Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Research Development Academy Scholars

The Office of the Provost, Division of Access and Engagement, and the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development congratulate the following faculty for being selected into the Research Development Academy!

2023-2024 Cohort

Missy Cosby, Assistant Professor
Theory & Practice in Education, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

Broadly, my research interests center on the interaction between social identities and content learning identities such as mathematics or science identities. I am largely interested in how power related to race and gender are at play in ways that impact access to the development of robust mathematics and science identities. I engage a range of traditional and novel qualitative methods in conjunction with Black feminist and intersectional frames to study the mathematics and science learning experiences of Black girls and young women as well as the practices of Black women mathematics teachers.

Emine Fidan, Assistant Professor
Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science, UT Institute of Agriculture

My research lab pursues questions regarding how human actions influence ecosystem health and water resources through an interdisciplinary, management-focused perspective. We achieve this using modeling and data science tools that allow us to leverage environmental data to forecast, predict, explain, develop management actions, and evaluate engineering strategies for water quality and ecology protection, sustainable agriculture, and resilient ecosystems. Ongoing work in our lab includes modeling the impacts of hurricane events on water quality in floodwaters, rivers, and estuaries, as well as quantifying water usage in agricultural systems within Tennessee.”

Beau Gaitors, Assistant Professor
Department of History, College of Arts & Sciences

My historical research on Latin America focuses on marginalized voices often overlooked in dominant narratives. More specifically, my research engages the significant contributions and complex realities of African descendants in Latin America in the decades following the abolition of slavery in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico.

Shinerrie Jackson, Lecturer
Department of Theatre, College of Arts & Sciences

The core of my work centers around bringing West African performance theories and techniques into mainstream actor training.

Daleniece Higgins Jones, Assistant Professor
Department of Public Health, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

As a molecular epidemiologist, my research is primarily focused on examining molecular risk factors that contribute to both acute and chronic disease. I focus on investigating risk factors such as, pathogens, metabolites, or microbiome, via both clinical and environmental samples like, serum, blood, stool, food, or soil. Assessing molecular risk factors enables me to explore the interactive effects of multicausal exposures, allowing me to focus my research on both (1) acute diseases: enteric disease (foodborne illness) and environmental poisonings, and (2) chronic disease: asthma.

Marie Saldaña, Assistant Professor
School of Interior Architecture, College of Architecture  & Design

I am a historian and designer of architecture and landscapes. My research focuses on the vernacular built environment of Spanish and Mexican settlement in the Southwest. My current book project is a history of Tejano architecture that traces socially-embedded spatial typologies in frontier historiography and design.

Heeyeon Son, Assistant Professor
College of Nursing

I am deeply passionate about supporting pediatric cancer patients and their parents, aiming to enhance their health-related quality of life and achieve positive patient-centered outcomes. My primary focus lies in promoting healthy coping strategies and facilitating adjustment by strengthening the familial environment for pediatric cancer patients. Through my dedicated research program, I investigate the intricate dynamics within families affected by childhood cancer, with the ultimate goal of improving the psychological and physical well-being of children, including adolescents. Presently, my research concentrates on understanding and analyzing the communication patterns between parents (primary caregivers) and children, emphasizing the significance of effective family communication. I am committed to utilizing a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods to gain comprehensive insights and apply my findings in practical ways. By bridging the gap between research and practice, I strive to make a meaningful impact on the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families.

Rachel Wong, Assistant Professor
Theory & Practice in Education, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

My research focuses on increasing access and retention in STEM education through formal and informal learning opportunities. My research interests include understanding the effects of learning with multimedia materials, understanding how students engage in online environments, and utilizing visual representation tools (i.e., concept maps) to support individual and collaborative learning.

Ji Youn Yoo, Assistant Professor
College of Nursing

My research focuses on how alterations of gut microbial compositions and diversity affect the host’s immune and neuroendocrine system dysregulation. Primarily, my study explores the relationship between exposure to traumatic events, gut microbiome alternation, and adverse health outcomes. Through my studies, I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that link gut microbiome alternation to health outcomes in individuals who have experienced trauma.


Mohamed Abouelkhair, Assistant Professor
Biomedical & Diagnostic Services, College of Veterinary Medicine

My academic research encompasses focal areas including microbial bioinformatics, the development of new molecular assays (including CRISPR) for the detection of existing and emerging infectious diseases, cancer research, tumor microenvironment, and viral immunology. My lab is currently focusing on translating novel molecular biomarkers into clinical oncology practice, with the overarching goal of improving cancer care and survival through the use of genomic, genetic, bioinformatics, informatics, statistical, and molecular approaches.

