Research Quest, Research Queries: nothing gets you going in the morning like a good ol’ fashioned protein assay…

Posted by | Posted on February 14, 2011


Neuroscience majors must complete 6 credits of research obtained through work in one of the neuroscience laboratories participating in the program. Participation in laboratory research provides Undergraduates with the opportunity to experience neurobiology firsthand, and to familiarize themselves with the techniques, protocols and distinct culture of research. Don’t let the fact that research is required intimidate you, it’s an immensely rewarding experience and one that you will greatly enjoy. This is the story of how I found my way into the lab.

I was encouraged by my Introduction to Neuroscience professor, Dr. Stewart Hendry, to take a look at the Department of Neuroscience’s website and to go over the list of Faculty. He told me to read each professor’s research summary and to make a list of roughly five labs that I was most interested in.  I did so, and sent out emails to each of them indicating my interest in their work and my desire to work in their lab.

As per Professor Hendry’s instruction, I wrote a brief ~50 word overture. This is what I sent to the Professor in whose lab I am currently doing research:

Dr. Dawson,

My name is Noah Guiberson. I am a freshman Molecular & Cellular Biology and Neuroscience double-major at JHU.

I’m writing to inquire about the possibility of working in your lab.

This past semester, I took Introduction to Neuroscience with Dr. Stewart Hendry, and I will be taking Cognitive Neuroscience in the Spring. Next semester, I have three credits that have yet to be allotted. I would very much like to use these credits for research.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you,
Noah Guiberson
cell: (***) ***-****

After a few days, I began to get responses. This is the most harrowing part of the whole saga. It is likely that some of the labs you contact will be saturated or will not respond, but for the most part, labs at Hopkins are extremely accommodating to undergraduates. That’s one of the amazing hallmarks of this University–the environment that encourages undergraduate research.

The next step with respect to a positive response will be to send your CV. CV stands for curriculum vitae which is Latin for “course of life”. In essence, it’s a summary of your academic and professional history.

For example, my CV is organized as follows:

Awards & Honors
Research Experience
Positions Held
Relevant Coursework

When writing a CV, it can be shockingly difficult to think of things that you’ve done. But keep at it, and you’ll find that you’re probably more impressive than you thought!

After I sent my CV to the Dr. Dawson, he sent me an email asking when I could come in to meet him. I was terrified. I took the JHMI shuttle from Homewood to the Medical campus and arrived an hour before the time I was supposed to be there.

Our meeting was incredibly relaxed. He asked me about things such as my interest in Neuroscience, how I was doing in my classes and his upcoming trip to Hawaii. Then he offered to let me talk to two of his post-docs who had mentioned that they had an interest in having a student.

Their projects were incredibly different. One was working to isolate, sequence and model the conformational structure of a protein with a neuroprotective role in the CNS, and the other was investigating the role of a specific microRNA in preventing cell death in strokes resulting from a bilateral central carotid artery occlusion the mouse hippocampus. I’m far more interested in cellular neurobiology than biochemistry, so when Dr. Dawson asked me which I’d like to work with, I chose the second post-doc.

This semester, I arranged my schedule so that I could be in the lab from 9am-5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I love every moment of it!

If you have any questions about research, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!


Posted in Research, Uncategorized |

It’s That Time of Year

Posted by | Posted on December 11, 2010


It’s taken me an hour to completely come to terms with what I’m about to write. This morning, I had my very last class of my first college semester! It’s hard to realize that the curtains are sneaking across the stage of my fall and soon I’ll be back in Ithaca for an entire month on winter break. However, before I put the Christmas music on just yet (funny joke, I started listening to “The Sinatra Christmas Album” at the end of October), I still have final week to get through! I’m lucky that I only have one physics assignment, my IFP portfolio, and two finals (Biological Anthropology and Physics) keeping me from gorge-y paradise.

To be honest, while I’m definitely excited to go home, relax, and SEE MY FRIENDS (especially a couple who go to school too far away to come home for breaks. One of my friends goes to Pomona and I haven’t seen him since the second week in August!), I’m not sure if I’m ready to take such a long time away from Hopkins. Maybe it’s the Christmas lights illuminating each of the quads, the festive decorations in the FFC, or the different holiday celebrations that the school has put on, but being constantly reminded of how close break is has actually made me realize how much I’m enjoying my first semester at college.

