Faculty

Vijay Balasubramanian is the Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor of Physics at Penn. His work in particle physics has focused on basic questions concerning the nature of space and time. He has worked on the origin of the thermodynamics of gravitating systems and the apparent loss of quantum information in the presence of black holes. His work has shown ways in which the familiar smooth structure of space-time can emerge as a long-distance effective description of more complex underlying physical constructs. He has also explored how the matter and forces whose existence is known from laboratory experiments and astrophysical measurements arise from a fundamental unified theory of forces, matter and spacetime.
Shelley L. Berger has built a world-class epigenetics program at Penn that she says is distinguished by the diverse and relevant expertise of the science faculty associated with it. Berger works where the ever-evolving fields of genetics, epigenetics, genomics, cell and developmental biology, and computational biology intersect. Using deep knowledge of these disciplines to navigate the broad interdisciplinary landscape, she seeks—and frequently finds—new knowledge that can help develop cures for currently intractable cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. With appointments in the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Arts & Sciences, Berger is the Daniel S. Och University Professor, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and Professor of Biology. Berger, a Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, founded and directs the Penn Epigenetics Program.
The focus of Kathryn H. Bowles’s research began with a question: Why were so many older adults returning to the hospital after being discharged? After 10 years of research on high-risk factors, Dr. Bowles and her interdisciplinary team developed and validated a decision-support methodology that identified patients who need post-acute care, ensuring that high-risk patients were monitored and received adequate post-acute care plans when they went home. Currently, one area of Dr. Bowles’ research involves using electronic monitoring and technologically-advanced devices that help patients monitor pulse rates, oxygen levels, weight, blood sugar and other health factors at home. In one study, patients received stethoscopes and technology-assisted devices that allowed office-based nurses to hear heartbeats and breath sounds remotely. She is currently a Professor of Nursing in Penn's School of Nursing.
Peter J. Cobb is an Anatolian archaeologist and a ceramics specialist. He studies Bronze and Iron Age ceramics and has participated in archaeological projects in Turkey for many years. He is a teaching specialist in the Penn Museum's Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials and a lecturer in the Department of Classical Studies. Peter applies digital techniques to his analysis of ancient ceramics, focusing on the 3d scanning of ceramic sherds and their subsequent automated morphometric analysis. Peter also brings a digital humanities approach to his archaeological fieldwork in Turkey, emphasizing the direct digital recording of archaeological evidence during excavation and surface survey with the goal of publishing these data open access online in order to enable reuse and reevaluation at the highest level of detail. With more data available at higher accuracies, it will be possible to apply data science approaches to help address archaeological questions and thus improve our understanding of the human past. Since 2016, he has been an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Price Lab for Digital Humanities.
Driven by a desire to provide inexpensive medicine to people in remote areas, Dr. Henry Daniell at the Penn Dental Research Greenhouse wants to use plants in a new medicinal capacity. Daniell, a molecular biologist with a focus on plants, pursued basic science research after earning a biochemistry Ph.D. from Madurai Kamaraj University in his native India. Yet he began to think differently about his work upon recognizing what he perceived as a human-rights injustice: the sky-high costs of medications taken for chronic or lengthy illnesses. Daniell’s work earned him more than 150 patents and has attracted attention from multiple funding bodies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation grant, awarded in 2011, has the specific aim of eradicating polio, once and for all. The vaccine that Daniell is working on aims to offer protection against multiple strains of polio and would be free of the cold chain, aiding delivery to those areas of the world where the disease is still present. He is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Pathology.
Dr. De Jonghe teaches “Nutrition: Science and Applications,” the introductory course in the Nutrition minor in the School of Nursing. He is one of the few scientists in the world studying the effects of chemotherapy on nutrition, appetite, and exercise, Dr. Bart DeJonghe found in Penn Nursing great capacity for research at the cellular, animal, and human levels. Through his research on the nutritional, physiological, neuronal, and cellular signaling controls of energy balance related to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, he aims to improve patient recovery and quality of life during treatment of chronic diseases.
Dubbeldam is a seasoned academic and design leader, serving as Chair and Professor of Graduate Architecture at PennDesign, where she has has gathered an international network of innovative research and design professionals. The Dutch architect and founder/ principal of the New York firm Archi-tectonics, is widely known for her award-winning work, recognized as much for its use of hybrid sustainable materials and smart building systems as for its elegance and innovative structures. Recent projects include the Greenwich Building and V33 building, both in NYC, the Ports1961 flagship retail store in Paris, London and Shanghai, the American Loft Building in Philadelphia, and a probono design for an orphanage and school she is creating in Liberia, Africa. Winka also runs a design-research team to re-invigorate Downtown Bogota, and recently won the Yulin Design Competition in China.
