February 17, 2014

President Daniels and Provost Lieberman: Announcing Our First Bloomberg Distinguished Professors

Edin Pic

Dear Members of the Johns Hopkins Community:

This university is committed, as much or more than any other, to assembling experts from divergent disciplines to attack humanity’s most important problems from every angle.

In some ways, this is nothing new: In the early 20th century, our young School of Hygiene and Public Health enlisted experts in medicine, life science, statistics, engineering, and social science to combat disease and promote population health. A few decades later, Johns Hopkins electrical engineers and cardiac surgeons collaborated on the development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

What is new, however, is the complexity of the issues that humanity faces in the 21st century. What is new is the breadth and depth of the knowledge that must be leveled against those complex problems. And what is new is an absolute dedication, from the faculty, deans, university administration, and loyal supporters of Johns Hopkins, to make collaboration across disciplinary and divisional borders less occasional and more standard operating procedure.

This dedication is reflected in the priorities we all agreed to in our Ten by Twenty vision for the university’s future. It is reflected in the signature initiatives that university leadership, the deans, and the faculty identified as part of the planning for our Rising to the Challenge campaign. It is reflected in the great enthusiasm of our scholars and students for what Johns Hopkins can accomplish when we all work together.

A year ago, the university announced the funding by alumnus Michael R. Bloomberg of 50 new Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships to anchor programs of cross-disciplinary collaboration across the university. We are absolutely delighted today to announce the first three appointments to those prestigious endowed chairs.

Peter Agre, now professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is a champion of multidisciplinary science. Co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a basic science discovery he made while a faculty member in the School of Medicine, Peter became director of the Malaria Research Institute in the Bloomberg School in part to extend that fundamental knowledge to the practical question of eradicating a killer tropical disease. He also is part of a multidisciplinary team supporting malaria control efforts in southern Africa. He has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and led “science in diplomacy” missions to Cuba, North Korea, and Myanmar. Peter will play a key role in the Global Health Initiative and will now be a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor with appointments in the departments of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Medicine, and Biological Chemistry, spanning the schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Kathryn Edin, a newcomer to the Johns Hopkins University community, comes to us from Harvard University. Kathryn is a prominent sociologist who studies families in poverty. She is particularly noted for books detailing how single mothers make ends meet, why poor women prioritize motherhood before marriage, and how economic and cultural changes have altered the role of fathers among the inner-city poor. At Harvard, Kathryn has been professor of public policy and management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government since 2007 and chair of the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. She was recently named a Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  At Johns Hopkins, she will be a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor with appointments in the departments of Sociology and Population, Family and Reproductive Health. She will take a lead role in the Institute for the American City and teach in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Carol Greider, currently Daniel Nathans Professor and director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, was a co-winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The prize honored her discovery of telomerase and her later work explaining this enzyme’s critical role in the maintenance and protection of chromosomes and, thus, of the genetic information that makes us who we are. It was research, she later said, “driven by pure curiosity” and “just trying to understand how cells work.” In the end, however, it was also a discovery that provided key insights into cancer, other diseases, and the process of cellular aging. Carol will participate in the Individualized Health Initiative and will be a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor with appointments in the departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the School of Medicine, and Biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

We congratulate Professors Agre, Edin, and Greider on their selection. We thank them for their willingness to occupy the “sharp end of the spear” in the university’s evolution toward an even more interdisciplinary mindset. And, of course, we again express deep gratitude to Michael Bloomberg for the extraordinary generosity that has made these appointments possible.

More than a dozen additional Bloomberg Distinguished Professor searches are under way; we look forward to announcing the results of these searches over the coming months.


Ronald J. Daniels


Robert C. Lieberman

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs