For one of my classes, Environment & Society, our “final” was to investigate an environmental problem of our choice, write up a paper about it, and also incorporate some sort of creative presentation or display that would help people make realistic choices about the issue at hand.
Last week, we presented our creative projects in class and I was wowed by what everyone had to share! My peers wrote plays about fracking, wrote and illustrated childrens’ books about fish protesting the construction of a nearby industrial complex, developed board games that showed players the trade-offs between environmental and economic costs, and made apps that helped you save orangutans. It was awesome.
For my project, I wanted to investigate our current food system and how it has created problems of food insecurity and environmental degradation. For the creative component, I vlogged my experience living on only $15 over the course of three days, only able to buy food from a different source each day: a convenience store, a grocery store, and a farmers market.
I learned a lot from the experience — that being food insecure is exhausting, and that the conventional food system is something that needs to be changed if we want to create a sustainable future for all.
Take a look at my experience and learn what you can do to be an advocate for food sustainability and food justice!
As course registration for the spring semester began to approach a couple of weeks ago, I realized that yet another semester was coming to a close and I had a true-to-form “yikes” moment.
I’ll save the drama and just say that basically, I wasn’t exactly sure I was fully enjoying everything I’ve been studying, and I still wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do after Hopkins. I think I was so focused on knocking out degree requirements left and right for my majors and graduating in 3 1/2 years, that I hadn’t really taken a second to reflect on these last few years and think hard about the spookily close “future”.
I consulted a bunch of my friends and gave them the low-down and they were all extremely supportive and helpful. One of my housemates recommended that I just sit down, look back at the classes I’ve taken at Hopkins, and break them down. What were my favorite classes? What did I enjoy about them? What would be potential related job opportunities?
So I did just that. I took a look at each semester’s schedule, picked my stand-out favorites, and tried to synthesize some sort of overarching theme that could link them all and hopefully produce an aha moment about the rest of my time at Hopkins and after.
Fall 2014: Discrete Mathematics
Wow, what a throwback. I remember the first homework assignment being a bunch of different math puzzles and games, the goal being to get us used to approaching problems from a logical mindset. This was the basis of the entire class. Throughout the semester, I got my first look at algorithms, learned how to write mathematical proofs, and was introduced to a variety of interesting topics like cryptography and graph theory. Might sound like a weird choice, but definitely one of my favorites of this semester.
Spring 2015: Introduction to Computing
Introduction to Computing was literally my introduction to computing. With zero coding experience, I enrolled in the class to get some hands-on learning and programming knowledge. I found myself really enjoying the homework assignments and learning how to problem solve with code. There was something so, so satisfying about getting my code to work and figuring out the solution to the problem at hand.
Fall 2015: Introduction to Optimization
This class introduced me to the field of optimization and helped me solidify my applied math focus area! You can see similarities between this class and my other favorites: problem solving, coding, analytical thinking. These were the aspects I enjoyed the most about this class. The problem sets and coding were challenging, but I distinctly remember the beautiful feeling of running my simplex method function and it finally working perfectly. Super satisfying.
Spring 2016: Data Visualization for Individualized Health
I’ve already raved about how much I like this class, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this class really helped me shape my current path as to what I want to further study and pursue after Hopkins. The class was quantitative and code-heavy, but we also talked about visual theory and how to make numbers aesthetically pleasing and communicable. Ugh.
Fall 2016: Mathematical Modeling and Consulting
I decided to take this class because I was intrigued by the strange, mysterious world of “consulting” as more and more of my friends became newly employed in this field. In class, we learn different topics related to optimization and mathematical modeling, and apply them in consulting-focused group project case-studies. I’ve helped fictitious companies create efficient condominium construction schedules, proposed efficient monorail routes and attractions to improve tourism in a made-up country, and forecasted passenger arrivals and security line wait times at a theoretical airport. The class is heavily focused on presenting our results in a more professional setting, utilizing mathematical topics to solve real-world problems, and building stealthy code that will help solve these problems.
Looking through all of these classes I’ve narrowed down what I really enjoy to a couple of points:
I like quantitative, logical thinking. I think just naturally, I like the problem-solution structure of math. I feel accomplished when I finish writing working code, and I would much rather choose long problem sets over massive papers.
