Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:18:00 -0400 Football: Blue Jays' Colin Egan named preseason first-team All-American <p>Johns Hopkins senior offensive lineman Colin Egan is one of 25 players <a href="">named to the preseason All-America first team</a>, his third such honor this preseason. Egan also was named a first-team preseason All-American by <em>Lindy's</em> college football preview magazine and the <em>Sporting News</em>.</p> <p>Egan, who is listed at 6 feet, 4 inches and weighs 300 pounds, earned first-team All-America honors last season, one of just three non-seniors to earn that distinction on offense last season. He is one of 21 seniors on the roster for the upcoming season.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">2015 preseason All-Americans</a></p> <p>Johns Hopkins posted an 11-1 record, won its sixth consecutive Centennial Conference title, and advanced to the second round of the Division III NCAA playoffs last season. The 11 wins were a single-season school record, and the Blue Jays ended the season ranked 10th in both the AFCA and polls.</p> <p>The Blue Jays are ranked No. 13 nationally by heading into the 2015 season. JHU opens the season on Sept. 5 against Randolph-Macon in Ashland, Virginia. <a href="">Full schedule</a></p> Mon, 03 Aug 2015 08:30:00 -0400 Howard W. Jones Jr., pioneer in reproductive medicine, dies <p>Howard W. Jones Jr., a pioneer in reproductive medicine who oversaw the 1965 Johns Hopkins research that resulted in the world's first successful fertilization of a human egg outside the body, then collaborated with his wife—gynecologic endocrinologist Georgeanna Seegar Jones—to oversee the 1981 birth of the first "test tube" baby in the United States, died Friday at Sentara Heart Hospital in Virginia. He was 104.</p> <p>Jones had published his most recent book, <em>In Vitro Fertilization Comes to America: Memoir of a Medical Breakthrough</em>, just last year.</p> <p>In recent years, Jones also became known for having been the first physician at Johns Hopkins to examine Henrietta Lacks, the 1951 African-American patient with cervical cancer whose tumor cells—classified by researchers as HeLa, using the initial letters of her first and last names—were the first human cell line to reproduce continuously in the laboratory, becoming the basis for studies that have led to some of the most crucial medical advances of the past 65 years.</p> <p>"Johns Hopkins has lost one of our true giants—as has the entire world of medicine and gynecology in particular," says Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.</p> <p>"Dr. Jones was one of the most remarkable individuals I've ever known—with a razor-sharp mind, memory, and perspective that would be the envy of anyone half, or a quarter, of his age," Rothman adds. "His great wit, insight, and humility were well on display when he was here less than a year ago for the dedication of the Howard W. Jones Jr., M.D., and Georgeanna Seegar Jones, M.D., Professorship in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, at which I was honored to preside. He was a great humanitarian as well as a groundbreaking physician, and we will miss his wise counsel."</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">Howard W. Jones Jr., a pioneer of reproductive medicine, dies at 104</a> (<em>The New York Times</em>)</p> <p>Added Andrew J. Satin, director of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Howard Jones was an extraordinary man who, even in his final days, was a key contributor both academically and philanthropically to innovation and discovery in the field of reproductive health. I am honored to have had the incredible opportunity to have met with and corresponded with this legend in our field."</p> <p>As accomplished as Jones was in the operating room and laboratory, he was also revered as a teacher and mentor who influenced generations of Johns Hopkins medical students. One such physician, Robert D. Chessin, a 1973 graduate of the School of Medicine, recalls going on rounds with Jones and the impact that has had on him ever since.</p> <p>"The care and respect he displayed with all patients, from the richest people in town to the poorest East Baltimorean, is something I will never forget," says Chessin, a longtime pediatrician in Fairfield, Connecticut.</p> <p>"He used to ask their permission before he would go ahead and examine them. It always has reminded me never to take examining a patient for granted, that the patient is allowing you to lay hands on them, that it really is a privilege to do so."</p> <p>Jones was born on Dec. 30, 1910, in Baltimore, the son of a physician. After graduating from Amherst College in 1931, he entered the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Following his graduation from Johns Hopkins, Jones completed his internship and residency in general surgery while working for both Howard Kelly and Kelly's successor as head of Johns Hopkins gynecology, Thomas S. Cullen.</p> <p>During World War II, he joined the Army and served as a general battlefield surgeon with General George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army as it fought its way across France and Germany.</p> <p>Returning to Johns Hopkins following the war, Jones spent six months as a resident in gynecology. He and his wife joined the Johns Hopkins part-time faculty in 1948, maintaining private practices while working at the hospital, and became full-time faculty in 1960.</p> <p>Jones' work with in vitro fertilization began in 1965, when he helped arrange for British scientist Robert Edwards to come to Johns Hopkins as a fellow to conduct experiments aimed at achieving the first fertilization of a human egg outside of the body, in vitro—or in a medium in a petri dish—something he already had accomplished with mice. Working together and with others, Jones and Edwards succeeded but didn't realize it at the time. Because the criteria for in vitro fertilization of an egg then were different from what later was established, they only reported on their efforts at "attempted" in vitro fertilization (IVF). Years later, examining their study in the wake of subsequent developments, they recognized that they actually had done it.</p> <p>Due to Johns Hopkins' policy in 1978 of requiring faculty to retire at 65, the Joneses left Baltimore that year and moved to Norfolk at the invitation of Mason Andrews, head of gynecology at the then new Eastern Virginia Medical School. The Joneses arrived in Norfolk on the same day that the first "test tube" baby in Britain was born, and soon established the Jones Institute of Reproductive Medicine. Their efforts succeeded three years later in the birth of the first "test tube" baby in the United States.</p> <p>Jones also was a pioneer in performing operations on intersexual patients, such as genetic females born with male genitalia. He and other Johns Hopkins specialists eventually co-authored a major text on such cases, <em>Hermaphroditism and Allied Disorders</em>. He also performed some of the first sex change operations for transsexuals.</p> <p>Jones retired from his medical practice in 2000 to care for his wife, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She died in 2005 at the age of 92.</p> <p>Although he gave up seeing patients in recent years, Jones continued going to his office at the Jones Institute almost every day, writing papers and books in longhand. He credited his longevity to a wonderful marriage, excellent family life, and a determination to keep working. "The simple message for longevity: Do not retire from intellectual pursuits," he said shortly before his 104th birthday.</p> <p>"Howard Jones was a devotee of Johns Hopkins for more than 80 years, and he returned annually from 1984 to 2014 to attend and participate in the lectureship that honored him and his wife, Georgeanna," says Edward Wallach, University Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "He will forever be admired as a mentor and for having a profound influence on his trainees and younger colleagues, including me."</p> <p>Jones is survived by three children—Howard W. Jones III, a physician in Nashville, Tennessee; Georgeanna Jones Klingensmith, a financial advisor; and Lawrence Jones, also a physician, both of Denver, Colorado—seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.</p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:41:00 -0400 Small study affirms accuracy of free app that checks for signs of liver disease in newborns <p>A small study conducted by researchers from the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Children's Center</a> has <a href="">verified the ability of a free smartphone app to accurately read, interpret, and record the color of a newborn's poop</a> as a possible early symptom of biliary atresia—a rare disorder that accounts for nearly half of pediatric end-stage liver disease in the United States.</p> <p>For the vast majority of parents using the program, aptly named PoopMD, the results should provide reassurance that their newborn's stool color is normal, the investigators say. But for the one in 14,000 newborns with BA—about 400 babies each year in the United States—parents using the app can rely on it to help detect the symptomatic pale yellow to chalky grey stools that mean urgent medical assessment is needed. PoopMD is free and available for Apple and <a href="">Android</a> smartphone users.