Winter 2014

Surviving the Shake Test Big Ideas

Many scientists consider their research earthshaking. But a project headed by the Whiting School’s chair of Civil Engineering actually did make the earth tremble. Using massive moving platforms and an array of video cameras and tiny sensors, Benjamin W. Schafer, the Swirnow Family Faculty Scholar, along with a team of scientists from six universities, last…

High-Energy Innovator Named as New Dean Big Ideas

In late October, faculty, staff, and students from across the University welcomed to campus T.E. “Ed” Schlesinger, the new Benjamin T. Rome Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. Schlesinger’s appointment was effective January 1. Schlesinger joins Johns Hopkins from Carnegie Mellon University where he was a faculty member for 28 years and served as…

Crystal Ball Big Ideas

Q: As we move our economy out of coins and bills and onto the Internet in the form of e-money such as Bitcoin, what privacy concerns lie ahead, and how might we address them? A: Matthew Green, assistant research professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute (JHUISI). From debit cards to online banking, cash has…

Juggling: Not Just Fun and Games Big Ideas

Juggling is usually viewed as little more than a fun pastime. But now, researchers at the Whiting School, armed with a portion of a three-year $600,000 National Science Foundation grant, are taking a serious look at that avocation. The aim of the study isn’t to produce more skilled circus performers or street-corner entertainers. It’s to…

When Joining the Club Makes Cents Big Ideas

While the toxic fallout from the financial services and banking crises engendered America’s Great Recession and economic hardship worldwide, it ultimately resulted in new, unexpected business opportunities. The public blowback against too-big-to-fail financial institutions spawned innovative online concepts such as Kickstarter, which uses crowdsourcing—tapping friends, family, and sympathetic strangers—to fund nascent projects. It also buoyed the prospects of emerging alternatives to…

Sea Sentinels Signal Ocean Changes Big Ideas

Ethereal and remarkably beautiful, sea butterflies (L. helicina) are curious marine creatures that have evolvedto have a unique—and somewhat bizarre—approach to swimming. They use wing-like lobes called parapodia to “fly” vertically through the water column to reach nutrient-rich waters, escape predators, and find mates. Their snail-like shells create a weight imbalance that gives sea butterflies a distinctive “wobble” as they…

Lab Notes Big Ideas

Bubbly Breakdowns: Bubbles add festive fizz to champagne, but when microscopic froth forms in metallic glass it signals a brittle breakdown. Materials scientist Michael Falk studied how bubbles form and expand when metallic glass is pulled outward by negative pressure, such as suction produced by a vacuum. His team’s findings—published in Physical Review Letters—reveal that…

The Buzz Big Ideas

The Deep Web: Also called the Deepnet, the Invisible Web, or the Undernet, this is World Wide Web content that is not part of the Surface Web, which is indexed by standard search engines. Optogenetics: An emerging field in which researchers insert light-responsive proteins called opsins into cells. Researchers in many different areas are experimenting…

UpStarts Big Ideas

Sleuthing Computers Biomarkers play an important role in clinical cancer regimens such as prescribing the drug Lapatinib for breast cancers with HER2 gene alterations. But cancer genomes can harbor thousands of gene alterations, and most of the biomarkers currently in use consider only a single alteration. Using the data from many gene alterations could greatly…

Stopping Sepsis in Its Tracks Big Ideas

The threat of developing a fatal infection from a simple cut or minor wound is as antique as the Civil War and as contemporary as the 12-year-old New York boy who died last spring after nicking his arm and scraping his leg while diving for a loose basketball. The preventable death of young Rory Staunton turned…

Engineering a Smarter ICU Big Ideas

America’s intensive care units (ICUs) are supposed to showcase the lifesaving potential of modern medicine. They are equipped with the latest technology,staffed with the most skilled staff, and centered in the best hospitals. Yet statistics show that ICUs are failing miserably: One out of every five people treated in ICUs is harmed in some way (medical errors, mostly), costing the…

Presto! Mutated Gene Libraries Currents

When medical researchers are designing new biological therapies to treat diseases such as cancer, they often have to test hundreds of thousands of DNA mutations in a gene to pick a single winning combination that produces a desired protein to fight an ailment. The problem? These gene libraries, which can include a million different mutations…

Restoring Health and Alleviating Pain Currents

Neilesh Patel ’03 will never forget the day he cooked and served spaghetti at a homeless shelter at age 8, or the smile on the face of one of the menhe served. “That feeling really sparked my interest in public service,” says Patel, who majored in biomedical engineering at the Whiting School with a concentration…

Faculty Awards Currents

David Gracias, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was named the inaugural Russell Croft Faculty Scholar. This award recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates exceptional achievement and promise in his or her area of expertise. Gracias was recognized for his groundbreaking work in the fields of micro- and nanoengineering, and self-assembly….

Hacking to Help Baltimore Currents

Fueled by creativity and copious cups of coffee and cans of Red Bull, about 120 Johns Hopkins undergraduate and graduate students pulled the ultimate “all-nighter” (two all-nighters, in fact) in late September as part of HopHacks, Johns Hopkins University’s first-ever student-led hackathon. The 36-hour event, which began Friday evening and ended midday on Sunday, brought…

Meeting the Need for Robotics Researchers Currents

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for robotics engineers is on the rise, with job growth now through 2018 in the range of 7 to 13 percent, and an estimated 50,000-plus job openings in that same time period. In response, the Whiting School of Engineering now offers a Master of Science in Engineering in Robotics (MSE Robotics) degree program. Anchored in the school’s…

Seeing the Light Currents

The new Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories (UTL) building is only a proverbial stone’s throw away from Mergenthaler Hall, but the science facilities inside the sparkling, glass-fronted edifice are a world apart in terms of equipment, space, and aesthetics. Just ask Yachen Cao. The master’s candidate and former chemical and biomolecular engineering major from Shanghai spent two academic years “plus two summers”…

Surgical Precision Features

Hailed as the “father of medical robotics,”Russ Taylor marries man and machine to push the boundaries of medicine. With a thick shock of gray hair, walrus-like mustache, and glasses perched high on his nose, Russ Taylor cuts a more-than-passing resemblance to Geppetto, the woodcarver who brought Pinocchio to life. It is an analogy that verges…

A Century of Innovation Features

Fueling Maryland’s Growth By the early 1900s, Baltimore was thriving—with great rail connections, unmatched port facilities, and a growing workforce. But its civic leaders were worried about an impending brain drain. Young graduates of the area’s technical high schools had no choice but to leave the state if they wanted to pursue advanced engineering studies….

Sweet Solutions Final Exam

Like it or not, most candy bowls play second fiddle to their sweet, coveted contents. Not the Infinity Candy Bowl, however. Born from an annual assignment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Robot Sensors and Actuators Class, the bowl created by seniors Rick Eben and Edward Bryner has a microphone to sense whether anyone is…

Dear Whiting School Community From The Dean

After six months serving as the Whiting School’s interim dean, I have the honor and pleasure of introducing our new Benjamin T. Rome Dean, Ed Schlesinger, who officially became a member of the Whiting School community on January 1. Across the board, members of the Whiting School’s community who have met Ed are thrilled with…