Clark Scholars Blog

Hack the Mind Ideathon: Congrats to our winning Scholars!

Congratulations to the two Clark Scholars teams recognized for their winning submissions to DefSec Innovations Hub’s Hack the Mind Ideathon, which seeks to open a society-wide debate on cognitive warfare. Read more about the Hackathon here. (And see their video submissions linked below).

Shoutout to Jolie McDonnell, Marc Helou, Nyeli Kratz, Ricky Cheng & Tyler Shin for their work on “Circuit Breaker Approach to False Information Mitigation.” 

Shoutout to Kathy Cao, Adriana Pena, Danbi Rhee, William Rong, & Alexander Rovalino for their work on “Wargaming in the Cognitive Domain.”

We are so proud of you!


COVID Response: Junior Scholars

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Vara co-founded an independent design team—AirTight—to improve conditions for frontline healthcare workers. “After hearing pertinent problems experienced by emergency-unit doctors during this crisis,” wrote Vara, “we realized that healthcare workers need a leak-proof device to provide breathing relief to COVID-19 patients while protecting themselves from viral particles.”

Along with four other rising-junior biomedical students, and under the mentorship of the Johns Hopkins Respiratory and Emergency Care Departments as well as Professor Aronhime, Vara and his team worked to find a safe way to retro-fit additions made to CPAP machines and masks during the nation-wide ventilator shortage. “Our solution is a combination of viral filters and memory-foam materials,” Vara states. The goal is to increase patient comfort and decrease viral transmission.

The group, which is meeting virtually, has started prototyping, written testing protocols, and initiated the process of clinical study approval to test their prototypes with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Recently, the design team secured $2,000 in grant funding from the Johns Hopkins Life Design Lab and the Agara Community Biology Lab.

“Moving forward,” said Vara, “we hope to present our work at several scientific conferences and have recently begun that application process.”




Clark Scholar First Years Escape!

The Clark Scholar first year cohort bonded on Sunday by participating in the remote adventures escape room! They managed to escape in 50 minutes and 34 seconds! Congrats to the newest cohort!



What have the Scholars been up to? #COVID

While we’ve all been remote this summer, we had to check in and see what our Scholars have been up to:

Jolie tries a face shield at the airport:

Ricky Cheng Shares the unbelievably low price of gas and gorgeous Mississippi river views:

Danbi and family hike Great Falls (in masks, of course!)

Marc gets a haircut, COVID style:

Ricky utilizes his photography skills and stays active:


Kathy Cao, has been baking for friends and family (how cute are these bears?)

Nyeli Kratz shared this photo of a Piano Bike band.

Alex Rovalino and his friends got the band back together for an art show concert on Saturday! See their practice session:

Adriana Pena has been spending time near the Chesapeake Bay and Assateague Island.

Stay tuned while we check in with more Clark Scholars and their lives during COVID. Stay safe, we miss you all!


Philanthropy Challenge

As part of the Clark Scholars Program COVID-19 Philanthropy Challenge, Clark Scholars from Johns Hopkins University requested support from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation for the Baltimore Community Foundation. Learn more about BCF Here.

BCF’s mission inspired the Clark Scholars: “inspire donors to achieve their charitable goals from generation to generation and to improve the quality of life in the Baltimore Region through grantmaking, enlightened civic leadership and strategic investments.”

How the Funding Will Help the COVID-19​ ​Evolving Community Needs Fund:
“BCF recognizes that the crisis not only poses problems for public health but brings financial and food security challenges as well. Baltimore uniquely faces greater challenges in the care of vulnerable populations, the education of the city’s youth, and the economic development of impoverished neighborhoods. BCF acknowledges that the effects of the pandemic will disproportionately affect low-income communities and communities of color. However, they are well-equipped to offer much-needed short-term and long-term relief to affected individuals and communities. As per BCF, “one hundred percent of all donated funds will go directly to address the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our region’s communities, workforce, and vulnerable populations.”

Clark Scholars Program Involvement with BCF:
Johns Hopkins University and the Clark Scholars Program have a rich tradition of civic engagement. The scholars believe that participating in community service is an important part of their education during their time at the university as it is something that can help them grow professionally with their leadership skills and personally by cultivating a deeper sense of commitment to the public good. In making this grant proposal, the JHU Clark Scholars hope to start a partnership with BCF that will extend far into the future as the scholars continue to give back to the Baltimore Community.


The Clark Scholars may be apart, but they are still hanging out!

The freshman and sophomore  Clark Scholar cohorts had a combined Zoom call over the weekend. They paired each first year scholar with a sophomore scholar to serve as a “mentor” throughout their JHU experience. They also played online games as mentor/mentee teams! They may be apart, but they are still hanging out!


