Alfant, Kirk among Rice Engineering's 2023-24 Future Faculty Fellows

School of Engineering program prepares PhD students, postdocs to stand out in academic job market.

Headshots of Alfant, Kirk

Rice Engineering’s Future Faculty Fellows program supports Ph.D. students and postdoctoral associates as they explore the tenure track academic career path, compete successfully for tenure track faculty positions, and launch their careers. All Rice Engineering Ph.D. students and postdoctoral associates may participate in valuable networking events, workshops and panels — but for those who are ready to dive into the academic career journey, the program offers a Level 3 Future Faculty Fellowship. 

Among the 2023-24 Future Faculty Fellows are Rachael May Alfant, Ph.D. candidate in computational applied mathematics and operations research (CMOR), and Keegan Kirk, a postdoctoral fellow in the CMOR department.

Alfant holds a M.A. in computational and applied mathematics from Rice and a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Her research interest is mixed integer programming with applications in resource allocation and logistics. As a passionate educator, she looks forward to a career focused on teaching and mentoring students in STEM, involving students in mathematical research, and creating initiatives that aim to increase the participation of underrepresented students in academia. Alfant is currently in the lab of Sebastian Perez-Salazar and Andrew Schaefer.

Kirk's research interests lie broadly in the numerical and mathematical analysis of partial differential equations arising in the modeling of solid and fluid mechanics. Kirk holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Waterloo, where he won the Applied Mathematics Department’s Doctoral Prize for best Ph.D. dissertation. He is pursuing a tenure-track faculty position for the opportunity to lead a research program and train the next generation of industry professionals and academics. Kirk currently works in the lab of Beatrice Riviere.

Level 3 Future Faculty Fellows prepare to compete successfully for tenure track engineering faculty positions through one-on-one consultation, tailored workshops, and mock interviews. “The Future Faculty Fellows program focuses on preparing and supporting the fellows as they navigate a complex job market,” said Renata Ramos, senior associate dean for academic affairs in the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University. “Our program selects top doctoral students and postdocs at Rice Engineering and helps them stand out throughout the application and interview process.”

Fellows also receive a travel stipend and build valuable connections with both faculty and other fellows. “This is a great opportunity to learn and grow while getting mentored by future peers, and I am looking forward to fostering new connections and strengthening my academic profile,” said Paola Cascante-Bonilla, a 2023-24 Future Faculty Fellow.

The 2023-24 Future Faculty Fellows cohort is a diverse group of students committed to research, academic excellence, and inspiring future generations of engineers. Hailing from five countries and representing eight of Rice University’s engineering departments, the fellows are already making unique contributions to academia.