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Editor's Note, Fall 2012

My favorite quote in this issue of Arts & Sciences magazine comes from Krieger School astrophysicist Stephan McCandliss. He asks, “How is it that out of a universe composed of particles, which at a fundamental level are indistinguishable from each other, does this rich complexity and life emerge?” That’s a big question. He’s talking about mining the data from ultraviolet images of binary stars and intergalactic gas and dust, for clues to how the early universe evolved. But the question could also be asked in a metaphysical way—a sort of “who are we and why are we here” type of probe.

McCandliss is just one of many award-winning physicists at the Krieger School whose remarkably complex work inspires us to think more broadly and deeply.

Our feature about McCandliss takes us into the laboratory (and mind) of a rocket scientist. For about eight years, McCandliss and his small team have been building—from scratch in the basement of the Bloomberg Center—an experimental ultraviolet telescope that will be launched into space in December. During its brief journey above the Earth’s atmosphere, the delicate instrument will rapidly gather images and data that could one day help physicists better understand how the early universe developed.

One of the impressive things about McCandliss and his team is the extraordinary amount of patience and persistence they must have in their work. If just one small screw rattles loose or is turned too tightly, it could jeopardize the entire mission. Everything must be checked and tested again and again.

Novelist Haruki Murakami says the most important qualities writers must possess are talent, focus, and endurance. But it’s not just writers (or physicists!) who need those characteristics.

In this issue you’ll see others with uncommon talent, focus, and endurance. Like the recent graduates featured in our cover story. They are determined to use the opportunities they had at Johns Hopkins to secure meaningful employment. You’ll also meet visiting professor Nikolay Koposov, who lost his job in Russia because he refused to accept his government’s skewered view of history. And then there’s Professor Betsy Bryan, from the Department of Near Eastern Studies, who took undergraduate and graduate students with her to Egypt last summer to engage in an archaeological dig. Talk about endurance. They spent hours meticulously digging and brushing through layers of earth—but the results were indeed worth it.

Talent. Focus. Endurance. At the Krieger School, those are the attributes our researchers, students, and alumni continuously tap to tackle life’s big questions. This issue of our magazine has just a few of those many stories; I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Kate Pipkin