Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Tue, 31 May 2016 11:30:00 -0400 Renovation project to close off significant portion of JHU's Keyser Quad <p>Johns Hopkins University began a major renovation project last week to replace the waterproofing system on the north side of Krieger Hall, located on the Keyser Quad on the university's Homewood Campus.</p> <p> <div class="image inline align-right image-landscape column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Will Kirk / Homewood Photography </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>At the same time, the colonnade between Krieger and Ames Halls—which spans the area known as the breezeway—will be deconstructed, waterproofed, and reconstructed.</p> <p>The Krieger Waterproofing and Colonnade Restoration Project is expected to take more than a year, with a projected completion date in August 2017.</p> <p>A significant portion of Keyser Quad will be fenced off and used for material storage and deliveries during the project, and the breezeway will be closed. Pedestrians will need to use alternate routes.</p> <p>"We recognize the disruptive impact of this project and are committed to carefully managing and, where possible, mitigating the challenges it will create for our faculty, staff, and students," says Bob McLean, JHU's vice president for facilities and real estate.</p> <p>In particular, instead of using the stairs between Krieger and Ames Halls to walk through the breezeway, everyone will be rerouted to pathways through the buildings using temporary stairs or to the Gilman tunnel. A <a href="">map with alternate routes and locations of accessible entrances</a> is available on the project website.</p> <p> <div class="image inline align-full image-landscape column has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p> <span class="visuallyhidden">Image caption:</span> Overview of construction area for the Krieger Waterproofing and Colonnade Restoration Project. </p> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Greg Stanley </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Schools, departments, and student organizations have prepared to use alternate locations for activities that usually occur on the quad, including summer programs, orientation events, and the annual Lighting of the Quads in early December.</p> <p>Krieger Hall is one of the oldest buildings on the Homewood campus, with construction completed in 1933.</p> <p>Water has been infiltrating the floors below ground level on the north side of the building. Johns Hopkins hired engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger to conduct a study, which determined that the waterproofing system—built more than 87 years ago, during the original construction—needs to be replaced. The firm also discovered water damage to the adjacent colonnade.</p> <p>To expose Kreiger's existing waterproofing system, the north side of the building will be excavated to a depth of 27 feet, creating a trench that will be approximately 20 feet wide and 200 feet long. The ramp from Keyser Quad to the second floor of Krieger Hall will be removed and replaced at the end of the project.</p> <p>Concurrently, the colonnade will be disassembled, its foundation will be repaired and waterproofed, and the structure will be reconstructed using the existing marble.</p> <p>Most of the existing trees on the quad will be fenced and protected, others will be pruned or relocated, and some will be removed to allow for the construction and replaced when the project is complete. All affected brick walkways and lawn will be restored at the end of the project.</p> <p>Occupants of Krieger Hall and neighboring buildings can expect the noisiest activities to occur from 6 a.m. to noon, with less disruptive activities through the afternoon. To minimize the duration of the project, work will also occur on the weekends. The five classrooms on the north side of Krieger Hall—rooms 108, 300, 302, 304, and 308—will not be used during construction, and the university will renovate them during that time.</p> <p><a href="">Project details and regular updates</a> will be available on the Facilities and Real Estate website.</p> Tue, 31 May 2016 09:50:00 -0400 Researchers must help others see value of research, speakers tell JHU postdocs <p>A scientist's work should involve more than conducting research and writing journal articles, <a href="">Mary Wooley</a> says. Scientists also have to be advocates for their own work and help others see the value in it.</p> <p>"The four most important words you can say to a stranger are 'I work for you,'" Wooley said Thursday at the third annual <a href="">Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Retreat</a>. "Then you'll probably end up making a friend for science."</p> <p>Wooley, a scientist herself, is also president of <a href="">Research!America</a>, which advocates for making research a higher national priority at a time when even elected officials discredit the work of scientists. Her morning presentation—about the power of researchers to change the sometimes unfavorable public perception of research—set the stage for a day-long conference of more than 300 scientists and fellows with advanced degrees who aim to build diverse and successful careers in science fields.</p> <p>The event, held on JHU's East Baltimore campus, brought together researchers from seven Johns Hopkins divisions and other institutions, including the NIH and the University of Maryland. The retreat featured presentations, poster sessions, and breakout workshops about career development and soft skills like communicating effectively with people who don't have a background in science.</p> <p>"We want to get the postdocs together to not only showcase their talents and broaden their knowledge, but equally as important, we want to get them together to build relationships and have fun," said Stanley Andrisse, co-president of the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association</a> and a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric endocrinology.</p> <p> <div class="image inline align-left image-landscape column has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="Five people pose at the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Retreat" /> <div class="caption"> <p> <span class="visuallyhidden">Image caption:</span> Members of the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association with Science Comedian Brian Malow (second from right) </p> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Megan Sampley </p> </div> </div> </p> <p>Science comedian <a href="">Brian Malow</a> stressed the importance of storytelling, even in professional presentations.</p> <p>"People come up [to organizers] at conferences and say, 'Here's my presentation,"' he said, imitating someone handing over a USB flash drive. "No, those are your slides. <em>You</em> are your presentation."</p> <p>It was a sentiment Wooley had touched on earlier when she advised the audience to "tell your story, not your data."</p> <p>Participants had an opportunity to practice what the speakers preached during the oral presentation session and afternoon poster sessions. Alba Abzola won first prize in the poster session category, and each of the five speakers were awarded monetary prizes for their participation in the oral presentations, with Akshata Almad taking first place. Saumil Sethna from UMBC was presented with the Visiting Scientist Award.</p> <p><a href="">Martha Zeiger</a>, associate dean for postdoctoral affairs at Johns Hopkins Medicine, and <a href="">Landon King</a>, executive vice dean for the School of Medicine, gave opening remarks. <a href="">Paul Rothman</a>, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, provided closing remarks.</p> <p>The retreat was organized by the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association and sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Active Motif, Agilent Technologies, BioRad Laboratories, and Thermo Fischer Scientific.</p> Thu, 26 May 2016 16:00:00 -0400 Computational biologist Michael Schatz named 21st Bloomberg Professor at Johns Hopkins <p><a href="">Michael Schatz</a>, one of the world's foremost experts in solving computational problems in genomics research, has been named a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University, joining 20 other Bloomberg Professors at the university whose work spans disciplines and aims to address some of the world's most vexing challenges.</p> <p>Schatz will be an associate professor of computational biology, with appointments in the <a href="">Department of Computer Science</a> at JHU's Whiting School of Engineering and in the <a href="">Department of Biology</a> at JHU Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.</p> <p>Schatz joins Johns Hopkins from <a href="">Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory</a> on Long Island in New York, where he was an associate professor in the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology, served as the co-director of the Undergraduate Research Program, and co-led the Cancer Genetics & Genomics Program in the CSHL Cancer Center.</p> <p><div class="external-links inline align-left"> <h6>Also see</h6> <div class="article teaser force"> <div class="text"> <h5><a href="">Michael Schatz will participate in a Facebook live chat on Friday, May 27 at 1 p.m.</a></h5> </div> </div> </ul> </div> </p> <p>Schatz is the 21st <a href="">Bloomberg Distinguished Professor</a> appointed across Johns Hopkins. The professorships are supported by a <a href="">$350 million gift to the university</a> by Johns Hopkins alumnus, philanthropist, and three-term New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The majority of this gift is dedicated to creating 50 new interdisciplinary professorships, galvanizing people, resources, research, and educational opportunities to address major world problems.</p> <p>"With the appointment of each new Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, our university becomes better equipped to lead the future of research and education," says <a href="">Robert C. Lieberman</a>, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins. "Dr. Schatz is an outstanding scholar who has exhibited incredibly broad interdisciplinary expertise, representing the intention of Mike Bloomberg's visionary gift."</p> <p>Computational biology is at the intersection of computer science, biology, and biotechnology. Through an integrative approach to scientific discovery, Schatz and his collaborators successfully harness trends in computing to tackle important problems stemming from the continuous development of DNA sequencing, such as the alignment of next-generation sequencing reads and the assembly of reads from real-time single-molecule sequencers.</p> <p><div class="pullquote inline align-left"> "There is no better institution in the world than Johns Hopkins University for the cross-cutting research in science, engineering, and medicine that makes up computational biology." <div class="cite">Michael Schatz</div> </div> </p> <p>Schatz has created many of the most widely used methods and software for genome assembly—that is, piecing together all of the genetic material for a single person or a species. He is primarily focused on the development of novel algorithms for comparative genomics, human genetics, and personalized medicine. His work has led to a better understanding of the structure and function of genomes, especially those of medical or agricultural importance.</p> <p>Schatz also examines sequence variations related to autism spectrum disorders, cancer, and other human diseases in order to reveal their genetic basis and evolution. He has also recently embarked on creating new computational methods for analyzing single molecule sequencing, especially plant and animal genomes and transcriptomes, which are the sets of expressed genes in an organism.</p> <p>"There is no better institution in the world than Johns Hopkins University for the cross-cutting research in science, engineering, and medicine that makes up computational biology," Schatz says. "I am delighted to join the faculty here and look forward to collaborating with my new, outstanding colleagues to help find the causes of diseases, identify better ways to feed the planet, and develop new sources of biofuels. I also look forward to passing on my passion for research to the undergraduate and graduate student bodies and promoting them to work on solving these incredibly meaningful problems."</p> <p>Schatz's appointment reinforces Johns Hopkins' strength and international visibility in the area of computational biology. He joins a cohort of scholars leading the field, including <a href="">Ben Langmead</a>, <a href="">Alexis Battle</a>, <a href="">James Taylor</a>, and fellow Bloomberg Distinguished Professor <a href="">Steven Salzberg</a>, who was also Schatz's doctoral advisor. His work will benefit the <a href="">Individualized Health Initiative</a>, which spans the university, the Johns Hopkins Health System, and the <a href="">Applied Physics Laboratory</a>.</p> <p>"Dr. Schatz is an outstanding addition to the pioneering faculty of Whiting School of Engineering," says <a href="">Ed Schlesinger</a>, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering. "He will drive collaborations between researchers in fields that include computer science, computational biology, data science, genomics, and biology. We are thrilled he has decided to make Johns Hopkins his academic home and know that our students will benefit greatly from his appointment."</p> <p>Schatz is an experienced and esteemed educator who has twice been awarded the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Winship Herr Award for Excellence in Teaching. While at CSHL, he co-directed the Undergraduate Research Program and taught graduate courses on genetics, genomics, quantitative biology, genome assembly, and advanced sequencing technologies and applications. He has also helped organize several large conferences, including launching a new conference on <a href="">Biological Data Science</a> to bring together researchers in computer sciences, statistics, mathematics, and other quantitative fields to address problems in biology and medicine. With this range of expertise, he will add valuable instruction for Hopkins undergraduate and graduate students in both the Krieger and Whiting schools.</p> <p>"Computational biology is an essential field for advancing our most basic understanding of living organisms," says <a href="">Beverly Wendland</a>, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "Dr. Schatz has already distinguished himself as an innovative researcher and effective teacher in this area and we greatly look forward to sharing in his future discoveries, which are sure to provide transformative insight into human disease and biological life."</p> <p>In 2015, Schatz received an <a href="">Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship</a> to develop computational methods to probe the genetic components of autism and cancer, and in 2014 he received a <a href="">NSF CAREER award</a> to develop new computational methods for processing DNA sequencing data from the latest high-throughput sequencing technologies.</p> <p>Schatz serves on the editorial boards of <em>Genome Biology</em>, <em>GigaScience</em>, and <em>Cell Systems</em>, and he has served as a reviewer for such journals as <em>Nature Biotechnology</em>, <em>Nature Methods</em>, <em>Genome Research</em>, <em>Genome Medicine</em>, <em>BMC Genomics</em>, <em>Bioinformatics</em>, and the <em>Faculty of 1000 Biology</em>. His work has been featured in <a href=""><em>The New York Times</em></a>, <a href=""><em>The Washington Post</em></a>, and <a href=""><em>Wired</em></a>.</p> <p>Schatz received a bachelor of science degree in computer science and philosophy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2000 and a master of science and doctoral degrees in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Between his bachelor and master of science degrees, Schatz worked as a software engineer at the J. Craig Venter Institute—formerly The Institute for Genomic Research—and STi Systems. He will remain an Adjunct Associate Professor of Quantitative Biology at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.