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The Core Curriculum

Frontiers of Science Faculty



Azadeh Keivani

AK is an astrophysicist studying the astrophysical sources of high energy neutrinos and gravitational waves in a multi-messenger multi-wavelength approach. She is member of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Before joining Columbia in 2018, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the Pennsylvania State University. AK and her colleagues found the first evidence of a neutrino source association, a blazar, making the news headlines in summer 2018. AK received her PhD degree in particle astrophysics from Louisiana State University and her BSc degree from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.   


Adam Brown

Adam Brown graduated from Carleton College with a BA in Psychology in 2009 and obtained a PhD in Computational Neuroscience from  the University of Chicago in 2017. As a doctoral student, Adam used genetic, physiological, and computational tools to study the neurobiology of foraging behavior in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Now focused on a career in education, Adam is a Columbia Science Fellow in the discipline of Biological Sciences and is conducting research on pedagogical practices through analysis of Frontiers of Science student-generated data.    


Brian Greene

Brian Greene is a Professor of Mathematics and of Physics, and co-founder of Columbia's Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics. He is widely recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in superstring theory and is known to the public through his general-level lectures, writings and science documentaries. Professor Greene received his B. A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.



Caleb Scharf

Caleb Scharf’s research career spans cosmology, exoplanetary science, and astrobiology. He currently leads efforts at Columbia to understand the nature of exoplanets and living environments in the universe. He is also a Global Science Coordinator for the Earth-Life Science Institute’s Origins Network at the Tokyo Institute for Technology.  He received his PhD in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge. 


David Helfand

David Helfand, a faculty member at Columbia for forty-two years, served nearly half of that time as Chair of the Department of Astronomy. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications and has mentored 22 PhD students, but most of his pedagogical efforts have been aimed at teaching science to non-science majors. He helped institute the first change to Columbia's Core Curriculum in 50 years by introducing Frontiers of Science to all first-year students. In 2005, he joined an effort to create Canada's first independent, non-profit, secular university, Quest University Canada and served as President & Vice-Chancellor from 2008-2015. He also recently completed a four-year term as President of the American Astronomical Society, and is currently Chair of the American Institute of Physics. His first book, "A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age" was inspired by the Frontiers of Science curriculum. 


Dustin Rubenstein

Dustin Rubenstein is an Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. He is director of the Program in Tropical Biology and Sustainability, and co-founder of the Center for Integrative Animal behavior. He studies the causes and consequences of sociality and how animals cope with environmental change. He joined the Columbia faculty in 2009 after completing a Miller Research Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1999 and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2006. 


Ellen Crapster-Pregon

Ellen Crapster-Pregon graduated with a B.A. from Colby College, Maine double majoring in geology and chemistry. She then combined these fields to study the chemistry and processes of the early Solar System as preserved in meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History while obtaining a Ph.D. from Columbia University, New York. While pursuing her degree, she was actively involved with processing the X-ray Spectrometer (XRS) datasets from NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury and was a volunteer for the Antarctic Search for Meteorites during the 2015-2016 season recovering meteorites from the ice fields of Antarctica. Her current research focuses on determining the distribution of the lanthanide series, rare earth elements among the components (chondrules, refractory inclusions, matrix, etc.) of chondrites to better understand the high temperature processes operating in the early Solar System that ultimately resulted in the configuration of bodies we observe today.


Fabrizio Spagnolo

Fabrizio Spagnolo is an evolutionary biologist interested in the evolution and ecology of bacteria, with a focus on adaptation in microbial populations. He holds a BA in Philosophy from Boston University, as well as a MA in Biology and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Stony Brook University. He conducts research using experimental evolution techniques in the lab, using controlled conditions to understand evolution as it is happening.



