UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

New faculty bring new ideas

Newcomers to the UND faculty talk about joining the University community

Archival image.

Fifteen new tenure-track faculty joined the University community this fall. And recently, they shared with UND Today their first impressions of their new home.

From discussing research opportunities to describing their excitement about building new programs, they talked about their futures at UND and what drew them here.

Emily Brinck, director and assistant professor of rehabilitation and human services, College of Education & Human Development

Emily Brinck
Emily Brinck

Emily Brinck loves the variety of her field.

“Students leave with their choice of jobs,” Brinck said. “It’s a small, niche field with high demand.” She added that graduates of the program can be counselors, work with adults who have disabilities, and more.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Brinck earned degrees in special education, business management and rehabilitation counselor education from Miami University of Ohio, Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin Madison. She taught rehabilitation services at the University of Maine at Farmington before moving to UND.

“UND fits well with my personal and professional life,” she said. “I like being back in the Midwest, and what drew me was the low department turnover and that Grand Forks is a beautiful, warm and welcoming city. UND felt like a natural fit, and my department is interested in new ideas. I’m excited to be here.”

Klaus Cavalhieri, assistant professor of counseling psychology

Klaus Cavalhieri
Klaus Cavalhieri

Klaus Cavalhieri is enjoying the sense of community he’s found at UND.

“I have a wonderful department and colleagues, and the students have also been wonderful,” Cavalhieri said.

Cavalhieri chose UND because it offered him both research support and the opportunity to teach graduate students. He added that UND’s Grand Challenges fit in with his research on multicultural issues in psychology, including social class, race, and violence against women, as well as eating disorders and body image, mood and anxiety disorders, and grief. He is teaching master’s level courses in counseling methodologies and theories of counseling in the Department of Education, Health & Behavior at the College of Education & Human Development.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from his home country of Brazil, and master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Hallie Chelmo, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Hallie Chelmo said she loves the cold, big skies and medium-sized public universities, and found UND a very attractive place that can blend all three.

“UND shows strong support for new faculty,” Chelmo said. “My first impression is that UND is beloved by its alumni. It’s a treasure in the state of North Dakota.”

Originally from Chicago, Chelmo completed her education – from undergraduate through Ph.D. – in Minnesota, followed by post-doctoral research in Pittsburgh. Between her undergraduate and graduate programs, she spent two years in the Peace Corps as a high school physics teacher in Ghana, West Africa.

She teaches fluid mechanics, and her research focus is on atmospheric aerosols, which are tiny particles in the atmosphere that can impact health, air quality and the rest of the environment. She uses experimental laboratory techniques as well as theoretical modeling to better understand the dynamics and behavior of aerosol particles.

“It’s wonderful to be back in the North country!” Chelmo said.

Xiaoli Guo, assistant professor of accountancy

Xiaoli Guo
Xiaoli Guo

Xiaoli Guo enjoys the work-life balance she’s finding at UND and in Grand Forks.

“During my interview, I really liked the people and department,” Guo said. “There is strong support for both research and teaching, and I feel I can have a great future here.”

Guo teaches accounting information systems and researches accounting information quality, as well as types of accounting disclosures, corporate governance and auditing. She came to UND from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she taught financial accounting for two semesters. Before that, she taught economics at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

After earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees in accounting in China, she also earned a master degree in economics from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Then she got her doctorate of business administration from University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

“I can get anywhere in 15 minutes,” Guo said about Grand Forks. “Everything is convenient, from taking my son to school to shopping, and housing is reasonable.”

She’s especially happy that her husband is working at UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center. “It’s often difficult for couples to find jobs at the same institution,” she said.

Ramkumar Mathur, assistant professor of geriatrics

Ramkumar Mathur
Ramkumar Mathur

Ramkumar Mathur examines the immune response and how inflammation affects aging, especially in inflammatory bowel disease and neurodegeneration. He came to UND with a grant from the Colitis Foundation.

“Neurodegeneration is a major problem in aging, and I find it fascinating,” he said. Mathur grew up in India, and holds a doctorate in immunology and a master’s in biotechnology, as well as undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry, all from India.

Before coming to UND, Mathur worked at Columbia University in New York, and is finding UND a great fit with his interest in neurodegenerative diseases.

“Grand Forks is very welcoming, and it’s nice to have a five-minute commute,” Mathur said. “But I’ve never seen anyplace so flat!” He added that he’s found people to be welcoming and approachable.

Brandon McAlexander, assistant professor of marketing

Brandon McAlexander
Brandon McAlexander

Brandon McAlexander was attracted to UND because he sees the College of Business & Public Administration as a unique hybrid.

