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Four Prominent Scholars Join GC Central Faculty

The Graduate Center is delighted to announce the appointment of four prominent scholars who will join the central faculty in Fall 2013: theoretical physicist Vijay Balasubramanian, mathematician Jeremy Kahn, Latin-Americanist Fernando Degiovanni, and historian Megan Vaughan.

Vijay Balasubramanian, a theoretical physicist and gifted researcher, has been appointed Presidential Professor in the Ph.D. Program in Physics, effective Fall 2013. Since his undergraduate days at MIT, Balasubramanian has made significant contributions to a remarkably broad range of theoretical questions, from string theory to neuroscience. In the theory of quantum fields and strings, he was in the first wave of theorists to explore the conjectured connections between gauge theories and gravity in different spatial dimensions, and his most recent work addresses questions about how quantum systems come to thermal equilibrium as well as the relations among effective descriptions on different scales of space and time. In the neural and cognitive sciences, he wrote groundbreaking papers on geometrical and statistical mechanics approaches to learning theory, and went on to engage with detailed neurophysiological data to test the idea that retinal coding of visual signals into spikes is efficient, transmitting the maximum possible information at fixed metabolic cost. His current work touches problems ranging from the neural representation of place to the processing of olfactory signals. Balasubramanian has a remarkable record of patents, lecturing, and grants, and his more than seventy academic papers, on core topics ranging from black holes to string theory, have appeared in top scientific journals. He has been a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, a fellow-at-large of the Santa Fe Institute, and a 2011 Penn Fellow, and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Fondation Pierre Gilles de Gennes. He earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Princeton University and comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, where he has served as Cathy and Marc Lasry Professor of Physics. As passionate about teaching as he is about research, he has been recognized with the Ira H. Abrams Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching at Penn.

Fernando Degiovanni, a distinguished scholar of modern and contemporary Latin American culture, has been appointed associate professor of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures and languages at the Graduate Center, effective Fall 2013. Degiovanni’s research focuses on issues of nationalism and transnationalism, cultural hegemony, and the production of disciplinary knowledge on Latin American literature throughout the twentieth century. Strongly interdisciplinary, his scholarship draws on critical theory, intellectual history, and extensive archival research. In 2007, one of Latin America’s most prestigious academic presses, Beatriz Viterbo Editora, published his book, Los textos de la patria: Nacionalismo, políticas culturales y canon en Argentina (Texts for the Nation: Nationalism, Cultural Politics, and Canon in Argentina). The University of Pittsburgh’s International Institute for Ibero-American Literature distinguished Degiovanni’s book with the 2010 Alfredo Roggiano Award for Latin American Cultural and Literary Criticism. Degiovanni’s articles have appeared in the field’s most prestigious journals—Revista Iberoamericana, Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Variaciones Borges, Hispamérica, Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos—as well as in numerous edited volumes. Clear testimony to the visibility and centrality that he has acquired since the publication of Los textos de la patria is the invitation to contribute to crucial books in the field, such as A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture, edited by Sara Castro-Klaren, and Historia crítica de la literatura argentina, edited by Noé Jitrik. Degiovanni regularly lectures at U.S., European, and Latin American universities. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, College Park, and comes to the Graduate Center from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he was associate professor of Romance languages and literatures and chaired the Latin American studies program.

Jeremy Kahn, who has made a name for himself for his elegant and original solutions to several deep and long-standing problems, will join the Ph.D. Program in Mathematics as a distinguished professor, effective Fall 2013. One of Kahn’s fields is hyperbolic geometry, the whole idea of which, he said, “is that the parallel lines do not maintain a constant distance as they do in Euclidean geometry. The lines remain straight, but the space where the lines are is curved.” Kahn recently solved, with Vladimir Markovic of Caltech, the “Ehrenpreis conjecture,” which many mathematicians had worked on for decades. The first half of the solution also proved the “surface subgroup conjecture,” and led to proof of the topologist William Thurston’s “fibration conjecture.” For their work on the Ehrenpreis and the surface subgroup conjectures, Kahn and Markovic were honored with the 2012 Clay Research Award by the Clay Mathematics Institute. Kahn’s research in another field, complex dynamics, drew this statement from Curt McMullen of Harvard: “… his work with [Mikhail] Lyubich…represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in complex dynamics in the past decade.” Dennis Sullivan, the Graduate Center’s Einstein Professor, credits Kahn with having “invented powerful…tools allowing him to solve difficult problems in unexpected ways which are published in the arguably premier math journal on the planet…three consecutive papers in the Annals of Mathematics.” Other articles, authored or coauthored, have appeared in Geometric and Functional Analysis; Journal of Complexity; SIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics; Annales scientifiques de l’École normale supérieure; and Journal of Difference Equations and Applications. A native New Yorker and a child of two CUNY graduates, Kahn graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and earned his Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. He comes to the Graduate Center from Brown University, where he served as professor of mathematics.

Megan Vaughan has been appointed distinguished professor of history at the Graduate Center, effective Fall 2013. A fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society, she is a scholar of outstanding accomplishment and vision, one of the most productive and innovative historians of Africa and comparative colonialism. Her five books are classics that resonate both within and beyond the academic world. The first four, published between 1981 and 1994, examine British Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Women Farmers of Malawi, coauthored with David Hirschmann; The Story of an African Famine; Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness; and, coauthored with anthropologist Henrietta Moore, Cutting Down Trees, which won the Herskovits Prize from the African Studies Association. For Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius (2005), her fifth book, Vaughan ventured into the French West Indies. The book won the 2005 Heggoy Book Prize from the French Colonial Historical Society. Vaughan has published a prodigious number of journal articles and chapters in edited books, serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and has organized major international conferences in both England and Africa. President of the African Studies Association (UK), she played a key role in building the programs of African studies at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities and is highly respected for her contributions to the study of Africa in Africa itself. Vaughan earned her Ph.D. in African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Cambridge, where she has been Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History, a fellow of King’s College, and director of the Centre of African Studies. (Photo Credit: Sophie Isogai)

Submitted on: JUN 27, 2013

Category: Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages, History, Mathematics, Physics, General GC News, New Appointments to the GC