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13 new faculty join The College natural sciences division at ASU

September 24, 2020

Thirteen new faculty members joined The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences natural sciences division at Arizona State University this fall, bringing a wealth of knowledge on a range of topics including psychology, mathematics, earth and space exploration, molecular biology and more. Faculty in the natural sciences at The College work to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge while encouraging students to pursue discoveries that will initiate human progress.

“Our natural sciences faculty are a stellar group of individuals who are working at the forefront of scientific discovery and educational innovation,” said Nancy Gonzales, dean of natural sciences in The College. “We are very excited to welcome these incredibly talented new colleagues who will help us generate new knowledge and build a better future together." 

Meet the new faculty members of the natural sciences division:

Department of Psychology

Lauren Friedman

Lauren Friedman is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on understanding the neurocognitive deficits contributing to ADHD symptoms to inform effective, evidence-based treatments in children. In her work, she strives to optimize interventions for children and their families with ADHD by designing and testing an intervention targeting the challenges families face in order to improve outcomes. She recently completed a postdoctoral clinical psychology fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco following her PhD from the University of Central Florida. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Emory University. 

School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences 

Naneh Apkarian

Naneh Apkarian is an assistant professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Her work focuses on mathematics education and departmental change aimed at improving students' experiences with introductory STEM courses. She has a PhD in mathematics education from San Diego State University and University of California San Diego, a master’s degree in mathematics from University of California San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Pomona College.

Shuang Zhou

Shuang Zhou is an assistant professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Her research focuses on Bayesian methodology for complex objects as well as statistical modeling in real scientific applications. She enjoys identifying and studying statistical problems not only motivated by real-life applications, but also potentially leading to innovations in statistical methodology and theory. She is currently developing Bayesian semi-parametric models to quantify the property of particles in nuclear physics with uncertain control, along with the theoretical support of the Bayesian methodology. Zhou obtained a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Shandong University in China and a PhD degree in statistics from Texas A&M University.   

School of Earth and Space Exploration

Katrina Bossert 

Katrina Bossert is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. She is a space physicist who studies dynamics in the near-space region. In her work she uses optical remote sensing instrumentation to look at coupling between the lower atmosphere and thermosphere-ionosphere system. She joins The College after two years as an assistant professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her current projects include investigating the effects of terrestrial weather on space weather, and studying the implications of wave breakdown and turbulence in the spacecraft reentry region. She received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder and a PhD in aerospace engineering from University of Colorado Boulder. 

School of Molecular Sciences

Timothy Long

Timothy Long is a professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy (in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering). He will direct a new Biodesign Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing. His research looks into the structure-property-morphology-processing relationships of a wide range of polymer systems. He has particular interests in the influence of noncovalent interactions on polymer properties, and more recent interest in sustainable polymer chemistry. Long came to Arizona State University from Virginia Tech, where he was director of the Macromolecules Innovation Institute. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Bonaventure University and a PhD in chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. 

School of Life Sciences

Timothy Balmer

Timothy Balmer is an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences. His research aims to understand the nerve cells in the auditory system that may be involved in persistent cellular activity that may lead to tinnitus. He served as a peer reviewer of several publications including the Journal of Neuroscience and the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, and has also been widely published. He received his PhD in neuroscience from Georgia State University and his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Puget Sound. 


Changbin Chen

Changbin Chen is an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of plant meiosis, particularly the regulatory and transition mechanisms in the plant life cycle. His lab works to understand the features of gene expression during meiosis, the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression during plant meiosis, the impact of environmental factors on meiotic recombination and alterations of plant growth by chromosome rearrangement. Prior to coming to ASU he served as an associate professor at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology at Hubei University in China before pursuing a master’s degree in plant biology from East China Normal University. He completed his PhD in genetics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he also served as a lecturer and associate professor. 

Katelyn Cooper

Katelyn Cooper is an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences. Her lab explores questions of equity and access in undergraduate biology education. Specifically, her lab examines how to make biology learning environments, such as active learning classrooms and undergraduate research experiences, more inclusive for students. She came to ASU from the University of Central Florida where she worked as an assistant professor. She received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from ASU and a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University before returning to ASU to complete her PhD. 

Ke Hu

Ke Hu is a professor in the School of Life Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding fundamental processes in cell biology, especially cellular construction, counting, movement and force-generation. By combining imaging, molecular genetics and evolution-based approaches, she aims to determine how key molecules and structures drive these processes, how they evolve and how this distinct evolution contributes to cellular physiology. Prior to ASU she worked as an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Indiana University. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tsinghua University in Beijing and a PhD in biology from the University of Pennsylvania.

Miyeko Mana

Miyeko Mana is an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences. Her research focuses on the intersection of stem cells, diet and cancer — specifically looking at how various diets impact stem cells and create vulnerabilities that can lead to transformations resulting in tumor initiation. She came to ASU from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she served as a postdoctoral fellow. She received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from California Lutheran University and a PhD in developmental genetics from the New York University School of Medicine.

