Monthly Archives: October 2016


jhucampus            “What is your passion in life?” A svelte researcher from Berlin, Germany, posed this daunting question to me the day I went in the Vision and Cognition lab for a brief meeting. He was a man of elegance who radiated a sense of sage and intellect. You could already notice this ambient aura from the way he presented himself in his choice of outfit (a velvet grey striped suit with a black turtleneck) and his gesticulations as he talked (smooth motion of the hand with purposeful accents). At once eccentric and graceful, I found his vibe very interesting. I was curious as to what thoughts his mind harbored, what values he upheld, and what his background comprised of. He was a man of color with a European upbringing with the passion to study the human experience of color to complement his likening of painting. Indeed, a sentence fails to encapsulate the extraordinarily dense character of the man. But, what I can express that such a multidimensional persona was so electrifying that I focused my efforts on working with him rather than for the research topic itself.


As a research assistant at Hopkins, there are various roles that one can play in the research process. The responsibilities can range from menial tasks like categorizing video tapes into boxes to complex jobs like computing programing algorithms of data from hundreds of participants. More often than not, the research assistant position entails helping the researcher expedite the research process by setting up experimental tasks, conducting the tests, or researching about the topic of interest. Admittedly, it is difficult to sum in one sentence the entire scope of the all the possible roles of research assistants among and within departments. But, mostly, it is to assist the researcher attain their objective in their respective research.


With the work that I am doing with my researcher, however, the tables are turned. Instead of selfishly imposing his visions of his projects on me, my researcher has constantly sought for my input in his experimental questions, incessantly suggested possible works that I can pursue in the future that relate to my passion, and relentlessly challenged me to construct my own opinions around complex issues. Although we haven been researching about a topic so closely integrated in the visual system – how we see color – he has encouraged me to find ways to draw connections of the subject matter to the interests that I gravitate towards. We have gabbed on for hours about how our sensory modalities can converge to create color vision whilst hearing music. Topics like these that engage both the informative research subjects as well as my intrinsic amusement are hard to come by in a day to day conversation with friends or professors. My talks with my researcher has motivated me to think of innovative artistic ways to musically and visually stimulate the mind in ways that can affect the emotional state of students here at Hopkins.


I have been extremely lucky to have someone who can provide the scaffolding of intellectual instruction to me out of volition. The chances that I get to meet someone who is willing to see the growth of my intellect and help me create my own brainchild are very infinitesimal. I can not wait to see how my passions will strengthen or change throughout the next couple of months spent with my researcher.


The moment he asked me the question about passion, my mind halted to an absolute stop. I did not know where to start and if anything, I didn’t even have a starting point. I ended up fishing for empty words that could fill the awkward gap. The gut feeling I felt at this moment is so vividly ingrained my memory, because it magnified the lack of clarity I have in my mission here at Hopkins. It was the much needed slap in the face for me to not only localizes which arenas my interest lies in but also search for practical steps that I can take to bring me closer to the fore of my passion. My researcher concluded today’s meeting with a commonly said but beautifully hopeful remark that reinforces the optimism that the society needs more of, “The sky is the limit.”


Hymns of Hopkins


When a slew of midterms rush in and heaps of responsibilities from extracurriculars seem endless, the only way that I find a sense of refuge is through the vessel of music. There’s something so visceral about it that makes an experience not only void of anchoring thoughts but also so full in its dimensions of feeling. Something about it brings you to the forefront of the moment, instilling within you the power of feeling the fluidity of the past, present, and future. To me, music is the most abstract yet pure mechanism to digest time. 

What fascinates me the most about music is that it is a felt language that goes beyond what is just heard through the ear – it involves the subjective creation (and recreation) of visualization in our minds both for the listener and the artist. Our minds can, in fact, “see ” music. Though music is essentially just a compression of the pressures of molecules traveling through the medium of air, music has the capacity to take hold of the hidden crevices of the heart by communicating what is the ineffable. 

This semester, I’ve tried something new and joined the Peabody-Hopkins Chorus. We meet bi-weekly at the Peabody Institute to prepare our concert for the winter and this semester’s focus is on R.Vaughan Williams piece of Dona Nobis Pacem. Along with the technical choral skills that we rehearse, each practice teaches us how to listen to others to find balance as a choir and challenges us to grow a deeper sense of understanding for the purpose of each component of the music, imagining what Vaughan Williams had in mind while composing the song. I walk out of most practices with a newfound sense of inspiration and the urge to improve.

Thus, in hopes to share with you my deep-running love for music and its significance, here is a list of tunes handpicked by Hopkins students that you can vibe to at your leisure.  

Intro / Stronger Than MeAmy Winehouse


For those want a little bit of soul and funk by Amy Winehouse




What You Don’t Do – Lianne La Havas


For those who want a contemporary groove with many musical elements and a voice-like-honey


Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Joseph Vincent Cover


For those of you want someone to warm the cockle’s of your heart, Joseph Vincent is your man.


Cranes in the Sky – Solange Knowles


For those who seek an ambient sound for the perfect backdrop while studying


Cold Water ft. Justin Bieber – Major Lazer


For those who want to stay ahead of the curve in the music scene, here’s a cool, vibe-y tune that is on our radar


In The Name Of Love – Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha


For those who crave the jittery feeling of hearing a loud, clear, and fun song