studies at the University of California, Berkeley, following two degrees from the University of Illinois. Park was awarded the 2008-2009 postdoctoral fellowship from the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California.
BA, MA, MSc, PhD (Illinois)


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Alejandro Paz

Alejandro Paz studies Latin American labour migrants in Israel. To date, his research on these non-Jewish migrants and their offspring has focused broadly on the transformations to language in the process of immigration to a nation-state and examines language use in domestic settings, institutions of socialization (such as schools) and through small and mass media. Paz is currently a PhD candidate in anthropology and linguistics at the University of Chicago. "Research is an opportunity to bring interesting case studies to bear in large scale debates that are occurring not only in academia, but more generally throughout the public sphere," he explained. His article "The Circulation of Chisme and Rumor: Gossip, Evidentiality and Authority in the Perspective of Latino Labor Migrants in Israel" won the Sapir Graduate Student Paper Prize in Linguistic Anthropology, and is appearing in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (2009). Paz says he "enjoys working closely with students on cases and showing them how the theory covered in class provides a relevant analytical framework." As he continues to consider the effects of the circulation of people and discourse on language, he will begin observing how certain sites have become central to the effects of English on Hebrew, the national language of Israel.
BA, MA, PhD (Chicago)


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Mahinda Samarakoon

Mahinda Samarakoon joins the computer and mathematical sciences department, where he will be teaching several courses in statistics and statistical analysis. He studies limit theory in mathematics for heavy tailed stochastic processes, and his research focus is on developing large sample distribution theory for models with heavy tails -- work which aims to address the limitations on the application of certain mathematical models, especially in modeling financial and econometric variables. Samarakoon says his approach to teaching puts the emphasis on "clear and precise thinking. I keep this in mind whenever I’m teaching and make every possible effort to develop the students’ independent thinking ability."
MSc, PhD (Toronto)


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Effiette Sauer

Chemistry lecturer Effiette Sauer’s research interests lie in the areas of organic synthesis, as well as some emerging aspects of green chemistry such as bi-phasic "on water" reactions (reactions taking place on the surface of water ). She was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University and held a position as an adjunct professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she taught chemistry. As part of the physical and environmental sciences department, Sauer will teach introductory chemistry courses and supervise fourth-year students in a directed research course. "Chemistry can be very exciting, with applications that are all around us," she says. "By making these connections to the lives of my students, and by sharing my own enthusiasm for the subject with them, I aspire to transform their minds and convince them that chemistry is exciting and worthwhile." For more details, visit her web site: www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~esauer.
BSc (Hons.), PhD (Ottawa)


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Daniel Scott Tysdal

Poet Daniel Scott Tysdal’s first collection, Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method (2006), was the winner of the ReLit Award for Poetry (2007), the Anne Szumigalski Award (Saskatchewan Book Award for Best Book of Poetry, 2006) and the John V. Hicks Manuscript Award (2004). A new hire in the humanities department, he will be teaching a variety of English courses. Tysdal was a finalist in CBC’s 2005 National Poetry Face-Off. His poetry has been published in various literary journals (including New Quarterly, Prism, and Grain), poetry anthologies (Boredom Fighters! (2008), Fast Forward: New Saskatchewan Poets (2007)), and received Honourable Mention at the 2003 National Magazine Awards. Born and raised on a farm in Moose Jaw, Sask., Tysdal recently earned an MA in creative writing from the University of Toronto. He says the process itself is what excites him most about writing poetry, "particularly revising, revising, revising. My central goal, whether teaching the reading or the writing of poetry, is to focus on nurturing the act and the art of listening to the machinery and life of the text, where it converges with history and the world, swerves and changes things."
BA (Hons.), MA (Acadia) and MA (Toronto)


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Karina Vernon

Karina Vernon specializes in black Canadian cultural studies, Canadian literature, and diaspora theory. Her current project examines the writing of 19th- and early 20th-century black pioneers in Alberta. In particular, it looks at the historical relationship between territorialized black settlers, First Nations and the land, and aims to bring black studies into activist interdisciplinarity with Indigenous political movements and cultural struggles. Vernon was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta’s department of English and film studies and its Canadian Literature Centre. She is a publisher and co-founder of Commodore Books, the first black literary press in Western Canada, along with writers Wayde Compton and David Chariandy. Vernon is active with the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, a grassroots cultural organization engaged in local archival work toward the publication of an oral history of black Vancouver. Joining the humanities department, she will be teaching Canadian literature. She says teaching is "part of a broader struggle for social justice and equality. My role as a humanities teacher is to make available to students the vocabularies and critical concepts they need to make sense of and transform their place in the world, and to inspire students to engage with the important debates of their time."
BA (Hon.), MA, PhD (Victoria)


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Kenneth Welch Jr.

Kenneth Welch Jr. is a comparative vertebrate physiologist. His research centres on the comparative muscle physiology of hummingbirds and nectarivores (nectar eating animals), with interest in an integrative understanding of organismal biology across a wide range of animals and ecology. His work has also been featured in several media, including LiveScience.com, and is scheduled to be part of the upcoming Nature U.S. television program titled "Hummers: Lightweight Champions". Welch served as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, in its department of biology. He joins the biological sciences department teaching courses in physiology. For more details, visit his web site www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kwelch.
MA, PhD, (University of California–Santa Barbara)


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Xiao-an Zhang

Xiao-an Zhang is a chemistry professor who studies the development of the new generation of molecular probes used for visualizing brain activities and detecting certain types of diseases by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or florescence imaging. His long-term research goal is to establish a new method for non-invasive functional neuro-imaging that is specific and sensitive based on new MRI probes. From 2007-2009, Zhang has been a joint postdoctoral fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) department of chemistry and McGovern Institute for Brain Research. He says he believes in the "learning by doing" approach to teaching, and his excitement for research is stimulated by the fact that "the creativity can be converted to value." He joins the physical and environmental sciences department. For more details, visit his web site: www.chem.utoronto.ca/ppl/faculty_profile.php?id=181.
BSc, MSc, PhD (Switzerland)