# College of Science Welcomes New Faculty Members

The fall semester brings many new beginnings from new students, faculty, and staff to new goals and a new academic year. This fall, the LSU College of Science welcomes new faculty members across three departments. Learn more about each new colleague below and make sure to give them a big LSU welcome when you see them.

**Jump to each section:** Biological Sciences | Mathematics | Physics & Astronomy

## Biological Sciences

Assistant Professor Jordan Dowell studies the evolutionary ecology of plant-plant chemical communication and the impacts of multifunctional traits on biotic interactions from single-cells to landscapes using various techniques, from metabolomics and genomics to remote sensing and field-based. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nevada and his PhD from the University of Central Florida.

Assistant Professor Gaurav Kandlikar’s research interests include ecology and evaluation of species interactions, soil microbial controls over plant community dynamics, and inclusive pedagogy in ecology and evolution. He earned his bachelor’s degree in ecology, evolution and behavior and plant biology from the University of Minnesota and his PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a fellow of the Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity at the University of Missouri and received the 2020 Murray F. Buell Award for Excellence in Ecology from the Ecological Society of America. He was also a 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Assistant Professor Cristiano Moreira’s research interests include microbial pathogenesis and multilocus sequence typing. He earned his bachelor’s and teaching degrees in biological science from the Federal University of São Carlos and his master’s and PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of São Paulo.

### Non-tenure Track

Debanjana Bhattacharya

Instructor

Assistant Professor - Research

Instructor

Assistant Professor - Research

## Mathematics

Assistant Professor Ana Balibanu earned her bachelor’s in mathematics with honors from the California Institute of Technology and her master's and PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Her research interest includes geometric representation theory, particularly in algebraic groups and their connections to symplectic and poisson geometry.

Assistant Professor Nadejda Drenska earned her bachelor's in mathematics with honors and bachelor's of applied mathematics with honors from Brown University. She went on to earn her PhD in mathematics from New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. She was awarded the Moses A. Greenfield Research Award for Outstanding Interdisciplinary Studies from the Courant Institute in 2016. Her research interests include viscosity solutions of PDEs, optimal control theory, applications to machine learning, and financial mathematics.

Assistant Professor Benjamin Fehrman earned his bachelor’s in mathematics with honors from the University of Notre Dame and his masters and PhD from the University of Chicago. He was a 2021 EPSRC Early Career Fellow, and his research interests include stochastic analysis and homogenization, stochastic partial differential equations, and machine learning.

Assistant Professor Xiaoqi Huang earned his bachelor’s in mathematics and applied mathematics from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and his PhD in mathematics from Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, mathematical physics, spectral theory, and local/global analysis on geometric manifolds. He was recently awarded the 2024 American Mathematical Society Simons Travel Grant.

Assistant Professor Naga Manasa Vempati’s research interests include harmonic analysis and its applications, functional analysis, geometric measure theory, and complex analysis of several variables. She earned her bachelor’s in mathematics with honors from the Indian Statistical Institute in India and her master’s and PhD in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2021, she was awarded the Albert Baernstein II Award for Best Thesis in Mathematics and Statistics from Washington University.

Assistant Professor Xingting Wang earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his PhD in mathematics from the University of Washington. His research interests include tensor categories, quantum groups, poisson algebras, cohomology theory, and representation theory. In 2016, he was awarded the Moses A. Greenfield Research Award for Outstanding Interdisciplinary Studies at the Courant Institute at NYU.

Assistant Professor Zhiyu Wang earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University and PhD in mathematics from the University of South Carolina. His research interests include probabilistic and extremal combinatorics, graph coloring, structural graph theory, spectral graph theory, and applications of discrete mathematics to data science and theoretical computer science.

## Physics & Astronomy

Assistant Professor Natalie Hinkel's research interests include stellar abundance analysis for nearby main-sequence stars, including investigation of measurement techniques and methodologies, study of the chemical interplay between exoplanets and their host stars, and computational astrophysics and machine learning algorithms, specifically using Python. She earned her PhD from Arizona State University and was awarded Postdoc of the Year at Vanderbilt University.

Assistant Professor Alexis Mercenne’s research interests include theoretical nuclear physics and astrophysics, specializing in low-energy structure of the atomic nucleus, with a particular interest in nuclear reactions and their significance to astrophysics, and developing theoretical approaches to nuclear reactions that unite the structure and reactions of nuclei. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD from the University of Caen Normandy.

Assistant Professor Michela Negro earned her bachelor’s degree in physics, master's degree in nuclear and sub-nuclear physics, and PhD in physics and astrophysics from the University of Torino in Italy. She is part of the team working on analyzing GRB 221009A, likely the brightest gamma-ray and x-ray burst on record. Her research interest include high-energy astrophysics, multimessenger astronomy involving high-energy neutrinos, and astroparticle physics.

### Non-Tenured Track

Assistant Research Professor