2017 Catalyst Fellows

Jeanette Bennett, Psychological Sciences

Dr. Jeanette M. Bennett is an experimental health psychologist who focuses on the pathways that allow stress to “get under the skin” and affect our mental and physical health. After earning her PhD in Biobehavioral Health at Penn State, she completed her post-doctoral training with Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser at Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. These experiences solidified her prowess in studying human chronic stress models, using repeated measures study designs, and integrating psychological and biological concepts associated with stress and health. Due to her interdisciplinary training, she approaches research questions with a dual lens. That is, Dr. Bennett seeks to understand the physiological mechanisms that lead to chronic disease development and how stress management interventions or stress-protective factors like positive affect can have holistic improvements on an individual’s health and well-being. Since joining the Department of Psychological Science in August 2012, she established the StressWAVES BRL, the department’s first biomarker assessment lab with clinical research space and a benchtop lab to process and analyze physiological health outcomes linked to stress. Currently, she is seeking funding to continue two arms of her research: 1) investigate the use a restorative yoga intervention to reduce chronic pain and improve quality of life among females who have chronic pelvic pain and 2) examine whether the stress of loneliness is analogous to the stress of tobacco smoking within the body.

Didier Dréau, Biological Sciences

Dr. Didier Dréau earned a B.S. in physiology and cell biology from Rennes I University (Rennes, France), an M.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Blaise Pascal University (Clermont-Ferrand, France) and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology with emphasis on Immunology from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Rennes (ENSAR, France). Following his post-doctoral training in immunology and immunotherapy, Dr. Dréau served as Research Scientist at Carolinas Medical Center. Dr. Dréau is currently is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Dréau also serves as the Honors in Biological Sciences Program Director in the Department of Biological Sciences, and the Area Leader for the Applied Cancer Technology and Therapeutics in the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In addition to his teaching of cancer biology and physiology, Dr. Dréau, a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, serves on multiple granting agency review panels along with scientific journal editorial boards. The focus of Dr. Dréau’ research is on angiogenesis, immune responses and the physical and chemical tumor microenvironment in the promotion of metastasis. To date, Dr. Dréau has participated and presented his research at more than 100 scientific meetings, and authored more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. His research efforts include dedicated interests in the development of new approaches to prevention, early detection, monitoring and treatment of cancers.

Shunji Egusa, Physics and Optical Sciences

Dr. Shunji Egusa holds B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Tokyo and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. He additionally claims to speak the languages of Chemistry, Biology, and Medicine, with his postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. His research goals are: (1) to pioneer novel methodologies for nano-materials synthesis; (2) to understand the photo-physical properties of thus obtained nano-materials; (3) to elucidate the interaction between these nano-materials and cells/bio-organisms; and (4) to use these nano-materials to positively impact the outcomes of cancer and other treatments in the clinic.

Sara Juengst, Anthropology

Dr. Sara L. Juengst is a bioarchaeologist with a research focus in the ancient Andes, asking how people lived in the past as shown by skeletal indicators of status, stress, and violence. In other words, she analyzes skeletons from archaeological contexts in the Andes of South America, in order to document and understand their lived experiences. In general, her research interests include ancient diseases, violence-related trauma, diet and the body, and the embodied aspects of social and genetic communities. Her recent research investigated individuals buried in the southern Titicaca Basin of Bolivia associated with large-scale socio-economic change between 1500 BC and AD 200. Juengst’s skeletal analyses showed that despite increasing social complexity, people were not creating social hierarchies in order to organize labor. Instead, people relied on kinship and ritual to unite various groups together. Her future research will explore these patterns more closely and take a diachronic perspective, investigating burials from previous and subsequent times. She earned her B.A. at Vanderbilt University in 2008 and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2015. Her research has been funded by the National Geographic Society and Sigma Xi.

Sara Levens, Psychological Sciences

Dr. Levens received her PhD in Psychology from New York University with an emphasis in affective and cognitive neuroscience.  Prior to joining the faculty at UNCC, Dr. Levens held postdoctoral training positions at Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. The central theme of Dr. Leven’s research is emotion. As emotion is both universally experienced but variable across individuals it offers multiple entry points for identifying common mechanisms that contribute to decision-making, health, attitudes, and beliefs. Dr. Levens’s research spans the spectrum of emotion effects—from underlying executive function mechanisms, to intrapersonal regulatory processes that influence behavior, to broader interpersonal processes that may influence attitudes, beliefs, and social interactions. Dr. Levens uses interdisciplinary methods to assess the role of emotion processing, emotional reactivity, and emotion regulation in human behavior. Methodologically, Dr. Levens employs experimental design, survey design, behavioral assessment, physiology, neuroimaging, and computational modeling techniques with community samples and specialized populations (e.g. individuals with depression, traumatic brain injury, or health conditions). Through her research Dr. Levens aims to elucidate when, how, and why emotions give rise to adaptive and maladaptive behavior patterns.

