Meet 12 of our new Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences faculty as they talk about choosing their respective fields and what they are working on at Boston College this year.


 

Giovanni Pietro (Giampiero) Basile, S.J.

Giovanni Pietro (Giampiero) Basile, S.J.

Associate Professor, Philosophy

Ph.D.
Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich

Where did you grow up?
Trebisacce, on the Ionian coast of Calabria, Italy.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Hiking, watching movies, and cooking.

What made you decide to go into your field?
In philosophy, I am fascinated by the search for truth and the possibility of deepening the fundamental questions about the world, humanity, and God.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My book on Immanuel Kant’s Opus postumum and my paper on Ricœur’s interpretation of Karl Jaspers’s philosophy of existence.

What will you work on this year?
A new critical edition of two of Kant's works and a book on his critique of the modern metaphor of the world as a machine, as well as two papers about Jaspers.


 

Guy Beiner

Guy Beiner

Professor and Sullivan Chair in Irish Studies, History

Ph.D.
University College Dublin

Where did you grow up?
Jerusalem, Israel, and on a kibbutz.

What is your favorite pastime?
I very much enjoy taking walks in nature, where I can get some peace of mind and take in the scenery.

What made you decide to go into your field?
I have an interest in exploring the past and all its complexities, and I am particularly interested in how this is reflected in folk memory. Ireland has proven to be a particularly fertile ground for such inquiries.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
When I published my first prize-winning book Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory, I was required to shorten the manuscript and decided to take out the best chapter, which I adapted into a stand-alone article titled “The Mystery of the Cannon Chains: Remembrance in the Irish Countryside.” I still consider it one of my finest essays.

What will you work on this year?
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the most traumatic events in Northern Ireland’s “Troubles.” As a historian who specializes in history and memory, I look forward to collaborating with other members of the Irish Studies program to coordinate a program of events to mark this historical landmark.


 

Avneet Hira

Avneet Hira

Assistant Professor, Engineering

Ph.D.
Purdue University

Where did you grow up?
All over India, in a military family with roots in Patiala.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Comedy—both watching it and trying my hand at it—as well as video games, dance fitness, and meditation.

What made you decide to go into your field?
Working in an aeromodelling lab as an undergraduate motivated me to stay in engineering. Making remote-controlled airplanes was hard work, but it brought me joy. In graduate school, I realized a Ph.D. in engineering education would let me explore how hands-on, technology-aided activities can help students make personal connections with engineering.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
Last year, after the pandemic hit, a colleague and I published an article titled “Loss of brick-and-mortar schooling: how elementary educators respond” in Information and Learning Sciences. We shared essential stories about the care, commitment, and innovation educators brought to teaching concepts that traditionally require in-person, hands-on work.

What will you work on this year?
Boston College’s new Human-Centered Engineering program and my research on educational technologies for supporting humanistic engineering.


 

Ali Kulez

Ali Kulez

Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures

Ph.D.
University of Southern California

Where did you grow up?
Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Reading for pleasure, taking my son to the playground, and preparing elaborate meals for friends.

What made you decide to go into your field?
My father’s library, which introduced me to both Turkish and world classics, and a year spent in Argentina when I was 17 years old.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
A forthcoming article that examines a travelogue by an Arab-Ottoman imam who accidentally travels to Brazil and spends three years teaching Islam to slaves and freemen of West African descent.

What will you work on this year?
I will be working on my first book project, which explores the politics of food in stories, manifestos, essays, and visual art from modern Cuba and Brazil.


 

Mariana Laverde

Mariana Laverde

Assistant Professor, Economics 

Ph.D.
University of Chicago

Where did you grow up?
Bogota, Colombia. 

What are your favorite pastimes?
I enjoy many types of amateur handcrafting, from knitting and pottery to restoring old furniture. I find the process of building something with my own hands relaxing and satisfying.

What made you decide to go into your field?
Growing up, I found myself thinking about questions related to human behavior and inequity. I'm also naturally inclined to address questions through a mathematical framework. Economics allows me to do both.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
The main paper in my dissertation, which focuses on how students get assigned to public schools in the U.S. I had to overcome research challenges that involved much more than finding a question and a research method.

What will you work on this year?
A project that aims to understand how the ways teachers are sorted into schools impact the distribution of student test scores. We hope to contribute to understanding whether there are institutions that can help reduce the test score gap without being detrimental to teacher welfare.


 

Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez

Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez

Professor, Theology

Ph.D.
University of Fribourg, Switzerland 

Where did you grow up?
Puebla, Mexico.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Movies and travel.

What made you decide to go into your field?
The search for truth and beauty.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My book Seres de la estepa. Memorias de un viaje transiberiano [Beings of the Steppe: Memories of a Trans-Siberian Journey].