</p> Thu, 26 May 2016 14:00:00 -0400 Eight more Johns Hopkins Idea Lab proposals receive funding <p>Eight more ideas submitted to the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Idea Lab</a> this spring have been chosen to receive funding, joining the <a href="">five initial popular vote winners</a> announced earlier this month.</p> <p>The selection by committee of two more programs to assist citizens returning from incarceration—the theme this year for President Ronald J. Daniels' Ten by Twenty Challenge—brings the total for the 2016 round of that grant program to $80,000.</p> <p>Individuals affiliated with the School of Nursing proposed the <a href="">Passport to Freedom program</a> in cooperation with health professionals from community organizations. The "woman-centered, trauma-informed reentry program" includes eight weeks of trauma intervention, job training, and parent support services for women leaving incarceration.</p> <p>In the proposal the team wrote: "The interdisciplinary team involved in this project allows for the coordination of integrated services so that, in addition to healing from trauma, women will receive instrumental supportive assistance in areas of employment and parenting so they may successfully reunite their families and social networks and build healthy and satisfying lives."</p> <p>The other program selected by the committee is <a href="">The Identity Clinic</a>, a partnership between the <a href="">Living Classrooms Foundation</a> and Johns Hopkins' <a href="">Student Outreach Resource Center</a> to assist returning citizens to secure any identification documents they may be missing.</p> <p>The clinic at Living Classrooms' Adult Resource Center will be staffed by volunteers—including students, faculty, and staff from Johns Hopkins—who will be trained by case managers from the foundation. The program will include funds to cover the cost of obtaining documents and mobile clinics to ensure accessibility.</p> <p>The idea submission said the Living Classrooms Foundation found 90 percent of participants in its existing program for returning citizens need assistance with gaining a Maryland state ID. "Without identification and money, [these individuals] are likely to experience major barriers in finding jobs, housing, and accessing transportation."</p> <p>These programs join the <a href="">Hop Back Home program</a> and <a href="">Build. Develop. Empower.</a> as this year's Ten by Twenty challenge winners.</p> <p>The <a href="">Diversity Leadership Council</a> has chosen six more Idea Lab submissions to receive Diversity Innovation Grants to foster diversity and inclusion among the communities of Johns Hopkins.</p> <ul> <li><p><a href="">Women of Hopkins</a> will be a collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Art to commission permanent art installations at the university's Homewood campus highlighting Hopkins' most accomplished women.</p></li> <li><p><a href="">Enhancing Patient-Provider Communication with Deaf Patients</a> will provide trainings to medical and nursing students on issues related to patient-provider communication with deaf patients.</p></li> <li><p><a href="">Interrogating Identity: Power & Privilege at Hopkins</a> will pilot a year-long series of workshops at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine that would establish a pedagogical framework for critical conversations around diversity and social inequity.</p></li> <li><p><a href="">AM I OK?</a> will offer a colloquium on the Homewood campus for students to access experts who will teach about self-advocacy, self-care, and mental health in regards to specific intersections of marginalization.</p></li> <li><p><a href="">¡Bienvenido! Promoting respect, diversity, and inclusion at JH</a> will offer training to Johns Hopkins staff and students to help them better serve the Latino population that is "limited English proficient" in medical settings.</p></li> <li><p><a href="">Beyond the Binary: Understanding Gender as a Spectrum</a> will work to improve gender inclusivity on campus by designating gender neutral bathrooms and promoting awareness of the gender spectrum.</p></li> </ul> <p>The ideas that received the most votes are the <a href="">Baltimore STEM Outreach program</a> to inspire Baltimore high school students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math; and <a href="">NavBot – Mentors and Mentees Building Robots</a>, which will also work with Baltimore City students.</p> Thu, 26 May 2016 11:00:00 -0400 Healthy lifestyle choices can help women overcome genetic breast cancer risk <p>High risk breast cancer due to family history and genetics can be substantially mitigated by a healthy lifestyle choices, <a href="">according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>.</p> <p>The study, <a href="">published today in the journal <em>JAMA Oncology</em></a>, found that roughly 30 percent of breast cancer cases in white women in the U.S. could be prevented by modifying known risk factors—for example, drinking less alcohol, losing weight, stopping smoking, and not taking hormone replacement therapy. More importantly, a higher proportion of these preventable cases occur among women with genetic and family risk factors.</p> <p><div class="external-links inline align-left"> <h6>Also see</h6> <div class="article teaser force"> <div class="text"> <h5><a href="">Even people with breast cancer risk genes can lower risk</a></h5> <div class="summary"> <span class="source">/ NBC News</span> </div> </div> </div> </ul> </div> </p> <p>The researchers found that white women with the genetic and family risk factors who also practiced healthy lifestyles faced roughly the same breast cancer risk as an average white woman in the U.S. The average chance that a 30-year-old white woman will develop breast cancer before age 80 is about 11 percent.</p> <p>Down the line, the research could contribute to precision prevention strategies for breast cancer, particularly as the price of genetic testing continues to dip into a more affordable range. The findings may also help scientists create better guidelines for breast cancer screenings based on individual risk factors.</p> <p>The disease remains the most common form of malignancy diagnosed in women in Western developed countries, with an estimated 40,000 fatalities per year in the U.S.</p> <p>"People think that their genetic risk for developing cancer is set in stone," says study senior author <a href="">Nilanjan Chatterjee</a>, a <a href="">Bloomberg Distinguished Professor</a> at the Bloomberg School. "While you can't change your genes, this study tells us even people who are at high genetic risk can substantially change their health outlook by making better lifestyle choices such as eating right, exercising, and quitting smoking."</p> <p>Chatterjee and his colleagues developed a model for predicting breast cancer risk using thousands of health records from the Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium and the National Health Interview Study. Researchers combined individual-level data on risk factors like age, weight, and smoking with data on almost 100 common gene variations known to combine to create significantly higher risk of breast cancer. These gene variations are quite different from the well-known rare mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, where a single variant can create a very high risk of breast cancer.</p> <p>The findings are currently applicable only to white women because further research is needed to understand how genetic variants affect breast cancer risk for other ethnic groups.</p> <p>Chatterjee says the model—though still several years away from being ready for routine medical use—could be helpful for finding a way to screen women who are at higher risk of breast cancer more often. Currently, screenings are mostly based on age, with the U.S. recommending routine mammograms starting at age 50.</p> <p>"We aren't saying there will be less screening, just smarter screening," Chatterjee says.</p> <p>Chatterjee also says he hopes that once women understand that their genes do not completely predict their cancer destiny, they will work harder to make lifestyle changes to reduce their odds with the disease.</p> Thu, 26 May 2016 09:55:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins students design prosthetic foot fit for high heels <p>After losing a leg to injury or disease, women adjusting to life with a prosthetic limb face the same challenges as men, with perhaps one added complication: how to wear high-heels?</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-portrait column has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="Prosthetic feet are attached to the soles of boots to perform the walk test." /> <div class="caption"> <p> <span class="visuallyhidden">Image caption:</span> A member of the design team tests the prosthetic prototype on a flat surface. </p> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Johns Hopkins University Senior Design Team </p> </div> </div> <p>A team of Johns Hopkins University students, working with a Johns Hopkins physician and outside prosthetics experts, has developed an early version of a potential solution. Called the "Prominence," it would be the first prosthetic foot on the market that is not custom made that adapts to popular fashion for heels up to four inches high.</p> <p>"High heels have become an integral part of the female lifestyle in modern society, permeating through all aspects of life—professional and social," the five students who graduated earlier this month from the university's <a href="">Whiting School of Engineering</a> wrote in their final project report. "For female veterans of the U.S. armed services with lower limb amputations, that seemingly innocuous, but so pervasive, and decidedly feminine part of their lives is gone."</p> <p>Scores of prosthetic feet are available on the market, but most are built to fit men's shoes, and none can adjust to a heel more than two inches high. That's less than the average women's heel height in the United States.</p> <p>Some 2,100 American women have lost a leg or foot in military service, and more women entering combat assignments, so the demand for a prosthesis that accommodates women's fashion footwear is sure to grow. The students—who created the Prominence as their final senior project in mechanical engineering—hope their work can help.</p> <p>The challenge was daunting: create a foot that adjusts without a separate tool to a range of heel heights, holds position without slipping, supports up to 250 pounds, weighs less than three pounds and, of course, is slender enough to accommodate a woman's shoe.</p> <p>The human foot "took thousands of years of evolution to get this way," said team member Luke Brown. "We have one year to match it."</p> <p>The students' two semesters of work on the problem unfolded as a mix of mathematical calculations on paper and trial and error involving tests by machines and people. The students struggled to balance the foot's strength and flexibility, reliability and convenience, sturdiness and lightness.</p> <p>They tried a balloon in the heel to give it spring, or "energy return," as engineers say. That didn't work. They tried a mousetrap spring, but that didn't work, either. They tried a sideways sandwich of 23 slender titanium plates to form the foot itself, but that was too heavy and not springy. A 20-layer carbon fiber footplate failed a stress test, but a 28-layer version worked, forming the base of the foot.</p> <p>They built a heel-adjustment mechanism with two interlocking aluminum disks that opens and closes with an attached lever at the ankle. For the ankle, they used an off-the-shelf hydraulic unit that enables a smooth gait and flexing at the sole.</p> <p>Using four types of women's shoes—including a gold five-and-a-half inch stiletto—the team had the foot tested by seven people. Three were amputees; four were non-amputees who attached the foot to the bottom of a bulky boot, a bit like walking on stilts.</p> <p>Alexandra Capellini, a Johns Hopkins University junior who lost her right leg to bone cancer as a child, tried the foot with a flat shoe and liked it.</p> <p>"I had a good time walking," said Capellini, who majors in public health. "It felt stable.</p> <p>"An adjustable ankle is useful in contexts even beyond high heels," she added. "Ballet flats, sneakers, boots, and high heels especially, all vary in height, so an adjustable ankle opens up opportunities to wear a variety of shoes."</p> <p>One tester recommended a stiffer, longer toe. Another suggested moving the adjustment lever.</p> <p>It's still a work in progress. <a href="">James K. Gilman</a>, executive director of the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Military & Veterans Health Institute</a> and advisor to the group, said it will take time to assess the commercial appeal and potential of the Prominence, including the question of whether anything the team created could qualify for a patent.</p> <p>"I think the final prototype produced showed the way forward," said <a href="">Nathan Scott</a>, a senior lecturer in the Whiting School's Department of Mechanical Engineering, who advised the student group. "As usual we just need to go around the design and prototyping loop one more time."</p> Wed, 25 May 2016 12:50:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins laboratory for neurosurgery, biomedical engineering sparks new partnerships <p>On the seventh floor of the Johns Hopkins Hospital's Carnegie Building, in what once was a postoperative recovery room, biomedical engineering students are designing biomedical tools, algorithms, and imaging systems that could shape the future of surgery. Not far from their workstations, toolboxes, and robots, a foosball table provides a place for researchers and clinicians to unwind. Nearby, a giant TV screen is on 24/7, linking the Carnegie Center to the <a href="">BME Design Studio</a> in Clark Hall on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.</p> <p>For <a href="">Jeff Siewerdsen</a>, a professor of biomedical engineering, it was not hard to imagine such a synergistic connection between biomedical engineers and surgeons.</p> <p>"Clinical collaboration has always been the inspiration for our research," says Siewerdsen, who collaborated with neurosurgery Professor <a href="">Jean-Paul Wolinsky</a> to create the center. "What's extraordinary is seeing that connection come to life in the same vintage operating rooms where so many landmark surgical procedures of the 20th century were pioneered."</p> <p><a href="">The Carnegie Center for Surgical Innovation</a> presents a unique resource for research, education, and translation that the departments of Neurosurgery and Biomedical Engineering hope will transform surgery, imaging science, and other disciplines in the 21st century.</p> <p>Siewerdsen and Wolinsky's vision for the new laboratory began to take shape four years ago, when Johns Hopkins Hospital's main operating rooms were moved from Carnegie, which was built in 1927, to the new Zayed and Bloomberg clinical towers. Siewerdsen and Wolinsky proposed increasing collaborations between their departments by converting some of the vacated space into a joint neurosurgery and biomedical engineering education and research center. Fueled by National Institutes of Health-funded research, this hospital-based joint neurosurgery and biomedical engineering lab is unique in North America.</p> <p>It is also singular in how it showcases elements of its storied past. In the post-anesthesia care room, where patients were taken immediately after surgery—and where today's research students now focus on screens scrolling with code, equations, and 3-D images—20 patient monitoring panels still line the walls. Into these were plugged a variety of post-op devices—from electrocardiograms to oxygen hookups and vacuum suctioning equipment.