Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Wed, 29 Jul 2015 14:00:00 -0400 Using drones to transport blood samples could speed diagnosis, treatment <p>The results of common and routine blood tests are not affected by up to 40 minutes of travel on hobby-sized drones, a <a href="">recent proof-of-concept study at Johns Hopkins demonstrated</a>, promising news for the millions of people cared for in rural and economically impoverished areas that lack passable roads.</p> <p>In developing nations, most tests on blood samples and other fluids are performed by dedicated laboratories that are often miles from remote clinics. By transporting samples via drones, researchers say, health care workers can gain quick access to lab tests needed for diagnoses and treatments.</p> <p>"Biological samples can be very sensitive and fragile," says <a href="">Timothy Kien Amukele</a>, a pathologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of a laboratory collaboration between Johns Hopkins and Uganda's <a href="">Makerere University</a>. That sensitivity makes even the pneumatic-tube systems used by many hospitals, for example, unsuitable for transporting blood for certain purposes.</p> <p>Of particular concern with the use of drones, Amukele notes, is the sudden acceleration when the craft launches and the jostling when it lands on its belly.</p> <p>"Such movements could have destroyed blood cells or prompted blood to coagulate, and I thought all kinds of blood tests might be affected, but our study shows they weren't, so that was cool," he says.</p> <p>A <a href="">report on Amukele's team's study was published today in <em>PLOS One</em></a>.</p> <p>For the study, which Amukele believes is the first rigorous examination of the impact of drone transport on biological samples, his team collected a total of six blood samples from each of 56 healthy adult volunteers at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The samples were then driven to a flight site an hour away from the hospital on days when the temperature was in the 70s. There, half of the samples were packaged for flight, with a view to protecting them for the in-flight environment and preventing leakage.</p> <p>Those samples were then loaded into a hand-launched fixed-wing drone and flown around for periods of six to 38 minutes. Owing to Federal Aviation Administration rules, the flights were conducted in an unpopulated area, stayed below 100 meters (328 feet), and were in the line of sight of the certified pilot.</p> <p>The other half of the samples were driven back from the drone flight field to The Johns Hopkins Hospital Core Laboratory, where they underwent the 33 most common laboratory tests that together account for around 80 percent of all such tests done. A few of the tests performed were for sodium, glucose, and red blood cell count.</p> <p>Comparing lab results of the flown vs. non-flown blood of each volunteer, Amukele says "the flight really had no impact."</p> <p>Amukele and his team noted that one blood test—for total carbon dioxide (the so-called bicarbonate test)—did yield differing results for some of the flown vs. non-flown samples. Amukele says the team isn't sure why, but that the reason could be because the blood sat around for up to eight hours before being tested. There were no consistent differences between flown vs. non-flown blood, Amukele says, and it's unknown whether the out-of-range results were due to the time lag or because of the drone transport.</p> <p>"The ideal way to test that would be to fly the blood around immediately after drawing it, but neither the FAA nor Johns Hopkins would like drones flying around the hospital," he said.</p> <p>Given the successful proof-of-concept study results, Amukele says the likely next step is a pilot study in a location in Africa where health care clinics are sometimes 60 or more miles away from labs.</p> <p>"A drone could go 100 kilometers in 40 minutes," says Amukele. "They're less expensive than motorcycles, are not subject to traffic delays, and the technology already exists for the drone to be programmed to 'home' to certain GPS coordinates, like a carrier pigeon."</p> <iframe src="" width="680" height="382" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="">Can Drones be Used for the Routine Transport of Laboratory Specimens?</a> from <a href="">Medical Drones</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p> <p>Unmanned aircraft (drones) can potentially be used for the transport of small goods such as clinical laboratory specimens. We have published what, to our knowledge, is the first study of the impact of drone transportation on routine lab test results.</p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 09:40:00 -0400 Fresh idea: Use surplus food from wholesalers to help address Baltimore's 'food deserts' <p>When he lived in Boston a few years ago, Corbin Cunningham made a habit of frequenting Haymarket, the historic open-air market where he could consistently find cheap, ripe produce—like a huge box of tomatoes for $5.</p> <p>Vendors at the popular weekend market are able to sell surplus fruits and vegetables directly from the region's wholesale distributor, offering prices up to 90 percent lower than normal retail.</p> <p>When Cunningham and his wife, Marie Spiker, moved to Baltimore to pursue doctorates at Johns Hopkins University, "we were wishing we had something like that here," he says. The couple simultaneously recognized Baltimore's need to increase fresh produce offerings in a large number of neighborhoods that are considered "food deserts."</p> <p>Spiker and Cunningham found the opportunity to pursue their ideas through the <a href="">Abell Foundation's Award in Urban Policy</a>, which allows Baltimore-area college and grad students to compete with innovative policy solutions for the city. The Abell Foundation recently announced Spiker and Cunningham as this year's winners for their <a href="">proposal for a vendors' market in Baltimore</a> selling discounted produce that would otherwise go to waste.</p> <p>In developing their concept, Cunningham and Spiker looked at excess produce from the <a href="">Maryland Food Center Authority</a>, a centralized wholesale food distributor in Jessup that supplies fruits and vegetables to states throughout the Mid-Atlantic.</p> <p>During the course of their research, Spiker and Cunningham found that more than 5,000 tons of the center's food waste will end up in landfills this year, and that some portion of that is edible food. Though the figure is impossible to calculate precisely, they have determined that somewhere between 110,000 and 1.3 million pounds could be fit for consumption. Instead of going to landfills, why shouldn't that food be offered to Baltimore residents instead, their policy paper reasons.</p> <p>"We thought, this makes so much sense," Spiker says. "No one wants to throw anything away. It's a unique opportunity to not only reduce waste but also generate job opportunities."</p> <p>While a regular farmers market caters in seasonal, locally sourced foods, a vendors' market would focus on the produce shipped to the Maryland Food Center Authority from farms across the country. Some of that food—both Grade No. 1 quality produce and lesser grades—goes unsold to retailers and restaurants. The point of the vendors' market would be to sell off the surplus that's still fresh and edible—usually it's already ripe, or just about to be.​</p> <p>"The produce has to be high enough quality that people want it, and the prices are cheap," Spiker says.</p> <p>Though the researchers present Haymarket as a model to follow, they acknowledge that its 185-year-old tradition can't simply be transplanted to Baltimore, a city with different needs and demographics than Boston. "You'd have to maintain the spirit of it," while making adjustments, Spiker says.</p> <p>The couple envisions a local nonprofit or agency taking over the concept. Their paper identifies five potential partners, with two standing out as the best fit: the <a href="">Baltimore Food Hub</a>, an entrepreneurial food production campus planned for East Baltimore; or the <a href="">Baltimore Public Markets Corporation</a>, which oversees five public markets in the city and also partners with the Lexington Market.</p> <p>With their paper now published, "it's out in the world for someone to run with it," says Spiker. As full-time PhD students—Spiker's studying nutrition at JHU's <a href="">Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>, Cunningham's studying visual attention and perception in the <a href="">Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences</a> at JHU's <a href="">Krieger School of Arts and Sciences</a>—they won't be taking a direct advocacy role with their concept, but can serve as consultants for those who do. Their paper also includes a number of policy suggestions for Baltimore City to facilitate the market, such as reducing regulatory ​hurdles and composting any remaining food waste.