Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 24, 1997


From Howler monkeys
to a Victorian novelist,
undergrads pursue interests

Leslie Rice
News and Information

Junior Nate Dominy's study of the dieting habits of Howler monkeys in the threatened jungles of Costa Rica will go a long way toward understanding why some monkeys are on the verge of extinction and others are not.

The results of senior Percy Lee's AIDS research completed in a medical lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will be published in a medical journal later this year.

And after senior Juliette Wells pored through original letters and unpublished manuscripts of Victorian novelist Barbara Pym in an old Cambridge, England, library, she developed a thesis that offers a whole new look at some of Pym's characters.

These are a few of the Hopkins undergraduates who have designed and completed their own research projects, many of which lie on the cutting edge of study in medicine, the sciences, the arts and the humanities.

Recognized as the country's first graduate research university, one of Hopkins' attractions for many undergraduates is the opportunity to get hands-on experience working on important, graduate-level research, often alongside top researchers in their fields. The Provost's Undergraduate Awards for Research and Excellence can provide the funding. Every year some 50 students are awarded up to $2,500 to propose and carry out their own research projects.

Undergraduates Recognized
For Original Research

On March 27, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Hopkins provost and vice president for academic affairs Steven Knapp will host the annual awards ceremony. Beginning at 3 p.m. there will be a poster session where students will display the results of their research. All activities will take place in the Glass Pavilion of Levering Hall.

Theodore Poehler, vice provost for research and director of the annual research award program, says this year's group of projects reflects an exciting expanse of ideas and paths being taken among Hopkins' undergraduate population.

"The scope of topics in this year's batch of projects is extraordinary," he said. "There are projects focusing on music, medicine, anthropology, sociology, history, the humanities--just about any discipline you can imagine."

The university's goal in providing these grants, said Poehler, is to give undergraduates hands-on practice in submitting grant proposals and carrying out research projects.

"We model the process as closely to NIH, NSF and the National Endowment for the Arts as possible," he said. "Students have to submit an exact budget, a timetable of their projects, letters of recommendations and a very cohesive, well-thought-out proposal."

Following is a list of the undergraduates recognized with Provost Undergraduate Awards for Research and Excellence.

Creating a shape-changing robot

David Stein (Brooklyn, N.Y.), a senior biomedical engineering and engineering mechanics major, designed small metamorphic robots that can change shape and reconfigure themselves according to the requirements of the job assigned to them. In the future, larger and stronger versions of Stein's robots might stretch themselves across a waterway to form a temporary bridge. After an earthquake, these devices might position themselves along a damaged wall to help stabilize the building. They could also play a key role in a space station, forming a universal docking bay that could connect with space ships and satellites of varying sizes and shapes.

Stein, who will remain at Hopkins to obtain his master's in mechanical engineering, has been drawing on the innovative robotics theories developed by his faculty sponsor, Gregory Chirikjian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

In search of ... lactating female Howler monkeys

Nathaniel Dominy (Doylestown, Pa.), a junior majoring in anthropology, spent last summer conducting research in the neo-tropical forests of Centro Ecologico La Pacifica, Costa Rica, studying the diets of lactating female Howler monkeys. The research is important in understanding why other Costa Rican monkeys, like the Spiders and Capuchins, are declining or even on the verge of extinction, while the Howlers are faring quite well. The work wasn't especially dangerous, says Dominy, but it was demanding.

"Capturing monkeys is extremely difficult," says Dominy. "After all, they are moving in the top of the trees and are the size of a large house cat. So hitting them with the tranquilizer can be hard, especially since their rump is the only safe place to dart them."

Then there is the danger of being bitten. Howlers have an impressive set of canines--larger than any dog's--that, if they awoke from their sedatives early, would be used savagely on a human researcher, Dominy says.


Although audio "real time" on the Internet may be useful for many people, just that fraction of a second delay in sound over the Net makes collaboration among symphony composers cyberly impossible. But senior Kito Mann (Burke, Va.), a computer science major and an accomplished musician, is developing a JAVA-based "Dynamic Audio" system that will allow a composer at Peabody to compose music with a friend at Julliard over the Internet without missing a beat.

Architecture meets ecology

Matthew Schernecke (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Jonathan Weinberger (Scranton, Pa.), both juniors, are among a small handful of people in recent years to be granted personal interviews with the famous and eccentric architect Paolo Soleri, who in the 1970s began building an experimental community in the Arizona high desert north of Phoenix. Weinberger and Schernecke studied the socioeconomic, political and historical ramifications of Soleri's urban planning fantasy, which he calls Arcosanti, in an attempt to identify potential solutions for large American cities. The two students also studied the historical impact of previous American "utopias" and so-called experiments, comparing them with Arcosanti.

