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President’s Frontier Award: Recipients

President’s Frontier Award recipients are selected via an annual university-wide competition for demonstrating significant scholarly achievement and showing exceptional promise for important future work. The $250,000 award will recognize one person each year for ten years with funding for their research expenses. The inaugural award was made in 2015.

2020 Award Recipient: Emily Riehl

See the surprise videos from previous years:

Dr. Emily Riehl, an associate professor in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Mathematics, was referred to as the world’s queen of category theory in her nomination letter. Category theory is a metamathematical language that allows you to prove very general theorems that are independent of the specific context. Emily’s work is helpful for other mathematicians to refine their thoughts and generalize their arguments. She is also known as a force of nature for for attracting graduate students and postdocs to work with her, leading highly attended seminars and graduate classes, and creating new undergraduate classes while pursuing a formidable research program. She is, as colleagues would say, a rock star mathematician, sought-after speaker, beloved teacher, and exceptional candidate who stood out from the excellent pool of nominees.

“Emily is a rising star in her field, recognized as a convener of academic peers and a collaborator across disciplines,” said President Ronald J. Daniels. “She has published more than two dozen journal articles and three books, including an introductory book on category theory and a book that prepares graduate students for research. Book projects are fairly unusual in mathematics, and particularly so for scholars in the early stages of their careers. The Frontier Award will give Emily space to finish a new book with her longtime collaborator, Dominic Verity, a professor in the Department of Computing at Macquarie University in Sydney, that pulls together and solidifies ideas from thousands of pages of published papers on their topic.”

2020 President’s Frontier Award Finalists:
• Gül Dölen, assistant professor of neuroscience in the School of Medicine
• Roland Thorpe, an associate professor of health, behavior and society in the Bloomberg School of Public Health

Dr. Brice Ménard, an associate professor in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy, has demonstrated an exceptional ability to develop new and potentially far-reaching approaches to huge data sets. Brice uses information that is widely available to researchers, but his imagination and ingenuity lead to striking results, such as new ways to measure distances across the universe and a fresh understanding of its chemical evolution. Recently, Brice has been developing a new approach to organizing data sets in a way that reveals deep underlying patterns. His tool, known as the Sequencer, has been successful as a prototype and has the potential to yield significant breakthroughs not only in his own discipline of astronomy and other scientific fields but also in public health, business, and engineering.

“What is most striking about Brice’s contributions is the unique insight he has been able to gain working with astronomical data sets that were widely available to others,” said Dr. Beverly Wendland, James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School. “He used his imagination and expertise to conceive of new and potentially far-reaching applications of these data in novel ways that has often led to new and important results.”

2019 President’s Frontier Award Finalist:
• Beth McGinty, an associate professor of health policy and management in the Bloomberg School of Public Health

An associate professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology, Dr. Deidra Crews has performed seminal studies that identify socioeconomic factors as key explanations for profound racial disparities related to chronic kidney disease, which afflicts millions across the United States and around the world. She has expanded the study of these disparities beyond documenting their presence to testing novel interventions that address the contributing factors. A clinician-scientist dedicated to bridging the world of research and patient care, Deidra is already transforming the care of disadvantaged populations with CKD.

“Deidra is a truly gifted and creative physician-scientist who has expanded the study of racial and socioeconomic disparities in kidney disease and, most important, tested interventions,” says President Ronald J. Daniels. “Her work is already transforming the care of disadvantaged populations with this condition.”

2018 President’s Frontier Award Finalist:
• Takanari Inoue, an associate professor of cell biology in the School of Medicine

A composer at the Peabody Institute, Michael Hersch has built a significant international reputation as major orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists around the world have commissioned and performed his works. He is known for challenging listeners and performers with works of great complexity, audacity, and empathy, and has received many notable composition awards, including the Berlin and Rome Prizes, and accolades of music critics and audiences.

“There is no doubt that Mr. Hersch is one of the most gifted composers today, as evidenced by his artistic output, accolades and awards,” says Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein. “Given the immensity of his talent, his productivity, and his every increasing stature in the classical music world, I can think of no one more deserving of the President’s Frontier Award.”

2017 President’s Frontier Award Finalist:
• Xin Chen, an associate professor of biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

A member of the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dr. Bailey is focused on cellular structures and is responsible for breakthroughs in visualizing the atomic structure of a large multi-protein complex with a key role in bacterial immunity. It has set the stage for the development of new drugs to prevent antibiotic resistance and will foster progress in genome editing strategies that may someday lead to precision treatments for genetic disorders.

"As a researcher, Scott is incredibly gifted," says Pierre A. Coulombe, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Bloomberg School. "He's bold in the choices he makes, but steady and poised as he is pursuing a question. He also has been a very strong mentor to his students."

2016 President’s Frontier Award Finalists:
• Xin Chen, an associate professor of biology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
• Michael Hersch, a composer and pianist on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory
• Shanthini Sockanathan, a professor of neuroscience in the School of Medicine

An associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Dr. Gerecht has identified ways to control the fate of stem cells, which are the most fundamental building blocks of tissues and organs. She has coaxed them to form complex blood vessels—for the first time growing vessels in a synthetic material—that can feed the generation of new organs like the heart. Gerecht has also studied how to stifle their growth to starve cancer cells and inhibit metastasis.

"Sharon embodies the best traditions of Johns Hopkins research: vision, collaboration, and tireless pursuit of discovery," President Ron Daniels says. "This award reflects our commitment to her work and the advances she is poised to make in the field of stem cell research."

2015 President’s Frontier Award Finalists:
• Scott Bailey, an associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health
• Samer Hattar, an associate professor in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
• Sean Sun, an associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering

Interested? Learn more about the nomination process.


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