One of the biggest educational differences between high school and college is the fact that the fall and spring are two completely separate entities. You take an entirely different schedule each semester and get to know all new professors and classmates. Obviously in high school I had the same classes all year long, and instead of finals before winter break, we had midterms the second week in January. Not only did this make holidays pretty stressful, but the only sense of accomplishment that came with Christmas was that you didn’t have to go to school for two weeks. This year, not only do I know that I’m already halfway through my first year of college, but there’s a wonderful feeling of closure on all of my classes. The concerts and shows put on by our many performing arts groups along with final meetings and emails by clubs are putting a kind of finality on this semester that I’ve never had before. I’m not complaining though, I’m a little too happy to not have any work over my break!

Two of my friends, Paige and Ariana, and I studying at the Harry Potter premiere because we got there four hours early...

But, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m not done yet. The only way I can see myself getting through finals week is with a really good finals playlist, so this is what I’ve been listening to as I prepare for my first big exams as an undergrad. Here’s the link if you want to download any of these songs!

1. Dark Fantasy-Kanye West

2. Barcelona Loves You-I’m From Barcelona

3. Finally Moving-Pretty Lights

4. Love Always Remains-MGMT

5. Strasbourg/St. Denis-Roy Hargrove Quintet

6. Gimme Sympathy-Metric

7. GFC-Albert Hammond Jr.

8. Wonderwall-Brad Mehldau

9. Blankest Year-Nada Surf

10. Save Me-Nicki Minaj

11. Dog Days Are Over-Florence and the Machine

12. Please Please Please-Shout Out Louds

13. The World Should Revolve Around Me-Little Jackie

Posted in Academics, Breaks, Perspectives, Uncategorized |

Homewood Bound: How I got here, and why I came.

Posted by | Posted on November 29, 2010


For the next few weeks, the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be writing on a common theme: our college search and application processes. We know just what you’re going through right now, having gone through it ourselves not too long ago. We hope that by sharing our experiences with you, you’ll be better equipped to handle this stressful, important and exciting time in your life.

My college search began in the ninth grade when I took the PSAT for the first time. Despite the forewarnings of my sophomore friends, I checked the box indicating that I wanted the College Board to release my information, allowing any and all interested colleges to contact me. Shortly thereafter, I was buried underneath a veritable mountain of college mailings.

At first, I was excited. These institutions of higher learning wanted me! But then I realized that I was going to have to figure out what exactly it was I wanted if I was even going to be able begin to figure out which of them was right for me. So I began to think, and I made lists. I made lots of lists. From then until the second semester of my Junior year, I made a new “Top Ten” list at least once a month. I may have dipped briefly into the realm of obsession, but I was only trying to make the most important decision I had ever had to make!

There is a part of this story that I’ve got to tell for perspective’s sake. I started playing soccer in my sophomore year of high school because it wasn’t basketball. I had played basketball my entire life, I had come from a basketball family, and I had had enough. Before long, it occurred to me that I wasn’t half-bad! I spent my junior year trying to get the attention of the coaches from the colleges on my top ten list, as well as those from a multitude of others for safety’s sake.

Despite my desire to play college soccer, my list was never affected based on that alone. My position was that if I were to accept a spot on a team (should I have been offered one), it had better be at the number one school on my list. The problem was, I had no idea which school was going to end up on top.

By the summer before my Senior year, I had narrowed down my list to a “Super Six”.

Among these lucky finalists was, of course, the Johns Hopkins University, as well as schools to-be-left-unnamed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New York. Here’s the thing, none of these schools were remotely similar! From mission to pedagogy to size to environment, they shared very little. Even after all that research and reflection, the only things that one could have derived about my interests were that I wanted to live on the East Coast and that I wanted to attend a university with absolutely excellent academics. But I mean, really, who doesn’t?

By now, I had done the research, I had read the material, I had reviewed and critiqued all the best Biology and Neuroscience programs (in essay form, no less), and I had very nearly memorized all of the admissions websites. But I hadn’t yet been able to do one, very important thing. It was time to visit some schools.

That summer I visited my Super Six, as well as many others, and was saved (truly) from my indecision. On my visits, it was immediately clear to me what I did and did not want. (A note: My first visit was to Hopkins, and it was on that trip that I fell in love with Homewood. I gave it the place at the very top of the list, even before I had anything to compare it to, and my confidence never wavered once.)

