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Meet Our Team

Current Committee Members

Professor, Mathematics
Director, STEM Diversity Lab
Nate Brown's personal website

As the director of the STEM Diversity Lab, Nathanial Brown’s research focuses on social justice in the context of STEM education. His work concentrates on the goal of achieving tangible and measurable change in areas including advocacy, education, research, and outreach. A crucial component of his lab’s work is building and engaging communities and ensuring driven and talented students from underrepresented areas have the opportunity to attend and succeed in graduate school.

Nathanial is the recipient of Penn State’s Robinson Equal Opportunity Award and Eberly College of Science’s Climate and Diversity Award. In addition to his role as director, he is a professor of mathematics focused on the research of operator algebras.


Shaffer Career Development Associate Professor

Associate professor, Astronomy & Astrophysics
Shaffer Career Development Professor in Science

Rebekah Dawson's personal website

Rebekah Dawson joins the Next STEPS committee with the hope of learning more about improving equity and inclusion in ECoS through evidence-based practices. As a committee member, she has worked on developing and delivering the faculty hiring workshop and helped with establishing the Launch program. She is particularly interested in improving hiring and retention of junior faculty and graduate students.

Rebekah serves as a faculty advisor for the Upward Bound astronomy summer class for potential first-generation-to-college high school students and, as of August 2021, the Astronomy and Astrophysics associate head for the graduate program. Her research focuses on extrasolar planets, debris disks, dynamics of planetary and satellite systems, the Kuiper Belt, planet formation, and signal processing.


Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Eberly College of Science
Diversity and Inclusion website

As Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for ECoS, Kristin Finch facilitates efforts to promote a nurturing climate for all members of the college community. Serving on the Next STEPS committee aligns directly with the mission of her office to advance equity throughout the college. Through her work, Kristin strives to advance the representation of the diverse communities in the college, including undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, while supporting curricular and co-curricular programming hosted through her office and the college.


Professor, Chemistry
Miriam Freedman's group website

Miriam joined Next STEPS at its inception to learn more about strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty. She has helped to create and present the tenure-track hiring workshop, and is helping to establish the Launch program. She has served previously as the Associate Department Head for Climate and Diversity in the Chemistry Department, as chair of the Chemistry Climate and Diversity Committee, and as faculty advisor for Graduate Women in Science. Miriam's research focuses on understanding the role of surfaces and interfaces in the chemical and physical properties of atmospheric particles.


Associate Professor, Physics
Associate Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Chad Hanna's group website

Winner of the 2021 Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement, Chad Hanna is an educator and mentor committed to improving undergraduate education at Penn State and hopes being a member of Next STEPS will be another opportunity to do so. His group is part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and uses gravitational waves as a probe of fundamental physics and a tool for astronomical discovery.


Professor, Mathematics
Diane Henderson's personal website

Co-director of Women in Math, Diane Henderson believes in the value of a diverse STEM workforce and wants to be a part of achieving an environment at Penn State in which a diverse STEM workforce finds a home and thrives. Diane’s work focuses on laboratory experiments in Nonlinear Waves and other areas of Fluid Mechanics.


Professor, Statistics
David Hunter's personal website

David Hunter is a founding member and the secretary/treasurer of the American Statistical Association's Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI outreach group. He is also the associate director of partnerships for the Math Alliance, a group dedicated to increasing the number of doctoral degrees in the mathematical sciences among groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in those fields. As co-founder of Penn State's grass-roots Data Science Community among other data science-related leadership roles, he promotes data science as a genuinely multidisciplinary and inclusive endeavor. David’s research interests include network models, mixture models, and computational statistics.


Associate Professor of Biology

Associate Professor, Biology
Tim Jegla's group website

Tim Jegla comes to the Next STEPS committee looking to further his goal of providing an environment for both students and faculty in which everybody can pursue their dreams. Tim hopes to lower the institutional and cultural barriers students face in order to broaden accessibility to science. Having previously worked in biotech, Tim returned to an academic career because of his strong interest in education. His research focuses on the evolution of the cells and proteins that underlie neuronal signaling.



Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Shaun Mahony's group website

Shaun Mahony served on the Climate and Diversity committee and is the chair for the Junior Principal Investigator community of special interest in the International Society for Computational Biology.

Shaun is excited to see how the NextSTEPS committee can make meaningful changes in the graduate recruitment, hiring, and promotion processes and is hoping to become involved in the Launch initiative, helping welcome and support newly hired faculty in ECoS. His research focuses on developing machine learning approaches for understanding gene regulation.


Assistant Professor, Psychology
Assistant Professor, Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Jes Matick's faculty web page

As the Director of the Underrepresented Perspectives (UP) Laboratory, Jes Matsick’s research incorporates feminist perspectives into the social psychological study of stigma, with an emphasis on improving psychological outcomes for marginalized groups. She joined the Next STEPS committee to apply her knowledge and expertise to diversity-focused initiatives in ECoS, and she very much values the interdisciplinary partnerships created through this committee.

Jes is a recipient of Penn State's Graduate Mentoring Award in Psychology and the Academic Achievement Award from Penn State's Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, and she also advises Penn State's unique dual-title Ph.D. program in Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the College of the Liberal Arts.


Associate Professor, Statistics
Associate Director of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences
Lingzhou Xue personal website

Lingzhou Xue is grateful for the opportunity to join the Next STEPS committee, as it directly aligns with his strong interest in enhancing diversity and excellence. His research focuses on high-dimensional statistics, statistical learning, optimization, econometrics, and statistical applications in business analytics, environmental science, health science, and social science.


Former Committee Members

  • Santhosh Girirajan, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2018-2021
  • Jan Reimann, Associate Professor, Mathematics, 2018-2021
  • Sarah Shandera, Associate Professor, Physics, 2018-2021
  • Melissa Rolls, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Chair, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences Graduate Program, 2018-2021
  • Chuck Fisher, Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Senior Scholar, Biology, 2018-2019
  • Katriona Shea, Professor, Biology; Alumni Professor, Biological Sciences, 2018-2020