<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Sun, 22 Sep 2019 06:09:46 -0400 Sun, 22 Sep 2019 06:09:46 -0400 SNworks CEO 2019 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Women's Volleyball is looking unbeatable after 3-0 weekend]]> It was a tough weekend for all of the teams who took the court this weekend against the Hopkins women's volleyball team, as the Blue Jays continued their dominant start to their 2019 campaign with three convincing victories this weekend as they traveled to Fredericksburg, Va. for the University of Mary Washington Classic.

Match number one saw Hopkins face off against the previously undefeated Virginia Wesleyan University Marlins, who challenged the Blue Jays early in set one as the two squads traded kills back and forth. The Marlins were able to carve out a three-point lead to take a 6-3 advantage, but Hopkins responded with a 9-3 run as they took a three-point lead of their own at 12-9. VWU closed the lead to one just two serves later, but they struggled to keep the momentum going as a pair of botched hits and a rallying Hopkins offense responded with five straight points to turn the tide of the set at 17-12. Hopkins would end on an 8-2 run to close out the first set 25-14.

Riding the energy of the first set, Hopkins took it to the Marlins early in set two by going up 8-2. Rather than hit the panic button and fold early, Virginia Wesleyan would continue to battle as the set wore on, but were unable to chip away at the Hopkins lead. The two teams would trade points back and forth, with the Blue Jays taking an eight-point lead at 18-10 before VWU took six of the next seven points to cut it to 19-16. The Marlins would push late, but Hopkins would take the second set 25-22.

It was a story of ties in set three with the score being knotted up on nine different occasions. Hopkins managed a two-point lead on a couple of occasions, and even held an 18-14 advantage, but Virginia Wesleyan continued to try and fight their way back into the match. The Marlins would continue to narrow the deficit to one as the Blue Jays inched closer to the 25 points that they needed, but they were unable to overtake Hopkins and the Jays went on to win 25-22.

Senior middle blocker Hannah Korslund was pleased with the team's attitude over the weekend, and felt that the sense of community on the smaller team contributed to the way they have been performing.

"We were definitely excited to come out with a strong level of intensity and energy to take care of this weekend's opponents," said Korslund. "We are definitely looking forward to using our team chemistry and how close knit we are as a small team to our advantage too."

Match two of the weekend came against the Washington and Lee University Generals, who committed six attack errors on the first nine points which gave Hopkins the opportunity to jump out to an 8-1 lead to start the set. The Generals were able to regroup, however, and went on a 16-8 run to swing the momentum in their favor and take a 17-16 lead. A Hopkins timeout allowed the Blue Jays to reset after the Washington and Lee push, which proved helpful as they came out of the break, taking nine of the next 13 points along with the first set 25-20.

It was another hot start for Hopkins in the second set, once again highlighted by attack errors against the Generals. The relentless Blue Jays took full advantage of the miscues by W&L and piled on some powerful offense to notch a 16-4 lead. The Generals would show some signs of life and narrow the deficit to nine when they took five of the next seven points, but it wouldn't be enough to stop the Blue Jay train from continuing to roll. Hopkins would finish strong, clinching a 2-0 lead in the match by taking the last four points in a 25-12 set victory.

Looking to send W&L home early, the third was another charm of a set for the Jays. They jumped out to an 11-4 lead and forced the Generals to take a timeout and stop the bleeding. Hopkins did not allow the Generals to rest for long and continued to dominate the floor. Led by junior outside hitter Simone Bliss' four kills, the Jays allowed the Generals to score just seven more points to their 14, as the third and final set finished at 25-11 in favor of the Blue Jays.

The third match of the weekend came against the University of Mary Washington Eagles as Hopkins head coach Matt Troy faced off against his former team. The battle of the birds was a back and forth battle in the early goings of set one, with Hopkins taking a couple of leads early on before UMW knotted the set back up at seven all. It wouldn't be until near the midpoint of the set when the Jays went on a 9-2 run to secure the momentum. They would take that momentum to the end of the set as they won set one by a score of 25-15.

Hopkins opened the second set taking an early 6-2 lead, but Mary Washington continued the trend of battling back, and eventually claimed their first lead of the match at 11-10. It would be short-lived, with the Jays knotting up the set at 12-12, and then taking an 18-16 lead over the Eagles. UMW would rally back to take nine of the last 11 points of the set as the Blue Jays dropped their first set of the weekend 25-20.

The loss must have set a fire underneath the Blue Jays, because they came out hot with four straight points in set number three. The Eagles would reply with four straight of their own, and the battling birds would exchange back to back points to tie it up at 6-6, but Hopkins would break away with two six-point runs broken up by a single UMW point to pull ahead 18-7. Hopkins would close out set three in dominant fashion 25-12.

The weekend closed after set four for the Blue Jays, as they traded points back and forth with the Eagles to put the score at 6-6 once again. A four-point run forced a Mary Washington timeout, and Hopkins would go on three separate three point stretches to extend the lead to nine at 21-12 before finally putting away the Eagles for good after back-to-back Eagle attack errors to capture a 25-14 set four.

The three wins over the weekend put Hopkins at 7-0 on the year and victors of the UMW Classic. Amidst several impressive performances by the Blue Jays, junior setter Natalie Aston was named the most valuable player after finishing the weekend with 113 assists, 22 digs and five service aces.

Despite the successful weekend, Korslund knows that the work is never done, and the team will continue to strive to be better as they continue their 2019 campaign.

"We are looking forward to improving our offensive tempo and aggressive attacking as the season progresses and against tough upcoming competition," Korslund said.

The Blue Jays will take part in another three-match weekend this weekend when they travel to Selinsgrove, Pa. to take on Clarkson University on Friday and the Rochester Institute of Technology and Ithaca College on Saturday.


This weekend's matches put women's volleyball at a 7-0 record for this year.

<![CDATA[Athlete of the Week: Emily Maheras]]> The Hopkins women's soccer team extended their win streak to three games this past weekend with a 2-0 victory against the Rowan University Profs, improving their record to 5-1-1 for the season. Currently ranked No. 6 in the nation by the United Soccer Coaches poll, the Jays don't show signs of stopping any time soon.

In particular, senior midfielder Emily Maheras has stood out as a crucial element of the team's success. For the fourth game in a row this season, Maheras has put a goal on the board for the Jays. These four goals and another from the first game of the season leave her just one goal shy of her career-high six goals from last season.

The 2018 First Team All-Region player spoke with The News-Letter about how the team has come to find their success, her expectations for the season and her senior legacy.

The News-Letter: You've scored in all but two games this season and are currently on a four-game streak. How have you or the team been able to find or create these opportunities each game?

Emily Maheras: Our team has created a lot of opportunities offensively by starting the game strong against every team that we play. The high pressure that we've been putting on teams from the start of the game has allowed us to take control offensively and diminish the confidence of our opponents right off the bat. Additionally, our strength and skill up top has allowed us to take risks and play more creatively this year, which has led us to consistently outshoot our opponents so far this season.

N-L: Not only are you guys 5-1-1, but also, all your wins this season have been shutouts except one. How have you guys worked in practice to develop such an iron-clad defense?

EM: The defense has done a great job so far this season, and many of our practices have been focused on developing the back line. Our centerbacks have taken a lot of leadership on the field which has led to much of our success defensively. Because we have such a strong and skilled defensive line, our team has focused on pressing our opponents quickly and not giving them any time on the ball. This has helped us to not concede many goals so far this season.

N-L: Going into your senior season, what do you hope to accomplish?

EM: Going into my senior season, I have high expectations for my team. I really believe that our team has the best chemistry and determination out of all of my years here, and I'm excited to see where it takes us. I would like for the team to continue to play consistently and confidently each game, which will hopefully lead to winning both the Conference and the National Championship.

N-L: What's been your favorite memory of your career so far?

EM: I can't choose a favorite memory in my collegiate career so far - so many have been good both on and off the field, and I'm incredibly grateful that I get to play this sport with my best friends every day. With that said, I'm extremely confident that we're going to make some of the best memories on the field this year.

N-L: What would you like your legacy to be, and what do you hope to pass on to your younger teammates?

EM: Ever since I was little, my dad has encouraged me to get better "every single day and in every single way" by practicing on my own. This might sound silly, but it has always reminded me that work ethic is something that you can always control and is more important on the field than athleticism or skill. Once I'm done playing, I would like to pass on my passion, intensity and love for the game to my younger teammates.

<![CDATA[Why you should really give Champions League a try]]>

If you've never heard of the Champions League before, then you are missing out big time.

Now hear me out. I know that I'm talking about soccer here, and I assure you I understand that the "other football" doesn't exactly interest most Americans. In fact, even mentioning that I like soccer often brings out some pretty negative reactions from the true patriots around me.