</p> <p>Siewerdsen, who holds appointments in BME, Neurosurgery, Oncology, Computer Science, Radiology, and the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, focuses his research on the creation of new imaging systems to improve surgical precision, enhance patient safety, and enable entirely new surgical approaches. In addition to directing the Carnegie Center, he heads the <a href="">I-STAR Lab</a>—a collaboration focusing on new systems for X-ray imaging and cone-beam CT, image registration, and 3-D image reconstruction for surgery, radiotherapy, and diagnostic radiology.</p> <p>In coming months, several other biomedical engineering faculty will bring new research expertise to the Carnegie Center, including: <a href="">Xingde Li</a>, who leads a program in biophotonics; <a href="">Muyinatu A. Lediju Bell</a>, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who focuses on ultrasound imaging; and <a href="">Wojciech Zbijewski</a>, a researcher who focuses on high-resolution imaging of bone health.</p> <p>For students on the Homewood campus, such as candidates from the master's program at the <a href="">Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design</a>, the Carnegie Center provides an invaluable new resource for student collaboration with clinicians.</p> <p>"The surgeons are right outside the door," Siewerdsen says, "and colocation in Carnegie helps break down conventional geographic barriers, give students better understanding of clinical problems, catalyze new ideas, and provide a proving ground for clinical translation."</p> <p><em>Adapted from an <a href="">article by Neil A. Grauer for Johns Hopkins Medicine's Dome</a></em>.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Message <p>I was once asked, "What exactly do you do as university president?"</p> <p>It was my teenage daughter who wanted to know precisely what I did for a living.</p> <p>Not confident that the question was entirely bereft of skepticism, I did a mental inventory of a recent week and shared my activities.</p> <p>I had a pre-call for a pre-meeting for a meeting about the coming fiscal year. I signed scores of letters, waded through hundreds of emails, handed out dozens of doughnuts to bleary-eyed undergraduate students in the library, and logged 24 hours—a full day—on the phone, often while in the car en route to other meetings.</p> <p>As I wrapped up my spiel, my daughter's blank stare told me all I needed to know. Except for the doughnuts, this did not sound like fun.</p> <p>Clearly, I pitched it wrong. Because, in truth, this job is the most rewarding and joyous I've ever had.</p> <p>As president, I have handed diplomas to students who are the first in their families to graduate from college and to a student who was the last of six siblings to walk across the stage at a Johns Hopkins graduation. I've stood amid colleagues at the Applied Physics Laboratory as they received the call that the New Horizons mission to Pluto had reached its target. I've traveled to Stockholm to witness Adam Riess receive the Nobel Prize in physics.</p> <p>I've had the privilege to perform with an undergraduate South Asian dance troupe, surprise faculty members with $250,000 research awards, cut ribbons on LEED-certified buildings that change the way our scholars collaborate and our students learn, and stand with community leaders working for change in Baltimore.</p> <p>I participated with alumni and friends in the creation of research and teaching centers like the Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, aimed at harnessing the body's immune system to combat cancer, or the Grass Humanities Institute, devoted to addressing the enduring questions of our age through the humanities.</p> <p>Indeed, I can imagine no other job that affords the privilege to engage so deeply with a learned community committed to the advancement of ideas, to connect so directly with faculty, students, and staff of remarkable creativity and intelligence, to be part of an institution that is fundamentally dedicated to changing the trajectory of lives through education, research, and service.</p> <p>This spring, my daughter graduated from college. Like parents from time immemorial, I could not resist offering one final piece of sage counsel. So I told her, find a job that makes you happy. That gives you a sense of meaning and impact. That you would find fun to do. Maybe, with the passage of time, I've finally landed the point.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Contributors <p><strong>Rafael Alvarez</strong> ("A Mural Reawakened," p. 68) is the author of 10 books, most recently <em>The Baltimore Love Project</em>, a history of murals in Crabtown. A longtime rewrite man on the City Desk of <em>The Baltimore Sun</em>, Alvarez has worked on merchant ships and written for the HBO drama <em>The Wire</em>. He is known for short stories about a waterfront junkman named Orlo and his Greek lover, Leini.</p> <p><strong>Burnt Toast Creative</strong> is the working alias for Scott Martin ("Lighten Up—It's Good for You," illustration, p. 24), a Canadian artist who started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. Now he is an internationally known illustrator whose clients include Dropbox, Red Bull, and Google.</p> <p><strong>Marshall Clarke</strong> ("When the Air is a Playground," photography, p. 16) is a Baltimore native who specializes in editorial and documentary photography. He loves to travel, bike, and create art with his niece and nephew when he is not behind the camera.</p> <p><strong>John Kachik</strong> ("A Man Walks Into a Bar," portraits, p. 42) is an alumnus and occasional adjunct faculty member of the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he studied illustration and sculpture. He is also on the faculty educational board at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center in Frederick, Maryland. He lives in Sykesville, Maryland, with his wife, Maria, daughters Emily and Isabel, their dogs Mia and Scarlett, and Mojo the turtle.</p> <p><strong>Rachel Wallach</strong> ("Might as Well Laugh," p. 34) writes and edits in Baltimore. She has written about topics ranging from ethics to robots to oysters to the history of dance. Her work has appeared in several Johns Hopkins publications, including <em>JHU Engineering</em>, <em>Johns Hopkins Public Health</em>, and <em>Arts & Sciences Magazine</em>.</p> <h3>On the cover</h3> <p>We've all been there—one minute, you're watching a clip from <em>The Daily Show</em>, and the next you're sucked into the click hole of the internet, watching videos of a skateboarding bulldog and a cat wearing rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses. Illustrator Daniel Fishel credits a YouTube binge for this issue's cover art, the perfect entryway to <em>The Fun Issue</em>. When he's not watching viral videos, the Queens, New York, resident is creating artwork for clients like <em>The Boston Globe</em>, <em>The Washington Post</em>, <em>McSweeney's</em>, and NPR.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Note <p>I am reputed to be a bit of a grump.</p> <p>My boss has said she finds this charming, but I'm not sure that's a widely shared sentiment. In my defense, I think some people misread my personality. I can be dour, I suppose, occasionally mordant, maybe less than chipper. But I prefer to think of my sour attitude as evidence of a deep, probing, and serious intellect and the outcome of my courageous refusal to avert my gaze from the hard truths of life.</p> <p>Yeah, all right, so I'm not Mr. Sunshine. But whether or not it's written on my face when I'm in the office, I have an awful lot of fun producing Johns Hopkins Magazine, and that was very much the case this time around. I am grinning right now as I present to you, dear readers, The Fun Issue, in which we have taken our sober, ever-so-earnest magazine that strives with every issue to exemplify an institution of the most serious intent, dressed it up in shorts and a T-shirt, and put a drink in its hand.</p> <p>And yep, we had great fun writing about people who are funny for a living, and people who make music with a washing machine, and intercollegiate varsity kiddie pool wading, and the neuroscience of fun. (Hey, c'mon, you know we had to do that last one.) We enlisted Johns Hopkins archivist Jim Stimpert to find images of campus hijinks through the decades—don't miss the university banjo club—and solicited essays from some of our favorite alumni writers. Plus we asked you, our readers, to send in your memories of fun at Johns Hopkins. You did not disappoint.</p> <p>So please, sit back, start reading, and enjoy yourselves. We sure did.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Remember that time? <p><em>We asked you, our readers, about the most fun you had during your time at Johns Hopkins, and you responded. From silly (strategically placed socks, inflatable furniture, bat boy) to scholarly ("Who am I to say that's not a poem?"), your submissions prove that in the midst of the university's academic rigor, there was room for occasional levity.</em></p> <p>I was 5 years old, building snowmen and making snow angels on the Gilman quad. I remember the beauty of the bright white snow, the majestic red brick buildings, and the shadow of the clock tower. My father was a graduate student of chemistry, and this was his way of including me in his very busy life. It is one of my most treasured childhood memories. <strong>—Marcia Lecrone Howes, Engr '86, SPH '13</strong></p> <p>I had fun listening to off-the-record talks by high-ranking officials such as the CIA director Allen Dulles and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson while a graduate student at SAIS. I often sat next to a shy classmate named Madeleine Albright. <strong>—Fred A. Kahn, SAIS '63</strong></p> <p>Spring Fair. There are numerous stories; many can't be shared. <strong>—Raquel Silverberg, Engr '92</strong></p> <p>Being an editor at the News-Letter, there was a lot of camaraderie—and sometimes, taking the usual JHU grind to absurd levels was oddly liberating. <strong>—Eric Ruck, A&S '90</strong></p> <p>When I was a graduate student in the Writing Seminars, someone in the administration started having dinners for graduate women so that women from different departments could meet and talk to each other. I met a woman from the math department, Margaret, who had grown up in Baltimore; I'd grown up in East Tennessee. We took the most interesting walks together, waving our hands and talking the whole way. We'd talk about books, mainly. Sometimes we told anecdotes about our childhood school experiences. I remember discussing Lou Andreas-Salomé and her various husbands and lovers, among them, Nietzsche, and Margaret would say things like, "He doesn't seem mathematically sound to me." I thought that was the most wonderful line. Anyway, that friendship was grand. Somehow, we lost touch. I don't even know if she solved the unsolvable math problem she was working on for her degree, but I surely loved those conversations. <strong>—Susan Catherine Jones, A&S '82 (MA)</strong></p> <p>I returned to school in 1993 to pursue a master's in information and telecommunications systems for business. It was a life-transforming experience to be surrounded by the caliber of talent, both in my professors and fellow students, in the Johns Hopkins program. The degree of intellectual stimulation I experienced has remained with me ever since, and I had a lot of fun exploring ideas and interacting at a level I had never before experienced. More than 20 years later, the shift in intellectual perspective I gained at Johns Hopkins continues to serve me. <strong>—Scott Bradley, Bus '95 (MS)</strong></p> <p>I had a date with a Mount St. Agnes girl for a spring dance in my junior year. When I arrived in a friend's ancient Oldsmobile, I was told by the girl at the dorm's front desk that my date had been called home for a family emergency, but she had arranged another date for me. I expected some horror for my date, but I decided to go with the flow no matter who they stuck me with. While I waited in the lobby, an absolutely beautiful woman descended the stairs. She walked up to me and asked if I was Kurt Johnson. She said, "Hi, I'm Catherine, your date." She told me she had a steady boyfriend at home, but we had a good time anyway, dancing the night away under the stars of a warm Baltimore night, twisting to Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, and drinking Seven and Sevens. <strong>—Kurt E. Johnson, A&S '65</strong></p> <p><strong>Fresh Food Cafe's "Midnight Breakfast":</strong><br /> A Poetic Reflection On the clock's count of twelve midnight in droves<br /> Noctilucent beings clamber down twisting, winding roads<br /> Towards the utopic locus that few can hardly resist<br /> Destined for mental and emotional bliss<br /> Sentiment alone carves out this specificity in time and space<br /> Impressing on the erudite race<br /> A peculiar historicity not easily erased<br /> How does the steely physique of an edifice with an unassuming predisposition<br /> Gain spatio-temporal coordinates along a plane of youthful indecision?<br /> Does the answer play second fiddle to the truth?<br /> Or is it uncouth to insinuate it is aloof?<br /> Perhaps the smorgasbord of vittles, giggles, brute mnemonic paradiddles<br /> Spell out the morphological experience as<br /> They each break fast<br /> While some ten sing over "Eye of the Tiger"<br /> Undoubtedly equating to a sociocultural masterpiece or utter catastrophe<br /> Either way they each emerge as a Survivor<br /> With a subtle sense of calm<br /> Like the evening's tale had already been written<br /> On some vatic palm<br /> Granting such F.U.N. to release all angst and stress<br /> "Freedom Unto Nerds!"<br /> Who unabashedly point noses at the stoic mien of solemn texts,<br /> But this is where they shall return, must return, need return<br /> For the midnight oil to continue to burn<br /> Waging on into the abyss of ambition<br /> Deepening as this one-fifth-of-a-score-of-years commitment<br /> Takes on the load of a premature vision<br /> And so as these beings scramble back to quaint dwellings<br /> Back to life, back to…surreality<br /> With iridescent auras of vibrancy<br /> They savor those last few moments of "self-liberation"<br /> Their minds having soaked up every second, minute, hour<br /> Of casual socialization<br /> Alas, the moment arrives:<br /> Snooze now or page, page against the drying of the eyes<br /> This thought<br /> Severe T<br /> hough the intended outcome<br /> Quite sincere<br /> The life of a Hopkins scholar<br /> Surely many have to admire<br /> Through the graceful flight of a blue jay fledgling<br /> Set free to roam and inspire<br /> <strong>—Brandon Lee Stuart, A&S '10</strong></p> <p>I first went to Hopkins during the summer after fourth grade. The city schools offered a program where, upon completion, qualified students could skip half a year. Riding two streetcars and a bus, I arrived on campus with great expectations (as did my parents). Besides the normal classroom tasks, my fondest memory was seeing films in a large room, my favorite being Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn. That summer, I learned how to take public transportation, how to mix with students from different backgrounds, and how to have fun on those green lawns. I entered fifth grade in the fall, telling my friends about "the big school with all of the brick buildings." I returned to Hopkins many years later as a single mom working toward a graduate degree in education. Both experiences are precious to me. And my parents were there for both of my graduations. <strong>—Carole Clarke Cochran, Ed '77 (MEd)</strong></p> <p>It was the spring of 1960 and hijinks were in the air. There was construction going on near our dormitory, and some of my fellow students decided to hotwire the equipment and move it to block the front doors of the dorms. I discovered this when I went to leave—about the time that the dorm manager tried to leave the dorm. She was not pleased.