Meet Arts and Sciences Faculty Tenured in 2022
Amol Aggarwal is a mathematician whose research spans probability theory and mathematical physics and interfaces with other fields such as combinatorics, representation theory, and geometry. He has made diverse contributions in these areas, such as by proving universality results in random tilings and random matrix theory; large genus asymptotics for various geometric invariants; and phase transition and fluctuation results for the six-vertex model. In 2020, Aggarwal received a five-year research fellowship from the Clay Mathematics Institute, and in 2021 he received the Early Career Award from the International Association of Mathematical Physics for contributions to the analysis of lattice models. In 2022, he received the Rollo Davidson Prize and the Dubrovin Medal for contributions to integrable probability, random matrix theory, and moduli spaces.
Professor Aggarwal received a BSc from MIT in 2015 and a PhD from Harvard in 2020 under Alexei Borodin. He joined Columbia's Mathematics department as an Assistant Professor in July 2020, and received tenure as an Associate Professor in January 2022.
Marcos Balter is a well-recognized and inventive composer of contemporary concert music. He has written over 60 musical works ranging from solo to orchestral scores, and his discography includes four portrait albums and inclusions in several compilation albums. His music has been featured at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Teatro Amazonas, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, and Villa Medici by many of today's most prominent music ensembles. Past honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Music Award, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, the Tanglewood Music Center Leonard Bernstein Fellowship, and two Chamber Music America Awards.
Professor Balter obtained his BA in Music Composition and Theory from the Texas Christian University in 2000 followed by his MA in 2002. He earned his DMA (Doctorate in Music Composition) from Northwestern University in 2008. From 2014-2020, he was an Associate Professor at Montclair State University. Professor Balter joined the University of California San Diego as Professor with tenure in 2020 and has held visiting professorships at University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, and University of Pittsburgh.
Timothy Berkelbach is a theoretical chemist whose research focuses on the development of new theories and computational methods and their application to problems in molecular and materials science, with applications in technology, energy, and the environment. In particular, his research group has recently worked on correlated electronic structure methods for solids, the excited-state phenomenology of low-dimensional materials, and the finite-temperature coupled dynamics of electrons and nuclei. He is a member of several research centers on-campus, including the MRSEC on Precision-Assembled Quantum Materials, the CCI for Chemistry with Electric Fields, and the Center for Computational Electrochemistry, and he previously held a joint position as a Research Scientist in the Center for Computational Quantum Physics at the Flatiron Institute. His research has been recognized with honors including the Sloan Fellowship, the AFOSR Young Investigator Award, the NSF CAREER Award, the DOE Early Career Award, the Presidential Early Career Award in the Science and Engineering, and the ACS National Fresenius Award. For three years, he was the co-chair of his department's Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee and is a member of the Interdepartmental STEM DEI group. Beyond Columbia, he served on the Early Career Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Chemical Physics and has organized many conferences, workshops, and summer schools.
Professor Berkelbach received his BA in Chemistry and Physics from NYU in 2009 and his PhD in Chemical Physics from Columbia in 2014. From 2014-2016 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science. Before joining the Columbia faculty, he was the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago from 2016-2018.
Julia Bryan-Wilson is Columbia University’s first professor of LGBTQ art history; she is also a core faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender. Her books — Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era; Art in the Making (with Glenn Adamson); and Fray: Art and Textile Politics — are widely read and taught. She also writes criticism focused on queer and feminist artists for outlets such as Artforum. An award-winning author, Professor Bryan-Wilson has received numerous accolades for her scholarship, for her work in the classroom, and for her mentorship. These include the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association, a Guggenheim fellowship, the Robert Motherwell Book Prize, the Leon Henkin Citation, and two distinguished teaching awards. Since 2018, she has also been an adjunct curator at the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, where she co-curated the exhibitions Histories of Women/Feminist Histories and Histories of Dance. Her exhibition Louise Nevelson: Persistence, is an official collateral event of the 59th Venice Biennale, and her monograph on Nevelson is forthcoming in 2023 from Yale University Press.
After receiving a BA in English Literature from Swarthmore College, she pursued her PhD in History of Art at UC Berkeley, where she was active in helping form the campus’s graduate student union. She has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design; University of California, Irvine; and University of California, Berkeley; and held visiting positions at the Courtauld and Williams College.