Kevin McGoff, Mathematics and Statistics

Dr. Kevin McGoff is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at UNC Charlotte. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Maryland, where he specialized in the study of dynamical systems. Prior to arriving at UNC Charlotte, Dr. McGoff worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Duke University. Dr. McGoff’s research now focuses on both theoretical and applied aspects of dynamical systems. In his more theoretical work, he investigates the long-term behavior of systems in which the rules of evolution have been selected at random. On the applied side, he develops and analyzes statistical procedures for modeling complex dynamic processes. Dr. McGoff has received funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct his research, and he has published papers in the Annals of Probability, the Annals of Statistics, the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, and Genome Biology.

Alyssa McGonagle, Psychological Sciences

Dr. Alyssa McGonagle an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Organizational Science at UNC Charlotte. She completed a Ph.D. in Psychology (Industrial/Organizational) with an emphasis in Occupational Health Psychology at the University of Connecticut in 2011, where she was a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research fellow. She then was employed as an Assistant Professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Wayne State University from 2011-2016. Dr. McGonagle’s research broadly focuses on workers’ health, safety, and well-being. She currently has a particular interest in developing and evaluating interventions to promote well-being, work ability, and quality of working life for workers with potentially disabling chronic health conditions. Dr. McGonagle has received funding for her research from the Institute of Coaching, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the SIOP Foundation. She has published her research in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, and the Journal of Business and Psychology, among others. She is on the editorial board of Stress and Health, Occupational Health Science, and the Journal of Business and Psychology.

Erika Montanaro, Psychological Sciences

Trained as a social psychologist with an emphasis in health psychology, Dr. Montanaro graduated with a PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2014. Following graduate school Dr. Montanaro began a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale School of Public Health. At Yale, Dr. Montanaro specialized in examining the role technology can play in the prevention process among adolescents and young adults. Beginning in Fall 2016 Dr. Montanaro started her position as an assistant professor in UNCC's Department of Psychological Science. At UNCC Dr. Montanaro's research focuses on integrating two primary research goals: (1) to develop innovative and theoretically driven health-related prevention programs for at-risk populations, and (2) to use technology in order to broadly disseminate health-related prevention programs.  Prevention often begins with a targeted behavior, for example, a young woman negotiating condom use with her partner. It is important to understand what factors contribute to health-related risk behavior in order to create effective interventions to increase health-related prevention behaviors. The goal of Dr. Montanaro's research program is to integrate these areas to develop and assess innovative and impactful interventions to decrease HIV transmission rates in our communities.  

Sarah Pettijohn, Political Science and Public Administration

Sarah L. Pettijohn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she teaches courses in nonprofit management in the Gerald G. Fox Master of Public Administration Program.  Her research focuses on the role, capacity, and financial well-being of nonprofit organizations in the United States.  Specifically, her work examines government contracts and grants from the nonprofit perspective as well as how nonprofits use data collected to enhance organizational performance.  Prior to joining UNCC, Dr. Pettijohn worked as a research associate at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. Dr. Pettijohn earned her Ph.D. in Public Administration from American University in 2014.  She holds an MPA and Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Texas at Dallas (2008) and a BA in government from the University of Texas at Austin (2005).

Susan Trammell, Physics and Optical Sciences

Susan Trammell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Optical Science at UNC Charlotte. She served as the Director of the Undergraduate Program in Physics and the Director of the Honors Program in Physics from 2002-2012 and she currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Charlotte Teachers Institute. Dr. Trammell received her undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989 and her PhD in Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994. After completing her graduate work, she was awarded a Grainger Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Department of Physics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Trammell has developed new instrumentation for telescopes and used spectroscopic and imaging techniques at a variety of wavelengths to investigate the late stages of stellar evolution as an observational astronomer. More recently, she has applied her expertise in spectroscopic and imaging techniques to the field of biomedical imaging. Her research group is developing a single-pixel hyperspectral imaging system that can be used in real time for cancer detection. The goal of this project is to develop a device for use as a surgical navigation aid and is being conducted in collaboration with doctors at Carolinas Medical Center and the Levine Cancer Institute.

