Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Thu, 08 Oct 2015 14:00:00 -0400 Writer, JHU alum D. Watkins discusses activism, race, Baltimore uprising <p>Baltimore-born writer and author <a href="">D. Watkins</a> opened up his Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium lecture Wednesday evening by declaring, "Tonight is going to be loose."</p> <p>Watkins is described in <a href="">a recent <em>Johns Hopkins Magazine</em> profile</a> as "a walking contradiction": a former drug dealer who earned a master's degree from JHU's School of Education in 2011. His debut book, <em>The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America</em>, is not only, as the book's jacket says, a collection of "searing dispatches from the urban zones where African-American men have become an endangered species." It's also, in Watkins' own words, "a love story to the people of Baltimore."</p> <p>Watkins' lecture focused on the "people's perspective" of the Baltimore uprising, the series of protests—both peaceful and violent—following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. The events thrust Baltimore into the national spotlight and into an ongoing national conversation about police violence and race.</p> <p>He read a harrowing passage from the introduction of <em>The Beast Side</em> in which he lists the names of 18 people killed by police, concluding that, "for black America, this is wartime."</p> <p>Rather than focusing on the unrest in Baltimore in late April, Watkins delivered a broader message of compassion: "The people killed in these manners, they're just like us," he said. "We come from a world of generalizations, but we're not all one thing."</p> <p>In <a href="">a recent <em>Baltimore Sun</em> column</a>, Watkins, who was born and raised in East Baltimore, spoke out against being considered "the voice of the people." Throughout the lecture Wednesday, Watkins discussed what he called "the multiple faces of activism."</p> <p>"I want to talk about my role, your role, and the role of anybody who wants to make a difference," he said.</p> <p>Members of the JHU community attending the lecture responded to this charge by raising challenging questions about their own experiences and the university's response during the uprising.</p> <p>"What are the responsibilities of students to respond to messages of racism occurring on campus?" one student asked.</p> <p>"Leaders, including student leaders, are responsible for challenging racism," Watkins said. "You have to unite. This is a great place filled with brilliant people. You're all brilliant people, and you deserve for your voices to be heard."</p> <p>When a staff member asked about engaging students in discussions of race, Watkins encouraged group meetings. "Go wherever the students are grouping," he said. "Get them out of their cliques, start the conversation.</p> <p>"The best critique is creation," Watkins added, alluding to what he says is his own motivation for writing: the erasure of the African-American experience from mainstream media. If a person's perspective isn't being shared, "you have to get those stories out there," Watkins said.</p> <p>In other words, anyone can participate in activism. Anyone can make a difference. Anyone's voice can be heard.</p> <p>Established in 1967, the <a href="">Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium</a> is a widely acclaimed, student-run lecture series sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. Upcoming speakers this fall include Joe Lieberman, Alan Dershowitz, Ava Duvernay, and Josh Ostrovsky.</p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 13:30:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins researchers explore mysterious, shape-shifting nature of stem cells <p>A Johns Hopkins University biologist has led a research team reporting progress in understanding the shape-shifting ways of stem cells, which have vast potential for medical research and disease treatment.</p> <p>In a research paper to be published in <a href=""><em>Cell Reports</em></a> on Oct. 13, <a href="">Xin Chen</a>, an associate professor of biology in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and her six co-authors report on how stem cells are affected by their immediate surroundings. The scientists found that an enzyme present in the spot where stem cells are found can help nurture a greater abundance of these cells by sustaining them in their original state, and by promoting other cells to lose their specialized traits and transform into stem cells.</p> <p>The results show that the enzyme aminopeptidase in the stem cell niche—in this case, the area where stem cells are found in the testicular tissue in fruit flies—plays a role in both of these functions. How the niche itself plays this role, however, remains unclear.</p> <p>That the enzyme in that spot promotes more specialized cells to become like stem cells "suggests that this change of cell fate needs cues from where stem cells normally reside, but not randomly," said Chen, the principle investigator. "These results have medical implications because if this cell fate change could happen randomly, it may lead to diseases such as cancers."</p> <p>That's because there's a delicate balance to be struck in managing the proliferation of undifferentiated stem cells in tissue, Chen said. Too few can cause tissue deterioration, too many can promote tumors.</p> <p>The study focused on fruit flies in part because they share with humans about three-quarters of the genes that cause disease, making them a fine research model. The work on this paper focused on the testis because stem cells are found there in both fruit flies and humans.</p> <p>Stem cells are found in humans in an array of tissues, including skin, blood vessels, teeth, heart, brain, and liver.</p> <p>Because they can develop from their original state into specialized or differentiated cells, stem cells have long held out the promise of being used to replace damaged organs and muscle. Stem cells have been used to treat illness in limited ways for decades, including transplantation from bone marrow.</p> <p>However, their application could be much wider with reliable techniques to control how they take on specialized functions, how they can revert to their stem state and, in some instances, how they proliferate in their original state to form potentially dangerous tumors.</p> <p>One question now is whether the activity of the niche and of the enzyme reported in this research can be harnessed to manipulate stem cells to differentiate in useful ways. There's a lot of work yet to be done, Chen said.</p> <p>"How cells become different, it's very important to understand that," Chen said.</p> <p>Chen's six collaborators on this paper were Cindy Lim, who earned her doctorate at Johns Hopkins and now works for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Lijuan Feng of the Johns Hopkins University Department of Biology; Shiv Gandhi and Sinisa Urban of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; and Martin L. Biniossek and Oliver Schilling of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Cell Research at the University of Freiburg.</p> <p>This work has been supported by the 49th Mallinckrodt Scholar Award from the Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, grant RO1HD065816 from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, and Johns Hopkins University start-up funding for Xin Chen.</p> Thu, 08 Oct 2015 08:53:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins experts: Preventable food, sleep deprivation all too common in hospitals <p>In a commentary <a href="">published ahead of print Sept. 8 in <em>BMJ Quality & Safety</em></a>, a team from The Johns Hopkins Hospital calls on hospitals to reform potentially dangerous medical protocols involving food and sleep deprivation that can exacerbate illnesses in seriously ill patients.