</p> <p>"We've had a number of people contact us and say, 'We're interested in this idea,'" Cunningham says. "For us … we can talk about it, we know a lot about it. We're interested in pursuing it."</p> <p><a href="">The Abell Foundation</a>, which helped the researchers refine their final paper, describes their winning proposal as "a creative and compelling solution to [the] twin challenges" of food waste and food access in Baltimore. The award comes with a $5,000 prize.</p> <p>The local foundation is currently <a href="">accepting submissions for the 2016 Urban Policy Award</a> through Oct. 16.</p> Wed, 29 Jul 2015 09:32:00 -0400 James Jude, doctor who helped pioneer lifesaving CPR at Johns Hopkins, dies at 87 <p>James Jude, who helped pioneer the lifesaving technique for cardiopulmonary resuscitation while he was a resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the late 1950s, <a href="">died Tuesday in Coral Gables, Florida</a>. He was 87.</p> <p>CPR has been in practice in the United States since 1960, when Johns Hopkins researchers William Kouwenhoven, Guy Knickerbocker, and Jude <a href="">published in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association</em></a> the first data on the benefits of what was then called "cardiac massage."</p> <p>Jude had observed Kouwenhoven's and Knickerbocker's work with fibrillating dogs and reasoned that pressure applied rhythmically with the heel of the hand to the center of the chest could jump-start the heart and save lives. The trio's research eventually demonstrated that regular, rhythmic chest compressions raised blood pressure enough to keep sufficient blood flowing to the brain and other key organs, buying enough time to get a defibrillator to the patient and restart their heart.</p> <p><strong>Also see:</strong> <a href="">A dying dog, a slow elevator, and 50 years of CPR</a> (<em>Hopkins Medicine Magazine</em>, Winter 2011)</p> <p>Jude, a 1953 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, helped train colleagues and firefighters in the procedure. His work with CPR took him to Miami in 1964, where he became chief of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital.</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:59:00 -0400 Student researchers collaborate virtually with help of open-source software <p>A summer research internship for undergraduates is not only helping them learn to build new lifesaving drug molecules and create new biofuels—it's also testing the concept of a virtual research community.</p> <p>The <a href="">Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology</a>—with the help of a $200,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation—has launched a first-of-its-kind training program in which students study vaccine design, create biofuels, and build protein circuits in living cells, all with the help of specialized software that lets them collaborate from distant host university labs.</p> <p>A typical summer research program—the institute's Nanobio Research Experience for Undergraduates, for example—brings students together to one host university, where they work in different laboratories on various projects. In the new pilot training program on Computational Biomolecular, students use an open-source software called Rosetta to work together on problems in computational biology and are mentored by faculty who are part of a global collaborative team known as the Rossetta Commons. The software gives users the ability to analyze massive amounts of data to predict the structure of real and imagined proteins, enzymes, and other molecular structures.</p> <p>"Computational biologists study known macromolecules or design new ones and use computers to predict how these molecules will fold in 3D and how they might interact with cells or other molecules," says <a href="">Jeffrey Gray</a>, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Johns Hopkins and the INBT affiliate who spearheaded the program. "For example, researchers create computational algorithms to design a new drug molecule or use the Rosetta software to predict how molecules might behave in a living organism. And because the work is done using a computer, researchers can easily collaborate at a distance."</p> <p>The students in the pilot program began their research experience with a weeklong boot camp at the University of North Carolina at the end of May. The following week, students traveled to their host universities, which include Johns Hopkins; University of California, Davis; Scripps Research Institute; Stanford University; New York University; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and Vanderbilt.</p> <p>Morgan Nance, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from the University of California, Davis, is spending her summer at <a href="">JHU's Gray Lab</a>.</p> <p>"I hope to become more familiar with Rosetta to the point that I am able to utilize it in my home lab," Nance says. "I want to gain the technical skills of how to use this new software and the knowledge of how to develop it further. I hope to gain valuable research experience so that when I apply to graduate school, I'm ready to jump into action."</p> <p>Unlike experimental biology, which is performed with test tubes and Petri dishes, computational biology uses computer software. Therefore researchers in the discipline are accustomed to collaborating with people from many locations.</p> <p>"Each lab has different expertise," Gray says. "One lab might specialize in protein docking, another in RNA structure and design, another in vaccine design or protein function. When students cross train in these laboratories, they learn to recognize the common themes. Virtual collaboration also opens them up to more options to consider when they go to find a job or apply to graduate school.</p> <p>"We can ask questions with computational biology that you just can't ask with an experiment," Gray adds. "The level of detail that we can examine is completely different."</p> <p>The research internships last 10 weeks. Each week, Nance and her colleagues "meet" online via video chat to discuss current published papers in the field and to present updates from host labs. In August, Nance will reconvene with her cohort at the annual RosettaCON in Leavenworth, Washington.</p> <p>Sally O'Connor, NSF program director, spent time with the Rosetta trainees during their boot camp and described the cohort as "impressive."</p> <p>"It takes a certain type of student to be able to participate in the program, because there is computer programming involved as well as understanding of the basic science underlying the projects," O'Connor says. "If this distributed model works just as well as the traditional one, we would then be able to accept this kind of model and access the best labs in the country for doing research."</p> <p>Though Nance is on her own at Hopkins, INBT staff members have made sure that she is included in activities organized for the 13 students in the on-site REU program.</p> <p>"I have the opportunity to work under a new principal investigator and get his insight on how research is conducted," she says. "I work closely under a mentor who helps guide me on how to think up questions to answer, and [determine] how to go about answering them. And I have access to great equipment, brilliant minds, and awesome new friends."</p> Tue, 28 Jul 2015 11:15:00 -0400 Aspiring engineers learn to use their noodles at Johns Hopkins summer program <p>What's the secret to building a spaghetti bridge that supports the weight of an official Olympic metal barbell?</p> <p>Maybe it's finding the perfect combination of cylindrical noodles, woven tightly together with epoxy or resin.</p> <p>Sometimes, says competitor Sherrie Shen, it's the simplest load-bearing bridges that take home the win.</p> <p>At the 10th annual Spaghetti Bridge Competition, hosted Friday at Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, 41 teams of high school students tasked with testing the strength of spaghetti squared off. In the front of a crowded auditorium in Hodson Hall, students carefully piled weights on the noodle bridges as if adding to a wobbly stack of Jenga bricks. Kilogram by kilogram, the audience cheered along until the pasta snapped, flying into the shielded faces of the aspiring engineers.</p> <p>A'hunna Key-Lows, the 13th team to take the stage, added weights, starting in 1-kilogram increments, to their structure as the audience fell silent. A suspenseful game show sound bite played in the background. Fifty two pounds later, the pasta splintered in the air and the crowd cheered for the No. 1 team.</p> <p>The event caps the four-week <a href="">Engineering Innovation</a> program, which is designed to give rising high school juniors and seniors a taste of college-level engineering.