New faculty spotlight

Ellie Lowe, Staff Writer

The University has brought on a number of new faculty members for the Spring semester of 2021. Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Heather Li and Assistant Professor of Data Science Samuel Gutekunst are two of the new members to the University family.

Li, originally from Wuhan, China, joined the Chemistry department as a visiting assistant professor. She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Texas A&M University and currently teaches Chemistry 205: The Principles of Chemistry and associated recitations and labs.

Li initially heard about the University through a posting on Higher Ed Jobs. She chose to come to the University because of the the intimate environment. “Bucknell is a liberal arts college where faculty members have chances to get to know each student personally,” Li said.

Li joined the faculty in August 2020, before the University’s second semester of pandemic learning. Li is most looking forward to teaching in person to connect further with the students. Even though she hasn’t had the opportunity to teach in person much this semester or last semester, she can already see that the people of the University are a special group of bright students and faculty. “Each student has their unique sparkling character. Some are smart, some are perseverant, and some have a mature personality. I feel very honored to communicate with these brilliant young people. Also, colleagues are so supportive of each other,” Li said.

Although Li is not currently engaged in ongoing research at the University, she has previously done research in Metal Organic Frameworks at her alma mater Texas A&M University.

Gutekunst has joined the computer science and mathematics departments as a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Assistant Professor of Data Science. He received his Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell University and is currently teaching Math 240: Combinations & Graph Theory and Math 241: Discrete Structures.

His research is focused on data driven decision-making and creating/using algorithms to solve real world problems. In fact, he has worked on algorithms that have helped plan socially-distanced classrooms by identifying the maximum number of chairs that can be in a classroom six feet apart.

Gutekunst learned about the University more than a decade ago when he was searching for colleges to attend as an undergraduate. While it might not have been the right fit then, Gutekunst has no doubt that he is in the right place now.

“If I were to daydream up a job, it would basically be the position I have at Bucknell. My background is in Operations Research and Data-Driven Decision Making, which sits at the intersection of math, CS, and analytics. Bucknell has incredible groups in each of those fields — and I get to work with all of them,” Gutekunst said.

When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to students, Li said, “Thanks for all your trust and inspiration.”

When asked the same question, Gutekunst said, “Inner tube water polo is the best intramural sport. It sounds (and is) ridiculous and it’s almost impossible to avoid cluelessly flailing around, but it’s so much fun.”

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