Northeastern University College of Science Catalyst Spring 2021

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Message from Dean Sive Dear Northeastern families, alumni and friends, A year ago, I joined the Northeastern College of Science as Dean. It was an extraordinary time – the terrifying COVID pandemic was upon us, and we went into lockdown. But the next semester, Northeastern made the bold decision to open in person. We built NUflex, a top quality hybrid education platform, and we built the best-in-the-world Northeastern Life Sciences Testing Center, to monitor Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was an experiment, but one backed by crucial science research and training.

PRIORITIES OF DEAN SIVE FOR THE NORTHEASTERN COLLEGE OF SCIENCE • Build a Culture of Respect and Action towards Equity • Promote Communications, and that everyone uses Science, everyday • Solve the Greatest Research Challenges of our Planet • Promote Innovative Education across the World • Reinvent the PhD • Increase Undergraduate Research

And it was a huge success. Northeastern has led the way for universities across the world. Our students have shown enormous responsibility in Protecting the Pack. Prof. Jared Auclair (Chemistry and Chemical Biology) directs our COVID-testing facility, and Prof. Alex Vespignani (Physics) has led the Network Science Institute in defining how COVID spreads across the globe. COVID vaccines are based on concepts and techniques of molecular biology – a specialty area studied by many of our Biology students, and further explored in our top-ranked Biotechnology Masters program. Today, we are winning against COVID because of the Power of Science. When I entered as Dean, I set the goal of building a culture of respect and action towards equity in every sphere. I prioritized the promotion of research excellence to meet the greatest challenges of our planet. I aimed to educate every student with experiential learning that builds confident, entrepreneurial problem solvers, and allows each student to use their talent to best effect. And I selected the theme CONNECTS, to underscore the importance of collaboration across the college, university, community and the world. I am thrilled for you to learn how our top faculty and students are exploring connections between global health and the spread of disease, a well mind and the environment, molecules and biomaterials, oceans and clean land, elementary particles and quantum materials, and on and on across a vast array of important fields. I want to share how we are reinventing the PhD with the new Connected PhD program, incorporating unique Northeastern experiential opportunities, and opening huge career opportunities. I want you to see how we connect with our local community members through programs like Bridge to Calculus. And for our alumni, parents and friends, we have launched a special talk series, COS Connects: Research at the Frontier, sharing how our College is leading the way in meaningful ways that impact lives and communities around the world. Making these impactful connections requires extraordinary work, dedication, and creativity. I thank all members of our COS community for being a part of this powerful effort – for being the Catalyst that moves our College to ever greater excellence. With best regards,

• Build an Entrepreneurship Landscape

Hazel Sive, Dean College of Science Northeastern University


The College of Science Dean’s Fund is the driving force behind the integration of discovery, use-inspired research and global networks, converging to improve the human condition. This fund supports the existing and emerging priorities of the College of Science, affording Northeastern students and faculty the opportunity to expand their knowledge through invaluable experiences.

Your generous support of the Dean’s Fund is integral to the promotion of leadership in areas such as the development of scientific entrepreneurship programs, and access to global experiences. In addition to supporting the success of current students and faculty, your gift allows the college to deepen our unwavering commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community building. Through support of the Dean’s Fund, Shellaina Gordon, a Biochemistry major, entered Northeastern through our 2017 Summer Bridge program. She graduated in May 2021 as a prestigious Goldwater Scholar.

“I hope to further understand where I can make an impact on science and in the world and then act on it.” – Shellaina Gordon, ‘21 Considered the premier undergraduate award for the sciences in the United States, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship is a highly competitive, merit-based award for exceptional students studying mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering, and interested in pursuing a career in research. Shellaina will focus her research on reducing healthcare disparities in underrepresented communities. She is particularly interested in exploring proteins involved in disease, how they cause illness and how disease differs among groups of people, with the ultimate goal of developing effective therapeutics for varying ethnicities. She also hopes to teach and mentor students, especially those who come from underserved backgrounds. Shellaina recently shared her story with News@Northeastern. The Dean’s Fund has also made possible exciting international co-op opportunities for some of our most promising students, as well as NUSci, a vibrant student run science magazine, and more than 18 other science-based student organizations.

Matz Scholars: Investing in Excellence, Investing in the Future cookbook. “I was just mixing up the ingredients and making exactly what the person before me had made,” says Bob. “It just wasn’t interesting to me. I realized later in life how thrilling it would have been to have worked in a real world-class lab as a 2nd or 3rd year student.”