</p> <p>The authors are surgeon and prominent patient safety research <a href="">Martin Makary</a>, surgeon <a href="">Elizabeth Wick</a>, and Tim Xu, a public policy expert and student at JHU's School of Medicine.</p> <p>In their commentary, the authors describe what they say is a typical case of a 65-year-old woman who develops pneumonia at home and feels too sick to eat or drink much for several days. She then goes to the emergency room, where medical personnel withhold food in case she needs certain invasive tests or surgery. If needed, surgery might add more days without food and little sleep, owing to continuous monitoring and noise inside and outside of her hospital room. Adding to sleep problems, many lights remain on, particularly in the emergency department, and lab draws of blood occur at all times of day and night.</p> <p>The authors point out that healthy people can develop weakened immune systems, dangerous fatigue, and impaired judgment within 24 hours if subjected to this level of sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition.</p> <p>"Subject sick or elderly individuals to those same conditions and each next medical intervention becomes more dangerous as their illness takes a turn for the worse," Makary says.</p> <p>Much of the food and sleep deprivation patients experience is unnecessary, the authors say, citing research showing that food needs to be curtailed only six to eight hours before surgery and drinks just two hours before. Reducing sleep deprivation poses a more complex challenge, but hospitals can improve protocols by conducting noise studies, encouraging patient feedback, and intervening in smaller ways, such as providing eye masks or gentle music in patient rooms.</p> <p>Under a protocol dubbed Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, already used at The Johns Hopkins Hospital for many operations, patients scheduled for surgery are prescribed a carbohydrate-rich sports drink two hours before the procedure to mitigate the stress of fasting. The approach also includes limiting the use of intravenous feeding and a faster return to normal feeding, all of which can reduce the average length of stay and ultimately the average cost of treatment.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins also updated its practices to facilitate sleep. Lab draws, which used to occur at any time of day or night, now occur only during the day, and the hospital eliminated overhead paging on clinical units to reduce sleep disturbance. Most patients stay in private rooms to cut down on environmental noise in shared rooms.</p> <p>"Avoidable starvation and induced sleep deprivation are ubiquitous in health care. It's no surprise that these factors influence patient outcomes," Makary says. "We should view hospitals as healing environments rather than isolated clinical spaces and design patient care accordingly."</p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 13:50:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins expert contributes to White House-led effort to reduce school absenteeism <p>The Obama administration is enlisting help from the Johns Hopkins University in a <a href="">just-announced initiative to reduce chronic absenteeism in public schools</a> by at least 10 percent a year.</p> <p>The initiative, called <a href="">Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism</a>, will rely on research by <a href="">Robert Balfanz</a>, a research professor at the <a href="">Center for the Social Organization of Schools</a> at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins School of Education</a>.</p> <p>Every Student, Every Day—launched today—is focused on the 5 million to 7.5 million students who, Balfanz estimates, are chronically absent each year. Defined as missing at least approximately 18 days (10 percent) in a school year, chronic absenteeism puts students at heightened risk of falling behind in their schoolwork and dropping out of school altogether.</p> <p>The administration is partnering with states; local communities; and nonprofit, faith, and philanthropic organizations to support local, cross-sector efforts, supported by the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice.</p> <p>"When we first started our work, the scale and scope of chronic absenteeism was not widely known nor understood," Balfanz said. "So it's heartening to see that today a federal interagency effort to reduce chronic absenteeism has been launched. Chronic absenteeism is an issue that once we know about and understand it, we can do a lot to reduce it."</p> <p>Children who are chronically absent in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read on grade level by the third grade; students reading below grade level in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. By high school, regular attendance is a better dropout indicator than test scores, and a student who is chronically absent in any year between the eighth and 12th grades is seven times more likely to drop out. Research also shows that chronic absenteeism leads to higher incarceration rates.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins School of Education will be part of a public-private partnership to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism. It will include the nation's first-ever effort to use a data-driven, evidence-based mentoring model that targets chronically absent students in high-need communities.</p> <p>In addition, the <a href="">Everyone Graduates Center</a> at Johns Hopkins University, led by Balfanz, is partnering with the Education Department to host "Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence," on Nov. 12 to provide school districts and communities with strategies for improving school attendance, eliminate chronic absenteeism, and close achievement gaps, especially among youth who are—or are at risk of becoming—chronically absent from school.</p> <p>"The president's initiative is common sense," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "Students have to be in their classrooms to learn, yet too many of our children, and most often our most vulnerable children, are missing almost a month or more of school every year. Through this national initiative, we want to ensure that students are acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers and life."</p> Wed, 07 Oct 2015 11:30:00 -0400 Race a key factor in which homeowners made money in up-and-down 2000s housing market <p>During the tumultuous real estate market of the 2000s, some homebuyers found wealth while others took big hits. But no matter when they bought, most black first-time homeowners lost money, a Johns Hopkins University study found.</p> <p>In a study recently <a href="">published in the journal <em>Real Estate Economics</em></a>, public policy professor <a href="">Sandra J. Newman</a> and researcher C. Scott Holupka found that race was a key determinant of which low- and moderate-income people who bought their first homes during the decade made money. During the Great Recession, white homebuyers lost money but black homebuyers lost considerably more. Even during the boom years, when white buyers increased their wealth by 50 percent, black buyers lost 47 percent of their wealth.</p> <p>"They say that in real estate timing is everything, but blacks had a loss across the decade—even when their purchase time was impeccable," Newman said. "They would have done better if they'd stayed renters."</p> <p>The main factor in whether white buyers made money on their home was when they bought it. But timing had little bearing on how much black buyers made, the researchers found. Instead, the driver was the neighborhood they bought into—and often those areas were predominantly black, with lower housing prices, lower appreciation, and declining rates of homeownership. For black buyers, their education and marital status were also key predictors of how the purchase would affect their assets, though neither influenced the return on investment of white buyers.