2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellows

Biographies of 2018 Chancellor Faculty Fellows

Seth Bordenstein, associate professor of biological sciences

Research Focus: The Role of Microbes in Animal Evolution and Health

Professor Bordenstein studies the functional, evolutionary and genetic principles that shape symbiotic interactions between animals, microbes, and viruses as well as the major consequences and applications of these symbioses to humans. His lab endeavors to understand the principles that shape interactions between hosts, microbes, and viruses as well as the major consequences and applications of these interactions.

Bordenstein’s research and science activities have been highlighted in various popular science media including a documentary on bacterial symbiosis, the New York Times, National Geographic, Discover Magazine, Public Broadcasting Service, Scientific American, and BBC Radio.

Audrey Bowden, associate professor of biomedical engineering

Research Focus: Biophotonics (light-Based) Tools for Applications to Medicine and Biology

Professor Bowden’s research includes biomedical optics, microfluidics, and point of care diagnostics. Her research is targeted for the early detection, diagnosis, and therapy for cancer and for development and deployment of low-cost, high-performing point-of-care technologies for rural and global health applications.

Professor Bowden has served as an International Fellow at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore and as a Legislative Assistant in the United States Senate through the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows Program sponsored by the OSA and SPIE. She is a member of the OSA, and a senior member of SPIE.

The Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship is named in honor of Dr. Phillips (BA ’67), the first African American woman to receive an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt, and is awarded to midcareer faculty members who are leaders in diversity in STEM at Vanderbilt.

Craig Duvall, associate professor of biomedical engineering

Research Focus: Polymer-Based Technology and Regenerative Medicine

Professor Duvall researches the design and application of smart polymer-based technologies for: (1) intracellular delivery of biological drugs such as peptides and nucleic acids, (2) proximity-activated targeting of drugs to sites of inflammation and matrix remodeling, and (3) long-term, “on-demand” drug release from localized depots.

The disease applications of his lab’s polymeric biomaterial and drug delivery technologies include increasing longevity and function of transplanted vascular grafts and cell-based therapies, promoting healing of chronic skin wounds, and developing improved breast cancer drugs.

Jason Grissom, associate professor of public policy and education

Research Focus: Governance of K-12 Education

Professor Grissom’s research uses large data sets and draws on the perspectives of political science, public administration, and economics to study the governance of K-12 education, including its leadership/management and political dimensions.

Grissom is particularly interested in identifying the impacts of school and district leaders on teacher and student outcomes. He has ongoing research projects on principal effectiveness, measurement and evaluation of principal job performance, and how principals make human capital or talent management decisions in their schools.

Anna Hemnes, associate professor of medicine

Research Focus: Physiology of Pulmonary Vascular Disease

Professor Hemnes investigates how the right ventricle hypertrophies and fails in the load stress of pulmonary hypertension and the influence of gender on this phenotype. She is also interested in the non-invasive diagnosis and evaluation of pulmonary vascular disease ranging from pulmonary embolism to pulmonary arterial and venous hypertension.

She has demonstrated that the proximate cause of death in patients with pulmonary hypertension is right heart failure and has significantly advanced the understanding of the pathophysiology of right heart failure in this disease.

Bingshan Li, associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics

Research Focus: Computational and Statistical Genomics

Professor Li’s current work focuses on developing methods for inferring genetic variants including de novo mutations in family data and genomic aberrations in cancer genomes from next-generation sequencing data.

His applied work utilizes targeted and whole genome sequencing to identify rare genetic variants associated with psychiatric disorders and to investigate somatic aberrations in tumors to understand the spectrum of mutations and their implication in personalized treatment of cancer.

Li maintains extensive collaborations locally and nationally on both methodology and applied projects.

Ebony McGee, associate professor of teaching and learning

Research Focus: STEM Learning for Marginalized Students

Professor McGee, a former electrical engineer, is concerned with STEM learning and participation among historically marginalized students of color. Her research focuses on the role of racialized experiences and biases in STEM educational and career attainment, problematizing traditional notions of academic success and what it means to be successful yet marginalized, and mathematics identity and identity development in high-achieving students of color.

Her current research projects focus on diversity and faculty within engineering, including an exploration of the stagnant numbers of African American engineering faculty funded by the National Science Foundation.

Vesna Pavlović, associate professor of art

Research Focus: Visual Arts

Professor Pavlović teaches photography and digital media. She has exhibited widely, including solo shows at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Museum of History of Yugoslavia in Belgrade, and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.

Her work is included in major private and public art collections, Phillips Collection and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington DC, USA, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia, among others. Selected publications include: Office Taste, co-authored with Casey Smith, Belgrade, Škart, 2005 and An Idyll on the Beach, Belgrade, Samizdat, 2001.

Allison Schachter, associate professor of Jewish studies

Research Focus: Modern Jewish Literature

Professor Schachter specializes in modern Jewish literature and culture, with allied interests in modernism, transnationalism, and diaspora studies. Her research focuses on Jewish writers’ responses to the historical transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the rise of nationalism, the forces of secularization, and the upheaval of traditional gender roles. Trained as a comparativist, her research encompasses Hebrew, Yiddish, English, and French literature.

At present, she is working on a manuscript entitled Gender, Secularism, and Jewish Modernity while teaching courses in modern Jewish literature, modernism, and literary theory.

Ganesh Sitaraman, professor of law

Research Focus: Constitutional Law

Professor Sitaraman researches issues in constitutional, administrative and foreign relations law.

Sitaraman is the author, most recently, of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution (Knopf, 2017), which argues that a strong and sizable middle class is a prerequisite for America’s constitutional system. His previous book, The Counterinsurgent‘s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars (Oxford University Press, 2012), was awarded the 2013 Palmer Prize for Civil Liberties.

He has commented on foreign and domestic policy in the New York Times, The New Republic, and the Boston Globe.

Jason Valentine, associate professor of mechanical engineering

Research Focus: Optical Metamaterials

Professor Valentine’s current work includes the development of bulk plasmonic optical metamaterials, transformation inspired devices such as optical cloaks, dielectric metamaterials at optical frequencies, and hot electron devices.

His lab is focused on using this understanding to develop novel materials for applications such as communications, imaging, optoelectronic devices, photonic circuitry, and solar energy conversion.

At Vanderbilt, Valentine has received an NSF CAREER Award and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award for research on dielectric metamaterials.

Digna Velez Edwards, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology

Research Focus: Genetic Epidemiology

Professor Velez Edwards researches understanding and identifying genetic risk factors for complex diseases with a specific focus on diseases that disproportionately impact minorities and genetic factors related to women’s health and reproductive outcomes. To conduct these studies she utilizes large clinical databases that link electronic health record (EHR) information to DNA and the Right from the Start cohort, a community-based prospective pregnancy cohort.

Her current research projects examine genetic studies of preterm birth, miscarriage, uterine fibroids, pelvic organ prolapse, and keloids. These studies include genome-wide association analyses, next-generation sequencing, evaluation of biomarkers, and phenome-wide association studies.

David Weaver, associate professor of pharmacology

Research Focus: Chemical Tools for Ion Channel Structure

Professor Weaver’s research focuses on the discovery and characterization of novel chemical tools for studying ion channel structure, function, and therapeutic potential. The projects in his lab are focused on two key roles of ion channels in medicine and public health.

The first project area deals with development of drug-like chemical tools for evaluating the role of ligand and voltage-activated potassium channels for the treatment of pain, one the largest unmet medical needs.

The second project area deals with the development of novel insecticides to aid in the control of malaria and other mosquito-born illnesses that infect nearly half a billion and kill over 1 million people every year.