John McCutcheon

John McCutcheon is the associate director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution and professor in the School of Life Sciences. McCutcheon studies endosymbiosis, or the process by which one cell becomes a long-term resident inside another cell. He is interested in how and why symbioses form, how they are maintained and what happens as the associations become more and more intertwined. His current work focuses on questions at the cell biological and biochemical level. His lab studies endosymbioses that range from bacterial pathogens to the bacterial endosymbionts of insect crop pests, to the mitochondria and plastids of animal and plant cells. 


Noah Snyder-Mackler

Noah Snyder-Mackler is an assistant professor in the Center for Evolution and Medicine and the School of Life Sciences. His research focuses on the interaction between the social and physical environments and the genome. Using molecular genomic techniques, his lab aims to understand the health and fitness consequences of environmental and behavioral variation. Before coming to ASU, Snyder-Mackler served as an assistant professor at the University of Washington and a research affiliate for the Washington National Primate Research Center. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and received his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in psychology. 


Qiyun Zhu

Qiyun Zhu is an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences. His research interests include the development of computational tools and resources to improve the analytics of microbiome data, the study of various host and environmental microbiomes and their influence on human health, and the investigation of the evolution of microbes and their hosts, with a focus on vertical and horizontal genetic connections between organisms. Prior to joining ASU, he served as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Diego. He received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Fudan University, China, and his master’s degree in molecular biology and PhD in evolutionary biology from the University at Buffalo, New York. He came to ASU after 10 years as a faculty member at the University of Montana. He received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, a master’s degree in human genetics from the University of Utah, a PhD in computational biology from Washington University and postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona. 

Top photo: Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus is home to The College of Liberal Arts, where the natural sciences division is based.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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The new nuclear family

September 24, 2020

T. Denny Sanford School professor says America should rethink and promote a more realistic picture of U.S. households

As the demography of the United States dramatically shifts, so too should the idea of what it means to be a family, said an Arizona State University professor.

Since the end of World War II, the "ideal" nuclear family consisting of a white father, mother and their two biological kids has been perpetuated in media. But that image is outdated and no longer reflects modern society, said Cassandra Cotton, an assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

“This cultural ideal of the 'Leave it to Beaver' family where the father works, mom stays at home raising their two children is not what family looks like anymore,” said Cotton, who is a family demographer and sociologist. “It’s time to decenter that notion and expand our understanding of what a family looks like.”

Cotton’s words come on the eve of National Family Day on Sept. 26, which has been celebrated annually since 1977. Organizers encourage families to gather at the kitchen table and enjoy a meal together in an attempt to appreciate and engage with the most important people in their lives.

ASU Now spoke to Cotton about her research on family dynamics and how the future of American households will shape and influence our society going forward.

Woman with long brown hair

Cassandra Cotton

Question: Social science research shows that the nuclear family ideal of the post-World War II baby boom is not an accurate reflection of American society. Why have social scientists like yourself come to that conclusion?

Answer: What’s so interesting about the "ideal" of the nuclear family is that it’s actually a relatively new one, and it’s not universal. We’ve conceptualized the "two married, opposite-sex parents and biological kids" family as the model for what is normal and what we should strive for, but in reality families have often been very different from that.

Historically in the U.S., extended families and multigenerational living was the norm for many people, with families made up of parents, children, grandparents and other kin. So for a long time, the norm was these big kinship networks, a safety net of different folks pitching in to raise kids and supporting one another. And that’s still the norm in many parts of the world, where family is a much more communal idea than just two parents taking care of kids. Increasingly now, we’re also starting to recognize that a family doesn’t have to include children, so this idea of parents raising kids isn’t the reality for everyone, nor do all kids live with their parents.

It’s also important for us to realize that the ideal of the nuclear family is quite restrictive and has applied only to certain segments of the American population. Historically we’ve really centered this particular ideal of white, heterosexual nuclear families as the norm, and other family forms as different and sometimes wrong. The heavy focus on marriage — and childbearing within marriage — has been damaging for groups in the U.S. who don’t form families exactly like the ideal due to the historical context of this country. As a society, we’ve often bemoaned the lack of conforming to this ideal of family formation as driving social inequality and poverty, without recognizing the structures, institutions and history that have resulted in those differences. We live in a country where enslaved people did not have the right to marry or raise their children, and as a result, diverse family forms emerged among Black people. The U.S. also has a long history of forcefully removing children of color from their families, like the residential school system that took Indigenous children from kin. So we’re coming from a historical context where families of color weren’t allowed to exist in the same way as white families. Even now, Black, Indigenous and other people of color navigate a world where their family formation patterns and family structures are often viewed as inferior.

There’s always been a lot of dog-whistle language used by researchers and politicians to talk about families that are different from the ideal — "fragile", "problematic," "dysfunctional," "deviant." But some social scientists increasingly recognize the role of white supremacy and patriarchy in guiding our view of the "ideal" family and centering that as the norm. And that’s a big part of why the ideal is outdated — the United States is increasingly moving toward a more racially and ethnically diverse society, among other changes, where a variety of patterns of family formation and family structures need to be recognized as valid and important rather than inferior. We need to think in a much more nuanced way about families and challenge ourselves to consider a broader range of what families can look like.