Bob and Eileen Matz If you’re looking to learn more about Bob Matz ‘62, you’re probably not going to find what you’re looking for here. Bob would much rather spend his time talking about the student scholars in the Northeastern Biotechnology Co-op Research Fellowship Program. Along with his wife Eileen, Bob has generously and proudly supported nearly 70 undergraduate students from the College of Science working for 6 months in world-class labs on campus and around Boston. Bob is a graduate of Northeastern University’s College of Liberal Arts. Bob, whose love of science is palpable, admits that as an undergrad, at some point, he felt a bit unfulfilled in the teaching lab. He likens the experience to reading a

The fellowship co-op program aims to not only provide that educational thrill of working in a research facility, but also pairs the student with the mentorship of a faculty member – a relationship that extends beyond the classroom. And, the impressive group of young scientists who have benefited from Bob’s steadfast belief in experiential learning are the proof. “These students are bright and articulate and ready to accomplish something great.,” says Bob. “They have all the capabilities.” And, accomplishing things is exactly what they are doing. Graduates have gone on to impressive careers in medicine, research, and industry. “The Matz Scholarship was critical for my career as a researcher. The scholarship allowed me to gain extensive experience conducting research in an academic laboratory, including designing and running experiments, analyzing and sharing my results in lab meetings, and presenting

“As a Matz Scholar, I was empowered to conduct cutting-edge research with remarkably intelligent, diverse, and kind individuals who helped lay the foundation for my current career in science” – David Hill ’14. a poster at an international conference, “ says Lauren Byrnes ’13 (Biology). “As a Matz Scholar, I was empowered to conduct cutting-edge research with remarkably intelligent, diverse, and kind individuals who helped lay the foundation for my current career in science, “ says David Hill ’14. “Without the Matz Program, I would have not been able to reach my true potential as a scientist.” And it’s that potential that compelled Bob to start the fund. Bob’s love for science and scientists runs pretty deep. He worked for many years alongside Barry Karger and Lou Barnett as a biotechnology consultant to Northeastern’s Barnett

Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis and considers them good friends and brilliant scientific minds. He credits relationships such as these with inspiring him to establish the fellowship. “The students learn valuable skills about working with a team – they work with post-docs, grad students, techs, faculty, and other students,” says Bob. “They learn how gratifying it is to be one part of something bigger than just you.” This year, Bob has enhanced his commitment to giving to Northeastern with additional funding to support student co-ops at the Ocean Genome Lab (OGL). This is an endeavor near to his heart and a way of honoring his dear friend and dedicated scientist, New England Biolabs and OGL founder Don Comb, who passed away earlier this year. Bob

encourages his fellow alumni to find ways to support students in science because as he says, “It’s better than cement! I’d much rather see the sparkle on a young student’s face and feel the warmth of furthering their learning experience than see my name on a door.”

“The students learn valuable skills about working with a team – they work with postdocs, grad students, techs, faculty and other students. They learn how gratifying it is to be one part of something bigger than just you.” – Bob Matz

Bob and Eileen Matz pictured with former Matz Scholars

Meet this year’s honorees: Fatemah Mukadum, ’22 (Chemistry)

“Searching for light-promoted cancer therapeutics with quantum chemistry and machine learning” Research Advisor: Steven Lopez, PhD

Benjamin Rich, ’21 (Chemistry)

“Method Development for Copper II Chelation Ligand Testing” Research Faculty Advisor: Rein Kirss, PhD

Hoang Yen Vu, ’21 (Biochemistry)

“Function prediction for host and symbiont proteins in a bivalve mollusk: Can these creatures guide us to biotech production of biofuels?” Research Faculty Advisor: Mary Jo Ondrechen, PhD

Research at the Frontier

The College of Science launched COS Connects: Research at the Frontier, a series of virtual events featuring our accomplished faculty discussing their groundbreaking research. COS researchers share their challenges, their discoveries, and their passion for seeking answers as they push the boundaries of discovery and innovation in their fields. Drawn into their world of research, audience members join the conversation and ask questions of presenters. Anyone with a curiosity about science and problem-solving is invited and registration is free.

Rebecca Shansky, PhD presented Sex Differences in Fearful Behavior: Linking Brain Structure and Function Prof. Rebecca Shansky is an associate professor of psychology who joined Northeastern in 2011. Prof. Shansky’s neuroanatomy and behavior research has been featured in the national media including the New York Times, the LA Times, and The Guardian. She is the author of Sex Differences in the Central Nervous System published in 2016 and is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences, and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.

In the Laboratory of Neuroanatomy and Behavior, Prof. Shansky’s team uses rodent models to explore the links between brain structure and function, focusing on how individual differences in response to trauma shape long-term memories. The research explores both male and female experience with aversive events, using behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques to identify sex-specific mechanisms of stress-induced plasticity.

Prior to 2016, most biomedical research was done almost exclusively on male animals – completely ignoring any possible differences females and other sexes could experience. Prof. Shansky, a vocal advocate for gender and sex equity in experimental design, understood that this would lead to treatments for neurological diseases and illnesses that do not work in women, who are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD and major depressive disorder.


f we want to improve personalized medicine

in the clinic, we need to study both sexes in the laboratory,” says Prof. Shansky. “The practice will make us better scientists, broadening the scope of our understanding of the brain, and lead to better translational outcomes.”