</p> <p>"Days matter in diagnosing BA," says Douglas Mogul, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and lead author of the study <a href="">published earlier this week in <em>PLOS One</em></a>.</p> <p>That's because babies with BA treated within the first two months of life have the best outcomes and are far less likely to need a liver transplant later. The first line of treatment involves surgery to repair bile ducts and restore bile flow to prevent irreversible liver damage. Sadly, the 60-day window is all too often missed, with the average time to diagnosis in the United States standing at 70 days.</p> <p>"PoopMD does what it says it will do," says Mogul, who worked with HCB Health to create the app, first released in 2014. Among more than 100,000 medical health apps currently available, he says, only a few have been rigorously tested to see if they deliver the benefits they promise.</p> <p>For the study of the app, which builds on an earlier "color card" that is distributed to new parents, the team first gathered the medical opinions of seven expert pediatricians who looked at 34 photographs of pale-colored stool. Twenty-seven of the pictures were determined to be of normal stool, and seven were deemed acholic, or bile deficient, signaling high risk for BA.</p> <p>Next, one expert and three laypeople were asked to use the app on Apple and Android devices to look at and analyze the same pictures under a variety of lighting conditions and using a variety of smartphone models.</p> <p>"These individuals were essentially asked to take a picture of the stool photograph and determine if the app identifies the photo as normal or pale," Mogul says, "but in normal use, a parent just takes pictures of the contents of a diaper."</p> <p>Even with the picture of the picture, the researchers say, the app correctly identified all of the acholic stool samples and correctly identified 24 of the 27 normal stools, while three normal stools were mislabeled "indeterminate."</p> <p>"That means the app never identified a normal stool as pale, a type of false positive that could cause unnecessary anxiety for a parent or other app user," Mogul says.</p> <p>Once downloaded on a smartphone, parents or caregivers use the app by taking a picture of the baby's stool and identifying the part of the picture that has a stool color of concern. The app then immediately identifies whether the stool color matches those associated with gastrointestinal illnesses or problems with the liver, including BA.</p> <p>The app can store results for future and comparative reference, and parents can email a photo to a pediatrician directly from the app. The app also reminds parents to check their newborn's stool color every two weeks.</p> <p>Beyond the health and lifesaving benefits of early diagnosis and treatment of BA, Mogul says, the potential cost savings from diagnosing BA early enough are enormous, Mogul says. Mogul, who also conducted a cost-effectiveness study of the stool color cards, says widespread use of PoopMD is likely to improve medical outcomes and lower costs.</p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:00:00 -0400 Using drones to transport blood samples could speed diagnosis, treatment <p>The results of common and routine blood tests are not affected by up to 40 minutes of travel on hobby-sized drones, a <a href="">recent proof-of-concept study at Johns Hopkins demonstrated</a>, promising news for the millions of people cared for in rural and economically impoverished areas that lack passable roads.</p> <p>In developing nations, most tests on blood samples and other fluids are performed by dedicated laboratories that are often miles from remote clinics. By transporting samples via drones, researchers say, health care workers can gain quick access to lab tests needed for diagnoses and treatments.</p> <p>"Biological samples can be very sensitive and fragile," says <a href="">Timothy Kien Amukele</a>, a pathologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of a laboratory collaboration between Johns Hopkins and Uganda's <a href="">Makerere University</a>. That sensitivity makes even the pneumatic-tube systems used by many hospitals, for example, unsuitable for transporting blood for certain purposes.</p> <p>Of particular concern with the use of drones, Amukele notes, is the sudden acceleration when the craft launches and the jostling when it lands on its belly.</p> <p>"Such movements could have destroyed blood cells or prompted blood to coagulate, and I thought all kinds of blood tests might be affected, but our study shows they weren't, so that was cool," he says of the project, which was supported by a <a href="">Johns Hopkins Discovery Award</a>.</p> <p>A <a href="">report on Amukele's team's study was published today in <em>PLOS One</em></a>.</p> <p>For the study, which Amukele believes is the first rigorous examination of the impact of drone transport on biological samples, his team collected a total of six blood samples from each of 56 healthy adult volunteers at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The samples were then driven to a flight site an hour away from the hospital on days when the temperature was in the 70s. There, half of the samples were packaged for flight, with a view to protecting them for the in-flight environment and preventing leakage.</p> <p>Those samples were then loaded into a hand-launched fixed-wing drone and flown around for periods of six to 38 minutes. Owing to Federal Aviation Administration rules, the flights were conducted in an unpopulated area, stayed below 100 meters (328 feet), and were in the line of sight of the certified pilot.</p> <p>The other half of the samples were driven back from the drone flight field to The Johns Hopkins Hospital Core Laboratory, where they underwent the 33 most common laboratory tests that together account for around 80 percent of all such tests done. A few of the tests performed were for sodium, glucose, and red blood cell count.</p> <p>Comparing lab results of the flown vs. non-flown blood of each volunteer, Amukele says "the flight really had no impact."</p> <p>Amukele and his team noted that one blood test—for total carbon dioxide (the so-called bicarbonate test)—did yield differing results for some of the flown vs. non-flown samples. Amukele says the team isn't sure why, but that the reason could be because the blood sat around for up to eight hours before being tested. There were no consistent differences between flown vs. non-flown blood, Amukele says, and it's unknown whether the out-of-range results were due to the time lag or because of the drone transport.</p> <p>"The ideal way to test that would be to fly the blood around immediately after drawing it, but neither the FAA nor Johns Hopkins would like drones flying around the hospital," he said.</p> <p>Given the successful proof-of-concept study results, Amukele says the likely next step is a pilot study in a location in Africa where health care clinics are sometimes 60 or more miles away from labs.</p> <p>"A drone could go 100 kilometers in 40 minutes," says Amukele. "They're less expensive than motorcycles, are not subject to traffic delays, and the technology already exists for the drone to be programmed to 'home' to certain GPS coordinates, like a carrier pigeon."</p> <iframe src="" width="680" height="382" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 09:40:00 -0400 Fresh idea: Use surplus food from wholesalers to help address Baltimore's 'food deserts' <p>When he lived in Boston a few years ago, Corbin Cunningham made a habit of frequenting Haymarket, the historic open-air market where he could consistently find cheap, ripe produce—like a huge box of tomatoes for $5.</p> <p>Vendors at the popular weekend market are able to sell surplus fruits and vegetables directly from the region's wholesale distributor, offering prices up to 90 percent lower than normal retail.</p> <p>When Cunningham and his wife, Marie Spiker, moved to Baltimore to pursue doctorates at Johns Hopkins University, "we were wishing we had something like that here," he says. The couple simultaneously recognized Baltimore's need to increase fresh produce offerings in a large number of neighborhoods that are considered "food deserts."</p> <p>Spiker and Cunningham found the opportunity to pursue their ideas through the <a href="">Abell Foundation's Award in Urban Policy</a>, which allows Baltimore-area college and grad students to compete with innovative policy solutions for the city. The Abell Foundation recently announced Spiker and Cunningham as this year's winners for their <a href="">proposal for a vendors market in Baltimore</a> selling discounted produce that would otherwise go to waste.</p> <p>In developing their concept, Cunningham and Spiker looked at excess produce from the <a href="">Maryland Food Center Authority</a>, a centralized wholesale food distributor in Jessup that supplies fruits and vegetables to states throughout the Mid-Atlantic.