</p> <p>The researchers analyzed data from the <a href="">Panel Study of Income Dynamics</a>, looking in particular at how buying a home affected the net worth of renters at different points in the decade—in the wake of the 2001 recession, in 2003 when the market was heating up, at the height of the boom in 2005, and at the onset of the Great Recession in 2007.</p> <p>They focused on first-time buyers, long-time targets of campaigns to increase wealth through homeownership. About 40 percent of all homebuyers are first-time buyers, and more than 60 percent of those buyers are low- to moderate-income.</p> <p>The survey data highlights stark disparities by race:</p> <ul> <li><p>During the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2009, the net worth for new white homebuyers dropped 33 percent, while new black homebuyers lost 43 percent of their wealth.</p></li> <li><p>During the boom, between 2005 and 2007, white first-time buyers enjoyed net worth gains of 50 percent while new black homebuyers lost 47 percent. In dollar terms, while whites were gaining about $24,000, blacks were losing $16,911.</p></li> </ul> <p>"We had to convince ourselves that during one of the hottest housing markets ever, our numbers were showing black buyers still experienced losses," Holupka said. "It was sort of stunning."</p> <p>To project the number of years it would take homebuyers who bought during the bust to recoup their investment, the researchers ran simulations. For white buyers who bought in 2007, they projected it would take from three to 32 years, depending on the market, to get their money back.</p> <p>"It will take blacks more than twice as long," Newman said, about seven years in the best-case scenario to about 74 years in a weak market.</p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:00:00 -0400 Big ideas, little sleep: Students tackle medical challenges at JHU's first-ever MedHacks hackathon <p>Students from across campus and around the world gathered at Johns Hopkins University this weekend for the first-ever <a href="">MedHacks hackathon</a>, where in a span of less than 48 hours they attempted to dream up and create innovative solutions to some of today's most pressing medical challenges.</p> <p>The student-run event—similar to HopHacks, a <a href="">student-run hackathon that debuted two years ago</a>—began Friday evening and ran through Sunday afternoon at the Bloomberg Center on JHU's Homewood campus. It attracted more than 400 participants, event organizers said.</p> <p>"Advancements in medicine often come from technology, but there is a disconnect between computer scientists and doctors," said Jack Ye, a first-year biomedical engineering student at JHU. "This event brings technology and medicine together."</p> <p>Teams worked round the clock on a variety of problems from the healthcare world—some faced by developing countries, and some faced by the medical industry in the U.S. Professionals from the medical, entrepreneurial, and technology industries provided feedback.</p> <p>"Compared to research, you have to cut your losses much sooner and move on to achieve your goal," says John Muschelli, a PhD student in Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins. "It could get pretty hairy in the midnight hours."</p> <p>Teams created apps, wrote code, and built prototypes of medical devices. On Sunday afternoon, 10 teams presented their solutions before a panel of judges who selected first-, second-, and third-place winners based on technical difficulty, creativity, and impact.</p> <p>The team that captured first place proposed using ultrasound acoustics to detect deep vein thrombosis, a dangerous condition that occurs when a blood clot forms—typically in the legs—that can detach and block blood flow to the heart or lungs. Team members developed software and a prototype of the device to monitor blood flow and ran test trials on a straw wrapped in meat to simulate vein and muscle tissue. The winners received a cash prize and a booth at DC TechDay.</p> <p>The second-place winners developed a medical device to effectively diagnose compartment syndrome, a debilitating and potentially fatal condition that results when body tissue swells uncontrollably and pressure causes irreversible damage to the surrounding tissue.</p> <p>The team that took third place came up with a way of streamlining the process hospitals use to donate medical equipment to healthcare providers in developing countries.</p> <p>Other projects included wearable devices configured to monitor cardiac activity, an app used to upload lab test results and initiate video chats with a physician, and photo-imaging software to verify patient identity in areas of the world without standard forms of ID.</p> <p>Opening remarks were given by Director of Global mHealth Initiative Dr. Alain Labrique and Frenome CTO Gabriel Otte. Closing keynote speaker Guillermo Vela, from MedHacks sponsor Nebulab, called cloud computing and big data the new medical frontiers, effectively summarizing the relationship between technology and medicine and the goals of the MedHacks weekend.</p> <p><em>Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated the relationship between MedHacks and HopHacks and the number of participants in the MedHacks event.</em></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:30:00 -0400 Hoptoberfest brings pumpkin picking, other fall festivities to JHU campus <p>On a crisp autumn day at the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, students flocked to the site of a pick-your-own-pumpkin and produce patch to celebrate the change of season and mark the arrival of Hoptoberfest, the university's annual fall festival.</p> <p>Pumpkins sprawled across the Freshman Quad and crafty students adorned them with goofy Jack-O-Lantern stickers and custom creations. A local farm supplied the pumpkins and barrels filled with apples ripe for picking. Members of the Hoptoberfest committee dished out fall fare—donuts, cookies, and slices of fresh-baked apple pie—to be enjoyed while gathering around on stacks of hay.</p> <p>The pumpkin patch kicked off a week-long series of fall festivities on campus. On Monday, students sipped on wine for a make-your-own-mulled-wine class, followed by the big kick-off party on The Beach. Other popular events include a concert by <a href="">We the Kings</a> concert on Thursday that will bring local Baltimore food trucks to campus, and a local beer tasting Tuesday sponsored by the Senior Class Council and Director of Dining Bill Connor.</p> <p>Hoptoberfest is a student-run organization dedicated to promoting school spirit. "We on the staff are really trying to brighten up everyone's fall semester and usher in the fall with some fun events and free food," said junior Gavi Rawson, director of marketing for Hoptoberfest.</p> <p>For a full schedule of Hoptoberfest events, check out the <a href="">Facebook</a> page or download the <a href="">mobile app</a>.</p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 11:55:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins 12th in 'U.S. News' Best Global University Rankings <p>Johns Hopkins University ranks 12th on the <a href="">2016 <em>U.S. News & World Report</em> Global Universities Rankings</a>, which were released today.</p> <p>The rankings use different criteria than those used for the publication's annual "best colleges" list, on which <a href="">Johns Hopkins was 10th last month</a>.</p> <p>"Students can use these rankings to explore the higher education options that exist beyond their own countries' borders and to compare key aspects of schools' research missions," <em>U.S. News</em> writes in its introduction to the list.</p> <p>The new <em>U.S. News</em> rankings also include Johns Hopkins among the top 10 in the world in seven subject areas:</p> <ul> <li>Clinical Medicine: 2 </li> <li>Social Sciences and Public Health: 2 </li> <li>Immunology: 3 </li> <li>Neuroscience and Behavior: 7 </li> <li>Molecular Biology and Genetics: 8 </li> <li>Biology and Biochemistry: 9 </li> <li>Microbiology: 10 </li> </ul> <p>This is the second year of the <em>U.S. News</em> global rankings (<a href="">JHU was 11th last year</a>), which include 750 colleges and universities—up from 500 a year ago—in 57 countries. The rankings are <a href="">based on 12 indicators</a>, including an institution's global and regional reputation, publications and citations, international collaboration, and number of PhDs granted.</p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 08:25:00 -0400 Living on $2 a day: New book explores extreme poverty in the U.S. <p><a href="">Kathryn Edin</a>, a social scientist and <a href="">Bloomberg Distinguished Professor</a> at Johns Hopkins University, examines the plight of people living in extreme poverty the U.S. in her new book, <a href=""><em>$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America</em></a>. The book, co-authored by H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan, features a series of profiles that explore the causes and experiences of families living with little to no cash income.</p> <p>Edin and Shaefer used the World Bank's standard for poverty—$2 per person per day—to determine how many U.S. families are living in extreme poverty. <a href="">Their findings shocked them</a>: In a given month, there were 1.5 million American families, including 3 million children, that met the criteria.</p> <p><a href="">In a recent interview with American Public Radio's Marketplace</a>, Edin and Shaefer discussed the factors that drive families into extreme poverty and the solutions that might help them escape it.</p> <p>More from Edin:</p> <blockquote> <p>What we learned from spending so much time with the $2-a-day poor was how important dignity and respect were to them. They wanted above all to be workers. You know Luke would ask the question at the end of the conversation with them, "What would it mean for you to make it? When would you feel like you were OK?" And you know, their dreams were sort of endearingly modest. They'd say, you know, "I'd like a $12-a-day job, full time, with regular hours, maybe. Then I could have some stability, and I could give my kids the kind of life that I've always dreamed of." So from that, we've sort of derived the following principle that anything we do to aid the poor should bring dignity and not division. You know, the old welfare system made you feel like a criminal. It was wearing a scarlet letter, and you know welfare recipients were some of the most hated people in America.</p> </blockquote> <p>"This essential book is a call to action, and one hopes it will accomplish what ­Michael Harrington's "The Other America" achieved in the 1960s—arousing both the nation's consciousness and conscience about the plight of a growing number of invisible citizens," William Julius Wilson wrote in <a href="">his review of the book in the Sept. 2 issue of <em>The New York Times Book Review</em></a>. "The rise of such absolute poverty since the passage of welfare reform belies all the categorical talk about opportunity and the American dream."</p> <p>Edin will read from and <a href="">discuss the book on Nov. 9 at Mason Hall</a> at an event hosted by JHU's Sheridan Libraries.</p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 15:09:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins study sheds light on earliest genetic signs of lung cancer development <p>Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have <a href="">identified what they believe are among the earliest "premalignant" genetic changes marking the potential onset of the most common and fatal form of lung cancer</a>, adenocarcinoma.</p> <p>Examining very tiny premalignant lesions of the lung, the research team discovered DNA alterations that can be detected long before any diagnosis of invasive clinical cancer would be made. A report on the findings was <a href="">published Sept. 16 in the journal <em>Nature Communications</em></a>.</p> <p>"We have a glimpse into the future in which we can detect premalignant lesions of the lung before they become tumors," says study lead author Evgeny Izumchenko, a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. But he adds that this is "only the beginning of a long road we must travel to figure out how to interpret these discoveries to use them optimally in the clinic."</p> <p>Adenocarcinoma is usually diagnosed after it has spread. The average five-year survival rate is 15 percent, even with the most advanced treatment.</p> <p>The prevailing opinion among lung cancer experts is that adenocarcinoma develops from microscopic lesions that accumulate multiple genetic alterations over time. The problem for scientists, especially for treatment, is the inconsistency: some of these precancerous lesions regress and disappear over time, while others progress to cancer.</p> <p>To help predict which of the lesions develop into cancer, the scientists collected multiple tissue samples from six patients undergoing surgical removal of lung tumors.</p> <p>Then [William Westra], a professor of pathology at JHU, went through the tissue samples to single out tiny precancerous lung lesions known as atypical adenomatous hyperplasia. The DNA derived from these microscopic lesions and other lesions in different phases of progression were sequenced to pinpoint genetic abnormalities, which occurred long before the lesions would become recognized as adenocarcinoma of the lung.</p> <p>Using a technique known as targeted next-generation sequencing, the researchers found that in three patients, the same DNA mutations were shared between premalignant lesions and cancerous tumors within the same lung. Finding this definitive link suggests that those specific mutations might cause tumors to progress. Researchers plan further studies to confirm the findings in a greater number of lung cancer patients.</p> <p>"This study takes detection to a whole new level in terms of size of the lesion," says <a href="">David Sidransky</a>, a professor of otolaryngology, oncology, and pathology who directs the head and neck cancer research at Johns Hopkins.</p> <p>Researchers also examined patients' blood and sputum—a mix of saliva and mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract—using ultra-sensitive digital polymerase chain reactions. In doing so, they found proof that genetic mutations associated with precancerous lesions can be detected in paired bodily fluid DNA—even before they invade and become malignant.</p> <p>"We believe we were able to detect, for the first time, DNA circulating in the blood from precancerous lesions of the lung," says <a href="">Mariana Brait</a>, an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins.</p> <p>This detection capacity could suggest it as a potential companion test to a biopsy, offering more knowledge for treatment.</p> <p>When the team further explored different regions within the same lesion, they found other genetic mutations that are known to have different responses and outcomes from various types of cancer treatment. The discovery highlights the limitations of the single biopsies typically used to dictate patients' therapies, Sidransky says.</p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 12:45:00 -0400 New class of White House Fellows includes two from Johns Hopkins <p>The White House has selected two experts from Johns Hopkins for a prestigious yearlong fellowship in the federal government.</p> <p>In total, 16 leaders in their fields were recently appointed as <a href="">White House Fellows</a> for the year. Among them is Sara Bleich, an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health specializing in obesity, who was placed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Shereef Elnahal, a 2007 Hopkins grad now a resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, who's working at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.