Category: Academics

Learning to Simplify in both BME and Business


Name: Neil O’Donnell

Year: Class of 2013

Major: Biomedical Engineering

Minor: Entrepreneurship and Management


At Johns Hopkins University, I have taken many classes in to obtain a major in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Entrepreneurship and Management. Some might assume that these courses have very little overlap, yet in both sets courses I have been challenged by my professors to innovate and to take the lead. As a Biomedical Engineer, my professors routinely advise students to think differently about problems in order to devise unique solutions. By looking at the body as a machine with inputs and outputs can we design solutions to precisely treat the body’s aliments. Similarly, in my business courses, professors have challenged me to look at products and companies differently. Business executives can only effectively design, manufacture, and market innovative products like the iPad by utilizing creativity and original thinking. Therefore at Johns Hopkins, whether I was in a class focusing on international trade or molecules and cells each of my professors emphasized that creativity and unique thinking are vital elements of problem solving.

In my first Biomedical Engineering course, Professor Art Shoukas challenged our class to devise an elegant solution for how much blood the heart pumps. My peers and I busily worked to find the solution. Some of my peers tried to model how much blood there was within the body. Others tried to adapt complicated equations that they had learned in Physics courses in order to solve the problem. After ten minutes of frenetic (and fruitless) work, Professor Shoukas stopped us and told us that we were all over thinking the problem. Professor Shoukas told us that we had all forgot the most important element of the problem- the heart. Since we had tried to model every element of this complex system, we had become lost in our own equations. The answer to the question which Professor Shoukas later told us was in fact very simple, the volume that the heart pumps per minute is simply the heart rate per minute multiplied by the amount of blood that the heart pumps with each beat. With this lesson, Professor Shoukas demonstrated that it is essential in problem solving to only focus on the major elements of the system. Although Professor Shoukas taught me this lesson, Professor Lawrence Aronhime within the Center for Leadership Education cemented this message within my mind.

In my freshman year, I entered the Johns Hopkins Business Plan competition with my business plan idea, “Dress to Impress, Inc.” My business plan was initially very complicated as I tried to include a litany of operations within my ideal business. I planned to have a large (unwieldy) business structure with numerous centers around the world. After I had completed a draft of my business plan, I asked to meet with Professor Aronhime to improve my idea. After reading my plan, Professor Aronhime stated that the plan was a good start, but I had forgotten that the point of a business is to create customers and reward shareholders. In my complex business plan, I had again become lost in the details of the plan and had forgotten the essential elements of a business. I had forgotten to focus on the major elements of my business. With Professor Aronhime’s help, I trimmed the unnecessary elements out of my plan and focused only on the operations which would both create value for customers and profits for shareholders. By following Professor Aronhime’s advice to “keep it simple”, I placed second in the Johns Hopkins Business plan competition. This feat would have been impossible if I had not remained focused on the essential elements of my business. Therefore, in my freshman year, I learned (and re-learned) my most important lesson at Johns Hopkins University. In order to solve a complex problem, I cannot become lost within the complexity of the system. Instead, I focus only on the essential elements of a system in order to obtain a simple solution.

By focusing only on the key variables of every question, I have become a much more effective problem solver. This methodology will serve me well in both the engineering and business world. In fact, in Design Team, a class at Johns Hopkins University, I have been able to put both my business and engineering skills to the test. Design Team is a yearlong course which places biomedical engineers in teams and challenges them with solving current medical problems. Yet, the teams must not only consider how to design this technology but also how to introduce the product into hospitals to improve the lives of patients around the world. My design team is focused on designing and manufacturing a low-cost, therapeutic hypothermia device to treat infants at risk for Cerebral Palsy in the developing world. In order to efficiently solve this medical problem, our team crafted a simple and cost-effective device to penetrate the healthcare markets of developing nations. Furthermore, in designing our commercialization plan, we have focused on an efficient strategy to get our device into as many hospitals within the developing world as possible. Without simplicity and focus, our group could have not achieved our goals and objectives. Yet, by designing a device which only focuses on reducing the chances of an infant developing Cerebral Palsy, our team has developed a prototype which has demonstrated the capacity to effectively treat infants within both mechanical and animal studies. Therefore, through simplicity, our design team is on the verge of achieving our goals and improving the lives of infants across the globe.