I like needing to be a bit creative. Whether it’s being creative in how I visualize data, in how I approach a consulting task, or how I tackle my MATLAB code, I need to have some innovation in my life.
I like seeing the big picture applications and real-world impact. My class on data visualization was awesome because we worked with clinicians and used real, historical, global health data. My modeling and consulting class is great because we apply what we learn in class to realistic, business case studies and present them as if we are presenting to our clients.
To summarize my final thoughts and the end of my internal crisis: I successfully realized what I enjoy studying, so I will focus on these types of courses throughout the rest of my time at Hopkins, and perhaps they will shed some more light on what exactly I want to do after I graduate. I’ll take some computer science classes, maybe a design class at MICA. Although I’m not entirely sure I want to focus on something in public health after Hopkins, I’ll finish through with my public health degree, taking classes at Bloomberg to learn from brilliant minds and address real-world public health problems.
So, action items:
Enroll in computer science courses next semester to gain more programming skills and see if I really like the field. If so, look into a minor in computer science.
Apply for internships in data science, operations research, and analytics/visualization.
Stay four full years to get the most out of the rest of my time at Hopkins, not rush through anything, and hopefully I’ll find something I enjoy when the time comes!!
film a short documentary about food deserts and swamps (… eventually! This is for my term project in one of my classes this semester.)
filled out a week-long food diary to discuss food waste
This last one was for one of my classes this semester, The Environment and Your Health. The intended takeaway from the assignment was for me to become more cognizant of my own personal food waste. And I did! But I also realized that I am just weirdly fascinated by learning what people eat. This makes sense, because I lovewritingaboutfood and almost all of my YouTube recommendations are cooking or those “what I eat in a day” videos. So, similar to this food diary assignment, I decided to take note of what I ate in the last 5 days. Let’s see if there’s anything interesting about my eating and cooking habits.
I know I’m just about out of groceries when I have to buy breakfast. I try to always eat breakfast at home to save money, plus it also encourages me to wake up earlier. But, on this day I think I was running late for work, and plus I had no more breakfast food, so I bought a breakfast sandwich from Eddie’s Market, which is a small grocery store just a block away from my house. They have this great deal where you get a free coffee with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich. I was sold.
I usually eat pretty light for breakfast, so I wasn’t super hungry for lunch before my class at 1:30. I grabbed a pre-made pasta salad and a yogurt from Levering, and ate it right before class started. Quick and dirty.
For dinner, 3/6 of the guys in my house had a treat-yo-self Friday and we made ourselves some steaks. Some roasted potatoes and steamed green beans on the side and we were food coma KO’d for the rest of the evening.
Saturday – 10.29.16:
Breakfast: everything bagel + hummus + coffee
Lunch: turkey/havarti/tomato/arugula panini
Dinner: butternut squash soup
Again, still no groceries, so I got a bagel with hummus and a coffee from Brody Cafe and was working on a group project on Saturday morning. After a bit of struggling, our MATLAB code finally worked (@JHU_Emily was a witness!) We tried to interpret our output but got stuck so we decided to call it a day.
Immediately after, I went to Trader Joe’s in Towson to stock up on groceries finally and made myself a panini when I got back home. I tried out my housemate’s George Foreman panini press for the first time and it was a complete sandwich-game-changer.
For dinner later, I heated up some leftover butternut squash soup I had from earlier in the week, and got into costume for Halloween festivities. My friends and I went as, you guessed it, Trader Joe’s workers. Low effort, maximum wow factor.
I slept in, so I made myself a nice, sizeable brunch with all of my new groceries. My group needed to continue working on our project, so I packed myself some snacks for the library and made a pit-stop at Carma’s Cafe for literally the best cold brew coffee in the Charles Village area.
Back at home, I made myself another George Foreman panini before hanging out my friend’s place for a small potluck gathering. I baked some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, she made some homemade sushi, and another friend brought some pita and hummus. We feasted.
Monday – 10.31.16:
Breakfast: granola bar + grapes
Lunch: pumpkin soup + bread
Dinner: sausage + potatoes + green beans
I realized that running late to things in the morning was becoming a pattern, so I decided to load up on granola bars and portable breakfasts at Trader Joe’s. This morning, I tried out one of their bars and it’s pretty darn good! They’re the Trader Joe’s Raises the Bar ones, if anyone really cares. I ate a side of grapes at work, while @JHU_Genevieve and I worked on designing some pages of this year’s Insider’s Guide!
