Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge Seminars Core Faculty

Core faculty in the Grand Challenge Seminar Program include members of the National Academy of Sciences, Hastings Center Fellows, recipients of National Endowment for the Arts Grants, prize-winning scholars and teachers from across Dietrich College and the CMU community.

A distinct feature of the Grand Challenge Seminar Program is that seminars are proposed by the faculty who deliver the courses. These experts attend to the seminar themes in their own research and bring these findings and ongoing inquiries to the classroom. Students have an opportunity to choose a seminar on a topic that sparks their curiosity. They learn from faculty who are driven, focused and passionate about the course topics. Each seminar includes the application of theoretical research to the real world, inquiry-based learning and collaboration with thinkers from a variety of disciplines.

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Artificial Intelligence & Humanity

jennifer-keating.jpgJennifer Keating
Dean's Office

Jennifer Keating is the assistant dean for educational initiatives in Dietrich College for Humanities and Social Sciences. Her research interests focus on Irish literature, nationalist politics and the influence of technological advancement on societies emerging from conflict.

illah-nourbakhsh.jpgIllah Nourbakhsh
Robotics Institute

Illah Nourbakhsh is the K&L Gates Professor of Ethics and Computational Technologies at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute in the School of Computer Science. He directs CREATE, a research-to-practice lab dedicated to community empowerment using robotic technologies.

Climate Change

peter-adams.jpgPeter Adams
Civil & Environmental Engineering

Peter Adams is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. His expertise is in computer modeling of air pollution and climate change.

kasia-snyder.jpgKasia Snyder
Dean's Office

Kasia Snyder is an adjunct instructor in the Dietrich College and an international climate change policy and human rights expert with governmental and non-governmental experience (New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Warsaw). She served as head of the Polish negotiating team to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2012-2015), head of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 19 Presidency Expert Team, co-chair of the European Union's Expert Group on Means of Implementation (2012-2014), adviser to the Polish Special Envoy for Climate Change at COP 14 and senior adviser to the President of UNFCCC COP24.

james-wynn.jpgJames Wynn
English

James Wynn is an associate professor of English and rhetoric. His research and teaching interests reside at the intersections of rhetoric, science, mathematics and public policy.

Science on Stage

marlene-behrmann.jpgMarlene Behrmann
Psychology

Marlene Behrmann is a cognitive neuroscientist whose primary research concerns the mechanisms by which the brain gives rise to meaningful and coherent perception based on the coarse information propagated from the eyes. She has a longstanding interest in bridging between the sciences and humanities, and has collaborated with students in the College of Fine Arts in both dramatic and visual arts.

sharon-dilworth.jpgSharon Dilworth
English

Sharon Dilworth is a fiction writer and the author of two collections of short stories, "The Long White" and "Women Drinking Benedictine," and two novels "Year of the Gingko" and "My Riviera." Her newest book, "Two Sides, Three Rivers," is a collection of stories that take place in Pittsburgh. She is the director of the creative writing program and professor in the English Department.

Feeding the World, Feeding Ourselves

lauren-herckis.jpgLauren Herckis
Dean's Office

Lauren Herckis is an anthropologist who specializes in faculty culture and the use of technology in higher education. Her field research applies anthropological and archaeological methods and theory to analyze human engagement in the relationship between technological and social change.

abigail-owen.jpgAbigail Owen
Dean's Office

Abigail Owen is an assistant teaching professor of history, and faculty adviser to the university-wide Minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. She is interested in the politics of water, food, energy and economic development.

gloria-silva.jpgGloria Silva
Chemistry

Gloria Silva has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. Her main concentration is in natural products chemistry, spectroscopy, bioorganic chemistry and synthesis of small molecules. She teaches several courses related to organic chemistry from the basic to advanced level as well as organic chemistry as it relates to synthesis, food, cosmetics and bioactive natural products.

jon-soluri.jpgJohn Soluri
History

John Soluri directs the History Department’s Global Studies program. He is somewhat obsessed with teaching, researching and eating food.

will-nalls.jpgWill Nalls
Philosophy

Will is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate with the Philosophy Department. He is writing his dissertation in logic and formal epistemology. Outside of his field, Will has interests in interdisciplinary collaboration and curriculum development, and the effective use of new technology in teaching methods.