Thoughts of a Hopkins Dreamer


Name: Chantel Fletcher

Year: Class of 2014

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Major: Public Health


If you really want to know if Hopkins is right for you, you must examine Hopkins from different lenses. I am here to showcase my experience here at Hopkins, so far. First, I want to introduce myself. My name is Chantel Fletcher. I am currently a sophomore studying Public Health Studies. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I get homesick a lot only because I can be a crybaby at times. My freshmen year I lived in Wolman Hall. It was nice; I shared a room with another girl and we had to share a bathroom and a kitchenette with 2 other girls. This year I have the luxury of living by myself in Homewood apartments. I just like coming home after class to my own space. It makes a difference in my life but we are all different.

I could begin to talk about the classes. I actually have fun in classes that are interesting to me. As a public health major, I enjoy classes such as health policy and cultural factors. Although the classes stressed me out I feel like I am getting a quality education. At Hopkins, you meet some dedicated professors and teaching assistants.  You may run into some who could care less but Hopkins provides several resources to help you succeed at Hopkins. You have the Learning Den if you aren’t a genius in Chemistry, Microeconomics, Calculus, Biology, Neuroscience, Physics, along with a wide range of other courses. Also if you aren’t too good at perfecting a paper then there is also help. The Writing Center is a great tool to utilize at Hopkins.

But Hopkins isn’t just a stressful place. There are fun events here. The highlight of my spring semester is definitely Spring Fair. It’s like a carnival on our campus. We have great concerts! There is great food here and awesome things to buy when spring fair rolls around.  Hopkins tries to balance out our workload in my opinion. I’m not a fan of frat parties but there is a multitude of things to do here at Hopkins and around Baltimore. A few weeks ago I went to a Turkish restaurant with a few friends and they had belly dancers.

This photo was at the Steel Pan Showcase during Black History Month. Funny thing is I learned how to play. If you want to hear Mary had a little lamb on the steel pan, I am your girl.

This photo was during freshmen year. Putting us to work early on. You gotta work at Hopkins to progress. It was fun and it brought me and my floor mates together.

This photo was an ice skating trip planned by the residential advisory board. They have some pretty good ideas. I only paid $5 for transportation, skates, and admission. Did I mention that I will be on my Michelle Kwan next time?


This photo is from freshmen year Homecoming week. Yes, we got discount tickets to see Wiz Khalifa. I told you Hopkins is cool. I had great seats too :)

This photo is from my prefrosh days at Discovery Days. I literally explored the entire campus in a 3 day time span.

Transportation is not an issue either. The JHMI and Collegetown Shuttle are pretty reliable. Although the Collegetown serves other schools, I think it provides good service for what it’s worth. It goes to the mall which makes retail therapy possible. There is actually a free public bus called the Charm City Circulator. I use the Circulator a lot to get around because it’s free! The other public transportation, the MTA, isn’t bad either.  It only costs $1.60 but don’t quote me on that. You can also take the MARC train to DC to relieve some stress. DC is pretty cool.

I hope, through this post, that Hopkins has become more appealing to your eyes but I understand the senior year of high school stress. My only advice would be to really do your research and where you could see yourself prospering at. I know during my senior year I visited Hopkins, Dartmouth, Duke, University of Chicago and applied to 50 million colleges. Ultimately, I loved Hopkins and got really excited about my future. I had so much fun at Discovery Days, a program that the Multicultural Student Volunteers put on for prefrosh.


A Unique B-more Experience


Name: Steven Albers
Year: Class of 2015
Hometown: Apple Valley, MN
Major: Biomedical Engineering

As some of you may already know, Hopkins winter break is pretty unique because of our Intersession. Basically, every student gets a 3 week winter break (which is probably sounding good to you guys, and trust me, it’s great!) and then there is another 3 weeks before the spring semester starts. During these three weeks, students get a lot of great options – There are a ton of unique classes offered on campus for one or two credits each, with topics from neurodegenerative diseases to the science of baking . Alternatively, it’s a great time to study abroad or do some volunteering. And since it’s totally optional, a few people even take it as an extended winter break (but most students love Hopkins so much that we come back)!

