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Meet the New College of Arts and Sciences Faculty!

This fall, CAS welcomes a cohort of new professors across the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities

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This fall, American University’s College of Arts and Sciences welcomes a cohort of more than 20 new faculty members. They come to AU from institutions including Brown University, Northeastern University, the University of California at San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon, and Howard University. They’ll join the departments of Anthropology, Biology, Sociology, Dance, Chemistry, Health Studies, Economics, Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies — and many more.

It's an exciting time for new faculty to join the College, as students begin another new semester of in-person learning, the arts are returning at full swing, STEM research is flourishing in the Hall of Sciences and the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building, and the College of Arts and Sciences welcomes its new dean, Linda Aldoory.  

Meet the new faculty members!

Department of Anthropology

Zoltán Glück 
Assistant Professor

Professor Glück’s research focuses on issues of security, cities, development, postcolonialism, environmental crisis, and racial capitalism in East Africa. He is currently working on a book titled Recolonizing Security, an ethnographic study of the war on terror in Kenya. He has written academic and public scholarship on piracy in the Indian Ocean, the securitization of refugee governance in East Africa, student activism in North America, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. He comes to AU from Northeastern University and has taught at the City University of New York. He is an editor of the journal Focaal: A Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology.

Thurka Sangaramoorthy 

Professor Sangaramoorthy is a cultural and medical anthropologist and public health researcher with 22 years of experience conducting community-engaged ethnographic research among vulnerable populations in the United States, Africa, and Latin America/Caribbean. Her work is broadly concerned with power and subjectivity in global economies of care, on topics including global health and migration, HIV/STDs, and environmental health disparities. She is the author of Rapid Ethnographic Assessments: A Practical Approach and Toolkit for Collaborative Community Research co-authored with Karen Kroeger (Routledge, 2020) and Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention (Rutgers University Press, 2014).

Department of Art

Tom Elder 
Senior Professional Lecturer

Tom Edler comes to American University from Boise State University after more than 20 years of teaching and practice in Graphic Design. He has been creating traditional design, signage, and digital art for much of his design career. Some of his expertise includes consultation for physical accessibility to structures and the use of Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. Among his many projects is Adventure Island Playground, the first accessibly designed playground located in Meridian, Idaho. He is an accomplished label designer using hand-drawn and digital lettering techniques for his designs. He also creates artwork in virtual 3D creating 3D rendered art that has been curated and exhibited in select national exhibitions. 

Department of Biology

Anny Cárdenas 
Assistant Professor

Professor Cárdenas is passionate about teaching new and existing courses within the areas of microbial ecology, marine biology, and bioinformatics. As a postdoctoral fellow, she applied cutting-edge computational methods to decipher microbial interactions in marine hosts including corals, anemones, crabs, and clams. She also focused on genome and metagenome sequencing, assembly, and annotation, as well as eukaryotic and prokaryotic RNASeq library preparation and data analysis. Her work has resulted in four first-author publications and more than 20 collaborative publications.

Department of Chemistry

Santiago Toledo 
Associate Professor

Professor Toledo is a bioinorganic chemist by training and loves to explore questions about how people learn. He comes to AU from St. Edwards University where he maintained an active research group with undergraduate students that explored how metalloenzymes catalyze incredible molecular transformations. He and his students were specifically interested in exploring the role of metalloenzymes in disease. Their most recent NIH-funded project was focused on oxygenase enzymes connected to carcinogenesis. The copper branch of the work focused on the impact of the enzyme superoxide dismutase on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Department of Computer Science

Aref Zahed 
Professorial Lecturer

Aref Zahed’s interests lie in the areas of cybersecurity, robotics, image and signal processing, and green technology and sustainability. He earned his bachelor’s degree in soil engineering from Isfahan University of Technology, studied IT at Iran University of Science and Technology, and received his master’s degree in management of secure information systems from George Mason University. He produced an award-winning cultural multimedia encyclopedia, established GravityITS, and is working on smart classroom technology and automation and cybersecurity for critical infrastructure protection.

Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies 

Mali Collins 
Assistant Professor

Dr. Mali Collins' research areas include Black motherhood studies, Black archival studies, 20th and 21st century literature and art, medical humanities, digital technology, and reproductive health and justice. She is a practicing birth, post-partum, and pregnancy termination doula, and a trained perinatal and infant loss advocate. She is the author of Scrap Theory: Reproductive Injustice in the Black Feminist Imagination (OSU Press, forthcoming 2025) and many other publications, including a recent work in The Hastings Journal Special Report.

Christina Riley 
Professorial Lecturer

Christina Riley is a recent graduate of the Cultural Studies doctoral program at George Mason University; her dissertation explores the phenomenon of feminist digital collectivity. Her interdisciplinary work includes women’s, gender and sexuality studies, new media studies and social movement studies. In the past, Dr. Riley has worked in digital image archiving as well as co-founded and co-directed a media literacy nonprofit for LGBTQA+ youth. She loves foraging, films, and biking around the flatter neighborhoods of DC.

Department of Economics

Secil Akin
Postdoctoral Fellow

Selin Akin received her PhD in Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Prior to joining AU, she worked as a research fellow at Ankara University. Her research focuses on gender and macroeconomics. She wrote her dissertation on the impact of fiscal and monetary policies on gender specific employment outcomes. She is currently working on financial liberalization and the gender employment gap, and the relationship between unpaid elderly care work and female labor supply.   

Maria Caballero
Assistant Professor

Professor Caballero comes to AU from the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Her main research interests are labor economics, the economics of migration, and development economics. Her work focuses on understanding the effects of migration restrictions on migrants’ source countries. She is the recipient of the George Duncan Award for best Second Heinz Research Paper for her work on "The International Transmission of Local Economic Shocks Through Migrant Networks."

Department of Environmental Science 

Thu Ya Kyaw 
Postdoctoral Fellow

Thu Ya Kyaw is a remote sensor and forest ecophysiologist. His experienced research domains are forest ecophysiology, multi- and hyperspectral remote sensing, quantifying forest and land cover changes, GIS-based spatial analysis, groundwater quality, and short rotation woody crops for bioenergy. His current postdoctoral research project focuses on urban tree responses to heat. It includes analyses of hyperspectral/thermal remote sensing data and physiological parameters (including transpiration, photosynthesis, leaf fluorescence and pigments) of urban trees measured in the field during warming conditions of the year.

Emmanuel Nuesiri 
Professorial Lecturer

Dr. Nuesiri comes to AU from the African Leadership University, Mauritius, where he taught courses in environmental politics and research methods and was a consultant on the revision of the Mauritius climate change strategy. His current research interests include barriers to adopting circular economy, climate change threat to water and sanitation and hygiene systems, trees as a nature-based solution against climate change, and responsive policy responses to the climate crises. Dr. Nuesiri earned his PhD from St. Antonys College at the University of Oxford, UK, and was recipient of the Brandenburg Research Academy and International Network (BRAIN) fellowship at Potsdam University, Germany. He is currently chair of the IUCN CEESP Natural Resource Governance Framework.   

Matteo Trolese
Professorial Lecturer

Matteo Trolese comes to AU from the University of Roma Tre (Italy). His research focuses on the physics of explosive volcanic eruptions, applying field and laboratory data, and numerical experiments to assess eruption impacts on communities surrounding active volcanoes. At AU, Matteo is part of a team led by Professor Valentina Aquila and works on characterizing the role of volcanic ash in the development of mixed ash/sulfate plumes in the NASA GEOS Earth System Model.

Department of Health Studies

Caroline Kuo 
Assistant Professor

Professor Kuo is a behavioral and social scientist who focuses on addressing disparities in mental health, sexual and reproductive health, violence, HIV, and other infectious diseases among vulnerable populations in low-resource communities. She employs community-engaged approaches to ensure that public health science is developed, tested, and deployed in partnership with children, families, and adults living in some of the world’s most underserved communities. She applies novel ethical approaches to ensure rigorous science is generated while providing the upmost protections to vulnerable populations. She is a prolific scholar with numerous peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and policy papers. She was distinguished by the National Institute of Mental Health as an outstanding woman scientist advancing the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses. She served as Brown University’s inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.

