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Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Resetting the Tenure Clock

Jones Returns, This Time as Dean

New Opportunity for City School Students

Hopkins Boasts More Fulbrights Than Ever Before

Sports, American Style

On the Road to Child Safety

An Expansive Response to the Nursing Shortage

Hopkins Hospital Ranks No. 1 — Again

The Nature of Walden Pond, 150 Years Later

Rough and Ready Landmine Detector

$44 Million Aimed at Treating TB and AIDS

Wholly Hopkins Departments: Bottom Line | JHUniverse | Here & Abroad | Academese | Findings | Syllabus | Up & Comer | Forever Altered | Vital Signs | Vignette | Investigations |

Resetting the Tenure Clock

For decades, Johns Hopkins' Homewood faculty have been on one of the nation's longest tenure clocks. With very rare exceptions, the university would grant tenured status only to full professors. Junior faculty in the Whiting School of Engineering and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences could wait as long as 10 years for tenure, versus the six years typical at most universities.

No longer. Last June, Hopkins' board of trustees unanimously approved a recommendation from the university's academic council to permit tenure at the level of associate professor. The change means that Homewood academic departments can now offer tenure to new hires at the associate level, and assistant professors can apply for tenure as early as their seventh year.

Adam Falk, dean of faculty in the Krieger School, says, "Overwhelmingly, faculty said it was time for Hopkins to change."

Several factors drove that change. Hopkins has built its departments, and its reputation, on hiring and retaining superb scholars and scientists. But the market for premier faculty has become increasingly competitive in the last several years, and Hopkins found it was losing people it wanted to institutions that granted tenure to associate professors. Says Falk, "The engineering school almost universally felt that the competitive disadvantage had been hurting them for a long time. An assistant professor they wanted would hear about the long tenure clock and say he or she was not interested." Falk says that departments in the Krieger School experienced similar difficulties, especially in social sciences like economics and political science.

Falk notes that many faculty are poised to begin some of their most exciting work at the juncture between the assistant and associate levels. But the long Hopkins clock often made them conservative in selecting projects for the four years between associate and full professor. Tenure was on the line, so they naturally gravitated toward less daring work that they knew they could complete in their allotted time. Says Falk, "Many junior faculty or young senior faculty waited quite a while before starting the interesting, speculative, long-term projects that they really, really wanted to do. They had to make a more pragmatic career decision."

Finally, other universities could entice Hopkins faculty at this point in their careers with an offer of not only promotion, but tenure. "Faculty are more mobile than they've ever been before," Falk notes. "With the rise of information technology, we tend to exist as scholars tied more closely to our national and international scholarly communities. The ties to institutions are not as strong as they used to be."

Faculty who were promoted to associate professor under the old system will have two years in which to apply for early tenure, or wait to be considered when they are up for full professor. Anyone hired after July 1, 2004, is subject to the new procedure. "I think many faculty would be wise to opt for the longer clock," Falk says, "because they will have an opportunity to have done more work before the tenure decision comes. If you are well along in a project that you would like the Academic Council to see when your case is being decided, you have every incentive to stay in the old system."

The small size of many Hopkins departments had long argued in favor of the longer clock; a department with only four or five tenured positions could ill afford a mistake, and used the additional years of the old clock to be sure of its decision. "Many people, myself included, started this process three years ago thinking that argument ought to carry the day," says Falk. "I still think that if you polled the faculty and were to remove somehow the competitive aspect, people would say it would be better to have the longer clock. It's simply a matter of counterbalancing that very real consideration against the realities of the competitive environment. Other committees at other points have asked that same question and decided the trade-off was worth it. This time the committee felt it wasn't worth it anymore." —Dale Keiger

Nick Jones
Photo by Will Kirk
Jones Returns to Engineering, This Time as Dean

Nick Jones, a civil engineer who has spent most of his career at Johns Hopkins, has been named the fourth dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. The appointment brings Jones back to Hopkins after a two-year stint as head of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He succeeds Ilene Busch-Vishniac, who stepped down last year after five years at the helm to concentrate on her faculty position in the department of mechanical engineering.

"Hopkins has been a very special place for me," Jones says. "I spent a big part of my professional life there, and I lived in Baltimore longer than in any city in my entire life. There are not many opportunities that I'd leave the University of Illinois for, but Hopkins is a special place for me."

A native of New Zealand, Jones has worked in a number of engineering areas, including wind engineering (especially problems of long-span bridges), structural dynamics, and earthquake engineering. He began his career at Hopkins in 1986, just after receiving his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He became a full professor in 1997, and chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering two years later. Along the way, he won teaching awards in 1987, 1991, and 2001, and was 1988 Maryland Young Engineer of the Year. He cites the many and varied opportunities for collaborative work as one of the primary advantages of working at Hopkins. There are, he says, largely untapped possibilities for synergy with regional industries, particularly in biotechnology, aerospace, and security technology. And he wants to pursue closer interdisciplinary ties with the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory.

He also envisions improvements to the undergraduate program. "I'd like to think that for students who come to a place like Hopkins, they get something that's very special for their time and commitment," he says. "I think we need to develop a 'Hopkins signature' in the undergraduate program. I really don't know what that's going to look like at this point."

The engineering school, formally founded in 1919 (the first engineering students had been admitted six years previously) and named for G.W.C. Whiting in 1979, now has more than 160 academic and research faculty, teaching more than 1,200 undergraduates in 13 majors. Four of the school's graduate departments ranked in the top 20 nationally in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings, with biomedical engineering ranked first and geography and environmental engineering fifth.

When Jones' appointment was announced in July, Hopkins president William R. Brody said, "Nick brings to the deanship a rare combination of intimate familiarity with Johns Hopkins and high-level experience at a very different kind of institution. His stellar record in both contexts shows him to be a remarkably agile and creative leader." —DK

New Opportunity for City School Students

Matthew Crenson, A&S '63, didn't want to go to Johns Hopkins University after he graduated from Baltimore City College in 1959. He wanted to go to Franklin & Marshall College. But his parents' urgings to stay in Baltimore prevailed, and the 16-year-old Crenson enrolled at Hopkins, initially majoring in philosophy then ultimately in political science. "I'm glad I went here," says Crenson, now chair of Hopkins' political science department. "I really got a good education. Even though I had to live at home, it was liberating."

Times were different back then, he says. More graduates of city high schools went to Hopkins and stayed in Baltimore after graduation to become part of the community. Six students from Crenson's graduating class at City came to Hopkins. By comparison, in recent years the number of freshmen coming to Hopkins from all of Baltimore's public schools has averaged around four. "The population of Baltimore has changed," Crenson says. "It's poorer than it used to be, and a smaller percentage of kids are graduating from high school than they did when I was in school."

Crenson is hopeful that the university's new Baltimore Scholars program, which offers free tuition to Baltimore public school graduates, will attract more of those students to Hopkins. Under the terms of the program, city school graduates who have been accepted into Hopkins undergraduate programs at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, or the Peabody Institute receive full-tuition scholarships. The program is also open to three eligible students per year who wish to pursue part-time undergraduate programs at the university's School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

Upon announcing the program in June, President William R. Brody said he hoped it would strengthen ties between Hopkins and Baltimore. "Baltimore is Johns Hopkins' home, and Baltimore's future is our future," he said. "The Baltimore Scholars Program is one more step the university can take to support our city and especially our public schools."

The Baltimore Scholars Program starts with the class entering Hopkins in fall 2005. Scholarships will be renewed until students graduate, provided that the students meet academic and course-load requirements.