Ahmedullah Aziz, Assistant Professor
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Tickle College of Engineering

My research interests include mixed-signal VLSI circuits, non-volatile memory, and beyond CMOS devices. In addition, I explore cross-layer co-design techniques for nanoelectronic platforms to facilitate next-generation chip design. I strive to harness the exotic properties of emerging materials (e.g., correlated oxide, ferroelectric, superconductor, etc.) for electronic applications. I aspire to advance the frontiers of knowledge in quantum devices, AI hardware, and cryogenic electronics.

Leia K. CainLeia K. Cain, Assistant Professor
Evaluation, Statistics, and Methodology, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

I am a qualitative- and mixed-methodologist who examines liminal identities and how individuals approach the decision to disclose those identities within varying spaces. Most recently, I have been named the first Pride Center Faculty Fellow.

Manuela Ceballos, Assistant Professor
Religious Studies, College of Arts & Sciences

My research focuses on how ideas of purity and impurity helped shape communities, social hierarchies, and Muslim-Christian relations in the early modern Western Mediterranean.

Mary Dueñas, Assistant Professor
Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

My work attends to the ways in which larger social processes affect students and their overall well-being while also addressing Latinx/Hispanic student success. I strive to implement my research to inform my practice and use both qualitative and quantitative methods. I attend to their experiences within higher education. As a result, my research focuses on examining the experiences of Latinx college students and creating pathways for which they can thrive and succeed in higher education while also critically thinking about systems and structures of oppression that are in place.

DeLisa Hawkes, Assistant Professor
Africana Studies, College of Arts & Sciences

In my research, I examine representations of Black and Indigenous relationships in African American print culture and their impact on narratives of racial identity and kinship in the United States. Theories concerning historical memory and national identity formation, particularly regarding archives and family histories, inform my research.

Devina Sanjaya, Assistant Professor
Mechanical, Aerospace, & Biomedical Engineering, Tickle College of Engineering

My research explores the intersection of aerospace engineering, applied mathematics, and computer science. My research interests include development of scalable, robust computational fluid dynamics (CFD) methods, mesh adaptation and optimization, error estimation, scientific computing, and numerical analysis with applications to aerospace engineering.

Sining Song, Assistant Professor
Supply Chain Management, Haslam College of Business

My research focuses on sustainable supply chain operations and technology and innovation management. My recent research targets UN sustainable development goals to reduce inequalities through financial inclusion and to address climate risks through supply chain-wide emissions reduction. My research aims to provide insights into strategies and programs companies can adopt to address these sustainable issues by engaging with value chain members.

Francheska Starks, Assistant Professor,
Theory & Practice in Teacher Education, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences

The broad goal of my scholarship is to center the knowledges and experiences of minoritized communities for positive impacts on students and teachers in U.S. educational systems. Currently, my research focuses on the retention and recruitment of BIPOC educators, as well as the affordances of strengths-based and equity pedagogies for all students.


Sangwoo Ahn

Sangwoo Ahn
Assistant Professor, Nursing

“I came to think that the best way to manage Alzheimer’s disease is prevention given that there is no cure. My program of research focuses on determining effective strategies to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease using non-pharmacological approaches (e.g., healthy lifestyles such as physical activity). I also aim to find ways how to stick to healthy lifestyles among older adults, which helps curb the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sherley CruzSherley Cruz
Assistant Professor, College of Law

“My research explores the intersections of law, culture, and access to justice in the context of low-wage worker rights.”

Felicia Francine DeanFelicia Francine Dean
Assistant Professor, School of Interior Architecture

“My research fosters the relationship of the design process to spatially latent material identities. My investigation explores the reconciling space and place through the lens of my bi-racial experiences that advance the methodologies of fabrication and design strategies.”

Georgi Gardiner
Assistant Professor, Philosophy

“I research epistemology, especially applied, social, and legal epistemology. Recently I have focused on profiling, prejudice, legal standards of proof, and on the relationships between rape accusations and evidence.”