Jon Freeman is a social neuroscientist and director of the Social Cognitive and Neural Sciences Lab. Using techniques such as functional neuroimaging, computational modeling, and behavioral paradigms, his research focuses on how people perceive others, such as how we categorize others into social groups, infer their emotion or personality via facial cues, and more generally how we understand and react to our social world. His work examines the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying person perception, stereotyping and less conscious forms of bias, and decision-making in social contexts, including the interplay of social, emotional, and visual processes in perceptual and interpersonal judgments. He is the recipient of a number of awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the Association for Psychological Science’s Janet T. Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions, and early career awards from the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the International Social Cognition Network, and the Society for Social Neuroscience. Professor Freeman has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in STEM and has been leading an effort to have sexual orientation and gender identity demographics incorporated into official data collection and reporting systems of the U.S. government and higher education that are used to ensure the inclusion and equal opportunity of underrepresented groups in STEM.
Professor Freeman was previously on the faculty at Dartmouth (2012-2014) and New York University (2014-2021) before coming to Columbia. He received his BA from New York University in 2007 and his PhD from Tufts University in 2012.
Tey Meadow is a sociologist and ethnographer whose work explores the connections between social categories and personal relationships. Her first book, Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century, is an intricate look of the first generation of parents explicitly recognizing transgender and gender nonconforming identities in their children, as well as the complex matrix of emotional, intellectual, clinical, and political issues they face. Her other work explores global sexual politics, contemporary ways of understanding the relationship between sexuality and power, and the particular methodological challenges that attend scientific research on sexual and gender minorities. She is on the Executive Committee of the Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender (ISSG) and the Columbia Population Research Center. Her work has won numerous awards, including the Distinguished Scholarly Book Award from the American Sociological Association.
Professor Meadow received her BA in Psychology and Gender Studies from Barnard College in 1999, her JD from Fordham University School of Law in 2003, and her PhD in Sociology from New York University in 2011. Prior to joining the Columbia Faculty, she held the Fund for Reunion-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellowship in LGBT Studies at the Princeton Society of Fellows, and spent two years as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Harvard University.
She joined Columbia University in 2016 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor without tenure in 2018.
Kerstin Perez’s research explores dark matter particle processes through characteristic signals in cosmic-ray and multi-wavelength observations, with impact at the intersection of particle physics, astrophysics, and advanced instrumental techniques. Perez leads the silicon tracker at the heart of the General Antiparticle Spectrometer (GAPS) Antarctic balloon mission. Perez’s group also uses astrophysical X-ray observations to probe light dark matter and is developing the X-ray optics for the International Axion Observatory (IAXO), a next-generation solar axion search. Professor Perez has won multiple awards including the Sloan Research Fellowship in 2017 and the Cottrell Scholar Award in 2019.
Professor Perez obtained her BA in Physics from Columbia University in 2005. She received her PhD in Physics from California Institute of Technology in 2011. She did her post-doctoral research at Columbia University from 2011 to 2014. She was an Assistant Professor at Haverford College and Associate Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the Columbia University faculty in 2022.
Kimberly Phillips-Fein is a historian who is interested in explaining the rise of free market ideas and policies, and the rightward shift of American politics in the late twentieth century. Her first monograph, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan published by W.W. Norton in 2009, offers a revisionist account of the origins of the conservative movement in America. Her second book, Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics published by Metropolitan Books in 2017, offers an on-the-ground account of the fiscal crisis of NYC in the 1970s. This book was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History. Professor Phillips-Fein was elected to the Society of American Historians in 2020 and was also awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2020.
Professor Phillips-Fein obtained her BA in History from the University of Chicago in 1997. She earned her MA in 1999, MPhil in 2001 and PhD in 2005 from Columbia University. Professor Phillips-Fein started her career as Assistant Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2005 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012. She has been Professor since 2019.