</p> <p>We found a way out and then saw that the names of the dormitories had been changed from the names of alumni to other words that were not complimentary. She was very angry and I confess that I had to mask my laughter with a cough because it was clear she was not finding the matter funny at all.</p> <p>There was more to discover. Construction cones had been placed on the city streets, and city traffic had been routed onto the campus with all exits off campus closed off. I walked toward Gilman Hall, where I found a large crowd of students sitting on the grass in a circle around the flagpole. I also noticed that the face of the clock on Gilman Hall had been transferred into a Mickey Mouse watch. A pirate flag was at the top of the flagpole and the rope used to raise the flag had been tied to the top of the pole. A janitor had placed a long ladder against the pole and was trying to reach the flag to remove it. Someone had greased the top of the pole and, as the ladder was not long enough, the man tried to climb the pole, only to slide back. Every time he tried and slipped back the students clapped and hollered. Someone had called the local television station and soon the janitor's progress was on live television. Finally, he succeeded and climbed down the ladder, pirate stuffed in his overalls. The episode made the evening news. <strong>—Frank Ward, A&S '60</strong></p> <p>Hosting Model United Nations tournaments at Johns Hopkins was always great fun. We would meet kids from Maryland and elsewhere who were so impressed with the Homewood campus. During the day, we'd debate international law, and a pre-med fraternity brother of mine, who was participating as a favor, represented an obscure Middle Eastern country. He was asked his opinion about something, stood up in the General Assembly in the Glass Pavillion, and instructed the attendees to dial 1-800-South-Yemen if they wanted to know more about his country. We cracked up and repeated that joke for years. <strong>—David Biderman, A&S '85</strong></p> <p>A small mud puddle formed on the lawn in front of the then new dorms. About 9 a.m. one morning in the spring of 1981, four of the crazier freshmen started throwing each other in the mud. From there it snowballed, and by lunch, more than 100 people had been tossed in the mud, oftentimes only to shower, go to class, and then get tossed in again. It was mayhem. <strong>—Joe Serrano, Engr '84</strong></p> <p>My friend Steve and I were chemistry lab partners, former roommates, and two pathetic premed students. As we approached Remsen Hall on April 8, 1969, Steve reminded me that it was Opening Day of baseball season—and of the fact that the Red Sox, his rooting interest, were in town. Tony Conigliaro was making his comeback after a horrendous injury. We walked past Remsen, never to return, up 33rd Street to Memorial Stadium and bought $2 student tickets. The Orioles lost 5-4. Each Opening Day, whenever it may be, we celebrate the anniversary of the death of our premed careers. (This year was No. 47.) I emailed Steve on Opening Day to wish him a happy anniversary and received an instant reply saying he was thinking the same thing as he received my note. <strong>—Jeffrey Koenig, A&S '72</strong></p> <p>In the winter of my freshman year, my friends and I attended a casino night hosted by one of the fraternities. Lady Luck was with me at the roulette wheel. That night I went home with a major prize: a case of Heineken Dark Lager. I took it back to my single room and invited my friends over to help me drink it. There were six or seven of us. Every­one came over to have a beer—one beer, and only late on a Saturday night after finishing their work and studying. No one wanted more than one beer, lest they not be mentally sharp and ready to work the next morning. Our beer gatherings took place at irregular intervals, and when it came time to move out at the end of the year, there were still seven beers left. My best friend, John, and I drank them on our last night as Johns Hopkins freshmen. It was the only time either of us was ever drunk in our entire college career. <strong>—Michael A. Bruno, A&S '82</strong></p> <p>Some of my favorite memories are weekend potlucks, tasting food from all over the world with us all dressed in our ethnic clothes. <strong>—Pooja Pundhir, SPH '15</strong></p> <p>This one time at Johns Hopkins, we attended a midnight play of <em>The Rocky Horror Picture Show</em>. My boyfriend at the time got absolutely smashed (of legal drinking age, of course), and while in the restroom decided that he wanted to attend the show wearing a strategically placed sock. Unfortunately, he was too drunk to exit the rest­room, and the sock … well, the sock was very clearly a poor strategy. As his girlfriend and presumed keeper, I was asked to escort him from the premises. Preferably clothed. <strong>—Meagan Sneeringer, A&S '08</strong></p> <p>As a Latin American studies major, I found the parties with the salsa music were always the most fun. Students from Middle East Studies, Canadian Studies, Asian Studies, and more would dance until the wee hours as everyone embraced the ritmo in their hearts. <strong>—Linda Higueras, SAIS '78</strong></p> <p>Fun? We were Master of Public Health students in a condensed, one-year program; most were midcareer professionals from U.S. and abroad. The women were "super women," pumping breast milk in between classes and knitting while listening to lectures. I had an 8-month-old who would wake up at midnight every night and cry for her mommy, not her daddy, as I tried to crawl into bed after studying. Our true grit was our sense of fun. <strong>—Kaimay Yuen Terry, SPH '77</strong></p> <p>As a student in the late 1960s in one of the iconic Dr. Elliott Coleman's last Writing Seminars classes, I can state half a century later, give or take a few years, that the entire year, every session, poetry or fiction, was a delightful and unexpected adventure. I never missed a minute and I couldn't wait for the next day. The year flew along. Dr. Coleman—Elliott to all of us—was uniformly kind and generous in his criticism. When one student submitted a concrete poem—the word poem in a piece of cardboard in a plastic box—Elliott's only commentary on it was, "Who am I to say that's not a poem?" All things, to Elliott, were art, even the most unlikely submissions. Life was art. Art was life. Which was the way it should have been. Academically, and in all ways, it was a perfect year. I wish it never ended. <strong>—Samuel A. Zervitz, Bus '71, A&S '72 (MA)</strong></p> <p>I memorized Poe's "The Raven" one stanza at a time while walking home from school. Each time I learned another stanza, I practiced everything up to there. (I also memorized the chemical elements in order by atomic number the same way, but I never practiced the elements after that, so I lost the memory.) I recited the poem often enough to keep the memory fresh. In grad school at Johns Hopkins, I shared an office at Ames 203. It had a big blackboard. On a whim, or perhaps to show off, I wrote "The Raven" on it from memory. My officemate countered by writing the first 10 lines of the Iliad in Greek. We kept adding, always from memory. My next contribution was "Aestivation" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I erased "The Raven" and rewrote it with smaller letters to make more space. I started memorizing poems on purpose to fill in more space. I wrote "Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr" by Robert Browning inside the outline of a horse and rider and, in a similar theme, part of "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." I had previously memorized "Au Cimetière" by Théophile Gautier, so I added it, with a drawing of cemetery gates. I added "Evidence Read at the Trial of the Knave of Hearts" from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a tour de force of memorization because so many of its words could be interchangeable. Finally, we put a sign in the small window in the door, calling it the "Ames 203 Literature Gallery" and charging 5 cents admission. <strong>—Reed Gwillim Law Jr., A&S '69 (MA)</strong></p> <p>The most fun our family had was during the winter storm of 1967. I was a chief resident in Orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Like all other surgical and clinical specialty residents, we had to live next to the hospital in the "married with children" housing area, called the Compound. In those days, it was customary for the residents to walk the five minutes from the Compound to the hospital. A storm came in that dropped so much snow that we could not even get outside our doors. We had to improvise to get out in order to take care of our patients, but the children had a lot of fun with the snow. The hospital was almost all closed, and we got to stay home with our families. This included my daughters, now in their 50s, who still recall this jolly good time with glee. <strong>—John D. Hsu, HS '67, Med '71 (PGF)</strong></p> <p>Many of the fun times I had, both on and off campus, were with the Barnstormers, a student theater group. Rehearsals meant long, late nights in the Swirnow Theater and futile attempts to get homework done between scenes, but the camaraderie was unbeatable, and the joy of bringing creativity to campus was amazing. The most fun play we did during my time was certainly also the weirdest: <em>Bat Boy</em>, a musical inspired by the tabloid news story about a half-boy, half-bat. It's wacky, off-the-wall, and hilarious—not a fit to the Hopkins stereotype by any means. <strong>—Emily Ethridge, A&S '06</strong></p> <p>As a sophomore, I shared an off-campus apartment in Charles Village with two classmates. We all had big appetites but not much money, so quantity and price, rather than quality, were the objectives of our weekly shopping forages to the Giant supermarket in the Rotunda. Our wine purchases were dollar wines for the discounted price of $10 for a mixed case of 12 bottles from Harry's Liquor on Greenmount Avenue. And we drank a pale beer from Pennsylvania—Hofbrau—that sold for less than $4 for a case of 24 cans. Shortly after arriving on campus in 1971, the university's new provost, Steven Muller, was quoted as saying he was interested in getting out into the community and meeting the student body. Never one to shy away from an opening, my roommate extended a telephone invitation to Muller to join us for a home-cooked meal. To our surprise and delight, he quickly accepted, and we scheduled a weekday dinner at our Guilford Avenue apartment. Muller was an engaging conversationalist who was genuinely interested in the student viewpoint. For his part, he was treated to probably the strangest meal of his tenure at Hopkins: plentiful, but not much else going for it. The signature dessert consisted of one-fourth—slightly less than our usual split—of a half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream. After all, it was the weekly special at 29 cents. <strong>—Steve LeGendre, A&S '73</strong></p> <p>My senior year, Baltimore was hit by a winter squall. The city was a frozen tundra, shut down, covered in a blanket of snow. Getting antsy, my friends and I decided to go sledding. The fact that none of us had a sled certainly wasn't going to hold us back. It was the year 2000, and inflatable furniture was king. We grabbed our neon green inflatable loungers (not a typo—we had more than one). We dragged our chairs from the Broadview Apartments, across Homewood campus, and to the Beach, where we met our friends. We had so much fun sliding down the Beach over and over, and we didn't even break a bone (or pop a chair). On the way home, we dragged our chairs down the middle of a deserted Charles Street just because we could. Afterward, the neon green chairs were toweled off and used as movie theater seats in our apartment. <strong>—Allison Ross, A&S '00</strong></p> <p>An edict went out at the beginning of my freshman year in 1956 that all were to wear a coat and tie when dining in the cafeteria. Many students were unhappy with that, and the word went around that it was time to protest. We did this by showing up for dinner one day wearing a coat, tie, and swimsuit. No pants, no shoes, not much else, actually. As I recall, the rule was revoked the next day. <strong>—Frank Ward, A&S '60</strong></p> <p>My time at Johns Hopkins was filled with incredibly fun times that taught more about science than lectures and lab classes ever could. <strong>Neuropsychology:</strong> All-night study sessions in the Hut demonstrated just how unproductive working well past bedtime could be; it also introduced loopy behavior. <strong>Architectural engineering:</strong> Postgame fraternity parties stressed the importance of not exceeding maximum capacity and demonstrated the impact of too many bodies on a building's integrity. <strong>Chemistry:</strong> Too much time spent waiting between experimental steps gave way to an idle mind and witnessing just what happens when you pour liquid nitrogen on a spider. <strong>Anthropology:</strong> Coming from the great nation of Texas, I was introduced to a vast array of cultures and dialects from within the United States. I spent the first semester with a dictionary after an exhaustive debate about whether carbonated drinks should be called pop, soda, or Coke. <strong>Kinesiology:</strong> Cheerleading was my favorite activity, but one-too-many faulty gymnastic moves underscored the importance of sleep and its impact on coordination. The crowd thought it was a comedy act. <strong>Sociology:</strong> Undeniably, the best part of Johns Hopkins was my "village." It always amazed me that the Admissions Committee could select students who looked nothing alike, came from vastly different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, grew up in different regions/states/countries, and yet were so similar in thinking. Johns Hopkins gave me a sense of belonging that made me believe anything was possible. <strong>—Cherie Butts, A&S '92, '97 (MS)</strong></p> <p>My friend John went into the vast lecture hall for Electrical Engineering and wrote in chalk a limerick on a blackboard that could be raised high above a second blackboard. He wrote this deathless prose one day and signed it "The Funny Man." This limerick mocked Electrical Engineering Professor Thorstein Larsen's favorite and too-often-repeated theme of the explosive force of coulombs.</p> <p><em>There once was an EE quite smart</em></p> <p><em>Who devoured abvolts a la carte</em></p> <p><em>He departed one night</em></p> <p><em>At velocity of light</em></p> <p><em>From holding two coulombs one meter apart.