Wheaton welcomes six new tenure-track professors

Click on a name to go their Q&A

Christina Riggs Romaine

Assistant professor of psychology

Wheaton Professor Christina Romaine

My educational background: “My undergraduate degree is in psychology and art history from Gordon College. After graduation I worked in the field and then in research for three years before attending Drexel University, where I earned my Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a focus in forensic psychology. I came back to Massachusetts for an internship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and remained there for my post-doctoral fellowship, which consisted of working in the professional appointments in the Massachusetts Departments of Mental Health and Youth Services. In addition to being a professor, I am also a licensed clinical psychologist.”

My previous job: “I was the clinician for the Essex County Juvenile Court Clinic in Lynn and Salem, Mass. There I conducted psycholegal evaluations to help inform the court in juvenile cases.”

Why I became an educator: “I enjoy the ‘aha!’ moment. As a student I liked it when something difficult or abstract became clear and applicable. Now, I enjoy figuring out how to best teach material to help my students develop an understanding of psychology that they can apply to any endeavor.”

What led me to my field: “I have always been interested in people (what they do and why) and felt called to issues of social justice (providing a voice and help for those in need).”

Why I chose Wheaton: “Several things drew me to Wheaton, including the small class sizes that would allow me to really get to know my students and work closely with them, and the emphasis I saw on issues of service and diversity.  As someone already planted in the mental health treatment and legal systems in Massachusetts, I am also glad to be at Wheaton, where I can include students in my research and clinical work within those systems.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “I loved college. During it I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and learned important lessons about the kind of person I wanted to be. That said, it’s a practical lesson that comes to mind—edit. As I got papers back, I often realized my ideas were not so clear as they seemed to me when I wrote them. Leaving time to edit and proofread was an important lesson for me.”

What I want every student to learn: “Much of my work as a clinical forensic psychologist has involved translating psychological concepts in a way that makes sense to my audience, be that teachers, lawyers, law enforcement personnel, parents or youths. The ability to convey information meaningfully and make sense of complicated information is fundamental across fields. One of my goals in teaching is that every student learn to be a thoughtful consumer of information, and develop the ability to communicate effectively their understanding and ideas.”

What few people know about me: “I love modern art and am fascinated with how artists are influenced by their teachers and predecessors. I am a connoisseur of candy, preferably Haribo, and love to read a well-written novel. Also, I can stand on my head.”

Dipankar Maitra

Assistant professor of physics/astronomy

Wheaton Professor Dipankar Maitra

My educational background: “I studied physics as an undergrad, and obtained a bachelor’s degree from Presidency College in Kolkata and a master’s degree from Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in India. Then I moved to the U.S. for graduate studies in astronomy at Yale, and played softball during what my thesis advisor succinctly noted as my ‘copious free time.’ After Yale I spent some time in Amsterdam, primarily biking, but also did some postdoctoral research. Thereafter, I spent some more time as a postdoctorate student in Ann Arbor, Mich., exploring the X-ray skies above and the great lakes below.”

My previous job: “I was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.”

Why I became an educator: “I like people as much as I like ideas, so I wanted a job where I could interact with people about ideas.”

What led me to my field: “The return of Halley’s comet in 1986. Even though I could not see it, it was at around that time my great-uncle gave me a couple of telescope lenses. I fabricated the rest of the scope, looked through it, and never looked back.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “There isn’t one single way to solve a problem.”

What I want every student to learn: “To appreciate the vastness of the universe, and our place in it.”

What few people know about me: “That I used to drive around on a scooter and I find the smell of gasoline to be the best perfume ever.”

Kelly Goff

Assistant professor of art/art history

Wheaton Professor Kelley Goff

My educational background: “I was premed at New College of Florida, a small liberal arts school with no grades and a progressive curriculum. I studied natural sciences for my first two years. Biochemistry was my favorite. I took an intro sculpture class on a whim in the fall of my junior year and I loved it immediately. I was spending most of my time outside of class working on my sculpture work. Sculpture made sense for me in every way. I earned a bachelor’s degree in visual art with a sub-concentration in biology/chemistry. I did my graduate work at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I earned an M.F.A with honors in sculpture.”

