Johns Hopkins University
Fall/Winter 2006
Vol. 4, No. 1

NEWS

New Faces, New Digs

A Merger with Momentum

> Stellar Achievements

Beyond the Ivory Tower—to Museums

New Faculty Arrive on the Scene

A New Schedule Aims to End "Binge" Learning

Student Standouts

Faculty Books

Your Words


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Stellar Achievements

Krieger School astrophysicist Adam Riess awoke to a happy surprise one morning this summer: the news that he would share in a $1 million prize for his work in discovering that “dark energy” is driving an ever-faster expansion of the universe.

Riess, a former adjunct associate professor who joined the Physics and Astronomy faculty full-time in January, is one of three co-winners of the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy, awarded annually in three fields: astronomy, life science and medicine, and mathematical sciences. The presentation ceremony took place on September 12.

Riess’ co-winners are Saul Perlmutter, of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, and Brian Schmidt, of the Mount Stromlo Observatory of the Australian National University in Canberra. Reiss and Schmidt were leaders of one team that led to the dark energy discovery in 1998; Perlmutter was the leader of a competing team.

“We set out to measure the expansion rate of the universe in the past and compare it to the expansion rate of the present universe, using exploding stars called supernovae,” Riess says. They expected to find that gravity had slowed the rate of expansion over time, but instead they found the rate was actually accelerating.

That, he says, sent them back to the idea developed but eventually discarded by Albert Einstein as his “biggest blunder.” The idea implied that there might be a sort of anti-gravity, that “the vacuum of space had energy in it and that energy could act repulsively and accelerate the expansion of the universe,” Riess says.

Today, that phenomenon is called dark energy, and it may account for 70 percent of the universe, he says. Science Magazine heralded the dark energy finding as “Breakthrough of the Year,” and a 2003 National Academy of Sciences report referred to the nature of dark energy as “the deepest mystery in physics,” saying, “Its resolution is likely to greatly advance our understanding of matter, space, and time.”

The award is administered by the Shaw Prize Foundation based in Hong Kong and was established by Run Run Shaw, a philanthropist and longtime leader in the Hong Kong film and television industries.

 

Victor CorcesBiology Professor Victor Corces has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. One of 20 scientists at 18 universities across the country to be selected for the honor this year, Corces will receive a $1 million grant to fund unique approaches to igniting and inspiring undergraduate students in the sciences.

“The scientists whom we have selected are true pioneers—not only in their research, but also in their creative approaches and dedication to teaching,” said Thomas R. Cech, HHMI president. “We are hopeful that their educational experiments will energize undergraduate science education throughout the nation.”

As a HHMI “million-dollar professor,” Corces will spearhead a program called Research Internship and Science Education (RISE), aiming to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who study biology. Students from Baltimore City public schools will work—full time in the summer and part time during the school year—in Corces’ lab on projects directly related to his research, supervised by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

The “million-dollar professor” program began in 2002, when the institute awarded $20 million to the first 20 professors committed to bringing the excitement of scientific discovery to the undergraduate classroom.

 

Michael FriedThe American Academy of Arts and Letters bestowed one of eight 2006 Academy Awards in Literature on Michael Fried, the J.R. Herbert Boone Professor in the Humanities. The award, which includes a prize of $7,500, honors writers of exceptional accomplishment in any genre. Fried, who holds joint appointments in the Humanities Center and the Department of the History of Art, has written books about 18th- and 19th- century painting and literature, including Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane (1987); Courbet’s Realism (1990); and Manet’s Modernism, or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s (1996). He has also written a collection of criticism of contemporary art, as well as three books of poetry, the latest of which is The Next Bend in the Road (2004).

 

Jack GreeneThis past spring, historian Jack Greene, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities Emeritus, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of two Hopkins faculty members who were among the 2006 class of fellows. Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, the Academy recognizes individuals who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society at large. Its fellows have included intellectuals and influential leaders from every generation.

During his career, Greene, whose focus is early American history, published 16 books and trained more than 75 graduate students. He was honored in 2000 with a three-day scholarly conference of former students from his more than 35 years at Hopkins.

 

Justine RothJustine P. Roth, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a 2006 Cottrell Scholar Award, one of 13 scientists to be so honored this year. The Cottrell Scholar Awards, funded by the Research Corporation, are given to faculty members who wish to excel at both research and teaching. Frederick Gardner Cottrell, the chemist for whom these awards are named, founded and endowed the Research Corporation with the patent rights to his invention, the Cottrell electrostatic precipitator.

—Angela Paik Schaeffer

 

Charles BennettCharles L. Bennett, a professor in the Krieger School’s Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy and principal investigator of NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, has been appointed to four National Academy of Sciences boards that advise the government on the nation’s space science programs.

Bennett will serve on both the NAS Space Studies Board and its executive committee. The board provides independent and authoritative advice on all aspects of space science and applications. Bennett also was appointed to co-chair the NAS Committee on Astronomy and Astro­physics. The committee monitors the status of space- and ground-based astronomy and astrophysics programs and provides assessments to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and other institutions. The committee’s aims are to encourage progress in astronomy and astrophysics and assist the federal government in planning programs in these fields.

The astrophysicist also was recently appointed to the National Research Council’s NASA Astro­physics Performance Assessment Committee. The National Research Council is the NAS arm that carries out studies. The committee will report next year on NASA’s progress in implementing NAS recommendations on astronomy and astrophysics research.

“It is both an honor and a serious responsibility to serve on these committees of the National Academy of Sciences,” Bennett said. “This is an exciting time for astrophysics. With frequent new discoveries we are unraveling the mysteries of the universe. Yet we face severely limited resources. We must be prudent in determining and executing our scientific priorities. The National Academy of Sciences plays a critical role in advising the government on these matters.”

—Lisa De Nike