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First Bloomberg Professorships Named

Two Nobel laureates and a prominent sociologist are first in group of scholars created to foster collaboration
Posted February 18, 2014
Carol Greider (left), Peter Agre, and Kathryn Edin Carol Greider (left), Peter Agre, and Kathryn Edin

Johns Hopkins University has named two of its Nobel Prize- winning biologists and a prominent Harvard University sociologist as Bloomberg Distinguished Professors, the first members of a new group of scholars created to foster collaboration across the institution’s many divisions and help address major world problems.

Peter Agre, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and a co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Kathryn Edin, a noted sociologist who studies families in poverty; and Carol Greider, a professor of molecular biology and genetics and a co-winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, constitute the initial group of what will eventually be 50 Bloomberg Distinguished Professors.

Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and Robert C. Lieberman, university provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, announced the appointments. “We congratulate professors Agre, Edin and Greider on their selection,” Daniels and Lieberman said in a joint statement. “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.”

The professorships are made possible by a $350 million gift from Johns Hopkins alumnus and former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.  The gift, which was announced last year, will contribute to the success of the $4.5 billion Rising to the Challenge campaign.  Most of Bloomberg’s gift, $250 million, is dedicated to the 50 new professorships, part of a larger effort to raise $1 billion to facilitate cross-disciplinary work across the university galvanizing people, resources, research and educational opportunities around a group of complex global challenges. Among those challenges are issues related to water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning and urban revitalization. 

Daniels and Lieberman thanked Bloomberg for funding the endowed professorships. “Of course, we again express deep gratitude to Michael Bloomberg for the extraordinary generosity that has made these appointments possible,” they said.

The first three appointments to the prestigious endowed chairs are:

Peter Agre, a professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is a champion of multidisciplinary science. He shared in the Nobel Prize for a discovery he made while a faculty member of the School of Medicine. He 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.  Agre 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. As a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, he will play a key role in the Global Health Initiative, and have appointments in the departments of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Medicine, and Biological Chemistry, spanning the schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Edin 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. She has been professor of public policy and management at the Kennedy School of Government since 2007, and chair of Harvard’s Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. Last month, she was named a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  At Johns Hopkins, she will have appointments in the departments of Sociology and of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. She will also 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, the 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. She was honored for 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. Her discovery also provided key insights into cancer, other diseases and the process of cellular aging. Greider will participate in the Individualized Health Initiative with appointments in the departments of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the School of Medicine and Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences.