The Johns Hopkins community will mourn the loss of one
of its bright young stars at a memorial observance
scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2, at Homewood's Ralph S.
O'Connor Recreation Center.
Linda Trinh, a 21-year-old senior
engineering major, was found dead on Sunday, Jan. 23,
in her residence in the Charles Apartments, a privately
owned building across Charles Street from the Homewood
campus. The following day, Baltimore police said that
Trinh's death had been determined to be a homicide. Since
then, police have said that evidence indicates that the
killing was not an "absolute random" act of violence and
that it is possible she may have known the person who
Classes will be suspended from 10 a.m. to noon for the
memorial, which will begin shortly after 10.
Trinh was a well-known and widely admired student, and
her death has led to an outpouring of support for her
family and to outrage for the unfathomable taking of a life
so full of promise.
In a Jan. 24 letter to the university community, President William R. Brody
expressed the shared grief brought on by Trinh's death.
"Her loss diminishes all of us, even those who did not
know her, because her contributions as student, leader,
colleague and, most important, friend have helped to build
the Johns Hopkins we love so much," Brody said. "And I know
that, despite our loss and grief — in fact,
especially because of it — we must honor Linda by
working, as she did, to make this community of scholars an
even better community in every sense of the word."
A funeral service for Trinh was held Saturday at Our
Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church in her hometown of
Silver Spring, Md.
Trinh, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, was a
past president of her sorority, Alpha Phi, and a former
member of the university's volleyball team. Twice named to
the dean's list, she was one of 16 engineering students
selected last spring to receive a Vredenburg Scholarship.
This program provides funds for travel and accommodations
to students who propose an engineering-related research or
public-service project to be conducted at an international
location during the summer.
Quy Trinh, Linda's father, told The Baltimore
Sun about his daughter's experience this summer in
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where she studied breast cancer
detection and AIDS-related dementia as part of her
Vredenburg Scholarship. He said that Linda, who had gone to
Johns Hopkins wanting to become a physician, came home from
Vietnam with a new focus.
"She didn't want to be a doctor anymore," he said.
"She said she didn't want to just treat one person or a
couple thousand people. She wanted to help thousands. She
wanted to save people's lives. She wanted to be a
researcher and find a cure for cancer or other
In that vein, Trinh in September joined the lab of
Hai-Quan Mao, an assistant professor in the
Materials Science and Engineering, to work on her
senior design project. Her focus was biomaterials, and her
project was to develop scaffolds on which adult neural stem
cells can be coaxed to multiply in the lab — so that
they can ultimately be used to treat neurodegenerative
brain diseases, such as Parkinson's.
"At the end of last semester, she was getting very
excited about her results," Mao said, "and she returned to
campus early [from intersession] so that she could work on
Mao said that Trinh was an exceedingly generous and
likable individual who had a very bright future ahead of
"She was a wonderful person, and everyone in the lab
loved her," he said. "She was always smiling."
Trinh also worked in Hongjun Song's lab in the
for Cell Engineering in the School of Medicine. She
would work on the scaffolds in Mao's lab at Homewood and
then take her project to East Baltimore, where Song's lab
works with the adult stem cells.
Trinh's death marks the second time in less than a
year that Johns Hopkins' undergraduate community and the
university at large have suffered such a tragic loss.
Junior Christopher Elser died from knife wounds on April
18, the day after an early morning attack by an intruder in
the off-campus apartment building occupied by his
fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The circumstances in the
two cases appear to be quite different, as the police
believe that Elser's assailant was an intruder and not
someone known to him.
To address security concerns, the university hosted a
town hall meeting at the Mattin Center last Wednesday
night. Nearly 200 students attended the assembly, which was
presided over by President Brody; Ron Mullen, director of
security; Susan Boswell, dean of student life; Paula
Burger, dean of undergraduate education; Jerome Schnydman,
executive assistant to the president; and city police
officials. The meeting provided an open forum to discuss
concerns and ideas impacting student safety, both on and
Maj. Richard Fahlteich, head of the city police
homicide division, began the forum by briefing the students
on the basics of the case and asking them not to listen to
gossip or media speculation. He urged students who hear
anything that sounds pertinent to the investigation to come
forward and to contact the police. He also reminded the
students to communicate with one another and to be partners
in their own safety. The rest of the meeting involved
students, several of whom expressed fear and anger, asking
questions about the state of campus security measures.
In a letter sent last week to parents, President Brody
outlined some of what already has been done to ensure
"We are satisfied that Baltimore police, from the most
senior level to the investigating detectives, are committed
to an aggressive investigation and to solving this terrible
crime. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has called to
express his deep personal concern and to offer any
assistance he can provide," he said. "[University
officials] have done much in the past year to strengthen
student safety on and near the Homewood campus. Once we
have an understanding of what occurred in this case, that
understanding may well suggest new steps we must take, and
we will take them."
To date, both the university and Baltimore police have
stepped up their presence in the area around the Charles
Apartments. The university has stationed a 24-hour guard at
the building and increased mobile patrols there and in the
immediate vicinity. The management of the Charles
Apartments, at the university's recommendation, has hired
security to patrol inside the building during evening and
overnight hours. The same has been done at the management
company's Blackstone Apartments, a nearby building where
many students live.
Brody has directed that the university accelerate
ongoing steps to significantly improve its security systems
on campus and in the surrounding area, including new
surveillance capabilities. He also said that parent and
student representatives should be added to the standing
working group on Homewood campus security. Their job will
be to monitor the university's progress and provide new
ideas and constructive criticism.
The safety initiatives the university has implemented
since Elser's death, including assistance sought and
received from Baltimore police, have helped to reduce
crime. On university-controlled property, crime was down
significantly in 2004. In the surrounding area, crimes
against persons were down, though property crime was up.
In particular, the university has reinforced patrols
in Charles Village and added them in the University Parkway
corridor; added to and is working to upgrade the campus and
off-campus network of emergency telephones; improved
security van service by providing faster response time to
student callers, thereby reducing incentives for students
to walk to their destinations; and, in a cooperative effort
with the neighborhood and city, identified and is working
to mitigate areas of insufficient lighting in off-campus
areas where many students live.
"We recognize and accept our role in protecting the
safety and security of our students," Brody said. "Nothing
could be more important to us. And, no matter what
improvements we have made, we know fully that we can and
must do more."
This week, the university will be setting up online
forums where students, faculty and staff will be able to
post comments regarding security concerns or in remembrance
A link on the university home page, www.jhu.edu,
provides access to other information relating to Trinh's