As Freshmen though, there’s a really unique opportunity to take part in the B’more program. The program only occurs during the last week, before which you can take a few classes, or do what I did and spend it with your family, and there are tons of opportunities available. Basically, there are a ton of different themes, from photography to writing to sociology, and you spend the week getting to know Baltimore better and meet new people.

I took part in the B’more class called Studying Innovation and Change, and all in all, I had a really great time during the week. I think the main reason I really liked it was that we spent a lot of the time off campus at notable locations around the city. I’ll talk about a few of the places to give you guys an idea about the kinds of field trips we took.

One of the first trips we took was nearby, just down Charles Street to the Peabody Library to see the rare books collection. This library is absolutely gorgeous. I have to say, if and when you tour, this place is something you need to see. A fun fact about Peabody Library: You know the library Beast gives Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? It’s based off of this library. And the best part of all: it’s open to Hopkins students to study in.

As a class, we also took multiple trips across town to the Johns Hopkins medical campus. We had various guest speakers come talk to us about the city and the innovations that Hopkins medicine sparked in the area, and afterwards we went to a street market to get a bite to eat. The most memorable part about that specific trip were these great smoothies we found at the market. There were dozens of flavors, and all of them sounded great!

Finally, since we were only using the free transportation available to the community, we got to spend our travel budget on a nice lunch in Fell’s Point, one of the neighborhoods in downtown Baltimore. Our instructor chose the restaurant because it actually used to be an old factory. It was really cool, because the place was completely transformed but you could still definitely feel some of the elements from the days it had been a factory.

 I think the best thing I got out of taking part in B’more was that now I’m more aware of the opportunities that Baltimore has to offer, and am more willing to venture out into the city. Me and my friend Cara even went back to the smoothie shop just to get off campus and have a relaxing afternoon! :) The intersession program here at Hopkins is great, and if you find yourself on campus here next winter, I highly recommend you take advantage of the B’more program!

The Loves of a Blue Jay: Favorites of a Hopkins Student


Name: Elyse Thulin

Year: Class of 2013

Hometown: Jackson, Wyoming

Majors: Psychology and Anthropology


So, thinking about what life could be like as a Hopkins student? The promise and the glory of saying that you got to walk the brick pathways, climb the marble stairs and learn from the modern day greats? But is Hopkins just that? Is it a place to spend 24 hours a day learning from a book? A place solely spent studying in the purgatory of an overly hot library? Of course not!

I am Elyse Thulin, a psychology and anthropology double major, member of the class of 2013. I hail from the state of Wyoming and was an excited but nervous “pre-frosh.” Now, in my junior year, I feel as though I know my school, my classmates and my professors within my major departments. And I’d like to dispel some Hopkins myths and tell you a little about my life at JHU!

What are some things that I love around campus?

Learning from the greats:
One of my favorite aspects of this university is the ability to learn from professors at the top of their fields. I recently read a paper for an upper level psychology course written by a professor I had freshman year…before I even knew I would be a psychology major. In my current anthropology class, we commonly reference the highly regarded Jane Guyer, a major name in the contemporary field of anthropology. It just so happens that she is my advisor in the anthropology department. Beyond having the primary source of knowledge so readily available, it is so inspiring to learn from such intelligent, driven individuals. Also, just having classes with students who are as interested as me in learning is such a cool experience!

One of the things that I commonly reference when giving tours to prospective students is research. However, rarely do I get to express how much I truly enjoy it (there are just too many other amazing things I want to tell prospective students and their parents about in 45 minutes!). I work both at the Homewood campus andthe Med school campus, which is a short commute on the JHMI shuttle, free for all Hopkins affiliates. It is a constant thrill going into these labs which are publishing papers relevant not only in the present, but also for the future. Hopkins is a research institute and therefore, provides great opportunities for students to get a real taste of what working in a lab is like. And these chances are frequent; there are many labs and internship possibilities at each of Hopkins’ graduate school campuses.

We have so many clubs to be a part of, from cultural organizations to leadership-based clubs to interest based clubs. I am involved with the JHU Italian Club as VP of Communications. I enjoy getting to practice the language I took my first two years here with both classmates and native Italians! Plus, add a cannoli to anything and it is infinitely better.