Mario Small is a sociologist who aims to understand the formation and dynamics of social networks as they relate to poverty and inequality within cities, while also developing qualitative methods in sociology as an empirical theorist. Professor Small, previously at Harvard University, is a University of Bremen Excellence Chair, and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and the Sociological Research Association. Small has published award-winning articles and books on urban inequality, personal networks, and the relationship between qualitative and quantitative methods. His books include Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio, and Unanticipated Gains: Origins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life – both of which received the C. Wright Mills Award for Best Book – and Someone To Talk To: How Networks Matter in Practice, which received several honors including the James Coleman Best Book Award. His most recent edited book, Personal Networks: Classic Readings and New Directions in Egocentric Analysis, which includes 50 contributors, is a comprehensive guide to person-centered social network analysis. Small is currently studying the relationship between networks and decision-making, the ability of large-scale data to answer critical questions about urban inequality, and the relation between qualitative and quantitative methods.
Professor Small obtained his BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Carleton College in 1992. He earned his MA in Sociology from Harvard University in 1998 followed by his PhD in 2001. Professor Small started his faculty career at Princeton University in 2002. He joined the University of Chicago in 2006 and moved to Harvard University in 2014.
Pier Mattia Tommasino is a scholar focused on the history and philology of texts and languages in contact in early modern Italy and the Mediterranean. His research—which is about the production, circulation, and consumption of texts—aims to historicize the intellectual and religious traditions, as well as the scholarly and literary practices, involved in the generative contact between the Italian peninsula and the Muslim world from the fourteenth through the early eighteenth centuries. The methods that Professor Tommasino uses to make sense of texts are based on a systematic interdisciplinarity and the mastery of multiple languages. In his first book (The Venetian Qur’an: a Renaissance Companion to Islam, published in Italian in 2013 and in English in 2018) and second book (Port Voices, Courtly Texts. Observations of Late Medici Orientalism, 1666-1673) forthcoming), Professor Tommasino makes use of different methods of research, such as the history of the Italian language and linguistics, Italian and Arabic dialectology, book history, and the history of reading. He has often conversed with translation studies and literary criticism and, more recently, with Italian microhistory and historical anthropology. His work also rests upon extensive and critical archival research across Italian and European libraries and archives. Professor Tommasino was one of the recipients of the 2019 Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award for teaching at Columbia University.
Professor Tommasino obtained his BA and an MA in Modern Philology from the Università degli Studi di Pisa in 2002 followed by an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the Università degli Studi di Urbino in 2003. Professor Tommasino earned his PhD from Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy in 2009. Before joining Columbia University, he has been Francesco De Dombrowski Fellow at The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, (Villa I Tatti, Florence), as well as a fellow at the Fondazione Cini (Venice), and a research fellow at the Institute of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, Center of Human and Social Sciences, Madrid (ILC-CCHS-CSIC). More recently, he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Professor Tommasino joined Columbia University as an Assistant Professor in 2013 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019.
Alison Vacca is a historian of the Middle East during the medieval period (600-1100 CE). Using Arabic and Armenian sources, Professor Vacca’s scholarship focuses on memory, intercultural transmission, intercommunal violence, and gender. With a geographic focus is on Armenia and neighboring regions of the South Caucasus, she analyzes how non-Muslims were active participants in the early Caliphate and the Iranian cultural sphere. Her first book Non-Muslim Provinces under Early Islam received the 2018 book prize from the Central Eurasian Studies Society. She is currently working on a project about gender and frontier studies focused on the Khazars, a Turkic, Tengrist (and later, possibly, Jewish) Empire on the edges of the Islamic Caliphate and the Eastern Roman Empire. She currently serves as editor of Al-ʿUṣūr al-Wusṭā: the Journal of Middle East Medievalists, the only peer-reviewed, open-access journal dedicated to the Middle East (broadly defined) from 500-1500 CE.
Professor Vacca completed her BA with a triple major in History, Religious Studies, and International Studies from Nazareth College in Rochester in 2005. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 2013, where she continued the following year as a Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow in Armenian Studies. She joined History faculty at the University of Tennessee in 2014 where she was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2019.
Ebonya Washington is a leading scholar of political economy, public economics, and the economics of inequality. Since 2018, she has served as the Samuel C. Park Jr. Professor of Economics at Yale University, where she has also been jointly appointed with the Department of Political Science. She has conducted path-breaking research to advance our understanding of the interplay of race, gender, and political representation, the behavioral motivations and consequences of political participation, and the processes through which low-income Americans meet their financial needs. Her work has appeared in the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, as well as the American Political Science Review among other publications. Professor Washington co-chairs the Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession for the American Economics Association.
She received her PhD in Economics from MIT and a BA in Public Policy from Brown University.