</p> <p>This year's program attracted students from across the U.S. and 15 other countries—China, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.</p> <p>Students complete lab activities in computer engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, material science, civil engineering, robotics, and mechanical engineering, all while working on the spaghetti bridges during their spare time. Shen and her team, Pasta People, built not one but three bridges in preparation for the competition.</p> <p>The students spend hours building the bridges after learning about trusses and other sturdy structures in the classroom. There are requirements, of course, and the groups are penalized if their bridges are too high or overweight.</p> <p>One of the goals of the Engineering Innovation program is to introduce participants to the possibilities of a career in engineering, math, or science. Shen, after her four weeks at Johns Hopkins, said she still aspires to be an engineer.</p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:13:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins well-represented at Baltimore's annual Pride celebration <p>About 150 people representing Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and JHU's Applied Physics Laboratory—including several who teamed up to create a colorful "scrubs rainbow"—took part in Baltimore's <a href="">40th annual LGBTQ Pride parade</a> on Saturday afternoon. The parade, in the city's Mount Vernon neighborhood, was part of a Pride celebration that stretched into Sunday morning.</p> <p>This is the second year Johns Hopkins has participated in the event, though fewer than 10 people took part a year ago, according to Demere Woolway, director of <a href="">LGBTQ Life</a> at JHU.</p> <p>"I was delighted to see so many people from all across Hopkins come out to celebrate Pride," she said.</p> <p>This was Baltimore's first Pride celebration since a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.</p> <p>JHU's participation was supported by JHU's Office of LGBTQ Life, JHM's Marketing & Communications Employee Engagement and Diversity Committee, the JHHS Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Department of Pathology, and the School of Medicine LGBTQ Curriculum Team.</p> Mon, 27 Jul 2015 08:05:00 -0400 Stunning parting shot of Pluto reveals layers of atmospheric haze <p>Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> mission</a>, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.</p> <p>"We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now—10 days after <a href="">closest approach</a>—we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. "With flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges, and vast haze, Pluto is showing a diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling."</p> <p>Just seven hours after closest approach, <em>New Horizons</em> aimed its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager back at Pluto, capturing sunlight streaming through the atmosphere and revealing hazes as high as 80 miles above Pluto's surface. A preliminary analysis of the image shows two distinct layers of haze—one about 50 miles above the surface and the other at an altitude of about 30 miles. The <a href="">full photo can be viewed at</a>.</p> <p>"My jaw was on the ground when I saw this first image of an alien atmosphere in the Kuiper Belt," said Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "It reminds us that exploration brings us more than just incredible discoveries—it brings incredible beauty."</p> <p>Studying Pluto's atmosphere provides clues as to what's happening below.</p> <p>"The hazes detected in this image are a key element in creating the complex hydrocarbon compounds that give Pluto's surface its reddish hue," said Michael Summers, New Horizons co-investigator at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.</p> <p>Models suggest the hazes form when ultraviolet sunlight breaks up methane gas particles—a simple hydrocarbon in Pluto's atmosphere. The breakdown of methane triggers the buildup of more complex hydrocarbon gases, such as ethylene and acetylene, which also were discovered in Pluto's atmosphere by <em>New Horizons</em>. As these hydrocarbons fall to the lower, colder parts of the atmosphere, they condense into ice particles that create the hazes. Ultraviolent sunlight chemically converts hazes into tholins, the dark hydrocarbons that color Pluto's surface.</p> <p>Scientists previously had calculated temperatures would be too warm for hazes to form at altitudes higher than 20 miles above Pluto's surface.</p> <p>"We're going to need some new ideas to figure out what's going on," said Summers.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> mission also found in images evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto's surface and revealing signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn't expect.</p> <p>The new images show fascinating details within the Texas-sized plain, informally named Sputnik Planum, which lies within the western half of Pluto's heart-shaped feature, known as Tombaugh Regio. There, a sheet of ice clearly appears to have flowed—and may still be flowing—in a manner similar to glaciers on Earth.</p> <p>"We've only seen surfaces like this on active worlds like Earth and Mars," said mission co-investigator John Spencer of Southwest Research Institute. "I'm really smiling."</p> <p>Additionally, new compositional data from <em>New Horizons</em> indicate the center of Sputnik Planum is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices.</p> <p>"At Pluto's temperatures of minus-390 degrees Fahrenheit, these ices can flow like a glacier," said Bill McKinnon, deputy leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging team at Washington University in St. Louis. "In the southernmost region of the heart, adjacent to the dark equatorial region, it appears that ancient, heavily-cratered terrain has been invaded by much newer icy deposits."</p> <p>The unmanned <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft will continue to send data stored in its onboard recorders back to Earth through late 2016. The spacecraft currently is 7.6 million miles beyond Pluto, healthy, and flying deeper into the Kuiper Belt.</p> <p>The <a href="">Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory</a> designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Insititute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning. <em>New Horizons</em> is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.</p> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:00:00 -0400 Cellphones might be best way to get health information to inner-city pregnant, postpartum women <p>Johns Hopkins researchers are exploring whether and how cellphones—something that nearly everyone has—can be used to improved the health of expectant and new mothers.</p> <p>By surveying the technology habits of a diverse group of young, low-income, inner-city pregnant and postpartum women, <a href="">Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine</a> researchers found that more 90 percent of them used smartphones or cellphones on a routine basis. The findings suggest that cellphones might be the best way for medical providers to reach out to these populations of women during and after their pregnancy—a critical time for monitoring health. Such interventions could decrease the risks of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases during childbearing years.</p> <p>A report on the study, which also looked at patterns in Internet usage and texting, was published online this month in the <a href=""><em>Journal of Medical Internet Research</em></a>.</p> <p>"Pregnancy and the year after delivery—when women must see a doctor—give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviors for them and their families," said <a href="">Wendy Bennett</a>, the study's lead author and a clinical researcher and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. "But these opportunities are often missed because many women do not return for care or stay engaged with providers. If we could better understand their use of information and communication technology, we could likely design more appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach and help them."</p> <p>Cellphones stand out by far as the preferred technology these women use, regardless of race or ethnic background, the researchers report. The survey results also revealed important differences in the women's Internet use, likely tied to their proficiency in English.