My previous job: “I was an adjunct professor at RISD, MassArt, Salve Regina University, and have guest lectured at MIT.”

Why I became an educator: “My mother was a teacher, so it’s in my blood. I love it and it also suits my personality. Teaching is my natural mode of being to the point that turning it off is sometimes a challenge. Just ask my four-year-old son, who sometimes needs me to stop explaining and just be Optimus Prime.”

What led me to my field: “I have been a maker since before I can remember. My big sister tells me I used to sneak out of the house at age five during siesta (I grew up in the Caribbean) and play in an industrial lot near our house. I would drag home huge chunks of rigid foam and carve them with my mother’s kitchen knives.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “Professionalism.”

What I want every student to learn: “I meet people all the time who claim they have no creativity or artistic talent. I think of this as a huge tragedy, because so many of these folks (I think) are basing this self-judgment on a narrow picture of what art is and can be. I want my students to harness the immense possibilities of art, to understand its power, and to develop the skills essential to manifesting their diverse ideas.”

What few people know about me: “I’m terrified of sharks.”

Matthew Gingo

Assistant professor of psychology

Wheaton Professor Matthew Gingo

My educational background: “I did my graduate work in social development at University of California, Berkeley. Having grown up in the east I felt a real draw to head out to California—and Berkeley was a perfect fit.”

My previous job: “I was an assistant professor at Bowdoin College in Maine.”

What led me to my field: “Like so many of us, I have always enjoyed ‘people watching’ and trying to make sense of other’s actions. I think we are all practicing psychology every day in the ways that we try to explain what others must be thinking, or predict what they’ll do next. So, somewhere along the way I decided that I wanted to study people a little more formally. I’ve always been interested in understanding why people lie to each other and their tactics for deceiving one another—so that’s what I study.”

Why I chose Wheaton: “In my mind, student learning is fostered and enriched in environments where theory and practice meet and are integrated, where course material is connected to student interests and experiences outside the classroom, where challenging assignments are anchored in questions central to the discipline, and where creativity is seen as central to scholarship. My colleagues in the psychology department embrace these ideas in their approach to teaching, too, so Wheaton is a good fit for me.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “Don’t be afraid if you have no idea what you want to do with yourself after college. I wasted a lot of time worrying about this. It turns out that the most interesting, happy and fulfilled people I know didn’t have any idea what they wanted to be on graduation day.”

What few people know about me: “I include at least one ‘Big Lebowski’ quote in every lecture I give.”

Patrick Johnson

Assistant professor of filmmaking

Wheaton Professor Patrick Johnson

Previous job: “I taught film and video production at Boston University, and film and new media classes at Tufts University.”

Why I became an educator: “The energy and excitement of the students, particularly when they’re first starting their projects is so inspiring. Furthermore, students are constantly pushing the boundaries of ‘traditional’ filmmaking by referencing techniques and technologies from the new media world, such as apps like Vine and KitCam.  Being in a dynamic environment with motivated students, experimenting with new storytelling technologies, and pushing them to develop their skills and voices as filmmakers is the best job I can possibly imagine.”

What led me to my field: “I was attracted to film at an early age. Growing up and watching films like ‘Star Wars,’ ‘The Karate Kid,’ and ‘Aliens’ was a mind-blowing experience. I soon started making short films with the family video camera and, as a teenager, began writing and producing a public access television show. From my undergraduate education in film to the present, I’ve learned that some of the most compelling stories come not from big-budget science fiction epics, but the real-life drama and stories of the everyday. That’s why I’ve chosen to focus my work on documentaries, although I’m still a fan of the big-budget science fiction film.”

