2020-2021 New Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Profiles
We are delighted to welcome each of our new tenured and tenure-track faculty members to the UTEP community. Many of our new colleagues have moved to El Paso from places across the globe—from California to Connecticut and Israel—while some have already been here at UTEP and are settling into new roles. We are grateful for their presence and look forward to the many contributions they will make as teachers, scholars, and leaders on campus and in the community. Welcome to UTEP!
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science
Dr. Algara joins UTEP with a research background in American political behavior, legislative accountability, and congressional representation. He is interested in citizens’ perceptions of their political leaders and how the public opinion influences congressional behavior. His research also focuses on polarization and its effect on congressional elections, political attitudes and proximity voting, the dynamics of legislative obstruction and collaboration, latent variable measurement and scaling, and social network analysis. Dr. Algara earned a doctoral degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, where he served as a social network analysis research assistant and taught courses in political science. During the 2019-2020 academic year at UC Davis, Dr. Algara served as a congressional fellow in the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program, which allowed him to observe the function of Congress in person to gain a more holistic understanding of the legislative body. His work on legislative behavior, representation, elections, and social networks has appeared in the peer-reviewed outlets such as Electoral Studies, American Politics Research, and the Social Network Analysis & Mining, along with the New York Times, the Texas Tribune, and the Pacific Standard Magazine. During his downtime, Dr. Algara enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, and watching college or professional sports.
Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Dr. Alvarez comes to UTEP from the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma (OU), where she served as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and a postdoctoral research associate at the Center of Autonomous Sensing and Sampling. She has a research background in water resources, turbulent flow patterns, and rates of erosion and deposition. She is interested in the effects of erosion and sedimentation on river systems and reservoirs as essential economic and ecological resources. Her research approach combines the development of state of the art computational fluid dynamic models with unmanned aerial systems and autonomous boats, in addition to process-based robot learning complemented with adaptive path planning to improve information compression for effective and efficient surveillance of hydrosystems. While at OU, Dr. Alvarez taught courses in River Science, Geomorphology, Physical Geography, and the Principles of Physical Geography. She earned her doctoral degree and master’s degree in geography from Arizona State University (ASU) where she taught Introduction to Physical Geography and Introduction to Landform Processes courses. Dr. Alvarez is a recipient of the ASU Dissertation Fellowship award. She completed her undergraduate degree in civil engineering, summa cum laude, from the National University of Colombia in Medellin, Colombia. Dr. Alvarez is a member of the American Geophysical Union, American Association of Geographers, and the Geological Society of America. She holds an FAA 107 Remote Pilot license and is fluent in Spanish. During her leisure time, Dr. Alvarez enjoys hiking, kayaking, salsa dancing, and crafting.
Associate Professor, Department of Teacher Education
Dr. Butvilofsky joins UTEP from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), with a research focus in bilingualism and biliteracy development in bilingual learners, particularly Latino Spanish-English speaking children. She is especially interested in children’s biliterate writing development situated within a sociocultural and sociolinguistic framework. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, her research has examined bilingual children’s early conceptualizations of writing in both Spanish and English, and bilingual learner’s biliterate reading development via a biliterate reading trajectory. Dr. Butvilofsky’s work contributes to the field of bilingual education by demonstrating that bilingual learners draw upon multiple linguistic and semiotic resources to understand and participate in literacy tasks and activities. Dr. Butvilofsky earned her doctoral degree and master’s degree in bilingualism and biliteracy from CU, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University. While at CU, Dr. Butvilofsky served as the secretary on the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education for three years. She is currently a member of the Congress of Hispanic Educators, the American Educational Researcher Association, the American Association of Applied Linguistics, the Colorado Association for Bilingual Educators, and she regularly reviews manuscripts for scholarly journals including the Bilingual Research Journal, Urban Education, and conference proposals for the American Education Research Association. Most recently, Dr. Butvilofsky’s work received support from the National Professional Development (NPD) Program. She is the principal investigator for the English Language Acquisition Grant, Teachers Improving Learning in Dual Education. During her downtime, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and enjoying the arts.
Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance
Dr. Chabikwa is a Zimbabwean-born artist-scholar engaged with interdisciplinary research in Africana Studies, contemporary African theatrical dance, Africana cosmologies and philosophy, postcolonial modernities, artificial intelligence, and practice-based research methodologies. He joins UTEP from the University of California, Merced where he served as a lecturer of Histories of American Social Dance, Latin American Dance Ensemble, Popular Dance & Africana Identities, Conceptual Art, and African Philosophy. Dr. Chabikwa earned a doctoral degree in Africana Studies from The Ohio State University, a master’s of fine arts in dance from Southern Methodist University, and a bachelor’s degree in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic at Bar Harbor, Maine. Dr. Chabikwa’s interdisciplinary, scholarly and creative endeavors have provided him with the opportunity to lead numerous collaborative performances and presentations in the United States, Zimbabwe, France, and Mozambique, to name a few. Some of this work includes the choreography for Teargas Anthem for Ernesto in Zimbabwe, and the documentary collaboration, Shift Africa: Trace, with Esther Baker Tarpaga at the Kinani Dance Festival in Mozambique. Dr. Chabikwa has traveled to parts of Ohio, Maine, and Texas for solo storytelling and performance art exhibitions. His latest visual art exhibition, ‘City of Oracles’, took place at the William H. Thomas Gallery in Columbus, Ohio. In 2010, Dr. Chabikwa published his first novel titled Baobabs in Heaven. He is currently a member of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance (CADD). Prior to pursuing his doctoral studies in 2011, Dr. Chabikwa was the interim artistic director of Tumbuka Dance Company in Zimbabwe. He is trained in various forms of martial arts including Capoeira, Jindokai, and Seidokan. During his leisure time, Dr. Chabikwa enjoys trail running.