Neel Joshi, PhD presented Biologically Fabricated Materials from Engineered Microbes Neel Joshi is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University. He is broadly interested in topics related to biologically inspired materials, protein engineering, self-assembly, and biointerfaces. Prof. Joshi and his research team were selected as a grand prize winner in the National Science Foundation’s 2026 Idea Machine competition, which sought “grand challenges” to help shape the U.S. research agenda for years to come. The team’s proposal was one of four grand prize winners selected from close to 800 submissions. The researchers in Prof. Joshi’s lab work at the intersection of biomaterials science and synthetic biology in the underexplored area of engineered living materials. The potential of this research to positively impact daily lives with applications ranging from manufacturing to medicine is profound. The team is interested in harnessing the biosynthetic potential of microbes, not only as factories for the production of raw materials, but as fabrication plants that can

orchestrate the assembly of complex functional materials. They call this approach “biologically fabricated materials”, a process whose goal is to genetically program microbes to assemble materials from biomolecular building blocks without the need for time consuming and expensive purification protocols or specialized equipment. Recent projects have focused on repurposing bacterial biofilms and their matrix proteins for biotechnological and biomedical applications.


he carbon footprint of materials

manufactured for our entire built environment is huge”, says Prof. Joshi. “Being able to decrease that by following the model of how biology builds things is going to be very important.”


art of the modern paradigm

is that we don’t want the humans micromanaging what the machine is learning,” Hand says. “Oftentimes, the computer may end up doing much worse if we tell it what we think we know about these objects. Instead, we just throw a bunch of data at it and say, ‘You figure it out.’”

Paul Hand, PhD presented Artificial Intelligence for Scientific Imaging: Opportunities and Challenges. Associate professor, Paul Hand, PhD is both a mathematician and a computer scientist. Prof. Hand directs a research group that focuses on applying artificial intelligence and data science techniques to scientific imaging. Applying his expertise in both mathematics and computer science, he builds new AI algorithms and proves that they are effective for imaging. His work has applications to Magnetic Resonance Imaging, X-ray crystallography, astronomical imaging, image manipulation, and more. A major challenge in scientific imaging is that acquiring image data can be expensive and time consuming. Today, patients often spend more than an hour in an MRI machine in order to get usable scans. Artificial intelligence has the potential to drastically reduce that time, ultimately increasing efficiency and driving down costs. AI based techniques introduce a range of opportunities and challenges when working with images. By training on tens of thousands of sample images, AI can learn their patterns, and then apply those patterns to more efficiently and quickly construct new images. Unfortunately, they can also reflect biases contained in those datasets. Prof. Hand’s team grapples with how to build effective AI techniques that are resistant to biases in their training datasets.

PARTNER WITH US The Northeastern College of Science is a hub of Research, Education and Innovation: Our faculty are pushing research frontiers to solve our planet’s greatest challenges. Through innovative, research-linked, experiential learning, our students are empowered to be confident, entrepreneurial, problem-solvers, with flexible skills for a vast spectrum of careers. And we embrace a culture of respect, equity and diversity, where each person feels valued for their contribution and is treated fairly.

There are many ways to support the College EDUCATION • Scholarships: The College of Science recruits exceptional students who reflect the diversity of society. Scholarships help us attract top students, and expands access to a Northeastern College of Science education through full and partial awards. • Support Experiential Learning: The College of Science is broadening access to and scope of work experience-based education at all levels. Support a co-op in research, medicine, and across a broad landscape of opportunities, or subsidize international co-ops. Help make these learning experiences a reality for our students! • INVEST in Faculty: The College seeks funding to recruit promising PhD candidates directly into tenure track positions, with extensive mentoring and research support. Through this innovative plan, the College will recruit a talented and diverse pool of faculty.

RESEARCH • Graduate Fellowships: In the College’s new Connected PhD, students understand how the PhD opens a vast array of top career options. Students carry out groundbreaking research, explore opportunities for cross-disciplinary research, and connect with outside

work experience that may set up their next steps. COS seeks fellowship funding to support the outstanding next generation of science trainees. • Undergraduate Research: COS is committed to providing all of its undergraduate students with a labbased research opportunity during their time at Northeastern. Support for undergraduate research will promote the creation of additional opportunities for students to work alongside faculty and graduate student mentors, and gain valuable experience in traditional and emerging fields across the college. • Summer Research Program: The new College of Science Summer Research Program will bring outstanding undergraduate students to Northeastern where they will benefit from our hallmark experiential educational opportunities. Support will enable the College to place students in research positions, and encourage their future training at Northeastern.

