Hub Headlines from the Johns Hopkins news network Hub Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:00:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins launches new online master's degree in financial mathematics <p><a href="">Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals</a>, the division of Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering that administers online and part-time graduate programs, has launched a new financial mathematics master's degree program that can be completed online.</p> <p>"Today's world economy and global financial markets are increasingly sophisticated and extremely competitive," said David Audley, chair of the new <a href="">Financial Mathematics program</a>. "An advanced education has become a key enabler in reaching higher-level positions in portfolio management, risk management, and trading."</p> <p>Graduates of the new program will complete 10 online courses that develop advanced quantitative and managerial skills in finance, and examine the engineering-driven principles that power our international financial systems. Working with Johns Hopkins instructors who are also practicing engineers in the financial industry, students will have the opportunity to study real-world examples in subjects like financial derivatives, risk management, data analysis, Monte Carlo methods, and quantitative portfolio theory.</p> <p>"The global economy is not bound to any one location, and neither are we," said Associate Dean Dexter G. Smith of the Whiting School. "Johns Hopkins University is proud to expand its financial mathematics program to students around the world."</p> <p>To be considered for the online financial mathematics master's degree program, applicants must have earned a previous degree in mathematics or engineering, and have at least two years of relevant work experience. Johns Hopkins Engineering is accepting student applications for the summer 2016 term, which begins May 23, 2016. Interested students can attend <a href="">a free online information session</a> on Thursday, May 12, from 7 to 8 p.m.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals gives working adults a convenient way to advance their education and competitiveness in 20 traditional and newly emerging fields. Building on the world-class reputation and dynamic resources of Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals offers online and on-site classes at times that complement the busy schedules of today's practicing engineers and scientists.</p> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:04:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins Graduate Consulting Club hosts sixth annual biotech case competition <p>Teams from Johns Hopkins took second and third place in the sixth annual Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition earlier this month. The April 15 event was organized by the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Graduate Consulting Club</a>.</p> <p>The competition gives participants an opportunity to develop problem-solving, teamwork, and presentation skills over the course of a week. The Johns Hopkins teams joined teams from seven other universities to develop strategic recommendations for <a href="">respEQ</a>, a Hopkins-based healthcare technology startup interested in taking its respiratory disease monitoring device to market.</p> <p>The University of Pennsylvania team "Penn Insights" won the $3,000 first prize.</p> <p>Second place and $2,000 went to "Hermetic Solutions" from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Team members included Michael Ayars, Rosie Jiang, Samantha Semenkow, Alyssa Walker, and Bradley Waters.</p> <p>Third place and $1,000 went to "Gene-ius" from Johns Hopkins, consisting of team members Vasudha Aggarwal, Wendy Yang, Hani Bakhshaee, Jaishree Singh, and Mayriam Robles.</p> <p>The event opened with a keynote address by Jason Kirkness, assistant professor of Medicine and co-founder of respEQ. Sponsors included Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company, ZS Associates, L.E.K. Consulting, Dean & Company, ClearView Healthcare Partners, Beghou Consulting, Navigant, CBPartners, PrepLounge, the Graduate Representative Organization and the Graduate Student Association.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins Graduate Consulting Club is a graduate student-led group whose mission is to introduce the graduate students, medical students, staff, physicians, scientists, and post-doctoral fellows of Johns Hopkins University to management consulting.</p> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 09:55:00 -0400 From ancient rockets to brain science: JHU undergrads showcase research projects <p>Did you know that, like birds, humans undergo structural changes in the brain depending on the time of year? Or that often, prostate cancer is deadliest after it moves to the bone, where it depletes essential stem cells and is much more difficult to detect and treat?</p> <p>Did you know that the 14th-century Chinese military developed multistage, dragon-shaped rockets that were probably more effective at frightening enemies than actually hitting a target?</p> <p>These were just some of the topics covered in more than 40 student presentations given Tuesday in the Glass Pavilion on Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus by past recipients of the <a href="">Provost's Undergraduate Research Award</a>. Students who received PURA grants in the 2013-2014 and the 2014-2015 cycles presented on the progress of a year or more of research into various artistic, scientific, and medical questions.</p> <p>The program, which began in 1993, gives undergraduates the resources to pursue a research project of their own design. It was founded on the belief that encouraging undergraduates to engage in research activity enhances the learning experience and helps to develop investigative skills.</p> <p>Some students built devices, like Gwendolyn Hoffmann, who developed a silicon tray that sits atop an electromagnetic current that optimizes the flow of fluid and proteins in Malaria tests. Others tested existing technology, like Yunfan Fan, who tracked the reliability of a new gene sequencer device and discovered that it could reveal more information in less time, making it a viable option for use in doctors' offices.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> "Every good study has more questions at the end than at the beginning." <div class="cite">Sounak Roy, JHU sophomore</div> </div> </p> <p>A few students focused on singular—and unusual—questions. Seniors Alex De La Vega and Streit Cunningham, who study physics, wondered about the plausibility of a dragon-shaped weapon described in the <em>Huolongjing</em>, a military treatise from the early Ming Dynasty. They built a prototype from materials most likely used by the rocket's originators: bamboo for the body and a dragon-shaped head and tail fins made from 3D-printed plastic that mimicked the density of elm wood. They found recipes for gunpowder and (safely, they assure) tested various gunpowder and packing techniques to achieve the trajectory described in the Ming papers.</p> <p>Though they had one semi-successful launch in which the thrust from the back rockets resulted in the device flopping forward, De La Vega and Cunningham did not succeed in creating the multistage rocket that launches into the sky and rains down fire, as described in the <em>Huolongjing</em>. They concluded that while it is possible that the rocket did exist, it was most likely used as a scare tactic or as military propaganda.</p> <p>Alaina Gold, who recently graduated with a degree in psychology, used her PURA award to determine if structures in the human brain undergo physiological changes throughout the year. She looked at "cognitively normal" images of brains gathered during Alzheimer's studies—the control set that doesn't exhibit any impairments—and found a density spike in late spring, and a sharp decrease in density in mid-autumn. The structures of the brain most affected were the hippocampus and its sub-regions, which influence memory, and the amygdala, which contributes to fear responses. She concluded that the time of year should be considered as a variable in future cognitive tests and studies of the brain.</p> <p>Sophomore Sounak Roy knew that prostate cancer is often deadliest when it has metastasized to the bones, where it anchors in place of important stem cells. But he wanted to know how the cancer metastasizes. Working in a School of Medicine laboratory, he tested the theory that genes CXCR04 and CXCR7 are the mechanism by which cancers migrate to the bone. Using CRISPR gene editing technology, he cultivated cancer cells with an overabundance of these genes in petri dishes (in vitro) and in mouse subjects (in vivo). He confirmed that when the genes are overexpressed, the cancer cells migrate much more quickly than normal cancer cells.</p> <p>"Every good study has more questions at the end than at the beginning," says Roy, and sure enough, he faces a number of hurdles as he finishes his study. Extracting tissue from the bone of live subjects is painful for patients, and analyzing the extracted material comes with its own obstacles for scientists. Roy said he plans to use additional funding he received from JHU's <a href="">Dean's Undergraduate Research Awards program</a> to move his research forward.</p> Wed, 27 Apr 2016 12:50:00 -0400 Hopkins Engineering group gets $1.48M to help create better rocket engines, fuels <p>The U.S. Air Force has awarded two contracts totaling $1.48 million to the <a href="">Energetics Research Group</a>, based within <a href="">Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering</a>, to help set the stage for the next generation of U.S.-made rocket engines.</p> <p>The funding will be used to reduce the risks associated with new technologies that may replace the Russian-made RD-180 engine. The RD-180 rocket engine carries communications satellites into orbit and delivers equipment to the International Space Station. However, U.S. officials are encouraging development of domestic-made high-performance rocket engines.</p> <p>The new Air Force funding will be allocated over a two-year period linked to two separate contracts. Johns Hopkins is the only university to receive funding from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's recent program, which granted 10 awards totaling $34.6 million.