Carolyn Reimann 
Senior Professorial Lecturer

Dr. Reimann earned her medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, then served in the US Navy for 20 years as a family physician, then a preventive medicine physician. She earned her MS in public health at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Before coming to AU, she was the associate program director for the Preventive Medicine Residency Program at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and taught graduate public health courses.

Department of History

Anna F. Kaplan  
Professorial Lecturer

Dr. Anna F. Kaplan studies 20th century US history and public history. Her focus is memory and the creation and use of public narratives about race. In addition to her manuscript examining uses of stories about the University of Mississippi’s desegregation in 1962, she is researching the erased history of Black women’s contributions to early institutional oral history programs. She has worked on projects for federal agencies, museums, and local communities in DC.  

Julie Keresztes
Postdoctoral Fellow

Julie Keresztes is the 2022-2024 American University and Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies Postdoctoral Fellow. Keresztes received her PhD with distinction in history from Boston University and previously taught at Tufts University. She is currently finishing a book manuscript on photography in Nazi Germany, and is working on a critical biography of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer. Her work has also appeared in the journal German History.

Lauren Strauss 
Senior Professorial Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Jewish Studies

Lauren Strauss’ courses include ancient and modern Jewish civilization, modern Jewish literature, Holocaust literature, American Jewish politics, popular culture, and more.  A scholar of American Jewish political and cultural history, her forthcoming book is: Painting the Town Red: Jewish Visual Artists, Yiddish Culture, and Radical Politics in Interwar New York, while her next book explores political activism in the DC Jewish community.

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Zeying Wang 
Professorial Lecturer

Zeying Wang recently joined AU as a term faculty. Her research interests lie in combinatorial design theory and algebraic coding theory. Before joining AU, Dr. Wang worked as a tenure-track assistant professor for five years at Michigan Technological University. She has published 11 research papers in high impact peer-reviewed journals, including three single-authored papers.  Also, she has done several research projects with undergraduate/graduate students, and she has published three joint papers with them.

Department of Neuroscience

Alexandre Kisner 
Professorial Lecturer

Alex Kisner earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Blumenau (Brazil) and his PhD in bioelectronics at the RWTH Aachen University (Germany). Following graduate school, Dr. Kisner's first postdoctoral training focused on neurophysiology and behavior. In his last postdoctoral work in Dr. Polter’s lab at George Washington University, he continued to build on his previous experience in electrophysiology, but adding a rodent model of early-life stress and stress-related mental disorders.

Department of Performing Arts

Omilade Davis-Smith 
Assistant Professor

Professor Davis-Smith is one of only 16 people to receive certification in the practice and pedagogy of Germaine Acogny’s Modern African Dance Technique, the first codified contemporary dance technique of African origin. Her scholarly research and teaching interests focus on the intersectionality of African and Diaspora dances, history, politics, and aesthetics. Her creative research utilizes African dance techniques and aesthetics to develop new contemporary dance languages.

Ama Law 
Professorial Lecturer

Teaching artist. Hip hop guardian. DMV representative. Ama Law is an African dancer at heart and a street dance fusionist who loves to share knowledge. Although teaching is their passion, she is a lifelong learner. Ama is a mother, lover, and achiever who enjoys spending time with her family and making art projects with her daughters. She often teaches and performs with her partner Chris as Project ChArma. @projectcharma

Department of Philosophy and Religion

Nicholas Buck
Professorial Lecturer

Nicholas Buck comes to AU after completing his PhD at the University of Chicago. His primary research interests lie at the intersection of religious studies and moral and political philosophy, attending especially to the ways in which religion shapes the ethical lives and political imaginaries of persons and communities. Dr. Buck also has interests in ethical reasoning, social and political thought, comparative religious ethics, human rights, Christian ethics, and the philosophy of religion.