I am also involved with the Blue Key Society, a group who works with Admissions to give prospective students and their families a tour of campus (if you have visited, perhaps we have met!). I really relish getting a break from my normal routine to get to show my school (off) and share all the things I love about it!

Greek Life:
A big part of my social life has to do with being part of a sorority on campus. PanHellenic sororities and fraternities can be a lot of fun to get involved in, with date parties allowing you to venture off Hopkins campus to venues around Baltimore, as well as providing a way to get involved in philanthropy (my sorority works with an elementary school a few blocks from campus), and a great way to expand your social circle.

Hopkins also has academic, cultural, and service fraternities for those who want to get involved socially on campus and also focus on something specific (for example, APO is a service fraternity and many of their functions are volunteering projects).

The final  activity that I spend a considerable amount of time on each week is hitting the gym. Whether it is going with a friend for a run, playing a game of racquetball (a great stress reliever!), or stretching myself out with some yoga, exercise is a part of my daily routine. Hopkins students are active people so it’s rare that you will go to the gym and not see people you know!

Another fun way to get some fitness in is to go on an outdoors trip on a weekend through Outdoor Pursuits or Johns Hopkins Outdoors Club…backpacking is a favorite of mine!

From the Classroom to the Government


Name: Brian Diederich
Year: Class of 2012
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Westlake, OH

Having wanted to study International Studies for as long as I can remember, current events have been a major part of my academic life. From reading the local newspaper every day when I was younger to studying the foreign relations of every country from Israel to China, it is something I have indulged myself in nearly every day of my life. So when it came time to search for internships for the summer between my Junior and Senior year as an undergraduate, there was one place that instantly jumped to the forefront: the United States Department of State.

I hadn’t known anyone that had ever interned or worked there before, and I had absolutely no idea of how to go about the process whatsoever. In addition, the fact that I was studying abroad in Turkey at the time did not help me in gaining much help about the process. Thankfully, even while I was over five thousand miles away, the Johns Hopkins Career Center was able to help me through the often-confusing process. While my journey abroad ended in January of the following year, the process of obtaining a coveted internship at the Department of State did not. As I became flooded with security clearance paperwork that Einstein himself couldn’t decode, the Career Center was again able to help me sort through the mess.

After the month long process, having made my way through the endless field of paperwork and security clearances, my first day arrived in the summer of 2011. As I sat on the train from nearby Penn Station in Baltimore to Union Station in Washington, D.C., I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for me. I had always heard about what the Department of State did from the news, from different forms of American policy to where the Secretary of State was going to be visiting that day.

After making my way through security I was escorted up to the office in which I would be working: the Office of United Nations Political Affairs. For the first time, I would see all of the international relations knowledge put into application in the real world. Throughout my time there, I had the opportunity to see the inner workings of American policy firsthand: how the United States communicated with its embassies and international organizations, how the government worked on an individualistic basis – and most importantly – how the foreign policy of the United States was developed on a daily basis. I had completed other internships before at a wide range of organizations and companies, but they feigned in comparison to what I witnessed every single day at the Department of State. As new developments occurred around the world, I would witness the immediate response to each event and how policy eventually worked its way from the desk of an individual to the front page of national newspapers. I also knew that the research and writing I did on a daily basis would contribute to this process; that what I did played a role – no matter how small – in the development of American foreign policy.

After having spent a summer with the Department of State, it is impossible for me to view current events in the same way. Whether learning about American policy in class or reading about it in the news, I always think about the individuals behind these policies, and all of the work done in order to make it a reality. This internship has given me a new perspective that I am sure will continue to affect me the rest of my academic career.

OH JHUMUNC, Look at how much you’ve grown?