</p> <p>During the course of their research, Spiker and Cunningham found that more than 5,000 tons of the center's food waste will end up in landfills this year, and that some portion of that is edible food. Though the figure is impossible to calculate precisely, they have determined that somewhere between 110,000 and 1.3 million pounds could be fit for consumption. Instead of going to landfills, why shouldn't that food be offered to Baltimore residents, their policy paper reasons.</p> <p>"We thought, this makes so much sense," Spiker says. "No one wants to throw anything away. It's a unique opportunity to not only reduce waste but also generate job opportunities."</p> <p>While a regular farmers market caters in seasonal, locally sourced foods, a vendors market would focus on the produce shipped to the Maryland Food Center Authority from farms across the country. Some of that food—both Grade No. 1 quality produce and lesser grades—goes unsold to retailers and restaurants. The point of the vendors market would be to sell off the surplus that's still fresh and edible—usually it's already ripe, or just about to be.​</p> <p>"The produce has to be high enough quality that people want it, and the prices are cheap," Spiker says.</p> <p>Though the researchers present Haymarket as a model to follow, they acknowledge that its 185-year-old tradition can't simply be transplanted to Baltimore, a city with different needs and demographics than Boston. "You'd have to maintain the spirit of it," while making adjustments, Spiker says.</p> <p>The couple envisions a local nonprofit or agency taking over the concept. Their paper identifies five potential partners, with two standing out as the best fit: the <a href="">Baltimore Food Hub</a>, an entrepreneurial food production campus planned for East Baltimore; or the <a href="">Baltimore Public Markets Corporation</a>, which oversees five public markets in the city and also partners with the Lexington Market.</p> <p>With their paper now published, "it's out in the world for someone to run with it," says Spiker. As full-time PhD students—Spiker's studying nutrition at JHU's <a href="">Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>, Cunningham's studying visual attention and perception in the <a href="">Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences</a> at JHU's <a href="">Krieger School of Arts and Sciences</a>—they won't be taking a direct advocacy role with their concept, but can serve as consultants for those who do. Their paper also includes a number of policy suggestions for Baltimore City to facilitate the market, such as reducing regulatory ​hurdles and composting any remaining food waste.</p> <p>"We've had a number of people contact us and say, 'We're interested in this idea,'" Cunningham says. "For us … we can talk about it, we know a lot about it. We're interested in pursuing it."</p> <p><a href="">The Abell Foundation</a>, which helped the researchers refine their final paper, describes their winning proposal as "a creative and compelling solution to [the] twin challenges" of food waste and food access in Baltimore. The award comes with a $5,000 prize.</p> <p>The local foundation is currently <a href="">accepting submissions for the 2016 Urban Policy Award</a> through Oct. 16.</p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 09:32:00 -0400 James Jude, doctor who helped pioneer lifesaving CPR at Johns Hopkins, dies at 87 <p>James Jude, who helped pioneer the lifesaving technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation while he was a resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the late 1950s, <a href="">died Tuesday in Coral Gables, Florida</a>. He was 87.</p> <p>CPR has been in practice in the United States since 1960, when Johns Hopkins researchers William Kouwenhoven, Guy Knickerbocker, and Jude <a href="">published in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em></a> the first data on the benefits of what was then called "cardiac massage."</p> <p>Jude had observed Kouwenhoven's and Knickerbocker's work with fibrillating dogs and reasoned that pressure applied rhythmically with the heel of the hand to the center of the chest could jump-start the heart and save lives. The trio's research eventually demonstrated that regular, rhythmic chest compressions raised blood pressure enough to keep sufficient blood flowing to the brain and other key organs, buying enough time to get a defibrillator to the patient and restart their heart.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">A dying dog, a slow elevator, and 50 years of CPR</a> (<em>Hopkins Medicine Magazine</em>, Winter 2011)</p> <p>Jude, a 1953 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, helped train colleagues and firefighters in the procedure. His work with CPR took him to Miami in 1964, where he became chief of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital.</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:59:00 -0400 Student researchers collaborate virtually with help of open-source software <p>A summer research internship for undergraduates is not only helping them learn to build new lifesaving drug molecules and create new biofuels—it's also testing the concept of a virtual research community.</p> <p>The <a href="">Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology</a>—with the help of a $200,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation—has launched a first-of-its-kind training program in which students study vaccine design, create biofuels, and build protein circuits in living cells, all with the help of specialized software that lets them collaborate from distant host university labs.</p> <p>A typical summer research program—the institute's Nanobio Research Experience for Undergraduates, for example—brings students together to one host university, where they work in different laboratories on various projects. In the new pilot training program on Computational Biomolecular Structure, students use an open-source software called Rosetta to work together on problems in computational biology and are mentored by faculty who are part of a global collaborative team known as the Rossetta Commons. The software gives users the ability to analyze massive amounts of data to predict the structure of real and imagined proteins, enzymes, and other molecular structures.</p> <p>"Computational biologists study known macromolecules or design new ones and use computers to predict how these molecules will fold in 3D and how they might interact with cells or other molecules," says <a href="">Jeffrey Gray</a>, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins and the INBT affiliate who spearheaded the program. "For example, researchers create computational algorithms to design a new drug molecule or use the Rosetta software to predict how molecules might behave in a living organism. And because the work is done using a computer, researchers can easily collaborate at a distance."</p> <p>The students in the pilot program began their research experience with a weeklong boot camp at the University of North Carolina at the end of May. The following week, students traveled to their host universities, which include Johns Hopkins; University of California, Davis; Scripps Research Institute; Stanford University; New York University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Vanderbilt.</p> <p>Morgan Nance, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from the University of California, Davis, is spending her summer at <a href="">JHU's Gray Lab</a>.</p> <p>"I hope to become more familiar with Rosetta to the point that I am able to utilize it in my home lab," Nance says. "I want to gain the technical skills of how to use this new software and the knowledge of how to develop it further. I hope to gain valuable research experience so that when I apply to graduate school, I'm ready to jump into action."</p> <p>Unlike experimental biology, which is performed with test tubes and Petri dishes, computational biology uses computer software. Therefore researchers in the discipline are accustomed to collaborating with people from many locations.</p> <p>"Each lab has different expertise," Gray says. "One lab might specialize in protein docking, another in RNA structure and design, another in vaccine design or protein function. When students cross train in these laboratories, they learn to recognize the common themes. Virtual collaboration also opens them up to more options to consider when they go to find a job or apply to graduate school.</p> <p>"We can ask questions with computational biology that you just can't ask with an experiment," Gray adds. "The level of detail that we can examine is completely different."</p> <p>The research internships last 10 weeks. Each week, Nance and her colleagues "meet" online via video chat to discuss current published papers in the field and to present updates from host labs. In August, Nance will reconvene with her cohort at the annual RosettaCON in Leavenworth, Washington.</p> <p>Sally O'Connor, NSF program director, spent time with the Rosetta trainees during their boot camp and described the cohort as "impressive."