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Bottom Line

10: Rank of Johns Hopkins University in the 2006- 2007 Directors' Cup Division III final standings. The annual competition ranks American intercollegiate sports programs according to the performances of their best teams during the academic year. Tenth place represents the highest finish in the history of Blue Jay athletics.

The competition, conducted by the National Association of College Directors of Athletics, the U.S. Sports Academy, and USA Today, awards points for each team's performance. A national championship is worth 100 points. Making it to the second round of a championship tournament can earn 50. Points are tallied from up to 18 sports — nine men's, nine women's — throughout the academic year, and each June, the Directors' Cup goes to the school with the highest total. This year's Division III winner was Williams College in Massachusetts.

Hopkins started strong last fall with men's soccer reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA national championship for 73 points; women's soccer added 50 more. Over the winter, men's and women's swimming (73.5 and 69, respectively), men's basketball (50), fencing (28), and wrestling (5) set the stage for a blockbuster spring. Men's tennis (64), baseball (63.75), women's lacrosse (60), and women's tennis (50) built Hopkins' mounting tally, and the national championship in men's lacrosse crowned a stellar year by adding 100 more points. (Men's and women's lacrosse at Hopkins are Division I sports but count toward the school"s D-III Directors' Cup ranking.)

The previous best finish (14th) for the Blue Jays came in 2002-2003.
— Dale Keiger


The truth is out there . . . but astronomers need your help to find it. Visitors to Galaxy Zoo can help scientists classify more than a million galaxies and make a lasting contribution to scientific research. By inspecting digital images of galaxies taken by the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope — images that have never been seen by actual people — and classifying them as either spiral or elliptical, you can do your part to sort the overwhelming number of images accumulating from the survey. The effort is being coordinated by an international team of scientists that includes Johns Hopkins astrophysicist and computer scientist Alexander Szalay. They are recruiting the rest of us to help because the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than computers are. No experience? Don't worry. A tutorial walks you through the process. The hope is that the survey will illuminate how different kinds of galaxies are distributed across the sky, and the results may reveal that there is something fundamentally wrong with existing models of the universe. What's in it for you? You can print out posters of the galaxies you"ve explored. And you can compete to be the best virtual astronomer. — Maria Blackburn

Vital Signs

Overweight nation on the way
By 2015, three out of every four adults in the United States will be overweight, and 41 percent will be obese, predicts a recent analysis by the
Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers led by Youfa Wang, an assistant professor in the Department of International Health, found the rates of obesity and overweight varied among population groups. For example, women aged 24 to 30 had the fastest increase in weight problems, and less-educated people were more likely to be obese. Their review of studies, published online May 17 in Epidemiologic Reviews, was co-authored by Wang and post-doc May A. Beydoun.

Doctors score poorly on diagnosis of TB
When researchers at Johns Hopkins and other universities recently quizzed 131 medical residents in Baltimore and Philadelphia on diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, their median score of correct answers was only 55 percent. Lead author Petros Karakousis, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the School of Medicine, believes the survey proves that more training in TB is needed for physicians planning to work in urban medical centers. The results were not all bad — they scored 95 percent on understanding how the disease is transmitted. The study was published August 2 in BMC Infectious Diseases, a British journal.

Many Baltimore houses not safe for kids
A Johns Hopkins Children's Center study of 32 urban houses in Baltimore found that in many of them, children were at risk from fires, falling, or poisoning. Lead author Kimberly Stone, a Children's Center pediatrician, and colleagues discovered that none of the homes had staircases blocked correctly, only half had a working fire alarm on each level, and only 17 percent had adult medications locked away properly. The researchers say the study demonstrates the importance of inner-city pediatricians asking parents detailed questions about home safety. The report was published in the August issue of Pediatrics. — Bobby White


You"re in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus when nature calls. You head for the restroom and once, um, seated, you notice Lav Notes, a single-page newsletter, conveniently posted on the inside door of the toilet stall, that contains tips for getting the most out of the JHU libraries. Like, how to find out if an article is online. (Look for the "Find It" button.) Or where to download test-prep books. (Go to the Testing and Education Reference Center database.) Or why newspaper articles might be useful as part of your academic research. (Because you can track development of a story as it unfolds and they offer a specific geographical focus, among other reasons.)