"Oh, you like soccer? It's so boring." "Soccer? Ugh, I hate soccer, it's so European." "Dude, just move to England already!" "Oh my God, could you stop talking about soccer for like three minutes, please?" "Why don't you follow real football, man?" "Enough! We get it, you like soccer!"

Okay, maybe some of those are a bit personal.

There are plenty of Americans who do like and follow soccer, of course, but those who don't tend to really dislike it. There are a lot of reasons why Americans generally find soccer disinteresting or annoying, some historical and some more particular. After all, why would such a simplistic and boring sport be the most popular one in the world when there are so many amazing American sports that nobody else seems to follow? I mean, seriously, why can't all those French people just be normal and play baseball?

I don't think I can change America's sport preferences - though we could maybe do without our injury-ridden version of football - but I really want you to know that there's a whole world out there full of spectacular sports stories, crazy comebacks and epic upsets you're missing out on if you don't care about soccer.

I'm writing this now because this week, for the first time since last May, the Champions League is back. Now, I'm not going to argue that you should (like me) waste who knows how many hours a week following domestic leagues across Europe. Frankly the fact that nobody cares about Burnley Football Club scoring a 91st-minute equalizer against Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club on Saturday in the English Premier League is really not a big deal. The Champions League, though, is something else entirely.

In case you don't know, every country in Europe has their own soccer league, and every year the best teams from each league play each other in an international tournament. This epic league consists of the best teams in the world that you've probably heard of before: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool, but also some underdog teams you likely don't know exist, such as Club Brugge, Red Star Belgrade, Olympiakos or Genk. Teams qualify for the Champions League by finishing at (or near, depending on the country) the top of their respective domestic league, which means that the cast of characters competing in the league changes year to year, making each season entirely different and fascinating, with its own amazing storylines.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let's talk about last year - arguably one of the greatest Champions League seasons in history, and certainly in recent memory. The highlight was without question the Ajax Amsterdam's success. Playing in the Dutch league, they had to not only win their own league, but survive three qualifying rounds just to make it into the first stage of the competition, the group stage.

However, after surviving behemoths Bayern Munich and managing to make it out of the group, they drew Real Madrid - the team that had won the coveted trophy every year for the past three years - in the Round of 16. Matthijs de Ligt, a 19-year-old defender, captained Ajax. Sergio Ramos, a World Cup winner who had been an integral part of those three European Cup victories, captained Madrid. He also helped them win several league titles, a much more difficult accomplishment in Spain than in the Netherlands.

The match, like all matches past the group stage, was played out over two legs, one in each team's home stadium. Ajax managed to keep the first game tight, only losing by a score of 2-1 at home, a result that everyone agreed was more respectable than Amsterdam had any right to hope for. Then, in the return leg in Madrid, Ajax stunned the world by winning 4-1 and knocking out the reigning champs. They weren't done yet, though. The next round, they took on Juventus, the best team in Italy and a team who are fronted by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who needs no introduction. Ajax beat them in Turin (on a de Ligt goal) and kept going. Eventually they did lose, though, but only in the semifinals when Tottenham Hotspur's Lucas Moura scored a goal on the last kick of the game.

I was lucky enough to watch all of these games, and believe me when I say that there's no drama in the sports world that compares. These games are worth tens of millions of dollars for the victorious team, so for a team like Ajax, with a budget around a tenth of their competition at best, winning can mean everything. I'm not talking about the final right now. Any sport can have an incredible final, and you can't judge a competition based only on the game that means more than all the others. But when it comes to the Champions League, every game can have that feeling of pure, unadulterated excitement that normally comes from only the most important games of the year.

So this year, do yourself a favor and watch the Champions League. There's no other way to see the best teams in the entire world take each other on in games that will define their seasons. Managers are hired or fired based on their success in this competition. Star players are judged more for their performance here than in any other game, and they show up to prove what they're worth. It's as good as soccer gets, and believe me, it gets really, really good.

<![CDATA[Water Polo finishes strong at Princeton Invitational]]> The Hopkins men's water polo team traveled to Princeton, New Jersey this weekend to participate in the Princeton Invitational. They played the Santa Clara Broncos, the Princeton Tigers and the Iona Gaels.

Junior attacker John Murphy talked about staying motivated during games. "It is important for our team, especially as we are low on numbers this season, to enter each game fully focused on the task at hand," he said. "This weekend we did a great job moving forward and bringing determination to the pool each time we lined up to compete."

To kick off the weekend, the team began against Santa Clara. Hopkins fell behind fairly quickly, only scoring one goal to the Broncos' five at the beginning of the second quarter, but a team effort helped bring the score to 5-3.

The Broncos wanted to win this game badly, as was evident by how they came out of halftime. The Blue Jays failed to stop a scoring run that brought the score to 13-7 by the end of third quarter. The fourth quarter was more of the same as Santa Clara wouldn't ease up on their scoring assault, ending the game with a 17-8 victory.

Despite the tough loss, sophomore defender Jake Pearson had a great game, scoring two goals and adding two assists to tie a personal high in points. This competition brought Santa Clara's record to 2-2. Murphy explained some of the team's goals this season.

"A goal I am sure our whole team can agree on is the continual advancement of our talent and level of play. We are aware there is work to be done, and it is clear that each member on our team is committed to bettering both their own play and the performance of the team as a whole," he said. "By working hard throughout the remainder of our season, I expect us to beat a number of D-I programs and finish within the top half of our conference."

As they played against a Division-I Princeton program in game two, it's safe to say Murphy and the team wanted to win badly.

Moving on to Saturday, the Blue Jays faced off against the hosting Princeton Tigers. Princeton was ranked 12th in the nation.

The beginning of the game saw a flurry of scoring by both sides, but with a few minutes remaining in the first half, Hopkins found themselves down 9-2. A goal by freshmen driver Chris Freese brought the score to 9-3 before halftime.

The third quarter went definitively Princeton's way, bringing the score to 14-5 at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was even on both sides, bringing the final score to 16-8.

Another tough loss, but junior driver Olin Shipstead was able to get a career high in assists with three. Princeton's record was brought to 3-3 at the end of the Invitational.

After falling in their first two games, Hopkins had one last game to earn redemption. Shipstead discussed the team's mindset heading into the third game. "We had lost to Iona last weekend, so we knew we could come out with a win if we played hard and left it all in the pool," he said.

The team played Iona on Saturday to end the Invitational. Hopkins had already lost their first meeting with Iona earlier in the season. This game was characterized by the evenness between both teams. At halftime, the score was an even 8-8. At the end of the third quarter, the teams were still tied, but now at 12-12.

Senior attacker Finn Banks scored the first goal of the fourth quarter, inspiring a scoring run by the Blue Jays and helping them secure a 15-13 victory.

Over the course of the game, there were a total of eight ties. Sophomore attacker Jayden Kunwar led the team with five goals in the game. Murphy also scored four goals with three assists, both career highs for him. Iona's record dropped to 1-6 while Hopkins rose to 2-5.

After such an impressive individual game, Murphy reflected on his individual performance.

"All I hope to do is set an example characterized by full commitment and maximum effort for my teammates to follow," he said. "I aim to emphasize play centered around accountability on defense and smart decision making on the offensive end. With a team fully invested in these practices, the results should be noticeable every game."

This upcoming weekend, the team will head to Bucknell to participate in the Bucknell Invitational. The current 12th-ranked team, Harvard, as well as the 17th ranked team, St. Francis, will both be in attendance and will play the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Shipstead explained what the team is looking forward to as the season continues.

"Our most immediate goal is getting our team healthy and getting our injured players back in the water," he said. "Beyond that, the NCAA has implemented a national D-III tournament for the first time this year, and we've got our sights on flying out to California for the final four in December," he said.

<![CDATA[Field hockey dominates in win against Catholic]]> This past Saturday, the Hopkins field hockey team had a chance to get back on track, hosting The Catholic University of America Cardinals. After suffering their first loss of the season in a nail-biter to the Christopher Newport University (CNU) Captains, they were looking to right the ship against another non-Conference opponent.

Sophomore midfielder Abby Birk outlined the keys to the game as the Jays looked to restart their winning streak.

"After our loss to CNU on Saturday, we identified multiple areas of our game where we needed to improve and talked as a team about what steps we needed to take in practice to make these adjustments," she said. "We had a great week of practice leading up to the Catholic game, where we worked really hard and focused on these adjustments."

The adjustments seemed to be working, with Hopkins securing an early scoring opportunity as the Cardinal goalie laid on the ball, forcing a penalty stroke. Senior midfielder Katie McErlean came on and drilled the penalty stroke, netting her first goal of the season. The hot start got even better for the Jays, as just 31 seconds later, sophomore midfielder Abby Birk centered a pass to fellow sophomore midfielder Myra Granato, who found the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

If those goals weren't enough, less than a minute after Granato's first career goal, sophomore forward Maddie Brown-Scherer sliced through the Cardinal defense and beat the goalie once again, pushing the lead to 3-0. The Jays were uber-efficient in the first quarter, putting up three goals on the first four shots.

