This year Bowdoin College is welcoming seven new tenure-track faculty members in a variety of fields, from ethnomusicology to computer science and mathematics, by way of government, biology and sociology. The professors shared a bit about their backgrounds, their research and teaching interests, and what they like to do when they find themselves with free time.
Oyman Basaran, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Research areas: I am a medical sociologist and the regional focus of my work is the Middle East. My current research analyzes the historical shifts in the medicalization of male circumcision in Turkey.
Teaching interests: I teach courses on medicine, mental health, and gender relations in the Middle East. I am also interested in understanding the complex relationships between emotions and politics.
Life before Bowdoin: I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, and completed my PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I completed my bachelor’s degree in philosophy and my master’s degree in sociology at Bogazici University in Istanbul.
Life beyond Bowdoin: Although I grew up in a large city, I came to enjoy the natural beauty of New England. I enjoy walking, playing soccer, smelling the ocean breeze, and running with my dog.
Sarah M. Harmon, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Research areas: My research is in computational creativity and explores the intersection between artificial intelligence, psychology, and natural language processing. I am particularly interested in how adaptive storytelling technologies can improve aspects of our daily lives. Most recently, I introduced a framework that generates ambient music based on semantic information extracted from narrative texts.
Teaching interests: I believe in a teaching approach that encourages play, and enjoy teaching courses that spur discussion and action surrounding real-world problems. For these reasons, I am excited to teach introductory courses in computer science as well as upper-level electives like Human-Computer Interaction.
Life before Bowdoin: As an undergraduate, I studied computer science, mathematics, and neuroscience at Colby College. Prior to arriving at Bowdoin, I completed my MS and PhD in computer science from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Life beyond Bowdoin: When I’m not writing code, I enjoy hiking, playing music, and traveling. The beautiful coast of Maine has never failed as a refreshing source of inspiration.
Patricia L. Jones, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island
Research areas: I study foraging ecology. I am fascinated by what animals eat, how they find it, and how that influences their roles in the ecosystem. My research has spanned systems, from predatory bats, to herbivorous butterflies, to pollinating bees. Currently, I am focused on how the chemistry of flower nectar affects visiting pollinators, and the resulting consequences for plant pollination. This research is conducted both in my lab on campus and at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island in the summer.
Teaching interests: I teach a range of courses in the biology department. These include an ecology course with field labs, in which students collect data to contribute to long-term datasets addressing broad ecological questions. I also teach an upper-level course, Research in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, to prepare students for independent research experiences in the field. In the future, I will teach components of Introductory Biology, and an animal behavior course. Another important component of my teaching is mentoring Kent Island student fellows in their independent research.
Life before Bowdoin: My undergraduate was at Cornell, where I double-majored in biology and history of art. My PhD was at the University of Texas at Austin, where I studied bats in the tropics. I then returned to Cornell for a research postdoc before coming to Bowdoin.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I love hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing. In the fall I can frequently be seen rowing on the Androscoggin in the evenings. My partner, Ian, and I have two terriers who are always game to come along for a hike or a ski. My other passion is for art and art history.
Chryl Laird, Assistant Professor of Government
Research areas: My research area is American politics with specialization in race and ethnic politics and political psychology. My research agenda and dissertation, Black Like Me: The Malleability of African American Political Racial Group Identification, examines the importance of black political discourse in black opinion formation and racial group norms. As party of my methodological approach, I use survey experiments to assess causality between racial identity and political behavior.
Teaching interests: My teaching interests cover a number of different areas related to race, ethnicity and politics, and political psychology. Currently, I am teaching a first-year seminar on women of color in politics where we focus on the first-person or biographical narratives of women of color throughout American political history. I broadly define “political figures” to examine spouses/partners, mythology, activists and appointed/elected officials. In my course, Race, Ethnicity and Politics, I focus on contemporary and historical understanding of race/ethnicity including the social construction of these identities and how they have been foundational to American politics and policy. In all of my course, I utilize an interdisciplinary perspective to engage in thoughtful conversations around identity and politics.
Life before Bowdoin: I grew up in Wheaton, Maryland, and earned BAs in government and politics and African American studies from the University of Maryland College Park. After a break from the academic grind, I attended The Ohio State University, where I earned my MA and PhD in political science. From 2014 to 2017, I was an assistant professor of political science and African American studies at Saint Louis University.
Life beyond Bowdoin: When I am not working, I am a voracious reader and burgeoning cat lady caring for my fur baby, Rue. I enjoy reading historical fiction as well as young adult literature. My most recent reads are An Innocent Fashion by R.J. Hernandez and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.