</p> <p>"Both of these new awards position the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering for significant participation in the development and sound operation of the next generation of liquid rocket engines," said <a href="">Peter Zeender</a>, director of the Whiting School's Energetics Research Group. "We are very excited for this opportunity to engage in research that will ensure the safe and efficient use of other liquid fuels in the next generation of rocket engines."</p> <p>The first contract, valued at $545,000, will fund the study of 3D printing techniques to test production and performance of advanced cooling concepts within rocket engines. This new and fast-growing technique offers and allows more flexible design options for the critical cooling channels within the engines. The Energetics Research Group will try to determine if the 3D printing method can provide better performance benefits than traditional manufacturing methods.</p> <p>The second contract, valued at $935,000, was awarded to evaluate the performance of two alternative fuels: methane and liquefied natural gas. Current engines utilize kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellants. The Johns Hopkins engineers will develop new equipment to test cooling channel performance, carbon deposition and its ability to withstand high temperatures of these two fuels on a small scale.</p> <p>The work will be performed at the Advanced Engine and Rocket Fuels Lab, the WSE Energetics Research Group laboratory located in Columbia, Md. The lab was established to develop the equipment that tests the kerosene-based fuel that is currently used on RD-180 engines.</p> <p>"These awards are a logical extension of the work we've conducted on thermal stability, propellants and materials that our lab has conducted over the last three years," said Nick Keim, principal investigator of the Advanced Engine and Rocket Fuels Lab. "It allows us to reduce the risks associated with new technologies that are being proposed for the next generation of liquid rocket engines."</p> <p>The results from this research will be made available to the U.S. Air Force and subsequently to other U.S. manufacturers that are working on the new liquid rocket engines that could replace the current Russian engines with a domestic-made model.</p> Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:20:00 -0400 Johns Hopkins professor joins effort to teach math, science through music <p>Music can make you want to dance, sing, and clap your hands, but can it also make you want to learn math? A Johns Hopkins University professor of applied mathematics hopes so.</p> <p>This summer, professor <a href="">Daniel Q. Naiman</a> will offer a course on the "Mathematics of Music," part of a national effort to use music to teach the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering, and math—from elementary school through college.</p> <p>The four-week course created by Naiman is being unveiled in conjunction with the fifth observance of <a href="">International Jazz Day</a> on Saturday, organized by the <a href="">United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization</a>, and the <a href="">Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz</a>, based in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Some of the materials to be used in Naiman's classroom course will be posted online for the general public to view. These materials along with others created by professors across the country will be offered as part of the UNESCO-Monk Institute "Math, Science & Music" project. The effort will be discussed in a forum on Tuesday at the <a href="">U.S. Department of Education in Washington</a>. Naiman is scheduled to be there, along with faculty members from Harvard; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Massachusetts; University of California, Berkeley; San Francisco State; and New York University.</p> <p>"We want to open the door to science and math to students who might not otherwise be interested in math," said Naiman, who is also an amateur saxophone and bass guitar player. For those who find the abstraction of math hard to grasp, he said it often helps to tie mathematical concepts to a practical application.</p> <p>In this case, students will be learning to apply mathematical principles to musical questions: What is harmony? What is an octave? What does it mean to tune an instrument? What makes music sound good?</p> <p>His three-credit course will be open to up to 25 high school and college students who have completed some high school mathematics. Lectures will be conducted four days a week from June 27 through July 29. Students can use the credits toward their college graduation.</p> <p>The classroom and online teaching materials represent a culmination of years of effort that began with an idea hatched by Grammy-award winning jazz musician and composer <a href="">Herbie Hancock</a>. Hancock, who took some electrical engineering courses while studying for his undergraduate degree in music at Grinnell College, explained in an interview that he became concerned both about students in the United States falling behind in STEM fields, and about diminishing arts education.</p> <p>Why not, he thought, blend the two and try to appeal to students through their musical enthusiasm?</p> <p>"What are young people interested in?" asked Hancock, who is chairman of the Monk Institute, and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. "Why are they wearing their Beats headphones all the time?"</p> <p>The connection between music and math is plain, said Hancock. Consider the arithmetic values of beats per measure, of knowing which note gets one beat, of the numerical relationships underlying chord theory.</p> <p>Naiman's three-credit course builds on this fundamental relationship to draw music enthusiasts into stronger grasp of math. Naiman's students will learn how to use number theory to solve problems dealing with aspects of rhythm and harmony. Theories of probability and random processes will be engaged to understand how spontaneity works in music. Students will learn how to use software to analyze the elements of musical signal, including amplitude and frequency modulation.</p> <p>"If we see that young people are showing more interest in science through programs stimulated from a musical formulation," said Hancock, "I think we can safely say it's a successful direction."</p> Fri, 22 Apr 2016 12:00:00 -0400 Sophisticated 'mini-brains' add to evidence of Zika's toll on fetal cortex <p>Studying a new type of lab-grown brain—made with technology first suggested by three high school students—Johns Hopkins researchers have confirmed a key process by which Zika virus causes microcephaly and other damage in fetal brains.</p> <p>The scientists confirmed that Zika infects specialized stem cells that build the brain's outer layer, the cortex. A <a href="link">report on the research appears online today in the journal <em>Cell</em></a>. The researchers say the mini-brains used in the experiment are truer to life and more cost-effective than similar research models.</p> <p>"We have been working for three years to develop a better research model of brain development, and it's fortunate we can now use this one to shed light on the major public health crisis posed by Zika infections," says <a href="">Hongjun Song</a>, professor of neurology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's <a href="">Institute for Cell Engineering</a>. "This more realistic, 3-D model confirms what we suspected based on what we saw in a two-dimensional cell culture: that Zika causes microcephaly—abnormally small brains and heads—mainly by attacking the neural progenitor cells that build the brain and turning them into virus factories."</p> <p>Existing techniques for creating and working with mini-brains were limited because of the organ's complexity, Song says. The brains grow in comparatively large bioreactors and require chemical growth factors that guide the tissue to organize like a real brain, making growing and working with the mini-brains expensive.</p> <p>Song and his wife and research partner, <a href="">Guo-li Ming</a> found a way to improve the bioreactors from an unexpected source: their son and two other high school students, from New York and Texas, who spent a summer working in the lab. The students had worked with 3-D printers and thought they could be the key to producing a better bioreactor, one that would fit over commonly used 12-well laboratory plates and spin the liquid and cells inside at just the right speed to allow the cells to form brains.</p> <p>Of course, it wasn't that simple, Song says. Graduate student Xuyu Qian and postdoctoral fellow Ha Nam Nguyen spent years determining factors such as what that optimum spin speed was, as well as which chemicals and growth factors should be added at what times to yield the desired result.</p> <p>The group has so far used the new bioreactor, dubbed Spin&#937;, to make three types of mini-brains mimicking the front, middle, and back of a human brain. They used the forebrain, the first mini-brain with the six layers of brain cell types found in the human cortex, for the current study on Zika.</p> <p>"One thing the mini-brains allowed us to do was to model the effects of Zika virus exposure during different stages of pregnancy," says Ming, who is a professor of neurology, neuroscience, and psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "If infection occurred very early in development, the virus mostly infected the mini-brains' neural progenitor cells, and the effects were very severe. After a while, the mini-brains would stop growing and disintegrate. At a later stage, mimicking the second trimester, Zika still preferentially infected neural progenitor cells, but it also affected some neurons. Growth was slower, and the cortex was thinner than in non-infected brains."</p> <p>These different effects correspond to what clinicians have seen in infants born to women who contracted Zika during pregnancy, as well as miscarriages, she notes, namely that the earlier in pregnancy Zika infection occurs, the more severe its effects. The research group's next step will be to test drugs that are already FDA-approved for other conditions on the mini-brains to see whether one might provide some protection against Zika.</p> <p>The team will include the 3-D printing files for Spin&#937; in the new paper so that researchers anywhere can print their own bioreactors with just a few hundred dollars in materials.