First Group of Faculty Members Awarded Tenure at Duke Kunshan

Duke Kunshan University successfully launched the undergraduate degree program in August 2018. In total, 27 countries are represented in the first undergraduate class with 260 students: 180 students from the China, including 7 students from Taiwan, and 80 international students. Students are offered unique opportunities for the interdisciplinary, integrated and innovative learning at Duke Kunshan University.

Designed by faculty at Duke University, and with input from Chinese higher education experts, Duke Kunshan’s curriculum blends a liberal arts and sciences education with modern interdisciplinary learning, drawing not only the best students at home and abroad, but also faculty members from well-known universities.

The first cohort hiring of undergraduate faculty was a remarkable success. Twenty-four faculty members from an initial pool of more than 1,300 applicants from around the world joined Duke Kunshan University, in fields ranging from natural sciences, social sciences to arts and humanities. They come from different countries in North America, Asia and Europe, contributing diverse perspectives and experiences to the global academic culture at Duke Kunshan University. In addition, the Duke Kunshan Language and Culture Center expanded to 14 faculty members, offering courses in Chinese and English. Through the Language Learning Studio, these faculty members can also coach learners of French, German, Spanish, and Russian.

Among the first cohort of undergraduate faculty, six faculty member have been awarded tenure at Duke Kunshan University recently.

“While Duke Kunshan may have a truly beautiful campus and three extremely supportive partners, the principal building blocks of our foundation are our core faculty members.” said Denis Simon, Executive Vice Chancellor at Duke Kunshan University. “These six newly tenured individuals, though different in many respects, share a strong unyielding commitment to academic excellence, pedagogical innovation, scholarly productivity, and global education.  It is our hope that all Duke Kunshan faculty, junior and senior, will fully embrace these same core values as they collectively develop their careers here at Duke Kunshan University.”

“Duke Kunshan University provides me with the possibility of integrating my teaching and research in new and exciting ways. I am looking forward to teaching Duke Kunshan students in small classes, where we can work together to understand the complexities of social science understandings of the world. I am particularly eager to introduce students to the areas of social science that I work in – the deep history of humanity, especially on the African continent where most of my research takes place.”

-- Scott MacEachern

Dr. Scott MacEachern is a Professor of Archeology and Anthropology at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA (Honors) in Anthropology from the University of Prince Edward Island and his MA and PhD in Archaeology from the University of Calgary (1991). He was until 2018 Professor of Anthropology at Bowdoin College, where he also served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. MacEachern’s archaeological work focuses on the southern Lake Chad Basin of Central Africa. His main research interests are in state formation processes in Africa, international cultural heritage management issues, the archaeological study of ethnicity and social boundaries, and African and global archaeogenetics. He has won teaching awards and has been elected chair of the faculty governance and of the promotions and tenure committees at Bowdoin. His most recent book is Searching for Boko Haram: a history of violence in Central Africa. His Duke Kunshan University teaching interests include Cultures and Movements, Anthropology and Archaeology, and courses that connect to Global Health and Environmental Science.

“I want to help train students to solve problems that will arise in their lifetimes, not mine. This requires foresight, intelligence, mental agility, interdisciplinarity and cross-cultural competence. That’s the Duke Kunshan difference.”

-- James Miller

Dr. Miller is a Professor of Humanities at Duke Kunshan University, and co-director of the Humanities Research Center. He received a BA (Honors) in Chinese Studies from Durham University, a BA (Honors) and an MA in Theological and Religious Studies from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University. Prior to joining Duke Kunshan University, he was Director of the School of Religion at Queen’s University, Canada. Dr. Miller is noted worldwide as an expert in Daoism, China’s indigenous religion. His research focuses on the intersection of religion and ecology in China. He has published six books including, most recently, China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future (Columbia 2017). His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan University include Ethics and Leadership, Global China Studies, Environmental Science, U.S. Studies, Religious Studies and Philosophy.

“I am very excited about the ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to be a part of the startup faculty of a new institution.”

-- Peter Pickl

Dr. Pickl is a Professor of Mathematics at Duke Kunshan University. He received his BA and MA in Physics, and his PhD in Mathematics (2005) from Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. From 2005 to 2010 he did postdoctoral training at three of the most prestigious groups of mathematical physics, the group of Stefan Teufel at University of Tübingen, the group of Jürg Fröhlich and Gian-Michele Graf from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at ETH Zurich and Professor JakobYngvason at the Department of Physics at the University of Vienna. He has been a professor at the Mathematical Institute, Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, since September 2010. Dr. Pickl’s main research focus is on mean field descriptions of classical and quantum systems employing the new alpha-method for proving mean field results. His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan University include Integrated Science, Mathematical Foundations, and advanced courses in Mathematics and Physics.