</p> <p>"It takes a certain type of student to be able to participate in the program, because there is computer programming involved as well as understanding of the basic science underlying the projects," O'Connor says. "If this distributed model works just as well as the traditional one, we would then be able to accept this kind of model and access the best labs in the country for doing research."</p> <p>Though Nance is on her own at Hopkins, INBT staff members have made sure that she is included in activities organized for the 13 students in the on-site REU program.</p> <p>"I have the opportunity to work under a new principal investigator and get his insight on how research is conducted," she says. "I work closely under a mentor who helps guide me on how to think up questions to answer, and [determine] how to go about answering them. And I have access to great equipment, brilliant minds, and awesome new friends."</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:15:00 -0400 Aspiring engineers learn to use their noodles at Johns Hopkins summer program <p>What's the secret to building a spaghetti bridge that supports the weight of an official Olympic metal barbell?</p> <p>Maybe it's finding the perfect combination of cylindrical noodles, woven tightly together with epoxy or resin.</p> <p>Sometimes, says competitor Sherrie Shen, it's the simplest load-bearing bridges that take home the win.</p> <p>At the 10th annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition, hosted Friday at Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, 41 teams of high school students tasked with testing the strength of spaghetti squared off. In the front of a crowded auditorium in Hodson Hall, students carefully piled weights on the noodle bridges as if adding to a wobbly stack of Jenga bricks. Kilogram by kilogram, the audience cheered along until the pasta snapped, flying into the shielded faces of the aspiring engineers.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">Teaching students to use their noodles</a> (<em>NPR</em>)</p> <p>A'hunna Key-Lows, the 13th team to take the stage, added weights, starting in 1-kilogram increments, to their structure as the audience fell silent. A suspenseful game show sound bite played in the background. Fifty two pounds later, the pasta splintered in the air and the crowd cheered for the No. 1 team.</p> <p>The event caps the four-week <a href="">Engineering Innovation</a> program, which is designed to give rising high school juniors and seniors a taste of college-level engineering.</p> <p>This year's program attracted students from across the U.S. and 15 other countries—China, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.</p> <p>Students complete lab activities in computer engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, material science, civil engineering, robotics, and mechanical engineering, all while working on the spaghetti bridges during their spare time. Shen and her team, Pasta People, built not one but three bridges in preparation for the competition.</p> <p>The students spend hours building the bridges after learning about trusses and other sturdy structures in the classroom. There are requirements, of course, and the groups are penalized if their bridges are too high or overweight.</p> <p>One of the goals of the Engineering Innovation program is to introduce participants to the possibilities of a career in engineering, math, or science. Shen, after her four weeks at Johns Hopkins, said she still aspires to be an engineer.</p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:13:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins well-represented at Baltimore's annual Pride celebration <p>About 150 people representing Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and JHU's Applied Physics Laboratory—including several who teamed up to create a colorful "scrubs rainbow"—took part in Baltimore's <a href="">40th annual LGBTQ Pride parade</a> on Saturday afternoon. The parade, in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood, was part of a Pride celebration that stretched into Sunday morning.</p> <p>This is the second year Johns Hopkins has participated in the event, though fewer than 10 people took part a year ago, according to Demere Woolway, director of <a href="">LGBTQ Life</a> at JHU.</p> <p>"I was delighted to see so many people from all across Hopkins come out to celebrate Pride," she said.</p> <p>This was Baltimore's first Pride celebration since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.</p> <p>JHU's participation was supported by JHU's Office of LGBTQ Life, JHM's Marketing & Communications Employee Engagement and Diversity Committee, the JHHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Department of Pathology, and the School of Medicine LGBTQ Curriculum Team.</p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 08:05:00 -0400 Stunning parting shot of Pluto reveals layers of atmospheric haze <p>Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> mission</a>, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.</p> <p>"We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now—10 days after <a href="">closest approach</a>—we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. "With flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges, and vast haze, Pluto is showing a diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling."</p> <p>Just seven hours after closest approach, <em>New Horizons</em> aimed its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager back at Pluto, capturing sunlight streaming through the atmosphere and revealing hazes as high as 80 miles above Pluto's surface. A preliminary analysis of the image shows two distinct layers of haze—one about 50 miles above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles. The <a href="">full photo can be viewed at</a>.</p> <p>"My jaw was on the ground when I saw this first image of an alien atmosphere in the Kuiper Belt," said Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "It reminds us that exploration brings us more than just incredible discoveries—it brings incredible beauty."</p> <p>Studying Pluto's atmosphere provides clues as to what's happening below.</p> <p>"The hazes detected in this image are a key element in creating the complex hydrocarbon compounds that give Pluto's surface its reddish hue," said Michael Summers, New Horizons co-investigator at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.</p> <p>Models suggest the hazes form when ultraviolet sunlight breaks up methane gas particles—a simple hydrocarbon in Pluto's atmosphere. The breakdown of methane triggers the buildup of more complex hydrocarbon gases, such as ethylene and acetylene, which also were discovered in Pluto's atmosphere by <em>New Horizons</em>. As these hydrocarbons fall to the lower, colder parts of the atmosphere, they condense into ice particles that create the hazes. Ultraviolent sunlight chemically converts hazes into tholins, the dark hydrocarbons that color Pluto's surface.</p> <p>Scientists previously had calculated temperatures would be too warm for hazes to form at altitudes higher than 20 miles above Pluto's surface.</p> <p>"We're going to need some new ideas to figure out what's going on," said Summers.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> mission also found in images evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto's surface and revealing signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn't expect.</p> <p>The new images show fascinating details within the Texas-sized plain, informally named Sputnik Planum, which lies within the western half of Pluto's heart-shaped feature, known as Tombaugh Regio. There, a sheet of ice clearly appears to have flowed—and may still be flowing—in a manner similar to glaciers on Earth.</p> <p>"We've only seen surfaces like this on active worlds like Earth and Mars," said mission co-investigator John Spencer of Southwest Research Institute. "I'm really smiling."</p> <p>Additionally, new compositional data from <em>New Horizons</em> indicate the center of Sputnik Planum is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.</p> <p>"At Pluto's temperatures of minus-390 degrees Fahrenheit, these ices can flow like a glacier," said Bill McKinnon, deputy leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team at Washington University in St. Louis. "In the southernmost region of the heart, adjacent to the dark equatorial region, it appears that ancient, heavily cratered terrain has been invaded by much newer icy deposits."</p> <p>The unmanned <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft will continue to send data stored in its onboard recorders back to Earth through late 2016. The spacecraft currently is 7.6 million miles beyond Pluto, healthy, and flying deeper into the Kuiper Belt.</p> <p>The <a href="">Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory</a> designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Insititute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning. <em>New Horizons</em> is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.</p> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:00:00 -0400 Cellphones might be best way to get health information to inner-city pregnant, postpartum women <p>Johns Hopkins researchers are exploring whether and how cellphones—something that nearly everyone has—can be used to improved the health of expectant and new mothers.