I didn’t pack lunch and I needed to find food that I could eat while doing some last-minute review of material for a quiz I was taking that afternoon. I settled on some pumpkin soup and fresh baked bread from Levering and chose a seat at the bar in Levering Lounge, one of my new favorite study spots.
For dinner, I needed to whip up something quick in order to get to a meeting. In under 30 minutes, I had myself some delicious chicken sausage, a side of potatoes, and some green beans! The sausage is again, from Trader Joe’s, and I swear to you — it’s the best chicken sausage on this entire planet. It’s their Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage and it’s delicious sweet and savory and maple-y — ugh, they’re amazing.
Tuesday – 11/1/16:
Breakfast: coffee + free doughnut
Lunch: yogurt + granola
Dinner: soba noodle stir-fry
And today! This morning was rough and I needed to treat myself to a coffee from Brody. I saw that a student organization was handing out free doughnuts outside on Tyler Terrace, so I snagged one and settled on a seat in the library to knock out some work. A bit later, I got hungry again, so I ate some yogurt with granola I packed for myself that morning. I had actually packed it for breakfast, but the free doughnut changed the status quo.
During classes, I snacked on an apple while ironically, learning about pesticide use. By around 5, I was about ready to make dinner, and so I whipped up my go-to soba noodle stir-fry, pictured here:
made a purchase for 1/3 of my meals
visited on-campus dining options 5 times: twice at Brody Cafe, and three times at Levering
65% of my meals were vegetarian
drank coffee 4 out of the 5 days
enjoyed free food 3 times
In conclusion, it is indeed possible to cook for oneself the majority of the time, especially living off-campus with access to real, big-people kitchens. I find that I enjoy my meals so much more when I make them myself. Cooking is also a great stress-reliever for me, and I always try my hardest to carve out 1-1.5 hours for dinner on most nights. Plus, it’s always fun to cook and eat with people, like I did with my housemates and my friends at the potluck!
However, eating on-campus is inevitable just because it’s convenient and pretty good! As a junior, I don’t have a meal plan, so I frequent Brody Cafe, for coffee and snacks and Levering Food Court, for lots of quick lunch options. Other common on-campus dining options for me are Levering Cafe and Bamboo Cafe.
Eating more vegetarian meals was kind of an unofficial goal of mine; I’ve been trying to explore different types of proteins, both animal and non-animal, and plus eating less meat is, besides having fantastic health benefits, cheaper! Eating less meat also reduces my carbon footprint, so that’s always good, too!
Honestly, coffee is a very important part of my morning ritual nowadays. I think I should start making my own coffee though to save money, because it does add up… but speaking of saving money, it’s great when you’re a college student because there’s so much free food on and around our campus.
Bad days are inevitable. Here’s what I do when they happen:
Stop doing work. I won’t be productive, and I won’t feel any happier when I’m doing it.
Down a bowl of pho. Or ramen, depending on the day. Choose your comfort food. Then eat it.
Watch an episode of The Office. Fire drill episode highly recommended.
Listen to Blonde. Poolside convo ’bout this really bad day that’s almost over soon.
Take a walk. Or a run. Depending on your energy level.
Take a nap. They help.
FaceTime a friend.
Get a mani/pedi. I’ve never done this, but four of my (male) friends did this. They said it was dope.
Grab a scoop of Mint Mountain. Current favorite flavor from the Charmery. Speaking from personal experience, this is a cure-all.
Clear my desktop. Highly satisfying.
Edit photos. This might be a very Quan-specific favorite pastime.
Play Catan. I haven’t played a game of Catan since the summer, and I could really go for one right now.
Clean my living space. Clear space, clear mind? People say that, right?
Plan a trip. #SB2K17 must live up to #SB2K16.
Watch cooking videos. Or just binge-watch @emmymadeinjapan taste snacks from around the world.
Find new music. There’s a lot of new albums I still need to listen to. Perfect time to go through them!
Cook a meal for myself. Once I finish watching cooking videos, I usually feel the need to attempt something in the kitchen for myself.
