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Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Sports: Jays take home NCAA Division I title

Peabody: Sirota says good-bye to Baltimore

Community: Chess is cool in city schools

Public Health: Speaking their language

Engineering: But don't drink the water

International: Pee-wee ambassadors

Homewood: Security's former Secret Serviceman

Technology: A new way to test older drivers

Sports: Jays take home NCAA Division I title, ending 18-year drought

The online Hopkins sports apparel store is selling a T- shirt that says it all: Johns Hopkins Lacrosse 2005 Perfect Season 16-0. On Memorial Day, the Blue Jays ended 18 years of frustration and won the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse national championship with a thrilling 9-8 victory over Duke University. In the process, Hopkins recorded its first perfect season since 1984. The Jays, who began the season ranked No. 1 in the national polls, never relinquished the top spot. A perfect season, indeed.

Throughout that season, the Jays demonstrated remarkable poise. They won five one-goal games, four in overtime. Four times they had to come from behind to win. Against Syracuse University, they were down 7-1 and still triumphed.

Exuberant Jays celebrate their 9-8 victory over Duke, hoisting high the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse national championship trophy.
Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer
The most dramatic comeback took place in the national semifinals, a thrilling match against the University of Virginia that several veteran sportswriters called the best athletic contest they'd ever witnessed. The Jays seemed in control of the game, leading 6-3 and dominant as the contest entered its final quarter. But when a sudden storm swept into Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, Hopkins' game mysteriously fell apart. Virginia began winning faceoffs, disrupting Hopkins' attempts to clear the ball, and scoring at will. In the space of 10 wild minutes, the Cavaliers scored four straight goals to race to a 7-6 lead before a nearby lightning strike forced suspension of the match.

When play resumed 40 minutes later, senior all-American Kyle Harrison tied the game, and the teams remained deadlocked until Virginia's Matt Ward scored with 12.9 seconds remaining. With Hopkins' season on the line, head coach Dave Pietramala sent junior midfielder Greg Peyser out for the faceoff. "Go get it," he told him, and Peyser did just that, scooping up the ball and finding sophomore Jake Byrne. With the Jays' championship hopes on his shoulders, Byrne took the pass from Peyser, coolly switched from a right-handed shot to his left, then fired a low blast and tied the game with 1.4 seconds remaining. In overtime, senior Benson Erwin, a defensive midfielder who had scored only seven goals in his entire Hopkins career, found himself open with the ball and whipped it past Virginia's goalie for the winner.

Afterward, Erwin was quoted in several newspapers as saying his eyes had been closed. He later admitted, "No, they weren't really closed, but I tell you what — I was not aiming. I just threw the ball on the cage as hard as I could."

That left one more game, for the national championship. Said senior faceoff specialist Lou Braun, "We had to come down off that mountain pretty fast. Virginia was such a big win. But from Kyle Harrison down to the last guy on the bench, we were focused. We were ready to go."

Unknown to most of the record crowd of 44,920 in Philadelphia, seven of Hopkins' top nine scorers, including Harrison, had suffered significant injuries during the two weeks leading up to the finals. And in Duke, the Jays faced the nation's most prolific offense and a team that had already won 17 games. The Blue Devils led at the end of the first quarter, 3-1, and at halftime, 7-6. Just 2:17 into the second half, Duke scored again, to put the Jays down 8- 6. At that point Hopkins' defenders closed the door. In one of the best displays of defense in the history of the NCAA lacrosse championships, Hopkins held Duke's potent offense to zero goals for the final 27:43 of the game. The Jays tied the score near the end of the third quarter, and Byrne gave Hopkins the lead with 13:35 remaining. The Jays' defense, led by sophomore goalie Jesse Schwartzman, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player, then turned away every Duke attack to preserve Hopkins' eighth national championship.

After the game, Pietramala said, "I can't say enough about our senior class." With good reason. The players of '05 won 55 of their 61 games. They never lost at Homewood Field, winning 36 straight home games. Harrison won the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation's best player, and fellow senior Tom Garvey joined him as a first-team all-American. Seniors Chris Watson and Peter LeSueur were named Academic all- Americans. (A few days afterward, five Jays seniors, including Harrison, Erwin, and Garvey, were drafted by Major League Lacrosse.)

