Tenure Awarded to Five Faculty Members

Announcements7 MIN READ

Hailing from the Natural Sciences Division, the professors are also named Haynesville Project Fellows

By Laura MeaderPortraits by Ashley L. Conti
February 19, 2024

On the recommendation of President David A. Greene, five faculty members have recently been promoted and granted tenure.

Those receiving tenure and a promotion to associate professor are Eric Aaron, computer science; Bess Koffman, geology; Oliver Layton, computer science; Suegene Noh, biology; and Jerzy Wieczorek, statistics.

These individuals are the newest cohort of Haynesville Project Fellows and will receive a $100,000 grant over a two-year period. Developed by Tom and Cathy Tinsley in 2021, this innovative pilot project is unique to Colby and was recently extended to 2027. The grants provide resources to foster creative and high-impact research projects and excellence in teaching. Funds may be used entirely for research purposes, or up to 40 percent for personal expenditures.

“Each of these faculty members brings a wonderful combination of talents and expertise to Colby,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden. “They have excelled as innovative teachers who have expanded the curriculum, as interdisciplinary scholars working at the intersections of new and emerging fields, and as generous contributors to community-building and the governance of the College. We are so fortunate to have such exceptional colleagues as members of our faculty.”

Eric Aaron—Computer Science

Associate Professor of Computer Science Eric Aaron

Eric Aaron works at the intersection of computational modeling and the simulation of biological phenomena, an emerging field of cognitive science he describes as cognitive biorobotics. His biorobots model biological mechanisms to test biological hypotheses.

Aaron has published six papers in leading scholarly journals and peer-reviewed conference proceedings since arriving at Colby. His diverse and broad expertise enables him to publish in different scholarly fields, which is quite unusual. In addition, he has edited an influential book and is working on an innovative textbook on computational modeling and simulation. His collaborative research projects include the GENOMICE project, which uses AI to support an interactive video game that teaches genomics concepts to students funded with a $400,000 National Institutes of Health grant. Aaron serves on the faculty advisory boards for Colby’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

He came to Colby in 2018 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and teaching in various visiting faculty roles. Aaron earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science at Cornell University and his A.B. in mathematics at Princeton University.

Bess Koffman—Geology

Associate Professor of Geology Bess Koffman

Geochemist and climate scientist Bess Koffman has a vibrant research program that analyzes mineral dust and volcanic ash preserved in layers of glacial ice. She uses ice cores samples to reconstruct past atmospheric circulation patterns and the impact of dust and ash deposition on marine ecosystems.

Koffman has published 10 papers in leading journals—six as lead author—and won more than $1.1 million in grant support for her work. She is a well-known scholar in polar climate and ice core science. Her work requires large, inter-institutional collaborations, and many of her publications include scholars from three of the top paleoclimate research groups in the world. Koffman is the nation’s only ice core scientist at a liberal arts college. She involves students in every aspect of her research and helped create a new year-long, team-taught course that teaches introductory chemistry and geology.

Koffman arrived at Colby in 2017 after four years as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University and Dartmouth College. She received her Ph.D. in earth and climate sciences from the University of Maine and her B.A. in geology at Carleton College.

Oliver Layton—Computer Science

Associate Professor of Computer Science Oliver Layton

Neuroscientist Oliver Layton studies human visual perception. His research focuses on clarifying the brain mechanisms underlying human self-motion and object-motion perception. He seeks to improve our understanding of how the human visual system works at a fundamental mechanistic level and to develop adaptive, intelligent, efficient algorithms inspired by the primate brain’s design to enable human-like autonomous navigation in artificial systems.

Out of Layton’s 12 peer-reviewed journal articles, he was lead author on seven, and three included Colby students as coauthors. He publishes in top-tier venues and combines computational work with creative, rigorous, and original experimental work. He played a key role in restructuring the core computer science course sequence and developing the Computer Science Department’s strategic plan. He also served on the Information Technology Committee and the McVey Data Science Committee.

Layton came to Colby in 2018 after completing post-doctoral fellowships at Boston University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He received his Ph.D. in cognitive and neural systems from Boston University and his B.A. in mathematics and computational neuroscience from Skidmore College.

Suegene Noh—Biology

Associate Professor of Biology Suegene Noh

Evolutionary biologist Suegene Noh specializes in computational approaches to genomics. Her research explores symbiotic relationships between different species, such as between social amoebas (known as Dicty) and their resident bacteria. Her work offers potential challenges to many aspects of basic biological theory and has implications for disease biology and epidemiology.

Noh is the first author of several papers published in top-tier journals, and she was invited to write a commentary in PNAS—commentaries are the most-read articles in this influential journal—and the piece solidified her reputation as a leading scholar on genome evolution in symbiosis. Noh has also succeeded in securing grant funding, including a $270,000 NIH-INBRE award. She has helped her colleagues reimagine their pedagogy to serve Colby’s changing student body better, worked to ensure that faculty computing needs are addressed, and participated regularly in the Colby Achievement Program in the Sciences.

Noh came to Colby in 2017 after completing post-doctoral fellowships at Washington University in St. Louis and Kansas State University. She earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut and her B.A. in biological sciences and English language and literature from Seoul National University in Korea.

Jerzy Wieczorek—Statistics

Associate Professor of Statistics Jerzy Wieczorek

Statistician Jerzy Wieczorek works primarily on statistical methods. He is most interested in adapting methods in computational statistics and machine learning to be used safely and reliably with complex data sets. This innovative methodological work has already had a significant impact on the work of other statisticians. In addition, he has done research on data visualization and statistical education.

Wieczorek has also collaborated on several applied projects with subject-matter experts, addressing problems of social importance. For example, he analyzed survey data about post-conflict trauma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo used as evidence in international war crimes trials, and he helped local physicians design a clinical trial to study Mainers affected by PFAS chemicals. He has published seven papers, four as lead author, in top-tier statistical and applied science journals, and he has authored and shared three “R” packages, allowing other scholars to use tools he developed in their own work. Wieczorek served on the McVey Data Science Committee and Goldfarb Center Advisory Committee.

Wieczorek came to Colby in 2018 after completing a Ph.D. in statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in statistics at Portland State University, and a B.S. in engineering from the Olin College of Engineering.