Next Deadline: TBA. The application period traditionally opens in August and closes in mid-September.
Info Sessions: TBA. We host information sessions during Freshman Orientation.

Launched in 2016, Freshman Fellows is an academic opportunity designed to introduce students to conducting research with rare books, manuscripts, and archival material during their first year at The Johns Hopkins University. Limited to only four students a year, the successful applicant will:

  • Conduct research with rare books, manuscripts, and archival collections;
  • Analyze items of cultural significance and improve their research skills;
  • Be partnered with a mentor in Special Collections who will provide them with individualized research plans;
  • Create an end-product of their choosing that focuses on their research, such as an academic talk, a poster presentation, or an online exhibition;
  • Receive a $1,000 research award during the spring semester.

Research outcomes may include a display in the Special Collections Reading Room, a webinar, a poster session, or other project that showcases your research in an accessible and interesting manner. Please contact Heidi Herr (, the program manager, for questions about the program or for guidance with the application process. You are also encouraged to directly contact the mentor associated with the topics(s) you are interested in researching.


  • The Freshman Fellows program is restricted to JHU freshmen and first-year undergraduates.
  • Applicants must select from one of the research topics on offer and are encouraged to email the associated mentor with any questions.
  • No prior experience with primary sources is necessary.
  • Students who accept a fellowship are required to write two blog posts for the Sheridan Libraries highlighting their research, attend a research roundtable held in April, and submit their research projects to their mentors by May 31.

How to Apply

To apply, write an essay of no more than 750 words discussing why you want to be part of the program and which one of the pre-selected topics you would like to explore. Students may apply to more than one research topic, but a separate essay must be written for each application submission.

The 2021/2022 application period has closed.

2021/2022 Research Topics

Hopkins History Through the Yearbooks

Mentor: Jim Stimpert

Did you know that the very first Hopkins yearbook was called The Debutante? That fact and many more can by yours by exploring the lifespan of our dearly departed student yearbook. Study the evolution and changes in Hopkins yearbooks from its birth in 1889 to its demise in 2015! Learn about long-forgotten inter-class and inter-school rivalries, as well as the development of campus athletics and student organizations.   You could compare and contrast books from different eras or explore how the yearbooks document changes on campus and the wider world at large.

It’s Greek (or Spanish or Latin) to Me

Mentor: Mack Zalin

The author Italo Calvino once called the translator his “most important ally” who “introduce[d] [him] to the world.”1 By translating hitherto untranslated works in Latin, Spanish, or Classical Greek held in special collections at Johns Hopkins University as a Freshman Fellow, you, too, can introduce readers to the world and be introduced to the world of the libraries at Hopkins in turn. No matter what your intended major or research interests may be, your working knowledge of any one of these languages can be applied to translating a host of texts on a variety of subjects that have never been rendered into English.

Reading Between the Rhumb Lines: Mapping the Caribbean

Mentor: Lena Denis

The Caribbean is a vast, diverse geographic and cultural region that various empires have spent centuries mapping for economic gain. These maps are biased views by people unfamiliar with the terrain or its people, intent on exploiting them through material plunder, forced labor, and piracy. Can we use these maps to tell a different story, one that showcases the resilience of this region and the Indigenous ways of knowing that are hidden within the standard map descriptions and place names? Using a collection of recently donated antiquarian maps you can find out! Explore them for yourself while you learn GIS and mapping techniques and see if you can make a new kind of map to tell a more complete version of this region’s history.

Romancing the Comic

Mentor: Heidi Herr

Who needs the Marvel Cinematic Universe when you can create your own comic book thrills and chills from the Golden Age of Romance Comics! Our collection of romance comic books dates from the late 1940s-1970s and is filled with harrowing tales of young women losing their hearts at Woodstock, uncovering romance and espionage in swinging London, and running away with ne’er-do-well truckers to avoid the horrors of attending an all-women’s college. Spend your freshman year reading saucy stories, learning about the surprising history of women comic book artists in the romance genre, and tracing how the comic books were used to teach teenagers about love, heartbreak and to reinforce traditional gender roles in a rapidly changing world.

Recent Freshman Fellows Projects

  • Kobi Khong, The Development of Asian Cuisine in American Cookbooks

    Kobi Khong spent his freshman year researching historic cookbooks, ranging from handwritten manuscript cookery books from the 17th century to 20th century American cookbooks for products like Jell-o. Kobi ultimately focused on the development of Asian cooking in North America. He worked with his mentor Heidi Herr to select rare cookbooks that document the introduction of Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques to Americans. For his final project, he hosted a cooking demo recreating a variety of Chinese dishes based on historic recipes.

  • Jade Robinson, Rachel Carson at Johns Hopkins University

    Jade Robinson explored archival documents pertaining to Rachel Carson’s time as one of the few female graduate students at Hopkins. Working with her mentor, senior reference archivist Jim Stimpert, Jade received access to unique documents, including Carson’s student file. Jade showcased her research by creating a short animated film about Carson’s life.

  • Ankita Sen, The Talking Statues of Rome

    Ankita Sen improved her Latin skills by translating examples of post-Roman Latin that have never before been translated into English. Encouraged by her mentor, George Peabody Library Curator Paul Espinosa, Ankita learned about the “talking” statues of Rome and translated sections of the Peabody Library’s copy of Pasquillorum tomi duo to discover exactly what such statues said.  She also studied engravings and other aspects of the history of the book in the 16th century.

  • Ivy Xun, Violence and Complexity in the Women’s Suffrage Movement

    Ivy Xun examined ephemera such as postcards, journals, and games documenting the women’s suffrage movement on both sides of the Atlantic. Ivy analyzed images and texts that showed the complex ways violence was utilized as either a criticism of or form of advocacy for a woman’s right to the vote. Ivy shared her discoveries with a national audience as a panelist at the Ephemera Society of America’s 2021 Conference.