Introducing new faculty in the Physical Sciences Division

September 23, 2021

Please welcome the faculty joining the Physical Sciences Division in the '21-22 academic year.

Joshua A. Frieman, Astronomy and Astrophysics

Josh Frieman

Josh Frieman, PhD’85, is now a professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics after being on faculty part-time. He primarily researches theoretical and observational cosmology, especially dark energy, large-scale structure, the early universe, and the interplay between cosmology, particle physics, and astrophysics. Current and recent research projects include: the analysis of the SDSS-II Supernova Survey, which discovered 500 spectroscopically confirmed type Ia supernovae, and which led to improved constraints on dark energy and better understanding of SNe Ia as cosmological distance indicators; analysis and modeling of large-scale structure in galaxy surveys such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey; and the use of weak gravitational lensing observations to probe the distribution of mass on galaxy and cluster scales. Frieman is the former director of the Dark Energy Survey and current head of the Particle Physics Division at Fermilab. In 2021, he was named Fellow of the American Astronomical Society.

Alexander Ji, Astronomy and Astrophysics

Alex Ji is an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Ji's research interests are in a field called near-field cosmology. He studies the elemental composition of the oldest surviving stars (“stellar archaeology”) to learn about the first stars and galaxies, the origin of the elements, the history of the Milky Way, and the nature of dark matter. He is especially known for using relics of the first galaxies to understand the cosmic origin of heavy elements like gold and platinum. Ji received his PhD in physics from MIT and previously held Hubble and Carnegie postdoctoral fellowships at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Austin Joyce, Astronomy and Astrophysics

Austin Joyce

Austin Joyce is an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. He explores the connections between quantum mechanics, which govern the behavior of the very small, and cosmology, the study of the universe on the largest scales. A central theme of his research is the use of symmetries as an organizing principle. Most recently, he has been investigating the origins of structure in the universe from this perspective. He is particularly interested in understanding the extent to which the evolution of the early universe can be described solely using fundamental physics principles, including causality and the conservation of probabilities. Joyce received his BS in physics from Boston College and his PhD in physics from the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently he was a joint Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics and Robert R. McCormick Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago, and later was a postdoctoral research scientist at the Center for Theoretical Physics at Columbia University. Most recently, he was a Delta Institute for Theoretical Physics Fellow at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

Jeffrey McMahon, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics

Jeff McMahon is an associate professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Physics. He joined the faculty in January 2020. McMahon is an experimentalist who studies cosmology and fundamental physics through measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). He develops instruments to measure the spatial pattern of the CMB's polarization and temperature. These measurements provide insights into the early universe, galaxy clusters, dark matter, neutrino masses, and a variety of astrophysical phenomena. He is the technical council co-chair for CMB-S4 and the technical committee chair for Simons Observatory; two next generations of CMB experiments. His research group collaborates with the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) and the South Pole Telescope (SPT) teams. Their work spans instrumentation development, observations, and data analysis through to cosmological results. He received his two bachelor’s in mathematics and physics from University of California, Berkeley in 1999, and a PhD in physics from Princeton University in 2006. He was a Fermi Fellow and Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago. Most recently he was an associate professor in physics at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Paul Alivisatos, Chemistry

Paul Alivisatos

Paul Alivisatos is the John D. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the College. He is a preeminent materials chemist whose research accomplishments include studies of the scaling laws governing the optical, electrical, structural, and thermodynamic properties of nanocrystals. He developed methods to synthesize size and shape controlled nanocrystals, and developed methods for preparing branched, hollow, nested, and segmented nanocrystals. In his research, he has demonstrated key applications of nanocrystals in biological imaging and renewable energy.

Alivisatos is an entrepreneur whose inventions are widely used in biomedicine and QLED TV displays, and his scientific advances have yielded more than 50 patents. He founded two prominent nanotechnology companies: Nanosys, Inc. and Quantum Dot Corp. (now part of Thermo Fisher). Among his more than 25 awards and honors, Alivisatos has received the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award, the National Medal of Science, the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, and the Priestley Medal. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Alivisatos received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1981 from the University of Chicago. He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986, and joined the faculty there in 1988. He was most recently UC Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. In 2021, he became the 14th president of the University of Chicago.