</em></p> <p>Professor Larsen came into the lecture hall to teach the multitude of engineering students, saw the limerick, and tried to pull down the blackboard, but John had removed the pole so it remained up high. John, however, was late to class and stood outside the lecture hall. He opened the left door to the hall and shouted "Henneberger is the Funny Man!" and shut the door. Professor Larsen took off out the door to see who this was, but John had quickly sneaked in through a different door and seated himself, leaving the professor to believe I had written the limerick that mocked him. **—John A. Henneberger, Engr '56</p> <p>One of the few reprieves from studying at SAIS was Cookie Hour on Tuesdays, when the student government would bring in boxes of cookies to placate the horde of grad students craving a sugar fix to get them through their 6 p.m. econometrics section. Sir David Attenborough could have narrated, in hushed tones, the paroxysm of future diplomats clawing over the last macadamia nut cookie like hyenas over a wildebeest carcass. I think the only tangible sign that I am an adult is that I have to create my own cookie hour now. <strong>—Felix Zhang, SAIS '15</strong></p> <p>My undergraduate years at Johns Hopkins were enlivened by the thrill of participating in productions of the Johns Hopkins Playshop. Professor N. Bryllion Fagin was our director, and I, a budding actress, pitched in as curtain puller, usher, ticket seller, lighting operator, set decorator, and more. My greatest fun was appearing in the stellar role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. With my hair in braids and my shiny red shoes, I danced the polka steps down the yellow brick road, exited the door, dashed around the building, and re-entered from the rear to the stage. Fun indeed. <strong>—Betty Samuels Seidel, Bus '42, Ed '72 (MEd)</strong></p> <p>I was admitted to SAIS with the expectation of going to Washington, D.C., for the first year and Bologna for the second. In May 1965, I received a letter. Surprise! It would be the other way around. "Please report to the Bologna Center in late August," read the letter. My fiancée, Martha, and I moved up our wedding date by two weeks so as to arrive in Bologna on time, which we did, speaking no Italian and knowing no one. We joined the class of about 100 primarily European students on what proved to be a yearlong honeymoon. To Venice for the September Regatta, to Brussels and Paris in November on a class trip, to Ortisei in the Dolomites for a New Year's ski trip, and to Viareggio in February for Carnevale. The professors routinely invited students to their rented villas for meals. We are still savoring Professor Randall Hinshaw's rabbit stew and Bob and Judy Nilsson's Christmas glogg. What we expected? Not at all. Do it again? In a heartbeat. <strong>—M. John Storey, SAIS Bol '66 (Cert), '67</strong></p> <p>Meeting my husband on the steps of Barton Hall. We first saw each other there and then officially met in karate class in the athletic center. But the most fun is yet to come, as our daughter graduates from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars this year. As African-Americans, we are delighted to have such a legacy in our family. <strong>—Bertram Lewis, Engr '88, '90 (MSE), Med '97 (MD/PhD)</strong>, and <strong>Kathy Lewis, Bus '95</strong></p> <p>I was participating in an anti-war march that took us from the Homewood campus to downtown Baltimore and back again. Since we were returning to campus during evening rush hour, the police encouraged us to march north on a southbound street, but we much preferred to march northbound on Charles Street in order to cause the most congestion and create the most visibility for the march. Despite our ignoring their requests, the police positioned motorcycle policemen on cross streets ahead of us to stop traffic as we marched. Two officers—a major and a lieutenant, I believe—ended up walking with the marchers to coordinate street closures by radio. Despite the likely differences in our political views, some friends and I fell into a pleasant conversation with these officers who, at about 28th Street, expressed real concern about seeing themselves in a photo in the next day's Baltimore Sun with the heading "Major X and Lieutenant Y Lead Anti-War Protest Up Charles Street." <strong>—Jerry Doctrow, A&S '72</strong></p> <p>A classmate and I played jokes on a fellow grad student; he was good-natured but very gullible. I think the best one was the time we sent him an official-looking letter from the "Epidemiology Dept. Space Committee" telling him he would have to share his tiny study cubicle, for which he had waited more than a year, with an incoming research associate from China. We thought he would complain to his adviser, who was in on it, but instead he went straight to Student Services. Afraid we would be found out, we cringed when he showed his letter to the director. Her response: "Isn't it just like the Department of Epidemiology to do something like this!" <strong>—Jean Langlois Orman, SPH '87, '91 (ScD)</strong></p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Dialogue <h3>Novel Graphics</h3> <p>I picked up my copy of Johns Hopkins Magazine last week and was so moved by the article "Wave Hunters" [Spring] that I wanted to compliment the authors, Julie Scharper and Josh Cochran. Since my graduation in 1980, this article is the most novel I have seen in the magazine in nearly 36 years. I usually don't have time to wade through each issue of the magazine to get the content of the many interesting articles. I skim the issue for articles of interest, then try to find the time to read them later. "Wave Hunters" was different. Its use of an eye-catching cartoon visual format with minimal verbiage led me to appreciate the content in its entirety, capturing all of it in a fraction of the time it takes to read an article and have an understanding of the concepts. Congratulations to these authors for this highly appealing and simple format and its facilitated access to my brain. I would like to see more articles like this.</p> <p><strong>Paul G. Harch, Med '80</strong></p> <p>New Orleans</p> <h3>His Contribution?</h3> <p>The letter to the editor written by William Nichols ["Procreation Policy," Dialogue, Spring] at first had me thinking that Mr. Nichols lacks compassion. Then I realized he describes himself as a liberal. May I assume, therefore, that he is out on the streets of Baltimore teaching young men about safe sex and responsibility? That he is writing politicians urging them to support Planned Parenthood? Working to ensure that foster homes are safe and that foster children are adopted? Lobbying to change the regulations that favor single mothers above two-parent households? Mr. Nichols says that "Johns Hopkins does little to address this very real problem." I wonder how much he is doing himself.</p> <p><strong>Elizabeth Corwin, SAIS Bol '82 (Cert), A&S '83</strong></p> <p>Tampa, Florida</p> <h3>With Gratitude</h3> <p>I read the story about Dr. Edward Held, Med '26, with great interest ["Devotion Becomes Opportunity," Alumni, Spring]. I was brought up in Hempstead, New York, and he was our family doctor for many years. This article unleashed a floodgate of memories. I remember that he came to our house and diagnosed my older sister's measles while she was lying on our piano bench. He tended to me when I stepped on a rusty nail. He also was very attentive to our family during my father's final illness in 1963. He taught me how to give a morphine injection should that become necessary. (It didn't.) He also said that he would be available anytime except Sunday morning, when he took a bike ride. I did not know that he had gone to Johns Hopkins but am pleased that he is getting the recognition a committed family doctor is due.</p> <p><strong>Mary (Hengstenberg) Grossman</strong></p> <p>Baltimore</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 In search of lost fun <p>Johns Hopkins does not have a reputation as a party school. There is no <em>Girls Gone Wild</em> video about the women of Johns Hopkins. When I was a student there, ca. 1980s, it enjoyed a perversely self-congratulatory reputation as a tense and joyless place, where "throat" (as in cutthroat) was part of the undergraduate vernacular and you could find pallid figures slumped over their textbooks at all hours in the timeless subterranean depths of the library's D-level. Against this bleak background, we goof-offs and fun-seekers found one another as easily as atheists making eye contact while everyone else's heads are bowed. When one of those friends and I turned up at our 10-year reunion, our former class president tried to throw us out, instantly sizing us up as party crashers.</p> <p>I'm advised that occasions and venues for officially sanctioned fun are more numerous on the Homewood campus now than when I attended, but in those days, you pretty much had to make your own. A friend and I once constructed a robot servant out of junk in a friend's apartment, as a surprise; another friend and I dressed up as a costumed superhero and villain and did battle with sparklers at Spring Fair; one night several of us sat in chairs and took a pretend road trip to New York City, in real time. The last session of one writing workshop ended several hours late with the detonation of fireworks in a pie in Wyman Dell; as they lit up the night sky, the perpetrators fled to the four corners, not to see one another again until the next semester.</p> <p>Oh, the libelous things I could write! The staid and respectable people I know who behaved very disreputably indeed! I once watched a future leading spokesperson for transgender issues persuade a future leading spokesperson for Asian-American issues to eat Meow Mix. I saw a future Fox commentator seized by paranoia while on LSD at a Grateful Dead concert who, "sensing an element of coercion," slipped free of his friends (captors!) and made good his escape into the crowd, not to reappear until the next morning when he turned up at our hotel room door looking sheepish. I saw the second-best minds of my generation deranged by boredom, munching out giggling pantsless/Staggering through the Hampden streets at dawn looking for a meatball sub.</p> <p>A lot of the fun was, of necessity, illicit. There was a lot of what wet blankets might call alcohol and drug abuse, and although there wasn't much sex, there was rampant nudity. (It was sort of a phase we went through. There was naked boxing, naked do-si-doing, a naked a cappella version of "White Rabbit" in a reverberant tiled bathroom.) There was also a lot of what you might call—again, if you wanted to be a stick-in-the-mud about it—criminal trespass. I remember sliding down the multistory corkscrew fire escape slide in The Charles, whirling through the dark for what seemed like a lifetime, only to emerge, reborn with a bang, through a pair of metal doors into PJ's Pub in the basement; sneaking into the network of underground steam tunnels beneath the campus and running through those <em>Nostromo</em>-*like corridors until I gashed open my scalp on a protruding pipe; slipping through an open window into Gilman Hall at night to switch off the clock tower. I remember standing out on the quad the day after that last one, a senior a few days away from graduation, looking up at it with hungover satisfaction, having arrested, if only briefly, the humorless, businesslike rush of time.</p> <p>The Fun Years seem to be mostly behind us now. Not to say there's no more fun to be had; just that, like sex and drugs, it's gotten harder to arrange. Certainly after college you will never again in your life have so much time to devote to hanging out, goofing off, flirting, and cracking each other up. Once people have careers, homes, and children, their lives become richer and more meaningful than they ever could have imagined, which can make them look, to the casual observer, as if they'd rather be dead. In her handbook on creativity, <em>What It Is</em>, cartoonist Lynda Barry invites us to imagine what would happen to a child who was never permitted to play. (A grim <em>gedankenexperiment</em> that's currently being carried out in the real world; we will soon see the results.) She wonders why we expect adults to thrive deprived of this essential human activity. Shirley Jackson: "No live organism can continue for long to exist under conditions of absolute sanity."</p> <p>"I posit that fun is an underrated medicant," my fellow alum Aaron Long wrote in an article for the MAPS Bulletin, the scholarly journal of psychedelics. Most adults think of fun as a necessary outlet for the stresses of our real lives—our working, "productive" lives—or a product to be bought. Some people think of it as a frivolous waste of time. But the serious business of adult life—survival, securing resources, and reproducing—is what all animals do, from microbes on up; playing is distinctively (if not uniquely) human. I would argue that it's one of the main things we ought to be doing in our inexcusably brief time on Earth.</p> <p>I still prefer the Johns Hopkins model of fun—jerry-rigged, DIY, and at least semi-illicit—to the prepackaged brands. (Institutionally contrived fun often just makes me feel embarrassed and sorry for everyone involved.) And some of my fellow alumni are still among my most reliable accomplices: Aaron, Carolyn, and I have driven cross-country together, staged many an illicit caper, ridden the circus train to Mexico City, and infiltrated the National Spelling Bee. Dave and Dave (now a NASA engineer and a national magazine editor, respectively) finally produced the rock opera about the War of 1812 they'd been working on since they lived together in their postgraduate bachelor apartment.</p> <p>I recently saw Dave at a hoot­enanny in a South Baltimore pub, another DIY fun occasion. Dave, who's had a bad year of it, with several deaths in the family, told me: "Bad times are going to happen on their own. The good times you have to make happen yourself."</p> <p>*From <em>Alien</em>, not Joseph Conrad.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 My idea of a good time <p>People always think I have more fun than I actually do, mostly because of what they glean from my social media presence. Everyone seems happier on the internet, I always say. Most of the time I'm looking at a screen like the rest of the planet, or I've got my head in a book. I don't want anyone to get any funny ideas about me. I'm swathed in misery as much as any other writer.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Illustration by Romy Blümel </p> </div> </div> <p>And anyway, fun for me is largely about observation rather than participation. The best time I have all day, lately, is walking my dog first thing in the morning, through my new neighborhood in New Orleans, where I have just purchased a house. I live on St. Claude Avenue, which is a busy thoroughfare running from Arabi, across the canal, through my neighborhood of the Bywater, followed by the Marigny, until it merges with Rampart Street, which then takes you along the border of the French Quarter and Tremé and further uptown. Traffic races on it throughout the day, but if you get up early enough—which I do—it has its beautiful quiet moments.</p> <p>I take my pup first across the neutral ground, past the corner store (Korner Market #2—where is #1, I always wonder), winding my way through the beautiful blocks full of brightly colored shotgun homes, to Satsuma Cafe for a coffee, where I often have my only conversation of the day, with a barista, me grinning like an idiot at people, humanity, life. Then we head down to Crescent Park, across the arched, rusted steel bridge at Piety Street, my dog panting, his little legs barely making each stair, so determined, and it makes me laugh every time. We amble down the park along the Mississippi, until we hit the dog park, usually empty that early, but we wait patiently for a few minutes, scan the cruise ships harbored nearby, and then we give up; no playmates for now.</p> <p>I try to wend my way home through a different path each time. It's sort of a reverse OCD—I'm determined to have a lack of order and repetition in my life. I need to see a new block, a new building, a new face every day. And by now the sun is risen, so when I hit St. Claude again the street looks entirely different. The bright colors of the buildings, the texture of the big sky, the stretch of earth dividing the street, all blissfully intertwined—that's my idea of a good time.</p> <p>And when I cross neutral ground again, nearly home, I see my last face of the day for a while: a tall, somber, older woman dressed in dark clothes, who most mornings hands out Christian tracts in front of the dollar store down the block. She always waves back at me with a smile. I like to think we say a little prayer for each other, even if we're praying for different things. It is a kind of friendship, or the beginning of one, and I can't wait to learn more about her, but for now just witnessing her is its own kind of fun.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 For the Johns Hopkins Aerial Circus Club, the air is a playground <p>Marni Epstein's feet could probably open and close a jar of peanut butter while she dangles from a tree branch and reads Shakespeare. But right now she's only asking them to help her ascend a 25-foot length of purple silk suspended from the ceiling of a converted church in Baltimore's Pigtown neighborhood. Epstein, a senior public health major at Johns Hopkins, uses agile toes to coil one stretch of the fabric under her other foot's arch, forming a cloth stirrup, while sinewy arms pull her ever higher. Soon she's suspended in midair, a slender frame gracefully contorting itself into crosses and ballerina-like poses. At one point, a single handgrip and a modest wrap of silk across her thigh are all that keep her in defiance of gravity.