Faculty Leadership

Under the leadership of Dr. Michael Mauk, members of the faculty steering committee serve as mentors to Polymaths, review applications, and determine program policy.


Mike Mauk is a Professor of Neurobiology and the Karl Folkers Chair in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University and did postdoctoral work in the Neurology Department at Stanford Medical School. Dr. Mauk’s research focuses on computation and mechanisms of learning in brain systems, particularly in the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex. The hallmark feature of his research is the combined use of experiment and computer simulation to address what brain systems compute and how their neurons and synapses accomplish this computation. Dr. Mauk’s ultimate goal for his research is to understand brain systems well enough to build fully functional replicas.


Ruth Buskirk is a Distinguished Senior Lecturer in the Section of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Fellow of Worthington Endowed Distinguished Senior Lecturership for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Plan II. Her research on behavior and physiology includes work of spiders, dragonflies, baboons, and unusual animal behavior before earthquakes. She has taught introductory biology, honors biology, and honors genetics at the University of Texas at Austin for over 20 years. Dr. Buskirk received the UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award in 2009 and is a three-time recipient of the Texas Exes Teaching Award. 


René Dailey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies. She received her Ph.D from the University of California - Santa Barbara. Dr. Dailey is interested in communication in families and dating relationships. In her research on families, she focuses on how acceptance and challenge from parents and siblings are related to children’s psychosocial adjustment (e.g., self-esteem, identity), communication patterns (e.g., openness), and more recently, weight management. In her work on dating couples, she is investigating communication in “on-again/off-again” relationships and how communication in these relationships differs from other dating relationships. Her work has appeared in Communication Monographs, Human Communication Research, and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. She teaches courses on personal relationships and nonverbal communication. 


Gray Garmon is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Integrated Design in the School of Design and Creative Technologies. Garmon holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He practices human-centered design (HCD): a problem-solving approach widely used in industry, governments, schools, and NGOs. HCD focuses on people first, using specific qualitative research methods to understand the context in which people are functioning and how understanding behaviors, emotions, and motivations can lead to better design solutions.


Chiu-Mi Lai is a Professor of Instruction and Distinguished Signature Course Faculty in the Department of Asian Studies. She holds a PhD in Chinese Literature and Language from the University of Washington. Dr. Lai's work centers on classical Chinese poetry and literature, Chinese literary theory and translation practices, and the history of food, medicine, and healing in China.


Rachel González-Martin holds a Ph.D. in Folklore & Ethnomusicology from Indiana University. Dr. González-Martin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Mexican & Latina/o Studies. Her research focuses on the verbal and material traditions of communities coming-of-age in the American Latino Diaspora. Her work looks at personal-experience-narratives, body art, materiality and self-portraiture with regard to gender, sexual identities, race, and socioeconomic status. She is currently working on a book manuscript that explores the intersection of consumer citizenship and Latino identity in the 21st century titled, Coming Out Latina: Quinceañera Style and Latina/o Consumer Identities.


Alex Huth earned his Ph.D. through the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley. He is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Neuroscience. His research is focused on how the many different areas in the human brain work together to perform complex tasks such as understanding natural language. He uses fMRI to measure brain responses while subjects do real-life tasks, such as listening to a story, and then uses those data to build computational models of how the brain functions. Dr. Huth received the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in 2016.


Jarrod Lewis-Peacock is an Associate Professor of Psychology. Dr. Lewis-Peacock received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work investigates how the human brain supports our ability to accomplish goals. Specifically, he focuses on the intersection of cognitive control and memory for goal-directed behavior. His lab uses a combination of neuroimaging and computational techniques, including multivariate pattern analysis of fMRI data and real-time functional neuroimaging, to characterize core features of human cognition.


Gerald Oettinger is Associate Professor of Economics. He teaches courses in labor economics, microeconomic theory, and personnel economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Oettinger has published articles in the "Journal of Human Resources" and the "Review of Labor Economics and Statistics." He received both the Killam Award and Rapoport-King Award for supervising outstanding honors students.


Brian Roberts is a Professor in the Department of Government and Director of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. His research interests include American political institutions, interest groups, and positive political economy, with a focus on the intersection of politics and financial markets, corporate political participation, and distributive politics. He has published papers in the fields of political science, economics and finance and holds an appointment in the new Department of Business, Government and Society in the McCombs School of Business.


Donnie Sackey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Dr. Sackey does community-engaged scholarship and research in environmental rhetoric. He was previously a faculty member at Wayne State University and a senior researcher for Detroit Integrated Vision for Environmental Research through Science and Engagement (D*VERSE), which he co-founded. D*VERSE is a transdisciplinary research team that works at the intersection of health, environmental, and communication sciences, and it aims to develop a new approach for evaluating the impact of certain environmental stressors on health in urban settings. His current book project is about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. 


Lorenzo Sadun is Professor of Mathematics with research interests in mathematical physics and differential geometry. He received his B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from the University of California in Berkeley. In 2001 he was awared the College of Natural Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award. He has written several op-ed columns for the Austin American Statesman. Lorenzo Sadun has been teaching at the University of Texas in Austin since 1991. He ran for the Place 10 seat against Cynthia Dunbar at the Texas State Board of Education election in 2009 and for congressional candidate in 2004. He has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles in academic journals.


Rosa Schnyer is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Outcomes and Pharmacy Practice in the School of Nursing. Dr. Schnyer's research focuses on the use of complementary therapies, especially acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the management of stress, depression and anxiety disorders, present alone or as part of complex, chronic conditions. Specifically, Dr. Schnyer is interested in evaluating the effect of acupuncture and Chinese herbs on sympathetic and parasympathetic function, inflammatory markers, stress hormones and clinical symptoms in patients with depression and anxiety. Dr. Schnyer is interested in developing novel treatments that can be delivered to large populations at low cost and that encourage and support patients to participate in their own care.


Amy L. Simmons is Senior Lecturer of Music and Human Learning at the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music. Dr. Simmons’ ongoing research in music teaching and learning and in music psychology has generated many publications in academic journals. She serves on the editorial board of the "Journal of Research in Music Education" and is co-chair of the College Division Research Committee for the Texas Music Educators Association. Dr. Simmons received her Ph.D. in Music and Human Learning from UT-Austin and continues to play oboe professionally in the Austin and San Antonio areas.