Crenson, the lead faculty adviser for the Baltimore Scholars Program, says he's hoping that over time the program will influence more than just the number of city students who come to Hopkins. By talking to school counselors about Baltimore Scholars, letting parents know which classes students need to take in high school for college, and sharing information about SAT preparation courses, he hopes to convince more students to complete their high school education and go on to college, at Hopkins or elsewhere. "The purpose of the program is not just to get more bright kids to go to Hopkins but to expand the pipeline of students graduating from high school and increase the pool of students applying to college," he says.

And while the program will address the sizable cost of attending Hopkins (tuition at Arts and Sciences this fall is $30,140), that's not the only type of support that will be available to Baltimore Scholars. Advisers within the program will help students with everything from switching majors to selecting classes. "We understand the pressures students are under here, and we know what kind of resources are available," Crenson says. —Maria Blackburn

Lucky Seven: Hopkins Boasts More Fulbrights Than Ever Before

Johns Hopkins students have outdone themselves this time. Last spring, seven current and former students were awarded prestigious Fulbright Scholar grants — the largest number of student Fulbright Scholars ever to come out of Hopkins in a single year.

Created in 1946, the Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchange. The student program awards approximately 1,000 grants annually to Americans and provides funding for approximately 1,400 foreign students to study at U.S. campuses each year.

The 2004-2005 student Fulbright Scholars from Hopkins will go to Malaysia, Egypt, and beyond to research a wide variety of topics.

Sally McGrane, 29, who earned a master's degree from the Writing Seminars in 2003, will travel to Germany to deepen her understanding of the country and its literary traditions.

Barkha Gurbani, 21, received her bachelor's degree in public health in May, graduating with Phi Beta Kappa honors. In India, she will conduct research at the AIDS Research and Control Center in Mumbai and complete a public service project for women widowed by AIDS. This is the second consecutive year Johns Hopkins has sent a graduating senior to India on a Fulbright.

Jacquelyn Williamson, 31, who is a graduate student in Near Eastern Studies, will go to Egypt to examine an unstudied motif in ancient Egyptian art in museums and at important archaeological sites.

Two of the students will be in Malaysia. Ami Karnik, 21, a 2004 graduate who earned a bachelor's degree in international studies, will study the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations common market using the Malaysian electronics industry as a case study. And Emily Stecker, 21, a 2004 graduate who majored in English, will teach English at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang.

Jill M. Pederson, 32, will travel to Italy to explore the relationship between painting and poetry in the court of Milan from 1480 to 1499. Pederson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Art.

Edward W. Monroe Jr., 33, in May earned a master's degree in science and math education from the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. In Bulgaria, he will pursue environmental studies. He plans to create a field guide for high school students on the geology and history of stone structures. —MB

Michael Mandelbaum
Photo by ©Anne Mandelbaum
Sports, American Style

Michael Mandelbaum follows the Boston Red Sox, the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics, and the New England Patriots. He keeps up with the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Redskins, and the Washington Wizards, too. His greatest sports fan moment, he says, was being in the stands at Fenway Park when Carlton Fisk hit a 12th-inning home run in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. "I have the ticket stub to prove it," he says. "This is the Red Sox's greatest moment of the last 75 years."

Mandelbaum, the Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, is one of the nation's leading authorities on American foreign policy and international relations. He's also the author of a new book, The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football, and Basketball and What They See When They Do (PublicAffairs, 2004).

His book examines America's century-long love of team sports, which, when you get right down to it, really aren't that different from foreign policy. "In analyzing international relations and analyzing sports, you have competitive activity," says Mandelbaum, who is the author or co-author of eight books on foreign policy. "The idea is to explain the outcome. That's true if you're writing about an election, a war, or a game."

The book had its origins in a brief exchange he had with his wife, Anne, while watching Monday Night Football. Puzzled by something she saw, Anne asked, "Didn't they just show that?"

"Yes, they did," he said. "They always show the play when it happens, and then they show it again. It's called instant replay."

She thought for a moment. Then she asked, "Isn't once enough?"