In Philadelphia, at the post-championship party in the stadium parking lot, hundreds of fans and alumni applauded and embraced the players and coaches as they stepped off the team bus that had conveyed them from the locker room. And time after time, they said the same thing: "I've waited 18 years for this. Thank you." —Dale Keiger

Please, Oh, Please, Say the "S"

Photo by Jay Van Rensselaer "The John Hopkins men's lacrosse team is with us today. And Congressman Elijah Cummings is here to honor them. John Hopkins compiled a perfect record and pulled out a 9-8 victory to win the first championship they've had in almost two decades. Congratulations to John Hopkins."
—President George W. Bush, speaking to the 2004 and 2005 NCAA champions at the White House last July. The president commended the 15 teams for their hard work both on the field and in the community. The Jays gave Bush a black No. 1 Johns Hopkins game jersey and a team helmet. Gifts from other teams included a surf board and a Speedo bathing suit.

Peabody: Director Sirota says good-bye Baltimore, hello New York

Robert Sirota, who as director has guided the Peabody Institute for the past 10 years, will be leaving Baltimore in October to become president of the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Sirota will succeed Marta Casals Istomin, who has been Manhattan's president since 1992. Peabody named as interim director Peter Landgren, a member of the conservatory faculty since 1981.

Robert Sirota
Photo by Will Kirk
"I hadn't intended to leave," Sirota says. "I've had a wonderful experience here, and there was still good work to be done." A native New Yorker, Sirota says, "To go to New York is sort of a homecoming for me, and it is the center of contemporary composition, which is my vocation. It's not that I couldn't compose here. It's just that the reality of the profession is that for composers, there's exponentially more activity in New York."

Sirota oversaw the $27 million renovation and reconfiguration of Peabody's campus; the launch of the sister Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore; the establishment of a jazz program at Peabody; and the hiring of prominent faculty. One of his stated goals was to elevate Peabody to a place among the top three conservatories in the country, alongside Juilliard and Curtis.

"Although I don't think we're there yet," he says, "I certainly think we're considered in the top tier."

Interim director Peter Landgren
Photo by Will Kirk
One major component of that effort has been to increase significantly the institute's endowment, so it can better compete with Juilliard and Curtis for the best students. Says Sirota, "We are within striking distance of that goal, and I still hold out hopes of a couple of gifts in the next year that will bring the endowment of Peabody up above $100 million."

Landgren, the interim director, has played French horn in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 1978; he joined the BSO when only 21 years old, before he'd completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Cincinnati. For the last two years he has headed the Peabody Change Team charged with designing a plan to restructure the institute's administration and faculty governance. In 2003, he won the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. To serve as interim director, he will take a one-year leave from the BSO. —DK

Community: Chess is cool in city schools

When Linda Lee's 8-year-son, Ben, told her that he wanted to try his hand at competitive chess, she figured it would be no problem to find a team for him in Baltimore. She was wrong.

Lee checked her son's private school. She checked the Baltimore City Schools. She even checked UMBC, home to one of the nation's best collegiate chess teams. Nothing. "How could there be so little going on in Baltimore City?" wondered Lee, a Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist.

Photo by
Charles Beckman

At one time Baltimore City Schools had an active competitive chess program, but in 2001 it fell victim to budget cuts and lack of administrative support. Founder Steve Alpern, SPSBE '80 (MLA), had to throw in the towel.

Lee helped form a nonprofit group, Baltimore Kids Chess, in 2003. The nonprofit started off by sponsoring chess tournaments for a handful of schools. In 2004, the group landed a $25,000 grant from the Abell Foundation, which they used to helped start chess programs in 30 Baltimore City Public Schools. The pilot program culminated with a May chess tournament at Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth in which 120 students competed.

"Chess is no longer viewed among kids as nerdy," Lee says. "They love it when they understand how to play it."

"We don't see it just as chess at all," says Alpern, now a coach for Area 3 schools in Baltimore City. "Chess motivates kids in school and gets them excited about going to school."

Chess has been shown to improve reading and math test scores, Lee and Alpern say. It also helps self-esteem. "Most people perceive chess as a game for smart people," Alpern says. "Once a kid has mastered the rules and can play chess, he thinks of himself as smart. Once you think of yourself as smart, well then maybe mastering algebra doesn't seem so bad."