</p> <p>Song says one possible future use for the technology could be to grow so-called dopaminergic neurons to replace those that die off in patients with Parkinson's disease.</p> <p>"This is the next frontier of stem cell biology," he says.</p> <p>Other authors on the paper are Mingxi M. Song of River Hill High School in Clarksville, Maryland; Christopher Hadiono of Byram Hills High School in Armonk, New York; William Jeang of Clear Lake High School in Houston, Texas; Sarah C. Ogden, Christy Hammack and Hengli Tang of Florida State University; Bing Yao, Li Lin, Yujing Li, Hao Wu and Peng Jin of Emory University; Gregory Hamersky and Brady J. Maher of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development; Fadi Jacob, Chun Zhong, Ki-jun Yoon, Jai Thakor, Daniel Berg, Ce Zhang, Eunchai Kang, Michael Chickering, David Naeun Zhexing Wen and Kimberly M. Christian of The Johns Hopkins University; Cheng-Ying Ho of George Washington University; and Pei-Yong Shi of the University of Texas Medical Branch.</p> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 09:55:00 -0400 Two Johns Hopkins computer scientists honored for biological sciences projects <p>Two faculty members from the <a href="">Department of Computer Science</a> at Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering recently received recognition for their work on projects that have significant applications in biology and life sciences.</p> <p><a href="">Alexis Battle</a>, an assistant professor, has been named a <a href="">2016 Searle Scholar</a>. The honor recognizes the potential of researchers to make significant contributions to chemical and biological research over the course of their careers. Each Searle Scholar is awarded $300,000 in flexible funding to support his or her work over the next three years. This year, 15 scholars were selected from a pool of nearly 200 applicants.</p> <p>Battle uses machine learning and probability to unravel the impact of genetics on human health. She uses computer science to leverage diverse data in order to create comprehensive models of genetic effects on cells.</p> <p>"The penetration of computer science into all aspects of life, including biology and chemistry, manifested itself in this award," said Yair Amir, chair of the Department of Computer Science.</p> <p><a href="">Ben Langmead</a>, also an assistant professor, received the <a href="">Benjamin Franklin Award for Open Access in the Life Sciences</a>. The award is presented annually to someone who has promoted free and open access to important materials and methods used in the life sciences.</p> <p>Langmead is one of the most highly influential and highly cited authors of open source, free bioinformatic software. His <a href="">Bowtie</a> read alignment tool and its sequel, Bowtie 2, are widely used, with more than 10,000 citations between them. Both Bowtie versions are compatible with more than 50 other software tools. Additionally, he has made available a large collection of very popular teaching resources.</p> <p>Langmead is the 15th winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award. <a href="">Steven Salzberg</a>, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins, and one of Langmead's colleagues, received the award in 2013. In fact, Langmead says attending a lecture delivered by Salzberg in 2007 inspired him to pursue genomics.</p> <p>"I hadn't thought of genomics as an area that I could work in until I met Steven Salzberg," Langmead <a href="">recently told</a>.</p> Wed, 20 Apr 2016 13:25:00 -0400 18 Johns Hopkins students named NSF Graduate Research Fellows <p>The National Science Foundation has selected 2,000 <a href="">Graduate Research Fellows</a> from across the country, including 18 current Johns Hopkins University students. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who pursue research-based post-baccalaureate degrees at accredited institutions.</p> <p>The GRF is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and has a storied history of selecting high-achieving recipients. Forty-two fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.</p> <p>"These awards are provided to individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements, and they are investments that will help propel this country's future innovations and economic growth," says Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for education and human resources.</p> <p>Fellows receive three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period—an annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees paid to the institution. They will have opportunities for international research and professional development, and will have the freedom to conduct their own research.</p> <p>Since 1952, NSF has funded close to 50,000 Graduate Research Fellowships and reviewed more than half a million applications. For the 2016 cohort, the NSF received close to 17,000 applications.</p> <p>The 2016 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship scholars from Johns Hopkins University are:</p> <ul> <li><p><strong>Jonathan Augustin</strong>, from Maryville College, is a PhD candidate in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology program. Jonathan aims to gain a better understanding of the roles that long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play in neurodevelopment and is pursuing his work under the guidance of Loyal Goff. He hopes to continue pursuing related questions in academia, wherever that may lead.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Glenn Balbus</strong>, from Johns Hopkins University, is a senior graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. Glenn has done research in mechanical properties of materials for extreme environments, predominantly for use in aerospace or energy generation applications. He is also captain of the men's fencing team at JHU. In the fall Glenn will pursue a PhD in materials science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Shawn Costello</strong>, from Johns Hopkins University, is a senior graduating with a degree in biophysics. Shawn has performed research in Karen Fleming's laboratory in the Department of Biophysics. Shawn's research has focused on the kinetics of bacterial outer membrane protein biogenesis. In the fall Shawn will begin a PhD in biophysics at the University of California, Berkeley.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Kate Fischl</strong>, from Princeton University, is a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering. She is interested in neurotechnology, social neuroscience and understanding and modeling emotion and collective social behavior. Through collaboration with Katalin Gothard at the University of Arizona, she is analyzing data from Rhesus monkeys in social situations. She worked at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the Bioengineering Systems and Technologies Group designing wearable medical monitoring systems and has co-founded a resource group for female ECE/CS graduate students.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Abigail Fuchsman</strong>, from Bard College, is a PhD candidate in the Cell, Molecular, Developmental Biology, and Biophysics Program, working in Mark Van Doren's Lab. Abigail is studying sexual dimorphism using <em>Drosophila</em>, the fruit fly, as a model system. Abigail is focused on the cell signals involved in the regulation of the sex-specific gonad niches necessary to maintain germ cell populations.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Carley Heck</strong>, from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, is a PhD candidate in pharmacology and molecular sciences. Carley is a member of Namandje Bumpus' lab, in which she studies the metabolism and mechanisms of toxicity of drugs used to treat HIV. As an active member of her department, Carley works with other pharmacology students as a part of the Pharmacology Student Initiative, to provide a supportive learning and networking environment for graduate students, foster departmental camaraderie, and lead the department in community outreach activities.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Michael Howland</strong>, from Johns Hopkins University, is a graduating senior with degrees in mechanical engineering and applied math. He has worked on energy grid integration and fluid mechanics focusing on wind energy resources with Ben Hobbs and Charles Meneveau. He has been a visiting researcher at Iowa State, KU Leuven, Belgium, and EPFL in Switzerland and has attended a number of international conferences. In the fall he will begin a PhD program at Stanford University's Department of Mechanical Engineering.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Aurelia Mapps</strong>, from Sam Houston State University, is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Cellular, Molecular, Developmental Biology, and Biophysics. Aurelia has done research in breast development and cranial evolution of gecko skulls. After obtaining a degree in biomedical science, Aurelia recently finished a post-baccalaureate program at the University of California Santa Cruz. In the fall, Aurelia plans to join a lab and begin her thesis work.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Sean Murphy</strong>, from the University of Washington, is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering in Chulan Kwon's Heart Generation and Regeneration Laboratory, which studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing heart development and regeneration. Sean is currently investigating the role of microRNAs in maturation and their application to developing new therapies for heart disease. <a href="">Read more about Sean in BME News</a></p></li> <li><p><strong>Elizabeth Park</strong>, from the University of Oklahoma, is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. Elizabeth currently works on the development of small molecules to inhibit key biological processes in cells that give rise to cancer. Elizabeth aspires to be a principal investigator working at the interface of chemistry and biology to develop target-specific drugs and therapeutic agents.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Michael Pokrass</strong>, from the University of Virginia, will study genetics.