INBT Director, Sharon Gerecht, Forges New Path At Duke

Dear colleagues, peers, and friends,

As most of you already know my time at Johns Hopkins will soon draw to a close as I have accepted a faculty position at Duke University in North Carolina. I never thought I’d leave Hopkins, my colleagues, and friends, but when the opportunity at Duke presented itself, it was one I could not let pass. The choice is bittersweet as I’ve accomplished much at this great institution and cultivated many wonderful relationships.

When I sat down to write this letter to you I had no idea where to start. How does one begin to summarize almost 15 years of professional work and gratitude in a few short paragraphs? What I hope comes through is that you understand how appreciative and grateful I am to those who have helped and supported me in big and small ways. I hope I have done the same for you.

In 2007, I arrived at Hopkins after completing my postdoctoral fellowship at MIT and became an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department with an eye to grow my expertise in stem cell research, especially how it relates to tissue repair and regeneration. Upon my arrival I was immediately recruited by Denis Wirtz to become a member of the INBT. The years passed and I went on to become full professor in 2016 and by 2017 I was the new director for the INBT.

Academia has no shortage of duties and responsibilities, and I’ve had a full 15 years of them. I’ve designed and taught classes, presented research at seminars and conferences, spent hours applying for grants, been a member and chaired committees, been honored and recognized with awards, published papers, and so much more. But my most prized responsibility and accomplishment is training, and hopefully inspiring, future STEM generations.

In my lab, I have had over 100 trainees, from high school students to postdoctoral fellows, and in a way they have become my family because most days you spend more time with your lab team than you do your own family. Like any family, we’ve celebrated personal and professional accomplishments, mourned losses, and worked together to overcome challenges. My former trainees have gone on to complete many more professional achievements and I am glad to have played a part in helping them become the professionals they want to be.

Integral to training the future STEM generations, and an important component to my career, is ensuring underrepresented minorities have representation in STEM fields. I’ve strived to create opportunities and participate in activities that recruits diverse student populations, and to create an inclusive environment for all. Diversifying our lab and community in general not only helps excel research, but I strongly believe it enriches our experiences and strengthens our ability to face adversities.

Preparing for this change has not been easy. As I packed items from my home, office, and laboratory I was reminded of the fond memories I have made at Hopkins, and I thank everyone who has been a part of my journey. I look forward to forging a new chapter and I take the friendships I have made at Hopkins and Baltimore with me.

Sharon Gerecht