"With chess I see a great deal of critical thinking, which many of our youngsters need," agrees Gary Thrift, former area executive officer of the Baltimore City Public Schools. "I see skills being developed, such as problem solving and decision making, that are essential game skills and essential life skills."

Baltimore Kids Chess also helped start chess programs in a handful of the city's private schools. But it's the city school program, which Lee hopes to expand to more schools this year, that commands her attention. "They need this much more," she says. "At many city schools there aren't a lot of activities after school."

And she needs it, too. Lee says she used to feel "very isolated" from the city. Not anymore. "This has been such a great experience. I feel finally tied to the community in some way. That's what I'm getting out of it." —Maria Blackburn

Public Health: Speaking their language

In a second-floor meeting room in Baltimore's Planned Parenthood offices, students from Hopkins and the University of Maryland, along with a few community health providers, are sorting through body parts — laminated cards with names of body parts, that is.

Illustration by
Becky Heavner
"Anybody need a liver?" asks one.

"Where's the pancreas?"

"Here's a penis. Who wants it?"

A few minutes later, the cards are in the right places, mostly, on several large diagrams of the human body that lie on the floor. But the students aren't finished. Now they must translate those words into Spanish and talk about the most common diseases that afflict each system of the body.

This vocabulary exercise is a small but important part of a 40-hour training for medical interpreters offered for the first time this spring by Hopkins' Programa Salud, a student group working to remove barriers to health care that Hispanics and Latinos encounter. In exchange for the free training, each student will provide 100 hours of volunteer medical interpreting at one of a few area clinics.

Hopkins' Urban Health Institute (UHI) paid for half of the training's $10,000 cost. UHI runs a clinic two nights a week in East Baltimore, where Salud members already volunteer as translators. But, says UHI director Claude Earl Fox, the specialized medical training they are undergoing will "improve the quality of service."

That's increasingly important in the Baltimore region, where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics grew by 70 percent between 1990 and 2000, to about 50,000.

Medical interpreters serve as links between health care providers and limited-English-speaking patients, conveying symptoms, medical histories, diagnoses, and more. In these situations, being able to communicate about an allergy to a medication or a family history of breast cancer could prove life-saving.

The Seattle-based Cross Cultural Health Care Program developed the training. It covers the many roles an interpreter plays (conduit, clarifier, advocate) and a code of ethics (which includes confidentiality, accuracy, and an emphasis on allowing clients to make their own decisions). The program also includes an overview of the American health system, with an eye toward how a non-native might navigate it.

Clients unfamiliar with the U.S. system of health care, for instance, may need help understanding why they can't go to any doctor of their choosing or why insurance requires co- pays for office visits.

Salud coordinator Neena Qasba, a senior public health major, knew the basics of medical interpretation before the training, but she didn't realize "how complicated it is," she says. Qasba is weighing medical school and graduate work in public health, but she knows the interpreter training will serve her well whichever path she chooses. "In an ideal world, everyone would speak Spanish, but that'll never happen, so there should be interpreters who know what they're doing," she says. —Angela Paik Schaeffer

Engineering: But don't drink the water

When Edward J. Bouwer ponders pollution in the United States' urban Northeast, he doesn't think about acute toxic situations. Most of those — smokestacks spewing toxic chemicals, widespread fish kills from poisonous discharges — have been remediated, he says. Instead, the Johns Hopkins professor of geography and environmental engineering (DoGEE) thinks about all the stuff that accumulates in soil and water after decades of urban industrial development: pesticides, toxic organic compounds, chromium, mercury, arsenic, lead, the gasoline additive MTBE. What's out there, seeping through an aquifer or accumulating in river sediment? And what can be done about it?

CTFR director Edward Bouwer is concerned about the chromium leeching into Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Photo by Chris Hartlove
To study hazardous contaminants in urban areas, Hopkins has created the Center for Contaminant Transport, Fate, and Remediation (CTFR): "transport" as in how pollutants travel through the environment, "fate" as in what happens to them once they are in the soil or water, and "remediation" as in what best to do about them. The center, with Bouwer as its director, will draw on expertise in various Homewood departments, including DoGEE, Chemistry, and Mech-anical Engineering, as well as the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Bouwer points out that federal regulations cover many pollutants, yet there remains a lack of knowledge about many aspects of industrial contamination. For example, the government often writes regulations to set acceptable exposure levels of single substances. But what happens when an acceptable level of a contaminant enters the environment and interacts with other chemicals already there? What are allowable levels of various compounds in a given body of water? What is the composition of the soil around former industrial sites, and what needs to be cleaned up?