I found that I needed to be in a city. I knew that if I were really happy with my campus, I would rarely have much cause to leave it outside of special occasions. But I also knew that this life-long city boy would go crazy without easy access to a major metropolitan center. Baltimore fit the bill perfectly.

I found that I didn’t want to be suffocated by an officious and overbearing core curriculum. The concept that great universities have the institutional foresight and higher wisdom to prescribe best knowledge is, in modernity, functionally obsolete. It stems from the age (on the order of two centuries back and further) when a broad, liberal arts curriculum could very nearly canvas the entirety of human knowledge. That is no longer true. All I wanted from my university was the guidance to help me determine exactly what it was that I wanted to pursue, and the resources to pursue it fervently and unconditionally. I do believe, however, that the loosely interpreted point of breadth in an education is a valid one, so long as I am able to choose the manner in which I achieve it. There is no core curriculum at Hopkins. Certain prerequisite classes are required for certain majors, but even in that respect there is a huge amount of freedom. For breadth’s sake, JHU instituted the Distribution Requirements, 30 credits taken in academic areas different than that of your major. And the beauty is that if your desire is to pursue a traditional liberal arts curriculum, you are more than welcome to do so. Freedom, how sweet the sound…

Additionally, what I wanted desperately was the ability to get involved with important research early on in my undergraduate career. I was tired of textbook academia, I wanted to get my hands dirty and do some real science. At Hopkins, there are students who say, “Put us in a lab, teach us what to do, and let us loose. Stockholm, here we come.” This attitude is encouraged and fostered.

Most of all, I wanted to be part of a vibrant, electric, and lively academic community. I was told about the quality of the minds on this campus, and I was not disappointed when I arrived. Homewood is, through day and night, abuzz with the informal exchange of big ideas, marked by their profundity and great insight. These are great minds, congregated in a secular sanctuary of academic excellence. If you get to be a part of our community, you’ll be shocked at how quickly your understanding of highly complex concepts will develop. You may have never thought yourself a paragon of erudition. But when your peers expect it of you and, by their expectation and companionship, help you achieve it, you’ll find that the barriers between you and your starry-eyed aspirations will fall away at your lightest touch.

At Homewood I found everything that I wanted. I went ahead and visited all those other unnamed universities; none measured up. I’d say the rest of the trip was a waste of time, but hindsight’s 20/20, and there’s no way I could have known then that they weren’t all just as perfect as Hopkins. They’re not, by the way. But don’t let me discourage you from discovering this on your own. Make the trips, take the tours, do all the research…see for yourself.

But back to the story…I had returned from from my epic, month-long college-visit/soccer-recruiting adventure and had decided that I was going to be applying Early Decision to Hopkins, no matter what. There I was, sitting in Whataburger (the greatest fast-food ever), when I received what may have been the second best email of my life. It was from Coach Appleby offering me a spot on the team at Hopkins, pending my success in admission. The following phone conversation was along the lines of, “if you get in, we’d like you to play for us.”

In mid-December of my Senior year, I received what remains the best email of my entire life.

It began “Congratulations…”

Posted in Reflection, Uncategorized |

I’m home…now what?

Posted by | Posted on November 28, 2010


So…yeah. Here I am. Technically, this is the second time I’ve been back, but the first time didn’t really count as being “home”.  Anyways, back to the 203 as they say.

My little brother. I make fart jokes and he laughs.

Being home is interesting, to say the least.  Its good being reunited with everyone and seeing people for the first time in months, but at the same time there is something weird about it. Sure, its nice going to my own shower, and driving again, but Hopkins has really grown on me. Yeah yeah, its sappy, but true.  Its weird having to drive to a friends house, not just walk down the stairs and knock on their door. Its weird waking up to my little brother running around the house and not my roommate’s alarm clock.   My Saturday night was spent getting Chinese food and frozen yogurt with my family…a bit different from the past few Saturdays.

I can’t help but constantly wonder what everyone from Hopkins is currently up to–who they are with, what they are doing.  Like I said before, living so close to everyone for so long then suddenly being spread so far apart certainly takes some getting used to.  That being said, I’ve compiled a list of the top things Hopkins has that home doesn’t, and vice versa.