It was a good question. "Why, for so many people, isn't once enough?" he asked himself. "Why do tens of millions of my fellow Americans and I spend so much of our time watching so many games? Baseball, football, and basketball play a major role in American life. Just what is that role, and how did these three sports come to fill it?"

He wrote The Meaning of Sports to answer these questions. And both the national media and the sports world have embraced it. The book has been deemed "delightful" by The New York Times, "colloquial and readable" by The Washington Post, and "a great account of how and why sports have become so popular and important in America" by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

For Mandelbaum, sports provide a much-needed refuge from the workings of everyday life. "Sports is a different world. In some ways it's a better world," he says. "It's more coherent, more transparent. There's always a definite outcome. That's not true in life." —MB

On the Road to Child Safety

The Johns Hopkins Children's Safety Center has taken its show on the road.

In August, the new Johns Hopkins CARES Mobile Safety Center, a 40-foot house-on-wheels filled with interactive home-safety exhibits, made its maiden voyage through the streets of Baltimore. Like the Children's Safety Center (CSC), its stationary counterpart at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Mobile Safety Center teaches parents how to protect their children from injuries and offers products such as car seats and baby gates at a reduced cost.

The CARES Mobile Safety Center
Photo by Keith Weller

"There's a lot of apathy" about injury prevention, says Andrea Gielen, professor and deputy director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy, which created both safety centers. "People think, That stuff doesn't happen to me."

But it happens all the time. Injuries are the leading cause of death among children in Baltimore City. And every year, one in four Baltimore children sees a doctor because of accidental injuries most often caused by burns, falls, poisoning, fire, cars, drowning, guns, choking, or suffocation.

In 2002, the Injury Center reported on a study that found that parents who visited the original CSC were twice as likely to observe safety practices as those who did not.

Inside the CARES Mobile Safety Center
Photo by
"We needed to expand," says Eileen McDonald, program director of the original CSC and a faculty member in the Injury Center. "We wondered, what could we do to reach more families?"

The answer came serendipitously. When the Injury Center consulted the Baltimore City Fire Department about incorporating fire safety training and smoke alarm distribution into the CSC, Division Chief Ted Saunders mentioned the department's safety trailer, designed to teach fire prevention. Center leaders realized that having something that could travel was much more economically feasible than installing a separate safety center in every clinic.

The van will spend three days a week at Hopkins' East Baltimore Medical Center, where it is participating in a three-year CDC-funded evaluation study. Other days, it will travel to schools, churches, pediatric clinics, and community events.

The Mobile Safety Center has a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom. When you open the medicine cabinet, a skull and crossbones lights up behind the mirror and an ominous voice says, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall / Who's the safest of them all? / Lock me up to keep kids safe / Keep poisons in their proper place." In the bedroom, a generator pumps out simulated smoke, and a heating element makes the door hot to simulate a house fire. Exhibits in the kitchen demonstrate how to prevent burns and poisoning, and there is a separate car safety-seat station.

The van is the product of a true collaboration between the Injury Center, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, the fire department, and a community advisery board. The community played a part as well: Students at the Maryland Institute College of Art painted scenes of children on the outside of the trailer, and the Maryland Science Center consulted on the design of the interactive safety exhibits.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be working with students or faculties in a college of art or exhibit designers from a kids' museum," says McDonald. "It takes so much effort to get people to realize that we should focus on how to prevent injuries through really simple measures." —Kristi Birch

An Expansive Response to the Nursing Shortage

In the face of a massive nationwide nursing shortage, soaring applications at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing would seem to be good news. Except that the school has not had the capacity to accept more students. "We have expanded existing class sizes to the maximum," says Sandra Angell, associate dean for student affairs. The frustrating result: a growing waiting list of highly qualified applicants.

So school administrators have decided to create a new accelerated class of about 50 students, who will begin their studies in January. The students, who come already equipped with a baccalaureate degree in a variety of subjects, will be fast-tracked to enter the work force 17 months later.