Watch some stand-up. I am not a big stand-up guy, but recently my friends have been showing me some fantastic HBO specials. I highly recommend Sarah Silverman and Louis C.K.
Take a long shower. To date, two of my housemates have vouched for showering in the dark? Is that weird? I might have to try it.
Leave if needed. Sometimes, you just need to leave campus. True story.
I think everyone reaches a point in the semester where everything just piles up: school, clubs, life in general. Fall Break seems to come at the perfect time — right when everyone just about needs it. Including me.
When I have a lot going on, I keep my tabs open, thinking that I’ll need to look at them in the near future, so there’s no point in closing them. But most of the time, I don’t really need them open. I should probably just close them all out and keep Chrome looking clean and not like this:
This is a personal problem that I have addressed and I am working on it. I acknowledge that. A student’s stress level is directly proportional to the number of tabs they have. Here is a graph for the visual learners out there:
There is indeed, no better feeling than closing out all of my tabs after I finish a big assignment or project. And today, after I turned in my first big project for one of my classes and am about to finish my first paper in another one of my classes, I am ready to close out those tabs and metaphorically start anew with a single, fresh, blank “New Tab”. But before I do this, I decided that it might be interesting to dissect what exactly it is that is clogging up my Chrome (and potentially my RAM? My computer has been kind of slow lately — I would not be surprised if this was the issue).
Being a junior means actually, tangibly worrying about what you want to do after graduation. I always thought it would be the coolest thing to work for Spotify doing data analytics or something along those lines. I think I want to work at a start-up or a young company — I’m imagining somewhere where you everyone sits on exercise balls in the office and you get yoga or rock climbing breaks. I’ve had this tab open to join their “student talent community” so that I can get updates on openings and events near me. I’ve kept this tab open for a really long time now because I’ve been procrastinating on updating my resume — and that’s a whole story in itself.
The Environment and Your Health reading schedule
Pretty self-explanatory, I’ve kept this tab open to keep myself on track for the readings we have quizzes on in lecture for The Environment and Your Health. The problem with all of my class syllabi and schedules is that they’re all in different formats and in different locations — I still am trying to figure out the most efficient way to centralize all of these so that I can finally close out this tab. Or I’ll just have it open all semester.
Half-marathon training schedule
I’m been training for my first ever half-marathon since July! I’m participating in the Baltimore Running Festival, where runners from all over (and outside) Baltimore race in events of different distances in a big, city-wide celebration. I was not a runner in high school; the longest race I’ve ever run was a charity 5K back during sophomore year of high school. I’m actually extremely impressed at the literal lengths I’ve gone to make sure I’m ready for these 13.1 miles, and surprised at how enjoyable some of my longer runs have been. Two Sundays ago I did an 8 miler from Charles Village all the way down to the Inner Harbor, around, and back, and it was absolutely fantastic. I’ve been sick this past week so I haven’t been on my running game, but since the half is on October 15th, I definitely have to catch up on my training. I have my last long run this Sunday, a 10 miler!
Men of Principle Scholarship planning documents
I’m in charge of a scholarship my fraternity awards every fall, so these are just some spreadsheets and polls and things to help me organize the logistics of applications, interviews, and planning the scholarship dinner!
Hopkins Creative Design product order
The student business I’m a part of (alongside JHU_Aneek!) is getting ready for a the sale of a new item, so I’ve been researching vendors and products, and finally decided on a product to order!
This blog post!
Mathematical Modeling and Consulting project assignment
I’m only taking one Applied Math class this semester, and it’s called Mathematical Modeling and Consulting. So far, I’m really enjoying this class. It’s taught by my advisor, Dr. Castello, who I also took Discrete Math with, another class I really liked. The class is different than any other AMS class I’ve taken, because there’s a strong emphasis on written and verbal communication skills, and I can really see the “applied” in applied mathematics. For this group project, we were assigned a case study in which we acted as consultants analyzing the status of a construction project. We turned in our project today, so I can now happily close out this tab!
Journal articles for Sociology of Health Illness paper
In one of my public health classes, we’re looking at health disparities among different socioeconomic classes and different racial and ethnic groups. I’m currently in the midst of writing a paper on disparities in exposure and treatment of HIV/AIDS between races, so I’ve got a lot of tabs open of different journal articles and sources I can cite in the paper.