INNOVATION • Entrepreneurship: The College of Science encourages a culture of entrepreneurship and translational innovation across faculty and students. Support helps the college establish an ecosystem with features such as venture bootcamps, grand challenge focused hack-athons, and funding that promotes a startup culture. • Space of the Future: The College of Science must be at the forefront of providing advanced research space that promotes collaboration and cross-disciplinary research, and supports platforms and technologies that accelerate the rate of discovery.

For more information contact Kevin Thompson, Associate Dean of Development, College of Science

Luigi Morelli Fund announces 2020 honoree Sree Kankanala

Physics student Sree Kankanala came to the United States in September 2019 from her home in India. She spent the next four months longing to go home. Even for a bright, curious and friendly graduate student, it’s hard to be so far away from friends and family, and in a new country for the very first time. Sree had been passionate about applying to schools and she’d never had any doubt about her chosen field of Physics. But, making new friends and adjusting to the New England climate would make for a rocky beginning at Northeastern.

Sree was chosen by the Department of Physics as the recipient of the 2020 Morelli Fund Award. The Fund, named for COS alumnus Luigi Morelli, class of 1972, provides summer research awards to graduate students who will be working full-time for a two-month summer term in the lab of a full-time College of Science faculty member. The fund may also be used to provide stipends to graduate students preparing to write their dissertations, or to provide them support for expenses such as conference participation, travel, or research overhead.

Everything changed in January 2020. Sree had seen Professor Greg Fiete’s research presented in October of 2019 and her interest was piqued. When she had the opportunity to meet him in January, she did not hesitate to let him know she hoped to work with him and his Condensed Matter Theory research group.

“I didn’t expect to be recognized in this way, and it really boosted my confidence and helped me to see myself as a leader,” says Sree. “I was able to meet Dr. Morelli in August, and he told me that ‘someone did that for me and I wanted to give back’ and I hope that someday I can do that for someone too.”

When she first joined the group in Spring 2020, Sree says she “felt like a toddler taking their first steps”, but mentorship from Prof. Fiete and the team helped her to get comfortable quickly and build her confidence. Before she knew it, she was not only immersed in the excitement of the research, but she had found the friends and sense of belonging that she had been seeking since she first arrived in the Fall.

The award, established in 2019, supported Sree’s Summer II semester work on a theoretical project investigating correlated materials out-of-equilibrium in Prof. Fiete’s lab. In particular, Sree studied how laser driven phonon modes can influence the topological and magnetic properties of a material. The work involved a symmetry analysis of crystal properties, as well as the application of model Hamiltonian approaches to investigate the influence of electron-phonon coupling.


didn’t expect to be recognized in this way, and it really boosted my confidence and helped me to see myself as a leader. I was able to meet Dr. Morelli in August, and he told me that ‘someone did that for me and I wanted to give back’ and I hope that someday I can do that for someone too.”

Sree Kankanala

Check out the Northeastern College of Science website for upcoming events: TUESDAY, JUNE 15, 12 - 1 PM THEORETICAL CONDENSED MATTER & BIOLOGICAL PHYSICS Alessandro Vespignani, Sternberg Family Distinguished Professor of Physics. Alessandro Vespignani’s research activity is focused on the study of “technosocial” systems, where infrastructures composed of different technological layers are interoperating within the social component that drives their use and development. Register at: https://eventregistration.

“I find Physics surprising and breathtaking every day,” says Sree. “But, this experience really ignited my curiosity and helped me to find my place in the research, where I could contribute.” Dr. Luigi Morell is a condensed matter physicist who earned his PhD in Physics from Northeastern in 1972. He completed his post-doctoral work at Georgetown and then was tenure-track faculty there for 14 years, becoming an Associate Professor. He left to pursue a position with Fairchild Aerospace where he worked for 7 years on various satellites and shuttle missions. Luigi missed teaching, so moved on to a role as professor of physics at UC Colorado Springs where he and his wife, Anna, still reside. The parents to two grown children who live on the east coast, Luigi and Anna collect Native American art which they plan to donate to the Crazyhorse Museum posthumously. Luigi looks back fondly on his days at Northeastern, where he attended the dedication of Dana Hall along with noted Nobel physicists. In fact, while at Northeastern, he constructed a shielded room in Dana Hall that is still in use today and it was here he recorded the lowest voltage ever measured. The College is grateful for Luigi and Anna Morelli’s generosity and passion for science education at Northeastern.

You are also invited to discover new experiences, strengthen connections, and fulfill your next ambition through the power of Northeastern’s global network. The Office of Alumni Relations is your catalyst to stay in touch with your lifelong community, keep learning, access career strategies, engage with thought leaders and ideagenerators, and find the resources you need to achieve what’s next. Regardless of where you are, your Northeastern network is there for you. Bond, socialize, learn, or build personal connections with your community and the global Northeastern network. Find an event to attend:


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