The scintillating start continued in the second quarter, as Brown-Scherer scored once again. Birk found her with a cross and she slotted the one-time shot into the far left post. That goal marked Brown-Scherer's fifth goal of the season and gave Birk her fourth assist on the campaign, both good enough for the team lead, respectively.

The sophomore midfielder gave some insight as to why she's been such a problem for opposing defenses as a distributor.

"Playing in the midfield, I generally have an attacking mindset, so my goal is always to get the ball into our attacking circle so that we can have a good opportunity to score," Birk said. "This season the midfielders have all been working on having better shots and passes into the circle that put the forwards in the best position to score."

The first half was a story of domination, as the Jays held the Cardinals to just one shot in the first two quarters to their nine. The start of the second half featured much of the same, with junior midfielder Michaela Corvi scoring an impressive goal off of a pass from Brown-Scherer, slotting it under the Catholic goalie's feet and just inside the left post. With that goal, Corvi, who was second on the team in assists and third in points last season, was able to get her first goal of the season.

That goal pushed the lead to five in the third quarter, which featured yet another 15 minutes of domination.

The Hopkins defense continued to apply pressure, not allowing the Cardinals to fire off a single shot for the rest of the game. Similarly, the Jays' offense continued firing on all cylinders, drawing five corners and rattling off five shots.

The final blow came in the fourth quarter with 4:23 left to play. Sophomore forward Megan Abate pounced on a rebound off of a blocked shot and buried it into the net for her second goal of the season.

That would be all she wrote for the Cardinals, as the final score ended up at 6-0. Hopkins improved their record against Catholic to 21-4-1 all-time. They also gave head coach Jane Wells her 37th career win at Hopkins, tying her for third on the program's win list.

Birk provided some insight as to why the Blue Jays were so successful against their opponents on Saturday.

"I think the biggest keys to success for us against Catholic were our energy, possession and finishing," she said. "We had great energy in the locker room before the game, and I think that showed when we came out and started so strong in the first quarter."

The Jays will begin their Centennial Conference schedule this Saturday, as they host the Bryn Mawr College Owls at 12 p.m. on Homewood Field.

<![CDATA[Team USA gets exposed and places 7th in China]]>

In the era of American athletic exceptionalism, we've become accustomed to the continued success of the U.S. men's basketball team. Since the failure of the 2004 Olympic team, which was only the third U.S. team to not win the Olympic gold medal, there has been a continuous history of the teams heading overseas and dominating any and every international tournament.

From the 2008 "Redeem Team" to the 2016 Olympics squad, Team USA director Jerry Colangelo has made it his personal goal to make sure stack the rosters with the very best stars that the country had to offer.

However, at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, that legacy of winning and perfection was nowhere to be found. The days of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony leading their respective teams to glory are over.

Welcome to the days of team USA being led by the likes of - checks notes - Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton and Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes.

The results of this electric collection of players combined to complete the worst tournament result in the history of the U.S. men's basketball team.

The cracks were showing early, as they barely escaped against an inferior team in Turkey an overtime win in the group stage. The 93-92 win shocked a lot of people, as the U.S. only shot 35.1 percent from the field against a far less talented team.

Sadly, the straw finally broke the camel's back in the knockout rounds. After losses to the French and Serbian national teams in consecutive days, the no. 1 ranked team in the FIBA rankings could only finish as high as seventh place.

Luckily, the team was able to pull out a last ditch victory against Poland to salvage any sort of decent result from the tournament, winning by a score of 87-74.

How did we get here, fighting for relevance in the consolation bracket's consolation game?

The failure of Team USA to live up to the lofty expectations set by past teams can be boiled down to a couple of key factors.

The U.S. team was severely lacking in the aforementioned star power that was once consistently on the roster.

There was a ridiculous number of withdrawals from the team, with the preliminary group of 35 stars dwindled to 12 in a number of weeks. Los Angeles Laker Anthony Davis pulled out on July 15, followed by former MVP James Harden and two-way weapon Bradley Beal no fewer than a couple of days later.

There seemed to be a general lack of interest among the big stars in participating in this tournament, almost as competing was a chore.

Unfortunately, there were also a number of unavoidable injuries that kept stars off of the roster. With NBA champion Kyle Lowry battling a thumb injury and Laker Kyle Kuzma being sidelined with an ankle ailment, Team USA was strapped for talent.

Subsequently, they had to round out the roster with a number of role players who come off the bench for NBA teams, including Mason Plumlee, Derrick White and Marcus Smart.

To make a long story short, U.S. men's basketball was reduced to not their B team, but their C team, led by four Celtics players, Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell (lol), and Bucks center Brook Lopez.

Even for hall of fame head coach Gregg Popovich, who has made a career of building a successful team with strong role players, this was a tall task.

In the past, the U.S. team could waltz into an international tournament with a particularly subpar roster, by their standards, and still have their way with the field.

However, this is no longer the case. The talent gulf between the Americans and the rest of the world is much smaller than it used to be.

Gone are the days of 1992 and 2008, where they would have average margins of victory of 43.8 points and 32. But, now the international landscape looks more even, with many teams having significant depth.

The Serbian national team, which finished in fifth place after relegating the U.S. team to the seventh place game, was led by Denver Nuggets all-NBA center Nikola Jokić, Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanović and Dallas Mavericks' gentle giant Boban Marjanović. Australia, which finished in fourth place, was relatively stacked considering the fact that Ben Simmons decided to sit out of the tournament.

They still had NBA veterans Andrew Bogut, Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Joe Ingles. They were by no means left shorthanded. The team that captured the title - the Spanish national team - was the perfect conglomeration of NBA talent and homegrown players to create an astounding chemistry.

Led by NBA veterans Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and the Hernangomez brothers (Juan and Willy), and backed by a number of players from Real Madrid and Barcelona, they ran through the tournament, never dropping a game and winning the final by a score of 95-75.

They displayed a chemistry and poise of a team that had history playing together for multiple years. That would make sense, right?

A consistent core for your national team, one that's rich in experience on the world stage and prolonged success against top-flight competition has shaped them for international glory.

The Spaniards were the antithesis to the American team. The U.S. team was a ragtag group of young players, with few established, top-flight stars to lead them.

It would have made an interesting and exciting story if all of the stars who were approached for the team didn't reject the invitation and left us with the scraps. What we were shown is a massive failure on the hands of USA Basketball.

There was no clear finisher or go-to player that the team could trust to close out the games. Against the French - who were led by defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert and NBA veterans Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum and Frank Ntilikina - Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker missed a number of clutch shots in the final two minutes.

Now, missed shots happen. They're unavoidable. But the issue is that they were even in that situation. The U.S. teams of old would not have found themselves down six to France with two minutes left. The fact is that the Americans found themselves in China outgunned, outmanned and completely unprepared.

With the 2020 Olympics coming next year, Team USA is in dire need of the caliber of stars that they've had in previous Olympics and World Cups. If they show with the same firepower that they had this year, they're going to get embarrassed on an international stage again.

<![CDATA[Local activists protest Donald Trump's visit]]> Activist group Baltimore Welcoming Committee held a labor protest featuring singing and chanting in Harbor East on Friday afternoon. The musical demonstration was part of a series of events organized in light of U.S. President Donald Trump's attendance at a retreat for Republican lawmakers this weekend. Trump's Baltimore appearance marks his first visit to the city since calling it a "rat and rodent infested mess" on Twitter in July.

About 30 protesters holding keyboards, guitars and clarinets gathered in front of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel, where Trump was scheduled to speak.

In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Nihaal Rahman reflected on how the musical element of the demonstration united attendees from various backgrounds.

"I didn't know what to expect from a 'musical protest,' but it was honestly a very empowering experience," he said. "Since the entire protest was centered around union rights, I didn't know how we'd be received as four students walking in with seemingly no connection to the cause. However, they brought us in with open arms, and the sense of camaraderie was really inspiring."

Attendees were given the opportunity to explain on a microphone why they'd come to the protest.

Baltimore resident Rebecca Wearing expressed her sentiments toward Republicans by reading off her sign to the crowd.

"They would like to take our healthcare, they want to take our Medicare, they want to take our Social Security, they want to take our women's rights, they want to take human rights, they want to take our public schools, our national parks, our country and our planet," she said. "Every policy that they support is destructive to the common man - and women, especially women."

Other protesters conveyed their motives for participating through song. Organizers asked attendees why they were there, to which the crowd sang revised lyrics to a tune called "Somebody's Hurting My Brother."

"Somebody's hurting my sister, somebody wants to build that wall, somebody's hurting our children and it's gone on far too long," they sang. "We won't be silent anymore."

While many of the songs were written for older generations, there were also other songs geared towards younger protesters. At one point, an organizer played "Uprising" by Muse in order to underscore the importance of rebellion.

