Faculty of arts and sciences

School Notes: Faculty of Arts & Sciences
November/December 2017

Tamar Gendler | http://fas.yale.edu

With EXPRES, new worlds await

For two decades, Debra Fischer—professor of astronomy and of geology and geophysics—has been a leader in the detection of exoplanets. Now, she is the driving force behind the Extreme Precision Spectrograph (EXPRES), which will be commissioned in Arizona this year. 

To create EXPRES, Fischer teamed with Jessi Cisewski, assistant professor of statistics and data science. Partnering across their respective fields, and co-mentoring a cross-disciplinary cohort of graduate students, the colleagues pooled their expertise to increase the precision of the data collected by the device—thus enabling significantly greater accuracy in the search for life beyond Earth.

“Despite the large number of . . . discoveries,” Fischer explained, “we have missed the exoplanets in our galactic ‘backyard’ that hold the greatest promise for eventually detecting life.” With EXPRES, “we are about to tap into an enormous number of planets.”

A sociologist with cross-disciplinary expertise

Grace Kao joined the faculty as professor of sociology and of ethnicity, race, and migration in July. A scholar who uses both qualitative and quantitative techniques, she is the first woman of color—and the first Asian American—to hold tenure in sociology at Yale.

With interests from social demography to Asian American and ethnic studies, Kao is both social scientist and humanist. Her teaching includes a graduate class on the sociology of education and an undergraduate course on race, ethnicity, and immigration. She is also the inaugural faculty director of the Education Studies Program.

The newly named vice president-elect of the American Sociological Association (ASA), Kao received a Contribution to the Field Award from the ASA Section on Asia and Asian America in August. Her forthcoming book, with fellow researchers Kara Joyner and Kelly Stamper Balistreri, is entitled Interracial Friendships and Romantic Relationships.

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