The six new faculty members who joined Pomona College this fall on continuing contracts are remarkable in their diverse interests, abilities and credentials. What unites them is their enthusiasm for their disciplines and the desire to make those subjects come alive for their students. Following are brief introductions.
Valerie G. Cowan
Head Volleyball Coach
and Assistant Professor
of Physical Education
A three-sport athlete in high school, Valerie Cowan soon discovered that volleyball was her passion. "They'll have to peel me off the volleyball court when I can't play any more," she says with a smile. A championship player in both high school and college, she continues to play competitively through USA Volleyball. In recent USA Open Tournaments, she has won a gold medal in the Women's Open Bronze Division (1997), been named All-America (1997), and won a bronze medal in the Women's 30s Division (1998). As a student at California State University, Bakersfield, she was named second team All-America and helped her team to the NCAA II national title.
While she enjoys playing the game, "coaching," she explains, "allows me to share my love of the game and help students improve their skills." She has served as an assistant coach at the University of Evansville and as head coach at Porterville College. Cowan earned her M.S. in health, physical education and recreation at St. Mary's College and her B.S. in physical education from CSU Bakersfield.
Alfred S. Kwok
Assistant Professor of
Physics and Astronomy
Alfred Kwok was drawn to physics by his desire to learn how things work at their most elemental level. Focusing on optics, he is currently creating microlasers in his lab using dyed microdroplets and analyzing the lasers' spectrum.
Despite quantum physics' reputation for difficulty, Kwok says his students shouldn't be intimidated. "What's so exciting," he notes, "is that some of the very basic theories of quantum physics are only now being tested. Students are not learning some mathematical obscurity. Quantum mechanics is a cutting-edge, real-world science."
Kwok received his Ph.D. in applied physics from Yale University, earning the Becton Prize for Excellence in Engineering and Applied Science and his B.A., with highest honors, in physics and computer science, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work in spectroscopy has been published extensively in scientific journals. He comes to Pomona from Franklin and Marshall College. He previously served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford University Free Electron Laser Center and as a graduate teaching fellow at Boston University.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Jennifer Lackey enjoys spending the day wrestling with weighty questions: What is knowledge? How are people justified in believing secondhand information? Are there moral truths, and are moral standards relative to societies or even to particular individuals? Of particular interest to her is "whether there are gender issues that have a bearing on traditional philosophical questions and affect our beliefs. For example, can emotions, a traditionally feminine characteristic, somehow be relevant to the acquisition of knowledge, or have we been justified in saying that emotions are irrelevant to knowledge?"
to Pomona, Lackey taught feminist philosophy at Brown University. She has
presented papers at philosophy conferences at both Brown and Rutgers University,
twice chaired Brown's Graduate Philosophy Conference and served as a referee
at the 20th World Congress of Philosophy. She earned her Ph.D. from Brown,
her M.A. from the University of Chicago and her B.A., magna cum laude,
from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame.
James B. Marshall
Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science
Fascinated by computers since childhood, James Marshall was attracted to the field of artificial intelligence by its broad questions--questions like "whether we can create machines that think, and whether we should."
Marshall began tackling those problems in graduate school, where he developed a computer with "the ability to watch its own behavior and compare its answers." His thesis, Metacat: A Self-Watching Cognitive Architecture for Analogy-Making and High Level Perception, attracted international attention. The next project on his research drawing board is teaching machines how to perform interesting tasks without having to program them explicitly.
Prior to joining Pomona, Marshall taught on the faculties of Swarthmore College and Indiana University. He has also served as a research assistant at the Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition at Indiana University; a visiting researcher at the Instituto per la Ricera Scientifica e Technologica (TRST) in Trento, Italy and a database programmer.
He received his Ph.D. in computer science and cognitive science and his M.S. in computer science from Indiana University and earned his B.A. in computer science from Cornell University.
Assistant Professor of
A Buddhist nun as well as a professor, Zhiru Ng has dedicated herself to the study and practice of her religion. Her intellectual curiosity has already led her to study the differing Buddhist traditions of China, India and Tibet, and she is now researching medieval Chinese Buddhism with special attention to the interactive patterns between the religion and indigenous Chinese beliefs and understandings of afterlife.
Fortunately, this enthusiastic scholar also wants to "make Buddhist traditions and Chinese religious traditions come alive for the students," using an interdisciplinary approach. In addition to the usual exploration of texts, she also plans to use her own research, incorporating audiovisuals of Buddhist sites, art and narratives.
Ng earned her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from the University of Arizona; her M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and her B.A., with honors, from the National University of Singapore. She is fluent in English, Chinese and Classical Chinese. She also reads French, Japanese, Sanskrit and Classical Tibetan. She previously taught at the University of Arizona.
Nicholas J. Schisler
Assistant Professor of Biology
At a time when technological advances are producing huge quantities of raw data, Nicholas Schisler's expertise in both genetics and computers has placed him at the forefront of bioinformatics.
As part of his research, Schisler has spent the last few years developing an information infrastructure able to organize and sequence the explosion of genetic information resulting from the human genome sequencing projects. His prototype, the Intron DataBase (IDB), contains information on more than 64,000 genes and 154,000 introns, from multiple species. His subsequent project, the Intron Evolution DataBase, summarized all intron information from the 2,922 species present in IDB and provided a statistical analysis that resulted in insights into the phylogenetic distribution and evolution of introns.
Schisler received his Ph.D.and B.S. from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. He previously taught at the University of Western Ontario, where he created an interactive computer-based multimedia course. His articles have appeared in numerous professional journals. --Cynthia Peters