July 5, 2011

O students, where art thou?

Here’s a look at what five Johns Hopkins students are up to this summer. Their stories are a mixture of high-octane thrills, hands-on learning and adventures in foreign lands.

This summer, some Johns Hopkins students are packing the sunblock and flip-flops and taking a deserved rest from studies and exams, but others are using the warm-weather months to sample the real world and put what they learned in the classroom to use.

Here’s a look at what five are up to this summer. Their stories are a mixture of high-octane thrills, hands-on learning and adventures in foreign lands.

Andrew Kelly

Piston-powered work in Philly

Mechanical engineering major Andrew Kelly is in Philadelphia, working on antique sports cars.

Rule No. 1 of working in an antique sports car museum: Don’t get romantically attached to things on four wheels. Andrew Kelly, a junior mechanical engineering major and an unabashed gearhead, learned this valuable lesson early on in his summer apprenticeship at the Simeone Foundation Museum, located minutes from the Philadelphia International Airport.


Assembled by renowned neurosurgeon Frederick Simeone over a 50-year span, the museum collection contains more than 60 of the rarest and most significant racing and sports cars ever built. Among those housed in an old former engine remanufacturing plant are a 1909 American Underslung with its classic 40-inch, thin white wheels; a 1933 Alfa Romeo Monza; an iconic 1970 Porsche 917 LH like the one Steve McQueen drove in the 1971 film Le Mans; and an original 1964 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe valued at more than $7 million.

Kelly fell head over wheels with a car not yet in the permanent collection, a 1954 white Austin Healey 100-4 with red interior that Simeone bought at an auction and planned to drive himself.

“It’s just a gorgeous car, a British classic that I hoped he might want to part with,” Kelly said with a laugh.

As he does with other cars, Kelly got under the vehicle’s hood to get the engine purring.

This summer, he might be called on to revamp a vehicle’s fuel system, replace parts or do whatever is necessary to get a car in motion. The museum features all operational cars that get driven at its demo days and at expos. The majority look like they just came off the racetrack in their heyday, cleaned up but not fully restored.

“Dr. Simeone wants people to hear them and smell them, and not just be museum showpieces,” said Kelly, a Haverford, Pa., native.

For Kelly, the volunteer work is a labor of love, as cars have been his passion since middle school. As a young teen, Kelly built a Shelby Cobra kit car himself. Since his freshman year, Kelly has been involved with Hopkins Baja, a club of undergraduate students who design, build and race one-seat off-road vehicles as part of the Baja SAE international collegiate design competitions.

Kelly, who has worked at the Simeone Museum the past two summers, learned of the collection from a Philadelphia Inquirer feature and contacted the neurosurgeon directly about volunteering his services.

He calls the experience a dream summer job.

“It’s really exciting, and I love the challenge,” said Kelly, who will be at the museum until August. “At Johns Hopkins we seemingly have everything we need in the lab. Here, you make do. You just have to find engineering solutions to get these cars running.”

To fix a 1956 Maserati 300S due at a car show in three weeks, Kelly and other museum staff had to completely remove, clean and then reassemble the vehicle’s engine, valued at $2 million.

“Dr. Simeone got a little panicked with that one,” he said. “But he trusts us to take care of these cars.”

The car made it to the show on time.


Jamie Hatcher

Midwifery in Abu Dhabi

Nursing student Jamie Hatcher, left, is in Abu Dhabi, learning about labor and delivery.

The professional and support staff at Abu Dhabi’s Corniche Hospital, dubbed the premier maternity facility in the Middle East, help deliver more than 8,000 babies annually.

Jamie Hatcher wanted in on the excitement.

As an accelerated nursing student at the School of Nursing, Hatcher had to choose this summer a final clinical rotation, a seven-week position at a hospital or clinic working one-on-one with a nurse.

Hatcher learned of the Corniche Hospital from a presentation at school by “Miki” Mikalauskas, chief clinical officer at Corniche, and considered it an ideal landing spot due to its U.K. midwife model. Unlike in U.S. hospitals, where nurses and physicians provide care, the midwives at Corniche provide all labor and delivery nursing care, including delivering the baby. Obstetricians are called in only to work with high-risk patients.

“I was looking to work abroad and with a midwife, and this seemed like a great opportunity,” said Hatcher, a former Peace Corps volunteer who previously worked in a rural health clinic with a midwife in Madagascar and a women’s health NGO in Uganda.

