Two Hopkins students in Professor Tim Weihs’ research lab have a connection to Johns Hopkins University through the Department of Materials Science and Engineering that dates back to the 1980’s. Jenna Krynicki, a PhD candidate in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, and Randall Elkind, an undergraduate in the Mechanical Engineering Department, are following in their fathers’ footsteps. Jenna’s father, Joseph Krynicki, and Randall’s father, Bret Elkind, both completed their undergraduate, Masters, and PhD degrees at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, with Joseph receiving his PhD in 1992 and Bret receiving his PhD in 1994.

For Jenna’s father, a lifelong passion for engineering spurred him to pursue an undergraduate degree in material science in the 1980’s, and Hopkins’ small size and outstanding reputation made it the perfect fit. As an undergrad, Joseph also played football for Hopkins. Ultimately, it was his PhD advisor Professor Robert Green who inspired Joseph to remain at Hopkins to pursue his graduate degrees. Jenna’s mother Kim also attended Hopkins as an undergraduate, which is where she met Jenna’s father.

Bret Elkind, Randall’s father, also possessed a great passion for engineering and his path to becoming a materials scientist was shaped largely by an exceptional Hopkins professor. Bret stated that taking a materials science course with Dr. Pat Moran opened his mind to the “interdisciplinary and pivotal nature of the material sciences” and that the Hopkins professors’ commitments “to conveying both the importance and wonder of materials science to their students” made him proud to call himself a Hopkins materials scientist.

I asked both Jenna and Randall whether attending Johns Hopkins University was an ambition of theirs. Jenna told me that it was not only that she had envisioned herself attending Hopkins at some point in her future, but like her father, it was Jenna’s PhD advisor Professor Tim Weihs, and his lab group, that confirmed to her that Hopkins was in fact the perfect place for her to pursue her graduate studies. Jenna stated that “Hopkins felt like home” to her during the Materials Science Department graduate student visit days. Having grown up in Virginia, Jenna and her family visited Hopkins frequently to attend football games and other campus events over the years. Jenna too enjoyed Hopkins’ small school feel, the values that it upholds, and always has appreciated its commitment to providing its students with an exceptional education.

Randall was also “brought up in a Hopkins alma mater household,” and stated that it was a visit in the spring of his junior year that made him realize that he could continue the Hopkins legacy for himself and his father. Randall said that Hopkins “just felt right.” Having always been inspired by his father’s work growing up, “real hardcore engineering,” as he calls it, Randall hopes to learn as much as he can while at Hopkins.

When I asked Jenna and Randall how their parents reacted when they found out that they would be attending Johns Hopkins, both told me that their parents were ecstatic, but that neither of them ever felt that their parents pushed them to apply or attend Hopkins. Jenna said that while growing up, her parents always encouraged her to choose her own path, telling her to trust herself and her instincts, especially when deciding on her PhD program and advisor. Her father had always told her to “find something you love to do, and figure out a way to get paid for it,” and with the help of Professor Weihs and his research group, Jenna feels she has done just that.

Randall said that when his parents found out that he would be attending Johns Hopkins, that the scream on the other side of the phone was so loud that his friends could hear it from downstairs. When he was with his parents that evening, it was a moment that none of them would forget. I asked Randall if his parents had any wise words for him and he stated that “it has been a life time of wise words and preparation leading up to and continuing on from this moment; but certainly the spirit of their efforts has always been to be as best I can with anything that I enjoy doing and to be aware of the world around me.”

Though both Jenna and Randall’s fathers and Jenna’s mother attended Johns Hopkins University, they never felt an expectation from their parents to attend Johns Hopkins. Their parents allowed them to discover their passions for engineering on their own, and after talking to both Randall and Jenna, it sounds like their parents are very pleased that they decided to pursue their passions at Johns Hopkins University. This may be the beginning of their engineering careers, but with the guidance and advice of their parents and their Hopkins advisors, both Jenna and Randall will have a wonderful future ahead of them here at Johns Hopkins University.