Sharon Gerecht, associate professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, thought she was scheduled to meet an influential alumnus one afternoon last January. So when Engineering Dean Ed Schlesinger, accompanied by the university president, provost, and other division leaders, entered the nondescript classroom, she was slightly befuddled.
But Gerecht’s surprise quickly turned to delight when she was told that she was the winner of the inaugural Johns Hopkins President’s Frontier Award, a $250,000 prize that would support her work on tissue repair and regeneration. A slightly stunned Gerecht said, in front of rolling cameras, “I am very happy, and I am humbled … Now we have the opportunity to move in new directions, which is great.”
Made possible by a donation from trustee Louis J. Forster, MS ’83 (A&S), and Kathleen M. Pike ’82, MS ’83 (A&S), the Frontier Award will recognize one person annually with five years of financial support for research expenses. The inaugural year brought forward a highly competitive pool of 77 nominees demonstrating excellence in a wide array of academic pursuits across all divisions.
Gerecht has identified ways to control the fate of stem cells, which are the fundamental building blocks of tissues and organs. Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said at the impromptu event: “Sharon embodies the best traditions of Johns Hopkins research: vision, collaboration, and tireless pursuit of discovery.”
Only months before, Gerecht had been named the first Kent Gordon Croft Investment Management Faculty Scholar, a three-year award that provides funds for research, teaching, and entrepreneurial activities.