</p> <div class="image inline align-right image-square column"> <img src="//" alt="Johns Hopkins student Marni Epstein performs aerial circus acts" /> <div class="caption"> <p class="credit"> Image <span class="visuallyhidden">credit</span>: Marshall Clarke </p> </div> </div> <p>For Epstein, and the dozen other Johns Hopkins undergraduates gathered at Baltimore's Mobtown Ballroom on a spring afternoon, the space between floor and ceiling is both playground and canvas. A couple of hours each week, this group hangs, spins, and twists on a colorful collection of silks and rings for the most artistic of core workouts. Sometimes, at the O'Connor Recreation Center, they practice floor-based partner acrobatics, including handstands and human pyramids. The members of the Johns Hopkins Aerial Circus Club, which Epstein and civil engineering major Gwen Martin founded two years ago, are prepping for their end-of-year show, a choreographed, music-accompanied performance on silks and lyra (a sort of oversized hula hoop suspended from the ceiling) that lets them show off skills built from the ground up. Nobody here is thrown into the high end. "We start everyone inches off the floor," says Epstein, who serves as group leader and instructor. "No risks early on, and we do this for weeks. Then we gradually and patiently go higher, watching everyone to make sure they are wrapping correctly." By wrapping, she means the careful twisting of silk around a leg, waist, torso, or ankle to support a person's body weight and allow them to go hands-free. Let's just say, you want a good wrap.</p> <p>Nearly all 16 members of the mostly female club started as novices, like Daniela Barrio, who earlier this practice performed her first "drop," the group's rite of passage. A drop entails strategically wrapping various parts of your body while in midair, so that when you let go of the silk, or flip over, you unravel until one stretch of fabric tightens to catch your fall. "It's all about trusting the wraps and making sure everything is in place," says Barrio, a sophomore psychology major from El Paso, Texas, who also likes to rock climb and play the cello. "I had to psych myself up a lot to have the courage to let go, but it was really fun."</p> <p>Make no mistake; there is danger here. So every handgrip and silk wrap is studied and fussed over. Some say they do this for the adrenaline rush. Others, like Barrio, enjoy the performance and artistic aspects. For many, it's a novel way to exercise, part of a larger trend in anti-gravity activities that has aerial yoga, aerial Zumba, and even aerial meditation classes popping up across the nation.</p> <p>Kelly Jo Stull, a former marine biologist turned circus artist who co-instructs the club with Epstein, also privately teaches aerial fabric, lyra, and German wheel (something like a large hamster wheel) gymnastics classes out of the Mobtown Ballroom. Business, she says, is good. Stull teaches 15 to 20 classes a week and currently has roughly 150 steady clients. "It's an alternative form of fitness, a physical and mental challenge, and more fun than going to the gym and just lifting something. Here, you lift yourself," says Stull, a redhead with a host of tattoos, including a mermaid on her arm and high-heeled trapezist on her back. "Then there's the other half who come because they want to be in Cirque du Soleil."</p> <p>Put Epstein in this camp. She has given at least some thought to joining the circus. Epstein says she grew up a "monkey kid"—she liked to climb trees and playground structures, anything to get off the ground. For her 11th birthday, her grandmother bought her lessons at Trapeze School New York. She got hooked on the thrill and the heights. Six months later, she attended a summer camp in the Poconos that featured a circus arts primer, where she further honed her trapeze skills and also learned silks, how to form a human pyramid, juggling, and other such Big Top activities. "That's when I really got into this stuff," says Epstein, who went to the camp five straight summers and now teaches at Trapeze School New York on school breaks.</p> <p>After high school, Epstein took a gap year. She first went to Bolivia with a youth group, where she did a 10-day trek through the Andes that included camping 15,000 feet above sea level. She would later travel to South Africa with Zip Zap Circus, a nonprofit social organization founded in Cape Town that looks to inspire and unite young people by exposing them to other cultures through the circus arts. There she lived in a cooperative house with a Brit, an Afrikaner, a Canadian, a German, and a Xhosa. Three to four times a week, they would travel to a township to work in a kids program in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders, teaching circus arts to youth at an HIV-TB clinic as a way to stay fit and build teamwork skills.</p> <p>When she got to Johns Hopkins, Epstein joined the Outdoors Club, which she formerly directed, and threw herself into backpacking, hiking, rappelling, and exploring. But her purest joy came whenever she was suspended in air, and she found a kindred spirit in Martin, who learned circus arts during her time in high school. The two founded the club, quietly confident others would share their passion. "Fifteen years ago, few people were taking a silks class, but there's been a real emergence in the past few years," Epstein says. "It's a creative outlet. For me, I swing to keep happy and release stress. It clears your mind, as you have to focus on the moves and what you're doing."</p> <p>And, Epstein says, she gets to be that kid again who crawled on top of the monkey bars. She'll come down when she's good and ready.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 BSO's Marin Alsop talks about fun in the concert hall <p><em>The 11th edition of</em> Encyclopædia Britannica, <em>under its entry for "applause," notes: "The reverential spirit which abolished applause in church has tended to spread to the theatre and the concert-room." And while it's true that a performance by a modern symphony orchestra usually is not a raucous, rollicking experience, that does not mean fun has been banished from the concert hall. Marin Alsop, director of Peabody Conservatory's graduate conducting program and the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, has given this a lot of thought:</em></p> <p>There are different kinds of fun, right? You're talking about, on the one hand, the experience of the audience and what they perceive as fun, and how the symphony orchestra has kind of gotten away from a looseness and a casual sense of fun.</p> <p>We weren't there in Beethoven's time, when everyone was yelling out from the audience and clapping whenever they wanted to. But it was a time when, for audiences, part of their education involved learning about music, learning about composition. So they came to a concert with a very deep knowledge of the process of composing, which we don't really have today. It was a much more opinionated experience, I think. When they liked something, they just started clapping. I think it was Beethoven's Seventh Symphony—they really liked the second movement, which was a funeral march, ironically, and they clapped so much the orchestra did it again.</p> <p>I've actually had this experience a few times, in particular with percussion pieces by our own Chris Rouse from Baltimore. I did his <em>Ogoun Badagris</em> and <em>Ku-Ka-Ilimoku</em>. I played them in Paris with the Orchestre de Paris, and the audience loved the pieces so much and clapped so much, I had to play them both twice. That was very cool. And I've had the experience of playing encores twice. Those are the really great moments, when the audience doesn't want it to end.</p> <p>I have a project called <em>Too Hot to Handel</em>, which is a gospel version of Handel's <em>Messiah</em>, and we often have to reprise the Hallelujah chorus several times because people just don't want to leave. They're dancing. I think part of what we're talking about is engagement. In the 1700s and 1800s, the audience was more engaged because of their knowledge base. I think when audiences feel engaged in that way, they have more fun and they want more. They're really enjoying the experience.</p> <p>We try, here at the BSO, to kind of maximize that whenever we can. For example, we're doing a later-night series called "Pulse," where the BSO is teamed up with local independent music groups. So we do a few pieces together, and the orchestra plays some really out-of-the-box stuff, Philip Glass and things like this. People can bring their drinks into the hall, and you can come and go if you want. If you want to go grab a beer and come back in, you can. That's proven to be really fun. And it's sold out.</p> <p>Of course, all art isn't about fun, but a lot of it is, and I think if it's either fun or emotionally charged, if it takes you on some kind of emotional journey, you can have the same interaction as if it's super-fun, so that a Mahler symphony can become a journey for the listener. Through our "Off the Cuff" series, where I take the pieces apart and put them back together, we've tried to re-create that atmosphere of ownership in the audience, similar to what we were talking about in the 1800s and late 1700s. If people know more about why this was written, how it was written, they'll feel much more connected to the piece and thereby have a heightened listening experience. That series has proved to be really successful, too.</p> <p>I had a swing band for 20 years, called String Fever. This was in … gosh … 1982 to 2002? A long time ago. We played in jazz clubs in New York, before classical musicians ever played in jazz clubs. I think having done that really informed how I think about the performance experience. You know, the first time, I had all my notes and I was going to tell them about all the songs, and then I realized it has to be much more of an interactive kind of experience. I try to bring that to the concert hall. It's hard with 2,400 or 2,500 people to have that experience, but I think we have done it, probably more than other orchestras because our orchestra is more outwardly emotive than many. They're willing to move and be engaged and try new things. I think here in Baltimore we have the chance to really change the landscape of that experience.</p> <p>"Fun" doesn't imply a superficial level of enjoyment. I think real fun can be extremely emotional and rewarding. I mean <em>real</em> fun, where you're really present. I think sometimes we do a disservice to what fun is. It's not necessarily jokes. I think it has many guises. For the musicians, if I can attempt to speak for them, I sense that they have fun whenever <em>they're</em> engaged. It's the same as for the audience, that's what's interesting. When we have a full house that's into what we're doing, the musicians are having fun.</p> <p>I think there are certain pieces that they always enjoy playing, but they love playing something new, discovering something new, whether it's a contemporary piece or a work by a well-known composer that we haven't played before. It's fun because it's all-new.</p> <p>For me, it's exactly the same. When I'm conducting an orchestra that is committed and engaged and willing to give, and when I have an audience that's willing to go on the journey, I think it's the same for all three parties.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Lunchtime layups <p>There were probably more East Asians and Upper East Siders than black dudes from East Baltimore hanging around campus during my time at Johns Hopkins. Many of those students seemed slightly put off by my presence, so I never really found a relatable Hopkins community––not until Chuck, a 6-foot-7 university employee, caught me throwing up shots in the gym and invited me to a weekly pickup. "The game is on Wednesdays and Fridays around 11," he said, "right here on Homewood." I asked him about the competition, and he said it varied, which was great for me because I was far from being in basketball shape and was on that grad school diet—you know, multi­flavored carbs dusted with salt.</p> <p>I thought "varied" on JHU's campus meant a few brothas (black dudes like me and Chuck), a few bros (the frat white boys who wear cargo shorts with flip-flops all year round and address everybody as "bro," even the women), and some of the Asian kids I saw dribbling around campus. This could be good for me, I thought. I could shake the rust and use these guys to work my way back into East Side–Baltimore shape just in time for the summer. So I took Chuck's offer and hit the gym a little after 11 on that following Friday morning.</p> <p>A game was in progress. I spotted Chuck first, snagging a rebound over everybody and seamlessly weaving between defenders, running the floor, gazellelike, coast-to-coast and sinking a midrange jump shot. The guy guarding him, Paul, was almost his size and answered right back with a similar shot. Both of them looked pretty talented. And I guess the rest of the crew out there fit Chuck's definition of "varies."</p> <p>A multiracial blur of ballers flashed back and forth; among the pack were some middle-aged dudes who could've been professors or grad students and some uncoordinated baby-faced undergrads. There were a couple of employees who were switching from their work uniforms into hoop clothes, and a handful of professors that included Lester Spence; Bill, a 70-year-old from the History Department; and Ralph, a 75-year-old astronomer who never got lost in the mix, outran people half his age, and occasionally hit a two-hand, over-the-shoulder swing shot.</p> <p>Who would have thought that the most diverse place on campus, both in age and race, would be a basketball game in the middle of the day? Dave Elbert, from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, has been playing in this pickup since 1993. "The game has been going since at least the early 1980s," he says. "The noontime hoop phenomenon is pretty well-known across academia."</p> <p>My noontime debut went well. I wasn't the best, I wasn't the worst, and I didn't leave in pain. I liked the game so much that I've never stopped attending. Balling with that crew has become a weekly routine and really the only bit of nonliterary fun that I can afford to squeeze in between my tour, the classes I teach, and my writing schedule. It's also the most interesting pickup game that I've ever been a part of—not because of differences in age and background, or the fact that a snapshot of us would make a great cheesy campus diversity flier. No, it's the language. There's nothing funnier than hearing a group of 30- to 70-plus-year-old intellects go back and forth over a travel or foul call. We're experts in our respective fields, but not on the court. We argue, we trade jokes and cheap shots, and then we all shake hands after the game.</p> <p>Sometimes the humor and conversations spill off the court after the games. They range from politics to school politics to corny jokes that only we get. The convenience of the lunchtime game is addictive, and I've grown to admire all the guys who participate, even the conservative ones, because really, at that time and in that place, we are all united by basketball. I've been playing in that Wednesday/Friday game for about four years now and can honestly say I would not prefer to play anywhere else in the world.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Lighten up—according to science, it's good for you <p>It's a brisk spring afternoon and my son, Charlie, and I are walking to a park with an old friend and her daughter. My son, who just turned 3, grips my hand, focused on getting to the playground as fast as his stubby legs will carry him.