</p> <p>The highly selective fellowship, which was created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, also provides participants with education, mentorship, and travel opportunities. Johnson started the program "to draw individuals of exceptionally high promise to Washington for one year of personal involvement in the process of government," according to White House materials.</p> <p>"[It's] an incredible opportunity to work with very accomplished peers and to meet with senior leaders in government and beyond," said Elnahal, who's taking a leave from his <a href="">radiation oncology residency</a> this year to participate.</p> <p>After studying biophysics at Hopkins as an undergrad, Elnahal went on to earn a dual MBA and MD from Harvard University, then conducted operations consultant work with veterans affairs hospitals at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and in Pittsburgh. Back in Baltimore, at a Hopkins pancreatic cancer clinic, <a href="">he developed a new operations model</a> that cut patient wait times in half.</p> <p>In his new federal post, Elnahal hopes to apply his experience toward the agency's "organizational momentum to continue improving care for our veterans," he said via email. He also relishes the chance to connect with "15 of the most impressive people I have ever met: my co-fellows."</p> <p>Among those is <a href="">Bleich</a>, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School who's known for her research on obesity prevention.</p> <p>Bleich, a Baltimore City native who earned her PhD from Harvard, has published more than 75 papers in top medical and public health journals. At Hopkins, her recent research has included <a href="">studies on food deserts and corner stores in Baltimore</a> and a paper looking at <a href="">diet soda's effect on weight loss</a>. She recently won a $10,000 prize at the 2015 Frank Conference for her research into <a href="">adolescents' beverage choices at Baltimore convenience stores</a>.</p> <p>Bleich is also a core faculty member at Hopkins' <a href="">Global Obesity Prevention Center</a>.</p> <p>The two Hopkins affiliates join a list of past White House Fellows that includes former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin.</p> <p><strong>Update:</strong> A third White House Fellow also has Johns Hopkins ties. Alexander Billioux, who earned his MD from Hopkins in 2010 and completed his residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, is now serving a year with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.</p> <p>Billioux's research has focused on global health issues, including diseases of poverty in India, Guatemala, Haiti, and South Africa. In Uganda, Billioux has worked on improving tuberculosis treatment both as an Afya Bora Fellow and as an investigator for the Uganda Virus Research Institute.</p> <p>During his residency at Hopkins, Billioux served as assistant chief of the <a href="">Osler Medical Training Program</a>, where he trained more than 140 internal residents while treating patients in East Baltimore. From July 2014 to July 2015 he also worked as assistant chief of service for the <a href="">Thayer Firm</a> in the Department of Medicine. White House materials also note that Billioux "led system-wide interventions" within the department, including a strategy to reduce wasteful and potentially harmful medical practices that the Society of Hospital Medicine recently adopted.</p> Fri, 02 Oct 2015 11:15:00 -0400 JHU women's lacrosse team hosts annual play day, 'Stick it to Sarcoma' fundraiser <p>The Johns Hopkins University women's lacrosse team will host the <a href="">fifth annual Stick it to Sarcoma play day fundraiser</a> on Sunday at Homewood Field.</p> <p>Hopkins will face Team STX, Louisville, and Lehigh; other participants include Rutgers and Towson. The first game is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.</p> <p>Admission to the event is $1, a minimum suggested contribution. All proceeds from the event benefit <a href="">the Sarcoma Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center</a>. Donations can also be <a href="">made online</a>.</p> <p>Sarcoma is a rare, malignant tumor of the soft tissues of the body, such as fat, muscles, nerves, and blood and lymph vessels. The Sarcoma Program at Johns Hopkins provides comprehensive care for pediatric and adult patients with soft tissue sarcomas.</p> <p>The Stick it to Sarcoma Foundation was <a href="">established by 2012 JHU graduate Rachel Ballatori</a> in honor of her father, Ned, who passed away in December 2011 from a cardiac angiosarcoma. The foundation has raised more than $60,000 for sarcoma research over the past four years and has funded two full research grants.</p> <p>More information is <a href="">available at</a></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:45:00 -0400 JHU cosmologist Alex Szalay receives IEEE Computer Society honor <p>Johns Hopkins University cosmologist <a href="">Alexander Szalay</a> has received the <a href="">2015 IEEE Computer Society Sidney Fernbach Award</a>, which recognizes outstanding contributions in the application of high-performance computers using innovative approaches. Szalay was recognized "for his outstanding contributions to the development of data-intensive computing systems and on the application of such systems in many scientific areas including astrophysics, turbulence, and genomics," the group said in announcing the honor.</p> <p>Szalay wrote the first papers associating dark matter with relic particles from the Big Bang and more recently has been working on problems related to large data sets in physics and astrophysics. He is a JHU <a href="">Bloomberg Distinguished Professor</a> and a faculty member in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Computer Science. He is also the director of JHU's <a href="">Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science</a> and the architect for the Science Archive of the <a href="">Sloan Digital Sky Survey</a>.</p> <p>"At JHU, we started to work on big data in science more than 15 years ago, through our involvement in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey," Szalay says. "This was entirely uncharted territory at the time, and during this time we have built a world-class team through universitywide collaborations, created the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science, and expanded into many other domains of science. The Fernbach Prize is a wonderful recognition of our journey, the result of an enormous team effort. I am proud to have helped to influence the careers of many brilliant young people in this new era of interdisciplinary science."</p> <p>The <a href="">IEEE Computer Society</a> is the world's leading membership organization for modern computing professionals. The award will be presented to Szalay on Nov. 17, 2015, at the SC15 Conference, an international conference for high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis.</p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 14:15:00 -0400 A different world: Scholars, experts reflect on 25 years of a unified Germany <p>Twenty-five years ago Saturday, at the stroke of midnight, the German flag was hoisted in front of the Reichstag amid a clamor of fireworks and clanging bells. A throng estimated at 1 million joined in singing the West German national anthem—now the anthem for a united Germany.</p> <p>The celebration on Oct. 3, 1990, which came less than a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, marked the official moment when East and West Germany reunited after 45 years and Berlin united as a single city.</p> <p>As Germans prepare to commemorate the historic event with their annual "German Unity Day" this weekend, scholars and political leaders around the world—including experts at the <a href="">American Institute for Contemporary German Studies</a> at Johns Hopkins University—are reflecting on the changes German reunification has brought in the last quarter century.</p> <p>To mark the milestone anniversary, the D.C.