College prepares you for the real world. So it only makes sense that some of your time here is spent applying what you’ve learned IN the classroom to places OUTSIDE of it—and when you do, it’s quite exciting! The mission of Johns Hopkins “is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.” Indeed, the opportunity to participate in research has and continues to be the defining characteristic of Hopkins’ undergraduate education. About 70% of undergraduates engage in some form of meaningful research during their time here. However, “research,” as the word connotes, does not necessitate a lab bench and pipette, although many students do participate in lab-based research. Students can participate in a wide range of research projects, as opportunities abound on campus.
Since the very first day of its founding in 1876, the Johns Hopkins University has pioneered the concept of the modern research university and has ranked among the world’s top such universities throughout its history. JHU has been #1 among U.S. academic institutions in total science, medical and engineering research and development spending for 32 consecutive years. The University has produced thirty-three Nobel Prize winners, and its faculty is among the most cited in the world.
Research can be done in various forms. If you are a natural sciences major (biology, BME, Chemistry, ChemBE, etc), you can join a lab run by our Hopkins faculty and get involved in groundbreaking research with grad students or post docs (or on your own!). As a ChemBE major, Greco Song started working at a tissue engineering lab in our medical campus starting his freshmen year summer. He was assigned a grad student to work with and be trained by and learned how to culture adult stem cells and differentiate them into different cell types using specific media compositions. Marcelo Porto joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab his senior year as a mechanical engineering major to create a system for covertly marking suspicious vehicles with a substance that they can track at an extreme range from a remote controlled aircraft. He said that “the project has been a great experience, because it almost perfectly duplicates the process I will undergo while working in engineering when I graduate in May.” Check out his guest blog entry to learn more about his research experience.
Many humanities major students also actively participate in research, although their research does not involve pipettes or lab benches. Brian Boversky, a public health studies major, examined organ-donor systems in nine nations by meeting with physicians, government officials lobbyists, bioethicists, and lawyers outside of school throughout his years at Hopkins. He was able to co-author a paper on “Estimating the Potential Pool of HIV-Infected Decreased Organ Donors in the United States” which was featured in The New York Times . Angel Chen as a History of Art major combined her interest in urban murals and “visual psychology,” researching the mural program in Baltimore and how it improved the quality of life in the areas of improvement. During the process, she had to take initiative and interview community members, mural artists, and city officials to examine this psychological effect. Language majors also participate in research as well! As a German Language major, Michael Arnst explored many of Thomas Mann’s German literature and investigated the 19th century integrations of art, music, and aesthetics. Michael actually visited Germany and Switzerland to follow Mann’s life. In reflection, Michael says, “My ideas and insights into these texts have changed dramatically.”
How about Internships? Every week Hopkins students get an email from the Career Center with as list of internship opportunities available for after graduation or during the summer. The Career Center personalizes the opportunities by majors and informs students the deadlines for applying. Lauren Carney was one of the lucky students who had chance to hold three internships during her years at Hopkins. The first was with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, working for their Media Relations and Publications departments, and the second was in New York City, working in Public Relations for Twinkle by Wenlan, a well-known fashion label. Her third was an editorial internship with Girls’ Life Magazine, whose national headquarters is conveniently located 15 minutes from campus right in Baltimore. Finding a real job before college can be really hard, especially when you don’t have any “working experience” in the resume. However, Lauren said that the key is to seek out this experience wherever you can: take on leadership roles in your extracurricular activities, go to our Student Job Fair to find a part-time job that will teach you working skills (even if they aren’t directly related to your career path), or pursue research to strengthen your background. All of these things can help you present a more well-rounded, qualified picture of yourself to your future employers.
Studying abroad can also be a great way to enrich your college experience. Hopkins students have traveled to China, Botswana, New Zealand, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, you name the country! Many including engineers and pre-meds can study for a summer, a semester, or even a year. Studying abroad has been an invaluable experience for a lot of students, allowing them to not only put themselves into an entirely new culture, but also meet people from other universities, intern abroad at renowned organizations, and travel a bit too! Jessica Kraus, a Public Health major who studies abroad in Geneva and interned at the World Health Organization, said that studying abroad has also been a period of reflection for her – When she reflects on how she ended up having the opportunity to be in Geneva, she realizes that she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for being at public health major at Hopkins.
Intersession is a great time to try new things that you otherwise would have the time for or opportunity to do during the regular school year at Hopkins. Leah K. was a teaching assistant for the Electron Microscopy laboratory course, and she loved the feeling of transitioning from a student to a teacher. She assisted students with different specimen preparation techniques as well as teach them how to use the different microscopes in the lab. Her favorite part was “being able to interact with peers and answer their questions.” Being a TA gave her the experiential part of it and the experience was the positive one that she looks forward to having in next year’s intersession as well!
As current students, we know that the research opportunities that we have had the chance to have at Hopkins have made our college years unique. It simply wouldn’t be possible to have had the opportunities if it wasn’t for the undergraduate campus being a part of a large, well-financed, research university. Getting involved in research is simple. For many times, all it takes is your fascination by a particular topic, a resume or CV (curriculum vitae), and an email to a professor! Although there is great variety in the research that is done, the experience of simply being involved in research is not a unique Hopkins experience. So now the question is, what will your research be in?
If you’re curious about other projects and want to learn even more, check out many of our Hopkins Interactive guest blogs written on research. The following selected resources will also help you learn a lot more about research at Hopkins.
- Dean’s Undergraduate Research Awards: allows students to compete for grants in the range of $500 to $3000. Beginning in the fall of 2011, the program will fund up to 25 students annually for at least the next two years.
- Hopkins Undergraduate Research Journal
- Prometheus Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Philosophy Journal
- Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Research Conference in Public Health
- Johns Hopkins University Undergraduate Research Symposium
- Epidemic Proportions: Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Public Health Journal