June 23, 2014
Dear Krieger School Faculty and Staff,
I’m sorry that I have more sad news to share with you. Last Friday, June 20, our esteemed colleague Steven Yantis passed away after a two-year struggle with cancer. Steve was a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and also held appointments in the Department of Cognitive Science, the Zanvyl Krieger Mind-Brain Institute, and the Solomon Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the School of Medicine.
Steve was a brilliant scientist, a wonderful friend and colleague, and a beloved teacher and mentor. He will be missed by all of us at Johns Hopkins as well as the worldwide scientific community.
Steve was trained as a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan and came to Johns Hopkins in 1986 after doing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. His early research was focused on visual attention and perception, and he is well-known for his pioneering studies on the capture of visual attention by sudden onsets.
Around 2000, Steve began to focus more on the neural mechanisms of attention and perception and using functional magnetic resonance imaging to supplement behavioral methods. From this line of research, he is perhaps best known for his work on the neural mechanisms involved in switching attention from one task or one class of stimulus to another.
Steve published more than 100 scientific papers, many of which were marked by strikingly clever and elegant experimental designs. He also edited two books on perception and wrote a textbook, Sensation and Perception, which was published this year. Steve was recognized with the Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences, and the Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology by the American Psychology Association.
Professor Susan Courtney, chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, has told me how much Steve’s loss will felt by everyone who knew him. "Steve Yantis was the bedrock of the department," she noted, "at once gentle and strong. He was always the voice of reason in any debate, because he knew how to identify the most important elements, in a scientific data set, in a faculty candidate, or in life.”
Our condolences go out to Steve’s wife, Kathleen, their daughters Caitlyn and Alyson, stepson Ken, and son-in-law Jason.
Plans for a university memorial will be announced in the near future.
Johns Hopkins University
Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
3400 North Charles Street | Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Members of my laboratory conduct experiments to investigate human visual attention and cognitive control. We are interested how goals, expectations, and intentions can modulate sensory input (via acts of selective attention) and how they flexibly reconfigure perceptual, cognitive, and response mechanisms to carry out both simple and complex tasks. We measure behavior (using response time and accuracy) and brain activity (using fMRI in the F. M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging) to uncover the psychological and neural basis of attention and cognitive control. We are part of the JHU Vision Sciences Group.
We have recently been investigating cognitive control during task switching using multivoxel pattern classification. By analyzing multvariate patterns of activity as they change over time, we can track changes not just in the magnitude of the BOLD signal, but in dynamically unfolding patterns of brain activity. We've also been exploring how reward-related stimuli can drive attention involuntarily. See our recent publications for more details.
Graduate students and postdocs in my lab receive training in a variety of methods, including the use of a computer-based experimental psychology laboratory, and the design, implementation, and analysis of fMRI studies of the human visual system. Together with the other core faculty actively using fMRI in their research, I offer frequent courses, seminars, and journal clubs that provide a lively research environment for learning about theory and methods in cognitive neuroscience. Students in my laboratory also benefit from advanced coursework and interdisciplinary research experience in collaborating laboratories in the departments of Cognitive Science and Neuroscience, in the Center for Imaging Science, and in the Zanvyl Kreiger Mind-Brain Institute at JHU.
Back row: Kitty Xu, Brian Anderson, Dori Anastasia Blank, Steve Yantis, Anthony Sali
Front Row: Michelle Hall, Taylor Chamberlain, Michelle Chiu, Natalie Chan