Hopkins Has

1. Everybody is so closeeeeeeee. All my friends from home live pretty far apart–far enough that it would probably take me a solid 45 minutes to walk to my closest friends house. I can get to Wolman in like 3 minutes.

2. No need to tell anybody where I’m going.  Not that I’m going anywhere I shouldn’t be, but its nice to just get up from my desk and leave without “signing out” with mom.

3. Quiet working environment. A truly quiet, distraction free moment in my house is like a unicorn. You’ve heard they exist, but have never seen one, and have always wanted to be the one to discover it.  At Hopkins, there really is no shortage of quiet study spots where you can cut yourself off from the world.

Home Has

1. SPACE space space Granted, my dorm room is pretty big, but its no house. Spreading out is much easier, especially when you don’t have to worry about a roommate.

2. Cable TV. Oh, how I missed you.  We can get cable in the dorms, but at $45 a month, its a bit more than I’m looking to spend.  Plus, realistically, I wouldn’t watch it that much. But being home and sitting back on the couch watching the big screen is certainly nice.

3. Food.  While the food at Hopkins, I think, is pretty good (as Marina said, mimicking me, “There are few feelings comparable to those I experience upon arriving at the fresh foods cafe and realizing that there are at least half a dozen different completely carnivorous options in front of me.”), nothing really compares to the food back home. Visiting all the restaurants back home is certainly a highlight of the visit (all you can eat sushi? Victory.)

Hope you all enjoyed,


Current song: I’m actually not listening to music. I’m watching the movie Semi-Pro, starring Will Farrel.

Posted in Uncategorized |

The Road to San Antonio Part Two: Sweet and Elite

Posted by | Posted on November 19, 2010


This weekend, the Johns Hopkins Men’s Soccer team will travel to Delaware, Ohio and the campus of 2nd-ranked Ohio Wesleyan University in order to take on the “Battling Bishops” in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

Following their first and second round victories over Richard Stockton College and #4 Christopher Newport University respectively, the Blue Jays will try their luck in a new town, a new state and a new round of the tournament.

Our first game is Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. against OWU.

I’ll be blogging periodically throughout the weekend, keeping you updated on the team and our tournament progress. Keep checking for new updates!


Friday, November 19

9:06 a.m.: The team just boarded the bus for what is sure to be an excruciatingly long drive to Delaware, Ohio. We were saddened to see that our usual bus driver, Gary, would not be taking us this time. Oh well, here we go! LET’S GO HOP!

12:17 p.m.: After some absurd detours, we finally stumbled across a Subway somewhere in western Maryland (or apparently left Maryland, depending on who you ask). While we were there, a woman came up to me and asked if we were heading to Frostburg. “No, ma’am. We’re on our way to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in Ohio.”, I replied. Next, she asked me if we were from “John Hopkins”. I said, “No ma’am. We’re from Johns Hopkins.” Next, she asked me if we (the soccer team) were from the hospital. “No ma’am,” I said, “we’re from the University.” She went on to tell me about her children and grandchildren. Then I ate a sandwich. Good times.

3:43 p.m.: Thus far, the passengers on this bus have made it through Avatar, Miracle and A Night at the Roxbury on the little screens that drop down from the ceiling. I hear estimates that there are about two hours left until we arrive.

6:02 p.m.: We’ve finally made it to the hotel! There’s a quick turnaround now, we’re supposed to meet back downstairs as soon as we’ve put our bags away in order to go practice at OWU.

11:21 p.m.: Practice went very well. First we drove about 30 minutes to get to OWU’s campus, and then we walked around their field (which had been heralded as one of the best facilities in the region). We were a little disappointed, given the hype, to find that it was full of patches of dirt and mud. Apparently it had rained the night before, so we were going to be training on their turf field nearby. We reloaded the bus and drove for a few more minutes, got out again, and practiced on the turf field. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for a little while so as to shower and get ready for dinner. Where did we go? OLIVE GARDEN. That’s right, the single greatest restaurant in the history of soccer tournaments. And it lived up to its hype. Delicious.

Saturday, November 20

9:57 a.m.: It’s game-day!!! Tonight, your Johns Hopkins Blue Jays will take on the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan! It is sure to be an exciting and dramatic game, so make sure to tune in to watch the game live via Ohio Wesleyan Athletics website. You can also get to the streaming video from the Johns Hopkins Athletics website, navigating to the Men’s Soccer page, clicking on “Schedule” and looking for the video link in the side bar on the right side of the page.
This is the direct link to the video:
We’re ready to go. But first, we have to go downstairs to eat breakfast.

