Rebecca Schulman named 2023 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellow

headshot of Rebecca Schulman

Rebecca Schulman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been named one of 10 2023 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellows by the U.S. Department of Defense. The five-year, $3 million individual award aims to facilitate the progression of fundamental research, encourage collaboration between researchers and national defense experts, and enable investigators to pursue breakthrough discoveries in their fields.

Schulman, who holds secondary appointments in chemistry and computer science, is a HEMI fellow exploring the interfaces of materials science, biochemistry, circuit design, soft matter physics, and cell-free synthetic biology. Her project, “Self-organizing Biomaterials Using Biomolecular Networks,” will investigate how engineers can build complex machines and materials by applying similar principles to those used in biological development.

“Genes build living things by hierarchically organizing molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, and organs,” said Schulman. “Our project will investigate whether engineers might adopt similar ideas.”

Schulman is looking forward to her fellowship term and expressed gratitude for the people who have assisted her in her efforts so far. Preliminary data and concepts for this fellowship were obtained through an AI for materials seed project funded through the Center for Materials in Extreme Dynamic Environments.

“I am excited about the opportunity to deeply explore new ideas and take risks,” said Schulman.

HEMI fellow Paulette Clancy to be appointed Edward J. Schaefer Professor in Engineering

Paulette Clancy will be appointed the Edward J. Schaefer Professor in Engineering as of July 1.

Clancy, who serves as department head and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a HEMI fellow specializing in computational materials processing. Her research group studies advanced organic materials, algorithm development, machine learning, and renewable energy materials. Clancy is also the director of research (discovery and inquiry) for Johns Hopkins AI-X Foundry and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Integrated Structure-Mechanical Modeling and Simulation (CISMMS).

The Edward J. Schaefer Professorship in Engineering was endowed by Edward J. Schaefer ’23 and his wife, Hildegarde Schaefer. He was instrumental in opening a discrete school of engineering at the university.

Sung Hoon Kang receives Hanwha Non-Tenured Faculty Award

Sung Hoon Kang, HEMI Fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been selected as a recipient of a Hanwha Non-Tenured Faculty Award.

The awards, given by Hanwha Solutions and Hanwha Total Energy, are designed to construct overseas R&D network and to expand a range of research and development, promotes the sharing and cooperative research and development of technology through mutual exchange from the early stages of research.

Kang received an award from the advanced materials division of Hanwha Solutions for his research in additive manufacturing technology using various new materials. He received his award on June 8th via an online ceremony.

HEMI Fellow Muyinatu “Bisi” Bell Receives 2022 Catalyst Award

Muyinatu “Bisi” Bell, HEMI Fellow and John C. Malone Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering, has been selected as one of 38 early-career faculty members to receive a 2022 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award.

The Catalyst Award program offers winners the means and opportunities to pursue a wide range of projects, from disease treatments to environmental studies. Recipients of Catalyst Awards are selected based on their accomplishments to date, creativity and originality, and academic impact. Each awardee will receive a $75,000 grant to support their work over the next year, as well as the opportunity to participate in mentoring sessions and other events. Click here to view the other 2022 awardees.

The program is open to any full-time faculty member appointed to a tenure-track position at least three and no more than 10 years ago. Recipients are celebrated each fall. This is the seventh year of the program, which has now recognized a total of 244 high-potential faculty from all divisions of the institution.

HEMI Fellow Sarah Hörst receives 2022 President’s Frontier Award

In a surprise virtual presentation, JHU President Ron Daniels presented the award to Alexis Battle, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Sarah Hörst, HEMI Fellow and an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Both researchers will receive $250,000 to pursue new lines of research, expand their laboratories, or support their lab members.

“Let me take this moment to say how dazzled we were, Alexis and Sarah, by the ambitions and scope of your research and how highly your colleagues, mentors, and students regard each of you,” said Daniels in the virtual presentation. “Having a way to honor those qualities in our faculty was a reason why we created this amazing award eight years ago. … You both join a cadre of truly remarkable people from across all our divisions whose work truly stands apart.”

