Caltech Home > PMA Home > News > Caltech Faculty Receive Named...
open search form

Caltech Faculty Receive Named Professorships

Twenty-five professors are recognized with the Institute's highest honor

During the 2016-17 academic year, Caltech recognized 25 faculty members with the Institute's most distinguished award for individual faculty—a named professorship. This honor provides faculty with additional funds and resources to pursue their best ideas while continuing to mentor future generations of leaders.

Each named professorship brings with it its own distinct legacy. Many chairs, for instance, have longstanding histories, and pass through each appointment a tradition of exploration and discovery from one academic generation to the next, from one colleague to another. Chairs sometimes also provide faculty with an opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with the philanthropists who provided the donation that made the endowed chair possible.

Caltech is pleased to present the 2016-2017 cohort of named professors.

Jess Adkins

Smits Family Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

Jess Adkins is a chemical oceanographer with an interest in using trace elements to track the environmental processes at work in past climates. His research has had a particular focus on how the atmosphere and the oceans interacted in Earth's most recent glacial periods, or ice ages. He also manages a library of deep-sea corals, and hopes to use data collected from it to develop a new climate archive and gain a better understanding of the mechanisms behind rapid climate change.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2000.

Aaron Ames

Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Aaron Ames is a mechanical and civil engineer who focuses on advancing both theoretical and experimental research in bipedal robotics, locomotion, nonlinear and hybrid systems, and prosthetic design. Through the design of new algorithms that couple efficiency equations with boundary constraints, his team is teaching robots to generate their own walking gait, with the eventual goal of achieving human-like bipedal robotic walking and translating these capabilities to robotic assistive devices.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2017.

Jose Andrade

George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

As a mechanical and civil engineer, Jose Andrade is focused on developing a fundamental understanding of the multiscale and multiphysical behaviors of porous materials—everything from soils, rocks, and concrete to bone. He also studies the behavior of granular materials like sand, snow, and even grain stored in silos. His research has particular applications to geologic and engineering infrastructure materials, as well as to the petroleum industry.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2010.

Paul Asimow (MS '93, PhD '97)

Eleanor and John R. McMillan Professor of Geology and Geochemistry
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

Paul Asimow is a geologist whose research focuses on characterizing the mineralogy and melting of Earth's mantle, the formation of crust, and the nature of the core-mantle boundary. Recently, he and his team discovered that quasicrystals, which are some of the rarest structures on Earth, are formed from energetic collisions between rocky bodies in the asteroid belt. Additionally, Asimow studies the petrologic and geologic processes at mid-ocean ridges.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 1999.

Konstantin Batygin (MS '10, PhD '12)

Van Nuys Page Scholar
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

As a planetary scientist, Konstantin Batygin advances research in the field of planetary astrophysics. He focuses in particular on problems relating to the formation and evolution of planetary orbits—from their chaotic beginnings to the eventual end of their parent solar system, the dynamical evolution of exoplanets, and the physical processes inherent to planetary interiors and atmospheres. Batygin also co-led a recent discovery that provided evidence for the existence of a new ninth planet—nicknamed Planet Nine—with a highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2014.

Garnet Chan

Bren Professor of Chemistry
Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Garnet Chan's research is at the interface of theoretical chemistry, condensed matter physics, and quantum information theory. His aim is to understand physical systems at the boundaries of accessible computational complexity and to devise new physical simulation methods to push these boundaries forward. Over the last decade, his group has contributed to and invented a variety of methods addressing different aspects of quantum simulations ranging from the challenges of strong electron correlation to treating many-particle problems in the condensed phase to dynamical simulations of spectra and coupling between electron and nuclear degrees of freedom.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2016.

Tim Colonius

Frank and Ora Lee Marble Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Tim Colonius is a mechanical engineer who studies complex, multiscale flow phenomena and their control using theory, numerical experiments, and simulations. Simulations from his lab have provided key insights into such subject areas as turbulence, instabilities, sources of sound, and shock and bubble dynamics. His research has the potential for broad applications—from enhancing ultrasounds to mitigating jet noise to generating energy from flow systems.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 1994.

Federico Echenique

Allen and Lenabelle Davis Professor of Economics
Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Economist Federico Echenique's research is centered on understanding economic models of agents and markets. He is interested in determining the testable implications of models and the relationships between different theoretical models. In particular, Echenique studies the models of individual decision making, of markets, and of other economic institutions. He also studies two-sided matching markets, such as the labor market, and is active in research at the intersection of economics and computer science.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2004.

Azita Emami

Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

As an electrical engineer, Azita Emami works to design and develop high-performance, reliable, low-power mixed-mode circuits in highly scalable technologies that can lead to the advancement of theory and creation of new tools. The applications for this work cover everything from mixed-signal integrated circuits for digital data communication, low-power circuit and system solutions, very-large-scale-integrated (VSLI) systems, circuits at the interfaces, optoelectronics, and biomedical implants.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 2007.

Bradley Filippone

Francis L. Moseley Professor of Physics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Bradley Filippone is an experimental nuclear physicist and low-energy particle physicist. He leads an experimental research program that is focused on the use of nuclear physics to perform precision tests of the standard electroweak theory. In particular, he and his team are building an experiment to explain a fundamental question in physics: how charge-conjugation and parity gets violated. Scientists have not yet been able to explain how it comes about. Filippone is also a member of Caltech's Kellogg Radiation Laboratory, which performs experimental research in the areas of nuclear physics, particle physics, and astrophysics.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 1984.

Linda Hsieh-Wilson

Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor of Chemistry
Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Linda Hsieh-Wilson is a chemical biologist who integrates chemistry and neurobiology to understand the molecular basis of fundamental brain processes such as how the cells of the brain communicate with one another. Her lab applies the tools of organic synthesis, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, biophysics, and neurobiology to manipulate and understand the small molecules, proteins, and molecular interactions critical for neuronal communication, development, learning, and memory.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 2000.

Nets Katz

International Business Machines Professor of Mathematics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Mathematician Nets Katz focuses on research related to combinatorics—a field of math concerned with finding the maximum, minimum, and optimum configuration, such as the absolute largest or smallest possible object. He has made important contributions to additive number theory, a branch of mathematics that deals with problems involving subsets of integers and their behavior under addition; and has also contributed to our understanding of harmonic analysis, a field concerned with representing functions as superpositions of basic oscillating mathematical "waves." Recently, Katz and a collaborator solved the so-called Erdos distinct distances problem, demonstrating the minimum number of distinct distances possible between a set number of points in a plane.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2013.

Beverley McKeon

Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Aeronautics engineer Beverley McKeon explores new ways to experimentally manipulate or control the boundary layer—the thin layer between a material and flowing air—to improve flow characteristics, such as a reduction of drag, noise, and structural loading or expansion of vehicle performance envelopes during travel. The unifying theme to her work is an experimental approach at the intersection of fluid mechanics, control, and materials science to investigate fundamental flow questions, address efficiency and performance challenges in aerospace vehicle design, and respond to the energy conservation imperative in novel and efficient ways.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 2006.

Dianne Newman

Gordon M. Binder/Amgen Professor of Biology and Geobiology
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering

As a biologist and geobiologist, Dianne Newman is interested in exploring the relationship between microorganisms and geologic processes. She has made contributions to our understanding of the role some bacteria can play in iron-rich environments, how microbes respire using arsenate instead of oxygen, and how they perform photosynthesis using iron rather than water. Recently, Newman's lab has also been working to bring tools commonly used in geochemistry to facilitate environmentally informed studies of pathogens in chronic infections.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 2000.

Lior Pachter (BS '94)

Bren Professor of Computational Biology and Computing and Mathematical Sciences
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering

Computational biologist Lior Pachter develops computational and experimental methods for use in genomics. He has contributed to such areas of research as comparative genomics, as well as to sequencing efforts for mouse, rat, chicken, and fly genomes and to the pilot phase of the ENCODE project—an effort to build a comprehensive list of functional elements in the human genome. More recently he has become focused on functional genomics, which seeks to answer questions about the function and interaction of DNA, RNA, and protein products. He is particularly interested in applications of high-throughput sequencing to RNA biology.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2017.

Thomas (Tom) Prince

Ira S. Bowen Professor of Physics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Tom Prince, who is also the director of the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies and is a senior research scientist at JPL, has worked in a number of different scientific arenas, including cosmic-ray astrophysics, gamma-ray astronomy, radio-pulsar astronomy, high-performance computation, and virtual observatories. He was a U.S. mission scientist for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and was a member of the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

He joined the Caltech faculty in 1983.