</p> <p>But 5-year-old Gabriela has other ideas. She scrambles up a hill to pluck a fistful of violets and dandelions. She tugs a branch, unleashing a shower of cherry blossoms. Next she's a cat, stalking down the sidewalk on all fours, batting her paws and hissing. "She's been a cat most of the week," my friend explains.</p> <p>Charlie has had enough. "Stop it, Gabriela," he says. "Stop being a cat! Stop running around! We're supposed to be going to the playground!"</p> <p>I can't help but think he has a point. The walk, which normally takes 10 minutes, is stretching into a half hour. I've got work to do: papers to grade, stories to research, laundry to fold.</p> <p>But then I stop and think: What better way than this to spend a spring day? Have I forgotten how to enjoy the journey? Have I forgotten how to have fun?</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>Ours is an era of seemingly limitless opportunities for fun: costumed bar crawls and bouncy castles, hoverboards and home brewing, blue-and-green mermaid hair, flash mobs, milkshakes adorned with donuts and rock candy.</p> <p>And yet, everyone seems perpetually stressed, overbooked, and uptight. Even kids seem busy these days, their afternoons packed with practices and lessons. In the words of Zippy the Pinhead, "Are we having fun yet?"</p> <p>Just what is fun, anyway? What happens in the brain when we have fun? Is there some evolutionary explanation of fun? And what happens if we don't get enough of it? These are tricky questions to pose to a scientist.</p> <p>Fun is vague. Highly subjective. "It's not a term that scientists use, ever," says David J. Linden, sitting in his ninth-floor office at the School of Medicine. "It's not like I can point to a place in the brain and say, 'Here's what happens when you have fun.'"</p> <p>But Linden, a neuroscience professor, knows a lot about a concept closely related to fun—pleasure. His book, <em>The Compass of Pleasure</em> (Viking, 2011), explains how experiences as seemingly distinct as drug use, sex, exercise, and altruism have similar effects on the brain. When people—or rats—feel pleasure, neurons activate in a part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area. The long, spindly axons of these neurons reach into other parts of the brain, as the roots of one tree wrap around those of another. When the neuron fires, the ends of the axons release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is then absorbed by neurons in other regions of the brain.</p> <p>This pleasure pathway has evolved to reward behavior that benefits survival, both of the individual and the species, says Linda Gorman, teaching professor in the Krieger School's Neuroscience Program. Eating, drinking, and having sex all set these neurons firing. "If it's going to be beneficial to your survival, that reward pathway would be activated," she says.</p> <p>Mood-altering drugs affect the release and absorption of dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure. They mimic substances that are naturally produced by the body. Morphine and other opium-derived drugs, for example, fit into receptors for the endorphins that the body produces during exercise. A "runner's high," the feeling of euphoria after a long run, is triggered by these endorphins flooding the brain. "This is not uniquely human," says Linden. "Exercise stimulates the pleasure pathways in rats and mice. A rat will press a lever a hundred times to access a running wheel."</p> <p>The average laboratory mouse will log 5 miles a night on its wheel, and some run as many as 12 miles, he says. Some mice hang on to the wheel after they stop running, whirling around as if on a tiny merry-go-round. Field observations of wild animals suggest the lab rodents are not just trying to break the monotony of being caged. A team of Dutch scientists used food to lure animals to hamster wheels outside. Field mice would eat the treat, then hop on the wheel, running for as long as 18 minutes. Rats, shrews, and even frogs, slugs, and snails, ran—or oozed—along the wheel as well. Even after researchers removed the food, many of these animals returned to the wheel, like miniature fitness buffs.</p> <p>It's easy to see the evolutionary benefits of exercise triggering the brain's pleasure center. Natural selection would seem to favor animals and humans who get a buzz out of chasing prey or running away from predators. Likewise, it's clear why eating, drinking, and having sex would bring us pleasure. But why do we enjoy activities that are not clearly tied to survival or the propagation of the species? Most people find learning, creating art, exploring new places, and performing charitable acts deeply pleasurable. "What's happened in humans is a miracle," says Linden. "Not only can humans take pleasure from things that have no relation to getting genes to the next generation, but we can take pleasure from things like fasting and celibacy, acts that run counter to the evolutionary imperative."</p> <p>What's going on here? Perhaps these pleasurable activities could all be seen as a form of play. And play might just be the most important act we can engage in.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>We've finally reached the park. Charlie is racing around the playground, blasting imaginary fires with a hose made from a fallen branch. Gabriela has made fast friends with another girl around her age, and they clamber up a spiral pole to cast fairy spells.</p> <p>We can learn about human play from watching two dogs romping around on a field nearby. They chase each other in circles, roll around, panting and biting. Occasionally, one yelps and the other backs away, the canine equivalent of, "Sorry, my bad." Puppies and young wolves engage in nearly identical play, but, as wolves grow, they play less, while dogs continue to play, says Stuart Brown, the former chief of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in San Diego and currently a consulting professor at Stanford's design school, who has spent decades studying animal and human play. As adults, wolves have important business to attend to. They must work out their role in the pack, seek mates, hunt. But humans have bred dogs to remain playful.</p> <p>The drive to play arises from the most primitive parts of the brain, says Brown, who founded and serves as president of the National Institute for Play, a nonprofit that encourages the study and promotion of play. Studies with rats indicate that the urge to play comes from the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion, Brown says. If researchers remove the cerebral cortex—which controls higher order thought—from rat pups, the pups still learn to play normally with their peers. But though play bubbles up from the more primitive parts of our brains, it helps develop the more complex regions. Juvenile play helps create new pathways in the prefrontal cortex. Rat pups that are barred from play miss out on these connections and are unable to have normal social interactions as adults.</p> <p>Kids battling with lightsabers or building with LEGO bricks are playing, but what about a girl teaching herself to code? Or a boy training for a hypercompetitive sports team? And how do adults play? Is a round of golf with a client really play? "The state of play is biologically definable as a separate state, as separate as sleep and dreams from our regular consciousness," says Brown. Play is done purely for its own sake, he says. We improvise, experiment, make up new rules to keep the game going. We lose ourselves in play and we lose track of time, which truly does fly when we're having fun. Or, at least, the illusion that time is passing rapidly makes us think that we're having fun, according to an experiment at the University of Chicago devised by researcher Aaron Sackett (he is now at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota). His team told subjects they had 10 minutes to complete a word task. In reality, they stopped some subjects after five minutes, while others were left with the task for 20 minutes. Those in the five-minute group—for whom time appeared to be flying—rated the task as much more pleasurable.</p> <p>Freedom and self-direction are also key elements of play. Parents and teachers can make suggestions, but when they dictate the rules, the fun evaporates, says Doris Bergen, an educational psychologist at Miami University in Ohio, who has written many books about play. "The feeling of enjoyment is what's really crucial to play," she says.</p> <p>How we play changes as we grow. My 6-month-old grabs my husband's nose, catches my eye and laughs, and chews on anything she gets her hands on. Young toddlers mimic their parents by pretending to talk on the phone or rummaging through kitchen cabinets. And older toddlers and school-age children build ever more elaborate games, whether running around in the backyard or immersing themselves in imagined worlds with dolls or dinosaurs or trucks. In the past, most adults were so consumed with survival that play for them was largely confined to festivals and ceremonies.</p> <p>But as leisure time has increased, so have our opportunities to play, Bergen says. "Almost anything could be play. Some people do math problems for play."</p> <p>One of the reasons that humans spend more time playing compared to other animals is that our childhoods are so much longer, Linden says. Humans have large brains, but because we walk upright, women have narrow pelvises. In order for babies' heads to be able to pass through the birth canal, they begin life with small brains that take nearly two decades to fully develop.</p> <p>However, all this play comes at a cost. As Brown points out in his book, <em>Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul</em> (Avery, 2009), play has inherent dangers. Young animals are more likely to die—either by accident or by predator—when they are at play. So the evolutionary benefits must be greater than the risks. What do we gain from play?</p> <p>First, play provides a safe environment to try out adult behavior. When kittens pounce, bear cubs wrestle, or baby otters swim in circles, they're practicing the skills they will need as adults. Many social animals find their role in the group's hierarchy through play, Brown says. Rats, chimpanzees, and other animals move into dominant or submissive roles based on play. When young animals play, their brains are forging new neural pathways, so that playing in different environments, and surmounting new challenges, allows the brain to become more flexible.</p> <p>Bergen believes that natural selection has favored playful people because they are more likely to develop strategies to help them adapt to new environments. Early humans who experimented with new techniques for making weapons, picking berries, and crossing streams were honing their survival skills. And play is just as important—or perhaps more so—today as it was for our early ancestors, says Susan Magsamen, senior adviser to the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute and Science of Learning Institute. When children play, they're learning how to collaborate, empathize, solve problems, and persevere. Play awakens the sort of thinking that leads us to write novels, compose music, design buildings, and make scientific discoveries. Our exceptional capacity for play sets the stage for all of humanity's great advances.</p> <p>Magsamen spent her own childhood immersed in creative games with her five sisters, inventing plays and variety shows that they performed for their parents and grandparents. "One sister would make the tickets and one sister would make the sets and then we'd all sing songs from The Partridge Family," she says. That sort of play doesn't stop in adulthood; we just have other names for it. "Creativity and innovation are just big words for play in adults," she says.</p> <p><div class="section-break"></div> </p> <p>If you need cues to know you're having fun, one might be that you're laughing. In antiquity, laughter was feared, says Robert Provine, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Plato even worried that unrestrained laughter could undermine society, Provine writes in his book, <em>Laughter: A Scientific Investigation</em> (Viking, 2000). Perhaps laughter seems threatening because it is one of the most primitive human sounds. Although everyone laughs a little differently, laughter follows certain set patterns; it has a deep structure. Laughter is instantly recognizable in all human societies. Our closest biological relatives, chimpanzees, laugh in a similar pattern, although their laughter sounds more like panting. "Laughter is a crude part of our primate endowment," Provine says.</p> <p>Even rats laugh; we just can't hear them. Jaak Panksepp, an affective neuroscientist at Washington State University, was studying rough-and-tumble play in rats when he stuck an audio recorder in their cages. The rats were not wrestling in silence, it turned out, but chirping rhythmically at frequencies we can't detect. But were the rats actually laughing? Panksepp decided to tickle them to find out. It turns out that rats love being tickled, particularly on the backs of their necks. When Panksepp and his assistant stopped tickling them, the rats nuzzled their hands, seeking more. And the rats emitted the same high-frequency chirps, at the same intervals, as they did when they romped with each other. Young rats chirped more than adults. Females chirped more than males. And the rats chirped less when they were tickled in the presence of a stressful stimulus, such as the smell of a cat.</p> <p>Humans have a complex relationship with laughter, Provine has found. He recorded students engaged in normal conversation and analyzed the remarks that provoked laughter. He found that laughter doesn't always signal fun. Fewer than a fifth of the remarks could be considered humorous. Most were mundane, such as: "How are you?" "Does anyone have a rubber band?" "What is that supposed to mean?"</p> <p>[ newsection ]</p> <p>Now here's some sobering news about fun: You're probably having less of it now than you did as a child. Pleasure-seeking behavior drops off in young adulthood, says Linden. And our ability to feel some types of pleasure diminishes as we age.</p> <p>"Our senses degrade as we get older," Linden says. Starting around age 20, we lose 1 percent of our touch receptors each year. That's not particularly noticeable in midlife, but by old age, it leads to problems with balance.</p> <p>People in the late stages of Parkinson's disease suffer a much more dramatic loss—the brain's pleasure circuitry ceases to function. Patients suffer anhedonia; they no longer enjoy eating, drinking, watching TV, or other activities they once found pleasurable. Drug and alcohol addicts also suffer from anhedonia, even years or decades after they've stopped using, Linden says. Excessive drug use can fry the brain's pleasure circuitry. People with a genetic predisposition to addiction already derive less pleasure from using intoxicants than others, Linden says. "The genetic variants that make you pleasure-seeking also make you less likely to enjoy pleasure."</p> <p>Since stress triggers addictive behavior, people should take part in activities that reduce it—exercise, meditation or prayer, and play, Linden says. "The answer is to take your pleasure widely. Mix your virtues and your vices."</p> <p>Play experts caution that the highly scheduled days of today's children allow less time for true play. "If there's an adult in charge, and you have to do it a certain way or you'll be critiqued—that is absolutely not play," says Bergen. "That is work disguised as play." Brown, of the National Institute for Play, says we're suffering from a national "play deficit." Cuts to recess time in school and ever-increasing academic expectations encroach on play time. And a culture that prizes busyness means that adults have less time to goof off. "It's a public health problem," Brown says. Depression, anxiety, and irritability are all symptoms of a lack of play, he says.