Elizabeth A. Grice, PhD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine, is the winner of this year’s Michael S. Brown New Investigator Research Award, which recognizes emerging faculty investigators engaged in innovative discoveries. Dr. Grice defined the first topographical map of the human skin microbiome using culture-independent approaches, foundational work which has become the standard reference of comparison for studies analyzing the skin microbiome in various health and disease states. Her research has evolved into investigating how microbes integrate with the host immune responses, microbe-microbe interactions of the skin microbiome, and microbial contributions to wound healing.
Kurt Hankenson, associate professor in the Penn School of Veterinary Medicine, has hit upon a new protein pathway to stimulate bone cell growth in stem cells that may lead both to faster healing from fractures and to treatments for a rare condition called Alagille syndrome. Hankenson and his collaborators at Penn Vet focused on Jagged-1 and when they tried introducing Jagged-1 to human stem cells, they found that the protein kicked the transformation of stem cells to bone-forming osteoblasts into high gear. Hankenson is now working with researchers at Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to further investigate this connection and the possibility that genetic manipulation of Jagged-1 could lead to clinical therapies.
Michael Kearns is Professor and National Center Chair in Computer and Information Sciences. As well as being Founding Co-Director of the Warren Center, he is also the Founding Director of Penn’s Networked and Social Systems Engineering (NETS) undergraduate program, which blends topics in computer science, network science, and economics and social science. Michael's primary research interests are in machine learning, probabilistic artificial intelligence, algorithmic game theory, and computational finance. He integrates problems from these areas with methods from theoretical computer science and related disciplines.
Daniel Langleben, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, might go down in history as the man who revolutionized lie detection. The fMRI machine is essentially a regular MRI machine souped up with a computer program and mathematical formulas that manipulate the pictures the MRI is taking. The machine itself looks like any hospital MRI: There is an enormous white band magnet and a stretcher on rollers that slides the patient inside. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that scanning people’s brains with fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, was significantly more effective at spotting lies than a traditional polygraph test.
Dan Lee is the UPS Foundation Professor in Transportation of Electrical and Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Director of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab. His research focuses on improving the speed and efficiency with which computers and other artificial systems process information, in part by using biological systems as a model for intelligent robotic systems that can learn from experience. As Director of the GRASP Lab, he leads a $13 million research center that integrates computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering to develop technological innovations.
Raina Merchant is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She is working to change that despite the fact that automated external defibrillator (AED) devices are widespread throughout America’s public spaces, many people remain unaware of their presence — costing precious seconds in an emergency. Now Merchant started the Penn Defibrillator Design Challenge, which will enlist volunteer artists and designers nationwide to come up with eye-catching and creative artwork to attract attention to AEDs in public spaces. In 2013, Merchant was named director of the Social Media Lab at the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation.
Adrian Raine is a Professor in the Departments of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology. His main area of interest is a new sub-discipline of Criminology called Neurocriminology. This subject applies neuroscience techniques to probe the causes of and cures for crime. His laboratory focuses on risk and protective factors for childhood conduct disorder, reactive and proactive aggression, adult antisocial personality disorder, homicide, and psychopathy. His team is also working on biological interventions for antisocial behavior, such as nutritional supplements. Techniques used in their research include structural and functional brain imaging, autonomic and central nervous system psychophysiology, neuroendocrinology, neuropsychology, genetics, x-ray fluorescence, and transcranial direct current stimulation.
Susan Volk is an assistant professor of small animal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Volk received both her veterinary and doctoral degrees from Penn, through Penn Vet’s combined V.M.D.-Ph.D. program. She began her program determined to be a surgeon, but, during the Ph.D. portion of the program, realized just how important basic science discoveries were to her patients. She took an interest in wound healing, because of its direct impact on how her surgical patients recover after a procedure. It was a Penn Vet professor and mentor, David Nunamaker, who inspired her approach. Volk hopes that her basic research and surgical work can together make cancer treatment better informed and more effective. Innovations in treatments for dogs may be applicable to human patients down the line, such as interrupting the spread of cancerous cells. Her work is a part of the new Cancer Center initiative at Penn Vet, launching in fall 2017 to combine various approaches to cancer research and foster novel therapies for patients.
Mark Yim is a Professor and Director of Integrated Product Design Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM). Mark's research interests began with modular robots that are made up of identical active components that can be arranged to form many different configurations, ranging from a snake robot to a humanoid to a 17 legged centipede. These systems can also self-reconfigure, changing the robot's shape to suit the task. In addition to self-reconfiguring and self-assembling robots, Mark has also started work on flying robots, and task specification, working to figure out how to specify a task so that a robot configuration can optimally satisfy that task.