Meet Rutgers' Newest Faculty, 2018-2019

Meet Rutgers' Newest Faculty, 2018-2019

Rutgers faculty are accomplished teachers, researchers and scholars who think beyond disciplinary boundaries and care deeply about the students they teach, mentor and advise.

Meet some of the new members who joined the Rutgers community across Camden, Newark, New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences bringing diversity, vision, extensive scholarship and wide-ranging real-world experience to the classroom in our series. 


Understanding What Causes Violence


Daniel Semenza

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at Rutgers University-Camden

John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the classic American novel that examines the struggle between good and evil, has influenced Daniel Semenza's career working to understand the causes and consequences of violence.

Semenza, a sociologist who teaches courses on juvenile delinquency, cybercrime (including online teen dating aggression and cyberbullying) and violence in society, says he first read the book at 15 and keeps returning to it because he finds a different message every time.

"As I get older, I find new wisdom within the book," he said. "The questions that Steinbeck was asking continue to be important for the study of violence today. In the same way that issues of free will and love among families are very complicated in the book, understanding why we as humans hurt one another is an ongoing project for societies around the world that needs to be kept up."

Semenza is currently conducting research related to cyber aggression, intimate partner violence and reactions to mass shootings. He is also identifying links between health and crime.

One of the goals of this research, he says, is to encourage decision-makers and stakeholders to make investments in community programs that can improve health and prevent crime at the same time.

"If we can better understand how poor health and related behaviors can lead to crime and delinquency, then increasing efforts to improve health may also decrease violence and crime," he said.

And he's working with colleagues in other Rutgers-Camden departments in the process.

"Rutgers-Camden is a great place to do interdisciplinary work."

During his short time at Rutgers, Semenza is already making strides in educating the general public about violence. He recently appeared in a video on how to explain violent events to children as well as a video to help parents identify signs of cyberbullying.

Fun fact: When he is not researching or teaching at Rutgers-Camden, you might spot Semenza and his wife, Isabel, eating dim sum or ramen noodles in Philadelphia. Both Japanese food enthusiasts, they recently honeymooned in the country to "eat their way" through Tokyo, Kyoto and other cities.


Bringing Star Trek Technology to Real Life


Umer Hassan

Assistant professor, School of Engineering, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and faculty at  Rutgers Global Health Institute

Umer Hassan remembers being fascinated by the handheld tricorder used to diagnose medical conditions on Star Trek.

Hassan aims to recreate some of that technology in real life. As an engineer and a global health researcher, Hassan is developing biosensors that can quickly and inexpensively detect infections in people living with HIV/AIDS in underdeveloped countries.

In these countries, he said, one in five people living with HIV/AIDS could be infected with other diseases, and the biosensors’ swift measurements could be life-saving.

“I am a bit critical of the tricorder—one device won’t be able to solve all the problems,” he said. “But it can diagnose, and some of the idea came from Star Trek. I develop point of care biosensors that are low-cost, completely automated and can quantify or diagnose disease rather than relying on expensive equipment.”

Even as a child he has looked for ways to apply technology to solve everyday problems, and when he was an eighth-grade student, he developed a computer program to do his math homework for him just because he loved creating automated systems.

Now, as a professor, he’s looking to teach the next generation of engineers how to create automated systems that could save lives in his new spring 2019 course, "Biosensors for Global Health." 

The biosensors may have a global impact, but Hassan says that they can be used close to home, too. Recently, Hassan spent time in a local hospital for the birth of his daughter, and he soon realized that the biosensors could assist physicians and save lives.

“Collecting blood samples from newborns and infants is really painful for the babies and, of course, for the parents, too,” he said. “For pediatric populations collecting large volumes of blood samples for diagnostics is not easy. Our biosensors require only a drop of blood to get the required diagnostic test done. This will not only reduce the amount of blood sample collected, but also the reduce the cost and time it takes to receive the results.”

Did you know?
Even professors have bucket lists. Hassan wants to see the world, especially the countries that are home to the people his device could serve. But his preferred mode of transport is not limited to the ground – he wants to learn how to fly a plane and deep sea dive, too.