The center's first project will be a study of chromium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Ingested chromium is toxic; inhaled chromium can be carcinogenic. Says Bouwer, "Fifty to a hundred years ago, chromium ore was shipped into Baltimore and processed into chromium metal, which was used for bumpers and a lot of industrial applications. The byproduct [of chromium processing] had properties like soil and so was used for fill material around the Inner Harbor. Every time it rains, the chromium from the fill material can leech into the Inner Harbor."

The chromium project will be sponsored by Honeywell International Inc., which acquired the problem when it acquired AlliedSignal Inc. in 1999. AlliedSignal, as its forerunner Allied Chemical, had processed chromium at a harborside factory for 139 years, up until 1984. The factory site was remediated as a Superfund cleanup, but chromium and other toxins remain in the harbor sediment. —DK

International: For pee-wee ambassadors, it's a small world after all

At the Children of the World Co-op near the Homewood campus in Charles Village, young children and their parents sit on small swatches of carpet, singing a welcoming song to their new friends: "Friends, friends / One, two, three /All my friends are here with me. / Kaibigan, kaibigan / Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo/Nandito lahat ang kaibigan ko."

Today they are singing to their Filipino friends. Tomorrow they might sing in Spanish, Japanese, or several other languages spoken by the co-op's participants: Amigos. Tomodachi. Amis. Friends.

Formed about 16 years ago, the Children of the World (COTW) Co-op is part children's playgroup, part parents' support group. One of its primary missions: to provide a welcoming environment for Johns Hopkins graduate students and faculty, or their stay-at-home spouses. Many have emigrated from other countries and know few words of English, let alone how to navigate the Hopkins or Baltimore communities.

Sessions at the Children of the World Co-op offer
pre-schoolers a welcoming place to play and parents
a chance to interact, learn, and get to know the locals.

Photo by
Chris Myers

"A lot of families fall through the cracks when they come to Baltimore, especially mothers with young children," says Karen Rist, COTW Co-op director. "They are the ones without a social network. It's hard to get out and meet people when you have a young child in tow, but even more so when you're from a foreign country."

Since the group was launched by Hopkins graduate students in 1989, its membership has grown from 25 families to more than 150 today. Most come once or twice a week for the two- hour sessions held in the basement of the Cathedral of the Incarnation on the corner of University Parkway and St. Paul Street.

"Staying at home is very boring," says Sachiko Takimoto, whose husband is a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology at Johns Hopkins. (Nearly half of the co-op's members have a Hopkins affiliation.) She sits on the floor reading a book to her daughter, Miyu, 2, while 4-year-old son Yuki plays nearby. "Here is an opportunity to make friends from all over the world."

Socialization also means acquiring language skills. At a small table nearby, Janet Corson shows two young mothers a worksheet titled "Seasons and Weather."

"Here we have icicles," she says, pointing to a picture of a window draped with ice. "How cold does it have to be to see icicles?

"Freezing," says Betty Simarmata, whose son Sadrakh, 4, pushes a toy lawnmower nearby.

Corson, who has been teaching English as a Second Language classes to small groups here for about a decade, points to another picture on the worksheet. "As we look at the last picture," she says, "what is that of?"

"A thunderstorm," answers Simarmata, who emigrated from Indonesia.

"How do you pronounce 'thunder'?" Corson asks.

"Th-under," says Simarmata, tackling the difficult "th" sound in English.

Corson reaches out to co-op members in other ways, sometimes driving a sick child to a nearby health clinic or helping new arrivals find answers to their questions about student visas. It's all part of the co-op philosophy. Members help run the group, taking turns bringing in snacks, cleaning up craft supplies, and helping with fundraising activities and outside gatherings.

"The expectation is that you become involved," says Sharon Beach, president of the COTW board and mother of Shelby, 4, and Skylar, 6 months. "You form friendships because you're working toward a common purpose: to have a wonderful, safe, and intimate place for your kids."

