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Course: Drinking Water, Sanitation, and Health

Instructor: Glenn Patterson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia; he coordinates the Cooperative Water Program. Course description: Part of the Krieger School's Advanced Academic Programs, this class was offered online as part of the Sloan Semester program to graduate students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Also offered this spring, the course examines drinking-water health threats and the public-policy responses to them. After learning the basics of drinking- water supply and treatment, students examine scenarios that involve vexing issues of science and public policy, such as protecting source water from urban and agricultural runoff, and how killing pathogens can create other problems.

Readings: Water on Tap — What you need to know, Office of Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2003). The 32- page publication is available online or can be ordered at no charge from the EPA.

Bottom Line

2: The number of Johns Hopkins scientists named to Popular Science's fourth annual "Brilliant 10" list in September.

Each year, the magazine seeks out young researchers "just starting to get noticed for work that is pushing their fields in new directions," according to its Web site, It solicits nominations from universities, scientific organizations, and journal editors, then combs through hundreds of suggestions to pick the top 10. On this year's list were Hope Jahren, associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and Nathan Wolfe, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Hopkins was the only institution to have more than one scientist make the list.

Jahren was included for her work in the study of ancient fossilized plants. She analyzes their stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen to help uncover the history of Earth's climate change. She is only the fourth scientist — and the first woman — ever to receive both major awards for young researchers in the geophysical sciences: the Geological Society of America's Donath Medal and the American Geophysical Union's Macelwane Medal.

Wolfe was recognized for his study of emerging viruses. Working in the jungles of Cameroon, Wolfe has used blood samples to show that African hunters are at risk of contracting non-human viruses from their simian prey — viruses in the same class as HIV, which could possibly trigger the next major viral outbreak. In September, Wolfe received a $2.5 million Director's Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health to continue his research.

For the record, we'd like to argue that "just starting to get noticed" part. For more about Wolfe and Jahren, see "Gorillas in the Midst of HIV Research" in the June 2004 Wholly Hopkins section and "Wired for Science" in June 2005. — Catherine Pierre

Vital Signs

New hope for arthritis relief
People suffering from arthritis may someday benefit from new research done in a Petri dish. Zachary R. Healy, a doctoral student in the
biomolecular engineering lab of associate professor Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, placed chondrocytic cells, which are responsible for the smooth functioning of human joints, in a dish. He then added plant-derived compounds called phytochemicals, to boost activity of beneficial enzymes known as phase 2 enzymes. Twenty-four hours later, Healy subjected the chondrocytes to stress that simulates strenuous exercise on a joint. For reasons not yet understood, the phase 2 enzymes prevented activation of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme that leads to the death of chondrocytes and causes pain in arthritic joints. Healy's paper appeared in the September 27 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For cholesterol, focus on the positive
For 15 years, guidelines for prevention of coronary artery disease have concentrated on lowering LDL levels, the "bad" cholesterol that leads to narrowing of arteries through formation of plaque. A new summary study led by Roger Blumenthal, director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center, argues for revised guidelines that focus on raising deficient levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Each milligram per deciliter increase in HDL cholesterol reduces risk of a fatal heart attack by about 3 percent. Blumenthal's study, published in the September 22 online edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, recommends several measures to increase HDLs, including regular aerobic exercise, cessation of smoking, moderate drinking of alcohol, weight control, and monitoring of fat intake. —Dale Keiger


New center to safeguard voting
The National Science Foundation recently announced establishment at Johns Hopkins of a new research center to study and improve electronic voting technology. A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable, and Transparent Elections, mercifully shortened to ACCURATE, will study computerized voting hardware and software, encryption, safeguards against ballot tampering, legal and public policy issues, and voter behavior. The NSF has committed $7.5 million over five years to the center, prompted by the largest conversion of U.S. voting technology in the last 100 years, as well as criticism of and unresolved doubts about electronic voting machines. Aviel Rubin, technical director of Hopkins'
Information Security Institute and a professor of computer science in the Whiting School, will direct the new center. In 2004, Rubin released a report finding major security flaws in AccuVote-TS, a touch-screen voting terminal made by Diebold Election Systems and used in many states during that year's presidential election.