Absentee voter affidavit
Register to vote! I need to get this affidavit notarized and sent over to the Department of Elections back in Delaware so I can receive an absentee ballot to vote in November. It’s my first ever general election vote so I’m pretty excited!
Last week, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from my 9-to-5 job to pick up some chicken thighs for dinner.
This was my pivotal moment.
I’m in Baltimore for the summer and living in a house off-campus definitely is the catalyzer for feeling old. It comes with routine and responsibilities. I make mental (and physical) notes to remember everything.
Take out trash, after 6pm on Mondays. Pick up Drano from store for third floor bathroom. Call Comcast about spotty Wi-Fi. Check to see if washing machine is leaking.
All this, plus work a full day of my research internship at the School of Public Health and you will find me passed out in bed before midnight on most weeknights. Yet, there’s something very invigorating about being a young aspiring professional experiencing bits and pieces of adulthood. I get excited about the clinical data I’m starting to look at, and the people I get to work with in the Department of Biostatistics. I find myself pleasantly surprised with how easy and cost-effective it was to make my own cold-brew coffee this morning.
(ex. 3: When you start liking things because of how easy and cost-effective they are.)
I feel hip and thrifty when I shop for used furniture in the Hopkins “Free & For Sale” Facebook group. I walk with a spring in my step through the showroom at IKEA, amazed at a) how well the company has developed its brand, b) how much money I spend there (in multiple trips), and c) how dope their consumer analytics team must be. And of course, I feel a smile forming across my face as I think about my paycheck at the end of this month.
And while these things may not seem very fun to most people, I still also have time for more colloquial fun. I just spent the past 5 days camping at Firefly Music Festival in the greatest state in America, jamming to Blink-182 and Porter Robinson (and low-key Mumford & Sons — I’ve been listening to their newest release, Johannesburg non-stop since Firefly ended). I’m making plans to see Finding Dory in theaters. I’ve hung out with friends on enough Charles Village back-decks in the past two weeks to last a lifetime. Basically I’m at this weird stage of life where simultaneously, I want to dance for 12 straight hours in 90 degree weather and also be able to cozy up in my bed by 10pm, and where I pay my rent and gas, electricity, water, and credit card bills, and then proceed to go see an animated film about talking sea-life.
I’m not exactly sure what the main takeaway is supposed to be from this blog. Possible theses:
Baltimore in the summer is a grand time.
Feeling like an adult is being tired 98% of the time. Feeling excited about weird adult responsibilities might just be a me thing.
In an attempt to salvage 3/4 of a semester’s worth of daily 1-second clips for a film project I lost track of, I created this “mini-documentary” featuring two of my favorite things: food and friends. As I was looking through the clips I had, I realized that I filmed a lot of meals, and meals that I shared with people. There were the moments more worthy of being captured: trying fermented shark in Iceland, meeting my friend’s family, eating a delicious, homemade dinner made by my fraternity brothers. And there were the smaller ones: grabbing a slice of pizza from Maxie’s, a Carma’s sirloin panino study break, indulging in Doritos in Gilman Atrium in the late of night.
But no matter how quick, or how expensive, or who I’m with, all of these moments represent a very important part of each day: enjoying a meal, with a friend or two. Because through the ups and downs of this semester, this year, my entire time at Hopkins, it’s always been that — enjoying a meal with a friend — that remains constant, and that I always look forward to.
When it’s this time of year, the campus is buzzing with talk of summer plans, semesters abroad, internships, and job placements. And all of the talk had me feeling way too introspective and I remembered that I’m through 4/7 semesters here at Hopkins, meaning that I’m roughly 57% done college. During Spring Fair, I asked one of my friends who’s a senior:
“Have you done everything you’ve wanted to do at Hopkins? What’s left?”
That got me thinking — I’ve covered a lot in my first 57%. I’ve learned about the world through numbers and data and functions and models. I’ve read countless papers about health policy and epidemiological surveillance data. I’ve written poems and short stories, forming narratives I never thought I had the creative capacity for. I’ve designed graphics upon graphics for way too many clubs than I can handle. I’ve found myself in one of the most close-knit group of friends I could ever ask for. I’ve gotten my hands dirty with some research, and an internship (or two, hopefully). I’ve learned about the real world — the history, the injustices, the changes we need. I’ve eaten my weight in UniMini steak, egg, and cheese hoagies, Brody Cafe veggie burgers, and Alkimia banana bread.