-based institute has collected and published a <a href="">series of essays and commentaries on its website</a>, underscoring "how unique and indeed extraordinary the German-American relationship has been," says <a href="">AICGS president Jackson Janes</a>. "Essentially what we've done is to collect analyses of the 25th anniversary and its implications for German-American affairs."</p> <p>Janes says the institute sought "contributions from people who were actually on the spot at the time in 1989-90, in embassies and foreign offices and the State Department"—including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and the U.S. ambassador to Germany at the time, Robert M. Kimmit—as well as more recent perspectives.</p> <p>In <a href="">his commentary</a>, Philip D. Murphy, the U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013, characterizes German reunification as "perhaps, the world's biggest geopolitical miracle of the past half century."</p> <p>"When we speak about the euro, NATO, energy, politics, sports, climate matters, whatever," he adds, "we speak about Germany."</p> <p>Kimmit <a href="">looks back on his experience</a> in 1991 as the first American ambassador appointed to a united Germany in more than 50 years, "when the euphoria of unification had begun to fade." In the years following, he writes, the size of the U.S. military force stationed in Germany declined from more than 250,000 to under 50,000—"replaced in almost exact numbers by private sector workers."</p> <p>In <a href="">his own essay</a>, Janes writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Twenty-five years after German unity, the world is different. It may not be safer. It still is beset by dangers and tensions at both the regional and global levels. But in looking at Germany within a European Union, one sees a world which not too long ago was seen as improbable. How many times was the phrase about the possibility of German unification—"Not in my lifetime"—mentioned prior to 1989?</p> </blockquote> <p>Reflections on the anniversary are also expected to play a part in the institute's <a href="">Annual Global Leadership Award Dinner</a> next month in New York. The event will take place just days before the 26th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.</p> <p>And on Monday, Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies will host a talk titled <a href="">"A New Strategic Vision for Europe,"</a> featuring Erich Vad, a former longtime military adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and brigadier general of the German Bundeswehr.</p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 12:45:00 -0400 Michael Hersch's emotionally heavy 'On the Threshold of Winter' comes to Peabody <p>Last summer, <a href="">Michael Hersch</a>, one of the <a href="">Peabody Institute</a>'s more adventurous and challenging <a href="">faculty composers</a>, debuted the first opera of his two-decade career.</p> <p><em>On the Threshold of Winter</em>, a two-act monodrama, sets the text from Romanian poet Marin Sorescu's book-long poem <em>The Bridge</em>—penned during the author's final two months of living with cancer—to a small, eight-piece ensemble and soprano. It had its world debut last year at the <a href="">Brooklyn Academy of Music</a>, at which time Hersch <a href="">told <em>The New York Times</em> that writing this work about love and loss</a> was, in a way, cathartic.</p> <p><em>On the Threshold of Winter</em> <a href="">debuts at the Peabody Institute's Friedberg Hall on Saturday</a>.</p> <p>The Hub spoke with Hersch last summer <a href="">about the opera's origins</a> in the composer's own cancer experiences, the loss of a friend, and his reading of <em>The Bridge</em>, wherein he talked about being struck by Sorescu's sobering honesty:</p> <blockquote> <p>In our society there are many things glossed over when we speak of illness, especially terminal illness. What Sorescu embraces, what I think is rare to find in modern discourse about terminal illness, is that element of raw fear, the uncertainty, the abject terror of the unknown that is so much a part of the experience.</p> <p>The irony is that most everyone has had somebody close to them suffer from this disease and have been privy to what the illness does to people.</p> </blockquote> <p>If that sounds emotionally heavy, it's intended to—but as with Hersch's music, there's a roiling human sea churning beneath that heaviness. <a href="">Jay Nordlinger</a>, writing about <em>Winter</em> in the <em>National Review</em>, remarked: <a href="">"Sometimes the opera is beautiful and haunting; sometimes it is savage and assaultive. ... Nothing is frivolous or trivial. Everything has a purpose.</a></p> <p>Peabody alum and current <a href="">faculty</a> artist <a href="">Ah Young Hong</a> reprises her role as <em>Winter</em>'s only singing character in what <a href=""><em>The New York Times</em> called a "soul-baring, courageous performance."</a> Also returning from last year's debut: conductor Tito Muñoz and the new music ensemble <a href="">Nunc</a>.</p> <p>The Baltimore debut is the latest local event in a particularly prolific 2015 for Hersch. His song cycle "a breath upwards" had its <a href="">local debut in April</a>. That same month saw the release of his <a href=""><em>Last Autumn</em></a> CD, a recording of Hersch's response to W.G. Sebald's poem "After Nature" written for <a href="">horn and cello</a> that is a gorgeously arresting, two-hour immersion in complex ideas and overpowering emotions.</p> <p>On Oct. 16, members of the <a href="">Atos Trio</a> perform the world premiere of Hersch's <em>Carrion-Miles to Purgatory: thirteen pieces after texts of Robert Lowell</em> at the Library of Congress as part of the 90th anniversary season of the library's <a href="">concert series</a>. On Nov. 14, conductor Douglas Buchanan leads the Canticum Novum singers through a program that includes Hersch's vocal piece <em>From Ecclesiastes</em> at the <a href="">Emmanuel Episcopal Church</a> in Baltimore. And on Dec. 2, the <a href="">Lunar Ensemble</a>, a contemporary music group co-founded/run by Peabody alumni, features Hersch as part of its Pitcher-Perfect Happy Hours at the <a href="">War Memorial</a> in downtown Baltimore, including the composer's <em>Tenebrae</em> for piano, <em>Two Pieces for Cello and Piano</em>, and <em>the wide-wandered hour</em> for soprano and piano.</p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 09:40:00 -0400 Science, engineering partnership between Morgan State, Johns Hopkins grows <p>Three Morgan State University students were recently recognized as Extreme Science Scholars by representatives of Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.</p> <p>The Extreme Science Scholar program supports Morgan State students pursuing a math, science, engineering of technology degree at the undergraduate or graduate levels. The program, funded by the <a href="">Army Research Laboratory</a>, provides tuition support for the 2015-2016 academic year and is an expansion of the Extreme Science Internship program, which places Morgan students in research internships at JHU's <a href="">Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute</a> and 14 other institutions.</p> <p>The students are:</p> <ul> <li><p>Oreoluwa Adesina, a sophomore electrical engineering major who hopes to gain a better understanding of how extreme material science and electrical engineering combine to obtain groundbreaking discoveries.</p></li> <li><p>Hashmath Fathima, who is in her first year as a master's of engineering student and hopes to learn more about working with composites and create a network of researchers who can help build and develop new programs for equipment used in Morgan State's laboratories.</p></li> <li><p>Dennis Aryee, a first-year graduate student studying physics who plans to use the opportunity to develop a better understanding of materials science and how certain applications can benefit mankind.