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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

Smart Hires

In 2009-2010, the school experienced what was perhaps its most successful hiring season ever, adding a significant number of young and experienced scholars and scientists to its faculty. Many of these researchers are strategic hires whose contributions will be reflected not only in their individual research efforts, but in their strengthening of disciplines and fostering of interdisciplinary collaboration.

"There was a growth in recent years in the undergraduate population in Krieger without a growth in faculty," says Michela Gallagher, vice provost of academic affairs, who recently served as the school's interim dean. "Then with the economic downturn and the university's hiring freeze on top of it, there's been a pressing need. People are not only going to be relieved to have new colleagues but really invigorated by their presence." Here is a sampling of some of the outstanding scholars joining Arts and Sciences this year (for the complete rundown, visit the new faculty website.)

Thinking Small

Young-Sam Lee
Some 460 scientists applied for the assistant professor position open in the Biology Department this year. What made Young-Sam Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, stand out, according to biology chair Beverly Wendland, were his technical skills and creative approaches to answering long-standing biological questions. Lee's research centers on a universe of small molecules that can have significant biological effects. "He's on the cutting edge of a research area that's been relatively unexplored," Wendland says. "The idea of focusing on small molecules and metabolites is something our department is grounded in historically, but we've gotten away from it. Bringing Young-Sam into our department highlights the importance of metabolism as an exciting area for research." A native of South Korea, Lee received his MS in chemistry from Indiana University and his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago.

Exploring Big Questions

Tobias Marriage
It has been nearly a decade since the Department of Physics and Astronomy added an early-career astronomer or astrophysicist to its faculty. This year, the department hired three: Tobias Marriage, Brice Ménard, and Nadia Zakamska join the faculty as assistant professors (Marriage is on campus now; Ménard and Zakamska are on leave until next fall.) Department chair Daniel H. Reich couldn't be more pleased. "These are three outstanding young scientists who have done very different things, yet they are also going to complement each other and the existing program here," he says. "Each one of them individually is a great fit for the department, and they're going to be able very quickly to take leading roles." Marriage, an experimental cosmologist with a PhD from Princeton University, leads experiments to observe the cosmic microwave background and answer important questions about the origins of the early universe and the nature of dark energy. A theorist from the Canadian Institute of Astrophysics interested in extragalactic astrophysics and cosmology, Ménard mines large data sets to gain insight into the universe and has made major discoveries about the relationship between stars, dark matter, and the presence of tiny grains of dust around galaxies. And Zakamska, a theorist and observational astronomer from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., regularly combines data mining of large data sets with investigations using major telescopes on Earth and in space.

Link Between Two Worlds

Tyrel McQueen
Tyrel McQueen's faculty position is an experiment in itself. The assistant professor's primary appointment is in the Chemistry Department, but his lab is in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The arrangement allows him to design and synthesize new materials containing electrons displaying emergent behaviors, and then explore their physical properties on a level usually studied by condensed matter physicists. McQueen, who has a PhD in chemistry and materials from Princeton University and just completed a year of postdoctoral study at MIT, hopes his work could one day contribute to the engineering of more effective solar panels and other energy-related technologies. This is precisely the kind of interdisciplinary hiring Gregory F. Ball, vice dean for science and research infrastructure, hopes to see more often. "With people like Tyrel who will help link groups in different departments with related interests, we can leverage our faculty even more to take advantage of expertise that cuts across departments," Ball says.

Fresh Eyes, New Insights

Sylvia Montiglio
Silvia Montiglio, who joins the Classics Department as the Basil L. Gildersleeve Professor, is a scholar of ancient Greek whose research and teaching interests extend across a variety of authors of Greek and Roman literature and encompass philosophy, literature, and other aspects of both cultures. The author of three books, she has explored such themes as wandering in ancient Greek culture, the meaning of silence in the archaic and classical Greek world, and the enduring use of Odysseus by Greek, Roman, and subsequent philosophers. Her latest project examines the meaning and use of recognitions in Greek and Roman novels. Montiglio's wide-ranging interests and expertise are critical to the small Classics Department, where each faculty member needs to be able to cover a lot of territory, says Matthew Roller, department chair. And her scope as a scholar distinguishes her work. "She lets her interests drive what she does. She doesn't wall herself off to studying only one author, period, genre, or problem," he says. "Professor Montiglio has a record of picking out something that no one ever thought of looking at before and tracking it through. It's a real talent." Montiglio earned her PhD from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She comes to Hopkins from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was a professor for 14 years.

Conversations Across Canons

Eric Sundquist
As a Hopkins graduate student in American literature, Professor Eric Sundquist MA'76, PhD '78, noticed what he calls a "conversation" between the works of American writers and African American authors. At the time, American literature and African American literature were considered separate, but Sundquist set about making a convincing argument that the canons were "deeply entangled." It was a revolutionary idea, and with his 1993 book To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, Sundquist established himself as one of the leading scholars of American literature today. "Eric's appointment restores Hopkins English to the first rank of departments for the study of American literature," says Douglas Mao, English Department chair. "It's also great for the school as a whole, because his interests bring him together with History, the Center for Africana Studies, the Jewish studies program, and other units of the university." Sundquist, formerly of UCLA and the author, co-author, or editor of 14 books, began July 1 as Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities.


Related Links

New Faculty website