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Caitlin Pozmanter</strong>, from McDaniel College, is a PhD candidate in biology. She works in Mark Van Doren's lab studying sexual dimorphism in <em>Drosophila melanogaster</em> (fruit flies). Specifically she is interested in how RNA regulation affects germline sexual identity and fertility.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Yuan Rui</strong>, from the University of Oklahoma, is a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. Yuan currently works in the Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Lab of Jordan Green. She is interested in developing novel polymeric nanoparticles for gene delivery applications in cancer treatment. <a href="">Read more about Yuan in BME News</a></p></li> <li><p><strong>Sam Schaffter</strong>, from Purdue University, is a PhD candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering and works in Rebecca Schulman's lab. His current research focuses on implementing biological logic to control nanomaterials with the goal of creating devices which can heal themselves. Sam is an avid educator and aspires to be a professor upon completion of his graduate work.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Calla Shubin</strong>, from Cornell University, is a PhD student in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology graduate program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Callie has recently joined the Greider lab to pursue her thesis work on the regulation of telomerase in yeast. When not in lab, she enjoys giving back to her community through the organizations, Thread and Moveable Feast. She plans to continue to pursue her passions of science and volunteering after graduate school by leading programs that bring disadvantaged youth into the laboratory.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Jaclyn Smith</strong>, from North Carolina State University, is a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology program. She currently is rotating in Shan Sockanathan's laboratory where she is studying the effect of a collection of proteins, the 6-transmembrane GDEs, on cellular differentiation and degeneration in the nervous system. Jaclyn also has a passion for sharing science with the public and has been involved with science outreach at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences for over a decade.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Caroline Vissers</strong>, from UC-Davis, is a PhD student in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. She recently joined Hongjun Song's lab in the Institute for Cell Engineering, where she works on understanding the role of RNA modifications (termed epitranscriptomics) in neurogenesis. Caroline's goal is to elucidate mechanisms underlying neural development and stem cell differentiation while developing new technologies that will catalyze the progression of science.</p></li> <li><p><strong>Joseph Yu</strong>, from Rice University, is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Computational Medicine. After graduating from Rice with a degree in chemical engineering, Joseph spent a year as a visiting researcher at Imperial College London conducting research in cardiac regeneration with the support of a Whitaker International Fellowship. At Hopkins, Joseph studies how genetic variability among myocytes in the heart can lead to arrhythmia in the lab of Natalia Trayanova. <a href="">Read more about Joseph in BME News</a></p></li> </ul> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 11:10:00 -0400 Immunotherapy drug shrinks tumors in half of patients with rare, virus-linked skin cancer <p>In a clinical trial of the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab, <a href="">half of 25 patients with a rare type of virus-linked skin cancer experienced substantial tumor shrinkage</a> lasting nearly three times as long, on average, than with conventional chemotherapy. Several patients had no remaining evidence of the disease, known as Merkel cell carcinoma.</p> <p>Results of the study are <a href="">published online today in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em></a>. Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center</a>, who led the study, say the results could be a harbinger of how some patients with virus-associated cancers—which account for more than 20 percent of cancers worldwide—might respond to certain drugs called immune checkpoint blockers or inhibitors.</p> <p>"If additional studies with more patients confirm our findings, we will have strong reason to believe that many cancers with virus-linked proteins could be valid targets for immune checkpoint blockade," says <a href="">Suzanne Topalian</a>, professor of surgery and oncology and associate director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.</p> <p>Merkel cell carcinoma is diagnosed in fewer than 2,000 people annually in the United States. It tends to occur in older people and those who have suppressed immune systems, says <a href="">William Sharfman</a>, associate professor of oncology and dermatology and director of cutaneous oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Approximately 80 percent of Merkel cell carcinomas are caused by a virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus. The rest are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light and other unknown factors.</p> <p>Investigators at eight medical centers across the United States examined 26 patients with metastatic or recurrent Merkel cell carcinoma who had not previously received any systemic therapies for advanced disease. All of the patients had received standard therapy with surgery and/or radiation therapy.</p> <p>Each of the patients received pembrolizumab intravenously every three weeks and received imaging scans every two to three months while receiving the drug. The researchers identified patients who responded to the drug according to standard oncology benchmarks—that is, patients who showed 30 percent or more shrinkage in measured tumors and no new lesions after two sets of imaging scans at least one month apart.</p> <p>In the study, 14 of 25 patients (56 percent) whose scans were evaluated responded to the drug. Four of those patients had a complete response, with no remaining radiologic evidence of cancer. Twelve of the 14 continued to respond to the drug after a median follow-up time of 33 weeks.</p> <p>According to <a href="">Evan Lipson</a>, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, about half of patients with Merkel cell carcinoma typically respond to various chemotherapy combinations, but their cancers recur after an average of three months.</p> <p>"Compared with traditional chemotherapy, about the same percentage of patients responded to pembrolizumab in this study, but these patients' responses were longer lasting," he says.</p> <p>Pembrolizumab works to block a protein called PD-1 found on the surface of immune system T cells. The blockade cuts off a molecular "handshake" between the T cells and cancer cells. When the handshake doesn't happen, T cells recognize the cancer cells as foreign and mark them for destruction.</p> <p>"We're learning that tumor architecture is important to understanding the immune response in cancer," says Topalian.</p> Tue, 19 Apr 2016 09:50:00 -0400 Neuroscientist Sol Snyder receives Salk Institute's Medal for Research Excellence <p>Renowned Johns Hopkins neuroscientist <a href="">Solomon H. Snyder</a> recently <a href="">received the Salk Institute's prestigious Medal for Research Excellence</a>, a distinction bestowed just twice before in the institute's 55-year history.</p> <p>"Sol Snyder is one of the giants of modern neuroscience," says Greg Lemke, professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "His work has defined the basic pharmacology of most of the brain's neurotransmitters, their receptors, and their transporters, and has been translated into important therapeutics. If you've benefited from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac, you can thank Sol."</p> <p>Added Richard Huganir, director of the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience: "Sol is an innovator and a legend in the field of neuroscience."</p> <p>Snyder, a professor of neuroscience in the <a href="">Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences</a> at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was recognized for groundbreaking discoveries ranging from the discovery of opiate receptors in the brain to proving that gases, such as nitric oxide, can serve as messengers between neurons. Many advances in molecular neuroscience have stemmed from Snyder's identification of receptors that neurons have for messenger molecules and some medications, a find that led to clarification of how these drugs work in the brain.</p> <p>Cancer biologist Robert Weinberg, from MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, was also honored with a Medal for Research Excellence. Weinberg is most widely known for his discoveries of the first human oncogene—a gene that causes normal cells to form tumors—and the first tumor suppressor gene. His lab now focuses on the interactions between the two major types of cells found in mammalian tissue that produce carcinomas and the processes by which cancer cells invade and metastasize.</p> <p>The first Salk Institute Medals were awarded in 2006 to Donald Metcalf, an Australian physiologist whose research on cancer has improved disease treatment, and to Paul Farmer, anthropologist, physician and co-founder of Partners in Health. In 2010, gene expression pioneer Robert G. Roeder of The Rockefeller University was awarded the Salk Medal for Research Excellence, and Irwin M. Jacobs, renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist, received the Salk Medal for Public Service. In 2014, violinist Itzhak Perlman was awarded the Public Service medal for all he has done to eradicate polio around the globe.</p> Thu, 14 Apr 2016 10:30:00 -0400 Big data scientist named 20th Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins <p>Mauro Maggioni has been named the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Data Intensive Computation at Johns Hopkins in the <a href="">Krieger School of Arts and Sciences</a>' <a href="">Department of Mathematics</a> and the <a href="">Whiting School of Engineering</a>'s <a href="">Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics</a>.</p> <p>He will join Johns Hopkins from Duke University, where in 2012 he was promoted from assistant professor to full professor of mathematics, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science.