Dr. Steven Yantis (In Memoriam)

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Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences


On June 20, 2014, 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.”

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