Professor, Department of Kinesiology
Associate Dean, College of Health Sciences
Dr. Cramer comes to UTEP from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) where he served as a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences. His research focuses on the form and function of human, skeletal muscle. His work involves the use of human subject research models to examine age-related changes in muscle strength, size, and function with and without exercise. As a result, Dr. Cramer has authored or co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles, 200 conference research presentations, and a textbook entitled Laboratory Manual for Exercise Physiology, Exercise Testing. He earned his doctoral and master’s degree in exercise physiology from UNL, and a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Creighton University. In 2016, Dr. Cramer was competitively selected to participate in the Dannon Institute Nutritional Leadership Institute, an intensive training program designed to equip outstanding early-career nutritional scientists with leadership skills. He served on the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) board of directors from 2015 to 2018, and was elected president of the Lincoln Youth Football League from 2017 to 2020, where he helped fundraise over $100,000 toward scholarships for underserved young athletes. Dr. Cramer has earned the three highest research awards from the NSCA: the Young Investigator of the Year Award (2005), the Nutrition Research Award (2011), and the William J. Kraemer Outstanding Sport Scientists of the Year Award (2015). He is a member and fellow of the NSCA, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Dr. Cramer’s hobbies revolve around his wife and children. Their oldest son is a graduate and 4-year NCAA gymnast from Springfield College in Massachusetts. He is currently applying for officer training school as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Their second oldest child is starting at Springfield College as an incoming member of their NCAA men’s gymnastics program. Their only daughter (and twin of their second eldest son) is a former gymnast, competitive cheerleader, and a first-year student in pre-health sciences at UNL. Their fourth child will be a senior at Franklin High School in El Paso and is a competitive folk-style wrestler. Their youngest son is also in high school where he will play football, basketball, and track.
Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice
Dr. Duke joins the UTEP College of Liberal Arts after having served as a lecturer for the National Security Studies Institute at UTEP. Her areas of research include the exploration of investigative interview methods, specifically the impact of rapport in successful interview outcomes, as well as the decision-making process that interviewees undergo when deciding how to respond to interviewer requests for information. Her research also includes examining how to improve the manner in which intelligence analysts understand their level of uncertainty regarding estimates and warnings and how to improve the manner in which this information is communicated to intelligence consumers. Dr. Duke earned her first master’s degree in counseling psychology from the Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas (1997) and her second master’s degree in experimental psychology from UTEP (2011). Her master’s thesis at UTEP earned her the Outstanding Master’s Thesis award. In 2013, Dr. Duke earned her doctoral degree in legal psychology from UTEP. Her doctoral thesis, “The Development of the Rapport Scales for Investigative Interviews and Interrogations”, was funded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s High-Value Detainee Program. The program later funded her research proposal to study the effectiveness of the U.S. Army Field Manual interrogation techniques, for which she served as principle investigator. Her work in that study was published in the Law and Human Behavior journal. In the spring of 2019, Dr. Duke filmed an interview on enhanced interrogation that displayed at the International Spy Museum’s Interrogation exhibit in Washington D.C. Her expertise has led her to give presentations about evidence-based interrogation practices to large groups of local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel, such as the Center for Law and Human Behavior Homeland Security Symposium. Dr. Duke is a member of the International Association for Intelligence Education, and the American Psychology-Law Society. During her leisure time, she enjoys playing tennis and traveling. She recently traveled to Costa Rica, Spain, and France.
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Flores-Abad joins the UTEP College of Engineering after having served as a research assistant professor at the UTEP Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR), a NASA funded center of excellence in aerospace and exploration. Dr. Flores-Abad earned his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University (NMSU); a master’s degree in mechatronics engineering from the National Center for Research and Technological Development in Cuernavaca, México; and a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from the Orizaba Institute of Technology in Orizaba, México. His background and research experience are in the area of autonomous systems for Aerospace applications. He has participated in the development of different autonomous controllers for the NASA asteroid redirect mission, the EPOS (European Proximity Operations) systems of DLR and the AFRL Robotic On-orbit servicing project. At cSETR, he has been working in the in the development of small satellites with robotic capabilities and implementing guidance and navigation algorithms for UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Systems). His work at cSETR has involved mentoring and working alongside UTEP undergraduate and graduate students. He was a faculty advisor of the UTEP’s student team that won the first place in the United Launch Alliance (ULA) known as CubeCorps, earning the opportunity to launch their CubeSat (nicknamed OF2). OF2 was successfully launched and deployed from the robotic resupply spacecraft Cygnus in early 2020. Dr. Flores-Abad was selected to attend the first NASA SmallSat Mission Technical Interchange meeting, where a select group of experts discussed the past and future of small satellites. He is also the Principal Investigator of the project, Autonomous Aerial Power Plant Inspection in GPS-denied Environments, funded by the DOE. Dr. Flores-Abad is a reviewer for over a dozen journals in the fields of aerospace engineering and robotics. In 2019, the Aerospace Science and Technology Journal recognized him as an outstanding reviewer. Dr. Flores-Abad has two patents and numerous publications. He is a member of the AIAA Space Automation and Robotics Technical Committee, the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineering (IEEE), and the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE).
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Friedman joins UTEP after completing his post-doctoral training and working as a research scientist at MIT for 10 years. He uniquely combines computation and the development of tools for big data analysis with behavioral physiology to study computation principles and underlying psychiatric and neurological disorders. Dr. Friedman earned his doctoral degree in brain physiology (summa cum laude) from Bar-llan University (BIU) in Israel. While at BIU, he developed deep brain stimulation methods to treat depression and addiction in rodent models. Dr. Friedman demonstrated the first evidence about the physiological role of the striosomal compartment of the striatum in decision-making, and how the striosomal activity and decision-making are affected by chronic stress, aging, and Huntington disorder. His work resulted in solving a 42-year old mystery that led him to publish two major publications in the Cell journal, with a third one on the way. Dr. Friedman continually works on the development of novel computational, electrophysiological, and optical methods to record and analyze neuronal ensembles. At MIT, he facilitated hands-on research engagement workshops for more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students where they were active participants and contributors while learning state-of-the-art techniques and computational methods. He is excited to undertake laboratory classes at UTEP where students can acquire the latest computational methods, physiological recording methods, and behavior physiology via active participation in the research. Dr. Friedman’s lab will uniquely combine the development of computational methods and physiological recording methods with the development of natural behavior assets to study disorders such as PTSD, addiction, chronic stress, and age-related disorders. Dr. Friedman is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, and the Society of Biological Psychiatry. When he is not at work, he enjoys biking, hiking, and spending time with his children at the park. He also likes to get involved with the community by volunteering with organizations that serve elderly populations.