Juan Vivero-Escoto, Chemistry

Juan L. Vivero-Escoto is an Assistant Professor of the Chemistry Department at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (2012-present). He received his B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico (2004) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Iowa State University (2009). He was a postdoctoral fellow through the Carolina Postdoctoral program for Faculty Diversity at UNC Chapel Hill from 2010-2012. Dr. Vivero-Escoto received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associate Universities (ORAU) (2013), the Wells Fargo Faculty Excellence Award (2013), and the CLAS Junior Faculty Development award UNCC (2015). His research focuses on the development of hybrid silica-based nanoparticles for biomedical applications.

Michael Walter, Chemistry

Michael Walter earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Dayton in 2001 and as an undergraduate worked on electrically conductive polymers (plastics) at the Air Force Research Laboratory - Polymer Branch - at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.  He completed an M.S. chemistry degree in 2004 and Ph.D. chemistry degree in 2008 at Portland State University studying the use of dyes and pigments for molecule-based solar cells. In 2008, he began working at the California Institute of Technology in 2008 on silicon solar cell technologies.  He was awarded an NSF-ACCF postdoctoral fellowship from 2009-2011 to study the electrical characteristics of silicon wires in contact with electrically conductive materials.  He joined the chemistry faculty at UNC Charlotte as an assistant professor in the fall of 2011. His research explores the light/matter interactions of synthetic materials that mimic the processes active in photosynthesis. The ultimate goal of his work is to develop general guidelines for researchers designing artificial photosynthetic systems, which can harness and store solar energy in chemical bonds as a solar fuel. His program has developed new dye molecules for solar cell devices, designed a method to track how fast energy moves through a film of these dyes, and has developed a new family of highly fluorescent, electroactive molecules for solar batteries.

Catalyst Writing Coaches and Mentors

Ian Marriott, Biological Sciences

Dr. Ian Marriott is Professor of Immunology and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Biological Sciences.  His research focuses on the cellular mechanisms underlying damaging central nervous system inflammation following bacterial or viral infection.  He received his B.Sc. (Hons) undergraduate degree in 1989 in Biological Sciences from Birmingham University, UK, and his Ph.D. in Physiology from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1996.  After completing two years of post-doctoral training in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Tulane University, he joined The University of North Carolina faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2000.  He was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2004, and was subsequently promoted to Full Professor in 2008.  He has served on the editorial board of The Journal of Immunology and is currently the Editor-in-Chief for Frontiers in Microbial Immunology.  His research has been continuously supported by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2001 and he is currently the principle investigator for R01 and R03 mechanism awards.  He has published a total of 86 peer reviewed research papers, review articles, and book chapters.  Dr. Marriott has served on 42 funding application review panels for the NIH and has reviewed funding applications for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the USDA, the Wellcome Trust, the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sport of the Republic of Croatia, the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada, the National Science Centre of Poland, and the German Research Foundation.  He is currently a standing member of the Clinical Neuroimmunology and Brain Tumor (CNBT) study section of the NIH.

James Walsh, Political Science

Dr. James Walsh is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He holds a PhD in International Relations from American University. His research interests include political violence and terrorism, human rights violations, and intelligence and national security. His book, The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing, was published by Columbia University Press and was named an Outstanding Title by Choice. His work has been supported by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, and the Minerva Research Initiative. He is completing a book on drones and public support for the use of force.

Murray Webster, Sociology

Dr. Murray Webster's Ph.D. is from Stanford. He has been professor of sociology at UNC-Charlotte since 1993. Before that he taught at Johns Hopkins, San Jose State, and the University of South Carolina, and worked at a research firm. Everywhere, part of his tasks were writing research proposals and helping others with their proposals. He served as Program Director for Sociology at NSF twice, and sometimes gives funding talks for NSF at ASA meetings.  He has a chapter on writing proposals in a co-edited a book on lab experiments (2/e 2014). HYis first NSF award was a dissertation grant in 1967; the most recent is a regular grant in 2017. "Writing is part of the employment agreement for university faculty, and proposal writing should be part of that," Webster says. "A good proposal is as solid intellectually as a paper for publication, and in some ways it can be more difficult to write. Besides facing page limits, a writer must convey enthusiasm and get readers excited about the project. While the issues may be technical, the proposal must communicate to generalists as well as to specialists. And, just as with journal submissions, most proposals do not succeed the first time. Some let the whole process discourage them, but defeatism isn’t the proper response. Persistence wins. The rewards of success include money to support students and conduct your research, and local and disciplinary recognition."