Talented New Professors Join Faculty

New Westmont faculty (from L-R): Isaac Gomez (kinesiology), Jennifer Ito (physics), Ruth Lin (music), Siegwart “Zig” Reichwald (music) and Guang Song (computer science) | Credit: Courtesy Westmont College

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Five new accomplished, tenure-track professors have joined the Westmont faculty this fall. Isaac Gomez (kinesiology), Jennifer Ito (physics), Ruth Lin (music), Siegwart “Zig” Reichwald (music) and Guang Song (computer science) each bring a deep Christian faith and a love for teaching to Westmont. 

Gomez, a local resident who graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is finalizing his doctorate from the University of Oregon. Using behavioral testing, transcranial magnetic stimulation and electromyography, he has studied how our brains control movement and published his findings. “I want to apply that research to children who are learning new motor skills,” he says. “I’m fascinated by my nieces and nephews — kids are wonderfully fun to work with.”

Gomez says he experienced a spiritual reawakening in college through his study of science. “The more I learned about physics, chemistry and biology, the more I felt the presence of God in the natural world,” he says. “I came to realize that science is an effort to reveal the mechanisms behind God’s creations — that science and faith are not mutually exclusive — and that the study of science can in fact strengthen our faith in God.” 

Ito, who recently earned a doctorate from UC San Diego, helped build millimeter-wavelength telescopes as part of the Simons Array in Chile. “We’re hoping to study the cosmic microwave background, thought to be remnant radiation from the Big Bang,” she says. “This branch of astrophysics looks into origin science. It creates a unique opportunity for integration with faith.”

As researchers collect data from the telescopes, Ito hopes to involve Westmont students in the analysis. “My faith and my professional work are intertwined and inseparable,” she says. “The laws of physics are extensions of God’s constant nature, and we use these concepts to describe how Christ holds all things together. I see my research as a way to learn more about God through His handiwork.” 

She will be training to use Westmont’s powerful Keck Telescope and looks forward to working with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit and the community when the college opens the observatory to the public the third Friday of each month, weather permitting. 

Lin, who directed the Gustavus Adolphus College Symphony Orchestra in St. Peter, Minnesota, for more than a decade, takes up the baton to lead the Westmont Orchestra and chair the music department. She has already started making connections and building relationships in the Santa Barbara music community and looks forward to working with students. “Making music and connecting with others through music is a gift from God,” she says. “What we’re unable to say in words we can express perfectly in music.”

An accomplished conductor and teacher, she earned a Doctor of Music in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University School of Music. She appreciates Westmont’s and Santa Barbara’s natural beauty with the mountains and the ocean. “I look forward to having open conversations with colleagues and students about what their faith means and how it manifests itself in their lives,” she says.

Reichwald, who earned a doctorate in musicology and a Master of Music in orchestral conducting from Florida State, is the new Adams professor of music and worship. “Westmont has an excellent music faculty who offer artistic experiences for all students interested in making music together,” he says. “Their performances provide meaningful musical and spiritual experiences to the Westmont community and Santa Barbara. I look forward to becoming part of that tradition.”

He teaches History of Western Music and looks forward to plugging into the rich musical scene in Santa Barbara. “As a scholar, I hope to pique the curiosity of anybody at Westmont interested in learning more about how music has been and still is an essential means of giving voice to the human experience,” he says. “Life happens through relationships. One of the most exciting parts of my job is being a member of the chapel team. Music has always been an essential part of worship, and a musician has no higher calling or greater responsibility than leading worship.” 

Song, who has taught computer science at Iowa State University since 2006, has focused his research on computational biology. “A powerful tool, computation extends the reach of many liberal arts and science endeavors,” he says. “I see some of this in my own research experience in computational biophysics and biology, where I apply computational models to study protein structure and dynamics.” 

Song earned a doctorate at Texas A&M University. He explores how proteins move, studies their molecular mechanical systems, and classifies their various shapes. “I love teaching and appreciate this opportunity to teach students how to be skillful in computer science and to be disciples of Christ,” he says. 

Along with the new tenure-track appointees, several professors join the college in short-term roles, including Nathalie Confiac (nursing), Aaron Cooke, (economics and business), Lesley Gardia (nursing), Dianthe Hoffman (nursing), Wendy Jackson (English, theater arts), Sara Johnson (biology), Kelly Taylor (mathematics), Pauline Remy (modern languages), Annamarie Gonzales (nursing), Holly Shelton (English), Nick Taylor, (biology), Silke Werth (sociology), and Jackie Xie (chemistry).

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