I feel things ending and changing.
I look at the courses I need to take to graduate — there’s not many more. Two more classes for AMS, four more Homewood classes for PHS. I remember that I won’t see some of my friends going abroad until junior spring — for some, not until senior year. I think about the clubs and organizations that I’m in — how soon enough, I’ll be the oldest, the most experienced. It’s scary to me to think that in about a year, none of my fraternity brothers will be ones that I knew before joining myself.
But there’s still more. In these next two years, I’ll hit more milestones. This summer, I’m moving into a house on St. Paul with five of my best friends. By senior year, I’ll be taking classes at Bloomberg to finish up my public health major. Hopefully, I’ll have spent one summer interning somewhere on the West Coast. I’ll have two more Spring Fairs, two more homecoming games, two more opportunities to welcome the incoming freshmen classes. I’ll have some sort of plan for life after college. And when I graduate I’m going to take the most savage picture jumping on the Gilman Seal.
Plenty of Hopkins students vouch for the use of a planner or organizer. I know I do. Between assignment deadlines, exam dates, and club meetings — it’s the only way I can keep track of everything I need to do. But another huge part of my calendar are events on campus. As a member of the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP), our university’s social programming board, I’m a huge proponent of student life and student activities. You hear about the big ones — Lighting of the Quads, SOHOP, Spring Fair — but what about the ones that happen day-to-day? There’s always stuff going on and around campus!
SEPTEMBER 12 – The Big Blue Jay Tailgate
Beta Theta Pi and the Student Government Association (SGA) brought out the cornhole sets, free t-shirts, and massive amounts of pulled pork to tailgate our football game against Susquehanna. Nothing better.
OCTOBER 13 – Dr. Mohammed Dajani
Co-hosted by the Hopkins American Partnership for Israel (HAPI), Hopkins J Street U, and the Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS), Dr. Mohammed Dajani, Weston Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy came to campus to speak. Dajani is “a Palestinian scholar, peace activist, and founder of the modern Islamic movement Wasatia”. This is just one of many events on campus put on to spark discussion amongst our student body on important issues around the world.
NOVEMBER 13 – The 8th Annual Hip Hop Showcase & Benefit
SLAM, a hip hop dance group on campus and some college and professional teams danced to benefit the Baltimore Dance Crews Project, a local Baltimore non-profit that offers free dance lessons to the children of Baltimore, encouraging the art of hip hop dance!
DECEMBER 2 – Festival of Lights
JiGL (Jews in Greek Life) and SASH (South Asian Students at Hopkins) co-hosted a fun celebration in downtown Baltimore for two winter festivals of light: Hanukkah and Diwali. The student groups rented out Ryleigh’s Oyster House for a night full of a whole lot of dancing (especially on my end), food, and loads of fun. Proof that we do go out on Wednesday nights.
FEBRUARY 9 – Mardi Gras
For Fat Tuesday, the HOP put on a celebration in the Glass Pav. We had Cajun food, the JHU Jazz Band playing some smooth tunes, and even some circus performances from the Johns Hopkins Entertainers Club (JHEC)!
MARCH 31 – Spring Garden Party
The Sophomore Class Council put on this awesome event at Gertrude’s, a restaurant inside of the BMA, which is literally right next to campus. All of the Class of 2018 was invited to taste free food from Gertrude’s — which is amazing — and have a good time in some great weather. Also, props to the graphic designer — this is a dope Facebook cover photo.
APRIL 18 – Eat Your Heart Out
Eat Your Heart Out is an all-you-can-eat dessert night that benefits the Alpha Phi Foundation, happening next week! Carma’s baked goods, Greek life pie-eating competitions, and philanthropy — what more can you ask for.