In addition, protesters sang edited versions of labor songs to address issues that Baltimore currently faces, including corruption in the Baltimore Police Department.

"What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?" they sang. "I learned how tough it is for the Baltimore Police to live up to a consent decree."

Many songs were sung with anger directed toward Trump and House Republicans. However, organizers also encouraged the idea that disagreement and hate should not last forever.

Protesters chanted the song "We Shall Overcome."

"We shall overcome someday," they sang. "Oh, deep in my heart I do believe we'll walk hand in hand someday."

Many Baltimore residents were angered when Trump described Rep. Elijah Cummings' district, which includes over half of Baltimore City and most of Baltimore County's majority-black precincts, as a "very dangerous & filthy place" via Twitter.

Junior Maddie Nasaid that she attended the protest in order to get a first-hand look at Baltimoreans' reactions to Trump's visit.

"I wanted to understand how Baltimore residents felt about the president spending time here despite his malicious comments," she said. "I think a musical protest is a wonderful and engaging way to make our voices heard."

Rahman believes that, even in the face of Trump's controversial tweets, demonstrators portrayed the strength of Baltimore community members.

"We were all able to partake in some way, whether it was singing along or banging on buckets to keep the beat going," he said. "Even though the group was small, the energy and passion they displayed was immense and made me proud to call this 'rat-infested' city home."


U.S. President Donald Trump visited Baltimore for a Republican retreat.

<![CDATA[Football loses to Susquehanna in the last seconds of the game]]> The short:

Oof. The Jays were up 24-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the game. They lost 28-27. Hopkins now stands at 1-1 with an 0-1 conference record.

The long:

The first half of football was almost entirely Hopkins. Save for Susquehanna University's one touchdown that started the game by, all other scoring plays were by Hopkins. The defense was the biggest story of the half.

The Jays buckled down after giving up the first score and refused to allow a drive of more than 40 yards the entire half. On top of that, the defense scored on junior linebacker Ryan Weed's pick-six.

The offense managed to contribute two touchdowns as well, one from senior quarterback David Tammaro running it in and the other caught by sophomore wide receiver Harrison Wellmann. But the offense left a few plays on the field during the half, going scoreless on five drives.

The third quarter was an incredible defensive showdown. There were no points scored and the average drive length was only 28 yards. Hopkins continued its defensive stride through this quarter, but Susquehanna stepped up defensively as well. The little bit of spark from the Hopkins offense was gone by the second half and the quarter played out similarly to the Bears and Packers game that started the NFL season.

The fourth quarter started with a Hopkins field goal and at this point it felt like the game was basically over. Hopkins had a 24-7 lead with less than a full quarter to play. But things flipped very quickly.

Susquehanna had a three-play 77-yard drive, with the help of a pass-interference call, and went the length of the field, cutting the lead to 10.

On the next possession, Hopkins mounted what looked like a scoring drive until they failed to convert on third-down. Tammaro slipped out of what looked like three different tackles and heaved the ball into the arms of Wellmann, who was sat in the end zone. However, Susquehanna made an amazing pass breakup.

The incompletion was followed by a stellar punt, pinning Susquehanna at the one-yard line. But of course, Susquehanna drove 99 yards down the field. Hopkins managed to get some good field position on the next drive with a 37-yard Wellmann return. They then capitalized on the opportunity and put up a field goal making it a six-point game, 27-21. Then, heartbreak.

Susquehanna marched down the field in short order, scoring the game-winning touchdown at the last minute.

28-27 with seven seconds left. The kickoff was a squib kick, and for the next play, Hopkins tried for a lateral miracle that ended in a fumble. An exciting but disappointing end to a game between two great Centennial Conference rivals.

Sophomore defensive back Nick Seidel commented on the game.

"Obviously it's a tough loss and no one wants to have their backs up against a wall but here we are. We faced this situation last year and we were able to make it to the final four," he said. "The way we practice, prepare, watch film etc. doesn't change. All that means is that every game is a playoff game here on out. Our goal is still the same as before the loss, so nothing changes."

What's next:

Hopkins will host Moravian College on Friday night in their next Centennial Conference matchup.

The team has a 10-game win streak against the Moravian Greyhounds, and the last meeting between the two teams ended in a lopsided victory for the Blue Jays, 47-3.

Seidel is focused on that game.

"All we can do now is focus on this week and beating Moravian," he said.


Football fought hard for the entire game, but failed to close the game out in the final seconds.

<![CDATA[APL took first color photo of the earth 52 years ago]]> Since it marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, 2019 has prompted many to look back on the journey to explore what lies beyond planet Earth. Since the dawn of space exploration, our University's Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has been a pioneer of engineering innovative space missions. One of the many feats it has accomplished involved producing the first color image of the full earth on Sept. 20, 1967 - two years before the moon landing.

This image was captured by the Department of Defense Gravitational Experiment (DODGE) satellite. Its camera took three pictures using a red, a green and a blue filter. Subsequent processing produced the final color photo.

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Charles Bennett from the Department of Physics and Astronomy explained the significance of this image.

"We tend to think of the earth as huge and firm beneath our feet," Bennett said in an interview with The News-Letter. "Yet, when we see the picture, we see that we live on a finite-size body floating in space. This naturally raises our curiosity of what else is out there."

The DODGE satellite was primarily manufactured by the APL. Its main objective was to stabilize the orientation of spacecraft in the gravitational field of a planet or moon. With the 10 retractable booms it carried on board, the DODGE satellite performed various gravity experiments and provided valuable data for future spacecraft control. In addition, DODGE was also outfitted with devices capable of measuring the earth's magnetic field, and two TV cameras, which documented the historical photo.

The APL was originally established to solve technical problems that were immediate consequences of World War II. As the war wound down, Hopkins took over APL as an effort to make it a place of permanent problem-solving capability for the country.

One of the fascinations of space exploration is that it allows us to realize the relative size of the planet.

"Our earth is tiny compared with our solar system and even a smaller part of the universe," Bennett said.

APL continues to advance space systems by stepping up to solve key technical problems. Hopkins plays a leading role in space research, with the operation of the Hubble Space Telescope carried out on the Homewood Campus. In 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch, also dispatched by Hopkins.

Such innovative breakthroughs excite not only professionals in the field but also students. JD Carrizo, a freshman majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, explained his own fascination with space.

"I think of the cosmos as the next step of human conquest," Carrizo said in an interview with The News-Letter. "Ever since my Apollo 11 presentation in fifth grade, I've been really curious about space exploration, and with the renewed interest of going back to the Moon and getting to Mars, I knew this was the perfect time to get into this world of space exploration."

Carrizo is excited to start his Hopkins career off by joining the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), a student organization that encourages its members to promote space-related activities and development, as part of the organization's policy team.

As impressive accomplishments are celebrated, it is also important to remember that none of them could have been achieved without a broad range of expertise.

When it comes to space research, Hopkins connects an array of departments and institutions together in the pursuit of knowledge.

This network of collaboration involves various divisions across multiple schools within Hopkins, including the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. Outside of the classroom, Hopkins oversees research at the APL as well as the Space Telescope Science Institute. The University also works in collaboration with space science institutions on both the state and national levels.

The extensive partnerships that Hopkins fosters bring together astronomers, planetary scientists, biologists, doctors, engineers and more; one can look with awe and inspiration to the breadth and depth of developments in space exploration that their efforts will achieve.

Public domain

In 1967, the APL captured the first color photo of the earth from space.

<![CDATA[Professor Ménard selected for Hans-Jensen Lecture]]> Brice Ménard, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Hopkins, will be speaking at the Hans Jensen Lecture at the University of Heidelberg in Germany on Oct. 10.

Ménard has been recognized as one of the leading researchers in astrophysics and its related fields. One of his recent accolades was the $250,000 President's Frontier Award, which Ménard won in February.

The award recognized his discoveries of patterns and secrets in vast amounts of data, and it aims to provide more freedom and resources for such research projects.

His talk at the Hans Jensen lecture, titled "The Complexity Frontier," will shed light on how researchers need to come up with new "languages" to make convoluted, newer ideas in science easier to understand.

Originally from France, Ménard completed his graduate studies at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany as well as the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris. He joined Hopkins faculty in 2010.

At Hopkins, his research focuses on analyzing large astronomical data sets as well as exploring the mysterious properties of neural networks.

While some of this astronomical data has been available to other scientists for years, Ménard came up with new ways to analyze them.

Astrophysicists routinely encounter the challenge of analyzing large amounts of data to uncover hidden information.

According to Ménard, current scientific explorations do not always address the ways in which these complexities can be limiting.

As someone working at the edge of science and searching for hidden patterns in vast sets of data, he notes that there is only so much we can describe with equations that we can write down.