</p> <p>The research team surveyed a cross-section of women attending one of four obstetric or pediatric clinics at Johns Hopkins Medicine's two Baltimore hospitals. Forty percent of the women were African-American, 28 percent were Latina, 23 percent were white, and fewer than 10 percent belonged to other ethnic groups. A variety of health conditions were present among the women, including pre-pregnancy obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p> <p>Smartphone use was about one-third more common for African-American women than Latinas, the study showed. In general, Internet use by any means was lowest for Latinas, at 51 percent, with African-Americans at 79 percent and whites at 87 percent. Bennett says limited English proficiency, highest in Latinas, is a likely barrier for Internet use.</p> <p>Texting was high across the board—85 percent or higher in all groups, though slightly lower among African-American women.</p> <p>Researchers say their next step is to design and test personalized cellphone and Internet-based approaches for women proficient in English, and alternate Spanish-based approaches for those who don't speak English.</p> Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:10:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins business student gets rooftop gardens off the ground <p>On an especially hot early summer day in D.C., Mehr Pastakia, sporting sunglasses and a neon-green vest, proudly surveys her domain—a lush two acres of greenery atop the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in the city's emerging Navy Yard waterfront area. The expansive, neatly trimmed stretches of multihued sedums form a sky-high oasis in what is otherwise a desert of steel and concrete. Fields of vegetation at this altitude are both incongruous and welcome, like a brightly colored mural on a car park wall.</p> <p>Around us, a foursome of brawny young men fan out and look for anything out of place: a stray weed, a bare patch, plants that have grown ever so slightly over a bed's edge. Their toil invokes the final moments of a haircut when you're ready to get out of the chair, but the stylist spots the willful, solitary blade that demands to be snipped.</p> <p>"What they're doing now is trimming, mostly for aesthetics, but also making sure we keep the growth in check," says Pastakia, who seems right at home in this windy setting with a bird's-eye view of Nationals Park and the Anacostia River. "If you let a green roof go, weeds can take over. Debris can fly off the roof. A tree can start to grow from a seed dropped by a bird. Nature finds its way."</p> <p>Pastakia, an MBA student at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Carey Business School</a>, didn't create the DOT's green roof, but she's now the caretaker of it, along with several other green rooftops in the nation's capital and in Maryland. In a world where timing is everything, Pastakia has gotten in on the ground floor—or more aptly, the rooftop floor—of a growth industry.</p> <p>Pastakia is principal owner of <a href="">Pratum Greenroofs LLC</a>, a company she founded while a student at Carey. In less than three years, Pratum has landed contracts with several prominent Mid-Atlantic property developers and management firms, including JBG and Akridge, to repair and/or maintain green roofs at the DOT, the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, the International Monetary Fund, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and various commercial properties.</p> <p>Her first project was with Harbor East Property Management Group for the Legg Mason Tower, the Carey School's downtown home. During her MBA interview, Pastakia sat down with Mary Somers, the school's associate director of admissions. After learning of Pastakia's background in horticulture, Somers told the prospective student about Legg Mason building's green roof, which needed some love. The roof's vegetation, planted in trays, had turned mostly brown and weedy due to neglect and lack of access to water.</p> <p>Pastakia secured a meeting with the building's assistant property manager and convinced her she could turn the roof green again. Partial credit, she says, went to her fingernails.</p> <p>"I think it was because I wore purple nail polish that day, and it was Ravens season," Pastakia says. "And she just took a leap of faith with me. I remember her saying: 'OK, if you think you can fix it, go for it.' The stars aligned."</p> <p>For the first year, Pastakia worked alone on the project. She bought and hauled in the plants, substrate, and any other items she needed to replant the trays and turn the outdoor garden around. Over time, her hard work paid off. The roof today blooms with full sedum coverage blended with accent plants.</p> <p>"I grew it back in with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, mixed in with panic and anxiety," she says. "It takes a year, maybe two, to turn around a neglected roof."</p> <p>Why go green on a roof at all? Pastakia says there are many benefits.</p> <p>Green roofs typically consist of layers of protection fabric, drainage, filter fibers, substrate (soil and crushed rock, brick, or shells), and plants. No irrigation is needed—the plants are grown and sustained by rainfall. Their primary purpose is stormwater management, as a green roof can capture that first 1.2 inches of rainfall and any excess moisture slopes to drains that lead to the public sewage system. While it may not sound like much, any extra water retention is vital. Although sewage drains and other infrastructure on the ground take stormwater to treatment plants, a heavy rainfall can cause sewers to overflow and send raw sewage into nearby rivers and streams.</p> <p>Green roofs also reduce the "heat island effect" on cities. Built-up areas are typically hotter than nearby rural areas, in part because concrete and other man-made surfaces attract and retain heat. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people can be 1.8 to 5.4 degrees warmer than its surroundings. Heat island effect can increase summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution, and heat-related illness and mortality. Green roofs are "one way to reduce the sun's intensity and bring the temperature on the street down," Pastakia says.</p> <p>Plus, they look cool.</p> <p>"You can design them in a way where it's an amenity. You can host events on a green roof, like a wedding, and they can be a revenue driver," she says. "What's not to like about a beautiful garden?"</p> <p>Pastakia's love of gardening dates back to her days as a toddler. At age 3, she would propagate chrysanthemums in the small, terraced garden behind her Bethesda home. Around this age, Pastakia's mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease that steadily took its toll. Pastakia recalls how in early spring she would wander the garden to collect plants for a "medicinal concoction" to give to her mom, a microbiologist at the National Institutes of Health.</p> <p>"I thought if she ate the plants she would get better, but we wound up just applying the mixture topically to her head," she says. "I was just a kid, but I do believe that nature has the power to heal."</p> <p>When Pastakia's mother finally succumbed to her cancer and passed away, the then 9-year-old Pastakia found solace in yard work.</p> <p>"Instead of doing my homework, I'd often play in our garden," she says. "I felt at home there."</p> <p>She enrolled at the University of Maryland and majored in plant science. During her last year of college, she registered for a sustainability seminar in which <a href="">Ed Snodgrass</a>, the "grandfather of green roofs," gave a keynote address. After his presentation, she asked Snodgrass for advice on how to break into the business. Previously, some of Pastakia's advisers had told her to look into the green roofing industry.</p> <p>"There is no pre-beaten path as it's a relatively new industry," she says. "As one person told me, it's like laying track. You just have to go out and figure out how to make it happen."</p> <p>She got a summer internship at Maryland-based <a href="">Green Roof Plants</a> and later found work for a Baltimore-based green roof company called <a href="">Furbish</a>, where she cut her teeth and learned the trade. What followed was a string of "not-so-glamorous" part-time jobs before she learned about the Johns Hopkins MBA program.</p> <p>"I've known I wanted to do an MBA since my undergrad days," she says. "I thought now was the time to do it."</p> <p>Starting a business while still studying at Carey has had its perks. She's able to extract professional advice from—and bounce ideas off—classmates and faculty. She regularly talks with Somers, whom Pastakia considers a mentor.</p> <p>Somers says that Pastakia made an instant, and favorable, impression on her. "I thought she was amazing the second I started talking with her," Somers says. "I then got to know her better. She's a perfectionist, in a good way. And she's very good at building a network. When she hears about an opportunity or lead, she follows through with it. People feel very comfortable around her and trust her, which is a wonderful quality to have. She identified a niche trend and went after it."