“Very few places combine business and public administration,” said McAlexander, who earned his undergraduate degree in political science and economics at the University of Oregon and his doctorate at the University of Arkansas. He teaches marketing research and marketing management.

McAlexander grew up in Corvallis, Ore., which he describes as similar to Grand Forks.

“Even though it’s more remote, it’s unique, and Grand Forks has things Corvallis doesn’t, such as a Super Target and airport,” he said. “Grand Forks has a small-town feel with the amenities of a bigger city.”

A qualitative researcher, McAlexander’s research focuses on tourism in Iceland, and how marketing there influences society. He notes that a sudden explosion in tourism has impacted generations and put pressure on Iceland’s economy.

“There are social tensions between generations,” McAlexander said. “In some cases, the younger generation wants to turn the family farm into an Airbnb.”

Motoki Takaku, assistant professor of biomedical sciences

Motoki Takaku
Motoki Takaku

Motoki Takaku has been interested in cancer since his teen years, when a friend developed brain cancer. He always knew he wanted to study the mechanisms of cancer, and he’s doing that as one of five investigators in a $10 million epigenetics study at UND’s Center for Biomedical Research Excellence, where he’s investigating gene expression of breast cancer cells. His work seeks to understand the basic mechanisms and mutations of breast cancer cells.

Motoki grew up in Tokyo and earned his degrees there. He spent six years in a post-doctoral position in North Carolina, where he was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. At UND, he teaches a graduate class and spends most of his time researching.

“I really love UND,” Motoki said. “I have three students in my lab who are highly motivated. People have been helpful and kind, and I’m really enjoying it here.”

Melanie Nadeau, assistant director and assistant professor, MPH in Indigenous health program

Prior to joining UND, Melanie Nadeau  worked for and was mentored by INMED Director Don Warne as a doctoral student epidemiologist.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor and friend,” she said.

Melanie Nadeau
Melanie Nadeau

With a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UND, Nadeau is familiar with the campus and community. In fact, she was a Grand Forks resident during the 1997 flood.

“I felt good about coming back,” Nadeau said, adding that she was active in the INMED and INPSYDE (Indians Into Psychology) programs. She also holds three associate degrees from Turtle Mountain Community College, an MPH in community health education and health disparities from the University of Minnesota, and a doctorate in social behavioral epidemiology, also from the University of Minnesota. She worked at North Dakota State University for five years as the operational director of the American Indian Public Health Resource Center before joining UND.

An enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Nadeau has successfully worked with tribal stakeholders from across the nation. She serves on the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Research Review Board and the American Public Health Association American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Caucus Board, and chairs the North Dakota Public Health Association American Indian section.

Her areas of expertise include American Indian health, health disparities, and Indigenous evaluation.

Nadeau is teaching research methods for the MPH program and will teach quantitative research methods, public health program evaluation and Indigenous evaluation frameworks for the new and upcoming Ph.D. in Indigenous health. She is currently working to onboard and orient new faculty before the targeted launch of the program in Fall 2020.

“Bringing in new faculty is exciting,” she said. “And as a new faculty member myself, I can’t credit the University enough for its support.”

Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz, assistant professor of educational foundations & research

Diana D'Amico Pawlewicz
Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz

Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz studies the history of educational reform and school policies. She teaches courses in scholarly writing, the foundations of education, and research methods. Her research looks at the “big picture,” focusing on equity, power and the public good.

D’Amico Pawlewicz’s work has been published in a range of academic and scholarly outlets, and her first book, Blaming Teachers: Professionalization Policies and the Failure of Reform in American History (Rutgers University Press) will be released next year.

Originally from New York City, D’Amico Pawlewicz earned degrees from Franklin & Marshall College, Columbia University and New York University, and spent a post-doctoral year as visiting assistant professor at Brown University. Before arriving at UND, she was assistant professor at George Mason University, where she served as the professor-in-charge of the education policy doctoral specialization and was named a University Teacher of Distinction.

“From the start, UND struck me as a collegial, collaborative community with a shared commitment to research that stretches beyond the University,” she said. “There’s a palpable energy and shared enthusiasm in the College of Education and Human Development.”

That sense of dynamism stretches beyond the university, too. “My family and I are enjoying Grand Forks,” she said. “We love living close to campus, and from the Greenway to the concerts to the sense of community, there’s so much going on.”

Nicole Redvers, assistant professor, Indians Into Medicine

Nicole Redvers
Nicole Redvers

Nicole Redvers was attracted to UND because of the vision of Don Warne, Indians Into Medicine (INMED) director.