"Complexity is often what limits us in science - in many cases it is neither data nor computing power," Ménard said in an interview with The News-Letter. "When things appear complex, it is often because we do not have the right language to describe them."

Ménard suggested that searching for new patterns and analytical realizations that can allow scientists to glean a more foundational understanding from the ever-increasing amounts of information that they are collecting and processing.

As Ménard discerned, the brain does not use equations when making decisions. Science must pursue this higher-order processing, and science must also adapt to the processing through a renewed focus on finding languages that can describe the processes.

This pursuit of understanding the unknown is a fundamental aspect of science and is certainly a major motivation for the Hopkins physics and astronomy community. Hopkins is renowned for its research in diverse areas of science and humanities, and astrophysics fulfills that reputation. The combination of Hopkins resources and the nearby Space Telescope Science Institute makes Hopkins one of the largest concentrations of astrophysicists in the country.

"Everything in the universe is basically studied here," Ménard added.

Owing to the vast resources for astrophysics and computational research at Hopkins, there also exists a multitude of opportunities for students who hope to contribute to such projects.

As is the case with a majority of the departments at Hopkins, Ménard points out that students can simply reach out and contact the faculty to join research projects.

For instance, Ménard has worked with undergraduates on the Hopkins Helium Balloon Project. The project sent balloons with sensors and cameras high up in the atmosphere to capture some phenomenal pictures of our blue planet. Reaching heights of over 85,000 feet, the balloon was a testament to the successful collaboration and problem-solving of the team of undergraduates who worked on the project.

The project focused on the physics, engineering and computer science of problem-solving and on producing a successful launch. The intersection of these disciplines made possible the accumulation of data and photos that are on the project's website.

The Hans Jensen Lecture was named in honor of German nuclear physicist J. Hans D. Jensen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics alongside American physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 for their proposal of the nuclear shell model.

In addition to giving the Hans Jensen Lecture, Ménard will be discussing his research in the fields of astronomy and statistical physics at an upcoming presentation related to the President's Frontier Award this semester.

The presentation will be open to anyone passionate about the innovative research taking place in those areas.


Ménard was invited to present the Hans Jensen lecture in Germany.

<![CDATA[EPA funds research for alternatives to animal testing]]> Animal models, especially mice, are customarily used to study disease pathology, but it is a somewhat controversial practice in terms of cost, ethical aspects and predictivity for humans. The Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) in the Bloomberg School of Public Health is a part of the effort to move away from vertebrate medical research. To that end, they recently received a grant of almost $850,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Lena Smirnova, a research associate at CAAT, is the primary recipient of the grant and will use it to fund the development of a testing strategy to screen potentially neurotoxic chemicals based on a 3D human brain cell-derived model CAAT has been developing over the last years.

"Using this grant we will further pursue one of our main goals at CAAT: to promote the toxicity testing methods of 21st century and establish human-relevant testing strategies to assess developmental neurotoxicity," Smirnova said. "It should not only reduce the use of animals in toxicology but also help to accelerate the process of chemical screening and risk assessment."

When Smirnova joined CAAT in 2012, 3D cell cultures and organoids were relatively unknown and sparsely implemented. That completely changed over the last few years. Work done by researchers at CAAT made the 3D brain model standardizable and reproducible.

Smirnova and her collaborators, David Gracias and Cynthia Berlinicke, will be developing this 3D model further.

Gracias will be creating a novel approach to measure electrical activity in the 3D models. Berlincke will help to establish gene editing technology in the model using the CRISPR/Cas9 system.

The team's eventual goal is to make it a standard technique for neurotoxicological studies.

"We want to be able to screen chemicals at relatively low price to make it more high-throughput. The model is less time-consuming and less expensive than animal tests. It is also can be more predictive for humans because we are using human cells and do not need to extrapolate the results between different species," Smirnova said.

Unlike traditional monolayer cell cultures, 3D models better recapitulate the close interactions between cells in a human brain. The cells in the model also survive longer.

Smirnova has been working at CAAT since 2012 with a focus on developmental neurotoxicology and gene environmental interactions in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. She believes that the development and promotion of new technologies are particularly important to advance the field of developmental neurotoxicology.

"Very few chemicals are tested for effects on developing brain," Smirnova said. "Current methods are expensive and time-consuming and companies are not required to test all chemicals for effects on developing brain if there is no indication or concern observed in other toxicity tests."

According to Smirnova, instances of neurodevelopmental diseases are becoming more common and cannot be explained only using genetics, which makes experimentation more urgent.

The recent initiative from the EPA reflects that urgency. In the memo "Directive to Prioritize Efforts to Reduce Animal Testing" the EPA aims to reduce funding and requests for mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and completely halt funds by 2035.

While Smirnova acknowledges that the timeline is ambitious, she believes that it is necessary to make substantial strides in the field.

"It's a good start to move in that direction. Cutting down the funding is good for researchers to look for alternatives," she said.

Eliminating funding is not the only method of encouraging researchers to lessen their dependence on animal models. As with any scientific discovery, publications are important in disseminating knowledge. There are also working groups which evaluate the readiness of proposed non-animal models and discuss gaps in existing methods.

A long-term goal for Smirnova is to include non-animal testing models in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for the testing of chemicals. The guidelines are the international standard for professionals in industry, academia and government. The addition of computational models, cell cultures or other non-animal testing methods in the OECD guidelines will lead to widespread change.

That, for Smirnova and her colleagues, will be the ultimate achievement.

Public domain

Mouse models are often used to approximate human medical responses.

<![CDATA[Blue Jays go green for a sustainable Hopkins]]> Sustainability is an important measure to stop the progression of negative changes to the environment, since it looks to protect the natural environment of the Earth and the health of its inhabitants. Many members of the Hopkins community are particularly passionate and active about this issue.

Sophomore Melanie Alfonzo, who is minoring in environmental studies, explained how sustainability guides the practices she embraces in daily life.

"Being sustainable means living a responsible lifestyle in terms of how you think about what you do in your daily life and all of your activities and how that affects the Earth and the resources around you," Alfonzo said in an interview with The News-Letter.

University administration has created multiple initiatives to reduce the negative impact that Hopkins has on the environment. Hopkins Dining gives preference to vendors who supply food that is in season, packaged with minimal materials and grown locally and responsibly. A further goal of this initiative is to support the local food economy by creating community gardens, such as the Blue Jay's Perch, and hosting weekly farmers' markets.

Another sustainability initiative is the completion of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects on campus buildings. LEED is an international green building program that rates buildings based on their environmental performance. Hopkins currently requires all new construction to be rated at least LEED Silver, and the university currently has two LEED certified buildings, eight LEED Silver buildings, seven LEED Gold Buildings and one LEED Platinum building.

The most visible project on campus is the waste initiative, which promotes recycling and composting. Every day, students see color-coded waste bins around campus clearly labeled as either compost, recycling or incineration. However, Alfonzo explained that these bins are not used to their full potential.

"Further education is needed on which items fall into the incinerate, recycle, and compost categories since there is a lot of mismatch going on right now," Alfonzo said.

According to the University's sustainability website, Hopkins achieved an overall waste diversion rate in 2017 of 43 percent, which surpassed its goal of 35 percent. In addition, a lesser known feature of this initiative is the ability to order a compost bin for student dormitories through the Housing Office. Other sustainability initiatives at the University relate to water conservation, climate and energy, transportation, education and research.

In addition to administrative efforts, several student groups have taken an active role in promoting sustainability practices. WINGS, for instance, is an organization which provides free menstrual hygiene products to underprivileged members of the community, hosts educational workshops and offers sustainable alternatives to single-use menstrual products. Co-director of the WINGS Sustainability Committee, Mariama Morray, described the group's mission as advocating for menstrual equity.

"WINGS is about making menstrual products accessible, sustainable and normal," Morray said in an interview with The News-Letter. "Our future goal is to bridge the gap between sustainable products and the homeless population."

This is of special importance because period products produce significant amounts of trash. Renee Nerenberg, who serves with Morray as co-director of the WINGS Sustainability Committee, emphasized the barrier that period stigma poses to sustainability.

"We are trying to normalize menstrual cups and reusable pads through workshops to educate people on sustainable options," Nerenberg said in an interview with The News-Letter.

She further stressed that in order to develop sustainable habits, shoppers should consider the materials from which their menstrual products are made.

Hopkins students have also created a sustainability hackathon called GreenHacks. Alfonzo, who is a member of the GreenHacks Outreach Committee, explained the purpose of the group as giving a greater platform to sustainability.

"The goal of this hackathon is to promote collaboration and communication between people who are already involved in sustainability and those who are not as knowledgeable about it," Alfonzo said. "Last year we got people from different departments around Hopkins to be our judges and we had about 50 participants. The goal this year is to have around 250 people from Hopkins and the rest of the Baltimore community as participants."