Gil Refael

Taylor W. Lawrence Professor of Theoretical Physics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Gil Refael is a condensed matter theorist specializing in the dynamics of interacting disordered quantum systems as well as in novel manifestations of topological physics in solid state and optical systems. His work at Caltech concentrates in part on quantum aspects of matter, including quantum entanglement (in which quantum particles share behaviors regardless of distance), quantum computing, and the emergence and control of new quantum states. In quantum computation, he studies majorana fermions (a type of particle that is its own antiparticle) and other types of phenomena.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2005.

Mark Simons

John W. and Herberta M. Miles Professor of Geophysics
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

Mark Simons is a geophysicist who specializes in understanding the mechanical behavior of Earth using radar and other satellite observations of the motions of Earth's surface. Simons's research combines satellite data with continuum mechanical models of Earth to study ongoing regional crustal dynamics, including volcanic and tectonic deformation in Iceland; crustal deformation and the seismic cycle in California, Chile, and Japan; and volcanic and tectonic deformation in and around Long Valley, California. He also uses the gravity fields of the terrestrial planets to study the large-scale geodynamics of mantle convection and its relationship to tectonics. Simons splits his time between campus and JPL, where he also serves at the chief scientist for the Lab.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 1997.

Maria Spiropulu

Shang-Yi Ch'en Professor of Physics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Maria Spiropulu is an experimental particle physicist. She has worked with particle accelerators and detectors for the past two decades and has pioneered new methods of data analysis in order to learn about the physics of the universe at both astrophysical and atomic scales. As part of the science team at the Large Hadron Collider, she is helping to advance the search for dark matter, with a particular interest in questions on dark matter that cut across particle physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 2008.

Andrew Stuart

Bren Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Andrew Stuart is an applied mathematician with a focus on Bayesian statistics and developing mathematical and algorithmic frameworks for making precise predictions. He is particularly interested in how mathematical modeling can be combined with big data to solve problems like weather forecasting, which is often plagued by inaccurate predictions. His work is informed by—and has applications for—diverse areas of study such as Newtonian physics, carbon sequestration, personalized medicine, and crowd behavior.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2016.

Saul Teukolsky (PhD '73)

Robinson Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics
Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

Saul Teukolsky is a theoretical astrophysicist who is considered to be one of the pioneers of numerical relativity, a subject that deals with equations involving general relativity using supercomputers. His research group works on numerical relativity calculations to predict signals of gravitational waves from LIGO and eLISA experiments. In 2015, these calculations were used to compare theory with experiment in the first LIGO detection of gravitational waves, which emanated from the inward spiral and merger of two orbiting black holes. He has also been looking at a broad array of topics within relativistic astrophysics, such as the properties of rapidly rotating neutron stars, exploding neutron stars, and planets around pulsars.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2017.

Joel Tropp

Steele Family Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

An applied and computational mathematician, Joel Tropp's work lies at the interface of applied mathematics, electrical engineering, computer science, and statistics. His research concerns the theoretical and computational aspects of data analysis, sparse modeling, randomized linear algebra, and random matrix theory. He co-developed the CoSaMP algorithm, which offers a new way of pulling data out of a noisy sample and has applications in image compression, facial recognition software, MRI scanning, radio astronomy. and electron microscopy.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2007.

Lihong Wang

Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Lihong Wang works on biomedical imaging. In particular, his lab is using a combination of light and sound to advance novel imaging techniques that allow researchers to noninvasively peer deeper inside biological tissues than previously was possible. He recently developed a new technology that could help surgeons more effectively remove breast cancer lumps, reducing the need for follow-up surgeries. His work has applications for medical screening, diagnosis, disease monitoring, surgical guidance, and more.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2017.

Cindy Weinstein

Eli and Edythe Broad Professor of English
Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Cindy Weinstein focuses her research on 19th-century American literature; she is especially interested in studying the relation between literary texts and the culture in which they were written, such as the Antebellum period. Weinstein, who serves as Caltech's vice provost, is also the author of several monographs and edited volumes. Her most recent monograph, When is Now? Time in American Literature, focuses on how narratives represent time, examining in particular texts that vacillate between verb tenses.

She joined the Caltech faculty in 1989.

Changhuei Yang

Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering
Division of Engineering and Applied Science

Engineer Changhuei Yang's research is focused on biophotonics, an area of research in which light is used to enhance the imaging of—and extraction of information from—biological targets. His work includes the development of novel tools, such as chip-scale microscope systems or a self-imaging petri dish, that combine optics and microfluidics to tackle diagnostic and measurement problems in biology and medicine. He is also looking to advance techniques that can enable greatly improved depth penetration and resolution for deep-tissue optical imaging.

He joined the Caltech faculty in 2003.