Arcosanti embodies Soleri's vision of "arcology," which combines architecture and ecology, and is intended to reduce waste and suburban sprawl by housing people in space-saving, self-sufficient complexes and preserving the environment.

How is a grasshopper like a person?

By studying molecular mechanisms in grasshoppers, Arthur Tsai (Woodside, N.Y.) may have taken science a step closer to understanding and treating spinal cord injuries. Tsai studied the cellular and molecular cues involved in guiding genetic instructions for the development of embryos of grasshoppers. The work also has possible ramifications for studying the regeneration of axons, or nerve fibers, in attempts to repair spinal cord injuries. Tsai, who plans to attend medical school in the fall, will publish his findings in a scientific paper.

On the tip of your tongue....

Matthew Goldrick (Hockessin, Del.), a senior majoring in cognitive science, is creating a computer program that simulates how the brain's neural network selects words to go with meanings--a process that may seem trivial until a person is in a state where he or she can think of a meaning but can't find the form of its word. To design the computer program, Goldrick studies clues from speech errors made by both healthy people and those suffering neurological damage. The program simulates a theory developed by his faculty supervisor, Brenda Rapp, an assistant professor of cognitive science, that may explain the mechanisms behind errors that occur in the brains of both healthy and injured people.

A computer in the orchestra pit?

Chrysa Presta (Annapolis, Md.), a senior at Peabody Institute, combines her two passions, computer music and music composition, with her score, L'Ora Notturna. This is a composition for a live orchestra and live electronics, using real-time audio digital signal processing and conducted electronics. To evoke a nocturnal mood, Presta went out into the night and recorded the sounds of cicadas, crickets, frogs, the wind and other natural music that the night makes. She then recorded certain music instrumental effects and integrated them with her recordings of the nocturnal outdoor soundscapes, creating a rich, organic atmosphere. For example, certain piano sounds, such as quick plucking on the strings, were blended with the sound of cicadas and crickets. From there, she composed a musical score that will combine 15 live instruments with the computer. During the performance, taking cues from the conductor, the "musician" at the computer will use its mouse to make the machine as expressive as any piano.

Protecting the environment

Thomas Gillard (Alexandria, Va.), a senior majoring in civil engineering, is studying what happens when contaminated water seeps through layers of clay, creating a possible health hazard. His research may lead to better design of landfills to prevent such leaks from occurring.

Better breathing for cystic fibrosis victims

Senior Anupa Laheri's (Leonardtown, Md.) research in gastroenterologist Sandra Guggino's lab may lead to better treatment for children suffering from cystic fibrosis. By isolating in human tissue a "dry airwave" that exacerbates cystic fibrosis, a tissue that had been previously found in rats, Laheri's work will lead to better drug treatment in the disease. Her findings will be published in a medical journal.

A new look at Barbara Pym

Senior Juliette Wells (Springfield, Va.) traveled to Cambridge, England, to study original archives of early-20th-century English novelist Barbara Pym, author of Excellent Women and The Sweet Dove That Died. By studying Pym's letters, notes and unpublished manuscripts, Wells has gained a different insight into what drove this little-studied English writer to pen certain characters in her published novels.

After apartheid

Matthew Nemeth (Riverside Drive, N.Y.), a senior, traveled to South Africa to study its urban development in a post-apartheid age.

Breakthroughs in the fight against AIDS

Senior Percy Lee's (Arcadia, Calif.) study, which identifies and studies the gene bcl-2 homolog in Karposi's sarcoma virus, could have important implications in the treatment of AIDS patients. His findings will be published in a medical journal.

Other projects and sponsoring departments:

Navnett Ahluwalia (Danville, Calif.), senior, and Kerry Cross (Delmar, N.Y.), history, "Hong Kong Youth: Confronting the Future."

Stephen Carlson (Shreveport, La.), senior, philosophy, "An Intensive Study of Niebuhr and Kierkegaard's Radical Existential Praxix." How American philosopher Niebuhr's thinking was radically changed with the introduction of Kierkegaard into America. A look at Niebuhr's original letters and archives.

Alexandra Cohen (Albertson, N.Y.), senior, political science, "Impact of a Palestinian Autonomous Region on Israeli Arabs."

Tamas Gonda (Budapest, Hungary), senior, School of Medicine, "Mechanisms of Polarized Activation of Na/H Exchangers in Cultured Human Colonocytes."

Tang Ho (Abilene, Texas), "The Effects of Scatter Factor/Hepatocyte Growth Factor on Human Glioma Malignancy."