Until recently, the cost for families has ranged from $95 to $125 per semester (Hopkins students paid a reduced price of $85 to $110), thanks primarily to an annual $18,000 subsidy from the university. That money, meant to remain in place only until the co-op could become self-supporting, ended in July.

Co-op leaders, hoping to lure local funding, are working out a new mission statement oriented to the community and a fundraising plan (with seed money from the university). Keeping fees low will be integral to the program's mission, Rist says: "We have so many single-income families." With increased membership costs, "the whole face of the group [could] change," Rist worries. "We could become more like a Roland Park pre-school. We do a lot of the same things pre- schools do," she points out, "but we also act as ambassadors." —Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

Homewood: Former Secret Serviceman to head security

In his previous line of work with the U.S. Secret Service, Edmund G. Skrodzki was charged with overseeing the safety of people like President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Edmund G. Skrodzki
Photo by Will Kirk
Now, as Johns Hopkins University's new executive director of safety and security at the Homewood campus, Skrodzki is charged with keeping students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the campus safe.

"I think everybody is important," he says. "I consider the students at the university to be my extended family, and I plan to use my knowledge and skills to make a safe environment for them."

A 28-year veteran of law enforcement, Skrodzki served 22 years in the Secret Service in a variety of jobs, including as a member of the Presidential Protective Division and special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office. He spent the other six as a Baltimore City police officer.

In addition to implementing the university's multitiered security plan, Skrodzki says his goal at Hopkins is to make security more visible so that people on campus feel like they are in a safe environment.

"Crime is about motive and opportunity," says Skrodzki, who replaces Ronald J. Mullins, who retired in June after 13 years at Johns Hopkins. "You can't take [away] a bad guy's motive, but you can reduce the opportunities. One of the ways to do that is information sharing. There absolutely has to be a continuous dialogue and involvement between students, faculty, staff, parents, and community. In my opinion this should be a shared responsibility, with the safety of the campus community as the ultimate goal." —MB

Technology: New way to test older drivers

To maintain their independence, many elderly people in sprawling American communities must drive cars. So despite possibly declining vision and slowed reflexes, they climb behind the wheel and venture out into traffic.

"Once adjusted for miles driven, the crash rate is much higher for older drivers compared to drivers aged 20 to 65," says Sheila K. West, professor of preventive ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. "However, data on how older drivers actually drive, and how they compensate for declines in visual or cognitive function, is not clear."

So West and researchers at Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory have developed a com-puterized monitoring system that discreetly observes the driver while collecting data. How far do they drive, and how fast? Do they check their mirrors often enough? Brake abruptly? Make left turns safely, or in the face of oncoming traffic? APL's system will provide some answers.

The system incorporates two digital cameras, a global positioning system receiver, a two-axis accelerometer, and data storage. One camera monitors the driver, while another records the view out the front of the car, to provide information on weather conditions, intersections, and the distance between the subject's car and traffic in front of it. The GPS system tracks the driver's route. The accelerometer monitors the car's speed, turns, acceleration, and braking.

Donald D. Duncan, APL project manager, says the project arose out of frustration at not being able to observe accurately what happens when an old person drives. For years, Duncan and West have studied how vision affects elderly drivers. But a human monitor in the car skews the driver's behavior because the driver knows he's under observation. Driving simulators have that same problem, plus they're expensive and limited in the extent to which they can mimic actual driving situations. Questionnaires prove unreliable because subjects are not always candid. The answer, Duncan and his colleagues decided, was a monitoring system that could be mounted in the subject's car.

Duncan, West, and APL engineer Kevin C. Baldwin spent more than 18 months working on prototypes. The challenges they faced: finding computers fast enough to acquire the data, compact computer hard drives of capacity sufficient to store the cascade of information generated by even a short trip, and adequate cameras. Fortunately, digital technology advanced sufficiently during the system development to provide the hardware they needed.

The new technology will be added to a three-year study by West, Duncan, and other researchers that's been ongoing in Salisbury, Maryland, since October 2004. In addition to studying how older drivers actually drive, the research, funded by the National Institute on Aging, will determine if and how declining visual and cognitive functions lead to changes in driving behavior, and if changes in behavior affect risk of crashes. APL is assembling 50 of the monitoring systems, which will be used to study the driving habits of 1,500 elderly research subjects. —DK

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