Several tenure-track professors joined Bowdoin’s faculty this year to teach and do research in a number of fields — math, Romance languages, chemistry, digital and computational studies, theater and dance, Asian studies, history and sociology. The new professors answered a few questions about their research and teaching interests, and what they like to do when they find themselves with free time.
Sarah Bay-Cheng, Professor of Theater and Dance
Area of specialization: I’m primarily a theater historian and critic with specializations in media and performance, the European and U.S. avant-gardes, and modern and contemporary drama. I also trained as a director (with a family background in puppetry). My major research area is performance and emerging technology. This includes both digital (and other) media in performance as well as the use of new methods (a.k.a. digital humanities) to explore areas of theater and cultural history.
Teaching interests: My teaching interests are theater history and theory, dramatic literature, dramaturgy, and American drama. This fall, I’m a visiting professor of American Culture (specialization: Theatre) at Utrecht University (Netherlands), where I’m teaching a seminar in digital history and performance. In the spring semester, I will teach two new courses: Performing America and Theater and Other Social Media.
Life before Bowdoin: I’m just beginning my 15th year of teaching. I began my career in English and theater at Colgate University and have taught for the past 10 years at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. At U.B., I co-founded and directed the Techne Institute for Art and Emerging Technologies, a resource for developing new work at the intersection of art and digital media.
Life beyond Bowdoin: When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling with my family, dinners with friends, and running and cycling. For the past several years, I’ve raced marathons and triathlons, but now in moving to Maine I’m excited to start kayaking and trail running.
Meryem Belkaïd, Assistant Professor of Romance Languages
Area of specialization: I am a 20th-century specialist with a specific attention to crime fiction and contemporary novels that deal with issues like globalization and identities. My current work is about North African crime fiction and more generally about crime fiction in authoritarian regimes.
Teaching interests: My interest for teaching can go from elementary French to seminars. Contemporary French culture and contemporary North African cultures are topics I like to include in my teaching, either in introductory classes or advanced one. This semester I am teaching a seminar about francophone crime fictions and history and an advanced French class through movies.
Life before Bowdoin: I taught in different institutions: La Sorbonne in Paris where I received my Ph.D, the University of Tunis and as a visiting assistant professor at Bates College the last two years.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I am writing regularly for The Huffington Post Algeria as a blogger (in French). I am working on different projects in collaboration with American, Tunisian and Palestinian artists. I am what we can call moviegoer and I like to walk, swim and practice yoga as much as I can.
Christopher Chong, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Area of specialization: I am in the mathematics department and my specialization is in applied mathematics. I place a special emphasis on interdisciplinary collaborations, in particular with physicists and engineers. Examples of applications connected to my research include fiber optic communication, energy harvesting, impact mitigation and sound proofing.
Teaching interests: I am currently most excited about teaching courses connected to dynamical systems in some way. This includes the two I am teaching this semester: Math 2208 (Ordinary Differential Equations) and Math 1808 (Biomathematics). I generally like to incorporate computer technology into my courses, and these courses are the perfect platform for that!
Life before Bowdoin: I was a Postdoctoral fellow at the ETH Zurich, and before that I was a visiting assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I enjoy spending time with my family, preferably outdoors. This is one of the reasons why we were excited coming to Maine!
Sakura Christmas, Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies
Area of specialization: I am primarily a historian of modern Japan, with interests in transnational connections to China and Inner Asia in the 20th century. My research right now centers on the Japanese occupation of Inner Mongolia and the environmental repercussions of settling nomadic peoples in that region.
Teaching interests: I teach Japanese history, but plan to offer courses that place the country within a broader regional or global context. So, this fall, I am offering a lecture course titled Japan in the Early Modern World (where we’ll cover pirates, samurai, and whales, among other things) and a seminar called The Japanese Empire and World War II. In the spring, I am offering a lecture course titled Modern Japan, from Harakiri to Hello Kitty and a seminar called Nature’s Orient: The Environmental History of East Asia.
Life before Bowdoin: Before coming to Bowdoin I was finishing up my doctoral work at Harvard. I was also conducting archival research in Japan and Inner Mongolia (which is in China).