Why I chose Wheaton: “The small size and focus on interdisciplinary education attracted me immediately to Wheaton. Higher education is changing so rapidly that institutions will need to be very nimble to meet the challenges of the future. Wheaton’s focus on collaboration and connecting disciplines is an incredible strength, and very attractive to me as a teacher.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “It came from Nora Ephron, who gave a guest lecture. When I asked her the best advice she could give to an aspiring screenwriter, she answered, ‘Don’t try writing for ten years. Get some life experience first.’ At the time, I thought it was the most useless piece of advice I had ever received. In retrospect, she was completely correct. Writers, filmmakers, any creative artist, really, need a healthy dose of life experience—otherwise you end up replicating stories and conventions we’ve all seen before.”

What I want every student to learn: “That they shouldn’t worry too much about the rules of filmmaking and conforming to the conventions of entertainment storytelling (although we cover all these things in my classes). Innovative filmmaking comes from within, and they need to learn to trust their instincts and put themselves into their work.”

What few people know about me: “I played saxophone for thirteen years and almost pursued a career as a jazz musician before turning to film. I haven’t played the sax in ten years.”

Jennifer Lanni

Assistant professor of biology

Wheaton Professor Jennifer Lanni

My educational background: “I received my bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, where I double-majored in biology and English. For my undergraduate thesis, I researched sea urchin gametogenesis, which was wonderfully liberating after years of coursework. Who knew that science could be so creative and fun? I received my Ph.D. in biology from M.I.T., where I studied cancer, using mouse models.”

Previous job: “After receiving my Ph.D., I taught at Harvard Medical School for more than 10 years. Most recently, I worked as a research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, using zebrafish to explore size regulation in vertebrates.”

Why I became an educator: “Despite being an introvert, I am truly happiest when in the classroom talking science. I find science endlessly fascinating, and am an unabashed geek in front of my students.  How can anyone hear about the central dogma of biology—DNA to RNA to protein—and not get excited? And truly, isn’t the Krebs cycle just a small-scale version of the circle of life? (Cue the ‘Lion King’ soundtrack, please.) There are so many absorbing topics to discuss, and I feel privileged when I can share them with my students.”

What led me to my field: “After college, I worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Eric Lander at the Whitehead Institute, sequencing the human and mouse genomes. It was a very fast-moving and exciting time in scientific research, and convinced me to pursue graduate study in mouse genetics and human cancer biology. I quickly realized that the scientific questions I found most intriguing all involved studying molecules and pathways in the context of the organism. So, I focused on biochemistry and molecular genetics for my postdoctoral research, which is my field today.”

Why I chose Wheaton: “I graduated from a small college, so I am absolutely convinced of the value of a liberal arts education. Students who develop their critical thinking skills will be successful in whatever career they choose. I’ll never forget interviewing for my first job after college, when the interviewer told me: ‘I’m hiring you not because you have the skills to do any of this, because you don’t. I’m hiring you because you went to a liberal arts college, so you know how to learn.’ Teaching at Wheaton lets me be part of a dedicated, talented academic community that is passing on the liberal arts tradition to the next generation.”

Most important lesson I learned in college: “Do what you love, even if this leads you some place other than where you expected.  I started college planning to be pre-med, and found it wasn’t the right fit for me. So I switched my focus to writing and research and was a much happier, better student. In the end, I developed my career not by having any grand plan, but by simply following my strengths and interests and seeing where they led. Also, some of my most memorable experiences at college took place outside of the classroom, like singing with the concert choir and playing flute in woodwind ensembles.”

What few people know about me: “My family is closely connected and very large, and has some wonderful food-centric family traditions. Every summer at our family reunion in Vermont, we celebrate the Feast of the Nine Pies, inspired by the nine-pie picnic in the classic children’s story ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon.’ Apart from the squabbling over what kinds of pie to make, the feast is a great moment of extended family memory-making. I think pie is the answer to many of life’s questions. And I make a killer chocolate silk pie.”