Located in downtown Abu Dhabi, Corniche Hospital can handle up to 285 inpatients at a time, with facilities for 50 intensive care cases. The hospital, owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Co., is managed by Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

Hatcher arrived in Abu Dhabi on June 5 and promptly stepped into a sauna: Her first day, the temperature was 113 degrees, made worse by the humidity.

She called it an easy transition despite the heat and cultural differences. What struck her specifically was how men and women were separated. Women, revered in the United Arab Emirates, get the seats at the front of the bus, have the right of way on the sidewalk and are seldom approached in public.

She also noticed the immense amount of construction.

“It seems like every block you walk down there is a new building under construction,” said Hatcher, who comes from Montana.

Not that she has much time to sightsee; the hospital keeps her busy. On any given day, Hatcher could help deliver two to three babies. Each experience, she said, has been emotional, but one birth stands out.

A couple came to the hospital to have a baby. Hatcher worked closely with the woman, who had become fully dilated by the time Hatcher’s shift was ending. Having already spent several hours with the patient, she decided to see it through. Little did she know that the labor would end up taking many hours more.

“All the time, the husband was demanding to know how his wife was doing. He was so anxious. He wanted to know if we could make it go faster,” Hatcher said. “She was not coping well, too, and it was very tense.”

When the time came to deliver, the woman suffered a tear, but both she and the baby were fine.

“The couple was in tears. Just pure joy,” Hatcher said. “For me, it was the first tear I’d ever seen, and it was kind of shocking. I know the whole experience will stick with me for a long time.”

To date, Hatcher has helped assist with 15 deliveries. She’s also learned a bit of Arabic, including the words for “breathe” (nefas) and “don’t worry” (malish).

She returns to Baltimore later this month to finish her studies, but you can read of her exploits in the Middle East at her blog at blogs.nursing.jhu.edu/category/accelerated/jamie-accel-11.


Daniel Wodicka

Science of concussions

Biomedical engineering major Daniel Wodicka, right, is at Purdue University, studying the health consequences of high-impact sports.

Daniel Wodicka has seen—and felt—his share of violent on-field collisions.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Wodicka currently plays wide receiver for the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays football squad.

“You play football long enough, you definitely see some hard hits,” said Wodicka, a sophomore biomedical engineering major in the Whiting School of Engineering. “I’ve watched a few of my teammates laid out. I’ve been knocked out a few times, but never been diagnosed with a concussion.”

With concussions such a hot topic in sports these days, Wodicka felt compelled to dive into the study. In particular, he was inspired by a Sports Illustrated article published last year that focused on Purdue University engineering researchers who were examining the health consequences of repetitive hits, even the less violent ones.

The researchers at Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering—just miles from Wodicka’s home—fitted football helmets with accelerometers to measure the force and quantity of hits and then gave the players wearing the helmets an ImPact test, a computerized neurocognitive exam that tests memory and concentration. Some players also were given complete MRI scans.

Wodicka, a West Lafayette, Ind., native, contacted the lead faculty member in the study to see if he could participate in the research work this summer.

“To be able to live at home, and get some research experience related to a passion of mine, was just the perfect opportunity,” he said.

He started his 11-week stint at Purdue on May 19. As an undergraduate researcher, Wodicka works five days a week in the lab, mostly examining MRI brain images as part of an effort to better diagnose concussions.

The researchers are working with local high schools, and in the upcoming fall season will fit mouth guards with motion sensors for boys’ and girls’ soccer teams.

“We’re not just looking at the big hits but the smaller hits that over time can cause some level of brain damage later on in life,” he said. “It’s helping to improve diagnoses.”

Wodicka said that the research can also help design better football helmets and other sports equipment by putting extra thickness or padding into crucial parts of the equipment.

“We’re also looking at what athletes at what positions are receiving the most hits and the worst scores in our tests,” he said.

For Wodicka, this is his first real research opportunity, and he’s loved the experience so far.

“What stands out, in particular, was seeing how much I’ve already learned my freshman year at Johns Hopkins,” he said. “And now I have this chance to apply that knowledge and further learn from it.”


Carolyn Nold

Microfinance in Rwanda

Carey Business School student Carolyn Nold, left, is in Rwanda, working with microfinance institutions.

A popular mode of taxi service in Rwanda is by motorcycle, but nobody told Carolyn Nold that you shouldn’t hold onto the driver.

She quickly learned a new meaning of trust.

“I was more than a little nervous, especially the first few bouncy trips,” said Nold, an MBA student in the Carey Business School.

