Six early-career faculty are named LEAP Scholars

LAS award granted to promising assistant professors

The Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors (LEAP) Award is granted to faculty early in their career based on scholarly productivity and contributions to the educational mission of their departments and the College of LAS.
The Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors (LEAP) Award is granted to faculty early in their career based on scholarly productivity and contributions to the educational mission of their departments and the College of LAS.

Six assistant professors have been recognized as Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors (LEAP) Scholars for their contributions and potential in teaching and research.

The awardees are Mauro Nobili in the Department of History; Aleks Ksiazkiewicz in the Department of Political Science; Xun Yan in the Department of Linguistics; Patricia Gregg in the Department of Geology; Anush Tserunyan in the Department of Mathematics; and Clara Bosak-Schroeder in the Department of the Classics.

The LEAP Award is granted to faculty early in their career based on scholarly productivity and contributions to the educational mission of their departments and the College of LAS. LEAP Scholars retain the title for two years and each scholar receives $5,000 in discretionary research funding for each of those two years.

“LEAP Scholars are excellent teachers and researchers, and we are so fortunate to have these outstanding colleagues on campus,” said Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “We are happy to recognize them at this early stage of what we expect will be long and successful careers at Illinois.”

Read summaries of the LEAP Scholars below:

Mauro Nobili

Mauro Nobili joined the university in 2014 as a historian of pre-colonial and early-colonial West Africa. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in African Studies in 2008. Nobili is most interested in West African history and in particular on Islam and manuscript culture. Nobili has undertaken arduous and potentially dangerous treks around West African libraries to track down specific manuscripts for his research. He has become an internationally known expert in his field, and since coming to Illinois he has organized three international symposia on African history. Nobili has appeared several times on the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent and has earned the Queen Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Department of History.

Aleks Ksiazkiewicz

Aleks Ksiazkiewicz has been an assistant professor in political science at the university since 2015, after earning his doctoral degree from Rice University. Ksiazkiewicz studies the effects of biology and genetics on political behavior and the unconscious cognitive processes that shape political behavior. Since arriving on campus, he has been extremely visible in the Department of Political Science by creating a lab group for political psychology—a first for the department—and being chosen to serve on the editorial board of the Journal of Politics, a major journal in his field. He is also a mentor to graduate students and has developed an outstanding record in undergraduate education, making the List of Excellent Teachers in every semester he has taught (and twice in a semester on three occasions).

Xun Yan

Xun Yan joined Illinois after earning his doctoral degree from Purdue University in 2015. He is most interested in language testing and learning. He has five book chapters that are published or have been accepted for publication, and 10 journal articles either published or in press. Yan has been listed among the Teachers Ranked as Excellent in each of his semesters of teaching since 2016, and he is widely sought as an advisor on research projects across campus. Since he arrived in 2015, Yan has also served as director of the English Placement Test, which is taken by more than 2,000 Illinois students per year. He is credited with redesigning the test structure to improve the format for students and instructors.

Patricia Gregg

Patricia Gregg has a doctoral degree in marine geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. Having joined the faculty at Illinois in 2014, Gregg’s research mainly encompasses volcano geophysics and geodynamics, mid-ocean ridge processes, melt generation, and migration through the upper mantle. She was chosen as chief scientist for Project OASIS, which is a multi-investigator, month-long oceangoing research project to study undersea volcanoes. Gregg’s ability to generate interest and raise funds for her research has been described as “stellar” by her department as she has received grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. In addition, Gregg’s production of YouTube videos documenting her underwater research has been popular with K-12 students interested in the natural sciences.

Anush Tserunyan

Anush Tserunyan has been at Illinois since she became a J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor in 2013. She earned her doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her performance as a J.L. Doob Research Assistant Professor earned her appointment as a tenure-track assistant professor. Today her research interests include descriptive set theory, dynamical systems, ergodic theory, and combinatorics. Tserunyan received the 2015 Emil Artin Junior Prize in Mathematics, and she serves as an editor for the journal Archive for Mathematical Logic. In teaching, she has become well-recognized for graduate instruction and student mentoring, with her lecture notes being used by faculty at Illinois and other universities. Tserunyan is also working with Illinois-based NetMath to develop online versions of her graduate courses.

Clara Bosak-Schroeder

Clara Bosak-Schroeder earned her doctoral degree in classical studies from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include environmental humanities, environmental history, race and ethnicity, and sex and gender studies. She is also especially interested Greek and Roman historiography and technical literature. Last year, Bosak-Schroeder sent the manuscript for her first book, “Other Natures: Environmental Encounters in Ancient Greek Historiography,” to the University of California Press, which expressed extreme interest in publishing her work after only reviewing two chapters. In 2017, Bosak-Schroeder secured three separate conference grants which helped bring visibility to her department, and she has demonstrated innovation and hard work as a teacher, offering to teach in the Grand Challenge Learning Program.

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Abby Paeth