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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 12, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 21
A Journal of Their Own

Leadership of the Johns Hopkins chapter of Triple Helix: Guergana Panayotova, Vishal Changrani, Jia Wang, Okay Kayaoglu and John Ji. The journal's second issue will be distributed this month.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Undergrads around the world come together to publish 'Triple Helix'

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Students at Princeton, Cornell and Johns Hopkins may not see eye-to-eye when it comes to lacrosse, but in the world of science publishing, they apparently dovetail quite nicely.

In fact, undergraduates at a number of the world's top universities have moved one degree of separation closer, thanks to an international student-run organization called the Triple Helix and a science journal of the same name.

Triple Helix was founded in 2004 by an undergraduate at Cornell University who wanted to publish a science journal written by and for undergraduates. The goal was to promote the understanding of the impact of science and technology on society and to give undergraduates experience in the publishing field.

The journal was an instant success and soon drew interest from students at other universities who wanted in. Not wanting to keep a good thing to themselves, the founders allowed peer institutions to join the organization and start their own Triple Helix chapters.

Each chapter publishes its own print edition of the science journal twice a year and submits shorter articles to be featured on the organization's main Web site. The print editions consist of equal parts international features, selected articles from participating chapters and articles (briefs, features and op-eds) written specifically for and by that chapter.

Currently, Triple Helix involves more than 700 students from 28 universities, including Johns Hopkins, Brown, Columbia, MIT, Princeton, and UCLA. In 2006, Triple Helix went international, and chapters were added at Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Melbourne in Australia, and the National University of Singapore.

Johns Hopkins' inaugural Triple Helix issue came out last year, and this month the chapter will release its second issue, which will feature stories on solutions to the energy crisis, microbial fuel cells and other topics that focus on the interconnection between science, society and law.

Vishal Changrani, a sophomore neuroscience major and president of the Johns Hopkins Triple Helix chapter, said that the response from undergraduates here has been extremely enthusiastic, and not just from those in science-related majors.

"We've already had philosophy majors and those from the Writing Seminars participate. Anyone can write for us," Changrani said. "At our core, we are all interested in these issues and embrace the opportunity to express our opinions about them."

Currently, the Johns Hopkins chapter has nearly 40 student members involved in its three divisions: editorial, science policy and marketing/business.

Changrani, who served as managing editor for the first issue of the journal, said that he has found the experience both educational and rewarding.

"It's nice to communicate and work with students at other universities," Changrani said. "As an editor, I've had the opportunity to talk with students all over the country, and it's really amazing. These people are the best and the brightest."

For Triple Helix, JHU undergraduates write, edit and review the articles that will appear in their edition of the journal and submit some of them for consideration for the national section.

How polished are the stories? The short answer is, very. Articles undergo multiple rounds of peer editing before being considered publishable and then must be approved by the regional and national board. For source materials, writers are allowed to cite only peer-reviewed journals and national magazines.

Presently, the Johns Hopkins chapter prints 500 copies of an issue, which are distributed at various locations on the Homewood campus, including dorms, the MSE Library and some academic halls. In the future, the chapter wants to double its print run and distribute the journal on the East Baltimore campus as well. Advertising in the print and online editions supports the production costs, as does funding from various academic departments and the Johns Hopkins Student Council.

Changrani said he has found both issues printed to date a labor of love. For the past two weeks, for example, he's been diligently editing an article, making sure all the facts are accurate and the proper sources cited. A lot of extra work for someone with a heavy academic load? Yes, but he said he's loving every minute of it.

For those looking to join the chapter and write for the journal, Triple Helix will hold its next general meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 21 in 26 Mudd Hall. For more information, go to


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