Edward Guetti 
Professorial Lecturer

Edward Guetti comes to the AU Department of Philosophy and Religion after spending the past year working as a researcher at the Brazilian Center for Research on issues related to sustainability. Before that, Dr. Guetti was a Humboldt Postdoctoral Researcher at the Research Center for Analytic German Idealism at the University of Leipzig. His main research areas concern climate justice, aesthetics/the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of language after Wittgenstein and Cavell.

Yunwoo Song 
Professional Lecturer

Yunwoo Song specializes in Chinese philosophy, with added focus on Confucianism and natural philosophy. His research focuses on the conceptions of the universe, problems of determinism, free will, and moral responsibility. After earning his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Song taught at the Yuelu Academy of Hunan University, before coming to AU.

Delio Vásquez 
Postdoctoral Fellow

Delio Vásquez comes to AU after doing a postdoc at New York University and his doctorate at UC Santa Cruz in the history of consciousness.  His main interests are in modern political theory, social movement history, and philosophies of experience.  Dr. Vásquez’s research focuses on how our modern understanding of crime developed alongside the modern economy and how this has been contested over time by social movements and philosophers alike.  He is a lifelong teacher.

Department of Physics

Shiblee Barua 
Research Assistant Professor

Shiblee Barua joins AU as a research assistant professor at the Integrated Space Science and Technology Institute, while concurrently serving as a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard. Prior to joining AU, Dr. Barua won the NASA Postdoctoral Program fellowship and conducted research on Titan photochemistry and exoplanet atmospheres. He also served as a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Hamilton College, and as an assistant professor of chemistry at North South University in Dhaka Bangladesh.

Babak Kasmaei
Professorial Lecturer

Dr. Babak Kasmaei received his PhD in Physics in 2021 from Kent State University. His research focuses on theoretical high energy physics, phenomenology of relativistic heavy-ion collisions, solar physics and machine learning has been published in several peer-reviewed journals.

Gary Pennington 
Professorial Lecturer

Gary Pennington has fourteen years of experience working as a university physics lecturer. In this capacity he has taught a wide range of physics and interdisciplinary courses. His main research interests focus on the simulation and modeling of electronic materials which include bulk solids, reduced dimensional solids, and bio-electric materials.

Anna Binion 
Professorial Lecturer

Anna Binion has a BS in Physics from Grove City College and graduated with her PhD in physics from Penn State in 2022. Her research background is in condensed matter physics, particularly focused on STM (Scanning Tunneling Microscopy). Her graduate studies focused on amorphous phase separations in graphene on a heterostructure of Mo2C/MoS2.

Department of Sociology

Alexandra Parrs 
Senior Professorial Lecturer

Alexandra Parrs, is a French/American Sociologist with a PhD from Paris Diderot University. As an academic, she taught in Burma, the Sultanate of Oman, Egypt, Brussels, Washington, and Paris. Much of her work focused on marginalized communities, both as a researcher and an educator with Dom and Nubian communities in Cairo and refugees in Cairo, Rangoon, and Brussels. Dr. Parrs spent three years in Namibia, where she worked with the Ju/’hoansi communities of northern Namibia on educational and cultural projects. 

Tracy Weitz

Professor Weitz is a national expert on abortion care, politics, and policy. She has been a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and the US Programs Director at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Weitz co-founded and directed UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) research program, which influenced the California legislature to pass AB154, which permits nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions. Six additional states have since implemented the same policy change. While at UCSF, Weitz also served as the founding executive director for the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

World Languages and Cultures

Rita Morandi 
Professorial Lecturer

Prior to her appointment as a term faculty, Rita Morandi taught German and Italian at AU as an adjunct in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Her research interests are historical linguistics and language change, and more specifically contact induced linguistic change and language death of minority languages in speech islands, especially as a consequence of migration (voluntary or forced) and conflict.