</p></li> </ul> <p>The students were recognized during a ceremony on Sept. 10 by <a href="">Lori Graham-Brady</a>, associate director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute; Alvin Kennedy, interim dean of the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences at Morgan State University; and John Beatty, senior materials researcher at the Army Research Laboratory.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">HEMI/MICA Extreme Arts Internship Program celebrates first students</a></p> Thu, 01 Oct 2015 08:05:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins, Kavli Foundation create new institute dedicated to study of how the brain works <p>The Kavli Foundation and its university partners announced this morning the founding of three new neuroscience institutes, <a href="">including one at Johns Hopkins</a>. The new Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute at The Johns Hopkins University, expected to launch in early 2016, will bring an interdisciplinary group of researchers together to investigate the workings of the brain.</p> <p>The Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute, to be funded by a joint $20 million commitment by Kavli and Johns Hopkins, is designed to integrate neuroscience, engineering, and data science—three fields in which the university has long excelled—to understand the relationship between the brain and behavior.</p> <p>Experimental tools in neuroscience are yielding larger and more complex data sets than ever before, but the ability of neuroscientists to manage and mine these data sets effectively has lagged behind, as has their ability to model the behavior of cells and circuits in the brain. The new institute aims to change that by drawing on the university's expertise in "big data" analytics.</p> <p>"The challenges of tomorrow will not be confined to distinct disciplines, and neither will the solutions we create," says Johns Hopkins University President <a href="">Ronald J. Daniels</a>. "The Kavli Foundation award is a tremendous honor because it allows Johns Hopkins to build on our history of pioneering neuroscience and to catalyze new partnerships with engineers and data scientists that will be essential to building a unified understanding of brain function."</p> <p>Added Robert W. Conn, president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation: "This new institute will bring together some of the world's finest researchers in neuroscience in a fresh, dynamic way that is aimed at advancing our understanding of the relationship between the brain and behavior. This kind of research is essential to finding new approaches to better understand the mind and protecting it from disorders ranging from depression to Alzheimer's."</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">Johns Hopkins part of $100 million initiative to study the brain</a> (<em>The Baltimore Sun</em>)</p> <p>The 45 initial members of the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute—including Director <a href="">Richard L. Huganir</a>, professor and director of the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and co-director <a href="">Michael I. Miller</a>, professor of biomedical engineering—are drawn from 14 different departments in the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine, engineering, arts and sciences, and public health, and the Applied Physics Laboratory.</p> <p>"Neuroscience is inherently interdisciplinary," Huganir says. "You can study the biochemistry of the brain, but how does that relate to circuits and behavior? It's tough to answer that in a single laboratory. It necessitates interaction and collaboration, and with the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute, we're trying to take that to a new level to understand the brain."</p> <p>Added Miller: "Our ability to collect cellular neural data is growing at a Moore's law kind of doubling rate. At the same time, our ability to image the brain at different scales is producing massive data sets. One of the fundamental problems we all face now is how to connect the information that is being represented across scales. With this deluge of data, mathematical, algorithmic, and computational models become perhaps more important today in neuroscience than ever before."</p> <p>The three new institutes announced today are the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute at The Johns Hopkins University, the Kavli Neural Systems Institute at The Rockefeller University, and the Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. Each of the institutes will receive a $20 million endowment supported equally by their universities and the foundation, along with startup funding. The foundation is also partnering with four other universities to build their Kavli Institute endowments further. These Institutes are at Columbia University; the University of California, San Diego; Yale University; and Norwegian University of Science and Technology.</p> <p><a href="">The Kavli Foundation</a>, based in Oxnard, California, advances science for the benefit of humanity, promotes public understanding of scientific research, and supports scientists and their work. The foundation's mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics, and through the support of conferences, symposia, endowed professorships and other activities. The foundation is also a founding partner of the biennial Kavli Prizes, which recognize scientists for their seminal advances in three research areas: astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.</p> <p>"I'm so pleased that the Kavli Foundation and its university partners, including Maryland's iconic Johns Hopkins University, are coming together to advance cutting edge research into traumatic brain injuries and debilitating diseases like Alzheimer's, autism, and Parkinson's," says Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. "This public/private partnership will help support the development and application of innovative technologies that can help map the human brain. With today's announcement, we will help researchers uncover the mysteries of brain disorders so we can better treat, prevent, cure, and help families in need."</p> <p><em>Correction: The roles Huganir and Miller will fill with the new institute were misstated in an earlier version of this article. Huganir is the director; Miller is the co-director. We regret the error.</em></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 16:00:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins climbs to 11th in annual World University Rankings <p>Johns Hopkins University gained four spots in the <a href="!/page/0/length/25">latest London <em>Times Higher Education</em> World University Rankings</a>, which were released today, moving up to 11th out of 800 universities.</p> <p>JHU, which also ranked seventh among U.S. universities on the list, received the highest possible score of 100 in the industry income category, a measurement of the research income that a school generates relative to the size of its academic staff. Industry income is <a href="">one of five key categories of criteria on which <em>THE</em>'s rankings are based</a>, along with teaching (including student-faculty ratios), research (by faculty members of the school), citations (the influence of the school's research on other advances in the field), and international outlook.</p> <p>The annual <em>Times Higher Education</em> list, in its 12th year, is among the world's most influential rankings of colleges and universities. Of more than 17,000 international students who responded to the <a href="">Hobsons 2015 International Student Survey</a>, a third said they consulted <em>THE</em>'s World University Rankings during the college application process.</p> <p><em>THE</em>'s list has doubled in size from last year, when JHU <a href="">ranked 15th out of 400 universities</a>. The increase in list size aims to promote inclusivity and to ensure that the rankings are "truly global," <a href="">according to a blog post published by <em>THE</em> in advance of the release of the list</a>.