Chair and Professor, Department of Social Work
Dr. Friedman joins UTEP after a long and distinguished career in higher education with a focus on social justice education and administration. He received his doctoral degree in social welfare from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and his master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Before joining UTEP, he served as Chair of the Social Work Program at California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) and co-founder of the CSUB Center for Social Justice, where he worked on addressing health coverage for all, particularly the undocumented. Prior to CSUB he served as the department head of the Social Work Program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (formerly University of Texas Pan American). Dr. Friedman navigated both programs through their accreditation processes. As a community-based participatory researcher, he has worked with the Dolores Huerta Foundation on school-based discipline issues and the Coalition for Valley Families to address obesity issues and gang violence. Dr. Friedman conducted a 'scholar in residence' set of workshops in Pakistan on community-based participatory research and provided management training in Beijing. He published the first social work cookbook and has an interest in cooking and baking. Dr. Friedman is the current co-convener of Social Work and Health Inequalities Network, an international organization that brings together researchers, scholars, and practitioners interested in the role of social work to address health inequalities. He is a past president of the Network for Social Work Management that developed the competencies for Social Work Leadership and Management. Dr. Friedman also started the mentorship program for NASW California Chapter. He is the author of a number of books including The Research ToolKit: Problem-Solving Processes for the Social Sciences, Public Health, Social Work and Health Inequalities; How to Teach Effectively; and Community-Based Participatory Action Research: It is All About Community.
Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing and Management
Dr. Fultz joins UTEP with a research background in entrepreneurship and resource behaviors, particularly in the context of small, resource-constrained, stigmatized, and disadvantaged organizations. His research focus also looks at the process of improvisation in human endeavor that leads to growth in young ventures. Dr. Fultz earned his doctoral degree in organizational management from the Rutgers Business School (RBS) in New Jersey, and master’s degree in general management from Appalachian State University (App State) in Boone, North Carolina. While at App State, Dr. Fultz was recognized as an Outstanding Graduate Student and consistently placed among the top 5% of graduate students at the University. His doctoral thesis at RBS explored the mutual influence between small prosocial ventures and broader social movements to jointly contextualize processes of entrepreneurship and social activism. His study was accepted for presentation at five research conferences, and Dr. Fultz currently has a paper that is under the first round R&R with the Journal of Business Venturing, the leading peer-reviewed entrepreneurship research journal. During his time at RBS, Dr. Fultz served as a research assistant and focused on qualitative methods and social entrepreneurship, volunteered as a doctoral student representative to interview the AACSB re-accreditation team, and taught undergraduate and graduate-level courses on managing growth ventures. He is a member of the Academy of Management (ENT Division and OMT Division), and the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). Dr. Fultz enjoys spending time with his wife and children, reading, composing music, hiking, playing tennis and racquetball, and drinking a good cup of coffee.
Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing and Management
Dr. Grove comes to UTEP from the University of Connecticut (UConn) with a research interest in diversification and corporate strategies centered in a competitive bilateral context. These interests include M&A, alliances, acquisition premiums, and post-acquisition performance. Dr. Grove earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in business administration (magna cum laude) from Universidad Gabriel Mistral in Santiago, Chile, and a second master’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. He decided to pursue a doctoral degree after a successful career that included CEO positions as an international executive, entrepreneur, and seven years teaching at the Universidad Gabriela Mistral in Chile. Dr. Grove earned his doctoral degree in strategic management from UConn, where he was recognized with the Management Department Ph.D. Student Teaching Award. His teaching is based on the real-world business experience and is linked to his research.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Harvey comes to UTEP from the University of Tennessee (UTK) with a research background in the evolutionary origins of bird diversity, avian genomics, and avian systematics and ecology. While at UTK he served as a postdoctoral researcher and led large collaborative research projects that resulted in his work being published in prestigious publications such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most cited multidisciplinary scientific journals. During that time, he was a guest instructor at the Universidad Nacional de San Agustin, Arequipa, Peru where he led workshops on short DNA sequences in non-model organisms for comparative studies. Dr. Harvey earned his doctoral degree in biology from Louisiana State University (LSU), where he was recognized with the LSU College of Science Outstanding Dissertation Award. He co-taught courses in genetics and biology, hosted workshops on ultraconserved elements, served as a curatorial assistant in ornithology and genetic resources for the University’s Museum of Natural Science, and mentored a diverse set of undergraduate students in their scientific research. Dr. Harvey was also on the LSU Birding Team which broke the world’s Big Day Peru Record by identifying 354 bird species in 24 hours. He later earned a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship that led him to study and teach at the University of Michigan where he taught upper-level Ornithology courses. He is a member of the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society of Naturalists, and the American Ornithological Society. Since 2008, Dr. Harvey has led and participated in multi-museum field expeditions to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, and Kyrgyzstan. His trips resulted in the addition of over 6,000 data-rich bird specimens to collections across different institutions. He is looking forward to developing an integrative, collaborative research program at UTEP involving field and laboratory work both locally and abroad.