Hang in there, Clark Scholars

A message from Natalie Grandison:


Clark Scholars Abroad

Currently, five of the seven sophomore Clark Scholars are studying abroad! Four (pictured above) are in Israel with Prof. Aronhime, and one is studying in Uganda. Course Assistant and junior scholar, Ishpreet, also joined on the Israel trip! The scholars toured the Ma’arag, a set of occupational workshops for developmentally disabled adults. They make all kinds of things there and sell them at arts and crafts fairs around Israel. They also toured Akko, walked along the old walls, and visited a traditional stonemason’s workshop. They have learned all about Haifa and experienced a cooking class as well. We can’t wait to hear more about their trip(s) when they get back! For now, pictures will have to suffice!



Barclay School 8th Grade Visit

The Clark Scholars participated in the annual Barclay School eighth grade visit. On Wednesday, two of the eighth grade classes at Barclay visited the BME Design Studio where Faculty member, Elizabeth Logsdon presented to the students on the five stages of Design Thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. The middle school students were then tasked with ‘The Zipline Challenge,” using small supplies to create a design that is light, fast, and sustainable across the zipline. The Clark Scholars served as mentors to the students and helped them with their designs. The real challenge was determining the winner: Team Dons with the fastest time, or Team JJZ with the lightest design?




Retreat 2019

The Clark Scholars retreated to Patapsco Valley State Park on Sunday. The fall day was spent across cohorts participating in team-building activities. See pictures from the retreat below:



President's Day of Service 2019


The Clark Scholars participated in the annual Presiden’ts Day of Service. Read more about the event from The Hub:


Dinner at the Dean's House: September 8th

The Clark Scholars spent Sunday Evening, September 8th, having dinner with the Dean at his home! The delicious home cooked meal was cooked by his wife, Liora. Dinner was served and the scholars, as well as the faculty staff, and Dean Ed, chatted at their round tables. The Dean spoke, and encouraged a larger discussion to continue, opening the conversation to the entire room. Some of the seniors reminisced about their early Clark days, offering advice and words of wisdom, while the newest Scholars asked poignant questions, and the sophomores and juniors provided feedback and key takeaways from the program thus far. One student even acknowledged how the ‘Introduction to Business’ course that scholars take their first semester freshman year, taught by Professor Aronhime, changed her career path, as she never planned to take business courses! The scholars were able to engage among cohorts and chat with faculty and staff, as well as the Dean, in a small, personal setting (while eating chocolate soufflé for dessert!). Everyone left with full bellies and new friendships!

Barclay School Update!
Today is the first day of school for Barclay Pre-K & Kindergarten and thanks to the work of the Clark Scholars and the BME department, the students will be enjoying a new black top! See the pictures below of their incredible work featuring sidewalk chalk, hopscotch, and games!

We are looking forward to more projects with the Barclay School in the future!


Meet the Clark Scholars class of 2023!

Welcome Clark Scholars, Class of 2023! We can’t wait to meet you all! See you soon.

Kathy Cao
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Commack, NY
(Intended) Major: Environmental Engineering



Ricky Cheng
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Onalaska, WI
(Intended) Major: Computer Science



Marc Helou
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: New York
(Intended) Major: Computer Engineering



Nyeli Grace Kratz
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
(Intended) Major: Biomedical Engineering


Jolie McDonnell
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Westchester, NY
(Intended) Major: Applied Mathematics 


Adriana Pena
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Crofton, MD
(Intended) Major: Environmental Engineering 



Danbi Rhee
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Northern Virginia
(Intended) Major: Applied Mathematics



William Rong
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Warrington, PA
(Intended) Major: Materials Science & Engineering



Alexander Rovalino
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: New Jersey
(Intended) Major: Biomedical Engineering



Tyler Shin
Year: Class of 2023
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
(Intended) Major: Computer Science


Internship Updates: David Calvo

By David on August 7, 2019

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been working at the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Chief Information Officer helping build a tool that some would say does the equivalent of move mountains: it makes the government more efficient. My internship program (the DHS Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Intern Program, or the very easy acronym, DHS SHP CSIP) is focused on bringing in new cyber security talent to the government. Most of the media portrays cyber security work as hacking in basements or an equally seedy light, but there’s actually a lot of governance and regulation surrounding the field, which is where I focused. I worked on something I called the “ATO Accelerator.” In DHS, any major information system that could pose a cyber security risk to the government has to get something called “Authorization to Operate” or ATO. An ATO is essentially a very high-level executive (the CIO or even Secretary in some cases) saying that they accept the risk that the information system poses and acknowledge they may be held liable if anything goes wrong. Obviously, no one is going to ATO an unsecured system so the process is long and can take up to a year per information system due to having to implement hundreds of security rules.

The issue that I was helping solve was the problem of migrating government systems to the cloud; every information system on a physical server had to get ATO again in order to get onto the cloud (whether it be AWS or Microsoft Azure). With hundreds of systems, the one year timeline per ATO was unreasonable. This is where I did a deep-dive. Over the next 8 weeks, I would pour over ATO policy, cloud service provider agreements, technology stacks, and a hundred other things in order to build the ATO Accelerator. With the help of two AWS consultants, the ATO Accelerator was created as a project management tool in order to streamline and centralize the ATO process. Instead of spreadsheets and PDFs of rules being forwarded and eventually lost somewhere in Outlook, they could all be collated, organized, tracked, and collaboratively worked upon in this one tool. I’m particularly proud of this achievement because I wasn’t assigned to a team: I was the team. From the beginning, I would schedule meetings with decision-makers, give presentations and technology demos, and coordinate with members across offices in order to build this tool and its documentation. The end result was an ATO Accelerator tool that is currently being shared across the department and is expected to reduce ATO times from one year down to four to eight weeks. 

