Five New Professors Join Science Staff

By Toby Aicher

It can be intimidating to step into a professor’s office. With complex computer algorithms scribbled on black boards and overflowing shelves filled with worn books, the causes of intimidation are vast. Speaking with PhDs about their area of specialty and intense focus can be a daunting experience for undergraduates. But at every turn among the mountains of textbooks, the professors here at Middlebury College greet students with warm smiles and a patient explanations. The College distinguishes itself from larger institutions with both the brilliance of its professor and the enthusiasm of these instructors to engage with students and transmit their immense knowledge.

The five new professors in McCardell Bicentennial Hall continue in this tradition and gladly introduced themselves and their research. Their work ranges from black holes and ultra-luminescent galaxies to the neurons of earthworms, and their experiences traverse the world from remote Indian villages to observatories on the summits of Hawaii. Below is a bio of each professor, although these few paragraphs do little justice to the subject. Students should feel encouraged to seek out these professors, give them a warm welcome, gape in wonder at their scientific projects and discoveries and maybe even take one of their courses.

To meet with Assistant Professor of Physics Eilat Glikman, one must climb to her office on the 7th floor of Bicentennial Hall, appropriately situated closest to the observatory and the stars. This fall Glickman is teaching Intro to the Universe (PHYS0155). After a conversation with Glikman and her enthusiastic elucidation of the universe’s mysteries, it is difficult not to marvel at the magnificence of the cosmos. Glikman researches a certain type of galaxy called a quasar. They are the hottest and brightest objects in the universe — one reportedly radiates 100-times as much energy as the entire Milky Way galaxy. Large clouds of matter surround the black hole at the center of these galaxies. Matter is pulled by gravity into the black hole and as it falls it radiates intense bursts of energy and heat. In the course of her research, Glickman has used the Hubble Space Telescope and traveled to Hawaii to use the observatory atop mount Mauna Kea.  Prior to coming to the College, Glikman taught at Yale University for two years. She has also participated in a local outreach program called Girls Science Investigation, which works to garner interest in the sciences in middle school girls.

The computer science department has hired two new professors this year, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Ananya Christman and Visiting Assistant Professor of Computer Science Christopher Andrews. Christman is teaching two courses this fall, Data Structures (CSCI0201) and Opearting Sysytems (CSCI0314). Christman focuses her research on computer algorithms for graphs and networks. At Wake Forest — where she taught for three years prior to being hired here at the College — she worked with students on several projects including a computer algorithm to determine the shortest and most reliable route into downtown Washington D.C. She worked for a community organization in Harlem that helped underprivileged women learn basic computer skills required for employment. She also traveled to India and taught English to women in rural villages.

Andrews is teaching The Computing Age (CSCI0101) and Computer Architecture (CSCI0202) this fall.  Andrews recounted that although he grew up around computers and his father’s software company, his primary interest had been in theater. In college, he doubled majored in theater and computer science. For several years after college he was employed as a theater and event technician. He worked on a number of projects that included theater productions, boxing matches, corporate meetings, and television shows. Andrews previously taught at Mount Holyoke for two years and Knox College for four years. His research focuses on information visualization. Specifically, he works on facilitating the use of large, 50 foot high resolution screens and he developed a new analytic environment for large displays called Analysts Workplace. Andrews is also interested in Generative art, and would one day like to possibly teach a J-term course in computer-generated artwork.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry AnGayle Vasiliou, new to the chemistry department this year, is teaching General Chemistry II and Quantum Chemistry this semester. Before coming to Middlebury, she taught at MIT while finishing her Post Doctorate. Her research focuses on the chemical processes behind clean and renewable biofuels, which are anticipated to be an important energy source in the next century. While at the University of Boulder for her Ph.D, she worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and worked with the particle accelerator at Berkley. Vasiliou also participates in local outreach to interest kids in chemistry called explosions days and hopes to possibly host an event on campus for students.

Assistant Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Professor Glen Ernstrom taught for a year at two fellow NESCAC schools, Bates and Bowdoin, before coming to Middlebury. Ernstrom researches the neurogenetics of round worms. He first became interested in round worms while researching them under Martin Chalfie at Columbia University, who later won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Ernstrom analyzes how individual genes are linked to the function of the round worm’s nervous system and biological clock by mutating genes and observing the behavioral changes.

“After working with  students in these first few weeks, and thinking about the possibilities about what I can do as a teacher and researcher, my walk to work turns into an all out run,” Ernstrom said. “I am so happy to have landed here.”

Each of these professors promises to be valuable additions to the faculty in Bicentennial Hall.