Name: Richard Kumapley

Year: Class of 2013

Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Major: Public Health

Minors: French Cultural Studies, Global Environmental Change and Sustainability


JHUMUC is a 1500-student mammoth of a conference. There are many different moving parts and it’s really hard to make sure everything is ready to go come conference time. It’s a pretty hard job but that’s what the JHUMUNC secretariat is tasked with doing every year. I am the Undersecretary-General of Operations, which puts me in charge of conference logistics. Making sure the conference has all the equipment needed and that it goes off without a hitch from a technical standpoint is my duty. Being a member of the Operations team has been a lot of fun, although others regard the job as very stressful, the rest of my stellar team as well as equipment donations from companies like Epson and Meeting Tomorrow really lighten the load for me and ensures that there’s always a smile on my face.

If you want to know what the Ops staff is up to, check out our twitter @jhumuncOPS.


Every member of the JHUMUNC staff is really dedicated and has the delegates’ interests in mind. They spend all year planning different ways to keep you engaged and active in your committees and it’s our job in Operations to make sure that their plans are executed smoothly. It’s because of this that I spend my year ordering equipment, designing systems and preparing material to make bring your wonderful chair’s ideas to life. Of course I’m a student and so balancing this and my other obligations gets tricky sometimes, but isn’t the reason I came here to test the limits of what I can do and frankly when I see delegates having fun, it makes all the work worth it.

I’m proud of being a part of this conference. In my three years I’ve seen the quality of this conference skyrocket. Trust me the JHUMUNC from 2006 is very different from today’s JHUMUNC. We keep learning from previous conference so that we can continue to raise the bar. Being a part of this conference has provided me with many great experiences and opportunities. I still find myself climbing up the MUN ladder. I’ve been recruited to be a member of the CIMUN staff and so if I happen to work there later in the year, feel free to let me know what I can do to make this conference better for you.

If you want to know what JHUMUNC is like from a chair’s point of view check out this blog entry.

MUN doesn’t consume my life; I am also very involved in WJHU. If you want to learn more about that check out my other guest blog entry.

Looking Back to the Start


Name: Sara I. Abdel Rahim

Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt

Year: Class of 2012

Majors: International Studies & Anthropology


I remember the first time I visited Hopkins, I was a senior in high school it was the first quarter of the year. My friend and I drove up from Northern Virginia in her moms car, armed with a GPS and enough gas and toll money to make it to Baltimore and back. We were set to find out more about this school that we were both anxious for the opportunity of attending together. It was a sunny day, the campus was beautiful with trees changing color, the buildings looked extra shiny with the sun-light hitting them, the grass freshly cut– it was all just so welcoming. I remember making it back home after a day full of exploration of the Homewood campus, and telling my parents about how much I enjoyed my visit and that now, Johns Hopkins was without a doubt, my first choice.

April 1st 2008 was certainly a nerve-racking day. I remember sitting at my desk on my computer consistently refreshing my yahoo inbox waiting for an admissions decision letter and checking my junk-mail just incase it went there. My dad was sitting right behind me on my bed trying to distract me from the lack of an email in my inbox that was going to shape my future. It was getting closer and closer to 6PM and that’s when emails were being sent out, with a burst of energy I told my dad, “if I get in to Hopkins, I’ll run down our neighborhood street screaming in joy”. When I turned around to continue refreshing my inbox it was there, one email, form Johns Hopkins University. I clicked on it, and I don’t think I made it past the “Congratulations” and started crying with joy. I hugged my dad my tears still intact smiling. He smiled right back and said, “remember what you have to do now?”

MAPP (mentoring assistance peer program) retreat photo 2011

That was almost four years ago. And as I sit writing this blog, the sun is shinning on our campus, the grass looks freshly cut, and the buildings look as shiny as they did the first time I visited Hopkins. I’m now a second semester senior double majoring in International Studies and Anthropology. As I look back over my time here at the Homewood campus as its all coming to an end this May with graduation, I’m nostalgic. My time at Hopkins has allowed my to make some great friends, enabled me

Attending an OLE event with some friends (junior year)

to take some really interesting classes that have shaped and focused my interests in a range of disciplines. Being at Hopkins has also given me the opportunity to become involved on campus as a leader, and a mentor. And most of all the drive to seek to continue exploring the world with a level of uncapped passion for discovery.