Subtitled "Help for the stalled," Lav Notes is bright, breezy, and user-friendly, but never crude. It"s been a big hit with library users, says Andrea Bartelstein, former instructional services coordinator at the library. She edited Lav Notes until her recent move to New Hampshire. Usage statistics usually jump after a particular library resource is mentioned in the newsletter. And despite its small circulation — about 60 copies are posted above urinals and in bathroom stalls throughout the MSEL — Lav Notes was recently voted "Best On-Campus Publication" by the Johns Hopkins News-Letter. "I was so delighted," Bartelstein says. "That's the audience I was trying to reach."

The American Library Association doesn't keep figures on how many bathroom library newsletters there are nationwide, but our crack team of researchers has turned up such examples as the University of Miami's The HurriCAN, Georgia Tech's T-Paper, and William and Mary"s The Throne. Librarians report that several institutions favor as a title Stall Seat Journal.

Why are bathroom newsletters so popular? Simple, says Bartelstein."It's a captive audience." — MB


Course: Intermediate Fiction: Image and Text

Instructors: Phyllis Berger, coordinator of the Homewood Art Workshops photography program, teaches courses in digital photography and film at Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art. Tristan Davies, senior lecturer in the Writing Seminars, is the author of the fiction collection Cake (Johns Hopkins Press, 2003) and the forthcoming Forecast (Ranger Media). He teaches fiction writing.

Course description: Students in this new interdisciplinary course will learn the basics of digital photography, prose composition, and book design, and study the growing body of fiction that incorporates image and design. A semester-long project will be to create a photographically illustrated book that relies equally on visual design and prose narrative. The class is one of three fall courses funded by grants from the Arts Innovation Program, a new initiative offering support to faculty and staff for courses in the arts.

Dot in the Universe, Lucy Ellmann (2004)
Mitch Epstein: Recreation, Mitch Epstein (2005)
Understanding Exposure, Bryan Peterson (2004)
The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald (1999)
Thomas Struth: 1977-2002, Eklund, Goldstein, Wylie, and Hambourg (2002)
Jeff Wall: The MoMA Catalogue (2007)
— MB

Here and Abroad

Adolescent girls suffering depression caused by war or displacement respond to group interpersonal psychotherapy, says a new study from the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in the August 1 Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted from May to December 2005 in northern Uganda. The researchers, led by Paul A. Bolton, an associate in the Department of International Health, also found that the same treatment did not help adolescent boys, and that creative play intervention, used currently by some nongovernmental organizations, did not reduce depression in boys or girls. "It's important, when considering future practices and research, to highlight strategies that don't work, as well as those that do — especially when the creative play program is very similar to what many NGOs currently provide in the field," co-author Judith K. Bass, assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health, said in an announcement of the study.

... Also from the Bloomberg School, a review published in the July 23 PLoS Medicine suggests that an anti-prostitution pledge may hinder efforts to control the spread of HIV globally. To receive HIV prevention funds from the United States, grantees must sign "The Prostitution Pledge," which includes having a policy that explicitly opposes sex trafficking. The problem, researchers say, is that this pledge may restrict programs that call for the decriminalization or legalization of sex work as a means to protect sex workers from other harms, such as violence, police harassment, and unwanted pregnancies. "The evidence suggests that as long as prostitution and sex trafficking remain conflated, women and men who voluntarily sell sex may be at risk of being further marginalized and therefore less likely to receive the health, social, and education services they need to eventually move out of the industry," says Chris Beyrer, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology. — Catherine Pierre


Sweaters are coming out of closets, the air is turning crisp, the trees are changing colors. Ah, autumn. Of course, where we see falling leaves and beautiful hues, Mark Selivan, grounds manager for the Homewood campus (who tended Martha Stewart's properties for years) sees abscissions, carotenoids, and nubbins. Here, let him explain:

Petiole: Where a leaf connects to a stem.

Abscission: The act of walling off the petiole so that the leaf separates from the stem. "This is the process that causes the "fall" in fall," says Selivan.

Carotenoid: The family of pigments that makes yellow and orange hues in leaves. The pigment is always present, but chlorophyll produced during photosynthesis covers it up. When abscission occurs, photosynthesis stops, so the latent pigment can show its colors.

Anthocyanins: The family of pigments that makes some leaves appear red or purple.

Mychorizae: Fungi that live on tree roots. Trees can't actually process nitrogen themselves and depend on mychorizae to do it for them. These "happy little fungi" — as Selivan calls them — keep working during the winter months when temperatures are above 35 degrees.

Xylem: Vascular tissue that builds wood during the growing season. In the fall, it draws water and mineral nutrients into the tree, readying it for winter.

