The School of Natural Sciences has hired nine faculty members for the 2014-15 academic year, bringing the total number of tenure-track faculty to more than 70.
Four of the nine new hires are women, which is one example of how UC Merced is ahead of the curve in academia. According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, women hold less than 25 percent of jobs available in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. However, Dean Juan Meza reports that in the School of Natural Sciences, women make up close to 40 percent of the workforce.
“I think this proves we’re doing something right at UC Merced,” Meza said. “Everyone agrees a strong and diverse STEM workforce is crucial to our nation’s global competitiveness and capacity for innovation. The lack of representation of women among STEM degree holders highlights a need for young women to have accomplished role models in the field.”
Meza believes UC Merced has such role models. For example, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez recently published findings of her research in Nature, a widely respected academic journal. Huerta-Sanchez, who joins the campus this year as an assistant professor in molecular cell biology, identified the hybridization of DNA that allowed low-land Tibetans to adapt to life at high altitudes. Her expertise in natural selection augments the already varied areas of research focus in the Quantitative and Systems Biology Graduate Group.
“Many of our new hires have already won major awards for their research and publications,” said Marjorie Zatz, vice provost and dean of graduate studies. “These outstanding professors offer our current and prospective graduate students terrific opportunities for interdisciplinary research collaborations and training. Individually and as a cohort, these stellar experts contribute to UC Merced’s growing prestige across a wide range of research areas.”
The new faculty members joining Natural Sciences this fall are:
- Ryan Baxter – assistant professor, chemistry and chemical biology
- Laura Beaster-Jones – Lecturer with potential security of employment, molecular cell biology
- Aaron Hernday – assistant professor, molecular cell biology
- Emilia Huerta-Sanchez – assistant professor, molecular cell biology
- Kirk Jensen – assistant professor, molecular cell biology
- Shilpa Khatri – assistant professor, applied mathematics
- Bin Liu – assistant professor, physics
- Noemi Petra – assistant professor, applied mathematics
- Benjamin Stokes – assistant professor, chemistry and chemical biology
The faculty hires reflect areas of rapid enrollment growth, greatest potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, research potential and other factors aligned with the university’s strategic academic vision and long-term mission, said Tom Peterson, provost and executive vice chancellor.
“To fulfill the goal of enrolling 10,000 undergraduate students by 2020, we have to make an investment in faculty who augment the already diverse areas of research found on our campus,” he said.