</p> <p>By surveying the technology habits of a diverse group of young, low-income, inner-city pregnant and postpartum women, <a href="">Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine</a> researchers found that more 90 percent of them used smartphones or cellphones on a routine basis. The findings suggest that cellphones might be the best way for medical providers to reach out to these populations of women during and after their pregnancy—a critical time for monitoring health. Such interventions could decrease the risks of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases during childbearing years.</p> <p>A report on the study, which also looked at patterns in Internet usage and texting, was published online this month in the <a href=""><em>Journal of Medical Internet Research</em></a>.</p> <p>"Pregnancy and the year after delivery—when women must see a doctor—give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviors for them and their families," said <a href="">Wendy Bennett</a>, the study's lead author and a clinical researcher and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. "But these opportunities are often missed because many women do not return for care or stay engaged with providers. If we could better understand their use of information and communication technology, we could likely design more appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach and help them."</p> <p>Cellphones stand out by far as the preferred technology these women use, regardless of race or ethnic background, the researchers report. The survey results also revealed important differences in the women's Internet use, likely tied to their proficiency in English.</p> <p>The research team surveyed a cross-section of women attending one of four obstetric or pediatric clinics at Johns Hopkins Medicine's two Baltimore hospitals. Forty percent of the women were African-American, 28 percent were Latina, 23 percent were white, and fewer than 10 percent belonged to other ethnic groups. A variety of health conditions were present among the women, including pre-pregnancy obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p> <p>Smartphone use was about one-third more common for African-American women than Latinas, the study showed. In general, Internet use by any means was lowest for Latinas, at 51 percent, with African-Americans at 79 percent and whites at 87 percent. Bennett says limited English proficiency, highest in Latinas, is a likely barrier for Internet use.</p> <p>Texting was high across the board—85 percent or higher in all groups, though slightly lower among African-American women.</p> <p>Researchers say their next step is to design and test personalized cellphone and Internet-based approaches for women proficient in English, and alternate Spanish-based approaches for those who don't speak English.</p> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:10:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins business student gets rooftop gardens off the ground <p>On an especially hot early summer day in D.C., Mehr Pastakia, sporting sunglasses and a neon-green vest, proudly surveys her domain—a lush two acres of greenery atop the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in the city's emerging Navy Yard waterfront area. The expansive, neatly trimmed stretches of multihued sedums form a sky-high oasis in what is otherwise a desert of steel and concrete. Fields of vegetation at this altitude are both incongruous and welcome, like a brightly colored mural on a car park wall.</p> <p>Around us, a foursome of brawny young men fan out and look for anything out of place: a stray weed, a bare patch, plants that have grown ever so slightly over a bed's edge. Their toil invokes the final moments of a haircut when you're ready to get out of the chair, but the stylist spots the willful, solitary blade that demands to be snipped.</p> <p>"What they're doing now is trimming, mostly for aesthetics, but also making sure we keep the growth in check," says Pastakia, who seems right at home in this windy setting with a bird's-eye view of Nationals Park and the Anacostia River. "If you let a green roof go, weeds can take over. Debris can fly off the roof. A tree can start to grow from a seed dropped by a bird. Nature finds its way."</p> <p>Pastakia, an MBA student at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Carey Business School</a>, didn't create the DOT's green roof, but she's now the caretaker of it, along with several other green rooftops in the nation's capital and in Maryland. In a world where timing is everything, Pastakia has gotten in on the ground floor—or more aptly, the rooftop floor—of a growth industry.</p> <p>Pastakia is principal owner of <a href="">Pratum Greenroofs LLC</a>, a company she founded while a student at Carey. In less than three years, Pratum has landed contracts with several prominent Mid-Atlantic property developers and management firms, including JBG and Akridge, to repair and/or maintain green roofs at the DOT, the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, the International Monetary Fund, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and various commercial properties.</p> <p>Her first project was with Harbor East Property Management Group for the Legg Mason Tower, the Carey School's downtown home. During her MBA interview, Pastakia sat down with Mary Somers, the school's associate director of admissions. After learning of Pastakia's background in horticulture, Somers told the prospective student about Legg Mason building's green roof, which needed some love. The roof's vegetation, planted in trays, had turned mostly brown and weedy due to neglect and lack of access to water.</p> <p>Pastakia secured a meeting with the building's assistant property manager and convinced her she could turn the roof green again. Partial credit, she says, went to her fingernails.</p> <p>"I think it was because I wore purple nail polish that day, and it was Ravens season," Pastakia says. "And she just took a leap of faith with me. I remember her saying: 'OK, if you think you can fix it, go for it.' The stars aligned."</p> <p>For the first year, Pastakia worked alone on the project. She bought and hauled in the plants, substrate, and any other items she needed to replant the trays and turn the outdoor garden around. Over time, her hard work paid off. The roof today blooms with full sedum coverage blended with accent plants.</p> <p>"I grew it back in with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, mixed in with panic and anxiety," she says. "It takes a year, maybe two, to turn around a neglected roof."</p> <p>Why go green on a roof at all? Pastakia says there are many benefits.</p> <p>Green roofs typically consist of layers of protection fabric, drainage, filter fibers, substrate (soil and crushed rock, brick, or shells), and plants. No irrigation is needed—the plants are grown and sustained by rainfall. Their primary purpose is stormwater management, as a green roof can capture that first 1.2 inches of rainfall and any excess moisture slopes to drains that lead to the public sewage system. While it may not sound like much, any extra water retention is vital. Although sewage drains and other infrastructure on the ground take stormwater to treatment plants, a heavy rainfall can cause sewers to overflow and send raw sewage into nearby rivers and streams.</p> <p>Green roofs also reduce the "heat island effect" on cities. Built-up areas are typically hotter than nearby rural areas, in part because concrete and other man-made surfaces attract and retain heat. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people can be 1.8 to 5.4 degrees warmer than its surroundings. Heat island effect can increase summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution, and heat-related illness and mortality. Green roofs are "one way to reduce the sun's intensity and bring the temperature on the street down," Pastakia says.</p> <p>Plus, they look cool.</p> <p>"You can design them in a way where it's an amenity. You can host events on a green roof, like a wedding, and they can be a revenue driver," she says. "What's not to like about a beautiful garden?"</p> <p>Pastakia's love of gardening dates back to her days as a toddler. At age 3, she would propagate chrysanthemums in the small, terraced garden behind her Bethesda home. Around this age, Pastakia's mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease that steadily took its toll. Pastakia recalls how in early spring she would wander the garden to collect plants for a "medicinal concoction" to give to her mom, a microbiologist at the National Institutes of Health.</p> <p>"I thought if she ate the plants she would get better, but we wound up just applying the mixture topically to her head," she says. "I was just a kid, but I do believe that nature has the power to heal."</p> <p>When Pastakia's mother finally succumbed to her cancer and passed away, the then 9-year-old Pastakia found solace in yard work.</p> <p>"Instead of doing my homework, I'd often play in our garden," she says. "I felt at home there."