Driving the decision to expand enrollment are grim figures showing that the current U.S. nursing shortage is only expected to get worse. As of 2000, some 30 states had reported shortages of registered nurses, according to a July 2002 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration; the shortage is projected to grow to 44 states and the District of Columbia by 2020.

Says Angell, "Historically Hopkins has heeded the social imperative to respond in times of crises. During World War II, the nursing diploma program doubled its enrollment. It is time for us to take the lead once again."

Finding the necessary classroom space and additional hands-on clinical opportunities to accommodate the new students will require some creative thinking, says Anne Belcher, senior associate dean for academic affairs. One plan: Traditionally, the school's baccalaureate students spend Monday through Wednesday in class, then pursue their clinical rotations within hospitals or other health care settings on Thursday and Friday, leaving classrooms empty. Belcher expects the new accelerated class to pursue an alternate schedule: clinical rotations on Tuesday and Wednesday and coursework on Thursday and Friday.

The school will also need to hire more clinical instructors — practicing nurses who train students at the bedside. "We have high standards. We want strong clinicians who are also master's prepared," says Belcher, noting that leaders at Johns Hopkins Hospital have expressed support. Karen Haller, vice president of the Department of Nursing at the hospital, and others have been "very positive about taking on additional students and finding clinical placements," Belcher says, adding, "I also have a list of other hospitals and agencies to call. So far they've all said, 'Sure. We'll help.'"

"We'll also be working with [Hopkins'] Center for Educational Resources and the Center for Training and Education on faculty development around innovative teaching strategies and time management," Belcher says. The goal: to reach more students in different settings (rather than the standard lecture hall) through the use of "Internet resources and more Web-based experiences."

Over the longer term, at least five years, the school plans to construct an addition to its building at 525 N. Wolfe Street to provide space for small seminar rooms and additional faculty offices, says Dean Martha N. Hill.

Hill also expects to add new faculty members over the next few years to maintain the low faculty-to-student ratio crucial for quality instruction. Teaching nursing takes close supervision, she notes. "Some of this can be taught by simulation," she says, "but some of it cannot." —Sue De Pasquale

Hopkins Hospital Ranks No. 1 — Again

They've done it again. For the 14th consecutive year, Johns Hopkins Hospital has topped U.S. News and World Report's rankings of American hospitals.

Now in its 15th year, the annual "America's Best Hospitals" guide ranks hospitals according to reputation (a random sampling of 2,550 doctors nationwide were sent questionnaires; slightly more than half replied), mortality statistics, hospital volume, nursing proficiency, technology, and other measures.

This year, Hopkins ranked in the top 10 in 16 of the 17 specialty categories: No. 1 in gynecology, otolaryngology, and urology; No. 2 in geriatrics, kidney disease, neurology/neurosurgery, ophthalmology, and rheumatology; No. 3 in cancer, digestive disorders, hormonal disorders, pediatrics, psychiatry, and respiratory disorders; and No. 4 in heart/heart surgery and orthopedics. (In the last category, rehabilitation, Hopkins ranked 13th.)

In addition, Hopkins had the top spot on the Honor Roll — a list of only 14 hospitals that excel in six or more categories.

"While we say it so often, it is still true that this is really a tribute to our hospital, its wonderful nurses and staff, the School of Medicine's faculty physicians, and the many community physicians with whom we have close ties," wrote Edward D. Miller, CEO and dean of medicine at Hopkins, and Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, in a letter to staff announcing the rankings. "It is a worthy acknowledgment of the innovative and compassionate patient care that is Hopkins' hallmark — and of the people who make that kind of care possible." —MB

The Nature of Walden Pond, 150 Years Later

W. Barksdale Maynard, author of Walden Pond: A History (Oxford University Press, 2004), was in a canoe on Henry David Thoreau's famed pond doing an interview with BBC radio recently when the taping was forced to a halt. The crew had been trying to capture some of the ambient noises of the place — water lapping, birds calling — but the roaring airplanes overhead ruined their efforts again and again.

