Dean's Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter from James B. Knapp Dean Beverly Wendland

From Dean Beverly Wendland

Dear Krieger School Faculty, Staff, Students, and Parents,

Welcome to the 2015–16 academic year! I love this time of year at Homewood: parents and freshmen clutching campus maps and watching with amazement as (friendly and helpful!) student volunteers whisk suitcases and furniture out of lined-up cars and into the dorms; upperclassmen greeting each other with shouts and hugs, ready to share news of their summer activities; professors polishing plans for their first class meetings—everyone is ready to embark on a new year of learning and discovery. And here’s a sampling of some brand-new endeavors you’ll find at the School of Arts and Sciences this semester:

  • Our new major in medicine, science and the humanities gives undergraduates an opportunity to examine medical and scientific issues through the lens of humanities studies. It’s an interdisciplinary approach that promotes intellectual innovation and that will forge productive connections between scientific and humanistic cultures.
  • We are launching the Aronson Center for International Studies, thanks to a $10 million gift from Jeff Aronson ’80 and his wife, Shari. The center will partner the Krieger School with SAIS (JHU’s School of Advanced International Studies) to enhance both schools’ capacities to develop solutions for complex world problems and to train new generations of global experts.
  • We have partnered with the Maryland Institute College of Art to open a film center in Baltimore’s growing Station North Arts and Entertainment District, about a mile south of the Homewood campus. The state-of-the-art facility includes screening rooms, classrooms, a professional-grade recording studio and soundstage, numerous editing suites, a large computer lab, and a substantial upgrade in the quality and quantity of film equipment available to student filmmakers.
  • A lounge area in the new JHU/MICA Film Center. [Image: Will Kirk/]

  • Our new Master of Arts degree in film and media will also be housed in the new Film Center at Station North. Offered by our Advanced Academic Programs, the graduate degree has concentrations in business, sound, and screenwriting.
  • The annual Freshman Reading experience has been expanded to include more small-group discussions and opportunities to engage. This year’s book is The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and is an account of the author’s experiences growing up in Baltimore. In addition, Mr. Coates was the inaugural speaker for JHU’s newly created Forum on Race in America.
  • And last, but certainly not least, there will be some new faces in our classrooms. We welcome several new faculty members, and I know they will bring broad expertise and fresh ideas to our students and our research community:
    • Professor Shane Butler (Classics) – media history and theory; sensation, cognition, and aesthetics; rhetoric and poetics
    • Assistant Professor Michael Degani (Anthropology) – sociocultural anthropology, infrastructure in post-socialist Tanzania
    • Assistant Professor Tamer El-Leithy (History) – social/cultural history of the medieval Middle East and Mediterranean, history of religious difference
    • Professor Mary Favret (English) – British Romanticism, late 18th- early 19th-century English literature, war studies, gender and genre, literature and violence
    • Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Taekjip Ha (Biophysics) – single-molecule biology and intracellular imaging, DNA transactions such as replication, recombination, and chromatin assembly
    • Assistant Professor Thomas Kempa (Chemistry) – solid-state materials chemistry, experimental physical chemistry
    • Assistant Professor Hayang Kim (History) – modern Japanese history, cultural and intellectual history, human sciences, women and gender, disability studies
    • Associate Professor John Kim (Biology) – regulation of post-embryonic and germline development, transposon silencing to preserve genome integrity, and oncogenic cell proliferation
    • Assistant Professor Sebastián Mazzuca (Political Science) – state formation, regime change, and economic development
    • Assistant Professor Joris Mercelis (History of Science and Technology) – business history, history of chemistry, plastics science
    • Assistant Professor Sara Miglietti (German and Romance Languages and Literatures) – French and European Renaissance literature and thought, book history, the history of political thought, early modern France
    • Professor Andrew Miller (English) – Victorian studies, literary form and perspective, moral philosophy and psychology
    • Professor Andrew Motion (Writing Seminars) – poetry, biography, novels, U.K. poet laureate 1999–2009
    • Associate Professor Sua Myong (Biophysics) – single molecule and single cell imaging
    • Assistant Professor Emily Riehl (Mathematics) – category theory related to homotopy theory, model categories, weak factorization systems
    • Professor David Savitt (Mathematics) – algebraic number theory, Galois representations, modular forms, and p-adic Hodge theory
    • Assistant Professor Sebastian Schmidt (Political Science) – international relations, social theory, intellectual history, international security
    • Assistant Professor Joshua Smith (Classics) – Greek language and literature, ancient scholarship, history of literary criticism
    • Assistant Professor Sara Thoi (Chemistry) – coordination chemistry, materials synthesis, electron and ion transport, photochemistry, electrocatalysis
    • Assistant Professor Yi Wang (Mathematics) – geometric analysis and nonlinear partial differential equations.

These new faculty members join a cadre of storied Hopkins professors who are known around the world for their expertise. In just this past semester, many of our professors have won prestigious awards—a testament to their dedication and knowledge. These are just a few of our stellar awardees:

These new faculty members join a cadre of storied Hopkins professors who are known around the world for their expertise. In just this past semester, many of our professors have won prestigious awards—a testament to their dedication and knowledge. These are just a few of our stellar awardees:

Charles Bennett, the Alumni Centennial Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Gilman Scholar in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, received the 2015 Caterina Tomassoni and Felice Pietro Chisesi Prize. The award recognizes his leadership in two major experiments—one that led to the discovery of spatial fluctuations in the Cosmic Wave Background, and one that led to precise measurements of the cosmological parameters, establishing the de facto Cosmological Model.

Kit Bowen, professor in the Department of Chemistry, is leading research groups from five schools that won a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for materials science work that could lead to advancements in electronics, computers, optics, and weapons technology.

Chia-Ling Chien, the Jacob L. Hain Professor of Physics, was awarded the 2015 Magnetism Award and Néel Medal from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Commission on Magnetism. The highest honor bestowed by the IUPAP, this award is given every three years to a scientist who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of magnetism. Chien was recognized “for pioneering discoveries in magnetic materials and nanostructures.”

Lisa Feigenson, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, is a recipient of the National Academy of Sciences 2015 Troland Research Award. She received the award for her investigations of the origins and early development of representations of objects and numbers.

Marc Greenberg, professor in the Department of Chemistry, received a 2016 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society for his outstanding achievements in the field of organic chemistry.

Professors Niloofar Haeri (left) and Lawrence Principe were among 175 prominent scholars to win 2015 fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Haeri is professor and former chair of the Department of Anthropology. Principe is the Drew Professor of the Humanities, splitting his time between the Department of the History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry. The fellowships are intended for those who have demonstrated “exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

Marc Kamionkowski, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was named one of two winners of the 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, one of the top prizes in the field. He was given the award for his “groundbreaking theoretical work on cosmic background radiation [that] has helped drive experimental progress in the field, work that has forever changed how we view the universe."

Rebekka Klausen, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, is among 44 young scientists from across the country chosen to receive grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science under the agency’s Early Career Research Program. She will use the grant to pursue work on silicon, a chemical element used to produce the semiconductors that power computers and solar cells.

Stephen Nichols, the James M. Beall Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. As recipient of the award, he will be in residence at the Free University Berlin for a year and will study medieval manuscript holdings there and throughout Germany.

Eric Puchner, assistant professor in the Writing Seminars, won the 2015 Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize, intended to encourage young writers in “the production of literary works of high quality and aesthetic worth."

From our current professors to our new faculty members, from our eager freshmen to our seasoned seniors, a common thirst for knowledge abounds at Johns Hopkins. The energy, hustle, and bustle that mark the start of the fall semester always remind me of the limitless opportunities available at Johns Hopkins. The opportunity to learn something new, to create new knowledge, to meet new people—it’s all here, waiting for you.

I wish all of you a productive and fulfilling semester, and I look forward to seeing you around campus.


Beverly Wendland
James B. Knapp Dean