Introducing new faculty members

The following are among the new faculty members at the University. Others will be introduced periodically in this space.

Ram Dixit, Ph.D., joins the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences as assistant professor. Dixit earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a doctorate in plant molecular biology from Cornell University. He held sequential postdoctoral appointments at Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he explored microtubule organization and dynamics and motor function. Dixit’s research uses in vivo and single-molecule in vitro imaging techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms used in the dynamic assembly and reorganization of the cytoskeletal machinery in plant cells during morphogenesis.

David Freidel, Ph.D., joins the Department of Anthropology in Arts & Sciences as professor. He studies the emergence and fluorescence of government institutions among the ancient lowland Maya of southeastern Mexico and Central America. He is directing long-term research at the royal city of El Peru, ancient Waka’, in northwestern Peten, Guatemala. His interests in this regard include material symbol-systems and religion, monumental architecture, political economy, dynastic history and warfare. At a broader level, he is interested in the agency of divine rulers in the evolution of civilization in southeastern Mesoamerica.

Vitaly Klyachko, Ph.D., joins the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology as assistant professor. Klyachko earned a doctorate in biophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. He completed postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., from 2002-07 and was a faculty member in New York University’s Department of Physiology and Neuroscience before joining WUSTL. His research focuses on synaptic function and plasticity with the goal to understand how neural circuits analyze information in the brain. He has developed several novel imaging and electrophysiological techniques to study plasticity at individual synapses. His work has important implications to neurological disorders, such as mental retardation and Alzheimer’s disease.

Matthew W. Kreuter, Ph.D., joins the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and the School of Medicine as professor. His research and writing focuses on health communication, and he is the director of the National Cancer Insitute-funded Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. Before joining WUSTL, Kreuter served as professor at the Saint Louis University School of Public Health. Kreuter earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in health behavior and education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ryan T. Moore, Ph.D., joins the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences as assistant professor. He earned a doctorate from Harvard University in government and social policy in 2008 and a master’s degree from Harvard University in statistics in ’06. His primary research interests center around American social policy and statistical political methodology. Substantively, he is interested in the intersection of direct democracy, federalism and the politics of old-age pensions and health care. Methodologically, he develops and implements methods for political experiments, ecological data, missing data and causal inference.

Juan Pantano, Ph.D., joins the Department of Economics in Arts & Sciences as assistant professor. He earned a doctorate in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2008. His research spans several areas of applied microeconomics, including issues in labor economics, economics of the family, economics of crime, health economics, development economics, urban economics and empirical industrial organization. His recent research analyzes the consequences of alternative policies to handle criminal record and the impact of contraceptive technology changes on the quality of birth cohorts. Pantano also is working on the estimation of game-theoretic models of parent-child interactions and on the economics of time use.

Vetta L. Sanders Thompson, Ph.D., joins the George Warren Brown School of Social Work as associate professor. She focuses her research and writing on eliminating health disparities and the cultural issues surrounding mental health service delivery. Before joining WUSTL, Thompson served as an associate professor at the Saint Louis University School of Public Health. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social relations from Harvard University and a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology from Duke University.

Julia A. Walker, Ph.D., joins the Department of English in Arts & Sciences as associate professor, with a joint appointment in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences. She lists among her primary research and teaching interests modern drama, modernism, theatre history and performance theory. The author of “Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre: Bodies, Voices, Words,” Walker has published articles in Theatre Journal, the Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Nineteenth Century Theatre, the Yale Journal of Criticism and several edited collections. Her second book, “Modernity & Performance,” examines acting styles in relation to cultural changes associated with the historical period of modernity.