Competitors do no not need any coding experience or background in sustainability. Registration for the event will be released early next year, and GreenHacks will take place in March of 2020.

In addition to on-campus organizations, students have opportunities to engage in sustainability research.

Preethi Kaliappan, a sophomore Environmental Engineering major, works in a lab led by Bloomberg Distinguished Professor Paul Ferraro at the Carey Business School. Kaliappan explained the lab's focus on understanding behavioral economics, especially in relation to the environment.

"[The work uses] economics principles to predict the likelihood of adopting certain sustainable technologies or how people react to certain conservation practices," Kaliappan said in an interview with The News-Letter.

She described sustainability as having a subjective meaning, which is unique to each person based on their specific goals. She also explained why it is important that individuals focus on reducing their environmental footprint.

"Sustainability fosters a higher level of thinking because you can go about life just using, using, using, but if you stop and think 'What am I using?' 'Where is it going?' 'How can I reduce it?' then you are thinking about your surroundings and you are conscious of what you are doing," Kaliappan said.

Alfonzo explained how humans tend to pay attention to short-term consequences rather than future implications.

"People usually just see the direct effect… Someone thinks 'Oh, I am throwing this away and it is going into a landfill,' but there are so many routes it could go," she said. "It could end up in the ocean, degrade and have chemicals come out that could cause disease."

There are many actions people can take to increase the sustainability of their lifestyles. Alfonzo believes the first step in developing more environmentally-friendly habits is education.

"Try to know the carbon footprint of things you buy. There are apps that will tell you the carbon emission and energy usage of your online shopping," she said.

Kaliappan stressed the importance of starting small.

"You can be sustainable by turning the lights off in your dorm, going to a coffee shop with a reusable cup, using reusable water bottles, dividing up your trash," she said. "You do not have to do expensive stuff like installing solar panels."

Morray recommends incorporating sustainable practices into as many aspects of one's life as possible because it benefits the whole world.

"It is a selfless way of living," Morray said. "It requires self-discipline, but it feels worth it in the end."


Hopkins students engaged in sustainability activities before the school year began.

<![CDATA[Organic vegetables and fruits are a marketing ploy]]>

The appeal of organic food is rooted in the common misconception that equates natural production with ethical production. For me, organic food is simply a marketing ploy to convince consumers to purchase more expensive food.

This marketing ploy begins with the claim that organic food is healthier than food produced through conventional agriculture. A prospective cohort study of 68,946 French adults published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2018 reveals a correlation between organic food consumption and a reduced risk of cancer. However, a commentary by Elena Hemler and colleagues criticized the study for methodological flaws.

One flaw was that the survey sent out to the participants was not validated. It is difficult to assess organic food consumption because a person's socioeconomic status and health behaviors determine what they consider to be organic. The self-report method of determining consumption adds an additional layer of subjectivity.

When organic produce was compared to conventionally grown produce in terms of calories and macronutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates, organic was not found to have greater nutritional value.

In addition, the paper "Nutritional quality of organic foods: a systematic review," published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, asserts that the supposed health benefits of organic food are easily confounded with eating produce in general.

While people will benefit from eating more produce, organic produce may not be the way to go.

Organic produce has been implicated in more bacterial outbreaks like Escherichia coli than non-organic fruits and vegetables because organic certification forbids the use of irradiation to disinfect. Irradiation is widely accepted as a technique to decrease the risk of microbial contamination.

Research studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed irradiation to be safe.

Supporters of organic produce assert that the use of synthetic pesticides in non-organic farming harms the environment. While I agree that the runoff of synthetic pesticides has deleterious effects, the pesticides that organic farmers use are often worse.

The weakness of the natural pesticides used in organic farming lies in the fact that it is often less effective and similarly toxic.

For example, rotenone is a commonly used pesticide in organic farming. Not only is it less effective than its synthetic counterpart, imidan, but it is also extremely toxic to fish.

Likewise, copper sulfate is often used to control fungal diseases in plants, but it has a track record of negative aquatic effects.

In addition, organic farms often use more land and labor to create the same amount of crops as a non-organic farm. More land usage corresponds to a bigger carbon footprint.

According to a literature review titled "Organic Agriculture, Food Security, and the Environment," organic farming typically has lower yields than conventional farming. The authors of the paper found that lower yields make organic farming more detrimental to the environment per unit of output even though organic farming is technically less "polluting" when measured per unit of land.

The high energy usage required to meet the demand for organic produce leads to greater greenhouse gas emissions and adds to both the environmental and monetary cost of the final product.

But the primary complaint of organic produce-eaters is the use of biotechnology in non-organic produce. Suspicion of biotechnology like genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is unfounded. GMOs can greatly decrease land use and increase the food supply.

Although GMOs have great potential to reduce health inequity in the world, organic farmers do not use GMOs to make a better product.

Organic food has a disproportionate effect on the poor as well. Because more labor and land are put into less effective farming practices, organic food is significantly more expensive than conventional produce.

Food deserts and food insecurity already plague cities like Baltimore. Buying into the notion that organic food is superior just exacerbates these problems.

Many people have often shamed me for not buying organic even though doing so would greatly reduce my family's income and there are no clear benefits to buying organic. Here at Hopkins, organic food unnecessarily increases the costs of meal plans.

It's time to call out organic food for what it truly is: a misleading marketing campaign designed to take advantage of people's discomfort with biotechnology.

<![CDATA[Groundskeeping at Homewood uses advanced tech]]> The outdoor spaces of the University's nearly 140-acre Homewood Campus are maintained by a team of 15 groundskeepers, overseen by Grounds Manager John Beauchamp. Together, they care for everything from the flower beds and hedges, to the quads and small forested areas, and even the brick sidewalks, one of the unique landscape features established after a donation to Hopkins Grounds Services nearly two decades ago.

Each portion of campus is maintained by a designated groundskeeper, who takes care of all the tasks in that area.

Beauchamp explained that the work varies based on the season.

"Certain times of the year dictate what we're doing," Beauchamp said in an interview with The News-Letter. "This time of the year we're mowing, trimming, edging, weeding, and we're going to get quickly into fall, so then we'll be in leaf removal, leaf cleanup, litter cleanup and prepping for winter."

During the winter, the team focuses on snow removal. With spring comes planting and maintenance, as well as a renewal of outdoor activities that Grounds Services may be involved in, including dealing with litter and waste collection.

One tool that Grounds Services regularly uses is a geographic information system (GIS) which includes information about every tree on campus.

Beauchamp established this type of mapping system at Hopkins. He had previously used it to keep track of trees while working at the Arlington National Cemetery and later at Gettysburg College.

Since then, GIS has been adopted for uses outside of groundskeeping.

"They're beginning to use GIS for lots of things in facilities, and they have a whole separate department now," Beauchamp said.

The department also did a flyover of campus and took aerial photos, which were used to create a new base map for the tree mapping system. The new base map is more accurate than the one created when GIS was first established.

"What I would do is I would print out a map showing where all the sidewalks are and things like that, and I would estimate the location of the trees," Beauchamp said of the work to compile the original base map. "Once we got that aerial photo, I was able to much more accurately geolocate them."

Information about the species and diameter of each tree has also been compiled.

In addition to maintenance, Grounds Services has ongoing projects around campus.

One involves the Bufano Sculpture Garden, near the Undergraduate Teaching Labs, which is currently a remnant forest.

"I want to try and reestablish it as a forest," Beauchamp said. "We've been spending some money on removing invasive species, but we are being selective about removal and leaving native species there because I want to establish an understory of plants so that it becomes a true forest."

Similar work to remove invasive species has also been underway in other locations, including the area between Bloomberg Center and the Hopkins Club, and the area to the west of Levering Hall.

While the impact of invasive species is more evident, the impact of climate change has been less so.

One change over the years has been in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

This map divides the U.S. into 13 zones, each spanning 10 degrees Fahrenheit and based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. The higher the zone number, the warmer the area, so the map can be used to gauge whether a species of plant is likely to grow well in a particular location.

"This used to be strictly a zone seven but it's almost a zone eight now," Beauchamp said of Homewood Campus. "We are planting a lot more southern species here. We're planting some crepe myrtles, some bald cypress, plants that are really more southern."

However, Beauchamp clarifies that it is difficult to determine whether, or to what extent, these shifts are a result of climate change.

"I don't know that I could directly attribute that to climate change, but it just is occurring in the horticultural industry," Beauchamp said of the changing zones. "And I don't know if I could point out an impact from climate change on plant material on campus. I don't think there's been enough research to say."

He suggested that regardless of how Homewood Campus may change in the future, it can rely on a group of dedicated groundskeepers.

"They're the ones who really make campus look the way it does," Beauchamp said. "They put their hearts into it. It means a lot to them, and that means a lot to me."


The GIS includes information about every tree on Homewood Campus.

