From Brain Studies to Hysteria, from Syria to Tibet, Hopkins Undergraduates Pursue Challenging Research Projects
Matthew Johnson and Daniel Rogart journeyed to Syria to unearth artifacts from a commerce center that thrived about 4,000 years ago.
Mollie Galloway hunted for a link between the timing of puberty and the way in which bright students use their brainpower.
Kelly Abbett looked at how turn-of-the-century doctors treated an ill-defined ailment called hysteria.
Robert R. Smith trekked to Tibet, where he gathered an important historical account of local resistance efforts.
These four are just a few of the Johns Hopkins University undergraduates who conceived and completed their own research projects during the past year. Many of these projects are poised on the cutting edge of study in medicine, the sciences, arts and humanities.
Recognized as the nation's first graduate research university, Hopkins also encourages undergraduates to get hands-on experience in demanding, graduate-level projects. Often, the students work along-side top researchers in their fields. The Provost's Undergraduate Awards For Research and Excellence is one way students can pursue such challenges.
Every year, about 50 students receive up to $2,500 each to propose and carry out their own research projects. About twice that number apply for the awards, making it difficult to select the best proposals, said Theodore O. Poehler, vice provost for reseach.
On March 26, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Hopkins provost and vice president for academic affairs Steven Knapp will host the program's annual awards ceremony. The doors open at 3 p.m. for a poster session, during which students will display and talk about the results of their research. All activities will take place in the Glass Pavilion of Levering Hall on the Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.
Following is a list of the undergraduates recognized with Provost Undergraduate Awards for Research and Excellence.)
Excavating an ancient business center
Two seniors, Matthew Johnson, a Near Eastern Studies major from Northbrook, Ill., and Daniel Rogart, an anthropology major from Fairfield, Conn., used their awards to conduct a two-month archeological expedition in northwestern Syria. They explored a site that may once have been Tuba, a major center of commerce and culture in the Bronze Age, from about 2500 to 1200 B.C.
Rogart's excavations probed the site's most ancient occupation, during the Early Bronze Age, from about 2500-2000 B.C., a time about which very little had been known. In addition, he discovered a house and artifacts dating back to about 1900 B.C., collecting information that will shed light on the city's economy, possible reasons for its collapse and its eventual resurrection, said Glenn Schwartz, a Hopkins professor of Near Eastern Studies, who supervised the students.
Johnson systematically examined unexplored parts of the site. His excavations revealed Late Bronze Age domestic architecture and a two-story pottery kiln dating to about 2100 B.C.
"The daily excitement of excavation coupled with the wonderful instruction of Dr. Schwartz made the experience extremely fulfilling," said Johnson, who plans to work in archaeology and pursue a doctorate. He also is active on the Johns Hopkins swim team.
Is brain performance affected by the arrival of puberty?
Mollie Galloway of Columbus, Ohio, a senior majoring in psychology, has capitalized on one of Hopkins' chief resources: its population of smart people. She studied gifted adolescents to determine whether the timing of puberty might affect whether people become better at using the right or left hemisphere of their brain.
The left side of the brain is thought to be better at performing verbal tasks. The right side is believed to specialize in the spatial processing needed to solve complex mathematical problems.
Galloway wanted to investigate whether going through puberty earlier or later in life determines whether people will rely more on their left or right brain hemispheres.
"Past research on the question has been very inconsistent," said Galloway, who worked with psychology professor Marie Balaban and graduate student Amy Wisniewski. "I thought that examining an extreme population might help provide more clear-cut evidence."
Her test subjects were mathematically gifted teenagers participating in Hopkins' Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth. Their academic strengths were first gauged by reviewing their SAT scores. Then they were given computer tasks previously known to be best processed by the brain's left or right hemispheres.
Their levels of maturity were assessed by measuring testosterone levels in boys and using height and weight charts for girls. "We also collected data from parents to verify the timing of puberty," Galloway said. "Mothers were asked to report if their child was an early, late or on-time maturer."
Her findings will be presented during an upcoming meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, Balaban said.
Tracing the "her-story" of hysteria
Kelly Abbett, a Rochester, N.Y., native who just completed her undergraduate work in psychology at Hopkins, remembers one of the first Women's Studies courses she took. "I went in and Antoinette (Burton, associate director of the department) said it was going to change our lives," Abbett recalled. "It did."
Just a few years later, she is interning at a Washington, D.C., public policy consulting firm that focuses on women's health and non-profit issues.
Her preparation included a year of researching turn-of-the-century medical practices for treating what was called hysteria by the male-dominated medical profession. Abbett's proposed course of study during her senior year earned her one of the Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards.