</p> <p>She enrolled at the University of Maryland and majored in plant science. During her last year of college, she registered for a sustainability seminar in which <a href="">Ed Snodgrass</a>, the "grandfather of green roofs," gave a keynote address. After his presentation, she asked Snodgrass for advice on how to break into the business. Previously, some of Pastakia's advisers had told her to look into the green roofing industry.</p> <p>"There is no pre-beaten path as it's a relatively new industry," she says. "As one person told me, it's like laying track. You just have to go out and figure out how to make it happen."</p> <p>She got a summer internship at Maryland-based <a href="">Green Roof Plants</a> and later found work for a Baltimore-based green roof company called <a href="">Furbish</a>, where she cut her teeth and learned the trade. What followed was a string of "not-so-glamorous" part-time jobs before she learned about the Johns Hopkins MBA program.</p> <p>"I've known I wanted to do an MBA since my undergrad days," she says. "I thought now was the time to do it."</p> <p>Starting a business while still studying at Carey has had its perks. She's able to extract professional advice from—and bounce ideas off—classmates and faculty. She regularly talks with Somers, whom Pastakia considers a mentor.</p> <p>Somers says that Pastakia made an instant, and favorable, impression on her. "I thought she was amazing the second I started talking with her," Somers says. "I then got to know her better. She's a perfectionist, in a good way. And she's very good at building a network. When she hears about an opportunity or lead, she follows through with it. People feel very comfortable around her and trust her, which is a wonderful quality to have. She identified a niche trend and went after it."</p> <p>Until recently Pratum has limited its work to green roof maintenance, but this past month the company finished its first rooftop installation at One Franklin Square in D.C., the future home of <em>The Washington Post</em>. The project includes a 110-linear-foot, 16-foot-tall green screen, a trellis system for growing vines.</p> <p>She now rents office space in D.C.'s Chinatown district and has six part-time employees.</p> <p>"And maybe one day soon I can start to pay myself," Pastakia says with a laugh. "Right now we want to deliver on these new big projects. It's been a great year. Word of mouth has spread, and it's fun and exciting. I like to think it's all built on trust. People trust you know what you're doing, and that you will do your utmost to take care of the roof for them."</p> <p>Pastakia says she's committed to doing just that.</p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:50:00 -0400 Experts at Johns Hopkins reflect on successes, failures of Medicare at 50 <p>Half a century ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson signed the nation's Medicare program into law, guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans over 65. Today the program is both hailed for its innovative approach and criticized as an anachronism, according to health policy experts who gathered at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on Wednesday.</p> <p>Those experts—including former U.S. congressman Henry Waxman and Karen Davis, who directs the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Hopkins—discussed the achievements and challenges of <a href="">"Medicare at 50"</a>.</p> <p>Waxman, who joined Hopkins earlier this year as its <a href="">Centennial Policy Scholar</a>, pointed to Medicare, along with Social Security, as lynchpin programs providing "fundamental protection and security for people when they get older or when they're disabled."</p> <p>The experts characterized Medicare as a largely successful model that has adapted to the country's needs over time and set the bar for health care reforms and private insurance companies. Sean Cavanaugh, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that though he hears from the private sector, "you're a dinosaur, you need to innovate," by and large the private sector continues to look to Medicare as a model for its own practices and payment methods.</p> <p>But the panelists also highlighted Medicare's biggest problems today, including its excessively complex structure, its reliance on high-priced pharmaceuticals, and in particular its inability to shoulder the burdens of long-term care. That area, Waxman said, remains a huge "blind spot." Many seniors who end up in assisted living or nursing homes are "in for a very rude shock," he said, when they find themselves whittling away all their life savings on health care costs. "That is so dehumanizing for people," he added.</p> <p>"Despite all that Medicare has done, older people in America pay more out of pocket for health care expenses than similar people in other countries and report more problems with access to care," Davis noted.</p> <p>Another looming obstacle for Medicare is how it will absorb the aging baby-boom population, which started to become eligible for the program in 2011. Cavanaugh said Medicare participation is poised to grow by 68 percent over the next 15 years. "We face problems we've never faced before," he said.</p> <p>The panelists also examined Medicare through a historical lens. Echoing Davis' article this winter in the <a href=""><em>New England Journal of Medicine</em></a>, Sheila Burke of Harvard University depicted the program as "born of frustration and desperation" at a time when nearly half the country's seniors were uninsured.</p> <p>Though Medicare has innovated in many ways over its 50 years, with additions including integrating hospice services and covering the costs of prescription drugs, the changes have been "very slow," Burke said. And the program remains "confusing [and] complicated for beneficiaries and providers," she said.</p> <p>Other experts yesterday included health policy consultant Jack Ebeler and <a href="">Joshua Sharfstein</a>, Bloomberg's associate dean for public health practice and training. Ellen MacKenzie, who chairs Bloomberg's Department of Health Policy and Management, introduced the panelists.</p> <p>Waxman, who steered forward a number of critical pieces of health care legislation during his 40 years in Congress, said he welcomes the opportunity to broach Medicare topics from an academic perspective at Hopkins.</p> <p>"I think there's some exciting things being talked about on campus," he said.</p> <p>The discussion was the <a href="">first in a monthly seminar series Waxman will host</a> throughout the Bloomberg School's centennial year that will bring together public health leaders, policymakers, and others to explore pressing public health topics, including long-term care, mental health, climate change, and tobacco control.</p> <p>Archived video of the "Medicare at 50" webcast can be viewed on the <a href="">JHU Ustream channel</a>. </p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 10:20:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins expands study abroad options in Cuba <p>In years past, studying abroad in Cuba meant securing a travel license and flying with thousands of dollars in cash stashed in a suitcase.</p> <p>Today, as the U.S. moves to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, American credit and debit cards are accepted on the island, and the Internet is more accessible.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins University students will soon have an opportunity to see these changes firsthand during a full semester in Cuba, thanks to the new <a href="">Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad</a>, or CASA.</p> <p>Hopkins, in partnership with Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Northwestern, and Penn, <a href="">launched CASA-Havana during the 2014-15 academic year</a> as the first of many study centers around the world that will be developed by the consortium.</p> <p>Since 2012, JHU students have been able to travel to Cuba as part of a two-week Intersession course taught in English under the direction of Professor Eduardo González. But no other study abroad program offered students a glimpse into daily life for Cuban students.</p> <p>CASA-Havana, the largest U.S. academic presence in Cuba, developed a program of study that gives students direct access to the country's leading academic experts. At Cuba's oldest university, <a href="">University of Havana</a>, students will take direct-enrollment courses alongside Cuban students and also have the option of taking courses at <a href="">Casa de las Américas</a>, the Cuban government's premier research institute. All the courses will be taught in Spanish.</p> <p>At the program center, students will take CASA-delivered courses and immerse themselves in Cuban culture with lectures from experts on key issues facing the country, exhibitions, recitals, and local field visits. Students will be encouraged to conduct research, too.</p> <p>Housing will be provided in a recently renovated guest residence located within walking distance of the Cuba study center and Casa de las Américas.