Marceline Saibou, Assistant Professor of Music (starts January 2018)
Research areas: I am an Africanist ethnomusicologist and my research interests include the region of West Africa, popular music, musical nationalism, and representations of Africanness through music and musical discourse. My research has focused on Togolese popular music, particularly under the Eyadéma regime from 1967 through 2005. I am now researching more recent musical developments in Togo, including the rapid proliferation of religious pop music in the context of the rise of Pentecostalism. With my move to Maine, I am also interested in conducting research on issues of music, (secondary) migration, and cultural identity among Somali communities in Portland and Lewiston.
Teaching interests: As Bowdoin’s ethnomusicologist, I look forward to introducing students to my discipline, its theories and methods, and its application in the study of music as a social and cultural phenomenon. I plan to offer courses on “Music and Everyday Life” and the “Musical Cultures of the World,” a hands-on class on “Musical Ethnography,” and seminars that examine African traditional and popular music in a variety of social, geographic, and historical contexts. In a couple of years, I would also like to develop a course on film music and images of “Africa” in African and non-African film.
Life before Bowdoin: I grew up in Germany and earned a master’s degree in classical piano performance and pedagogy from the Hochschule für Musik Köln. For my master’s and PhD in ethnomusicology I attended Columbia University in New York City. Prior to Bowdoin, I taught at The New School in Manhattan, while living in Brooklyn, NY.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I love exploring new places and cultures, especially with my husband, Mario, and our two teenage sons Yann and Inua. When at home and not in my study, I enjoy cooking while listening to my favorite podcasts on culture, life, and sociopolitics. I love expansive natural environments as much as I appreciate vibrant dense cities, and I look forward to exploring my new home state’s outdoors by biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.
Shana Starobin, Assistant Professor of Government and Environmental Studies
Research areas: My research centers on the politics of transnational business regulation and institutional innovation in global environmental governance. I am interested in questions related to the institutional design and effectiveness of public and private standards for food and agriculture—certification schemes like organic, fair trade, and Kosher as well as other strategies for commercialization, like local direct trade, farmers markets and CSAs.
My current book project—Alternatives to Transnational Sustainability Governance in the Global South—examines how producers of agricultural commodities from developing and emerging economies engage as active and innovative policy actors in the regulation and governance of natural resources, with comparative cases from Central America and Mexico.
Teaching interests: My teaching interests broadly cover the fields of environmental policy and global environmental politics. In both the fall and spring, I’m teaching an intermediate-level course on environmental policy and politics—which introduces students to the politics of the policy process. For this spring, I’m developing a senior capstone seminar—Food, Environment, and Development—that tracks more closely to my research interests. I am also eager to develop a course in the future on corporate social responsibility.
Life before Bowdoin: About a week before the fall semester began, my family and I moved to Brunswick from Philadelphia, where I just finished a two-year fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Before that, I lived in Durham, North Carolina, where I completed my PhD and two master’s degrees in environmental management and public policy at Duke University. I’ve also spent a lot of time overseas during the last fifteen or so years, for work, research, study, and travel—including extended periods in Bangladesh, Central America, Mexico, and New Zealand.
Life beyond Bowdoin: My current life outside of Bowdoin revolves around family—caring for our newborn daughter and traipsing our four-year-old son to playgrounds, beaches, apple orchards and anywhere he can run off his boundless energy. In theory (though not in practice these days), I enjoy time spent hiking, camping, gardening, knitting, baking bread, and playing the guitar.
Naomi Tanabe, Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Research areas: My research interests lie in the areas of number theory and representation theory, mainly pertaining to automorphic forms and L-functions. In particular, I am interested in the properties of Hilbert modular forms and their associated L-functions. Much of my recent work focuses on the behavior of their Fourier coefficients and critical values of their L-functions.
Teaching interests: I enjoy teaching a variety of courses in mathematics; both introductory and advanced, with special interests in courses related to my research areas, including number theory. Also, in the next few years, I would like to develop complex analysis courses, which contribute to formulating a foundation for students, not only in mathematics but also other scientific disciplines.
Life before Bowdoin: Before joining Bowdoin, I was a lecturer at Dartmouth College, and prior to that, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University, Canada. I used to teach fifth through twelfth graders at private schools in Japan before I moved to the US for graduate school.
Life beyond Bowdoin: I enjoy activities that I can do with my dog, including jogging, hiking, and fishing. Maine seems to be a great place for such activities, and I am very excited about it! When the weather is not cooperative, I like to stay inside reading, knitting, crocheting, cooking, eating, or just cuddling with my dog!