Bevin Philip and Rebekah Ghosh in a classroom with students wearing school uniforms

Charting a New Course in Public Education

By Greg Rienzi • Photo by David Colwell

As Rebekah Ghosh walks down the hallway of the fledgling Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences (MATHS), a contractor stops her to show her some paint swatches. He points to a cherry red and asks if this is the color she had in mind for MATHS' classroom doors.

"Great, go for it!" she says.

MATHS' home for its first two years is the fourth floor of a set-for-demolition West Baltimore high school building. The temporary space amounts to an empty canvas, and as summer melted into fall, Ghosh happily applied the brush strokes.

Ghosh, ScM '00, and her husband and fellow Bloomberg School alumnus, Bevin Philip, PhD '01, are co-founders of the new Baltimore City charter school that aims to prepare 8th- through 12th-grade students for future college and professional careers in biotechnology and health sciences.

The state-funded school, which opened its doors in August, is a dream come true for Ghosh, who had previously taught and mentored students at area high schools during her days as a Johns Hopkins undergraduate and a master's student at the Bloomberg School. Ghosh says she witnessed firsthand the increasing demand and need for such science-oriented schools, especially college-preparatory ones. In 2004, only half of the city's high school seniors graduated, and less than half of that number went on to college.

"There is a lot of research that bears out that if kids have a strong background in science and math, then they excel in other areas as well," says Ghosh, who will serve as MATHS' principal. "Another reason we proposed this school is that we were aware of the city's planned biotech parks and the sheer amount of career opportunities that are going to be available once these kids—many of them underrepresented minorities—get out of college."

Like all charter schools, MATHS waives tuition for city residents, has no academic admission requirements and enrolls by lottery. Ghosh and Philip, who will be the school's director of development, plan to enroll 120 eighth-grade students in MATHS' inaugural class, then add one grade each year until the school serves 600 students. Class size will be kept small, Ghosh says, with a 20-1 student-teacher ratio, and students will be taught by highly qualified instructors, many recruited from surrounding county school systems.

MATHS calls for a specialized curriculum that offers tracks in biotechnology or health sciences, laboratory-based research, a senior project and internship opportunities at area universities and health centers. During their junior and senior years, students will choose from such courses as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and technology, nutrition and the molecular biology of diseases.

"It's unfortunate that many kids never learn what the application of a subject is outside of school. They'll say, 'We are learning all this stuff, but what use is it to me later?'" Ghosh says. "We want to expose them to real science at work."

Her ultimate hope? That MATHS will give urban students the academic preparation they need to gain entry into some of the nation's best colleges.

The school's temporary quarters are scheduled to close in 2008. Ghosh has already begun looking for alternative sites and has her eyes on a spot in the planned East Baltimore Biotechnology Park, located just north of the Hopkins medical campus.

Sharon Krag, PhD, a member of MATHS' board of directors and the Bloomberg School's associate dean for graduate education and research, says, "Baltimore City needs opportunities for its students to excel in math and science and to be trained in logical thinking and communication skills. MATHS fills that need." Krag adds, "Many Bloomberg School graduates hope to make a difference in this world. Rebekah and Bevin are accomplishing that dream by starting MATHS."