<![CDATA[Researchers give energy production in cells a boost ]]>

Biology is founded on a few main theories: cell theory, that all life is made up of cells and all cells on Earth come from previous cells; gene theory, that traits are passed down to offspring through genetic material; and evolutionary theory, that heritable characteristics change in populations due to natural selection.

These three ideas collectively explain why living things share similar characteristics, how new species occur and what the smallest unit of life is. Still, many questions remain to be answered about how life got here and how the insides of a cell work.

One unanswered question is how cells are able to generate and consume energy and use it for growth. While this may seem like a simple enough question - after all, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell - the answer is actually quite complicated.

Cells typically have multiple energy production pathways so they can be adaptable to different environmental conditions. But a fundamental question in biology is how cells are able to organize all of these individual pathways, which may overlap with other pathways.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is perhaps the most notorious "energy molecule" used by enzymes to perform work within cells.

A new study by Yu Chen and Jens Nielsen at the Technical University of Denmark attempts to shed light on the energy spurring processes in escherichia coli and baker's yeast by shifting their metabolism from fermentation to respiration states, causing them to produce more ATP. It also proposes that energy metabolism should be modeled by breaking it down into biomass formation pathways and ATP-producing pathways.

They found that ATP can be generated in two ways within cells. The first is the "respiratory pathway," which generates nearly 24 ATP molecules for a single glucose molecule. The second, the "fermentative pathway," can only pump out around 11 ATP molecules for every glucose molecule input.

Both pathways exist in a natural balance that was shifted by the researchers experimentally, by varying the amount of sugar and protein available to cells.

The researchers found that cells needed more protein mass to activate the high-yield respiratory pathway than the lower-yield fermentation pathway, despite the fact that they were consuming glucose at the same rate.

If key enzymes were made to perform better, then cells would trigger a metabolic switch from fermentation to respiration, which results in more ATP and prevents the byproducts of fermentation from building up.

More ATP and fewer byproducts should be an ideal situation for a growing cell. However, researchers found that the cells' best performance occurred when both pathways were in use. Increasing the amount of protein increased this efficiency even more.

With this concept in mind, the researchers developed a model for the energy metabolism of both species and were able to reliably predict metabolic switches within the cells.

Not only does this work help to untangle the complex web of clues around how cells make their energy, but it also proposes a potential new standard for studying these pathways in the future and for making cells work more efficiently.

Public Domain

Researchers show that it is possible to induce yeast cells to produce more energy than before.

<![CDATA[What I learned from a Baltimorean published novelist]]> Leaving my apartment in Nine East to go to India for part of this summer, I had to wait 15 minutes for my very slow Uber to make its way to pick me up and take me to the airport. The security guard sitting at the front desk was someone I recognized - she always sees me at my sleep-deprived best. Yet, waiting for the Uber was the first time I had the chance to have a real conversation with her.

She asked me about the writing programs at Hopkins, and I told her about our esteemed Writing Seminars department. It prompted a conversation about why it wasn't just called Creative Writing, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, she told me that she'd written and published a book, and that she was working toward publishing another.

She handed me her business card inscribed with her name - Shaquana Gaskins - and the title of her book - Brown and Blue. Of course, me being part of the The News-Letter, I immediately asked if I could interview her.

It took about a month to find a time that worked for both of us, but I finally sat down to interview her last Thursday. She had just gotten off a night shift, but her energy seemed boundless.

I asked her what her day-to-day life looked like, because I honestly could not figure out how she managed to keep up that level of energy.

"I'm a single parent, and I do security for Johns Hopkins through Allied Universal, Monday through Thursday, when my kids are at school, that's my time to write, and then when the kids come in it's complete chaos," Gaskins said. "Then I go to work after, so it's busy but not too busy to the point where I can't juggle everything. I do get a sufficient amount of sleep as well. It's not as hectic as a lot of people think it is."

So for those of you trying to balance a million different things here at Hopkins, it is possible to sleep (Yeah, I didn't know that either)!

Gaskins started writing when she was 15, as a way to escape into her own mind. She sees writing, especially fiction, as a vacation where you make up your own rules - you are only limited by your imagination and creativity.

Growing up in Baltimore, a lot of Gaskins' writing was inspired by the city. She explained how she was inspired by the talent and positivity she sees in the city.

"I want to show the world that despite all the negativity you hear on the news, there's so much talent in Baltimore, and it's being ignored and it's not being given a chance," she said. "I've lived in Baltimore all my life. Even with everything that's going on, I still love my city. This is where I was born, this is where I was raised. My history is here."

Gaskins emphasizes that publishing her first book, Brown and Blue, took not only a lot of effort and rejection, but also a fairly large sum of money.

"The way I look at it is: In order to be successful, you have to be willing to invest in yourself," she said. "Even if you have to do a payment plan, at the end of the day, you're investing in yourself, and you reap the benefits later."

Though she's aiming to publish two more books in the near future, she also plans on spending time promoting Brown and Blue.

The novel focuses on the relationship between people of color - represented by brown - and law enforcement - blue. Not wanting to give away too much, Gaskins told me only a little about the plot.

In her story, a young black man is framed for a murder he did not commit. He is imprisoned awaiting his court date, and is assigned a court-appointed lawyer who can't remember his name. The lawyer tries to convince him to accept a plea deal and confess to the murder to get a shorter sentence.

So he fires his lawyer, and while he's in jail, he finds another one. And together they navigate the challenges of a judicial system that seems to be geared against young men of color to find the real killer and set the innocent man free.

"You'll have to read the book to find out what happens next," Gaskins says with a chuckle. "It's available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble."

I did buy the book, although I haven't found time to read it yet. But if Shaquana Gaskins can write novels, work night shifts at Nine East and be a single parent, then I can find the time to crack open her book sooner rather than later despite the fact that I have homework.

"Don't let other people's opinions put you down," Gaskins said. "If you have a talent, go with it. You're going to have haters who are going to try to break your spirit and make you not want to do what you're passionate about. But you've got to fight through that."

As for me, if there was anything that I took from all of this, it's that you never know who might be hiding around the corner.

There are people you pass by every day. Maybe you smile, maybe you say the occasional good morning. But try to stop and have a conversation with them. You never know what you might learn.

<![CDATA[Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez shine in Hustlers]]> I'll get the unfortunate news out of the way first. Despite all of the buzz on the internet, Hustlers probably isn't going to win any Oscars. However, it is easy to see why the film - and Jennifer Lopez's performance - has garnered so much praise since its release earlier this week.

Hustlers is a funny, heartwarming film on its own. Plus, both Lopez and co-star Constance Wu elevate it even further with their excellent performances. Although the movie might stumble a bit at times, it is easy to overlook any flaws thanks to the splendor and spectacle that pervades almost every scene.

At its core, Hustlers is all about the relationship between its two leads. Wu stars as Dorothy, a young woman attempting to provide for her ailing grandmother by working as a stripper, while Lopez plays Ramona, the more seasoned stripper who takes Dorothy under her wing. After the club where the two work starts to lose business in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Ramona convinces Dorothy to help her drug wealthy businessmen and lure them to the club, charging thousands of dollars to their credit cards in the process.

As the two begin their life of crime, the film flashes forward to 2014, as a reporter interviews Dorothy about her past and her intense, often complicated relationship with Ramona.

Now I have to start off this review by talking about Jennifer Lopez. In this role, she is absolutely a force to be reckoned with, and I think her presence makes Hustlers more excellent. Every motion that she takes feels deliberate and powerful, whether she's spinning around on a pole or offering a fellow stripper a few words of advice and a shoulder to cry on. Ramona is a complex character, as generous as she is manipulative; Lopez not only sells both aspects, she also manages to make them both feel genuine.

As is often seen in film, the manipulative mentor figure seems overwhelmingly evil, but Lopez makes Ramona and her flaws sympathetic. Though she may occasionally let her desire trump the feelings of the people who she cares about, her affection for her found family is never in question. It is a powerful display of Lopez's talents and charisma, and she is, without a doubt, the brightest star in the film.

Although Lopez certainly dominates the film, Wu's performance is equally as memorable, if a bit more subdued. She has a lot on her plate, possibly even more than Lopez, as Dorothy is the main point-of-view character and thus has the most well-defined character arc. It might take her a little while to get going - Dorothy's character in the opening scenes is very nervous and unsure, which doesn't give Wu much to work with - but once she and Lopez start interacting, all bets are off. She's particularly good in the interview scenes, despite the character's complex emotional responses. Just like Lopez, Wu sells the relationship between the two women, for better or worse, and the strength of their performances buoys the entire rest of the film.

Narratively, Hustlers struggled a bit, but not so much that it was noticeable in the moment. The opening act - during which Dorothy and Ramona first become close - was very well paced and did a great job of laying the groundwork for the rest of the movie. The scenes in the strip club were high energy, but also slowed down and gave the characters time to think when necessary. Likewise, there were plenty of moments for the two leads to bounce off of one another, which were consistently the best parts of the film.