Phloem: Vascular tissue that carries sucrose and other organic nutrients up and around the canopy of the trees, a process that slows to stasis in wintertime.

Nubbin: An acorn that's immature — "not in behavior but in size," says Selivan.
— CP

Up & Comer

Name: Jason E. Farley
Age: 31

Position: Nurse practitioner in infectious disease, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; clinical instructor, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Stats: BSN "98 from the University of Alabama; MPH "00 in epidemiology from the University of Alabama, Birmingham; MSN "03 from JHSON; currently a doctoral candidate at JHSON

Research: For his dissertation, which he will defend in October, Farley studied the prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — drug-resistant staph — in 602 newly arrested men in Baltimore City's central booking facility. He found a 16 percent rate of MRSA colonization (the presence of the bacteria but not infection) versus a rate of 1 percent for the general population. This poses two important questions: Do booking facilities need to screen for MRSA? And, what can public health officials do to prevent MRSA from being transmitted from prison to the broader community? The study also looks at the way the non-drug resistant form of the bacteria is genetically different from MRSA.

Scouting report: Karen Carroll, director of the School of Medicine's Division of Medical Microbiology, says Farley's work will provide important information to correctional facilities regarding whether people should be screened when they come into the system. She says it was remarkable that Farley could design and execute this study single-handedly. "He's fantastic," she says. "He has the potential to be a very good epidemiologist."

Mentors: Karen Carroll; Gayle Page, director of Hopkin's Center for Nursing Research; and Elaine Larson, the director for the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Antimicrobial Resistance at Columbia University.

Alternative career: "I love getting to the bottom of things, so I probably would have enjoyed something investigative, like law enforcement."
— CP


Biomedical Engineering Design Day 2007 presented designs for a dozen devices. Two projects of note:

Eli Luong, Engr "07, and Jennifer Loi, Engr "07: "Metal Detector for Removal of Surgical Screws"
Orthopedic surgeons frequently use small steel or titanium alloy screws to hold broken bones together for proper healing. When the orthopedic screws shift position, cause unacceptable pain, or prompt infection, they must be removed. But surgeons can't always find them under skin and scar tissue, even with X-rays. A team of eight undergrads led by Luong and Loi designed a hand-held metal detector that emits a tone when close to a hidden screw. The nearer the screw, the higher the tone's pitch. The device consists of a wire coil within a thin probe. A surgeon inserts the probe through a small incision. Once a screw has been detected, the surgeon can slide the coil out of the probe, which remains in place, and replace it with a screwdriver.

Tom Link, Engr "07: "Percutaneous Delivery of a Novel Microcapsule-containing Pouch for Cellular Therapeutic Purposes"
Cell therapy for diseases like diabetes requires some means of anchoring injected cells in one place, where they can be nourished by oxygen and nutrients in the bloodstream. Five seniors and two freshmen, led by Link, created a small pouch that can be placed in the portal vein that feeds into the liver. The pouch consists of porous nylon mesh sandwiched between two concentric metal stents. Once the device is in place in the vein, a surgeon injects microcapsules, which contain and protect insulin-producing cells, between the stents. The mesh traps the capsules, holding them in place, and blood flow through the stent nourishes the cells and circulates the insulin they produce. The pouch can be periodically "topped up" with more microcapsules if necessary.
— DK


Unexpected comet chemistry
Scientists had assumed that from exposure to heat and cosmic rays, a comet's nucleus would be chemically different on the outside than on the inside. Researchers at the
Applied Physics Laboratory have learned that that's not true for at least one disintegrating comet. The team, led by Neil Dello Russo, used ground-based telescopes and spectrometry to study two large fragments of the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, which had broken into 70 pieces by spring 2006. A fragment that once had been buried hundreds of meters in the comet's core, and another that included material from the surface of the nucleus, proved to be chemically similar. The team's research appeared in the July 12 issue of Nature.

New mouse model for schizophrenia
Johns Hopkins researchers have genetically engineered mice to model schizophrenia. Until now, the only way of studying the disorder using animals had been with drugs that produce similar symptoms. Akira Sawa, associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the School of Medicine, and colleagues used recent discoveries about the gene DISC1 to create mice that develop not only the brain defects but the agitation, difficulties with sense of smell, and apathy observed in human schizophrenics. Scientists plan to use the mice to explore how stress may worsen symptoms, and breed them with other genetically altered mice to pinpoint more genes involved with the disease. The research was reported online in July in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. — BW

Return to September 2007 Table of Contents

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