</p> <p>"The CASA Cuba program gives Hopkins undergraduates a unique opportunity to experience Havana during such a time of social and economic transition," said Lori Citti, director of JHU's <a href="">Office of Study Abroad</a>. "The spring 2016 semester in Havana will provide a window into Cuban life and society at a critical period in the political and economic history of our countries." For more information,</p> <p>For more information about applying for CASA at University of Havana, contact the Office of Study Abroad at <a href=""></a>.</p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:57:00 -0400 New Horizons discovers second, smaller mountain range in Pluto's 'heart' <p>Pluto's icy mountains have company. <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> mission</a> has discovered a new, apparently less lofty mountain range on the lower-left edge of Pluto's best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Region.</p> <p>These newly discovered frozen peaks are estimated to be one-half mile to one mile high, about the same height as the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. The <a href="">Norgay Mountains discovered by <em>New Horizons</em> on July 15</a> more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains in the western U.S.</p> <p>The new range is just west of <a href="">the region within Pluto's heart called Sputnik Plain</a> and some 68 miles northwest of the Norgay Mountains. This newest image further illustrates the remarkably well-defined topography along the western edge of Tombaugh Region.</p> <p>"There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west," said Jeff Moore, leader of the <em>New Horizons</em> Geology, Geophysics, and Imaging Team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "There's a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we're still trying to understand."</p> <p>While Sputnik Plain is believed to be relatively young in geological terms—perhaps less than 100 million years old—the darker region probably dates back billions of years. Moore notes that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters.</p> <p>This image was acquired by <em>New Horizons</em>' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile across are visible. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the <em>New Horizons</em> team.</p> <p><em>New Horizons</em> is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute leads the mission, science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning.</p> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:15:00 -0400 Organizations can learn a thing or two from firefighters about coping with unpredictable situations <p>As continued drought and unusually high temperatures raise alarm over the severity of this year's wildfire season in the Western United States, a Johns Hopkins University researcher's study of wildland firefighting has uncovered lessons in performing under uncertainty that should benefit workers in a variety of contexts.</p> <p>Writing in the <a href="">June 2015 issue of the <em>Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management</em></a>, <a href="">Kathleen Sutcliffe</a>, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins, and her co-authors noted high performance in firefighting organizations that followed a two-phase process of "anomalizing" and "proactive leader sensemaking."</p> <p>The process—which can be useful whether the setting is a blazing forest or a steel-and-glass corporate tower—works this way: Frontline workers in dynamic, unpredictable situations must constantly assess conditions and watch especially for anomalies, the little shifts and blips that suggest unexpected trouble might lie ahead. Leaders or supervisors act to help frontline workers hang on to those small details and make sense of them in order to tailor appropriate responses and actions.</p> <p>When executed well, says Sutcliffe, this two-pronged approach becomes the hallmark of an effective and highly reliable organization.</p> <p>"In a simple, stable environment, the challenge is getting information," she says. "But in a complex, uncertain environment, as in a wildfire or any organizational crisis, the challenge is that a lot of information is coming at you, but it's ambiguous. There are multiple ways to interpret what's going on. So the people observing these cues and the people who might have a better understanding of what they mean have to work together to make sense of them and figure out what to do next."</p> <p>By highlighting the fine points of the interplay of frontline anomalizing and managerial sensemaking, this paper helps advance the literature in the field of organization studies, says Sutcliffe, whose co-authors are Michelle Barton, an assistant professor at Boston University; Timothy Vogus, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University; and doctoral student Theodore DeWitt of the University of Michigan.</p> <p>"We're calling special attention to the importance of perception, conception, and understanding in uncertain contexts," Sutcliffe says. "This goes beyond merely gathering pieces of information; it's actually more of a social construction, an active process in which a diverse group of people actively construct the meaning of a particular situation."</p> <p>From the world of wildfire fighting, Sutcliffe relates the example of a frontline firefighter who reported seeing smoke in the distance. Previously, other crew members had noticed this anomaly but neglected to say anything about it. After the first firefighter mentioned his observation, it became what Sutcliffe calls an "artifact" that demanded a response from the boss and other organizational members. Further probing showed that the far-off line of smoke was the harbinger of a fire that might have overtaken the crew if it had not been brought to the attention of supervisors in time.</p> <p>A well-known and tragic example of an unheeded anomaly occurred in the mid-1980s when <a href="">pre-flight problems with the O-rings on the doomed space shuttle <em>Challenger</em></a> were ignored. The failure of the O-rings at launch set off a series of events that led to the shuttle's breaking up in midair.</p> <p>"This is a common type of occurrence in organizations, sometimes known as 'normalizing deviance,'" Sutcliffe says. "That is, anomalies aren't addressed; they're ignored or swept under the rug and become taken for granted in the process. As our findings show, it's often a good idea to interrupt the momentum, to step back when you notice that something seems wrong and say, 'Wait, is this still making sense?' It's easy to just plow ahead and stay in your comfort zone, but at times you need to break the momentum and try to gauge where things are heading."</p> <p>Wildland firefighters sometimes seek a momentum break by moving to higher ground. This gives them a different perspective on how a fire is moving. What would be the equivalent in a traditional office setting? Bring dissimilar types of people into your organization, Sutcliffe says, encourage them to speak up, and listen closely to their ideas and opinions.</p> <p>"In crises, the problems aren't so much errors of execution as they are errors of perception, conception, and understanding. People fail to look carefully at all the details that emerge, fail to plausibly categorize them, and fail to understand what they might imply," Sutcliffe says. "One of my favorite comments from our interviews with the firefighters came from one who told us, 'As old as I am and as experienced as I am in relationship to these large fires, the next fire I walk into, initially, I won't know anything. So I'm not going to come in there full guns blazing at the get-go.' That kind of attentiveness really increases your chances of success whenever you find yourself in an uncertain situation."</p> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:25:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins Hospital ranked among nation's best hospitals by 'U.S. News' <p>The Johns Hopkins Hospital ranks in the top five in nine specialties and No. 3 overall in the nation out of more than 4,700 hospitals in the <a href="">annual <em>U.S. News & World Report</em> Best Hospitals list</a>, which was released today.</p> <p>In the <em>U.S. News</em> rankings of 16 specialty areas, Johns Hopkins is No. 1 in Rheumatology; No. 3 in Ear, Nose & Throat; No. 3 in Neurology & Neurosurgery; No. 3 in Ophthalmology; No. 3 in Psychiatry; No. 4 in Urology; No. 5 in Diabetes & Endocrinology; No. 5 in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery; and No. 5 in Geriatrics.</p> <p>"We cannot offer excellent care or earn national accolades without the people who work at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine," says Ronald R. Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "The nurses, faculty, and staff deliver the promise of medicine every single day, and for this we are grateful."</p> <p>The <a href=""><em>U.S. News & World Report</em> list</a> ranks 4,716 hospitals. Johns Hopkins shares the No. 3 overall spot with UCLA Medical Center. Massachusetts General Hospital secured the No. 1 overall spot, and the Mayo Clinic is second.