Neubauer Family Assistant Professor Program Supports Early-career Faculty

UChicago News Office, adapted by Thomas Gaulkin
Photo Credit: 
Jean Lachat and Nancy Wong

A new generation of scholars


Across the University of Chicago, a prestigious program is helping early-career faculty dig into into decolonization in Africa, the effects of human-computer interaction on privacy, and the relationship between crime and how electoral districts are drawn.


The Neubauer Family Assistant Professor Program provides support that’s essential as scholars undertake ambitious research projects early in their careers. Established in 2007 with a donation from the Neubauer family, the program includes a five-year professorship appointment and time and resources to pursue scholarly work. Neubauer professors have created a vibrant community on campus—a place where a physicist and a law scholar can feed off each other’s research.


“The Neubauer Family Assistant Professor Program provides the time and support for early-career scholars to flourish, while being part of a dynamic, intellectual community. The program brings exciting new ideas, insights and energy to UChicago, fostering the next generation of leaders in an array of fields,” said Melissa Gilliam, vice provost for academic leadership, advancement, and diversity and the Ellen H. Block Professor of Health Justice, who directs the program.


Adom Getachew, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science and the College


Adom Getachew hasn’t been at UChicago long, but has a strong sense of the community here thanks to the Neubauer program.


“I arrived two years ago as a postdoc,” Getachew said. “The Neubauer community introduces you to a whole set of other early-career faculty across the University who I would never really have interacted with otherwise. I think, too, one of the surprising things about it is the access to upper administration. It helps me to better understand the institution and how the leadership is thinking about questions.”


Getachew said in addition to getting a better sense of the breadth of the intellectual life of the University, the resources of the Neubauer program have been invaluable in funding archival research, conference travel and research assistance for her upcoming book, Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination, a study of decolonization of the British Empire in the Caribbean and Africa.


Getachew said it is an honor to have been selected for the program.


“Being recognized and selected for this, which I came to learn is very prestigious, made a difference for me as I weighed another offer,” Getachew said. “That the department nominated me for a Neubauer illustrated that it valued my work and felt that I was worth investing in.”


Robert Vargas, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Sociology


Interested in education research, Robert Vargas worked with a group of young people in a Chicago neighborhood to understand what was affecting their academic outcomes.


One day Vargas found the students scrambling to find rides to avoid a nearby gang initiation, and he realized how much the threat of violence was shaping their everyday decision-making. Vargas decided to address the problem from a sociological perspective.


The result was his book, Wounded City: Violent Turf Wars in a Chicago Barrio, which showed violence was most concentrated in blocks whose ward boundaries were gerrymandered—a practice of drawing electoral districts in ways that create political advantage. Vargas is now scaling up his research to look at the relationship between violence and gerrymandering on the city level across several decades, seeking to understand the depth of the relationship.


“This isn’t what I expected to do at all,” Vargas said. “But just through the process of entering the field and letting the data guide me, I arrived at this focus on politics and redistricting.”


Vargas said the program allows him the freedom to undertake these kinds of ambitious projects and take bigger risks in his research.


“The position carries a lot of responsibility, but it motivates me to want to do the best research I possibly can,” Vargas said. “It’s a real privilege to have such research opportunities through the Neubauer professorship.”


History and Anthropology


In the next year, two new members of the Social Sciences faculty will join Getachew and Vargas through the Neubauer professors program. Currently a Provosts' Postdoctoral Fellow and instructor in the Department of History, Destin Jenkins’ research centers on the linkages between the American state, capitalism, racial inequality, and the built environment in the twentieth century. Jenkins will join the faculty as Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of History in July.


Ryan Jobson, also a Provost's Postodoctoral Fellow, will become Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology in July 2019. He engages issues of energy and extractive resource development, technology and infrastructure, states and sovereignty, and histories of racial capitalism in the colonial and postcolonial Americas.


Learn more about their research and teaching in the latest issue of Dialogo.


This article has been adapted from, which details this year's Neubauer Family Assistant Professors cohort.