Halloween 2009. My roommates and I dressed up as the spice girls and ran into a group of Waldos in Fells Point. (I’m scary spice)



Getting Back into the Swing of Things


Name: Jessie Koljonen

Year: 2013

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Majors: Behavioral Biology and Spanish

After being abroad in Madrid for the past semester, it’s been kind of weird being back here at Hopkins and getting right back into the swing of things and my busy life here on campus. No more traveling to foreign countries every weekend, no more free afternoons exploring Retiro Park or Plaza del Sol, and no more speaking Spanish 24/7. One good thing is that I don’t have to commute to school anymore (here at Hopkins, my apartment is about a 2 minute walk from campus – nothing compared to my hour-long commute to school in Madrid). It’s nice being back and seeing everyone again, but it’s still taking some time to get used to everything and back into the Hopkins way of life.

This week is the first week of classes, and walking on campus the other day felt oddly strange – a combination of feeling like I should be here but also like I should be back in Madrid. As I was walking around campus, I noticed that in the time that I was gone, there are lots of new faces (hello freshmen class!), the Brody Learning Commons is almost done and not just a plot of dirt, and there’s construction going on behind Mudd Hall for a new research building. A lot has been happening! That being said, there’s a lot that hasn’t changed as well. Most of the buildings are still where I remember them, Char Mar still sells the candy that I love to snack on while I’m studying, and there’s still a shortcut through campus in the Gilman Tunnel that makes going to class a little easier.

The good thing about getting back into my normal routine here at Hopkins is that I’m keeping myself busy so I don’t have to worry about getting bored or too sad about not being in Madrid anymore. I’ve moved off campus into a cozy little apartment, and I’ve been busy setting it up, making it feel like home, and learning how to cook. All those trips to Ikea, Target, Home Depot, and Bed Bath and Beyond are fun but definitely time consuming. Sorority rush is coming up this weekend, and I’ve been busy with my sorority, Phi Mu, getting ready for going through rush and preparing to get our newest members. I’ve started back up working in the admissions office and working for Shannon, helping out with different projects and admissions relate d fun. I’ve even made my way down to the Hopkins Med Campus and re-started working in the neuroscience research lab I have been a part of since my sophomore year. Next week, I’ll be continuing my shadowing at the Hopkins Hospital, shadowing a neurosurgeon – definitely one of the coolest things I’ve been involved in here at Hopkins!

And of course, my classes are keeping me on my toes as well. Everything from my 8am Physics Section to having a quiz on the second day of class has been a small shock to my system compared to my not-so-intense 4 day school weeks back in Madrid (so convenient for 3 day weekends of traveling!). But being an upperclassman, I am now able to take more upper-level classes which focus more on my specific interests.

For example, I’m taking a class called “Cognitive Neuropsychology of Visual Perception: The Malfunctioning Visual Brain”, where we are going to learn about various functional specializations and disorders. Cool!

Overall, even though I had the time of my life in Madrid last semester, it’s good being back. One semester is just the right amount of time for me to be abroad, I don’t know if I could have spent the whole year abroad and away from my “normal” life. It was nice being able to relax at home in Arizona after getting back from Madrid, where I spent all of winter break and intersession sitting on my couch and catching up on Grey’s Anatomy with my mom. And now I’m looking forward to the Spring and enjoying my semester here back in Baltimore. From my classes to all the clubs and extracurriculars I’m involved in, plus the great events we have here in the Spring – Rush, Spring Fair, Homecoming– I’ve got lots to keep me busy!

Part Time Work as an Undergraduate


Name: Sarah Hersh

Hometown: Willmette, IL

Year: Class 0f 2012

Majors: Writing Sems & Psychology


When I first came to college, my parents cut me off and stopped giving me a weekly allowance. I was excited to gain a bit more independence, but a little worried about my quickly dwindling cash. So, I set out to be responsible and started applying to jobs. I had expected these jobs on campus to be boring, sitting behind a desk doing nothing or filing for some random department. In my freshman year, I started working in the intramurals department to ref games, but never anticipated gaining actual life skills. It seemed fun, almost like a paid extracurricular. Soon, I realized that the job gave me the opportunity not only to make new friends across several grades, but also to handle difficult situations in conflict resolution. I learned to make split second decisions and then gained the confidence to stand by these calls in the face of angry students who got too competitive on the field. The intramural position was so enjoyable that I remained on staff throughout my entire undergraduate career.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with the Intramural staff.