Anna Wuttig, Chemistry

Anna Wuttig

Anna Wuttig is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry. The mission of her research group is to integrate renewable energy input into the synthesis of products across the chemical value chain by advancing the science underlying chemical reactivity at electrified interfaces. Wuttig was born in Washington, D.C., and spent time in Germany, Japan, and the U.S. during her early years. She received her BA in chemistry from Princeton University. There, she was introduced to scientific research in the laboratories of Profs. Haw Yang, Robert Cava, and Andrew Bocarsly, where she developed a great interest in the chemistry underlying electricity-driven processes. She received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she investigated electrocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction with Prof. Yogesh Surendranath as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. She then joined Prof. F. Dean Toste’s research group as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley. There, she worked on understanding molecular electrocatalytic manifolds for selective radical processes.

Aloni Cohen, Computer Science

Aloni Cohen

Aloni Cohen will join UChicago as an assistant professor of computer science in January 2022, and will also hold an appointment in the new Data Science Initiative. His work explores the interplay between theoretical cryptography, privacy, law, and policy, and aims to understand and resolve the tensions between the theory of cryptography and the privacy and surveillance law that governs its eventual real-world context. Current topics of interest include differential privacy, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Fifth Amendment, encryption, multiparty computation, and the Census. Cohen earned a PhD at MIT, advised by Shafi Goldwasser, and he is currently a Postdoctoral Associate at the Hariri Institute for Computing at Boston University and the Boston University School of Law. He has also spent time with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Facebook, and at the Aspen Tech Policy Hub.

Rana Hanocka, Computer Science

Rana Hanocka

Rana Hanocka is an assistant professor of the Department of Computer Science. Hanocka’s research builds AI systems for 3D data, combining computer graphics, computer vision and machine learning techniques such as deep learning and convolutional neural networks to work on unstructured, three-dimensional geometric data. The work helps advance applications from autonomous vehicles to visual art to human-computer interaction, making 3D content creation and innovation more powerful and accessible. Hanocka received her PhD in 2021 from Tel Aviv University under the supervision of Daniel Cohen-Or and Raja Giryes. She is the founder of 3DL, an organization for researchers passionate about 3D, machine learning, and visual computing.

Ken Nakagaki, Computer Science

Ken Nakagaki

Ken Nakagaki will join PSD as an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science in January 2022. His work studies “actuated tangible user interfaces,” inventing and speculating in the gap between fingertips and the physical world through physical computing, robotics, and human-computer interaction research. Through projects such as ChainFORM, inFORCE, and HERMITS (mechanical shells for robots inspired by hermit crabs), Nakagaki investigates the future of physical space and materials coupled with computation for novel physical experiences. At UChicago, he will establish the Actuated Experience Lab, where his students, interns, and postdocs will invent, materialize and speculate novel ideas and visions for interaction design and HCI research through interactive and robotic technologies. Nakagaki received his PhD from MIT, where he worked in the Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group. Before joining the Media Lab, he received master’s and bachelor’s degrees in interaction design from Keio University in Japan. His work has been exhibited at the Ars Electronica Festival and Laval Virtual and he was named one of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 Japan in 2020.

Jeremy Hoskins, Statistics

Jeremy Hoskins

Jeremy Hoskins became an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics in 2020. He is interested in problems at the interface between physics, computation, and mathematics. A major theme of his research is studying the mathematical foundations of problems arising in imaging; particularly what happens in highly-scattering and quantum systems. He also works on developing fast, efficient, and accurate algorithms for solving large scale problems, such as those arising in the simulation of complex optical systems. These methods have broad applications in many other disciplines such as signal processing, genomics, acoustics, and medical imaging. He received a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Michigan and was a Gibbs Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Yale University.

Yuehaw Khoo, Statistics

Yuehaw Khoo

Yuehaw Khoo is an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics and the College. He is a member of the Computational and Applied Mathematics Initiative (CAMI). Khoo works on developing computational and data-driven techniques for problems in biological and physical sciences. In particular, he develops methods for many-body physics, protein structure determination from NMR spectroscopy and Cryo-EM. He is interested in techniques based on convex and non-convex optimization, as well as neural-network and tensor-network methods.

Cong Ma, Statistics

Cong Ma

Cong Ma is an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics. He is broadly interested in the mathematics of data science, with a focus on the interplay between statistics and optimization. The main theme of his research is to develop computationally and statistically efficient estimation and inference methods for large-scale data science problems. Recent interests include problems arising from reinforcement learning, high-dimensional statistics, and signal processing. Ma was most recently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He obtained his PhD in operations research and financial engineering from Princeton University, and his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Tsinghua University.

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