</p> <p>Until recently Pratum has limited its work to green roof maintenance, but this past month the company finished its first rooftop installation at One Franklin Square in D.C., the future home of <em>The Washington Post</em>. The project includes a 110-linear-foot, 16-foot-tall green screen, a trellis system for growing vines.</p> <p>She now rents office space in D.C.'s Chinatown district and has six part-time employees.</p> <p>"And maybe one day soon I can start to pay myself," Pastakia says with a laugh. "Right now we want to deliver on these new big projects. It's been a great year. Word of mouth has spread, and it's fun and exciting. I like to think it's all built on trust. People trust you know what you're doing, and that you will do your utmost to take care of the roof for them."</p> <p>Pastakia says she's committed to doing just that.</p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 11:50:00 -0400 Experts at Johns Hopkins reflect on successes, failures of Medicare at 50 <p>Half a century ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson signed the nation's Medicare program into law, guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans over 65. Today the program is both hailed for its innovative approach and criticized as an anachronism, according to health policy experts who gathered at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on Wednesday.</p> <p>Those experts—including former U.S. congressman Henry Waxman and Karen Davis, who directs the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Hopkins—discussed the achievements and challenges of <a href="">"Medicare at 50"</a>.</p> <p>Waxman, who joined Hopkins earlier this year as its <a href="">Centennial Policy Scholar</a>, pointed to Medicare, along with Social Security, as lynchpin programs providing "fundamental protection and security for people when they get older or when they're disabled."</p> <p>The experts characterized Medicare as a largely successful model that has adapted to the country's needs over time and set the bar for health care reforms and private insurance companies. Sean Cavanaugh, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that though he hears from the private sector, "you're a dinosaur, you need to innovate," by and large the private sector continues to look to Medicare as a model for its own practices and payment methods.</p> <p>But the panelists also highlighted Medicare's biggest problems today, including its excessively complex structure, its reliance on high-priced pharmaceuticals, and in particular its inability to shoulder the burdens of long-term care. That area, Waxman said, remains a huge "blind spot." Many seniors who end up in assisted living or nursing homes are "in for a very rude shock," he said, when they find themselves whittling away all their life savings on health care costs. "That is so dehumanizing for people," he added.</p> <p>"Despite all that Medicare has done, older people in America pay more out of pocket for health care expenses than similar people in other countries and report more problems with access to care," Davis noted.</p> <p>Another looming obstacle for Medicare is how it will absorb the aging baby-boom population, which started to become eligible for the program in 2011. Cavanaugh said Medicare participation is poised to grow by 68 percent over the next 15 years. "We face problems we've never faced before," he said.</p> <p>The panelists also examined Medicare through a historical lens. Echoing Davis' article this winter in the <a href=""><em>New England Journal of Medicine</em></a>, Sheila Burke of Harvard University depicted the program as "born of frustration and desperation" at a time when nearly half the country's seniors were uninsured.</p> <p>Though Medicare has innovated in many ways over its 50 years, with additions including integrating hospice services and covering the costs of prescription drugs, the changes have been "very slow," Burke said. And the program remains "confusing [and] complicated for beneficiaries and providers," she said.</p> <p>Other experts yesterday included health policy consultant Jack Ebeler and <a href="">Joshua Sharfstein</a>, Bloomberg's associate dean for public health practice and training. Ellen MacKenzie, who chairs Bloomberg's Department of Health Policy and Management, introduced the panelists.</p> <p>Waxman, who steered forward a number of critical pieces of health care legislation during his 40 years in Congress, said he welcomes the opportunity to broach Medicare topics from an academic perspective at Hopkins.</p> <p>"I think there's some exciting things being talked about on campus," he said.</p> <p>The discussion was the <a href="">first in a monthly seminar series Waxman will host</a> throughout the Bloomberg School's centennial year that will bring together public health leaders, policymakers, and others to explore pressing public health topics, including long-term care, mental health, climate change, and tobacco control.</p> <p>Archived video of the "Medicare at 50" webcast can be viewed on the <a href="">JHU Ustream channel</a>. </p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 10:20:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins expands study abroad options in Cuba <p>In years past, studying abroad in Cuba meant securing a travel license and flying with thousands of dollars in cash stashed in a suitcase.</p> <p>Today, as the U.S. moves to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, American credit and debit cards are accepted on the island, and the Internet is more accessible.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins University students will soon have an opportunity to see these changes firsthand during a full semester in Cuba, thanks to the new <a href="">Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad</a>, or CASA.</p> <p>Hopkins, in partnership with Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Northwestern, and Penn, <a href="">launched CASA-Havana during the 2014-15 academic year</a> as the first of many study centers around the world that will be developed by the consortium.</p> <p>Since 2012, JHU students have been able to travel to Cuba as part of a two-week Intersession course taught in English under the direction of Professor Eduardo González. But no other study abroad program offered students a glimpse into daily life for Cuban students.</p> <p>CASA-Havana, the largest U.S. academic presence in Cuba, developed a program of study that gives students direct access to the country's leading academic experts. At Cuba's oldest university, <a href="">University of Havana</a>, students will take direct-enrollment courses alongside Cuban students and also have the option of taking courses at <a href="">Casa de las Américas</a>, the Cuban government's premier research institute. All the courses will be taught in Spanish.</p> <p>At the program center, students will take CASA-delivered courses and immerse themselves in Cuban culture with lectures from experts on key issues facing the country, exhibitions, recitals, and local field visits. Students will be encouraged to conduct research, too.</p> <p>Housing will be provided in a recently renovated guest residence located within walking distance of the Cuba study center and Casa de las Américas.</p> <p>"The CASA Cuba program gives Hopkins undergraduates a unique opportunity to experience Havana during such a time of social and economic transition," said Lori Citti, director of JHU's <a href="">Office of Study Abroad</a>. "The spring 2016 semester in Havana will provide a window into Cuban life and society at a critical period in the political and economic history of our countries." For more information,</p> <p>For more information about applying for CASA at University of Havana, contact the Office of Study Abroad at <a href=""></a>.</p> Thu, 23 Jul 2015 07:57:00 -0400 New Horizons discovers second, smaller mountain range in Pluto's 'heart' <p>Pluto's icy mountains have company. <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> mission</a> has discovered a new, apparently less lofty mountain range on the lower-left edge of Pluto's best known feature, the bright, heart-shaped region named Tombaugh Region.</p> <p>These newly discovered frozen peaks are estimated to be one-half mile to one mile high, about the same height as the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. The <a href="">Norgay Mountains discovered by <em>New Horizons</em> on July 15</a> more closely approximate the height of the taller Rocky Mountains in the western U.S.</p> <p>The new range is just west of <a href="">the region within Pluto's heart called Sputnik Plain</a> and some 68 miles northwest of the Norgay Mountains. This newest image further illustrates the remarkably well-defined topography along the western edge of Tombaugh Region.