</p> <p>California Institute of Technology topped the list for the fifth consecutive year.</p> <p>In the <a href=""><em>U.S. News & World Report</em> "Best Colleges Rankings,"</a> released earlier this month, Johns Hopkins ranked 10th out of 1,376 schools. The "Best Colleges Rankings" weigh criteria such as a school's undergraduate reputation, retention of students, and faculty resources.</p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:40:00 -0400 Baltimore med-tech startup Sisu Global Health lands $100,000 prize <p>After moving to Baltimore last spring to take part in an accelerator program co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins, the <a href="">Sisu Global Health</a> startup has just scored a big win.</p> <p>The medical technology company nabbed $100,000 Monday night as part of <a href="">"Rise of the Rest,"</a> launched by AOL co-founder and former CEO Steve Case. The five-city tour is designed to bring attention and funding to startups outside of traditional tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City.</p> <p>Sisu edged out seven other Baltimore-based teams in the live pitch competition to claim the top prize.</p> <p>The team at Sisu is working to develop advanced medical devices for emerging markets, including Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, they're focused on launching their own product in West Africa: <a href="">Hemafuse</a>, a surgical tool for recycling a patient's own blood from internal bleeding.</p> <p>Founded by three women in Grands Rapids, Michigan, the startup moved to Baltimore this spring to join the four-month <a href="">DreamIt Health</a> bootcamp. Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine are among the co-sponsors of the program, which seeds startups with some initial funding, workspaces, and connections to investors.</p> <p>With the "Rise of the Rest" victory, the Sisu team is now committed to cementing its ties to Baltimore, company co-founder Katie Kirsch said in an email.</p> <p>"We only officially moved here this past spring for the DreamIt Health accelerator and were so impressed by the support offered by the community, in terms of what's needed for a startup to grow: space, legal/accounting services, access to clinical/global health expertise, and even better access to our customers through the large African Diaspora here," she wrote.</p> <p>Sisu was among the eight Baltimore startups—including <a href="">five directly connected to Hopkins</a>—that vied for the top prize Monday.</p> <p>In an interview with <a href=""><em>The Baltimore Sun</em></a>, Case called Sisu's medical technology "kind of a change-the-world idea."</p> <p>Sisu has conducted clinical studies on its device with Johns Hopkins and has already raised $500,000 as it works toward distributing the surgical tool in Ghana next year, <em>The Sun</em> reported.</p> <p>Baltimore was the first stop of the bus tour for Case and his "Rise of the Rest" team, who are traveling through the Northeast this week to spotlight emerging technology hubs.</p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:48:00 -0400 High-powered JHU telescope designed to explore origins of universe moving toward 'first light' <p>An effort to peer into the origins of the universe with the most effective instrument ever used in the effort is taking a big step forward, as Johns Hopkins University scientists begin shipping a two-story-tall microwave telescope to its base in Chile.</p> <p>Pieces of the Cosmology Large Angular Scale Surveyor telescope—also known as CLASS—will soon be packed in a 40-foot container and sent south, as scientists get closer to taking observations of a faint, ancient electromagnetic energy that pervades the sky, holding clues about how the universe began.</p> <p>[Charles L. Bennett](, professor of physics and astronomy and Johns Hopkins Gilman Scholar, is the project leader.</p> <p>"It's going to be great to work our way toward first light," said Bennett, referring to the first telescope observations from Chile that are expected to be made this winter. "It's very exciting after 12 years" from the earliest discussions of the CLASS concept, he said.</p> <p>"We're all excited that everything is coming together," added <a href="">Tobias Marriage</a>, an assistant professor in JHU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, who is co-leading the CLASS project alongside Bennett.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">In a CLASS by itself</a> (<em>Arts & Sciences Magazine</em>, Spring 2014)</p> <p>In early and mid-October, professors, post-doctoral researchers, and students working at the <a href="">Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy</a> will pack two containers with pieces of the telescope built at Johns Hopkins. The telescope is designed to detect subtle patterns in the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, a relic thermal energy of the hot infant universe more than 13 billion years old. By sea, highway, and dirt road, the telescope parts will take a six-week trek to an elevation of about 17,000 feet in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.</p> <p>Members of the Johns Hopkins team will then reassemble the telescope, which stands about 24 feet tall, fitting the base with one of four cylinders that contain detectors designed to receive the signal. In the next two years, three more cylinders will be mounted on two towers, enabling the instrument to detect four electromagnetic frequencies and improve the quality of the observations.</p> <p>The number of frequencies is part of what makes the CLASS telescope the most powerful instrument yet trained on the cosmic microwave background. Discovered in 1964 by two Americans, who later shared a Nobel Prize for their work, the CMB has provided scientists with a wealth of information about the universe, Bennett said.</p> <p>Because the radiation has taken billions of years to reach us, the CMB in effect captures a moment when the 13.77-billion-year-old universe was about 380,000 years old.</p> <p>The CLASS project is meant to examine 70 percent of the sky—the most yet for a land-based instrument—for evidence of a polarization pattern in the cosmic microwave background. That evidence would test the prevailing hypothesis about how the universe expanded.</p> <p>This notion, known as "inflation," holds that the universe began with quantum fluctuations—random changes in energy—in a space smaller than an atom within the first microsecond of the life of the universe.</p> <p>If "inflation" advocates are correct, those quantum fluctuations created gravitational waves that left a fingerprint on the cosmic microwave background. The mark would appear as a pattern, or polarization, in this encompassing field of electromagnetic radiation.</p> <p>Bennett has devoted much of his career to studying the cosmic microwave background, first as a NASA scientist, then at Johns Hopkins. He was on the science team for the Cosmic Background Explorer, a NASA satellite that measured the CMB in the early 1990s. Later he served as the principal investigator for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP, a NASA space mission that mapped the CMB.</p> <p>CLASS goes another step further in instrumental capability to probe the history of the universe.</p> <p>In speaking engagements, Bennett said, he is often asked how it is that scientists can know so much about the universe—its age; its expansion rate; and its makeup of dark energy, cold dark matter, and ordinary matter. In response he points to the object of his life's work, the cosmic microwave background.</p> <p>"The answer is this radiation is how we can know all this," Bennett said. "The magic is that this radiation comes to us directly from the early universe and we can look at it, effectively providing us a time machine."</p>