By the time I was a junior, I applied for a second job in the Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit working in a psychiatry lab that researched the effects of Chantix, a drug used for smoking cessation, on alcoholics. Despite having no previous research experience, I used the skills I had gained from previous journalism internships and those I had gained as an intramural ref to land the paid position. I had the opportunity to run my own sessions with participants, sit in on meetings with the Principal Investigator, and spearhead an effort to further market the study. Although working two jobs in addition to my full course load was slightly overwhelming at times, I was glad to be gaining exposure to different fields. As a junior without a clue what I wanted to do after graduation with a Writing Seminars and Psychology double major, I was desperate to get my hands on as much diverse experience as possible.

Now as an early graduate working part time in the admissions department to supplement staying in Baltimore for what would have been my senior spring semester, I am grateful that my parents cut me off. I was able to gain several different skills that not only helped me grow as a person, but also aided in getting a job for next year as a Project Manager at the healthcare software company, Epic. These Hopkins jobs allowed me to feel connected with the University while still supplementing my own income and taught me valuable skills that I could never have learned in the classroom.

Biophysics AND East Asian Studies…What?!


Entry Title: Biophysics AND East Asian Studies…What?!

Name: Elaine Yu

Year: 2013

Hometown: Fremont, California

Major: Biophysics & East Asian Studies


Yeah, that’s right, I have two majors and I go to Johns Hopkins University.  No, I don’t live in the library.  Yes, I have time to sleep.  No, I was not the valedictorian of my high school.  And yes, I have a life.  Any more questions?

As a high school senior, I’m sure you’ve heard all the stereotypes: the nerds that spend their days in the library, the jocks that live in the gym, the weird theatre kids that wear all black, the hipsters that run the campus coffee shop, and the sorority girls and frat bros that party every night of the week.  Where will you fit in?  What major should you choose so that you can be who you want to be?  Should you even apply to Johns Hopkins University?

Spring Fair at Hopkins

Let’s start with that last question.  Yes, you should definitely apply to Hopkins.  Choosing to spend 4 years of my life here is one decision I will never regret.  Having been born and raised in California, I was wary of traveling all the way across the country to attend a school I applied to on a whim, thinking “There’s no way they’ll accept me.”  I didn’t have a 4.0GPA, I had an average ACT score, I had never worked in a research lab, and I thought hospitals were a place for sick/injured people to go, not college applicants.  Whatever, I applied anyway.  While waiting for my friends to show up for Halloween trick-or-treating, I typed up an essay and submitted it with the Common App minutes before it hit midnight on the East Coast.  6 weeks later, I was in.  Awesome!  Now what?

Well, I knew I wanted to be a film director when I grew up, so I submitted my deposit and “declared” a major in Film and Media Studies.  Fast-forward 9 months to Orientation, and I knew that I had made a mistake.  I went to a bunch of random open houses for majors that sounded interesting—film being one of them.  That’s where I realized my mistake—the scholarly approach to film that Hopkins taught wasn’t the trial-by-error, go-big-or-go-home style I had grown to love.  So, if I didn’t want to study film, what did I want to study?  Let’s just say I saw a short presentation in the hard-to-find Jenkins Hall and walked out knowing I wanted to be a biophysicist.  A what?  You know, one of those graying scientists that spends all day in a basement laboratory watching proteins wiggle under a microscope…not.  I wanted to be someone who could think critically and analyze problems by observing and applying the knowledge I had learned over time.  A pretty abstract goal, I know.

Here’s how the Hopkins Biophysics program is helping me out with that.  1: It’s a small department so you get to know all the professors really well.  They’re all really nice and a great resource.  2: You take all the classes you need to be a pre-med as part of the curriculum, so you don’t have to figure all that out on your own in case you want to be a doctor someday.  3: Biophysics majors get to take classes that combine both biology and physics so you don’t have to take those boring entry-level lectures/labs to fulfill your science requirements.  This gives you more time to take interesting upper-division courses that really help you develop the mind of a biophysicist.  4: If you’re worried about finding a research lab, don’t worry.  You’re required to do 2 semesters of research so you’re basically guaranteed a year of experience and you already have a foot in the door if you want to continue.  A plus is that you can do anything in a bio lab as long as there’s a physics aspect and vice-versa, so you’ve got lots of options to explore your interests.  5: Free food.  Lots of it.  All the time.  Need I say more?