Life beyond Bowdoin: I recently adopted a dog, so we like to ramble and explore Brunswick and beyond together. I am also looking forward to hiking farther north and eating my way through the gastronomic heaven that is Portland.
Theodore Greene, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Area of specialization: My areas of specialization include urban and community sociology, cultural sociology, sociology of sexualities, social movements, and the sociology of race, class, and gender.
Teaching interests: My teaching interests are very similar to my research interests. I am teaching an urban sociology course entitled Cities and Society this fall, along with one of the core sociology courses, Classics of Sociological theory. This spring, I will be teaching Sociology of Sexualities. However, I also hope to be teaching courses in social inequalities, sexuality and the city, social movements, and courses that bridge black feminist and queer theories in a sociological way.
Life before Bowdoin: Prior to coming to Bowdoin, I was completing my Ph.D. in Sociology at Northwestern University. My dissertation draws on gay neighborhoods in Chicago and Washington, D.C., to develop a framework for understanding how people identify to communities they do not live in. I call this process vicarious citizenship, and I use this concept to argue that, despite demographic changes taking place in gay neighborhoods around the world, many persist because those who invest in community life are not necessarily residents of the community.
Life beyond Bowdoin: While I have quite a few interests, I have a feeling that I will be spending quite a bit of the next year becoming acquainted with Portland and life in Maine. I have lived in some of the largest cities in the United States (I grew up in Los Angeles and lived in Chicago for the past eight years), and so I have a feeling that living in a place like Portland will present a huge adjustment for me. But I’m excited to see what this cultural haven has to offer, and hopefully sharing and incorporating my “lessons” into my teaching.
Mohammad Irfan, Assistant Professor of and Digital and Computational Studies, and Computer Science
Area of specialization: I mainly work on an interdisciplinary area known as computational game theory, where I study strategic interactions in large-scale social and economic networks. I also have a lot of interest in image analysis of art.
Teaching interests: I love to teach introductory as well as interdisciplinary courses. This year, I’ll be teaching Introduction to Digital and Computational Studies (DCS), Principles of Programming Languages, and Social and Economic Networks. The first one is a new DCS course on computation within the broader socio-cultural context. The second is a core computer science course where we design our own programming language, develop a compiler to run programs written in that language, and also study the principles and paradigms of various mainstream programming languages. The last one, cross-listed between DCS and computer science, is an interdisciplinary course examining the social and economic aspects of today’s connected world from a multitude of perspectives.
Life before Bowdoin: Before joining Bowdoin as a visiting assistant professor in August 2013, I was finishing up my Ph.D. in computer science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I love to play soccer and tennis (I’m looking for partners to play doubles). I also like to explore the little gems of Maine like Land’s End and the lagoon in Reid State Park. As I tell my friends — every state is beautiful, but Maine is gorgeous!
Kana Takematsu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Area of specialization: I specialize in biophysical chemistry, which utilizes the principles of chemistry and physics to better understand problems in biology. Specifically, I am interested in examining how charges (electrons and protons) move in model compounds and biological systems. My group will use a variety of techniques, including fluorescence spectroscopy, to study these problems.
Teaching interests: I am really excited about developing physical chemistry courses that appeal to both chemistry and biochemistry students. Much of the fun in physical chemistry is realizing how applicable the principles are to understanding a wide range of problems. In the fall, I will be teaching Thermodynamics and Chemical Kinetics, so I’ll get to tackle my dream!
Life before Bowdoin: I was a laser geek at Caltech! Laser spectroscopy can be used in so many different fields of research. During my graduate school years at Caltech, I used lasers to investigate reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere for better atmospheric modeling; during my postdoctoral years, I used lasers to understand how charges move in biological systems and in transition metal complexes for solar energy research. I am now eager to start laser adventures with students at Bowdoin!
Life beyond Bowdoin: If I’m not at work, I’m eating, talking or playing games with family and friends. Sometimes, though, I just need a quiet corner to read or watch some sports/random TV shows. I enjoy running at the gym and trying new adventures outdoors. I also like to go to museums, concerts, and strange tourist spots, as even outside of work, it’s fun to continue learning new things!