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
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
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
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
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
"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