Okay, enough about Biophysics.  What’s the story behind East Asian Studies?  Let’s just say that I wanted to keep up my Chinese and found that Hopkins has an awesome “Heritage” language curriculum that allows native speakers who are illiterate to learn in a faster-paced environment.  The East Asian Studies department also offers a lot of interesting courses discussing anything from ancient history to current political issues in Asia.  An extra plus is that these courses often are deemed “writing intensive” and can help fulfill the 4 required “writing” classes for Arts/Sciences students.  Sweet, right?

Alright, now I’m really gonna blow your minds.  Every science major requires you to take a bunch of “humanities” classes to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded education.  On the flipside, every humanities major requires you to take a bunch of “science” courses to achieve the same effect.  So when you combine a science and a humanities major, you’re able to build a schedule where classes fulfill the core requirements of one major and the distribution requirements of the other.  Are you confused yet?  Let me put it simply: I take 5 classes a semester, am very involved in 3 on-campus clubs, work 2 campus jobs, and am part of a research team.  If there’s one thing that Hopkins helped me realize, you can do pretty much anything you want here…or elsewhere, for that matter.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad in China studying Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Between the two majors, I didn’t really have the time to spend an entire semester abroad, but I knew I wanted that experience.  Somehow, it worked out.  The two courses I took fulfilled my East Asian Studies major requirements and I was able (for the first time) to “shadow” doctors in a hospital setting.  It was quite the eye-opening experience and I highly encourage everyone to go abroad at least once in his/her college career.  Not only did I get to meet a great group of new people from elsewhere in the US, I also got to see first-hand how people in other countries lived their daily lives.  In turn, I came to appreciate so much more the American lifestyle I was raised in, and, how great a school Hopkins is.

Have I answered all your questions yet?  Yes, you should definitely apply to Hopkins.  Here, you can choose whatever major(s) and minor(s) you’d like.  The academic advising’s office provides really handy checklists ( for each major/minor so you can see all the required courses and plan out your semesters accordingly.  These lists were really handy for me when I was trying to figure out what classes to take which semester.

It’s also really important to join a lot of clubs/organizations.  Everyone needs breaks, breaks from studying, breaks from hanging out with your housemates/floormates, breaks from being on the Hopkins campus.  Take breaks with people in different clubs.  Branch out, do something fun, get off campus.  There are plenty of opportunities to explore Baltimore and the rest of Maryland while making great friends.  Some of my best friends are in the outdoors clubs.  If you decide on Hopkins, you should definitely sign up for Pre-Orientation (  It’s a week of fun-filled activities while camping out in the wilderness before Orientation and where I met a lot of my closest friends.

Climbing Sugar Loaf

kayaking over spring break

Before you start jumping to conclusions and stereotyping me as some sort of nerdy Californian hippie, let me really throw off your preconceived notions of the standard college kid.  I am a science and humanities major.  I work at the Digital Media Center as a graphic design, photography, and gaming specialist.  I spend every weekend off-campus kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, and trail running.  Throughout the year, I help design lighting schemes for on-campus theatre productions.  Every week, I spend hours on the phone talking to booking agents, band managers, and event technicians to plan Spring Fair, a 4-day music festival held right on Hopkins’ campus. Lastly, I volunteer afterschool at an elementary school to play indoor sports with the kids for an hour.

One day, I want to start a nonprofit organization that brings onsite emergency patient care to attendees at large music festivals and local shows.  I also want to spend time abroad researching ways to close the gap between Eastern and Western medicine.  When I retire, I want to work for the local ski patrol.  Where do I fit in?  Wherever I want.  Where will you fit in?  Wherever you want.  You can be whoever you want to be here.  You can choose whatever major fits your interests…or make your own (see “Interdisciplinary Major” checklist).

Here at Hopkins you will find, define, and become the person you were destined to be.  So what are you waiting for?  Apply now!  I can’t wait to see you on campus.