My time at DHS has been more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined and the relationships I’ve built with the people there will no doubt help me in the future. 




What it means to be a Clark Scholar:


“Every day, I get to see from a different perspective and tackle problems in a new way.” -Ishpreet, Class of 2021, Mechanical Engineering, Major

Ishpreet Singh didn’t expect to spend so much of his time in college thinking about playground equipment, but it’s been a preoccupying issue in one of his classes.

That’s because Singh is a member of the A. James Clark Scholars Program at Johns Hopkins, which aims to train students in engineering, business, leadership, and community service. During the 2018-19 academic year, the Clark Scholars partnered with Barclay Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore to host science and technology expos and to improve the public school’s playground.

It’s an opportunity for Singh and other Clark Scholars to learn about design and business. After determining the client’s needs, the scholars will devise plans for improving the tot lot, whether by replacing black top and hardscaping, replacing or repairing benches, or custom-designing playground equipment themselves. They’ll pitch their proposals to the school leadership and help usher the project through completion.

“Before I came to Hopkins I thought I wasn’t interested in business,” Singh says. “But through the Clark Scholars Program, I got to see how engineering and business is an interconnected, flowing system. And it’s great to work with the students at Barclay and see how they come up with ideas because of who they are and what they see that I never would have come up with. Every day, I get to see from a different perspective and tackle problems in a new way.”

Read more about Ishpreet



By EL on May 2, 2019
The Clark Scholars design proposals for the Barclay preschool and kindergarten were reviewed and accepted by the schools’ administration! New additions to the playground coming soon! This includes a blacktop that the Clark Scholars will paint jointly with the Barclay students. See photos of the Scholars cleaning the playground and drawing with chalk of things to come.













Three Clark Scholars Go to Israel!

By Lindsey on February 7, 2019

Please see this video of the experience by Jordan:


“Seeing a thriving startup culture in such a small country with limited resources has greatly inspired my own entrepreneurial ambitions. In just 3 weeks, I really felt a gained a deeper connection to Israel through interacting with a wide variety of people from all around the country and of course eating delicious food! Truly a transformative experience.”

Clark Scholars visit The Franklin Institute

By Lindsey on November 5, 2018

“Electricity is a modern necessity of life, not a luxury.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

This past Saturday, 22 of the Clark Scholars visited The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. The Franklin Institute, one of the oldest centers of science education and development in America, memorializes the initiatives of Benjamin Franklin, and houses exhibits related to discovery, technology, and science. Some of these exhibits include: Your Brain, Changing Earth, Electricity, The Giant Heart, and Space Command. The Scholars were able to explore the interactive stations, expand their knowledge, and spark their curiosity! The Scholars practiced their best versions of some “throwback” songs on the bus ride back to campus (i.e. Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the U.S.A.’) and maximized their time at the exhibitions by engaging with the variety of portals. One Scholars even noted that he wished their had been more time to explore all of the different levels of the institute.












The ultimate highlight of the trip was from the request of one of the first-year scholars, Sean, who decided to take advantage of our proximity to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sean recreated his best version of Rocky Balboa’s stair sprints. The theme song, “Gonna Fly Now,” played in the background, he was dressed in his best grey sweat-suit, and he raised his arms  triumphantly when he reached the top. The “Yo Adrian” reenactment made for an entertaining way to conclude the trip!






Happy Halloween

By Lindsey on October 31, 2018

Vara, David, Jonathan, Bella, Sean, Professor Aronhime & Geno. Not pictured: Cameron


The Clark Scholars class of 2022 have spent the last two months adjusting to life at JHU. In this short time, the seven first-year students have bonded as a cohort and connected with their mentor, Professor Lawrence Aronhime. Last Sunday, October 28th, “Prof. Aronhime” toured the Baltimore Museum of Art with the students, as he likes to connect artwork with his Introduction to Business slides and lectures. “Intro to Biz” is a required course for the Clark Scholars first-year curriculum, and in an auditorium of 121 students, the seven scholars sit together in the very front row. Professor Aronhime has met with the class of 2022 several times this semester to provide guidance. “Start now” is his advice, encouraging the students to think about what their interests and personal goals are, and perhaps more importantly, industries and career paths in which they know they don’t want to pursue. Today, in the spirit of Halloween, the Clark Scholars played the ultimate trick and dressed up as Professor Aronhime in his typical garb: laced shoes, jeans, a rolled up flannel and glasses (see picture above). Happy Halloween…and bravo, first-year Clark Scholars!


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