The Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 22, 1999
Mar. 22, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 27


"Voyage and Discovery"

Student invites medical researchers to tell their stories at Homewood

By Glenn Small

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Adam Libow is the kind of student who gets inspired. A few years ago, he was a sophomore political science major intent on pursuing a career in law, when an elective science course sparked him to change his major and his career ambitions.

Now a fifth-year senior about to graduate and pursue a career in medicine, 22-year-old Libow, who grew up on Long Island, N.Y., is still open to inspiration. In the fall, as a teaching assistant in a Topics in Neuroscience course, he heard a professor give a great lecture that emphasized the process of medical research. And that inspired him to create the "Voyage and Discovery" lecture series, which begins next week.

"Somewhere between a Petri dish and a publication there is an inspiring story," says Adam Libow, whose curiosity about medical research brought about "Voyage and Discovery." Beginning March 30, five JHMI faculty will relate their adventures in talks at Homewood.

The person who inspired him, Guy McKhann, director of the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute and a professor of neurology and neuroscience, kept students spellbound as he led them through the shifting terrain he traveled in researching Guillian Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

McKhann enhanced the story, which involved a journey through China, by the deft use of the Socratic method, Libow remembered. He covered the science, but he also gave his audience the romance of the pursuit.

"I walked out of there thinking, I wish more people had heard this," Libow recalled recently. "And I figured there were other researchers who had similar stories."

That was in October.

Libow let the idea ferment in his mind for a few weeks, then approached JoAnne Brown, assistant dean of undergraduate studies and someone whom Libow knew from working on the curriculum committee.

"She was very, very receptive and encouraging," Libow recalled. At that point, it was sort of a rough idea. "I think if I hadn't gotten such a positive response, I might have just said, 'Oh well, that was an idea.'"

Instead, with Dean Brown's encouragement, Libow made a list of five medical researchers at Hopkins who he felt would have great stories to tell. He wrote them letters, and Dean Brown included a letter of reference and support.

He was pleasantly surprised when all five said yes.

All have agreed to come to the Homewood campus and give talks focusing on the stories behind their research, said Libow, who coined the expression, "Somewhere between a Petri dish and a publication there is an inspiring story."

Libow hopes the speakers will focus "not so much on their latest or most accomplished findings but rather on the process of scientific discovery, the stories behind their findings."

With a large percentage of undergraduates at Homewood pursuing a premed course of study, Libow thinks the lecture series will be particularly useful and interesting to students. But he also believes the talks will simply be interesting to the greater Hopkins community.

"What I was hoping to do here is open it up more to the lay person," he said.

Each speaker has volunteered his or her time, said Libow, who raised nearly $3,000 to help publicize the speaker series. All the events are free and open to the public and run from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Benjamin S. Carson Sr., director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, will lead off the series on Tuesday, March 30, in 26 Mudd Hall. His talk is titled "From Medical Missionary to Academic Neurosurgery: Are They Really That Different?"

Donald S. Coffey, director of research laboratories in the Department of Urology, School of Medicine, will speak Tuesday, April 6, in 111 Mergenthaler. His talk is called "From Failing the Fifth Grade to Cancer Research: A Journey through Academia."

Guy M. McKhann, director of the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute, will appear Tuesday, April 13, in 111 Mergenthaler. His talk is "From a Chinese Leader to Pediatric Paralysis: Investigating a Mysterious Disease."

Diane E. Griffin, chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, School of Public Health, will speak Tuesday, April 20, in 111 Mergenthaler. Her speech is "From Measles to Zambia: Chasing a Killer Virus."

Victor A. McKusick, University Professor of Medical Genetics, School of Medicine, will speak Monday, April 26, in 26 Mudd Hall. His talk is titled "From Medical Genetics to Genomics-Based Medicine: A 50-Year Experience."