</p> <p>"There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west," said Jeff Moore, leader of the <em>New Horizons</em> Geology, Geophysics, and Imaging Team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "There's a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we're still trying to understand."</p> <p>While Sputnik Plain is believed to be relatively young in geological terms—perhaps less than 100 million years old—the darker region probably dates back billions of years. Moore notes that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters.</p> <p>This image was acquired by <em>New Horizons</em>' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles and sent back to Earth on July 20. Features as small as a half-mile across are visible. The names of features on Pluto have all been given on an informal basis by the <em>New Horizons</em> team.</p> <p><em>New Horizons</em> is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute leads the mission, science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning.</p> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:15:00 -0400 Organizations can learn a thing or two from firefighters about coping with unpredictable situations <p>As continued drought and unusually high temperatures raise alarm over the severity of this year's wildfire season in the Western United States, a Johns Hopkins University researcher's study of wildland firefighting has uncovered lessons in performing under uncertainty that should benefit workers in a variety of contexts.</p> <p>Writing in the <a href="">June 2015 issue of the <em>Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management</em></a>, <a href="">Kathleen Sutcliffe</a>, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins, and her co-authors noted high performance in firefighting organizations that followed a two-phase process of "anomalizing" and "proactive leader sensemaking."</p> <p>The process—which can be useful whether the setting is a blazing forest or a steel-and-glass corporate tower—works this way: Frontline workers in dynamic, unpredictable situations must constantly assess conditions and watch especially for anomalies, the little shifts and blips that suggest unexpected trouble might lie ahead. Leaders or supervisors act to help frontline workers hang on to those small details and make sense of them in order to tailor appropriate responses and actions.</p> <p>When executed well, says Sutcliffe, this two-pronged approach becomes the hallmark of an effective and highly reliable organization.</p> <p>"In a simple, stable environment, the challenge is getting information," she says. "But in a complex, uncertain environment, as in a wildfire or any organizational crisis, the challenge is that a lot of information is coming at you, but it's ambiguous. There are multiple ways to interpret what's going on. So the people observing these cues and the people who might have a better understanding of what they mean have to work together to make sense of them and figure out what to do next."</p> <p>By highlighting the fine points of the interplay of frontline anomalizing and managerial sensemaking, this paper helps advance the literature in the field of organization studies, says Sutcliffe, whose co-authors are Michelle Barton, an assistant professor at Boston University; Timothy Vogus, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University; and doctoral student Theodore DeWitt of the University of Michigan.</p> <p>"We're calling special attention to the importance of perception, conception, and understanding in uncertain contexts," Sutcliffe says. "This goes beyond merely gathering pieces of information; it's actually more of a social construction, an active process in which a diverse group of people actively construct the meaning of a particular situation."</p> <p>From the world of wildfire fighting, Sutcliffe relates the example of a frontline firefighter who reported seeing smoke in the distance. Previously, other crew members had noticed this anomaly but neglected to say anything about it. After the first firefighter mentioned his observation, it became what Sutcliffe calls an "artifact" that demanded a response from the boss and other organizational members. Further probing showed that the far-off line of smoke was the harbinger of a fire that might have overtaken the crew if it had not been brought to the attention of supervisors in time.</p> <p>A well-known and tragic example of an unheeded anomaly occurred in the mid-1980s when <a href="">pre-flight problems with the O-rings on the doomed space shuttle <em>Challenger</em></a> were ignored. The failure of the O-rings at launch set off a series of events that led to the shuttle's breaking up in midair.</p> <p>"This is a common type of occurrence in organizations, sometimes known as 'normalizing deviance,'" Sutcliffe says. "That is, anomalies aren't addressed; they're ignored or swept under the rug and become taken for granted in the process. As our findings show, it's often a good idea to interrupt the momentum, to step back when you notice that something seems wrong and say, 'Wait, is this still making sense?' It's easy to just plow ahead and stay in your comfort zone, but at times you need to break the momentum and try to gauge where things are heading."</p> <p>Wildland firefighters sometimes seek a momentum break by moving to higher ground. This gives them a different perspective on how a fire is moving. What would be the equivalent in a traditional office setting? Bring dissimilar types of people into your organization, Sutcliffe says, encourage them to speak up, and listen closely to their ideas and opinions.</p> <p>"In crises, the problems aren't so much errors of execution as they are errors of perception, conception, and understanding. People fail to look carefully at all the details that emerge, fail to plausibly categorize them, and fail to understand what they might imply," Sutcliffe says. "One of my favorite comments from our interviews with the firefighters came from one who told us, 'As old as I am and as experienced as I am in relationship to these large fires, the next fire I walk into, initially, I won't know anything. So I'm not going to come in there full guns blazing at the get-go.' That kind of attentiveness really increases your chances of success whenever you find yourself in an uncertain situation."</p> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:25:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins Hospital ranked among nation's best hospitals by 'U.S. News' <p>The Johns Hopkins Hospital ranks in the top five in nine specialties and No. 3 overall in the nation out of more than 4,700 hospitals in the <a href="">annual <em>U.S. News & World Report</em> Best Hospitals list</a>, which was released today.</p> <p>In the <em>U.S. News</em> rankings of 16 specialty areas, Johns Hopkins is No. 1 in Rheumatology; No. 3 in Ear, Nose & Throat; No. 3 in Neurology & Neurosurgery; No. 3 in Ophthalmology; No. 3 in Psychiatry; No. 4 in Urology; No. 5 in Diabetes & Endocrinology; No. 5 in Gastroenterology & GI Surgery; and No. 5 in Geriatrics.</p> <p>"We cannot offer excellent care or earn national accolades without the people who work at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine," says Ronald R. Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "The nurses, faculty, and staff deliver the promise of medicine every single day, and for this we are grateful."</p> <p>The <a href=""><em>U.S. News & World Report</em> list</a> ranks 4,716 hospitals. Johns Hopkins shares the No. 3 overall spot with UCLA Medical Center. Massachusetts General Hospital secured the No. 1 overall spot, and the Mayo Clinic is second.</p> <p>"We are in excellent company and delighted to be among institutions that continue to aim to deliver the very best care to patients," says Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins Hospital earned the No. 1 overall ranking for 22 years, including an unprecedented 21 years in a row from 1991 to 2011. The methodology used by <em>U.S. News</em> to determine hospital rankings is based on four complex measures: reputation among physicians, patient safety, outcomes, and structural elements such as technology and other resources that define the hospital environment.</p> <p>In the magazine's ranking of hospitals in Maryland, Johns Hopkins was again ranked No. 1 in all specialties. It also ranked No. 1 in all specialties in Baltimore.</p> <p>Sibley Memorial Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, was ranked No. 6 in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. To be included in the regional report, a hospital had to score in the top 10 percent among its peers in at least one medical specialty or be high-performing in two of five common care procedures or diseases.</p> <p>The complete rankings can be found at <a href=""></a>.