</p> <p>Maggioni is the 20th <a href="">Bloomberg Distinguished Professor</a> appointed across Johns Hopkins. The professorships are supported by a <a href="">$350 million gift to the university by Johns Hopkins alumnus, philanthropist, and three-term New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg</a>. 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>Maggioni is interested in mathematical techniques for analyzing, modeling, and extracting information from large data sets that lead to smarter machine learning algorithms and scientific discoveries. With a strong foundation in harmonic analysis and signal processing, his research is focused on the analysis of high-dimensional data, graphs, and networks. Specifically, he is developing algorithms that analyze and exploit the geometry of big data in order to train machines to learn and predict patterns in data. These hidden geometric structures in high-dimensional data are pervasive and appear in completely different data types, from images to text documents to trajectories of complex dynamical systems.</p> <p>"The study of big data has the potential to revolutionize nearly every field of study, from philosophy to physics to physiology," says <a href="">Robert Lieberman</a>, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins. "Dr. Maggioni's distinguished record in teaching and collaborating across these fields and beyond makes him an exciting addition to the Johns Hopkins community and helps solidify our position as one of the world leaders in the area of big data science."</p> <p>Maggioni is also focused on the harmonic analysis of networks, constructing new tools to analyze graphs at different "resolutions" in order both to simplify and compress large complex graphs and to quantify change in time-evolving networks. His pioneering work on these problems is now one of the roots of the burgeoning field of signal processing on graphs, which studies a variety of signals, from traffic on roads to neuronal activity in neuronal networks.</p> <p>His work also has spanned the analysis of molecular dynamics data sets in order to find reduced representation for such high-dimensional stochastic systems, as well as for faster simulation and exploration of their configuration space. And, he developed algorithms in signal processing, in particular for the analysis of hyperspectral imaging, with applications ranging from digital pathology to target and anomaly detection. Subsequently, Maggioni's findings have been published in top journals across the fields of pure and applied mathematics, machine learning, engineering, physical chemistry, engineering, and pathology.</p> <p>"I am very much looking forward to joining Johns Hopkins. I found there a wonderful interdisciplinary environment with many active, ambitious projects connecting mathematics to problems in artificial intelligence and machine learning, neuroscience, astrophysics, medicine, biomedical engineering, and robotics, among many others," Maggioni says. "I look forward to the opportunities I will have at Johns Hopkins to tackle some of the largest, most challenging problems in this area."</p> <p>Maggioni's recruitment is part of a larger institutionwide effort to expand Johns Hopkins' big data capabilities. In particular, both departments with which Maggioni is affiliated have committed to further bolstering their faculties with additional big data scientists—building a cohort to establish new research programs and teach the next generation—and have secured an allocation of resources for Maggioni on the new <a href="">Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center</a>. Funded by a $30 million state of Maryland grant to Johns Hopkins' <a href="">Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science</a>, MARCC is a state-of-the-art digital processing facility serving Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. Maggioni also will be active in IDIES, which counts fellow Bloomberg Distinguished Professors <a href="">Alex Szalay</a> and <a href="">Steven Salzberg</a> in its leadership, as director and associate director, respectively.</p> <p>"We are delighted that Dr. Maggioni is joining Johns Hopkins this summer," says <a href="">Beverly Wendland</a>, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School. "As he is already a highly accomplished and collaborative scientist and mentor, we are confident that his research and training will reverberate beyond the Krieger and Whiting schools, connecting computational thought leaders throughout the university."</p> <p>Maggioni will naturally bridge several divisions, interacting with faculty and students across Hopkins who are working in machine learning problems, statistical signal processing, and harmonic analysis. For example, his work on graphs and networks is relevant to researchers tackling problems in neuroscience, while his work on molecular dynamics ties with interests in the Krieger School's <a href="">Molecular Biophysics program</a>. Further, his research on hyperspectral imaging is significant to the interests of both the <a href="">Applied Physics Laboratory</a> and the Whiting School's <a href="">Center for Imaging Science</a>.</p> <p>Maggioni earned his bachelor of science and master of science degrees in mathematics from the Università degli Studi di Milano in 1999 and his doctorate in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002. He was the Gibbs Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Yale University before joining Duke in 2006. Maggioni was elected a fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2013. He has received a <a href="">Sloan Research Fellowship</a> from the <a href="">Alfred P. Sloan Foundation</a>, a <a href="">National Science Foundation CAREER Award</a>, and the <a href="">Vasil A. Popov Prize</a>, which recognizes young mathematicians for distinguished research accomplishments in approximation theory and related areas of mathematics.</p> <p>"Data-intensive science is of critical importance to much of the research being pursued in our school," says <a href="">Ed Schlesinger</a>, the Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. "Dr. Maggioni's recruitment invigorates and strengthens these efforts to integrate the most advanced computational methods into our research and provide academic excellence for the next generation of scientists. We look forward to enthusiastically welcoming him and his family to Baltimore."</p> <p>Anna Coppola, Maggioni's wife and a senior research scientist in the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at the Duke Institute of Molecular Physiology, is joining the Krieger School's <a href="">Department of Biology</a>. Coppola studies the effect of dietary nutrients on metabolic regulatory mechanisms, with particular emphasis on the role of proteins and amino acids in the development of behavioral and metabolic diseases.</p> Wed, 13 Apr 2016 14:25:00 -0400 Hopkins student team takes third place in national business plan competition <p>A team of undergraduate biomedical engineering students from Johns Hopkins University won third place this past weekend at the sixth annual <a href="">Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition</a>, a showcase competition for humanitarian-centered business plans held at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.</p> <p>The JHU team of Stephen Johannesson, Barbara Kim, and Anshul Subramanya took home a $10,000 prize for Separatec, a patent-pending ultrasonic tip that separates scar tissue in the spinal cord during surgery to reduce cerebrospinal fluid leaks and expedite recovery. In addition to the cash prize, the team was awarded consultation services in marketing, information technology, and legal services.</p> <p>Students from 47 universities competed. Loyola Marymount University won first place for InterWallet, a low-cost way for lower-income people to pay bills and transfer money through local terminals. Second place was awarded to George Washington University for The Rooftop Tea Company, which empowers women in underserved communities to transform their rooftops into economically lucrative tea gardens.</p> <p>Since its founding in 2010, the Values and Ventures Competition has awarded $310,450 in cash prizes to encourage undergraduate college students around the world to create for-profit ventures that have a significant values component. Students pitch products and services that benefit a specific population, community, and/or the environment while making a profit.</p> <p>This year, cash prizes awarded by the competition totaled $77,700. More than 80 business leaders served as judges and mentors, providing insight on the viability of startup businesses. The annual competition is presented by the <a href="">Neeley Entrepreneurship Center</a>.</p> Tue, 12 Apr 2016 15:30:00 -0400 Recipe for fun: Fourth-graders learn the science behind baking bread <p>Baking bread is about more than mixing ingredients, kneading dough, and cooking at the right temperature—it's about math, science, and reading, too.