And then from the crowded beach came a call that was hardly evocative of Thoreau: Some kids were screaming the theme song to the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon. The BBC people were less than pleased by the interruption. But Maynard, a lecturer in Johns Hopkins' Department of the History of Art, chuckles when he recalls the incident. "That's just the nature of Walden," he says. "It's an absurd modern paradox — a constant collision between modernity and nature."

That's true today at Walden Pond, a site that attracts 700,000 visitors per year, many who come after reading Thoreau's Walden. And it was true in 1845 when Thoreau went into the woods 15 miles west of Boston, in his words, "to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach."

Walden Pond, photographed by
Herbert Wendell Gleason in 1899

Photo courtesy Concord Free Public Library

"I think the number-one misunderstanding people have about Thoreau was that he was living in the wilderness," Maynard says. "He could see the highway from his front door. His bean field was right along the road. He picked that location not to live like a hermit but to make a kind of public demonstration of a one-man utopia."

Maynard came to Walden Pond for the first time in 1986. Then a sophomore at Princeton University, he struggled to figure out the geography of the 62-acre pond using Thoreau's book, which details the author's two-year stay. Maynard, an architectural historian, returned to Walden 13 years later to study Thoreau's house. He realized then that a history of Walden Pond had never been written and set out to chronicle what he calls "this very small, very fragile pond that symbolizes solitude."

Says Maynard, "Walden has always been studied by literary scholars, but most historians have had surprisingly little interest in the real place."

In the course of his research Maynard made some surprising discoveries. One was that Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau's friend, owned much of the land around the pond, including the parcel where Thoreau built his house. "This makes the role of Emerson seem far more important than it was thought previously," Maynard says. "If Emerson hadn't bought the land around the pond just a few months before Thoreau moved there, then there would have been no book Walden."

In Thoreau's time, Walden Pond went from being a spot where locals hunted and fished to a Transcendentalist mecca. In the 150 years since Walden's publication, the pond has become a world-famous symbol of the conservation movement. Numerous times in the 1990s environmentalists, visitors, and potential developers of the woods surrounding Walden Pond locked horns over plans to build an office park and condominiums, not to mention a proposal to ban swimming in the pond.

"In microcosm, Walden Pond is the history of the environmental movement in America," he says. "Just the way the environmental movement has developed, so too has conservation around the pond."

As more people discover Walden Pond, the controversy surrounding development continues. Alien plant species are threatening the ecosystem. Owners of the nearby airfield want to expand from private planes to commercial jets. And visitors continue to make the pilgrimage to Walden — some 70 million of them in this century. Their visits may be meant to honor Thoreau, but their cars and rubbish and footsteps are all taking their toll.

"Walden has such widespread appeal to people," Maynard says. "I'd like to think that my book would inspire people to reread Walden." He stops talking for a moment and considers what he's just said. "But I'm not sure I want to increase visitation since I've spent so much time railing about that." —MB

Photo by Will Kirk A Rough and Ready Landmine Detector

The United Nations estimates that 110 million landmines litter the ground in 70 nations. The small, cheap explosive devices kill or maim 2,000 people per month, most of them civilians harmed after military hostilities have ceased. Landmines are the deadliest detritus of the world's many conflicts.

Finding and removing them is difficult, hazardous work, done largely by hand. Detection is comparatively easy on and beside roads, but that leaves millions of mines that have been sown on more rugged terrain or in areas of thick vegetation, such as deep grass. A team of Hopkins engineering students recently devised a small, robotic tractor that can transport a mine detector over rougher terrain and spray paint to mark any suspected mines.

The project resulted from a challenge issued by Carl Nelson, a principal staff physicist at Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory. Nelson designs sensitive landmine detectors for the U.S. military. He approached the Whiting School's Department of Mechanical Engineering, which each year conducts a two-semester engineering design course, and asked for one of its undergraduate teams to invent a lightweight, relatively cheap vehicle that could carry detectors for remote-controlled surveys of rugged terrain.