Ivana Nikolic Hughes

Ivana Nikolic Hughes is the Director of Frontiers of Science and Senior Lecturer in Discipline in the Department of Chemistry. Ivana graduated from Caltech with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering, with Honors, in 1999. While at Caltech, she was the recipient of several research fellowships, and conducted research in novel therapeutics at the University of Nis in Serbia, at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, and at the University of Washington in Seattle. Ivana earned her PhD from Stanford University in 2005, working in the Department of Biochemistry as an American Heart Association Fellow. She studied enzymatic catalysis and protein evolution in the alkaline phosphatase superfamily. Ivana is responsible for day-to- day operations of Frontiers of Science, and works with the Frontiers faculty across all ranks on the development of the curriculum for the course and enhancement of teaching. In addition to her work in Frontiers, Ivana is the Director of the K=1 Project, Center for Nuclear Issues. As part of her efforts in K1, Ivana works with undergraduate students and faculty to promote informed debate on the topic of nuclear technologies, via research, writing and film. Recent work has been featured in Huffington Post, Motherboard, Gizmodo, Science News, and elsewhere.




Jerry McManus

Jerry McManus grew up in New York City and received a B.A, M.A. and Ph.D. (1997) in Earth Science from Columbia University. As a paleo-oceanographer, his research uses deep-sea sediments to reconstruct past changes in the Earth’s climate and the large-scale ocean circulation, with a special focus on the role that the ocean plays in abrupt climate change. He has spent nearly a year of his life at sea.  After ten years at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, he returned to Columbia in 2008, and is now a Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences based at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Klejda Bega

Klejda Bega graduated from Caltech with a BS in Physics with Honors in 1999 and a PhD in Physics in 2004. She did her graduate work in particle physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where she was involved in the measurement of parity violation in electron-electron scattering. After graduation she worked as a management consultant, assisting public and private sector clients in projects including strategic sourcing, data analysis, market research, process mapping and redesign, and staff training. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia, conducting research in atomic, molecular and optical physics focusing on precise manipulation of ultracold atoms and molecules in optical lattices.



Logan Brenner

Logan Brenner is a paleoceanographer/paleoclimatologist interested in reconstructing past oceanic conditions using the geochemistry of stony coral skeletons. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Skidmore College in 2012 with a B.A. in Geosciences where she studied stalagmites (cave formations) to develop a history of precipitation in Yucatan, Mexico. She continued to Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where she received her Ph.D. in 2017, to study coral geochemistry with one project focusing on the hydroclimate off the Pacific coast of Panamá and another on the changing sea surface temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef over the past 25,000 years. As a Science Fellow in Columbia’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, she is currently exploring multi-decadal climate patterns by a series of small islands in the Central Pacific. In addition to her research, Logan is passionate about science communication and the role STEM plays in higher education.



Marika Yip-Bannicq

Marika Yip-Bannicq is a social psychologist specialized in social cognition, self-regulation, interpersonal conflict, and close relationships. She graduated with a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and received her PhD in Social Psychology from New York University. Her current research explores new approaches for promoting constructive conflict processes in romantic relationships, and how self-control in the context of close relationships can be conceptualized as a dyadic, interpersonal process. 


Orit Karni-Schmidt

Orit Karni-Schmidt graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a BSc in Biology and an MSc in Biotechnology in 1998 where she focused on HIV and nuclear transport. She continued her cellular biology research at the Rockefeller University as a Guest Investigator in the laboratory of Professor Michael Rout where she worked on the nuclear pore complex. Orit received a PhD in Biological Sciences from Columbia University where she conducted cancer research focusing on the p53 tumor suppressor protein in the laboratory of Professor Carol Prives. After receiving her PhD, she was a postdoctoral fellow and Associate Research Scientist at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical School and at Mount Sinai Hospital. Orit was the recipient of two NIH-funded Cancer Training Grants and has published numerous scientific papers relating to her field of research. Orit is currently an adjunct professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Columbia.



