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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 31, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 20
University Mourns Death of Student

Linda Trinh

Linda Trinh, 21-year-old BME major, was found dead January 23

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Johns Hopkins community will mourn the loss of one of its bright young stars at a memorial observance scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2, at Homewood's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center.

Linda Trinh, a 21-year-old senior biomedical engineering major, was found dead on Sunday, Jan. 23, in her residence in the Charles Apartments, a privately owned building across Charles Street from the Homewood campus. The following day, Baltimore police said that Trinh's death had been determined to be a homicide. Since then, police have said that evidence indicates that the killing was not an "absolute random" act of violence and that it is possible she may have known the person who killed her.

Classes will be suspended from 10 a.m. to noon for the memorial, which will begin shortly after 10.

Trinh was a well-known and widely admired student, and her death has led to an outpouring of support for her family and to outrage for the unfathomable taking of a life so full of promise.

In a Jan. 24 letter to the university community, President William R. Brody expressed the shared grief brought on by Trinh's death.

"Her loss diminishes all of us, even those who did not know her, because her contributions as student, leader, colleague and, most important, friend have helped to build the Johns Hopkins we love so much," Brody said. "And I know that, despite our loss and grief — in fact, especially because of it — we must honor Linda by working, as she did, to make this community of scholars an even better community in every sense of the word."

A funeral service for Trinh was held Saturday at Our Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church in her hometown of Silver Spring, Md.

Trinh, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, was a past president of her sorority, Alpha Phi, and a former member of the university's volleyball team. Twice named to the dean's list, she was one of 16 engineering students selected last spring to receive a Vredenburg Scholarship. This program provides funds for travel and accommodations to students who propose an engineering-related research or public-service project to be conducted at an international location during the summer.

Quy Trinh, Linda's father, told The Baltimore Sun about his daughter's experience this summer in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where she studied breast cancer detection and AIDS-related dementia as part of her Vredenburg Scholarship. He said that Linda, who had gone to Johns Hopkins wanting to become a physician, came home from Vietnam with a new focus.

"She didn't want to be a doctor anymore," he said. "She said she didn't want to just treat one person or a couple thousand people. She wanted to help thousands. She wanted to save people's lives. She wanted to be a researcher and find a cure for cancer or other diseases."

In that vein, Trinh in September joined the lab of Hai-Quan Mao, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, to work on her senior design project. Her focus was biomaterials, and her project was to develop scaffolds on which adult neural stem cells can be coaxed to multiply in the lab — so that they can ultimately be used to treat neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Parkinson's.

"At the end of last semester, she was getting very excited about her results," Mao said, "and she returned to campus early [from intersession] so that she could work on the project."

Mao said that Trinh was an exceedingly generous and likable individual who had a very bright future ahead of her.

"She was a wonderful person, and everyone in the lab loved her," he said. "She was always smiling."

Trinh also worked in Hongjun Song's lab in the Institute for Cell Engineering in the School of Medicine. She would work on the scaffolds in Mao's lab at Homewood and then take her project to East Baltimore, where Song's lab works with the adult stem cells.

Trinh's death marks the second time in less than a year that Johns Hopkins' undergraduate community and the university at large have suffered such a tragic loss. Junior Christopher Elser died from knife wounds on April 18, the day after an early morning attack by an intruder in the off-campus apartment building occupied by his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The circumstances in the two cases appear to be quite different, as the police believe that Elser's assailant was an intruder and not someone known to him.

To address security concerns, the university hosted a town hall meeting at the Mattin Center last Wednesday night. Nearly 200 students attended the assembly, which was presided over by President Brody; Ron Mullen, director of security; Susan Boswell, dean of student life; Paula Burger, dean of undergraduate education; Jerome Schnydman, executive assistant to the president; and city police officials. The meeting provided an open forum to discuss concerns and ideas impacting student safety, both on and off campus.

Maj. Richard Fahlteich, head of the city police homicide division, began the forum by briefing the students on the basics of the case and asking them not to listen to gossip or media speculation. He urged students who hear anything that sounds pertinent to the investigation to come forward and to contact the police. He also reminded the students to communicate with one another and to be partners in their own safety. The rest of the meeting involved students, several of whom expressed fear and anger, asking questions about the state of campus security measures.

In a letter sent last week to parents, President Brody outlined some of what already has been done to ensure student safety.

"We are satisfied that Baltimore police, from the most senior level to the investigating detectives, are committed to an aggressive investigation and to solving this terrible crime. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has called to express his deep personal concern and to offer any assistance he can provide," he said. "[University officials] have done much in the past year to strengthen student safety on and near the Homewood campus. Once we have an understanding of what occurred in this case, that understanding may well suggest new steps we must take, and we will take them."

To date, both the university and Baltimore police have stepped up their presence in the area around the Charles Apartments. The university has stationed a 24-hour guard at the building and increased mobile patrols there and in the immediate vicinity. The management of the Charles Apartments, at the university's recommendation, has hired security to patrol inside the building during evening and overnight hours. The same has been done at the management company's Blackstone Apartments, a nearby building where many students live.

Brody has directed that the university accelerate ongoing steps to significantly improve its security systems on campus and in the surrounding area, including new surveillance capabilities. He also said that parent and student representatives should be added to the standing working group on Homewood campus security. Their job will be to monitor the university's progress and provide new ideas and constructive criticism.

The safety initiatives the university has implemented since Elser's death, including assistance sought and received from Baltimore police, have helped to reduce crime. On university-controlled property, crime was down significantly in 2004. In the surrounding area, crimes against persons were down, though property crime was up.

In particular, the university has reinforced patrols in Charles Village and added them in the University Parkway corridor; added to and is working to upgrade the campus and off-campus network of emergency telephones; improved security van service by providing faster response time to student callers, thereby reducing incentives for students to walk to their destinations; and, in a cooperative effort with the neighborhood and city, identified and is working to mitigate areas of insufficient lighting in off-campus areas where many students live.

"We recognize and accept our role in protecting the safety and security of our students," Brody said. "Nothing could be more important to us. And, no matter what improvements we have made, we know fully that we can and must do more."

This week, the university will be setting up online forums where students, faculty and staff will be able to post comments regarding security concerns or in remembrance of Trinh.

A link on the university home page,, provides access to other information relating to Trinh's death.


Security and Counseling Resources

You can find helpful information on the Security Department Web site, For emergencies, call 410-516-7777. For non-emergency security matters, call 410-516-4600. For escort services (vans and walking), call 410-516-8700.

The university encourages any student who wishes to do so to reach out to Residence Life staff, peer counselors, campus ministers and, of course, the Counseling Center. For emergencies outside regular hours, the center's on-duty counselor can be reached through Security at 410-516-7777.


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