The Triple Helix

At first glance, the latest issue of The Triple Helix — with its glossy cover, fluorescent graphics, and impressive subheads — looks like it belongs on a shelf somewhere between the Columbia Law Review, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Discover magazine. The cover feature, set in stark white letters against a backdrop of prismatic nucleotides and eerily lit fingers holding a vial, reads “Pharmacogenomics: Progress Slowly but Surely.”
Topics further down the page range from bioremediation (“Getting Help from Nature to Clean Up After Ourselves”) to the future of P2P file sharing (“MGM vs. Grokster”). The trend continues inside, with in-depth features on NASA’s new space exploration program and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Snippets on page two broach rising gas prices and utilitarian cancer treatments.
Impressive? Surely. This exhaustive survey into science, society and law could easily take its place among the aforementioned publications were it not for one glaring exception: It is entirely the work of undergraduate students. In fact, The Triple Helix is the first and only national undergraduate print journal in the country.
How did it come about? In October 2004, Kevin Hwang, an undergraduate at Cornell University, saw the need for a publication that catered to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of students’ studies. After a flood of support from students and faculty, Hwang and others set about cultivating their journal, which had already caught the attention of UC Berkley, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania. In January, the journal became national. By March 2005, Cornell had succeeding in publishing and releasing 1000 copies to students and faculty.
Since then, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT and Yale have all joined ranks with The Triple Helix. Thanks to the efforts of Mizel Djukic, a business administration major with a minor in physics, that prestigious group is about to welcome its newest member.
“I actually heard about The Triple Helix from a friend of mine at CMU who knows the CEO, Kevin Hwang,” said Djukic, president and founder of the CMU chapter. “He told me that there’s this journal [Kevin] was starting about science, and society and technology and stuff … and I said, ‘Why don’t we have one?’ ”
The question was a valid one. The interdisciplinary nature of The Triple Helix seems an ideal fit for a university celebrated for its interdisciplinary initiatives. “And that’s what sparked my interest,” said Djukic. “CMU has great resources for such an organization, and I was completely surprised that we didn’t have something like this.”
Each chapter of The Triple Helix produces its own journal, issued throughout the university. The best articles from individual chapters will be featured in the national journal.
Articles can range from the commonplace to the esoteric, but potential writers shouldn’t be intimidated by the content — none of the articles publish original research. “We’re not a research journal,” said Djukic. “We’re investigating other people’s research and analyzing how it’s being done and how it affects the society involved.”
Jordan Bates, the journal’s technology chair, added: “It’s more about keeping people updated about the state of science in the nation.”