</p> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 15:49:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins to train new cybersecurity experts with help of $2.2M grant <p>At a time when cybersecurity attacks are more frequent and damaging, the National Science Foundation has awarded $2.2 million to the Johns Hopkins University <a href="">Information Security Institute</a> to support a graduate-level degree program that teaches students how to recognize and protect against digital threats.</p> <p>The grant will be allocated over five years as part of the Federal CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service Program. The program provides students with scholarships covering tuition, fees, and required books, as well as a stipend. In return, the program requires that after graduation, the students work for a federal, state, local, or tribal government in a job related to computer security for a period equal to the duration of their education scholarship, which includes a summer internship.</p> <p>At Johns Hopkins, the five-year NSF grant is expected to support three or four students annually as they complete the Information Security Institute's three-semester <a href="">Master of Science in Security Informatics</a> (MSSI) degree program. This program offers students an option to simultaneously earn a dual degree in computer science, applied math and statistics, health sciences or national security studies.</p> <p>The first scholarships will be available for students beginning their MSSI degree studies in the spring 2016 semester.</p> <p>The curriculum of the of the security informatics degree program is based on practical and up-to-date knowledge in the field. The classes expose students to practical experience exercises and teach them other valuable skills, such as project management. The goal is to make sure that when the students graduate, they are well prepared to take on a variety of cybersecurity-related responsibilities and challenges.</p> <p>Anton Dahbura, executive director of the university's Information Security Institute and principal investigator for the NSF grant, said that cybersecurity is arguably one of the most important challenges confronting society in the information age.</p> <p>"No one is exempt from malicious cyber acts that prey upon imperfect technologies," he said. "This NSF grant is significant because the funds will support U.S. students as they complete our master's program here and prepare them to pursue their careers in cybersecurity, starting with service to a government entity."</p> <p>Dahbura added that the grant will help Johns Hopkins participate in an innovative and efficient nationwide education system aimed at creating an unrivaled cybersecurity workforce. Developing well-trained U.S. guardians of the digital world, Dahbura said, is critical to national security, continued economic growth, and future technological innovation in secure cyberspace.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 14:57:00 -0400 NASA's New Horizons finds vast, frozen plain in the heart of Pluto's 'heart' <p>In the latest data from <a href="">NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft</a>, a new close-up image of Pluto reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto's icy mountains, in the center-left of the heart feature, informally named "Tombaugh Regio" (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.</p> <p>"This terrain is not easy to explain," said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics, and Imaging Team at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. "The discovery of vast, craterless, very young plains on Pluto exceeds all pre-flyby expectations."</p> <p>This fascinating icy plains region—resembling frozen mud cracks on Earth—has been informally named "Sputnik Planum" (Sputnik Plain) after the Earth's first artificial satellite. It has a broken surface of irregularly-shaped segments, roughly 12 miles across, bordered by what appear to be shallow troughs. Some of these troughs have darker material within them, while others are traced by clumps of hills that appear to rise above the surrounding terrain. Elsewhere, the surface appears to be etched by fields of small pits that may have formed by a process called sublimation, in which ice turns directly from solid to gas, just as dry ice does on Earth.</p> <p>Scientists have two working theories as to how these segments were formed. The irregular shapes may be the result of the contraction of surface materials, similar to what happens when mud dries. Alternatively, they may be a product of convection, similar to wax rising in a lava lamp. On Pluto, convection would occur within a surface layer of frozen carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrogen, driven by the scant warmth of Pluto's interior.</p> <p>Pluto's icy plain also displays dark streaks that are a few miles long. These streaks appear to be aligned in the same direction and may have been produced by winds blowing across the frozen surface.</p> <p>The "heart of the heart" image was taken Tuesday when <em>New Horizons</em> was 48,000 miles from Pluto and shows features as small as one-half mile across. Mission scientists will learn more about these mysterious terrains from higher-resolution and stereo images that <em>New Horizons</em> will pull from its digital recorders and send back to Earth during the next year.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> Atmospheres team observed Pluto's atmosphere as far as 1,000 miles above the surface, demonstrating that Pluto's nitrogen-rich atmosphere is quite extended. This is the first observation of Pluto's atmosphere at altitudes higher than 170 miles above the surface.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> Particles and Plasma team has discovered a region of cold, dense ionized gas tens of thousands of miles beyond Pluto—the planet's atmosphere being stripped away by the solar wind and lost to space.</p> <p>"With the flyby in the rearview mirror, a decade-long journey to Pluto is over, but the science payoff is only beginning," said Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Data from <em>New Horizons</em> will continue to fuel discovery for years to come."</p> <p>Alan Stern, <em>New Horizons</em> principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, added: "We've only scratched the surface of our Pluto exploration, but it already seems clear to me that in the initial reconnaissance of the solar system, the best was saved for last."</p> <p><em>New Horizons</em> is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built, and operates the <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Southwest Research Institute leads the mission, science team, payload operations, and encounter science planning.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 13:00:00 -0400 Cancer documentary series filmed at Johns Hopkins receives Emmy nomination <p>A PBS documentary series about cancer that prominently featured patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital has been nominated for an Emmy Award.</p> <p><em>Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies</em>, a six-hour series executive produced by Ken Burns and directed by Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and writer Barak Goodman, is among five nominees for the award for documentary or nonfiction series. The series, based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning book of the same name by Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer specialist at Columbia University, premiered in March.</p> <p>The documentary team filmed in various locations at Johns Hopkins, including the Kimmel Center's Pancreas Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic, the Lung Cancer Program at Bayview Medical Center, and the pediatric oncology wing of the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. They interviewed patients newly diagnosed and those going through clinical trials, palliative care programs, marrow transplants, and myriad therapies.</p> <p>Other nominees in the documentary or nonfiction series category are PBS's <em>American Masters</em>; HBO's <em>The Jinx: The Life and Deaths Of Robert Durst</em>; PBS's <em>The Roosevelts: An Intimate History</em> (produced and directed by Burns); and CNN's <em>The Sixties</em>.</p> <p>The 67th <a href="">Emmy Awards</a> will air Sept. 20 on FOX. A <a href="">complete list of nominees</a> can be viewed online.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 11:02:00 -0400 How exactly does New Horizons send all that data back from Pluto? <p>NASA's <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft has zipped by Pluto and continues on its voyage beyond our solar system and deeper into the Kuiper Belt. By now, we've all seen the stunning high-resolution images of the dwarf planet's icy surface captured by the craft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI.</p> <p>LORRI, however, is just one of seven instruments that make up <em>New Horizons</em>' science payload, which collected a treasure trove of data during the flyby that brought the craft within 7,800 miles of Pluto. In some sense, the surface images are just an appetizer for a full course of scientific data headed our way.</p> <p><em>New Horizons</em>' instruments will tell us more about the composition and structure of Pluto's dynamic atmosphere, the geology of the planet's surface, interactions between Pluto and the solar winds, the materials that escape the planet's atmosphere, and dust grains produced by collisions of asteroids and other Kuiper Belt objects.</p> <p>New Horizons collected so much data—stored on a pair of 32-Gbit hard drives—that it will take 16 months to send it all back to Earth. And you thought the streaming speed on that <em>True Detective</em> episode was slow.</p> <p>But just how does all the information get back to us, and why will it take so long?</p> <p>For one, consider that the information has to travel more than three billion miles. Even moving at the speed of light, that's a 4.5-hour trip for a single image.</p> <p>Then there's the data rate challenge, says the Applied Physics Laboratory's Chris DeBoy, the lead RF (wireless and high-frequency signals) communications engineer for the <em>New Horizons</em> mission to Pluto. As an instrument makes an observation, data is transferred to a solid-state recorder—similar to a flash memory card for a digital camera—where it's compressed, reformatted, and transmitted to Earth through the spacecraft's radio telecommunications system, a 2.1-meter high-gain antenna. The antenna, however, has an output power of 12 watts and receives a signal from Earth that is approximately a millionth of a billionth of a watt. Taking into account the distance and low-powered signal, the <em>New Horizons</em> "downlink" rate is considerably low, especially when compared to rates now common for high-speed Internet, which can move information faster than 100 Mbps. <em>New Horizons</em> currently can only move data at a rate of 1 to 2 Kbps.</p> <p>"To cover that vast distance severely limits the data rate," DeBoy says.</p> <p>The <em>New Horizons</em> spacecraft, just like Earth-bound computers, speaks in a stream of cryptic-looking 1s and 0s that traverse space via these low-frequency radio waves. The signal is so weak that large antenna dishes on Earth, part of NASA's Deep Space Network, are required to receive the faint radio waves.</p> <p>"The encoded 1s and 0s that travel billions of miles are so small that the signal spreads, and it's a whisper by the time it gets back to Earth," DeBoy says. "But the DSN system can tease out that whisper, so we can receive the information on the ground."</p> <p>Data received on Earth through the Deep Space Network is sent to the <em>New Horizons</em> Mission Operations Center at APL, where data are "unpacked" and stored. The data is cleaned up—bad data is removed—and put into large daily archive files. At this point, the data is intact, but it is in a very raw form. The Science Operations Center at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, sorts this out and produces usable science data. The packets of bits need to be decoded and pieced together to make each data set or image.</p> <p>DeBoy says that the images already received from <em>New Horizons</em> were prioritized and encoded in special transmission turbo code. Likewise, the remaining data sets will be prioritized and sent piecemeal, not in one huge data dump. New data will arrive continuously, DeBoy says, and slowly be unveiled over the next 16 months.</p> <p>It's an exciting time for the mission, DeBoy says, even though <em>New Horizons</em> has already passed Pluto and made history.</p> <p>"It was a great moment when we saw the signal come back and knew that the spacecraft had survived," he says. "Now it's our job to get the data that will be trickling back to us. There are lots of new discoveries to come."</p> <p><em>An earlier version of this article misstated the size of the hard drives on which</em> New Horizons <em>stores data.</em></p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 07:06:00 -0400 Artscape 2015: Baltimore's annual free arts festival returns for 34th year <p>The streets of central Baltimore will come alive this weekend with live music, art exhibitions big and small, and the unmistakable bouquet of festival food-court favorites as Artscape returns for its 34th year.</p> <p>This afternoon marks the start of the annual event, which typically attracts more than 400,000 visitors from across the city and region and is billed as America's largest free arts festival.</p> <p>As one of dozens of local sponsors of the festival, Johns Hopkins University welcomes performers from across the region to the <a href="">Johns Hopkins University Station North Stage</a> at North Charles Street and North Avenue. Local indie acts will perform there all weekend, including winners from the spring's <a href="">Sound Off Live! music competition</a>. Musicians from Baltimore City Public Schools kick things off this afternoon, and at night, the Station North Stage will become a platform for live DJs at <a href="">Artscape After Hours</a>.</p> <p>JHU's <a href="">Peabody Institute will also be well represented</a> this year. Performers with ties to the conservatory include Integriti Reeves, '10, who's paying tribute to Billie Holiday on the MICA Main Stage on Saturday afternoon; and Michael DeSapio, '08, who will perform a German Baroque violin solo Sunday evening.</p> <p>The weekend's highlights also include headliners George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, the gamers' paradise that is <a href="">Gamescape</a>, a ferris wheel, and the traditional <a href="">Art Cars</a> on the Charles Street Bridge.</p> <p>On Saturday, <a href="">cast members of <em>The Wire</em> will reunite</a>, to reflect on the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent unrest in the city. Philip Leaf, senior associate director of the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute</a>, has been working with <a href="">ReWired for Change</a>—a nonprofit founded by former <em>Wire</em> actress Sonja Sohn that has gathered first-person accounts of life before, during, and since the riots from residents of Baltimore—and will be on hand to gauge reactions at the event.</p> <p>For more information and a full schedule of events, visit <a href=""></a>.</p> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 08:04:00 -0400 Breast cancer survivors are more prone to weight gain, Johns Hopkins study finds <p>New research suggests that breast cancer survivors, particularly those who went through chemotherapy, are more prone to weight gain.</p> <p>The study, conducted by researchers at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center</a>, found that breast cancer survivors gained more weight—3.6 pounds on average—than cancer-free women over a four-year period. Furthermore, survivors treated with chemotherapy were 2.1 times more likely than cancer-free women to gain at least 11 pounds during follow-up. A family predisposition for breast cancer increased that risk.</p> <p>The study, <a href="">published in the July 15 issue of <em>Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention</em></a>, adds to a growing body of research linking chemotherapy to weight gain in cancer survivors.</p> <p>Study author <a href="">Kala Visvanathan</a>, a professor of epidemiology at JHU's <a href="">Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>, cautioned that the results don't suggest the need for weight gain intervention during chemotherapy. But she said doctors treating breast cancer survivors can "help them monitor their weight over the long term."</p> <p>Visvanathan, who also directs the Clinical Cancer Genetics and Prevention Service at the Kimmel Cancer Center, noted that it's not clear why chemotherapy treatment produces this effect. Some research suggests that chemotherapy increases inflammation and insulin resistance, disrupting metabolism. Chemotherapy patients also may be less physically active and therefore more prone to weight gain.</p> <p>The study also linked weight gain in breast cancer survivors to other factors, including the use of cholesterol-blocking statins and the presence of invasive disease and cancer cells lacking receptors for estrogen.</p> <p>Researchers also found that regardless of their cancer status, women with a family history or inherited predisposition for breast cancer were more likely to be overweight or obese.</p> <p>Between 2005 and 2013, researchers looked at 303 breast cancer survivors and 307 cancer-free women. The weight change findings remained the same after accounting for other factors like increasing age, menopause, and level of physical activity.</p> <p>The findings are particularly relevant because previous studies suggest that breast cancer survivors who gain weight are at greater risk for cancer recurrence.</p>