The President’s Frontier Award was originally launched with a commitment of $2.5 million from trustee Louis J. Forster, A&S ’82, SAIS ’83, and is now paired with a $1 million donation from alumnus David Smilow, A&S ’84. Winners have spanned the university’s divisions and included molecular biologist Andrew Holland (2021), mathematician Emily Riehl (2020), astrophysicist Brice Ménard (2019), nephrologist and epidemiologist Deidra Crews (2018), composer Michael Hersch (2017), molecular biologist Scott Bailey (2016), and stem cell research Sharon Gerecht (2015).

The award typically recognizes one winner and one finalist each year, but Battle and Hörst were both selected this year based on the strength of their applications and the demonstrated impact and continued potential of their work.

“The two of you embody in some sense the incredible breadth of research that goes on at JHU,” said Ed Schlesinger, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. “From the very smallest genetic materials that define what life is all about to the planets, space, the cosmos, and the search for life beyond our own world—there is something particularly poetic about the juxtaposition of both of [your work].”

Hörst, a planetary scientist, studies the composition and characteristics of aerosols in the atmospheres of early Earth and other planets. Using laboratory experiments, modeling, and remote sensing and in situ measurements of atmospheric chemistry, Hörst and her lab work to understand how small molecules transition to become aerosols and the resulting physical and chemical properties of those particles.

Sarah Hörst

Image caption:Sarah Hörst

The work has implications for assessing the habitability of other planets and for the search for life beyond our solar system. Under the right conditions, adding energy to simple mixtures of common gases can produce much more complex molecules like amino acids, which form the building blocks of living organisms.

Essential to her work is her groundbreaking approach to laboratory science. Using a custom-built Planetary Haze Research lab—a one-of-its-kind experimental lab—Hörst and her group simulate the chemical reactions that contribute to the formation of aerosols in planetary atmospheres. With this approach, she can experiment with a vast range of temperatures (90-800 degrees Kelvin, or -297-980 degrees Fahrenheit) and can use different energy sources to initiate chemical reactions across a variety of atmospheric gases and conditions. Her lab is the first in the world to be dedicated to studying photochemical haze production in exoplanet environments, and she has published research on Saturn, Saturn’s moon Titan, and early Earth.

Hörst’s work is directly relevant to important space missions, including two upcoming NASA missions: Dragonfly, which will investigate prebiotic organic chemistry and habitability on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan; and DAVINCI+, which will probe the chemical composition of the atmosphere of Venus.

“Particularly impressive is her ingenuity and creativity in developing and leading a new scientific field essentially from scratch: extrasolar planet atmosphere laboratory studies,” wrote Sabine Stanley, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, in a letter nominating Hörst for the award. “Her work has already had major impact on the global effort to observe and characterize exoplanet atmospheres.”

She received the 2020 LAD Early Career Award from the American Astronomical Society’s Laboratory Astrophysics Division and the prestigious 2020 James B. Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union, widely considered the highest honor for early career scientists in the field of geological and planetary sciences. She received a Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award in 2017 and was a co-investigator on a Discovery Award led by Maya Gomes in 2020.

Hörst received two bachelor of science degrees—one in planetary science and one in literature—from the California Institute of Technology. She received her PhD in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, Tucson. She joined Johns Hopkins in 2014 and currently mentors three graduate students, two postdoctoral research fellows, and an associate research scientist.

Chris Celenza, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, gave Hörst particular praise for her emphasis on mentorship and collegiality.

“I often think that we are at our best in the arts and sciences when we’re reciprocally reinforcing conversations among faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates,” Celenza said during the award presentation. “I know in your lab, you’ve cultivated that very type of engagement, so I want to thank you, deeply, for all you have done for this wonderful Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and for Johns Hopkins and for the Krieger School.”

Hörst’s dedication to her lab members was evident from the moment they “Zoom bombed” the meeting, joining in on the coordinated surprise. “When I saw the names popping up on the screen, all I could think was how much more great science the people who are already working with me are going to get to do,” Hörst said through tears. “And that means the absolute world to me.”

This article is excerpted from The Hub. The original piece was published on January 26, 2022.

HEMI Mourns the Passing of Mark Robbins

Mark O. Robbins, HEMI Fellow and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, died unexpectedly on Thursday, August 13, 2020.

Robbins was a member of the HEMI’s Executive Committee and a significant contributor to the research in the MEDE program. He was one of the world’s leading authorities on the mechanisms of friction, granular flow, the mechanics of earthquakes, polymer rheology and molecular dynamics. Within MEDE, he played a dominant role in the modeling aspects of the Polymers CMRG, and more recently in the modeling of granular flow within the Ceramics CMRG. His legacy in the physics of disordered matter is very substantial, and his legacy in terms of the people that he mentored is stronger still.