Four seniors took on the task: Edoardo Biancheri, Dan Hake, Dat Truong, and Landon Unninayar. The carrier had to be light, for portability and because many mines are detonated by force of weight, such as a person stepping on them. It had to be constructed mostly from materials other than metal, to avoid setting off its own sensors and creating false hits. It needed to work on all kinds of ground, have a remote guidance system so that an operator could maintain a safe distance from the dangerous area being surveyed, and be manufactured economically in volume.

Dat Truong, Carl Nelson, Edoardo Biancheri,
Dan Hake, and Landon Unninayar

Photo by Will Kirk

The design course includes two weeks during which the entire class brainstorms each team's project. Various ideas put forth for the landmine device included a hovercraft and, according to Truong, "every vehicle you could imagine." He and his team settled on a pair of small rolling platforms. The first includes two cordless motors adapted from electric drills, a sealed lead-acid battery for power, and a video camera. This motorized unit tows the second platform, which carries the landmine sensors and a paint storage tank and spray nozzle. Both vehicles roll on treads instead of wheels. The treads permit operation on rougher terrain, and also better distribute weight, to prevent the device from exploding mines rather than merely detecting them. The prototype weighs about 50 pounds; the students hope it can be lightened by 10 pounds.

Last May, they demonstrated the device on the Lower Quad at Homewood. The operator straps on a control console that includes a tiny television monitor. The vehicle is steered from as far away as 500 feet by a joystick on the console. The motorized unit tows the sensor trailer at a maximum speed of 1.7 meters per second. Says Truong, "Without the trailer it goes like a banshee." When the sensor detects a possible landmine, it beeps. The operator then triggers the paint nozzle, which marks the spot with a spray of paint.

The Army, says Nelson, has expressed some interest in this robot and another robotic transporter he had previously developed. He was pleased with the students' work. "They did an excellent job," he says, as he noted the immensity of the landmine issue. "It's a really tough problem, but you've got to start somewhere. This is a stake in the ground." —DK

$44 Million Aimed at Treating TB in AIDS-Ravaged Areas

In areas already ravaged by AIDS, tuberculosis is becoming a common killer. In fact, TB kills more people infected with HIV worldwide than any other cause. A new $44.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may allow Johns Hopkins researchers to do something about it.

Announced this past July at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, the grant will support the Consortium to Respond Effectively to the AIDS-TB Epidemic (CREATE). Led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, CREATE is a global initiative to study and treat TB in areas with epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS.

People who are HIV-infected are particularly susceptible to TB, says Richard Chaisson, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and CREATE's principal investigator. "We think of HIV and AIDS as the same thing — one leads to the other inevitably. For TB, that's not the case. In fact, most people who get infected with TB never get sick [with TB] because our immune system can control it.

"If you have TB infection and get HIV however," Chaisson explains, "your immune system no longer can control it, and your risk of getting sick with TB goes up dramatically. So for people who have TB infection around the world, HIV is terrible. It's causing these huge increases in TB case rates."

Of the 1.6 million TB deaths annually, one-quarter are people with HIV/AIDS. And in sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of TB patients also have HIV.

The Gates Foundation grant will enable CREATE, a group that includes researchers from Africa, South America, Europe, and the United States, to study two kinds of intervention: the improved ability to identify, and thus treat, TB cases, and the use of the antibiotic isoniazid to prevent cases of latent TB from developing into the active form of the disease.

"What we're trying to do is look at controlling HIV-related TB at the population level," says Chaisson. "While we're interested in new drugs and vaccines in the long run, we are focusing here on available technologies. We're really looking at public health strategies for what can be implemented — by governments or countries or TB-control and AIDs-control programs — that will have a broad effect on TB in people with HIV." —CP

Return to September 2004 Table of Contents

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