</p> <p>That was the lesson fourth-graders learned last week. Approximately 200 students from Candlewood, Mill Creek Towne, and Rosemont elementary schools visited the <a href="">Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County campus</a> to learn the art and science of bread baking in the <a href="">King Arthur Flour Bake for Good Kids: Learn, Bake, Share</a> program.</p> <p>An instructor from King Arthur Flour taught student helpers how to make bread dough for loaves, pretzels, pizza, and cinnamon rolls. Students explored the role of carbon dioxide in bread baking, talked about the importance of fractions in measuring, and learned about yeast's role as a fungus that thrives on sugar.</p> <p>The lessons align with the fourth-grade science curriculum on the changing states of matter, properties of matter, and the differences between mixtures and new substances. Learning science while baking shows students that science has practical applications.</p> <p>King Arthur Flour donated enough ingredients and supplies for each student to bake two loaves of bread at home. One loaf was for the child's family, and students brought their second loaves back to donate to Interfaith Works in Silver Spring, which uses the bread to make French toast, croutons, sandwiches, and other items.</p> <p>After students learned the chemistry of bread baking, they continued their hands-on science learning—scientists, nurses, students, teachers, and others from several local companies and educational institutions led the students through activities including how to extract DNA from strawberries, how to prepare a plate of healthy food, and the ins and outs of radiology and robotics, among others.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus organizes this annual event to expose students to science at an early age and to spark an interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The Adventist Healthcare Shady Grove Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Center for Biotechnology Education, Montgomery College, Rockville Science Center, and Suburban Hospital participated.</p> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 16:00:00 -0400 Modified mosquito trap, repellent soap among top designs at Johns Hopkins Zika virus hackathon <p>Mapping a city to detect Zika mosquito hotspots. Fashion accessories infused with a long-acting mosquito repellent. A special soap that keeps mosquitoes away. These are among the winning ideas from a Johns Hopkins University hackathon that drew participants from Baltimore to Brazil looking for ways to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus.</p> <p>Johns Hopkins' <a href="">Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design</a> and <a href="">Jhpiego</a>, a global health nonprofit and university affiliate, convened the weekend Emergency Zika Design Challenge with a single, strategic focus: to come up with innovative ideas "to prevent disease through protection from mosquito bites."</p> <p>"This is just the start," said Youseph Yazdi, executive director of CBID and a co-organizer of the hackathon. "Every team had kernels of great ideas, but they need more refinement. Jhpiego will be providing the resources for the next three months for the teams to get together and refine their ideas."</p> <p>Harshad Sanghvi, Jhpiego's vice president of innovations and chief medical officer, encouraged hackathon participants to think globally because mosquito-borne diseases are not restricted to Zika virus or to Latin America. "All of us have a responsibility to figure out a solution," he said. "We are committed to find that solution."</p> <p>Cases of mosquito-borne Zika virus infection in Latin America and the Caribbean have been associated with microcephaly in infants born to women infected during pregnancy and Guillian-Barre syndrome in adults. On Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global health emergency, estimating that 4 million people worldwide will be infected by year's end. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact has encouraged research universities such as Johns Hopkins to join the fight against Zika as many did during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.</p> <p>Like their <a href="">response to the Ebola crisis</a>, CBID and Jhpiego organized the design challenge to galvanize the best and the brightest across the Johns Hopkins community to come up with new, promising ideas to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and save lives. As many as 80 percent of people infected with Zika virus will show no symptoms. There is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus or antiretroviral treatment. Protection against mosquito-borne diseases includes use of insect repellent, sleeping under treated bed nets, and eliminating breeding areas for mosquitoes.</p> <p>During the Johns Hopkins hackathon, approximately 50 biomedical engineers, scientists, global health specialists, and students joined with public health experts from Brazil, the Armed Forces Pest Management Board, and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Invasive Insects Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory to brainstorm new ways to prevent mosquito bites and motivate the public to protect themselves.</p> <p>Among the top ideas to emerge:</p> <ul> <li>A modified mosquito trap surveillance system to map mosquito hotspots in a city, empowering communities to take action and clean up their neighborhoods and assisting public officials in identifying areas to spray for mosquitoes and better target resources; </li> <li>Culturally appropriate fashion accessories that emit a long-acting mosquito repellent; </li> <li>A soap dubbed "Never Will Bite" that repels mosquitoes and can be used on the skin or to wash clothes, an idea that incorporates a repellent into a normal daily routine; </li> <li>ZikAvoid, a banner that emits mosquito repellent and can be used at sporting events; it is part of a kit that would also include a personal spray, a larvicide, and an information packet that could be given to pregnant women during health visits. </li> </ul> <p>Among the challenge participants was a group of five high school students from <a href="">Garrison Forrest School</a>, a Baltimore day and boarding school for girls. The young women are members of the Women in Science and Engineering program, a partnership between the school and the Whiting School of Engineering.</p> <p>"This event is definitely at a level that exceeds what occurs in high school," says Andrea Perry, the dean of special programs for Garrison Forest who helped coordinate the girls' participation in the hackathon. "They've hit hurdle after hurdle in their design teams, but it has shown them that while they are less experienced, they can make valuable contributions. It has given them confidence to jump in with their ideas."</p> <p>Eleventh-grader Hanwen Yang said she was uncomfortable with the immersive experience at first.</p> <p>"I came in without knowing what Zika is, but I learned a lot by Saturday and I had many, many ideas," she says. "Everyone had different insights and different areas of expertise. Of course, [the Hopkins students and experts] have more knowledge and experience than we do, but I think the process of communication, the process of thinking, of inventing—it's the same for everyone."</p> <p>CBID operates within the <a href="">Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering</a>, which is shared by the university's Whiting School of Engineering and its School of Medicine.</p> Mon, 11 Apr 2016 13:50:00 -0400 For neuroscientist, learning how exercise affects the brain has been a life-changing experience <p>Neuroscientist <a href="">Wendy Suzuki</a> had spent her entire research career studying memory and the brain in her lab at New York University's Center for Neural Science when, as she neared 40, she realized something was missing. Most of her time, physically and mentally, was devoted to conducting research. Her personal and social lives were almost nonexistent.</p> <p>She was an <a href="">associate professor of neuroscience</a>, but "we all know that our lives are much more complicated than in an experiment," she says. "So while certain parts of my life were very rich and I was functioning at a very high level, I certainly recognize that other aspects of my life were very isolating and impoverished, the social aspects of my life. So I looked at that and I saw myself not doing anything, and I saw myself getting weak physically and knew that had to change."</p> <p>Suzuki, who visits <a href="">Barnes & Noble Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday for a reading</a>, wondered if she could apply neuroscience to her own life.</p> <p>"My lifelong science interest is in how much the brain can change in response to the environment," she says. "That's why I got into research in the first place. I was fascinated with how this brain can grow and expand and get new connections when you put the organism in an engaging, interesting environment full of novelty, but at the same time it could shrink and shrivel if you take away critical aspects to it. ... I've been fascinated with this general question for my entire career, and look at what I'm doing to myself—I am allowing critical aspects of my own life and brain potential to get withered and wasted. I've got a PhD in neuroscience. Maybe I could look at these other aspects of my life from a general perspective and figure out how to change it."</p> <p>Her 2015 book <a href=""><em>Healthy Brain, Happy Life</em></a>, which is equal parts memoir and introduction to the brain, documents how she went about doing that, starting with going to the gym, building a life outside the lab, and seeking help when she needed it. Her journey and the book have led her to <a href="">share her findings in a TEDx talk</a>, on <a href="">CBS This Morning</a>, and in a variety of <a href="">radio, television, and online appearances</a>. She knows scientists aren't the only people who get swallowed up by their careers.</p> <p>"That's why I think the book is not just for scientists who don't have a good personal life," she says. "So many professionals have the same exact problem. I'm not any different from anybody else, but I kind of solved it for me in a unique way. I did use a lot of neuroscience principles and things that I grew up in science learning about that expand your brain. And I tried to translate that to my life and the general public by giving explanations that are easy to understand."</p> <p>The Hub caught up with Suzuki by phone to talk about the current state of research on exercise and the brain, and what it's like to pursue a new investigative path as a mid-career scientist.</p> <p><strong>I'm 46, and I kind of feel like for most of my life I've known and heard that aerobic exercise is an important aspect of feeling and being healthy as that pertains to the body. In the book you explore exercise's impact on brain function. Could you talk a bit about the state of medical research related to that idea that you encountered while writing? In the book you mention an active and growing body of research in this area—is this a more recent area of inquiry?</strong></p> <p>It's a growing avenue of inquiry, and there's a lot of exciting information, but there are also lots of unknowns. I'll tell you what we know and I'll tell you what people usually ask me.</p> <p> <div class="embedded-image force align-left size-medium portrait"> <img src="//" alt="" /> </div> </p> <p>Here's what we know: There is an enormous amount of data in humans showing that there's really these striking correlations—the more you exercise the lower your chances are for developing dementia at a particular age. So by 60 you're much less likely to develop dementia if you have been exercising. That does not mean exercise is a cure for dementia or Alzheimer's disease, it just strengthens your brain.