What will you work on this year?
My current research project focuses on the problem of redemption in the midst of global violence. A new book on systemic victims’ sacramental resistance will be the first part of this project.


 

Jessica Pauszek

Jessica Pauszek

Assistant Professor, English

Ph.D.
Syracuse University

Where did you grow up?
Dunkirk, New York.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Watching sports (Go Bills!), birding, and exploring new places.

What made you decide to go into your field?
Courses in composition and rhetoric, as well as working class studies, gave me a way to blend my literacies from my home—a deindustrialized, Rust Belt city—and my interest in archival work.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My archival work with the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP), which is an ongoing community partnership project where we collaboratively curate a print collection, housed in London, and digital collections of working-class writing.

What will you work on this year?
I will work on my book Writing “From the Wrong Class,” which details the FWWCP archival project and argues for increased attention to precarity and materiality in community partnership work. I will also expand the FWWCP digital collection.


 

Bryan Ranger

Bryan Ranger

Assistant Professor, Engineering

Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Where did you grow up?
Troy, Michigan.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Travel photography and swimming.

What made you decide to go into your field?
When I was in college, I worked in a research lab and interned in Zambia for a summer. Those experiences solidified my interest in working at the intersection of biomedical engineering and global public health.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My very first journal article, which demonstrated that a novel ultrasound imaging device could produce results comparable to a more expensive system. Themes from that work continue to motivate aspects of my current research.

What will you work on this year?
I plan to publish some muscle ultrasound studies and launch new global health research projects. I will also help establish the new Human-Centered Engineering program.

 

Tom Sapsford

Tom Sapsford

Assistant Professor, Classical Studies

Ph.D.
University of Southern California

Where did you grow up?
Leicester, United Kingdom.

What is your favorite pastime?
Attending live performances: music, dance, drama.

What made you decide to go into your field?
Although reading the Odyssey was the catalyst, as I began studying classics, I quickly appreciated the combination of finite skills, like learning ancient languages, and the infinite possibilities for interpreting Greek and Latin texts and cultures.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My forthcoming book, which looks at the appearance of a figure called the cinaedus, who was known in ancient Greece, Egypt, and Rome for his outrageous gender display and sexual behavior as well as his distinctive forms of song and dance.

What will you work on this year?
I’m greatly looking forward to writing an essay on the dangerous effects of ancient music for the Handbook of Classics and Queer Theory and presenting on the Belize-born composer Errollyn Wallen's new opera Dido's Ghost (a sequel to Vergil's Aeneid and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas) at the University of Oxford.


 

Lacee Satcher

Lacee Satcher

Assistant Professor, Sociology and Environmental Studies

Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University 

Where did you grow up?
Jackson, Mississippi.

What are your favorite pastimes?
Hiking, baking, and watching sci-fi movies.

What made you decide to go into your field?
I wanted to study inequality and help solve social problems.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
An article currently under review titled “Multiply-Deserted Areas: Environmental Racism and Food, Pharmacy, and Greenspace Deserts in the Urban South.”

What will you work on this year?
Yes, I plan to continue examining the health effects of urban inequality across neighborhoods in major urban cities in the U.S.


 

Henry Shea, S.J.

Henry Shea, S.J.

Assistant Professor, Theology

Ph.D.
University of Oxford

Where did you grow up?
St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

What is your favorite pastime?
I love the pastoral work I do with several parish communities around Boston on the weekends.

What made you decide to go into your field?
In the first place, it was the mission given to me by the Jesuits. But my studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry were also a major influence on the decision. My courses there enabled me to connect my experiences of ministry and service with an engagement of ultimate questions in the light of faith, convincing me that theology was an apt place for me to contribute to the academic conversation.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
A recent article that explores internal difficulties in the systematic theology of Karl Rahner.

What will you work on this year?
I’ll be working toward publishing my dissertation, which develops an analogy of grace by relating its mystery to diverse contexts and forms of life.


 

Donglai Wei

Donglai Wei

Assistant Professor, Computer Science

Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Where did you grow up?
Guangzhou, China.

What is your favorite pastime?
Spending time with family and friends.

What made you decide to go into your field?
My undergraduate research inspired me to switch my academic focus from math and physics to artificial intelligence. During my postdoctoral years, I transitioned toward specializing in AI applications for biology, psychology, and health.

Of what work or publication are you most proud?
My paper “Learning and Using the Arrow of Time,” which explores how we learn whether unlabeled videos are progressing forward or backward in time.

What will you work on this year?
Reconstructing 3D brain circuits from images and learning to evaluate human cognitive states from video footage.