Nold is braving these motorcycle journeys to and from work as part of the Kiva Fellowship Program, which sends fellows abroad to see the world of microfinance at work.

Kiva, founded in 2005, works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. The organization raises funds online and then sends the money to the institutions, which administer loans in the field.

The loans that Kiva helps provide would not otherwise be available, and could make all the difference for a farmer looking to purchase new equipment or someone wanting to open a small business.

The Kiva Fellowship is an unpaid volunteer position designed to increase the organization’s impact and to offer participants a unique insider experience.

Nold, who arrived in Rwanda on May 17, is working this summer with three microfinance institutions in the town of Kigali. She will help facilitate the Kiva partnership with the institutions and also work on various projects, such as conducting social audits, verifying loan information, launching new loan products and assisting with marketing. The loan success stories that Nold tells will appear on the Kiva website and in the organization’s publications.

One of her first duties was to help launch a new loan for rice farmers. As part of this effort, she traveled to nearby villages to hear directly from the farmers, take photos, collect information and give it back to Kiva.

“I hear about the challenges these farmers face, such as the need for new equipment or grain, or lack of rainfall,” said Nold, a Chicago native.

In Kigali, Nold resides at a youth hostel with magnificent views of Rwanda’s rolling mountains. “This place is called the land of 1,000 hills, and it’s clear why,” she said. “It’s breathtaking.”

During her stay, Nold has already found time for a safari trip to see wild mountain gorillas and a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, which tells of the nation’s past horrors. Nold said that seeing the mountain gorillas up close was amazing.

She said that she’s been equally amazed with the Rwandan people. “They have been so kind and welcoming to me. They are so proud of their country, and it’s eye-opening to hear their stories,” Nold said. “They’ve been so willing to share with me.”

As for her work, Nold said it’s all she expected and more.

“I’m just so excited to learn about microfinance and go beyond theoretical knowledge of it,” she said. “It’s been energizing to hear the stories of the borrowers, such as a group of women local business owners with families to take care of. They wonder why I’m here, so far from my home, to learn about them.”

Nold will return to Baltimore in mid-August with a year left in her MBA studies. She’s not sure what will happen after graduation but expects she will be in the private sector at a socially minded lending institution.


Chris Cochran

Walmart and sustainability

SAIS student Chris Cochran, above, is at Walmart headquarters in Arkansas, interning in corporate sustainability.

To hear Chris Cochran talk these days, you’d think he permanently wore a Walmart smiley face. The SAIS student extols the retail giant he’s working for this summer, even frequently using the “we” pronoun when referring to his employer.

Cochran is interning in corporate sustainability at Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

This Arkansas native used to have mixed, somewhat negative feelings about Walmart, the company.

“On the one hand, Walmart provides savings to consumer families. On the other hand, Walmart had a poor track record in social and environmental practices for many years,” said Cochran, who is working toward a Master of Arts degree in international relations and plans to graduate next year. “When I left Arkansas to work in Honduras with CARE International, a nonprofit organization, I couldn’t have imagined ever coming back to Arkansas to work, much less with Walmart.”

However, Cochran said that through his projects in Honduras and course work in international development at SAIS, he realized that companies in the private sector play a critical role in global environmental, social and economic development.

He took notice when Walmart in recent years made noteworthy improvements to its employment and operational practices, and integrated sustainability into its core business strategy.

“Walmart is the largest company in the world and has significant effects on the standard of living of both customers and producers all over the globe,” he said. “I chose to intern at Walmart this summer because one small change at this company can quite literally change the world.”

Specifically, Cochran is working on Walmart’s global food and agricultural commitments with Beth Keck, a SAIS alumna and senior director of sustainability at Walmart. Keck and Cochran met through a Net Impact event at SAIS in the spring. The SAIS Net Impact club is a student-run chapter of the broader Net Impact nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire, educate and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.

Cochran started on May 23. The first month there he participated in a shareholders meeting and the company’s annual global sustainability leadership summit. At the summit, Walmart associates from five continents came together to discuss sustainability commitments and share best practices and success stories.

Now, Cochran has his hands on projects such as Walmart’s direct farm program, which looks to sell $1 billion in food sourced from 1 million small- and medium-size farming operations. The intent of the program is to create farming jobs, improve food quality and lower Walmart’s cost, a savings it can then pass on to consumers.

Cochran is also researching Walmart’s beef and timber products. “We are assessing the risks in our supply chain and identifying opportunities for improvements in efficiency and environmental impact,” he said.