Penn is home to some of the greatest scholars in academia, many of whom publish research on a wide range of topics. Some professors have also earned reputations that extend beyond their academic work.
Here are some of the most well-known professors, both on and off campus.
Adam Grant is the youngest Wharton professor to receive tenure, and his research focuses on success and motivation in the workplace. He has ranked as Wharton’s top-rated professor for five years, one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers, and was one of Fortune’s 40 under 40 in 2016. Grant has written three New York Times bestselling books, including "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success," "Originals," and "Option B," which he co-authored with technology executive Sheryl Sandberg.
Grant is also a well-known critic of Penn’s “hypercompetitive” atmosphere. In 2016, he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times arguing against forced curves, which create a “toxic” classroom atmosphere and discourage collaboration among students. However, his class, “MGMT 238: Organizational Behavior,” which examines individuals, interpersonal, and group effectiveness at work, is notoriously difficult to get into, with over 250 applicants vying for 70 slots.
Grant earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has served as the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor since February of 2017. He also leads the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., which officially opened Feb. 8 of this year. The center's area of focus are diplomacy, national security, and foreign policy.
Biden is not expected to teach any formal courses, and the exact nature of his role at the school remains unclear. Biden’s numerous visits to campus, however, elicit great excitement from students, and his lectures are consistently sold out. Last year, Biden gave talks about grief, immigration, and research. He has been spotted around campus at Penn Law School and at Huntsman Hall.
Biden represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years before becoming the 47th vice president in 2008. His son Beau, who died in 2015 from brain cancer, is a 1991 College graduate. The elder Biden received an undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and attended law school at Syracuse University.
Angela Duckworth has been a Psychology professor at Penn since 2007. Her work focuses on non-cognitive predictors of achievement, most recently the impact of self-control on academic achievement. Duckworth, who received a MacArthur “genius grant" in 2013, is known for having coined the term “grit,” which describes character traits such as self-control and perseverance that enable success. Her 2016 book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” was a New York Times bestseller.
Duckworth has served as an advisor to the White House, the World Bank, the National Basketball Association, several NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs. She is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit that aims to help middle and high school teachers cultivate character in students. She is also the co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative.
Duckworth previously taught math and science at public schools in New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, and is the founder of a summer school for low-income children that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Duckworth received an undergraduate degree in neurobiology from Harvard and earned a master’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Oxford. She completed her Ph.D. in psychology at Penn.
Amy Wax, a tenured law professor at Penn, joined the department in 2001. She primarily teaches courses related to family, economics, and public law. Wax, who is known for her controversial op-eds, most recently came under fire from fellow law professors, Penn alums, and students for divisive comments on race and free speech. Wax was barred from teaching a mandatory first-year course after saying she’s never seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class.
Wax worked in the Office of the Solicitor General at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations and has argued 15 cases before the United States Supreme Court. Her most recent book is titled “Race, Wrongs and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century.”
Wax received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and attended both Harvard Medical School and Columbia Law School.
Carl June has been a tenured professor at the Perelman School of Medicine since 1999 and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018. His research focuses on treating cancer and HIV.
June is known for developing a groundbreaking cancer treatment using T-cells to treat childhood lymphoma. The technique was approved by the FDA in August 2017 and is the first of its kind in the U.S. It uses genetically altered immune cells from the patient to fight cancer.
June serves as the Richard W. Vague Professor of Immunotherapy and is the director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapy and the Park Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Penn.
He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and, after serving as a naval officer, attended Baylor College of Medicine.
Are you a new student? Check out some of our other stories designed just for you, froma list of the biggest controversies on campus last semester, to a guide on Penn traditions you should know before the first day of school.
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