However, the second half tended to get a little jumbled. Scenes bounced back and forth between the past and the present, and the transitions were occasionally unclear; in one scene, it seemed like Dorothy had decided to leave Ramona's group, but in the next, she was right back with the gang. The characters also weren't given much space for their arcs once the plot began to pick up. It would have been nice to see the relationship between Dorothy and Ramona evolve a little more slowly, as some of the developments felt abrupt.

That being said, the comedic and emotional elements of the film were consistently excellent. There was definitely a fair amount of black comedy on display - one hilarious (yet tense) scene involves the girls taking one of their targets to the emergency room after he swan dives off of his roof in a drug-induced stupor - but it never goes too far. There is also a particularly hilarious and self-deprecating cameo in the first half of the film (that I won't spoil) that had the entire theater in stitches. On the other side of the coin, there were also plenty of scenes that were pervaded with melancholy or loneliness or joy or love, and every one of those beats hit hard.

All in all, you should definitely go see Hustlers. Even beyond Jennifer Lopez's performance - which was, again, phenomenal - it has so many well-crafted parts that almost every moment in the theater was a joy, and even if it stumbled a bit with its message, at least it had something that it was trying to say.

<![CDATA[The Spy is an aesthetically flawed portrait of Eli Cohen]]> There is no way to review The Spy, Netflix's new show about Israeli agent Eli Cohen, without talking extensively about the brilliance of Sacha Baron Cohen. It's true that the history behind the show is fascinating and that there are some incredible side stories as well. There's no question that there are distinctive and remarkable artistic decisions taken by the director and cinematographer in almost every episode.

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to the breathtaking performance by the man best known for running stark naked through a hotel and pranking Sarah Palin.

The show starts, as many historical shows do, at the end, telling you that Eli Cohen does eventually get caught and at the very least gets his fingernails ripped off (there aren't many scenes of torture in the show, but what is depicted can be fairly graphic at times).

However, the rest of the show is fairly linear, which works much better for the overall narrative that The Spy is going for. Eli begins as an Egyptian Israeli who once helped Jews escape over the border into Israel; now, he's looking to get out of a boring job and into the Mossad, the national Israeli intelligence agency, to which he applies twice before finally being accepted.

His desire to aid Israel in the pre-1967 era during which the country was constantly under existential threat is certainly relatable (though I'll admit as a Jew who spent a gap year in Israel, I'm not exactly unbiased), and his portrayal of that deep desire to save his country from extinction is truly moving.

His depiction of everything in the show is phenomenal. The way he switches accents and fakes an entire personality shows off his talent as a spy so perfectly and can at times fully paper over many of the flaws that the show does have.

The Spy can essentially be broken down into two halves - the story of Eli and his wife, and everything else. The former, which in fairness makes up the vast majority of the show, is almost always excellent. Eli's wife Nadia, played by Hadar Ratzon Rotem, has to deal with raising two children without her husband, who disappears for up to a year at a time without being allowed to tell her what he's actually doing or even where he is.

Her struggle is at times painful to watch, but her performance is brilliant as well, and when she and Eli are together their chemistry is fantastic, albeit heartbreaking.

However, it must be said that there are a lot of things going on in the show that are not nearly as interesting or as compelling. For example, there is a subplot implying that Eli's handler wants to sleep with Nadia that goes on for far too long. There's another subplot focusing on how a friend Eli makes in Syria is implied to be gay and interested in him, a plotline that I do not hesitate to say goes absolutely nowhere.

At times, the artistic direction of the show is also far too complicated for its own good. It sometimes feels like the show is conflicted between two purposes: telling the story of Eli Cohen or showing off how cool and artsy it can be, purposes that at times do not work well together.

The parts of the show that take place in Israel are almost always in a weird, colorless sepia tone, while the parts in Syria take place in full color. The reasoning for this is entirely unclear, and the scenes that take place outside of the Middle East are a seemingly random mix of color or no color depending on whether Eli is there or not, leaving the viewer confused and quite frankly frustrated by the whole aesthetic endeavor - it doesn't really accomplish anything.

There are several moments during each episode where the cameras are angled in creative and interesting ways, at times looking through cars or from light fixtures, but this can also feel particularly extraneous and unnecessary. It certainly never seems relevant to the actual storytelling itself, and can even make it harder to understand what is actually going on.

At the end of the day, though, all of these problems fade into the background for the most part when you're busy being captivated by Sacha Baron Cohen. The scenes where he does actual spy work (scaling buildings, taking covert pictures, sending important Morse code messages) stick out as being particularly awesome. The moments where his cover is in danger and he is about to be caught are incredibly stressful and anxiety-ridden in the best way, keeping you on the edge of your seat even when it's only the middle of the third episode and you obviously know he's not about to get caught.

At the same time, when Nadia is all alone, with her only friend being her employer, the show plays with your emotions in the best way, making you truly feel the pain of the poor woman, wholly unaware that her husband is risking his life (and at times cheating on her) for the sake of their country and, in a sense, the lives of everyone they know.

In that vein, there is no question that Eli is a fantastic spy, both from the vantage point of history and in the show.

He is without question responsible for saving thousands of lives during his active years, with some of his accomplishments even helping Israel posthumously during the Six-Day War in 1967.

I can't guarantee that someone without any connection to the state of Israel would enjoy the show as much as I did, but as biased as I may be, there is something truly remarkable about seeing a man give up everything he has and fooling an entire country for the sake of his people and their safety.

Best of all Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat mustache and all, does his job perfectly.

<![CDATA[The Peanut Butter Falcon is a life-affirming exploration of hope]]> The Peanut Butter Falcon, which hit theaters early last week, follows the journey of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome who makes a chaotic run away from the nursing home he's been placed in, all with hopes of making it to a wrestling school in the Carolinas. Along the way, he meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a down-and-out fisherman who's been run out of his nearby home-town after enacting some costly - and potentially misplaced - revenge.

The two make intermittent headway down the coast, pursued separately by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a volunteer from the nursing home, as well as two fishermen bent on revenge against Tyler (John Hawkes and Yelawolf). Despite the cat-and-mouse game underlying the plot, there is no character who is entirely a victim in the film, nor one that overwhelmingly represents injustice.

Although the narrative situates itself solidly in the tried and true, runaway, found-family genre of the movie (and, subsequently, the twists and turns of the plot are often not surprising) the story and its characters are delightful. The joy of the film comes as the characters play within the predictable genre, whether by literally playing (such as when Zak dons wings of branches and smears peanut butter all over his face, or when Tyler designs a training regime for Zak to get him ready for wrestling school), or through the nuanced examinations of the internal worlds occupied by each of the characters.

For example, Tyler and Zak spend much of the film pushing back against the institution that Eleanor, although well-intentioned, embodies in her consistent infantilization of the main character. Much of the triumph of the film for the audience is watching Zak eventually gain autonomy over his life.

Another theme - albeit less central to the story - is the poverty of the film's setting and the toll that takes on mental health, as well as the way class dynamics intersect with gender.

Eleanor, college educated and financially secure, grapples with assumptions people make about her character because of her status. She represents privilege and institutional limitation while still being independent in her own right.

Where the film fails, however, is on the front of diversity. There are only two speaking roles for people of color in the film, both brief and non-recurring.

One of them is the sidekick of the antagonizing duo of angry fishermen. He is unnamed and has perhaps two lines. The other is a blind man (Wayne Dehart) who shoots at Tyler and Zak when they trespass on his property. "Blind Jasper John" stops attacking as soon as Tyler and Zak swear that they are "God-fearing" and allow him to give them a baptism. He then lets the duo raid his property for odds and ends.

While the character was endearing and well acted, "Blind Jasper John" was less a fully fleshed out character than a mystical figure that only functioned to move the plot forward.

It's unfortunate that the film glossed over the diversity of the South, which weaves through other social themes of the movie. In every other way, The Peanut Butter Falcon succeeds in creating a visceral and enrapturing setting that feels accurate to the landscape and social climate of the area.

Thinking back, the images that stick out the most are those of the Carolina wetlands.

The long-shots of the natural world, shown independent of the characters, create an appreciation for the reeds and the water and the birds. Their frequency builds a sense of place and space into the framework of the film. When the characters interact, the camera does its job of guiding and buoying that interaction.

One shot in particular that comes to mind is when Tyler and Zak, caught in a stand-off because Zak refuses to cross a river for fear of drowning, face each other from either side of the frame while the current flows between their small and distant figures.

The visual dynamic of this scene underscores the balance and equality inherent in their conversations and interactions.

Overall, The Peanut Butter Falcon was a heartwarming and visually stunning story, filled with delightful characters and a familiar sensibility. Still, we should acknowledge and discuss its weaknesses. Hopefully, the next iteration of this movie will move beyond them.