</p> <p>And we know from animal studies how it strengthens the brain—it stimulates the growth of new brain cells in a key structure that is targeted or attacked in dementia, which is your hippocampus, which is important for long-term memory. Exercise also increases levels of really helpful growth factors in your brain.</p> <p>I should also say we know an awful lot about exercise in the elderly population, because that is the population that has been studied the most. From that we know, [exercise] is helping attention function, to be able to focus and shift attention. That's what we know. There's strong correlative evidence that it's helping overall. There's strong direct evidence that exercise can help executive functions in people that are aging and memory functions for people with dementia.</p> <p>But then I go and give these talks and people want to know how much they need to exercise to get all these benefits. What's the minimum amount of exercise I need, because I really don't want to do more than I need to. That's what people want to know and that is what I hear over and over. And I have to back up and say, I can't tell you that. We don't know that exact formula even though I know that's what everybody wants to know, including myself. And that is what I'm trying to answer in the research I'm doing in my lab. So those very practical questions, as well as getting down into the mechanism of how exercise works—not just in the elderly—I see as the big unconquered frontier as far as the effect of exercise in healthy adults, to see how much it can help, how long it lasts, and what it actually does for your life.</p> <p><strong>I appreciated the brain hacks exercises that are included in the book and I was curious: What new ways have you come up with to drink a cup of coffee?</strong></p> <p>Well, not necessarily a cup of coffee but a cup of tea. I stopped drinking coffee because caffeine was really affecting me and I discovered a new way to drink tea. I discovered this in Bali when I went for vacation last year. I turned 50 in August. I went on a big vacation in Bali and I happened to run into a tea master who was a guest at the place where we stayed. And I got to sit and do what he called the tea meditation every morning, which was simply brewing really delicious organic tea in silence and drinking as a way to start your day or even in the middle of your day. And I found it such a meditative experience that I started to do it every day since I got back home. It's the only way that I've found for myself to do a serious meditation process and do it every morning over brewing tea and drinking it. I usually do about three cups in the morning, it takes about half an hour, and I don't think about my email, I don't think about the million things I have to do, and it becomes this open time where I relax and open up and a lot of really interesting things come up. Ideas for new pieces that I'm writing associated with the book have come up—not because I'm trying to write in my mind, but it just kinds of comes up.</p> <p><strong>You mention how this process for you has changed your research a bit. How so? Did it alter or inform the questions you want to ask, the way you form those questions, or science's relationship to the daily life of the individual?</strong></p> <p>It hasn't just changed my research a little bit, it's completely transformed the question that is at the heart of my research lab, which is a huge change. I never ever thought that I would not do the neurophysiology of memory work that I started when I started my research lab at NYU in 1998. I thought I would finish my career continuing to ask questions focused on that research. It's a huge thing to not do that anymore. My whole science identity was in this field, my whole reputation was in this field. And to say, Oh, well, so what, I'm a full professor—I'm going to try something else and become a beginner in a completely different field and have to go to different study sections, where nobody knows me. And people look at me and think, 'Wow, she's old. How come she's doing this now?' Because that's what I would do—this person got their PhD in <em>what</em> year? They only have one paper? What's going on here?</p> <p>It's a very challenging and scary thing to do, but I had to do it because I realized when I woke up in the morning, I woke up thinking about the exercise studies and not about the memory studies. Not that I don't love memory and learning—I think that's fascinating. But there are things that capture your scientific attention and creativity, and exercise happened for me. I knew that I didn't have the heart to dive into competing for the research grants for the memory studies I was doing because I was thinking too much about the exercise studies. And I couldn't do both. I was going to do both for a while but I realized I couldn't. And that's the most common thing that I've heard from my colleagues who have commented on what I'm doing. They basically say, you're brave—I would never do that.</p> Tue, 05 Apr 2016 10:00:00 -0400 CBID design competition open to all JHU student teams <p>Johns Hopkins University's <a href="">Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design</a> is gearing up for <a href="">Design Day</a>, the annual showcase for biomedical engineering students.</p> <p>This year, organizers have added a competition open to student teams from across Hopkins—the first-ever <a href="">Student Healthcare Design Competition</a>. Both events will be held on May 3.</p> <p>Since 2009, Design Day has given BME students the opportunity to showcase, discuss, and defend their biomedical design projects in an open forum hosted by the <a href="">Department of Biomedical Engineering</a>. The Student Healthcare Design Competition provides a similar opportunity to students in engineering, medicine, public health, business, nursing, and arts and sciences.</p> <p>Students are invited to submit design briefs centering on medical technologies by the April 8 deadline. A panel of judges will award $20,000. Design Day is free, and registration to attend is required before April 29.</p> <p>"Design Day is one of the most exciting days of the year for me at Johns Hopkins," says Youseph Yazdi, CBID's executive director. "Each year, hundreds of students, doctors, faculty, and medtech industry people join in a day full of creativity and energy. It is productive fun, and everyone is devoted to improving health here and around the world through innovation."</p> <p>Notable past Design Day projects include Spirosense, a diagnostic system for obstructive lung disease; <a href="">Quickstitch</a>, a mechanical medical suturing device; and <a href="">EchoSure</a>, a blood clot detection system.</p> <p>The CBID program is a leader in the translation of scientific and technical advances into clinical applications that improve patient care. CBID operates within the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering, which is shared by the university's School of Medicine and its Whiting School of Engineering.</p> Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:25:00 -0400 Study sheds light on how cancer stem cells thrive when oxygen is scarce <p>Scientists have known for a while that low oxygen can encourage cancer stem cells to multiply within a tumor. But <a href="">a research team at Johns Hopkins University</a> recently zeroed in on exactly how that happens.</p> <p>The researchers looked at the similarities between embryonic stem cells and cancer stem cells, ultimately focusing on a specific protein that increases the numbers of cancer stem cells in low-oxygen conditions.</p> <p><a href="">The team's findings, published March 21 in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em></a>, could help clear a major roadblock in cancer treatments, given that cancer cells that thrive in low oxygen are particularly likely to metastasize and resist chemotherapy.</p> <p>"There are still many questions left to answer, but we now know that oxygen-poor environments, like those often found in advanced human breast cancers, serve as nurseries for the birth of cancer stem cells," says study leader <a href="">Gregg Semenza</a>, a professor at the Johns Hopkins <a href="">Institute for Cell Engineering</a>.. "While chemotherapy is often successful at killing cancer cells that are located in oxygen-rich parts of the tumor, we need new treatments that will target cancer stem cells located in oxygen-poor tumor environments."</p> <p>The researchers started by asking whether cancer stem cells behaved similarly to embryonic stem cells. All stem cells are immature cells that can multiply indefinitely as they mature, in the embryo, into specific cell types that populate the body's tissues. Stem cells also replenish tissues throughout the life of an organism. The stem cells found in tumors, however, twist these attributes to maintain and enhance the survival of cancers.</p> <p>"The search has been intense to find these cells' Achilles' heel," Semenza says. "If we could get cancer stem cells to abandon their stem cell state, they would no longer have the power to keep repopulating tumors."</p> <p>The team conducted its study using human breast cancer cells and mice.</p> <p>Graduate student Chuanzhao Zhang narrowed in on a protein called NANOG, which instructs cells to become stem cells. Previous studies of embryonic stem cells have shown that a process called methylation halts production of NANOG protein—in turn, causing the cells to abandon their stem cell state and mature into different cell types.</p> <p>Applying this knowledge to cancer cells, the researchers found that low-oxygen conditions turned on a specific protein called ALKBH5, which decreased the methylation. When the researchers prevented the cells from making ALKBH5, they saw a decrease in the production of NANOG and a decrease in the number of breast cancer stem cells. Vice versa, when they increased ALKBH5 production, they saw increased numbers of breast cancer stem cells, even under oxygen-rich conditions.</p> <p>Tests with mice helped the scientists confirm that ALKBH5 was critical to preserve cancer stem cells and their tumor-forming abilities.</p> <p>"When we prevented human breast cancer cells from making ALKBH5, we reduced their ability to form tumors in mice by more than 50 percent," Semenza says.</p> <p>Semenza says his team is now studying how the relationship between low oxygen, ALKBH5, and NANOG affects metastasis, the spread of cancer from its original tumor.