Collagen — it's not just for lips anymore
Michael Yu, assistant professor of materials science in the Whiting School of Engineering, has developed a new method of modifying collagen that may have significant medical applications. Collagen accounts for a quarter of the body's protein and is essential for the rigor of bones, teeth, skin, and connective tissue. Yu has discovered a method of attaching molecules called collagen mimetic peptides to collagen molecules without damaging the collagen. This allows scientists to then attach various bioactive agents to the peptides and thereby alter the behavior of collagen. For example, Yu reports that by attaching polyethylene glycol, he caused collagen to repel rather than attract cells; this technology could be applied to prevention of blood clots or scar tissue. Modified collagen also could be used to deliver medications or antibiotics. Yu presented his findings last August at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. — DK


Undergrads on the Trail to Discovery
Last summer, 48 undergraduates from across the country, all
Howard Hughes Summer Research Fellows, spent 10 weeks in Johns Hopkins labs working with a mentor on independent research projects. Here are two Hopkins students who participated:

Jonathan Eric Zuckerman '07, biophysics,
"The Bcl-2 Checkpoint in C. elegans"

Working in the laboratory of the Biology Department's Blake Hill, Zuckerman used biochemical techniques to isolate from the nematode (worm) C. elegans a protein that regulates programmed cell death, a normal biological process that, when misregulated in mammals, can lead to diseases such as cancer. Once he isolated the protein, he analyzed its interactions with other proteins that regulated cell death in the worm. "Ultimately I hope that these studies, done in a simple model organism, will elicit functional relationships between programmed cell death proteins in more complex mammalian cells," Zuckerman says.

Michael Kelly-Sell '06, biology,
"Genetic Screen for Genes Involved in Germ Cell
Specification and Cellular Asymmetries"

Kelly-Sell's project involved studying cytoplasmic asymmetries, a condition created when all of a specific type of protein localizes to one side of the cell. When the cell divides down the middle, each daughter cell has a different composition of proteins and, therefore, a different cellular fate (for example, one becomes muscle while the other becomes skin). Kelly-Sell, a Hughes fellow for two summers, worked with the School of Medicine's Geraldine Seydoux to find genes involved with creating cytoplasmic asymmetries in early embryos. "We are looking for new genes involved in this process because we only know of a few, and we think that there are many more," he says. —Maria Blackburn

Forever Altered

Mentor, hero, inspiration: Hopkins teachers who have left their mark

"Francis E. Rourke was a member of the Political Science Department at Johns Hopkins for almost 40 years. We got acquainted one morning my sophomore year as we were riding to campus via city bus. He must have recognized me as a student, and he struck up a conversation — one that continued for 45 years until Frank died in June at the age of 82.

"Frank specialized in the study of the presidency and the executive branch. I hadn't decided exactly what I should specialize in. So I specialized in Frank. He was approachable, funny in a self-deprecatory way, and always seemed to have something insightful to say about government and politics. He made even bureaucracy sound interesting. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on an obscure administrator of the Jacksonian era whom I had discovered in the index of one of the texts Frank assigned for his public administration course. Twelve years later, an overhauled version of my senior thesis would become my second book.

"By then, Frank was a tenured full professor and chair of the Political Science Department. I had finished graduate school and returned to Hopkins as a member of the faculty. We would eventually teach an undergraduate course together — the Public Philosophy in American Politics. I remember one class in particular: We were past the midpoint of the session when Frank refashioned one of the students' comments and introduced it as a topic of discussion. The response was so lively that Frank and I were reduced to passive bystanders. The undergraduates had taken over the class. Frank sat back contentedly. Just before the end of the class, he leaned toward me, and in a quiet voice he said, 'It doesn't get much better than this.' "It hasn't."

Matthew A. Crenson, A&S '63, is a professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Johns Hopkins.


About six years ago, when the nationwide nursing shortage began to hit Johns Hopkins Hospital hard, nursing leaders looked around the hospital and saw ... a blank slate.

"Nurses are the largest group of health care workers at any hospital in the country, including Johns Hopkins, but if you walked up and down our halls, there was no place that really honored the nurse at the bedside," recalls Karen Haller, vice president for nursing care and patient services at Hopkins Hospital.

Cardiac care nurse Pat Grimes teaches therapeutic horseback riding to disabled children. In an effort to better celebrate the bedside nurse, "which is really the heart of nursing," says Haller, she and Joan Levy, director of marketing and communications, picked a well-traveled corridor (between the Wolfe Street Lobby and the Monument Street corridor) to serve as the site for an annual yearlong photographic exhibit that would be mounted each May during Nurses' Week. Three years ago, they succeeded in having the corridor named in honor of M. Adelaide Nutting, a member of the first graduating class of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and the school's second superintendent. Nutting is credited with creating national standards in nursing education, and she launched what is today the American Nurses Association.

The exhibit now on display in the Nutting Corridor honors Johns Hopkins nurses who are actively engaged in community service outside the hospital. Large black-and-white portraits taken by photographer Andy Thompson capture 13 nurses from a variety of the hospital's departments, each with the "tools" of his or her community work. "These 13 nurses are representative of a huge group of nurses" who are involved in community service outside the walls of Johns Hopkins, says Levy. "We just scratched the surface." —Sue DePasquale

Return to November 2005 Table of Contents

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