Maki Hsieh, (Balto., Md.), Center for Social Organization of Schools, "Religiosity, School Success and Community Dynamics."

Christina Jacobsen (Vancouver, Wash.), senior, School of Medicine, Pediatrics, "The Regulation of the HMGI(Y) Gene."

Stephen Kaminski (Leonard, Mich.), senior, chemical engineering, "A Total Internal Reflective Fluorescene Study of Protein Adsorption on Membranes."

Min Sang Kim (Warrenton, Va.), junior, engineering, "Design and Implementation of an Autonomous Mobile Robot."

Alexandra Limkakeng (Grove City, Penn.), senior, psychology, "The Effect of Neural Growth Factor on Non-Spatial Working Memory."

Mayur Bipin Patel (Vestal N.Y.), senior, chemistry, "Beta-Turns in Aqueous Bilayers."

Noreen Qureshi (Sykesville, Md.), senior, Institute for Policy Studies, "The Changing Meaning of Hijab: Nationalism and Beyond."

Adam Rubin (Roslyn Harbor, N.Y.), senior, School of Medicine, pathology, "Unique IgM and IgG Target Epitopes--Frequency of Occurrence and Molecular Basis."

Parag Shah (Hanover, N.J.), senior, computer science, "Visualization Aid for Cranio-Facial Surgery."

Yang Sun (College Park, Md.), senior, history, "Sun Yat-Sen: Making of a Revolutionary."

Sunny Young (Alhambre, Calif.), junior, School of Medicine, "Development of Mouse Tumor Model for the Test of Cervical Cancer Vaccine."

Jennifer Anderson (Sandwich, Mass.), senior, chemical engineering, "Experimental Studies of Copolymer-Solvent Solution Behavior."

David Bonnyay (Nantucket, Mass.), senior, School of Medicine, "A Ribozyme in Yeast Ty I Transposition" (AIDS research).

Robert Kaida Chin (Hinsdale, Ill.), senior, School of Medicine, pathology, "Identification of Gene Amplification in Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas" (cancer research).

Avniel Ghuman, (Hunt Valley, Md.) senior, physics, "Critical Dynamics of Contact Line Motion."

Brian Glucroft (State College, Pa.), senior, Peabody Institute, "A Discovery and Performance of Robert Muczynski."

Dan Hoit (Colorado Springs, Colo.), senior, School of Medicine, pediatric immunology, "Diphtheria Antibody Response to Protein-Conjugated Vaccine in HIV Adults." Hoit's study asked the question whether a pairing of two vaccines would prevent pneumonia in AIDS patients.

Leo Am Kim (Irvine, Calif.), senior, biomedical engineering, "Mechanical Characteristics of Individual Recombinant Kinesin Molecules."

Justin I-hao Kung (Fountain Valley, Calif.), junior, School of Medicine, pediatrics, "Identification of DNA Sequences responsible for X Chromosome Inactivation: Mapping of Probes in the Relevant Region."

Jonathan Lazarus (Bloomfield Conn.), senior, engineering, "High Tibial Osteomy: Computer Assisted Planning and Precise Surgical Execution."

Cindy McClosky (Sykesville, Md.), senior, Peabody Institute, "German Language and Cultural Study."

Rimmy Malhotra (Huntington, N.Y.) senior, engineering, "A Portrait of the Former Yugoslavia."

Valerie Marchi (Rochester, N.Y.), junior, physiology, "Functional Expression of the Cardiac Calcium Pump in Yeast."

Robert Mittendorff (McLean, Va.), senior, biomedical engineering, "A Computational Study of the Auditory Cortex."

Lynette Sholl (Phoenixville, Pa.), junior, School of Medicine, pulmonary and critical care, "Dysregulation of the IL-4 Gene in a Mouse Model of Asthma."

Kristi Stanton (Apple Valley, Minn.), sophomore, radiation oncology, "Quantitative Assessment of Lung and Brain Tumors."

Gowriharan Thaiyananthan (Tulsa, Okla.), senior, biomedical engineering, "Development of a Method of Force Measurement from Clamped Myocytes."

Anthony Wei (Rochester, N.Y.), senior, School of Medicine, neuropathology, "The Role of Mitochondrial Superoxide Generation in Alzheimer's Disease."

Scott Witonsky (Montoursville, Pa.), senior, chemistry, "The Search for Theoretically Predicted Magic Clusters."

Michael Yang (San Marino, Calif.), junior, biology "Design and Synthesis of Chromogenic Substrate for Assay of Ceramide Glycanase."

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