Last week, I was sitting in my Introduction to Probability lecture when my professor stopped mid-explanation to greet about fifty or so parents and admitted students who had taken their seats in the back of Hodson 110. While I expect that they were probably all a little early for some sort of admissions information session that was to be given in the same lecture hall after my class ended, I was surprised to see how many of them were actually sitting and listening and (maybe?) enjoying these mathematical chalkboard hieroglyphics that I was furiously copying down into my notes to try and decipher later. But then I realized that these admitted students were admitted for a reason. If they’re going to be Hopkins students, they’re definitely bright and probably enjoy this kind of stuff. If you’re an admitted/prospective/hopeful Hopkins student and you’re interested in what an applied math/public health double major studies, you’re in luck. Here’s a couple of things I’ve been learning in some of my classes.
Global Health Principles and Practices
A major portion of our grades in GHPP is based on two major assignments, the first of which I’ve already completed. For this assignment, we were to research a health problem anywhere in the world. I focused on tuberculosis in Vietnam. The prompt is as follows:
Based on your research, create a story about a specific person or family… Find a way to weave in three or more of the local and global factors that contribute to the problem into your story. The story should be engaging, believable, and respectful of the local peoples, their traditions, religions and livelihoods. The story should take us behind the statistics, and provide a sense of the struggles people face in avoiding, living with, or seeking treatment for the health problem. You can structure the story in different ways to illustrate what it is like to struggle with this health problem, including but not limited to: a day in the life of a person with the health problem, experiences seeking treatment, or a family member’s experiences in caring for and seeking treatment for a relative. You may also write the story from the perspective of a health worker who treats people with the health problem you have chosen.
To accompany this narrative, we were to also write a more formal research paper based on this specific health problem as another portion of the assignment. The goal, however, was to illuminate a global health problem in the context of an individual, which is the type of public health framework that I haven’t really explored, considering my background and interests in the data side of public health. I found this assignment, and this way of looking at global health issues to be both fascinating, and extremely important.
Further, check out this TEDx talk we were assigned to watch before one of our lectures — it’s about the “silent epidemic” of depression in Africa, a continent where addressing mental health problems often takes the backseat to solving problems with HIV/AIDS, malaria, and infectious disease.
Data Visualization for Individualized Health
Every week, we’re assigned to develop a web application that visualizations global health and/or economic data. My partner, Anjani, and I have been focusing on indicators like GDP per capita, life expectancy, food supply, and infant mortality in our weekly homework apps, and here’s one we made last week! In class that week, we focused on logistic regression, so our app shows two visualizations:
The first plot predicts the probability that a hypothetical country has a “low life expectancy” based on the country’s food supply. Use the slider bar on the left side to change your selected food supply and see how the probability increases and decreases!
The second plot predicts the probability that a hypothetical country is designated “low-income” based on the country’s life expectancy and infant mortality rate. On the left side again, you can input the life expectancy you want to estimate the probability for, and also change whether or not your country is “low infant mortality” or not. The logistic regression model we created shows that if your hypothetical country is designated “low infant mortality”, you have a lower probability of being designated “low-income”!
If you haven’t already read my other posts about this class, I’ve really enjoyed this class. It’s a lot of work. We have to complete readings and code and analyze data and debug (truth: this is the only class I’ve actively attended office hours for) but it’s fantastic. There’s nothing more satisfying than having your code run and it outputting beautiful, meaningful, interactive data visualizations. The class is a little bit of everything I like:
a public health focus + data and statistics perspective + a little bit of coding + visual theory
What’s not to like?
Fiction/Poetry Writing I
I’m going to go out on a limb here and share one of the poems I wrote for IFP. It’s a sonnet that I’m actually pretty proud of. The class has definitely helped me improve my creative writing skills (they were quite lacking to start), and I’ve gotten the opportunity to read some fantastic poems and short stories — favorites right now have to be “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams and “Symbols and Signs” by Vladimir Nabokov. Without further ado, here is my poem, which clearly shows my love for slant rhyme and the feeling of nostalgia —
On nights like this, we’d open hidden drinks
on wooden porch seats stained with youthful times.
And early in the evening I would think
of twinkling lights we’d passed on nightly drives.
You’d say, “I’ll stay the night”, and there we’d talk
of cities that you’d wander to someday,
of trains that’d sweep you fast into the dark.
I’d pass my dimming cigarette and stay
with you for just another hour or two.
And when I’d shuffle back into the warmth,
I’d leave an extra blanket out for you
in case you’d rest upon my bedroom floor.
I wonder if you still think of these days
of you and I before we went away.
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