Q: What’s driving this change and offering up a picture of the new family?

A: We’re definitely seeing changes in the family landscape in the U.S. and elsewhere, partly driven by the changes in our population itself, and partly by legal and social changes that have happened. But there isn’t just one new family — there are many. The U.S. is becoming less white over time, partly because of differences in fertility and migration patterns across different groups. We’ve seen increases in interracial marriage since Loving v. Virginia back in 1967, and alongside that, an increasing number of multiracial or multiethnic children. So transracial families have become more visible. Since the Supreme Court ruled for equal marriage in 2015, we’ve seen growth in the number of married LGBTQ+ partners, some of whom are raising children from previous unions, or children brought into the family through assisted reproduction or adoption. A growing number of kids have come to this country as immigrants through international adoption in the last 20 years.

And we’ve also seen other changes in marriage behaviors, as folks wait longer to get married or choose alternatives to marriage, like cohabitation, with or without kids in the picture. People continue to get divorced, which sometimes means raising children across multiple households, sometimes with new partners and new step- or half-siblings in the mix. Other people are divorcing later in life, repartnering into new family units without kids involved, or taking in grandchildren when parents aren’t able to care for kids. There’s no one dominant family form in the U.S. — certainly not the nuclear ideal. Families are complex — but we should remember that they always have been, everywhere in the world. Plenty of kids have lived with just one parent, or with a stepparent, with a house full of kin, or with no parents at all. Lots of couples choose not to have children as part of their families. These patterns aren’t new, but are gaining prominence as we move away from the outdated ideal.

Q: Given that the nuclear family ideal is outdated, why do we as a society still hold this up as a value?

A: I think there are a lot of reasons we cling to this particular notion of what family means. For some, it’s the family type we grew up with and the one we saw on TV and in the movies. Marriage and childbearing only within marriage have long been pushed as "the right way to do things," and those kind of societal norms often stick with us. And that can mean that different types of families make people uncomfortable, especially when public messaging about family structure has also been so strong.

A lot of people cling to the ideal because of concern — often unfounded — about what different family structures can mean for kids. You know, the “think of the children” kind of rhetoric. For example, for a long time, divorce was heavily stigmatized even after no-fault divorce was introduced in the 1970s and divorce rates increased. There was a great deal of concern about what divorce would mean for kids, though we now know there’s a great deal of evidence that suggests that kids can do just fine with happy, divorced parents. There continues to be suggestions that LGBTQ+ families are problematic, despite evidence to the contrary. And the public messaging on other family types has been harmful too, like the Moynihan Report in 1965 that warned of the dangers of nonmarital childbearing and single motherhood among Black Americans. People continue to use dog-whistle language about "family breakdown" and "cultures of poverty." This kind of rhetoric ignores the history of family formation for Black families and the reality of how inequality and institutional racism have deeply affected family life for Black people and other people of color. So a lot of the idealizing of this particular "nuclear" form of family has to do with broader socialization on race, class and gender roles, and with people’s perspectives of the world around them, which can be a problem because these are hard to shift.

Q: Please offer a glimpse what you feel a family looks like today and what they aspire to be, and how families will look in the future.

A: A broader acceptance and understanding of what family can look like to different people helps us move beyond a very restrictive view to a recognition that family is what you make it. There isn’t just one family to picture when we think about families. A family can be a couple who chooses not to have children. It can be partners who choose to have many children, biologically or through adoption or assisted reproduction. It can be folks coming together in a blended family bringing children from a previous union, or it can be a single adult who chooses to raise a child alone or with the help of friends and kin. It can be married couples or cohabiting couples. Sometimes it’s grown-up children coming back to live with aging parents. It can be a full house with grandparents, parents and children all living together, or it might be a grandfather raising his grandkids or an auntie taking care of nieces and nephews. Or it might be any combination of these different paths to forming relationships that create kinship.

Families come together in all different ways, and they all look different, and that’s OK — being a family should be about celebrating and supporting one another through challenges. What that family looks like or how it came to be shouldn’t be what’s important.

Q: How do family dynamics change society as a whole?

A: Changing family dynamics can bring about broad changes in our population. As a family demographer, I’m constantly reminding my students to think about what changes in families will mean for our population as a whole. These changes in marriage, childbearing and childrearing will reshape and reconfigure what the U.S. looks like five years from now, 10 years from now and even 100 years in the future. The unions that we’re forming now — whether they’re same-sex or opposite-sex, interracial, interreligious and so on — will have an impact on what our population looks like in the future. The children raised in these families will go on to have their own families later in life, whatever those might look like. When we see changes in demographics — who is in the population — and changes in demographic behavior like forming unions and having kids, there’s the potential to see changes in our shared ideals and understandings of the world.

My hope is that we’ll continue to move toward a model of family that takes into account our individual desires to marry or not, to have children or to remain child-free, to raise children with the support of a partner, kin or other loved ones. A model that encompasses all the variety of family formation and family structure that exists — whatever family looks like for you, it’s something to celebrate.

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

Reporter , ASU News