He also is known for his research regarding the atomic origin of macroscopic phenomena such as earthquakes and avalanches and his help in leading the establishment of major computer facilities at Johns Hopkins University.

Read a full remembrance of Prof. Robbins.

Two HEMI Fellows Receive 2020 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Awards

Congratulations to HEMI Fellows Sung Hoon Kang and Emmy Smith who have been selected as two of 36 early-career faculty members to receive a 2020 Johns Hopkins Catalyst Award. Professors Kang and Smith are assistant professors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, respectively.

The Catalyst Award program offers winners the means and opportunities to pursue a wide range of projects, from disease treatments to environmental studies. Recipients of Catalyst Awards are selected based on their accomplishments to date, creativity and originality, and academic impact. Each awardee will receive a $75,000 grant to support their work over the next year, as well as the opportunity to participate in mentoring sessions and other events. Click here to view the other 2020 awardees.

The program is open to any full-time faculty member appointed to a tenure-track position at least three and no more than 10 years ago. Recipients are celebrated each fall.

Congratulations again to our HEMI awardees!

Soojung Claire Hur selected to attend Frontiers of Engineering Symposium

Soojung Claire Hur, the Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been invited by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to attend the 2020 Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium (JAFOE). The event will be held June 22-24 in Irvine, California.

Organized by the NAE and the Engineering Academy of Japan, the symposium will bring together 60 outstanding early-career Japanese and American engineers to discuss research and technical work in various engineering disciplines. The participants – from industry, academia, and government – were nominated by fellow engineers or organizations.

This year’s iteration will cover cutting-edge developments in four areas: Blockchain, Mitigating Sea Level Rise, Machine Learning and AI for Mental Health, and Soft Robotics. Each participant will be asked to present a poster describing their work.

Hur looks forward to an unparalleled opportunity to meet emerging engineering leaders and potential collaborators.

“Meeting new people often inspires a brilliant new idea for a researcher. This symposium is a great venue for creative brainstorming and building a strong professional network, two things I really enjoy,” said Hur. “The excitement I feel when casual conversations with fellow researchers lead to synergic collaborations for a new, unexpected, fruitful research project is what keeps me pursuing an academic career.”

Hur develops microfluidic platforms to understand complex fluid dynamics principles and to translate acquired knowledge into practical application. In particular, she is interested in studying single-cell mechanics and understanding the veiled correlations between cellular functions and their physical phenotypes. Using this research, Hur has developed instruments to facilitate simple and cost-effective biological assays, with applications in oncology, immunology, gene therapy, and regenerative medicine.

Most recently, Hur received a Career Catalyst Research Grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to develop a device that can collect and genetically modify tumor cells from the blood samples of metastatic breast cancer patients. These purified and modified cells will enable scientists to monitor the patient’s cancer progression in a lab, and to develop and test personalized treatment plans.

“My goal is set to build systems that enable inexpensive, early disease diagnostics and provide accurate information for basic and clinical researchers to test their hypotheses. I grapple with highly interdisciplinary questions. I will significantly benefit from interactions with professionals attending the Frontiers workshop, who may have different perspectives, to discover innovative approaches that might not be possible alone,” adds Hur.

Hur received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a fellow of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, an associate researcher at the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She joined the Hopkins faculty in 2015.

This article was originally posted on the JHU Department of Mechanical Engineering website >>

HEMI Fellow Sarah Hörst Awarded 2020 Early Career Award from American Astronomical Society

Congratulations to Sarah Hörst, HEMI Fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, who has been awarded the 2020 Early Career Award from the Laboratory Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

According to the award citation, Hörst is being recognized for laboratory research advancing our understanding of photochemical haze formation in planetary atmospheres within our solar system and beyond.

Within the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Prof. Hörst has established a unique laboratory to study the photochemical production of hazes in extreme environments, primarily focusing on the atmospheres of super-Earth and mini-Neptune exoplanets. Within HEMI, she has served as mentor to Amy Wetsch, a 2018 HEMI/MICA Extreme Arts Summer Intern.

Click here to view the full article on from from the Laboratory Astrophysics Division announcing Hörst’s award.