New Bloomberg Professors Taking on Global Challenges

By ksascomm

Patricia Janak, Stephen Morgan

Patricia Janak (l), Stephen Morgan

The second cohort of Bloomberg Distinguished Professors was announced this past summer, and two of the three will be part of the School of Arts and Sciences. The appointments are the result of a $350 million gift from Johns Hopkins alumnus and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Sociologist Stephen Morgan, neuroscientist Patricia Janak, and organization theorist Kathleen Sutcliffe joined the Hopkins faculty July 1, bringing the total number of Bloomberg Distinguished Professors to six. Morgan and Janak both hold joint appointments in the School of Arts and Sciences. Each professor is part of two or more divisions at Hopkins, and they conduct interdisciplinary research aligned with the university’s signature initiatives.

Morgan is part of the Department of Sociology at the Krieger School and holds a joint appointment at the School of Education. His research focuses on education and inequality.

Morgan became hooked on these questions in 1991, when, as a junior at Harvard, he first learned of the now famous Coleman Report. Commissioned by the U.S. Office of Education in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the report reached groundbreaking conclusions that helped set in motion the mass busing of students to achieve racial balance in public schools. The study was conducted by James Coleman, founder of the Johns Hopkins Department of Sociology (originally the Department of Social Relations) and teacher of Aage Sørensen, the Harvard professor who introduced Morgan to the report. “From that day on, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a professor,” says Morgan.

Today, Morgan studies predictors of student achievement, particularly how high schoolers’ beliefs about the future affect whether they attend and graduate from college. Before coming to Hopkins, Morgan was the Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor in the Social Sciences at Cornell University, where he also served for nine years as director of the Center for the Study of Inequality.

Morgan is participating in the university’s Institute for the American City, which draws together faculty members and students from across the university to develop and test solutions for the most pressing urban problems.

Neuroscientist Patricia Janak studies the biological basis of behavior and associative learning, with a particular focus on addiction. She is a member of the Krieger School’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and of the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology.

Janak came to Hopkins from the University of California, San Francisco, where she was a professor of neurology. She studies changes in both normal learning scenarios and pathological learning, such as drug addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a perfect tie-in to her future work in Johns Hopkins’ Science of Learning Institute, an ambitious, cross-disciplinary effort to accelerate science-to-practice translation along the continuum of learning, from basic research in molecules and genes to the creation of effective public school policy.

Janak will be teaching an undergraduate class on learning and memory and graduate courses in psychology and neuroscience. She has plans to bring together faculty from Psychological and Brain Sciences and Neuroscience who are interested in learning and reward mechanisms, and she’s particularly excited about “the influx at Hopkins of top-notch younger scientists” in this field.