</p> Fri, 01 Apr 2016 08:30:00 -0400 Do health awareness days have an impact on our behavior? <p>Take a glance at the calendar: World Autism Awareness Day is just around the corner. As are World Health Day, World Lupus Day, and many more. One <a href="">federal catalog lists 212 separate health-focused awareness days</a>.</p> <p>Health awareness days are ubiquitous. But does dedicating a day to a serious disease or to healthy living habits actually make a difference? That's been difficult to determine because traditional methods, like telephone surveys, usually aren't effective in gauging the effect of a single event occurring on a single day. A recent review of awareness days, for instance, found virtually no evidence of their impact.</p> <p>But <a href="">a new study published Thursday in <em>JMIR Public Health and Surveillance</em></a> by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and other institutions used big data analyses to confirm that at least one annual health awareness day does indeed trigger behavior among many of the people who hear about it.</p> <p>The team of public health and computer science experts measured the impact of the <a href="">Great American Smokeout</a>, a long-running awareness event held annually on the third Thursday of November to promote smoking cessation.</p> <p>Reviewing data collected since 2009, the team analyzed news reports on smoking cessation and tweets encouraging cessation emerging from the United States to see if the Great American Smokeout's message was heard and shared. Then they checked whether Americans engaged with that message by seeking resources on Google and Wikipedia to aid smoking cessation, or by calling quitlines that offer live counseling on how to quit.</p> <p>Compared to what would be expected on a normal day, the Great American Smokeout typically coincided with a 61 percent increase in news reports on cessation and a 13 percent increase in tweets encouraging cessation, the researchers said.</p> <p>Cessation-related Google searches, like "help quit smoking," typically increased by 25 percent on the Great American Smokeout, with visits to the Wikipedia cessation page and calls to quitlines typically increasing by 22 and 42 percent, respectively. This public engagement with smoking cessation translated into about 61,000 more instances of unique Google searches, Wikipedia visits, and calls to quitlines annually than expected.</p> <p>The portion of the research at Johns Hopkins was supervised by <a href="">Mark Dredze</a>, an assistant research professor in JHU's <a href="">Department of Computer Science</a>. He said the advent of the big data era not only had an impact on the team's ability to understand awareness days, but also potentially increased their impact.</p> <p>"For the first time in history, the public can access and share information immediately and instantaneously engage in improving their health via their smartphones, as we observed," said Dredze, the data architect and a co-author of the study.</p> <p>He added that this research showcases an effective new method for teasing out the impact of awareness days with big data.</p> <p>"This strategy allowed us to observe how awareness days typically unfold in both the media and in the minds and actions of individuals," said study co-author Benjamin Althouse, who earned his doctorate in 2013 from JHU's <a href="">Bloomberg School of Public Health</a>. "We can track how a cessation message moves across news and social media, and ultimately how the public reacts by seeking out additional information on how to quit."</p> <p>Althouse, currently a research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling and the Santa Fe Institute, was lead analyst for the study.</p> <p>First author of the study was John W. Ayers, a research professor at San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health who earned his doctorate in 2012 from the Bloomberg School.</p> <p>"The Great American Smokeout is having a significant impact that far eclipsed our expectations for awareness days," Ayers said. "But just as important, our study shows how we can rapidly and efficiently evaluate hundreds of awareness days, many for the first time."</p> Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:25:00 -0400 Release the CRACUNS: APL develops drone that can operate in the air or underwater <p>An unmanned aerial vehicle that can operate effectively in both air and water has been developed by researchers at the <a href="">Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory</a>.</p> <p>The Corrosion Resistant Aerial Covert Unmanned Nautical System—or CRACUNS—is a submersible drone that can be launched from a fixed position underwater, or from an unmanned underwater vehicle.</p> <p>CRACUNS enables new capabilities not possible with existing aerial or underwater platforms. CRACUNS payload flexibility and its ability to operate in harsh environments enable a wide array of potential missions, and its low cost makes it expendable, allowing for the use of large numbers of vehicles for high-risk scenarios, researchers said.</p> <p>"Engineers at APL have long worked on both Navy submarine systems and autonomous UAVs," said Jason Stipes of APL's Sea Control Mission Area, project manager for CRACUNS. "In response to evolving sponsor challenges, we were inspired to develop a vehicle that could operate both underwater and in the air."</p> <p>The most innovative feature of CRACUNS is that it can remain at—and launch from—a significant depth without needing structural metal parts or machined surfaces.</p> <p>To make that possible, the team needed to overcome two big challenges: underwater pressure and corrosion.</p> <p>The APL team leveraged advances in additive manufacturing and novel fabrication techniques available at the laboratory's facilities to build a lightweight, submersible, composite airframe able to withstand the water pressure experienced while submerged.</p> <p>To ensure CRACUNS could operate effectively in a corrosive saltwater environment, the APL team sealed the most sensitive components in a dry pressure vessel. For the motors that are exposed to salt water, APL applied commercially available protective coatings. The team tested the performance of the motors by submerging them in salt water. After two months, the motors showed no sign of corrosion and continued to operate while submerged.</p> <p>"CRACUNS successfully demonstrated a new way of thinking about the fabrication and use of unmanned systems," said APL's Rich Hooks, an aerospace and mechanical engineer who was responsible for the novel additive manufacturing techniques used on CRACUNS.</p> Tue, 29 Mar 2016 19:48:00 -0400 Biden: New Johns Hopkins cancer research institute will 'bring hope to millions of people' <p>Vice President Joe Biden believes cancer research will progress more in the next 10 years than it has in the past 50, thanks to treatments that unleash the immune system to detect and attack cancer cells.</p> <p>Biden spoke Tuesday to researchers, medical students, government leaders, and others during the dedication of the new Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins. The institute was founded with gifts of $50 million each from Michael R. Bloomberg and Sidney Kimmel, and $25 million from more than a dozen additional supporters.</p> <p>Researchers say immunotherapy is one of the most promising avenues of cancer research today and a central element of the Obama administration's new "moonshot" to end cancer. Currently the most rapidly advancing approach to cancer treatment, immunotherapy works by empowering each patient's highly individual immune system to target, detect, and destroy cancer cells.</p> <p><div class="pullquote"> "This institute is going to perfect new therapies and bring hope to millions of people." <div class="cite">Vice President Joe Biden</div> </div> </p> <p>The event took place before a standing-room-only crowd in the sunny, second-floor atrium of the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore.</p> <p>"This institute is going to perfect new therapies and bring hope to millions of people," Biden said. "I'm convinced, not only will we save millions of lives, we will re-instill in the American public the notion that anything is possible."</p> <p>Added Bloomberg, the philanthropist, entrepreneur, and three-term mayor of New York City: "Like the effort to put a human on the moon, ending cancer is a dream we have all held."</p> <p>Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group, spoke in a pre-recorded video.</p> <p> <div class="embedded-image force align-right size-medium portrait has-caption"> <img src="//" alt="" /> <p class="caption"> Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels (left) with Michael R. Bloomberg </p> </div> </p> <p>"I have always sought to invest in the best people at the best place—connecting promise to progress," he said.</p> <p><a href="">Ronald J. Daniels</a>, president of Johns Hopkins University, shared the stage with Bloomberg and Biden and noted that the new institute makes it possible to "accelerate our efforts to end all forms of cancer."</p> <p>Medical students in their white coats stood on stairs flanking the room and often drew the praise and attention of speakers. After the event, Biden shook the students' hands and posed with them for selfies.</p> <p><a href="">Paul Rothman</a>, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, began the program by praising the generosity of Bloomberg, Kimmel, and other donors.</p> <p>"It's a really critical time in cancer immunotherapies," said Rothman, a molecular immunologist.</p> <p>Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin attended, as did Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who said his own recent experience with cancer was "one of more than 20,000 Maryland cancer stories each year."</p> <p>The Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, with <a href="">Drew Pardoll</a> as inaugural director, will further strengthen Johns Hopkins' world-class program in cancer immunology. It will unite <a href="">Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center</a> experts with immunology, genetics, microbiology, and biomedical engineering experts throughout Johns Hopkins. The concentrated effort will involve more than 100 scientists and clinicians.</p> <iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>