Ready to Open Minds

New students are not the only people who come to the university each fall full of anticipation and prepared to embark on their Rutgers journey. Faculty at the beginning of their careers also bring expectations and plans. Students at Rutgers–New Brunswick can look forward to learning with five newly hired School of Arts and Sciences assistant professors who took time recently to reflect on their hopes for teaching, advancing their research, and engaging the minds of students at Rutgers.

Read how Samuel Bunting, David Cash, Brittney Cooper, Sophia Jordán Wallace, and Bingxiao Wu responded to the following questions.

What drew you to Rutgers?

Voorhees MallRutgers is a strong research university. The economics department is very supportive and provides an excellent research environment. Also, the location is great. It’s a tristate area, so it’s very convenient to collaborate with researchers in adjacent states. Plus, I love the very historical and beautiful campus! —Bingxiao Wu

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The breadth of research expertise, links to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and the great attitude of the students. —Samuel Bunting

It’s a world-renowned place to teach and do research. I was beyond excited to have the chance to join the university. —David Cash

The community of amazing thinkers and scholars housed in this one institution is so intellectually awe-inspiring. I know I will become a better scholar and teacher just by being an active part of this community. —Brittney Cooper

Rutgers is a place that will allow me to do research in the local area in terms of immigrant interviews. And I really value having a diverse student body. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

What is your teaching philosophy?

DNA modelSimplify. The 1953 Watson and Crick Nature paper that proposed the structure of DNA is likely the root of all modern molecular biology, but it is only one page long, with one simple figure. Darwin’s The Origin of Species is 502 pages long. I like the Watson and Crick approach. —Sam Bunting

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I imagine myself in the students’ shoes so that I can best help them, and I let my own enthusiasm for the subject shine through. —David Cash

Learning to ask the right kinds of questions is much more important than coming up with the “right answers.” I seek to create a community of rigorously engaged scholars who recognize that how and what we think about the world is powerful. —Brittney Cooper

I try to run my classes with as much discussion as possible. It’s important for students to engage other people’s viewpoints. Even if no one changes your opinion, you’ll be more sound in your reasoning if you’ve listened to the other side. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

I like to learn who my students are, understand their needs, and think about what this course could contribute to their knowledge base and long-term career development. —Bingxiao Wu

What course will you especially enjoy teaching
this year?

Formula on chalkboard“Introduction to Cryptography.” It’s a tremendously important topic for anyone working with information technology, but it’s also a really weird and fun subject to explore. —David Cash

 

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“Molecular Biosciences Journal Club.” It’s for graduate students in the molecular biosciences. They will read scientific papers that are set by faculty members and discuss them in groups. I’m very happy about it because I believe young scientists should immerse themselves in primary, unfiltered literature. —Sam Bunting

“Special Topics: Black Women and Feminism.” We are in the midst of a political moment where we are yet again fighting the war on women. I hope to make the case that feminism still has something to offer contemporary women. —Brittney Cooper

“Immigrant Politics and Policy.” This class is really exciting because you can integrate people working in the community, current legislation, stories from newspapers, films. Students will do readings and engage in discussions in every class. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

“Health Economics.” Students will be able to understand the economics behind alternative health care reform proposals at the end of the course. —Bingxiao Wu

How can you tell when students are really
engaged in your classroom?

Student with raised handI use the gauge of “call-and-response,” a cultural model that grows out of my southern black church roots. I do not believe in standing in the front of the class, talking at my students for uninterrupted lengths of time. I know they are engaged when they talk back, when they ask questions. —Brittney Cooper

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A perceptive question shows understanding and enthusiasm. —Sam Bunting

When they’re asking questions, answering my questions, and especially when they’re catching my little mistakes! —David Cash

When students are really engaged they start sending me links, news stories, etc., that excite them. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

When they ask questions. —Bingxiao Wu

What is your most-absorbing current research project?

Health economicsI focus on health economics and industrial organizations, including reforms of health care policy in the U.S. and China. —Bingxiao Wu

 

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I showed how targeting a particular gene (53BP1) could prevent cancer in mice with mutations in the BRCA1 gene. Now I want to know if we can target the same gene in humans to prevent tumors in individuals with mutant BRCA1, a common cause of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. —Sam Bunting

I’ve been working on cryptographic systems that use mathematical objects called lattices. I’m building crypto using ideas from geometry, and it’s giving me the chance to learn a lot of new math. —David Cash

I’m working on a book that traces black women’s long history as public thinkers on issues of racism and sexism. —Brittney Cooper

Three areas: Latino representation in Congress, the immigrant rights movement of 2006, and anti-immigration state legislation. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

How did you know you wanted to be an academic specializing in your field?

Blade Runner marquisWhen I saw the scene in the Tyrell Corporation in the movie Blade Runner. This really made me wonder, “Wow, is this kind of biology possible??” —Sam Bunting

 

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I had some idea in high school that I wanted to work in math and computer science, but I really figured out that I liked cryptography when I tried out research with some professors in college. —David Cash

I always wanted to be a teacher, and in grad school, I realized that I could craft a life for myself teaching about the groups I’m most passionate about, namely African-American women who were thinkers, writers, and community activists. —Brittney Cooper

During graduate school, I felt confident that I definitely wanted to enter academia when I was really excited about my work and looked forward to getting back to reading. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

I grew up in a family of doctors in China and was an economics major in grad school. It then became quite natural to choose health economics as the field of specialty. —Bingxiao Wu

What surprises you about Rutgers?

Route 18 Rutgers Exits signHow large Rutgers is. When looking at the schedule and planning where your classes are, it wasn’t clear to me as a faculty member from afar how important location is. —Sophia Jordán Wallace

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How big it is. There are so many students, and so much opportunity here. —Sam Bunting

Rutgers’ involvement with the local community. Things like the Rutgers Gardens have been a pleasant surprise. —David Cash

I'm still getting used to the multiple campuses that make up Rutgers–New Brunswick. —Brittney Cooper

How efficiently the campus bus transportation system works. —Bingxiao Wu