Abbett's project, "A Her-story of Hysteria, 1865-1915," focused on the American patients labeled hysterics during this period and their physicians. Some doctors believed these patients--mostly female--were just acting, or that their nerves were weak. Still other doctors thought this ailment was a sign of the times, a very modern, very American phenomenon. They concluded that as the nation grew and confronted technological advances, people "couldn't help but be hysterical," she said.
Hysteria, Abbett explained, has been compared to hypochondria, which may or may not be accurate. "Hysteria was not well defined, but it was mental and physical," she said.
As part of her research, Abbett traveled to historic libraries. "My project was unique because I was not asking a question," she said. "It was more that I wanted to research that part of feminist history. I think it's important."
A rewarding journey to Tibet
Robert R. Smith of South Glastonbury, Conn., a senior with a double major in history and strategic studies, used his Provost Research Award to literally knock on opportunity's door while traveling through Tibet.
"I was fortunate enough to meet a man who was a leader of the Tibetan resistance," Smith said. The student was directed to the man's compound and "hit it off with his nephew."
The leader had written a journal that chronicled the Tibetan resistance efforts against the Chinese government. After their meetings, the Tibetan leader agreed to allow Smith to translate the work. "Part of the attraction was that I didn't even realize what had happened, how big a deal it was to be offered the story," Smith said.
Smith hopes to have his research project published, and has applied for a fellowship at the East West Center in Hawaii, where he would expand his studies to include Central Asia.
Rehana Leila Ahmed, Minneapolis, Senior; Behavioral
Heather Bruce, Baltimore, Senior; Neuroscience major
Robert Chin, Hinsdale, Ill., Senior; Philosophy major
Eric Edmonds, Vista, Calif., Senior; Biology major
Thomas J. Fralich, Jonestown, Pa., Junior; Chemical
Adriana Izquierdo, Amherst, N.Y., Senior; History
Stephen Kelly, Lynchburg, Va., Senior; Civil Engineering
Jimmy Kyung Lee, Temple City, Calif., Senior; Public
Tony T. Lee, Troy, Mich., Senior; Biophysics major
Rachel Y. Lei, Falls Church, Va., Sophomore; Biology
Saeyoung Park, West Bloomfield, Mich., Junior;
International Studies major
Miruna Patrascanu, Ridgewood, N.J., Senior; International
Melissa Pavetto, Silver Spring, Md., Senior; Psychology
Marzban Rad, Fremont, Calif., Sophomore; Biomedical
Michael Roh, Beltsville, Md., Senior; Biology major
John Saxe, Fair Haven, N.J., Senior; Political Science
Louis H. Stein Jr., White Plains, N.Y., Senior; Biomedical
Anshul Thakral, Arcadia, Calif., Senior; Biomedical
Sai-Kit Tseng, Minneapolis, Senior; Chemical Engineering
Christopher J. Valeri, Hibbing, Minn., Junior;
Craig Zapetis, Miami, Junior; Political Science major
Matthew Augustine, Dix Hills, N.Y., Senior; Biology
Cathleen Barenski, Wappingers Falls, N.Y., Senior; Nursing
Kevin Callahan, Washington, D.C., Junior; Mechanical
Laleh Golkar, Gaithersburg, Md., Junior; Chemistry
Daniel Gilison, Scottsdale, Ariz., Senior; Biology
Jeffrey Adam Gusenoff, Newton, Mass., Senior; Biology
Jenny Hong, Carrollton, Tex., Junior; Neuroscience
Paul Kopchinski, Baltimore, Senior; Music Composition
Percy P. Lee, Arcadia, Calif., Senior; Biomedical
Kuei-Cheng Lim, Atlantic City, N.J., Senior; Biology
Sai Lui, Silver Spring, Md., Senior; Electrical
Robert Mittendorff II, McLean, Va., Senior; Biomedical
Angela R. Mullins, Baltimore, Senior; Flute major
Tom Narayan, Miami, Junior; International Studies
Daniel Thomas Rogers, Woodruff, S.C., Senior; Psychology
Daniel J. Shapero, West Chester, Pa., Sophomore; Arts and
Amy Shuster, Guilford, Conn., Senior; International
Elizabeth Soutter, Baltimore, Senior; Writing Seminars
Shona Velamakanni, Englewood, N.J., Junior; Biology
Lance Daniel Wahlert, Newport News, Va., Senior; Writing
Christopher Michael Ward, Burke, Va., Senior; Neuroscience
Christopher Winters, Mt. Airy, Md., Senior; Saxophone and
Music Education major
Leo Wise, Chantham, N.J., Junior; International Studies
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