Denita Hadziabdic Guerry
Assistant Professor, Entomology and Plant Pathology

“My academic research encompasses focal areas including forest health, population biology, and conservation efforts for native plants. My lab colleagues and I are interested in understanding the complexity of host-pathogen-vector interactions and system-associated microbial communities within the host phytobiome across both introduced and native ranges of several plant species.”

Jiangen HeJiangen He
Assistant Professor, School of Information Sciences

“My research focus on visual analytics, data-driven predictions, and metrics in science of science and studies of how social factors in artificial intelligence affect our information behavior.”

Mary LaubeMary Laube
Assistant Professor, School of Art

“My paintings and drawings address the transformative relationship between identity and culture within the context of the Korean diaspora.”

Katherine H. MorganKatherine H. Morgan
Assistant Professor, Nursing

“My research focuses on the interactions between the microbiome, humans, and human ecology to discover how the microbiome influences human health. We conduct cohort studies of humans with conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, by identifying the microbial community structure and its metabolic activities (the “metabolome”), then looking for biomarkers that may become intervention points where we may promote health and prevent disease.”

Mustafa OzMustafa Oz
Assistant Professor, Journalism & Electronic Media

“My research interests lie in the area of political engagement and political participation in online spaces, particularly on social media platforms.  More specifically, I examine how people use new technologies and online platforms, such as social media websites, to participate and engage in politics.”

Codou SambaCodou Samba
Assistant Professor, Management and Entrepreneurship

“My research interests fall into two overlapping categories: (1) the intersection of strategic leadership and decision-making, and (2) the socio-psychological foundations of strategic management. Overall, I aim to understand — from a socio-psychological perspective— how top management teams make decisions and how effective those decisions are.”

Solange MuñozSolange Muñoz
Assistant Professor, Geography

“I am an urban and cultural geographer and a Latin Americanist with long-standing interests in the political, economic, and socio-spatial processes of inequality, marginalization, and contestation in the urban landscapes of Latin America and the U.S. My research interests and objectives are part of current debates on the urban and social consequences of globalization, urban development, and gentrification. I focus on the social and spatial significance of housing, home and neighborhood infrastructures in the urban landscape.”

Paris WhalonParis Whalon
Student Success Librarian for Media Literacy, UT Libraries

“My research interests include gaming as experiential learning, media influence and pedagogy in academia and black cyberculture during recent movements and events.”


Elizabeth Barker

Elizabeth Barker
Assistant Professor, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

“My research leverages interdisciplinary scientific knowledge of device design, biomaterials engineering, and polymer characterization. My research career is focused on designing and developing novel polymer materials for implant devices and drug delivery, and I intend to commercialize my laboratory findings for use in the clinical setting. My goal is to be a link between engineering and medicine and to contribute to the care of others as a research scientist dedicated to the development of medical devices that physicians can use to improve the lives of their patients.”

Stefanie Benjamin

Stefanie Benjamin
Assistant Professor, Retail, Hospitality & Tourism Management

“My research agenda lies within the nexus of social equity and critical tourism scholarship exploring marginalized populations’ lived experiences and counter narratives.  I’m interested in producing and promoting social advocacy while amplifying underrepresented voices within the tourism landscape through practice, research, and education. As a certified qualitative researcher, I design research studies using collective storytelling, visual methodologies, social media analysis, and (auto/duo) ethnography to try and understand how race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and White supremacy influence the travel experience and landscape. This research falls under the umbrella of Tourism RESET where I serve as the Co-Director and Research Fellow.”

Lyndsey Hornbuckle

Lyndsey Hornbuckle
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies

“The overarching goal of my scholarly work as an exercise physiologist is to make a positive impact on health disparities in underserved populations, with a particular focus on African-Americans. My research program includes two core areas including physical activity and exercise interventions to improve cardiometabolic risk, and cultural relevance and social support for exercise adherence.”

Anchalee (Joy) Panigabutra-Roberts

Anchalee (Joy) Panigabutra-Roberts
Associate Professor, UT Libraries

“My scholarly interests cover a range of topics in library and information science; from researcher identifiers, linked data/knowledge graph, scholarly communication, to diversity, equity and inclusion issues in cataloging description and controlled vocabularies.”

Jason L. Scott

Jason L. Scott
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies

“My research examines leisure behavior with an emphasis on leisure time physical activity among marginalized populations including at-risk youth and individuals with disabilities. I am focused on research design, quantitative analyses such as structural equation modeling and multi-level modeling to understand mechanisms that influence leisure behavior.”