His departure to Duke created a tumult at Hopkins, where colleagues wondered why the university had been unable to keep him. And his return to run the malaria institute was greeted with relief.
Minor said Nobel laureates go in many different directions after winning the big prize. Some simply continue with their research, while others, such as Agre, become broader advocates for science. Still others decide that they've done all they can in one area of research and move to another.
"It's a choice they've earned," the Hopkins provost said.
As a young laureate of 41, Riess could probably take any of those paths. But he placed himself firmly in the "stay the course" group.
He won the Nobel for his 1998 discovery that the universe is accelerating. He hypothesized that a mysterious dark energy is the cause, but 13 years later, that remains a best guess rather than a certainty. Riess is working on new techniques to improve the Hubble Space Telescope's measurements of the universe's expansion. He hopes such measures might give him a better handle on the nature of dark energy.
He sounded more excited about that continuing quest than anything else Tuesday.
"I think Adam is still as enthusiastic about the science he does and the future of the science he's doing as he was when he was an undergraduate," Minor said. "So I think this is recognition for the beginning of an outstanding career. This discovery is not the last thing we're going to be hearing from Adam."
Riess said the Nobel can't hurt future attempts to attract funding and top researchers for his team. Neither can the $1.49 million cash prize, which he'll split with two other winners. In the wake of winning the $500,000 MacArthur award, he learned how nice it was to have extra money in his pocket. When he needed a new $25,000 filter for a mountaintop telescope, he said in a 2010 interview, he simply bought it instead of going through the trouble of seeking a grant.
But in a nod to his pure scientist soul, Riess said he wants the quality of his research, not a prize, to define his path forward.
"I've always been impressed that in science, the process of allocating resources is based on merit of ideas," he said. "I hope it will always be that way. We don't count the number of awards somebody has won when we decide who's going to get time on the telescope."