Meet our new faculty: Natural sciences and math

Arts & Sciences is excited to welcome new instructors across disciplines this fall! Meet our newest faculty in the natural sciences and mathematics.


Haijun Liu

Haijun Liu, PhD, joins the Department of Biology as a research assistant professor. Liu’s interdisciplinary research in biochemistry focuses on molecular mechanisms of photosynthesis, a process that supplies energy for most life on Earth. Liu's lab uses techniques such as mass spectrometry and molecular spectrophotometry to understand multiple pigment protein complexes that are critical for solar energy capture, photochemical conversion, and regulation using both photosynthetic microbes and higher plants. Before joining biology, Liu was a research scientist in the Department of Chemistry. His recent work includes a DOE-funded project on how certain proteins help cyanobacteria achieve optimized photochemistry and photosynthetic efficiency. Liu earned his doctorate at Louisiana State University.


Corey Westfall

Corey Westfall, PhD, transitions to the role of lecturer in the Department of Biology. Westfall earned his doctorate from Washington University and won the Beckman Foundation’s Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2015. Westfall’s postdoctoral research in Petra Levin’s lab focused on investigating the role of central carbon metabolism in the regulation of bacterial growth and morphology. This semester, Westfall is sharing his expertise in biochemistry and genetics, teaching “Principles of Biology II,” which provides a broad overview of genetics, and “General Biochemistry I,” which covers biological structures, enzymes, membranes, energy production, and an introduction to metabolism.



Julie Hamdi

Julie Hamdi, PhD, joins the Department of Chemistry as a senior lecturer. Hamdi is passionate about making science relatable for students through real-life examples and practical applications. As a member of the WashU chemistry department, she is excited to leverage her diverse experience to teach tomorrow’s leaders the fundamentals of chemistry that are key to their further mastery of this central science. Hamdi earned her doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to joining WashU, she taught a wide variety of chemistry classes both nationally and internationally.


Courtney Reichhardt

Courtney Reichhardt, PhD, joins the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor. Reichhardt’s research program leverages her multidisciplinary training in physical chemistry and microbiology to answer important questions about the fundamental biophysical principles of biofilm assembly. To study the composition of biofilms, Reichhardt uses a technique she pioneered that integrates solid-state NMR and electron microscopy analyses. Reichhardt earned her doctorate at Stanford University, where her graduate research was supported by the Althouse Family Stanford Graduate Fellowship. She completed postdoctoral training at the University of Washington with support from both the NIH and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Earth and Planetary Sciences

Paul Byrne

Paul Byrne, PhD, joins the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences as an associate professor. Byrne's research focuses on comparative planetary geology — comparing and contrasting the surfaces and interiors of planetary bodies, including Earth, to understand geological phenomena. His projects span the solar system from Mercury to Pluto and, increasingly, to the study of extrasolar planets. He uses remotely sensed data, numerical and physical models, and fieldwork in analog settings on Earth to understand why planets look the way they do. Byrne earned his doctorate at Trinity College, Dublin. Prior to joining the faculty at WashU, Byrne was a professor at North Carolina State University. Read more from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.


Mathematics and Statistics

Henri Martikainen

Henri Martikainen, PhD, joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor. Martikainen’s research concerns harmonic analysis, a field of mathematics rooted in representing functions as the superposition of basic waves. Martikainen is also interested in geometric measure theory and its connections with singular integrals and other parts of harmonic analysis. Martikainen earned his doctorate at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Before joining the Washington University faculty, Martikainen was an Academy Research Fellow at the University of Helsinki, where he worked on complex research plans while developing academic leadership skills and establishing himself as an independent researcher in the international scientific community.


Debashis Mondal

Debashis Mondal, PhD, joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an associate professor. Mondal’s research interests include spatial statistics; computational science and machine learning; and applications in environmental sciences and ecology, including microbial ecology. Mondal won an NSF CAREER Award in 2014 and the International Indian Statistical Association’s Young Researcher Award in 2015. He is also an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. Mondal earned his doctorate in statistics at the University of Washington, Seattle. Before he joined the WashU faculty, Mondal was most recently an associate professor of statistics at Oregon State University.


Donsub Rim

Donsub Rim, PhD, joins the Department of Mathematics and Statistics as an assistant professor. Rim’s research interests include numerical analysis of partial differential equations and inverse problems. His current projects range from nonlinear model reduction methods using deep neural networks to computational applications in aerospace engineering, geophysics, and medical imaging, including rocket combustion dynamics, probabilistic tsunami hazard assessment, storm surge prediction, and coupled-physics imaging. Rim earned his doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of Washington, Seattle. Most recently, Rim was a postdoctoral research associate at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University and a Chu Assistant Professor at Columbia University.



Chong Zu

Chong Zu, PhD, joins the Department of Physics as an assistant professor. Zu's research interests lie at the interface between atomic, molecular, and optical physics; condensed matter physics; and quantum information. Advances in the intersections of these fields hold the potential for revolutionizing computing, communication protocols, and sensors. Zu focuses on using solid-state spin defects for quantum sensing, simulation, and computation. His current projects include quantum-enhanced sensing, non-equilibrium quantum dynamics, and quantum computation. Zu earned his doctorate at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Prior to joining the Washington University faculty, Zu was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.