Assistant Professor, Department of English
Dr. Hawkes joins UTEP from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) with a research background that focuses on the literary uses of ancestry and genealogy to imagine Black futures and American national identity. Currently, she is working on a project that examines representations of the relationships between African Americans and Native Americans in nineteenth and twentieth-century print cultures. Dr. Hawkes maintains an active research agenda, having published in peer-reviewed journals and edited collections such as North Carolina Literary Review and Race and Ethnicity in the United States. She is the recipient of several fellowships and grants in support of her research, including support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. Her teaching and research interests include nineteenth to early twentieth-century African American and Native American literatures, critical race studies, historical fiction, racial passing, and visual culture. While at UMD, Dr. Hawkes taught courses in African American literature, Black diaspora literature, multiethnic literature, and composition. Her community-engaged work has involved public workshops and talks such as post-show discussions at the Mosaic Theater Company in Washington, D.C. Dr. Hawkes’s passion for finding innovative ways to engage communities outside of the university led her to co-found the Humanities Beyond the Academy Group and co-organize its first day-long symposium. Attendees were offered the opportunity to hear from professionals working on public humanities projects and attend workshops where they could reimagine their research for public audiences. Additionally, she holds a certificate in Engaged and Public Humanities from Georgetown University and was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Africana Digital Humanities Institute hosted by the University of Arizona. Dr. Hawkes has presented at over 16 national and international conferences, including the Consent in Early America, 1600-1900, Conference hosted by the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. She has also chaired several conference panels, including an undergraduate research forum. In 2015, she co-organized the Advancing Black Leadership & Education Conference which presented underrepresented undergraduate students workshops on graduate school success. She is an active member of the College Language Association, the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, and the Modern Language Association (MLA). In 2019, she was elected to serve as a representative of the MLA Delegate Assembly. Dr. Hawkes shares that she is excited to become a part of the El Paso community and to engage in interdisciplinary research with faculty and students at UTEP. During her leisure time, she enjoys trying new recipes, antique and boutique shopping, watching sitcoms from the 1970s and 1980s, and traveling. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Black Alumni Society at North Carolina State University.
Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing and Management
Dr. Jeong comes to UTEP from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) with a research interest in electronic word-of-mouth, user-generated content, and digital marketing. She specializes in empirical modeling of issues related to strategic marketing. Her current research focuses on how online customer opinions systematically evolve over time. Her work has been presented at the Informs Marketing Science and the Informs Annual Meeting. Dr. Jeong earned her doctoral degree in marketing from UWM, a master’s degree in marketing from Korea University in Seoul, Korea, and a bachelor’s in marketing from Griffith University in Australia.
Yun-Pai (Beatrice) Lee
Assistant Professor, Master of Rehabilitation Counseling Program
Dr. Lee joins UTEP from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) with a research focus on malleable risk and protective factors that can help people with chronic health conditions and disabilities deal more effectively with stress. Her goal is to further inform the development and validation of positive psychology-based, stress management interventions to improve community participation and the quality of life for people with neurological and psychiatric conditions. Dr. Lee earned a doctoral degree in rehabilitation counselor education, a master’s in rehabilitation psychology, and a bachelor’s in psychology, all from UW. While at UW, Dr. Lee taught courses in rehabilitation counseling psychology theory and assessment. She has been deeply involved in community-based research since the start of her education as an undergraduate student. She has worked with clinicians and scholars at the Taiwan Institute of Psychotherapy, the Neuropsychology lab at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, the Journey Mental Health Center in Wisconsin, Compensated Work Therapy at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, and the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. She has worked at the Multiple Sclerosis Multidisciplinary Clinic at the UW Health University Hospital where she conducted neuropsychological assessments for individuals with MS to understand their strengths and limitations. Her work there helped guide patients in utilizing their strengths in daily living and community participation. Dr. Lee earned multiple awards throughout her academic career. She received the Rehabilitation Doctoral Student of the Year Award from the National Council on Rehabilitation Education for her outstanding research and advocacy of individuals with disabilities, the Doctoral Research Proposal Award from the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, and the Fong Chan Award from the UW Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. Her training has provided her the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and researchers from rehabilitation counseling, psychology, and other health related disciplines. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, and the National Council on Rehabilitation Education. During her downtime, Dr. Lee enjoys traveling, swimming, and cooking. She looks forward to conducting interdisciplinary research at UTEP with scholars from across campus.
Assistant Professor, Department of Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering
Dr. Luna returns to his alma mater after completing a doctoral degree in Systems Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. His research interests focus on the intersection between data science, systems engineering, and strategic decision-making. While at Stevens, Dr. Luna was awarded the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Doctoral Fellowship and received the Outstanding Dissertation Award by the School of Systems and Enterprises. He is a former researcher from the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), a University-Affiliated Research Center of the U.S. Department of Defense, where he collaborated in the Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers and the Mission Engineering Competencies project. He earned his master’s in systems engineering and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from UTEP. During this time, he served as a research assistant at the UTEP Research Institute for Manufacturing and Engineering Systems and was a part of the development of enterprise-level architectural views of the University’s shuttle system that were in accordance with the Department of Defense Architecture Framework principles. He is a member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Prior to joining the faculty at UTEP, Dr. Luna spent his career as an e-commerce data scientist at a world leading consumer product goods organization. He is a coffee aficionado, enjoys traveling, and exploring diverse cultures.
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. MacDonald is returning to UTEP as a professor in mechanical engineering after spending four years at Youngstown State University, where he worked on the national initiative on additive manufacturing called America Makes. He received his doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002, and worked in the industry for 12 years at IBM and Motorola in Austin. He subsequently co-founded a start-up company that was acquired by a Silicon Valley firm. Dr. MacDonald has held faculty fellowships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with a State Department Fulbright Fellowship in South America at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Valparaiso, Chile. His research interests include 3D printed multi-functional applications and process monitoring in additive manufacturing. His recent projects include 3D printing of structures such as nano-satellites with electronics in the structure, one of which was launched into low earth orbit, and a replica of which is on display at the London Museum of Science. He has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and over two dozen patents, one of which was licensed by Sony and Toshiba. Dr. MacDonald is a co-founding editor of the Elsevier journal Additive Manufacturing, which has one of the highest impact factors for all of manufacturing journals worldwide. He is a member of ASEE, ASME, a senior member of IEEE, and a registered Professional Engineer in Texas.
Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Dr. Mandal comes to UTEP with a research background in robust statistical inference that focuses on eliminating the effect of outliers in noisy data. His background involves big data analysis and non-parametric statistics and genetics. Prior to UTEP, Dr. Mandal served as assistant professor of mathematics at Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit, and visiting assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He completed his post-doctoral work at the University of Minnesota, the Brain Science Institute in RIKEN in Japan, and the School of Health Sciences at the University of Tampere in Finland. Dr. Mandal earned a doctoral degree and master’s degree in statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, India. While at WSU, Dr. Mandal developed a proposal for the new B.S. degree in Statistics, and played a key role in starting the program. Additionally, he served on WSU Biostatistics & Epidemiology Research Design group, and served as chair of the Probability and Statistics Seminar and co-chair of the Colloquium Committee. He is passionate about teaching probability, theoretical and computational statistics, data analysis, and getting involved in interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues in computer science, healthcare, and biomedical research fields. Dr. Mandal has built several web applications for students to interactively visualize different statistical techniques. During his leisure time, Dr. Mandal enjoys outdoor games, walking, and spending time with his family and friends.
Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations
Dr. Martinez returns to her alma mater after having served as an associate professor of educational leadership and co-director of the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program at California State University-San Bernardino (CSUSB). Her research agenda engages questions of policy and practice that influence the ways in which historically, underrepresented students experience and access higher education. Her most recent work is centered on the impact of the community-college baccalaureate, how faculty working conditions influence the learning conditions of students, and graduate student socialization and development. Her work has been published in The Journal of Higher Education, Community College Review, Studies in Higher Education, New Directions for Community Colleges, and the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, among several others. In 2017, Dr. Martinez co-authored a monograph for the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Higher Education Report Series. ASHE is the leading organization focused on the study of higher education. Since 1983, the ASHE Higher Education Report Series (formerly ASHE-ERIC) has been providing researchers, scholars, and practitioners with timely and substantive information on the critical issues facing higher education. Dr. Martinez served on the 2016 Division J American Educational Research Association (AERA) Program Committee as a section co-chair for Section 4: Faculty, Curriculum, and Teaching. She was recognized as a Dissertation Fellow by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and was awarded the 2018 Faculty Member of the Year by the Undocumented Student Success Center at CSUSB. Dr. Martinez is also a recipient of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) research grant which supports research within the academic advising field. Dr. Martinez earned her doctoral degree in educational leadership from Clemson University, a master’s degree in educational administration from UTEP, and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from UTEP. During her downtime, Dr. Martinez enjoys kickboxing, mountain biking, hiking, and all things music.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. McCabe is a biological education researcher and joins the UTEP College of Science after having served as a postdoctoral fellow for the UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS program, and the Biology Education Research Group. Dr. McCabe earned his doctoral degree in biological education from the University of Northern Colorado (UNCO), a master’s degree in comparative and world literature from San Francisco University (SFSU), and a bachelor’s degree in cell biology from the University of California, Davis. As a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. McCabe served as an instructor for an interdisciplinary science course and a research foundations course for undergraduate students. Additionally, he worked alongside faculty to develop and initiate new biology education research projects focused around issues of inclusion and equity in laboratory classrooms, and the assessment and evaluation of educational materials. In addition to his research, Dr. McCabe is highly involved in student mentoring. He is an author for the textbook, Principles of Biology Laboratory Manual, a series of lab activity workbooks focusing on human endocrine physiology, and he has a patent involving polyvalent venom vaccines. Dr. McCabe is fluent in Japanese and proficient in reading and writing Spanish.
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science
Dr. Moore is returning to the UTEP Department of Computer Science after working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for four years as a senior computer scientist. ORNL is the largest U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) science and energy laboratory. Dr. Moore’s research focuses on evaluation of emerging hardware technologies, parallel and distributed system design and evaluation, and performance evaluation and optimization of scientific and machine learning applications. She earned her doctoral degree in computer science from Purdue University, a master’s degree in mathematics from Wichita State University, a master’s in science education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s in mathematics and chemistry from Indiana University Bloomington. Dr. Moore is a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery, and a founding member of the Performance Application Programming Interface (PAPI) project. Her work on PAPI earned her and research colleagues the R&D 100 Award in 2001. The R&D 100 Awards recognize the most promising new products, processes, materials, or software developed throughout the world. During her career at ORNL, Dr. Moore has been the ORNL point of contact and lead for several initiatives in the Exascale Computing Project, a monumental DOE initiative to advance scientific and computational capabilities to the exascale in less than a decade. During her downtime, she enjoys open-water swimming, spending time with her three dogs, and playing the piano and guitar. Dr. Moore shares that she is excited to return to UTEP, and is looking forward to joining the Computer Science Department and collaborating with faculty and students on teaching and research.
Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Dr. Moreno joins UTEP from the University of Oklahoma (OU) where he served as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability. His research focuses on advancing the links between water, energy, and biogeochemical cycles across a wide range of spatio-temporal scales and regions. His research particularly focuses on hydro-systems under natural variability and anthropogenic change that bring new challenges for society's water security and forecasting. Dr. Moreno earned his doctoral degree in civil, environmental, and sustainable engineering from Arizona State University; a master’s in water resources engineering and bachelor’s in civil engineering from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. While at OU, Dr. Moreno taught graduate-level courses in hydrologic science, global change hydrology, and computational hydrology; and undergraduate courses in physical geography. He was a mentor to post-doctoral fellows as well as masters and doctoral students pursuing a degree in geography and civil engineering, and nearly a dozen undergraduate students in geology, geography and computer science disciplines. In addition to his role as assistant professor at OU, Dr. Moreno served as an affiliate faculty at the OU Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling and also at the OU South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center. He is the recipient of the 2017 U.S. Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, the OU Exceptional Achievement in Research Award, and was recognized for his research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Advanced Study Program. In 2018, Dr. Moreno was the invited speaker for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center TWC Seminar where he discussed his work on combining high-resolution modeling with observations to improve our understanding of the water cycle. Dr. Moreno is bilingual in English and Spanish. He has an FAA Remote Pilot License and enjoys swimming, paddle boarding, playing soccer, and playing the keyboard and piano.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Moschak is a behavioral neuroscientist and joins UTEP from the Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). His research focuses on the neuroscience of addiction, distress tolerance, and impulsivity. His methodology involves the use of electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and optogenetics to record and manipulate neural activity during behavioral tasks with the goal of understanding the role of the brain in addiction. He earned his doctoral degree in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health & Science University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Iowa. As a postdoctoral scholar at UNC, Dr. Moschak received the 2019 K99 Pathway to Independent grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provided the opportunity to work with clinicians to develop a novel animal model of distress tolerance that predicts drug-seeking behavior. He is also the recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and the OHSU N.L. Tartar Fellowship which supports research career development. His work has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Addiction Biology, and Psychopharmacology. Dr. Moschak is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, and shared that he is especially proud of having mentored over a dozen graduate and undergraduate students in his field. During his leisure time, he enjoys listening to music and hiking.
Assistant Professor, Department of Metallurgical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Natividad-Diaz returns to her alma mater after completing a doctoral degree in bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley. While at Berkeley, her work on cell sorting samples was recognized with the second place award in the Prize for Primary Healthcare competition. The competition is sponsored by the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology with Ambulatory Practice of the Future. Dr. Natividad-Diaz is a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Oncology Department at the Livestrong Cancer Institute in Austin, TX, and earned her master’s and bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering from UTEP. In 2017, Dr. Natividad-Diaz received the Siebel Scholars Foundation Fellowship, awarded to nearly 100 exceptional students from the world’s leading graduate schools of business, computer science, energy science and bioengineering. In 2014, she received the National Institute of Health (NIH) T32 Stem Cell Engineering Training Program Fellowship. Dr. Natividad-Diaz’ work helped make possible a patent involving magnetic cell separation by inkjet printing. She is a member of the Siebel Scholars Foundation, the Expanding Your Horizons Network, and the Alpha Sigma Mu Materials Science and Engineering Honor Society, to name a few.
Assistant Professor, Department of Accounting and Information Systems
Dr. Nelson joins the UTEP College of Business Administration after having served as a visiting professor in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems. His research focuses on capital markets, accounting information in decision-making, real effects of accounting, disclosure, and information in supply chains. He earned his doctoral degree in accounting and information systems from The Ohio State University (OSU), a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Utah, and a bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in accounting from Utah Valley University. Dr. Nelson received the KPMG Minority Accounting Doctoral Scholarship, the AIGC Graduate Fellowship, and he is an American Accounting Association/Deloitte/J. Michael Cooke Doctoral Fellow.
Saeid Tizpaz Niari
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science
Dr. Tizpaz-Niari joins UTEP from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he was a member of the Programming Languages and Verification Group (CUPLV). He is primarily interested in addressing cybersecurity and performance challenges in software, machine learning, and cyber-physical systems. In addition, he is interested in developing tools and techniques to guarantee privacy and fairness in algorithmic inferences. Dr. Tizpaz-Niari earned his doctoral degree in computer engineering from CU Boulder, a master’s degree in information technology engineering from the Sharif University of Technology in Iran, and a bachelor’s degree in information technology engineering from Tabriz University in Iran. While at CU Boulder, he served as a team leader of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Space/Time Analysis for Cybersecurity (STAC) Program. Dr. Tizpaz-Niari is the first author of multiple publications that have been presented in top-tier computer science conferences such as NDSS’20 (security), AAAI’18 (artificial intelligence), CAV’19 (verification), and ISSTA’20 (software engineering). His latest publication, Detecting and Understanding Real-World Differential Performance Bugs in Machine Learning Libraries, was presented at the International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis (ISSTA) in July 2020. Dr. Tizpaz-Niari is the recipient of the Gold Research Award from the ECEE department at CU Boulder (2018), and the Second Prize Winner of the First Microsoft Open Source Challenge (2016). He is a reviewer for the Journal of Computer Security and annual Computer Aided Verification (CAV) Conference, which focuses on theory and practice of computer aided formal analysis of software and hardware systems. During his downtime, Dr. Tizpaz-Niari enjoys hiking, running, watching soccer, solving puzzles, and playing chess. He is fluent in Persian (Farsi) and Azeri (Turkish), and enjoys learning new languages.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Dr. Potter joins UTEP from Princeton University where she served as a postdoctoral research fellow. Her research focuses on the role of experience in language learning, with an emphasis on learning across different communities and environments. Her work involves understanding how differences in early experience can shape children’s long-term language and academic outcomes, particularly among Spanish-English bilingual children, as well as families of low-socioeconomic status. Dr. Potter earned her doctoral degree in cognitive psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and bachelor’s with distinction from Stanford University. Dr. Potter has mentored and supervised independent research projects for students at UW, Stanford, and Princeton. She has been regularly involved in educational community outreach programs, particularly those intended to promote broader inclusion in STEM fields. Other service contributions include being a member of the organizing committee for the Symposium for Research on Child Language Disorders, participating in the Psychology Research Exploration Program at UW-Madison, and presenting at the Young Women’s Conference in STEM at Princeton. Her background and research has led to publications in leading journals for cognitive and developmental psychology including Developmental Science and Cognition. Dr. Potter is a member of the American Psychological Society, the International Congress of Infant Studies, and the Cognitive Development Society. During her downtime, she enjoys traveling, cooking, and coaching youth soccer.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Dr. Qin comes to UTEP from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center with a research background in the mechanisms of drug resistance and immunosuppression driven by the inflammatory tumor microenvironment and metabolites. Dr. Qin earned his doctoral degree in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Arizona (UA); a master’s in pharmacognosy & microbial-biochemical medicine from Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) in Beijing, China; and a bachelor’s in microbial-biochemical medicine from the Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in Liao Ning, China. Dr. Qin led the research project for cloning and characterizing the first functional promoter of the human PDGFR-β gene, which established the first targeted therapeutic strategy to silence PDGFR-expression in cancer cells by small molecules to stabilize the G-quadruplex structures within its promoter. Dr. Qin is currently participating in the Uveal Melanoma Translational Research team for the development of new immunotherapy and targeted therapies for uveal melanoma. He has supervised and mentored a number of undergraduate and graduate students at MD Anderson, UA, and PUMC. Dr. Qin was recognized twice as a Scholar-in-Training by the American Association Cancer Center (2007, 2012), and has been awarded four Career Development grants through the MD Anderson Cancer Center SPORE in Melanoma (NCI). In 2019, Dr. Qin was awarded the Department of Defense Idea Award in Cancer Research – a grant that has allowed him to examine the immunosuppressive adenosine pathway in uveal melanoma and pancreatic cancer. He is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, and the Development Committee of Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine (2013), among several others. Dr. Qin enjoys sand volleyball, hiking, archery, and photography.