12:05 p.m.: We’re getting closer…Tonight, we play the most important game of our lives.

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

4:48 p.m.: In about 30 minutes we’ll be leaving for OWU. Make sure to watch the Blue Jays in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen tonight at 7:30 at this URL:


9:30 p.m.: After an extremely hard-fought game, the Blue Jays walked away champions, but not the night’s victors.

Johns Hopkins 1-0 Ohio Wesleyan (NCAA Sweet Sixteen)

Ours was a fantastic season. Here’s to our seniors, who have represented their University so well, and to next year’s successes, great and numerous as they shall be.

Go Hop!

Posted in Athletics, Uncategorized |

What’s a commonapp?

Posted by | Posted on November 13, 2010


I’ll never forget the first time I went to to begin filling it out.  Actually, I probably will forget, because it was only a little over a year ago and it is already beginning to get kind of hazy.  But none the less, at this moment in time, I remember it, and will hereby document my experience for all.

Everybody in grades before me had always said that the best advice they could possibly give was to “fill out the commonapp over the summer, DO NOT wait to fill it out like I did.” I must have heard this same piece of advice two dozen times.  So, mid-August rolled around, I got on my laptop, created my commonapp account, and started filling stuff out.  It seemed easy enough,  all I had to do was fill out my name, birthday, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Five minutes later I was pretty sure that I’d completed most of the commonapp form and would be ready to apply in no time. Or, at least, that’s what it seemed like.

Then came the essay section.  I read through it, looked at the prompts, opened up Word and began typing.  I wrote a solid 5 sentences, said to myself, “this is a good start. Break time.” And with that, I went to make myself some Easy Mac.

Fast forward to early October. My essay looks…exactly the same. As does the rest of the commonapp.  Fortunately, my school offered what is known as “Commonapp Bootcamp”, a series of nights dedicated to filling out the commonapp with the help of the college counselors.  A group of 20 or so seniors gathered in the computer lab and went through the commonapp, being guided in each step to ensure perfection.  Great, so the technical stuff was done–my extracurricular activities were filled in, all my personal, school, and family info was there.  But there was one more step.  The essay.

Meet the newest member of the Hopkins admissions community, Admissions_Banana, aka the SAABanana. This has nothing to do with the rest of this blog.

I can count the number of times I edited my essay on one centipede.  It seemed like every time I edited it, someone new came in to look at it and offered their opinion.  I was given opinions on my essay ranging from “there is no way you should even consider submitting this” to “this is golden, I’d accept you in a second”. Well, doesn’t that just put me in a pickle.  What will the schools I’m applying to think of it? Will they side with the idea that its horrible or amazing? Well, I was planning on applying to 13 schools, so assuming 50% of people love the essay and the other 50% hate it, I should get into 6.5 schools (6 admits and a wait list, perhaps?).  I was fine with those odds.  I was submitting the essay.

After having my awesome English teacher and adviser look over it one last time, I was ready to submit.  My parents both scrutinized it, contemplating every detail of every sentence.  Finally, at around 11:20 on the day before the due date, I clicked submit.  The arguments over grammar, content, what can be said and what cannot be said, was finally over.  Everything was in the hands of the Johns Hopkins University Office of Admissions.

And lo and behold, it worked. Apparently, Hopkins thought my essay was pretty good. Which I was especially thankful for, because I really hadn’t done much by way of supplements (page 217 of my 300 page autobiography is still unwritten), so that was a huge cramming load off my back.

Don’t think the process is as easy as I made it sound.  My procrastination only added a TON of unneeded arguments and stress to the whole picture.  Looking back on it, I wish I had actually completed something over the summer besides the consumption of a bowl of delicious Easy Mac. In addition, I now realize that I LUCKED OUT LIKE NO OTHER. If I did have to go and type up all those supplements, I would have had 15 days to do it. Bye bye winter break and hello sitting in front of a keyboard.

So, thus, my advice is to do the commonapp over the summer. No, but like actually do it.  Come October, you’ll be thankful you did. And do the supplements, too. Those are important.

Hope this helps,


Current song:

Juicy by Notorious B.I.G.

Posted in Uncategorized |