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Eight School of Science faculty members granted tenure

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Clockwise from top, left: Tanja Bosak, Laurie A. Boyer, Iain M. Cheeseman, Jacob Fox, Jeroen Saeij, J. Taylor Perron, Paul O'Gorman, and Jonathan Kelner
Clockwise from top, left: Tanja Bosak, Laurie A. Boyer, Iain M. Cheeseman, Jacob Fox, Jeroen Saeij, J. Taylor Perron, Paul O'Gorman, and Jonathan Kelner

The School of Science recently announced that eight of its faculty members have been granted tenure by MIT.

“These people are extraordinary researchers and superb educators,” says Michael Sipser, interim dean of the School of Science. “Their work is brilliant, groundbreaking, and absolutely fascinating. I’m thrilled and honored to have them as new members of our tenured faculty.”

This year’s newly tenured associate professors are:

Tanja Bosak, the Hayes Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, is an experimental geobiologist who studies the parallel evolution of microbial life and environmental systems in the Precambrian era. Bosak works to understand how biological, chemical, and physical processes combine to shape and preserve sedimentary rocks and influence geochemical trends at the Earth’s surface, using the shape and texture of microbial traces in the rock as a “smoking gun” for biological processes. 

Laurie A. Boyer, the Irvin and Helen Sizer Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, examines various transcriptional mechanisms that regulate mammalian cell differentiation, with particular emphasis on the role of DNA-packaging and non-coding regulatory elements in lineage commitment. Boyer focuses on the regulatory networks that control the development of heart cells, a process that requires the precise regulation of thousands of genes and that, when disrupted, results in congenital heart defects — the leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality and of adult cardiac dysfunction.  

Iain M. Cheeseman, an associate professor in the Department of Biology and member of the Whitehead Institute, analyzes the role of the kinetochore in chromosome segregation during mitosis and meiosis. The kinetochore, the protein interface that links chromosomes to microtubules, has been recognized as integral to cell division for more than a century, but analysis of its component proteins and mechanisms has been made possible only recently. Cheeseman has compiled a near-comprehensive list of human kinetochore proteins and is using it to examine kinetochore composition, structure, organization, and regulation, as well as the mechanism by which they achieve proper chromosome segregation.  

Jacob Fox, an assistant professor of applied mathematics, studies combinatorics, the branch of mathematics concerned with the properties of unstructured collections of discrete objects, such as graphs or sets. His specialties are probabilistic and extremal combinatorics, Ramsey theory, combinatorial geometry, and applications of combinatorics to theoretical computer science. He improved the relative Szemerédi theorem of Green and Tao and has given the first improvement in more than 50 years to estimates for hypergraph Ramsey numbers. He has also given solutions for several long-standing Erdős problems.

Jonathan Kelner, an assistant professor of applied mathematics and a member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, translates techniques from pure mathematics to fundamental problems in algorithms and complexity theory with an eye to real-world applications. He has worked in combinatorial optimization, spectral graph theory, distributed computing, machine learning, computational geometry and topology, computational biology, signal processing, and random matrix theory. His major advances include finding extremely fast algorithms for solving systems of linear equations and max flow problems.

Paul O’Gorman, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, works in the field of “moist dynamics” in climate science. He studies the influence of water vapor on the responses of the atmospheric general circulation and the hydrological cycle to climate change.  O’Gorman has advanced our understanding of precipitation extremes, the intensity of and geographical extent of extra-tropical storm tracks, and the difference in warming between tropical oceans and land areas. He has developed a new effective static stability theory and created a new transformation to describe the upward shift of atmospheric variables in response to warming.

J. Taylor Perron, an assistant professor of geology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, combines theory, observation, and lab experiments to reveal how a planet’s geologic and climatic histories are recorded in its topography. He creates computational models of landscape evolution and compares their predictions with field and remote sensing observations to discover new ways of reading a landscape’s history. He has made significant advances in identifying the origin of prominent landscape patterns, such as branching river networks, measuring the connection between precipitation, erosion and landforms to study conditions on planets and moons that are dramatically different from Earth — including the shorelines of ancient oceans on Mars and the methane rivers of Titan.

Jeroen Saeij, the Robert A. Swanson Career Development Professor of Life Sciences in the Department of Biology, studies host-parasite interactions and the genetics of susceptibility to infectious disease. Saeij focuses on the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular parasite that can infect any warm-blooded animal and cause severe disease in human infants or people with compromised immune systems. Saeij combines genetic, genomic, biochemical, and evolutionary approaches to identify host resistance genes and Toxoplasma virulence genes and to understand how their interactions determine the outcome of infection.  

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