</p> <p>"We are in excellent company and delighted to be among institutions that continue to aim to deliver the very best care to patients," says Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins Hospital earned the No. 1 overall ranking for 22 years, including an unprecedented 21 years in a row from 1991 to 2011. The methodology used by <em>U.S. News</em> to determine hospital rankings is based on four complex measures: reputation among physicians, patient safety, outcomes, and structural elements such as technology and other resources that define the hospital environment.</p> <p>In the magazine's ranking of hospitals in Maryland, Johns Hopkins was again ranked No. 1 in all specialties. It also ranked No. 1 in all specialties in Baltimore.</p> <p>Sibley Memorial Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, was ranked No. 6 in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. To be included in the regional report, a hospital had to score in the top 10 percent among its peers in at least one medical specialty or be high-performing in two of five common care procedures or diseases.</p> <p>The complete rankings can be found at <a href=""></a>.</p> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 15:49:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins to train new cybersecurity experts with help of $2.2M grant <p>At a time when cybersecurity attacks are more frequent and damaging, the National Science Foundation has awarded $2.2 million to the Johns Hopkins University <a href="">Information Security Institute</a> to support a graduate-level degree program that teaches students how to recognize and protect against digital threats.</p> <p>The grant will be allocated over five years as part of the Federal CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service Program. The program provides students with scholarships covering tuition, fees, and required books, as well as a stipend. In return, the program requires that after graduation, the students work for a federal, state, local, or tribal government in a job related to computer security for a period equal to the duration of their education scholarship, which includes a summer internship.</p> <p>At Johns Hopkins, the five-year NSF grant is expected to support three or four students annually as they complete the Information Security Institute's three-semester <a href="">Master of Science in Security Informatics</a> (MSSI) degree program. This program offers students an option to simultaneously earn a dual degree in computer science, applied math and statistics, health sciences or national security studies.</p> <p>The first scholarships will be available for students beginning their MSSI degree studies in the spring 2016 semester.</p> <p>The curriculum of the of the security informatics degree program is based on practical and up-to-date knowledge in the field. The classes expose students to practical experience exercises and teach them other valuable skills, such as project management. The goal is to make sure that when the students graduate, they are well prepared to take on a variety of cybersecurity-related responsibilities and challenges.</p> <p>Anton Dahbura, executive director of the university's Information Security Institute and principal investigator for the NSF grant, said that cybersecurity is arguably one of the most important challenges confronting society in the information age.</p> <p>"No one is exempt from malicious cyber acts that prey upon imperfect technologies," he said. "This NSF grant is significant because the funds will support U.S. students as they complete our master's program here and prepare them to pursue their careers in cybersecurity, starting with service to a government entity."</p> <p>Dahbura added that the grant will help Johns Hopkins participate in an innovative and efficient nationwide education system aimed at creating an unrivaled cybersecurity workforce. Developing well-trained U.S. guardians of the digital world, Dahbura said, is critical to national security, continued economic growth, and future technological innovation in secure cyberspace.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 14:57:00 -0400 NASA's New Horizons finds vast, frozen plain in the heart of Pluto's 'heart' <p>In the latest data from <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft</a>, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto's icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named "Tombaugh Regio" (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.</p> <p>"This terrain is not easy to explain," said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics, and Imaging Team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "The discovery of vast, craterless, very young plains on Pluto exceeds all pre-flyby expectations."</p> <p>This fascinating icy plains region—resembling frozen mud cracks on Earth—has been informally named "Sputnik Planum" (Sputnik Plain) after the Earth's first artificial satellite. It has a broken surface of irregularly-shaped segments, roughly 12 miles across, bordered by what appear to be shallow troughs. Some of these troughs have darker material within them, while others are traced by clumps of hills that appear to rise above the surrounding terrain. Elsewhere, the surface appears to be etched by fields of small pits that may have formed by a process called sublimation, in which ice turns directly from solid to gas, just as dry ice does on Earth.</p> <p>Scientists have two working theories as to how these segments were formed. The irregular shapes may be the result of the contraction of surface materials, similar to what happens when mud dries. Alternatively, they may be a product of convection, similar to wax rising in a lava lamp. On Pluto, convection would occur within a surface layer of frozen carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrogen, driven by the scant warmth of Pluto's interior.</p> <p>Pluto's icy plain also displays dark streaks that are a few miles long. These streaks appear to be aligned in the same direction and may have been produced by winds blowing across the frozen surface.</p> <p>The "heart of the heart" image was taken Tuesday when <em>New Horizons</em> was 48,000 miles from Pluto and shows features as small as one-half mile across. Mission scientists will learn more about these mysterious terrains from higher-resolution and stereo images that <em>New Horizons</em> will pull from its digital recorders and send back to Earth during the next year.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> Atmospheres team observed Pluto's atmosphere as far as 1,000 miles above the surface, demonstrating that Pluto's nitrogen-rich atmosphere is quite extended. This is the first observation of Pluto's atmosphere at altitudes higher than 170 miles above the surface.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> Particles and Plasma team has discovered a region of cold, dense ionized gas tens of thousands of miles beyond Pluto—the planet's atmosphere being stripped away by the solar wind and lost to space.</p> <p>"With the flyby in the rearview mirror, a decade-long journey to Pluto is over, but the science payoff is only beginning," said Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Data from <em>New Horizons</em> will continue to fuel discovery for years to come."</p> <p>Alan Stern, <em>New Horizons</em> principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, added: "We've only scratched the surface of our Pluto exploration, but it already seems clear to me that in the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, the best was saved for last."</p> <p><em>New Horizons</em> is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute leads the mission, science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 13:00:00 -0400 Cancer documentary series filmed at Johns Hopkins receives Emmy nomination <p>A PBS documentary series about cancer that prominently featured patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital has been nominated for an Emmy Award.</p> <p><em>Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies</em>, a six-hour series executive produced by Ken Burns and directed by Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and writer Barak Goodman, is among five nominees for the award for documentary or nonfiction series. The series, based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning book of the same name by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer specialist at Columbia University, premiered in March.</p> <p>The documentary team filmed in various locations at Johns Hopkins, including the Kimmel Center's Pancreas Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic, the Lung Cancer Program at Bayview Medical Center, and the pediatric oncology wing of the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. They interviewed patients newly diagnosed and those going through clinical trials, palliative care programs, marrow transplants, and myriad therapies.</p> <p>Other nominees in the documentary or nonfiction series category are PBS's <em>American Masters</em>; HBO's <em>The Jinx: The Life and Deaths Of Robert Durst</em>; PBS's <em>The Roosevelts: An Intimate History</em> (produced and directed by Burns); and CNN's <em>The Sixties</em>.</p> <p>The 67th <a href="">Emmy Awards</a> will air Sept. 20 on FOX. A <a href="">complete list of nominees</a> can be viewed online.</p>