</p> <p>So perhaps we adults should make more time for play, whether that means planting a garden, joining a bocce league, dancing, or rediscovering a childhood pastime. "We almost have a guilt about it," says Magsamen. "If we're playing, we must not be working. But if you're not playing, everything else doesn't go as well. Giving yourself permission to enjoy things makes all of your life fuller and richer."</p> <p>The kids skateboarding down the street, sipping imaginary tea, and building a pillow fort are learning just as much—perhaps more—as a peer in a piano lesson. Since our walk to the park with Gabriela, I've been trying to weave more fun into my days with my kids. The more we dawdle on our strolls, the more we discover: ant colonies in the sidewalk, frogs by the stream, and a pile of rocks that makes the perfect bear cave. We helicopter maple seeds, toss petals in the air, and cook bowls of mulch at the playground. Sometimes we even pretend we're cats.</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 Illuminating the weird <p>Heidi Herr walks through the stacks on the sixth floor of the George Peabody Library, occasionally stopping to run her fingertips over the spine of a book. When she reaches a shelf containing volumes on the occult, she gets a gleeful look in her eye. "This is a great place to find things for <em>Wunderkammer</em>," she says.</p> <p>Herr, the Sheridan Libraries' outreach librarian for special collections, curates <em>Welcome to George Peabody Library's Wunderkammer</em>! The blog, hosted on Tumblr, began in 2012 as a way to open the library's cabinet of curiosities to those outside a small scholarly niche. "I may be wandering around the stacks and a book just speaks to me and I open it and explore inside," Herr explains. "Other times it is a way to showcase new materials." For example, Herr recently used the site to display a newly acquired "cornfield game" produced in England in the 1820s. Riffing off the 1984 horror film <em>Children of the Corn</em>, she photographed the game's figurines in homicidal poses and accompanied the post with a hypothetical narrative about a plot to commit "murder most foul."</p> <p>The site has featured posts on odd words (one can only hope that "znees" comes back into fashion instead of "frost"), book covers like the scintillatingly titled economics volume <em>Age Before Booty</em>, and one-liners from burlesque joke books. "You don't want to be didactic on Tumblr—it's not the place for it," Herr says. "This is meant to bring forth levity, and I believe there is a place for humor in academic discourse."</p> <p><em>Wunderkammer</em> ranges from the goofy to the strange, a tone Herr admits is informed by her own sense of humor, honed in childhood. "It started early when my mom introduced me to Richard Simmons and Liberace, and then [grew from] reading tabloids at my grandmother's house. I learned at a young age to take delight in the absurd and find humor in the everyday."</p> <p>Herr is not alone in her desire to illuminate the weird among Peabody's collections in the name of scholarship and a good laugh. Elizabeth Archibald is a visiting teaching professor in Humanities at the Peabody Institute. She became so enthralled by the humorous things she encountered while researching materials for her course How-to: A History of Instruction, she began her blog <em>Ask the Past</em> in 2013 to share them with colleagues and friends.</p> <p>As its name suggests, the blog uses centuries-old how-to manuals to proffer wisdom and advice on topics as varied as how to change a diaper, how to treat baldness, and how to fart (this last one courtesy of a manual from 1530 by Erasmus, the revered Renaissance humanist and theologian.) The blog was so popular it became a book, <em>Ask the Past: Pertinent and Impertinent Advice from Yesteryear</em> (Hachette, 2015), and international editions launch this year.</p> <p>"I spent a lot of time sifting through the collections and turning up these fascinating how-to manuals, everything from a 16th-century swimming manual to 19th-century palmistry manuals," she says. "The blog is directed by my curiosity and the curiosity of my students, and once I started the blog, the curiosity of readers, who send questions and requests from time to time."</p> <p>Archibald explains that there is a long tradition of advice manuals, particularly beginning with the dissemination of print in the 16th and 17th centuries. The sheer volume of material indicates that manuals accounted for a significant amount of business for early scribes and publishers.</p> <p>The books fall loosely into two categories: books of secrets that demonstrate how to overcome the laws of nature and manuals of conduct. Both offer a similar promise: buy this book and change your life. Archibald thinks that this democratic quality may have appealed to a reading public that was expanding as printing made books more accessible.</p> <p>"Another interesting facet is these texts sometimes offer advice in the form of poetry or dialogue or ambitious literary formats," she says. "That, along with other features of the texts, suggests that they were a reading genre as well as a useful genre, that in some cases people were looking at these texts not exclusively for their practical value but for entertainment or delight."</p> <p>She concedes that it is hard to know how seriously contemporary readers of these books would have taken the advice. When she found a late 16th-century entry explaining how to walk on water by attaching timbrels (similar to tambourines) to one's feet, she also found a note in the margin from an early reader expressing a healthy dose of skepticism. Some­times the advice is unintentionally funny. For example, in the event one finds a snake in the garden, <em>A Necessary Family-Book</em> from 1688 suggests dispatching the adder with a swift blow from a radish. And here is some 12th-century birth control advice, from the book version of the blog: "In another fashion, take a male weasel and let its testicles be removed and let it be released alive. Let the woman carry these testicles with her in her bosom and let her tie them in goose skin or in another skin, and she will not conceive." Some advice feels modern. A statute from Leipzig University in 1495 states that freshmen are not to be "tormented, harassed or molested in any way," proof that hazing has long been deemed unacceptable campus behavior.</p> <p>There's little that's taboo on Archibald's and Herr's sites. Sex, drunkenness, eccentric views on child rearing? All fair game. By capitalizing on the widespread use of social media, Herr and Archibald bring unique materials to readers who may not have other means to access the library's vast collections. "So many people are interested in the history and collections of the library, but they don't necessarily have the opportunity to come and explore on their own," says Herr.</p> <p>"It's really important to me to bring these materials to the table and let them speak for themselves in all their ridiculous, funny glory, and students really respond to that, as do we all," Archibald adds. "People think of history as serious and difficult at best, a string of dates at worst." She believes it's important to offer a lighter side—such as illustrations of buff men with heads like slugs, or the secret to avoiding what befell an Italian who suffered "a Scorpion bred in his braine" [sic]. (Hint: Do not sniff basil the next time you're at the farmer's market.)</p> Tue, 24 May 2016 15:00:00 -0400 For patients in tough situations, sometimes the best thing is humor <p>The first thing oncology nurse Pete Linkroum, Nurs '15, always asks his patients: "How are you doing?"</p> <p>"I'm killin' it," replied a new patient one day, a young girl.</p> <p>"Killin' it?" Linkroum echoed.</p> <p>"Yeah—I'm killin' it, because otherwise, it's killin' me," the patient quipped.</p> <p>The exchange set the tone for the nurse-patient relationship the two would sustain over the next few days. Even as Linkroum could see the side effects of chemo setting in, his patient kept up their inside joke, feeding an easy sense of trust between them.</p> <p>Studies have shown that the use of humor in health care settings, sometimes called "therapeutic humor," can enhance the immune system, improve digestion, and generate better sleep and pain management by increasing endorphins. Anecdotal evidence also suggests psychological benefits that come with reframing a difficult situation in a more humorous light, helping to relieve stress, says Anne Belcher, associate professor and co-director of the Office for Teaching Excellence at the School of Nursing.</p> <p>Therapeutic humor won't change a clinical outcome—it can't shrink a tumor or erase heart disease. But it can help patients better navigate the processes of illness, recovery, and even dying, says Belcher, who has a long-standing interest in the health benefits of humor and spirituality. "I have seen people handle chemotherapy and radiation therapy very well, and my sense is that—to some extent—it's because they incorporated humor into their bag of coping strategies."</p> <p>Belcher is a member of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, an international nonprofit founded in 1987 by a nurse. The group—which defines therapeutic humor as "any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life's situations"—offers education, research, and support to its members, who range from scholars and health care providers to funeral directors and clergy.</p> <p>Therapeutic humor doesn't mean laying a string of one-liners on an unsuspecting patient, or teasing her or using sarcasm. It's about tuning in to the ways a patient views her situation and following her lead if she takes a turn toward the lighthearted. Just as a patient and provider might connect over a shared interest in baseball or a favorite movie, humor provides another avenue toward the common ground that generates trust between individuals. It can also offer a step back from a difficult situation, a reminder that life can still be larger than fear and pain alone.</p> <p>Before he started using therapeutic humor with his own patients, before he even became a nurse, Linkroum experienced it on the receiving end. A National Guard combat medic in 2009, he sustained a nerve injury to his right arm during his second tour in Afghanistan. Unable to use his dominant hand, he was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he says he received outstanding medical care and almost reverential respect for his service. But something important was missing: The team he'd been part of for the previous four months had used humor to bond and to manage the stress of life-threatening combat situations, and he felt uprooted from that support system. It wasn't until a friend from the team came to visit, and the two indulged in gallows humor until they laughed and then cried, that he felt his coping mechanisms kick in. "Getting my humor back in the hospital was a big part of my recovery."</p> <p>Linkroum's combat experience drew him to end-of-life care, and in nursing school, he signed up for Belcher's class on death and dying. The class did a lot of laughing together—Belcher says she often jump-starts humor by telling a self-deprecating story, like the time she fell off a stage while moderating a panel discussion and pulled the table and a pitcher of ice water down with her. Laughing with his classmates, Linkroum realized the group was able to talk about anything and feel comfortable together because of the implicit trust that humor builds. "I can't think it's funny unless you think it's funny," he points out.</p> <p>So, when his patients express readiness for humor, Linkroum embraces it as a means to build their relationship. If the illness is terminal, the patient will eventually rely on him completely, and that bond will be a crucial element. "If we do have that trust, if we've laughed together for weeks or months, when we get to the point of total care, it's a positive experience," he says.</p> <p>Linkroum recalls arriving to bathe a patient with whom he had not yet found an opening. But as Linkroum lifted the blanket from his emaciated body, the patient joked: "Sorry about the Mr. Universe legs." Afterward, not only did the patient seem to make peace with the potentially embarrassing situation of being bathed by someone else, Linkroum noticed, but he also seemed generally less anxious and more at ease as the days unfolded.</p> <p>People in end-of-life and combat situations have in common constant uncertainty, Linkroum notes. Patients can be hit by sudden infections; soldiers can be hit by random rockets. His military team could find humor in gruesome and sad situations, and Linkroum says it made them successful as a group and also protected him from the post-traumatic stress that many combat veterans experience.</p> <p>The humor that helped him endure combat and avoid internalizing the stress can help his patients in the same way, he believes. "I hope it does for them what it did for me: It allowed me to be more comfortable with my situation. It allows them to get a little distance from what's happening." He adds, "One of the best ways to cope is to get that separation. Life goes on, it's OK to laugh about it, it's OK to have fun. If you're laughing at something, it's hard to be suffering at the same time." He likes to quote George Bernard Shaw: "Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."</p> <p>Like Linkroum, Belcher first experienced therapeutic humor while dealing with her own stresses. As a nursing student, she and her dorm-mates would act out funny skits for one another describing events from their harried days—things like precipitous births or cute things kids said. More than four decades later, she still uses role-playing to shift her perspective on troubling situations. "Sometimes just telling it makes it seem much funnier than it was at the time," she says.</p> <p>In the mid-1980s, Belcher was part of a team researching how young men with AIDS used spiritual coping strategies to deal with stress and depression, and she learned that humor was one of those strategies. "They knew cognitively they were in a very serious situation, but if they had a strong spiritual sense, their outlook was more positive," she recalls. So Belcher used to ask her cancer patients—and now teaches her students to ask them—what it means to have cancer. It's a way of opening a line of communication the patient can take in any direction he chooses. Often, the answer is along the lines of, "I realize how important it is to live every day to its fullest," but sometimes it's, "If I have chemo and my hair falls out, maybe it will grow back brown and curly." The latter sort of reply is an invitation to connect on a more personal level and a way for a patient to regain some control of his situation, Belcher says—an affirmation that the patient is not just a patient but an individual, with an identity and roles and interests beyond the walls of the hospital. "You have to have a nice balance, and humor is one way to say, 'This is how I am, this is what I enjoy, and if you react, I know you're really seeing me, not just a patient,'" she says.</p> <p>For patients, entering into humor often helps them shift briefly from being and feeling sick into being themselves, agrees Rab Razzak, director of outpatient palliative medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. "They remember they're human. They remember they're living. That's what my objective is: to improve their quality of life and their joy," says Razzak, who wisecracks so often that people started telling him he needed a stage. So he got one: he's also an amateur stand-up comic, and he even appeared in comedian Rob O'Reilly's West Hollywood show.</p> <p>For doctors and other care providers—many of whom experience burnout and compassion fatigue—humor can be a form of self-care, Razzak adds. Finding a humorous angle together can serve as a doorway to deeper connection with both colleagues and patients, buffering the pressures of the job. "The work that we do is so heavy that humor just makes working easier and more fun," he says. "It brings people together, makes an atmosphere of a team and family, and helps create better communication."</p>