Capitalism, Culture & Inequality

paul-eiss.jpgPaul Eiss
History

Paul Eiss is an associate professor of anthropology and history in the Department of History. Currently his research is focused on collective violence and collective self-defense in contemporary Mexico.

kamlet-mark.jpgMark Kamlet
Social & Decision Science

Mark S. Kamlet is University Professor of Economics and Public Policy, with appointments in the Heinz College and the Department of Social and Decision Sciences (SDS). Kamlet was department head of SDS, dean of Heinz for eight years, and provost as well as executive vice president of Carnegie Mellon for 14 years.

kody-manke.jpgKody Manke
Psychology

Kody Manke is an assistant professor of teaching in the Psychology Department and the director of research on diversity and inclusion for Dietrich College. He is interested in social justice and inequality, and uses social psychology to help understand and address the nature and causes of these issues in the real world.

newman-kathy.jpgKathleen Newman
English

Kathleen Newman, who teaches in the English Department, specializes in the relationship between culture and the economy. She is currently finishing a book titled "How the Fifties Worked: Mass Culture and the Decade the Unions Made." She recently curated a year of events to recognize the 200th birthday of Karl Marx.

robyn-rowley.jpgRobyn Rowley
English

Robyn Rowley is a Ph.D. student in Literary and Cultural Studies. Her work primarily examines contemporary visual media, with a focus on the connections between identity, politics and popular culture. Rowley teaches in the First-Year Writing Program and has worked as a teaching assistant for a Grand Challenge Seminar and in the School of Art.

Beyond Earth

peter-freeman.jpgPeter Freeman
Statistics

Peter Freeman, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Statistics & Data Science, holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Chicago. He pursues interests both in the interdisciplinary field of astrostatistics and in providing opportunities for undergraduate research, both in the classroom (36-290 and 36-490) and with industry partners (36-497).

thomas-werner.jpgTom Werner
Philosophy (Linguistics)

Tom Werner has taught classes in linguistics at CMU ranging from phonology to syntax to semantics to interstellar linguistics. His research interests are focused on the problem of deciphering and teaching languages ostensively -- that is without the aid of an intermediary translation language.

Political Rhetoric

mara-harrell.jpgMara Harrell
Philosophy

Mara Harrell graduated with a B.A. in Physics from Pomona College in 1992. She then received an M.S. in Physics in 1996, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Science Studies in 2000 from University of California, San Diego. Harrell's research interests include philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, epistemology, educational technology and educational research.

john-oddo.jpgJohn Oddo
English

John Oddo studies American rhetoric, focusing on wartime journalism and political spin. He is the author of two books, "Intertextuality and the 24-Hour News Cycle" and "The Discourse of Propaganda."

mandy-simons.jpgMandy Simons
Philosophy

Professor Mandy Simons is a linguist and philosopher of language. In her work, she explores the many ways in which a speaker's meaning may go beyond what is encoded in the linguistic expressions the speaker uses, and the ways in which addressees successfully recover that meaning. She also explores the various types of meaning which linguistic forms can encode.

ryan-mitchell.jpgRyan Mitchell
English

Ryan Mitchell is a Rhetoric Ph.D. candidate whose work examines the intersections of the rhetoric of health and medicine, embodied experiences of intimacy and public health policy. Mitchell has taught writing and rhetorical theory courses at every student level, served as a Graduate Teaching Fellow for the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, and, in 2018, was the co-winner of the English Department Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Thinking with Evidence

joel-greenhouse.jpgJoel Greenhouse
Statistics

Joel Greenhouse is a professor in the Department of Statistics & Data Science at CMU as well as an adjunct professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests include the development and implementation of methods for research synthesis, especially as it is used to synthesize evidence for informing policy decisions and for scientific discovery.

christopher-phillips.jpgChristopher Phillips
History

Christopher J. Phillips teaches history of science and is the author of "The New Math: A Political History" (Chicago) and "Scouting and Scoring: How We Know What We Know About Baseball" (Princeton).

Faculty of Past Courses

Racism is Real

rich-purcell.jpgRichard Purcell
English

Richard Purcell is an associate professor of English. His teaching and research interests are in literary and media studies, black studies and political economy.

nico-slate.jpgNico Slate
History

Nico Slate is professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of History. His research and teaching focus on social movements in the United States and India.

ayana-ledford.jpgAyana Ledford
Dean's Office

Ayana Ledford is director of diversity and inclusion at both the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. She brings extensive expertise on issues of diversity and inclusion in industry and academia, and experience engaging in outreach activities with women and underrepresented minority middle school, high school and college students. She is the founding executive director of PROGRESS (the Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity and Society) and a part of Dietrich College's Driven Diversity (D3) Lab.

Changing a Culture: Gender Based Violence

lisa-tetrault.jpgLisa Tetrault
History

Lisa Tetrault is an associate professor in the Department of History who specializes in the history of U.S. women and gender. A historian of the 19th century, she focuses on social movements (particularly feminism), American democracy and the politics of memory.

candace-skibba.jpgCandace Skibba
Modern Languages

Candace Skibba, an associate teaching professor in the Department of Modern Languages, specializes in contemporary Spanish literature and film and has concentrated her research on investigating the intersection between literary and film studies and studies of the body — most notably the abnormal body. The study of the body has taken her to gender analysis, dis/ability studies and health humanities.