The Triple Helix

As many of you surely remember from your respective biology courses in high school, Watson and Crick are popularly credited for the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA. Many of you may not know, however, that DNA was originally thought to be composed of a triple helical structure (in fact, Watson and Crick were original supporters of this theory). Evidence provided by scientists, like Rosalind Franklin, suggested the double helix.

The triple helix theory attests to the importance of the publishing and revision of scientific hypotheses, which compound upon each other to develop a better explanation of natural phenomena. As those of you enrolled at Hopkins or interested in enrolling are probably aware, many students here conduct research with world-class scientists, physicians, and professors, publishing studies that provide excellent evidence that can change or mold a greater understanding of our world.

There is also a group, called The Triple Helix (surprise!), that allows undergraduate students to work with each other to publish recent scientific progress in a globally renowned, undergraduate journal. The Triple Helix unites students with a passion in science and policy together for an effective, international, undergraduate collaboration in science.

The Triple Helix (or, if you are accustomed to the notorious, acronym-assigning tendencies of academic institutions: TTH) is a student-led, non-profit organization that embraces a singular dedication to promoting the understanding of seminal fields of science and technology and their impacts on our society and laws. The great thing about TTH is that it is a led solely by undergraduate students from around the world. TTH chapters include the world’s most elite institutions, including Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, and most recently invited, Oxford.

Hopkins, in fact, has one of the biggest chapters with over thirty students. At JHU, we have a full editorial team, writers, science policy event planning committee, the business and finance committees, and the website production team- everything you expect from a productive organization. Through collaborations with the most erudite of minds, TTH publishes a biannual journal called: Science in Society Review, published in many universities and distributed to top employers and graduate schools. This was one of the factors that tugged my attention towards TTH- I get to be part of young cognoscenti, composed of the world’s top undergraduates!

The articles published by TTH are nothing short of professional compositions, like in Time or Wired, laying bare some issues that directly affect our lives, including allergies and hand-washing (which my article addresses this year! Keep a look out for this year’s issue). Aside from the research I’ve been conducting at the medical campus, I gained interest in hospital policies pertaining to the enforcement of hand washing by healthcare workers. Outside the confines of class and lab work, TTH has encouraged me to dig deeper into my topic to not only enhance my knowledge on the subject, but also to share my newly procured knowledge to many other undergraduates through the published journal.

Of course, there is an annual conference hosted for the involved students to meet each other and network. This is when you can showcase all of your hard work through poster presentations, which are critiqued and awarded for excellence. It’s a great way to put a face on the authors that have written articles you are interested in. Last year, my roommate was able to attend the TTH conference hosted in Washington D.C, and he still stays in contact with students at Cambridge and Harvard.

Joining the Triple Helix is felicitous for those who would like to commit to a truly enlightening, dynamic extracurricular experience at Hopkins. From the great deal of learning, publishing, and networking, it offers a very rewarding experience for you bright students! I hope all of you will check out The Triple Helix some day, regardless of how involved you are in the organization.

Now, naturally, I’d like to end with another relevant, trivial fact: The Triple Helix was actually named after a protein called collagen that is integral to the structural integrity of our body and is composed of a triple helical structure!

If you’re interested in The Triple Helix, please email us at Also check out and see what other students from undergraduate institutions are researching about! If this organization didn’t seem to appeal to your interest, at least you learned two possibly intriguing facts about triple helices! Good luck to you all.

Michael Yamakawa

Biophysics, Class of 2014