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services
Dr. Rocha joins UTEP from Old Dominion University (ODU) with a research background in clinical supervision. Her research focuses on supervisee and supervisor preparation, and supervisee best practices in clinical supervision. She earned her doctoral degree in Education with a concentration in counselor education and supervision from ODU, her master’s in clinical mental health counseling from ODU, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia (UNAD) in Colombia. During the last year of her doctoral studies, Dr. Rocha was the associate director of behavioral health at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare in Chesapeake, Virginia. As a graduate student in 2016, she launched a free cost program at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation center, which offered patients experiencing congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) mental health counseling services by mental health counseling interns. Her undergraduate studies provided her with the opportunity to complete her undergraduate internship with the program of domestic violence with the U.S. Department of Defense at the Fleet and Family Support Center in the U.S. military base in Atsugi, Japan. Dr. Rocha is the recipient of the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies Doctoral Fellowship Award (2018), the Association for Assessment and Research Counseling Donald Hood Student Research Grant Award (2019), the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Research Grant Award (2019), and the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Research and Best Practice Grant Award (2019). In 2019, she and her research colleagues from her doctoral program received the Outstanding Research Award from Chi Sigma Iota -Omega Delta Chapter for the study titled, Structured Peer Feedback Exchange in Group Supervision of Beginning Supervisors, for which she was the second of five authors. Dr. Rocha is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), and the Association for Assessment and Research in Counseling (AARC). Dr. Rocha is from Colombia and is bilingual in English and Spanish. She shared she is looking forward to collaborating with her colleagues at UTEP on a variety of research on the border.
Juan David Rubio Restrepo
Assistant Professor, Department of Music
Dr. Rubio Restrepo joins UTEP from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) with a research background in Latin American musics and musics from the African diaspora such as cumbia, global jazz, and Afro-Cuban expressive cultures. Additional interests include critical race studies, decolonial thought, drum kit studies, and experimental practices. An active performer, composer, and music technologist, Dr. Rubio Restrepo’s creative practice is wide ranging, encompassing traditional, non-traditional, and multi-sited telematic settings. Dr. Rubio Restrepo earned a doctoral degree in Music with a focus on Integrative Studies from UCSD; a Master of Fine Arts degree in Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology from the University of California, Irvine; and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music with a focus on Jazz Studies and Drum Performance from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. During his time at UCSD, Dr. Rubio Restrepo taught courses in music of the Americas; sound, technology, and power; and cumbia across America. While in Colombia, he taught a first of its kind, practice-oriented course that explored Eurological, Afrological, and local approaches to improvisation, and co-founded and co-directed the Bogotá Orquesta de Improvisadores (BOI). He is a member of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Latin American Studies Association, and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Dr. Rubio Restrepo is the recipient of the Tinker Field Research Grant (2018) and the UCSD Jazz Award (2019) for the most outstanding contribution to the Jazz ensemble. His research can be found in Twentieth-Century Music, Leonardo Music Journal, and it is forthcoming in Cambridge Companion to the Drum Kit.
Associate Professor, Department of Metallurgical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Schuster returns to his alma mater after serving 19 years as a mechanical engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Maryland. His research background focuses on material characterization. While in Maryland, Dr. Schuster also served as a visiting scholar in the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). He earned his doctoral degree and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from JHU, and a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering (summa cum laude) from UTEP. While at the ARL, Dr. Schuster was the principal investigator for experiments and characterization for the ARL Essential Research Program on Soldier Protection. He also served as a member of the Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS) Scientific Working Group, and was the DCS Collaborative Access Team Lead for the ARL. Dr. Schuster is a recipient of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Award for Analysis (2018), the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Award for Partnership (2016), and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Director’s Research Award (2012). Over the course of this career, he has mentored over two dozen students.
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics
Dr. Shim is a theoretical condensed matter physicist and joins UTEP from the Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland. His research background involves the theoretical investigation of quantum computing and its physical implementation in solid state devices. Two main physical platforms of interest are the semiconductor quantum dot systems and the superconducting quantum circuits. He has been studying possible qubit designs and efficient schemes for gate operations between qubits. His research interest is also in using novel materials for new types of quantum computing devices. Dr. Shim earned his doctoral degree in physics from The University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Seoul National University in the South Korea. Dr. Shim has an extensive research profile with over thirty research papers in condensed matter physics and quantum computing. Experimentalists are now pursuing his last theoretical proposal that was published in Nature Communications. Dr. Shim’s expertise has provided him the opportunity to give guest lectures at seminars and institutions such as the Korea Research Institute of Standard and Science (KRISS) and The State University of New York (SUNY). In 2018, Dr. Shim patented a microwave-free control of a superconductor-based quantum computer; he has two additional patents under review. He is a member of the American Physical Society (APS), APS Division of Quantum Information (APS-DQI), and the Korean-American Scientists and Engineers Association (KSEA). During his leisure time, Dr. Shim enjoys traveling, cooking, and playing guitar.
Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations
Dr. Sun comes to UTEP from the Texas Center for Educational Policy at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). Her research focuses on the sociopolitical contexts of equity-based reforms including issues related to school-to-prison pipeline in grades K-12, social justice leadership, and federal education policy implementation. She earned her doctoral degree in educational policy and planning from UT Austin, a master’s in cooperative superintendency program from UT Austin, a master’s in curriculum studies from UT Austin, and a bachelor’s in English literature from the College of Liberal Arts Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan. Dr. Sun is a 2019-2020 American Educational Research Association Congressional Fellow, which provided her the opportunity to serve as a legislative fellow at Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office. In 2016, she was competitively selected to participate in the University of Texas System Archer Center Graduate Program in Public Policy, and served as a program operations executive in the Cooperative Superintendency Program – a top-ranked educational leadership program at UT Austin. Dr. Sun is the 2015 recipient of the Activist Research Grant Award and Barbara L. Jackson Scholar Award. Dr. Sun worked as a curriculum coordinator and as an ELA teacher in bilingual schools, and worked as a policy expert and a data analyst in several civil rights organizations. She is a member of the American Educational Research Association, and University Council for Educational Administration. During her leisure time, Dr. Sun enjoys watching documentaries and swimming. She shared she is very excited about joining the UTEP family.
Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice
Dr. Tasca joins UTEP from Sam Houston State University (SHSU) with a research focus in the areas of correctional policy, collateral consequences of incarceration, and disparities in crime and justice. She earned her doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Arizona State University (ASU). She previously taught undergraduate and graduate courses in criminal justice and social diversity, gender and crime, consequences of incarceration, and race and crime. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), including a W.E.B. DuBois Fellowship in 2016. Currently, she is a Co-Principal Investigator on the most comprehensive study to date on the sources and consequences of prison violence which is funded by Arnold Ventures. This project is a collaboration among criminologists from five universities and seven state prison systems. Her scholarly work has been published in top-tier journals including Justice Quarterly, Criminal Justice and Behavior, and Crime and Delinquency. Dr. Tasca is a member of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), Western Society of Criminology (WSC), and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). During her time at SHSU, Dr. Tasca served on and chaired a number of dissertation, master’s thesis, and research fellowship committees, and also mentored over a dozen undergraduate honors students pursuing degrees in criminal justice. During her leisure time, Dr. Tasca enjoys attending concerts, reading memoirs, and going on road trips.
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Dr. Villarreal joins UTEP from The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) with a research background in Spanish borderlands, Texas-Louisiana borderlands, early America, fugitives from slavery, and deserters. She earned her doctoral and master’s degree in Latin American History from UTA, and bachelor’s degree in history and visual arts from Rice University. During her graduate studies, Dr. Villarreal’s research received support from the Fulbright Program, Ford Foundation, SSRC-Mellon Mays Program, and the E.D. Farmer International Fellowship. Her graduate work in Spanish Borderlands won her the Perry Prize for Best Master’s Thesis and her doctoral work was recognized by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Her research awards, along with internships at the Texas General Land Office and the National Humanities Center, provided her the opportunity to conduct research in archives located in Mexico, Spain, France, and the United States. Dr. Villarreal is a member of the American Historical Association, Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), and the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies (RMCLAS). She is a first-generation college graduate, and is the first person in her family to earn a doctoral degree. During her leisure time, she enjoys photography, watercolor painting, and perfecting her green chili recipe.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Dr. Volpert-Esmond comes to UTEP with a research background in psychological and physiological stressors caused by experiences of discrimination, and early perceptual processes that are involved in the judgement of race or gender when looking at a person’s face. Dr. Volpert-Esmond earned her doctoral and master’s degree in personality and social psychology from the University of Missouri (Mizzou), where she was recognized with the Life Sciences Doctoral Fellowship. During her time in graduate school, Dr. Volpert-Esmond taught undergraduate honors courses in social cognitive neuroscience, providing her with the opportunity to mentor a number of undergraduate research assistants – many who have gone on to competitive graduate programs. In 2018, she received a National Research Service Award (NRSA) to fund her research from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Dr. Volpert-Esmond was the departmental nominee for the Mizzou Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award in 2017. She is a member of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Society for Psychophysiological Research, and the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues. Dr. Volpert-Esmond enjoys spending time with her husband, friends, and two dogs, and playing ultimate frisbee and disc golf.
Assistant Professor, Department of Teacher Education
Dr. Walker is a learning scientist with a research background in emerging technologies in biology and computer sciences and their use in K-12 education. His work focuses on examining how learners construct knowledge, engage in argumentation, and use design in scientific inquiry. Dr. Walker uses synthetic biology to explore how cells, much like programmable units, can be genetically modified or designed to behave usefully. He recently taught undergraduate-level cellular biology and genetics at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, and graduate-level courses in games, virtual worlds, and science education methods at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). Dr. Walker is the co-organizer of the University of Pennsylvania Learn.Design.Bio, a collaborative of scientists, designers and educators who work on novel learning platforms and activities to advance biological design, synthetic biology, and computation education for K-12 students. He also helps organize the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Global Community Bio Summit, an annual gathering for scholars to cultivate an accessible commons of knowledge and resources, launch community labs and projects, and enable educators. Dr. Walker earned a doctoral degree from the UPenn Graduate School of Education, a master’s degree from the UPenn School of Engineering and Applied Science, and a bachelor’s in molecular biology and English Literature from the University of Miami. Dr. Walker has more than a decade of high school and university science teaching experience. His most recent work on an NSF grant involved the development of an open source low-cost portable wet lab device, called a bioMAKERlab, to promote synthetic biology in high school classes. Dr. Walker is a member of the International Society of the Learning Sciences, American Education Research Association, and National Science Teachers Association. During his leisure time, he enjoys bicycling, traveling, and hiking with his two dogs, Taffy and Langston.