Peter de Menocal

Peter de Menocal is Dean of Science for the Faculty of Arts & Sciences at Columbia University, and the Thomas Alva Edison/Con Edison Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Climate & Life, a research team with over 120 PhD scientists leading research to understand how climate impacts life’s essentials – our access to food, water, shelter, and energy. The Center engages the private sector to build a more resilient, sustainable world. He is a geochemist and paleoclimate scientist at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who uses ocean sediments to understand how and why past oceans and climates have changed, and their impacts on human evolution and culture. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2013), an AGU Emiliani awardee (2014), recipient of the Lenfest Columbia Distinguished Faculty award (2008), and the Distinguished Brooksian award (2013). He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from St. Lawrence University in 2009.



Prahlad K. Routh

Prahlad K. Routh is a Materials Scientist and his research focuses on investigating structural, optical and electronic properties of materials such as semiconducting nanocrystals, 2D materials and their hybrids using ultrafast spectroscopy and light-matter interactions towards applications in energy harvesting and designing next generation of nano-engineered electronic devices. He completed his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), Chennai, India in 2009 and went on to receive his Ph.D. from Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY in May 2016, and carried out his research work at Center for Functional Nanomaterials, Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL).  He is also actively involved in STEM mentoring and science communication with The New York Academy of Sciences initiatives. Prahlad K. Routh is a Lecturer in Discipline of Physics at Columbia University and in addition to teaching Frontiers of Science, designing the online lessons using Smart Sparrow and other course curriculum development activities, he continues his interdisciplinary research at the interface of Materials Science and Artificial Intelligence.



Statia Luszcz Cook

Statia Luszcz Cook studies the atmospheres of planets (and sometimes their moons) through observations across many wavelengths and atmospheric modeling. She earned her B.A. in Astronomy from Cornell University, and her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, Dr. Cook was a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), where she took part in an experiment to search for large, young planets around nearby stars. She is currently a Columbia Science Fellow in the Discipline of Astronomy.


Tammo Reichgelt

Tammo Reichgelt obtained his BSc in Earth Science and MSc in Biogeology from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He worked as a high school chemistry teacher during his MSc and also worked as a soil- and soil water pollution specialist. He obtained his Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Otago, New Zealand, in 2015. His research focus is to investigate the history of Earth's deep-time terrestrial environment using the interplay of climate with plant form and function. Specifically, Southern Hemisphere temperature evolution and global atmospheric CO 2 concentrations during the Cenozoic (65 million year BP up to the present day).

Our Alumni

Abigail Sporer



Abigail Sporer graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she double-majored in Theatre and French and studied for a year in Aix-en-Provence, France. She later changed fields and earned a PhD in Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where her research focused on the genetic and regulatory control of mating and sporulation in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Abigail's current research in the Department of Biological Sciences focuses on the regulation of pigment, antibiotic, and signaling molecule production in the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and several other species of non-pathogenic soil bacteria.

Monica Rouco-Molina



Monica Rouco-Molina received the Veterinary B.S. degree from the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM), Spain, in 2006. After graduation, she started exploring the fascinating world of phytoplankton (microscopic algae), and how these organisms deal with their geochemical environment. She developed her Ph.D. studies at the UCM, and did several research exchanges with the National Oceanographic Centre of Southampton, in England, and with the Institute of Marine Sciences in Cadiz (CSIC), in Spain. After earning her Ph.D. in 2011, she started a research postdoctoral position at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA, where she focused on studying the physiological ecology of the cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, one of the most important nitrogen fixers in aquatic ecosystems. Monica is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia, in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, where she continues her research in microbial oceanography. In addition to her research and teaching, Monica has a leadership role in the Center for Microbiology: Research and Education (C-MORE), where she promotes the professional development of students and other postdocs, and work towards enhancing diversity in STEM fields.


Martina Lessio



Martina Lessio obtained both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Chemistry from the University of Torino (Italy) where she conducted computational research on materials for solar energy conversion. She earned her PhD from Princeton University in 2017. During her time at Princeton, Martina used computational chemistry to investigate heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts for converting carbon dioxide to liquid fuels. She is currently a Science Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia where she continues to work on energy-related topics.


Past Science Fellow Experience - An Article by Robin McGary Herrnstein