“My interest in natural sciences was sparked by the patterns, symmetries, and other quantitative terms in music, which, as a whole, presents such an indescribable beauty as much as mathematics or fundamental sciences do. I think Duke Kunshan will be a special place to explore the interconnectedness of these various domains and, more specifically for me, to study the scientific, technological and policy aspects of the mounting environmental issues facing our planet and future generations.”

-- Song Gao

Dr. Gao is a Professor of Environmental Science at Duke Kunshan University. He received his B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering (Chemistry track, with Honors) from the University of Science and Technology of China, his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Washington-Seattle, and completed his postdoctoral training in Atmospheric Chemistry at California Institute of Technology. Prior to joining Duke Kunshan, he was a chemistry faculty member at Stetson University in the U.S. as well as Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is a Section Editor for Case Studies in the Environment - Sustainability with the University of California Press. He has recently served on proposal review panels for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and coordinated a U.S.-China Climate Change Partnership Forum in Washington, DC. Dr. Gao’s research interests include atmospheric chemistry, water pollution and science-based climate mitigation policies. He has published extensively at flagship international journals. Several of his papers have been highly cited worldwide, in which he made pioneering contributions to uncovering new mechanisms of secondary organic aerosol formation and urban air pollution. He was a co-recipient of the Alan Berman Research Publications Award. Collaborating with colleagues from Princeton and Claremont, he is completing a book on Environmental Science Problem Solving to be published in 2019. Among the many students he mentored, two were recently named the prestigious NSF Green Chemistry Scholars in the U.S.. He led the creation of a joint undergraduate program on environmental engineering between the University of Arizona and Fudan University. His teaching interests at Duke Kunshan University include Chemistry, Integrated Science, Renewable Energy, Environmental Science and Policy.

“I am honored to help build what will be one of the great universities in the world.”

-- William Winner

Dr. Winner is a Professor of Environmental Science at Duke Kunshan University. He received his B.A. and M.A. Teaching degrees in Biology from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, an M.A. in Biology from the University of South Dakota and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Calgary, Canada. Dr. Winner has led the development of and directed environmental science research centers and academic programs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Oregon State University, and North Carolina State University. He also worked in research administration at the National Science Foundation. Dr. Winner joined the faculty at Duke Kunshan University in January, 2018. His scientific background and research focus are on plant physiological and ecological responses to environmental change. His teaching and research interests at Duke Kunshan University include Biology, Environmental Science, and Integrated Science, especially life cycle analysis and systems thinking.

“Mathematics is not a subject in which one plays logic games with numbers and abstract symbols. It is as real as physical sciences, as practical as engineering, as romantic as poetry, as inspirational as music... I love to teach and research mathematics. ‘To teach well’ is a religion to me. Being an ambassador of mathematics, I look forward to a new chapter at Duke Kunshan University.”

-- Zhe Liu

Dr. Liu is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Duke Kunshan University. She received her BS in Mathematics (Honors) from Hebei Normal University, and her PhD in Mathematics from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 2010. She was a Lecturer/Postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) during 2010-2012 and a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Denver during 2012-2013. Prior to joining Duke Kunshan University, she was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Central Florida (UCF). In the early stage of graduate school, she was assigned to develop and teach calculus courses as the sole instructor. During thirteen years’ teaching experience in the U.S., She has taught college mathematics at all levels and has been actively engaged in STEM education from all aspects. Dr. Liu received several distinguished teaching awards including a Good Teaching Award at UPenn and two Teaching Awards at UNH. She served as a faculty mentor in UCF’s Career Advancement Mentoring Program for Young Entrepreneurs and Scholars funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Dr. Liu’s research interests lie generally in the areas of functional analysis, operator algebras, mathematical physics, and their applications. Her original research work has been published in prestigious mathematics and science journals including two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Dr. Liu’s teaching interests at Duke Kunshan University include foundational and advanced Math courses in natural/applied sciences and other programs.

“We are thrilled that these highly accomplished scholars and outstanding teachers are among our earliest tenured faculty at Duke Kunshan University,” said Haiyan Gao, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Duke Kunshan University and Henry Newson Professor of Physics at Duke. “Duke Kunshan University will continue to attract talents from around the globe to join our faculty as our vision for a global university that integrates interdisciplinary research and a new model of interdisciplinary liberal arts education is inspirational to many.”

The second round of hiring for undergraduate program faculty is now underway and Duke Kunshan is looking forward to approximately 150 faculty by year 2021, around two thirds of whom are full-time Duke Kunshan faculty and the rest are visiting professors from Duke University, Wuhan University and other institutions from around the world.