“The development of the Indigenous health Ph.D. program drew me, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to help launch the degree next fall,” Redvers said. “This degree has never been offered anywhere, and it’s exciting to see it develop and be part of it. We have four amazing Indigenous faculty at INMED.”

Redvers will teach Indigenous master of public health (MPH) specialization courses in addition to doctoral classes.

She holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, and is finishing an MPH from Dartmouth. Before coming to UND, she worked as a clinician for 10 years in Canada. She co-founded and chairs the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, which uses traditional medicine to help Indigenous people deal with suicide, homelessness and addiction.

Redvers does community-based research in Indigenous health and nutrition and hopes to bridge traditional and modern medicine.

“UND is super-friendly and welcoming, and the Indigenous people and scholars here are amazing,” Redvers said. “It’s rare to find that, and to be here has been very humbling.”

Sandeep Singhal, assistant professor of pathology

Sandeep Singhal
Sandeep Singhal

Sandeep Singhal has moved from a career as a software engineer to researching the genetic changes that impact human health. Genetic changes, he said, can be early predictors of disease. He also focuses on how genetics affects responses to medical treatments.

Singhal has a joint faculty appointment, spending 75 percent of his time at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences and 25 percent in the College of Engineering & Mines. In the latter, he is a “Big Data” researcher, focusing on data modeling and machine learning.

A native of India, Singhal earned degrees in bioinformatics and computer science there. He worked as a software engineer in India, then earned his doctorate in bioinformatics in Belgium, focusing on breast cancer research. He did post-doctoral work at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Alberta, and has worked as a research scientist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

“My long-term plan is to help improve the health of cancer patients,” Singhal said. “I’m enjoying the peace of Grand Forks and the shorter commutes. The people are very friendly, and I like cold weather.”

Xusheng Wang, assistant professor of biology and bioinformatics

Xusheng Wang
Xusheng Wang

Xusheng Wang is one of the first faculty members to join UND as part of its Big Data Grand Challenge, part of the One UND Strategic Plan.

With an appointment in biology, Wang uses computational methods to study multiomics big data, in which the data sets can include the genome, epigenome, microbiome and more. He has a particular interest in Alzheimer’s Disease. He will also teach genetics in the biology department.

Wang earned all three of his degrees – a bachelor’s in biology and master’s and Ph.D. in bioinformatics – from Zhejiang University in China. His doctorate was part of a joint program with University of California Davis.

He did postdoctoral research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and worked as a bioinformatics group leader at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

“I’ll produce data for my research as well as for other principal investigators,” Wang said. “I really like my department because the atmosphere is collegial and friendly. I also like Grand Forks, especially the shorter commute. It was a long drive when I worked in Memphis.”

Siobhan Wescott, assistant director and assistant professor, Indians Into Medicine

Siobhan Wescott
Siobhan Wescott

Siobhan Wescott was attracted to UND because of the INMED program and her goal to increase the number of Native American physicians in the United States.

“That number is chronically low,” Wescott said, “It averages only about 150 to 200 medical students who are Native American out of 21,000 spots per year.”

Wescott will teach for both the MPH and Ph.D. programs in Indigenous health, which will begin offering courses next year.

Wescott, an Athabascan from Fairbanks, Alaska, earned her undergraduate degree in government at Dartmouth, her MPH at UCLA, and her medical degree from Harvard. While in medical school, she mentored students in the Four Directions Summer Research Program, the goal of which is to increase the number of Native American medical students. She previously taught in the American Indian public health at NDSU, and as an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.

She recently served on the board of directors of the Association of American Indian Physicians, and currently serves as vice chair of the American Medical Association Minority Affairs Governing Council.

Her research is in health equity for Native Americans and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. She will also focus on best practices in Indian Country.

Tao Yu, assistant professor of chemistry

Tao Yu was attracted to UND because of its quality physical chemistry program and its facilities.

“The program has a good reputation,” he said. “I also liked the Big Data Grand Challenge as a computational chemist, and I want to generate new knowledge. UND has powerful computer clusters.” He added that he was also impressed by the School of Medicine & Health Sciences and the Energy & Environmental Research Center.

“I’m looking forward to establishing good relationships with colleagues and working together to solve big problems,” Yu said.

He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in chemistry from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his doctorate from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He came to UND from Tennessee Tech University.

Yu’s research in computational chemistry involves simulating large molecular systems, including proteins and materials, as well as solar energy conversions. He uses big data to examine protein systems and the mechanisms of disease.

“It’s been a bit colder than Tennessee, and it’s flatter here too,” Yu said. “But the people here are nice and friendly.”